Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Tournament time reminds me of Kansas coach Roy Williams' "one bleeping moment" after last year's championship, when Bonnie Bernstein was pressing him about his future plans and he told her, on-air, "I could give a sh*t about Carolina."

Good stuff. Of course, as it turned out, Williams took the Carolina job soon after those comments.
Asian Stereotyping

One of my first posts on the KC was about the Time and Life magazine articles from 1941 that purported to be guides for the average American to distinguish between Japanese enemies and Chinese friends.

Sixty-two years have passed. Now, Details magazine, published by Conde Nast, which publishes mainstream magazines such as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, has run this "gay or asian" guide in its most recent issue.

The parallels between the 1941 "articles" and the 2004 "article" are, at a minimum, striking. Sometimes I feel like this country has made so much progress that my head spins. (Did I say that out loud? Must dial back the dripping sarcasm.)
Sorry I haven't posted much lately. Work has been crazy, I was in Kateville all weekend, and in what little free time I've had I've been paralyzed with fretting about the Final Four.

I am haunted by this picture, and the memories of that horrible game in 1999.

There's a piece on Duke-hating in SI:

How does the public hate the Blue Devils? Let us count the ways. MSNBC conducted an unscientific survey in which it asked people to choose the most hated team in the sport, and Duke was the runaway winner (loser?) with 53 percent of the more than 20,000 votes cast. North Carolina was next with 18 percent and no other school drew more than 11 percent of the vote. There is a hateduke.com Web site, which we're guessing isn't much different from the Duke-Sucks.com site. A Google search for the term "hate Duke" turned up 1,980 results. Folks just can't stand the Blue Devils.

More accurately, much of the public can't stand Duke's success... the only thing Duke has done to deserve such enmity is win, a fact that says far more about the haters than the hated. People may think they hate Duke, but they don't. They are jealous of Duke, they are bored by Duke, they are intimidated by Duke, or maybe they just were rejected by Duke, but they don't hate Duke.
Bob Frantz has a similar take, comparing the Blue Devils to the Yankees (Kate has made the same comparison on this blog):

Baseball fans hate the Yankees because they have been doing it better than everybody else for decades. They hate the Yankees because they win the titles, get the girls, and then get paid better than everyone else for doing it. In other words, fans hate the Yankees because their teams aren't the Yankees.

The same burden has now befallen Coach K and his Blue Devils. When you win as often as Duke wins, and when you graduate over 90 percent of your players while doing it, you become the envy, and the enemy, of everyone else who's trying.
In other Duke news, the Duke women will not be heading to Final Four.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Pool Standings, after Round 3

Dean Jens (Jens n Frens): 188 (34/56)
SW (now blogless): 171 (36/56)
Chris Lawrence (Signifying Nothing): 162 (34/56)
JC (blogless longtime reader): 159 (35/56)
Kate Malcolm: 158 (31/56)
Steven Jens (Jens n Frens): 151 (29/56)
Lily Malcolm: 140 (32/56)
BC (blogless reader): 139 (32/56)
DS (blogless reader): 134 (31/56)

Commentary:
(1) The monkey = 183 (41/56).
(2) The only serious ranking change resulted from Steve Jens who is dropping like a rock now that his bracket is officially dead. His last two teams were Wake and Pitt, which both lost in this round.
(3) Dean Jens looks like he may have this locked up, as he is the only person with both of his Championship game teams in it (UConn and OK St.).
(4) But, the rounds increase in value (6, 10, 16) from here on out, and DS is the only person who has Kansas going all the way. Kansas is a four seed, and thus is potentially worth 128 more points. He could come out of nowhere and win this whole shabang.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Quote of the Day:
"There are two things that will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has taken to drink."
~ Booth Tarkington

Song of the Day:
Celine Dion, "Next Plane Out"

Happy Birthday:
Aretha Franklin
Elton John
Sarah Jessica Parker
Gloria Steinem
David Lester thinks professors whine too much about being overworked. Lester himself carries a full teaching load, publishes, travels, and is not at all stressed. (One possible clue to his serenity: "I have not attended a faculty meeting since 1972.")
Re my Billy Packer post, Dean Jens writes:

This wasn't quite as out of the blue as you make it sound; Martelli in particular suggested that Packer and any other critic of St. Joe's get out there and play against them. Surely a sixty something year old man against this year's St. Joe's team could expect to fare less well than did the 1962 Wake Forest team against the 1962 St. Joe's team, but his response was no less relevant than Martelli's bait. (I'm sure Billy Packer doesn't believe Billy Packer deserves a 1-seed this year either.) When I watched this on TV, I certainly came away with the sense that Martelli was showing less class than Packer, any previous history on Packer's part notwithstanding.
Hard as it is to imagine someone showing less class than Packer, I'm sure Dean is right.

I'm waiting eagerly for tip-off right now.
Jonah Goldberg thinks "under God" should stay in the Pledge of Allegiance because the majority of Americans want to keep it. I trust he will be just as enthusiastic about gay marriage when, in the not-too-distant future, the majority of Americans are in favor of that too.

Dahlia Lithwick has a recap of yesterday's oral argument, and Howard Bashman has his usual mind-blowingly comprehensive roundup of links.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Steven Jens surmises that a lawyer's life is pretty exciting. Ha!

Which reminds me, I was sitting around with some other tax lawyers last week, and they were talking about whether they refer to themselves as "tax attorneys" or just "litigators" or "tax controversy lawyers," yada yada. And I was thinking that I'm still having trouble choking out just plain "attorney."

And in related news, I finally received my gigantic certificate of membership in the Virginia bar today.
St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli and CBS sports analyst Billy Packer have been mixing it up, and "[s]eldom has America seen two aging, balding white guys work up such an exciting feud."

It started on Selection Sunday when Packer expressed the view that St. Joe's didn't deserve a number one seed. Martelli retaliated by called Packer a "jackass." Packer struck back by reminding everyone that, as a player for Wake Forest, he beat St. Joe's in the 1962 tournament.

St. Joe's, one of the (ahem) two number one seeds still alive in the tournament, plays Wake Forest on Thursday. Packer will be calling the game along with Jim Nance. He says he won't be rooting for his alma mater against St. Joe's: "I couldn't care less who wins the game."

Most Duke fans can give you an earful about Packer's classless behavior, on-air and off. Check out this account of an incident involving Packer and two female Duke students. Here's more. And here, Packer gets the "I hate Duke" award.
Quote of the Day:
"Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy."
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Song of the Day:
The Forester Sisters, "I Fell In Love Again Last Night"

Happy Birthday:
Roger Bannister
Joan Crawford
Keri Russell

Monday, March 22, 2004

Dorothy Rabinowitz finds "a kind of a sexy core" to Howard Dean, "even in his little, short-armed way." Hmmm.

She also describes what happens when you say "I revere John Ashcroft" at a Manhattan dinner party.
Jonathan Yardley has this appreciation of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, one of my girlhood favorites and still on my bookshelf:
Over the years there have been countless imitations of "Jane Eyre." Whether "Rebecca" is in fact one of these is debatable, but the similarities do tend to leap out. Jane Eyre is governess to a wealthy girl; the unnamed narrator of "Rebecca" is companion to a wealthy older woman. Both women (19 and 21 years old, respectively) are mousy in appearance (or think they are) and beleaguered by self-doubt. Both come into the employ of brooding, mysterious men in their forties -- Edward Fairfax Rochester and Maxim de Winter -- and both fall in love with them. Both men harbor dreadful secrets: Jane learns Rochester's on the eve of their wedding, the heroine of "Rebecca" learns de Winter's after three months of marriage. The majestic country mansions owned by both men burn to the ground in spectacular conflagrations. Happy endings are achieved, but at a high price.
Yardley also mentions the unsurprising source of du Maurier's inspiration for the "evil and vicious and rotten" title character.

Buy the book here.
Professor stages hate crime by vandalizing her own car.
Quote of the Day:
"If you're not on the right track, every station will be the wrong station."
~ Unknown

Song of the Day:
Squirrel Nut Zippers, "Hell"

Happy Birthday:
Bob Costas
Lena Olin
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Reese Witherspoon
Cute puppy alert! Vote for Loki and help longtime KC readers win $2,500 in the Better Homes & Gardens Cute Baby Pet contest.
The comparison of the gay rights movement to the civil rights movement continues:

Attitudes about race and marriage track similarly. In 1958, nine years before the Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage, a Gallup Poll found that more than nine in 10 Americans objected to black-white unions. By 2002, just one in 10 thought they should be prohibited.

''This idea that permitting these two people to marry will undermine civilization as we know it was prevalent in the '50s and '60s, and it's been resurrected in this debate,'' says Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Half of 18- to 29-year-olds said they support legal recognition of same-sex marriage, compared with just 19% of those over 65. The case for amending the Constitution looks worse and worse, as the article acknowledges.

And speaking of misguided amendment attempts: On Dec. 12, 1912, Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry (R-Ga.) proposed this amendment to the Constitution:

Intermarriage between negros or persons of color and Caucasians . . . within the United States . . . is forever prohibited.
Rep. Roddenberry, introducing the amendment, declared:

Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant. It is subversive to social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery to black beasts will bring this nation to a fatal conflict. Let this condition go on if you will. At some day, perhaps remote, it will be a question always whether or not the solemnizing of matrimony in the North is between two descendants of our Anglo-Saxon fathers and mothers or whether it be of a mixed blood descended from the orangutan-trodden shores of far-off Africa.
Nicholas Kristof has more on the interracial-gay marriage parallel, plus a hearty endorsement of miscegenation.

Incidentally, I am amazed that even one in ten Americans thinks interracial marriages should be prohibited. Who are these people? I suppose the answer is that the anti-miscegenation view has been marginalized and silenced, which is why you don't see it publicly expressed outside of white supremacist websites. Society has debated the question of interracial marriage, resolved it resoundingly in favor, and ignored the naysayers. And lo, civilization endures.
Pool Standings, after Round 2

Dean Jens (Jens n Frens): 164 (31/48)
SW (now blogless): 156 (33/48)
Chris Lawrence (Signifying Nothing): 153 (32/48)
Steven Jens (Jens n Frens): 151 (29/48)
JC (blogless longtime reader): 141 (32/48)
Kate Malcolm: 134 (27/48)
BC (blogless reader): 127 (30/48)
Lily Malcolm: 125 (29/38)
DS (blogless reader): 116 (28/48)

Commentary:
(1) We should all be embarrased. The monkey still has accrued more points than anyone here: 165 (37/48).
(2) Dean Jens vaulted to the top from sixth place after round 1 thanks to having picked Bama over Stanford for 16 points and UAB over Kentucky for 18 points. Damn.
(3) But Dean was not the only one who picked the Bama and UAB upsets. So did brother Steve.
(4) Lily plummeted from third place to eighth place thanks to having picked correctly the least number of round 2 games (five), including the four least valuable under our weird scoring system (Duke, St. Joe's, OK St., UConn).
(5) I have the least number of correct picks, yet I am not only not in last, but in sixth place thanks to Manhattan and Xavier. I was the only person to pick the Xavier over Miss St. upset.
(6) Who's in the most trouble? Steve Jens, who has two teams still alive -- Wake and Pitt -- that sadly are also in the same region. Steve has Pitt and Wake both winning in Round 3, and then Pitt over Wake for the East Rutherford Final Four berth. Both of his teams in the Championship game (Gonzaga and UNC) are out.
(7) Number of people whose national champion pick is out? Three. SW (Stanford), Chris Lawrence (Kentucky), and Steve Jens (Gonzaga). This should give the rest of us hope -- remember that the next round is seed * 3, after which it becomes seed * 6, then 10, and 16.
(8) Bad sign for the rest of us? Dean, the current leader, is the only person who has both of his Championship game teams still in it (OK St. and UConn).
(9) Duke and UConn were the only consensus picks this round. Wake was picked by eight people. Oklahoma State by seven.
(10) There are no consensus picks next round.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Alias

I haven't yet watched Alias from two years ago, but I'd like to go on record as having predicted the Sydney Bristow is Sloan's daughter -- or, at least, that he thinks so. I'll find the post in the archives when I have more time...

UPDATE: Two weeks. I meant two weeks ago.
Mothers Staying Home

An interesting article in Time magazine. The number of working women with children under the age of three has declined by several percentage points.
Breaking News

Taiwan is having its own version of the 2000 Bush-Gore election. A day after an assassination attempt on the incumbent president (the first-ever in Taiwan), the president was re-elected by a margin of 29,158 votes out of 12.9 million votes cast. The losing candidate is calling for a re-count, or a declaration that the election was invalid.

The details are in the article, but, my sources in Taiwan add some more information. At the heart of the issue is the fact that 337,297 votes were declared invalid -- well over ten times the margin of victory. Add to this two factors. First -- and this is reported in the article -- the invalid ballots in the election four years ago totaled only 122,278 and the invalid ballots in the election in 1996 totaled 117,160. Second -- and this is not in the article -- I hear that the vast majority of these invalid ballots come from the incumbent president's home county. I can't verify this latter claim, but, if true, it puts a whole different spin on the matter.

It appears also that the challenger was favored to win until the assassination attempt. I hear there has been rampant speculation about the "attempt." The facts and news reports vary, but the conspiracy theories center around the make of the bullets and the extremely minimal injuries sustained by the Taiwan president and vice-president.

The Times has just run a story. More info here.

For those who haven't followed the election, it is has been highly watched in Asia due to the fact that the incumbent president is viewed as having far greater pro-independence tendencies. The mainland Chinese are opposed to his re-election.

UPDATE: One conspiracy theory on the assassination attempt: number 34 from "The Secret Art of War: 36 Strategems," a book of ancient Chinese strategies (not to be confused with Sun Tzu's "Art of War"). It reads: Inflict minor injury on oneself to gain the enemy’s trust
Pool Standings, after Round 1

SW (now blogless): 118 (26/32)
Chris Lawrence (Signifying Nothing): 109 (26/32)
Lily Malcolm: 105 (24/32)
JC (blogless longtime reader): 95 (24/32)
Steven Jens (Jens n Frens): 91 (22/32)
Dean Jens (Jens n Frens): 88 (22/32)
Kate Malcolm: 86 (20/32)
DS (blogless reader): 84 (22/32)
BC (blogless reader): 77 (21/32)

Commentary:
(1) The selection committee, which I will refer to as the monkey, would have accrued more points than anyone here: 119 (28/32).
(2) I have the least number of correct picks, yet I am not in last place. Thank you Manhattan for your 12 seed!!
(3) The multipliers are 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 16. (By way of reminder, this means that wins in the next round will be seed * 2. Wins in the fourth round will be seed * 6.)
(4) BC, though in last, has all sixteen "sweet 16" picks remaining. No one else can make that claim. I have the least number of my sweet 16 picks remaining: 12. Look out cellar, here I come!
(5) Steve Jens may be in the most trouble, having lost two of his elite eight picks already.
(6) Only our pool leader, SW, picked Pacific over Providence.
(7) Five of us picked Manhattan over Florida. Five of us picked UAB over Washington.
(8) Four of us picked Nevada over MSU.
(9) Psych!: About half of us liked Dayton over DePaul, Louisville over Xavier, or Zona over Seton Hall.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Tournament musings...

Why do they call it a "game reset?" What is being reset?

As Clark Gumble interrupted Texas-Princeton to update viewers on the Duke-Alabama St. blowout, I half expected him to say "CBS can now project that Duke will win the Atlanta region first-round 1-16 game" and for some graphs to appear onscreen.

Roy Williams has got to chill with the light-gray suits.
Movie Review

Mel Gibson's already legendary new movie The Passion of the Christ details the end of Jesus's life from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Resurrection. The movie is a fervent oddity, and the only thing I'm certain you can credit Gibson with is the commercial genius to see that a Jesus movie could be a big hit if it were filmed using the melodramatic action-movie conventions of Old Testament spectacles like Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Ten Commandments (1956), or of more or less pious ancient gladiatorial sandbusters like Ben-Hur (1925; 1959), with its cameo appearance by Jesus, and the secular Spartacus (1960). Religious-themed movies used to be a standard subgenre in Hollywood from the earliest days through the 1960s, but the Jesus movies were always relatively inert.

This is in part because Hollywood has never wanted to offend the audience and figured that cashing in on this central Christian story required an air of paralyzed reverence. But there has to be more to it because it's true not only of studio stinkers like DeMille's King of Kings (1927) and Nicholas Ray's remake (1961) of it, and George Stevens's The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965, with John Wayne as a Roman centurion uttering the line, "Truly, this man was the Son of God"). The subject has also defeated the greatest directors, including D.W. Griffith in the Crucifixion episode of his masterpiece Intolerance (1916) and the Danish Titan Carl Dreyer in the Crucifixion episode of Leaves from Satan's Book (1920), his four-part movie influenced by Intolerance.

The deeper problem is that the gospel narrative is not a fictional drama but the account of a ritual sacrifice which is presented both as history and as the key to the meaning of all existence, and the main character is the Godhead Himself and hence without character flaws, unlike Oedipus, say, or King David. (He can't even be tempted, which is more than you can say for even a moral exemplar like a white knight.)

Gibson isn't afraid of his subject, at least, and the box office returns seem to have vindicated his instinct that, despite his personal adherence to a retrogressive splinter sect of Roman Catholicism, his feel for the Passion story (or his insensitivity to it, depending on your point of view) reflects the mass audience's pretty closely. He gives us a blood-and-guts version that takes melodrama back to its roots in a fevered Christian fundamentalism in which there's good and evil and no position in between, and the entire point of storytelling is to reveal the virtue and innocence of the misunderstood good characters and the willful malice of the temporarily ascendant evil ones.

The peculiarity of this approach is that the point of the Passion, even in Gibson's version, is that Jesus prays for his tormentors from the cross. He asks his Father to forgive them though they've flagellated him with a cat-o'-nine-tails (a flail with metal hooks on the ends), beaten him all the way up to Golgotha so that he can barely stand, and pulled his shoulder out of its socket in order to nail his hand to the crossbar of the cross more efficiently. His sacrifice is necessary to redeem the sins of mankind--it has to be excruciating, literally, to be of great enough magnitude to carry this burden, but it's also assured of its effectiveness and so merely has to be endured. There's no question that a paradisal spiritual afterlife will result.

From a narrative-aesthetic perspective, however, while Jesus may forgive his tormentors, Gibson plainly doesn't. By filming the scourging and beating and nailing to the cross in gory detail, Gibson emphasizes Jesus's sacrifice but he also pumps up the audience's desire for revenge. Melodrama does not ask its father to forgive the innocent hero's tormentors. The beating of the hero and his being left for dead is just a prelude to his strong-armed return to settle the hash of the men foolish enough to think they could vanquish him.

This is also implicit in the Crucifixion in as much as it looks forward to the Day of Judgment at the end of time when the righteous and the wicked will be sorted out (with no regard to high or low status on earth) and the wicked will suffer eternal punishment. (From a non-believer's perspective it seems an odd and even sickening bit of ruthlessness to follow from the mild, loving new dispensation--the Old Testament reloaded.) Melodrama is the form of moralizing narrative for people who can't wait for the fulfillment of time. It offers the Day of Judgment writ small--the evil are unmasked now, objectively, and punished in our presence for our delectation. It's the ritual whereby the audience celebrates its own virtue and gets payback for what it feels is its vulnerability in this world to evil, which is always completely distinguishable from "us," the good people. (To my mind, the self-righteousness of melodrama is in itself an incitement to vice.)

At the end of Gibson's Passion, Jesus strides purposefully toward the opening of his cave tomb like Wyatt Earp heading for the gunfight at the OK Corral, but we've already had a few gaudy foretastes of retribution, when a raven pecks out the eye of the crucified thief who mocks Jesus, and when, after Jesus's death, an earthquake sunders the Temple beneath the feet of the rotten Pharisees. (The latter is very cheesily done; it looks like a Universal Studios ride.)

Among the abusive epithets you can apply to Gibson, "primitive" is perhaps the most precise in terms of his storytelling. But first a few points in his favor: the critics have overstated the amount of time given over to direct depiction of violence. And I don't think the movie is any more anti-Semitic than the common understanding of the underlying story of a schism within the Jewish religion, with the group that emerged dominant renouncing their Jewishness, inevitably makes it. For example, the whole time Simon of Cyrene, wearing a yarmulke, is helping Jesus carry the cross the Romans denigrate him as another Jew. He's unwilling to lend a hand at first, but behaves manfully thereafter, and we warm to him.

Of course, both of the Jews who show sympathy to Jesus on the via dolorosa--Simon of Cyrene and Veronica, the young woman who wipes his face with her headcloth (on which his image becomes imprinted)--were made into Catholic saints long before Gibson's day, along with Dismas, the good thief who is converted while dying on the cross next to Jesus, and Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierces Jesus's side. But all that's outside the scope of what we see onscreen. For theological subtleties read Andrew Sullivan's pieces on the movie (click here and here), but I'd guess most of this is lost on the audience--lost equally on the old lady to my left who sobbed through the second half of the picture and the old lady to my right who slept through it. The audience is most likely assimilating the movie to how they already feel about the story. In other words, it may excite anti-Semites but it won't create them.

In addition, scan through the classic works of art depicting the Passion on this website and you'll find some pretty rough imagery. Here, however, I think the tide turns back against Gibson. Even this image of Christ carrying the cross by the 15th-century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, for instance, with its animal-like tormentors, features a patient Jesus (not one who, like Jim Caviezel, howls through teeth pink with blood). And without the tumultuous and noisy representational impact of moving-and-talking pictures (putting you there on the spot while the Savior of mankind is flogged senseless), Bosch's grotesque little snapshot can still serve as a focus for contemplation alongside Fra Angelico's serene abstraction of the mockery of Christ from a cell at the monastery of San Marco in Florence earlier in the same century.

It's a little late in western civilization for Gibson's use of rotten yellow teeth and cataracts and dwarfs to instill moral horror in us. But the way most movies work on us is quite primitive--they arouse us with graphic sex and violence, they work by enticement and revulsion, sometimes simultaneously, and urge us to the simplistic moral gratification of melodrama. In Gibson's version of the Passion there's no sex (DeMille would have found an angle), but otherwise the movie feels more unself-consciously plugged into what makes movies widely and directly appealing to a mass audience than any other Jesus movie. That's a dubious feat.

Aesthetically speaking Gibson's movie may be called scrupulous only to the extent it attempts to depict realistically what it would have meant for the Son of God to enter a human body in order to suffer in a manner extreme enough to take all of our sins on himself. But Gibson hasn't thought through this aesthetic issue. (He doesn't appear to be a thinker at all.) The basic narrative is an allegorical spiritual epic, one in which the hero loses the battle in order to win the war. It can also be characterized as a tragic action with an ironic hero, ironic for a tragedy because he's completely innocent of flaws, which actually permits the story to have the most overarching of comic outcomes--salvation for everybody. The narrative can be characterized in a number of non-exclusive ways, and to me it's much more interesting to describe than to see dramatized.

Especially when it's dramatized in the literal-minded way Gibson does it here. Take the handling of Jesus's mother Mary, for example. At one point on the way to Golgotha Gibson flashes back to Mary's concern when her toddling son takes a fall on the stones. But Mary isn't most significant as this particular hero's mother but as the Mother of Us All. Similarly, the etymology of the name Veronica appears to be an elision of the medieval Latin "vera iconica," or "true image." In other words, there's no distinction between such characters and their function in the narrative. Realistic backstory thus doesn't enlarge Mary's character, which is fundamentally allegorical, it diminishes it. (The vignette looks like a parody of a commercial for bandaids or disinfectant on a Christian cable channel.)

An earlier episode is even worse: Gibson shows Jesus working as a carpenter and inventing the first tall dining table, one requiring chairs. This is the kind of dumbing-down appropriate for presenting a historical figure like Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin to children. But Jesus isn't clearly historical in the same way as Jefferson and Franklin and this sort of accomplishment is ridiculous if you accept him as the Savior. Surely redeeming all of mankind's sins is enough of a feat--the Messiah doesn't need résumé filler.

If you accept the gospel story as revealed truth, realistic depiction adds nothing because the story hasn't been constructed in terms of individual psychology or probability, the hallmarks of realism. In fact it degrades the story by applying anachronistic and incompatible artistic means. Applying modern means to an earlier period by itself tinges even such great works as David's Death of Socrates (1787), Delacroix's Death of Saradanapalus (1827-28), Bellini's Norma (1831), and Verdi's Aida (1871) with kitsch, and those are works of aesthetic beauty and power that Gibson as movie director can't approach. Nothing can excuse, for example, the smirking, bloodless, androgynous Satan out of a Goth music video.

If anyone is the artist here it's Gibson's cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who brings a Caravaggiesque chiaroscuro to the Last Supper and comes up with some expressionistically loose-tumultuous camerawork (an upside down perspective shot as Jesus is being dragged from the whipping post is reminiscent of the end of Dreyer's ineffable Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), the greatest Christian martyrdom movie of all).

I don't believe that the Passion can be treated realistically in a straightforward way and convey its meaning to anyone unfamiliar with the story. Realism trades in believability and the gospel stories ask for a different kind of belief, that provided by faith despite the lack of mundane credibility. The contradictions of a gospel story aren't a problem; they're catalysts for meditation on the intricacies of God's intentions (which is exactly the kind of foolproof argument that makes atheists smell the usual forms of human conmanship in the gospels). The distance between gospel and realism, however, is a great subject, as Nikos Kazantzakis's novel The Last Temptation of Christ and Martin Scorsese's peerless 1988 movie adaptation of it attest. Those works translate the ancient means of narrative into modern means, applying their minds to the most puzzling conflicts that result, for instance, how to think of Judas, whose role is preordained and essential to the good outcome and yet for which he suffers damnation. (He's much easier to wrap your brain around as an allegorical figure than as a man.) Scorsese's movie is the only Jesus movie that really struggles with the subject, that's anything more than a more or less animated pageant.

Gibson's movie is the most animated of all, but it's not distinguished. It puts a veneer of realism over the usual form of American melodramatic romance and so despite superficial thrills it can't really serve as more than an illustration of the narrative anymore than DeMille's stiff diorama. But though Gibson's shallowly insistent and seductive method may stir his audience, what the audience feels isn't necessarily the significance of the Passion but a reflexive submission to a familiarly manipulative style of moviemaking. (You could lodge the same complaint against (the much greater) left-wing directors like Sergei Eisenstein. The moviemaking of The Battleship Potemkin (1925), for instance, can turn you on without turning you into a Bolshevik.)

Gibson is plainly sincere. It's easy to sneer at the fact that he approaches this of all stories with everything he's learned in his successful action-movie career, but that's the mark of his sincerity. He's filmed the Passion in a way consonant with his life's work. The fact that his life's work has been mostly crap (excepting Gillian Armstrong's Mrs. Soffel (1984), and his acting in Conspiracy Theory (1997) and Signs (2002) as well), even if occasionally brilliant crap (George Miller's Road Warrior (1981)), means that though this personally financed pet project is full of conviction, the aesthetic inspiration is pretty crude. If The Passion leads to a spiritual experience, as you define it, great, but that's a utilitarian rather than an aesthetic matter.

The taint of anti-Semitism is an obvious problem for The Passion among Gibson's fellow movie industrialists, but they may also be turned off by his very seriousness about the project. You can't blame them for feeling queasy about a filmmaker who claims to be called by God to make a movie that is otherwise like the box office fodder they all make. If they could get past that, however, they'd realized that this clumsy, mindless work of urgent, devout pulp is the quintessence of hard-selling Hollywood product, God help us, the American movie of the year.

You can find this review and a lot besides at Blogcritics.
Brendan I. Koerner explains how March Madness got its name.
The eminently reasonable Stuart Taylor doesn't think Bush's anti gay marriage amendment does much to give power to the people:
By no stretch of the imagination, however, is the proposed amendment behind which Bush has placed his prestige an appropriate way to protect representative government. Quite the contrary. [The proposed amendment] amounts to an anti-democratic, anti-federalist effort to ban all state legislatures, for all time, from experimenting with gay marriage -- even if and when most voters in most states come to support gays' right to wed. And public opinion appears to be headed in that direction: Although polls still show voters opposing gay marriage by a ratio of about 2-to-1, the numbers appear to be softening over time. Especially significant is that young voters are far more open to gay marriage than old ones.

In this sense, the president's position on gay marriage has something in common with that of the Massachusetts court: Neither is willing to defer to democratic governance. While the court has imposed its definition of marriage on today's voters, Bush seeks to impose his own definition on their children and grandchildren.
Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link.
If you, like me, have been too busy with work and basketball to follow the latest wave of anti-Bush spin at the NYT, stay updated at Kausfiles. NBC is also caught:

NBC also gagged on its own poll--indeed, sniped at its own poll--when it failed to show Kerry leading Bush. The poll, taken last week, had Bush up 47 to 45. NBC actually wrote:

It was difficult to gauge the importance of the result, which was notably at odds with those of other polls in the past week, which have found Kerry with a statistically significant lead in a head-to-head matchup. Kerry led Bush by 9 points in the latest Washington Post/ABC News survey and by 8 points in the latest USA Today/CNN poll.
Translation: We don't like our results. Don't believe us!
Maybe it's not that I'm out of touch. Maybe it's just that I find another eight months of this too depressing to contemplate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Don't forget to send in your brackets!! They are due by Thursday morning at 10am Eastern Time.

This might be a useful site in making your picks...

UPDATE: 15 hours to the tournament. Just under 13 hours to the deadline. We have six entries so far... keep 'em coming.

I apologize sincerely to our readers who are looking for something more substantive or different, at least. Work is killing me this week.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I have received one vote on the round multipliers, which expressed a preference for 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. I personally lean toward 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 16, which I feel rewards upsets early but respects the reality of the later rounds in an attempt to keep things interesting. If I get no more votes, I will probably make an executive decision tomorrow. Since I don't post from work, let's assume that unless I say otherwise before 10 am, we go with 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 16. One more revision -- I'm extending the deadline until NOON Eastern Time tomorrow.
Mississippi's legal system is back in the news.

About a year ago, the Times ran an article about Arnold & Porter's efforts to help a county sue the state of Mississippi. "Mississippi is among handful of states that provide no money for defense of indigent in noncapital cases."

And now this, according to a Times article today:
[O]ne recently issued text makes Mr. Grisham look as refined and restrained as Henry James: the federal indictment pending here against a sitting State Supreme Court justice, his former wife, two former judges and one of the state's most prominent lawyers.

Mississippi justice, the indictment suggests, is built on cozy relationships and fueled by bribes. This is a state, after all, where the Supreme Court justice in question, Oliver E. Diaz Jr., lived rent-free in a Biloxi condominium owned in part by the lawyer, Paul S. Minor.

The central charge against the two men is so convoluted that setting it out requires a diagram, if not a family tree: trying to influence a libel case against Mr. Minor's father, Mr. Minor guaranteed a loan to Justice Diaz's former wife.
The best part of the article is yet to come:
The defendants call the prosecution frivolous and politically motivated. Their defenses have several themes. One is that prosecutors have more proof of quid than of quo. Another is that Mississippi is a lightly populated state in which people know and help one another, a fact that should be applauded rather than prosecuted. A third is that what the defendants are accused of doing, everybody does.
This third defense is what I call the "if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge" defense.

Perhaps Chris at Signifying Nothing has some on-the-ground perspective.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Go Nimrods

In other sports advertising news, ESPN's Nimrods commercial has put Watersmeet, MI on the map. Check out the Nimrod website. Apparently, in a 1986 poll, Nimrods ranked only third on the list of best mascots. Ahead of the Nimrods? The Syrupmakers and the Beetdiggers.

If you haven't seen the Nimrods commercially, I can't find it. It's part of ESPN's "without sports" campaign.
Not to go all sports, all the time, but for those who are following the NCAA tourney -- make sure you stay on top of your news when filling out those brackets.
Slate breaks down that great Nike ad with famous athletes transplanted into different sports -- Randy Johnson bowling, Andre Agassi playing for the Red Sox, etc. Kate and I were thinking of some more good possibilities the other day, but I think the Slate writer has the best one: "Shaquille O'Neal in a sumo loincloth."

The ad gets an A from Slate, by the way.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

NCAA Tourney Pool

Ah, that time of year again!!

Well, we're setting up our own pool again this year. Here are the scoring rules:

1. If your pick wins its game, you get points. If you have no pick in a game (i.e., in later rounds, your picks may have already been eliminated), you get zero points. (Standard bracket format ...)

2. The points you get will be calculated as follows: the seed number multiplied by a round multiplier. For example, if you pick a 12 seed to win in round 1, and the 12 seed wins, you get 12 times the multiplier for round 1. If you then pick the 12 seed to win in round 2, and the 12 seed wins, you get 12 times the multiplier for round 2. If you pick a 2 seed to win in round 1, and the 2 seed wins, you get 2 times the multiplier for round 1. Etc. As you can see, this gives a benefit to those who pick upsets.

3. I am kicking around two possible sets of round multipliers. (a) 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. (b) 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 16. Last year, we just used the round number as the multiplier (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), but this put too much weight on early rounds and tended to end the competition early. Now, you can make a comeback late if you've picked a high seed (low number seed, like a 1 or 2) and it wins out. I'd like feedback on preferences between the two possible sets, or suggestions for other possible sets.

4. Ties at the end will be broken by predictions of the score in the championship game.

So, that's it. If any of that is confusing, let me know. Here is where you get the bracket. It is in Microsoft Word. Let me know if you have trouble getting it or need it in a different format. Send the bracket, filled out, back to our email address by 10am Eastern Time on Thursday, March 18. Yes, this means that the play-in game is not part of this shindig. You can fill in the winner of that game by yourself. No cost to enter.

We will, as we did last year, try to post running updates on how people are doing.

Prizes? Vanessa Jean has volunteered a fabulous VJ duct tape product. Steve Jens has donated a Pepsi free i-tunes download. I may also donate an i-tunes download.

You might want to check out Dean and Steve's NCAA contest, which seems quite interesting but for the weird trading rules.
An update on the Tennessee custody case I posted about. Here is a very informative website.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

A Cincinnati basketball player took a shot below the belt in the game against DePaul today. His name? Bobbitt. A coincidence? You decide.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Some days I feel bad that I don't post enough. But then again, it looks like we are way above the mean. And, heck, why aspire to more than average?
NCAA pool

We will have it again this year -- even though I've received a total of one email expressing interest in the pool. Same unique rules, roughly, as last year (the one change we are contemplating is a multiplier that increases the value of later rounds). Again, we will have a bracket in MS Word that can be downloaded and returned to us. I'll release the bracket and more details on Sunday night after the Selection Show.

We don't have anything to offer as prize, except maybe that we can link to your website in a prominent spot.
This is funny. CBS apparently touted Jay Leno on their website's ad for the People's Choice awards, even though Leno is on NBC and Letterman is on CBS.
I haven't understood how people argue for the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment as pro-state's rights. It seems to me that of the two options -- an amendment or not -- not having an amendment at least provides choice. I understand that the argument is that certain pressures -- political, legal, or otherwise -- might functionally take choice away from states. That is, states would "have to" recognize gay marriages from other states. Even assuming this is true, a literal choice still exists. An amendment takes choice completely away.

Yale Law Prof Lea Brilmayer, a Conflict-of-Laws or choice-of-laws specialist, testified before Congress recently on whether states would be compelled to recognize gay marriages from other states from a legal perspective. She says no.
Conservatives say that without a constitutional amendment, Goodridge goes national. Gays will travel to Massachusetts to get married and then their home states will be forced (under the Full Faith and Credit Clause) to recognize their marriages. Traditional marriage (apparently a frailer institution than I'd realized) will be fatally undermined unless we act now to prevent the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from imposing its will upon the whole nation. Either amend the Constitution to adopt a national, and traditional, definition of marriage (they say) or there will soon be gay and lesbian married couples living in your own neighborhood. Either it's their nationwide standard -- anyone can marry -- or it's ours.

The fly in the ointment was that nobody bothered to check whether the Full Faith and Credit Clause had actually ever been read to require one state to recognize another state's marriages. It hasn't. Longstanding precedent from around the country holds that a state need not recognize a marriage entered into in another state with different marriage laws if those laws are contrary to strongly held local public policy. The "public policy doctrine," almost as old as this country's legal system, has been applied to foreign marriages between first cousins, persons too recently divorced, persons of different races, and persons under the age of consent. The granting of a marriage license has always been treated differently than a court award, which is indeed entitled to full interstate recognition. Court judgments are entitled to full faith and credit but historically very little interstate recognition has been given to licenses.
I'm not sure this is really that novel of a statement. That is to say, I don't know that we needed a Yale law prof to tell us this -- I, for one, knew this, and I'm pretty sure I actually learned this in my review for the bar examination. But, there we go, and a debate always benefits from more, accurate information.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Reaction to my post about why Kerry got his law degree from Boston College. A fellow YLS alumn writes:

I've been wondering the EXACT SAME THING since I first heard it. Oddly, I mentioned it to my wife yesterday, but never in public as I was afraid I would sound like an absolute school snob.

If Kerry is so smart (and we keep hearing he is, he writes [I think the term is 'gawdawful'] poetry after all), then why is his grad degree (after the Silver Star, the Congressional testimony, and given how achievement obsessed he was - he clearly knew the value of credentials) from BC and Bush's (the dummy) from HBS (where he really had no family connections - unlike Yale)?

We know the soft under-belly of places like YLS and that there are smart people in every law school, but it still makes you wonder.
Know the soft under-belly? Hey, some of us lived it.

Steve Jens guesses Kerry thought BC would help him get into local politics:

at the Massachusetts State House, his BC degree was probably considered more prestigious than a Harvard degree would have been. There's quite a BC club up on Beacon Hill, the highest prestige going to those who went to BC High School, Boston College undergrad, and then BC Law. They call these folks "triple eagles", after the BC Eagles.
Steve's brother Dean had the same response.

I guess it makes sense. I do note that Bill Clinton had political aspirations, and he didn't seem to have any qualms about going to a high-falutin' Yankee law school, nor did it seem to hurt him.
Lyric of the Day:
"And his laughter fills my world and wears your smile."
~ Beth Neilsen Chapman, "Sand and Water"

Happy Birthday:
Prince Edward
Jasmine Guy
Shannon Miller
Sharon Stone

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I've got to ask: What's the story behind John Kerry getting his law degree from Boston College?

By the time he applied to law school, the guy had a resume that should have made admissions offices salivate: St. Paul's, Yale, Skull & Bones, the Silver Star, testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he couldn't do any better for law school than BC?

Look, BC is a fine law school (US News currently ranks it 22nd, just behind the University of Iowa and tied with George Washington and Notre Dame). John Kerry probably learned way more law than the Kitchen Cabinet did. But the legal profession is mindlessly obsessed with prestige; most people attend the most highly regarded school they can get into. And you'd think an overachieving, hyper-ambitious snob like Kerry wouldn't settle for less than the very best unless he had no other choice.

Maybe he was sick of the Ivy League. Or he decided BC would be better for his political career. Or he had terrible grades (how bad would they have to be to outweigh a Silver Star?). Were there financial complications? Geographical constraints?

A side note: This official biography on Kerry's Senate page mentions his time as a prosecutor but not where he got his law degree:

But in the intervening years, he found different ways to fight for those things in which he believed. Time and again, Kerry fought to hold the political system accountable and to do what he believed was right.
But the official biography on Kerry's 2004 campaign page uses identical languge and includes a Boston College reference:

But in the intervening years, Kerry graduated from Boston College Law School and found different ways to fight for those things in which he believed. Time and again, Kerry fought to hold the political system accountable and to do what he believed was right.
Hmmm... I guess a likely explanation is that the staff drone who pasted the bio onto the new website noticed the gap and filled it in. (There are other differences, including a prominent reference to Kerry's Catholicism on the 2004 website that's not in the other bio.)

But... interesting.
Sign of the apocalypse!!

Justice Scalia authored an opinion issued yesterday that came to a result supported in amicus briefs by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
How much do you have to do to be authentic, to be committed?

From the NY Times:
Mr. Drake [a Hummer dealer] said he was approached by a well-known actress, whose name he declined to share.

"She told me she wanted to buy a hybrid, and she was concerned about the Hummer and its effect on the environment," Mr. Drake recalled. "I asked where she lived. She said Beverly Hills. I said, `Out of curiosity: How big is your house?'

"She said: `What does that matter? It's 20,000 square feet.' "

He said he replied: "I don't know what's less correct. Having three people live in a 20,000-square-foot house, with a pool and heaters and air-conditioners. Or me driving my Hummer 500 miles a month."

Mr. Drake's house, he said, is 3,000 square feet.
This seems, at first, to be quite a clever "gotcha." But at the heart of it is a deeper question: how committed do you have to be to something to be "committed"? Would it be enough to live in a 3000 square foot house and drive a Prius? Well, wait, but what if you don't recycle? Okay: small house, Prius, and you recycle. But do you always turn off the lights when you don't need them? Do you check your air conditioner filter regularly? Have you caulked your windows? Signed a petition? Lived in a tree to prevent it from being cut down? Lay down in front of a bulldozer? Gone vegetarian? Wear hemp?

What about with other issues?



Why I can never practice family law...

There's a case in Tennessee that hasn't received much national press, but was covered recently in the NY Times. The story, in short, is about a Chinese couple, an American couple, and the fight over custody of a Chinese baby.
The Hes' troubles began in 1998, soon after the pregnant Mrs. He arrived in this country. A doctoral candidate in economics at the University of Memphis, Mr. He had only recently met Mrs. He in China through an arranged marriage. Mrs. He, 35, a store manager in China, spoke no English and still struggles with the language.

Soon after her arrival, Mr. He was accused of sexual assault by a fellow student. University officials suspended his scholarship and student stipend, the couple's primary means of support. Mr. He's student visa was revoked, and immigration officials began deportation proceedings against the couple. Mr. He was eventually acquitted of the assault charges.

As their financial and legal problems deepened and Mrs. He's pregnancy advanced, a friend suggested that they contact Mid-South Christian Services, a private adoption agency in Memphis. In their testimony this week, agency employees said the couple, who had no health insurance, were seeking a foster family of means to take care of the child while they sorted out their finances. Legal documents they later signed spelled out the arrangement as temporary.

What the couple says they did not understand was that the word "temporary" was not what it seemed: regaining custody required the blessing of the Bakers and the consent of a judge. Agency and court employees and a Chinese language translator have testified that no one explained the complex nature of the agreement. The couple, they said, was not advised to hire a lawyer.
The issue now is that the American couple, who currently has custody of the child, and the Chinese couple are locked in a lawsuit to terminate the parental rights of the Chinese parents.

As a contract matter, the question seems easy to me. There appears to be fraud in the inducement or some sort of unconscionability here. As Lily pointed out to me when we discussed the case, the problem is that this isn't a straight contract matter -- you can't think of the baby as simple property. In custody battles, all that really matters are the "best interests of the child."

So that's how we get into this mess. And that, as you can see, is the basis of the American couple's position:
The Bakers' lawyers say that what ultimately matters is the welfare of 5-year-old Anna Mae He, who has seen her biological parents only once in more than three years as a result of a court order. "What kind of quality of life is the child going to have in China?" asked Larry Parrish, a lawyer for the Bakers. "Common sense dictates that to take a child out of an environment where she's firmly attached and settled is the ultimate devastation."
The problem, as the Times article points out, is that common sense is open to interpretation. To an extent, the problem certainly is a cultural one. But I think there is another question: what interests are we really talking about? If we're concerned about the short-term interests, then certainly one must be concerned about taking a child away from the environment to which she has become accustomed -- no matter, of course, that she was became accustomed to it because she was kept there unlawfully. How about long-term interests, however? As this column suggests, what will the child think in the future? Is it in her interest to have to tell her how and why she grew up in America? That her parents were duped into giving up their rights? Or, worse yet, if her foster parents would spin the truth, to have her find these things out from some faded newspaper clippings, or old internet sites?
Lyric of the Day:
"If I had a million dollars, we wouldn't have to walk to the store."
~ Barenaked Ladies, "If I Had a Million Dollars"

Happy Birthday:
Samuel Barber
Yuri Gagarin
Raul Julia

Monday, March 08, 2004

Andrew Ferguson on the postmodern primary, where candidates talk like handlers and voters talk like pundits:

[I]t's become customary for a presidential candidate to "get his message across" by simply announcing that he's getting his message across. At a rally for John Edwards a few weeks ago, in South Carolina, I heard the comely Carolinian announce: "Let me tell you something. My message of hope and optimism is resonating all across America." And the crowd applauded! He might as well have hollered "applause line!" to receive the same reaction. "My message works," Edwards told an interviewer not long ago. "And it's going to continue to work." In South Carolina he said: "My message is optimism. My message is about hope." Marshall McLuhan was wrong. The medium isn't the message. The message is the message.
As for pundits, well... "anybody can be a pundit. Maureen Dowd is a pundit."
Newsweek has the low-down on the minimum security prison in Danbury that Martha Stewart may be calling home:

For recreation, there are two TV lounges, a law library, a track, and a gymnasium used for Pilates, yoga, dancersize or aerobics (but not tai chi, which the Feds have deemed a martial art).
And there's a hint she'll be able to keep pursuing domestic excellence even in the big house. Inmates "spend their days in the kitchen or maintaining the grounds."
A federal judge ruled on Friday that the music industry cannot sue over 200 alleged file sharers at once. Each defendant must be sued individually.

It must be a huge bummer to be a lawyer for the RIAA.
This piece on Naomi Wolfe calls her "a daft old brush" and "a humourless silly."

But Steve Wu defends Wolfe, calling a WSJ piece on her harassment claim "probably the worst possible response that a woman who finally speaks about an incident like this can expect."
I watched a lot of bad TV this weekend: Meet Joe Black, Serendipity, About A Boy, an Agatha Christie I didn't catch the name of, and even part of Rosemary's Baby.

Yikes. The tiny part of me that remains intellectually respectable should be happy I'm going to work tomorrow, even if the rest of me isn't.
"Don't want to meet your daddy; just want you in my Caddy."

Cadillac replaces Mercedes Benz as the top hip-hop brand.
Lyric of the Day:
"Was love always this good, or could this be just a start?"
Eric Carmen, "Make Me Lose Control"

Happy Birthday:
Kathy Ireland
Aidan Quinn
Lynn Redgrave
Peter Jackson made the fantasy subculture respectable, says Sandy Starr, who goes on to slam geek-dom:

[T]he criticism of science fiction and fantasy fans - that we are infantile and escapist people, and socially inept to boot - sadly has a little more truth to it. Of course, there are many pastimes that people pursue obsessively, and it may seem a little unfair to stick the boot into sci-fi geeks rather than car fanatics, opera buffs or stamp collectors. But of all the hobbies and interests out there, being preoccupied with the details of otherworldly settings and characters, at the expense of being engaged with the world you actually inhabit, does bespeak a certain retreat from society into the safety of one's imagination.... Thanks to the internet, marginal obsessions can be indulged in at unlimited length, with like-minded people around the world.
Obsessions like blogging, I suppose.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Mickey Kaus picks up on some NY Post gossip: the wife of New York Times executive editor Bill Keller used to date John Kerry (when he was between wives). Kaus asks, which way would that connection cut in the Times' coverage of the Democratic candidate?

If Keller is a normal human being there would be a spectrum of possible biases ...

'He was a jerk, Bill'--against Kerry

'He was a nice guy'--for Kerry

'He was the greatest guy'--against Kerry!
P.S.: The response of the Kerry campaign was:

"Americans care about jobs, health care and national security, not gossip," declared Kerry spokesman David Wade. "John Kerry's coverage in the New York Times will be determined by his vision for the country and the fights he wages and nothing more."

Please! Wouldn't a less pompous and on-message--in a word, a less Lehanish--response, be more effective? Something like: "Yes, they went out when they were both single. So what?"
Yes, please. If you must spin, spin a little more softly than that.
Good 70, Evil 65

Duke Basketball Report has a nice observation:

[P]erhaps the best part of it was when the game was on the line and Redick took the ball away from Rashad McCants - the same McCants who derided Redick before the game, saying that "I don't find J.J. too much of a threat besides shooting 3s. If he's off, he's off. If he's not making any shots, then I don't think he's going to be too much of a factor." Could there be a sweeter ending possible for Redick? And McCants now? "I was about to pull up for a 3 and just got pounded," he told the Herald-Sun. "There was no call. They got the ball so..." So what? Everyone else got pounded, too. Shut up and play.
The ACC tournament kicks off on Thursday night with the 8-9 play-in game between Clemson and Florida State. Duke plays the winner of that game at noon on Friday.
For Lily's Father

Wow.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

What's in that Minnesota water?

I just found out that Justice Blackmun and Chief Justice Burger met in kindergarten. CJ Burger had this to say to Justice Blackmun on Blackmun's first day at the court: "When we had those dreams of `doing it together' neither of us ever dreamed it would be this way or in this place. It was the practice we wanted."

I promptly started making a list of all my kindergarten friends... Illinois is close to Minnesota, after all.
Jack Balkin versus Jonah Goldberg on conservatives, judicial activism, and amending the Constitution.
InstaPundit has been following the Duke intellectual diversity controversy. Duke held a panel discussion on the topic, but Glenn notes that the conversation seemed to turn on whether or not ideological affiliation even matters. And the student critics didn't get to speak:

Question: If a bunch of minority students challenged Duke for underinclusiveness, would the university put on an all-faculty-and-administrator panel, with most panelists suggesting that the race of faculty members isn't important?

It's not all bad by any means, and the very existence of this discussion is some evidence of progress. But the different treatment of different kinds of diversity challenges is striking, especially as intellectual diversity would seem more important to the university's academic mission than skin-color diversity, which we're always told is a proxy for the intellectual kind.
Of course, ideology enters the racial diversity debate when minority professors aren't sufficiently liberal. Then they're told they don't count because they're not "authentic."
Stewart verdict rocks Westport:

In this town where Martha Stewart built an empire out of tasteful living, word on the street about her guilty verdict ranged from shock to uneasy resignation.

Upon hearing Stewart had been pronounced guilty an hour earlier on four counts of lying to the government and obstruction of justice after an inside tip led her to dump $228,000 of ImClone stock in 2001, Westport resident Geri Zatcoft looked momentarily stunned.

"I'm really sorry to hear that. I'm sorry that she lied," Zatcoft said, her voice barley audible over the cars going up and down the Post Road. Cindi Hart said she thinks the government targeted Stewart because she is a successful woman.

"I'm so sad," Hart said as she walked down Church Street in a heavy mist. "I think it's interesting. She's a woman and they went after her. I think it's a bad day for successful women."
Indeed. Yesterday was a dark day.
Bring it on.
College Basketball Pool

So... would there be any interest in a pool this year? I don't know that we'll have a prize -- although I'm not even sure the prize from last year worked itself out. But, there's always glory and fame.

Anyway, let me know if you're interested and also let me know what format you prefer.

In related news, if you loved Hoosiers, you need to read this article.

More posting this weekend... it's been a busy week at work.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Lyric of the Day:
"I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left."
~ Kate Bush, "This Woman's Work"

Happy Birthday:
Niki Taylor
Rex Harrison

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

The college basketball season heats up right about now, as the last regular-season games are played and the conference tournaments begin.

Virginia upset Wake tonight, complicating the ACC picture. Duke will at least tie for the ACC regular-season crown. Not that it's much of a crown, as the only champion the conference officially recognizes is the winner of the tournament.

Catch the big game this Saturday, 9 p.m. on ESPN.
Lyric of the Day:
"I feel it in my fingers; I feel it in my toes."
Wet Wet Wet, "Love Is All Around"

Happy Birthday:
Desi Arnaz
Mikhail Gorbachev
Jon Bon Jovi
Dr. Seuss

Monday, March 01, 2004

I got a little lightheaded toward the end of this column by Mary Ann Glendon about how a vote for the Federal Marriage Amendment is a vote for freedom. Freedom for a certain class of citizens to lead lives free of intolerance and discrimination:

Religious freedom, too, is at stake. As much as one may wish to live and let live, the experience in other countries reveals that once these arrangements become law, there will be no live-and-let-live policy for those who differ. Gay-marriage proponents use the language of openness, tolerance and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination the likes of which we have rarely seen before. Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don't go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles.
A gay reign of terror? Don't bet on it. What Glendon is really worried about is that people's minds are changing, that consensus is shifting. And she's right to worry. Again, a comparison with interracial marriage is appropriate. To my knowledge, religious institutions today are free to maintain whatever whacko policies they want on interracial marriage. Yes, they may be "labeled as bigoted." The shoe fits! And yet reports of enraged interrmaried couples mercilessly discriminating against the un-PC are strangely rare...

If you're against interracial marriage in this country, you may find yourself on the fringe of things. You might not get invited to the best dinner parties. But nobody's persecuting you. You're free to live out your vision of marriage in your own life. The fact that people make fun of you isn't proof that you're being brutally repressed. It just means society has changed, but because this is America, you have the right not to. (And hey, if it turns out you're right and the race-mixers all end up in hell, bully for you.)

The comparison between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement has been drawn before on this blog, but I'll make it again. Thirty years from now, all but the most backward of Americans will know, or at least personally know of, a married gay couple. Children will learn about the movement in school. There will be earnest documentaries. Those couples who got married last month in San Francisco? Think Rosa Parks.

And there'll still be a lot of people who're squeamish about it, people who hope their sons don't marry other men and maybe mutter about it under their breath. There will even be the occasional sermon about the evils of homosexuality (come to think of it, when was the last time you heard a sermon about homosexuality these days?). What there won't be are lots of vocal groups crying that our sacred institutions are under attack, etc., etc. That kind of talk won't have much credibility, because it will be clear by then that gay marriage is here to stay and the sky hasn't fallen. The vast majority of marriages will be between a man and a woman. (The divorce rate will remain at around fifty percent, as homosexuals will prove no better at living up to their vows than heterosexuals have been lately.)

Many of the same people who are bitterly opposed to gay marriage now will have convenienty forgotten that fact, just as there are many people in the South today who once were racists but aren't anymore. The Democrats understand this. John Kerry may express weak opposition to gay marriage, but thirty years from now nobody's going to be comparing him to George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door.

Republicans, on the other hand, sense that they're on shifting sands. You can feel their trepidation. But they're going ahead and pushing for an amendment, seizing a small political advantage today and setting the party up to take a much bigger hit later. In this department, sad to say, W. has proven to be no better than his father at "the vision thing."