Friday, December 21, 2012

YOU GOT TO MOVE: It's never a bad time to remind people of their obligations in an airport or on a plane, but as we hit the high season for holiday travel, now is an especially not-bad time.
  1. Walk left; stand right.  If you know nothing of anything in this world, you should at least learn this lesson, because it applies wherever there are things moving at different speeds.  Moving walkways?  Don't stand next to your companion; stand in front of or behind her.  Escalators?  Pull your wheeled suitcase behind you, and let the hurrying people pass.  This means you, people blocking both of the long escalators at Dulles.  
  2. And don't just try to slow-walk your way into compliance.  Many people in airports are in a hurry for good reasons.  Get out of their way.  
  3. If you must text or email, move to the side of the concourse.  The part of your brain that types also short-circuits your sense of direction, overregulates your speed, and disables your situational awareness.  If you meander in front of me while I'm trying to hustle from G-20 to A-20 in Minneapolis, I will enjoy running you over.  
  4. In that nerve-wracking time when people start jockeying for position before they call your boarding group, find a decent place to stand.  As everybody inches closer, you have two choices:  stay where you are and yield your position, or inch closer in proportion to everybody else, maintaining the same relative position.  Don't try to weave through the crowd to improve your position, because then everybody will, and all hell will break loose.  
  5. When it is a scrum, it is a scrum.  Once something resembling a line forms, it is a line.  You enter a line from the back, not from the middle.  
  6. They keep saying it, and you keep not listening.  Your bag goes into the overhead compartment WHEELS FIRST.  If your bag only fits in sideways, IT DOESN'T FIT. Check it.  
  7. If the person behind you is in a car seat or is carrying a child on his or her lap, you cannot recline your seat.  True, this is an unexpected inconvenience to you.  But you cannot do it, period, so don't bother making mad faces at the parents.  
  8. Middle seat gets both armrests.  This way, everybody gets at least one armrest, and it best equalizes everybody's space. If you think that the shared armrests are for whoever first claims them -- a rule that frequently would leave the middle-seater wedged between two elbowy people -- you have entitlement issues. 
  9. Relatedly, no matter how important you are, there is no hierarchy of in-flight activity.  Your splay-elbowed comfort while typing out your brief, presentation, or screenplay does not warrant jabbing your sleeping neighbor's elbow off the armrest.  
  10. If you're in the middle or window seat and you have to get up, don't grab the seat in front of you to steady yourself. You're capable of standing up without bouncing that person like a rubber toy.  
  11. Never conduct a conversation across a person.  There is little on a plane as irritating as being right between two people shouting at each other.  Perhaps you could offer to trade seats?  
  12. Exiting a plane is like a wedding recessional.  Everybody in the front row goes, then everybody in the next row, and so on.  No matter when you reached the aisle, if you are in Row 21, you are not going to get off before the people in Row 20.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

BELGIUM! WHERE THE WEATHER IS SHIT AND THE GIRLS DRESS LIKE WIDOWS:  Tom and Lorenzo review this year's Miss Universe national costumes.
ACT LIKE WHEREVER YOU ARE, THAT'S THE PLACE TO BE:  Via Watts, the 100 most-searched-for out-of-print books, a list topped by the most controversial coffee table book of all time.
MA'AM, I AM EIGHT YEARS OLD. YOU THINK I WOULD BE HERE ALONE?  A doctor evaluates the severity of the injuries suffered by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in Home Alone.
IN WHICH AL CAPONE'S VAULT, GEORGE MAGAZINE, AND TIM TEBOW RECEIVE EQUAL BILLING:  Mike Tanier recounts some of the more Epic Fizzles in world history.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

IT OFFENDS PEOPLE: I don't mean to step on TPE's post about Bork, but many of us who both write on and read this blog are alumni of the University of Chicago law school, and Bork was both an alumnus and a participant in some important parts of the school's history, and -- without touching on any of the stuff that would require invocation of The Rule -- I wanted to add two additional thoughts:

On Bork as a young man:  Abner Mikva, who taught at the the U of C at the same time that many of us were enrolled there, was a law school classmate and long-time close friend of Bork despite their divergent political views, and he told many fond stories of Bork (including that, in preparation for Bork’s confirmation process, Mikva had advised Bork to “Get rid of the beard – it offends people”).  My favorite was from the famed antitrust class that (future Attorney General) Edward Levi taught for four days a week and seminal U of C economist Aaron Director untaught on the fifth day.  One day, Director made the argument that rent-control laws were bad because they ended up pricing the people they were supposed to help out of the market in the first place, so those laws should never be enacted.  At the end of class, Bork rushed to the lectern, and asked, breathlessly (as Mikva tells it), “but what about the poor widows?  Would you get rid of the rent control laws and put them out on the street?”  “Young man,” Director reportedly replied, “I said you should never enact rent control laws. I didn’t say anything about getting rid of them.”  When I heard the story, Mikva added, with a chuckle, “Bork, he was the biggest bleeding-heart liberal of us all.”* 

On Bork as a writer:  In law school, one of my favorite things about law books was their comprehensive and effusive acknowledgements sections.  The double-acknowledgements section in my version of Bork’s The Antitrust Paradox, which reprinted the original acknowledgements and then added a second acknowledgements section for the anniversary edition, was, to my mind, the pinnacle of this art.  It had a beginning and an ending (if no middle) and told a tale that included friendship, camaraderie, conflict (regarding the reaction to the original publication of the book), triumph, and actual unexpected heartbreak (the death of Bork’s wife).  It was a short thank-you note with all the flavors of a decent novel.  Whatever else one thinks about Bork, and people have certainly thought about him a lot, that acknowledgements section framed him for me in a light in which I think most people (other than Mikva) usually didn’t see him.

*I cannot vouch either for the accuracy of the story as originally told to me or for the accuracy of my recollection of the story.  It was a long time ago. 
IF I WANT A SALAD, I'LL ASK FOR ONE: (N.B.: This post was granted a No Action Letter under the Rule by ALOTT5MA Headquarters; this is not a place to discuss the politicization of the judiciary or the politicization of anything that does not threaten the health of your liver).

Judge Robert Bork died today at the age of 84. We will leave the discussion of his legal significance to any other site on the internet. For now, in memory of his long service on the bench and in academia, I present to you his letter of December 2005 to the Wall Street Journal, probably the most practical thing he ever wrote:

Eric Felten’s essay on the dry martini is itself near-perfect (“Don’t Forget the Vermouth,” Leisure & Arts, Pursuits, Dec. 10). His allusion to constitutional jurisprudence is faulty, however, since neither in law nor martinis can we know the subjective “original intent” of the Founding Fathers. As to martinis, the intent may have been to ease man’s passage through this vale of tears or, less admirably, to employ the tactic of “candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.”

What counts in mixology is the “original understanding” of the martini’s essence by those who first consumed it. The essence remains unaltered but allows proportions to evolve as circumstances change. Mr. Felten’s “near-perfect martini” is the same in principle as the “original-understanding martini” and therefore its legitimate descendant. Such latter-day travesties as the chocolate martini and the raspberry martini, on the other hand, are the work of activist bartenders.

Mr. Felten lapses into heresy only once. He prefers the olive to the lemon peel because the former is a “snack.” Dropping a snack into a classic drink is like garnishing filet mignon with ketchup. The correct response when offered an olive is, “When I want a salad, I’ll ask for it.”

Robert H. Bork
The Hudson Institute

To wit, with the Christmas and New Year just ahead ahead -- and Hannukah just passed -- it's always a good occasion to discuss your favorite holiday drinking traditions. Is there a new cocktail you've discovered? A bottle of scotch you mean to try? Or, of course, if you have anything you want to add to expand the penumbra of appropriate gin concoctions, let us know in the comments.
ROLL THE GARBAGE:  Many of the films in this year's batch for the National Film Registry are in there for technical reasons (early use of color photography, most notably), but there are also things you would have thought were in already (Anatomy of A Murder, Born Yesterday), a few more contemporary (The Matrix, Slacker, A League of Their Own), and perhaps most deservingly--They Call It Pro Football, the first film from what became NFL Films.  The Atlantic earlier this year had a nice and fascinating longread on just how much They Call It Pro Football changed the game, which is well worth your time.
GOD STILL RESIDES IN THE DETAILS: We begin the final season of The Wire with a copy machine/lie detector ploy first used in the first season of Homicide: Life on the Streets, and if there's a more meta way to indicate that everyone in the City of Baltimore will have to do "More With Less" this season, I'm not quite sure what it would be.

Everything is turning to shit in City government, owing to Carcetti's decision to protect his gubernatorial hopes (he thinks) and dignity rather than accept $54 million in state funding for the schools. Police aren't getting paid, Major Crimes has been broken up (again), McNulty's drinking again, and the investigation into Marlo Stanfield's organization is over**, as is the effort to solve all the dead bodies in the vacants. The only person who seems happy? Herc, charged with spending Maury Levy's money to help the criminals of Baltimore remain at large.

But at least we have a Fourth Estate to cover it all. We haven't dealt with the media much in the first four seasons, save Herc's efforts to derail Hamsterdam, but, hey, it's Meldrick Lewis, city desk editor! And lame-ass editors above, ambitious reporters below, an adorable grammar snob, and ... not enough resources to do their job. Great. But when there's only one Cool Lester Smooth in the world, I'm glad someone else noticed the Fat-Face Rick zoning deal. Maybe something will come of this political corruption investigation after all, but whether its success would actually help the people of Baltimore is another story.

(Most intriguing detail: why is Chris Partlow interested in Sergei Malatov? Also: no longer in the opening credits, per Wiki: Burrell, Prezbo, Bunny, Cutty, Royce, and Bodie.)

** The New Day Co-Op started in season three. That the police still seem unaware of its existence drops my enthusiasm for Major Crimes a notch or two.
ARTISANAL, SUSTAINABLE, AND TWEE:  Forget about perennials like moist and panties -- what were the worst words of 2012? (Warning: contains some political content, as well as reference to an alcohol intake practice about which I was previously unfamiliar.)

related: Is it Les Mis or Les Miz?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I'M GUESSING JOE KLEIN DID NOT WRITE THIS ONE: So, apparently American Idol is about to get its own Primary Colors/Devil Wears Prada novel where similarities to real life persons are "purely coincidental" (wink wink, nudge nudge).  Does anyone care enough to actually read it?  Did Richard Rushfield write it?
HYDRATED:  Language Log tries to figure out why so many people are averse to the word moist:
The words in question are not taboo in the culture at large. Women seem to be more more likely to have this reaction, though perhaps they are just more likely to talk and write about it.. Sounds and sound associations may play a role (the diphthong usually spelled 'oi', certain consonant clusters, etc.); semantic associations may play a role (slimy textures, lower-body garments like panties and slacks); but the process seems pretty random and erratic, also hitting on random-seeming words like hardscrabble, baffle and tissue. Nevertheless, certain specific words (such as moist and panties in English) seem to be frequent victims. This lexical specificity could be because the process is more deterministic than it seems, or because of cultural transmission that doesn't reach the threshold of creating new lexical taboos, but does create a widely-shared aversion to particular words well above chance levels.
IT'S ALL CONNECTED:  Reminder that tomorrow, Wire Wednesdays continue with "More With Less," the first episode of the final season.
WILLIAM WORRALL MAYO AND BETTY FORD DISAPPROVE AS WELL:  Some Gilda's Club cancer support centers are planning to change their name because young people have no idea who Gilda Radner was; her longtime collaborator, Alan Zweibel, is not pleased:
Okay, let's say that these young people have not heard of Gilda who passed away in 1989. I personally think it could be a good thing because when these young people ask who she was, they can be told that she was a very funny comedienne who made millions of people laugh on television every week. And then they can be told that when she was stricken with ovarian cancer, instead of retreating, she embarked on a mission that took her to the cover of Life Magazine that had an article entitled "Gilda Radner's Answer to Cancer: Healing the Body with Mind and Heart." And took her to L.A. Lakers games where she laughingly compared her bald head with Kareem's. And took her onto an episode of "It's Garry Shandling's Show" where she made cancer jokes because she looked her disease in the eye when she told me, "My jokes are my only weapon against this fucker."
URBAN PROBLEMS DESK:It's been a few years since we last discussed it, but as we come to the end of the year, it's time to once again discuss the question of holiday gifts/tips.  Two questions:
  1. Is a tip/gift a reward/incentive for past performance, or is it an encouragement for future performance?  For instance, I moved earlier this year into a new building.  Is a lower gift appropriate as a result? 
  2. Who to give to and how much?  Some are easy--my assistant gets a gift, and the three doormen on staff at my building will each get something and a card, but mail carrier?  Newspaper delivery?
My inclination is $5-10/month lived in the building for the doormen (who address me by name and are constantly helpful), but I want to make sure I'm not out of the ballpark there.

Monday, December 17, 2012

MANIACS: Even before Silver Linings Playbook introduced Bradley Cooper's garbage bag accessorizing to the world, consumer researchers determined that Philadelphia leads the nation in sweat apparel purchased per capita for the second straight year.
AFTER BRIEF STOPS IN SIAM AND TRANSJORDAN:  The UChicago Indiana Jones package mystery has been solved.
CHRISTMASTIME FOR THE JEWS: I still can't believe they're releasing Streisand/Rogen and Midler/Crystal in the same week.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

YOU, LIEUTENANT WEINBERG?  Twenty years ago this weekend, A Few Good Men was released in theaters. Welcome to the Sorkinverse.
CAN WE BE FUNNY AGAIN? I am not entirely sure, but SNL's Royal Family Doctor last night (and Martin Short in general) was the kind of silliness I needed. Chunnel.