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March 11 2005 3:10 PM

Needles & Threads

The week's best in the Fray.

The idea that Dali used Picasso's Cubism to achieve his effects is crazy. No artist had less to do with the fragmentation of pictorial space than Dali. His ancestors were to be found in the many academic painters of the past, whose meticulous brushwork created photorealistic representations of objects, crossed with the dreamlike landscapes of DeChirico, as well as the optical illusions found in puzzle books … Cubism had nothing to do with it…

…Even when the images don't make literal sense, they tend to be Symbolic with a big S, like a sign reading "Flaccid Thingy Up Ahead". Sometimes they skip the symbolism altogether and just spell it out: "Penis, Vagina, Buttocks, Breasts, Shit" wrapped up in a package of shame and terror. Just in case the viewer doesn't get the point, Dali might throw in a tiny naked man hanging his head in shame, or call his picture "The Great Masturbator," or perhaps write an essay describing exactly what the symbols mean. The whole enterprise begs the question, how can a true exploration of the subconscious be undertaken using the most studied, academic techniques? Usually, the answer is, it can't.

Dali came to realize that far from being derided as old-fashioned hackwork, in an abstract era starved for "realistic pictures", his academic painting style was celebrated as true mastery, whether he added any "psychological" baggage to it or not. So from the 1940's on, he didn't even bother trying to imbue his paintings with meaning or substance…

Utek1, here, on Salvador Dali as symbolist.

…Turning back to Lebanon, what has happened is a sudden reversal of power relationships. For years, the decisive force in Lebanon was the Syrian army, and one had to give that devil his due -- just as Whalid Jumblatt did. However, Jumblatt had never been a puppet, since he had an independent base of support in the Druze, who generally will follow his lead. Now, it is clear to Jumblatt … that the "Syrian order" is over. Syrian troops may not immediately pull out of Lebanese territory, but they will at some point. Meanwhile, they will not again act to protect their stooges from political events driven by the Lebanese. No one doubts that the West -- France, never mind the US -- will no longer tolerate Syrian military action and want Syria out. To defy that new reality, the younger Assad would have to be prepared to risk war and the loss of power in Syria.

It's as simple as that, and Wahlid Jumblatt knows it.

Publius, here, on the developments in Lebanon vis-à-vis opposition leader Wahlid Jumblatt.

In a few hundred years they will look back on the American empire as a great irony: A nation formed as a refuge from the theological-political wars of the 16th century itself devolved into theological-political war; because it, like the nations from which it revolted, could not separate theology from politics.

The founding fathers would look on these developments with great sorrow, given that they knew exactly what kind of oppression and near genocide a politics of theology could lead to (30 years war, anyone?), and given that they formed this nation in order to prevent it.

But, I guess as a libertarian, rather than a conservative, I see no reason why the dead should govern the living. So though I too find these developments disturbing, I have no appeal to the founding fathers' univocal desire to keep the church separate from the state. The real irony then is that conservatives - those who do think the dead should govern the living - also pay no heed to the desires of the founding fathers.

matt666, here, on church 'n' state.

…What bloggers have that traditional reporters don't have, or think they don't have, is the time to place a story in historical context and to follow it beyond the date it runs, and the freedom from the variety of institutional pressures faced by institutional reporters.

Where institutional journalists more accurately portray bloggers, or more specifically, their readers and commenters, is as the mob. All but the most persistent rumors and misapprehensions were once pretty well confined to the locale where they originated; now, they're circulated instantly, everywhere even if they're not picked up by bloggers who prefer some sort of substantiation before they post. But even that's not much of a departure from the practices of institutional journalists. What they pat themselves on the back for is not printing the rumors they circulate among themselves.

Ironically, the affair of Jim Dale Joe Billy Bob Guckert Gannon may do more to legitimate bloggers as journalists than any passel of earnest geeky blog evangelists could. His accreditation by the White House press office opened the door for the media watchers at Fishbowl D.C., and probably had no little impact on the press office's decision to allow my blog to send representatives to the daily briefings and other White House press events. It won't be long before the House and Senate galleries, who serve as the de facto arbiters of who's a journalist and who isn't, begin credentialing more online sites and blogs.

At this point, what distinguishes journalist-wannabe bloggers from the more commonly recognized thing are resources—cultivated sources, Nexis and morgue access and so on—and money. Most bloggers can't pay the tab to send someone along with the president on his travels, or to chase leads around the country or to do a touch-and-go landing somehwere so we can run a story with a particular dateline.

That'll begin to change soon too. In fact, on a more local scale, it already has…

Betty_the_Crow, here, representing the blogosphere.

…Any disparaging of Dre still must accept one sterling thing. Dre has done what few, if any, people in the hip-hop world have ever done: he came back. I'm not talking about Jay-Z one foot in the door kind of comeback. I'm talking about falling on your face, your sound going out of style, your moment has passed kind of comeback. Aftermath at its inception was a disaster, Dre had cut ties with Suge Knight in an ugly fashion (the only fashion possible with Suge), and Gangsta Rap had faded in the face of Pac and Biggie's deaths. So let me repeat-you don't come back in hip-hop. Public Enemy? No. The Beasties? No (Hello Nasty was their last gasp). Ice Cube, not as a rapper. Naughty By Nature? Juvenile? De La Soul has gone back underground, Tribe fell apart (wherefore art thou, Tip?), and Wu-Tang disintegrated. If you leave the building of mainstream rap, don't expect to be let back in.

But Dre, three years after leaving Death Row, discovered some new talent (Eminem, Xzibit), patched up with some old talent (Snoop -who, at Dre's side, was the only other comeback kid I can think of Coincidence?), made a whole boat load of catchy beats and rushed right back into the fore with '2001'. He hasn't left since. He's even brought Gangsta back with him in the form of 50 and The Game. Disparage his music or his methods, but don't knock the man. Dre is an anomaly in an industry where you're either in the spotlight or in the past.

Ortho_Stice, here … but don't call it a comeback.


Wednesday, March 9, 2005

The rash of yuppie Mommy confessionals on the bookshelf (see Ann Hulbert's critique of the quasi-genre here) has the Sandbox throwing dirt. Hulbert writes:

…women writers have been busy crafting a withering corrective to official versions of motherhood. By official, I mean not just (mostly male) pontification about the sacred ideals, intellectual rewards, emotional pleasures, psychological challenges, and profound social importance of motherhood, I also mean what [Erma] Bombeck called "the prime-time mothers" with their "maddening perfection."

 Canadian Mom, jl_eau, feels that this may be a uniquely American phenomenon:

When American writers talk about that "deep core of anxiety" I have to imagine it. Sure I have anxieties about my son. But to me they're normal and manageable. And it's not the just the's working with a solid network of other women and men in your community to socialize and, nurture and understand your child. It's feeling that you have a government that is accountable to your needs as a mother. And that you live in a society that will hold them accountable.

According to jl_eau, one of the things that makes Montreal motherhood manageable is that…

My son has been in extremely high-quality daycare (educated, unionized workers, excellent food, diapers, regular field trips in and outside of the city) that costs me, everything included, a little more than a $100 a month. Universal daycare has been a fact of life in Quebec for over five years.

In a similar vein, Ellendiffrnet squawks, "Give me a break!" She thinks that the conversation has to be put…

in context to women who have to work 2 or even 3 jobs just to keep their kids fed and clothed. There are vast number of women who don't have time to even be the most superficial mommy because they are struggling against the economic tide. When writers fret about how over-tired the women who have a choice compared to those who have no choice it is the height of mental masturbation and another symbol of the self-absorption of middle-class mentality.

Careener hits this point well, too. Check out that post — and Careener's grant request — here.

Why is there a glut of books being purveyed for this demographic? Bama believes that

upper-middle class mothers buy books. Working class mothers don't have the money to buy or time to read books on motherhood. They are too busy mothering. Remember, the publishers' main objective is to sell books.

Bama continues, arguing that the entire discussion of parenting and gender roles has been stilted to conform to this reality. On fatherhood, Bama writes:

Many have asked why there is not a similar emphasis on modern day fathers. Probably because fathers don't buy or read these kind of books. But also because fathers don't have a feeling that they are not living up to the standards of fatherhood established by their fathers and grandfathers. Many modern fathers know they are better fathers than were their own fathers…

The attitudes of the older generation of fathers can been heard when an older man refers to taking care of his own children as "babysitting," or playing "Mr. Mom." It is not babysitting when you are taking care of your own children, its PARENTING, and doing so does not make you a mom. Most Gen-X fathers understand this, and those that don't need to get with the program. When they do, the mothers, fathers, and children will all be better off.

According to paleyoungman here, a self-described "eldest son in a matriarchal working class family," Goethe had it right:

"When a man (or woman) stops to ponder his physical or moral condition, he generally finds he is ill."

…This isn't to say that stoicism is a healthier alternative to self-analysis, and I don't mean the women in my family are supermoms. My mother will readily admit that she'd rather watch a true-crime A&E show alone than sit through some annoying Disney series for the sake of "Family Time". And then she'll prove it to you.

But Fish8, like so many of the Mommy portraits in question, worries:

I have a perfect mother - she was my Brownie troop leader, and took me on special lunch time picnics without my older sisters when I was in kindergarten and they were in school all day. She made elaborate, hand-sewn halloween costumes - whatever we could think up, she would make it for us…

But the tough choices she had to make … these choices are not available to me. Partially due to my own choices - the city in which I live, the career path I have taken - I know my family could never get by without a dual income. As I consider starting that family, I think about my favorite memories, all the things I cherish, about my childhood. Who will be the Brownie troop leader and make those halloween costumes? Who will take my little girl on a special picnic lunch? the nanny?

And so it begins - and I'm not even pregnant!

Speaking of parenting, Demosthenes2 submits the most comprehensive list of dos-'n'-don't for new parents the Fray has ever seen. And Mrs. Demosthenes, mother of newborn BabyD2, expands upon it hereKA1:05 p.m.


Friday, March 4, 2005

[Dunkin Donuts'] success, and the rabid loyalty of its customer base, is the product of three things: coffee, breakfast sandwich, doughnut. These three products are all presented in the same manner-quick, cheap, delicious. Both Krispy Kreme and Starbucks miss the mark, they market a luxury and lifestyle accordingly … Dunkin's is so successful because it markets itself, and the products work brilliantly, as necessities… When you wake up with a hangover, when you're getting a quick breakfast for a large group, when you're in a rush and need a little something in your gut and a little pick-me-up, you go to Dunkin Donuts … The coffee is seen by many New Englanders as the perfect marriage of pleasure and necessity -especially the Ichor of the Gods that is their iced coffee. That's the brilliance of Dunkin's-they make their products seem like foundational foods-no frills, and they make that foundation consistently satisfying. So you can take your wireless ambiance, Jewel, and $4.50 cups of coffee, and you can take your lump of lard deliciousness and little else, hell you can take your lovin'-it mcgriddle and shoddy coffee. It doesn't matter if you're working at the factory or teaching comp.lit or chilling with excel in your cubicle. Because when you're just getting up, or you're looking for a late night pit stop, or you need a lift in the midafternoon, the Northeast turns its lonely eyes to Dunkin's, and nobody else. It's not a chain, it's a food group. Ortho_Stice, here, on the brilliant simplicity of Dunkin' Donuts.

..Those pesky judeochristians can never agree on just how to subdivide [the Commandments]. Jews start in on the second verse; Catholics and Protestants prefer to skip over the whole Egypt thing and start on three. Well, we can quibble, can't we? After that, it all goes to hell, so to speak. The Jews, working from the original Hebrew, are more verbose on their 2nd commandment than the Protestants, but they pretty much agree that graven images, AKA idols, are a bad, bad thing. Roman Catholics, of course, have no such compunctions. IOZ knows--he's visited the Vatican. The One True Church skips the whole idolatry thing and reads: 2. Thou shalt not take the name of theLord thy God in vain. This Catholic second is the third for the Chosen People and the Detritus of the Big Bomb named Martin Luther. The Catholics continue a step ahead by making their third commandment the commandment to keep the Sabbath, while Jews and Proties insist it's number four. The Catholics continue to screw the whole thing up: They don't kill where the Js and Ps honor their folks; they don't steal where Js and Ps don't commit adultery; in their final couple, RCs divide the wives from the servants and oxen, whereas both Jews and Protestants remember that one man's maidservant is another man's wife; it's all just point of view.

Careful readers may also notice that the final verses of Exodus 20 contain a few more commandments pertaining to the proper use and construction of burnt offerings and stone alters. Eleven and twelve? Who can say?

In any event, we're really just discussing the Jew's Articles of Confederation anyway…

IOZ, here, bringing you these fifteen…these ten commandments in BOTF.

Elie Wiesel noted that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Noah notes that the opposite of truth is not lie, but B.S, the indifference to truth. I'd note that lies are tools of those who hate, while b.s. is the tool of those who don't care about truth.

…Now take this statement, from Bush's 2003 State of the Union:

"Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein."

There are no lies here, and each factual assertion is literally true. Its still pure b.s -- possibly the worst example of Bush's use of it. The two clauses of the first sentence, which tie a belief about Hussein to 9/11, are factually unrelated, leaving the impression that Hussein was involved with 9/11. The second sentence mention of "shadowy terrorist networks" is framed by two Hussein references even though Hussein had nothing to do with Al-Qaida. The third sentence connects directly connects (in the mind) Hussein, deadly biocehmical weapons, and the 9/11 "hijackers." Of course, Hussein had no such weapons, there was no evidence he would "arm" Al Qaida, and he had no connection to 9/11 or any hijacking.

The b.s. here is revealed by the lack of lies -- the careful arrangement of wording to avoid lying while still leaving an uterrly false impression. B.S. is really fraud, which may involve a material misstatement of fact (lie) or a material omission (leaving a false impression) with the intent to do so.

TheAList, here, further defining bullshit.

The Slate 60 is interesting this year as always.

With all respect to the donors of gifts to their communities and worthy institutions, the evidently less attractive field of philanthropy directed at immediately needy people deserves some thought.

If you had a large sum -- say, $10 million or more -- you wanted to use to help people in difficult economic straits, to whom and for what purpose would you give it?

To a church or other religious organization? To poor people, directly? To a specialized organization (for example, one that operated health clinics or supplied educational services)? Would you look past the needy in this country and aim the money at people overseas? Or would you go in the other direction and direct all the money to one locality? Lastly, would you give to an existing organization or try to start one of your own?

The Slate 60 is annually one of the less-read Slate features, so this Fray may not be the best place to post this. Perhaps this is a survey Slate's writers should respond to. If more wealthy people have not given large amounts of money to help the truly needy perhaps they have just not known how.

Zathras, here, on the Slate 60.

What I don't see is why even a staunch originalist like Scalia has to jettison the original conception of the Eighth Amendment. Why not just accept that the "floor" the Eighth Amendment sets is pretty low? After all, that's all the amendment is really doing -- setting a bare minimum. States, or Congress, are free to go as far above the floor as the people want. That's how you can really find a consensus. Even if the Eighth Amendment allows the death penalty for 12-year-olds (because it was allowed when written), that doesn't mean we have to have the death penalty for 12-year-olds. As it is, no state has such a law, nor does federal law. Whether the Eighth Amendment allowed it or not, enlightened people are always free to make sure their laws rise above that bare-bones floor. But if significant swaths of the population see no problem with, and prefer to dispense, rough 18th century justice, isn't that the best evidence of all that no consensus exists anyway? The Eighth Amendment still offers some protection; just not very much. The rest depends on how enlightened the people are. If you don't like the level of enlightenment, then work to change peoples' opinions and these rough laws (or even amend the Constitution to abolish the death penalty). That's a real evolving standard -- and I don't know why it's so unacceptable.

HLS2003, here, on the evolving standard of "cruel and unusual punishment."

Gtomkins1 has a very different policy on media relations than these senior administration officials. A very senior person, but a very junior non-administration non-official, I never hide behind anonymity, but I have a very strict policy that I must remain at all times obscure. Not only does this require meticulous attention to detail in what I write (Opacity is hard work!), but the more important element of total obscurity has been a stupendously successful lifetime struggle to never rise to the level of public recognition (not to mention remuneration!) that my awesome talents surely deserve. These comments are, as always, strictly under the record.

gtomkins1, here, off the record, on the Q.T., and very hush-hush.


Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on Roper v. Simmons stirs up several of the Fray's longstanding debates, namely the death penalty, what constitutes an adult in a civil society, and the Fray-legalist's favorite — what Dahlia Lithwick refers to as "an all-out war between the proponents of a living (or at least medium-rare) Constitution and those who want to see it dead (or perhaps well-done, with a nice pinot)." William Saletan focuses his critique of the decision on Antonin Scalia's dissent and the series of flip-flops, half-flops, and near-flops that may or may not have been rendered by the Supremes, most notably by Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy. But is Nino living in a glass house? 

Inconsistently Consistent: No, says froststreet here:

While I love to expose Scalian hypocrisy, there is a sense in which Scalia is being totally consistent here. He opts for the moral judgments of majorities as expressed through legislatures over the moral judgments of particular individuals as expressed through judicial decision-making. This is a perfectly consistent philosophical framework, although in particular applications it can lead to inconsistent substantive results. The judges Scalia accuses of flip-flopping are really just weighing the interests of the minorities affected by the statutes in each instance and arriving at different conclusions based on different factual situations -- which is something Scalia hates.

There seems to be a lot of grudging support for Scalia among liberals in the Fray. Here's wolun888:

I am the last person to be considered a fan of Scalia's jurisprudence. But to be fair to Nino, the article's argument is flawed since Scalia's vote in Hodgson didn't have anything to do with the moral capacity of a minor. It was based on the fact that he "continue[d] to dissent from this enterprise of devising an Abortion Code, and from the illusion that we have authority to do so."

GeoffsPneuma just finished reading A Matter of Interpretation to better understand Scalia's judicial patterns. Geoff concludes that "Scalia is weird like that":

[Scalia] observes that the Seventh Amendment provides: "In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved."

This proves that the Framers of the Constitution were using very specific language when they enumerated rights.

Thus, when they also claimed, in the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech" we must construe that they were also using very specific language to denote a very specific term. It's Scalia's position that "freedom of speech" isn't some expansive general principle, but must in fact be a "term of art" from the eighteenth century English common law perspective…

…his efforts to define "original meaning" allow him to pare out as many inconvenient facts as necessary to leave his point standing unchallenged...

Degsme expands on this point:

Scalia presumes that it is possible to fathom out the exact meaning of original intent in the language.

That in and of itself is a self-delusional fallacy. Proof of the fallacy can be found in the way it violates chaos theory precepts, if nowhere else. After all, since Scalia isn't living and breathing in the same time, he can't be exactly sure he's got it right. Sure he THINKS he does, but that's just an emotion based response.

In this way he is the same as the Randroids who spout objectivism and get very emotional in defending their views precisely because it appeals to their emotional makeup.

Anyone care to defend the much-maligned Sandra Day O'Connor? How about RadCent here:

She said (this is a paraphrase): Even if they are less culpable, they may still be culpable enough.

This simple statement cuts through all the BS and puts decision-making in such matters back where it belongs -- in the judgments of juries and judges who try the cases. There is no single age of reason, no single age of full adulthood, no single age for anything.

And PubliusToo rips both the "fallacy of the findings of the majority," as well as Scalia's flawed — and often unconstitutionally majoritarian — originalism. Like RadCent, PT feels that O'Connor "nailed the point." Count mike1729 among the O'Connor supporters in the Fray here.

BarberOfSeville, stylish as always, takes aim at the originalists-slash-strict constructionists:

It takes great suppleness of mind to pronounce that the meaning of "cruel and unjust punishment" should be left not to the "subjective views" of nine living, breathing (some barely though) individuals in dark robes, but to the considered opinion of a handful of slave-owners who, apart from being unfamiliar with inventions like DNA evidence or modern plumbing, pose the additional disadvantage of being unreachable by usual means of communication. The rallying cry to replace plutocracy by cryptocracy is oddly charming, but only one among the numerous intellectual feats of the movement. Take, for example, the great Scalia's law of jurisprudence -- that standards may be allowed to evolve only after "overwhelming opposition over a long period of time". He is effectively saying that people should leave him alone with his duck hunting and lecture tours, and if some 48 states or so ever came to decide that frying underage defendants is not something they can stomach, he can be summoned back to beat Wyoming and North Dakota black and blue with the 14th. I wish I had the skills to make such a stirring plea to my employers, demanding paid unemployment for life.

The Bill of Rights is there to protect a few cherished rights and principles from mob opinion. The latter, it is worth remembering, condoned segregation, disenfranchisement and violent oppression only till the other day. If the operative words of these protective clauses are to be interpreted by the mob leaders themselves, we are back to mob rule through a wonderful circularity. Woe be upon the traitor who may look to the rest of civilization for non-binding ideas -- the world which has supplied the statue of liberty, most of the human stock, the scientific inventions on which American might is built, and so on and so forth.

And Ex-fed, here, breaks down Lithwick's steakhouse war as one between "rules" and "standards."

Teen Age Riot: Demosthenes2 takes the utilitarian tack in sizing up the moral readiness of teens. He also makes this point:

Yet, we've no inclination to make the same judgment call about sex—when a 16 year old minor engages in sex with an adult we imprison the adult … because we assume the incompetence of the minor. But then, we're addressing sex, rather than murder—violence we're fine with; it's sex that really gets our dander up.

The_Bell feels that "the Supreme Court reached the correct answer in the case of Roper v. Simmons for all the wrong reasons":

The majority in this case appears to have chosen "easing" this country into the international mainstream that capital punishment is inherently cruel and unacceptable. They ruled that the mentally retarded cannot be executed. Then they ruled the same was true for minors under sixteen. Now they have expanded the population of those who can never be executed to include all minors. They cannot ban the death penalty on its own merits because that would be rushing their argument. So instead they try to pick at the "special nature" of the groups they choose to exempt. Then later, they will conclude that all these special groups represent not the exceptions but the rule.

Crimson Tide: Harvard Rules author, Richard Bradley, responds to Stephen Metcalf's review of his book. Bradley responds:

Stephen Metcalf finds a lot to like about Harvard Rules, and I'm grateful for his serious engagement with theissues my book raises. But he allows himself one cheap shot thatmerits rebuttal. Early in his otherwise thoughtful review, Metcalfcalls the book "little better than a hatchet job, built on scuttlebuttand Nexis searches."  That line is wrong on every count.

Harvard Rules
is tough on Larry Summers, but it's not a hatchet job. It gives Summers credit where credit is due. However, it does accurately describe the mood of anxiety and division that Summers' leadership has created on the Harvard campus, and details specific incidents behind this state of affairs. Metcalf may not have noticed, but there's been a little rebellion at Harvard lately. Readers of Harvard Rules will understand that that
upheaval is not just about President Summers' remarks on women in the sciences, but his imperious leadership style generally.

And about that "scuttlebutt and Nexis searches" stuff? Sorry, but no. I spent 18 months in Cambridge reporting Harvard Rules, conducting hundreds of interviews. The tough charges I levy against Larry Summers are based on that reporting. If it is wrong in any way, Metcalf should say so. He does not.

Instead, Metcalf faults me for not recognizing the "culture of flattery" that he thinks pervades Harvard. Yet when I report conversations and accusations that are less than flattering, Mr. Metcalf calls this "scuttlebutt." Isn't that called having it both ways?

Get in on the war of words hereKA10:05 a.m.


Monday, February 28, 2005

Judging by the relative quiet in the Fray, the Academy Awards seemed to have had most fraysters snoozing at the back of the class less than an hour after Chris Rock finished his pyrotechnics.

Swanky but not Seasoned: Splendid_IREny unleashes a begrudging congratulation to Hilary Swank, but quickly disclaims that, "it wasn't your night":

If nothing else, you might have learned to give a proper speech. Could you be any less inspiring, any more business-like? You could not have been any more droning than if you had been reading the grocery list of protein shakes you drank while being whipped into fighting shape by your trainers (curiously no word of thanks to acting teachers, people who inspired you to even begin acting). Not for a minute should you congratulate yourself for remembering your husband this time. You cad. You work-in-the-making. You gave it away with your comment about being the girl "from the trailer park." It wasn't acting as much as it was remembering, was it? And I don't say this lightly, Hilary: I'm working-class, too. But, if it had been me, I would have stepped down in a heartbeat; I would have given either Bening or Staunton the award. (And, side note: what kind of life are you leading that you need to thank your lawyers?!!)

Both Bening and Staunton are women of class, of elegance, of acting power. They are measured. When called upon to speak, they are in control of their breathing apparatus. In your vast list of thank yous, next time, you might remember the diaphragm. That's training. That's experience. That's life. Actors like Bening and Staunton are doing a little more than sensory recall in front of the camera. Anyone can die onscreen and pull our heartstrings.

Congratulations, but this wasn't your night, kid. A lady would have known as much, and stepped aside, were she not so breathlessly eager.

SI's BOTF repost thread begins here. Fray Editor fears for the well-being of any actress who names her publicist as her best friend. TheAList's Oscar Wrap Up includes digs at Robin Williams, the fashions of Samuel L. Jackson, and the Chris Rock-Sean Penn pissing match we should have seen.

Catty Corner: Julia Turner's critique of Oscar fashion launched some fun stuff in Culturebox Fray. Ang_Cho suspects "that there is an inverse relationship between the male:female earning differential and the noteworthiness of female Oscar fashion." On why female Oscar fashion trends have gotten so boring, Ang writes:

The blanding of women's fashion is a sign that women are being treated as men's EQUALS in Hollywood. In 2002, for example, men DEVIATED from the tuxedo template and garnered notice (Samuel Jackson, Ben Kingsley and Will Smith, for example) whereas women stuck to the formula depicted in the article.

DeaH concurs, "As long as women are mostly known for their clothing, they will never be mostly known for their work." So maybe blah ensembles are an emblem of equality. But CaptainRonVoyage insists, "If you want better Oscar fashion, stop rewarding actors who look and act like mannequins." So far as last night's red carpet fodder, Ele_ give us some best 'n' worstsKA8:55 a.m.