Copy-editing the primaries: In the wake of John Edwards's departure from the Democratic race, Obama and Clinton both released sucking-up statements aimed at securing an endorsement from the cheery populist.

Talking Points Memo
, Real Clear Politics, and Politico all include this sentence in Obama's statement: "John and Elizabeth Edwards have always believed deeply that we can change this -- that two Americans can become one, and that our country can rally around this common purpose." (Emphasis added.)

Of course, Obama meant to say that two Americas can become one -- an attempt to connect Edwards's "two Americas" theme with Obama's own message of unity. (Indeed, that's how Obama's website has it.) But someone -- a sleep-deprived Obama staffer, perhaps? -- added an extra n, and now it looks as though Obama was paying some kind of weird tribute to the Edwardses' marriage.


Your linguistic update for the day: I have always opposed the colloquial use of deconstruct as a fancy synonym for thoroughly analyze. It makes me think of the Village Voice's arts section, and not in a good way. Deconstruction properly refers to a specific and rather abstruse school of critical reading in which texts are examined not for their meanings or methods but for their internal contradictions and lacunae. As a rule of thumb, if a person hasn't gone to graduate school in the humanities, he or she probably isn't deconstructing anything.

But when a usage is employed by Joan Didion, that usage has, by definition, become acceptable and probably admirable. So as of now we can all go to town, deconstructionwise.


Indianapolis, why don't you sing? I am reading This Is Your Brain on Music, which is fascinating but also tantalizingly inconclusive. I suspect that reflects the current state of neuroscience -- we know just enough about the brain's mechanics to have our interest triggered, but not enough to satisfy our curiosity. I'm still waiting to learn why perhaps the most thrilling of all neuromusical experiences is hearing a song you love successfully transposed into a different genre. E.g. this, via Emily Gould.

Maybe you were thinking that a fitting way to end your week would be to watch Lou Reed and Pavarotti, backed by a full orchestra, singing "Perfect Day". If so, you're in luck.


Copy-editing the election: First, the unwelcome return of a familiar error. Joe Klein, writing in Time:

With the terrorist threat diminished, is it worth spending $9 billion a month to referee the eternal Mesopotamian ethnic differences?
Klein is talking about the struggle between the Sunni and the Shi'a, and about the Kurds' fight for control of Kirkuk. Only one of these is an ethnic difference. (The incursions of Persian terrorists from Iran have an ethnic dimension, but Klein has already dismissed these as a contributor to the turmoil in Iraq.)

Second, from the NYT editorial page:
Mrs. Clinton followed up with her strange references to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson — and no matter how many times she tried to reframe the quote, the feeling hung in the air that she was denigrating America’s most revered black leader.
There is nothing technically wrong with this. The word denigrate simply means to criticize unfairly. But am I alone in thinking that its usage in this context leaves a bad taste? Washington mayoral aide David Howard got in trouble for using the word niggardly, which unlike denigrate is etymologically innocent of any connection to blackness.

The estimable Ty Alper explains the lethal-injection controversy, now under consideration by the Supreme Court:

If executions do resume, and the courts do not force states to reconsider the three-drug protocol that they all employ, inmates will continue to be paralyzed before they are killed. (The first drug in the protocol is supposed to anesthetize, the second one paralyzes, and the third one kills.) Many people do not know about this aspect of lethal injection. They hear witnesses describe lethal injection as “peaceful,” but don’t realize that such executions have literally been staged to look that way.


According to John Marcotte, "'One More Day' isn’t the stupidest Spider-Man plot Marvel has unleashed on the public. In fact, it’s not even in the top five."

The Spider-Mobile: Try to wrap your mind around the sheer number of ways that a car driving on the side of buildings violates the laws of physics — even the relaxed type of physics one encounters in comic-books. How would it get from the ground to the wall in the first place? How can it move from one building to the next? What happens if a two-ton car is being supported by a one-inch plate-glass window? I don’t know the answers to these questions and I suspect that Gerry Conway and Ross Andru don’t either.

Oh and in case you forgot, Spider-Man has the coolest mode of transportation ever invented: web-swinging. Putting Spider-Man inside a car is like putting Aquaman inside a plane.


We're at one of those moments in the Democratic primary campaign when bloggers can explain what's going on better than mainstream reporters or pundits. Here, then, is an anonymous poster at Talking Points Memo, and here's Daniel Radosh. Update: And here's Zack's hero Matthew Yglesias.

Timothy Noah on the Hillary "experience" meme:

Clinton's claim to superior experience isn't merely dishonest. It's also potentially dangerous should she become the nominee. If Clinton continues to build her campaign on the dubious foundation of government experience, it shouldn't be very difficult for her GOP opponent to pull that edifice down.


Check out this segment from Hardball (via TPM), and savor the sound of the Reagan coalition coming unglued.


This is just sad....Hillary is now reduced to making jokes about having had sex with John McCain in a desperate bid to show voters she's a human being.

Yes, I'm back!


"One of the more extraordinary stories of the Obama campaign has been playing out behind the scenes over the past week as the candidate has been working on a daily basis to try to calm things down in his father's homeland and his grandmother's home, Kenya, where a contested election has led to riots."


Friendblogging: Ty Alper will be on C-SPAN's Washington Journal tomorrow at 9 a.m., talking about the Supreme Court's lethal injection case.

The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist:

Believe me, I sympathize. You are in possession of a truly incredible breakthrough that offers the prospect of changing the very face of science as we know it, if not more. The only problem is, you’re coming at things from an unorthodox perspective. Maybe your findings don’t fit comfortably with people’s preconceived notions, or maybe you don’t have the elaborate academic credentials that established scientists take for granted....

Happily, we are here to help. It would be a shame if the correct theory to explain away dark matter or account for the origin of life were developed by someone without a conventional academic position, who didn’t really take a lot of science classes in college and didn’t have a great math background but was always interested in the big questions, only for that theory to be neglected because of some churlish prejudice. So we would like to present a simple checklist of things that alternative scientists should do in order to get taken seriously by the Man. And the good news is, it’s only three items!

I have got some Obama fever over here. And also kind of a throaty cough.


Remember those excruciatingly boring posts I wrote a couple months ago about keyboard shortcuts? I'm bored just thinking about them! But so now Gruber has clarified his stance on keyboard shortcuts, and makes a point that, in the context of this incredibly dull discussion, almost qualifies as interesting. God, Barack Obama just won in Iowa and I'm writing about keyboard shortcuts again. What the fuck?

This is what the internet is for: photos of Kanye West and Beyonce playing Connect Four.


Good summary of everything that's fucked up about the Iowa caucuses.

Yet another day

(or, how the current issue of Spider-Man makes explicit the dark bargain at the heart of comics fandom)

Briefly, for nonfans: Twenty years ago, Spider-Man married his longtime girlfriend Mary Jane Watson. Now Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada has decided Spider-Man works better as a single guy than as a married guy. This being comics, any narrative event can be reversed by some incoherent gimmick. So: Peter Parker's beloved Aunt May is badly wounded by a bullet meant for our hero. The Devil appears to Spider-Man and offers him a choice: he can save his aunt's life, but he has to give up his marriage. This being comics, "give up his marriage" doesn't mean "get a divorce," it means that history is altered, and everyone's memory is wiped, and Peter Parker and Mary Jane never got married in the first place. And so Pete and MJ weep and kiss and remember the good times in a special two-page spread that's like a parody of a love montage in a movie. (There's an image of the two of them riding a tandem bike, for god's sake.) And then Peter wakes up, and Aunt May is downstairs making pancakes, and I threw up in my mouth a little.

Of course, there's the obvious evolutionary backwardness of the whole thing: to choose an octogenarian aunt over a loving and healthy and presumably fertile marriage is to prefer death to life. But there's an aspect of this that's more specific to comics culture. One More Day states the dark side of the geek bargain more explicitly than anyone really wants: Everything can be the way it was before, when you were a kid. All you have to give up is girls, and marriage, and procreation, and the possibility of a healthy adult relationship. That's been the deal between fandom and the comics industry for decades. There's plenty of fans who've made the same choice Peter Parker did, and who now sit alone in their apartments, surrounded by comics and DVDs and collectible figurines. But there's something really unpleasant about having it said out loud, or presented as heroic.

The New Yorker doesn't usually run straight-up takedowns of political figures, but Elizabeth Kolbert apparently just hates Rudy Giuliani. In the absence of any big new revelations (did you know the NYFD was using an outdated radio system on 9/11? Me too!), the best parts are where she just quotes the stupid shit Giuliani says on the campaign trail as though it consisted of meaningful English sentences rather than words strung together at random:

“The goals that we have, they’re big goals,” he said. “They’re very difficult things to do. They’re very difficult things to accomplish. And they’re things, quite frankly, that America in the past hasn’t been able to accomplish.

“There are some people who believe that this country is declining,” he went on. “There are some people who believe that we’re going in the wrong direction. Well, you know something? They’re wrong! And we can make them wrong, by making the right choices. By making the right choices about our leadership. Because this is about leadership.”

"The great George Herriman rarely passed up an opportunity to draw smoke coming from a chimney. He seemed to place smoke in a picture the way a hat designer would place a feather in a lady's chapeau." Complete with beautiful examples.


Tim O'Reilly draws an interesting analogy between financial markets and internet services:

One of the real wake-up calls was the way that Wall Street firms moved from being brokers to being active players "trading for their own account." ... Bill Janeway [points] out that ... "now, the direct investment activities of a firm like Goldman Sachs dwarf their activities on behalf of outside customers."
And sure enough, there is lots of evidence that this process is already far advanced [in web services]. These sites, once devoted to distributing attention to others, are increasingly focused on consuming as much of the user attention as possible. What else do you make of Google's recent sally against Wikipedia, the so-called knol....
As Google's growth slows, as inevitably it will, it will need to consume more and more of the web ecosystem, trading against its former suppliers, rather than distributing attention to them.
Update: Y'know, on reflection this is one of those analogies that make less sense the more you think about them. Like, Wikipedia isn't Google's customer. It's not Google's competitor, either. As O'Reilly himself says, it's a supplier. A better analogy would be when a car company decides to stop getting a certain part from a subcontractor and starts making it in-house. Which, when you look at it that way, big whoop for everyone but the subcontractor.

Profile of a Long Island ranch house that's home to seven convicted sex offenders.