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January 24, 2004

Brief pause for mental calibration. Nate Bruinooge of Polytropos makes an observation all political bloggers should probably tape to their computer monitors for the next nine months:
I was watching CSPAN while giving Ella a bottle just now; they were showing John Kerry mingling with supporters somewhere in New Hampshire. He was clearly feeling under the weather, but nevertheless talked one on one with dozens of people, each with their own individual problems or comments. He posed for pictures. He answered questions. And it struck me: what’s this nonsense about him being “wooden?” Here he is, obviously exhausted, and he can still work a crowd with the best of them. Of course he can: he wouldn’t have made it this far if he couldn’t.

This goes for everybody else, too. Kerry isn’t wooden. Gore wasn’t a robot. Dean isn’t angry, either, and Bush isn’t stupid. Heck, I saw Lieberman on CSPAN a few months ago doing the same sort of thing as Kerry, and even he was impressive. They all do have their individual tics, their strengths and weaknesses, but if they didn’t have that weird ability to connect to perfect strangers, they wouldn’t be in this business in the first place. We do all candidates a disservice by judging them by their performances in front of the bright lights, and by going along with the shorthand evaluations that a culture of sound bites inevitably creates. In a perfect world each citizen would be able to look each candidate in the eye; as it is, everyone should watch them mingle with the crowds on CSPAN. You’ll learn a lot.

Over the years I’ve seen a few national-level politicians in person, even conversed with a few, and none of them seemed particularly similar to their media stereotypes. “Remote and intellectual” Eugene McCarthy was extroverted and full of backslapping bonhomie. Well-known extremist madman Barry Goldwater was thoughtful and considerate. In 1992 I watched robotic, inauthentic Al Gore deliver a stemwinder strong enough to peel the paint off a refrigerator; I thought the crowd was going to levitate. The Howard Dean I saw a few months ago was full of happy-warrior pizzazz, not this dire “anger” stuff we’re constantly hearing about. Okay, there was [nationally famous conservative leader’s name withheld for reasons of professional courtesy], who really did seem to be the grating smartypants everyone says he is, but by and large it’s pretty clear that we should regard these media tags as having somewhat less credibility than Page 6 gossip. And more to the point, always ask ourselves whose interest is being served when we lazily retransmit them. [06:03 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Brief pause for mental calibration.:

Gay Schierholz ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 06:25 PM:

Amen. I've been disturbed for a long time at how easy it is for the media to make political figures seem stupid or wooden or out of touch. George H.W. Bush is an example. I certainly didn't support him in 1988 (I"m a lifelong Democrat), but I figured he couldn't have gotten where he was if he wasn't at least more intelligent than the average U.S. citizen, but the media--George Will, for example--treated him as a blithering idiot.

It's probably just a combination of native human malice and laziness. Then there was Watergate, which gave the press a swelled head, from which they still haven't recovered.

Dvd Avins ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 07:30 PM:

I wonder if the grating samrtipants is who I think it is. If so, his very public career reflects only a tiny portion of the damage he did to this country behind the scenes by spending his daddy's money as the most effective conservative organizer in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Note: email address munged in obvious way

Paul Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 07:55 PM:

The press loves shorthand expressions that they can repeat in the headline and/or first two paragraphs; tv news likes them for the headlines on the bottom of the story openers. The problem is, they stick and everyone begins to believe them.

david ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 10:13 PM:

Bush is too stupid. There is a great deal of evidence to support this claim. There is no need to pretend he isn't. I'm still worried, almost paranoid and convinced, that he'll win, even though he is unelectable. But if we're going to have the word stupid in our vocabulary, "what's the difference" after being asked about weapons of mass destruction v. weapons of mass destruction programs ought to qualify. I know others who've met Bush and say he does work a room, and that runs counter to my own television experience of him -- he really pisses me off viscerally, before I know anything of what he says. So your point may still stand. But Bush is stupid, and to claim that he isn't in the same way that Dean isn't angry, Kerry isn't wooden, or Gore isn't a liar, is bullshit.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 11:15 PM:

George W. Bush is not stupid. He's incurious, stubborn, and has a deep-down belief that the whole business of intellectual discipline is a conspiracy to keep him from doing what he wants to do. He's also startlingly passive at times, and clearly has substance abuse problems. But he's far from feebleminded. Quite the contrary, he's sly and cunning and not to be underestimated. Incidentally, what I'm saying is backed up by people who know him from his days in Texas politics, like progressive Texas columnist Molly Ivins. Your view, on the other hand, is specifically repudiated by them.

He's also, as I keep saying, not ten feet tall. He can be beaten like a drum, just not by assuming he's a retarded "chimp."

Meanwhile, to assert that Nate was "pretending" is definitely over the line. You can disagree without imputing insulting things about people's interior mental lives.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 11:47 PM:

Bush may not be brain-damaged, but what I've read certainly doesn't suggest he got where he did by his wits. "Born on third base and thinks he hit a triple" seems to be an understatement; in various matters (e.g., ownership of the Texas Rangers) he seems to have been \given/ things, almost certainly as a way of getting to his father. Yes, the Presidency came too late to get to his father; the question is how much of the resistance Patrick describes is Shrub in charge and how much is the sock puppet for Cheney et al -- although that suggests that we have to avoid underestimating not just Shrub but his handlers.

hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 12:05 AM:

I'm with Patrick. I'm also a Molly Ivins fan, and everything I've read about GWB said he's a whiz at politics, but policy...mmmm...not so much. She did her best to calm us here. Not sure she'd stand by that judgement today, but it's interesting.

And C-SPAN is a great resource. I watched the Vilsack picnic last summer, and it was great watching them mix and mingle. Dean and Bob Graham looked like they were having a great time, working the room like they were at The World's Best Party. Poor Dennis Kucinich looked like he couldn't wait to get out of there. I've not seen him since in this setting, so maybe he was having a bad day.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 01:45 AM:

I have distinct categories in my head for clever and intelligent - I don't have a problem with Bush being shrewd and simultaneously dumb as a pile of moldy bricks. Incuriosity and the placid acceptance of freefloating resentment and hostility as somehow an appropriate response to the world seems to me very stupid.

The thing is, though, that's a qualitative analysis of what it would be more useful to deal with in a quantitative way - is he mentally capable of understanding the terrible damage he's doing if he were even slightly interested? I'm quite sure he is, and I'm quite sure he nurtures the impression that he isn't, the better to make the election about defending An Ordinary Guy Like Us against those snotty elitists who think they're better than we are instead of How many kids making five hundred and something dollars a month got shipped home to their parents in a bag this week because this guy and his friends are sitting on their piles of other peoples' pension money and making decisions for us?

Mighty shrewd, that.

Not that I'm bitter.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 04:18 AM:

I think it's fair to say that W. Bush is a skillfully manipulative person--a rather nasty sort of con man. Whether or not that is "intelligence" depends, of course, on how one defines intelligence. He does not seem to know, or be interesting in knowing, statecraft, governance, or indeed any executive skills, and he has left behind a trail of disaster whenever he has tried to act as an executive.

Elric ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 09:33 AM:

No doubt about it. The simple, pat labels are easy to apply, but are often only a tiny part of the picture. Before November 2000 I often referred to the Shrub as a chuckleheaded idiot, and hoped that we could all survive a possible presidency. Now I'd modify the evaluation to say that he projects the chuckleheaded good-ol'-boy idiot image, behind which lurks a venial, willfully ignorant, sociopathic coward.

All the Democratic Party candidates have many aspects to their character. I've tried to look at what they've been doing, especially in the last four years, while considering my vote in the NH primary. The only person on the Democratic ballot up here whom I wouldn't automatically vote for in a contest with Bush is LaRouche. All the others have a mix of things I like and things I don't. I've had to pick and choose.

One thing that has irritated me in the media this week has been all the play about the "Dean howl." I sent off this letter, or something similar, to a number of papers on Friday. Yes, this conversation really happened, and it happened to me, in my living room.

To the editor,

I live in New Hampshire. An hour ago I was talking about the debate with the man who had just returned my vacuum cleaner after it was fixed. He told me that he had been undecided about the primary until Monday night. He watched Howard Dean, tired and fighting a cold, offering comfort and a new sense of excitement to a crowd of discouraged volunteers. That "howl" wasn't a sound of rage or pain--it was excitement and joy! And it convinced that man that Dean was the one he was going to vote for.

Too many of the candidates are polished and primped, and you can't tell whether they have any true emotions in them. Their messages are also polished, and they begin to sound too much like the same things we hear from Washington all the time. Dean is talking straight, and what he says makes sense. We all need to get involved in running the country. Voting for Dean is only a start. We need to pay attention to what all our Congressional delegations are saying, and to what they're really doing, and take appropriate action. And what Howard Dean is showing us is that it shouldn't be scary. We should be excited and joyful at the chance to get involved in making America great again.

(End letter)

okay, sorry if that was too hokey, but that part of Dean's message needs to picked up and carried forward by the winner of the primary campaign. Everyone in the country needs to wake up, get involved, get excited, and do something.

And we have to make sure that the people in office know they're accountable. (Bush doesn't act as though he's aware of that. Maybe because he wasn't elected?)

First step? Look behind the labels and the sterotypes. Vote for something you believe in. Don't let inertia and fatalism lead us into a continuation of the status quo.

Dave Pentecost ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 04:27 PM:

Since we're doing a little quibbling over words, here goes:

I was thrown by Patrick's use of "stemwinder" which I always thought meant a speech so long and boring that you were winding the stem of your watch in impatience. Turns out we're both right! It's one of those words with 2 opposite meanings.

(see Wordcraft Archive, May 2003 down the page in "Oration: types of speeches")

stemwinder - a rousing political speech

After all the calls to unity, a stemwinder in the old tradition from Hubert Humphrey, appearances by Muskie and Kennedy, Sargent Shriver was formally nominated for Vice-President.

- Theodore White, The Making of the President


But occasionally: stemwinder - a speech so long and boring that it feels as though one needs to wind one’s watch before it ends

the Bill Clinton of 1988, who gave a tedious stemwinder in 1988 that has gone down in the books as the worst nominating speech in recent memory

- Bill Schneider and Keating Hollan, What to look for Thursday at the Democratic National Convention, reporting on CNN's Website, August 17, 2000

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 10:21 PM:

Maybe the best example of a politician who belies his media-created image: he allegedly humorless Bob Dole.

I've often thought that perhaps he did those V*iagra commercials to intentionally torpedo his wife's presidential campaign.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 10:23 PM:

Why is there a * in the V-word in my previous post? Because the anti-spam software in Electrolite would not allow me to post the word as-is.

(signed) Amused,
Mitch wagner

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 11:25 PM:

That's MT-Blacklist being a tad too enthusiastic. I've just kicked it; let's see if this posts: Viagra!

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 11:47 PM:

I have distinct categories in my head for clever and intelligent - I don’t have a problem with Bush being shrewd and simultaneously dumb as a pile of moldy bricks. Incuriosity and the placid acceptance of freefloating resentment and hostility as somehow an appropriate response to the world seems to me very stupid.

There are (at least) two different kinds of stupidity. The familiar one is sheer lack of native intelligence. But there's also "learned stupidity" where a person wilfully rejects new information, ultimately becoming unable to learn new things. This is the kind an ex of mine had; it's very annoying.

In Dubya's case I think the phrase low reptilian cunning has much to recommend it.

And Viagra, by the way. :-)

clew ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:59 AM:

There's a ?complex or syndrome? summarized as 'the opposite of Asperger's', which I cannot remember the name of; leaves one wonderfully able to understand and manipulate people, and totally blind to the abstract.

Mitch, I had nearly the same thought about Dole's pharma ad career, but I didn't assume it was intentional.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 07:22 AM:

For what it's worth, I finally heard Dean's yell last night. I had the telly on while doing the washing-up, and the early evening news was on. They had a piece about the Iowa Caucus, I think -- in the UK, the next few days up to the publishing of the Hutton report are unofficially Slow News Days -- and there was an unknown voice giving a speech followed by a yell and rousing applause, to which I paid no attention whatsoever. Then they cut to Leno doing his stand-up bit, and it clicked with what I'd read here (or possibly in Making Light), and I realised, That was It. Followed shortly by the thought, That was It?

Seems a bit desperate of the American press to make a thing out of a unscripted cri de coeur like that. Or maybe, as Elric says, that's why they're making a fuss -- because it was obviously unscripted. Mind you, one Labour leader over here supposedly lost an election because of the reporting of a similarly unscripted yell, although it was a couple of octaves lower....


I think I know the syndrome you mean; it's one of the few viable chromosome doublings. They tend to be very garrulous and empathic, great story-tellers even when you realise the plots don't make sense, not good with numbers, with small birth-weights and short lifespans. I recall Oliver Sacks being upbraided by a girl with the syndrome when he was talking to camera about her during a documentary, "That's very rude, talking about people like that." Not stupid, just lacking in certain forms of cognition. Alas, my google-fu has failed me, I can't find the name of the syndrome.

Whatever, while WMD was a great story (Tony Blair and his Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, both stated at the weekend that they still believe that WMDs will turn up -- folie a deux, or what?), and by all reports George W. isn't very good with numbers, he doesn't seem particularly strong on the empathy thing, so I don't think that's it.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:17 PM:

Although I viscerally dislike Emperor Bush II, he is much smarter with social networking and empathy than NelC gives him credit.

At Yale, he applied to Skull & Bones. Although he was likely a shoo-in (his father and grandfather, etc.) -- there was a Test give. Each applying student was brought in, alone, to their clubhouse. The top officers and other members present would be pointed out to the student, and named. Then the student would be asked: tell us who we all are.

Most can point to and name perhaps 7 plus or minus 2 people.

Bush named 50 out of 50 correctly. He was instantly admitted.

There are many different kinds of intelligence. Analytical, verbal, kinesthetic, visual, and so forth. Bush is dangerously stupid in ways that matter to me, but so are many great warriors, athletes, actors, musicians. Bush is smart in the way his family had bred him to be.

Don't underestimate the Emperor. Reagan wasn't as dumb as they say, either. Nor even Dan Quayle. Both Carter and Clinton were, technically, geniuses, each able to absorb around 300 pages per day of densely telegraphic briefing documents. That didn't stop them from making stupid errors.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:20 PM:

What strikes me about Bush is basically his unwillingness to do any hard work. Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush I and Clinton, for all their differences and individual idiosyncracies understood that being the President is a JOB, with a lot of hard work to be done. Reagan, I'll pass on because I believe his Alzheimer's hindered his abilities in his first term and removed them entirely by his second. But Bush II does not work hard. He does NOT spend time trying to understand information so as to formulate a policy.

To me, this is the unpardonable sin. He just doesn't do the job. He has someone else do it for him.

Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:21 PM:

I've been reading Kevin Phillips' book, American Dynasty. One of his points about the Bush clan is that they've produced several generations now (Prescott, George I, and George II, at least) who've been very, very good at glad-handing and connecting to people, and very, very disconnected from intellectual curiosity or anything more abstract than the practical interests of themselves, their family, their friends, and other people very much like them.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:41 PM:


Marry me?


Nelc ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 04:05 PM:

So: Bush, Blair, Berlusconi. If you had the choice, which would you rather have as leader?

Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 04:29 PM:

The whole "Bush is stupid" meme has been more damaging to the left, IMO, than it has to Bush. The more we tell ourselves this comforting little story, the more we underestimate the guy, which has led to the conservatives generally kicking liberal ass ever since Bush took office.

Just to be clear, I'll state my point as explicitly as possible: It DOESN'T MATTER whether Bush is or isn't "stupid". What does matter is that he is demonstrably quite capable, and ignoring this fact in favor of comforting preaching-to-the-choir about his alleged lack of intelligence is ultimately self-defeating.

Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 02:52 AM:

There's no real choice there: Blair. Given a choice between someone who doesn't think, someone who's undeniably corrupt, and the UK prime minister... he might be a vacillating risk-taker (!) but that's a classic politician's disease and virtually all of them either have that or are raving ideologues, and I know which does less damage...

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 04:30 AM:

My wife went to school with Blair, and several of his future cabinet. My wife was Convener of the Dialectic Society at the University of Edinburgh. That is, President of the oldest continuously active university debate society we know about. I've never won an argument with her. Foolishly still try, now and again. Anyway, she found that gang horribly good at improvised debate -- but young Blair was considered one of the more boring members of the group.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 12:24 PM:

Gosh, Jonathan, you sure do know all sorts of famous and accomplished people. Are all these acquaintanceships on your resume?

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:45 PM:

I used to know a guy who could bend his little finger all the way backward until it touched the back of his wrist. Also, a kid I grew up with used to like to turn his eyelids inside-out and walk around like a zombie.

See, I know accomplished people too.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 03:45 PM:

To me, the statement above that "Bush is quite capable" is equivalent only to "Bush is quite capable of delivering the lines and following the scripts given to him by his handlers."

It seems evident from remarks published about him in the last three years that he's not exactly a sheep. He's stubborn, opinionated, and contemptuous of those who disagree with him, as well as (apparently) being religiously superstitious and expressing some genuine twinges of sympathy for isolated cases of individual suffering.

My suspicion is that he has the ability to exercise a strong personal veto over things fed to him by his handlers that rub him the wrong way. But I haven't seen evidence that he exercises a significant amount of introspection and deliberation over the consequences of the policies handed to him by his "brain trust." The guiding principle of the edicts that come out of his White House seems to follow the rule of "More wealth and power for my friends and business associates, more support for the nostrums of evangelistic Christianity (as I have known it), and get rid of anyone in the government who questions the biases of the brain trust.

Define intelligence. To me, it's not the same thing as having a stubborn, manipulative relationship with a parental group that has crowned one King for an electoral period.

The question of whether Bush's *handlers* are intelligent is another issue. On that, my impression is that they're skilled in tactical self-preservation in the short term, using a dynamic that may be injurious to everyone (even them) in the long term.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 08:17 PM:

The question of whether Bush?s *handlers* are intelligent is another issue. On that, my impression is that they?re skilled in tactical self-preservation in the short term, using a dynamic that may be injurious to everyone (even them) in the long term.

That's a thing that's keeping me cheerful and keeps me from buying real estate in Canada: the hope that Bush is not just beatable, but may be trounced in the 2004 election.

The punditry seems convinced that he's an extremely popular president, but I keep remembering that this is a man who got fewer votes than the other guy when he ran for office in 2000. He had an extraordinary honeymoon after 9/11, but the polls are trending downward.

And, if online discussions are any gauge - which usually they are not - the libertarian-conservatives who backed Reagan may be turning against him, in the face of skyrocketing spending.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 11:09 PM:

From your lips to the gods' ears, Mitch. Or from your keyboard to their computer screens. Do gods have computers? Then again, do they have ears? (Well, Anubis does.) [walks off muttering]

Seriously, I take hope from your words. The worst thing, and the worst temptation, is to despair.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 12:51 AM:


You said: "Gosh, Jonathan, you sure do know all sorts of famous and accomplished people. Are all these acquaintanceships on your resume?"

My most recent post on this thread was about whom my wife knew. I never met Blair or any of his inner circle. I'm passing that on as what the courts call "hearsay." With certain execeptions, juries are to disregard hearsay. If I heard my wife say that she heard Blair say something, it is double hearsay, and even more suspect. So that's a weakness in my elaborate family tree of acquaintances. That's why my "teachers' teachers' teachers" website depends, for th ost part, on documented Thesis Advisor links, or their equivalent.

I have several versions of my resume online, some of which drop names. But, for a change, I'll not give hotlinks to resumes, unless someone asks for them. They're in magicdragon.com, through the "people link."

True, most of the things I do professionally are based on what I can actually do (or have done) -- and NOT on whom I know. My fiction or poetry stands or fails as text, not by who I party with at cons. Hollywood, though, works on a whom-you-know basis much more. Politics too. I try to be conscious of these issues as I move back and forth between science/math/computers worlds, fiction/poetry/music worlds, TV/movies worlds, and others, and I'm trying to Make Sense Of It All.

What do you think and feel about these matters?

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 06:06 AM:

Jonathan --

Well, we're social animals, so you having two degrees of separation from a world leader and several of his cabinet is going to stir something in everyone's psyche, no matter how meritocratic we like to think we are. I suspect I'm not alone in having the social machine in my head start to crank the possibilities as soon as I read of the (admittedly not strong) link.

As to why the social aspect is more important in the political and and high-artistic spheres than in the low-artistic and science worlds... it may have something to do with the fact that in politics and movie-making, they are both vastly co-operative efforts with vastly uncertain outcomes. Unlike, say, engineering where a creative input has a reliably computable effect on the final outcome (Brunel building iron-hulled steamships, for example: innovative but demonstrably workable), you can produce good work for a movie (or a piece of legislation) and still have it sink without trace. In such circumstances reputation is going to count for a lot, and the fewer degrees of separation, the more reliable and finely-focussed a reputation will be.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 04:31 PM:

Jonathan, while I understand the multiple worlds you live in, I think the name dropping might be a little excessive in the blogiverse. It's gotten to where a famous person can hardly be mentioned without you posting about your degrees of separation from hir (that's more a feeling than a thought; it just seems that way to me).

Please forgive my bluntness. Perhaps I'm jealous, since the most famous people I actually know are the Nielsen Haydens.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 06:14 PM:


Fair enough. I'll cut down a bit.

Maybe join a 12-step program for egoholics. Just think of the people I'll meet there!

I do remember Woody Allen, in "Sleeper", commenting that when Norman Mailer passed away, he donated his ego to Harvard Medical School. And look: I won't even tell my stories now about Woody Allen and Norman Mailer in person... or famous robots I have known. And stuff.

Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:54 PM:

About Bush: I have been wondering lately if he isn't somewhat dyslexic. If reading has always been very difficult, that would explain why he does as little reading as possible, and depends so much on other people for information. Also, if he grew up in a family environment that constantly belittled him and told him he was stupid, many of his other dismaying characteristics might well have evolved as coping mechanisms.

There are other theories -- he's gay and deep in the closet; he's a dry drunk; he's a textbook case of narcissism; he suffered brain damage from drug use... hey, they could none of them be true, or they could all be true at once, for all I know. What is clear, is that something is not right with the man.

And the handlers who foisted him upon, not just the USA, but the entire suffering world, deserve to rot in hell.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 11:30 PM:

Maybe join a 12-step program for egoholics. Just think of the people I'll meet there!

I met someone once whose response to hearing about Sexual Compulsives Anonymous was "Sounds like a great place to meet guys!" I wasn't there when he said it, but I'm told he wasn't kidding.

I do remember Woody Allen, in "Sleeper", commenting that when Norman Mailer passed away, he donated his ego to Harvard Medical School.

Mark Twain, or maybe it was Hal Holbrook playing him, said that when he died he was leaving his brain to science "so they can examine it, and send me a report." And Norman Mailer certainly could have found a more needy school to donate to; no shortage of ego at any school in that whole area, AFAIK.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 12:58 AM:

What's a dry drunk? I've heard the expression before.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 01:25 AM:

A dry drunk is a former alcoholic who still exhibits all the unpleasant traits of a current alcoholic.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 02:29 PM:

... those being.... ?

I was thinking that a dry drunk might be someone who was forced by outsiders to stop drinking, such as a prison inmate or a president being watched by armed guards.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 08:49 PM:

Addiction, Brain Damage and the President: "Dry Drunk" Syndrome and George W. Bush

Ordinarily I would not use this term. But when I came across the article "Dry Drunk" - - Is Bush Making a Cry for Help? in American Politics Journal by Alan Bisbort, I was ready to concede, in the case of George W. Bush, the phrase may be quite apt.

Dry drunk is a slang term used by members and supporters of Alcoholics Anonymous and substance abuse counselors to describe the recovering alcoholic who is no longer drinking, one who is dry, but whose thinking is clouded. Such an individual is said to be dry but not truly sober. Such an individual tends to go to extremes.

The previous article seems to be a load of nonsense as an analysis of W. I'm not qualified to judge whether it's a good treatment of dry drunk syndrome.

For example, the author cites as evidence of Bush's dry drunkenness his statements such as: "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends." Seems to me Bush's statement is exactly right; my problem is not what he said but rather (among other things) the fact that he's not doing it, instead going after-- aw, heck, you know the rant by now.


DRY DRUNK: The Culture of Tobacco in 17th- and 18th-century Europe

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 10:50 PM:

Viagra! Tequila!
Maquiladora viva!
Argiva! Sonora!
A dose of cryptospora!
Go team!

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 02:47 AM:

"I used to know a guy who could bend his little finger all the way backward until it touched the back of his wrist." - Mitch: I knew a graduate student who could bend all his fingers back until they were nearly against the back of his hand. He said it was because he had one copy of a gene that was lethal if you got it from both parents.

He also claimed to be a descendant of a near relative of the officer (First Officer??) on the Titanic who was head of the group of crew that were sent to lock the doors on the steerage passengers and make sure that they didn't break out.
An interesting ethical conundrum, to think what you might do in similar circumstances.

[Grad student went from studying biota of rock platforms of sunny subtropical Sydney to that of ones off the northern coast of Scotland! Ain't biology wonderful.]

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 11:22 AM:

Epacris: I'm not going to mention that my wife grew up in Scotland and moved to Sydney. Whoops, just did. And, though I loved the effects, sets, set decoration, and costumes of "Titanic", I hated the dialog and historical inaccuracy (anti-Britishism, for instance). James Cameron needs Patrick and Teresa as editors!

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 11:01 PM:

Epacris, if that gene is lethal in combination, people on my mother's side of the family have been in deadly peril for generations.

I can't do funny tricks with my joints any more. Two rounds of Lyme Disease will do that.

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 05:44 PM:

Just came across William Powers in National Journal contemplating the 25th anniversary of C-SPAN in terms that reminded me of the beginning of this thread:

The truly revolutionary thing about C-SPAN was not the televising of Congress. It was the way it downsized Washington, revealed it not as the city of giants it always pretended to be, but of mere people who gather endlessly in these drab rooms and clamber for attention, sway, turf, a quote in the paper, some little change they can call their own.

Everyone is on C-SPAN, from the humblest whispering aide to the most imperious pundit. And the most-riveting action often is not at the center of the picture, where the daily headlines get written, but off to the sides. [...]

I watched Kerry's firefighter speech straight to the end. When he was done, C-SPAN didn't cut to some other, hotter event. It patiently followed the candidate as he snaked back through the room, pumping hands, mugging with admirers. It had been a strong performance, and you could tell from Kerry's body language that he knew it. He had an ineffable charisma, the radiant optimism of the riding-high. It's the sort of thing conventional news coverage often misses, because it doesn't translate into headlines, or feels biased. It's also the sort of thing that can win elections.