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Personal foul, 15 yards for Newsweek, Pinker [Updated]

First Newsweek had that ridiculous cover "In Search of Aliens" a few months back, a wild exaggeration of a story about the Kepler mission to find Earthlike worlds. Then Newsweek had a cover asking if your baby is racist. Now we have the Sarah Palin cover, using a sexy photo taken for Runner's World. Jon Meacham defends the decision:

"We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do," Meacham said. "We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard."

Ain't nothin' gender-neutral about Sarah Palin. Her sex appeal is part of the package. But that's all the more reason to be sensitive to the perils of over-leveraging that aspect of her celebrity. Newsweek over-leveraged. In a single editorial decision, Newsweek has called attention to its own editorial judgment rather than to the Bizarro-World rise of Palin as an allegedly credible leader of the world's most powerful nation. That's got to get a flag and 15 yards and perhaps, pending a review by the league, at least a one-game suspension.

No fine will be imposed because, hey, it's a newsweekly, and we have a mercy rule around here.

Next offense to adjudicate: The Steve Pinker review of Malcolm Gladwell's new book. The review ran in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Pinker is a brilliant guy, but he also gets a flag and 15 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

He was assigned to review Gladwell's book of essays, "What the Dog Saw," but it's obvious that the moment he picked up the book he was gunning for the curly-headed didact. Pinker describes his rising gorge while reading Gladwell's "Outliers" on the Kindle. He's already hatin' on Gladwell before he's read the first sentence of the new book.

Pinker argues that Gladwell can't be trusted with complex issues involving statistics and psychology, and that he makes some very basic errors in his reporting.

An eclectic essayist is necessarily a dilettante, which is not in itself a bad thing. But Gladwell frequently holds forth about statistics and psychology, and his lack of technical grounding in these subjects can be jarring. He provides misleading definitions of "homology," "sagittal plane" and "power law" and quotes an expert speaking about an "igon value" (that's eigenvalue, a basic concept in linear algebra). In the spirit of Gladwell, who likes to give portentous names to his aperçus, I will call this the Igon Value Problem: when a writer's education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong.

Of course the lack of academic expertise will be jarring to an academic. But Gladwell writes for a popular audience. He's not writing for Pinker. Nor should he. He writes for the rest of us, who will cut him a little slack if he doesn't precisely nail the definition of homology and sagittal plane.

No one mistakes Gladwell for a scientist. He is a science writer and explainer, and he does it better than just about anyone else in the game right now.

It's fair to question (as Pinker does) whether Gladwell's conclusions are correct. That's a good topic for a book review. Does the totality of Gladwell's argument hold up? You can prove anything with cherry-picked anecdotes. But Gladwell's fundamental credibility is solid. Everyone who puts pen to paper (that's still done, right?) makes a mistake here and there, particularly when the material is abstruse (gawd I love that word). Fact-checking at The New Yorker, where these essays appeared, is the gold standard in the business.

It's unfair to compare Gladwell to academics, because the appropriate comparison is with other science writers. Pinker admits that Gladwell can tell a story and has a winning way with his prose; most academics lack that talent. If you're going to have an informed society you need storytellers (Gladwell, McPhee, Ferris, Preston, etc.) who can dive into complex, academic, scientific and technological subjects and translate information into language ordinary people of all ages and backgrounds can understand. And so Malcolm Gladwell is a national treasure, even if some experts don't think he has much...you know...igon value.

[Update:

The Pinker-Gladwell steel cage death match is getting interesting. Please read Gladwell in his blog firing back at Pinker for intellectual impurities such as research-by-Google. Gladwell makes no excuses for igon value but takes umbrage at the suggestion that he's wrong when he writes that draft position is na unreliable predictor of subsequent quarterback performance. I hope this spat goes on for a while (why do I feel like I'm watching two guys whip out their slide rules to see whose is longer?).

See also this interesting comment in the Language Log blog:

'Not to defend Gladwell, but Pinker's book The Blank Slate was guilty of the same kind of dilettantism that he dings Gladwell for, including a telltale typo: he quoted Virginia Woolf as saying, "In or about December 1910, human nature changed," when she actually wrote, "On or about December 1910 human character changed. "The Igon Value Problem," indeed. (Pinker's mistake was particularly galling because he was superfluously quoting Woolf just to disagree with her, which I think should not be done.)'

So Pinker's not perfect! That means we should trust nothing he writes, ever! Clearly a charlatan! (By the way, in college I interviewed a football player after a game, and jotted in my notes, "We showed a lot of char. out there today." Typed up the story. It ran in the school paper as "We showed a lot of charisma out there today." The football player wanted to stomp me.)

Some interesting comments in the boodle today. A sample:

Pragmatix: Re Pinker's review of Gladwell, I have to disagree with Achenbach. In my opinion (and I'm no professional scientist or statistician), almost every piece by Gladwell I've ever read is biased toward proclaiming a "fresh, counterintuitive"

result -- another of your commenters has said much the same thing. Indeed, he's a fluent writer: but if you can't trust his accounts of research, why waste your time? There are brilliant popularizers of science, many of them great scientists themselves (Einstein, Feynman, Weinberg et al.) -- Gladwell isn't one of them.

justin_timberwolf: A few months ago, I would have agreed with the benefit of the doubt afforded by Achenbach's assessment of Gladwell, but anyone who saw him discussing football head injuries on Pardon the Interruption (with the Post's Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser) several weeks ago would have difficulty making the case that he's not a complete charlatan. He was talking about how huge, increasing numbers of football players are experiencing dementia before age fifty, a totally ridiculous claim for which he had absolutely no empirical evidence whatsoever. He then went on to talk about how he's sad because he "loves" football, a claim that no one who has ever seen this man interviewed can take seriously. He wound up the interview by claiming that he'd be surprised if football was even being played in ten [sic] years. This is a guy who credible on complex matters, when he can't even grasp football?

dicka1: Totally wrong to excuse writing "igon value" for "eigenvalue." By making that mistake, Gladwell showed he had no clue about eigenvalues, and any sane reader would ask whether he should trust anything else in the article. A previous commenter said it very well; it's very important not to justify ignorance in technical matters, or any other matters, clearly. Mr Achenbach is a journalist, and clearly believes the facts shouldn't get in the way of telling a story. Maybe that's why journalists have such a low reputation.

ScienceTim: In my own field, when writing a review on the physics of light for elementary school teachers, I was critiqued by one of our invited reviewers for describing light as propagating in a straight line in open space (vacuum). The reviewer's concern was that I was speaking in contradiction to the General Theory of Relativity in which, as we all know, light follows a geodesic. You knew that, right? So, I really should carefully qualify my definition of "travel in a straight line" to "light propagates along a geodesic path (path of minimum action) defined by the curvature of space imposed by a mass within general relativity, which in the special case of negligible nearby mass can be treated as a straight line in a Euclidean cosmology although in the general case it must be properly interpreted within a covariant framework of non-Euclidean geometry within, for example, an Einstein-deSitter formalism representing the curvature of the universe." Yes, that would be much clearer. The fact is that 99% of the value -- well, okay, not 99% but "the great majority" -- of your average technical term can be stated briefly in imprecise language, while the remaining 1% ("itty-bitty bit") requires a full paragraph of complex jargon with embedded mathematics. So, until I know more about the details of the situation, I'm willing to cut Gladwell some provisional slack on his technical imprecision.



By Joel Achenbach  |  November 18, 2009; 7:31 AM ET
 
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Comments

That's a good appreciation of Gladwell's craft. And a proper appreciation of the New Yorker's fact-checking, which is a major reason for reading the magazine, in addition to its sterling writers. Gladwell's in formidable company.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | November 18, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Still, a good man knows his limitations, as Clint Eastwood once said. It's a near universal temptation (or at least one I fight myself) to use words over ones head. It is a flaw. Look it up.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 18, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Joel, can I talk you into "offsetting penalties" and re-play the down, in both cases?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

sarah in that NEWSWEEK pic is SMOOOO-KIN HOT!!! if i saw her in the woods naked i would give chase for sure.
but then more than likely i would have a better chance of seeing her in a church being blessed by witch hunters.......
all that beauty and no brains pity
her views on REALITY as evidenced by her religious beliefs go beyound childish for an adult to espouse such non sense is DANGEROUS

Posted by: JudgeAlan | November 18, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I was aware of the Newsweek cover controversy on Monday, as I posted then, after the story aired on ABC's "Good Morning America," with Cokie Roberts commenting. This morning, NBC's "Today" show had a representative from Newsweek (slight, weasly-looking man) attempting to explain the choice of the cover, along with The Daily Beat's Tina Brown, throwing in her one-cent worth (not worth two cents).

It was this morning that I became aware of the headline on the Newsweek cover, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sarah?" For people of my age who saw the blockbuster "The Sound of Music" in their teen years when it was released, the song lyric immediately spring to mind--as Media Matters readily points out.

Thanks for the Media Matters link, really, a big thanks. Because the Media Matters link shows the photos used for the story on the inside pages. If I was offended before, I'm really offended now.

The inside art shows that the the runner's magazine photo on the cover is more than a photo of Palin taken out of context. Post-election, would Newsweek put a picture of Obama in his basketball jerseys or outfit on its cover? Or, once Schwarzenegger had assumed the California governor's office, would we see Schwarzenegger on the cover as weightlifter?

Newsweek has clearly jumped the shark. I remember when my father subscribed to Newsweek for me to read when I was in high school. With cheap shots and gimmicks such as these, I would no sooner want a subscription than I would want a migraine headache or a root canal or a painful, blistering sunburn. Was no woman on the editorial board when the decision was made about what photos/art to choose? Gee, I wonder how Palin is treated in the copy?

I would really love for the Clinton-Palin coffee summit to take place, with a serious discussion about sexism on last election's campaign trail--and beyond.

Posted by: laloomis | November 18, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I tend to agree with Pinker. Science writers should be accurate and subject to review in much the same way scientists are. If they are sloppy, as Gladwell clearly was, then they are likely to mislead their readers and do more harm than good.

Posted by: dougd1 | November 18, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Jeez. Front page alert. Second spot, right under the main Milbank tease.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

As we discussed at length yesterday, eigenvalue is a fairly common term to anybody that has had any linear algebra or other post-calculus math, which is a fairly large number of people, not just academics, which makes it a particularly egregious howler.

As for how that got past the vaunted New Yorker fact checking system, I guess that Jamie Conway must have been high on Bolivian Marching Powder that day.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Nonsense! No intelligent lay reader should trust an author who purports to write accurately about academic results yet obviously lacks a basic understanding of the field he is describing. Especially when there are so many good (but less sexy) science writers out (Matt Ridley, Nicholas Wade, Richard Dawkins- to say nothing of the actual scientists who are also science writers, like Pinker himself).

Posted by: qaz1231 | November 18, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

And if you think Newsweek doesn't like Palin you oughta see what both Sally Quinn and God have to say about her: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/sally_quinn/2009/11/sarah_palins_rogue_christianity.html?hpid=talkbox1

Sally seems pretty irked. Don't know God's take on it. (Does He twitter?)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

SCC: As for basic grammar, some of us WHO have had linear algebra are still struggling with the concept.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Newsweek graphically communicated the opinion many feel about Palin. She is an unserious candidate who's credentials are superficial. John McCain should be penalized for bringing her to the stage.

Posted by: tcflanagan | November 18, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Yes. Yes, He does.

http://twitter.com/god

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I understand that some may find the Newsweek cover disturbing. That's their right. However, the truth of the matter is that Sarah Palin picked the outfit, put it on and posed for that picture. Sarah Palin approved that picture be put on a national magazine cover. That should explain everything. Now, as she usually does, Sarah Palin wants sympathy for being taken advantage of. She can't have it both ways. It is mind boggling to me that it is not perfectly clear to everyone that she does this to get attention. She uses the same routine every time. And of course once again, the media will give her all the attention she is asking for. Newsweek did nothing wrong. If she didn't want it out there, she shouldn't have posed for it. The bottom line is that Sarah Palin is a nut job. Plain and simple.

Posted by: GeoffZ1 | November 18, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Fact of the matter is that she posed for the picture in the first place. Was Runners World sexist? Once again Palin shows she is a hypocrite. The bottom line is that she does not like Newsweek and she decides to use the sexist card at her convenience. My question to Palin is a) why did you pose for such a sexist picture in the first place and b) have you not learned by now that any pictures you take can be used against you? I mean I realized it took Palin 5 years and who knows how many different schools to marginally graduate collage but come on Sarah!!!

Posted by: rcc_2000 | November 18, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

And by "intelligent lay reader" I mean someone who wants to understand the gist of the research, not someone who wants topics for cocktail party chitchat.

Posted by: qaz1231 | November 18, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

To be honest, I really have a hard time getting all bent out of shape over the use of the Palin picture. But I fully admit that this might simply because I find her so grating and smug that it is difficult to be objective. I am one of those men who don't find her attractive as much as annoying.

To me, the picture, and its history, perfectly encapsulates Palin's relationship with the press. It represents her willingness to exploit her alleged attractiveness when it suits her purposes, and then become indignant when it doesn't. I find the use of the picture brilliant in a meta sort of way.

That said, the very fact that its use must be defended suggests, to me, that it was a poor editorial decision. Of course, that assumes that the intent wasn't to ignite a firestorm in the first place.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Got a deal on color changing cheetos. I left a case in the bunker, along with a deli tray, sourdough, pumpernickel, and proper rye bread. Forgot the mustard.

Posted by: -jack- | November 18, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Runner's World didn't have a problem with it. As for the Newsweek cover, I used her face to smack down a fat wasp yesterday. Killed it dead.

The day I read more than a sentence about Sarah Palin's reason for being talked about is the day I become Sarah Palin. She's eye candy for a few persons, but less importantly, her reason for being is Story Candy for reporters, the way a traffic accident is for rubberneckers.

Posted by: Meepo | November 18, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

What just happened?

Joel Achenbach just defended -- DEFENDED! -- inaccuracy.

C'mon cut him some slack, he says. He writes for an audience that WOULDN'T KNOW that the facts, words, definitions, spellings or descriptions were wrong.

If the audience is nontechnical and nonexpert than it is EVEN MORE CRITICAL that the writer get everything accurate and correct. They are DEPENDING ON the journalist to not give them faulty, inaccurate, erroneous or incomplete information, because they don't have the facilities (unlike an academic) to tell if the author has made a big whopping mistake.

Achenbach, you've got it completely upside down and backwards. An academic audience WOULD KNOW if someone in the field got it wrong, and as such, the writer can dispense with elementary explanations and factchecking. A general audience is EASILY VICTIMIZED by a writer negligent about checking facts.

You have punished the wrong person, and have done serious damage to your credibility and that of your profession.

You are awarded a foul, moved back 10 yards and required to read Richard Hofstaders "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life."

Posted by: 1EgoNemo | November 18, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Te absolvo, jack. I'll bring the Gray Poupon.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Sally Quinn, her son Quinn Bradlee was at the National Press Club last night promoting his book "A Different Life: Growing Up Learning Disabled and Other Adventures". While I did not talk with him because I was fastidiously avoiding eye contact with authors whose books I was not going buy, I did get this candid photo of him chatting with Pulitzer Prize winner Neil Sheehan.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/4114762406/in/set-72157622704066235/

Wouldn't it be great to corner Sheehan and have a long personal conversation about the Pentagon Papers? But why hasn't he written a book about the intelligence failures of the Bush Administration that led us into the Iraq war?

Later, I saw Quinn being interviewed by a camera crew that was circulating through the room. I wonder if they were asking him whether his mom was embarrassed by his revelation in the book that he lost his virginity to a prostitute while on vacation with his family in the Caribbean.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2009/04/02/quinn-bradlee-loses-virginity-to-prostitute-doesnt-understand-women/

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I view that review by Pinker as a double-edged sword. Yes, on the one hand he was certainly holding Gladwell up to an extremely high, and arguably unfair, standard. And given the difficulty and importance of scientific writing Pinker's criticisms, in their particulars, seem peevish.

On the other hand, the very importance of scientific literacy, to me, demands a very high standard. I mean, people who write about history or politics are held up to this kind of scrutiny all the time. Let a writer make an incorrect allusion to some historical event or political thinker and critics are all over him or her like college students on free donuts.

This is, of course, because most of these critics are much less fluent in science than they are in the liberal arts. And there are perfectly good reasons for this given the typical education of people who tend to go into journalism.

So, to me, I am viewing Pinker's criticisms as a plea for greater scientific literacy. Yes it is extreme, but sometimes being extreme is how expectations rise.

Because it isn't just that most people are illiterate about science, it is that this illiteracy is viewed as acceptable.

Don't know anything about Voltaire and you get sniffed at indignantly. Don't know anything about Lavoisier and you are not. "Eigenvalue/Igon Value, who really cares," the argument goes. But let someone misuse a French term, and all heck breaks loose.

And this larger problem is the one that I hope such extreme criticism serves to correct.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Jon Meacham would do well to look in the mirror to find the answer to Newsweek's dwindling circulation and revenue. Consumers of news understand they basically are a niche product catering to a liberal echo chamber. Their relationship with MSNBC only reinforces this model. The cover the actively sought out wasn't even released by "Runners Magazine" and while appropriate for that publication, it's use and scavenger hunt process tells us tons about Newsweek's current management.

Posted by: pauldia | November 18, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I'm on my way to the bunker and will pick up mustard, jack. Another interesting day on the boodle.

Posted by: slyness | November 18, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Why not emphasize her so-called sex-appeal? It's all she has to offer in the political realm.

Posted by: rbe1 | November 18, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Again, I cry "NO FOUL!" I'll repost what I said yesterday...

Wait a minute... the Newsweek cover runs the text "How do you solve a problem like Sarah? She's bad news for the GOP and everyone else, too" and Palin complains about THE PICTURE? That she posed for?

It was SUPPOSED to make her look bad.

Posted by: -TBG- | November 17, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

---

And now... yello... Loved your pictures of the Book Fair (that I missed because of this stupid cold). My question for you: is Gwen Ifil that stunning in person? She must light up the room around her.

Posted by: -TBG- | November 18, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Gwen was truly radiant.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Let me see if I have this right...

"Conservatives" railed against Obama's lack of a lapel flag pin,

yet they're okay with Palin's total lack of U.S. flag decorum?

That photo shows it lying there like a rag,

about 6 inches off the ground?

Give me a break.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | November 18, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

RD,
Magnificent. I agree with every word. Too many people excuse things off with the "math is hard" whine not realizing that that doesn't reflect well on them.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I'm no Palin fan but I've never seen a man on the cover of Newsweek scantily dressed. They would not and have not done that to a man. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are babes. When will I see them in their skimpy workout gear?

Posted by: ALLOST | November 18, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

You might think that "News" magazines might take their own photos when they do an article!

Nope! Newsweek scammed the cover photo of Sarah from another magazine!

What a cad and slanderer Evan Thomas is!


Posted by: jjcrocket2 | November 18, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

An interesting crowd. I like all the new commenters with opinions on journalistic science standards of accuracy. The Palin comments - meh - heard it all before. Speaking of standards, I decided to follow my own advice. Igon is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France. According to Wikipedia. (Important caveat, that.)

The other day I protested crazy righties implying I was a worshiper of Obama rather than a supporter. As my usual theory is they tend to accuse others of all their own worse sins, here is this:
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/10/rnc-web-site-pays-tribute-to-ronaldus-magnus.php

I liken Palin to one of those asteroids that comes KIND OF close to hitting Earth. I was pretty sure by last November that we wouldn't get hit at all. But one thinks, oh, but if we had been...

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 18, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Jugez un homme par ses questions plutôt que par ses réponses.
- Voltaire -

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Joan Walsh at salon.com makes me laugh! Loved her editorial about the Palin Newsweek cover, and found not much of anything to disagree with. She asks important questions such as "How do you solve a problem like John Meacham?" She continues to press the question with another example, "How do you solve a problem like Joe Lieberman?"

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/sarah_palin/index.html

The icing on Walsh's cake is this sweet dab of frosting she provides: Washington Independent's Dave Weigel linked to this alleged video of a Newsweek editorial meeting...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EylyhEziLhk

Posted by: laloomis | November 18, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

i've been thinking about the newsweek cover. it is sexist, no denying it. (i'm leaving aside the fact that she posed for it in another context.) it makes palin look bad, which is the point, and probably not undeserved. however, i've read the two articles, which are both mediocre btw, and the issues they address have everything to do with populism, politics, world view, and very little to do with gender. therefore, using a sexist photo as a metaphor for everything that's wrong with palin is unfair and inappropriate. the editorial justification is totally bogus.

however, let's be honest. newsweek probably knew they would get a reaction. i think they may have made a calculated choice to get attention and sell a few more magazines.

Posted by: LALurker | November 18, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Vérité d'amour, et erreur de pardon. -Voltaire.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

At first I thought the headline and lede of this story were egregiously superficial. But on reading the whole thing, I'm inclined to think they are onto something. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/17/AR2009111702776.html?hpid=sec-health

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

No, wrong on Gladwell. He's become such a success not because he explains scientific concepts better than anyone else, but because he misinterprets research in order to arrive at "counter-intuitive" conclusions that appeal to the populist prejudices of his readers.

To find Achenbach's sort of anti-intellectualism in the Post is disturbing. Is he going to start slamming the unhip elitists who think that the Post's articles should be accurate and unbiased? Objectivity is just so darned abstruse (gawd, I love that word).

Posted by: DeadCenter | November 18, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

About the Newsweek cover:
Sarah Palin posed for that picture; clearly, she wasn't caught off guard. And after a national campaign, she knew perfectly well that the photograph would show up somewhere, and that she wouldn't control where. But she also knew that people would attack Newsweek for attacking Poor Little Sarah. She'd sell more books and convince her constituency that everybody's out to get her, just like everybody's out to get them.

Newsweek played right into her hands.

Posted by: jlhare1 | November 18, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Pinker picks nits, but also persuasively shows that Gladwell in his book seems to be ignorant about the basics of detection technology. From his ignorance, he builds charming but false arguments that a lot of prediction is wrong, sometimes by absurd magnitudes. Shouldn't Gladwell be held accountable for his charming arguments?

Posted by: TomGrubisich | November 18, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Somebody try to explain to jjcrocket what "slander" means. i don't have the patience for it.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

When I saw the cover of Newsweek in my mailbox yesterday, I also thought of the racist baby cover. I am waiting for my subscription to Newsweek to run out and then for the first time in many, many years it will not be renewed.

Posted by: shewholives | November 18, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I went to the Pinker review expecting a hatchet job, but really, he was pretty complimentary about Gladwell and the book, overall. I respect Pinker's point about accuracy and I'm glad he got a chance to publish to a wide audience. The review makes it more likely that I will read the book, and I appreciate the hints about what to be wary of, factwise.

I tend to be very prickly about scientific inaccuracy, even though I'm immensely ignorant myself. Maybe because of that. If I know enough to spot an error in a scientific article, that is a very bad sign for the writer.

This weekend, I saw Al Gore give a talk about his new book, Our Choice, and he said several things that made me go, hey, wait a minute...At one point I thought I would list them all out for boodle discussion, but upon reflection I decided that the importance of his overall message (WE NEED TO DEVELOP RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES, PEOPLE!) was such that I didn't want to undermine it with petty sniping.

I'll just mention one example here so you can see the type of thing I mean. Gore stated that photovoltaic cells "transform protons into electrons." At first I thought that was scientifically inaccurate, but later I thought maybe it was just imprecise language. I googled the phrase and sure enough, people are using it. I'm sure it's wrong, though. If I were the editor I wouldn't allow it. Because most Americans are abysmally ignorant about science, I think it's very important that what is diseminated to a wide audience should be strictly accurate.

I appreciate Joel's science writing very much. He doesn't do what Pinker accuses Gladwell of, which is to pass off quotes as facts. The technique he uses to transform interviews and research into informative and entertaining stories is very much his own, and I'd say he is a national treasure. I'll take his word about Gladwell's status.

Posted by: kbertocci | November 18, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I just gotta laugh atcha, Dead Center. I happen to disagree with Joel about Gladwell, but my god, to describe Joel as "anti-intellectual" -- well, it just kinda takes one's breath away. Clearly you haven't been paying attention for the last 20 years or so.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

NEWSWEEK is a 100%, dyed-in-the-wool, liberal Democrat, pop news magazine.

There is no doubt about that at all. It is hard fact and cannot be denied.

Newsweek campaigned hard for Al Gore in 2000 and even harder for Kerry-Edwards in 2004 and even harder for Barack H. Obama in 2008.

You might say Newsweak is a voluntary, propaganda outlet for the DNC.

If you want straight, unbiased, neutral news in a magazine, do not rely on NEWSWEAK.

Newsweak is a maggazine especially for liberal Democrats.

Do I have to go on???

Posted by: battleground51 | November 18, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Next week's Newsweek cover will feature Howard Dean in his Speedo, followed by a shot of Nancy Pelosi wearing a G-string and pasties.

Posted by: mike85 | November 18, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Bertooch, could Gore have said that PV cells transform "photons" into electrons? (Or could he have simply mispronounced or substituted protons for photons.) It seems he may simply have mis-spoken, rather than have made an outright factual error.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Saw Gladwell on the Daily Show last night. The more I read, and see, of him the less I like. I'll save the accuracy debate for those who are better trained, or have more time to chase down the research, but I will say his puckish counter-intuitive persona is starting to wear a bit thin.

Yello-we Finns are a morose lot already, but to read that you were in the presence of Gwen Ifill as she lit up a room, while I note that the river at Chez Frostbitten has frozen completely over this morning is more than I can bear. My frenvy knows no bounds.

Where are the conspiracy theorists when it's so clear the media is in cahoots with a "conservative?" Palin and Newsweek both get a bounce out of this. If I actually thought either Palin or the press could hatch such a brilliant scheme I'd get out my foil hat. (note-I think Palin is incapable of the brilliance, the press incapable of a secret conspiracy)

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 18, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Assuming I agreed with your premise, battleground ("...a 100%, dyed-in-the-wool, liberal Democrat, pop news magazine"), is there something wrong with that?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Oh, crap. I just undermined my entire tirade with one little typo. I may have to retire from boodling permanently. SORRY!!!

What Gore did say was "transform photons into electrons" and all the rest of what I said applies to that phrase. Which is just as wrong as "protons into electrons." But now I don't believe anything I say because, hey it could all just be one big typo, who knows?!

Posted by: kbertocci | November 18, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"He writes for the rest of us, who will cut him a little slack if he doesn't precisely nail the definition of homology and sagittal plane."

No writer, no matter how wonderful in other areas, should use words until he understands the definition. It is especially true of science, in which the coining of a word is a shorthand for a long background of understanding.

As far as Newsweek goes, I would be surprised if it isn't hemorrhaging readers more quickly than the dailies.

Posted by: edbyronadams | November 18, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Listen, truth is the Executive never brings about any real changes without jumping through hopes in the Congress. So, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who is President. Really. They all are pandering, lying narcissist/egomaniacs.

So, given that, Sarah Palin has my vote in 2012 if she runs. I mean, what other candidate would you rather see in the news every day. Maybe Jessica Alba as her VP (an even less consequential job). The Newsweek cover sealed the deal for me.

Posted by: hsroth1 | November 18, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Once again we have Republicans demanding 'respect' for someone who has not earned it, whatsoever.

Mrs. Palin is a national electoral loser who threw her constituency under the bus in the middle of her first term....for money, so she could have a book tour.

Oh, sure, she's also a symbol of their bankrupt 'values', but so was the last guy they had in the oval office.

She's a bad joke. If journalism as a profession had any credibility left a) she wouldn't have gotten the cover and b) if they did give it to her, they'd have had her posing in a clown suit with a sack of money, getting a piggy back ride from McCain.

If the WaPo had any credibility left, they'd have suggested the same, and they wouldn't have used a football metaphor to outline a snarky point while continuing to carry water for the GOP.

As is, they're a safe harbor for a gang of 'editorial thinkers' that got everything in the last nine years *wrong*, from the economy to the justification for war, (looking at you Krauthammer).

These are people who are insisting on keeping kid-glove treatment going for 'Governor' Palin who was on a ticket...that lost by EIGHT MILLION votes, who has made a clear choice between living up to her oath of office...and cashing her oath in for more celebrity and a book tour.

I guess that really does make her more of a 'real American', certainly of the modern stripe.

See, you can see by her actions she values *nothing* more than a buck, except camera-time and another shot at power.

Her rhetoric and underlying philosophy are played, and if you're buying them, you're as big a sucker as when you voted for Bush.

Posted by: dave123williams | November 18, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

What drivel. The rightards are upset about this why exactly? Are they being PC? What is wrong with this picture? The ONLY reason this woman did not dissappear like Geraldine Ferraro -- who was an accomplished and errudite woman who ran for VP -- is because she is "hot." So whining about a picture of her that is not obscene and yet makes her look good is to say you her only assett is off limits. No one, and I mean no one, right or left honestly thinks she has anything to offer beyond her looks...seriously you righties who love her -- get honest. Se says nothing, knows nothing, understands nothing, but she looks great mouthing those inane sayings of the scripture from the cult of st. reagan.

Posted by: John1263 | November 18, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I like these words from Eugene Robinson in his chat yesterday. Basically, she shoulda known better.

"Eugene Robinson: There's a rule in politics: Never put on the funny hat. Meaning that when you go campaigning at the state fair, and somebody wants you to put on a viking helmet or something, don't do it. That picture will live forever. Palin did pose for that picture -- it was for a piece in Runners World. I guess you could say it's sexist of Newsweek to run it, but I'd feel more strongly if it were a candid shot -- if she hadn't cooperated. I seem to recall beefcake photos of Barack Obama in Hawaii that were published during the campaign. "

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse


Everyone knows that Egon value is what made the proton packs work.

Posted by: edbyronadams | November 18, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

What is "wrong" is not with what Newsweek is. The problem is that they are not even close to what they claim to be.

Posted by: nestor21 | November 18, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Joel, I'm surprised you're for sloppy science writing, especially in magazines where there's more time to do it right compared to newspapers.

There seems to be more to that particular story than you're letting us know, and it can't be just how much you dislike Pinker.

Can it? Because I get disturbed by the level of sloppy factchecking out there, compounded with lack of sources cited so a more academic audience can go and see what the story really is.

Often it's the "easiest" facts that get overlooked-- and that's exactly what will put a moderately knowledgeable general audience on guard and be ready to criticize the writing.

It's the "where there's one mouse, there's more" principle.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Nice obscure movie reference edbyronadams.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

No problem, bertooch. But a PV cell really does transform photons into electrons, more or less.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Newsweek: the magazine for people who know how to spell "magazine."

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 18, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

dave123williams: Are you sure you are a Republican? Surely the GOP's current crop of national politicians isn't the best, but is it really any worse than the Democrats'? Be disappointed, sure, but you have to go with the horse that brought you until there's another option.

Posted by: nestor21 | November 18, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

kbertocci,

I didn't hear Gore's speech, but my assumption would be that the "photons to electrons" reference was meant to be more metaphorical than scientifically exact. If he had said, turn "light into electricity" or "wind gusts into electrons" it would have sounded more metaphorical. Kind of Al's version of swords into plowshares.

I think that your typo might actually have suggested the root for the criticism. I'd assume many do not understand the difference between a photon a proton ,and even if one had a little knowledge I guess one could be confused by the fact that protons can be part of a radioactive decay of a neutron that can result in a free electron (but not at all what Gore was talking about).

Posted by: Awal | November 18, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

RD, thank you for not sliming me.

Since we are picking the nits on the use of language, transduce would be a better choice than transform.

Posted by: edbyronadams | November 18, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

What disrespect??? Showing off her legs in a carefully staged photo that makes her look good. She has nothing ese going for her, so whay the phony balony outrage? If she didn't have the pageant painted face and nice legs no one but no one would ever listen to a word she says.

Posted by: John1263 | November 18, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Here's what I took to be the Igon value from David Gargill's Harper's article:
(about PCBs)"The oils were long hailed as miraculous for allowing electricity to flow without altering the charge or being altered themselves." The second part means the oils don't break down easily even under hgih voltages or minute current flows. (I did work in transformer R&D.) The part about "altering the charge" is inscrutable. I don't know whether he's talking about the electricity (which wouldn't make sense as far as I can tell) or the structure of the oil's molecules. It suggests to me he doesn't quite know either. Which undermines his credibility to one degree or another. If he didn't understand he should have asked, done more research, or left the sentence out.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 18, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Oh what fun we had ...

Achenblog: hit generator.

Posted by: russianthistle | November 18, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"Her sex appeal is part of the package."

Yeah, the 90% part.
The other 10% is
5% her clueless vapidity
and
5% her tendency to lie.

Mix it together and what have you got?
The PERFECT rEPUBLICAN.

Posted by: TOMHERE | November 18, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The irony of Newsweek's article is that Sarah Palin is a problem that doesn't need solving. She's a little brush fire far, far away from any population center with no chance of spreading. The people to whom she's attractive don't decide general elections, they decide primaries.

The problem that the Democrats need to be very focused on fixing is the debt and the dollar--which is an exceedingly difficult problem because it's all tied together with war and health care and stimulus. A meaningful further devaluation of the dollar accompanied by high interest rates will make the economy unfixable and Obama unelectable. Health care seems to be the administration's A1 problem, this needs to be A1A, or it's all going to come crashing down very soon.

Someone above said something negative about Palin and supported it by saying that "she lost by 8 million votes!!!" Unrelated to Palin, let me remind you that a) that's only an actual swing of 4MM voters and b) the people who are most likely to change those votes are also the people who are most likely to care about profligate government spending.

Posted by: Awal | November 18, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Gotta disagree with you on the Pinker review, Mr. A.

Journalists are not politicians, yet they write about politics. Would you be willing to cut a journalist some slack in that situation? Methinks not.

The only thing I'm going to say about the Palin photo is...yawn...iszzzzzzzzz.

Posted by: MsJS | November 18, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Gladwell invariably writes about topics I'm interested in. Reading him always makes me queasy, though, because when I read him on a topic where I have some expertise, he seems to not quite get it. And yes, the problem is conclusions that are at best questionable and sometimes just wrong, not just imprecision in the details. ("Igon value" is just imprecision, but very funny!) I read Pinker's review of the latest book over the weekend, and it captured exactly my unease.

Posted by: tony40 | November 18, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

It's possible Gore said "proton" instead of "photon" because he's not as scientifically knowledgeable as he might like to be. There are two classes of people not to go to for one's science: politicians and journalists. Joel is an exception to this rule. TV reporters are worse than print reporters. There are other exceptions also. I know Howard Dean had to pass biochemistry.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 18, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

"Surely the GOP's current crop of national politicians isn't the best, but is it really any worse than the Democrats'?"

Yeah. Yeah, it really is worse.

The unapologetic greed, the rigid adherence to a failed free-marketeering de-regulating cult that uses fear as a smokescreen for bad policy....yeah, it's worse.

The funniest part is how they're pretending that people haven't noticed that they simply pay lip-service to the idea of fiscal responsibility, are fully in the business of divisiveness, and support a President in a time of war only when it's politically expedient.

Yeah, it's worse. With your record, good luck trying to maintain the false equivalency. And seriously, run Palin; nothing would give me more pleasure than to watch another slow-motion epic fail from that moron.

Posted by: dave123williams | November 18, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Robbing America picked on it before the WP and says: "Obama is 'Going Rouge', Sara Palin is 'Going Rogue' ". Great Piece w/ important conclusions. Also a Poll on the Republicans for 2012 that include Sarah Palin. Both at http://www.robbingamerica.blogspot.com The Main Premise is that Sarah Palin can take all the attacks and end up the winner simply because of where her base is coming from on one side, and the significance and eventual repulsion by the American people of Obama "Going Rouge" on the other. Read it.

Posted by: JohnGalt9 | November 18, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

kbertocci,

I like a good tirade as much as the next guy, but if Gore said that photovoltaic cells transform "photons to electrons," he is exactly correct. I'm not quite sure where you see an error. The devices rely on a quantum phenomena, so it's perfectly correct to describe them in terms of photons and electrons rather than in terms of light and current or light and voltage--if that's what you're getting at.

Historical oddity: the quantum phenomena in question is similar to the photoelectric effect, described by Einstein in his third-most-famous 1905 paper and the basis of his Nobel prize in physics. His most famous paper, on special relativity, was probably still to controversial at the time.

Posted by: tony40 | November 18, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, awal, for adding some value to my comment.

And sorry, again, for muddying the waters of the discussion. The Self-Castigation Club exists for a reason, and I will try to take comfort from the knowledge that I'm not its only member.

Posted by: kbertocci | November 18, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

It's real simple: if the bimbo ex-gov doesn't want pictures of her in snug clothes on magazine covers, then she should simply stop posing for them.

Posted by: 33rdStreet | November 18, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I think Palin would have more to squawk about if Newsweek had run a really bad photo of her - like this one with Barbara Walters, where Babs looks better:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/17/AR2009111703617.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: seasea1 | November 18, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

In a moment, we are going to break away from ongoing coverage of the Palinista invasion to take you to something a little lighter....

I found this on a fly fishing blog that I read regularly, but don't let that scare you, it's completely un-fishing-related. It's a Chinese artist who camouflage paints himself and others to blend in to their surrounding. I had never seen him before, and some are very cool. Definitely worth a quick visit. I'd imagine some of you have seen this before; it seems very "internety".

http://thisisflydaily.com/2009/11/17/the-invisible-man/

Posted by: Awal | November 18, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

So, in the spirit of not wearing funny hats lest they end up on Newsweek, when did they put this one on their cover?

http://canuckjihad.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/2525670088_4c88f6b332_o.jpg

Posted by: edbyronadams | November 18, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Who knew that eigenvalues were such a technical topic? I would have thought popular science writers would have taken some basic math courses such as linear algebra or calculus.

Posted by: smc91 | November 18, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Remind me never to write another sentence unless I first am 100 percent sure of the precise meaning of every word I use and 100 percent certain that every fact I publish will turn out to be accurate and 100 percent assured that no academic out there could accuse me of something as egregious as providing -- hold on -- "misleading definitions of 'homology,' 'sagittal plane' and 'power law.' Also I think millipedes should think carefully about every leg before attempting to crawl. The idea that I am forgiving carelessness or am anti-intellectual or am defending sloppiness is absurd. I would do anything not to have suffered -- sorry to use such a dramatic word -- so much anxiety over the years as my stories have gone to press. Losing sleep because I might have made a tiny error somewhere. Digging out a notebook at 3 a.m. because of the pathological need to check a fact and maybe change something for the last 10,000 papers of the press run. Yes, the point of being professional is to get it right and that's why, when I teach, and go over the rules for journalism, I start with 1) Get It Right. But in a book that runs several hundred papers I'm not surprised that Pinker found some "misleading" definitions and do not think this proves that Gladwell is sloppy. As for Gladwell's conclusions, that's a different matter, as noted in the kit.

Posted by: joelache | November 18, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

"An educated consumer is our best customer"

If only Sy had turned to politics...

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/business/18syms.html

*SIGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 18, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Without knowing more about the technical definitions of the words that Pinker says Gladwell got wrong, and of course without also reading Gladwell's actual usage, I can't know how badly Gladwell performed. I know that Igon Value should be a profound embarrassment -- but I don't know Gladwell's writing style very well, I don't know that particular essay, and I don't know how carefully Pinker read the whole article. Without knowing these things, I am open to the possibility that Gladwell intentionally used the homophone "igon value" and later corrected himself to "eigenvalue" -- having first played the role of clueless reader, and also establishing the correct pronunciation. Pinker does not say whether Gladwell persisted in this abuse, without correction. So, I am left indecisive.

In my own field, when writing a review on the physics of light for elementary school teachers, I was critiqued by one of our invited reviewers for describing light as propagating in a straight line in open space (vacuum). The reviewer's concern was that I was speaking in contradiction to the General Theory of Relativity in which, as we all know, light follows a geodesic. You knew that, right? So, I really should carefully qualify my definition of "travel in a straight line" to "light propagates along a geodesic path (path of minimum action) defined by the curvature of space imposed by a mass within general relativity, which in the special case of negligible nearby mass can be treated as a straight line in a Euclidean cosmology although in the general case it must be properly interpreted within a covariant framework of non-Euclidean geometry within, for example, an Einstein-deSitter formalism representing the curvature of the universe." Yes, that would be much clearer. The fact is that 99% of the value -- well, okay, not 99% but "the great majority" -- of your average technical term can be stated briefly in imprecise language, while the remaining 1% ("itty-bitty bit") requires a full paragraph of complex jargon with embedded mathematics. So, until I know more about the details of the situation, I'm willing to cut Gladwell some provisional slack on his technical imprecision.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 18, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I disagree that Pinker was too harsh on Gladwell--and to call Gladwell a "science" writer is really pushing it. A good writer captures the essence of a complex scientific concept and explains it so that it can easily be understood. I find Gladwell too glib and more interested in using scientific notions to add gloss to a hip posture he's adopting.

And it's kind of wierd to say fact-checking at the New Yorker is the best in the business when it's been just shown they made an oversight and also as if somehow that excuses sloppy writing.

Posted by: Jon44 | November 18, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, sometimes the unwieldly jargon exists because the right word formula hasn't been found yet.

What you said just got boiled down in my head (rightly or wrongly) as "light travels in a straight line-- straight, of course, is as defined by the underlying geometry of the universe."

A straight line is still defined as the shortest path between two points, right?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Newsweek hired Karl Rove, so putting Sarah Palin on its cover in skimpy attire pales by comparison.

Posted by: gsross | November 18, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

A few months ago, I would have agreed with the benefit of the doubt afforded by Achenbach's assessment of Gladwell, but anyone who saw him discussing football head injuries on Pardon the Interruption (with the Post's Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser) several weeks ago would have difficulty making the case that he's not a complete charlatan. He was talking about how huge, increasing numbers of football players are experiencing dementia before age fifty, a totally ridiculous claim for which he had absolutely no empirical evidence whatsoever. He then went on to talk about how he's sad because he "loves" football, a claim that no one who has ever seen this man interviewed can take seriously. He wound up the interview by claiming that he'd be surprised if football was even being played in ten [sic] years.

This is a guy who credible on complex matters, when he can't even grasp football?

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | November 18, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Jon44,

This was discussed yesterday, and the New Yorker actually caught the error and published it correctly as eigenvalue. It was, presumably, in Gladwell's notes that were retranscribed for the book, and the book publisher did not catch the error.

Posted by: Awal | November 18, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

See? Joel is demonstrating the other side of that double edged sword I mentioned. Science writing is extremely difficult so being too harsh isn't fair to those, like Joel, who already hold themselves to a high standard.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Important question about the Newsweek Palin cover photo. How much did photographer Brian Adams get paid?

http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com/2009/11/newsweek-sarah-palin-and-photographers.html

In the interest of full disclosure (I'll disclose, if Joel didn't), Newsweek is one of the magazines in the Washington Post's magazine corral, so to speak. Was it a good idea for photo editor Simon Barnett to leave his post? If your staff gets slashed (as noted in this illuminating Nov. 13 article), well then...

http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/content_display/photo-news/photojournalism/e3idc37ef3d9b1c8d9ec356f5e5ccf1b817

Excerpt:
Three other Newsweek photo staffers—deputy director of photography Susanne Miklas, photo coordinator Leah Latella, and senior photo budget administrator Peter Schleissner—lost their jobs in layoffs this week.

The layoffs and Barnett’s exit are another sign of the bloodletting in general-interest magazine photography, as a prolonged advertising downturn forces publishers to make deeper cuts. Newsweek, where ad revenue has plunged 48 percent in a year, has suffered especially hard.

Posted by: laloomis | November 18, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

In 1997 Gilles Duceppe forgot the funny hat rule and this picture made a particular style of hairnet famous.
http://blogues.cyberpresse.ca/electoral/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/ducep1.JPG

Cartoonist were very, very happy.
http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/fr/collection/artefacts/M999.81.21.1-2?Lang=2&accessnumber=M999.81.21.1-2

Last year he visited a modern food plant and had to wear a hairnet and a lab coat. No reporters were allowed inside and no photos were taken.
I found all the snarking on him wearing a hairnet more than a little insulting to the very large number of people who have to wear similar things every day on the job.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 18, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I do not forgive Newsweek for the cover and I do not blame Palin for choosing to pose for the photo, because she posed in a specific context and to convey a specific message. If she had posed for a health magazine demonstrating for Alaska's women how to do a breast self-exam, that would be pretty much the same as the Runner's World photo -- a specific context in which the photo makes perfect sense, but a photo which can be reinterpreted out of context.

I recognize that this is a reductio ad absurdum argument, but it establishes that there is a continuum of nudity in legitimate photography of a public figure. The Runner's World photos are somewhere along that continuum, appropriate for some contexts, not for others.

I think that the photo used by Newsweek erred by suggesting that the fact of her physical attractiveness is what makes her a bad politician, thereby providing an easily-refuted or easily-lampooned argument by insulting all not-ugly female politicians as a group. I would rather they concentrate on what really makes her a bad politician (a weak mind, a petty spirit, total self-regard combined with a lack of self-knowledge) to reveal that her physical attractiveness is pretty near to being her *only* positive trait. I think a better choice would have been one of Sarah's spit-flying fire-and-brimstone-and-irrelevant-vitriol speeches from the campaign, or while torpedoing Scozzafava with "friendly fire."

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 18, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse


The Newsweek cover is an apt metaphor of Sarah Palin

What I think they are saying is

"There's nothing new about Sarah Palin. The book is a rehash - explanations, justifications, rationalizations - that Palin is trying to use as a springboard to relaunch her old brand.

It's all loud colors and synthetic clothes and high tech. Nothing natural about it.

Perfect description of Sarah - She splashes around in the pool but has nothing to add to the cultural and political conversation

Posted by: Anadromous2 | November 18, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good afternoon, friends. I don't think there is a way to be one hundred percent sure about anything in this world. I'm not even sure I'm sitting here at this computer typing these words. I believe I left myself in the kitchen or probably in the laundry room. Perhaps I'm still at the radio station. Who knows?

I seriously hope you're not losing sleep over a fact stated or comma here, comma there, JA. I'm convinced it will all straighten itself out in the rinse. And if not, so what? One can always swagger and pretend the world is your oyster.

As for the Newsweek cover, bad choice, yet no surprises here. The final decision to do this was made by: A man? Please check me if I'm wrong.

I'm a little sad today. My thoughts are still very much on the little five-year old that was found dead in Hoke County, North Carolina. We have to do so much better about our children. We really do. China, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, terrorist wherever they are, are problems, but not like the killing of our children. This is a sin that reeks and nations are brought to their knees. Oh, how I want children to be safe, all children. I'll bet that child knew her killer and trusted him or her, which makes it even more horrendous.

Just wanted to stop in and say we're doing okay, and trying to get it together for Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for, even when it doesn't look that way.

Mudge, Slyness, Scotty, Yoki, Martooni,Lindaloo(Loomis)and all the gang, have a great day. And know that you are loved.

Posted by: cmyth4u | November 18, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Isn't the Igon issue probably more of a proof-reading than a fact checking issue? This looks like a dictation mistake, not that I would be familiar with such. I can say with authority that "tortious" does not mean the same thing as "tortuous", notwithstanding the amount of times they are accidentally substituted.

Posted by: engelmann | November 18, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Ha, SD, I thought of Duceppe as well.

On the Habs, my first thought was Gainey, but the stats support Shutt or Naslund.

Posted by: engelmann | November 18, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Palin dresses and carries herself like a male to female crossdresser. 'Tain't Newsweek's fault.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | November 18, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

@Wilbrod_Gnome: "A straight line is still defined as the shortest path between two points, right?"

Nope. Straight refers to angular properties of the figure, thus a straight line is a concept independent of a geodesic in the local geometry. They are different things. Next week: caustics.

My reviewer was technically correct, but with irrelevant and counter-productive precision. Working at length scales the size of a planet or smaller, it takes extraordinary precision to distinguish any deviation from a Euclidean universe, so why introduce it when it is not needed? The point was to provide a jumping-off point for discussing refraction and reflection. My reviewer wished to flaunt technical expertise rather than engender understanding.

Successive levels of approximation and improvement is more effective than going straight to the most sophisticated answer. You will notice that we do not start teaching the fundamental physics of motion starting with relativity, nor do we teach students about light and electricity and magnetism by using relativity to demonstrate that Maxwell's Equations are relativistically invariant or that electromagnetic fields are really most accurately understood using quantum field theory and the exchange of virtual photons between particles obeying the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Nor do we talk about quantum foam or the Casimir force or zero-point energy, even though all those things are elements of a complete and fully-realized description of free space. There is a time and a place for it. That place is not in a description for the benefit of a 4th-grade teacher who needs to find out what is a "wavelength", what is a "frequency", and what is a "photon", in order to teach these basic terms to 4th-grade students.

You do not start teaching biology by starting with base pairs, or the atoms within amino acids. You start with the concept of an organism, and then reveal deeper layers of complexity as the student is ready for it. Getting back to the original issue: I don't know whether Pinker is fairly or unfairly critiquing Gladwell, because I don't know the level of imprecision that Pinker found. Without Pinker defining his own terms with greater technical precision, I cannot really make use of his criticism of Gladwell.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 18, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Hah! ... totally unsubstantiated numbers about NFL head injuries leading to dementia?

If it were so, then the NFL would come out and make the case rather than just slam doors shut, eh?

It reminds me of the cigarette industry flooding the news agencies with sound scientific peer reviewed studies on the safety of cigarette smoking.

Posted by: russianthistle | November 18, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Joel is quite right to be irked about some of these comments about his remarks about accuracy etc. Some of these posters have completely unreal expectations about "100% accuracy," etc. Basically, there is no such thing, and you can forget about those unrealistic expectations. One strives for 100% accuracy, knowing full well it is just unachievable as any other kind of pristine perfection. One wants it, one desires it, one knows it will never happen. No book has ever been written -- not ever -- that didn't have some sort of error (or two, or six, or nineteen) in it.

Second, jon44 doesn't know what he's talking about. The New Yorker's fact-checking is legendary; it is beyond dispute and beyond discussion. If they missed something, they missed it. That's all. [Fecal matter] happens. In any event, the New Yorker got it right. Book publisher standards are all over the lot, and anyway, there is a major difference bewteen being a copy editor on the one hand, and a fact-checker on the other. Very different disciplines.

Whether Pinker should or should not have pointed out Gladwell's errors or whether he was nit-picking is a separate issue, and I'd say a minor one.

I think to ask or "require" someone who is a generalist (like Gladwell) to have taken calculus or advanced (it is NOT basic) algebra is absurd.

TBG and I both do copy editing for a living. We are both purty good. I can't speak for TBG, but I know if I had been copy editing Gladwell's piece, I'd most likely have missed igonvalue (I know I never heard the term, and god knows there are plenty of days when the instinctual alarm bells seem muffled or dialed down to zero on the alertness scale).

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I think anyone who cries out 'drill baby drill' with its obvious double entendre, and cites her husband's shirtless torso as the reason the rumors of divorce are false, has lost the moral high ground on the objectification of sexual appeal. I'm sure most politicians would like control over which images of them are used where and when.

Is the cover really sexist? Yes, Newsweak (sic) chose an image most would call sexy. Does the image reduce her to a sexual object in a way that it suggests we shouldn't take her seriously on politics and policy? No, her writing and interviews raise far more serious questions than the image. If the image was used in the context of evaluating her as a candidate or governor, I would find it far more questionable than the image as used to accompany the release of a book. It shows a woman who is attractive, fit, energetic, plugged in (the blackberries), a competitor.

Sexist? Not much. Maybe I'm just getting blind or feeble with advancing middle age. Will someone spell it out for me?

Posted by: j2hess | November 18, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Newsweek may actually show up at Chez Coontie today, provided the Postal Service thinks it's fit to deliver.

Gladwell's recent football-and-dogfighting story should be a warning to him as a writer that he's gotten into a bit of a rut. I would rather an MD had written the football part, but Gladwell seemed to do a decent job. To compare football players to dogs is unfare. After all, we did have at least one president who played the game (Ford) and a fair number of other politicians.

Gladwell's pursuit of the counterintuitive is a common stance at the moment. Given the problems of the new Freakonomics book has with climate change, it might not be a bad time to take more of a Max Frisch approach--his play, 'The Firebugs' has to do with ignoring the obvious, or at least not reacting usefully.

What with Major Hasan and assorted environmental and political issues, there's a need to think about the consequences of being too clever, too subtle, too counterintuitive. Like football: the medical issues will have to be worked out with lots of data, not speculation.

Still, the New Yorker, Gladwell included, comes across to me as a responsible outfit. The Atlantic and Harpers make me squirm. New Scientist comes across as a tabloid written by people who know their science and medicine. A remarkable achievment.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | November 18, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately the term "sexist" is incredibly subjective. My concern is that, like all "ism" words, if it is used too freely it will lose its power to shame.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

'mudge, good 'ol algebra is still wondrously useful. Far more so than I realized while treating it as drudgery in high school.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | November 18, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Editing items that have been transcribed can be tricky. I may have looked up igonvalue just because I'm not familiar, but I would assume someone editing or proofing such work would be more knowledgeable.

My favorite transcription error was the piece I was editing that kept referring to "Delmar of the Power and Light."

Turns out, the guy had been talking about the utility company Delmarva Power & Light.

Posted by: -TBG- | November 18, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

It's deja vu all over again-

http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/coverarchive/12130.html

Posted by: kguy1 | November 18, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Re Pinker's review of Gladwell, I have to disagree with Achenbach. In my opinion (and I'm no professional scientist or statistician), almost every piece by Gladwell I've ever read is biased toward proclaiming a "fresh, counterintuitive" result -- another of your commenters has said much the same thing. Indeed, he's a fluent writer: but if you can't trust his accounts of research, why waste your time? There are brilliant popularizers of science, many of them great scientists themselves (Einstein, Feynman, Weinberg et al.) -- Gladwell isn't one of them.

Posted by: Pragmatix | November 18, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, actually you start teaching biology by teaching about water's role in life and how unique it is as a chemical substance. Then you teach about the surface area/mass rule.

This allows students to understand what a cell is made of, and also teaches them why elephants and mice are built so differently.

What is the concept you wish to communicate when you say light travels in a straight line?

What does this fact allow students to understand about light? That it can't bend around corners? That you can easily use geometry to set up mirrors and lenses to manipulate light? That the substance light moves through affects it?

Those are good reasons to teach students this kind of simplified rule. You can't easily do geodisc experiments in a 4th grade classroom lab, although you can easily teach students refractive index later on with a glass of water and a straw.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I am clearly in the minority here, but I do think the Palin photo was a low blow. I don't think the argument that she posed for the pic holds water, since it was in a completely different context.

Just because she's a clown gone bad doesn't mean she's fair game for that sort of exploitation.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Come to think of it, Pinker has a bad habit of straying out of his areas of expertise, badly, when he writes.

My brother has a level of vehemence approaching fanaticism about impossible astronomical phenomena he spots occasionally in fiction. He's so intense it's scary! At least now I'm pretty sure I'll never write "The full moon rose at midnight" or anything like it.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 18, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

On a different topic:
National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims (in Canada)
http://www.RememberRoadCrashVictims.ca

3000+ death per year is not small potatoes but the good thing is that the number goes down steadily. Even in the US the number was down to 37 000 or so in 2008 from 43 500 in 2005.
2009 will be an even better year. Something to cheer about 2009! Yoohoo!
http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811207.PDF

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 18, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

And I was probably too hard on Al Gore. I think he may have had a moment like I have on a regular basis, when the word that comes out is not the one you knew was correct. I'm likely to say something like "tangerine" when I mean "apricot" at least once a year. Occasionally in Sudoku I will carefully write in, bold as can be, the one numeral I just eliminated as impossible.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 18, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh, jeez, what is the problem? Newsweek uses questionable taste with the photo. However, she consented to release of the original photo, and as a public figure she ought to be able to handle it. If she is so hellbent on staying in the public eye and selling herself, she has no right to whine when folks turn it on her. Happens to every politician. She just gets more of it because she is attractive, completely self-serving, and completely unqualified to hold high office.

Be a big girl and Deal With It. That's what real grownups do.

Posted by: peoplist | November 18, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Eigenvalues are from a field of math called linear algebra. This is a reasonably advanced area that you wouldn't normally get unless you were seeking some kind of technical degree. (Of course there are many exceptions depending on the curriculum)


Just for funsies. (Well, at least for me...) let me try to explain them.

In a nutshell, eigenvalues allow one to approximate an arbitrary mathematical matrix using a linear combination of associated orthogonal eignevectors. This has all sorts of mathematical advantages.

But, what the heck does it mean? Consider it this way. Everyone here is probably familiar with the "talking points" that are issued by political organizations. These are intended to guide and control the political message associated with some particular issue.

If one postulates that none of these talking points can be created from any any other talking point, and that they are fairly all-encompassing, then they are the logical equivalent of of orthogonal eigenvectors.

The set of associated eigenvalues would be the relative emphasis placed on each of these rhetorical eigenvectors in any article about the topic in question. A negative eigenvalue would argue the opposite of a given talking point.

Under this formalism, one could use these eigenvectors to approximate pretty much every blog on "Memeorandum" with the suitable choice of eigenvalues.

Which I sometimes think is how they are written.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

It's like a stripper getting mad at you for staring at her breasts!
LMAO at the SHEER STUPIDITY of it all.
Like the frog in the slowly warming water, we are somehow oblivious to just how LOW the republican party has sunk.

Posted by: TOMHERE | November 18, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

OK, laloomis, I'll bite... Why is it important to question how much photographer Brian Adams got paid? (To us, I mean. I understand that Mr. Adams has a vested interest.)

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Any science geeks every see this? If you think you know water, see
http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/anmlies.html

Yoki, I have low opinions of both Newsweek and Palin, so it's Tweedledum vs Tweedledee to me. I just had the expression "bull hockey" cross my mind. That has led to this:
http://4077th_mash_1.tripod.com/potter_quotes.htm

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 18, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

OMG, I think I have kinda sorta grasped what RD is saying. Understand that this intimation of understanding anything mathematical/algebraic is most unfamiliar to me. It is sort of exhilarating.

Nope. Gone again.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

If the article had been about Sarah Palin the athlete, it would have been an appropriate Newsweek cover. My understanding is Runners World took that picture as part of a session, but then didn't use it in THEIR article, for some reason.

The article is about the campaign and her politics, such as endorsing the Conservative in NY-23. The picture conveyed the idea "she's physically fit and attractive, so she can't be smart." Just like Rep. Marsha Blackburn TN-7 (R) she has a non-Northeast accent, which makes her "dumber" to the legacy media.
Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, however are geniuses!

Posted by: sampjack | November 18, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

Re. Gladwell, I find it rather amusing (and perhaps ironic) that the misuse was regarding the use of eigenvalues - I'm marginally familiar with it in regards to quantum mechanics and the Schrodinger equation where one is attempting to descibe varying degrees of probability (or, as I prefer, ambiguity) about the state of a system across/over spacetime according to whatever models of space one cares to assign.

On the Palintological front, I think that if Palin posed for the pictures and approved them, then, well, unless some agreements were made limiting use, then there's no telling where they might turn up.

Er, was she was paid to pose for those photos?

She ought to just own up to posing for them and change the subject to fitness and health. Oh, well, maybe not Health...

bc

Posted by: -bc- | November 18, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

And I meant to add that if I had any say regarding the cover of a news magazine, I would not run that photo.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | November 18, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

In the interest of accuracy (oh how ironic) let me point out that, technically, you can't use eigenvectors and eigenvalues in the way I described for an *arbitrary* matrix. Just an arbitrary one that belongs to a certain very large class. But this class is the one I work with, and hence is the most important....

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, I had that "gee isn't water amazing" lesson repeated in every single confounded biology course I took.

By now I begin to think it's put in just to remind us that we're all wet when it comes to thinking we know everything.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

englemann, I don't know about the legal profession, but in general editing circles, the role of the proofreader is to match copy A to copy B to make sure they are correct *with each other* (not with what might be factually or grammatically correct). Proofreading usually occurs at the tail end of the editorial process, and rarely if ever has to do with making sure things are "correct," merely that copy has been typeset correctly, and later just that any corrections that were made were typed in correctly, etc. As such a proofreader would be the least likely of the three kinds of editors (copy editor, fact-checker, proofreader) to catch a mistake.

For instance, if the original copy spelled someone's name Roussseau, the proofreader would make sure the typeset copy had those three s's. If a copy editor caught the mistake, and made the correction to "Rouseau," the proofreader would make sure the person who fixed it got only one "s" in it. (It would still be wrong, but it wouldn't be the proofreader's job to know that.) The proofreader would insure that three s's were changed to only one "s."

If the proofreader happened to know better, and pointed the error ought, that would be nice, too. But it isn't an expectation of that position. A proofreader would never be expected to know "eigenvalue."

DotC, I'd agree that good ol' algebra can be useful -- but that isn't at issue. And eigenvalue isn't part of "good old" algebra, which I interpret to mean basic algebra, pretty much high school algebra I and algebra II. I don't know if eigenvalues are included in that nowadays, but they never were when I had I and II back in the Dark Ages (perhaps Eigen hadn't even been born yet and they didn't even exist, I dunno. It was a long time ago.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

bc, it seems that there have been a lot of cameras being dragged up to Alaska recently.

Earlier this week, I very impressive segment of Mythbusters were they succeeded in re-floating/salvaging a boat with ping pong balls.

I found that much more intriguing that Sarah Palin.

The best part is that they miscalculated the number of ping pong balls that it would take and had 30K extra.

Posted by: russianthistle | November 18, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I think you're right engelmann, Gainey was more important to the club than Shutt. I'm biased, being a fan of Lafleur.

Shutt was a funny guy, he's the one who came up with the "doughnut" line for his own Shutt-Mahovlich (Pete, not the Senator)-Lafleur line. Pete was no Jacques Lemaire when it came to returning the puck to his wingers...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 18, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Interesting thing about Newsweek. It recently changed its internal format and content so it "reads" more like Harper's or The Atlantic, than, say, TIME, or any other news-weekly. Yet it's covers are more like US or PEOPLE. That's a strange editorial dicotomy, don't you think?

The Newsweek cover does exploit an unusual photograph of Palin in order to attract attention. Much like Dukakis wearing a tank helmet. I'm not sure it's "sexist," but it's definitely exploitave.

I can't comment on the Pinker/Gladwell issue because it is completely over my head. I admit it; I'm a maroon. Have pity on me. I yield the floor to RD on this matter.

ONE LAST THING: E.J. Dionne had an interesting article today about how any newspaper or blog that mentions Sara Palin immediately gets more attention. What's more the controversy about Sara just helps her sell more books. He added a quip that GM should do so well.

Well, here's the idea to save Detroit: Introducing the 2010 PALIN. Sleek. Sassy. A maverick among automobiles. C'mon, you'd want one.


CowTown

Posted by: jp1954 | November 18, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Totally wrong to excuse writing "igon value" for "eigenvalue." By making that mistake, Gladwell showed he had no clue about eigenvalues, and any sane reader would ask whether he should trust anything else in the article. A previous commenter said it very well; it's very important not to justify ignorance in technical matters, or any other matters, clearly.

Mr Achenbach is a journalist, and clearly believes the facts shouldn't get in the way of telling a story. Maybe that's why journalists have such a low reputation.

Posted by: dicka1 | November 18, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I call BS on the Palin picture on the grounds that Mr. Achenbach mistakenly identifies it as "sexy".

I can tell a lot of people got the wrong impression the comments here. She's posing in a track jacket and shorts. That's a more than few beans short of a sexist burrito.

Posted by: joshlct | November 18, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if "dicka1" is our very first boodle handle aptonym.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Haven't backboodled...so busy at work. But do agree with Joel on this one. At the same time Palin should never have posed for the photo in the first place. Ditzy brunette.

I dropped my subscription years ago after Newsweek published a cover of a woman representing the American woman naked from the waist up! Such poor taste. Another case of female exploitation. Just wrong.

Posted by: Windy3 | November 18, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

mudge,
And that is the exact type of expert level knowledge base Joel talks about. To the layman, copy editor, fact checker and proofreader are the same person and are interchangeable names for the same function. Clearly they aren't, but the general public doesn't know that, nor does it need to be pointed out to the reader unless the distinction is germane (Michael, Tito, Marlon, and Jackie too) to the topic.

And edbyronadams gets props for the Ghostbuster call out, but my Bright Lights, Big City reference goes unnoticed. Alison Poole would be so distraught.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I really like Malcolm Gladwell and his books. Very interesting subjects. Easy read. I'm reading "Blink" right now.

Posted by: Windy3 | November 18, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

For Bob S.
If Brian Adams didn't want to di8scuss the Palin photo much for the photojournalism blog, Adams has no qualms about showing it front and center once you enter his own website.

http://www.baphotos.com/

Given the exodus of photo editors from Newsweek, I wonder if Adams got fair market value for his effort? Or were the editors so eager for it that they paid beyond market value? Or did Adams sell it cheap just to pad his bank account a little? The price Newsweek was willing to pay may be an indicator of how badly they wanted the photo for the cover (to convey whatever message Newsweek thought it was sending). To choose cover art (as it's called in the biz) that is sure to have tongues wagging is simply a reflection of a magazine in dire financial straits, IMHO. Desperate measures for desperate times.

That's as much as I can bite at the moment, as I've got a last-minute appointment this afternoon with the dentist. I think my painful inflamed gum around one tooth my be the result of a popcorn hull below the gumline. It'll be a test of sorts to see if patients in dental offices even read Newsweek anymore--or if my dentist even has it on his magazine table.

Posted by: laloomis | November 18, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Cowtown,
I did a brief GoogleImage search for a Newsweek cover with the Dukakis tank helmet picture but gave up. Something of the sort must exist. But that is the exact analogue.

Which ties into TBG's point that the intent was not to make Palin look sexy or to demean her as a woman, but to make her look ridiculous. Think John Kerry windsurfing in a wetsuit.

Of course, the unintended consequence is that, like after the bad Letterman routine, she gets to crank up her fake umbrage routine and energize her base. So if the goal was to expose her as a fraud ala Von Drehle's Time cover piece on Glenn Beck, it backfires by not being nearly subtle enough.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I saw the cover, and I have to say it is not inappropriate or overly sexual. The woman is clad in running shorts and a running jacket. Her female assets are not overemphasised, and she looks like, actually, your average mom who is well-off enough to have the time to take runs and buy expensive running apparel.

If newsweek had run a photo of her from her competitions in beauty pageants, that might have been worthy of criticism (although not very much, since Palin was absolutely fine with the whole objectifying of her body). But just because she isn't wearing knee-length clothing doesn't mean it's a sexist portrayal.

Posted by: j762 | November 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Was photographer Brian Adams contractually free to sell the photo to Newsweek?

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/11/18/palin-photographer-breached-contract-with-sale-to-newsweek/

Problems in the past with Newsweek and Palin stock photos?

http://www.pdnpulse.com/2008/09/newsweeks-palin.html

Seriously, now dashing to the dentist...

Posted by: laloomis | November 18, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

RD, that was the clearest explanation of eigenvalues I've seen in awhile - though it helps to already know what 'orthogonal' means - the first time I heard it, the prof tried to explain it by translating the German root.

sampjack, if you think that a fit and attractive woman is presumed to be less intelligent, I wonder if you're not importing ideas of women from a rather sexist milieu?

Posted by: j2hess | November 18, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

laloomis,

You posted a link to a story that stated a number of factoids. Taken as a whole, it is quite possible that the photographer had received authorization.

Was Obama born in Nigeria?

Really, what's the point?

Posted by: russianthistle | November 18, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Mudge. I was using proof-read in the larger layperson sense (as per yellojkt's comment). Interesting to hear the distinction.

Yellojkt and Wilbrod, after Wilbrod mentioned a cover with Newt Gingrich shirtless I set off trying to find such an image (unsuccessfully). If anybody ever reviews my search terms that should raise some eyebrows.

Posted by: engelmann | November 18, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Orthogonal, from Old German, "Ortho" meaning Grade Point Average and "Gonal" meaning having departed or "gone".

Posted by: engelmann | November 18, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Englemann, 1995 was kind of before society became flea-infested with the internet. I think that image is likely either pay-only archive (Time or Newsweek), or not even online at all, unless somebody has a "Newt is Hawt" stalker-like website.

You don't want to go to those sorts of sites.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I understand Palin is offended but look on the bright side. At least they didn't call her a socialist who hates America and pals around with terrorists. Now THAT would have been out of line, you betcha ;)

Posted by: leftcoaster | November 18, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was "Ortho" meaning "lawn care" and "gonal" meaning "what happened to my weekend?"

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 18, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Oh, pish-toosh. Google "Dukakis" and "tank" in Google Images and -- voila!!

http://images.chron.com/blogs/txpotomac/dukakis%20tank.jpg

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

And a thousand more: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&um=1&sa=1&q=dukakis+tank&aq=f&oq=&aqi=g-m1&start=0

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The ur-photograph of the rule not to wear silly hats, Calvin Coolidge, circa August 1927.

http://anthropology.usf.edu/women/rosebud/crRosedadcal.jpg

and

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_mzMVJSO8Qew/SZjq4OBkJzI/AAAAAAAAADo/zKO2b42fsbE/epad22.jpg

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 18, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, mudge.

That picture has been spread far and wide. I was specifically looking for it in the context of a magazine cover to prove that candidates of other parties have been held up for ridicule by the mainstream media.

Because the Elmer Fudd ear flap picture is so ubiquitous, the exact image I am looking for is the proverbial needle in the haystack, if it exists at all. Until then, the 'Newsweek only picks on conservatives' hypothesis cannot be disproved by a counterexample.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I'll see your native head-dress and raise you one helmet on backwards (PM Chretien)

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_sjmxrHygBno/SZEwKkLbxTI/AAAAAAAACRM/iDj1-2NX1Jo/s400/Jean+Chr%C3%A9tien.jpg

Posted by: engelmann | November 18, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"continuum of nudity in legitimate photography of a public figure" ScienceTim

Personally I'm disturbed by anything more revealing than a full burka, but since I work on a college campus I have to deal with hundreds of attractive young women flaunting their legs rather shamelessly. I take it you are rather more sequestered in a lab?

But perhaps itis time to bring the threads together. Is the continuum a straight line or is it more of a multidimensional manifold? If we represent skin exposure in a matrix, can we represent the prurience quotient of each organ or limb by the eigenvalues associated with each eigenvector?

Posted by: j2hess | November 18, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"If we represent skin exposure in a matrix, can we represent the prurience quotient of each organ or limb by the eigenvalues associated with each eigenvector?"

OK, I'm warning you. If my head explodes the rest of me is going to sue you. Just watch it.

CowTown

Posted by: jp1954 | November 18, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

For example, this Time cover of Dukakis is suitably respectful.

http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/time/3405-1.jpg

Although, judging my the woolly caterpillars parked over each eye, the winter of 1996 must have been a doozy.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

CowTown?!

Should we change the subject to Amy Winehouse, now?

Posted by: russianthistle | November 18, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the quantification of revelation has been done-

www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2733947/Girls-flash-40-flesh-to-nab-men.html

Posted by: kguy1 | November 18, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

That strikes me as a weak methodology, kguy. After all, if it's the *middle* 40%, I think that reactions would be quite different than if it's 40% accomplished by "nibbling around the edges." Also, the researcher made an unwarranted leap to interpretation of the mechanism behind his observed correlation. Sadly, this sort of weak degree of scientific rigor is what one comes to expect from the "soft" sciences.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 18, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

And 40% of flesh exposed in -40 degree weather would attract a lot of attention-- likely from emergency room doctors.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Eigenvalues? Who cares about eigenvalues? It's singular values that's all the rage. With eigenvalues, you only get a single set of eigenvectors. But with singular values, you not only get right and left sets of eigenvectors but each of the sets is orthonormal. How cool is that?!

Posted by: Seamus2 | November 18, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I guess the coverage is only considered sexist if the target is a Democrat...

Posted by: postfan1 | November 18, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I admit that I, who slogged through 3 college level calculus courses, had to look up eigenvalues and eigenvectors. Oh, you mean PROPER values and PROPER vectors, that I know. Proper /propre also meaning clean in French so us the male students quickly concluded that the non-proper mathematics involved dirty values, dirty functions and dirty vectors. The male brain is easily amused.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 18, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Seamus you are right! But remember that if the matrix is Hermitian the values are degenerate.

But enough filthy talk.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Do not have a lot to say about either of these topics, but is this what everyone means when they say do not get photographed looking silly in headgear?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/bureau-blog/

Posted by: dmd3 | November 18, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't find any covers of a half-naked Newt here:

http://www.coverbrowser.com/search?q=gingrich

I fear that image is apocryphal. Although the Newt as Scrooge illustration is disturbing enough.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

RD_Padouk, are you sure? I thought eigenvalues of a Hermitian matrix were well-behaved. But that's besides the point. Singular values are where it's at. Always real, always non-negative. Sure, the left and right eigenvectors get all complex on you, but don't let that phase you.

Posted by: Seamus2 | November 18, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I am not a fan of Sarah Palin or her politics, but I thought the Newsweek cover was objectionable. Yes, Sarah Palin posed for the picture, but it was in a completely different context. I'm sure she wouldn't have agreed to the use of the picture on the cover of Newsweek -- a magazine presumably devoted to serious news, not running. For those who think the decision to run this photo wasn't influenced by sexism (and a craven need to increase circulation), ask yourself; have any photos of similarly clad male politicians graced the covers of Newsweek?

Posted by: kalixmd | November 18, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Seamus - I meant that singular values of a Hermitian matrix *are* the eigenvalues. At least in the way I have always seen them defined.

But realize I am not a mathematician. I learned about Singular Value Decomposition from MATLAB documentation, which is sometimes not as rigorous with its definitions as one would like.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Also, I was being a little sloppy with the term degenerate so as to make my silly little joke...

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 18, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, that site only has 94 newsweek covers. That's barely 2 years' worth.

Trust me, if you find it, you won't appreciate the effort to find it. He had a lot of bellytude. No amount of mind bleach could remove it for me.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Degenerate eigenvalues are the Devil's spawn.

Posted by: Seamus2 | November 18, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

First, Gladwell dismisses the Igon Value Problem as merely a spelling mistake, when actually it reveals a profound unfamiliarity with the field he is writing about (and most any quantitative field).

Second, regarding the NFL draft, Gladwell uses ad hominem tactics rather than actually engaging Pinker on the issue. If one is so bold as to evaluate the arguments oneself, Pinker's side, derived from Sailer's evidence, seems much stronger. Gladwell seems to have no interest in evaluating the merits of the case, but merely presents an argument from authority.

Third, there's simply no comparison between Pinker's "slide rule" and Gladwell's. In fact at this point I'm not even sure Gladwell HAS a slide rule.

Fourth, regarding the error in Blank Slate, Pinker does not try to pass himself off as an historian of literature. Gladwell does try to pass himself off as a science writer.

Posted by: qaz1231 | November 18, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

kbertocci: Looks like you fell afoul of Muphry''s law earlier today:

"Any criticism of the speech or writing of others will itself contain at least one error of usage or spelling."

laloomis: Adams, presumably, knows what his contract with Runner's World specifies. There are variations of contracts governing re-use of photos, and it's very possible that Adams' contract specifically embargoed any *competing* uses for one year. This could be interpreted as any use by another physical fitness magazine. The meaning of a phrase like competing use has landed many photographers in court, but I think Adams is safe, since Runner's World's apparently knew of the upcoming Newsweek cover without raising any objections.

The commenters who took Joel to task for excusing sloppiness have apparently never worked in any deadline-driven environment, especially one where topicality may be an issue. The aphorism "The perfect is the enemy of the good." cropped up in the boodle a couple of days ago, and is an operating principle here. Waiting to be "100 percent sure," as Joel put it, might mean that your article wouldn't come out for another couple weeks -- at which point the loss of topicality would likely ensure minimal readership, and its "perfection" could well be swamped by all the "imperfect" articles which preceded it.

Not that I'm excusing sloppy science reporting. I bemoaned this yesterday as a consequence of newspaper downsizing. But there is a difference between assigning a junior reporter with *no* understanding of a complex subject, and pouncing on a qualified writer who got the third decimal place wrong.

I haven't read Gladwell's book, so I don't know how consequential the errors Pinker calls out are. "Igon Value" is really just a misspelling, and getting it right may not matter in an article with no bearing on linear algebra. Embarrassing, but hardly critical. Printed misspellings seem to be on the rise, which I blame on the increasing use of spell-check software to replace proofreaders. For example, I run into inappropriate homonyms in novels all the time now, which spell-checkers don't catch. On the other hand, something like "Igon Value" can slip through when someone carelessly assumes that since it's a technical term "of course" it's not in the spell-check dictionary, and doesn't bother to check it the old-fashioned way (you, know -- googling it online).

The "misleading definitions" could be more problematic. I've only looked up the definitions online, but it's hard to see how a writer could get into much mischief with a bad definition of "sagittal plane." However, it seems like getting "homology" or "power law" wrong could be a problem in the hands of a writer who's trying to make a "counter-intuitive" point.

Posted by: rashomon | November 18, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

At any moment, DNAGirl will pen and post a haiku that will knit all together.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | November 18, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Dang it. I am still only 111 on the library waitlist for Super-Freakonomics. I went and added the Gladwell book and am 71 in line. I don't know what that says about the relative popularity of the two authors without knowing the total number of copies of each book the system has.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I think I'm beginning to think in terms of angels and pin heads at this point. As for Palin, nuff said already in this boodle. Me, I'm just wishing I were home instead of working late for a session with the local commissioners. I think I'll make a bold prediction - Health care squeaks through by MLK day.

Posted by: ebtnut | November 18, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to add one aside in my previous post: the appearance of inappropriate homonyms in print cropped up in Joel's article on lunar water, when he referred to the moon's "south poll." It was fixed in the blog, but appeared that way in the main news version.

Posted by: rashomon | November 18, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised to see the Newsweek cover photo of Ms Palin at first, I have to admit. I too thought it might be a bit sexist and also thought that was an old shot of Ms Palin, initially.

Then I found out that was a shot taken in August this year. That makes everything different.

If Ms Palin indeed thought that shot was sexist she should not have posted for it. especially when it was done so recently. And please don't try to tell anybody Ms Palin has not, even if only implicitly, used her sex appeal during the campaign and afterward. Given that, I think the cover photo is a fair game.

By the way in terms of the media commenting on her family, again, if she does not want her family be part of whatever, then she should not have hauled them out so many times on the platform during the campaign, should not have carried her baby in public, etc. When she opened that door dragging her family members into the political photo op then she should expect her family member becomes fair game too.

Posted by: steviana | November 18, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

South pol = councilpeep from Southie, circa Boston

South poll = querying peeps in the South about whatever

South Pole = the left-handed vaulter's choice.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | November 18, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

South poll: Bald heads in Atlanta

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

South Pole: a resident of southern Poland

Posted by: rashomon | November 18, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Rashi and Yoki! Vaudevillians to foil me while we wait for DNAg's koan.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | November 18, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Just a little soft-shoe to while away the commute/dinner doldrums, CquP!

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Knit and pick, purl two;
Purls of wisdom miswritten
require unravelling.

-Wilbrodog-

(Erm, random thoughts again:
Ever seen fleas flee on a fleece?
'Tis more fun than this.)

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

"...using a sexy photo" ...

Well, Palin seems to be trying to evoke a certain Alaskan, deerslayer sexiness . . . but it doesn't work. She looks like a geek caught in the headlights.

Posted by: russellglee | November 18, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Programming alert: There is a slight possibility that me or mrsyello could be on Dinner Impossible tonight. It was filmed at the Newseum about two months ago and has a newsy historical theme.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the warning, yellojkt.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Bacon underwear
Equals sexiest gal ever--
Or sexiest man.

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Alternative programming alert: Glee, 9 p.m.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | November 18, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

South Poll: grits or homefries?

Posted by: -TBG- | November 18, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I have a ready answer for that one.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I had you in mind, Yoki!

:-)

Posted by: -TBG- | November 18, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

I watched just a little of The Hour with George Stroumboulopolous (sp!) last night, and he had a very funny bit with some of his crew acting all non chalant about having one of the Glee actors on, but in their heads, they sound like Boodl- , er, teenage fans.

Posted by: seasea1 | November 18, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I love some of those opening sketches with the staff. Of course, I love to gaze upon darling George as well... #2 and I agree that it is a tragedy that he's too young for me and too old for her. Not to mention of unknown relationship status. Nor that he is way too cool for either of us (and #2 is way cool).

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Yello...that Newsweek naked lady cover was I think from the early 90's. It was a waist up picture. It caused a furor and the outing of some (at least 1) Newsweek execs as it should have but appears they are up to their old, very old tricks again. Can't believe you missed it. (:

Posted by: Windy3 | November 18, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Gladwell has a greater responsibility to be precise in his definitions than an academic, exactly because he is trying to reach a lay audience. Lay audiences need accurate information, and do not have the luxury of debating the finer points of a topic, until they've become better educated. Gladwell is selling his "brand" as a hipster who makes all sorts of claims about this and that. At least his background information ought to be correct.

Posted by: readerny | November 18, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

There's nothing wrong with the Newsweek cover. She and fellow Puritan-posturer Carrie Prejean sell sexuality as part of their fake anti-sex package. Palin will never be known for intellect, ideas, honesty or integrity. Her book is already well-debunked. She is now even closer to becoming the lead character of the Larry Flynt classic, Who's Nailin' Paylin?

Posted by: revbookburn | November 18, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Like Ford/Chevy or PC/Mac, the Time/Newsweek split is a holy war. We read Time which is just a shadow of its former self but doesn't seem to be self-destructing quite as fast as Newsweek. So, no, I would have no memory of 15 year old Newsweek cover, no matter how prurient.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

yello was too busy with the National Geographics.

Tee hee.

Posted by: -TBG- | November 18, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

That reminds me of an excellent journalistic-type joke my brother (of the Wall Street Journal) once made. I read how the Grosvenors of National Geographic brought their Quaker-ish sensibility to the mag. Apparently, they didn't like to refer to any people as "poor." The preferred euphemism was "thrifty."

Yoki'sbro listened to this, and then said, "That's a piss-thrifty editorial policy."

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Palin's "sex appeal?" To each their own.

As to "Newsweek" occasionally using sensationalism to sell more copies, they are following in the example of older publications, such as "The Washington Post." The titles of many articles and columns are provocative. The so-called pundit contest has resulted in those with fluff, style, social networking skills advancing over many with merit and substance.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | November 18, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

I only read them for the maps. Other guys had posters of the Swedish Bikini Team on their dorm wall; I had that giant map of the world you see in background of State Department press conferences. Cartography was my pornography.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 18, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Oh, yello. You have just bought years of indulgences with that very funny parallel-structure phrase.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Haven't read the comments, but IMO, Newsweek has become a tabloid, and I don't mean anything positive by that. I have a subscription, part of my "gifts" when I contributed to my local NPR station, and I don't intend to renew it. I found almost nothing worth reading in the last dozen or more issues, and don't expect much worthwhile in the issues left before my subscription runs out.

Posted by: vklip1 | November 18, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

George Brassens:
Le pornographe du phonographe,
le polisson de la chanson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBe0p13cPxk

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 18, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

It's as if Nixon himself had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the NYTimes hoping they'd be used to smear JFK, and instead the Times used them to criticize Nixon, at which point Nixon claimed it was unfair for the Times to use the material in a Nixon-bashing context.

Make no mistake about it, Sarah Palin would be delighted to take down freedom of the press in this country, and for no better reason than to protect her ego from the inconvenience of having her inadequacies made public.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | November 18, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Gleeks! Best mash up ever for those of us of a certain age.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 18, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

In a single editorial decision, Newsweek has called attention to its own editorial judgment rather than to the Bizarro-World rise of Palin as an allegedly credible leader of the world's most powerful nation. That's got to get a flag and 15 yards and perhaps, pending a review by the league, at least a one-game suspension.
____________________________

Beautifully put. Newsweek is the new editorial "newsweakly" (misspelling intended).

Posted by: Loryjones | November 18, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

One of the many amazing things about RDP is that he still remembers *all that stuff!*

My "A" in Advanced Linear Algebra, taught by a seriously gifted mathematician, now qualifies me to state that the 2nd row, right equation contains a matrix. Sigh. He used to call me "Queen of the Obvious Proof."

http://xkcd.com/55/

Let's not even consider what I remember from Stochastics. Something about marginal utility.

Posted by: -dbG- | November 18, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I remember that stochastity is a cool word.
For the rest of it, I'll just speed-dial a mathematican I know.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 18, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

THE definition of 'craptastic?'

Tonight's episode of Glee.

Posted by: rickoshea1 | November 18, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

HA HA HA HA HA!

Posted by: -TBG- | November 18, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

and it just got more craptastical!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 18, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

dougbarber - I'm usually not quite so ready to demonize Palin, but that was a NICE analogy. Well played!

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

My daughter just called it the most awkward episode of Glee EVAR! :-)

Had to explain the story behind "Don't Stand So Close to Me" - feeling old.

Posted by: dmd3 | November 18, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Posted by: -TBG- | November 18, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Not a particularly apt analogy, but fun!

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Now Sarah has used her sexuality from the beginning as that's why McCain picked her. Now I notice the Fox News reported but the main Media didn't that Sarah answered her hotel door dressed only in a rob when the Fox News reporters came to her hotel for an interview. Nor is anyone talking about Sarah affair with her husband's business partner. But it seems Sarah's sex appeal will get her in the White House even knowing she has no idea what the job duties are. Her Foreign Policy experience is she can see Russia from her window and she doesn't read. What a joke she is making of the United States as the American people follow blindly.

Posted by: qqbDEyZW | November 18, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

You want to know how low and sleazy Newsweek is? Let me put it this way: I once had an occasion to have a plastic tube rammed to the ying-yang up my wing-wang (against my desires, I can assure you). While waiting for the 2% ethanol IV to take me away to my happy place --ANY happy place -- I flipped through a copy of Newsweek, hoping to distract myself from my mistreated body part. Under the circumstance, it was more difficult than usual to think of *anything* else. Much as I tried. Anyway, I came to the shocking realization that Newsweek was stuffed, packed, filled, LOADED, with salacious material and naughtiness. All those pictures of *women* looking all *female*. Who knew that Hillary Clinton was such a hot mama, back in her late 40's?

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 18, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me, qqbDEyZW, but I see precious little blind following in this Boodle. Also, until your post, I never heard one word from anyone about her participation in an illicit affair. I am afraid I do not consider you to be a reliable source, so it remains on a level far below the reliability I would assign to a juicy rumor. Evidence suggests that Sarah might be able to sway a majority of Republican primary voters, but no way would she win a majority in a general election -- in fact, she would do a great job of handing a really convincing landslide to whatever Democrat she runs against.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 18, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Okay. May I just say that I'm so glad I had the forethought to DVD tonight's Glee?

So I can put it on an endless loop to entertain(?!) my Thanksgiving guests over and over and over and ov

Posted by: rickoshea1 | November 18, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Well, I certainly hope that the authorities are on the lookout for evidence of foul play. I mean, if you've already demonstrated your ability to live, day-in & day-out, for more than forty-one thousand consecutive days, you're not very likely to just drop dead for no reason, are you now?

"114-year-old woman dies in NY nursing home"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/17/AR2009111704672.html


Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

It's got to be the nurse, in the conservatory, with a hat pin.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 18, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

*weeping*

Posted by: rickoshea1 | November 18, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh my, bobsewell, she was five months older than my dad. I really hope I don't live that long; I don't wish to be a burden to my already long-suffering children.

OTOH, the 80-plus-year-old mother of one of my friends just bought a new Ford Fusion hybrid. Her reason? She wants to be able to go 700 miles on a tank of gas and not have to worry when the rest of us are dealing with fuel shortages.

Posted by: slyness | November 18, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

r'oshea-I like your thinking. Glee marathon at the Hip Urban Loft on Thanksgiving Day! (some episodes will be seen more than once)

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 18, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Or the non-Susan-Nellis.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

I had a new client today, 91 years old, little tiny sprite of a woman, sharp as a tack, still living in her own home, looking after her blind son who also has some kidney issues. She recently went through some trauma with a mole removal on her forehead that was a little too close to an artery. She is a hoot, and noticed she didn't even use glasses when she was writing stuff down.

She mentioned that her mom lived in on her own until she died at 99.

Posted by: dmd3 | November 18, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Completely and utterly off topic, I just wandered in from the garage after doing triage on the Dodge (looks like bent intake valves on #1 cyl, I'll know more when I finish pulling the head off), to witness the closing moments of the Washington Wizards defeat of the Cleveland LeBrons.

Like, wow.

Didn't watch Glee or anything else tonight, but am willing to watch some football tomorrow evening.

Speaking of football, one has to consider the possibility that Newsweek's Palin cover may be an equivalent to Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams' double-handed single-finger salutes to the fans and the Buffalo Bills this past weekend.

No unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul for Adams or the Titans, but he did earn a $250,000 fine from the NFL.

Finally, I don't consider light or anything else going anywhere anywhen in spacetime a straight trip, either. Photons never stop to ask for directions or to use the restroom near the double slit experiment test bench, which makes sense since they can't decide where to go -- to the one marked "waves" or the one for "particles." Eigen, indeed.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | November 18, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

dmd, in the rental apartment I recently left (big! big! mistake) my neighbour at the end of the hall was a 101-year-old woman, who lived with her son (who must have been 80); we had a pan-building party for her 100th birthday, and another bigger one for her 101st.

She was really lovely; sharp, old-school. Her eyes didn't work all that well anymore, but her mind was right there.

I felt sort of glad to go, because I can't image we're going to celebrate 102, or 103, one of these days. She is really beautiful though.

And so is her son, as you would predict.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

The Eigenvalue Sanction, starring Clint East/Westwood.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 18, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I had a great admiration of Alistair MacLean, back in the cold war.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I notice that, if it's your intention to live a long time, it really really behooves you to be female. (Living in Japan or the U.S. doesn't hurt, either.)

"Validated Living Supercentenarians"

http://www.grg.org/Adams/E.HTM

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I still break into sweats thinking about how tense things got on the "HMS Ulysses".

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh ya.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

I'll go ahead and castigate myself: I know that the "the" is inappropriate preceding the titles of His/Her Majesty's Ships.

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention how bad things were on Ice Station Zebra. Gotta love the special forces guys.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

The "Guns of Navarone" is one of the first movie I've seen in a theater. I still watch it when I can. It's cheesy but pretty good and the best part is that it send me back to that small, derelict but beautiful theater (Cinéma de Paris!) where I saw it first.
"Ice Station Zebra" is good too, in both film and print.
HMS Ulysses is the ultimate Murmansk convoy story; it could have made a killer movie. The necessary special effects were probably out of the reach of the available technology back then.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 18, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

The Guns of Navarone is not only a great (if cheesy) movie, but truly a great book, about men's men, back in the day. My ex-late-lamented-lost-and-deeply-mourned father-in-law was that sort of man.

And I was in the Cimema de Paris, once upon a time.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

"The Eiger Sanction" was a fine book, but if I was gonna re-read a Trevanian novel, I'd probably go with "Shibumi". Mostly for the colorfully profane cursing of Le Cagot.

"By the vaporous balls of the Holy Ghost!" was one of the milder examples, if memory serves correctly.

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention Volvo-bashing. Which I will.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention Volvo-bashing. Which I will.

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

It feels so nice, I'll kick it twice!

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

I've been thinking about this a bit, and I think that if I were Gladwell, I'd forgive Pinker his EigenSanction and move on.

I'd be willing to let Igons be Igons, if you know what I mean.

bc

[*Apoligies to *Tim]

Posted by: -bc- | November 18, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

By the opinion in this article, are we all to assume that newsweek is actually a valid news venue? I'm sorry, but I really don't believe the public redeems Newsweek's worth to be equivalent to even the enquirer or star magazine. If they were legitimate, why else would they be so desperate?

Posted by: factsmatter1 | November 18, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

LOL!

Posted by: Yoki | November 18, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

factsmatter1 - If you're gonna play in this league, you're gonna have to play closer attention to the ball.
- "No fine will be imposed because, hey, it's a newsweekly, and we have a mercy rule around here."

Ummm... that means that newsweeklies (is that really a word?) are not to be taken seriously, and over-heating about it is pointless. (Although I'd bet reasonably good money that Achenbach's tongue was firmly in cheek at that point.)

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

dressed in a rob?!? hmmmmm...sounds like Sharon...dressed in a wink and a sneeze

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N86YBxFhaqA

Posted by: -jack- | November 18, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

"play" closer attention? Sheesh!

"... pay closer attention ..."

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Jack - I'm pretty sure I saw Bromberg (touring with Arlo) on the very tour from whence that video. Steve Goodman had just died, and the whole concert cast (and a lot of the crew) came out for an incredibly touching extended version of "City of New Orleans".

Posted by: bobsewell | November 18, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse

I had the good fortune of seeing both david Bromberg and Arlo Guthrie on separate occasions in spirit Square, dt clt. Aural ecstacy.

Posted by: -jack- | November 18, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

I used to love Arlo Guthrie. And his Dad. Until I got into the new rock in a big big way.

Posted by: Yoki | November 19, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

I used to love Arlo Guthrie. And his Dad. Until I got into the new rock in a big big way.

Posted by: Yoki | November 19, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Sorry about the doubles. Can't account for them.

Posted by: Yoki | November 19, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Yoki, I'll never forget the day that I opined (in my annoyingly condescending way) that perhaps double-posts wouldn't happen if folks only hit "Submit" once.

I double-posted.

Consider me permanently humbled on that subject.

Posted by: bobsewell | November 19, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

I remember that, Bob! Too funny.

Mr seasea and I ventured downtown tonight to see Leon Russell. Mr seasea said it was too loud - he liked Tom Rush and his acoustic guitar better. He'd like Arlo too.

Posted by: seasea1 | November 19, 2009 1:39 AM | Report abuse

'bye, kids.

Posted by: Yoki | November 19, 2009 1:46 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. A cold morning. again.
The Irish are in a spitting fury over the Hand of Gaul that made them lose a trip to the futebul World Cup in the RSA next summer. Too funny, everyone but the referee saw Henri handling the ball to control it.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 19, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all. Hey Cassandra! I suppose everybody's sleeping in, after yesterday's sprint to the bunker. That is completely understandable. Good coffee and tea, fresh squeezed orange juice, and hot pumpkin scones on the ready room table. Enjoy...

Posted by: slyness | November 19, 2009 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Shriek,

That's part of the Irish experience, I guess.

You can't just lose, it has to be more than that.

Posted by: russianthistle | November 19, 2009 7:07 AM | Report abuse

This is sad, perhaps the last reason many kids had for writing an actual letter. Thank goodness he still replies to email.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/sorry-virginia-but-santa-claus-wont-be-writing-to-you/article1369297/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheGlobeAndMail-Front+%28The+Globe+and+Mail+-+Latest+News%29&utm_content=Google+International

Posted by: dmd3 | November 19, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

This is far more serious than Palin and her athletic photos, dmd3! I agree that the Alaska North Pole should not be restricted for something done by a pervert in Maryland.

When I was a child, we wrote letters to Santa at the North Pole, and somehow they ended up being read on a local radio station, WTAR in Norfolk. My brother and I listened each day at the appointed hour until we heard ours read. Then, it was official, the festive season had begun!

Good morning, you all; many thanks for the hot breakfast, Slyness

Posted by: VintageLady | November 19, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Finally got around to looking at that cover, thus breaking my ignore Sarah Palin at all costs rule. Seriously what is the fuss, with all the hype I was expecting a picture in a sports bra and tiny shorts.

Whether it is appropriate to the story is certainly relevant, but the picture is very modest. If that is considered too sexy for a female politician we are boxing women in to an impossible "role model" for politicians.

Posted by: dmd3 | November 19, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

*SIGHHHHHHHHHHHH*

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2009/11/18/GR2009111804635.html

*facepalm*

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 19, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

The sister of a co-worker just won the Governor General literary award for non-fiction, French. Apart from some spare change for commissioned work the $25000 award is the first revenue she ever gets for her literary work. This was her seventh book, most of the other were poetry.

I think that if one wants to earn a living in the writing world one should stick with sexy vampires stories, punditry or cook books.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 19, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

If Ann Coulter knew how to cook, shriek, she'd have a heckuva book...

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 19, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I mean to say she'd have three out of four, of course...

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 19, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

I agree with your 8:40 facepalm, Scotty. And I blame it almost entirely on the media, which has run so many horror stories and otherwise failed to explain things. It'll be interesting to see the death toll from swine flu six or eight months from now, and I wonder if anyone will be able to extract what percentage of those people -- especially very young ones -- wouldn't have died if they'd only gotten the shot. And then whatever that number is, contrast it against the number of one-in-a-million vaccine reactions deaths.

And everyone is doing a terrific job confusing millions of women about mammograms.

Good Dionne column this morning, but at the end of it all, there doesn't seem to be any solution.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 19, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

dmd - I had the same reaction. Not a lot of titillation going on in that pic for me. But, as I have said, Ms. Palin's looks have never done much for me. I just can't get back the sense that she is a vindictive and unreasonably ambitious ex-beauty queen who will use every tool available to get what she wants.

Of course, like anything, the sexism issue cuts both ways. Emily Yoffe over at Slate questions if anyone would be paying any attention to her at all at this point if she were a man called "Sam Palin."

And now on to something truly smolderin'. And even scarier. Burning Peat Moss.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/18/AR2009111804162.html?hpid=artslot

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Joel, are you going to start the bidding? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/18/AR2009111803917.html?hpid=sec-artsliving

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 19, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

I looked up "homology" in Wikipedia. I doubt I will ever wade into that morass, unless it's a brief point about topology, the only thing I'd trust myself on. And that's fading too.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 19, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Washington wrote this to his fabulously named nephew, Bushrod: "I do not conceive that we are more inspired -- have more wisdom -- or possess more virtue than those who will come after us..."

Well, heck, if he could be so wrong about that, how can we believe ANYTHING this proto-communist had to say?

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 19, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

There's a "New Moon" rising tonight folks, so beware and take care to avoid werewolves and vampires.

Quite a scare at two malls very recently. Robert Pattinson, the young (London-born and Taurus) bloodsucker was everywhere--on magazine covers and a tote at the bookstore, on oversized throws, on T-shirts--practically lurking in every nook and cranny. His torso, depicted from the hip area upward in the film, ought to stimulate teens and preteens to open their wallets and flood greenbacks his way--not to mention the tidal wave of income from the box office take this weekend. (Does anyone recall his role as Cedric Diggory in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire?")

http://whattheforks.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/2005_harry_potter_and_the_goblet_of_fire_081.jpg

Of course, we went to see "Twilight" after the initial fuss died down. How could I resist? The tale is set in Forks, Wash., where I cancelled, a hour before, the appointment to interview for a teaching position in the junior high, after driving hours across the state to reach this small town on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula.

Tales of my evening last night in Seguin (suh-geen), Texas, when the new kit appears. *yawning, stretching, still waking up*

Posted by: laloomis | November 19, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Morning! Big day today, taking my house guest to a "power" lunch at my favorite little French bistro, along with his boss' boss and two of the guys I work with, before taking the two to Dulles for their 25-hour trip home to Zambia. It's been such fun to have my house guest here for a few days, even if he briefly gave me his cough. We're both fine now, thankfully.

What I simply cannot abide about Palin (among *all* the things I cannot abide about her) is her voice. To me, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. *shudder* And she reminds me of those stuck-up girls in high school, who were completely clueless at the time that high school was where they peaked (the best years of their lives), and it was all downhill from there.

Saw the results show from SYTYCD last night, even though I missed the actual show on Tuesday. Sad that Kevin was booted. Didn't like the kid who was kept.

Thanks for the pumpkin scones, slyness. Very nicely done. A little maple butter to go on them when they're warm.

Catch up with you all later. . . .

Posted by: -ftb- | November 19, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

One could argue that Ann Coulter is already a sexy vampire.

And the Sarah Palin jogging suit seems to mirror the Michelle Obama bare arms kerfuffle. So I agree with dmd that we are being overly obsessed with what is normal and modest activity appropriate attire.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 19, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I run a Twilight-free home. None of that for us. Just say no, ladies.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/18/AR2009111804145.html

If you don't start, you can't get addicted. You will feel better for knowing you have the willpower to just resist the allure of sexy teenage vampires and werewolves.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 19, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Must do work but cannot get Cartman singing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" out of my brain.

Help me. Help me please.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2009/sep/01/no-headline---ir_guthrie_house/

An update on Arlo Guthrie's ill-fated house in Sebastian, Florida.

This is a state where it would be thinkable to destroy all the older buildings in coastal areas because they don't meet wind-resistance codes.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | November 19, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

No, no, no--you miss the point entirely.

We're not becoming obsessed with what is normal and modest activity attire. This photo (and all the others during the photo shoot) is fine for the running magazine for which it/they were intended, not appropriate for the cover of Newsweek. You never saw Condi Rice on a treadmill for a Newsweek cover, did you? Or Michelle Obama during her fitness workout on the cover of this weekly publication. Or a photo of John Kerry windsurfing gracing the outside of the magazine. Or Bill and Hillary Clinton dancing in the sand at Cape Cod.

And does Meacham's explanation, in the Kit above, make sense to you? It doesn't to Jason Linkins, in his blog yesterday, posted for Huffinton Post's "Eat the Press" section: "Well, whether or not you think the cover is intended as an insult or if you buy Newsweek EIC [editor in chief] Jon Meacham's serving of incomprehensible word-soup that he proffered instead of an intelligible explanation, there are bigger problems now because, as Jeff Bercovici reports over at Daily Finance, the original photographer may have violated a contract by selling the image to Newsweek."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/media/the-news/eat-the-press/

Posted by: laloomis | November 19, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

My young teen has shunned all things Twilight from the start ("too much hype"), so our house is Twilight free - I am good with that. It is however, a full on Narnia house, books and movies are pretty much on a permanent loop here, eldest has a countdown until the next movie comes out.

Posted by: dmd3 | November 19, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Of course it was an insult. A deliberate insult. Read the words that accompany it. The question is was it a *sexist* insult or something more subtle.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Agreed, RD. That's why I think it's hilarious that she would make a fuss over the picture when the words were MUCH WORSE.

But of course, that's her game... detract from the truth any way you can.

Posted by: -TBG- | November 19, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Author Barbara Ehrenreich did zing off a good one last night in Seguin about Bill Clinton signing the 1996 Welform Reform Act with its clause providing government funds for chastity training.

(With the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, Congress increased funding of chastity education from $60 million between 1981 and 1996 to $250 million over the next five years--$437 million counting state matching funds.)

http://www.albionmonitor.com/9804a/ns-willey.html

Excerpt:
In an exceptional column that appeared in Time magazine last month, writer Barbara Ehrenreich made a profound point: Clinton "signed a welfare-reform bill that, among many other regrettable things, insults the poor by providing millions for 'chastity education.' A president who snatches alms from impoverished moms while consigning their libidos to cold showers and prayer meetings, arguably deserves whatever torments await him as punishment for his own sexual derelictions."

You might think that a president whose behavior has given rise to the word "Zippergate" would provoke some media reassessment of his habitual demands that low-income Americans learn to behave responsibly. But, by and large, the news media seem to accept the idea that affluent and powerful white guys have a perfect right to tell the poor to do as they say, not as they do.

Posted by: laloomis | November 19, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Welfare Reform Act

Posted by: laloomis | November 19, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

My 16 year old daughter, who LOVES all the Harry Potter books, will have nothing to do with Twilight. She recently showed me this quote from someone named Andrew Futral...

“Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important is it to have a boyfriend.”

Posted by: -TBG- | November 19, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The grapefruits are ready. Smaller than usual due to a dry summer, but also sweeter than usual.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | November 19, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

On the washingtonpost.com's home page: 'New Moon' feaver. LOL.

Several weeks ago, one of my husband's coworkers went to the hospital with a 'feaver' of 104--the culprit swine flu. Do beavers ever get feavers?

Posted by: laloomis | November 19, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

No, I'm sorry, yello, but I have limits. I am not prepared to allow anyone to argue that Ann Coulter might possibly be a "sexy" anything. I'm quite willing to buy the vampire part, that's fine, but "sexy"? No. Might as well ask me if I'd like to boff a giant squid.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 19, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

TBG - that is ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous.

Twilight is not about how important it is to have a boyfriend. Twilight is about how important it is to have a chaste boyfriend.

Really.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

TBG - that is ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous.

Twilight is not about how important it is to have a boyfriend. Twilight is about how important it is to have a chaste boyfriend.

Really.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe I actually know this, not sure if beavers get fevers, but you can definitely get feavers from beavers. (Yello calm down!)

http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile10.stm

Posted by: dmd3 | November 19, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

As it applies more specifically to Beavers, important knowledge to have if you visit cottage country frequently, as we do.

I will also note I do no how to spell fever, just had a small brain cramp.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giardiasis

Posted by: dmd3 | November 19, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Coulter is another one of those women whose physical charms I am unable to objectively appreciate. Really, I totally bite at that whole "objectification" thing. I look at her and I just see a smarmy Mean Girl.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Amusing, your daughter's 16-year-old perspective on the Twilight series.

Dad Cullen is a physician and they live in a gorgeous, somewhat isolated home in the woods, comnpared to the blue-collar, working-class and Native families in Forks, Wash. The Cullens are socio-economically different from most in the small town.

Edward Cullen looks normal but is behaviorally different (rather like some with rare genetic disorders). Bela Swan reaches out to discover the truth about what she doesn't initially understand, driven by curiosity--including a car trip of several hours to a bookstore at the top of the Olympic Peninsula--Port Orchard, was it? Her efforts to research lore grabbed my attention.

So, it's not about having a boyfriend--it's about reaching across barriers to understanding and loving--however prohibitive those barriers may be.

Posted by: laloomis | November 19, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Poor little rich Vampire?

Posted by: dmd3 | November 19, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I have to admit I know absolutely nothing about the Twilight stories. But it sounds like this Bela girl is reaching out to the rich kid?

Posted by: -TBG- | November 19, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

That Bela must be a generous soul.

Posted by: dmd3 | November 19, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Is all this about a love that dare not speak its rh factor?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 19, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I cannot believe I am discussing the Twilight books but here goes.

First of all, they are pretty dreadfully written. The sentence structure alone will make one wince. (And if I find the sentences convoluted you know they must be pretty bad.) Plus, I find the vocabulary frustratingly inconsistent.

And yet, because I do this kind of stuff, I have read all of them to my daughter, who is intrigued by the danger without any real threat.

These books are the literary equivalent of a Bad Boy Picture on the cover of Tiger Beat Magazine. Of course, when I say Bad Boy, I mean a boy who just seems bad to the uncaring world, you know, because he is a Vampire, but is really sweet when you get to know him. Especially if you are a Special Girl who knows she is special, because, well, why else would this Bad Boy be so sweet to him?

Then there is this whole, none to subtle, sexual undertone. The main dramatic tension in the series is will the Vampire Bite The Girl or not. Because she really, really wants him to bite her because then they will truly be together Forever and Forever in the eternal bliss of True Love. But he knows that, once he does this dirty deed, it cannot be undone. And he is too virtuous to subject her to this when she will doubtless regret it in the morning. Or whenever. Especially because, you know, she is Just A Girl who doesn't know what she really wants.


Now, like all art, one can read what one wishes to into such literature. But come on now. To me the target audience is tweener girls who want a Grand Dangerous Romance while still wearing their Purity Rings.

It's like the Jonas Brothers with fangs.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"Sweet to her!" of course. I mean, it isn't that kind of a book.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

RD_P, your 11:49 makes me, once again, grateful that I have no tween girls any more.

Posted by: Yoki | November 19, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Jeanne-Claude, the artist (and wife of Christo) has died at age 74, according to AP (NY Times).

I admit to having made my only visit to New York as an adult so I could watch "The Gates" being unfurled. I had gotten to watch Christo give a presentation at the local art museum.

I came back from the event with one of those little squares of orange fabric, which ended up in an official Gator-blue metal frame. Even if the fabric tends toward Tennessee 'arnge.

The NYC trip was neat. Grandmother's old apartment building was still standing, MOMA was amazing (the design collection was showing off O'Neill's famously space-alien wetsuit for surfers), Met even more amazing. I've never seen a museum where the art was so comfortably at home. The incredibly long program of rebuilding, overseen by a single architect, had paid off, except that we're in an age that demands spectacle, maybe a Santiago Calatrava dragon bridge reaching from the Met to the Guggenheim, puffing steam.

NY Philharmonic's Fisher Hall looked badly neglected, as if it were in some bankrupt Communist capital, not New York. Mahler's Seventh made up for the building. Who said it's weird? OK, maybe a mandolin solo is a bit unusual.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | November 19, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

RD, you're a good dad.

No, that's far too faint praise. You're an awesome dad. In grownup terms, a saint.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 19, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse


A Palin-Beck ticket in 2012?

"Sarah Palin has suggested Fox News firebrand Glenn Beck could be someone she’d consider as a running mate if she makes a bid for the White House in two years."
http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2009/11/18/11797736-cp.html

HA HA HA HA HA!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 19, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Ivansmom!

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

For some reason whenever I see Ann Coulter I think of Bilbo's saying that he felt stretched, like butter spread over too much toast.

RD, the plot twist in your 11:49 nearly had me intrigued, but then you corrected it.

Posted by: engelmann | November 19, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh. OK. As long as all the villagers get pi$$ed off and get torches and drive stakes through all their hearts and shoot them with silver bullets I guess I'm okay with it.

There's a sexual undertone? Goodness. Who would have thought that a story about tumescent teenagers and people sucking on each other and sticking their fangs into them and penetrating their flesh, and otherwise having a first-time physical relationship that once consumated can never be undone and during which Two Can Become Joined As One, never mind the exchange or release of various free-flowing bodily fluids would also have a sexual undertone to it? Sounds to me like it could use some trains going into tunnels and maybe some waves pounding on the shoreline, all followed by a cigarette. I'm guessing there's some use of literary devices such as symbolism and metaphor going on somewhere.

God, I hope Billy Ray Cyrus isn't in it.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 19, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

RD,
Your 11:49 strikes me as a great summary of both the books and the phenomena. It strikes me as wish fulfillment stuff. Misunderstood girl desired by moody reclusive rich guy. Plus she gets to redeem him. Harmless I guess in comparison to what I was reading for wish fulfillment literature in my teens.

At a younger age I might have been tempted to read these just to see what the big deal was, but I don't have time to read all the good books I want to, let alone go slumming.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 19, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

A less than glowing review of New Moon,

http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/11/19/twilight-of-the-goths-2/#more-93296

Posted by: dmd3 | November 19, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

New kit coming shortly

Posted by: joelache | November 19, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

yello, you are so adorable.

Posted by: Yoki | November 19, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

There are Italian Vampires in later on.

I have a confession to make. I just now realized from following a link related to the New Moon movie, that I didn't read *all* the books, just the first three. Somehow the fourth one slipped under the radar. As luck would have it, my daughter has moved on to other literary interests. ("The Warriors." Which is basically the Sopranos with Feral Cats. But I digress.)

And I really, really want to keep it that way.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 19, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Be Green. Hang your Housing Association out to dry.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091118/us_nm/us_usa_laundry

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 19, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Excellent new Kit!

Posted by: Yoki | November 19, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: yellojkt | November 19, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Christopher Moore has a much funnier take on vampires in "You S*ck" and "Bloodsucking Fiends" but I wouldn't be caught dead reading that aloud to my teenage daughter.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 19, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

s_d, I like those books. But you wouldn't be shocked to know that I've been a Chris Moore fan ever since "Practical Demonkeeping."

bc

Posted by: -bc- | November 19, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

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