Friday, May 30, 2008

Wine Drinkers of the World, Unite.

Ever have a waiter that was too attentive? Christopher Hitchens has.

Book Review: Is Milton Better Than Shakespeare?

In a word: No.

Don't get me wrong Milton is great and all but seriously. Adam Kirsch agrees.

Did a 'dream team' of biblical scholars mislead millions?

When the Gospel of Judas was unveiled at a news conference in April 2006, it made headlines around the world — with nearly all of those articles touting the new and improved Judas. "In Ancient Document, Judas, Minus the Betrayal," read the headline in The New York Times. The British paper The Guardian called it "a radical makeover for one of the worst reputations in history." A documentary that aired a few days later on National Geographic's cable channel also pushed the Judas-as-hero theme. The premiere attracted four million viewers, making it the second-highest-rated program in the channel's history, behind only a documentary on September 11.

But almost immediately, other scholars began to take issue with the interpretation of Meyer and the rest of the National Geographic team. They didn't see a good Judas at all. In fact, this Judas seemed more evil than ever. Those early voices of dissent have since grown into a chorus, some of whom argue that National Geographic's handling of the project amounts to scholarly malpractice. It's a perfect example, critics argue, of what can happen when commercial considerations are allowed to ride roughshod over careful research. What's more, the controversy has strained friendships in this small community of religion scholars — causing some on both sides of the argument to feel, in a word, betrayed.

Stuck on an escalator.

Harvey Korman, Dead at 81.

I always loved the way Tim Conway would try and crack him up with his add libs on the Carol Burnette Show. Poor Harvey, try as he might he just couldn't say in character.

The performance that people will really remember though is Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles. For my money, one of the all time greats. He'll be missed.

Proposed Porn Tax in California.

Eugene Volokh suspects it's unconstitutional:

It seems to me the tax would likely be unconstitutional. Content-based taxes on the sale of First-Amendment-protected materials (and recall that the law targets not just unprotected and illegal obscenity, but also constitutionally protected pornography) are generally forbidden, see Arkansas Writers' Project v. Ragland (1987).

The backers of the law seem to rely on the Court's "erogenous zoning" cases, which allowed special zoning restrictions on sexually themed entertainment on the grounds that this entertainment causes "secondary effects," in the form of crime by patrons and a decline in neighboring property values. But this law is not a zoning restriction, and would extend to places that have no consumers at all. The Court might be willing to recognize other effects as "secondary," such as the possible harms (e.g., sexually transmitted disease risks, or even mental health risks) to performers. But the law seems to be quite ill-fitted to avoiding or remedying such harms, given that the law isn't at all calibrated to these harms: For instance, the law applies to distribution of porn created outside California, which creates problems that aren't remotely remediable through a tax paid to California authorities.

Moreover, parts of the law's stated rationale -- that pornography "[e]ncourages unsafe sex by consumers," "[o]ften encourages sexually aggressive behavior towards women," and "may negatively influence [children's] developing attitudes towards sexuality and relationships" -- focuses on what the Court has treated as primary effects (the tendency of speech to change people's attitudes, and the behavior that flows from those changes) rather than "secondary effects." See, e.g., United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, 529 U.S. 803 (2000). I think the "primary effects" / "secondary effects" distinction isn't conceptually sound. But it's pretty clear that these effects can't count, under the Court's precedents, as secondary effects.

Prelude to Midway - US Carrier-based Air.

Click to enlarge.

SteelJaw Scribe has a cool overview of U.S. naval aviation on the eve of the battle of Midway.

Flash Physics.

Something fun to play with. Use left and right arrows to move to different examples.

Changes at Diminished Expectations.

Sorry that the blogging has been light lately. With The Wife being pregnant and me trying to sort out some technology issues...I guess I haven't paid enough attention to my loyal readers. Hopefully that will change soon.

I'd like to take this opportunity to announce some changes here at DE (that's what all the cool kids call it). Over the past year DE has become a team effort and it really ought to reflect that. Instead of "about me" the page should say "about us". That sort of thing.

I began Diminished Expectations began as a place where I could post links to articles that I thought were interesting...that's it. For the most part it will remain that way. I'm hoping however, to add a lot more original content over the next several months. Mostly, this will mean me getting off my metaphorical backside and writing more. But it also means DE will have lots content from people besides me.

Unless you're blind you've noticed that Indy Jane has joined the crew recently (OK a few months ago...look this is free. For timely you have to pay). With her insightful articles and fantastic video skills, she's improved the quality of the website immeasurably. She's a great addition and we're lucky to have her.

If Indy and I have done the lion's share of the visible work here, The Wife has done quite a bit in the background. She routinely proofs my posts, suggests articles, and acts as an all around back seat driver. She'll continue in those roles but less often. With the demands of her career as well as impending motherhood weighing upon her, she has better things to do.

I'd also like to add content from others too. If you have something you want published let me know. Here's your big chance. It can be anything: Art History, Pop Culture, German Philosophy whatever. The more the merrier. In this way, massive blog empires are built (I can hear Matt Drudge quaking in his boots). I do however reserve the right to edit for obscenity and liability issues.

In short just like life, nothing here stays the same. Hopefully you'll like the changes.