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12 May 2010


Matins: The easy part: Tea Partiers take control of Colorado's Republican Party nominating process and rewrite Maine's GOP Platform. (Slate)

There's nothing new about exploiting a state's electoral quirks. The last time a national candidate tried, it worked out rather well. Barack Obama famously leveraged the Iowa caucuses to his advantage—he had the most energized voters—and then focused on other caucus states that award a disproportionate number of delegates to a smaller group of voters. Hillary Clinton all but wrote them off. Obama thus eked out a victory, even though Clinton won larger states like Texas and Ohio.

Taking advantage of local quirks is key for any national insurgency. So is knowing the ins and outs of the party convention process. George McGovern won the Democratic nomination in 1972 partly because of his team's convention-floor machinations. The Tea Party's goals may be federal, but the groups themselves are grounded in local activism (and the occasional $200,000 campaign by the Club for Growth). So even if the movement doesn't give the Republican Party its next presidential candidate, it can still stage a slow takeover, one platform at a time.

Lauds: Joan Ackerman profiles John Williams, one of the giants of film-score composition — and father of some kids down the street when she was growing up in Westwood. (; via Arts Journal)

Impeccably gracious and unerringly modest, Williams seems more like a genial professor than an industry powerhouse. It’s not false modesty, according to his daughter Jenny, a psychotherapist who practices in Beverly Hills, Calif. Rather, it’s that “my dad wouldn’t be caught dead saying anything good about himself. He believes that no one should. It’s impolite.’’

That makes Williams the exception to the rule in Hollywood, where self-promotion is de rigueur and clawing the common mode of transport to the top. Williams did it the old-fashioned way: with unswerving focus on his work, to the exclusion of almost everything else.

At home in Los Angeles, he takes a one-hour break from writing each day at dusk, he says, to walk at a golf course near his house. After his walk he returns to the piano, working until he has finished the day’s writing task: two or so minutes of music. Williams has just completed a chamber music piece for the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest in California and the score for “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,’’ a Steven Spielberg movie due out next year. He lives with his second wife, Samantha Winslow, in an unpretentious house on a quiet street in Westwood that he bought nearly four decades ago. (Full disclosure: I grew up down the street and was close with his children.)

Prime: Are you an Asker or a Guesser? According to Oliver Burkeman — "This Column Will Change Your Life" — It doesn't really matter, so long as you know which sort of person you, and the people around you, are. Nobody likes to be denied, but Askers are a lot more comfortable with "no" than Guessers are. (Guardian; via Marginal Revolution)

Neither's "wrong", but when an Asker meets a Guesser, unpleasantness results. An Asker won't think it's rude to request two weeks in your spare room, but a Guess culture person will hear it as presumptuous and resent the agony involved in saying no. Your boss, asking for a project to be finished early, may be an overdemanding boor – or just an Asker, who's assuming you might decline. If you're a Guesser, you'll hear it as an expectation. This is a spectrum, not a dichotomy, and it explains cross-cultural awkwardnesses, too: Brits and Americans get discombobulated doing business in Japan, because it's a Guess culture, yet experience Russians as rude, because they're diehard Askers.

Self-help seeks to make us all Askers, training us to both ask and refuse with relish; the mediation expert William Ury recommends memorising "anchor phrases" such as "that doesn't work for me". But Guessers can take solace in logic: in many social situations (though perhaps not at work) the very fact that you're receiving an anxiety-inducing request is proof the person asking is an Asker. He or she is half-expecting you'll say no, and has no inkling of the torture you're experiencing. So say no, and see what happens. Nothing will.

Tierce: What makes some people faithful spouses? Maybe it's a "fidelity" gene. But we think that Arthur Aron, out at Stony Brook, has the right answer: "self-expansion." Commitment is not a problem if you feel that you owe your happiness to your partner. (NYT)

Couples were given relationship tests before and after the experiment. Those who had taken part in the challenging activity posted greater increases in love and relationship satisfaction than those who had not experienced victory together.

Now the researchers are embarking on a series of studies to measure how self-expansion influences a relationship. They theorize that couples who explore new places and try new things will tap into feelings of self-expansion, lifting their level of commitment.

“We enter relationships because the other person becomes part of ourselves, and that expands us,” Dr. Aron said. “That’s why people who fall in love stay up all night talking and it feels really exciting. We think couples can get some of that back by doing challenging and exciting things together.”

Sext: Julia Ioffe profiles Chatroulette inventor Andrey Ternovskiy. He's a computer genius, of course, but he got his inspirational start from working at a gift shop, aimed at foreign tourists, called "Russian Souvenirs." Even the fact that Andrey's uncle owned the shop couldn't save him as a salesman. (The New Yorker)

“I was really excited to work there, because I met, like, hundreds of different nations in a day,” Ternovskiy said recently at a coffee shop near his mother’s apartment, in the far reaches of northwestern Moscow. He is thin and nervous, with light sprays of acne on his cheeks and a fuzz of dark-blond hair. He has a hard time making eye contact and learned English by spending thousands of hours chatting online, but he says that his passion is talking with people and “exploring other cultures.”

Selling souvenirs to foreign tourists was an ideal job for Ternovskiy. He worked tirelessly, and began to learn German, Spanish, Italian, French, and even some Turkish. He memorized the numbers and some key phrases. By the second week, he could size up a customer’s nationality and address him in his own tongue. He didn’t, however, take quite as well to the business side of things. He would talk and joke with the tourists, but he didn’t push them to buy anything. If someone asked for a discount, he happily obliged. This rankled his uncle, but Ternovskiy didn’t see the problem. “I couldn’t just make people pay the money,” he says, laughing. “I just couldn’t feel the value of the money.” He was fired within a month.

Nones: From a BBC Q & A about the United Kingdom's governing coalition, an outline of "key priorities." (BBC News)

They have said their top priority is the economy and cutting Britain's record budget deficit. "Fairer" taxation is another Lib Dem priority, with some agreement likely on a move towards Lib Dem plans to raise the point at which people start paying tax to £10,000. Education is seen as crucial too. Both parties want similar-sounding pupils' premiums and further schools reforms. Cleaning up politics is also near the top of the agenda and there are a range of measures from fixed term Parliaments, banning non-dom peers, curbs on lobbyists and recalling MPs that both parties agree on. Finally, and most importantly for the Lib Dems, electoral reform. There will be a referendum on scrapping Britain's first-past-the-post voting system in favour of the Alternative Vote method before the next general election, under Tory proposals - even though the Conservatives are likely to campaign for against any voting change.

Vespers: A very agreeable vision of the future of the book is on view at Three Percent, where Chad Post writes about the Cahiers Series, beautifully-made books that ring variations on the theme of translation, "understood in very broad terms." But enough about the texts; these are books to show off.

One thing I can’t emphasize enough is just how beautiful these books are. Not only are the designs simple and eye-catching, the quality of the paper is amazing, the full-color images inside are striking, the French flaps, the way they feel . . . Daniel called Ornan Rotem—publisher and designer—a “genius,” and I have to agree. This is one of those series that I would buy just to display these in my office . . .

Compline: Reputation and Humiliation in the Age of Facebook: at WSJ, Jeffrey Zaslow quotes a consultant who predicts a massive case against an ISP, "for spreading malicious gossip." Meanwhile, at Indiana University, Lanier Holt beings a course in "The Principles of Public Relations" with a surprise. (via MetaFilter)

On the first day of class, the instructor, Lanier Holt, surprised his 104 students by telling them he had conducted a "scouting report" by Googling each of their names and checking out any photos of them he could access on Facebook.

Many of the students still seemed to have an untarnished Web presence. But more than a few were the subject of embarrassing postings—their own and other people's. Mr. Holt found photos of his students with marijuana pipes or posing half-naked. He came upon photos in which students had shaved off an eyebrow of someone who had passed out from drinking.

Mr. Holt warns his students that future employers are Googling them, and that unseemly images of them "tagged" on some other person's Facebook page could come back to haunt them. The most proactive ste

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