Friday, February 29, 2008

Music Thread #2: Nobody Does It Better

...than ______?

Go at it in the comments and nominate your favorite "covers" or "versions" of songs.

I will stir the pot first by saying that I think the best version of Superstar is NOT Sonic Youth's, but Luther Vandross'. Oh sure, The Carpenter's is appropriately campy with plaintive female vocals on "don't you remember you told me baby," but Luther just takes it to the next level, with his drawn out smooth stylings, and the beginning of the song is just the most super dramatic, crazy thing ever. It is my nomination for best cover of Superstar.

I really hate The Honeydrippers' version of The Sea of Love, but I love the Phil Phillips' original. It is so awesomely doo-woppy. But yes, Juno bandwagoners, Cat Power's three albums are nearly perfect, and I love love love her version of The Sea of Love, which sounds like a girl in the cafe's plea to the boy in the striped sweater.

Nothing beats Nat King Cole's Unforgettable, so don't even try, but I have to say, his version of The Autumn Leaves is not as good as Edith Piaf's, although it is certainly the best male interpretation. But the brittle Little Sparrow sings it with such heartbreak, and obviously her French is better.

Speaking of the French, they make up far too much of the Great American Songbook. Beyond The Sea = La Mer. Of course, Charles Trenet does La Mer best with his simple, boyishly Gallic vocals, while Bobby Darrin does it with spectacle and excess (as all good Americans do) in Beyond The Sea. And Que Reste til de Nos Amours (also by Trenet, very sweet and with this-shy-of-childhood bittersweet awareness) = I Wish You Love, the best version of which is by Rachael Yamagata.

There are always too many versions of songs (I often have to choose between which crooner or which jazz lady I like best for a song, and it's always between Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, and Billie Holiday), but what is most interesting is when they cross genres. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (Eddy Arnold vs. The Casinos). You Don't Know Me (Eddy Arnold v. Too Many People). You Belong To Me (Patsy Cline does an awesome version!). Country crosses with rock and pop pretty easily, but it's always a lovely juxtapositoin when I hear two versions of the same song that sound totally different depending on the vocals and arrangement. Some songs work better in certain genres. Even though I've heard so many versions of Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye in the country genre, I will say boldly that The Casino's version is the best. 1950s' doo-wop just serves the song better--country-style makes it too sad, doo wop makes it sweet and pleading.

Anyway, that's all for now from me. Tell me your favorite versions and which genres suit which songs best!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Music Thread: Country vs. Jazz/Songbook -- The Original Emo

Because I am feeling too tired today and too lazy about blogging my interesting intellectual/law related blog posts, let's do pop culture, which always generates comments.

Sort of along the lines of the question posed here, and very similar to the question posed in High Fidelity, what music do you listen to in order to exaggerate a certain emotion? Whenever I am in the throes of infatuation, love, or heartbreak, the three most Whiny McEmo emotions I can think of (because depression about my professional prospects doesn't have many musical articulations--no one ever wrote a country-western song called "I Ain't Done With My Dissertation and I Ain't Got No Other Job Prospects"), I bounce back and forth between country and jazz/songbook.

Representative songs that I listen to at those various stages, not exhaustive:

Country:

-I Fall To Pieces - Patsy Cline
-I'll Share My World With You - George Jones
-Crazy - Patsy Cline
-Cold Cold Heart - Hank Williams
-The Pain of Loving You - Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt
-You Don't Know Me - Eddy Arnold (or Ray Charles)
-Ring of Fire - The Carter Family
-He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones
-It Mattes To Me - Faith Hill (don't be a hater, it's old Faith Hill)
- To Know Him Is To Love Him - Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt
-Leavin' On Your Mind -- Loretta Lynn
-I Can't Love You Anymore - Lyle Lovett
-All The Right Reasons - The Jayhawks
-Leavin' - Shelby Lynn

Jazz/Songbook:

- Heart and Soul
-That's All
- I'm Confessin'
-The Nearness of You
-I Fall In Love Too Easily
-Prisoner Of Love
-These Foolish Things
-The Man I Love
- Love Me Or Leave Me
-Autumn Leaves
-What Remains of Our Love (Que Reste T'il de Nos Amours)
-The Night We Called It A Day
-I Get Along Without You Very Well
-I Don't Know Enough About You


There's a lot of great pathos in country music, and it definitely makes me cry, and I like to listen to it while I'm baking and wiping away the tears inevitably means flour-dusted hair. I end up looking like Rogue in an apron.

But I have to say, for pure emotiveness without being all anorexic emo boy, I gotta go with jazz. Nothing makes me feel more love, longing, and loss than the voice of Billie Holiday or Lena Horne.

What kind of music do you favor for indulging in your emo side? Which would you vote for in the country vs. jazz smackdown?

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Open Thread

I actually have three long blog posts stored up and unblogged, because they are too long and complicated and would take too forever to type up, and I'm pretty tired these days.

So, help a brother out. I have insomnia, a pile of work that is ever-piling, and a midterm on Tuesday. My guts are a tangle of thoughts and emotions. My life has been sturm und drang lately.

Talk amongst yourselves. What would you like me to blog about? What would you like to know about me? Do not ask me about becoming a law professor or programs. The hell if I know about that.

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Epitaph for a Romantic Woman

It is perhaps a cynical remark, but the older I get, the less romantic I am, and the less romantic I am, the easier it is to live in this world and with other people.

And yet, the romantic hasn't been beat out of me yet. She is alive, still, even if she has artificial lungs and a pacemaker. The pacemaker suits her; a heart that beats forever is the maudlin ideal.

If I had a visual personification of Romantic Belle, she would be everything I have supressed in my real life incarnation of the tough, together aspiring academic who has everything under control. She uses wide, flat silk ribbons as bookmarks. She wears lemon yellow and coral pink and more jewelry than is tasteful. She stubbornly persists in wearing soft, full skirts that swish slightly from side to side as do the heavy heads of fully-blossomed lilies in the breeze, despite the fact that such skirts do nothing for her figure. She giggles, with one hand over her mouth.

She is, in fact, who I used to be. There is still some of her yet. It's a hard habit to break. Although now I just use post-its or dog-ear my place in books and wear streamlined pencil skirts.


Epitaph for a Romantic Woman
by Louise Bogan


She has attained the permanence
She dreamed of, where old stones lie sunning.
Untended stalks blow over her
Even and swift, like young men running.

Always in the heart she loved
Others had lived,—she heard their laughter.
She lies where none has lain before,
Where certainly none will follow after.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Right On Rape

Nora Niedzielski-Eicher, a board member of the SAFER blog, has a great op-ed in the Los Angeles Times arguing against the Mac Donald article that claims there is no campus rape crisis called "Wrong On Rape".

The SAFER blog has also assembled a list of of responses to the Mac Donald article. A very good list of links, and many of them are very cogent and well-written.

Go on and get to reading!

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Critique of the Day: Beyond Gentlemen by Lani Guinier, Ann Bartow, et al.

Citation:

Guinier, Lani et al., Becoming Gentlemen: Women’s Experiences at One Ivy League Law School, 143 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1, (1995).

Description:

This is an interesting article that began as an independent study by Ann Bartow (Law, South Carolina, now running Feminist Law Profs blog) when she was a law student at U Penn. (Bartow wrote a follow-up article called Still Not Gentlemen, available at SSRN). Methodologically, it is an interesting, decent-scale study that draws on academic performance data from 981 students, self-reported survey data (surveys were distributed in student mailboxes) from 366 students (out of 712, response rate 51.4%), written narratives from 104 students, and group level interview data from 80 students at U Penn Law School. This is a case study.

The survey design is itself interesting: multiple choice questionnaire with one open-ended question designed to elicit narrative responses. The research design is multi-tiered, allowing a complex assortment of responses and forms: an empirical analysis of the academic performance data; a survey designed to assess law student attitudes toward career goals and law school experiences, and a combination of narrative and interview to elicit richer responses. However, the authors admit that the study is cross-sectional, as longitudinal data was not available given the nature of the survey/interview method, and so there is a selection bias problem regarding those who chose to respond to the narrative question and those who chose to participate in interviews. . However, this does not detract from the very rich picture painted of the attitudes and experiences of the U Penn law students in the early to mid 1990s. The mixed-methods approach, while limiting the study to cross-sectional data, gave a fuller picture of this.

The findings are that male and female students perform differently in terms of grades, post-graduation employment, and in the classroom. The Socratic Method is especially alienating to female law students, who characteristically favor consideration before making a remark in class, if at all. And such a method favors quicker responses and competition, which male students engage in with greater ease and alacrity. According to the study, “many” women enter law school committed to social justice and public interest law, but by their third year they change to corporate law ambitions and seem to struggle with that cognitive dissonance.

Men and women enter with the same impressive educational credentials, yet graduate with different performances, the women performing less well than the men and being less likely to be candidates for order of the coif. Indeed, the performance difference is not merely confined to how the female and male students perform in classrooms and at the school, but extends to post-graduation: the women graduate with less competitive academic credentials, are not represented at the top of the law school’s academic and social hierarchies (e.g., order of the coif), and are less competitive for prestigious/desirable jobs upon graduation.

Hypotheses proposed to explain the finding of dramatic difference in performance in and beyond law school are: 1) the exclusion women feel from the formal educational structure of the law school; 2) many women are excluded from the informal educational environment of the law school, and 3) some women are individually affected psychologically and professionally by the gendered stratification within the law school (5-6).

The study draws upon, at least in motivation and inspiration, the “phenomenon of silence” in the classroom: why don’t female students speak up? The empirical results of this study, thanks to the rich qualitative data, provide complex answers to this question, which prior to this was theorized in feminist legal jurisprudence and critical race theory as being due to women’s “different voices” (MacKinnon) and “multiple consciousness as outsiders” (Matsuda) (15-16). Previous studies were complicated by issues of bias in primary assumptions; the Bartow survey was more open-ended and informal in nature to allow respondents to direct their own reactions.
One interesting aspect of the study is the quantitative analysis of participation in the classrooms, with female law students being “significantly” more likely than male law students to report that they “never” or “only occasionally” ask questions or volunteer answers in class. This is an empirical finding that corroborates the theory of the phenomenon of silence, but it is in the narrative responses (albeit limited by selection bias and response rate) that this phenomenon is fleshed out: the narratives by female respondents report the first-year law school experience as “radical, painful, or repressive” (42), “alienating”, and a psychological trauma that many wanted to suppress. Women felt as though they were silenced effectively in the classroom and beyond by being harassed for speaking in class (called lesbian, man-hater, not feeling safe to speak), as they were punished for performing against gender stereotype and at the same time demanded to because of the Socratic Method.

Perhaps this is the slightly dated nature of the study, but at the time of the study, the Socratic Method was almost universally in use at U Penn, and this method of interrogation-like questioning (in which the professor asks the student a series of question until the student him/herself arrives at the answer the professor expects) was considered intimidating and competitive by the female students. Ultimately, the women are expected to “become gentlemen”—assimilate themselves into this previously male-dominated legal education model and profession by becoming “social males” in and out of the classrooms in order to achieve the male-centric standards of success (vociferous commenting, hierarchy, competitive, high paying jobs), but when they do become gentlemen, they are punished for not acting like women, and when they are unable to, they are punished in their performance reviews and decreased career opportunities.

The analysis and recommendations portion of the article comes with many interesting and valuable theories, some that draw on then-existing and anticipate future studies on cognitive psychology (the idea of the impostor syndrome) , resource dependence theory (the idea of social closure, that women are denied access to informal networks that would help advance them), and implicit bias theory, that white men are encouraged more than students of color and women to participate in the classroom.

It is the view of the authors that the psychosocial needs of female law students should convince law schools to “reexamine traditional assumptions about lawyering” and legal education—should legal education model itself upon and encourage the adversarial system and way of thinking? Is the Socratic Method sound pedagogy? Can merit be tested by testing analytical thinking exclusively in the abstract, when that may not be how all people think? Law schools cannot ignore the gender academic performance differential, and they have a professional and educational obligation to minimize the gendered differences in performance and psychosocial health. Smaller classes and more cooperative learning environments based on less hierarchical pedagogical models (I am slightly disappointed that the authors did not cite Vygotsky, Freire, and hooks and their work on critical pedagogy) would do much to reform the entrenched, structural inequality and gender bias in law schools.

Critique:

This is one of my favorite articles in the history of law reviews, and is recommended for all students of critical pedagogy, and who want to study and mitigate gender, race, and class performance differences in the classroom. This is a compelling empirical study of the problem that is theory-generating rather than theory-testing, and I think it’s a more honest study for that reason (see, e.g., Sander, 2005).

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't Fence Me In - Of Coase and Cattle



It is hard to read Robert C. Ellickson's 1986 article "Of Coase and Cattle" and not think of this song.

It is a pretty awesome article, by the way. Read it with a loved one, especially if the loved one is an economist, and enjoy a good argument about how idealized worlds where you can assume zero transaction costs do not exist, and so why do we even talk about that? And dude, informal norms are more powerful than formal law, and look, people do not behave rationally!

In other words, the perfect article for a sociologish (I do not deserve the -t) and economist odd-couple.

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In Which I Realize How Much I Need To Know Basic Life Skills

Most people who meet me are surprised to learn that I am the youngest of six, since I am the one that "takes care of things" and "is so organized." Until they drive with me somewhere, and I can't remember where we parked. I became an aunt at the age of 11, and so I have been trained to be responsible in many senses, but when it comes to stuff like remembering where I parked or how to get somewhere, I am hopeless. It is the result of having been taken everywhere all throughout my childhoood and teen years (and even adulthood, although I now drive the kids places and write down where I parked).

Being ferried everywhere breeds geographic idiocy: I don't know where anything is. That my adulthood is being spent in intensive academic programs is another blow to that, since I for the most part only go to school, and only a few buildings on the campus. If not for the mountains or ocean always being where it should be, I imagine I would be even more lost. Being in a landlocked state terrifies me for that reason. I don't have a good sense of direction to begin with, and getting to driving age in the age of Mapquest and Yahoo and Google Maps has made it so that I am incredibly lazy about opening up a AAA map and figuring out how to get from point A to point B.

Now that I no longer drive at all (the Belle-Mobile is at my parents' house), it is tougher--the costs for getting lost are greater on foot, esp. in the dark. It is easy to get lost in a car and just figure on making a couple of rights until you get back on the grid, or take an exit and hop back on the freeway. On foot, this is a laborious undertaking, and though I can walk through most road blocks, I cannot spare myself getting tired, and it is scarier being lost in the open.

Relying on Google Maps is not always best for those on foot! I wanted to run to a nearby lake yesterday, and Google told me to run up into the hills of this super bourgie neighborhood where everyone was remodeling using eco-friendly design firms and everyone had fruit trees I wanted to steal from. That was a tiring, mostly uphill 5 mile jog. TD took me later by car. I was sort of headed in the right direction, except that the directions took me above the lake. Tomorrow, I try again.

So, lesson of the day for myself, and to you and for your future children: open a map, and learn how to read one.

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Take Back the Rhetoric on Rape

A few days ago, I spotlighted an awesome blog, SAFER: Students Active For Ending Rape.

I am not going to get into my own personal experiences here, but I am sure every woman has had some experience with sexual harassment, and too many have experiences with date rape and other types of sexual assault. In college I endeavored to mobilize the helplessness I felt at night walking to the parking lot or the anger I felt on behalf of the women I knew who had been assaulted by volunteering for the Center for Women on campus, which ran a rape-crisis counseling center. I marched in Take Back the Night Vigils. I helped with The Clothesline project for survivors of rape. I am really glad that this blog exists, especially as I have expressed my own nervousness about walking around campus too late at night or home from the bus stop after dark. TD says that this must be a "girl thing," to fear for one's personal safety to the point of emailing before and after appointments to meet random strangers to sell things on Craigslist, or before and after dates. It may very well be such a thing, but it is not irrational fear or paranoia. I wouldn't be afraid if I didn't believe that I had some rational reason to be afraid.

I don't believe in the rhetorical trope of "gray rape," that a woman's inebriation nullifies her claim of rape. One part of Superbad that made me really uncomfortable was the scheming plan of one of the dudes to get his date so drunk that he could take advantage of her inebriation to get laid. That is not consent. This was slightly redeemed by Michael Cera's character refusal to sleep with his desired girl when she was too intoxicated, because he liked and respected her too much. But this movie was uncomfortably close to too many guys' MO's for "getting consent."


I believe in the victim's account unless there is some dispositive reason not to believe her account.

I do not believe in this stupid article by conservative Heather Mac Donald arguing that the statistics on campus rape are overblown.

I do share in the views of Tracy Clark-Flory, who disputes the main "arguments" made by Mac Donald, and attacking the main tenet of Mac Donald's article: that girls are getting wasted and laid, not raped, and so it's their own damn fault, and that sexual restraint is the problem!:

Mac Donald explains that the statistic originated from a survey by Mary Koss, a University of Arizona professor of public health. It found that 15 percent of women had been raped, 12 percent had experienced an attempted rape; therefore 27 percent had either experienced a rape or attempted rape. Koss attempted to strip her questions of the word "rape," so as to lessen the social stigma facing her respondents; she didn't ask them whether they had been raped but whether they had experienced a range of incidents that are, by definition, rape. For instance, she asked: "Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?" Understandably enough, some have criticized her approach, noting that the question could be misinterpreted to mean, "Have you had sex under the influence and regretted it the next morning?"

But, these concerns have already been invalidated! In 1999, researchers set out to test whether Koss' question was actually getting at the rape question. They asked: "Have you engaged in sexual intercourse when you didn't want to but were so intoxicated under the influence of alcohol or drugs that you could not stop it orobject?" And, what do you know, this much more precise question yielded similar results; 17 percent of female students responded "yes." Not to mention, these findings have been duplicated by a number of other studies -- look here, here and here, just for starters.)

Mac Donald ignores these inconvenient facts and simply notes that subsequent studies show a "divergence between the victims' and the researchers' point of view." Consistently, researchers are far more likely than the respondents themselves to define nonconsensual sex as rape. No! You mean there's a widespread resistance among rape victims to labeling such a traumatic experience by its culturally loaded name? Next, Mac Donald will argue that a woman isn't abused, isn't a victim of domestic violence if she doesn't personally choose that label -- regardless of whether her experiences define her as such. (Apply that to any number of abuses, illnesses or crimes.)

Fully moving beyond the facts, we get to the cold, un-beating heart of Mac Donald's argument: She argues that the reality "behind the rape hype" is "that it's the booze-fueled hookup culture of one-night, or sometimes just partial-night, stands." In other words, hookup culture is responsible for the disagreement between how women label their experiences of rape and how researchers define them. When researchers see an act as rape but the woman does not, she argues that it isn't a case of social stigmas reigning supreme -- it's that ever-popular myth of "gray rape." "Most campus 'rape' cases exist in the gray area of seeming cooperation and tacit consent, which is why they are almost never prosecuted criminally." That is a lie -- as mentioned above, these studies are simply not dealing with "gray" areas.

Beyond her butchering of the statistics -- and denial of the library of supporting research -- her philosophical position is unconscionable. She actually argues that "greater sexual restraint would prevent campus 'rape.'" If only she hadn't worn that skirt, walked down that dark alley, had something to drink, smiled his way, she wouldn't have been "raped." In the very same breath, she bizarrely goes on to rail against sex-positive workshops on college campuses. (Apparently a campus workshop called "Sex Toys for Safer Sex" amounts to an endorsement of "recreational sex" -- and, one might assume, rape-in-quotation-marks -- "at every opportunity.")

It's a pity Mac Donald went through all this trouble to explain why so many women are resistant to calling a forced, nonconsensual sex act "rape," when researcher are not. She need only look at the prevalence of victim-blaming attitudes like her own.


And this, my friends, is why sociological studies that demonstrate empirically when and generate theories as to why victims report/underreport, leading to a study of victimology really matter.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

My milkshake tastes better than yours, damn right.

(It also brings all the boys to the yard.)

(In case you are an international student or professional reading this, my excessive use of "bourgie" and "ghetto" come from a few years spent in Los Angeles--most Americans do not talk like this, and rightly so.)

Because I LOVE picking fights and LOVE it when you all go at it in the comments and I LOVE challenging your bourgie assumptions and affected mannerisms, here goes!

  • I do not really like wine. Wine tasting is kind of ho-hum, but I like to do it for the social setting and because wine tastings are usually in super-pretty tourist destination areas next to really good restaurants.
  • I do not really like sake. Sake-tasting parties make me want to puke, because sake makes me puke and so does the idea of a themed party along that line of "oooh, let's try what the Asians drink. Exotic!"
  • I do not really like scotch or whiskey and going to those tasting parties either, because it's a really expensive way to burn your esophagus, and only the super expensive "this must be what it's like to blow your grocery budget on one drink" is not painful, at least in the physical sense.
  • I hate beer. This is just beyond discussion.
  • I would rather drink a good ol' ice cream milkshake than any alcoholic drink, even whatever "good stuff" comes recommended by your personal sommelier or other guide to bourgieness.

So anyway, I suppose you could chalk it up to the simple fact that I don't like the taste of alcohol, and you'd probably be mostly right. Except that I really like champagne and prosecco! And I like it when mixed drinks are not appallingly disgusting, noxious bubble-gum pink confections, but taste like something delicious with an edge.

But the brute taste of alcohol is never that delicious. I dislike sweet white wines and can't drink red wines alone. As DG says, wine is meant to be paired with food, just as poetry is meant to be read aloud. Food makes wine taste better to me: more palatable, drinkable, enjoyable, but not necessarily vice-versa. I think "this wine needs food" more than I think "this food needs wine," and I am a relatively decent cook who at least attempts gourmet dishes and cohesive menus. But there are tons of people who say that they like the taste of wine in and of itself, and prefer drinking red wine alone. That, to me, is weird, but to each oenophile their own.

This is a difficult admission to make. There is a high demand on me to be all bourgie and pretend that I really like good wine and can distinguish between blackberry and fig notes. I got through law school sober because I was usually designated driver, but living across the street from the law school, I couldn't avoid every alcoholic event. I avoided kegs in the courtyard because I hate beer, but wine and cheese parties? I love cheese! And they always have fruit! And crackers! And I remember well being chastened by bourgier-than-thou Super Foodies about "blending," and how I was supposed to detect notes of fig, chocolate, cherries, or oak or whatever and properly aerate the wine in my mouth before swallowing the tasting sip. So I got socialized into the world of wines and wine-tasting and etc. I resisted for a while, but I got sucked in and eventually thought that I really did like all that. I lied to myself. Milkshakes taste better, even to my socialized, upwardly mobile palate.

I do have a relatively developed palate, even if I was raised on generic Doritos. I am an awesome baker and can make relatively elaborate desserts with very subtle shadings of flavor, depending on the addition of zest, essence, fresh nutmeg, or vanilla bean pods. I am a fairly decent gourmet cook--not too awesome, but I can follow a recipe and know how to marry textures and flavors. This is not a matter of my palate being too blunted to tell the difference between good and bad; just that I don't really prefer wine to other beverages if I had my druthers. I usually know the difference between good and bad wines, I just don't get that excited by the good stuff either. And no, I can't detect which notes are which, and I don't think that you can either. TD's parents do black glass tastings, and people can't tell good from bad or even red from white.

And it's not like I can't drink. But I hate challenges to tolerance. In my brief time with The Roomie, I somehow built the tolerance to knock back up to 5-6 strong vodka drinks/shots (with chasers) in a little over an hour and not die or get sick and I still managed to get myself home by two trains and a 5 block walk not too long after. Although, I do hate being pressured to drink, this is rarer the older I get and the more assertive I am about my preferences and the savvier I am about nursing a drink. Breaking the little 5'2", 120 lb Asian girl at the drinking game is lame, people. I am very, very glad that I am out of law school and do not hang out with people who view drinking as sport and self-medication for their low self-esteem, as if it could salve the wounds of giving up on their dream of playing bass or writing screenplays.

That is, to say, I am glad that I don't hang out with people who feel the need to drink, and push that need onto others. Law school breeds alcoholics for so many reasons, and that's one thing that made me feel really uncomfortable, to the point where I just ended up driving everywhere because finally, safety is a good excuse not to drink. This made me as uncomfortable as accusations of blending and being challenged as to what is my favorite brand of wine and feeling bad about drinking cheap wines. Wow, in retrospect, I really hated the socialization aspect of law school. Who did Prissy Princess think she was, calling me ghetto for accidentally blending?

I do like the social effects of drinking: sharing a bottle of wine among friends is as awesome as breaking bread or having tea and cookies, and I like that convivial aspect. Two of my happiest memories in recent history are The Sociologist and A Well Respected Man coming to visit for a night and talking animatedly over prosecco and pinot noir; and The Journalist and I relaxing over bottles of wine and romantic movies. I am pretty much as spastic and goofy slightly inebriated as I am sober, but my spacticity and goofiness are exacerbated by the alcohol component of these only moderately tasty beverages. When hosting parties, I will often serve alcohol and ask that guests bring extra, mainly because I know everyone wants to drink, even if it is not my natural inclination. Alcohol does make a party, although I think Diet Coke tastes better. Diet Coke is delicious.

So anyway, I am just going to own up to being a bad bourgie and not really into the high-end drinking culture. I ask you, self-proclaimed oenophiles and conoisseurs: am I just missing something? Can you mount a defense of the tastiness of your beverage of choice, and what is it that you really, really like about your favorite alcoholic beverages that does not relate to the social, convivial aspects/effects, but rather is restricted solely to the brute taste of the alcohol itself?

I will say it again: my milkshake tastes better than yours.

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That's the best compliment, ever.

This replaces my college years best compliment ever, which was "yes, you are a romantic, but that's what I like best about you" from another friend, especially since I'm no longer as maudlin.

But having my neuroticism described as "terribly cute" is quite awesome. That the compliment was gentlemanly, well-intentioned, and devoid of skeeze makes it even better.

In general, I don't know quite how to respond to compliments (I am very awkward, which is why typical pick up lines never work for me), but ones about my strange quirks feel more real and valuable to me than any compliment about my physical appearance.

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Advice for New Assistant Professors

This may come from a sociology academic blog (Scatterplot), but I think the tips offered by "Olderwoman" are very instructive for new professors of any discipline. I am excerpting the ledes from the first five tips, but do go to the link above for the entire post--and the very good comments:

1) Don’t take anything personally, especially not at first. People will probably treat you as insignificant, not because they think ill of you, but because they are socially inept.

2) Help integrate yourself. Even if you are normally more productive writing at home, work in the office a lot during the first year. Make a point of loitering in the hall when it is near lunch time, so people will notice you and think of asking you along to lunch.

3) Your best friends are likely to be the other assistant professors, but do not avoid the senior people. Treat them with friendly respect.

4) Do NOT attempt to reform ANYTHING for at least a year, preferably two. No matter how stupid the curriculum or other things seem, leave them alone until you have been there long enough to know why they are there and whose interests are at stake. Similarly, try to avoid being drawn into factional disputes.

5) Make sure you understand as soon as possible what kind of institution you are at and what it takes to get tenure. At a research university, remember that it is publishing that will get you tenure.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Poet: Jane Kenyon

Briefly It Enters, Briefly Speaks

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper....

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .

I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . .

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .

I am the heart contracted by joy. . . .

the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .

I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .


Happiness

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.


The Shirt

The shirt touches his neck
and smooths over his back.
It slides down his sides.
It even goes down below his belt—
down into his pants.
Lucky shirt.


Three Songs at the End of Summer

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket ...

In my childhood

I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Change Happens: Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) Blog

An awesome blog, which one of the board members kindly alerted me to via email. From her email description:

Change Happens: we’re Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), a nonprofit that provides college students with the resources and support to challenge their schools policies, programs, and practices around sexual assault. Our blog monitors current events related to sexual violence, foregrounds quality media, especially by students, about sexual assault, provides resources for students looking for information about how to combat sexual violence on their campuses, and keeps readers updated on SAFER’s current projects. Two of our semi-regular bloggers are a law student and a lawyer, and they try to add some legal perspectives from time to time. It is still very much a work in progress, and it will continue to grow, with student guest bloggers, reproductive justice week, more links, and more resources coming soon.


This really is a great blog, with really interesting, substantive posts. I am going to add it to the RSS feed and blogroll. Please do the same!

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No, I Don't Want To Talk About It, So Please Don't Ask

Decision: I am not going to transfer and switch to an interdisciplinary Ph.D program.

I am going to stay in my SJD program and write articles and try to get them published before I go on the market with my dissertation in 2009 or 2010, or go for a VAP/fellowship.

I am making this decision myself--it has not been made for me. It was not a matter of rejection; it was a matter of deciding what I wanted to do for the next few years and what kind of career I want after I finish, and what program would best allow me to achieve that.

I have made this decision after weeks of soul-searching, asking myself seriously where I want to be and how I want to get there and why I want to do it. I have questioned my motivations, in an actually honest way that admits to all of my fears and insecurities about life-avoidance. I have also consulted with a more advanced student in the program who is in my similar position, and knows very definitely the opportunity costs and further investment of time that would come with switching. They are not costs and investments I'm willing to make, especially considering all that I have invested in my current path. That my friend-advisor knows so well my situation and has my best interests at heart makes me trust her advice and really believe that what I have decided to do is best--for me. I have also talked extensively with trusted advisors, who are on faculty hiring committees, and am reassured that my decision is not totally wrong and devasting to my career. In fact, I am probably in the same position in either program, and it is not a bad position.

In other words, I have re-made the decision I made a couple of years ago, and am learning to live with it, and have been reassured that it's the best decision I could have made at the time and not a terrible decision--and I am learning to live with this decision. At the end of the day, I have to live with any decision I make, but occasionally I need permission to be OK with the decision and reassurance that it was not so terrible. I have sought advice and received such reassurance and permission to be. I am sort of at peace with myself for the first time in a few years.

So please, please don't ask me about this. Don't question my decision. Don't ask, "are you sure?" Dont try to change my mind. Don't tell me that I am wrong. Don't tell me what to do. Don't be mad that I didn't consult you or talk to you about it. Don't bring this up if I don't bring it up. I don't want to talk to you about it.

I am disabling comments. That's how much I don't want to talk about it. And why I waited until Saturday to blog this, when my readership is halved.

Thanks.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Stuff I Love Because I Am A Lover

Again, Paul Gowder is the one to be tagged here, because he is also such a delightful hedonist. He loves as much as he hates, and how awesome is that, and how awesome is he.



  • My new apartment
  • Freshly laundered sheets
  • Baking
  • Getting stuff in the mail: letters, presents
  • Social justice and equality
  • When the legal system works
  • Good reviews of articles
  • Good lectures (heard or given)
  • Reading articles/books that are interesting, useful, novel, and well-written
  • Getting flowers
  • Mix CDs (making, receiving)
  • Check-in phone calls for no particular reason to/from friends and TD
  • Music that takes me back to 1997
  • Good music, however I define that
  • The beach during winter
  • Reading on my couch
  • Visiting TBF and TL, at least twice a year
  • Spending time with TD
  • Friends visiting
  • Comics and graphic novels
  • Public radio
  • Indian food
  • Mexican food
  • Making my own Vietnamese/Chinese food
  • Shopping online
  • Running
  • Running in the rain
  • Emailing TL, TD, and HLP throughout the day
  • Naps
  • Going to movies by myself
  • Chocolate
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Bread
  • Tea
  • Redwood forests
  • Blogging
  • Reading blogs, especially academic blogs
  • Reading in a random, haphazard manner all of TL's archives
  • Getting good advice
  • Being listened to
  • Fancy organic all natural soap that smells good
  • Jersey dresses
  • Pencil skirts
  • Ballet flats and round-toe pumps
  • Delicate silver jewelry
  • Forest green, teal, magenta, mauve, orange, dark gray, pistachio green
  • Road trips
  • Making/giving presents
  • Getting presents
  • Pubs
  • Board games
  • Coffee and conversation, even at 6:30 am
  • Non-stop flights
  • Law review articles that are really good, however I define that
  • Employment law conferences now that I know people
  • 8 hours of sleep

And I love you all, dear readers.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stuff I Hate Because I Am A Hater

Inspired by Jeremy. His list is of five (or 6/7) things he hates most in the world. I cannot play favorites; my hate is equally distributed and my list is expanded. I tag all of my co-bloggers, but Paul Gowder in particular, because he is so deliciously snarky.

  • Harassment
  • The bad hates: racism, misogyny, homophobia
  • Mustard
  • Doilies and anything called "cottage" or "country" style
  • Stuffed animals (unless handmade by TJ)
  • Paris Hilton
  • The smell of vinegar
  • Missing the bus
  • Sticky rails on the bus
  • High schoolers who take the bus
  • Reggae
  • Death metal
  • Clubs where the music is too loud and no one dances and the drinks are overpriced
  • Pantyhose
  • Ugg boots with miniskirts
  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • Cockroaches
  • Maureen Dowd
  • Talk radio
  • Proselytizers of any religion
  • Our current administration (this is obvious hate--one must hate outside of the box, but lest you doubt my political affinities, on the list it goes)
  • Pretentious, unreadable fiction
  • Durian (I am a bad Vietnamese person)
  • Movies marketed for teenagers
  • Teenagers (except for the ones I am related to)
  • Handkerchief hems
  • Band-collared shirts
  • Punditry
  • Unqualified people who present themselves as experts
  • Sour candy (makes my mouth wince)
  • Fermented bean curd (I do not get my people)
  • What passes as punk these days
  • People who don't read and either 1) don't care to read or 2) pretend to read by buying the books and displaying them
  • Round beds
  • Shag carpeting and those fluffy rugs
  • Dorm furniture
  • Tab, Squirt, Shasta Grape soda (all equally)
  • Being late
  • People who are late
  • Our political system and nomination and election process

I know that there is more that I hate. I will get back to you. There has to be more hate.

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Now this is constructive anger.

Perhaps I should myself enable comment moderation and get a few things off of my chest, but then again, Megan From the Archives has already done this so splendidly.

In other news, I think I need to go to physical therapy for my RSI on my right wrist. Dude, I have the wimpiest job in the world. I read and type. How on earth do you get injured doing that?!

Arm wrestling does not help this either. I must also take a break from thumb war.

Review of License to Harass to come shortly.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Take Heed

I know that I need to, considering how behind I am, such that this summer looks like I'll be stuck at the library:

How to be a good advisee.

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Work and Identity

No one is their job, you say. People are more than the sum of their professions. What a limited view of humanity. Blah blah blah. This is certainly true. But then why do people introduce themselves as their professional roles? "Hi, I'm a doctor." "I'm a lawyer." "I'm a teacher." Etc., etc.

I was thinking about this last night. While I can take a joke (kind of), there's an upper limit to how much can be joshed at before I get defensive and really wonder "is this what you think of what I do?" mainly because it translates to the next psycho question, "is this really what you think of me?"

It is not especial to my field. I can imagine saying "all of medicine is quackery, and doctors are merely snake oil merchants seeking to pad their wallets by tending to the imagined pains of the delicate bourgeoisie" and really offending doctors who see their mission as noble--in addition to remunerative, and what is wrong with that? Many lawyers get the brunt of the professional denigration, but many of them also see their role as more than merely being corruptible hired guns--they do fill a need in our system of adversarial adjudication, and many who work in the public sector and in public interest law see their calling as noble indeed.

So let us turn to my third example: the academic. I really do see the work in my field as important, even if I don't exaggerate the transformative effect it will have on policy (and often it does have an effect, even if my particular contribution might not). But my work interests me, and I think the ideas are important, even if they are just "ideas." Theory isn't totally empty. The distinction between sex and gender is one that is still discussed in so many a seminar because the boundaries are constantly being redrawn and fought over in law and policy: what is essential to the definition of each, is gender merely socially constructed, and when do biological differences translate approriately into different gender roles? Is a policy disallowing female fire fighters rational and legal if based on biological differences of strength and height, which correlates with gender? What is discrimination on the basis of sex if we cannot define what sex is--is sex biology, or is sex the social construction of gender? What are the boundaries of race, and to what extent can we use the law to define the contours of race in terms of anti-discrimination law? What is a disability? Etc. etc. The theories matter, because they affect policy and legislation. The social science work matters, because they demonstrate empirically what happens to these protected categories in the absence or presence of discrimination and regulation.

This is not a petulant, foot-stomping defense of myself--"My work is important! My existence is not meaningless!" I think that the impact of my work is whatever it will be--but it is a part of a larger corpus of work that does matter. There's a lot of interesting, theoretical and empirical scholarship out now on defining "work"--what counts as work for the purposes of AFDC, how many hours and dollars does being a homemaker translate to such that we no longer think of stay-at-home-parents (SAHP) as "not working" and value their contributions to their family and the economy. No matter what you do, your work is important to someone. At the very least yourself, and very definitely to your family and the people in your life. Your work helps you contribute to your family, and your work also takes you away from your family. Your work isn't the only thing that defines you, but it certainly defines your day and life.

SAHP work too, although their contributions are often undervalued, as if they spent all day doing "nothing." Academics, for however flexible their schedules may be, often pull 80 hour weeks, with all of the committee meetings, advising of grad students, review of other papers, teaching, prepping to teach (one hour of lecture takes up to 2-3 hours of prep, at least), grading, and then the actual grunt of being a scholar--research and writing. Even if I can take a break in the afternoon to run, grocery shop, or cook, I'm often working the rest of the day and most nights. I work weekends. I seem to be barely digging myself out of a hole, and the work I do on Tuesday could always be done on Wednesday or Sunday as it is ongoing work (unless there is a deadline, which there is only periodically), but it is still something in my calendar, and always in the back of my mind. And yes, I think it is noble work.

Work defines my day, and it defines my life. Plenty of other stuff does too--I am defined by my social relationships: daughter, sister, friend, student, teacher, partner. It is hard to imagine these other definitions being mocked in a way that would really bother me or reach to the core of my identity, mainly because it is not easy or funny to mock them. And we should all have a sense of humor about ourselves, and not take ourselves too seriously. But it's an odd thing: work is so serious, and it is the cumulation of so many years of acquring human capital and it took so much work to get to the work, that it is one of the last boundaries of identity. We are daughters and sisters long before we are whatever job we end up being. And sure, we were made fun of when we were little, for "acting like a girl" or "throwing like one," but when we have worked so hard to achieve some measure of professoinal success, such that we demand to be taken seriously, it is hard to have a sense of humor about statements that seem to diminish our efforts or chosen profession.

This is partly why I don't comment on others' jobs. There's some interesting sociological studies that show, contrary to whatever you might think in your faux-populist elitism, that mine workers take pride in their work, and work really hard at being good at their job. In the most back-breaking, menial work with the lowest pay, people work hard and take pride in their work, and define themselves partly by what they do and how well they do it. Whenever I meet a SAHP, I don't pull a Caitlin Flanagan and say "oh really, that's all you do?" Because that would be a terrible thing to say. Having worked in daycare and having taken care of children full time, I remark on what a difficult job that is, and congratulate him/her for that. Just like I don't do that "oh really" whenever I meet someone who does ______. Because that is a mean thing to do, and I cannot imagine a context in which that is appropriate, even if in jest. Too much of a person's identity is bound in their work, and yet not solely defined by it. I cannot imagine deriding or devaluing a person for their level of education, the institutions at which they received their education, or the job that they have chosen to define their days by. I don't even do this when I learn that people have worked for evil corporations--because while work might define some aspect of their identity, it does not necessarily remark on all aspects of their moral character. Work defines, but it is not the definition. Most people can handle being joshed at for their less defensible choices (say, consumerist habits or affected mannerisms), but their work is one that they actually want to defend.

I should really write a paper on theories of work and identity and how they are bound by gender, class, and race--and citizenship.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You Thought the Superdelegates Thing Was Bad?

Then check this out...

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination.

This strategy was confirmed to me by a high-ranking Clinton official on Monday. And I am not talking about superdelegates, those 795 party big shots who are not pledged to anybody. I am talking about getting pledged delegates to switch sides.

What? Isn’t that impossible? A pledged delegate is pledged to a particular candidate and cannot switch, right?

Wrong.

Pledged delegates are not really pledged at all, not even on the first ballot. This has been an open secret in the party for years, but it has never really mattered because there has almost always been a clear victor by the time the convention convened.

But not this time. This time, one candidate may enter the convention leading by just a few pledged delegates, and those delegates may find themselves being promised the sun, moon and stars to switch sides.

“I swear it is not happening now, but as we get closer to the convention, if it is a stalemate, everybody will be going after everybody’s delegates,” a senior Clinton official told me Monday afternoon. “All the rules will be going out the window.”

Rules of good behavior, maybe. But, in fact, the actual rules of the party allow for such switching. The notion that pledged delegates must vote for a certain candidate is, according to the Democratic National Committee, a “myth.”


Primary elections? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Democracy? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Can anyone confirm that the party rules actually allow pledged delegates to switch? And if so, WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING WITH THIS PARTY SYSTEM?

That is all.

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Excitement

Joining a trivia team fills me with such excitement, that I want to polish my mary janes and brush my hair and read up on useless knowledge so that I can ROCK that party. Well, most of my education has been the accumulation of mostly useless trivia and cocktail party banter, and so I think I can safely say that I am SO going to rock that party! That the trivia contest is a fundraiser is even better. That it will be with a friend and will force me to socialize with strangers is awesome, because one of my new year's resolutions was to spend time with and on Real Life People. TD, of course, but I really must hang out more with local peeps and pick up the phone more often.

Also:

This is the cutest post ever, and reminds me of buying those halogram-like foil pencils, or Snoopy ones. I was too shy to write notes. How ironic, yes. I was not so enterprising as a child; possibly I am just not that capitalist and my "homeland's" communism was bred into me. TL, whose archives I read instead of doing real work, would certainly say so, as I am her little commie. But despite being a LBJ type, I have to say, I really protest against the regulatory fascism that quelled a young capitalist's bootstrapping initiative.

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Angry Belle Mobilizes Her Rights

Actually, right now I'm not angry. I think I may have successfully diffused the difficult situation I was in, which is good because I was getting homicidal. Right now, I am full of happy, warm love, like a puppy rolling in the sunshine. I made chocolate pudding (which is awesome) and licked the bowl and spatula, I have sent off two parcels to TL, and and am waiting for TD to come home for dinner.

But what's wrong with a little anger, anyway? I know a law prof who is an awesome guest blogger, but thinks that he's never invited for a permanent spot on popular law blogs because he comes off as "a little hot-headed." Oh, and most permaprofs don't? Keep in mind, this is a dude, and he would be regarded as "boldly opinionated" and "assertive," whereas most women bloggers would be derided as "bitchy" and "emotional."

I guess that's one of the reasons I am still nominally pseudonymous. I don't ever do ad hominems or engage in vitriolic outbursts I would not be prepared to back up in public if called upon to do so. Most of what I rail against are abstract, general social ills: racism, misogyny, discrimination, etc. Still, it's enough "intemperateness" and enough personal anger seeps in that I am glad it's not under my own name.

But really, given the violence in our popular culture, why is anger so devalued as an emotion? Anger is often the first stage in legal consciousness and the mobilization of rights. It's an agent of change and revolution. I know, as a techinical Buddhist, I should be all for pacifism and feel-goody shit like that. I come from a college city where peace signs abound everywhere, and people sign off emails "peace," or "pax," or whatever kind of hippie language they speak (paz? paix?). But really, I think anger is devalued as an emotion.

I tend to be "too nice," such that I can barely confront something that is wrong, even when it is done to me. Granted, I may come off a little hot-headed here, but in real life, it is hard (and socially unacceptable) to express anger and tell someone that they are wrong. It is that Oprah-effect. But I will tell you, that finally getting angry enough to end draining relationships, be they romantic or platonic, is a saving grace. Being angry enough to "do something about it" and start up some campaign or social/political/legal movement is awesome.

Anger is awesome. Sometimes I have frightening levels of anger, though it creeps out passive aggressively on the blog (all the anti-French sentiments have nothing to do with France or its people, mostly one French person I would like to see impaled with blunt spears--yes, this is an actual fantasy, I am that scary and angry--and maybe two other French people whom I would like to see get paper cuts repeatedly). But if I didn't have anger, I wouldn't feel so viscerally a wrong, and I wouldn't desire so strongly that it be righted, and I wouldn't be be so grateful for something that is its opposite--something good. I think of it not unlike knowing a good law because you know what a bad law is, and have lived under that law.

Anyway, here's to anger, and here's to something good, who should be arriving in a couple of hours. So, in the interim, back to some reading on the mobilization of rights.

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50 Book Challenge #2: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

I am about seven or eight books behind in reviews, and this is actually the most recent book I've read. I am better at reading than reviewing. So now I am just going to review books quickly without regard to how interesting or useful the reviews may be.

Oddly enough, I've never read this book, or much of Raymond Carver. TD, I am sure, would say it is because I wasted my time all those years reading "untestable" critical theory and Old English books that I can't remember because I read them in Old English, and so spent more time parsing and translating than I did actually reading.

So I'm catching up on modern fiction nowadays. And old canonical stuff too. Actually, I wonder what it is I did exactly those four years as an English literature major. Clearly, not reading much English literature. It astounds me how much TD has read even though he's a science major and has a real job--more than I have, I think, and even some critical race theory. I wonder if going to school actually depreciates the amount of free reading you do. And when I was reading literature for work and pleasure, I should not have taken so many ethnic studies lit courses . That was kind of a waste of time, in retrospect. The Joy Luck Club is not a book to be assigned in college.

Anyway, back to this book: it always felt weird that I never read it, especially since the title has become almost a pun nowadays, co-opted by journalists into pithy, mildly clever titles for their articles "What we talk about when we talk about ____" that is all very well and self-referencing enough to signify that they are literate and belong in the intelligentsia. Whatever.

It didn't impress me at first. In the first few stories, nothing seems to happen. They appear to be vague snapshots of emotion, a moment in a day in which nothing happens. It is like one of the very still, quiet schlubbed face paintings by Edward Hopper. Yeah, this is America. So?

But as you read the entire collection, the bigger picture of the culture and moral cosmology that Carver captures comes into view. It is as if by seeing all of these snapshots and emotions from a distance, or in the aggregate--say, pulled back from focus and into a photo album--one can see Carver's America.

This argues against the idea of a "greatest hits" approach to fiction, which the O.Henry prize collections tend to have. That is fine. It is hard to get introduced to new authors, and anthologies do a wonderful job of that. But it is also wrong to limit yourself to The Best American series. Just as your music library would be impoverished if you only had greatest hits albums or Time Life collection, so too is your fiction library impoverished by seeing stories de-contextualized from their surroundings. You do not read one chapter out of a book and call it a day. Even if short stories are more independent and contained than chapters of a book, they do have some relationship of coherence to the stories that surround them.

I like that each story in Carver's collection functions independently, but I also like that each story depends on the other to build a sense of overarching narrative, continuity, and meaning.

The prose is very spare and simple, as are the stories. But the cumulative impact of all the stories is one that resonates, amplified with fear and longing.

Fear? Yes. The more I read, the more terrified I became, by what people can do in or out of love, the violence under the surface, the fear and longing that come with having something you can lose. Some of the stories are actually quite disturbing, in a subtle, digging way.

The last story, the title story, is one that I didn't care for as much. It was too self-conscious. The people really did talk about love in a way that was too self-involved and too much like any other excavation of the delicate epiphanies of the bourgeoisie. It was like The Big Chill. I liked the other stories, where love was in the actions and undercurrents and the spaces between the words.

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Critique of the Day: Beth A. Quinn, Harassment In The Workplace

Citation:

Quinn, Beth A., “The Paradox of Complaining: Law, Humor, and Harassment in the Everyday Work World,” 25 Law and Social Inquiry 1151 (2000).

Description:

This is a qualitative study in which Quinn interviewed 21 women and 18 men from a sampling pool recruited from a university summer school and evening class and an organization called “Acme Electronics.” This sampling frame made for a rather limited study, as Quinn admits there was a “certain flattening of age and experiences differences,” even if there was diversity in occupations. The second set of interviews were conducted with the permission of Acme, and conducted in “a private office of Acme’s main lobby,” from a “cluster sample of employees” drawn up by the Acme Human Resources department. Not that this taints the sample, but while organizational access is important, one might question the randomness of both samples. The author would have done better to do a more in-depth case study of one organization, or some sort of comparative study with a bigger N.

Methodological concerns aside, this is an interesting article that tries to generate theories of why women remain silent in the face of sexual harassment in the workplace: they do not respond to their harassers, and they do not report the harassment. Indeed, women refused to even name their treatment as sexual harassment, and refused to admit that such behavior bothered them, until upon further questioning, they broke down in tears. This is one benefit of the research method, that the interviews fleshed out what a simple survey would not.

Quinn suggests several reasons for the silence surrounding sexual harassment:

Sexual Harassment is often brushed off as humor, which should be tolerated by women if they want to be perceived as peers (one of the guys; being treated like a man), and such humor comes in two forms, both of which have pernicious effects:
a. Chain Yanking Humor: this is close to bullying, the masculine game of “getting a rise out of” someone, a means of establishing power and displaying dominance. In such a case, rebuke would undermine the harassed person’s position and expose them as week. Silence, or laughter are the “appropriate” responses. To respond in kind is to invite escalation, and thus a “dicey game.”
b. Insider Humor: sexist and sexual jokes are a way of declaring “guys-only” space and insider status for men. It is a form of social closure against women joining the same social network, whether the men subject women to derogatory humor or refrain from it in their presence

How do women resist sexual harassment then? The tactic of resistance Quinn identifies as most common is “not taking it personal.” By conceptualizing the remarks as “just jokes” that the men “don’t really mean,” the women can remove themselves from the harmful nature of the remarks, de-contextualizing the remarks to be abstract jokes rather than personally-directed harmful remarks. This goes along with the “guys will be guys,” and “that’s just how it is” rationalization of such behavior, excusing it because of its commonality rather than being offended by its pervasiveness. “Not taking it personally” deflects the remark away from the self, and in doing so tries to thwart the harmful power of the sexist or derogatory remark as being objectively offensive, but not personally experienced as harmful. It is a way of compartmentalizing social experiences into the real and the perceived, the individual and the commonplace.

To complain would be to validate the remark as harmful and personal, and thus label oneself a victim who can’t take a joke and who takes everything too seriously and too personally. The paradox of complaining and naming is that while women want to avoid the harm of sexual harassment by merely regarding it as not harmful, complaining about sexual harassment very clearly labels it as a harm, and the person as harmed, and thus a victim and the weaker one in the power dynamic.

This results in a double bind: women are excluded from “guy-like” humor and talk because it is crude and abusive and yet also subject to it when they ask to be treated as peers or enter male-dominant workplaces. Women are expected to laugh it off, but they can’t retaliate in kind with similar insults. Women cope with it by “not taking it personal” and regarding it as not harmful and not complaining, because to complain would position them as harmed victims, a stigma.

This is a contradictory reality, one that is thrown into greater relief thanks to this interesting, qualitative study. The interviews were particularly insightful for showing how women tried to brush off sexual harassment as harmless humor, but when pressed further, showed how much it bothered them.

Evaluation:

This is an interesting article, but would have benefitted from being either a deeper or broader study. The sampling frame was poor. But the theories generated are interesting.

It would have been better if Quinn had integrated some of the theoretical work from masculinities theory and resource-dependence theory (social networks, social closure, social capital, etc.) to explain her inclusion-exclusion theory. Also, some Critical Race Theory work on the assaultive impact of speech (Words That Wound, Matsuda et al.) would have been interesting. This article has some novel arguments, but lacks a coherent theory and suffers from its small sample. But the chain yanking thesis and the insider humor thesis are provocative explanations for why women do not regard harassing behavior as sexual harassment.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Briefly: AWESOME.

Not so briefly:

I was taken to a much needed movie break this afternoon. I am back to work now, but for a few hours I was lost in this movie. It is a more than a movie: it is another world, with different cosmology, morality, and conception of brutality. It wasn't overly violent--there is not THAT much blood. But the violence was in the words and glaring silences and bubbling under the surface like the oil that oozes everywhere. I was feeling pretty bad, and it was nice to give my violent feelings some outlet. I am from a largely pacifist college city where everyone is supposed to be a bourgie bohemian and feel-goody and crap like that. Whatever. Rage and anger are human, and occasionally I have so much of it that it shocks even me, that I can feel this much. But I don't act on it, really. Not that I'm one of those Zen people that channels it constructively, but in general, I live in a society and under moral and legal codes that demand that I don't act on such anger in destructive ways. But this movie takes you to a different world, where anger is barely contained, and violence is salvation and damnation. There is no higher law in a world where men make all the laws.

It is a dark world thrown into high sunlit desert relief: as if the film were washed in one color filter of bright gold. It is a world where the men are oily and unctuous, human incarnations of the black ooze. Their faces are oily and look like carved masks of polished wood or stone: frightening fake smiles or grimaces of rage.

Daniel Day-Lewis is terrifying and amazing. Paul Dano freaks me out and impresses me.

See this movie!

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That's a tip there, Kids. Write it down.

Tip #104: Never blog while upset and emotional.

It is common sense, but there you are.

In other news, I am wondering how one would design a study, likely qualitative (semi-directed interviews, etc.), that could generate some interesting, workable theory on how to measure (in real economic terms) the deleterious effects on wage and advancement for women who end professional relationships due to the sexual harassmsent of mentors and advisors. The other side of quid pro quo.

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What the Hell: I Am Mad, and I Can Type. If I Don't Have a Voice Here, Then Where Do I?

Thinking about sexual harassment pisses me off like nothing else. Why? Because most people, especially men, don't get it, and most think it's the way of the world.

I've been thinking about sexual harassment law a lot lately. I am stuck on an article because I can't figure out how to redraft the Ellerth/Faragher defense in a workable way. So I've immersed myself in the law review literature, which is, can we just say, depressing. I'm taking a class on Empirical Analyses of Gender Discrimination. I'm almost done reading Laura Beth Nielsen's excellent book, License to Harass, and in the past few weeks we've read Schultz's The Sanitized Workplace, Saguy's What Is Sexual Harassment, and three qualitative studies of sexual harassment in the workplace: Quinn's The Paradox of Complaining: Law, Humor, and Harassment, Morgan's Risking Relationships: Understanding the Litigation Choices of Sexually Harassed Women and Marshall's Idle RIghts: Employees' Rights Consciousness.

It is all so depressing: this is so common, and (contrary to popular conception) so little litigated or redressed, and this is just "natural"? It is depressing because there's very little I can do as a scholar--I can't even come up with a workable solution to redraft agency rules or the statutory interpretations, much less beleive that such prescriptions will ever be implemented. It is depressing because it happens to every woman I know, and I hear their stories and feel deeply on their behalf. They speak of feeling violated and silenced whenever such harassment happens, whether it is public harassment walking down the street or being molested on the bus. They speak of feeling like bad feminists and civil rights lawyers for not speaking up and confronting their harassers, even though it is natural (and recommended) to be safe and walk to avoid or simply change seats, in order to avoid escalation and altercations. They talk of feeling devalued when they realize their mentors and professors think of them only as sexual beings, as if all of the compliments on their work mean nothing noow. It is depressing to hear such stories. It is depressing because it has happened and is happening to me, and I feel my own story recounted back to me. It is depressing. It fills me with dread and anxiety, and I look at this article I am writing and feel like a bad feminist and dishonest academic. I look in the mirror, and feel terrible, and like throwing up, as if I could purge myself of these feelings and these distortions of my identity.

Is this the fault of the women involved? Is this my fault? Are we asking for it? Did we do anything to provoke such behavior? Are we worthless academics, and just pieces of ass? I am not arguing for sanitizing all social interactions and workplaces. If professional relationships end, then I would agree that as a peer, the former mentee joins the global "dating pool." But it is unfortunate that positing oneself as a peer immediately invites sexualization, as if there were no other relationship possible between former professors/advisors/mentors and students/advisees other than an infantilized one of "avuncular" mentor/"child-like" mentee or one that is sexualized. And that despite repeated rejections of advances, such boundaries are continually transgressed, and it is the transgression that is so prurient. That is to say, I am not saying that "there aren't enough boundaries"--there are plenty--social, legal, moral, and yet they are continually being crossed in unwelcome ways, and that disturbs me. This is not the way of the world. It is not right that this happens to so many women I know, and that so many of them think that this is just the "way things are," and that so many men I know think this too.

The answer, obviously, is no. But it's hard to remember that. It's hard because no one really gets it, and most will tell you that perhaps in some way it is your fault. Even if it is, does that make it right? Not to get into victimology here, but just as walking home in the dark isn't "asking for it" in any sense, being a woman in public or in the professional sphere isn't "asking for it" either.

So all of you, especially men: Next time you're on a bus or subway, take note of the skeezy guys and how they try to rub up against women and molest them. Next time you're out on a public street, count the number of times you hear women being cat-called and harassed. Next time you talke to a woman, ask her if she has ever been sexually harassed in the workplace or any other place. Ask her to define harassment, and then ask her if she's ever been hit on in a creepy, unwelcome way by a student, classmate, co-worker, professor, boss, or mentor, and ask her how she felt when it happened. Ask her how she handled it. The answers may surprise you.

It's more common than you think, and yet very little is done about it. The costs are more than you think as well: imagine walking in zig zag loops to avoid clusters of harassing men. Imagine the anxiety induced by a crowded subway, and imagine how you would feel if someone grabbed you. Imagine the actual material and professional costs associated with giving up mentoring relationships because avoiding is easier than confronting, and both result in the same end of the professional relationship anyway. Because no professional relationship can exist, because the woman is just seen as a piece of ass.

Doesn't this piss you off?

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Things I Would Blog On If I Had the Energy

Except for a weak wrist (RSI?) I am actually back to normal for the most part, if really behind in work.

Things I have been consumed with and would blog on if they didn't emotionally exhaust me and fill me with anxiety and depression:

1. Sexual Harassment in the academy.

That's it, actually.

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Yes, David, I said yes.

I just saw this. David Lat asks whether lawyers should date other lawyers.

That question conceals two underlying questions, to wit:

1. Is it good for lawyers to date other lawyers?
2. Is it good for society as a whole to date other lawyers? OR: Is it right for lawyers to date other lawyers?

The answers to questions 1 2 are obviously "no" and "yes," respectively, and for the same reason: would you want to date a lawyer? No. If two lawyers date one another, two unhappy people are created. If two lawyers date two nonlawyers, four unhappy people are created. I'm a utilitarian on this question.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Draft Lessig for Congress!

The congressional representative for the district incorporating large chunks of Silicon Valley died recently. There's a special election on April 8.

There's a movement afoot to draft Larry Lessig to run for the seat. The facebook group (of course there is a facebook group) got 1000 members within 24 hours. I'm going to flout the unwritten No Political Endorsements rule for this one and say HELL YES, DRAFT LESSIG. I know Larry Lessig personally, he was my con law professor in law school, and I've worked on his projects on and off for almost a decade, including Eldred and the new corruption project, among others: I have good reason to know the man would be a fabulous member of Congress. Let's look at the costs and benefits of this move for society:

Benefits:

  • Lessig will win. It's silicon valley. He's Lessig. It's silicon valley.

  • The mean IQ of Congress will probably go up 20 points in a single blow.

  • His positions are good on every issue that he's spoken out on. (And good in general -- he has an overall sane position on the left-right spectrum.) These mostly include corruption issues and internet/technology issues.
    • On the former, he has the strongest anticorruption position out there -- he has just started a project to research and reform financially motivated corruption. Knowing Larry Lessig as I do, we can be absolutely sure that the project would continue in Congress. We'd have someone with a BIG podium behind which to reveal, question, and fight the influence of money in public life.
    • And on the latter, well, it's idle to say that his positions on technology issues match mine. He's so much better informed on technology issues than anyone else in the country, and so well-disposed to the just and the good, that the only rational way for anyone (who doesn't have a local, self-interested motivation, like the RIAA goons) to form his or her positions on technology issues is to look at what Lessig says and agree. A good position on technology issues can basically be defined with reference to the position Larry Lessig holds.

  • Apropos corruption project, he'll be the most honest person in Congress -- this is a guy who has no need for or interest in the system or the rewards it can bring -- he's already at the top of his career, world-famous, esteemed by everyone except his opponents -- he's the quintessential outsider.


Costs:

  • If he runs, I won't be able to restrain himself from campaigning for him, straining my already-past-the-breaking-point schedule and possibly annoying my friends.

  • That's it. No other costs.


In short, this could be like the return of Paul Wellstone. Draft Lessig for Congress! If you want to support this, the best place to start is by joining the facebook group -- that'll put you in the loop for more information about how to participate.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be It Resolved

...that mix tapes are best when they combine the familiar with the surprising and "challenging," and that "message" songs need not be serious. For instance, "That's Really Super, Supergirl" is a great song for any mix tape. I don't really know what it means. But anyway, if I got a tape full of stuff I didn't know from bands whose names I could not pronounce or are a little too twee and punny, I think that's grounds for rejection.

Ain't nothin' wrong with a little Luther Vandross. Or The Stone Roses!

Update:

Be it also resolved, that if said CD has a section appended in an ironic manner, "slow jamz," that it is best to close all windows leading to the public patio/parking lot when road testing this particular section.

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How Much (Deconstructionist) Theory Belongs in Law and Society? In An Empirical Study?

I've recently had occasion to re-read Laura E. Gomez's article "A Tale of Two Genres," which is in The Blackwell Companion to Law and Society (ed. Austin Sarat). In this article, she argues that Law and Society scholars, while focusing on discrimination and oppression, have failed to utilize fully the theories of Critical Race Theory, which might enhance and flesh out "undertheorized" studies of institutional and structural discrimination. Law and Society and Critical Race Theory both descend, in some part, from Critical Legal Studies, and yet their paths have wildly diverged: CRT is all theory, L&S is mostly empirical. Both seem to have different projects, vocabularies, methodologies, etc. Both seem to write in a vacuum. L&S may use race as a variable to explain ____ phenomenon, but it is an independent variable. In contrast, CRT considers race to be the dependent variable, that ___ legal/social phenomenon operates to produce this definition/change on race. Moreover, race is not a discrete, easily defined variable, and it is not merely Black/White--CRT champions intersectionality theory, arguing that race is socially constructed and contextual, and always interacting with gender, class, sexuality, etc. L&S ignores this complexity, in favor of abstracting race into some easily measured variable. So why aren't these two legal academic genres talking to one another?

Gomez is a wonderful scholar, and her essay is provocative and interesting. A professor at the law school at the University of New Mexico, Gomez was one of the founders of the Critical Race Studies program at UCLA Law. In the wake of Prop 209, outlawing racial preferences in admissions, a group of legal academics pushed the administration for a formal programmatic way of exploring the mutually constitutive relationship between race and law, in hopes of training new generations of civil rights lawyers and legal academics.

I used to be really, really into Critical Race Theory. Such an interest has roots in my undergraduate days at UC Irvine, where I studied deconstructionist literary theory. Heck, Derrida taught there one quarter a year until he passed, recently.

What is Critical Race Theory? It is very hard to summarize succinctly. It is as much of a movement as a methodology, born in 1989 at a Critical Legal Studies conference in which Black legal scholars challenged the white hegemony of CLS's focus, even as CLS was making Marxist anti-hegemonic arguments about hierarchy and class privilege. It is the scholarship of resistance, committed to the project of anti-subordination. It claims to and strives to speak for the "voices at the bottom," using such methodology as narrative, ethnography, the historic comparative, and "storytelling," in which the author uses personal narrative to flesh out a normative argument.

It is a lot of stuff that I agree with in certain ways (at least the basic principles and ends, such as anti-discrimination) but no longer want to do in terms of methodology or intellectual approach. Deconstructionism is awesome as a tool for hacking down false constructions such as "neutral principles" or "colorblindness" in doctrinal law. But where do you go from there? Somewhere in the last few years I have shifted from wanting to deconstruct everything to wanting to be more constructivisit and workably prescriptivist. While CRT has as one of its central tenets that the existing legal paradigm will not work to achieve the radical social and legal change that is needed to restructure society in order to effectuate anti-subordination principles (at the same time it argues about the importants of rights for conferring legal consciousness to oppressed groups), I actually want to be able to do something in the interim, within the legal framework, before we toss out the Constitution. Which we never will, I don't think.

I have documented my struggle with coming to reject the methods and some central tenets of CRT here and here.

Jack Balkin, a law professor at Yale, has a short essay on the Critical Legal Studies movement here.

This provoked further comment by Brian Tamanaha, another law professor at St. Johns, here, arguing that the emphasis on deconstructionism in CLS and CRT is wrong.

I have a brief post on "the danger of deconstructionism" here.

But enough build up. You all are sociologists, who have your own complex relationship with similar theories, whether Marxist or Foucauldian.

My questions to you:

1. How much deconstructionist theory belongs in Law and Society?

2. How successfully can a descriptive/normative empirical study on ____ incorporate untestable deconstructionist theory without being totally compromised in design and methodology?

3. Can race, gender, sexuality be more than an independent variable? That is, can it be made to be a dependent variable, in how law/society/institutions/organizations construct race/gender/sexuality? However, if an argument of CRT's is that race/gender/sexuality and the law are mutually constitutive, is it possible to design a study in which race/gender/sexuality are both dependent and independent variables, or at least mediating variables?

4. How can an empirical study's design and methodology be grounded in some theory that is not only normative, but posits itself as the scholarship of resistance and still claim to have some sort of external validity and neutrality? That is, not that every project is theory-generating; perhaps the theory being tested is that ___ causes ___ discrimination. But while every project should have a theory, wouldn't too much theory--too great a desire to prove a normative point, before data is even gathered--compromise the integrity of a study?*

5. Bonus question from Belle: CRT makes a big case for having "come up with" intersectionality theory, or at least as a (failed) legal strategy for arguing discrimination on two axes of identity. I swear I have heard of iti before coming to law school though. Can anyone tell me the intellectual genesis of this theory? I swear that is from sociology.

*there are anecodotes I could share about how centers for ____ disfavor funding studies whose designs might lead to results that might compromise the centers' political goals, but that's a post for another day.

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Against Love, Or At Least The Idea Of It

(Happy Valentine's Day.)

Most people who have met me for even a minute or who have corresponded with me beyond two instances will wonder at this post. I am, as they would say, an unabashed, uncloseted (or rather poorly closeted) romantic. I am like a Tina Turner song in her post Ike years, knowing what it means to love hard and deep. I am like an '80s power ballad that is actually sincere. I am pre/post-ironic love, starting back when I was 17 with the intense (stupid ) rush of Rebel Without A Cause without the fakery of John Hughes and skipping over the twee Ethan Hawke movies of the '90s like "Before Sunrise" and "Reality Bites" to somewhere around, I dunno, something not cloying? My generation sucks at making romantic movies. And I hate Ethan Hawke almost as much as I can love someone. I am here to tell you, girls, it is possible to find that. It is possible to hate Ethan Hawke that much.

That said, I really hate the modern conception of love as articulated in most pop songs and romantic comedies. Not that I don't watch a few of them--I have two sisters ands many female friends and am not averse to the whole genre, only what Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, and Meg Ryan have done with it.

No, my favorite stories of love are not about "impossible love" or "annoying but cute" love. And I don't believe in love at first sight (although I like the Kylie Minogue song). Coup d' foudre? It is French. Distrust that. The idea of love is chimerical and, well, seductive. It is better to prepare yourself for the reality of love. The act of loving.

What do I believe in? I don't know. I'm still figuring that out. Now that I'm no longer a stupid teenager, I know a lot more about what I don't believe in: love at first sight, that love is unconditional, that love can always survive distance, in opposites attracting, that you can be "just friends" after you've really, really been in love. Dude, basically I have repudiated all of '80s soft rock. Richard Marx, Phil Collins, and Air Supply, I reject you.

I tend to believe in "growing to love" and "loving in spite of" as much as "because of." That it is better to fall quietly in love with little fanfare or drama (no drama, please!) rather than "madly in love." I believe that committed love is a daily choice, and a difficult one to make day in and day out. I believe that long-term love is full of sacrifice and commitment, so it's not to be jumped into lightly, unless you are one of those weird selfless martyr types or otherwise have no sense of self such that you so easily self-abnegate. I am not one of those types, but to each their own.

I do have one optimistic streak, and this is perhaps borne out of experiences with my highly dramatic, slightly psycho immigrant family: while "impossible" love is by definition "impossible" if it entails a fundamental incompatibility between the two people involved, "difficult" love is not easily managed, but it may be managed if the difficulties are external in origin rather than intrinsic in the relationship. If the commitment to one another is strong enough and otherwise the two people get along, then in general the crappiness of situational factors (differences in families, backgrounds, etc.) can be managed. Romeo and Juliet weren't doomed, per se. They seemed to really like each other. They should have just probably waited until they were at the age of majority, ran away after saving up some money and declared independence from their fucked up families.

This is not very romantic. I suppose I could be a "chick" and say that "love will conquer all."

Whatever.

This is my blog and I am trying to pound this out before returning to an article about sexual harassment and a lot of statistics reading. And I should return to my post on deconstructionism.

So, because a philosophy of love is best expressed by stealing other people's art, a list of easily digestible things that best express what I believe that love can and should be.


Books:

1. The Archivist by Martha Cooley. Love does not survive madness, but it was still there and still remains, in some form. Unconditional love is a myth, but love can take a lot of hits and always comes out fighting. But sometimes it is defeated, against everyone's wishes.

2. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Love is often never confessed or spoken, and that's the biggest tragedy in a small man's life. But again, it existed. Love need not be spoken in order to exist, but it lives but a half life.

3. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Young love is ill-considered (David and Dora, and Dora says "perhaps we should have loved each other as boy and girl and left it at that!" or something to that effect, my photo-recall is not what it used to be) but mature love (David and Agnes) is quiet and deep.

4. About Alice by Calvin Trillin. Reading this, one believes that a young woman wrote Trillin saying that she looked at her boyfriend and wondered, "but will he love me like Calvin loved Alice?"

5. Without by Donald Hall, a collection of poems about taking care of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon, after she gets terminal cancer, and how that is the best love of his life. In the caring, and the ending. Not just the beginning. That is love.


Poems:

1. She Tells Her Love by Robert Graves.

2. The Rain by Robert Creeley.

3. A Valediction Forbidding Mourning by John Donne.

4. somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond by e.e. cummings.

5. Portrait of a Lady by T.S. Eliot.


Songs:

1. Alison by Elvis Costello

2. I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You by Tom Waits. I vote for this over The River by Bruce Springsteen, but it's a close call, since The River is closer in spirit to Waits' Martha.

3. This Year's Love by David Gray.

4. The Pain of Loving You by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt. (augh, not available)

5. For The Love Of You by The Isley Brothers.


This American Life Episodes:

1. Cringe, Act I, "Cringe Love." Enough said. Impossible love is stupid.

2. Valentine's Day '98, Act I, Richard Bausch reads his story "Letter to the Lady of the House", a story of love at the end of love:

[W]hat came to me as I thought about Louise and Charles on that day so long ago, when they were young and so obviously in glad of each of each other, and I looked and them and I knew it and was happy--what came to me was that even the harsh things that happened to them, even the years of anger and silence, even the disappoitment and the bitterness and the wanting not to be in the same room anymore, even all that must have been worth it for such loveliness. At least I am here, at seventy years old, hoping so...Because what I wanted finally to say was that I remember well our own sweet times, our own old loveliness, and I would like to think that even if at the very beginning of our lives together I had somehow been shown that we would end up here, with this longing to be away from each other, this feeling of being trapped together, of being tied to each other in a way that makes us wish for other times, some other place--I would have known enough to accept it all freely for the chance at that love. And if I could, I would do it all again, Marie.


3. Last Words, Act I. The story of Page and Eloise Smith and when actions are more eloquent than words, and how true it is that "it is a fearful thing to love that which death can touch."

4. Sissies, Act I. The story of Saber, Margie, and Mubarak. Love isn't enough.

5. Get Over It!, Act I. Ira Glass tries to be "just friends."


Movies:

1. The End of the Affair. Different ending than the book. It kind of works. Love is jealousy too. Not usually in good ways, which is why trust is best, if there is an agreed-to default rule of monogamy. My preference is to be alone rather than to live with infidelity, if fidelity is what I demand. By the way, does Ralph Fiennes always play the same character?

2. Rebel Without a Cause. That scene where Natalie Wood expresses wonderment about finding herself in love with someone, and that it feels bigger than her. This is first love. It is kind of stupid.

3. Guess Who's Coming To Dinner--the love between an aged Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, particularly that last scene in which he is declaring that he does remember what it was like to be young and in love and Hepburn looks at him with tears in her eyes. This was Tracy's last movie.

4. The Way We Were. Your girl is lovely, Hubble. This is difficult bordering on impossible love.

5. High Fidelity. Always, this movie. It's the movie I watch at the end, although it could conceivably be an argument for a beginning too, with lots of lessons in between. Nice.

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