Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the soft bigotry of low expectations


This is just plain sad
:

“I think she has pretty thoroughly — and probably irretrievably — proven that she is not up to the job of being president of the United States,” David Frum, a former speechwriter for President Bush who is now a conservative columnist, said in an interview. “If she doesn’t perform well, then people see it.

“And this is a moment of real high anxiety, a little bit like 9/11, when people look to Washington for comfort and leadership and want to know that people in charge know what they are doing.”

Her halting interview with Katie Couric on CBS News alarmed many Republicans and gave fodder for a devastating parody on Saturday Night Live.

“I think the Katie Couric interview shows that she needs to be briefed more on certain aspects,” said Jim Greer, the Republican chairman in Florida. “She continues to be viewed very positively by the base of the party, but she needs to demonstrate that she’s got the knowledge and ability to be president should the need arise.”

Polling suggests that the number of Americans who think she is not fit to be president has increased since her introduction to the country last month. A number of conservative columnists and thinkers have publicly turned against her, or criticized Mr. McCain for choosing her, including George Will, David Brooks and Kathleen Parker, who wrote a column entitled “She’s Out of Her League” for the National Review Online.

Mr. Frum noted the difficulty that Dan Quayle, who was elected vice president in 1988, had in recovering from an early set of mistakes that led him to be ridiculed as an intellectual lightweight. “The story of Dan Quayle is he did probably 1,000 smart things as vice president, but his image was locked in and it was very difficult to turn around,” he said. “And Dan Quayle never in his life has performed as badly as Sarah Palin in the last month.”

Several Republicans said that all of this could ultimately play to Ms. Palin’s benefit, lowering expectations for her so much that a mediocre performance in the debate could be hailed as a success.

“Thanks to the mainstream media, quite a low expectation has been created for her performance,” said Ron Carey, chairman of Minnesota’s Republican Party. “The style of Sarah Palin is going to amaze people. She is going to be able to amaze people with the substance she is going to deliver.”

And Mr. McCain’s aides disputed the expressions of concern and said that if anything, the barrage of criticism and the performance in the few television interviews she has done gave her a low bar to clear in the debate. “I seriously hope that people continue to underestimate the most popular governor in America and a woman who speaks to the heart of America’s economic angst,” said Nicolle Wallace, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain.


Tell me again how this woman is a symbol of feminism? Tell me again how calling her stupid, unqualifed, and a token diversity pick that harms the interests of women and equal treatment feminism is being sexist? Tell me again that this is not merely hypocrisy by the Republicans?


Warning: comments will be moderated.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

jeremy thinks it's the end of the world. do you?

My post-apocalyptic skills are as bad as Jeremy's. So, what do I do, knit my way out of this financial crisis? Bake cookies and hope that they can be exchanged for penicillin?

I was talking to TD about the financial crisis, and all I know is that the House rejected the proposal, thus fulfilling it's part of the bicameralism-and-presentment part of the whole Constitutional structure, but that the bill will probably be amended and adjusted and voted on again with the same mandatory Constitutional process, however long that takes while the economy goes further down the tanker. He told me what it meant in economic terms. It's pretty bad. It's not breadlines-resurrect-FDR-bad, but it's pretty bad, and he works in finance so he probably knows what he's talking about. The market plunged, people's housing values are falling, and people's pensions and 401Ks are in danger.

But he says that we'll probably get through this, that things could be worse, and that they're not that bad for us, and it's not like we're trying to get big loans and large lines of credit anytime soon, and I have no money in the stock market anyway. That soothes me somewhat, as well as a recounting of all of our blessings (health, each other, for him gainful employment, for me another two years of grown-up-life-avoidance, as for once it is a good time to be in grad school). So, mollified domestic statutory law scholar that I am, I am reading vehemently non-economic sociology of culture and administrative law, and knitting and looking at a recipe for challah. Buck up, Jeremy. You can always join my knitting-and-baking compound. When mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the laws of men won't matter anyway, nor their ways. We can build forts together!

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not as advertised

Things that lie:

1. Nextbus.com. Damn bus is never there, satellite tracking or whatever.

2. Peds' "no show" socks. They show!

3. CBS News. Journalistic integrity my visibly sock-clad foot.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

weekend report

What a great weekend. I don't have classes on Friday, and he took his Blackberry on the road and phoned it in (literally, as we had to pull over while he participated in a conference call). I found ingenious ways to pre-prepare and pack jambalaya and a gateau de crepes for his birthday dinner, and our one-room cottage was cozy and comfortable, with a little iron stove and a tiny kitchenette that reminded me of my 300 sq. ft. studio days. Except that my studio wasn't in the middle of a farmstead. We heard cows and roosters from our window. We were in the middle of nowhere though, so we didn't have any TV reception with which to watch the debates--so we tried to watch them online (we did have wireless internet), but the buffering kept stalling the transmission. So we found a stereo in the cottage and listened to the debates old school, FDR-style, in bed with a crackling fire.

Much delicious cheese was eaten, as well as full-fat ice cream from a local fatty, minimally pasteurized creamery. Yum. And lots of pate and fresh bread. We did a little hiking, or rather walking, but for the most part took it easy (and we can usually do an 8-10 mile hike) and slept a lot and ate a lot. And we watched a bunch of episodes from Season 1 of The Wire. I dig that show. The first episode was very confusing, but is so very interesting to not be able to identify good and evil clearly, much less who's on the right side of justice.

Unrelatedly, I want to bake this.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

I Hate Gwyneth Paltrow

I have a strange attitude towards celebrity culture--I hate it, but I can't seem to tear my eyes away from the stray bits of copy I might by chance encounter via Jezebel or the supermarket checkout line. It is not unlike watching a trainwreck. But while we may feel some obligation to look on the plight of our fellow man and sympathize and help (kind of like why some suggest making eye contact with a stranger during a crisis in order to get them to help you), there is nothing redeemable and everything awful with paying attention to celebrities.

Except when you can make fun of them. For being completely outside of the societal mainstream and exemplifying privilege of all sorts, and in the case of Gwyneth Paltrow, the ultimate white privilege. Like, her habitus is not our habitus. Her doxa is not our doxa. And by "our," I mean the great majority of us who do not eat macrobiotic rice and do two hours of yoga a day and then get all fucking sanctimonious about it.

I should disclose that I have long hated Gwyneth Paltrow, ever since she won the Oscar for her breathy portrayal in Shakespeare In Love ("and I shall have poh-ehtry in my life...and adventchah...") when clearly Cate Blanchett should have won for Elizabeth. But I sort of got over that, as awards clearly mean nothing. I also hated her for being a Yoko Ono type that made Coldplay suck hard with a turn towards the maudlin ("Green Eyes,"), but then I realized that they always sucked and so really, hard to pinpoint the blame here. So anyway, former bases of hate, were probably fallacious, but now, my friends, I have found a new basis of hate:

Her lifestyle site. Called "Goop", which reminds you, alternately, of unctuous, viscous black substances that either devour human flesh or form the basis of America's fossil fuel dependence (is there a distinction?); poop (heh); or the pejorative "gook," in which case I am offended! It's not an acronym. It's just a word. Launched last week, amidst the economic crisis, her exhortations to all Americans for reclaiming the good life just as everywhere everyone sinks into pre-Daddy Warbucks Annie days (although I prefer the Jay-Z version):

My life is good because I am not passive about it. I want to nourish what is real, and I want to do it without wasting time. I love to travel, to cook, to eat, to take care of my body and mind, to work hard. I love being a mother who has to overcome my bad qualities to be a good mother. I love being in spaces that are clean and feel nice.

Over the years, I have tried lots of different things. I have made lots of mistakes. But I have figured some things out in the process and would like to share them with you. Whether you want a good place to east in London, some advice on where to stay in Austin, the recipe I made up this week, or some thoughts from one of my sages, GOOP is a little bit of everything that makes up my life.

Make your life good. Invest in what's real. Cook a meal for someone you love. Pause before reacting. Clean out your space. Read something beautiful. Treat yourself to something. Go to a city you've never been to. Learn something new. Don't be lazy. Workout and stick with it. GOOP. Make it great.

(Tagline: nourish the inner aspect. unfortunately, aspects are the outer countenance, Gwyn).

Gah. Yes, I expect the rest of the site, when it finally launches, to be as asinine and full of Deepak Chopra + Paolo Coehlo + The Secret plattitudes. Clearly, most people's lives suck because they are lazy, not because of the economy, barriers to entry and advancement, the rising costs of basic household needs, the unavailability of universal health care and family care options...if only they were not passive about their lives sucking! Being proactive about your happiness would bring that organic produce market to their impoverished neighborhood, so that they don't have to go to McDonald's after their second shift or the little bodega across the street!

The classist myopia of "good life" proselytizers like Paltrow, Alice Waters, the "slow food" movement, etc., really irks me. Read also this post by Dana McCourt on the problems with Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. It says everything I would like to say, but better. Next week, I'll post a roundup of coverage on Steven Greenhouse's The Big Squeeze, for more on the socioeconmic aspects of this deepening stratification between the haves-plenty and the haves-not.

But for more Gwyn-bashing, read this post at Jezebel, and this article devoted to explaining the "unsurprising" backlash at the LA Times.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

I hope you're in a good mood this morning

I recently heard a presentation by Nancy Rothbard of Wharton on employee emotional affective reactions and their effect on work performance. Her study is fascinating (I won't cite from it, as it's a work in progress and under review) in how it operationalized an arguably non-controversial idea: your mood affects how you engage others, and your subsequent interactions throughout a day, and your performance and engagement on the job. Things like a commute, stress at home, your physiological health (restfulness) and chemical factors (caffeine, meds) affect your work, and hardly any of us really check our problems at the door of the office--even though we're expected to. Her findings are interesting, and so look out for this paper in the future. Implications of course, for how organizations recognize and deal with outside-of-work employee stressors if they want to improve performance and engagement, with implications for work/life balance.

Also of interest to those who like the micro foundations of organizational behavior: a theory of geographical variations in psychological characteristics. Here's a WSJ article with an accompanying interactive map so that you can see how neurotic or agreeable you are! H/T to OrgTheory.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

not the response he was looking for, but how do you respond to that?

The butcher shop is totally a place to get hit on, if one were into that. One of the guys is still quite attentive, although he hasn't stepped it up from asking me what I'm doing this weekend, to which, I presume, one could do more than reply "brunch and laundry." I buy a fair amount of food in pairs though, as well as whole chickens and 4 lb roasts no single woman of my size could want to eat for a whole week (or more). This time it was from another customer, who told me, as I was peering anxiously through the glass trying to decide between lamb chops or salmon (both on sale! my goal of each "fancy" meal costing roughly $5-7 per person, including the side dishes usually works!), that "it is a pure pleasure watching you walk, and I mean that."

I burst out laughing, and then responded to "#34!" and ordered my two salmon fillets and the fixins' for jambalaya. It is fun to say "Andouille."

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You know you are truly batshit insane when...

You wake up shaking from a nightmare in which you've spent all your worldly wealth by buying over $7,000.00 worth of Peeps. Yes, Peeps. I'm pretty sure nobody's ever bought $7,000.00 worth of Peeps, total, in their entire life. Except possibly advanced scientific labs (perhaps the dream was a very indirect form of dissertation anxiety!!). I rather doubt that even the worst, and richest, stoner has ever bought more than a hundred bucks worth of Peeps at a go. I kind of wonder if whoever makes Peeps (possibly Consolidated Edison, out of the remains of nuclear reactor fuel) has ever even sold, total, $7,000.00 worth of Peeps. If one is sensible and buys in bulk, $7,000.00 can buy one 38,181 Peeps, which seems rather more than ample for any concievable non-military purpose.

Incidentally, I have not consumed any Peeps for more than a year (probably), nor have I attended any Peep-related events.

You ALSO know you're insane, if you wake up from such a nightmare and have the following thoughts, in order:

1. I must be insane.
2. What would Freud make of that? Or Jung?
3. I have got to blog this.
4. Oh god, I need a cup of coffee. (Start giggling)... "can't sleep, peeps will eat me..." "in Soviet Russia, peeps eat you..." "does this make me a peeper?"

The peeps clearly must die. Fortunately, the good people of the Internet have been fighting this battle for me:



Also:


Special L&L exclusive, because Belle has not introduced me to TD.

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stuff that's in my head but not on my blog

1. Michele Lamont's Money, Morals and Manners. Excellent comparative study of French and American white upper middle class men and the values they identify when they create boundaries and distinctions between themselves and others--moral, socioeconomic, and cultural. I really hate the French. This hatred is incredibly prejudicial and based on an n = 3 non-random sample of French people I personally hated in grad school, but the book does confirm other Francophobic beefs. Maybe this is how they feel about Americans. I like the French language, history, literature, philosophy, food and the countryseems quite beautiful and full of redeeming qualities. But man, the people and the culture and their values ar insufferable. I am really loving cultural sociology, though. I will blog on this book later.

2. The economic bailout. I am reading so obsessively that it is interfering with my reading for everything else. It actually affects TD and his industry, and we've been talking about it non stop. I am trying to avoid gut reactions and trying to understand this more from the economic standpoint, and all to no avail. So far, I'm just acronyming it up with WTF this and FUBAR that and OMG blah blah. There shuld be a roundup of stuff I'm reading about this soon.

3. A new research design for my dissertation. Hmmm. Well, today I'm going to have Methods and then a colloquium at the business school that presents new research (and so you can always look at the methodology), so I'll keep thinking about it.

4. What to make for dinner on Thursday. It's kind of hot right now and I'm less fond of using the oven. But I like using the oven. You can read while the butterflied chicken is roasting. On the other hand, lamb chops are right quick. On the third hand, spaghetti carbonara sounds incredibly fattening and delicious. Or I cold make a ragu type sauce a la Northern Italy. Quick, someone vote.

5. What to do this weekend. Well, it's all planned that I'm taking TD to a scenic getaway for his birthday, and by "taking" I meanthat I made the reservation and printed out guides but he's driving because I don't hve a car. But I am thinking that its best not to plan everything, because the point is to relax and let the birthday boy choose what he wants to do, whether it be hiking, hang gliding, or hanging out in our way cute cottage with the little iron wood stove and mini kitchen.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

pedagogy in the news

I'll be traveling for most of tomorrow and then going straight to class and then straight to bed, but for now, some links from today's NYT magazine:

Bad teaching evaluations can ruin your life if you are a bad or polarizing teacher who teaches at a liberal arts college that values teaching but are teaching evaluations a really good metric of teaching ability or are they really just bad mirrors of student dis/satisfaction? (in a nutshell, without proper grammar). I find this most interesting:

Even if the optimists were right, and teaching evaluations could help schools divine which professors were best at communicating the facts of freshman biology, there remains a big problem: the sciences are not the humanities. We know how much basic chemistry students need to know before enrolling in organic chemistry, but it is far more debatable which facts, skills and habits of mind a teacher of black theatrical history ought to convey.

This conundrum surely accounts for some of the murkiness surrounding the case of Anna Bean. She says she believes that part of her job is to discomfit students, to rid them of easy assumptions (for example, that being white, as she is, is the norm while everyone else is a minority). And in principle most professors would agree this is a laudable goal. But students don’t always want to buy what teachers think they’re selling. In their 2006 article, “My Professor Is a Partisan Hack,” the political scientists Matthew Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner, who obtained course evaluations from almost 1,400 students at 29 colleges, found that political-science students give poorer evaluations to professors whose perceived political views they disagree with. “Students even report they learn less from professors whose views are different from their own,” Kelly-Woessner says. “That’s counterintuitive. You’d expect that students would learn more from people with different ideas. But what the political psychologists say is that people tune out those who make them uncomfortable. It’s like why liberals don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh. Students believe they learn more from people who say what they say.” Kelly-Woessner found that the bias works against liberal and conservative professors almost equally. “There’s some expectation today that a professor be objective or evenhanded, and if professors violate those norms, they can pay a price for it in student evaluations,” she says.

Professors across the political spectrum may pay that price. But Carolyn Byerly, a former journalism professor at Ithaca College, argues that her radical views and focus on how race, gender and sexual orientation are handled by the media led students to destroy her chance for tenure. “I had submitted my tenure file — and I also included my evaluations, which included nine consistently excellent peer reviews from colleagues who observed my teaching,” Byerly says. “Then came the teaching evaluations. Overall they were excellent from my students, but those anonymous, handwritten evaluations were singled out by my dean and chair, and 43 of several hundred were selected as indications that I had not met the standard of excellence for teaching. Almost every one of the 43 were full of gender bias: ‘This teacher has a political agenda.’ ‘This teacher supports gay rights.’ ”

In one of the few lawsuits ever brought over student evaluations, Byerly sued Ithaca in 2001 for sex discrimination. She lost on summary judgment, and her subsequent appeal was denied by “three white male judges, one of them 87 years old, who didn’t understand why things like feminism and race and gender issues had anything to do with why I was brought there to teach journalism,” she says. (Byerly is white herself.) Ithaca, for its part, would only say through a spokesman that her claims of sex bias “did not have merit.” And to be fair, it’s hardly clear that Byerly’s sex was at the root of the school’s problem with her. She seems to admit as much when she describes the culture of the school. “Ithaca, campuswide, is almost exclusively white, almost exclusively upper middle class,” Byerly says (exaggerating slightly on both counts). “Somebody like me, who comes in and says we have to question things like class privilege and look at the ways the news is covering gender and race — someone like me is going to have a more difficult time getting along.”

Academic administrators want many things, from good pedagogy to clean campuses to successful athletic teams. Among the things they want most is for everybody to get along. One obvious way they learn about dissension is through student evaluations, especially in classes where the subject matter might allow professors to air personal, possibly radical opinions. Byerly’s evaluations at Ithaca showed that some of her students, an opinionated minority, felt no more kindly toward their white professor than she did toward the white, rich lot of them. She has a complicated explanation for why her department chairman and dean didn’t like her, which involves the “hegemony” of certain corporate interests over the school. Whether or not that’s entirely true, she could still be right that the school wasn’t interested in her brand of liberalism. And instead of saying as much, Byerly’s bosses had students, through their evaluations, do the talking.


See, as much bell hooks and Paolo Freire I've read, I'm just not that big a fan of teaching the politics of resistance, or too much political anything in one's teaching. While I am openly liberal, I don't like to shove my political views down my students' throats, particularly for issues upon which reasonable minds may disagree, and many do so violently. And I'm definitely not a fan of using Title VII in this way--the relationship between the employer (the university) and the alleged source of sex discrimination (the student evaluations) is too attenuated (unlike with supervisors, agents, etc.), and it is ridiculous to think that "students fire you." This just seems like an abuse of TVII's purposes, and even as liberal as I am or purport to be, I just don't care for these charges of sex discrimination, which to me dilute the meaning of a "hostile work environment" and go too far in blaming all unequal workplace outcomes on discrimination.

Obama as law professor! His pragmatic pedagogy will make for a pragmatic presidency, which I pragmatically endorse. This is a much better way to teach about race and politics, not to mention constitutional law and voting rights!

Also in this week's issue, teaching makes you write bad.

And with that, I leave you until Tuesday, when I shall return hopefully refreshed.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

friday non-blogging



I dig this song. Video is a little creepy with all of those dismembered legs and gyrating bodies though. Like what is this, a Fifty Cent video? But you try to find a non-objectifying music video. I blame the patriarchy. Actually I have no idea what this video is supposed to mean. Or the song. Ok, this is off the list for TD's birthday mix tape.

I'm trying to knock out all the reading for Monday today. This is not working out well.

Last night's pork roast was ok. Bacon-wrapped thick-cut pork medallions is far superior to marinated pork tenderloin roast. Sauteed corn with scallions is pretty awesome though, and I think my lemon bars will probably go over well at the office. It was kind of ironic to watch last week's Mad Men after this flurry of domesticity, but I sort of came up with an idea for a possible article on regulation and alternative energy while juicing the lemons, so, you know, more power to me.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

palin baby name generator

Here.

Mine:

Belle Lettre, if you were born to Sarah Palin, your name would be:
Krinkle Bearcat Palin


Via Kaimi at Concurring Opinions

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admin law in the news!

I've been meaning to post on the Dept. of the Interior's sex, drugs, and rock and roll scandal, but for now, this!:

ABC News' David Wright reports: At a joint rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Thursday, Republican John McCain slammed the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) for being "asleep at the switch" saying that if he were president, he would fire Chris Cox, the chairman of the SEC since 2005 and a former Republican congressman.

McCain said the SEC has allowed trading practices such as short selling to stay in place that turned the "markets into a casino."

"The regulators were asleep, my friends," McCain said. "The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president. And in my view has betrayed the public trust. If I were president today, I would fire him."

But while the president nominates and the Senate confirms the SEC chair, a commissioner of an independent regulatory commission cannot be removed by the president.

From time to time, presidents have attempted to remove commissioners who have proven "uncooperative." However, the courts have general upheld the independence of commissioners. In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt fired a member of the Federal Trade Commission and the Supreme Court ruled the president acted unconstitutionally.

Asked how McCain would fire Cox if the president does not have the formal power to fire the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the McCain campaign pointed to former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt who resigned in 2002 when it was made clear to him that he had lost the confidence of the Bush administration.

"Not only is there historical precedent for SEC Chairs to be removed, the President of the United States always reserves the right to request the resignation of an appointee and maintain the customary expectation that it will be delivered," said McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds.


Already unconstitutional!

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genius idea that makes me sound high

I've actually never been stoned (no, really!), but I got up early to do work and prep tonight's dinner, and I was thinking that they should make a tubular tupperware so that you can pour your garlic-ginger-lime-chili (with honey) marinade over your 1.5 lb pork tenderloin and have it coat all sides, like a brine. It just looks so inefficient in my glass baking dish, with the liquid hardly touching any of the pork. I'm trying to remember anything from high school chemistry as to whether osmosis will mean that my marinade will permeate the pork cell walls to imbue the porcine cells with limey goodness.

Of course, you have to discard the marinade and roast on a baking sheet, so all the more wasteful that it's not evenly coating the pork right now. When I come home in eleven hours, it should be hopefully flavorful. Pork tenderloin is a fickle meat; often too lean and thus dry. You have to marinate or else wrap in fat. Last time I cut thick medallions and wrapped them in bacon, and it all fell apart in the pan so we just had pork chased by more pork rather than pig in a pig blanket.

Apologies to my vegetarian/vegan friends for today's objectionable content! Certain vegans are near and dear to my heart, and this non-sanctimonious vegetarian manifesto perfectly describes how friends of different persuasions may still come together in comity. After all, the premise that "I don't like what you like, therefore I have contempt for you" is a false one.

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i need to connect my TV

Last night we went to a benefit thing for our local public broadcasting system, which introduced a lot of new programming for both the radio and the local public television. We went because his company is helping them with their "Green Initiative," and because it's fun to eat appetizers and mill around gold sponsor watching (a lot of scarves) and watch an hour of previews.

The programs look great! I especially am interested in a documentary of Lincoln's assassination, one on global warming, and Masterpiece Theatre. There's a new cooking show by Jacques Pepin that looks good, too. There's actually more programs than I can remember, but I am definitely avoiding the one by Deepak Chopra and the opera version of Amy Tan's "The Bonesetter's Daughter." Ugh.

Anyway, if you need to go digital, here's a coupon. I think my Toshiba 20" TV-with-built-in-DVD has built-in digital (there's a sticker that says "Dolby Digital," and another one that says "DTS digital out"), but I have yet to connect my TV here. How does one connect a TV to a signal? I use my TV to watch DVDs, as ever since I moved out of student housing with the free cable (my brother connected my TV to the cable receiver, which I can't find here because I don't subscribe to cable), I haven't watched network programming. So it will be exciting to watch PBS again, especially during the debates and the election. I must resist the impulse to watch crappy shows on syndication.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

things I find annoying, #1,006

This whole "lifestyle branding." Probably why I never pulled a Gatsby and coveted the stylings of Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren (really now...), or even the vulgar version of Abercrombie and Fitch (which used to be a real outfitter for the likes of T.R!), even though my sartorial inclinations would tend towards the preppy. Really, a boutique-cum-watering hole for the Andover/Exeter/Groton/St. Albans educated gentleman? Ugh. I can imagine a social climber being thrown out with the other riff raff. Also, it seems to me that such an idea of fashion is sort of also branding rich whiteness, the way those rich teenager shows do.

Probably also why I am reacting so disdainfully to the idea that one can market "idleness chic," so well described by the author as a "look of girlish vacancy, one that says: “I get up at noon. And then I spend my day refusing solid foods.” "

Not that I like it when there's an infusion of "ethnic inspiration" in fashion either. But more often than not the fashion industry irritates more than inspires me, which is why I find it so hard to be a girl.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

oh no she didn't

Frances Bean Cobain blogs!

The teenage years I'm forced to take part of are supposed to be about "finding myself" and discovering what is right and what is wrong. How can i possibly go about doing such a thing if every move i make is under the scrutiny of the public eye. People making judgements about my literacy and sanity! I'm going to be under people's watch no matter what i do because i am the child of a legend. A legend's whose death is almost as infamous as his music. I'm trying so hard to grow up into a grounded and normal citizen, and so far i think that i have done a pretty good job. I'm not going to clubs and partying with paris hilton or lindsey lohan, even if the access to that sort of lifestyle is right in my grasp, i avoid it. I'm trying to establish my place in life and trying so hard to figure out what I'm supposed to mean to this world. A doctor, a musician, a tattoo artist. I mean, does it really matter at this point? I'm 16 years old, i shouldn't have to be faced with these type of decisions yet. Monica from Wisconsin or Joey from Mississippi don't have this type of pressure on them, so what makes me so different. If i wanted to, really and truly wanted to, i could be spending reckless money and doing shit loads of drugs. I'm not. i've never been close. I read college level books because i find that reality is so myopic and unmanageable. I get lost in my head because i don't have anywhere else to turn. I'm not a spoiled rich kid, I'm not a drug infused ingrate who wants to live off their parents money because they don't have the capability to do anything other wise. i'm mostly sane and i've got a clear picture as to what i want for myself in the future. And no one should be judging a kid who has yet to fuck up, or telling me I'm going to fuck up. It's unfortunate that my parents are addicts, it's unfortunate that I'm growing up in a time and a society where drugs and alcohol are a constant factor in everyday life, but I'm above that mindless imbecility. I have yet to really make an ass out of myself, and i have yet to prove those people who think i'm destined for failure right. I haven't done anything to fail at. I'm going to be ridiculed and hated for the rest of my life. For what motivation these people have, i will never be sure, but its a factor in life i am going to have to live with. i don't agree with it nor do i condone it but i will have to coincide with it. I have no other choice, do i?


It's perceptive, mostly intelligent, and sensitive! Goodness, who'd have thought. Her political thoughts are all over the place, but who wasn't at the age of 16. Although, she appears to be simultaneously libertarian, Marxist, and liberal.

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veronica mars

I liked Season 1. I kept thinking it was set in Newport Beach, when clearly it must have been some suburb in San Diego, and then I realized that no one outside of Southern California would have been able to tell the difference. I liked the snappy, plucky heroine and her pariah status among the rich spoiled brats who once called her their own.

Anyway, should I watch Season 2? Is it worth it? Or should I just devote my Netflix queue to The Wire? We watched the first episode and liked it, so we're thinking that's the next series to watch. Between The Wire and Mad Men (which I get through Itunes), that's more than enough media per week in that hour between dinner and bed time. But I do like Veronica. If the series slips in quality after the first season though, perhaps it's best to just let it finish with a bang for me. In many ways Buffy could have ended at many points, or simply skipped seasons. Too many moments of jumping sharks.

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random roundup

Apologies for the lack of interesting, original content of late. Things have been busy. I have actually resorted to Leechblocking myself from most sites of interesting content, and trying not to read too much political coverage because I used to be prone to anxiety attacks. This results in less material for the blog, sadly.

Anyway! This week's random roundup:

1. This is why I don't watch the current crop of TV shows about privileged, rich white high school kids. At least Buffy, while conventionally pretty and in a former life a cheerleader, was about as outsider as you could get with her supernatural slayer powers and penchant for bad boy vampires, and Veronica Mars is one sassy little blonde P.I. with more cojones than most dudes out there. There's nothing interesting to me about shows like The O.C., the new 90210, Gossip Girl, ad nauseum. Blergh.

2. I am a big fan of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series. The recent discovery of her tapes is exciting.

3. If you do not Google people before the first date, you are technologically backward, have a too romantic conception of dating's magical mystery, an excessive amount of trust in your fellow man, and do not value your time very much. Also, the reasons the author gives (yes, yet another stupid Modern Love column) are not very compelling. Believing that there should be some sort of "magic and mystery" to the dating process sounds like something only high school seniors believe. And if you can't react with the appropriate social cues to information, then you're just pretty badly socialized. Of course, there's the problem of disambiguation, and also false content online, but really, do you want a person who does not pay attention to their online presence? I expect people to Google me, thus I limit my Googability (cough pseudonymity cough). There's also a lot of other Real Life Alter Egos out there, but you could figure out that I'm not the urologist or biologist. Googlilng someone isn't tantamount to looking them up on DontDateHimGirl, so not a huge violation of privacy, or even of expectation. I totally looked up TD before the first time. Nothing much to be found. He did go to the college he said he went to. Most of our first meeting was talking about what we were reading/thinking/interested in, which was not something you'd find on some lame social networking profile (the settings of which are set to private, anyway). If you only have the superficial Googled stuff to talk about, it's already a bad date, anyway.

4. Sarah Palin quotes are almost as tragicomically funny as Sarah Palin facts, but more tragic, less comic. Apparently, you can see Russia from Alaska, but it's boring. Did I mention I'm an expert on Mexico?

5. New Kid on the Hallyway, a Medieval-history-professor-turned-1L, gives a definition of that law school beast, "the gunner." Her readers, mostly humanities-types, wonder if this beast is particular to law schools, or cross-disciplinary. Others wonder if gunners are just modern day ass-kissers. Because I was a tiny bit gunnish in my day, I will not comment. New Kid has been one of my favorite bloggers since forever (I myself like Medieval literature and history), and best of luck to her in her 1L year of hell. Things will get better. I'm particularly looking forward to her posting on the different nature of legal pedagogy, and what the heck is up with legal writing.

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mixology

I have found that I am better at making mixes for others than for myself, even an emotion centered mix (dude, I'm sorry your grandmother died; mazel tov on your baby, etc.). Road trip mixes notwithstanding, when I try to make a mix for myself, it ends up being extremely emo and too narrowly single-genre. I also tend to over-articulate the wrong emotion, so instead of cheering myself up, I just fucking wallow until even Elliot Smith would rise from the dead and pat my back with a "there, there, there." Apparently, mixes, like poetry, cakes, and love, should be made for other people.

Also, how much do I love Bryan D. Brown's radio show? It's like getting a new mix in my podcast box every week. I should write a post on how much I love and yet hate the twee hipster intellegentsia bands from Harvard, like Bishop Allen and Chester French.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

september!

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

there and back again

I skipped most of the political theory/philosophy conference this weekend, but I did attend most of the receptions, and hung out with the law and philosophy crowd. Usually, philosophers make me feel nervous, out of my league, and intellectually inferior, and usually not by design. This was a more pleasant than usual bunch, and I was pleased to discover I could participate in most of the conversations, even if I haven't read all of the foundational texts.

Lesson learned here was that fear of a thing does not justify avoidance of a thing, and that I shouldn't be totally afraid to join intellectual conversations for fear of sounding ignorant (always possible, even for subject areas in which I have expertise) or stupid (always possible, even for subject areas in which I have expertise). It was actually a lot of fun learning about morphing series, ethics, consequentialism, etc. And it was even more fun talking to the people at the conference. Good times.

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this captures it all



Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as Palin and Clinton on SNL.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

My condition isn't...

The worst thing about coming back from vacation is... coming back from vacation and having to hear all about Sarah Palin. Seriously, can the media please stop championing her utter stupidity about... well, almost everything... as some sort of charming "everyone's just falling in love with her" personality quirk? Please?

Anyway, now that I've vented - and since Belle was on a bit of Big Lebowski kick, I leave you with Kenny Rogers & The First Edition on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Gotta love those wacky 1960s.

Labels: ,

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

too many conferences, too little time

There's always some conference or another at my school. Most of them are not within my areas of scholarly interest, but I usually try to stop by some panel for the sake of learning for learning's sake. But I'm shorter on time these days, and there are so many other colloquiums that are much more useful and interesting to me these days, mostly sponsored by other departments. There's a great series at the business school and at the sociology department this semester.

I feel kind of bad though. X. Trapnel is in town for a political theory conference, and I'm hosting him, yet there's hardly any panels I can imagine wanting to attend. I feel bad as a friend, and bad as a scholar. For all my interdisciplinariness, I am becoming quite a good deal more focused and narrow, and I can't tell right now whether that's good or bad. It's more efficient and sanity saving (less running around campus and galavanting across the nation, more working on things that I need to work on), to be sure. Ah, well, I can't be Super Interdisciplinary Girl.*


*I am trying to come up with a good Halloween costume. I got a superhero mask as a present. I generally don't like dressing up on Halloween, because it's my birthday and the holiday just steals my thunder, you know? But this mask must be used. I was thinking about going as Super Emo Girl, plus name tag, and looking dour and wearing leggings or skinny jeans (ugh) and a plaid snap shirt with some beaten up Converses and some kind of bedraggled knitted scarf, except that I'm not emo, do not have fugly clothes, am generally cheerful and like pop music. Like Mariah. I was also thinking of going as The Zeitgeist Avenger, but how does one dress as the spirit of the ages? Hmm.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

problem-riddled, under-enforcing agency of the day

OSHA. I read up a little on it for Admin law, and seriously, awful stuff.

Nominations for others include the ever beleaguered FEMA and ICE, although arguments can be made for every single agency ever created.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

hobbies by referendum

All those in favor of me taking drop-in social dance classes from the Liberal College Ballroom Dancing Club at school and then blogging about it, say aye.

I am way too swamped with work, classes, work, classes, but I am still committed to having hobbies. Which is irrational because I have friends and a relationship and much to divert me already. I should feel guiltier, but I need outlets for creative and physical energy that are not computer-based (yes, I mean you, beloved blog). I have decided that my hobbies are volunteering to teach kids how to read good (it's very fun, and not just reading--history, math, science, you name it) on Friday afternoons, knitting whenever I remember to, running a couple times a week, baking, and now, ballroom dancing! Not the sexy dances, because there's no swish in my hips or hitch in my gitalong, and so I think I look lame at salsa or tango. But there's swing dancing (East and West) and waltz, which means at least a few Thursday evenings in October, I'll be dancing.

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murphy's law or whatever

Time stamp of Fed Ex delivery guy's arrival: 2:26 pm.

Time stamp of the dropping of my new refurbished under warranty Motorola v3 Razr on my hardwood floors: 2:47 pm.

Also, I put in my sim card from my old phone. Why is it not loading my phone book? Hmm. I suspect that I stored my phone numbers in my old phone without copying them to my sim card, and now I have to re-enter everyone's phone number. Phooey.

Interesting thought experiment: how many phone numbers do you have memorized, and whose are they? So far, I've got my parents' home phone, TD's mobile (this is what happens when you get the voicemail message a lot), my sister's work phone, and one of my friend's home phone numbers that I've been calling since high school. This mobile culture means the death of memory--without my cell phone, I've got a decent emergency contact list in my head, and that's more than most people have memorized.

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not so random roundup: gender edition

1. The most stupid and offensive Modern Love column ever (and that's saying something, considering there was an article in which the author compared training her husband to training Shamu), in which the author conflates cyber stalking with romance. I want to smack this person upside the head. Danielle Citron at Concurring Opinions has a great response.

2. As mayor of Wasilla, Palin charged victims of rape for their own forensic exams. As Ari Kelman at Edge of the American West notes, this is "beyond blaming the victim." As Feministing notes, Palin should not be considered a feminist just because she's a woman.

3. Gender differences are even greater in more egalitarian societies! Or, maybe the issue is framing and interpretation. Studying the sociology of culture this semester, I'm leaning towards the latter.

4. Japanese women choose work and independence; Belle claps happily for them.

5. I love Sarah Haskins's "Target Women" videos. And there's more of them.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

academic beefs and playing apples to apples

It's always interesting to me to take classes in other departments and learn about the entrenched disciplinary debates and divides. Obviously, law has its originalism wars and the whole Hart/Fuller and Hart/Dworkin debates, but I wonder if anyone has made a claim so bold as "everything else takes a toolkit approach; it is time to take the autonomy of ____ theory seriously." I mean, that's like saying "everyone else is thinks the world is flat; it is time to consider my idea that the world is round." Kind of a dangerous game to posit only two categories in an academic debate, declare that only one is right, and argue that obviously the other is wrong. As my prof said today, it's like playing Apples to Apples among six or seven players, trying to color the judge's choice by suggesting that only two of the choices sound reasonable, one of them being your own, in order to increase your probability of winning. When done in an academic debate that would otherwise include multiple perspectives to ellide the differences of the others into one camp to which your theory of everything is opposed quite rightly, it sounds sort of like a cheap shot. You know, like cheating at Apples to Apples.

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phooey to the wedding industrial complex

Because I am a 27 year old woman soon to turn 28, I am the demographic of that awful, execrable movie, 27 Dresses. Also, The Wedding Planner. Also, this movie probably counts. And that show "Bridezillas." And one of a hundred E! Hollywood weddings. And at least twenty bridal magazines, from the unimaginatively named "Bride" to Instyle Weddings. I despair for my demographic, and the marketers who think that marriage is my ultimate and only goal. Really, I wish that they made a movie called "Five Years to Tenure"--just for women! Watch it now on the Oxygen network!

God but I hate the idea of a big, flashy wedding. I've already been to more weddings and been bridesmaid more times than I can count, and dude, it is only just beginning--there will be an endless stream of weddings before my 35 birthday. They are all nice, yes, and the brides are lovely and the grooms handsome and so far, no divorces. But for myself, I want to get married in a small garden ceremony or City Hall in a short dress, and maybe have a garden party barbeque afterwards. It may not sound classy or fancy, but it sounds really low key and unfussy, and thus to me delightful.

But this Anti-Wedding sounds like a great wedding idea, too.

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subprime crisis for laypeople

I've been reading about Bear Stearns and the federal bailout of the Macs, but not really understanding what the subprime mortgage crisis was all about, and was talking to TD about it last night. This PowerPoint stick figure cartoon (via TD) was helpful.

Similarly, this episode of This American Life.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Help Paul counsel a 1L

Who wants to chip in with advice for this person? (Cross-posted to Uncommon Priors.)


Just read your essay from last year, "Why you shouldn't go to law school." You've probably gotten lots of emails like this...

I'm 35 and a published (but obscure) writer of fiction, essays, book reviews, etc. I have recently started my first year in [SCHOOL BETWEEN 25-30 IN THE USNEWS RANKINGS] Law's evening division. I did this because I began despairing at the difficulty of ever making more than 50k as an English major. And I like to argue analyze, etc. Writers don't make much money unless they write for famous magazines, or their books have an "O" on the cover. I work for a non-profit arts organization in [BIG CITY], and write in the evenings and weekends. Or rather, I did. I still have my day job but my free hours are filled with law homework. I do not want to work for a huge firm and get rich. Yet I cannot survive working in the public interest. I would never have embarked upon this had I not been admitted to a fairly reputable school - that and the fact that a lawyer/writer acquaintance of mine has told me that "the key" is to get a job at a smaller firm that still pays a reasonable salary and which lets you work normal hours (which is what he did). I have been told that my [SCHOOL] degree is versatile enough to suit my purposes.

However, I have also, in a few short weeks, noticed the following of the Law School Experience;

[BAD THINGS, omitted at correspondent's request]

I'm already wondering what the hell I'm doing here. I would love to go into academia or work for a think tank as a public policy analyst, or get a job in law journalism, if such a creature exists. But a lot what I've been getting from my family and friends about "all the opportunities" provided by law school sounds like so much ill-informed nonsense a the moment. I'm thinking if I do well in my first year at [SCHOOL] I can transfer into a top 10. But even then my chances of a job I'd like are slim, no?


My (edited) thoughts:


Here, I think, is the key question for you: are you going into debt for law school?

If not -- if you have a scholarship or some other thing paying your way -- then it's probably worth it to complete the degree, for the simple reason that the opportunity cost of spending three earning years is, honestly, fairly low relative to even the minimal enlightenment you'll get from law school, and it'll buy you the time to explore your real interests (e.g., take classes in other departments, talk to people, etc.).

If, on the other hand, you are incurring debt, well, then you have a difficult problem.

On the one hand, if you're reasonably well-ranked coming out of [SCHOOL] (and ideally, do law review -- which, note, will be miserable), or manage to transfer into a top 10 school, your financial prospects dramatically improve, such that you'll be able to handle the debt.

[...]

On the other hand, if you do poorly (and that's possible, even for intelligent people -- there's a large random element in law school grading, and another distortion in that it takes focused work to get into the law school exam-writing mode), you might find yourself doing a shit job for not enough money.

I think you need to decide whether you'll be happy with doing a firm job. Small firm, big firm, whatever. If you're looking for intellectual challenge, you won't find it in the law, except at the very highest levels of super-elite public interest or (even less likely) firm work -- I'm talking DOJ OLC turf. But if you're looking for reasonably secure middle-class income, you could do worse, and you can probably get it.

If (as I suspect is the case from the general gist of your e-mail) you wouldn't be happy at a firm, then you should consider cutting your losses. (Remember that it's generally irrational to consider sunk costs, unless they'll have to be reinvested in alternative options.) How to do that? Well, these other options exist -- legal journalism, think tank work, etc. (not academia, realistically, unless you go to a top 5 law school or do a PhD afterward) -- but you should take the time to explore them before totally burning your bridges on this law school thing.

Hence, my advice for what it's worth can be summed up as follows:
- if you're not paying, go ahead and put up with law school, it can't really hurt.
- if you are paying, stick with it if you can seriously see yourself working at a for-profit law firm (or if [SCHOOL] has a really good loan forgiveness program for public interest lawyer alumni and you're willing to take the income hit).
- If you are paying and you can't see yourself working at a law firm, probably your best bet is to work REALLY HARD during the first year to make other options available. One plan might start with bending heaven and earth to secure a summer internship or similar experience+networking opportunity in one of these alternatives (think tank, legal journalism, etc., or whatever). Then you can finish 1L year and gain enough of a taste of an alternative to have a real sense as to whether you want to go back for 2L year (but go back with some kind of contacts established in this alternative area where, hopefully, you can land after law school), take a leave of absence and continue pursuing, quit law school on the spot and enter the workforce, etc.

My correspondent's reply:



Your input was helpful. Debt is an issue, but not in the usual way. I'm borrowing from family plus my own savings. They won't send the creditors after me at least.

The things that really stands out for me, from what you wrote, is that the options which make it most worth the expense require total commitment at the cost of all else. Which would seem to imply no more writing on the side (not an option for me - I'm a creative-type). Whereas achieving a reasonable middle-class income through law practice, which allows the writing on the side (like a small firm, govt job, etc.) might not be worth the effort and expense, since it's not a drastic improvement over where I'm at now. I had hoped to find some special law-writing gig but this might be a product of pure fantasy.


Peanut Gallery: What do you suggest?

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

chain bookstores suck

I hate to say it, because it sounds like I'm just another liberal elite, but Border's sociology section is appalling. Amazon.com all the way. If you want to hang out at Borders for a couple of hours waiting for someone to get out of a meeting and you figure you might be able to read a little more of The Protestant Ethic at the bookstore in the mall (because you only got excerpts via PDF), you'd be sorely disappointed. Also, apparently the economics section is all biographies of billionaires and the religion section is all self-help. Bah. Good thing I packed a couple of articles to read.

There's lots of good independent and academic bookstores in this liberal college city, but more often than not I just use our excellent libraries or order online. But I imagine that I will be grateful for them one day, and miss them and rue my underutilization. Outside of a few cities, there are no good concentrations of bookstores, and so anywhere else you might live will probably not be good shelf-browsing. Online sellers have everything, but not that eye-level perusal. The big chain bookstores offer nothing interesting to peruse, merely a glossy jacketed blur of banal hyperbole. But this again sounds like the complaint of the overeducated elite complaining about the venal tastes of the masses, and you know, I'm not like that.

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festive

LebowskiFest was pretty fun. We saw a fake Hasidic Jew beach blanket bingo band, a Muppet song cover band (they have abandoned the standards popular when TD was in the band in favor of the more esoteric grammatical picks, much to TD's horror), and the most awesome burlesque punk marching band. The guy who inspired the character of The Dude (the movie's, not mine) was also there, and very dude-like. The club was extremely packed, very hot and TD was a little sick and really travel weary, so we didn't stick around for the movie, alas. Tonight we're probably going to miss the bowling festival, which is apparently something epic and life-changing, because he's still sick, I'm making bacon-wrapped pork medallions, sweet potato fries and lemon pudding cake and there's an episode of Mad Men to watch.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

big fan

There's this Facebook application that allows you to declare yourself a fan of something. Man, I am glad that this didn't exist when I was in high school, when I was at my apex of geekdom and would have declared myself a fan of The X-Files, Star Trek TNG, Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, Flannery O'Connor, The United Nations, Otto Preminger, and--well, the list goes on. I also had appalling music taste and would have declared my passionate love for Dave Matthews Band. Yup.

Nowadays, I'm not much of a fan of anything anymore. I cannot imagine reading fan fic nowadays. There's no way I'm going to spend time on message boards and reading about the characters and their actors, although there was a time when I had both a Start Trek TNG pop up book and a daily planner and a door sign that said "Where No One Has Gone Before..." (that was a little too close to home for my late bloomer self). I don't have that much more of a life now than I did before, especially this week that TD is gone for a conference. And it wasnot just the time suckage factor or being a fan that was an issue (or the money in buying a collector's edition anything), but just the sheer energy expended to be a fan is really draining. And then there are the people who are like you. Do you want to be like them?

So, I'm not really a fan of anything anymore. I like some things a lot, but I cannot imagine going to a convention (well, except Comic Con), or spending any more time than I might watching that movie or TV show. Fandom isn't something you age out of--you either are or aren't. I have a personality that is easily infatuated, but rarely obsessive. I liked X Files a lot, but only from 1994-1997. Then I dropped it like that class in the sociology department. I suppose that I in theory have the personality to become obsessive and fanatic, but eh, I'm too lazy, and there's too much else in life. Nowadays I am too busy with work, balancing friends and a relationship, and doing all those householdy things that take up so much more time than I thought when I was 16 and reading fan fic (but not writing it). Also, if I'm going to spend money nowadays, it's usually on some premium cocoa powder, books, or a dress. Not an X Files keychain. Although I once had one. I never really had the fanatic personality, so all of this sort of petered out and now I'm just a casual consumer.

How about you? Are you a fan of anything? Do you have the fan personality?

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Song of the Night: Beirut's Nantes

The Journalist introduced me to Beirut; Bryan D. Brown solidified my love for them with his 6/3 radio show.

God but I love this song and video. I am still an indie girl at heart, however much I flirt with pop.

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fall

It is still unbearably hot. But in a few weeks, it will be time for blankets, which I anticipate smearing accidentally with my pen when I inevitably fall asleep on my couch while reading. That's fall. Summer is traipsing about from one place to another in search of air conditioning. This is why I love Fall. Do not grieve, Margaret.

Spring and Fall:

to a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins


The End of Summer

Sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—
an early warning of the end of summer.
August is fading fast, and by September
the little purple flowers will all be gone.

Season, project, and vacation done.
One more year in everybody’s life.
Add a notch to the old hunting knife
Time keeps testing with a horny thumb.

Over the summer months hung an unspoken
aura of urgency. In late July
galactic pulsings filled the midnight sky
like silent screaming, so that, strangely woken,

we looked at one another in the dark,
then at the milky magical debris
arcing across, dwarfing our meek mortality.
There were two ways to live: get on with work,

redeem the time, ignore the imminence
of cataclysm; or else take it slow,
be as tranquil as the neighbors’ cow
we love to tickle through the barbed wire fence
(she paces through her days in massive innocence,
or, seeing green pastures, we imagine so).

In fact, not being cows, we have no choice.
Summer or winter, country, city, we
are prisoners from the start and automatically,
hemmed in, harangued by the one clamorous voice.

Not light but language shocks us out of sleep
ideas of doom transformed to meteors
we translate back to portents of the wars
looming above the nervous watch we keep.

-- Rachel Hadas



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free doris lessing stories online

Really, a great recent discovery of mine, even though she's been writing forever and I should know better. Wait until I read the Joyce Carol Oates trilogy and that gigantic collection of John Cheever.

The Stare

A Mild Attack of Locusts

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a regular

I'm becoming a regular at the butcher shop on the way home from school. The one with really great store-made sausages and bacon. One of the guys there is a little friendly, though so far in a not-too-skeezy way. Sigh. I would hate to stop being a regular. This is one of the other trappings of being one. Either I feel (I know I shouldn't, Matt) obligated to keep patronizing, or it becomes a little too familiar and the guys a little too personal. I want to make shrimp-less paella for TD's birthday, and they have great scallops and chorizo and other things that I am not allergic to.

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colloquiums

I'm really enjoying the ones sponsored at the business school and at the sociology department. Not that law schools don't have great workshops, but interdisciplinariness does require that you go outside of department. Today I learned a lot about China's institution-driven gradualist economic reform. Pretty nifty.

Different types of questions per different audiences, even if the audience is generally comprised of the same mix of org theorists and sociologists. I gotta represent law one of these days. Also, very interesting the different codes of dress per department, and how most conform to that particular department even if from one with a different code.

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(yawn)

Reading Weber's The Protestant Ethic is pretty damn boring.

I know, I'm bad. But there's some reading that is pretty damn awful. I'd much rather read these papers.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

more on funny movies

I'm blogging on the fly, which always carries the risk of muddling claims and mischaracterizing others. For the record, TD considers The Big Lebowski to be very funny, and also Office Space, Wayne's World, the usual suspects for what most people would nominate to the canon of Recent Funny Movies. I like these movies as well. Ignore every other move I mentioned as being separate from any disagreement we might have with each other.

And our disagreements are many. I love Brain Candy, for example, while he thought it was a lame farce. Perhaps I overhyped it--I told him that this was my favorite movie when I was 14. He finds Idiocracy funny, while I hated it. I have not seen Old School, and apparently I am missing out. I haven't found a movie truly funny in ages. Smiling on occasion or chuckling wryly do not count, and I barely cracked a smile during Knocked Up or The Wedding Crashers, both of which were heralded as the comedy events of their respective summers. I did enjoy Superbad (but more in a cringing humor way), and I did laugh a lot at the clever sarcastic witticisms of Juno, but that's different from the belly laughs I am seeking. Tropic Thunder was amusing, but every movie Ben Stiller takes is some extension of the gross-out humor of There's Something About Mary, which has been repeated ad nauseum in Dodgeball, Along Came Polly, the list goes on and on. Perhaps I should see The 40 Year Old Virgin and Anchorman (in addition to Old School), but this Frat Pack humor is not really working all that well for me.

I'm just struggling to find something I've considered to be uproariously funny in recent memory, which suggests two competing hypotheses: 1) there aren't any funny movies being made anymore, or 2) the movies I thought were funny when I was 14 I wouldn't consider to be funny now, and so the humor is contingent on a certain youthful/immature frame of mind and I have just lost my sense of humor. Or more probably, 3) maybe this frat packy dude-oriented humor is just not working for me, and I should see Baby Mamas in my desperate search for non-phallic humor. Or worse, whatever Nora Ephron produces.

But seriously, must I be relegated to rom coms? I despair for my demographic. Those movies suck. I am not going to see the latest Meg Ryan movie, which I will find even less funny than Luke Wilson's awful acting in Idiocracy. Why can't they make movies like The Jerk anymore? I still think The Jerk is funny.

Give me suggestions for contemporary funny movies. I am curious which hypothesis has the most traction, and desperate to find something funny that is not Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton or Woody Allen or Peter Sellars, because I just sound like a pretentious old fogey.

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random roundup

1. Excellent post by GradMommy on this article in the NYT that I am hating right now. Sort of the right message, extremely bad delivery. GradMommy gets it exactly right.

2. It's not always a good thing when sociologists make the news. See, also.

3. I have been so good about not blogging about the Palin debacle! But that's why there's Acephalous, who does it in verse.

4. Another young college student writes stupid shit; world is as it always was.

5. Aw, man, don't make me have negative associations with my beloved BBQ.


In other news, I am in love with the short stories of Doris Lessing. There as a free copy of her 1978 collection at the law school library. They know not what they so cavalierly discard.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

funny movies

TD would probably consider this a litmus test. Did you like The Big Lebowski? Was it important to you? When did you see it?

I was in college when it was released, but did not see it until I was in law school. I thought it was funny, but I am not one of those people who memorized lines from it and repeated them in public. Maybe that is a dude thing.

There are certain emblematic comedies that operate as pop cultural milestones, ignorance of which would have branded me as a tool and may have caused TD to smack his forehead in exasperation and maybe love me a little less. E.g., Encino Man, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Office Space, Zoolander, the Big Lebowski, and Swingers. I have seen all these movies, but never when they were released, never in theaters, and I only saw Zoolander last month or so. I think these movies are fairly amusing, but I did not love them, have never remembered any lines from them (although apparently I am supposed to laugh at make "TPS report" jokes and not roll my eyes when doing so), and have this thesis that funny movies are historically contingent. They are funny in a time vacuum. I may have thought that Bill and Ted were hilarious when I was in junior high or whatever, but I may not laugh at it now, and the pop culture references may have not aged well.

At any rate, I will see The Big Lebowski again this Friday for the first time in years, when we go to a Lebowski festival. We shall see how I respond, and whether my laughter is uproarious.

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culture

Culture is apparently more easily defined by what it is not than what it is, because otherwise it is everything, including our taken for granted assumptions and automatic cognitive responses.

Ponder this.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

new goal in life #106

To never resemble any of the characters in Vicky Christina Barcelona.

Quite a good movie, though. Self-consciously plays up and not-so-gently mocks cliched characters and characterizations of Americans in Europe, the conceit of finding oneself in a new land (or another), and false constructs of love. Apart from his early movies, I prefer Woody Allen movies in which Woody Allen himself is not present, particularly if the film involves some nubile starlet. I am getting sick of the type of character Scarlet Johansson always seems to play, but I am quite enchanted by Rebecca Hall (who was underutilized in The Prestige). Javier Bardem is smokin', although I vow to never be swayed by his type, except mediated through film, in which case I am exonerated by the smoke and mirrors effect.

Penelop Cruz is pretty awesome, and I find myself growing in admiration of her versatility and talent, but maybe that's because I never saw that Vanilla Sky movie. Ah, we can forgive her for that, right?

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Happy Labor Day!


Yes, let's not parse the symbolism of this picture and just celebrate the worker!

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