Saturday, September 30, 2006

Helen Mirren hates smile evangelists

Longtme readers can imagine how much I enjoyed Entertainment Weekly's recent Spotlight on Helen Mirren:
When Helen Mirren is relaxed, her face must look a bit, shall we say, grumpy. While she's lost in thought, strangers will approach and tell her to cheer up. "I hate that!" says the actress, sipping coffee at Claridge's Hotel in London. "Someone comes up and says, 'Cheer up, love!' You know, fuck off! I want to head-butt them!"
(h/t Steve)

Friday, September 29, 2006


From the Above the Law comments section:
Just as "cool Federalist" must equal libertarian, "fabulous blogger" must equal gay.
As you might imagine, I find the first part of the proposition more interesting.

Observed without comment

This recent Volokh Conspiracy post on the yuck factor's relationship to morality received a much different reception than did previous ones.

Plane almost diverted due to in-flight kissing

Federal law requires compliance with crew member instructions, no matter how stupid or discriminatory? (via)

Thursday, September 28, 2006


I've been watching the HBO/BBC Rome series, and while I won't stop watching because, hello, I'll consume any media product about ancient Greece or Rome no matter how terrible, I'm beginning to get a bit annoyed by the cavalier way they've fictionalized events and personalities. It's not as if the actual characters of Servilia, Octavia, Caesar, and the rest weren't interesting in their own right. Steve takes more exception to what he calls the series's "Forrest Gump approach" to Roman history with Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. This bothers me less, since they're almost entirely fictional.

Any other Rome watchers out there?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

For your viewing pleasure

Here is a selection of my photos from Japan.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"A personal library is an X-ray of the owner's soul."

Longtime readers can probably guess how much I enjoyed this Chronicle of Higher Education article.
I remember being shocked, for example, by how few books Graham Greene had in his home in Antibes. It was, of course, an apartment, not a big house, that Greene occupied. And he was by nature peripatetic, shifting among countries, even continents, right to the end of his life. It was, he told me, an inconvenience to own a lot of books, as they're heavy in one's bag. So he kept only those authors who really mattered to him: Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and, to my surprise, the 19th-century naval hero and prolific novelist Capt. Frederick Marryat. "Now Marryat," Greene said to me, "there is a writer!"

Cell phone advice?

Sorry to everyone for the crazy formatting. One of my emailed posts from Japan broke the blog.

Anyway, I had intended to purchase a hot new cell phone in Akihabara, but they wanted a lot for phones that were available cheaper in the USA and the cool phones only took Japanese SIMs.
So: Given the following, what cell phone should I get?
  • I use Verizon Wireless and do not want to change because they have a monopoly on DC Metro access.
  • I want a phone with a camera, the more megapixels the better.
  • I don't want anything too huge.
  • Battery life/talk time are very important.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Blogger books don't make big splashes

I hate to agree with the execrable Tucker Max, but he's right to note that the draw of many blogs is the notion of a first-person perspective on some interesting lifestyle: the Harvard Law student, the D.C. quasi-hooker, etc. Once a fictional veil is drawn over the proceedings, our interest wanes. James Frey understood this.

Uh oh.

Top of my browser window:

Bloglines | My Feeds (2708)

It's nice to be back?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Naughty head, no biscuit.

Your last day in Japan is a bad time to have a migraine.


I normally like to reward myself with desirable material goods after achieving some goal, but at this point it seemed more appropriate to buy myself something now and be virtuous later. The reward is a totally hot skirt, and the catch is that I bought it one size small so I can only wear it after getting fit. Am I the only person who still gives herself the grown-up equivalent of gold stars for being good?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Back in Tokyo

With only a couple of days left in Japan, I find myself concentrating more on what I should buy than on what I should see. This is probably bad. Perhaps I should do something more nature-oriented.

Unrelatedly, I have struck out consistently on the mangosteen front. It must not be in season. But I have had a couple of really good meals, an assortment of solidly competent ones, and one or two unredeemably bad foodstuffs. Savory wins over sweet every time, and Tyler Cowen's ethnic dessert rule holds overseas. The only problem is that I do not know the names of the foods I do like, so obtaining them more than once seems problematic. What is the white vegetable with the holes in it? Or the name of the rice dish mixed with wasabi and some white paste and then covered with clear broth? I still cannot figure out the appetizer I had in France some years back (white paste made of fish and cheese, spread on crisp rounds of bread), so I assume anything I eat over here is a one-time thrill.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


The formal shorts look is so hot here right now. The Fug Girls would be appalled.

All those children the Japanese are not having have been replaced by dogs. There are so many dog clothing boutiques everywhere! I like this idea.

The Japanese apparently love pastries. Yet Japanese pastries are gross. Why?

The sizing here is of course much smaller. I am trying to limit my clothing purchases because I am going to keep going to the trainer when I get back; in any case, when I am an American size one and a Japanese medium there is something afoot. I was tempted to go to the Japanese Gap and check what size I am in the same khakis, but it would have been too depressing.

Not that anyone wears khakis here anyhow. Black, black, black. In one department store there was a whole section of unrelievedly black women's suits in semi-dowdy designs. What are these for?

Women working at sightseeing attractions have to wear absurd cosplayish uniforms with aprons and hats. Guys don't. Grr.

Anyway, despite the tone of some of my posts, I am having a good time. I am not going to get to do some of the mountain climbing I wanted to do because of bad weather, but other than that the trip has been good.


Even if everyone rinses off beforehand, and even if shower caps are required in the public mud bath, you still have to contend with OPH: Other People's Hair. Remember that scene from Ringu when she is at the bottom of the well? Like that.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

International Toilet Rankings

1. Japan - Western style
2. USA / any Western European country except Germany
3. Germany
4. Japan - squat style
5. Turkey - hole in floor with bucket style

Monday, September 18, 2006

Let's Go Japan Sucks.

I have not been this tempted to shotgun a book since 3L year. Damn those Harvard undergrads straight to hell.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Contrary to my previous belief

There is such a thing as too much yuba. Sigh.

The monkey expedition was a day-long adventure, mostly due to my ability to get creatively lost. I was not quite attacked by two angry monkeys, got rained on, missed the bus, made it back to town in time to take the train all the way to Kyoto, and got to Kyoto just as the last rooms in every place listed in my guidebooks filled up. Thank goodness for business hotels near the station.

I have done a lot of shopping in Kyoto and plan to do some more tomorrow before I head to Kyushu. Did you know Fendi has a boutique in Kyoto? I did not. Mmm.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Doomed to rebirth

So I went to Zenkoji today but I failed to find the key to enlightenment. Seeing the snow monkeys is becoming more of a production than I thought it would be but hopefully they will be out bathing and make my day long odyssey worthwhile. I still need to make it out of Nagano today (to either Nagoya or Kyoto, depending on how long I take with the monkeys).

In other news, I had my first terrible hostel experience. Suffice to say that I spent the better part of an hour standing on the street and only the repeated phone calls of a generous stranger to the hostel number resulted in the door being opened. The reason for this ridiculous charade of hospitality? At some point in the 24 hours since my reservation was made, the proprietor forgot it. I was the only person staying there that night, and presumably she decided to take the evening off. Grr.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tuna as big as me!

Things are still rainy here in Tokyo, so I plan to go up to Nikko and try my weather-luck there. It is funny how the experience of being so conspicuously foreign can make even hardened misanthropes like me sociable. For example, I spent last evening chatting with my roommate at the ryokan --  a first. And this morning I had a nice chat (and some divinely melt-in-your-mouth sushi) near the big fish market. I am now supporting Venezuela in the world karate championship. No telling how webbed-up Nikko will be, but transmissions will continue. Can`t stop the signal, etc.

*Insert shot of Scarlett in her underwear*

I think I saw the Empress coming out of the Imperial Palace this morning. Much shopping was done, many miles were walked, much ramen was slurped. I hope I can make it to Nikko tomorrow. I did not make it to any drippy temples, just drippy gardens adnd drippy malls. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Deaf-Mute Seeks Fun

I get the feeling that I am going to be writing a lot of stuff down and showing it to people instead of trying to talk.

It is raining and is unlikely to stop any time soon. Off to dripping temples for me.

Monday, September 11, 2006

On the road again

I'm heading to Japan today, but I'll be blogging from there when possible.

Sent by Amber Taylor via the free Email Scheduler service.
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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Veronica Mars Health Etiquette

I'm all caught up on Season 2, and my most pressing question is: shouldn't Veronica have told Logan that he has chlamydia now?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Justice Thomas Hiring Clerks for OT 2008

Justice Thomas likes to hire his clerks earlier than the other justices do, and he's already begun hiring for the 2008 October Term. Meet future member of the Elect Patrick Strawbridge!

Patrick is a 1997 graduate of the University of Missouri and a 2004 graduate of Creighton Law School. Patrick clerked for the Supreme Court of Maine after law school and received an award for the highest combined score on the Maine bar exam. More recently, he clerked for Judge Morris Arnold of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. As a clerk for Judge Arnold, Patrick demonstrated a passion for the law and a love of cake. He currently works at Preti Flaherty in Maine.

Between undergrad and law school, Patrick was a reporter for the Omaha World-Herald and met his lovely wife, Kristi (sorry, ladies). They have a son, Donnie, and a daughter, Nora, who was Judge Arnold's first "grand-clerk" to arrive during a clerkship. Congrats to Patrick!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Don't do that to her, uh, it.

Legally speaking, is a corpse a person or property? A news story with details is here. (h/t Steve)

VM Fashion

One small part of my enjoyment of Veronica Mars is that Veronica has so many hot jackets. Where could such darling blazers be found? The internet can help. But sometimes not enough.

UPDATE: Okay, I bought this. It's too cute, and I trashed my black leather jacket on my way out of Clerksville.

What you can take on a plane

Neil Gaiman notes:
Toothpaste is out.
Hairgel is out.
"Topical or rash creams" are out.
Lip gels are out.
Shampoos and conditioners are out.
Personal lubricants are... just fine.

I think I must be losing it.

For a moment there, I really planned to drive up to a drug store, buy a 4 oz container of personal lubricant, empty it out, wash it and refill it with toothpaste.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Male Heirs

Couldn't this have been solved years ago with a centrifuge, artificial insemination, and possibly fertility drugs? If you can make your toilet talk to you, why not use technology to avoid this years-long soap opera?

Greedy Associates, quit your bitching.

It could be worse:
Law in general is the laughingstock of the entire professional world. CPA's, accountants, realtors/mortgage brokers, finance kids all know that law pays horrible janitor money and is a miserable job. I was hanging w/ a finance guy the other day and he was stunned when I told him I made 50 K as a LICENSED ATTORNEY. He said that entry-level secerataries at his firm earn 52 K + profit sharing and car rides home.
I work in the Cord Meyer building in the worst firm that you can find. I have health insurance but I make $40K and for the first few months here, I didn't have a desk.
The interview there was really the worst, the partner was suuper arrogant and told me that new associates are really worthless to the firm as they don't know all the tricks of LL/T, and that I would be lucky to work there, etc. Then they asked me if I had the heart to kick out tenants on Xmas eve b/c that's something the firm has done in the past! Did I mention they only pay 40 K with NO HEALTH INSURANCE!
I quit Melli the fax machine burned up 2 toner cartridges with loser toilet school grads dying to work there for 45 K and crappy benefits.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This is not a catfight.

David Lat can't win. When he blogged in "stiletto drag" as A3G, he was a "faux sorority girl" whose online image damaged women. Now that he's blogging under his own name, he's a clueless frat boy who mocks women. Ann Althouse disagrees and Ann Bartow of the Feminist Law Professors blog is roundly mocked.

How many female ERISA lawyers are there, anyway? I had the (admittedly uninformed) impression it was a majority-male field.

Who are you?

Crooked Timber points to an interesting paper by David Velleman that argues against donor conception on the ground that knowledge of one's ancestry and parentage is crucial to identity formation.

I have to wonder how much of the author's sense of ancestry's importance to identity flows from his relatively homogeneous heritage and his attachment to a singular, coherent ethnic identity. For a European mutt like myself, finding out whether I have more Germans than Scots in my family tree, or if there's a hitherto-unknown French or Italian branch, seems relatively unimportant. My identity is not "Amber, German/Scots-Irish-American." It's more "Amber, generic pasty woman." I don't eat sauerkraut and I don't drink whiskey. I didn't know my father's family when I was growing up. Due to geography and untimely deaths, I still don't know that much about many members of my family. I've never thought of this as disadvantaging me in terms of identity formation. When I have met members of my father's extended family, I haven't found them to be particularly familiar; they did not show me "deeply ingrained aspects of [my]self."At no point have I ransacked genealogical databases to discover whether the horse thief ancestor my now-deceased grandfather claimed was real or not.

We make our own stories, and I don't particularly care which of them are biologically based or even true. Many things can be incorporated into our process of identity formation. Velleman's rejection of the possibility of us finding our own meaningful narratives outside a biological context is conclusory; "Adoptees," he asserts, "seem to have the sense of not knowing important stories about themselves . . . unless and until they know their biological origins." Where is the evidence for this lack being innate and not the product of ideas like Velleman's? He admits that the benefits of putting personal traits in the context of one's ancestral history is "imaginative speculation," since we don't know which traits are the product of nurture. In arguing for the maximization of "possible self-understandings," he hobbles understanding by tying it to biology. For someone who purports not to understand how his opponents can comprehend literary themes, he ignores the role of influences such as literature and culture on on identity formation.

Velleman's characterization of his opponents is similarly conclusory; they are "in denial" about the fact that they are similar to their families, or have actually used their family members as cautionary tales in pursuit of differentiated identity. It is almost impossible to argue with someone who makes his case in such a manner. Like claims of false consciousness, in many cases it proves too much. Additionally, Velleman ignores people with a multiplicity of potentially contradictory identities; is a businessman following the spirit of an entrepreneurial ancestor or boldly departing from the ways of a timid, risk-averse one? Given such options, is it meaningful to put your actions in the context of your biological ancestry at all?

While Velleman doesn't make any public policy proposals in his paper, his general contention is that we have a moral obligation not to create children who may have access to only half of their biological heritage. He analogizes this to the obligation a woman on teratogenic medication has not to conceive a handicapped child. I wonder if he would be willing to take the analogy one step further. Many women who discover they carry deformed fetuses choose to abort. Would a woman who could potentially bring a fatherless child into the world be making a similar choice? I think not.

Faking it 'til you make it? No thanks.

A certain baklava-loving HLS professor is not impressed with Fay Weldon's new advice for women (which seems to encourage Fifties-style denial):
This book isn't the savvy political work it purports to be: it's a prose poem full of self-loathing about one woman's own deep ambivalence about being a woman,' said Janet Halley, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism

'She represents women as being a nasty morass of repressed instinct. I don't recognise any of the men or women I know in her reductionist portraits, but it's interesting to see a woman embracing her own misogyny.'

(h/t Karl)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Book Review: Imperium

I do enjoy a good piece of historical fiction, so I jumped at the chance to get a review copy of Imperium, a new novel about Cicero. Ancient Rome, intrigue, courtroom scenes: what's not to love? A book like this is a chance to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known, and I think that's an excellent way to spend a day.

First, two quibbles: if you, like me, have read a lot of historical fiction, this particular period of Roman history may already have been saturated for you. Fortunately, I love Rome, so this was not the case, but the sheer number of authors who have used this setting may mean that preexisting characterizations may color the narrative.

Second: there's something else that bleeds through the pages of Imperium, and that's current events. Rome is faced with a problem: Mediterranean pirates. They're not aligned with a government, so there's no one to declare war on. They strike at will; some fear that they're going to sail up the river to Rome itself. The swaggering, countrified son of a former executive argues that they should do away with divisions between political and military authority to take the battle to the pirates. "If you're not with us," he says, "you're against us." None of this is fabricated: Pompeius Magnus, son of Pompeius Strabo, did wrest unprecedented power from the government, he was viewed as a provincial by the aristocracy, and he did contribute to the fall of the Roman republic. But I like my political commentary less thinly veiled, thanks.

Setting aside these two minor issues, though, Imperium is a fine book. It recreates the Life of Cicero that was written by Tiro, Cicero's personal secretary, which was lost, and does so vividly and with panache. Modern attitudes do not intrude; women are seldom seen or heard and our hero Cicero keeps slaves with no apparent guilt. This is surprisingly difficult for some authors to manage, and purists can rest assured that the tone remains resolutely Roman.

Much of the book dwells on Cicero's campaigns for public office. We are made privy to the political machinations of a long-ago era, and they would shock us were they more appalling than those of our own. We are also treated to a few juicy courtroom scenes from Cicero's famed legal career and some thundering speeches on the Senate floor. If this sounds dull to you, the author has put a few choice words in Cicero's mouth:
Politics? Boring? Politics is history on the wing! What other sphere of human activity calls forth all that is most noble in men's souls, and all that is most base? Or has such excitement? Or more vividly exposes our strengths and weaknesses? Boring? You might as well say that life itself is boring!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Out of the frying pan

You know what's worse than Harvard undergrads? GWU undergrads.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hipper than thou

I went to American Apparel to buy a hoodie today. There were four employees and one customer (me) and three of them were arguing about whether the fourth, a vegetarian, could eat a Wendy's Frosty (which he contended was off limits due to gelatin content, which it apparently does not have). It brought me right back to high school arguments with my militant vegan boyfriend.

Friday, September 01, 2006