Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My main symptom is RAGE.

At the pharmacy, in search of cold medicine in the post-meth-paranoia era. The rack of pseudoephedrine-containing medicines is cunningly hidden from view, so you have to play guessing games:

Me: Do you have Dayquil caplets?
Lady behind pharmacy counter: Uh, no, we don't have those.
Me: (hoping for generic) What do you have that's equivalent?
LBPC: I don't know, I'd have to ask the pharmacist. (query, then: who the hell are you and why are you behind the pharmacy counter?)
Pharmacist: What are your symptoms?
Me: Stuffy/runny nose, sinus pain. I have a cold. (Which I know, because I know who gave it to me.)
Pharmacist: Well, we have this, which has a decongestant and an antihistamine.
Me: That will make me sleepy. Do you have anything that will not make me sleepy? I have a cold, not allergies.
Pharmacist: (goes back for yet another box) We have Claritin-D, that's non-drowsy.
Me: I DO NOT HAVE ALLERGIES. I HAVE A COLD. Besides, I have Claritin already. Do you have any Tylenol Cold? Or Advil Cold?
Pharmacist: Here's Advil Cold.
Me: (debates asking for generic, gives up) Okay.
Pharmacist: That will be fifteen dollars. (proceeds to spend five minutes figuring out how to process out-of-state driver's license)

It makes me want to make meth just to spite someone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No clever title

This whole discussion is fascinating in so many ways:

- If you intermarry with a member of the majority, the kids get raised with the minority traditions. Fight the power, resist assimilation, etc. But what happens when two minorities hook up?

- Childrearing, David Bowie style: You're afraid of Americans! (Even if you're an American or American-raised immigrant!) How to keep your American-born kid from turning into an actual American, especially if you live in the most quintessentially Ugly-American of places, Texas? You'll have to ship them off to Hogwarts or something.

- Why are there so many Jewish guy/Asian girl couples? Why so few Asian guy/Jewish girl pairs? Asian guys have it rough.

I'm not religious. I like Christmas trees, as long as they're fake. Prudie's an idiot and, like the NYT Ethicist, is a reliable indicator of the wrong answer in just about any situation. Put up your tree, lady.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I got your noble savage right here!

IOZ on Douthat on Avatar:
Cultural conservatives imagine some kind of attack on the "theistic" cosmogony, even as it is their own confused fairy tale that posits a pre-civilizational Eden as the natural and primordial state of man. Meanwhile, the merely narrative appeal of making every ancient tribe and alien civilization into nature-worshipers is simply this: despite what every dork with a World of Warcraft avatar and a pile of Frank Herbert books believes, creating a unified, coherent, Tolkienian, fictional universe is very, very hard. It may have taken James Cameron a half a billion dollars to make the blue titties of his forest babes jiggle just so, but it took old J.R.R. a whole lifetime to invent his elves. Mere primitivism is a problem in storytelling not so much because it fetishizes false notions of indigenousness, nor because it attacks the received moral order of the Christian universe, but because it is bad storytelling. And isn't that likewise the problem with the Times editorial page and all its compeers? Not that they're so fucking wrong, but that they're so goddamned lazy.
If the Times replaced that constipated-looking baby face with this, I might read their editorial page more often. As it is, the Very Thoughtful Beard is swiftly replacing the Mustache of Understanding as most repellent NYT facial hair.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dinner Party Dishes

Some favorite dinner party dishes, slanted slightly to the pescetarian side:

Soup: This Provencal fish soup is lovely, as is a mushroom soup of the light broth variety.

Appetizer: Onion tart. Easy, popular, tasty. Or mushroom strudel (which can be a good main course for a less formal meal---just make one big one instead of little ones).

Salads: I'm a fan of fennel salads (with proscuitto, pomegranate, watercress, or supremed grapefruit/blood oranges---go nuts) or this chanterelle and frisee salad.

Main courses: Halibut is nice and filling, and fish cooks quickly, which is good for time-pressed party prep. Or just roast a chicken and some root veggies.

Desserts: Creme brulee with an herbal twist is nice, or the cake/pie of your choice. Or a cheese plate and dessert wine, if you're sick of cooking.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Securing his manhood 'cause he's a real man.

Wesley Morris and Alyssa Rosenberg are musing on the absence of Real Men (TM) from modern movies. Specifically, is it the case that the current male pantheon of American actors are markedly deficient in traditional manliness?* If so, how has this come to pass?

Alyssa is right that the Morris piece suffers from its lack of an articulated definition of manliness. But his piece and hers do sketch the outlines of a relatively coherent type: someone who may have little truck with conformity to society's expectations, "keeps himself collected," and exemplifies "self-possession, competence, sex, and just a whiff of arrogance." Preferably under 40, and not too remote, cheeky,** or somnambulistic.

Is this vision of calm, confident, unironic masculinity fundamentally at odds with the reality of modern manhood? Are the indecisive, lassitudinous, neurotic boy-men who saturate our movie screens the natural consequence of rejecting hidebound gender roles? Is there any American actor out there who can do "thoughtful, reflective, and yet secure in himself" and "sexy beast"? Or are we doomed to watch guys on film?

*George Clooney excepted, everyone acknowledges that Clooney is Old Hollywood come again.

** Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man is a bit too much on the cheeky, ironic side. And he spends too much time pottering in the garage with overgrown toys. Frivolity is for cloaking your vulnerability, not for a full-time job.

Love as thou wilt, casual sex edition.

Now I am by no means condemning casual sex, but this study, from what you can glean from the linked article, doesn't say that casual sex != emotional damage. It says that the people having casual sex in this sample were not significantly more (or less) emotionally damaged than people who were not engaging in casual sex at the time examined by the study.

It could be the case that some people can't handle casual sex and that's why they stick with committed relationships. The reason why those people can't do casual sex may be based in patriarchy, cultural norms that privilege committed relationships above all, norms that denigrate people who engage in casual sex as sluts or emotionally disconnected players, or something entirely different. But it's no good to say that casual sex is not damaging, because for some people it is. If you can't check your expectations at the door, even the most lighthearted fling can turn fraught and weighty.

I applaud the study insofar as it combats the Laura Sessions Stepp "casual sex is always and everywhere BAD" position, but there's no need to stretch the results to cover more than they can support. Some people are happy having NSA hookups, but others might be better off recognizing that they need to either shed some baggage or refrain from casual sex.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Betcha can't get out of traffic tickets based on WoW, though.

How MMORPGs are just like Freemasonry:
The World of Warcraft (and the Worlds of MMORPGs) are in many ways novel and radically disjunct from past human experience. But the appeals of constructing an avatar - of stepping out of daily life, of starting fresh, of finding a community, of achieving status and respect, of a separate and shared language - these are as old as the urban and urbane, as the metropolitan and cosmopolitan.

Freemasonry took hold in Europe in the early modern age, just as cities boomed and filled with young men. In this country, the golden age of fraternal orders in the late nineteenth century coincided with urbanization. These groups were the MMORPGs of their day. Members dressed in costumes, acted out dramas in a parallel world of symbology, and attained rank and position. But the core of their appeal lay in the camaraderie they offered, and the community they created.

TNC's observations appear to suggest that digital role-playing is returning to these analog roots, after a long period of growth. Fraternal lodges provided a framework for interaction, bringing together young men who might not otherwise have met, but who shared much in common, and providing them with social connections that they often drew upon in the outside world. That's happening again now - as online romances attest. The development of guilds and groups within these games is particularly striking, and parallels some good social science work on the tendency of communities to limit and self-divide into manageable units in which social intimacy can be developed and maintained.
This is especially funny to me since the dudes I know who are Masons also tend to be a bit on the D&D-playing-nerd side. And of course from some religious POVs, it's all Satanism.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Going Gaga

I like the original video more, but this is rather amusing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Giant Cats!

I think Snape needs a new friend who could boss him around.

Let's you and her fight.

This is the very definition of pearl-clutching. Oh my! An obscenity!* That brute! (Really, she invokes "brutishness." Am I the only one who thought that was out of line?)

* Not shouted, shouting is in all caps. I actually read it in more of an under-the-breath, exasperated tone. Since he's fed up with the passive-aggressive careless misspelling of his name, you see.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Depositions are fun.

One of my friends works in a legal industry but is not a lawyer. Ever so often he emails me incredulously about crazy things he sees. I am jaded and find them hilarious but not surprising. For example, this deposition transcript he sent, paraphrased to protect the innocent:

Q Did you put on pants today?
A I don't recall.
Q You're wearing pants now, are you not?
A I'm not sure.
Q I'd like you to look at exhibit 1, your pants, which are on your body below your waist.
A Ok.
Q So are you wearing pants.
A It appears that I am.
Q Does this refresh your memory as to whether you put on pants today?
A No. Someone must have put pants on me, but I don't know if it was me.
Q I'd like you to look at exhibit 2. Do you see the part that says "I, Deponent, put on pants today?"
A Yes.
Q And is that your signature?
A Yes.
Q And today's date?
A Yes.
Q Do you remember signing this?
A Not specifically; it appears that I did sign it.
Q Would this not indicate that you put on pants today?
A I wouldn't want to guess what the person who wrote this meant.
Q Do you know who wrote this note?
A I do not recall.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Girls on film

It must be quite a high to see yourself depicted, sympathetically and by an appealing actress, on the big screen. My friends have already decided who should play me.

Commenting Issues

Sorry about the wonky comments. I'm trying to get things restored to minimal functionality, i.e. the Blogger commenting system installed with no loss of prior Echo and Haloscan comments. But JS-Kit is not making this easy. In the meantime, if you want to comment, click on the post title and you should be able to post via that page.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The myth of the big-tent Federalist Society

In law school, I was in the Federalist Society. At that time the HLS chapter was in a phase of incredible growth (some of which was probably growth for growth's sake, in compensation for a preceding period of shrunken, fallow membership). On of the things stressed during this boom period was that the Fed Society was a "big tent": the members had a wide variety of political opinions, internal disagreement was frequent, etc. And to a certain extent this was true, although it didn't take long for me to be put off by some of the more common points of internal agreement, e.g. big-government conservatism with a generous helping of theocracy.*

The Fed Soc did put on a range of informative and interesting events, including many panel discussions reflecting the wide range of its members' positions. This was assisted by the refusal of many liberal faculty members to take part in Fed Soc panels; sometimes it's easier to invite a criminal-justice-skeptic libertarian to speak than to coax a left-wing professor thirty feet out of his office to defend a position he normally embraces. I assume they didn't want to validate the other panelists by participating in the discussion. Or something.

But the real problem with the Fed Soc is that even if the members go around telling themselves (and potential recruits) that it's ideologically diverse, nobody on the outside knows that---or buys it. So you get stuff like this, where a single line on a resume results in the hiring partner projecting heaven knows what onto a candidate. Might it be inconsistent, as one commenter noted, to hire someone at Legal Services who believes funding for Legal Services should be eliminated? Of course! However, it's not like joining a club in law school requires a blood oath to support everything that the organization supports, or what its prominent members support. (Maybe the applicant is a Ninth Amendment fan, or a gun rights maven, or pro-life---none of which are incompatible with the idea that poor people deserve legal representation or with BIGLAW litigation practice, and all of which are perfectly common reasons to be drawn to the Fed Soc.) Most people, though, don't think about that, or don't care. So whether the Fed Soc actually is a big tent is irrelevant; it's not perceived as one by outsiders, and so you can't count on that as a defense to any untrue suppositions people might make. You'll never get a chance to present that defense. The reviewers are just looking for a reason to toss your resume.

But what do I know, I'm just someone who quit disclosing** my Fed Soc membership*** after the first dozen times someone was flabbergasted to hear that I didn't support prayer in schools, sodomy laws, flat taxes, or hard time for drug users.

* By no means was this a universal position, but it was common enough to be troubling.

** This was not even the worst resume one-liner for me. The Harvard Law School Target Shooting Club was far more alienating. That got struck after EVERY single callback in NYC featured lengthy and fascinated/horrified discussion thereof. In the callbacks I got, that is.

*** Actually, I think my membership has lapsed.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Recipe: Mushroom Barley Soup

Nice for a snowy winter day.

10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thinly
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 c. water until softened
1 medium onion, diced
1 handful baby carrots, sliced
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper
5 cups vegetable or beef stock, or water

Saute onion and carrot in oil 4-5 minutes, then add sliced mushrooms. Cook until mushroom liquid is almost gone, then add barley. Cook until barley is almost brown, then add tomatoes and thyme. Reserving porcini soaking liquid, chop porcinis roughly and then add both to pot, with salt and pepper. Add stock. Bring to boil, then simmer until barley is tender, 20-30 minutes.

Friday, December 04, 2009

In which I complain about bars

I am not a big drinker. In fact, I'm an incredible lightweight and cheapskate. This means, though, that when I do go to a bar and order a drink, it's important to me that it be good, since I will probably only have two chances to order. Since I don't drink a lot, I often ask friends who are more versed in the cocktail scene what I should get.

So why is it that I can never get a good drink? It always plays out predictably:

Cocktail buff friend: You should really try a [something more obscure than rum & coke]. They're very good.

A, at a bar, later: Could I please have an [Interesting Cocktail]?

Server: What's in that? (giving me the stink-eye)

A: (Er. Thinks, if I knew everything that was in it, I'd probably just make it myself.) Uh, maybe [liquor]? And [liqueur]? And some muddled [not particularly unusual fruit]? I'm not 100 percent sure.

Server: Well, I'll check. (Ten minutes later, comes back with something that bears only a passing resemblance to the drink in question, or the news that the bar doesn't have any of [that fruit]* and what can I order instead? This usually ends up being something incredibly basic, like a gin & tonic, which they also somehow screw up, probably out of spite.)

How hard would it be to 1) ask the bartender what's in something and if they can make it (hint: you can cheat and look it up, guy), 2) come back to me if they are missing an ingredient and ask for a reorder? If it's something that doesn't have a standard recipe, just come back and say, "We make our [Interesting Cocktail] with X, Y, and Z. Is that okay?"

I would go to bars much more often if I could easily order drinks and discover really enjoyable cocktails. But the constant grilling and eye-rolling and whatnot are driving down my booze expenditures. Is it unreasonable to expect to be able to order something for which you have not memorized the recipe? Isn't that why bartenders have guidebooks?

*Happens most often with Old-Fashioneds, which, hello, oranges are not that weird, also by definition it's not a cutting-edge obscurity.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The further Jezebelization of the feminist blogosphere

Sabrina, Jennifer, and Dave left the party and headed into the rain. The party had been unremarkable, only this time Sabrina had allowed the open bar to get the better of her. She knew she was completely wasted. What she didn’t know was that a predator was watching her every move.

“I can barely stand,” Sabrina said, swaying innocently on the soggy sidewalk. ... She was 24 at the time, a magazine writer.

Jennifer said, “O.K., I think she needs to go home.”

Dave, who was 29, said, “Let’s go get another drink!”

“I wanna go home,” Sabrina warbled.

“O.K., I’ll take her home,” Dave said.

Jennifer gave Sabrina a “WTF?” look and said, “I’ll take her home.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Dave said, hailing a cab and then bundling Sabrina inside.

“I woke up with a condom still in my vagina,” she told me.
So what just happened here? Sounds like a man took advantage of a woman who was too drunk to stand or remain conscious, much less consent. Pretty much your classic date rape.

But if you're the NY Observer and the parties' genders are switched, it's fodder for snickering coinage of nicknames like "cheetah." And if you're a D.C. feminist or male ally, that's ripe for criticism on the ground that one mustn't "scold women for daring to have sex."

Funny, I think we should scold ANYONE who calculatedly lies in wait until their friend gets too drunk to fight off an assault and then has sex with them while they are passed out.

Six Fantasy Books That Suck


Gormenghast: "impenetrable dated prose," "phallocentric" (I have no time for this), and one-third posthumous mess.

Little, Big: You have to be high to like this book. Turgid, indulgent, meandering, full of fey females viewed through smeary vaseline.

Winter's Tale: Misogynist magical realist wish-fulfillment wankage by a Luddite jerk.

The Sword of Shannara: Widely hailed as beginning of the multi-volume-epic-fantasy extruded-Tolkien-product phase of fantasy publication. I've never even tried to read this book, but I did get partway through Magic Kingdom For Sale--SOLD!, also by Brooks, and had to stop because if it was in earnest it made me want to vomit and if it was parody it was poorly executed. Worse than most fanfic by native English speakers.

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Maybe the first really successful dark fantasy series, but reads like something written by a zitty, embittered teenage boy studying for the PSAT. There was a blog a few years back where two girls read Lord Foul's Bane a page at a time and discussed it. Can't find it, but it was hilarious.

The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe: Transparently didactic crap. Made it easier for fantasy to be dismissed as kids' stuff.

ETA: The problem with lists like this is that people make rookie mistakes, like mistaking "greatest of all time" for "thing I enjoyed the most when I was 13" or "greatest novel" for "greatest collection of short stories." Magic for Beginners is very good, but it is not a novel, and has not been out long enough for the perspective sufficient to determine whether it is one of the greatest of all time.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Consider the raisin

Interesting article on female sexual dysfunction in the NYT Mag. Main focus is on a researcher who combines CBT techniques with Buddhist "mindfulness" to encourage focus on the body. She's guided by the theories of a colleague, who argues that for many women, "desire follows arousal":
So a typical successful experience might proceed something like this: first a decision, rather than a drive, to have sex; next, as Basson puts it, a “willingness to be receptive”; then, say, the sensations of a partner’s touch; next, the awareness of being aroused; then the “responsive desire” along with increasingly intense arousal; and at last the range of physical and emotional payoffs that sex can provide and that offer positive reinforcement
Other scientists believe that being turned on from the start is more normal and Basson's theory is "distorting the truth of most women’s erotic lives and diminishing the relevance of basic randiness."

There's some strange inconsistencies in the piece---perhaps chiefly the simultaneous premises that there is a dearth of research on female desire and a BigPharma-driven juggernaut cranking out studies to legitimize pathologization of low female desire levels. Although I can't help but wonder if any drug that makes you want to have more sex or makes sex more enjoyable could get FDA approval or widespread availability. We already have drugs that make life more fun. They're illegal.

Also of note is the coda at the end on testosterone, which is known to stimulate female desire, albeit at the cost of nasty side effects. Women given T often experience a "spike [in] sexual interest"---but so do women given a placebo. And the control group also experienced the masculinizing side effects. Are we so convinced that randiness is the province of men that we can be tricked into feeling and looking more like a Randy?