Tuesday, January 31, 2006

PTN Book Club: Blindness

This month's selection for the book club, Blindness, produced mixed reviews.

Sarah: "Even if the story had been fabulous and not at all predictable I probably still would not have enjoyed this book because of the way in which Saramago wrote it."

Carina: "Perhaps I was supposed to be learning something about the human condition here. I just didn't buy it."

Marc: "even one person's sight and humanity was no match for the moral and literal blindness of the masses."

Paul: "One thing that really interested me was the stance on morality - one of the central question being 'if no one can see our sins, and judge and punish us for them, what is to keep us doing the right thing?'"

CM: "no matter how grim it gets, it never seems farfetched. It feels familiar."

Heather: "I didn't like the way this book was structured. . . . I understood why it was written that way, but I didn't like it."

Tom: "it was 28 Days Later without zombies, or Lord of the Flies with sex."

waterhot: "It's hard to see the story as a fable, and the blindness with which all but one character are afflicted as a metaphor for moral blindness when the survival of the central group of characters is the entirely fortuitous result of their finding themselves in the company of the one person who has retained her vision."

Dylan: "As it's the end of the month, we're supposed to write about the book. Accordingly, I'll tell you why I didn't read it."

dgm: "I started writing a song about it . . . Blinded by the white/Locked up by The Dude/
Another one has lost his sight.

Sui Generis: "The "white blindness" begins like a classic zombie outbreak, with the initial cause of infection sudden and unknown, and is even more dreaded because the method of transmission is mysterious as well."

Zubon: "advertising a rape on the cover does not make me want to read the book more."

Karl: "For me, the most difficult part of reading Blindness stemmed from a childhood of wildly deteriorating eyesight, an eye infection that left me extraordinarily light-sensitive for weeks, and the morning when I awoke to discover my eyes had swollen almost entirely shut from an allergic reaction, which left me near-blind for a few weeks."

Amber: "If it had not been for the book club, I might not have finished Blindness. That probably would have been a mistake, but maybe not much of one."

Thanks to all who participated! I hope we can have an interesting discussion about any issues on which we differed. If you haven't sent in your review yet, e-mail me and I will add it to this post.

Remember, next month's selection is On Beauty. Happy reading.

PTN Book Club: Guest Post

Marc Reiner on Blindness:

Saramago's book reminded me of Kubrick's 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket, based on the division of the book into two distinct parts. The internment in the ward, like Basic Training, and then the prisoners off on their own into a state of chaos.

Before the characters meet, we get a basic glimpse into their lives, and then as the first man goes blind, a steady succession of events occur that culminate into their imprisonment. Saramago paints the characters in great detail, but we never learn their names. This balance of personal quirks but no names was very odd. I suppose it had something to do with imagery of us being blind to certain attributes. This is similar to how I had to reread the dialogue to make sure I knew who was talking, which became difficult at various points.

The prison basically functioned as a Hobbesian state of war. Most people looked out for themselves, even to the point of horrific sexual gratification, and discarded any semblance of humanity. The city basically forgot about the prisoners, and soon there became no difference. Even the soldiers joked that the "blinds" should all be shot, and when a colonel did infact become blind and shot himself, they further joked that at least he's consistent. That scene, coupled with the drawn out mass rape, showed utter depravity.

The doctor's wife was the sole voice of reason, as she used her sight as an obligation for her to retain her humanity and do all she could; cleaning the dead, asking for food, even killing a rapist. But even one person's sight and humanity was no match for the moral and literal blindness of the masses.

The second half of the book was a major letdown. I just didn't find them foraging through the town for food, and the realization that everyone was afflicted as being all that interesting.

Overall, the book could have come down with the fire that ended the prison. Everything else seemed superfluous and no new points were made other than wrapping up the plot, quite unsatisfactorily.

Amber on Blindness

When I first started reading Blindness, I had to suppress the urge to chuck it across the room. One of my least favorite reading experiences was when my high school English teacher assigned All the Pretty Horses and I had to suffer through hundreds of pages of sporadically punctuated prose with unclearly attributed dialogue. However, this is my book club and I cannot quit in a huff, so I kept going.

As Dylan points out, Saramago's "innovations" are chiefly stylistic: run-on sentences and a failure to endow any of the characters with a name (this didn't register with me when I first read it, and it doesn't hinder the storytelling). Post-apocalyptic degeneration of social norms is hardly a new idea. The writing, however, makes up for the lack of creativity; my sense of creeping dread grew as I saw that one jackal-like group of blind men would sexually enslave the women in less aggressive groups, and if I also knew that rebellion and liberation were inevitable, that did not stop my stomach from churning when I realized that Saramago would not permit this until after at least one orgy of violent rape.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book is that so few episodes like this occur within the blind community. Partner-swapping and food distribution caused fewer emotional and physical battles than I thought would be the case; the shock of sudden disability and social upheaval seem to muffle the reactions of many characters, who themselves seem to exist in a white fog. Even though one character maintains her sight and recounts her experiences through the book, Saramago relies on little imagery to pull the reader along.

Some reviewers tried to tie this book to the magical realist school (I don't see this; the most magical thing is when everyone is spontaneously cured at the end, and that's hardly more improbable than a sudden onset of blinding plague) or claimed it's an allegory. I don't see Saramago as being terribly successful if either was his intent. The book seems very literal to me, but then again I am a painfully literal person.

When I picked this up from the library, I also got Saramago's The Double. I haven't decided whether to read it or not. If it had not been for the book club, I might not have finished Blindness. That probably would have been a mistake, but maybe not much of one.

Jack Twist actually eaten by bears

I saw Brokeback Mountain at last. The theater was surprisingly full, given the fact that the movie has been out for a while and this is Clerksville. The acting exceeded expectations, but they were exceedingly low. Heath Ledger's decision to keep the lower half of his face completely immobile rendered the dialogue indecipherable at times, and I could have done with 50% fewer panoramic shots of mountains and sheep. It still managed to be heartwrenching, though. Relatedly, James Berardnelli is on crack if he thinks neither character was gay.

I also finally watched Grizzly Man. This may be the most arresting movie I can remember watching. Herzog's narration is an excellent antidote to the manic babblings of Timothy Treadwell, self-proclaimed "protector" of the bears in a federal park. I was left with deep sympathy for Treadwell's girlfriend, Amie, who feared the bears but stayed with Treadwell in the wilderness for two summers nonetheless. She apparently used a frying pan to try to fight off the killer bear, disregarding her mauled boyfriend's injunctions to run away and save herself.

Even if you survive a bear attack, the results can be grisly.

O my

Puzzlingly, Melissa "Opinionista" Lafsky purged her two most identifiable posts about law firm partners (previously linked here) from Google's cache but then promptly put up a new post about her summer associate stint at Morgan, Lewis which takes potshots at one of the partners there.

Somehow, I think the bit about how she'd "never been the girl that people didn't like" is revisionist history. People don't just suddenly become insufferable, self-obsessed whiners with entitlement complexes out the wazoo. A personality flaw of this magnitude takes years to develop.

Side note: welcome to UTR and WSJ Law Blog readers! I hope you stick around.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Random Roundup XIV

A perfect shirt if you and your sweetie are ubergeeks.

Half of men in a recent study said that witty women are a turn-off.

The Happy Feminist asks the question I've always wanted to press: why does gender apartheid produce so little outrage when racial apartheid resulted in so much?

Rust sucks. On the bright side, it won't give you tetanus, so a tiny amount of rust that doesn't adversely affect the usefulness of the item is probably not worth worrying about. If you are too anal about rust, you may end up like the housemate I had who supervised my washing of a grater (that did not even belong to him, I might add) and instructed me to keep scrubbing it until I could get some of the rust off. He is lucky I did not grate his nose.

PTN Book Club Posts Due Tomorrow

Tomorrow night I'll be linking to all posts about Blindness for the blog book club, so if you've written one and would like it to be included, send it to me. Also, if your blog has comments, please enable them. Part of the fun will be being able to discuss each other's reactions to the book.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Such a clown

The Washington Post recently published a fascinating article on D.C.'s hottest children's entertainer, The Great Zucchini. While he makes over $100,000 per year, the popular clown is almost always broke due to a compulsive gambling problem. The chat with the author, featuring a brief appearance by The Great Zucchini, is also interesting, although one passage rubbed me the wrong way. In response to the author's wry recommendation that the chronically disorganized clown find a good woman to civilize him, one commenter asked:
I am also a little flattered at your view of women as having the potential to civilize life for men who might come up short in some areas. What, however, do men offer to us women, then?
The author's reply:
Unconditional love. Intense, genuine gratitude. Loyalty. Honesty. Protection. A good income. A friend to talk to. Someone willing to overlook her own problems, whatever they may be. Slavish devotion. Etc.
Most of these are to be expected from any relationship and would presumably be provided reciprocally by the woman as well. Which of these are supposed to be exclusively male? (And where's the extra oomph to offset the life-crippling addiction?)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bad teen poetry explained

All those depressed teenagers cranking out awful poetry are just self-medicating. (h/t)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Market niche unfilled

If peppermint is a stimulating, energizing taste, why do we use the same toothpaste at night that we use in the morning? Shouldn't we have sleepytime toothpaste with a more soothing flavor?


Kissing may lower the risk of stroke, but sex makes you a better public speaker.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What is love?

I'm not Catholic, but I too find much to agree with here. I once said love was openness, which is muzzy way of saying it involves, beyond the wish to draw the beloved to the self, a broadening of the notion of well-being to encompass the happiness of the beloved. Without generosity of spirit, there can be no love.

Science solves ancient plague mystery

The plague that struck Athens during the Peloponnesian War was typhoid, DNA tests say. (h/t GeekPress)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Want a balloon? They float.

Clearly the appropriate response to coworker antics of this kind involves violence and clown makeup.

The sort of thing that makes me grind my teeth

I was displeased to discover that "sex" is listed in the OED as a slangy synonym for "to have sexual intercourse." However, it is listed there as an intransitive verb. Therefore, sentences like this post title, in which the verb takes an object, are just as incorrect as I thought. The transitive verb form of "sex" means "to determine the sex of, by anatomical examination," and we can all agree that this is not necessary for Ms. Anderson as she has displayed her emphatically female anatomy for all to see.

More masochism

Of the reading variety, that is.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Another member of the Elect

Congratulations to Hashim Mooppan, who has, to no one's surprise, procured a clerkship with Justice Scalia.


Problem solved:

Harry Burns: You take someone to the airport, it's clearly the beginning of the relationship. That's why I have never taken anyone to the airport at the beginning of a relationship.
Sally Albright: Why?
Harry Burns: Because eventually things move on and you don't take someone to the airport and I never wanted anyone to say to me, How come you never take me to the airport anymore?
Sally Albright: It's amazing. You look like a normal person but actually you are the angel of death.

Law jobs

The Yale Law School career development office has an interesting breakdown of how to make your billable hour requirement.

Of course, there are jobs where billables don't come into play, but you might end up working with this guy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Huffy little beast

I am a bad cat owner.
I have a small plaster statuette of Athena that I picked up at a Greek souvenir shop. Athena is the women's mascot for CMC and also an all-around cool goddess, as Neal Stephenson has observed in his fiction (although, to be pedantic, the aegis belongs to Zeus). While I was away last week, the one of cats (probably Lily, since she is the better jumper) knocked the statuette off the shelf and beheaded her. The damage was reparable, so I went and bought some Krazy Glue to stick her head back on. Unfortunately, both cats really wanted to help. Snape kept jumping up and sniffing at the pieces as I was putting them together -- little bugger was probably getting high off the glue. I thought I'd successfully kept him back. I was wrong.

Viva Flickr

Here are some photos from my recent trip to the Pacific time zone.
Me + puppets
Me + waterfall
Me + makeup (I know, so out of character.)

The return of inverse schadenfreude

I'm glad that I'm not the only person who does this:
My bloglines subscriptions are chock full of people whose writing I can't stand. I have a little ritual where I read all the sites of people whose popularity baffles me because they couldn't write their way out of their own ass but inexplicably their readers don't seem to notice. I get really mad at the injustice of people (I won't name names but you can fill in your own blank here _______) who get articles written about them and book deals thrown at their feet, yet they suck the sucky suck so suckin' much there is no logical explanation for why they are rewarded for their suck. I get all heated and swear a lot and then I feel very alive and passionate and I go about my day.
To be accurate, the sites that really get under my skin aren't even in my Bloglines, but I keep checking them anyway, like a kid picking at a scab.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

This should be better than LA Law.

A pilot episode has been ordered for In the Shadow of the Law, based on Kermit Roosevelt's book of the same name. The maker of CSI is on board. Let's hope it becomes a series and CSI-wannabe Dexter dies a rapid death.

Katie Holmes carrying cyclops baby?

A doctor on Metafilter offers an interesting genetic explanation for Tom Cruise's difficulty in fathering children and a scary hypothesis about TomKat spawn. Run, Katie, run!

UPDATE: If you are searching for the original post linked above, try here.

Strike a pose

Via Lindsayism, an amusing music video by Fiona Apple. (The video is Not About Love, and AOL Music is not compatible with the latest version of Firefox, so bust out your IE browsers.)

Coming out as a blogger?

Via Concurring Opinions, this bizarre quote from the New York Times's recent profile of David Lat:
Ms. Golin, an avid blog reader, said she is intrigued to see where Wonkette goes from here: "David was on this one side a hard-core Federalist Society type, who clerked for an extremely hard-right judge, and was way to the right of most of his associates. And he had this whole other side of flamboyant, theater-watching, Oscar-watching, shoe-loving, litigatrix. How do these two sides get reconciled?"
Has Ms. Golin spent a lot of time around Federalists? How is watching the Oscars (hardly a countercultural event), liking shoes, or going to the theater incompatible with believing in judicial restraint and the separation of powers? Or is Ms. Golin really trying to say, "He's right-wing, but gay. Does not compute!"

UPDATE: Upon scanning the NY Times profile in its entirety, I think it's safe to say that the latter interpretation is wrong (the language seemed coded to me), although the bit about Lat's intolerant Crimson editorials makes reading the Volokh Conspiracy comments after A3G's unmasking simply delicious.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My advice to pre-laws

I don't want to come off as attacking Fresh, but posts like this sum up one of the things I found frustrating about law school:
This is a historic day. Today I am halfway through my student loans.

After 4 years and 5 months of practicing law, I have exactly $55,234.89 worth of student loans left. . . .

In celebration, I spent all day at work yesterday researching culinary schools. Can anyone cut me a check for 55 grand?
Maybe it's futile to say so, since so many people who go to law school are risk averse and thus likely to opt for the dubious security of J.D.-as-credential despite their lack of desire to practice law, but isn't the more logical impulse to go to culinary school, not law school, if you want to be a chef? To go be a comedy writer if you want to write comedy? What is the point of racking up $100K in debt so you can be trained to do something you find minimally rewarding at best and repellent at worst for eighty hours per week for several years to repay your loans, only to put yourself in the same situation as you were in before law school, but a decade older?

If you don't want to practice law, don't go to law school. Please. I'm begging you. Don't let your parents push you into something. Don't be afraid to pursue your real dream. Just because that dream won't give you a nice, safe, respectable, upper-middle-class white collar professional identity doesn't mean you shouldn't follow it. Be a pastry chef. Write. Join the police department. Hell, renounce your wealth and ramble around the countryside, as long as you do it safely. But don't spend the price of a small house on a professional degree that you don't need and then indenture yourself to student loans for years to pay it off for no good reason.

UPDATE: Nate Oman tends to agree.

UPDATE II: I previously posted about why not to go to law school here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Sitting down and shutting up nothing new

Interesting comments on the alleged gender gap in education at Majikthise. Yesterday I read the thread on Althouse about this issue and found it unsatisfying, as usual. Beyerstein puts her finger on precisely what was niggling at me through this entire discussion:
It's crazy to think that it's unfair to boys for the school system to reward sitting down, shutting up, and doing your work.

Schools have stressed these dispositions for longer than than women have been allowed an education.
When I read this post by a teacher, I couldn't articulate why I disagreed so strongly with him, despite his wealth of experience with young boys and my relative lack. But as Beyerstein points out, wrestling on the floor of a classroom was hardly countenanced in earlier days. In fact, until the past few decades such conduct might have earned the wrestlers corporal punishment. If standards for behavior were higher in the past and boys achieved then, what's holding them back now?

Acceptable modes of service

This post at The Happy Feminist, which addresses the difficulties of police work, reminds me of the protests we used to have in law school about gays in the military. The protests focused on the idea that it was wrong for the military to expect access. Almost no one talked about what access would mean for recruiting; the handful of interested students were going to make their appointments, on campus or off, but the vast majority seemed to think of the military as an occupation for other (lesser?) people. Police work, like the military, would be viewed as beneath most Ivy Leaguers. Service is something you do in Teach for America, or the Peace Corps, or (best yet) prestigious federal government work. But in both cases, the educated classes decry the ideological composition of the forces, even as they acknowledge their power. Why not break in and force change from the inside? Is it because police and military work is more blue collar?

More on this later, maybe.

I should have named him Lenny

I always used to laugh at the story of my aunt and uncle, who bought a Great Dane puppy and let it sit in their laps on the sofa. When the pup grew up, awkwardness ensued; a Dane is hardly a lapdog. Now the shoe is on the other foot; when Snape was small, his climbing on my shoulder and twining around my neck was endearing. Now that he's bigger than Lily, I'm having some trouble convincing him that lying across my carotid while I'm sleeping is bad.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Celebrity gossip sites abound

If you liked The Superficial or I Don't Like You In That Way, you'll enjoy What Would Tyler Durden Do? These are all methadone to the heroin of the old Fametracker message boards, of course.

PTN Book Club Reminder

I've received a couple of links to posts about Blindness, the January selection for the blog book club. If you've already read the book and written your post, feel free to send it in before the due date; I will post all links on January 31. If you haven't read it yet, you still have 12 days. It's only 350 pages and is a fairly quick read.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fey Accompli

Despite living in the same house as Will Wilkinson last summer (well, technically, anyway), before today I never knew that his lovely girlfriend has a blog. This can probably be explained with two words: bar exam. Anyway, it's a good read, and prettily designed to boot.

What the internet is for

Apropos of my recent post, a World of Warcraft animated version of one of the songs from Avenue Q. Other animated versions are linked in the comment thread.

Poor little rich girl

I'd write on the Opinionista unmasking, but I haven't been able to procure any gossip from one of her UVA classmates, so in lieu of original content I offer a link to Ted Frank's analysis.

One thing: the New York Observer article notes that Lafsky took down a couple of "ticking time bomb" posts containing thinly veiled profiles of law firm partners. A quick Google produces both of these posts: Ogre, Queen Bee. Since Lafsky only worked as a paralegal, summer associate, or associate at four firms, it should be easy to identify these people.

UPDATE: After reading Lafsky's new bio post, my negative impressions were confirmed. It's a giant pity party for a child of privilege: drug abuse! eating disorders! having to go to Dartmouth as a legacy admit because nobody else would have her! If I'm going to read about a poor little rich girl, I want something more like this. At least Harvey wasn't an incorrigible whiner.


E. Spat tagged me with the Fours meme, so here goes.

Four Jobs You've Had
Hostess/waitress at diner/honky-tonk
Telephone solicitor for CMC's alumni giving program
BIGLAW summer associate
Law clerk

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over
The Princess Bride
Office Space

Four Places You've Lived
San Antonio, Texas
Claremont, California
Washington, D.C.
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Four TV Shows You Like to Watch
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Arrested Development

Four Places You've Been on Vacation
Delphi, Greece
Reykjavik, Iceland
Belgrade, Serbia
Istanbul, Turkey

Four Websites You Visit Daily
I Don't Like You In That Way

Four of My Favorite Foods
Pork fajitas
Chunky Monkey ice cream
Stale Cracklin' Oat Bran
Diet Coke

Four Places I'd Rather Be
Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles

Four Albums I Can't Live Without
The Immaculate Collection
Kill Bill Vol. 1
Exile in Guyville

Four People to Tag With the Lists
I'm declaring open season; anyone who wants can pick this up.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Law Clinics

I was very interested in getting some clinical credits during law school, but the prosecution clinic did not open until my 3L year, when I was consumed with journal work. None of the other clinical programs really interested me; HLS does not have an entrepreneur-oriented clinic like UChicago's. Additionally, many of the clinical programs were located off campus and would have required a substantial commute (some were only accessible by car).

What I did instead of blogging

In the past three days, I did not blog at all. I did, however:

  • See Avenue Q (two thumbs up)
  • Lose $100 playing poker
  • Eat Kobe beef
  • See half of a Cirque du Soleil performance (two thumbs down)
  • Try on Manolo Blahniks; realize they are ugly
. . . and myriad other things. Unfortunately for you, while I am willing to seriously consider spending hundreds of dollars on leather goods, I refuse to pay exorbitant hotel rates for internet access. I'm sure you all had a nice MLK weekend anyway.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Cell phones? Not scary.

After the disappointment of the final Dark Tower books, I had mixed feelings over Stephen King's supposed retirement. Now that he's emphatically not retired, I have mixed feelings over the prospect of more craptastic King books.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Workin' at the court house

"Car Wash" needs surprisingly little modification to be altered into a song about my life:

You might not ever get rich
But let me tell ya it's better that diggin' a ditch.
There ain't no tellin' who ya might meet.
A movie star or maybe even an Indian Chief.

(Workin' at the) court house.
Workin' at the court house yeah!
Come on and sing it with me court house.
Get with the feelin' y'all court house yeah.

Come summer the work gets kind a hard
This ain't no place to be if ya planned on being a star.
Let me tell you it's always cool
And the boss don't mind sometimes if ya act a fool.

At the court house
Talkin' about the court house yeah!
Come on and sing it for me court house.
court house yeah!

(Work and work) Well those cases never seem to stop comin'.
(Work and work) Keep those stenographers hummin'
(Work and work) my fingers to the bone
(Work) at five I can't wait 'til it's time to go home
get your case argued today.
Be indigent and you don't have to pay.
Come on and give us a play.
Hear your case right away.

court house talkin' about the court house yeah!
Woo court house

Those cases never seems to stop comin'
I say
Keep those stenographers hummin'

Honest curiosity

In the context of Andrew Sullivan's series of posts on zygotes and embryos, this brief mention of a related topic on Volokh was interesting. I don't have a problem with cloning, mostly because clones are just twins on steroids. But for my religious readers (if there are any): how do you think the whole ensoulment thing works for twins or chimeras?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ring Dog

I like dogs, but my first thought upon seeing this post was: SADAKO!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What Women Want

On the basis of briefly observing one unpleasant woman on a reality show, Steve Dillard has deduced the innate nature of woman:

She wants: babies. Women were meant to be mothers. (Presumably those of us who don't want to breed are rebelling against our essential natures. Perhaps we are defective.)

She doesn't want: sex. Only men derive pleasure from sex. We only permit ourselves to be objectified and made into a vehicle for men's pleasure because we want the aforementioned babies or because we have been brainwashed by feminists into thinking we like sex. (Under the former arrangement, don't women objectify men by making them into vehicles for sperm?)

Instead of drawing the simple conclusion that a guy is likely to be put off by someone who sees him as merely means to the actualization of her dream of a full womb, Dillard blames contraception for the contestant's failure to secure a legally linked sperm donor on demand. Right; this obnoxious chick would be quite a catch if only other women weren't sleeping around!

I was not meant to be a mother. I don't agree with one commenter that "men were made to protect and work for the women and children" (i.e. be a walking wallet). Such reductionism insults the humanity of men and women alike. We are more than our reproductive systems; the meaning of life is not encompassed by reliable passage of genetic materials from one generation to the next.

When I get sterilized, I'm sending Dillard an announcement: "It's a boy girl barren uterine wasteland!"

Break The Rules

Women and men need to play games? Bollocks. Anything is overdoing it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dirty books without pictures

Phoebe has a close encounter with the kind of literature Debra Dickerson decries. It always amuses me that certain grocery and discount stores will proudly huff that they refuse to carry Maxim or put Cosmo in a paper sleeve but see nothing wrong with checkout line racks full of literate smut for women. (The stuff written by and for white women is hardly less dirty than the aforementioned books. I think most of my early sex ed consisted of romance novels and a video of Sea of Love. Yay Texas public schools.)

So which is it?

Relationships: rational or irrational?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Of queynte and quaggas

This tidbit came to mind this morning:
[G]etting trapped in an academic feedback loop of writing is pretty damn useless. All you do is hang out with other would-be writers, writing writerly little stories to impress them. You're not actually learning much about anything or anyone else. My own guess is that this has led to the really fabulously boring world of modern literary fiction, where all the writing is terribly clever but doesn't actually say anything of consequence to anyone who's not already a writer or wishing they were. In other words, modern literary fiction is just like sitting in a room full of people who are delighted to smell their own farts. Good for them, but I'd like to go outside, if it's all the same.

Elvis had nothing on me

I am firmly of the (irrational) belief that any smoothie constitutes healthy eating. But fruit is just sugar and fiber, you say. Juice is even worse, being fruit minus fiber. I don't want to hear it. Strawberries plus orange-pineapple-banana juice is good, and good for me. After all, everything in is fruit, and we need fruits and veggies, right? Likewise, my peanut butter, banana, and honey smoothie made with 2% crack milk is completely virtuous. I added flax seed meal and everything.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Elevator Graffiti Mystery

I park my car during the day in a large multi-story garage that is next to the building with the judge's chambers. There are two options for ascending and descending the various levels of the garage: a claustrophobic concrete stairwell that screams, "assault women here!" or two rattly elevators with chipped floor tiles. Being lazy and paranoid, I take the elevator.

Some time back, I noticed that someone had scratched a swastika into the soft metal of the no smoking sign in one of the elevators. Disturbing, no? After a short time, someone else obliterated the mark with a key.

A week or so after the swastika's destruction, it reappeared. At first, I thought I had been mistaken that the original had been scratched out, but then I realized that it had simply been recarved on the sign in the second elevator. This time I took out my keys and sawed at it to mask the symbol. The next day, I noted that someone else had also chipped in to scratch it out.

I'm waiting for the mystery bigot to carve again. The garage is used almost exclusively by the employees in my building, none of whom seem like the type who would adorn elevators with graffiti, much less such nastiness. Apparently someone around is, though.

Funny Stuff

- "Date the hot farrier!" is probably good advice. From the comments, the priceless sentences, "It took me a long assed time to get over the ex. One of the things that helped me though was when I got run over by a pickup."

- E. Spat entertains us with tales of her ex. Money quote: "There is nothing like marrying someone and then waking up about a year later and realizing you married a guy whose idea of a great time is getting drunk and juggling knives."

- Super Soaker restores man's hearing.

- Not actually funny ha-ha, but: Ross Douthat seems to think that our intuitions point toward personhood for embryos and fetuses because people grieve after miscarriages. We grieve at the end of a marriage or the death of our dogs, but those aren't legal persons.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Aesthetics II

I've changed to a new template. Let me know your thoughts.

A thing to always keep in mind

If nothing on a list of goods or services has a listed price, I probably can't afford any of it.

Another restroom post

Why don't toilets in public restrooms have foot-operated flushing mechanisms? This would be so much more sanitary.

Internet beauty standards, part II

Phoebe weighs in on the beauty standards issue and says she doesn't have a problem with women being held to an exacting standard for weight. My only response is that while it's true that many components go into attraction, having a beauty ideal that not even people who get paid to be attractive can live up to consistently and healthily leads to a lot of personal misery, both for anorexic or bulimic women and for lonely men who have been conditioned to find something attractive that occurs relatively rarely in nature. The naturally thin are the new blonde WASPs.

On a related note, people don't like my pink coat and blue scarf. However, my face and build are apparently acceptable to anonymous law students on the internet.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Quibbling about quaggas

From an otherwise interesting Slate slideshow on attempts to breed back zebras to reproduce the extinct quagga, a near-non sequitur that's almost offensively stupid:
There is another objection to reviving the quagga. A popular 19th-century theory held that men and animals inherit traits not just from their parents but also from their mother's first partner. This supposed phenomenon was called "the taint of the quagga" because it was said to have been discovered in the animal. The taint was alluded to by journalists of the era and in the writings of Goethe, Strindberg, Ibsen, and Zola. It reinforced the taboo of miscegenation and encouraged men to keep their women under lock and key. Perhaps, then, as a symbol of racist and sexist fear-mongering, the quagga is best forgotten.
Because of course a now-obscure and patently false biological theory with a mistaken connection to the animal is evidence in favor of allowing it to die forever. I'm sure the author had found this juicy historical tidbit and couldn't think of any other way to work it into his narrative about the quagga's rebirth, but that doesn't excuse the paralyzing idiocy of the proferred argument. Are any feminists or anti-racists actually protesting Reinhold Rau's breeding program? Poppycock.

Modern Love and Loss

With all the other criticisms to be made of the New York Times's Modern Love column, it seems a bit nitpicky to point out that they apparently provide so little editing that the most recent column went to press with a repeated misspelling of the name of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. I like nitpicking, though.

Contentwise, the article is a welcome antidote to some of the NY Times's fawning over the alleged opt-out revolution.

Cherished neighborhood institution closing; I don't care.

Every time I turn around, it seems like people are lamenting the closure of some unprofitable media vendor in Cambridge. The shuttering of Wordsworth Books, for example, merited a huge amount of attention. I went into Wordsworth a couple of times, and might have even bought a book there once. However, in an area saturated with stores selling new and used books, branches of the second largest library in the nation, and students who shop online as second nature, it's hardly improbable that a small retail outlet with a limited selection of full-price books might get pushed out. But for the entire period leading up to the store's closure, people bellyached about how tragic it was for this long-lived enterprise to be shutting down.

Similarly, the Brattle Theater is apparently about to close and people are all atwitter. In three years at Harvard, I never once set foot in the Brattle Theater. Since I never went in, I can't say whether the venue was particularly posh, but in my general experience, small, old theaters have tiny screens and uncomfortable seats. There are probably rooms on the Harvard campus equipped with screens, projectors, and speakers comparable to this theater. (And those are available free for students; so much for serving the community!)

Old movies I could rent and watch at home. If I was willing to go only a little further than my couch or want a new movie, I could go to the Loews on Church Street. If it's an indie I wanted to see, Kendall Square is near MIT and has a nice new physical plant. And if I was willing to go into Boston, I could be awed by the sound and fury of the giant multiplex on Boston Common. I don't care how long a business has been around. If it's in a relatively concealed location, shows one film at a time, is tiny, and charges just as much as the big chains, patronizing it is a bad deal. Just because something's old doesn't mean it's good. It's usually conservatives that need to hear that, but preservationists in these situations are more often liberal. Of course, they are often liberals who also go to multiplexes and order books from Amazon, but that's secondary.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Internet beauty standards

The posters on XOXOHTH, the "most prestigious law school admissions discussion board in the world," have (puzzlingly) decided to bash Jill at Feministe as fat and ugly. A few disjointed observations:

- At least some of the posters on the board are actual admitted and current students at elite law schools. I posted on XOXOHTH and its predecessor board as an admit and (very occasionally) as an HLS student. So did several other HLSers and YLSers of my acquaintance. It's actually a very useful resource during periods where time-sensitive announcements are being made, like law firm recruiting, admissions, and law review decisions.

- The board participants commonly praise as attractive women who are useful members of the community and run down outsiders/political opponents as unattractive with almost no correlation to actual appearances.

- Internet people are insane about women and weight. While guest posting at Crescat, I observed that classical works of art in museums contain many healthy alternatives to the currently popular, exaggeratedly skinny depictions of women and that children might benefit from greater exposure to these more realistic images. As a result, the man I was seeing received multiple emails asking him why he would date "a fattie," since only overweight women could possibly object to anorexia as a fashion ideal or urge appreciation for a wider range of body types. This by readers of a website with a relatively intelligent fanbase. That XOXOHTH is less enlightened is no surprise.

Hugo has more on the concept of the embodied blogger.

Elite Lawyers Should Donate Money, Not Time

In the Washington Post today, a Stanford Law student points out that it would be much more efficient for elite lawyers with high billing rates to donate money instead of working on pro bono projects. (h/t Agoraphilia) This reminds me of a post I made while working at a firm on a similarly inefficient charitable project.

Why the internet is cool, part CXXVII

You, a private citizen, can review a book, and within days, the author has read your review.

A rare substantive post

Pressure from Ralph Nader's Public Citizen group apparently succeeded in getting Cylert (generically known as pemoline) banned. While this drug does pose some risk of liver toxicity, it can be the only effective treatment for some sufferers of ADHD and narcolepsy. One of the people adversely affected by the drug's withdrawal from the market is Tor book editor and blogger Teresa Nielsen Hayden:
Xopher [A commenter with ADHD] and I and god knows how many other people with narcolepsy, ADHD, and other tricksy neurochemical impairments are looking at THE END OF OUR FUNCTIONAL WORKING LIVES.
When I worked in DC several years ago, I had to sneak into Public Citizen events because my boss, a critic, was banned. The group may have done some good work at one time, but all too often they hurt more than they help.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I like cake, and no mistake

Via JMPP, a cookbook my coworkers wish I would buy (if only so I would stop bringing in massive amounts of baked goods to the office).

May the force be with you, bar takers!

My friend cd has just started a new blog, Phubar, to track her preparation for the February 2006 California bar exam. Such a blog can be a useful source of information, so keep an eye on it!

Netflix: Dirty Scum Liars

You know, it takes a lot of abuse from a video provider before I start considering switching to Blockbuster. That company doesn't carry Buffy, censors its movies with little notice to the customer (making films like Y Tu Mama Tambien unwatchably nonsensical) , and caught a lot of flack for its deceptive and now dying "no late fees" program. But Netflix is pushing me to the breaking point.

First, they started sending me discs from far down my queue despite the fact that the preceding discs were labeled "available now." Then they started throttling my usage by claiming that they had not received returned discs for days or by shipping my next available disc the day after they admitted receiving a return. I've gotten a half a dozen broken discs in the last few months. Today I was looking forward to getting into season two of Six Feet Under, which features one of my unofficial celebrity inspirations, Rachel Griffiths. Unfortunately, they sent me another copy of disc one instead of the second disc for the season. To cap this off, mislabeled discs are not automatically resent and thus I won't get the correct disc until at least Thursday (if the disc had been scratched or broken, a new disc would have been sent Tuesday, even though they wouldn't have received the unusable one yet).

The judge makes fun of me for not watching TV, but until Netflix decided to give bad service, that didn't really affect me at all. Now I am good and irked.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


It has come to my attention that my blog looks like ass. Any suggestions for improving its general appearance, especially the fonts? I want to stick with this template if possible, but would be willing to pay for a professional redesign if necessary.

UPDATE: I've played around with some stuff. Let me know if I should revert back to the previous template.

Wilderness Outings

This morning I went for a brief hike. It was brief because I'm a lazy, lazy woman and am in deplorable shape. I would enjoy hiking more if I remembered to take some allergy medication before going. Darn pine trees.

This afternoon, I finished reading Into the Wild, another journalistic book by Jon Krakauer. The author kept trying to keep his readers from simply viewing the book's subject, a dead vagabond who called himself "Alexander Supertramp," as a dreamy man-child with a fatal lack of common sense, but in my case this ultimately failed. First of all, a reasonably intelligent person would not go into the bush in Alaska without sufficient supplies and a good map. Second, a college graduate of twenty-three should be beyond the sort of self-indulgent romanticization of ignorance that would lead you to do so intentionally. (And what kind of person obsesses over The Call of the Wild well into his twenties? Didn't we all read that in grade school? )

If the young man in question had survived his Alaskan experience, it seems possible that he might have reverted to the plan he considered during his college years at Emory: going to Harvard Law School. With a halfway decent LSAT, he probably would have been admitted; admissions committees love weird stories. I can only imagine what an insufferable experience 1L classes with Alexander Supertramp would have been. We had several similar personalities while I was there, and while I never wished any of them had disappeared into the wild, at times it was a close thing.

Addendum: one thing that struck me while reading Into the Wild was how unavailable "Alex's" experience would be to a young woman. The only bad things that ever happened to Alex were environmental: hunger, extremes of temperature, turbulent seas. Could a female version of Alex have successfully hitchhiked cross-country, rode the rails and confronted railroad bulls, crossed the border illicitly, and obtained manual labor jobs as an itinerant without ever coming to harm at the hands of strangers? For those who end the book with respect for Alex's values and experiences, what does it mean for this path to enlightment to be unavailable to women due to the high chance of violence?

CMC (not) in the news

How could the NY Times write an article about small liberal arts colleges offering merit aid without mentioning Claremont McKenna? Not only is CMC routinely marked as a best value in general, its McKenna Scholars merit award program provides generous grant monies and (as I recall) gives preference to Scholars in obtaining grants over loans in the rest of the financial aid package. This allows some Scholars to graduate from college debt-free.