Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Public Nudity and the Law

Via Overlawyered: Topless woman in city park used as bait for public indecency sting.


I should go to more parties.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Taking a break

Belle wrote something that you might like about the current glut of pregnancy movies.

Update: One aspect of this comment's discussion of Hollywood films about pregnancy and abortion is perhaps astute:
[A] woman is not the hero of her own abortion. Interestingly, in the only movies I know the plot of (Cider House Rules and Vera Drake) where there is abortion and heroism, it's the abortionist who is the hero, and the pregnant women are merely victims and secondary characters, rather than heroes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why I hate musicals

1. Inability to suspend disbelief. If you saw someone burst into song and dance down the street, you'd react. Bystanders in musicals almost never do. If they do, it's often to join in and take part in a choreographed routine. I can read about dragons and wizards and all manner of nonsense as long as it's internally consistent nonsense. These bizarre reactions, however, are more than I can bear.

2. The characters are usually caricatures. This is probably in part because finding people who can both sing and act is very hard. It doesn't explain why a huge percentage of musicals involve some sort of ethnic cliché or stereotype.

3. The action stops so the lead can show off his voice. I don't mind musicals in which the songs are funny (Avenue Q, South Park), move the plot along (some songs in Moulin Rouge!), or reveal new insights about the character. Most of the time, though, the songs just reinforce what we already know. For example: what the point of "Beautiful Pretty Women" in Sweeney Todd? Not only does it tell us nothing about Todd or Turpin, it embodies the classic villain error of monologuing. If it weren't for this song, the movie would be an hour shorter and a lot fewer people would have died. And it's not even a good song!

4. You can't understand what they're saying anyway. If a song does contribute to the narrative or characterization in a meaningful way, it's uncertain whether that will come through, since the singers often are too wrapped up in showing off (good voices) or are unable to combine enunciation and volume (bad voices).

5. Songs are often jammed into a perfectly good story. This happens a lot with musical adaptations. It throws off the pacing.

6. The sort of person who loves musicals makes me want to die. You know who I'm talking about. That girl with the Les Misérables t-shirt in 9th grade. That guy in college who looked down on people who didn't appreciate Zero Mostel's hilarious songs. The person who always manages to drop the name and price of the show s/he saw in NYC last weekend. If you watch musicals you're around these people. Ugh.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The worst movie ever?

With a release date in January, the studio must have realized that this film has no redeeming features whatsoever. Will a single person under age 40 buy a ticket to this movie? Are Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson really pressed for money? Why would anyone inflict this upon the world?

UPDATE: Another contender? Poor Luke Wilson.

2008: Another Challenge Year

I had planned on posting on this today, but my dear Belle beat me to it. I will again be taking part in the 50 Book Challenge. The rules here will be the same as before. I have previously expressed many intentions of posting on book-related themes on this blog but since they lacked the systematizing elements of the 50 Book Challenge or the monthly book club they typically fell by the wayside. To the extent possible I will announce books to be read for the challenge in advance so we can discuss them. One of my goals for the year is to read more nonfiction.

Please feel free to join the challenge!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Totals

Bowls of green sauce consumed: 2.
Movies involving singing viewed: 2.
Number of musicals I have ever enjoyed: 2.
Percentage of overlap between two previous line items: 0.
Inches of scarf knitted: 24.
Inches of scarf subsequently unraveled: 16.
Cool bloggers met: 1.
Glasses of wine drunk with said blogger: 3.
Words of article written: 0.
Silly thrillers about serial killers read: 3.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Movie Review: Walk Hard

Between outings with various individuals this weekend we managed to fit in a viewing of Walk Hard. This is a completely unnecessary yet fairly entertaining spoof of the musician-biopic genre. Apparently you don't even have to have seen these movies to be amused (Steve has not seen Ray or Walk the Line but still laughed). I am, however, getting a bit tired of seeing the same dozen actors in every movie connected with Judd Apatow, and of the accompanying trend of aggressively ugly protagonists. Hiding David Krumholz and Jason Schwartzman behind massively quantities of fake facial hair only reinforces the problem. There is male frontal nudity in this picture, but it's neither sexy nor aesthetically appealing, which is, I'm sure, how it managed to get past the ratings board.

I had been psyched for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but the trailer made it look . . . not so great. Steve pointed out that 1) we have no evidence that Jason Segel can write, and 2) it's probably partially autobiographical, and we all know how much that can suck. I'll still see it, but not on opening weekend.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I could have sworn I put this link up, but I guess I just emailed it around. Anyway, here's the makeover from Washingtonian I was talking about.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pimp My Schnoz

I have a lot of sympathy for Ashley Tisdale. Steve is cramping my Hollywood style, though. "Blah blah I like you just the way you are blah . . . ."

Pimp My Schnoz
Originally uploaded by ataylor02

Also, waking up at four o'clock bites.

In Houston, sporadic internet, knitting going poorly.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Alpaca Allergy Blues. Etc.

At some point I decided to teach myself to knit. This would have gone much more smoothly had I not realized partway through my scarf project that I am allergic to the yarn.

Kids: not subject to lemon laws.

I always wondered why this grotesque building near my office hadn't been torn down. Turns out the owners aren't allowed to because it's "historic." Shades of the Gropius complex.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not the top of the Ivies

What is it about the Anscombe Society at Princeton? First they came out against rape kits and then one of their members faked a hate crime.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Silver and Gold

Megan's friend inventory is pretty depressing, and would be more so if I could ever figure out what people mean when they say "friend." Someone you'd invite to a wedding or whose wedding you'd attend? Someone you talk to for hours on the phone? Someone you would call if you needed a ride to the hospital or a place to crash? Someone who comes to your parties and hangs out? No matter how you define it, I don't have that many friends. Grade school: zip. High school: zip. College: a handful, most of whom I keep in touch with solely through email and Google Chat. Law school: I occasionally email or see a few people. Most of my friends and acquaintances are from blogging at this point. When I was growing up I usually had one best friend, a couple of decent friends, and that was it. It's hard to make friends these days.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Folk Law

In the comments to Orin Kerr's recent post on the origins of the folk belief that undercover cops must identify themselves, this squib caught my eye:
There is a folk belief, certainly related, that the owner or occupier of property may post a sign requiring law-enforcement personnel to identify themselves upon entry, and they must comply even if undercover. I've seen professional-looking signs to this effect at fraternity houses.
At the risk of sounding silly (it's been a while since crim pro): what's wrong with this? If I post a sign on my land that states that hikers may enter but hunters must obtain permission before doing so, wouldn't any hunter who snuck in be a trespasser? An undercover cop seeking to enter a home is presumably looking for evidence of criminal activity that could not be seen from outside the home. If the evidence is not in plain view and circumstances do not justify a warrantless search, wouldn't his unannounced entry similarly be unlawful trespassing, justifying exclusion of any fruits of the search?

Making access to your property conditional seems fairly fundamental.

Small World, Big Money

This is really pretty impressive. Our place is right up the road from Ron Paul campaign headquarters. I have heard that workers are packed in like sailors on a submarine above the dry cleaners over there. Maybe now they can afford some extra space.

One of my exes is a big Ron Paul fan and sends me all the online notifications about these moneybombs and blimp launches and whatnot. At a party attended by some fellow libertarians, I mentioned that a friend of mine sent a new Ron Paul Facebook message almost every day. The other three people I was talking with immediately named the guy. I would have been surprised but am fairly jaded about the idea that there are only 100 D.C. libertarians and we all know each other.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Forcing Shelfworthiness Calculations

Why do books cost so much in France? This explains a bit.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Republican Tulku?

Via Matt Yglesias, Noah Millman on the Republican field:
[T]here is no ideological fighting going on, except between Ron Paul and the rest of the field. Instead, the GOP is engaged in an identity-politics-driven contest. The GOP is not debating what it stands for, nor is it a party that knows what it stands for and is looking for the best candidate to win a general election and/or to effectively carry out the party’s program. The GOP is not trying to find a leader for the party. It is looking for a candidate who is the incarnation of the party. No wonder they’re having a tough time.
They have another eight election cycles to wait.

Pharma Bashing in Film

Once again, Hollywood takes a perfectly good plot involving a pandemic and inserts a Big Pharma villain.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Leaky quiche is the tastiest quiche. The egg gets all over the crust and makes it extra savory. I think the crust bakes better in a metal pan than in a glass pan, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Save the cheerleader, save the world?

Interesting issues emerge from this case in Texas. A junior high school cheerleader was shoved out of the shower at a sleepover and photographed (by some accounts, only her blurry back was visible in the picture). The photo was forwarded to classmates and some of them looked at it in school. The school suspended several students, including the girl who took the photo, even though the incident took place off school grounds.

- What remedy, if any, should the cheerleader have? Has she actually been injured? Does it matter that there was a photo and that she was undressed? Wouldn't it have been as bad or worse if they had gone all Carrie on her and then recounted the tale of their tampon bombardment to all their classmates? What if they had taken a photo of her like this instead or passed around a note in which she admitted to an embarrassing crush or secret?

- What should be done to the offenders, if anything? Distribution of nude images of minors, even by other minors, tends to bring down the long arm of the law.

- Is it appropriate for the school to punish students for conduct that occurs off-campus? If yes, where's the logical stopping point? What can't a school punish minors for?

Taking the picture and passing it around was a horrible thing to do, but if principals start suspending middle schoolers for acting like little bitches they won't have any students left.

Fantasy & the Law

Dave Hoffman interviews Patrick Rothfuss, author of the excellent new novel The Name of the Wind, on the role of law in fantasy fiction.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Megan has a question.

Help her out:
According to my friend, animals and human babies have an organ in their stomach that holds ... something toxic. If they want something and they don't get it, this organ will explode, killing them. This is well-known fact; major newspapers often report on tragic cases of babies who were denied a sip of their mother's coffee and their resulting death of organ rupture. Everyone in Argentina knows this, which is why babies (and dogs, I guess) can have tastes of whatever they reach for on the table. Babies grow out of this; the organ shrinks and is aborbed into the body? as they grow up.

I quizzed her and quizzed her about this organ. I asked her to point to it. I asked her the name. It is the splena, which is NOT the spleen. NOT the appendix. We talked about this organ for days. I've since asked other people from South America and Mexico about this and never gotten a good explanation. Do any of you know about this? Is this a widely spread theory of childraising? How far? What the hell organ does she mean?
I am also interested in whether people actually believe this. It sounds a lot like reports from villages about possession and witchcraft.


Gang rape victim's only legal avenue is mandatory arbitration. No criminal prosecutions for the rapists.

Is anyone familiar with the legal loophole referenced in the article that explains why the rapists have not been prosecuted under U.S. law? If we can throw Americans in prison for sleeping with kids in Southeast Asia, why can't these guys be put away?

Update: This post has been edited, because I can.

Monday, December 10, 2007

When God Gives You Lemons

Just watch (slightly nsfw).

Weekend Bake: Oreos

This weekend I made homemade Oreos per this recipe. The filling pictured is made from 8 oz. of mascarpone cheese and 1/4 cup sugar, not what the recipe calls for. I think some people might call this a "Whoopie pie," but I don't like naming food after sex.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

The online and real-life shaming of the Drew family continues, with prank calls, hacks, and insults common. A commenter on Concurring Opinions notes:
[I]t just goes to show what happens when legal remedies aren't really available. Given the courts' insensitivity to racial and gender claims, I wonder what minorities and women secretly do to retaliate against those who discriminated against and/or raped them. I know one person who secretly mailed tax forms incriminating his boss to the IRS after one Michael Scott-esque comment too many, and a woman who got her rapist's family deported. I don't know if this type of non-vigilante retaliation is widespread or not, but frankly, I'd much rather have someone sue me than have virtually all of my relatives sent back to China.
These stories make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, although since practically everyone is a criminal, we're probably each one offended ex away from prosecution.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

One of these things is not like the others . . .

I don't understand Hollywood.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A theory of SF/F

Brian and Ginger Yellow theorize:
People who can actually get it up for fantasy and SF are . . .

(a) [those who] see the unrealistic world created by the author as merely a means to the end of producing character-driven stories, or

(b) [those who] see the characters and their actions as a means to the end of telling a story about the cool fantasy world they've created.

[(c] the main constituency of (literary) sci-fi, people who see the unrealistic world created by the author as merely a means to the end of addressing present day social/philosophical issues.

All three explain why I like SF/F. Who doesn't love rich characterization, lavishly created worlds, and fiction that addresses the great questions of human life? And thus why would you prefer reading stuff set in drab contemporary times and peopled with the sorts of folks you already know, if you could get all three, to varying degrees, in a single genre?

Here's a rousing defense of SF from across the pond, where fantasy is respectable but science fiction seems "irredeemably adolescent":
“In a fantasy story,” Aldiss says, “there’s a big evil abroad, but, in the end, everything goes back to normal and everybody goes home to drink ale in the shires. In a science-fiction story, there may be a terrible evil abroad, and it may get sorted out, but the world is f***ed up for ever. This is realism. It’s certainly not beach reading, unless you can find a really nasty, shingly beach.”
. . .
SF is, in fact, the necessary literary companion to science. How could fiction avoid considering possible futures in a world of perpetual innovation? And how could science begin to believe in itself as wisdom, rather than just truth, without writers scouting out the territory ahead? Which is why this widely despised genre should be read now more than ever.
. . .
But if new hard, logical, shingly-beach SF is now a rarity, at least there’s a lot of old stuff to read. The literary snobs will say it’s badly written, which most of it is. So is most “literary” fiction. Badly written literary fiction is, however, wholly unnecessary. There’s a lot of badly written SF that is driven by an urgent journalistic desire to communicate. That is necessary.
I disagree with this characterization of fantasy, and authors like Miéville and Martin probably would as well.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Internet Shaming Redux

The Megan Meier case takes a weird new turn.

The linked blog is almost certainly a hoax (any competent attorney would have put the kibosh on it), but does it matter? Regardless of authenticity, it acts as a lightning rod for outrage, and the reputation of the purported author is already shredded.

I did find the discussion in some of the comments intriguing. If Megan had shot up the school instead of killing herself, how would our reactions differ?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Book Review: The Secret History

It's somehow unseemly to read a novel that came highly recommended by a particular individual, only to realize that the recommender's enthusiasm was almost certainly a function of his identification with one of the more loathsome characters. Such unwelcome and uncomfortable intimacies are almost enough to keep you from reading otherwise superior novels.


I hate campus novels, but this kept me engrossed because of, not despite, the collegiate setting. It's psychologically astute, but the last hundred pages are a bit heavy on the melodrama. I appreciated the author's restraint with respect to some of the other characters, so the gratuitous elements were especially obvious. For example, after teasing us with (mostly) unconsummated attractions between the narrator and two of his friends and establishing realistic yet opaque characters, we get sexual sensationalism on a V. C. Andrews level and crudely inserted dialogue establishing psychopathology. The writing is, however, marvelous, and the aforementioned minor irritants should not discourage you from reading this book. Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

For my past and present grad-student friends

I found this post on fighting neoliberalism in the academy quite entertaining. Some of its recommendations:
* Reject the implementation of "benchmarks" or any other form of "standards" for merit raises or promotions that are predicated on quantified output.

* Reject merit raises all together and rather spread the total raises due the entire faculty of a department evenly to all faculty.

* Refuse to sell ourselves as "stars" to highest bidding institutions. This reproduces the neoliberal self-made "man," reinforcing gender and class hierarchies within the academy.

* Identify and monitor the behavior all 'frumps' (formerly radical upwardly mobile professors).

* Avoid grade inflation. In a context of grade inflation, instructors that seek to honestly assess performance find themselves at a disadvantage, especially if they are adjunct staff.

* Quit giving standardized tests and grades. Pass/Fail. Get rid of students who don't want to be there. Tell them to come back when they know what they are there for. If we stop treating students like cash cows, maybe they will actually appreciate learning.

* Make your students do the work - have them explain concepts to each other. Have them create materials they think are useful. Grade them for effort rather than results - they are there to learn.
Update: I suppose I should note that the recommendations are not by the post's author, but reproduced from another source.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I should know better.

Anyone who reflected for more than a minute would realize that this makes no sense:
There is logic to the veil scheme: Men will be satisfied with their wives as long as they have no other women to compare them to, and women should accept the suppression so that each one can maintain her grip on her husband. It requires everyone to live a life of visual deprivation, so that no one sees anything that might make him want what he does not have. You are never challenged to resist temptations, and to make it easy to avoid sexual pleasures, you have to give up all the visual pleasures that could easily be yours.
And that's not what Tertullian's arguing in the first place.

Relatedly, I was not previously aware that part of the justification for Christian women wearing the veil was because they might tempt not just men, but angels. Helen of Troy, eat your heart out. Here's an essay by some guy arguing that Catholic women still have to be veiled in church.