Friday, October 31, 2008

I don't understand the appeal of Beth Ditto.

Via Jezebel: A new study reveals that more overweight women are sexually active than are "normal-weight" women. Were they controlling for marital status or previous childbearing?

It takes a theory to beat a theory.


That's something I learned back in my critical theory and deconstructionist days. Obviously, whatever.

Anyway, your exhortations for me to beef up my theories with anecdotal evidence have not gone unnoticed. But I wasn't really offering theories of my own, I thought, mainly presenting the ideas of others that I find interesting, without really going into whether I agree with such and such a theory or why. This is because I am weaselly and avoid confrontation like the plague.

I think I did make it clear that I support Swidler's prosaic-realist model of love, and hinted that I find the idea of comparing myself to the ghosts of someone's romantic past or my replacements to be entirely unproductive and a little pathetic. Not that I'm not guilty of it on occasion, but the whole project of comparison seems a little wrong-headed, because you're just not ever going to get a satisfying answer when you compare unlike things, and people in romantic relationships are far to complex to reduce to greater/less comparisons of niceness, beauty, etc. "What does she have that I don't have" is not a question that is the best use of your time, and as you note, relationships can go off in different directions because of relatively modest changes in circumstance. What if I/s/he had been "ready," what if I/s/he didn't have to move away, what if I/s/he had been more mature, what if I/s/he hadn't had to recover from a bad relationship/traumatic experience/etc. I do not have as much relationship experience, having gone from one long term relationship to relationship drought to another long term relationship, but I think back to the other big relationship in my life, and the few "could have beens," and ponder their beginnings and either dramatic ends or slow fizzles.

This is depressing. I think I was supposed to send you a History of Belle's Love Life once in the early days of our friendship, when we wanted to play catchup with "tell me all about yourself," but I never did because there wasn't much to write that I didn't already tell you over our first three hour dinner together at that Ethiopian restaurant. Other than the first love of my life and the present (which you have been privy to since the very beginning), what to say about the crushes that never panned out, or the "just friends" that stayed that way, or the unfortunate mistakes? Nothing much. The history of my romantic life between college and now was wasting my emotions and nothing much happening. I would have preferred torridly romantic, roof-battering tempests to these faint drizzles of unrequited affection, if only because they make better stories. At least, better than "I liked this guy but he didn't like me back and I never learned why because he just stopped talking to me one day." (sadface)

So if I wanted to use the power of anecdote to prove a theory, I really don't have much to draw on. But in keeping with that whole therapeutic mantra that we learn from our experiences big or small (whatever), I will say that no matter what did or didn't happen, I did learn something about myself and what I want or don't want in a partner. For instance, with this Taiwanese guy in law school, I learned that I didn't want a guy who refused to date me because his parents would have disapproved of my being Vietnamese, which is technically a servant class in the Asian racial hierarchy or whatever he said. I already knew about myself that I would not want to be such a person ( let us all sing Meat Loaf's immortal lyric again!), but damn it all that if I would be willing to stand up for love, I'd have a partner who would be sitting down.

And with this guy back in college who wrote me love letters in German and French and took every opportunity to detail my logical inconsistencies and grammar mistakes and tell me what was wrong with my politics, I learned that I did not want to date an insufferable pedantic asshole. The fucker, he knew that I was proficient only in Spanish and Latin (at the time, do not write me in Spanish or Latin now) and so I had to break out dictionaries and parse foreign grammatical structures just to figure out that he wanted to tell me how wonderful I was. And yet, we never really got together, either. When he came back from studying abroad in East Germany, he got with his female roommate. Oh well. I still never understood why, but it seemed then, as it does now, useless to compare myself to an art history major. She's pretty too, and was in the same honors program I was, and so, shrug, maybe she was the right amount of libertarian, maybe she was more fun and sporty (he liked playing baseball, I like watching baseball), maybe....etc. I can't tell why she was better than me, but I'm not sure that in comparing myself to her I can arrive at a satisfactory answer that either one of us was better in the aggregate than the other, although probably she was better for him in other ways that only he can know and yet not be able to describe in detail. Maybe because I've never lacked for validation in the pretty or smart departments, I ascribe all failed relationships to the catch-all reason of the idiosyncrasy of romantic pairing, i.e. quirks of chemistry. You got it or you don't. Best not to fret.

Which brings me back to the idea of "mental whateverness" and complementarity. The comments to your post, I thought, covered the theoretical ground pretty well. Marcus, Sarah and Paul, I salute you for doing my work for me. So I guess I am to bring the anecdotal evidence to this? Like with romantic chemistry, you either have intellectual chemistry and compatibility/complementarity or you don't. With previous dudes, I didn't. My first boyfriend--oh, how I loved him because he was the first boy in high school to see me as pretty, and oh, how we didn't have anything to talk about once I got my fill of being told how nice and pretty I was. We had physical chemistry and cared much for each other the way young adults do when they're first discovering love, but no intellectual connection. It wasn't that he's not smart--he has plenty of raw brain power, and is currently some molecular biology grad student at an Ivy League school. But he has no curiosity about the world. When I asked him what he thought about something (politics, art, history, whatever), he would reply "I don't think about it." End of discussion. Since him, I was convinced that I needed my equal intellectually, and I defined this as someone who was also intensely academic in their approach to the world. Which is how I arrived at Insufferably Pedantic Asshole guy. Well, that was a bit of an overcorrection.

Marcus's framing is exactly right, and ties it back into our previous discussion of combative debate styles. I want someone who is intelligent (raw brain power, the capacity to think and analyze critically), intellectually curious (they want to learn new things and are always seeking new knowledge), and possesses the worldview, perspective, and good habits of intellectualism (open-minded, critical, engaged, reads a lot and converses intelligently and thoughtfully), but without being an asshole about it and turning everything into a smackdown competition over who is smarter or more "right." I have decided that I don't need another academic, and I don't need them to do the same work that I do so that we can talk about the same things. Complementarity is good; those who are truly intellectually curious will not need their partner to speak the same foreign languages so that they too can get snide little not-yet-in-jokes about Rilke's poetry in order to indirectly compliment their partner. The mental whateverness I seek is not merely a shared perspective to the world, but a dynamic between partners, which should not be negative or bullying, but instead mutually constructive.

Lately, TD and I have been buying books and sharing them, or giving each other used books as presents. We read out loud to each other. He gives me advice on my research on organizations and helps me brainstorm article topics. Throughout the day by email, and at the end of the day in conversation, we ask what's new in each other's lives, the world, and tell each other the things we have learned or are thinking, and discuss them. It's easier for me, I suppose, because I am always learning something new in school and research, but we talk a lot about his world too, even though I know little about the ins-and-outs of finance or macro-economics. It's nice to feel included, even though I have no practical intelligence. I suppose he feels the same, which is why it's important to have a shared perspective and dynamic, because as you note it is wearying to dumb yourself down, not talk about the things you want to talk about, or constantly explain yourself. But when you think of learning as a collaborative enterprise you want to share with your partner, it doesn't have to feel that way, and you both have the capacity to get to the same place.

Conversely, it is emotionally devastating to be thought incapable of sharing in your partner's intellectual life because of your lack of intelligence or capacity to understand, or to always feel insecure about your own ability to comprehend and you worry you'll never catch up to the same place. I occasionally feel that, because I'm in academia and I can always tell who is several standard deviations more brilliant than I am in terms of raw brain power and ability to construct/deconstruct/analyze arguments. There's some cases where it's a matter of different reading lists or skill sets, but others in which I know I'm not the smartest kid in the room. Usually I don't feel bad, unless the conversation is so particularized so as to be a form of social closure: I'm shut out when I have no idea what you're talking about, but you keep talking about complex German philosophy/high-level math or economics/whatever without trying to make the conversational material accessible or relevant to me and you're going so fast that my weaker brain can't follow along. So I shut down and mentally check myself out of the discussion. This is not the worst thing to happen to you at a party, but it would be pretty bad on a daily basis from your partner. And yes, this does happen at parties. Part of the reason I am holding fewer mixed-social group parties this year is because last year some of my grad school friends would group together and talk about their dissertations and __ theory in excruciating detail, while my non-academic friends and boyfriend stood in another corner. Jeeze. Leave it at the door. This is another reason why there's no birthday party for Belle this year.

But there is going to be a birthday! My compromise for feting myself is to make spaghetti tonight and have TD bring the cake. Then we're going to a Halloween party, and this weekend will be a chill combination of fried chicken and waffles, browsing at restaurant supply stores, and some nice dinner somewhere and our usual mix of being lazy and reading or working together.

I never did hit up your other links, mainly because "that's awesome" or "I don't know" were my limited replies to the bulk of them. But next post I'll hit up your "art of manliness" links, because I just heard some great research about masculine overcompensation. Oh yes, that will be fun to talk about.

For now, I'm going for a walk in the rain in my new cheap junior's boutique plaid mini dress with a lace shoulder-yoke, tights, and knee high boots that is so '90s that I wish I could wear it every day. I feel like Buffy mixed with Hope Sandoval, and so I feel like simultaneously kicking someone's ass and then plaintively banging a tambourine. I know you think that wearing junior's stuff can be slightly slutty, but it is also so fun once in a while, and you and I are so short and petite it can really work for our figures. As I am now 28 years old, I figure I have about one more year of doing this before I look pathetic and people will say cough Cougar cough behind my back.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Love and death


I succumb too much to the temptation of personal anecdote and elliptical allusion. Your self control is perhaps admirable, but were I to emulate you it would cause a marked change in blog content. Our Dr. Manhattan subject has taken it on the chin from Prudie and the commentariat. I should confess (ha!) that I am, as slynnro accused the writer of, making excuses for someone who is almost certainly a little low in the EQ department. Constant Readers can speculate as to why. Moving on . . . .

Mental whateverness: The classic Potter Stewart problem of romance. I tend to believe in IQ, although a human supercomputer wouldn't have mental whateverness, even for the old, Galt-seeking Amber of yore. But unless you're willing to sign up for a truckload of work, it seems like you ought to be roughly on par with your partner, give or take a stddev. It's wearing, as many people in your linked conversation observed, to constantly have to be dumbing yourself down or explaining yourself to someone.

Part and parcel of that communication issue, though, is the issue of vocabulary and experience: shared references, shared pasts. It's difficult to break through the barriers of class, for example, and relate to someone whose every experiential connotation clashes with yours. (I assume that's how I end up with so many friends with backgrounds similar to my own, and perhaps why relationships with those whose family life I can only characterize as aspirational fizzle.) Raw brainpower is helpful, but there's a certain amount of wavelength similarity, or at least harmony, necessary to keep things moving. At a certain level it is easiest for like to join with like, which leads to assortative mating, amalgamations of intergenerational wealth, and hemophilia.

Another blogger, after seeing my confusion with the dynamics of male relationships, sent me a link to this site. There's a lot of interesting stuff there, some of it sort of appallingly hilarious and some common sense. I can see this appealling to college dudes who like Swingers. I guess you know someone's the one when you don't wish s/he was smarter, or more whatever. It goes both ways.

Some other links, for the sake of stimulating conversation:

Omar? Is that you?

How do atheists handle the issue of mortality?

Tips For Getting Over the Death of your Dysfunctional Father.
When you're 10 years on you'll look back on the first couple of years and all the stories and problems and strange stand out events, and realize they were about him. All those people you tried to relate to and couldn't, it was about hurting over him, wanting to be with him, wanting to make things better.
I wonder how much this explains, six years on.

And on a lighter note: Perhaps the most jawdroppingly awesome thing to be unveiled on the internet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Make Love, Not Sense.


I will for now table our other discussion of love in favor of this one. Did you really think Yoffe's response was so bad? She's no Herb Stein (the original Prudie), but she's probably not that far off that the boyfriend lacks some emotional/social intelligence. I am sort of wondering what is exactly going on in their relationship, and the letter's lacking in details. She is indeed conflating substantive positions with rhetorical skill--but what kind of arguments are they having? She appears to not take it personally when the arguments are impersonal, i.e. about politics or "world issues." But what does she mean that he applies such tactics to their relationship?

What, precisely, are they fighting about--her right to have certain feelings, the validity/reasonableness of such feelings, or whether or not he is properly responding to her feelings? Likely, as a sentient human being with full autonomy she has the capacity and freedom to feel, so he's probably not arguing about her right to feel. He's probably arguing against the validity of her feelings when they become positions, and so he attacks her positions on the basis of logic and reason--except that logic and reason aren't her bases. And his response is not what she wants, so she feels like she's not being listened to and bullied into sublimating her feelings when she concedes logical grounds. In any case, his combative, college debate approach to resolving such relationship issues could make him a douche, or as you say, autistic bully. Does the boyfriend see every argument as a chance to be right? How does he get to being right? Does he merely have to be correct, or does he have to demonstrate his superiority over her? If he would rather be right than listen to his partner, I'd say he is deserving of some disapprobation and she of some sympathy.

I think they're arguing about their different approaches to arguing. Like you say, it's a communication thing, which is now a bullying thing. He's combative and skilled in rhetoric, she just wants to tell him how she feels without being asked to interrogate the underlying reasoning and justify her feelings. More importantly, she wants him to respond to her feelings without immediately launching into a debate. That's pretty annoying. Sometimes you just want to talk to someone or hang out, and they bust out all the "you're wrong and let me show you how." Most feelings like jealousy or possessiveness or clinginess make no sense. I cannot explain, rationally, why I feel jealous when I have no "reason" to doubt my partner's fidelity. I probably can't explain why I miss my partner after only a day or two apart. But you're right, not all feelings are equally valid. If I feel jealous and then communicate this to my partner, he's entitled to say, and this is a perfectly valid form of counter-argument, "you have no reason to worry because 1) I love you, 2) I promised to be faithful, 3) you should trust me, 4) we're both entitled to have friends of the opposite sex, 5).... etc." Of course, rhetoric has an element of style, so bully is as bully does, and there's way of allaying your partner's emotional concerns in ways that are non-combative and more inviting of mutual dialogue than "let me tell you what you should feel." But if I were insistently jealous, no logical or emotional defense from him could convince me otherwise. And if there was no reason to be jealous (whatever those reasons may be, e.g. past conduct, present change in behavior, emotional detachment, whatever), then yes, this feeling is unreasonable. In which case, she's wrong, he's right.

However, let's assume, because we are generous, that the letter writer is complaining about being challenged for simple emotions that cannot be explained by logic or reason but are nevertheless not to be considered "irrational" or unfounded. E.g., missing him after a short absence, wanting to be listened to, wanting affection shown in a certain manner, etc. If he says "don't be ridiculous" to all of these things, he's being a bit insensitive. The way in which you communicate is linked to the issue of empathy, so for me it is not either/or, but one and the same. There's that time, place, manner restriction to speech. You don't need to turn everything into an argument or deploy such tactics in every situation--this is why I agree with Yoffe that perhaps the boyfriend lacks a certain emotional intelligence. There's a certain line between level-headed reasonable and douchey, and it's not hard to cross for those so inclined to combative, bullying ways of communicating.

My post title is of course a joke, but there's something to be said about choosing love over choosing to be right, if "right" can be so determined by you. I will always concede being in error about a fact. But it's like my fork example from one of my earlier posts. It may be gauche for me to use the wrong fork, but to point it out publicly or make a big deal about it demonstrates a greater lack of social intelligence. If I were the boyfriend, I'd cut the girl some slack if the emotions/issues she's talking about are reasonable. If they are not, he's not going to convince her through logic otherwise anyway. Actually, if I were either of them, I'd break up.

I am somehow avoiding responding to your posts in a personal manner using personal anecdotes. Although you know well that I have also trod in your lapsed-Objectivist shoes. All I can say is, man, I am glad I am over that. Sort of. Intellectual/rhetorical olympics tax the patience and crush the spirit. As a denizen of the Ivory Tower, I'd rather hurl myself out of the window than endure that at home after a day in the seminar room.

This post is too long. But I think in my next post (unless I write more about that love stuff) I have to link this back to "mental whateverness" and the idea of "smart enough for me." Actually I can probably integrate the two. What level of intelligence is necessary for you to love another? How do you define that intelligence?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dating: Not Always Logical


You're still immersed in the ivory tower, surrounded by self-consciously intellectual dudes. To add to our relationship discussion: Check out this letter written to Slate's Dear Prudence column:
My boyfriend is a genius. In so many ways, I love this about him. He challenges me to think about things, I am constantly learning, and he is always honest and rational. Unfortunately, these last two qualities have caused a bit of strain. I consider myself a very intelligent person also—nowhere near his level, but I've always felt confident academically. This sometimes takes a hit when I am around him. I rarely win arguments because I simply can't keep up with him. In matters of politics or world issues, this can be frustrating, but it doesn't really raise my ire. However, sometimes his argumentative style and calculating rationale are applied to our relationship. In many situations, I feel as though I am the one who has to compromise because he always wins the argument. I know my positions are reasonable, but I just can't articulate them as well as he does. I have talked to my boyfriend about this, but I think he has a hard time seeing my point of view—that though my feelings may not always be logical or rational, they are still valid. Am I being unreasonable for wanting a little bit of slack, or should I just accept that I'm dating Dr. Manhattan and let it go?
The writer should note that Dr. Manhattan strides off alone at the end of Watchmen. I feel for her, though, as only someone who repeatedly put herself in the Laurie Juspeczyk/Nurse Chapel role can.*

Prudie, of course, manages to give terrible advice as usual. Apparently being smart and good at arguing means you're an autistic bully. The writer is having a hard time in part because she's conflating rhetorical skill with reasonable substantive positions. (All feelings are valid? Bah!) They appear to have a conflict in communication styles and values; it's not necessarily just a problem of empathy on the part of her smarty-pants boyfriend. What do you think?

* Gee, what could possibly cause someone to obsess over genius loner heroes with no emotional affect? So unhealthy!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lacuna Inc. Opening Soon?

They have the technology.

Breakfast of champions

So: lemon pudding cake? Even better without boiling water. And on the second day it just becomes more cake-y and less pudding-y.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random question

Do I look like this chick?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Love as thou wilt.


You know my feelings on your father and his anticipated reaction to TD. There's enough of you in the younger, non-racist generation, including many with grandchild-hostages, that you could probably get some leverage were your siblings willing to buck the system as well. If not, though: arbitrary connections, even if emotionally significant and of long standing, cannot (or should not) excuse this sort of abusive, controlling behavior. Even if you married a Vietnamese guy, it sounds like he'd find something else ridiculous to make you feel bad about.

Gear shift to your Scatterplot post. I’ll out myself as the person who observed that the person you end up with is not always the person you love the most in your life. Your correspondent, in his critique, is well-intentioned, but wrong. It is of course true that youthful relationships feel different from more mature ones, and that the cumulative aspect can build a strong and loving foundation from a relatively mediocre starting point (isn’t this part of how arranged marriages work?), but there’s an elephant in the room that nobody’s acknowledging, and that’s tied into the research that you linked: People settle.

People settle for relationships in which they love a little (or a lot) less than they are loved; people reduce their expectations of love (not just from Mythic to Prosaic-Realist, but from great to good or even to okay); people resign themselves to otherwise loving relationships that lack true physical or emotional intimacy. Now in some respects settling is unstable; settling for an unequal relationship seems, from the data, to be a bad bet.* But most people are just nesting, and they’ll pick someone who more or less meets their criteria because they are tired of incurring additional search costs for a mate. They might have a multi-year, loving, companionate relationship, with plenty of shared experiences to build intimacy. But who’s to say that that accumulation is actually greater than the love you shared with someone else before? This underestimates, I think, the significance of certain types of connection, and assumes that aspects of love and time in love are comparable or fungible.

If you meet someone who’s perfect for you---intellectually, emotionally, sexually, compatible in terms of life goals and temperament--- and marry, but then after ten years she gets hit by a train, is the love you felt for her going to automatically be superseded in magnitude by your decades-long, loving-but-mostly-companionate remarriage to your housekeeper? Not all relationships are going to produce the feeling of singularity that you remarked upon. Maybe they have other offsetting virtues, but it’s not that love is love is love; loving everyone is different.

This is a separate question from whether having your heart broken affects your future capacity to love. There’s no reason why the two must be linked. You learn from earlier relationships about your wants, needs, and priorities in ways that can benefit your later ones. (You can also acquire the bases for years of bitter comparisons. Mixed bag.)

That people are mostly unable to explain their desires accords with experience. Most people, even if narcissistic, are not sufficiently insightful or self-critical to analyze their own motives. Even if they could, they might not want to; who wants to tell a researcher “I was lonely and she seemed like a decent girl,” or “he had a lot of money, doc, and a foxy body”? And part of this is that our mental circuits about love and romance are wired as they are for reasons that might look absurd to us upon examination, or based on events or cultural influences we may have no conscious recollection of.** There’s a whole parallel discussion about the existence of higher-order desires going on elsewhere, but the easiest way to win that argument is not to play: what higher-order desires? People who spend a lot of time contemplating those in the relationship context are headed for tears. Maybe I don’t want to love you, or I want to want you more, or I want to have different preferences that would make it easier to find a mate: none of this is going to end well. The cynic in me (which is a big part) thinks that those who mouth Mythic platitudes but walk the Prosaic-Realist walk with little thought for the contradictions are better off than the navel-gazing scab-pickers who are constantly interrogating themselves about how they feel, and whether they should choose to love again today.

All this sounds a little doom and gloom, but my own view is tempered by the idea that, as your friend noted, we change over time. Perhaps a relationship ends not because you are unlovable, but because that person, then, couldn’t love you. Who is to say that a tiny change in circumstances might not have made things different? Too much of the fate of relationships (and life in general) depends on small things to take the demise of a partnering as evidence of some deep truth about one’s self. You can’t go back, of course, and you can’t persist solely on the ground that things could change at any time (“Do you love me now? How about now? What about over here?” etc.), but just because you weren’t what one guy needed now doesn’t mean you won’t be perfect for some other fellow later.

Apologies for the disjointedness. I wanted to get at your examples with more specificity, but that can wait for the next go ‘round. This post is already pushing TL/DR territory as it is.

* Not to bash your discipline, but sometimes social science research seems to take its inspiration from sixth grade science fairs. Unequal relationships are unstable and less satisfying? The person with more ability to walk away from a deal has more power? This is up there with “will baking soda and vinegar make my papier-mâché volcano erupt?” in terms of obviousness. The second article is much more interesting, but unfortunately is gated.

** How much of your psychosexual formation is tied to things like movies you saw in fifth grade or what your strangely attractive neighbor used to wear or whatever is a little scary. I prefer not to think about it, to the extent that I can. Also: Ayn Rand has a lot to answer for, for her crimes against the tender psyches of teenagers. That is all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I would do anything for love but I won't do that.


My mega-post on the sociology of culture as applied to the "problem" of love is finally up at Scatterplot.

Feel free to comment on any aspect of it. You know better than anyone about me, why I originally brought up the question in a fit of emo-ness during the summer when I was lying on the floor in my pajamas listening to Dusty Springfield, Mariah Carey, and Phil Collins and watching all seven seasons of Buffy. And why I'm so happy now. I'm glad that you've met and like TD, and that things are working.

You also know better than anyone what love will cost me--not individually or psychically or whatever kind of emo bullshit of being totally consumed by love (who does that kind of self-immolating love?), but in terms of family disapproval, because my dad is racist and psycho like that and will probably disown me for marrying a non-Vietnamese person. Sigh. I really love Swidler's book, and understand why she chose a relatively homogenous sample of upper middle class white Americans, but I quibble, personally, with this consequence of that homogeneity:

Very few interviewees described heroic struggles to marry against social or family opposition...There was an occasional marriage against parental opposition, but little was made of it. These interviewees on the whole seemed perfectly content to have married just the kinds of people their parents wanted for them, and indeed, they frequently said jsut that....Heroic struggle to marry has largely disappeared from the accounts my interviewees give of their lives, but it has been replaced by another powerful heroism--the heroic effort necessary to keep relationships together (121-122).

Great. Now I gotta endure all of the travails and neuroses of typical educated, middle-class Americans and still go through my last-vestiges-of-immigration Fievel/West Side Story dramatic musical. I've never accused you of white privilege, but man, this kind of sucks for me.

Can't wait to hear your thoughts. Sorry for the delay. But dude, look at all the books I read and all of the references!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Referrer log fun

My previous post on appreciating the male form has gained some unusual admirers. (nsfw)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My house is possessed?

I was at home last night between 8 and 10 and twice the doorbell rang, but when I went to answer the door nobody was there. Since I had just installed my wireless doorbell and the adhesive holding the button to the brick was not so great, I just took the button back inside to prevent further activities.

Just now the bell rang again. But the button is sitting right next to me.

I assume something nearby is on the same frequency as the doorbell. Otherwise, I will have to start believing in ghosts.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eyes, beholders, etc.


You've put me in mind of something else that is puzzling: the recurring consensus in individual internet fora that their members are really hot. It's a sort of Lake Wobegon Effect for online cliques. (It may or may not go along with constant criticism of out-group members' appearances.) I've found this to be the case in just about every online community I've observed or been a part of, from feminists to law students to general-purpose groups, but it's more prevalent in those that tend be to culturally rebellious. Maybe the same sort of contrarian impulse that makes one embrace bizarre facial hair or the fat acceptance movement somehow blinds people to the fact that they and their friends look, by and large, depressingly average. That's fine: average people are not doomed to a loveless, lonely life. Average-looking people find partners---usually equally average ones. Love makes the average person beautiful in the eyes of his or her significant other, and we don't often find fault with that. However, whether it's the love and bonding of a tight group of friends or something else that's driving this bizarre obsession with overestimating the relative attractiveness of their group, it's damned annoying to those of us who, I don't know, have eyes. They are pasty and doughy from hours at the computer; they are saggy and wrinkled and far outside even the pre-Twiggy beauty ideal; they are scarred and balding and covered with unfortunate tattoos. (It's okay to be those things! It's okay to just be a regular person! We other regular people, the ones with relatively accurate self-images, would appreciate it if you'd come back down to earth!)

Many things can make an average-looking person sexy: personality, sense of humor, intelligence, kindness, etc. But these are not typically what's in play. If someone wants to say that her friends are attractive because they're funny and cool, fine. But don't try to tell me that all your friends just happen to be 10s. If that's true, they've probably been using stolen photos from Russian mail-order bride websites.

* I'm not arguing that beautiful and popular people are better; they are more something, though, and that something is a concept with content. Isn't it perhaps the people who argue, against all external evidence, that their painfully plain pals are actually supermodel-level hotties, who are actually unable to separate merit from appearances? Why does appreciation, or even sexual attraction, for someone have to be so tied to their being physically attractive that we can't see what's in front of us?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down

I have been accused of classist snobbery, which I've previously explained at great length is chiefly an inward-directed phenomenon revolving around perceived limitations embodied by certain behaviors and a rejection of those limitations, not necessarily derisiveness toward groups of people. Strangely, it's happened enough for it to be a pattern that I make a connection with someone and find out later that they have a similar socioeconomic background or trajectory. At some level I will just never understand the rich; they are different from you and me. Scrappers like us should stick together. We can bond over public school educations and childhood birthday dinners at terrible chain restaurants.

At a certain level, though, I have to admit that I am a big snob. Certain things are high status because they are objectively better. Stand mixers: objectively better than hand mixers. Well cut clothes from durable fabrics: better than thrift store garbage. I know this because for about a year all my clothes were from thrift stores, and now I buy expensive stuff, and the latter is, sorry, better. Sometimes swipple is right! I'm willing to go out on a limb and say beautiful is better, too. Popular can even be better! (Blah blah, of course we should interrogate the underlying sources of our beauty ideals, but that only goes so far.) There is a reason why handlebar mustaches and muttonchops are rare: they are hideous, high maintenance, off-putting to potential kissers, and may indicate some sort of testosterone problem. I don't buy the entire argument of this piece , but the essentially empty oppositionalism that the author notes in the art world is even more present in the general hipster aesthetic. When proponents of beauty are mocked by hipper-than-thou types, I judge them right back (not that they care, necessarily, but I derive immense satisfaction from it).

Responses to your additional points to come, once I knock out a couple of work tasks. In the meantime: I missed the debate, but apparently McCain came out against concern for women's health? I wonder if Cindy could take him in a fight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

anxious and snarky


Agreed, let the snarkfest begin! I was trying to keep things light and huggy to add lightness to your life. Like egg whites. But dulce et decorum est boring. You seem to be doing fabulously, and anyway, what is more loving than coming together in judgment against others?

TD thinks that I am judgmental, but admits that he is too--just in different ways. He tends to judge stupid, unthinking people--who appear at all levels of education, class, etc., and in both political parties. I recoil from judging others, particularly people I know, for pecadilloes or natural slipups or things attributable to class differentials (not that TD does any of that), but I agree with TD that the last shall be first, the first shall be last, and the stupid people should be shot. I have little patience for willfully ignorant, small-minded, xenophobic, parochial types. Characteristics that could apply to insular elites, by the way, whom I also tend to judge. But how to define stupidity? How to otherize the other? Where do we draw the lines of judgment? At the risk of invoking French theory (usually a bad idea), what Bourdieu-esque distinctions do we draw?

I am admittedly an over-educated, high-falutin liberal coastal elite. But I come from an extremely poor working class background, ate prosciutto for the first time last year (mmm), and am generally terrified of being called gauche. But hey! I know what gauche means, and also that it derives from the French word for "left"! You've known that I've struggled with the twin pulls of elitism and populism for most of my life--on the one hand, my elite education (and the many years of it) along with my concerted efforts to acquire above-conversational levels of cultural capital distance me ever farther from my family and origins (even back in high school, I was called "white washed" by my peers), and on the other, that same education has been concentrated in principles of anti-discrimination and egalitarianism. I'm the product of a public school education, but a pretty elite one by most standards--so as much as I can talk about John Dewey and Clark Kerr and education as the great equalizer, I can't claim to be down with the gente. But at least I know more about them than as a distanced anthropologist, because I'm only a few years away from being a beneficiary of the social welfare state.

That's why it is always confusing to me to be accused of classicism in that direction. I don't think I've ever judged working class Americans, and nor do I indulge in the soft bigotry of low expectations where I don't expect better from them. That'd be like giving up on my nephew. That's why the Palin pick is so bewildering; I don't think most average working class (and she is so not working class) Americans are dumb, so why is she giving them such a bad name? Willful ignorance I do judge, as I do hatefully reflexive xenophobia: I have no time for haters, and it's not my fault they tend to be well represented in conservative, evangelist demographics. But I don't judge them so much as give up on them. Judgment is reserved for people who are not like you, but could be like you, which is why drawing that distinction is so much harder, sociologically, and also more visceral. It's like drawing lines in very fine sand, but each one is a cut against someone who is almost like you.

So, I tend to judge the elites for their idiosyncratic forms of line-drawing--you do/don't like that band/movie; you didn't grow up knowing that highly cultured thing, you didn't read that incredibly insufferable post modernist book, etc. And then they get all judgmental when you express more basic, pettier judgments, that do not celebrate the diversity of all things steampunk or hipster. I get more "you are so conventional" judgment for saying that I do not personally find mutton chops or handlebar mustaches attractive than I get "you are so elitist" judgment for saying "people are stupid for not liking William Gaddis." Of course, I would never say the latter comment, while I will shout from the rooftops that mutton chops are fugly. Since when did celebrating diversity mean championing, against all reason, idiosyncrasy? Since when did being contrarian equal being accepting? I will insist that I am entirely within my right to personal preferences that comport with general conventions of beauty and conduct, so call me judgmental, but back hair is so unattractive, and apologies to all man-kind for demanding some universal body image. I don't demand, I prefer. While I never think that there's a rational basis for misogyny, racism, or homophobia, I surely think that there's a reason for certain conventions of demeanor or conduct.

Not that I would call people out for them. Not if I personally knew them, and certainly not in public (at least by name), which I find highly embarrassing, unnecessary, and extremely annoying. I have lots of memories like this from law school, when I was acculturating myself to the bourgie lifestyle. I may have been gauche for picking up my fork before everyone had been served (to move it! not to eat!), and may have been ignorant for not emptying my wine glass before another type was poured (oh noes! I'm blending! quelle horror!), but it was even more gauche and socially insensitive for Prissy Princess to call me out for it in public, before all of our friends. Years later, I still twinge a bit about this.

I bring this all up, because on Friday, TD took me to the nicest dinner I've ever had. I mean, I grew up thinking that brand-name Doritos were a luxury and had to split mangoes with my siblings (damn them for giving me the seed, and telling me that it had the most). It was super fancy. Didn't we talk once about those who use words like "fancy," "classy," or worst, "ritzy" probably had no place being there, e.g. us? Well, it was fancy, and very nice. I was slightly anxious the entire time. Which fork to use! Thank goodness I've read etiquette manuals (those who didn't internalize by practice, learn actively). Everyone was really nice though, and dinner was fabulous. And then the other day, that nice assistant principal woman I met on the sail told me how people judge her for working in public education, and how she also grew up poor, and felt trepidation about dating TD's friend (who owned the boat we were sailing), because of class issues. I tried to assure her that he was salt of the earth (he is), and would never make her feel bad about that. She knows that he wouldn't (he's like TD, who also decidedly did not grow up like me), but she still felt anxious. I couldn't persuade her that her advanced education, mastery of languages and culture, and general delightfulness would be more than enough to compensate for her class anxiety. But she was still anxious. I wanted to punch anyone who would dare judge her for anything. She reminds me a lot of you and me, with our high levels of Goffmanian anxiety.

Vanderwheel called you a parody of Goffmanian anxiety. Whev. Someone else said that I was the one he should have been talking about. Double whev. Our lives are full of constraints, and we are moving in professional and social circles we had to work hard to join and do not yet feel fully comfortable navigating. So I give us a little freedom in managing our frontstage and a great deal of indulgence for our psychotic backstage. And we're doing pretty well, I think. We may be full of snark and judgment, but we try not to be unkind, nor judge others for things they can't control or can't change.

Snarky enough with tons of buried, passive aggressive mutual anecdotes for you?

Cry "havoc," and let slip the dogs of snark


The fluffiness must cease!

People who get all judgey and weird about finding out two people met online can take a long walk off a short pier. We're grownups in 2008, and conduct a large part of our personal and/or professional lives online. The ability to conduct that sort of friendship maintenance online is the only reason I've been able to stay in touch with a variety of people; who has time to call each and every one of the their old roomies, high school buds, classmates, and plain old friends just to see what's up? Given the propensity of people in our demographic to move about the country, it's not as if you could just have monthly get-togethers or all meet up at the local watering hole.

That said, I've been pleasantly surprised in the last couple of months to find out how many good friends I do have in DC. Somehow, a lot of my past acquaintances wash up here, and it's always nice to reconnect and realize that you actually like the person (that sounds harsh, but surely you know what I mean---sometimes you have a time-sharing friendship that's based on a joint experience, but as soon as that experience, be it a class, a living situation, or something else, ends . . . you realize that you have nothing in common with them).*

The folks in that social poaching article are just straight up ridiculous. Maybe I sang too many Girl Scout songs** in my tender formative years, but shouldn't you be happy if your friends befriend each other? (Insert my generic rant about the impending demise of disparate social identities here.***) If one friend dumps you for another and quits hanging out, that's something else, but even then you'd have the cold consolation of knowing that at least they had good taste in new friends. The whole anti-poaching enterprise seems to take for granted a certain ability to maintain the composition of a clique as well, and that's increasingly difficult for the mobility reasons I mentioned before. If you're paranoid about mixing friends, eventually you're going to have only one-on-one meetups, which is a super inefficient use of your free time.

On a more positive note: this blog has been on a roll lately. I highly recommend it, although I think you may be a reader already.

* dgm asked in the comments about whether it's also hard for men to make friends. I confess to finding many dudely friendships utterly impenetrable. If you're not emotionally sharing yourself with your friend, then isn't it ultimately a shallow, joint-experience-based relationship? And how do you share without talking (and talking, and talking ... we are my paradigm for friendship at this point)? What's the basis for the connection, and for continuing that connection? I've heard you talk about TD and his dude friends, but it seems like they bond mostly over nostalgia for shared experience. How satisfying can that be?

** Incidentally, what's with all the additional verses to that? When I was a kid, it had, like, two verses, and nothing about the damn planet. I bet they did away with the strip-mining merit badge, too.

*** Nevertheless, I was recently unpleasantly surprised to find that my statements on an invitation-only online forum had somehow gained wider circulation. We must all be reprogrammed to march into the glorious future! Etc.

Monday, October 13, 2008

meeting cute and making friends

Hey, Amber. Your last goal appears to be difficult, but isn't really. Look at how BFF we are, despite the time difference and the distance! I often talk about my awesome friend Amber to others, and show off the hug-like scarves you make me. There's even a picture of us framed in my house. Then I tell them that we met through our blogs. And then they look at me weird. But what's wrong with meeting through our blogs? Is this somewhat related to the lingering stigma against online dating? Why must people "meet cute," like in a "we bumped into each other in ___ Square and were both carrying "No Exit" and had to sort out our copies before we decided to catch the last Elliot Smith concert together before he died" or whatever kind of twee romantic hooey the movies insist on selling.

You are right though, friendships take a certain degree of effort to maintain, and an even certain degree of effort to begin. At least, there's the initial time investment before maintenance cruising, much like a dating relationship. But why do you think it's hard? But is that because you have a rather traditionalist, high-time investment model of friendship? You had a post a while ago about doing a friend inventory, which was kind of depressing, as you re-linked to Slynnro's post on how hard it is to make friends as an adult. I have very few friends, as well. But, my friend (why can't I type that without going "heh"), I come here to praise you, not to bum you out. I think that you're a great friend. You and I email on a daily basis, and call each other as needed, make and buy each other little presents and mixes, and are now having this nifty online epistolary experiment. Even though we're a great distance apart, we've somehow managed to see each other 2-3 times a year--far more than I've seen my friends from law school or college, who are not even that far away. Indeed, I would say that you are one of my closest friends, and the one I stay in contact with the most frequently--even though we've only been friends for a little over a year.

The reasons for our special friendship aren't hugely idiosyncratic, but we really work--I am not huge on hours-long phone calls, and no longer have the ability hang out on a daily basis (even if we were in the same city, our schedules suck), but love our frequent email system. Our friendship works because it suits our homebodyish, short-but-frequent way of communicating. We stay frequently updated on each other's lives, and whenever we have something really important to communicate, we write longer letters or pick up the phone. This lets you work those crazy law firm hours, and lets me research and write all day.

Of course, we're long distance, and the only way our friendship can work just happens to work out really well. But I encourage you to find friends who are like you in other aspects. You found in me your perfect permanently-connected-to-the-internet friend who mines the internet for interesting things for you to read and always responds to one of yours with similarly pithy commentary. I am glad that you're going to a knitting group. You may be shy and introverted, but you will find another person like you. The only two friends I have from law school I keep in touch with are that way--the gregarious, social butterfly types are very friendly and great to have lunch with, but because the way they express friendship is through the sharing of time, the minute I moved away and we couldn't hang out, the friendships sort of died. I am sure that if you want local people to hang out with, seek the meek and you shall find another buddy to sit on your nifty couch and knit with while watching Buffy and while the quiche bakes. And you probably won't have to teach her how to knit, unlike me!

And yes, Amber, I am introverted. The only reason I am able to make friends is because I try really hard, even though expending social effort enervates rather than enlivens me. Introverts are not necessarily social twitches; we merely approach social situations with anxiety and must exert more effort than those extroverted freakshows. I guarantee that if you approach someone like you, you will be able to ask for their number and they will give it to you with surprise and delight. They will be glad to go to Tyson's for chinese food. Every time I've ever found the other quiet-but-we-talk-a-lot-when-nervous type, I've made a lasting friend. Social misfits of the world, unite! We're so used to being the ones who ask the questions and wait in the conversational sidelines, that we're surprised that others want to learn about us and hang out with us, and we are grateful. My most recent in-town, off-blog friends have been made by me approaching the other quiet girls in my organizational theory seminar, exchanging business cards, and inviting them over for dinner. Yesterday, on the sail, I switched digits with the other slightly anxious woman in our group, and we now have plans for lunch and bargain shopping. If you make one friend, there's a likelihood that your social circle will expand to include their significant other or friends as well--what controlling paranoids call "social poaching," most sociologists and org theorists call "social networking."

I have a pool of rotating weekend and occasional evening buddies with whom to brunch or invite over for dinner. Making food for people helps you appear social, too--you are right, it's that primal urge to take care of a person that drives me. TD is out of town this week on business, and I'm looking forward to his return so that I can make him spaghetti and meatballs and tarte tatin. Oh, and TD. Yeah, I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend. I have to remind myself that I have friends and should see them more often.

So, get out there, girl! I promise to, as well. Join more hobby clubs, or hit up the people you meet for social dates! You'll probably like doing the same things if you do. Find more people who like board games.

Oh, and I can't remember what size that dress was. 0 or 2, but I think it was 2. And I promise, mega post on l-o-v-e by the end of the week. Or next.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More corduroy pls

Am I ready for a 90s fashion revival? Damn skippy.

Things Unpleasant to Wake Up To

Finding someone on your doorstep who should have no idea where you live.

Okay, that's just one thing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Law Schools Where They Pay You (Some) To Go

Taking a look at this list, I sense a theme.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flapjacks! And Goals.

Fluffy it is, to the extent possible. My goals are relatively straightforward also:

1. Be a good lawyer.

2. Stay the same size.

3. Make things, not people.

4. Stay mentally active through use of challenging games and books.

5. Be social.

The last one is probably the hardest for me; I am terrible about letting friendships slide, and when you're working a lot and so are your friends a lot of time can go by between opportunities to hang out. It's also really hard for me to make new friends, since I am mostly introverted. Occasionally I can switch on a brassier, more gregarious persona, but I don't know if I like myself as much that way. Brassy me is sort of crass and loud.

Physical activity is highly overrated, except insofar as it helps with goal #2. Unless you're developing a skill, it always feels so pointless, and if you're as clumsy as I am you never actually develop any skills even if you're trying. I told you how I fell off the step in step aerobics, right? Even the kitchen, with open flames and sharp objects, is safer. And you get to make things (goal #3)! And feed them to people! There is something so primal about being able to feed your man/friends/family/whatever. I don't think it's Betty-Draperish or necessarily about "contributing" on a fairness basis. It's about taking care of people, which we all are driven to do, yes? I feel the same way when I see one of my friends wearing something that I knit for them. It's like I'm giving them a little hug all the time. (Is that creepy? I'm normally not huggy. maybe I sublimate all my hugging instincts and embody them in scarves and bundt cakes.)

There's a certain tension between #1 and #4, which I think you highlighted in noting the division between work reading and other reading. It's easy to only exercise the parts of your brain that you use for your work and forget the importance of the other parts, so I try to read lots of fiction. Unfortunately, the hit rate from my last few library trips was relatively low and I don't count unfinished books for the challenge. On top of that, I tend to succumb to the allure of the literary equivalent of Burger King and cupcakes (my lunch, by the way), so it takes a special effort to pick up something substantial and intellectual. Maybe it's driven by gender bias on my part, but the only really good books I have read lately are by Lionel Shriver. The Swedes are right; American literature is crap. Then again, Sturgeon was right, too. We only see the stuff that's good enough to be translated, I suppose. Selection bias.

Gear shift, as I return to my work: that dress is cute, but you have cuter dresses already. Do you remember what size I tried in that tweed dress when we were shopping together? I am going to order it once it goes on sale if I paint the living room myself.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

light and fluffy

Hey, Amber. I know I promised you some mega post on something or another and subsequent substantive discussion, but this is just not the week for it for various reasons.

So let's keep it light and fluffy. Like pancakes.

So, our epistolary blog model is Rhubarb Pie, except that you and I are more "acerbic and tart" than "sweet and tart." We could also be like Abelard and Heloise, but that would be extremely weird (I love you, but not in that way). But mainly, I thought this would be a fun exercise, and possibly more efficient than emailing you ten times a day (not that that's not fun).

Anyway, Megan and Sherry have a great dynamic in which they write independent stand-alone posts, or do a write-and-respond with each other. Two exchanges I really liked: 1) Goals (+ Megan's response), and 2) dressing like a girl (+ Sherry's scolding, + Megan's re-response).

Too much going on in those exchanges to respond to them adequately, and that's not my project here anyway. I'm interested in the first exchange because I have such limited goals for myself, except for the big one of getting this dissertation off the road. But let us not talk about that here, or you know, at all. But let us talk about these small goals.


1) Cook/bake new things.

2) Try to knit more complex patterns.

3) Run more.

4) Read more fiction.

Relatively simple, easy goals, and they rarely change year after year--but I find that I am unable to separate them from some moral imperative, which confounds me since I am currently auto-ethnographying everything because of the stuff I have learned in my sociology of culture and micro-foundations of behavior classes. That's what interesting about Sherry's goal to read Shakespeare--there's the pure pleasure aspect of it (great, interesting drama), but also Sherry's own admission that she "felt that familiar pang of shame and wistfulness that happens when people reference classics that I haven't read. " We have these individual goals for ourselves, and they are probably "good" in and of themselves, but they cannot be divorced from our social context and culturally-derived motivations. Reading Shakespeare is not only "good," but is also "good for you," (Megan suggests reading out loud to kids, in what Lareau would call "concerted cultivation") and would signal something valuable to yourself and to others that you are a cultured, knowledgeable person. Simple goals always seem to have moral and social imperatives. But you know, Sherry seems intent on actually doing this, whereas EK might just buy the book.

So, my simple goals? Not so simple. To be certain, I enjoy cooking and baking, and like trying new things and techniques to improve my skills and tastebud horizons and blah blah. But it's also the only way I really can contribute to my relationship, being an absolutely broke grad student and all. TD is incredibly kind and generous, and never makes me feel one iota bad about not really being able to contribute much financially to our dinners out or dates out. Good thing I'm a pretty unfussy girl, and while fancy dinners seem nice, I'm perfectly happy with burritos and nose-bleed seats at ball games and hanging out at home or taking free hikes. Not that he doesn't try to indulge me anyway (we're off to a romantic dinner and weekend away tomorrow for our anniversary!).

So, even though the disparate economics thing isn't really an issue because I'm no princess and he's no sugar daddy, I really insist on "contributing" the only way I can by making dinner at least 2-3 times a week (we don't live together, so it's more of a scheduling thing) to even out the score of going out on weekends. I also bake and send him off to work with boxes of cookies or cake, which I am sure delights his office and wins him points as "that nice guy with the cookies." And you get sick of eating the same things, so I'm always looking at new recipes. Is this a misplaced desire to "contribute" in such an arguably pre-feminist way (and you know I'ma feminist)?

I'm pretty good at economizing and shopping on sale, and I have the grad student's schedule where I can pop a roast in the oven, keep on working from home, and dinner's ready when he comes home. Of course, it's not like I don't have a job--being a grad student is a full time job with classes, meetings galore, independent research, and giving feedback on others' work. But because I am more flexible on my time and can work from home, and because I have no economic capital, this is how I'm "contributing," and while it's not quid pro quo, we don't want that. Because we don't live together, we can't really absorb the same expenses as a shared economy, so this is sort of like an easy going gift economy, but one I insist on maintaining because I hate even feeling like deadweight. Not that I am, blah blah, and not that I'm an under-stimulated Betty Draper type, but still, it's important to me, and I can't shake it. I know exactly where the cultural schemas driving my behavior are coming from (both the domestic, vaguely pre-feminist cooking/baking woman at home schema and the but-I'm-a-feminist-damn-it "must contribute" schema), but understanding the reasons for your behavior doesn't mean that you can, should, or even want to change it. But do I sound all crazy and schizo-feminist?

Moving on. I am behind on blogging, and now even behind on reading, my own 50 book challenge. Sigh. There is just so much reading I have to do for school, but I don't know if I can count all this towards my challenge because it's technically for school, and while my rules state that I can count non-fiction, in my head I only count fiction as extra-curricular. Because I'm a lapsed emo English literature undergraduate trying to cling to those last vestiges of creativity. Because I'm not just a grad grind! (heh, play on Gradgrind). This one I don't know what to do about. I don't know where I got the idea that "fun reading" is only fiction, except by habit and because ever since I decided not to go to English grad school I've been punishing myself by considering all of my other mental endeavors in law and organizational theory to be "work" except for the reading of fiction. Although, realistically, had I become an English lit academic, my "fun" would have been a hard slog of work, and so there's no reason to hold fiction to that higher standard of "fun." Except that old habits die hard, and it's hard to give up on such ideas, especially if you sort of rue certain life decisions (even if they worked out). I consider myself a more creative, interesting person because I read fiction and poetry, when in fact the serious study of those is a lot of work and just as boring, and when in fact I'd be no less of a dull grind.

Indeed, that's the underlying reason for my two other goals: no more nerd hobbies as goals! I want to do something physical in my modicum of spare time, and I am totally getting now why you knit. It's like baking--something to do with your hands. And running gets me outdoors. And all of those things makes me a more interesting person, at least in my head, although I'm probably wrong about it.

Oh well. Back to the Rhubarby exchanges. Megan and Sherry's points about the trappings and delights of dressing like a girl were interesting to analyze from a sociological perspective. So much boundary work is done when we decide to dress like a girl, and then judge others for not being girly enough! So many gendered constructions!

But, I am tired of being intellectual about that stuff. It is a bad economy and I am not shopping anymore, but what do you think of this dress?

The cocaine addiction won't be a stretch, I guess.

Buried lede: Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes? Swoon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dispatch from the "shameless Nozickian lustpuddle"

Honestly, what does this even mean?
[S]oul-deep vulnerability” ... leads people to recognize how and why their selves are whole selves, the sort that can’t really be divided up amongst different degrees and kinds of lovers and sex partners without incurring a certain kind of damage.
Of course it's true that polyamorous relationships could function as "orgies for prudes, sexual freedom for people who are afraid of the actual, bone-deep vulnerability and immediacy of sex." But it's by no means clear that they necessarily must be so.

Whenever social conservatives start blathering about how our souls or whatever need to be protected from some sort of "damage," I reach for my metaphorical gun.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

HLS Geeks To Be Disadvantaged In Clerkship Market?

Orin Kerr, analyzing the repercussions of Harvard Law School's move from letter grades to a High Pass/Pass/Low Pass system, remarks:
What will the impact of the change be? Assuming Stanford and Harvard adopt the Yale model, which seems likely to me, I suspect the real difference will be a slight shift in focus from grades to recommendations. If grades tell judges less, professors need to make up the gap. I suspect the new system will make impressing a connected professor who knows the judges and Justices an increasingly important part of the clerkship process. The recommendation from the connected professor will help tell the judges and Justices that the student with all or mostly "H" grades is really top law clerk material.

More broadly, I tentatively suspect that this shift will slightly favor Stanford over Harvard in the competition for top clerkships. Stanford is smaller, and the chances that a student will have a close relationship with a professor are greater than at Harvard. Harvard is large, and at least in the past has been infamously impersonal. Faculty enthusiasm for helping students has traditionally not been the school's forte; at least when I was there, the attitude was more than you were supposed to succeed on your own. Perhaps that has changed with Elena Kagan as Dean? I don't know. But in a wold in which personal relationships are the key to scoring a top clerkship, I would think the advantage goes to the smaller school with a better student/faculty ratio.
Within HLS, the advantage will go to the more gregarious. Whereas before a quiet, inconspicuous student (perhaps with family obligations) could count on distinguishing himself through his transcript, there will now be a much greater push to raise one's profile in the eyes of the faculty, perhaps by working as a research assistant, conducting independent study projects under a professor's supervision, or even through increased class participation. Will this new system (further) polarize classes into gunner clerk-wannabes and lazy ticket-punchers? Will shy nerds be elbowed out of the clerkship market by louder, more forceful classmates?

I guess you can't wink with only one eye showing.

Another from the uncovered meat files:
A Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia has called on women to wear a full veil, or niqab, that reveals only one eye. Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan said showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive.
Pop quiz, hotshot: What stops you from wearing makeup on your one visible eye?

via The Apostate

Monday, October 06, 2008

New Stuff Here!

Just FYI: Belle Lettre of Law and Letters and Scatterplot will be engaging in a blog conversation at PTN over the next several days, so you will see posts by both of us. Please feel free to comment and participate.

Reviewing Solove

It's nice when someone else does a good deal of your work for you.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How to do stuff

Insert mandatory Heinlein quote here.

The El Dorado of Economic Theory

I was going to characterize this post as "inadvertently amusing," but isn't that just a nicer way of saying "LOL"?
10:54:41 AM Brit Friend: you might be able to build a better system than our current version of banking
10:55:01 AM bitchphd: right, of course
10:55:06 AM Brit Friend: and you might even be able to find a better system than capitalism
10:55:27 AM Brit Friend: tho no-one is entirely sure what it is or how it would function

Wednesday, October 01, 2008