Saturday, April 30, 2005

Men want to get married. Women don't.

According to New York Magazine dating columnist Amy Sohn, "men are just as susceptible to biology’s imperatives." Sohn discusses men who "bring up marriage and kids in the first few dates and know stroller brands the way some men know speaker systems," and claims these men are not popular in the NYC dating scene. Such men might consider moving to Kyrgyzstan, where men really, really want to get married and women don't have much of a say in the matter. These NYC men should not, however, romanticize the American South, since Southern belles are abducting themselves these days, only to escape the unpleasant world of bridal showers and massive weddings.

Friday, April 29, 2005

"Do you know how many points two small bourekas are?"

Six, according to this fascinating article about Israeli teens on Weight Watchers. While Israeli kids risk getting blown up when they go to cafes, it seems they face a more mundane risk as well: Globally, "Israel is in ninth place in the proportion of children who are in danger of becoming fat."

You can learn a lot about a culture by reading its diet articles. France seems to be worried about the influence of paquets de chips (i.e. American influence) and the evil food industry, whereas Israel has other concerns: "Niv describes the situation in the kitchen of her home during the past year: 'First of all, there is hardly anything sweet. After that, if I used to have two corn schnitzels after school, and a bowl of chicken with a side dish or pasta, now I have only two corn schnitzels or a bowl of pasta. That's all I can have.'" I don't know what corn schitzels are, but they sound substantial. (Niv, the supposedly fat girl whose photo accompanies the article, is thin by Chicago standards and more or less average by Manhattan ones.) And then, after a class trip on which a the teen lost weight, seemingly through dehydration: "She just didn't feel well, so she ascended Masada in the cable car and did not walk down the Snake Trail. Yes, and for two days she ate nothing. Now Niv stands on the scale and Riki Ashin writes 1,000 grams less on the card. A whole kilo got left behind in the desert."

Who knew? Not me, at any rate...

I must be oblivious or something, but until Sam told me what an eruv was, I had no idea that there's a string around the Upper East Side, the neighborhood I grew up in, that permits various things to be done on the Sabbath that usually can't be done. A Google search reveals that, regardless, the one on the UES might not even count. Frankly, to me this sounds a bit like cheating, having a string that makes you exempt from religious laws, but I clearly don't understand the concept.

Another, unrelated, query: I am not keeping kosher for Passover, but if I were, would the definite traces of non-kosher-for-Passover bread products in my keyboard cause problems?

Clearly I am cut out for a secular life.

On campus

Just spent much of the afternoon in a mad search for my grammar-checked BA, which was not in the box I'd thought, but in a different box in a different building, which in retrospect was less confusing than it seemed at the time. It appears that I do not know the difference between imparfait and passé composé. Will try to learn the difference by early next week.

And...dude, look, there's a U of C classroom! Looks like it's one of the mini-lecture halls on the first floor of Harper.

All time is one

OK, French Jews of the late 19th century, stop giving me grief. Stop being all complex and confused, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Are you people elusive, or have I just not been reading the right books? Gourmet potato chips from Ex Libris and a medium coffee from that same basement coffee shop might not be enough to get me through this. But they will have to do.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Oral defense

I have to prove I know all about the Dreyfus Affair, and that I can convey this in spoken French. This is set to happen next Thursday. Hot iron prongs may be involved. If there are posts from me between 3 and 3:30 PM, that's a bad sign.

In other news...the Westchester County District attorney, Jeanine F. Pirro, was quoted in an NYT article about suburban teens' partying habits as saying, "Teenage drinking is an epidemic," and, "If people think kids are drinking a beer or a glass of wine with a slice of pizza, they're wrong." Well, the problem is, it's illegal for teens (and a large number of 20-somethings) to have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner. I've been carded ordering a glass of wine with dinner in Chicago, not because I'm likely to drive drunk (I'm not likely to drive, period) but because that's the law. What I'm getting at is, it doesn't so much matter whether the kids in the suburbs are fools or budding oenophiles, they're still breaking the law, and if the cops knew about a super-sophisticated underage wine tasting, they'd be obligated to break it up. So it's sort of pointless to discuss whether or not the Westchester kids are reasonable drinkers, when the law permits plenty of idiotic drinking from the of-age and no drinking whatsoever from the underage.

In other other news...Sorry, but no beards. I don't care what the Thursday Stylists say, clean-shaven's the way to go. But to make one more point about male appearance before the BA-writing for the evening begins in, even skinny men, do not look good in women's pants. I understand that there's this impulse--which I applaud--to abandon baggy pants in favor of something a bit more fitted. But pants made for women tend to make men look like women, and some of them guys I've seen in these pants seem not to be otherwise effeminate, do not appear to be the target audience of UChicago's infamous gender-neutral bathrooms, but seem more like confused hipsters. Let the confusion end and the narrow-cut men's pants begin.

Ugh, once more

I'm thinking of starting a new blog devoted entirely to the disgusting things I've witnessed people doing at the library. Just now, like ten seconds ago, the man across from me--not the nail-clipper of yesterday, a different man--picked his nose. Thoroughly. A former Maroon fellow-editor came up to me at the library about a month ago to report on some less-than-sanitary (and no, not sexual) activities going on in the men's room. Now I understand people want to be comfortable when they study, but there are limits.

More cheese UPDATED

Three different people have sent me the cheese article from the NYT, which turns out to be the paper's most-emailed article. (The Marian Burros article on the discourse of the metaphysics of oatmeal was only ever second-most emailed, I believe.) Actually, four, if you count someone who knew I'd already read it and only sent it to me after I told him that three others already had. This is bad news. I really, really want some cheese. But this would require leaving the library, where I have a sonnet to reconstruct, a paper to finish, and a few sad M&Ms remaining from my evening chocolate course, such as it was. I don't want M&Ms. I want cheese, and maybe a green salad and some bread. OK, no more blogging, time for some efficient paper-writing with the goal of a happily cheesy conclusion to all of this.


I've just received a barrage of NYT-cheese-article emails, from people I think are members of the track team. Thanks, Sam!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

French Jews on my mind

How did it come to pass that I'm studying and am mildly obsessed with French Jews? I've taken French since third grade and have been Jewish since--and here the phrase "since God knows when" would be appropriate. It occurred to me that I'm taking three classes, one of which is a French class, one Hebrew class, and one BA "class" which involves everything French and Jewish all rolled up into one, like a Marais falafel sandwich followed by a crepe (and I wonder why a gained a few pounds in Paris). For some reason, I feel more of a connection to the late-19th-century French Jews than to most American Jews or, certainly, than to most modern-day French people. I could go into why this is the case, or better yet...

This first chapter of a biography of Marcel Proust and this one of Woody Allen make for a good back-to-back read. The Allen first chapter mentions Proust ("'...the twenty-nine pictures that, all together, form a cumulative portrait of Woody Allen's life — documents comparable in obsession if not in depth to the seven volumes of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.'"), which I find worth noting because in a paper I wrote for a Proust class a while back, I argued that Proust's Freudian, Jewish sense of humor is not unlike Allen's, with the omnipresent mother and so forth. But beyond that, there's this sense that neighborhoods like the Faubourg Saint-Germain or the Upper East Side have a certain hold over Jews, who swallow whole the mystique in ways that non-Jews tend not to. Then again, I'm sure that if Nan Kempner were to swallow anything whole, it would be the mystique of the Upper East Side, so, as I do with most of my blog-debuted theories, I may have to abandon this one along with the rest.


Under no circumstances should you clip your nails at the library. The man across from me at the table I was, until about 30 seconds ago, seated at was (is?) doing this. Unacceptable. Nose-picking, moaning, muttering, all of this I can (and do) deal with on a regular basis from my fellow Reggians. But nail-clipping, again, not good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Cheese porn

I want it all. And the slide show is just too much. Not, as they say, work-safe.

Camille Paglia is the epitome of hypocritical vapidity

Camille Paglia was on campus this evening, and I'm sorry to say that I wasted 90 minutes of my life listening to her diatribe. She's got an original voice, that's for sure, and she's talking now about how the left is to blame for all of the troubles of the world.

The main problem with Ms. Paglia is that she wants to take on all these problems of the world, but refuses to listen to the answers of anyone who actually has a Ph.D. and teaches at an institution of higher learning. She's the ultimate self-hating leftist: she blames the failure of the left not on the right, but on the left itself.

Her newest book is all about poetry and the poor state of the arts, which (like the left) has supposedly been undone by secular humanism (sound Ratzingerian to you?!) and needs to find "emotional resonance" to recapture its value in society.

I can't go into detail how many hyprocritical and absurd contradictions there are in Paglia's argument, so I'll elucidate just one. Paglia championed the movie Lawrence of Arabia and the era of 1960s filmmaking, and went on for a bit about the media in a post-9/11 world. I asked her how she felt that such a movie, which makes a hero of a British colonialist in a Muslim milieu, would speak to the post-9/11 world. I told her that while the films of the 1960s may have been great, they were also forms of social control. There were no gay people in those films, and the only people who really agree with her critique on modern society are those who want a return to hegemonic Protestant values in art, like Charles Murray.

A stunned audience (which, unfortunately for Ms. Paglia, I recognized from many of my gender studies classes) was told that "It doesn't matter that there aren't any gay people or black people or women in these films. That's the worst form of identity politics." She went on to note that no gay author since Stonewall has produced anything of quality; only those who came about in the era of oppression--she likes Tennessee Williams and deifies Oscar Wilde--truly produced great works.

That may be so, but Paglia hasn't read so far in Oscar Wilde's works to recognize that the man ended up in jail for being gay. Paglia champions pop culture without recognizing or admitting that there are forces that shape pop culture, and often not in ways that would preseve the leftism that Ms. Paglia values. She's so caught upin her own critique that she's far behind even the social conservatives, who are post-modern enough to understand that the war over discourse is a real and powerful one, with important consequences.

Paglia hates "snarky" writers, she says, and called Maureen Dowd an "intellectual midget." Thing is, Ms. Paglia, the only applause you got tonight was from your snarky comments about other people. And your books, in all their profligate copies, contain less intellectual content than even one of Ms. Dowd's better columns.

Get real, Camille Paglia. Go read some history, and go join the GOP.

To do (post-BA)

1) Haircut.

2) Buy Dookie, the CD version, as opposed to the tape I may or may not still have back in NYC.

3) Consider various iPossibilities, and probably decide against.

Hustlers, strivers, and forever-losing athletes

Jon Caramanica, in the Village Voice:

If I recall correctly, I was the only person from either of my two childhood zip codes—11234 in Mill Basin, 11235 in Sheepshead Bay—to arrive at Harvard that fall. And while my high school, Stuyvesant, was one of the biggest feeders to the Ivies every year, the lived experience of the two places couldn't have been more at odds.

At Stuyvesant, everyone was a hustler—a striver—from the school newspaper editors to the immigrant kids on the math team down to the jocks, perennially ignored and forever losing (Stuy had a profoundly inverted food chain). Almost no one took the days there for granted. In contrast, Harvard kids were, how you say, comfortable. Entitled.

Oh dear. I was apparently, as a "forever losing" high school athlete, at the bottom of the school's food chain. Perhaps the fact that my friends were mainly debaters or similar made me a bit cooler, though. Hard to say... But, on a less self-referential note, I'm guessing that part of why Caramanica perceived his Stuyvesant classmates to be hustlers and strivers was that he was Harvard-bound, with Harvard- (or, god forbid, Yale-) bound friends. Not everyone was like that. The admissions test has not a thing to do with drive, and it shows. Sure, a certain number of kids realize that they're smart, they might as well do something with that, but for many others, being at the school is just about having intelligent but gossipy conversations during class whenever the teacher wasn't looking.

No one "needs" segregated dorms

At Cornell, with 19,700 students, administrators have built 10 living-learning communities, called "program houses," over the past 35 years. Almost all are open to freshmen. "It's an opportunity for students to feel belonging and a sense of personalization in their education," says Donald H. King, the university's director of community development in campus life.

Among the program houses are one for the creative and performing arts (for majors and non-majors); Ecology House, for budding environmentalists; Ujamaa Residential College, for students interested in African-American culture; Akwe:kon, for those interested in American Indian culture, and the Holland International Living Center, for foreign and American students.

Living-learning communities have not been without controversy. Some critics object to the very concept of grouping like-minded individuals, limiting their exposure to different points of view. Others contend that houses based on race or ethnicity segregate members from the larger student body.
Mr. King disagrees. "We've argued this point," he says, after a civil rights group complained to the State Department of Education that Cornell had created segregated housing. The department ruled in 1995 that no laws or regulations had been violated. "The fact is that these houses are open to any students who wish to participate," he says. "What it does is provide a support base for students who need that type of association."

Even if Cornell isn't breaking any laws, having separate dorms for different races is really idiotic. For every black or Latino dorm created, that's one more dorm that becomes effectively all-white, that's a dozen more white people who don't meet any minorities in college, and so forth. Contrary to King's assertion, no student could possibly "need" to be in a living situation with those of any particular race. Colleges need to get past this idea of creating ultimate comfort zones, in which everything feels like home. If students want that, they'll find it on their own, but a college's role is to fight against that impulse.

The Storm in the Taiwan Straits...

Today, the head of the KMT party in Taiwan decided to pay a visit to the Chinese mainland, where he'll meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday. The KMT, or Kuomintang, is the Nationalist party of Taiwan. This is the same political party that, 57 years ago, lost a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party and fled to Taiwan, taking with it many of China's imperial treasures.

The KMT ruled Taiwan with an dictatorial and corrupt fist for forty years, turning a country that had never really been incorporated into the Chinese sphere (and spent 50 years learning how to be Japanese) into a country of people who thought of themselves as Chinese, and the only place on Earth that still uses traditional (not simplified) Chinese characters and the Wade-Giles system of romanization (remember "Peking"?). The KMT is the reason that the name of Taiwan is still officially the Republic of China, and that for so long, Taiwan claimed to be the rightful government of China (and, oddly, Mongolia as well).

The opposition to the KMT, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), emerged only after years of violent political oppression. First elected to power in 2000, barely re-elected in 2004, and losing control of the legislature, the DPP still advocates greater independence from China (with the eventual but unspoken goal of de jure independence and statehood) and the KMT, in a strange twist of fate, has become the party of unification.

Now, Lien Chan, the head of the KMT, is going to China, when technically Taiwan and China are still at war, China has hundreds of cruise missiles aimed at the island, and the mainland just passed a law authorizing the use of force should Taiwan move towards independence in any way. To put it in persepctive, Lien's trip is equivalent to a French legislator visiting Germany to meet with Hitler in 1938. It is, at best, treasonous activity of the most vile form. President Chen Shui-bian, in a precarious political position, has been forced to legitimize the trip; he should not. Instead, he should retaliate by banning Lien from entering the country, lest Lien face an arrest warrant and a trial for treason on his arrival in Taipei.


False-Speak Will Doom Us

There is an interesting phenomenon that anyone who listens to politicians long enough will notice. Politicans--at least American ones--rarely speak in terms of reality. Instead, they speak in terms of the way they perceive things should be. Thus, Taiwan was China until 1979, when the US decided that the reality had somehow changed. Today, if you ask a US representative, he'll faithfully tell you that Taiwan is indeed a part of China, just like there was no genocide (just "acts of genocide") in Rwanda in 1994, and there is currently no genocide in Darfur.

It is in this false-speak, the worst indication of a vapid policy that has either (a) moral legitimacy or (b) power considerations, but not both, behind it, that American statesman thrive. But what we fail to realize is that our speech matters, and that the Chinese are manipulating the space between our speech and reality to their geopolitical advantage in every area of the globe.

To the people of Taiwan, it matters that the US does not recognize them. To these 23 million people, devoted trading partners of the US, who created a thriving capitalist democracy with their bootstraps, our position matters. And our refusal to take the hard stance with Taiwan, in recognition of the power positions on the ground, while claiming the world's moral high ground, is rank hypocrasy.

Taiwan's current status in the world is often known by the moniker "strategic ambiguity." Strategic ambiguity may be fine and dandy as a middle course in a State Department policy letter, but it rarely leads to good outcomes. As a foreign policy, it's a recipe for confusion, inaction, and regret that the United States seems doomed to repeat, because of its dual allegiances to morals and power considerations.

Though our current leader seems blind to this fact, our time as a superpower is limited. Such is the inevitable tragedy of great power politics. We as a country need to face this reality, and decide how we will lead the post-Cold-War world. Our greatest leaders--Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy--would have us do so in a moral fashion. Which course shall we choose? The moral one? Or the one that prolongs the inevitable, at the expense of our dignity?

We've already sacrificed 800,000 in Rwanda and 400,000 (and counting) in Darfur to the chopping block of strategic inaction. How many of Taiwan's 23 million will we add to that number?

The Iraq War

Judging future prospects from the past. Henry Kissinger himself writes, about Vietnam:

A conventional war is about control of territory; a guerrilla war is about the security of the population. Since the guerrilla army is not tied to the defense of any particular territory, it is in a position to determine the field of battle to a considerable extent and to regulate the casualties of both sides.

In a conventional war, a success rate in battle of 75 percent would guarantee victory. In a guerrilla war, protecting the population only 75 percent of the time ensures defeat. One hundred percent security in 75 percent of the country is far better than 75 percent security in 100 percent of the country. If the defending forces cannot bring about nearly perfect security for the population--at least in the area they consider essential--the guerrilla is bound to win sooner or later.

The basic equation of guerrilla war is as simple as it is difficult to execute: the guerrilla army wins as long as it can keep from losing; the conventional army is bound to lose unless it wins decisively. Stalemate almost never occurs. Any country engaging itself in a guerrilla war must be prepared for a long struggle. The guerrilla army can continue hit-and-run tactics for a long time even with greatly diminished forces. A clear-cut victory is very rare; successful guerrilla wars typically peter out over a long period of time.

I may be wrong, but this would seem to apply very well to our current conflict, and its lesson seems hardly optomistic.

Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 629.

Reihan on multiracial pride

Reihan is right, the proudly multiracial ought not to take offense at being asked about their race. That said, what Reihan misses is that Geetha Lakshminarayanan's multiracial pride might be something of a defense mechanism, and might have come out of her being constantly asked what she is. Timing is everything--was she first bugged about being multiracial or proud of it? I have no experience being multiracial, but I have been referred to as exotic, which led not so much to an existential crisis as to a realization that I'd probably get more attention of a certain kind in the Midwest than in certain parts of NYC, where every other person on the street looks just like me.

Reihan also discusses and debunks the "quasi-narcissism" of many upper middle class parents, one of whom is Asian and the other non-Asian:

"Our babies are sooooo cute." For real, yo, it's not that cool to be an upper-middle-class non-Asian person marrying an upper-middle-class Asian person. Seriously. No medals for you. Maybe next time. Call me when you marry someone from a Papuan cargo cult and ritually scar your toddlers with elaborate patterns that resemble the cheesecake murals emblazoned across WWII-era bombers like the Enola Gay. Then we'll talk.

This I'm not entirely sure of. No medals for you if you are a white man and your wife is Asian, but pairings are less common the other way around, so perhaps a few medals can be allocated.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The aforementioned chag

It's beginning to look a lot like Passover. Posted by Hello

Sam in his Sunday best. Posted by Hello

Matzo and Manishevitz. Posted by Hello

Why is there an orange on the seder plate?  Posted by Hello

Everyone else tried it. I did not.  Posted by Hello

The Filibuster

Correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't the Democrats filibuster the filibuster?

Can't you see it now? A small group of Democrats, mostly moderate (leave Feinstein and Kennedy at home) speaking for hours, their throats hoarse, to save democracy.

Even let someone like McCain join the fun.

I think it would make a great media image.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A good chag was had by all

Just got back from a seder; there may be pictures (mostly birds' eye view shots of Passover foods, and one of an especially fashionable seder host) once the BA is further along. I can't tell whether my having gone to two seders this year while leading an otherwise secular life makes me born-again or just an especially devoted procrastinator. I'm thinking the fact that I ate a bagel for lunch (and was spotted eating said bagel by co-blogger Nick Tarasen, who tsk tsked) means it's the latter.

And when I finish posting this, back to the BA...

So Princeton has an abstinence club. Good for Princeton. Chicago does not, as far as I know, have anything of the kind, but we do have shirts that clunkily read, "The University of Chicago: Where the only thing that goes down on you is your GPA." Princeton's abstinence club could make equally clunky shirts: "Princeton University: Where the only things that should be inflated are your grades."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The four questions

The following are frequently asked of me by others, but are still more frequently asked of me by myself:

1) What are you doing next year?

2) How much of your BA have you written?

3) How late is the library open on weekend nights?

4) Your BA is in French?

It's a bit late in the day to discover a religious objection to doing work on Passover, so BA it is. Or, it will be. To quote "The Continental" from the old Christopher Walken SNL skit, "But first, a glass of this fine Champagne." And by Champagne, I mean coffee, which will hopefully counteract some of my (ceremonial!) inebriation and permit me to reach page 20 of the Thing tonight.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Who gets to be a minority?

Two letters to the editor in the latest Maroon argue that Asians should be considered an underprivileged minority because, while Asians are on the whole better-off than whites in this country, some subsets of the huge category that is "Asian" are in fact worse-off. This is terrible logic; some segments of the white population are also worse-off, some segments of the Latino population (say, South American socialites), better-off, and so on. Affirmative action involves putting people into huge categories with the knowledge that many individuals will not be under- or overprivileged in ways that their group membership would imply. As someone with a real distain for putting people into categories that have nothing to do with their own actions but have everything to do with their race, self-proclaimed or perceived, I don't know whether I'd rather see people divided into Vietnamese and Japanese, Jewish and Nordic, African and Caribbean, or just into the big, broad categories of black, white, Asian, Latino, and Native American. I'd rather see none of this. I'd also rather not be at the library right now, but if the Jews are going to stay an overrepresented minority, stay at the library I must...

Page 15, people!

The BA is happening.

Things that I've learned in my BA mini-breaks this afternoon:

1) Matthew Yglesias is obsessed with goat.

2) "I think deep down, girls want to be feminine."

2) Haroset and Israeli Nutella do not make up a complete brunch. The time has come for something more substantial.

Classics Cafe Liveblogging

It is 2:06 PM. Classics Cafe is hopping with people studying Truth and Freedom, maybe Existence, but it's a Friday afternoon, so maybe not. I've got four windows open on my laptop: BA, Proust search engine, New York Times, and, well, this bloggy nonsense. Classics is all about looking like you're doing work but actually looking up all the time to scope out the other people "doing work," which makes for a pleasant change from the library, where, from what I can tell, people are actually doing work. The BA work will start in 10, 9, 8, 7....


Today in Hebrew, we made haroset, the Passover food that looks, as our teacher admitted, something like baby food, but tastes good, assuming, as we established, that you don't have an aversion to any of the individual ingredients. One kid in the class doesn't like nuts, and when confronted with almonds, did not know what that food was called. He is, as far as we can tell, American, so this was pretty amusing. Another kid in the class, though Jewish, said he's not celebrating Passover, and refused to try any of the haroset, so our teacher yelled at him for being a "cosmopolitan." Then she told me I'm skinny and encouraged me to eat excessive amounts of matzo dipped in some kind of Israeli Nutella. I did, gladly, along with much haroset, which made for a weird but tasty breakfast indeed.

Movie review: "The Way We Were"

This is a movie about two immensely unappealing people. "Katie" (Barbra Streisand) comes across as incredibly annoying. And "Hubbell" (Robert Redford) is very tanned to the point of being orange, very blond and hairy, and kind of an asshole, and all of this is apparently supposed to explain why Katie can't get enough of him. The only possible explanation is that this film is, as I thought it might be, a sort of female version of "Annie Hall", a relic from an age (the 1970s) when a character's being a WASP was still reason enough to explain a Jewish character's romantic interest in him or her.

The opening sequence, though, feels very much like the beginning of "Rushmore"; between the two of them, Katie and Hubbell are shown participating in every activity on their college campus (she handles journalism and politics; he sticks with sports), much as Max Fisher is introduced through a barrage of images of his extracurricular activities at his prep school. The way the intros to both films jump around from showing one activity to the next promises an active movie later on, but while "Rushmore" follows through, "The Way We Were" kind of trails off. The movie also must have influenced "Pretty in Pink"--poor, unconventionally attractive girl with geeky-guy sidekick falls for preppy creep who inexplicably likes her back. But Katie, though, ends up with "David X. Cohen," whom we never actually see, but who, it is implied, is no Robert Redford.

But the movie that this really brought to mind, oddly enough, was "Arguing the World," a documentary about four politically-active Jewish men from New York City who all started out on the left and all came from families with very little money. Historically speaking, Katie could have been one of their sisters. But while the New York intellectuals of "Arguing the World" pursue political thought to its fullest, Katie a) is told it's embarassing to be political, and b) considers the presence of Robert Redford in her bed to be reason enough to abandon her political activities. Things probably work out better for the Irving Howes and Irving Kristols of the world than for the Katies; then again, Barbra Streisand herself, who came from a background not unlike Katie's, is doing just fine.

Watch out, socialites

The New York Times warns against the dangers of being too rich and too thin.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

How bloggers "really" spend their time

Explication de texte + reflexive Hebrew verbs + much-needed vacuuming and laundry-doing = no time for blogging. So this is the post for today (yesterday). Bonsoir, and lila tov.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

What are the odds?

This article, on student writing-contest winners, mentions all three high schools attended by my immediate family. Considering that two of the three don't get much press, this is worth noting.

Positive peer pressure, Part II; plus Brodyism refuted, Part II

Jenn convinced me to go running today, not by blogging about it, but by, you know, having me go running with her. The blogosphere is seemingly filled with BA-finishers as well as sporty types. Who knew?

Ah, poor Jane Brody, whose life's work is to keep America, or at least the Upper West Side, as scrawny as possible, for health reasons only, of course. Turns out "people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight." The reason for this, researchers found, is that many women, size 2 to 8, and men of similar dimensions die unneccessarily each year by getting trampled at the Barneys Semi-Annual Warehouse Sale. It makes you think.

I got Pierced

Tonight, for the first time since my freshman year, I ate in the Pierce dining hall. It seemed so different and yet so the same. The food looks a bit more limp than in Bartlett, but has the advantage of being less ambitious. Pseudo-gourmet tends to be a mistake in cafeterias, and Bartlett, home of the many-topping pasta, the ironically homey diner station, and various vegan horrors, is undeniably an ambitious enterprise.

In other culinary news, today in Hebrew class we learned about gefilte fish, or at least the two people in the class who hadn't already encountered it got an in-depth explanation. Only one girl in the class admitted to actually liking the stuff from the jar, and I really felt for her, since it reminded me of when I was the only person in a French class two years ago who confessed to not being fully against the Iraq war. It's hard to voice a minority opinion in the classroom, but somebody's got to do it.


From Paul Rudnick's "Shouts & Murmurs" piece, "My Living Will," in the latest New Yorker:

5. Do not resuscitate me before noon.

10. If there is any family dispute over my medical condition, it must be settled with a dreidel.

11. Even if I remain in a persistent vegetative state for more than fifteen years, that still doesn’t mean bangs.

What's wrong with multitasking?

From a concerned NYT letter-writer:

I wish that what David Brooks wrote [about young people today having conservative sexual mores] were true.

My daughter is a sophomore at an Ivy League college. She talks of girls there, even those successfully navigating pre-med programs, who have a steady diet of casual sex.

Monday, April 18, 2005

My IQ falls with each passing minute

I see this headline and think, "Oh neat, there's a new pope, and he's black. Barriers are totally being broken these days!" And then I look more closely and that's not it at all. My fuzzy mind is just that much more progressive than the outside world...

I see this word on my Hebrew xeroxed worksheet and spend a really long time trying to sound it out (no vowels, argh). Korneflahkess? Korenahflahkhass? I look around and see that my table-mates are reading Kant and Weber. I look back at the page: Kvarnehplax?! And then I look at the word in context: Cornflakes. Oh dear.

UnColumbia Unbecoming, plus Unrelated

The screening's been cancelled. No foul play, they just don't have the tape yet, so no kerfuffle.

Unrelated: To whom it may concern, I have not only made it to the library, but have also made the necessary xeroxes, so homework may begin at any moment.

Also unrelated: A while back, on this very blog, I asked why sorority girls wear sweatpants so much more frequently than non-sorority types. (To new readers and the unperceptive: I fall under the latter category.) Another, similar question was bothering me today: Why does spring start so much earlier for sorority girls than for the unaffiliated? My switch from jeans, boots, and black shirt to tank top, pleated skirt, and ballet flats happens somewhere in mid-May, at the earliest; sorority girls seem to break out their ruffle skirts, spaghetti tanks, and flip-flops on the first day it stops snowing. It's not that they dress more revealingly than most other girls, but that they don't wait for actual, honest-to-goodness warm weather before losing the layers. Does anyone know why this might be the case? Feminist, post-feminist, and gender-neutral interpretations are all welcome.

The strange cult of the WASP man

While Portnoy and Woody Allen may have celebrated the shiksa, it's the shikso, so to speak, who's getting all the press these days. From Dustin Hoffman's eternal obsession with being non-blond (via Bamber) to a "Modern Love" column in the NYT Style section in which a woman, I'm guessing of the Semitic persuasion, says wistfully of her ex, "I remembered looking into his almond-shaped blue eyes and marveling at the perfect shape of his WASPy nose," it seems that WASP men are this week what Bobo chic was a month or so ago. (This Thursday, DOC is showing The Way We Were, a movie which, my mother informs me, is about a Jewish woman's unrequited love for a Robert Redford.)

Here, I'm afraid, I just don't get it. As someone whose first real celebrity crush was on Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore, but who is equal-opportunity enough to also appreciate, say, Peter Sarsgaard, I don't know what to make of this new, but not new, craze. I think what the world needs is a massive screening of Yossi and Jagger. Or maybe I just feel like watching the film for, ahem, academic reasons.

Kerfuffle prediction

Tomorrow I'm seeing "Columbia Unbecoming"--I certainly hope tasty Middle-Eastern food (if only Chickpea would open a branch in Hyde Park) will be part of the deal, but if not, that's ok, too. Much kerfuffling, though, had better ensue, or else it will be time that would have been better spent doing my own pseudo-Middle Eastern pseudo-studies.

Boys at Smith

Like Amber Taylor, I'm going to have to come out against Smith allowing transgendered (female-to-male) students to enroll. Because what transgendered people are arguing for is this: Gender is something you choose, either by default, as most tend to do, or by way of hormone treatments, surgeries, and so forth. If gender can be chosen, then one's "original" gender shouldn't matter in the least. If someone born female wishes to be called "he," checks "male" on gender boxes, and otherwise presents himself as a man, conservative (and, hell, not-so-conservative) skeptics may still call that person a very confused woman, but to the open-minded masses, he is a man. But then these same people are demanding that their original gender be taken into account, that their one-time womanness permit them to stay at a woman's college. This strikes me as beyond hypocritical--if someone takes offense at being referred to with pronouns of his former gender, then he ought to accept the new gender across the board, not just when a touchy, knee-jerk, "get with it, you ignorant fools" response is required. Accepting a new gender means taking the benefits along with the drawbacks, and while perhaps the transgendered will one day lead us in our fight for justice for both genders, Smith's women-only policy is (probably) a just one, and if natural-born men can't attend the school, then anyone who considers himself to be as much of a man ought not to be allowed in, either.

Trying to get a handle on the UK election?

I am, but mostly because I'm finding it horribly alienating to be supporting a socialist (Blair) due to his opposition to health testing for immigrants and stance on civil unions (pro).

Who should you vote for (assuming, of course, you're able to vote in the upcoming UK election)? Try this simple quiz.

My results, rather odd for a libertarian, if I do say so myself:

  Labour 16
Conservative -16
  Liberal Democrat 16
UK Independence Party -15
  Green 8

For a more comprehensive guide to the parties, try BBC News, which allows you a side-by-side comparison of any of 20 parties on the myriad issues.


Before there was 9/11, there was 4/19.

The day in 1993 that a complex in Waco, Texas was stormed by ATF/FBI agents, resulting in the death of 80 people, of whom 22 were chilren.

And the day in 1995 that a federal building in the unassuming capital of Oklahoma was bombed, killing 168 people, of whom 19 were children.

Before 9/11 brought home the fear of international terrorism, 4/19 reminded us that many of the world's demons reside within our own borders...a lesson that perhaps still bears reminding.

If you ever get the chance to visit Oklahoma City--perhaps on a cross-country, I-40 road trip, do. It's a startlingly large, well-trimmed city, busy but unambitious. And the memorial is a beautiful and touching reminder of a terrible event.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Brand-name Herring

Hubert Herring's Times piece, "Your Child Got Into an Ivy! Do You Have to Say Yes?", makes "The Ethicist" seem brilliant and insightful. Herring's assumption is that, when choosing colleges, sensible parents want to go with the lower-cost, while their dippy, status-obsessed, designer-clad offspring want the big names:

"And never forget: to teenagers, a brand name - whether of jeans or colleges - can be a blindingly powerful lure."

Herring ends his article cutely:

"The next hurdle, of course, is explaining all this to a teenager obsessed with sporting a sweatshirt with a high-status college name on it. Well, parents can always buy the 'name' sweatshirt but send her to the affordable college."

(I know that I, for one, came to the University of Chicago just so I could have "Where Fun Comes to Die" written on as many items of clothing as possible.)

Herring sure knows what he's talking about. Because of course the advantages gained from a top-college degree are precisely the same as those garnered from upgrading on your jeans. Now, could it be that any rational being with any sense of ambition, who wants to make it in just about any field, would go with the bigger name? How seriously college students and graduates are taken by prospective employers and co-workers often depends almost exclusively on where they went to school. Names matter, and parents who fail to acknowledge this, and who think their kids are just status-conscious brats for wanting to go to name-brand schools, are something else entirely. I've never heard of anyone's parents, regardless of income, having this attitude.

To be fair, status is status, and one can just as easily opt out of the designer-jeans craze as the college admissions one. As a high school student, I cared little about either, and probably ought to have cared a bit more about the latter, but things turned out OK in the end, and what's done is done. But while opting out is always possible, a decision not to care about the status of one's college (when a high-status college is financially doable, but somewhat more expensive) is a decision to have fewer options later on in life.

Chicago-specific rant: Books, buses, BA...

Last night, someone at a party asked me if I was an econ major. This has never happened to me before, and I would take it as a sign that I'm dressing too conservatively these days, if the question weren't a follow-up to an insinuation that I am less than literate. Books--both as a subject of conversation and books themselves--make appearances at Chicago parties from time to time, but what can I say, I wasn't in a literary mood. However, the revelation that I am, in fact, a French literature major, set things straight, re: my literacy and my field of study, or maybe just the latter.

In other UChicago-specific news, what's up with the #173? Waited a long time at the bus stop in front of the Eddie Bauer on Michigan Ave. last night, till the #173 finally approached...and sped right past. Why did it do that?

In one final bit of Chicago-ness, my BA, in it's sad mix of French and English, all-caps and actual paragraphs, has finally hit some sort of a halfway point. Or something. Better get back to it...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Brodyism refuted

Gina Kolata successfully tears apart the Jane Brody philosophy of health, which is that, if you're thoroughly virtuous, you will live forever, be a better person, and, best of all, get to lord your toned whole-grainedness over all your flabby, white-bread (in the non-racial sense) cohorts.

"In fact," writes Kolata, "science is pretty clear on all of this: There are real limits to what can be done to reverse the damage caused by a lifetime of unhealthy living."

The intended audience of Brody's "Personal Health" column is, without a doubt, adults past the point at which, according to Kolata, any real change can be effected, NYT readers in the 50 and up range, whose children, too, are either too old to get much out of changing their ways, or are, in any case, too old to listen to their Brody-reading parents. Older adults can read Brody's tirades against sugar, television, smoking, drinking, or whichever subset of "fun" she's chosen to pick on any given week, but the damage has already been done.

Welcome back, Wireless

No idea where it went, but my wireless disappeared a few weeks ago, and has just now decided to return. Well, it's nice to see it again, and I hope it decides to stick around this time.

If you blog it, it's no fairytale

Tomorrow, the following will happen:

I will get out of bed at 10 am or earlier.

I will, after Fox and Obel bagel consumption, head straight to the library.

Once at the library, I will use the internet sparingly, the way the food pyramid suggests that one consume fats, oils, sugars, and whatnot.

19th century France-avoidance

Jenn's birthday (and tax day) celebration continues, but I'm back home, with Herzl, Lazare, and the gang. (I must note this here, because the reason I gave for having to leave was my BA, so by blogging, I'm proving that I wasn't actually ditching Jenn & Co. for something wild. Not that my BA isn't wild. And not that I wouldn't blog from a wild party, if there were a convenient way to do so which didn't involve risking drinks getting spilled on my laptop.)

OK, right now I'm posting simply because writing in French in the MS word window behind the Blogger window is far too difficult, so I need something to blog about. Well, one thing, Matthew Yglesias points out that discrimination against lesbian gym teachers isn't just a bad thing for lesbians, but might in fact contribute to this nation's obesity problem, because without lesbian gym teachers, there wouldn't really be gym teachers. A fine argument for gay rights, and one that would surely be supported by large numbers of gay men (who, since we're apparently going by stereotypes here, ought to value slender but toned bodies), thus connecting the gay and lesbian rights movements in an innovative way. This may be the start of some of that "grassroots activism" I hear so much about...

In other news, five things I like:

1) Fox and Obel brownies
2) Chimay cheese (or beer; or both)
3) The fourth floor of the Reg--that's where all the characters are, and that's where there are tables with what a moronic electrician on Seinfeld , hired to move a Frogger machine, famously referred to as "the holes" (i.e. sockets) underneath.
4) The English language, so conveniently devoid of accent marks, most of the time.
5) Gigantic fluffy dogs; and dachshunds. And llamas, rabbits, and also polar bears...

Now, back to 19th century France. For real.

Friday, April 15, 2005

L'Affaire Stephens

Is it just me, or is there something absurd about a huge scandal erupting over whether or not a high school basketball coach is a lesbian? What next, interior decorators suspected of being gay? I always assumed that, in this stereotype-fueled world we live in, female high school gym teachers were assumed lesbian unless proven otherwise, and that no one really had a problem with this (except, perhaps, straight female gym teachers, who might have a hard time getting a date). Assuming it was her sexual orientation that got her fired, I'm in disbelief at how homophobic a town could be, if so many of its residents give a crap whether the high school gym teacher has a boyfriend. The thing with the Dreyfus Affair was that Dreyfus was, as a army officer, in a role that was atypical for well-off French Jewish men, so much of the controversy was over the idea that Dreyfus was overstepping his bounds. But if a gym teacher is fired for being a lesbian, then what do the open-minded people of Bloomburg, Texas, want to do with their lesbians? That may sound ridiculous, but what I'm getting at is, if minorities are considered unacceptable even when acting in the most predictable, stereotype-fulfilling way, then things are really a mess. If people get worked up when a star football player comes out, then that's part homophobia, part honest confusion over the ways of the world. But if a lesbian can't be a gym teacher, it's pretty safe to say she won't be allowed to do much of anything, other than try very hard to like boys, if she wishes to stay in town. Bad news indeed.

The "Federletus" and David Brooks

What possible connection could I make between the impending Britney Spears baby and the conservative New York Times columnist?

When I first read on Gawker that there was a "Federletus," I was more than a bit disturbed. Britney Spears, with child? This just seemed wrong. Now, according to David Brooks, Britney would be a role model, marrying and having children young (she's 23). This is precisely the arrangement Brooks advocates, the Spears situation showed me why the Brooks plan just doesn't sit right. 23 might have once seemed like a perfectly reasonable age to start having kids, and for some women it might be just that. But Britney, whose schoolgirl act caught on in a large part because she was more or less schoolgirl age when it appeared, whose not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman-ness feels like just yesterday, seems to have skipped a big chunk of adulthood. This is not to say I know what's best for Ms. Spears, but what I'm trying to figure out is why I find it icky that a married 23-year-old would be having a baby. And I will fully admit that I have not, in my analysis, controlled for the fact that the 23-year-old in question is Britney Spears. Because, my feelings on natalism aside, I'm thinking that's probably a factor that would need to be taken into account.

"Church" is a Verb says a sign outside the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist (Wabash and Wacker). Mind you, this church and I also have some differences of opinion about the validity of the germ theory of disease (me being a microbiologist and all), but that's neither here nor there.

While "google" is a verb, "friend" is a verb in the facebook-sense, and many other things have been "verbed" lately (up to and including "verb"), "church" is not a verb.

"Church" may serve as a noun, and it may be an adjective (church people, church doctrine), it is not a verb.

I'll begrudgingly let the Church of Christ, Scientist believe that prayer will heal their syphilis, but I won't let them claim "chruch" is a verb. They've crossed the line.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Steer clear of water, cheese, wine...

I always sensed that the best pre-running beverage was a cappuccino (preferably from Downtown Delicious, a now-defunct coffee bar near my high school); turns out I was, if not right, then maybe not altogether wrong.

But while water may be overrated, cheese, like water, kills. Or at least food-poisons.

Wine, meanwhile, will also do you in, or will, if nothing else, make you so drunk that you begin to eat cheese and drink water as if they were both, err, water.

Unique no more

Ross Douthat reports that there will one day be a whole bunch more Phoebes. Not good, not good at all--now, when I Google myself (or when y'all Google me, my fair readers) you only get entries about this particular Phoebe Maltz. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm almost certain that I'm the only one. This may change.

Interestingly enough, Douthat comes out against Brideshead Revisited in his list of five overrated things. I'm actually "Phoebe" because of the miniseries version of Brideshead: Supposedly my mother saw this name in the credits, and decided that she wanted a Phoebe, and I'm guessing if my father had had any serious objections to this, then I'd probably be called something else.

So yeah, not sure how this all connects, other than that The American Scene has, strangely, caused me to reflect on my first name much more than I'm generally inclined to. It made for a pleasant break from BA-writing (as did a run out to the BartMart for Soy Crisps and, since I have flex dollars to burn, bottled water), but now, I think Bernard Lazare and Theodor Herzl are waiting. Preferably waiting in a Viennese cafe, with a big piece of apple strudel...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Another list: Five reasons my BA will get written tonight

1) I supersized my Ex Libris coffee, paying an extra quarter (adding up to a full dollar) for a medium.

2) Tonight is the BA party. This means very little, basically that I'll be at the Reg writing my BA, possibly eventually surrounded by others doing the same.

3) I got far too much sleep last night, so I do not have the, "I'm tired, I'll do it tomorrow" excuse.

4) I also have no excuse to go out and get a snack. The candy bar I got yesterday which failed to interest me then is still in my bag.

5) Yesterday, I read all sorts of fascinating stuff about Theodor Herzl. Sounds like, for a good guy, he was kind of an asshole. Rude to his wife, obsessed with aristocracy, even (gasp) anti-Semitic. How this will related to a French literature BA paper has yet to be determined.

"Caesar's Bath"

Matthew Yglesias has passed me the baton (and thank god, unlike in my more athletic high school days, it's only a virtual baton) and I must "list five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over." Narrowing it down to five was tough. Didn't want to be too general (hipsters, the city of Chicago) or too specific (the vegan station at Bartlett). I want to say "iPods," but it's not that I don't get it, so much as that I have yet to, well, get one. Would have liked to include "The Royal Tenenbaums", but Matt's already said what needs to be said on that front. So here goes:

1. North Face: In middle school, wearing a North Face implied that one engaged in certain not-for-family-blog activities on the weekends with guys from the local boys' schools, or that one was friends with people who did, but was too prudish or reasonable to do so one's self. I hung out with the crowd that shopped at Bebe and Club Monaco (and was a better-dressed 13-year-old than 21-year-old), but this was what was said about the North Face crowd, and eighth graders never lie. In high school, North Face had very little meaning, and was even a crossover look, appealing to the moderately cool Asian and white kids alike. But in the city of Chicago, North Face is the law of the land. On a Saturday afternoon, everyone's wearing it. As in, you cannot find a person without that logo. And there's nothing wrong with the logo, or with the clothing itself, but it's just a bit much. I make a point of branching out--Patagonia, EMS--whenever I find myself in need of something (yawn) practical.

2. Cobb Coffee Shop: Come on, people. It's in a basement, smells terrible, the food is bad even by UChicago coffee shop standards, and the people working there are, you know, mean. I think they're trained to act as if, however hip and emaciated a customer might be (and the "emaciated" part's easy if you eat there often), they are to receive a sneer if they are not a fellow Cobb employee or groupie. (And why on earth do people who work in a dingy coffee shop get to have groupies?) And yet many of my friends think it's a perfectly reasonable place to get lunch on campus, so I've had to eat there many times over the years.

3) Famous professors: From what I can tell, sometimes the hype is legit, sometimes not so much. One of my best professors here was a grad student at the time (Hi, Eric Schliesser!), yet, to be fair, many of the big-shots are great teachers. Some, however, are not, and are quite happy with themselves, and this inner joy makes it impossible for them to listen to new ideas, or to anything they themselves are not saying.

4) Bubble tea: This one's a bit old, but during late high school/early college, every time I went back to NYC, my friends from the, uh, institution would insist upon going to a brightly lit place to spend about $4 each on some nasty, artificial-tasting syrup-and-tapioca concoction. It's supposed to be this cute, Asian-philic activity, this bubble-tea-drinking, but I never quite saw the point, and would lobby for a place that served coffee whenever possible. Now that we are all 21, the bubble tea-coffee debate has become something of a non-issue.

5) Blogs: Ha! Just kidding. Blogs are great!

5) Expensive jeans: I do not think less of my friends who spend over $100 on jeans. I spend far too much on silly things myself (cheese, coffee, more cheese, more coffee), so I don't judge. But since this game is about listing instances where you don't see what the fuss is about, well, I don't totally get it. I can tell how expensive a pair of jeans are mainly by how well-off a person appears to be otherwise, or by whether a given individual has mentioned to me where she (occasionally he) has bought them. I am not totally immune, though--I care a bit about how my jeans look--and I should disclose that, while my jeans tend to be in the $30-50 range, I have a special discount designer jeans source (OK, just a store that happens to be near my favorite pastry place, ironically enough) back in NYC. A pair from Barneys looks a bit different from a pair from Old Navy, but when people size one another up, they're looking at the shape, not the denim itself, and a shape that turns heads in a limited-edition pair will likely also get noticed in something from the sale rack at the Gap.

So now the time has come to pass the baton. I now realize, looking at my blogroll, how few people on it are still blogging. Oh well. In the name of gender equity in the blogosphere, and also in the name of keeping things in consecutive alphabetical order, I will ask Jenn, Kei, and Libby to provide such lists, if they're up for it, but would be curious to see other people's lists as well.

Proof that I need more than four hours of sleep

So I take out my discman, and press play. Nothing. There's a CD in it, the headphones are plugged in, but...nothing. Huh. Then I notice that the thing feels lighter than it should. Batteries, yes, those might have been helpful.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Woman date

Just had dinner with Kate at Bartlett. It was kinda awkward, you know, two heterosexual women having dinner together without the crutches of a makeover party or a Brad Pitt movie. What beverages would we consume? (Diet Coke for me, water for her; had to steer clear of root beer, whole milk, or anything that might be considered butch). What would people say? Think we made it from the dining hall to the library without too many people coming to the (false! false!) conclusion that we are a lesbian couple, but you can never be too careful...

Yeah. Like everyone else in the blogosphere, I'm not quite sure what Jennifer 8. Lee was getting at with her "Man Date" article.


C-Span is a wonderful thing. My friend (and, dare I say, fellow blog enthusiast) Aaron informed me that you can go to their website and watch Ana Marie Cox, Matthew Yglesias, and some others on some panel, so when I got back from work today I did just that. It was neat to see two bloggers I've read a whole lot, you know, talking, looking like normal people, which is always reassuring, and serves as ammunition for when I have to defend my own blogging to non-blog-oriented friends. It was also quite awesome when Cox was introduced as the only University of Chicago graduate to ever appear in a Lucky magazine fashion spread.

The thing with C-Span, though, is that no matter what's on it, no matter how much the subject interests me (which, me being dorky in just that kind of way, it often does), you simply cannot watch it on four hours of sleep without all of a sudden waking up from a nap you didn't even remember deciding to take. I definitely heard everyone's opening remarks, and I definitely woke up about half an hour later to notice that there were a bunch of people arguing on the screen of my laptop, voices that, in my sleepy state, I'd just assumed were my neighbors. Oh well. I'll try to catch the end of it later, on a day when I'm a bit more with it...

World Health Day 2005

Imagine my surprise to look down at the calendar and realize that World Health Day 2005 (April 7) had already come and gone, with hardly a notice in the news.

The theme of this year's World Health Day is "Make Every Mother and Child Count" and it focuses on the health of women and children as a vital aspect of development. This, of course, is part of a larger focus of the World Health Organization on health as an issue of development and security. The argument is quite simple: human capital--education and training--is one of the most important investments that a developing country can make, and health is a vital part of any investment in human capital--especially with health issues such as AIDS that strike disproportionately at the working-age population.

The World Health Report 2005 is available online at the WHO/OMS website.

It's online

My Maroon column, that is.

Positive peer pressure

The pressure is on. So I'm procrastinating by reading blogs, only to be forced to read, over on Crescat, that other bloggy types have actually finished their BAs. While finishing may be bittersweet, frankly it sounds quite good to me right now. Yes, I find my BA interesting, yes, it's something I could see studying well beyond this spring, but I would like to know that the 30-plus pages of francophilic Zionism will be finished at some point before 5th week. I don't quite see how this will happen, but I'm sure that caffeine and trans fats will each play a role.

Cursing up much ado about nothing

In Iowa, saying the world "gay" loudly is more likely to get a stare than saying the word "fuck." Believe me, I know...I tried it in a series of unscientific experiments this weekend (one must find some way of entertaining oneself in Des Moines).

So it's not at all surprising to me that the Washington Post is reporting that children are cursing more these days. After all, the traditional curse words were taboo because of their bad meanings. "Ass," "shit," and "fuck" are all taboo because of a very Victorian disdain far the natural functions of the body. Originally, one couldn't even say the word "pregnant" on television. We have (more sensibly, I think) abandoned such a disdain. Though many are who are understandably uncomfortable with kids talking about sex, there's no reason kids, who at least have first-hand knowledge of their own bodies, shouldn't be allowed to talk about "shit" and "ass."

Besides, all curse words have a short shelf-life in a culture that thrives on shock value. As the use of curse words becomes more abstracted ("Fuck! I missed the bus!"), our curse words will change.

But more importantly, a new set of curse words is growing. I hate to post-modernize and historicize curse words, but it's idiotic to think that curse words won't change in reflection of the values of the society in which they're used. In reality, the use of derogatory terms such as "n-gg--," "f-gg--," and "k-k-" really is taboo. These words will be the new curse words, whose use really is quite inappropriate (to the point that even I am not willing to spell them out). Eventually (50? 100 years?), they will lose their original significance, as discrimination (hopefully) becomes less of a problem, and ther original signifiers will become abstracted, as children (sigh, precocious tykes) will use them for their shock value.

So, conservative so-and-so's at the Washington Post (read: bible-thumpers from Northern Virginia), get over it.

BHL tours America; I seek out the #171 bus...

Woke up far too early, in an attempt to get in some last-minute syllable-counting and verb-conjugating before the early classes. When I have more time, I'll be taking another look at this. BHL is the new Tocqueville, apparently.

It's a rainy day here in Chicago, which means I'll (finally!) be breaking out the silly hat (Gap, $7, black, shiny, blogged about it before but can't be bothered to find the link). That is, if I find a way to remove myself from this chair, which, on four hours of sleep, seems oh so comfortable...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Assorted fascinating news items

Spotted someone whom I'm thinking was Daniel Drezner at Medici Bakery this morning. Came quite close to asking him where one finds the dark chocolate Twix, but figured that if he was in fact Drezner, then he probably has better things to do than help me gain my Senior 15, so decided against.

Ever wondered why there's no Gap in Hyde Park? The University of Chicago Magazine kindly allowed me to investigate this most pressing issue. Here's the scoop. (Not, needless to say, the Scoop; I'm not holding my breath till one of those boutiques opens in Hyde Park, let alone Chicago.)

I will have an article in tomorrow's Maroon, if I get my act together and finish it, that is. Then I will count French syllables, conjugate Hebrew verbs, and otherwise party hard, Chicago style, for the rest of the evening.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Ethicist, the Snail, and the obvious follow-up to a post about public toilets

After eating at a place listed in a book on the best restaurants in Paris, I developed food poisoning and spent the final day of my vacation in bed. (It was either the tuna carpaccio or the braised hare.) Should I have forgotten it, called the restaurant to warn them or (what would have given me more satisfaction) stopped payment on the credit card, since I was put at potentially great health risk by a bad kitchen? L. Eriksen, Connecticut

You should have called the restaurant as promptly as your agonizing intestinal cramps allowed, not merely for the joy of berating a feckless chef but to protect other customers. (If you spy a restaurant in flames, you should speak up then too.) That would have been an opportunity for an honorable restaurateur to decline payment for the menacing meal or, if he didn't, for you to announce that you would not finance the fish or bunny that laid you low.

OK, way off. If I had reported the incident every time eating out in Paris made me ill during the three months I lived there, all but the haute cuisine or similarly expensive restaurants in that city (which, alas, I never visited, saving money for many, many pairs of shoes, t-shirts, and the like) would have had to have been shut down. All the falafel stands, Vietnamese places, creperies...But seriously, there really is such a thing as being in an unfamiliar setting, jet-lagged, and eating food you're not used to. If it's not Bartlett pizza or De Cecco pasta, I have trouble digesting most things. OK, slight exaggeration, but there's something to be said for the possibility that this tourist just doesn't usually eat raw fish and rabbit for dinner, and his/her stomach didn't know what to make of that combination.

Any discussion of food poisoning forces me to bring up (so to speak) the Snail, a Thai place which Kate and I go back to again and again despite the fact that one or both of us feels a bit off (headaches, sometimes worse) following each meal there. Why, then, do we return? That we can get there without even crossing the street is only part of the answer. Another is that, as you eat it, especially if you're really hungry, Snail food is quite delicious. So, the question is, did L. Eriksen of Connecticut at least enjoy his/her less-than-stellar dishes while consuming them? If so, then s/he really ought to just let it be.

NYT headline: "More Public Toilets Are Near, City Says"

Not too near, one hopes. I'd try to keep a 20-foot radius, at least.

But really, I'd always been under the impression that NYC already had plenty of public toilets, known to the unenlightened few as "Starbucks."

I am writing a B.A. paper. I will write a B.A. paper.

To whom it may concern (primarily if not exclusively myself):

My B.A. will one day be super-cool. You've got your French left-wing rebels, your American 20th century neocons, your Maltzian interpretations of Zionism...all really exciting stuff. That this is all currently in the form of franglais notes is a bit problematic (problematique?) but will soon be rectified. That many of my sources are, tragically, written in English, though the paper itself must be written in French, is partly to blame for my linguistic confusion.

It's striking, though, how many people at the Reg seem to be studying themselves in one way or another. There's an Asian girl reading about "multiethnic Japan," and there are often two very blond people, a guy and a girl, reading about Lutheranism. And here I am with my gigantic Jew in the Modern World. I mean, it's French Jews I've got to deal with, and I'm not one of those, but still...

Brooks on Bellow

A UChicago reuinion for the ages, Brooks (AB'83) on Bellow (X'39):

"Bellow's best America would be a Times Square version of a German university, with intellectual rigor on one side and scrambling freedom - sex included - on the other."

[Link mine]

But, to more seriously analyze Brooks's point, which is that America no longer defines itself vis a vis Europe (screw accent marks, btw--what do you think this is, my BA?), with intellectual Americans not caring about being American, and with the rest of us not giving a damn about Europe, either because we are anti-Old Europe cowboys or because we are too drunk off our Cancuning asses to read the Classics. Brooks writes:

The tension that propelled Bellow's work is now mostly absent from American life. On the one hand, you have a generation of students who are educated in a way that doesn't bring them into contact with the European canon, the old "best that has been thought and said." They don't have a chance to push back and assert their own Americanness. On the other hand, there are those in the academic and literary stratosphere who are part of the global circuit of conferences and academic appointments. They seem aloof from or ashamed of America, so they are not driven to define, the way Bellow did, an American identity.

Finally there are the rest of us who don't pay attention to what is being written and said in Europe because it doesn't seem that exciting, (Quick, what book is the talk of Berlin? Who is the François Truffaut of our moment?)

I'm not sure if there was ever a time in which a whole generation of American students was being educated in a way that Brooks and similar would find acceptable. While there may be less Aristotle at Harvard than there once was, there are more people going to college in general, and thus more people potentially coming into contact with the canon. But moreover, I think Brooks is missing the point when it comes to Bellow's Americanness. The novelty and power of being self-made and self-educated have not disappeared from the American ideal. A.O. Scott writes that "Bellow readers can take heart from his imperfect, immortal strivers, arguers, dreamers and failures and learn, once again, to go at things our own way." If anything, Bellow's America is now everyone's America. Bellow's asides on the great books are not what make his stories great books in their own right, and can at times be distracting, even for those who have taken all the right classes at Chicago and can get many of the references. What makes his stories worth reading is the way in which, through their characters, they define this nation. Brooks might be onto something when he argues that there's a certain type of mind that could only come out of Bellow's generation, it's a bit too early to give up on the current one. I mean, we've got blogs, which has to count for something...

What to wear to the library

I decided to dress like a normal college student today. Not like a normal student but like a student at a normal college. This involved a bright green corduroy skirt from Gap Kids, a preppy pink sweater of sample sale origins, and black ballet flats. It's very Lilly Pulitzer for a trip to the Reg, but I might also stop by Harper...not, now that I think of it, that that would make much difference. The only thing missing is pearl studs; massive H&M hoops will have to do. Yesterday, I wore a francophilic outfit to the Reg in the hopes that this would mean the BA would actually get written. Since that didn't quite happen, I'm thinking dressing for a Palm Beach vacation might just do the trick.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Check these out:

1) My former astrophysics lab partner Kei Hotoda has some nice UChicago-in-Paris coverage, over at the Kei Pop Nation. Pictures, witty commentary, and more from someone who helped me survive the physci requirement.

2) The Village Voice, which I usually just read for Michael Musto's column, has recently written up two of my favorite foods: feta and natto. I suppose this makes Nina Lalli, the author of these two articles, the Voice's official fermented-foods columnist, a job I would gladly accept if she ever tires of it. Natto (Japanese fermented soybean) is one of those foods that a person who finds cream cheese too icky ought not to like, but I like it all the same. As for feta, Lalli's article suggests its uses go above and beyond being sprinkled over a Greek salad, but as far as I'm concerned, they begin and end there, and there's no need to try to make feta do things it's not meant to do (say, make an appearance in a Bartlett omelet).

3) Something called the "Baccalaureate Committee" sent an email out to seniors asking us to send them our memories from our time at Chicago. Some of their suggestions of possible memories are reasonable; others more or less necessitate confessing to illegal/incriminating activities: "First time I skipped class"; "I never thought I’d be doing ____ in college"; "First apartment party [second year]"; "The funniest thing I did at the Pointe [sic.]". I suppose there could be wholesome explanations for all of these ("I skipped class to go volunteer with a South Side community organization"; "I never thought I'd be taking this many wonderful math classes in college"; "My first apartment party second year was dry but lovely"; "The funniest thing I did at the Point was barbeque a veggie burger") but that's not what this Committee is going to get. Then, there are suggestions which suggest a perky, "yay, Chicago!" attitude which even those of us who love this school are unlikely to exhibit: "First frat party"; "Saying Hello to Max P, Bartlett, and the Bart Mart"; "Whom I sat with at the Faculty Roundtables"; "Memories from second year night at the Hot House"; "Memorable moment from Taking the Next Step"; "My last home game, MUN conference, cultural show, UT play"; "Favorite Fall Formal moment", and so on. Cultural shows, frat parties, class-wide activities, and similar may exist at Chicago, but hearing some kid's wonder at the sight of all that cheap beer during Orientation Week is unlikely to make most graduating seniors feel warm, fuzzy, and generous towards their alma mater.

Friday, April 08, 2005

At the Ivies

The NYT suggests some ways to spend 36 hours in Princeton, NJ. Among the options is heading to Triumph Brewing Company, where "Depending on who is playing, you may be rubbing elbows with a physics graduate student or 40-somethings escaping their teenage children." Now, there's nothing wrong with rubbing elbows with physics grad students, but riding the bus with math grad students is another story entirely.

Pope's Funeral: A Geopolitical Oddity

The assemblage of politicos from around the world for the Pope's funeral has led to some interesting situations.

First of all, Taiwanese President Chen Shiu-Bian attended the funeral. Italy does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan; it recognizes China as the "One China" and therefore Chen is generally not allowed to visit the country. The Vatican, however, is one of 25 nations that do recognize Taiwan, and so Chen was let into Italy to hobnob with the other world leaders.

Similarly, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who's single-handedly responsible for starving a large number of his people, was allowed into Italy even though he is by law banned from traveling into the EU and the US, because a treaty requires Italy to let into the country dignitaries visiting the Vatican.

But perhaps the most interesting juxtaposition of the pope's funeral is the following:

Why yes, that is Jaques Chirac kissing Condi Rice's hand. Priceless...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

First-ever WWPD censorship

I regret to note that I had to delete Nick's last post: He'd taken a picture of a bug that was in his shower, and frankly, it was so gross it made me not want to read my own blog. Which is, of course, saying something. The bug in the photo was this particular kind of Chicago bug (yes, Chicago gets to claim that many-legged creature as its own, not that the NYT has tried to claim it for NYC or anything), found frequently in the Shoreland, and apparently also found in Nick's apartment.

The Bellow-blogging continues

In the Times, Joseph Berger tries to claim Saul Bellow for New York City:

Chicago was where he grew up, went to college and eventually settled. But he lived in New York as a young writer, and New York's frenzied streets, its apartments with bathtubs in the kitchen and cockroaches in the toaster, the benches on its traffic islands filled with idlers and the old, the onion rolls from Zabar's, even the pigeons, exerted a powerful and deeply ambivalent pull on him.

While this article has convinced me that I need to read "Seize the Day," which is apparently set in the Ansonia (which is, along with the Police Academy building near Little Italy, the site of my future apartment, one day when I am old and various cities are fighting over which gets to claim me as its own), I don't really buy Bellow as a New York writer. He sees NYC from a Chicagoan's perspective, and no Chicagoan can avoid the comparisons of their own city with the denser and more famous one to the east. Sure, New York has a more extensive public transportation system, but Chicago, well, Chicago has a University. Chicago also used to have an agnes b., but no city's perfect.

"The beer-soaked precincts of the student bar in Hyde Park"

The University of Chicago, Hyde Park, and, I believe, Jimmy's (could possibly be the Pub) are in the Times op-ed section. Sadly, it took Saul Bellow's demise for this to happen, but I'll excerpt Brent Staples's editorial here all the same:

Saul Bellow was the first writer to appear to me in flesh and blood. I got my initial look at him in the fall of 1975, when I was a nervous graduate student at the University of Chicago. I was awed by the lofty environment, away from my hometown for the first time and longing to become a writer. He was the literary eminence of Hyde Park. He taught in the university's loftiest department - the Committee On Social Thought - and prowled the streets with a fedora pulled low over searching eyes. That day he had drawn a huge crowd to the bookstore where he was signing his novel "Humboldt's Gift," which would earn the Nobel Prize.

The man signing those books was surprisingly tiny, given his Olympian reputation, with wisps of white hair floating above the great domed head. But his eyes - hungry, saucerlike - were large enough for any three people. They swept over and seemed to vacuum in the people who came near. Watching him, and greedily consuming his books, in later years, it became clear that he was scanning bodies and faces for the painterly features that made his characters so physically vivid on the page.

The famous novels, including "Herzog," "The Adventures of Augie March" and "Humboldt's Gift," lived at three separate levels. They were praised in the literary world at large for rich, inventive language and probing explorations of the human condition. Within the Chicago city limits, they were often seen as assays of the brawling, big-shouldered city where book-smart, street-dumb characters - based on Mr. Bellow himself - were taken to the cleaners by scoundrels, grifters and ne'er-do-wells.

The books were divined at yet another level in the beer-soaked precincts of the student bar in Hyde Park. We ransacked them for stories from the local streets and inside stuff from Mr. Bellow's divorces and his feuds with other intellectuals. It was through these exercises that some of us learned how books were put together. Colleagues and acquaintances sometimes flew into rages about their unflattering cameos in the novels. Most people kept quiet, though, secretly flattered that those hungry eyes had settled even briefly upon them.

I'd also like to post my old Criterion essay on Hyde Park novels, which included more than a bit about "Ravelstein," but Criterion, ahem, is not online. I'll see what I can do to fix that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Saved the best for last

As with the physical science requirement and the gym requirement, I saved yet another college inevitability for my senior year: Making a complete and utter fool of myself in a class. So today was my first time at the weekly Political Cultures of the Left, since I'd been away when it met during first week. I hadn't read the description, but saw that it was listed as a history class and thought, "I'd like to know the history of the left." I got to class and began noticing that my classmates were speaking to one another primarily in Spanish. The thought crossed my mind: What if this class is taught in Spanish? But I felt like this wasn't the thing to ask--what if it just happened to be the case that many Latino or Spanish students were in the class, or if it had a focus on a certain region (like a couple French classes I've taken) but was nevertheless taught in English. I wasn't sure how to bring this up, so I asked one of my classmates what books had been assigned (hint, hint, what language were the titles in?) and he didn't remember. Had there been a syllabus? No. So then I asked another classmate what language the readings were in. "Both," he said. Both? "What language is the class taught in?" I finally asked. "Spanish." So I said, "Oh no, I should leave then, I don't know Spanish." At which point my classmate said, "Not even a little?", to which I unfortunately had to respond, "None." He kindly offered to help translate stuff for me, but I explained that it was a hopeless cause and walked out, dejected, onto the Midway, wearing an outfit (jeans, black boots, black 3/4 sleeve shirt) completely inappropriate for the hot Chicago day.

Confusing "French" with "French"

Whenever the title of an article in the Weekly Standard has accent marks in it, a lightbulb goes off in my francophilic Zionistic mind. Olivier Guitta writes on "the unreported race riot in France." In a sick way I feel vindicated as a francophilic Zionist reading this: "At a press conference announcing the release of the statement on March 25, Finkielkraut denounced Francophobia and Judeophobia." American conservatives frequently associate being pro-French with being anti-Jewish and vice versa, so it's interesting to see that things are not always so simple. Less uplifting, however, is that there are, well, race riots in France. While this blog is the last place you'll usually find sympathy for far-left violence--and I'm not exactly sympathetic--it's worth taking a look at why this is happening in France, of all places, where assimilation should, by all accounts, be thriving. Guitta clues us in, though: "Chirac personally blundered last July 14, when, in the course of his traditional Bastille Day press interview, he distinguished between 'our Jewish and Muslim compatriots' and 'just plain French.'" While America does not (and Reihan would disagree with me here) have "just plain Americans," countries like France do contain a certain number of people whose ethnicity is one and the same as their nationality--French. Claiming otherwise would be futile. What's important for France's well-being is that the two things labelled as "French" do not become confused in people's minds. The whole point of the veiling law and laicite in general is to create a France which consists of a firmly defined and inclusive national sphere. The idea is, fine, veiling at school isn't the French way, but whatever you had going on under that veil is 100% French. Ideally, that's how things would work. But veiled or not, yarmulked or not, France is still confusing "French" with "French," and things there won't improve until that changes.

Is that so?

Daniel Drezner says there's a dark chocolate Twix. I'm intrigued. I want one.

I'm the man who brrrrrrrroke the bank at Monte Carlo!

Monaco is a perplexing place.

I visited Monaco on my 21st birthday, after a night clubbing in Nice, a day in Cannes (skip it) and Antibes/St-Juan-Les-Pins (go), and a week-long séjour in Corsica (if you have the means, I highly recommend it). I took a bus from Nice--it's not hard. And I arrived at the cleanest city I'd ever seen.

Monaco is immensely inviting. Exceedingly modern and well-trimmed, supposedly reserved for the well-heeled but with so many public services that it must be open to the public. A tiny, bustling city that employs more people than even live there (most of whom do not have a need for employment to pay the bills). And Monegasques do not pay taxes. Once just a haven for gambling, Monaco is a thriving city of high-rises, a mini Hong Kong or Manhattan, but lacking any of the typical urban blights.

Monaco is also a huge medieval throwback. The Grimaldi family has ruled Monaco for seven centuries (should their line cease, Monaco reverts to French control, making their reproductive health of utmost importance), and under their rule, Monaco is very much not a free country. Video cameras cover every square inch of the principality. Walking around barefoot and/or shirtless is prohibited, and there are numerous signs which will remind you of this fact. Every building (such as their world-class aquarium, which is really there because one royal was very fond of boating) is named after some royal, and probably exists only because that royal was instrumental in saying "I want to put X here..."

And that's so what's interesting about Monaco from an IR perspective--it's the only state I know in which people (there are, after all, only 32,000) truly do have a personal relationship with their leader, which goes beyond the cult of personality and actually stems from the fact that their leader has a day-to-day effect in their lives. Take, for exmaple this exchange which I once had with a cashier at a gift shop in the city:

Me: Does this store belong to the principality?
Cashier: No, no, this store belongs to the Prince!

The importance of this distinction cannot be understated. We Americans have a way of abstracting our government, making it more than simply the person in charge, mostly because the person in charge changes, but also because we don't feel that the government is really subject to the whims of one person. We de-personalize the government--it's the way people in most states operate.

Not so in Monaco. If there were ever a true embodiment of "l'état, c'est moi," it's Monaco, ironically. Proof that monarchy, though it's backwards, medieval, and strange, sometimes works.

His Highness Prince Rainier III (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi), husband to the late actress Grace Kelly, and responsible for Monaco's transformation from gambling mecca to bustling gem of modernity, died today. He was 81.

He will be succeeded by his son, His Highness Prince Albert II (Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi).