Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Is falafel a sedative?

I just ate a ton, and yes, this was related to Hebrew class. We went up to Devon and ate at an Israeli restaurant which seemed oh so much like an Israeli restaurant I'd eaten at in, of all places, Antwerp. The Turkish coffee was fab, but not enough to counteract so much pita, hummus, falafel, salad, uhhh, tasty but I may have to roll from this computer back to the desk where my stuff is. Can't move. Nap time.


It's good to know that Nazism is no longer popular in Germany. Oh wait, it is. Apparently one of the neo-Nazi groups recruiting German kids these days is the Pomeranian Homeland Association. So now they're using fluffy animals to promote facism. I don't like this one bit. Pomeranians don't need a homeland, they need a good vet and groomer and lots of tasty dog food. When will they learn?

Via Arts and Letters Daily.


I just took my last-ever French test.

I saw a girl wearing a shirt that was a takeoff on those Martha's Vineyard "black dog" shirts that said "fat dog" and had a similar logo but with a fat dog and said "Brooklyn" where the other shirts say "Martha's Vineyard."

An anonymous commentor directed me to this most useful of websites, which will permit me to spellcheck my notes for tomorrow's exciting presentation in Hebrew (more likely, "Hebrew") on the Dreyfus Affair. I'm thinking now that the appropriate snack would really be madeleines, since Proust wrote about the Dreyfus Affair, but those might be too much of a challenge.

Monday, May 30, 2005


How do you say "The Dreyfus Affair" in Hebrew? A transliterated answer would probably be best, since I can't quite picture what would happen to Hebrew letters in blogger comments.

In other news (was that news? no.) Ashley and I have determined that the Reg is freezing. Why is it so cold here? It's not helping me focus. It just forced me to go to Ex Libris and get a large cup of tea! And maybe the bermuda shorts weren't the way to go, for both fashion and temperature reasons. Why did I think it would be a good idea to prance around the Reg at 20-degree temperatures looking like a schoolboy? How much will I need to know about Balzac's life for tomorrow's final?

A silly project, keeping non-French words out of the French language...

"Maurice Druon of the Academie, wearing the official uniform embroidered with green and gold olive leaves." (SIPA Press) Posted by Hello

But a fabulous jacket.


"Phoebe...Phoebe Maltz? You're the one with the column and the blog?"--a girl at a party last night who hadn't read the blog but has heard things.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Now the French have red states and blue states. They ought to have picked some different colors.

When enough is enough

As pathetic as my attempts to convey what I'm studying were in French, they'll be that much more pathetic in Hebrew. I'll bring crepes, I'll hope my cooking is better than my discussions of Bernard Lazare, whose name, needless to say, I also cannot spell in Hebrew. I added a few extra alephs for good measure, but it looks really odd. Time to move back to French--the explication de texte final is Tuesday, and I should probably make sure I've read everything I might be expected to explicate...

I've been at the library for nearly 3 hours. This is what I've accomplished:

1) Just under half a page of an attempt to describe the Dreyfus Affair in Hebrew. Slight problem: can spell neither "Dreyfus" nor "affair" in Hebrew. I looked up "affair" in the dictionary but don't want to use the wrong "affair" and imply that the whole thing was more exciting than it was.

2) Just over half a bag of peanut butter M&Ms and just over half a can of diet Coke consumed.

3) Had a "stupid conversation" (his words) with Isaac. The contents of the conversation are too stupid to be blogged.

The return of the $800 haircut

When I saw that the latest installment of the Class series was called, "When the Joneses Wear Jeans," I knew what was coming. And I was right: "This is an America of $130,000 Hummers and $12,000 mother-baby diamond tennis bracelet sets, of $600 jeans, $800 haircuts and slick new magazines advertising $400 bottles of wine." Ah yes, who could forget about the $600 jeans and the $800 haircuts? Do most wealthy people, even most wealthy Manhattanites, spend this much on haircuts and jeans? I'm thinking no, but it hardly matters--those products are out there, and it's far too much fun to scoff at all those rich people consuming them than to actually look into how many people are really going in for these things. But Steinhauer--whose writing I generally really like, continues:

In the country's largest cities, otherwise prosaic services have been transformed into status symbols simply because of the price tag. In New York last year, one salon introduced an $800 haircut, and a Japanese restaurant, Masa, opened with a $350 prix fixe dinner (excluding tax, tips and beverages). The experience is not just about a good meal, or even an exquisite one; it is about a transformative encounter in a Zen-like setting with a chef who decides what will be eaten and at what pace. And it is finally about exclusivity: there are only 26 seats. Today, one of the most sought-after status symbols in New York is a Masa reservation.

What evidence does Steinhauer have that Masa reservations do anything for you other than get you a table at Masa? And why the repetition of the $800 haircut? Look, the place I get my hair cut in NYC, on the Upper East Side, is in the $40-$60 range, and I guarantee that I am by far the shabbiest person getting a trim there whenever I go. Yes, the $800 haircut exists, but no, it's not a sign of anything in particular in terms of class in America today. She's right, though, about the upgrade. Jeans, t-shirts, milk, salt, water--all things that could be had for next to nothing are now things you can splurge on.

Next post, as suggested by Isaac, will have nothing to do with the NYT. We shall see...

Writer's block!

I need to write two things today, my final Maroon column and my Hebrew presentation. I was going to do the presentation on celebrity gossip, but then I realized how damn hard it is to write Anglo names in Hebrew, so now I'm back to talking about the Dreyfus Affair (scroll down to see mention of a German Shepherd named "Dryphus"!) and combining it with some kind of snack as yet to be determined. Crepes a la Herzl? I'm sure Herzl had a favorite crepe while in Paris, but I'm far too lazy to search his diaries for any mention of this.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Enigmatic Chabad

This just makes no sense. Chabad has sent me another evite for the same event, but by my calculations Chabad really shouldn't be sending emails before sunset on a Saturday. It kinda weakens their case, no?

Hat no more

The wheels are in motion re: changing the picture of me on this blog from a silly-hat picture to a hat-free one. It's about time--even with Chicago's fickle weather and endless winter, it's been a while since I've worn that thing.

De rigueur fashion items

First of, Jen Lang will live to regret posing for the picture accompanying this article. She may regret it when she's a grown-up, but more likely she'll regret it whenever she gets her hands on a copy of this week's Style section.

But the article itself, about teen consumption, does what all articles about teen consumption do and makes the teenagers out to be brats. Alex Williams tells of today's "teenagers, who crave an ever-expanding collection of high-tech items they can't possibly afford." Teenagers also crave things like food and shelter, which they as individuals couldn't afford, either, so the fact that something is above and beyond what a 15-year-old could pay for doesn't by definition make it a luxury.

The story, though is about the sudden escalation of what teens bug their parents for, and in this world of expensive jeans/haircuts/sushi, shockingly the kids want expensive gadgets as well. It's not as though the parents themselves don't spend a gazillion dollars more than their kids on their own nonsense, but nevertheless...

"It is no secret that Apple's sleek iPod, costing $99 to $449, has become, to the American teenager, a de rigueur fashion item, not just a handy gadget."

For some reason, reading this, whatever interest I may have had in getting an iPod is disappearing at a rapid rate. Many people I know at Chicago got iPods as gifts not because they'd been pestering their parents but because parents are convinced that their kids want iPods. My parents were asking me about iPods before I knew what they were (I think I thought it was some kind of memory stick for a Mac, but didn't know until this year that it had anything to do with music), and while my non-teenage income would kinda-sorta permit me to buy one, as convenient as storing all one's music in a pod must be, I have this aversion to de rigueur fashion items, things that aren't fashion so much as pan-wealthy-America uniform. The same thing that's kept the brands Abercrombie and Fitch, North Face, Burberry, and Seven jeans out of my closet is the one that's kept me from walking into the Apple store and spending a couple weeks' pay on the white ear buds. Now, will this resolve continue whenever my discman kicks the bucket? Who can say, but by then iPods may be $10 and so small that they're just headphones with a molecule attached.

Friday, May 27, 2005

What's the matter with (Gap) kids these days?

Lauren's fabulous dark-rinse jeans were nowhere to be found, and I'm not about to buy jeans, even $14.99 jeans, online. Silly as it looks in the picture, this dress looked really cool when I tried it on, and was the right length, width, etc., but there was the not insignificant problem of a zipper digging into me in the general area of the armpit. I don't know why the side zipper went up that high, but there it was. A bright pink terry-cloth mini-dress with ruffles at the bottom (no picture online)... was a bright pink terry-cloth mini-dress with ruffles at the bottom. Very Juicy Couture two years ago, very Manhattan private school seventh grader two years ago, and too silly for someone soon to be a college graduate. But it was flattering, or at least the mirrors were flattering, looked interesting (read: ridiculous) worn over jeans, and was about $12, so I considered it, but ended up going instead with the dark khaki bermuda shorts, which were on sale and designed for a small woman, not a large child. My love affair with Gap Kids has ended, just in time for me to enter the world of grown-ups.

Bamber U

I wondered what Amber Taylor has against Harvard undergrads, and she has answered. Looking at her gripes, it's clear that she'd have in many ways preferred the University of Chicago. In fact, her complaints read almost as a checklist for things Chicago has over other schools, at least from the perspective of someone like Amber:

Ways in which they [Harvard undergrads] get on my nerves:

Their frolicking in the Yard. There is a group of guys that aims a giant speaker out the window and plays poker at a card table in the Yard, every week, rain or snow. Are they incredibly affected? Just attention whores? A public nuisance, due to the loud music? I pick all of the above.

We have no Yard, and we certainly don't frolic.

The self-important college paper, headlines from which (no matter how banal) tend to percolate into real media because, well, it's Harvard. Dirty snow sculptures are news!

Having worked at Chicago's college paper for nearly four years now, I can assure you that consumers of "real media" are safe from hearing whatever it is Chicago Maroon writers and editors have on our minds.

The never-ending parade of famous but probably dumb celebrity undergrads (although I've heard Ms. Portman was well-read).

Our dumb undergrads are rarely if ever movie stars.

The kids who constantly badger me with flyers and protests outside the Science Center. Shut up, shut up, shut up. Your cardboard costume and rows of deeply symbolic American flags just make me want to smack you.

Our most visible protester is an old man trying to get the University Hospitals to stop performing circumcisions.

Undergrads get decent housing and we get the Grope.

Undergrads and grads live in the same dumpy apartments that get broken into all the time.

The overpriced "edgy" stores that cater to them push out places with things I can actually afford.

Can you afford to spend $1.99 on a t-shirt from Walgreens? Then you can shop in Hyde Park. See here.

Their rampant grade inflation, which may be part of the reason there are so many double Harvards at the law school. Save some room for the rest of us!

I'll take three orders of "rampant grade inflation," please.

Their rabbity little faces with their multiple nose jobs.

If the entire Chicago campus contains multiple nose jobs I'd be surprised.

They pee on a statue of John Harvard even though they know tourists touch it.

We don't have a statue of John Harvard or tourists, but if we had either, we'd probably pee on both.

They apparently steal books, since every undergrad library searches your bag before you leave. The law library, by contrast, does not. Lawyers are more honest than college kids.

We recall books all the time, but steal them? Augie March stole and sold books at the U of C, but he wasn't an enrolled student or even a real person, so he doesn't count.

Style and substance

Would the mini-Corona cooler from Walgreens make a neat hipster-messenger bag, or would it just look stupid? If I'm at Walgreens with my camera soon, I'll take a picture, since it's sort of hard to explain what the thing is, but it almost (almost!) looks like something that would be sold in a contemporary art museum's gift shop for like $70. Well, maybe not.

The Undergrad-Grad standoff continues

Harvard law student (graduate? they're on semesters, right?) Amber Taylor, writing on the worst things about her city:

"The city in which I live (for the next two weeks) is Cambridge. It is cold for eight months of the year, hands out parking tickets like candy, my local branch library is closed, it has tons of homeless people, and it's stuffed to the gills with Harvard undergraduates."

Wait, what? I know, I know, it's not the place of a UChicago undergrad to stick up for Harvard kids, but why is a Harvard law student any better than a Harvard college student? Why would a population of studious kids who mostly behave themselves and who are probably, some of them at least, quite interesting, be so annoying to have around?

"Get well, get well soon..."

You know the Seinfeld where Elaine's office peer-pressures her into eating ridiculous amounts of cake? That's exactly what's going on in Hebrew class. I'm not complaining, but sometimes my cake-cravings don't hit between the hours of 9 and 10:30 in the morning. What I want to know is, since it's definitely more polite to take, say, a cookie, than to not take one at all, is it better to take one for later or to just not take one at all? It's weird to take food people bring in to class "to go", but since most of my classes are either bring-your-own-whatever or discourage eating during class, I'm not sure about the etiquette here. Regardless, I have a yellow-and-pink cookie shaped like a bear (and remarkably similar to the cookie Elaine buys for herself once she's excluded from the cake cult at work) sitting next to me right now at the Reg. All it needs is its own mini-laptop, made of edible metallic foil. It looks delicious, and I'm sure I'll want it later. Of course, if the Romance Languages barbeque isn't all that I'd hoped for and more, I've got backup.

Good morning, WWPD readers

And a happy morning to you both.

I don't know what this construction is going on outside, but it gave me strange dreams and woke me up at the ungodly hour of 10:15 (my alarm was set for 10:20). Now, time for a tough day of eating a pastry at Bonjour, sitting in an hour-long beginning Hebrew class, sitting around for a few hours, going to the Romance Lang. & Lit. BBQ, then making the trip to Gap Kids and Whole Foods, a trip I've been planning for many days now. Time to stop blogging and get this show on the road, that is, if 55th Street in Hyde Park counts as a road...


1) It takes precisely two drinks to get me drunk (French Majors Drinking Night finally happened).

2) Drunkenness leads, in my case, to drunken blogging.

3) I have one last Maroon column to write, like, ever, unless my future career is "Freelance Maroon Columnist" in which case I can look forward to a lifetime of 35-cent diet Coke, secondhand smoke, and chasing vermin from a basement office in Ida Noyes.

4) A girl in the elevator at the Reg this evening asked me if I'd gone to Stuyvesant, because, well, she had. This I think I already knew, but whatever, I said yes, and made some oh-so-witty comment about how the Stuy kids seemed to gravitate to the Reg, then proceeded to park myself and gossip and blog and, err, study, by which I mean read all about what the NYT has to say about class, which I felt all classy-like reading while eating peanut butter M&Ms and drinking Ex Libris coffee. Somehow I think to read the NYT/class Homerian epic it helps to be making like $1,000,000,000 a year and wearing jeans that come from somewhere other than Filenes (mine fit well, but the streaks are weird weird weird), in which case the appropriate sighs can be ahhed and checks can be written. Just a thought.

5) My snack situation is pathetic. My Co-op boycott ended, sort of, but I'm ready to reinstate it. After the Romance Languages BBQ (will it be barbequed pate? Discuss.) I'm making a trip to Whole Foods and Gap Kids (to replace the horrors that Filenes have wrought). Bartlett, meanwhile, is a disgrace. Now that I'm out of Flex, I have to pay cash (how's that for a piece on Class) which is so not worth it, I'm a French major not an econ major for Christ's sake, and what's with the tiny shrimps falling into the tofu?! It's really hard for those of us who were raised pseudo-kosher (because obviously those who were raised real-kosher wouldn't be delving into the Asian Station with such vigor, but...yeah), so what I ate last night had like five different species in it, not counting whichever insects and/or rodents may have found their way in...so yeah, time for Whole Foods and some children's clothing. Right.

6) I've decided to get rid of my fear of semi-autobiographical fiction and finally do what I've been meaning to all these years, which is to write the Great Stuyvesant Novel. I have a TON of material (and yes, if you know me, you should be calling your lawyers right about now...I kid, I kid!) and had better do something with it before it falls into the abyss.

7) I have this clementine box I for some reason decided to save. Why? What future purpose was it supposed to serve?

8) I graduate on June 11, I think. How much cheese (in lbs., please) should I buy at Whole Foods tomorrow?

9) I have to do an oral presentation for Hebrew next week. I was thinking of giving my BA oral defense in Hebrew, but then it occured to me that I do not, in fact, wish to put an early end to my classmates' lives, so perhaps an alternative is in order. One option is to cook for the class (something other than Bartlett Asian Station, I'm thinking, what with the mini-shrimps), so I might go with that. Any ideas? Falafel would be hard to make in a classroom in Cobb. Maybe crepes, with a portable burner-thingy, and I could say it's symbolic of French Jewry, a population that, what with Israel's existence, ought not to be around in the first place, at least according to certain folks who write about these things? Eh. Face it, Hebrew 101, you'll be hearing ALL about Bernard Lazare and Captain Dreyfus next week, so make sure you eat (and drink) something beforehand.

10) I think I'm graduating from college. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!!! As shocked as I am that I passed Tennis-For-The-Obese-And-Chainsmokers-And-Random-Unathletic-People-Named-Phoebe as well as Astrophysics-For-Cretins, that's how it's looking. So now, when the people from the Times Class Department come to interview me, I can say I'm a part of the Educated Classes. Of course, as a non-econ major, I have trouble making sense of their 3D interactive feature, the one that's supposed to tell you that judges are worse than lawyers who are better than professors or some such revelation, but regardless, assuming I didn't accidentally forget the Core Curriculum or something, I'm so totally done it's not even funny.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Another article on French Jews

This would have been useful to see before turning in the BA. David Pryce-Jones goes through the whole history of French-Jewish emancipation, the Dreyfus Affair, and the initial French attitude towards Zionism (all subjects I discuss in my BA--Pryce-Jones even mentions Bernard Lazare!) and then fits it together with the contemporary French-Arab-Jewish situation and, in particular, with French diplomacy. His conclusion?

France today lacks the resources and the influence either to supplant the United States or to enlist the Arab world in its camp, to create a Palestinian state, or to dismantle Israel. Moreover, its nuisance value has rebounded on itself. Its chosen instruments, Saddam Hussein and Arafat, both proved untrustworthy: support for the former was evidently related to French profiteering from the UN oil-for-food scam, which dwarfed the corruption even of the Mitterrand era, and support for the latter had roots in obscure deals, protection rackets, and emotional anti-Americanism.

In the Middle East, France has forfeited whatever leverage it might once have enjoyed. At home, meanwhile, it has had to come to terms with a growing Arab underclass, one whose resentments and tendencies to violence have been whipped up in no small part by the inflexible hostility displayed by the French state to Jewish self-determination. The pursuit of une puissance musulmane, fitting Arabs and Jews into a grand design on French terms, has evidently been an intellectual illusion all along, and highly dangerous to the interests of everyone concerned.

The word "hostility" has negative connotations, as does the word "inflexible." But is France's stance on Israel wrong, or are French Jews' responses to that stance the problem? Is it a problem if the French Jewish attitude towards Zionism differs greatly from the French nation's political position on the subject, or are such differences of opinion acceptable and even healthy in a liberal state? Because it's not right for France--a country with 600,000 Jews--to declare that all Jews would be better off in Israel. But rational French Jews might look at French history and see the appeal of an escape route, without feeling the need for France in particular to support the state of Israel. In fact, the more France considers its Jews to be French and the less it confuses them with Israelis, the better, from the French Jews' point of view. Yes? No? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"The best way possible"

Is this a dispute between the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea, or does it have greater implications about the state of French Jewry?

"CRIF leader opposes petition on anti-Semitism"

By Amiram Barkat

The head of a major Jewish group in France has spoken out against a petition calling President Jacques Chirac to fight anti-Semitism, which was circulated among U.S. Jews.

Roger Cukierman is the Chairman of CRIF (Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France) - an umbrella organization in the French Jewish community.

Cukierman is protesting the fact that the organization behind the petition - The World Jewish Congress (WJC) - published it without consulting first with CRIF.

The CRIF chairman also said that the petitioners were unfair in their criticism of the French government's treatment of cases of anti-Semitism.

Cukierman wrote to WJC President Edgar Bronfman, and he notes that in one of Bronfman's letters to prospective donors, he included a petition to the president of France.

"As a concerned Jew, I am writing to encourage you to employ your government's strongest resources to stop the alarming rise of anti-Semitism in your country," Bronfman writes in the petition.

"With anti-Semitic violence up 500 percent, I beg you to take action immediately."

In Cukierman's letter, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, he writes, "I don't think such a petition is advisable. The French government is fighting anti-Semitism in the best way possible."

"I regret that initiatives of such nature are taken without consulting with CRIF," he adds.

"I had a pony!"

I don't see why John Tierney has to give such a patronizing, upbeat conclusion to his argument that women are less competitive: "They realize, better than men, that in life there's a lot more at stake than money." It may well be that women are less competitive in the business world, and that some studies have shown women to be less competitive in general. But does this have to be embraced so smugly by someone who has himself clearly (by definition, given his space on the NYT op-ed page) reaped the benefits of being competitive.

Now, Amanda Butler's description of her attitude towards competition back in her horseback-riding days sure sounds familiar. This is exactly how I felt when on the track team in high school. If I could have just gone to all the practices but not the meets and had that count as an extracurricular activity, I would have. I ran in a race recently (whoa, alliteration!) and one of the people along the way cheering us on told me to try to pass the person in front of me. I have no idea if this is something I could have done, but I can safely say that I just didn't care. Also, Amanda's statement, "I used to ride horses," makes me think of the line from Seinfeld, "I had a pony!," but I don't see how that relates to the rest of this post...

But are women really less competitive than men, or are women just competitive about different things, things that (and here I will be the Bill Cosby of my demographic) are not doing us any favors in the world at large. Women--girls--are extremely competitive about weight. While most men would prefer a woman who isn't fat, only the hiring director for a runway show minds if a woman is not emaciated. While the obese may get treated worse in the workplace, being skinny rather than normal weight will not get you hired. The thinner, the better, is a standard applied by straight women to one another, and winning doesn't have any real prize except perhaps for models and dancers. The competition begins in middle or high school and from what I can tell only begins to dwindle by college, though apparently for some women this is when all the fun begins. Being thin, or trying to be thin, or at least trying to find clothing that doesn't make you look fat, takes time in the same way that rising to the top of a company takes time, but the rewards hardly match up. Do men want to be fat? No, but if they're not, they don't worry about it. Women, even naturally thin ones, worry about it. We shouldn't, it's dumb. But the silver lining is that we do have a competitive streak, we just need to channel it differently if we want to afford and not just fit into designer clothes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The fidgit-diet

It's great to know that the many unneccesary trips I take around my Reg floor while attempting to write this Balzac paper (not to mention blog entries I type) are contributing to my being thin and fabulous, but unless I'm missing something, there's a flaw in the argument that those who are naturally restless are also naturally thin: Maybe the heavier you are, the more energy it takes to move around, not just as exercise, but in general. Maybe the time has come to pay a bit more attention to M. Balzac and a bit less to the Times online...

In praise of the Asian station

Taking my cue from Raffi "Waddling Thunder" Melkonian, I'm going to tell you what I'm eating this week. Well, this evening, at least, since my food memory isn't flawless. So the Snail stirfry cravings did not disappear as predicted, but going all the way to Snail struck me as excessive, so I went with the much-more-practical Bartlett. How bad could their Asian (and in this context, "Asian" is used with no nuance or acknowledgement of diversity among the many Asian cultures) station be? In the past, terrible, but tonight it was completely fab. Wok-fried tofu, broccoli, water chestnuts, baby corn, and Szechuan sauce on top of a huge mound of rice. Too much sauce, perhaps, but tasty. That said, the time has come to write a paper on Balzac. Such an endeavor should ideally be fueled by steak frites, a delicate salad of mache, and a glass of red wine, but my diet Coke is at just the right temperature, so I can't complain.

Response to Douthat

Ross Douthat doesn't like what the right is doing to "fix" academia. Reihan Salam has some remarks, and so do I. Like Douthat, I'm wary of the press for "intellectual diversity," but mainly because I'd rather have profs not mention Bush at all in classes that have nothing to do with current events than have half who like him and have who don't. That said, I agree with Douthat that some new conservative thought is in order. But the direction I see this new thought taking (judging by what intelligent conservatives are saying these days) might not be much of an improvement over the Allan Blooms of the past.

The old line about how college students have been dumbed down by radical multiculturalism and made immoral by gender-neutral bathrooms will never be perceived of by the left as anything other than whining; even if these arguments do have merit, which at times they do, they will be considered inconsequential and thus ignored. But the arguments the left takes seriously don't come from the Allan Bloom-type ambigucons (was Bloom really a conservative?), but from the Rick Santorums, or from the more articulate social conservatives of places like the Weekly Standard.

A brilliant conservative thinker of the sort who might spring up today would find radical ways to point out the evils of abortion and homosexuality, the desperate need for more religion in the public sphere. In other words, a new conservative (no, not neoconservative) star academic would have to push for huge leaps backwards, for vast increases in government involvement with an individual's actions, rather than, as Bloom did, suggest that some so-called progressive leaps were not in fact improvements to begin with. The more modest goal--with bits of social conservatism whenever left-wing radicalism gets out of hand, but an overall libertarian goal of staying out of people's business--is what conservatism should be about, and that's the sort of conservatism that today's college students, even self-declared liberals, would be most likely to embrace.


To the person who Google.de'ed (German-Googled) "Natalie Portman mit string," I thank you, you've made my day.


How did I get on the Chabad mailing list? I didn't sign up for Hillel's list, yet have received tons of emails from them since getting to Chicago. But Chabad? They must really need people.

Five books I've read. No, make that five I haven't read.

Will Baude wants to know five books I'm ashamed not to have read. Before encountering the Core Curriculum (and before paddling away from "Dawson's Creek") I might have come up with a list of five books that I'd read, period. Slight exaggeration, but only slight. Now, the situation is much improved, but coming up with five should be no problem at all. I'm not including the vast number of classics I should have read (Anna Karenina, The Republic...) but haven't, because that's not especially interesting, and I'll get to them when the time comes, which will be soon enough:

1) La France Juive by Edouard Drumont: The formative text of French antisemitism--and all-encompassing political antisemitism--was a bestseller in late 19th century France, and had a huge impact on everything I study. I need to find a copy and read the thing, not just segments, which is where I'm at right now.

2) Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah by Gershom Sholem: Super-fascinating stuff, about this dude who, during the 1600s, convinced half the Jews around the world that he was the messiah. Professor Menachem Brinker talked about this in class, and I've been meaning to read it since. I don't know if I'd say I'm ashamed not to have read it, since it's not exactly a classic and it has no direct relation to what I study, but it's just something I ought to read.

3) Jean Santeuil, by Marcel Proust: Supposedly all about the Dreyfus Affair, but I can't remember if I've read any of it or not. It's not supposed to be his best work (hard to do if you've written A la recherche du temps perdu) but still, I should read it.

4) Various study guides for standardized tests: I passed the Stuy test effortlessly, which led to arrogance, which led to some scores that, while not embarassing, would probably have been higher had I actually paid attention to whatever Kaplan or Princeton Review had to say on the matter.

5) The Bible (both testaments) plus the Koran (buy one, get one free?!): Because the Great Awakening of the College Students is coming, and I want to be prepared, but also because it's a biggie, it's referenced everywhere, and as much as I'd like to be able to say I'd read Ulysses, if this is a triage situation, the Bible must come first.

Monday, May 23, 2005

More Pythonesque travel writing from the Times

Once again, the New York Times declares war on tourists to Italy. In today's most-emailed article, Christopher Solomon does a tour of Italy whose goal is basically to stay away from tourists, more than any positive goal of seeing anything in particular, or the more general (and respectable) goal of going there and just seeing what's there. If there are already buses, it's worthless. Worse than worthless: fake. Solomon wants to see the real Italy:

[Le Marche] is what Tuscany must have felt like 10 or 20 years ago, before it was discovered by tour groups and their omnipresent buses - carrying thousands upon thousands of travelers who flock there each year to try to recreate the pleasures of "Under the Tuscan Sun." One Tuscany wine-growing area is so crowded with British expatriates and second-home owners that that country's press calls it Chiantishire. In short, Tuscany, for all its undeniable charms, is an increasingly challenging place to have an intimate encounter with true Italy....

After a weeklong visit last month I, too, have found in Le Marche the vera Italia that both the Briton and the Bolognese spoke of - a place where travelers can still feel a genuine sense of discovery and quiet pleasures as they meander back roads and walk on cobbles that haven't yet been polished by the soles of a million tourists....

Our itinerary is purposefully loose, guided only by two pledges. The first: Stay away from Le Marche's 110 miles of coastline. Though the seaside towns of Pesaro in the north and San Benedetto del Tronto in the south are said to hold charm, much of the coast has been developed in recent decades and is unappealing, and crowded in midsummer to boot. Seekers of a Tuscany-like experience will find the region's charm rises in almost inverse proportion to the distance from salt water....

The second rule: Stay off the nation's freeways when possible and stick to the curvy side roads. Unknown Italy isn't found between toll booths.

Now this is just silly. The presence of tourists doesn't make a place more or less "real." And "Italy" as a country hasn't been around long enough for an ancient quality known as "Italian-ness" to reasonably be sought. Solomon's going to Le Marche as a travel writer, not an anthropologist, and is setting out to tell people to go do precisely what would "ruin" this region: to visit it as tourists.

Solomon describes the people of Italy like objects; that much is clear. "If each hill town - its church and its square and its old women - is a little different than the last, the distinctions soon blur like the swallows that race the car to the next town." Yeah, well the women of the East Village and those of Williamsburg blur, too, if the L is running fast enough. We hear of "The tableau - white sheep, undulating ridges, an old man working in the green-scented April sunshine," as though an old man, who for all Solomon knows doesn't feel like working, is simply there to add some charm to an American family's vacation. We also encounter "a man in his 60's who has great tuffets of black hair erupting from his ears." For whatever reason (low birth rate?) all the characters seem to be of the geriatric variety. "For the next 40 minutes, the slightly paunchy, jovial winemaking brothers Vittorio and Mirko Badiali are our best friends." First off, just because these brothers don't speak English doesn't mean they'll appreciate being called paunchy; they might do babelfish translations of articles they find when Googling themselves.

And as for the warm reception he receives in Le Marche... Being a tourist, wherever you go, is about going to a place where at best the people whom you pay to feed and house you deep down don't like you, and at worst where they make this distaste plainly known. It can be safely assumed that the people serving Solomon couldn't all afford to take a similar trip, and that they think him no less a tourist than the ones who arrive elsewhere in Italy by bus.

I'll admit that my mouth waters when I hear the phrase, "artisinal cheese." But in general I find long descriptions of farm-fresh this and that, of the things that can only be found in real Europe, untouched by machines and minorities and liberal democracy, to be somewhat off-putting. It's a bit like the paens to the American exurb, a sort of anticosmopolitan fantasy that could only possibly be held by someone from the big city.

Scholar-types are just like us!

Classics Cafe is a happening place. I went there for lunch this afternoon. Lunch is a bit of an exaggeration, as is calling the place a "cafe" but complaints about UChicago campus food are for another time, or may simply end altogether now that I'm just about finished up here. In any case, amidst the wood paneling and busts of Socrates, a girl walked in with what I think are "Sevens" but were in any case one tight pair of jeans, and a very short shirt that tied in the front. This dude pretending to read a book took note. (I wasn't pretending to do anything other than watch everyone around me; having only 10 minutes to waste, there was no time to be fake-scholarly). Another guy, all intellectual-like, surrounded by books and rolling tobacco and wearing the requisite blazer, chatted on his cellphone.

In other, tragic news, I was craving Thai food all afternoon, only to learn that Snail is closed on Mondays. But why? There are only maybe three days a year when I really, really want Snail food, and was this ever one of them. Siam, next door, wouldn't cut it. Tomorrow pad se eww will once again sound unappetizing. Oh well.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

At the Reg...

...and my job hunt continues. I found this among the listings: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COORDINATOR. What would that entail? Making sure that the husband has had enough to drink and a belt nearby by the time his wife and kids get home? I didn't realize that much coordination went into domestic violence. Eh. I'd imagine it's hard to convey what a job would entail in just three words or so. But a word like PREVENTION, strategically placed, would do wonders.

How anonymous is anonymous?

When a journalist attributes a quote to "anonymous," how much information can be revealed? This NYT Magazine piece on Senator Rick Santorum has a quote from "a Democratic senator who would talk only on the condition his name not be used." Did this anonymous source say, "Don't name me, but it's OK to reveal my job and my gender"? What if it were an anoynymous source from a smaller workplace, where simply knowing the workplace and the gender ("he said," or "she said") would make it easy to track the source down?

Last night my starginity was broken...

...when I saw my first-ever Star Wars movie. When we got to the theater downtown, I was immediately struck by how much it felt like being back in high school. Not since my Stuy years had I seen so many nerds in one place. It was really neat. Many, of course, came from the U of C, but some were unaffiliated nerds. Freelance nerds. Yeah. But I'm afraid I just don't get science fiction, and could thus never be as nerdy as all that. So, in Star Wars, (when) do the characters eat and go to the bathroom? If they're in such a futuristic wonderland that everyday, normal things don't happen, then how exactly did Natalie Portman become pregnant? Why, if we're in the future, does everyone dress in pseudo-medieval garb? Is it because the target audiences of science fiction and medieval reenactment societies are one and the same? Relatedly, why do duels (albeit light-beam duels) remain so important in the future, when they've lost their significance long ago? I have a lot of trouble suspending disbelief when so many of the characters (my favorite was Yoda--so fuzzy!) are so silly.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Goodness gracious

Here's my friend Joe, one of the "geeks" on the new WB reality show, "Beauty and the Geek." I don't find Joe especially geeky, but of course I'm in my eighth year of nerd school, so I perceive things a bit differently than those casting for national TV shows.

No serious blogging, it's a beautiful day: What am I going to wear?

I'm about to go to a barbeque, which means a change of clothes is in order. While at the apartment where the barbeque is being held earlier this afternoon, I was forced to try on both a Betsey Johnson dress and a Chicago basketball jersey, since my jeans-and-turtleneck ensemble was deemed unacceptable. Neither of these were doing it for me, so I decided to go home and change. What would be perfect are these dark khaki bermuda shorts from the Gap, which I almost bought but which Kate said make me look like a boy. I ended up buying this skirt, which seems a bit too hippie-dippy to eat a hamburger in, but I'm all for challenging the accepted order of things, and perhaps paired with cowboy boots, the look will be more Texas than (the former) Upper West Side.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Big questions

Should I go meet people at the Pub in an hour or so, or should I stay home and be productive (i.e. read nytimes.com and otherwise lounge around)?

If I were to go to the Pub, what would I wear?

Does whole wheat really matter as much as Marian Burros thinks it does?

Deep thoughts

What if certain items, things which have yet to be considered those which one simply must upgrade on, were provided free of charge by the government? Things that people really ought to be using, regardless of their income. Things for which innovation may not be so important. Things such as, in alphabetical order:

Toilet paper
Tooth brushes

And so on. Would that be communism? Any more so than public schools? Hmm...

Consider the above a result of what happens when "I should take a nap" becomes "I should take a nap, but first, some incoherent blogging."

The cheese department

I just ran to Navy Pier. Well, to Illinois St., at which point I turned in the opposite direction of the Pier and towards a certain gourmet grocery store. At Fox and Obel, I bought some cheese, only to have a man--who, alongside the woman he was with, made up the most fashionable couple I have ever, ever, ever seen in Chicago--order precisely the same cheese (Morbier) and the same amount (1/3 lb.) right after I did. He and his female companion were French, so I felt pretty awesome having a super-chic French couple follow my lead in the cheese department. It was especially surprising given that my running outfit is the sort of thing that ought to have made them run all the way back to Paris in horror. (Gap Kids sweatpants, and so forth) Also while at the cheese counter, a woman (American, didn't notice chicness or lack thereof) asked about the Parmesan situation. Apparently Fox and Obel only had the expensive kind today, but would be getting the cheaper one tomorrow. "I have four kids," the woman explained, as though the store keeps a special stash of the cheaper Parmesan for those who really deserve it. And I couldn't help but wonder whether the harried, frantic, and frustrated woman behind the cheese counter was one of those unpaid cheese interns the NYT reported on recently, since she didn't seem to be enjoying herself, and what other reason (lactose intolerance?) might a person not enjoy herself in a cheese-related position?

Pardon my provincial post, but...

... I just have to point out the following:

On the Upper West Side the newest Pookie & Sebastian boutique opened last week, offering the chain's trademark girlish fashions for day or night. High-end denim labels, including Seven for All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity, share the floor with beaded cocktail dresses, tiered cotton skirts and hobo bags. At 322 Columbus Avenue, (212) 580-5844.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to use the Upper West Side streets as a place to carry bags from Fairway, Zabars, and H&H all at once, while wearing purple hemp drawstring pants, an ill-fitting sweatshirt, and Tevas, hair unkempt, body unsculpted, yelling at your husband, children yelling and wearing dirty t-shirts, with bits of Tasti-d-lite congealing at the corner of your mouth. Those days are over.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

One, two...

If I'm able to get myself out of this chair, post-peanut butter M&M consumption, I will proceed to a table a few feet away and study obscene amounts of Hebrew vocab. Not obscene amounts, exactly, but our current chapter is on the parts of the body, and some of those are kinda racy. Of course, we didn't learn the racy ones (the class has some first-years, and who knows, they could be 16-year-old prodigies), so if the power of the coffee exceeds the sedative effects of the "partially defatted peanuts" (scary! should never read the ingredients on such things), I'll be up and cramming in no time. OK, one, two...

The circular "kids should know the Bible" argument (CONTINUED, AS PROMISED)

David Gelernter points out, in the Weekly Standard, that kids today don't know much about the Bible. The Bible is, as Great Books go, by far the greatest, the most important to Western Civilization and some others as well. So regardless of their religion or religiousity, young people ought to study the Bible. But the Bible cannot be studied as anything other than a religious document. Ergo, to study the Bible, you need to look at it not as the greatest of the Great Books, but as God's word. And since everyone's got to study the Bible, everyone's got to be religious. It's simply being ignorant of Western Civilization not to be a believer. Gelernter eagerly awaits a "Great Awakening" among--you guessed it--American college students. (That gives me three weeks to go if I'm going to get greatly awakened. Yikes!):

My guess is that our next Great Awakening will begin among college students. College students today are (spiritually speaking) the driest timber I have ever come across. Mostly they know little or nothing about religion; little or nothing about Americanism. Mostly no one ever speaks to them about truth and beauty, or nobility or honor or greatness. They are empty--spiritually bone dry--because no one has ever bothered to give them anything spiritual that is worth having. Platitudes about diversity and tolerance and multiculturalism are thin gruel for intellectually growing young people.

Argh! All anyone ever talks about at Chicago is "what is truth" or "what is beauty," though all everyone seems to agree on is that the latter isn't especially common among students here....

To be continued, post-TA session.


Mmm, the perfect blogging snack of black coffee and peanut butter M&Ms...

So yeah, I don't see how a discussion of truth or beauty must be a discussion of the Bible. While it's true that the Bible's had a huge impact on where we are today, the fact that for a while now many people have looked to other sources for their understanding of the world means that a move towards the Bible isn't embracing how things are but is hoping things move in a way that they wouldn't necessarily be moving in otherwise. To put it another way, if the Bible really were everything, kids today would already be studying it up the wazoo. Speaking as one of those dry-timber college students Gelernter can't stand the thought of, I think part of why college students get so much PC input from profs is that we are, in many ways, a conservative bunch. The debauchery of "I am Charlotte Simmons" or of most of the people I know at Chicago tends to be of the drunken heterosexual variety. (Is that just Chicago? I have no idea.) Students who want their heterosexual sex, their i-banking jobs, their post-college yuppie lifestyle followed by a house in the suburbs, get exposed to the counterculture by some profs, only to abandon it later, but the idea is, at least they've heard of liminal queer spaces, even if they never care to enter any themselves. So, what does all this have to do with the Bible? Hard to say, but it's a part of my aforementioned defense of political correctness...

But whatever may be the case at other colleges, here at Chicago the "intellectual gruel" is thick (as is the Pierce dining hall oatmeal, geez). As for whether we know about "Americanism," I, for one, didn't know that America had an associated "ism." Does he mean American history? Does he know what he means, or does that just make for a good socially conservative catchword? Regardless, the absolute last thing that should come as an antidote to the excesses of multiculturalism is a friggin' "Great Awakening." Like that's what will bring this country together.

FYI those were some tasty M&Ms.

Go see...

...Revenge of the Sith.

Then, go see it again.

It was very, very good.

For this I came to the Midwest?

I went to a birthday party this evening where four people had gone to Stuyvesant, one to both Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech, and another to one of those, can't remember which. Somehow I think Alexander Portnoy's quest to penetrate the Heartland in search of all-American ruddiness might have been anticlimactic if he'd decided to embark upon it this evening. As for me, I like that Chicago's got a bit of everything, from the Lincoln Park Trixie to the UChicago NYC geek-school reunion, and so much more. So yeah, this is what I came to the Midwest for, if Chicago counts as the Midwest, and speaking as a New Yorker, it most certainly does.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Coming soon to a classroom near you

Explication de texte, coming your way this Thursday, 10:30 AM. I'd say bring popcorn, but I can't stand the smell of artificial butter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Just got this email:

Dear Graduating Student:

Congratulations on your forthcoming graduation!  Each year, at the time of graduation, the University's News Office offers a special service to our newly minted grads.  If you -- or your family members -- would like you to receive special recognition in your hometown or community newspaper, the News Office will write a press release and send it to the appropriate local contact.

In order for us to send this press release out to coincide with your graduation, please visit http://www-news.uchicago.edu/hometowners/.
On the Web site, you will see a form, which will ask you (or your parent or legal guardian) to update information about yourself.  The press release, sent on University letterhead, can simply notify your hometown paper of your graduation, but it could also, if you'd like, notify them about your concentration, activities, athletic achievements, and any awards you've received.

So, if you would like the University's News Office to alert your paper, please visit http://www-news.uchicago.edu/hometowners/ as soon as you can.

Thanks for your time.

So I suppose the time has come to let the New York Times know that not only am I highly likely to graduate from college, but that I'm a French concentrator (wait, they changed it to "major", which this so-called "official" email failed to note), that I am active in campus publications, and that I have no athletic acheivements to speak of other than running downtown twice and walking downtown once. I have honors but no awards, and, this being Chicago, even if a "most prolific blogger" award existed, I doubt I'd win. I don't have a hometown paper, unless socialite magazine "Avenue" counts. The "Style" section of the Times might count, but I can't imagine the UChicago News Office would get far going that route. So I've decided that this blog is my hometown paper, in that these days more people read it than live in some (miniscule) towns. Looks like I've just saved the News Office some trouble.

Slipped into something more comfortable

I'm not feeling like myself right now. I'm on the A-level of the Reg (for non-U of C readers, this is the largely sorority/frat level of the library) wearing sweats and sneakers. Typically, I'd be on a different floor, or in Classics Cafe, wearing something a bit more chic, so I must defend myself. I'm on the A-level because my laptop's at home and I needed to use a computer (and no, not just to blog) and am in sweats because I just ran downtown. Yup, all the way from Hyde Park to Balbo, plus a few feet, since the furthest I'd ever run before was from Hyde Park to Balbo, with a break in the middle to look at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus. Their student center is fabulous, shiny, and made out of all sorts of cool materials. Right now I feel fabulous, shiny, and as if I'm made out of all sorts of cool materials, but will probably be in pain tomorrow. I'm very curious to see how far I could run before collapsing while gasping, "No more, no more!" but I'm almost certain that, if I run north, once I know Fox and Obel is approaching I'd be forced to stop.

The cost of diversity

Lawrence Summers said something silly about women and science like a hundred years ago. So this is the result: "Harvard Will Spend $50 Million to Make Faculty More Diverse." $50 million to diversify a faculty. How could such a project cost so much? Do the women and minorities need to pass through a state-of-the-art particle accelerator before being hired? Must a million subscriptions to the new $50 access to Maureen Dowd and David Brooks be somehow factored in?

"Dr. Summers said the money would be spent on a range of initiatives, including the creation of a new senior vice provost post to focus on diversity issues, improved recruitment, subsidies for salaries, mentoring of junior faculty members and extending the clock on tenure for professors who go on maternity or parental leave....He called the $50 million an 'initial commitment' and said he expected that the university would ultimately devote more resources to attract and retain a more diverse faculty."

Well, maybe that would cost $50 million, what do I know? If jeans cost $200 and haircuts $800, then presumably diversity, too, can't be gotten cheap. Or can it? "Faculty members interviewed yesterday were enthusiastic about the initiatives. But some remained skeptical of Dr. Summers's commitment to diversity. Several professors also said $50 million was not a particularly large sum for an institution as wealthy as Harvard. In recent years, its operating budget has been about $2.5 billion."

I'm thinking some will always be skeptical of Summers's commitment to diversity. Given that there are plenty of good, PC things a university like Harvard probably does with its budget--scholarships, mentors for minority and gay students, grants for students to do community service, recruiting students from underrepresented areas--I find it hard to believe that this $50 million is stingy. Comments welcome from those with greater knowledge on how much these sorts of things are supposed to cost, or from those who are outraged at the $50 million, finding it far too high-low-whatever.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Starting September, NYTimes to charge for op-eds (Yahoo! via Huffington Post). I see this being very bad for their prestige, and causing great waves in the blogosphere...

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Poor Republicans

"Meet the Poor Republicans" has to be the most brilliant NYT headline ever. Because if you said to your average Times reader, "Wanna meet some poor Republicans?," you'd probably get a response along the lines of, "No, really, it's OK." As in, --Do you want to eat inorganic with a bunch of creationists? --Thanks, I'll pass.

That said, what's also cool about this headline is that it could be read as "Meet the people who are unfortunate enough so as to be Republicans, who are so pathetic that they have yet to see the light." As in, "You poor thing, don't you know that friends don't let friends vote Republican? Oh, honey, meet me at the Tasti d-Lite at 86th and Broadway and we'll talk."

The plan

Today's visit to the Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House has been less than productive. I've succeeded in opening a word document, opening a can of diet Coke, and rereading the reading I did last time I was here. Moments of utter unproductivity are, however, strangely conducive to writing Maroon articles, so that's the plan...

Alert the presses: I'm reading a book

I didn't enter the whole "50 book challenge" blog-game, a) to preserve the longstanding rumors about my illiteracy, and b) because most of what I've been reading for the past year has been about the French Jewish response to the Dreyfus Affair, and really, who among my bloggy readership cares? But now that the B.A. is done, and my literacy regained, I'm reading Love and Friendship by everyone's favorite flamboyant neocon from UChicago, the late Allan Bloom. From what I can tell, he thinks people cannot experience love without what amounts to a solid U of C education or its equivalent, and that political correctness, as well as a general inability to appreciate beauty have just about ruined American college students' (and Americans') ability to love. This is, I would say, complete bull, whether supported by Plato, Shakespeare, Flaubert, and Rousseau, or whether instant-messaged drunkenly and with no supporting texts. The appreciation of beauty necessary for love arrives the moment you have your first crush, which for most but not all arrives before the first encounter with the Symposium. Bloom, of course, cites plenty of the right sources, and has written a fine account of love as depicted by great writers, but makes an outrageous claim that probably couldn't be backed up. Bloom takes far too literally all the PC projects to combat "lookism" or to curtail male sexual desire. Perhaps at the dawn of the PC era there was actual fear that the movement would one day do such things, but it never did and if anything we as a society have gone in the opposite direction.

What's especially neat about Love and Friendship, though, is the reference to someone saying "where there's smoke there's fire" and that someone is none other than Alfred Dreyfus. Because what book could possibly be complete without that name finding its way into it? Because the Dreyfus Affair was really the affair of the millenium, with all sorts of androgynous two-person creatures being split in half and so forth. No wait, that was France that was split in half, and it did not respond to the split by yearning, but ended up entering World War I... Oh dear, brain=mush. I blame the endless refills of Florian coffee.

The Error of "Jointness"

"Jointness" is the new buzzword in the news. It's the word that Rumsfeld is using to describe his plan for consolidating onto the same bases not only the functions of the army, navy, air force, and marines, but also the national guard units of each.

Though I have no problem encouraging cooperation between the different branches of the military, I think it's a huge mistake to conflate the army and the national reserve.

The fact is, they should have a vastly different functions, and very different facility, drawing fron vastly different pools of people. Like it or not, our military--the army, navy, air force, and marines--does and should exist to do a Hobbesian job, in a world that is nasty and brutish. It should be a trained force, designed to kill when necessary. Get in, impose one's own will, and get out.

The national guard should be there to guard borders, build the peace, and fill sandbags. They're the idllyic, liberal ideal, that exist in a world where we can surpass Hobbes and treat men with dignity, building institutions for capitalism and democracy.

The tragedy of recently conflating the two can be seen in the plummeting recruitment rates for the national gaurd, as people are getting much more than they signed up for. This is absurdly unfortunate, and, with "jointness," may destroy the national guard system entirely.

I'm not here to say one is better than the other. I'm here to say that they're both equally important parts of a military that, like that of the United States, has a global reach. Let's keep them distinct, eh?

Further reading on this topic.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Real America

Rather than go downtown to buy sweatshop-free t-shirts and French cheese, sit in the Reg reading blogs and some Hannah Arendt, or maybe go to some foreign or independent movie on campus, or otherwise be a pretentious blue-American fool, yesterday I went to a track meet in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. The track meet itself was very cool, and since I was sitting with Chicago people most everyone took out a Great Book or at least a book at one point or another. I was reading Sam's Allen Bloom book, which got thoroughly criticized by other team members while he was down on the track. Also, I've never seen so many in-shape people in one place at once. Damn! Bloom would've enjoyed himself, I'll bet.

This was my first trip, at least in quite some time, to upscale "real-America." During my brief forays off the bleachers, I got a free burrito from Chipotle, having won some contest I hadn't known I was entering. Later, I got carded by an establishment (a Bar Louie) that I wasn't even trying to enter. I was simply walking past the place, by myself, kind of quickly, at that, but I apparently was walking between the bouncer and the entrance, which meant that I got the whole "ID, please." Oh well. All told, I had lots of fun being a normal American for a day, though I suppose I should restate my conviction (growing weaker, though) that lounging around the Upper East Side or sitting in UChicago coffeeshops reading Hegel is no less "American" than a trip to a loud sports bar filled with women who bend over in low-cut designer jeans to reveal that they're wearing a thong...

Contrary to popular belief (and my own prior convictions), the University of Chicago has athletes. Posted by Hello

This probably relates to Allan Bloom in one way or another. Posted by Hello

I promised if Will did something silly he'd end up on my blog. He posed reading Cicero, but those pictures didn't make the cut. Posted by Hello

The men's 800, or, why I am not a sports photographer. Posted by Hello

Sam, post-race. Posted by Hello

Steeple what? Why do people do this? It looks cool, though. Posted by Hello

Naperville sunset Posted by Hello

Friday, May 13, 2005

Such a relief

Tomorrow, I'm going to my first-ever track meet as a cheerleader (unofficial) and not as a participant. Last time I was at one of these things, back in high school, I was forced to put on funnily-cut shorts and a baggy sleeveless shirt and, like, run around in circles. That's no good. Watching, though, should be fun.

A highly educated one-time blogger

Eric (no blog these days, so no link) apparently just got a Masters, but it's not exactly a Masters since he's in a PhD program. Can't say I totally understand how that works. Regardless, it's supercool. Well done! (Do discontinuing your blog and receiving your advanced degree go hand in hand? Discuss.)

The pale, the geeky, and the ambiguous

Tanorexia makes it to the NYT op-ed page. There should be a phrase for the pale but proud, sort of like "large and in charge" is used by the happily heavy-set. Somehow "white power" doesn't seem like quite the thing. "Pride in pastiness?" "Transluscent?" Something to get rid of "washed-out", "sickly-looking", "you-need-a-vacation"...

...Do geeky guys often come across as gay? This Google search brought someone to WWPD. I'm thinking a "not that there's anything wrong with that" is in order.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Frebrew, Hrench, and a sticker with no vowels

Hummus, indeed, for those who arrived early to the CFI event on the quads. Adam, whom I hadn't seen since our days on the now-defunct (?) Chicago Quill, informed me that he doesn't read blogs but that he nevertheless read mine and liked some post on it, so a shout-out to him, then. I got a sticker that says something in Hebrew which, despite my alleged knowledge of Hebrew I couldn't begin to understand but which, they say, has something to do with Israeli independence. "But Israel's already independent," Sam and Nick and possibly some other people told me. I'm thinking the "57" on the sticker has something to do with how long Israel's been independent. Right. Atz Maoot? Etz Maoht? Someone, am I getting this right? Yom Ha'atz Maot? Oot? Argh! I spoke in French for maybe 15 whole minutes today, and under pressure, at that, and immediately following a Hebrew TA session, so I'm in serious Frebrew/Hrench mode. I began the day with a homemade French pastry from the batch Lauren brought to class, and really, any day in which I eat both French and Israeli foods is something of a success.

Why I'm not a hippie

I'm killing time now before the Chicago Friends of Israel falafel/hummus event, which is apparently at the same time as the Health Care Barbeque. I wish I were hungrier, but the nausea has not yet subsided that began about 10 minutes before my BA oral defense. It went well, honors-wise, but I learned two not-so-good things about myself: my French grammar leaves something to be desired, and I seem nervous. Both of these things, now that I think of it, I already knew. I should probably compile a list of scariest moments in my life thus far. There would be the times I was legitimately frightened (falling out of an inflatable canoe into rapids at a hippie-run, laid-back summer camp, being in Manhattan on 9/11) and times I ought to have been all laid-back and hippie-like but was in fact just a bit on edge (these moments happen every day of my life, and are thus far too numerous to, well, enumerate). This does not fully explain why I'm not a hippie. Further explanation could be that a hamburger, not pot, is my indulgence of choice, and that I really don't like those flowing paisley skirts, oh, and also that a pair of Birkenstocks ruined my feet one summer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Zionist barbeque

Tomorrow's the annual Zionist Barbeque (and no, Zionists are not set on fire, nor is the event actually called a "Zionist Barbeque" but is actually the "Chicago Friends of Israel Party on the Quads") which was the site, last year, of my first hot dog consumption in over a decade. Not eager to repeat that experience, I was relieved to see on flyers for the event that this year they'll be serving falafel, which makes it less of a barbeque but (assuming the falafel doesn't hail from the Nile restaurant on 55th St.) potentially much tastier.

Items as unrelated as the ingredients in a Chicago pasta dish

I am now officially famously jobless. I should note that I do have a student job (internship, even) at the moment, so I am not actually out of work, but I am indeed looking for work next year. Whether the widespread knowledge of this fact will in any way lead to me finding a job has yet to be determined. Stay tuned...

...But, to live in the moment for a bit, here's my latest Maroon column. As may well have been the case with the headlines I wrote as Viewpoints editor, the one written for mine somewhat contradicts the article itself, but no hard feelings, I promise. It's about UChicago and Harvard...

...Also, it should be noted that Chicago food continues to get more and more narsty. While the occasional surprise ingredient in Medici pizza is a thing of the past, present, and future, it seems that now even the more upscale establishments in the city are going for radical fusion cuisine. Chicagoans are paying a lot to see ingredients that don't go together, don't look attractive together, but simply shock the diner by their juxtaposition. Seriously, my fellow Chicago-dwellers, such fun can be had in the UChicago dining halls as well. The American cheese pizza I've mentioned before on this blog has the capacity to unnerve and overwhelm. While Chicago may have some things over Harvard, Yale's most certainly got what we have not...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The spectrum

Am I imagining things, or does ever-flaming Michael Musto sound just the least bit hetero in this gossip column on actress Bai Ling?

What readers want

Many bloggers--most, I'd imagine--occasionally post about crazy things people have Googled and gotten to their sites. Lately, my readers want to know all about "selby drummond," "will baude gpa," "natalie portman" in various states of undress, and, reassuringly, "phoebe maltz." But what I was thinking is, it would be interesting if blogs gave the people what they want. While I do not know or wish to inquire about Mr. Baude's GPA, nor do I plan on posting naked pictures of Ms. Portman ("clive owen shirtless" is another matter), I could try to add a bit more Selby Drummond and Phoebe Maltz news to this blog. For the former, I can say very little, other than that she's probably very tall and well-dressed. As for the latter, I should note that the hat picture is coming down any day now, to be replaced by a spring/summer equivalent.

"A far higher dose of the armpit chemical than anyone would be exposed to in normal life"

Apparently my BA oral defense is Thursday, not today, which is a good thing because I cannot read my own handwriting and should probably type up my notes. It's not a good thing, though, because I was for whatever reason certain it was today, and now I must funnel this adrenaline (not to mention a more-spiffy-than-usual outfit) into doing my Hebrew homework, which requires concentration but not really adrenaline, and certainly not any outfit in particular.

In other, non-Phoebe news, this gay-men-and-smell story is really something. Mashehu mashehu, as they say in transliterated Hebrew. I love the headline: "For Gay Men, an Attraction to a Different Kind of Scent"--which of course makes you wonder who made the scent--Versace, perhaps? This much the Times does not answer, because the article isn't in the Thursday Styles but rather in Tuesday Health, but since I apparently can't tell the difference between Tuesday and Thursday (see above) you can see why I might be confused.

This, though, is my favorite part of the story:

Dr. Catherine Dulac, a Harvard University biologist who studies pheromones in mice, said that if a chemical modified the function of the hypothalamus, that might be enough to regard it as a pheromone. She said the Swedish study was extremely interesting, even though "humans are a terrible experimental subject." She noted, however, that the researchers used a far higher dose of the armpit chemical than anyone would be exposed to in normal life. (emphasis mine)

Imagine that, "a far higher dose of the armpit chemical than anyone would be exposed to in normal life." I've definitely waited on subway platforms in the summer on which the levels probably reached those used in the study.

Monday, May 09, 2005

In the Maroon

The most recent Maroon has it all: nudity, controversy, beer, and, best of all, an editorial suggesting that nudists be physically fit and travel in groups. Nothing wrong with that.

But something is amiss in this op-ed. While I certainly agree with Gary Lee's point, which is that discrimination against Asians exists and ought not to, there are better ways of making this seemingly obvious but still-worth-repeating argument. The very real problems--hum profs telling kids to go back where they came from, apparently--get obscured by phenomena being presented as offensive that are really just descriptive. Referring to an individual's (usually a white male's) "Asian fetish", if he indeed has one, suggests he might be someone Asians would find objectionable, but attributing this preference to someone, if it's a fair attribution, isn't racist in the least. And referring to Asian-Americans as a model minority is a positive stereotype, not, as Lee claims, a negative one, but "positive" doesn't mean it's helpful, wise, or inoffensive, but simply that the attributes being (however unfairly) placed are positive ones. While broad, sweeping generalizations are generally unfair (how's that for a generalization!) to many individuals, these will be made; better to target the lame-o folks who'd send their Korean students back to Asia than to criticize those who point out, with neither admiration nor distaste, that their buddy over there only dates Asian girls.

Cool site

Check it out.

Bus blogging

This is incredible. There's wireless on the friggin' campus bus. I think all of campus is wireless or something, but this is just the greatest thing ever. It's far too dark to read on night buses, but now you can send email, the works, all while getting home from the library. So cool, yet so dorky...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A dippy post, as befits the end of a fun but unproductive weekend

Size deflation has gotten out of control. I am now a size one at the Gap, but the size sixes I have from high school still fit exactly the same as the current size ones. I know women want to feel thin and everything, but if this continues I will be sized out of all adult clothing in the chain stores and will be forced to either shop in the kids' section or spend the "dough" an anonymous commenter seems to think I have at agnes b, where I am, was, and always will be the largest size available. If I were "doughier" but not doughier, I would get a certain $2,000 leather trench coat from agnes b., but right now I'm thinking the time has come to make pasta.

Mother's Day, in Brooklyn (No, I wasn't there)

My mother, in front of a place whose name is an alternate spelling of her own (and my grandmother's) last name. And an uplifting place it is. Posted by Hello

My grandmother, looking at what appears to be clothing for enormous infants. Posted by Hello

What do you know?


They're just like us!

An expose on private school teen dating reveals that girls sit around and wait for boys to call, and that they have crushes on lacrosse and guitar players, preferably a few years older. The girls' conversation in no way indicates a) their status in their school, b) what sort of sex/drugs/rock&roll would be going on if the boys finally did call, or c) that these people are wealthy Manhattanites. The whole scene could be taking places among dorks or cool kids, the straight-edge or those more open to partying, and either in NYC or in just about any other place in the country.

La nausee

I am currently in the delightful process of trying to find a job for next year. Anyone with any ideas should direct them to maltzp@gmail.com. I have lots of experience and am highly qualified. For what? For many things, none of which are especially lucrative.

I'm also reading about French Roast on the UWS and its rancid chicken. A friend of mine vomited in their bathroom several years back, and no, this friend was not a bulimic. I've had perfectly decent coffee there, but if I were going to spend a lot on bland food on the UWS, I'd at least go to Sarabeth's. Those French-themed, bistro-themed, bacteria-themed places that dot the outskirts of all trendy Manhattan areas (Park Ave. South, 7th Ave. South) are never an especially good idea.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A Modest Proposal

I think American judges, and perhaps attorneys, should go back to wearing wigs in the courtroom.

Why, you ask? Perhaps to save the wig industry from demise?


The reason to do it, is because wigs make judges look so antiquated and dignified in this very off way, that I think it would go a long way to get rid of these accusations of judicial activism. Who's gonna accuse a guy in a wig of anything but looking kinda frumpy? Plus, it'd cover Rehnquist's receding hairline.


No miracle here

What's screwed up about this article? Oh, where to begin?

First, there's the premise, which is that a bunch of do-gooder high school students, out of their own hard work and savvy, have gone beyond the usual community service projects and are arranging large-scale philanthropic events, with big names and fashion shows as part of the package. What the article only hints at is that Anna Wintour, someone who wields perhaps a tiny bit of power in this world, is the mother of a Spence high school student. That fact alone explains much of the piece, and ought to take the awestruck tone out of writer Eric Wilson's voice.

Early on in the article, we are introduced to "Selby Drummond, who is such a fashion plate at Spence that she is listed as a contributor on the masthead of Teen Vogue and had her prom dress made personally by Zac Posen." To be listed as a contributor on the masthead of Teen Vogue does not require being a "fashion plate," or even being a wealthy fashion plate in NYC. Nope, knowing Anna Wintour might help out a bit there.

Many of the other celebrities and socialites the young philanthropists managed to coerce into attending their events are also part of Spence families. While perhaps the girls deserve some credit for knowing that they have extraordinary connections and actually making use of them, the article treats these girls as if their ability to get important people to talk to them is nothing short of miraculous. Wilson writes:

"Although they are too modest to say so, the women's achievement in orchestrating a coup that has the tacit support of Ms. Wintour, the Vogue editor, who last week staged the New York party of the year at the Costume Institute of the Met, is remarkable."

And then, to show their precocious devotion to hard work, he adds: "A Kate Spade sample sale taking place in the same building had attracted hordes of young women about their age, but the three sat in a windowless conference room, sorting through a rack of dresses..." Take a step back. Do any of these girls need to go to a sample sale? OK, no one needs to go to a sample sale, but I'm thinking they can just go to Kate Spade and get the bag full-priced if they feel like it.

Nothing in this story is the least bit remarkable when you have all the facts, or even just a few of them. Girls who commute to Palm Beach on the weekends so that they can be competetive horseback riders, or who both look like models and have had the foresight to become "close friend[s]" with Anna Wintour's daughter are exactly the people who'd become junior socialites. This story ought to be a glimpse into the lives of some New Yorkers, not an awestruck ode to splitting the atom, the Red Sea, or whatever it is writer Eric Wilson thinks has happened.

So much to say...

...about this Style section article about people I kinda-sorta used to know, but a combination of being on very little sleep and having just consumed an entire martini means that this will have to wait. but oh, how lovely. The things I could have made of my Upper East Side upbringing if I weren't a blogging nerd...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Bad timing

For the first 19 years of my life, I ate breakfast every morning. For the first 18, I lived at home, and the 19th I lived directly above the Pierce dining hall, in all its glory. But since then, the challenge of finding time for a morning meal (or of remembering to have both cereal and milk at the ready, which is more challenging than one might imagine) often proves too great, leading to my bringing a muffin, bagel, or other compact carbohydrate-heavy item, to morning classes. This would all be well and good, but the problem is, I seem to have a knack for bringing food to Hebrew class on days when we're about to watch a Holocaust-related or similarly depressing movie. While on "Seinfeld" Jerry was content to make out with his date during Schindler's List, he did not have a class full of his peers, one professor, and one TA watching him, just Newman, whom Jerry didn't even know was there in the first place. I mean, I could look at it as, I'm just celebrating life, eating a muffin and drinking an iced coffee (and the Smart Cafe iced coffee was especially tasty this morning), but somehow it just doesn't quite make sense.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Post-BA redux

Still have to orally defend my paper, but the paper itself is finished. Not finished, handed in. My own main problems with the BA were that a) my French grammar has reached a plateau, and short of doing something so drastic as living in a francophone environment for an extended amount of time, I don't quite see how it would improve; and b) I discovered many, many things I wanted to add to the paper, about Proust, about contemporary French-Israeli and French-Jewish relations, those much-needed sentences explaining why each paragraph is where it is in the paper (so-called "transition" sentences, which, like stretching before and after running, I have an unfortunately tendency to think of as a myth, as unneccessary, when in fact...), weird tie-ins with Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, David Brooks, Irving Kristol, and more. It could be a book. A crummy book, perhaps, but a book all the same, a sort of academic-flavored WWPD.

So, with my newfound freedom from the Regenstein House of Pancakes, what will I do with myself? So far, I've tried Chipotle for the first time ever, and (listen to this, Kate, you who claim I don't like Mexican food) liked it, went to the MCA to see, among other things, a giant clam-sculpture and a fabulous room full of shiny things, and this evening, if all goes according to plan, I will get a much-needed haircut and buy copious amounts of cheese.


The subject headings of two consecutive emails, from two different listhosts, in my inbox:

"Swastikas on CFI [Chicago Friends of Israel] posters"

"Bagel & Coffee on Us!"

Because there's nothing like a free bagel from the Senior Gift Committee to help a person ignore what may well be a rising local fascist movement.

That said, whoever put swastikas on the CFI signs is/are a/many fuckwad/s.

On the McJob

McJob. n. A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one.

-Douglas Coupland, Generation X

Yesterday, during Nick's second full day as a trained employee, the following happened:

* Due to a combination of not eating, illness, and the novelty of being forced to stand all day, I almost passed out at approximately 3 PM. A lemonade, a bad burrito (skip Burrito Beach, people!) and a Ben & Jerry's chocolate shake later, I was feeling much better.

* I got my first "I'm complaining to you about another one of your employees" customer. I failed to mention to said customer that this "rude" employee is in fact one of my superiors, and so just apologized. I also failed to mention that said customer's McDonald's cup, into which he was spitting tobacco remnants, was simply revolting, and that I was wishing him gum cancer. I hear that's painful.

* I sold some stuff to Roger Ebert, of Siskel and Ebert, and now of Ebert and Roeper. Ebert's very quiet. He likes opera. I was nervous, and forgot to give him his receipt. You know, that thing that's really important for returning stuff. Oops.

But, nothing can make me unhappy, because I got my shiny new Chicago Card Plus in the mail. They've waived the $5 activation fee, so get yours today.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Science and Fundamentalism

I blogged a couple of months ago about the possibility that someone had brought with them the strain of Polio that was circulating around Nigeria to the hajj in Mecca.

Now, it turns out, the fears were well-founded. A case of polio has turned up in Indonesia, and five million children there need to be vaccinated, now, with international funds for doing so not exaclty forthcoming.

All this, because some fundamentalist clerics in Nigeria saw science as not a help for all, but as a "Western conspiracy."

The NYTimes article I mention above makes it a point to say that polio has emerged in 16 Muslim countries. And though that's a true fact, it's a useless one. Diseases know no borders. No epidemiologist worth his salt would think that this epidemic won't spread across the lines that separates civilizations. The West, and scientists, must do better.

A better track record of relations between the US and Muslim countries might have helped. But until we stop viewing science as inherently Western,* until we stop viewing science as holding benefits for only one group of people, until we stop trumpeting science as the triumph of Western civilization and not mankind, the entire world will pay.

Whoever you choose to blame, the fact is that in Indonesia, hundreds of children, if not hundreds of thousands, will know what so many American children of the early 20th century knew: paralysis, the loss of limbs, and even death. And unless we act quickly, this will not be the end, but only the beginning. Sad indeed.

*The idea that science is inherently Western is an absurd theory ayway, given that the Mesopotamians were the first in science, and that Arabs and then Muslims in the Middle Ages are the reason that science survived from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. The scientific method? Perhaps. But science, and its fruits? No.

My Dream Job Pays $7.25/hr

Yes, that's correct. I finally have the job I've always wanted: my dream job (okay, other than astronaut), selling books at a certain large chain bookstore (no, not that one, the one that sells CDs and movies, too).

Problem is, the aforementioned pay, at 40 hours/wk, still isn't enough to cover rent, food, transportation, and student loans. And it's not as if I live in the trendy area of town, own a car, or have expensive vices like cigarettes, a drug habit, or alcohol (okay, maybe Chai's, but other circumtances have precluded that for a while anyway).

So, while I ask "Would you like the receipt in the bag?" to hurried businessman, or "Vous voulez votre ticket dans le sac?" to those whom I ID as French-speaking (they're there, and thank god), I'm still looking for other jobs for which I'm just as overqualified, but which will at least leave me money left over to buy things, like, I dunno, books, movies, and music.

It makes the 33% discount somewhat absurd, doesn't it...

Panda Diplomacy

How does one "thaw" relations between Taiwan and China? Pandas, of course. Hey, if it works...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Thanks, Andrew

This made for the perfect break from French-antisemitism paper-writing. By the way, the biggest problem I'm having with this paper seems to be deciding how to spell antisemitism consistently while dealing with two languages (some of my sources are in zee English) and quotes from books with various spellings of the term. Why not just call it A-S and be done with it?

Help, I'm being eaten by a gigantic French BA paper!

Not good, not good at all. I will either a) turn in an unwieldy, massive, and yet incomplete book-length thing, b) turn in an extra-confusing, parts-missing 25-ish pager, or c) contemplate which to do over a coffee and a Twix. Hope the BA paper that's about to consume me isn't allergic to trans fats...

Slow news week?

Various types of salt, white t-shirts, and milk, assessed for your reading and viewing pleasure.

Nah nah nah nah nah...

Right on.

Washing Machine Fingers Lazy Male

...such was the headline on my Mozilla Firefox news aggregator this morning.

The story, from BBC News, is actually somewhat interesting. The idea, however, seems horrible.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

It's online, kids

Check out my latest Maroon column, in which I discuss "Broadview, Chicago’s insular lunatic themed dorm," and other important issues of the day.

Lamer than a $600 pair of jeans

I've already grown tired of mocking Times articles that exist merely to point out, in a half-admiring tone, how much New Yorkers will spend for haircuts/blue jeans/toothpaste/whatever. These articles clearly have an audience, just like the jeans and haircuts themselves. But the latest incarnation of this genre is just absurd: It's apparently not cool enough just to go to an off-the-beaten-path upscale restaurant anymore; now the in-the-know go to invitation-only, or at least hidden-away, "occasional supper clubs," where the food is, well, food, and the people are just that much more obnoxious.

Ken Gross explains:

[T]his is about a new global dining phenomenon in which you have to know somebody who knows somebody just to find out about the place; where you have to be given a secret password, and then sneak up a back staircase just to get in. This is about dining at a culinary speak-easy." And, "like the French Resistance, they are run in small, clandestine cells, dodging the local health department and the licensing authorities.

A "culinary speak-easy"? But there's no amendment outlawing the restaurant. What are these would-be restauranteurs hiding from? Is it supposed to be a good thing that a restaurant is dodging the local health department? For such thrills, one could simply go to the Divinity School coffee shop on the UChicago campus, where, if one looks closely enough, one will see a sign proclaiming a less-than-stellar report after the last inspection.

Ken Gross, though, is convinced that he's found the next big thing:

In spite of the ups and downs, the variation in the quality, there is something brave and almost reckless about this trend toward dining clubs, or occasional restaurants, or whatever conceit you attach to them. It suggests, in their intimacy and singularity, a whiff of danger, a hunger for a more promiscuous kind of dinner party. It's even a kind of sweet revenge against all the snobbish inconveniences of dining under the glare of haute cuisine.

Again, what's so dangerous about this institution, which is essentially people charging for their private dinner parties? How is haute cuisine "snobbish" and a restaurant you need to know someone to even locate any less so? I'd say save your $40 and buy your dog something nice.