Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's called a dachshund

The latest contender in the quest to win First World Problem of the Year is of course Alex Kuczynski's choice, announced on the cover of the Times' Sunday Magazine, to hobble around in Louboutins (note the hint of a red sole on the heels she wears on the cover) between yoga classes, while some woman out there in Real America, already struggling with her own real children, has the author's baby. The author's husband, a "very successful investor" of 120 years, with 1,000 children from 1,000,000,000 previous marriages, is despite his years still able to put genetic material into a cup, which is about all we learn about him in his wife's NYT Mag cover story. Although the article itself is only indirectly about race, as in, who but a silly rich white woman..., an accompanying photo reminds readers--who, by the way, are pissed-- that Kuczynski benefits from class and race privilege.

So, the moral of the story? Here's what it isn't: Those (few) who ask that we not judge the author, who note that infertility is serious business and those without personal experience of it shouldn't talk, may have a point, but clearly missed the rules of the game. If Kuczynski didn't want hundreds of total strangers commenting on the most intimate details of her life, she'd have chosen a different venue (say, coffee with friends) to share them. Those who suggest she ought to have gone with "a pedigree puppy" have my sympathy, but clearly missed the recent controversy over the mere possibility that the Obamas would not get their daughters a rescue dog. Had Kuczynski in an unrelated article mentioned a purebred pup, the angry comment mob would have been pissed.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thought for the day

"Avoid reading the comments on any newspaper site. The anonymity allows the rats to come out of the woodwork." Commenting anonymously on blogs, however...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Mid-morning bloody television"

The above quote comes from either Patsy or Edina, when, in the hospital for plastic surgery, they're forced to watch sub-prime-time TV. The same thing happens to me, minus the liposuction, every time I go to the gym. Since gym trips remain few and far between, I don't worry too much about brain rot from shows a step below what I'd willingly watch, say, on an airplane. But perhaps I should. This time the treadmill I picked offered MTV's "Next", a dating show where contestants have mini-dates, with the person all are competing to 'get' shouting "Next!" when he or she has had enough. The show is terrible in so many ways, I almost forgot I was running! Let me count them...

-Everyone involved looks interchangeable with everyone else--the same tan, bleached-blond, 19-year-old seemed to have replicated himself (then, when it switched over to girls competing over a guy, herself). As a consequence of my schooling, I have trouble telling tanned, blond, athletic types apart. That I was on a treadmill didn't help.

-In that all involved are identical, league-wise, type-wise, and so forth, it's unclear what makes the one girl worthy of these five guys' competition. Who but a girl like this would they go out with? Shouldn't there be at least a pretense of a prize larger than being picked winner of a reality show?

-When each 'date' emerges from the bus (why a bus?), the dreamboat can immediately say, "Next," revealing that the person in question is, as they say, "busted." Since all the show's witticisms and one-liners are almost painfully scripted, I'm hoping this bit is as well. Since all the contestants appear to put a premium on physical appearance, and to go to the gym more often than once every two (err, three) weeks, this sort of rejection could be truly upsetting.

Monday, November 24, 2008

All about the dishwasher

As a grad student, it would seem that the new trend in cutting back would suit me perfectly. At last, five nights of home-cooked pasta is in! There is now pride in wearing headphones till they're merely decorative! But... no. To participate in the cutting-back trend, one has to sacrifice, to make a change from the lifestyle to which they've grown accustomed to one 'times like these' demand. I could certainly stand to spend less (starting with seven nights a week of pasta, hmm) but to be part of the frugal-chic movement, you have to come down from on high, to switch not from buying two GAP t-shirts to one, but from haute couture to overindulging at J.Crew.

Praising those who 'make do with less' can be a bit much when the less is, well, more. At the NYT 'Well' blog, Tara Parker-Pope and her commenters just can't get over how noble food writer Mark Bittman is to stick with his "bad kitchen." Now, I don't begrudge someone who's both in the culinary field and a Real Grown-Up a kitchen better than my own--for him to work with one like mine would be a shame.

But what, precisely, is supposed to make Bittman's kitchen "bad"? Have a look. First, he's got a huge window next to the cooking area. (I'd settle for a vent above the stove.) Then there's the build-in microwave. Then there's Bittman's complaint that makes me less pro-Bittman than I was going into this: "I bump my shins on the dishwasher." Who cares if "[i]t’s a terrible dishwasher." (You know what's an even less efficient dishwasher? The kind that worked all day and, at 11 PM, notices dishes and puts on the gloves.) Knowing full well that my own kitchen problems are first-world, I'm finding it truly difficult to see what about Bittman's kitchen, save the lack of uniformed butler, reveals his willingness to lead a humble life.

And, a commenter makes a good point:

Obviously, as betrayed by the comment “I don’t have a food processor in Manhattan”, Bittman does have one in another kitchen elsewhere. I would bet with his level of success and true to his type, he owns a country house–upstate or the Hamptons most likely–with a huge, wonderfully appointed kitchen that he visits and cooks in on most weekends. He’s pretending to slum it in his Manhattan pied a terre.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wanty wanty

This dress. Which I am deluding myself into thinking would look even better on someone (ahem) 5'2" than on the model, on whom it looks a bit too much like a shirt. That said, asking a model about the environment? Maybe not the best idea: "[I]n a way, high fashion could be considered sustainable. Buying a piece from Chanel is an investment: you’re going to have it in your closet forever, and it’s not like it’s made from low-quality fabrics." Argh. Buy Chanel because you can and want to. Not to assuage "An Inconvenient Truth"-inspired guilt.

Since clearly the dress is $10,000 and by request only (the designer's website claims his stuff is sold at Barneys; the Barneys site claims otherwise, as if it mattered), my latest wardrobe addition is this jacket (loosely defined). I was wary, because the plaid looked... familiar, but the fit is surprisingly equestrian chic. That is, for a fleece under $30. If the MTA started having horses, I'd be all set.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

'That's nice!', or, 'That's patronizing!'

Is the following community service program at the Obama girls' future school, well, nice or patronizing?

Lower School has established a relationship with Brightwood Elementary School, a public school in Northwest Washington. Over 20 Lower School parents serve as lap readers, visiting the school weekly to provide one-on-one reading with children in eight classrooms, pre-k through first grade. These parents are encouraged to bring their children to share in the reading at least once per semester, with teacher approval.

On the one hand, yay books, yay reading, and yay taking note of one's own privilege and helping the less fortunate. (I know next to nothing about D.C., but am assuming prospects at this Brightwood are less than bright.) On the other... there's something that doesn't sit right about what amounts to rich-mommy-for-a-day, showing underprivileged kids what a good parent does, implicitly telling/reminding kids that their own parents don't read to them, whether because they have too much work, they're in prison/on drugs, or they can't read, English or generally. It's something about the age of the kids, and that it's "lap reading," so maternal... So, better than doing nothing at all, or a method of volunteering too wrought with socioeconomic and potentially racial condescension?

(I'm tempted to do my whole anti-private-school rant. Not that the Obama's don't have good reason to go this route, as parents and as likely targets of all sorts of crazies. They're making the right choice, as if what I think matters. But the tendency of upscale private schools to tell their students that those at public schools, even 'just like private school' ones, are by definition tragic, along with their tendency--the one I did K-8 at, at any rate--to place the very few and rarely-integrated students of color in every photo in every brochure, making a misleading point about the wonderful "diversity," when day after day one sees rows of towheaded children in uniform... but I'm not sure what my own anecdotes about situations like the above add to the question regarding this particular D.C. school.)

Fine dining

Amber's lentil soup sounds much more promising that the one I'd already gotten going upon reading her post. (This is what Elaine Benes would deem a "small coincidence.") Mine consists of, in completely unmeasured amounts: lentils (Canadian ones, which look, as one might guess, like a cross between French and regular ol' American lentils), olive oil, not-fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, yellow onion, garlic (some burnt, some not burnt to compensate), dashes of supermarket-balsamic and gourmet-store-white-wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. And water. And, I'm a bit concerned, pink nail polish, having just noticed that I've chipped two nails, although I think this preceded the soup production.

In other culinary news, while I had a great time catching up with a friend (who will go unnamed, on the off-chance her feelings about the place were more positive), the restaurant we went to, "Les Enfants Terribles," was... what everyone said it would be. It was not so much a case of bad service as of usury-meets-food-service.

(Cultural note: The restaurant is not quite French in terms of cuisine, but it is by-and-for French people. After noticing the NYMag reader reviews, I was hoping being with someone French would make me more welcome, but... no. As my friend pointed out, this was a place where a waiter was wearing a beret-like hat to remind us of his Frenchness. If you enter not under the impression that French waiters are rude--Francophile that I am, I did not--you will be left thinking either this, or that every other French waiter you've encountered has been positively dripping with politeness. Rudeness is, clearly, part of the show at this establishment, at a place where the waitstaff do shots between serving dishes, and where, if you are sitting on the outside chair, as I was, they yell 'excuse me' furiously every time you sit up straight in your seat. Tiny though I am, I felt very much the gigantic American.*)

So, back to the story. First, I ordered a dish that was $15.50. The waiter asked if I was sure I didn't want the special, also something involving beef. I asked (how gauche!) how much the special was, whether it was the same amount as the one I'd picked. Oh, it's $24. Hmm. I attribute the waiter's sneakiness to the fact that I'd ordered a drink, which perhaps signaled that I was willing to spend anything. Alas, a few sips of one drink, even by someone as Ashkenazi as I am, did not take away my other, also stereotypically Ashkenaz willingness to risk unsuaveness to avoid being overcharged.

The lesser beef was not bad, and the fries were fries, always a positive experience. I was even spontaneously brought ketchup, which I attribute to my being a feathered-haired, fanny-pack-and-white-sneakers-wearing, 6'6" and 300 pound American. I like ketchup, so all was well, except when a waiter wished to pass by, and I was not crouching obligingly.

The check appeared suddenly while we were still eating, but I didn't take offense, because the same happened to the Latvian model and her date sitting next to us. (That this was a beautiful-people place is both the restaurant's saving grace and its downfall.) Problems arose, however, when our waiter, the same man who'd tried to sneak the special, chased us as we left the restaurant, explaining, now in English, that you have to leave a 20% tip, and ours was not 20%. I've never before felt true nativist rage, not even when, last summer, the whole of Europe arrived to remind Americans just how useless our currency had become. I kept thinking, I'm from here! That's not how it works! I didn't go into the whole 'I'm from here' bit, which was, I think, obvious. But I did point out that there's no mandatory tip--if this particular restaurant had one (which would not be surprising in that they seem keen on ripping off those too beautiful and drunk to care) they hadn't exactly alerted us to it.

Which about brings us to the lentil soup.

* My "I am not French" tag has never been put to such good use!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tales of the unlikely

I've also been considering a blog hiatus, in which I replace blogging with going (gasp) to the gym. (I can hear Jo laughing, even though he's not here.) Both are obvious time-wasters, yet both have self-improvement potential (constructing an argument vs. being able to reach my walk-up apartment without any noticeable difficulty). Considering how much I have to write and exercise (argh, those stairs) regardless, perhaps a different pre-existing hobby, perhaps muffin-making, should be taken to new heights. (I can imagine Jo nodding approvingly.)

Onto the next paper...

We'll always have Paris

Do we want an America in which each side of the culture wars (real Americans/"Jesus police" on the one side; fake Americans, godless gays, and heathen Jews on the other) 'gets' its own parts of the country? To summarize the discussion thus far:


The beauty of our situation is that if you feel so strongly about gay marriage, you can move to Connecticut or Massachusetts. If you feel strongly about keeping the Jewish Sabbath you can move to certain section of New York City or Miami Beach. We avoid religious tyranny by the majority through states being able to make their own laws.


There is no beauty in ghettoizing gays, Jews or any other minority. Any migration forced by social stigma should not be acceptable in the U.S., or anywhere.


I think I’m less concerned than you are about just embracing the self-segregation discussed in the comments to your ladyblog post and saying “let the Jesus police run Kansas, and we’ll keep California and New York.” Part of that is probably my — dare I say it? — gentile privilege, or something like that. That is, I don’t feel the same sense of menace that it sometimes seems you feel (am I right?) about being ostracized by middle-America, because I don’t have the same kind of historical context that you do for it. Instead, my urge is generally to say “let them stew: we have everything worth having in this country, as well as almost the whole economy, on the coasts anyway.”

Here's my take, but I'd be happy to see others' in the comments.

The impulse to want everyone to fit into a box of 'normal real American' or 'different urban American' has something in common with Helen Rittelmeyer's suggestion to modern-day singles, "If you want to be a nice girl, commit to being one. If you are hanging out in a bar, you are a hussy and should commit to that." (Note before I continue: I have no idea what Rittelmeyer thinks about gays/Jews/cities, and am referring only to the way the "hussies" argument resembles the way the urban-rural one has been constructed, that if you want to be gay or Jewish, that's fine, but don't expect to do it in the heartland.) 'Nice' Americans can live anywhere they'd like, whereas marginal types should know their place, and their place is New York, Connecticut, San Francisco...

As I see it, this view stems from misunderstanding. We (we-society, not we-royal) are convinced that gays and Jews are especially creative and eccentric, that they all gravitate to cities because they're where they can fulfill their grand ambitions, that they think small towns would pin them in. For some it's true, but for most, not even a little bit.

Regarding gays, it's simple. Gay people do not magically spring up in places where they're wanted. Instead, a certain portion of the population is born (or 'turns out' if you prefer) gay, in each and every town, worldwide. Not all gays are meant to be brilliant Barneys window-dressers; why can't the non-fashionable majority of gays stay put and lead dull, married lives in their hometowns? How is this not better for both the majority of gays themselves, and the majority of Americans wanting as many people as possible leading conventional/conservative lives? (See also this, via.)

Jews, on the other hand, tend to be born into Jewish families and communities, often in or near major cities. If your priority is maintaining a strict observance of Shabbat, marrying your kids off to other Jews, finding kosher food, etc., you really do need to live around many other Jews. While Jewish communities that permit this lifestyle do exist in the US, you'd have good reason to consider Israel, where that life would--even taking into account Israeli secularism--come more easily.

But! Not all Jews have those priorities. Just as not all gays require a short subway ride to 8th and 23rd, not all Jews require a proximity to Zabars. One can be unobservant but still Jewish enough to be 'different,' be it culturally, physically, religiously... A number of us are essentially not-Christians. What if we get a job (ahem, academia) or spouse out in 'real America'? We don't mind the absence of a kosher butcher, we don't need an eruv. Why must huge portions of the country be no-go zones for us in terms of settling down? How would it not be better for both non-observant Jews and the rest of America to allow for internal migration at will?

So, my take: Jillian's on the right track, but misses where preserving the "beauty" of cultural diversity can turn into outright exclusion on those who want to lead unhyphenated lives, but who, due to facts of birth, are prevented from doing so. Paul makes a good case, but underestimates both the interest in gays/Jews in living outside of cities, and the interest of the "Jesus police" in policing... larger jurisdictions. And E.H. makes a good point, with more elegance than I could have done, which I say not only because she's my mother.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

For those who need convincing

Opponents of same-sex marriage insist (see comments) that the pro-SSM side is all protests and cries of bigotry, but no substance. For many anti-SSMers, they feel they've provided well-constructed arguments about what marriage is and why, and what do they get? They get called homophobes. They see this as unfair.

Obviously, with any contentious issue, there's a good amount of yelling on both sides. (Abortion: Murderer! Misogynist!) That screaming is, of course, preaching to the choir. That said, anyone who thinks proponents of gay marriage have nothing more to say than that their opponents are bad people is mistaken. (I've tried giving nuanced arguments on this issue, but later in the thread I linked to I learned that all the pro-SSM side offers up are "ad hominem arguments".)

So yes, there are arguments, although it could be they're convincing no one who doesn't already see gay-marriage bans as self-evidently unfair.

Part of any battle for civil rights is yelling from the rooftops that the injustice must end. It's not the whole battle, but it's a fully justified element. One of the pro-SSM arguments is that denying equal rights is bigotry. One does not have to construct elaborate arguments to prove that this qualifies as bigotry, one merely has to point out the injustice. This is true of any civil rights issue. Do opponents of SSM think, in retrospect, that proponents of legalizing interracial marriage should have not bothered calling opponents bigots, and should have instead restricted themselves to peer-reviewed, footnoted papers arguing that black people are indeed enough like white people to marry them?

Even if the cases are different (which they are, but not very) the principle here is the same. The notion of human equality as "self-evident" implies that one need not prove anything to ask to be treated with respect.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recent enjoyment

-Seeing a celebrity famous for playing a man who sidles up to glamorous women in his chauffeured car on the subway. Looking very 'one of us.' Aside from some dreadlocked Scandinavian tourists, no one else seemed that interested.

-Finally moving a paper from five different 'section' docs into one. I can now call it a 'rough draft.'

-Getting fancy high-maintenance hair conditioner at Ricky's for 20% off. Say what? It's pointless now, since cold weather is natural Japanese hair-straightening for my extremely season-sensitive hair, but a sale's a sale. Speaking of which, be sure to check out Rita & co.'s series of posts on cheapness.

Discuss amongst yourselves

Should we (the US) make Sunday a de facto sabbath? Would this violate separation of church and state (in principle, if not in law, since I believe what's been suggested is a change in the culture), or would it merely recognize that this is a Christian country? My answer's here, but I'd like to know what others (especially certain no-longer-hiatusing others) think.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pickavore's dilemma

In the spirit of acknowledging the Internet's role as one big support group for lunatics, allow me to point out how pleased I am that I'm not the only picky eater especially afraid of okra. Along with "mayo, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese."

And, back to the paper...

A theory of the JAP

Every American Jewish woman not literally in rags begging for gruel has, at one point or another, been called a JAP. Frustrating as this is to those of us who do not spend our days chatting with the girls over manicures about how to find a lawyah or bankah to marry--and alas, most Jewish women do not fit this stereotype--like all stereotypes, it has some basis in reality.

Rather than looking at the JAP as a slur, we should think of it as a subculture, one no more or less valid than hipsters, bears, or farm-obsessed urbanites. Like any other subculture, one's natural-born physical appearance and background play a part in membership, but it's mostly about performance, about choice of dress, hairstyle, lifestyle. And, if this needs pointing out, not all JAPs are Jewish or female, although the culture is rooted where it's rooted. (As with hipsters, JAPs are, of course, never self-proclaimed, and can be spotted a mile away.)

So, as promised, a theory: why is there a subculture of high-maintenance, materialistic Jewish women? Where do these 'princesses' come from? One possibility is that Jewish women overcompensate with artifice (eating disorders or fancy clothes) for a lack of 'conventional' (i.e. blonde-and-blue) beauty. That's probably part of it--one can make fun of the JAP for hair-straightening, but consider the likely reaction to the alternative. And it goes far in explaining the gender tilt of the subculture.

Here's another idea: Jews, as Jews, voluntarily deny ourselves full participation in mainstream American society. A world of Christmas and ham, Lilly Pulitzer and small-town childhoods, is distant to many of us. But, at the same time, we want in. So we overcompensate in the areas we don't see as threatening our Jewish identity. For a woman to focus on shopping and finding a man is plenty American; to obsess over both must be very American. The JAP is an especially enthusiastic consumer of and participant in the lowest-common-denominator American culture, hoping (subconsciously) that this will be enough to balance out the difference inherent to her non-Christian background.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama-Dachshund '08?

Nothing in the related article hints at a dachshund, but I'm sure if the soon-to-be First Family saw this picture, their problem would be solved!

You are having a more impressive Friday night

Staying in to write a paper on a totally unrelated subject (though now I'm seeing a connection...), I'm now distracted by a blog-war set forth almost entirely by my poor choice of post title. Now everyone's angry, and I'm not sure quite how to defend myself. I do think opposition to gay marriage is bad (a simplistic word, I realize, but it's late, and I've argued why here before, blogsearch away), and though the word "backwards" comes to mind, as it happens I don't favor recognizing gay marriage because it's The Future, but because it's the humane thing to do to recognize the status quo of many perfectly viable, loving (pardon the pun) families. I know I'm a coastal elite whose views don't count and all, but having grown up knowing families like that, I see this more as an issue of promoting a positive institution that already exists than of creating a new one out of thin air. In my own not-real-American framework, being for gay marriage is conservative.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Purity turnips

The people have spoken, and they insist that the Obama family's puppy be a rescue dog. Obama himself seems to agree, jokingly making reference to himself being a "mutt."

While this sounds impossible to criticize, a groundbreaking presidency all the way down to concern for fluffy animals, there's a good case for the First Dog being a purebred. (No, not just so it could be a dachshund.) For whatever reason, we humans have an urge to create and promote purity. It's up to us whether we channel this urge into eugenics or organics, to sexual mores or turnips, but it seems unlikely we as a species will kick the purity fixation anytime soon. Better we focus on chiens de race than on some human equivalent. Better we focus on the color of the First Dog than that of the First Family.

Black shows, white shows

I was listening to a podcast on my commute recently, and someone said something about how TV shows are segregated, and wondered whether Obama's election would either integrate sitcoms or push people to watch shows other than the ones of 'their kind.' I'm thinking Tyra more than Obama will integrate television, but we shall see.

While TV segregation is undeniable, especially regarding sitcoms, it always surprises me when "Seinfeld" is offered as the quintessential "white show." (Google "Seinfeld" and "white show" for examples, if you've never heard this argument). Gawker even calls Jerry Seinfeld, "The whitest man in America."

Clearly, "Seinfeld" is a Jewish show. Now before the avalanche of comments informing me that Jews (Ashkenazi at least) are white, let me explain. Yes, in America today, Jews see themselves as and are seen as white more than black. And a show can have actors who are Jewish and still be a 'white show.' "Friends," "The Daily Show," and so on fall into this category. But "Seinfeld" not only has Jews on its cast, but deals almost exclusively in Jewish themes, implicit (George as Woody Allen, parents in Florida) and explicit (rabbis, mohels, dubious "shiksas" and marble ryes). Just as speech intonation is different in black shows and white shows, "Seinfeld" is ambiguously Semitic New York English, if anything is. If black characters are rare on "Seinfeld," so are non-Jewish white ones, who tend to appear only as Jerry's one-line weekly love interests. They are the tokens from 'real America.'(The exception, of course, being Susan and her family, who, with their repression, drinking, and summer homes, are the definition of Gentile as Other.)

It's always something of a mystery to those of us who 'get' the show on a cultural level that it's had such a great success with those who, one imagines, do not. (Then again, I've watched enough "Designing Women" and "Everybody Hates Chris" to confirm one need not identify with a cultural situation to vegetate in front of it.) But the greater mystery still is how a show so gray could be understood as the whitest of them all.

Oh baby

You know that amazing Monty Python sketch, where Terry Jones plays John Cleese's mother, and the mom and her friend talk to the son in baby talk, even though he's like 6'5" and 35? "Oooh, can he talk, can he talk"? --"Of course I can talk, I'm the Minister for Overseas Development." Well, apparently this actually happens.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Popular wisdom has it that Jewish men prefer non-Jewish women. Certain artists have based their entire careers on that notion. Anecdotal evidence suggests the Roth-Allen two-headed beast speaks the truth.

So why does Marcus attribute my claim that Rahm Emanuel is beau to my being a "jewy jew"? Shouldn't this make me less likely to think the politician is attractive, or does it only work that way for men?

Returning to the all-important realm of the anecdotal, Jewish women (did I mention I'm Jewish? I'm worried someone on the Internet missed this) go both ways. We (the royal 'we', or more like the court-Jew 'we') can appreciate the beauty of both Lior Askhenazi the Mossad-agent-turned-pacifist and Knut Berger the Nazi's grandson-turned-beautiful-gay-man. Or, to give a more familiar example, both Obama and his new Chief of Staff.

If Jewish women are Semiti-neutral, the fact remains that outside of observant circles, a Jewish woman will attract more gentile than Jewish men. I remember, neurotic, Roth-reading, raised-on-Allen high school senior that I was, worrying that by going to college in the Midwest, I was not going to have any dates or boyfriends, because there would be so many girls who looked like this. (Needless to say, I had the University of Chicago all wrong.) What I hadn't taken into account was that to some, we are exotic. But Jew-fetishists aside (not that the Bamber comment is fetishistic, but anyway), no such concept as a "shiksa" exists for the man who grew up Protestant in Sweden or Kansas. That a woman is, say, a natural blond is not enough to make her attractive to men whose mothers and sisters are as well.

So, is there a lesson to be drawn from all this, other than that men, Jewish or Robert Redfordian, do the asking? Discuss amongst yourselves.

*There is a Yiddish word for a male 'shiksa,' but 'shikso' is, I think, more easily understood.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weekend, reviewed

-Al di la: Sorry, 'al di là,' the 'perpetually packed,' lower-case and accent-shortcut-requiring 'local gem,' did once have a pretty amazing steak for $15.50, but when we passed by hoping to track down said steak Friday night, we learned that prices had all gone sky high, with the same steak dish an impressive $20. Boo. Pasta at home it was.

-Tanoreen: perfection. Really! Not cheap as alleged, unless $16 main courses strike you as such, but very much worth it. I ate my own weight in babaganoush before my lamb kebabs arrived, which I don't recommend doing, but which means I get to lave lamb again tonight! Sorry, little sheep! So is Tanoreen the best Palestinian restaurant in NYC? Having never been to another explicitly Palestinian restaurant, I couldn't say, but if I were picking sides in the Middle East conflict based entirely on cuisine (as represented in New York), Israel would not stand a chance.

-Fort Greene Flea Market: This being my second trip, proof that I never learn. Way too expensive for anything purporting to have fleas, and kind of a far walk from Park Slope just for a waffle (the best deal by far) that could have been purchased in Park Slope the day before.

-Target: Although they make me look like the sorority girl I never was, I may never take these off.

You just know

If it were not for the social pressure that comes from marriage--affecting both married couples and those with an expectation, however vague, that they'll one day wed--how much monogamy would we see from heterosexuals?

I ask this because my (hardly original, fundamentally conservative) argument that gay marriage is 'good for the children' focuses not on the children of gay couples, who get oh-so-much attention, but on gay children themselves. The latter group, I'm guessing, is much larger, and is likely to remain so (barring some major developments in eugenics).

What do I mean by 'gay children'? As young as age 10, I had crushes on guys. On boys my own age, on older camp-counselors, on teachers, on actors, on lame singer-songwriters, etc, etc. The objects of these crushes were often on embarrassing, often too much so to reveal, so it would be a stretch to say that social pressure to be heterosexual pointed me in that direction. Before I was old enough to have physical relationships, before being old enough to even understand why anyone would want a physical relationship, I knew what I liked.

For gays, I'd imagine things work in much the same way. My reference to "[c]hildren who, upon adolescence, notice they like members of the same sex" was misleading. You can know what you like independent of any particular activity or individual. You can be seven or 12 or 20 and just know.

It's a mix of love and a sense of marriage as an implied end-point of relationships that pushes straight people towards monogamy. The implied end-point exists independent of any particular relationship, and in fact pre-exists one's first serious one. It just hovers in the background. When the time comes to channel romantic interest into actual interaction, there's a script to follow and, eventually, a legally-binding choice to be made.

If you turn out to be gay, and turn out not to live in one of the pockets of the world where same-sex-led families are commonplace and openly accepted, then you're likely grow up without the 'person you'll end up with' notion in the back of your mind. What happens, happens. Maybe you'll be monogamous, but maybe you won't; either way, you're equally 'wrong' according to most Californians, so the incentive to pair off must come from love alone. Which is a bit much to ask.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Things that would make research easier:

1) Being in France.

2) Working not in the library, but in that mysterious "Offsite," where all the books I need seem to be.

3) Not requiring food or caffeine to keep moving.

Yossi and Jagger II?

The ladies at Jezebel note "the subtle, but sexy, homo-eroticism" of a certain photograph of two pretty, albeit very hetero, politicians. Could a sequel be in order? Who'd be Yossi and who'd be Jagger? Barack would just have to be Barak, and to, well, speak Hebrew. He could be the half-Ethiopian free spirit, with Rahm the macho Sabra, tweaking their real biographies just enough to make the film work. Eytan Fox would, of course, direct. The result would be so beautiful that everyone would favor legal gay marriage, and all would be well in the world.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Last election post, 2008

Via John Schwenkler, Will Wilkinson on how it's possible to be pro-Obama, to be moved to tears by last night's victory, and yet to "hope never to see again streets thronging with people chanting the victorious leader’s name."

As I see it, the chanting-the-leader's-name issue is in part the problem Wilkinson mentions, that of failing to see the presidency as a government job and not a divine role of some kind. But it's also about missing that edge of dissent. Depending your environment, it's possible to feel, with the Obama win, that you're maybe some kind of Republican, not if you supported McCain (did people really do that?) if you're merely very happy Obama won and incredibly relieved that the other ticket lost.

Obama was so clearly the better candidate, and Palin so openly disdainful of such broad swaths of the population that when everyone around me just assumed I was for Obama, I didn't feel the same qualms as I did when, at other times, acquaintances have assumed I lean left. 'How could you not vote for Obama?' is at once unappealing as political discourse and, in this particular election, a fair point.

And the bad news

Paul Gowder is spot on about Prop 8:

It’s appalling how children were used in this campaign, from the shameful lies about the schools to the garbage appeals to non-science about the quality of gay parents to the fact that children were trotted out on street corners by both sides to wear signs. And as we know, that sort of shit is always a trigger for American voters — there’s no better way to get people to do idiotic things — live in the suburbs, support all kinds of censorship, deny basic civil and human rights to their fellow citizens — than to wave some kid in front of them and have it drop a single tear.

Seriously. Parents in this country just need to toughen up. Can you imagine a civilized country where all you have to do is say “think about the kids,” and the public will vote for whatever kind of fascism strikes your fancy?

All I'll add is that the 'think of the children' brigade seems incapable of thinking of the gay children. In all likelihood, there will always be more children turning out to be gay than kids raised by same-sex couples. Children who, upon adolescence, notice they like members of the same sex are far more likely to be depressed/sexually-reckless/what-have-you if they live in a society in which they cannot aspire to one day having a family of their own.

That One Won!

The WWPD response, incoherent as always:

1) What kind of puppy will the Obama girls get? You know my vote.

2) Please, please, idiot racists, do not assassinate Barack now that he's been elected. Thinking back on other cases of a member of a country's most-discriminated-against minority group getting to be head of state, the first one I thought of was Leon Blum. Clearly a Jew becoming prime minister of France signaled an end to that country's anti-Semitism. So, here's hoping things work out better this time around.

3) OMG I forgot to go to Starbucks. Or Ben and Jerry's. Oh well. Obama won! I wish I could say I saw it coming, but it's safe to say I absolutely did not.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting Obama in Park Slope

If I didn't, who would have?

All told, the voting experience was both exciting and a let-down. As a flexibly-scheduled grad student, I could go early, after teaching, which meant I got to see a bit of the other side of Park Slope, not the young professionals but the aging, over-educated hippies, of whom there were more than one. Frightening though it is, I can see myself one day heading in that direction.

There was this massive, round-the-block line, but apparently my proof-of-registration was enough to get me to the VIP line, that is, a line in a school gym so warm that it really did feel like school gym class. How wise I was to include a tank top among my many layers. Somehow the uncomfortable temperature made it all feel more democratic.

Everyone around me was reading something intellechul--academic papers, Renaissance thinkers--but I kept my own 19th-C-French-dude subway-reading in the bag, figuring surveying the crowd was more of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and not wanting to be 'that guy' who just has to show his whole district he's literate.

So, the short wait was something of a let-down. As was the fact that I could not vote to explicitly support gay marriage. As was the fact that you just knew that the vote for Obama in the gym was going to be unanimous. As an Obama supporter, this pleases me, but ideological unanimity has its downside.

Now, the time's probably come to get some coffee. Me, along with every single grad student in the city, approximately 0.01% of whom are U.S. citizens. Whee!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Not to be cynical, but...

I believe (contrary to what they say about us Jews) that Obama is a Christian. And I find it fairly convincing that, as a consequence of his faith, he "believes that marriage is a sacred union, a blessing from God, and one that is intended for a man and a woman exclusively." Yet Obama's open, politically-expressed opposition to same-sex marriage strikes me as a very calculated political move, and I find it hard to imagine, given the number of virtually-married gay couples someone with his background and education has probably met, that this is actually how he sees the world. I find it much more likely that his stance on the marriage issue is an attempt to show Joe the Six-Plunger that he's not one of those godless liberal elites. Somehow it's easier to oppose gay marriage than to explain that to be for marriage rights is the opposite of being pro-libertine. But, whatever. It's clear that those who support same-sex marriage are better off with Obama than with McCain, but it's equally apparent that there's no need for the Dems to try to get the gay vote--it's theirs, whatever discriminatory beliefs its leaders profess.

The above is, I realize, nothing new. But it struck me, during the Obama infomercial, that for all the diversity of the struggling families shown, they had several things (apart from financial woes) in common. None lived in apartments (urban or otherwise). All were heterosexual. All were working-to-middle class.

This last one is understandable insofar as the it-bag-toting private-school mothers I see at the coffee shop near wear I teach do not seem to need the government's help, but what about the poor? Also, when introducing the first family, the one with many kids and not enough snacks (I do not mean this to sound sarcastic, snacks are key), we hear the candidate speak of how the family moved to the country or suburbs or whatever for good schools. He emphasizes the word "good." Then some political, I don't remember which, attributes Obama's "Midwestern" ability to "get things done" to his Kansas roots. On the coasts, needless to say, no one ever follows through on anything.

It's impossible for a national politician to expect votes without speaking of city life, with its crowded schools and streets, its tiny apartments, and its visible same-sex couples, as anything but suspect. The Republicans are the main offenders when it comes to dividing this country into the real and the rest. But the Obamercial, moving as it was, served as a reminder that the American Dream is to get out of the city--those who make so much or are so set on city life as to live in the city center have, effectively, overdreamt.