Sunday, October 31, 2004

"It took me a while to admit it, but I was scared of black men for the first time in my life."--Rachel Seiffert. (Or, a new low for the NYT mag.)

You know that Seinfeld episode where Elaine tells a rabbi who lives in her building that she's jealous of George because he's getting married and she's still single, and the next thing she knows, the rabbi's told everyone in the building about her woes, and, finally, he tells her tale on public access television?

Writing in the NYT magazine about her inadvertent fear of black men following a near-assault by a black man, Rachel Seiffert goes through the usual motions of reminding us all that she's a good liberal, that she likes black people, that some of her best friends are black, and so on:

"Kind people of all colors have assured me that my fear is understandable and that I am wise to take precautions. My Cypriot grocer, Indian nurse, Scottish doctor, the West African mothers in my postnatal group: they all said London is a big city and has a crime problem to match."

Here's the real question: Why can't Seiffert keep her fear that she's secretly a racist to herself? If she doesn't act in a racist way, no one would ever know she was more frightened when a black man came to her door than when anyone else did. Why did the Cypriot grocer, Indian nurse, Scottish doctor, and West African mothers all have to get involved? Why does Seiffert pay so much attention to the nationalities of her grocer, nurse, doctor, and postnatal group companions, in the first place? I'm assuming these "West African mothers" are black--why would they want to hear all about how Seiffert--who is, she explains, white--fears men of their race? If someone told me that she had a bad experience with a Jewish man and that she now found all Jewish men creepy, but felt guilty about it, I would have wished this person had kept both her fears and her guilty feelings to herself.

Well, now the entire NYT readership knows all about Seiffert's fear of black men. If I were Bob Herbert, I'd steer clear of any dinner parties the well-meaning Seiffert might throw.

"...some excess junk in the trunk."

"Most Chicago students contacted by the Maroon agreed that the average first-year does indeed put on the pounds. 'Most guys get a large gut and punchy in the face, while most girls get some excess junk in the trunk,' said Pat Rich, an undeclared first-year in the College." The paper quotes another student as saying "The 'freshmen 15' is true, even among upperclassmen." This does not make much sense linguistically, but I think the idea is, Chicago students just keep gaining weight.

This simply cannot be. It is physically impossible to gain weight your freshman year at Chicago, for these reasons:

1) The dining hall food is probably worse than whatever you were eating before college. If not, I'm sorry.

2) Frat parties--where beer is traditionally consumed to the point of weight gain--are big during Orientation Week but people generally stop going shortly after, and much O-Week drinking isn't, let us say, properly digested, because many U of C students' first experience drinking seems to be during O-Week.

3) Candy from many campus coffee shops (I'm looking at you, Uncle Joe's) is stale to the point of being inedible. If even empty calories are hard to choke down, what are you left with?

4) It's too cold to play outdoor sports, go for a jog, etc., for much of the year, but it's also too cold, not to mention to dangerous, to go out at 4 am to satisfy your junk food cravings.

As for the mysterious origin of the excess junk in Chicago women's trunks, I'm thinking it might just be in that first-year student's imagination, sort of like how I imagine that the guy studying nearby at the Reg is actually a dead ringer for Jeremy Irons, while nothing of the kind has ever happened.

Plain Wrong

I like the Gap (I like to do my part to keep kids in Bangladesh from prostitution).

I like dogs (especially this one).

I do not like this argyle sweater for your dog.

People who know me know that I'm no PETA activist in training (I'll leave all the hard work to Saint Pamela) but doggie sweaters are mildly humiliating for both dog and owner.

Halloween at Chicago

Joe is a hot, albeit boobless, redhead Posted by Hello

Zac as a vampire and Aaron as, we determined, a pre-pubescent Fidel Castro Posted by Hello

I wish I were a Japanese doll-robot-person Posted by Hello

Kate poses Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Shabbat Shalom

(Yes, a two-part, Jewish-themed post, on Shabbat. I know, I know...)

Adam Weissman has a response to my latest Maroon article on the Duke anti-Semite, but Friday's issue isn't online yet, so you'll all just have to live in suspense, that is, unless you're in Hyde Park and can get a paper copy. I'm always a bit pleasantly surprised to see that people actually read the Maroon and my column in it. I'll be able to discuss the substance of both of our arguments a bit better when things go online...

In other news, this Ariel Beery, whose blog Molly found, sure sounds impressive. Not only is he a Stuyvie, but he's served in the IDF and now goes to Columbia, where he co-founded something called a Creative Zionist Circle. Not only that, but he links to Dissent magazine on his blog. It's always nice to see people do something with a Stuyvesant education other than reach new heights in Magic card playing or calculator-game programming.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Skeleton Comes out of Columbia's Closet

It turns out that the announcement, in May, of the previously anonymous sponsors of the Edward Said chair at Columbia University was just the beginning of the unraveling of Columbia's relationship with pro-Israel students.

Since it's inception in 2002, Columbia refused to reveal the sponsors of the endowed professorship. The first person to hold the Edward Said chair is Rashid Kahlidi, former professor at the University of Chicago and the type of guy who thanks Arafat in his books and compares the Palistinian situation to the Holocaust. Things did not look any better this past May when the list was Coumbia was found to have accepted a large sum of money from the United Arab Emirates. To give you an idea of the implication of this: Harvard refused a 2.5 million dollar endowment from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates.

Now, Columbia students are coming out with claims of being verbally taunted and shut up by professors in Near Eastern Studies classes. The David Project, a pro-Israel think tank, has come out with a documentary about this called "Columbia Unbecoming." Originally I was going to post about how I thought it would be a grave mistake for Jewish students to try to get anti-Israel professors fired or reprimanded. However, this quote from the professor who garnered the most complaints from Zionist students changed my mind. Keep in mind that this Joseph Massad, the professor, refused to talk to the New York Sun. This is from the New York Times:

This is a propaganda film funded by a pro-Israel group as part of a racist witchhunt of Arab and Muslim professors," he said. "I have intimidated no one. Neither Columbia University nor I have ever received a complaint from any student.

Racist witch hunt? It saddens me to say that this will definetly be the prevailing viewpoint on this issue. I bet if a professor had said something similar about African Americans or Hispanics or even women (as David Bernstein points out) the campaign against him wouldn't be called "a racist witchunt." But, that's obvious.

Read the New York Sun article for free here.
A Columbia student involved in some these issues blogs here.

NEWS FLASH! Not All Protesters Are Getting Laid

This is an interview with Andrew Boyd, who is the founder of "Billionaires for Bush."

Like most interviews it pretty much sucks but I've been wondering on and off about this group. Like most types of "street theatre employing guerilla communication tactics" it pretty much sucks. Apparently there are a hundred chapters of this group which has people dress up like billionaires (including a chapter at the School For Former Chimney Sweepers, AKA Harvard) and carries slogans like "Corporations are People to." As Boyd explains for those really stupid people who can't tell that this is a joke:

Billionaires for Bush - by impersonating the super-wealthy in a boosterish, over-the-top manner, and ironically cheering on George Bush and his economic policies - are better able to paint the President as a friend of the corporate elite.

He also brags that Art Speigelman made a comic about them. Yeah, well Art Speigelman also made a comic about the Holocaust. You see, he'll touch anything. (On a personal note, I've met Speigelman, and he has to be one of the nastiest people I've met. I'm not alone on this. Anybody who says they have to resign from their fancy position at the New Yorker because it was "too conservative" should really be shot.)

Back to Billionaires. Anyway I love, love when he describes how they got covered by the NYT, "luckily, the New York Times was writing this all down." You mean, you're surprsied the Times didn't love this? Oh Andrew, you really are a fool!

My favorite part though is the most obvious: Boyd describes himself "depressed", BFB being the only thing "getting me up in the morning." He also does a lot of online dating and describes himself as having" a love-hate relationship with both post-modern and self help." I guess if activism can't even help a 42 year old depressed male get laid, then what's it good for?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Andrew Sullivan, Lincoln, and "Gay"

Hello, dear readers:

I've decided to somewhat fly the coop of WWPD for my own blog, which of course is much less traveled and less full of insightful fashion commentary than this one (though it has recently discovered Tony Kushner, and much for the better).

Nevertheless, I thought any neocons out there who read Andrew Sullivan might like to know that yours truly got a letter published on his letters page, in response to Sullivan's post on weather Lincoln was gay.

Sullivan's original post is here. My reply on his letters page is here. And my blog is here.

Israel: not just a depressing CNN headline

I just saw Nina's Tragedies, a recent Israeli movie, with the U of C's "Hebrew Circle." While the promised pizza was not, sadly, anywhere to be found, the movie itself was quite good, lots of surprise twists cancelling out the more predictable trajectories of death and romance among the sick and beautiful, respectively. But more Americans should see movies like this one, ones that show not something "pro" or "anti-Israel," but just show Israel, as seen by any one Israeli director. It's easy to forget when reading headlines with numbers killed on both sides that Israel is, you know, a country, with people who do ordinary things, who are not secretly manipulating the American government--as some have it--but are just sitting in cafes, moping over lost loves, and, in this particular movie, forming crushes on their aunts. (I'm guessing that that last bit is no more common in Israel than elsewhere, though. Or at least I hope not, since something like that wouldn't do much for Israel's P.R.)

Shawn Macomber is a Prophet

Ok I promise this is the last post on both of these subjects (Macomber and Hitchens):

I love Christopher Hitchens. A lot of conservatives seem to want to claim Hitchens now as their own because he was pro-war, but if they dug a little deeper they’d see no one--NO ONE--owns this guy. - S. Macomber

The Old Country is New Again

I know, I know it's not even worth trying to argue with Salon on anything but this letter to Salon's advice columnist/wanna be political pundit, Cary Tennis, just shows how people have really let themselves go when it comes to The Current State of Things.

To sum it up (so you don't have to watch some car commercial that claims to be fifteen seconds long but is much much longer than that, perhaps 30 seconds) the letter writer wants to leave America because she is upset about the goverment. She ends by writing:

I have many obligations and emotional ties to this country, but I am seriously considering emigrating. How does one know when it is time to leave a country? How did our ancestors know when it was time to leave "the old country"?

You can read Cary's response on Salon. I have no problem with someone's decision to leave the country and I know several people who are considering this. However, I disagree with the parallel she draws between herself and those who have escaped life threatening situations in the "old country" to come to America. My great grandparents knew how to leave "the old country" when the old country kicked them out after protesting for better labor rights that didn't really exist in turn of the century Russia. My other set of grandparents left the "old country" when anti-semitism was so bad in Poland, that there lives were threatened. Some (lucky) people left Europe in the later 1930's to avoid being sent to gas chambers. In the 1970's and 1980's Vietnamese and Chinese escaped from the "old country" because of brutal Communist regimes. Russian Jews left the "old country" in the 1980s so that they would not be persecuted for their religious beliefs. Everyday Mexicans and Cubans risk their lives to enter this country to avoid the harsh and poor conditions of the "old country."

Is life in America today as great as it was in 2000? Of course not. But it's still incomparably better than life in any other "old country." My answer to this letter writer is: when things are really bad, you don't have to write a letter to Salon to decide just how bad they are. You do what my ancestors did and the hundreds of millions of immigrants to America have done before: you pack up whatever you can fit into a single bag and you leave as soon as possible.

p.s. I'd also recommend that the writer view the excellent "Dirty Pretty Things" for a perspective on how much people sacrifice today to leave the "old country."

Thanksgiving with the Macombers

I really really want Shawn Macomber to invite me over to his family's home for Thanksgiving.

"People down here in D.C. seem to think I’m crazy, and I’m just always thinking, “Come to Thanksgiving Dinner in New Hampshire. I’m a moderate in my family.” My sisters are both pretty badass as well." - S. Macomber

I bet New Hampshire looks beautiful at this time of the year. Too bad I just bought a ticket to New York. Also, three badass sisters might be one too many.

Yes, I just called myself badass.

Danceable Education

In this week's issue of Chicago's free paper, New City, there is a little interview/article with Cornel West who was in Chicago promting his new book "Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism.

Because I am optimistic dork, I thought, "hey, that books sounds good. I'm against imperialism too." Also, West is probably the inventor of what he terms, "danceable education." Even if it's just an excuse to make his rap CD more academic (obviously Dean Lawrence Summers at Harvard didn't think so - it's part of the reason West defected to Princeton two years ago) it makes me predisposed to liking him. Even though I don't really like to dance, I sort of like the idea of rocking out to Socrates or doing the twist to Thucydides.

Apparently the term imperialism is subjective. By now you've probably already guessed what took me a couple of minutes to get: America is the imperialist that is destroying the world. I haven't read West's book but I didn't find his interview to be any sort of rocking endorsement.Here is an exceprt:

West is fearful seeveral stages of "insiduous growth of deadening nihilisms," what he identifies as the "evangelical nihilism" of the President's men and women, the "paternalistic nihilism" of the democrats, the "sentimental nihilism" of the narratives of big corporate media.

I sort of get what he saying about the evangelical Republicans. Yeah, the exist. But I'm not sure what they mean by "President's men and women." Is it just wierd phrasing on the part of the journalist, Ray Pride, or is it supposed to suggest that the President like, "owns" people. What really confuses me is the last part. I mean, what does sentimental nihilism mean? What are the narratives of big corporate media? This sort of phrasing should not be allowed to leave the ivory tower! I really fear that there's not really anything behind these terms.

Later on he talks about voting machines. "Mm..mmm. You know the talk about those who own the machines. We have to ask, 'when [we] vote, will it count?" I guess I personally think this entire thing has been blown out of proportion. Don't people think there's going to be extra scrutiny this year? Why can't we just wait and see? And what is the business of people owning machines? I remember the problems over the 2000 election. I don't think the ownership of the machines was part of the problem. I guess a comment like that really borders on conspiracy theory to me. I would like to expect better from one of the most celebrated academics in America.

It's also worth checking this interview out. I gives a pretty complete take on his view of current events.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

My latest Maroon column is online.

Check it out.

Could it be...

...that what Hitchens is, after all, is yet another--gasp--undecided?

Enough of this "on the one hand, on the otherhand" (albeit done up in only the most sophisticated political-essay wording)--frankly, I think Hitchens (along with, if he could vote, Sullivan) is just one more undecided voter. Just because it's fascinating to listen to him argue for both sides, just because he masks his indecision in rhetoric more high-brow than "I think Edwards has nice hair, on the other hand, Bush looks like he's been working out lately," doesn't mean Hitchens' wavering and weighing both sides amounts to much more, in the end, than convincing himself and others that there's no right answer, so you may as well just pick the one who seems less wrong on the day you're voting.

Can You Do This?

One day after this Hitchens comes out with this post at Slate

Christopher Hitchens, Contributor: Kerry

I am assuming for now that this is a single-issue election. There is one's subjective vote, one's objective vote, and one's ironic vote. Subjectively, Bush (and Blair) deserve to be re-elected because they called the enemy by its right name and were determined to confront it. Objectively, Bush deserves to be sacked for his flabbergasting failure to prepare for such an essential confrontation. Subjectively, Kerry should be put in the pillory for his inability to hold up on principle under any kind of pressure. Objectively, his election would compel mainstream and liberal Democrats to get real about Iraq.

The ironic votes are the endorsements for Kerry that appear in Buchanan's anti-war sheet The American Conservative, and the support for Kerry's pro-war candidacy manifested by those simple folks at I can't compete with this sort of thing, but I do think that Bush deserves praise for his implacability, and that Kerry should get his worst private nightmare and have to report for duty.

But don't get bogged down with this. The very few Bush responses in Slate's article are interesting. I liked David Bradley Kenner's response (he has a blog here).

I'm voting for Bush. I don't want, or find it necessary, to defend every piece of his record. The simple fact is that he is the only candidate who has had the courage to envision a long-term solution to the danger of terrorism—the liberalization and democratization of the Middle East. John Kerry, on the other hand, cannot manage to think beyond the next political obstacle. Only one candidate has the courage to keep America safe in these dangerous days. Four more years!

It also seems like Drezner has had enough of this issue and is resorting to the time tested method of using Keanu Reaves movies to explain your position on things (something I like to do all the time): it's like being forced to decide whether The Matrix: Reloaded or The Matrix: Revolutions is the better movie.

The best part though, is the title of this article: At this magazine, it's Kerry by a landslide! Yeah, like any major online magazine (except the National Review) is really going to be overwhelmingly voting for Bush. Unless, of course the media is really controlled by Republicans. But Slate is just owned and run by Microsoft.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

"In a matter of months, the Bush administration lost its casus belli and its moral authority. Could it have run a worse war?"--Andrew Sullivan

(In a world where the liberals argue convincingly for Bush and the conservatives do the same for Kerry, is it any wonder there are undecideds?)

"The lack of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq remains one of the biggest blows to America's international credibility in a generation. The failure to anticipate an insurgency against the coalition remains one of the biggest military miscalculations since Vietnam. And the refusal to send more troops both at the beginning and throughout the occupation remains one of the most pig-headed acts of hubris since the McNamara era. I'm amazed that more war advocates aren't incensed by this mishandling of such critical matters. But even a Bush-supporter, like my friend, Christopher Hitchens, has termed it 'near-impeachable' incompetence."

"He has spent like a drunken liberal Democrat." (Bush as Ted Kennedy? Just a thought.) Fiscal irresponsibility.

"He ran for election as a social moderate. But every single question in domestic social policy has been resolved to favor the hard-core religious right." Indeed. Something Hitchens, despite his solidarity with the left, apparently doesn't see as a key issue.

"I fear Bush is too polarizing, too controversial, too loathed a figure even within his own country, to pull this off." This is key. This is, when it comes down to it, why I'm voting for Kerry.

"The convention was a remarkable event in that it pivoted the Democratic Party toward an uncomplicated embrace of the war on terror. Kerry has said again and again that he will not hesitate to defend this country and go on the offensive against Al Qaeda. I see no reason whatsoever why he shouldn't. What is there to gain from failure in this task? He knows that if he lets his guard down and if terrorists strike or succeed anywhere, he runs the risk of discrediting the Democrats as a party of national security for a generation."

Yes, and no. Kerry will surely do something to fight terrorism, rhetorically if not substantially, but it doesn't inspire confidence in Kerry when Sullivan has to resort to citing rhetoric from the convention as proof that Kerry has what it takes.

"Kerry has endorsed democracy as a goal in Iraq and Afghanistan; he has a better grasp of the dangers of nuclear proliferation than Bush; he is tougher on the Saudis; his very election would transform the international atmosphere."

It's in that last part--the transformation of the international atmosphere into one less hostile to the U.S.--that Kerry's real appeal lies.

"Obviously, Kerry's stand against a constitutional amendment to target gay citizens is also a critical factor for me, as a gay man. But I hope it is also a factor for straight men and women, people who may even differ on the issue of marriage, but see the appalling damage a constitutional amendment would do to the social fabric, and the Constitution itself."

Yes, the sanctity of the Constitution, and all that. Sullivan is a conservative, which might explain why he can't just come out, so to speak, and say that any law based solely on religious views--I maintain that there is no other way to defend the proposed amendment--is inconsistent with the Constitution.

All told, Hitchens's case for Bush and Sullivan's case for Kerry convince me only that you never know how things will unfold whenever either candidate takes office. How else could Hitchens and Sullivan both seem so right?

"'Anybody But Bush'--and this from those who decry simple-mindedness"--Christopher Hitchens

Andrew Sullivan is right in praising the Nation for printing this.

In "Why I'm (Slightly) for Bush," Hitchens writes that he is "a member of a small international regime-change 'left' that originates in solidarity with our embattled brothers and sisters in Afghanistan and Iraq, brave people who have received zero support from the American 'antiwar' movement." The international regime-change left is what the mainstream left all-to-frequently lumps into the category of "conservatives." The thing is, if, as I'd imagine many pro-intervention liberals believe, the choice is between a potentially preferable foreign policy under Bush and a definitively preferable domestic agenda under Kerry, then how can someone like Hitchens, claiming to be of the left, completely ignore the fact that Bush is, well conservative, on everything from the economy to rights for gay couples?

Hitchens is best, though, when criticizing the absurd slogan, "Anybody But Bush":

"Anybody But Bush"--and this from those who decry simple-mindedness--is now the only glue binding the radical left to the Democratic Party right. The amazing thing is the literalness with which the mantra is chanted. Anybody? Including Muqtada al-Sadr? The chilling answer is, quite often, yes. This is nihilism. Actually, it's nihilism at best. If it isn't treason to the country--let us by all means not go there--it is certainly treason to the principles of the left."

So, in essence, to Hitchens, the mainstream left is just that bad, and Bush offers the best way out:

"The President, notwithstanding his shortcomings of intellect, has been able to say, repeatedly and even repetitively, the essential thing: that we are involved in this war without apology and without remorse. He should go further, and admit the evident possibility of defeat--which might concentrate a few minds--while abjuring any notion of capitulation. Senator Kerry is also capable of saying this, but not without cheapening it or qualifying it, so that, in the Nation prisoners' dilemma, he is offering you the worst of both worlds."

Hitchens may not have created all that many new Bush supporters out of Nation readers, but he just made things a lot more confusing for the undecideds among its readership. All three of them, most likely, but still...

Monday, October 25, 2004

More Thoughts on Safire

I think Safire's comparison to Arab American voters is sort of absurd since Bush has been viewed as much more anti-Arab or anti- Muslim or whatever, than Kerry has been percieved as Anti-Israel. Bush has made it pretty clear about the idealogy and motivations behind the War against Iraq and to put it mildly, it doesn't include the advancement of Arab civilization as it's going now. So it's not surprisingy to me that Arab American voters are doing this big switch to the other side, while the Jews remain right where they are, by which I mean, right on the left. If you look at voting patterns (excuse me here, but I'm writing a paper on this) you'll notice Jews are damn reluctant to vote Republican. If a strong third party option is availble they'll take that in many cases (this is not one such case though as Nader is hardly a friend of of Israel). In fact, Jews will only defect from the Democratic party if the candidate is percieved as seriously anti-Israel and that is definetly not the case here. It was the case in McGovern and Carter (in '80).

I'd also wonder what the Bush team has been doing to recruit Arab and Muslim American voters. I know that I haven't heard anything. Meanwhile Kerry's often talked in the debates about "reaching out to the Muslim world." It's sounds like a bit of a touchy feely approach but I also wonder why Bush didn't even try a little bit. Maybe he did once or something but it sounds like he's lost that segment of the electorate. That said, Bush's team has been pretty good about sending representives to all sorts of sketchy events for Arab American groups (by sketchy, I mean, groups that have connections to anti-American causes)...but Tereasa also goes to them so I'd call it a draw.

That said, somebody should send Safire an "Arab American Republican" trucker hat to make him feel better. He might be needing it. Not that anybody ever needs a trucker hat if they're not a trucker, but still.

Kerry and the Jewish Vote: a response to the responses

Daniel Moore has responded to my post about why Kerry's Jewish ancestry might be a factor in his getting the "Jewish" vote:

"I suspect that close to 99% of all Jews in American have no idea that Kerry has a 'vaguely Jewish background.' (I certainly didn't) It's hard to imagine that Kerry's ancestral background even enters in to Jewish voter's decisions about voting for or against him."

In the comments to Daniel's post, someone has written: "I would hope that most politically aware Jews understand that voting for Kerry because he has a Jew in his tree is just as wrong as voting against Kerry because he has a Jew in his tree. You are right on in refuting this overly- simplistic view."

Let me make the following clear: I'm not suggesting people should vote based on race, religion, ancestry, or what have you, but I do think that voting based on perceived shared background is a phenomenon that does occur and thus cannot be discounted if one is to try to explain why people vote as they do. As for how many Jews know about Kerry's ancestry, I'm guessing more do than Daniel imagines, but I don't have the numbers on this, if such numbers exist.

Also, in response to the anonymous commentor who wrote that 1/4 black is black, while 1/4 Jewish is not, I'm not so sure it works that way. I mean, sure, Judaism is a religion, not a race...but why, then why did Kerry's grandfather change his name from Kohn to Kerry? In my opinion, he says he's Catholic, he's Catholic, regardless of his ancestry, but many people, for many different reasons, some more sinister than others, don't see things that way.

While voting based on a candidate's ancestry may be "simplistic," any analysis of voting patterns would have to take into account both the intelligent and the less-than-intelligent reasoning behind the way people vote.

"Workloads have never been heavier"

A NYT article about the need for good mental health services on college campuses tosses off the following remark re: college life: "workloads have never been heavier."

Is that true? Could it be that college today is not the four-to-ten year vacation many suspect it is? You ponder, I should probably be studying or something...

Heather, you just think he's gay because he's not into you.

I need to stop reading craiglist.

This is just too funny though:

You were at the STD clinic:
We dated for like, 10 minutes in high school, and when it didn't work out I figured you were probably gay. And everyone was like, Heather, you just think he's gay because he's not into you. And I was like, yeah, so? But I was right, wasn't I? Anyway, I'd love to get a drink with you sometime and catch up. I would have said hi to you at the clinic but that would have been kind of weird.

Also, news flash: apparently there are "Tall, handsome, sexy" students at the U of C. But they are gay.

In addition: this book is pure evil.

Is Safire missing something?

William Safire can't seem to figure out why, while Arab Americans are for Kerry, Jewish Americans are not turning to Bush in equivalent numbers. He looks only toward the candidates' attitudes towards Israel, and to traditional Jewish support for the left. I can't help wonder if the fact that Kerry has at least one Jewish grandparent ought to be factored into any of this. If a candidate who had one black grandparent were running for president, any discussion of said candidate's appeal to black voters would surely focus on his ancestry. I'd imagine that candidates hope to win not only their home states, but also their home demographic groups, and that they frequently win both. Ideally, a candidate's ancestry would never come into play, but it's assumed (by Safire in this op-ed) that Arab- and Jewish Americans are influenced by their own backgrounds; might the fact that Kerry, though Catholic, has a vaguely Jewish background, have something to do with why, despite his being the potentially less pro-Israel candidate, he's likely to get the "Jewish vote"?

The Best Internet Site Ever

Is this site with tons of pictures a Japanese photographer took of his amazing rabitt Oolong. Besides being really cute, Oolong could balance almost anything on his head, like pieces of dried seaweed and red bean cakes.Although the site isn't in English, just click on any of the links under the main photo and enjoy. The photos aren't just funny, they are often beautiful.

For more information about Oolong, who passed away a year and a half ago, see here.

This is Unfortunate

This is sort of tragic in particular, (unless Kiera announces this week that she'll be playing Peter Pan) but I recommend the rest of the site too if you're the type of person that can't decide if Chloe Sevigny is a genius fashonista or the mascot for What Not To Wear.

They also have a pretty extensive photo gallery of Svetlana Khorkina, the scary gymnast from the recent Olympics. I sort of miss her. If you miss her too, you can visit here.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

They Like Him, They Really, Really Like Him

British blogger Oliver Kamm recently mentioned that there is at least one academic who doesn't hate Bush with all his heart and soul.

John Gaddis (whose book, "We Now Know" on the Cold War I had to read in high school), has this to say: "This administration is dead serious about trying to make the world safe for democracy. It is as serious about the fundamental premises that Woodrow Wilson set forward some eight decades ago as any subsequent administration has been."

The rest of the review is here.

For a change, the Bush administration has taken a break from hating everybodyand applauded Gaddis' new book "Surprise, Security and the American Experience." I think that's either the best free publicity...or the worst.

p.s. It's not clear that Gaddis is going to be pulling the lever for Bush (not that it would matter in Conneticut, where Gaddis teaches at Yale). He describes himself as "a very long-term, disillusioned Democrat who still has hope for the Democratic Party."

Weekend Update

1) My latest Maroon column is out and about but not yet online; stay tuned, or, if you're at the U of C, pick up an old-fashioned paper copy of Friday's issue.

2) Team America was awesome. The movie's worth seeing if only for the one terrorist/puppet's tall, fluffy hat, which looks like something you'd find in a bin in the women's section of Filene's Basement. My only regret was that the movie didn't do more with the Janeane Garofalo puppet--the real Ms. Garofalo seems more like something out of South Park than does the puppet version.

3) While downtown I purchased three different kinds of cheese. I now have five cheeses in my mini-fridge, which has to be a mini-fridge record.

Pamela Anderson out to save the bears, reports the French-Canadian press

She may like ours, but I think more people like hers.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Newfound fame

Dashing Princeton grad student Eric Switzer's blog has been mentioned in the Princeton Alumni Weekly (search for "Switzer" in the PAW search). He was as surprised to see this as the rest of us were. Good going, Eric!

Buster's Garage: Tribeca Anomaly or Yet Another Ironic Hipster Bar?

In September I posted a picture of Buster's Garage, a Tribeca bar that has more of a Rush St., Chicago than Tribeca minimalist look to it. This week, the City Section has a piece, "In the Kingdom of Hip, an Outpost of Howdy," about the bar that just doesn't fit in:

"The sign out front tells you that you are no longer in TriBeCa, at least not in any recognizable version of it. Bright yellow with blinking lights, the sign usually advertises, in bold type, a beer special. Currently, it reads: 'NASCAR Sunday Funday.' The sign is for Buster's Garage, a drinking establishment on West Broadway between Worth and Leonard Streets. Buster's is something of an oddity in the neighborhood, if not in all of New York: a two-story, suburban-style sports bar plunked down right in the middle of one of the city's coolest precincts."

The NYT fails to examine one possible reason for the sports bar's presence on that very cool stretch of West Broadway: it's there as an ironic, hipster gesture to the neighborhood, to be entered the way trucker hats were to be worn before Ashton Kutcher ruined it for everyone.

Overheard on line at a Michigan Avenue Walgreens

Two women, aged roughly 40-70. I did not write this down, so the quotes might be a bit off. If either woman happens to find my blog, she's free to correct...

One woman, indicating a magazine cover, preumably one with a blurb about Mary-Kate Olsen: "She's skin and bones again, going back to rehab."

The other woman: "I should be so lucky."

Friday, October 22, 2004

NYC public school kids, more wholesome than most

You know how people always say it's better to raise kids in the suburbs, because city kids, especially the ones who haven't fled to private schools, are the ones having all the sex and doing all the drugs? You know how that just doesn't ring true? Turns out, "Students in New York City public high schools use condoms more consistently than teenagers across the country, and they are less likely to smoke marijuana and binge on alcohol, according to a new city-sponsored survey." I don't know what amount of bias ought to be assumed because the city sponsored the survey, but I'm too tired to worry about that right now, thanks to an evening spent with my Astrophysics textbook. Nevertheless...I'm guessing the reason behind NYC kids' supposed puritanical habits is that there's more going on in the city than in most other parts of the country. Walking through busy parts of Manhattan and the outer boroughs is sufficiently stimulating to preclude the need for other stimulants.

Now it may just be that I'm exhausted and find anything that does not relate to physical sciences completely hilarious, but this passage of the Times article on (relatively) wholesome NYC public school kids definitely cracked me up:

"Students in Staten Island are most likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and students in Brooklyn and the Bronx are most likely to have multiple sex partners. Manhattan students are most likely to have considered suicide, and students in Queens, more than in any other borough, consider themselves overweight."

Is "consider one's self overweight" now a social ill along the lines of sleeping around too much, considering suicide, and abusing substances? Frankly I'm surprised that Manhattan wasn't the borough with the most high school students who consider themselves overweight. Then again, private schools were not included in the survey.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Moon boots?

I'm thinking of getting a pair. While not a fan of Uggs, the previous trend in puffy boots, I am very much in favor of any and all clothing with a space-age theme (thus my star earrings, my two pairs of silver shoes, my planet dress, etc). Call me suggestible, see if I care. Moon boots, especially the metallic ones, are awesome.

Sailors for Bush

"Everyone seemed to have their own anti-Bush group: Rock Against Bush, Women Against Bush, Babes Against Bush, Runners Against Bush. So I took out a sharpie and scribbled in "Sailors Against Bush."

"What's the idea behind Sailors Against Bush?" a reporter asked, holding a small digital recorder in my face as a CNN cameraman focused tightly in on my tag.

"Well, like a lot of people here, sailors have felt lost, you could say lost at sea, during the George W. Bush years," I said. A guy with chest hair peeking out of a half-unbuttoned silver shirt, and wearing cologne so strong I felt momentarily faint, patted me on the back, and said, "Right on." I gave him a thumbs-up and turned back to the reporter. "

The very funny Sean Macomber, reporter for The American Spectator, writes about hooking up at a liberal dating event. Looks like Republican Jews may not be missing out on too much. This event sounds pretty bad. Honestly, should people trying to meet each other really flirt using lines like "Do you think that Tucker Carlson is attractive?"

Scroll to the end of the article for some equally disturbing entries from conservative and libertarian dating sites. The Libertarian ones are by far the most wild, but you didn't need really need Macomber to tell you that.

Al Sharpton is Not Cuddly

"STEWART: I thought Al Sharpton was very impressive.


STEWART: I enjoyed his way of speaking."

-- that Crossfire episode with Jon Stewart that is getting like way too much attention.

The thing that concerns me here I crazy for hating Al Sharpton? Like, didn't this man say some pretty nasty things about Jewish people? Am I wrong to be bothered by those comments still? Is it OK for me to be upset that this man refuses to apologize for the disaster that was the Tawana Brawley case? The same man who went to Gaza in 2001 to meet with Yasser Arafat?

I just feel like everybody really likes him and I need to just "chill."

Whatever. I am currently chilling and I still think Al Sharpton is really awful.

A Chance To Make a Difference

Um, I found this while looking through craigslist missed connections in Chicago (yeah...I know).

" I am an undecided voter looking for a "die hard " republican or democrat woman to date. U can influence me to choose the one u like. As they say every vote counts. If you really want an extra vote to go for Kerry or Bush me and help me to make up my mind. that way you will be voting twice. 28 year old lonely man who thinks courtney love is attractive."

I think this guy would have a lot more luck if he moved to Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconson, or Ohio.


What is this?

Whatever it is I just registered. I don't think this site will change the world. It might, however, give me something to do this afternoon.

SJM, GOP, Seeking SJF, GOP

Let's get down to business. David Bernstein's detailed analysis of why American Jews hate Republicans comes down to one key point:

"The kind of disgust [of Jews for Republicans] that makes it hard for Republican Jewish young men (who seem to wildly outnumber Republican Jewish young women) to get dates."

Here's a suggestion: There aren't that many Jews in this country, and there are still fewer Republican Jews. If getting a date is a priority, it might help to widen the pool of potential loves to include either Democrats or non-Jews or both. Or at least one ought to be a bisexual Jewish Republican, which would not only increase one's chances of getting a Jewish Republican significant other, but would also be an amusing self-description to bring up at cocktail parties.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

In defense of "partisan hacks"

Jon Stewart, Amber Taylor, and numerous others are fed up with the "partisan hacks" who yell at one another on television, all in the name of making journalism "fair and balanced." Today, one of my professors suggested (in reference to a French novel; the subject of current American politics had not, until this point, come up) that the reason American political discourse gets so nasty, especially around election time, is that the tension that often leads to instability and even civil war in non-democracies is, in democracies, channelled into things like "Crossfire." My professor also noted that it is thus silly to criticize the "lost civility" of American political discourse, both because it was never civil to begin with and because the uncivil discourse is our stand-in for actual civil unrest. I'd have to say that I'm with my professor on this one. I'd also like to add that, if we didn't have "talking heads" but instead had something more along the lines of the French ultra-intellectual show, "Bouillon de Culture" (which, by the way, is not, sadly, a French version of E!'s show "Talk Soup"), Americans might not pay as much attention to politics.

Even gay conservatives are allowed, every so often, to state that which is generally accepted

Andrew Sullivan finds young people to be, in general, hipper than old ones.

Books I Probably Won't Like

The Seminary Co-op here has this neat little feature I found where professors from different places (not just Chicago) tell you new books to read. This one, from a professor at Trinity College, seemed like a classic. I learned like five hundred new words while reading like "Sharonist". Also, always remember to put the "Palestine" before the "Israel" in "Palestine/Israel." Also if you don't buy me this for my birthday (you have like nine months to do this)you are not my friend. Like many people it's very very hard for me to think about anything without first reading something by Tony Kushner. Can he just stop writing? Please?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"Gay novel" wins prize [UPDATED]

A Times headline reads: "Gay Novel Wins British Literary Prize."

Does that mean the novel likes other novels rather than, say, books of poetry?

Between fiercely Orthodox Jews and gay novels, it's a strange world we live in, but the Times is, thankfully, there to cover every last bit of it.


The revised headline: "Tale of Gay Life in Britain Wins a Top Literary Prize." I will count this as my own personal victory in the blogger vs. mainstream media struggle, unrealistic as it may be to assume I played any role in their changing this headline.

"Fiercely Orthodox Jews"

A caption today in the Times reads "City of sharp elbows: In April 2004, Good Friday filled Via Dolorosa with crosses, symbols to which fiercely Orthodox Jews object."

Can one be "fiercely" religious? A word like "very" would not have had the same literary flair, but would have avoided some unpleasant implications.

Do not talk on your cellphone while riding your bike on a busy sidewalk

I'm usually not at all bothered by cell phone use in public places. If a person wants to have a loud chat on the bus, in a cafe, etc., with a real-life person, that's supposed to be OK, but half that chat, i.e. a cell phone conversation, is supposed to be a major disturbance? A mostly-takeout cafe in Hyde Park has a sign admonishing its customers not to use cellphones while on line, likening cellphone use while waiting for coffee to cellphone use while driving. This is absurd and gratiutously obnoxious on the part of whoever put up and approved that sign.

But, along with "while in class" and "while driving," another category has to be added to the "do not use cellphone under these circumstances" list: Do not talk on your cellphone while riding your bike on a busy sidewalk. Even without applying Kant's categorical imperative, the negative implications of such an action are obvious. The person I just saw doing this was swerving like there's no tomorrow, and has probably at least run over a squirrel at the time of my writing this post.

Would You Like a Side Order of Psychodrama With That Kosher Cheeseburger?

Because I'm going to get all Cres-catty on WWPD readers I just want to warn you that this post will contain a brief anecdote about a classroom moment in my U of C experience, which I assure, once again, will be short.

So in my Intro to International Relations class today we talked about the Cold War. Professor Lipson shared an anecdote about the scariest moment in his life: when, at summer camp during the 50's, they told everybody that Washington DC had been obliterated by a nuclear bomb. For four hours they practiced this form of pyschodrama on the kids and then told them the truth.

Anyway this of course, reminded me of my favorite pyschodramtic experience, which I dare say, was equally traumatic. During an 11th grade retreat to the woods sponsored by my school, we were told to gather in wooden room for a talk from a mysterious speaker. The speaker started talking about normal Jewishy things (I went to a Jewish high school) but then, it started to become clear that this man believed in Jesus. And we was trying to convert us! For real!

I turned to my friend and said, "How awesome is this?" because it was really cool that our school was suddenly all about sharing new points of view. We even got to ask questions about Jews for Jesus and the man held up pamphlets. I know, not the most exciting thing in the world. But when you are stuck with people for like an entire weekend and it is cold, well this starts to seem interesting. the very end it was revealed that this guy was really an Orthodox Jew masquerading as a Jews for Jesus to teach us An Important Lesson about cults, how they are bad, blah blah. I was like totally outraged at the dishonesty of this...for like ten minutes.Ten minutes later they showed us some stupid inspirational clip from October Sky (not the Jews for Jesus guy but the Activities Director Person.) Jake Gyllenhaal and I "met" for the very first time and I, for a moment there, I decided that I liked the woods a lot and that Orthodox Jews who dress up Jews for Jesus people weren't evil at all but good, wonderful people who care about me. Then as soon as he appeared, Jake was gone and so was my goodwill.

Woe are those born in meritocratic times

The way entities like the NYT and NY Magazine tell it, the college admissions frenzy, as experienced in certain pockets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, is a devastating, heart-wrenching affair. People love reading about the preppy NYC kids--and their overly-involved parents--going through the college process either because a) they identify, or b) it's fun to watch the pampered, finally, suffer.

Now Kramer vs. Kramer author Avery Corman has written a new novel, "set against the backdrop of the admissions craze, as success-driven parents push their children to compete for places in the best colleges. For divorced parents and their children, the admissions process can be particularly fraught. Mr. Corman called it madness, and said it was 'altering the way young people lead their lives.' He added, 'We're stealing their childhood.'"

Yes, things certainly were better when, by virtue of your birth, you knew whether you'd be going to Yale, City College, or the local factory. Remember back when kids could be kids, when kids didn't have to go to Verizon Suburban High School, only to get rejected from Harvard--along with many obviously qualified and well-rounded graduates of Dalton and Horace Mann--in favor of a math genius from Middle America who wasn't even on any sports teams.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Remember the socialist utopia that was 1950s America?

The Times does:

"For 75 years, children in tiny blue-collar Brooklawn have attended the Alice Costello Elementary School, a simple brick building so central to the town that the morning bell can beseech a majority of students to begin their walk in from surrounding neighborhoods. If the scene is something out of the 1950's, then the seven-foot illuminated sign affixed to the outside of the school gymnasium is a clarion call to modern times. It reads 'ShopRite of Brooklawn Center,' and it is a $100,000 advertisement."

Fair enough--Beaver and Wally didn't attend the Coca Cola Junior High School, nor did Little Ricky go to Phillip Morris Elementary. But nostalgia for a simpler time simply cannot, in this case, be nostalgia for a time when America had yet to hear of capitalism. With the limited knowledge of someone who did not actually grow up in the '50s, I'd imagine that, had someone thought up the idea of corporate sponsorships for public schools, the critics of the idea would have been declared "Commies" for their denunciation of capitalism, "Are you now or were you ever," the whole deal.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

No Culture...Not Bad!

"I am also informed that coupled with the religious fervor is the ‘dangerous fact that America, Carol, has no culture to speak of, and that is a lethal mix.’ "

--playwright/documentary filmaker Carol Gould in The Guardian.

American playwright Carol Gould shares some thoughts about being an American Jew abroad today. There are lots of stories to cringe at and frusterate in this article, but this one interested me in particular.

It's funny to me that having spent some time in London, I came back looking forward to all the culture in America. Not just the variety of amazing cinema this country has to offer (far better in quality, quanity, and diversity than the generally weak British film production of which there is little) at affordable prices (expect to pay at least 15 American dollars for one ticket there) but also the little things that make one think "culture" such as getting on a bus and not having tons of drunk people harass you and if this does happen in America, it's generally looked down upon instead of seen as "charming" which I promise you it is not. Also England might have better theater(well, at least they have more of it) but then again, theater is almost always either boring or else, tacky. I passed by the theatre doing the Rod Stewart Musical everyday on my way to classes. A large gold idol of Stewart stood on top of the marquee. Ben Elton, who wrote the musical, had several other productions going along in London at the same time (including one for Queen). Yeah, culture...whatever.

Very very bad theater and very drunk people using public transportation. Now that's what I call a lethal mix.

Let Princeton have its Small World, we U of Cers are getting a Third World

Near Princeton University, right off Nassau Street, there's a charming coffee place called "Small World." It's filled with the sorts of people who'd be in Classics Cafe at the University of Chicago--i.e. many grad students--and its cheerful staff serves a better-than-average version of the typical "yuppie" cafe menu. Despite all the studying going on, the coffee shop has an upbeat vibe and wouldn't seem out of place in Berkeley or even on Cape Cod.

Now, soon to open in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago, is a coffee shop called "Third World." Third World Coffee will be on one of the slightly less desolate strips of 53rd Street.

Post-Raines revolution at the NYT?

Shocking its readers, the New York Times endorses Kerry and declares that French eating habits are superior to American ones.

Viking Hipster

Buy this!

Noi Albinoi is a very good Icelandic coming of age film with a killer soundtrack that you can also buy but I would get the movie first. Recently shown at Doc films, the woman sitting next to me said afterwards, "that was a great movie." Duh! I picked it out to be shown! Of coures it was going to kick ass.

If you don't believe me or her, dig this: it's in one Dana Hamby's "The Most Masterfully Made Movies," and Hamby is "a guy who has seen them all." Honestly, how did we live without Listamania!?

I might buy this and have a Noi Albinoi party for those who missed it due to canceled Phy Sci labs. If you are in the Chicago area you can come. I will serve Icelandic delicacies like prune soup (with pits, of course) and shark that I've buried in the moist earth for six months especially for you. I think it's safe to say that Iceland's on its way to being known for other things besides yummy food.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Jen and me, waiting for the #6 bus Posted by Hello

Vietnamese food, 1 Posted by Hello

Vietnamese food, 2 Posted by Hello

October in Chicago Posted by Hello

A hot pepper outfit for a dachshund Posted by Hello

Vote or Die! Or Not?

"In a recent Rolling Stone magazine article, Stone mocked hip-hop mogul P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" registration campaign, saying he didn't think "uniformed people should be encouraged to go to the polls.

"It's all well to joke about me or whomever you choose," Penn wrote. "Not so well, to encourage irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death of innocent people throughout the world."

Stone claimed Penn misunderstood him.

"My whole thing is I just wish uninformed people would just stay home," Stone told The Associated Press. "If you don't know who you're going to vote for, there's no shame in not voting."

--Fox News interview with Matt Stone

Um, thanks Matt Stone. You make me want to do something crazy like rip your shirt off or you know, go see your movie. What I mean to say is: it's pretty cool that's somebody came along and had the guts to say that P. Diddy's stupid Vote or Die t-shirt is just that stupid. Listen if you don't want to vote, don't vote. Please Please don't vote because Jennifer Aniston told you to vote. Voting because Ray Romano goes on a commericial to inform America that "Chicks dig voters"? Also a stupid idea. Voting isn't particularly sexy (though I do, on occasion, find myself attracted to troubled male Bush voters...). There are other things that "chicks dig in men" like showering on a regular basis and having cool taste in music and sometimes paying when you take us to the movies. If you want "chicks to dig you" these are much better ways. Also, let me remind you that these types are ads are not NON PARTISAN. When Jennifer and Brad trip to the DNC is widely reported (on the same networks that run these "public service announcements") it's no longer easy to think that Jen Jen wants to clap you on the back when you emerge from the voting booth...with a Four More Years button.

The most important public service announcement just came from Stone who reminded us that just becuase it's you right to vote...doesn't mean you have to. Listen, I've got a couple of interests. They include TV, cookies, selected pieces of literature, diet coke, and yeah, politics. I've watched the debates (even when a clearly genius level hippie in the div school coffee shop informed us that "why watch the debates when you already know the answers?" Seduce me with your intellect! I'm overwhelmed by the mass of your unwashed hair) and read publications that aren't limited to NYT, the Weekly Standard, the Nation, or Michael Moore's blog. But if you don't care about these things, it's OK. Contrary to what P. Diddy (and I'm sure that "P" stands for Prophet! Or at least he would like it too..) says you will probably not die if you don't vote. I say probably, because, we will all die eventually. So you will die if you vote and you will die if you don't vote. There's really no way around this one.

Perhaps P.Diddy means to say something along the lines of "Don't Vote Against Bush and You Will Die in Iraq." But the truth is that no matter who leaves or enters office, the terrorists are staying around for a while and they don't want to be BFF (best friends forever). Whether you vote for Bush or you vote for Kerry or you don't vote at all that threat will remain.

So Vote or ... Hug Kitties, Practice the Piano, Eat Cookies, See if I Care.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Brooks vs. Blachman: Let the best parody win

David Brooks's debate parody, though not the sort of thing that causes one to cringe, pales in comparison to Jeremy Blachman's. To give an example, take a look at how both of them treat Bush's "19 year old Afghan woman voted first" anecdote.

Brooks-as-Bush: "I'm excited about 19-year-old girls in Afghanistan who are voting in favor of the line-item veto for the first time ever."

Blachman-as-Bush: "We are safe. Let me compare us to Afghanistan, the country we all think of first when we think of safety. They had elections there. We have elections here. The first person who voted was a 19-year-old woman. Then she was shot."

A student's earnest but misguided plea to Kerry: Stop with that anti-terrorism rhetoric

The Times has asked some Michigan college students over to watch and chat about the presidential debates:

"We talk about our own losses, but not about them. The loss of those lives hasn't made me feel a bit safer. I'm going to vote for Kerry, but he needs to stop, change direction, and talk about getting out instead of hunting terrorists," said one of the students. [Italics mine.]

With all due respect to the cause of not killing people abroad unless it's absolutely necessary to do so, the first part of the student's comment...does anyone really want Kerry to run on a platform in which bringing the terrorists behind 9/11 to justice isn't on the agenda whatsoever? He should be concerned with "getting out" of Iraq, yes, but in addition to, in conjunction with, and certainly not instead of, "hunting terrorists."

Human rights for all includes the right of America to defend itself. If we had serious presidential candidates who came out against tracking down those who've attacked us, we might as well have serious contenders who come out in favor of job losses, against affordable healthcare and housing, and against improving public education.

When tourist attractions include Classics Cafe and the Reg

I have a guest this weekend, a friend from high school. She attends a liberal arts college in the Northeast, and I'm looking for ways to show her how things are done out at a big party school--sorry, research university--out in the Midwest.

So far, plans include showing her Classics Cafe (caffeinated intellectual/ pseudointellectual psuedodating rituals, general posteuring), Jimmy's (drunken geekiness; the oddity, for a New Yorker, of an urban American bar that still allows smoking), the North Side (how a city too cold for tank tops can nevertheless have a thriving gay neigborhood), Michigan Avenue (it's "magnificent"), the Art Institute for the art and the Smart Museum for its cafe's muffins, and, if she's up for it, the big gray thing on 57th Street, where she can watch hundreds if not thousands of U of C students do homework, pretend to do homework, and nap.

Sweet Sixteen, Indeed...

Nick here, infuriated again at what I see going on in the courts:

The Supreme Court has recently decided to take on a case involving the question of whether executing 16- or 17-year-olds is "cruel and unusual punishment" under the 8th amendment.

Via the Volokh Conspiracy's Orin Kerr, I found a link to a short amicus brief written by the Solicitor Gen of Alabama, listing a number of heinous crimes that bad 16- and 17-year-olds have committed, indicating their ability to act heinously, in a pre-meditaded, and, indeed, revolting fashion.

It's an interesting argument, but ultimately, it's geared more toward emotion than fact, and thus I find it utterly unconvincing.

We don't endow under-18s with many rights, including the right to vote, have sex with someone more than three years their elder (depends on the state), etc., because the law just doesn't hold them capable to. The law says, you're not yet able to make decisions for yourself, and therefore can't make decisions for the polity, and we're not going to hold you as responsible for what you do to other people, because you won't understand the consequences.

Now, if I wanted to, I could come up with a list of 16 year olds who had a better grasp of the issues in an election than most adults. As a precocious youth, I probably had such an understanding at age 16 (and so, probably, did Eugene Volokh). But that's not the point. No listing of intelligent 16 year olds should change the voting age.

There must be a consistent age at which one gains both the rights and responsibilties of acting as a full-fledged citizen. The rights are: voting, freedom from one's parents, self-determination, etc. The responsibilities are: being held accountable for one's own actions.

Should the supreme court buy the arguments of the Alabama Solicitor General, it would be saddling the 16-year-olds with all of the responsibilities, but none of the rights, of adulthood. It's grossly unfair, and it's not in keeping with my view of America.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr wrote in response:


But aren't you overlooking something important? The issue in the Supreme Court case is not whether a state can execute someone for crimes committed when they were minors, but whether the Constitution should be read (for the first time) to block states from deciding this on their own.

To which I reply:

That may be true. However, Newsom doesn't address the federalism/"lower court" (question presented #1) issue in his amicus, so I'm not really taking that on, and am probably not qualified to:

"The States' purpose in filing this brief is a limited one. It is simply to show--using the facts of real-world cases--that there is no principled basis for concluding that 16- and 17-year-old murderers, as a class, are categorically incapable of acting with a degree of moral culpability deserving of society's severest punishment."

And it would seem to me an amendment of the constitution saying, "under-18s can't vote," would seem to classify as such a "categorical incapab[ility] of acting with a degree of moral culpability."

UPDATE #2: Prof. Kerr still thinks I've missed the point:

The issue isn't a matter of federalism or lower courts; the issue is whether the courts must intervene and enact a categorical bar denying legislatures the power to *ever* execute someone for committing a murder at the age of 16 or 17.

I respectfully dissent as to that statement's applicability, but Mr. Kerr's a busier and more important man than I.

In praise of re-learning

I now know why it was a mistake to wait until my senior year to take the physical science requirement. While, way back when, I was more or less able to do basic calculus problems, I now see a simple equation with one or more variables and don't have the slightest idea what to make of it. Scientific notation? I once knew all about that. Now, not so much.

I am also taking beginning Hebrew. In this case, too, I once knew everything that is being taught, but, unlike the 18-year-olds in the class who might have some recollection of what they learned in Hebrew school, the Aleph Bet (Hebrew alphabet) looks like some person I might see on campus and know I knew him from somewhere but not be able to place him. It all comes back to me at times, then a couple days pass, a Hebrew-free weekend, and, again, it's all just pretty letters written backwards once again.

While there's nothing that makes me feel quite as pathetic as having the urge to whine, "I don't get it!" when presented with material I was capable of mastering before I was 10, I'm actually glad, despite the humiliation, to be learning again what I once knew. It is a horrible sensation to realize that all those quizzes I took as a kid, all the schoolwork I did back when my attention span was maybe a bit longer, was just so I could bide my time, that I hadn't really learned anything then. While it's easier to learn a language (or, I suppose, basic algebra) when very young, it doesn't really stick unless you're confronted with it later. Or so I've found.

Enough overanalysis of my homework. Back to, well, doing it...

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Expect the unexpected

Crescat has its strengths, but humor isn't generally what they're going for. But Jeremy Blachman's debate parody is legitimately funny, some parts even laugh aloud at a Reg computer funny.

Les Deux Magots de Bartlett

The Bartlett dining hall now has a cappuccino and espresso machine. It's a push-button one, but still, this goes well beyond Bartlett's usual pathetic attempts at providing Chicago students with drinkable coffee. I was the first of a crowd of people around the machine to taste the espresso, and was thus declared the guinea pig of the group. Verdict? Not half bad!

Michael Musto in Plato's Symposium, the Patricia Field version. Seriously.

The Village Voice's ever-wonderful Michael Musto recalls a party during which "designing woman PATRICIA FIELD cozied up and said, "I'm doing a short movie of Plato's Symposium, set at a modern-day cocktail party. DONNA KARAN's putting up the money. Will you be in it?" Lemme think, OK, deal."

Can't wait to see this, if and when it ever gets made.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

It's in the details

A not-so-little ball of spittle in the corner of George Bush's mouth just won Kerry the election.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Was he or wasn't he?

I saw a man who may or may not have been Daniel Drezner at the Divinity School coffee shop today, and wanted to tell this person, "I'm Phoebe Maltz, you linked to me once, thanks so much!"... but then realized I might have the wrong guy, and thus didn't say anything. I did consume some interesting Thai food, though, so it wasn't a total loss.

But that's all she's unveiling...

A NYT headline reads: "Virgin to Unveil Portable Music Player."

Who said traditional sexual mores and high technology are incompatible?

Jane Brody, on produce:

"Some unprocessed fruits and vegetables come ready to eat, needing perhaps only a rinse. They include bananas, apples, pears, grapes, berries, tomatoes, mushrooms and celery."

Why do I suspect Ms. Brody isn't about to be jailed for doing her job as a reporter any time soon? ("An unnamed source has told me that bananas don't even require rinsing.")

How many were there?

Will Baude mourns the passing of multiple Derridas. I'm guessing this has something to do with the cloned cat, but if there's another explanation, please feel free to clue me in.

Thankfulness and whininess

Thank you, Nick and Molly, for posting.

Today was an exceptionally good day for my blog--the active co-bloggers, combined with links from someone who hearts Will Baude and someone who hearts nanoscience, have all contributed to more hits than my sitemeter knows what to make of. Again, thank you, thank you all.

Today has not, however, been an exceptionally good day for me. Immediately after sitting down at the start of a two-hour French seminar, I took a sip of a mocha and, yes, the only day this quarter I'd thought to wear light-colored pants, and despite what I thought was a securely-placed lid...Long story short, a stain that not only looked bad but also looked, well, bad. So I rushed home after class, changed into different (and darker) pants, rushed back to campus for an astrophysics lab...only to find out that the lab, which involved looking at stars, was cancelled due to cloudiness.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The REAL Gender Gap

The Associated Press had this today about the upcoming Saudi Arabian elections, the first in that nation's history:

from an Associated Press article via Yahoo! News:

Women may neither vote nor run in Saudi Arabia's first nationwide elections, the government announced Monday, dashing hopes of progressive Saudis and easing fears among conservatives that the kingdom is moving too fast on reforms.

Some women considered the move yet another indignity in a country where they need their husbands' permission to study, travel or work. But others said they wouldn't trust themselves to judge whether a candidate is more than just a handsome face.
Now, I know that maybe there are some women in Saudi Arabia who aren't trained to look beyond the pretty face of a man. But it would seem to me that it's still a poor reason to deny them a vote, as that's not going to change without them earning the right to vote sometime, anyway.

Besides, while we'd like to believe that democracy involves making informed decisions, it often doesn't...and that's okay. There's no right or wrong reason to vote for a candidate. Right, Phoebe?

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

I just got an online subscription to the New York Sun because I need to read articles like this (not linked 'cause you have to log in):

Isabella Rossellini has already planned a winter getaway - she will travel through the Chilean fjords with her daughter Elettra and son Roberto. "This is my first cruise," she told the New York Sun. "We'll spend Christmas in Patagonia, and New Year's Eve in Valparaiso," she added.

The Rossellini family needn't pack a camera: The Italian photographer Fabrizio Ferri, who often shoots for Vogue and Vanity Fair, will document the trip. Mr. Ferri's ballerina wife, Alessandra, and daughters Emma and Matilde will accompany him. The photographs of the Rossellinis will likely appear in the new advertising campaign for the Silversea cruise line, which features small, luxury ships. Ms. Rossellini announced her new gig as the Italian company's first "ambassador" on Friday, aboard the Silver Whisper, docked on the West Side.

"When I think of Italians and ships, I think of immigration. I think of my mother coming to America," she told guests in the boat's Show Lounge, including Shirley Lord and A.M. Rosenthal, Francine LeFrak and Rick Friedberg, Georgette Mosbacher, Gayfryd Steinberg, and Gay and Nan Talese (Mr.Talese, the author of many books, said, "I've always managed to work well on ships.")

The party continued with drinks by the pool, followed by a lunch of risotto and honey-roasted veal tenderloin.


A girl giving a tour of the UChicago campus just now, telling prospective students and their parents, "There are parties, contrary to popular belief."

Sunday, October 10, 2004

NYT does human-interest

"People think of Montclair as a picture-perfect, 'Brady Bunch'-type setting," said Ricky Moore, a 42-year-old street cleaner, who was sweeping up cigarette butts from the sidewalks of the town's grittier side on Saturday. "But this neighborhood is ghetto. You got 14-year-old girls walking around here in little miniskirts like loose change."

Red State, Blue State, Squirrel State, NYT-reader State

Two women wrote into the Times, horrified by an article about squirrel-hunting in Louisiana. Let me just say that I fall squarely in the "shooting squirrels sucks" camp, but nevertheless...

"It is sad to read of cruel behavior toward these small and beautiful creatures, which are merely struggling to survive, as we all are," writes Joanna Lake of Vermont. OK, the typical animal-rights line, and she does have a point about the cruelty, though I strongly disagree with her implication that shooting squirrels is as cruel as shooting humans.

The other letter is where it gets interesting.

Linda Holt of Trenton writes: "Cultures far wiser than ours respect the gift of life in all its forms. It is slight comfort that these miniature atrocities are isolated in remote pockets of our country where the light of human understanding has yet to dawn."

Here we have the two lines of thought that most contribute to making liberals seem unpleasant to conservatives. First, the patronizing respect for those (here, unnamed) other, simpler cultures where the evils of the modern world are absent. Then, the unnecessary implication that all people who live outside of the Tristate Area are squirrel-shooting barbarians.

Ashton Kutcher, leading third-party candidate?

In a piece in the "Style" section on the increasing political activity of teens as the election approaches, Damien Cave offers a brief counterargument to his assertion that teens are more politically active during this election than usual, noting, "Among much of the high school set, Ashton Kutcher is still a hotter topic than Senator John Kerry or President Bush."

Just wondering: How does he know this? Are they surveys indicating that, among 14-18-year-olds, Ashton Kutcher is a hotter topic than the election? Of course not, Cave is just being cute. I know it's the "Style" section, but this is especially pathetic. It's not as if he went to high schools, asking students which candidate they'd vote for if they were old enough, and got, in response, "Ashton's fine."

How to braise an endive in 0.01 seconds

Over at Crescat, someone named (hopefully psuedo-named) "Waddling Thunder" has provided a list of what he plans on eating this week. There will be: coq au vin, two variations of risotto, and, somewhere along the line, an endive will be braised. Following Mr. Thunder's* lead, I will provide a "What I'm Eating This Week" of my own. Here goes:

Lucky Charms, Bartlett Dining Hall (is it Dining Commons? oh well), 3/5 or 4/5 days this week, breakfast or lunch.

Pizza (assuming American cheese is not being used as a topping), Bartlett, 3/5 or 4/5 days this week, dinner.

I have also discovered a very fine vintage of a cola-flavored beverage that has been sweetened, I believe, artificially. I will wash down the aforementioned items with that substance. Chilled, bien sur.

Additionally, over on Crescat, Mr. Thunder notes, "I've had a lot of back and forth with people about cooking while busy, and I notice that I haven't always done a good job explaining exactly how I cook given my relatively limited time." Everything's relative, I guess, but I get antsy taking the time out necessary to cook pasta (and yet find numerous other, non-culinary, ways to waste time--see I don't entirely understand how the coq will get cooked in vin, the risotto soaked in some other vin, and the endive braised, all in under, say, 48 hours total, but this Thunder fellow clearly knows a thing or two that I don't about such matters.

*Waddling is male, right? I'm assuming he is, for the purposes of this post.


On our way back from downtown yesterday, Kate and I stopped in a White Hen Pantry convenience store. I asked what my purchases added up to, and the man at the register said "seven eleven." I found it amusing that the cost was the same as the name of one of White Hen Pantry's largest competitors. He was not amused.

This is Chicago. This is Grand!

(You El-riders know what the post title refers to.)

Had a lovely day downtown today with my mother and my friend Kate. We began at the Museum of Contemporary Art--currently the home of a fascinating, moldy-looking Matthew Barney table, and much, much more--and Kate and I concluded in the evening at the Michigan Avenue GAP, where I purchased a neon green corduroy miniskirt in the Kids' section. At $12.99, you can't go wrong, or you can't go that wrong...

Fox and Obel, which is in three of the pictures below, is the most wonderful place in Chicago (not the used bookstores of Hyde Park? not the U of C itself? not the Harper USITE computer lab?)--or at least one of my favorites. It is home to NYC-style bagels, a great cheese selection--no canned cheese, as at the Hyde Park Co-op--boy, was that a mistake--and a pleasant cafe serving Chicago-scale (i.e. massive) salads and various other dishes. My mother said (and I hope she doesn't mind my quoting her on this) that if she had a huge amount of money, she would make a donation to the U of C that would replace Aramark with Fox and Obel. Someone, quick, register my mother at the GSB!

Chafetz and Sullivan bring a wide audience to the right (if a bit too "right") way of looking at things, but might wimp out and vote Bush

Seems the estimable Josh Chafetz and Andrew Sullivan are thinking about the election in similar, though slightly more right-ish, ways as I am. I'm glad their line of thought is being brought to such a large readership, as I happen to share much of it... But I am voting for Kerry, and though I am neither a Rhodes Scholar nor a gay conservative icon, I urge you to do the same. You are exempt, however, if you are a) Canadian (as is some of my readership--don't smirk) or b) an actual, full-on, non-neo, unqualified conservative, in which case, screw gay marriage/civil unions, outlaw the Pill, and see if the next four years bring anything more ambiguous than our "success" in Iraq.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Downtown Chicago, October 9, 2004

Chicago River at sunset Posted by Hello

 Posted by Hello

Fox & Obel Posted by Hello

Fox & Obel Cafe, 1 Posted by Hello

Fox & Obel Cafe, 2 Posted by Hello

Michigan Avenue Posted by Hello

Horse and apple Posted by Hello

Looking at sailors Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The mucky puddle known as "too much information"

The NYT has taken it upon itself to let parents know how to invade their children's privacy as efficiently as possible. Rather than suggesting that parents advise their children on the dangers of meeting strangers, online or off, the Times offers parents a detailed explanation of how they can, possibly without their kids' knowledge, keep track of at least whom they're chatting with, if not more:

"No matter which Internet service provider you use, you can also purchase and install parental control software....Cybersitter (; $40) has a similar feature, and it also allows parents to record the complete text of a child's IM conversations. Unlike the recording feature in the MSN and Yahoo messenger software, it cannot be disabled without a parent's password. Although to some people, recording a child's conversations constitutes an invasion of privacy, others believe that it is justified in the interest of protection. Spectorsoft specializes in software designed to record all e-mail, instant messages and chat conversations. Its eBlaster program (; $100) can keep parents informed of their children's activity by e-mail, so you can keep track of what your children are doing online even when you are away from home."

Scary stuff.

Children don't have the same legal rights as adults, fine. A world of drunken 7-year-olds is not one most Americans want to live in, I understand. But all this monitoring in the name of protection had a name, well before the Internet came to be: snooping. That's when parents, searching for, say, pot in a kid's room, accidentally discover his love letters to his imaginary boyfriend, or her diary in which she complains about her overprotective parents. Under the guise of looking for the "dangerous"--chats with 45-year-old pedophiles, gang members, and all that--parents will find themselves knee-deep in the mucky puddle known as "too much information." Most of what 10-to-17-year-olds keep from their parents isn't the stuff that would cause parents to go into high alert mode. No, it's things like, "My parents are annoying" or "I'd totally do her," or "Dude, we should skip gym class today," all of which are things a kid doesn't want his parents seeing, and that parents shouldn't have to encounter.

If a kid knows his parents can read his email, he will write things he'd explicitly want them to see, and will be prevented not only from meeting sketchy adults, but also from having honest, maturity-building relationships with his friends. And if a kid is unaware of his parents' special software, he will inevitably find that his parents think less of him than before, and he won't have any idea why, that it's all because they found an AIM of his in which he listed all the girls he'd "bang" if he had the chance. Realistically, no parent with any interest whatsoever in their children would be able to screen the AIM chats and emails only for high-risk situations.

No one looks good when monitored 24/7, and not even an irresponsible 13-year-old ought to have to live up to such high expectations.

One and the same

I've decided that Zac Posen and Jonathan Safran Foer are, in fact, the same person. Care to disagree?

Guest chef

The fine folks of Aramark, the food service UChicago uses that has brought us everything from American cheese pizza to soapy-tasting pasta (and presumably other weird things, but I am a dining-hall vegetarian), have decided what we need is a guest chef. From Germany, randomly--why not, say, Wisconsin? In any case, various pork and spaetzle-related products are coming to town.

Guenter Lehnhof brings spaezle to Chicago's dining halls. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Here we go again: Where was I when this happened?

My mother met Philip Roth! In front of Zabars! She had just bought one of his books at one of the Upper West Side's many sidewalk booksellers and was asking the man selling it how he came to have so many signed copies of Roth's books. Then she turned around and there was Roth himself! My mother asked him if he was, well, Philip Roth. Yup. He apparently told her she'd overpaid for the book (it was $2 more than list price because it was autographed) and this led to a whole chat. She said that she started babbling, about how she likes his books, but her daughter really likes his books. She says Roth's a nice guy, and not all that neurotic in real life.

(Does that mean I have to change my blog's subhead?)

Neocons for Kerry, Part 3

Cool--someone at the NYT has reached my blog by Googling "Neocons for Kerry."

"...drunk and wearing flip-flops on Fifth Avenue"--Rufus Wainwright, "Poses"

I confess: I almost fell asleep during the VP debates. What really did it was the question of who's been flip-flopping. I think I made some not-all-that-funny remark about one of them wearing loafers, not flip-flops, and then, before starting to nap on the couch, had the good sense to get up and stop watching the thing...

But seriously, why do Edwards and Kerry have to believe marriage is between a man and a woman? I had always assumed the Dems' ticket was officially against gay marriage for political reasons, not out of sincere conviction on the part of Kerry and Edwards that marriage is just for straights. But Edwards seemed awfully convinced, even taking into account the politico-phoniness inherent in these debates. In an especially wonderful episode of Seinfeld, Elaine is mystified by the fact that her boyfriend is both gorgeous and pro-life; using that admittedly dubious logic, how can Edwards be anti-gay-marriage? He can't mean it, can he?