Thursday, March 30, 2006

Reading, running, and reunion-ing

I was reading about early Zionist Max Nordau, he of "Jewry of muscle," and decided to go for a run. In all honesty, I was inspired more by the gorgeous weather than by Nordau, but, as Herzl retroactively attributed his Zionism to the Dreyfus Affair, I shall retroactively attribute my exercise to Herzl's second-in-command. While I may once have been emblematic of Nordau's ideal "Jew of muscle"--referring literally to Jews working out, not to some kind of political arm-twisting power or metaphorical "muscle"--back in my days of six-mile runs this summer, today I did a solid two, at which point I lost interest and went for an iced cappuccino, eager to get back to this most excellent book. The book being Michael Stanislawski's Zionism and the Fin de Siecle, which I'd been meaning to read and ended up finding randomly at the Strand months after meaning to check it out. Once I've finished it, I may post about it, but I'm not sure how to fit my response to even the first couple chapters into one blog post. Yet another book that would have been good to see before writing the BA paper, but life moves on...

And, filed under "various"... would a Spence School "Sherry Reception" for alumnae, held at 11:45 am, be worth going to, as Seinfeld would say, "for the material"? Or would any event that involved alcohol stronger than beer, consumed before noon, be one I'd be able to remember? The Stuyvesant reunion, which will be amusing but presumably sherry-free, is not until next fall, so this could count as pre-gaming, a dress rehearsal, or something like that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Charoset for all!

While the "Jewish lobby" failed to do its thing with this week's Dining section, it does seem to have a foot in the virtual door at cooking site Epicurious. A recipe for black bean soup yields the following sidebar quiz:

Take our weekly poll!

What kind of charoset will you have this Passover?

-Ashkenazi — walnuts, wine, and apples
-Sephardic — with dates and oranges
-It won't be on my seder table


Where's option 4, "What's a seder?" Clearly this is an example of overrepresentation--what percent of the American cooking population is not only Jewish but observant enough to have a seder? I think this calls for a follow-up Walt-Mearsheimer collaboration.

A gap in Zionist control of the media!

While the rest of the world apparently is, this week's Dining Section is not, I repeat, not, controlled by a vast Zionist conspiracy. We've got Palestinian cuisine in NYC, Middle Eastern and North African pastries in France, and tagines for the home cook. As upsetting as it is that the "Israel lobby" left this one stone unturned, I'd have to say, the food all looks and sounds most excellent. One of the main tenets of Francophilic Zionism is that tasty food transcends politics. In fact, I sometimes think that's the whole point, and that some combination of Chabichou cheese and zatar pita will bring about world peace. Not, like, combined--that would taste terrible together--but you get the idea.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Part-time revolutionaries

It's a busy day in Francophilic Zionism news. The French are protesting and the Israelis are voting. Or possibly they're all asleep--I hadn't thought to calculate the time difference. Regardless, this is certainly amusing:

Adrien Reynaud is a revolutionary, but only part time. A 20-year-old history major at the University of Avignon, in the south of France, he had been waging a round-the-clock protest against the new youth labor law, camping out with fellow protesters in two dozen tents pitched across the campus lawn. But by last Friday afternoon, Mr. Reynaud had a birthday to celebrate and laundry to be done. So he was going home to his parents. "I've been staked out here for 16 days," he said. "I need a weekend off."

Why stop there? Why not a demand a 35-hour protest-week? However, not all stereotypes are met by this particular passage--who imagines French students doing laundry? It doesn't go along with the artfully-rumpled idea American students have of them.

Hey, I didn't say it

It's just how it is.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Of Mice and Hipsters

It had been a while, so I took a trip to a far-off land inhabited by a population endlessly different from my own: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, land of the hipsters. The thing that struck me about the neighborhood this time around was how, seen right after Williamsburg, the people of the East Village seem positively un-hipster, very laid-back, down-to-earth, well-fed, practically L.L.Bean or J.Crew-esque. While elements of hipster style have made it into wardrobes across the country, in Williamsburg, there doesn't seem to be much room for experimentation or personal style. Every last person is in head-to-toe hipster. Women's pants for the men, hideously overdone '80s-inspired layering for the women, and greasily side-parted hair for all. It all reaches a peak in front of a coffee shop called The Fix. A huge crowd was out front, posing, smoking, and generally being hipsters, so I peeked inside to see if there was more of the same inside the place. Not so much. The action was out front. Looks like hipster really has joined preppy as a uniform-option for the very thin, well-off and white.

While the revival of leggings pleases me, I am otherwise no great fan of hipster aesthetic. Williamsburg, however, has a lot to offer to those of dubious hipster credentials. The zatar-feta pita from the place right by the Bedford stop is incredible, and the Tibetan store in the hipster mall has these really cool, shiny scarves--each of which can be had for $3. And those of all fashion preferences and persuasions can appreciate the beauty of the warehouses-then-waterfront combination, even if said warehouses are filled with things like t-shirts ironically emblazoned with photographs of Kurt Cobain or Elvis, unironic versions of which can be acquired on the much less starkly elegant St. Marks Place in Manhattan.

A weekend of mocking hipsters and eating tasty food came to a close with the unfortunate discovery of a mammalian but non-human roommate. Since all three bedrooms are already claimed, it has made its home in the kitchen/living room/dining room, and seems to enjoy olive oil. We had never had any problems before, with mice or any other creatures, but an exterminator recently made the rounds, and I guess whichever mice used to live in some other apartments in the building found this one relatively hospitable. The mouse is not long for this world. Between the Ajax, the sticky traps, and the message I just left for the super "in reference to a mouse," I may once again pour from an opened box of oatmeal or pasta with confidence in my own kitchen. The toaster, on the other hand, is officially not something I will ever use again, under any conditions.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The real crisis of Islam and women

Her parents wouldn't let her go to Stuyvesant! Forget cultural relativism, that's just wrong.

"Yossi and Jagger" meets "Hans and Franz"

Remember the genre? Which genre? The genre. The one in which two beautiful foreign boys find themselves and each other against a beautiful backdrop in their native land. And yes, even if you're American, if you live in NYC or even the suburbs, "Brokeback" counts. Seems Time Out New York is now aware of the phenomenon. From Tom Beer's review of "Summer Storm" in this week's issue:

Apparently, every national cinema needs a sweetly optimistic gay coming-of-age story in the vein of England’s Beautiful Thing, Spain’s Nico and Dani and Taiwan’s Formula 17. Germany—where Fassbinder’s venal homosexuals have historically dominated the screen—now offers Summer Storm, a gentle if predictable little film about one boy’s coming out....If the prospect of all this Mitteleuropean boyflesh cavorting in the woods conjures up scenarios from a Bel Ami gay-porn video, you’ll be relieved (or perhaps disappointed) to know that director Marco Kreuzpaintner, for the most part, doesn’t pander.

Unfortunately, the review does not make reference to the original classification of such films, in my Gothamist post from December:

Somewhere in the late high school-early college era, some female friends and I discovered a truly wonderful film genre: two beautiful foreign boys (not, like, toddlers, but maybe 19-year olds, definitely not 30 year olds, you get the idea) fall in love in front of a beautiful backdrop (beach, snow, any breathtaking landscape). These movies are rarely explicit, typically with one "sex" scene in which you don't really see anything, maybe a bit of kissing, but mostly longing gazes and unoriginal romantic dialogue. They are rarely political, except for the occasional vague plea for tolerance, and the understanding that, if you're watching the movie, you're rooting for the beautiful foreign boys to have a beautiful foreign wedding and beautiful foreign (adopted) children at the end of the story.

Fine, so credit was not given where credit was due. But the important thing is, I had no idea there was a British entry to the genre, nor have I yet seen the German version of the same. But I think I may have finally outgrown these movies--my first thought when seeing the picture that goes along with the review wasn't, gosh, two beautiful foreign boys, but yikes, aren't those kids too young to be fooling around with anyone of either sex?

Friday, March 24, 2006

This should be it...

So Harvard doesn't endorse the Walt-Mearsheimer paper. How about Chicago? Haaretz doesn't say. So how about Chicago itself--am I missing something? Really, nothing? It's spring break, so the Maroon hasn't yet produced the inevitable outpouring of pro-and-con. If Chicago has any sort of official statement on this, I'd be curious to know what it is. Is leaving the whole thing off the news site an indication of a lack of endorsement, or just a less-than-thorough Googling on the part of whoever puts the site together? I sort of doubt it's the latter, as that site's usually quite thorough. But back to the unofficial response...

I still fail to see why Drezner is so confident that assertions that Walt and Mearsheimer are anti-Semites are completely unfounded. The Forward piece Drezner praises comes to the only possible conclusion, that the authors of the paper "blame the Jews." As I've already made quite clear, the authors' anti-Semitism is not inferred from their criticism of Israel, nor even from their assertion that American Jews assert their interests more succesfully than do other groups in America, but that Jewish interests run against American interests, even while "American interests" encompasses all sorts of other conflicting goals and minority preferences.

The Jewish fear of complaining about anti-Semitism, of being seen as whiny, cannot be underestimated. From French Jews, then and now, speaking up enthusiastically for "universal rights of man" and speaking out against "racism" whenever the most blatantly, violently anti-Semitic acts occur, to American Jews who need to preface all praise of Israel with how of course they are highly critical of its evil, evil leadership. But anti-Semitism's been around so long, often in quite the same form, so it's easily recognizable what's anti-Semitic and what's not. Assertions that the Jews control everything, from indie theater to the U.S. foreign policy? Whine away.

But the other issue here is that, as the Forward pointed out, the "authors are not fringe gadflies but two of America's most respected foreign-affairs theorists." In other words, they are important, and they speak in measured tones and with authority. This could be why the LRB article reminded me of Bernard Lazare's Antisemitism: its history and causes. Lazare, a French Jew writing over 100 years ago, before the Dreyfus Affair changed his opinion on everything, wrote a scholarly account of anti-Semitism. Clearly well-researched, and presented in that same calm, dry, voice used by Mearsheimer and Walt, from a "neutral" perspective, despite the seeming contradiction of how on earth could someone Jewish write a neutral account of a movement which would have him disappear, Antisemitism explains, throughout history, how the Jews have pretty much had it coming to them. Lazare sees Jewish behavior as not simply causing but actually justifying much of their mistreatment from the outside world. Reading this, I was struck by how little Lazare's argument differed from a suggestion that, since women all around the world are raped and beaten by men for no apparent reason, the fault must lie in women themselves, since clearly femaleness is the cause of this violence.

Like Walt and Mearsheimer, whose work was praised by David Duke, Lazare's work was lauded by none other than original French anti-Semitic propagandist Edouard Drumont, author of La France juive. And Lazare, like our professors, claimed that his arguments were scholarly ones, and did not want to be associated with crude, irrational bigotry. The difference between Lazare and these recent authors is that Lazare was writing at a time when it was not yet evident just how readily the world would take up the cause of removing Jews from all power, real or imagined. It did not take the Holocaust for Lazare to change his mind about the Jews bringing about anti-Semitism by having the audacity to go around being Jewish--the Dreyfus Affair was enough, and apparently by the time Antisemitism hit the Barnes and Nobles and Borders of 19th century France, its author no longer supported its message. It is not clear what greater good will come from Mearsheimer and Walt announcing, with weak and/or misinterpreted supporting evidence, that a nefarious cabal of "pro-Israel," "neoconservative" types control the United States government. Neither the greater good of scholarly or political truth, nor the greater good (surely, from their perspective) of making Jews in the U.S. feel more at home, and less inclined to care much either way about Israel. And I think this is key--Diaspora Jewish support of Israel comes, often enough, not from a desire to take over the world, but a sense that things might not work out so well elsewhere.

More on Walt-Mearsheimer

Figured this was on its way, and it is: my cousin Caroline's response to Walt-Mearsheimer. Looks like she and I agree on at least one point:

...the "academic" version of the paper's first footnote maintains, "The mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest to bring it about." Every semi-sentient person with even an incidental knowledge of American politics knows that there is no area of human endeavor that is not represented by a lobby in the US. Walt and Mearsheimer's asinine assertion means is that every American interest group - from the elderly to the insurance industry, from the Muslims to gun owners to organic food lovers - stands opposed to the American national interest simply by existing. Any professor who made a similar assertion about any other interest group would be imperiling his career.

Indeed. This strikes me as crucial. If the endlessly diverse array of interest groups in America all get to be "American interest groups," save one, then clearly that one group is being singled out. (Professional?) blog-commentor Petey responded to my post with the following: "AIPAC is being singled out because they wield political influence in Washington far, far beyond any other ethnic group, not just other middle eastern ethnic groups. They make the Cuban exiles look like absolute amateurs.The whole point of the article is about how outsize the AIPAC influence in Washington really is." Outsize? What does that even mean? Too much for Petey's taste? Lobbying that is successful is not inherently suspect, and if lobbyists could never successfully convince the government that their interests are its interests as well, what would be the point?

The missing key here is why, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, America has gone along with something "against its interests" for so long. The (not proven) idea is that either a) Jews do wield special, secret powers that control the otherwise rational American government, or b) America, good ol', pure, cornfed America, has been duped by those sneaky Jews. In other words, it's either that the Jews are super-clever or the "Americans" super-stupid. Because of course "Americans" and "Jews" are mutually exclusive. So it's basically the old idea that, get enough Jews into a country, even a rather small proportion of the overall population, and they'll mess everything up for everyone else. Again, I fail to see how Daniel Drezner did not find this to be at all anti-Semitic. It strikes me as the textbook case.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"...using a graphing calculator..."

So I did not end up getting falafel for a second night in a row. Got a crepe. Which is really the Parisian dilemma, or at least was my dilemma when in Paris--falafel or cheese crepe? NYC surely has more options for a cheap and quick dinner, but months of near-daily Two Boots this fall and winter have made me no longer exclaim with glee, "Look, there's a Two Boots!" every time that opportunity presents itself.

Speaking of Paris, I can think of some good reasons to do your crepe-or-falafel-eating in the West Village rather than in the Marais. Something about cars burning, or students protesting, or the divine right to work five hours a week with 35 hours a day to leave work and eat a massive-yet-weight-loss-inducing traditional lunch. There may well be legitimate reasons for the youth of the France to go nuts, but the situation could really not fall into national stereotype any better than it does. I mean, there were already maligned Arabs burning cars, a Jew scapegoated, what left if not a protest of this nature, on this scale?

Speaking of stereotypes proven true, I was just reminded, via Peter's post on Crescat, of the study that allegedly "proves," once and for all, the narstiness of the University of Chicago undergrad women. I choose to think of the situation as less about UChicago women (or men, for that matter) being ugly than about a different beauty ideal existing at Chicago than at other schools. For those who prefer a more tanned, blond, robust population, perhaps the University leaves much to be desired. But if you prefer geeks, it's fantastic. If you like women with artfully unbrushed hair (it exists, and can be done quite elegantly) or "effeminate intellectual" (words of a prospective student who went with Harvard) men, you will be happy. If you are a woman and your ideal man would not excel at football, nor would a football player give you a second look, try Chicago. If you're a man who... you get the idea.

The best part about the "study" is this passage:

"After that we analyzed the sample data from the 35 girls at each school using a graphing calculator..."

Uh, uh, um, was it a TI-83? Or was it a, err, um, TI-85? Or, better yet, no comment.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Chickpeas: the real "bloggers fuel"

This, via Gawker, has to be a joke.

I'm about to get falafel for the second night in a row. That's no joke.

There's a cabal in the lobby to see you, sir.

Unlike Daniel Drezner, I'm not qualified to provide any sort of takedown of an academic political-science paper. So I leave a full takedown of the Mearsheimer-Walt hypothesis to minds such as Drezner's.

From the article based on the paper--and I do consider myself qualified to comment on op-eds-- my sense of their argument is as follows: Typical political-science concerns do not explain why the U.S. tends to support Israel. So clearly something nefarious, some other force, is behind the whole thing. When things do not go smoothly in the world, when power structures fail to be everything one might hope, what group is usually pulling the strings from behind the scenes?

Moreover, there's apparently something called a "national interest," a pure, purely American interest, which is distinct from the "Israel lobby." While all minority groups in this country have interests different from those of the majority, apparently the interests of Jews are inherently more suspect and are not a part of American goals but rather something else entirely. Is this because Jews lobby for things that affect other countries? Not quite. It's that Jews have been successful in their lobbying, and by this fact alone, the lobbying must be stopped.

It also strikes me as more than debatable that, as the authors claim, "Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or ‘the West’; it is largely a response to Israel’s prolonged campaign to colonise the West Bank and Gaza Strip." Would Palestinian terrorism really stop as soon as the West Bank and Gaza Strip became "Palestine"? Because that appears to be what Mearsheimer and Walt are saying.

This argument for why the U.S. should be less supportive of Israel I find especially unpersuasive:

Some aspects of Israeli democracy are at odds with core American values. Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship.

And why was that, exactly? Why isn't Israel just another America, Australia, Canada? The reason for the state of Israel could be described in two ways. One--its citizens must, unfortunately, be defined along similar terms as those used by anti-Semites to define Jews throughout the ages. Because otherwise what good is the Jewish homeland as a refuge for Jews in need? Also, on a less specifically defensive level, the idea of Israel is that, just as French people can either live in France, where their culture is dominant, or live elsewhere and assimilate into whichever country they now inhabit, Jews now have the option of living in a Jewish-dominated country, or blending into another country in which they reside. That's what it means for Judaism to exist as a nationality. It means that Jewish continuity does not depend on Alex Portnoy or Alvy Singer repressing a preference for "shiksas," but rather that the Jewish nation, like the French nation, will continue in its national center, leaving those of its national origin but based elsewhere to blend in and, over a generation or so, join up with another if they so choose, and to be just another group of, say, hyphenated Americans, no more "a nation apart" than any other. While defining a country on racial or blood ties is certainly sub-optimal, it's not clear, due to reason number one, how else Israel could, at least for a while, define itself and serve its goals. So how is this all relevant? Because it is impossible to judge Israel's national self-definition against that of the United States. Not just unfair, but really meaningless. America exists not to provide a pre-existing nation of "Americans" with a homeland, but as something else entirely; what that "something else" is I will leave to greater minds--BHL and Borat come to mind--to establish.

The article is, on the whole, a mix of polisci-specific arguments and more generally pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel ones. Since the end of my term editing Viewpoints, my patience for discussing "Israel is good --No, it's evil" arguments, unless they are exceptionally new and revelatory, is on the low side. So, no point-by-point analysis of the neoconservatives, Iraq, Israel, and how all may or may not be connected.

But back to what strikes me as the key problem with this argument-- the assumption that Jewish-American interests are separate from American interests, rather than yet another part of the diverse and by definition self-contradictory body of American interests. The authors' choice to frame things in these terms--not their being "critical of Israel" or "pro-Palestinian"-- is what makes this op-ed inherently anti-Semitic. All minority groups with strong interests have interests that conflict with what a purely neutral party would deem "good for America," but that's part of how America works. Take gay rights--acknowledging the right of same-sex couples to wed, and of gays to serve openly in the armed forces, would be off-putting to plenty of Americans, and would--like the U.S.'s support of Israel, be distasteful and provocative to Muslim fundamentalists worldwide. It's not even about the authors' assumption that a largely Jewish lobby exerts more influence than do other lobbying groups that deal with the same issues. It's the assumption that any special-interest group would have pure, uncontroversial "American" interests at heart, and that "American interests" are something other than the aggregate of the interests of all the different groups and individuals that comprise the United States. If Jewish interests are singled out as the sole exception to this, which appears to be the authors' point, then this is, in fact, an anti-Semitic argument, despite Drezner's conviction that it is not.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Radical chic at J.Crew

Am I imagining things, or does J.Crew kinda-sorta sell keffiyehs? Or am I not only color-blind but also style-blind? This is entirely possible.

However radical its inspiration, if this garment "Looks great with:" the store's "Printed small Montauk tote," it's hardly appropriate for, say, the Paris Metro, West Bank, or similar. However, the website suggests that this scarf can also be paired with the "Favorite tank." Hmm.

Better homes and croissants

If I could move into any space anywhere, it might have to be Buon Italia in Chelsea Market. Sure, the pasta costs more frozen than it does served in a nice restaurant, and fine, most of the cheese is prepackaged, and really, who needs a $40 container of Nutella? OK, maybe we all do, but regardless, any place with that many gorgeous, hard-to-find Italian groceries, with the massive, massive chunks of parmesan and not only buffalo mozzarella but also smoked buffalo mozzarella is completely awesome. Plus, Chelsea market is, as a space, really fantastic. The "cafe" (basically just a couple tables) overlooking the store is maybe where my bed would be, on the side opposite the espresso maker, so that I'd be close enough to have a cappuccino upon waking, but not so close that I'd bang my head into the milk-foaming nozzle. Chelsea Market also seems to house a modeling agency, for better or worse. (Better being the male models, worse being the female ones.) The people walking around in Chelsea Market are ridiculously good-looking, and made me somewhat less excited than I would have been otherwise about what was a remarkably good hair day.... Close contenders to Buon Italia in terms of where I might like to live are: the building above Poilane in Paris; the police academy domed building below Spring Street (not far from Ceci Cela); and some yet-to-be-determined location in Tel Aviv near the beach, adjacent French pastries optional if increasingly likely...

In other, equally important news, another man was staring at both me and my book today in the train. Just to preempt any comments to the effect of, "Weren't you reading Operation Shylock on the 3 train this evening?," yes, I was. And it was a sight to be seen, not by Chelsea Market standards, but perhaps by MTA ones.

Be glad this blog doesn't have tagged "categories"

Apologies for yet another post in not so many days falling under the category of "Jewish sperm," but here goes: Apparently Judaism is OK with premarital sex, as long as the woman is a "concubine" and goes to the mikvah (takes a ritual bath--or might a simple shower do?) after her period before sleeping with her dude again. I had heard this before, but seems the relevant article was just published. So it's time to stop shomering that negiah, or something. If you were observing this rule to begin with, and really, what are the chances? New York Judaism is OK with premarital sex as long as the activity is, on at least one occasion per year, preceded by a date to a Woody Allen movie.

Article via Jewlicious.

And point taken, re: mutts

You know how people in our society often complain that, if it weren't for those five extra pounds, they'd no longer be single? Or maybe it's the occasional zit. Or that degree from a non-Ivy university.

Clearly not all people think along these lines:

One of the lab's breakthroughs was solving the genetic puzzle that caused members of three extended families to be born without eyes. One of the families was in Gaza, another in the Negev, and one was a Jewish family of Syrian-descent living in Jerusalem.

One member of the Gaza family is Ramzi Abu Aljidian, 24, who like his sister has eyelids but no eyes underneath them. He is pleased his family's participation in the research was fruitful.

"We want to prevent such cases in the future," said Mr. Abu Aljidian, who added that his condition persuaded him not to marry within the family. Mr. Abu Aljidian married a woman who is not a relative, and the couple have two normal, healthy children.

The man has no eyes, and he got married. Before the age of 25. Not even to a cousin. Something to think about.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Operation Two-Roth

It only seems fitting to follow up a post about "Jewish sperm" with one about Philip Roth's fiction. I'm currently rereading Operation Shylock, which seems entirely different to me now after having read both The Plot Against America and all sorts of books and articles about the history of Zionism and the state of Israel.

As in The Plot Against America, the world of Operation Shylock very much resembles the real world, the exception being that Philip Roth and his concerns play a far more central role in world events. In Plot, the fact that blacks, not Jews, have had it worst in America ceases to matter-- Jews and anti-Semitism become the story of 20th century because that's what matters in Rothland. It is the world reimagined as one in which Rothian concerns are not at all neurotic but in fact the only reasonable things to be worried about. In Operation Shylock, the existence of a second "Philip Roth" grows all the more complicated when it appears that this imposter is in many ways just another Freudian id of the author/narrator/whatever himself. A blonde, anti-Semitic "shiksa" temptress sent by the imposter Roth ought to amuse the narrator/author-alter-ego--how more predictable or self-referential could you get?-- but instead the primary Roth finds himself genuinely, unironically aroused by this woman.

There is more, but I might as well finish the re-reading before going any further with this.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Jewish sperm can't jump

Is it wrong that the allegedly progressive artificial-insemination movement strikes me as a massive step backwards for humanity? Yes, reproductive options are lovely, and sure, it's good when women can do whatever they want without requiring a man's assistance. But the NYT Magazine article about the trend suggests that the thought process behind the oh-so-enlightened decisions these single women make is often rather creepy. "Karyn" says:

"I pulled up the Web site of the only sperm bank that I know of that has adult photos. There happened to be one Jewish person. I pulled up the photo, and I looked at my friend, and I looked at his picture, and I said, 'Oh, my God.' I can't say love at first sight, because, you know. But he was the one."

Hmm. If the mother's Jewish, so's the child, right? And, even for those not keen on halachic law, how exactly would a non-Jewish sperm force a child to, say, attend the occasional mass against its mother's will? I fail to see how a sperm's "Judaism" could possibly be of any significance. The German "Daniela," meanwhile, as a different idea:

"I believe in multiculturalism," she said. "I would probably choose somebody with a darker skin color so I don't have to slather sunblock on my kid all the time. I want it to be a healthy mix. You know how mixed dogs are always the nicest and the friendliest and the healthiest? If you get a clear race, they have all the problems. Mutts are always the friendly ones, the intelligent ones, the ones who don't bark and have a good character. I want a mutt." Her African-American friends questioned this strategy, suggesting that her child's life would be harder if he or she was perceived as nonwhite, but Daniela said: "If that's what I believe, I have to go by that. And it might help the world also if more people are doing it that way."

Yes, why not classify people like dogs? Ah, Germany... But things are hardly much better on this side of the Atlantic:

Q., a 43-year-old health-care manager who attended a yeshiva from kindergarten through high school (she asked that I use only one of her initials), first sought out a Jewish donor. "Everybody either had glasses, they're balding or their grandmother was diabetic and had heart disease — typical Jewish population," she told me. Her solution: a 6-foot-2 Catholic, German stock on both sides, with curly blond hair and blue eyes. "He really was the typical Aryan perfect human being," she said, laughing. "He was a bodybuilder. He played the guitar and the drums, and he sang. He was captain of the rugby team in college. When I had the in vitro process done, the embryologist said: 'This is some of the best sperm I've ever seen. It just about jumped out of the test tubes."' Q.'s golden-curled, blue-eyed daughter has just turned 2.

Oh, how cute! Let's make beautiful children by cancelling out all those hideous Jewish genes by inserting some "Aryan" into the mix! Because of course "typical Jewish population" is something unappealing, while "the typical Aryan perfect human being," that's practically redundant! Do "Aryan" sperm "jump" better than Semitic? Seems hard to picture, and I can't imagine there's any evidence to back this up, but wouldn't you just imagine they do?

While some do take racial characteristics into account when choosing a mate, in conception resulting from sexual attraction, race is easily overrided by an infinite number of other factors. That's what happens when you're dealing with a person, not sperm. But moreover, the rhetoric these women use would be considered incredibly offensive if they were discussing actual men they might have relationships with rather than sperm donors. I can't help but think that these women, classification-obsessed as they are, ought to put this energy into breeding show dogs, not making human babies.

Being a good friend of mine from high school vs. being a random WWPD reader: more compare and contrast

Pro: Get to hear all sorts of fascinating things about my life that do not, for whatever reason, make it onto WWPD.

Con: Get dragged along while I do pseudo-Vietnamese-food grocery shopping.

Prospect Park

Visitors to America--compare and contrast

They say that only foreigners (pronounced "ferrners") can truly understand the USA. And recently, two different gentlemen have come over from abroad to explore this country and tell Americans more about ourselves than we could ever have understood otherwise. These two men are Borat Sagdiyev and Bernard-Henri Levy. If these two have been compared and contrasted before, I stand corrected, but I believe this to be the first comparison of its kind.

The two men are similar in many ways. Both have silly accents, claim a certain degree of sex appeal, and work as journalists. Both exhibit on the one hand a sincere desire to learn about this country and a continual smirk at how ridiculous these Americans really are. That one of the men is real and other a character in a comedy show hardly matters--their tasks are essentially the same, as are their methods.

It seems that Borat's portrait of America is more successful, as he allows Americans to speak for themselves. His only interference is that he sets up awkward situations, but he allows the reactions to unfold on their own. BHL, meanwhile, takes a detail here and there and with the few scraps he bothers examining, puts together his own (preconceived?) concept of this country.

I just thought of this comparison, and haven't really had time to flesh it out. But I'm sure it's as profound as I think it is.

Friday, March 17, 2006


It will come as no surprise that there's a lot I disagree with in this article by Philip Weiss in The Nation. It's not just that I disagree with what is essentially the knee-jerk left reaction to the Rachel Corrie/Rachel Corrie play that wasn't quite censored but didn't it feel like censorship? story, but that the way this article is written is just incredibly irritating all the way through, then straight-out racist if you plod along all the way to the end. Here goes:

Corrie's horrifying death was a landmark event: It linked Palestinian suffering to the American progressive movement. And it was immediately politicized. Pro-Israel voices sought to smear Corrie as a servant of terrorists. They said that the Israeli army was merely trying to block tunnels through which weapons were brought from Egypt into the occupied territories--thereby denying that Corrie had died as the result of indiscriminate destruction. Hateful e-mails were everywhere. "Rachel Corrie won't get 72 virgins but she got what she wanted," said one.

Was calling Corrie a servant of terrorists a "smear"? If one considers suicide bombers to be terrorists, then volunteering for an organization linked with suicide bombers counts as just that. ("Corrie's connection to the International Solidarity Movement was politically loaded. The ISM is committed to nonviolence, but it works with a broad range of organizations, from Israeli peace activists to Palestinian groups that have supported suicide bombings, which has been seized on by those who want it to get lost.") But this is a political argument. What does it mean that "Hateful emails were everywhere"? From which parties to which other parties? This is just incredibly vague. Where was "everywhere"? Since "pro-Israel voices" includes everyone from loyal Israeli citizens who are by definition pro-Israel to the sort of wacko people, represented in all political camps, who send hateful emails, it's unclear how mainstream this alleged "hate" ever was.

The real issue, though is the fuss over play itself. A theater company may choose not to show a controversial play, but if it's neither the government nor a threat of violence preventing it, but merely a sense that the play wouldn't do well, that's not about censorship, that's business. Yes, even pretentious theater companies in the Village want their plays to do well. If a play's artistic director believes the views of Jewish groups matter for whether a play about Israel will do well in NYC, that's up to him, but no one made him take these or any particular political views into consideration.

Just whom was the Workshop consulting in its deliberations? It has steadfastly refused to say. In the New York Observer, Nicola mentioned "Jewish friends." Dodgson says that in discussions with the Royal Court, Workshop staffers brought up the Anti-Defamation League and the mayor's office as entities they were concerned about. (Abe Foxman of the ADL visited London in 2005 and denounced the play in the New York Sun as offensive to Jewish "sensitivities.") By one account, the fatal blow was dealt when the global PR firm Ruder Finn (which has an office in Israel) said it couldn't represent the play.

Again, so? Let's say for whatever reason the ADL's opinion of a play discourages a company from showing it--since when does the ADL have the power to censor anything? Advocacy groups express opinions, but they don't prevent anyone from doing anything. Was the ADL going to send suicide bombers into the theater? I think not. If people choose to ask the opinion of unnamed Jewish leaders before deciding whether or not to put on a play, then that's up to them. Is it censorship every time an emaciated model is chosen for a fashion spread rather than the more curvy woman an editor might actually prefer to see in a magazine's pages? Basically, it doesn't even matter if these "Jewish leaders" were asked their opinion or if they voiced their opinions unprompted--"Jewish leaders" do not have the power to censor. It's that simple.

Here is where the article gets super-creepy:

Hunka [a theater blogger] doesn't use the J-word. Jen Marlowe does. A Jewish activist with (which is staging a reading of Corrie's words on March 22 with the Corrie parents present), she says, "I don't want to say the Jewish community is monolithic. It isn't. But among many American Jews who are very progressive and fight deeply for many social justice issues, there's a knee-jerk reflexive reaction that happens around issues related to Israel."

Questions about pressure from Jewish leaders morph quickly into questions about funding. Ellen Stewart, the legendary director of the theatrical group La MaMa E.T.C., which is across East 4th Street from the Workshop, speculates that the trouble began with its "very affluent" board. Rachel's father, Craig Corrie, echoes her. "Do an investigation, follow the money." I called six board members and got no response. (About a third appear to be Jewish, as am I.) This is of course a charged issue. The writer Alisa Solomon, who was appalled by the postponement, nonetheless warns, "There's something a little too familiar about the image of Jews pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes."

Perhaps. But Nicola's statement about a back channel to Jewish leaders suggests the presence of a cultural lobby that parallels the vaunted pro-Israel lobby in think tanks and Congress. I doubt we will find out whether the Workshop's decision was "internally generated," as Kushner contends, or more orchestrated, as I suspect. What the episode has demonstrated is a climate of fear. Not of physical harm, but of loss of opportunities. "The silence results from fear and intimidation," says Cindy Corrie. "I don't see what else. And it harms not only Palestinians. I believe, from the bottom of my heart, it harms Israelis and it harms us."

Yikes. This is quite nauseating. What does it mean that about a third of the board of this theater "appear [to the author] to be Jewish"--they've got killer schnozzes? Who gives a shit, frankly, that the author of this article, too, is Jewish--does that give him special Jewdar to sniff out those rich Jews clearly using their immense sums of money to promote evil, evil Israel? What does it mean that a decision made by a theater company "parallels the vaunted pro-Israel lobby in think tanks and Congress"? A parallel simply implies a shared opinion. Does Weiss really think a "pro-Israel lobby," not just individuals involved with or consulted by those organizing this play, is calling the shots? Apparently. Is there even the slightest bit of evidence pointing to this? Well, no. Did any actual censorship actually take place? No, seems not. But do those rich awful Jews control everything, especially the entertainment industry? Now we're getting somewhere.

Also charming--Weiss's response to a comment from a writer that, "There's something a little too familiar about the image of Jews pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes" is an open-minded, "Perhaps."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

To whom it may concern,

I will not be attending this evening's UChicago Young Alumni Happy Hour, because I can't convince my roommates that it will be super awesome (one's been before, and word spreads), because I've changed into sweatpants, and because Katherine has some sort of TV-show DVD, and gosh I miss television. Oh, and because, true to UChicago stereotype, the thought of going by myself into a room full of people I don't know, even knowing that drinking will be involved, is kind of frightening.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I read the New Yorker for the articles

So I was home today before Katherine, and started reading her New Yorker. Want to know something interesting about this week's New Yorker? There's naked people in it! A whole, startling, page of them! Not naked victims of torture, or naked people from a culture in which nudity is the norm, but Playboy centerfolds! While I can't say this had the effect on me it would have on half the population, I was certainly distracted by it, enough so that I even read some of the accompanying article. As it happened, while I was reading this article, I was eating pasta. I eat pasta almost every night, but I have trouble whenever I try to combine eating pasta with reading, talking on the phone, and so forth. I once even dropped my cellphone, face down, into a plate of pasta while attempting to hang the phone up and eat pasta at the same time (Katherine's my witness). This evening, somehow, some of my dinner migrated onto the article in question, such that when Katherine got home and I told her that I wanted to show her something funny in her New Yorker, the absolute worst possible pages were completely stuck together.

So 2004

Now, to seamlessly connect the two posts below...

My friend Carlos put a link on my "facebook wall," to this 2004 New York story about what those private-school girls are wearing these days, or, technically, were wearing in those days. The article is disturbing on many levels:

Level one--It's understandable that people would want to read about the sex-and-drug lives of Manhattan's rich-and-underage, but do that many people, even New York readers, really care what brand of middle-of-the-road sneaker or flip-flop this set prefers? The writer--a Brearley grad now at an unnamed college--points out that her set dresses like clones, and that their fashion is not artistic or chic or whatever but is in fact "tribal." Big shock there for anyone who's ever walked around the Upper East Side. How did this get published? No cocaine, no blowjobs, just... sweaters? While the overall theme--youthful decadence and adult decadence in this set are awfully similar--is that of the young-adult fiction Naomi Wolf discussed, there's something missing, and that something is the evil, vapid underside of this world. This is just shopping. If you're in the "wrong" jeans, what happens? Do people assume you're socially-inept, poor, or punk? What illicit activities take place in (or out of) those jeans? I mean, that's a story. This, not so much.

Level two-- I have some clothing that's very much like what Brearley types were wearing in 2004. While I could make certain excuses--Some of those Petit Bateau tops, and the blazer, and one cable-knit sweater were from sample sales! The Seven jeans were $25, used, at Beacon's Closet!--but I'm guilty as charged. I look like a (less put-together, stranger hair-colored version of a) UES private-school girl. Among my hipper-than-I-could-ever-be friends, this look does the opposite of make me fit in. Katherine has threatened to confiscate my Patagonia fleece, and not because she'd rather see me in a proper North Face. So a remarkably dull article about people dressing boringly is one in which I see myself. Fantastic. But at least, in the context of hipster-Brooklyn, my style of dress could be seen as rebellious, not as a result of a sense of style that has not progressed since I was in eighth grade. Or something.

Level three-- There was going to be a level three, but pondering jeans and sweaters has caused me to nearly fall asleep on the couch. Time to return (?) to substantive blogging.

Current Addictions:

1) The Facebook, and its religious, slightly less-additive twin, OnlySimchas.
2) Coffee.
3) Spanish cheese, and lots of it.

Conquered addictions:

1) Friendster (removed my profile a while back, so there's no point).
2) Diet Coke (stopped buying it in bulk post-Flex dollars; don't miss it).
3) Running (three times per week has turned into once every three months).

From this, readers may safely conclude that I am wider-awake, less fit, and more up-to-date on current UChicago undergrad gossip than may once have been the case.

Woody Allen used a strategically placed National Review...

Good thing I didn't post what I'd planned on the Naomi Wolf extravaganza--"Intern Alexis" at Gawker says it all:

We practically soiled our Sevens, dirtied our DVF and tarnished our town car with excitement over Naomi Wolf’s essay on the rise in popularity of young adult slut fiction, aka books in the “Gossip Girl,” “A-List” and “Clique” series. We’re not gonna front here; we’ve definitely, definitely spent some hours in the young adult section of the bookstore, sitting up against a wall with a Gossip Girl book strategically masked by a copy of the New Republic. Call it soft-core porn, call it cliterature, but there’s nothing like reading about a bulimic 16-year-old Spence girl having sex in the service elevator of her Fifth Avenue apartment building, high on her alcoholic mother’s Percocet.

Is it bad that I am now vaguely tempted to use up the rest of a Barnes and Noble gift card on one of these books? They sound hilarious.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wolves and dogs

I had an idea for a long post connecting Naomi Wolf's article about young adult rich-girl fiction with, among other things, the latest Spence School bulletin, but lost interest midway through. So I will point out instead that I learned today that two bernese mountain dogs live nearby, and saw a dachshund on my block. No sightings of the cat-on-leash, which is fine by me.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Katherine pointed me to this article about the possible reopening of the Brooklyn jail. Among the possible tenants sharing space with a reopened Boerum Hill jail? A children's clothing store, an upscale food market, or a boutique hotel. Meanwhile, the proprietors of bail-bond establishments are now looking forward to newly increased business.

New York is short on space. Discount department store Century 21, only steps from the WTC site, seems to flourish. Housing projects and upscale shops and restaurants are neighbors in several locations, from Chelsea to the East Village to Boerum Hill. But a fancy supermarket in a prison? Cute little stores? It seems odd enough that these things are all over the borough as it is, or at least would surprise many Manhattanites. I can kind of see stores and whatnot functioning just fine in a jail, precisely because New Yorkers are used to tiny spaces. But re: a boutique hotel--will people really spend a lot to sleep in a prison building? I'm not seeing it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Friday night, and I totally went to a party...

...only to come home and eat more of the Spanish cheese. I don't even want to contemplate ounces or dollars-worth consumed. All I know is, there's still some left over, but this may depend on what your definition of "some" is.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Cheese shop

This evening, I told Katherine I'd be at Prince and Mott "in a minute" but got sidetracked. A new store called "Despana: the finest from Spain," on Broome, beckoned. It (and, soon, I) was filled with samples of all sorts of foods, most importantly cheese. I think it's fair to say I ate somewhere between a quarter and a half pound of ridiculously delicious cheese samples before finally (out of both guilt and a neverending greed for cheese) buying two of the kinds I tried. Eventually I tore myself away from Despana and met Katherine, who suggested we go to a tapas bar which she said had good sangria. This is indeed the case, and one oxymoron has been removed from my list. I got a chickpea-based tapas dish, but was still sort of hungry. Luckily, Katherine wanted to see this cheese store I'd been raving about, which led to both of us trying several (more, in my case) types of cheese, before she, too, purchased two different types. I am completely certain that this store will no longer so readily offer samples after our visit. The whole experience was the exact opposite of the Monty Python "Cheese Shop" sketch, in which a man enters a cheese shop and asks for some of a seemingly endless list of cheeses from around the world, only to learn that the store "do[es] not, in fact, have any cheese here at all." Despana is a neverending source of cheese, a "bottomless bowl" of cheese samples. If only I thought there was a chance the fine individuals working at Despana would, after this evening, let me back on the premises.

When will the paparazzi leave me alone?

Looks like someone recognized me on the subway. I do remember a man, who may have been "greg" but how could I know, looking at me and at my book, but even in model-filled Manhattan, occasionally someone (male--I repel lesbians, remember) will look at me, and on these occasions my first thought is not, "aha, a WWPD reader!" That would be absurd.

OK, I have thought this before, that I've been "recognized"--it happened periodically at Chicago, where I had a column in the school paper and where a higher concentration of people read this blog--but my friends always laugh at me and my massive ego when I suggest this as a possibility in NYC. (My friends, though, keep me grounded. Which is important, you know, if you're a celebrity.)

But it turns out my suspicions were not as out there as they seemed. What do you know.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Projects that will begin any minute now:

Fulfilment of lifelong dream of having a dachshund.

Fulfilment of lifelong dream of learning how to operate an espresso/cappuccino machine.

Intensive, (mostly-) self-taught crash course in Hebrew.

Switch to reading novels only in French. As soon as I finish the, err, British novel I'm reading now. Right.

Running more often than every four or five months.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Chiens de race

Other countries (other than America, that is) have better dogs. It's a fact. A simple Google search of dachshunds will reveal that the breed is better-appreciated, if not cuter, in Japan than elsewhere. In France, the golden retriever-equivalent is a huge white ball of fluff, much nicer and sillier than what one finds in the States. Belgium has better bernese mountain dogs, or at least more of them.

And then there is Zadok, pictured below:

So cute! Zadok, reports Haaretz, might well be Israel's only field spaniel, and as such has had to resort to online dating (um, breeding) in order to find a mate. Of course, Zadok could always find a nice labradoodle, which does seem close enough, but I don't know if the orthodox rabbis would allow it.

Ignorant idealism, postponed

The only thing I'd enjoy less than a play celebrating Rachel Corrie would be a play celebrating Rachel Corrie at which everyone was forced to eat fake-butter popcorn. I wrote an article for the Chicago Criterion about Corrie, but since that publication is very much defunct and offline, and whatever copy I may have of this is at my parents', you'll just have to trust me on this. But regardless, reading about Rachel Corrie is nauseating in much the same way as sitting in an artificial-butter-smelling room is nauseating. There's just no escape. I'm glad that this play has not been wholeheartedly embraced by all, and if it is produced eventually, with no context, would happily protest. Not burn cars, but protest. Not to prevent the playwright's freedom of speech, but to make use of my own.

Among a certain set, it's "cool" to "care." And caring is, in this context, having trendy politics, and taking those trendy politics as far as they go. Being a martyr for a trendy cause you don't even understand, well that's so hip, you probably think this play was about you. And seems it was.

Should Rachel Corrie have died for her stupidity? No. But that is, in effect, what happened. Did Jewish groups violate freedom of expression by urging the postponement of a play that is apparently an ode to Corrie? Of course not--part of freedom of expression is that all are free to express, including critics and naysayers. And since "Jewish groups" do not, in fact, equal "the American government," and these groups were not threatening violence, where does censorship come into this?

The Times article describes how the postponed play presents Corrie as a generic do-gooder, ignoring the fact that, well, the IDF, which she was fighting because that's apparently what the do-gooders do these days, is also trying to do good, to save lives. Both causes are plenty "left," but one gets to be shown on the London stage and the other merely gets a nod from American campus Hillels.

This is worth taking a look at, while we're on the subject.

Brokeback Marriage

According to the New York Times, "Many Couples Must Negotiate Terms of 'Brokeback' Marriages." It's true--sometimes you've been with someone for a while, and find out that he is, in fact, a cowboy. The man said he was from the Upper West Side, grew up going to Zabars and attending lectures and concerts at Columbia, but it turns out he grew up on a farm, has ridden a horse in a picturesque setting while not on vacation, and was a "geographic diversity" candidate for college admissions. It's tough for couples going through such a crisis, but over a few beers and a meal of unthinkably long noodles, some such couples have been able to work things out.

Monday, March 06, 2006

For a change, beef soup

(Credit: Du Bin)

I couldn't resist posting in reference to yet another appearance in the NYT of an "unthinkably long noodle," this time from China. This latest noodle, served in a beef broth, is not only unthinkably long, but also unthinkably thick and, by local standards, unthinkably expensive. 31 cents does sound like a lot for what basically amounts to ramen, but this is unthinkably complicated ramen, so maybe not.

All roads lead to Hummus

I try to do the whole organic-Italian-in-Brooklyn thing. Places with friendly names like Franny's or Frankie's, where you know more about the farms that produced your meal than you really need to, but where you allow the restaurant to charge an extra dollar for each item because, gosh darn it, that cow was happy before its milk was turned into cheese. Or worse. But regardless, sometimes I am not in Brooklyn, but rather in that lesser-known borough, the one with not so many culinary options. Meaning, of course, Manhattan. Katherine and I were trying to find a place in the East Village to get coffee around 10:30 on Saturday night, and were basically stumped. Getting progressively less picky as we walked, I had the brilliant idea that we could get Turkish coffee at the Hummus Place. I had vowed no more hummus, after making the unfortunate "pairing" choice of hummus and beer several weeks ago, but no Hummus doesn't have to mean no "Place." Or does it? For whatever reason, the coffee, which is usually quite good, was all grounds, even by Turkish coffee standards. Katherine was a bit more desperate for caffeine than I was, and asked if they had any "regular" coffee, which seemed to disappoint our waitress. Explaining that it wasn't the foreignness but rather the graininess (or, really, hummus-like quality) that was the problem didn't seem worth the bother. Irregular coffee it was.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What's the Hype?

From what I remember (and this says something about them, that I remember them), University of Chicago parties either involved cramming of 300-plus drunk people into one living room in a K&G apartment, or three people--one morosely reading a book, one morosely chainsmoking, all drunk--sitting in a living room in a K&G apartment or dorm room. I always assumed there was some other social life experienced by frat-sorority types, but never gave it too much thought, as there are, what, three such people at the University? That may be, but these three people are looking to shake things up.

A group calling itself "UChicago Hype" hopes, among other things, to "eliminate the antiquated idea of the University of Chicago as a school with a lack communal identity through fun and engaging events in the city." Unless they mean going to Fox and Obel with one other person, I'm not sure what they're referring to.... But seems "Chicago Hype [what happened to the "U"?] aspires to be a Registered Student Organization at the University of Chicago that specializes in event production, marketing, and public relations catering to the student body." What, what? "Event production, marketing, and public relations"? Those have to be the fields UChicago students would be least likely to enter, no, forbidden by law from entering. OK, maybe some types of marketing (confession--I don't know what marketing entails, and I have friends who do this), but events? PR? Impossible.

While not yet an RSO, it appears this group has organized some events-- a yacht cruise, a sporting event (ick) followed by a night at a Lincoln Park nightclub (why?), and, strangest of all, a trip to go study at a crummy (even by Hyde Park standards) coffee shop on the North Side. Are the Reg and Classics not good enough for today's youth? And let's not get started on the fact that these events involve private busses taking attendees to and from Hyde Park, which will surely delight those the busses pass by, who are standing outside waiting either for CTA busses, campus busses, or the alleged Red Line Shuttle (did that ever take?).

Compared to many of my classmates, I was a big fan of parties and of going into the city. But I'm afraid that this has crossed a line, and I'd like to let any prospective UChicago undergrads who might be reading this know that the school will not be "hype"-ish unless you're really, really looking for that... or unless it's changed beyond recognition in the last few months.