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Complete the phrase II

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.25.04

"When spending time with relatives for Thanksgiving, I..."

Bonus if you detail the ways in which you regress to the awkward teenage self while hating yourself for it.

You're hoping for dysfunctional hilarity from me, and understandably so, but I disappoint: the holiday has been commotion-free. I've spent most of my time grading and (I kid you not) preparing lectures on Peter Singer and famine relief. Pass the stuffing.


 

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No Rejecting the Premise

Posted by Ogged
on 11.24.04

Let's play complete the phrase. Young Americans say "You only live once!" when they're about to do some crazy ass shit. Generally, I, as an uptight fuddy-duddy, think, "You only live once. Try not to make a fool of yourself." And the people of blogdom think, "You only live once...???"


 

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What Was the Question Again?

Posted by Ogged
on 11.24.04

Just now, you were probably thinking, "How come Ogged doesn't post about Iran more often?" Good question. Let's say I'm more confident of my ignorance than most. I've talked to Iranians who love it when the U.S. takes a hard line against the mullahs, and Iranians who think that taking a hard line only helps the regime. I've talked to Iranians who want the U.S. to invade, and Iranians who think that would be horrible. Iranians who believe in reform, Iranians who think it's hopeless, etc. and etc. and etc. Trying to figure out what Iranians themselves want is much like trying to figure out what Americans want without knowing about the red/blue divide. Except in Iran, there are divisions within the divisions: for the mullahs you have diehard basiji and go-along-get-along business folks; against the mullahs you have students who want democracy, regular folk who just want jobs, and even some holdouts for the return of the monarchy.

One thing to note is that the oppressive regime problem and the nuclear Iran problem aren't the same: in my experience, support for a nuclear-armed Iran cuts across political allegiances. This is a pretty good rundown of how Iranians see the situation.

Finally, you might recall that one of the reasons I supported the Iraq war was that I'd recently returned from Iran, where I heard from a lot of people that they couldn't get rid of the regime without military help from the U.S. It seemed likely to me that Iraqis were in the same boat. Even now, I have a cousin (I think I've mentioned this) who says, in conciliatory Middle-Eastern fashion, "Tell the Americans to invade; we're not dumb like the Arabs, we won't fight back."

But what I had wrong (and what I think she doesn't appreciate) is that only a small bit of the population needs to fight back in order for chaos to reign. And just as there are enough diehards to keep the regime in power now, there will be enough to make occupation hell later.

This is all by way of saying, I don't know what to say.


 

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The Re-Education Camp

Posted by Ogged
on 11.24.04

I've put in a few hours at Passim myself, and it's just like the man says; in fact, if I'd kept going there, I'd probably be voting Republican today.

Last night four of us walked over to Passim, the legendary folk music club in Harvard Square, to hear Arlo Guthrie perform. Passim is a basement room furnished with spectacularly uncomfortable cast-off folding chairs. Vegetarian food is available. The chairs and the food immediately raise the question of, if folk music is supposed to represent the struggle of working-class Americans how come Passim doesn't serve food that these folks would actually like (e.g., hamburgers) and chairs that would accomodate the typically obese frames of the poor. Most of the time artists at Passim speak out from the stage against U.S. oppression of Iraqis, against George W. Bush, against Republicans, etc. These protests elicit universal applause from the audience, all of whom apparently can agree on these points and all of whom are apparently rather irritated. A true protest at Passim, one that would challenge the prevailing beliefs in the room, would be a leaflet arguing in favor of eating steak, touting its anemia-fighting and mood-mellowing properties. Not to mention the fact that steak encourages the consumption of red wine, which is known to have many health benefits.

 

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Recover

Posted by Ogged
on 11.24.04

I've found a piece of information that either tells me that things aren't quite as bad as they seem, or that the decline of American civilization started earlier than I had realized.

[Bruce Willis's] recording of "Respect Yourself" reached #5 in January of 1987.

 

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Step by Step

Posted by Ogged
on 11.23.04

At an airport recently, I was sitting across from a woman who was on her cell phone, tearfully recounting being unpleasantly frisked at security. Apparently, her experience is typical.

Jen McSkimming, a manager with a domestic airline, said the numbers were "severely underreporting" the extent of the problem. She said she was recently at an industry meeting attended by a senior representative of the security agency who said, when the issue of pat-downs was raised, "Well, I only get about 15 complaints a week on this."
Ms. McSkimming said about half of the 30 people at the meeting were women and she asked the group how many women had had a bad experience with the new procedures. "Every single woman raised their hand,'' she said. "So I told him, 'Well, you'd better add 15 to this week's total.' "

First things first, and something I didn't know: male security officers are allowed to pat down female passengers. That's unacceptable. (Maybe not metaphysically and essentially inscribed in gender relations unacceptable, but in 2004 USA unacceptable.) Women are now allowed to request a female screener, but, as the women in the article say, sometimes they're afraid they'll miss their flight, some are afraid they'll be singled out for harsher treatment, or put on a list for future screening, and I'm sure some don't realize they have the option, or are just too timid to exercise it.

Second, a point I keep flogging here: the women's reactions are instructive as to how we accommodate loss of liberty, such that we barely even notice that we're less free. They don't speak, for fear of secret government lists. They stop flying, and drive whenever possible. They wear clothing that will make government searches easier (that's sensible, and something I do too, but it's also truly creepy to think that we're beginning to wear easy-search uniforms).

None of this is by way of arguing against searches as such. But for those who are inclined to think, "They're not knocking on my door, or taking me away, so what's the problem?" it's a reminder that loss of liberty begins long before the extremes come to pass, and that the incremental losses (step through the detector), almost inevitably lead to changing standards, whether by inertia, or in response to events (so now: step through the detector, take off your shoes, get patted down).


 

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Brr...I Mean, Grrrr

Posted by Ogged
on 11.23.04

Part of my route to work is near a middle school, so every morning I see kids walking along. I keep seeing something that has an obvious explanation, but still mystifies me: what is it about boys being unwilling to wear jackets? They're all clearly freezing their asses off, but they go along, hands in their pockets, shoulders scrunched up, because, you know, that's a cool look, but a jacket, my god, people might think they have mothers or something.

I know--because I, and most guys I know, aren't quite over it yet--that there's some part of the macho code that says "frostbite = tough SOB," but I'm still amazed that the ethic is so pervasive, so early. What are the parents of the nation all doing that communictes so clearly to their boys that they have to be tough, and that jackets aren't tough?

(It does seem that the black boys, rebellious creatures that they are, are by and large jacket wearers. I'll keep my eyes peeled. Next week: fat kids, and the urge to run them over, or at least chase them a bit....)


 

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Well (and truly) Done

Posted by Ogged
on 11.22.04

No blogging from me on Monday as the ex defends her dissertation (hooray, ex!). I, along with a veritable brigade of family and friends, will be running around in the morning to make sure everything's in order (is there a podium at this damn university??), and then celebrating long into the night. Hooray, ex!

Official: That's Dr. Ex now. Thanks for the warm thoughts, which were much appreciated when I read them to her. Of course, I'd heard a lot about the research over the years, and participated in some of the grunt work, but my information was always filtered through her doubts and misgivings, and even having made allowances for that, today was a surprise. It was wonderful to hear the public talk and realize that, holy shit, she designed a whole new kind of experiment, and got really interesting results that people will have to take seriously.


 

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Observed II

Posted by Ogged
on 11.21.04

Carey Lowell, or, at least, Carey Lowell as Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross on Law and Order, is superhot.


 

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Dear Donald Kennedy

Posted by Bob
on 11.21.04

Please, former FDA commissioner, former Stanford president, and current Science editor Donald Kennedy -- please draw on your own experience with federal yacht-money and write the next Science editorial on the US Senate's recent funding of George W. Bush's presidential yacht.


 

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