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By request.

Posted by Apostropher
on 01.26.08

The other Carolina votes Obama. Discuss.


 

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A Non-Juno Movie Post

Posted by Becks
on 01.26.08

There Will Be Blood: awesome. But I do have a couple of thoughts/questions about it, which I'll place below the fold. Spoilers allowed in the comments to answer my questions and discuss so stay away if you haven't seen it.

SPOILERS BELOW

So this is a completely awesome movie. That being said, I thought the whole half-hour subplot with the brother was completely unnecessary. The rest of the movie was so great and original but I could have seen that plot being dropped into a thousand other movies so it felt cheap.

But the thing I really don't get is why the boy set fire to the cabin. Why then? And why something that extreme? Yes, we saw him being roughed up a bit by being forced to drink all that whiskey and some growing alienation after becoming deaf but until that scene we hadn't any inkling that he was anything less than a sweet kid. What was that all about?


 

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$3 for 40

Posted by Becks
on 01.25.08

I'm breaking my usual "no linking to Megan McArdle because you all go batshit insane when I do" policy to link to a post she put up yesterday outlining reasons she believes that increasing the food stamp allowance won't help stimulate the economy like the tax rebates would. In it, she says that (among other things):

The poor don't need more food. Obesity is a problem for the poor in America; except for people who are too screwed up to get food stamps (because they don't have an address), food insufficiency is not.

She goes on to have many exchanges in her comments section about whether obesity among poor people is because of voluntary bad food choices or because economic constraints imposed by food stamps encourages them.

Megan has blogged about how she plans to go vegan for Lent as a personal challenge. Perhaps another idea would be to do the Food Stamp Challenge, living for the amount of money given to food stamp recipients, for Lent. (And blog it, of course!)

Beyond Megan, I think this could be a good movement for churches and other faith-based groups to try with their members to raise awareness about poverty and would be very fitting with the meaning of the season.


 

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A pickle for the knowing ones

Posted by Ben
on 01.25.08

Nowing ones complane of my post the previus one had no stops I put in a Nuf here and thay may peper and solt it as they plese.

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Help me; I'm choking on a dick

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.25.08

Eugene Volokh takes a closer look at a case that was in "The Ethicist" last weekend: a student writes defamatory comments in a purportedly anonymous course evaluation, then is identified and punished:


Beck wrote: "Joe Disponzio is a complete asshole. I hope he chokes on a dick, gets AIDS and dies. To hell with all gay teachers who are terrible with their jobs and try to fail students!" ...

[On the second course evaluation,] Beck answered the evaluation question "What were the most helpful/useful aspects of the course?" with "Joe Disponzio needs help with his issues dealing with homosexuality. Fags are not cool and neither are ney [sic] yorkers."
...
The University retained a handwriting document examiner to confirm the author of the evaluations. Roy Fenoff, a 2004 graduate of the University and forensic document examiner, was faxed the evaluations in question and Beck's class exams. He "concluded that the questioned writing was indeed authored by Brian Beck." ...
Beck's punishment includes writing a 1,200-word essay on how his remarks affect the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community and interact with a greater intolerance of the campus LGBT community, a letter of apology to Disponzio including constructive criticisms of his teaching style, and meeting with Michael Shutt, assistant dean of students, to discuss completion of SafeSpace training or other programs deemed appropriate....

Christ, what an asshole. (Basically I agree with most of Volokh's view; it's a bad idea to violate the anonymity of evaluations. Exceptions might come up in cases like "ps I am going to kill you" or "lectures were really interesting but I thought it was unfair that I had to have sex with the professor" but generic expressions of hatred are a bad place to start.) But can you imagine what that 1200 word essay will look like? Sure to be sincere, heartfelt prose. There's something particularly humiliating and absurd about the coerced apology,* and about the coerced mea culpa essay; putting the two together is just painful to think about.

*To the extent that I understand forgiveness and the role of apologies in warranting it, the context in which the begrudged "I'm sorry" is mumbled pretty much obviates it as a reason to forgive.


 

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Of human bondage

Posted by Ben
on 01.24.08

Since my mother is a buyer for some bookstores, she gets an absolute shitload of free books, of which I am often the beneficiary; whenever I go home there's generally a pile of books in my room already and a standing invitation to rummage through the stacks of advances that litter most of the house for things I might want. Even to mention some interest can often result in a new book coming my way; for example, when I last was home I mentioned that I might want to take part in a translation seminar/workshop in the spring quarter, not because there's something in particular that I want to translate (much less produce a commentary on) but because I'm interested in seeing how the people who are producing translations will go about it—so would I perhaps want a copy of Gregory Rabassa's If This Be Treason? Why sure!

This isn't entirely limited to new books, either; ever since being remonstrated with in high school for having bought a copy of Seven Gothic Tales when there was a perfectly serviceable if decades older copy already in the house I've occasionally been able to lighten the creaking shelves of their older as well as newer occupants, which has resulted in my having two copies each of Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; having lost, as I think I've mentioned before, the paperback of Alain-Fournier's The Wanderer with the excellent Edward Gorey cover, and having read Notes from Underground for the first time!!!@ in a falling-apart edition of Kaufmann's existentialism reader. Mostly, though, only new books.

I'm moved to post this because one of the old books with which I came away a few weeks ago was a copy of Frisch's Homo Faber that she read while taking classes at, I assume, a UCLA extension program when teaching in LA. It's very interesting! She has helpfully underlined and defined in the margins the words she didn't know, but only on their first occurrence, which is extremely helpful to me because it means about 90% of the words I don't know have a definition right there. Some phrases, which presumably were found important, are also underlined (eg "Ich fühle mich nicht wohl, wenn unrasiert") and some of the words underlined to be defined are kind of endearing (eg Maxwell'schen Dämon; I can't actually read the definition given for this). In fact the whole thing is rather endearing and charming—imagining her reading through with a dictionary and pencil and whatnot. One's parents: formerly ordinary humans! Who knew?


 

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WOE

Posted by Becks
on 01.24.08

Bets on which experiment goes horribly wrong and wipes out humanity first:

Engineered Mosquitoes Could Wipe Out Dengue Fever

'Safe Ebola' created for research


 

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I CAN HVE TENURE?

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.24.08

I just got the dust jacket for my forthcoming book. So exciting.

Thanks to a reader who might, or might not, want to be associated with this project.

fatwa.jpg


 

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Spotlight

Posted by Becks
on 01.24.08

Ari over at Edge of the West asks:

who's the most important...historical figure about whom most people know nothing?

 

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The true spirit of the South.

Posted by Apostropher
on 01.23.08

You have to love this quote.

A sister of one of three people killed early Friday in Louisville said it "really isn't a shock to any of us" that her brother died in a high-speed crash. "The thing that really makes me feel much better about this is they died doing what they loved to do -- they were drinking, they were going fast and they were together," Lorie Flaherty said. "It gives me comfort, it does, to know those three things."

Well, okay then. And as long as this mic's on, I'll note that Unfunkked 4 is over here. One disc is deliciously sleazy funk, the other is mostly uptempo Southern soul.


 

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We Interrupt This Hiatus To Oppress People Of Color

Posted by Ogged
on 01.23.08

I'm loving the hiatus, but I came across something that I really want to post about. Via open left, a great WSJ article about Clinton's and Obama's different approaches to getting out the vote in South Carolina. I really encourage you to read it; informative and accurate. I'm moved to post about this because (Now It Can Be Told!) I had an actual paying job with a campaign in '04 doing GOTV in South Carolina, and my eyes were opened a bit to things that a newspaper can't quite say in so many words.

As the article rightly notes, pastors have traditionally been key to getting out the black vote in SC, but what the article can't quite say is that many of the pastors are basically for sale. That's the subtext here.

When Mr. Obama first started trying to organize the state earlier this year, he began in the usual way, seeking endorsements of traditional power brokers. The campaign offered a $5,000-a-month consulting contract to state Sen. Darrell Jackson of Columbia, a longtime legislator and pastor of an 11,000-member church, who also runs an ad agency.

...

Mr. Jackson says he seriously considered the offer from Mr. Obama, but instead became a paid consultant to Mrs. Clinton, essentially running her state operation for substantially more than what the Obama camp offered. "A lot of our hearts were torn -- it wasn't an easy choice," Mr. Jackson said. He drew more than $135,000 from the Clinton campaign from February 2007 through September 2007, the latest figures available, according to federal election filings, and remains on the payroll.

I think there's a strange legacy-of-racism effect in the reporting and talk about this issue: white people of influence trade favors and take money too, and that's openly acknowledged in talk about a consultant's conflict of interest, and ambassadorships, cabinet positions, and pork. By refusing to discuss the fact that the pastors operate in those typical self-serving ways (a refusal that I believe to be well-intentioned), we nevertheless make their behavior seem more sleazy and underhanded. Hush hush, that's just how the exotic natives do things--as if that's not how we all do things.

That said, you tell me how to file the following anecdote. The article says,

[Obama's strategist] says he has largely eschewed the local tradition of giving "walking-around money," or "street money," to political figures who back candidates. Such funds are used to hire van drivers, canvassers and poll watchers who turn out the black vote on election day.

...aaand to pay people to vote. Some of our people were in Bumfuck, SC on primary day and realized they'd been given less money to distribute than they needed. Part of the side of the phone conversation that I heard was "Now they're throwing rocks." People actually got out their ATM cards, pooled a bunch of money, and sent someone driving like the devil to make it to our people before dark. Mustard sauce, baby, mustard sauce.


 

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Glossy

Posted by Becks
on 01.23.08

What real, physical magazines do you subscribe to anymore? I used to subscribe to a bunch but have cut down drastically in recent years as I can get the same content (or better) online. I'd much rather read on my computer if given the choice -- I was thrilled to see that The Atlantic's issues are now online so I can read it that way instead of borrowing a copy from one of my roommates.

I think my list of essential paper magazines these days is down to New York and Esquire. I still get Bust and Wired but I'll probably let them lapse the next time they come up. That's far from my peak days -- I think at one point I subscribed to almost 12.

Update: Oh yeah, I'm forgetting -- I also get Entertainment Weekly (meh) and Washingtonian, which I forgot because it's monthly. I'm probably forgetting another monthly or two, too.


 

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The finer things

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.23.08

In a nice post about the dangers of the hedonic treadmill, Ben A wonders what luxuries would be agonizing to give up. His list: no roommates, in-house laundry, car.

I endorse. A washing machine at home is sweet, sweet bliss. (I don't hate being at the laundromat, but I do hate the way coin-op laundry becomes yet another block of time to be scheduled, on pain of having nothing to wear.) Living alone is a luxury I've enjoyed for a long time and I imagine it would be excruciating to deal with roommate issues again. The car thing is so context-dependent that it's hard to say.

I might add "money in the bank" as something that would be hard to do without-- I don't miss the paycheck-to-paycheck days at all and I would be loathe to return to sweating over $20, though I'd be more or less fine with returning to the living conditions I had back then.

Other candidates? What would hurt to leave behind?


 

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Waaah, I hate all movies about pregnancy

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.23.08

Late to the party as usual, I finally got around to seeing the first half of Knocked Up. (Earlier thread here.) I'm so not getting it, for fairly conventional reasons. I can't understand the decision to continue the pregnancy, and the film doesn't give us much to go on here. (At least Juno tried to make sense of this; and that film had a youthful protagonist whose strange decisions were part of the point. In Knocked Up it's harder to understand.) I don't see the appeal of Seth Rogan's character, who is unattractive and annoying. The funny banter isn't.* The unhappy domestic life stuff is tired. I'll finish it just for the sake of having done so, but I'm so puzzled by how this movie got huge.

Another nail in the coffin of Anthony Lane.

*it's not a genre thing; I liked 40 year old virgin a lot. I just have the feeling that the penultimate version of the Knocked Up script had a lot of [insert clever stoner dialogue] sprinkled throughout.


 

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Winter Soldier

Posted by Becks
on 01.23.08

Spencer Ackerman, at his new home The Washington Independent, has a look at the upcoming Winter Soldier event planned for March by Iraq Veterans Against the War. As he summarizes on his personal blog:

In 1971, Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered together 100 veterans to testify about routinized atrocity in U.S. military operations in Vietnam. To call the Winter Soldier investigation controversial is the height of understatement. While it garnered little press attention at the time, nearly every Vietnam veteran knows what it is and has extremely strong feelings about it. To some, it represented unparalleled bravery; to others, unparalleled betrayal. Winter Soldier is responsible for John Kerry's political career.
This March, Iraq Veterans Against the War will present the findings of a new Winter Soldier investigation, just outside Washington DC. The spirit is exactly the same: to present an unsanitized portrait of the war from the perspective of those who fought it, in the hopes of stoking public outrage over what's done in our names, all bring the troops home. This time around, though, IVAW promises digital video of what Winter Soldier 2 will document, which, if Abu Ghraib is any indication, will be a big deal.

If you were born post-Vietnam like me, the article gives a good summary of the original Winter Soldier event as well -- I'll confess to not knowing about it.


 

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Growing Up Online

Posted by Becks
on 01.22.08

I'm sure the tubes will be abuzz with people discussing Frontline's show about childhood in the age of the Internet. I'm going to try to catch it tonight. Frontline's usually pretty classy so let's see if they can avoid devolving into the usual TEH INTERNETS WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN hysteria.

If not, at least you'll get an hour of Will Lyman's sweet sweet voice. Purrrrr.


 

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Gone

Posted by Becks
on 01.22.08

Fred Thompson: out of the race.

Heath Ledger: found dead.


 

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Would you like to see my seven inches?

Posted by Ben
on 01.22.08

In college I knew someone who asked at least one young woman the titular question, presumably giving it the emphasis I'm sure we can all hear with our inward ear when we speak it to ourselves with the knowledge that it doesn't refer to records at all, an emphasis that it would, in fact, only make sense for him to employ, since he didn't own a turntable, so to what else might he have been adverting than his, well, you know?

But he was indeed adverting to 7" records, of which he owned, it seems, many. I find myself, as of last night, in a similar position to his, for while I do not own many 7"s, I do now own one, Sholi's Hejrat, because with the purchase of the vinyl they dispensed also a coupon whose redemption brought with it mp3s of the songs cut in the grooves, and at reasonably high bitrates, too. (Now if only I could get it to accept Jesus.) I mention all this because the single had a cleverish concept, namely, the A-side (audible free without charge on myspace) is a cover of a song by Iranian pop star Googoosh, apparently even sung in Farsi (too bad noöone associated with the blog can comment on the singer's facility with the tongue); the B-side a cover of a Joanna Newsom song. You know—in the spirit of international comity.


 

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Creepy Crawly

Posted by Becks
on 01.22.08

This is by far the weirdest thing I've read in a major newspaper in a long time.


 

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Meltdown

Posted by Becks
on 01.22.08

I was just about to post the same question as Yglesias -- what's going on with the financial markets? Prove that our commenters are smarter than his.


 

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Neighborly

Posted by Becks
on 01.22.08

How many of you know your neighbors? I've only met mine in the last couple of years. I wonder if some of that has to do with the structure of the neighborhoods (living in townhouses instead of apartments) or if it has more to do with the personalities of the people the neighborhoods attract. Or maybe it's just that I've finally come to see the value of it.


 

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Samoan factor complicates mission

Posted by Ben
on 01.21.08
Russel Nakagawa, cleancut Nisei baseball fan, compassionately buttresses Charles Pickford's teamspeak. Superanglo exec-seminar cant swirls innocent corruptions justifying greed's underlying heartfelt paternalism. C.P. counterwinks Russel's admissive shucksing, humoristically ass-backing lest neo-employed tempster unpeel indiscriminatable civil right's facemask.
L O O K ! A novel in which no word appears more than once, a constraint that even Harry Mathews and Alastair Brotchie called "ruthlessly simple and mind-boggling".

 

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Two unrelated thoughts

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.21.08

Have we talked about this interesting but sure-to-be-used-for-toolish-purposes Freakonomics column about the unexpected consequences of (among other things) the ADA? Interesting if true.

The second, also uninteresting thought: I find single-occupancy restrooms that are gender-restricted to be really odd.


 

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I Have A Dream

Posted by Becks
on 01.21.08

That one day I will have the third Monday of each year to spend at my leisure.


 

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My own favorite pick-up line

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.21.08

Becks' post reminded me of a weekend highlight: after the club closed I was waiting to buy a gyro from a street vendor when a woman walked up to me and started the don't-I-know-you routine, which I interpreted as a standard conversation-starting ritual until her questions moved from "...met at that art opening?" to "don't you have cancer?"


 

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Spreading joy

Posted by Ben
on 01.20.08

Prinzhorn Dance School is a great band. One can listen to one of the tracks from their s/t album here and another here. Oh look, a video with accompanying music about space invaders.


 

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Put Him Down

Posted by Becks
on 01.20.08

At lunch today, I overheard a couple that was obviously on a first date:

Boy: I'm in my second year of law school. I'll probably take a firm job for a few years to pay off my loans but then it's my dream to open the first law firm representing needy helpless animals.

The girl ate that shit up. I was left wondering exactly what kind of cases he was thinking he'd have -- pets looking to emancipate themselves from their owners? I wanted to interrupt them and ask about his business model.


 

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What Lies Beneath

Posted by Becks
on 01.20.08

On purchasing lingerie for another:

Lingerie cuts to the quick of what makes us vulnerable: desire, expectation, vaginas, boobs. Delicately dangling the bra between her thumb and index fingers, she says, "Thank you so much, it's beautiful!" and thinks, Is this what he thinks is sexy? Is this what he wants me to wear? Is he saying he doesn't like my cotton briefs? Later that night, after goose and figgy pudding, she'll obligingly emerge from the bathroom. Though wearing only the negligible negligee you have just given to her, she is more naked than nude. The gift reveals more than it covers, about you, about her, about what and how you want each other to be. And even as that fraught tango of ideal selves trails off, the gift exchange itself remains.
Buying a present is always an investment and investors are obviously wed to the investments they've made. If the panties bunch awkwardly or the silk stretches strangely, you are faced with an essential and unpleasant dilemma: Is it your present or she who has failed?

 

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