Is it poor etiquette to show up to a party 5-10 minutes early, if you don't know the hosts? Recent examples: a birthday party that starts at 2:00, out in the country, and we are there 10 minutes early, and I demand we circle the neighborhood for 5 minutes. (The parents are acquaintances but we're not really friends with them.) Or a party at a friend's mother's house, which ostensibly starts at 8, but we arrived 7:50ish, and I wanted to sit in the car until 8.
Jammies' opinion is that the host knows people can't perfectly time when they show up, and within 5-10 minutes, it's fine to knock. My opinion is that I might easily still be in the shower, or madly piling a mess into a closet and trying to get the door to close, or still have to review the to-do list and frantically call a friend to pick up some ice and plasticware on their way over. That I might need every last second to get my act together, and therefore a sizable portion of hosts might be like me, not Jammies.
I also say "Who wants to be first? That's the most awkward small talk" but that matters less if you've got a toddler to watch. Small children are perfect for occupying awkward small talk.
What say you?
Fortune, good or bad, finds me at the Tropicana in Atlantic City all weekend, and I don't really gamble. But I will for you, Mineshaft. I'll spend up to $20 dollars on the game of your choosing.
I await your instructions.
There's a certain kind of insanity, not a feeling of not being oneself any longer, but a loss of a grip on what it would be to feel, or not feel, oneself at all, which is apt to be brought on at family reunions, especially those at which one encounters distant relatives for the first time. At such gatherings one gets a keen sense of the family "look", and the general family mode of behavior. One sees not only one's features return to one in the features of countless others; one sees, too, one's squabbles with one's siblings (say) reflected in the bickering of great-aunt so-and-so and her husband. There seems to vanish any sense of oneself as an individual, oneself as something substantial, rather than a congeries of free-floating traits that happen to be combined, here, in these proportions. But even this is too much; it's not as if one can say that one is so much of Cousin X in this respect, so much of Great-Aunt Y in this other respect, and so on, for X and Y stand revealed as having no more solidity in themselves than one oneself has (as we know, a family reunion is a system with no positive elements). Nor can one console oneself with the thought that at least one is the only one to have these traits in this precise proportion, because, even if that is true (and how can one be sure?) it is only accidental.
At its most extreme, someone who suffers from this delusion will not only see himself as just a congeries of shared traits; he will also begin to see in every person one encounters nothing more than a collection of traits previously encountered in oneself or in others ("[dem] Auge fällt es bequemer, auf einen gegebenen Anlass hin ein schon öfter erzeugtes Bild wieder zu erzeugen, als das Abweichende und Neue eines Eindrucks bei sich festzuhalten"), those others and that self in turn lacking any real substance. Nothing new under the sun, here or there, no potential for surprise; you've seen everything already.
The name of this delusion is, of course, metempsychosis.
Check out the current cover of Time Magazine:
This week's issue of Time screams, "ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?" over a photo of a woman breastfeeding her son who, frankly, looks old enough to cut up his own piece of steak. While the article takes a serious look at "attachment parenting" -- a controversial child-rearing philosophy pioneered by pediatrician Dr. Bill Sears -- the cover is meant to incite both public ridicule and maternal anxiety -- just in time for mother's day. "Look at that weirdo over-mothering her kid!" and "OMG, will my child grow up to be a maladjusted, angry asshole because I was a neglectful parent who weaned him before he learned to read!?" The issue has definitely kicked the "mommy wars" up a notch, but there's also an important debate happening right now: Is progressive motherhood an extension of go-getter feminism or is it just a misogynistic ploy to take women out of the workforce and rob them of their freedom?
To the last question, IMO it's neither. It's not "go-getter feminism" leading to the surge in UMC Intensive Mothering*, it's the low-self-esteem perfectionist streak that I see in college age girls constantly, only ten years older. Their self-worth is rooted in their ability to present a perfect package.
Dr. Sear's has created the Bloxorz of parenting for this particular personality: a full 30 hours of sacred bonding that you must squeeze into every 24 hour day. But he would have been ignored with countless others if perfectionist mothers didn't have the appetite for it.
It's not a misogynistic ploy to take women out of the workforce and rob them of their freedom, but that's a nasty side effect.
(I do think many teenage girls have been groomed for an endless perfectionist hamster wheel. On one hand, it's totally awesome - they're responsible and they get shit done, and they're introspective and they work hard. On the other hand, everything in moderation.)
*The stereotypes are all about mothers. When fathers do it, it's balanced and rewarding.
Your babies are chock-full of flame-retardant chemicals, which do not retard flames in the slightest, as the result of extensive lobbying and lying. Of course.
I wish they'd gone into some more of the suspected health risks tied to these chemicals. I assume it's mostly unknown, but they still could have discussed what's suspected.
If I were a Slate writer, I'd do a contrarian piece on how the conventional wisdom about Maurice Sendak - that he wrote scary stories - is wrong. Slate instead tells us "Sendak understood that children need to be terrified."
In fact, Sendak's stories aren't frightening for children, but are often intended to tweak adults - something that delights children. Here's Slate, echoing just about everybody:
There are, in Where the Wild Things Are, the wild things with their terrible claws and terrible teeth, who want to keep him on their island forever.
But he'd already mastered the Wild Things, and they wanted to keep him because they adored him. "Please don't go. We'll eat you up we love you so." I refuse to believe that I'm the only parent who would accompany that line with mock-threatening nom-nom-nom noises aimed at my audience. Sendak was being comical.
And then there is the impotent, invisible adult world, the punishing or neglectful parents, off the page, who won't or can't help. Sendak is taking on the primal, irrational fear: You are not safe in your room.
Nonsense. Yes, Sendak is saying adults are impotent, but only because they have no power over a child. Sending the Wild Thing to his room has the opposite of its intended result: The child is freed, not incarcerated.
Of course the tousled boy characters are not killed by mauling wild things or baked in a hot oven by bakers with Hitler mustaches
Those are Oliver Hardy moustaches.
Sendak resonates because he empowers kids, not because he terrifies them. Pierre is impervious to threats, bribes, and even - most frighteningly for adults - his mother's love:
"Good morning, darling boy,
you are my only joy."
Pierre said, "I don't care!"
Pierre can't even be intimidated by a hungry lion, and when the lion eats him, we see that Pierre is still in control.
His mother asked,
"Where is Pierre?"
The lion answered,
"I don't care!"
When I was a kid, this line - and the fact that eating Pierre made the lion sick - struck me as hilarious. And what are the horrible consequences of being eaten by a lion? Pierre learns a lesson, and there's no hard feelings.
The lion took them home to rest
and stayed on as a weekend guest.
The confusion about Sendak is a result of the era in which he wrote. In his time, his work was subversive, and so adults found it scary. Sure, if we define him as a children's book author, he's edgy, but he's quite tame as a writer of fairy tales.
I think I found the books slightly unsettling as a child.
So here's a question that's just occurred to me: what would you legalize?
When I got to the final exam yesterday, I realized that I xeroxed Version A twice, instead of half Version A and half Version B. There's already been a lot of cheating this semester. In this class, there are too many students to spread them out, and they can easily see each other's papers.
If I'm being totally honest with myself, I must admit that part of the reason cheating infuriates me is that I suspect what I'm teaching them doesn't really matter in any sense. The only consequence of their cheating is whatever I can manufacture.
(Unless they're taking more math classes, in which case the cheating delivers its own consequences. I don't need to feel angry in those situations, because there's a natural consequence.)
Part of the reason I like my career is that it's not too important. If I were doing something with public policy or something, I'd have ulcers from the stress of dealing with people who disagree with me. So part of me thinks "Of course they're cheating. We're all playing a game called 'Master This Tome of Assorted Calculus Tricks' and they recognize, correctly, that it's a game."
In the end, cheaters are not my most despised students. I think worse of cheaters if I think they could have engaged with the material and mastered it, but not if they were in so far over their head that they had no chance at passing.
The students who I despise (much more than cheaters) are the ones who wreck the game for everyone - those who work really hard to bring dourness to the classroom energy, or those who publicly relish incompetence, or those who generate camaraderie around skipping out on the work. If you want to check out individually, no problem. But if you try to spread your negativity, then you hamper my ability to draw everyone into the game, and that makes you my enemy.
I love pompous, pretentious retrospectives.
WARREN LITTLEFIELD: It may seem hard to believe today, but in '94 we were playing in core-conceptual territory that hadn't been explored that much on network TV--young-adult relationships. We wanted these characters to feel real, and we knew they had to be likable.
WARREN LITTLEFIELD: For me, we were about six scripts in, and each time I'd read one I saw tremendous emotional resonance. I thought, This is a Shakespearean soap opera. It's a drama that's really, really funny, and with a complex architecture. Unlike Seinfeld, which lived to be funny but not to feel.
DAVID CRANE: That's why we were always surprised when people compared us to Seinfeld.
MATT LeBLANC: In between all the jokes, there was this emotional thread. You cared about these people. You were invested in these relationships. You can't get enough of these people. Why? No one could describe their passion for it.
It's true, I can't describe my passion for it.
I guess I never watched the final episode:
Having seen the Seinfeld finale and knowing when you depart from who you are it doesn't make the audience happy, let's deliver to the audience what they want and what they've earned.
MARTA KAUFFMAN: Everybody knew where we were going to end up. Ross and Rachel were going to be together somehow. We just had to make it entertaining.
Wasn't the Seinfeld finale done backwards or something?
A friend told me this story about getting his class photo, at age 7:
1. The night before, his dad had attempted to give him a haircut. The razor slipped and buzzed down to the scalp, and so they shaved his entire head to match.
2. Right before the photo, he had been drinking milk, and he got concerned that there would be a milk mustache, even though he had wiped off the milk. So he decided to cover up his upper lip with his lower lip, as far up as it would stretch. You know, so he wouldn't look funny.
3. He wore the same shirt as he had been wearing in the class photo the year before.
Isn't that terrible? It's great.
Here's my worst experience, also about 7 years old:
I got in trouble and got sent to another room. Everyone forgot I was there, and went to take the class photo without me. I did get retrieved for my individual photo, the kind that got tucked in an oval in the corner of the page, with your class photo.
When my parents asked why I wasn't in the photo, I told them that it was to save film. No kid needed to be in both the class photo and the individual photo, so I was in everyone else's class photo, but not in my own. Likewise for each other student. I don't remember my parents giving me a hard time about this brilliant lack of logic, though.
In theory, I love local cooperative organizations which capitalize on the fact that we are all in a community together, and therefore we all stand to gain if we organize and promote our priorities. But Home Owner Associations are just that, and they seem to always be snotty jerks obsessed with cosmetic housing details. The priorities that HOAs actually set make me want to side with the libertarians.
Someone called into a radio show the other morning and described how the HOA foreclosed on their house, after who knows what series of violations. How can it be mandatory to join a HOA?
(I've never actually lived in a neighborhood with an HOA. This is based on hearsay and stereotypes. Most likely they have personalities based on who is running them, and they probably vary from happy to crappy. Also I think coop boards tend to be a little different.)
A professor and eleven students may be sent to the hoosegow for their role in protests which eventually led to a bank shutting down its campus branch. Long background article calling for more faculty involvement; comments (pdf) by the prof in question.
How screwed are people with 401Ks? I think I read recently that people coming up on retirement with 401Ks have about 1/5 of the income they need to retire on. Are middle class people all going to be supporting their parents, and a huge group of seniors are going to be living in poverty after a reasonably middle class working life? And those who can, keep working longer?
Unequivocally yes, I assume. Will this ever become the subject of public debate? It seems like one of the most urgent disasters illustrating the failure of privatization to solve public issues.
My prediction: If the poverty of senior citizens is discussed, it will be spun as the looming bankruptcy of Social Security and its failure as a social support system, instead of the failure of 401Ks and privatized savings plans.
Is there a rift between history departments and sociology departments? I was talking to a history friend of mine, who basically scoffed away the entire discipline of sociology in one breath, and I jumped on it, having never really heard a case that all of sociology was empty. It was determined that we'll hash it out over coffee at some point, so I don't really know the skeleton of his argument.
I was under the impression that sociology tells us lots of useful stuff through a combination of large-scale randomized studies and naturally-occurring studies, and both have their limitations, but so does everything else in life. What's the problem?
I'm used to scoffing at economics and business departments, but I hadn't come across this before. What's the standard argument used to undermine sociology? Is it grounded? Does it reflect a rift among sociologists, some of whom try to fix the problem and others who doggedly won't admit it's a problem?
I played a wedding gig last night. It was at this rather interesting winery. It was a great time, especially given that I was technically "working."
I got to chatting with my bandmate, and I mentioned I always had fun at weddings. That is, I've never been to a wedding and not had fun. He, in contrast, said he's been to a number of terrible weddings, and terrible for different reasons: awkward people that didn't interact well, or family members who don't get along being weird, or a lame DJ/band, just to name a few. It made me feel fortunate for my streak of fun weddings.
Also, you should all be pleased to know that we played "Sexy and I know it" not once but twice, because the bride's cousin missed it the first time (and he really—I mean really—likes the "wiggle wiggle wiggle" part).
And finally, there were bagpipers there, and we were disappointed they couldn't join the band for a song. Apparently their bagpipes can't be tuned, so it wouldn't sound right. So I guess that's a thing? Some (all?) bagpipes can't be tuned.