Friday, February 29, 2008

Conflict of Interest? Atlas Shrugged

From The Charleston Gazette: West Virginia's Marshall University has accepted a $1 million grant from BB&T. But the money comes with a catch -- Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged must be part of the Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism (the institute founded by the grant)'s curriculum. This of course, raises some issues about the academic integrity of allowing a particular book's spot on an academic syllabus to essentially be purchased. Especially when the book in question is such a well, polarizing title. (You think the movie will be required too?)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Midweek Shouts/Murmurs

This seems pretty Wednesday-appropriate to me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Things Fall Apart

Tonight! Town Hall, 8PM. A Tribute to Chinua Achebe:

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of his seminal novel Things Fall Apart, PEN American Center presents a tribute to Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. On February 26, Chinua Achebe will be joined by Chris Abani, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Michael Cunningham, Edwidge Danticat, Suheir Hammad, Ha Jin, Colum McCann, and Toni Morrison. The evening will also feature a special performance by the Francesca Harper Dance Project with dancers from the Alvin Ailey School.

Monday, February 25, 2008


So Slate has been all over that New York Times/McCain mess.  The XX Factor calls the Times story "one of the weirdest news stories I've ever read." Jack Shafer notes that "Both Republicans and press observers regard the piece as a low-calorie meal assembled from moldy ingredients and sullied by unethical preparation" (but he defends it anyway. And the Times says thanks). Then there's a blog-tour.  Blah, blah. I think that Timothy Noah, however, hits the nail on the head

McCain, of course, is the piano player/prostitute in this scheme, and, obviously, he's the one who's been shot. But (I predict) he will be carried upstairs, and wise old Doc will tend to him, and he'll be back on his feet in no time. The Times and the New Republic are looking at a much longer convalescence. (What is it with the Times' political coverage these days? Two weeks ago the paper ran an idiotic story arguing that Barack Obama didn't take enough drugs when he was in college.) Regardless of whether he had the affair, McCain wins.

Exactly!  Gah!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Girls, They Want to Have Fun

Why is this article in the Fashion & Style -- and not Health -- section of The New York Times? While you ponder that question, an amusing ditty from the Broadsheet archives:

Why block a vaccine? Here's our answer.
Gardasil is no values-enhancer.
To prevent HPV
Causes sex, don't you see?
And quite frankly, we prefer cancer.

Moving to Brooklyn

Via Gothamist: This weekend this little guy, Mao Mi the red panda (the AP actually calls him a "cuddly cutie") arrived at the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn. According to The Guardian:

There is estimated to be a population of less than 2,500 [red pandas] remaining in their wild habitats of Bhutan, China, India, Laos, Nepal and Burma and their numbers are increasingly threatened as humans encroach on their habitat. Zookeepers in Brooklyn said the new arrival was hogging the attention from visitors and was busy exploring his new home.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On Cold Showers

I like my gym -- convenient hours and locations, well-maintained facilities, boppin' tunes, weight-loss advice that in fact works (if you follow it), etc. etc. (did I mention the hairdryers? the hairdryers are great). But if I have one complaint, it's that sometimes the showers turn icy cold without warning. Why does this happen? And, more importantly, why does this happen to me? Well, as BoingBoing kindly explains, when the gym is crowded, no one is spared. Here's why cold water indifferently rains down on the svelte and not-so-svelte alike:

Christina Matzke at the University of Bonn in Germany and Damien Challet of the Institute for Scientific Interchange in Turin, Italy, used a mathematical model to show that shower temperature becomes increasingly sensitive to small changes in hot-water flow as the number of users increases. Thus in a youth hostel, for example, the showers often fluctuate between scalding hot and ice cold during heavy use. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


This chart is from NASA's site (which also notes that "Although total eclipses of the Moon are of limited scientific value, they are remarkably beautiful events which do not require expensive equipment.") The next total lunar eclipse won't happen til 2010! Let's hope for clear skies.

"Because You're Going to Drink Anyway"

For all you boozy philanthropists, Cause for Drinks will be at Happy Ending tonight. And on Friday it's a champagne fundraiser for Ladakh schools in Jammu and Kashmir (as hosted by Abhinav and Gowri). Bottoms up!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Now This is Funny

Via Tran: Stuff White People Like. Says (dear, pasty) GOOD Magazine of the site (and this is funny too): "It's kind of staggering how this blog just never seems to miss." 

Friday, February 15, 2008

Go Obama!

Since Valentine's Day -- like supporting Obama -- is so over. Via my brother, Dalia Lithwick's low concept, dubious and far-fetched (George Costanza -style) break-up letter to Barack! Because that lame-o Potomac hat trick was just the last straw.

The Newest Hippest Museum Building Ever

I was planning on skipping the New Museum entirely -- after several friends declared its exhibits more or less "meh," I figured I would be okay with forgoing the $12 admission fee and leaving my exploration of a building that "speaks of a discernment about contemporary architecture that may promise equal astuteness about contemporary art" to a routine inquisitive glance in its direction during my weekly pilgrimmage to Whole Foods (aka The Hippest Supermarket Ever). But! On Thursday nights, entrance is free! So yesterday I at last paid my respects to "the kind of building that renews your faith in New York as a place where culture is lived, not just bought and sold," you know, a building that "captures an unnerving moment in the city’s cultural history with near-perfect pitch." Verdict: Although from outside, the New Museum really does just look like "a pile of six boxes, stacked unevenly, like a child’s blocks," inside, it's spacious and inviting (with saucy touches, like chartreuse! elevators). Are its exhibits "sincere and ironic, acutely self-aware, knowingly shaky, a little snarky, inwardly anxious, and uncertain about the future, but brashly passionate about art without pledging allegiance to any one style"? Possibly not, but I would totally party there anyway.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chafing Thighs, Mental Health Days and the Like

Don't Believe Everything You Read

Since it's Valentine's Day. A round-up of requisite romance/relationship reads! In The New York Times, city-dwellers move in together and vegetarians and non-vegetarians work it out.   The Atlantic Monthly makes "the case for settling for Mr. Good Enough," though according to The New York Observer, these days "Cocky Swingers Are Replaced by Goopy Guys Waiting for Ms. Right" anyway. Choire Sicha has another twist on spouse-hunting: "This Valentine's Day, Sleep With Someone Married!" Incredibly, Cosmo comes up with advice even worse than that. Is Valentine's Day over yet?

Rain, Bananas and the Like

Since it's Valentine's Day. Something sweet! This one's called "Stories" by John Edgar Wideman:

A MAN WALKING in the rain eating a banana. Where is he coming from. Where is he going. Why is he eating a banana. How hard is the rain falling. Where did he get the banana. What is the banana's name. How fast is the man walking. Does he mind the rain. What does he have on his mind. Who is asking all these questions. Who is supposed to answer them. Why. Does it matter. How many questions about a man walking in the rain eating a banana are there. Is the previous question one of them or is it another kind of question, not about the man or walking or the rain. If not, what's it a question about. Does each question raise another question. If so, what's the point. If not, what will the final question be. Does the man know any of the answers. Does he enjoy bananas. Walking in the rain. Can the man feel the weight of eyes on him, the weight of questions. Why does the banana's bright yellow seem the only color, the last possible color remaining in a gray world with a gray scrim of rain turning everything grayer. I know question after question after question. The only answer I know is this: all the stories I could make from this man walking in the rain eating banana would be sad, unless I'm behind a window with you looking out at him.

Kaleidoscopes, Mosaics, and the Like

Since it's Valentine's Day. Two takes on smashed-up hearts! The DH Lawrence is from Lan, the Dorothy Parker from a book Polly loaned me a long time ago that I still haven't returned yet.

For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken.
It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.
–DH Lawrence, “Pomegranate”

A heart in half is chaste, archaic;
But mine resembles a mosaic-
The thing's become ridiculous!
Why am I so? Why am I thus?

–Dorothy Parker, "A Fairly Sad Tale"

Monday, February 11, 2008

The AXE Effect

Says Ana Marie Cox (of the very similar Obama version), "Lazy, not funny and AXE smells like whale puke, anyway."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Go Obama!

Let's call today's installment of "Go Obama!" The Backlash Edition. You know what I'm talking about -- the way the modifier "cultish" has become the new "unelectable" or "inexperienced" in NObama-speak. This ABC round-up observes TPM's Kathleen Geier "getting increasingly weirded out by some of Obama's supporters," Time magazine's Joe Klein finding "something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism" and MSNBC's Chris Matthews resorting to Biblical comparisons. But I liked Joel Stein's account of this phenomenon in the LA Times best:

Obamaphilia has gotten creepy. I couldn't figure out if the two canvassers who came to my door Sunday had taken Ecstasy or were just fantasizing about an Obama presidency, but I feared they were going to hug me. Scarlett Johansson called me twice, asking me to vote for him. She'd never even called me once about anything else. Not even to see "The Island."

The campaign dispatches of ex-Gawker man -- and Obama vote-caster -- Choire Sicha show a similar eye for the comedy of fanaticism ("They sure like to chant 'yes we can!' " he writes of one Obama drinking event). It has something to do with the issue of Obama's "coolness," summed up by the New York Times as a choice heavy with aesthetic/lifestyle connotations: "Is Obama A Mac And Clinton A PC?" The comparison is fun but worrisome -- not only is it "not clear that aligning with the trendy Mac aesthetic is good politics," those commericals are kind of annoying anyway.

"People want to vote for him because it feels like a dare," Sicha writes. "It feels like a treat. It’s just so crazy, they’re thinking! And why not? Everyone’s doing it!" Enthusiasm (and even a little pump-up music) is great -- if it's backed with substance. But there's a lot to be said for playing it cool, too. As Stein concludes:

... The best we Obamaphiles can do is to refrain from embarrassing ourselves. And I do believe that we can resist making more "We Are the World"-type videos. [BP: My brother calls the video "the kiss of death."] We can resist crying jags. We can resist, in every dinner argument and every e-mail, the word "inspiration." Yes, we can.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Big Numbers

From The Best Creative Nonfiction Vol 1 on the number seven:

Seven is the largest prime number between zero and ten. Out of all the numbers, the very largest primes are still unknown. Still, every year, the very largest prime is larger. Euclid proved the number of primes to be infinite, but the infinity of primes may be slightly smaller than the infinity of the rest of the numbers. It is here, exactly at this point, that my ability to comprehend begins to fail.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How to Celebrate the Year of the Rat?

From an article on Slate today called "How the Grinch Stole Chinese New Year":

Over the past century, the long-held traditions associated with Chinese New Year have been stripped away, right down to the holiday's name: By government decree, Chinese New Year was rechristened "Spring Festival." For most urban families, celebrating is limited to eating dumplings, setting off fireworks, and watching the national TV program (this year's theme, "Thriving China, Harmonious Society"), which will feature a blind singer and a comedy routine called "Olympic Torch Bearers." Gone from cities are rituals like kowtowing to elders and burning the Kitchen God. (As is also the case with the fortune cookie, large Chinese New Year parades like San Francisco's are an American invention.) Almost every one of the Chinese New Year traditions has been banned at some point in recent decades. It's as if the U.S. government outlawed and vilified Santa Claus costumes, nativity scenes, and Christmas lights.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


On newsstands tomorrow! Hillary Clinton deconstructs her worst outfits in Us Weekly! I'm not making this up!

The Democratic presidential hopeful backed out of a Vogue fashion shoot (earning criticism from editor Anna Wintour) — but was game when it came to spoofing her style in the Fashion Police section of the new issue of Us Weekly, on stands tomorrow.

Of a tropical-colored, ankle length coat at a Feed the Children event in 2000, Clinton quipped: “I’m a big believer in recycling — even carpets!”

She also mocks her own wedding dress, joking, “They got the idea for the Seinfeld ‘puffy shirt’ from me.”

Go Obama!

... I admit that I'm getting tired of listening to rationales from people who know that Obama is a remarkable, even an extraordinary politician, the kind who comes along, in this era of snakes and empty smiles, no more than once a generation.

Oh, sure, most of these people tell me they would like to see Obama become president. No question, he comes off as at once brilliant and sensible, vibrant and measured, engaged and engaging, talented, forthright, quick-witted, passionate, thoughtful and, as with all remarkable people whom experience has taught both the extent and the bitter limits of their gifts, reasonably humble. In a better world, people tell me, in theory, sure, having a president like Barack Obama sounds great. But not, you know, for real. Not in the base, corrupt, morally spent, toxic and reeling rats' nest that we like to call home.

... To support Obama, we must permit ourselves to feel hope, to acknowledge the possibility that we can aspire as a nation to be more than merely secure or predominant. We must allow ourselves to believe in Obama, not blindly or unquestioningly as we might believe in some demagogue or figurehead but as we believe in the comfort we take in our families, in the pleasure of good company, in the blessings of peace and liberty, in any thing that requires us to put our trust in the best part of ourselves and others. That kind of belief is a revolutionary act. It holds the power, in time, to overturn and repair all the damage that our fear has driven us to inflict on ourselves and the world.

And when we all wake up on Nov. 5, 2008, to find that we have made Barack Obama the president of the United States, the world is already going to feel, to all of us, a little different, a little truer to its, and our, better nature. It is part of the world's nature and of our own to break, ruin and destroy; but it is also our nature and the world's to find ways to mend what has been broken. We can do that. Come on. Don't be afraid.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Big Fat Super Tuesday

This heart-shaped purple map -- which presents Brooklyn's donations to Clinton in pink and Obama in blue -- comes from The Brooklyn Paper. Interesting, no? Between the primaries and the ticker-tape parade, tomorrow is going to be a big day in the city. So study up on what things will look like inside the voting booth and underground on the subway, get a good night's sleep, and remember the wise mayor (I wonder who he'll be cheering for?)'s advice: "Don’t throw anything heavy out the window.”

About Those Brown Spots

me: this morning when I was leaving the apartment
I spilled/flung a cup of coffee all over my desk and computer
I just got home and I was pulling my hair back and I looked at the ceiling
and there's coffee on the ceiling
it's amazing

Lan: hahaha
me: I think it merits a blog post
Lan: haha
it does

Same Difference

So I finally saw There Will Be Blood. Terrific movie; incredible soundtrack! Hooray! But the real highlight of my cinematic experience took place during the previews -- more specifically, during the trailer for The Duchess (starring Keira Knightley) when Leah cried out in anguish, "Another fucking Natalie Portman movie?" Amen.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Baby in Danger!

In Slate Jack Shafer offers up an excellent systematic critique of sordid news headlines online. Counterpoint: Slate's headlines are more than a little odd in their way too. Tangentially: Something both odd and sordid -- but more importantly, funny (from the genius behind "Alice Wrigley: Gal Reporter," again via my brother). Baby in Danger!

A Rorschach Test

Leah emailed me this article about NOW and Feministing squaring off over presidential endorsements. Putting aside larger questions about recurring rifts between feminists young and old, I've been struck by how shallow much of the "feminist" discussion (NOW's endorsement included) on this election has been. I think this passage from the New York Observer's review of Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary says it well:

Let’s imagine this book’s concept—30 well-known women writers talk about how they “feel” about Hillary Clinton—applied to 30 male writers and a male presidential candidate. Adjusting for gender, the essay titles would now read: “Barack’s Underpants,” “Elect Brother Frigidaire,” “Mephistopheles for President,” “The Road to Codpiece-Gate,” and so on. Inside, we would find ruminations on the male candidate’s doggy looks and flabby pectorals; musings on such “revealing” traits as the candidate’s lack of interest in backyard grilling, industrial arts and pets; and mocking remarks about his lack of popularity with the cool boys on the playground (i.e., the writers and their “friends”). We would hear a great deal of speculation about whether the candidate was really manly or just “faking it.” We would hear a great deal about how the candidate made them feel about themselves as men and whether they could see their manhood reflected in the politician’s testosterone displays. … And we would hear virtually nothing about the candidate’s stand on political issues.