Friday, February 29, 2008
I finally finished my Malabrigo scarf. It turned out to be a little short, but so am I. I am learning so much as I knit more and more. For example, Malabrigo is a kettle-dyed 100% wool yarn, but it's very springy and soft. It runs through your hands nicely and has subtle but interesting variations in color. (It is a little split-prone, being single ply.) I recently ordered some Rio de la Plata, another kettle-dyed 100% wool from South America. It, however, is pretty disappointing:
The color is nowhere near as hypersaturated as it appeared online. Much of the hank was more lavender than iris and there is a wider range of tones than I was expecting (wider than the Malabrigo and the website image). I wanted to make a deeply colored beret, but this yarn just isn't right for that. It's more of a thick-and-thin than a worsted, but the variations aren't dramatic enough to show off in something like an Urchin hat. What's more, the yarn is sort of sticky. It adheres to itself and is more scratchy than the Malabrigo. I don't know what I'll do with it now. I guess this is how stashes start.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
1. The shelf is not necessarily a performance of self for someone else. Can we not perform our selves for ourselves? Is the validation of a perceived identity not also a form of performance? That a shelf can be a mode of social interaction does not invalidate the idea that it can also be an inwardly directed exploration of self.
2. Aspirational taste implies that one intends to read the book, not that one wishes to have a Gatsbyesque wall of decorative volumes with uncut pages. *cough Klein cough*
3. I don't know who said that shelved books must be read in their entirety, but that's bollocks. If this were the standard, no proponent of the theory would be able to keep things like college texts, which are often read in part. Is there anyone out there who actually made this claim and has purged his shelves of anything for which he read only the assigned or pertinent chapters?
4. McLemee thinks his books talk to him and tell him what to read. I view my books as something like friends or family members who share my living space. My shelving scheme is less related to genre or subject than it is a separation of cliques. Let's not get into a nerd-off, okay?
5. Perhaps Nick is correct and this all stems from a Shintoist orientation that rejects the collection of unused material objects when they are not being used to the full extent possible. (Note that this is not inconsistent with Point 3; if I own a book because it has several chapters on an issue relevant to my interests or studies, I am using the book qua book to the extent I can. On the other hand, a totally unread book is being used for nothing except display, for which its contents are irrelevant and wallpaper would serve just as well, unless some deception is intended.) This also explains why I hate the very idea of students
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Megan McArdle comments: "You'd think she'd say yes, and then tell him later . . . ."
Apropos of the earlier discussion on this blog about being left at the altar versus being asked for an immediate annulment: would you rather be left on the court or have the ring returned the next day?
(I know the video's not real, but that's not relevant for purposes of the hypo.)
I'd like to see the results for a survey with a broader swath of potential responses:
C) Parents pressured me into it
D) Didn't know what to do with a comparative literature degree
E) Business school has too many numbers
F) Desperate to defer engagement with the real world and rejected from PhD programs
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
- There are people, including men, who can tell if you are wearing any makeup, even if it is skillfully applied.
- It is quite possible to apply makeup such that almost anyone, even another woman, will think you're not wearing any. This happened to me multiple times, and my (female!) friend once insisted for a few moments that I do not, in fact, wear foundation. This flip side to this is that when you actually don't wear any, people think you're ill.
- For every man who hates the way lipstick tastes, there is a woman who thinks oily skin, pimples, and chapped lips are gross.
- Everyone looks better with a little eyeliner. Even boys. Also, cream eyeliners are awesome.
- There are not enough beauty choices for people at the ends of the skin tone spectrum. This is largely but not entirely a product of market forces.
- Kevyn Aucoin's books are a great way to learn about applying makeup.
- There is an inverse relationship between the staying power of a lipstick and its effect on your lips.
The only moderately interesting thing about this book was how its poor character development was highlighted by my heterosexist assumptions. When a thinly-drawn male character inexplicably hops in bed with an incredibly flat female character just to move the plot in an improbable but necessary direction, it registers as being clumsy but doesn't bring my reading to a halt. When one of the male characters in this book, who has not been previously indicated to be gay, suddenly begins a torrid sexual affair with a strange man* , it comes off as very disruptive. I thought more about my reaction to this than I did about the book itself. Not recommended, even for long flights.
* A spy out to seduce him into joining a group that's a cross between the Dark Side and the Hashshashin, and let's not even get into how easily this is done, thanks to the instantaneous bond of luuurve between Stupid Magic Student and Spy Guy . . . .
Friday, February 22, 2008
The apparently successful school models like KIPP seem to be countering the chaos of children's lives by literally removing them from their families and neighborhoods through long school days and summer classes, and a policy of sending graduates on to elite high schools so far away from their homes that either they become boarding students, or the daily commute ensures that they spend little time at home. Practically, this in tandem with serious discipline might be effective, but how is it going to work in the long-term and on a broader scale? Are we going to turn the inner cities into little Spartas, where children are removed from their families and sent to live in communal military training camps? How is this education, effective as it may be in countering some of the worst tendencies of public schools, going to lead to the re-creation of functioning families and livable neighborhoods?
Thursday, February 21, 2008
[T]he labeled diagram of a vagina splashed across the front page of the student newspaper's Valentine's Day issue . . . ran under the hot-pink headline "Have a happy Vagina Day!" and the four-page edition included stories titled "Ending shame for nature's gift" and "Rejected!!!!!!!"Lots of great issues here: Was the paper seriously disruptive? Should it have been (presumably these kids have had sex ed)? Is a shirt with the word "vagina" seriously disruptive? Is it more so than a shirt proclaiming "Abortion is Murder" or emblazoned with a slogan insulting the president? I am on the kids' side but skeptical of their intentions.
California students are some of the only in the country with special state laws protecting their rights to free expression in school, said Mike Hiestand, attorney and legal consultant to the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va. Six other states have similar laws, he said. Typically, Hiestand said, students can publish whatever they like, as long as the speech is not unlawful or "seriously disruptive."
After a flurry of overnight MySpace bulletins, [Edmond, a student editor] and other students showed up at school Friday wearing homemade white, black and pink T-shirts reading "My vagina is obscene."
Similar fliers were taped to backpacks and posted around school. When Edmond, who describes himself as a community activist, and two other protesters refused to change their clothes, school officials sent them home.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I have been on a waiting list since my now 5 and a half year old son was 10 months old. I was told that I would have to wait half a year or more after my children finally stop nursing before I could have a reduction. My youngest is 16 months and won't be giving up nursing anytime soon. This is entirely besides the point anyway, what she said was offensive and insulting to say the least.That's a long wait with painfully enormous breasts!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
So who’s my one writer? Who’s the one whose books I crack open when I need to seduce some unwitting pawn in the grand game that is my life? Who do I turn to when I need to remember that love is crushing and heartbreaking and that it’s totally normal to be lying in bed wiping tears from my eyes with bunched up toilet paper because the world is just that cruel that as a writer, my budget is limited to toilet paper and not tissue, especially not aloe-laced Kleenex brand tissue. I want to lie in bed and mourn the loss of my high school boyfriend because it feels good to be 32 years old and do this, you know?This is what poetry (for me, H.D., or maybe Neruda) is for. You?
So whose books do I open to validate this behavior?
Monday, February 18, 2008
Once the killing finally starts (guess when!), courtesy of your friendly neighborhood religious fanatics and their
I snark a bit on the "woodwights," but the allusions to other races, one of which was exterminated by two others in a genocide that supposedly drove the gods away from their creations, lend a depth to what would otherwise be a fairly banal setting. Ruckley actually does a good job of making the elf-like race genuinely inhuman, with a generous dollop of the savagery most fantasy authors channel solely to their orc analogues. Their motivations for allying with one human faction are not clear, though, and there'd better be more explanation coming. I also hope that in future books we learn more about other races and that one or two of the Whreinin survived and make an appearance. Recommended for fantasy junkies.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I also bought two skeins of the Cadena in Neptune to make the plain-yarn variant for myself, but I'm very underwhelmed by how it turned out. It used less than a whole skein for the medium size, but I'm not sure that a large size would be better. Maybe this yarn is just mediocre.
The only issues I had with the book were that Gabriel, the teenage boy who is rescued from a backwater upbringing and spirited away to the sophisticated and decadent capital of his conquered nation, is fundamentally stupid and uninteresting. Part of this is a lack of education, but by nature or nurture, Gabriel has been flattened, and he is only useful as a device to introduce us to the more multifaceted populace of the capital. There's also some exoticizing of the dark-skinned characters; I couldn't decide if it was over-the-top and discomfiting because it was parodic, or if it was merely an embrace of the tropes prevalent in fiction of the period in which the story is set (which is emphatically not today, although it does come off as a fantastic turn on alternate history in some ways). Recommended.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
[W]hat is it that consigns a book to the genre-fiction ghetto?I blame marketing.
I bought Jonathan Strange and Darkmans out of the General Fiction/Literature section ... but I picked up The Prestige and The Baroque Cycle in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I got World War Z in Horror, but A Brief History of the Dead in General Fiction/Literature. Yiddish Policemen's Union and Casual Rex/Anonymous Rex: GenFic/Lit; L.A. Confidential/Black Dahlia: Mystery. A Good and Happy Child: GenFic/Lit; The Terror: Horror.
I can't see anything that justifies this weird classification. ... There isn't any legitimate stylistic basis for the distinction, I think (though one could argue the point with certain books). And yet one group gets to call itself highbrow; the other is stuck with the lowbrow tag (and often, but not always, the genre packaging, with the geeky graphics and the garish colors and the embarassing title font). Who makes these decisions, and why?
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Miss Wurtzel, a student at Yale Law School, is the author of "Prozac Nation" (Houghton Mifflin, 1994).She was admitted to Yale Law in 2004 and was scheduled to graduate in January of this year. What gives? Did she flunk Civ Pro again?
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Also Levy-related: I attended a roundtable discussion on his recent federalism scholarship and the subject of whether Americans feel strong loyalty to their states came up. Most people seemed to think that such affiliations were somewhat uncommon, although still prevalent in a few states (cough Texas cough). Megan's recent post questioning whether America should be one nation seems like a good example of the sentiments we were discussing.
UPDATE: For those of you interested in the federalism papers, they can be found here (marked "recent").
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Saturday, February 09, 2008
The writing is masterful. Smith alternates between characters, focusing on a different member of the family in every chapter, and exploring their relationship to Amber, a youngish woman who walks into their holiday rental one day and makes herself at home. At first, everyone thinks she's the guest of someone else; eventually, they find out she isn't but let her stay anyway. She seduces the son, breaks the daughter's obsessive connection with interposing her camcorder between herself and life, stymies the academic lothario father by ignoring him completely, and subtly provokes the mother until she's finally thrown out. But even after she leaves, she turns their life upside down one last time.
The characters are incredibly, even annoyingly realistic; the daughter is insufferable, the son a perfectly ignored and perfectly self-obsessed teenager, the father an exceptionally well-drawn exemplar of homo academicus lotharius, and the mother an aloof hack haunted by her hackdom. The writing style changes with each chapter, and the sonnet sequence in the middle of the book documenting the father's fixation on Amber is one of the best uses of poetry-as-prose I've seen since Darlington's Fall. There are many virtues to this novel. If, however, you allow silly questions like "why would anyone let a total stranger remain in their home?" to niggle at you, the book may prove somewhat unsatisfying. Recommended to lovers of fine writing.
Friday, February 08, 2008
- The book will not be available in the future (out of print, etc.). Fair point, but uncommon.
- You think acquiring and storing unread books during your working life is more convenient than acquiring books on an as-needed basis in retirement. This is unlikely, since (1) you will be home all day for the UPS guy then and have unlimited time to potter in book shops; (2) you may also be paying higher rents now than you will then, if you currently live in someplace that's pricey due to good schools/proximity to the workplace. Storing stuff has costs.
- You think the future value of the money you spend on books today is less than the cost of those books in the future. I don't anticipate book price increases beating market returns.
- You like having lots of stuff.
To disabuse some mistaken visitors: I don't think that unread or bad books cannot touch a shelf and must be hidden in boxes under the bed. I just don't find it desirable to display them on more prominent shelves. I also don't have a problem with having a few unread books in the queue; I do think it is a waste of space and money to buy so many books that you will definitely not read them all. My scorn and distaste really are only aimed at people who buy books because they like to be perceived as the sort of person who has a lot of books.This reminds me: I need to put up or shut up re: that D.H. Lawrence and the biography of Learned Hand.
First things: the foreword. It's by Spider Robinson, and is one of the most fawning pieces of hagiography I've ever read. We are told that the ideas within are "profound" and that the piece has a romantic air of saudade. Robert A. Heinlein is referred to as "RAH," which isn't new but never fails to weird me out; "-rah" is Lapine for "Lord," and seeing RAH on the page comes off as a particularly nerdy form of "YHWH." I was cringing by the end of the foreword. Nothing, not least a first novel by a genre author, could live up to that sell.
And, of course, it doesn't. Did you find Ayn Rand insufficiently didactic? Do you enjoy reading completely illiterate economic theories spouted from the mouths of cardboard cutouts? Does the idea of reading alternate history by someone with no sense of history appeal? Then this book is for you. As a novel, it fails on every level: it has no real characters, almost no plot, and a completely unconvincing setting. The writing is pedestrian and consists mostly of monologues. The future society described is completely implausible to anyone with the least knowledge of economics, physics, or psychology.
I can't count this for the 50 Book Challenge because I didn't finish it. I do, however, wish to warn others.
* Because I suspected it might not be very good, being an unpublished SF manuscript by someone who published a lot of stuff, some of it dreck. Not shelfworthy!
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Bookshelves are not for displaying books you've read -- those books go in your office, or near your bed, or on your Facebook profile. Rather, the books on your shelves are there to convey the type of person you would like to be. I am the type of person who would read long biographies of Lyndon Johnson, despite not being the type of person who has read any long biographies of Lyndon Johnson. I am the type of person who is very interested in a history of the Reformation, but am not, as it happens, the type of person with the time to read 900 pages on the subject. More importantly, I am the type of person who amasses many books, on all sorts of subjects. I'm pretty sure that's what a bookshelf is there to prove.Prove to whom? People you want to delude into thinking you are well-read instead of merely glib? At least put a copy of this out to inoculate yourself from charges of deceit and pretention. I tend to agree with the commenter who inquires:
Who has sufficient disposable income to buy significant numbers of books and not read them? Me, I only ever buy books I'm pretty sure I'm going to read.They must be paying liberal journalist/bloggers better than I thought. A few years down the line, we'll have a Sex & the City: Beltway Edition scene, in which the wonkish blogger realizes that he doesn't have money for a down payment on one of those trendy Green Line condos because he has sunk thousands of dollars into books he's never even read. At least Carrie got some wear out of her Manolos.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Monday, February 04, 2008
The link is not safe for work, or, really, anywhere.