Thursday, January 29, 2009


Like Mr. Bush and other presidents before him, Mr. Obama typically begins his work day with a top-secret intelligence briefing on security threats against the United States. Mr. Bush received the “president’s daily brief” Monday through Saturday; Mr. Obama gets the briefing on Sunday as well.
Am I reading this correctly? The President who thought we needed to torture people in the name of national security thought that terrorists took Sundays off and he didn't need to be briefed? Maybe Julian was right and we are being almost mindbogglingly restrained.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"This is me, expressing myself."

Taking this outside the work uniform context: How do you express yourself? Is your chosen medium so tied to mass culture that all unique content is lacking and you're actually indistinguishable from your fellows? But how effective is it to express one's self outside such modes? Doesn't their expressive ability in some measure depend on having sufficient recognition in the outside world to get your point across to others? Pretty much any garment, book, or song that isn't made by local artisans, a small press, or Your Favorite Band Before They Sold Out is to some degree part of mass culture, and at minimum it's informed by it or follows in a mass-culture tradition or genre.

There's certainly a middle ground between someone who makes all their own music, garments, and literature and someone whose entire life revolves around brands, modern tribal insignia, and commonplace totems, making them walking billboards for shallow slogans and cliched jokes. You know, the ground where people actually live, where they put together assemblages of found objects and adopted badges of belonging and things they make up on their own and use them to convey a sense of identity and character to their fellows.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?

Discuss: What do women want? Do we want everything, indiscriminately (even bonobos)? Do we get off on being desired, and is that narcissistic? Are we more attracted to the person than the gender? Or is our burning love of hot male bodies just dampened by culture?

Jezzies weigh in.

Amanda Marcotte:
I can testify that it took me years to get past my cultural training that put all of men’s allowable physical appeal above the neck. “He has nice eyes/hair,” was the extent of girl talk about men’s physical characteristics. Now I’m happy to talk about men’s legs or ass or what have you, but I think that puts me on the far side of the “slutty” scale in our culture, still.

Honestly, with “being aroused by men’s bodies” taken off the table, and with much of your life being dedicated to living up to the image of a sexually attractive woman, is it any wonder that women eroticize being desired so strongly? Most women spend much of their time looking at themselves and trying to imagine what a straight man would see, because it’s our social duty to be sexually attractive.
How is a woman's arousal at witnessing a man turned on by another woman's body narcissistic? Why isn't it simply that she's delighting in female sexual power? Is it necessarily narcissistic to enjoy driving your partner wild?
It’s not narcissism. It’s a lifetime of experiencing the world secondarily, and seeing ourselves through male eyes; it’s the lack of agency and power that comes with being an object to be looked upon.
Did the NYT piece fairly represent how you, the female readership, perceive your sexuality? There were some parts that I found unsettlingly close to home. And is there any way to tease out the effects of culture? Should we even bother? Do we care what some theoretical Culture woman would want, or what a real 21st c. woman wants? Or is this just defeatist cultural essentialism?

UPDATE: Jesus, this is so damn sad:
I have a very hard time believing in feminine sexual desire, even though I know that’s unfair. I think it’s a matter of enculturation. This isn’t, by the way, a product of not being lucky with women, before other commenters chime in. It’s just you’re taught, as a man, that men desire and women are desired, and being in a situation where you genuinely believe that a women desires you is a rare and wonderful feeling.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oh Yoko!

Check out this series of posts discussing Yoko Ono from a feminist perspective.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh no she didn't.

Sylvia Olona better never work as a nurse again if these allegations are true.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Freebasing Caffeine

The next step for some professors?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sometimes they come early.

This is why I hate the bus.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Presumably this is why it's a question in online dating profiles.

On the revelatory power of one's favorite film:
Do your ever finally see one of your exes’ favorite movies and suddenly say, “OH. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE”?

I always avoid doing this while actually dating someone, but after the fact, I always wish I’d gotten the warning sooner.


One of the things I find fascinating ... is how wonderfully interesting someone can seem until you figure out what their primary aesthetic influence is. You’d like to think this would not make the entirety of their charm null, but it sort of does, especially when it seems to arise from a singular source.
Annoyingly aping one's primary aesthetic influence: sign of immaturity or inevitable human failing?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kitty Doppelgänger

Nancy Pelosi's cat looks just like Snape!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Now you're my ex-girl & I'm out with the next girl.

Have you ever been a penultamour? I have, at least four times.

Art Break

During a conversation on the contents of various holy books, this painting came up. I prefer it in some ways to the more famous depiction by Caravaggio.

Doesn't she look nonchalant? Anyway, these sorts of paintings always confused Young Amber, since they purported to depict Bible stories but they weren't in the Bible I had. Is there some kind of field guide to saints and religious figures in European art? Once you get beyond "Catherine is the lady with the wheel," my knowledge gets pretty tenuous. This strikes me as something that could be a great iPhone app, with searchable tags and little samples to identify the figures.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kissing Roundup

Who changes the kissing rules?

Katy Perry's male counterpart on the horizon?

Is kissing someone else not a reliable signal of unavailability?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

Perfect with grilled cheese sandwiches.

2 generous dollops of extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion , chopped medium
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 small bay leaf
1 28-ounce can diced or whole tomatoes packed in juice
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1.5 large slices good-quality sandwich bread , crusts removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
Table salt and ground black pepper

Cooked onion, garlic, and bay leaf in olive oil for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes; if using whole, crush them into small pieces. Add sugar and bread, bring to boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until the bread breaks down. Remove bay leaf and blend with hand blender until smooth. Add broth, salt and pepper to taste, and eat.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Over the last few months, I have been stalked, harassed, threatened with meritless lawsuits, and been the subject of numerous slanderous rumors. It has come to my attention that some people may have received correspondence accusing me of various nefarious deeds. I've been trying to ignore the situation and not engage, but if you are inclined to believe any of this, I invite you to ask me about the situation via email or phone (number on my Facebook page for friends).

Needless to say, the allegations are not true. Please, consider the source.

Bleg: If I have protected my Twitter feed and blocked someone on Facebook, how could they still be viewing my updates?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I wonder if Mel Gibson's Conspiracy Theory is popular there.

I went to Turkey in 2004 during their election season and it was kind of a trip. I haven't been keeping close tabs on what's going on there since then, but this article on a feisty Turkish newspaper and the cartoonish secret cabal that tried to take down their government is worth a look.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Random Roundup

- Bizarro foodie anti-intellectualism at Jezebel. The reason it's good to know how techniques work is so you can extrapolate that knowledge to cooking other things. If you don't know what's an old wives' tale and what actually adds something, you're going to end up cooking the same things or screwing up dramatically.

- If you can't write a great novel anymore, what's the point of fiction?

- Does demand for male beauty rest on the "pretty privilege" of certain women? (And should ugly women oppose increased beauty standards for men out of a self-interested stand against objectification?) ETA: Check this out.

- If you want to lose all faith in humanity, read this blog. He especially hates DC lawyer chicks, to which I say: Right back atcha, guy. (Edited to remove links to evil.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Attractors at odds?

E on dating:
The old canard about the major histocompatibility complex (MHC, no great links; just google it) and attraction is that there's a pheromone-mediated bias towards dissimilar MHCs, in the service of allelic diversity. Sure, I'd always thought, for other people. For me, I'd generally opted for the more explicitly cognitive similarity-promotes-liking mechanism, especially since some of the psychological research in that area is mine {cough}.

Here's the thing, and it's something you don't see discussed in the MHC literature too much: these two attractors are largely at odds. To put it in current and concrete terms: what are the chances that a blue-collar (-roots) Catholic guy from Wisconsin is going to get my Alvy Singer reference? And, more dispiritingly: do I really have to choose between shared cultural allusions and a touch that inexplicably makes me melt?
I'm inclined to think that it's possible to have both.

Unrelatedly: Megan has a resolution.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Perhaps a silly question

If one is not a particularly good swimmer, could one still scuba dive? The chief problem of swimming is air, and in that case you're taking the air with you. (Assume relatively placid Caribbean waters.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Sharing the shelf/self

What books do you lend your dates? Apparently Kundera is deprecated. (via)