Free-Floating Hostility

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Jail for Journalists

During the Watergate Investigation, Woodward and Bernstein incorrectly reported that Hugh Sloan told the Watergate Grand Jury that White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman controlled a secret fund used to sabotage political enemies. Later, the were proved essentially right, Haldeman did control the money. Sloan was simply never asked to tell the grand jury that. During the shitstorm that followed, as the reporters tried to figure out what happened, they stumbled upon the plan of talking directly to members of the grand jury. Everyone is uncomfortable about this. No, the Post would not be breaking any laws. But the reporters would asking the grand jurors to break confidentiality, which would have been a crime. There is a quick rundown of concerns, including, "Woodward wondered whether there was ever justification for a reporter to entice someone across the line of legality while standing safely on the right side himself."

I am outraged that journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Johnson, the San Francisco Chronicle reporters that have compiled the exhaustive history of steroids in post-strike baseball, are facing 18 months in jail. They are subject to contempt charges because they refuse to reveal the source of grand jury leaks during their work. The government, which can't seem to make any charges stick in this case, are now going after the reporters. It's horrible. In this column, Barry Bonds' attorney Michael Rains says there is no difference between these journalists and Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer, who is also in jail on contempt charges. Rains is wrong. Anderson has refused to testify about his own criminal activity. The reporters have refused to testify about someone else's.

I do not, however, support a journalist shield law. I hate the message, that suddenly the first amendment isn't enough protect media organizations against the government. But more importantly, making journalists a protected class undermines the practice of journalism. This often becomes skewed by large newspapers and all the trappings of influence, but at it's roots journalists are simply citizens who take an active interest in their world. And then they use specific techniques to seek out truth and report it to their audience. That could be the millions who read the New York Times every day or the 40 people that read this blog. A shield law would give the government to right to define who exactly is a journalist. And that's not a good principle. Making journalists a protected class is not the answer.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hostylefax: Youngstown

Maps tell us nothing about distance. They can only tell you how far two cities are from each other, which, I suppose is a useful piece of information. But only sort of. When we moved from New Mexico to Northern California, I insisted that we were actually moving closer to New York. When we lived in Hobbs, you had to drive 90 minutes to a plane that connected you to another plane that eventually took you to NYC. In Davis, you only have to drive 20 minutes to catch a direct flight. I'm obviously conflating space and time here. But say you can travel 3,000 miles in six hours or 2,400 in eight, which trip is actually longer?

I write all of this only to say that Youngstown, Ohio is really fucking far away. For me this weekend it was the world's worst redeye (Sac to Houston, which is less than four hours), followed by a tiny express jet to Pittsburgh, followed by a 75-minute drive to NE Ohio. That's a long way to get somewhere like Youngstown, which is a hole, a despondant man's Detroit. Youngstown is an old mining town. As Joel said when I called him for baseball scores, "Our industry is dying. Their industry died 40 years ago." Well put.

Now the area's biggest export, as best as I can tell, is football players. Hence this discussion of a particularly uppity and unliked high school coach, "He always acted like he never needed nobody," said Codger 1. "Yeah, and look at all the talent that came through there. Maurice Clarett, Mario Manningham, Prescott Burgess, what did he ever win?" I found the main campus haunt called MVR, which has pretty good Italian food. And I spent all day Saturday at the local Buffalo Wild Wings watching college football. Following the game I retreated to Pittsburgh's Airport Comfort Inn with the intention of grabbing four hours of solid sleep. About 2:45 in the morning, the couple in the room next to me began to argue. Moments later, they began to make up. They made up quite enthusiastically, if you must know, jarring me awake. Then it was time for the long trip back.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006


I'm sorry I've done so little posting over the past weeks. I'm really, incredibly, unfathomably busy.

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Men may be Hazardous to your Health (Mental)

I once had the honor of causing a minor car accident on Broadway when some guy leaned out of his window to compliment my rear end and got rear-ended himself. Personally I found this to be a fine example of karma.

I recently discussed the phenomenon of men making comments to women on the street with one of my male classmates, known as The Straight One (though this is a misnomer as there are actually two). Obviously I don't mean comments on world events, I mean comments that run the gamut from shy compliments to outright propositions for sex. The Straight one shared with me that when he is feeling low he sometimes goes down to the Castro to be hit on by strangers until his self-esteem has returned. He doesn't understand what the big deal is; shouldn't it just make women feel good about themselves? My answer is that it's never the same for women. The Straight One can choose if he wants to be the object of such attention or not; when he tires of it he can go home to his girlfriend. A woman can't.

It's very hard for a man to grasp that the attention of male strangers is no index of a woman's appeal. Maybe some women get more attention than others, I won't pretend to know. But in any urban area in the U.S., it's simply part of the female condition. Just about every woman appeals to some male demographic, no matter what her shape, size, age or complexion. Sure, looking good to them will get you attention, but as your appeal decreases in their eyes, so does any power to intimidate them into silence. Looking unappealing just encourages them to think they're doing you a favor by complimenting your appearance. In other words, it's not a woman's fault if men pay attention to her, and she doesn't have to be happy about it.

It's a tough issue. For one thing there are plenty of women out there who enjoy the praise, so how's a lothario to know whether his behavior is an offense or a mitzvah? For another, there's a cultural component to all this. Traveling to other some other countries will throw this point into relief, but it applies in the U.S. too. I think it's less usual for white men to be raised in an environment where that's acceptable (then again, maybe it just seems that way to me because I'm 50% tits and ass by volume). So does a woman have a right to get upset at a man who comes from a different tradition?

The summer I spent back in New York studying Biology, I had a lab partner named Gail. We got along very well, and began hanging out away from campus. Gail would have none of this male heckling. Once we were passed on 86th street by a man who, as he passed, Barry White-ed out, "So beautiful." Gail turned around and snapped, "Aw, thanks, I just feel so validated now." Another time she was giving me a ride to the subway and as we stopped at a red light a young man nodded suggestively, and let out a salacious "hey" in her direction. She responded by screwing up her nose and making an unmistakeable fart sound.

I admired Gail's technique. Some women are bothered by that behavior more than others, and some aren't bothered at all. But those who are bothered rarely do anything but internalize their anxiety. My mother claims to give the finger, but I've never seen her do it. My thought process in the moment is usually something like: 1. Eek! 2. Try to look cool. 3. This guy needs to be taught a lesson. 4. No he doesn't, you're being a snob. He probably meant well. 5. Is he making fun of me? 6. Does he really think he has a shot with me? 7. Seven years ago, would he have had a shot with me? 8. I must be looking good today. 9. Why am I so insecure that this kind of crap makes me feel good about myself? 10. I should be ashamed of myself, I'm the worst feminist in the world. 11. Focus! I have a right to be pissed! 10. But what if he was screwing up all his courage to talk to me and I shoot him down? 12. Rudeness is rudeness. You'll be doing him a favor if you set him straight about what women want. 13. But some women do want this. I should stop being so stuffy. 14. Am I being elitist? 15. What if I say something and he laughs at me? 16. What if the situation escalates? 17. What if someone I know sees me and thinks I like it?

Et cetera, et cetera. All of this happens in about half a second of course. I usually end up ignoring it--or worse, giggling nervously. What's hard to convey is the frustration at knowing someone can throw you like that. And once the comment is out there, all your options are bad ones. If you stop and tell him off, you'll just be tense and won't really feel any better, secure in the conviction he'll ignore your feedback. If you do anything that might be interpreted as encouragement you'll be mad at yourself for giving in. If you ignore him, you'll feel bad about treating another human being like he's invisible.

One day during that same summer in New York, I was walking innocently down Montague Street when a man stopped at a red light leaned out of his car window to sing my praises. I decided to follow Gail's example. So I walked up to him and said, "Look, I'm sure you meant no harm, but I think you should know that your comment makes me really uncomfortable. And you should also know that a lot of women feel that way, even if they're too scared to say anything." The man blinked at me for a moment, then added, not unkindly, "I like you just the way you are." I gave up. "Thank you," I sighed, and walked on.

The fact is, you really can't stop to argue every time it happens or you'll never get through the day. So, basically, the best you can do is work on not letting it get to you and whine to the converted on your blog.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at September 25, 2006 11:48 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Dan and I were once stopped on the median of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (at night) because the traffic had come to a dead standstill and my car overheated to the point where it started making a hissing, boiling noise and smoke poured out of the engine. So we grabbed the cats in their carrier and hightailed it away from the car in case, you know, it should explode.

    Then this guy leaned out his window, while his car - stopped by the traffic so that he was forced to sit right next to us indefinitely - and yelled "Yeah, I'll take a piece of that!"

    He was *so* lucky I was too busy to slash his tires, because I was almost overwrought enough to have done it. Sigh.


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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hostylefax: Montana

My hotel room in Butte was about five miles from the Continental Divide. Cool, I thought, as I made my way over it on I-90 early on Saturday morning. Although then I realized that I had no idea why that was cool. Ryan was reachable by phone later in the day and set me straight. East of the Divide, he told me, all water flows toward the Mississippi; West of it, the water flows into the Pacific. That was so fitting. This is Montana, a state that prides itself on being a playground for the outdoorsman. I should have brought along a digital camera because nothing I say here will really do the scenery justice. It's all rugged beauty with long stretches where there is nothing but miles of mountains on either side of the freeway. I recommend it. Also 4B's tomato soup held up for the second day, so I would suggest eating that, as well.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Memory Lane

Mike went and found me this picture of him and Josh on the last night of reign of the 125th board of editors at Spectator. I always thought it was adorable. Look how young and ill-shaven they look. I'm probably infringing on some copyright issue, but I don't happen to be scared of anyone connected to Spec.

3 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at September 19, 2006 6:39 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I was there when this photo was taken, I believe. There's also a funny one of Jeff and Ross floating from the same feature, and one of Alice and me where I'm pretending to be Simone.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at September 19, 2006 6:40 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Gah, I meant to say "floating around." I did not mean to imply that Jeff and Ross were floating. It's too early in the morning for proofreading.

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at September 19, 2006 9:56 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Here they are.

    Looks like the Spec redesigned their website again. And it's all ads! I'm jealous. I want to be all ads.

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Hostylefax: Salt Lake City airport

The airlines must teach their gate agents to recognize all the signs of a passenger mutiny: the frustrated faces, the constant parade of angry comments, the realization that all the srtanded people have started talking to each other and making friends. Because it was at that point that the good people of Delta Connection took a flight that was supposed to be headed to Billings, Mont. and announced it was Butte-bound instead. It was such a snap decision that the Billings crew basically learned of the change when the Butte passengers tried to board. It was cold in Salt Lake, and we were in a terminal with no jetway. After passing through the gate door, you enter a long outdoor corridor to climb the stairs to your flight. That walk in outdoor air, which was dripping with airplane fumes, was pretty exhilarating. I was coming to believe that I would never breathe fresh air again.

I landed in SLC from Sacramento at 8:45 a.m., 15 minutes early. I had a leisurely two-hour layover, and made my way to the connections terminal. Delta's subcontractor, SkyWest, runs planes to destinations large and small from this area. The flights are timed so that every 45 minutes or so, there's a massive crush of people and announcements at 10-second intervals. Some were going as far as Seattle or Kansas City. But a fair number were going to places like Idaho Falls, Durango, Colo., and every "big city" in Montana. The Bozeman-bound flights all use prop jets, so I had made the decision when booking to fly to an airport that used real planes. Also Butte looks like Butt. My first flight was cancelled due to plane problems, and there aren't that many others. For the cancellation, I won a heartfelt apology, a $7 meal voucher, a standby seat on the 5:30 and a confirmed seat on the 9:30. It was at that point 11:30 a.m.

I settled in.

The meal voucher was useless. It didn't even cover the cost of a plate of buffalo wings at Dick Clark's American Grill. Good thing other people were paying for this meal. Then I went to work. I switched my hotel reservations, wrote a story, banged out a blog posting, visited Laptop Lane to file. By that point it was 3:30 and I was out of things to do. I contemplated just getting hammered in mid-afternoon, but passed on that as well so I'd be able to argue for another meal voucher if they cancelled my next flight. Once the 5:30 Butte flight was posted, I went to the counter and asked about my chances of getting on standby. I was No. 1, but most of the flight was there. An hour, and a cavalcade of complaints from other people, later, I asked again. "Here's a boarding pass," the harried gate agent said. That's a bad message to send.

On the plane I ended up sitting next an Italian stoneworker, who commutes to California from Butte. His client list is pretty impressive, and he said his company wants him to move out West. He doesn't want to. "Butte's a real redneck town," he said. "I love it." I told him I was a sportswriter and we talked American football, the study of ideas in history, architecture, our mutual interest in soccer, and childrearing. He has seven kids, "And by the time they're two, they know you perfectly, and you realize that you have no idea what this creature in front of you is thinking." Apparently there were a lot of conversations onboard from people who had met in the terminal. Someone at the baggage claim asked me, "Are you the guy who's going bow hunting tomorrow?" That's the first time I've ever been asked that question. My hair is probably too short now.

Multiple people on the plane recommended the tomato soup at 4Bs, which also happened to be next to my hotel. Props to them, because it was indeed delicious, garlicky with real bits of tomato in it. Not at all what I was expecting. And, all things considered, not a bad way to end a really long day.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years

In August of 2002, I covered the Lea County Rodeo in New Mexico. Before each night of competition (following the prayer) the organizers played a tribute to 9/11 where a young girl rode her pony around the ring carrying an American flag to a song whose chorus began, "Where were you when the world stopped turning?"

The first night, I nearly teared up. Progressively, (and I saw this all four nights of it), however, I grew to despise it. I mean, I seriously hated it. I never understood why you would ever use hyperbole to talk about 9/11? Terrorists hijacked planes, flew them into the largest buildings in the New York skyline and murdered 3,000 people in front of everyone's eyes. Is that not intense enough? But the thing that annoyed me most was that the metaphor was all wrong. The most striking thing to me about 9/11 is that we all did keep living. I remember walking into the West End looking for people I knew, and being shocked that it was still serving food. I remember watching people play soccer silently on South Field. Spectator put out a newspaper that night.

The point is that we kept on living in the shadow of mass murder. I think that's hard to actually internalize if you were just watching it on television. Not impossible, but difficult. And if you don't understand that, I think you really miss the point of what it was like; 9/11 was immediately a symbol that meant different things to different people. And I've grown completely intolerant of that. I used to worry that I had adopted the locker room mentality about 9/11, that if you weren't in New York or Washington on Sept. 11 that your opinions were somehow less valid.

I no longer worry about that.

It shocked me how the five-year anniversary just snuck up. The first year seemed as though it dragged on, to the point where Sept. 11, 2002 was almost a relief.

Anna looked at her planner today and saw that Sept. 11 is now listed as "Patriot Day." Neither of us were very impressed by that. I don't like the need to infuse the day with a veneer a patriotism. Isn't it enough to mourn? The problem is once you get here, you're already into the political argument. I object to any nationalistic overlay on 9/11 because I never really saw it as an act of war. And to call the attack an act of war is to offer an underlying approval to those who have directed our policies in Iraq. But once you've reach this point you're already so wrapped up semantics of what you'll agree to that it has nothing to do with the actual events. I have so many memories of that day. My wake-up call from Ian, Anna's and my agreement to get married if we were actually going to war, the woman on Broadway crying as she held her cell phone to her ear, the strength of my Spectator co-workers that day. But I also remember a combination of total fear and absolute calm walking from Watt Hall to Anna's parents' apartment. I was scared out of my mind. But I felt completely resigned to fact that I could die at any moment while walking along Broadway. That feeling has never really gone away.

That was how 9/11 felt to me, who was in a terrorized city and knew no one on the planes or in the towers. I went back today and found Spectator's coverage of Sept. 11. Here is what Columbia was like that day. And here is my sports column published about a week later. I don't really think I've ever responded to the attacks any better than this.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Immortal Beloved

I rely heavily on audio books to entertain me on my long drives to and from the Bay Area. Fortunately, I subscribe to a service that has copies of all the collected novels of Toni Morrison for me to borrow for a time. I’ve been making my way through them, and as I do so I have come to the conclusion that Morrison simply has no peer among living writers*.

Most of you know my opinions on Beloved. It is the greatest novel. I know too much about sampling and survey design to see much worth in the New York Times’ recent poll of authors asking them to nominate the best American novel since 1980 (inclusive), in which Beloved came in first, with twelve votes out of more than a hundred. That being said, if I had had a vote in said poll, I would unquestionably have voted for Beloved. If the parameters had included all American novels, I would still have voted for Beloved. If it had included all English-language prose, I would not have changed my vote, and would only have bowed out of a poll on world literature in recognition of my own ignorance.

The novel divides people so sharply, and not at all randomly. Though I have met many women who consider it if not THE great novel, then at least a masterpiece, men do not (please pipe up, exceptions). I have stopped recommending it to men to read, because even if they are approach it with a receptive mind, they tend to come away thinking it’s a fine book, but that they don’t understand the fuss. I have found (unsystematically) that men find Song of Solomon to be Morrison’ best work, and that women tend to consider it one of her lesser works. It throws my very notion of literature into crisis. On the one hand, I have no patience for people who approach reading unscientifically. There are some--and I have learned from Sarah that some of these teach literature at Harvard--who maintain that objective reading is a pretence, and that subjective impressions are all that anyone ever gets out of reading. This strikes me as what one of my old English professors called “seeking license to be stupid.” Any fixed work has objective aspects to it, even Gertrude Stein’s, and therefore calls for an empirical approach. But on the other hand, I have not failed to grasp that the reader’s own frame of reference dictates what aspects of a work he or she perceives. Is it possible that Beloved delves so deeply into motherhood and daughterhood that men are simply incapable of understanding it? If so, how many “great works” have I missed out on through an inherent incapacity to understand fathers and sons? I don’t like to think of myself as incapable of that small sympathy. But if I don’t, then I must accept the uncanny feeling that comes with naming a book the Greatest when I suspect half of potential readers will fail to love it, or even to see it clearly.

Michael alerted me to a recent recording on Slate between Katie Roiphe, Stephen Metcalf and Meghan O’Rourke, in which the three discuss Beloved partly in order to evaluate the outcome of the Times poll. I finally got around to listening to it tonight, because I was in the mood to wind up in a towering, cathartic temper. Well, I exceeded even my own expectations.

Here’s the problem: Beloved is a great read, but only if you’re paying attention. It needs to be read slowly, and tasted, and preferably read aloud. If you skim it, you will miss its music, and apparently most of its plot. Roiphe, Metcalf and O’Rourke seem to have found this last project quite a challenge…because there are two threads? Because one of those isn’t told chronologically but through other characters' sometimes disjointed memories? Is that really that difficult? I am infuriated that these three would ascribe the consequences of their own sloppy reading to the author’s skill; no matter what the debate about Toni Morrison, I think any literate person can see her writing is unimpeachably clear. Which is more than I can say for, gee I dunno, Pynchon. The three critics seem, nonetheless, to have missed the fact that the character Beloved is, as her sister Denver puts it “more.” That is, while Beloved may be an embodied ghost, she carries the memories of more than one lifetime as a black woman, including passage on a slave ship. There is an entire chapter devoted to illustrating how Denver, Sethe and Beloved talk at cross-purposes, believing each other to be someone they already know. I think, frankly, the three critics just skimmed those relevant chapters because they are the most difficult in the book. They invoked their license to be stupid and then blamed Morrison. Incidentally, inattentive reading also leads to phenomena such as pronouncing the protagonist’s name “Seeth-a” as these critics did for most of the recording until O’Rourke put matters to rights with a piece of--surprise!--textual evidence.

That’s only half the problem, though. Beloved has become like Baby Sugg’s party. Its success has been too visible, Morrison’s accolades have been too copious; her generosity as an artist has left her vulnerable to resentment. The same popular sentiment that gets the book discussed on Slate gives educated ignoramuses a new kind of license--license to congratulate themselves on their own cunning if they don’t like the book. O’Rourke had that very much in mind, it seems, and started the discussion by asking the participants to discuss what prejudices they brought to this reading. This is as good a place as any for an aside about my own prejudices about the participants: I was prejudiced in favor of O’Rourke’s contribution because of her CTY piece. I thought I knew what to expect fro Metcalf because he was male. Toward Roiphe I harbor the special prejudice of one who has graduated from the same high school. One last bias I should disclose: Toni Morrison is not a stranger to me. She and my mother were close friends when they were younger struggling writers, and have remained friends since. I don’t know her well, and I don’t have the problem I have had when reading the work of writers I do know well of feeling unable to dissociate narration from the voice of the person I know, therefore I feel capable of objectivity. If anything, I think I’ve subjected her work to a higher standard than usual.

Anyway, despite O’Rourke’s intent to clear the air, there was more than one round of congratulations on the caucus’ political incorrectness. These culminated in Metcalf’s closing comment:
I’m a white male critic, and I’ve been trained over the decades, well trained, well house trained--um--you know, to suspect the degree to which I prefer a writer like Richard Ford over Toni Morrison, and I think the moment, hopefully the m--, hopefully we’re at that moment where, like, that worm can turn a little bit and the people who really embrace--and you’re not in that category --but the people who really embrace Toni Morrison should inspect their own motives accordingly.

If I may adapt my old professor’s phrase, this strikes me as seeking a license to condescend, and to practice stealth racism. Metcalf is entitled to find any work a “failure” in the category of “aesthetics,” but his entitlement is conditional upon his having paid attention. He actually asserted that one of the “failures” of Beloved is its deliberate avoidance of “physical privation” and the most concrete deprivations associated with slavery. For those who haven't read it, let me explain that the story includes protracted rape, sexual assault on both men and women, forced prostitution, burning alive, starvation, battery, punishment of a pregnant woman by whipping, hanging, immolation, child murder (and I am referring here to the ribbon Stamp Paid finds), torture…was Metcalf reading Cliffs Notes? Obviously readership should involve the inspection of ones motives; that’s at the heart of objective criticism. It really rankles that he is able to slip in the assertion that anyone who perceives greatness and its lesser correlate adjectives in Morrison’s work is by definition untrained in criticism, and probably not a white male critic (which perhaps explains it). Well, I resent the insult. No critic should even pretend to objectivity when he is so concerned with readers as a type over the text itself. Does he really think the worm of literary criticism has turned it’s back on white males? Really? Boy, it sure is unfair how Philip Roth is starving and Norman Mailer can’t get his phone calls answered and Tom Wolfe can’t get college girls to sleep with him anymore and John Updike has just been swallowed up in a historical fog of women and minority writers and…where was I? Ah. I am not convinced Metcalf has ever read Morrison’s other works. If not, he’s missing out. I’ve just finished Sula, which is wonderful, and am working on Tar Baby, which is better. If I’m right, his condescension is that much more maddening. Consider another of his criticisms:
There are some people who actually have a very--relatively high tolerance for Toni Morrison and her writerly ticks and her preoccupations, who think it unfortunate that she came after the enormous success of Marquez and that she felt obliged to be influenced as much by magical realism as she was by Faulkner, and that some of those elements don’t date particularly well in her work.

I could devote a couple of paragraphs just to the argument that someone who is unclear on which of Gabriel García Marquez’ names are family names should probably shut up about him.

My biggest surprise was that toward the end of the program I found myself counting on Roiphe to interrupt these insidious “criticisms” with some sense and evidentiary reading. Though I harbor my own prejudices against those she professes (for instance prejudices against feminism and “political correctness”) I at least felt her criticism strove for objectivity over self-congratulation. It was she who pointed out the incredible nature of the claim that the book avoids deprivation when it includes women whose children were taken away from them. It was she who pointed out, “we’re kind of expecting it to be the one book anyone reads about slavery, and I’m just not sure that that doesn’t compromise our evaluation of it as a novel, on the terms that we look at any other novel.” Go Beavers. O’Rourke in the meantime seemed to have a more sophisticated handle than the others on the purpose of fiction.

In fact, I could probably devote an entire dissertation to the misperception of Morrison’s work, to the strange standards to which it is held, to the strange counterreactions to her success and presumptive legacy. If I ever change fields, perhaps I will, though I’d be more tempted to write about her masterful style and narrative structure. But I’m fighting an uphill battle for now. Sometimes it’s not so good to be the king.

*I am excluding my mom from this study due to my utter lack of objectivity.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Laura at September 13, 2006 6:07 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I hate Metcalf with a passion, though I usually find Slate to be a good read. After the NYT survey, he wrote an absolutely infuriatingly condescending article on Beloved that, in addition to having the faults you identify in his argument, was also next to unreadable. I was going to write it up on Truth Tables but too much steam was coming out of my ears after a couple paragraphs. As a critic, he is unqualifiedly a jackass.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at October 04, 2006 11:48 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • as far as the women sympathizing with father-son vs. men sympathizing with mother-daughter goes, i cite the pbs exec we met on our class trip to DC. i asked why there were more male muppets than female muppets on sesame street and was laughed at by the rest of the class, but he took it very seriously, and explained that they were "taking steps to address the problem." he then said that little boys will lose interest in a show with a girl-target audience, but the reverse is not true. cause and effect here seem murky--of course, knowing this, shows pander to and reinforce the imbalance. and this was over ten years ago, so perhaps princess culture has changed this--this year's new muppet, abby cadabby is a three-year-old "fairy-in-training" who is very "girl." [i also learned that usage of "girl" in one of my classes.]

    so maybe the next generation of women won't be able to sympathize with father-son books either.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, David Horowitz and 2 Live Crew Walk into a Bar. Ouch.

The AP photo site my newspaper uses has a window at the top where you can click on the headlines for the five biggest stories in the world at that moment. Today this was one of them:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP)_ Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from the country's universities, urging students to return to 1980s-style radicalism. "Today, students should shout at the president and ask why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a meeting with a group of students.
I'm glad that the Iranian hard-liners are taking a break from enriching uranium to take on the issues that really matter, what professors say in class. I was also reminded of my old friend David Horowitz, who also dislikes liberal and secular university lecturers. In fact, he's probably enriched himself somewhere railing against them. Here's a list of things that he said in his recent book, which I won't link to because he can go drum up his own business. I'm doing this order to show that anyone can be taken out of context and made to sound like a horrible person. Also Horowitz went after Eric Foner, and that's not cool.

Later in the day I received an e-mail from a PR firm in New York. It related to the growing violence epidemic in youth sports, as evidenced by this story out of nearby Stockton, where a youth football coach decided to exact revenge for a late hit against one of his 13-year-old players by running out decking one of the other team's 13-year-olds. I receive e-mails like this often. But the strange part is that it offered me the chance to interview an expert in the field, one Luther Campbell. You know Luther Campbell, from 2 Live Crew, the rap group that gave us classics like "Me So Horny" and "Fuck Martinez" (in reference to Florida's then governor). He's now running a youth football league and going by the name "Uncle Luke." And that has to be the most terrifying thing ever.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

My New German Pen Pal

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted a Babelfish translation of a German blog called A Goy's World? Well, the author of that blog, one Christoph, actually found my post. Not only did he leave a supportive comment on FFH, which was cool enough, but he used Babelfish to re-translate my translation and accompanying commentary, then posted it on his own blog. This is clearly awesome, but I feel I'm out of my league. While Christoph and his readership seem to be fluent in English, and therefore capable of enjoying this iterative process on two levels, the only German words I know are zoologishcer garten, wurst, and bumsen--the last courtesy of Bob Fosse. So I am forced to translate the re-translation, and even then I run aground when I get, "Now, from non-German perspective that sounds certainly bekloppt." I want to be in on the joke! Besides which, I'd like to know just to what degree they're laughing with me.

I tried to recruit some classmates, one of whom was born on Ramstein, to teach me how to say "you rock" in German, but no one knew. I must say, this small world the internet has created is really neat sometimes.

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Hostylefax: Denver and Suburbs

Friday's flights to the Rocky Mountains marked the end of what has been a pretty long week.

We published our football special issue on Thursday, which meant that between writing my five stories for the tab as well getting stuff into the daily paper, I worked close to a full week of 12-hour days. It felt like a lot, although I'm sure Queenie just read that and thought "wuss."
The long week was compounded by the announcemnt that co-worker F was leaving the paper and moving home to SoCal. His replacement has been a part-timer for us for years, but I'll wait until he does something funny in order to assign him a blog name. And I won't mention what we call him between ourselves.

Anyway, it was nice to get on the road and get back into football season. I do enjoy the sport, which makes some of the annoying things (like being away four consecutive weekends and five of the first six this fall) seem a little better. Stop one was Northern Colorado. Someone who had spent a good deal of time there in the past referred to the town I was staying in, Greeley, as Greel-tucky. I'm not quite sure that's fair (or original). My guess, from all the abstinence billboards and the fact there is a separate Faith section in the local newspaper, suggests there is possibly a right-wing and provincialist bent to the town. I wonder how that squares with the perception that the University is a pretty big party school.

On the other hand, that same local paper is perhaps the smallest I've ever seen publish a separate Spanish language edition. That's another interesting thing about Denver, the signature cuisine seems to be Mexican food. I had dinner at a place called The Armadillo, walking distance from the hotel, which had good chips and salsa but not brilliant food. Not ready to sleep, and missing my usual drinking partner, I spent the remainder of the evening drinking alone and watching football in the hotel bar. Well, not quite alone. I kept encountering team parents, some of whom I actually know from past conversations. Mostly they showed up after I had worked up a pretty good buzz, though, which was far from ideal. I think I maintained. Breakfast the next morning was at a place called "The Egg and I," which I would recommend if you're going to be in Greeley.

My flight out was Saturday night (brilliant!) rather than Sunday morning, but it meant a 90-minute layover in the Las Vegas airport. I do not recommend this to anyone. On the other hand, the plane was so empty that we actually left early and arrived back in town 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security Cares about Nutrition

I am currently in Phoenix awaiting a connection to Denver.

At the gate next to mine they just made the following announcement: "Due to increased threat level, you may not bring liquids, creams (etc.) on the plane. If you have purchased a salad to eat on the plane, please dress it before you board."


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  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at September 03, 2006 7:22 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Queenie reports she was allowed to bring her caesar dressing aboard her last flight. Actually, while homeland security searched carry on bags on Fritz' last flight, they missed the mustard sauce for Fritz'chicken strips dinner. In both cases, the liquid has so many calories, it might be better to leave it behind.

    Does cole slaw contain so much goop it should be treated as a liquid and confiscated?

    How about homeland security inspection and seals of water bottles sold in the boarding area?


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