February 2006

2006 02 18
PSA: Sony sucks

I’ll put this under the fold, since it’s more for inquiring googlers than regular readers.

[Update: Picture added for extra pathos. Just look what Sony did to me.]

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Howls of outrage (26)

2006 02 18

Posted by in: Classics, History

Everyone knows that Aristotle was a tutor to Alexander the Great. I confess I had not known until yesterday that Aristotle’s nephew (or perhaps great nephew), Callisthenes, was court historian. Alexander dragged him along on several campaigns, where Callisthenes’s main job seems to have been to write ass-kissing propaganda about Mr. Great and His Many Marvellous Conquests. And yet it seems that everyone has a limit. At least Callisthenes discovered his limit in Alexander’s adoption of the Eastern practice of requiring the sort of submission to his person that most Greeks felt was only appropriate for a God. Callisthenes fell out of favour, was accused of plotting against Alexander, and was put to death.

Anyway, I mention this because I found Plutarch’s description of how Alexander tricked him into unpopularity so amusing:

It is said, moreover, that once when a large company had been invited to the king’s supper, Callisthenes was bidden, when the cup came to him, to speak in praise of the Macedonians, and was so successful on the theme that the guests rose up to applaud him and threw their garlands at him; whereupon Alexander said that, in the language of Euripides, when a man has for his words
“A noble subject, it is easy to speak well;”

“but show us the power of your eloquence,” said he, “by a denunciation of the Macedonians, that they may become even better by learning their faults.” And so Callisthenes began his palinode, and spoke long and boldly in denunciation of the Macedonians, and after showing that faction among the Greeks was the cause of the increase of Philip’s power, added:

“But in a time of sedition, the base man too is in honour.”

This gave the Macedonians a stern and bitter hatred of him, and Alexander declared that Callisthenes had given a proof, not of his eloquence, but of his ill-will towards the Macedonians.

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2006 02 18
Three bits from Hitchens

Posted by in: Political issues, Pundits

From Christopher Hitchens’s review of an A.N. Wilson book in the dead-tree edition of this month’s Atlantic Monthly:

The two British teak-heads responsible for the Amritsar massacre, in April of 1919, and therefore for the moral end of the British dominion in India, were . . .

Never mind who they were. What amused me was the suggestion that that was the moral end of the British dominion in India. I wasn’t even aware that the British dominion in India had a moral beginning, let alone a moral end. Anyway, if it did have a moral end, whatever that means exactly, I would have chosen the rebellion of 1857, or, earlier, the Bengal famine of 1770. Hmph.

Anyway, there are two funny bits in the rest of the review. The first:

The late Christopher Hill . . . once told me a small joke in his mildly stuttering style. It seemed that the fifth or sixth husband of Barbara Hutton had been interviewed on his nuptial night, and when asked how he felt at being the latest to possess the celebrated Woolworth heiress, had replied, “Well, I know what I have g-got to d-do, but I am not quite sure how to make it i-i-i-interesting.

Buck up, old chap. We all feel that way sometimes.

And then this, later in the review:

I am told that the great hostess Sybil Colefax, finding Albert Einstein among her guests at one such soiree, was instructed to put him at his ease and began by asking, “Did you hear that mad old Woofles has left Pug-Wug completely flat – and run off with Binky-poo?” There is a reason why Evelyn Waugh can be regarded as a social historian of this epoch.

He does not tell us if Einstein had heard the news yet or not.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 02 16
Looking North, looking South

Posted by in: Pictures we took

Hunter College, at Lexington and 68th, has a walkway on the third floor connecting Hunter West and Hunter East. I like the way the reflections in the window get in the way of the scene outside. Notice how That Famous Building to the South gets reflected in the North facing window, though this picture really doesn’t bring it out as nicely as it should.

Looking South:

Looking North:

Howls of outrage (3)

2006 02 14

Posted by in: Anecdotal

I know a lot of people slag Valentine’s Day, but just think — it could be worse. It could also be your birthday, so that anything you want to do (go to dinner, go to nice romantic quiet club…) is preempted by thousands of other knobs who think it’s their special day.

Today I turned 30! But I forgot to make dinner reservations in advance. Sigh.

Howls of outrage (26)

2006 02 14

Posted by in: Political issues, Pundits

Congratulations to Richard Falk for making David Horowitz’s list of the 100 most dangerous professors in the U.S. (via) If Bush had only read (and understood) Falk’s The Great Terror War back in 2002 when it came out, the U.S. would be a safer, saner place now.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 02 14
That’ll teach ‘em

Posted by in: Political issues

Occasionally, I wonder what the world must look like to Saddam Hussein. The latest news is that he is on some sort of hunger strike to protest against the court that is trying him. Now, I’m aware that there may be legitimate criticisms to make of the court; and also that it’s a good thing that due process be observed in the proceedings, and that allowing this also means allowing protests about the proceedings of the court. But still. I mean . . . still. How can he, of all fucking people, be indignant about anything? He organized Iraq on the principle that the strong would use their power to terrorize the weak, and now he’s not the strongest anymore. So isn’t it, like, time to just fuck off and die? I can recognize his right to protest unfairness, but I’ll never quite be able to understand a man who could, in his position, bring himself to fall back on a point of fairness.

Howls of outrage (17)

2006 02 12
Those cartoons

Posted by in: Political issues

Lindsay nails it.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 02 12
A role to fill

Since Atrios didn’t draw attention to the money quote, I will:

“Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been,” she said. “The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came.”

Since we know that Cheney will unleash shock and awe on a defenseless country as a way to flex its muscles to other nations who might even take steps toward being able to defend themselves, I wonder if yesterday’s hunting incident wasn’t a warning shot aimed at people like this.

Howls of outrage (3)

2006 02 12
More trouble with dates

Posted by in: Anecdotal

Following up on this, a recent exchange:

Guy: So, when did Aristotle live anyway?
Me: He lived in the fourth century B.C.
Guy: So, that’s like, 4000 years ago, right?
Me: No.

Howls of outrage (5)

2006 02 10
The damning silence of the left

Susan Sontag styles herself an engaged left-wing intellectual. But why has she fallen silent at a time like this? How typical of the left.

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2006 02 10
Domestic chores and feminism

Belle Waring takes Matthew Yglesias’s commenters to the woodshed for a bunch of seriously asinine comments about gender imbalances in the division of domestic labour.

I suppose that makes my own views clear. I’ll add this one point, though: As far as I can tell, it was a few blog posts in this spirit a while back that forced me to wonder about the division of domestic labour in my own household, which in turn led me to recognize that that that division of labour was pretty unfair. Since then I’ve learned how to cook better (because, seriously, a real man needs to know how to please his woman in the kitchen – and not just when they’re fucking on the kitchen table), and I’ve taken up a much larger share of tedious crap like dishes, laundry and groceries.

Point is, if you’re blogging your heart out on this issue and feel like you’re getting nowhere, do please remember that every once in a while posts of this sort can actually make a difference.

Howls of outrage (5)

2006 02 09
Comment thread

Posted by in: Odds and ends

Via Unfogged, one of the very best comment threads I’ve seen in a long time.

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2006 02 08
Good news for renters

Posted by in: Law and the courts


If you’ve ever been in housing court — even if you won your case — your name might be on a blacklist that makes it hard to get a new apartment. That happened to Brooklyn resident Adam White, and the class-action lawsuit he brought is poised to help thousands of blackballed renters.

The settlement between White and the company that maintains the records — a must-check for city landlords — is pending court approval. But if it goes through in its present form, it could:

-make it easier for renters to have their records cleared if they can document the case was meritless or brought in error;

-require a notice on their reports if their cases have been dormant for 12 months but not officially settled;

-and provide certain renters with $100 from a $1.9 million settlement provided by the firm that maintains the list.

“Blacklisting has the effect of eliminating a tenant’s ability to enforce their right for fear of becoming blacklisted,” said White’s lawyer, James Fishman.

The outcome was hailed by tenant advocates, who say the move would resolve a longstanding unfairness.

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2006 02 08
Sometimes I surprise myself

A week or so ago I saw that Feingold has rebuked Gonzalez for misleading him during congressional testimony in January 2005 concerning illegal wiretapping. However, Feingold had not said anything about the President’s lies on this issue.

So I called Feingold’s office and insisted that, if he had even a hope of my vote in 2008, he should (1) Draw attention to the President’s statements in 2004 assuring the American people that a wiretap requires a court order, (2) Put the heat directly on the President, rather than those who work for him, and (3) Say directly that the President has misled the American people on this issue.

Here are experpts from a speech Feingold plans to give on the Senate floor soon:

[The President] is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program.

But let’s put aside the Attorney General for now. The burden is not just on him to come clean — the President has some explaining to do. The President�s defense of his actions is deeply cynical, deeply misleading, and deeply troubling.

Here’s what the President said on April 20, 2004: �Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires � a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we�re talking about chasing down terrorists, we�re talking about getting a court order before we do so.�

And again, on July 14, 2004: �The government can�t move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.�

The irony is that I made the call to Feingold’s office on the same cellphone the Administration is surely tapping. Take that, MoFoz!

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