March 2007

2007 03 28
“Iranian general warns enemy not to make any crazy moves”

I notice that AOTW there appears to be absolutely nothing in the state-run Tehran Times about the British sailors recently captured by Iran. (There is, however, an awesome headline that I have used as the title of this post.) Perhaps that’s some evidence that no one on that side has figured out what the fuck they’re trying to accomplish here, or, relatedly, how to spin what has already happened.

Notice that if Iran had simply released the sailors two days ago, they would have made their point brilliantly. By forcing Britain to talk tough, they’ve now maneuvered themselves into a corner, since the tough talk from Britain means that concessions from Iran at this point will make Iran look weak. Can’t have that, can we?

Anyway, all of this is just another excuse for me to observe that in both private life and international diplomacy, one of the most valuable skills is knowing how to push back without escalating.

Howls of outrage (2)

2007 03 27
Yet more fun

Posted by in: Music


Thursday, March 29
8:30pm – 11:00pm

The E-String Band featuring Yoon Sun Choi

Yoon Sun Choi – voice, toy piano
Khabu Doug Young – ukuleles
Vinnie Sperrazza – percussion
Micke McGinnis – bass clarinet
Deidre Rodman – melodica

Perch Cafe
365 5th Ave (between 5th and 6th St.)
Park Slope, Brooklyn

Cover $5

Comments Off

2007 03 26
Iran and Britain

Regardless of whether the British sailors were in Iraqi waters or not, I think Iran has now made its point. Unless the sailors were up to some very serious monkey business – or perhaps even if they were – continuing to hold them while threatening charges for them makes it extremely difficult for the British to find a decent face-saving solution to the impasse. This is all just bonkers, and very alarming. What the fuck kind of game is Iran playing here?

Howls of outrage (4)

2007 03 26
And you want to lecture people on balance?

Michael Walzer, long-time fan of my work, has an exchange with a critic in a recent edition of Dissent Magazine about Walzer’s attitude to Israel. I’m not familiar enough with Walzer’s recent writings on Israel to judge the critic’s case, but I can’t help noticing that Walzer’s response is not very strong.

Walzer gets off to a bad start with his take on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Perhaps the low point of this part of the discussion is when Walzer ties himself in knots trying to argue that Israel’s behaviour, “however much one criticizes the harshness” is “reactive.” Since Walzer sternly condemns the occupation, and the long, sordid history of illegal land-theft and collective punishment, the reader can only wonder how this is supposed to be a useful description of matters in the occupied territories, or indeed what exactly it would take, on Walzer’s view, for Palestinian violence to similarly qualify as “reactive.”

As it happens, I’m much more sympathetic to Walzer’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute than I am to his reading of the Second Lebanon War of last summer. As in any war, the ambitions and intentions on both sides were fairly complex. But I think your head needs to have been pretty far up your ass last summer not to notice that one important aim of Israeli policy was to try to drive a wedge between Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanon by inflicting a high level of suffering on Lebanese civilians.

Walzer admits that “[s]ome Israeli strategists certainly hoped that the punishment of the civilian population would have a good political effect,” adding that “others warned that it almost certainly would not.” But again, it certainly seemed at the time the civilian and military officials calling the shots were following the advice of the first group of strategists. I doubt that these strategists were right, but I’ll leave it better informed people to make the final call on that. Moral judgment, in this case, is a bit less complex: Inflicting massive suffering on Lebanese civilians in order to apply pressure indirectly on Hizbollah was wrong, for all the same reasons that blowing up civilians in pizza shops or crowded buses in order to effect changes in Israeli policy is wrong.

Walzer makes a few other points that are, to my mind, pretty weak. But don’t take it from me. You can read Walzer’s response yourself, and make up your own mind. My point here is just to report an impression: Walzer’s response bears a very strong resemblance to the lame “yes, but” style of apologetics for Palestinian terrorism that Walzer has little difficulty seeing through. I certainly don’t envy Israel its enemies, and I also think that sorting through the moral complexities of modern Middle Eastern politics is a demanding job for even the most fair-minded philosopher. But Walzer, it’s pretty clear, isn’t that philosopher.

Anyway, notice the moment of unintentional comedy at the end of Walzer’s response when Walzer complains about his critic’s attempt to distinguish him from his friend, Martin Peretz. If I were trying to establish my impartiality on the issue of Israel, I don’t think I would want to go out of my way to associate myself with Peretz, of all people.

Comments Off

2007 03 23
I dream of bad mascots

Posted by in: Anecdotal

So I had this dream, night before last, which made me laugh so hard it woke me up, and then I had to wake Spencer up to tell him – and now, since we’re all together in this big bloggy bed, I’m gonna wake you up and tell you too.

Hey –
Hey – [poke] [poke]
I just – lemme tell you about this great idea I just had –
So, wouldn’t it be funny if there was a sports team named “the Babies”, or “the Kittens”? A super wimpy mascot, who would just lie there on the field, mewling piteously and weakly bicycling its paws in the air? And it would crawl clumsily off the field when it was time for the game? Or, like, “the Fawns”, with baby Bambi knock-knees and leg-slippage? It would be awesome. Especially if there was just one team like this in a league of regular teams like the Sharks and the Deadly Killers and stuff.

But what would be even better — would be if there were a team called “the Joeys”, so they’re not even as strong as regular baby animals, but they have to live in the pouch of a mother animal. A totally helpless mascot, being carried around in the pouch of a big mother mascot. Genius, right?
[rolls over]

Howls of outrage (5)

2007 03 21
For their own good, again

Let me just point out, once again, that supporters of the occupation who argue that the U.S. should stay to prevent a worse state of affairs want to contradict the will of the vast majority of Iraqis for their own good.

I think it’s important to be very clear about this point when we’re debating the issue of withdrawal. By itself, I don’t think it’s decisive: I wouldn’t want to categorically deny that there could be cases in which we would choose to thwart the nearly unanimous will of a large group of people for their own good. But it surely puts the burden of argument squarely on anyone arguing for continued involvement in Iraq, even if we grant them their optimism about the effects of that involvement. That’s because when we’re dealing with adults, we tend to be very suspicious of paternalism, and when we’re not bigots, we tend to be very suspicious of paternalism displayed towards large groups of foreign adults. So we ought to take Iraqi opinion very seriously, even setting aside the possibility that Iraqis understand what is happening to their society better than we do – a possibility that would give us yet another reason to dismiss optimism about the effects of continuing to defy Iraqis on the occupation of their country.

At any rate, I think chewing on this one also really brings out the neo-colonialist flavour of the whole undertaking. The poor, lost souls need our help, and they’re so backwards they don’t even know it.

Howls of outrage (2)

2007 03 21
Di Fara Pizza, again

Posted by in: Food

OK, not good: Di Fara Pizza, of which I’m very fond, is in a bit of trouble for mouse droppings. That the place was filthy I already knew – so filthy that mouse droppings don’t really surprise me. I record my three main reactions to the news here, if only to demonstrate why I would never make it as a food reviewer:

1. Ew!

2. Hey, I wonder if the lines will be shorter now!

3. Those may be mouse droppings, but I’ll bet they’re the tastiest mouse droppings in the whole city.

Comments Off

2007 03 20
The Restless Spirits at Cornelia St. Cafe

Posted by in: Music

Coming up!

Thursday, March 22
8:30pm (one set only)

The Restless Spirits

Yoon Sun Choi – voice
Jacob Sacks – piano
Matt Wilson – drums

Cornelia Street Cafe
29 Cornelia Street
F,B,D,A,C train to West 4th

Cover: $10 + $6 min

Comments Off

2007 03 17

Posted by in: Music, Pictures we took

Jacob Sacks and Thomas Morgan at Biscuits, in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Comments Off

2007 03 17
Eye of the beagle

Posted by in: Pictures we took

Eye of the beagle, originally uploaded by Chris and Yoon.

Comments Off

2007 03 17
I believe I can fly

Posted by in: Pictures we took

I believe I can fly, originally uploaded by Chris and Yoon.

Comments Off

2007 03 16
Danny boy

Posted by in: Music

Like you’ve never heard it before.

Howls of outrage (2)

2007 03 16
“Slanted eyes”

The leader of the Parti Québécois is in a bit of trouble for referring to Asians as having “slanted eyes.” There’s a history here that’s hard to explain to non-Canadians, but part of the reason for the fuss is that separatists in Quebec have long been accused of being xenophobic (often fairly, in my opinion, though whether xenophobia is intrinsic to separatism is a much more difficult question). Anyway, I just asked Yoon what the proper way to refer to Asian-looking eyes is, and she had no idea. “Almond shaped?” she said, finally. But mine are almond shaped too, aren’t they?

So, what is the non-offensive way to refer to distinctively Asian-looking eyes? Is it “Asian-looking eyes”? Or is anyone out there (besides evil mystery commenter Kegri, of course) willing to stick up for “slanted”?

Howls of outrage (21)

2007 03 16
Ooh baby! My rights!

Posted by in: Gun control, Sex

A nice piece from Amanda at Pandagon about pleasure and its role in American political discourse. (Psst Chris – guns, sex, and housework can be the segue from Aristotle on pleasure to contemporary political philosophy!)

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2007 03 14
Please consult a doctor before having this much fun

Posted by in: Music

Oh yeah!

Friday, March 16th
6:00pm – 8:00pm

Yoon Sun Choi and The E-String Band

Yoon Sun Choi – voice and toy piano
Jacob Sacks – melodica
Khabu Doug Young – ukulele
Thomas Morgan – guitar
Vinnie Sperrazza – percussion

290 5th Ave (corner of President St and 5th Ave)
Park Slope, Brooklyn

Comments Off