May 2007

2007 05 29
Big burger sandwich

Posted by in: Food, Pictures we took

Big burger sandwich, originally uploaded by Chris and Yoon.

Lunch was yummy today.

Howls of outrage (6)

2007 05 26
Same place, different cities

Of all the places I’ve spent a significant amount of time (Ottawa, Toronto, Ithaca, NYC), New York is far and away the most sexist. I see women harassed (aggressive staring, rude comments, honking, etc.) on a regular basis. I was reminded of this yesterday when I noticed a woman giving the finger to two guys in a van. I didn’t see the provocation, but the snickering in the van made pretty clear what kind of provocation it was. (A company van too, and I’m kicking myself now that I can’t remember what company it was.)

Everybody notices. But there’s noticing and then there’s noticing in a way that seems calculated to communicate disrespect, as if the disrespect is part of the thrill. Watching this woman giving the finger and then continuing to walk down the street reminded me of just how different our experiences of the city must be. Even in the best case, if the harassment never becomes violent, she has to contend with a sort of pervasive, low grade hostility, the continual possibility of random displays of disrespect. Of course, as a New Yorker I encounter rudeness all the time. But this is different. We live in the same place, but very different cities.

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2007 05 24
Your basic birthday

Posted by in: Canada

The bar for spousal birthdays has been raised.

Howls of outrage (4)

2007 05 24
Onion articles that aren’t

Posted by in: Odds and ends


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2007 05 21
Canadian curse words or insults?

Posted by in: Canada, Language

Over at Ask Metafilter, languagehat writes that he is putting together a book on cursing worldwide, and can’t come up with anything good for Canada. He’s looking for “pointers to good use of wicked language by Canadians (doesn’t have to be obscene; cf. Twain’s “Harte is a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward…”), old or new, online or off.” There are some suggestions posted that he could probably use some input on (is it “nob” or “knob”? was “hoser” an insult before Bob and Doug Mackenzie?).

So, Canadians among us: can you think of anything? Can your friends? Ask around. Post here and I will email them to him, or you can email him directly: languagehat AT GOOD OLD

Howls of outrage (45)

2007 05 17
Wolfowitz, straight to the remainder bin

This email from Amazon just plunked into my inbox:

Dear Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have expressed interest in “The Best and the Brightest” by David Halberstam have also ordered “Paul D. Wolfowitz: Visionary Intellectual, Policymaker, and Strategist” by Lewis D. Solomon. For this reason, you might like to know that Lewis D. Solomon’s “Paul D. Wolfowitz: Visionary Intellectual, Policymaker, and Strategist” will be released on May 30, 2007. You can pre-order your copy by following the link below.

Which is funny. Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest” eviscerated a generation of the American foreign policy establishment, drawing special attention (as the title suggests) to the brash intellectual self-confidence of many of the men who led the U.S. in the morass of the Vietnam war. So putting the two books together is distinctly unflattering to Wolfowitz. The fact that the books have been put together by some algorithm makes it especially funny, in a sort of wisdom-of-the-crowds way. And the juxtaposition would be disheartening for Solomon, who appears (from skimming the Amazon page) to have real respect for Wolfowitz.

Pity Solomon, even as you question his judgment. It is not – really not – a great time to be having an already badly out of date book coming out about Wolfowitz. I don’t think many people will be buying it to understand the workings of the mind of the current president of the World Bank. Not for long they won’t.

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2007 05 15
Show Friday

Posted by in: Music

I’ll be back home visiting Canada, but that’s no reason for you to miss the fun:

Yoon Sun Choi and The E-String Band

Jacob Sacks – melodica and harmophone
Khabu Doug Young – ukuleles
Bob Bowen – guitar
Vinnie Sperrazza – percussion
Orlando Hernandez – improvising tap

Friday, May 18th

Biscuit BBQ
230 5th Avenue (corner of President St. and 5th Ave)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
R train to Union St or Q train to 7th Ave

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2007 05 14

In the NYT today, Jeff Zeleny writes:

Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat seeking his party�s presidential nomination, said in a television interview broadcast Sunday that he supported “rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent of people who don’t need it.”

But surely he meant that he supports rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent of people, who don’t need it. The comma makes a big difference.

God that was a fascinating post.

Howls of outrage (3)

2007 05 14
Missed by inches

Posted by in: Anecdotal, Classics

It’s hard to deny that Meriones has a good point here:

But Aineias threw his bronze spear at Meriones, hoping
to hit him as he came forward under his shield’s covering,
but Meriones with his eyes straight on him avoided the bronze spear.
For he bent forward, and behind his back the long spearshaft
was driven into the ground so that the butt end was shaken
on the spear. . .
But Aineias was angered in his spirit, and called out to him:
‘Meriones, though you are a dancer my spear might have stopped you
now and for all time, if only I could have hit you.’
Then in turn Meriones the spear-famed answered him:
‘Aineias, strong fighter though you are, it would be hard for you
to quench the strength of every man who might come against you
and defend himself, since you also are made as a mortal.
But if I could throw and hit you with the sharp bronze in the middle,
then strong as you are and confident in your hands’ work, you might
give glory to me, and your soul to Hades of the horses.’
(The Iliad, Book XVI, lines 608-625 (Lattimore’s translation))

Right. It seems a basic violation of trash talking to complain after you missed someone that if you had hit them, well, then they’d have been in trouble. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, and all that.

I was washing the dishes when this little bit from Homer came up randomly on my mp3 player. The lame trash talking got me thinking about lame comebacks. As it happens, I’m responsible for one of the worst comebacks I’ve ever encountered. When I was a kid, another kid said something like “I’ll bet your penis is 2 centimeters long!” And I shot back, without thinking, “TRY INCHES!!!” Later, I made the unfortunate mistake of relating this to evil mystery commenter Kegri, who for years after would interrupt our arguments at random moments to shout “TRY INCHES!!!”

Howls of outrage (5)

2007 05 11
On the consequences of expanding executive power in a two party system

Cruel circumstance threw me into close proximity for several hours this morning with someone who wanted to talk about politics with me quite a bit more than I wanted to talk about politics with him. Among the lessons he taught me:

—The notion that global climate change is anthropogenic is a hoax, pushed on us by corrupt scientists who have been bought and paid for by the Democratic party, in order to justify the Democratic party’s insatiable quest for power, all the better to force one-child policies and the like on American society. It’s arrogant to think that we could have an effect on the climate of the earth. Mother Earth is way bigger than any of us, and could crush us if she wanted.

—People on welfare should be forced to work during the day and locked in concentration camps during the night like criminals, since “that’s what they are.”

—Atheists have absolutely nothing to orient their lives by, whereas by contrast he has the ten commandments, which is what the country was founded on, though sadly it is abandoning it just because “Habibi there in the corner doesn’t believe in Jesus.”

—A few years back he was denied welfare when he really needed it solely because he is white. There was an actual official racial quota barring him.

—Fox News is reliable. OK, more reliable than the others. They don’t have an agenda. OK, their agenda is not as bad. Why? Because Wolf Blitzer is a practically a communist.

And that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. Anyway, I pushed back here and there, but recognized from the outset the futility of hoping to have a productive dialogue with him.

But! Unbudging as he was on any of these issues, on one point I was able to unsettle him. We were discussing the Bush administration’s attack on habeas corpus, as part of its expansive reinterpretation of executive power. He began with a spirited defence of the Bush administration’s policies, but I pointed out that the Bush administration hasn’t just given itself new powers. It has arrogated those powers to whoever is in the position of president of the United States. And eventually, sooner or later (he was sure Giulliani would be the next president), there will be a Democratic president. And that Democratic president will have those powers, thanks to the Bush administration. And neither he nor I want that to happen. And with that he gulped, and agreed with me.

Howls of outrage (5)

2007 05 06
Yes, Prime Minister

It’s a real pity that Netflix has chosen, at this stage at least, to do its new on demand service through Internet Explorer. If I understand correctly, this means that you’re screwed if you use Linux, which we do on the hand-me-down laptop in our bedroom (and which actually has the more reliable internet connection). Still, it’s nice to be able to click on a movie and have it start playing – usually without much fuss – almost immediately. And they’re not charging extra to watch a generous number of hours, at least yet.

The offerings are still a bit spotty, I notice. But more than spotty, they’re peculiar. If you were digitizing movies for a new service, would one of your first choices be “Real Genius,” the 80s film starring Val Kilmer? No, it would not. I wonder what’s up with that.

Television offerings are similarly thin and idiosyncratic. But! I recently found they have all of the British television show “Yes, Prime Minister.” This is good. I can watch them now whenever I want, and I can watch them over and over again without even worrying about returning them in the mail.

The only complaint I have about “Yes, Prime Minister” so far is the laugh track. I hate laugh tracks. They make me laugh less, since I hate having it implied that now is a time I really ought to be laughing.

Howls of outrage (14)

2007 05 03
Away from the internet

Posted by in: Anecdotal

So, a few weeks ago I decided that I would cut out fucking around on the internet before 9pm each day (and, of course, that I would continue to get into bed around 11:30pm each night). I’m allowed email, and I suppose the rule isn’t total, since I also allow myself to post and view comments on this site. Oh, and I can check my Netflix queue, do online banking and so on. But other than that, nada.

This had has a few effects. For example, it may surprise you to learn that I’m more productive now. I just can’t read as many blogs as before, and I can’t read them in the same way, as little breaks in between other tasks. Turns out, that frees up time for actual work.

There’s another change too, which is even better. I think my tendency of taking these little mini-breaks through the day was getting really unhealthy. There’s a sort of jittery what’s-going-on-now quality to that sort of internet use that seems to me now to interfere with the having of . . . actual thoughts. Since I’ve cut back, I’ve felt calmer and more focused. I’ve also started to read books again – something I had gradually drifted away from over the years. This is all good.

The experiment was originally supposed to be for a week only, but it’s working out so well that I think I’ll keep it up. This means less blogging, of course, but since I’ll still be an opinionated person who likes to cook and to take pictures of his dog, I expect to post about a dozen times a month.

Howls of outrage (13)