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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Funky Nassau

As Sven notes in comment 29 of this most diverting thread, I’m on the road today.  I have to go to Hofstra and talk about stuff.  A train and a room and a car and a room and a room and a room, you know the drill.  But I wrote a bunch of new stuff just for the occasion.  If I had enough patience and/or energy I would say something snarky about Mark “let’s dynamize the university dynamically by abolishing tenure and creating dynamic undepartments of dynamism” Taylor or Andrew “why are professors writing books when they should be teaching?  I met a young man who wanted to write, and he made me mad, so we should abolish tenure. I had an onion in my belt, which was the fashion at the time” Hacker.  But I don’t, so this post-it will have to do.

Posted by Michael on 09/28 at 11:34 AM
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Counting down

Hmmmm, ye olde hit counter on the right sidebar tells me we need only 60,000 more visits to reach ten million, at which point Sam Elliott will appear, just as he did in Up in the Air.  And since we did the whole GNF asploding thing last time we shut down this humble blog, I’m thinking that we’ll have to try something else this time.  I know!  I’ll post all my program notes for Bad Futures.  Then I’ll pack up the old place, turn off the lights, and take my act over to Crooked Timber, where I’ll post this or that whenever I have a free moment.

But before that happens, we should take care of some business around here.  It’s been a long month.  Jamie’s all better and back in school, but he did miss three days last week, during which he ate no solid food.  Two weeks ago, 14-year-old Lucy the Dog, whose appearances on this blog are even rarer than Janet’s, lay shuddering in pain on the floor of the kitchen.  We took her to the vet ER and learned that she had mast cell tumors; we then took her to her regular vet, who did the necessary surgery; and she is now scampering about the house with a lampshade on her head, because (a) she still thinks she is a puppy, hence the scampering, and (b) she spent some time this past Saturday night chewing her dressing off and then licking out her stitches, hence the lampshade.

First item of business:  enumerating Stuff I Hate To Run Out Of.  Besides time and money, of course.  And faith and hope and charity and patience and reasons to be cheerful.  Little things the absence of which means that I have not been spending my time wisely or paying attention to things I need to pay attention to.  Paper products (paper towels, napkins, tp, Kleenex, coffee filters, lined pads for Jamie, printer paper for us), obviously.  Toner, because I haven’t been able to print stuff at home for a couple of weeks, and that’s totally half-assed.  Half and half, because it goes in the morning coffee every single morning, and should simply be available with the turn of a spigot, like tap water.  Asthma meds, because forgetting to refill your asthma meds is just teh l4m3.  Fresca and seltzer, because Fresca and seltzer in a 50-50 mix is far and away the most refreshing drink known to humankind.  I hope they keep making Fresca, because I fear that I am one of only eight people in North America who buys it.

And you?

Posted by Michael on 09/27 at 11:06 AM
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Enjoy the rest of your life … cereal!

Janet and I were having a nice anniversary evening doing Old Couple things like watching The Book of Eli when it became clear that Jamie was sick.  He didn’t sleep well, nor did we, and things occasionally got messy.  He’s home with us now, and we’re sitting around watching Animal Planet.  Right now it’s a series of abandoned and/or abused pets.

Sick kids—it’s just like old times!  We feel like young marrieds again.

Actually, Jamie hardly ever gets sick.  Send him good wishes, and let’s hope he keeps down that ginger ale!

So, no post-anniversary blogging.  I just want to say two brief followup things about Mad Men and Martin Peretz.  One, I bought Life cereal for the first time last week.  It really is very tasty!  I plan to eat it by the bowlful.  Two, you’ve probably seen this one already, but I have to say that Ta-Nehisi Coates is quite right to point out that Andrew Sullivan’s “Marty Peretz was a great boss who totally let me use The New Republic to promote the idea that black people are inferior” is not really a ringing endorsement of Peretz’s intellectual courage.  Defending Peretz from charges of bigotry:  ur doin it wrong.  But you do have to admire Andy’s timing.

And happy birthday to me mum, who turns 75 today.  Very busy month, September.

Posted by Michael on 09/22 at 11:58 AM
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The first 25 years are just practice

It’s a special day around here.  You do the math.

Posted by Michael on 09/21 at 03:41 PM
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Mad Men and women

After watching last night’s episode, I thought it would be a good time to unearth Larkspur’s comment on the whole entire show, from a thread on episode six:

What it is, basically, is a horror story.  It’s set in New York in the 1960s, and is NOT ripped from any of those headlines of yesteryear.  It’s about the American advertising industry, and even though it’s set at the beginning of the Vietnam war, World War II is omnipresent.  The United States was different from the other Allied (or Axis) countries in that is suffered virtually no war damage to its own soil or infrastructure.  (Contrary to popular belief, we Boomers did not ruin everything, but god knows there were hordes of us coming of age during the uproar.  And boy oh boy, were we a very fine and enticing demographic.)

The horror part of it is that like most entertaining horror, it takes a familiar world and injects something unspeakably hideous into the narrative.  This horrific element is, in “Mad Men”, primarily (but by no means solely) displayed in the tribulations inflicted upon the women and girls in the story.  (And remember, all female humans were “girls” except the ones who were “ladies”.)

Switchboard workers, steno pool, executive secretaries: stringent traditions of behavior and dress.  To get by, most female humans in the work force had to shut up and take it.  Take his coat and hat upon his arrival, take his colleagues’ undisguised ogling and verbal abuse, take and somehow avoid the presumption that you were a comestible not unlike the liquor and cigars in every exec’s office (kept sparkly and stocked by you).  And what’s more, you were encouraged to hope to marry one of your overlords.

And black people?  Men worked the elevators.  Black women you never saw in the office suite.  They labored elsewhere, sometimes with the offspring of the mad men, often in the laundries and factories.

There weren’t any actual gay people.  There were homosexuals, but they would burst into flame when exposed to the light, so you kept that door closed.

Part of the horror that extends even to the overlords is that some of them kinda sorta get it that they should flee the scene before the scary music gets too loud.  And they know that their jolly, convivial colleagues would happily drink their milkshakes and eat their branes if it’d give them an edge.  They worked scared.

And the socially connected men have been made uneasy, because they feel the country club’s foundations groaning. Stupid war.  Still, the upstart usurpers remain vulnerable to the freeze rays that can be deployed upon them by the aristocrats.

So the mission for an intrepid player in this horrorshow is to somehow navigate the environment and improve one’s lot in life, without getting killed ded, hopefully without killing others ded, thereby retaining discernible souls, all so that they can have interesting work and a chance at higher pay. And maybe fulfillment, or at least intermittent enjoyment.

They’ll keep trying even if they can’t get to the pump before the vandals take the handles.  They’re creative.  Peggy will figure it out.  I just wish I could give Joan superpowers.  But that would take us from horror to alternate universe.

But forget everything I said, because whatever the intentions of the show creators and runners, we are supposed to be blown away by how awesomely cool everything was when men were men, girls could type AND get coffee, and black folks couldn’t possibly ever be president of anything.

And the undergarments that enable the women to look so exotic and delicious?  Were very uncomfortable, left red compression lines all over your body, contained straps and doohickeys that broke or popped open willy-nilly, cost a lot of your paycheck, and did I mention they hurt?  And do not forget: they did not have spandex or other stretchy fabrics, and even though I am the sort of monster who happily rips the wings off of maxipads, the products preceding the adhesive age were worse.

But I enjoy the horror genre, so I’m kind of a fan.

Over at Basket of Kisses, I see that a few commenters are pissed that an episode in which Peggy brings up Fillmore Auto Parts’ refusal to hire Negroes is also an episode in which the guy who robs Roger and Joan at gunpoint is black.  Yes, it would be nice if there were some good, complex roles for African-Americans in this horror show, just as there are good, complex roles for women (one of whom thinks that Negroes should just work their way into hostile businesses, the way she did!  though clearly she’s having second thoughts about that).  But surely the point is that the civil rights movement was an urgent, world-historical thing, and any decent person should have been disturbed by a client’s refusal to hire black folk, regardless of whether any given mugger happened to be black?

A point that was lost on all too many white folk at the time.  “The time” being, oh, roughly then to now.

Posted by Michael on 09/20 at 09:16 AM
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Friday, September 17, 2010

ABF Friday:  Crazy Ol’ Marty Peretz edition!

This is a tough one*, folks.  How precisely should Harvard University honor Marty “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims” Peretz next week? 

Keep in mind that this is not a question about how Peretz should defend himself.  As Peretz told Benjamin Sarlin, “The notion that after teaching 45 years at Harvard and people giving money in my honor that I have to defend myself—please.” Nor is it a question about whether Harvard should decline the fellowship money or rename the fellowship or cancel the day-long event on September 25.  Because that would be ridiculous and absurd.

Instead, I think Harvard should ask Peretz to specify precisely how cheap Muslim life is (to other Muslims, of course!  We don’t want to give anyone the impression that Peretz himself believes such a thing, just because he calls it “a statement of fact, not value").  I mean, any old racist crank can talk about the cheapness of Muslim life.  But someone worthy of an honor at Harvard should be able to name a figure.

Your suggestions?
_____________

* Yes, yes, I know, “ABF Fridays” began (back in aught-five, when this blog was insouciant and full of joie de vivre) as arbitrary but fun value judgments, and here we’re dealing with how Harvard should handle a statement of fact, not value.  So feel free to deconstruct the fact/value distinction in comments!  Be arbitrary—but fun!

UpdatePeretz apologizes on the eve of Yom Kippur.  Good on him for that.

Posted by Michael on 09/17 at 09:55 AM
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