The best way not to feel nauseated when you analyze a free speech issue is to assume everyone involved is going to be an asshole. That way you may be pleasantly surprised.
Case in point: fashion dipshits versus actress dipshit.
The best way not to feel nauseated when you analyze a free speech issue is to assume everyone involved is going to be an asshole. That way you may be pleasantly surprised.
Case in point: fashion dipshits versus actress dipshit.
My eldest is about to start seventh grade at my old school. He now has his mother's used iPhone, and texts quite a bit.
We monitor internet use on the phone (we have a program that sends a weekly email — he's gotten busted for watching YouTube after lights out, but not for content), and reserve a right to review his email and texts. My wife exercises this right — the boy ducks his head and rushes from the room, embarrassed, probably because he's texting a few girls and has started to realize they're flirting with him.
So: how much do you monitor tech usage by that age group? After this question, I will go back to decrying the NSA.
Years ago, my aunt found a picture of my grandfather's Harvard baseball team.
This picture is probably from 1937 or 1938. That's my grandfather, Paul K. Doyle, in the middle row on the far left. I look a bit like him; I got the Doyle nose and lip.
Recently my aunt digitized the picture, and here it is.
I've started to research the team. I wrote to the Harvard Archives to see if they have a roster so I can put names to faces. I wonder — what happened to these young men? How many went to war like my grandfather? How many didn't come back? How many yet live? How many of us are walking about, descended from these men and trying to live by their example?
I'll look into it, and write it up.
Edit: as usual, our readers are awesome. Grifter points out the guy in the middle is Tony Lupien.
So I'm sitting in the overflow chapel for Easter services. Evan and Abby are ungracefully with me, halfheartedly drawing on children's bulletins.
ABBY: Daddy: there's nothing to draw.
[Older couple in front of us smiles at her fondly]
ME: Why don't you draw the Easter Bunny?
ABBY: The Easter Bunny is creepy.
ME: Then why don't you draw the Easter Bunny menacing a village?
ABBY: [With an unsettling degree of enthusiasm]: Yeeaaahhhhhhhh.
[Older couple turns back towards the front, looking alarmed.]
Some minutes later, Abby has produced a drawing of a Godzilla-sized Easter Bunny credibly menacing a rustic village, with some visibly alarmed villagers.
ME: Oh, very nice, sweetie. Look at the villagers fleeing!
[Older couple is now staring ramrod-straight ahead not looking not looking not looking]
ABBY: I know, right?
ME: Look, Evan. Didn't she do a good job on the villagers?
EVAN: [newly turned 12, and suffused with ennui regarding each and every aspect of human existence] Eeeeuuurrrrggggghhhhhhh.
Part of the Conversations With Kids series.
There are three things people get wrong about the prosecution and heartbreaking suicide of Aaron Swartz.
Two of those things are about the criminal justice system. They're disturbing, but not difficult to talk about.
The third thing is about depression. It's very difficult to talk about.
But I'm going to talk about it anyway.
I use words both for a living and for a hobby, but I don't have the words today to thank the brave people — and their families — who have served my country.
Maybe that's so.
His last duchess Goya depicted several times, most memorably in an enigmatic painting in which her defiant stance seems to contradict the connotations of her mourning apparel. She points down toward the dust at her feet, where some finger — his? hers? — has inscribed "solo Goya".
Seems like something's going on there. He kept this painting among his possessions from the time of its creation until his death in 1828.
However that may have gone, Leider was surely right about Velázquez, the greatest Spanish painter of the 17th-century, and maybe the greatest of them all — the painter of whom Ruskin supposedly said that everything he does "may be regarded as absolutely right" and to whom Ruskin ascribed "the highest reach of technical perfection yet attained in art."
Why wouldn't Goya want to be Velázquez redux? The earlier artist had lived a charmed life as court painter to Philip IV, under whose auspices he cranked out not only a seemingly endless supply of stock portraiture, but also some of the most psychologically and intellectually compelling images in western art.
It didn't matter what Goya wanted, though. It was not to be. Living through the French Revolution and the Peninsular War, Goya was surrounded by destruction, corruption, incompetence, and folly. Sure, he became court painter — nominally the same position Velázquez had held. But Goya's monarch was an imbecile surrounded by monsters. Recognizing the sad irony of his plight, Goya pulled no punches when it came time to speak truth to power.
In the 1650s, Velázquez had created an unprecedented and beloved portrait of his king's young daughter surrounded by her ladies in waiting and some courtiers on the entertainment staff: Las Meninas, as it has come to be called. There she stands, head turned charmingly to one side, while the universe plays out in orbit around her. Off to the side, the painter himself stands facing us, brush and palette in hand, and applies his wizardry to an enormous canvas– one identical in size to Las Meninas itself, the only painting of such a size in his oeuvre.
In the background, a silvery mirror reflects the King and Queen, implying that they're standing just about where we stand when we behold this picture. Is Velázquez painting a double-portrait of them? Is he painting Las Meninas? The puzzle, typically Baroque, dissolves into play as the small fellow in the corner kicks the resting dog. His foot has made contact, but the dog has not yet responded; we're trapped in hang time between the moment of order and the predictable chaos about to ensue. The painter waves his laden brush and weighs his options.
How could Goya, a deeply gifted critic of his world and times, not want the liberty to play such games, and in such style? Called upon in 1800 to portray the extended family of Charles IV, he creates this:
In a knowing and telling play on the earlier artist's work, Goya presents a travesty of Las Meninas. In place of that gloriously wonderful child, the Infanta Margarita, Goya installs the doltish King's draconian wife, Maria Luisa; the turn of her head is the same, but hardly charming. The ignoble royals mill about unharmoniously, a senseless cluster. The woman who failed to show up for her sitting? Goya includes her anyhow, but turns her head away toward the darkness! The King, all decked out in regalia, medals, lace, and velvet? Nothing but periwig and prattle. That child nestled between the king and his bride? People say he looks a lot like the Prime Minister, Godoy.
In the shadows off to the side, behind an enormous canvas, stands Goya himself, just like Velázquez. He seems to sigh.
Like Beethoven, Goya went stone deaf; he lived another 40 years or so in silence as he watched the world tear itself apart. In his 70s, he holed up in a little two story house near Madrid, pondered his failures of nerve and will and fate, and nursed his unsurprising depression. For his eyes only, he filled the plaster walls of this house with oil paintings– dark, brooding, sinister paintings. Saturn (Time) Devouring His Children. The Fight With Cudgels. The Fates.
Perhaps they speak of a heart unfulfilled, these paintings. Perhaps of a Goya who only ever wanted two things. Goya was able to project virtual worlds of his own design, to paint anything his imagination might offer. Looking back on a life that didn't go as he had planned and considering a broken world teeming with corruption, why did Goya surround himself with vivid, symbolic depictions of that same chaos, that old night?
It's something to ponder. It's something to pity.
Clients — whether they are criminal defendants or civil litigants — rarely get immediate gratification from the American justice system. It's not set up for that. In fact it's not set up to gratify anyone other than, perhaps, the more extreme masochists and irrationality-fetishists.
So when I can give my clients something that empowers them in an immediately apparent way, I jump at it. That's why one of my favorite things to do with a client before a deposition (or before the very rare interview with government officials, something I almost never permit) is to train them how to recognize and then ignore interrogation techniques. The results are immediate and gratifying. I've had clients burst into delighted laughter when an opposing attorney uses a deposition technique I've taught them to spot. (This has the side benefit of eviscerating the opposing counsel's self-confidence, especially if they are the blustering type.) It's immediately useful knowledge, and knowledge is powerful, and clients love to feel they have a little power in the brutal legal process. Very few things I do increase client's confidence in themselves (and in me) as quickly.
This works in areas other than law. A couple of weeks ago, whilst vacationing in Sedona, I lost my temper rather abruptly and explicitly with a time-share salesman who accosted us on the main street. I was reminded of this incident by today's interesting story on NPR about the science behind sales techniques. If I had been able to put names to the manipulative techniques the time-share dude was using on us, I might have felt more powerful, and therefore reacted in a more becoming manner. There are a number of sites out there that document and name such techniques — some pro, some anti-, some neutral. Here's one I found. Perhaps readers can suggest others. Remember: knowledge is power. Recognizing manipulative techniques others are trained to use upon you empowers you to think critically about them.
Concerning the higher education bubble and employability, John Leo writes:
Employers, because they realize that many college graduates aren’t really educated, now routinely quiz job seekers on what they majored in and what courses they took, a practice virtually unknown a generation ago. Good luck if you majored in gender studies, communications, art history, pop culture, or (really) the history of dancing in Montana in the 1850s.
He implies that those who major in the five disciplines he mentions, or in kindred areas, will need luck since their training and capabilities will not be adequate to pass muster. In short, they "aren't really educated." Well, maybe. But one of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong here….
Art history isn't one of the fashionable new disciplines, along the lines of <noun>-studies, that arose in the academic turmoil of the 20th century's latter half. As an academic endeavor, it has historical roots similar to those of psychology and economics: rumblings of inquiry and analysis in the late 1700s, disciplinary differentiation on the continent in the later 1800s, and finally a blossoming between the wars. Even in the United States, the PhD in art history (to say nothing of the undergraduate major) has been around since the 1940s. On a broad definition, art history as a systematic learned endeavor traces back to the monumental 16th-century labors of Giorgio Vasari.
Art history requires facility with languages, engagement with intellectual history, an understanding of evolving technologies of representation and communication, and a grasp of the rich interaction among methodologies and social forces underlying creation, distribution, consumption, and analysis. Maybe some who choose art history desire to look at and laud the pretty pictures — a practice better understood as art appreciation — but many who pursue it do so because doing art history well is hard, and there's pleasure in doing hard things well.
Perhaps the foregoing is true, too, of "gender studies, communications, …pop culture, or …the history of dancing" but I can't speak to that question with authority. (As for the broader anti-humanistic trend, I've called it out before). This much seems true: thinking that the study of art history doesn't provide a "real education" (including, but not limited to, skills valuable to employers) betrays not just ignorance of the particulars but a contempt for the humanistic endeavor in general.
John Leo isn't alone in his trench; it's not hard in excavating the word hoard of today's techno-intellectual cultural backlash to find other examples of sneering disdain. Standing with one foot in the humanities and the other in STEM, I'm disappointed to see complex, mature, and deeply rooted disciplines trashed alongside academic novelties and questionable latecomers, all in the service of a monolithic, pragmatic vision of education as mere job training.
Good luck if your pedagogical vision is limited to empirical and procedural questions of what and how. Why and whether and what to do with paradox and gray– these also matter.
I've wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember. I made little books with construction paper and paste as a kid. I said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up if asked. I thought about the types of books I could write.
But I've never had what it takes to really do it. I've started a chapter or two here or there, but never persevered.
Part of it is being lazy. Part of it is being afraid. Part of it, at least for the last 14 years, is the cyclically appearing black dog, who sits and stares for a while before he clambers noisily to his feet and ambles away.
But other people do it. Other people have challenged themselves and set a goal and met it, and even have written about the process.
I've been telling myself that it would take too long, that I'm too busy, that I couldn't commit to meeting output goals.
But this morning it occurred to me that when you exclude quotes and hmtl stuff, I've written around 8,000-9,000 words on this site this week. The quality varied, and heaven above knows that I'd benefit from a patient editor. But I kind of liked the Bigfoot thing.
The average novel, I'm told, is around 70,000 – 100,000 words.
So how, exactly, is output volume an excuse I can fall back upon?
I'm under no illusions that writing something remotely publishable is as easy as writing one-off blog posts. I don't think that sustaining a coherent narrative is as easy as writing isolated snark that relies heavily on words like "twatwaffle."
But I've been dreaming about this my whole life. I tell my kids that they can do anything they want. Shouldn't I give it a real try?
So — I'm going to give it some thought. If I move forward, maybe I will write about the process occasionally. I've always thought that I'd like to write a legal caper novel — something in a style inspired by some odd combination of Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and Dave Barry.
Evan has viewed our pets with benign neglect; the girls give them all the attention. Recently, for the first time, he showed his first interest in getting a pet: a bearded dragon, which is basically a lizard with pretensions, a lizard that is currently working as a lizard but ultimately wants to direct.
Yesterday we picked up the bearded dragon, which we purchased off Craigslist. Normally you'd think that the only people searching "bearded dragon" on Craigslist are closeted Republican state senators, but actually no.
Anyway, we also picked up worms and crickets for the bearded dragon to it. It turns out that Evan — who has barely brought himself to touch Rex the bearded dragon — is afraid of the crickets.
This will make it easier to respond to his ridicule of my longstanding reptile phobia.
This conversation resulted:
Me: Just do it. Just march in there and pick out a cricket and give it to Rex.
Evan: No. I DON'T LIKE CRICKETS.
Me: It's a bug. It won't hurt you.
Evan: You don't know that.
Me: Are you afraid of the crickets? The little crickets in a jar?
Evan: Yes. Yes. I HATE CRICKETS.
Me: That explains why Pincochio was such a traumatic experience for you.
Me: Pinocchio . . . Pinocchio. You know. With Jimminy Cricket.
Evan: [Utterly unconvincingly] Oh . . . oh yeah. Him. Right.
Me: You have no idea who I am talking about.
Evan: Sure I do! Pino. . . somebody. And the cricket.
Me: I'm a failure as a parent.
I came home from college a brash cliche — full of ideas, full of enthusiasm, full of confidence that no one had ever grasped right and wrong quite as firmly as I so recently had. Full of myself, in other words. (I will pause here a moment to allow you to contain your astonishment.) My parents watched with amusement, as parents usually do.
Among the things that I imagined I understood better than my parents was homosexuality. I rolled my eyes when my mother was uncomfortable with the Merchant-Ivory production of Maurice. When my father made the occasional mildly off-color joke, I reacted with the righteous indignation of the university-acculturated.
They let it pass.
Over the next few years, I actually learned things. I actually met gay people, and became acquainted with them as human beings and not as au currrant abstractions — meaning that I learned they were people, much like me, made with good and bad parts. I worked a summer at my father's law firm and learned that, for years, he had been quietly drafting estate plans and directives to physicians and other documents for committed gay couples, using his skill to achieve for them as much protection as the law would allow during a time when many such couples were being ravaged by AIDs. I learned that my mother, so squeamish at cultural depictions of gays, was the confidant of a few gay employees at the school where she was principal — after her funeral one gentleman confided in my that she was the most non-judgmental boss he'd ever had.
My father, now retired, resides comfortably to my political left; my mother's politics were a combination of Catholic upbringing, compassion, and practicality. But I never heard either express any opinion on the politics of society's treatment of gays. I did, however, observe and learn from their treatment of humans who happened to be gay. They favored the personal over the political. They treated people as individuals rather than as ciphers standing for some ideological end. I've spent the years since, with only some success, trying to live by that lesson. It's an ongoing process.
I support, unequivocally, the formal, legal, and social equality of gays in America. But I think I'm more persuasive an advocate for it when I view them as individuals and not abstractions. That's why I am particularly moved by, and grateful for, Patrick's post about his neighbors Gale and Elizabeth. This ought not be a surprise to me — I'm more effective as an advocate for my clients when I am able to view and portray them as individuals rather than as icons — "the criminal defendant" or "the wronged business partner" or "the censored blogger." So, too, am I more effective when I can see my client's adversaries as individuals rather than as archetypes.
The passage of Amendment One in North Carolina is a bitter disappointment, though not as bitter as the passage of Proposition 8 in my own home state of California. But it's not an end, any more than Proposition 8 was. There will be future votes. Perhaps there will be future legal developments, as there were in connection with Proposition 8. But I think the best hope for gay Americans is to be viewed as individuals, not as interest groups. For that matter, the best hope to engage people who oppose gay marriage is to view them as collections of individuals, not as stock villains. I'll do my best, on both counts.
I will close my expressing my admiration and thanks to my co-blogger Patrick for his series on Amendment One. I'd enjoy introducing Patrick to my father; I think they'd like each other.
I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.
I was standing in line at the Starbucks in my building. A young woman was standing in line in front of me reading something on her iPhone. I do not know her, but have seen her in line before, and have exchanged minimal social pleasantries such as nodding, smiling, and refraining from brandishing weapons or showing incisors. As we stood there, the young woman started laughing. She looked back at me with that about-to-engage-me-in-human-interaction-even-though-I-am-clearly-waiting-in-line-for-my-goddam-coffee expression. I assumed my best I-really-don't-want-to-know-but-you're-going-to-tell-me-anyway-aren't-you noncommittal smile.
That's when she said "have you ever read this blog Popehat?"
I looked down at her phone, and saw that she was, in fact, browsing a familiar-looking page.
"….yes," I allowed, considering how to handle this.
"I found it by reading The Bloggess. It's great today. Do you like it?" [Note: Hyperlink not in actual verbal exchange.]
"Only some days," I replied quite truthfully.
Apparently there was something off about my affect, because she frowned. "I think the guy who writes it is a lawyer here in Los Angeles."
"Really?" I said.
"Actually I hear he's kind of a dick," I said.
Now, in my defense, I was trying to work out in my head how I was going to follow that up with a big reveal. Was it going to be an I am Sparticus! type of thing, or an Abed-from-Community-doing-Batman I'm Batman type of thing, or a contrived self-deprecating type of thing? That sort of decision is not to be made lightly. But before I could decide, taken aback from my ironic self-abuse, she turned around, took a long step forward, and stopped talking to me.
I'm starting to think that even if writing ever makes me famous, my social interactions are going to continue to be strictly a one-day-at-a-time sort of thing.
Via Instapundit comes the tragic lament of "Rebecca Chapman, who has a master of arts in English and comparative literature from Columbia University" and who "hit bottom professionally last summer when she could not even get a job that did not pay." In the company of "Willie Osterweil, 25, an aspiring novelist who graduated magna cum laude from Cornell in 2009," and "Rachel Rosenfelt, 26, who graduated from Barnard College in 2009," and other like-minded young'uns, she formed an echo chamber for the palaver of "overeducated, underemployed postgrads willing to work free to be heard on subjects like Kanye West’s effect on the proletarian meta-narrative of hip-hop."
This meditation on optimism from the NYTimes comes on the heels of widespread mockery from rightward pundits of poor, dream-chasing Joe Therrien, who only wanted to be a puppeteer and is now regarded in some quarters as a misfit toy. (Note, though, that Michael Barone, a man of dexter sentiment, defends Therrien, noting that "he presumably felt that he could be a good enough puppeteer to make a living at it and could find a job doing so. That’s the sort of thing the late Steve Jobs told Stanford graduates that they ought to do." The Anchoress also has a thing or two to say in defense of pursuing puppetry, if not paper.
The broad cultural question at stake is whether China has the right idea: to phase out majors and programs that consistently produce graduates who prove unemployable on the basis of their education.
The issue, as always, is the legitimacy and scope of state subsidization. What stake does the government have, in behalf of its citizens, in perpetuating the production of puppeteers (taken as a proxy for the entire class of overrepresented, underemployable domains of interest)?
It's by no means a new theme. Roll back a hundred thirty-odd years, and you'll find Thomas Henry Huxley and Matthew Arnold arguing against and for the humanities with greater eloquence and insight than any of today's pundits. Later, Dewey wanted to regress toward the mean for the sake of making or half-baking a compliant, progressive workforce. His ideas still prompt controversy among Arnoldites, even if Huxleyites and cynics regard the issue as moot.
Do we want to be pragmatic above all else? Is it unwise for the ideal to temper the real? Folks who discern that they're puppeteers or poets, calligraphers or critics, artisans or artists, shouldn't bear blame and suffer disdain for rolling the dice on their dreams. They only merit mockery when, failing, they whine about how their society's public policies didn't long indulge them.
The pursuit of a culture of literary salons is not a path orthogonal to hard-nosed capitalism; when successful, it's a symptom or index of thriving capitalism. And although taking the risk when times are lean may be ill advised, the humanistic goal of chasing a cultural dream isn't inherently wrong or risible. To the contrary, the humanistic goal is the point not only of the risk, but of capitalism itself, rightly construed.
It's been a productive month from a work standpoint, but blogging has suffered. Here are some of the things that I meant to write about, but couldn't in October 2011:
1) My dog Tanner ran off at the beginning of the month, and was on the loose for 48 hours in a busy downtown area of a mid-sized city. Tanner is a lovable, goofy spaz. How he didn't wind up as roadkill I still don't know. I was going to write about the idiocy of strangers (the lady who caught him, called us to let us know that (I was 200 miles away and driving home), then left a large, athletic dog in a yard with a 30 inch fence he easily jumped), the kindness of strangers (another lady caught him and walked him a mile to our house), the power of social networking on the local level (he was returned to us because a Facebook post I wrote was widely circulated by friends and friends of friends), and the weird attachment some of us feel for other species.
This is Tanner:
2) I'm attending a zombie walk tomorrow, with Tanner. The photo above shows his zombie costume last Halloween.
3) The photo I didn't get to take, because it would have been dangerous to do so in traffic: a large truck with the logo AMERICAN SAFETY being hauled from a wreck by an even larger truck. Whoever hit the AMERICAN SAFETY truck scored a bull's eye, directly over the words AMERICAN SAFETY.
4) The photo I did get to take:
5) The wife passed out and broke her nose last Friday. I have a nice photo, which I won't post, and a lot of choice thoughts about hospital protocol, which I've already written about. Why do doctors say "syncopal episode" to people who've had concussions when they mean "fainting"? Are they trying to justify their fancy eddications, or just to piss off the guy in the room who does know what "syncopal episode" means, because he didn't suffer a concussion from falling on concrete?
Is there anything you meant to write about this month, but couldn't get around to? If so, feel free to write a digest version in the comments.