Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Friday, November 21, 2003
And speaking of gender-neutral bathrooms...

One of the arguments that advocates for the gender-neutral bathrooms are using is that by entering a gendered public restroom, an intersexed person has to "declare" themselves male or female. I think that this is a valid point. But what about the flip side: By entering a gender-neutral bathroom, are you declaring yourself to be of non-conventional gender and sexuality?

Quick blogging from the Reg: I'm happy to report that the first floor restrooms have been remodeled, and they are beautiful--aesthetically, they rival the Classics (2nd floor) and Eckhart (2nd floor) restrooms, and the lighting's certainly better. (Although Classics and Eckhart still win points for the old-school wooden doors). Although there's one feature which Sara of Diotima will probably take issue with--when passing by the men's room, I noticed that they had a baby changing table installed. I did not see one yet installed in the women's room. I'm guessing that the crew ran out of time on the installations (there's a bar where I'm guessing the table'll be mounted in the women's room), and decided to put political correctness over probability. I'm amused, although it should be noted that I'm not affected by this decision and thus may enjoy an indulgent chuckle at the University's expense. Of course, when the gender-neutral bathroom is installed at the Reg, that problem will be solved. Or will it?

Monday, November 17, 2003
I'm not really sure this is the best system...

Apparently Chicago now has a blogmap that corresponds to the various El and Metra lines running around the city and environs. Which is great; Chicago needs a blogmap. Except... the thing is that when you live in Chicago, you don't identify yourself by train stop the way that, say, New Yorkers do. You identify yourself by your neighborhood (maps vary; there's a bitching poster that details 220 neighborhoods, but they won't allow closer views on the website. This one looks pretty accurate, except I'd label Grand Avenue and/or Douglas as Bronzeville, at least in parentheses, and I can't seem to find Andersonville.)

Right, back to what I was saying: Chicago blogging needs to be mapped out by neighborhood, not by train stop. An example: the U of C fiefdom campus is large enough such that it's possible to be closest to three different train stops--55th/56th/57th and 59th on the Metra Electric Line, and (if you live in Burton-Judson Courts) 63rd and Cottage Grove on the Green Line. But we can pretty much agree that most, if not all, of the U of C blogs can be labeled as headquartered in Hyde Park.*

*Yes, I know that everything south of the Midway is technically in Woodlawn, but it's all University-controlled. Kind of like how the Aquitaine was technically in France, but ruled by Henry/Eleanor/Richard, who all also happened to be King, Queen, and Prince of England.

Sunday, November 16, 2003
Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives

This is officially cool. And it's about damn time, too.

Friday, November 14, 2003
When I first posted about David Auburn's previous career as a writer of Jane Austen-inspired erotica, I worried for a bit on how it would affect the public's perception of the University, as well, of course, as Auburn's chances of winning an Oscar. However, I needn't have worried. There's a long tradition of Chicago graduates writing the occasional salacious piece--from Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow to America's favorite priest/sociologist/romance novelist (Fr.) Andrew M. Greeley; even Christie Hefner, regent of the Playboy empire, matriculated here. Besides, it looks like Northwestern's beating us in the sex scandal department. (Via The Morning News)

Thursday, November 13, 2003
Life imitates The Onion, continued:
Senate holds sleepover all-nighter all-night debate session

I'm not sure I approve of 60 year old men engaging in this sort of behavior. I mean, I have a hard enough time staying up late, and at least I know that I won't get a heart attack from the massive amounts of coffee, diet soda, and Red Bull I consume. But do we really want to see Robert Byrd on three Starbucks Doubleshots?

(Yes, I know that most of them won't really be staying up all night; they're staying on the floor in shifts. )

Tuesday, November 11, 2003
IN THE Chicago Tribune TODAY: First, the good news:

Dioceses Expected to Answer Abuse Survey
"William Burleigh, a member of the review board, told the bishops that the panel has worked to maintain its independence from the bishops as it oversaw the reviews.

"In adopting this posture, we hope we are not seen by you as hostile or untrustworthy. Nothing could be further from the truth," said Burleigh, board chairman and former chief executive officer of E.W. Scripps Co. "As a board we are united by our love for the church and a burning desire to see her wounds healed."

And now for something less heartening:

Catholic bishops tackle politicians: Sanctions for lawmakers are studied
"Bishop John H. Ricard, of the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese in Florida, asked prelates Monday at their semiannual meeting to help draw guidelines by which the church could sanction Catholic lawmakers who defy church teaching on issues such as abortion, the death penalty, war, welfare and immigration."

Cue "shootout at the O.K. Corral" music.

And I watch, and record, and wait, feeling like it's 1515 all over again.

Monday, November 10, 2003
Extra! Extra! Tony-winning playwright and U of C graduate revealed as writer of dirty Jane Austen parody!

After clicking through what Austentatious promised would be exerpts from the Jane Austen parody Pride and Promiscuity* (link via CS), I couldn't find anything--so like any good twenty-first century cheapskate, I Googled the title to see if there were exerpts lying around in the cache. (It's a great way of trying to find old NYTimes articles). After clicking through a few sites, one of which mentioned that one of the authors was actually "a prizewinning playwright in New York City whose identity I guessed at once, but promised not to reveal", I found an listing that listed one David Auburn as one of the writers. Hmm, that name sounded familiar. Could it be...

Yes. David Auburn, writer of the play/upcoming feature film "Proof". University of Chicago alumnus. His name's on the UK edition, but he's listed as "Dennis Ashton" on the US edition.

I wonder if Gwyneth knew about this...

*I'm trying to see how much damage has been done to the Canon. Really.

Sunday, November 09, 2003
The most awaited literary tally in North America has arrived: Crescat Sententia's 100 Novels I haven't commented on the Guardian's "Big 100" list, because... well, because it was one of those very standard books-you-should-read-to-be-considered-educated-goddammit lists. Very little on it was in any way surprising; all of the Big Dead European Novelists were covered once, as well as all of the Granddaddies of Modern Literature. But the CS list... this is not a list for Allan Bloom. It's rather like what I would have expected Allan Bloom's undergraduate students to have replied in an anonymous poll. It's very Chicago--Crime and Punishment, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Umberto Eco... the only books it's missing are Contact and maybe a 20th century dystopia or two.

But Harry Potter as No. 3? Everyone knows that the "His Dark Materials" series by Phillip Pullman is far superior. And why is the "Dirk Gently" series ranked higher than the Hitchhiker's Trilogy? And while I applaud the decision to put The Moon as a Harsh Mistress higher than The Fountainhead on the list, thus establishing Heinlein's work as the far superior libertarian-themed novel, why did The Fountainhead have to appear at all? The relationship between Roark and Dominique is creepily fascinating, and it's certainly an important work in terms of its political philosophy, but it's not great literature and it isn't even good propaganda--whereas The Moon is a Harsh Mistress made me sympathetic to ideas about minimalist government by showing libertarianism with a human face*, The Fountainhead's "individualist" hero is an emotional cripple. Do you really want to live in a neighborhood composed of these guys?

*Doesn't mean I want to get rid of 95% of the government, though. I'm not sure our nation as a whole has enough of the "frontier spirit" that seems required. Maybe once our hole-filled public education system is fixed... wait, straying off topic.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Andrew Sullivan's been collecting horror stories about moderate-seeming Muslims living in America who suddenly reveal themselves to be anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. He's content to just point out the anti-Semitism, but I'd like to go a step further:

In history class today we were discussing Thucydides's assumption of the constancy of self-interest as the main facet of human nature and the main impetus for action; this led to whether historians must assume an unchanging human nature, whether human nature really does change or not, and (yes, I do have a point) how assumptions that self-interest is the prime motivating factor for most actions are critical during wartime. That is, if you keep bombing the hell out of a city, you expect it to eventually surrender. Somehow my mind wandered off to wondering about the present world conflicts, and then my thoughts strayed to the Sullivan bloglet I mentioned earlier. Wait a minute... there's a connection...

What if these "Jewish hegemony" conspiracy theories are based, in part, on what some in the Arab world think that they could do if they had the power that individual Jews seem to have? In the past century there's been a rising sense of Arab nationalism and pan-Islamicism--an idea that's based upon "tribal" identity of a sort. Thus some who have a tribal, instead of an individualist mindset (and thus feels that tribal self-interest trumps individual self-interest) may believe that their aggressor has the same sort of tribal worldview. So maybe some Arabs/Muslims/Iraqis/whatever secretly believe that if the Arabs/Muslims/Iraqis/whatever had the relative wealth/influence per capita of the aggregate Jewish community, they themselves would be secretly trying to take over the world. But--and here's the kicker--American Jews don't have a significantly greater "tribal feeling" then, say, the American Irish. They're too busy pursuing individual dreams. But I'm not sure that the anti-Semites realize that.

BTW, if there really were a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, how come George W. Bush got to be president? You'd think the world Jewish conspiracy would have wanted to have a Jewish vice-president--unless it turns out that the conspiracy is fractitious, ineffectual, or both. But why should anyone pay attention to a toothless conspiracy?