Blog or Not?

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
A Clairification
I hadn't posted anything for a while (my only gateway to the Internet was a 486 and a 56K modem sharing a line with the phones), so I was feeling guilty. So when I found Will Baude's line about homosexuality I found it striking enough to share, and I realized that I knew some weird things about Dupont (like the fact that it's rather influential in Delaware politics). I'm actually not running a contest.

We now return you to really, really light blogging, probably through the rest of the holiday season.

Saturday, December 20, 2003
Nominee for "Best Throwaway Line Refuting 'Natural Law' Arguments"
"Homosexuality was not invented at Dupont in the 1970s."

NOTE: We know this is true because if homosexuality had been invented by Dupont, gay marriage would be legal in the state of Delaware. Since I haven't heard of any gay marriage ceremonies in Dover lately, I'm assuming it's not.

Thursday, December 11, 2003
Forecasting the Next Big Civil Rights Issue, with help from Dave Eggers
A few days ago I bought the November 2003 issue* of "The Believer", everyone's favorite published-but-not-edited-by-Dave Eggers literary journal (eight bucks: not cheap. At least I got the Seminary Co-op Discount). Anyways, there was a piece in there, "Camp Trans", by Michelle Tea, which explores the conflicts between an old-school lesbian music festival (the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival) and male-to-female transsexuals who were denied admission to the festival and eventually started a protest camp (the eponymous Camp Trans) across the road. Apparently the Michigan Festival wants to make itself as man-free a place as possible, and so has decided to ban anyone who has possessed a penis.

The piece was thoughtful, and really well-written. It reminded me of why I roll my eyes at some aspects of second-wave feminism--for instance, spelling "women" as "womyn" seems to me to be a piece of pure political foppery. Other random thoughts follow:

--Some of the festival-goers who oppose the admission of trans women (most don't, according to the article) seem to have a real fear of maleness--male voices, male bodies, whatever. Some justify this by claiming that women want a male-free time in their lives; I can accept this. But some of these women seem to believe that trans women still harbor the "taint" of maleness--even after outright rejecting masculine identity to the point of undergoing painful, expensive surgical procedures--as if an excess of testosterone were a poison that could never be completely eradicated.

--Um, wasn't one of the original points of feminism to make physical sex not that important? And, by having a fear of maleness, aren't you transcribing some kind of special power onto maleness that you, as a female, can't fight?

--Regarding the lesbians who are attracted to "trannyboys" (female-to-male transsexuals) but fear being labeled as "straight"--aren't there statistics to show that a) most people aren't absolutely straight or absolutely gay** and b) females are more likely than males to have non-absolute sexual preference? I know you want to proclaim your unconformity, but isn't pigeonholing yourself to a category so much more conformist than not?

And finally, fulfilling the promise of the post title...
--Lesbians rejecting trans women oddly parallels early 70's feminists disassociating themselves from lesbians, male chauvinism in the Civil Rights Movement and anti-Vietnam movement, latent appeals to anti-immigrant and racist sentiment during the Women's Suffrage movement, sexism and racism (yes, racism) in the abolition of slavery movement... have I missed anything here?
So we have a consistent pattern of group A's movement being the Big Civil Rights Movement. In group A, there exists subgroup B which is marginalized in the movement. After group A wins major victories, subgroup B splinters off, attracts new members, becomes group B and the Big Civil Rights Movement... lather, rinse, repeat.

So--to sum up--based upon my great command of history, my strangely intuitive knowledge of America's subconscious, the University of Chicago gender-neutral bathroom debate, and the fact that I just read Middlesex, I predict non-traditional gender will become the next Big Civil Rights Issue (at least on the Left).

At least, that's the thing I see next on the horizon. I could be wrong.

*I also recommend the article on "Smallville" and nineteenth-century Midwestern Christian communalism, the Tina Fey interview, and... I need to finish the magazine (80 pages of prose with a few drawings and no ads, and it's finals week. I'm still embarrassed.)
**Dave Eggers reference: In the front of A.H.W.O.S.G. he gives a nice little line graph that shows him as mostly, but not absolutely, straight.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Our friends downstate in Urbana-Champaign also, apparently, have a sizable squirrel population--check out Rana's Squirrel Project (unfortunately, it tends only to work on IE) in honor of our furry friends.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003
He's Not Dead Yet!
I'm afraid Will Baude is mistaken about Sherlock Holmes's death--none of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories mention Holmes's death (except for "The Final Problem", where Holmes "dies"--but in "The Adventure of the Empty House" he reveals that he faked his own death and bummed around Eurasia for three years before coming back to London.) Tradition--at least the tradition of The Game--holds that, as there has been no notice of the death of Sherlock Holmes, we must still regard Holmes as among the living until notified otherwise. And no, nevermind that he must be at least 142 years old by now (taking a later approximation of his birth, see King, 1995)--he's been beekeeping in Sussex for the past ninety years; he has access to royal jelly, and who knows what that stuff can do for you.

Works cited
King, L.R. "The Beekeeper's Apprentice; Or, on the Segregation of the Queen". New York: St. Martin's, 1995.

Saturday, December 06, 2003
And the winner is....
Hey, Daniel Drezner's Aunt is Anti-Wal-Mart! Sweet!
So (Professor) Daniel Drezner's blog links you to his brother Jay's blog, which links to their cousin Andrew's blog, which links to his mother's blog... which is currently bashing Wal-Mart.

I wonder how Professor Drezner, who has of late become the Chicago Weekly's go-to guy for pro-globalization sound bites, feels about Wal-Mart. Of course, since we don't have Wal-Mart anywhere around Hyde Park, it's kind of a moot point.

Andrew Sullivan tries to justify (again) his membership in the Republican Party by quoting Ward Connelly: "Please, please, please at this moment of national crisis on so many issues, let's not fracture our conservative/libertarian family over one issue."

I'm just curious--besides national defense, what exactly do Andrew Sullivan and, say, Trent Lott agree on anyway? I'm being quasi-serious here: Either comment below or e-mail me at (mcraig) [at] (uchicago) [dot] (edu).

Friday, December 05, 2003
Maureen (and, okay, CNN as well) Gets Results
Here I noted a CNN story about how special ed students were being factored into the test scores under No Child Left Behind. Now the Department of Education has caved in, admitting, in so many words, "Yeah, it's kind of retarded to try to make severely retarded seven-year-olds take the regular achievement tests." So they're giving severely disabled students alternative tests that would more accurately describe their improvement over time. It's going to affect about 1% of students*.

*CNN notes that this equals "about 10 percent of all special education students", but "special education" in this case probably includes kids with dyslexia, ADD, and the kids in remedial reading--or at least that's the only way I can figure that 10% of public schoolchildren are "differently abled". This may reflect an anti-testing bias on the part of CNN--a bias I don't agree with, because I want people to realize just how much worse the, say, Melrose Park, IL school system is compared to Evanston's.

Thursday, December 04, 2003
Joan Jett Running in NY as Dean Delegate

This is just too damn cool for words.

This is even better than the Congressional Sleepover: Since Berlin city universities are getting funding cuts, the students are striking--and the physics professors of Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin (and from what I can tell by the initials after some of the lecturers, also some professors from the Technischen Universitat Berlin and the Freie Universitat Berlin) have joined in by giving what could be the longest physics lecture in history. (Here's the topics in the original German)

I think we can all agree that this is more fun, more useful, and less of a waste of taxpayer money, than Bill Frist pacing the Senate floor reciting the Declaration of Independence (Via Slashdot)

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

"Special Ed Students Skew Test Results.

Duh. If they could pass, or even complete, the regular test then they wouldn't be in special ed in the first place. And yet NCLB's requiring that they be factored into the school scores? Please.

And victories keep on rolling in...

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An American citizen detained as an enemy combatant for two years after being captured fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan will be allowed access to an attorney, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Giving a lawyer access to Yaser Hamdi, the Pentagon said, "will not compromise the national security of the United States.""

The tide has turned.
I hope.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Okay, now why haven't I been hearing more about this?

Continuing his criticism of rap, Spike Lee told an audience at Brown University that popular music portrays blacks in a negative light.

Speaking to an audience of more than 400 students Monday night, the director of films including "Do the Right Thing" and "Malcolm X" repeated the complaints he's made at colleges and universities over the past year.

"I've always felt you can feel the progress of African Americans by listening to their music," Lee said. "Some of this 'gangsta rap' stuff, it's not doing anybody any good. This stuff is really dangerous."

--For several years we've been hearing both conservative and liberal commentators complaining about how the modern hip-hop bling-bling culture screws over urban youth. But these guys have all been oldish, not that hip, and frankly not powerful enough in youth-oriented media to make a difference in youth culture. Spike Lee, I think, can do something about it... perhaps the next Bamboozled could puncture the street pretensions of Jay-Z and P.Diddy?

But then, I'm probably not an authority on these matters. I don't even own any rap CDs.

The next hit reality series:

"CBS executives announced Monday that they have begun filming Antebellum Island, a new "alternate reality" series in which 12 strangers compete for $1 million while isolated on an island still under Confederate rule.


Executives were reluctant to reveal the themes for Antebellum's weekly competitions, but said contests might include skeet shooting, quilting bees, formal-dress cotillions, and working at a textile factory on the west side of the island for the entire show's duration with no chance at the $1 million prize."

Personally, I would love to see this project come to fruition. First of all (nitpicky history geek in me), it would instruct America that the Rebel Battle Jack is not the real Confederate flag. Secondly, it'd be a damn better show than "Dixie Stampede". And finally, it'd provide a nice reality check to all of that Confederate nostalgia that's been floating around the South since ~1866.

But a quick heads up to the boys in naming: "Antebellum" means "before the war". Why not just "Confederate Island"?


But wait a minute. CNN's claiming that only Muslims were complaining about the registration requirements? Our campus chapter of the ACLU had a letter-writing campaign; I sat at a table in the Reynolds Club for an hour trying to get passerby to sign form letters to their senators protesting the law and its enforcement*. This wasn't a Muslim or Arab issue, this was an equality-before-the-law-during-wartime issue.

Oh, wait, there's a mention of the ACLU... two-thirds of the way down. As if we didn't really do anything.

*A sidenote: During a discussion with Geoffery Stone, an expert in civil liberties during wartime, writer of the Korematsu amicus brief, etc., one of us asked about Stone's feelings about registration of aliens in general. Professor Stone here mentioned that during WWII and the Cold War, all aliens in the country who weren't permanent residents had to periodically register with the government--you just went to the post office, kind of like how U.S. citizens get their passports. This seems to me to be a far more sensible solution; terrorists can come from anywhere. And by having all aliens register, it satisfies equality-before-the-law more than the Bush plan did.

Sorry about the hiatus. Regular blogging to resume... now.