succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Book Completed: Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson

Sorry to disagree with you JP, but I liked this one. I'm sure I only got about 50% of the story, but what I got, I liked. There's a whole slew of stuff about religion and politics in 17th C England, France, and Holland, most of which I'm sure I didn't totally understand, and which made me wish I'd either paid more attention in history class or had a better history class, or some combination thereof. Although this one includes plenty of geek players (Isaac Newton, Leibniz, etc.) there were actually fewer of the geek plotlines than in his other books (at least, fewer of my flavor of geekiness). Still, all around enjoyable, and definitely worth looking up the next two in the series (and by 'looking up' I mean either hunting them down at the library or just being patient enough for Dad to send them along).

Book about to begin: 1984, by George Orwell

Because it's time for a fresh reading.

In other news, I'm gearing up for a debate in my next human rights seminar. The topic is, essentially, can human rights be secular? And the argument (thus far, I've only just started the assigned reading) strikes me as similar to the argument against atheism - that a system of morals cannot exist without a belief in god. Some god, any god. Which just strikes me as completely bogus. So the paper I just finished reading says basically the same thing, that you can't believe in the (basic foundation of human rights) idea that humans are endowed with inherent dignity without also believing that some higher power did the endowing. Although I disagree with the argument set forth by Max Stackhouse, I do have to give him credit for a clever bit of phrasing:
It is not hard to show that these theological traditions are the ones to which the authors of the United Nations Universal Declaration turned after the terrors of Nazi paganism and in the face of Communist secularism. I do not deny that it has taken more than two centuries for the 'all' to revise the operative definition of 'men' as including only white, propertied males, but I deny that it was Kant's immaculate conception of human dignity that served as the root of human rights ideas, as a number of secularist advocates of human rights claim. He was not in that way Immanuel.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

In a nice bit of symmetry, this happened today.

Me: Hi, um...I hate to bring the room down, but I have a somewhat less light-hearted question. In my copy of The Handmaid's Tale, in the back, there's an interview with you, in which you say, essentially, if you wanted to take over the country, you would claim to have the word of God.

Ms. Margaret Atwood: Of course!

Me: So, I was wondering if you had anything to say about our current administration's [laughter, applause] relationship with religion?

Again, I thought I might throw up and/or pass out, but thankfully, neither happened. And after meandering through a bit of history, Ms. Atwood finished her answer with the advice that if we didn't start standing up for ourselves we were really going to end up "in the soup." She was on campus to discuss The Penelopiad and the myth project (and how she got roped into it one morning before she'd had a chance to have her coffee) and she told stories about drinking and the Bible and dozens of other things in this weird, flat voice with unexpected intonations. Oh, and she's funny! This comes as less of a surprise than the fact that Salman Rushdie is funny, but still, she's funnier than I expected. I may have to look up more of her poetry. Apparently she has one called Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing. And I particularly liked this one that she read tonight:

Siren Song
This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who had heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember.
Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
I don’t enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two feathery maniacs,
I don’t enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.

Also today I attended my first class - an interdisciplinary seminar on human rights. I was a bit daunted at first, because it's scheduled for three hours. I forget, sometimes, that not all classes feature a prof writing Greek letters and equations on a white board. A three hour discussion is much more stomachable. And, I already have a big dork crush on one of the profs. He's in the poli sci department, which is apparently beefing up its stats, and he teaches some of the higher level courses. So I walked out with him after class, discussing the application of various models for predicting which animals will mate to conflict models attempting to predict which groups will have violent conflicts. I hope I didn't gush too much.

Also this morning my roommate's boyfriend discovered that Cleo (the cat) left us a little present on the hearth (of the dead rodent variety). Given that I let her in before going to bed and I'm fairly certain her mouth was empty at the time, we're facing the potential reality of a mouse problem. So I e-mailed Dad for advice (shocker) and he ended his reply thusly, "This is guaranteed not to let them die in the walls, but could provide Cleo with some messy fun. Finding a tortured mouse stuck to the trap is a bit traumatic. Sucks to be toward the bottom of the Kingdom!"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Nobodies
by Eduardo Galeano

Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that, one magical day, good luck will suddenly rain down on them - will rain down in buckets. But good luck doesn't rain down, yesterday, today, tomorrow or ever. Good luck doesn't even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day on their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms.

The nobodies: nobody's children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way.

Who are not, but could be.
Who don't speak languages, but dialects.
Who don't have religions, but superstitions.
Who don't create art, but handicrafts.
Who don't have culture, but folklore.
Who are not human beings, but human resources.
Who do not have faces, but arms.
Who do not have names, but numbers.
Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper.
The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.

The semester started today, and thank goodness. I've gone too long without being challenged about the moral motivations behind and implications of my research.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Network tv is getting dirty!
(and I like it)

Did you notice that on last night's episode of The Closer they implied that Brenda Lee and Fritz has a little quickie in the afternoon? And during tonight's Eureka it was implied that Sheriff Carter got a hard on while smooshed up against Allison! Dirty!

(I swear, someday I'll get back around to thoughtful posts. perhaps even posts that don't include any combination of alcohol, money, sex, or tv)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Eek! I just spent $80 on a pair of boots! This is ridiculously extravagant. But, they're gorgeous. Knee-high brown leather from Nine West. The last pair of Nine West boots I purchased back in high school - I've had them re-soled three times and I'm still walking the shit out of 'em. So I'm justifying the splurge with the idea that they're a reasonable 'investment,' so to speak. Plus, I haven't treated myself to something this really, truly, Nice in ages. So, minimal buyer's remorse.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Egads! I managed to get talked onto the karaoke stage not once, not twice, but three times tonight! (my foggy memory is percolating bits of Earl Must Die, I Touch Myself, and Material Girl toward the surface) I caught a glimpse of my smudged face in the mirror as I stumbled in the general direction of my bathroom in search of face wash. Oops. It would appear that I have allowed myself (caused myself?) to get far drunker than intended. Ah well. Such is life. There seems to be very little that a nalgene full of water and Matthew McConaughey can't cure. Don't look for me 'til sometime in the afternoon...oof.