succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Random Update

North Country - I heard this discribed as both a little blah and a little slow. I didn't think it was either. Charlize Theron and Francis McDormand were, as usual, amazing (Sean Bean, Woody Harrelson, Sissy Spacek, and Michelle Monaghan all deserve nods as well). But the most important part of the story, for me, is that all this horrible discrimination and harassment is happening in the 1980s. In fact, the court case wasn't settled until my freshman year of college! (1998, for those who were wondering)

The Illusionist - good, despite being predictable. Predictable in the sense that the plot is clearly drawn from the canon of classic love stories, so, for me, the enjoyable part of the movie wasn't really the plot details. The enjoyable part was watching Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti act. Jessica Biel tried to keep up, and I'd like to say she did (objectively, she probably didn't do that badly), but I just couldn't get past that 7th heaven face and take her seriously.

Hollywoodland - eh. The story is interesting enough, and I did like how they laid out the different possibilities, but it was all a little too deliberate and laborious for me. I would have liked the whole thing better if it had been about 30 minutes shorter. On the plus side, Adrian Brody was pretty good and Diane Lane was near-brilliant (though it would be nice to see her as something other than an adulturess). Even Ben Affleck didn't make me want to punch him in the face, which is an improvement. And in a small role as Brody's assistant, Caroline Dhavernas was a pleasant surprise. Who's Caroline Dhavernas, you ask? Watch Wonderfalls! You'll be glad you did!

Scrubs - between netflix and Comedy Central's Scrubs-a-thon I have seen way too many back-to-back episodes. But damn is that some funny stuff.

The Last King of Scotland - Forest Whitaker is slated to play brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, with the story told through his person physician, played by James McAvoy (who, I though, stood out in Narnia as Mr. Tumnus).
Catch a Fire - Terrorism in Apartheid-era South Africa, with Tim Robbins. (it's like Hollywood all of a sudden discovered the continent of Africa)
Children of Men - Dystopia where women can no longer become pregnant, with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore. Looks pretty good, but prompts me to add this - if/when this happens, it will likely be due to infirtility in men; their fertility rates have dropped drastically, just across one generation.

Music (AKA - Rock stars are so accessible!)
Had the good fortune to attend a small, cozy (unfortunately, not sold out) show on Tuesday featuring The Spinto Band, We Are Scientists, and Art Brut. All three are quite pleasing, but the first two embrace their utter dorkiness much more, so, of course, they appeal much more to me. The Spinto Band features, at times, four guitars, and produce a great, full sound. We Are Scientists are smaller (lead guitar and vocals, bass, and drums) but still manage to produce some damn fine rock and roll. And adorably witty banter. Chris just splurged on a wireless bass, so he indulged in a nice romp out through the audience. Art Brut undeniably produces a joyful sound, but they veer a little too close to a parody of a rock band for my taste (Eddie Argos likes to start songs with, "Ready Art Brut! Go Art Brut!"). My expectations may also have been raised a bit too high since they were listed on Spin's 25 Greatest Live Bands Now! Argos also wandered out into the crowd, much to our pleasure and some poor roadie's consternation, since Argos wasn't wireless, and the roadie kept having to hang on to the mic chord. During Art Brut's last song I realized that Chris (WAS frontman) was standing right in front of me! squee!

And now that I have a very full glass of wine, it's time to dive back in to grading papers. Woo! Wild and crazy Saturday night!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thoughtful advocacy for pregnant women

AWB is so on top of things today; she introduces me to an organization I'd never even hear of (they're going to revoke my public health card!) - National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Check out their mission statement:

National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) works to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable - low income women, women of color, and drug-using women. NAPW seeks to ensure that women do not lose their constitutional and human rights as a result of pregnancy, that addiction and other health and welfare problems they face during pregnancy are addressed as health issues, not as crimes; that families are not needlessly separated, based on medical misinformation; and that pregnant and parenting women have access to a full range of reproductive health services, as well as non-punitive drug treatment services. By focusing on the rights of pregnant women, NAPW broadens and strengthens the reproductive justice, drug policy reform, and other interconnected social justice movements in America today.

As AWB points out,

NAPW is unique in that it combines the efforts and talents of pro-choice activists and of doulas, midwives, and other health care providers. The idea is to take back control of the rhetoric surrounding pregnancy choices from those who would argue that, as long as there is a zygote involved, the woman loses all autonomy. The dehumanization of pregnant women divides all their health choices into the state-sanctioned "correct" and the state-condemned illegal. We need to develop strategies of education that help pregnant women realize they do have choices; they do not become the property of the state the instant they get knocked up.

Life, and choices and responsibilities, get very complicated very quickly once a woman gets pregnant. For those uncomfortable with the black and white presentation of choice vs. life anti-choice, this organization appears to provide a nice, broad spectrum of care and concern for the health of women and their babies.

The problem, as I see it, the thing that makes the abortion debate (and really, any debate about reproductive health) so incredibly difficult, is that it's a totally unique situation. Our available resources, the language we use to talk about morality and ethics and right and wrong, struggle with issues of pregnancy specifically because two lives are so inextricably tangled. At what point are those two lives one and at what point are they two? I don't know. How do you weigh the cost and value of each of those lives? I don't know. How do you care for and protect both those lives? I don't know. What I think is that specifically because this issue is so complex, because there are always going to be endless extra circumstances and contexts (is the health of the woman at stake? was she raped? is the embryo/child healthy?) it's impossible to pass any sort of blanket legislation that fairly treats every pregnant woman. Every pregnant woman must be treated for what she is - a distinct, human life. With (the potential for) a distinct human life growing inside her. Which is precisely why each of these decisions, and, I'd argue, most actions revolving around reproductive health, should be private, and should be between women and their doctors (and, ideally, fathers). Any attempt to make rules and regulations beyond available, quality healthcare that apply to all are inevitably going to be inequitable.

Monday, September 18, 2006

God bless ya Aaron Sorkin. You may be an ass, but you are good.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A short revisit of the liberal-bias-in-higher-education argument

Michael Berube has a nice article about this in today's NYTimes Sunday magazine:

Every responsible teacher should think of the classroom as a relatively safe space, free of intimidation or coercion. But in return, every responsible student should realize that the classroom is only relatively safe, because arguing about ideas isn’t risk-free. Of course, students sometimes have qualms about taking classes with overtly partisan professors. “As conservatives,” Julie Aud, a student at the University of Indiana and press secretary for her chapter of the College Republicans, told CBS News, “we should never have to feel uncomfortable in the classroom because of our beliefs.” Perhaps so, but as students, you should expect to feel uncomfortable about your beliefs as a matter of course — that is, if your professors are doing their job properly, and keeping the floor open for every reasonable form of debate and disagreement.


Someday I hope to grow up and have a house like Alain de Botton:

The message of my house is “Calm down,” which is good, because I am a sort of anxious person.
The library has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and is a very, sort of, happy space, where people tend to feel excited because there are many books they can pick up and read.
When I was living here and there, I always said to myself, If I ever owned a house, what I’d really want is a carpenter to make me a giant desk. So now I have a desk that goes from one end of my study to the other. It is a very satisfying object.

Eddie Izzard

BBC America is doing a marathon of Eddie Izzard stand-up and I'm having a lovely nostalgic moment - sitting on an old mattress on the floor of the apartment Amelia shared with two of her Swarthmore friends, that summer spent as DC interns, with Brett bringing out homemade biscotti and yummy coffee. Izzard in the background just might make continuing to grade this first homework assignment bearable.