30 June 2003

So tonight is my last night in Astoria.

It's always bittersweet, packing away a room that you've gradually filled with your things over a year or so. Odd things turn up in the corners: ticket stubs, to-do lists, plastic figurines, ideas for mixes, doodles, bills, receipts. It's like cleaning out the pockets of an old coat, which I just did a minute ago. I found a couple of notable items: in the same pocket, ticket stubs from two movies that I saw with Noah more than half a year apart (Spider-Man and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind); and an invitation to the Champagne Brunch senior year, which I somehow never used....

The big question after living for a year with Haiwen, of course, is where things stand in the great Signet lunchtime debate. Who was right, Noah or Bessie? I'd have to say that both had their points. On the one hand, I'm glad that I've gained Haiwen as a friend; in most respects, he's a good friend and an extraordinary human being. On the other hand, and I mean this from my heart of hearts...it's time to get the hell out of here before I go completely crazy.

All in all, and despite what Haiwen says, it was a very good year.
After a year away, I feel a lot closer to this point of view of my country. (A copy was posted in the math department in the fall, and I never got around to googling for it.)

29 June 2003

Dorothy Parker said it best: "Toss a hat at Katharine Hepburn, and no matter where it hits, it hangs."

True enough, but she gave just about the sexiest performance in screen history, in Bringing Up Baby. See it again if you don't believe me: that girl could swing a golf club.
Here's some interesting New York City school news.

28 June 2003

Last night I did the synchronistic Dark Side of Oz experience for the third time, at the home of one of Tamara's friends, the charming Angela. I was in charge of starting the album at the third roar of the MGM lion, and my timing was a little off, I think, because we missed a few of my favorite moments (e.g., "And who knows which is which? / And who is who?"). However, in broad strokes, it was as impressive as always. You can read more about the evening at Angela's blog. As Angela notes, she and I talked blogshop for a while, and I seemed to have given her the impression that I am "entrenched in blogs." Which is probably more true than I'd like to admit.
Think of it this way: Ringo must be cooler than you thought, cause he's the Nat of the Beatles.
I'm always getting screwed in these Beatles comparisons.

But no matter. This guy is my coworker's sister's boyfriend. Think I have any chance at getting some tickets next year?

I'm also going to listen to my first presidential candidate of the season this afternoon. I'll let you know what I think.

27 June 2003

To quote a recent New Republic column, we're all sodomites now.

And sorry, i'll be more careful.
Yesterday was rather an exciting day for liberalism... Strom Thurmond died and sodomy got legalized... The appropriate way to celebrate this event is clearly to commit indecent sex acts with someone of a different race. Other than perhaps [name deleted] I bet none of the regular readers of the blog pulled that off yesterday.

[I don't think we've been authorized to expose our mutual friend as a sodomite or miscegenator. At least not online. As for what he was up to yesterday...I probably can't blog that, either. -- Alec]
I don't know what to say about this.
Though my attempt to find Sullivan St. may have failed (I really can't see how it makes sense to have it in Daly City), I have located another Counting Crows lyric: "down on Virginia and La Loma, where I've got friends who care for me" from Perfect Blue Buildings.

26 June 2003

Speaking of John....I discovered today that my new apartment is just a block down 72nd Street from the Dakota, where John Lennon lived and died and where Tom Cruise lived in Vanilla Sky. Right across the way is the Strawberry Fields garden in Central Park, with the Imagine memorial. I didn't realize any of this when I leased the place, but I can't help thinking that it means something.

Frankly, regardless of what we decided freshman year, I think I'm clearly George, Dave is clearly John, and Noah is clearly Paul. Nat is still Ringo.
Before the trip to London, most of the previous three days were spent in Oxford, where Sarah and I cooked, ran, played chess in a cafe (split 1-1), played violin and piano duets (I'm better than a year ago, but still agonisingly slow), and did absolutely nothing touristy.
Just returned from my last (for now) trip to London, which included a pilgrimage to Abbey Road. I didn't quite have the nerve to walk across with bare feet, holding a cigarette in my right hand.

Too bad we never took the picture of the four of us crossing outside of Lamont. I was trying to remember what the Weld 38/Beatles matching was. As best as I can recall, it was: Alec - John; Me - Paul; Noah - George; Nat - Ringo. Is this right?

Also, while congestion charging may have reduced traffic in central London by 40 percent, my snot is still as grey as ever after a day in the city.
This week is on of those times when the whole world splits into two groups... In this case, those who have finished reading it, and those who haven't. I've now joined the former...

In under 12 hours too, despite spending several hours drinking beer in SF and playing a full game go.

25 June 2003

Hmmm. 81 percent of freshmen passed the test, and no other class got above 50 percent. Do all the mathematically inclined students drop out in 10th grade and get jobs trading commodities?
In case you hadn't heard, Mr. Chu's first year of teaching algebra just had a spectacularly ironic denouement: Citing Flaw, New York State Voids Math Scores. This comes after sixteen of Mr. Chu's seventeen students failed the math regents exam last week. The statewide pass rate, I believe, was around 37 percent.

24 June 2003

Yep, pretty much. The point about noticing that it's a rudder even when you're not thinking of it as such is a good one, though.
Wouldn't the craft turn to whichever side the pole is on (unless people are moving around on the craft or something like that)?
This morning there are three editorials listed on the Times front page: Colin L. Powell on Zimbabwe, Nicholas D. Kristof on Iraq, Paul Krugman on Bush. I clicked one without really noticing which one, saw the headline, "Freeing a nation from a tyrant's grip," and still couldn't tell which article it was.

23 June 2003

I don't really believe in being mean to Noah, because he's Noah and we all love him. However, sometimes I'm still evil. And this article was too much to resist -- it's another case where drugs are going to be prescribed to perfectly healthy people for twisted social reasons.

There was a great moment on Saturday when a girl asked me if I had a nickname, and I had to confess that I did: "Whitey."
Note to all Berkeley bloggers, and blog readers: I'll be in the Bay Area from July 12 to July 18. Hope to see some of you there!

22 June 2003

I claim that the key is not "that you can use the punting pole as a rudder to steer the boat" which people point out to you rather quickly but rather which direction you push it in when you use it as a rudder... Is it the direction you want to go, or the opposite? I never quite figured that out...

Perhaps even more important is to notice that the pole acts as a rudder steering the boat even when you're not thinking about using it as a rudder!
Yesterday I went punting with Sarah and Adrienne. I had never actually poled the boat for more than a few minutes before, but I managed to get the hang of it after a little while. The key discovery was that you can use the punting pole as a rudder to steer the boat.

The most exciting part was as we approached a bridge on the way back. We were over towards the bank, which left very little clearance. I had left the pole up too high and was trying to bring it down to get under the bridge, and I had neglected to do likewise with my head. At the last possible second I turned, saw the bridge in front of my eyes, and hit the deck; as I did so I heard about a half dozen people on the shore let out gasps of horror.
I hesitate to post this because it requires being a harvard alum to read, but Mark Kishlansky has lectures online and I figured you'd all want to know.
Those who shopped Historical Studies B-61: The Warren Court may remember that one of Morton J. Horowitz's gag lines in the first lecture is that he is the world's leading expert on the third amendment. Apparently for the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights someone decided to get high-powered legal scholars to write about each amendment, and Horowitz got chosen for the third. He too told us that it's been cited once.

21 June 2003

So we were trying to remember all the constitutional amendments, just to see if we could, and we were reminded of the rather obscure third amendment forbidding the quartering of soldiers. We wondered if there had every been any cases ever on this amendment, and it turns out there is exactly one, and its pretty interesting.

[This post has been slightly ammended. --Ed]
This amazingly negative review in the New York Times of Liz Phair's "much anticipated" new album gives me an alarming glimpse of the passage of time. I was, as I mentioned on this blog recently, a huge Liz Phair fan back in my teenage years. A while ago, she released an album, whitechocolatespaceegg, that I never bought. Whenever I see it in stores, in the back of my mind, I think to myself, Oh yeah, Liz Phair has a new album out. I really should buy it one of those days. Reading this article, I realized that I've been saying this to myself for five years. How did that happen?
Some favorite webcomics:

Something Positive. A shout out to Becky Wilson for getting me hooked on this one. Sharp dark wit. On top of that there are lots of theater jokes and its set in cambridge, so what's not to love? A few of my favorite strips:

Here's a classic Davan strip
And another, from the next day no less
When Davan finds a girlfriend
Not one of the best strips, but somehow a quintessentail one
Only because the last line is so funny
The Obligotory Harvard Strip

Some other sites later...
So I just had this dream and at some point in the dream I'm watching this movie with a bunch of people. Its clearly an old low budget cult classic. Its about this small town in the third world being horribly oppressed and everyone is a heroin dealer, a heroin addict, or a prostitute. The strange thing is that it is a gospel and blues musical. A really bad one with cheesy dancing in fountains and whatnot.

At some point it gets to the big show stopping number with a bunch of dancers surrounding this guy singing... And I know I recognize the actor, but he's all dressed up in a turban with long grey hair which looks bizarre on him and singing in a funny accent...

Suddenly I realize two things at about the same time:

a) The actor is Samuel L. Jackson
b) He is playing Osama Bin Laden.

20 June 2003

Some thoughts on The Hulk:

Ang Lee has triumphed and failed in a way that completely reverses my expectations. He succeeds in envisioning a film that looks precisely the way a comic book adaptation should look, but never has: it's clean and frame-breaking and graphic in a way that other, overly art-directed superhero movies have rarely been before. He finds crisp, beautiful equivalents to the purely graphic excitement that well-designed comics can generate on the page, as if he were the first director to really think through the whole process of translating comics into film. It's more than just the split-screens and gaudy transitions: even the look of the Hulk himself (misinterpreted, I think, as a mediocre special effect) owes more to the original drawings than to Industrial Light and Magic.

Where Lee fails, and this is really surprising, is in generating a believable or involving human story. You'd think that this would be the first thing that he would bring to this project, but it's really strange how little he knows, or decides to tell us, about any of the characters. For the story of the Hulk to work, you need a sense of what kind of a man Bruce Banner is before his transformation; even if he's extraordinarily passive or unassuming, you should at least see how he changes as a result of what happens to him, and I don't think that Lee manages to do this. He makes the basic mistake of constructing a movie around an entirely reactive character; there isn't a moment when Banner, or the Hulk, for that matter, takes control of a situation or even makes a decision about what to do next, and that's a fatal problem.

One of the great strengths about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was that the characters were defined by their actions, and at least one character, Jen Yu, seemed to have the power to constantly rework and redefine her own destiny. The Hulk's idea of character depth, by contrast, consists of long flashbacks and introspective conversations about wounded childhoods, but the characters never have the chance to show us how their experiences affected them by doing anything. As a result, The Hulk is surprisingly uninvolving, despite trying very, very hard to evoke complex emotions. It's always interesting and usually entertaining to watch, though, and I hope it does well...if only because it's being seen, accurately enough, as an attempt to raise the bar on the entire genre, and a massive popular success would hopefully inspire other directors to try harder.
From the "trip down memory lane" department: at the May Ball on Monday I had some kind of drink that tasted exactly like Noah's mom's lemon bars. Especially the kind that got mushed in the mail and then sat in the fridge for a month.

Sadly, I can't remember what it was called. It was some sort of vodka drink/"alcopop" that was 5.0% alcohol by volume.
Exams have been over for a week and a half, and life is good. Yesterday I played croquet and went to a barbecue. Today I had a two-hour lunch and played piano for a while. Tomorrow is the Harvard dinner, which involves a hundred-plus recent Harvard alumni descending on Cambridge, acting really pretentious, and getting horrendously drunk.

Yesterday morning I got up at 9 am to hear my exam results announced in the Senate House. It was a rather absurd ceremony. The Chairman of the Examiners stands up on the balcony between two "Proctors" in full academic regalia, while the students mill about below. The Chairman tips his hat to the proctor on his right, then the one on the left. He then announces, "These are the results of the Mathematical Tripos, Part II," and reads everyone's name and college. Part II (3rd year undergrads) are grouped according to rank: first "Wranglers," then "Senior Optimae," then "Junior Optimae," then a few stragglers who have "satisfied the examiners," whatever that means. The process is repeated for Part III (my course), except the grouping is not by rank but by "candidates for honours" (Cambridge undergrads) and "candidates not for honours" (the rest). After the lists are read, the Chairman takes a huge stack of papers with the results (i.e. the list of names and ranks) and throws them off the balcony to be snatched up by the eager kiddies below.
Here's a great story about the Harvard Law Student who accidentally sent an embarrassing e-mail confessing his own laziness to the partners at the law firm where he was serving as a summer intern. It's cringe-worthy, although not quite up there with Peter Chung or Claire Swire, not to mention this guy. However, this time it hits particularly close to home, because my company often does business with this law firm, I do similar work, and I am that lazy. I mean, why am I blogging at the office?

18 June 2003

So I fixed up the links on the left of the page for the first time in a while. Including getting rid of some old "sorry for constructions" and whatnots, and combining several old lists into one big one. If anyone else wants to put up some links feel free, the syntax is pretty easy if you just go to the template and look at how i've done mine. It's rather convenient to use the weblog instead of bookmarks.

Also I've added a new category of my favorite web comics, which is my most recent obsession. Expect sometime soon a post on what the ones i've linked to are like, and examples of my favorite strips from each of them.

Any recommendations for more good webcomics would be very much appreciated.

(I really shudder to think what Haiwen's comments on this is going to be... Maybe comments weren't such a great idea after all.)
Thanks to Hotmail, of all places, for this story about the Iraqi man who lived in a wall for twenty-two years. Reading this amazing story puts me, of course, into all kinds of Chekhovian reveries about whether I could have survived that long, and more importantly, what books I would have brought. (This man only had a radio and a copy of the Koran to keep him company.) I've realized, strangely enough, that although I read all the time and have strong feelings about movies and music, I don't have any strong attachments to any particular books, except perhaps Dante, Borges, and Sherlock Holmes. As a result, I'd probably just use my imprisonment to catch up on all the things I've been meaning to read, but haven't. At the risk of sounding like a canonical bore, then, I'd probably have gone with Homer, Shakespeare, Gibbon, the three mentioned above, and a Britney Spears calendar.
Looks like a NYT editor fell asleep:
Immigration officials, for instance, will continue to be able to require visitors from largely Middle Eastern countries to register with the government.

17 June 2003

There are too many hysterical little quotes from this article on a nudist summer camp for me to pick just one.
I just saw a segway on the street. Several observations:

1. People on Segways look really really tall.
2. They really draw a lot of looks.
3. You can open doors on them!

The guy riding it was a middle aged buisness man in a suit and really seemed pretty good at maneuvering the thing.
I'm loving Hail to the Thief more and more, by the way. Maybe I'm overly influenced by lyrics like "In pitch dark / I go walking through your landscape," but the album really does feel like an entire country ready for the exploring, covered with forests, graveyards, secluded lagoons, drunken garden parties, fauns, elves, detours, dead ends, precipices, labyrinths, and the occasional eerie monolith rising up in the moonlight. The other night I had to walk home from a friend's house and take the re-routed subway back to Queens, a trip of almost two hours. Under most circumstances, it would have been annoying, but I had my headphones and Hail to the Thief, and I spent a blissful night wandering through the city, which was transformed by the music into something infinite and strange.
Have you heard anything about The Da Vinci Code, currently the best-selling novel in the country? Judging from the reviews, it sounds exactly like Foucault's Pendulum, except without the irony, and with a lot more action. In other words, it's precisely the sort of novel I was trying to write when I was fourteen years old. I hate being ahead of my time.
This may end up being the most boring post in the history of this blog, but I've just spent half an hour browsing the "AutoComplete" feature on my copy of Internet Explorer, which I've just realized retains a record of every Google search I've made over the past nine months. It's really fascinating, at least to me. The partial list confirms that I'm either an extraordinarily curious guy with extremely catholic interests, or completely insane:

"acres of diamonds"; "alec N-L"; "anna hahn" chess; "antonio banderas" nine; "beauty of the world " kabbalah"; "ben edelman" fax number; "blood of christians" passover; "bob zelnick"; "caliber pistol"; "certified financial adviser"; "cfa exam"; "charles ardai"; "codex seraphinianus"; "congressional budget office"; "country code" switzerland; "credit union" account; "embassy suites hotel"; "field day"; "film forum" new york; "great scene transitions" "battlefield earth"; "house of leaves"; "ian mckellen" "being gay"; "j. bryan, III" obituary; "jennifer convertibles"; "jessica lynch"; "katrina leung" "jon carroll"; "les miserables"; "lincoln center"; "man bites dog" "dog bites man"; "mel gibson" "man kills god"; "michael swanwick"; "noah feldman"; "per the pen of"; "peter jennings" "tipping point"; "phar lap"; "punch-up at a wedding"; "S&P 500"; "skin cola"; "spike lee"; "standard lease" manhattan"; "the play what I wrote"; "three versions of judas"; annual gold mining; annualized return formula; breakup hotline; how much gold is mined in a year; human body contains gallons of blood; jaybill what's wrong with this picture; kartagener syndrome; matrix dominatrix; napster lawsuit; septuagint koine; shechitah examination; simpsons taxes "I'm an idiot"; trees in Harvard Yard

Note that this is just what I've searched for at work. I shudder to think what the browser at home would reveal.

16 June 2003

Oh wow... While finding the link for the last post i discovered that Suzanne Vega has a best of album just released. The track listing is really good, which best ofs tend not to be. They even put gypsy and in liverpool back to back (though in the wrong order), and there's a live queen and the soldier.

Must not buy for birthday presant this week... Must not buy...
I've been listening to Paul Simon this week as I've been slowly taking people off my "can't listen to"-list (Counting Crows were last week, Suzanne Vega is still a few weeks off, though yesterday in playing Diplomacy i did joke while invading england and ordering "Fleet Irish Sea to Liverpool": "oooh, now i'm in liverpool, on sunday")

Anyway, so I was listening to Paul Simon and ran accross one of my favorite quotes which i need to remind myself of when i'm having High Fidelity moments:

"Sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears."
More adventures in Noah continuing to wonder, "wait, is this really my life?" There's something very surreal about spending an afternoon hanging out at a pool with a girl in a bikini and working on math. Just very odd and incongruous.

[Chris suggests that the incongruous thing is Noah being around any girl in a bikini ever, and that the pool and the math just make it less incongruous.]
Noah, I like your comment about how unrequited love is tied to one's expectation of being single. It's easy to see how that can feed on itself in horrible ways.
On another subject, i recently saw Spellbound, the spelling bee documentary that Alec recommended. I must say I've really become fond of documentaries, you run accross the craziest people. They also got lucky in their choice of who to follow and so the actual bee (which is the second half of the film) has just the right amount of suspense.

I didn't like the undercurrent of silly "only in america"-patriotism, I mean america's great and all, but its not really that much different from a lot of other places. I also didn't like the way homeschooling came accross... The homeschooler got cast as "the bad guy" and was only briefly looked at and only in the most unflattering light.

The girl from Washington DC is the sweetest person ever, its hard to believe she exists, i hope she's still like that in 10 years and life in the city doesn't beat it out of her.

I was also reminded how fascinating it is to meet a bunch of 8th graders because they're at the age where some of them come accross almost completely as adults (e.g. the girl from New Haven) and the only thing they're lacking to function as adults is a little experience, while other people are still 8 year olds (e.g. the boy who was like me when i was that age and can't stop talking).
As for the question: "I think the most interesting question here, though, is:
Is love (or any feeling for/about a person) stronger/somehow more valid if it is based on the person alone, rather than on the person in the context of the relationship?"

I'll say that I think that its more valid in the context of a relationship. Loving someone is ok, but loving being a part of a particular "us" is much better. On the other hand, I think there's a lot of societal pressure that you should like the person just based on them alone, which has somehow become the romantic ideal. I think this ideal does more harm than good though.

And Alec is right, unrequited love is really ultimately less based "on the person alone" then real love is.
Oh dear, silly me, now what can of worms did i open? Several comments... That imaginary dialogue is similar to one i had with myself half a dozen years ago when the situation was unrequited love, and in retrospect its a silly sort of revenge. It came up now more in the sense of "look, i meant it when i said i loved you, i said i'd be there whatever happened even if you didn't deserve it, and now you have to live with knowing that one of us meant that." Anyway, it was meant as the ultimate little bit of bitter revenge, but unrequited love in the traditional sense of obsessing over someone who just isn't interested seems, to me right now at least (though not it hasn't always), a rather silly thing to want revenge for.

Secondly i thought of a few reasons why some people might be more prone to unrequited love than others:

a) I, for example, am simply a very obsessive person. Its virtually impossible for me not to be thinking of someone every ten minutes. So as often as not that means i'm in unrequited love. (And in a relationship it means i'm virtually guaranteed to be thinking of the other person more often than they think of me). This is simply a character/personality flaw, but perhaps one that people more prone to unrequited love share.

b) Attractive women and attractive gay men seem, to a large extent (and i'm an outside observer so correct me if i'm wrong), to have the luxury of not having to actively find people they like and pursue them. Waiting for people to show interest in you thus does not mean you're always single, and it doesn't even mean you don't have good choices.

c) Gender stereotypes in society and a lot of girls opinion is that guys should like them and show interest even if the girl is not showing interest back (though they may or may not be interested). I recently had a conversation where a girl was complaining that she wasn't sure if this guy was "really interested" because "He only calls me every other day, and I'm used to guys who are serious calling me every day." For people who are incompetant at this game the end result is unrequited love.

d) You could try blaming it on the music, it isn't clear which comes first.

e) I think that unrequited love is something somewhat tied to being single a lot. There's not really much of a point in a silly obsession if you actually have other good options. If i thought the expectation of someone coming along in the near future who was interested in me and i was interested in her was nontrivial, then I wouldn't waste my time and energy worrying about people who aren't interested.
On a lighter note, I love American Idol Kelly Clarkson's comment on the frothiness of her upcoming movie, From Justin to Kelly: "It's not like it's The Shawshank Redemption."
Tamara's comment, see below, reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a very attractive friend of mine, who said that she'd recently been "burned" a couple of times in her relationships. I asked, with geniune astonishment, "What does that mean for someone like you?" She explained that "being burned" was when she cared for someone more than he cared for her. "Usually," she said ingenuously, "it's the other way around."

Which reminds me, in turn, of one of my favorite pop choruses: "However I look it's clear to see / I love you more than you love me." It took me years to realize that this lyric was meant to be ironic. (It's from Electronic's "Getting Away With It," and it's about Morrissey.)

The short of it is that I have experienced unrequited love, but in retrospect, it was less about a person than about an ideal that existed only in my imagination. Ultimately, it was always unfair to the object(s) of my affection, because it really had nothing to do with who they really were, and more with how my insides felt at a particular chord change in a song that they'd never heard.

In the long run, Tamara, your approach seems like the sane and healthy one. The only positive thing about unrequited love is that it sometimes purges you and forces you to become a better person, and occasionally results in poetry, pop music, and ill-considered mix tapes. This, at least, is the story I used to tell myself, late, late at night.

15 June 2003

That imaginary conversation reminds of me of that great exchange from Glengarry Glen Ross: "What's your name?" "Fuck you, that's my name!"

And yeah, that comment makes sense, sort of. I can see how dying to save the life of an unrequited love, for example, would be the ultimate bitter rejoinder.
Just saw The Italian Job, which was generally pleasing, but left me wondering what Edward Norton was doing there: he's one of the best actors in the world, but the movie doesn't give him a single interesting scene, line, or moment, and I couldn't imagine what drew him to the role in the first place. I see online, however, that Norton has said that he did the part only to fulfill a contractual obligation. Reminds me of my job.
a) Nope.
b) Yep.

14 June 2003

It's not 25th hour, it's good will hunting: matt damon on why he picked the wrench.
So, i just had the following imaginary conversation while talking with someone about how one can rank how important people are to you, and one measure being who you'd save from crocodiles given a choice between two people, or who you'd die for. Anyway the conversation goes (i'm allowed to swear in imaginary conversations):

me: yeah i'd die for her.
friend: really? why?
me: cause fuck her, that's why.

I was wondering if a) this comment makes any sense to you? and b) what is the dialogue from 25th hour that i was unconciously ripping off... I know i can hear edward norton deliver that last line...
Things in the ole' Executive Branch are still humming along. We're finding that you can make some people grateful by doing something as simple as changing a road's name.
Great comment over at Matt Yglesias:
The right has the cash everywhere (in canada too). The left is supposed to be compensated by the increased opportunities for sex. With your rosy cheeks, there have got to be increased opportunities for you, Matt.

Maybe you should do a variation of what Sullivan does, and have a _sex_-pledge drive. Let the right keep its stinking cash, you know what's really making the world go round.

Note that there are actually two versions of the new Blogger posting page. One is for state-of-the-art browsers like Noah's, which has all of the usual bells and whistles; the other, "Blogger LoFi," is for "web browsers that lack robust Stylesheet and/or DHTML capabilities," like Dave's. I know this because when I post at work, my Blogger is fully loaded, while at home, I have to make do with the LoFi version.

13 June 2003

Capturing the Friedmans is a movie you all should see. It's best if you go in without too much foreknowledge of what's to come, because about ten minutes into this collection of interview footage and old home movies, an abyss opens up beneath your feet, and it just gets deeper, and deeper, and deeper. It's as close to a guided tour of hell as such an even-handed, outwardly calm movie can be, and it's cunningly constructed to keep the revelations coming up until the final scene. At the screening I attended, Jesse Friedman was in the audience, and was handing out cards to people as they left, with links to his personal web site. The fact that he was there was astonishing; even more amazing was the fact that I took the card politely and shrugged off the encounter as just another inexplicable moment, part of that ongoing chapter of my life filed under "New York City."
Even more ridiculous adventures in baby ivies...

[Well done. --Ed.]

12 June 2003

The Codex Seraphinianus arrived today. It's very cool. You can find some good pages about it here, here and here.
Great line from Slate:

"The American Civil Liberties Union is alarmed, but the ACLU's function, which I admire and support, is to be alarmed before I am, like the canary down the mineshaft."
Here's a beautiful article on the Yankees game...
That's odd... I can view the old posts and post in a single click...
Looking back at the last sentence of the previous post, I'm not sure why I didn't write "I’d love to hear Radiohead make an album like this." Anyway, I'm pretty sure that "Radiohead" is what I meant.
Noah, I think it means that my mix was pretty successful, because "Survive" and "Annie Waits" are my two favorite songs on the CD, and the ones that I most wanted to bring to your attention. (When I first heard the line "You're the great mistake I never made," I guarantee that I thought You know, Noah would like that.) Most mixes, I've found, tend to produce one or two stellar discoveries at best, and if I've met my quota, then my work is done. (Although I do think that the "Survive"/"Angels" combo deserves to be heard as a unit. I've said this before, I think.)

It's interesting how a CD or MP3 player allows us to resculpt albums into the versions we like. Your version of The Bends sounds a lot like mine, except I'll usually toss tracks 1 and 2 in there as well. These days, I've been starting Hail to the Thief at track 9, "There There," playing it until the end, then looping back around to track 2. (Not that Track 1, "2+2=5", isn't good, especially at the breakdown, but for some reason I've been neglecting it.) In any case, it always takes a while for an album to exist as a whole in your brain. The exception, interestingly enough, is Sea Change: it only took a couple of listens for me to feel as if I knew it intimately, probably because the emotional tenor is so consistent between songs.

In case this isn't already obvious, Hail to the Thief and Sea Change have been fiercely competing for time on my iPod for the past week or so. In a way, they almost define a spectrum of great pop music: Hail to the Thief is expansive, weird, ambitious, and determined to do everything under the sun, often in the course of a single song. Sea Change, by contrast, is internalized, polished, and just about perfect. It's musical influences are probably just as diverse, but it's harder to tell, because it's so accessible, and because Beck seems so focused and melancholy this time around. I'd love to hear Thom Yorke make an album like this.
I don't like the new post template. I like to be able to view the old posts while I'm writing, and I like to finish writing, click once, and have it update the page and be ready to post again. Under the new system it requres three clicks and a bit of waiting. Anyone know to whom we should complain?
Thought inspired by a conversation with Lisa last night:

I think Martha Stewart should make a televised speech from her garden in which she declares, "I am not a cook!"
Evidence that there is a God. The Times, being the hometown newspaper, spins it a bit differently, the effect of which is to make the Yankees look like poor losers. Can't they give the Astros some credit?
Should I be bothered that although I am not a law student, i still chuckle when How Appealing writes:

You see, back in August 2002, an eleven-judge en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled 7-4 that direct evidence of discrimination was not required for a plaintiff to possess a valid mixed-motive sex discrimination claim under Title VII. The Ninth Circuit's more liberal judges were among the seven, and its more conservative judges were among the four. And all other circuits to have considered the question had resolved it contrary to the result the en banc Ninth Circuit majority reached. Yesterday, however, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court ruled that the en banc Ninth Circuit majority had arrived at the correct result. I kid you not.
It's nice once in a while to see a christian in politics who actually takes christianity seriously and not just some sort of reactionary stupidity cynically used to buy off the votes of the religious right. (Link via How Appealing) I never did understand how the relgious right got allied with the rich against the poor, then again I was brought up by a conservative christian with liberal politics (aside from a few social/religious issues).
I like the way that "annie waits" sounds like "and he waits"
So the way i tend to listen to albums is that i'll listen through the whole thing once (or just the parts i like, e.g., my computer thinks the bends only has tracks 2,3,6, and the last 4, or i always zap ignoreland on automatic and electioneering on ok computer), and then i often go back and listen to a few songs again (like the last 3 songs on automatic, or whatever happens to strike me). This is also generally how i listen to mix tapes.

The weird thing is that when I listen to Alec's mix cd he made for me, which is full of little gems of songs which he knew i liked but which most people wouldn't have known i like, i don't go back for seconds of songs i've known and loved for ages... I go back and listen to:

survive, annie waits, survive, annie waits, survive, annie waits, etc.

And I'd never heard either of those before this mix... Does that make it a succesful mix cause its gotten two songs stuck in my psyche? or an unsuccesful one since I somehow end up that two song loop rather than listening to the whole mix again in your chosen context?
What do you guys think of the new blogger posting page? Here's to hoping that it is more reliable than the old one...

11 June 2003

I want this house... Too bad it won't be still available in the end of july.
Incidentally, been listening to the mix cd alec made me for christmas, and i love the line:

"you're the great mistake i never made"

10 June 2003

I've discovered a cure for boredom. Sometimes you have to refresh a few times to get something really priceless.
Some refreshing honesty from the really, really rich hedge fund manager who also plays the keyboard in the Chambers Street subway station:

When I did my first album, in 2001, I thought I could try to hire a team of industry professionals to push it, get airplay and huge distribution. But then I thought: You know, I'm not ready for that yet. I want the music to evolve organically; I don't really want to use my money to push it. I only want to do that when I feel the music has reached that place.
Ezra responds to my last post:

"Re the fourteen righteous men: It is said that some of those righteous men are so humble, that to disguise their righteousness they commit the most abominable acts."

Borges would have liked that, and probably did.

09 June 2003

Well, after about 18 hours it gets to the point where it smells kind of funny but is ok in cereal, but sort of questionable to drink. So I'd say it's sort of half decayed.
I don't know if you can assign a half-life type probability to milk decay. Doesn't it all go bad at once?

On a different topic, if you think the name Albuquerque Isotopes is ridiculous, what about Montgomery Biscuits? I especially like the slab of butter for the tongue.
Thanks for rubbing it in my face... :-)
If you have a broadband connection you have to see Gollum's acceptance speach for the MTV awards...

08 June 2003

It's been a bad weekend for appliances. Friday my desk lamp broke, and today our fridge finally kicked the bucket. The slow death of the latter over the past week has allowed me to observe the decay rates of various foods. The half-life of milk appears to be about 18 hours; vegetables are ok for 2-3 days, and butter, hard cheese, and eggs indefinitely.
There's a Jewish tradition saying that there are fourteen truly righteous men in the world at any given time, for whose sake alone God keeps the universe going. I doubt I'm one of these fourteen, but I'd like to nominate someone else for the position: Thom Yorke. I can't make any claims about his righteousness, which I'd suppose is no better than average, but halfway through last night's concert, perhaps around the time Radiohead played the song "Kid A," I had the sudden sense that this peculiar, elfin man's soul was somehow keeping the planet on its axis.

In other words, Field Day was well worth the fuss, and in the end, it was all about Radiohead. I'm not sure if this would have been the case if Field Day had gone off as planned. It was supposed to be a weekend event with three dozen performers and exhibits on hundreds of acres, but it ended up as a rainsoaked megaconcert at Giants Stadium that really felt like a Radiohead show with seven opening acts. There was little doubt about whom most of the crowd had come to see, and most of the other acts seemed to sense this. At the end of her set, which was about eight hours before the end of the concert, Beth Orton complimented the crowd for staying in spite of the rain, noting, "You must really like Radiohead!"

Other random comments: Blur rocks. It was great to see Liz Phair, whom I've loved since early adolesence, even if her set was somewhat perfunctory. The crowd gave an enormous cheer at the line in "No Surprises" when Yorke sings "Bring down the government / They don't speak for us." The only problem with the Radiohead-as-Beatles analogy is that the evolution of the Beatles was clearly the result of two or three extraordinary personalities and their artistic interactions, while Radiohead seems to be following Yorke at every step. I could be wrong about this. But it's amazing how much sense Radiohead's catalog makes in concert, scrambled set list and all, when Yorke decides to channel it.

Unfortunately, Beck didn't perform, apparently because he slipped and fell backstage at some point. (It was quite rainy.) It's a shame, because I finally bought Sea Change the other day, and it's beautiful. I recommend it highly. It's the sort of CD that makes me glad that I'm as hollow and emotionless these days as an empty pot, because otherwise, if I'd somehow discovered it a year and a half ago, it would have broken my heart and ended up on a much of ill-considered mix tapes.

06 June 2003

IM exchange of the day:
Laura: the dog pooped in the living room
Dad: OK. That's the problem with rain.
Geez, if I'd known it was so newsworthy, I would have done better in A-12 and not taken historical linguistics. Though as I recall there was a bit of turmoil that spring.
Amazingly enough, another Harvard student has just graduated with a perfect, straight-A academic record...and she's the sister of the last guy who did it. That's pretty incredible, especially since there have only been five or so in Harvard history.

Snopes also has a great article on whether Henry Kissinger was the last student to graduate from Harvard with perfect grades. He wasn't. (Although I do believe that his senior thesis was the longest ever written, coming in at over four hundred pages.)
That headline also reminds me of Nixon's "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam: "It exists, really, I just can't tell you right now."
I can't say that 6-10 hours a day in the library over the past three weeks could be called much of a life, but from noon on Monday my liver is going to get quite a workout, including four black tie events in less than two weeks. In the meantime, however, it's just bread and water and Galois cohomology.
It was graduation at Harvard today. A year ago we were sipping on Absynthe and joking about all the extra condoms. We've now been out of college for a year.
I wish I could remember where I first heard the parallel mentioned, but, the headline: Bush vows to 'reveal the truth' on Iraqi weapons really does have the same ring as "OJ vows to find Nicole's real killers."
I realized today that i've been rather busy doing exciting things surpisingly often of late. So, in typical Noah fashion, I decided to sit down and figure out what i'd done each day since classes ended. In those 23 days I've had exciting plans involving people for 21 of them. The remaining two are a day i watched basketball over a guiness at la val's pizza, and a day when i read Snow Falling on Cedars cover to cover. Of those 21 days, a full 16 of them include people who aren't math graduate students (or erin larkspur who doesn't cout since she's living with us), in fact, 10 of them involve people who aren't in the math dept. or harvard students (thus adjusting for the inflation of Ezra's visit and hanging out with Erin's blockmates).

Somehow I suddenly found a life, I'm not quite sure how it happened. Just hope it keep going.

Tonite's excitement involved a party where I knew only one person and ended up with me and a friend dancing to 80's music in a kitchen with four girls we'd just met that night. Does this sound like my life to anyone?

05 June 2003

I was curious to see what was happening in the Texas legislature after the great escape last month, and my early verdict is the good guys have won. I'm basing this on the fact that a special session hasn't been scheduled, and Perry isn't even saying he'll have one now. I'm sure the Republicans aren't eager to go around the state telling the public why they want to gerrymander their congressional districts.
Front page of the New York Times three times in a week and a half -- not too shabby for the Governor of New Mexico. Except this time it's about pardons, and all these amateur historians are going to be having a field day with me now that our office has gotten involved in this.
Life is good, if somewhat bourgeois degenerate: thanks to a last-minute bid retraction, I am now the proud owner-to-be of the Codex Seraphinianus, and I have an apartment ready and waiting for me in Manhattan on July 1. I also may end up seeing Radiohead on Saturday after all. If I weren't me, I'd hate myself.

04 June 2003

So here's a question that has crossed my mind a few times but I've never bothered to sit down and work out: how long should the longest day of the year be at 45 degrees latitude (which just happens to be the latitude of Minneapolis)? I feel like this should be doable without any trigonometry if you assume that the tilt of the Earth's axis is 22.5 degrees (it's actually 23.5).
Yes, 25th Hour was the best movie released last year, but Spike Lee can still be hard to figure out: he's suing the cable network Spike TV, the former TNN, for using his name without his consent. In the affadavit, Lee notes that the name "Spike" was intended to represent personality traits that are "irreverent, aggressive, unapologetically male, smart and contemporary," which, he notes, "the public through media publications had come to associate with me."

It must be nice to be able to say that.
Oh dear...Sammy Sosa was found with a corked bat yesterday.

And I love the new "comments" feature. Hi Tamara! :-)
Ack, my home town has made news of the weird:

And in York, Pa., trial is nearing for Matthew Turner, 22, who was arrested last year after pursuing a man for his adrenal gland, which he thought would bring a week-long high if licked or eaten; allegedly, he had stabbed the man in the side, and when the man escaped, Turner chased him relentlessly through town, knife drawn, until police caught him. [Daily Telegraph, 4-10-03] [York Daily Record, 4-30-03]

03 June 2003

Ack, speaking of rape Ampersand has a truly depressing post on a recent study saying that 13% of wives have been forced to have sex by violence (9%) or threat of violence (4%) by their husbands (rape by any reasonable person's definition). I haven't checked into it myself, cause the journal doesn't seem to have an online version (at least not one that any of the UCs subscribes to), but Amp has a bunch of the details on what questions were asked and it looks pretty legit.
Bessie asks, deadlymantis answers... Check out our all new comments section! Annoyed at us, miss us desperately, just want to claim your terroritory by peeing in a little corner of our website, now's your chance...
I'm trying to locate "Sullivan St." of counting crows fame somewhere in the Bay Area and rather failing, the closest I've found is a Sullivan Ave. in San Mateo County, which hardly seems plausible...

The story behind the song is:
"My last girlfriend, for the first month and a half that we were going out, her mother was living with her, and her mother's very Catholic. We couldn't spend the night together, so I was constantly making these drives in the middle of the night -- very surreal, four in the morning, falling asleep. I really believed in the relationship, but when I was writing this song, the lyrics came out: "Pretty soon I won't come around". It wasn't what I wanted -- I didn't want it to end -- but there it was. It's about the inevitability of leaving."
--Adam Duritz
I found this sentence in a CNN article on videogames a little weird:

"Hit games like "The Sims" appeal to both sexes, but the game industry has yet to create a successful title for women."

Why does the fact that men also play the sims mean that it is not a successful title for women? The Sims and Dance Dance Revolution have been probably an order of magnitude at least more successful among women than any previous videogames, shouldn't they count as successful titles for women?

Erin and David disagree with me and think this sentence largely makes sense, what do you all think? Bessie, do you think i'm being ridiculous here?
Dan Savage has more today on what is rape... highlight:
I get letters every day from people pressuring strangers, personal trainers, boyfriends, girlfriends, and yappy little dogs for sex. Shall we lock them all up? No, of course not. Because what determines whether a person who is pressuring someone for sex is "moral," much less a rapist, is how they react when they hear "no." Do they take "no" for an answer and drop it? Then they're moral, pressure or no pressure. Do they sulk and pout and resort to emotional blackmail? Then they're jerks. Do they fuck the person they were pressuring for sex anyway? Then they're rapists.

It's always struck me that one would get farther by telling people they shouldn't be jerks, showing that there's an important gap in communication, and pointing out how many time people have sex and someone involved doesn't really want to, then by calling lots of people rapists which seems to me only results in defensiveness and weekening the term.
Ouch, more from slate on radiohead:
The tATu single "All the Things She Said" has more compelling singing in the first minute than the whole Radiohead album has.
Doesn't it seem a little fishy that if you type "nytimes" into the built in webbrowser on windows it returns you microsoft's own search results which have microsoft news sites listed second and third? In contrast, google returns a page of hits relavent to the new york times.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I didn't win that auction for the signed first edition of the Codex Seraphinianus. Ebay helpfully suggests that I might enjoy a signed copy of Ben Hogan's Golf Book instead.
Actual word problem from Mr. Chu's algebra class, slightly modified to remove incriminating names:

R. has turned Alec down half as many times as L.
S. has turned Alec down five more times than L.
If Alec has been turned down a total of 55 times, how many times have R., L., and S. each turned him down?

One student gave an answer that would imply a total of 255 rejections. Mr. Chu's response: "Alec isn't that pathetic...."
I think that Hail to the Thief would make a perfectly serviceable Abbey Road, assuming that it's the last album that Radiohead ever records. The more I listen to it, the more tuneful it becomes, and the more sense it makes. I still don't have a sense of it as a whole album, though. Give me another week or two.

02 June 2003

Slate's breakfast table conversation this week is about radiohead's new album (which is apparently very similar to the leaked copy which Alec has). The second writer today plays right into my radiohead/beatles analogy: "And to keep the comparison going just a little longer: I think Hail to the Thief is Radiohead's Abbey Road." To be fair, I think the metaphor he is using is that OK Computer/Bends corresponds to early Beatles, which I think is silly, and he completely ignores the existence of Pablo Honey... But, I was wondering Alec what you thought of this being Abbey Road continuing my analogy of: early Beatles = Pablo Honey, Revolver = The Bends, Sgt. Pepper = OK Computer, and the white album sides 1+2 = Kid A and Amnesiac? I still haven't heard "Hail to the Thief," but I wondered what your opinion was...
Bad math pun of the day:

Who is this Weyl character anyway?
Remind me never to go to Ebay again. I went there yesterday, innocently looking for a copy of the shot-by-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark that Noah told me about, and suddenly I'm the high bidder to buy a copy of a signed first edition of the Codex Seraphinianus for an obscene amount of money. I'd be happy to win the auction, of course, but I also need to pay the rent this month.

01 June 2003

From the "voice of common sense" department:

"The voice of an animated fish is not a role model for sexuality." -- Roger Ebert
As for Finding Nemo, it's easily the movie of the year to date. Amazing how funny, exciting, moving and ingenious these Pixar films can be, when compared to your run-of-the-mill cartoon fare. It's also a catalog of visual wonders, and best of all, it manages to tell an involving, suspenseful story without resorting to easy cartoon villains. Many animated movies, I realize now, are pretty lazy when it comes to establishing senselessly evil or stupid characters just to drive the plot along; here, with the exception of one alarming human child (who is more a force of nature than anything else), the characters are brave, decent fish trying to do the right thing. It's a movie I'd be proud to take my own children to see.
Quote of the day from the 6 year old Ribet-ling (i.e. child of a rather famous math prof. in the dept. with whom we went cherry picking today):

"daddy, what does 'making out with a dog' mean?"
Nat, you racist.
There's something about this cartoon that seems vaguely familiar...