Friday, April 21, 2006

Dennis Duggan, RIP 

Remembering Dennis.

Newsday Obit.

Times Obit.

More later.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me 

Let others deal with the great issues of the day. My favorite article from the Sunday Times dealt with people watching videos of people watching videos.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Manhattan Transfer: Live Edition. Save The Date 

It looks like I'm going to be debating immigration at Lolita on Wednesday, May 3rd. These things usually kick-off around 8 PM. The words are free but the drinks aren't. However, they have a good happy hour special before the debate, so you can expect me to be well into my cups before the debate gets going. Bring everyone.

A Quick Question on "Guest Workers?" 

One of the proposals that I keep hearing mentioned in the immigration debate is initiating a "guest worker" program. Foreigners who can secure jobs in the U.S. would be allowed to enter and stay for as long as they keep those jobs.

So what happens if they lose their job or quit? Well, presumably they won't get packed on a plane bound for their homeland later that afternoon. That would create a huge, irrational inflexibility in the labor market. First, employers could abuse employees who couldn't quit without being deported. Second, it doesn't make much sense to require employers to hire foreign workers from abroad if we have some jobless foreign workers here. It makes far more sense to give some time period for the guest workers to secure another job.

But what if they don't? Right now we are constantly told that it is impossible and inhumane to remove the illegal aliens who are currently here. After the "get a new job" period elapsed, the unemployed guest worker would be obligated to go home and if he stayed, then he becomes an illegal alien. But we already know that it is supposedly impossible/inhumane to remove illegals, so aren't we going to be stuck with every single guest worker who enters the country, regardless of his employment status?

So here's my question: has anyone proposing a guest worker program outlined the procedures for removing guests who have overstayed their welcome?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Chopping Up The Girls 

It's visual culture day on the interwebs. More specifically, today a couple of my favorite blogs today are discussing how our visual media depict women. This stuff is intensely boring when done by party-line feminists because you always know the conclusion: it's about the oppression of women. When taken on by someone with broader interests, however, it can provide an occassion for good cultural criticism.

Let's start with Michael Blowhard, of Two Blowhards. Michael takes notice of the fact that so many of the book jackets of literary fiction feature the same tone--a sort of icy, vague intensity evocative of almost no specific emotions--as well as the same subject matters--bits of women displayed in a very nonsexual manner. These books are not chick-lit but their smarter, older sister. These are books that intelligent women, and most likely some intelligent men, are buying, and something in the tone and subject matter is meant to reflect these readers self-images. In other words, these book jackets somehow evoke a connection to intelligence in the minds of certain readers.

How does this work? I think the tone conveys something along the lines of longing. Where standard-fare chick-lit books convey the sense of wanting in a materialist sense--wanting sex, shoes, the perfect job--these seem to convey a deeper kind of desire. It's almost a philosophical desire, an awareness of the incompleteness of life. Something along the lines of Aristophanes idea (in Plato's Symposium) that life is mostly a longing to recover a lost wholeness. This is why the subject matter is so consistent. Images of incomplete women tell the readers the same thing.

Why do smart women feel that life is incomplete? I'll leave that discussion for another time and move on to Ross Douthat's thoughts on the new Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn film, The Break-Up. Ross looks at the transformation of Aniston from a pretty "Friends" girl with soft edges to the new, angular and shaved version we see in movies. Now part of this is no doubt simply that Aniston is getting older and very often what works for young ladies no longer works in later years. One tried-and-true method of combatting such decline is the Courgar-it-up like Sharon Stone or Demi Moore. But Ross takes things a step further than this.

"So this is where we are today - so jaded about nudity and sexuality, and so caught up in sexual competition, that we aren't just vain and/or insecure about our bodies generally, but about how alluring our reproductive organs look," Ross writes. In the course of the discussion he notices how this once again vindicates Tom Wolfe as our premier social observer. As they say, read the whole thing.

In a sense, though, Douthat's woman seems the opposite of the women of literary fiction. The latter is Incomplete, and the Former is Modified with an eye to completeness. The smarter version takes the acceptance of incompleteness as a sign of intelligence; the popular version takes strategic overcoming of incompleteness as a sign of intelligence.

If you want a good counter-point to either the Incomplete Women or the Modified Woman , you should check out Vice Magazine's Dos and Donts. The Vice guys tend to celebrate another type of woman altogether. I'm not exactly sure how to characterize this version yet, so I'll invite readers to leave comments. But she certainly strikes me as a very different type than the others.