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Noted Without Comment

Via Ross Douthat, this is amusing:

Indie-rock sensation the Arcade Fire wowed Radio City Music Hall when the group performed with David Bowie at Fashion Rocks, appeared on Letterman, and ruled the CMJ Music Marathon with another triumphant, Bowie-bedecked set—all in the past month. It’s a long way from the Grill, Phillips Exeter Academy’s on-campus snack bar, where front man Win Butler (class of ’98) honed his skills to the general indifference of his fellow boarding-schoolers. “Somebody was always buying a Diet Coke or getting Doritos for an all-nighter while we’d be trying to perform,” recalls classmate Brittany Butler (no relation). These days, Exonians remain apathetic to Butler’s musical stylings. “What is ‘indie rock’ really, anyway? I’ve never heard of Arcade Fire,” says Steve Wolfe, a New York investment banker who lived in Abbot Hall with Win. (He remembers that the budding hipster’s concession to Exeter’s dress code was a duct-tape tie.) Butler’s sophomore roommate Sam Bradford now owns a software company in Syracuse. Says Bradford, “I don’t remember much about Win playing the guitar except that I wanted him to stop.”
Also puzzled by the use-mention implications of "'indie rock'" in quotation marks.

September 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (40) | TrackBack

Equality Knocks

I was, I believe, a sophomore in high school when Bound with its promise of hot girl-on-girl action was released. Needless to say, my friends and I were excited. When I went to the Serenity premiere the other day, I was in line in front of two girls of about that age. On the wall next to us was a poster for Brokeback Mountain and these two girls were excited. Not about the stellar credentials of Ang Lee, Annie Proulx, and Larry McMurtry but, much like my own Bound anticipation of eight or nine years ago, at the prospect of Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger getting it on. I suppose Ariel Levy wouldn't approve, but it seemed to me like an important blow for equality.

September 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Babes in Warland

Didn't really expect to see this byline on someone I was in college with:

Roman Martinez recently served as a political adviser to U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, and as director for Iraq at the National Security Council.
Admittedly, he was ahead of me in school, but still seems a bit young for the job, eh?

September 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Freedom and Liberty

An awful lot of the sci-fi fans are also libertarians, so they naturally enough are eager to smoke out the awesomely libertarian themes in Firefly and Serenity. The movie unquestionably makes an anti-paternalist point. On the other hand, the specific act of government-sponsored paternalism is question is so grandiose that I don't really think it does a great deal to cut against people who favor, say, a paternalistic tax on junk food. SPOILERS.

I mean, obviously, "avoid paternalistic schemes that feature massive downside risk unless you're really, really certain your scheme will work" is a sound principle of political action, but to term it a specifically libertarian principle is to cast a rather wide net. On the other hand, I think the Firefly theme song lyrics capture something important about the general theme of the show:

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me
There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me...
This is unquestionably a show (and a song) about freedom but I don't think it has a huge connection to political liberty. What's the distinction? Well, there's a clear sense in which I enjoy more freedom in my life than does a typical married-with-kids middle aged bank assistant manager living in Concord, New Hampshire. But that sort of freedom doesn't follow from the notion that I enjoy more political liberties than does said bank manager. Indeed, I probably have somewhat less in light of the District of Columbia's relatively strict tax-and-regulatory environment vis-a-vis New Hampshire. I'm just not particularly tied down by anything, my job offers me a like of flexibility in terms of hours, my boss is quite relaxed about demeanor, etc., etc. The crew of Serenity -- and Mal Reynolds in particular -- are clearly people who value the kind of freedom I enjoy. Reynolds has a lot of autonomy. He gets to "do his own thing" and make his own rules. He's got an anti-authoritarian personality. But that's not the same as saying he places an especially high value on basic political liberties, especially not the sort of controversial political liberties that divide libertarians from other people in the American political context.

September 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (94) | TrackBack

Pornographers Love Me

Thanks to the good people at Reason I (and others) can now actually read the Playboy article, in which I'm named as one of "five winning blogs." Good stuff. In other porn-news, I foolishly failed to buy tickets for The New Pornographers' show before it sold out and nobody seems to be offering any on Craigslist. I also disliked Female Chauvinist Pigs much less than I'd anticipated.

September 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (98) | TrackBack


Well, I saw it and I enjoyed it. I think it works both as a stand-alone bit of sci-fi action and as a successor to Firefly, though I actually think it does a good deal better as the former than as the latter. My other observation involves a bit of a spoiler so it's below the fold.

I think unmasking the Alliance as a cartoonishly evil empire was a mistake. The presence of a certain amount of ambiguity about whether it was really a terrible regime, or else -- like the US government -- a basic legitimate entity that's frequently annoying and occassionally bad was, I thought, an important part of the story.

September 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (39) | TrackBack

Giants Offense

Amazing series of third down conversions at the end of the third quarter / beginning of the fourth for Eli Manning. Why can't they play this well on the first two downs?

September 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack


Okay, this is totally corrupt, but apparently I can get free tickets to a screening of Serenity if I agree to post the following summary:

Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.

As I was saying the other day, Firefly, the short-lived TV show on which this movie is based, was great. So the film version should be great too. So you should go see it. And the Serenity people should give me free tickets. For what it's worth, I think Serenity probably should have been the title of the TV show, too. And word on the street is that if the movie's successful the show may come back to TV or else the story gets continued as more movies or something.

September 24, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Operation Ceasefire

In case this has somehow escaped your attention, the Operation Ceasefire concert will be tomorrow afternoon/evening after some kind of anti-war rallying. As Lorelei Kelly notes, this will no doubt be a counterproductive spectacle from a political point of view. On the other hand, free performances by Ted Leo, Le Tigre, Bouncing Souls. So you see what I mean. Also "socially conscious" hip-hop, which I despise. The whole point of hip-hop is that the rancidly mainstream stuff is actually good. Whatever -- go to the concert! I figure the more non-weirdos who show up, the less counterproductive it'll be....

September 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Choices and Feminism

Down in comments here, Martin Weiner remarks:

It seems to me that Kieran is upset because these young women are making choices (and the whole point of feminism was, I thought, to widen women’s choices) [...]
This is a very common rhetorical move, I don't quite know where it came from, and I have to say that it's rather silly. It's obviously true in some sense that "to widen women's choices" was/is the point of feminism, but I think it's equally obvious that to read a commitment to that goal as requiring feminists to foreswear criticism of any choice made by any woman. Maybe some women want to break into the traditionally male-dominated field of serial killing. Surely we can criticize that choice. Less extravagantly, the fact that feminism has already accomplished a lot has opened up a lot of opportunities for women, especially relatively prosperous women, to more-or-less free ride. Since nobody expects anyone to totally ignore their own self-interest, it's genuinely silly to get too trenchant about complaints of that sort. But at the same time, no social movement that still wants to accomplish stuff can afford to become totally complacent about free riding. Actually achieving a world in which women have as many choices open to them as men do would require many women (and, for that matter, men) to choose to do many things that may be contrary to short-term self-interest. It's often easier to simply adapt oneself to actually existence injustice than to try and change it. But those who are committed to change are going to need to criticize the less-committed for their lack of commitment.

September 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack