Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Cherish free speech

Today is Free Mojtaba and Arash Day.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Residents of Red Hook, beware!

There's already a big debate in that somewhat neglected Brooklyn neighborhood about whether an Ikea should be built (pros: jobs; cons: traffic and loss of local charm). Well, now we can add this news to the mix (from a Guardian article, 'Slowly but steadily, madness descended)':
At one minute past midnight last night, Ikea's new flagship store opened in north London, and managers expected that around 2,000 bargain-hunters would quietly file in. The British, after all, have a reputation for being decorous queuers. But Ikea had not predicted that up to 6,000 people would descend on the new store, in Edmonton, with a stampede to get in resulting in a frightening crush.

Thousands had been lured by bargains - some of which were only available until 3am even though a 24-hour opening was planned - such as 500 leather sofas for only £45. Cars were abandoned on the roadside as shoppers attempted to reach the store in time to secure the best offers.

Six people were taken to hospital, including a man in his 20s who was stabbed nearby at around 1.30am. He was said to be in a stable condition, and it was not clear whether the incident was related to the opening.

The chaos meant the new store - the 12th and biggest to open in the UK - had to close just over 40 minutes after opening because of what Ikea described as the "unforeseen numbers".

The Swedish furniture giant was this morning attempting to limit the damage caused by last night's events. In a statement, it said it was "deeply shocked and overwhelmed" and "could not apologise enough".

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Snark alert (New York Fashion Week edition, sort of)

The editor of British Vogue, in the Telegraph, comments on a report that 97% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies shortly after giving birth. She notes that women are particularly unhappy when they compare themselves with famous moms such as Gwyneth Paltrow who have got quickly back into shape after childbirth. She retorts:
Duh. And in what other ways are these ordinary mums not like Elizabeth, Gwyneth and Catherine? Why should they suddenly feel pressured to look like them in their post-natal state when they almost certainly didn't look like them to start with? Nor, I imagine, do most of their lives bear much resemblance to those of the above. Do they have an army of nutritionists, acupuncturists, personal trainers, nannies and stylists working overtime to whittle them back into shape? I would hazard a guess that they probably don't.

Blaming glamorous women has become such a cliché.
OK, fair enough, perhaps. But I canceled my non-existent subscription when I read this follow-up:
If, shortly after giving birth, a woman is obsessed with looking skinny and can't differentiate between herself and the celebrities who earn their living from their appearance, she shouldn't have become a mother in the first place.
Ah, yes, why blame the glamorous women when the non-glamorous ones are such easy targets?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Gratuitous snark alert

From today's NYT article reviewing the Super Bowl ads, this gratuitous slam at an ad saluting U.S. troops returning from overseas:
A gauzy valentine to American troops, which ended with the Anheuser-Busch corporate logo superimposed on screen, was touching, but some viewers may have wondered whether "Busch" had been misspelled.
Sorry, I don't buy it. I thought this was a moving, well-done ad, not a "gauzy valentine." More importantly, one doesn't have to endorse the war to respect the troops for the risks they take; nor does the nastiness of Abu Ghraib negate the bravery and decency of others in the armed forces. So give us all a break, already, snarky media types.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

What is to be done?

Scott McLemee (post of February 2, no permalinks) speculates that "[Ayn Rand's] worldview resembles a Soviet era socialist-realist novel with the word 'communism' scratched out and 'capitalism' written in."

I would challenge that: Ayn Rand is no Soviet-era novelist.

Ayn Rand is the capitalist Chernyshevsky.

The who? Well, you could read Nabokov's The Gift for some background on Chernyshevsky. Or you could read Notes from Underground, which Dostoevsky wrote as a direct challenge to some of Chernyshevsky's utopian ideas. Or you could even read Chernyshevsky's own What is to be Done? - though I wouldn't, if I were you. (I think Lenin's later pamphlet was a deliberate tribute.)

But, anyway, why is Rand the capitalist Chernyshevsky? Let's look at the points of comparison.

Utopian beliefs? Check.

Characters with a tendency to deliver very long philosophical speeches? Check.

Other characters who apparently find this a normal form of dialogue? Check.

Authorial tendency to divide characters into good and evil with no in-between? Check.

Authorial hope that their novel(s) would change the world? Check.

Actual existence of intense devotees of the novelist's philosophy? Check.

Nomen est omen

From today's WSJ:
On July 16, a senior Citigroup Inc. executive in London told traders on the European government-bond desk they weren't making enough money for the firm and ordered them to come up with new trading strategies. About two weeks later, six bond traders pushed the button on a huge bond-trading strategy dubbed "Dr. Evil," taking its name from the "Austin Powers" spy-spoof movies, according to a report by a German financial regulator.
Later in the article, this poker-faced note:
Citigroup said the traders had made "inappropriate, unrealistic, and, in certain instances juvenile remarks about the trading strategy before it was executed."
Um, yeah.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Tuesday pop quiz


Which of these statements best describes the last months of a woman's pregnancy?

a) "
Third trimester: a miracle in progress"

b) "Third trimester: amazement and anticipation"

c) "Third trimester: your skin is going straight to hell"


In his
NYT op-ed today, Paul Krugman passes on a challenge to readers to "make a projection of economic growth, dividends, and capital gains that will yield a 6.5 percent rate of return over 75 years." You decline, on the basis that

a) Krugman equivocates between his first and last grafs about whether this is supposed to be a nominal rate of return (which could be plausible, actually) or a real one (which would be tougher)

b) to hell with it, you just want to be able to exercise stock options worth $110 million plus, like UnitedHealthcare's Bill McGuire

c) to hell with McGuire, you'd like the $150 million package Jim Kilts just got for selling Gillette (described by the WSJ as "more than $153 million, including gains on his Gillette stock options and stock rights, a one-time sweetener from P&G valued at an estimated $23.9 million, plus a "change in control" payment of $12.6 million")