Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm just making a short post to make sure the blog doesn't expire. I promise more this weekend. Love to all
posted by Kitty 5:53 PM 1 comments
Friday, July 14, 2006

Caleb Stegall wrote this a few days ago for the Dallas News. He dislikes the national and the worldwide, and much prefers the local or particular. He calls for a third party, a "vibrant regionalism" that seeks to permit regional cultural and religious particularities to emerge from the fog of federalized regulation and be made manifest in our schools, courthouses, businesses and civic organizations. And it would provide incentives to keep cultural capital local. It would encourage people to work, study and raise families close to where they grew up. It would seek ways to promote local culture and would cultivate loyalty to our neighbors and a fierce love for our own places. Am I the only one who reads "cultural and religious particularities" and immediately thinks of Jim Crow laws and polygamous Mormons? The reasons for those hated federal intrusions was because those local "particularities" inflicted rather intense pain on one or another disinfranchised local group, usually women or an unpopular racial group. I can't see how we can protect unpopular groups from bad "particularities" while permitting too many good ones. In fact, I find it rather easy to imagine a vibrant Jihadist madrassa growing up under Mr. Stegall's regime. Certainly the federal government is a very blunt instrument, but quite often such bluntness is necessary. I can't imagine Mr. Stegall federalizing the Alabama National Guard to enforce integration. But perhaps more troubling is this paragraph: There's an irony inherent in a system like our own that identifies the individual as the fundamental unit of political, social and economic order. Because it shears the individual of the republican virtues cultivated within communities of tradition in the name of empowering him, it actually makes the individual subject to tyranny. Limitless emancipation in the name of progress is, it turns out, the final and most binding mechanism of control. If the individual isn't the "fundamental unit of political, social, and economic order" who is? How do you have elections if voting isn't done by individuals? Just what does get rights and privileges? Mr. Stegall mentions "communities of tradition," which supposedly cultivate virtues. Do the communties get to vote? If rights and privileges don't stay at the individual level, they must migrate up to those communities he likes so much. Communities are groups, and groups have hierarchies. So, by locating social power in "communities of tradition," Mr. Stegall effectively empowers the leaders of those hierarchies -- the heads of the communties -- with the ability to veto the decisions of everyone below him. (The head will always be a "him," too.) How is this NOT tyranny? Is it any less tyrannical to have the tyrant nearby? Mr. Stegall has an admirable distrust of utopianism, at least as practiced by progressives. When the oldest sources of order – which are at root religious – are abandoned along with their traditions and taboos, the resulting void of meaning is by necessity filled with some ideology promising one form or another of perfect happiness in the here and now. And these systems of self-salvation creep not toward liberation, but toward total control. This would be more persuasive if he himself were not such a utopian. He offers vague plans for devolving authority down from the feds and up from the individual, all the time assuming that the people who finally get to run things will be never, ever misuse their authority. This, even though those people have no checks or balances. Just because the geographical limits of their absolute power are narrow is no reason to presume that it's not absolute or absolutely corrupting.
posted by Kitty 7:52 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"The Devil Wears Prada" inspired a few more thoughts, related to the relationship between fashion and feminism. Now, many people will, quite reasonably, say that there is none. Many of those people will themselves be feminists. We're suppose to be above all that frivolous nonsense, designed to divert female energy from changing the world to worrying about acquiring this season's must-have handbag. Don't get us started on high heels, either. Many others stay away from the women's movement because of the Andrea Dworkin - image: ratty hair, obese, clad in deliberately ugly clothes. I never found the words to explain what bugged me so much about that early 70's attitude until I saw a documentary on Afghan women after the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban forbade all forms of cosmetics, yet many women risked painful and severe punishments to smuggle in mascara and blush. Make-up was sexual and Western, and therefore evil. Ms. Dworkin and her philosophical sisters never lived in the Bible Belt. The current face of conservative Protestantism is the suburban megachurch, with its coiffed and polished Republicans, but when I was growing up, there were still a lot of old-fashioned Pentacostals, who held the same view of cosmetics and fashion as the Taliban. My family wasn't in that group, but there were enough of 'em to make their attitude influential. Make-up and fashion were still somewhat forbidden, racy, and, consequently, the perfect emblem of freedom. My mother and I went to Dallas every six weeks to restock the Clinique supply. To us, the Nieman-Marcus cosmetics department was rather like a cathedral -- it's magnificence transcended reality. We were really Someplace. We'd get a 1/4 pound of Godiva chocolate and a coke at the snack bar, and we were in heaven. We knew it wasn't reality, but man was it ever fun. Too many of my liberal friends will read that sentence and immediately conclude I'm a shallow nitwit. My experience wasn't "authentic." It was too dependent on Nieman's status-symbol image; too 'consumerist,' not enough odor of sweat and soil. I think the leftists, the Pentacostals, and the Taliban all have something in common, and it's closely related to the idea of "authenticity" that fashion somehow denies. The fashion industry thrives on the imitation of status. I can't be Audrey Hepburn, but I can buy her scarf. Because there's no way to determine whether I got the money from a trust fund, a successful real-estate sale, a theft, or just loaded up the VISA, possession of the scarf really doesn't convey any information about my place in society. Also, because anyone with a credit card can have one, the original scarf itself actually loses a lot of its status-symbol worth. (By the way, none of these thoughts are original with me. Adam Smith said a lot of the same things.) The fashion industry, more than any other aspect of industrialism, corroded the supports of the old hierarchies. You can't tell how important anyone is just by looking anymore. Fundamentalists are the original literalists, but fashion, and its cousins in art and entertainment, is all about image and metaphor. As the make-up artist Way Bandy said, "beneath the surface, there's more surface." The fundies are terrified of being wrong, but fashion depends on planned obsolescence. This year's right is next year's dreadful. Boatloads of quite unfrivolous cash depend on making us prefer cerulean to turquoise next year. (For the uninitiated, cerulean is bluer than turquoise. And no, you can't just say "light blue.") Certainty isn't possible. If one's entire personality depends on certainty, this is deeply offensive and must be stopped. Thus, Communists, Pentacostals, and the Taliban all agree that this must be stopped. You will have noticed by now that I never once mentioned sex. Everyone thinks fashion is all about being sexually attractive, but I don't think the evidence supports that. One look at a six -foot tall size 4 should have stopped that argument. For historical support, note that foot-binding, white lead face powder, tight corsets, and belladonna eyedrops have all been the peak of fashion, and are all either quite unhealthy or actually poisonous. If sexually attractiveness is about reproductive fitness, how on Earth can it require poison? The one thing all of those traits, and Hermes Kelly bags, Jimmy Choo stilletto heals, and powdered wigs have in common is that costliness. Until the industrial revolution, fashion was the exclusive province of the upper classes. It only spread downward when factories started producing lots of the required products. Humans are hierarchical, but the fashion industry makes that much harder. While the ambitious and clever betas and downward love this, the ones comfortable in their places really lose, since now, not only are they lower in the pack anyway, but they lose relative status since their position is no longer easily perceived. They have to do something to show their importance, which means they risk being wrong. Wow, I never really meant to spend multiple paragraphs on something quite this pretentious. Oh, well. Next one will be really silly. Promise.
posted by Kitty 8:12 PM 0 comments
Saturday, July 01, 2006

I saw "The Devil Wears Prada" tonight. Definitely a chick flick, but not as much as, say, "Bridget Jones' Diary." Anyone who's ever worked for a sadist lunatic can appreciate the movie. I've worked for three sadistic lunatics, two of whom were incompetent as well as sadistic. In that spirit, I invite anyone who wishes to post a comment describing your most horrible boss story.
posted by Kitty 8:30 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I just heard that J. K. Rowling has given an interview in which she confirms that two main characters die in the final Harry Potter book. I do hate to hear that she's planning on offing one of the three principals though. I had rather hoped she'd relent. She also implied that she might kill Harry so that no one else could ever use the character. I have a pretty good track record guessing who dies. I figured out Sirius Black -- only main character with nothing to add to the story, and his death left Harry in possession of lots of useful things, not least of which is the house itself. Thus, he was the obvious one to buy it. Dumbledore's death was foretold a million times, and the Authority Figure -- think Merlin, Gandalf, Obi Wan -- pretty much has to die for the main character to take over. Basic Fantasy World Plot 101 stuff. Now that the obvious ones have gone, however, what happens next? So, here's my guess for who dies in the next book:1. Arthur Weasley, and at least one and possibly two of his chilren. Arthur has an ongoing personal feud with Lucius Malfoy. The feud wasn't emphasized enough in the movies, but is a big part of "Chamber of Secrets" and "Goblet of Fire." Arthur has long been an effective opponent of the Death Eaters, and is now highly influential in the ministry. Finally, and most important, he's the most important adult male in Harry's life now, and killing him will appear to Voldemort like killing Harry's father again. I don't think Molly is going to die, because, among other things, she's actually related to the Blacks and the Malfoys, and I think that relationship will be detailed in the next book. She has to be alive for that bit of the plot. 2. Hagrid. He's an object of contempt to the Death Eaters, but he is also physically powerful and immensely loyal to Dumbledore. Getting rid of him will appear to Voldemort as weakening Dumbledore's influence and threatening Harry. I think he's going to die to protect his brother, who won't deserve or appreciated it. Also, there is something of a pattern in her killing off characters with color names. "Albus," meaning "White," Dumbledore, Sirius Black, and Rubeous, i.e. Red, Hagrid. She likes patterns and word games, and I think she'll stick with this one. 3. Narcissa Malfoy. Dies at the hand of her sister protecting Draco, who then benefits from the protective effect of her love. I'm not sure if Draco dies before he gets redeemed, but I'm perfectly sure he does get redeemed. He'll either die or live out his life in poverty and insignificance to make up for the crimes of his family. Lucius dies too, but he's too repulsive to merit his own paragraph. 4. Severus Snape. I don't think Harry kills him, but I do think he's a double agent. The combination of him having taken the Unbreakable Oath to protect Draco and Dumbledore's lastwords being "Please, Severus," clearly indicate that he killed Dumbledore at D.'s own direction to prevent Draco from becoming a killer. Snape is the one person other than Neville who has a chance to kill Voldemort. 5. Ron. I really, really want to be wrong about this, but if either Ron or Hermione buys it I'm going to bet on Ron. For one thing, there are such a large number of Weasleys they make rather good expendables. Always another one for vengence later. Also, Ron has a serious weakness in that he feels overshadowed by Harry, Hermione, and his brothers. Ron's sin is envy, and Voldemort works very well with envy. I see V. exploiting Ron's deeply submerged envy at Harry and Hermione's skill, in such a way as to allow either one of them, probably Hermione, to end up in danger. Ron sacrifices himself when he sees what he caused. 5. Neville. I really, really, really, really want to be wrong on this count because Neville is my favorite character. I also am less convinced of this one than the other four. Neville could easily have been the boy in the prophecy. Voldemort and the Death Eaters hold him in contempt, and she likes to make small and weak things be the means of ending big and powerful ones. I see Neville actually being the one who takes out Voldemort, and the LeStranges who tortured his parents, and Voldemort's utter astonishment that something he thought of as weak could destroy him. She uses lots of Christian images and tropes in the other books, and the idea of the weak and powerless vanquishing the big and strong is the most important Christian plotline there is. Voldemort respects Harry's skill and strength, which means he'll be on guard for Harry. He dismisses Neville, so Neville is going to be able to sneak up on him. The question is whether Neville dies or not. Given the Christian themes, I think Neville almost has to. Self-sacrifice to defeat the ultimate evil. There is plenty of evidence that I'm wrong, however. The biggest bit is that Neville and Luna are now a couple. She doesn't like to kill off love interests, and if Neville survives, it's so he can marry Luna. I don't think Harry dies. For one thing, Scholastic Press is a business, and whatever she might think as an artist, money talks. Parents are not going to shell out $25 for a book once they know the main character dies in the end. These are still children's books and children like happy endings. Also, it works against the overriding theme of the books -- Love Wins Out. If Harry -- The Boy Who Lived -- dies, then Lily's self - sacrifice was meaningless and the whole story arc was pointless. I think Harry lives, marries Ginny, and becomes the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor at Hogwarts. On some peripheral points, Dumbledore comes back through Draco's Hand of Glory. Remember that Dumbledore's hand suffered from some awful rotting disease. Somehow, D. changed his own live hand for Draco's corpse one. The corpse hand poisoned him. I also wonder whether Voldemort experiences redemption before he dies. In Dracula, Bram Stoker writes of the relief and happiness on the vampire's face when he finally dies. Ms. R is a well-read and thoughtful woman, and she might want to mimic that scene at the end. Also, it makes a nice, round plot if Ultimate Evil achieves some understanding of his sins at the end of his life. Finally, McGonigle becomes the new Hogwarts headmistress.
posted by Kitty 5:39 PM 1 comments
Saturday, June 24, 2006

As promised, here are some pictures of Steve, Andy, and Aaron. Since I'm in charge here, there will be no pictures of me. Ever. This is Steve on Father's Day, sitting in a deck chair grooving to his iPod and sleeping.
This is, of course, Andy and Aaron in the Eastside "Y" pool. The pool has a couple of water slides and few other attractions of that sort, meaning we're here pretty much every weekend in the summer if it's not raining, which it pretty much doesn't do anymore, so this is a major hangout. Since blogger is being picky about images this afternoon, I can't post the pictures I took of the pool -- actually, it's two pools, this one and a lap pool -- today. Maybe later. Anyway, enjoy the pics and comment freely.
posted by Kitty 2:14 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My sons share a bedroom, which makes for some very interesting bedtime conversations. Tonight, for example:Aaron: Mommy, I'm going to marry Kathryn, Ellie, and Maggie. (three classmates at preschool.)Andy: Aaron, you can't do that. Some of them have to be your ex-wives!Me: Well, you can't marry more than one person at one time, but you don't have to have an ex-wife. Daddy doesn't have any. Aaron: Can I marry you, then? Daddy can marry Grandmother Tess. At that point, I decided it was time for lights out.
posted by Kitty 8:28 PM 2 comments

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