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Population: One

Man bites dog

As an English major, I’ve heard the story about Alan Sokal, physics professor, who got a paper published in a postmodern literature journal. In fact, I’ve heard it one too many times. Consequently, this report fills me with utter glee.

It might be worth rereading some of Mr. Sokal’s discussions about his hoax, by the by. He never meant it to demonstrate that the study of English literature is inherently flawed; rather, he was making some fairly interesting points as a leftist regarding the dangers of whole-scale adoption of structuralist dogma by the American radical left wing. This is a point too often missed when discussing his hoax. I hope he has something to say about this one — I think it’d be an interesting read.

Turkey is good food

The Justice and Development Party has won the Turkish elections, kicking out the ruling coalition in a landslide. This seems likely to be more a reflection of discontent with the Turkish economy and a corrupt government than it is a return to Islamic fundamentalism, although the Justice and Development Party was formed from the remains of an Islamic fundamentalist party.

However, they ran on a pro-Western platform and have disavowed their Islamic roots. This isn’t the Taliban, and the victory does not represent a repudiation of Turkish assistance in the US war on Iraq. I expect some will claim it does, but this one isn’t Bush’s fault. It may not even be a crisis.

Either way, this does not change the status of the Kurds. The US still needs to arm Kurds in Iraq to fight a war there; Turkey still hates the idea, because it would encourage Kurd separatists in Turkey. Messy.

Also note that the Turkish army is perfectly willing to engage in a coup should the government become overly Islamic. They did it in 1997, and several times previously. It’s not really that democratic a country.

Oi oi oi eggs

I spent much of the weekend on my quest for the perfect weekend breakfast. Much of the mornings, anyhow. I’m not quite mad enough to have breakfast at 8 and then follow up with a brunch excursion at noon, but I do take my morning breakfast pretty seriously. While I was unemployed, it was one of the only activities that got me reliably out of the house and in contact with people.

I scored immediately in the “cheap and close and tasty” category, down at the Neighborhood Restaurant in Union Square. I went in, I got seated at the same table as a nice couple, I established that it’s OK and I’m not invading personal space and it’s just a cozy restaurant. This is actually kind of a minus since I like to linger over coffee and my book, but no big.

Then, when I’m ready to order, a waitress came over and asked if I’d like hot cereal or fruit. Well, I wanted a bacon omelette, but she explained that this was bonus food. Bonus food! Good deal. I got the hot cereal and ordered the omelette. Said cereal was cream of wheat with a ton of cinnamon on top. Just about perfect for a winter morning.

The omelette came with an enormous plate of bread on the side. I actually wasn’t sure it was for me until the couple next to me got their own enormous plate of bread. Four pieces of toast, a muffin of some kind, a croissant, and an apple turnover thingie. Amazing. Apparently there’s a bakery out back, and they have some sort of deal where they’ll go to hell if they don’t bake every hour of the day, and they get rid of the extra by feeding it to us. Or so I imagined.

So the food was good, and incredibly cheap — $7.35 for the whole schmear. The menu wasn’t super-extensive and it was certainly crowded. Still a total win, just on the basis of price and convenience and quantity. I’ll go back.

The Rosebud Diner was not quite as good. More expensive, and the chorizo omelette really didn’t rock my world, and I had to sit at the counter — which I don’t mind but I like to have the option and it really kills the sitting around drinking coffee aspect of the breakfast. Also the menu didn’t have anything beyond the usual breakfast fare, which is OK but since the Neighborhood Restaurant satisfies that, why would I wanna drive down to Davis Square?

At this point, I need a decent medium to high end place where I can get an omelette with pesto in it. My journey continues next weekend.

Traitor to his city

This makes it official. 2002 was one of those years when it’s good to be a Boston sports fan. The Patriots won the Super Bowl, the Celtics resurged, the Red Sox got out from under Harrington’s thumb, and the Bruins had a great regular season. We won’t talk about the Bruins in the playoffs, though.

The early tidings for 2003 were not so great. The Celtics split up the band, half the Bruins decided not to come back, and — well, the Patriots talked a good game up until the fourth game of the season. It’s pretty clear at this point that 2003 is not gonna be stellar.

Except now it’s more than pretty clear, it’s an established fact, cause the Sports Guy — no, screw that, the Boston Sports Guy — is moving to LA. We’re fucked. The most well-spoken sports columnist in Boston is moving to LA to be a television writer.

Gonna be a long cold lonely winter.

Arrogance with a side of guitar

I saw the most egotistical band in the world last night. It’s hard to top the arrogance of calling yourself The Band, but they did it; these guys call themselves The Music. Bold claim. I can’t say they entirely lived up to it.

Not that it was bad stuff, mind you. They’re unapologetic straight-ahead guitar-driven British hard rock, with a lead singer (Robert Harvey) who looks like Frodo and sounds like a youthful Robert Plant. The lead guitarist, Adam Nutter, derives his style from Hawkwind, and the rhythm section — Stuart Coleman on bass, and Phil Jordan on drums — seems antsy every time they have to slow below a hundred beats per minute. All very good and effective.

At their best moments, they have this interesting multilayered effect. Phil’s cranking out rock solid beats at a pace which threatens to overrun the rest of the band, Stuart’s hitting his notes with mechanically lovely precision, Adam’s journeying off in a completely different direction with waves of space-noise feedback, and Robert’s crooning shallow lyrics with utter conviction. The thing is, it’s like walls leaning against each other and happening to provide mutual support: they don’t seem to have any particular relation to each other, and it’s just luck that it forms a coherent whole. Maybe it’s as if the last four Led Zeppelin fans on Earth met in the ruins and decided to play a gig without rehearsing. Interesting stuff.

Unfortunately, sometimes our metaphorical walls don’t support each other and it all comes crashing down. Other times, the songs sound like they were written for no better reason than to support a cool combination of riffs and drum beats. The pieces are there, but the coherent whole can be lacking.

Then again, these guys are all under twenty, so it’s hard to fault ‘em too much. If they make it past the hype phase, they ought to be just fine. The official story is that they just randomly hooked up and formed a band out of boredom, but Robert’s voice is too good for that sort of coincidence; I suspect their metoric rise through the UK pop charts was planned. Like I said, there’s going to be a hype phase. Still, there’s also the potential for something else beyond that.

In other words, it was well worth the ten bucks.

Of wakes and flag-waving

So, was the Wellstone memorial too political?

In my tradition, one of the things you do at wakes is vow to carry on the work of the deceased. It’s OK to be really emotional about that; emotion is part of what a wake is for. Emotion represents respect for the dead. It shows you cared about him, or about her. I would expect that, at a politician’s wake, his close friends would want to make strong statements; that they would exhort the attendees to “keep his legacy alive.”

On the other hand, if some random Senator from Iowa showed up and started making campaign speeches, that might be kind of tacky. You don’t really want strangers at your memorial. (I may be too hard on Tom Harkin, here. Perhaps he was a close friend of Wellstone.)

The New York Times says that “the crowd put away any pretense of the nonpolitical.” Maybe so, but if there’s one thing that’s obvious about Wellstone it’s that politics were his passion. He cared about doing good. How could those eulogizing him not talk about something he cared so much about? To ignore politics would be to ignore an important aspect of his life.

That makes it hard to tell those who were sincere from those who were abusing the event. I suspect there were some of each. As always, we live in a flawed world full of flawed people.

Live at Leeds

I can’t ever resist a good discussion of online identity. This one seems to me to assume that pseudonyms must by nature be fragmentary. I think that this is true if you assume that our online identities are discrete units, without overlap, but I also think that such an assumption would be false.

I can’t speak for the law bloggers whom TPH discusses, but for me, a pseudonym shares many aspects of the “real” me. Alice, at least, seems to agree with that. I speak English; so do my theoretical pseudonyms. I’m sarcastic; so, generally, are they. On the occasions when I’ve had reason to construct a shield around my identity, it’s been a matter of thinking about what I want to change rather than building a persona from scratch.

(Once I went so far as to deliberately change my punctuation habits, since my semi-colons are fairly distinctive to those who know me. I suspect most law bloggers don’t go as far. Should they? Would your professor recognize your writing style? Ah well; I digress.)

So, in any case, I have to disagree. Pseudonyms don’t diminish, because they aren’t necessarily limited.

TPH also says that he wants the “psychological benefit that comes from identifying myself with the things that I say…” which is an understandable desire. I don’t write for publication under a pseudonym because I want people to know that’s me. However, I’d suggest that you can also gain psychological benefits from constructing a well-known persona. Specifically, it can be proof that your ideas stand up even when separated from any biases people may have regarding you specifically.

Also, in time, your pseudonym may well gain the same sort of respect that you have — and then it’s just a matter of whether or not you identify with that pseudonym. My online chat nickname is Garrett, and it’s not a separate personality, but I do have somewhat different habits when I’m speaking under that name. This is no different than the salaryman who behaves one way at the office and another at home. Does he find his workplace achievements less meaningful because they’re attached to a somewhat different persona? No, and I don’t find praise directed to Garrett to be much different than praise directed to Bryant. It’s all me at the core.

I think, finally, that the concept of writing anonymously as opposed to pseudonomously is a bit of a straw man. At the very worst, in the blog world, you’re identified by your URL. On Usenet, your email address is an identifier. I don’t know many (if any) who have chosen to write each individual packet of words with absolutely no identifying information whatsoever.

This meandering brought to you courtesy of the aforementioned Alice, whose links are of superior quality.