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The Crooked Heart


Friday, March 28, 2003

Wondering what to cook when your worst enemy comes over for dinner? Wonder no more.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

This site offers what they describe as a comprehensive list of all civilian casualties from the war in Iraq. They list the current total as between 227 and 307. This is good information to have, and I'm glad someone is keeping track, but I'm not sure what exactly to make of this number. On the one hand, every civilian death is a tragedy, but on the other hand, surely the good of removing a brual and repressive dictator justifies the evil of a certain number of civilian deaths. After all that 14,000 Americans died in 1999 in car accidents has not stopped us from driving cars. And surely, if we managed to remove Saddam with only one, or even ten civilian casualties, this would be hailed as a triumph on the part of the US.

So is between 227 and 307 good or bad?
To sodomy
It's between God and me
To S&M
La vie boheme

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Lawrence v. Texas. Dahlia Lithwick, as usual, has a beautiful account of the high points of the argument, though the amateurs gave her a run for her money. The Times thinks the court is poised to overturn, the Post thinks it's divided. I think Texas was doomed from the start, but a friend expressed surprise that they hadn't pushed the public health argument more.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer (lately and unlamentedly missing from the Volokh Conspiracy posted an argument and updates in which he advocates originalism as a deterrent to judicial activism. Originalists irritate me, mostly because they are inconsistent, but also because I don't see that judicial activism is particularly wrong. I seem to remember, from the misty, far-off days of my high school government class, that the original intent of the founders was a system of checks and balances among the various branches of the government, not a system of one branch rolls over and plays dead whenever confronted with a controversial issue. If the Supreme Court were truly overreaching its power, one would expect to see opposition on the part of the other branches. The fact that the Court continues to bask in national and governmental prestige suggests that there's something useful in having a fairly powerful branch of government not directly responsible to the American voters, and hence not a hostage of public opinion.
Matt recently posted a response to my earlier criticism of his post on brands, clarifying his objections. What he feels is wrong is the extent to which corporations define and exploit our desire to brand ourselves. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I think that corporate branding can be a positive thing, insofar as it provides information to consumers. Corporations carefully research the groups to which they desire to sell, figure out what standards prevail, and tailor their merchandise to these standards. Walking into The Gap, the buyer can feel assured that whatever is on the racks will be met with approval in most casual social situations. For those who don't wish to devote much time or energy to their clothing, carefully branded stores like The Gap allow them to come off well for minimal effort and a small monetary premium. Moreover, those for whom the search for the perfect shirt to define their unique personality is a sacred quest rather than an irritating chore can use brands as the basis to organize their search. Knowing that one will not find what one is looking for at a store like The Gap is valuable information around which to organize a search.

That I don't think we should all go out and be clones of our favorite pop star, or pawns of corporate America. Personally, I try to avoid turning myself into a walking billboard, and I don't particularly see why it matters what brand of something I buy, except insofar as I take the brand as a statement about the probable quality of the product. Neither do I think that corporations are good-hearted entities with nothing but our best interests in their mind. When they can make money off of our best interests, they will do so. But when they can make money off of our flaws, they will do that too. And there is no denying that corporations exploit to the utmost our lust for novelty and status. They know full well that if something is new, expensive, and cool, we will want it, and part of why we will want it is to impress the people around us.

However, this lust for cool existed long before corporations came along to exploit it. In Renaissance Florence, preachers denounced the latest fashions from the pulpit, and the city passed sumptuary laws designed to limit the length of a woman's train, or the types of fabrics that men and women could wear. The result: wealthy citizens paid the fines, and wore what they wanted to. It's easy to blame evil multinational corporations, with their sweatshops and astronomical advertising budgets, for the shallowness of modern society. Certainly corporations actively encourage the belief that the latest sneaker or the right gadget can be your ticket to social success and happiness. But this sort of advertising would never work if the tendency to believe that material goods equal success and success equals happiness weren't already present.

Matt is right to say that we should recognize that judgements based on superficials are superficial. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. But I don't think that doing away with corporations will help, because I think the problem is more fundamental than simple corporate greed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Dolphins are just cool. So is this.
Fun in the Kitchen

Strawberries were on sale at the Co-op, and since they were neither entirely green nor entirely rotten, I bought some. (Avacados were also on sale, but having learned my lesson from the last batch of avacados I bought on sale at the Co-op--five out of the five went rotten--I stayed away from those.) So far as strawberries go, these were pretty pathetic--not very flavorful or juicy, even after several hours of maceration. But I suppose they were adequate, since I ate them with pleasure. Anyway, the moral of this irrelevant ramble on Co-op produce is that B.A. or no B.A., I should have gone home for spring break so I could eat some decent strawberries.

Now, on to the real topic of this post, which is Rosemary Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup cream
1/3 tsp. crumbled dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Trim any fat or gristle off of the chicken breasts, and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and dried rosemary (dried rosemary is strong stuff, so it's better to err on the side of too little, rather than too much). Melt the butter in a large frying pan, with the heat as high as it will go without burning the butter, and saute the chicken breasts until cooked through (5-7 minutes a side). Remove the breasts from the pan and hold them on a plate covered with aluminum foil in a warm oven. Meanwhile, saute the onion until just translucent in the frying pan, then add the chicken stock and wine, scraping the pan well to get all of the browned bits. Let the sauce reduce down to about 1/4 cup, then turn off the heat and add the cream. Serve the sauce spooned over the chicken breasts.
Despite the opinions of the New York Times and The Onion, I think One Hour Photo is a good movie, but for somewhat odd reasons. Both critics interpret the movie as an exposure of suburban rot, which I believe is the least charitable way to watch the film. Aside from the fact that the whole suburban rot thing has been done to death (I think everyone who can be made to understand that a nice house and a cute kid do not guarentee happiness has gotten the message) the great scandal is hardly that scandalous. The real story, I think, centers on the loneliness and isolation of Robin Williams' character, Cy the Photo Guy. Watching the film, I found myself fearing the inevitable moment when Cy's obsession with the happy family whose photos he processed would lead him to alienate the only people who brought any pleasure into his lonely existence. However, it wasn't Cy I identified with--it was Robin Williams. Cy may have been creepy, but I still didn't want to see Robin Williams embarassed and humiliated when his obsession became public. The film worked for me on an emotional level, but only because the lead actor failed to convincingly become his character.

Musings on a transient world.

Amy Lamboley
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