Thursday, April 06, 2006

blips on an unhappy radar

I can't decide if today's been a good day or a bad one. On the one hand, I caught up with two old and dearly missed friends who are strutting around in the US of A watching rodeos and doing advanced degrees. On the other hand, I woke at six forty-fve this morning instead of my usual seven-thirty and I'm feeling a little beaten-up. So why am I blogging? I don't know. And as much fun as it would be if the words 'I don't know' could replace actual content on a public web page, it would be immoral.

Two links: Some nutter called David Horowitz compiles a book about the 101 most dangerous academics in America. (the list.) Notice how Harvard-and-Yale-free the list is. Columbia University, on the other hand, has a staggering total of NINE professors on it. I know where I'd like to be studying for an advanced degree. (And I can totally deal with the scarcity of rodeos around NYC.)

And JK Rowling updates her site. Yes, I know these things because I keep a watch on Harry Potter news, for I am shallow and easily amused. Anyway, this is interesting because it is apparently a spontaneous rant on 'thin' culture.

His bemusement at this everyday feature of female existence reminded me how strange and sick the 'fat' insult is. I mean, is 'fat' really the worst thing a human being can be? Is 'fat' worse than 'vindictive', 'jealous', 'shallow', 'vain', 'boring' or 'cruel'? Not to me; but then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I'm not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain...

She prefaces her rant with a subtitle: 'for girls only, probably.' Probably. It's certainly aimed at young girls, and that's okay. My major problem with the shpeel is that she insists over and over again that the 'fat' insult is exclusively girl-on-girl violence. Bwah? Fashion industry oriented towards women who want to be attractive to hyper-judgmental men, et cetera et cetera? Here's ye olde woman-is-woman's-worst enemy reasoning. Sure. After all, women in provocative clothes ask for come-ons, and lesbians are women who can't catch a man. This tendency to continually bring the argument down from the level of the systemic to the circumstantial will END the WORLD someday.

And I need to stop listening to so much Radiohead. It is making me crabby. Those guys are like drugs. Actually, they're more like being on a constant withdrawal from drugs. Oh, gorgeous cold turkey. Sometimes I think Coldplay was sent down from above to balance out the Radiohead-y goodness. Coldplay is so awful they make my brain (and the baby Jesus) cry, and not in a good way. It wouldn't matter so much if I didn't like The Scientist, but I do, and the rest of their music is less a rush of blood to the head and more like a vacuum where your soul used to be.

Also: who says she isn't judged on her looks? Media blitz for a blonde, leggy woman who also happens to write this maniacally popular series, ahoy. Not but that I think JKR deserves all the castles and ponies and bouncy babies she wants. It's great that she gets it all.

current musix: radiohead - street spirit (fade out). WAAAAH.

p.s. i'll be in mumbai next week!


  1. call me when you're in town

  2. You know, for someone who writes such strong female characters as Severus Snape and Remus Lupin Jo Rowling can't half be a bit of a mysoginist in real life.

    God I went through this shit fourteen years ago when suddenly some girls started putting the blame for 2000 years of capitalist patriachy on (the then 15 year old) Kate Moss' skinny shoulders. I mean talk about going for the symptom not the disease.

    Interestingly, half of Rowlings wizards seem verging on anorexia themselves - Harry's constantly described as skinny, Lupin arrives in Hogwarts "needing a few square meals" Draco by HBP is every bit as shadow-eyed and waifish as a teenage supermodel, Sirius arrives with sunken cheeks courtesy of the Azkaban diet, Dumbledore is a "tall thin wizard" and Snape is "a sliver of a man". In fact the only plump characters are Dudley Dursley (who is portrayed as stupid lazy and gluttenous because of it) and Horace Slughorn (ditto).

    I mean so they're not girls but really, really Jo who are you to lecture on "Fat" being an insult?

  3. Anonymous3:25 am

    They sent us (school newspaper) a copy of that book and we were all quite, quite outraged that the only Princeton prof he lists is now an emeritus. But, but ... Peter Singer advocates killing babies!

    He does mention Krugman, though, which somewhat soothed our over-inflated egos. Sucks to be Harvard-and-Yale. ;)

  4. Oh God. David Horowitz! What stories there are about him! One of the professors at my universtiy who blogs regularly had a brush with him and some of his supporters a while back after he published an editorial in Cleveland's big newspaper on how Horowitz seems to use unsubstantiated urban legends about students being attacked for conservative beliefs by out-of-control liberal professors. There was awhile there where Horowitz was really pushing to get an Academic Bill of Rights passed in a few places, including here in Ohio, which would pretty much limit what professors were able to talk about in class and allow students to take action against them for basically no reason whatsoever.

    Well, after this happened, and Mano brought Horowitz up a few times in blog entries, he started getting nasty comments from presumed Horowitz proponents. The best examples are probably within the comments of this entry and this one, which closely follows it. My favorite is when they accuse him of being "a minor student academic". Since they're ridiculing his supposed lack of investigation before calling Horowitz's bluffs, it seems like they should have the decency to at least find that he's a tenured faculty member.

    Alas, that Mano is not included on the list of Top 100 Dangerous Academics. :-(

  5. I see good old Rice has no one on the list (which seems exceptionally out of the loop, Amiri Baraka and Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn?!) I don't suppose any place which has an annual cowboy convention could possibly be dangerous.

    Radiohead is recording new material! yay! It's going to be out soon soon soon! boo sucks to you chris "my children are fruit" martin.

    I would tell you I missed you too, but that would, you know, ruin the sexy, emotionless facade. there are images to maintain dammit!

  6. @ imhunt: Fo' shizzle, dude.

    @ em: Word, my lovely one, word. Rowling is exactly as fixated by thin as anyoen else. But it seems to me that it's very difficult for a writer to get across any impression of attractiveness, let alone beauty, with chub these days. When was the last time you heard of any major character being described as 'fat' in a novel? Zadie Smith springs to mind, but Zadie's Zadie.

    And there are some pleasntly plump sorts that Harry loves; see Molly Weasley. Erm. And I do think Dudders was an early mistake of hers. She really can't go anywhere with the Dursleys after having caricatured them so thoughtlessly in her first few books. And then, her creation of prime evil, that Ralphiemort, is practically skin and bones.

    @ Kav: Sure it sucks to be Harvard and Yale. I respect your cold, precise Princetonian facade much more. :)

    @ nicole: Alas, poor Mano! But don't you feel there's rather too heavy an emphasis on the geographic location of these academics? There's almost no one from the south and midwest, which might account for why Nutty Horowitz ignores them. He probably thinks that the number of straight-thinking non-threatening academics/students neautralises the poison of the odd dangerous ones. Whereas places like NYC and California? Phew. Sin City.

    @ u: Nice try at the sexy emotionless facade, but the initial gave it away. I'm impressed, nonetheless. :)

    And yeah, cowboy conventions will have the most dangerous of academics purring like kittens. Unless, of course, they're cowboy conventions like Brokeback Mountain. :)