I k now. It's been hours since I've discussed new developments in the Hostess rollout story. But I hadn't focused on this incredible new feature of the Wal-Mart Hostess Twinkie: it lasts twenty days longer than the old version. Apparently, the new spongy delight cake will stay fresh and delicious for 45 days now - up 20 days from its old 25 day shelf-life. The twin evils of moisture release and mold growth were holding Hostess back in the old days. Somehow, Wal-Mart put these demons in their place and brought forward a convenience food you can keep around the house for a full month and a half. That's long enough to send them with your kid to 6 weeks of overnight camp! (Oops. It's a little too late for this summer.)
Just 48 hours ago, I was excited to let people know that Twinkies were back on the market as of this weekend. Sadly, I reported, we'd have to wait until later in the summer for the chocolate tier of treats. Well...those reports were flat wrong. This very day, as I headed to my local Walmart Twinkie section, I came upon the crown jewel of the faux bakery collection: the delicious, creme filled chocoate cupcake.
Hostess pastries are back, now as an in-house brand for Wal-Mart. As of today, Twinkies hit the first Wal-Mart...and they'll be in thousands of stores by Sunday. I trust that at least a few of our allegedly high-brow, locavoracious, Wal-Mart hating readers will make the pilgrimage to the House that Sam Built in the next few days to stock up on those death-encouraging, Kessler-enraging, artificially flavored, colored, and textured treats.
But what about those of us who were never really taken by the Twinkie? Those of us who prefer chocolate style junk food treats? Don't despair! It appears that Ho-Ho's, Cupcakes, Zingers and Suzy-Q's will arrive later this summer. With Sno-Balls coming in the fall, presumably in time to mock those disgusting, cold, and flavorless "genuine" snowballs.
I'm probably late to the party in noticing Richard Posner's book on plagiarism that was originally published in 2007, but it was an interesting read. I do have a bone to pick with calling it a "book" or even a "little book" as it's not much longer than a law review article and you can read it in an hour or two, but it was a fun hour or two on my part. Posner doesn't answer many of the questions he raises about the nature of plagiarism, why it is considered a wrong, when it might not be a wrong, what are the appropriate sanctions etc. However, he raises great issues worth musing about, and it's a great survey of the different contexts in which we see conduct that may be described as plagiarism - including academia, judicial opinion writing, commercial fiction, historical literature, and art. While he talks about the significance of digital technology both in enabling plagiarism and in identifying instances of plagiarism, he doesn't come to any meaningful conclusions about whether plagiarism is qualitatively "different" in the digital world. However, he does look at how different economic models of literary production over the years impact on concepts of the wrongfulness of plagiarism over time. So if anyone is interested in thinking about the broad strokes of plagiarsm, the contexts in which it arises and how it differs from copyright infringement and fraud - and sometimes doesn't differ that much in practice - this is an interesting read.
The District Court for the Southern District of New York today handed
down its decision in the ongoing Apple e-book antitrust litigation
holding that Apple violated antitrust law in its participation in (one
might say orchestration of) a scheme to raise retail prices of e-books
in 2009-2010 when it launched its iBookstore with the iPad. Story and
judgment available here.
And for anyone interested in the structure of the e-book industry, the
recitation of the facts re how the industry works and how Apple sought
to change the original model dominated by Amazon is very instructive and
reads not unlike a Greek drama. It’s probably the most detailed account
I’ve read explaining the distribution and price determination models
within the industry.
As today's Google doodle memoralizes, today is the 66th anniversary of the Roswell incident, which got me thinking of all things sci-fi. I've been catching up on some sci-fi reading lately - particularly in light of the fact that the Ender's Game movie will finally be coming out later this year - and I started thinking about some of my favorite sci-fi terminology invented by authors in the genre. A current favorite is "glasstique" - a combination glass/plastic building material that I think was coined by Ann Aguirre in "Grimspace". Does anyone have others they'd like to share?
One of the great pleasures of a trip to NYC is a stop for afternoon tea. No, it's not London. But the city does have a number of wonderful places to stop for some afternoon relaxation. Among the city's finer options is, of course, The Russian Tea Room. But I don't think I've ever had a nicer trip back to 1948 than tea at the Hotel Lowell on the Upper East Side. The dining room and the service both feel as if they'd been preserved from that moment, 65 years ago. Sure, the tea was delicious. The place was filled with grown ups when we were there, but our flock of three girls - ages 8-11 - were welcomed and felt entirely comfortable. And when it turned out that the restaurant had run out of Nutella (for about 10 minutes), the girls were treated to a mind boggling martini glass filled with candies. Anything to keep their spirits up!
It's not just the restaurant. The Hotel Lowell is a gem, through and through. I've heard it said that it's best New York hotel you've never heard of.
But I don't have to rely on hearsay when it comes to high tea. The girls left the experienced awed. We couldn't have asked for better.
The O'Reilly Theater at Keble College, Oxford recently played host to a new show: John Rawls's A Theory of Justice: The Musical! It was billed as "an all-singing, all-dancing romp through 2,500 years of political philosophy."
In order to draw inspiration for his magnum opus, John Rawls travels
back through time to converse (in song) with a colourful cast of
political philosophers, including Plato, Locke, Rousseau and Mill. But
the journey is not as smooth as he hoped: for as he pursues his love
interest, the beautiful student Fairness, through history, he must
escape the evil designs of his libertarian arch-nemesis, Robert Nozick,
and the objectivist seductress, Ayn Rand. Will Rawls achieve his goal of
defining Justice as Fairness?
The world’s first feature-length musical about political philosophy
showcases a script steeped in drama, humour and romance - with a musical
score that covers everything from rap battles to power ballads.
Based on the ground-breaking philosophical book "A Theory of Justice"
(1971), this exciting new musical was met with critical acclaim when it
opened in Oxford in 2013. Philosopher Nigel Warburton called it
"brilliant: hilarious witty and profound... I cried with laughter for
most of two hours!"
A crisp student review of the show is here in Philosophy Now. There are apparently plans to bring the show to the U.S., but those who don't want to wait can download the full production for $9.99 here.
Anyone working on Habermas: The Musical? Sunstein: The Musical?
But what best explains the ban, the stay, and the furor, given the edict's limited reach? A very interesting new article entitled MICROPATERNALISM , written by David Adam Friedman, provides a fascinating and original theory to explain why:
In this Article, I have created a theory of “micropaternalism” to capture the essence of a unique regulatory dynamic. As I define it, micropaternalism
describes when policymakers paternalistically regulate a narrow area,
thereby provoking public debate about the underlying controversial
issues addressed by the regulation. The loss of autonomy, even in a
narrow zone, can instigate a broad-ranging discussion that ultimately
influences social norms.
For example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s
attempt to limit the portion sizes of sugary drink servings in New York
City started a legal fight and a loud social fight about public health
and paternalism. The New York City Board of Health enacted a code that
covered an extremely narrow piece of the obesity problem, but the public
debate took place on a big stage. Discussions about obesity as a public
health problem leapt from the policy sphere to the popular sphere. In
the long run, the dialogue may have more of an impact on public
attitudes and private behavior than the actual regulation—a regulation
that may not even prove enforceable. By putting the issue before the
public and raising awareness, the debate about overconsumption could
potentially reset norms.
The New York Times has a very provocative article coming out in tomorrow's magazine about the junk food industry. It is definitely worth a read. The author draws parallels between the big food industry tactics and big tobacco. This is an analogy made earlier by Kelly Brownell Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesityand his co-author Kenneth Warner in this article "The Perils of Ignoring History: Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar is Big Food"?The Perils of Ignoring History. One aspect of this story that may be a revelation to many people is the degree to which food has been deliberately engineered to engender what the article calls "the bliss" point. What should be apparent is that the industry has spent, and continues to spend, billions of dollars on engineering these foods and fine-tuning their marketing pitches. And data mining allows them to be more fine-tuned than ever, as this article from Advertising Age suggests. Facebook to Partner with Acxiom.
A good deal of the advertising dollars spent by advertisers or these products are spent directing ads at children and teens, which, when one considers what is being pitched, doesn't make the analogy between tobacco and junk food seem that far fetched. See for example this quote from the AdAge article: "The targeting would hypothetically enable Coca-Cola to target to teenagers who've bought soda in the last month..."
I have long wondered why it doesn't bother people more than it seems to that so much money is spent pitching directly to kids, since no one thinks children or teenagers are fully rational choosers (even if we pretend for sake of argument that adults are). So why is it okay to train this battery of persuasive efforts at them? And in many cases marketing efforts are clearly aimed at very young children. The figure of Ronald McDonald is an example. Is Ronald McDonald the New Joe Camel?
However, just as this issue is getting more attention (again - it saw a good run in the 1970s in the FTC's ill-fated "Kid-Vid" investigation), the commercial speech doctrine has become so much more protective of advertising that any proposed restriction on advertising, even if it is to apply only to the most vulnerable group, children, is likely to fail First Amendment scrutiny. Indeed, some academics argued that even the mere proposal by an Interagency Working Group see here formed to try to propose industry self-regulatory guidelines on marketing of junk food to children, would fail the First Amendment because mere publication of such suggestions which did not have the force of law, might have a "chilling effect." See here and here . It appears it was the government not the marketers, which was "chilled." FTC weakens proposals. The irony is that given the state of the law, it might be easier to ban certain products, as mayor Bloomberg did, than it is to regulate the marketing of those same products. Yet, for those worried about the "Nanny state" a ban is arguably far more intrusive on liberty than a ban on marketing -- except the marketers' liberty. But the whole idea in protecting commercial speech was that it was supposed to further consumers' liberty, not advertisers. So this is a bit of a puzzle.
A friend yesterday forwarded me this story from Salon magazine which contains some interesting recent studies on the kinds of competitive situations in which women versus men tend to thrive. It suggests that women are less competitive and choose to take risks which are more likely to pay off than men, while men often take greater risk if there's a chance of greater reward. There are also suggestions about the optimal schooling environments for girls versus boys. Food for thought ...
The NYT piece, you know, that
one, the joyless, unwitty, matronly rebuke of irony. It did irk me, of
course. But it wasn’t just that. The staid op-ed just served as a convenient provocation......
For about an year, I’ve been thinking, in spite of myself, about irony and its
relationship to political authority. And
it seemed to me that authoritarian governments obsess over regulating its
traffic. These governments might look the
other way, at least sometimes, with regard to other perceived vices—drugs,
porn, illegal booze, gambling. But it’s irony—that
spiky variety of humor—that keeps them up at nights in their totalitarian beds.
Makes sense, I suppose; the logic (or momentum) of irony won’t
broke sacred cows but authoritarian leaders justify their rule as
unquestionable and worthy of deference; divine bovines, such leaders keenly cry out for ironic taunting.
It is in democracies where rambunctious irony is embraced,
and the case can be made (or, has been sought to be made,
anyway) that biting satire breeds the sort of impiety and insolence that helps
to underwrite constitutional democracy.
But that’s just me; ask a better (if you'll pardon the dumb pun) authority. The People’s Republic of China. Ask, oh I don't know, the Party Leaders who they think is the Sexiest
Christy Wampole’s NYT essay wages, so she says, an un-ironic protest against irony. Specifically, the irony of hipsters is her object of criticism: She argues that twenty-something or early thirty-something hipsters are shorn of seriousness, earnestness, and genuineness. Sad times, she shakes her head, sad times.
I’m all for seriousness, earnestness, and genuineness, of course; who isn’t? So I agree with Wampole’s general position. But I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Most of it, anyway. In spite of herself, she came off as so. . . ummm. . . ironic. (I'm almost tempted to read the essay as a satire about satire.) But she is being earnest about being earnest.
Born in 1977, Wampole says that the good old days were back in the nineties which “now seem relatively irony-free.” As someone who is only eight years older than her, I thought she was being ironic. The 1990s were rampant with irony, at least in my idiosyncratic corner of the college and law school universe: The Talking Heads, REM, the Smiths, the Police; Derrida and Foucault and a bunch of other French writers whom I didn't like; Seinfeld, the Simpsons, and the great Chris Elliot. The creation of the magnificently indulgent pulpy rag called Spy Magazine, which had dwelled, back in the nineties, on "slackers," the precursor to the contemporary hipster. The relatively irony-free nineties? I don’t get it.
And then there is Wampole’s claim that these young folk—these twenty-something hipsters—aren’t engaged morally in their world. They opt for aloof irony rather than moral commitment. This claim seemed an unintended bid for irony as well.
I don’t know such hipsters and have never met any. My students—twenty-something, sophisticated, and yes, hip—are indeed ironic. But their irony, when directed to themselves, is self-effacing, and when directed toward the pompously self-important, is meant to puncture their fat hypocrisy. My students wear corny Miami Vice T-shirts (Miami Vice, good Lord, a show that burned with irony even when it was popular) and the cornier Members Only jackets from the 1980s (one student, after becoming a lawyer, even bought me a jacket, a touching gesture, as I had once quipped in class that my parents never had the money to buy one for me in elementary school.). But these students also volunteer to clean beaches, show up at soup kitchens, and donate countless pro bono hours. So, I can’t help but think that there was something ironic when Wampole denounced young hipsters as consumed by irony.
Wampole also mentioned the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. But aren’t communism (and fascism), along with religious fundamentalism (by angry Christian fanatics and Islamic terrorists, alike) morbidly absent--indeed, contemptuous of--irony? They’re whole mentality is built on Earnestness, Seriousness, and Genuineness. Imagine if these people were more ironic, and hence more skeptical, more humorous, more willing to grin at diversity, hypocrisy, and fulsome righteousness.
If you go to the reader comments on the NYT, you can read that a fabulous cross section of people—senior citizens, suburbanites, city folk, women, men—have dismissed Wampole’s fatuous gripe against irony. To the extent that such a cross section represents the mainstream, what we have is an odd outcome; the mainstream coming to the defense of the hipster.
I recently received some law porn from Northeastern Law trumpeting the arrival of Dean Jeremy Paul. The title of the circular is "My Aim is True" and inside we learn that Jeremy's favorite musical act is Elvis Costello. I have it on good information that David Van Zandt's favorite band is the Cure - and yes, I have noticed that he doesn't seem to be running Northwestern Law anymore. But I think it's a fair request, in the name of law school transparency, that other deans share their favorite band. Associate deans, who are more numerous, and people who either love or hate associate deans, may also share.
It's a tough call for me, but I'll go with Fairport Convention. And no, I don't think it would be appropriate, given the current market, to lead a law school brochure with the headline "Meet on the Ledge."
I was excited to hear Governor Romney's talking about Bill's Barbeque, which recently closed its doors in Richmond. Back in 1990 and 1991 I ate at a couple of the Bill's locations. This is yet another instance of how central barbeque is to American culture and in this case how close it is to politics. All of which reminds me that I'm going to talk about a barbeque feast in George Tucker’s The Valley of the Shenandoah, just as soon as Doug Thie and I get our paper on probate in Rockbridge County in the pre-Civil War era finished. The novel occupies a small but important place in that paper -- though more for what it says about trust law than barbeque.
Following on from the amusing and productive discussion of best and worst law review artice titles, I couldn't help but notice (why was I looking at it anyway?) the cover of the September Vogue magazine. One of the cover stories reads: "Exclusive: Chelsea Clinton An Inside Look". What are they looking at? Her internal organs?
Any other amusing/confusing cover stories folks have noticed lately?
And how are people's experiences of the fall submission season going? I've heard that many journals are already full up.
At my law school, particularly before we merged with the University of Massachusetts, many of the students were not familiar with business dress. Our school is located in an area that has many first and second generation immigrants and has a history that is more blue than white collar. Because of this, many on our faculty attempt to model “proper” business attire for an attorney by dressing in a style that is conservative, traditional and main-stream.
Recently, I have had the chance to visit several major U.S. cities and have noted a big change in general dress standards. For example, on recent trip to NYC, I dined at several top-drawer restaurants, Le Bernardin, for example (deserving all of the accolades it has gotten, by the way). Ten years ago, no sane person would think about entering that style of a restaurant without wearing business attire; indeed, many top restaurants had and enforced a dress code. On my recent trips, however, I found that business attire is now the exception with many diners wearing much more casual attire, i.e., shorts and a polo shirt in Le Bernardin. I found the same thing to be true in other cities in both the South and West.
My question is whether the time spent talking to students about business attire is now wasted. After all, it wasn’t long ago that no lawyer would enter a courtroom with less than a wig and robe. Is business dress dying?
With thanks to an unnamed source who drew this article to my attention, here's a link to a piece in The Guardian that attempts to explain some of those plot holes in Ridley Scott's Prometheus. I was relieved to see I wasn't the only person stumped by the meaning of that first scene.
For anyone who hasn't seen or heard about it, this week's Time magazine cover depicts a young mother breastfeeding her three year old son. One story, including copy of the cover, is here. The lead article is about attachment parenting which is not a new phenomenon but which certainly raises strong opinions amongst parents and others. The cover of the magazine itself was clearly meant to provoke discussion - and has provoked a lot so far. It got me to wondering which other magazine covers have made the most impact (and sold the most magazines) over the years. The year that Time magazine nominated "You" as "Person of the Year" springs to mind. Any others?