Sunday, October 20, 2002

A GOOD TIME TO BE UNEMPLOYED? I've been wintering the bum economy in law school, but many of my college friends went off into a booming business world in which fledgling techies, I-bankers, and consultants soon found themselves without as much ground to stand on as they expected back in 1999 or 2000. As the layoffs began, there were plenty of negative effects -- grad school application rates soared, and schools at all levels became more selective, while jobs were suddenly hard to come by. Seems pretty bleak, right? The years beginning 2001 would finally teach my generation about reality, responsibility, and humility.

But would it? Having made much more than anyone our age should for a few years, and finding themselves with savings complemented by generous severance packages, many of my contemporaries have found that being laid off is the best thing that ever happened to them. Previously chained to their desks with golden handcuffs, masses of well educated, hard-working, optimistic young people are suddenly finding time to enjoy life: to travel, to go out on weeknights (every night), to see their friends. I've seen this phenomenon -- layoffs coupled with an exuberant (re)discovery of fun -- in many of my peers, and found it interesting (even a cause for some slight jealousy). A story in today's New York Times confirms that this phenomenon is even broader than what I've seen -- a whole Manhattan subculture is developing consisting of laid-off Wall Streeters in their twenties with some financial cushion and nothing to do.

While at first I took great pleasure that I had countercyclically "gone law-school" when the future looked bright, only to have the dotcoms crumble immediately and the analysts start sweating bullets soon after, I'm starting to wonder if I'm missing out on the great Bohemian moment of my generation. I predict that as America's educated youth rediscover life outside of models of conventional success, many will look back on this time as a formative period...though not just for the realization of our economic fragility. Indeed, quite the opposite -- as kids a couple years out of college stretch their severance packages and savings into a year or two of bumming around New York and Europe, I have little doubt that the resulting social groups will be responsible for my generation's equivalents of On the Road and The Catcher in the Rye.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

JUMPING THE SHARK. It's probably in your vocabulary already, but in case you were ignorant like me, gentle reader, read on: "Jumping the Shark" refers to the moment when a good television show starts going downhill, because it's run out of entertaining ideas. The term apparently comes from a Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumped over a shark on jetskis while wearing a leather jacket, or something like that.

Of course, the possibilities for a concept as rich as "Jumping the Shark" range far outside the context of television. The other day, I asked a couple friends when they thought Richard Posner had "jumped the shark," and everyone immediately agreed it was Sex and Reason.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

GAIUS QUOTE OF THE DAY. "[I]f one stipulates for a thing which cannot exist at all, such as a hippocentaur, the stipulation is likewise void." Gaius, Institutes, Book. III §97a (F. de Zulueta ed. & trans., 1946) (emphasis added).

Good to know.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

WAR LIBERALS, WHERE HAVE YOU GONE? A New York Times article reports what everyone knows: most Americans see Republicans as taking national defense more seriously than Democrats, and as being less afraid of going to war. Nonetheless, this widespread belief seems to be more the product of great PR than historical reality. Starry-eyed pacifist Woodrow Wilson presided over U.S. involvement in World War I; FDR and Truman saw World War II to the end; Truman started the Korean War; Kennedy and LBJ "Americanized" and widened the war in Vietnam. Not all of these wars may have been ideal, but the fact remains that Democratic Presidents have hardly been afraid of going war. In fact, it was the same people who built the welfare state who built the military state (and the welfare state and the garrison state are not without some similarities). It was Eisenhower (not Noam Chomsky) who coined the phrase "defense-industrial complex." Indeed, only a Democratic president has dropped the Bomb. Against this, the Republicans have Eisenhower's turning the tide in Korea, Nixonger's long-winded wrapping up of Vietnam, Reagan's operations in Grenada, and Desert Storm. While certainly these military activities were completely respectable and important, and the Republicans have come a long way from their isolationism at the beginning of the twentieth century, it hardly seems to follow from any historical fact that they're unequivocally the party of war.

Yet, that's what everyone seems to think. Even the Democrats themselves, who seem to have forgotten where they come from. It needn't be that way. Big armies, after all, are just another form of big government.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

THEY'RE JUST AS EXCITED AT MIT about the new LOTR movie, and the anticipation has manifested itself in this brilliant spoof. (Note, this particular frat seems to give the number 22 great significance)

OK, enough geeking out for today.
NOW THAT THE TRAILER IS OUT, I'm even more excited for the The Two Towers premiere than I was before. One question: Why is Legolas such an assassin? Not that I'm against it, but I don't remember him being a ninja in the books. Who can forget him running across the cave troll's chain in the Moria battle, or his two-orcs-with-one-arrow move towards the end of Fellowship? In the new Two Towers trailer, we see him surfing down a castle stair on a shield or plank or something while furiously shooting arrows. For some reason, Peter Jackson has made him into a remorseless killing machine. And what about poor Gimli? As far as I can tell, he's completely useless. Anyway, I was wondering if anyone else finds it a little weird how Legolas has been made so much more formidable than the rest of the Fellowship combined. Is there a textual basis for this?