Archive for April, 2008

Again with the Reverend

April 30, 2008

I’m a bit disappointed that Barack Obama finally saw fit to denounce and repudiate (denounced! repudiated! We declare him excommunicated and anathemized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and all his angels and all the reprobate!) the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Although I’m the whitest of white guys, I have some sort of weird soft spot for Wright. I must just like having fiery black preachers around.

I had foolishly hoped Obama really would be be able to transcend the awful conventions of political campaigns, especially the smug and phony patriotism that so poisons our political discourse (a subject for another day’s rant). He seemed to be doing so well, both in small things—eschewing those tacky flag pins—and in large—turning the last flap over Wright into an opportunity for a genuinely important discussion about race.

But I suppose after Wright seemed to imply Obama might secretly agree with him even Obama didn’t feel he had any choice; he was in a sort of “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” situation. Although really I’m not sure that’s exactly what Wright meant. He said

We both know that, if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected.

Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever’s doing the polls. Preachers say what they say because they’re pastors. They have a different person to whom they’re accountable.

As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I’m still going to have to be answerable to God November 5th and January 21st. That’s what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do.

Heavens above, does anyone think politicians don’t say what they say and do what they do based on electability?? Whatever else Obama may be, he’s still a wily politician. If he weren’t, he would never have gotten where he is. And if he weren’t, he would frankly make a terrible president. I remember a good line from Joe Klein’s political roman à clef Primary Colors:

You don’t think Abraham Lincoln was a whore before he was a president? He had to tell his little stories and smile his shit-eating, backcountry grin. He did it all just so he’d get the opportunity, one day, to stand in front of the nation and appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature.’

Perhaps the real reason Obama had to do something was—as I heard some commentator (no idea who!) say on NPR—that Wright undermines Obama’s basic premise, that America is ready to put its racial problems behind it, and ready to elect a President who transcends racial (and other) divides. Wright’s racial anger belies that. Now, whether that’s really Obama’s premise I tend to doubt—slavery and other race-based horrors are America’s Original Sin (as I’ve said before), and we won’t be done with them for a long time—but yes, righteous anger doesn’t really suit Obama’s message. Some of Wright’s nuttier and more controversial views—his support for the odious Louis Farrakahn, his the-government-created-AIDS conspiracy-theory-mongering—are I think less interesting and worrying in themselves than because they same to be taken seriously by significant numbers of African-Americans. What does that say about the state of race relations in the country now? Nothing Obama’s campaign would like to bring up, I think.

Also on NPR I heard two Congressmen, one a supporter of Clinton and one of Obama, discussing Wright. The Clinton supporter (Emmanuel Cleaver, himself an African-American and a minister) was considerably more pro-Wright than the Obama supporter. My default assumption is that (despite being politicians!) they were both being honest—but it does make a perverse sort of sense for a Clinton supporter to want to emphasize Obama’s connection to Wright in the guise of “praise,” and for an Obama supporter to put all the distance possible between Obama and Wright.

Windows Live Writer, cont.

April 29, 2008

Well, I’m impressed. Someone from the Live Writer team commented on my last post and told me how to use wordpress tags, my biggest complaint. Not only is the product free, you don’t even have to call to get technical support!

A more minor complaint turns out to have an interesting cause. I mentioned that Live Writer doesn’t format lists like WordPress itself. I was wrong—actually, it’s Firefox (which I mostly use) and IE that disagree (I assume, possibly wrongly, that LW uses IE’s rendering engine, or at least uses IE as a model). I found this bit of nastiness in WordPress’s CSS:

/* Begin Lists

	Special stylized non-IE bullets
	Do not work in Internet Explorer, which merely default to normal bullets. */

html>body .entry ul {
	margin-left: 0px;
	padding: 0 0 0 30px;
	list-style: none;
	padding-left: 10px;
	text-indent: -10px;

html>body .entry li {
	margin: 7px 0 8px 10px;

.entry ul li:before, #sidebar ul ul li:before {
	content: "0BB 020";

So I’ll pin this one on WordPress, or whoever designed the “Kubrick” “I’m–too–lazy–to–change–it” theme, for knowingly doing something browser-dependent.

So, I’m feeling much warmer and fuzzier towards LW now. Definitely check it out.

Windows Live Writer

April 28, 2008

[UPDATE: See the comments, and this.  I am man enough to admit I was wrong about chunks of this.]

I’ve been using the Evil Empire’s Windows Live Writer for the last few blog posts, including this one. I haven’t made up my mind about it, but here are some impressions:

I do like the “form factor” of the Writer application as opposed to the in-browser WordPress interface, which I always find annoying. I find pretty much all web-based UI’s for inputting large swaths of text annoying, actually. WordPress’s, like many others, is naturally too short and too wide. I tend not to bother making it thinner, as that requires resizing the browser. I do make it taller, but that requires scrolling to get by all the stuff at the top of the page and allow space for the text.

A potential downside to WLV is that it stores drafts on the local machine, not online among WordPress’s drafts. That doesn’t matter for short posts, but for people like me who use multiple computers and write longer posts in multiple sittings, it could be a problem.

WLV is WYSIWYG, more or less, which for blogging is nice, but not really crucial. I imagine I will like it more the next time I add a picture, something that’s a pain to get right with WordPress’s native interface. WLV does not seem to understand WordPress’s “sourcecode” construct, which will be annoying for anything involving code. It also doesn’t get all the little details right—it doesn’t convert the keyboard pseudo-quotation marks to real quotes or multiple hyphens to em and en dashes, for example, and it doesn’t format lists correctly. For most purposes, though, I do find it an improvement over WP’s “visual editor,” which can be an over-aggressive pain at times.

Another minor complaint—the spellchecker highlights words even more obnoxiously than most Microsoft products, not only with squiggly underlines but with bolding. What on earth is that about?

The worst problem with WLV is that it doesn’t understand WordPress tags. Its tag interface is something else, requiring “tag sources,” that novice amateur incompetent blogger me doesn’t really understand. To get tags in I have to publish and then edit immediately. [UPDATE: it does understand them—see the comments.]

For now I’ll keep using it—the form factor thing is worth the problems. If anyone wants to correct my misapprehensions about said problems, please do.

UPDATE: Ha, I see one misapprehension already—there are options for “post as draft” and “open from weblog,” which get around the online/offline problem. My apologies for slandering you, Windows Live Writer!

Sometimes religion IS evil

April 28, 2008

Like Kerry Howley (who seems to have pulled her post; maybe it will come back), I’m appalled at the libertarian defenders of the FLDS. Even David Bernstein (and many, many commentators) at the usually sensible Volokh Conspiracy are characterizing the government raids as “child abuse in the name of protecting children.”

Now I understand that this sort of thing is a tough case for libertarians. Government raids on religious compounds are troubling even for me (no Libertarian I, but sort of a libertarian fellow traveler). Creepiness alone is no excuse for government raids; and worse, governments have a spectacular history of botching these things dreadfully.

And I should mention that I have no particular problem in the abstract with polygamy, or rather with polyamory. I couldn’t handle it myself, and there are excellent reasons for The State not to recognize it (actually, I think the state should be out of the marriage business altogether, but that’s a topic for another time), but I have no objection at all to other people living whatever lifestyle they choose.

It’s that “choose” part that’s important here. I admit to having no personal experience whatever with the FLDS—for which I am thankful, and in which I am just like virtually everyone else commenting on this case. But a society like theirs can exist without massive oppression of women, children, and probably all the men except the few in charge. Shouldn’t libertarians dislike oppression, whether or not it’s the government doing the oppressing? This is not to mention that it can’t exist without finding pretexts to exile most of its teenage boys, or the comparatively minor (morally minor, perhaps legally significant) fact that the FLDS supports itself through large-scale welfare fraud—“bleeding the beast,” it’s apparently called.

I don’t know how to draw the line between “acceptably weird religion” and “evil and twisted cult.” But wherever it is, the FLDS is on the wrong side of it. It makes me want to side with those annoying atheists—in fact, the first fifteen pages of Under the Banner of Heaven, John Krakauer’s account of Mormon fundamentalist murderers, are a far more effective argument against religion than everything Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have ever written.

Ring of Words

April 27, 2008

All nerds idolize J. R. R. Tolkien, and many of us realize that Tolkien’s greatness was due in part to the depth and detail of his language, both in English and in his many invented languages. Ring of Words, by OED editors Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner, details just how complex are the roots of Tolkien’s wordcraft.

Tolkien himself worked on the OED early in his career—something I for one did not know. Part I of Ring of Words details Tolkien’s life as a lexicographer, working in the minutiae of the W’s. I confess that even I found this section too esoterically detailed to read all the way through. If, however, you are interested in the etymology of “walnut” and “waistcoat” and “wallop,” by all means check it out—“walnut” is more complicated than you can possibly imagine.

Parts II and III are more generally interesting. Part II, “Tolkien as Wordwright,” concerns Tolkien’s work as a writer and as a philologist. It begins with a discussion of what “philology” means. The authors (and, they say, Tolkien) prefer a sense of the word more general than “simple” linguistics, an older and more general one.

The study of texts, whether ‘literary’ or not, leads naturally both ‘out’ to the study of the society and culture to which the texts belong, and ‘in’ to the study of the language in which the text is written. Tolkien and Gordon’s edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, for example, may seem specialized to those unfamiliar with such scholarly texts, but in fact it is multidisciplinary in its scope: it includes an an analysis of the 14th-century dialect in which the poem is written, the verse techniques, the characteristics of characterization and narrative, the historical, fictional, and mythological sources, and the ideology and customs of the text’s contemporary audience. A philologist has to be able to handle all these areas…

…The modern term linguistics is a poor substitute, implying as it does a sole rather than a primary focus on language.

[I don’t know whether linguists would agree with that characterization of their discipline.]

From this RoW goes on to discuss Tolkien’s love for the raw sounds of words (reflected in customs of the Elves in his “legendarium”); his propensity for “compulsive fascination” with individual words, allowing them to “put down roots” and lead to great flights of creative imagination (most spectacularly in the case of the Ents, from the obscure Old English word ent); and then his use of creative archaism. Tolkien was an admirer of William Morris, who following in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott filled his historical romances and fantasies with mock-archaic language. Much 19th century (and come to think of it, 20th and 21st century) pseudo-archaism is fairly dreadful. Tolkien, with his deep knowledge of actual archaism, was able to make a much better job of it than Scott and Morris and their lesser imitators.

Tolkien, writing pure fantasy, was not exactly faking ‘period’ idioms; rather, he used Old English and Middle English language and literature as sources for his invented language and idiom. This is actually a rather subtle business. Tolkien tended not to use archaic Old English words directly, but rather extrapolated how they might have evolved had they survived into modern English. He also shaded his language to fit specific contexts, both in narrative and in dialog. He writes of the Shire in ordinary modern English, but of the Elves and the men of Rohan and Gondor in “higher” language. Even individual characters—particularly sensitive Frodo and well-traveled Aragorn—change their diction to suit the circumstances.

Part III, “Word Studies,” is simply a list of interesting words used by Tolkien, where he got them, and how he adapted them. Some words I would have thought he simply invented himself—“bee-hunter” as applied to Beorn, “elf-friend,” “sister-son”—turn out to have fairly deep linguistic and cultural roots. Some—“Arkenstone,” “mathom,” “smial”—are modernized versions of Old English words. Some, especially Rohirric words such as “éored” and “Mearas,” are delibarately un-modernized Old English words. Fun fact: the word “dumbledore” actually means “bumblebee,” appears in (some versions of) Tolkien’s poem “Errantry.” In reading the word studies I was repeatedly struck not only by how much I didn’t know, but by how much there was to know.

[Several of the word studies—Elf, Fairy, Faërie, Dwarf, Gnome, Goblin—remark on Tolkien’s annoyance at the light and sentimental popular conception of those mythical beings. I have to assume he would be heartened by the modern reinterpretations of such by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clarke. If you have somehow not yet read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, for goodness’s sake do so at once.]

To close, two pretentious typographical notes:

  • I was greatly pleased by the books free and casual use of the archaic letters þ, ȝ, ð, and æ.
  • The body text of the book is set Minion, a typeface heavily inspired by typefaces of the late Renaissance. It is not however in any way an actual revival of those old fonts, even a creative one (as are, say, Bembo and the various Garamonds), but a modern creation. In that it is a sort of typographical analog of Tolkien’s reinterpretations and modernizations of ancient words. Was that intended, or am I merely being pompous?

Django QuerysetRefactor

April 27, 2008

In major Django news, Malcolm Tredinnick‘s long-awaited QuerysetRefactor branch is in for real; huzzah!  This has little immediate impact on my tiny site.   It did allow (and require, as I expected) me to remove the QLeftOuterJoin workaround from Django Snippets I used in a couple of places.  It also fixes other problems I’ve run into before—with ordering across relations, for example—and looks to be a major nicification in general.    I’m very impressed that so major an internals change could be done with so few backwards incompatibilities.

Ow, part II

April 22, 2008

[In which I bleed some more.]

I had my second of four(?) gum grafts last week. Pain-and-annoyance-wise, it seems to have gone slightly better than the first. In part that’s because they (the periodontist and the dentist) knew in advance that I’m a bleeder and were thus prepared. Possibly as a result of that, or possibly for no reason at all, I have fewer of the vile silly-putty dressings in my mouth, and that makes a huge difference. The downside is I get to see what the graft looks like, and what it looks like is “yechh.” One spot looks like it may not have taken at all, a tremendously depressing thought. Elsewhere looks more promising. Disgusting, put promising.

This graft was for the lower jaw, and so I don’t have the enormously swollen cheek and badass black eye I got from the first one. Instead I merely have a mildly swollen jaw, which, while noticeable, appears to be the result of a much wimpier fight than did the first. I only had a couple of the vicodin pick-me-ups with this one, but am still scarfing the Vitamin I pretty heavily.

Note to you masochists out there—this may sound like fun, but be warned, modern Novocain is amazing stuff. Make sure you ask them not to use it.  It dulls the senses.


April 12, 2008

For no particular reason I downloaded Safari for Windows and OMG MY EYES! THE GOGGLES, THEY DO NOTHING!

So it turns out I don’t much like the blurry eyestrain-inducing font rendering. I’m pretty late to the party here but I’ll pile on anyway.

It seems that Safari ignores Windows’ native font rendering—ClearType, on my machine—and use Apple’s own, Quartz. I would have expected them to be more or less the same, as they both mostly rely on subpixel rendering. But it turns out Quartz ignores TrueType hinting, relying only on the subpixel anti-aliasing, which is to say, blurrification. It’s especially noticeable in the vertical direction, where subpixels help not at all.

Apparently—and I don’t know how authoritative this is—Apple in its wisdom chose to ignore hinting in order to Preserve Design Intent. TrueType hints force features of glyphs to the pixel grid, meaning that some strokes get thinner and some thicker, that relative weights of bold and regular styles are distorted, that curves flatten out, and spacing can be a bit wonky. Relying solely on antialiasing does mitigate those problems, at the cost of blurring (and chromatic fringing, with subpixel renderers).

Windows’ ClearType does respect hinting, at least to some extent. Much as it pains me to say it, I’m with Microsoft on this one. [Caveat: ClearType’s effectiveness depends enormously on the monitor. It looks great on the relatively high-res laptop I’m using now. I’ve tried it on other monitors (yes, LCD ones) where it was unbearable. I imagine it depends heavily on the user as well.]

Now preserving design intent does make an enormous amount of sense in some contexts. If you’re actually trying to lay out a page for printing, font distortion is bad, and a bit of blurring is no biggie. Were I a graphic designer I’m sure I’d demand the better approximation of font weights and glyph shapes and positions and not care about the blurring.

But I’m not a graphic designer, I’m just some guy trying to read stuff on the web. I care much more about not getting a headache than about the aesthetic qualities of lower-case g’s descender. I can read slightly malformed but clear fonts much more easily than blurry ones.

Even from a philosophical point of view “design intent” is a tricky concept. TrueType hints are design intent. A lot of effort went into hinting Georgia and Verdana and the other core web fonts. So does the real intent reside entirely in the glyph outlines, or in the hinting as well? Well, really it sort of depends. Print and screen are different contexts (they will converge as screen resolutions get higher, but they haven’t yet), and good designers design for both. Apple, it seems to me, does not respect the latter. For a desktop publishing program that would make sense. But we’re talking about a web browser here.

[Yes, there are lots of crappily hinted fonts out there, including some that are beautiful in print. With those Quartz can look much nicer than ClearType, even to me. But a well-desgined website really should not use those fonts.]

It may be that were I a Mac person I would be used to Apple’s rendering and find Windows’ godawful and primitive. But I’m not. Does Apple want to show us benighted Windows drudges The Light? If so, it’s not working. I want Windows apps to act like Windows apps—consistency is important. Safari want to act like a Mac app, both in rendering and in a few other ways, things like the way it displays its scrollbars (yes, that’s pretty trivial). The weird part is that Apple understands better than anyone else the importance of strict user interface guidelines. Do they care about them only when the guidelines are their own?

A little more about Hitchens, and a lot about Hell

April 10, 2008

Previously in this space, I mentioned that there were interesting points embedded in Christopher Hitchens’ explanation of Martin Luther King’s patent atheism. Specifically, in this passage:

…it is only in the reported observations of Jesus that we find any mention of hell and eternal punishment. The god of Moses would brusquely call for other tribes, including his favorite one, to suffer massacre and plague and even extirpation, but when the grave closed over his victims he was essentially finished with them unless he remembered to curse their succeeding progeny. Not until the advent of the Prince of Peace do we hear of the ghastly idea of further punishing and torturing the dead.

HellThat is surprisingly close to being correct. The New Testament, and Christianity, are indeed much more focused on the afterlife, as both reward and punishment, than are Judaism and its scriptures. Search for the word “Hell” in the NIV, and you’ll only find results in the New Testament.1

The early Israelites do not seem to have had much concept of individuals’ survival after death. Having their progeny succeed and multiply was a far more meaningful “life after death.” But there are obvious exceptions, most strikingly the summoning of Samuel’s spirit for Saul by the witch of Endor.2

And there is an abode of the dead in the Hebrew scriptures. Sheol is very much the equivalent of the Greek Hades (which is how the Septuagint translates it), a sort of gloomy half-world, where all the dead go, whatever they were in life. It is not a place of punishment, and indeed can provide a welcome (if metaphorical) rest from the woes of earthly life. From Job 3:13-19:

For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth, which build desolate places for themselves; or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver: or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.

In older translations of the Bible “Sheol” is often rendered as “Hell”; in newer ones, as “the grave,” or “the pit.” (Hence the specification the NIV, a translation I don’t particularly like, in the search above.) It appears most frequently in the more poetic books—Job, and the Psalms—or in the allegorical prophetic books, and hence may have been more a literary device than a statement of belief.

The Inferno, by BarolomeoThe Gospels do (apparently) introduce another version of Hell. In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus refers to “Gehenna,” the exact nature of which is not clear, but which seems very bad indeed. It’s a place of fire and torment, where not only bodies but souls are destroyed. It is the negation of the Kingdom of Heaven. The word is derived from the valley of Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem. According to the historical books of the OT, and the prophet Jeremiah, human sacrifices were performed there, an practice that was ended by King Josiah. By Jesus’ time it had taken on a more abstract and otherworldly meaning, no longer an earthly abomination but a place of endless torment.

That is one manifestation of a more general phenomenon: in general the New Testament is abstract where the old is concrete. Compare, for example, the Magnficat with its original, the Song of Hannah. We should perhaps be cautious in extrapolating from the texts themselves to their authors’ and adherents’ beliefs, as concrete language can be interpreted abstractly and abstract language interpreted concretely. This is especially true of Jesus, who (very much in the early rabbinical tradition) spoke figuratively and taught in parables. He certainly went into no detail about the nature of Gehenna3, and may well not have meant to imply a literal eternal punishment.

What Christopher Hitchens—he got us here originally, remember—gets wrong is that this use of Hell, even assuming it means what later Christians think it means, was new with Jesus. It certainly was not. Jesus was after all a first-century Jew, who lived and worked entirely among other first-century Jews, and used language and ideas that were familiar to them. These could vary considerably from the language in the Old Testament, most of which (the apocrypha and the book of Daniel being the exceptions) was written hundreds of years previously, before the arrival and infusion of Hellenistic culture and ideas, in a language that few common people of Jesus’ time knew.

When Jesus4 used the term Gehenna he was quoting early versions of the Targums, translations of the Hebrew scriptures into Aramaic (see this article by Frederica Matthewes-Green and this by Craig Evans; in the second you should probably ignore the top part of the page completely and scroll to the quoted article). And the concept of an afterlife, including eternal punishment for the wicked, was certainly not foreign. Josephus ascribes such beliefs to the Pharisees (Jewish War II.8.14): “They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies,—but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment.” In this he was probably wrong—the Pharisees more likely believed in the resurrection of the body, a belief long metaphorically associated with the rebirth of the nation of Israel5—but his citation is at least evidence that the belief was not unheard-of.

SatanHow Satan—previously a senior member of God’s court—came to be the ruler of Hell is story for another time.


1 See this handy chart for all the “Hell words” in the Bible, excluding the apocrypha.
2 Here is an article by James Tabor about the afterlife in the Bible.
3 unlike some of his later followers, who so delight in the details of how the God of Love will burn, dismember, impale, and otherwise torture the apostate and the heretical.
4 Or rather, the evangelists, who wrote decades after Jesus’ death. And we can’t even be sure of what the evangelists themselves wrote, as the earliest extant copies of the Gospels are from later still, and may represent considerable editing. See this blog post by April DeConick.
5 See Daniel 12:2, and that most vivid of prophetic visions, Ezekiel 37.

The Jane Austen Book Club

April 5, 2008

Still more Janeblogging! Sort of; rather than real Austen, this is all about the fluff. Yes, I saw The Jane Austen Book Club, and thanks to the magic of low expectations, I even enjoyed it.

[I liked a chick flick! Crap, am I gay? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it would be terribly inconvenient.]

Anyway. Five women and one guy (a handsome, charming, rich, and sensitive guy who likes older women1, it is worth pointing out) form a book club to discuss the novels of Jane Austen. They find their own lives and problems mirroring the books they’re reading (very vaguely and loosely), and with the aid and inspiration of said books are able to work out said problems (very unconvincingly, but that’s a quibble in this sort of movie).

It’s nice to see characters in a movie actually reading books, and not only reading them but caring about them and talking about them and thinking about them. Admittedly, their thoughts are on the shallow side—said the pot to the kettle; I’ve never had a deep thought in my life2—but it’s still nice. Usually in movies and on TV reading is something done only incidentally, or more often decorously left unmentioned, like using the bathroom or watching trashy television.3

What made the movie work for me, besides the low expectations, was mostly the very agreeable cast. Even when they were being charmingly annoying, Maria Bello and Amy Brenneman and Kathy Baker and Maggie Grace and Hugh Dancy were all just adorable. You sorta want to be their galpal (Damn! Still gay!). Of the central characters only Emily Blunt—so wonderful in the otherwise mediocre The Devil Wears Prada4—got a bum deal, forced to play the most unpleasant of our heroines, a pretentious, bitchy, and unhappy culture snob. Her unbearable superiority is indicated in part by the way she refers to Austen as “Jane”—but don’t we all do that?

The actors in minor roles fare less well. The great Lynn Redgrave is positively abused as Blunt’s mother, whose function in the story is to explain why Blunt is such a witch. Jimmy Smits and Mark Blucas, as the respectively unfaithful and insensitive husbands of Brenneman and Blunt, are treated with the usual clueless broadness reserved for husbands in this sort of story. Nancy Travis, whom I’ve liked ever since So I Married An Axe Murderer (no, really! I loved that movie!), is thrown away in a tiny part.

The Jane Austen Book Club has no particular insights into human nature, no great wit, and no characters I’ll remember in a month. If you want those, read Jane Austen. But if you’re looking for a pleasant time-waster you could do worse than this.


1 At least when they look like Maria Bello.
2 Actually, I did have one once. It was about modal logic.
3 Married With Children, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons being exceptions.
4 Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, and Meryl Streep seemed to be in a completely different, much better, movie than Anne Hathaway. My first thought was that a script doctor had worked over an originally flat screenplay, but hadn’t gotten to the whole thing. It turns out that at least Blunt improvised many of her lines.