Julie and Julia: A Meditation on Film, Julia Child, and Cooking Blogs

Even though the film Julie and Julia came out in 2009, I’ve only just now seen it. Written and directed by Nora Ephron, and based in part on the blog Julie Powell started in 2002 at Salon. I liked Julie and Julia very much. Meryl Streep is fabulous, (as usual), so much so that now I have to double-check to make sure I’m looking at images and video of the real Julia. Stanley Tucci is wonderful as Child’s spouse Paul Child. I wish there had been less of Julie the cooking-blogger (though she is well-played by Amy Adams) and more of Meryl Streep as Julia Child. As much as I admire Nora Ephron’s work, I think a film about Julia Child would have been even better. Ephron’s decision to intertwine Julia Child’s life with the story in Julie Powell’s book Julie/Julia, based on Julie Powell’s blog The Julie/Julia Project was perhaps unfortunate. The Project was a blog about Powell’s efforts to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year.

As a blog, The Julie/Julia Project is less than inspired.

You can find the rest of the piece, complete with lots of food links, here.

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Scientists Discover Brain’s Moral Compass . . . and It Responds to Magnets

In a study led by Dr. Liane Young of MIT, researchers have discovered that the moral compass lies in the right temporo-parietal junction of the human brain, near the surface and just behind the right ear. This region becomes excited and actively engaged when we think about other people’s errors or good deeds. Researchers using transcranial magnetic stimulation were able to disrupt the function of the area and temporarily encourage people to be “less moral.” You can read the details here.

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“The Rage Is Not About Health Care”: Teabaggers and Racism

In Frank Rich’s New York Times op-ed “The Rage Is Not About Health Care ” he notes:

The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.

Rich’s analysis is spot-on, and chilling. Read the whole thing.

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Byron and Shelley Excoriated from the Grave

Author Daisy Hay while

Claire Clairmont by Aemilia Curran, 1819

researching her book Young Romantics, about the Shelleys, Byron and their “tangled lives” found a fragment of a memoir by Claire Clairmont (1798-1879), Mary Shelley’s young, head-strong step-sister. Clairmont, perhaps most famous for describing Byron as “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” was in her teens when Byron got her pregnant and then dumped her. Dr. Hay is including the fragment, written by Clairmont when she was in her seventies and looking back at her pursuit of Byron, and her journeys with the Shelleys. Clairmont says of her time with the two poets that “Under the influence of the doctrine and belief of free love, I saw the two first poets of England… become monsters.” You can read more here.

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Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has provided an exceedingly well done Website featuring all 902 letters from Vincent van Gogh, complete with high resolution images, transcriptions and translations, and, best of all, illustrations and annotations. The Quick Guide is a good place to start.

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We Are All African

We are all Africans. We originated in Africa. That is proved by the continent’s rich genetic inheritance. Africans are more diverse than the rest of humanity put together, because they are drawn from the pool of humans who did not leave. As Wells points out, two Africans from the same village could be more divergent from each other than either is from a non-African. The question is whether this new understanding will reinforce prejudices against Africans, or help end them.

The story of humanity, written in the spiral pages of our DNA, from More Intelligent Life.

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Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Digital Cuneiform

Language Hat‘s post about the utterly nifty Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire site, a site about

From the Central Palace in Nimrud and now in the British Museum, London. Circa 728 BC.

From Nimrud, circa 728 BCE

the Neo-Assyrian capital of Nineveh PGP in what today is northern Iraq, from the middle of the seventh century BCE. Nineveh and the royal court there is the earliest attested site of courtly scientific patronage in world history. The Website presents contemporary documents from the seventh century BCE that include letters, reports, and queries from scholars, along with pedagogical resources. In addition, the site includes court poetry, royal prophecies, memos, and letters from temple staff to the king. This is a very well-done site, aesthetically appealing, and easy to navigate, with pointers to other resources, on and off line. I favor Essentials as a good starting place. The Cuneiform Revealed section covers writing systems as well as language, and makes me think about the UCLA/Max Planck project, The Cuneiform Digital Library.

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Pornography, Women, and Honesty

Stacia Kane in a thoughtful post about the book Porn for Women from the “Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative,” asks:

Isn’t it time we move past this shit? Past the idea that what women really want is hugs’n’chocolate, because sex is just something we do for him? Past the idea that men only do nice things in order to get sex? Can’t we agree now that women are adults, and diverse, and so are men, and that to put out a book this simple-minded and ridiculous and call it “porn for women” is shameful, and sexist, and just plain not fucking funny?

You can read the whole post here, and you really should, and no, it’s not about “that kind” of porn, though it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that pornography, or pornos graphos originally referred to the graphos, the writing (and images) used by prostitutes to establish their services and prices for customers.

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Freedom, Sex, and Censorship, as Reported by the Internet

Several news stories and blog posts worth noting, discussing topics that bear discussion and offer the potential of deeply  interesting further developments.

And so, with no further ado, here’s the Tuesday round-up.

An NPR report about a current lawsuit challenging the Patriot Act as unconstitutional:

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case that pits an individual’s right of free speech and association against a federal law aimed at combating terrorism. At issue is part of the Patriot Act that makes it a crime for an American citizen to engage in peaceful, lawful activity on behalf of any group designated as a terrorist organization.

Sassymonkey Reads brings us an examination of “Common Sense” ratings of YA books on the Barnes & Noble Website:

I was prepared to be really ranty about Common Sense Media. I was prepared to dislike them and everything that they stood for. When I saw the ratings on BN.com last night I was angry. After going to their website I really don’t have an issue with what they are doing. I may not agree with their age-appropriateness on a lot of items (I was a free-range reader as a kid) but they are giving kids their voice as well as the adults and I appreciate that. They are anti-censorship. They aren’t against any of the books, but they are trying to provide ways for families to discuss the issues in the books rather than for them to simply not read them. I can see Common Sense Media being a good tool for parents and educators. I have to give them kudos for their efforts.

But (there’s always a but) I have issues with the way that their service has been implemented on BN.com. The focus is entirely negative. It lists only what the book has in it that is potentially “wrong.” There is no context for any of those potential issues. There are no merits to any of the books like how they deal with those issues.  I think it completely derails what Common Sense Media set out to do.

The Political Carnival discusses a new bill being awaiting the governor’s approval in Utah. Masquerading as a measure against illegal abortions, the bill’s actual content should make anyone with even potential access to a uterus absolutely ill with outrage:

In addition to criminalizing an intentional attempt to induce a miscarriage or abortion, the bill also creates a standard that could make women legally responsible for miscarriages caused by “reckless” behavior.

Using the legal standard of “reckless behavior” all a district attorney needs to show is that a woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she didn’t intend to lose the pregnancy. Drink too much alcohol and have a miscarriage? Under the new law such actions could be cause for prosecution.

“This creates a law that makes any pregnant woman who has a miscarriage potentially criminally liable for murder,” says Missy Bird, executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Utah. Bird says there are no exemptions in the bill for victims of domestic violence or for those who are substance abusers. The standard is so broad, Bird says, “there nothing in the bill to exempt a woman for not wearing her seatbelt who got into a car accident.”

Finally, because after all that you might be wondering where on earth this kind of stuff gets started, Jon Stewart deconstructs how those memes get started, and the cognitive disconnect required to spread the some of the racist, sexist, anti-progressive, unconstitutional, and anti-American sentiments that cloak themselves in modern American conservatism .

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Gollum: Schizophrenia or Multiple Personality Disorder?

…Gollum displays pervasive maladaptive behaviour that has been present since childhood with a persistent disease course. His odd interests and spiteful behaviour have led to difficulty in forming friendships and have caused distress to others. He fulfils seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum’s problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis.

More here and here.

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