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Columbia Dating Scientists Up the Heeby-Jeeby Factor

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 5:01 PM EST

dating.jpgNumber one on Slate's "most read" list at the moment is "An Economist Goes to a Bar and Solves the Mysteries of Dating." The name pretty much says it all: A bunch of researchers from the economics department at Columbia ran a speed-dating service for students at a favorite campus watering hole. After each mini-date, participants were asked to rate their partners on variables such as attractiveness, intelligence, and ambition. Their findings were a cliché come true: Men "did put significantly more weight on their assessment of a partner's beauty, when choosing, than women did," and "intelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women's choices as men's." As for ambition, men "avoided women whom they perceived to be smarter than themselves. The same held true for measures of career ambition—a woman could be ambitious, just not more ambitious than the man considering her for a date."

What does it all mean? Simply refer to this neat little paragraph that sums up the researchers' findings:

So, yes, the stereotypes appear to be true: We males are a gender of fragile egos in search of a pretty face and are threatened by brains or success that exceeds our own. Women, on the other hand, care more about how men think and perform, and they don't mind being outdone on those scores.

Never mind the depressing fact that these unimpressive, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus-ish attitudes are present at Columbia, where your typical student is supposed to be busy learning how to "work across disciplines, embrace complexity, and become a fluid, fearless, forward-looking global citizen and scholar." Far more unsettling is the fact that a key point seems to have evaded both the researchers and Slate: Complex and fluid though it may be, Columbia University is most certainly not a microcosm of the larger world. Just because 400 Columbia students (who most likely have a slightly different relationship with the terms "ambition" and "intelligence" from the rest of the population) embraced these unfortunate stereotypes doesn't mean everyone else does.

The researchers' creepiest conclusion by far, though, was that "women got more dates when they won high marks for looks." From whom did the women win these high marks? Not their speed dating partners, but "research assistants, who were hired for the much sought-after position of hanging out in a bar to rate the dater's level of attractiveness on a scale of one to 10." File under: Ewwww!

This all brings us to the ultimate question: Don't Columbia economists have better things to do than scope out co-eds at a campus bar?

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Mothers for Vapid Kid Culture

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 3:46 PM EST

It's easy to laugh at High School Musical, and kid culture in general. Metrosexual Zach Efron as MoonDoggie. Vanessa Hudgens as...er.. Vanessa Williams. It couldn't be more bland and divorced from reality. I'd worry about my kids if they weren't mesmerized by it.

Only 6 and 4, when High School Musical queues up, and it does so often, the yelling stops, the toys drop. Tiny eyes fuse on the set. They go ballistic dancing to the high octane numbers while my princess-obsessed four year old squeezes her lids shut and twirls about, all alone and deliciously sad, on 'Gabriella's' heartbreak songs. They go to the same magical place all of us yearned for as children. While aimed at teenagers and tweens, I'm guessing that mine aren't the only tots moved by the extremely silly High School Musical and it's burgeoning spin offs the same way I was mesmerized by the pop music, 40's blockbusters and movie extravaganzas of my childhood. If I'm lucky, dumb old HSM will stay with them all their lives.


Beating Up On Barney Frank

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 3:21 PM EST

barney.jpg One of the GOP's most reliable fundraising pitches in the run-up to the 2006 mid-term elections was a vision of Democrat Barney Frank as the chair of the House Financial Services Committee. The gay congressman from Massachusetts was supposed to be the devil incarnate for the credit card and banking industry. Now that Frank has actually taken over the committee, though, one group he really seems to have pissed off is a bunch of liberal consumer advocates unhappy with his efforts to address the meltdown of the subprime lending industry.

Friday Says Bye-Bye Music News Day

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 2:29 PM EST

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And now, the Riff's crack Music News department follows up on stories we brought you here first. ...Well, maybe not "first," but, uh, in the past at some point, at least?

  • Okay, sorry, Prince. The Minneapolis superstar says he's not suing fans (as we mocked here on the Riff the other day), but in fact just the opposite: his promoter released a statement saying that Prince wants to "provide Prince fans with exclusive music and images entirely free of charge, and bypassing unofficial and unauthorized phony fan sites that exploit both consumers and artists. The action taken earlier this week was not to shut down fansites, or control comment in any way." So this turns into another one of those "he-said, Prince-said" things.

  • My Bloody Valentine: is really, truly going to release something new before the end of 2007, says bandleader Kevin Shields. The album will likely consist of "this 96-97 half-finished record, and then a compilation of stuff we did before that, and a little bit of new stuff." Whatever, anything, who cares, just give it to us!!!
  • Radiohead are denying stuff too: they're contradicting the recent reports suggesting 60 percent of fans who downloaded In Rainbows paid nothing, calling the data "wholly inaccurate," and saying it "in no way reflected definitive market intelligence or, indeed, the true success of the project." Hmm, sounds like one of those denials-of-everything-but-the-facts. Anyway, you'll be able to buy the physical version of In Rainbows on December 31st, and hopefully somebody will count those.
  • And finally, following up on the continuing Amy Winehouse saga: police raided the singer's home and then arrested her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, in East London on Thursday, while a tearful Winehouse was present. Fielder-Civil was allegedly involved in an attempt to fix his own trial in an assault case of a bartender earlier this summer. The victim was apparently offered $400,000 to keep quiet. Mr. Winehouse sounds awesome, can I just say that? Anyway, Winehouse's wobbly, slurring performance at the MTV Europe awards last week raised some eyebrows as well, and oh, it's Friday, why not watch that here:

  • Andrew Sullivan Ruminates on the Power of Obama's Face

    | Fri Nov. 9, 2007 2:17 PM EST

    obama_face.jpg Many people on the blogosphere have taken note of Andrew Sullivan's ode to Barack Obama in the Atlantic. Sullivan argues that Obama is the only candidate who can break America out of the pro-Vietnam/anti-Vietnam culture war that has gripped America for forty years. The frontrunners, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, whether they like it or not, "are conscripts in their generation's war. To their respective sides, they are war heroes."

    I'm not sure I agree with Sullivan's central premise, did I find this supporting argument about Obama interesting:

    What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it's central to an effective war strategy...
    Consider this hypothetical. It's November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America's soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama's face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

    This is an argument that Obama himself doesn't make. Perhaps it's because we're in highly homogeneous Iowa (read: 96 percent white), but Obama didn't mention his race once in the time I spent with him. By comparison, Hillary Clinton mentioned her gender on multiple occasions in the time I spent with her. The speakers that introduced her often highlighted it.

    The closest Obama came to mentioning his race was in response to a question after the third event he did on the day I followed his campaign. He said that he would be uniquely qualified to resurrect America's standing the world because he would "put a new face" on American leadership. He has a grandmother who lives in a small village in Kenya. He lived in Indonesia. He can listen to the rest of the world in a way no other politician can, and he can get the rest of the world to listen back.

    But never once was the word "black" mentioned, nor "African-American." Maybe Obama is as "post-race" as some claim, and maybe that's why he does as well as he does.

    Utah To Offer Cops "Sweat Your Meth" Treatments

    | Fri Nov. 9, 2007 2:17 PM EST

    The Scientologists are an enterprising bunch, aren't they? The latest:

    The state of Utah is paying $50,000 to the Bio Cleansing Centers of America to treat eight current and retired police officers allegedly sickened from busting up meth labs. The center's detoxification treatment, which seems to consist mostly of sending the overweight cops to the sauna for hours on end, is based on the teachings of Scientology. It's similar to a controversial clinic in New York, set up with a huge donation from the nation's most famous Scientologist Tom Cruise, to treat 9/11 rescue workers. Scientology's late founder L. Ron Hubbard claimed that toxins could be flushed from the body through sweating and taking megadoses of vitamins, among other things, hence the sauna treatments.

    Normally state attorneys general get called in to scrutinize such programs for peddling unproven therapies to gullible customers, but in Utah, it's actually the state AG who got the whole thing going. Not only that, but Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wants the state to throw another $140,000 at the program to expand the treatment to more officers, despite a dearth of evidence showing that it actually works.

    Utah residents seem to have an affinity for dubious health care practitioners. The state is home to "celluloid valley," the dietary supplement industry, which has made billions selling bogus natural therapies to unsuspecting consumers. The Scientologists and their sauna should feel right at home there.

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    Do You Speak Urdu?

    | Fri Nov. 9, 2007 11:19 AM EST

    Mother Jones is pursuing an investigative project that requires the services of an Urdu speaker. You give us about 20 minutes of your time, and we'll give you a free subscription to the magazine. If that's not enough, you'll also get the satisfaction of helping us to break a big story. Those who are interested may write to tocotronicrocks@yahoo.com. Many thanks...

    Obama Gets "Vision," Richardson Doesn't

    | Fri Nov. 9, 2007 2:18 AM EST

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    In my recent article on Bill Richardson, I wrote, "Richardson articulates a platform, not a vision." The New Mexico governor has a habit of listing policy proposals—including incredibly obscure and tiny policy proposals—without explaining how they fit into a narrative or theme that makes the case for his presidency.

    I want to provide an example of a campaign that avoids this mistake, to better illustrate what I'm saying. At a event in Bettendorf, Iowa, yesterday, Barack Obama proposed the following things:

    • A middle class tax cut of up to $1,000 for working families.
    • Elimination of income tax on retirees making less than $50,000 per year.
    • Guaranteeing paid sick days and family leave days.
    • Doubling funding for after-school programs and giving a $4,000 tax credit to college students.
    • Cracking down on mortage fraud and predatory credit card policies, ending abusive payday lending practices, and reforming bankruptcy laws.

      In all of these areas, Obama matched concrete policy proposals with an explanation of how they will make the lives of everyday Americans more stable and more prosperous. He discussed taxes, retirement, family issues, education, college affordability, and housing, all within the context of what Obama called a "plan to reclaim the American dream." The whole speech was about the American dream, and about how, under Obama's leadership, it will get easier, not harder, to achieve.

      That's policy matched with vision. And that's what Richardson lacks.

    Rudy Giuliani Tells Those Darn Kids If You Don't Vote, "It's Your Fault"

    | Fri Nov. 9, 2007 1:29 AM EST

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    At a Rudy Giuliani event at University of Northern Iowa this afternoon, a public speaking instructor asked Giuliani what he would say to young people who are disillusioned by politics.

    "I'll tell you what I'd say," Giuliani said. He clapped his hands fiercely. CLAP! CLAP! CLAP! CLAP! "Wake up! Look at America!" he said. "You are so lucky. You live in the best country in the world." He explained that America offers opportunity that no other country does, and that if young people are not so excited about America, they should try traveling abroad, because they'd return relieved to live in the old U.S.A. He repeated over and over some version of the line, "Just take a look at what you have around you, look at what you can do. You are very, very lucky."

    Sometimes, Giuliani said, you need to "move your perspective around."

    Giuliani didn't deny that there are imperfections in American politics that turn young people off, but claimed that young people could change what they didn't like. "You get a chance to vote. And if you pass it up," he said, "it's your fault."

    Afterwards, students I asked about Giuliani's response were a little stunned. "Umm, I guess there's not a whole lot I can say about it," said Justin Brinker, a 22-year-old junior.

    "Uhhh... I though it was all right," said Dane Embury, a 22-year-old senior. "But I still think it's going to be an issue." He shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno."

    The lack of policy proposals that might appeal to young voters, or resurrect their faith in the system, wasn't missed. Jess Paulsen, a 20-year-old junior said, "I don't know. I think it might have been better to add in how he's going to, kinda, do something about student loans. And bring up education in general. Because this is a university and that's why people are here."

    John Edwards has a whole agenda for college affordability, which includes a national initiative that pays for one year of public-college tuition, fees, and books for more than 2 million students. It also includes an overhaul of the student loan system and a simplification of the financial aid application process. Barack Obama just proposed a tax credit worth $4,000 for tuition and fees every year. He wants greater support for the American community college system.

    Point is, the Democrats have proposals that illustrate (1) an awareness that political disillusionment occurs in part because college-age voters don't believe Washington cares about the squeeze that is being put on them, and (2) a willingness to address the problems of youth voters, even though youth voters don't organize and fight for their needs, and often don't even vote.

    But that's not what you get from Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani is the daddiest member of the daddy party. You kids don't get no stinkin' Pell Grants. You get tough love.

    John Coltrane, 101

    | Thu Nov. 8, 2007 10:00 PM EST
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    I love jazz biographies as much as the next music nerd, but Ben Ratliff's latest book on jazz giant John Coltrane, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, transcends typical expectations of a biography. It documents how one of the most famous and revered jazz musicians of all time actually developed his sound, style, and technique.

    Coltrane, in the hands of this New York Times music critic, is a man constantly searching—and practicing—and pushing himself to the next level musically. He's also a music theory-obsessed saxophonist that people didn't always know what to make of, but he was consistently invited to play anyway; and repeatedly blew people away with his power and tenacity.

    The first-person accounts given by fellow musicians, friends, peers and admirers are the charm of the book. French-horn player David Amram recalls Coltrane sitting outside of a club, eating a piece of pie and talking about Einstein's theory of relativity. Testimonies from rock musicians help contextualize Coltrane's influence outside of New York's jazz clubs. The Stooges' singer Iggy Pop, known for his wild physicality on stage, explains "What I heard John Coltrane do with his horn, I tried to do physically." Mike Watt, bassist for the post-punk band The Minutemen, says "[Coltrane] didn't want to get fuckin' nailed down. That's the anarchistic spirit."

    In short, it takes Ratcliff 200 pages to describe how an amazing, controversial jazz man worked to transform himself and the instrument he played, and as a result, challenged what people thought (and still think) jazz music should sound like.