Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Several Things

1. I listened to Sean Wilsey's memoir Oh the Glory of it All. You remember how Bill Clinton's autobiography was really bad because he was convinced we all wanted to know the name of everyone he had ever met in his entire life, down to the son of the owner of the Ford dealership in the town he grew up in (Mack McLarty)? And how no one had the balls to tell him that it's ridiculous for even a two-term president to write a 957-page book about themselves? Well, Sean Wilsey had the same problem. The book's only about half that long, but the details are still way too numerous.

Sean is the son of two ridiculously wealthy San Franciscans, Pat Montandon and Al Wilsey. His dad left his mom for Dede when Sean was nine (he was also sleeping with Danielle Steele at the time). Dede becomes a horrible witch of a step-mother, Al becomes distant, and Pat becomes manic-depressive and alternates between seriously contemplating suicide and getting short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize for leading children around the globe to lobby government leaders for peace. Sean, understandably, turns out royally screwed up. He goes to a succession of boarding schools, gets straightened out, hilarity generally ensues.

The entire thing had the un-funny details of large blocks of quoted newspaper articles, psychological evaluations, and song lyrics, but the first third bugged me the most. I'm kind of horrible and a jerk when it comes to sympathizing with weaker kids (when I watch About A Boy I just get angry and think "FIGHT BACK, YOU LOSER!" every time the kid comes on screen) so when Sean is getting picked on at school and by his stepmother, I got annoyed. Then Sean started getting a little bit cooler and complained about being teased less, but then right before he got sent to his final boarding school, it becomes obvious that regardless of whether his parents loved him or not, he seriously was a scooter-stealing drug-abusing criminal, so I lost some of my sympathy for him.

I guess one good aspect of the excessive detail of every intimate detail of Sean's life is that I realized that hey, by comparison, I'm totally normal. My weird fantasies are totally tame compared to Sean's, I didn't get kicked out of four private schools (although I did repeat kindergarten), no one in my family ever had an affair with Danielle Steele, and I've never gotten arrested for stealing multiple mopeds (although I did take those pallets from behind Food-4-Less that one time), so I must be OK.


2. I hosted some random dude off of couchsurfing.com this weekend.

3. I watched Lake of Fire. It's a documentary about abortion that's been in the works for 16 years. (Full disclosure: I'm a safe, legal, and rare kind of guy.) Every critic seems to think that it's very good and very even-handed. I'd agree with that, but I didn't really think it did anything for me. I (and assume pretty much everyone else in the world) already knows the basic two sides of the argument, so I would've liked to see more nuanced discussion, more mention of what you might be able to get reasonable people to agree on (increased funding for sex education and adoption and mandating that health insurance cover the pill), or at least arguments from people who hold an opinion that you couldn't just guess based on stereotyping. (They did talk to Nat Hentoff, an atheist civil libertarian who's opposed to abortion, so that was at least interesting.)
NYT Review here.

4. I spent the last few weeks reading just three chapters (200 pages) of the Handbook of Law and Economics, and all I have to say is, "I very much dislike the Handbooks in Economics." To me, they're just really long literature reviews that don't help you prepare for your exam in a month and two days and instead tell you that any imaginable economic model can be constructed to give you any desired result. Seriously. Imagine two vectors. The first is full of every possible value of every variable you can control, and the second is full of every possible outcome. Take the outer product of these two vectors. Now write a lit review on every element of the resulting matrix. Actually, it's worse than that. Take your first vector and use it to make a new vector containing all possible combinations, no, permutations of the original elements. Then make the outer product of this vector and the original second vector, and write a lit review on that matrix. Want X be the most efficient way for courts to deal with a problem? Make this assumption. Want Y to be the most efficient solution? Make that assumption. You can get any answer you want. It's magic!

I'm much happier now that I'm reading Cooter & Ulen's Law & Economics, where I get to learn neat little things like the fact that the only the little R in a circle (and not "TM") has any legal meaning when it comes to trademarks. Or how before most people could read, in order to create a system of land registration, whenever anybody bought any land, they'd severely beat a witnessing child so that he'd remember the sale for the rest of his life. I don't know if (a) either of these are actually true, or (b) either of these will help me pass my test.

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