April 18, 2007

We were fucking corndawgs
We'd go drink and pogo



Brice Marden, Return I, 1964–65

* Measuring Prohibitions, by Radley Balko. excerpt:

"Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg responds to my column on lowering the drinking age by making a drug war comparison. He's right. If the drinking age were lowered to 18, more 18-21 year-olds would likely drink (on the other hand, 80% of underage drinking would be eliminated!).

"And the comparison to the drug war is accurate, too. If all drugs were legalized tomorrow, there would almost certainly be an increase in use. And he's right that the law does effectively curb some behavior. There's a broader philosophical point regarding whether or not using the law to curb private behavior is a moral and appropriate use of government coercion, but let's put that aside for a moment. The inevitable rise in use that would follow legalization is a point proponents of drug prohibition often fault drug war critics for not acknowledging, though I really don't know of any critics who don't willingly concede the point.

"The more appropriate response to 'more users' argument is 'so what?' A slight rise in the number of recreational drug users is only a problem if you believe that there's something inherently immoral and destructive about smoking a joint or snorting a line of coke--any worse, say, than downing a shot of whiskey or a taking drag off a tobacco pipe. The subset of people who refrain from drug use today out of respect for the law, but who might experiment with drugs should they one day be legal, probably isn't one we need to worry about becoming addicted in mass numbers, or committing crimes to support their habit (which probably wouldn't happen anyway if drugs were legal--how many alcoholics mug, burgle, or kill for gin money?). Unless you buy the 'gateway' theory of marijuana, or the 'instant addiction' theory about cocaine, both of which have zero scientific validity, I'm just not sure having slightly more overall users will have much of a negative impact on society at large.
...
"To look at those two figures and conclude that the drug war is moving in the right direction seems to me to indicate a near-religious devotion to preventing recreational drug use, at any cost. Prohibition advocates are again measuring success not on how well the drug war is preventing real, tangible harm, but simply on how effectively they're preventing people from getting high.

"And of course overdoses are only one aspect of the harm done by the drug war. There is also the appalling rate of incarceration in America, the evisceration of the Bill of Rights, the erosion of the rule of law, the government infringement on the doctor-patient relationship, the contempt for property rights, the arrest of promising developments in the treatment of pain --the list goes on.

"Nevertheless, so long as there are fewer joints in teen backpacks, the drug warriors are content to say we're 'winning.'

"Goldberg isn't a Bennetista-type drug warrior. His post was really just my jumping-off point, here. But getting back to his point, I'm not sure having a few more recreational drug users would be all that harmful, any more than having a few more drinkers would. And it certainly wouldn't be harmful enough to outweigh the considerably larger reduction in harm that would result from ending drug prohibition."

* Bad News Hughes backstage at a Flaming Lips show. Pretty hilarious.

* Interview of Jhumpa Lahiri on The Namesake. excerpt:

Question: Did you feel as rebellious as your character Gogol does early in your novel?

Lahiri: Neither Gogol nor I was terribly rebellious, really. I suppose I, like Gogol, had my moments. But even ordinary things felt like a rebellion from my upbringing - what I ate, what I listened to, whom I befriended, what I read. Things my American friends' parents wouldn't think to remark upon were always remarked upon by mine.
...
Question: Now that you've written both stories and a novel, which do you prefer? What was the transition like?

Lahiri: I feel attracted to both forms. Moving from the purity and intensity of the short story to the broader canvas of a novel felt liberating and, at times, overwhelming. Writing a novel is certainly more demanding than writing a story, and the stakes are higher. Every time I questioned something about the novel it potentially affected hundreds of pages of writing, not just ten or twenty. The revision process was far more rigorous and daunting. It was much more of a commitment in every way. And I was juggling much more than I ever have in a story, more characters, more scenes, more points of view. At the same time, there's something more forgiving about a novel. It's roomier, messier, more tolerant than a short story. The action isn't under a microscope in quite the same way. Short stories, now matter how complex, always have a ruthless, distilled quality. They require more control than novels. I hope I can continue to write both.

Question: Have you reevaluated any of your writing about men and/or marriage now that you are both a wife and mother?

Lahiri: Not really. The scenes about Ashima in labor and giving birth were written long before I became pregnant. I asked my friends and my mother and my mother's friends a lot of questions, and I based Ashima's experiences on the answers I got. Being married doesn't make writing about men any easier, just as my being a woman doesn't make writing about women any easier. It's always a challenge. That said, the experiences of marriage and motherhood have changed me profoundly, have grounded me in a way I've never been before. Motherhood, in particular, makes me look at life in an entirely different way. There's nothing to prepare you for it, nothing to compare it to. And I imagine that my future work will reflect or otherwise be informed by that change.

Question: You quote Dostoyevsky as saying, 'We all came out of Gogol's overcoat.' Has Nikolai Gogol had any influence on you as a writer?

Lahiri: I'm not sure influence is the right word. I don't turn to Gogol as consistently as I do to certain other writers when I'm struggling with character or language. His writing is more overtly comic, more antic and absurd than mine tends to be. But I admire his work enormously and reread a lot of it as I was working on the novel, in addition to reading biographical material. 'The Overcoat' is such a superb story. It really does haunt me the way it haunts the character of Ashoke in the novel. I like to think that every writer I admire influences me in some way, by teaching me something about writing. Of course, without the inspiration of Nikolai Gogol, without his name and without his writing, my novel would never have been conceived. In that respect, this book came out of Gogol's overcoat, quite literally.

* And of course, happy bicycle day to all.

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