Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

18 Apr 2001, 2:29 a.m.

Without Darth

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

there would have been no Luke," said a girl to another girl on Hearst yesterday evening. As my friend Drew would comment, Dostoyevsky was saying basically the same thing.

A report on the Comedy Night. And, "for justice, we must go to..." Judge Bob's Judicial system!

Comedy Night. I performed at the open-mike on Monday night. Anirvan, Leonard, and Leah came with me. WRT the professionals: Johnny Steele was funny, as was (to a lesser extent) Becky Pedigo. Mr. Steele was once a radio DJ for Live 105 FM, which attests to his ability to improvise. Very good.

I was surprised. Usually, there are around six or eight open-mike performers; Monday, there were, three, including me. And I got to go first! I never get to go first, since I'm a repeat performer and we usually have to go after the first-timers. But there were no novices on Monday. I still only had about thirty (if that many!) people in the audience, but I did pretty well. I think this might have been my second-best performance ever. No notes, and quite a few laughs.

I usually don't lie in my act. I may have a bit of comic exaggeration, but I try to avoid lies, profanity, and use lewd humor. But I cracked on Monday that my tax bracket "just went from mobile phone to mobile home," which wasn't that funny anyway, and is regardless false. So, just so you know, in case you were there, I was lying. I never was in the mobile phone bracket, anyway.

Political Science 2 was the first time I learned (explicitly) about patron-client relations as a model of a social system. The canonical example in modern literature may be Mario Puzo's The Godfather, which we referenced in the class.

"The two movies you need to watch to understand politics are The Godfather and Monty Python and the Life of Brian", the TA said.

I just skimmed the first page and a half or so of The Godfather yesterday at Shayna's place after California Politics discussion. Our POV character sees his daughter's rapists sentenced in court. They get off with a three-year suspended sentence, a slap on the wrist. His rage is inconceivable. This is no justice! "For justice," he tells his family, "we must go to our friend Don Corleone."

And it is true that machine politics and the Mafia and so on provided useful services to marginalized communities, especially immigrants. But patron-client relations are diffuse, not specific, which is their strength and their danger. I can rely on one supplier for security, loans, and assistance with the government, but if I annoy that one supplier somehow, I'm out all those services. And that's the inherent problem. It can be "unfair."

But I've recently encountered another mention of patronage that, along with the Puzo page, sent me "reeling around ... in some kind of primal Jungian fugue," as Neal Stephenson said in In the Beginning Was the Command Line.

I had to watch The Philadelphia Story last week. I was caught unaware -- I had thought I was in for It Happened One Night, but that'll teach me to not check the syllabus. And there's a moment where the kindly-intentioned heiress tells the rough-and-tumble reporter who would love to write fiction for a living -- if only he had the money -- that he can use her cottage, if he likes. And he retorts that patronage is out of favor these days. It's 1939.

Yes, it's charity; yes, it's degrading to a proud soul. But what else is wrong with patronage? Was pride the only valid reason (if you do consider pride valid) to take umbrage at her offer? It's not enough to say, "Do you want to go back to the Middle Ages?" We have to understand what's so wrong with the model. After all, there were some good things about medieval times. People had communities -- sometimes dysfunctional, but communities. There was connection and caring -- in a personal way -- and not some slick, efficient, coldly impersonal screen facing you when you made a transaction.

Well, perhaps one might argue that it's a bad thing to have some lord own your life in the way that feudal lords did. He would be able to "volunteer" you for the armed services, to take your crops, to enslave your family and seize your land if he saw fit.

Which, I would reply, is why the protagonist prepares to blow up the credit report services in Fight Club.

Well, I'm off to a lunch from Cheese 'N' Stuff. I've discovered their cheap, filling, and nutritious pasta and potato salads.

Poll: I am, basically,

  • mobile phone
  • mobile home
  • immobile
  • in Mobile
  • working for Mobil

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at