Thursday, August 30, 2007

Urban Peepers and High Stakes Testing

We return to UCLA this sunday. This year, I'm hoping to try out for the football team like Robert Redford in the Natural. I've always said that the academic summers are too long. I need a little bit of structure in my life to get work done. Yesterday, I took my first exam in more than a decade. I used to be a good test taker but yesterday I flunked the California written exam for getting a driver's license. My score of 29 out of 36 just missed. After a night of studying and worrying and having my six year old son lecture me about different rules of the road, today I scored a 32 and passed. Next time I give an exam at UCLA, I will have more empathy for my students.

Today, I opened up the New York Times and read this funny editorial. The unsigned editorials in the New York Times are usually awful. We know that the Times doesn't like President Bush. The editorial page seems to believe that they need to make this point daily. I wonder who is the "marginal" reader whose opinion may actually be changed by reading such consistent editorials. Fortunately, today the Times delivered a novel piece concerning the costs and benefits of living in a densely populated city. My son does want a telescope but he is interested in the stars.

August 30, 2007
Jeepers! Peepers in New York

In the list of wrongs that needed righting, the subway peeper is probably not too high on the average New Yorker’s anxiety list. Still, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. of Queens thinks it is time to make something he calls “nonconsensual voyeurism” illegal.

Mr. Vallone’s target is a creep who loiters under certain subway stairs and peers upward at women. Rather than something simple, like a fence, Mr. Vallone has written a law that would levy a fine up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail for ogling a person’s “sexual or intimate parts” for more than a brief period. The councilman says he has crafted this legislation narrowly, but if voyeurism ever really becomes illegal, it’s time to build more jails in New York City.

For better or sometimes worse, New York is a city of exhibitionists. One of the many reasons people come to New York is to show off. And since New Yorkers feel they have seen it all, each new wave brings a need for latecomers to preen and posture in even more outrageous ways. Like wearing a boa — not the feathers, the snake. Or playing the guitar in Times Square in your underwear. Or teetering on heels so high they should come with a discount at the podiatrist.

New York is also a city full of spectators. There are probably many more New Yorkers who own binoculars than there are New Yorkers who love birds or opera. And why are the sales of telescopes over the moon in a place where, on most nights, it’s impossible to make out the big dipper? And, the newest, fanciest most expensive apartment buildings are made of the newest, fanciest and most expensive glass.

Nobody wants some sicko drilling a peephole in their locker room wall or private hotel room. But this ordinance feels like something akin to outlawing wolf whistles from a construction site and, then, banning the corresponding hand signal from the street.