Should We Fear the Impending Europeanization?

Dear Uptight Seattleite,Oh great arbiter, what's the proper attitude to take toward belly dancers?Karl in Kent

Dear Karl,If you see a belly dancer in a Middle Eastern restaurant, you should endeavor to be spontaneously swept up in the chiming, jiggling fun of it all. Maybe you had no intention of seeing the performance, and were simply there for the kabobs. But now that it's happening, there's no choice but to partake in the spirit of the thing, even if it makes you a little bit uncomfortable. Probably no one's looking at you that carefully anyway. I find it's possible to get by with a fixed smile accompanied by a tight nodding of the head. Another option is hiding in the bathroom until it's over.You might also encounter the American type of belly dancing, which is often practiced to foster sisterhood and body self-acceptance. If so, adopt an attitude of non-objectifying support for the dancers' empowerment, glazed with a layer of awareness of their possibly inappropriate cultural appropriation.Dear Uptight Seattleite,So some of us want to get together during the holidays. The process kicks off with a group e-mail and the careful sifting of feedback from all 15 people. Forty e-mails later, we have a date, then there's another round to (also democratically) decide the time and location.But now the problem is that we have 15 people trying to get a reservation during prime holiday-party season. Mix in the fact that some people "can't eat at 8" because their little tummies can't stand to wait that long, and I'm ready to hang myself. We're going to end up walking in with NO reservation, and of course we won't be able to sit down because there are 15 of us! Fifteen!I'm so irritated I have to get a babysitter for this shit because it's going to suck. The last time I planned something, I picked the place and time and told people to show up if they could. Why can't people be like me?Stalinistic Sarah

Dear Sarah,Is zero even or odd? "They" will tell you that there's no doubt it's even. Well, who are "they" to cast doubt on someone else's doubt? Especially when their "proofs" are so vulnerable. Like the one about how it must be even because of its position between two odd numbers, 1 and -1. Of course they hope you'll swallow the idea that zero is just another routine stop on the number line, and not in fact endowed with stunning powers of paradoxicality. The only number whose only product is itself, whose square root is itself—this is the naked singularity they expect us to regard as the same as any other number? No, I'm sorry, the universe needs a silent center, a sanctuary from the relentless, click-clacking back-and-forth of even and odd. And what the universe needs the universe has: It's called zero.Sorry for getting a little vociferous there. I was only trying to illustrate the dangers of non-consensus-based models of decision-making, such as are employed by the math establishment. (Don't worry, Cliff Mass, you're not alone in resisting them!) You may be ignoring your friends' delicate needs as surely as textbooks ignore the true nature of zero. Not being able to eat as late as 8 p.m. is just one of these needs. There are also people who have allergies, and who are just no good if they don't get a nap in (I know I'm not!).Dear Uptight Seattleite,My urls feel naked without the familiar www. prefix, but trendy copy editors are insisting we drop them. Isn't this a dangerous, slippery slope to replacing the traditional parentheses and dashes in phone numbers with Euro-style periods?Write Man

Dear Write Man,Hmmm, you mean there's some secret organization plotting the Europeanization of our institutions? Maybe meeting once a month in a blonde wood–paneled back room to plot the further spread of German footwear and windbreakers? I like the way you think! If there were such an organization—and I'm in no way admitting there is—you'll know you've spotted one of their meetings if you see a couple dozen Smart Cars parked outside a cafe with a name like Zeitgeist, Herkimer, or Bauhaus.

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