Tuesday, January 31, 2006
This day could not be more gray. Even the purple fence opposite E’s school and the orange roof of the gas station across from the café where I write this are muted, grayed. The sky is the color of the pavement, and the foggy almost-rain merges them. It’s probably a coincidence that four gray cars are parked across the street and two more just drove by, but a light green Subaru and pale brown sedan register as their own variations on gray.
Life goes on. On one side of me a nervously vivacious college student is trying to engage the laconic boy across from her (I want to tell her to stop: when a guy really does like her, she won’t have to work so hard) (or it could be that he’s her ex, and she’s trying to pretend everything’s ok). On the other side a man is carrying on an active relationship with his Blackberry. At E’s school, the kids are planning a coup: they are going to trap their teachers and then sneak into the bunker, a big closet at the end of their classroom which they are convinced is full of toys (I believe it actually holds Costco-sized boxes of Cheerios and stacks of posterboard). Chinese New Year is everywhere, and sometimes the red manages to pierce the gray, visually at least.
Winter is supposed to be roiling storms followed by white snow under sunny blue skies. Bright-colored parkas and hats and mittens. M’s parka is orange and my hat is purple. But I haven’t had to wear my hat lately, or even my parka (dark green). Every day I wear my gray fleece. Rain substitutes, badly, for snow.
It’s like the winter we lived in
I exaggerate. On Saturday the sun shone like early spring and, sure enough, there was a spring in everyone’s step. I wore my sunglasses.
By Sunday it was gray again, and the girls and I climbed on gray rocks by gray sand and a gray ocean. It poured rain as we drove home.
Monday, January 30, 2006
I loved Uncommon Women and The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosenzweig--I saw the original Broadway run of that one, and god it made me laugh. And Wendy Wasserstein--smart, Jewish, feminist, literary, funny--was just a great champion of women and literature and theater and kids. So I am very sad that she died this morning at 55, leaving behind a six-year-old daughter.
The band, not the country.
Whenever I'd hear "Sister Golden Hair" on the radio, I'd get a warm feeling inside and think, I sure do like America, but I certainly can't tell anyone. I didn't get quite as warm a feeling for "A Horse With No Name" but it was warm enough not to disabuse me of my notion.
Yesterday, I was disabused.
When we can't listen to our favorite low-end-of-the-dial radio station (i.e. when we are out of range, or it's not the acoustic show, the kids' show, the musicals show, the Israeli show, or the a cappella show), we tend to listen to oldies stations (this is a literal we, not a royal we--if it's just me, I'll listen to hip-hop, top 40, alternative, or classical, because I'm that kind of consistent and dogmatic gal, but with the girls, it's usually oldies). We especially like the station with the tag line "The Songs You Grew Up With," because honest to god, it really is the songs I grew up with: 70s white people album rock (well, that's not exactly right, becauseI used to play dancing school to Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow, I entered the world of radio with early 70s top 40--"Billy, Don't Be a Hero," "The Night Chicago Died," "Spinning Wheel," "Cat's in the Cradle"--and by the mid 70s I was already getting into reggae, but it will do as shorthand).
So yesterday we had quite a bit of driving, and for some reason unbeknownst to me there was preaching on the low-end-of-the-dial radio station, so we put on "The Songs You Grew Up With," and the very next song was "Sister Golden Hair." God, I love this song, I thought, and prepared to sing along. But instead, for some reason, I listened. God, that song sucks. Thin voices, wafty instrumentals, stupid lyrics. What was I thinking?
Then I started to reconsider my admitted love for 70s white guy music. Maybe I only think I like this music, I thought, maybe it's just habit, maybe it's just that I recognize it which makes me think I like it, confusing familiarity for affection. But no, I really and truly do love Elton John. And then--can you see where this is going? yes, it really happened--Elton John came on! "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." Now that is a great song. Why? Great lyrics, full voice, flamboyantly melodramatic music. Like Queen. I still love Queen too. (Is there a thread here? Why, of course. How could we have been surprised when Freddie Mercury died of AIDS? I mean, the band's name was QUEEN.) (Though I still like the Eagles, and they are awfully heterosexual.)
But then, and you're really not going to believe this, later on in the ice cream store, on a different oldies station ( they all must buy the same tapes from whatever mega-music company it is), "Sister Golden Hair" came on again! And again I thought it was stupid! And then, yes, really, I'm not kidding, "Tiny Dancer" came on, and it was great! (And I do indeed love that scene on the bus in Almost Famous.)
Final score: Elton John - 2, America - 0.
Conclusion: Some 70s white guy music is worth listening to, and some isn't. But the rest of you already knew that.
[There is a kind of sweet reason I thought I liked America, which is that when I was 17, I spent a month working at a school for the children of migrant workers in Florida, living with a woman who I really liked a lot, and she liked America. But I hope she doesn't anymore.]
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Anyway, lately M and E have been absolutely delightful. M has not had a tantrum since E's birthday which was well over a month ago, and she is entertaining, independent, and full of positive attitude. E is cheerful and hilarious and even eager to be helpful. And they've hardly been fighting at all.
Today I had to do an errand about an hour away and we made a day of it. We went out to lunch, played outside, did the errand, went for ice cream. They were great company throughout, and totally well-behaved during the errand which took quite a while. I was so happy that they are my kids.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Fast forward two years and Pete Doherty gets Kate Moss into trouble, goes in and out of rehab faster than a speeding bullet, and starts getting arrested on a way too regular basis. Like yesterday, when he got arrested TWICE IN ONE DAY.
Apparently his fans think he's being harassed. I would suggest, however, that if he were a poor black man, not a hip white rock star, he would have been locked away long ago. I'd also suggest that the guy clearly has a terrible problem, and somebody should do something (then again, maybe all the somebodies have tried and failed, which also comes back to the question of why the hell he keeps getting released each time he gets arrested). Finally, I'd suggest that nobody be surprised when we read the obituary.
[Of course you could go anti-War On Drugs--which is certainly fine with me--and argue that the only person he's hurting is himself, but that in no way obviates any of the points I just made.]
Friday, January 27, 2006
But seriously, the thing about Caitlin Flanagan is that she's so infuriatingly on and off. She does good legwork here on the origins of the urban myth of train parties that everyone seems so set on believing, but she blindly embraces the notion that girls are completely disempowered by contemporary sexual practices.
Then there's her tendency to cast her web so wide that she pulls in everything but the kitchen sink, in smooth prose that seduces you into accepting her analysis, especially because parts of it work. Here she finds that the fault for the apparent oral sex epidemic lies with Planned Parenthood, feminists, rap music, distracted parents, and the lamented loss of the patriarchy--but wait, aren't those culprits the source of all our problems? Oh yeah, that's David Brooks.
Just when you want to wring her neck, she's right on target about the influence of pornography, a point some feminists have been making recently. But then she goes overboard again, reaching a crescendo like a preacher nearing the end of her sermon, insisting that our little girls are lost, lost lambs in the woods, I tell you, and there is nobody to protect them but their parents, in this terrible world of ours. Luckily, though, she doesn't need to worry about that because she's the mother of boys and boys don't have feelings like girls do, especially about sex. Phew.
Really, though, I just feel bad for her husband.
I can't stop thinking about it, but I can't bear to think about it, it's that terrible.
These tragedies, small and big , just keep coming. E's brother, the family in Richmond, the miners, the seven children and their grandfather, Darfur, Iraq.
I don't know how we just keep on going to the gym, choosing between a mocha and a latte, watching High School Musical for the fourth time in a week. I guess I don't know how we don't, either.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Today, though, I read the story on CNN, then Allison's blog (she hasn't said anything yet), then Haaretz, then the NY Times story (I guess you can already see where my bias lies: mainstream media, not the left or the right) (though apparently, as I write this, the left hasn't woken up yet).
When I went to bed last night, a slight lead for Fatah was predicted, but no actual majority. At this point it looks like 70 seats or more for Hamas, which is just totally unexpected. I do have to say, and this is perhaps way too theoretical for the real issues at stake, that there's a piece of me that is always pleased when things do not go as predicted, simply because it shows that they, whoever they may be, do not have the control they think they do. That is, that we (the collective we) are not simply sheep.
If I espoused some Middle East orthodoxy, I'm sure I could start spewing soundbites now, about how catastrophic this is, or how vindicating. But instead I'm just kind of astounded--not from any naive underestimation of the support for Hamas or the principles Hamas stands for, but at, well, I'm not quite sure what, maybe at how this renders everything even more uncertain, when everything was already so uncertain.
Hmm, I'd forgotten about The Guardian. They usually offer up thoughtful analysis, and indeed they do. The BBC is good too. I guess I'm not the only one wondering what happens next.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Here are some things they do not put away:
- shaving cream
- contact lens solution
- hair bands
- used coffee filters
- dirty socks
- clean laundry
- boxes of Goldfish and Cheezits
- art projects
- dirty cups
- dirty bowls
- dirty glasses
Sometimes I get fed up. Then I don't put things away either. Then chaos and disaster ensues.
I tell you, I love them a lot, but sometimes this incapacity affects my affection.
S was at the music store when it opened (it's Tuesday, he's off--which is always good for new releases) (why DO they release albums on Tuesdays?).
This could definitely become a favorite.
And she's touring (I think I'd like to see her at the Barbican, please).
Monday, January 23, 2006
M says I should blog about her amazing beauty and her annoying long division homework.
E says I should blog about how she uses her popsicle sticks to play with.
My sister says I should blog about something different. Or radio nuclides. Or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
S doesn't say anything because he is at work.
I could blog about how my shoulders ache from shoveling snow (I'm not quite sure why I seem to do all the shoveling around here) (actually I am: S is never home, and since F and L do all the gardening, I feel compelled to do all the shoveling) (then, of course, I resent all of them) (and my shoulders ache). I could blog about how I don't want to clean the kitchen (will these children ever be old enough to clean the kitchen?). I could blog about how I wish I were in bed already.
Or I could go clean the kitchen, dispose of the children, and go to bed. Yeah, that sounds good.
[I'm actually in nowhere near as whiny a mood as this post suggests.]
Sunday, January 22, 2006
This weekend turned into Old Home Weekend, completely unexpectedly. Friday, running around the pond in City, I came upon an old friend from high school, R. She invited us to dinner last night, along with her brother-in-law and his girlfriend who used to work in restaurants in City and now have an organic farm about an hour away. Organic farms and restaurants have been big in our lives for a long time, so there was lots to talk about and various people in common, including, of course, S's boss, C, who has been the center of the East Coast Big City restaurant/organic farm interface for years.
Yesterday morning, I ran into J outside a children's concert. I've known J since, well, probably since she was born, because she's about a year younger than me, and her sister S was my friend when I was one. Anyway, J lives about five blocks from me in Town, and I've only seen her once since we moved here. But yesterday I kept running into her in Town Center (the concert sold out three people ahead of us in line, so we were all just poking around in Town Center) and we ended up having lunch together. It turns out that her husband made the sign for the restaurant where S works because S's boss C's wife ME is the sister of the husband of J's old friend R who I went to grade school with. I think. Or maybe I just went to high school with her sister. Because I could have sworn that J and I went to grade school together, but in fact, she went to grade school with R and then to high school with my sister while I went to high school with her sister. Got that?
Maybe it's just that everyone in East Coast Big City knows C.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
So with no further ado:
E - (all quotations will be in quotation marks) "It's too big kid. There's too much singing." She did pick up on some things, but mainly she drew pictures.
M - "That was a great movie." "That movie was so good." "Wasn't that great?" I tell you, this movie was made for M. First of all, she has a huge and admitted crush on Zac Efron (never heard of him? me neither). Second, she loves musicals. Third, the it's-ok-to-be-yourself message totally resonated with her (as she told me at some length during the commercials, the movie was exactly what it is like for her at school, because all her friends think it's weird to hang out with the boys, but she thinks it's ok). Fourth, it had absolutely no violence of any kind and nothing at all scary. Fifth, did I mention that she has a crush on Zac Efron?
[E: "What's a crush?"
Me: "It's when you like someone."
E: "So M has a crush on E?" (M's best friend)
Me: "Not exactly."
E: "Then what?"
Me: "Can I explain this tomorrow?" (because it was the middle of the movie and we were distracting M and I had no idea what to say--I really hope she does not remember to bring this up)]
Me - Let me begin by making it clear that I am a big fan of teen movies, romantic comedies, and the like. And by teen movies I don't just mean hip hits like The Breakfast Club. I mean The Lizzie Maguire Movie, which I've watched at least a half dozen times with M and still enjoy. Dirty Dancing is in my top five (but that one is kind of hip) (I think) (is it? it would be better for my argument here if it wasn't, but I fear it is) (I digress). Anyway, I was totally prepared to find merit in High School Musical, or at least enjoyment.
There was a bit of overt merit. Really good multi-racial casting: the hero (that would be Zac Efron) was white and the heroine was Latina; of the four supporting actors and actresses, two were white and two were black. The black girl played the head of the--ack, I don't remember what it was called, but some club for smart kids. A rainbow of basketball players, and smart kid club members, and stoners, and cheerleaders, and all that. Of course then you come up against the reality problem that in no high school in America do kids of all colors hang out together constantly without race ever being an issue, but I'm ok with representations of how things could be, rather than how they are. Other overt merit could be found in the it's-ok-to-be-yourself message (more on that in a moment).
Formally, however, this movie was pure pastiche with neither wit nor wisdom to raise it above the sum of its parts (does that sentence make any sense at all? I feel like I should have something to say about post-modernism in regard to this movie, but I'm feeling stupid these days, so I think I'm just going to have to provide examples in lieu of analysis). There was the boy-and-girl-on-vacation-and-then-she-shows-up-at-his-school thing from Grease (which also provided the your-friends-will-still-love-you-even-if-you-act-different-from-them-even-though-you-thought-they-wouldn't theme). There was the Big Game scenario from a zillion high school and college sports movies--and yes, the hero won the game on a shot at the buzzer, yes indeed he did. There was the let's-put-on-a-show theme from a zillion theatrical movies. There were fireworks at midnight on New Year's Eve. There was dancing in the cafeteria a la Fame. In other words, not an original moment to be found.
Then there were the narrative issues--god, this post is getting too long and boring even for me, and I still haven't gotten to my most important point, so you'll just have to take my word for it that there were narrative issues, and that they were closely related to the pastiche issues (i.e. the film jumped from predictable plot point to predictable plot point with absolutely no narrative logic except that this was the thing that had to happen next so it did).
But really, this movie was about homosexuality.
You weren't expecting that, were you? Actually, I think that basically all mainstream cinema of the last 15 years is about homosexuality, but that's another argument for another day. Here, it was unbelievably blatant, albeit covert. The it's-ok-to-be-yourself message? The song about telling your secrets? And the basketball player's secret is that he loves to bake? And the stoner's secret is that he plays the cello? And the drama club guy who prances around?And the baking guy and the drama club guy locking eyes at the end? Uh, pretty clear. But why? Are the right-wing nuts right? Is the media really pushing a gay agenda? Or have we reached the age where we can celebrate homosexuality, sort of? I'm not quite sure, and this post has gone on way too long, so I'll just congratulate you if you've reached this point and still choose to come back tomorrow to continue reading this ridiculous blog.
[And I didn't even get to the totally twisted brother-sister thing, but if you're really curious, I believe Disney is showing the movie again tonight, in the singalong version, and tomorrow night, with special behind the scenes I don't know what.]
Friday, January 20, 2006
Or we could take a more positive take--on the weather, not the whale--and note that there's nothing like sun, blue sky, and the mid-50s to cheer a girl up, even when she knows that something is not right.
It's just that happiness and relief are so...so tame after the grand drama of pain. My heart did not rush up at yesterday's news of Theo's return as it plunged down the day Theo abandoned us.
Is it the anti-climax? The ambiguity (you gotta admit, it's hard to thrill at the words "full-time baseball operations capacity, details of which will be announced next week")? The mid-winter post-Patriots apathy?
Or is it some kind of emotional masochism that secretly prefers the drama of pain to the pleasantries of pleasure?
I'm not quite sure, but could we please just get a center fielder and a shortstop already?
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
1. Babies in strollers bundled up in fleece, hats, scarves, and blankets (as opposed to Red State Capital City Suburb babies who are generally seen in their carseats, especially at this time of year).
2. Running out to the CORNER STORE to buy BLACK BEANS (point being that there is a corner store--in fact, there are three--and it carries black beans).
3. Everyone else is as into ice skating as we are, meaning that there's at least one rink in every town, not to mention the outdoor rinks in the parks, and the Sunday afternoon skate at the Town rink is the place to be, and when families get together on weekends they go ice skating, and parents drop off their kids at the rink for skating play dates (in family skating news, M has been skating every Friday with her afterschool and now glides effortlessly across the ice, while E has mastered that early skater run-walk thing, and on Saturday we played tag and hide and seek, instead of circling slowly and fallingly around the ice, as we were just six weeks ago).
4. Lots of places to go out for breakfast.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
It was free, for one thing. And they'd booked this awesome hip-hop dance troupe, for another thing. And the hip-hop dance troupe was the featured event in the newspaper's listing of the day's events, for a third thing.
Needless to say, when we arrived, just as the hip-hop dance troupe was about to begin its performance, we did not get in. Nor did a couple of hundred other people. As far as I could tell, though, everyone was peaceful about it and just headed out to enjoy the museum. They did the activities for kids (drawing in the African galleries, a scavenger hunt at the exhibit of West African gold, making "gold" pendants), and then they checked out the art. At least that's what we did (19th-century American: great for kids). Given the crowds not just in the galleries with activities but all over the place, that's what everyone else did too.
We're talking the preppiest of blond families next to Black toddlers with beads in their braids. Hand-holding college students of different races, and grandparents and grandkids of all races. It was diversity and community and art, that is, exactly what a big city art museum should be.
Let's hope the Art Museum learned something.
(Please, someone, anyone, appreciate this thought!)
(I didn't think as much of The Family Markowitz as everyone else did, loved Kaaterskill Falls, and was kind of awed by the ambitious chaos of Paradise Park.)
(And how lucky is she to have a novel about a scientist faking data coming out this spring?!)
Monday, January 16, 2006
The first thing I have to say about "Generation Pad Thai," the NY Times Magazine article about chefs' kids, is that once again the Times is walking well-trodden ground, though usually articles on chefs' kids feature Alice and Fanny (sorry about the nasty Times Select links).
The second thing I have to say is that if I'd read this article six, five, even four years ago, I would have nodded in smug recognition. M is the quintessential chef's kid. Ask her what her favorite foods are and she will reply, as she did just the other day to yet another surprised inquisitor, "oysters, mussels, and lobster, really all seafood." She is a passionate fan of speck (it's a kind of ham--I can't find a good link), she sucks the marrow out of lamb chops, she begs for brussel sprouts, she disdains fast food, and, of course, her mac and cheese is Annie's.
Then came E.
We did it all the same: spent as little time as possible on baby food, fed her what we ate, took her to nice restaurants. So much for that. As everyone knows, E eats breakfast, pasta, rice, tortillas, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and dessert. I guess she gets chef kid points for the copious amounts of raw vegetables and fruit she consumes, but that's about it. Nature not nurture, anyone?
As I was thinking about the article, though, I realized that there is a difference between M and E's food histories, and it's probably significant. When we were at work, M spent her first three years with nannies at home, eating food we purchased and, often, cooked. E spent those years in Red State Capital City Suburb family daycare, eating food that was as middle American as you can get, including McDonald's at least once a week. Perhaps it made a difference. Except that now she won't eat that kind of food either.
And then there's J. She is one of the best cooks I know, definitely chef-quality. She has personally supervised 95% of the food her kids have eaten in their lives. Her kids spend months at a time in Spain. The results? N eats everything, a la M. Their E eats nothing, a la our E.
Conclusion? I'm glad the chefs' kids in those articles eat so well, but I'm not quite sure they should be so smug about it. Then again, smugness always plays well in the New York Times, and any chef worth his or her salt knows that publicity is all.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Lately, the poems in The New Yorker have been making me hate poetry, and, really, I love poetry.
But this week they have a new Linda Gregg poem that is, well, it's the kind of poem that makes me remember that I do love poetry. And because it's not online either, I'll copy it here, with all due respect to copyright and please don't anyone sue me.
ARRIVING AGAIN AND AGAIN WITHOUT NOTICING
I remember all the different kinds of years.
Angry, or brokenhearted, or afraid.
I remember feeling like that
walking up the mountain along the dirt path
to my broken house on the island.
And long years of waiting in Massachusetts.
The winter walking and hot summer walking.
I finally fell in love with all of it:
dirt, night, rock and far views.
It's strange that my heart is as full
now as my desire was then.
[I'm tempted to go on and on about why this poem is so great, but since I'm not in an epic mood, and really it's better to let a poem speak for itself, I'll just point to the line breaks. Those are some hella line breaks.]
Saturday, January 14, 2006
It's a sad story, of course: how can the suicide of a teenager not be? But I think my discomfort lies less with the content of the article than with its style, perhaps, more specifically, with its rhetorical tone and structure.
The article begins with the devastated parents, baffled by their son's suicide. Then it provides backstory on the parents and narrates the boy's early childhood. After describing how a psychologist scored his IQ at 178, it takes a detour into the psychologist's problematic history with gifted children, including her tendency to score kids higher than other psychologists.
So now we're primed to be skeptical as we return to the boy's upbringing. The article seems like straight narration, but as it describes the parents' involvement in their son's life, their active participation in the "gifted circuit," and the mother's insistence on self-publishing her mystery novels, it seems clear that Konigsberg wants us to see them as a problem, even though he's not willing to come out and say it--and that, I think, is at the heart of my discomfort, I realize as I am writing this. You could argue that the writing is subtle, but you could also argue that it is manipulative, and even cruel.
The piece ends with diverging opinions about the boy's suicide: his friends and sisters think he was depressed; his psychologist and parents think he was an indigo child who had completed his work on earth and is now operating in the afterlife. A friend has emails for evidence; the psychologist's husband has the boy's word, for he continues to talk to him. Konigsberg does not take a position, at least overtly.
A friend of mine suggested that the article is about how we try to make meaning out of the terrible. I don't know. Keeping in mind that the piece appears in The New Yorker, it's pretty clear who we are supposed to align ourselves with: the rationalists in California, not the iconoclasts in Nebraska. Though Konigsberg begins in apparent sympathy for the parents' loss, I would argue that ultimately he sets them up, displaying them as deluded specimens for the New Yorker audience that knows better.
And is it really worth it to do that with someone's life, even for a New Yorker clip?
[I never heard the term indigo child until I read this article, but there it was in the New York Times on Thursday, and then last night at the video store I saw this--clearly some kind of confluence, at least for me.]
Friday, January 13, 2006
The girls are dying to go to American Girl Place. And I'm game. We'll go once, we'll take Aunt M and Bitty Baby and Clarissa, we'll have tea, they will each be allowed to buy one thing with my money and anything they can afford with their money (put that wallet away, Aunt M), and that will be the end of it (luckily I have reasonable children that way).
But it seems to be impossible. Last summer I called for reservations at the Cafe maybe ten days in advance and it was high summer and they were booked. Fine. But I just called for President's Day weekend, more than a month away, and they are fully booked for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday!
Who are these alpha moms planning their lives so far ahead?! Where did I go wrong?!
[I once had a great rant about why I preferred Mary-Kate and Ashley to American Girl--because the commercialism was blatant, not hidden beneath a veneer of history, and because their dolls were cheap and available to everyone at Wal-Mart--but then whichever one it was went and got all anorexic on us and it was no longer a tenable argument.]
[Mom, I'm talking about Brad and Angelina having a baby. Brad and Angelina are movie stars.]
[Points if you get the allusion in the title.]
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Unlike lots of people of my politics, I have not been following the hearings very closely, and I am not particularly distraught. As far as I'm concerned, we lost the Supreme Court around 3 in the morning on November 3, 2004, and all the rest of this is histrionics. We should be spending our time on state courts and legislatures, because that's where the battle has a chance of being, if not won, at least held to a draw.
In fact, what's bothering me about this situation--and I know I'm going to sound like a pedantic curmudgeon, or perhaps a curmudgeonly pedant, but so be it--is less Alito himself, than the absurd spectacle that this hearing process has become: the grandstanding on the senatorial side and the forced lying on the nominee side. Because I do believe that Alito is lying. Who in this country above the age of 15 does not have an opinion about abortion? Some opinions are absolute, some are murky and inconsistent, but nobody doesn't think about it. Especially an intelligent, political, religious lawyer.
I guess he doesn't have to lie. He could just say "I think Roe v. Wade should be overturned." And "The president is always right." And what a relief that would be. People could vote for or against him based on the real issues, not these trumped up concerns about Vanguard recusals and 30-year-old club memberships.
But the system doesn't work that way, if it ever did. And that's a huge problem in itself.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I'm not one for blog memes and schemes, but I'm always curious about who's reading this (and why).
Come on, you can do it.
I just did it at Elizabeth's blog, and she's really cool and smart and blog-hip and totally intimidates me! So quit your lurking and leave me a comment already (as others have said, you can make up fake email and URL addresses, and nobody will know anything).
At that point I decided to give up. I will continue to make pasta, quesadillas, chilaquiles, lasagna, pad thai (from a box), macaroni and cheese (not from a box), clam chowder (not from a can), rice and beans (from a can) (the beans, that is--I've finally figured out how to make rice), and baked potatoes. Salmon, if I'm feeling adventurous. That's it. No more experimenting.
Oh, and I'll make pancakes.
On Sunday night, I was going out to dinner, so I made them pancakes. Today I had a late lunch (more casserole) and I wasn't hungry, so I told them I'd make them whatever they wanted for dinner. They wanted pancakes. I started to say they'd just had pancakes so they couldn't have them again, but then I thought, what do I care? what's wrong with pancakes? especially if they have fruit with them (to substitute for the vegetable they have every night, because pancakes with vegetable is a bit disgusting)? So I made them pancakes.
And really, as we reminded each other, the most important thing is that we are having dinner together so the children will not grow up and do drugs. Not that they like my cooking.
[Edited to add: I guess it's working.]
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
In the last two months or so, I've read On Beauty, Heredity, How to Be Lost, The Devil Wears Prada, Prep, The Starter Wife, The Writing on the Wall, and Lost in the Forest. I abandoned Envy and I think I'm about to abandon Trophy House.
Some similarities, thematic, predictable, and otherwise:
- novels with lost in the title: How to Be Lost and Lost in the Forest
- novels with pieces of women's bodies on the cover: Lost in the Forest and Envy
- novels of trashy pop culture excess: The Devil Wears Prada and The Starter Wife
- novels with intense sister relationships and young girls who disapper: How to Be Lost and The Writing on the Wall
- novels in which teenage girls have affairs with men in avuncular positions: The Writing on the Wall and Lost in the Forest
- novels which explicitly reference 9/11: The Writing on the Wall and Trophy House
- didactic novels with annoying protagonists: The Writing on the Wall and Trophy House (The Writing on the Wall fascinated me--in fact I drafted a post about it that I never finished so this brief comment will have to suffice--because it was so consciously Literary and Meaningful and Crafted that it failed to come alive as a believable fictional world, though it was compelling enough, I think plot-wise, that I did keep reading; Trophy House, which I read three chapters of at the bakery with M this afternoon, is simply annoying: the main character pontificates about George W. Bush and real estate parvenus and is just way too much of a marker for a set of self-satisfied, self-righteous liberal values that I know too well and don't much like in person either)
- worst novel: Envy (you could make a case for The Starter Wife as worst, except that it is unabashedly what it is--a trashy beach read--whereas Envy has aspirations and fails at them, dreadfully)
- best novels: Prep and Lost in the Forest (both of which were like shots of pure pleasure, which I deeply appreciated, they were that good)
The thing I've been noticing most, as I read, is dialogue, I think because in three novels in a row--The Starter Wife, The Writing on the Wall, and Envy--it was so bad, and then it was bad again in Trophy House. What means this bad? Obviously bad dialogue is dialogue that nobody would actually utter (and I don't mean jabbering away about Quidditch, which surely real people would not do, but they would jabber about soccer or cricket, and the question is whether they are jabbering about Quidditch as they would about soccer or cricket). In these books, this unspeakable dialogue takes two forms (and I am going to write this without examples because this post is already long enough, so you'll just have to take my word for it). First there is stiff, awkward phrasing that you can't imagine coming out of anyone's mouth. Then there is the use of dialogue to reveal plot in a way that may be necessary for the reader but is completely unnecessary, not to mention unrealistic, for the characters, by which I mean when a character says to another character something like "you remember that time that I was lying in the bathtub and you came in and told me that my uncle had drowned and I started to sink under the water and you pulled me out and told me you didn't want me to drown?" Obviously the other character remembers this, and even if they didn't, a real person would just say "you remember when you told me about my uncle?" or "remember that time when I was in the bathtub" and the other person would remember and the conversation would go from there (this was particularly an issue in Envy) (though Envy's sins also had to do with an annoying and unoriginal protagonist with profoundly uninteresting sexual obsessions and a plot that by the middle of the novel was going nowhere and I didn't stick around to find out if it ever went somewhere).
One of the great pleasure, then, of Prep and Lost in the Forest was their dialogue, and what was so pleasurable about it, after those novels where the badness of the dialogue kept jarring me out of my reading reverie, was not noticing it, that is, just following along in the conversations between the characters, as if they were real conversations that I was overhearing. Other things that made these novels so good? How fully realized, and complicated, the characters were, and how flawed, yet how empathetically imagined. I also like books about things I know, and each of these books took place in a milieu with which I am familiar, though not overly so (I didn't go to prep school, but I know more than enough people who did; I never lived in Napa, but I've hung out there on occasion, really a fair number of occasions).
Anyway, that's what I've been reading, and a bit of what I've been thinking about it.
Monday, January 09, 2006
E's school occupies one wing of an old public school (where S attended elementary school, which we all think is pretty cool). The other wing houses the Ecole Bilingue.
Which means my day begins alongside French women in impeccable clothes speaking impeccable French to their impeccably-clad, impeccably French-speaking offspring.
Delightful. Or rather, charmant.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
The breathing, though, oy, the breathing.
I can never get it right. You know when the teacher says "Now exhale"? I'm always at inhale. And when she says "Inhale," and then proceeds to tell you 16 things to do while you inhale? Am I supposed to hold my breath that whole time? Or exhale then inhale then exhale then inhale, really fast, so I'll be able to exhale with her when she's done? No clue. Then there's the question of whether it's more yogic to follow my body (breathe when I need air) or follow my teacher (breathe when she tells me to).
I try so hard not to be my usual Type A self at yoga: not to look at the people around me to see how they're doing, or to push myself as far as I can just because that's how I usually do things. But the breathing just stymies me, and generates the tension the yoga is supposed to disperse.
Maybe I can find a website on yoga breathing. Or a book. Or a special class. Or maybe a tutor. Is there an accessory that would help? Can I order it online? I'll take the more expensive one, really, I will! Especially if the woman next to me already has one. You know, the woman with the cute yoga pants and little top that shows her belly, the one who does full backbend and headstand and never needs a block? Her. I bet she's breathing right, and if she can do it, I will too!
Saturday, January 07, 2006
We're talking two eggs, four lettuce leaves, a half stick of butter, and half a quart of aged milk. And a butternut squash.
But that's not all. We're also talking a frozen trout the size of E's leg that he caught in Idaho. Three frozen packages of smoked salmon that they must have brought back from England as they are 200g apiece. A tube (a tube?) with a French label that I'm guessing must be some weird mustard thing because the only ingredient I recognized was moutarde. An assortment of bizarre condiments. A bag of frozen hairy green stuff that I remembered being told was dill just before I went to throw it out. Some completely unidentifiable foodstuffs that I did throw out.
Everything was covered in thin brown liquid that had spilled from a small bottle whose label was all in Japanese, and it was just disgusting. As I unpacked the bags, I was on the phone to my mom (who is not married to my dad) and as I narrated my unpacking to her in real time, the whole thing was just too ridiculous--and predictable.
I feel that this anecdote does not work at all unless you know my dad, so to the rest of you, I apologize.
[My sister got the contents of the pantry. I shudder to think.]
[We did, however, score on the liquor front: Jim Beam, tequila, grappa, sake, dessert wine--all with unintelligible labels except the Jim Beam.]
[I threw out the can of Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, to the amusement of my mother.]
[Edited to add: M says the brown stuff was very fancy soy sauce from Japan. Oh well.]
Friday, January 06, 2006
Presents I Got
From S: A month's membership at the gym which I activated Tuesday when it was just too damn cold to run. Treadmills! Cybex! Nautilus! Unlimited yoga classes! No need for fleece!
From E: Knee socks. Warm, and they keep my hip black calf-length high-heeled boots from abrading my sensitive calves.
From M: Red and black lumberjack plaid thick fleece pajama bottoms. So cozy I have to put them on as soon as I get home every evening.
[Do you sense a theme? Yessirree, it's cold here in East Coast Big City in the winter.]
Presents I Gave
Tub Tints and bath crayons: hands down the most successful presents of the year. We do the eight nights/eight presents thing, yes indeed we do, but a bunch of nights they get presents from grandparents and aunts, and one night they get big matchingish presents (this year it was a watch for M [blue leather wristband and analog face] and a clock for E [Hello Kitty, digital]), and then they get little matchingish presents, like t-shirts from S's restaurant (ok, that was a big hit too, as were the timepieces) and a chapter book (Abby Hayes 16 and Junie B. Jones 2, respectively--also hits, we sure did well this year). Then the last night we gave them the tub tints and bath crayons, wrapped in two separate packages, so everyone had something to open, but they had to SHARE. And they have (pretty much) in long baths which give me a lovely mid-evening break and have nicely decorated our bathtub tiles (my sister says no, no, they stain, but our bathtub tiles are not of the most attractive sort, so staining can't make things much worse and might improve them).
And with that the holiday season is fully behind us, except for the great and ongoing enjoyment of the presents.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
We looked at the young mothers with their young children and were glad that we were old and our children were at school. We discussed our friends and their various degrees of dissatisfaction. We considered men's dissatisfaction relative to women's (they think it's as bad; we know it's not). We agreed that we are much better off than our college classmate who just discovered that her husband is a coke addict (though I questioned the definition of addict in the case in point, and A did not sufficiently recall the details). A tried again to get me to go to our 20th college reunion and I again demurred. I said we could write a Rona Jaffe novel about our friends, and we agreed that was not a good idea. We made her a to-do list for what needs to happen before they go to California tomorrow.
She went off to send her emails and I went off to shop for groceries at Fancy Organic Store across the street (which I then stormed out of because the red peppers were $4.98 a pound, and that is just ridiculous) (red peppers in winter are ridiculous to begin with, but there's ridiculous and then there's ridiculous).
I felt like a fortysomething East Coast Big City mom. It was nice.
Today, for instance, I was indignant about Bush's "signing statement" that he will use his presidential prerogative to bypass the new laws about torture, and slightly heartened by the fact that three Republican senators are calling him on it. Then I was appalled by the Taliban beheading a school headmaster for teaching girls. The Abramoff thing actually kind of amuses me, though I doubt it will get the play in the heartland that it should. I'm all in favor of new treatments for ovarian cancer. I'm keeping an eye on the Harvey murders, which are so upsetting to begin with and made more upsetting, for me, because Libby knew them, and S was into House of Freaks, and the girls were 9 and 4. And of course, I'm obsessed with Sharon.
I'm not quite sure why I don't blog about the news more, given how much time I spend thinking about it. Maybe it's because I don't really have anything original to say, or perhaps because my readers seem more interested in tales of life with M and E, about whom it is certainly easier to write originally. Still, I thought you should know this about me.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
I'm not suggesting that Ariel Sharon is a great man (god knows that is not something I would ever suggest, at least not based on the last 40 years). But my first instinct was to say that this is a case where the individual makes a difference. If Sharon dies tonight, things will be different. On the other hand, one could argue that if Sharon dies tonight, it will be just one more chapter in the disaster that is the Middle East, a disaster far greater than the acts of any individual.
[And how remarkable is it that Wikipedia already includes today's events?]
I've been reading them on and off (mostly off, but occasionally I check in to see what's up) since "You've Got Blog" came out, but there have been times recently when I wondered what was up indeed, as Meg flitted from Nantucket to Vermont while Jason seemed to stay put in New York. Even though I don't know them at all, then, I have to say that I'm quite happy, in my gossip-about-people-I-don't-know-loving way, that Jason and Meg are getting married.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
How could he have known that after the change to rain it would shift not just to snow but to blizzard conditions, the likes of which had not been seen in decades? And that the height of the blizzard conditions, when wind whipped the snow through the air and you couldn't see feet in front of you, let alone across the street, would come right when school got out? He thought it was a smart move to keep the kids at school and hold the buses, not realizing that the parents would be waiting at the bus stops for kids who didn't arrive for hours.
We shoveled out for days. The aftermath for him was just as ugly.
This time he was cautious. The weather report said snow, then rain, then snow, so he must have assumed that the morning rain would turn to snow and, not wanting to be caught twice, he called it off.
How could he have known that, looking outside and seeing the dribs and drabs of yesterday's new inch of snow beneath a steady squirt of rain, lots of parents wouldn't even check the television? And that dozens of kids would arrive at school to find a dark building, no principal, and no teachers? He must have sat by his office window all day, as the rain came down, praying for it to turn to snow, rush hour be damned.
Now there are little flakes flitting through the air, and he must be hoping that they'll get bigger, that there will be some accumulation already, please, so he doesn't get slammed again in the emails, in the paper, by the parents gossiping outside the school.
I'm glad I'm not the new school superintendent in Town, solely responsible for calling snow days.
Monday, January 02, 2006
There was one morning fight, but then copacetic joint playing. I cleaned the house, knowing there would be no more influx of wrapping paper and presents to destroy it in moments. We started sewing projects and made blogs. E, J, and A-R came over and the children did their childrenly things while E and I tinkered with E's blog, painted our toenails, and discussed the general state of things (I noted one of our favorite topics, but I think the subject of that topic may be reading this blog, so I deleted).
Laundry is done, house is clean, one child is asleep and the other is going soon, tomorrow they will be off to school, and the rest of my life will begin, as it does every day.