Sunday, April 30, 2006

How many of the people

who read this article in the NY Times Sunday Styles section have not only heard of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, but actually seen it?

At least one!

Not a Rhetorical Question


a) your husband had just started a demanding new job with lots of 1) responsibility and 2) hours, which are causing lots of 3) stress, and

b) you had pretty much been with your kids for the whole weekend, starting Friday after school, except for Saturday night when they were with a babysitter, and a half hour each on Saturday evening and Sunday morning when you went for a run and your husband fed them, and the weekend had included errands, a birthday party, two tee ball games, religious school for everyone, including you, because when the preschool goes once a month, the parents go too, as well as various playing with neighbor kids, digging holes, doing art projects, and the like, and

c) the children had been monsters all evening, somewhat understandably, given the weekend activity, and the need for bath and shower and clarinet practice and studying for a test on southwest states, not to mention the fact that they haven't seen their father for more than an hour at a time since Thursday night,

what would you say when your husband, as he does every night, calls to ask how the evening went?

V.I.P. Treatment

We went out to dinner last night for the first time under the aegis of S's new position (he is now the chef--he was the sous chef). We went to a fancy downtown restaurant where the chefs are friends of friends and, of course, they know S's restaurant.

When we gave our names to the hostess, the manager immediately swooped down on us. "Oh," she gushed, "L has told us so much about you. We're so happy you're here." In fact, L doesn't even know us, and probably just told her that B's friend S, the new chef at X, was coming in, but hey, it worked.

The manager took us to the best table in the house, and throughout the meal, food we hadn't ordered kept arriving, with the compliments of the kitchen. An amuse bouche that nobody else got, an extra appetizer (though we'd already ordered two), an extra dessert (we'd only ordered one, the waiter's favorite, but he brought us his second-favorite too). Quite delightful, and all the food was delicious.

I asked S if he planned to do a lot more schmoozing, now that he is an East Coast Big City Chef. He said no, but I'm not quite sure that's the right strategy--for his career or my dining pleasure.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Continuing Decline of Pete Doherty

You'd think he couldn't go much farther down, but you'd be wrong. This is pretty disgusting, so only click if you're hardcore. I'd say he isn't long for this world, or at least for this world beyond bars, except I've been saying that for months, and he appears to be at least half a dozen cats (which would make for 54 lives). [link, of course, from Popsugar]

Friday, April 28, 2006

What's Wrong With Us?

I know a lot of women in their early 40s.

OK, let's get more specific: I know a lot of well-educated, relatively economically stable white women in their early 40s, many--but not all--heterosexual, many--but not all--mothers. In other words, my friends look a lot like me.

And let me preface what I am about to say by acknowledging that you could easily label this post Privileged Narcissistic Whining, but that accusation is, well, not particularly interesting, so if you feel the urge to accuse, your time would be better spent reading a different blog.

Anyway, about my friends. What's striking to me, or rather, perhaps, what is disturbing to me, is how many of my friends, present company included, are in various states of upheaval, ranging from uncertainty, to transition, to full-blown crisis.

Some have been home with small children who are now bigger and are trying to figure out what comes next. Some are questioning the careers they chose--or fell into--and trying to figure out what comes next. Some have had their worlds rocked by forces beyond their control, and are trying to figure out what comes next. My conversations and emails are filled with questions about what comes next, when they are not filled with anxiety, frustration, and, sometimes, plain old despair.

What's up with this? My friends are smart, talented, interesting, funny, and loving. They have great partners and fabulous kids (even the world's most demonic toddler). They have accomplished much, professionally and personally.

So why are we in such a collective mess?

I'm not quite sure.

Maybe it's developmental and I just never knew so many women in their early 40s.

Maybe it's a collective Mid Life Crisis--only I thought that involved red convertibles and bimbos, and this is nowhere near as much fun (interestingly--and fortunately--few of my friends are manifesting their uncertainty on the marital front, though the ones that are are doing it in spades) (whatever that means).

Maybe it's historical: we are the youngest sisters of second wave feminism: we really thought our choices mattered, but our adulthoods began under Reagan and have been spent in a supposedly post-feminist world.

Maybe it's narcotic and we're not taking the right drugs (you can choose to interpret that pharmaceutically or recreationally).

Maybe I just picked the wrong friends. (But I don't think so.)

I suppose I could go read some Gail Sheehy, or ask my friends in their 50s and 60s and 70s, or interview a bunch of psychologists and historians and cultural critics and write a book. But I don't want to. I just want everyone to feel better.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Foie Gras? Not in Chicago

One thing I am proudly inconsistent about is meat. I don't eat it. But I don't care if other people do. Except for veal, which I think is appalling. Though I have no problem with foie gras. And I think Chicago banning foie gras is ridiculous.

(The funny thing is that I am reading Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, and she just waxed rhapsodic about foie gras at, I think, Le Cirque.) (The other funny thing is that M is reading it too, and she just got ahead of me.)

What is wrong with this sentence

from a highly reputable newspaper?

Raised in West Tisbury by folk-singer parents who hosted house parties where everyone sang and played music, Mason's mother first invited him to join her onstage when he was 13.

Who Are The Grateful Dead and Why Are They Following Me?

Tuesday, I saw a guy in a Steal Your Face t-shirt on the bike path. It startled me: the image so familiar, yet I hadn't seen it in so long.

Yesterday the girls and I got out of the car across the street from the burrito place, and a guy was sitting at a sidewalk table strumming a guitar and singing "Sugar Magnolia." And the woman next to him was sewing toe shoes.

What does it all mean?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Our Favorite Couple in Namibia

The most striking thing about these pictures of les Jolie-Pitts in Namibia is how colorless they are: all those shades of brown, gray, black. They do make a good-looking family, though (and please ignore Popsugar's sycophantic commentary). This appears to be the text of the Hello story ("fiercely private" my ass). And apparently they have sold the first pictures of the baby to People for $3.5 million--to be given to charity, of course (can't get the link, but take my word for it, or at least, take my word that I've seen it said, not that it's necessarily true). Hmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with Angelina topping People's Most Beautiful People list.

[As for Britney, I'm sure she is pregnant, but the main thing I think she is is trash.]

OK, She Plagiarized

No question about it: these passages are plagiarism by any standard [thanks to Andi for the link]. So, like I said, she's an idiot. But I would still hold that the larger issues are more important: why are book packagers creating our books? why does a teenager get such an absurd advance? what kinds of pressures would lead such a high-achieving kid to do such a thing? why are we so eager to see someone successful fall on her face?

And, most importantly, why do the literary, culture, and media whores among us (yours truly definitely included) go nuts over literary lies while ignoring the outrageous lies perpetrated by our current government, lies that cause infinitely more harm than some teenager stealing some lines from a book, or even some ex-alcoholic exaggerating his foibles? That is what, I think--I hope--will be the focus of future cultural histories of our decade.

Imitation and the Teen Novel

Before Romanticism, originality was not a virtue. When he sat down to write Paradise Lost, Milton lifted not just his plot but all his characters from the Bible, and Alexander Pope is known for his imitations of Horace. Ah, you might say, but they were overt in their imitation, manifesting their own artistic prowess in their masterly reworkings of predecessor texts [footnote: Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence]. Quite different from today's paste-up artists.

Yes, perhaps, but in the realm of low art, back in the day, as soon as a novel came out, dozens of practically verbatim imitations flooded the marketplace. We think of Robinson Crusoe as the proto-novel, but it was based on the life of Alexander Selkirk, itself written up in The Englishman by Richard Steele, so how can we condemn all those subsequent hack-written desert island tales? And what is Jane Eyre but Pamela with a few twists?

However, between Daniel Defoe and Charlotte Bronte, to collapse literary history, the Romantics put originality and inspiration up on a pedestal, Byron sued over imitations of The Corsair, and via Art and Law, it became important for writers to make up their own stuff.

Except, not so much. Harlequin romances anyone? Wide Sargasso Sea? A Thousand Acres? Yes, yes, those are artistic revisionings, but my point is that there is a vast literary history of imitation, some of it respectful and respectable, some of it not.

So which side does Kaavya Viswanathan fall on? I'm not quite sure. Did she really sit there with Sloppy Firsts next to her computer and copy big chunks of it into How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life? If she did, she's an idiot. Or are Megan McCafferty's books (which I only heard of for the first time two weeks ago, and once again felt like an idiot for not knowing about something so popular) so popular that they were indeed seared into her brain to the point that the words and ideas felt like they were hers? Or, like all those first novelists who write about a young boy at odds with the world out on a spree (did you say Catcher in the Rye?), was it a bit of both, as she paid homage to what she loved and forgot what she had remembered?

I don't mean to deny the problem of plagiarism here. If you write a biography of, say, Lyndon B. Johnson, and you copy into it passages from someone else's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, you are using their work for your gain and that is wrong. If you download a Newsweek article on Afghanistan and hand it in as a paper for your PoliSci class, you are being unethical. But in literature, things are fuzzier, and have been forever, and it behooves us to remember that.

[The real issues here, I think, are money, elitism, and celebrity culture. Nobody would be fussing if Viswanathan had put out a cheap knock-off teen chick lit book and made $8,000; people are going nuts because she got a $500,000 contract, Harvard, and a review in the NY Times, and there are few people nastier and more competitive than writers and wannabe Harvard students. Which begs the question, what are we doing giving $500,000 book contracts for first books by teenagers that were put together by book packagers? As for McCafferty, I bet her Amazon ranking surged this week.]

Edited to add: If you're coming here from Technorati or some such, please read my next post.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Red State Notes

The grass is greener in Red State--iridescent green, to be precise. The leaves are bigger and my favorite redbuds are out. There are decks and patios to sit on and watch the children play in the big backyards. The adults are charming and witty, and the children frolic conflict-free. The world's most demonic toddler is an angel with five adults and five children to bend to her will. The gin and tonics are strong, except for those who need them weak, and the food is delicious.


In Red State Capital City Suburb I hear of two divorces, one affair, one stroke-ridden parent, an autism diagnosis, and three new restaurants. As I drive into town, my soul starts to constrict.


E begins to sniffle the evening we arrive. E spent the first four years of her life sniffling and sneezing and rashing and itching. Her old babysitter asks if she still gets sick all the time. No, I say, she doesn't.


When we moved to Red State, my uncle was dying in East Coast Big City. I got the news on a payphone in a beautiful desolate state somewhere between California and Red State. We'd been driving and camping and hiking and swimming and admiring the scenery, easing our way into our new life, but after that we pretty much hightailed it to Red State. In our first six weeks there, I flew to East Coast Big City three times: a few days after we arrived, I went by myself to visit my uncle (he was single and much older than my father; he lived with my grandmother all her life, and after my parents, my husband, and my children, he is probably the person who has loved me the most); a few weeks later, we went for a long-planned family event (when I left his hospital room that evening, I knew I wouldn't see him again, and I wailed in my father's arms in the hall, surrounded by hospital equipment); then we came for his funeral, leaving M behind in our new home, though I can't imagine with whom.*

Of the six flights that comprised those three trips, four were delayed, cancelled, or otherwise disastrous.

Yesterday, we almost missed a flight that was then delayed, got on our second flight and then were told ten minutes later to get off and wait two hours, and finally had to sit in front of the dude dad from hell, after we told him to get out of our seats.

It is not an auspicious route.

*I remember! C, you were visiting, and you took care of her, right?

Friday, April 21, 2006

See You In A Bit

Heading out of town for a few days. Back sometime next week.

Friends with Money

Remember that movie I was all excited about? The one with Catherine Keener AND Jennifer Aniston AND Frances McDormand AND Joan Cusack?

Go see it! Especially if you are a fortysomething white woman who's not quite sure what happened to her life and loves her friends, even when they drive her crazy! And even more especially if you like intelligent visual and verbal realism and narrative meandering (which is, of course, of a piece with that kind of filmic realism)! And if you knew The Good Girl wasn't a fluke, and that Jennifer Aniston has it in her, when she puts herself in the hands of smart indie writer/directors, well, you'll be a happy camper. Lucy and I certainly were.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Updates: Plants, Pasta Girl, Babies

Following the advice of two of my most loyal readers, I popped those little primrose-type thingies in the ground and they perked right up. Thanks S and Kelly.


We are all ready for tonight's annual Passover-is-over-and-we're-going-out-for-pizza evening, but I have to say that E has done a remarkable job of it. She had a bowl of cereal one night when that's what she really wanted, Oreos one afternoon when we were grabbing a snack at the store (M and I had potato chips), a bowl of afterschool goldfish yesterday, and a pancake and a corn muffin (that she made!) this morning at her school parent breakfast. The first few she asked for, I said they had flour, and she decided she wanted them anyway; she announced yesterday that she was going to have the pancake and corn muffin even though it was Passover. Fine, I said, each time. But there has been no pasta, no bread, not a single waffle, all of her own determination. And there have been lots of avocado, cheese sticks, fruit, raw vegetables, and even some matzah.


I really do believe that Katie has been pregnant for nine months and gave birth to Tom's baby on Tuesday. However, IF I were a conspiracy theorist, which I am not, and IF I thought Katie's pregnancy was fake, which I do not, I would be further confirmed in my thoughts by the fact that we do not know what hospital it was, she has supposedly already gone home with nobody seeing her, and there has been no comment from the happy couple. I mean, these are masters of Hollywood publicity seeking, and now they decide to hide it all??

On the other hand, kudos to Gwyneth for just showing the world the baby and getting on with her life. New York called this the Sarah Jessica Parker strategy, and it makes sense to me. To hide the baby is, in effect, to continuously engage the paparazzi and the gossipists, and thus becomes itself a form of publicity seeking. To show the baby (and, really, why hide the baby? babies, apart from their parents, are hardly recognizable, so it's not like you're creating danger of kidnapping or a future of recognition) is to meet the desire and thus cut it off (could go Lacanian, but won't).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

People I Admire

The Moussaoui trial and, especially, the coverage of the Moussaoui trial have made me very uneasy. It's not Moussaoui, his crimes, or his guilt that make me uneasy; it's the exploitation of 9/11.

Whatever he may have been planning to do (and planning is his crime, along with an immigration violation), this guy did not crash planes into buildings. He did not cause the deaths of the people who died on 9/11. To use his sentencing hearing as an excuse to recapitulate 9/11, to play the tapes of the people in the towers, to bring on the parade of grieving families, strikes me as nakedly opportunistic on the part of the prosecutors, a sick exploitation of tragedy and suffering in the name of pseudo-patriotism.

And I find it appalling that the horror of 9/11 is being paraded before us in service of the death penalty. Which is why these families who testified in support of Moussaoui are so inspiring (since they were not allowed to offer an opinion about the death penalty, supporting him, obviously, was the only way they could argue that he should not be put to death).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In Which I Am Incapable of Not Killing Plants

We spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to fit the 21 people coming to our seder in the dining room, but we soon gave up and went for the long table from one end of the dining room through the double door to the other end of the living room. We used the dining room table with both leaves, three card tables, four kitchen chairs, eight dining room chairs, nine borrowed folding chairs, and four white tablecloths. Also eight blue everyday plates, eight plates from my grandmother's china (white with violets and gold gilt, partly worn off), five bright-colored plastic plates, all our matching silver (stainless, that is) and the motley assortment of forks, knives and spoons from before we got married (and matching), now stored in a shoebox on the top shelf for just such occasons.

Then I decided the table needed flowers. Specifically, little pots of not-very-tall spring flowers, at intervals down the middle. The perfect task for my dad and T, who dutifully went off and came back with half a dozen little green pots of yellow and white primrose-type things. Very pretty, exactly what I'd envisioned, and I spaced them down the middle of the table and they were lovely.

The next day we broke down the table, finished washing the dishes, and took the tablecloths to be laundered. I watered the pretty flowers and put two of the little pots on the kitchen table and the rest on the dining room windowsill. By the next day, the leaves were going yellow and the flowers were shriveling. I watered. I watered more. I didn't water. I pulled off yellow leaves and shriveled flowers. Whatever I did didn't seem to matter, they just got worse.

But you know, I have a job and two kids and taxes and bills and a house that needs to be cleaned every time I turn around and friends I haven't called in weeks and projects piling up, and I'm very sorry, but TRYING TO KEEP THESE DAMN PLANTS ALIVE IS THE LAST STRAW.

I'm letting them die. And I bought some lovely flowers at the market yesterday and they are in a vase on the dining room table. And when they die I will throw them out. And I told my dad I did not want the rubber plant he and my mother bought in 1959, because while I refuse to feel guilty for killing innocent little baby primroses, I cannot take responsibility for the fate of a nearly-fifty-year-old rubber plant. I am what I am. I accept myself. I am a killer of plants.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Let's Talk About Katie

I am in no way reassured by this story in People. The denials of Katie's apparent zombie podwoman incubator status are less than convincing. Once a happening young east coast actress with an active social life, she has not seen any of her friends since she met Tom, nor does she have any movies lined up. She lives in a Scientologist fortress and spends her, hanging out with Tom's mom and sisters, watching Tom's kids play soccer, and shopping? What is wrong with this girl?!?! Could it really be money? How much money would be worth this hell, especially if you're already a movie star, albeit young and minor? And the thought that it is love is, truly, even scarier.

[And why is People letting me read its cover story for free online? I must say, I no longer miss People at all. (Backstory for my new readers: I was a loyal subscriber for about ten years, but gave it up because they started running too many diet and plastic surgery cover stories and M had started to read it.) The gossip blogs give me all the photos and information I want, I was never interested in the human interest stuff they pride themselves on, and their stories are, simply, flimsy.]

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bruce Sings Pete

Because he is like that, S has already downloaded Bruce Springsteen's new album of Pete Seeger songs (I can't link because he uses some file sharing software I know nothing about and don't want to know anything about, but he promises me that he will buy the CD on April 25 when it comes out). We are listening to it as I type. I'm not sure I can express how happy this makes me.

Bruce is fine. I saw him for the first time in high school, then again a few years ago in Red State Capital City. Yes, he's a great performer. Yes, "Born to Run" makes me crank the volume. No, I wouldn't lie down in a puddle for him.

But Pete Seeger. That's another story. I grew up on Pete Seeger. I'm sure I've blogged about his PBS TV show that no one but me remembers. We used to see him play on the river bank. We sang his songs. I actually know the lyrics. Probably 50% of the records I owned as a child were Pete Seeger and Weavers records. Pete Seeger. I just love Pete Seeger.

Right now Bruce is singing "Oh Mary Don't You Weep," which we sang on Thursday night at our seder. Which is on that Arlo Guthrie/Pete Seeger/Ronnie Gilbert/Holly Near record that I just love (and yes I love "Tainted Love" and Luscious Jackson too--eclectic is good). (E is sitting with her ear pressed against the speaker, because this morning we had much discussion of the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea and how God felt about it--we went with the midrash that he told the Jews not to celebrate because his children had died).

I hope he comes to East Coast Big City when he tours the album this summer (only the European dates have been announced so far). I want to take the kids. In fact, I told S I'd rather see Bruce sing Pete than Madonna (than see Madonna, that is, not see Bruce sing Madonna, though then again, that would be something).

[Cecily, he sings "John Henry."]

Pasta Girl Does Passover

On the first day of Passover, I sent E to school with her customary lunch of pasta, cheese stick, snap peas, and a peep (pasta and cheese stick are constants; the fruit/vegetable and treat components change daily). She came home from school and announced that K had shared his matzah with her at lunch, and she and K were not eating flour for Passover.

"No pasta?" I asked, my heart sinking.

No pasta.

"No bread?"

No bread.

Well, OK then.

Either you are wondering what's the big deal, or, if you are a relative or devoted reader, your heart is sinking alongside mine. Because E's diet already contains no meat, no fish, no cooked vegetables, nothing that might possibly even resemble a soup, sauce, or casserole-type event, and various other no's I can't bring myself to think of. Take out waffles, pancakes, french toast, bagels, and pasta? That Eggs. Cheese sticks. Raw vegetables. Fruit. Coldy peas. (Don't even talk to me about legumes and Passover. I simply cannot go there. Legumes are in. And so is rice, but we decided years ago to go Sephardic on rice.)

Luckily she likes matzah brei. But since the seders, when she ate nothing but raw vegetables and matzah, she hasn't been so hot on matzah.

Yesterday was pretty grim. The refrigerator was full--of seder leftovers. Gefilte fish, matzah ball soup, lamb, red cabbage, potato kugel, matzah kugel, chocolate meringue truffle cake. Um, no. She asked for a waffle when she woke up, but I told her it had flour and asked her if she really wanted it. No. She is clearly sticking to her resolution. I offered her matzah. No. So she lay on the kitchen floor and drank a juice box while I made the matzah brei. Everyone else ate seder leftovers for lunch (everyone being M, me, my dad and T, and eventually Cousin E and my sister and even my mom who couldn't help nibbling at the lamb when she stopped by). E ate coldy peas. We were out of cheese sticks and then we ran out of peas, and I was the only adult around and I was not going to take four children to the supermarket. Meanwhile, E was turning into a monster. Finally my sister arrived and took over children duty, and I zoomed to the store. Inspirations: fruit! and avocado! When I got home E ate strawberries, cheese sticks, and avocado, and became much more pleasant. For dinner she ate rice and edamame (I told you: shut up about the legumes) (hey, look, maybe the legumes are ok) (the rest of us had sushi) (as for M, yesterday my dad and T took her and Cousin E to East Coast Big City and she was very proud that she managed to keep Passover: she had shrimp cocktail for lunch!).

Only five more days to go. I'm curious to see if she'll stick it out. At least now we're stocked up on fruit, avocado, and cheese sticks.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Recent Cakes

I have been making chocolate cakes. I just haven't been blogging them.

For the cake walk at the International Festival at M's school, I made Chocolate Domingo Cake from The Cake Bible. I have a funny relationship to this cake. There's a note on the recipe--in my handwriting--that says

delicious - M likes!
do not refrigerate
39 minutes - too long

so I figured I had made it and it was good, but I didn't remember anything about it. It's a pretty simple recipe (this is basically it, but Rose is a bit more specific: 1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons cocoa; 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon sifted cake flour; beat 1 1/2 minutes the first time, after the ingredients are mixed, and then 20 seconds after adding each part of the remaining cocoa mixture). For the cake walk, I wanted it to be beautiful, so I made a glaze (semisweet chocolate, cream, and a bit of corn syrup) and then decorated it with sugar violets from the excellent old-school cake decorating/supply shop in North City. A ring of violets around the edge, and four in the middle in a little cross shape. General familial agreement that it was the most beautiful cake I had ever made.

But the girls did not win it. They won no cakes in the cakewalk, though one of M's friends, who had never in his life won a cake in the cakewalk, won two, but not mine. So I promised I would make the cake for them, and last week when we had our downstairs neighbors and my dad over for dinner, I made it again (the rest of dinner: ginger dacquiris and stuffed grape leaves, taramosalata, and pita bread from the Greek market at the corner, followed by scallops in green pea sauce on Israeli couscous and asparagus). It is a good cake: just moist enough not to be dry and a fine light chocolate taste. Really, it's a very good cake; there's just something, something...not so exciting about it. But definitely worth making if you need an easy cake that is guaranteed to be good.

Then for our seder I made the famous Chocolate Meringue Truffle Cake, though I will admit here what I did not admit at the seder which is that, in fact, S pretty much made it because I ran into big trouble. Since I still lack an 8" springform pan, and I remembered that the cake came out a little thin in the 9", I decided to 1 1/2 the recipe. This, I believe, was a mistake, because when I melted the chocolate with the rum and corn syrup, bad things happened. Bad grainy, lumpy, coagulated chocolate things, that S tried to rescue by way of the microwave and adding water (which you're never supposed to do to chocolate unless these bad things have happened, in which case water apparently has the capacity to redeem, but it didn't). I would have kept going, but S said we had to start over. This may be one reason he is a chef and I am not. He went to the corner Greek market and got more chocolate (very nice chocolate) and this time we melted the chocolate first and then added the corn syrup and rum and mixed them up very fast because it looked like bad things were going to happen again (S was firmly in charge at this point). Mixed the chocolate into the slightly whipped cream quickly quickly, and it worked. Poured the chocolate mixture over the crushed Kosher for Passover chocolate meringues in the bottom of the 9" springform pan, and put it in the fridge. And it was fabulous. We ate some for breakfast this morning.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tired: Sad

I am only just realizing--I should have realized this long ago, but sometimes I am slow--that often when I feel sad, what I am is tired. That is, tiredness manifests itself as droopy eyes and yawns and an inability to cope and, sometimes, too, an ineffable sadness. Which is not to say that there are not many reasons to be sad, but is to say that, when the world seems a place of grim hopelessness and my place in it meaningless, I must remember to consider whether I might be tired, and thus, perhaps, exaggerating, albeit biologically, not in any way wilfully, the scope and depth of the despair I feel.

I wonder then, if one of the many reasons I was so often sad in Red State, was that I was so often tired.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

For something a little more inspiring,

go read Libby.

A Sad Post

I took a quick break from frantic cleaning and a chocolate cake disaster to check my email and discovered that my friend in Red State Capital City Suburb died almost two weeks ago (I'd link to my post a few months ago about moms with cancer, but I don't have time to find it). I read it and thought that's sad and went back downstairs. Then, in a sudden shot of memory, straight to my gut, I remembered that one of my dearest friends died of AIDS the morning of our seder, back in 1992 (M is named after him). I remember talking about him at our seder that night--a graduate student seder, no kids, lots of wine, we all sang the four questions together, I don't remember what we did with the afikoman--and I think I said something meaningful about Passover and death and spring and life and activism, because he was one of the most out there activists I knew. But now I'm thinking about my friend and her daughters who--I think I wrote this before--need their mother so much. I mean, my girls need their mother, but they have a fabulous father and grandparents ten minutes away and so many loving adults in their life, and those girls just don't. And I am so sad. I don't think I am going to say anything meaningful at our seder tonight, because this friend did not mean to me what my friend who died of AIDS meant to me, and nobody else needs to feel bad about a mom dying in Red State who they didn't even know. Maybe I'll even forget for a few hours.

Now I'll go clean and listen to loud Wilco some more. S is dealing with the cake disaster. And we'll have a lovely seder, I'm sure, but tomorrow I will think about those girls having Easter without their mother, and I will be so sad.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Not Quite Jerusalem, But It Will Do

Unless you've lived in a town where
  • your daughter was the only Jewish child in her school,
  • you were thrilled to finally find matzah in the local supermarket--only it said Not Kosher for Passover right on the front of the package, and
  • the biggest work event of the season was scheduled for the night of the first seder,
you can't really appreciate what it's like to live in a town where
  • your friend on the next street says she can't go out for ice cream because she has to make matzah ball soup,
  • the bakery around the corner is selling macaroons and Florentines special for Passover, and
  • a colleague leaving a voicemail to reschedule a meeting says she doesn't want to assume you'll be available on Thursday since its Passover.
And this isn't even a Jewish town!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On Pop Music

I entered pop music to the strains of "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" and "The Night Chicago Died."

To me those two songs epitomize all that is pop music: the intense sense of time (the summer I was eight) and place (a station wagon en route to day camp) that a song can generate, usually in just a few seconds, and the fact that the same song, even the same few seconds, causes the same reaction, albeit with different specifics, for countless other people (all this, of course, is predicated upon repetition).

My "Bette Davis Eyes" is winter in Nantucket, straining to catch the signal from Hyannis, eating Wheatena and vanilla ice cream because we wanted something sweet and we were cold and had no car and it was too late to hitch into town to the A&P.

My "Tainted Love" is 3 a.m. in my first-year-of-college best friend's dorm room, arguing about whether it really was the best song ever written or he just thought that because he was stoned.

My "Hey Ya" and "Milkshake" are driving through fields in Red State, feeling a little old.

I'm not quite sure about the role of oldies stations in the perpetuation of pop music. On the one hand, the oldies station enables those moments of instant access to another time and space, replicating the original repetition. In the car the other day I heard "Cats in the Cradle" which is night in my new room with my first transistor radio. On the other hand, the constant presence of those moments via the oldies station reworks repetition, evaporating the particularity of the past, and thus running the risk of erasing the very thing that constitutes their pleasure.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Apple's Brother

I have been lax. I have been called out on my laxness. I am ashamed.

The baby's name is Moses.

And I'm kind of disappointed at the apparent scheduled c-section thing. Word is Angelina is planning one too. I thought these were the crunchy nature moms of the celebrity universe. What's up with that?!


I am not going to blog the entire Red Sox season. For one thing, I know it will inevitably get painful. For another, I don't have much going on in the sportswriting department. For a third, I know the majority of my readers could not care less (I know you care, A, and, Aunt M, we'll just talk in November). But I cannot help pointing to this, which is a truly beautiful thing, especially in the NY Times. And, yes, I know, it's only April. But that's part of the beauty.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Historical Ruminations

I would have made a terrible nineteenth-century middle-class white woman. All that nurturing and supporting and caring for parents, husband, children, and home would have made me permanently resentful, not to mention grumpy, and you can just forget gracious. I like to think I would have channeled my anger into feminist activism, a la Elizabeth Cady Stanton (post on Sex Wars coming up, perhaps folded into the long-promised [and eagerly awaited only by Libby and Jenny] post on neo-Victorian novels), but probably not. Nor, I think, would I have had the courage to go invalid, like Sophia Peabody who had ghastly migraines and pains and took to her room for months at a time, refusing to see anyone, which Megan Marshall argues, in The Peabody Sisters, was a strategic refusal of domestic obligation (now The Peabody Sisters is just a great book, so much better than Sex Wars that really I shouldn't even talk about Sex Wars, especially alongside it [and the reason I am mentioning the two in the same parenthesis is that both address nineteenth-century American women's history, albeit the one biographically and the other fictionally).

No, if I were a nineteenth-century middle-class white woman, probably I would have just bitched and whined and yelled, and everybody would have pitied my poor husband for having to put up with such a she-devil. And then probably I would have died in childbirth, and everyone would have breathed a sigh of relief.

[Post inspired by a weekend spent shopping and cleaning and cooking and driving people around and taking care of my kids and taking care of my dad, and in the very little time that I wasn't taking care of other people and their needs, I was working, which I suppose would not have been the case in the nineteenth century, when maybe I would have gotten to do a little embroidery or something, which might have made me feel better, but I doubt it.]

One More Thing About Haircuts

When I picked M up from afterschool the next day, I asked if her friends had noticed her haircut (the noticing of haircuts is a topic in our house, due to one member of the household's consistent inability to notice the haircuts of another member of the household, and let's just say that the one member has the shortest hair in the house and the other member has the longest). M said of course they noticed her haircut and everyone liked it except G and D who said they liked her hair long (G has very long hair herself, and D's is about as long as M's was before she cut it). Did that bother her? I asked. No, she replied, because I know it looks good.

The child's self-confidence never ceases to amaze me.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

On Hair Cuts, Colonialism, and the Like

When I was in India, I got my hair cut at a fancy hotel.

One of the interesting things about India, in 1990, at least, and I would guess even more so today, is that unlike, say, Zimbabwe, where all the tourists were white people from far away (and we, in particular, were reenacting colonialism in what I only realized much later was a truly offensive way, pouring tonic into our bottle of gin on the train from Gaborone, and lounging by the pool and ordering more drinks at the Victoria Falls Hotel, even though really we were staying at the campground across the street), in India the great majority of the tourists were Indian.

It struck me in particular at the Taj Mahal where there were plenty of European and Australian and Canadian and American white backpackers and tour groups, but there were also plenty of rich Indian tourists and, even more strikingly, not-so-rich ones too: stooped grandmas in limp white widow's saris, and little girls in hand-me-down dresses, and men in kurtas and lunghis (I traveled through Rajasthan with an Indian friend and we confounded everyone, for though there were lots of white tourists and lots of Indian tourists, there were never white and Indian tourists together, and when we stayed in backpacker hotels, the staff assumed my friend was English or American, and our rickshaw drivers were always shocked that she understood what they were saying about us, though in fact her Hindi was nowhere near as good as her native Bengali).

It matters, then, though I'm not quite sure why, that the hotel where I got my haircut was an Indian hotel. It was in the neighborhood in Delhi where my friends lived, and there was a beauty salon off the lobby that one of my friends recommended, though she'd never been there, when I decided I was fed up with my hair which had been growing across Africa and India and was now a straggly mess of a mass, befitting the backpacker I was so ambivalent about being, especially now that I was staying with my Indian friends who found western backpackers laughable, at best.

I think the haircut itself was fairly banal, probably some version of a shoulder-length bob, but what I remember about it is that the person who cut my hair also gave me a half-hour head, neck, shoulder, and arm massage, included in the price, and it was my favorite haircut ever.

The other day the girls and I got our hair cut for the first time since September (the only thing about which I am less responsible than haircuts is the dentist). They now have adorable shoulder-length bobs, and my middle-aged long hair has been trimmed and properly layered. Good haircuts, but, alas, no massage.

Friday, April 07, 2006

It Took Us Way Too Long To Get This Bumper Sticker

Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.

Put That Two of Hearts on the Three of Hearts Over There

I received some dangerous information today. Damaging, even. If you have any tendencies toward addiction or procrastination, you might want to stop reading now.

I mean it. Click on something else.

I'm telling you, go read some gossip or something.

One last chance.

OK, you asked for it. I have learned, from a reliable source (who plays with all four suits), that the way to win Spider Solitaire is to get rid of a pile.

Now don't say I didn't warn you.

[Edited to add: Dawn says she knows this. Does everyone know this? I didn't know it, and Jenny didn't know it, and let's just say we are no strangers to Spider Solitaire, or Spider Solitary as E, who is also no stranger, calls it. But maybe everyone else does know it.]

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Because I take seriously

my responsibility to readers who get certain news only from me (hi, Grandpa), I feel that I must inform you that Brad and Angelina are in Namibia (and that spelling does appear to be correct, even though it looks weird) (and if taking a beach holiday in Namibia when you are supposedly about to give birth seems a little weird to you, well, it does to me too).

Pre-Passover Notes

I never heard of a chocolate seder until a week ago, and now I've heard of three.

I'm not quite sure what I think about new regulations on what's kosher for Passover. I'm quite disdainful of things like Passover pizza and pasta (which E wouldn't touch anyway, as she knows real pasta, and pasta made of potato starch is not real pasta, thank you very much, which is one reason we allow our children to decide when they want to start observing Passover, and though M began last year, I suspect that E will start, oh, maybe when she's about 45) (of course the big reason is not to let E maintain her all-pasta diet, but because we want them to embrace their Jewish heritage , not have it forced on them). Then again (back to food), we decided several years ago that, despite our firmly Ashkenazi heritage, we would embrace Sephardic policies on rice, so who am I to get self-righteous? (Why, I am ME, of course.) [NY Times link from J]

More Tobias Meyer

I'm still getting loads of google hits for Tobias Meyer, so I thought I'd link to this take on the New Yorker profile, blogged by someone who obviously knows a lot more about the art world than I do, quoting someone else who knows a lot more about the art world than I do, making basically the same point I did, but with better words.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Count me in

for mourning the West End. I probably haven't set foot in the place in 20 years, but I remember much collegiate drinking and intense conversing with my Columbia friends. (Funny, I was just today thinking of blogging about changes in the neighborhood I grew up in. Maybe soon.) [link from Gawker, and yes I'm embarassed (about reading Gawker, not mourning the West End)]

Whatever you think about the reality of Katie's Scientology babe-to-be,

that is one weird-looking belly on the right there.

My Little Prufrock

E: Do you know how you measure a year in coffee cups?

Me: How?

E: You count all the cups of coffee you drink in a year.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Today's Music

Driving home from work I heard the Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right to Party" and my inner punk-ass hip-hop boy got all happy. The Beastie Boys always make me happy, and I especially love "Girls," because back in the day when I ran a Quaker feminist wilderness summer camp for girls (yes, I really did, even though saying that might just blow my anonymity), we wrote our own version and you should have seen those girls Beastie Boy-ing out.

The other reason the Beastie Boys make me happy is that they make me think of Luscious Jackson, and Luscious Jackson makes me really happy. We saw them at the Fillmore a million years ago and if you can see Luscious Jackson without falling madly in love with Gabby Glaser, then you are deeply committed to your heterosexuality (or your homosexuality, or your monogamy, as the case may be, and if you are a lesbian who can resist Gabby Glaser, well, there is just something wrong with you).

Meanwhile in kid music, rush out (or hit the internet) and be the first on your block to get the new (just out today) Girl Authority CD. I had a moment of doubt myself, seeing all that pink, but they are a bunch of preteen girls singing totally girl-friendly pop ("Hollaback Girl," "Dancing Queen," "Get the Party Started," "I Love Rock N Roll," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," "We Got the Beat"), and they're on Rounder, for god's sake. How can you go wrong? They've already hit the top of the charts at our house.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Time with the Kids

Ann Hulbert's NY Times Magazine piece on how much time people spend on child care is frustrating. Of course, how could it be anything but frustrating when the first paragraph ends with a sentence like this:

What I wouldn't take the time to explain is that although this sounds like a lovely balance of special solicitude and unexpected solitude (a mother's dream), I seem more susceptible to feeling parental stress than newfound leisure.

I have no right to carp about lengthy sentences with a plethora of adjectives, adverbs, and other frills (all that alliteration and the "solicitude"/"solitude" thing? definitely frilly), but that is simply confusing (how, exactly, does one feel leisure?). As is much of the rest of the article, which is too bad, because she ends up with some important issues.

The article is about recent research on how people spend their time which suggests that we have more leisure time than we used to and that we spend more time on child care, but also that it's hard to tell how much time we spend on child care. One big problem with the first part of the article is that she never defines child care. As I started reading, my first reaction was to wonder what 10 1/2 hours a week of child care (the average time spent by mothers employed out of the house) means, because if you're just talking about washing hair and putting to bed, you're talking a lot less time than if you're talking about making snacks, sitting on a bench at the playground watching a kid on the monkey bars, and reading stories (all of which, yes, it's true, we mothers employed out of the house do too).

Later in the article, Hulbert makes it clear that how we define child care is precisely what is at issue:

Examining the signs of superconscientious nurturing in the ATUS figures, they suspect measurement bias at work: the survey's interest in caretaking may result in hours being categorized as child-focused that in the past would have been coded differently — as leisure pastimes, for example. So the economists lump all child care — from the basics to kids' sports and homework help — in their "preferred definition of leisure."

Hulbert frames the different definitions of child care in terms of gender, posing "the laid-back-dad view of child-rearing as the realm of fulfilling activities, not chores" against "the more momlike emphasis on the unremitting responsibility of parenthood" (she does acknowledge that this comparison runs "the risk of a sexist caricature"). This is all interesting and thought-provoking, but the article would have been better if it were more readable.

Stylistic prejudices aside, the nature of child care is a tangible issue for us. I spend a lot of time with the children alone (less than I used to, but still a lot). When I finish work, I pick them up from school, take them home, feed them, referee arguments, organize homework and clarinet practice, set up baths, and put them to bed. Of course I also go to the playground and play cards and watch Dora and talk on the phone with my friends and sometimes even read the newspaper, but because I am alone and thus tethered to my children, the whole thing feels like child care, even though really it's just life. When we are all together, we are often off doing genuine leisure: dinner with friends, ice skating, a hike. But then when we are all at home and S is making dinner while I check my email and the children play, is there no child care happening, or is he doing child care because he responds to their constant requests for snack? If he takes the girls to the park to ride bikes and I go for a run and meet them at the park, is that child care? Does he owe me the equivalent in life apart from children that he gets, or is it mitigated by the fact that he is at work (I'm at work a bunch too, but he is only caring for children when I'm at work for about three hours a week)?

No answers here, as yet.

[Note: This is all observation, not complaint.]

[Edited to add: Thinking about this some more, I realized that a big piece of the issue is that S and I are calculating different variables (not that it's all a calculated equation, but there's certainly a piece of that). For him, there is a lot of time at work, and then for most of his time at home, all of us are present, unless I leave or the children are out with friends. For me there is less time at work, there is some time without the kids by myself (though I end up working a good part of that time), there is some time with all of us, and then there is a lot of time with the kids. I would wager that he understands his life as work/home, whereas I see mine more as kids/no kids. I'm purposefully not going to calculate the actual hours of any of it, though, because that will inevitably depress me. At any rate, the point, I don't know what the point is, it just seems to matter.]

[Edited some more to add: If you're only making dinner because there are children to feed, because on your own you would just have a slice of bread and butter, is that child care? If you're doing mountains of the children's laundry, while yours would just be a small hill, is that child care?]

Sunday, April 02, 2006


This slideshow of Jill Carroll coming home and reuniting with her family made me a little weepy (even if it is a little exploitative). When I heard she'd been released, I felt a surge of joy, not just at her release, but at the very possibility of something good happening in the disaster that is current world politics.

April Fool's

As we entered the restaurant, I called S and said we wouldn't be coming to brunch. He said that was fine because he was really busy. He asked what we were going to do. I said hang around, do errands, not much. Meanwhile, M and E were sneaking into the kitchen where they found him, still on the phone to me. They yelled "April Fool's!" and he was totally surprised. Everyone else was amused, and the girls were pleased as punch.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Marriage in New York

The New York story on Ellen Barkin and Ronald Perelman's divorce offers a glimpse at how the other one-millionth lives, but what's really interesting is the accompanying story on pre-nups.

I had to laugh at the opening quote from Zack, a hedge fund manager in his mid-20s who makes way more money than I'll ever make: “People are starting to look at marriage like a business relationship. It’s sort of amazing to think that it’s taken until this century to realize that’s what it really is.”

Uh, Zack, up until the last few centuries, marriage was always a business relationship, and everyone knew it. But I guess it would be asking too much to expect historical consciousness from a twentysomething hedge fund manager.

Still, I feel bad for these young people who have so much money and so little faith that they are insisting on prenuptial arrangements for their first marriages. I know I've gone on record affirming marriage as the coming together of two individuals, but for all that, I can't imagine going into it with that kind of mistrust. If I didn't feel comfortable sharing my money, and confident that the person I chose to marry would be reasonable in the case of divorce, I can't imagine getting married (and if this sounds naive, I'll just say that in all the horrible divorces I know, and I know quite a few, at least one, if not both, of the participants was unreasonable long before divorce) (the only exception is a case of massive deception which unhinged the other partner, who then became, understandably, unreasonable).

Then again, I'm not a twentysomething hedge fund manager.