Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Anxiety of Phantom Communication

I'm used to leaving phone messages that don't get returned. Heck, I hardly ever return my phone messages: I think it's become a social convention.

But the unanswered email? For some reason, that gets me worried.

It shouldn't, I assume. I have little evidence of emails not arriving, and when I email my friends, they generally respond posthaste--we are a very emailcentric bunch.

But here are some unanswered emails of late:

A distant friend, who is not the nicest person ever, emailed me asking for information. I responded. She asked for more specific information. I responded. Nothing. Later that afternoon, I thought of some more specific information and sent it to her. Nothing. Possible explanations: she is rude, she is on vacation, the emails didn't get to her.

I emailed the administrator of our temple, asking about High Holiday tickets. Nothing. I emailed her again asking if she'd gotten the previous email. Nothing. Meanwhile I have received at least half a dozen temple emails from her. Possible explanations: she is busy, the emails didn't get to her.

Then there are the emails that really worry me. I'm job hunting, which means I am networking, which means I am sending emails to my friend's sister and the director of a place I might like to work and there's one other that I don't remember. Cold call emails, as it were, though some of them, like the one to my friend's sister, should be expected. Nothing. Possible explanations: they are busy, they are on vacation, they have no interest in me, the emails didn't get to them.

Any rational person who trusted in the apparatus of modern life would go with the first explanations. Me? I agonize about whether my email is working.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm really sorry, Aunt M,

but they are so so finished. (OK, I'm not really sorry they are finished, but I am sorry that my Aunt M, who has only one fault, is sad, but if your one fault is loving the Yankees, well...I think I better not finish the sentence, for the sake of familial harmony.)

Yes, I still get excited about

bad days for Republicans. So long, Gonzales, it hasn't been good to know ya...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thoughts on Amy

So. Amy Winehouse. Just another junkie rock star in a fucked-up relationship, Sid and Nancy, Kurt and Courtney, Pete and Kate, ya, ya, blah blah blah. Right?

Except, you know, there's always the gender angle. (Really, there is, and if you doubt it, just tell me why we're always hearing about Lindsay and Britney's bad girl/mom exploits, and there's so little out there about bad boys? Yes, they're bad, but do you think maybe we put particular pressures on them because they're girls, and both the bad behavior and the excessive attention result from those pressures? Uh, yeah.)

Anyway, back to Amy. If you haven't been following the story (WHAT? You haven't been following the story? You don't have a sick fascination with junkie rock stars in fucked-up relationships? What's wrong with you? Oh, you mean what's wrong with me? Uh, yeah, but, hey, you're the one who's reading this blog, even if I'm the one compulsively googling Amy Winehouse.)...where was I? Amy. For deep background, you can read this Spin profile. For recent news, the Daily Mail is best. (Wow, trying to set up that link, I learned the BBC is making a Samuel Pepys movie--who knew?!) To recap this month's events: overdosed, cancelled European dates, in and out of rehab, cancelled American tour, beat up and/or was beaten up by her husband, and so forth.

So where's the gender angle? Well, Amy isn't the first junkie female rocker (can you say Janis? or even Billie Holiday?), but as far as my superficial thought is going this afternoon, she and Blake are the first major junkie rocker couple where the woman is the talent and the man is the hanger-on (please don't use this claim to attack my belief in Courtney's talent--she is talented, but he was the bigger star, and we're not talking about them anyway). And yet, she thinks she is nothing and he is everything. Amy Winehouse, award-winning major rock star, possessed of a killer voice and significant song writing chops, falls prey to the same old insecurities, the same old marriage plot, the same old same old. Ugh.

[Can you tell, from the proliferation of blog posts, that I am working today? Why, yes, I am, and getting a boatload of work done too. For real.]

Overheard in Cafe

Hippish middle-aged mother to young son: Yeah, when you get older, you can play pool.

Facts, Etc.

Fact: I am unemployed. S disputes this self-characterization, especially when I am pointing anxiously to articles about professionals in their 40s who have been seeking employment for years, but the bottom line is that I do not have a job. I have work, which means income, and some people think I should go with work and forget job, but I would prefer job, though I wouldn't mind job and work, because job means steady income and health insurance.

Fact: There are not enough afterschool spaces at E's school. Every year there is a lottery, and every year we have ended up on the waiting list and stayed there. There are other solutions--off-site afterschool, teenage babysitters, grandparents--and we have used them, but they are not ideal, for a variety of reasons. Afterschool at school, four blocks from home, with your friends and your playground, is ideal.

Fact: The day we got home, which was my first official day of unemployment, there was a message from the afterschool program. A space had opened up, and it was E's if we wanted it.

Symbolic Interpretation: The universe is looking out for me and this is a sign I will get a job.

Practical Consequences: It is ridiculous to put E in afterschool when I am unemployed. And one of the few pleasures of being unemployed is getting to pick your kids up from school and be with them in the afternoon. And of course afterschool costs money which one is not earning at the job one is not at when one is unemployed. However, once you get into afterschool, you are in for good. No more lottery, no more waitlist, no more scrambling to find someone for Wednesday afternoon when the teenage babysitter has the flu. Someday, presumably, I will have a job, and we will need afterschool.

Conclusion: We have accepted the place in afterschool. I will pick E up early, when I don't need the time for work or job-hunting. I hope, symbolically and practically, this means that soon I will have a job.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Maybe I'm Just Too Soft-Hearted

We need to win. It's August, and the Yankees are (OK, maybe it's were, not are, and how happy are we that they were up till 4 this morning, and then lost?!)...the Yankees are/were/may still be on the prowl, and we need to win. So I'm happy whenever we win. But we were watching the 8th yesterday afternoon, and, you know, that was just cruel. I mean, it was good, and then it was funny, and then it got to be too much, and those poor White Sox just needed to be put out of their misery. And then it happened again, and again, and oh dear, I just may be too nice for this endeavor, this fan thing.

Then again, maybe not.

(And, by the way, although it looks like we'll still be 6 1/2 games up by the end of the evening, and Big Papi and Youk have finally gotten their mojo back, those Yankees are still those Yankees, so let's remember to keep an eye on LA and Seattle who need to keep winning, just as a wild card insurance policy.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Little Feminist Revisionist

E: It was a bright and sunny morning. Six women were sitting around a pine tree. And the leader said, "Kate, tell us a story." And Kate said, "It was a bright and sunny morning. Six women were sitting around a pine tree..."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

School Looms

1. Unabashed Bragging

School starts two weeks from today, and we are ready.

Lunchboxes: check (E: tin Harry Potter; M: old school silver with stainless steel thermos)

First day of school outfits: check (E wanted a real schoolgirl dress, and she got it; M is going middle school casual with character, in jean capris, a striped t-shirt, and lots of necklaces)

School supplies: check (to the tune of almost $80, for E alone!)

Don't worry, I'm only bragging because this is so very uncharacteristic. Usually we are scrambling the day before school...

2. Things I Am Determined Not To Worry About

The scandal that has convulsed the middle school this summer. ( It won't affect the kids, right? RIGHT?!)

Our lack of information on pretty much everything having to do with the middle school, except the scandal. That would include what cluster M is in, how she gets her bus pass, and what school supplies she needs, to begin with. (They're always this disorganized, right? It's not the scandal, RIGHT?!)

The fact that the only other child in the grade who I know reads as well as E is not in her class, even though all I asked was that she be placed with at least one other kid who is at her level. (They told me in November that there were six children who were advanced in their reading, so there must be some others like her and P, and at least one of them should be in her class, at the very least by the law of averages, right? RIGHT?!)

E's new principal. (Sure everyone loved the old principal and was devastated about him retiring after 23 years--23 years!--but the new one seems very nice, and everyone will pull together to support her, right? RIGHT?!)

[Yes, this is one of those posts where if you think you know where I live, you could probably figure it out, but I'll leave that up to you.]

Grace Paley, 1922-2007

Yes, she was that great.

It seems significant, somehow, that Tillie Olsen and Grace Paley died within months of each other. Perhaps because I see them both on my mother's bookshelves; perhaps because they so laboriously yet seamlessly melded motherhood, politics, and literature; perhaps because we live in post-feminist, wartime days the likes of which I'm sure they'd hoped never to see again.

I'll not say who I hope does not follow them, for fear of setting the evil eye on her, but luckily we still have one more.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On the Road

I read On the Road again several years ago with some trepidation. It seemed like one of those books that might not live up to one's youthful love for it. But it did, oh how it did. My kneejerk inner feminist bristled, but my language-loving, road-loving inner Beat overcame her, and I reveled in the riffing madness. When I saw it on the cover of the NY Times Book Review I thought, oh, I should read On the Road again, but then tonight I read the actual review and now what I really want to read is the original scroll. (And Dharma Bums, which I think of every single time I walk down a mountain or run down a hill: You can't fall off a mountain!) (Except that you can. My friend J did, and when I heard of his death, it was one of the first things I thought: Kerouac was wrong.)

(Also in the Sunday Times, and this I did manage to read on Sunday, is this must-read op-ed by seven soldiers in Iraq [whose names reflect a diversity the Times op-ed page rarely evokes]. I didn't see the news much this summer, maybe two or three times a week, which is rare for me, but it seems like all that is happening is the war, going endlessly and disastrously on and on.) (No, the campaign does not count as news, because nothing really happens.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ballet Shoes

For freeway driving hours 14-21 of the week (yes, you read that right), we followed the example of my exemplary sister and got books on CD from the library.

Books on CD sure make freeway driving more pleasurable, though at this point I am still so car averse that I may even skip the beach tomorrow.

We only managed to listen to one of the books, even with all those hours (a few of which involved cousins in the car and hence no listening). It was Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes which mesmerized us all, even though E was the only one encountering it for the first time.

But perhaps because I'd read the book so many times (to myself as a child, to M when she was younger) and knew exactly what would happen, and perhaps because I was listening, not reading, and perhaps because I was encountering it all at once, in three straight hours on Saturday and another three on Sunday, I noticed things I'd never noticed.

Ballet Shoes is a novel of vocation, for girls, that doesn't end in giving up vocation for boys (i.e. it trumps Little Women and Middlemarch by far, and I'm having trouble thinking of any other books like it). It is also a profoundly mathematical novel, which seems somehow related to this theme: there is a constant string of financial and temporal calculations, and the narrative itself moves not by dramatic event but by season, sequentially. For some reason I found all this very interesting, and very post-WWI/Depression-era England.

I really must read I Capture the Castle.

[Anyone who knows the novel and my daughters will not be surprised to hear that M wants to be Pauline and E Posy.]

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Movies, Books, Etc: Summer 2007

S watched Ocean's Eleven while we were away. He said I had to see it. He was right. I definitely did not follow the whole thing, but cool crime + hot guys = satisfaction. Brad Pitt totally has it going on, and I wonder if I'm the only one who thought of The Great Train Robbery, one of my favorite movies ever.

You'd think I would have read Monkeys, but I hadn't, and now I have, and that's about it. Oddly timeless, oddly flat.

I read most of The Dogs of Babel, and it's still by my bed, but though K said it's one of her favorite novels, I'm not so enamored. The love story engages me, but the talking dog stuff bores me, and that pretty much sums up my approach to fiction.

I finally read Murakami, and yes, he is that great.

E and I saw Ratatouille. Fabulous animation and excellent depiction of restaurant life (and the two come together brilliantly when the rats get it on in the kitchen), but my inner kneejerk feminist couldn't take the tough butch chef girl losing it for the lame guy.

Harry Potter finally entered our world. M has refused to go there, but E and S read the first book and are well into the second, and E and I just watched the first movie. The whole thing has never particularly appealed to me, but I did enjoy the movie, and now I am thinking that I will go completely heretical and just watch all the movies. My nephew tells me that this is a mistake because the books have a lot more description, but, heretically, I don't particularly care.

This book is so bad I can't name it and I couldn't read it. I'll just quote the first two sentences which I had to read about half a dozen times because I couldn't believe a copy editor hadn't done something about them (and if you don't see the problem, maybe you shouldn't be reading this blog): Laurel Estabrook was nearly raped the fall of her sophomore year of college. Quite likely she was nearly murdered that autumn.

It makes me really happy to know that Phil Rizzuto is the announcer in "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." Probably I should have known that already, and now he's dead, which is why the topic came up and I now know it, but it only makes me like him and the song that much more.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Friday Night Movie

You all may have been scrambling to find a barbecue or a beach to entertain you last night, but our plans had been set in stone for months. 8:00 found us lined up in front of the TV with a hearty supply of blueberries and pretzels, and finally it began, the media event we had certainly been waiting for (E, last week: Can we buy the DVD? Me: Let's wait and see if we like it.): High School Musical 2.

And it was, in a word...tedious.

Zac Efron was boring when he went bad, even more boring when he turned good again, and totally ridiculous singing righteously in black.

Gabriella was totally neutered: no longer smart girl, just good girlfriend.

They tried to heterosexualize Ryan by making him a Little League World Series baseball player, but luckily it didn't really take.

And though Sharpay still rules, she is now ickily reminiscent of Paris. (M, midway through: I want more Sharpay.) But they made her good in the end too, with absolutely zero narrative logic (and seemingly forgetting the fact that she got good at the end of the first movie too...).

The Busby Berkeley Sharpay-and-her-friends-being-fabulous-in-the-pool musical number ruled, and the gang-rocking-out-in-the-kitchen one was pretty good, but even the music got tedious.

And the plot? Nonexistent when it wasn't predictable.

You might ask: what do you expect? But really, High School Musical was...OK, forget about me, I just checked my original High School Musical post, and looks like I wasn't so crazy about that one either. I guess it just grew on me after I'd seen it forty million thousand times! So let's just say this one is worse, and nowhere near as twisted, which helps make it worse, and we'll leave it at that.

Oh, and if you really must see a summer resort song-and-dance movie right now, go for Dirty Dancing. In fact, I think I might need to see Dirty Dancing as an antidote.

Then again...

M: It was good.

M's friend L: It was good.

E: It was awesome.

So what do I know?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Eric Gagne

OK, so maybe not. (I'm posting in real time for once: we watched the game go from 5-4 to 5-7 on his watch, and we couldn't bear it, so we turned it off. I'm not even going to check what happened next.)

On Not Missing My Stuff

It took me twenty minutes to pack. We'd lived in the tent for eight weeks. I could have stayed forever.

The tent was in a meadow nestled against a ridge, with two other tents. It backed onto the woods, so I kept the back flaps open, and if I kept only the left flap open in front, from my bed all I saw was meadow and then the far woods, steepening up against the ridge. At dusk, as we went to sleep, it was as if we were alone in the wilderness.

It's a big tent, with walls about four feet high and a pitched roof, up four steps on a platform sixteen foot square (not sure I'm saying that right: I mean sixteen feet on each side, not four). It had a double bed, a single bed, a big set of shelves for our clothes and a smaller double shelf with books on the bottom and things like toothbrushes, hairbrushes, lotion, a jewelry box, pens, a clock, a lamp, and an awful lot of flashlights on top. There was a bottle with water for brushing our teeth and an outhouse down the hill with the best view of any outhouse I know.

E and I mainly lived in the tent. S came up a few days a week, and M lived down the road in a bunk and a trunk. K spent one night, and her daughter N was there one night, and sometimes E had a friend sleep over.

It took me maybe 30 seconds a day to keep the tent clean. E brought up some toys and books, but aside from Bitty Baby and Teddy, she paid no attention to them. She was too busy training the goats, picking raspberries, braiding grass, swimming, and playing Hogwarts with her best friend. I had some books, but I didn't read very many of them.

There was one other time we lived in a different place, all of us. We went to London for several months with a suitcase apiece of clothes, one more suitcase of books and toys, and a laptop. S bought a guitar when we got there and sold it before we left. We were living in someone else's house, so there were toys and videos and CDs instead of goats and raspberries and grass, but the net effect was the same: I was perfectly happy without our stuff, with just a week's worth of clothes and some books and my family. I could have stayed forever.

Since we got home, there's been a lot of laundry and cleaning.

I like my house, but I miss my tent.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Music Notes

So this "Umbrella" song? I don't so much get it. I've been hanging out with a lot of kids this summer, and they all know it by heart (except for M who is not so much about the pop music). Me...I find it kind of irritating, especially the "ella ella a a a a a" part.

On the other hand, "Rehab"? Now that's a hit worth being a hit. S says it's the only song he can think of that both his white teenagers and his black teenagers sing (S hangs out with a lot of teenagers--the restaurant is a bit of a youth employment project).

On the way to pick up M from camp today, I did the junkie special: Amy Winehouse followed by Hole, and I do still think Celebrity Skin is a great album. Then I did an L.A. segue into X's Anthology and I do still think X is one of the greatest bands ever.

Meanwhile, M and E are still heavy into Lily Allen. Luckily I still like her too, if not quite as much as they do (i.e. it was very nice to be alone in the car--most of my car time this summer involved E--and choose my own music, though once I picked up M, it was Lily Allen time).

Only Red Sox Nation

would be in despair with their team the best in baseball, five up on the Yankees.

(OK, J.D. Drew was a bust, but chill out on Eric Gagne, my peeps: the dude knows how to save games, he's just having Fenway adjustment issues.)