Thursday, January 31, 2008
Hmm, after brief perusal, probably not regularly, although the comments on who won the debate are fascinating--wonder if the Obama folks were sent out to spin, or if it's real. It was striking at the end when he went to shake hands with the swarming mob while she chatted with Chelsea and Wolf. He's catching up fast in CA, CT, MA (too lazy to check more--and that link will change daily, so I'm just noting what it shows tonight).
But, I must say, Hillary is impressive. And boring. She keeps starting off great, and then she goes on and on, and I drift away. Obama is fine. Good content, OK delivery. If I were undecided (which I suppose I'm not, kind of, pretty much), would this help me make a decision? Mmm, hate to say it, maybe Hillary? But then she goes on and on, and the moderators have to interrupt her, and while she's talking I think of her husband (who is no longer an asset, I would say), and her proclivities for secrecy and paranoia, and maybe not.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
(And in contractor news, there must be a recession, because both contractors called us back, and now we have two consultations scheduled for next week. More obnoxiousness deleted.)
(Did anyone wonder what made me finally do it? It was the arrival of the new guitar gadget S ordered. I don't even know what it does--something about recording the guitar directly into the computer--and it's not even very big--maybe the size of a lunchbox--but it was sitting on the dining room table, and I thought where the hell is this thing going to go, and if we had already renovated, and the tiny guest/TV/CD sunroom was now just the tiny music sunroom, it could go in there, so I better call a contractor, because this guitar gadget is going to make me lose my mind.)
(Edited to add: You know, I have no idea where that guitar gadget went, so maybe I can cancel the contractors!)
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I do have to wonder what kind of effect Ted Kennedy's endorsement has in the real world (as opposed to the media world). S shares Brooks' opinion that lots of Catholics will follow Kennedy's lead, but I have no idea.
Several decades ago, when I was young and political and had lots of time, I was working desperately and frantically on a campaign (desperate because truly we had no hope of winning, frantically because what else can you call fifteen hours a day in campaign headquarters). One day, a week or so before the election, we were notified that Kennedy was coming to town for our guy--in two days. There were advance people, posters, press, phone calls, even less sleep. I finally slipped out of the office, just as he arrived, and into a far corner of the venue.
This was back when our idea of Kennedys was still young and virile, but he looked terrible (he still looks terrible, but now we expect it, and back then he was fat as well as grizzled, so he looked even worse). He lumbered into a room filled with people seeking the smallest reason to hope--OK, so it was the faithful, but still--and he brought down the house. He was one of the most inspiring speakers I've ever experienced in person. When he finished talking, we were all ready to get out there and fight to the bitter end, knowing it was worth it. You could see in him what his brothers must have been, and you could only wish he hadn't misspent so much of his youth. Except that I think Brooks is right: being a senior senator and the eminence grise of the Democratic party suits him. He has accomplished an enormous amount on his own terms, not as the pale shadow of his brothers.
So maybe Kennedy getting out there and stirring up the faithful will help galvanize the not quite sure.
My god, do you think David Brooks is thinking of voting for Obama?!
[D's most recent email: "He may be a conservative, but he remains a Jew." Hmm, that's bracketing about 40 years of cultural and political history, but I'll take it.]
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
This morning E woke up long before the rest of us. She brought a book into my bed and read for an hour. Then she played dress-up games on the computer and emailed her grandmother. S finally got up, made her breakfast, and got her dressed. Since then, as the rest of us have staggered into the day, she has banged on a drum, composed a song, had a parade, and now she is playing teacher, writing the daily message and various other instructional communications on the giant pad of paper and reading them aloud to invisible students.
Not exactly the picture of a mindless drone enslaved to the computer.
I decided to try the limitless strategy. M and E basically are on the computer whenever they want, and my only response is to tell them to turn down the sound because it's driving me crazy (I fear that in years to come, when asked what their mother said most often during their childhoods, they will say, in unison, "you're driving me crazy).
E is now leading the invisible students in rehearsal for "The Land of Sweats" (which refers to candy, not workout wear), a play based on the song composed earlier.
All indicators suggest that my children are just fine. They swim two or three times a week, love gym, walk to school (M takes the bus, but there's walking on each end), wrestle, dance, and happily engage in any physical activity we propose. Their grades are as good as it gets. They have lots of friends (M's in good part facilitated by the endless IM conversation). They both read every day (when I suggested to M that the unlimited computer time seemed to be cutting into her reading, she pointed out that she spends hours at school every day reading under her desk, so by the time she gets home, she's a little tired of reading--alas, it is true, and her grades are still as good as it gets). S makes all these points, as well as the winter argument: once the weather is nice, they are outside, and computer ebbs away: another fine indicator.
So what's wrong with this picture? Obviously, me. And while a piece of my problem is aesthetic disgust (MY children spending hours on stupid girl websites, putting pixelated babies to bed and dressing up Hayden Panettiere?!), a bigger piece of it is guilt and the inevitable sense of maternal inadequacy. I'm not sure whether I know it or feel it, but it seems to me that if I were an more engaged mother, if I did art projects and cooked dinners they could help with and played board games more willingly, not to mention pretend games, they would be old-fashioned non-cyber children and everyone would live happily ever after. Even worse? I know that when they are on the computer I can do what I want without being bothered, and I kind of like that. Worse still? I am on the computer way too much, and I fear that I am the negative role model, and yet I can't seem to get off the computer. Really, I should be sent to the reform school for bad mothers.
Proof? Last night we got home and everyone was on the computer. Then M said that she was waiting for me to knit, so that she could knit with me. Now, I did not know this, but it was further proof of this all being my fault. And, indeed, when I settled in to knit, everyone came over to knit, and then E stopped knitting to have a minor tantrum, but that was followed by much singing and dancing on the part of E, as M and I knitted on the couch, and then wrestling by M and E, as I knitted on the couch. Domestic non-computer bliss.
The moral of this story: hmm, not quite sure. Maybe I should engage the children in doing what I like to do (knit, girls reading party, yoga, make Valentines [I do love making Valentines, despite my general art project aversion]) and not worry about what they do the rest of the time. Hey wait, that IS what I do. So maybe everything is indeed fine, and I should just stop worrying about it.
Friday, January 25, 2008
I've read a few blog posts recently that probe questions of identity, self-revelation, and audience with respect, explicitly or inferentially, to blogging (see here and here). What's interesting to me, given the level of angst I have about so many aspects of existence, is that these questions don't particularly bother me. There are things I don't blog--the content of my work, my intimate relationships except in a humorous or loving way, things that would embarrass or upset anyone besides me--and there is my (surely transparent) anonymity schtick. But aside from that, I feel like I'm pretty much me. Indeed, one of the reasons I don't blog under my real name is that I don't want random people who know me (as opposed to random strangers) to see how much time I spend thinking about hopelessly trivial matters.
Part of this comfort with my blogging self may have to do with the fact that I have consciously made this a "what I think" blog, rather than a "what I do" blog. I certainly talk about some things I do (I recall a string of posts, probably in the spring of 2005, because we were still in No Longer Red State, about the girls being sick and me losing my mind), but for the most part it's not a diary kind of blog. I don't care about keeping anyone updated about what's going on, unless I feel like it. I'd rather bloviate about the Red Sox, Britney, Ian McEwan, and politics, which are indeed, basically, what I think about (I also think about work, and the issues surrounding my work, an enormous amount, and sometimes that is a frustration, not to be able to blog those issues in the way I really think about them, but I can live with that) (and of course I think about my kids, who sort of bridge the think/do divide, in life and in blog).
Hmm, now I see why I don't get meta. This is indeed boring and not very insightful. I was just thinking about it, and, you know, this is a "what I think" blog. And now I'm having a meta-blog-anxiety moment, because I really want to end by putting out the question of whether the blog me seems like the real me, but then there's the awkwardness of the unanswered blog question, and the blog question's implicit goal of pulling in comments....ack, must stop now so as not to fall into abyss of blog angst...
Edited to add: So I just skimmed the last few weeks of posts and of course the think/do divide is fallacious, but, whatever...
Edited again to add: It should go without saying, but clearly won't, that this is all about me and my blog (sometimes non) angst, not anyone else's blog, blogging, identity, or angst.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Instead I decided to try some narrative therapy and make a list of things that have recently made me happy, such as:
- Hearing "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" and "Karma Chameleon" yesterday morning, courtesy of the human jukebox I live with who programs the iPod and plays crazy old school CDs in his car. (The first time we heard "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" was on one of those interminable drives from East Coast Big City to No Longer Red State Capital City. I have no idea why we were listening to country music, except presumably we were in a road trip radio wasteland. It took us a moment to get what we were hearing, but ever since I have just loved that song, and having it come up on the iPod at the gym yesterday morning pretty much made my day before it had even started.)
- The people I work with. I've worked with a lot of difficult people in recent years. These days I work with a lot of people, and the vast majority of them are fabulous: smart, effective, fun: people I'd choose to spend time with even if I didn't work with them.
- Coming up with great solutions to some work problems.
- Successfully finishing a work project that has been hanging over me.
- The Chili Radish (basically kimchi) and Gourmet Anchovies (the tiniest fish you've ever seen, fermented with soy beans) that we got at the Chinese supermarket which I've been gobbling by the spoonful, even though they were supposed to be a present for S.
- Hugs and kisses from M and E. (OK, they made me write that, but it's true.)
- The Palestinians breaking down the fence and storming Egypt.
- Deciding that I am going to do some yoga, read a bit, and go to bed tonight, instead of working.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I don't know about you, but I'm thinking River Phoenix: shocking sudden death of popular young talent. But the difference is the media cycle, which is now minutes, not days. With River Phoenix, the paper said he died and nobody knew what happened. And then a day or so later, it was an overdose. A few more days and we learned that the vegetarian poster boy was in fact something of a junkie. This time it's minute by minute: he was in Mary Kate Olsen's apartment, no he wasn't.
Who knows whether Heath Ledger's death was an accident, suicide, signal of drug problem, complications of pneumonia...though presumably soon enough we'll all know (top story on CNN and NY Times) (does this really matter more than the American soldiers and Iraqi civilians who died today? I still force myself to read the names, every single one, each time I see the list of this week's dead).
A young actor's death, a young father's death: tragic, yet also, at this point, banal. Our obsessions (corporate push/personal pull): pathetic.
a) Bring her the book and folder, because the most important thing is your child's education and happiness.
b) Tell her she's the one who forgot the book and folder, so she needs to deal with the consequences, because she needs to learn a lesson.
c) Tell her you will write a note to the teacher, because your work is more important than her grades.
d) Berate and lambaste her but bring her the book and folder anyway, because you operate on no principles except getting through the morning.
Monday, January 21, 2008
As previewed, children were deposited and we took off for scenic North Adams, Massachusetts to stay at The Porches. We spent much of a day at Mass MOCA, where we had, ridiculously, never been, and we ate at Jae's (because everyone said it was the place to eat), Cafe Latino, and Mezze (Mezze was great, Cafe Latino good, and Jae's fine--more about Porches and Mass MOCA below). We took a hot tub under a full moon; it was 15 degrees and my hair froze. I worked out twice. I read Ian McEwan and S read David Mitchell. We listened to Miranda Lambert, X, Wilco (of course), and Okkervil River. If you didn't know better, you would think we were pretentious artsy rich people, probably from New York. OK, so we're just pretentious artsy people, but at least we're honest about it.
We are also increasingly picky and cranky people. Really, we SHOULD be rich New Yorkers. Except that I think part of the reason we are so picky is that if we're going to splurge, we want things to be right. Some things that were right at the Porches were the incredibly comfortable bed and, oh my god, the sheets (could some of the rightness come from the fact that they were, uh, clean?). Also the fitness room with great machines and enough of them. The hot tub was most excellent, and the decor was hip--didn't thrill me off my rocker (that's kind of a Porches joke), but certainly was what it should be.
The service, though? Not so much acceptable. What's going to happen on a holiday weekend at a destination hotel? A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO COME. So what do you need to do? MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH STAFF ON DUTY. To do things like HAVE ENOUGH COFFEE CUPS AT BREAKFAST and RESTOCK THE TOWELS IN THE POOL ROOM. I tell you, next time there's an opening for a cranky rich New Yorker, I am so there. But seriously, a hotel that nice and expensive should not be making me notice that the croissants on Sunday morning look like bad airplane croissants (and then what's with the perfect croissants Monday morning? uh, you know, you're a weekend kind of hotel, you should be serving your BEST croissants on SUNDAY MORNING, and if the baker takes Sundays off, well, find a new baker). OK, even I am getting disgusted with myself, so I will spare you the rant on the restaurant that wouldn't find space for us Saturday night even though half its tables were empty, and anyway S does that rant much better than I do, having the professional angle and all.
As I said, it's just ridiculous that we've never been to Mass MOCA, given all the time we've spent driving back and forth between the middle of the country and the right side of the country over the last several years. But now we've been, and I will say upfront and thoroughly sincerely that Mass MOCA is brilliantly excellent and we loved it. Oddly, both S and I had envisioned it in the middle of a field, but it is right there in the middle of town, a huge old mill complex, which is just fabulous for big art. And I love that there is no permanent collection, which means it really can be a museum of contemporary art.
We loved Spencer Finch's exhibit, What Time Is It On The Sun?, from the first piece, which is a pair of black-and-white photos, labeled, that mark the two ends of a rainbow in Brooklyn, I think in 2004. You know how there are supersmellers and supertasters? Well, this guy is clearly a superlooker. The show is all about light and color and time. Like, there's a piece that is 100 paintings of pink circles, all different pinks, and the title is something about trying to remember the color of Jackie Kennedy's hat. And as soon as you start looking at the paintings, you think, what color WAS her hat, because of course it was round and pink, but which pink? And several other paintings are colors at different times of day. And there are these fabulous window filter installations which are also about capturing color and light at precise moments. So this was where I had my insight about conceptual art, because there were some pieces that did nothing for me. One was a circle of fans, and the title was something about the wind at Walden Pond for two hours and 22 minutes on some day, and the fans went on and off to capture the direction and speed of the wind that day. It was technologically and theoretically interesting, but aesthetic pleasure in the moment? None. So, for me at least, conceptual art works if it engages me in perception, not just thought, and that's my insight.
There were also mind-blowingly amazing Anselm Kiefer paintings which that link barely captures. Really, if you have any chance of going to see these paintings, you must, and you must think of Waterloo and Jay DeFeo's "The Rose," and, wait, maybe I can find better links for those paintings, yes, try here and here, but truly they barely capture them either, so you must just take my word for it and go. There is also a Jenny Holzer exhibit (good link on that one) which is behind a closed door and I said to S, as we went toward it, "This I am so not interested in, she has done nothing new since the mid-80s," but it was actually kind of cool: the banal words were projected and moved across the enormous room and there were giant bean bags to lie on and watch them move, kind of like The Weather Project at the Tate Modern a few years ago, only not nearly so fabulous (I tell you, the pretentiousness meter is rising, rising, rising). And then there are giant paintings from military PowerPoints about the plans for the war, which are pretty compelling and make an interesting counterpoint to Kiefer's war paintings at the other end of the building.
But enough about art, what else was on my list? Oh yeah, post-industrialism. Hmm, I'm getting tired, and I can't imagine anyone besides Jenny is still reading, but I must go on (I can't go on, I must go on). I don't really know the abandoned factories of the midwest or the abandoned mines of the west and southwest, but, to me, the abandoned mills of the northeast have always been one of the most powerful symbols of our collapsed economy. Not the mortgage collapse of last year or the stock market collapse of this week, but the utter collapse of an economy of production into an economy of consumption that seems at best decadent, at worse hopelessly unsustainable.
We used to call North Adams the armpit of Massachusetts. It was a bus stop and a place to get through as quickly as possible, happy you didn't live there. Mass MOCA is an amazing thing, truly, as is the recuperation of mills everywhere--whether they are condos, community spaces, high-tech companies, artist's studios, whatever. And yet, I found myself asking, again and again, how much of the renascence of North Adams via contemporary art is really trickling down to the descendants of the people who worked in those mills. Surely there are jobs: service jobs, for the most part, though also secretarial, security, construction. But are there enough jobs? Are there real opportunities? Is there anything for the kids? I hope--and I am not going to try and figure it out, this is not my problem--that Mass MOCA has a great educational program, that they are employing high school students in putting up exhibits, and bringing every North Adams elementary school kid into the museum at least twice a year, that they send their visiting artists and interns out into the schools, that they are championing art education for the masses, not just art consumption for the elites, because that is what has the possibility to make a real difference for North Adams which, frankly, aside from Mass MOCA and the Porches and a few nice restaurants, really does not look so different than it did back in the day.
Am I done yet? Oh yes, my hair. My hair actually looked fine this weekend. Which could be because 1) I have gotten used to it, 2) it has grown out sufficiently to look reasonable, or 3) the real issue is less my hair than the exhaustion in my face so that on a relaxing weekend my hair was free to look fine. Whatever, we'll find out soon enough, and I'll be sure to update.
Longest post ever?? And I didn't even talk about the pathetic tweed-jacketed professorial type we saw both Saturday and Sunday night, clearly trying his hardest to get laid on a college town holiday weekend. Way too depressing, and not my problem. Truly, though, it was a lovely break.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Last night I saw the before and after(math) of an accident. I was driving home from a meeting in Next State Up, going a reasonable 65-70 in the middle lane of the freeway, when a light-colored sedan flew by me in the slow lane. Both G and I commented on it immediately, it was going that fast, on a fairly crowded freeway, must have been at least 85 or 90. G had been saying earlier that evening that she was going to learn to drive this year, so we talked a bit about how not to drive, and how fast he was going.
After a few sentences of that conversation, we went back to our previous conversation for a few sentences, maybe 30 seconds, a minute, and all of a sudden the traffic was stopped. "What the hell," I said, and then we both realized there was an accident, and as quickly realized it must have been him (why the gender assumption?). There were three cars on the side, the middle one a light-colored sedan, and first I thought that was it, but then we saw people getting out of their cars and looking over the guardrail. G saw a piece of car on the side of the road. I think he went right off the road and over the edge.
We didn't stop. There was nothing we could do, it was late and we wanted to be home, the idea was too upsetting. We called 911, G on my phone, and me chattering at her: which freeway, which exit, what we saw. They said other calls were coming in and they took G's phone number. We tried to remember how high up that part of the freeway is. There were tops of trees.
I dropped G off and went home. There was nothing on the news, nothing in the paper this morning, I can't find anything online. How do you find out what happened? Sometimes I wonder if it even happened. I know we saw it, but did he really go over the guardrail, when we'd just seen him speeding down the road? Did those people getting out of their cars try and rescue him before help came? Is he in the hospital? Dead? Did he have a family? Was there anyone else in the car? Why was he driving so fast?
All we know is what happened right before and right after.
The briefest intersection of lives, and ours just go on.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The 13th month of the year is Docomenty. It is in a one month season called Waling. A hallidays in it is Hassover. At Hassover you get presents and celebrate the jews leiving Egipt. In Docomenty you expect weather of all kinds. In this particyular month every one celebrates their birthday for the second time that year.
(Actually, it's probably not worse in a real life sort of way, as, not having applied, there would be no investment in the job itself, but it truly is a deeply existential kind of rejection: to not be desired even by those you had no thought might desire you.)
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Mind you, only one person has even noticed I got my hair cut (that was you, J, wasn't it?). Which means either that I am fundamentally hideous, and have only just noticed it, or this is all in my head, which even I can admit is most likely the case. Nevertheless, my head is an inseparable element of myself, psychically and materially, so I must live with its illusions, no matter how untethered from reality they may be.
What is it I hate? I'm not quite sure. The right side is OK, the layers blend in fine, but the left side seems too choppy, almost shelved. As usual, the bottom layer seems to be cut awkwardly right into a wave, though if that is the usual, perhaps my hair awkwardly half-waves right where it is cut? At any rate, the length (just above my shoulders), though what I asked for, seems completely uninteresting and in no way flattering.
Could part of the problem simply be winter with its inevitable pallor, and it's not-so inevitable, but nonetheless present, cold sore at the edge of my mouth, the one that had two delicate friends this weekend delicately gesture at me to indicate that I had food on my mouth? Uh, no, that is reddened and inflamed skin, slowly puckering into whitish scab. Attractive, eh?
But back to the hair. I fear there is nothing to be done, because this is really as short as I go, so the thought of "fixing" it which would inevitably, I assume, entail going shorter, is absolutely impossible. I suppose I must wait for growth, which may in itself prove an improvement, but then will come the inevitable (can you tell how doomed I'm feeling, from all these inevitables?) decision about the haircutter.
I quite like the haircutter, she's very nice, and we've just followed her to a new salon, and, most importantly, she does an absolutely fabulous job on M and E, you just can't imagine how adorable they both look (don't they? really, they do! M has this super bob, shingled in the back and curving around her chin in the front, and E's is shoulder-length with a bit of a layer, and they both look so great, even in winter). So can I keep taking them to the haircutter, without getting my own hair cut? Or do I sacrifice my vanity on the altar of my children's appearance? And how would I even find a new haircutter? I've had so many and they never get it right. Oh, the woes...
Maybe I should just drink a lot of vodka and cover the mirrors till spring.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Some recent reads:
Pattie Boyd, Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me
The ultimate Swinging Sixties It Girl, Boyd was married to Harrison (oh my god is he dreamy, but he sounds, ultimately, like quite the asshole) and Clapton (does very little for me) (she is the subject [object?] of Harrison's "Something" and Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"--can you imagine?!). Her memoir is completely delightful, in that deadpan kind of way where remarkable things just keep happening: So then I finished school and moved to London and started working for Elizabeth Arden and someone suggested I model so I became a model and then I was asked to be in a Beatles movie and George asked me out to dinner and I became his girlfriend and we had to hide from fans and we got married and went to India and Eric fell in love with me and we were all tormented, etc. I mean, why doesn't such interesting drama happen so effortlessly to me? Really, a lot of it was quite grim as George became a tortured Indian mystic and Eric was a hopeless drug addict and alcoholic, but the book is endless entertaining, not just for the stars, but also for the social milieu, and for the reminder of how close colonialism was to the 60s--just a single generation, at least for the Boyds. Highly recommended.
Pamela Des Barres, Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies
Pamela Des Barres, former GTO and ultimate groupie, is all about reclaiming the idea of the groupie as not a rockstar-loving sex fiend, but a powerful muse figure who is all about the music. It pretty much works in her first book, I'm With the Band, which is quite excellent, in a similar vein to Wonderful Tonight, but here she tries to expand the argument in a series of interviews with other famous (or infamous, or, alas, not really so famous as she and they think they are) groupies. Cynthia Plaster Caster is here, and hers is an interesting story that nicely twists the Miss Pamela thing, but eventually the book devolves into a series of sad sex tales which, while titillating and gossipy, hardly elevate the groupie, but rather make her look quite pathetic and victimized, even as Des Barres vehemently attempts to claim the opposite. I skimmed the last third, only so that, when I wrote this post, I could be certain I hadn't missed some last-page revelation. I hadn't. Skip this one.
Michelle Tea, The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America
Not a groupie book at all, except that I was quite surprised, after reading Boyd and Des Barres, to open Tea and find her, on the first page, hanging outside the Orpheum waiting for the INXS bus to arrive, then watching the other girls throw themselves at the band, half-wishing she was like them, but also proud not to be. Anyway, this memoir is outstandingly great, and I am so embarassed that I've never read Tea before, just read about her. It's got class, sex, punks, prostitution, alienation, feminism, Boston, Cape Cod, Tucson, endless paragraphs, italicized and Capitalized dialogue, the late 80s and early 90s, emotional intensity and intellectual distance, really it is just fabulous, and perhaps the opposite of Wonderful Tonight in tone, even as they mine the same generic ore?? Read it!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Shifting from content to form, the other thing that interested me in this article was* the gratuitious high life references, including the fact that the most recent Gawker editor decided to quit "during a vacation at a house on Fire Island in November," and Tina Brown was interviewed "by telephone from her apartment before leaving for a cocktail party." Clearly the Style section has long aspired to be Tatler, but if the goal of mainstream paper media is to garner readers and revenue, I'm not quite sure what these kinds of references accomplish. They don't make us want to be or have, like fashion articles, wedding announcements, and ads for fancy apartments. Nor do they offer any insight into the people or topics at hand, except to let us know that these are high end people. Do we feel ourselves high end because we are reading about people who vacation on Fire Island and go to cocktail parties? Maybe that's it. But I'm thinking that Tina Brown is high end enough, and we already know she goes to cocktail parties, at least if we're the kind of people who read articles about Gawker in the Style section which, alas, we seem to be. I suppose it comes down to where I started: the gratuitous, which is, I suppose, the definition of the Style section, so maybe I shouldn't even be noticing these references.
You could call this a post in which criticial consciousness accomplishes nothing.
*I am agonizing about this "was." The subject of the sentence seems to be "the other thing that interested me," i.e. singular, hence "was," but it just doesn't sound right. I could change it to "I was also interested in," or "the gratuitous high life references were the other thing that interested me," but I like the rest of the sentence as it is, so I will just have to continue in what appears to be grammatical purgatory.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
That said, what interests me more than Ward's whine and the personal attacks it engenders are the arguments in the letters about the gist of her piece, that is, the viability of traveling with small children. With regard to that gist, I am in the pro camp. At my old job, I spent a fair amount of time in Europe, all of it with M, and then with M and E. There was a lot of settling in one place while Mommy worked, and then there was some traveling, and my kids thrived in all conditions. Over the years, we've developed child-friendly travel routines, which I think have a lot to do with our success, but I'm sure it also has to do with our kids being travel-ready kids, i.e. flexible and...well, I'm not sure what else, but my point is that some of it must be inherent. But just because it worked for us doesn't mean it would work for everyone.
I don't see why people are so invested in things being Good for Kids or Bad for Kids. Beyond the basics of adequate sleep, food, and exercise, couldn't it be that different things are good for different kids? Travel works for some kids and not for others? Ditto unlimited screen time, scary movies, consistent bedtimes, attachment parenting, public school, etc. et al?
Or maybe in this era of compulsive parenting, people feel impelled to defend their own choices, even, or perhaps especially, when they are talking about someone else, and thus ambiguity, possibility, and complexity inevitably erode.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Thursday, January 10, 2008
What E does on the computer: listen to music on iTunes (mainly Hairspray soundtrack), play games (varieties of solitaire, checkers, chess), Playhouse Disney and regular Disney, occasionally PBSKids (used to do a lot of Webkinz, but eventually forgot about it, and then her Webkin expired--now there's a topic for a blog post...)
What S does on the computer: music (downloading, uploading, ordering, guitar tabs, GarageBand, numerous blogs I've never heard of), food (Epicurious, blogs, etc.), email, news, work.
What I do on the computer: work, email, blog, read blogs, NY Times, People, Jezebel, Weboggle, google everyone I encounter.
There are currently three laptops. My lemon, which lives on the chair in the living room, on the dining room table, or in my bag. My old dying laptop which is on the desk in the dining room, used by the girls. S's new MacBook which alternates between kitchen and dining room tables.
For a long time, the screen time rule has been half an hour per girl, OK to share, computer or TV. Homework doesn't count. But does listening to music count? How about listening to YouTube videos while playing Stardoll? Listening to the Hairspray soundtrack, yet again, while dancing? What about listening to the Hairspray soundtrack, yet again, while staring at the playlist? Checking email? IMing? When I was 12, I would talk on the phone for two hours, but it wasn't screen time. Is IMing the equivalent of talking on the phone or PlayhouseDisney?
Let's leave television out of this. There isn't a lot of television these days, and what there is is usually the Hairspray DVD, yet again. Anyway, it's easy to clock half an hour of television.
I spend a lot of time grumpily telling people to get off computers. But I spend a lot of time on computers, often grumpily, not because I have to be on the computer, though often I do, but because I am annoyed with myself for being on the computer. Why? Why do I tell myself that I won't check email till bedtime, and do it anyway? Like telling myself I won't eat any more chips, and doing it anyway. Better to just eat as many chips as I want and then stop.
In summer, we go bike riding and to the pond and the playground. We go for walks and to play hide-and-seek in the graveyard. The girls play in the driveway for hours. But it's winter.
The last two nights we've played Rat-a-Tat-Cat. This evening we had a girls reading party in the bed. And did homework, listened to Hairspray, sent emails, and blogged on the computer.
We are, in general, pretty lax when it comes to restriction. Our kids listen to gangsta rap and Lily Allen. We give them sips of wine and beer and, last night, Bailey's. They watch PG-13 movies and read whatever they want. Violence isn't so much part of our lives, culturally or actually, so that's not a worry, and they, especially M, tend to self-censor, so we tend toward freedom.
And yet the computer brings all my latent Puritanism to the surface. Why?
I'm thinking maybe we should try abandoning screen time limits. I wonder what would happen.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
I'm fascinated by the NY Times' refusal to call it for Hillary, and by the general pro-Obama spin on their coverage.
I'm going to bed now, and maybe when I wake up, I will discover that they were justified (exit polls, anyone? ha!). But maybe not.
So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what.I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest.
Uh, what were you doing in the previous paragraph, then? Aren't race and sex both still confused with nature by an awful lot of people? Spent any time with poor young black men lately? I have, and they've got it a lot worse than an awful lot of women, which is not to say that an awful lot of women don't have it bad, and not to say that I'm not still a knee-jerk feminist (I know: too many nots lead to knots), but is to say that calling gender over race does not work in this day and age.
For a compelling feminist defense of Hillary, try Katha Pollitt in this month's Elle. For more of the same old-fashioned women-are-always-the-most-wronged white feminism, you're welcome to stick with Steinem. But I'll pass.
At any rate, it is hugely more entertaining that Hillary's tears, so I suppose I should just embrace l'amour and vive la compagnie!
Monday, January 07, 2008
A Horticultural Marvel: I have kept a cyclamen alive for a month. It even has new blossoms. If you know me well, you are amazed. If you don't know me well enough to be amazed, I will just tell you that this is the only live plant in our home, and there has not been a live plant in our home for several years, and you should be amazed.
A New Policy: E's complaints that I work all the time are registering. I don't want my kids to feel that way, and I don't want to be that way. While I feel that the impression has already been impressed (and is not precisely accurate, not that that matters), I have decided to try not to work while I'm with them in the afternoon and evening, not even to check my email. Given that I could work from the moment I wake up till the (late) moment I go to bed, this is probably as good for me as it is for them. Today I made dinner, read the paper, cleaned the kitchen, knitted, supervised and assisted with homework, and discussed various school and life issues. It was very pleasant for all, and I hope to maintain the practice.
A New Means of Self-Deprecation: One of the many ways I constantly compare myself with others (and generally come up lacking) is by looking at accomplishment relative to age. I have accepted that I will no longer be a child prodigy or a twentysomething phenomenon, and I know that Dave Eggers, Scarlett Johannson, and Venus Williams have it all over me. But when I realized that Obama was 46, I felt, once again, like a failure. And then I discovered this. Some other things I have not done by my age are discover Uranus, receive my second Nobel prize, pitch a no-hitter, and go over a waterfall in a barrel. I am singularly unimpressed with myself.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Daddy/best person in family (apart from me)
E/best person in world
(There is also a sign on the door of my room that says "unsupportive mom's room." All this because I said she deserved it when M hit her after she had been tormenting M for 15 minutes straight.)
If you want lessons on how to make your kids hate movies, just give me a call.
Friday, January 04, 2008
Thursday, January 03, 2008
For the next five months, I have more work than I can imagine doing, though reality will trump imagination and I will inevitably do it. Starting out on my own, I can't say no, especially when I'm offered good work that I want to do, and that will advance me toward places I want to be. I did, in my last non-festive act on December 31, quit one gig that gave me some fun, little money, and no visibility. In turn, on January 2, I picked up a piece that will be interesting, good money, and possibily very useful in moving me forward, so it feels as if, for the moment, my planets are aligned.
For the last few days, I felt boggled by what lies ahead, especially because I spent yesterday in a day-long meeting that was not productive until the last hour. But today I went to work, where I work on Tuesday and Thursday, and it was good, and I had some spare time to get organized for tomorrow, and everything started to seem more manageable. I am trying not to work in the afternoons and evenings when I'm alone with the girls, so when I got home with them, around 3:30, I attended to their snack/homework/Mommy needs and read the paper. I'd planned to work while they swam, but my library books were just too attractive, so I read instead, but that was only possible because, really, once I am actually doing the work, everything seems manageable.
When I work all day and get things done, mother effectively, and even have time to read, I feel like I am competently managing a life I love, even if it's cold outside.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Oh, I would be such a better blogger if I could just leave it at that, but, alas, I have more to say. I do think Ian McEwan is a spectacular novelist, probably one of the best writing in English at this point. Atonement is pretty much a perfect novel, such that I pretty much refuse to see the movie. Saturday...what DID I think of Saturday? Looks like I did not blog it, but I recall finding it impressive but not as emotionally gripping as Atonement.
For the first 100 or so pages of On Chesil Beach, which is quite a small book, literally, and somewhat figuratively, I was once again impressed, even dazzled. McEwan just knows how to do it: create fully realized characters through the details, historicize the personal and personalize the historic, manipulate time in service of narrative, embody location, nuance emotion and intellect: really, he's got the novelistic toolkit down. But even then, I was a little wary of, well, how the toolkit showed. At a party this afternoon, I was saying to a friend that I just wanted to go home and read my novel--that was about 100 pages in--and I described the book to her as impeccable but cold.
That was the George Eliot paragraph. Next comes the Nicholson Baker paragraph.
I returned to the book in the evening, and most of the second half totally bogged down. Saturday is, inherently (it is about a single day in the life of a neurosurgeon), obsessively detailed. Joyce, of course, would be the other point of comparison, especially for On Chesil Beach, but perhaps it is the subject matter that recalls Baker, crossing The Mezzanine with Vox (sorry, just too lazy to link tonight), in one of the longest, most-detailed descriptions of failed sex in literary history. I mean, it's a virtuouso performance, but who needs it?
At the end, especially, thematically, on the final page, we get to "Dover Beach," sort of--the complexities of "Dover Beach" are such that I cannot parse the comparison sufficiently, but suffice to say there is love, being true, and the shingle, so we're definitely in the neighborhood--and really the novel is quite wonderful again, sketching 40 years, plausibly, in a few pages and pointing to the influence of a single moment's near-inadvertent choice (a hint of Prufrock?).
At any rate, I'm pleased to have begun the year by reading a novel in a day, which I can't remember when I did last--and I also went to yoga and a party, made risotto, and dealt with a problem, so I suppose that's a good first day of the year, though the problem not so much.
And so to bed.
Edited to add: OK, not quite to bed, but I also meant to say that the cause of Florence's issues was also of the look-how-subtle-I'm-being school of novelistic virtuosity, in that it is totally obvious, but would be totally easy to miss, in the same way that so many contemporary readers miss intimations of pregnancy in 19th-century novels.
Edited again to add: Lethem's review is quite great, making some similar points, but fully celebratory--I do remember reading it, and thinking, I want to read that book, though my desire was also whetted by the New Yorker excerpt. Kakutani is positively vicious, unnecessarily, I would say. Yardley is the antithesis of Kakutani; as with Lethem, I find myself more in his camp in describing the novel, but not assessing it. OK, I could clearly do this for a while, but I doubt anyone cares, and really I must go to bed, because real life resumes tomorrow (8:10 for kids, 9:30 for me).
Edited once more to add: I think now I must go back to old McEwan of which, shamefully, I have read virtually nothing, though I did see the movie of The Cement Garden. AND NOW TO BED.
(There is also a work goal, which will go unblogged, for the usual reasons. Last year there were two work goals, both achieved. The personal goal was to not weigh myself for a year, which was also achieved, and has now shifted from goal to practice: I weigh myself once a year, and I highly recommend it.)
(Due I suspect in part to the cathartic effect of venting negative anticipation en blog, New Year's Eve turned out quite delightfully, though it was one of those exercises in selflessness by which the pleasure comes--and it is true pleasure, which means it was probably an experience, rather than an exercise--from enabling the pleasure of others. M, E, and their friend A-R [daughter of the sadly incapacitated Lucy] were having so much fun that it was impossible not to have fun with them. There was sushi, carefully ordered by M and A-R; homemade disco balls; a dance party; The Princess Diaries; There's No Business Like Show Business; the ball dropping; Fergie; knitting; and even a little vodka. Today there were very tired girls.)