Thursday, February 28, 2008

The last thing

we need around here is an extra day of February. I mean, I get the 28 days thing, but April, June, September...any one of them could have borne the weight of 31 days every four years. And how delightful it would be to have an extra day of April, June, or September. But even in its brevity, this month has already gone on for way too long. I don't believe I've enjoyed a single day of it, and I see no reason to expect that I will enjoy another.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guilty as Charged, Sort Of

My girls love getting pedicures. So sue me, because I do too. I'll cop to being indulgent, but hyper-sexualizing my kids by letting them have their toenails painted with sparkles and designs? I really don't think so. (We don't, however, do make-up, which may be the heart of Wiseman's point.) (Actually, come to think of it, in No Longer Red State we had tons of make-up, which I have no idea how we acquired. All played with for about ten minutes, then ignored, except when occasionally rediscovered. None of it made the move, and it hasn't been replaced. Aside from nail polish.) (Of course, pedicures and pretend make-up probably take on a differenc valence when your mom is constantly lecturing you about ads, brands, and objectification.) (None of which, clearly, do I feel apply to pedicures.)

In Which I Prove Myself a Luddite

Just yesterday, maybe the day before, I requested Beautiful Children from the library (OK, that doesn't prove I'm a luddite, it proves I'm a pop culture lemming, but keep reading). Our town belongs to a library consortium of maybe 25 local towns, so I am something like the 128th hold on 32 copies. In other words, it's going to be a while before I'm reading Beautiful Children.

EXCEPT. Stop the presses. Turn on the computer.

Charles Bock is making Beautiful Children available as a free download from now until Friday. Shades of Radiohead, except even more rad. Sort of. Given that Powell's has only one copy available, I'm guessing they're going back to print but don't want to miss any potential readers between now and then. But, whatever, free book, more power to him.

Except. It's a PDF. You have to read it in Acrobat. On your computer.

Now I spend hours a day reading on my computer--email, NY Times, blogs, documents, even short stories and poems. But an entire book? On the screen? I'm not so excited.

So it comes down to time vs. comfort. Read it now? Or read it on the PAGE?

I may not be the best test case here, or maybe it's that this book may not be the best test case for me, because I'm not dying to read it (I'm not dying to read anything right now, which makes me kind of sad--please, if there's anything I should be dying to read, recommend it!). But the idea of reading Beautiful Children on my computer has no appeal. I even--I'll confess--downloaded it, and seeing the text on the screen was less appealing than the idea of the text on the screen.

I'm waiting for the book. However long it takes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

YouTube Dependence

At a party tonight I just heard about Tina Fey's Hillary bit on Saturday Night Live. Did I feel bad that I didn't see it? No, I did not, because I knew I could just come home and see it on YouTube, this being 2008 and all (even with the berets) (see below).

But alas and alack, avant and avast! The clip has been pulled from YouTube, and I am Tina and Hillaryless!

The funny thing is, I haven't given Saturday Night Live a moment's thought in, probably, decades. But just this morning S said that Wilco is going to be on this weekend, so I was thinking, hey, maybe I'll watch Saturday Night Live for the first time in decades. Only looks like maybe I should have had that thought last week.

Since YouTube has gone and let me down and all...

Today's Fashion Tip

Men under 60 should not wear berets, especially if they're not in France. (I'd really like to say that in 2008, men should not wear berets, except maybe in France, though even there I'm guessing it's lame. But such a broad claim would negate the winter sartorial choices of my father, father-in-law, and stepfather, and I just can't do that.) (The previous sentence probably tells you all you need to know about me.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Jimmy Fights Back

You know, I could have posted this like seven hours ago, when it only had like 200 hits, but I decided I didn't need to post it, but then C sent it to me, and I know I have nothing else to say today, and I hate to let down those of you who depend on me for your pop cultural fix, so here you go: find out who Jimmy Kimmel is f*cking.

At first I didn't think it was as funny, but then when it gets to the "We Are the World" part? And Robin Williams? Josh Groban? Harrison Ford? OK, pretty funny. And can we not worry about whether it's offensive?

But I think I'm going to have to go with Dawn: Matt is definitely the cutest Affleck.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Aesthetics of Afflecks

OK, people, I need some back-up here.  M and I are having a dispute.  Ben or Casey?

Trying to Be Rational

Healthy people do not have an irresistible urge to lie in bed with their eyes closed.

Healthy people do not lie down in the shower.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


The Lindsay-Lohan-as-Marilyn-Monroe photos are fine (and nicely highlight remarkable breasts that internet debate seems to have rendered real) until you look at the Marilyn originals.  The difference is about being alive: sure Marilyn was posing, but she was playing with the camera in the moment; Lindsay was recreating, which is always, especially when verbatim, a dead exercise.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Little Light Reading

Having finally succumbed to the flu, or some fever/cold variation thereof, I have spent the day on the couch, dozing, fending off children, dealing with work crises by phone, and reading The New Yorker and Gossip Girl (first volume).

Re: New Yorker: found the McCain article kind of fascinating, though strangely empty--but maybe I am the one who is empty, because I also found the Louis Auchincloss profile (not, alas, on line) quite odd. For the first half, it was like why are you profiling this guy? He is just not very interesting, even if he has written 64 books. But then the profile takes a turn toward Groton (the school, not the town or the submarine base) which is quite fascinating, and really she should have written a piece about the history and legacy of Groton (to which I could contribute tales of college friends who really were the WASPiest of the preppiest of the preppy WASPs).

Re: Gossip Girl. Why do I feel like I've already read this? Maybe because I watched the first two episodes of the show? Or did I flip through it in a bookstore? Anyway, it's a bit of a slog, but maybe that's the flu... M likes it.

I've actually been meaning to write a reading post for a while, but now I'm not even sure I can remember what I've read, or what I've abandoned.

I abandoned this because geographical realism cannot trump plot banality; indeed, plot banality shows the inadequacy of geographical realism (click on that link, C, you'll laugh). Actually, wait a second, I did not abandon it, I skimmed it, because I wondered what would happen, though I could tell from scene one that it was going to be bad (never trust a novel with a first scene set in a college creative writing class).

I abandoned this because it was boring and pompous. She wants to be the George Eliot of Morningside Heights, but it just ain't happening. And you'd think I would have known better after abandoning her previous book, but I guess I'm not such a quick learner.

There's something else I think I abandoned. Well, I'm still stuck in Valencia, which made me wonder if I really did love Michelle Tea, but then I read Rent Girl and loved it, which made me think I like Michelle Tea when she's being thoughtful about sex, class, and gender, but not when she's just chasing girls around the Mission in the early 90s, but then again, maybe I am just a voyeur, because the sex trade is not something I know so much about from personal experience, whereas I was very much in proximity to the Mission dyke scene in the early 90s.

I'll try really hard to write about Without a Map without using the words elliptical, lyrical, limpid, or pellucid, but it will be hard. This birth mother memoir (Dawn, do you know this one?) is absolutely beautiful, despite, or maybe alongside? its depiction of terrible pain. I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to read, because it did, or why I don't have much to say about it, because I don't, unless the problem is denying myself those adjectives, but, really, this is a great book.

And I continued the Ian McEwan investigation with Amsterdam, which also took me a long time to read. Like all late McEwan, Amsterdam is technically brilliant, but it's oddly--almost disturbingly--mean-spirited. I wonder if Atonement is his one GREAT novel, but he got the Booker for this one because they didn't know he'd write Atonement, and then they couldn't give him the Booker again so soon thereafter, so they were screwed. Really, though, if you want a book that covers similar aesthetic and ethical ground, with more sympathy and spirit, try The Line of Beauty.

Oh man, I don't know where this post came from, and I hope it's coherent, but it has wiped me out. Back to the couch (actually, I've been on the couch all along). This may be it for a while, though I have a slight hope that maybe this won't be as bad as E's, since I don't seem as sick as E was. Then again, I have been liberally dosing with Advil, which she refused (her fever finally broke in the middle of the night last night, exactly 96 hours since it came on--in my feverish sleep, it was at least a small comfort to feel her recovering.) (Wow, really milking the melodrama there, eh?)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tonight's Debate

Man, they are both really good.

Edited to add: But he blew her away on the plagiarism thing.

A Poem for M

Vacation is the best.
You get to take a rest
from school and all that junk,
but this vacation stunk.

Your sister was so sick
she was truly pathetic.
Your parents had to work.
You could have been a jerk.

But no, you were a doll.
You tried to help us all.
You watched E on your own
and didn't even moan.

The first day you were sad
and you never got real glad,
but you made the best of it
and kept our spirits lit.

OK, you had some fun.
New blades helped a ton.
You met your friends to skate
and iced treats you ate.

You know we owe you one.
Someday soon we'll have some fun.
Now don't you get the flu!
But if you do, we'll care for you.

A Perfect Book

Blueberries for Sal.

Perfect in narrative symmetry and repetition, visual use of elongated pages that are at once spacious and child-proportioned, twinned themes of independence and security not to mention adult vulnerability, realistical anthropomorphy, endpapers that end the story: really, everything.  And though I usually am a great admirer but not always lover of the perfect, in this case the contours of the perfect in themselves invite love.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Political Thermometer

Today I'm feeling guilty about Hillary.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Post I Haven't Been Writing

The issue is the impostor syndrome. Or, more precisely, my impostor syndrome, which is, according to Wikipedia, hopelessly textbook.

What first got me thinking about the issue, though I hadn't named it as such, was an experience with S and our friend B, the food writer. B, who is insanely picky, has been hugely enamored of S basically since she met him, before she even tasted his food. When she finally went to the restaurant, she was beyond ecstatic. Really, everyone loves the restaurant, but B LOVES the restaurant. Only that one night is the only time she's ever eaten S's food (we've tried to have them over, but really we are all such food nuts--except, remember, I'm faking--that we just end up going out to eat at different restaurants--like the fabulous new hipster Chinese restaurant in Trendy Neighborhood, but that's a different post).

Anyway, B's mad embrace of S's expertise on what appeared to be little solid evidence nagged at me. Why? Because I feel that people often develop what seem to be inflated opinions of my expertise and capacity on very little evidence, and I am always quite certain that if they looked a little closer, they would realize that I am in no way all that.

So one day I brought this up with B. "How do you know," I asked, "that S is such a great chef, when you've only eaten his food once?" And B got quite offended. She pointed out that she is an expert on food, which she is, and that, as an expert, she knows what's good, and she knows it fast. "After all," she pointed out, "don't you immediately recognize the good stuff in your area of expertise?" (OK, that's not exactly what she said, because she named my area of expertise, but, you know, the anonymity schtick and all.) And she's right, I do. I can tell immediately if someone is any good, and I'm almost always correct. So why don't I trust other people's snap judgments of me, especially when I respect the people, which generally I do? Well, the answer to that would be the topic of this post.

Another issue, along these lines, is the people who think they are so great at what they do, but who I think suck a lot. And there are a lot of those people. And they make me wonder about my own self-assessments: if they are so obviously misguided in thinking themselves capable, or even highly capable, doesn't it seem possible, indeed likely, that were I to think myself capable, I would be similarly misguided? Yes, even I can see the fallacious logic there, even through the tortuous prose, but still, that's how I feel.

Then the other day, I was talking to Lucy about my work, and she described what I was doing in a very complimentary way. "No, no, no," I said, "that's not what I'm doing at all. Really, I'm doing this," "this" being very much a minimization of my accomplishment, in comparison to Lucy's "that." Lucy, in her Lucy way, laughed at me and said, "OK, I'll just leave you to your impostor syndrome," and changed the subject. Light bulb! That's what I'm doing! I'm living my impostor syndrome, every single day, and let me tell you, it's a little wearing.

Because these days I am really scrambling to fulfill my commitments to a lot of different consulting projects. And I know, or perhaps I should say, I am hyperaware, often to the point of near-despair, of everything I am not doing as well as I could be, and yet I am accomplishing everything that needs to be done, and the feedback I'm getting is very positive (OK, it's kind of over-the-top positive, but to say that feels like tooting my own horn in a way that truly makes me nauseous). And yet all I can think is NOT, "Wow, I have a ton of work, and yet I am accomplishing it successfully, go me!" but "Oh man, as soon as they find out all the ways I'm slacking, it will be all over." And yet, in 43 years of a fair amount of success, I've never been found out, despite my ever-present, and I mean ever-present, fear that I will be, so shouldn't I, to co-opt a phrase I used recently while giving advice to a friend, pretend to be a member of the reality-based community and accept that I'm fine?

And that, my friends, is what it's like to live with a bad case of impostor syndrome, on top of an acute case of self-consciousness.

Brooks Backpedals

Didn't David Brooks think Obama was the Great Black Hope just a few weeks ago? (Too lazy to find the links, but you know he did.) (Oh, wait, I'll just link to myself.) Not so fast, America. More proof that this unfortunately tedious Alternet article (why do so many of the virtuous elements of our universe, like Alternet, so often have to be so tedious?) is totally on the mark.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Am I the only

liberalish, thoughtfulish, bookish mom who can't bear Anne Lamott?

Today's Tips from the Whatever-It-Takes Mom

Does your feverish baby-obsessed child refuse to take more than tiny sips of liquid, no matter what delectable decoction you offer her? Pull out the old baby bottle you keep in the back of the cupboard, fill it with cold water, and let her play "happy baby" to her heart's content.

Is your cranky tween distraught because her sister is sick, her friends are busy, and she faces the harrowing fate of a day at home with nothing to do? Dye her hair purple.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Weird Thing About Me

Sometimes when I get what I thought I wanted, I feel really sad.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Arts, Crafts, Valentines, Baseball

Dawn was talking the other day about not being crafty, and I could only nod in agreement. In fact, my lack of arts and crafts acumen was the subject of one of my first blog posts ever. And my position still stands: drawing, painting, clay, painting on clay, origami, beading, all that stuff: bores me to tears. Except for making Valentines.

Making Valentines is big in our house. The dining room table is covered with newspaper and supplies for at least a week (must clean that up--tomorrow). We have a shoebox of Valentine supplies and every year we augment it to replace what was used up the year before: stickers, doily hearts, foil hearts, red cardboard hearts, stamps and stamp pads, glue sticks, some old Valentine's napkins which we've just about used up. M and E have always brought homemade Valentines to school, though it's sometimes a travail (I feel that I've blogged the travail: ah yes, here we go) (this year I was pleased to see that three other kids in E's class--girls, of course--made their Valentines too, and she was really quite cheerful, self-motivated, and creative about the process).

We all make family Valentines, and because S always works in the evening, we give each other Valentines when we wake up in the morning (these days E is creating episodes of a TV show, E's Excellent Experts, on the Macbook, and she filmed Episode Four this morning, the Valentine's episode, where she gave out Valentine awards, in envelopes, a la the Grammies--S won Fastest Valentine Making, I believe I won Most Creative, and M won Best, which came with three pieces of chocolate gelt and a dollar).

And, you know, I get into it. I like cutting out hearts and choosing stamps and arranging stickers. I like writing little notes. OK, so I only made four Valentines, but they were pretty good: a tiny one for S, and another all in white, and an inside-out one for M, and a pretty one for E. So what is it about the Valentines that suddenly makes the arts and crafts bearable? I think maybe it's that the effort is so contained. The materials are there, and you don't need to think too much, you just need to arrange them. Limits: when it comes to art, I like clear limits and activities that demand no skill but cutting and pasting. Actually, I kind of like making collages too. So there you have it: the uncreative nature of my sole creative facility.

As for baseball, I don't quite have a post's worth of material, but I will say two things:

1) Spring training!!

2) It seems quite clear that Roger Clemens is lying, which just kind of boggles my mind, though it shouldn't--see Marion Jones--but the gall, chutzpah, etc. is just remarkable, though, then again, that's the nature of Roger Clemens, who seems determined to give everyone--except a pathetic collection of congresspeople--ever more reasons to despise him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More on Hillary

Not a big fan of Maureen Dowd, but she's good today. (And it's interesting, because her style is very straightforward, none of her usual snarkiness, which suggests that 1) she realizes how complicated and important these issues are, and that it's not appropriate to steamroller them with snark, and 2) she may be more thoughtful, even subtle, than the last couple of years might make us think.) (Hmm, might there be a parallel between Maureen Dowd and Hillary Clinton? Probably, but I'm too lazy to fully develop it.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I So Totally Do Not Get Election Results

Or rather, how and why the media calls them. Right now, at 9:47, they're calling Maryland for Obama, but showing 0% of precincts reporting, and in that 0%, Clinton has 50% and Obama has 33%. Meanwhile, 49% of the vote in DC has been reported, and Obama is ahead with 76% to Clinton's 23% and they haven't called it. Huh?? Maybe they know that Friendship Heights hasn't been reported yet... I know it's all exit polls, but I thought they'd been scared off from exit polls, after the last few years. Where is D with reasoned explanation when I need him?! Oh yeah, he's on an exotic vacation, along with the rest of my nearest and dearest...

If you can't even find time for date night,

how on earth will you manage to come up with novelty dates? Then again, sounds like crawling back and forth pushing a ball with your wrists and ankles bound together will do the trick, and that shouldn't take much time. (If that doesn't make you want to read the article, then you have no curiosity. Except, it's a really stupid article, so maybe you should just go Lacanian and stick with the desire.) (I tell you, I am so tempted these days to make this blog all Lacan all the time, except then I'd surely lose the few readers I've got...) [link from Jezebel]

My Blog As An Airborne Commercial

E got a nasty cold. Nasty in its coldness, but also in its whininess. Whininess is one of the criteria we use to judge how sick our kids are: it usually goes in inverse proportion to actual illness, i.e. the more they whine, the less sick they really are, because when they're really sick, they just lie there and are pathetic. However this cold, which is pretty bad, is accompanied by pretty bad whines, which doubles the unpleasantness.

At any rate, E was sick, and then she got better (luckily, nasty as it is, this cold lasts only about three days).

I felt like maybe I was getting sick. I took Airborne, maybe twice. I was fine. A few days later I felt the beginnings of a few symptoms. I took Airborne, this time for a little longer. I'm fine.

S started to feel like he was getting sick. I made him take Airborne. He had one day of dragginess and a bit of whining, and now he's fine.

M started to feel sick. She pointblank refused to take Airborne. She said it tasted yucky. I urged; I cajoled: no dice. Now M has the nasty cold. She is hot, she has a headache, she is blowing her nose constantly, she feels terrible, she is whiny. She also has agreed that next time she will take the Airborne, because it's better to taste terrible for a few moments than to feel terrible for days.

I tell you, that company should hire us as shills! Only they don't even need to, because we're doing it for free.

(Placebo or remedy, I don't care: it works.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Whiny Posts I'm Sparing You Today

- the one about the weather

- the one about other people's exotic vacations

- the one about family members with colds

- the one about pale, flaky skin

- the one about work

- the one about the sky (mooted today, because the sky is blue, but nothing has changed)

- the one about computers

- the one about Lacan (I actually may write that one, but I'm waiting to see if its impetus is in fact a function of current circumstances misrepresenting themselves as bedrock fact)

- the one about boredom

- the one about February (which probably would suffice for all the rest, but I'm not going to write it either)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

If you clicked through to that Grammy post before 11 Sunday night,

well, there's now more. A lot more. Really, a ridiculous amount more. So if you thought it was enough already, don't go back.

I'm Sorry, But I Just Cannot Resist Some Grammy Live-Blogging

Now, who thought of pairing Rihanna with The Time??????? And were they brilliant or had they just been on meth for way too long?

Loved the umbrellas.

But then the segue into Tom Hanks, awarding a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award to the Band? I mean, I LOVE the Band, and they totally deserve anything they get, but was that weird and undernourished, or what?

And then the BEATLES??? WHY???

But it only gets weirder: Miley Cyrus and Cyndi Lauper???? The one with black hair and white dress; the other with white hair and black dress???

Then we're outside with Jason Bateman (M: "THAT'S THE HUSBAND WHO ADOPTS HER BABY FROM JUNO!!!") and a bunch of electric violinists?

Why, oh, why didn't I take my acid tonight? Oh yeah, because I don't even need to.

OK, Amy's won her award, and I need to put E to bed. I don't know, though, if it keeps going like this, I may be back.

Edited to add: S thinks I'm overreacting, but I don't know...

I'm back. And Kanye West has a tail. But singing for his mom is nice. Though the angel mother floating over him is a little freaky.

Are we the only ones getting this hiccup in the feed? Not so good, for the Grammys...

OK, singing for his mom is really pretty beautiful. But the angel is still freaky.

Fergie. Cannot. Sing. Even in an evening gown.

M is excited over the Best Compilations nominees. Wow. Ringo. All I can say is wow. No, I must say: Wow, Ringo in sparkles. Last man standing. (OK, Paul is standing too, but not on the Grammys stage.)

Coming right up, Cher, Beyonce, AND Tina Turner? Be still, my beating heart! (S says I'm being too cynical, but that is TOTALLY sincere!!)

By the way, M and I are both strongly opposed to "Hey There Delilah." On any and all fronts. But M is torn between "Umbrella" and "Rehab." Luckily, I don't think she'll be staying up long enough to feel pain or pleasure either way.

Cher. Botox. That's all I have to say about that.

Beyonce. Green hot pants. Wow. Love the tribute to Black divas.

Oh man, Tina Is The Coolest Ever. Ever. I mean, Ever. Silver lame bustier and...what are those things anyway? Knickers? (M: "That is an outfit.") R.I.P. Ike. (Uh, I'm afraid we need to say Botox again, but still, she's TINA!) Those dancing girls have some serious abs... Damn hiccup in the feed.

Beyonce back in the shortest silver sparkles ever. "We like to do it nice and...ROUGH." Beyonce and Tina taking it to the streets on "Proud Mary." THIS IS AWESOME. (Seriously, if you didn't see it, search this one on YouTube, people, you will not regret it.) Love that last bit of Beyonce air guitar.

OK, now we're back to the wack combos: Nelly Furtado and Andy Williams?? (and someone I've never heard of, but who cares)

Amy again. OK, parental decision: do we let M stay up to see Amy live by satellite from London? (M: "YES!")

S, in a moment of fashion heroism: "Pedal-pushers!"

Dave Grohl looks exactly as he looked in 1992. "Except healthier," says S.

S again: "Rock is dead." Laughs at me typing as soon as he speaks. Amends: "Not really, but at the Grammys."

George Lopez goes edgy with the election jokes.

Brad Paisley makes M flee the room (she'd already been booted, but was lingering in the doorway). Brad Paisley looks like this guy I used to know who always carried a guitar...hmm, wonder if anyone reading this blog would know who I'm talking about--C from college, do you remember that guy from back around 1986? He showed up again this summer, still carrying that guitar...

M comes back in for one last kiss goodnight: "I love you. I'd like to check you for ticks." (You know, this post so needs links...) (Because I'm too lazy for links, but doubt anyone who reads this blog will get that reference, I'll just tell you it's a line from the Brad Paisley song.)

Good for Kanye, talking over the music trying to cut him off. (S: "He's insane.")

Feel like I should have something to say about this gospel medley, but I don't really. It's nice. Aretha's dress is chartreuse.

I'm glad I'm not an audience member in that weird cage box in front of the stage.

More sparkles on Carole King. This is one sparkly night.

Oh, cool, I finally get to hear Feist.

Hey, I like Feist. Though she's no Amy.

Of course we have her CD, and I had no idea.

Uh, wait, is she standing on a giant scrambled egg?

Kid Rock and Keely Smith? OK. You know, I'm not quite sure if I think Kid Rock is totally disgusting or kind of excellent.

Shot of Bonnie Raitt in the audience.

S, on seeing John Fogerty nominated for Best Rock Album: "Good God."

Keely is confused.

Foo Fighters over Bruce and Wilco?? Wouldn't have been my call... Wait, why are all those people on the stage? Keely looks really confused, and not quite sure why she's on the stage.

S calls it a night (he's not feeling well). Now the question is whether I'm going to stay up for Amy. Especially now that we have YouTube.

Naomi and the lizards...of course.

Stevie Wonder has won 25 Grammies? Think he'll do an Obama plug? Nope: Berry Gordy. Another bizarrely flat tribute.

Alicia Keys: sparkles. And really big earrings. With sparkles.

Ringo and Dave Stewart in matching facial hair and sunglasses. Giving the Best Country Album award??

I must be getting tired: Yitzhak Perlman and Max Roach seems like a reasonable combination--oh, they're just making yet another Lifetime Achievement acknowledgement. Some serious cost/time-cutting in these "tributes."

Reeeaaallllyyyy long piano thing that I'm not paying attention to. Sorry, I just want Amy, but I'm having a feeling that discretion is going to triumph over valor and I'm going to be seeing Amy on YouTube tomorrow...

Oh yeah, Rihanna and Jay-Z for "Umbrella." I'll be happy for M. She's cute. Rihanna, not M. Though she's cute too.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Amy!!!!!! Look at all these people sitting in a club in London at, what, must be 4 in the morning?

OK, gratuitous dancing boys. Amy is vertical. Looking cute. Holding onto the beat, barely.

And she nails it. And even dares to sing "Rehab." With a bit of a smirk. And a real smile at the end. She done good.

Natalie Cole and Tony Bennett? Time for me to go to bed. Oh wait, it's Record of the Year: AMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Looking so cute and shocked and disbelieving. Crying in the arms of her back-up dudes. Man, I hope she can stay alive. Is that her mom she's hugging? Kicks it in her speech, and now I am going to BED.

I hope you have enjoyed our time together...

Class, Race, Gender

Today the paper printed the election results by town. In our little white corner of Blue State, the results were pure class: Obama took the affluent towns; Clinton the less affluent.

Town is an interesting case. We are in the middle of a newcomers/townies class war--also involving unions--that to date has largely been waged in School Committee, but just carried over into an important local race. The old guard won (to the disgust and despair of the rest of us--the guy they ran was really a placeholder for rage, not a viable candidate). Clinton also beat Obama--by 200 votes.

But here's what I'm wondering: how much of the class thing is in fact a race thing? That is, are the white lower-middle/working class/union voters who are going for Clinton going for her because they believe in her (as she is spinning it) or because they don't want a black man to be president? And, on the flip side, how much of the race thing is a gender thing? Are the white men who seem to be turning to Obama suddenly realizing that they could end up with a woman president?

I hate to think the worst of people, when this election has the potential to bring out the best, but I'm not quite sure we're all where we should be on these issues--actually, I'm quite sure we're not.

(Obviously I'm speaking in generalizations that don't hold for all, or even most, individuals.)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Holiday Cards

I've gotten two in the last two days. Maybe it's not too late.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

For Libby: Our Six-Word Memoirs

I wrote two; M, E: one.

#1: East, west, middle, east: still me.

#2: Potential. Lived up to? Don't know.

M: Born. Ate coffee ice cream. Eleven.

E: Best younger sister in the world.

(Assuming hyphenated words count as two.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Howling Rain and Thunder

I'd really prefer four feet of snow.

(How did I get into the habit of these multiple daily blog posts? I tell you, it is simply RIDICULOUS.) (I think it has something to do with how much work I have--and how much work I am doing, which is really an outrageous amount. Like when I was writing my senior thesis in college and read a Joan Didion book every day [which I know I have blogged about before] [see? here--and I did read The Year of Magical Thinking]. I still finished on time. A few days early, I think, because I had to go out of town for some reason--could it have been Passover?--and resolved to hand it in before I left, and did. There is some kind of relation between work and non-work that could be explored but won't.)

Enter Michael Jackson, Stage Left

Have you noticed a sudden profusion of Michael Jackson quotes? End of "Don't Stop the Music" (current Rihanna hit, for those of you who don't live with a middle schooler)? Naomi and the dancing lizards in that Super Bowl ad? Yep, it's time for the 25th anniversary Thriller re-release, and the tentacles of corporate cultural America are reaching out as far as they can (credit for insight and information goes, of course, to S) (or rather, I noticed the phenomenon; he furnished the analysis).

Remember the first time you heard "Billie Jean"? I do. I was in City Center, in a car, with a friend who is now a famous poet (yes, Jenny, that one), and a friend who is now in a top position with a major politician (hmm, the accomplishments of my erstwhile friends was not at all the aim of this post, and neither was a severe blow to my self-esteem...). I think there must have been another friend or two, though now I'm thinking how could we have been in a car? We were never in cars, except, well, sometimes we were in cars, though when we were, we probably shouldn't have been, and the political friend actually did drive, though none of the rest of us did, us being the girls of my grade--the boys of the grade above us, who were the boys we hung out with, did drive, because they lived in leafy suburbs, while we lived in City with lots of public transportation. Wow, where on earth am I going with this? OK, the point is that I have an absolutely clear memory of being in this car, right in the middle of City Center, in front of the diner and the newstand, hearing "Billie Jean" and having my mind blown. That's all.

Our Tax Dollars

Goodness knows, hanging out at and TMZ is not the best use of my time, but is driving Britney to the hospital and investigating where Heath got his drugs really the best use of time for our law enforcement officers and agencies? Surely there are missing people to be found (maybe a few missing black women??), inner-city homicides to be solved, prostitution rings to be busted up? You know, maybe protect the powerless, instead of pressing the paparazzi faves?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I've never wanted to vote for Hillary. This makes me sad.

I wish I loved Obama as much as I love the idea of Obama.

I think Obama might be able to beat McCain. I think McCain will crush Hillary.

I've never seen so many people at the polls. It was 4:15 in the afternoon.

The Last Minute

Heading out to vote early, I was suddenly seized with indecision.

OK, I just was laying out my indecision, and even I got bored, so I deleted it. I know what I'm going to do, later, I think, and I know my reasons, but I'm suddenly struck again by how complicated it is, for all the reasons that everyone has been saying that I'm not going to repeat here. It's a good kind of complication, especially given how many people are arguing and thinking and voting, but it's still hard to walk into that polling booth and actually make the mark. For me, at least, today.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Electoral Agon

I really do like Rebecca Traister: she is articulate and intelligent, two of my favorite characteristics, especially when it comes to politics (and Matt Damon). (Just to tie it all together, don't you think Matt Damon should play Tom Brady in the movie?)

Politics and Sports: Specious Correlations

In the first days of November 2004, after the Red Sox had won the World Series, but before the election, it seemed like maybe the laws of real-life narrative had been rewritten and the happy ending could triumph. Then Bush won.

So if those few days created a law of mixed return, so to speak, perhaps the Pats loss bodes well for Obama?

Then again, it could be argued that the Giants' win is a triumph of happy endings and underdogs, which could also bode well for Obama?

Oh, if only narrative law and the rules of interpretation could consistently apply to real life.

Tune in tomorrow...

In Which I Catch Up With the Rest of America

I have not been a big Sarah Silverman fan to date (I know everyone thought she was the funniest one in that movie about the joke, but she did nothing for me). However, I may have to change my position, because the Matt Damon thing is incredibly funny. (M, DO NOT TOUCH that link. Mom, you should probably take a pass too.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Update 2

Accomplished one work task, very successfully, if I do say so myself. Folded one more load of laundry. Bathed sick child (who seems to be reviving). Got diverted by a circumstance. Off to Super Bowl extravaganza.


Kitchen clean (forgot to mention that part). Three loads of laundry folded; one in dryer; one in washer. Healthy kid fed and packed off to waterpark extravaganza. Back on futon with sick kid. Goal: accomplish two essential work tasks before picking up healthy kid from waterpark extravaganza and heading to Super Bowl extravaganza (with sick kid drugged). Realistic goal: accomplish one essential work task and start second, to be finished after returning home early from Super Bowl extravaganza with sick kid.

Current Conditions

You know when you have so much work that it simply will not be physically possible to do it all, but you have to do it anyway? And you also have a sick kid and five loads of laundry to fold? And you're sitting on the futon next to the sick kid, and you write a ridiculously long blog post instead of working, and your anxiety level starts to ratchet up, and there's nothing to do but go on?

Yeah, I thought you did. (And if you don't, be glad.)

If You Make It, They Will Come: A Chocolate Cake Saga

There was no reason to bake a chocolate cake (note barely recognizable gratuitous Victorian novel allusion). Yet there was a recipe: the Mile-High Chocolate Cake in January's Gourmet. And there was the vague sense that a chocolate cake had not been baked in long time. There was baking interest on the part of children. By Thursday there were even ingredients purchased, including a 9.7 oz. bar of Scharffen Berger Unsweetened.

But Thursday night there was swimming and homework and not enough time. Friday night there was a choice between movies and cake, and movies won (Ice Princess, which was unobjectionable to all and enjoyable enough, though M threated to stop watching movies with me if I kept verbalizing my predictions, which are pretty much always right, because one of the weird gifts I have is to pretty much know what will happen in most movies, especially an ice skating tween chick flick, where if you're an hour and a half in, pretty much all that needs to happen is the final competition and kissing the boy, which sure enough happened).

Finally it was Saturday and the conditions were right: ingredients still purchased, no alternative temptations, still no reason, but that was OK. So we baked, and I do mean we. M chopped the chocolate in the tiny cuisinart. E buttered the pans and sifted. M broke the eggs (after I, uh, dropped three eggs--and have I mentioned recently that either I should not be allowed to bake or all those people who say that baking depends on precision are wrong? Because I do things like spill half an egg so the cake ends up with 3 1/2 eggs instead of 4, and it would have been 2 1/2, if I hadn't glanced at the recipe one more time and seen that it was 4, not 3, and then there's the matter of discovering that we had been using the 1/3 cup measure instead of the 1/4, but I figured that 2/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup cocoa is the equivalent of 3/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup cocoa, and if you don't have light brown sugar, well, I see no reason not to use dark brown sugar, and--spoiler alert--the cake came out just fine). M helped add ingredients. E ran the mixer. M held the bowls while I scraped the batter into the pans.

And what a batter it was, really a paragon of batter, in a lovely bluish-brown hue (I don't know why I'm describing it as bluish-brown, because that sounds hideous, but that's really what it was, and it looked perfect). Fluffy and stiff, it just screamed out, "I am a serious batter, a batter to be proud of." And it was. Except for the pans. The batter that went in the 8" springform pan (remember that 8" springform pan, oh it is such a good thing, that pan) rose up into the most beautiful 8" chocolate cake layer you've ever seen. The batter that went into the regular 8" pan, well, it spilled out a little over the sides and sank a little in the middle and just looked generally pathetic next to its springform cousin. But it was fine. Everything was fine.

All I'm going to say about the frosting is: six sticks of butter. And, being the person who either should not be allowed to bake or disproves all baking laws, I, as usual, didn't have enough patience to let the chocolate mixture cool sufficiently, so the butter got a little melty, but it was fine.

So, round about cooling layers and beating butter, K called. K and D have been in town for a while (yay!) and they were supposed to come over for some kind of dinner that would not be cooked by us because I have cooked dinner for K twice this week, which is some kind of adult record. Truly, I do not think there is anyone besides my children who has eaten food cooked by me twice in a week--except maybe my dad--and I was done for the week. S had been cooking dinner for other people all week, so he was done too. It was going to be restaurant or take-out. But, K said, R and R wanted to have dinner with them, and there was much "whatever YOU want" back and forth, and a few more phone calls, and we ended up with K, D, R, R, and R and R's daughter coming over for take-out and...yes! a reason for chocolate cake!

In case you didn't click over to the recipe, you should know that putting the cake together involved slicing each layer horizontally in two so there were four layers to be held together with copious amounts of frosting. By now it was just me, no children. I used some pretty tricky moves, like the "put strips of wax paper under the cake so that you can be sloppy putting on the icing but still have a clean plate once you pull out the wax paper" move, and the "oh dear, one 8" pan seems to have been bigger than the other 8" pan so I'm just going to trim the edges of the bigger layers so they are the same size as the smaller layers" move, and the "my impatience made the frosting a little melty though still stiff enough but let's put the cake in the refrigerator to firm up" move.

It was a delightful impromptu dinner party. We ate Chinese take-out and enjoyed high-decibel Hillary-Obama discussion and the children played board games in the living room. And the cake? Well, a lot of milk was drunk. It was definitely mile-high and quite attractive, on its clean plate. And it was very good, though not in a particularly distinctive way. The recipe's claim that it "may just render all your other chocolate-cake recipes obsolete" seems a bit overstated. But everyone liked it. And I will say that a thin slice straight from the refrigerator this morning (last night I took it out before dinner so it wouldn't be too cold) tasted just like Sara Lee, which may be one of my highest chocolate cake compliments.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Pop Culture Proves Lacan Right Again

It was so much more fun to speculate about Carla Bruni and Sarkozy than to have the deed done.

My Life In Algebra

Remember those early algebra problems where one train leaves a station going 60 miles per hour and the other leaves its station going 40 miles per hour and you have to figure out where they will meet?

Yesterday morning, I had to meet someone at 8. It was too far to walk, but I had time to walk some of it. So I got on the bus at 7:30 and was trying to figure out where to get off so that I could walk as much as possible and still be there at 8. I knew it was 13 minutes from where I used to live, and about half an hour from where I used to work, which meant I should get off somewhere between the two, but I didn't know how long it would take the bus to get from where I used to work to where I used to live. And then I realized it was one of those algebra problems!

OK, I kept writing this post as follows.

If X equals distance traveled and Y equals distance walked, bus speed times (X minus Y) plus walk speed times Y equals 30 minutes. Otherwise known as B(X-Y) + WY = 30

Only I didn't know the distance, bus speed, or walk speed, so I got off where I used to live and was early.

Then I posted it, reconsidered, and wrote.

If X = distance, Y = distance walked, and Z = time walked, X = Y times Z plus 30 minus Z times X minus Y. Otherwise known as X = YZ + (30-Z)(X-Y).

Only that doesn't seem right, because I need the speed. So I tried again.

If X equals distance, Y equals distance walked, and Z equals time walked, bus speed times (X-Y) equals 30 minus Z AND walk speed times Y equals Z. Otherwise known as BS(X-Y) = (30 - Z) and WS(Y) = Z.

Since I have two equations, I can solve for two variables (right?). To solve for Z (time walked) and Y, I would need to know the same variables as above: distance, bus speed, and walk speed (which is what those old train problems always gave you).

This was my original conclusion.

I'm actually a huge believer in the value of algebra, both mathematically and in relation to higher order thinking (see Algebra Project), but I'm afraid the real-life application in this case was solely theoretical.

I would still hold to that, but I would add that I can see why people find algebra frustrating, even though I quite enjoy it. And I'm also wondering whether I look like a total idiot here for screwing up or at least over-complicating reasonably simple math..

Friday, February 01, 2008

Maternal Regret

I wish I were taking M and E to see the Spice Girls.

(I was going to subtitle this "A Post Without Irony," because the sentiment expressed herein is wholly in earnest, except that it is simply impossible to reference the Spice Girls without irony: of course the actual title of the post, while not inaccurate--I do regret it--leads you to expect something different, which places it in the neighborhood of irony, and Posh, I would argue, and M would agree, though S does not, thinking her absolutely frightening, is our current avatar of postmodern self-consciousness, itself a cheap relation of true literary irony. At any rate, M is fascinated by Posh, and, truly, how fun would it have been to see the Spice Girls with M and E? For my mom, no fun at all; for me, ultimately fun; and that is why my girls are so lucky to have both their grandmother and their mother.)

(Have gone back and forth between "were" and "was" in that non-parenthetical sentence. The subjunctive in English is just too much for me.)

(When we were in England when M was two, the Spice Girls were just hitting it big, though All Saints were giving them a run for their money. We were at a posh [ha! didn't even do that on purpose!] party where M ate all the hard-boiled quail eggs, and there was one other child, an eight-year-old girl, who preferred All Saints but had a solid grip on the Spice Girls, and that was the first time I got an inkling of what was happening. M, of course, was clueless, mainly just entranced with this glamorous big girl, doing Spice Girls routines at midnight when both were giddy with exhaustion, and who would have thought that today she would routinely email me news of Posh and her fashion doings?!)