Monday, June 30, 2008

Can't Help Being a Swim Mom

This LZR Racer suit is generating some crazy record breaking at the Olympic trials. Beijing is going to be nuts. (In case you're wondering, Natalie Coughlin is our girl. Though how can a fortysomething mom resist Dara Torres? Uh, maybe easily, given the resources going into that comeback.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What I'm Thinking About

Before I even begin, the politics of language arise.

Help. Save. These are deeply problematic words. Not in the physical context: an emergency room physician saves, as does a lifeguard. If you are in physical trouble, it helps to have someone save you (unless you have a good jackknife and are braver than I am). But when you go about saving a country, you often end up in bigger trouble than you started--or, as the unplanned syntax of that sentence suggests, you start bigger trouble. Saving a person--well, the immediate association for me is saving souls, which you can imagine I might have problems with (see: colonialism, missionaries, et al). And help, which may sound innocuous, has its own problematic implications: help and save both put the subject of the verb in the position of power (and no, the subject position is not inherently empowered: when she drowns, she's not too powerful, though it might help if she were saved).

In short, setting out to help or save someone presumes that you know what's best for them, that you can be the agent of their salvation, or even improvement. And yet, to turn to psychology (which can be expanded to social psychology and sociology, but ultimately this post is about a person, so we're not going to go there), it is pretty much clear that, once they are past childhood, people can only save themselves (see: AA, et al).

What can you do, then, if someone is in trouble, and you feel that you must do something? You can try to create the conditions that will enable them to save themselves. This is why humanitarian aid is so essential in a world so riven with inequities. This is why humanitarian aid tied to political agendas is doomed to fail. But like I said, we're talking about a person, not politics.

This spring, S and I have been trying to create the conditions that would enable someone in very big trouble to save herself. We turned our lives upside down. We slighted our kids, we spent money we didn't have, I didn't do work I needed to do. We spent hours...on the phone, in person, talking, being there, negotiating, reframing, checking up, accompanying, comforting. We dealt with crazy people we didn't need to be dealing with. We got really frustrated, but we also got the joy and relief of things going well, which sometimes they did. Throughout, we knew we were doing the right thing, the thing we had to do, and we knew it was very likely that our efforts would fail.

Our efforts have failed. This person is going to have to save herself somewhere else. Everyone is telling us we did everything we could, but they don't need to tell us: we know. And we hope that, in the long run, what we did will make a difference, and maybe it will.

This post had a point, but I think I've forgotten it, in the difficulty of finding the right words. I'm not concerned with us: we're fine, we've been fine all along, right now we're a little tired and frustrated and sad, but we'll finish cleaning the house, and I'll get some work done, and we'll go away next weekend. I'm not that worried about this person either. Either she'll turn it around or she won't. It will be sad if she doesn't, but she's been pretty diligent about burning her bridges and burning out the people who love her. I hope that doesn't sound callous, or rather, I don't care if that sounds callous.

I do feel worried about our society, and this is definitely part of the point. To overcome the effects of childhood abuse and neglect, even with all the resources in the world, is a monumental task, as I've just learned for myself. When I think of all the abused and neglected children, and how many of them have hardly any resources, my heart shivers.

Maybe I'll leave it at that.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Can We Talk About My Feet Some More?

I know: this is turning into the dying blog of whines. But, seriously, you don't want me to blog about the other things that are on my mind (though I did compose a good Nader/Obama/race post in my head the other day, it just never made it to Blogger).

So, as we all recall, there were the fab Born sandals to which I was allergic. Stopped wearing the sandals, itched for a while, and then there remained just a reddened, slightly scaly strip of skin across my foot to remind me of the ordeal.

Found cheap sandals at TJ Maxx: slides, brown, finished leather on the inside (did I mention my theory that some kind of chemical used to tan unfinished leather--you know, the kind of rough raw stuff--is the issue, because I have never been allergic to slides or shoes where the leather touching my feet is finished, i.e. shiny and smooth, and I wear all my shoes over bare feet?).

Wore the sandals for a few days, no problem.

Wore my fabulous orange Liz Claiborne moccasins on a hot sweaty day. Feet sweated a lot.

That night, yes, alas: itching. Massive itching. The reddened strip of skin (where I'd been allergic to the strap of the Borns) was red and inflamed. Some small bumps. More itching. Sometimes no itching. Then itching again.

But here's the mystery: Am I allergic to the fabulous orange Liz Claiborne moccasins, which I've been wearing for weeks now, on bare feet? Seems doubtful. Was it the new sandals? Could be, except I have been carefully observing my feet, and whenever I have been allergic to sandals before (the Bass, the Naots, the Borns), pretty much right after the itching started, a rash appeared in the shape of the sandal strap, and there is no such rash in the shape of the new sandals. These sandals cover a lot more foot than the Born does, and it's not itching on all that foot space, just, mainly, where the Borns were, only a little bit more. So could the sweat from the orange Liz Claiborne flats have triggered a re-outbreak of the rash from the Borns? I tell you, we have a regular medical mystery here. And a lot of itching. And a deep fear for my footwear fashion future.

And now I think I will go read Atul Gawande's article about itching in this week's New Yorker and see if it sheds any light on the matter. But first, I need to scratch.

Root Beer

I have been OBSESSED with root beer for the last several months. I positively CRAVE it. I guess I'm not the only one.

This Morning

You know when you wake up, and nothing's any different from the day before--your friend in the hospital seems to be getting better, the house is still clean and getting cleaner, no news is good news about the girls at camp, the girl at home is delightful, the weather isn't bad, the work is relatively under control--but you just feel blah, when yesterday you felt quite fine? Yeah, it's one of those mornings. I think I'll eat a lot of food.

But in positive crime news, the jury in the scandalous murder trial of the year did the Right Thing and sent the guy away for life. Man, was he guilty!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nothing to Be Done From Here

I just found out that a young (too young) man I know had a heart attack last night and is in an induced coma in the ICU of the hospital where E was born. It's a totally frustrating feeling sitting here in Town, with nothing I can do except stare at my computer to see if more information appears (which it won't, till tomorrow). I did do what I always do which is network: I contacted some well-connected adults I know in No Longer Red State Capital City Suburb to see if they can help out (of course he has no health insurance, being the kind of young man I tend to know). So I can also stare at the computer and see if they respond, which they won't, being the kind of civilized people who don't hang out on their computers in the middle of the night.

And I can do the other thing I always do, in my Quaker Zen unable-to-disbelieve-in-New-Age-mumbo-jumbo way: hold him in the light and send all my energy his way. You could do that too.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hallelujah, Praise the Lord

Teen and tween are at camp.

Pause to appreciate magnitude of achievement.

Let the only-child peace and quiet begin.  (I guess the contractors preclude quiet, but the peace, we are so looking forward to the peace, as soon as we recover.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Question of the Day

If you do the right thing, but deeply resent it, does it count?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Today's Renovation Developments

I got a linen closet! And a skylight in the bathroom!

What Is It About High School?

I'm not going to dissect Judith Warner today. Her usual classist sentimentality and gender anxiety will have the NY Times women crying in their coffee (though I have to say, it just isn't that difficult to get your work done and get a pedicure--or to say the hell with the work and just get the damn pedicure), but she's also onto something with her return to high school.

It's a numerical fact that 25th high school reunions occur when people are in their 40s, right in the middle of--or ripe for--midlife crises. But numbers can't be the only reason half the women I know are yearning for the men who were the boys they knew in high school, or so many escape fantasies bear a distinct resemblance to high school, with its seemingly-blissful combination of relative independence and general lack of responsibilities.

But surrounded as I am by teenagers, I have right in front of me the pain of high school along with the pleasure. Looking for a job, caring for a newborn while trying to go to school, fighting with parents, studying for SATS, worrying about grades and college. Have we forgotten all that?

I haven't. I remember being hopelessly depressed. I remember the night my boyfriend broke up with me and I had one of the worst sunburns of my life--I don't know if I've ever been so distraught. But I also remember driving out to the pond with my friends, music blasting, and being perhaps as happy as I've ever been in my life.

I wonder if one of the reasons the idea of high school appeals today is that back then, pain was so painful, but pleasure was so pleasurable, and each was its own. I see this in the teenagers around me: when they are playing basketball, or listening to music, or laughing with their friends, nothing else exists, and they forget completely about the difficulties and challenges.

Whereas, in your 40s, nothing ever goes away. It's all mixed up, the pleasure and the pain. Even holding a newborn, which I count as one of the most joyful experiences of my life, is fraught with responsibility, the fragility of life, and the big picture. Those of us caught in the everpresent press of children, parents, work, home can be as happy as we can be sad, but we can never fully escape.

There is a certain purity to high school--a cleanness of lines, despite all the messiness--and that, I think, is what we yearn for.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Michelle, Etc.

Being me, I didn't watch Michelle Obama on The View (who watches these things, besides the pundits who spin them?!). But I've read the spin and it sounds like she did what she had to do: walked the fine line between being herself and giving the people what they want. Good for her.

I do think that Michelle (please, let me call her Michelle, we'd be friends if we met, I know we would) is the faultline of American politics, in a way that not even Hillary is. Because with Hillary, there's always a but. I do know people who are passionate about her (OK, one person), but even she has to acknowledge that although Hillary is competent and passionate and all sorts of other good things, there will always be the taint of everything she's been associated with, not to mention the endless triangulation and modification and pandering. In other words--let me try to say this right--I'm quite sure there is a real Hillary there--or maybe five or six real Hillarys--but I'm also quite sure that she's never fully visible.

Whereas Michelle Obama is Michelle Obama: smart Black girl from respectable working-class family who made it to Princeton and Harvard Law, married the cute, smart guy and whipped him into shape (hey, I did that too, but I got a restaurant instead of the White House), worked the mom/career thing, devoted herself to public service, bought some awesome clothes. In other words, I think she's the cat's meow, the bullseye, the best thing in this campaign.

And a lot of people out there hate her for the exact reasons I love her.

I can imagine the conversations I would be having back in No Longer Red State Capital City Suburb. Not with my close friends, but with my acquaintances: the soccer moms, and first grade teachers and neighborhood dads. They wouldn't come out and out and say "She's a smart, strong, liberal Black woman, and I don't like her." But they'd equivocate and mumble and talk about putting her foot in her mouth and leaving her kids home with their grandmother and not respecting her own husband, and they'd come up with all sorts of reasons that they weren't quite sure. They'd be the same reasons they weren't quite sure, so they'd say, about Barack, but they'd be stronger with Michelle. And I'd listen to them and think, how can we possibly live on the same planet, let alone vote in the same country.

And there's the challenge.

What I Am Today

Feeling better, thanks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jerry, Etc.

Way back in the day, between, say, 1980 and 1995, I used to go see the Grateful Dead quite a fair amount. I never sold tofu sandwiches in the parking lot, thank god, and never really went on tour, though I was known to see more than one show in a week, but I definitely saw the Grateful Dead more times than I could name or count. I was at famous Dead shows, like Lewiston and that show in Hartford where they played "Saint Stephen" after not playing it for a million years. I was at lame shows in the lame years. I saw them after Jerry woke up from the coma when they were transcendent again. I saw indoor shows and outdoor shows and New Year's shows and Chinese New Year's shows. Sometimes I would go years between shows, but then a ticket would appear, and how can you turn down a ticket to a Dead show?

So I have lots of good memories of seeing the Grateful Dead, almost all good memories, I think, it really was an enormous amount of fun, but I have a special place in my heart for the Jerry Garcia Band. I only ever saw the Jerry Garcia Band in one place, and we went back to that place last month for the first time in maybe 20 years to take M and E to see KT Tunstall, and there is a profound commentary on the shape of my life in that (the place looked exactly the same, down to the aging hippie usher who must have been there when we saw the Jerry Garcia Band, and there is probably more profound commentary on something in that).

Seeing the Dead was always a production. There were those tofu sandwiches, of course, and the twirling dervishes, the Chinese dragons on Chinese New Year and the trek to get to the show, wherever it was, the socializing and meeting up (pre-cell phones), and we'll leave out the rest of it for the sake of my mother.

But seeing the Jerry Garcia Band was always kind of relaxed, even more pure in a certain kind of you-had-to-be-there way. They weren't as great as the Grateful Dead, of course, but they actually were as great in their own way. Just Jerry up there doing his laid-back Jerry thing, and when we saw him he had these awesome Black Amazon back-up singers, and the songs I always think of when I think of the Jerry Garcia Band are "Second That Emotion" and "How Sweet It Is" (yep, The Miracles and JT himself). He used to just loopily and gently rock out those songs, with the Black Amazons wailing away behind him, and it was just awesome.

Anyway, I've been thinking about Jerry since we went to see KT Tunstall, and today in the car I was singing "Your Smiling Face," because I just read a novel with a bunch of James Taylor in it, so I've kind of been in James Taylor mode, and then M asked me to put on the radio because the softball team cheer was about to get stuck in her head (I was glad it wasn't because of my singing), so I turned the radio on right into the middle of "Second That Emotion," and I thought "James Taylor/Jerry Garcia, yes!" and it was just one of those awesome moments you only get if you spent half your life (OK, at this point a third) seeing the Grateful Dead.

(I'm sure people who are into other bands have such moments for their bands too, and more power to them, but I'm happy with my Grateful Dead moments. Which I suppose in this case could also be called a James Taylor moment. Though I'm not sure I'd want to call it a Jerry Garcia/James Taylor/KT Tunstall moment, though then again KT Tunstall was pretty fun, so why not?)

(And can I just say for the record that I never wore tie-dye or Birkenstocks to a Dead show? In fact, and I know this may be hard to believe, I have never in my life worn either tie-dye or Birkenstocks. Though my kids have had endless amounts of tie-dye. Then again, they've never seen the Grateful Dead. Though they have seen KT Tunstall. Except that E didn't see so much of it, and she wouldn't even wake up for "Suddenly." Which tells you something about how ridiculous it is to take a small child to a rock concert. Which could send me off on a long riff about the little kids at Dead shows back in the day, but it's really time for this post to come to an end.)

What I Am

Worn out.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Grownup Thing

I've felt like a grownup* on and off for, oh, the last twenty years or so. But it's always been in a kind of ironic, out-of-body-experience sort of way. Like: hey, look at me, I'm wearing a suit and high heels and chatting with strangers at a meeting, how very grownup of me!

But in the last month or so, there's been a distinct shift in my experience of grownup. I am now fully inhabiting my own grownupitude in a way I think I never have before. This is partly a result of M turning 12 and deciding that I am, in large part, useless (I know you still love me sweetie, and I'm so glad you wanted me to go on the field trip, but you've got to admit it, you think I'm pretty lame a lot of the time). It also has to do with the presence of a bonafide teenager in the house.

So despite my affinity for fictional teenagers, I find myself uttering, with absolutely no irony, lines like the following:

"You're right, I don't get it, and I don't care."

"Don't even think you're going to leave the house in that shirt."

"We can continue this conversation if you want, but I'm not going to change my mind."

And the twinned grownup responses par excellence: "Because I said so." and "Because I'm the grownup."

And, you know, I am.

*Grownup? Grown up? Grown-up? I really should know this!

Monday, June 16, 2008

California Joins the Club

Oh my god, how incredibly amazing is it to see Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon getting married at the top of the NY Times home page? (If you're not so up on your lesbian history, try here and here and here and see if you don't get all weepy!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Image Says a Thousand Words

I'm not sure I can even read this article about sexism in media coverage of the Clinton campaign because the photo that tops it is so mind-boggling. No head, just chastely covered boobs? I wish I could think it was ironic. (The thing that boggled me most when I finally forced myself to read Judith Warner's return to blogging was the plethora of comments that thanked her for being the first person to say that the coverage of Clinton was sexist. I'm not even going to bother to link to the ZILLION women who have called the media out on this already, nor am I going to take Warner to task for ignoring them, because, basically, she has a chutzpah and belief in the importance of her own opinions that I can only envy, though she is dead wrong on Sex and the City, as per the one commenter who pointed out that we KNOW Sex and the City is ridiculous, we just enjoy a little ridiculous escapism once in a while, and, in fact, I think I will take her to task for the fact that her belief in her own intelligence is exceeded only by her lack of belief in the rest of us.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


When I started writing this post in my head, it was going to be a wasteland of shredded concrete out of which one flower had just bloomed. In other words, the context was vast bleakness broken by a single beam of light.

Except then I thought about it, and really there are many flowers and beams of light. In other words, lots of things are great.

M and E are fabulous and having stellar ends of the year. The contractors are moving ahead with dramatic speed and they're very nice--and really, we are only disrupted by the noise, the dust, and the giant plastic sheet hanging across the living room, which sounds quite horrible as I type it out, but isn't so bad. S has a sous chef. I have some recent work triumphs (even though it doesn't feel like it). It's summer in East Town with all the spray park, basketball, barbecues, stoop-sitting, and all-round neighborhood outdoor socializing that implies.

Truly there are only two big problems, and they are really big, and in their bigness making it hard for me to get much of anything done in any other realm, but both will be resolved in fairly short order, though I'm not quite sure how, and then life will go on.

So, in fact, the day's accomplishment does not have much figural substance to it (see flowers and beams of light), but it is still a major accomplishment.

We have decided where to have the bat mitzvah.

(Oh, you want to know where? At the restaurant down the street. Which does mean there will have to be a B list. But none of you will be exiled to it. So no worries.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Now I Get It

One of the things I did this winter was join the crowds and start reading YA literature, though I also stopped reading YA literature, though then again, really I didn't, as this post is about this weekend's YA reading.

I'm not quite sure if I read Gossip Girl or Dairy Queen first, but basically around about the same time I was reading the first several Gossip Girls and both of Catherine Gilbert Murdock's D.J. Schwenk books. Murdock's books are just great. In fact, they are so great that you can't really say why they're great. It's character, plot, background, writing, values, just everything seamlessly coming together into greatness (including chapter construction: she writes some of the best chapters I can think of: situation, semi-resolution, leave you hanging so you have to go right on to the next chapter: really, they are just about flawless).

Then there's Gossip Girl. Oh dear, what to say... Well, it's important to remember that I have both a fairly insatiable desire for trash and a clear limit for how far I'll go, both in trashiness and, perhaps more importantly, in repetition. Gossip Girl is at once tedious and compelling, like an entire bag of M&Ms (unlike an entire box of good chocolates, or a small handful of M&Ms). The same things happen over and over (mainly designer label name drops and romantic machinations), but there's enough suspense (mainly of the will-they-ever-have-sex type) to keep you reading to find out what happens. Even though nothing ever does. Except I think eventually it might have, but I stopped reading after the first three books. (M has kept going. M has been reading Gossip Girl and Murdock along with me, as well as piles of Gossip Girl imitations, food writing, YA historical fiction, and whatever else she can get her hands on, so long as it's not fantasy. In other words: her mother's daughter, in this as in so many other ways.)

So I'd stopped reading Gossip Girl (skimmed Alice Hoffman's newest--ugh; fell in love once again with Jhumpa Lahiri's prose, but ultimately found the book a little tedious). Then we went to New York and Aunt M took the girls on their ritual buy-a-book excursion to Barnes & Noble, and M chose the Gossip Girls prequel, It Had to Be You (E chose some kind of fairy godmother's guide to how to be a princess, but my daughters are on the swim team and rock climb and know more about Elizabeth Cady Stanton than you do, so there!).

Anyway, life's been a little stressful lately, and escape was the weekend priority, so when M was done with her book (about twelve hours after she bought it, ten of which she spent sleeping), I picked it up. And I figured it out! Gossip Girls is 90210!

OK, I know you're thinking DUH. Elite L.A. high school morphs into elite NY high school: how obvious could that be? And I will admit that I did not figure out that obvious aspect until later. But where Gossip Girls is really 90210 is in the Nate-Blair-Serena triangle which is the Dylan-Brenda-Kelly triangle, and either you know exactly what I'm talking about and you totally get it (Sandra, are you out there?), or you don't know and don't care. Which is fine. Because the real point, of course, is about literary conventions and their transmutation.

Literary Convention 1: Trajectories of Desire

See, here's the thing: in 90210, Dylan is truly an object of desire, that is, he is the bad boy (see James Dean, Literary Convention 2). Brenda wants him, Kelly wants him, you want him.

But in Gossip Girls, Nate is a total cipher. There is no reason to want him, except that he's gorgeous and rich, and the narrative needs an object of desire. This is of course the nature of Gossip Girl: its fundamental signifier is the gorgeous, rich cipher. But Nate's cipherhood also frees up the Nate-Blair-Serena triangle to be explicitly Sedgwickian (or perhaps I should say Castleian). Clearly, with Nate as a cipher, the primary trajectory of desire becomes the one between Blair and Serena, and it's even instantiated in their kiss in the hot tub. But when implicit desire is surfaced that explicitly, it too becomes a cipher, bleached of any political or even erotic significance. Which again is the essence of Gossip Girl.

Literary Convention 3: The Blonde Heroine, The Dark Heroine
(If you're wondering what happened to Literary Convention 2, it's buried in the previous paragraph.)

Pace Scott and Eliot (that would be Sir Walter and George), the blonde heroine is the object of all desire, and the dark heroine is the smart, insightful one who suffers--and who gets the reader's empathy, but not the guy (that is, assuming you've got the properly constructed reader). So in Serena and Blair--as in Kelly and Brenda--you've got blonde and dark, but I'm thinking it's all messed up, only I'm not quite sure. Serena is the golden girl object of desire to a parody (see Dan and Jenny, not to mention Chuck and the entire book). And yet, Serena is also sympathetic, and, in the prequel at least, good. Blair is darkly conniving...hmm, conniving is not quite right. Narcissistic and manipulative. And gets the guy. Even though we know she shouldn't, because we know he belongs with Serena (see Dylan and Kelly!), and yet why does Serena even want him, he's so not good enough for her. But the point is, unlike in 90210, the blonde heroine loses, yet still has her all-powerful self, which means she never really loses, while the dark heroine wins, yet is still her unpleasant, if highly intelligent, self, and the qualities of blondeness and darkness are dispersed all over the place. Which means, again, that Gossip Girl, in a postmodernly ultimately referential yet referentially undermining way, leaches out any and all available narrative coherence, leaving only barely-tethered icons, and a lot of designer labels.

Last words 1: Everything leads back to 90210.

Last words 2: Imagine what could be accomplished if I harnessed all this brain power to the challenge of peace in the Middle East.

Art Travel

I think we're going to have to head back to New York soon. We went to Manhattan this past weekend to see this, but looks like another trip will be necessary for this.

Why It's Good to Be E Today

Because the town spray park is part of her school playground and they're keeping it on all day and having a sprinkler day, rotating every class through. Think of her at 8:30 and 12:30, blissfully wet with all her friends.

It wasn't so bad to be M yesterday: she got to watch Hairspray in an air-conditioned media room.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Technological Reading

I saw my first Kindle the other day on the bus. It's an attractive little contraption--the one I saw had a pretty leather cover, and was about the size of a book. The type was quite big, which bothered me (not enough to read on a page), but I asked the owner and it turned out you can make the type several sizes, including one that I liked, so that seemed like a good feature (changeable type), especially for the elderly and people with vision issues.

What I didn't like, though, was the way, when you pushed the button to go to the next page, the entire page of type dissolved and then was replaced by the new page. Visually, this means that, for a moment or two, there's nothing to look at, and your reading flow is completely disrupted. I'm sure one's eyes would adjust to it--like my children's eyes see nothing wrong with quick jump cuts, and I'm sure I wouldn't either if I watched enough Disney and MTV, not that I want to.

But that dissolve figured, for me, a bigger issue about the physiology of reading. When I read, my eyes are constantly in motion. Often they jump to the next page, especially in a tense moment, even when I try not to. Sometimes they skim; sometimes they go back and read again. This eye motion is often accompanied by page motion: flipping back to see if I really understood or missed something, flipping forward to see how long the chapter will be. I'm not as bad as E, who almost always reads the last page very early on, but there is definitely a non-linear quality to my reading, and I would argue that I am not the only one, that reading a physical book which makes all its pages available to you at once is an endeavor that invites, indeed, almost insists upon, subverting the linearity that is its ostensible structure.

By only showing you one page at a time, the Kindle puts an end to the potentiality of this linear subversion (think page flipping). If this argument sounds like Nicholson Baker's argument about card catalogs, well, it is: we're looking at another computer-based substitution of binarism (which is at the root of everything computer) for serendipity, with all the losses and gains entailed therein. Unlike Baker (I work really hard not to be a Luddite), I don't want to make categorical statements about whether this is good or bad. For kids with reading issues and/or ADHD, it might be great, and for some people it might be the difference between not reading and reading, which also would be good. But for me, it's bad. I like my reading process, it works for me, and, for as long as I can, I'll be sticking with books.

(You know, I might be crossing Nicholson Baker, whom I quite adore, with Sven Birkerts, whom I quite loathe, on the Luddite factor. I read the Baker article a long time ago, and he may very well have taken a stance similar to mine--there are a lot of benefits to computer databases but there's a big loss in doing away with card catalogs--but I don't have time to figure it out.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cell Phones and Vaccinations

Two reasons cell phones are like vaccinations:

- You have to keep getting new ones.

- You can be all self-righteous and not give them to your children, but only because all the other children have them.

One reason cell phones are not like vaccinations:

- We got along fine for millions of years without them.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Construction: Day 2

1 dumptruck full of debris

1 (purposeful) hole in the roof

1 (not-so-purposeful) hole in our bedroom ceiling

1 sheet of plastic hung across the living room to block off the front and attic stairs

many blown fuses

many piles of lumber

too much noise to work at home

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Today I was enraged by a difficult individual in my personal life and some bad decision making (or potential decision making) in my work life, but what really put me in a total and utter rage is the cost of college. But not for the reasons you might expect.

See, I spend a lot of time with poor, Black teenagers. You can call them African-American, low-income, urban, inner-city, disadvantaged, marginalized, whatever, but the bottom line is that they are poor and Black. And I could go on about how awesome they are, or I could go on about how totally frustrating and impossible they are, but, you know, I could go on about the three privileged white girls I live with and how awesome, frustrating, and impossible they are.

But here's the thing, these teenagers I know? In every aspect of their lives, they face the most insane obstacles. Their life stories are like bad made-for-TV movies, except they're true. Just about every single one of them. And, yes, they make some of their obstacles for themselves, and some of them make a lot of obstacles for themselves. And some of them can't get past the obstacles: the violence, the parents, the temptations, the schools. But some of them can. They work really hard, and they get a lot of support, and they're determined, and they make it through whatever they need to make it through, and they come out the other side of being a teenager, and they're ready to move on, and to move on in a substantive way in our society, you basically need college.

And you know what? College is expensive. Not just Harvard, not just State U, but any college, because not only do you have tuition, but you have books, and when you're in school you can't work as much, though lots of them do, but if you work as much, then you have trouble with school, and basically this makes me INSANE WITH RAGE when I stop to think about it. Which mainly I don't, because the thing about life is you just need to get on with it and deal with what's in front of you, but today I let myself open up to just how incredibly fucked up this whole capitalist system is, and how it's grinding these kids to a halt, just when they are ready to move forward, and, well, I have to get in bed and read a stupid novel now, because this has just been too much of a day.