Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Despereaux Fix

Writing in the XX Factor on Slate, Emily Bazelon addresses a question we've been pondering over here. It is: Why are kids movies so scary? And why is Despereaux scary, too?

When my kids first saw the trailer for Depereaux, they were transfixed. I told them when the movie opened I'd go see it and decide if it was OK for them. Before I could, my husband logged onto the Despereaux web site and after watching a few scenes, my 4-year-old daughter came to me with a miserable look on her face and said, "I think I'll wait until I'm 7 to see Despereaux."

Bazelon points out that many movies for 4-7-year-olds all seem to have some kind of terrifying element. Not just sad, like Bambi, but terrifying. Why is that? Is there a belief in the movie industry that kids need more titillation now then when we were kids because they see so much more so much sooner. But they see so much so young because that's what's there to see and if it's cold and there's not much to do, do you go to the movies and grin and bear the scary bits? Why do they have to be shown so much so soon? Why is the excitement and suspense ante up so high?

I know this is a little bit like asking why can't we all just get along, but, come to think of it, why can't we? besides, the world is big and confusing and plenty scary for 4-year-olds as it is. It's a fine line between teasing that fear (as in fairy tales) and exploiting it and it's a long time since I've seen even an ad for a movie that seems to walk the right side of that line. Maybe Toy Story? In any case, for the time being, it's cupcakes and Dan Zanes for us.

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

She's a Kennedy, and She's Not Like Us

In the Washington Post, Anne Glusker argues that the response to Caroline Kennedy asking very nicely for that Senate seat is just like the response women who once had careers get when they try to go back to the workforce after taking time off with their kids. You know what? That's total malarky.

Yes, women trying to return to the work force after taking several years off have a terrible time finding work. Yes, they are often forced to take pay cuts or jobs lower on the ladder then their experience warrants. I'm all for having a debate on work-life balance and trying to change work-place policies to make them more amenable to family life for both women and men. But I don't think we should confuse the problems women face going back to work with a cry of "Enough!" when it comes to one nice woman from a good family. Because the work-life problem is a big one, but it has nothing to do with Caroline Kennedy.

Caroline Kennedy put together a reasonable working life writing books and working for the New York City public schools. This presumably gave her a flexible enough schedule to care for her children. Now she wants to enter public life in the legislative branch. Certainly she has an enviable professional network and has done some very good work. But does that mean she should get the seat?

When Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate, she did what she always does. She worked. As a partner in a law firm in Arkansas, she had to negotiate, like senators do. As First Lady, she learned the ins and outs of the legislative process the hardest way imaginable, in front of the cameras and as "the wife." And as a candidate, she went on that listening tour upstate and probably sat through 7,000 chicken dinners. Then she won the seat. Sure, she had a famous name, but she also earned it.

Galusker would have us believe that it's wrong thinking to argue that because Kennedy didn't follow the "straight and narrow" she can't do the job and just because she hasn't done something similar doesn't mean she can't. Well, no. She might be able to do the job, but that's not the point. The point is why is her hat in the ring in the first place?

I think it's gret that someone in Kennedy's position wants to do public service. It's a hard choice -- easier to make if you're wealthy, sure -- but it's still not an easy life. But why is Kennedy asking to start at the very top? And why isn't she running in an actual election? There are elections in New York. She could lay the ground work for one right now and she could run for any number of jobs. But instead Kennedy chose to ask for the high visibility seat that once belonged to her uncle, and without ever having run for elected office, she is being considered for this job primarily because of her family.

Certainly being the daughter of John Kennedy has been both a blessing and burden, but, let's be clear: without her name, she's a smart woman with a good address who went to the right schools and kept working when she had kids in the way that worked for her. With her father's name and history, she's a senate candidate. Now, really, is that like you and me?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tom Cruise-2

Last night we watched Tropic Thunder and it reminded me of what's so easy to forget about Tom Cruise -- he can be a mad genius. His future is clearly in these mad, mad roles. If you haven't seen Tropic Thunder, you owe it to yourself to have a look-see. If only for old, mad Tom.

The No Vaccinating Problem

This piece from Jezebel about a recent outbreak of the measles in San Diego -- an outbreak initiated by some Whole Foods shoppers -- almost gets at one of my main objections to not vaccinating. In Jezebel and on pandagon (the original article Jezebel sites), they point out the weird connection between being opposed to vaccinating and an undermining of feminism. To wit: if your child gets the measles, the child will have to be quarantined for three weeks, which is OK if you're not a working mother, but if you do work, it's not so good. This gets at the problem of attachment parenting and the strange elevation/de-valuing of women that goes on there, but that's not my point here. No, the point is that Jezebel also quotes Amanda Marcotte writing at pandagon saying that those who have the privilege not to vaccinate are able to do so and trust their children are safe because everyone else vaccinates. So they don't vaccinate to make a political point.

But the making of a political point is not the worst of it, to my mind. The worst of it is that parents who choose not to vaccinate are able do so and not worry too much about measles or whooping cough or any other disease that used to kill or maim children, because they --self- righteously ---reject the purported risk. But in doing so, they rely on other parents to take on whatever risk they're rejecting (even if the risk is highly dubious). It's a terrible kind of selfish my-kid-first-ism. From where I sit, not vaccinating is either a privilege of wealth and access or a burden of poverty. It's not like I didn't worry about vaccinating my kids, I did. I worried, and I wondered, but still, if you're choosing not to vaccinate, I'm hard pressed to come up with a reasonable or ethical reason for the choice.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Do We Really Care About Conservatives?

What made my head explode this morning? This New York Times opinion piece title: "An Emissions Plan Conservatives Could Warm To."

Because really who cares about what will please conservatives? I'm all for open debate between disagreeing sides. I'm not the most progressive of progressives. I'm good with incentives to do good (because we all know self-interest works). And I'm sure there are some smart conservatives out there (Andrew Sullivan is a conservative). But still. After eight years of conservative rule and 16 (or 30) years of undo influence on economic policy, I think it's fair to say conservatives have said enough. What with the collapse of the free markets, a crumbling infrastructure, and a fundamentally failed foreign policy, conservatives may now scuttle off to their tiny little think tanks, hang their heads and weep for what they've done to this country. Weep. Long and hard.

An emissions plan conservatives could warm to. As if.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The No-Sleep Situation


I'm in one of those stretches where I'm not sleeping. Sure, there are my kids, who aren't the best sleepers in the world and regularly keep me up -- but it's not just them. I'm just not sleeping so well. I need to exercise more, but I'm getting over a pulled hamstring (turns out I'm the kind of person who can think about running and get injured). I guess I could do some relaxation exercise, but I'm too tense. Did I even have to write that? So what can I do? I'll simply wait for the exhaustion to do its work; hopefully, tonight's the night. In the meantime, I leave you with a picture of the very, very intense cupcakes that I made with my kids today. Because what do you do when you're too tired to think? Bake. Naturally.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Swedish Christmas

Here's what I learned today about the Swedish celebration Christmas.

You celebrate Christmas Eve.
Red cabbage is very good.
Hot spiced wine dotted with almonds and raisins and spiked with aquavit is a parent's perfect bug juice.
Herring. So many don't like it and I don't know why.

I learned several other things, but this next thing is the most important: Some Swedes have indoor swings. I think this could be a traditional Swedish household item for those long, dark Scandinavian nights. Or may be it's simply well-adapted apartment living. Either way, it's genius.

Really, there's nothing not to love about a Swedish Christmas in New York.

Here I Go

So just lasr night I blogged about how politics feels too serious to blog about so you know, you just know, that now I'm going to blog about some current events thing. And yes it's the cars. Today in the Times there's a story about a GM plant in Ohio closing. It made SUVs. At one point, it made 20,000 marginally safe, gas-guzzling, road hogging SUVs a month. I feel badly that the people at the plant lost their jobs -- "It was a good ride," one said, "I just wish it would've lasted." But, really, how could cars that get, like, what, 12 miles to the gallon be a good long-term business investment?

From the very beginning oil has been a limited resource of which the US doesn't have much. Putting aside the environmental impact of cars that burn fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow, assuming, as the decision makers at GM did, the gas party would last forever was just dumb. You don't really have to have an in-depth knowledge of the car business to grasp that. OK, they were focused on short-term profits. Of course, the country had an unquenchable (and indefensible) desire for SUV, but doesn't it take a genius to have recognized that there would be an end. So now tomorrow has come. What a surprise.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Glasses: Update

I found them. When my son Elliot was watching "the car seat song" on youtube (AKA, Taking the Long Way by the Dixie Chicks) I saw that they were lying at the foot of my desk chair. That means they must have been somewhere on the desk and in Elliot's way. Glasses on a desk. Who'd-a-thunk-it!

Political Talk

I'm finding it harder to blog politics these days. Politics just feels too serious. The talk is not who's up or who's down in the polls or what crazy thing Sarah Palin said. Instead it's how bad the economic crisis is and how deep the Madoff scandal goes and how Pakistan itself can be construed as a weapon of mass destruction and how the auto workers are blamed for everything but the bankers get away with a free ride and an easy buck. Again. Then there are the war crimes. Will there be trials? Will leaders be held accountable for dismantling the justice system in the name of security? All this feels too big to blog about. Sure, I blog about some of it, but it's not easy to be an easy-writer and snap-judger when tens of thousands losing their jobs or the environmental crisis getting pushed onto the back burner and who knows what terrorist attack is a year away.Being a snap-judger on these things doesn't feel all that, I don't know, good. Plus, I want to continue to adore Obama and his pragmatism, even with the Rick Warren business. This isn't to say I won't blog politics, because I will. But it is to say that it may take a while for me to find my groove in the midst of all these crises and the serious political business that attends them. I'm betting I will find it, it's just not all that immediate. And besides, it's almost Christmas! Happy Holidays everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

About Tom Cruise

I love this kind of quote.

"But note a curious fact about his career: It maps perfectly onto the 25-year bull market in stocks that, like Cruise, is starting to show its age. Nascent in the early '80s, emergent in 1983, dominant in the '90s, suspiciously resilient in the '00s, and, starting in 2005, increasingly prone to alarming meltdowns. For both Cruise and the Dow Jones, more and more leverage is required for less and less performance. Place Cruise next to Nicholson, Newman, and Tracy, and he is a riddle. Place him next to Reagan, and he is not so confounding at all."

The article is here.

Audio Books

Hats off to Sue Dickman over at A Life Divided for her excellent post on audio books. I had checked out a little on blog-life (having been taken over by kindergarten concerns for much of December) but now I'm checking back in and I feel like I just got a huge present. The huger present would be baking some of those skinny peanut cookies, which I'm nervous about doing because I know someone, a small child, with a very bad peanut allergy. To be clear: I'm nervous about doing this even though the child is out of town until early Janury. That, I think, is a problem. Maybe listening to audio books will solve it. Thanks, Sue!

WHY?

Why is anyone interviewing Sarah Palin? It's like the worst game of musical chairs ever -- the music just. won't. stop. And here I am making it go a little longer, because I just can't help myself because it's just amazing how someone who says she's all about self-reliance can take not one bit of responsibility for anything. Amazing.

Glasses

About a month ago, I got glasses for just walking around. About a week ago, I finally got used to wearing them. I started to really like wearing them. I found my eyes felt better when I wore them. Do you know where I'm going? Last night I was rushing around doing something and I took them off.

Somewhere.

You'd think in a four room apartment I'd be able to find them pretty easily. In fact, not so much. Truth be told, I might have to de-clutter. Not good.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stocks

Tonight I did something I've only done two maybe three times before. I made stock. And I made it with the carcass of a chicken I roasted on Friday and then made chicken salad from today. I mean, I used the whole freaking chicken. Plus I have this weird pride that my fridge is almost empty because we've actually eaten the food in it. And there are beets in there that I'm going to roast tomorrow. I did buy some salad greens that went bad virtually overnight, but I also laid in some lentil soup, which makes two kinds of soup in my freezer, not counting the stock. Really, the snow has me all a-twitter with the cooking and the mixing and the straining and the making. And Wednesday or Thursday I'm going to make bread with my kids. Raisin bread from the River Cottage Family Cookbook. I've made two recipes from that book and both have been sub-par, but if I'm baking bread with two four-year-olds, I have to expect less than stellar results. And wouldn't someone who makes stock take that less than stellar bread and make with it bread pudding? What's happened to me? Who knew that cooking was really just a lesson in resilience?

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's the Money, Honey

Paul Krugman has something to say today, something to which we should all attend. In his Op-Ed, he points out that the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme really wasn't so different from what the financial industry as a whole has been doing these last twenty years. Michael Lewis describes just what that was in his excellent article on the end of Wall Street as we know. (The kicker's a dream, though I did spend a good chunk of the middle trying to reconstruct myself just how short selling works.) In any case, Krugman makes a very clear, very important point about money and culture and it is this:

"I believe, is that there’s an innate tendency on the part of even the elite to idolize men who are making a lot of money, and assume that they know what they’re doing."

Yes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Late Posting

I didn't get to blog yesterday -- I criss crossed the city twice, got a haircut, read about the A-bomb in last week's New Yorker, got invested in Chi Running, and ran around like a lady with a new haircut at Christmas time. Now, I've got to take care of stuff before getting to the kiddos' school holiday shindigs. Sorry for the lack of posts. But one quick question: Is anyone else surprised at what's happening to Fabio on Top Chef?

Note: I did write a longish post about the Torture Report and today's Times editorial about it, but I feel like it's too serious to write about quickly.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Shuffle

I finally used my Shuffle --the iPod Shuffle my brother got me, that is. Since I decided to work yesterday, it was clearly the morning when I had to, had to, had to figure out how to get my music from iTunes to the shuffle. I know, some of you are thinking it's a plug-n-play kind of thing, but, you know, I've never been a plug-n-play kind of girl. I'm more plug and wonder if it's really ready to play or is the green light just some kind of pretend green light and if I turn it on will it play the thing that I want or how will I know what I want or if I play it, will it make me deaf? And yet, yesterday I overcame all that and plugged in. Now, I'd loaded up my shuffle with two sets of music. The first was a CD compiled by Louis for his wedding to Nicole -- they're the couple I actually married. The second set were songs most of which I have long coveted but never owned and finally, gleefully downloaded. You know, these are the songs that stop me in my tracks in a mall or make me turn up the volume in the car. Even the ones I own (Madonna's Don't Tell Me) still make me do all that. So, if you were to listen to my shuffle and a really actually fundamentally cool song came on, some kind of world music thing with a dance beat, you could bet that that would be from Louis' disc. If something like, say, Elton John's Tiny Dancer were to swell up? You guessed it, the white girl geeking out. Which is to say, I'd like Louis to make more CDs for me and if not actual CDs then at least a few song lists to live to. Because I love Elton John, but sometimes, you've got to break it down and bust it out.

And here's a special Thank You to my brother Louis for getting me the gadget which I'd think a lot about but never actually buy. It made my Couch-to-5K outdoor experience quite excellent.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Money. The Failure. The Web?

I have a hard time sticking with stuff when I read online. I have to force myself to focus, attend, finish. Often I wander off in the middle and think about recipe books I should consult or that book about deregulation (I think that's what it's about) I still want to read or whether or not I'm going to blog about how I still don't quite get short selling. But today, I made myself finish reading this post on the Daily Kos. I got to it from (where else?) Sullivan, and it begins with a quote from an article in Harper's that maybe I want to go read. (Per the Kos post it's not yet online). So I'm reading and it's about the debt and how badly the Bush administration has mangled things and then it's about propoganda and how those in power talk about how things happen and then it gets to its point: The failure of the government to manage the chaos of our country has created the potential for more democratic discussion. I read this and start to get that familiar stirring deep inside, the thing that signals maybe I feel hope? Maybe I'm a little less cynical? Maybe I'll find a way to get up and get involved?

I read on and learn that that democratic discussion isn't going to happen between people or in assembly halls or church basement or classrooms. No. It's going to happen on the Web. And I just want to hang my head because a blogger writing about how the democratic discussion is going to happen online is, in the end, just writing so much self-referential chin music.

Sure we can discuss away online, and more people than can fit on the New York Times or the Daily Beast or even Huffington Post can join in. And then? Doesn't more democratic discussion have to happen through talking out loud to other people and then to matter shouldn't it make us act? I mean, Obama didn't win just because of all those words and all that content online. He won because there were people all over the country knocking on doors and taking people to the polls. Discussion led to action. Sure, it also led to a lot of web sites and lordy knows I love the web and the blogging thing. But, really, the whole shebang can't be about the web. It just can't. It's too depressing. Isn't it?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Not Quite Cream of Wheat

Lately I've been craving cream of wheat. Serious cream of wheat. Like, white cream of wheat made with milk with a river of melted butter running through it and sugar on top. A deep river of butter. But here's the thing: If I made that bowl of cream of wheat, I'd be hungry five minutes later, and I'd be uncomfortable all day. All that lactose if you know what I mean. So I don't make it. Then tonight, for dinner, I made quinoa, corn and spinach soup from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Soup book. Mostly I made it because I found a thing of quinoa I bought months ago, and because I'd just gotten two ears of corn at Whole Foods even though it's December. (My son loves it.) And you know what? It had a grainy consistency that almost totally scratched by Cream of Wheat itch. I say almost because there was no butter. But I also made chocolate shortbread today, so that'll have to take care of the butter part.

Good thing I re-started my Couch-to-5K training. I'd stopped for a sore knee and fully recovered, I'm starting again. Truly, this is the heart of Saturday night.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Auto Thing

I can't believe the whole auto industry bailout fiasco. I mean, I don't know a thing about it, but I can't believe Republicans are blaming unions for not cutting wages or benefits (and I bet you 14 billion dollars it's the benefits that people are really worried about) by whatever date they say without demanding any cut in the compensation to the CEOs or the uppermost level of management.

According the Elizabeth Kolbert's Talk of the Town piece in the The New Yorker (12/8, and no the first "the" is not a typo), the head of Ford, who made 20 million dollars in 2007, swhen he was asked if he'd take a dollor for his salary next year s aid he was comfortable with his compensation level. Great. Did talks break down because of that? Not so much.

Sure, bank presidents should be forced to take one dollar in salary, or at least cap their salaries at, like, a million dollars, which is about the same to them. But bailout burnout doesn't mean the Republicans then get to blame workers for the failure of overpaid management or, more to the point, the failure of this country to enact any kind of comprehensive health plan in the last 40 years. It's really unbelievable. Who are these people?

A Day Away & Milk

Last night my brother emailed me because I hadn't posted anything since Wednesday. Well, I had to go to Philadelphia and while there I didn't have a chance to post, but I did get the chance to go to a 5:40 movie. Just going at that hour was delicious and guilt inducing. Was it really OK to just sit in the dark and watch a movie at 5:40? Not only was it, but I saw Milk, which is a movie about becoming yourself--and in Harvey Milk's case, becoming yourself at 40. I love that.

Here's Andrew Solomon's take on the film, which is right and moving, except for the kicker which says at its best the gay rights movement is holy. I don't think the gay rights movement at its best is holy. I don't think any movement that identifies injustice and intolerance is holy. I think such movements are themselves quintessentially human. Contradictory as Solomon says, but simply human. You don't get god points for finding the best part of yourself --the part that acknowledges limits and yearns to expand. As much as I liked the movie, and as appropriate as it is for this particular moment, here's the thing I didn't like. There were no women. I mean, one woman--Milk's campaign manager. But there's this kicky scene when Cleave Jones, a young protege of Milk, calls two friends and they call two friends and so on and so on and they are all men. That's the thing about the gay rights movement, it's so male. So it goes.

There was one other woman in the movie: Anita Bryant, who I swear is a dead ringer for --or at least progenirator of - Sarah Palin. In any case, I recommend Milk with my highest 5 hanky rating.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Baking

Last night after Max & Ruby my son Elliot decided to make a cake. He used gravel, water, green foam soap and chocolate syrup. Then, he wanted to use the standing mixer, you know, to mix the batter. I said no. Ever resourceful, he asked for the immersion blender. I looked at him, I looked at the "batter," I thought, 'How bad could it be?' Only -- can you guess? -- I forgot about the gravel.

Political Interests

The other day on Politico there was a story about why progressives are upset with Obama. Apparently, he's too centrist. Actually, the story was about "liberals" being upset with Obama. I guess I flipped it to progressives because maybe it sounded fringier to me, or maybe because I consider myself a liberal but I'm not upset with Obama's appointments. Not that I know so much to be upset, but I can work myself up into an uneducated rage as well as the next guy. And if only I were Joe the Plumber I could get a book deal for it.

In any case, Frank Rich made a good case for why everyone should stop weeping with joy over Obama's smarty pants cabinet, at least when it comes to economics, seeing as some smarty pants economists (like Clintonite-I-didn't-make-a-mistake Robert Rubin) kind of got us into this mess. Then again, Paul Volker, not Mr. Rubin, is heading up the economic clean-up team. Got the message, Mr. Rich. I'm no longer reflexively cheerleading. But I'm not weeping into my fair trade coffee, either. I'm not the first to make the point I'm about to make: Obama never hid his pragmatism from the public. Obama, like a good politician, is most interested in getting done what he needs and wants to get done. And so, stories about how people are upset with appointments are jsut so much handwringing and foot stamping and, frankly, I get enough of the latter with my 4-year-olds. All told, though, it has me a little off the news. I can't even find the latest New Yorker. Now I'm wondering if I keep writing this same post in different ways -- I'm off the news! Everyone's too excited or too depressed about Obama! I can't take it anymore! Maybe I'm still in my election hangover. A month out it seems excessive, but it's probably the case. So it goes. I'll get a good night's sleep and wake from this dream one of these days. In the meantime, I'm off to Philadelphia.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Egg Problem

I bake too many chocolate chip cookies; I have to branch out. But by now I know my favorite recipe by heart and I have my technique down to a loving science (I will admit the refrigeration recommended in the Times over the summer helps), and, I've got to say, the cookies are good, so I make them. But here's a potential wrinkle in my always-have-home made cookies on hand ambitions: Free range farm market eggs. I bought some on Sunday and they're all the things they're supposed to be plus they vary in size, as eggs are wont to do. Now, when I was a child and my mother would describe the recipes her mother-in-law gave her as a new bride, she'd say, "I read the recipe and it said things like 'a half a small eggshell of water! How am I supposed to know what that is?'" Great laughter ensued. But here's the thing: If my grandmother eyeballed those eggs I got on Sunday, which happened to have what I consider to be an unusual amount of size variation, she'd know exactly which eggs to use for her cookies and which to use for her mundel bread. She wouldn't wonder how the bigger egg would act, she'd know. She might pick it up, roll it around her hand, and plop it back in the case. Wrong size. Too much white. But me? I don't know. I'll just have to practice, which, in practical terms, means more cookies.

Reduse, Reuse, but Recycle? Not So Much

According to the New York Times, the market in recycled materials is not so good these days. Along with cars and houses, loads of cardboard and glass are sitting on vacant lots just waiting for someone to come along and snap it all up at the right price. This is...what's the word? Depressing. It's depressing not only because reusable material will go into landfills because it can't be sold. It's depressing because what seemed like some kind of progress -- the practice of recycling instead of throwing away -- is going to disappear because it's not profitable enough (or at all). It's not that the market-factor is so surprising, it's just that in this age when green is good, it would be nice to think that green could simply be Good and good enough not have to be about the other kind of green, you know, the money kind. I know this is naive and impractical. I know everyone likes to "do good and do well," because if you don't how else can you afford that gorgeous local produce or the fantastic biodegradable hand-whipped body lotion made of the subtly fantastic minced kelp and gooseberry served up in a sleek yet somehow appealing package at just $24.95 for 4 oz. I mean, you need to do well if you're going to do good and shop responsibly. Right?

I digress.

At the very end of the Times article there was a stitch of hope -- a class of second graders that gave up recess to write letters advocating for recycling no matter the profit. They just want a world that's not full of junk, they wrote. I hope, as in words sung by Whitney Houston, those children are our future and that the words we tell them -- waste goes somewhere, responsibility matters, the world will melt -- will take root and drive their actions for the long term. Because right now the adults are all about the short term (sub-prime derivative instruments anyone?) and we've all forgotten the inherent value of long-term planning....I mean recycling.

Now, I've got to run to Whole Foods. But first I gotta find my reusable shopping bags.....

The Baby and Her Bear


Friday, December 5, 2008

The Kindergarten Thing

So yesterday I went on a school tour. I loved it. I wasn't expecting to love it, but there I was, watching kindergarten children singing in Spanish in trailers turned into classrooms and I was like, I don't know, head over heels. I could just see my daughter springing around a room like that, so excited to learn more words, and in Spanish!

I should explain. The tour was of a dual-language program, Spanish-English. In kindergarten, the kids spend 80 percent of their time learning in Spanish and 20 percent in English. In first grade it moves to 50-50. Going in to the tour I was more curious about the dual language thing. Now, obviously, I'm besotted. I love the idea of a Spanish-English program, for many reasons (learning a second language, I think, opens your mind in an ineffable way -- there's not just one way to speak or be understood or simply be, never mind the fact that so many people speak Spanish and I feel like, shouldn't we all try, at least a little?)

And those trailers? Can I just say, they were really nice. And the teachers? Some serious bright lights.

So what's the down side? Well, this program is in a public school in my district but not my zone. Because it's in my zone, there's a way to get in, but no one yet knows what the acceptance process will be. We all just have to wait for the Department of Education to tell us. But you know what's worse than not knowing how I might get my daughter into the school? What's worse is the math.

There are two dual-language kindergarten classrooms at this school. I believe each class will have 24 kids, although I heard 20 as a number, too. They want to split the classes 50-50 between Spanish dominant/bi-lingual kids and English dominant (and monolingual) kids. Then they want to have gender parity. So, there will be, essentially, 24 slots for monolingual English children like mine, and of those, 12 slots for girls. Did I mention this is a New York City public school? I don't even know how many people apply or what the odds are, but not so good feels like a pretty good bet.

On the bright side, it's nice to fall in love. On the not so bright side, love means hope suspended, even with Kindergarten.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Bear

I would blog now, but I'm almost done with the bear, and it needs to be delivered tomorrow. I'll post a picture....and more.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tina Fey-A Short Post

Over at Jezebel, they write: "Sadly, the whole physical transformation thing matters because if she didn't do it, there's a chance that no matter how smart or funny she was (and Lorne Michaels makes it clear they thought that even when she was heavier) we wouldn't even know her name..."

Now, I'm not going to argue that it isn't warped that television stars (mostly) have to be of a certain weight in order to succeed. Pace, Camryn Manheim, the Friends season 1 Jennifer Aniston (who was trim but nothing like she is now), and the pretty young woman who stars in Ugly Betty (America someone), zaftig mostly doesn't fly on the air. (OK. Aniston wasn't zaftig that first season of Friends, but she has said that she lost 20 or 30 pounds and the movie offers came rolling in and for some reason, she didn't put the weight back on.)

But then again, maybe not. The heavier Fey could indeed have made it on the air; I honestly suspect she would have but we don't know what would have happened because Fey decided not to leave it up to chance.

As a Salon writer noted (scroll down for the 12/2 post), Fey lost the weight because she was ambitious and wanted to be on TV. The weight loss meant she could do it without being labeled as the woman who did it without losing weight. That would've been a nice sort of feminist moment (although if she's healthier now, I'm not sure that that's altogether good either), but then we would've been having this discussion in reverse. If that were the case, would a heavy Fey be a story of body acceptance or cultural exceptionalism? I suspect the latter, though the rhetoric would be all about the former.

But this whole strain of discussion is absurd. OK. The most absurd thing is that Maureen Dowd even wrote about it (in Vanity Fair) in the first place. Fey, Like her 30 Rock co-star (the not overly thin but with a slamming bod) Jane Kurkowski, is pretty. Not drop-dea gorgeous, but normal pretty. More important than their looks, though, is the fact that both are extremely funny and extremely talented and that's why they're stars. That Fey lost weight to conform to society's idea of beauty? Like I said last night, it's too bad, but it doesn't make her any less authentic or her success any less remarkable. (And, uh, maybe she likes her bodies as it is now? Just maybe?)

So Fey, she's funny, she's a star of her own TV show, she's in a funny AmEx ad, she has a six million dollar book deal, and she earned all of it, and her waistline is essentially a sideline, so can we stop talking about it?

(I realize now that there's an opening to talk about how femal appearance played out in the election -- but then again, Hillary Clinton is poised to be Secretary of State and Sarah Palin is not. See, your smart, you work hard, you wear a lot of pantsuits, you're gonna make it after all, even if this crazy, appearance-obsessed, male-gaze dominated world of ours.)

Next November

Come November 2009, I'm going to make this cake for my brother's birthday. And to be sure I get it right, I'm going to make it a few times in advance. A girl needs to practice her whiskey-chocolate bundt cake making skills after all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Surrogate, Reconsidered

This critique from Salong of the surrogate article in The Times is from a whole different place than my response, which was purely emotional, but the writer is right on. Spot on. Interesting how much one can re-make a piece in response to one's own experience and just decide to ignore the gross photos and overlook the privileged awfulness of Kuczinski. One being me. I mean, just because she compulsively went through doesn't mean she has to be awful. I now miss reading Peggy Orenstein on infertility, and I thought I was really done with Peggy Orenstein on infertility.

Certainly, I'm done with infertility now. And here I was planning on blogging about Tina Fey and her weight loss. It'll have to wait until tomorrow. All I'll say is this: A skinnier Fey is a no less authentic Fey and enough with the handwringing. OK. I'm just getting started, but I think I'm also done.

Losing Track

December seems to be turning into a fairly busy month for me. I've actually filled in things to do on almost every day that I can do something (that is, days when I have a sitter), and it's all stuff that really needs to happen. Like checking out schools for the children who are with the sitter and then talking to people about schools for the children who are in school while we're talking or some such. I've spent the last three months thinking a lot about schools for my kids and I can't say that all the thinking has helped much, although halfway through October I got significantly calmer when I thought about schools. Our school situation is complicated for all kinds of reasons, but that's not really my point here. I titled this post "losing it" because I feel like with all my calendar keeping I still am losing track of things. Like, when did I buy those beets and how could they have gotten so, you know, soft? And which New Yorker am I up to and why can't I find the most recent one and should I really read articles from before the election because wasn't that a whole other world? I'm losing track of my hair (it's getting long); my year end giving (have I given to my alma mater already?); my spot in Middlemarch (it wants to be read in long stretches, not fifteen minute chunks). I guess none of it is the end of the world, since I've yet to actually lose my copy of Middlemarch or any of my hair. All things considered, I guess losing track is sometimes just the thing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Can We?

I never though of Obama as an ideologue. I don't really love ideologues. I maybe am one a little, but, truthfully, I'm very practical, politically, and I understand that a road uncompromised is a road to nowhere. So, now, I read what Sullivan writes about Obama and the quote from some other neo-con person, and, I don't know, I get all weak in the knees. It's like, can I really, really hope this much? And if I hope this much, will it take away from my iTunes journey?

My ITunes Problem

My brother gave me an iPod shuffle. I'm thrilled. Really I am. I can just see myself running three months from now. I've figured out my knee problem, I've finished the couch-to-5K thing, and I lope along with my green shuffle clipped to my new running tights. Only there's this: Itunes makes me batty. Like, I can't figure out why I can't log into my account from my laptop--why should it be hardware dependent? And will I be able to sink both the shuffle and the old-school iPod I have into the same computer? Because the disk drive on my old desktop went kaput. And here's my big question: Why can't I easily find the answers to any of these questions? And my biggest question: How much time am I going to spend on all this music stuff? Do I love listening to music when I run? I don't know. I never really have. Maybe I clip the shuffle for show and listen to nothing?

All I can say is all this do-it-yourself technology leaves precious little time for anything but managing the do-it-yourself technology. I know I'll love the shuffle, eventually, but don't even get me started on Shutterfly.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Surrogate

The cover story of this week's New York Times Sunday Magazine is titled, "Her Body, My Baby-My Adventure with a Surrogate Mom," and it's written by Alex Kuczynski. The problem with the article is neatly captured in that word "adventure." Because adventure and surrogacy have nothing to do with each other. It's like "Let's put a smirk on heartache." Heartache doesn't want a smirk. Then there are the photos. Shame on the Times for the photos. And for all the people in them for posing for them. But these things don't matter to me an awful lot. I mean, they kind of do, but then again, not really, because when I finished reading the article last night I found myself right back in that stew of feeling that I lived in for the last year and a half of my own three and a half year trip through the infertility jungle. It was during those 18 months, after my first IVF when I got pregnant only to miscarry at nine weeks, that I fell into the trap that Kuczynski (whom I've known of since college because she went to my college and she cut a figure in the dining hall) describes fairly poignantly, even if I'm not so sure she herself would say this. (But we each read our own version of everything anyway.) The infertility trap is that you want to get pregnant so badly that you kind of forget that the point is to have a baby. This is an incredibly mean trick and I'm not sure it sets in with everyone who struggles to have a biological child. But my guess is if the problem persists for years, then watch out, because it can creep in and creep in hard and do all kinds of things to your decision making and how you think about yourself and life and what it means to be a mom.

Now I'm at the point where what I'm writing has fairly little to do with what Kuczynski wrote and I fear that without my writing a lot more about myself not much will make sense. It's not that I don't want to write about myself and my infertility, it's just that the story isn't exactly unusual or trenchant. (If you like there's this short essay that I wrote here.) So to get back to the Times article I will say I wish the article had been less glib. I wish I didn't know how rich the author is. I wish I didn't have the snarky thought, "What the hell? She made a tuna sandwich for her surrogate?!" (Tuna is high in mercury and discouraged during pregnancy.) But mostly, I read the article and just felt sad. Very, very sad in a way I hadn't felt since those endless days of yearning. I'm relieved they're gone.

I Meant to Have the Soup

Really, I did. But then it was lunchtime and we were at the Museum of Natural History, which happens to be across the street from Shake Shack, so.......

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Audio Books

I'm interested in listening to audio books, and because of that, I was especially thrilled to read this post over at A Life Divided about Sue's favorite books to listen to and one (Corduroy Mansion) that she (and you and I) can listen to right now. How much do I love "corduroy" in a title? I can't even tell you how much.

The Un-Skinny Holiday, Or That I Stood in Front of the Pantry Eating Chocolate Chips

So, I think most people know that I wrote this book with Melissa Clark called The Skinny: How to fit into your little black dress forever. And if you've read it you know that we give a lot of advice for dealing with the holidays and the food and the stress and tips for not eating too much or accepting that you're eating too much or being mindful about this being a once-a-year kind of thing without letting the Creep set in after the new year. (The creep being 1-2 pounds you might gain over the holidays and then not lose.) In the years since we wrote the book, I did pretty well at Thanksgiving. I don't know why. I ate reasonably. I didn't take seconds just for the sake of it. I didn't drink too much. And if I didn't love a dessert, I didn't eat it.

This year? Not so much.

If Melissa and I were still blogging The Skinny, I'd be blogging about how I'm not bad for eating a lot and how each meal offers a whole new chance to connect with what I really want to eat even if it's a bagel and I had stuffing for dessert the night before I craved the bagel and not only that but after the stuffing I stood facing the kitchen cabinet dropping one chocolate chip after another into my mouth, unable to put the bag down and walk slowly away.

I don't know why this happened. I think I was just tired, and I think I overindulged all week (for a variety of reasons), and so by the time Friday night rolled around, I couldn't think of even one good reason why not to eat a little bit more of this, that or the other thing that I didn't really, really want. It's not the end of the world that I ate all that, it's just that now all I crave is, like, brothy soup with little bits of tofu in it. For example, I think I really want this soup in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. It's made of, I believe, mushroom broth, tofu and cilantro and I think it's called Green Soup or some such and that's what I'm going to make tomorrow, because that's what I really, really want. Along with a bagel. Because every time I taste a bagel from somewhere not New York, I have to have a New York bagels as soon as possible.

Remember: If you want the bagel, eat the bagel. Then have the soup.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Couch to 5K: Week 2 begins!

Today I completed the third workout of the first week of Couch to 5K. Here's why I like it:
1) It tells me what I'm supposed to do.
2) It tells me how long it will take.
3) I can do what I'm supposed to do in the time it takes.

Really, the whole thing is terrific. And today, as I did what I was supposed to do, I watched the gym's bank of TVs and the one tuned to CNN kept showing the same shot of a man pacing in the wings of a very presidential looking stage. Then they ran a ticker (which I needed since I didn't have earphones) and the ticker said, "President-Elect Obama about to make important economic announcement." Or something like that. Never mind how thrilling "President-Elect Obama" remains, how about that he was pacing. I mean, I know he has a cool demeanor, but must be wound pretty tight (the discipline, the cigarettes). And yet, the pacing, it was unnerving. I don't know why. Maybe it's just that I don't want to see my presidents preparing to speak. There's no backstage thrill for me. I just want to see them speak. The pacing could have made me feel less assured by Obama had I watched the actual announcement, never mind listened to it. As it was, though, I just let the stalking steps of the President-Elect knock around my brain until it was time to get off the treadmill and head home.

Friday, week 2 begins. Wish me luck. And have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Knitting Thing

The other day I was in my knit shop , Yarntopia, (yes, it's mine, that's how I am about knit shops) and I bought a book called Last Minute Knitted Gifts, and as I did, something happened to me. I can't quite describe it, but I guess one way to cut into the feeling is to say this: I fell in love. The book has gorgeous photographs and beautiful patterns for projects I would actually want to make. So there's that. But there's also the whole idea of me as someone who makes gorgeous, last minute knitted gifts for the people in my life. I love that, even though I'm not really that. It's kind of how I felt when I got The River Cottage Family Cookbook -- like right here, in my hands, is this world I want to not just cook in, but BE in. Just like that, Last Minute Knitted Gifts presents a world I want to find myself in, and, happily, I don't have to gut a fish to do it.

I wonder, though, if my reaction is partly abuot the thrill of finishing afgans I made for my kids, and almost finishing the famous bear, but also if it's part of a turning to home that happens when the world feels precarious. Knitting isn't a frugalista hobby -- yarn costs -- but it is very home art-y and it give me at least that great sense of making something in a prefab world. It's like why I bake cookies. (And bake and bake) I just get that mmm-mmm good feeling. And see, I'm so inistently earnest about it. I must be in love, I can't even make a joke. Times are too rough, and there's too much knitting to do. Way too much.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All About Blogging

People have a lot to say about blogging, the state of blogging, how people blog, why people blog. I find the discussions interesting, sort of. Andrew Sullivan's Atlantic piece on the subject was really interesting because it was about the state of media and writing as much as blogging. I'm asked all the time why I blog now that I don't blog for The Skinny anymore and I always say, "Because Melissa told me to." Which is true, but not the whole truth. I don't know the whole truth of why I blog, but I like it, and I wish people would stop writing about why other people blog so I could spend more time blogging, or reading other blogs, or knitting, or thinking about running, or cooking or something. Sometimes it all gets a little too self-referential and that makes me want to stop blogging, or something, just to be contrary. But I like it, so I won't do that. At least not this week. See, this post is maybe too cute by half, but I'm keeping it up, because that's what the blogging is all about.

Something I'd Like to Read

Autism's False Prohpets by Paul Offit about vaccinations and autism is exactly the kind of book I'd like to read. I love the debunking yarn, the naysaying challenger, the guy who's all "Oh no they didn't." I know there are probably compelling books out there about the truth to the autism-vaccination connection, but I'm not so interested in those because I feel like opting out of vaccination asks others to assume a potential (perhaps non-existent) risk you yourself aren't willing to take and yet you rely on those others who are willing to take any risk that might be associated with vaccination to protect your kids from the much greater risk of infectious disease. In other words, it's not fair. In my opinion. I know I'm throwing down the vaccination gauntlet here, but so be it. I don't want to fight about it, I want to read about it. This review from Sullivan's blog made me want to read about it. But, you know what? I'm not going to read that book. I'm reading Middlemarch. I'm knitting a bear. If the Dow weren't below 8,000 (or whatever it is), maybe I'd buy it and stick it on my shelf, but the frugalista in me is demanding honesty and honesty says I'm just going to keep on keeping on in my opinions and if in six months I'm really compelled, I can always go to the library.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quinnipiac University Poll

Ever wonder who gets polled in the Quinnipiac University Poll? Well, guess who just got called? My household! And guess who couldn't get polled? That's right: Me. Because I'm not the person in my household with the next birthday. Even though that guy (my husband) wasn't home, the pollster wouldn't relent and let me throw in my two cents. I was so disappointed. My big chance to get polled -- kaput.

From Couch Potato to 5K

A huge shout out to Sue Dickman over at A Life Divided for letting me know about the running program aptly named, "The Couch to 5K Running Plan." Today I did the very first day of the training program and I'm so excited! I wasn't going to do it, but when I talked to my brother to wish him a happy birthday he was so excited that I was going to start running that I felt like I had to. He was all, "Call me when you're done with your run!" I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'd thought of today as more of a "think about what it'll be like when you're running 5K" kind of day. Then, I got antsy, and I didn't have time to get to the pool and I really can't stand that pool anyway, so, lo and behold, there I was on the treadmill, walking for 90 seconds, jogging for 60, and reading the captions on CNN: Bill Richardson, Trade something or another. Someone else, Treasury Secretary, someone Bob Rubin likes! It was very moderate. It was very reasonable. It was very satisfying. Now, I need a cookie.

My Brother, the Transition, and Me

So yesterday afternoon, while my kids were hovering between calm and chaos, my brother calls. He tells me what he needs to tell me (bring bathing suits home for Thanksgiving!), and then he says this: "And Obama is busy recreating the Clinton administration." Lest you think I'm that much calmer since the election, you should know that this snidely delivered comment created the threat of an exploding skull--my own. Because my brother is one of those weird moderate Republicans at heart with whom I'm supposed to be able to disagree amicably but who in fact drive me a little bananas and ignite my inner three-year-old who wants to stamp her foot and say, "No! I'm right!"

Well, maybe it's just my brother who's that kind of moderate Republicans. Maybe I'd do better with moderate Republicans who didn't spend their eleventh and my eight year giving me wet willies (wet finger in ear) when I was innocently watching MASH reruns while our mother was at the supermarket.

Seriously, though, I think it's pretty facile to say the Obama administration is the Clinton administration relived. Sure, many of the people from Clinton's administration will serve in Obama's. But that doesn't mean the administrations are the same. For example, the selection of Daschle for Health and Human Services speaks to an understanding of the on-the-ground legislating politics that makes Washington go. I don't believe Clinton in his first term had that, and certainly Hillary Clinton in her Health Care Reform efforts didn't have that.

Now, isn't everyone glad we got this out of the way before Thanksgiving so we won't have this fight and I won't have to upstage my older brother in my rightness and none of the children who will be present will be able to use this particular scene in his or her screenplay of a dysfunctional family gathering? I sure am.

Oh, and there's this: Happy Birthday, Louis!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bra-Jen-Lina: RIP

So I know I said I was done with celebrities and what they're wearing, but after seeing the new Vogue cover with Jennifer Anniston wearing a strange little smirk and another tan, I have to ask, when will it end?  There's a quote: "What Angelina did was uncool."  OK.  What about what Brad did? And you? Did you do nothing?  Full disclosure: I did not read the article. I do not plan to read the article. I thought about it, but then I passed three newsstands plastered with Aniston on the covers of magazines decrying the Brangelina union and promising to answer the question, "Why she still won't blame Brad?"  

I mean, I know the Hollywood ending would be fore Anniston, the sort of pretty nice, funny girl to end up with the total hot-o-matic guy instead of the sultry, dark, tatooed and makes-out-with-her-brother Angelina.  But he didn't. And now they have six kids.  Would America really prefer a Brad and Jen reunion over keeping the family together?  I know, Sarah Palin does and should answer that, but still, it's been four years, it's done. Over. Kaput.  And now, please, could someone please run a tanning intervention on Ms. Anniston?  Because the tanning thing, it's got to stop.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get the List

Andrew Sullivan has a link to a list of people and business who donated over $5K to overturn gay marriage.  I couldn't get to the list, but here's his post, and hopefully we'll all have a chance to see who's on it and spend money accordingly (as in not spend it at those businesses that supported Prop 8).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Slouching Toward Thanksgiving

This time of year do you ever feel like you're just counting the minutes 'til you get to throw in the towel and abandon all pretense of productivity because it's "the holidays"?  I wonder if I've felt like this before, but right now, I'm just so tired.  All I want to do is sleep, knit, think about how I wept on election night and read Middlemarch.  And if it weren't for the darn Kindergarten situation, I could do just that, with maybe a run thrown in for good measure.  I want to be clear, I'm not complaining right now, I'm just describing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Middlemarch

For a long now, I've wanted to read Middlemarch. For several years running winter would come and  I would start it and get bogged down and feel bad and put it down and then try again the next winter. I never got past page fifty.  Then, this weekend, stuck in an airport with nothing but The New Yorker and Middlemarch for hours and hours both going and returning, I dove in. I mean, I read almost all of The New Yorker first, and then, the glory of provincial England opened before me, word by word, and it was good.  

Weirdest thing? In the airport, I wasn't even tempted by Us or People or any of it.  Can it be I'm not so interested in how celebrities are dressing or whether or not Reese is ready to marry again, specifically Jake?  This week, maybe so, but, seriously, it kind of means I don't even know who I am anymore.  And now, I've got to get to the bear.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Bear and The Blog

I think I was somewhat disrespectful toward my bear-knitting and my blog in my last post, the one about Cheney and how he should be prosecuted for war crimes. I mean, I'm not a political blogger for real, I'm a political worrier, and I'm not a real, serious knitter, but I do like to knit.

So, I'm not going to blog seriously about politics, meaning I'm not going to investigate anything or start a campaign to get Cheney prosecuted or get Michael Pollan to be secretary of agriculture, even though part of me wishes I were someone who would do something like either of those two examples. Likewise, I'm not going to blog about the ins-and-outs of my bear knitting pattern or how I had to re-do the bear's bottom three times before I figured out how to get it right.

Which is to say that just like the Obamas and the media and the rest of everybody, I'm in transition, finding my way back to normal life. The knitting helps, it gives me so much pleasure, and it's making me feel strangely competent (I figured out the bottom! And knitting on double pointed needles, too!) and I'm so glad to be knitting this bear for Melissa's baby girl.

So, maybe I am someone who would start a campaign to get Cheney indicted on war crimes and maybe I will knit another bear for some of the other babies in my life. That's how things go, right? Maybe this, maybe that, some feels more important, some less. But each task should get the respect it deserves, at least from me if I'm doing it, and at least on this blog. I guess I'm feeling a wee bit earnest tonight. Earnest and tired. So it goes. Local or express, you know?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Re-Orienting

Tonight at dinner I was talking to my husband about my new approach to time with my kids, which is, I try to actually be there when I spend time with my kids. I don't try to talk on the phone, and I only rarely check email.  "Of course," I mused, "this is easier now that the election is over."  Because it's just easier in life not to have to check a blog every five minutes or call a friend to talk about how you have to check the political blogs every five minutes. You know?  But then I checked in with my old blog Andrew Sullivan who has a link to a story on Talking Points Muckraker about Democrats wanting to make sure Cheney's papers are preserved and made public.  Because, of course, Cheney is a war criminal and he must be prosecuted.  (I would link to the story but there was something wrong with the script and trying to get to it crashed my browser.)  Seriously,  if electing Obama went a long way toward repairing America's reputation abroad, then prosecuting Cheney would let us begin to restore the moral compass that should direct how Americans treat others during conflict. Electing Obama meant electing the more competent candidate, prosecuting Cheney reminds the world and American that laws matter, that torture will not stand, and that power has its limits.  That's harder than electing the right guy, actually, and it must be done.

By the way, before I read that thing on Sullivan's blog, I was going to blog about how weird it is to be knitting a bear.  It's still weird, but that's a whole other blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prop 8

There's a lot I want to say about Prop 8, especially since I've just actually married a couple. But, the thing is, I've yet to find the time to sit and sort through what I'm actually thinking about all this beyond the general heartbreak and horror at its passage and the strange hocus-pocusness of marrying. Many people at the wedding where I was the official officiant asked me what I had to do to get certified as an officiant and the bottom line is this: I had to do not much.  With the internet, anyone can become a minister, and with a minister's certificate, anyone can go to City Hall and register as an officiant. So why can't anyone who wants to get married?  And I don't mean enter into a civil union, I mean pledge to their lover the rights and responsibility that are embedded in a life-long union and call it a marriage because that's what it is.  I know, I'm being dim and ignoring fear and prejudice, but, seriously, who's hurt by a nice gay couple getting married? 

I would comment on Dan Savage's piece in the Times today, but he makes his point and gins up some anxiety, which I hope will be besides the point, but only if we're all vigilant, because at the Right constricts, we could be in for some seriously loud fear-mongering.

On a Personal Note

I've made a decision: I'm going to start running. I was told I can't only swim as exercise because I need to do weight bearing exercise because I'm a white woman and I already have some arthritis and therefore I'm on the fast track to weak bones. But I hate machines, I'm terrible about weights (though I'm going to get better), I have no time for yoga (and my wrist is arthritic so I can't do chattaranga anymore), so running it is. When I was at my friend Melissa's the other day visiting her and her adorable new baby girl, I found a book called Chi Running. Melissa says her husband swears by it, so, breezing by the fact that her husband is a voracious consumer of all and any information and a disciplined applier of systems (two things I am not) I decided it would be just the trick for me. So, if in three weeks I'm blogging from the floor because my back hurts so much that I can't move off of it, you'll know why.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Facebook and Random Patter

I just joined and I'm seriously, deeply, profoundly overwhelmed by it and I can't believe how many people I know are on it!  I think I'm going to have a lot to say about Facebook, which is, like, so meta, I know.  But right now, I'm too, you know, boggled by it to write too much more.  Besides, this week, it's a Week. It feels like a funny, busy, all consuming week, the kind of week that makes it hard to blog, but blog more I will. And tomorrow? Top Chef!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dreams From My Father

You know how when a friend tells you a dream and you can tell that there's something extremely interesting in the dream but somewhere around the time that she's back in her third grade classroom you check right out and you really wish you wouldn't because you know it's important but you just can't help it?  That's the point I've reached in Dreams From My Father.  I know I'll be glad to have read it when it's done. Really, up until two days ago I've been glad to be reading it. But with less than 100 pages to go, I'm ready to move on from the pre-Harvard Law Obama. Honestly, I'm ready to simply read about him in The New Yorker, and I think I'm also, finally, ready for Middlemarch. I hear it's great!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Facing the Week

Usually, I like to blog on Sunday nights, but today was just a long rough day with 4-year-olds who wanted to buy toys and me with a sinus headache so even though the day started like gangbusters with a trip to the gym and Whole Foods, it's ending on a whimper.  I have no reflections, no big ideas, nothing I really feel like I need to -- or should -- write except I'm looking forward to knitting.  I hope everyone else had a more relaxing weekend!  Here's to a great new week - the first full one of our whole new era.

One More Post-Election Reaction

So, I'm still crying about Obama's victory.  This time it was Judith Warner who made me cry.  Usually, I'm not a Judith Warner fan, but I think she really got at something in this column. Thanks to Nicole for pointing my way to it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Photo Album

In the final weeks of the election, I stopped reading Jezebel (do you believe it?), but in high-procrastination mode, I went back to it today and found this photo album of election night with the Obamas.  I couldn't get the Flickr link to work, so I'm simply linking to the Jezebel page.

A Few Days Later

So on Wednesday, as part of my post-election re-adjustment, i was watchng Rachel Maddow, and Rachel Maddow says something about how Obama is thinking of Larry Summers for Treasury Secretary and she's all, "Really? Larry Summers? Who said something like girls can't do math?" She was referring to a comment Summers made when he was President of Harvard in which he mused on some biological difference or brain structure thing that made women less successful in math and science. Granted, it was enraging that he said it and he didn't seem to take into account the machismo culture of those fields or the funding structure that makes family life extremely difficult. But when I heard Maddow's comment, I thought, "C'mon Rachel, that's not fair. The guy's already been Treasury Secretary once...."

Which is to say I'm already sick of people second guessing Obama's decisions. In one of the many postmortems of the Clinton administration, I read that one of the problems with the first administration was that all of Clinton's people came in on this huge high as swashbucklers who didn't know the ways and means of Washington and didn't care. They thought they could do things their own way, and so they did. And what did we get with them doing things their own way? We got: Don't ask don't tell, a doomed health care plan and, in 1992, the Contract with America and a Newt Gingrich-Republican-controlled Congress.

So, you know what I say? I say it would be a change for a new administration, a new Democratic administration, to come in and hit the ground running and work the system effectively. There's change from within and change from without and Rahm Emanuel may be a jerk and Lawrence Summers might have been the wrong guy to run Harvard, but they know their fields, government and the economy respectively, and they've proven they know how to get things done within them.

Granted, this might be a little bit of blind faith on my part, but the change we need is not only an end to hyper-partisanship, it's an end to armchair quarterbacking every single decision from day one. Sure, the blogosphere needs words, but it also needs some thoughts. And some patience. Damnit.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on President-Elect Obama

The essay is titled "In Our Lifetime."  Here's the link.  It's also featured on Slate.

Well Said About McCain

James Surowiecki's post about McCain's performance last night is short and on target.
David, my husband, often points out that most candidates really start performing well when they know the campaign is lost. Witness Hillary Clinton this past spring. Or Al Gore when the campaign was all over. The stakes go away and suddenly, the candidate can connect. That, too, must have happened for McCain last night.

Just So You Know

Last night, my husband was in Chicago, in Grant Park itself, and my kids, unbelievably, fell asleep at 7:45. That never, ever happens. The problem was I almost fell asleep, too because I'd left the house at 5:45 to vote and it'd been a big long day. I stayed awake, though, and my friend Nicole and her new husband and boyfriend of 19 years Louis came over for a while. So at 10:45 they'd left and I was really working to stay awake when the good anchors at CNN and MSNBC said, "We'll have big news at the top of the hour." And -- can I admit this? -- it did NOT OCCUR TO ME that the big news would be victory. I figured it'd be Florida. Maybe Virginia, but actual calling of the election? I just had no idea. And when it was announced? Sobbing. But who wasn't?

The Onion on The Election

The Quote:
"Another contributing factor to Obama's victory, political experts said, may have been the growing number of Americans who, faced with the complete collapse of their country, were at last able to abandon their preconceptions and cast their vote for a progressive African-American.
Enlarge Image Shitty Things

"After enduring eight years of near constant trauma, the United States is, at long last, ready for equality.

Citizens with eyes, ears, and the ability to wake up and realize what truly matters in the end are also believed to have played a crucial role in Tuesday's election."



Here's the link to the whole thing. Thanks, as ever, to Andrew Sullivan, and, in this case, to my cousin's husband's best friend who was one of the founders of the Onion itself.

Worth Considering

Sullivan posted a round-up of conservative responses to Obama's victory. There's this from John Podhoretz on the race factor and it's worth reading.

The President-Elect

When I was hustling my kids to school this morning, I saw the woman who stood behind me in line to vote yesterday. We smiled at each other and as she came up alongside me, she said, "Wasn't that incredible?"
Link
And it was. The whole thing was incredible. Reading the New York Times this morning, I was reminded of that period in April when I thought maybe Obama would lose, when Michelle Obama went on the Colbert Report and said, "I believe my husband will be President," and I so wanted to believe her, but I wasn't sure. Clinton was coming on strong, there was that whole "bitter" comment about people with guns, Ohio was impossible. Things looked bad. But Obama's dcampaign stayed the course, and now, unbelievably, I feel like we have a President-Elect whose demons seem to run toward the need to control and not the need to unleash. I believe we'll have a president who can actually govern because he will listen, consider, decide, persuade, and lead.

Obama in his speech and in his campaign also reminded me, for one, that the work is done not on the big stage but brick by brick, hand by hand, person by person and that leadership harnesses that work and power asks for help. Can you imagine Cheney thinking power asks for help?

It's a whole new day.

McCain's Concession

McCain's concession speech was eloquent, it was gracious, it was kindly and well-delivered. But, my friends, I didn't care. Because his supporters, with their booing of Obama and their chanting of Palin's name, were what his campaign sowed. It was such an awful campaign that the valedictory remarks of the right-wing pundits rang hollow. Yes McCain had served his country valiantly, but then he ran a small, mean-spirited campaign built on the premise that you do whatever it takes to win and you say with a straight face it's all true and right and honorable. Usually, I feel bad for the person who loses a big contest. Sometimes, I've felt a kind of sadness for McCain. But last night, looking at the crowd of white people on the lawn of an exclusive hotel in Phoenix, hearing them boo the President-Elect, I felt no sympathy. John McCain may be many things, but his personality, not to mention his inner moral compass, did not match the demands of a presidential campaign. Imagine if he had won. No, I felt no sympathy at all, even as I was glad for his elegant words.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Polling

This on the polls from Nate Silver via Sullivan. Good news.   I won't be able to blog much more today since I'll be with my kids and worrying.  

Let's Go Change the World

 Go ahead. Indulge.

Yes We Can!

I got to my voting place at 5:45 and there was already a line.  By the time 6 AM rolled around, it was all the way down the block. Once the doors opened, things moved along, and I got more and more nervous.  I double checked my vote three times, and I felt, I don't know, a lurch as I pulled the red bar to record my vote.  Even now I'm a little worked up.  It'll be a long day, but hopefully, a good one. Good luck to us all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

McCain the Remake, Part 2

A while back, I blogged about what I thought was the very, very beginning of John McCain, revised. This was the man who'd write the memoir and say the mea culpas and insist if it had only been for the town meetings and if only he'd relied on his higher instincts the election would've gone so much better and he wouldn't have to completely rebuild his reputation.  James Fallows (via, who else? Andrew Sullivan) points out that McCain on SNL was a signal that he'd accepted defeat.  I hope he not only accepts it but lives it. And if he does, the show was probably step 2 of his 20 step rehab.  If he doesn't lose, though, I'm never watching SNL again, even though my husband assured me no persuadable voters were watching.

Kristol Meth, Part 7,028

This column made my jaw drop. It is so deeply, profoundly and essentially hypocritical.....I warn you, only read it if you need a good dose of something to get your blood boiling this morning.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Take on A Real Obama

Andrew Sullivan posted a quote and the link to an essay he wrote for the Sunday Times of London about Obama as president.  It's worth taking a look at.  But when you're done, throw a fistful of salt over your left shoulder to chase away any evil spirits who might nest in your comfortable idea of an Obama victory and ruin the world with McCain/Palin.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Things I Learned This Week

What a week. I mean, seriously, what a week.  Here's what I learned this week. I learned if your kid throws up in the back seat of a cab, tip generously.  I learned that Joe the Plumber has an agent.  I learned that New York City public schools really can work if parents get involved, but I've decided this whole choice thing is for the birds.  All schools should just get more money and more freedom to meet the needs of their neighborhoods and communities.  Here's what I've learned: School choice equals one great big headache.

What else did I learn?  Oh, I learned that if I don't read political blogs compulsively (because I have neither the time nor the opportunity) then I must watch political TV at night.  I learned I can get by on even less sleep than I ever imagined.  

And, finally, I learned that when it's your birthday and your daughter snuggles next to you and exclaims to the ceiling, "It's your birthday, mommy!" it really doesn't matter if it's a big birthday like 40 or a small one; when your son snuggles up and gives you a big smoocheroo; and when your husband leaves you sweet  birthday notes, the year doesn't really matter.  Politico.com still matters, but not a great big birthday.

The Actual Voting

Today, I asked my husband if he knew where we were to vote. He did.  Then he uttered this horrible, horrible sentence:  "I put the voting acknowledgments on your desk."

I can not tell you how dark this is.  I've started cleaning, I've found one.  His.  Hopefully, mine is just under this next pile.  This is Not Good.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What I Just Did

Over the past few months I've referred at times to a very pressing work project I've had. I haven't said what it is because I figured if I said it, it would disappear into thin air. But I just now, two minutes ago, finished the third or fourth revision of this project -- it's a book -- and it might never get published. But that's not the point. I mean, it could get published - why not, right? And even if it doesn't, because I finished the revision today I finished it a day ahead of schedule which means tomorrow is totally free for, like, errands, and I'm so so so excited. I'm also extremely grateful to my friend A. who'll proofread this so-called book and to all my friends who've been endlessly patient with my hand-wringing over the damn thing. Right now, all I can say is this: The change we need is now, the errands that have to get done are tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Just Not Over

OK. I read this article about tightening in the polls, and I'm officially terrified. I love living in New York City, but I really, really, really wish we could vote in Philadelphia (where we used to live).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Downtown

In the last few weeks, my kids have become obsessed with the song Downtown, by Petula Clark.  A friend -- a friend their age -- introduced them to it, and to see a four-year-old bust out with a huge smile and "When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go Downtown." The thing is, the song is so poignant.  When I told a friend -- a friend whose older than me -- about it the other day he started singing the verse, "And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you...someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to guide them along." And listening to that verse today for the third time in a row, I was so moved by it.  The song goes from loneliness to companionship and the physical resolution of that companionship is the taking of a hand, not a bump and grind.  I don't have anything against the bump and grind but that pop song perfectly captures the joy of taking to the streets and the hope of a friend. Granted the verse also made me think of an old New Yorker story I heard on a podcast I was listening to while knitting when two acquaintances meet and are thrilled to be able to go drink too much together in a seedy bar -- but hey, who am I to judge where the helping hand will guide you along to? All this to say it can be pretty great to rediscover an old jewel and, I've got to say it!, let it sparkle.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Opposite Side of Sucess

I thought this article by David Leonhardt in the Sunday Times Magazine was really right on. It's about the ways we haven't let ourselves not be optimistic about the economy and the opportunities it gives us, and I think he's right on.  I have a lot to say about this, having been a twenty-something in the dot-com gold rush, but Leonhardt says an awful lot really well, something I won't be able to do just now.

I'm So Exhausted But There's This Thing

I can hardly take it anymore. The election, the hate mongering, the hoping,  I'm so tired! I'm ready for the election to be done -- but what will happen then?  But I can't wait for it to be over?  But what do we do with all the pins?  

Plus, this week is another crazy, busy week with a (kind of pretend but nonetheless emotionally real) deadline at the end of it. 

But here's one thing: Today, I got licensed by the city of New York to perform weddings, because on Saturday, I'm going to perform the wedding ceremony of my dear friends Nicole and Louis.  So Nicole and I went down to the marriage bureau and we waited on line with the paperwork and I checked the computer screen with my information and it was OK and then, when it was all done, the clerk took out a ledger. Seriously, it was a big, honest to goodness book in which one hand writes one's name and the date and one's title.  Nicole and I were, like, seriously geeked out.  This is the stuff of historical records!  A handwritten ledger!  Next to getting the power vested in me by the state of New York to marry two people I've known for almost twenty years, writing in that ledger the coolest thing about my day.

The Three Ashleys

This is really moving and a reminder that we can find the best in ourselves with each other and that's where we start when we're trying to do concrete things to make the world better. 

Callers Walk Off Jobs

Ever wonder how cold-callers with a script do it? Turns out, if the script is bad enough, they won't. Once again John McCain has brought us to a new low. Actually, this time, he just tried and other people just wouldn't let him. 

McCain and Bush and Iraq

Guess what? He was for it before he was against it! Surprised?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Did the Great Schlepp Work?

Check it out: Jews who vote will (mostly) be voting for Obama.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hair & Make-Up

Everyone I'm sure already knows about Sarah Palin's hair and make-up expenses. On the one hand, when I read this today at my friend's Melissa's house, where I'd gone to see her and her unbelievably sweet and tiny and adorably new daughter, I shook my head in amazement.  But on the other hand, I wasn't all that surprised, because, I have to say, every time I see her I think her hair looks great and her make up is perfect, and I know that kind of hooked-up hair doesn't come cheap.  My only questions is who did her hair and make-up when Bill Kristol came to visit?  Because, really, the man saw something, or someone, quite made up.

Larry David

My friend Natalie sent me this since she is as obsessed with Huffington Post as I am with Andrew Sullivan.  In any case, she claims she's Larry David.  Of course, I think I am.  We may both be right.  How about you?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

When Do Late Bloomers Read?

So I (finally) finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's article about late bloomers in last week's New Yorker (yes, I read it late) and I highly recommend it.  But, I have to say, it did make just a little confused, or even anxious, or maybe anxiously confused.  Here's why: When Gladwell describes Ben Fountain's writing life, he says Fountain wrote from 7:30 to mid-afternoon. Then he got his kids. For many years, while Fountain wrote and didn't publish, he was a stay at home dad.  He stopped writing and then got his kids and then did his household chores.....I guess with the kids?  I guess he didn't have to take them to soccer class? Or when he did he could leave them there and go food shopping? Is that what happens when your kids get bigger?  Gladwell also describes Fountains reading.  He apparently reads a lot and keeps files of things that interest him.  So, here's what I keep thinking now that I'm done with the article: (1) I'd like to read a biography of Cezanne (you'll see, that's not a total non-sequitor; and (2) When did Ben Fountain read? At night? During his writing time?  I don't think this is the takeaway question from the Gladwell piece. Unfortunately, though, it's mine.  

Wow.

I didn't realize how much I missed the soaring Obama or how much I could be moved by images of those, like me, moved by him.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Watch as Chris Matthews' Head Explodes

Really. This is terrific.

The Amazing Sarah Palin Story

What's amazing about this story by Noam Schreiber in The New Republic is not so much its revelations as that we're now seriously discussing a VP candidate and what are we talking about?  Her position on garbage collection in Wasilla, Alaska. I know the story is about Palin's defensiveness, but still, we're talking about garbage collection.

Blogging Overload

There's so much I want to blog about right now, from Sarah Palin's wardrobe (this guy is so wrong I don't even know where to start) to Playmobil (don't ask), from Kindergarten to the night my kids were born four years ago and I pulled their little selves out of the bassinet they were sharing (they were tiny beans) and onto me with a ferocity I can't quite describe, but I can't blog about any of it. I'm too overwhelmed and sleep deprived. I'm in one of those phases where I'm barely keeping up.  But I'm about to read this article about Palin and have a big cuppa. Should help me out, right?

I'm pretty sure this is crazy

But I guess it's worth considering...it says McCain will win because the polls are wrong because they all take place in Blue areas.....but then again, what about all the polls all the other years?

The Deep Panic

With all the "good" news about the Dems, everyone I know is still in a pitch of fear. (Everyone except my husband who understand Pennsylvania politics from the inside out because he worked on several statewide campaigns there.  He says McCain can't win PA.  But he also said he thought you could just "guess-ti-mate" a third of a cup measurement for cupcakes.)  last night, my friend M. said to me, "I'm dreaming about it! It's so weird! I dreamed Palin was trying to convince us Obama's an alien!" So I said the obvious: "That's not a dream, that's Fox News!"

Some History, Thanks

My husband brought me the Washington Post editorial page yesterday. Richard Cohen's op ed is a useful reminder that this Republican party is not the first to trade in fear. That somehow made me feel a little better.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It Was On TV!

If only Sarah Palin had watched John Adams  on HBO then she would know what a VP does. As it is?  Not so much.

Between Hope & Fear

I've been with my kids all day (it's their birthday! but it's also Tuesday....) so I'm just catching up on the blog-election news and I am now back to full on terror when it comes to this election. This story on Andrew Sullivan about racism, the Jon Stewart clip on the previous post, really, I not only fear the unthinkable loss but I also fear what cycle after cycle of election rhetoric that cultivates divisiveness and fear will mean to this country in the next phase -- no matter who wins.  

A Trip to Wasilla

Everyone needs to watch this.  Jon Stewart correspondent Jason Jones goes to Wasilla and leaves no stone unturned.

Shout Out

My brother said I should give a shout out to the Boston Red Sox for a great season. So here I am, shouting.  But I can't really say anything more, because I don't know anything more to say about it.  I hope you all enjoyed the baseball season and now that the Red Sox are out, we say; Go Phillies!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Palin in the Looking Glass

I'm not sure what I think of this post on Jezebel, and I don't have time to figure it out since I have to go pick up my fiercely competitive, emotionally in-tuned, tiara-wearing daughter from preschool, but I think there's a lot here that matters and deserves attention. And I think it's fascinating that Hillary Clinton made a point of always looking the same, because I know I always take note of how she and Palin look.  I'm humbled, for sure, but we're all in this culture together, we better deal with it.  When I figure out what that means, I'll write another post.

Cupcakes

I made 47 cupcakes for my kids' birthday party this weekend.  Some had chocolate frosting, some had blue frosting and some had very hot pink frosting. Some were yellow cake and some chocolate. They all had sprinkles.  None of them looked like this.  I think that's a good thing, because high design cupcakes are definitely an express kind of thing.

Monday Morning

I've now tried and failed to write three different posts. Each was on what I might call the economic imagination, or, the idea that money really does grow on trees and now the trees have been dug up....... or have they?  But I can't fish together a coherent paragraph and I keep getting stuck on these vast generalizations and then the image of this poor man in Indonesia with a virulent wart infection that grossly disfigured his face and hands and feet that I saw last night an TLC and couldn't look away from will pop into my head. Then, since I turned off the TLC documentary because it seemed so invasive to watch, I have to hope that the guy got medicine for treating it and not surgery because as one doctor said the surgery would cut away the warts but not cure him and then I think about how tired I am because once again my son was up for hours last night and I managed it poorly, and all told it makes for a difficult blogging morning.  I'll try again later. Hopefully when I do it'll be better.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who Cares About Colin Powell?

These Ohioans sure don't. Sobering.

Update Monday the 20th: More sobering: This article is about people in North Carolina.  Sorry for my poor reading.

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