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. 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


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.  


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 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.


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.


Powell Says it: If he were a Muslim, so????!???

OK. So Powell endorsed Obama. That's important, but more important, I think, is Powell's point that the right answer to the "accusation" that Obama is Muslim is, "So what?" Powell's description of the mom in the cemetery mourning her 20-year-old Muslim American son is extremely moving and right on point.  It's about four or five minutes in.  Granted, I'm easy with the tears these days, but it made me well up and it's worth watching.

The Exceptional Quest of Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan is on a tear.  He is pursuing the Odd Lies of Sarah Palin with an obsessive ferocity that I can only stand back and admire.  Here's #17.  Let's read them all!

Colin Powell Lays it Out for the Common Good

Andrew Sullivan is right, it's devastating.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Shadow in Obama

A reader on Andrew Sullivan's blog has an interesting take on the source McCain's anger. It's worth reading.  The reader argues that McCain sees Obama as too slick by half, as a man who'll go back on his word.  I don't know about that, but I think it's worth remembering that Obama is where he is because of deep, single-minded ambition. His ambition I believe will serve our country well, but it has its dark-side. It has to. It always does. We've seen the dark side of McCain's ambition, over and over, no doubt we'll see it in Obama, too.  To me, that seems fine. And to me, Obama going back on his word about town meetings or even the lobbying reform bill is NOTHING compared to McCain's capitulation to Bush on torture. Just one reader's opinion.


This morning, I forgot to bring my daughter's lunch with us, so I had to return to school to drop it off. When I did, Helen happened to be skipping into the hall with her teacher and some classmates; she was all set to tape something (a note from her parents, in fact) in her cubby. When she saw me, she exclaimed, "Mama!" and then when I said I was going, she said, "Bye-Bye!" and skipped away.

Now, lately, for a variety of reasons, Helen's had a hard time saying good-bye at drop-off. There are tears and if no tears she looks up with big sad eyes. It's been very hard on all of us.  But, I have to say, on the one hand, I was delighted with her perfunctory "bye-bye" this morning. On the other, it made me a little sad. Like, she's off on her own in the world.  Of course that's what's supposed to happen. Helping her skip away and do her own work is the stuff of parenting. But still, it's hard, and feeling the little stab of "I will miss her" called to mind this article in yesterday's Home section of the New York Times. It describes a version of home schooling, or "unschooling," that some parents opt for here in New York. When you home-un-school, you don't follow a curriculum, you let the day unfold. You use the City as your classroom. You spend a lot of time with your still small children.

Apparently, Joanne Rendell, who was featured in the Times article had written an article for Babble about her choice to home-un-school and it generated a torrent of feedback. People were upset, outraged, even, that parents would let 5 or 6 year olds sleep in and then not send them to school.  Some were jealous, too, about all that extra time they got together, and I think that's the big thing here.  

When I've been imagining kindergarten, trying to figure out which one would be best for each of my kids, every so often I let in the hard stab of "please stay 4!" not (just) because applying to kindergarten is so complicated, but because 4 is wonderful. And because when school starts, life will zoom even faster. It'll be like water through my fingers. Even last year when I got the notice that my kids (or one of them) would be going to school five days a week, I felt sad. Really, really sad. I think this feeling, this nostalgia for the early years of parenting, might be especially potent for those who have either one child or just twins, because you go through everything once, and then you're done. Not that with twins what you go through isn't different for each child, but I imagine it's different when you have kids of different ages. Phases come and go and mostly that's great, but when they go they're gone for good. 

I love watching my kids unfold, but it's a textured kind of pleasure, because change, especially in small children is complicated.  

I'm not saying that the parents who choose to un-school do so because they can't separate from their kids. I'm saying the passionate responses to the idea of un-schooling, and the appeal of it for some, might lie in circumventing, in one way, the loss that comes with kindergarten.  It's exciting when school begins, but it also marks the very end of one long phase of family life. I think we ignore the complexity of that end at our own peril. But no matter what, there it goes. Bye-bye.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Update: What's Going On

My life is extremely hectic right now -- kids' birthday parties, family visits, still trying to work, kindergarten applications and organizing, general hand wringing -- it takes a lot of time!  Plus, my friend Melissa just had a baby girl and another friend is about to get married and yours truly is on call to do the ceremony.  It's a lot of ducks to get in a row! A lot! So I'm blogging a little less. At least today and probably tomorrow.  

Itty Bitty Pieces

See, the right is falling apart.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

News from a Republican-Run Focus Group

Wow. Weird. But still, Wow.


Once again Andrew Sullivan alerts us to the astonishing.  An official Republican web site in California posted this call to Waterboard Obama.  To me, the worst of it is the Obama-Osama thing, AND that it's on an official Republican site. I think it might be getting on time for principled conservatives to seriously consider starting a new party.

Anxiety, Unabated

I'm still terribly anxious about the election. At this point, I've invested Obama with a kind of mythic power, like he really IS the change we need now.....watching him I feel like I do when I see footage of Robert Kennedy from the '68 campaign and think, "What if???" It's horrible, for several reasons. First, I feel like all these good news polls are like buying gifts before a baby is born, that is, I feel like I could fall into a reckless optimism. (No, really, I could!). Second, something terrible could happen. Third, Obama could win, and then I could remain just as tortured as he shows himself to be -- say it ain't so! -- merely human. Granted, I don't think he'll ride into office on a wave of optimism and offer up as his first piece of legislation "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but things will go wrong. They always do. It makes for better stories when they do, but, really, I'd love to go for a while mired in the narrative of uplift. Really, I think it would be good. Right now, though, I'm too nervous to imagine it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rachel Maddow Calls It

OK. So we all know Sarah Palin isn't best friends with the truth. Turns out she doesn't even go in so much for truthiness. Because if she liked truthiness, she'd say about trooper gate that she was cleared for legal wrongdoing and leave it at that. Instead, she says flat out, over and over, that she's grateful to be cleared of any legal or ethical wrongdoing. It would be breathtaking if there weren't still a chance of her being a public figure for years to come. Rachel Maddow calls it like it is and calls Palin a liar.

The Implosion (and Revision) of McCain

This article in Politico paints McCain as a man meekly trying to regain control of his campaign and inject some degree of honor back into it. I feel like it's the first signal of what will be the inevitable rehabilitation of John McCain. If, as I hope, he loses the election, he'll take some time to cool off. He'll disappear from sight. He'll travel. Maybe he'll do some humanitarian work alongside Cindy. Then, in time for Palin to announce her 2012 search committee, he and Salter will put out a book in which we'll read about his core beliefs in American exceptionalism and his great errors in the 2008 campaign. He'll decry the message of hate and division Sarah Palin represented. He'll tell us how asking her to be Vice President was an even greater mistake than his involvement with the Keating 5. He and Joe Lieberman will start a post-partisan think tank. The press will fall in love with McCain again, because he's a fallen hero who (again) learned his (humiliating) lesson and who wouldn't be blinded by the tantalizing vision of victory the end of July 2008 gave John McCain? Who could blame him after those five years of torture in Viet Nam never mind his heroic paternity? He'll write another memoir. He'll feel himself exonerated. Nixon could do it, Clinton did it in his way, too. Why not McCain? This is what we're seeing. The end of the end of the would-be-president McCain, the very, very beginning of his next narrative of honor. Stories are nice, after all.

Note: But I don't know how he'll gloss his capitulation on Bush's torture bill. He'll never redeem himself that.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fire the Campaign?

William Kristol says John McCain should fire his campaign because his campaign"is now close to being out-and-out dysfunctional. Its combination of strategic incoherence and operational incompetence has become toxic."

I know this is stating the obvious, but are we supposed to believe that McCain, who's been a legislator for most of his career can't run a campaign but he can steer an unwieldy executive branch in a time of crisis? Really?

Towards the end of his op-ed, Kristol writes: "But what we do know is that we could use someone as president who’s shown in his career the kind of sound judgment and strong leadership we’ll need to make it through the crisis."

What I'm trying to figure out is, other than reflexive loyalty, what has McCain done in the last few months to make us think that he could even remotely be that guy?

Cancer Collage/Cancer College

My friend Lizzie has cancer. I call her Lizzie because I've known her for my whole life; other people call her Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a fierce doula/midwife/accupuncturist who has never for a minute stopped looking to understand more. Lizzie was a leader of the pack (me being the pack) the kind of kid who always had an idea for what we should do next and always had a gleam of a dare in her eyes. "You know, Robin," I know she wanted to say, "We could do more." She's irrepressible, ireverant, respectful of the universe, and funny. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she started a blog: Cancer College: Or what I didn't plan to do with my life. Only I read it and thought it said, "Cancer Collage."

Cancer collage made sense to me -- I thought it was Elizabeth the fierce seeker putting it all together. I'd type in the url "cancercollage.blah" and wonder why her blog didn't come up. And then today Lizzie emailed to say her blog was public and I could link to it and I was all, "See HER link to cancer collage works!" After reading more of it (which I encourage you to do because Lizzie fights hard and well and has something to teach all of us), I went to set up my link and it was only then that I got it: Cancer COLLEGE, or what I didn't plan to do with my life. And I thought, "That's so funny! That's so Lizzie!"

When the blog was cancer collage, it was a little farther away from me, the work of my grown up friend Elizabeth for whom I want everything. When it's cancer college, it's Lizzie my old, old friend, my first pen pal, the girl who could quiver when she'd clamber out of a pool and even if her lips were blue give me that look that said, "C'mon! Let's do'll be FUN!" So Lizzie has again led me somewhere. This isn't about me, it's about her. It's about Elizabeth and Lizzie, a force the universe must reckon with and shelter in living, breathing fierceness for decades to come.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Hate Game

Every time someone says Obama is Muslim, I want to say, "And? So what?" Same with "Arab." These words are simply adjectives or nouns, depending, never epithets. Khaled Hosseini gets at this point a little in this op-ed, but I really wish someone would just tear into it. It just makes my skin crawl.

Eureka! The Web, Fresh Direct, Virgina Heffernan, the Campaign and Me

This morning I was indulging in the guilty pleasure of reading the Sunday Times Magazine on Saturday while my kids were watching tv, when I stopped at Virginia Heffernan's column about media. This week, she talks about Fresh Direct and it starts with the old chestnut of an anecdote, "I was on a panel and I didn't have anything to say."

Don't you just love the anti-elite honesty of a flumoxed Times columnist? I do. I fall for it all the time. Only this time, as I read on, I was like, "Huh, she really didn't know anything about it."

Heffernan's story revolved around her big idea (plainly put during the panel, of course) that web sites/advertisers that sell one thing on line should really sell other stuff, too. Her case in point: Fresh Direct. Fresh Direct, New York City's online grocer, not only has groceries, it has recipes, tips, videos, you name they got it. See! Heffernan tells us, she was right! A web site has to sell stuff other than what it's selling to keep people there!

Back in the day, I edited web sites. Mostly, I worked on new sites and those being overhauled. I even did some web consulting. And can I just say? In every single meeting about every single would-be web site or redesign, every single person had a different nifty idea about what we could do. Forget about bells and whistles, there could be Thises and Thats and the Other Things! They'd make the site sticky! They'd keep those eyeballs interested! And everyone would come back because there'd be so much to see!

Sometimes I feel like I personally sunk the very first web site I worked on with all my attention to the Thises and Thats (about the history food) and scant attention to what should have been its core editorial function: Menus. Granted, my narcissism on this point could be eclipsed by the collapse of the Asian stock market in the late 90s, but still. In any case, here's my point. A web site, like any business, has to do one thing before it can do everything else. Remember when amazon just sold books? Granted,as Heffernan points out, sometimes selling other stuff is important. At concerts merchandising makes money for the band and ticket sales pay everyone else. But grocery shopping is not the same concert going. Now that I've got to this point, I feel emotionally redeemed, but it's not all that interesting, is it?

So now, instead of wrapping up or talking about how much I don't like Fresh Direct there's something else I want to say: Selling groceries the way you sell concert stuff is kind of like presenting politicians the way you sell movies. Instead of focusing on substance, the advertising emphasizes feeling. Instead of discussing the complexity of the issues, the appeal hovers on our basest response to a smile, raised eyebrow--or fist, as the case may be. It's not new to talk about the devolution of our political discourse, but it may be worth noting, again, how people who sell things get excited about selling more! and in different ways! instead of focusing on the most basic stuff. And people who sell politicians do the same thing. In trying to make this very analogy, I'm contributing to the problem, because we shouldn't make our political choices the way we make our commercial ones, even though in reality, we kind of pretty much do. This also is not new. But Heffernan defended her personal revelation as something new, and her editors didn't stop her. And I guess now there are no editors to stop me, either.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Donna Brazile Cooks!

Check it out.

Chris Buckley Goes for Obama

Have a read.


He knew what was coming.

This is Rich

Sarah Palin asking "When will questions be asked?" about Obama. Um, Gov. Palin, when will questions be taken, by YOU?

Is Sarah Palin Qualified to be Vice President?

They're taking a poll over at PBS. Here's one more chance to vote.

Patriotic Taxes

I stopped reading Mr. Friedman after the whole China's so great and modern column, but a friend told me I should read this one, which reminded me I shouldn't stop reading someone just because of one column. Because, yes, paying taxes means contributing to the common good and the common defense and that, my friends, is patriotic.

The Politics of Fear

Andrew Sullivan gets this right. The McCain-Palin campaign is stoking a dangerous fire right now by feeding fears of Obama because he's young, liberal, black. They should hang their heads in shame, and they should stop.

The Time Problem

I don't have enough time. I know no one has enough time, but right now, I really feel like I'm just grabbing hours wherever I can. And what's really bad about that is when I do that, I end up drinking too much coffee, which makes it hard to settle in when I do have a few hours. Like now. The worst part of this post (and it's bad, I know, but still), is that I had a really great idea for it yesterday. But yesterday was Yom Kippur, so I didn't post. (My one nod to God; that and not going to Saks with a friend to look for a wedding dress. I think that must be bad luck, or something.) The same thing happened before my last post -- I'd practically written something in my head, but then, I forgot! It's awful, but there it is. Which is to say: Please tune in again!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

No Big Deal

But did anyone else notice that the last presidential debate starts at the same time as the Project Runway season finale??? Does the whole world have DVR? As my mom would say, this should be my worst problem in life, but still! It's a problem!

What Conservatism Means

Here's what Andrew Sullivan, who knows something on the subject, has to say.

Do I Protest Too Much?

So here's a little bit on the election: It's a good round up of debate-reaction over on Andrew Sullivan. The last blog post quoted by Sullivan is the most chilling. In it, a conservative notes that the silver lining of a loss this year would be that the Democrats will "own this mess." (Here's a link to the full post over on Beliefnet.)

My husband said something similar to me the other day but just on the other side. That is, he noted that if McCain won it wouldn't be the end of the world because these next four years are going to be so awful.

I responded that if McCain won the psychological/emotional toll on Democrats would be crushing, as would, I believe this country's international standing.

Plus, now that I think about it, it'll take a lot more than four years to rebuild the conservative movement. Let's face it, it's going to take more than four years for the conservatives to figure out how to get back into the driver's seat, and even then, could any fiscal conservative with a straight face really say that markets work best when left alone? If McCain's campaign has done anything, it has dragged the intellectual conservatives, those (ironically) who are for fiscal constraint and free markets, out of their extended liaison with social conservatives. The people who who are voting for McCain because of Palin are not the same as those who would have voted for him in spite of her. For years we've been reading about the power these strange bedfellows have generated. Now, that power is gone, crushed by so many sub-prime mortgages. Because whether your pro-choice or pro-creation, you still want your 401K to have some money in it when you retire.

The Blogging Shift

Have you noticed? These days I'm not quite as obsessively reading every insult of Sarah Palin. In fact, I realized last night that I'm reading almost nothing about Sarah Palin these days. As Roni pointed out the other day, the people who show up for her rallies were never going to vote for Obama anyway. As for the top of the ticket: the October descent into slugfest; the stories about McCain's grumpiness (one saying he was grumpy because he's not running the kind of campaign he wanted -- to which I say, oh yes he is! He's running the campaign that he thought would win it for him, and it isn't, we hope); the polls showing good news; it's all just kind of background music to my gnawing anxiety. Anxiety about the financial crisis, about life in cities, about my work, about kindergarten. Whereas most of my anxiety is just a filter for what I read, the anxiety about work and kindergarten for my kids is real and deeply interconnected, because it's hard to worry about both and do what I need to do on each front and getting it all done means letting the election turn into background music. That said, I think I now I have to go check Andrew Sullivan before my day gets going!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Election Stats

Many, many thanks to Karen for telling me about this web site. It's I don't understand any of it because I foolishly didn't take statistics, but I understood this: "As the political world's focus shifts to the second presidential debate in Nashville, Barack Obama continues to expand his lead upon John McCain in all of our projection metrics, and now rates as almost a 9:1 favorte to win the election in November."

And by the way, I'm seriously considering working instead of watching the debate tonight. I just don't know if I can take it!

An Article I'd Like to Read

It's called "Make-Believe Maverick." Can you guess what it's about?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Buckle Up

We read about Bill Ayers over the weekend. Get ready for the Keating 5.

Reading the Other Side #2

What's going on with Bill Kristol? He's writing up talking points with no analysis whatsoever. We can disagree, but how about throwing us a reason or two other than Palin's upset her son called his girlfriend first?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Power of the Brand

After finishing Sandra Tsing Loh's Mother on Fire this weekend, I got into a long email exchange with a friend about what I'll call the consumer-identity matrix. You know, it's that thing that describes how you express yourself, even actualize yourself, through what you buy. Because Tsing Loh makes a big point about the actualization-via-commercialization of parenthood in general and motherhood in particular and it's about all the stuff Real Simple suggests you buy but it's also really about private school. I could say a lot about this book, and I probably will in dribs and drabs, but I want to stick to the consumer point, because there's no denying that buying a new pair of great looking jeans makes you feel great, or it makes me feel great, but does that make me a shallow person? A bad mom? So my friend and I mull this over and I finish this exchange laughing at myself for not being able to buy a couch for fear it will be all wrong and not me and actually in bad taste, and we all know how awful that would be. And my friend points out, wisely, that not only that but when you pick your couch you're basically picking your actualized self from one of four catalogues and it's like chuckle chuckle Yeah I know! And I feel like I find my happy medium place in this email exchange. Then I read this article about Speedo's $575 fancy pants (literally) bathing suit that Michael Phelps -- and everyone else -- wore during the Olympics, and it turns out if you're a regular Joe Swimmer (sans six-pack), then the suit and the $175 warm-up parka will make you swim faster. And now, I don't feel so good anymore. Because there's no escape! All this to say, I'm certainly not buying any jeans, not when I have to save up for that swim parka.

Some Folks Who Don't Watch Saturday Night Live

Close to 10,000 of them, right there, in Florida.

The Strangest Thing

This afternoon I went to Whole Foods at 59th street/Columbus circle, right across the southwestern entrance to Central Park. I never go there on Sundays, but I did today, mostly because I know my kids' best friend, who has a terrible peanut/tree nut allergy, can eat the Whole Foods brand bread and we were out and I like to have it around. So, I was there and I brought my daughter grocery shopping, which I never do, either, and I was struggling into a cab with my big heavy (reusable) bags, and I looked across to the entrance to the park. Usually it's just pedicabs lined up there but today there were tents up for some kind of shopping venue. And among the shoppers I saw a clutch of people in navy t-shirts. I couldn't make out what they said at first -- they didn't look like Obama shirts. And then, as the cab rounded the fountain in the middle of Columbus circle I saw. They were McCain supporters. With, like, signs that said McCain. They may have even said McCain-Palin! I know that 59th street/Columbus circle is, like, the nexus of the upper west side and the fancy tourist district. I know it's also home to international financiers, what with the Time Warner building, Trump tower, and 15 Central Park West all right there. But still! It just never occured to me that a clutch of McCain voters would actually be out, like on the street, in New York City! Which just goes to show, even if you live in the bluest of the blue states, you still have to vote. No matter how blue you think you are. You must. Go blue!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Crazy Thing I Did During Bathtime

Last night before bath, my son flung many of his broken plastic toys out of their happy cubbies. A barbie leg here, a lonely little purple plastic comb there, and over yonder a lone wheel. I looked at it all lying there and I thought "I could cram it all back in or I could Throw It Away!" Can you guess what I did?

The problem is, I'm very conflicted about throwing things away. Once, my friend N told me she'd thrown away all her tupperware. The quarts of soups, the random square Ikea containers, every last piece of it went into the trash. She looked elated. "It was so liberating!" she told me. I still to this day hope my face didn't betray my panic. Truthfully, I was horrified. "All that garbage!" I thought.

This problem, the "I make too much garbage" problem, is the thing that has kept me from throwing away all those lonely little purple combs that come with the $5.99 dolls at CVS. Because nothing can remind me of how much we, the great cultural we, I mean, throw away as the actual physical act of throwing stuff away. But sometimes, it has to be done, right? Sometimes, you look at the mass of broken wheels and fallen plastic legs, the strange little hats that daddy brings home from work and the empty bright yellow plastic tubes that once contained who knows what -- a bath crayon? a box opener? -- and avoiding our disposable culture simply by not disposing no longer seems like a reasonable option. Yesterday was that time for me. It was crazy, but I threw a whole bunch of that stuff away. And the stuff I didn't? Well, it all went back just where it belongs.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Reading the Other Side

Sullivan does and we can, too. Here's the quote from Charles Krauthammer, the link, and Sullivan's take.

The Best and Worst of Cheney

Here's what Biden and Palin each told Katie Couric. I don't have to say much else.

Palin's Performance

There's a lot out there about it. I haven't even started to dig in and I can't, really, because I have to get to to her stuff (do you believe it?)...but this from Meghan O'Rourke at Slate is worth reading.

But you know whose column I won't read today? David Brooks. I made that decision last night when I heard him tell Jim Lehrer in the last 15 seconds of post debate chatter that Sarah Palin won the debate. I mean, I may be an easy target for an email debate about McCain, but I'm in the choir with no foundation on my face. And I'm no fool.

The Debate

OK. Do I even have to write anything? Maybe I do, just because. So here's a question for ya: Have you ever seen a candidate for national office smile so much? Ohhhhh nooooo. And my friend Nicole swears she saw Sarah wink three times? Me, I missed the blinks. But do I believe her? You betcha! And here's a shout out to that guy who Sarah Palin has been listening to since, like, the second grade: Thank you, sir, for understanding the function of the Vice Presidency. Thank you for pointing out that Dick Cheney's idea of the vice presidency really has nothing to do with the constitution. (Not that we have to worry about Sarah Palin hiring David Addington as her chief of staff and expanding the role of the VP even more, but still.) Thank you for having an idea about what you'd do in that office besides "job creation" and "tax relief." (That would be "legislative point person," because someone has to be able to work with Congress.)

After the debate, Paul Begala pointed out that Joe Biden debated for Barack Obama, and Sarah Palin debated for herself. Begala said she was teeing up for 2012, which might be true. But as so many have pointed out, she was primarily saving herself for right now. It doesn't look like she saved her ticket, but with five weeks to go, you never know.

Which is to say, if you get invited to an Obama house party: Go!!!!

The House Party

Last night, I went to an Obama house party. Not such a a big surprise since there were probably seven million of them in Manhattan alone, but this one was nice. Gen. J. Scott Gration, USAF (ret), the first general to come out publicly as an Obama supporter, and Jamie Rubin (AKA Mr. Christianne Amanpour and a former under-secretary of state in the Clinton years) both preached to the choir. And a choir it was.

On the one hand, I appreciated it. I really did. And I was glad to be there, glad to have given money, glad to see everyone so keen on an Obama victory. On the other, looking around the room at the hair that was clean but unconditioned, the faces that were put together with a touch of mascara but no foundation, thanks, and all the very, very understated but sometimes funky jewelry, I felt, a little, I don't know, tamped down. Like, where was the person with whom I'd respectfully disagree?

The party sprawled over three apartments and they managed to set up an audio feed in the apartment where the speakers weren't, but I was and remain just a bit surprised that they didn't swing an audio feed into the elevator, you know, with a little Bill Frisell to set the mood? I love Bill Frisell! Good times, I tell you. That would have been some good times.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Project Fugway

With a nod to the ladies of Go Fug Yourself, I have to admit, last night? I loved the show, But the dress? Feh.

Sukkah Sukkah

I saw this headline about pre-fab sukkahs in The Times this morning and I had, in no particular order, intense waves of nostalgia and frustration, disdain and envy. A pleasant way to start the day, no?

Growing up, we always had a sukkah in our backyard, and we always took sukkoth seriously. It was easy to do both. For the sukkah, my dad had the same two big pieces of wood that he'd put together and he'd prop them up against the corner of our house and fence. Kind of prefab, right? And I went to a Jewish school, so we always had the holiday off. Sukkoth was fun. I mean really fun. We got the etrog, which is a funny lemon, and the lulav, which is a palm frond with myrtle and something else, and we'd shake and smell them every day. The holiday service had a special section and I loved all the songs in it. We ate all of our meals in the sukkah, even at school. (The holiday lasts 8 days if you don't live in Israel, 7 if you do.) Then there were the decorations: popcorn and cranberry chains, construction paper chains, paper snowflakes (why not?) -- it was all so, you know, home made.

So you see why I got nostalgic and why, when seeing the pictures of the sleek prefab sukkahs you can order online, I was all those other things. Because now it's like we can just buy a really cool version of our childhood memories. It's sleeker! It's easier! It's designier! I looked at those and I thought, "Wow a sukkah is fun; I don't want a designier sukkah or do I want a designier sukkah? Will my sukkah when I have one be designier than my neighbors?" Or: The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Sure, if and when we again live in a house with a backyard, we can make any kind of sukkah we want, should we choose to have a sukkah. It can be prefab sleek or prefab tied together with yarn, whatever we choose. I guess it's good to have the choice. But I kind of wish it weren't there, the choice. I kind of wish my adult version of things I did as a kid were just my version and that the buying wasn't an option. I know the sukkah kit would make our life really easy, and frankly we'd probably get one and decorate it with construction paper chains and it'd be fine and my kids would look back on it and think it was quaint and sweet because their sukkahs are so much more deisgnier and sleeker. I guess that's not the worst thing that could happen. I guess as long as there's no Matha Stewart-Real Simple Sukkah we'll all be just fine.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Tired Day or Me Losing It: Exhibit B

I was exhausted today. Why? Because I slept really badly. Why? Because I somehow got into an email debate about McCain and Obama with a rabid Republican who happens to be my brother's old college friend. This guy thinks McCain has the integrity and experience real leadership requires. Obama, he thinks, not so much. To be honest, I don't know how serious this guy was in ticking off the McCain talking points -- he might have been "just messing with me" as my brother insisted -- but you will not be surprised to learn that I took the bait. And because I took it, I found myself upright at 3 AM wanting to take more. It was only the very last shred of my common sense that kept me in bed and away from the computer were, at 3:14 AM, I would have written: George Will! What about what George Will Says!

Thank goodness that's over. Tonight, no emailing, no accusations of untethered greed, no none of it. Just sleep. Good night!

Torture & Criminal Accountability

Andrew Sullivan has excerpts from the debate over at Talking Points Memo. Having read The Dark Side, I can't help but that Bush government officials are criminally liable for war crimes and the political implications are less relevant than the moral imperative at stake. Unfortunately, I know that's easy to say.

The Risk of the No Bail-Out Option

This I actually understood.

Debate Prep

Apparently Palin's doing a lot of it, and not surprisingly, she's good at debating. She works that whole "aw shucks, who me, you old codger, let's get real" routine. And in a debate she doesn't necessarily have to answer questions as much as show that the other guy is just giving You the voter the same old somethin-somethin'. So I think Palin could be very, very good because she'll use sarcasm as her primary weapon, which at this point is just know....annoying. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but when I finished reading the politico article I linked to above, I had a flash back to the Cheney-Lieberman debate of 2000. Now that was a real debate. Too bad Cheney stole the election and turned out to be a war criminal, but, still, he was a good, substantive debater. I guess we all have our strengths.