Tuesday, March 31, 2009
But, it gets worse. I have to give up my afternoon chocolate, too. We'll see how well I do with that one.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I'm overwhelmed by what I don't know and what I fear.
2) Anything having to do with the war.
What I said for the economy.
3) Awtul Gawande's New Yorker essay titled Hellhole about solitary confinement ("ordinary torture").
After reading about the other kind of torture, I can't bring myself to confront the everyday kind.
5) Spring shoes.
Like a jacket in April, you never know what's right.
There are other things, but I think I've divulged enough for one post. So now, I must face something.
Like Josh Marshall, I worry about what the shelves will look like, even the shelves I don't yet have. This will be gotten over, of course, and soon enough reading that's not in cookbooks or atlases or picture books or art books will land in little handheld devices and we'll all say something will be lost, and it will. By then, presumably, the devices will cost nothing so everyone would find them affordable. And if they don't, what do we do then? How do you force someone to buy a reading device?
At the end of The Class, a student tells the teacher about reading Plato's Republic. Her sister had the book, it was lying around, so the student picked it up. Could that kind of accidental encounter happen with the Kindle? Granted, this is a scene from a movie. Who knows what would happen in real life -- I guess that's the point. Who knows once we get used to Kindles or whatever we'll eventually read on, what'll happen. Something will. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Part of me rejoices at the metrosexual qualities of my beloved. This is, after all, the man who turned to me after seeing the preview of Notting Hill and said, "Let's go see it opening weekend!" But this particular fashion feedback stung. Who likes to be reminded of her inherently compromised sense of what looks good? The clash of reality and fantasy that is a clothing purchase might well and happily be left unaccompanied by high doses of reality. Until it can't. So the pants will go back. One last thing? Thanks Stacey and Clinton! You've changed my life!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Just a theory.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Granted, I didn't weigh my ingredients. Roni told me I should do this, but I don't have a kitchen scale so I didn't. Then, even worse than making a Beranbaum cake without a scale, I let my 4-1/2-year old twins participate in the baking, which was admittedly nerve-wracking. I mean, who hasn't heard how careful you have to be with Levy Beranbaum's cakes? Truly, I was not gracious about it, but after most of the flour got in the mixing bowl I calmed down and figured, how bad could it be? Besides, I'd bought sour cream to make this cake, organic sour cream. I had to go for it.
My plan B if I lost faith or will or whatever was to make the one bowl chocolate cupcakes from Martha Stewart as a two layer cake. This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe because it's so easy and reliable. The last time I made that cake, after a near disaster in the measuring (I put in way too much baking soda and had to scoop it out), the cake came out just about perfect. I knew in my gut I should go with the simple cake, but the sour cream, it was taunting me, daring me, nagging me to try the Domingo cake. So I did.
Of course, in the end I should have turned my back on the sour cream and saved it for a Passover bowl of sour cream bananas and sugar (my favorite childhood kosher-for-Passover meal). The chocolate Domingo cake was dry and weird with large inexplicable holes and an unappealing crumb. I figured I'd overbaked it from the moment I took it out of the oven. (Beranbaum insists that the sides of the cake must not pull away from the sides of the pan while the cake is in the oven; mine did even though I opted for a short baking time.) Before I even made the cake I guessed this could be a recipe that would want some tinkering, or at least practice, but now I don't know if I have the heart. I've become a much better cook since I've become less obsessive in my cooking and baking. Perfecting the Domingo cake could set me back years in my hard earned relaxed cooking style, and while I could tell the cake's flavor had some real potential if only it had any moisture to it, I just don't know if I have the heart to try it again, what with the foolproof Martha number in my back pocket.
I may try a straight butter cake from the Bible and see how I do. If I do, I'll bake alone. If it only comes out so-so, I'll just have to see what's on deck from the Martha cake files. It'll be a butter cake smackdown, and I'm sure even if one fails, the competition won't disappoint.
Anne Bauer has written a painful and moving essay about what else can happen to autistic children who grow up to find themselves miserable in their bodies, unable to negotiate the world, helpless and almost uncontrollably violent because of their impulses. Here's how Bauer describes inauguration day after her son had been hospitalized for attacking a young woman at his group home:
"I spent Tuesday at a friend's house, as planned, in front of the TV, watching the Obamas walk and wave. Once, when someone asked why I was so quiet, I mentioned that one of my children was in the hospital, quite ill. She touched me and said something kind. I knew she was thinking of something like leukemia and I wanted to tell her I would hack off my right arm in return for something as simple as cancer. The flickering beauty of a sad, pure, too-early death sounds lovely. Instead I nodded, silent and dumb."
I keep trying to come up with something else to say, but I can't.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
How hard do I rock? So. Hard.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
25 Random Things I Don't Know About Me
Rules: Once you've been tagged, you're supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals you don't know about yourself. At the end, choose 25 people you don't know to be tagged. You don't have to tag any person who didn't tag you. If I didn't tag you, I don't know why but maybe it's because I still want to know you. If I tagged you, I'm pretty sure it's because I don't want to know you or anything else about you.
1. I hate chain letters.
2. In the second grade, I thought my teacher was really smart and cool and pretty.
3. I never studied a musical instrument and never wanted to but…..
4. It'd be nice to play the guitar better than I do.
5. No matter what I say at a cocktail party about that trip I took to Morocco last year, I don't like to travel and I never want to go back there or anywhere else that isn't Brooklyn. I don't live in Brooklyn.
6. It wasn't all that embarrassing when Scott Schwartzbaum gave me a wedgie that time at summer camp. It didn't hurt that much either.
7. My mother's not actually critical at all, but she really does love my sister better.
8. I'm tired of the stories I tell my therapist, but I'm pretty sure she still likes them.
9. The next time I see my therapist, I have to tell her about the time my sister gave me a wedgie after she made out with Scott Schwartzbaum.
10. Gardening is one of my all-time favorite things to do.
11. My mom always told me I just decided I couldn't do math. I can't decide if she's right.
12. For some reason I wasn't surprised when my mom told me she didn't think what Larry Summers said that time about women and math and science was all that bad.
13. Sometimes I really want to know if the Dixie Chicks are ready to make nice.
14. No matter what I say at a cocktail party, I'm not a vegetarian because of any ill-treatment of chickens, cows or workers in meat packing plants. I'm a vegetarian because I think lambs are cute.
15. I learned the difference between lambs and sheep from Top Chef.
16. I don't want to know how Padma got her scar. Tina Fey either, even though I heard she told.
17. I have never lived in a house with a yard in my adult life for a reason.
18. Every time I get an email from Barack Obama I think, "Barack Obama sent ME an email!"
19. I can't believe it when my sister tells me SHE got an email from Barack Obama. My mom, too. I mean, she voted for Hillary.
20. If I think about the other sock at all, I think, "Good riddance."
21. Because I've had so much therapy, I think there's always something else I don't know about myself.
22. Gardening is one of my all time favorite things to do!
23. I think everyone should be able to show his or her emotions all the time, except Roger Federer.
24. I really love the way Japanese women dress when they're tourists in New York. I'd love to go to Japan and see if they dress that way at home.
25. Whenever I get a chain letter, I think: Why not?
Monday, March 23, 2009
From the moment I moved in with my husband, which was about ten minutes after I met him over ten years ago, he made the coffee. I bought him a coffee maker and grinder for his new apartment, but from the moment the machines left the Zabar's bag, David was the only one to touch them. I've noticed other men do the same. My friend Chris said to me the other day, "Before I met Hilary, I never made coffee. Now, I make it every day." And lest you think it's just a new generation of males, my dad makes the coffee, too. When did the coffee maker become the grill of the kitchen?
This morning, I might have made a passable cup, but we had no milk, because I couldn't run out after my kids were asleep last night and get some, so I couldn't really tell. It doesn't matter, though. By the end of the week I will have relearned how to make a descent cup of coffee and how to get to the market when I need to, and then, David will be back and then he'll reclaim his rightful place in the kitchen in front of the coffee pot and I'll forget all about how to make a decent cup of coffee. Talk about co-dependent, without David I'm a coffee damsel in distress, and I kind of like it that way, too.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
On the one hand, it's as hugely self-indulgent as you'd imagine a book about writer's block would be and you kind of get that by page ten. (OK, so I get the tender irony of saying any other writing is "self-indulgent" in a blog.)
On the other, Dyer gets the inertia of starting a project, the problem of being in the middle of it, and the break of understanding that comes with almost being able to look back on it so exactly right, that I for one was happy to join him on the slog. I never got lost in this book, but I felt completely in it. While I was reading it, Dyer felt like a person in my life, something that happens whenever I recognize that I'm lost in a book. And I liked having him around. (I probably liked it more than I liked have Dorothea from Middlemarch around, but maybe that's because I'm more familiar with people like Dyer, and I was always a little put off by how beautiful Elliot made Dorothea out to be.)
But Dyer's book was, for me, a great success, and I know it had to be tricky, The insertion of yourself as the writer writing about a writer is a hard thing to pull off, and because of this, the book is, in a very strange way, a nice companion piece to Janet Malcolm's brilliant The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, which is as much about the project of biography as it is about Plath and Hughes. Malcolm's book is as heady and precise as Dyer's is casting and almost lyrical in its evocation of procrastination. Both get at how little we can know about anyone else and how the process of non-fiction writing, particularly about people, is, in its narrative demands, as much about writing fiction as anything. In any case, I recommend both books for entirely different reasons.
Did I mention I feel chastened by Frank Rich?
Friday, March 20, 2009
One choice quote:
"We — journalists and readers both — simply must, for once, resist the temptation to let what may or may not be happening to the top 5 percent (or 1 percent) of our country’s families set the story line for what women’s lives are becoming in this recession.Because, the fact is, the story’s not about them. "
Um, thanks Judy. Now, will you call up your friend Hanna and tell her the issues around breastfeeding (here and here) aren't about you -- I mean them -- either. Because, seriously, who is she lecturing here?
On the one hand, Warner is right that the stories right now should not be about the pain being felt by moms on Long Island who have to cut back on Gymboree classes but about those losing homes. (As George Packer , too, made poignantly clear.) On the other, I don't want to hear from Judith Warner, the chronicler of our privileged discontent, about where the real "storyline" is and how we have to "for once" look down the economic ladder for our collective narrative. After all, that story, the "real" story, the story of those outside of the top tax bracket, has been out there for years, even while the economy was booming Warner was looking and writing no further than very green grass in her own backyard.
On page A18, or somewhere back there, there was this small AP story, the headline of which says it all: "13 Firms That Received Bailout Money Owe Back Taxes." More than $220 million in back taxes.
Now, we know from the bonus discussion that when you're talking billions, $220 million, just like $165 million, isn't all that much money. Right? But still, it'd be better if those taxes were paid, don't you think? And wouldn't you rather the tax code and regulations were such that if companies, multi-billion dollar companies, didn't pay their taxes they'd get, like, fined. And they'd have to pay their fines, and not with trips for senators on corporate jets or to the Bahamas or fancy dinners but with actual dollars to the IRS and not PACS. And if Congress can "overwhelmingly" pass a bill on a retroactive tax that might not even be legal, why can't it pass some real reform? Hmmmm, that must have something to do with how wide that reform net would have to be cast and how long the pain of hating Wall Street might last. Because right now Wall Street just has to take its whipping, but unless something real happens, this will be just a tender moment of humiliation, a passing shower, some floating leaves, before the Times tells us someone down on The Street is happy again. (Granted even as I write this I feel like maybe this moment of outrage won't go by so quickly, but you never know, and wouldn't it be a shame to waste?)
See, the worst part is I'm writing all this and I have no evidence for any of it, other than the back of the book Free Lunch: How the wealthiest Americans enrich themselves at government expense (and stick you with the bill), by David Cay Johnston, which I read this morning --just the back, not the whole book. Along with that deep well of evidence, there's my twisted populist outrage, which I love to hate and hate to love. But what the heck? What are blogs for anyway, right?
Happy Spring everyone!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
This is from a March 4th post on Slate by my friend Jesse Eisinger. It's well worth reading for a concise take on the budget, the bailout and the media. Here's a quote on how to manage the bailout:
"We need to rip that weak spine out of the rotting corpse of our regulatory bodies, show it to them, a la Mortal Kombat, and then transplant a new, real spine into them. The SEC has been culturally inclined to allow bad actors to pay fines, often nominal ones, and reach settlements where they neither admit nor deny guilt. That has to end!
After their spinal surgery, they will need to go after big-wig wrongdoers and take them to trial. If we let the view that sees this as one giant bubble in which everyone acted more or less with equal irrationaity triumph, all will be lost. What I mean is that we jeopardize the chance for genuine structural change. Wall Street won't always be this weak politically. (Even at its weakest point, it's still extraordinarily influential, as I point out above.) If the public is allowed to see public trials in which top Wall Street executives are proved to have broken laws, they will be more eager, not less so, for sweeping financial regulatory reform."
It's not a witch hunt I want, it's accountability and change and if it takes trials, so be it. Remember this big idea? Yes we can.
I mean, however you feel about what Geithner knew about the bonuses and when he knew it, you have to concede that his far bigger concern throughout this time was preventing the global economy from self-immolating. As a substantive proposition, how much would we even want a Treasury secretary to focus on $165 million in bonus money while there were hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money flowing to AIG and other companies?
But actually fixing our problems is not half as much fun as a witch-hunt.
It's that whole witch hunt thing, the bandwagon thing, it just makes me feel somewhat oppositional. Like I've said, there's no reason to defend AIG, but spending all this time and energy shaming one company when there's plenty of shame to go around, not to mention actual legal indictments to hand out seems wasteful, foolish and even distracting from the real work that has to get done.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Did I mention he's my older brother?
Anyway, I give you a full quote pulled from Sullivan and the link to the full blog post on why Stewart is a capitalist. I like it. And it means I can blog and go do my taxes.
"Some have called Jon Stewart's argument "anti-capitalist." We disagree. If anything, he makes an impassioned plea for an economy that functions the way we're told capitalism ought to: a producer makes something worth purchasing, and a consumer decides to buy it. You get ahead by hard work and keen insight. If anything, Cramer's defense of 30 percent returns that have evaporated for everyone who didn't cash out in 2006 demonstrates that he and the financial experts he came on the show to represent have lost touch with real capitalism. They came to believe that just moving the money around for eight years and hoping the bottom wouldn't fall out could replace the laws of supply and demand."
This is so true. I was thinking just the same thing when I was wondering about retention bonuses and making things. (See David Leonhardt for why they're unnecessary, as opposed to just blowing the top of your head off because of course it's unnecessary to pay people to stay who've already left and of course why do you want to retain people who aren't very good at their jobs.)
In any case, there it is. Forgive this as not my best post, but I remain a Stewart fan and I have to get to those taxes.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Can I just say? I once bought pants that could have fallen into the category of "harem pants." It was the eighties, I was in my teens, my hair feathered, I tanned with abandon, and I was in the region of the world sometimes called "the fertile crescent." The days of me and harem pants, they are long gone. And frankly, from the look of these pants, there aren't too many for whom those days should come back again.
On the one hand, it's enraging that the people who ran the financial products division which brought the company to its knees are getting bonuses. (Believe me, I was so enraged my husband was like, "You need to go blog.) On the other, the second half of the article makes clear that lawyers for both the treasury department and AIG could not find a legal way out of the contractual obligations of the bonuses. There was also this: "Mr. Liddy wrote that A.I.G. hoped to reduce its retention bonuses for 2009 by 30 percent. He said the top 25 executives at the financial products division had also agreed to reduce their salary for the rest of 2009 to $1." This is not a small fact, it seems to me, and while the bankers who got bailed out are less than sympathetic, it's clear this article was structured to put AIG in the worst possible light. AIG didn't help matters by having CEO Liddy's talking points on this be "bonuses are necessary to keep experienced people in their place" instead of "These are legal obligations and the highest paid executives will get a salary of $1 in 2009."
I mean, the highest paid executives should also be required to pay back their bonuses, and I think bonuses should be suspended in 2009, and yet the $1 salary is a welcome starting point of at least some restraint.
I want to be clear: I'm not defending AIG here, I'm just noticing the way the Times built the story to foment outrage and there's already plenty of outrage to go around.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I'm sorry, but WTF?
Meanwhile, I'm absolutely going to make the sugared puffs, but maybe not for my brother but only because he hates it when I blog about food.
And I'm doubly sorry because I suspect this is excatly the kind of thing I'm supposed to Twitter, except I don't yet Twitter.
Update, Sunday morning: A friend told me I overreacted to this (Surprising, right?) because it's reasonable to think someone wouldn't have made Heatter's recipes. Although I would argue that TV celebrity chefdom isn't such a good predictor of recipes made.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Rosin's article sets out to do two things: (1) demolish the medical arguments for breastfeeding; and (2) link the pressure to breastfeed to the decision by highly educated women to leave the workplace. Her first task is relatively easy. The argument that breast milk is better for an infant than formula, medically speaking, is not hard to take apart. Controlled studies with one group of breastfeeding moms and one group of formula feeding moms are ethically impossible to construct because you can't tell someone how to feed her kid. The results of the studies we have are contradictory at best. The breast is best argument has been oversold. Got it.
Then Rosin sets out to prove that breastfeeding is to twenty first century women what the vacuum cleaner was to mid-century stay at home moms, or what Betty Friedan called the problem that has no name and ties women to the home. Because of the intense pressure from doctors and the media to breastfeed and because breastfeeding is so hard, Rosin argues, women have to give up work to do it. Rosin writes: "Let's say a baby feeds seven times a day and then a couple more times at night. That's nine times for about a half hour each, which adds up to more than half of a working day, every day, for at least six months."
Um, no. After four or five months, a baby could very well sleep through the night -- some babies do this even earlier. By four or five months, you could even introduce a little cereal, a pediatrician wouldn't mind and it means fewer feeding. And breastfeeding for a half hour every time through six months? Maybe Rosin's children did that, but mine didn't and many, even most, kids I know didn't either.
Rosin also couldn't bear the indignity of full breasts in the workplace. She describes the experience of lactating spontaneously as hugely embarrassing. I'm not saying it'd be my favorite day at the office, but of all the embarrassing things I've done in my time in offices, I'd take that over most of them. After all, it's a body thing. I mean, fart much, Hanna?
But Rosin is convinced that it's the demands of breastfeeding that make women leave work. "Recently my husband and I noticed that we had reached the age at which friends from high school and college now hold positions of serious power. When we went down the list, we had to work hard to find any women. Where had all our female friends strayed? Why had they disappeared during the years they'd had small children?"
Rosin's answer: Breastfeeding! Really?
Babies and their habits are as varied as the reasons women decide to leave or stay in the workplace. Among those who have a choice, some can't imagine returning to the stress of work. Others can't imagine staying at home. Either way, as parents of infants and very small children we enter a period in our lives when the physical and emotional demands are enormous. To argue that the medical profession along with all those nasty ladies at putting out the magazines that urge new moms to breastfeed comprise a vast conspiracy to keep women at home doesn't make much sense. It's a big, reductive bark up a pointless tree. (Jill Lepore's case that the prioritization of pumping undermines the argument for better work-life policy makes more sense.)
Yes, educated older women who have babies should feel empowered to choose to breastfeed or not. That Rosin didn't seem to realize she had a choice or could use any formula until she had her third baby doesn't mean she should browbeat the rest of us with how beaten down we've been by the establishment forcing us with over-inflated claims and half-truths into the challenges and, yes, the deep, physical pleasure of breastfeeding. (And I say that as someone who didn't like it all that much.)
The bottom line is there's important work to be done to improve the situation of parents of infants and young children and the children themselves. Serving up the choice not to breastfeed as if it were a revolution to well-educated grown-up new mothers who already have that choice is not part of that work. Not even close.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
A few weeks ago I read this Gina Kolata piece in the NY Times about women running. In it, she describes a woman who at 48 went out for her first run and came back exhilarated. I have to say, that really hasn't been my experience. But still, I go. And yesterday, for the first time, I went running and about two-thirds of the way through I realized that it didn't totally suck. 'Maybe,' I thought to myself, 'maybe in a year this will actually be fun.' Here's to hoping.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
But, get this, he doesn't exactly want to hear about how they taught you to eat. He wants to hear about how they taught you not to eat. For example, Pollan writes: "My own Russian-Jewish grandfather used to say at the end of every meal, “I always like to leave the table a little bit hungry.”" You know what my (Galician-Jewish) great-grandfather liked to say to my mother who then liked to say the same thing to me about food? "When you're hungry you'll eat anything." I don't really think this particular immigrant nugget is what Pollan is after. But it's not just these half-sour but what-the-heck-I'm-hungry grapes that make me think his request itself is odd. What's Pollan going to do with the maxims he's fishing for? Is the man who once grew poppy plants going to write a diet book? Not that there's anything wrong with that. Of course, if he does write that book, I suspect his will be the most food-correct and ethnically-diverse diet book ever.
You know what else I bet? I bet the book he writes, let's call it Michael Pollan Tells You How to Eat: A Food Lover's Guide to Slow Food, Healthy Living, and a Better Planet sells a million copies (which would be great) while its far-flung maxims, recipes and invocations will make you look back at that wedding sequence in Rachel Getting Married as a WASP-y sham of multi-culti inclusivity. Seriously, cue up the Ry Cooder because it's going to be a rollicking good time.
Monday, March 9, 2009
This year, though, having turned 40, I felt I couldn't wait another year. So I didn't. I decided to read it, and I did. Along the way, there were some of the most perfect paragraphs I've ever encountered. There were complicated characters and nuanced insights into human nature and sad and funny comments on the position of women in society and the state of marriage in general. There are also sheets of stuff about English politics which I didn't understand and I'm sure would color my feelings about the book and add a layer of meaning to the closely detailed psychological portraits if only I had any interest in figuring them out. What's most interesting to me, though, is that in the end, the book is simply a love story and everyone pretty much lives happily ever after. There are tragic figures, for sure, but their tragedies are too complicated to be heartbreaking and for a prudish book they visit most closely on the most prudish -- or priggish -- of the cast of characters. Every life has the big and small dramas but I have to admit I was surprised that after 800 pages almost everyone ends up so pleased. It's nice, sort of. I will admit to feeling, I don't know, a little restless when I finally closed the book. Thinking about it now the ending is growing in brilliance (I love the last line of the epilogue), but I did have a vague dissatisfaction. And yet, I'm so glad I can FINALLY say I've read that damn book. Now my only problem is my friend N told me after a palate cleanser of Mansfield Park I should go off and read Daniel Deronda. I don't know if I can. Maybe for 45.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Maybe it was the $675 starter controlled rent, or the current rent of $2,850, maintained by careful cultivation of an in-the-home income of $175,000. (I have no doubt that the family, succesful restaurateurs, has means well beyond that.) Maybe it was the strange shock that Coke felt in high school when he learned that not everyone in New York City lived in 8-room spreads. Maybe it's just the Apthorp, because used to be you were damn lucky to get an apartment in that building, and it turns out that a lot of people were damned lucky to get paid to leave. (Some, it's reported, were paid as much as a million dollars, this after paying below-market rents for decades.)
It's not that I don't think housing costs are too high in this city, they are, and the cost of renting or buying an apartment keeps people out or drives them away or leaves them on the streets. Housing is completely unreasonable. But, as a very succesful literary agent once told me, if you get lucky in New York, you can get really lucky, and everyone who had a chance to live in the Apthorp shared that luck and I'm just not so interested in mooning over its loss. I did that once with Nora Ephron. I could just barely take her amused self-indulgence about having to find a new eyebrow threader on the Upper East Side; the only reason I could was because it was Nora Ephron. But I can't do it again. It's enough about people mooning over the Apthorp. Moving on.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009