Friday, July 31, 2009

A Response to a Case Against Health Care Reform

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post gives a lengthy and worthwhile response to a case made by Megan McArdle against health care reform. I have my biases, but I think Klein is well worth reading.

The Kindle

This New Yorker article by Nicholson Baker about the Kindle didn't really answer the question "While this replace the book?" But it did make me want to read electronic books. Here's how:

But, fortunately, if you want to read electronic books there’s another way to go. Here’s what you do. Buy an iPod Touch (it costs seventy dollars less than the Kindle 2, even after the Kindle’s price was recently cut), or buy an iPhone, and load the free “Kindle for iPod” application onto it. Then, when you wake up at 3 A.M. and you need big, sad, well-placed words to tumble slowly into the basin of your mind, and you don’t want to wake up the person who’s in bed with you, you can reach under the pillow and find Apple’s smooth machine and click it on. It’s completely silent. Hold it a few inches from your face, with the words enlarged and the screen’s brightness slider bar slid to its lowest setting, and read for ten or fifteen minutes. Each time you need to turn the page, just move your thumb over it, as if you were getting ready to deal a card; when you do, the page will slide out of the way, and a new one will appear. After a while, your thoughts will drift off to the unused siding where the old tall weeds are, and the string of curving words will toot a mournful toot and pull ahead. You will roll to a stop. A moment later, you’ll wake and discover that you’re still holding the machine but it has turned itself off. Slide it back under the pillow. Sleep.

Some Advice for Obama from the Big Dogs

At The New Yorker Hendrick Hertzberg (so many caps and none of them for Style!) has a bit of advice for our president about how to control these "blue dog" democrats, as does Tina Brown at The Daily Beast (to which Hertzberg links) put it succinctly, make friends with Bill Clinton. Use Bill Clinton. Do not fear Bill Clinton. The Big Dog commentators are right, Obama should use Clinton. Whatever is holding him back from collecting all firepower should be released from within like a great big exhale.

Back on

So of course I decided to take the month off and of course I started to feel like I had a million things to blog about. For example, in yesterday's New York Times the lead story was on waning support for health care and reading its discussion of how nervous people are about a new kind of care all I could think about was a conversation I had with my cousin the day before. We were talking about starting a new career -- she became a teacher about five years ago -- and she said "It's awful, starting something new, it's awful." I was also reminded of how when people complain about Congress they complain about everyone except their own representative. "Throw the bums out!" is the hue and cry, "But not my guy!" Same with the's like everyone is saying: "All they want to do is order expensive tests! Except for mine. My doctor is great. Don't make me choose a new one."

It's true, starting something new is awful, but it's way better than dealing with my health insurance company. And it's way better than letting Bill Krystol win.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


With August looming I realize I need a little break from blogging. If you've been checking in over the last two months this probably isn't a surprise. The summer's been a funny one, pretty groove-less, which makes blogging hard. I hope everyone has a wonderful August and I'll see you in September!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I can't make them. I find this frustrating. I'd like to change it. I don't know if I'll be able to.

The Heat

It's arrived. I'm not managing it well. Not at all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Finishing Books

I'm totally with the guy Sullivan quotes who says life is too short to finish books you don't like (or even books you do and feel like you "get"). I still resent the time I spent finishing The Emperor's Children (a terrible book). And yet, I am not at all with Sullivan who comments with the thought that sunk costs have a lot to do with the drive to finish a book. Hogwash. A relationship to a book - or my relationship to a book - is much more irrational and nuanced than my need to get my money's worth from the experience of reading a book. In fact, I've never once finished a book, even a book I've loved to itty bitty bits, and thought, "I really got my money out of this one!" Instead, I usually think: "I've got to buy this book for all my friends!"

Texting Surprise?

Is it a surprise to anyone that if you text while driving you're more likely to get into an accident? Now, granted, I'm a nervous nelly behind the wheel, but isn't that the way you should be? Or, at least isn't it better to recognize that driving had inherent risks than to assume that you can do anything else while driving? I can't even walk and text, never mind drive. I know it's different for people who drive more than three times a year, but still. Jeez.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meatlof, Hugh Jackman, Hell, and Me

Sometimes, I read the food column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine just to see how much I won't like it. For example, flipping through the pages I wonder if this week the essay will it be about foodies in California who make too much food for dinner but since it's all local they feel good and maybe even smug about it? Or will it be and essay with a recipe that I wouldn't make in a thousand years because where am I going to get trotters anyway? Today I began the column with some trepidation because it was about Nora Ephron and being invited to a dinner party for her that was on the Upper West Side even though anyone who read her boo-hoo I had to leave the Apthorp essay in the The New Yorker a few years back knows she bought an apartment on the East Side. Or maybe that was in the version of that essay that was included in I Feel Bad about My Neck that told us that; either way Nora had to find a new hairdresser for convenience sake and that's hard but her pot luck dinner with a writer and editor from the New York Times who was glad to be there was on the Upper West Side.

I digress.

My point is that I liked today's column about cooking for Nora. It made me want to read Julia Child's memoir and it reminded me that I like meatloaf, something that I tend to forget, not only in the summertime but because I didn't used to like meatloaf. I grew up loathing it and only started to like it a little bit when I got married and my husband told me he made really good meatloaf. He did, once a year. Then, after about eight years of marriage I got a cookbook called Kitchen Playdates by Lauren Deen (which I recommend) and in it there's a recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf. Yes. That's right. Meatloaf wrapped in bacon. I really wanted to make it. A lot. The only problem was when we'd moved from Philadelphia to New York I'd decided that while my new house wouldn't be kosher, we wouldn't have any pork. No pork means no bacon and no bacon means no bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and I really wanted bacon-wrapped meatloaf. I thought about this. I started to wonder if a house that allowed cheese and turkey sandwiches was really all that different than a house that allowed cheese and ham sandwiches. I mean, once you mixed milk and meat did it really matter what kind of meat did the mixing? And so why not make ham and cheese at home.... or, say, beef and ground pork and smoked pork belly? Would allowing pork in my house that already wasn't kosher send me from the level of hell where I just had to chat with Paris Hilton and Katherine Heigl on regular basis down much deeper to the one where I had to go to a multi-course dinner party every night where Hugh Jackman would be my dinner partner and he would break into show tunes between courses? At first it might sound fun, and Hugh seems so nice and down to earth, not to mention cute. But night after night of anyone singing show tunes between the amuse and the soup? Even Hugh? I mean, that's hell.

But then, thanks G-d, I remembered that (most) Jews don't believe in the afterlife and if I made the meatloaf with the bacon I wouldn't have to worry about dinner with Hugh, night after night. So I made it and it was totally worth it. But, truth be told, sometimes when I'm stuck on the subway, I start singing show tunes to myself, you know, to practice, just in case I have to sing along.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What's Wrong With the Current Health Care System

In today's New York Times Real Estate section, I read this about an apartment at 15 Central Park West:

"It turns out that the apartment is the same 18th- and 19th-floor duplex that was rumored to have been on the market in a so-called whisper listing with another broker for $75 million this spring. The place is owned by Richard O. Ullman, who made a fortune managing pharmacy benefits for unions and governments."

Can you guess to whom the emphasis should be attributed?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fresh Challah

There is a bakery a few blocks from my house. It's called: Silver Moon. Doesn't that sound nice? Silver Moon. At the Silver Moon bakery, they make the most incredible challah. And when I get it and it's warm against my side and the smell of it escapes from my reusable shopping bag all I want to do is dive in and bury my face in it. Really, it's all I want to do. My whole face.

A Regular President

It happened. At this last press conference it happened. I didn't even want to watch it or any of the after-chat, not only because the after chat was on at the same time as the Top Chef Masters I hadn't seen the week before but because I couldn't bear to hear what was coming, what I knew was unavoidable, inevitable even. The bloom, the blush, the glow around President Barack Obama, it all fell off. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. got arrested, the administration is making deals with insurance companies, and suddenly I find myself right back in America. The strangest thing is in this new America I find myself feeling something like admiration toward George W. Bush for not pardoning Scooter Libby. Strange what can happen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Coffee: An update

I had an iced cappuccino today. Again. Again I was overtired. Again I was convinced without it I wouldn't get through the day. If today were a running day I could have because even when I'm exhausted my slow drag of a run wakes me up. But Thursdays are not for running, and apparently Wednesday nights were not for sleeping and so the coffee. It's not like I've had no coffee since I quit. I've had about five cups in probably two months. In general I feel much better not drinking it. In general I think it's better for me. Even today, the coffee drink gave me heartburn and I should have stuck with iced black tea and a head under water. But I didn't. It was fine but I'm glad that the occasional coffees keep me from wanting coffee every day. Sometimes, if you give yourself an inch, then all you want is an inch.

Today at the JCC on Seventy-Third Street

Today at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, a group from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) will gather and yell at people going into the building. The WBC is a group based in Kansas that promotes the idea of God's hatred of everyone who doesn't agree with them. The JCC announcement reads:

"They plan to send 5-10 representatives who will stand on our sidewalk for 45 minutes displaying disturbing signs and provoking those entering our building. They try to create enough confrontation to incite others to provocation. It is their constitutional right to picket."

I googled Westboro Baptist Church and, swear to God, their homepage URL, their official URL is At first I thought it must be a joke, some kind of mock-Borat kind of thing, but no, it's real. God hates. It's their whole message. According to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, the group regularly travels around the country, often to sites of controversy where they can generate press and attention with their provocative signs and antagonistic behavior. The report, which I urge you to read (it's not long), reads:

"Other WBC targets include schools the group deems to be accepting of homosexuality; Catholic, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations that WBC feels are heretical; and funerals for people murdered or killed in accidents like plane crashes and for American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a tactic the group started in 2005. Though the group's specific focus may shift over time, they believe that nearly all Americans and American institutions are “sinful,” so nearly any individual or organization can be targeted."

And as much as the WBC has a constitutional right to protest, their actions are in some fundamental way, un-American. In reviewing Bruno in the July 20th issue of The New Yorker, Anthony Lane writes:

"I realized, watching "Borat" again, that what it exposed was not a vacuity in Americans manners but, more often than not, a tolerance unimaginable elsewhere."

There's no way to stop the WBC from saying what they will, but what they say has nothing to do with reality, nothing to do with how life should be lived, and nothing to do with God. And so I hope their little teeny tiny protest goes off without incident. I hope they go home after visitng Times Square and the Statute of Liberty and write off their trip to New York City as a work-related tax deduction and then denounce the payment of taxes. And I hope they realize that in the end, hatred will not stand.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Older Women, Very Young Babies

This is an interesting post from Jezebel in which they discuss Lisa Belkin's response to critics of Maria del Carmen Bousada the woman who recently birth at 67 and recently died (not from birth, from cancer). On the NPR show The Takeaway Bellkin talked to a woman who gave birth in her early 50s with her second husband; she had older kids, he had no biological children. Jezebel quotes a commenter on the blog post (which doesn't say much):

"I think that if women gain the ability to bear children in their later years (thus truly retaining youth and vitality), society in general will find it much harder to brush older women off as irrelevant and unneeded. Older males will have fewer excuses for sniffing around skirts of women half their age, and will no longer be seen as logical opportunities, but rather selfish perverts. If women can still have babies in their 50s and 60s as men do, we'll have taken a giant step toward closing one of the most significant gender gaps that exists. True equality is the real fear."

Now, why isn't anyone saying the painfully obvious? Women gain the ability to give birth when they're older only through eggs from younger women AKA "donor eggs." I don't want to comment on anyone's decision to pursue donor eggs, I want to note Jezebel's refusal to mention the apparently unmentionable fact of them. The magic of science can extend a woman's fertility past menopause only through a third party. And let's be clear: Third party eggs, donor eggs, they are not "donated." They are cultivated and collected through an involved, expensive and uncomfortable sequence of medication and surgery, each stage accompanied by its own potentially significant risks. For all the shots and the surgery women go through to produce a batch of donated eggs they're not just given a pat on the back, they're given money. Sometimes quite a lot of it. Which means there's room for exploitation.

There's a lot to consider when it comes to deciding to become an older parent--no matter how you do it. (I'd note that studies have shown the sperm of men over 53 carries it own risks as well.) But allowing yourself to ignore the fundamental elements of fertility -- egg and sperm make baby -- in favor of a theory of potential equality between men and women that involves the payment of women for their bodily products is not a good use of anyone's time. Unless, maybe, you're Margaret Atwood.

Health Care: Sharing the costs

Now, I know I have no business commenting on health care reform. I haven't been following the debate, I know nothing of the plans or the details, and I have no time to look anything up. But I read today's NY Times story, cheerily titled (in print but not online) "Obama Pushing, But Early Vote on Health Fades" and my heart sank imaging the stories of yet another president whose early swagger was lost to the Republicans --NO I mean demons -- of health care reform.

Deep in the story there's a quote in response to the House plan to raise the income tax threshold Obama suggested to raise money to pay for the plan from $280,000 and over for single earners and $350,000 for couples to $500,000 for single people and $1,000,000 for couples. Eric Toder a tax economist at the Urban Institute is quoted as saying, "I really do not understand the politics of trying to sell health care reform, which is supposed to be for the benefit of the vast majority of Americans, and saying it should be paid for only by people making over $1 million....If it's worth doing, and I think it is, more people should be willing to pay for it."

Now, I would agree that more people than just the rich as defined here should be willing to pay for health care reform. I'm fine with the original income levels, quite frankly. But I'd point out that more people would pay for health care reform simply by paying their taxes. And I'd ask what is the relative percentage of income those making over $500K and $1 million currently pay in taxes to those making less than that? I'd ask that for the lower threshold, too. And I'd bet that couples making over $1 million pay relatively less in taxes, proportionally speaking, than those making significantly lower incomes. Just a guess. A wild guess from a blogger without the time to look up the answer. I'm just guessing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Frank McCourt

A million years ago, maybe in the summer of 1996, I went to Baja Mexico with Melissa. We spent our first full day there in La Paz where we walked around the market in a jet lag daze and ate fish tacos and stared out at the Gulf and settled in by the pool to get ready for the start of a road adventure next day. (We are, neither of us, the best of drivers.) That first day I opened up The New Yorker and read something by Frank McCourt. It was an excerpt from Angela's Ashes and I turned to Melissa and said, "Have you read this?" She not only said she had but she also said that McCourt had been her English teacher. I was blown away by this. A real person, a teacher, a high school English teacher, could spin this web that I'd just come out of -- and not only an English teacher, but the teacher of my friend? It felt to me like a very New York kind of moment, and it's why I've always associated McCourt and Angela's Ashes with that pool at La Perla in La Paz. Funny.

Bathing Suits

A weekend away left me tired and acupuncture this morning means I'm woozy, but I read this about bathing on the Daily Dish and I thought, "How weird!" The Dish's response seems appropriate, even tame.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Brownies & Buchanan

Just as an FYI, these brownies are amazing. Always.

Oh yes, and there's also this responding to Buchanan's anti-affirmative action tirade which really doesn't even need to be responded to is't so bananas, but it's there and reasonable.

(Brownie link updated 7/19)

Go Rachel...Oy

The intro paragraph says it all - and yes, liberals and Buchanan will never agree. If you have the time, watch the clip, at least the first half. Maddow is brilliant in focusing on affirmative action and not Sotomayor, but be warned, things do devolve.

A Photographer Working

I liked this story in today's New York Times about Lillian Bassman, a famous fashion photographer from the 1940s through 60s. Bassman is now 92 and she's still working. Amazing.

Mark in Riverside

On my run this morning I listened to an older New Yorker fiction podcast of Paul Theroux reading a Borges story called The Gospel According to Mark. The story, as fiction editor Deborah Triesman (sp?) points out, is something of a horror story with the Gospel of Mark at its core. The protagonist, an upper clas Argentine, reads Mark after dinner to a family of gauchos with whom he's isolated on a ranch by a flood. The story -- and if you've never read it I can't recommend it enough-- is just amazing but my own little personal connection to it is it reminded me of when I read Mark for the first time as a graduate student. I'd never read it before and I had to translate its version of the Passion for my Greek class and can I tell you? I was at the edge of my seat. I mean, it's not like I didn't know what was coming, but Mark, the oldest gospel, gives a simple version of the story and, to me, at least, laboring away with my dictionary and notebook, it was riveting. I really found myself thinking, "What's going to happen? Nooooo!!!" That task of translation was one of my favorite in my three years of graduate school; it felt like I was discovering some secret and precious jewel. (I had had a similar experience when I read the first few pages of Swann's Way. The next day I met my friend Amy and told her, "I just read the most amazing thing about this guy who was having tea and eating a cookie -- it was unebelievable." To which Amy said, impossibly gently, "I think that's really famous.") Which is to say it didn't surprise me when, listening to the Borges story, I heard the family of illiterate guachos didn't want to hear any of the other gospels. If you're looking for a gospel to read for the first time, I say, go with Mark. But, unlike the Guachos in the Borges story, better not to read it too literally.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just Back

I'm just back home after a mid-week overnight trip and I'm so tired that all I can think about is sleeping and how much I liked the story Childcare by Lorrie Moore in the July 8th New Yorker (which also reminds me of how much I liked the podcast of Louise Erdrich reading Lorrie Moore's This Is It) and how excited I am to make granola with olive oil -- I even have pistachios in the house.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


No big deal, but sometimes when I go to amazon, I think the site is going to spontaneously give me a present. Like something off my wish list, for free! I don't know why I think this, but it comes from the same place that for years made me think I'd win the lottery without buying a ticket.

The Shrinking Euphrates

On the front page of today's New York Times there's a story about the shrinking of the Euphrates river. The Euphrates runs through Turkey and Syria and both countries have dammed the river heavily. Iraq sits downriver and has no agreements in place for water access with either country. Plus there's a drought. Plus Iraq's water management has been terrible. And let's not forget the war. All this means that the Euphrates, a river with an epic history, literally at the cradle of western civilization, is going the way of the walkman. The whole region suffers from water wars and has for as long as time hsa been kept. And for just as long we've all assumed fresh water is forever, but it's not. It's precious and the effect of the river's loss -- farms dead, villages abandonned, lives ruined -- shows that nothing about water management can be taken for granted. Of course, I've been petrified of drought since I read Dune in the seventh grade, but our inability to manage our resources is, once again, terrifying and shocking.

But maybe I shouldn't be shocked. In Sunday's Times there's a piece by an economist named Robert Frank that argues Darwin's theories are more important than Adam Smith's when it comes to understanding how markets operate. Smith famously posits that markets left to their own devices will operate with an "invisible hand" for the greater good while Darwin thought that individuals will act for their own good and sometimes that's for the good of the species, but mostly not and it's not their primary concern anyway. Survival and reproduction are what matter most.

So now I'm thinking if the health care market didn't prove Frank is right in his assesment of Darwin and Smith, if the unregulated sub-prime mortgage crisis didn't prove him right again, then the evidence of the Euphrates should show how nice an idea the invisible hand is, but it's got nothing on the drive to compete and husband resources. Cooperation might spring up when parties compete - game theory shows it will more often than not -- but it's not guaranteed. Meanwhile, the Euphrates is dying and I can only hope that if it's where western civilization once began it will not become the place where we learn to save ourselves by deciding to cooperate.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blogging Trouble

This summer feels like a big transition for me and in that transition, I'm not sleeping or working regularly and nothing comes easy for me when I'm all in between like this. So I can note that this CIA program to assassinate Al Queda leaders is odd to read about and I assume it's the program that Cheney kept secret from everyone and isn't all that really weird? I can remember listening to some justice's confirmation hearings while driving from New York to Philadelphia but I can't remember which justice because all I remember is that Sen. Joe Biden talked for a really long time. So did the other senators. It's hard to hang with history when the senators talk like that. I can tell you that I had wine with lunch today which I never do and it was really nice. But none of it will make up a post because I'm all in-between and nothing is really coming together right now. So it goes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Corn Bread Pudding

This weekend we went to visit friends in the country -- in the Hudson valley to be exact -- for the first time this summer. After a camp fire, many swims, a short hike and a last minute birthday party, I'm completely exhausted from my time away. But I would like to share one specific experience from the trip: that of eating corn bread pudding for lunch at a place called Local 111. With the pudding there were local eggs and very fine local bacon, but the pudding itself was...what's the word...transcendent. Fresh and light but still rich and chewy, sweet but not too, with a little cheddar....the whole thing was simple and glorious and fine. So fine that I kept taking bites and waiting for the flavor to get less good so I could stop eating . This is what Melissa and I posit in The Skinny, that when you eat something really, really good and decadent -- particularly when it's sweet -- it gets less good after the first few bites, you just don't notice it getting less good because the first bit of good was so good that you chase the dream of original goodness. Well, I'm here to say that this corn bread pudding offered if not it's initial brilliance than a deep well of satisfaction from start to finish. And finish I did. I wanted every bite. And quite frankly, I wouldn't mind some more.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Where I Was From

Last week, I finished Joan Didion's dark and amazing Where I Was From. I kept thinking I would write a longish post about it, but it's not coming and now my time has run out. So, in short, I'll say that Didion was from California and the book is well worth reading for so many reasons.


Thursday, July 9, 2009


I'm so relieved that no one has to buy a $900 dollar stroller anymore--even if she can!

Getting Sarah Palin

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate really really gets Sarah Palin. She really does.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oy Vey Etsy!

To avoid another shopping excursion on Etsy (yesterday in my sleep deprived state I spent way too much time over there, not to mention moola), I went to Kate Hardin'g blog and found this, which reminded me just how much of Etsy I hadn't seen. Should I tell you what happened or just post a picture of the bag I got?

Howard Dean on Health Care

Jezebel has a long excerpt from an Esquire interview about health care with Howard Dean. As Jezebel writes: "Dean is suggesting that health care, like national defense, is a social good that will never properly be accounted for by the market because its intrinsic value is borne by too broad a segment of the population. Market failures — like the poor valuation of social goods like defense and education — are accounted for in economic philosophy by having government provide them to people by spreading the costs as widely as the benefits."

Then there's this from the interview:

ESQ: But isn't that a threat to the insurance companies? Especially at a time when we want to keep businesses healthy and people employed?

HD: This is one of the many problems the Senate is now having. They are focused on anything but the American people. But the insurance companies will be fine. It won't happen overnight, and they'll make plenty of money. But this is not a matter of making the insurance companies happy. This is a matter of making the 72 percent of the people who want a public option happy, including the 50 percent of Republicans who want a public option.

Can I just say? I'm SO TIRED of insurance companies.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An Iced Cappuccino

I had one. Today. An iced cappuccino. This means I had coffee. For the first time in, what, two months? One other time I had a small decaf; I shared it with my husband, in fact. But today, I had to. My son was up at 2:30 and did not go back to sleep. That's 2:30 AM. And I was tired, and up at 11:40 with my daughter. I would like to say that the iced coffee drink has jolted me to a better place, but it didn't. I think it's just given me a little burn in my chest along with maybe just barely enough energy to get through the rest of the long as I don't drive or operate any heavy machinery.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Douthat, Palin, Yeah Yeah Yeah

I was going to write something about Ross Douthat's NY Times column about Sarah Palin because it was so --wrong. Then I figured someone else would say at least some of what I wanted to say about it and Andrew Sullivan would have everyone saying everything about it it. I was right. There's also this by Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post. (via Sullivan originally, the whole thing is worth reading.)

The Hagiography of Those Who Grow Good Food

In my senior year of college I wrote an undergraduate thesis on the infancy narrative of Ethiopian Christian saints' biographies, or, as they're technically called, hagiographies. The narratives were all the same: There was a barren but righteous woman; there were bees hovering around the door of the house where the child was born; there was some kind of miraculous revelation in childhood and then Poof! A child became a saint.

I thought about these narratives yesterday after I read the compelling story of Will Allen in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Allen, a former athlete and wildly successful salesman, grows a lot of food on relatively little land in Milwaukee. He's committed to bringing good food people of color. He's not interested in fetishizing the perfect tomato and he loves his donuts, although he appreciates one. He's interested in equitable and sustainable agriculture.

As compelling as the story is, it's also as predictable as the infancy narratives. As an American over fifty, he had to have a period in Europe to awaken a certain Je ne sais quoi about food. For Alice Waters it was seasonal produce in Provence and for Will Allen it was compost in Antwerp where he lived and played basketball. He has his gaggle of admirers hovering at the door. And he has his -- you know what's coming -- MscArthur genius grant!

Now, I don't want to take away one thing from Will Allen. I put down that magazine yesterday and I thought: "I want to be an urban gardener! I want to teach children in gardens and grow my own food and actively reject the food-industrial complex! Will Allen says it's OK if I don't like to garden, I can shop at a farm market. But I don't just want to shop, I want to garden! Why don't I like to garden at all?" It was so comforting, the story, and frankly I'm really glad to be inspired by someone other than Michael Pollan. But my response to it was so predictable, almost, oh no, ritualized. I think that's the problem....unless it's the solution to easy food. Make the getting and cooking of good food something of a ritual with weight and meaning and purpose and then it might be easier to resist the easy packages. I don't know. I do know, though, that I have got to get to the market!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bad Mommy Wah Wah Wah

In Tablet, Marjorie Ingall (full disclosure: I know Marjorie) takes apart the faux-ness of the bad mommy movement and shows how the I'm-not-a-great-mom thing is just another pose. She writes:

"What is new is the notion of fake casualness. Now we’re supposed to be relaxed and real, but this unstudied-ness is, in fact, carefully studied. “Authenticity” is the operative buzzword. One trend in weddings is for low-key-seeming family-style fetes that actually cost as much as a more formal event. Clothing trends are bohemian and punk-influenced rather than overtly luxe, but they still come at price points that would make a real hippie have a seizure. Fashion mags talk about how much men love women who eat, and urge women to have dessert, but we’re still supposed to be a size two.

In other words, the standards women are held to are as high as ever. Now we’re not supposed to be self-negatingly child-centered, but our kids still have to come out brilliant, accomplished, and adorable. No wonder it’s easier to throw up your hands and call yourself “bad” than engage in debate about the impossibility of perfect goodness."

The new fake standards for moms don't anybody readjust the fundamentals of motherhood or, more importantly, re-evaluating our woeful infrastructure for new families in need. (This reminds me of the "breastfeeding sucks" kerfluffle Hanna Rosin and Judith Warner stoked a few months back.) The bottom line is you can bitch all you want about how bad a mom you are but what about the moms who struggle day in and day out to make sure there's food on the table and a roof over their heads? All that show-offy bitching not only doesn't help anyone, but it's still about being the coolest mommy of them all. Smells like teen spirit to me.....

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Since last fall when Jezebel had some layoffs the site has been, to me at least, less interesting. But today, there are several pieces there worth reading. Forgive the round-up, I do think these each give something to chew on, even if I might chew somewhat differently. Then again, don't we all? In any case, here goes:

Here's a piece on confessional journalism and the women who write it. It's a little insider-ish, meaning to really get it all you have to read the articles it links to (which I did not), but it's definitely worth reading and thinking about.

Jezebel has a former (or current, I can't tell) model writing for it and she has a piece on Karen Mulder who was a super model and has been arrested in France for attacking her plastic surgeon. It's fairly awful, the business of beauty and its exploitation, but there it is. Mulder may not be the most reliable narrator of what goes on in that business, but no doubt awful things are done every day to women with little power and men with lots of it.

Madonna's adopting another child from Africa and Vogue had someone write about it (I haven't read that piece yet, either) and Jezebel discusses. Well.


It's been a day so far, and since my mom taught me not to say anything if I can't say anything nice, I'm going to leave it at that. My time is short, but I have good, almost great cherry tomatoes from the farm market on the kitchen counter and I have these photos from the White House to resist. I could spend all day with them. But here's my problem with all the White House photos--the White House isn't the West Wing. All the pictures make it seem like a TV show. Plus. someone has to be there taking the pictures all the time. Do you think you just get used to that after a while? I know if there were a photographer taking pictures of me and my kids this morning, there'd be not one worth sharing. Some mornings are like that, even in New York City.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Insurance Fraud

I had one of those moments this morning when I read something and it makes me want to kick something. Hard. Today it was a New York Times article about the under-insured. It features a couple named Larry and Claire Yurdin who've been brought to bankruptcy because their health insurance covered hospital stays but no procedures. The patient, Larry Yurdin, could sleep at the hospital, but blood tests? Not so much. Here's a choice bit:

"Insurers like Aetna generally defend limited-benefit policies as a byproduct of the nation’s flawed health care system, which they say makes it too expensive to adequately insure someone like Mr. Yurdin."

So Aetna sells health insurance but they can't make enough money to insure people if they're going to get sick and it's just not their fault. Riiiight.

I once had Aetna insurance through a Cobra plan. While covered by Aetna, I had to have a diagnostic procedure, a surgry that was the only way to figure out if I had a specific condition. When I didn't have the condition the surgery was assessing, Aetna refused to cover it. The procedure's cost for a regular person (that is the uninsured) was $15,000. Aetna would have -- and eventually did -- pay significantly less. That whole thing sucked. Then, when our Cobra coverage was running out, my husband and I went looking for other insurance. At the time I was trying to get pregnant. Desperately. Frantically. Impatiently trying to get pregnant. But most inurance plans available to us wouldn't provide coverage for maternity care. "Oh you just pay the OB, five thousand and that takes care of it." Right. And if I had had any complications? Required any special testing? What about a hospital stay? My relatively uneventful pregnancy involved all three. If I had had the non-maternity coverage, who would have paid for all of it? Moreover, if I had actually become pregnant before switching coverage new insurance wouldn't have covered my pregnancy because it would have been considered a "pre-existing condition."

Now we have insurance through my husband's job and I can't even get started on how bad they suck. I can't. Its so boring and everyone has heard the stories before. The evasions, the delays, the out and out lies. It's just gross. These are the gatekeepers to our health care system. These are the people who've argued against coverage and who now claim (according to the Times) that if everyone were covered they could do a better job insuring. All I can say is these insurance executives and lobbyists better not be involved in the new health care plan. That'd be kind of like having veteran Wall Streeters figuring out how to fix our broken financial system. I mean, that would be nuts, right?