Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cry If You Want To

Back in my twenties, if I were having a hard moment, I'd turn on Holly Cole singing a song called "Cry If You Want To" on a CD called "Don't Smoke in Bed."

It starts like this:
Cry if you want to
I won't tell you not to
I won't try to cheer you up
I'll just be here if you want me
You can cry if you want to

Being given the imaginary space to feel everything I was feeling, even by a singer I'd never met singing a song she didn't write on a CD I'd listened to a thousand times, helped me feel better. It's rare, after all, to have the space to feel awful, to have a terrible day, to not be cheerful.

It must be this lack of space for the hard feelings that Barbara Ehrenreich finally got tired of when she wrote her new (best selling) book: Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. I've read a little bit about the book -- and today I read the story in the New York Times about the whole anti-positive thinking trend going on in America right now.

So, I haven't read Ehrenreich's book and I don't think I will. I just don't want to get all negative about positive thinking. OK I don't know anything about it other than what I read in The New Yorker a few years back. Yes, the whole idea of positive thinking can get treacly and tiresome. Of course a critical eye is important to maintain. Of course it's ridiculous that people don't feel they can deliver bad news or be critical at all, but I know some people who consider their opinions about everything "critical" in that way of being evaluative when, really, they're just bad news birds. If there's a grey lining in a bright white cloud, they'll be sure to find it -- because they're so critical!

It's easy to be a naysayer and it might be foolish to always look on the bright side, but there must be a sweet spot somewhere in between where you can cry if you want to and laugh a little to feel better, too. I had a whole political thing to say here, too, but since it's new year's eve, I'm going to lay off of it and wish everyone a highly nuanced, emotionally rich 2010. May it be a year of inner and world-wide peace.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: The cautionary tale

My kids love this 1978 book about the town of Chewandswallow where it rains and snow food, drinks and condiments. Eventually, the weather turns bad in Chewandswallow:

"The food was getting larger and larger, and so were the portions. The people were getting frightened. Violent storms blew up frequently. Awful things were happening....."

Soon, tornadoes of tomatoes uproot houses; it rains enormous slices of bread and rolls; a pancake crushes the school. Finally, the town must be abandoned. I can't help but read the whole thing as a cautionary tale of climate change, which seriously diminishes the joy of bedtime stories, for me that is. The good news is my kids have no idea, although they do know from watching Wall-E that we have to be careful about trash. There's only so much restraint of my climate anxiety I can manage.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Going Away

We're off to visit with my parents for a few days. I don't know how much blogging time I'll have, not that I've had that much lately, but still. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to All!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Attacks from the Left

Long before we met, my husband worked for Senator Harris Wofford. Wofford had been appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, Sr. in 1991 after Sen. John Heinz was killed in a helicopter crash. Wofford won a special run-off election that year, besting the much better known Dick Thornburgh (a former Governor of Pennsylvania and Attorney General under Reagan) by campaigning on health care reform, of all things.

In 1994, however, Wofford lost his re-election campaign, partly because of attacks by NAARAL that claimed Wofford wasn't pro-choice enough. His Senate seat was then turned over to none other than Rick Santorum. In other words, that approach got us a dozen years of a staunchly pro-life senator.

The story in the New York Times about an ad attacking Obama for lack backing down on the public option and his promise not to mandate the purchase of insurance that's set to air in Wisconsin where Russ Feingold is up for re-election reminds me of the attacks on Wofford. Pace the tea baggers, politics and policy making is no place for ideological rigidity. With the Senate split, just barely, along party lines and little work being done across the aisle, there's too much hanging in the balance (climate change legislation anyone?) to moan about less than perfect legislation or to demand a Senator vote a particular way. Remember that old chestnut about the nose and the face and cutting it off and what not?

Which is to say we elect senators and house representatives to represent our voices and we elect them to make choices of their own. We ask them to serve and to lead. Demanding they do exactly what one interest groups asks under threat of retribution perverts the more nuanced work of representation. And if Feingold were to lose and a Wisconsin version of a Santorum were to take his place, we'd all have that burden to bear.

Wake Up Call

During the last two weeks, I got up at five AM to work. It was fantastic. At that hour, I wasn't tempted by email or the latest on whatever blog. I had dragged myself out of bed and I wasn't going to mess around, I was going to work. I developed a highly elaborate fantasy of continuing my five AM wake ups. I would read! I would write! When the weather got better I would run at six thirty, having already been up for a good long while reading! But, having finished up the work thing I was working on, the last two days it's been hard to get myself up. I naturally wake up at five, but I look at the clock and say to myself, "Oh, I'll just lie here until six." Then, if the kids sleep until seven, I do, too. I haven't given up all hope for my five AM wake ups, but I see now I'll have to dig a little deeper if there's no looming deadline.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Side by Side

I'm kind of fascinated by the side by side shots of "plus" sized model Crystal Renn and skinny model Jacquelyn Jablonski featured in the most recent issue of V magazine, which I hadn't heard of before I read about it on Marjorie Ingall's web site today. (For a full discussion, go here.) My unexamined and somewhat lame reaction, ran along these lines:
(in response to skinny model) "Oh look at that model's legs! I'm so tired of seeing legs that look like they're too skinny to walk on!"
(in response to "plus" size model) "Oh! Look at HER legs. She looks like she can walk AND run on those. She looks like someone pretending to be a model! She's so pretty. Is that really Crystal Renn because I keep being surprised that someone named "crystal" isn't blond. Is that bad?"
"Oh, that skinny model--what does her face look like?"
"Oh, Crystal sure is pretty. Too bad she's in that stupid skirt."

Which is to say that I am sick and tired of those spindly limbs on very young models that are the industry standard. And yet, I was surprised when I saw the pictures of Crystal Renn and didn't think she could be a "real" model. Because at a US size 12, Crystal Renn looks different from most models I'm used to seeing even if I don't like what I most often see. But she sure is pretty so why not let's see more!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snowbound and Wondering What to Eat

There's been a lot of talk lately about why we eat what we eat and whether or not we should rethink what we eat not just for reasons of health but with questions of morality in mind. It's amazing anyone has any time to consider what tastes good, never mind what he or she might crave what with all the talking about food we have to do.

For example, the most emailed article in The New York Times today is Natalie Angier's column titled "Sorry Vegans, Vegetables Like to Live, Too." It's a snarky title, and, really, being snarky (and defensive) about veganism is, I hate to say it, like shooting fish in a barrel. But it is an interesting article. Everything, even plants, it seems, works hard to live. That's what it means to live, to work hard to make sure you keep living. Sometimes the hard work means cooperation and sometimes it means playing full on in a zero sum game. The two seem at odds but both are without a doubt a familiar part of everyone's experience. We might be what we eat, and when it comes to eating, I suppose that makes many, many, many people, myself included, conflicted.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday with Nancy

I know I've been a little checked out this week. My apologies. With school closing, the year ending, and a two week vacation coming up, there's been a lot to get done, most of which I haven't gotten done. I did, however, manage to read Daphne Merkin's profile of writer/director Nancy Meyers titled Can Anybody Make a Movie for Women? Merkin and her editors must have agreed on this ambivalent title because it's not clear from the article that Merkin really likes the movies that Meyers makes. Oh she enjoys them. They're so soft! They're so pretty! Just like Meyers herself, at least how Merkin portrays her. She's tough, that Nancy, she's one of the only gals in Hollywood making movies on her own terms and getting a slice of the gross.

But, she's still nice. Merkin quotes Jack Nicholson as telling a story in which he insisted on wearing a shirt that Meyers didn't like. In the end, Nicholson wore the shirt even though Meyers, we're told again and again, is a stickler for aesthetic details. So what's the point of the story? Meyers is a stickler for detail but not so much of a stickler that she won't let Jack wear his shirt? She really sticks it to the guys, that Nancy! The whole article was like that, like I wasn't sure what the point of it was. I read it without my reading glasses and I kept rereading sentences, thinking I must have gotten them wrong. But I didn't. In Merkin's view Meyers makes movies that are like good candy and good candy is hard to make. Everybody, even Merkin, likes good candy. I think, though, ultimately Merkin must prefer salty to sweet. The whole thing made me wish I could read another article by a different women about other women making other movies. Maybe, though, that was the whole point.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Menu for Hope

I'm not a food blogger, but apparently this time of year they band together to raise money for the UN food relief program. Here are the details from Chocolate and Zucchini.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Over the past few weeks, I've made a number of variations on this shortbread recipe and I've gotten a LOT of compliments for, because I feel rushed and overwhelmed, today I'm going to offer up this recipe, which is Melissa Clark's and was originally published in the New York Times in 2005 along with an excellent article urging us to go a little nutty with the baking. Enjoy!

Rosemary Shortbread With Variations
Time: 45 minutes, plus cooling

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 to 2 teaspoons rosemary, chestnut or other dark, full-flavored honey (optional).

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, rosemary and salt. Add butter, and honey if desired, and pulse to fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don't overprocess. Dough should not be smooth.
2. Press dough into an ungreased 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan or 9-inch pie pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.

N.B. If you like, replace 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/2 cup of cornmeal. I recommend it!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

'Tis the Season for Catalogs

This time of year, my mailbox gets stuffed full of catalogs selling unusual gifts, gifts to fill every stocking, gifts that matter. While gifts that matter can work my nerves, for me, the catalog that bugs me most are the special, precious, Sundance catalogs. (one for jewelry, one for stuff) If you visit the Sundance web site, you'll see that they're committed to caring for the environment, they really are. They try to buy paper from people who are responsible stewards of the environment, although the paper they print on isn't recycled or anything, it's just regular catalog stock. But guess what? When the catalog started they started with just four employees and Robert Redford and now, they have a lifestyle!

But here's my question: Why did Robert Redford start a mail order catalog? On the web site it says because they have this general store at the Utah spread and people kept calling up and asking for stuff from the store so they decided to start a mail order business. But from the catalog itself to the packaging of goods sold to the fuels used for shipping, there's no way you can say that mail order is great for the earth.

One could argue Sundance creates jobs. If an "artisan" is selling through the catalog, he/she has to have the capacity to produce a large number of goods. Nothing wrong with that for the artisans, but for Sundance it means they're selling mass produced items wrapped up in an expensive package of 'craftsmanship' and 'individuality.' This is an old trick, of course, and they manage it well for sure.

But my question is this: Why is Robert Redford in the consumer goods business in the first place? Why did he and his business partners feel they should "extend the Sundance brand" into lifestyle products? Just because they could? Surely Redford already had a pretty comfortable life when he started the catalog in 1989. Does he really need the money? There's something not only opportunistic but offhandedly cynical about this particular brand. Everything is done in the best of taste, but, like everything else, good taste makes waste. Do we really need one more catalog sent out in the mail? Even if a company is scrupulous about buying paper from responsible mills, it's pretty clear everyone who lives the Sundance life could probably live it just as well without yet another paper catalog to recycle.

(To get yourself off unwanted catalog lists, go to To get yourself off Sundance's list, you'll have to email them directly at

Friday, December 11, 2009

This is Where We Are

So last night the kids were playing Playmobil zoo and David and I were sitting at the table and I say, "Oh, did you hear the President's speech?" And David said, "What speech?" And I said, "The President got the Nobel Prize today."

The actual getting of the prize is usually a let down after the big hoopla of the announcements, but this year, considering all the hand-wringing over whether or not Mr. Obama should accept the prize and what it meant that he got it, it all seemed like an especially big yawn. Then again, I didn't watch any political shows to hear any of the chin music afterward, but who can take it anymore anyway?

What's not a yawn is I baked up some cookie batter last night and finally, after a year of fiddling with the timing of chilled dough, I got it just right. It's the little things sometimes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top Chef-The End

There was a lot I loved about Top Chef last night. I loved Kevin's mom and the way he dropped his head onto her arm at the end when he was so sad about not winning. I loved that Kevin said "Any of us could win, it's just who will win today." I loved that Michael showed some emotion, some insecurities, some humor and some brotherly love. I loved that all the judges got weepy at the end. If I had been pregnant at that judges table, I would have been balling my eyes out.

Here's what I didn't like: Padma's bangs. Padma's clothes (who's styling her?). And, as Skillet Doux notes, I didn't love that Jennifer had to carry the knives to the contestants. As a final note, I love my husband very much. I'm very very happy to be married to him. That said, I miss the British judge they had for Top Chef Masters and I want to marry him and I want Kevin to cater.

Later Note: But I was sad that Kevin didn't win.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Children's Book

I'm reading A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book. It was a gift (Thanks, Nicole!) and so far, it's as terrific as all the reviewers say it is. A little (too) mannered, sure, but in for a dime, in for a dollar, you know? Every night I read a few pages and the images come back to me in the morning. It's a little like being inside a Masterpiece Theater miniseries before its been made. Early on in the book there's this passage:

"The children mingled with the adults, and spoke and were spoken to. Children in these families, at the end of the nineteenth century, were different from children before or after. They were neither dolls nor miniature adults. They were not hidden away in nurseries, but present at family meals, where their developing characters were taken seriously and rationally discussed, over supper or over long country walks. And yet, at the same time, the children in this world had their own separate, largely independent lives, as children. They roamed the woods and fields, built hiding-places and climbed trees, hunted, fished, rod ponies and bicycles, with no other company than that of other children."

Can I please go there where serial commas are masterfully employed and the lives of children and adults so beautifully balanced? Please?

Monday, December 7, 2009

At the End of a Long Day

This is going to be a complicated week. There's Copenhagen, which I can't read anything about because of Zingo. For those who don't know, Zingo is a kind of Bingo game where you match up nine pictures on plastic chits onto a board with the same pictures. I don't know how it's supposed to be played, though, only how we play it. Anyway, almost every day my daughter and I play Zingo and there's a picture for "tree" on one of the boards, I look at the fir tree lying innocently there between "worm" and "duck" and I start thinking about clear cuts and climate change and it's not good. Plus, our much loved, long-term babysitter is moving on at the end of the week. Plus, this morning I woke up and couldn't get online for hours and hours and hours. And I can't remember the last time I knit. So, as you can see, the universe seems like it could be conspiring against me. But then, just when I think I can't take one more bit of any kind of news, the ladies at Go Fug Yourself offer up this. My only caveat: I love clogs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Long Lost Yoga

I used to practice yoga, a lot of yoga. There was a time in my life when I went to four yoga classes a week. There was time after that when two times a week, I showed up in Joan White's attic for her intense Iyengar classes. Then I had kids and the collection of spare parts that comprise my body started getting very cranky, first about no yoga and then about any yoga. So Saturday, I took my daughter to a "family yoga" class -- a class for kids and grown-ups. She LOVED it, in spite of some not stellar parenting on my part. (As in: "Helen! Stop playing with your hair-thingy!" This was forty minutes into the class, even I was a little bored.) But can I just say? After the kids yoga class with its two sun salutations and three L-shaped handstands against the wall, I'm sore. That's just too sad.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Media Moguls Won't Pay Money

Marjorie Ingall makes a major big point about what's wrong with journalism/"content" budgets that don't include line items for the writer. Go read it. Her post reminds me of when last year at some point Andrew Sullivan crowed (as he's want to do) about how new media will mean writers will be able to establish themselves without book publishers. Like he's doing on his Atlantic Magazine hosted blog with two staff members, media establishment be damned. It's like some kind of weird colonialism and wink and nod smuggery going on with writers who are not their very own brand and readers paying all the taxes.

Pink Ribbon Blues

Barbara Ehrenreich gets mad because everyone loves pink ribbons and no one made any noise about Stupak.

Top Chef

I'm sorry, the contestant who was sent home last night was robbed. Robbed! The producers only kept on Michael V. because of the sibling rivalry (and because Tom liked his turnip situation). I'm not pleased.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pot, Kettle, You Name the Color

According to this story in Politico, Republicans don't like how "partisans on the left" are painting the party's position on a particular bill. You know what I say: Boo hoo. Cry me a river.

Hockey Mom: C'est moi?

When my son was just three, he saw hockey. It happened in Central Park. We were there for an innocent walk around the Harlem Meer when we came upon the ice rink, and on the ice were ten-year-old gladiators with masks and sticks zooming around the ice. Elliot was transfixed. That winter, we started ice skating and Elliot started watching a compilation video of Alexander Ovechkin set to Dream On. I myself had to take a private lesson to learn how to skate. Helen, my daughter, had better balance, but Elliot, he had a goal. He was determined to skate so he could play hockey. Last winter, we told him, again, that he had to learn to skate before he could play. Every time we went skating, he begged for a hockey stick. Now, the boy is five, and while I signed up three weeks late, Friday we'll get him outfitted in hockey gear and Saturday he'll have his first hockey class. I'm filled with hope and dread. I hope his heart isn't broken by hockey. I hope he can skate with the gear on, not to mention the new skates. I hope loves it. I really do. But if he loves it, are we doomed to years of seven AM games and even earlier practices? Hockey: A love story. Who knew?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Not in My Bundt Pan

OK. Go Fug Yourself. My not so secret source of a great deal of pleasure. Won't you share some?

Knocked Up? Not so much

I was astonished to find on visiting The New Yorker's web site to get a link to the Caster Semenya story that Knocked Up was included in a list of the top ten films of the decade. If you've somehow managed to forget, Knocked Up was the follow-up to Judd Apatow's great and sweet movie, The-40-Year-Old Virgin. In Knocked Up, a working girl goes out on the town with her married-with-kids sister, gets drunk and has sex with someone she met at the bar. Guess what happens next? The thing about Knocked Up is, sure, I laughed at it, but I was also, you know, put off by it. Because, I hate to be a spoilsport, and I hate to use the "m" word, but the movie doesn't like women. It presents a world where women tame men and they have kids and marry in some order or another and from the point of taming on, men and women live in an uneasy state called long-term marriage in which women are, you know, shrews and men scurry around. Funny at times? Why not. Top ten? No way.

Open Borders

Here's a little thing about the death of English writer Alan Bennett's longtime female lover (via Light Reading). To me the revelation that Bennett had a long-standing relationship with a woman along with men falls squarely in the category of "Gee that's good for him but not my business." Which is how kind of how I feel about the long New Yorker piece about the South African runner Caster Semenya, which is a story as much about exploitation as it is the confounding multiplicity of gender in the natural world. It's naive and disingenuous of me to whine about Semenya's gender and Bennett's sexual desire as private subjects in a world where people like their fences firmly in place when it comes to marriage or desire or bodies. It's also foolish for me to claim that crossed boundaries need not cause shame or expulsion, when obviously and painfully and heartbreakingly they still do. But, still, there are things about the body that the body politic would do well to leave all alone; these stories demonstrate why.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Valention: The Last Emperor

The other night I watched Valentino: The Last Emperor on Netflix and I learned many things. I learned that a Countess may bring her own vodka to an elegant post-couture show party and a major domo may slice open windows in the plastic tents so that the guests at the same party might not sweat. I learned that there's nothing more disgusting than an evening gown that shows a woman's ankles and sometimes, a person might become exactly what he might have once wished most to be. The movie is as much about Valention's longtime life and business partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, and their incredible relationship. Early in the film there's a scene backstage at a couture show when an Italian journalist asks Giametti what it is to live one's life in the shadow of a great man. Giametti smiles smoothly, pulls a hand across his perfectly cut blazer, and says (in Italian) "Happiness." With the kids asleep and my husband at a basketball game, the movie was the same for me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Day Before Thanksgiving

If I don't have to travel, I have to admit that I like the day before Thanksgiving more than the holiday itself. That feeling of things folding up, of people gathering in, of the calm before the storm, I just love it. Today we're taking the kids to the Big Apple Circus as a pre-holiday, post-school treat. It should be fun for us all. Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Mommy Hate Thing, Again

When I began reading this post on Jezebel, written in reaction to a piece on Salon about mommy hating (which I have not read) I was ready with a response after the first paragraph. Then I went for a run, came back, and finished the post so as not to work. Having actually read, not skimmed, the whole post, I can say that Sadie makes a good point: "In sum, no one reasonable hates parents. What people don't like is inconsiderate self-absorbed parents who expect the world to be reordered? Of course, what's hard is that defensive, self-righteous and oblivious parents are more than matched by total assholes on the other side of the aisle, who shout their kid-hate from the rooftops."

Since just yesterday I myself was complaining about parents like the ones Sadie describes, I couldn't very well marshal my anecdotal evidence of how this culture hates children in response. I'm sure someone else will, though, if you throw a pebble into the blog-world.

PS. A day later I would like to apologize for all the typos in this post. I don't know what happened to me!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Palin Situation

I have a kind of strange fascination with Andrew Sullivan's deeply held obsession with Sarah Palin. Reading him stew about her, however intermittently (which is how I do it), is like watching one of those single subject documentaries about some kind of isolated savant dedicated to one obscure subject -- like cardamom or the decline of the semi-colon. Anyhow, today on Sullivan I read this quote on Sullivan from Matt Taibi about Palin and how she appeals to people in a very visceral way and it seems spot on if also a cause for despair for our political system.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Good Guide

I just found out about The Good Guide from Very Short List. VSL writes: "Founded by Dara O’Rourke, professor of environmental and labor policy at UC Berkeley, GoodGuide provides detailed yet easy to understand evaluations of the health, environmental and social impact of consumables."

While I'm at it, let me recommend (again) Catalog Choice for reducing the number of catalogs you get in the mail (it works!) and Reusable Bags for your, you know, reusable bag needs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Top Chef Bad Guy

There's a bad guy on Top Chef. I think his name is Michael. I confuse him with his brother, who's not a bad guy at all. The bad brother wears a backward baseball cap for all his interviews, he has a flat affect and a sneer. Worse than all that, there's nothing compelling about his badness. Last season Stefan was such a prick, but he was animated and in hopeless love with the fantastic and gay Jamie, and he cried. Even Hong the winner from a few seasons ago was full on competitive and arrogant, but he had a very compelling life story and wept about his family and their pride and how far he'd come. The greatest bad guy on Bravo's reality TV roster was, of course, Santino Rice from season 2 of Project Runway. He was funny, he was brilliant, he was full of himself, he was flawed, he was real. This guy on Top Chef has nothing - no sense of humor, no willingness to learn, no backstory, no nothing. He just thinks he's the bomb and even though we all know from high school those guys are insecure (so we were told) it doesn't make a guy like that any more pleasant. Truth be told, he's almost ruined the season for me. I don't like anything that reminds me too much of those guys high school.


Jeffrey Toobin wrote an urgent, rational comment on the Stupak amendment to the health care reform bill for this week's New Yorker. He writes:

"In his (Obama's) book “The Audacity of Hope,” he describes the “undeniably difficult issue of abortion” and ponders “the middle-aged feminist who still mourns her abortion.” Elsewhere, he announces, “Abortion vexes.” The opponents of abortion aren’t vexed—they are mobilized, focussed, and driven to succeed. The Catholic bishops took the lead in pushing for the Stupak amendment, and they squeezed legislators in a way that would do any K Street lobbyist proud. (One never sees that kind of effort on behalf of other aspects of Catholic teaching, like opposition to the death penalty.) Meanwhile, the pro-choice forces temporized. But, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed not long ago, abortion rights “center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Every diminishment of that right diminishes women. With stakes of such magnitude, it is wise to weigh carefully the difference between compromise and surrender. "

Of course, those who oppose a woman's right to a safe, legal and affordable first trimester abortion aren't interested in her autonomy. They don't care about a woman's life course or her citizenship. The woman who finds herself pregnant with a child she can't have made her bed, she lay down in it, and even though there was a man there, too, now she has to live with her choices. The embryo, however, is a tabula rasa, a precious opportunity not to be squandered whose mother (and father) will nonetheless not be given a reasonable maternity leave and will not have access to consistent government-funded child care or insurance.

But we know all that. The question now is, what do we do? There was a time when I would have answered that question unequivocally. Fight now, fight hard, fight until you win. Maybe with the Republicans tying up health care in the Senate, someone will come up with a reasonable strategy to fight the Stupak amendment. I'm ready to march, but I'm also ready for the public option.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Family Pictures

I don't post a lot of pictures, mostly that's because I'm not the family picture taker and I never upload photos myself. Plus, if I added pictures or grabbed images here, I'd really never ever get anything else done because I'd spend so much time looking for pictures. That said, we had to take a picture of the four of us for a school project that Elliot was doing and I wanted one for Helen's school cubby, too. I like this picture, and I'm way behind in my blogging and reading and writing and working, and so, here it is. David, Helen, Elliot, me. Saturday night.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stranger than Fiction

Why did I just read this piece on Slate about Sarah Palin and her new book? For the same reason that I read the Megan Fox profile in the Sunday Times Magazine? Do I like stories about women making up stories to make themselves matter to people who buy movie tickets or vote? Will this help me make of stories of myself so I can turn myself into a whole other person? Who would I be? Let's see: I would have better skin and a better back. I would still practice yoga and volunteer somewhere at least once a week. I wouldn't be annoyed every time I had to select the state I live in from those drop down boxes on an online form. In fact, I wouldn't even shop online so I wouldn't have to be annoyed by those drop down boxes. I'd also compost and be a member of a community garden and I wouldn't yell at cars when I'm crossing the street with my kids. I guess that's all well and good, but none of it is going to get me votes or sell any movie tickets to movies I'm not in either as myself or someone else. So it goes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Weekend

Friday night I was making a version of the salad I like to call "fun with a mandoline" --this one had celery and apples sliced thin with walnuts and various greens -- when my thumb had a not so fun encounter with the mandoline's blade. Then, in the middle of Friday night, I woke up with a not so fun feeling in my belly which required that I stay awake at night and then sleep the next day. I'm just now recovering, thanks in no small part to a batch of my friend Ceridwen's chicken soup. Right now, the new week is looking mighty good to me. Here's to a good week for everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Trouble for Women

Birth control. Conservative lawmakers don't want it covered by health care legislation and Democrats have to get the deal done. This is outrageous. Read all about it here on Slate's XX.

Sports. Trouble for Boys?

I have a friend who not only ignores sports but actively doesn't like them. She points out that in her midwestern public high school, all the extra money went into sports, leaving almost nothing for music, art, drama, never mind library books. I went to a high school were sports were important, but not THAT important. I don't think I can even remember any one boy who was on the football team. So, I'd listen to her argument and nod and say, "But sports build a sense of teamwork and create opportunities for individual success."

This morning, however, I read this in The Trouble with Boys:

"Today, parents from every economic background urge their daughters to pursue their dreams and obtain the credentials they'll need to ensure lifelong economic independence. (Once a woman enters the workplace, the messages we give her about society's expectations are much more cloudy. But that's another book.)
In contrast, the only unified message that we regularly send to boys has nothing to do with doing well in school or achieving economic independence. The main message we deliver to our young men is that they should do well in sports -- particularly team sports such as football, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse. Schools that barely have enough money for textbooks build stadiums for their (largely male) teams."

Right now, I could eat my words for breakfast.

NOTE: Now that it's after lunch I'd like to clarify that I don't think sports are bad for boys. I think encouraging sports as the primary (and secondary) locus for success in school is not good for boys. Sports are important and can be life-changing, but they're not everything.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Trouble with Boys

I've been reading a book called The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre. A journalist, Tyre gathers data from a range of sources to make the the case that boys of all races and economic backgrounds are not performing well in most schools, which means that most schools are not meeting the needs of boys. I was holding off on blogging about the book until I had actually finished it, but yesterday I read this post on Jezebel which uses as its jumping off point an NPR report "that the US Commission on Civil Rights is investigating whether colleges are violating Title IX by favoring male applicants. But is such favoritism necessary to keep colleges from becoming "overwhelmingly female?""

Before reading The Trouble with Boys I might have wondered all kinds of things about this story. Like, "Oh, here's one more instance where girls have to work harder than boys," or, "Why are they doing that?" or, "WTF?"

Now that I'm two-thirds of the way through the book I know that Kenyon, the college discussed in the post, isn't the only school that quietly makes it easier for boys to get in. Many do. Why? Because boys don't do as well in school and doing anything about the poor performance of boys in school is complicated for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is the political hot potato of gender discrimination.

Putting aside the basic question of whether school is easier for girls period or if girls behavior and learning style is better suited to the demands of most public schools as they work to meet the federal regulations imposed by No Child Left Behind (I know it's a lot to put aside), a big problem with feeling like something needs to be done about the low levels of reading and math achievement of a great many boys is while school may be harder for boys, life in the workplace seems easier (anecdotally at least). Not only do more men than women have powerful jobs, men aren't expected to feel conflicted about the demands on their time made by their powerful positions, time they can't spend with their kids.

That said, children, and, it seems, especially boys, need to be better served right now regardless of how the grown-up world works. There's too much that's too obviously wrong about school and what's happening to boys while they're there not to give change a go. Sure in the working world the glass ceiling is firmly in place. The subtle preferences of corporate HR decision makers may be hard to change and golf-course deal-making may be impossible to undo, but so what? Getting preschools to stop with the workbooks, getting recess back into elementary school, not giving up on achievement but saying enough to testing, testing, testing, this can and must be done for boys and girls, because when it comes to school, the world is still half-changed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All Too Certain

On Socrates, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Glen Beck, Peter Struck (a friend for years) has this to say.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What's Inside You

Because of Dr. Ingall, I sign the line for "anatomical gift" on the back of my driver's license. Marjorie reminds me that I'm woefully overdue to give blood and get cookies. (For a long time I gave blood regularly because my dad taught me to do it. He used to get a lot of free mugs from the Rhode Island Blood Center. Who doesn't need another mug?)

Don't Tell My Kids:

"The bed is an instrument conceived for the nocturnal repose of one or two persons, but no more."

From Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (translated by John Sturrock), via Light Reading.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Want to Make Pie

I don't even like pie that much, but this one, I want to make.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Go Barbara

I don't know if politically speaking it was the "right" thing to do to push a climate change bill through committee without Republicans or Max Baucus (don't get me started on the Senator from Montana), as Barbara Boxer has done. But, it was the right thing to do for the planet. There's no time to waste.

Food Confessions

The other day I got an email from Daily Candy telling me how to make sure my kids eat a healthy well-balanced diet. Have you seen Daily Candy? Its logo of a sticky lollipop is just right. Hawking $75 dresses for 2-year-olds, $200 knit necklaces for grown-ups, the emails serve a very specific purpose in my day (sometimes), but that purpose has nothing to do with health or balance. And yet, there I was reading the same old tips about offering new foods and not being a short order cook in Daily Candy and I was feeling badly once again. Because when it comes to feeding my kids, I've made all the mistakes in the book. When my kids stopped eating their sandwiches on whole wheat bread, I bought white (from Whole Foods! but still). They eat a lot of snacks that aren't carrots. When they ask for mac and cheese night after night, I often give it to them, from the box. (I've made the homemade kind to no great effect.) I make separate food for the grownups. (They're welcome to try it and sometimes do! Elliot especially.) And, yes, I've been known to be a short order cook from time to time.

Truthfully, the thing that gives me hope on the food front is the memory of my SUV-driving brother. He ate nothing -- NOTHING -- until he was maybe 11. Truly, I don't know how he stood on two feet. (He was quite spindly.) Then, he started to eat everything. Everything. Then he started to cook. And by now, the old gas-guzzler has spent the better part of his life on a big food adventure. So I can only hope that slowly but surely, my kids will try new foods. Eventually, I'll make meals the four of us can tuck into. Maybe my kids will try and like asparagus and not demand peas and probably if they do demand peas I'll tell them they'll have to wait until tomorrow. We'll all have learned our lessons by then.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

If Not Her, Who?

I have yet to see By the People, the HBO documentary about the campaign, but thanks to Marjorie Ingall, I saw this clip from it yesterday on Jezebel. My favorite moment in the clip is the look on Michelle Obama's face after she says, "and now we're running for President." It's so perfect, rueful, amused, a little amazed -- life brings you places, right?

After watching the clip a couple of times, I still want to ask this: Was their kitchen in Chicago always that neat or did they just clean up for the film makers? Does Michelle have a junk mail pile? A bill pile? I bet Michelle Obama does not pile, I bet she files, without thinking twice about it. When she feels like she doesn't want to file anymore, she just sighs and finishes the filing, because it has to get done and before she moved to the White House, if she didn't do it, who would?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

There's No Back Burner

So some in the Senate are now saying Climate Change legislation may have to wait? Because things are going so good on the earth and so not so good for the Democrats? I don't think so. There's no time to waste. Barbara Boxer has it right (scroll down for the story): Forget about the Republicans and save the world. Actually.

The Running

This morning I went for a run at 7, which was actually a little late for a before school run. As I was getting ready to leave I said to David, "Ask me how much I want to do this." And he said, "That really isn't relevant."

This is much easier to blog about than how grumpy I am about the New Jersey governor's race, not that I was following it, but I still can't believe Corzine lost. I will not read any post-mortems on what this means for Democrats because I heard Mara Liasson on NPR last night and she said the races are local and not really meaningful for national politics at this point in time. I'm going with what Mara said this time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

It's a long way from last year but today, New Yorkers have the chance to vote in an historic election of sorts -- the one for which Michael Bloomberg, our lord and mayor, overturned all voter endorsed regulations to buy what he wants, a third term. I plan to vote for the mayor, in spite of the fact that I don't want to. I always vote and he's the better candidate so there it is. On this topic, let me recommend Hendrick Hertzbereg's Talk of the Town on Mayor Mike. After reading I thought, "What he said."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Obama's Marriage

Was I the only who found Jodi Kantor's Sunday Times Magazine cover story on the Obama's marriage a bit of a snooze? I haven't poked around the web for commentary, and there were a few details that were, you know, interesting, but in general, meh. Maybe it was boring because even with rehashing their trouble spots (it was hard when Malia was born and Barack was away!), there was nothing all that surprising in it. Because I think the thing that's amazing about the Obamas as a couple in public life is they just might be exactly what they seem to be--two people who are genuinely interested in each other and committed to each other for the long haul, no matter what that might mean. The article didn't add anything to how I perceive them, it just made me tired of how the Times uses the word "brand" and glad for the family snapshots.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Brklyn Larder

Yesterday my husband and I were out in Brooklyn celebrating (my birthday and our anniversary, both of which are today) with lunch at the fantastic Al Di La. (If you're not in New York but maybe will visit and have a chance to go to Brooklyn and eat there, do.) In fact, I was going to write just about lunch for which I had a raw Tuscan kale salad (shared) followed by polenta with mushrooms and some kind of green (thinking about it makes my knees a little weak--it was so rich I couldn't finish it) and coffee/caramel custard with chocolate cookies. (Also shared and kind of heavenly in its smoothness and flavor sensations; we had to stop ourselves from licking the little pot it came in.)

But I'm not blogging about polenta and pudding because on our way to the subway we stopped at Brklyn Larder, the store whose granola inspired this recipe that's now a staple in our house (I'm going to make some now in fact), but whose Almond Butter is the best ever. It's smooth, it's nutty, it's somehow, I don't know, better than any other almond butter I've had -- and it doesn't get clumpy! It's so special and lasts so long and tastes so good with orange marmalade I don't even mind paying an amount that makes me cough. Really, a jar of the stuff was the perfect present at the end of a lovely lunching afternoon.

Friday, October 30, 2009


When I was 7 my parents took my brother (then 10) and me to France for six weeks. We spent two weeks in Paris and a month on the idyllic island of Corsica. It was an amazing experience in so many ways and just one thing that was amazing about it is the trip introduced us to Asterix and Obelix, with whom we both became immediately obsessed. The scrappy Asterix, the ridiculous Obelix, it was all too fantastic. Now it turns out that today Asterix turns 50! I feel, I don't know, like buying a cupcake and a comic book and lying on my belly with my knees up in the air. Of course if I lay like that for too long I wouldn't be able to get up, but that's besides the point. Happy Birthday Asterix!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Truth or Dare

Flipping through the channels the other night right before I was set to go to bed, we happened upon Truth or Dare. You know? Truth or Dare! It was so thrilling, and ridiculous, and Warren Beatty was in it because apparently they were a couple, Warren and Madonna. Of all things. I remember when Truth or Dare came out I didn't want to see it because I'd seen the concert. Yes, it's true. My brother got free tickets through an old family friend and he gave them to me and they were on the floor and we had back stage passes and it was amazing. Really, it changed my life. I'd just graduated from college, I didn't have a job, I had no idea what I was going to do next (the more things change....), but there were these tickets and that night there was this concert and it blew my mind and carried me through the rest of that long hot summer. In it's very own way, it was a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Grim Day

Last night I finally finished Jane Mayer's sobering piece in last week's New Yorker on drone warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan. War may never be the answer to anything, but the piece demands we ask, if we do wage war, what kind of war do we wage and what are the costs of robot bombs? Even if you don't read the whole thing the answer is this: They're high. Just look at these pictures from today's bombing in Pakistan, because, as they say, what goes around....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cautionary Matrons? Really?

This morning I stumbled to the couch with my half awake children to find the New York Observer opened to an article titled "Cautionary Matrons." My husband had thoughtfully left it there for me. "It's about 40-something writers who are unhappy with their lives!" he shouted cheerfully as he bounced into his shower.

Always on the lookout for joy and satisfaction, I turned my attention away from Arthur and took a look at the piece. What I found was yet another rehashing of how women were told one thing and found another. As in: "They told 'our generation' of now 40-somethings that we could have it all and we couldn't because we have careers but we don't have husbands or children or happy marriages so 20- and 30-year-olds, don't make the mistakes we made."

The writer, 25-year-old Irina Aleksander, not only talks to the matrons of the title but also to her friends in their late twenties and early thirties and it turns out they're scared of ending up alone and these articles about single motherhood, being single in one's 40s and mid-life divorce freak them out. Apparently, it's news to these kids that life is full of choices and compromises. Apparently, people are not only rehashing 80s fashion choices but the maxim that a woman can "have it all!" Did anyone ever really believe that? I mean believe believe believe? Really? When are these so-called articles about generational expectations going to stop? I guess my blogging about one won't help stop them, but, really, if I could petition culture editors, I would. It's enough already.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rememer When....

Remember when you were a kid and suddenly in what seemed like an endless stream of school days there was a day off for no reason at all? Remember how much fun that was? Now, not so much.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Week

It's been one long, intense week and I've hadn't had much of a chance to do much of anything -- I apologize for my absence and promise more blogging next week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Run a Cold

I have a cold, a niggly, iggly little cold that woke me up with a dry gummy mouth last night and continues to annoy me today. It's the kind of cold that doesn't make you (me) feel so bad, just very badly for myself. But, it's a beautiful day and I haven't been for a run since Friday and I'm supposed to run three times a week and even if I get loosey goosey with that I can't get too loosey goosey because after finally establishing some kind of running routine, through the winter no less, I don't want to give it up, even if that's what I fell like doing, giving it up, I mean. If my run is as long as that last sentence, I'll feel like I did what I have to do. Which I should just go do. Or something.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Zero Waste Challenge

The good news: There are ways to cut way down on garbage. The bad news: Food waste is really bad. You can read all about it in this New York Times article about the zero waste movement that's afoot nationwide. I'd write more but I feel like I have to go do some research about how to compost in an apartment.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Party!

We had a birthday party for the kids today. In our apartment. Seventeen, eighteen kids. Something like that. It was great. Toys everywhere, art projects galore, and, the cakes. I have to say, I loved making these cakes. A huge thank you to Lauren Deen for her book Kitchen Playdates. Really, the recipe is so easy anyone can make one of these Bob Mackie meets Martha Stewart babies. Really.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sea of Poppies

I just finished the Amitav Ghosh novel Sea of Poppies about the opium trade in India in 1837. When I started it, I was practically elated to find myself so securely in the hands of such a wonderful writer and storyteller. As the book wore on some of it felt a little too race conscious, a little anachronistically so, but by that time I was in deep and actually wanted to know what happened. And by the end, well, I read the last section with baited breath, on pins and needles, at the edge of my seat. Plus, there was some perfect sentences. If I were any kind of blogger I'd pluck some out for you, but I've got to set the table. Before I go, though, I'd also recommend In an Antique Land, also by Ghosh, which I read a million years ago and remember simply loving. As for the weekend, there will be birthday parties, so there won't be much reading. So it goes.

You Can Pick Your Friends, But....

People have families. They come in all shapes and sizes. And sure you get to choose your partner, but when it comes to kids, you take what you get or whom you adopt. Sort of. I don't want to get into the whole thing about using reproductive technology to engineer specific traits into or out of our kids, but I do want to say this about gender selection done purely for the psychological needs of the parents: It Sucks.

I try not to be judgmental when it comes to how people make their families, but women going bananas because they have three healthy boys and no girls? Nuh-uh. I'm judging. But you can decide for yourself and by reading a story by Ruth Shalit Barrett about "Gender Disappointment" in this month's Elle.

Me, I've made my decisions about "GD." Not only, as XX blogger KJ Dell'Antonia points out, does the whole thing cross the line of a parent saying about a child, "I didn't want you," but a driving desire for a girl is a about a fantasy. It's not about raising an actual person who arrives in this world with a personality. It's about the dream of a very specific kind of companionship where the mother gets to call all the shots. The women who try to come off as thoughtful in the article say things like: “My desire for a daughter is not about pink or shopping. I don’t get manicures and pedicures. All that stuff isn’t important to me. Relationships are. As a woman, I have so much I want to share.” What, and she can't share any of what she has with her sons? And if she can only share with girls, then girlfriend, go out and get some girlfriends and leave your kids out of it. Seriously. It's bad.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Comment

Michael Pollan asked for food rules. Michael Pollan got food rules. Try as I might to come up with something new on this front, I think I've said all I have to say about it.

Plucking the Middlebrow

On my husband's recommendation, I read the essay Confessions of a Middlebrow Professor by W.A. Pannapacker in The Chronicle review. In it, Pannapacker tells us he bought a copy of the Great Books series, originally published in 1952, for $10 at a church sale. S/He writes:

"There was something awe-inspiring about that series for me, even if I acquired it a generation late. The Great Books seemed so serious. They had small type printed in two columns; there were no annotations, no concessions to the beginner. They emphasized classical writers: Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Plato, and Aristotle, among others, like Galen and Marcus Aurelius, who are still remembered but rarely read. Their readings also included Bacon, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Gibbon, Mill, and Melville; the series functioned like a reference collection of influential texts. I'd hear someone say, "I think, therefore I am," find out that it came from Descartes, and then I'd read the first few chapters of his Meditations on First Philosophy."

A few years later, Pannapacker went to college:

"By the end of the 1980s—when I was an undergraduate—it had become clear to seemingly everyone in authority that the notion of "Greatness" was a tool of illegitimate power; Adler and Hutchins were racist and sexist in their choices of texts; their valorization of the "Western World" made them complicit with imperialism and worse. "This is more than a set of books, and more than a liberal education," said Hutchins. "Great Books of the Western World is an act of piety. Here are the sources of our being. Here is our heritage. This is the West. This is its meaning for mankind.""

One can say a lot of things about a cannon but however you feel about a cannon's content or purpose, Pannapacker argues and I agree, the fact of the Great Book series, its emergence in post-war America, shows a kind of intellectual striving that at one point those in the know might have found quaint but still had the potential to be transformational, a potential that's lost in our world of non-stop, easy info-tainment. Pannapacker writes:

"For all their shortcomings, the Great Books—along with many other varieties of middlebrow culture—reflected a time when the liberal arts commanded more respect. They were thought to have practical value as a remedy for parochialism, bigotry, social isolation, fanaticism, and political and economic exploitation. The Great Books had a narrower conception of "greatness" than we might like today, but their foundational ideals were radically egalitarian and proudly intellectual."

I know, I know this all can be taken apart, but I can't help adding my own "Here, here!" to this lament for intellectual eagerness in the face of the damningly practical.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What They're Wearing

Some of you might know that I'm the kind of girl that doesn't mind watching a football game. If I have some knitting, or a laptop with wireless, I think sitting on the couch taking in a Monday night game is kind of pleasant. Plus it keeps me in the loop with my dad and brother, which is why I started watching football in the first place. Sunday, I caught a glimpse of what the Denver Broncos were wearing as part of this whole old school uniform thing going on this season. Those uniforms were shocking. Shocking. And since my friend Stefan Fatsis wrote a book about suiting up for the Broncos (A Few Seconds of Panic), I asked him about the uniform situation. He directed me here, to Paul Lucas' blog. I recommend it for the sheer pleasure of spending a little time in someone else's obsession.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Family Vacation

There are some days off from school that our just days off: the kids sleep late, they watch too much TV, I clean or bake something, Playmobil worlds are constructed and destroyed on land and in water. Then there are days off, like today's in honor of Columbus Day, that are like mini-family vacations. Back in the day when I worked at, Dennis Roddy, columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, described family vacations as days spent "driving down the highway throwing twenty dollar bills out the window." Substitute riding the subway, take away the husband (who didn't have the day off), and you've got my day.

It didn't start out that way. I managed to get out the door with lunches packed, water bottles filled, extra snacks stowed. I even had a toy or two in my Mary Poppin tote. Then Elliot ate his lunch on the subway ride down to the Intrepid. Then I decided to join the Intrepid. After the Intrepid, we decided to go on a pedi-cab ride around Central Park. This is where things got hairy. I mean, paying for a pedi-cab ride when you actually live in New York City and aren't interested in trotting out to Strawberry Field or taking a picture by Bethesda Fountain, well, it's kind of a shocking thing to do, shocking not only because the pedi-cab ride has a steep price tag, but also because you kind of become a tourist when you're riding in the back of an overgrown tricycle pedaled by a nice young man from Russia. The park itself was a completely different place than the one I've known for the past twenty years. The pedi-cabs weren't simply large vehicles around which we had to maneuver but a confederation of riders united against the horse-drawn carriages. The carriages, meanwhile, seemed hell bent on pushing the pedi-cabs out of the way, no matter the size of its passengers. A woman on a horse drawn carriage gave me a look a terror and upset as her carriage driver tried to elbow our pedi-cab with its small children out of the way. But it wasn't only fear in her eyes, it was a search for solidarity, a desire to confirm what her face said: "Do you believe what happens here in New York City!"

Anyway, after the pedi-cab ride, which, in spite of the carriages, was pretty fun on the down hills, there was more -- snack at Whole Foods, a trip to Sephora during which Elliot picked up pots of eye shadow and smeared them on his eyelids (it was raucous), and finally the long trip home. Then, our mini-vacation was done and all that was left was dinner and recovery. I'm so excited for school!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

For Vegetables

I know a guy, a well-known guy in his field, who refuses to recycle anything. "I never recycle. I'm protesting," he told me once when I refused to throw a bottle into a regular trash can. "All this recycling talk makes people think what they do matters and it doesn't." Putting aside the not so implicit insult to me an my would-be recycled bottle, all I could think was, "Well, isn't that convenient. But what if everyone actually did nothing?"

Today (Saturday), in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, I read with great interest Jonathan Safran Foer's essay Against Meat. I liked it for all kinds of reasons: because Safran Foer is a very fluid writer; because he framed the story with stories of his grandmother which I found poignant; because he admitted that he'd tried to be a vegetarian on and of since he was a child but most of the time started eating meat again; because he didn't try to argue that a vegetarian diet is as tasty as a omnivorous one. I also liked it because after reading it I feel like the gauntlet has been realistically thrown down. Putting sentiment about carcasses aside (which is a big putting aside, but takes away the case for sentimentality) if I'm someone who won't buy a plastic bottle of water; who worries every time I run alongside the West Side Highway because all the traffic reminds me of all the traffic everywhere and how much exhaust is getting spewed into the atmosphere every second from all the cars; if I'm someone who gives my brother serious grief about his SUV and runs around my house unplugging all the plugs I can, then how can I not act after reading this:

"According to reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. and others, factory farming has made animal agriculture the No. 1 contributor to global warming (it is significantly more destructive than transportation alone), and one of the Top 2 or 3 causes of all of the most serious environmental problems, both global and local: air and water pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity. . . . Eating factory-farmed animals — which is to say virtually every piece of meat sold in supermarkets and prepared in restaurants — is almost certainly the single worst thing that humans do to the environment."

Granted, everything is a little fuzzy fact-wise here and the writing gives a big emotional punch, but no matter the numbers, there's no doubt that factory farming isn't good for anyone. And while I rarely buy red meat and only by organic or free range chicken, it's not like those labels all that meaningful. I know that even if I don't like to know that I know that.

So what's next for me and my kitchen? Well, lets just say that right now in my freezer there are three quarts of soup, all vegetarian. There's also sausage, lamb patties, and chicken legs (the meat's from Whole Foods and nicely labeled, but still. It'll probably all get eaten at some point. Whether or not it will all be replaced, I can't say for sure mostly because I'm not one for absolutes. It would be more convenient if I did replace all the food in there -- cooking up sausages and tossing a salad makes a quick a easy and tasty dinner and avoids take out which has its own plastic disaster -- but I think it may be just about time to let go of a convenience or two.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Current Recession

There's been a lot of talk that this recession has been harder on men with jobs than women with jobs, meaning men have lost more jobs. Lisa Belkin recently wrote that men losing high powered jobs in finance and the like does not mean advancement for women. Advancement would mean women losing jobs at the same rate as men (as they're doing in high levels of finance). But, apparently, in all recent recessions men have lost more jobs than women because they hold more of the manufacturing jobs. Here's the link with the proof (via Sullivan). I'm not sure why this is relevant -- which gender is losing more jobs. If you've lost a job, if your partner loses a job, things are hard, if you're a man or a woman, they're hard. I suspect all this talk about men losing jobs has something to do with a general sense of disenfranchisement after the long binge of the last decade. Like, men are sobering up, this is going to be harder for men, women will be fine because women always take low-paying jobs and muddle through and marry but men lose all their sense of manliness if they lose their jobs. I'm not going to poo-poo the lost sense of manliness that I imagine accompanies a lots job, not at all. The gendered expectations of this culture run too deep. I just wonder if all this talk of a man-cession is laying the groundwork for another round of cultural hand-wringing on the demise of men in general, and white men in particular. I hope not. I'm really not up for it.

The Prize

Our President won the Nobel Peace Prize? My first thought was, "Gosh what must Hillary Clinton think? Like all this guy has to do is show up?

Of course, I'm a huge Obama supporter (still) and I'm hugely nostalgic for the intensity and sheer competitive joy of the election, not to mention the euphoria of Obama's victory, but, can I just say? Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize is, like, So Last Year.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Israel, Gaza, and Commentary

Here's a long post by Andrew Sullivan about a Michael Oren piece (that I haven't read) in The New Republic. Sullivan's is passionate (as usual) and sobering.


Hungry, by model Crystal Renn and Marjorie Ingall is out. Here's a little media love via Marjorie herself. (Please read what she has to say about school testing here.)

Blogging or Life, An Update

I'm a little between things now. That is, I think my kids have finally settled into some kind of a routine, but, unfortunately, I have not. There was a time when I sat down to this very computer every day and before I got to work, I blogged. I liked that. Now, I don't sit down to the computer every day. Honestly, I'm not sure what I do every day, but I know it involves a lot of time on the subway. And three days a week it involves running. I have a short but very intense list of things I need to do in the apartment: for example, return items, recycle clothing at the Friday Farm Market which I haven't gotten to in four weeks, put up paint samples, clear out files, stuff like that. I get to maybe one a week. I did make banana bread the other day when my son was home sick from school. I couldn't do much else. It's always good to get stuff done when you can't do much. As for blogging, I'll keep looking out for that routine for me. I should stumble upon it any minute now.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Flipping the Company

Of course the New York Times article that led today's paper about private equity firms that buy companies that make things like mattresses and borrow against them to pay themselves loads of money was tipped editorially to leave us sympathetic to the mattress maker (Simmons) now in bankruptcy and the workers who lost their jobs and the company they once loved working for. (Check out the photographs in the print edition after the jump - one of a laid off worker, the other of the former CEO on the porch of "one of his homes" in Jackson Hole with his wife, two wine glasses and a bottle of wine-- they say it all.) But, truthfully, there was no way to write that article that wouldn't have left me furious at the fat cat money guys and their entitled buy in, sell out, fee payments and debt whatevers. I know it's kind of quaint and old fashioned of me, but where's the respect for things made with these guys? Do the people who work at private equity firms just think that those who make a living by making things and not generating paper on which to move meaningless numbers across spread sheets and into their own bank accounts are just chumps?

I know, I don't have to answer that.

Adieu, Gourmet

I'm trying to feel sad about the news that Gourmet is shutting down. There was a time when I really enjoyed that magazine, but, truth be told, that time ended a long time ago. I subscribed up until a year ago and when my subscription lapsed, I didn't really feel too badly. The magazine was, what's the word, boring. Sure there were usually one or two recipes that interested me -- a ten minute meal or something to bake -- but I never read anything in it. And, the fancy stuff was all too fancy and the everyday stuff almost too everyday. Maybe it's just that the damn thing was so, you know, tasteful. To me it felt like the magazine lost its heart and found nothing to replace it. And now, nothing will.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vegetarian Times

After reading this article in today's New York Times about e-coli in ground meat, I'm ready for the first issue of my new subscription. I bet I'm not the only one.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lucky is So Not Domino

When Domino folded, the brilliant minds at Conde Nast redirected my subscription to Lucky. Can I just say? Lucky is not a magazine. I don't know what it is, but to call it a magazine is too great a compliment. Seriously. The captions are awful (if I see "well-edited" used to describe clothes or a store one more time I think I might just die), the beauty page indistinguishable from paid promotions, and the clothes? Ugly. The shoes? Uglier. It might be I'm trending too old for this particular beauty book, but all I can say is I want my Domino back.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rational Irrationality: This Week's New Yorker

In this week's The New Yorker John Cassidy has an article about the financial crisis and the rational -if reprehensible --decisions that drove it. At first I was all, "Do I have to read another article about this?" And then reading it, I was like, "There's nothing RATIONAL about making loans to people who can't afford to pay them back and that's the base of the whole pyramid." But of course Cassidy's point is that it's not nice, but it's rational if you plan to sell those loans to eager Wall Street buyers at a nice fat profit. And that's just what happened; Cassidy himself explains here. If everyone looks the other way no one has to see a thing. Of course the same thing can be said about climate change. Here Elizabeth Kolbert begs our leadership to start looking.

Bread Baking, In Theory

A friend, I won't say who, told me that bread baking was No Big Deal. Not that hard. No reason for the fuss. This, however, has not been my experience. When I've tried to make a basic white loaf, the only thing to recommend it is that it's been fresh from the oven. Once it cools, though, it's just been a yeasty rock. I made challah for Rosh Hashannah two weeks ago. It turned out pretty well and I made them with my daughter who was so excited about the whole thing, which was pretty much the point, but still, they were fine. Fine, but probably not worth it outside of the holiday context. And still, even though I live where very good bread can be bought for not so much money and even though my kids like to eat not very good bread, I want to make it. And so, I'm excited about this on Chocolate & Zucchini about how to make Sour Dough English muffins and a whole web making bread thing. Maybe I'll make some, or maybe I'll just read about it, but just knowing it can be done makes me glad.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hair, Hair, Hair

I'm fairly interested in hair -- the phases and changes women go through with it (long, short, when, why), how women think about, how women think men think about it, more importantly, how they think other women think about it -- the whole thing. And for black women I get that hair is even more complicated. Which is to say I enjoyed watching these clips of Chris Rock and Oprah for a lot of reasons, though I don't think smart Chris is right -- I think men really care about hair.


When I first heard that Roman Polanski was arrested, I was all, "What?" But, honestly, I couldn't remember exactly what he had been accused of in the first place. Now that I know it's drugging and raping a thirteen year old I think he deserves to be arrested. Here's The New Yorker on the case:

"Why is Polanski different from Alex Kelly, the Darien rapist who dodged prosecution for years by hanging out in Europe? If the answer is that Kelly was a suburban jock who skied away his time on the lam, while Polanski made lovely movies, it’s not sufficient. Talent does not afford impunity, and shouldn’t, any more than money or prettiness or a great fashion sense should—does that even need to be said? An Oscar is not a get-out-of-jail-free card (much as it looks like it belongs on a Monopoly board)."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chicken Stories

Lately, I've grown tired of chicken. Really, really tired. I would like to go a month without the stuff, but I don't know if I can unless I just embrace being a vegetarian, which I might. Or maybe not. Maybe all I need is a good dare. In any case, apparently, there's both chicken excitement and fatigue afoot and I enjoyed reading all about it. Here's the link in case you would, too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Real Problem

OK. Did everyone already read Paul Krugman today? I won't sleep tonight for reading it, but, still, we all need to read what he has to say about climate change.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Smells Like Twin Spirit

Late last night I found myself on Lemondrop after following a link from Go Fug Yourself. Before I could say, "Shut Down Now," I had happened upon an article about a woman in Arkansas who got pregnant when she was already with child. In it, there's this gem: "She and her husband are now expecting two children, but they aren't twins. It's called superfetation, and it's incredibly rare. Fortunately, the difference in the two fetuses' ages is so small that there shouldn't be any developmental problems if the first one is carried to term." (Emphasis mine.)

OK. So. There are these two babies in the same uterus at the same time and the difference in their gestational ages in negligible, but they "aren't twins?" What gives? I know the line is mostly just gee-gosh -darn isn't that weird and cool. But also I'd suggest that saying these kids who will pass through their lives in developmental lock step aren't really twins speaks to some deep-seated notion of authenticity in child bearing. That is, there's this smell of something in our culture and in this time of scientific meddling with reproduction that suggests there is some greater reality in childbirth. If you've been meddled with, your conception is less than real. If your twins aren't conceived at the same time, well, then they're not really twins.

I know blogging about this is defensive on my part. After all when my twins (who measured three days apart in gestational age for the first 11 weeks of my pregnancy and who were probably conceived at different times -- one in a laboratory and one, shall we say, spontaneously) were three months old a visitor came over and said, "So, are you going to tell them that they're not really twins?"

Why are people so eager to assign a category to what makes one thing really real? What are the criteria for being real twins anyway? What makes any conception, pregnancy, birth authentic? As little medical meddling as possible in conception and birth? A certain kind of timing when it comes to twins?

What could make two children who have been together since the womb less than twins? My pregnancy was sure treated as a twin pregnancy and so will that of this woman in Arkansas. When I nursed, I have two brand new infants clamoring for my breasts -- so will she. And when we had to get our kids to sleep, there were two with two very different temperaments to try to teach at the same time. I bet if I were to talk to that Arkansas couple in a year, we'll be able to bond on that one.

All this to say I just wish we could get over the whole really real thing about making babies and families. Once the babies show up, they're pretty darn real.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A New York Moment

I was on the Eighth Avenue Local this morning. It pulls into 42nd Street and a grizzled homeless man pretty much out of central casting stood at one of the doors and said, "Would you hold the doors for me? I'm just going to run out and get a cigarette and a cup of coffee." Someone on the train answers, "No problem, we'll be here."

You gotta love this town.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

So 80s

I'm not a huge fan of the 80s revival in fashion. I didn't like huge shoulder pads and neon back in the day (well, maybe the shoulder pads), and I'm not wild about them now. And skinny stretch jeans? With Reeboks? Don't even get me started. But today, I got a manicure with my daughter. She got a coat of lime green with sparkles on top. Me, I got red. Like, supa-red, cherry red, Ann Taylor 1985 red, red, red, red, red red. That red. My nails are now short and red, the veins on my hands stand up as they've done since I was pregnant (no one ever talks about how your hands change after pregnancy, but they do, at least mine did), and now my hands look something like my mom's did when I was in high school. College, too. Granted, my mom's hands are much more elegant than mine. Her fingers more tapered, her nails always longer and better cared for, but still, I got totally 80s nails clickety clacking on this keyboard and they look -- you know -- familiar. Turns out 80s nostalgia can mean more than just neon and shoulder pads.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


And now, let's take a minute for what really matters. Madonna!

The Optimist

Sullivan has this incredibly optimistic note on the growing popularity of health insurance reform. (The optimism is in his vision of 2010, not the numbers themselves.) Personally, I think so much of the coverage and discussion of this has been bezerk, but I'm gratified to learn that only 21 percent of those polled approved of the Republicans handling of the issue. The party of "no" and no ideas can't win this one. It's just too awful to think they could. I might not be thrilled with the transformation of health reform into health insurance reform, but something has got to be better than nothing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The ScanPan

A few weeks ago, I bought a ScanPan. It wasn't nothing, dollar-wise, but every time I use it, every single time, I am glad. The pan is genius.

The Frog Project

I'm still having trouble getting a hold of my schedule. The computer is better, but finding the groove is no easier. More to the point, I haven't re-established a writing schedule, which means I'm just not writing as much period, which means it's even harder to sit down and blog. But, I can report on a quick trip to the Museum of Natural History (it's right next to my son's school) yesterday where we saw the frog exhibit. I was hesitant to go because I know that species of frogs are disappearing every day and I didn't want to end up weeping over pictures of misshapen frogs legs and having to explain it all to my kids. Luckily, as per usual, the exhibit was all about how interesting frogs are, with real, live, excellent frogs on display. (OK, one or two looked a little sad to be on display, but still.) Then, at the end, there was information about the frog crisis and a movie featuring a scientist from a project called Amphibian Ark that collects endangered frogs from around to world until their habitats can be saved. I have to say, after seeing all those tiny blue and yellow frogs and the horn-eyed frogs and the African toad and American bullfrog, I ready to climb on board the ark to save the frogs.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

As It Sits Dying

My desktop is dying. I hate to write that, because I don't want to anthropomorphize my machinery, but that's what's happening. It's crashing when it falls asleep, it can't connect to the web, it's slowly grinding to a halt. I'm annoyed about this. It's not just the fact that soon I'm going to have to buy a new desktop--it's that the desktop was probably programmed to stop working within a certain time frame so I'd go out and buy another one. Enforced obsolesense or some such, which means unnecessary garbage, because if the computer kept on working, it'd keep on doing most of what I needed it for. What do I need it for? Babar on You Tube, Etsy when I should be asleep, Ravelry when I'm trying to stay away from Etsy, obssessive email checking, occassional blogging. I don't really need all that. In fact, without all that stuff I do on my computer at night, I'd read and sleep more and that would be fantastic. So I don't know what I'll do about the clunker in my bedroom. Maybe if I sleep on it, I'll come up with the perfect solution.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Staggering Towards a Schedule

Today was the day. My daughter finally started school, our sitter would be in, I'd have hours, hours, during which I could get nothing, absolutely nothing done except maybe hop around online with that familiar and vaguely pleasant tension in my back that says: "You should just sit and read something. Anything. Start to finish. Don't click that link. It'll mean you won't finish what you're reading. Remember you couldn't even start Daniel Deronda in June because the opening scenes involved gambling and that made you nervous? You should get over it. Right now. Get up. Go home, start Daniel Deronda again, and then blog about it, because you've got nothing to say about Max Baucus' health care plan, which Rachel Maddow said was full on concessions to Republicans who wouldn't vote for it anyway and who are you to argue with Rachel. And you have even less to say about Joe Wilson, because everyone else has said so much, none of which you've read because you followed that link. You've got nothing but time and Daniel Deronda."

But in truth, I've had no time today, I'm not going to restart Deronda, and now I'm about to be late. So it goes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm Not Very Good at Being Back

My schedule is still unsettled, my daughter hasn't even started school yet! And so, today, the challah dough for Rosh Hashannah will have a very long first rising and my blogging will be very short. Hopefully, tomorrow, time will bloom.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm Back!

OK. I'm back. I'm sorry! I was away for so long and even now I can only post a little bit, at least right now. Since vacation (the granola vacation), I've had precious little help with the kids and school started late (Helen hasn't even started) and in general, it's been a strange weird time where I'm hardly at home, never read the paper, and fall into bed in heap at the end of it all.

I did read Fun Home, a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. It was really moving, and I recommend it. I've been seeeeeeething over the coverage of the three health care reform protesters. And right now I'm looking forward to being back. Thanks, everyone --I really appreciate your welcome back. More soon!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Granola for Vacation

Moving on from climate change, we're going away for two weeks and I won't have WiFi, never mind a computer, and so, until the end of August, I'm signing off. But before I do, I urge you to make this granola created by my friend Melissa and published in The New York Times. It's unbelievable. Life changing. Perfect. When my husband tasted it he said: "I love you more and more every day." Enjoy!

Global Warming and Hot Button Security

As terrifying as this article in the New York Times is, maybe it will inspire real action on climate change and energy consumption. Here's the kicker quote (and a kicker it is):

“We will pay for this one way or another,” Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine and the former head of the Central Command, wrote recently in a report he prepared as a member of a military advisory board on energy and climate at CNA, a private group that does research for the Navy. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind.

“Or we will pay the price later in military terms,” he warned. “And that will involve human lives.”

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Few Seconds of Panic-In Paper

My friend Stefan Fatsis got himself onto a professional football team, into their uniform, and onto their practice field. He tells us all about it in A Few Seconds of Panic. Have you ever seen a real live professional football player? When I was five my dad took me and my brother to see John Hannah of the New England Patriots and I have never forgotten the simple size of that man. I believe he was affable, but I was so securely fastened onto the back of my father's leg that I couldn't tell you much more about it. Anyway, Stefan is not all that much bigger than I am now, and, granted, he made his way onto the field as a kicker, but still, his other book was about competitive Scrabble, which is a long way from wearing tighty-whitey football pants on a professional football field, even a practice one. In any case, Stefan's story and those of the players he meets along the way will keep you interested, even riveted, from start to finish. You don't even have to like football. I swear.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Heroic Frittata

I made dinner tonight. I decided to make a frittata and a salad. Then, I decided to flip the frittata, and when I did, I heard Meryl Streep as Julia Child in the once again famous potato pancake show saying to flip anything one needs the courage of her convictions. I found my courage, I flipped the frittata, I felt....proud.

Julia & Julie

Last night I went to see Julia & Julie with my friend Melissa. It was the first time in our very long friendship that we'd gone to the movies together! Very funny. Anyway, the movie was fine. Every time Julia Child/Meryl Streep came on the screen the whole world seemed brighter; the whole project still mostly makes me want to read My Life in France. One thing that was striking about the movie was the husbands -- both Julie Powell's and Julia Child's had very good husbands. As we leaving Melissa turned to me and said, "Didn't Paul Child remind you of David (my husband)?" Stanley Tucci played Paul Child, and there's something of a physical resemblance between him and my husband. But beyond that, the way Paul was, supportive and funny and wry and reasonably realistic and proud, it did remind me of David, and I felt very lucky for that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Strange thing, I used to love a good burger. Now, it's the last thing I want to eat. Ever.


You gotta love the doctors signing off on ghostwritten scientific papers written by drug companies. I mean, talk about gold standard of research!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Camp

For some reason, my husband thought I'd like to read this poignant Washington Post column by Michael Gerson about sending his kids to summer camp. About the ritual of sending his children away Gerson writes:

"So this is the independence we seek for our children -- to turn our closest relationships into acquaintances. Of course, I knew this getting into parenthood. But the reality remains shocking. For a time, small hands take your own -- children look upward, and you fill their entire universe. They remain, to you, the most important things in the world. To them, over time, you become one important thing among many. And then an occasional visit or phone call. And then a memory, fond or otherwise."

Just like the first time I read that I'm all choked up. I mean, I'm not seeking to make my relationship with my kids an acquaintance, but still. I need the hanky. I bet my brother does, too. I hope he dries his eyes before climbing in to that huge honking SUV of his and driving home to his kids. (Not that he couldn't ride his bike.) We both loved summer camp as children, but now that the shoe is on the proverbial other foot, it's all different.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Michael Pollan Wants YOU To Cook!

Michael Pollan thinks I should cook more, he thinks you should cook more, he probably even thinks Michelle Obama should cook more. If we cooked more, we Americans would eat less fattening foods, our eating habits wouldn't support industrial farming, never mind packaging, and we'd experience the pleasure of making something, every day. With this it's hard, even pointless, to quibble. Pollan uses a luxuriously long article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine to make this point. He also uses the article to make the point that cooking more would not only make us healthier, it would make us more...what's the word....human.

Apparently, there's something about cooking that makes us human and it's not just the nutritional value of cooked food (which, according to people who should know, helped human brains grow). There's also the time it afforded us to get to know one another sitting around the table, time that we no longer use to cook and hardly use to sit around with friends. Instead, it's time that we now spend like teenagers with their first credit cards in front of the TV watching cooking shows from 8PM until whenever.

Pollan says these prime time shows are nothing like Julia Child's classic show that he watched with his mom in the late afternoons and that changed the way people cook. No, he says we're watching cooking competitions at night that have nothing to do with actual cooking but the fact that we're watching them means that we really, really want to cook. But he never gives us any evidence of the popularity of these shows, no ratings, no comparisons, nothing. So I wonder how popular these prime time shows are anyway. How do their numbers compade to, say, Rachel Ray's? Is Iron Chef more popular than Rachel Ray? The more interesting comparison of cooking shows then and now, the more compelling investigation of attitude towards cooking back when the idea of good food was just emerging against the backdrop of minute rice and canned vegetables and now is the comparison between Julia Childs and Rachel Ray. Both women show women (and men) at home how to cook before nightfall. Both Julia Child and Rachel Ray have sold millions of cookbooks (I'm sure) and Ray has that monthly magazine. So why does Pollan go on and on about Iron Chef when it's so obvious that he's comparing apples to oranges and there's a very good apple right there on the table?

Of course the good apple comparison of Ray and Childs doesn't do a thing for Pollan's argument about cooking and our lost souls and denuded environment. Plus, comparing Ray and Childs would make the essay all about women in the kitchen and Pollan wants to talk about culture and humanity, things that are so much more meaningful than women in the kitchen, right? It's like (mostly male) chefs cook serious food in restaurants and during prime time and women cook regular meals at home at 5:30 and we all know which is more culturally relevant. Insidious when you think about it. But, I still agree that it's a good idea for everyone to cook more and to buy less packaged foods. Except Michelle Obama. She doesn't have to cook more. She already does enough.