Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Trumpiator

On April 18th, David Brooks wrote in his New York Times column:
"But I do insist that Trump is no joke. He emerges from deep currents in our culture, and he is tapping into powerful sections of the national fantasy life. I would never vote for him, but I would never want to live in a country without people like him."

Well, AP reports this morning that Donald Trump said this:
"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?" Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."

Of course, Barack Obama graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and was President of the Law Review. I wonder if Brooks is still feeling like he wouldn't want to live in a country without people like Donald Trump....

Monday, April 25, 2011

Go Fish?

A while back, a friend and I were trying to figure out where to go for dinner.
"Do we have sushi? Can we do that?"
"No," I answered, "I don't think we can."

And so, we, who once ate sushi with wild abandon and true delight, had Korean food. (Please don't ask how I felt about eating beef that I was pretty sure came from a cow that had a really bad life.) Not the end of the world, it was a great meal, but it wasn't sushi. Honestly, I don't know when it will be sushi again. I hardly ever buy the stuff and when I do, I rely, heavily, on the Whole Food placards telling me what fish comes from "questionable" sources and what's a little more reliable. For more information on which fish when and from whom, there's this from Mark Bitman in the New York Times. And for goodness sake, if you're going to the Mediterranean this summer, don't go fishing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Michigan, Republicans & Democracy

Friday night on the Rachel Maddow show there was a segment about a high school in Michigan called Catherine Ferguson Academy. Dedicated to the education of teenager girls who are pregnant or already mothers, the school has been put on a list of schools to be closed and taken over by a for-profit charter company. This after an emergency manager was given almost total control over the public school system. The situation is enraging on so many levels and in so many directions I almost don't know where to start, so I won't. I'll just link to the Maddow segment and let it do the talking.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The 2011 Tournament of Books

If only I had known this was going on during March Madness!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hats for Birthdays!

This year, my niece Caroline turned 18 while her sister (also my niece) Melissa turned 16. Not knowing what to get the teenagers who have all kinds of things, I made them hats. Here they are, in all their gorgeousness -- my nieces, that is, in their hats. (Caroline is on the left, and for the record the top of her hat is the same green as Melissa's.)

Was I Right About That?

Funny thing, I keep thinking about whether or not I was upset by the cruel twists in biblical stories (see the post on Moses just below) as a child and I can't really come up with an answer. I remember my teachers getting very serious when approaching one of these stories, taking on a tone that said, "This has a reason, this will be OK." And I think I remember being wide-eyed at some of what I heard. And of course, bursting into tears at school because of a chumash (Hebrew bible) lesson would've been all wrong. Maybe my emotional responses to these stories were all about context and not content? School vs home? Morning vs bedtime? All this could've kept me from feeling quite as much in response to stories I learned in school as I might have had I heard them first at home. In any case, it's been a funny line of thought shooting through my head these last two days, making me wonder about emotion and context and teaching and how that all fits together. Right now though, I have nothing more on that then a kernel of a question. And now, it's time for some Matzah Brei!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The other night, we were reading the Tomie DePaola book My First Passover. Granted it's for kids younger than mine, but since we've never made it all the way through the Passover story and the last time we talked about it, we stumbled upon the problem of God not being so nice when it came to those plagues, I figured the easy road was an OK road to take. So, we're flipping through DePaola's book and there's Moses. Moses! Helen said, "Mommy tell me all about Moses." So, I do.

I start to prattle on about how when he was a baby his mommy, who was a slave, put him in a basket and sent him down the river and sent his sister along to watch and I took a breath and then I looked up and at Helen's face. She looked devastated. Looking at me her face crumpled and she said, "But mommy, that means Moses' mommy abandoned him! That's so sad!" Then she burst into tears.

I tried repeating, "His sister was Right There!" and I trotted out, a bit woefully, "But she knew he'd have a better life...." All Helen could say was, "Would you ever do that to me?"

Can I just say? When I was a child attending a Jewish day school every day and shabbat services every week, it was like Moses in the bullrushes, la la la. Was it any worse than Abraham pulling a knife on his son, his only son, the one he loved best? Or Jacob tricking Isaac into selling him Esau's birthright? (Never mind Jacob knowing how much more Isaac liked Esau. What was with all that favoritism anyway?) Or Leah and Rachel's father tricking Jacob into marrying Leah first, even though he'd worked for seven years to marry Rachel? Or Joseph's brothers selling him to a band of traveling Egyptians? And never mind Dina. And that's just Genesis! (For the record, I didn't know about Tamar until graduate school.)

So I heard them all, but for me as a child those bible stories were not a big deal. Sure, they were weird and the parents weren't nearly so nice as mine, but I don't remember getting upset about them. Maybe none of it was that big of a deal because it's not like any of it was the Holocaust. Now the Holocaust, that was something to cry about. (And oh did I cry, because I read Holocaust books all the time.) Baby Moses in the bullrushes? He turned out FINE! Even with the lisp! (Here's the lisp story that I remember: When God told Moses to go talk to Pharoh he said he couldn't so Moses' older brother Aaron had to do the talking for him. The rabbis said it was because Moses had a lisp, or something, which he got from sticking a hot coal in his mouth when he was one and, in a test rigged up by the Pharoh and/or his advisers, had to choose between hot coals and gold. An angel "helped" Moses "choose" the coal because if he had chosen the gold that he had reached for first, Pharoh would've dispensed with baby Moses and you could just forget about all that Let My People Go business. It's quite a story, that one.)

But for Helen, whose exposure to both bible stories and the Holocaust is much more limited than mine was even at her tender age of six, there's hardly anything to mediate the Passover tale. We've had seders, but they haven't been elaborate and the story telling has been limited. We haven't talked too much about the rest of the bible, either. So as the facts come drib drabbing out, they (rightly) horrify her. We talk, and will talk tomorrow night, about freedom, and slavery, for sure. But who can focus on that when mothers are sending sons downriver and Gods are killing firstborns? All I can say is we've got to start somewhere. I just need to remember when it comes to bible stories, we're not talking about Edwina, even if both require some suspension of belief.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Great Black Hole

There is a great black hole somewhere in my apartment - I'd yet to discover where, exactly, it is -- but I know what falls in. Library books. We don't have a regular library routine. That is to say, we don't go to the library every Friday and return the three books we checked out the week before and get three more books and stop on the way home for our shabbos candy bar. No. We go to the library intermittently and take out books enthusiastically. This is both thrilling and ridiculous because it means that every few weeks I'm scouring the apartment, panicked, looking for the library books which I will not find. And then there's the school library situation. What's that situation? It's the one that crops up when you return a big hardcover book you didn't buy on purpose to the public library and not the school library. Not good.

It may be that when I'm a classroom teacher and have to thoughtfully arrange my books in baskets that I'll naturally extend my newly found professionally developed organizational skills to our home environment. But I'm not optimistic. Just like my kids loose it most with me, I loose it most at home. It's OK, though, we all have our work.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pink Nails

I heard about the hoopla over the J Crew ad featuring the company's creative director and her son, who has pink toenails, last night on John Stewart. Here's a post from Andrew Sullivan on it. For the record, this is ridiculous, and when the spirit moves him, Elliot goes ahead and paints his fingernails.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Are (some) Kids Idiots About Food? In Defense of the Children's Menu

The summer I was seven and my brother 10, my parents took us to France. We spent two weeks in Paris and a month on the island of Corsica. It was an amazing trip. I'm sure we had amazing food. But on our very last night on the island, when my mom, brother and I were staying at a hotel near the airport (my dad had returned a few weeks earlier), my brother could find nothing to eat on the hotel menu. He hemmed and hawed and couldn't make up his mind.

"Do you want a haahmboorgeeerrr?" sneered the waiter.

My brother really, really wanted a hamburger. He really, really didn't want anything else. Did that make him an idiot?

This past Wednesday night, on the Top Chef All Stars Reunion Show, Antonia, whom I love, announced she hated children's menus because they treat children like idiots. Well, sometimes when it comes to food, I'd say my kids are not, let's say, engaged. My son, every so often he tries a new food. Just last week he saw me eating egg and cheese on a roll and could not resist its siren call. But he won't try sweet potato. This is a kid who lives for sugar and he won't try a food that has the word "sweet" in its name. Then there's my daughter. We tried a new food chart for her. One day maybe last summer, she looked at her chart, she said firmly, "Next time, my new food will be a poppy bagel." I know from my psychology class that according to Piaget Helen suffers her cognitive stage when she's thinking about bagels -- that is, she can only think about one quality of the bagel at a time. She can't help it. It's part of pre-operations, where she apparently is, and when her brain moves into the next phase, concrete operations, she'll see that a poppy bagel and everything bagel are both BAGELS and one does not count as a new food.

Now, my brother's kids, all four of them, eat everything. They always have. I say, "mazel tov." Readers of this blog know very well that my kids do not eat everything. And, therefore, I'm grateful for a children's menu. Paying six bucks for a plain bowl of buttered pasta, the dish for which I don't have to wash? I love it. Is it idiotic to like what you like and refuse to try anything new? Maybe. Maybe if my brother had tried something new that night in Corsica he would've had a transporting gustatory experience. Then again, he'd spent the last six weeks doing new things. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he wanted something familiar. Maybe the only thing in the world he wanted was a hahmmbooorgeerrr. Putting aside the question of how that beef got into that patty, is that so bad?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On the Budget Fight

I get an email every day from The Atlantic Wire with the "Five Best Columns of the Day." I'm not so sure if those columns are always the "best" but they're usually interesting. Today's email had a link to Michael Tomasky's column in The Guardian. He's writing about the budget fight, noticing that even if it's politically good for the Democrats, the terms of the whole discussion, he points out, have been set by the Republicans. It's not a new argument, but it's well made. Here's a quote:

The Tea Party argument that there's bloat and waste in Washington will always fall on receptive ears in America. But the counter-argument isn't to quibble about how much to cut. The counter-argument is to say we believe in a society where the wealthy pay their share, which they plainly have not been doing. A political loser? So, for Democrats, is the coming debate about whether to slash healthcare for the poor by $4tn in a decade or a little less than that. We're on our way to a radically shrunken society, and the Democrats are helping take us there."

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I saw Hop yesterday. The movie. Hop. After seeing the ads and previews, we really didn't want to take the kids to it -- I mean, a bunny that poops jelly beans encourages a certain kind of dinner time conversation we've been working on avoiding. That said, we didn't do our darndest to avoid it. We went with friends, it was a fun kind of playdate. It was a movie! And yet, I was horrified by it. From the opening sequence full with Hershey's kisses and Cadbury eggs to the closing moments when our hero takes off in a flying egg, my head pounded. And, not to be a party pooper (so to speak), but I kept thinking that even with the great commercialization of Easter that has already happened, if I were a believing Christian of any sort, I'd be really intensely angry at the outright Santa-fication of the Easter Bunny. Easter is kind of a serious holiday. There's life, sure, but there's also death and a very meaningful death at that. Which is to say, for many, many reasons -- acting, product placement, plot, commercialization of belief systems -- Hop is horrible. I say: Save your shekels and avoid at all costs and if you really can't avoid the movie, then go with friends because friends, you know, make everything better.