Friday, November 30, 2007

in the news

I always knew there was a reason to not use cellphones.

Also, an article by Columbia's own Ray Fisman (I think...) explains why Hillary's screwed even if she does win next November.

Two more reasons to cry over religion:
Boy who refused treatment on religious grounds dies
Calls in Sudan for teacher's execution

I was going to include here a Pope quote explaining that atheism "has led to some of the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" in human history, but then I actually went and read this article about it, and it sounds worse taken out of context. I still find it pretty remarkable, though, that people would argue that atheism, despite the Stalins of the world, is more cruel than religion. I mean, we've got people all gung-ho about comparing Ahmadinejad (a devout Muslim) to Hitler (raised a Catholic, later used Christian arguments to justify his rabid anti-Semitism), and then we've got the Pope, leader of the church of the Crusades and the Inquisition, saying that lack of religion is the root of all evil.

So here, instead is my quote of the day, Bush waxing poetic about his role in the Mid-East peace talks taking place this week in Maryland:

"I work the phones, I listen, I encourage, I have meetings. I do a lot of things."

After all, he is the great decider.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

on daemons

Thanks to Andy, I've now got my very own daemon (take a gander, just to the right there.) His name, apparently, is Achaean. Daemons, if you don't know, are the animals that each human has in the world of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, of which The Golden Compass is the first of three volumes and soon to be a movie. Our daemon is the embodiment of our soul, but also our best friend and dearest, most trusted, companion.

Read this trilogy now, before the first movie comes out. You won't regret it. Well, unless you agree with the following enlightening review from clearly an avid fan on Amazon:

"DUSTURBING.NOT for children. books two and three are blatant anti-christian works that will truly disturb the age group these books are intended for. as an adult reader, there are also subtle disturbing hints of inappropriate relationships between adults/children in the text. i do not know if a child would pick up on this, but an experienced reader will surely infer these things. before buying read page 320 of book 3. sick."

We must have different editions of this book, because page 320 in my version is actually quite beautiful. Lyra, our heroine, has traveled all the way to the land of the dead in an effort to find a dear friend. She discovers a hole between that dreary, horrid world and another, and discovers also that all the millions of ghosts doomed to 'living' in the land of the dead for all eternity can fling themselves through this gash in the fabric between worlds, joining forces with those who are fighting against evil, and 'dying' in the process.

No one spoke. Those who had seen how daemons dissolved were remembering it, and those who hadn't were imagining it, and no one spoke until a young woman came forward. She had died as a martyr centuries before. She looked around and said to the other ghosts:

"When we were alive, they told us that when we died we'd go to Heaven. And they said that Heaven was a place of joy and glory and we would spend eternity in the company of saints and angels praising the Almighty, in a state of bliss. That's what they said. And that's what led some of us to give our lives, and others to spend years in solitary prayer, while all the joy of life was going to waste around us and we never knew.

"Because the land of the dead isn't a place of reward or a place of punishment. It's a place of nothing. The good come here as well as the wicked, and all of us languish in this gloom forever, with no hope of freedom, or joy, or sleep, or rest, or peace.

"But now this child has come offering us a way out and I'm going to follow her. Even if it means oblivion, friends, I'll welcome it, because it won't be nothing. We'll be alive again in a thousand blades of grass, and a million leaves; we'll be falling in the raindrops and blowing in the fresh breeze; we'll be glittering in the dew under the stars and the moon out there in the physical world, which is our true home and always was.

"So I urge you: come with the child out to the sky!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

politics, or, things not to think about when you can't sleep at night

This time, we'll start with the least offensive and work our way up from there.

Another quiz! Test your grasp on the ridiculousness of the political field in 2008.

Romney explains that appointing a Muslim Cabinet member would not be justified because there aren't that many Muslims in America. Really. I hadn't realized that appointments to the Cabinet were based at all on population quotas, but I guess I stand corrected, at least according to one of the Republican front-runners. Scary thought. And a stupid thought, considering that if you accept this quota idea to determine government, there certainly aren't nearly enough Mormons in the country to justify a Mormon president.

Last, the transcript of Maher Arar's testimony to the United States House of Representatives last month describing his rendition to Syria by the U.S. government while trying to return to his home country of Canada. This makes for truly sickening reading. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on Arar's behalf against Attorney General (at the time) John Ashcroft and other government officials. Read more on Arar vs. Ashcroft here.

Also through the CCR, send Bush a copy of the Constitution as a gentle reminder of what he swore to uphold.

Monday, November 26, 2007

only in america

The new 2008 Hummer 3 Alpha gets a review in the Times.

A psychiatrist comes down hard on himself for temporarily selling his soul to the drug industry.

Christmas idea for the bookworms.

Christmas idea for the kiddlywinks. (At least if I were a millionaire.)

Sunday morning in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin saw a riot break out at a Kmart over store credit cards. Seriously.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

the horror the horror

I am watching Jesus Camp this evening, and needed to take a break to get my thoughts together. It ranks right up there with some of the scariest things I've ever seen, and I still have half an hour more to go before the end. It's almost unbearable, and difficult to believe that people like this exist in the same nation as my beloved New York City. Exhorting children at the Kids on Fire Summer School and Ministry in Devil's Lake (really!), North Dakota to be willing to die in the name of Jesus seems not so far removed from brainwashing teenagers in Saudi Arabia into sacrificing their lives in the name of Allah.

"The Devil goes after the young. That's why we're trying to help you. We're trying to warn you. And while I'm on the subject, let me say something about Harry Potter. Warlocks are enemies of God! And I don't care what kind of hero they are, they're an enemy of God. And had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death!"
-Becky Fischer, pastor, Kids in Ministry International

Oh, and also, they pray for the devil to not mess with the microphones during worship meetings. Really.

So I had to go look up some MC Solaar videos on YouTube, just to recover from the scary evangelical stuff.

Also, here's Bill Maher & Co. on Jesus Camp.

And Australia's take on the horror show that is the Westboro Baptist Church.

And in honor of the WBC and the Bush-loving folk of Jesus Camp, an oldie but a goodie.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

gail collins' presidential shopping list

Gail Collins, a relatively recent addition to the New York Times Op-Ed pages, is collecting a series of qualities she has deemed desirable, or undesirable, as the case may be, in our next president. A wish list or check list, if you will.

First on the list, loyalty. As in too much loyalty can be a really bad thing.

Second, exercise. As in, do you really want a world leader who gets more excited about his exercise bike than anything else?

I actually really like this Gail Collins woman. She has an interesting take on the political landscape without being overly derogatory a la Maureen Dowd and without taking herself too seriously, a la all the rest.

And that right there is something to be thankful about.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


(Philip Levine, 7 Years From Somewhere, 1979)

I go into the backyard
and arrange some twigs
and a few flowers. I go alone
and speak to you as I never could
when you lived, when you
smiled back at me shyly.
Now I can talk to you as I talked
to a star when I was a boy,
expecting no answer, as I talked
to my father who had become
the wind, particles of rain
and fire, these few twigs
and flowers that have no name.

Last night they said a rosary
and my boys went, awkward
in slacks and sport shirts,
and later sitting under the hidden
stars they were attacked and beaten.
You are dead. It is 105,
the young and the old burn
in the fields, and though they cry
enough the sun hangs on
bloodying the dust above the aisles
of cotton and grape.

This morning they will say a mass
and then the mile-long line of cars.
Teddy and John, their faces swollen,
and four others will let you
slowly down into the fresh earth
where you go on. Scared now,
they will understand some of it.
Not the mass or the rosary
or the funeral, but the rage.
Not you falling through the dark
moving underwater like a flower
no one could find until
it was too late and you had gone out,
your breath passing through dark water
never to return to the young man,
pigeon-breasted, who rode
his brother's Harley up the driveway.

Wet grass sticks to my feet, bright
marigold and daisy burst in the new day.
The bees move at the clumps
of clover, the carrots --
almost as tall as I --
have flowered, pale lacework.
Hard dark buds
of next year's oranges, new green
of slick leaves, yellow grass
tall and blowing by the fence. The grapes
are slow, climbing the arbor,
but some day there will be shade
here where the morning sun whitens
everything and punishes my eyes.

Your people worked
for some small piece of earth,
for a home, adding a room
a boy might want. Butchie said
you could have the Harley
if only you would come back,
anything that was his.

A dog barks down the block
and it is another day. I hear
the soft call of the dove,
screech of mockingbird and jay.
A small dog picks up the tune,
and then tow-weet tow-weet
of hidden birds, and two finches
darting over the low trees --
there is no end.

What can I say to this mound
of twigs and dry flowers, what
can I say now that I would speak
to you? Ask the wind, ask
the absence or the rose burned
at the edges and still blood red.
And the answer is you
falling through black water
into the stillness that fathers
the moon, the bees ramming into
the soft cups, the eucalyptus
swaying like grass under water.

My John told me your cousin
punched holes in the wall
the night you died and was afraid
to be left alone. Your brother
walks staring at the earth.
I am afraid of water.

And the earth goes on
in blinding sunlight.
I hold your image
a moment, the long
Indian face
the brown almond eyes
your dark skin full
and glowing as you grew
into the hard body
of a young man.
And now it is bird screech
and a tree rat suddenly
parting the tall grass
by the fence, lumbering
off, and in the distance
the crashing of the waves
against some shore
maybe only in memory.

We lived by the sea.
My boys wrote
postcards and missed you
and your brother. I slept
and wakened to the sea,
I remember in my dreams
water pounded the windows
and walls, it seeped
through everything
and like your spirit,
like your breath,
nothing could contain it.

pre-thanksgiving roundup

Let's start with the bad, so at least things will get better.

We all know the military is hard up for cash, but
this is ridiculous. Apparently the government is asking soldiers to return part of their signing bonuses if they haven't completed their full tour of duty. The reason they haven't completed their full tour of duty? Missing legs, arms, eyes, and other miscellaneous serious bodily injuries due to . . . serving in the military.

Saudi Arabia once again is proving its commitment to human rights this week (and yes, this is meant facetiously) by condemning a kidnapping/rape victim to 6 months in prison and 200 lashes for the crime of going out in public with a man not related to her.

New Jersey continues on its wobbly way to outlawing the death penalty.

Our dearly beloved president continues to talk like a bumbling idiot, or maybe an intoxicated frat boy.

Lauren has commissioned me to make a shawl for her mother's next birthday, and we spent a lovely half-hour this past Saturday picking out yarn for said shawl. Two sumptuous skeins of Great Adirondack Sirino in Maple Leaf, to be delivered to my apartment. I can't wait until they arrive and I can get started on this project!

I'm not quite sure how I'm feeling about Thanksgiving tomorrow. I've spent the last five Thanksgivings with various permutations of Chris's family, usually at his parents' beautiful apartment on Riverside Drive overlooking the Hudson River. And I miss them. A lot. His parents, I mean, much more so than him at this point. But instead I'll be heading upstate to spend the day with my beloved Arielle, and various permutations of her family, and I'm looking forward to this immensely. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, perhaps in part due to my fondness for sweet potatoes and pumpkin, but more due to my love for family and friends and warmth and wine and food and feeding these family and friends and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. My contribution to the festivities? A New Zealand pinot noir, a Washington gewurztraminer, roasted rosemary cashews, and black-bottomed cupcakes. And just 'cause I love Ari so very, very much, season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Speaking of family, thank you cousin Eric for your very kind comments the other day! I'm glad and flattered that you read this stuff.

Lastly, Bookstore Patti was kind enough to email me about an upcoming event celebrating Philip Levine's 80th birthday. Philip Levine is one of my favorite poets, and I just might have to go home tonight and dig out something of his to post here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

odds & ends VII

My for all intents and purposes brother-in-law, Alec, makes television commercials. Pretty hilarious commercials, actually, at least the couple that I've seen. This is more of a spoof.

New Jersey moves ever closer to
banning capital punishment.

I was watching Jerry Maguire on TNT the other day, I am embarrassed to say, and found myself thinking maybe football isn't so bad after all. And then I saw this article. New Jersey, you've still got a long way to go.

Ghosts in the machine. I found this article about a rogue cell phone really upsetting, in a creepy, haunted kind of way.

If you Google budweiser customer guess who's blog you'll find? I'm not quite sure how I feel about this.

A book came out recently called
My Last Supper, and is a rather indulgent look at what some of the world's top chefs would want to eat their last night on earth. This kind of grossed me out, though I'm not quite sure why. I'd be interested to know what these chef's favorite foods are, maybe, but the idea of putting together a book around the notion that this is the last meal seems callous to me. This is probably because I've been thinking about the death penalty lately, and remembering an hour or so a few years back that I spent in a Barnes & Noble pouring over Last Suppers. When a book like this can exist in the world, a book like My Last Supper seems almost offensive. But there I go over-thinking things again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

maureen does it again

I've said this before and I'll say it again. I really can't stand Maureen Dowd. Today, in the context of the bitch-slapping that Clinton handed down to the boys in Vegas last week, Dowd can't help but sexualize the whole thing. Once again she emasculates the boys (Obambi, Breck Girl) and turns a powerful, intelligent woman into a dominatrix, relying on sex, not intellect, to tame the menfolk. What greater purpose does it serve to dish up Clinton in black leather, whip in hand, or to further infantalize Obama by explaining that his wife is a master of the "conjugal putdown"?

I know that Obama, Edwards, and Clinton all have their faults and shortcomings, but I honestly believe, however stupidly optimistic this may be, that one of them will be the president-elect come this time next year. Or perhaps one of the so-called second-tier Democrats still in the race. But either way, I'm pretty sure that Dowd doesn't want McCain or Giuliani in office any more than the rest of us diehard liberal New Yorkers, what good does it do to discuss politics in this way? Argue policy all you want, argue ethics, argue economics, argue something, anything, real. But why, oh why, write "Mistress Hillary started disciplining her fellow senator last winter." It just makes me cringe.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

how times change

“These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

This on the packaging of the first two seasons of Sesame Street, recently released on DVD.

Huh. And here I thought we'd all turned out okay.

On another note, I was up too late last night watching Daily Show clips. Not having Comedy Central and kind of being oblivious to the fact that a lot of this stuff is on line these days, I just discovered this yesterday while reading about the writers' strike. That Jon Stewart, man, he's awfully clever.

Friday, November 16, 2007

obituaries, boxes, cat beds

I was perusing the New York Times yesterday afternoon, as is my habit, and saw Jerry Feldman's obituary, and felt for a moment as if all the air had been sucked out of my office. I barely knew the man but he was, back in the late '60s, my father's adviser and mentor at Berkeley. But then my father reluctantly left his graduate work to go off and be in the Navy for a few years and, afterwards, found it impossible to make the transition from boot camp and aircraft carriers and Guantanamo Bay back to the insulated ivory tower of academia. He fled California with my mom and hunkered down at the lake cabin in Idaho for a year, a year that would give rise to many of my favorite childhood stories -- the flooding lake and ensuing evacuation up to the Snyders' cabin, the car that had driven off the road into the lake, the mom-made crocheted potholders sold in the local grocery store, the idea of Dad doing construction work when he wasn't being all academic, Sue McBoyle's flaming marshmallow that nearly set him afire.

Jerry Feldman encouraged Dad to return to school, to move to Germany with the family in tow for a year's worth of research that would complete his dissertation and culminate, finally in a PhD from Berkeley and a tenured professorship at Barnard College and Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

For some inexplicable or at least unknown reason, years ago, decades ago now, Dad moved a box to his Barnard office, up on the 4th floor of Lehman Hall. A cardboard box, plain white, unmarked. Somehow, after his death way back in 1993, this plain, unmarked cardboard box stayed in the office despite there being a new inhabitant. Professor Sloan very kindly stored this box the entire time I was at Barnard, but then finally, and ever so gently, suggested that perhaps I take it off his hands before I graduated.

My buddy Allison and I lugged the thing back to my dorm where I spent the next several days frustratingly mesmerized. Full to the brim with papers and notes, exams, syllabi and notebooks, almost everything handwritten indecipherable to me. (Word had it that a student once was busted at the Barnard Registrar's office for forging Professor McNeil's signature on something -- all because the registrar could read it.)

This box has been with me ever since, from dorm to dorm, from Morningside Heights to the Upper West Side to Philadelphia to Brooklyn, briefly to Queens, eventually to Washington Heights, where it has slowly, these past eight years, migrated north along Fort Washington Avenue to its current resting place at the back of my pantry closet. It is now oddly collapsed, concave rather than flat on top, roughly in the shape of a large cat. Nova has been fond of this box ever since I brought her home from the ASPCA back in March of 2000. She likes the places where it dwells: in the backs of closets, under beds, hidden away in the dark, protected from wandering hands and feet and loud noises and unwelcome guests.

Somewhere in the midst of all the indecipherable papers in this box, there is a typed letter. I have not read this letter since graduating from Barnard, but it was, to me, a beautiful and moving letter. It was the letter that my father wrote to the history department at Berkeley asking to be able to continue his work there. It was a letter that expressed his disappointment in a world capable of inflicting such damage as the Vietnam War, a letter that expressed his fears that he should not go into teaching, that he had no wisdom or understanding or knowledge to impart to anyone. In the end, it was a letter explaining that his time away from academia, in Idaho with my mother, had given him new balance, new confidence, and that he was ready. Ready to return to Berkeley, ready to pursue his research, ready to inhabit, again, a role in the lives of those around him.

Other than my mother, it was Jerry Feldman who most encouraged and influenced my father in his search for new-found peace and confidence, and who continued to offer encouragement and friendship throughout his academic career.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

tancredo again

Tom Tancredo's vitriolic rhetoric seems to have no bounds, as evidenced by his new TV spot currently running in Iowa. In comparison, it kinda makes LBJ look like one of those dirty hippies.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

quote of the day and other things to be annoyed about

I use the term "annoyed" loosely here, in that these are also actually kind of entertaining.

First, the White House was recently ordered by a Federal judge to save all of its
emails. Apparently the White House was fighting tooth and nail to be able to delete various communications. Scary that our government "of the people, by the people, for the people" has fallen to this level of secrecy.

Second, Joseph Stiglitz, economist extraordinaire, takes on Bush and his abysmal economic record in next month's Vanity Fair, of all places. We're not talking a gentle critique here, either. "In breathtaking disregard for the most basic rules of fiscal propriety, the administration continued to cut taxes even as it undertook expensive new spending programs and embarked on a financially ruinous 'war of choice' in Iraq."

Third, and perhaps an indirect effect of the dissatisfaction caused by the first and the second, Americans Announce They're Dropping Out of Presidential Race

Fourth, I'm really beginning to not like J.K. Rowling. Last summer she threw a hissy fit because the New York Times reviewed her book before its release date, thus apparently ruining the lives of millions of the world's children. Then she saw fit to out Dumbledore. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that Dumbledore's gay. But I also find it kind of sad that the most powerful gay man in literature has been celibate for the vast majority of his life, ever since his first lover went over to the dark side. And now, she's just being petty. Not to mention frighteningly controlling in her idea of what creativity means, and how people enjoy and share it. I had a Narnia encyclopedia-type compendium as a child, and I can't quite picture C.S. Lewis gnashing his teeth in frustration at the idea of children enjoying it along with the Chronicles themselves. So what's Rowling's problem, exactly, with the Harry Potter Lexicon? I mean, other than that this guy has way too much time on his hands.

And last but not least, Representative Tancredo's wife had to get in on the presidential race recently. When asked what her key issues might be as First Lady, she explained that she feels "very strongly that child safety, whether it be physical safety in the school or protection from other predators such as those on the Internet, are vital to the well-being of our children."

Let me write that one more time, with just a little editing. Child safety are vital to the well-being of our children.


This coming from the wife of the man who thinks we should threaten to preemptively blow up Mecca and Medina because, you know, all Muslims are dangerous Muslims. This is one couple we certainly do not want occupying the White House come January of 2009.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

decadence run amok

For the man who has everything, what's next? A private $300 million jumbo deluxe airplane, that's what.

When I first saw this headline, I thought it was Prince, as in Purple Rain Prince, not Saudi oil baron Prince. I was relieved to see that it was not, and that I was wrong. Purple Rain Prince is surely decadent in his way, but not in a "You could single-handedly end the world's poverty in one fell swoop, but no, you go and buy a plane with a built-in movie theater" kind of way. This guy has shares in everything from Citigroup to Apple to PepsiCola, to the tune of a total worth of about $20 billion (and he's only the 13th richest person in the world, the poor dear). Makes me feel guilty about owning an iPod, damn it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

quote of the day, or, yet another reason to mock idaho politics

"Divorce is just terrible. It's one of Satan's best tools to kill America."

-State Representative Dick Harwood, of St. Maries, Idaho, speaking as a member of the new Idaho House of Representatives' Family Task Force charged with saving the Idaho family from modern-day corruptive decline.

Please note that one of the Task Force's key findings is that families are always better off if the wife stays at home to raise the children, and that such things as "early childhood education, day care, and Head Start may hurt families by keeping mothers away from the home."

Please also note that Idaho's minimum wage is $5.85 per hour, on par with the Federal minimum wage. I can only imagine that even in the relatively cheap state of Idaho, it is difficult to support a family with a one-income salary of $5.85 an hour. Neighbor Oregon's minimum wage is $7.80 per hour. Neighbor Montana's minimum wage is $6.15 per hour. Neighbor Nevada's minimum wage is $6.33 per hour. Neighbor Washington's minimum wage is a whopping $7.93 per hour. Neighbor Utah, alas, is stuck in the doldrums of minimum wage laws along with Idaho, also at a mere $5.85 per hour. And neighbor Wyoming, home of our compassionately conservative VP, has a state minimum wage set at an abysmal $5.15 per hour. Luckily for Wyomingites, the Federal rate outweighs the state in this case, thus perhaps preventing thousands of Wyomingites from migrating to the more compassionate Idaho, or perhaps even further west, to the veritably wealthy state of Washington.

Friday, November 09, 2007

clarence thomas again & other news

Interesting article the other day on a case argued before the Supreme Court about age discrimination in the work place and the guidelines instated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Of the oral arguments, the author writes, "The commission came in for harsh criticism from both ends of the bench for failing to give clear advice about legal requirements. Only Justice Clarence Thomas, who spent eight years as head of the commission, said nothing. As the other justices puzzled over regulations adopted during his tenure there, he leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling."

On a much more pleasing note, the great state of New Jersey is poised to become the first state in the union to abolish the death penalty outright, at least since the Supreme Court reinstated it way back in 1976.

And on a rather sad and pathetic note, Bush the First apparently got a wee bit upset recently about the bashing his little boy is getting in the media these days.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

quote of the day

"You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time."

President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the United States military, the one, the only, George W. Bush, explaining the message he so emphatically gave to Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf

Now, a pet peeve of mine, linguistically speaking at least, is the fact that Americans don't generally use "one," as in, "One can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time." This is what Bush intended, or at least I assume this is what he intended - that no one can simultaneously lead the nation and the military. Which is clearly and blatantly inaccurate. So in this case, perhaps the "you" was in fact intentional, and Bush was trying to say, "You, Musharraf, cannot be the president and the head of the military at the same time." Except this also is clearly wrong, since he in fact IS the president and head of the military. So basically any way you slice & dice this little malapropism, it's still just wrong.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

tuesdy night roundup

Follow up to an earlier mention of Sharon Keller.

For all you die hard Joss Whedon fans out there, a new reason to rejoice (and eventually mourn).

There was an excellent article in today's New York Times about an abortion provider and her motivation for continuing to provide this ever- increasingly hard-to-come-by procedure in an ever-increasingly hostile environment.

Having recently watched the entirety of Freaks & Geeks, I have decided that I love Seth Rogen, here bantering in lovely stoner fashion with Judd Apatow. And for the record, I sometimes do read the New York Times Magazine, but somehow missed this particular article to which they are referring.

If I ever have kids, and some day I'd like to, I'd be very, very sad indeed were they not able to bring peanut butter & jam sandwiches to school, and yet, apparently, due to a very disturbing increase in severe food allergies, the schools of the future may become peanut-free zones.

And lastly, a film I've wanted to see for, oh, a year or so now was finally released here in New York a little while back and is apparently already only showing in one last lone theatre. Ahh, Wristcutters, how grateful you make me feel for Netflix.


I am reading, slowly, The Raw Shark Texts. Friend Dan, when I mentioned I'd just started it, warned me off in no uncertain terms, warned that it had no redeeming qualities what so ever, and actually apologized for not telling me sooner. This is a pretty harsh reaction to have to anything, and I was hesitant to continue reading for fear of suffering rotten brain syndrome (and also for fear of Dan's negative opinion of me). And I can see why he loathed it so. It is silly, and emulates to a fault earlier writers like Paul Auster, and has a boat called the Orpheus and a girl called Scout and twenty pages of flip-book-like blank pages with just a shark, made of letters, moving closer page by page, and trendy chapter titles like A Relic of Something Nine-tenths Collapsed and History Sinks Downward and The Crypto-Zoology of Purely Conceptual Sharks, Dictaphone Defence Systems and Light Bulb Code Cracking in Letters from the First Eric Sanderson. And yet.

I am reading this book, slowly, and feeling a little bit haunted by it after I turn off the light and curl up around Nova and try to sleep. There is something mesmerizing and desperately, achingly empty in the midst of its linguistic wordplay and overly clever ideas, something compelling enough to ignore much of its ridiculous plot, the copycat syndrome it suffers.

"It's hurtful and wonderful how our jokes survive us. Since I left home on this journey, I've thought a lot about this -- how a big part of any life is about the hows and whys of setting up machinery. It's building systems, devices, motors. Winding up the clockwork of direct debits, configuring newspaper deliveries and anniversaries and photographs and credit card repayments and anecdotes. Starting their engines, setting them in motion and sending them chugging off into the future to do their thing at regular or irregular intervals. When a person leaves or dies or ends, they leave an afterimage; their outline in the devices they've set up around them. The image fades to the winding down of springs, the slow running out of fuel as the machines of a life are shut down or seize up or blink off one by one. It takes time. Sometimes, you come across the dusty lights or electrical hum of someone else's machine, maybe a long time after you ever expected to, still running, lonely in the dark. Still doing its thing for the person who started it up long, long after they've gone."

Monday, November 05, 2007

all i want for christmas. . .

. . . is the new Cary Tennis book! Yes, yes, I know, an advice columnist, but still, I love him. And also the last "all I want for Christmas" item is already proudly sitting on top of my stereo in the living room, courtesy of Mom and my trip out West this past July.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

squash soup

Nate, being a bachelor for the weekend, invited me over to hang out with him and Milford the pup yesterday afternoon, eventually joined by Chris and Andrew and little Josh and Odile. We wandered around Morningside Park, bought delicious honeycrisp apples at the green market on 110th street, then wandered around Central Park, chasing tennis balls and making the acquaintance of overly randy bulldogs and enormous great danes until the cold chased us inside. We couldn't quite decide on what to have for dinner, so Andrew made a yummy black bean & tomato & couscous thing, Chris provided some jerk chicken from around the corner, Nate contributed beer and the last of the New Zealand wines from our trip last summer (a truly delicious pinot noir from the Cabbage Tree Vineyard in the Martinborough region of the north island), and turned a couple of squashes that had been sitting around for awhile into a pretty good soup.

2 golden nugget squashes
1 acorn squash
head of garlic
vegetable broth
black pepper
cayenne pepper
curry powder
brown sugar

Cut the squashes in half and scoop out the innards. Place 'em cut side down on a roasting tray with some water and roast 'em in the oven at 350 degrees until they're really soft, about an hour or so. Also peel all the garlic and add the cloves to the roasting pan a little after the sqash, since the garlic doesn't have to roast as long. When the squash and garlic are nice and soft, take 'em out of the oven and let 'em cool a bit. Scoop out the squash flesh into a pot, smash up the garlic cloves and add that, along with all the other ingredients, obviously to taste. I added an extra boullion cube, and lots of pepper and brown sugar and curry. Also, my trusty stick blender was at home, so I didn't bother blending this soup at all, just mashed it up with a wooden spoon. It was delicious, and I'm eating the leftovers as I type this.