Thursday, December 30, 2010

are you making New Year's resolutions?

I've decided to go for it. I hear list making is a good way to achieve things. :p

(note: actually achieving each of these goals/resolutions will take a bunch of smaller steps, so I'm thinking of this as a list of lists, with a breakdown of a timeline and tactics that I am saving you the trouble of reading. Unless you want to hear it! Then I'll add it in.)

1. This is Northern CA for goodness' sake-- get myself to more wine tastings.
2. And yet also: Lose the last 5-8 baby lbs.
3. Cooking better
  - Keep up the CSA membership (best way to get varied and beautiful veggies, especially without space to grow a ton)
  - Fear not complex recipes! Plan it out a la Naptime Cooking, Debbie Koenig's brilliant strategy for cooking real food well in the bits and pieces of time that you have.
4.Relatedly, see if I can grow something edible. Herb garden is planned for spring- thank you!
5. Keep reading about fun math
6. Um, blog regularly
7. Take more group exercise and dance classes! I miss it. One thing I love is being physical-- so, more activity for more happiness!

What are your resolutions?  Do you ever do pie in the sky resolutions? Big dreams for the long-term, or things that seem completely out of your realm of comfort/normalcy? I'd love to hear those too.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can you have fun at Disneyland with little kids in torrential rain? A Christmas story

First I should say, we actually were prepared for rain. It's just that it was The Downpour-of-the-Year that day. We had rain jackets and sneakers, not sandals (unlike some other poor/hopeful souls we saw), but we should have had a rowboat and oars. We were not prepared for rain that soaked us so hard our rain jackets were wet on the inside; rain that come so steadily that our fingers actually raisined; rain that was driven by wind and only seemed to get harder as the day wore on.

So we began our day at 8 AM with gray clouds and hope, and ended it at 2 PM fully soaked with two very wet girls. But my big takeaway from all this was, our girls can rock adverse weather. :) Yes, they were definitely crying and cold and upset at the end. But they really did their best, and I have to say their bounceback after leaving early was remarkable. Even most adults would have been upset about losing most of the day's fun to storms (especially after paying so much for tickets). On that front, the great thing is that we got the tickets through a benefit for a friend's nonprofit, California Coalition for Youth, so the money went to a good cause.

I'm happy to report we did get in a lot of fun in the hours we had, and I think it actually was probably just right for a four year old's and a two year old's first trip to Disneyland. And the fireworks were canceled anyway due to rain. Bless their beautiful souls, the girls didn't complain once about leaving early (and we are grateful that they don't have to know about ticket prices), so we are all good.

And for anyone else taking kids to their first trip to Disneyland, here's a list of what we did in 6 hours that might be helpful for you:

  • Admired the windows on Main Street
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Pixie Hollow (30 min in line to take pictures with fairies!)
  • Peter Pan
  • King Arthur's carousel
  • Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
  • Sleeping Beauty's castle walkthrough
  • quick lunch on Main Street
  • went to rent strollers
  • Winnie the Pooh ride
  • walk through New Orleans Square

But then the tiredness from the early morning set in, and the rain began to drive down even harder. Paloma napped in her stroller under a roof while Sabrina and I went on Winnie the Pooh (which, sadly, is all about Winnie and Friends making it through a Very Blustery Day in the Hundred Acre Wood).

The saddest moment was when I peeked at Sabrina in the rented stroller and she blinked back at me as water drip-dripped right through the stroller's roof and onto her poor little head, the hood of her raincoat completely soaked. She wasn't crying, but she looked so balefully sad I couldn't take the Happiest Place on Earth anymore.  So that's when I called the whole thing off.

The Christmas miracle here was watching the girls' resilience (I gotta say it again!). They started off the day excited and enchanted, and even when the rain soaked completely through their clothes, they were still thrilled to walk through Sleeping Beauty's castle. (Though there were lots of sad and loud tears by the time we called it quits.) And after the misery of being cold, tired and wet, they were happy to get back to the hotel for a midday warm bath and then visit a friend's house who happened to be nearby.

We loved learning more about our girls' strong good attitudes and their ability to have fun wherever! So I count this family trip as a win.  Also, next year, we're going to Disneyland for their birthdays in October. Sunny, sunny October. :)

And it really does feel like that when you walk through. They've got the horse drawn carriage right in front of you, piping in Disney-happy music all around.

Main Street pre-deluge. Mouse ears everywhere you look.

Ready to take on this place! Sabrina has her doubts though.

We waited in line for *photo ops*?! (but she was a very nice fairy)

Meeting The One!

We wondered how long Tinkerbell practiced her pouty smile. Maybe it's easier on the cheek muscles?

Fun capacity is diminishing...diminishing...

"Hang on, sister! We can make it!"

Brave face, even when wet and cold.

Churros make many things better. At least temporarily.
The warm dry hotel won for happiest place on Earth that day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

First Impressions, cont.: True Grit

Anita, inspired by not just your thoughtful review, but the mere act of going to the movies (with your SO! not for the "Mommy and Me" film! [I'm still traumatized by having to see Made of Honor at such a showing]), I and Jaspret used the movie tickets we were gifted by our friends Jenn and Jamie and went to see the new Coen brothers film, True Grit.

There are already many glowing and very well-written reviews of the film, but I want to focus on an aspect I think you would find particularly interesting - its promotion of a brand of feminism rarely seen in Hollywood today.
Certain white women advancing at the expense of people of color is not a new feature of Western feminism. During the British colonial period, white British women could escape the confining dictates of Victorian domesticity by traveling to the colonies where racial privilege endowed them with power and authority unavailable at home. British feminists in the late nineteenth century often drew on Orientalist depictions of "Eastern female oppression" to bolster their own cause or argue for their own rights as white women. Some southern white women in post-bellum America reproduced racial stereotypes to argue for their inclusion in the KKK, and suffragists exploited the specter of a minority voting bloc to make a case that white men needed white women to have the vote. Even Margret Sanger, finding herself rebuffed by the Socialist movement, fell in with the American Eugenics movement in her effort to legalize birth control. There are numerous, more contemporary examples as well. Second wave feminism may have been more careful in its language, but nonetheless women of color were often reduced to ciphers of those features feminism wanted to ajbect.

This storied history is why I was dismayed to see a similar equation at work in True Grit. I don't know if anyone is calling the film feminist, but I think one of its most appealing features (and there are many) is that it refigures the masculinist world of the Western, calling into question the reductive simplicity of its most beloved figures (the stoic cowboy, the outlaw/hero) and providing an authentic female protagonist who comes to embody the personality trait celebrated in the film's title. But for all of the filmmakers' attention to detail, and their challenging of traditional generic conventions as well as more general Hollywood gender depictions, their portrayal of people of color seems to belie this self-consciousness.

There are not many characters of color (not necessarily an issue in and of itself). Those that are portrayed fall into two categories: 1) characters that help give "local color," and 2) characters that help establish the female lead, the brave, pious, fourteen year-old Mattie Ross (played by an amazing Hailee Steinfield), as an unique embodiment of true grit. Included in the first group is a Native American criminal who is denied a chance to speak his last words before being hanged, a wizened Chinese grocery store owner who rents a dirty cot to Jeff Bridge's Rooster Cogburn, and a stoic Native American who takes a dead body after Mattie cuts it down, and then later sells the body for a few dental mirrors and snake oil.

Ok, so nothing new here. We've definitely seen these characters before, but in that their function is to provide a sense of period authenticity, fine, whatever (although the fact that the first instance was played for laughs becomes troubling when combined with a later scene that I'll get to in a minute). It's the second set of characters that really led to this post. The first in this group is the black manservant whose indecision and wavering act as a foil to Mattie's determination, and establish her as authoritative in the first moments of the film. She quickly dispatches him back home, and sets out alone to avenge her father's murder and set his business in order. The second is a young black stable boy who looks on in awe as Mattie manages to tame a wild pony, and in response to her request to thank his boss, replies something like, "no ma'am, I'm not even supposed to utter your name" (a line that also elicited light laughter).

The last two characters in this group are two young Native American children who are sitting outside a general store. When Mattie and Cogburn ride up to the store, they find the children taking turns swatting a horse who has been tied up outside. The camera focuses on their blank faces, bringing to mind centuries-old stereotypes of "dirty, lazy, no-good Injuns." Roused by the cruel treatment of the animal, the gruff Cogburn jumps off his horse and strides over to the children. He unties the horse, and forcefully throws the boy onto the ground. Walking into the store, he then pushes the complacent sister off the fence she had been sitting on as well. The audience laughed both times! It was the laughter that really made me uncomfortable (incidentally, a similar scene of child abuse against Mattie had not caused laughter). It seemed to indicate that the scene had been interpreted as evidence for Cogburn's inner humanity (a facet that is relevant to his eventual relationship with Mattie), and that the use of racist stereotypes had been accepted in the service of providing a foil for Mattie's integrity (a reading that seemed to be seconded by the final shot in which the children's faces are contrasted with Mattie's, as they stare at each other in uneasy silence).

In college, I became notorious for ruining perfectly entertaining films by pointing out their inherent racist/sexist assumptions. You know, something like "Are you kidding me? The Mummy is completely Orientalist, and not in an ironic, self-mocking way." Not surprisingly, I wasn't the most popular movie date! But, I don't know. I think it's important to call out popular, Oscar-buzz producing films for this kind of thing. Especially when they are really good films that are doing something meaningful (providing a complicated, rich, beautifully textured female protagonist), but at the same time reproducing other kinds of problematics.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Black Swan and the revenge of the good girl

First impressions 
When I first saw the Black Swan trailer and heard Natalie Portman breathy, mumbly little girl voice, I have to admit: there was eye rolling and eyebrow raising. Ballet movies are mostly just bad. (I make exceptions for Anaheim Ballet's fun short YouTube movies though.) So cheesy! So stilted! So artistically disappointing.

Then I read this SF Chronicle article where Portman talks specifically about that little girl voice she used in the role. In the interview, she brings such an awareness and intelligence to the work she does that I decided to look into it more, maybe give it a chance in the theater (no small decision when it means we have to arrange babysitting).  This was the quote in particular from Portman that made me give this movie a second look:

"I noticed a lot of the dancers I was meeting had these really high voices. It was part of how they were kept as little girls in these companies. It's an art that stars women and is usually run by men," she says. "They're kept really skinny. If you see certain companies where they don't emphasize thinness, the girls who do the same, exact physical (moves) have breasts and hips.
"Look, there are different bodies; there are very healthy thin dancers. But a lot of them are depriving themselves. That's very much keeping women as children, not allowing them to have womanly figures and not allowing them to have their own pleasure.
"Part of Nina's transformation is her finding her own pleasure, someone who gets in her own body and sees the world through her own eyes, and that's what makes her an artist. She's killing the little girl in the end and becoming a woman, with the bleeding and everything that womanhood brings."
Now that's something a little heftier (storytelling-wise) that I could get into. There's going to be something beyond pretty for pretty's sake, horror for horror's sake. I realized I love the idea of throwing off the chains of other's expectations (especially, especially about what it means to be good) and I love the idea of "seeing the world through [one's] own eyes" and that that's where your life becomes art as you live it.

If this story is about liberation like that, well, get me a ticket right now. I never bought the argument that bad girls have more fun, and I still don't, but I do like the idea that maybe all the women who are having fun aren't bad after all. (They're just drawn that way?) They're just confident in what they want and what they believe in and what they'll fight for, and they're having a damn good time doing it. Is this what the Black Swan is really about? Then maybe it's not a horror film.  Well, maybe it's like childbirth was for me-- an intensely painful halluncinatory bloody transcendent terrifying experience, and two years after the second birth, totally something I'm amazed by (now that I've gotten over the shock of transformation into a swan- I mean mom). Also, the wings are so cool, aren't they!

Ah yes-- according to Vogue, this theme of growing up and becoming a woman is the heart of the move. This is the storyline I'll be watching for:

It’s no accident that Nina means “little girl” in Spanish[...].  Black Swan is a lurid but effective parable about growing up, a stylized horror tale full of mirrors and blood that owes large debts to Brian De Palma’s Carrie, Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes, and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. But its premise allows Portman to give a superb, extreme performance that replaces the child with an awe-inspiring woman.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why does every coffee shop have that one ANNOYING guy?

Firstly, yay! not writing this at some obscene hour at night (Niku's weaned, so it's just getting up two or three times to shift his legs off my head and his head back to his pillow). Secondly, boo! writing this even though I have the rare chance to work three hours in one sitting and should be writing a book review whose deadline already passed. But it's precisely that kind of time-management induced guilt that fuels this post.

Jaspret is home this week, so yesterday I decided to take the book (The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India by Sumathi Ramaswamy - really good for anyone interested in Indian nationalism, bazaar art, and the conflicting gender demands of divine and domestic goddess-ness by the way) to a local coffee shop - a luxury I definitely took for granted in my Irvine days. I was happily settled on a comfy couch, peppermint mocha at my side, reading and underlining and writing, when I was interrupted by THAT GUY. We all know who I'm talking about. In Irvine (Jamie Ortize can vouch for me!) it was "The Professor." In LA, it was "The Industry Know-it-all." The man who has made a particular coffee house his own private kingdom, over which he rules his (usually female/minoritarian, younger, and hapless) subjects with a constant stream of stories, advice, and general insight into the ways of the world.

Yesterday, the local YL version asked me about the book I was reading. "I can see that you're one of those people who write in books - shame on you," he admonished, reaching over to pick up TIME (the one with Boner's orange face filling the cover). I should have seen it coming right then and there. Shame on me for responding. But respond I did - the gist being that I owned the book (!) and that I was reading it for work. Of course he asked what I do. Of course I said that I teach at UC Irvine. That answer is usually more than satisfactory to the casual interlocutor, any further curiosity stemmed by my adding "in Women's Studies." But not particular fellow.

He continued, "Are you a professor?" I'm always stumped by this one. I don't want to claim a title that is not officially mine, but for most people, the professional differences between a lecturer and a professor are vague and uninteresting at best, so in this case, I answered, "umm... yes... kind of."

"Are you tenure-track?" came back the volley.

"No, I'm a lecturer."

"But you're trying to become tenure-track."

Now this was where things got really interesting and timely since I had just been dealt the blow of a tenure-track job rejection and had been grappling with some really difficult questions about career, motherhood, regional limitations, ambition, and obligations. In a moment I was forced to consolidate all those hours of thinking, and crying, and wavering, and talking, and planning, and replanning, into one short unequivocal answer, since I had zero desire to dive into this miasma again, especially not with this dude.

"Actually, no." He gave me a "I totally don't believe you" look.

"I am committed to teaching, which I believe I can do very productively in this position, while still continuing my research. And I have two small children who I want to care for."

It didn't really come out as clear as that, but you get the idea. At the two small children bit, he gave me a knowing look. You know, "oh, so you're one of those. Those unserious scholars who gives up your intellectual pursuits for... (gasp!) children."

And so, again, I'm left with the slightly bitter (dis)taste of the false promise of "having it all" in my mouth. I really have no answers, but I know a couple of things, made all the more clear for me after this exchange: I have an ethical obligation to the children my partner and I chose to have and who are two of the most amazing individuals I have had the opportunity to get to know; I am completely passionate about my work, particularly teaching; and I have absolutely not enough energy to do all that I want to do for both my family and my work. Short of taking a continuous does of Rockstar (as one of my students famously did before his final exam), what is a woman to do?

the lady's not afraid: How Dolly rocks it

From ColorLines:
The clip above (h/t Joe.My.God) begins with her answering a question about why and how she embraces her gay fans, but Parton migrates into a broader comment on the joy she finds in coming together with all sorts of people she might otherwise fear. “We should be a little more tolerant and a little more accepting and understanding of not just the gays, but other people, minorities. We just don’t have enough love to really live in this world, and we really need to.” 

All our base (boobs?) are belong to Dolly! Dolly FTW! I love this woman. She is such a role model of freedom. I love how her comments reflect this reality of needing to cross lines and rearrange labels and generally let down our guards a little, let ourselves be open to all the ways that life can be good and that friends can be found.  I love that she can say this and that her words travel as far and wide as her fandom. That's the power of having a good ally. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie pick: Burlesque!! Yes, really. Go have some fun with family values

I went into this movie with no expectations except glitter, and I was not one tiny bit disappointed. (A couple spoilers below.)

In fact, in contrast to all the critical reviews I saw, there were moments I was impressed. The acting's not Oscar worthy or anything, although it is a TON of fun to watch Cher and Stanley Tucci together-- they clearly enjoy and respect each other (or act really well as if they do). Who doesn't love watching a fabulously flamboyant woman whose comedic straight man is her gay best friend?  Cher had a wonderfully confidence in  her character Tess. She was like a cat who knows that every stretch, swat and swing of the tail is watched and admired. So I forgave her character the moments of stubbornness and self-pity-- I like watching a woman who's confident in the story she has to tell.

Christina isn't as convincing as an actress, but I didn't care. I was waiting for her to cause a rumble with those pipes. She has such an incredible voice, I didn't care about the acting. But when she was acting onstage in the movie's burlesque show, she was terrific. So much fun!!  She looked totally free, even as her voice and her moves stayed disciplined. And THAT is a performance worth watching.

Some themes I noted:
  • Yer mom! Family values?! I swear, it was in there.  Moms and family might seem to have nothing to do with feather boas and pasties.  But messages and talk of family persisted throughout the movie. This might be one of the most interesting artistic messages/themes of the movie. I'm serious! Just a handful of examples that I can remember- there are probably more:
    • Christina Aguilera's character Ali has pennies to her name, but demonstrates that she thinks the mom-child relationship is important when she hands over some money and says to her co-worker: "Buy this toy for your kid. I know you've been wanting to get it for him." She could have kept the money or given it to her co-worker for drinks after work, but nope. There's a reason for it, I think...
    • ... Ali lost her mom at age 7
    • And Ali having no family comes up a couple times in key emotional moments with Jack and Tess
    • Jack's engaged- but his relationship isn't a model of family warmth
    • Theme of "I'm not your mom" and "You're not my mom" come up over and over
    • Tess' general motherliness to the performers and staff at her club
    • A dancer gets pregnant and then married
    • Notably, when the dancer gets pregnant, Tess knows which dancer it is even though she can only see the bottom of her shoes from under the bathroom stall when she's got morning sickness
    • And Tess tells that dancer that "we're family, we take care of each other"
    • Jack's mom gave him adorable pj's (but used to highly sexy and comedic effect)
    • Jack breaks off the engagement when he realizes what he really wants in a relationship
    • Themes of "we're a family/forgiveness/come back to us" thread throughout
    • Still not convinced? Think it's kind of unexpected to have something to say about moms in a movie that's about shaking your moneymaker? But maybe that's a message-- you can still work it even after you birth it.  Christina's got it, Cher's got it, and one of the dancers gets pregnant. But if you could have or BE a mom with moves as hot as Cher and X-Tina, why *wouldn't* you be rocking it? Now that is a life lesson for us all.
    • Diversity is fun!  Ok, my first reaction to the diversity of the cast was 'WOOT!' It was great to see a range of beauty up there in race (and sort of somewhat, though not much, in size). They obviously put some thought into diversity, which I appreciated. On the other hand, I realized that *some* thought doesn't mean *good* thought or deep thought (not that I'm begging Burlesque to provide deep thoughts, but still). None of the main roles went to actors of color: Cher, Christina, Cam Gigandet (Jack), Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell (the main female rival), Eric Dane (the main male rival). Diversity is fun -- to give lip service to? Sigh. Blonde wins here, but at least we all have fun watching.
    • Last big theme: Know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em.  Tess holds onto the club far past the point of financial reason, but she knows she's got something good. Ali helps her figure out how to turn that intuition into cold hard cash. (That's another part of the daydream, folks! Don't go thinking you can do what they did to save your home!)  It's part of the fable, the theme of letting go and holding on. Jack has to decide in his relationship with his fiancee whether he's going to hold on or take a chance, let her go and possibly find his best friend and soulmate.  Ali, too, has to decide whether she's going to hold on to the seemingly safe relationship where her material desires could be met (hello Christian Louboutin!) or let it go and go for one where she's got an emotional connection.  (I know, the suspense! Which could it be?!)
    With all this, bear in mind: This is just a fun movie, especially if you like fantasy and feathers and glitter and romance. Yes, I still have a bit of my sixteen year old self in me. If you're into chair dancing at the movies and think it's fun to imagine yourself in feathers too, I say go for it guilt-free. Have fun!!

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Homemade oreos: Even better than the real thing

    It's that time of year-- JoeJoe time. Candy Cane Joe Joe's, to be precise. If you've got a Trader Joe's near you, you won't be able to escape without seeing these puppies prominently displayed. Trader Joe's knows they've got a good thing going.

    If you haven't tasted one, well. Then. Perhaps you live in TJ-free zone and I need to get one in the mail to you. If you have access to TJ's and just haven't picked up the box, I congratulate you and your stable blood sugar levels.

    (For the uninitiated, JoeJoe's are basically TJ-brand Oreos, but much better. They use vanilla bean in the creamy center and Candy Cane JoeJoes have that red and white minty sticky crunch.)

    I had a yen for them, but am also trying to shake off the last 5-8 lbs of baby weight. I totally refuse to give into the notion of spreading out with the years. If anything, I want to get stronger and faster as the years go by. So we've totally been decimating bedtime to go to the gym (something had to give).  But everyone knows, half an hour of butt-busting sweat-dripping heart-pounding burns a solid 200 calories, which, even accounting for afterburn, can be reacquired by merely looking at a slice of pizza or box of cookies. Calories are calories, way easy to put on and tough to take off. Good for our Neanderthal ancestors, bad for us desk dwellers.

    SO! I didn't have them in the house.  I had decided awhile ago that if I wanted white sugar, I'd have to bake it up myself instead of making it all mindlessly accessible. Nope, I'd need to *mindfully* consume my cookies, after mindfully baking and mindfully cleaning up. (Geez, it makes it sound almost worth it to pay $3 for a box of JoeJoes!)

    My ever-heroic group of online mama friends had just been discussing homemade oreos, however, and I was led to this Smitten Kitchen recipe. Besides being a fun blog to read, she also has terrific recipes and beautiful photos of her work.  She also has a delicious Homemade Oreo recipe!

    These are HIGHLY worth it. Quick to make and really delicious. My modification of her recipe is that I used only 1 cup of sugar for the chocolate cookies and clarified butter instead of shortening for the filling. I cannot recommend enough clarified butter for this purpose. This is what separates the store-bought cookies from the homemade to me-- this special ingredient that really makes the vanilla stand up proud against the darkly rich crumbly chocolate background.

    Use parchment or a Silpat. Bring over a couple cookies, I'll bring the milk, and we'll talk about the gym. :)

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    the female of the species- by joyce carol oates

    Waiting for a printer driver to download and install, I'm taking three minutes twenty-two seconds to see what I can get down in a blogpost about the Joyce Carol Oates book I'm in the midst of: The Female of the Species.

    This is my first JCO. I have a long list of authors to get into, or to get into more deeply because I love them already, and she is on the get-to-know section. (This is all in my head, not an actual list, though I think that'd be satisfying and I've seen many friends' lists on Facebook lately.)


    That was pretty much what I could get down in 3 minutes.  There's so much to say about this prolific author, though, I have a feeling that even three days or three weeks wouldn't be enough to tease out all there is.

    On one hand, take a look at the back of this book. It will tell you that you're in the presence of an artist, as it's  supposed to.

    And on the other hand, there's my own first impression.  And it's not that I don't perceive the work as artistic-- indeed, her writing conveys a confidence that the reader is willing to go where she leads.  That's the kind of confidence a writer has who believes she's an artist, a highest-order storyteller.

    Yet though I appreciate this confidence, I haven't been able to sink into the stories in a satisfying way.  It's not because the stories in this collection are short. I find Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories to be breathtaking and fully formed and deep enough to sink into.  The sketches in The Female of the Species, however, sometimes seemed hurried, or broad. There were some brilliant moments-- some of the best suspenseful pages came with the voice of a six year old girl and her baby brother.  But there were also some stories that seemed to leave the art out, so that the gore and violence was just words on the page and nothing more.

    A three minute blogpost (I can't call it a review, really, just some impressions) leaves much more to say. I'd love to hear thoughts from those who have read JCO!

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    what I'm doing while they're growing

    It's a good question, really. What am I doing to grow and change as a mom while the kids are growing and changing?  There are tons of parenting resources for when they're babies.  (Not that I really was an evangelist for any of them-- I was very quickly skeptical of any book that deemed itself to be The Answer and ended up flexing around a bunch of self-made and online-mama-tested strategies that end up suspiciously sounding like path-of-least-resistance attachment-ish parenting.)

    And that makes sense.  A new parent might feel overwhelmed or pretty content to hang out with the baby until the Real Mom showed up (or some combination, like I did), but either way, it was nice to know there was probably a book out there that affirmed whatever parenting style I'd adopted.  The never-ending stream of advice in books for parents of newborns feeds perfectly into the new-parent need to know "am I doing this right?"

    But just because we're a few years in doesn't mean my questions have abated. They've changed. I no longer spend hours researching how long breastmilk keeps in the fridge, which carrier is best, the ins and outs of cloth diapering or where to find the cheapest paper diapers-- especially since Sabrina is now potty trained, night and day in underwear (whether it's a giant miracle or the EC we kind of sort of did with her when she was an infant or both, the fact is she definitely wanted to wear underwear like her big sister).

    What I do wonder about is how to support my 4 year old's emotional needs and questions, and it's more heartbreaking and complicated than throwing out 6-hour old unrefrigerated breastmilk (although that's fraught too).  These days she's got some anxieties around pre-school, and it comes out in all sorts of ways.  Sometimes she talks about it, but often when I offer to listen she runs away. And it's so hard to know what to do next, when it seems like every skill I have as a parent and as a person is exhausted, and still nothing has worked.  When her answer to everything is to stick out her tongue. When hugs, coaxing, sharp tones, gentle tones, or any kind of communication gets no response because she's repeating endlessly endlessly endlessly, "I don't want to! I don't want to!" When she's too fast and strong to chase down, too smart to threaten. I'm not the strong-arm type of parent anyway-- those methods feel awkward when I try them on, and never work anyway.

    So here we are, past the baby books.  I decided awhile ago that there was one book that might help.

    From The Tao Te Ching for Parents- a new interpretation by William Martin:

    49. Giving Respect
    When your children behave,
    give them respect and kindness.

    When your children misbehave,
    give them respect and kindness.

    When they are hateful,
    love them.
    When they betray your trust,
    trust them.

    The River of Life nurtures
    everything it touches
    without asking for anything.
    You will be happy and content
    if you do the same.

    Monday, November 08, 2010

    potty trained and the end of babies

    Not the end of babies for everyone as we know them, but just for our little family of four.  But first things first. The news of the week: Please don't let me be jinxing myself but I think Sabrina is potty trained! Basically on her second birthday she began insisting on underwear like her big sister, had one accident and has been happily an underwear wearer since. We even tried underwear this weekend while we were out and about, and it worked. IT WORKED!

    Obviously, her sleep has gone to the crapper (heh).  But I'll take it. I think it'll all even out soon. And we will have a good sleeper who's also a fully toilet-trained kid. !!!

    Also, a great music lover. Taken on her 2nd birthday with her new xylophone.

    And then, then I won't have any babies! I will be done with babies. No more babies. It makes me catch my breath a little even now to think the baby-making phase of our family is over and the child-rearing phase is in full swing for the next 14-16 years, and then the young-adult support phase, and then! But this, I think, is a lesson of pregnancy that I absorbed very early on-- things change.  You're not pregnant, then you are, and if all goes well you stay pregnant but you don't stay the same, because every day your body is changing, until the Giant Change of Childbirth where a person (or people!) emerge from you, organs involute and rearrange, skin shifts, hair falls. Not to mention the changes of the heart and mind. Oh it all never stops changing.  So why would I think I'd be in baby-making land forever? It seems so abrupt to leave, I suppose, but also it makes sense. We're ready to keep moving. And even if we were not ready, not at all, wanting to carry around another little passenger and go through the extraordinary challenge of childbirth and stay up for hundreds more sleepless nights, even if we yearned for it, we know even more deeply that for our family, this is our circle. A circle of four to grow into.

    So this is the end of babies. But it's only the beginning of reading and writing and counting and storytelling, climbing and camping and baking. The seeds have sprouted, the plants are growing, the metaphor is tired. And so am I, but not for long. Because I see the day when sleeping and pottying are issues of the past, when this time will be those days we survived the tantrums and food throwing, public potty accidents and inopportune naps. So bittersweet to say goodbye to these original challenges that strengthened my parenting soul. To challenges I know now that I can meet. And to say 'welcome' to the uncertainty of new challenges, but also to the beauty and wonder of my girls as they grow.

    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    PSA: those microfiber cloths really work

    Just bought a couple $1 microfiber cloths at Staples, hoping to do something about the ever-streaky mirror in our bathroom.  LOVE it already.  Just a little bit of water and the thing gets everything super shiny and clean. Not just the mirrors, but the stainless steel and chrome on kitchen stuff, and the tiles everywhere. And I don't need to use any sprays or Earth-hating chemicals.

    $1 microfiber cloth where have you been all my life.

    This has been your PSA of the day. Happy almost Halloween!

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Why do you DREAM? MomsRising wants to know!

    Cross posted in full from

    Odds are, if you are a mom, you're one of the 72 percent of women in the United States who support the DREAM Act. [1]

    But we want to know why.

    First, a quick refresher: The DREAM Act is short for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. Currently, undocumented immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and have grown up here have no way to become legal citizens and fully contribute to society. Upon graduating from high school, these children face an uncertain future, including barriers to college and risk of deportation to a country they often no longer remember. The DREAM Act would address this problem.

    If passed, the DREAM Act would provide approximately 800,000 young adults with the opportunity to work legally without fear of deportation and ultimately earn permanent legal resident status if they meet certain requirements. These requirements include needing to show that they came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday, lived here for at least five consecutive years prior to the bill's enactment, be of "good moral character," earned a high school diploma or GED, and completed at least two years of college or military service.

    The legislation could also prove to be a boost to our economy. A soon to be released study by the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center finds that the estimated 800,000 youth legalized through the DREAM ACT will potentially generate $1.38 trillion dollars over their work-life. (2)

    Not surprisingly, a large majority of Americans support the DREAM Act including 80 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans, according to a poll conducted by First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization.(3)

    In spite of such widespread support, our elected representatives in Congress are pretty much sleepwalking on this issue.

    Versions of the DREAM Act have been introduced into Congress, either alone or as part of larger legislation for the past nine years. And yet still Congress has failed to act.

    What's it going to take?

    How about moms flexing their political muscles? Let's tell Congress that as moms, we think it's long overdue for them to wake up and do the right thing by these children and young adults.

    Our elected representatives need to listen to mothers like Elaine Lindelef who says: "No good can come from the U.S. deporting hardworking, talented, devoted kids who grew up here, regardless of where they are from."

    Congress should also listen to Fiorenza Comunian whose daughter studied alongside undocumented students at UCLA: "They pay full tuition and they have proven they have the will and determination required to succeed. Granting them a path to citizenship will be an investment in this country's future and an act of compassion that benefits everybody."

    Now, tell us, why do YOU support the DREAM Act ?

    MomsRising, a million member advocacy organization, wants to hear from you. Simply complete this statement:
    "I'm a mom and I support the DREAM Act because______________________."

    Then send your statement to You can sign your first name and identify your state, or you can sign 'anonymous' and we will honor that. You can also drop us your comment below.
    With these mom-quotes, we'll tell our elected leaders it's time to stop snoozing, sleepwalking and stalling. Moms across the country want our representatives in D.C. to wake up and make the DREAM possible for all children in our nation.

    Footnotes 1 & 3: "Public Support for the Dream Act," a public opinion survey commissioned by First Focus, June 2010. For more information, contact Wendy Cervantes, Senior Director of Child and Family Immigrant Policy,

    Footnote 2: Statement provided with permission from NAID founder and director Dr. Raul Hinojosa. For more information, contact Tolu Olubunmi, a consultant with First Focus,
    Para leer en español, haga clic aqui.

    Saturday, October 09, 2010

    Against Bullying, or why we need a new social movement

    Like everyone else, I've been completely overwhelmed and utterly heartbroken by the stories of young boys and men compelled to take their own lives because of bullying. Yesterday evening, the front story of the NY Times was about the kidnap, rape, and torture of a gay man by nine other men, and then this morning, I came across an op-ed about mean-girl behavior starting as early as kindergarten. Evidence for the cruelty and violence that humans are capable of, yes. But not necessarily for the inevitability of such evil behavior. 

    This is the where I think Richard Kim's essay, "Against 'Bullying' or On Loving Queer Kids," really hits the mark. Kim alerts us to what, with a few exceptions, has been missing in the national discussion about bullying: the homophobic nature of our current political discourse, and its effect on young people. For example, a new Time Magazine article on bullying focuses primarily on ways in which new media make it easier for aggressors to pursue their victims without having to actually come face to face with them, something that, in the past, may have mitigated such cruel behavior. Furthermore, as a recent NPR report argues, the pace of education about interpersonal skills in a hyper-connected world has not kept up with the rush of technology and its earlier and earlier adoption. 

    Kim argues that while all this is true, we must not ignore the larger role discourses of homophobia and hate have on shaping cultural notions of belonging and difference. Cell phones and the internet are vehicles for bullying, but the impetus comes from heteronormative attitudes cultivated in entertainment, as well as in the legal and rhetorical strategies of politicians who continue to use the penalization of queers to further their agendas. Examples abound: the debate over same-sex marriage, the Republican push back against overturning DADT, and most recently, Tom De Mint's statement, in a speech given at a church rally in South Carolina on Saturday, that local school boards should be able to ban gays and unwed mothers from teaching. Yes, you did read that correctly.

    And this is not just a question of sexuality (I mean, it never really is, is it?). The invocation of a politics of difference as a social and political platform in and of itself (as in, I represent that which is not different, which belongs, and thus I have de facto moral value) is always a raced, gendered, and classed project as well. The identification of gays and Muslims (and - the horror! - queer Muslims) as America's expendable others in large-scale national debates most certainly shapes the ways in which children are learning to make sense of their own, and their peers', place in the world. As Pamela Paul argues in her NY Times essay, it really is "monkey see, monkey do" when it comes to children's attitudes about what makes oneself and others valuable.

    So... what can we do?  I think this is where a rejection of inevitability (the "kids are just cruel" rationale) comes in. We can - as parents, educators, participants in a public discourse - insist on educating ourselves and others about where hate and the moral adjudication of belonging come from. They do not stem from ahistorical religious tenets, or from hallowed tradition, or from any type of radical and universal difference in being, but rather from the history of modern power and the continued actions of those who seek to maintain (or in some cases to obtain) economic/social/cultural privilege. I think this is the issue of our day!  Anita, a few days ago you shared an op-ed about the urgent need for a third party in American politics - maybe this is the crisis that will energize those who seek a government that is based on the principle of social justice.

    Wednesday, October 06, 2010

    MadMen- Surgeon General's report on smoking in 1964=bombshell

    I've been wondering about whether the loss of Lucky Strike in fact means the end of SCDP, and decided to look up when the Surgeon General started warning about smoking.

    A document from the National Institutes of Health says:

    "[Surgeon General Luther T.] Terry issued the commission's report on January 11, 1964, choosing a Saturday to minimize the effect on the stock market and to maximize coverage in the Sunday papers. As Terry remembered the event, two decades later, the report "hit the country like a bombshell. It was front page news and a lead story on every radio and television station in the United States and many abroad."

    Could this be just the news SCDP needs to bounce back (or at least to level the playing field with competitors)?

    Admittedly, none of this is the true focus of last Sunday's episode, "Chinese Wall." I'm just looking ahead. Because if I have to linger on "Chinese Wall," then I'll get increasingly uncomfy.  I was cringing throughout this episode.

    - The obvious one: Megan hitting on Don. Don going along with it. Secretary and boss, potential mentee and mentor. Shudder factor=6/10.

    - Stan hitting on Peggy. Locking the door really creeped me out. Shudder factor=8/10.

    - Jane lounging in her yellow silk robe, snuggling up to Roger soon after we see Roger with Joan, and Joan in her plain cotton nightdress (but looking more beautiful than ever). Shudder factor=4/10.

    - Faye snuggling up to Don in the same way. What is she giving up? What is she getting? Shudder factor=4/10.

    - Peggy's lipstick on the teeth. I kept wanting to rub it off for her.  But it also reminded me of her heady "here's your basket of kisses" days, when she first began to emerge as a creative talent for the agency. Shudder factor=5/10.

    - Sniffing out work leads at a funeral. Shudder factor=7/10.

    - Trudy having to be alone during labor and delivery, like almost everyone else back then. Everyone should have the support they want and need at that time! But everyone else kept making the decision to keep her and Pete apart, even when they wanted to see each other. Shudder factor=6/10.

    - Cooper's beard. Shudder factor=7/10.

    There were many more-- everything from the way the camera retreats from Don, giving the impression of falling, to the discomfort of seeing Don compromised yet again in yet another way, to the title of the episode itself.  It will be interesting to see how the next two episodes develop the conflicts and set us up for Season 3.

    * You can find a nice recap on each week's episode at the Huffington Post here.

    Tuesday, October 05, 2010

    intrigued by the kale chips idea? some tips

    Tip #1. Probably best to try it with actual kale and not rainbow chard like I did.

    Tip #2. But if you do find and use a chard recipe (also like I did), probably best to follow it more closely than I did. That is-- don't fear the oil!!

    The chard was a little too wet/watery to crisp up nicely. I think I should have doused the whole thing liberally in oil and basically done a pan fry and dry. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and sea salt and those things would probably disappear.

    I'm pretty sure it's true, because I tried giving my almost 4 and almost 2 year old girls some seaweed snack today. Roasted in sesame oil, with sea salt and a pinch of sugar, this Korean snack is $1.89 at Whole Foods and it was SO GOOD. And they ATE it. I was amazed but they finished nearly the whole damn package.

    Not to mention that this whole kale chip/chard chip thing has gotten so trendy, Whole Foods jumped on the bandwagon with a bag of chard chips and parmesan for...$6.99.  It mystifies me how they can charge that much for so very very litte, but they don't call it Whole Paycheck for nothing.

    So if more leafy greens come our way through our fabulous CSA Terra Bella Family Farm, they're getting the oven fried treatment.

    Monday, October 04, 2010

    update on lead in bouncy houses

    After reading about the high lead levels in bouncy houses for kids, I wrote emails to two kid play spaces in the East Bay asking about lead levels in their inflatable slides and bounce houses.

    Here's the email response I got from Pump It Up in Concord:

    Hello Anita,

    We are working closely with California’s Attorney General and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) to ensure the safest environment for our customers and we’ll be pro-active on implementing their future recommendations. As the Attorney General and CEH develop new regulations for the manufacturers of inflatable equipment, we are ready to support the new policies and to help verify that vendors are
    adhering to the legal standards.

    Pump It Up has set the bar for safety standards in the industry, including promoting legislation to create consistent safety regulations for both indoor and outdoor
    inflatable play environments, and we have always had our inflatables independently tested. The national franchise, with more than 160 locations, holds the most stringent
    safety standards in the inflatable party industry. The company’s nationally recognized insurance carrier recently completed an independent audit of all open facilities, in which Pump It Up received an A+ rating with a total scoring average of 99 out of a possible 100 per facility.

    We have historically kept our facility and inflatables clean and for any concerned parents we will also be offering the opportunity to have the kids clean their hands after playing in the inflatables as an additional measure.

    Please feel free to contact Jamie Jefferson at the Attorney General’s office at (510) 622-2254 to answer any other questions you may have about the suit against the inflatable manufacturers.

    Thanks for being a loyal Pump it Up customer.

    Sunday, October 03, 2010

    Restrict restaurant toys- Yes!

    I remember a blogpost about this at, with the director of Center for Science in the Public Interest writing on this very topic- limiting Happy Meal toys.  Most of the comments embraced the "it's the parents' decision" side.

    I am definitely for strong parenting. Clear and consistent decision-making in the best interests of the child, every time.  I'm for it-- do I *do* it? The angels above know how much better at it I could be! This is one reason I don't feel like this is over-legislating. It's aimed at the corporations that don't have my family's best interest in mind anyway. People tend to excuse almost anything a corporation does for its bottom line, but I think really good companies might also have quality as a goal. (Hello?) Behemoth corporations that offer toys might not really care about competition to enhance quality (the basic free market argument), so that's one place where legislation comes in. Though I can see how it's not a legislative priority this year in cities where stimulating the economy is Job#1, I still think the conversations it should stimulate are important to advancing public health.  Besides, I don't see the point of stimulating the economy with products that depress our health and well-being, and that of our kids. Maybe especially that of our kids.  Short term stimulus don't seem to always lead to long term health and growth. Why should we give in to the race to the bottom?

    Also, I used to be a volunteer labor coach for low income pregnant women. Many of them would have kids carrying McD's bags into the clinic. NOT because McD's was cheaper than fresh fruit- it's not. Because it was the only available option.  The only option on their bus line, the only place that was safe, the only place the kids would go to, where their friends went.  There are a million more systemic issues to unpack there, yes? Transportation equity, urban planning, public health, prevention, and at least five or six other biggies.

    Taking socioeconomics into the picture, it strikes me that this isn't about more or less consumer choice as it is about the quality of choices. That to me is what's important.

    Saturday, October 02, 2010

    Jump in... the water's fine!

    It's 4:50am and I'm awake - combination of 3am nursing, a few too many cokes at dinner (fancy night out!), and too damn much on the mind.  What better time to jump in!  My very first blog post.  Somehow I had imagined it differently.  Some women dream about their weddings (yawn), I dreamed of my first real blog post.  It would be witty, intelligent, on-point.  It would be offer a completely groundbreaking perspective on an issue that was being otherwise bandied about by the various vapid talking heads who pass as our politicians/pundits these days (Jon Stewart - you will always be the exception!).  It would be - in one word - brilliant.

    But... alas, this dream post only exists in my head in the woozy minutes of nighttime nursing.  Once the harsh glare of the monitor is on it escapes my limited capabilities and instead I waste an hour on Facebook.  That is, until I signed in to WordyDoodles and remembered exactly why: 1) we are twins, and 2) why we wanted to blog in the  first place.  Your posts capture the kinetic energy of becoming in the crazy assemblage of belongings we find ourselves in the middle of.  This is the ethical space of conversation, of the work of constructing an affective community.  And polished, hyper-critical(ly aware) writing does not lend itself to conversation, to the moment, in the same way as just putting your thoughts out there.  That being said, you inspire me (as you always have) with your brilliance!

    Thanks for letting me set up my necessarily slipshod camp here in this incredible space.  Next up: anti-colonizing the mind of Dinesh D'Souza!

    Friday, October 01, 2010

    UPDATE: With this fall's fashion, designers are saying "we're all effed"

    There's an old bit of folk knowledge that says hemlines reflect the state of the economy (lower hemline=worse economy, higher=better).  And if clothing design generally somehow reflects our national mood, I think the designers are telling us we're depressed. Really, really depressed. What other conclusion could there be when you see pieces like I saw at Banana Republic and the Gap?

    It is ugly. There's no other way to put it. It's like they're saying "Wear ugly crap.  No one cares. We're all going down the crapper anyway." There are tshirts with random dumb ruffles; cropped skinny acid wash jeans; shapeless, colorless dresses. A woven pocket T for $54.  I bet the copywriters who had to conjure up something nice to say about these pieces were tearing out their hair. Or maybe not. Maybe they were like, who cares.

    It's true that the economy isn't necessarily at its rosiest.  But does that have to mean we have to look like crap too? I think not.

    The selection in person was no better than online. We decided to quickly swing by BR a couple weekends ago. I normally don't shop there, benefiting from the generosity of my sister's closet turnover, from this area's fabulous selection of consignment stores, and from a dedication to excellent etsy stores.

    It was awful and terrible, as bad as the online selection.  Colors were drab, and did I mention all the weird and random ruffles?  I am not against ruffles per se, but these looked like someone took a t-shirt and sewed a ruffle on. It made no sense. It had no context, like Donny wandering like a child in the forest (or whatever that awesome Walter quote from Big Lebowski is. God I love Walter from the Big Lebowski. Also Christina Ricci's character in Pecker-- I think they have very similar extreme personalities. Another post, another day.).

    Happily, the news for spring seems to be much better. This SF Chron article says we can look forward to "fancy feminine and/or minimalist" for spring.  The article says:
    "Designers are well aware that the recession has not ended, but they are cautiously optimistic. 
    "Fashion responds to the economic climate by providing a way to lift a woman's spirits," Catherine Malandrino said. The theme song at Michael Kors' show was "Here Comes the Sun." 
    "Indeed, designers made a special effort to be sure their collections were irresistible and actually wearable (not always the case in the past). They aimed to restore consumer confidence - and they are succeeding."

    Read more:
    They are succeeding? Well, I guess after you hit the bottom with stuff that looks, feels and wears like something from the back of my mom's closet in 1982 (not a compliment-- sorry, Mom), there's nowhere to go but up.


    One trend identified by the SF Chron style section is "the carrot pant," aka THE MC HAMMER PANT. Dearlord, I think I hear the four horsemen of the Shopacolypse!  (p.s. I love Rev Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping)

    Thank goodness for independent artists with style from whom we can buy. Case in point: not only is the dress from this lovely designer/seamstress at etsy fantastic, but her philosophy is great too. Clothes based on origami! So fabulous! So intentional. Not a random ruffle on a jersey t-shirt in sight.  Maybe some random cutouts. But anyway, browse etsy, dodge disappointment. (and do a cross check with regretsy)

    UPDATE! @WomensWearDaily is our voice of reason and sanity in an off-the-rack world beruffled with mediocrity.  Check out the photos from Dior and Galliano, which make SUCH a better case for the beauty of ruffles.

    I'm killing myself trying to overedit this personal blog

    And I've decided I have to post *something* and start (over) *somewhere* or else this blog will turn into the land of Drafts.  And we all know what kind of purgatory that is.  Crappy, crappy purgatory.  You can only research a post so long before it gets past its prime, stops hitting the sweet spot, stops speaking to readers. Hell, it stops speaking to me and I forget why I even began the darn thing.  I've got so many drafts of posts, ideas for posts, inspiring books and quotes and links.  But it seems so daunting to hit publish.  So I am going meta on you all and writing a post about writing posts.  Because that's easier.

    Bloggy friends, I say, don't let the edits be the enemy of the published.  It's a blog, not a research paper.  Yes, I know that blogs are becoming a primary source for many, but this blog isn't that kind of blog. It's a conversational kind of blog (or, it will be when my fabulous co-author comes on board).  Anyone else get in and out of this rut? I totally want to hear from you. xox

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Lead in Bouncy Houses

    This news of lead in bouncy houses was especially depressing to me because (duh) my kids love bouncy houses. And also, I can distinctly remember watching P resting facedown on one of these. Probably licking it.

    CEH created a great video about this problem AND what you can do to help your kids be safer. Lead is a proven highly potent neurotoxin, especially dangerous to kids' growing brains (and no picnic for adults either). Check out the video. And I'm going to remember to ask playplaces with bouncy houses if they've checked them out for lead (eg, SuperFranks and Pump It Up).

    CEH's blogpost on bouncy houses

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Bye, babies. Hi toddlers! *photos*

    Ok so technically Paloma isn't even a toddler anymore. She's a pre-k (and she'll tell you that proudly). But when she and Sabrina are really having fun together, it's hard to separate toddler from pre-k. I just know for sure that I don't have my little babies anymore.

    More like clever little partners.
    Still snuggly, especially after having a good time at a wedding

    Even though she fits into the Ergo and Beco carriers still, Sabrina is just not a baby anymore. "My nurr nurr. MAH NURR NURR" is a pretty common statement I hear these days. (That's Sabrina telling me that she is not yet interested in giving up on nursing, and oh by the way, the nurr nurrs are hers anyway.)

    Sisters in the background, P in the fore
    And then the divine Miss P! Forget babyhood, and toddlerhood too while you're at it. She's making up songs, dances, stories, words, languages. Drawing pictures and calling them abstract. Wheeling and dealing like any good 4 year old. Telling it like it is.

    In the booster seat after a booster shot
    Pretty soon, they'll both be in booster seats. And then there won't be booster seats back there at all.  Because they'll be driving!  And cooking. And TOTALLY FINE while *I* take a freaking nap.

    Can you tell I'm excited for that stage of parenthood where you can relax about kids running into the street, going up and down stairs, and getting their own bowls of cereal??! Yeah, I love it all and all, but it's hard when you get all sleepy and STILL have to get stuff done.

    The kids are asleep right now. I'm getting an ice cream sandwich.  Parents of older kids, would love to hear your take on how things change-- or don't change!

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Wyclef- on NPR?

    I think the word is way, way out there by now but if you haven't heard, it's true-- you can now hear Wyclef Jean on NPR as well as 102.7 KISS FM. And it's not because NPR is adding flavor to their afternoon lineup.

    Wyclef is running for president of Haiti.  After decades of corruption and the massive earthquake in January, his announcement sounds like it could be a bit of positive news.  But maybe that's just me confusing what sounds like A TON OF FUN for good political news.  I am a big fan of the Fugees. Even as much as I would have liked every day in Congress to be like a giant Fugees concert, I have to admit we probably would get even less done than we do now. (What am I saying? We'd probably have more bumping across the aisles. All SORTS of stuff would get done.)

    But the LA Times expressed skepticism as well. The article discusses Jean's candidacy and quotes some Haitian policy experts who question Jean's experience, his knowledge of the system, and his political savvy.  I have to say, it does give me pause that he'd officially announce his candidacy on Larry King Live.  Why not on a Haitian show?  Or at least on Haitian soil? This isn't, of course, a deal breaker. It's only one step in a long journey of candidacy. But that first step indicates the direction that one will take.

    The article also quotes Haitians who support him, expressing their very real desire and need for change, and identifying Wyclef Jean as the change they need.  Further, Jean himself, and through his Yele Haiti nonprofit, communicates a deep understanding of his homeland and of the human rights situations there.

    I suppose the cringing for me came when I heard his NPR interview with Michele Norris on All Things Considered, where she really pushed him on his finances, back taxes owed, knowledge of Haitian politics. He could not answer any question straight. Every question she asked, he backed away from it, saying something like, "Before we consider X, we must look at Y!" Totally removing the focus of the question.

    This is a beef I have with a lot of politicians, but especially when you're a candidate running for office: When an interview asks you a simple yes or no question, and you've got thousands of listeners waiting for your answer, you better keep it simple and respond YES or NO and then follow up with your explanation.

    For example:

    NORRIS: I want to ask you also about your taxes. It's been reported now that you owe the federal government more than $2 million in back taxes. This is based on tax liens that were filed against you. It's not the first time that you've owed back taxes. What is your explanation for that, again, since you're calling for good stewardship of the country and calling for someone who can handle good finances and will battle corruption in Haiti?
    Mr. JEAN: Well, the first thing is that I am not running from the IRS. That's the number one thing. The number two thing is I make a lot of money a year. And the number three thing is my accountants and my business people are handling the IRS. But going into this, its an open book, meaning I didnt go into this knowing that everything is public information.

    What? What does that even mean??? This isn't looking good for someone who wants to be this country's president. Wyclef Jean has done a ton of good work raising consciousness around Haiti's people and the issues they face, but it doesn't mean that translates to being Haiti's president.  I am impressed with his work as an artist and as an advocate, and I hope he doesn't lose momentum in those areas with this presidential run.

    For a more informed and articulate opinion piece on this, click here. :) Would love to hear other's musings on this one.

    Monday, August 09, 2010

    Opposites are necessary in parenting-- a fearful truth?

    From The Parent's Tao Te Ching:

    36. Opposites Are Necessary
    A quality cannot be fully learned
    without understanding its opposite.

    I think I'm on board with this concept, but it's introduced with more of a double-dog-dare challenge: If you want your kids to be disciplined, you have to let them know spontaneity. If you want them to be generous, you must allow them first to be selfish.

    How's that for a big spiritual surprise?

    It's so unsettling to think about, in fact, that I almost can't believe it. If I let my kid be selfish, won't she just enjoy it so much that she'll never learn to be generous?

    Or perhaps she'll realize that there's more to being selfish than getting what you want, when you want it. That loneliness accompanies selfishness like an inescapable shadow.

    And maybe she'll also learn that there's more to being generous than giving away your heart's desire. That love and trust and community and friendship are built with generosity.

    Suddenly, this parenting strategy makes all kinds of sense. To operationalize, I guess this means that sometimes, sometimes I won't ask Paloma to share her toy with her little sister. I'll let them work it out, and see what they do. If she chooses to be selfish, I'll have to hold back from saying, "Sabrina's turn next!"

    But I think it might be worth it to see what she does. To let her find her path to generosity, and cheer her on when she discovers it. Will report back on all this.

    Wednesday, August 04, 2010

    Mad Men- Glen is BACK! And yet there's still so much wrong.

    * Glen's back in town, so you might have reasonably assumed that it was going to get all stalkerweird and interesting. I definitely see Glen as a harbinger of Bad Things for Betty. But Glen brings such an odd-bird vibe that you might also have reasonably assumed that Matthew Weiner decided that his hit series was in the toilet because clearly the good people of NYC would have to be mowed down by the Crazy Psychopath that Glen would have become. Hasn't happened but maybe there's still time. It's only been a couple of years since the series started, when Glen was first making trouble with Betty. Anyway, D is still holding out hope for Glen's storyline. I personally could do without the creepy, though I get that the kids' perspective is interesting and should be told what with all the divorcing.

    * Ok Dove and Clorox? I'm talking to you real life companies? You both SUCK!! You really, really suck. You've totally missed the point with your ads that are trying to copy Mad Men. Guess what, jerks?? Talking down to women and being sexist wasn't cute when it happened in the sixties. It isn't cute when Mad Men does it, which is the point that you missed. And so it SURE as hell isn't cute when you do it in 2010. Get your acts together. I'm totally not buying your crap. Not that I did before.

    * And I am very quickly getting sick of Mad Men's silence on race. In fact, it's such an ugly omission in a show about the 60s that I'm thinking it's got to be introduced in the next couple of episodes. There's a lot of potential with Carla and beyond.

    But you know something I really like about myself? I don't really get attached to TV shows. It's such a relief to not feel like I haaave to watch something. I could stop watching Mad Men with this Christmas episode (sidebar: annoyed about Christmas in July. I get it's supposed to be jarring and supposed to move plot along. Still annoyed.). Stop watching and not feel a need to finish.

    Because I could always go back to see what's up with True Blood. :)

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Tea Party and racism?

    The Christian Science Monitor published a piece on the NAACP's resolution denouncing racism in the Tea Party. It's an interesting read but only begins to explore the poll numbers, via a Gallup analysis, and I think there's much more to analyze and research here.

    For example:

    Data from an April University of Washington poll “paint a more complicated picture” of the tea party, according to Schaller (of the political blog Five Thirty Eight).

    This survey found that only 35 percent of tea party adherents rated African-Americans as “hard-working.” Among whites who disapprove of the tea party, the comparable figure was 55 percent.

    Some 45 percent of tea partiers judged African-Americans “intelligent,” according to the University of Washington poll. By comparison, 59 percent of anti-tea party whites viewed African-Americans as intelligent.

    What's shocking to me here is not only the responses of tea partiers, but of white Americans who disapprove of the tea party: 45% of them did NOT respond that African-Americans are hard-working? 41% of them did NOT respond that they view African-Americans as intelligent??

    Are you kidding me? And these are the people who do NOT identify with the tea party. This is gravely, gravely concerning to me.

    In related news, a refreshingly candid and progressive viewpoint on all this: Sally Kohn published a fabulous article in the Huffington Post about this. This is a must-read. Kohn tells it like it is: she calls out Tea Partiers and their bias, as well as providing a great analysis of race and politics. It won't be new to people of color who have been following this stuff, but it's well-said and invigorating. Worth reading.