Thursday, December 31, 2009

these are a few of my favorite things . . .

. . . Ferris Bueller karaoke.

Ferris: Hey, Cameron. You realize if we played by the rules right now we'd be in gym?
Ferris: Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Grace: Oh, he's very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude.

Ferris: [while running home, Ferris runs past two bikini-clad sunbathers, then returns] Hi, how you doing? I'm Ferris Bueller.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

las meninas redux

This photograph reminds me of Velasquez's masterpiece, Las Meninas. Especially the capturing of my grandmother in the mirror. I assume the photo was taken by my grandfather, John Angelo. It's a photo of their first born, John Massimo, my uncle, in his grandfather's apartment on 14th Street, New York City.

Wife of Frank Cosentino with John Massimo Periale, c. 1922

I've always been a huge fan of this painting, but it took special importance to me after reading Foucault's brilliant essay. Foucault, Velasquez and the painterly quality of this photograph rock.

Mirrors, windows and walls.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

the last of the snow . . .

It's almost all gone . . .. . . but more snow is on the forecast for the end of the week.

Just say no, snow.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

king john was not a good man

The actual day may have passed, but I'm still on vacation until after the new year and trying to think of ways to prolong the season (that don't include shopping.) One of my favorite childhood poems by A.A. Milne has a Christmas theme. My mom used to read poems to my brother and me at bedtime from When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, which is where this delightful poem comes from. I loved these then and now can still recite a few lines from memory. I was probably first acquainted with Pooh here, too.


King John was not a good man
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air-
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon . . .
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lot of Christmas cheer,
And fortune in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They'd given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John was not a good man,
He lived his life aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing up the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack:
And signed it not "Johannes R."
But very humbly, "Jack."

I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don't mind oranges, I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!"

King John was not a good man -
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to his room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
Aprey to hopes and fears.
"I think that's him a-coming now."
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
"He'll bring one present, anyhow -
The first I've had for years."

"Forget about the crackers,
and forget about the candy;
I'm sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don't like oranges,
I don't want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father Christmas,
if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!"

King John was not a good man -
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell a waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,
King John said grimly:
"As I feared,
Nothing again for me!"

"I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts.
I haven't got a pocket-knife -
Not one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red, india-rubber ball!"

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all...
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!"


Saturday, December 26, 2009

boxing day

I was thinking about Christmas and its aftermath the other day. I had always heard about Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, but never why it was called that. What did it mean? A little internet research quickly turned up that it was probably British in origin, dating back to the time of Victoria, and, surprisingly (to me) a true expression of the class divide. One explanation from Time magazine:
The day after Christmas was also the traditional day on which the aristocracy distributed presents (boxes) to servants and employees— a sort of institutionalized Christmas bonus party. The servents returned home, opened their boxes, and had a second Christmas on what became known as Boxing Day.
Can you imagine Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, the lord of the manor lining up all his servants in the hall and bestowing gifts upon them? There could be no "gifting up." It was a one-way gift street. And only once a year. It seems after the main event of Christmas Day, when the lord had celebrated with his family, he could then, the day after the actual holiday, share some Christmas cheer with the lower classes. What better way to celebrate the holiday than to deeply underline the us and them by not exchanging gifts, and not gifting on the actual day? Second-class Christmas.

Some organizations are (unconsciously?) perpetuating this divide at their holiday office parties. Upper management serves some punch or eggnog to their staff, all with the intent and forced jollity of the season. But how different is it from the days of the manor house? Employees can't gift up—very bad—that would be the equivalent of brown-nosing. The uppers, by serving their employees, just reinforce the divide between the office tiers. If they really wanted to celebrate the spirit of the season they would be out among their staff, circulating, sharing stories around a horrible fruitcake. Not safely ensconced from all banter behind the eggnog bar. It's difficult to navigate business and social interaction.

Boxing Day, the second day of Christmas (two turtle doves!), is also St. Stephen's Day, and some think that the carol Good King Wenceslas holds a clue:
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?" . . .

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."

. . . Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.
As the ruling classes were less and less (obviously) prominent in society, regular folks could and would bestow a gift or tip to anyone who serves them, such as a paperboy, concierge, etc. I'm not against tipping the doorman, the housekeeper or anyone that has done you a service that you feel could use an extra perk around the holidays. Many of us, myself included, perpetuate this custom, not making the Boxing Day connection.

Today the holiday in the British isles has become an extra day off work, celebrated mostly as a shopping extravaganza, with folks racing to after-holiday sales. Some folks hold football matches or hunts. A few sites say that volunteering at shelters or places in need is also encouraged, but it's hard to determine how much of King Wenceslas remains.

My daughter and I were watching Kit Kittredge: An American Girl the other day and it was interesting to watch how much class played into The Great Depression—something I had never realized, even with my parents' and grandparents' stories of that era. As the heroine's family fortunes decline, she is ridiculed by her classmates, her parents shunned by neighbors—all because of the indignity of a lost job, taking in boarders, and the raising of chickens to sell eggs for profit. Kit gradually accepts her status and sees how little she differs from folks that a few weeks before she might have called tramps or hobos. There is a great scene at the end of the movie where the family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner, sharing the table with some of their hobo friends along with one of the town's prominent businessmen.

This is the message that I'm looking for. Not merely bestowing, but actually sharing. What a thought.

Friday, December 25, 2009

scenes from a Christmas

Cookies for Santa (my personal fave is decapitated alien Teddy.)

O Christmas tree...

Let there be light.

And he, he himself—the Grinch—carved the roast beast.

Aunt Paula's biscuit tortoni.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

santa magic

A recent post by my friend Steven prompted me to write, a la the famous New York Sun editorial response to Virginia, that there is indeed a Santa Claus.

Steven opined that the world is magical enough in a child's eyes that they don't need fictions like Santa to interfere.

The whole world is magical to kids. They want to believe in Santa, Rudolph, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. Kids don't live in a bubble. At five my daughter and her friends are already deeply discussing whether Santa, etc. exists. Some are trying to convince her otherwise, like kids tried back in 1897 to Virginia O'Hanlon. I'm in the he's real camp until she shows signs of not wanting to believe anymore. Kids can be cruel and just plain silly, but the "there is no Santa" schoolyard discussions seem to me less an attempt to blow a hole in the magic bubble, but an attempt to appear smarter, more knowledgeable of the oh-so-attractive grown-up world. Kids, if you only had the merest glimpse of the mundanity of many aspects of what it is to be "grown-up," you'd relax and settle back and bask in fantasies like Santa as long as possible.

I remember coming down on Christmas morning when I was about five and finding a deluxe crayon set in a long flat box with hundreds of crayons in it. It was amazing. The tag said "From Santa" - in my mom's handwriting. I showed it to her and she just smiled back at me. I remember feeling a moment of betrayal, but then it passed. Christmas was still wonderful, as were the crayons. And I wasn't going to blow it for my younger brother, who was glowing as he climbed into the red fire engine that Santa brought him.

Not sure when my brother figured it out. I do remember years later the two of us asking to sleep in the same room on Xmas Eve. My mom said sure. Our master plan was to stay up and either catch Santa (or most likely) my mom in the act of putting out the presents. We were going to bust the myth wide open. We had been searching the house all week for hidden presents and never found any. We fell asleep eventually of course, and the presents were magically there in the morning. Still not sure how mom pulled that one off. It has been suggested that the presents were in the trunk of the car all the time. Very likely. Or that my dad, a notorious Xmas Eve shopper, rolled in with most of the stuff much later that evening. But it's also fun to keep the magic my mom was trying to wield alive, too.

Santa was never used as a serious threat in our house to get good behavior. Folks are kidding themselves if they think that will work. Coal in the stocking? You better watch out—not.

Kids, when they're young, need to compare notes, "fit in" with each other and the world. They get the reality of the dangers of the real world thrown at them constantly through all the rules they have to absorb to learn how to move safely through it. Santa and the few other child fantasy figures are there to add a little extra magic.

And maybe adults perpetuate such stories because they wish they still had some fun things like Rudolph to believe in.

p.s. I'm happy to report that one of my favorite writers, Alexander McCall Smith, also believes in perpetuating myths, as he so wonderfully wrote in the December 13 Parade magazine:
There is a moment in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan when the audience is invited to revive the dying fairy Tinkerbell and told, “If you believe in fairies, clap your hands.” And every time, the theater breaks into sustained applause. That is not to suggest there are theaters full of seriously deluded people. What it does tell us is that there are times when we need to pretend to believe in things we know not to be true. We know that the world is a place of suffering and hardship, and we know, too, that justice and kindness and love and such things will not always prevail against these hard realities. Myths help us to get by. The day they all die and we tell our children exactly how things are, the world will be a poorer, less enchanted place. So don’t be ashamed to clap your hands at Peter Pan or act as if Santa exists. He stands for kindness and generosity, and those things are alive and will continue to be alive—as long as we believe in them.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

gonna fly now

We spent a very enjoyable afternoon at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center. It's an amzing collection of history, design and even human tragedy—a piece of the Hindenburg sits in a display case alongside a china place setting from the doomed airship. But mostly it's an opportunity to look up in wonder. And avoid the crowds at the malls!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

frankly my dear . . .

I just want to state here and now that I have never read the book, so this is a critique solely of the film. I watched part of Gone With the Wind for the umpteenth time the other night and was finally able to say without a shadow of doubt that it is a far from great movie. A phenomenon, for sure. A huge undertaking. But a film classic? Hmmm . . .

GWtW is on many lists as one of the best movies ever made.

Voted the number one movie was CITIZEN KANE, Orson Welles' 1941 classic, which he directed, produced, wrote and starred in at the age of 25. The rest of the top ten, in order, are: CASABLANCA (#2), THE GODFATHER (#3), GONE WITH THE WIND (#4), LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (#5), THE WIZARD OF OZ (#6), THE GRADUATE (#7), ON THE WATERFRONT (#8), SCHINDLER'S LIST (#9) and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (#10).
I actually think #4, GWtW and #5, Lawrence of Arabia are epics and definite must-sees, but both fall short of making it onto my greatest films list. Apart from a few shots of Peter O'Toole in the desert, his eyes the color of the sky and his hair the color of sand and the magnificent score, the rest of the movie is forgotten. There is a difference between a great movie to watch (The Ten Commandments) and whether it also qualifies as a great piece of cinema. At least that's what all those film theory books I read in college said and I agree with. Plus, no Hitchcock in the top ten? Already the list is shot. There are plenty of movies I adore, but only a few of them I think have crossed over into the great art category. Casablanca and Singin' in the Rain definitely.

I am not resistant to all of GWtW's charms. There is an amazing crane shot of Scarlett making her way through the thousands of wounded soldiers. Olivia de Havilland gives a truly great performance as Melanie and is the only reason I have toyed with someday reading the book. Clark Gable is Clark Gable, and that is always a good thing. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Vivien Leigh does the best she can with a truly impossible character, but her beauty and raised eyebrow can only do so much.

Why am I being so resistant to calling GWtW a great film? Because its plot drags it down, down, down. Underneath all the sets and costumes it is the typical Hollywood romance where men and women do or say impossibly dumb things to keep each other apart for the sake of dragging this thing out for hours (and in the case of GWtW, for hours and hours and hours and hours.) I hate that. Don't get me wrong, much of the movie is fun and entertaining. Scarlett's oblivious cruelty. Rhett's amusement at everything she does (before he marries her). Any scene with Olivia de Havilland. Mammy and the red petticoat. "I don't know nuffin' 'bout birfin' no babies!" But there are also all of the horrible plot points that surround these scenes. Scarlett's stupidity about Ashley & Rhett. The fate of Bonnie Blue Butler. Scarlett's fall down the stairs. Yeesh. Leslie Howard has been great in many things, but apart from looking great in A-1 Hollywood lighting, his Ashley Wilkes is insufferable and it's inexplicable why anyone would want him.

So why does GWtW show up so high on that AFI list? I have to go back to phenomenon. GWtW should be remembered for its box-office power and it's sheer length and ambitions. Hattie McDaniel winning an Oscar. The fuss about selecting its leading lady. But all these things can't help it through those painful scenes while you are actually watching it. At least with a television viewing you can get up and walk away through the dull parts. I remember seeing GWtW in a big theater in New York many years ago, thinking that maybe I'd like it more, experiencing it as it was meant to be, rather than cut up by commercials as I had originally seen it as a kid. Nope, the stuff that I listed above was really the stuff that I liked. The stuff I didn't like I really didn't like. And an intermission was very necessary. It was a test of endurance to view the movie in a theater.

Rather than best film, I prefer how TCM is listing it (and other films)—as an influential classic

If one film epitomizes the Hollywood blockbuster, it's
Gone With the Wind. Made in Hollywood's annus mirabilis, 1939, it remains the most popular film of a sterling crop. Not only has it sold more tickets than any other American made film, but with its box-office adjusted for inflation, it remains the highest-grossing film of all time. Something in the tale of the Southern belle fighting to save her beloved Tara has struck a chord for generations of audiences, from the U.S. of World War II to post-war Europe to Japan in the '80s. Scarlett O' Hara has inspired a legion fiery females caught in the sweep of history, like Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain and Kate Winslet in Titanic. Gone With the Wind is the definitive producer's film. David O. Selznick defied conventional wisdom to purchase the rights to Margaret Mitchell's novel, personally supervised every detail of the film and spearheaded three years of publicity to raise public interest to a fever pitch. He spent the rest of his life trying—and failing—to top it. And decades of Hollywood blockbusters have drawn on his work to create and sell romantic dreams writ large on the screen.
So will I ever watch GWtW again? Probably. It's impossible not to enjoy watching Vivien Leigh transform from spoiled brat to strong woman of Tara and back again. At least up until Bonnie Blue takes her fateful ride. But when you ask me to compile my greatest films list you'll see Victor Fleming's other film from 1939, The Wizard of Oz, not GWtW. Clark Gable may turn up via It Happened One Night. Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire. Olivia de Havilland in A Midsummer Night's Dream or maybe The Adventures of Robin Hood. But that's another post, and a very different list.

Monday, December 21, 2009

these are a few of my favorite things . . .

Martin Short in an uncredited role as the perfect Hollywood agent in The Big Picture . . .

Sunday, December 20, 2009

snow, snow, snow, snow . . .snow!

Seems perfect for the blizzard of 2009.

White Christmas is one of my favorite holiday movies. It's corny in parts, And has the classic girl misunderstands boy plot that drives me nuts. But it has some wonderful numbers, courtesy of Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen. My favorite is "Snow." I love how they make the winter scene out of two napkins as they wait for their "snow" cocktails.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"bringing back the 80s"

That's what my daughter said when she saw my new haircut.

And she's right.

I brought some circa 1989 photos with me to the hair salon a block from our house this afternoon where the other night one of the ladies gave my daughter an adorable pixie cut (think Audrey Hepburn meets Leslie Caron, but with dark blonde/light brown hair). I had a different lady today, but she also did wonders and then styled it to match the photo!

Sorry Andre and the fabulous $300 haircut, but the Spanish ladies are the way to go.

Friday, December 18, 2009

i've got a nit to pick . . .

"Gee, your hair looks and smells great! What's your secret?"

"It's my new shampoo. Rid."
What a louse-y day.

Yep, a lice outbreak in the kid's kindergarten. Nothing like lice to make you feel all itchy inside and out. The only upside to this pre-holiday fiasco is that every single child over the course of the week was hit, so there's no stigma attached. The downside is, of course, everything else about it.

I should correct the stigma thing, actually. According to my daughter a few of the kids were pointing fingers and trying to say it was so-and-so's fault. Not nice at all. In fact this crop of kids, different from last year's pre-school, can frequently be not so nice. I'm not sure if it's the start of the teasing cycle for children, or if this is bunch of kids who, when they get together tend to be, well, brats. The teachers have been reinforcing that it is no one's fault. I compared the outbreak to the kids all passing a cold around. Lice are a little like germs, in how they easily move from kid to kid through close contact. It's a pretty good analogy for my daughter to digest, I think. The problem is, that although it will probably take as long to get over lice as it does a cold, lice are way more high maintenance. Fuss and muss and just plain yucky. The life of a parent.

According to my pharmacist Rid is one of his top-sellers. After I had treated my daughter I tried to examine myself (holding two mirrors to no avail) and finally gave up and headed back to the pharmacy to ask him if he would mind checking me out, as I had no one else at home to look, being a single mom. As he took two screwdrivers (the first tools that came to mind?) to part my hair, a man paying for his items looked over and said conversationally, "Lice, huh? We just had to deal with an outbreak at my son's school. Don't forget to check behind the ears." As I said before, the life of a parent.

As I massage tea tree oil conditioner into our hair and comb and comb and comb and comb I think—this too shall pass. Hopefully all the parents are thinking and doing the same. Because it would really be lousy to have to go through all of this again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

dino does rudy

Does anyone have a lazier, more delightful inflection than Dean Martin?

"Poor Rudy"

"Rudy the red-beaked reindeer"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I had the wackiest dream the other night.

I was lying in my bed and I opened my eyes and outside my door, out in the foyer of our apartment, a yellow Kleenex box was floating, even dancing, in the air. I watched it for a while and then figured I better get up and stop that poltergeist.

I felt very blasé about the whole situation. I got up wearily and grabbed the Kleenex box out of the air and turned to put it back where it belonged in the bathroom. But the bathroom door was now closed. I knew I hadn't done that, as I always leave it open with the light on in case my daughter wakes up in the middle of the night. I opened the door and felt a very strong force trying to keep it closed. I pushed back and kept pushing, turning so that my back was against the door. I knew that if I could get it open all the way I would win. I remember how hard the door felt on my back as I pushed and pushed. Gradually I was opening the door wider and wider.

My conscious mind started to take over as I started to worry if we should move—I don't mind a poltergeist, but it probably wouldn't be so great living with one with my daughter. Then I woke up.

Not exactly The Uninvited, but still pretty interesting . . .

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

bobby russell

For some reason I have been having a nostalgia music stream in my head lately. My dad was mostly into opera or classical—he very rarely would listen to pop music. My mom was the one buying Beatles records and bringing "banshee music" in the house. One day out of the blue he went out and bought a record by Bobby Russell, Words, Music, Laughter and Tears. He must have heard one of the songs on the radio and liked it. He (and we) played the hell out of that record. It actually had a few hits on itLittle Green Apples, Honey, (which was made a hit by Bobby Goldsboro.) The song that was playing in my head the other day was his ode to suburbia, 1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero. I actually think this song is probably why he bought the album. Somehow I remember it as being faster-paced. It's funny, how after all these years I still know the lyrics, can still picture my brother and I dancing to it on our 70s golden wall-to-wall carpeting. Good times.

He's the 1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero
'n' you can see him ev'ry weekend with a carfull of kids and snow cones
Durin' Christmas took the kids down to see the floats
When he wanted t'stay home and watch the Baltimore Colts
1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero

Monday, December 14, 2009


Probably one of the most well-known openings in fiction . . .

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.
I recently picked up a low-priced reprint of Rebecca. I had never read it before, but was very familiar with Alfred Hitchcock's wonderful film. I was completely and immediately caught up in the lush language and mise-en-sc√®ne of Manderley and its inhabitants. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its twist—it's a bit more complicated, especially morally, than I expected, even knowing the inevitable outcome. The thriller still managed to thrill.

I couldn't help but wonder as I read Daphne Du Maurier's gothic novel, if today's youth would also allow themselves to become immersed in the atmospheric prose. So much of television dialogue is either grammatically incorrect or just plain snark, it seems. Would a kid, age 12 and above be able to get through that paragraph (lodge-keeper, padlock, the concept of a place like Manderley)?

When I was what is now called a tween I was going through my parents' paperbacks like a house on fireeverything from Agatha Christie to Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury and beyond. Of course I'm no kid now, and it's taken me all this time to run across Rebecca. Maybe I'm worrying unnecessarily. Harry Potter proves that kids have not only intelligence but stamina when it comes to reading a popular series. And J.K. Rowling hasn't dumbed down her prose.

I guess what impressed me most about Rebecca and its no-name heroine was how over-the-top it was in language, plot and drama, while still managing to give the reader a very realistic slice-of-a-very-different-way-of-life. I have always loved old black and white films. People really did live this way. Where the local rich family is thought to be the "head" of the county. Where rituals like tea and dressing for dinner and writing one's letters were the stuff of one's daily existence. Not to mention adultery and murder.

One of the most fun aspects for me in watching films like Hitchcock's Rebecca are the fabulous costumes and how the heroines are always perfectly coifed and put together. I have frequently thought that most women must have become lazy over the years, as no one dresses or grooms themselves like that anymore. But Du Maurier sheds light on the second Mrs. De Winter's life in one quick scene as she marvels during a crisis how the ordinary routines of life continue - the tea table being laid, the tray of cakes and scones, the shoes being set outside the door at night to be polished . . . Of course. Domestic help. Anyone can look perfect if they have someone to polish their shoes each night.

In Rebecca the narrator is always looking in, as the reader is, on a vanished way of life. She watches Maxim De Winter from afar in Monte Carlo, first hearing about him through gossip. After they are married she constantly feels the interloper as she sees traces of Rebecca everywhere - her desk and its accoutrements, her closet and its impeccably kept wardrobe, her dressing table with its immaculate brushes. She is always creating scenes in her imagination of what she thinks has happened, or will happen, as if she is actually a witness, although she is rarely correct or ever allowed to participate. She is a voyeur of her own life, which is why the book leant itself so well to film and undoubtedly why it would have attracted the ultimate voyeur Hitchcock.

If my daughter picks this book up someday and dives in, she will be even a few more steps away from understanding the historical context than I was. But good fiction can still pull you in. And Rebecca is definitely good, haunting, disturbing, enjoyable.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

my little angel

Today my daughter informed me that she made her bed so that I wouldn't have to (!)

She's 5 3/4 going on amazing.

Now that's what I call a Sunday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

what's that smell?

Walking on the street, on the way to school...
What's that smell?

It's poop and popsicles and trash and a dump truck!



Oh, and it's leaves and The Castle and candy canes.


Uh huh...

And some dirt and another popsicle. That's what that smell is.


A peek into schoolyard banter, methinks.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

scrapping over scrapple

My friend Mario shared this link on facebook a while ago (and was re-sharing, so undoubtedly it is making the rounds), but I have been thinking about commenting, and facebook, and the "death" of print recently and wanted to re-re share, with a twist.

The short article recounts how in 1872, a hot letters-to-the-editor debate broke out in the pages of the New York Times over the delights (or horrors, depending on your position) of Scrapple. If you sign up for a free subscription you can read the referenced Times articles, but I also include the original letter from "Epicure" here:

I'm from New Jersey, but I'm not sure I have ever eaten Scrapple, and have probably confused it with head cheese, which seems equally disgusting, but eminently practical and old-world, in its desire to use just about every part of the animal for food, wasting nothing. Epicure not only extolled the economical aspects of making Scrapple, but its delicious taste.

After Epicure wrote his article, the pseudonymous responses flooded in, from readers Porcupine, Physician, and A Good Liver, to name a few. How different is this from blogs or facebook, where folks share an article, an idea, a song, a video and then their friends or audience weighs in, re-shares, flames, or endorses the original digital missive? Humans like to engage in debate, and verbal debates can range from the sublimely witty to the crass and ridiculous. A trend being discussed in blogs lately is whether to ditch the comments option altogether, with the blogger including an email address if a reader has something to say. This idea seems to be promoted by folks who still don't understand what social media or human interaction is about. If you take away the possibility of conversation, why are you bothering to blog at all?

A few years ago you might have heard the lament that email was killing good old-fashioned letter writing. Maybe temporarily, email reigned supreme. But the past few years it has become clear that email is functional and necessary as a tool at work, but for social communication email is a dinosaur, much like the yearly "letter" that people send around the holidays, updating their friends and family on all their exciting accomplishments throughout the year. Who is going to bother to read that? If you really wanted your friends and family to know what your life is like, you'd friend them on facebook or follow them on twitter or update your blog.

But back to the great Scrapple debate of 1872. The letters were written at a time when letter-writing was the primary mode of communication for public debate, apart from the neighborhood soapbox. The world is changing and newsprint is becoming a less-viable medium. But the debate is still raging, and always will. On the internet, on talk shows, through company websites. Everyone has an opinion, and modern-day Porcupines, Physicians, and Epicures can share and open and re-open the debate. Dive in everyone. And to take a twist on McLuhan, it doesn't matter which medium you choose to use. It's the message you want to share. But I'll pass on the Scrapple. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

a day in the life

The other day on the drive to work, a song by Paul McCartney came on and my daughter said, "It's the Beatles!" I told her no, this was a song he did after the band broke up.

"You mean after the others died?"


"Is Ringo still alive? Is he singing on this song?"

"He's alive, but he's not on this song, he has his own band."

"Why did George and John die?"

"Well, George got sick, and John . . ."

"Did he get sick?"

"No, a very bad person hurt him. They shot him."

"Why? Where?"

"It was in New York. Actually the first year I was in college. It was very sad."

"You were there? You saw it?"

"No, but we heard about it. It was very upsetting. It still is."

"How did he shoot him?"

"He was coming out his front door, where he lived, and this person shot at him and unfortunately John was so badly hurt that he died."

"Just like Abraham Lincoln!"

"Yes, but that happened a long, long time ago, here, in DC."

"Here?" We are parking the car now, getting out.

"Yes, just up the street, at Ford's Theater." Walking through the garage, towards the exit.

"Can we take the escalator?"


Elegantly Dressed Wednesday button

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

pie for dinner

Sometimes life just calls for pie for dinner. In this case, one slice of sweet potato, one slice of mince, with a dollop of dulce de leche.
Mom: "Do you want some pie?
Paul: No. Of course I want some pie. I mean right now. I want some pie right now."
from Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Monday, December 07, 2009



It's not that I can't sleep, exactly. It's that I don't want to. There simply are not enough hours in the day for all the things that I want to do.

Play, work, write on the computer. Read. Pluck my eyebrows. Take a call. Make a call. Knit. Worry about loved ones. Plan my future. Change my plans. Try a new recipe. Watch a movie or television show I wouldn't let the kid see. Paint my nails. Scheme new art projects. Finish old art projects. The list goes on and on . . .

I know I need to get more rest. I try to sleep in on weekend mornings. This isn't exactly working. But I'm working on it.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

i ♥ Anish Kapoor

At the Sackler Gallery . . .


Saturday, December 05, 2009

was it just a week ago...

...that the city had such a marvelous riot of color?


Friday, December 04, 2009

fa la la la la, la la la la

Tis the season for holiday music, or I should say, the local station that plays holiday music nonstop. Before you sigh or cringe, remember I'm the mother of an almost six year old and this station is actually occasionally a bright spot in what has been a dark few months.

I'm no fan of the "sappier" holiday songs—take Josh Groban and Celine Dion (they are interchangeable to me), please. What has been the most fun thing about the station this year is how my daughter is listening to the music. Last year whenever Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer or the Sleighbell Song would play she would get excited and bop along to the music. This year she is singing along, in key, and she knows almost all the words. She gets excited if I tell her that Elvis is singing (bless her!).

I couldn't have been prouder the other day when she launched independently into my preferred version of Jingle Bells from my childhood:
Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg
Batmobile lost a wheel and Joker got away!
(alternate verse: and Commissioner broke his leg!)

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Thursday, December 03, 2009

my son the nut

The song Rat Fink popped into my head the other day and I realized that I knew Allan Sherman's parody versions of classic songs better than the originals (in this case, Rag Mop.)

He's probably best known for his classic Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh. My dad used to play his comedy album, My Son the Nut and my brother and I used to sing along and giggle. It was extremely silly and loads of fun. There was also something very Rat Pack and night clubby about it.

I was watching The Cat in the Hat with my daughter the other day and realized that Sherman was the voice of the Cat. There is something so "comedy" about his inflection, even when he is singing. He enunciates. He rocks. Al Yankovic knows who did it first.

Here he is sharing his silliness with Dino and Vic Damone.