Saturday, May 28, 2005

i am so discouraged...

If any of these models are even *pregnant*, I'd be surprised. Especially the models in the tankini section, who look like anorexics with a belly strapped on. And check out those prices!!!!

I am thoroughly disgusted and think I am just going to wear my normal, non-maternity tankini with an old oxford on top to cover the belly that shows. So there.

what i did on my, what i got at the library and other eclectic-a

Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger– Nigel Slater
We start today with a foodie book. I have been on a foodie kick lately, and also have been slightly more adventurous in the kitchen than usual. Probably something to do with the fact that I have stopped vomiting 24/7 and no longer gag when merely opening the refrigerator door. This book is not a cookbook; it is a memoir, written in delectable anecdotes, about, mostly, food and the nostalgia certain foods evoke in us. At the same time, Slater tells his boyhood story, about his distant, mercurial father, his sickly mother, his beloved – yet probably pedophilic - gardener. It’s like eating a box of really nice chocolates – you think, “I am only going to eat one more,” and then scarf down every last one in a sitting. “One more story, and then…” and then ninety pages later, you finish the book. I am certainly interested in looking at Appetite, Slater’s new cookbook, but since the Carnegie doesn’t have it yet, I requested this one: Real Fast Food. I like his writing style, and I guess I’ll find out soon enough if I care for his cooking style. I found out about Slater on this blog; this woman is a serious foodie, decent writer, and quite a good photographer, I think. The cookbooks link is here, scroll down to May 17.

All In My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache - Paula Kamen. Because I fear I am one of the Tired Girls (Salon is down for maintenance, I will post the appropriate link when the site is back up). And all the reviews say this is much more than a book about chronic pain.

Crescent – Diana Abu-Jaber. Simply because I loved The Language of Baklava, and need to read more of her stuff.

Kindergarten – Peter Rushforth. Still can’t remember how or why I found this book or wanted to read it. But it looks interesting. I like the author’s name too. Rushforth…it’s so …descriptive….

Dan is totally digging the Jasper Fforde books. We very rarely have any reading material in common, so this is a bit of a pleasant surprise for me. He liked The Eyre Affair enough that the day after he finished it, I went out and bought him the second one because he mentioned he was enjoying it so much. This makes me happy : )I think what might have done the trick was telling him that these books are like Hithchiker's Guide for English majors. And here's a weird thing - he's never read Jane Eyre. (He's a guy, what did I expect?)I tried to think about how that would affect your reading of The Eyre Affair?

Cute Simon story:
At dinner the other night Dan and I were discussing various marriages/couples we knew. I said that my brother had been smart and married money (not that he married FOR money, he definitely married a woman with whom he was and is deeply in love, but nevertheless…). Dan laughed and said he’d married debt, and I corrected him and said actually he’d married into a jump up from trailer park. Then Simon interrupted this and said, “No, Daddy, you married love.” Awwww.

Food Glorious Food, a little kitchen/gourmet shop in my neighborhood, has begun a Saturday morning bakery. Their cream puffs are incredible - real whipped cream, not that nasty yellow custardy filling, and dark chocolate on top. Yum! The blueberry pie is nothing to sneeze at, either, and the Boston cream pie - not one of my favorites normally - is quite nice. God, I love pastry.

This summer we are trying out this farm co-op project where you send the co-op checks and then every week, you go pick up (from a delivery location in your neighborhood) seasonal produce from a local farmer. Yesterday was our first pick-up. Dan was the driving force behind our participation and turns out we are actually splitting the take with neighbors (I’m sorry, Gina, I know you were interested in this too – I wasn’t even aware we’d actually signed up after all until Dan told me Thursday night that I had to go pick the stuff up on Friday!) .

We got:
• dozen baby beets and greens
• handful of asparagus
• medium sized bag of field greens
• medium sized bag of spinach
• dozen eggs
• chunk of raw milk cheddar
• jar blackberry jam

I am not sure how exactly we are splitting the take, or what to do with some of it – I have never cooked a beet in my life. But it should be a good exercise in supporting local organic farming, and trying out new foods. And it turns out we have an excellent city farmers’ market on Mondays in East Liberty. (The Zoo one is good too, but I work most Thursdays.)

This is sort of turning into a book *and* food blog. Fortunately for me, Gina is way cooler about this than our previous blogmates, so I only feel compelled to apologize minimally.

I recently - um, like today - discovered the the word esoteric does not mean what I thought it meant all these years. In fact, it means pretty much the opposite. How embarrassing.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Harry Potter Spoiler?

I won't mention it here in case you really don't want to know, but I am really disappointed to have come across this information. I don't want to know who dies until I read the book, and I don't want to know who the half-blood prince is, either! Can't anything be a surprise anymore? Yes, there's a chance that the information from these bookies doesn't mean anything, but . . .

Thursday, May 26, 2005

is there anything worse?

I was just checking out maternity bathing suits, since I'll probably need something when we go to the shore in the fall. Will it be totally embarrassing if I just hang out on the beach in a t-shirt and shorts? All the swimsuits are really cute and for people who are about six days pregnant and still have skinny legs. I particularly enjoyed the maternity bikini, "perfect for any stage of your pregnancy." Puh-leeze!
And the cutesy copy all about "camouflaging your little bump," "your loveable little bulge," "celebrating your belly," etc. - I am going to be a whale by September, in which case I suppose I'll fit right in in the ocean and all the sea creatures can celebrate my ginormous belly with me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

if it's tuesday it must be belgium

I just reread Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business, since Amazon compared Owen Meany to it, and I had thoroughly enjoyed my rereading of OM. Fifth Business was even better this time around, and that’s saying a lot because Davies is one of my favorite authors based on my first-time readings of his novels. I caught a lot of references that I missed the first time, due in part to both my age, and my experience being broader, I suppose. Or maybe I was just stupider when I was younger.

For example, the protagonist Dunstable Ramsay is involved with several women during the war; he names them: Agnes Day (who yearns to “sacrifice her body and mind to some deserving man’s cause”), Gloria Mundy (the “good-time girl”), and Libby Doe, “who thought sex was the one, great, true, and apostolic key and cure and could not get enough of it.” Clever.

Poking around a bit on the web for info on Davies, I discovered that The Cunning Man, which may very well be my favorite of his novels, was intended to be the second in a so-called Toronto trilogy, Murther and Walking Spirits as the first. I have not yet read Murther…, mostly because I just couldn’t seem to get into it. But now I have a really good reason to pick it up! What a crying shame Davies died before completing the trilogy.

And I also found a review likening Fifth Business to both The Magic Mountain and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, so now I have those to check out:

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt described it in the New York Times as "a marvelously enigmatic novel . . . elegantly written and driven by irresistible narrative. One thinks of The Magic Mountain and The French Lieutenant's Woman….

I started the second in the Deptford trilogy today, The Manticore. I imagine I’ll go right onto the third, World of Wonders, when I am finished that one. Nothing else is really gripping me at the moment.

Gina does have the fourth Y: The Last Man for me, but that’ll occupy me for about an hour.

My brother and his wife sent a belated April birthday package for all of us, and I got Jason Elliot’s An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan. Ever since reading The Kite Runner, I have been interested in reading and learning more about Afghanistan and its history and culture. This was a very good call on the part of my little bro and his wife.


Why does this story amuse me so much? Probably because a ten-year-old and a fifteen-year-old certainly should know better than to let themselves be locked into the trunk of a car, even if their lame-brained mother does not know better than to do it. It's not as if she threw a helpless and defenseless baby and a toddler in there...I also totally think the URL that CNN assigned to the story is hysterical: the “crowded car” part is what slays me. I'm sorry, but I think the whole thing is amusing. I know I am terrible.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Cribbing Ideas from Nick Hornby

This article is part of McSweeney’s series inspired by Nick Hornby’s Songbook, which I liked even though I’d never heard many of the songs he wrote about. I’m quite familiar with Penny Lane, however, despite the fact that—like Lauderdale’s parents—my parents didn’t take too much of an active role in my musical development. I spent hours lying on the living room floor, staring at the cover of Sgt. Pepper while I sang the lyrics I knew by heart, as they’d been so thoughtfully printed up right there. Reading and singing! Woo! I also spent a lot of time with Simon & Garfunkle and CCR.

The article made me think back to my first parent-influenced musical experience: I was four or five years old—we still lived in “the old house”, so I couldn’t have been older than five—and my dad called me into the darkened living room and put a set of gigantic headphones on me. I will never forget my fascination when the sounds of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon seemed to travel though the spiraling wire and chase each other around my head, from ear to ear. It was the bells and clocks at the beginning of Time (which I also remember my dad sneaking into the bedroom he shared with my mom, and blasting it to startle her awake. She’d jump and curse: “Goddammit, Jim!” and I would laugh and laugh).

I didn’t really learn the lyrics until I could read, and I didn’t understand much if anything, but it was all great preparation for spending the latter parts of high school wearing tie-dyed shirts, a frayed denim skirt, and no shoes.

I got over that, but I admit that I was eager to try playing the album as a sound track to a muted Wizard of Oz. I’ll still listen to Dark Side of the Moon every once in a while. I’m sure my dad would cringe if he knew it made me think of him.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

the promised update

I promised the round-up and here it is.

Mysterious Skin - Scott Heim
This book started out fast and compelling; remember, I didn’t want to put it down? But it quickly got tedious. I just couldn’t read one more description of the child molestation and/or gay sex that makes up the impetus of the book, I’m sorry. (My opinion – for what it’s worth - I don’t read romance novels for (among others) similar reasons: no one can write really good/well-written sex scenes because the actual act of sex is inherently silly. Silly body positions, noises, etc. It’s fun and passionate and blah-blah-blah, but it’s pretty silly.) The characters were sympathetic and I wanted to know what happened to them until it turned into a book about, essentially, hustling. I really don’t think I am being simplistic here; it reminded me of Alan Hollinghurst’s Line of Beauty – the writing may have been just fine and the characters interesting, but what they were doing, on and on and on, was sex. I know I sound uptight or prudish; I am not, really. I just think homosexuality is a pretty hot commodity in the lit world right now. And so a lot of the books being recommended have that going for them. It was by no means a bad book; I just got bored.

Emma and Me - Elizabeth Flock
How many books do we need about little poverty-stricken Southern girls being molested and abused by their loser stepfathers while their dull and useless mothers look on and let it happen? Apparently someone thought we needed another. They were wrong.

Noonday Demon - Andrew Solomon
This is the second time I have tried to read this book. The first time I attributed my lack of interest to my mood. This time I readily admit that coming off Mysterious Skin directly influenced my decision to put down this book. When I opened it to leaf through and immediately starting reading about how the author, who is clearly very depressed, goes out and has irresponsible unsafe homosexual sex with anyone he can pick up in order to contract AIDS so he can die, I got thoroughly disgusted and closed it. I admit I’d already had it with the sex; but also, this is just STUPID. There are so many easier and less harmful-to-other-people ways to kill oneself, that I was incredibly pissed off. I have no idea what the man has to say about depression; with thinking like this, I don’t want to know what he has to say.

Ok, so what now? I am halfway through The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber. I loved the characters, especially her father, a Jordanian immigrant who longs for his homeland even though he lives a safer and arguably better life in America. He cooks delicious Middle Eastern food for his family, trying to teach his daughters about their ancestry and his history. Her cool, tall, American mother (who feeds them Velveeta grilled cheese and Fluffernutters); her sisters; her multicultural high school friends with their own crazy pasts and families; and the hordes of eccentric relatives are all detailed beautifully. And the food descriptions made me positively ravenous.

I picked up The Forsyte Saga to bring to work with me today; maybe a classic will snap me out of this reading rut. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try the last Edith Wharton I picked up, Custom of the Country.


This morning I was in the kitchen cleaning up from breakfast. The boys were upstairs playing, Dan was at the gym. I heard him come in, but then he went back out, and I heard him talking to someone. Next thing, I hear the front door slam open – scrabbling claws on hardwood floors – a streak of tan and white as my cat Emmy runs past – and then this gorgeous, enormous, simply magnificent dog runs through my kitchen. I was fully expecting a dog, due to the scrabbling claws – a normal sized dog. This dog was gloriously gigantic, she looked like she should be in a Phillip Pullman novel as someone’s daemon. Turns out her name is Rosie and she belongs to a friend of a friend whom Dan had run into coming home from the gym. He had left the front door open and the dog took off after our cat. No harm done, and I am in love. I am not a dog person by any means, but this dog….man, she took my breath away. I want her to be my daemon, even though a small, sedate, greyish cat who sleeps a lot is much more me.


Note to self: S comes AFTER P and R.

Don't ask.

Friday, May 20, 2005

I got nothing...and so an homage to David the Vacationing One

Why doesn’t McDonald’s put up sun umbrellas over the tables in their Playland?...Of course, why am I feeding my child McDonald’s in the first place?...and why don’t kids ever drink the amount of milk at home (where it’s sorta FREE) that they do when you are somewhere where you have to pay for each teeny-tiny bottle?...I wish they’d move the staplers and hole punch to the other side of the ref desk so I don’t have to look up, smile, and be ready to help every time someone comes to use them, and all for naught…I hate maternity clothes, especially the ones with the little pouch for your belly – what’s wrong with plain elastic waists? ...and in that same vein, I realized today, watching my reflection in the glass doors while approaching the library, that I have my grandmom’s calves. Good Eastern European, sturdy peasant calves that belong by rights in support hose and black lace-ups. You cannot escape heredity, I fear...I’m very hungry and the fruit and yogurt I brought with me isn’t going to do it. I want pizza. Or a Tessaro’s bacon and blue-cheese burger...the boys had a new babysitter this afternoon. Should I be worried? She seemed nice and competent but you never know. I do know this – she is extraordinarily pretty. I give it maybe a few months before Si has a crush on her; after all, she once played Pinocchio in a school play...and speaking of Pinocchio, did anyone else see that episode of The Family Guy? It was SO wrong! But so funny...Everyone else in the neighborhood seems to be concerned with the safety of those little pocket motorcycle drivers. I just want the damn things to be quiet...Ok I feel like a jerk but the new circ person had her iPod set at max volume and I could hear it thirty feet away. So I said something to her boss, so he could handle it as he saw fit. I'm an old fuddy-duddy, but I am so tired of coping with other people's auditory invasion of my personal space...Bill Peduto did not get the nod for mayoral candidate. According to Simon’s 4-year-old political reckonings (and his parents’), this is “sad news.” But the “happy news” is that Kathryn Hens-Greco did get elected to the Court of Common Pleas...speaking of, someone stole our Peduto yard sign...I hate EndNote but I maybe hate Microsoft Word even more, I am not sure...I also hate Raffi. Not that I mind his actual songs, I just really hate the tootling and thpththpthpth sounds he makes between verses...This makes me really, really mad, and it reminds me of my high school. In a similar situation the same thing happened – the girl was expelled, the boy got to graduate. Because you know, women are evil and lead men astray. Just look at Adam and Eve...I’m wondering how David’s relaxation/vacation is going... Hoo, boy! “This is awesome. This is real good.” Please keep this doc working on a simulator baby, I want him NOWHERE near my real infant! How many years of medical school, and he can’t even use correct grammar?...Remember what I said about The Guardian? Start here: it’s addictive. (Although some of these books are not (yet) available in the US.)...and I love this, this is just crazy: Disaster of the Week. I wonder if I can sign up for email updates to go along with my Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Reports?...There's nothing like a little maniacal dancing to Rusted Root to lighten your mood...Happy Star Wars Day, everyone.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

E-Books Rock?

Maybe they do. This article (which I found on a Bookslut link) brings up a lot of good points, like the one about being able to read in bed without a light. One-handed reading is appealing, too. The problem for me, though, isn’t that I feel funny reading something from a computer screen rather than from paper. My problem is that I like collecting the books as objects and being surrounded by them. It might be nice for the books you’d only borrow from the library and then buy if you really loved . . .

Something that really interests me is the possibility of using the device to access magazines. I love the idea of canceling my paper magazine subscriptions and still being able to access them without the burden of needing to sit at a desk.

It feels odd to be writing this—as if I’m in some sort of time warp—but maybe there will be a second wave of e-publishing that will actually take off?


The second Elizabeth George novel was a total disappointment; I skimmed the last hundred pages. The first novel involved Havers and Lynley and the development of their stories and characters, but this one was like Clue: The Novel. There was too much plodding plotting (Spies! Suicides! Murders! Infidelities! ENOUGH!), and I just didn’t care about anyone. I felt like George was using the characters to tell her story, rather than telling the characters’ stories. Blech.

I have a few things waiting for me at East Liberty, a stack of books at home, and some X-Men comics on the way, so I’m not even going to request the third EG book for a while. I’ll read it—I want to read them all because it seems the story gets better and better—and I want to read them all in order. But there’s no law that says I have to tackle them all at once.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bring Out Your Geek!

I asked my Intro to Info Tech prof whether she knew if the symbol on many power buttons is based on the 1s and 0s of digital coding fame, where 1=ON and 0=OFF. She looked at me like I am some sort of freak, which I don’t deny, and then couldn’t give me a real answer.

What do you think? Anyone? Anyone?


I bought tickets for Star Wars, and I'm thrilled about it no matter what the critics have to say. I've always known the movies aren't great cinema, but I love the series anyway. I feel lucky to have been a little kid in 1977. I didn't notice then that the dialog is totally corny--I noticed space heroes and fighting and flying and romance and Harrison Ford. (I did notice recently, however, that Han Solo is still very appealing to me. AND that I am now older than Harrison Ford was when he played Solo. Gulp.)

So Teddy and I will be at the theater Friday at 5:50, popcorn in hand. He'll be thrilled to see the ships and droids and battles and General Grievous. I'll just be thrilled.

Library Haul

Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin. Man, is this author YOUNG! You should see his photo on the back cover. But I made the mistake of picking it up and starting it while I was waiting for the electrician to show up this morning and now I just want to sit and read the whole thing. I can’t – I have too much to do! But I WANT to. And I still might.

Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon, An Atlas of Depression. With the idea of becoming comfortable with your demons.

Lucy - Jamaica Kincaid

Me and Emma – Elizabeth Flock. I forget where this crossed my radar but when I saw it on the New Books shelf, I picked it up.

The Mulberry Empire – Philip Hensher. The Guardian (my new favorite website to check for book reccs) recommended his new one but the Carnegie didn’t have it, and this one is set in Afghanistan, so I picked it up to check out.

I also requested Kindergarten. I can’t remember the author, or even what it’s about, but the people at The Guardian really liked it. Is it any wonder my reading is so scattered? I could spend an afternoon tooling around The Guardian and come away with a six-page list of books I want to read. Dangerous stuff.

I also bought – hey, they were 50 cents a piece! – Into the Wild, so I now own every Jon Krakauer; The Human Stain, Philip Roth; Ice Bound, about the doctor who had to treat her own breast cancer while trapped in an South Pole research station; A Bear Called Paddington, for Simon. My little reading guy. He has recently discovered that AA Milne wrote other stuff than just the Winnie the Pooh books, so I have been required to read over and over Bad King John and The King’s Breakfast (“I just want a bit of butter for the Royal piece of bread!”) and other entertaining poems. Then he goes to bed and pushes up the shade and reads to himself until either his father or I come in and tell him he is going to ruin his eyes and he needs to go to sleep.

I cannot catch a break

Oh great. So not only am I going to give birth to Blinky, but he's going to be a little crack addict too. Look, I am happy to give up alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, sushi, and salami, if that's what it takes for my child to be healthy. I will even give up my Zoloft if I must - the well-being of my baby comes first, regardless of all my flippancy. But with all the pharmaceutical research dollars being spent on things like Viagra and yet another form of birth control for *women*, can someone please engineer an antidepressant that won't make my babe act like a crack baby? Because I really need this stuff to lead a semi-normal life.

What am I going to do right now about this? No idea yet. Again, many health professionals I have consulted have said Zoloft is safe, but were they just talking about birth defects? And the skeptic in me notes that, as far as I can tell, these articles are based on anecdotal and/or cohort studies. Because no pregnant woman is going to volunteer for a controlled trial. (Same reason children's meds aren't as well-researched as adult meds, who wants to expose their children to something they might not need? Unless ABSOLUTELY necessary?)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Saturday, May 14, 2005

friday the 13th followed by saturday the 14th

The other evening at work while I was in the bathroom (since I’m pregnant, I pee approximately every seven minutes), another bathroom user’s cell phone rang – and they *answered* it. I realize I probably have issues, but if I were calling you, I would not want you to interrupt your bodily functions to answer the call. Answer nature’s call first, then call me back. Thank you.


The guys running the circ desk – generally two very competent individuals - could not track down two books that had been held for a patron. Granted, the books were from a different part of the library, and they’d been left on the counter of the person’s desk who had put them “on hold,” rather than on the hold shelves in the circ area, but they were in plain sight. It was so quiet in reference that I volunteered to go look for them upstairs; I found them within minutes. Smack in the middle of the counter by the desk. My only point is this: Is it a male thing? I still don’t get *how* they could have missed them. Gender-based locational disorder? Masculine dyslocatus? Aberrant locus syndrome?


I have to change my email address; or rather I have to notify everyone who emails me (with the exception of the Viagra ad people and the house mortgage people) that my one email is about to expire. This is such a pain. I hate doing it. I should just post the new email here on the blog but those thousands of people who read this everyday – yeah, right, does *anyone* read this? – would spam me. I think I am safe from David and Gina spamming me, though. And they already have my new email anyway.


Simon is obsessed with death and heaven lately. Pretty heavy stuff for a four-year-old, if you ask me. I’d rather he went back to discussing Pittsburgh’s mayoral race (he knows we’re voting Peduto in this house) and how many candidates there are for judge and which we like (Kathryn Hens-Greco, John Pushinsky : good; Tom Flaherty: bad).

“Mom, did you know that Simba’s dad is dead? He’s in heaven, right? Scar killed Simba’s father and then Simba killed Scar. But Scar was bad, so he’s not in heaven.” (This might be understandable if we’d ever let him watch The Lion King, but kids seem to pick up so much just from other kids. Maybe we should just let him watch the movie instead of answering 6 gajillion questions about death. )

“Mom, what’s heaven like? Is it like here except you don’t get sick or die?” Since that’s pretty much my idea of what heaven is, I say yes, but then what do I know? If I am theologically leading my child astray, please, God, forgive me.

“Mom, are Jude and me old enough to get shot? Like if someone like Mark David Chapman had a gun, could he shoot us?” Can we not even think about this? Thank you.

“Mark David Chapman is a very bad man because he shot John Lennon. But not everyone who gets shot dies. John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan and Ronald Reagan didn’t die.” This is true; something to be said for lots of Secret Service agents surrounding you. And John Lennon must’ve forgotten to duck, too.

“John Lennon is dead because he was shot by a bad man who is in prison now for his whole life. George Harrison died from smoking too many cigarettes. And Joe Strummer’s dead, too.” I am going to start making lists of musicians he likes that are still alive. Thank God Jeff Tweedy is still alive. Note to Jeff: Do NOT die. Thank you.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

a prayer for good books

I am halfway through a re-read of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, suggestion courtesy of my friend-who-I-don’t-know-what-to-call-him (do I dare go for the Joe? Will I implode if I call a former teacher by his first name?). It’s been so long since I read Owen Meany that I remember NOTHING about it, so it’s like reading a brand new book that I know I’ll love. Talk about staying in your comfort zone. I was intrigued by the Amazon review comparing it to Robertson Davies’ Deptford trilogy; I count Davies among my favorite authors and have read each of his books several times. Now I need to reread Fifth Business. This pleasant rediscovery of Irving opens up the delightful possibility of re-reads of all the Irving books I’ve read before, loved, and remember nothing about – Hotel New Hampshire (all I recall is some incest, and bears, and circuses – but hey we’re talking John Irving here, so that’s pretty standard); Garp (although I’ve seen the movie – one of the few almost as good as the book it was made from - within the past two years, so I remember a lot of it); Cider House Rules (which I remember simply loving; hopefully it stands up to this memory). I’m so excited! Irving’s more recent stuff – A Widow for One Year, the execrable Fourth Hand – I am not so keen on, but I am going to give Irving’s new one, Until I Find You, due out in July, a shot. (Of course I do have a soft spot for Irving anyway due to his reserving Our Mutual Friend for his deathbed reading. I love anyone whose brain works like that.)
And what’s with this? John Irving has succumbed to the horrible trend of adult authors making children’s/young adult books (and I do remember this part of his adult novel; it was particularly spooky…). I was about to add, “Who’s next, Stephen King?” when I realized that alas, the creepy Kingman already has succumbed. God help us. When Tom Wolfe puts out a children’s book, I’ll have seen everything. If he manages to incorporate the phrase “Peel yo’ scalp” in it, I’ll be mightily impressed. Although I liked Bonfire of the Vanities, I have no use for the strange and creepy Mr. Wolfe. As I mentioned once before, A Man in Full is the only book I have ever thrown away. I was reading it on an airplane, and it was so god-awful that I could not even justify leaving it in the seatback pocket for some poor unsuspecting soul to pick up – it went into a garbage can, to make the world a safer place. Bentley, have you read I Am Charlotte Simmons yet? (President Bush *claims* he has.) Every time I go to the library, walking past that huge ugly volume is like walking past a car wreck – I *have* to look at it and imagine reading it. I can’t just ignore it, much as I’d like to. It holds a bizarre fascination for me. And neatly tying up this entry by coming full circle, apparently John Irving thinks Wolfe sucks too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

blowin' in the wind

What am I reading? Not much. I am somewhat at loose ends.
I started Stalking the Green Fairy, and liked it very much (I have one of Villas' dessert books and use it a lot), but it's not a sit-down-and-read-the-whole-thing sort of book. I picked up Poet of the Appetites and put it down again; same with The Cruelest Miles. I did manage to get most of the way through the new issue of House and Garden. And I just requested a motley assortment of books from the library, inspired by Bookslut, mostly. I have stacks and stacks of books at home, plenty of interesting things to read. My brain is just stalled. I can't even concentrate to read the newspaper everyday; I start getting antsy round about the obits and barely make it through the comics. I hate when this happens.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I'm in Love with an Older Guy

Happy 50th birthday to sweet, sweet Kermit.

I am 34 years old and still cannot hear "It's Not Easy Bein' Green" without crying. Really.

those crazy mamas

Ayelet Waldman’s column on Salon today is about her decision to continue taking the SSRI Celexa during her pregnancy with her fourth child. I know EXACTLY how she feels – I too decided to continue taking the Zoloft that - and I am not speaking melodramatically - changed my life. And so my third child is presently swimming around in a pharmaceutical soup.

Gina warned me that Ayelet’s column today was about this topic; I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it, not knowing if it would make me feel worse or better about my decision. Turns out I feel much, much better. It's not as if I haven't read every single study I could get my hands on, or consulted every medical professional I know. It just helps to know I am not the only one who's made this particular decision in this particular way.

Waldman’s second paragraph beautifully sums up my life pre-Zoloft. I was in constant mood swings, exploding with rage or manic with joy, weeping bitterly or laughing hysterically, screaming for very little reason at my husband and my child or blissfully, deliriously happy…until the next thing that set off the rage. It’s still a minor miracle in my mind that Dan and I did not divorce. I still refuse to accept complete fault, but really, Dan put up with much, much more than any reasonable man should have to. When I finally realized that I could take a medication that would allow me to live life like a normal human being, one who still got upset or angry but was able to temper that sadness and anger with something approaching reasonableness and level-headedness, it was as if the heavens had opened, and a ray of sunlight straight from God beamed down upon me, complete with celestial soundtrack.

I started out on Serzone, which has since been pulled from the market due to several cases of liver failure. My mother died of liver disease but I still continued taking the Serzone I had until my psychiatrist and I figured out an acceptable substitution, which turned out to be the Zoloft. I also am on a much higher dose than most people I know who also take this drug (apparently it is the highest dose you can take before they clap you into the psych ward), but it works for me and I refuse to surrender my life ever again. If I have to take this medication for the rest of my life, I will. I try to view it as akin to the diabetes/insulin link, and no one would suggest discontinuing my insulin dose if I were diabetic.

So I have suppressed my guilt at exposing my third baby to this drug in utero, reasoning that I have two children now who do not deserve to have their lives turned upside down by the Monster Mama that emerges when she is off her meds. My husband has done more than enough in the way of taking care of all of us while I vomited and laid in bed for the first four months of my pregnancy; he doesn’t need to do all this in an atmosphere of anger, screaming, tension, and sadness. So I pray (and that is NOT my usual way) that my new little one is normal; I pray that I have not seriously affected his/her future or development, but I continue to take that magic little pill every morning and night.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

bring on the bacteria burgers!

I’m reading Gina Mallet’s Last Chance to Eat. It won the 2005 James Beard Award for Writing on Food, so I think I expected more.
It’s not riveting, which is what I was hoping for. But it’s interesting enough, sort of a cross between Eric Schlosser and MFK Fisher. And she makes very good points about how people, particularly Americans, are consumed by “food fear.” (Personally speaking, for instance, *why* can’t pregnant women eat sushi? I mean, thousands of Japanese women can’t be wrong, can they? And I happily scarfed down some lovely Camembert last weekend with nary a thought to the fact that I was eating a semi-soft cheese, also a pregnancy no-no.) Mallet deals with some classic food scares, such as the egg/cholesterol freak-out of the eighties, and the E. coli frenzies. She talks about the way cheese production has been industrialized. She addresses the American desire for food to be predictable, for everything to taste alike, like, oh, say, the way all Big Macs taste the same everywhere. The book did make me want to go buy a nice runny Brie and some organic eggs…and risk my health for taste!

So far this season the mighty mountain Sagarmatha (Nepali) / Chomolungma (Tibetan) (Everest to us Americans) has claimed two lives: Canadian Sean Egan died April 29, from an apparent heart attack, and Sunday, May 3, American Michael O’Brien fell while crossing the Khumbu Icefall. A helicopter rescue of two Canadians, two Americans, and a Sherpa took place early this morning, following an avalanche that thundered through Camp 1 Thursday. No one was killed – amazingly – but several climbers were seriously injured. Due to weather conditions, their rescue had to be delayed until this morning. It’s crazy to realize that even now, during prime climbing (pre-monsoon) season, snow and hurricane-force wind storms can sweep the mountain. And here in Pittsburgh we’re just waiting for our frost date…


And making the transition from frivolity and pointless death to something more meaningful:

The campus is hopping – but the library is not - due to graduation. The lots were filling up when I got here this morning, and there are traffic cops everywhere.
Also, apparently there is a protest outside the Palumbo center involving the formation of a student gay and lesbian association. This Post-Gazette article details the ongoing debate, and
this article
by Duquesne student Matthew Pratter is what started the whole thing. I have to say, this is a tough case. Just to set it out there to start, I couldn’t care less who’s gay and who’s not; frankly, I don’t care what goes on between consenting adults as long as I don’t have to hear about it EVER. I don’t want to hear sexual details of anyone’s life – straight, gay, whatever. So…on one hand, it’s a Catholic school, you knew that coming into it, why would you make life harder for yourself as a gay man? Why not go to a public university where no one cares? I understand that there are religious issues, that homosexuals can also be devoutly religious, but just in the interest of self-preservation (or maybe I am just a coward, or not as much of a troublemaker as I like to pride myself on), I would go where it was not even an issue. But, on the other hand, as a religious institution, how about exhibiting some of that Christian love, charity, and acceptance touted by Jesus Christ? You know, “He who is without sin cast the first stone,” or even better, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Jesus welcomed everyone to His fold, not just the purely socially acceptable. Don’t you think it might be worth our while to try to live up to that example, and “live peaceably with all men,” and be tolerant and caring? It could always be you, don’t forget. Just because it’s not, today, just because today it’s the homosexuals, or the Jews, or the Arabs, or the single mothers, or the women, or whomever – tomorrow it could be you. The possibility always makes me remember this little composition I read ages ago somewhere.

Just a one-off:
This picture breaks my heart. Something, *something*, has to be done in the Middle East. But what?

Friday, May 06, 2005

I'm just full of news...

Dan and I experienced one of the perks of being season subscribers to the Pittsburgh Symphony: yesterday afternoon we got a backstage tour of Heinz Hall (kinda old hat to me, the reformed scenic artist, but still fun) and then an open rehearsal of Ives’ The Unanswered Question and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (being performed tonight and Sunday). The conductor is David Robertson, the music director designate of the St Louis Symphony. I really enjoyed watching him conduct – he’s incredibly expressive. He’s also obviously some sort of athlete (I’d guess a runner based on his build) because he never even broke a sweat and he was jumping around like a maniac, especially during the Beethoven. During the tour, he took a few minutes to sit down and talk about the music with us. Incredibly intelligent and well-spoken, he has a down-to-earth demeanor and a quick sense of humor. He really answered the questions asked, didn’t just spew out some rote reply. The music was wonderful, I appreciated the fluidity and slowness of the Ives’ more than the Beethoven – and I have to say I enjoyed the informality and sense of progress and working in the rehearsal much more than I have ever enjoyed a serious, formal performance. But then I’m weird that way, I suppose. I don’t hear the nuances of the music the way many true symphony lovers do, so listening to a working rehearsal opened up the music for me and made it much more accessible to my admittedly tin ear.


I bought Leeway Cottage as threatened in the morning of May 3, the day it was released. And I finished it yesterday. It was good, a bit slow at times, but with really beautifully developed characters and a fascinating historical backdrop of the Danish effort to save the Danish Jews. If you don’t know what I am talking about, here’s the background, from Beth Gutcheon’s homepage:

When you mention the rescue of the Danish Jews to most people, they either look blank, or else reach into some mental corner and say “Oh yes … didn’t the King say the thing about the yellow armbands?” I first heard Victor Borge (I mean, saw him on television) tell the armband story, which goes: the Nazis told the King of Denmark all the Jews must wear yellow armbands, and the King replied, “Very well, but I too will wear a yellow armband and all my people will wear yellow armbands…” That is probably where this part of my new novel started for me. (I would say I was ten at the time.) The story isn’t true, as it turns out, but it’s a great story because it is true in spirit. When you look at Holocaust records of Jewish lives lost, you get numbers like 50,000 from this country, a million from that one … and from Denmark, I think the number is 219, of 7,000 Jews living in Denmark when the war began.

It’s an absolutely incredible story, and it’s always blown me away (and led me to question if I would have the heart and courage to do the same). I just started rereading Rescue in Denmark, Harold Flender’s book about the overall Danish effort to save its Jews, and which I read when I was a teenager (along with the requisite Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place).

But I have to know: Does anyone else ever look around their house and try to figure out where they would hide if the Nazis came looking for them, or where they would hide their friends or whoever was in need? Or am I just a paranoid freak that thrives on melodrama? Here’s my rationale for being a freak: if you think, “It can’t happen here,” let me tell you, my friends, you are absolutely wrong. It can always happen, if people are not diligent and tolerant and strong.


An article on Salon about nannies kinda pissed me off, so I didn’t really read the whole thing. But let me tell you, based on the letters it generated in today’s Salon issue, other people read the whole thing and felt incredibly strongly about it (whereas I just sighed and said, “Whine, whine, whine. Poor rich white baby, wealthy enough to afford a nanny and then pissed off that perhaps your child prefers the nanny…”) So here’s the best letter, expressing exactly what I would’ve if I’d cared enough (although, clearly I care enough to blog about it...):

It seems that if you can afford to hire a live-in nanny, you can damn well afford to stay home and raise your children yourself. They'll be in school and then grown and out of the house in the blink of an eye. No one said it would be easy, raising children. And no one is saying you have to sacrifice yourself to raise them. But you do need to be willing to sacrifice enough of your time to bond with them. So what if the messes don't get miraculously cleaned up?

Right on!

On the other hand, sometimes Salon publishes articles so true to life that they make me laugh so hard I practically fall on the floor, and then they make me cry, like this one by the mother of three sons. For those of you who don’t really know me, it’s highly unlikely this third child will be a girl as my husband’s genetic make-up does not encourage female babies. I fully anticipate another boy come October, and honestly that is just fine with me. If only I could come up with a decent name…


Various blips on my radar:

At lunch pre-symphony I had a very nice chicken pastine soup at Palazzo. But finding a recipe for said soup is proving to be difficult. It seemed pretty straightforward, so I may just experiment.

I was off from work yesterday due to the Feast of the Ascension. I gotta say, working for a Catholic university certainly has its perks.

I never got migraines with my first two pregnancies, and seem to have one twice a week with this one. Some people say it means this one is a girl. Never mind, it just sucks either way, because I can't take a single thing for it. And I thought the vomiting was over.

I *have* to curtail the use of those stupid smiley-face symbols. My natural sarcasm does not always translate to email/blogging, though, so I worry sometimes. But it must stop. They're insipid.

Someone thought it was a good idea to give my children this. I didn't really think about it at the time, until Jude got old enough to lay hands on it. When did "Don't hit your brother in the head!" become, "Don't hit your brother in the head unless it's with this toy that some adult gave you to use!"?

One of the goldfish went to meet his maker yesterday. Couldn't tell which one. Guess we have to go get another? All of 69 cents - could break the bank. Maybe if I spring for the more expensive goldfish, it'll live longer?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Elizabeth George

I finished A Great Deliverance last night, and I have to say I enjoyed it very much, even to the point of getting a little tearful when Havers literally barfed up her story of her brother's death and punishment she doled out to her parents. I love Havers--how can I not love a smart, bitter heroine that's built like a barrel and has bad hair? Seriously! I like Lynley too, the handsome devil.

Now that I've read a few mysteries (The Beekeeper's Apprentice and a few Ayelet Waldmans being the others), I'm going to offer a comparison that some people aren't going to like. Bear with me. These mysteries are, as Val and I have discussed, merely settings in which the novels' characters happen to exist. I would enjoy reading about Havers and Lynley or Holmes and Russell or Juliet Applebaum and her family under any circumstances. Right? They're just cool characters that I'm glad to know.

And you know who else I've always felt that way about? (Here's the part you might not like.) Steven King's characters. Think of Pet Sematary, for instance. I love Louis Creed and his family, and Jud Crandall too. I wish poor Church would never get killed, and I wish that stupid truck wouldn't hit Gage. I love the scene before all the bad stuff happens, when the family is eating a noisy, messy, happy breakfast in their new house. The "horror" is really secondary to me.

So is this a result of the way that I read, or are genre books commonly a contrived set of circumstances in which to set characters who can't seem to be "born" any other way?

Am I asking this right? Do you understand what I mean?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Jennifer, Jason, and the like

This blurb/article in this month's Atlantic is very interesting. See what you think...all I know is Misty and Stephanie never even crossed my radar for this kid...or any other....


INCOME. The name that parents give their child may be a reflection of wealth and cultural sophistication. Here are the leading names for white babies according to income.

1. Alexandra
2. Lauren
3. Katherine
4. Madison
5. Rachel Girls/Low
1. Amber
2. Heather
3. Kayla
4. Stephanie
5. Alyssa
1. Benjamin
2. Samuel
3. Jonathan
4. Alexander
5. Andrew Boys/Low
1. Cody
2. Brandon
3. Anthony
4. Justin
5. Robert

EDUCATION. A baby's name often reflects how much education his or her mother received. Here are the white babies' names associated with the highest and lowest levels of education in their mothers (average years of education in parentheses).

1. Lucienne (16.60)
2. Marie-Claire (16.50)
3. Glynnis (16.40)
4. Adair (16.36)
5. Meira (16.27) Girls/Low
1. Angel (11.38)
2. Heaven (11.46)
3. Misty (11.61)
4. Destiny (11.66)
5. Brenda (11.71)
1. Dov (16.50)
2. Akiva (16.42)
3. Sander (16.29)
4. Yannick (16.20)
5. Sacha (16.18) Boys/Low
1. Ricky (11.55)
2. Joey (11.65)
3. Jessie (11.66)
4. Jimmy (11.66)
5. Billy (11.69)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Best brownies EVER

Melt two squares unsweetened chocolate with a stick of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in 1 cup sugar, two eggs, and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Beat well. Add 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 cup chopped walnuts. Mix till well-combined. Bake in a greased and floured 8" square pan at 325 for 30 minutes.


The first time I made these, I left out the nuts and they were good but they were sludgy. They're better with the nuts, even though I generally don't like nuts in my brownies.

I used Scharffenberger chocolate because I had some sitting around but Baker's is just fine too.

I got this recipe from a Laurie Colwin book, and according to Colwin, it's Katherine Hepburn's recipe. God bless Katherine Hepburn.

They are so good that next time I am going to make a double batch, add coconut and chocolate chips, and bake it in the same size pan, to see if I can replicate Kiva Han's brownies, which are *amazing.* (Apparently their brownies are baked by little old nuns in a church basement somewhere - The Temple of the Crucified One, I think, sounds sort of Orthodox-y. Could this be them? I pictured little old nuns, though...)

Happy May Day...a little late

I had my ultrasound Friday morning. Due to my advanced maternal age (sigh), I got to go to the specialist ultrasound place – essentially this means that you get to pee before you get your ultrasound performed, as opposed to the radiology labs, where they make you lie there with distended belly and even more distended bladder, because apparently the ultrasound images are clearer if a bladder is full. Don’t ask me. But the down side is that at the specialist place, they make you meet with a genetic counselor who ostensibly is supposed to answer any questions you have and track your family’s genetic history – in reality, they scare the piss out of you - in my opinion, largely unnecessarily.

I hate to sound hubristic, or tempt the fates or gods or whatever, but Dan and I always opt out of the optional tests.

The alpha-feta protein test (triple screen) screens for Down’s and neural tube defects (anencephaly, spina bifida). Sounds smart, eh? But the test returns almost a fifty percent *false* positive test result. So then, to prevent the worrying for the next several months, you get an amniocentesis, which in addition to being just scary and uncomfortable, has a 1 in 200 chance of causing miscarriage. So since I faithfully take my prenatal vitamins, meaning I get plenty of folic acid, and since even if the baby had Down’s, we would not terminate the pregnancy, we decided against it. A Level Two ultrasound catches something like 80% of spinal issues and 30-40% of Down’s, and so I guess we are willing to live with the risk. I feel like perhaps I am being irresponsible, but I really am not – I take good care of myself, I have excellent prenatal care, and while I appreciate the doctors watching out for me, I’d prefer not to be scared witless by the genetic counselor. When I had my genetic counseling and ultrasound with Jude, I was in tears. This time I was prepared for her spiel, and tried to be polite but firm.

The good news is that the baby seems just fine, s/he is the right size for my dates, and s/he has all ten fingers/toes, and other required organs. The ultrasound tech said she could tell the sex, but I did not want to know – reminds me of that Simpsons’ episode:

Homer: It’s a boy! And what a boy!
Doctor: Homer, that’s the umbilical cord.


I finished Tony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential last night and started re-reading (not that I remember much of the first reading) A Prayer for Owen Meany. I also simultaneously began The Cruelest Miles, about the sled dogs getting the diphtheria vaccine to Nome, Alaska. Both of which will get dropped as soon as I get my hands on the new Beth Gutcheon, Leeway Cottage (whose plot line, for some reason, reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle’s The Small Rain), due out tomorrow. I don’t work tomorrow until 2 pm so I plan to be at B&N in the morning.


Dan has turned me to the dark side – I am actually looking forward to watching some Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes tonight. I hated that stupid show and that horrible little weaselly man when I first saw it, and now I think it’s hilarious. How did this happen to me?!


Nick Hornby has a new book coming out on June 2!

I'm Not Projecting

Here's what Sam Rockwell has to say about it:

Sam Rockwell on Making Zaphod Beeblebrox Likeable in Hitchhiker's Guide: “Garth was really getting back to what the book tells you about Zaphod is that he’s really like this guy, you can’t tell if he’s a genius or a moron. And he’s really likeable. He’s got to be likeable. So we took from all these sort of American icons, Elvis, Bill Clinton, even George W. Bush. There’s a certain reason why he’s in office. Freddy Mercury a little bit. And we had to make this guy, like he’s like a rock star. He’s a little Brad Pitt. A little Han Solo.”

Okay, so all I noticed was the GWB . . .

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Is there another word in the English language that has a double-h like that? It bugs me.

I can remember very vividly standing in the Diamond Pharmacy in Mt. Pleasant, scowling at the paperback cover of HHGttG.

I was probably ten or eleven years old, and I saw that curvy, pseudo-50s font and the planet with its tongue sticking out, and I dismissed the book right then and there among the generic greeting cards and enema bags as whimsical hippy dippy clap-trap. Really. I was rather a sanctimonious little cow for a while, I confess, and I’m sure no one was more hurt by that than me: I’ve never read HHGttG.

I did see the movie, though, on Friday night. Teddy was interested, and I figured it would be worth checking out.

Here’s the thing: I think the story really IS whimsical hippy dippy clap-trap—but in a good way! It’s charming and funny and hopeful, and I’m so glad I got to know it.

Although I haven’t yet found anyone else who thinks as I do that Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of Beeblebrox was based on GWB. It seems so obvious to me: the swagger, the accent, the squinty eyes, the general dimness and sense of entitlement . . . and yet I haven’t read/heard anyone else say they noticed it.

Anyway, I give two thumbs up to this sweet, happy movie.

You really shouldn’t judge books by their covers, you know.