27 December 2009

It's Complicated. Maybe It's Even Subversive.

As we were leaving the movie theater after watching It's Complicated, I turned to the mate: Isn't Meryl Streep older than Alec Baldwin? Sure enough: she's 60, he's 51.

This is a very interesting departure from the usual pairing of actors old enough to be the fathers, if not grandfathers, of the young women cast as their romantic interests. Think As Good As It Gets, with Jack Nicholson pursuing Helen Hunt, Manhattan, with Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway. In The Bridges of Madison County, Streep is paired with Clint Eastwood, who is nearly two decades older.

The exception: The Graduate. Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson is the creepy married woman making a pass at Dustin Hoffman's recent college graduate -- but in real life, she was only six years older than he.

26 December 2009

The Guardian's People of the Decade

We're not "post-racial," and we're definitely not "post-feminist" as we end the first decade of the second millennium.

The Guardian's list of the Icons of the Decade includes the founders of Google, the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, President Obama, former UK prime minister Tony Blair, and the soccer mega-star David Beckham, alongside Osama bin Laden and Harry Potter.

The women?

Madeline McCann: a missing child, presumed dead. Carrie Bradshaw: a fictional television character (how about crediting the actress who played the part?). Britney Spears: famed for bad behavior. And finally, Mrs. Obama, as part of a package deal with the President.

Editors of The Guardian, what were you thinking? Were you thinking at all about what this list suggests about your attitudes about the accomplishments of women?

22 December 2009


The tide is high, the water is surprisingly still, and the sun is already sinking behind the highrises at 3:30 in the afternoon. And Blogger won't upload this picture facing the right direction, no matter what I do. Ah well... you'll just have to list to the right in order to look at it.

Great School Nurse

The Offspring's asthma means that he has to go to school sick on a regular basis, because every minor cold triggers the symptoms: difficulty breathing.

The alternative, keeping him home every time his asthma is acting up, would mean he'd be out of school for weeks every winter. Nope. Basically, unless he's throwing up or running a fever, he goes to school.

It's a scary thing. He'll wake up in the night coughing, wheezing, gasping for breath, we give him some medication to open up his airways, and then we send him off to school in the morning. He's never had an attack during the day that was bad enough to take him to the ER (nighttime is a different story), but still.

This year, he has a school nurse who reads email messages first thing in the morning, writes back to let us know that she'll be looking out for him, calls us up just to let us know he's okay, and even tells us how much she likes him.

It's one of those things: you don't realize how tense you've been until it's gone. For years, we've been sending The Offspring to school worried he'll have an asthma attack and no one will notice, or if they do notice, they won't know what to do. Now, suddenly, the tension is gone. He's gonna be okay.

His school nurse is going to make sure of it.

20 December 2009

Do Nothing But Read Day

I just learned that today is Do Nothing But Read Day! So far today, read The Times, went out to check out the snow, made applesauce to go with a last batch of latkes (now known in these parts as "fatkes"), and made and worked mazes with The Offspring. But it's almost time to get back to Reading.

18 December 2009

Interesting Composition

I bought the poster at the British Museum a few years ago while I was living in Cambridge; the Arabic calligraphy reads, "I love the flower that is slow to bloom." My mother contributed the Christmasy greens; in an old pagan ritual she's brought with her from East Prussia, she cuts branches from flowering shrubs and trees on St. Barbara's feast day to bring into the house so they'll bloom at midwinter. The menorahs are both gifts from the other grandparents.

And then I looked at them all together. I guess it sums up my very rambling family tree, though it probably misses a few of the branches.

I was raised more or less without religion, but in a nominally protestant Christian household, and converted to Judaism back in 1990. (Wow ... almost 20 years ago!) My family members include a bunch of WASPs, an Arabic uncle, a handful of African-American cousins and one Catholic one, some evangelical Christians, the occasional atheist, a raft of Germans, and a god-daughter adopted from China. In no particular order.

I've worried about bringing up my son with a strong Jewish identity among that profusion. But yesterday a little friend came over, and asked, "Do you celebrate Christmas?" I pretended not to listen with both ears wide open. His answer. "I celebrate Christmas with my grandparents, because they're Christian, but I'm Jewish."

So far, so good.

15 December 2009

Dear Sen. Liebermann,

You should be ashamed. You're single-handedly blocking true health-care reform and forcing the rest of your erstwhile party to accept a weakened compromise bill. It could be another generation before America once again has the political will to take on this topic. Are you going to be the one who goes down in history as blocking the advance of US health care into the 21st century, along with other developed nations? Are you going to be the one history decries as allowing health care costs to continue to spiral? You should be ashamed.

14 December 2009

Eat Less Meat! (say the Brits)

The Brits have made an official recommendation that people eat less meat and dairy. You can read more about it in The Guardian. They say it will reduce greenhouse gases and make people healthier. (They also recommend cutting back on processed foods, cutting back on waste, and skipping the bottled water.)

Can you imagine the US government making that kind of a recommendation, even though science completely supports it? The meat and dairy lobbyists would go nuts, the lawmakers from the farm states would filibuster, and the beleaguered representative or senator who dared to propose the bill would slink home amidst accusations of socialism, elitism, and anti-Americanism.

What the hell, give it a try. Write your senator (get contact info here) and suggest the US follow Great Britain in making an official recommendation, not just disguised in a nutrition pyramid that puts the steak next to the nuts, that people cut their consumption of meat and dairy products.

Soy how else can you get your protein? you may ask.

Soy has a bad rap, partly because it's used, like corn syrup, in highly refined form in a great many refined foods, and for those who are allergic to soy products, this can be a minefield. But you probably shouldn't be eating those refined foods anyway, and it has more to do with the fat and the salt and the chemical flavorings and preservatives than it does with the soy products. In any case, folks in China and Japan have been eating less processed soy products like tofu and tempeh for millennia.

People also worry that rain forests are getting cut down to grow soybeans. But you're not eating the majority of those soybeans ... the cows are. And it takes ten to fifteen pounds of soy beans and grain, plus gallons of water and untold amounts of antibiotics, to produce a pound of beef. If everyone at those soybeans as soybeans, instead of as beef, you could stop chopping down rainforests today.