Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Imminent Blackout

But first, an Electric Company update. I gave M. the DVDs for her birthday and watched the first two episodes with the kids tonight. They are still good. I particularly enjoyed Skip Hinnant's throwaway patter during the Fargo North Decoder skit: I remember when I first encountered Woody Allen feeling slight deja vu, and I don't know whose work owes whose, but the resonance is there. The "Giggles/goggles" sketch made me (and the children) laugh out loud. Easy Reader is so 70s. I had forgotten, but was able to sing along with, the punctuation song ("punc, punc, punc, punc!tuation...")

Ah, there's so much more but I'll leave it at that. Except to suggest an even more retro approbative term for ergo's vocabulary: groovy.

And to say au revoir, mes amies. For the next six weeks, I am only allowed to compute for novel-writing and essential e-mail communication. No Wikipedia, no blogs. No IMDB, no TWOP. No online TV guide listings because no TV. No online shopping. No google-stalking. No googling of any kind. No beer googling--you mean beer goggling...

Gorge on Chocolate, for tomorrow Lent begins

Eating chocolate can halve risk of death by heart disease, says study

I'm waiting for the one that says 35-year-old women who eat at least one Cadbury cream egg per day experience significant mental health benefits.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm Satisfied

You Are Rowlf the Dog

Mellow and serious, you enjoy time alone cultivating your talents.
You're a cool dog, and you always present a relaxed vibe.
A talented pianist, you can play almost anything - especially songs by Beethoven.
"My bark is worse than my bite, and my piano playing beats 'em both."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Biannual Political Post

I'm going nuts over this ports deal.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


On Saturday, not-so-little-R. and I set off for the NJ State Police Museum in West Trenton, in preparation for an oral report he has to do on March 7. As you might notice, it doesn't tell you on the website, nor did they tell me on the phone when I called and asked, but they're closed on the Saturday of a holiday weekend.

So not-so-little-R. and I went to Princeton instead. We might have spent many happy hours there had it not been so very, very, very cold. It was so cold that all we could say to each other as we walked around town and campus was, "I am so cold." "Me too." So we just went to the Hans Christian Andersen exhibit and then had lunch at The Annex. This was the first serendipitous instance, because we learned that The Annex is about to close, redecorate, and open under a new name--Sotto Ristorante. It was the last meal that any member of the extended MomVee family will have at The Annex--at least in its current incarnation.

Then we stopped into Micawber Books, as a result of its powerful magnetic pull. The customary persual of the poetry shelves yielded this jackpot:
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Yes, just like this, complete with dust jacket. Thirteenth edition, but we don't concern ourselves much with editions. It's the vintageness of the thing. So I brought it tenderly, lovingly up to the counter and the proprietress said, "Um, wow. This is really great." "Yes," I said, "I have quite a collection of vintage Millays and I've found nearly all of them here, over the years." "I...uh...didn't know we had this," she said. I became terribly afraid that she would not let me buy it, and extremely glad that the price was already written inside.

We're all home now--me, not-so-little-R. and the book. Nice and warm, too.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Raise Your Hand

Anyone else here who thought Lawrence Ferlinghetti was dead?

Music Rec

The Because of Winn-Dixie soundtrack. The movie is good, too, but I watched it in the company of three appreciative children, so I don't know how it would fly solo. I can wholeheartedly recommend the soundtrack, which features the Be Good Tanyas, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, the Finn Brothers, and Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer.

I happened to mention how good it was to R., and he promptly got it for me for Valentine's Day. Along with the CD, I got an even more awesome present: the acknowledgment that maybe I have a point about this whole listening thing.

"...so I was looking for it and thinking, it has the name of a supermarket in the title, but what supermarket?..."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Coolest Picture Ever

I may actually manage to scan the image at some point and share it online, but here is a painfully laborious description of the photo my parents' brought back from my"great godmother," M.'s condo in Florida:

The photo itself is about 6x8 inches, sepia tone of course. It depicts an old woman--most likely M.'s Danish grandmother, but possibly her Norwegian one--seated in the far corner of a room. She is the classic stereotypical grandmother of much of the last century, with kerchief, long apron, spectacles, and some knitting held in her lap. The room is a treasure trove of information about interiors in late-19th century rural scandinavia. As my mother said, it explains so much about how my great-grandmother's room--her "mother-in-law suite" in my grandparents' house--was laid out and decorated.

On the left-hand side of the room is a wooden settle, and in front of it a table--not coffee table height, but the height of a "sofa table" one now finds most often behind a sofa. You can tell by the depressions made by the legs of this table that the room has a dirt floor. on the table is a silver bowl filled with a bouquet of fresh wildflowers and greens. Against the wall in the back corner is another table, and on it are ranged family photographs with a row of daisy heads placed in front of them. On the wall above the table hang more photographs, including two more tantalizing room-portraits. Above that are two framed, same size pictures of Mary and Jesus crowned with thorns. To the right, a huge wooden armoire. To the right of that, the grandmother seated in a straight-back chair against the wall--behind her is what seems to be a window, but heavily curtained, valanced and fringed. On the right hand wall is another piece of furniture, somewhat like a Welsh dresser but somewhat narrower and with doors at top and bottom. The bowed top of this piece is covered with a scarf, and five teacups parade up one side and down the other. The counter-level shelf is also strewn with fresh flowers. At the very right of the picture is a sliver of what looks like a samovar.

I'm telling this all from memory, and leaving out a lot, because I haven't yet gotten up the nerve to ask my mother if I should take charge of getting this picture scanned and/or copied. For those of you who are still awake, thank you for humoring me. I love this stuff.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Heart-Meltingly Cute

I just found a card in S.'s backpack that reads:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
you are the most Butilful girl on earth.

It's signed, but I'll protect the little dude's privacy.

Happy Valentine's Day

Loving you less than life, a little less
Than bitter-sweet upon a broken wall
Or bush-wood smoke in autumn, I confess
I cannot swear I love you not at all.
For there is that about you in this light--
A yellow darkness, sinister of rain--
Which sturdily recalls my stubborn sight
To dwell on you, and dwell on you again.
And I am made aware of many a week
I shall consume, remembering in what way
Your brown hair grows about your brow and cheek,
And what divine absurdities you say:
Till all the world, and I, and surely you,
Will know I love you, whether or not I do.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

To hear it set to music, go here.

And for the more cynical among you, I have this bizarre product. You truly cannot make this stuff up.

Monday, February 13, 2006

One-Time-Only Offer

I have an RSS feed. The bad news is I can't figure out how to add it to my template. So here's the feed, and if you're reading before it gets bumped off the page, you can grab it and add it to your Google personalized home page, a pleasure I can't recommend highly enough.


Getting You Where You Live

A while back, I read a thought-provoking piece about old houses and the stories they tell. Among other things, it notes that large families used to live in relatively small spaces:

Because they had so little space, children and parents alike learned what it meant to share. They loved through compromise and sacrifice. Someone once told me that the breakdown of the modern family began with the introduction of the second bathroom. I’m not so sure they’re wrong.

If that's true, my family is being lovingly preserved by our house, which has only one full bath. We have four bedrooms, but one is very small (and is designated "storage" on the original house plan. At least they added windows.) That room accomodates R.'s desk, a futon for guests, and nothing else. The girls share a room, not-so-little R. has a room, R. and I have a room.

Sarah Susanka's Not-So-Big-House franchise posits that we are making a mistake in building bigger and bigger houses--"McMansions"--in our search for the perfect house. She designs smaller houses with beautiful details and thoughtful design that makes efficient and abundant use of every room (they often end up costing the same as a McMansion but without the hollow doors and soulless corners of those structures). One key feature is an "away space" that is small but somehow separated from the living or family room, where people can go to read or watch TV. R. and I were pleased when we bought our house and read Susanka's book at roughly the same time, because our 1927-vintage house fulfilled this aspect of her design and others--built-ins, nooks, fine materials and well-crafted details.

I love my house like a member of the family--in fact, just like that, like a child, because first I loved it just because it was mine, and later because I got to know its lovable qualities. At the same time I get constant messages from extended family, from TV, from magazines, from friends, from "society" and my own unconscious, that my house is not enough. That it will be torture to have only one full bath when the kids are teenagers, that it is not fair to make S. and M. share a room, we should finish the attic, shop for a bigger house, bump out the back, knock out the wall between the kitchen and the dining room...there's too much baggage here for one past, because as my title implies, homes are by nature a sensitive subject.

What I'm really thinking and wondering about today is why some people have more ability than others to buck the social prescription for what home should be--where it is, how big it is, how it's decorated, what the yard looks like. Is it because R. and I are both oldest children that the ghosts of our parents' opinion have haunted us every time we chose a place to live?

Friday, February 10, 2006


I'm not really inspired to post again, but I didn't want to leave that last, sad one hanging at the top anymore.

What's new here? Well, I tackled the 12 years of snapshots and actually managed to get them into albums, sorted chronologically and/or disposed of through Christmas 2002.

Tomorrow night we're having the first of what I hope will be many monthly meetings of the "St. Cecilia Society," dedicated to potluck dinners and family music-making. This means, of course, that I am in an angry, anxious panic about my dirty messy house and whether we will have enough food.

So did I start cleaning, grocery-shopping and cooking? No, fools, I spent an hour laying out and printing an elaborate lyrics booklet complete with cover art. I actually do feel a little better.

My mother had an excellent question, which I will pose to my two readers:
Why are people suddenly so enamored of stories about spelling bees, when at the same time they don't even try to spell anything right?

I myself am particularly concerned about the apostrophe problem, which in my opinion has reached epidemic proportions. It is so consistently inserted where it should not be, and left out where it should, it really makes me wonder if people are doing it on purpose.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In The Midst of Life...

...we are in death.

I am reeling, bewildered, at what life has handed us in the past two weeks.

On January 28th the phone rang. It was a college friend calling to tell us that he had flown out to San Francisco to be with another college friend who was in intensive care. On a respirator, on dialysis. In a coma. All of this because of his leukemia, which had been diagnosed--when? I'm still not clear on that. Certainly not more than a week before. Every day we got updates, some better, some worse; by February 3rd he was dead. Gone. This post will be absolutely riddled with cliche from this point forward but it's the only language at my disposal right now.

I can't share his name or many details because I want to protect his privacy. I will only say that it is incomprehensible that someone who was, at every moment I knew him, so full of life, can be dead. That someone so dear, so sweet, should have to leave the world at 34. That someone who was so loving to my children will never have children of his own. That he will never grow old. That I will never see him again.

And as if that weren't enough, last night I got a call from my father. My last living grandparent--my maternal grandmother--died almost ten years ago; but my family had one remaining link to the great-grandparent generation, my father's godmother. She was no relation, but our families have been friends for nearly a century (her father was best friends with my great-great-uncle). Daddy called me around eight to tell me she was in the hospital, and around 8:30 to tell me she was gone.

Now, this is the opposite case: someone who got to live a long, full life and died the kind of death I'm sure she would have wished for--peaceful and quick, with all her faculties intact up to the end.

But I'll be damned if I understand why anyone ever has to die. And why I have to mourn two people I loved in the same horrible February.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Three Degrees of Separation

From me to Wendy Wasserstein. Wendy Wasserstein studied with Israel Horovitz at CCNY. When I was in graduate school I had a brief career as a nanny. One day I took my young charge to her recorder lesson and a little blonde girl in the waiting room began to chat me up. "My nanny has those same boots!" she said. (They were bright green cowboy boots. I miss them.*) "My name is Hannah!** My daddy is a playwright!"
"Really, what's your daddy's name?"
"Israel Horovitz."

*When I told my parents this story I added, "But her nanny probably didn't get the boots at Pants Place." My mother laughed.
"Was that the name of the store on Bank Street in the Village?" my father asked.
"No, it was on Broad Street in Red Bank," I answered.
He turned to my mother: "Then where did I get those velour bell bottoms?"
"I think that was in an alternate universe," I suggested when I regained my power of speech.

**The IMDB bio refers to "unemployed 13-year-old twins Hannah and Oliver Horovitz," but they must be more than 13 now.

Hey You Guys!

I am so ordering Best Of The Electric Company on DVD. And then I'm giving it to M. for her birthday, because she isn't old enough to know what she wants anyway.

Thanks to Bookslut for the heads up.

Warning: Child Anecdote

M, S and I are in the car.

M: Mommy, are mouses very small?
MV, employing the universally agreed-upon technique in language pedagogy, gentle correction by example: Yes, M, mice are very small.
M: Thank you, but I was asking about mouses.
S takes over: M, there's no such thing as mouses. When you're talking about more than one mouse, you say mice. That's just the word, that's the way it is.
A long silence
M: Is there such a thing as "rats"?