Wednesday, May 30, 2012

canonical canon

Here's how the singing in the car went the other day. Click to enlarge.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

the road to amnesia

Let us never forget who Memorial Day memorializes. Tom Englehardt's scathing indictment of our indifferent American decade of war is a must-read. He wraps up with a liturgy of the towns the war dead are from, just this last month. Read every one aloud.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

a conversation about famous persons

"What's a better title for a peppy jazz tune: Nine Ninety-Nine and Sing-Sing, or Truman Capote's Trick Bag?"

"I understand the reference of the first one, but what's the second one mean?"

"Well, it obviously has the same meter as the first one, but it refers to my experience with reading Breakfast at Tiffany's. You know how every reader has at one point had the experience of knowing that the story is going to end simply because you're on the last few pages. It inevitably colors your reading of the story. So you always wonder if there were some way for an author to go around that."

"Oh, yeah; and I hate it when they put the first 10 pages of the author's next story in as a teaser. It ruins it, because I usually try to slow down and savor the final pages of the story, instead of having it end abruptly."

"Exactly. Well, my edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's gave me something similar to that experience. It didn't say anything on the cover or title page or spine about any novella other than Breakfast at Tiffany's. But it included another story by Truman Capote right after it, thus creating the rather disturbing effect of —"

"Wait. Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's?"

"Yes."

"How is that possible?"

"What?"

"Truman Capote the gangster wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's"

"(Laughing) No. Truman Capote the gangster didn't write Breakfast at Tiffany's. Truman Capote the bestselling author of In Cold Blood and ... Breakfast at Tiffany's wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's.

"Wait. I just can't wrap my mind around this. Wasn't Truman Capote the gangster who got jailed for post-office fraud or something?"

"I assume you're not thinking of Bugsy Malone..."

"...no..."

"...or Squeaky Fromme..."

"(Laughing)...no... Wait: Al Capone?"

"Al Capone was indeed a gangster."

"But Truman Capote wasn't? I just can't get over that."

"He wasn't a gangster at all. He was a bestselling author, and he sometimes did cameos in movies, because he was pretty funny. Mainly (pinched voice) becäuse hë tälked lïke thïs."

"Oh, was he the Alfred Hitchcock one?"

"Which Alfred Hitchcock one?"

".... Alfred Hitchcock."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

back off, dingos



Catherine designed this shirt and wore it to our Mother's Day shindig. She figured that she'd just take off her sweater at some point and people would begin noticing and putting two and two together: the famous injunction, the picture of a papa, mama, kid, ... and ... baby!!!

That's right folks. Catherine's pregnant. We're going to have another kid.

The dingos in question, in Catherine's case, take the form of health issues. Her Crohn's condition makes pregnancy difficult, especially because some of the medicines that mitigate it are off-limits for 9 months. She's been having a hard few weeks, so please keep her lifted up in this coming time.

We're going to have another baby! Can't wait to meet it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

on not saying no

I do my very best never to say "no" or "don't" to Greta. Instead, I always try to phrase everything in a positive way. "Don't eat that" becomes "Eat this!" or "Hands to yourself, please," or something else that's a positive instruction rather than a prohibition.

This all started right after Greta was born. I remembered something that Catherine had said about the day care she worked in as a teenager. They were forbidden from saying negative things to the kids; everything had to be positive. Naturally, this gets guffaws from folks who believe that saying "no" to your kids is a necessary part of their upbringing. But before you start thinking that I'm just some lazy parent, or, worse, some pie-in-the-sky hippie who's raising a kid with no boundaries, stop to think that just about everything can be expressed in a positive way.

For instance, I, like other parents, would rather Greta not race out into the street as cars are whizzing by. I've found that the positive command "Greta, STOP!" uttered in a stentorian voice works wonderfully when the moment calls for it. I've also found that, in calmer moments, explaining that "the street is for cars; the sidewalk is for girls" is perfectly understandable and forms a nice rule for a one-year old (soon to be two-year-old) to live by.

If she's on a balcony and begins stepping through the bannister (which could easily accommodate her slipping through and falling 20 feet), I don't have to say "No." I can say "Keep your feet on the floor." If the instruction needs a little more teeth, I can even say, like I said today, "Greta, keep your feet on the floor, or else you'll have to come downstairs."

The life of a kid is bound left, right, top, and bottom. It must be frustrating to be constantly thwarted. One of the great treasures (and terrifying balancing acts) of being an adult is that the artificial boundaries of parental discipline are gone and one is left only with the real boundaries of life and the artificial though hopefully reality-conformed boundaries of self-discipline. As I see it, my job is to help Greta get from one set of boundaries to the other in the smoothest and most logical way possible.

So. Please be nice to other children. Leave your mother alone while she's resting. Come get some milk! Please throw the rock that way. Here comes a car. Wave to the car (so they know you see them). And those, with a thousand others, are just from today. I've found that, whether it makes any difference at all to the girl, this policy makes for a fascinating mental discipline for me. We often wonder how we're shaping our kids; I wonder how my rearing of Greta is shaping me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

here everything's battier

The HEB in my in-laws' neighborhood has had a noisy bird problem for as long as I remember. I'll be dropping by there on the way to or from, and every time I notice the horrible squawking, and think, "Goodness! Can't they do something about that?" I've never been there that it wasn't besieged by birds screeching awfully, and usually nonstop. Several times I've heard something that sounds like a bird is stuck up there and injured badly.

Yesterday was one of those days. It was just terrible. Oppressive! Goodness! Please, please, can't they do something? I stopped Greta and we directed our attention to the rafters above the entrance, looking for the bird in question.

Then I noticed it: the speaker. A single speaker, with bird squawking emanating from it at at least 95 decibels. I finally put it together — the constant, nonstop sound, every single time I visit, no matter what time of day — it's a speaker, no doubt put there to drive away real birds who would gather and poop all over everything and drive customers mad ... by ... squawking loudly.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

new fiona apple

I've always been a fan of Fiona Apple. She's had her ups and downs, but reliably puts out unusual stuff that catches the attention. Her album When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
And he'll win the whole thing 'fore he enters the ring
There's no body to batter when your mind is your might
So when you go solo, you hold your own hand
And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
And if you fall it won't matter, cause you'll know that you're right
might not be her best effort, for instance, but there are some nice moments in there. I'm certainly looking forward to hearing her latest effort, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. It'll be interesting to see how her sound has developed since When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
And he'll win the whole thing 'fore he enters the ring
There's no body to batter when your mind is your might
So when you go solo, you hold your own hand
And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
And if you fall it won't matter, cause you'll know that you're right
, and how The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do stacks up to her best work, which is, in my opinion, Tidal.