Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Random Assortment

~ Rest in peace, Bill.

~ Hotdogs in Zion.

~ The Trump phenomenon: Larger than we expect? Relatedly, I love this Trump 101 syllabus.

~ On family-friendly policies which may benefit men more than women. What to do about this? I'm all for maternal plus paternal leave to encourage father's to share the parenting more equally, and I really do believe it helps (as parenting is both nature and habit). But I'm also for recognizing that pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding do not impact both parents equally. It took me a full year to recover physically and psychologically. While Francisco and I both took a long time to adjust to having a child (and his adjustment period is as legitimate as mine), he didn't have the same physical and psychological response. And I didn't even have a c-section, which would have complicated all of this further.

~ For Ilana: Cities and fonts.

~ Fishing on the Susquehanna (via Hopkins)

by Billy Collins

Related Poem Content Details

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure—if it is a pleasure—
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one—
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table—
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

More Movies

The Final Cut

A film entirely comprised of clips of other films, edited together to form a new one. A meditation on familiar love story tropes, yet with its own story emerging from the pieces. Clever, but Francisco and I agree: It could have been shorter.

The Young Philadelphians

Well, Main Line society is the same as it ever was.

Can't quite recommend it: Paul Newman is a god and the film has its moments, but overall it is pretty predictable and moralistic and drags.

District 9

This was interesting and a little weird--I mean, it's an alien movie, so obviously. It is a thoughtful critique of contemporary culture in general and of South African apartheid and post-apartheid race relations in particular. It considers the tendency to scapegoat and create an out-group and reveals our own tendency to see people in terms of stereotypes.

45 Years

Slow. I guess this was originally a short story and it shows. Maybe it could have been a bit better as a short film.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Zoo

Francisco's mother was visiting, so we all took Chester to the zoo. It was ok, but I won't be rushing out to do that again--too many people, too few naps, too much stimulation.

Plus, you get to see a couple of animals close up and a whole lot more far away and sleeping.

I think this was called a wrinkled hornbill. Great name, right?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Random Assortment

~ On the character who runs the wonderful Capitol Hill Books (via Hopkins)

~ The hidden joy of charity shops (via Francisco)--you didn't have to convince me! But what a great piece.

~ Nick Offerman on father's day. Francisco is right--for me he can do no wrong.

~ "I'm a tremendous believer." --Trump, because that is something you're clearly supposed to brag about. A plea to Evangelicals not to vote for Trump. (And a pull-quote from the always sane Alan Jacobs.)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Basement of the Library

There are two parts of the library--the new part and the old part. Whenever the computer catalog tells me I need a book that starts with "A" through "D," I cringe. That means the old part of the library. Walking through it is like being part of a horror film. Each light flickers on, controlled by motion detectors, just after you walk past. Click, click, click, click, the lights turn on behind you, and you strode, feigning bravery, into the dark.

And after about 30 seconds of browsing through a book, click, the light above you goes out again. You wave your arms furiously, trying to get it to turn back on so you can see, and so that the library monsters don't get you. That doesn't work, so you stand up and walk around and it clicks back on for another precious few seconds. This process is repeated for the duration of your browsing, which you keep as brief as possible for obvious reasons.

Friday, June 17, 2016


We're counting down to our move and squeezing in a few last items on our Philly to-do list. Here are some pictures from the Swedenborgian cathedral.

In addition to being architecturally stunning (and in many ways, traditional), it is theologically fascinating: The Swedenborgians believe that the book of Revelation has already come to pass and Christ has returned for the second time in something like his truth and wisdom (as opposed to his physical body, I think).

Their sacred book is the Old and New Testaments together with "The Writings" (of Swedenborg himself).

The Writings, I think, are believed to give the proper understanding of the Old and New Testaments. (So the key iconography--unlocking the Old and New Testaments--is prominent.) As is the horse, which I take to be a reference to the book of Revelation.

There is a lot of the Old Testament in their stained glass--Aaron is there for instance, and a lot of Hebrew letters, as well as the Star of David in the floor all the way up the main aisle.

The grounds were really lovely, as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


"It is striking that the 'image of God' here refers to the couple, 'male and female'. ... God's transcendence is preserved, yet inasmuch as he is also the Creator, the fruitfulness of the human couple is a living and effective 'image', a visible sign of his creative act." --Amor Letitia, 10

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


We went to Providence to visit Sayers and Mr. Sayers and Baby Sayers before heading further away, where our visits will sadly be even rarer.

While our trip was very quick, we did spend an afternoon walking around Providence's loveliest neighborhood.

Monday, June 13, 2016

More Movies


This Modern-day Lysistrata is set in a Chicago filled with far too many black deaths, which is to say contemporary Chicago. It's quirky as anything--it never would have occurred to me to make that play in verse and as a musical. But the actors really pull it off--it lingers between a rap aesthetic and a prophetic one. And is just as hilariously obscene as the original.

Love and Friendship

So Jane Austen and so Whit Stillman, which is a very charming and funny combination. The guy behind us in the theater kept moaning when absurd things happened, but otherwise it was great. May be my favorite Stillman so far.

I, Robot

Great film--the pure rationality of robots is inferior (and threatens) the spirited, passionate humans, for whom love alters rationality. It deals with the ever-relevant problem of things you've created having power over you. And of course it's ironic that Will Smith himself is technologically augmented. The film tells us something about citizenship and the need to be wary of incursions to our liberty.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Religion, Mr. Darcy, super tough female fighters, and Zombies--what more could one want? Jane Austen is so great that it even sort of works as a zombie movie.

V for Vendetta

Good, not great. Some interesting questions like, What is the difference between terrorism and revolution? But they didn't really sell me on the love story.

Hail, Caesar!

Felt more like a Wes Anderson film then one by the Coen brothers film. Scarlett Johansson and George Clooney play characters that are delightfully out of their wheelhouse. And Christ becomes a proto-communist, but not in a bad way.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

More on Motherhood

Within a week or a month or so (there was no awareness of time at the beginning) of Little Leopard's birth one of my aunts and an acquaintance both said versions of the same thing: Isn't motherhood the best thing ever? Don't you love your child so much?

I think I just looked at them skeptically. Motherhood was not the best thing ever, and I didn't love Little Leopard all that much--I'd just met him and he wasn't exactly the sort of being you could really interact with. He mostly just laid there or cried or grated my nipples until they bled.

Although well-intentioned, it just wasn't a helpful sort of thing to say to a new mother, but I understand now what they were talking about, and why their joy at their own motherhood just couldn't be contained, even around a brand new, struggling mother. I understand now how you can love your child more than you could even imagine. (Stockholm syndrome?) I understand how the love is so great it almost hurts. I understand how the possibility that something bad could ever happen to him is more than you can handle.

I didn't want anything to happen to him when he was a brand new newborn, either, but I think then it was selfishness--I'd grown him in my body and then pushed him out, neither really enjoyable activities, and I wanted a return on my investment.

Now I find every thing about Little Leopard, every development, every cute thing he says, every quirk, utterly irresistible and lovable. I particularly love sharing with him activities I enjoy--mostly eating now, as Little Leopard is limited in his interests at the moment. Francisco doesn't really like popcorn or watermelon, two of my favorite things. Little Leopard excitedly obliges my culinary choices.

And when I'm walking around the neighborhood without him, it doesn't feel right at all--he is my constant conversation partner, with whom I attend to and comment on all methods of transportation. Who am I supposed to converse with when I see a garbage truck or fire engine or motorcycle or airplane and he isn't there? It's disorienting.

So yes, motherhood is the best thing ever. Just don't tell that to a brand new mom.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


When writing about preferring to read according to whimsy, rather than according to a plan, Alan Jacobs writes,

"After all, once upon a time we chose none of our reading: it all came to us unbidden, unanticipated, unknown, and from the hand of someone who loved us." 
Beautiful. Although a small amendment: While I choose what to offer Little Leopard book-wise, he chooses what we read, and most definitely what we re-read.

(From The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction via Ilana, who has also chosen many books for Little Leopard.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Physical Therapy

I have a bad back--the top and the bottom and especially the middle, it's just all bad. From sitting at desks--or worse--couches--and reading and writing for days at a time. I made it through Little Leopards' babyhood in constant fear of my back breaking entirely, with no idea what would become of him. But as Little Leopard gets bigger, that means nearly zero carrying, and what if we become crazy enough to have a second child at some point in the distant future? (Not that it's crazy for anyone to have a second child, but I do think it would be crazy for us to have a second child.)

These are the things that led me into an aging 60s glass box down the street, the room surrounded by a peeling chair rail emblazoned with the business name, a couple of padded boards and many foam rollers and exercise bands of various sizes and shapes and colors. I joined a group of octogenarians recovering from knee surgery and various and sundry others--many of whom were chatty as heck. One woman told whomever would listen stories of how she loved one house (it reminded her of Miracle on 34th Street) and ended up marrying the owner, only to discover upon entering the house a cane, just like in the movie. This particular octogenarian repeated her plan each day to buy a new air conditioner at her place down the shore, where she would be going just before Father's Day, which is the last day you can make improvements to your property. (Is it really possible that the city regulates something like that?) She was as tan as the Donald and had glitter on her shoulders.

You can see that going to physical therapy is something I really looked forward to.

As far as I can tell, all the pushing on my back was helpful. I can tell, because it made my back hurt a lot, and they had to electrocute me at the end to get rid of the pain. I didn't understand what all the pushing was about, and the girl was a very nice physical therapist, but not top-of-the-line at explaining what she was doing to a wondering mind. She mumbled something about spine mobilization. I'm not quite sure why that is important, but I guess it is. I guess slouching down over a book or laptop makes it immobile.

The rest of the visit was just me doing exercises, which I can do nearly as well at home. So I ended physical therapy as soon as I could and am stuck doing these uncomfortable exercises and stretches at home.

I tried a chiropractor for my back just before Little Leopard was born. I wanted a quick fix so it would just stop hurting. My doctor didn't want to give me a referral--he wanted me to see a physical therapist. But I had my mind made up and wrung one out of him.

Well, I didn't like the chiropractor at all--she was chatty, but never really listened to my responses. She wanted to see me 13 times! Not only do I not have time to see a doctor that many times, but $40 copays really add up. I do not believe in giving doctors that much money. (And why is it that we pay oh so much for health insurance and we still have to give doctors that much money?) Plus, after I left her office each day, I was in even more pain than before. I later learned that it has to get worse before it gets better. But she didn't even electrocute me! I was worried I would go into labor just after a chiropractor appointment and I just didn't think I could handle muscle pain and labor simultaneously. So I took Francisco with me so that he could learn some of the massage stuff, which he very reluctantly preformed, and then quit going. She threatened me, claiming that I would return to her with the feeling of a knife stabbing my shoulder, but that never happened and so I won.

For my issues, the physical therapist seems to have done just about everything that the chiropractor did, but also offered exercises, which is a heck of a lot more work, but also seems like a more sustainable solution. So my doctor was right, even though I also quit him, but that was for another problem entirely.

My back is a little stronger and I can hold the kid a little longer, although I just quit physical therapy, and it's already hurting me again.