Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Random Assortment

~ I think this exhibit of "Art from the Holocaust" answers Adorno's question about art after the Holocaust.

~ There's always more on TSE:

Crawford records with subtle sympathy Eliot’s failed love for his Boston contemporary Emily Hale, “intelligent, vulnerable, strictly brought up and defensively ‘proper.’” Eliot was devastated when he made his feelings clear and she gave him no possibility of hope—although in fact she was secretly in love with him, and remained so all her life. Eliot seems to have addressed her, also secretly, in lines in The Waste Land that recalled his inner surrender to her: “My friend, blood shaking my heart/The awful daring of a moment’s surrender…” The notes in the new Poems of T.S. Eliot record Eliot’s correction of a French translation from “Mon ami” to “Mon amie,” triple-underlining the feminizing “e.”

~ Also TSE on detective fiction.

~ Oh no.

~ This aptly describes Trump as "a famous political performance artist." This is great, too: 
The aircraft’s thick door popped open and the candidate appeared. Trump was wearing a shiny blue tie, and from a distance his head looked like a pumpkin-colored balloon on a blue string descending to earth.
~ To remember for our next trip to London (which is only a dream, not an actual plan).

~ On getting rid of mosquitoes:

 A determined American doctor named Fred L. Soper eradicated a malaria-carrying mosquito in Brazil in the 1930s, even before the widespread use of DDT. And dengue-carrying mosquitoes were eradicated in 18 Latin American countries from 1947 to 1962, Dr. Hotez said.
But Dr. Soper was a fanatic, making sure every house was thoroughly inspected and all standing water removed. In Brazil, he was backed by the government, which made it a crime to deny entry to an inspector. According to a profile of him in The New Yorker, Dr. Soper used to say that mosquito eradication was impossible in a democracy.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

More Movies

The Martian

Not at all impressed. A not-true-life version of Apollo 13 (which was impressive exactly because it really happened). I know hardly anything about Mars, so as far as I'm concerned the whole thing was a far-out fantasy.


Not a movie, but a BBC psychological crime drama miniseries. Really good and deals with mental illness.

Love and Mercy

This was really good, although very emotional. Fame, disability, care.

Blow Out

We've begun Francisco's philly movie series and Blow Out was great, if a bit of a horror film (I've never seen a horror film, so I'm not one to judge, but it seemed horror-ish to me). Philadelphia is one of the characters of the film, from Reading Terminal Market to Penn's Landing to City Hall to 30th Street Station. It is beautifully shot, perhaps the scenes at 30th especially so (they've made me look at the station in a new way). And Philly isn't just a pretty face--its celebration of liberty. The historical situation of liberty throws the question of whether we are still free and self-ruling and what must be done to maintain that freedom into stark relief. In that sense, John Travolta is the real citizen, the modern day Socrates pursuing the truth. (I'm overselling it a lot--it's just an action film, not really philosophical at all.) But Travolta is spirited!

I've been thinking more about 30th Street Station. It's well done and grand, but it's also cold and angular and too big--people walk like ants around its floor. Everything is flat and square, even almost the columns. There is just corner upon corner. And the marble--so impersonal and cool. I wonder if that's why it works especially well in Blow Out and The Witness as sites of crimes--it's a little like a parking garage, which is always the site of a crime, perhaps quintessentially in Pelican Brief. 

Oh my goodness, I sobbed the whole way through A Brilliant Young Mind. Since I've become a mother, I can't watch anything about mothers and fathers and sons without using a whole box of tissues. I've gone to mush. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Nylons and velcro baby shoes (and velcro baby coats) are a terrible match.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


15 months 

Baby Leopard recently figured out how to whine on command. He says, "Ma ma" and scrunches his face up and uses a whiny voice. 

He's learned to climb up on a chair and he loves to climb up and read his books, especially when Daddy is also up there reading. 

16 months

He's trying out tons of new words--"toes" and "for" (fork) and "tr" (Christmas tree) and just generally communicating more complex ideas, like "I don't like being in the car" and "why aren't the trains in this box?" That takes a mother's translation powers, of course, and mostly includes crying. 

He understands "two"--he picks up a second car or a second Elmo or a second dog and says, "two." He's basically brilliant. 

This phase is already almost over but I'd forgotten to record it: He has for a while been saying, "Dubaji" and scrunching his face up and smiling. It is more like, "du du du du duba duba dubaji." And it's hilarious. It's his happy word and me saying it can put him into a good mood so that he's starts saying it and smiling. Or sometimes he just starts saying it on his own when he's happy. Anyway, I think I've butchered that explanation. But we don't know what the word means, just that it's a happy, silly expression. (And what I wouldn't give to have an interpretation!)

We're experiencing leaps and bounds in communication: He tells us to "do den" when the book is finished. We can have whole conversations, like: 

     Me: "What are these?"
     Baby Leopard: "Elbows!"
     Me: "How many?"
     Baby Leopard: "Two!"

(Of course, any more than one is two. Which is to say, three, four, and five, are also two. But still: incredible!) And he can read the whole title to "Moo Baa La La La."

(I will say it is pretty difficult for me to handle when he calls something the wrong name persistently. For instance, all spoons and forks are called, "for." I've told him, "No, this one's a spoon" about a thousand times. And for one day he did call it a spoon. Then he reverted to "for." It's basically infuriating.)

He also asks sometimes for "Elmo mo" (Elmo's world) which his father sometimes gives in and gives him (in extenuating circumstances) and I for the record, dear internet, do not. Except for once on a plane and once in a car.

Today I also ni-ni-ed various cars and fire engines from Baby Leopard's collection, something I never would have imagined doing. But, hey, we're breastfeeding positive around here. And we have no plan for weaning. 

But we do need a plan for potty-training, which right now involves Baby Leopard sitting on his little kid potty in the bathroom with his diaper on. But on the plus side, he's pretty excited about that activity. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Random Assortment

~ Obama on Eliot.

~ Excellent collection of Philly public clocks (via Francisco).

~ What would Tocqueville say??!

But in northern Maine, as operating costs have increased, the economy has stagnated and the population has aged and dwindled, a handful of struggling towns have pursued the unusual process of eliminating local government entirely.

~ Airing Merton's Laundry.

~ "Most obnoxious article I've ever read" may be an exaggeration, but let me just say, this is not everyone's experience.

1. Sleep better? What a joke. The last 16 months I've woken up two-three times every night. I never ever woke up at night before.

2. I don't even have time or energy for even short workouts. In fact, I've been hoping for some time to get started with a new exercise regime since Thanksgiving.

3. Cutting the fat means cutting the fun (or a lot of the stuff that you do for yourself). I love having a beer with my colleagues after work and that's hard to do anymore.

4. I go on far fewer quality dates than I used to. Poor Francisco and I sometimes only have energy to fall onto the couch in the evening.

Not to be Debby Downer, but those comments from expectant mothers who are excited about the new productivity that motherhood will lead to are just sad. Someone should tell them that this is only one woman's experience and it almost certainly isn't about the first year of motherhood, when spending all of your time putting a baby to sleep and then waking him up to eat leaves little time or energy for anything else. (It's also particularly punishing if you're someone who delights in getting things done and checking things off lists; at least for me, the first year was a practice in just being in the moment.)

That's not to say that there isn't anything true in what she writes--I've had to get more stuff done in less time and so have become more effective with time management. It's just to say that, for me, this whole experience of time management hasn't been as thrillingly exciting and fruitful as it has for her. (Although I love my son and wouldn't trade him for anything. But that doesn't mean that motherhood is one giant celebration of happiness.)

~ I want to be friends with Alan Jacobs (seriously: if you're reading this, and ever visit Philly, please let me know):

What Payne says is that it is good when a person gives “care and comfort” to someone he or she loves in that person’s time of suffering. Good for the person giving the care, and good for the person receiving it. And having cared for my wife through a long and difficult (though not mortal, thanks be to God!) illness, I can testify — and she can testify — that this is true, as long as the care is both given and received graciously.
This post struck me because in the last week or so of my grandfather's life, when he was almost entirely out of it with medications and the dying process, I wondered what's so wrong with assisted suicide. But Jacobs (and the man he's referring to) capture something here: the importance of care, both the giving and receiving of care. In fact, at the funeral, my grandmother expressed her gratefulness for the last month of my grandfather's life, when, she said, she was able to read to him and sit by him and hold his hand.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Hard Problem

Thanks to Ilana's stellar babysitting skills (Baby Leopard just waves me away when I try to say good-bye), Francisco and I got to see Tom Stoppard's The Hard Problem at the Wilma in Philly.

We both really enjoyed the play--it is philosophical (about the problem of consciousness and religion v. materialism) (although, as Francisco points out, it isn't just philosophical--the main character is also well-developed) and funny. And the acting wasn't bad, although I must admit that I saw far more of the actors' underwear than I anticipated.

The play was acted in the round, which was nicely staged. And the play was punctuated by a saxophonist who was also sort of a God-figure (or at least a figure of beauty and art). I'm not sure if that's original to the play or they made it up, but it was nice and different.

Although: the actors all took it on themselves to affect British accents--I'm not really sure why they did that: sure, the characters attend British schools and I guess it's set in England, but we know you're not English and it's distracting, ok?

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Did I mention that I finally made caneles (in a project I'd been intending since October)? Mine looked nothing like the beauties above (they weren't evenly browned nor perfectly crispy and soft, by turn). My take away: it was hard as heck (although they were still delicious) and if you ever see them for sale, you should buy them because they are worth every penny.

For the Time Being

For the Time Being is Auden's Christmas Oratorio, as he calls it, and it's wonderful. This Christmas was my first encounter, and I'm certain there's more to come, because I just scratched the surface in a first reading. Also, gotta admit: it reminded me of TSE's Four Quartets and I feel safe mentioning that here, because Alan Jacobs said the same thing (in different words) in his introduction.

Anyone want to read this outloud together?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kid Places

This blog has lots of reviews of places I've visited. Well, to be honest, these days lots of my visits are to places that I think Baby Leopard would like, so I suppose I should mention those here, too.

Smith Memorial Playhouse

Built in 1899 as a play place for children, the Smith Memorial Playhouse (and Playground--sadly that's closed for the season) is free. It's not perfect--some of the toys are a little [lot] worse for the wear (Baby Leopard was pushing around a naked, one-eyed baby in a stroller)--but it's a nice place to take a kid to play on a cold day. And architecturally--it's really great.

Please Touch

More excellent architecture: The Please Touch Museum is located in a building originally built for the Centennial Exhibition in Philly. At $17 bucks a pop (for kids and adults), it's pretty pricey (although one Wednesday a month, it's $2). It's enormous and great. Baby Leopard loves to run around and play--many of the play areas are aimed at kids a little older than he is, but there's still loads for him to do--he gets pretty excited by all the big cars and trucks--he sat in one truck, turning the wheel, for probably 10 minutes, which is just about the longest time he's ever say anywhere. (I guess the whole place is in bankruptcy, so the future is uncertain.)


Baby Leopard loves Lulu's. The best part is that you pay for the whole day, and since it's in our neighborhood, you can go play in the morning, return home for a nap, and go back in the afternoon. There's absolutely tons to do and when there aren't too many other children there, we have a ball. Literally, a ball--there's a ball pit, plenty of cars to drive around, a train table, a slide, dress up clothes, a play kitchen (always a big winner for my boy) and on and on. I like it--it's very creatively laid out.

Phoenix Children's Museum

We went here with some cousins on our recent visit. This vertical maze is a bit too old for him, but there was still plenty for him to see and do. A whole grocery store to take things from, a room of kitchen stuff. Places to race toy cars on tracks. Mazes to set balls rolling on. Cars to sit in and ride. And an art room, where kids (not Baby Leopard!) were painting a castle. The creativity that goes into these places is amazing. Baby Leopards' absolute favorite thing, though, was an automated car that was running on a track, around and round. He didn't want to move from there (and it was just a small thing set up at the admission desk).

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Phoenix Butterflies

We visited a butterfly wonderland.

There was some giant blue butterfly that I couldn't capture. My favorite.

Random find: There was "Pennsylvania Dutch" candy for sale at the cafe.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Phoenix Christmas Lights

We also went to see the Zoo Lights, which were pretty cool.

I think they're the main way to get the feeling of Christmas when there isn't snow.

A Christmas cactus!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Short Hike, and Beautiful Phoenix

One of the highlights was a short hike up this rock. I've never seen anything like it.

And the views were great.

Photo credit: Francisco. 

The cacti!