Thursday, April 19, 2007

heavy, heavy boots

Sometimes it's great to revisit books you liked, but only when you remember enough about the book to STOP yourself before you get to the super-depressing parts. Say you've decided to read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close again, and all you remember is that the protagonist is a 9-year-old boy whose father died on 9/11. He finds a mysterious key among his dad's things and embarks on a search through New York to discover what the key will unlock. The boy's name is Oskar and he's so precocious and creative--the child we all think we want to have but probably would be annoyed with. When he's feeling sad, he calls it having "heavy boots." He's been hiding the family answering maching since 9/11 because it has 5 terribly sad messages on it: his dad calling from the Windows on the World, reporting on the situation there. The last message consists of, "Is anyone there?" repeated 15 times. Don't forget this next time! Don't pick up this book unless you are on the beach in Jamaica or something, surrounded by enough beauty and vacuousness to cushion the impact. Remember this.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

the show must go on!

Is there anything better than an impromptu performance by your kids? When I was little, it ranged from Debbie Boone/Xanadu/Barbra Streisand lip-sync concerts to roller derbies to pageants (the "Miss Ugmo Pageant," to be precise, wherein the ugliest contestant won).

In my house, it's feats of strength and bravery, involving running, jumping off the ottoman, and sliding in the kitchen in stocking-feet. The best part is the accompaniment
, provided by the very crappy songs on our 80s Casio keyboard. Current favorites include "Superstition" (Stevie Wonder), some Pet Shop Boys song, and a song called "Crocodile Rock." These are "boy songs," appropriate for superhero fighting and feats of strength and bravery. The "girl songs" like the theme from Aladdin and a folk song called "Santa Lucia" are only to be played for visiting girls. Even then, they are roundly scorned. Then there are "church songs" (anything with a ponderous organ sound) during which one must solemnly march around, eyes fixed on an imaginary hymnal held in front of one's chest. That keyboard has provided hours and hours of quality entertainment. Definitely worth the $50.00 gift certificate and free night of babysitting I paid for it. (Flashback to that night of babysitting: one pee-soaked mattress, one hyper 10-year old demanding strawberries and whipped cream, one 3-year old who stayed awake until 11:30 pm, one tired and humorless Rebecca taking it all in...Yeah, I guess it was worth it.)

Paris to the Moon

First, I do like Adam Gopnik! Just finished his other small-family-in-a-big-city memoir, called Paris to the Moon. So nice. It's good to get a little reality check about Europe sometimes, don't you think? I read in another favorite book, American Cultural Patterns*, that Asia looks up to America, America looks up to Europe, and Europe looks up to Asia. I think there is a fair amount of Euro-worship here (minus that whole "Boycott France" movement of a few years ago), and we sure could learn from European lifestyles (walking to the market, sidewalk cafes, super yummy fresh bread, and real chocolate, to name a few), but we don't often know the country/culture well enough to make a real assessment of it. Anyway, that was a long way of getting to my point, which is that Gopnik reveals Paris as city with which one easily falls in love and just as easily feels frustrated with. I won't write out any anecdotes here, but suffice it to say that Gopnik hates Barney as much as you do, knows heaps about French cooking, and can draw some lovely conclusions about cultural differences from fax error messages.

*A textbook from some linguistics class ages ago...VERY enlightening! If you want to understand more about American culture and the (for us, totally obscured) motivations behind American friendships, social structure, and ambition, read this book. I also learned quite a lot about Japan, Germany, and, of course, Micronesia in the pages of this book.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Chairman Mao, here we come!

Well, it's official. We're taking a long-anticipated trip to China this summer. I'm hoping for some idyllic photo ops with Chinese children like Mao Zedong here. I don't think I'll have much luck with Mao himself, as his body has been lying in state at Tiananmen Square for something like 30 years (ick). Makes you wonder what they preserved him with. My bet is Diet Caffeine Free Coke. Ahhh, better living through chemicals.