Friday, June 06, 2014

Lyric of the Day:
"... and things we're all too young to know."
~ Peter Gabriel, "Book of Love"

Happy Birthday:
Isaiah Berlin
Sandra Bernhard
Björn Borg
Eric Cantor
Paul Giamatti
Nathan Hale
Alexander Pushkin
Colin Quinn
Diego Velázquez

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Lyric of the Day:
"It's not a love song."
~ Maria Taylor, "The Song Beneath the Song"

Happy Birthday:
Kenny G.
Kristin Gore
John Maynard Keynes
Robert Kraft
Bill Moyers
Adam Smith
Pancho Villa
Mark Wahlberg
Pete Wentz

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Lyric of the Day:
While though the tempest loudly roars
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.
~ Various, "How Can I Keep from Singing"

Happy Birthday:
Angelina Jolie
King George III
Mike Lee
Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Noah Wyle

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Lyric of the Day:
"There it goes again, my dear."
~ Two Hours Traffic, "Jezebel"

Happy Birthday:
Josephine Baker
Raul Castro
Anderson Cooper
Jefferson Davis
Allen Ginsberg
John Owen

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spoke too soon

"Oh, [writers of] Sherlock.  What have you done?"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"And I said 'dangerous'... and here you are."

I'm not a television person.  I don't watch a lot of TV shows (currently only two), and even when I find one I can tolerate, my tolerance tends to be begrudging and brief.  I watched Downton Abbey for two seasons but haven't even broken the cellophane on season three.  I enjoyed Homeland for a season and suffered through another; now it's stupid and I'm done.

In short, I don't fall in love with television shows.


This past fall, at the urging of some people who know me well, I gave the BBC's Sherlock a try.

(Some of you may sense where this is going.)

Twenty minutes into the first episode, I was smiling -- and not fiddling around with something else on my iPad. Then I heard "It's a three-patch problem," and I may have actually purred.

I love this show.

It was a bummer, I remember thinking, that Amazon Prime only had the first three episodes of each season.  I'd have to buy the other ones.  

(Yeah, about that....)

Here, because the Series Three finale airs in an hour in Britain and I'm nervous (!) about who they're going to kill off, are the top three things I love about Sherlock:

3.) The coat.  The coat deserves its own show.  It deserves its own media empire.

No offense to Benedict Cumberbatch, who's a talented actor, but I don't find him to be inherently the most attractive of men:

I mean, seriously.

And then he puts on the coat:

I don't need to say anything more about this, do I?

Watch the coat in motion -- you really must watch it in motion -- here.

Sartorial honorable mention goes to the poor heroic shirt buttons:

Give those buttons a BAFTA!

2.) The Holmes-Watson bromance.  I'm cheating here, because their friendship is at heart what the show is about.  (Sherlock's mystery plots are not the cleverest part of the show and often not as good as Elementary's and yes I watch two television shows and they're both the same thing.*)

Although now that I consider it, I would have zero interest in the Holmes-Watson friendship in any other context but a detective drama.  Make of that what you will.  As a wise lesbian dominatrix once said, "I like detective stories.  And detectives."

Anyway, their epic friendship is caricatured very amusingly to Disney music here:

* They're not the same thing.

1.) And the very best part of Sherlock, the thing that renders me incoherent with delight whenever it appears on the screen, is... well, it's a five-way tie between

            Mycroft's eyebrows
            Mycroft's umbrella
            Mycroft's non-frequenting of cafés.
            Mycroft in spandex

Steals every scene he's in.  Even the ones with the coat.**

If they kill Mycroft I may not recover.

** Okay, it's close.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

It's Christmas Eve, and the kids are finally asleep.  My brilliant, amazing husband's just come in from sweeping the "reindeer food" off my in-laws' driveway in 16-degree Chicago weather.  In a little while we'll play Santa, but for now I'm sitting by the fire, full of miso soup and champagne, and watching this, the best Christmas video ever made:

It's a good night.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


No, I'm not shutting down the blog.

This is a baseball post.

A little over ten years ago, I had just graduated from law school and was spending the summer in New Haven. One day in early July, some friends and I went down to New York. We'd seize any excuse to avoid doing what we were supposed to be doing, which was studying for the bar exam.  And our excuse that day was a Yankees-Red Sox game.

I was about one-tenth the baseball fan I am now, but I appreciated the rivalry. And my boyfriend at the time was a lifelong Yankees fan.  Still, I was looking forward to some post-game shopping downtown far more than the actual game.

It was one of the rare weekday afternoon games. Reading about it now, I can see that it was a really good one: Pedro Martinez versus Mike Mussina, a 2-1 walk-off win for the Yanks. But like I said, I wasn't much of a baseball fan then.

What I did notice was the Yankees pitcher who relieved Mussina, the one who entered the game at the top of the ninth when the score was 1-1.

"I really liked that pitcher," I told my boyfriend. "The one who came in when they played 'Enter Sandman.'"

"You mean the closer?" he said.

Yes, I meant the closer, although I couldn't have told you then what a closer was. (And he got a win that day, not a save.)  I liked the quiet way he trotted on to the field; the unhurried, self-contained way he moved on the mound. He seemed almost out of place, like he didn't belong on a baseball field. Otherworldly, people have called him.

Back then, they weren't preceding every mention of his name with "The Great" the way they do now. Halfway through his career, he was just a very good closer, albeit one with four World Series rings. 

The boyfriend is now my husband.  As for the pitcher, I decided that day in 2003 that he was my favorite Yankee.  And that's why I get to say that I loved Mariano before everyone loved Mariano.

It has been a pure delight to watch him these past ten years.  It's hard to separate my appreciation for Mariano from my enjoyment of baseball, because they've felt like the same thing.  There is, for me, no better way to spend a summer evening than at home with the Yankees on, half-listening while I do something else (my husband says I only like baseball because I can "watch" it without really watching it) -- and then, in the ninth inning, to put aside whatever I'm doing and watch, because Mariano is coming in.

For years, we went to at least one Yankees game every season.  My Mariano t-shirt is a boys' size large because they didn't sell Rivera shirts in ladies' sizes in 2004; all the girls at the ballpark were wearing Jeter shirts back then (or Posada, inexplicably).  And I've been lucky: I can only remember being at three games where he didn't pitch (two were last year, when he was injured).  Every time I saw him on the field, it felt like watching baseball royalty, a tell-your-grandkids-about-it moment.  The ones at Yankee Stadium were the best, of course.  He doesn't like the song and it wouldn't be a favorite of mine, to be honest, if it weren't for the association.  But... well, let's just say that I bought the lullaby version for my newborn son.

This article by Tom Verducci and this one by James Traub will tell you all you need to know about the statistics, the records, the cutter, the story.  Verducci's cover story in the current SI isn't online yet, but there's this, from the intro:
Rivera's personage is so humble, godly even, that his legacy will go on.  Few players in any sport have retired with more reverence from his peers.  "Probably not since Koufax have we seen anyone leave the game with so much respect," says Joe Torre, Rivera's manager with the Yankees for four of his five World Series Championship
After the horrible injury last year, this season has felt like a gift.  He's the oldest player in baseball (and still the best closer playing).  And he has a rich life outside baseball.  It's time for him to go.  This season has been an uncomfortable one for Yankees fans, but fittingly, he's saved it:  One of the few bright spots has been the chance to say farewell to this extraordinary player, this extraordinary person.

They''ll play the song for the last time tonight in Yankee Stadium.  I don't think I'll ever watch baseball the same way again.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What I Will Miss About DC

I'm surrounded by boxes as I write this; the movers are coming tomorrow morning.  We're heading to a new city in an new state, and it's time for me to reflect on Things I Will Miss About DC:

Our friends and family.  I grew up just seventy miles south of Washington.  My parents are a little more than an hour away.  I have so many wonderful friends in the area: high school friends, college friends, law school friends, work friends, playgroup friends.  And where we're moving, we know nobody.  I know we'll make new friends, but I'll miss the ones we're leaving behind.

Living on a movie set.  I used to walk past the White House to work in the mornings.  Sometimes, as I trudged past the groups of tourists, I'd imagine the people who work in the shadow of Big Ben, or the Eiffel Tower.  I'd wonder if they appreciated their proximity to those landmarks any more than I did.  I always love driving home from the city at night, past the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Kennedy Center.  We forget to look at them because we see them every day, but they're beautiful.

Verizon FIOS.  Before we got FIOS, I got daily workouts running up to the office on the fourth floor of our townhouse to reboot the router.   Then Verizon came with its magic fiber-optic cable and changed all that.  Oh, how we will miss FIOS. 

Takeout.  As much as we like to bitch about Washington not being a truly international city for cuisine, one can -- if one is not inclined to make dinner for oneself and one's husband every night -- eat pretty well on an everyday basis here, particularly with the help of Yelp and Tyler Cowan's Ethnic Dining Guide.  Farewell, Haandi, A&J, and Crystal Thai.  Goodbye Lebanese Taverna; I'm savoring your creamy hummus for the last time as I type this.  (Although it seems there's hope in the hummus department if I can only summon the patience to peel chickpeas.)  And for those weekends when we're not in the mood to make lunch for the kids, we have Pie-Tanza and Elevation Burger.  Where we're going, there isn't even a Chipotle.

Fun places for kids.  Museums.  Public parks with cool sandpits and spray-grounds in the summer.  Libraries.  The Fall Festival at Cox Farms.

Our house.  I picked the paint colors.  My husband replaced every light switch and electric outlet.  We brought our babies home to this house, rocked them to sleep in these rooms, watched them stumble down these hallways.  We'll have other houses, but this was our first.  I'll always love it.

And what I won't miss:

The traffic.  It's bad.  Enough said. 

The lack of a regional identity.  One of the things I loved about living in Alabama was the sense that I was living somewhere, a place with a distinct history, culture, and identity.  The DC area is full of people from every state in the nation and every corner of the globe, which makes for wonderful diversity and ensures that you'll meet fascinating people at parties here.  But the flip side of all that transience is that everybody is from somewhere else.  It's easy to find your own community here, in the sense that it's easy to meet cool people and make friends.  But without a larger sense of community (and maybe what I'm describing is just primitive tribalism, but it's real) it's easy to fall into the trap of assuming anyone outside your bubble is an asshole.

The crowds.  Those museums?  Those public parks?  They're usually just a notch or two too oversubscribed for introverted me to really enjoy myself.

The housing prices.  When I first started researching real estate in our new city, I nearly wept.  Tears of joy. 

Onward to a new city, and new joys and new gripes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise."

"How to Live Without Irony":
Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

War on Binders. Or Something.

As the beyond-ridiculous "bindergate" prepares to join the Big Bird flap on the dustheap of discarded campaign memes, this Tim Carney piece on contraceptive mandate and the so-called "war on women" is worth a read:
[W]ielding an Obamacare provision on "women's preventive care," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius imposed a new rule requiring almost all employers to cover every penny of contraception, sterilization and morning-after pills.

That means if you offer health insurance that doesn't cover sterilization, you're breaking the law. If you offer health insurance that covers all contraception, but requires a $5-a-month co-pay, you're breaking the law. If you offer two plans, and the one that covers all contraception and sterilization carries a higher premium, you're breaking the law. Or at least Sebelius' law.

Mitt Romney doesn't think those things should be illegal.

Wages, commuter benefits and vacation time are all matters of negotiation between bosses and the people they want to hire. But if you offer someone a job, and promise to pay them in cash instead of contraception, you're violating Obamacare.
He describes a mock "permission slip" on the Obama website, part of the Democrats' argument that Romney wants to let employers decide whether or not women can have birth control:
The mock permission slip on Obama's campaign website read:

"I have discussed the employee's contraceptive options with her, and I verify that her use of these methods (IS / IS NOT) in agreement with my personal beliefs. The employee (DOES / DOES NOT) have my permission to access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other type of contraception."
It's so over-the-top tendentious that it seems guaranteed to raise the eyebrows of any woman with two brain cells to rub together.  "Wait. You're saying if it weren't for Obama, my boss could tell me I can't use birth control?  Something about that claim doesn't ring true, given that we're in America and it's the 21st century."

And indeed, it's heartening to see polls showing the gender gap tightening somewhat.  The defensive brigade in the "war on women," with its hands-off-my-ladyparts infographics and its dreary insistence that Girls Must Have Free Stuff, makes me faintly embarrassed for my sex.  The sassy sisterhood stuff seems so obviously a front for a one-sided agenda that, at best, is only interested in advancing the interests of certain women.

Speaking of the gender gap, our household was polled last night.  (Election-season life in a swing state:  I often serve my toddlers dinner with a phone on one ear.)  The pollster told me that they had met their quota for female respondents and asked me if there was a male in the house.  I handed the phone to my husband, who gave the exact responses I would have given.  

I vote like a guy.  Thank goodness.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Say It

Ross Douthat on Romney's immigration vacillation:
There’s nothing whatsoever to be gained . . .  by doing what Romney has done, which is to act evasive on a hot-button issue for months on end before finally, grudgingly, issuing a defensive quasi-endorsement of your opponent’s gambit. When the White House announced its policy change, Romney could have attacked the president for bending the rule of law to suit the demands of Democratic coalition politics, or alternatively he could have embraced the DREAM Act himself to pivot away from the hard line he took during the Republican primary campaign. Either move, if finessed effectively, might have helped him with a crucial bloc of voters. But by doing neither, and basically ducking the issue until this late-in-the-game concession, he enabled the White House to reap all of the benefits of its backdoor amnesty without paying any political price at all.
Yep.  Douthat also diagnoses what I think is the central problem with the campaign, which is that they assumed Romney would be the front-runner by September and made no plan for any other eventuality:
[O]n immigration, health care and indeed just about every topic worth mentioning, the Romney camp apparently decided that the weakness of the economy meant that they didn’t need a clear script at all, and that they could get by with evasions and improvisations instead. On the evidence of current polling, they were wrong.
It's worse than evasions and improvisations.  It's an apparent unwillingness or inability to actually say anything.  Yes, the media aren't playing fair (this Gawker piece makes some good observations in that regard), but they're not the problem.

I see Romney's ads on TV here in Virginia his message, unfiltered by the press and it's worse than muddled.  It's non-existent.  Each time I'm left wondering, "What are you saying?  What's wrong with America, and how will you fix it?"

Or, as Jan Crawford tweeted recently, "Why not embrace who you are/why your views are better for America? SAY IT."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney needs to throw George W. Bush under the bus. Here's how to do it.

The scene:  Denver, October 3, 2012.  The first presidential debate.  Mitt Romney is on the ropes.  Although the uproar over his "47 percent" comments has subsided somewhat, his campaign is still flailing.  It's been doing a better job of communicating in the past couple of weeks, and mercifully the gaffes have subsided, but Romney's message still isn't getting through.  The surprising thing is that with a month to go, Romney trails Obama by only a few points in the polls.  A strong debate tonight could change the race.

Responding to a question about the lousy state of the economy, President Obama essentially blames George W. Bush.  His predecessor, he says, wrecked the economy with a bunch of discredited policies.  He, Obama, is prepared to lead us Forward.  Romney would take us back to the old days.

Here's how Romney should respond:
"The President seems to wish he was running against George W. Bush.  [pause] Let me say something.  George W. Bush is an honorable man.  I respect and deeply appreciate the way he kept our nation safe after 9/11.  But I have some differences with him, particularly regarding some of his economic policies.  My leadership and presidency would be very different from his.  So respectfully, Mr. President, you don't get to run against George W. Bush.  You're running against Mitt Romney."
Then he moves on to more substantive comments about the economy.

Why should Romney do this?

It's a clear message.  It doesn't get much simpler than "I'm not George W. Bush."  And because ROMNEY REPUDIATES BUSH is a process story, the media will report it breathlessly.  It will be the theme of the night.  It will be on the Today show the next morning.  It will cut through the noise to reach less engaged voters.

It's a message Romney needs voters to hear.  George W. Bush left office with terrible approval ratings.  His presidency is widely regarded as a failure, even by many Republicans.  Obama says over and over that Bush's "failed policies" "got us into this mess," and whether that's fair or not, millions of people believe it.  Republicans make fun of Obama for blaming everything on Bush, but the truth is that Obama keeps doing it because it's effective.  Bush is not a figure Romney can afford to be lashed to.  So cut the knot.

It communicates strength.  "I'm my own man" is a statement of strength and, well . . . manliness.  It's something ordinary people can understand and identify with.  Rhetorically, calling Obama out on his run-against-Bush strategy makes Romney look smart and agile.  Obama is undeniably trying to get away with something, but Romney essentially holds up his hand and says affably, but firmly "Sorry, buddy, I'm not gonna let you do that." It could be Romney's there-you-go-again moment.

It doesn't look too disloyal.  Romney wasn't Bush's vice-president, a member of his administration, or a close confidant.  He's not stabbing a mentor in the back; he's stating a policy difference.  Bush can read polls and would probably approve of this move.  Plus, Romney calls him "an honorable man" and praises part of his presidency (the popular part).  Finally, Obama's willingness to throw people under the bus when it suits him has become a bit of a meme, so he's not in a great position to shout "disloyalty!"

For this maneuver to work in a debate, it has to be executed deftly.  If it's bungled, it could do more harm than good.  I'd be shocked if Obama were not prepared for Romney to do this (after all, it's the logical thing for Romney to do!).  Romney should expect Obama to fire back something witty about how Romney sure seems awfully similar to Bush, and Romney should be prepared with a comeback himself.

And of course, Romney should be prepared to say what he would have done differently from Bush.  He doesn't have to get too specific here, and he could use that question to gently ding Bush while pointing out that Democrats share plenty of blame for the financial crisis (Barney Frank and Fannie Mae, anyone?).

But this is my prediction:  If Romney throws Bush under the bus, and does it resolutely and with good humor, the headlines on October 4 will be "Romney: 'I'm No George W. Bush."  Pundits will be tweeting about Romney's "game-changing" debate.  The Obama campaign will be scrambling to respond.  And voters will be taking a new look at this candidate who says he's his own man, not like that other guy they didn't like.

Oh, and George W. Bush will be dusting off the bus tracks.  He'll be fine.

Good Morning

Movie Quote of the Day:
"You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want."
~ Mona Lisa Smile

Song of the Day:
Augustana, "Boston"

Happy Birthday:
Lance Armstrong
Frankie Avalon
Robert Blake
Benjamin Carson
James Gandolfini
Greta Garbo
Samuel Johnson
Agnes De Mille
Jade Pinkett Smith

Monday, September 17, 2012

Good Morning

Quote of the Day: 
"When all this started, I asked myself, 'Am I going to withdraw from the world, like most people do, or am I going to live?' I decided I am going to live or at least try to live the way I want, with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."
~ Mitch Albom

Song of the Day:
The Beatles, "Lovely Rita"

Happy Birthday:
Anne Bancroft
James Brady
Mark Brunell
Warren Burger
Marquis de Condorcet
Phil Jackson
Baz Luhrmann
John Ritter
Rita Rudner
David Souter
Hank Williams
William Carlos Williams