Friday, November 30, 2007


Now that NaBloPoMo is over....

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Foreign Languages

I love learning languages. Most of them have leaked out of my brain by now through disuse, but I've studied a few. This is what I've accomplished so far:

English: mother tongue, duh.
Spanish: 3 years in high school
Latin: 1 year in high school
French, German: a few weeks here and there
Italian: 3 years in college, just missed minoring in it
Russian: a few phrases that cannot be shared on a family-oriented blog

I'd love to learn German next. Because my grandmother was German, because it's interesting, because I could read Steiner in the original. But then I found this commentary by Mark Twain that gives me pause:

Now here is a sentence from a popular and excellent German novel -- with a slight parenthesis in it. I will make a perfectly literal translation, and throw in the parenthesis-marks and some hyphens for the assistance of the reader -- though in the original there are no parenthesis-marks or hyphens, and the reader is left to flounder through to the remote verb the best way he can:

"But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now -very-unconstrained-after-the–newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselor's wife met," etc., etc.

Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und Seide gehüllten jetzt sehr ungenirt nach der neusten Mode gekleideten Regierungsräthin begegnet.

That is from The Old Mamselle's Secret, by Mrs. Marlitt. And that sentence is constructed upon the most approved German model. You observe how far that verb is from the reader's base of operations; well, in a German newspaper they put their verb away over on the next page; and I have heard that sometimes after stringing along the exciting preliminaries and parentheses for a column or two, they get in a hurry and have to go to press without getting to the verb at all. Of course, then, the reader is left in a very exhausted and ignorant state.

Of course, I don't think I actually have the time or energy to learn a new language, but a girl can dream, right?

(PS: To Papa Bradstein, who recently tagged me for the Infernal Eight Things Meme...not enough brain cells available for that right now. I'll come back to it. Even though NaBloPoMo is NoMo.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

One Deep Thought for Today

I'm working on a deadline this morning, on a manuscript about gender politics and the expansion of the EU.

It's actually quite interesting, in a fairly dry way, and something I know nothing about, so it's illuminating. But I'm tired, and my brain is really quite full and wishing for a rest.

One sentence just now stood out for me despite my brain fog:

Both women and racial minorities are framed as “disadvantaged” by their group membership, and as less able to achieve in what is framed as an inherently fair and yet hierarchical system of competitive capitalism.
Amazing, that. The author was talking specifically about the US, and how we define "race," "class," and "difference."

If you say something enough times, it starts to be true. Perhaps we've been told for so long that our capitalistic, hierarchical society is really fair and that women and minorities are less capable, that we think they are inherently less capable, instead of simply being limited by the inequalities of the system itself.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I just received a call on behalf of The Economist magazine, trying to offer me a subscription deal. We had done one of those "6 free issues" deals a while back, but never subscribed.

It's an amazing magazine: wide in scope (reminding me of the Christian Science Monitor), and with a touch of humor--their headlines and photo choices are often quirky and surprising. Heavy on the financial stuff (hence, the name) but comprehensive in world news.

However, it's a bit expensive and is a weekly, which means lots and lots of reading that piles up. We couldn't even keep up with it over 6 weeks.

I told the young man all of this, and he quite politely said thank you and did not pressure me at all. Unlike most of the other advertising calls I get, where I feel compelled to hang up after saying a very quick No, thank you.

Maybe those other cold callers would get a better reception from me if they had a yummy British accent like this young man did!

(Sorry, I can't identify it any further. Could have been Irish, but I can't tell. I'm hanging my head in shame at my lack of worldliness.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Ham of God

Yesterday afternoon I ran some errands, and when they were done I discovered to my joy that I had another 20 minutes before I had to pick up the kids from daycare.

I'm right around the corner from the library, I thought. Perfect!

I quickly perused the paperback bestseller shelves, where I occasionally find some gold among the straw. This time I found Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.

I scanned the first chapter ("Ham of God") and was caught by this on page 8, where Anne is talking to her friend Father Tom, a Jesuit priest, about her feelings of hopelessness about the Iraq war:

"I want to know what to do. Where we even start."

"We start by being kind to ourselves. We breathe, we eat. We remember that God is present wherever people suffer. God's here with us when we're miserable, and God is there in Iraq. The suffering of innocent people draws God close to them. Kids hit by U.S. bombs are not abandoned by God."

"Well, it sure looks like they were," I said. "It sure looks that way to their parents."

"It also looked like Christ had been abandoned on the cross. It looked like a win for the Romans."

"How do we help? How do we not lose our minds?"

"You take care of the suffering."

"I can't get to Iraq."

"There are folks who are miserable here."
I remembered Charlotte's recent posts about AIDS in South Africa. Whatever your beliefs about Iraq, AIDS, or any kind of human suffering, these are wise words. Do what you can, right at home, one person at a time.

Lamott's chapter goes on to describe how later that day she won a free ham (which she dislikes) at the grocery store, and how she was able to pass it on to a friend she met outside the store who was short on money for food. Instant karma, perhaps?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Moonday

That's what my kids call it. It's also the day that they doing paintings at their daycare.

I assume it's Monday --> Moon --> water --> watercolor painting, if I have my correspondences right.**

I'll share some paintings we did at home the other day. Probably not on a Monday, but I'm sure you'll forgive me.

We use cheapo craft store watercolor paper, which we often cut in half. This time I went whole hog into Waldorf style and rounded off the corners beforehand!

Because I save money on the cheapo paper, we use the expensive Stockmar watercolors. What saves our budget is that it's concentrated stuff, which we dilute way down and store in little glass jars in the refrigerator for many future sessions. (Because they are made with natural pigments and binders, the diluted paint will start to smell very bad -- rotten egg bad! -- if left out at room temperature, especially the blues.)

This is Napoleona's. She usually fills the whole page with swaths of muddy colors (she's not very good at remembering to clean her brush between colors). This time she ended the painting with all the little dots in the bottom right corner. I also notice that she made a "frame" of paint.

This one is SillyBilly's. He often treats painting like drawing, making lines of paint to make shape outlines. You can see that in the blue here. But this time he swirled things around a bit and it came out much softer.

This one is by Anthropapa. I like how he let the wet paint colors bleed into each other a bit.

And here's mine. I was going for a sunset over the Santa Monica Mountains kind of look. (Unfortunately they look like this right now because of more wildfires lighting up the evening sky. I had no idea about that when I did this painting.)

**There is a Waldorf cultural tradition that the days of the week have correspondences.

This is nothing new; alchemists and astrologers assigned planets for each day long ago, hence their names. (It helps to have a few foreign languages to see some of them: Tuesday (Tyr's day from the Norse) is Mars day -- Mardi in French. Wednesday (Woden's day from German) is Mercury day -- Mercoledì in Italian.)

And so there are also the things that go along with the days and their planets: colors (blue for Moon/Monday, red for Mars/Tuesday) and foods (Rice/watery on Monday, Oats/fiery on Tuesday) that Waldorf early childhood teachers work with in particular.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Love List

This time last year and this year Charlotte has mentioned how much she loves and appreciates her husband. I've been thinking along the same lines recently -- about Anthropapa, not Mr. Otter.

What I love about Anthropapa

1) He is very thoughtful and considerate. The other day after I wrote about my little obsession with Iceland, we received our next Netflix movie, which was a travel DVD about...Iceland!

2) He keeps me in chocolate. I never ask for it, but he's always buying me supplies for my secret stash when he goes to the store.

3) He can fix pretty much anything. As I write this, he's right behind me taking apart our cordless phone to see why the display isn't displaying.

4) He can make pretty much anything. Anthropapa has sewn articles of clothing, knitted a hat, built wooden bookshelves, and made animatronic puppets and props for films!

5) He is a wonderful cook. He made our entire Thanksgiving dinner, including a pumpkin pie from scratch. He also widened my food horizons from the start, helping me discover sushi, Indian food, and the wonders of scrapple.

6) He loves our kids, and tries to be the best Papa possible.

7) He has a beautiful voice, knows a lot about music, and has encouraged me to just get over it and sing so that I can improve my ear. Which I have, thanks to him.

8) He has a big soft spot for cats and dogs.

9) He takes his work very seriously, and feels personally responsible for the success of his workplace.

10) He doesn't complain when I write NaBloPoMo posts instead of talking to him!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The River's Little Brother

The other day our landlord's lawn service came by to do their last work of the season in our yard. The kids watched entranced from their bedroom windows as the men used their blowers to clear all the leaves off the lawn.

While the lawn is quite neat now, the leaves all went into the brook, where they clogged up among the rocks.

When we go outside to play, I try to be doing something active, like raking, trimming bushes, or just cleaning up toys. The kids seem to play much better when the adults around them are also engaged in something (though in the warm months I often choose to read a book instead).

It's been quite cold: it's about 35F right now at 2 pm. There's not much for me to do since the leaves are all raked away and nothing needs weeding or trimming, but it's much too cold to sit around reading. So I took a small leaf rake and cleared out some of the leaves from the rocks in the brook, freeing them to go downstream.

After I got tired of doing that and was sufficiently warmed up by my labors (wet leaves are amazingly heavy), I sat beside the brook for a few minutes. I never tire of watching the water, the birds coming to get a drink, or whatever there is to see along the banks that day.

I noticed that because I had freed up a few more places for the water to come through the rocks, the sounds of the brook were much louder. It reminded me of something from the very beginning of The Wind in the Willows, which I had just read to the kids the other day:

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before--this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver--glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble.
(Try reading that out loud--the alliteration is wonderful!) Our little brook is not quite full-fed as that, but it certainly makes a lot of music. Recently I figured out its entire route--starting about 2 miles away from us, it finally merges with a small river and then a larger one before the water ends up in Newark Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. If anything, knowing that helps me explain to the kids why we shouldn't throw things into the brook: we wouldn't want to make the ocean dirty, now would we?