Thursday, February 28, 2008


I'm reading this book that the NYTimes recommended quite highly, and I'm not into it. But I want to finish it because Julie skimmed it and then we can both talk about how little we cared about the main character and how contrived (yet without authorial twinkle) the situations were. Too bad.
The title, Beginner's Greek, made me realize why I loved the movie The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) so much. It's a movie about a Stasi surveillance of a GDR playwright. But the Stasi guy intervenes at certain points and (I'm not giving too much away) the whole reason for the surveillance is so that another Stasi guy can make a less contested play for the playwright's girlfriend. And because of Beginner's Greek, I noticed that the story was very much like a Greek tragedy: a god wants to have sex with a mortal and gets other, lesser gods, to intervene in the mortals' lives, but someone messes with fate with unforseen, not happy (sorry, those of you who haven't seen it yet) consequences.
Rent the movie.
Don't bother with the book, unless you want my copy. I'll be giving it away shortly.


I know. But I can't help it. Jerry Lewis makes me laugh, especially when he was completely manic on the Colgate Comedy Hour. The tongue to the teeth while rolling and crossing eyes: good times.
And now, the classic typewriter sketch!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Coco, unlike Madge, wants to read the same book every night for a long time. We just got off a two week stretch of reading Stripes (by David Shannon) and are now on the Froggy books. In his own way, though, he already distinguishes between gimmick-heavy books and more substatial books by calling the Froggy ones comics.
On the other hand, he keeps asking me when the Stripes movie is coming out.
Not to be daunted by his probable disappointment, I think he's ready for a Bill Murray Early Works Festival.
It's actually quite pitiful that the only Bill Murray movie he's seen is Garfield.
(And a bit of Ghostbusters, but don't tell.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Madge Monday

Coco and I were late picking up Madge from school today. Not much, but enough that she was the last one of her class to still be there. She took it well, though. Aside from the usual barrage of "Where were you, what took you so long, you're late, why are you late?" She was fine.
We were late because the bus we took didn't show up at the usual 2:30, but rather at 2:4something. And it was late because the bus driver was extremely timid, which meant that the rest of the ride we were not gaining any time. There were more than usual passengers at each stop and the time between each stop was... ech.
You know how they say your blood boils? Well that's exactly what it feels like when you're stuck in a situation beyond your control and you know there's nothing you can do about it.
In Berlin, I remember, cars have to yield to a bus pulling out of a bus stop and I'm guessing it's the same here, but this guy let everyone ahead of him.
But what am I going to do with a nervous driver, bus driver no less: tease him? call him names?
So we were late.
On the way to the playdate, on a different bus, I got lectured by the bus driver for not holding Coco's hand and yanking him from the curb as the bus was approaching. He was a bit of a lurchy driver and it really would have been prudent to not have us all head to the bus just because it had stopped near the curb. Apparently he felt the need to jostly his steed a little closer to the actual bus stop sign.
Having some experience with other, especially older, people lecturing me about what to do with my kids, I said, "Thank you, that's a good idea."
But for some reason that just made him angrier.
And I tried so hard to sound sincere.

Friday, February 22, 2008


We couldn't handle being indoors in this awesome weather.
Now I wonder what the readouts look like for going face first down a big snow pile or making a snowman and karate-chopping it to bits or peeing in a snowbank.
In case you're wondering: we put the recording device in a backpack and the leads and mesh hat under a regular hat. He looked like an astronaut with a ponytail of wires going from the "oxygen tank" to the "helmet."
We just need to get all the coats dried before it's time to head to the city to get things taken off.

EEG again

Not a big deal, I don't think, in terms of what it might mean; but a big deal, of course, in terms of the effort involved.
We're doing it ("he" is doing it, really, though we're all involved) to learn things - mostly because it's been a year or so since he had one, but also because there've been some falls we haven't been sure of. So far we learned that Madge talks nonstop when she's stressed. We've also learned that Coco can count backwards from nineteen quite accurately and silently. There are nineteen leads attached to his head. While they were being put on, we were trying to keep the mood light by chatting. Every once in a while he'd pipe up with how many were on or how many were left. And each time he was right on the nose.
To top things off, today would be a great day to be outside since it's the first real snow all winter (and it's not likely to last). But the recording device is a bit unwieldy and I think Coco doesn't want to be seen. I have a picture which I can send to you, but, again, I'm not sure he wants it publicized. So feel free to email me if you want to see a little guy with a bunch of wires sticking out of his scalp.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Smug little bastard, isn't he? But you'd be, too, if you could come up with aphorisms like he did.

Here are a few on gratitude, by the Duc de la Rochefoucauld (pictured).

Gratitude is like commercial good faith: it keeps trade going, and we pay up, not because it is right to settle our account but so that people will be more willing to extend us credit.

Not all those who repay debts of gratitude can flatter themselves that by so doing they are being grateful.

Th deficit in the amount of gratitude we expect for kindnesses done is due to the pride of both the giver and receiver, for they fail to agree upon the value of the kindness.

And, in my opinion the best:

Over-eagerness to repay a debt is in itself a kind of ingratitude.

With that in mind, I'd like to thank all my readers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Today we had a first. Unexpected. We went to see The Spiderwick Chronicles. It was shaping up to be quite a good movie when we discovered that it was too scary for Coco and we had to leave.
It may have been pretty scary for Madge, too, because she wasn't too upset about going home. And her other choice - that she finish the movie while Coco and I wait in the hallway - didn't please her at all. So we'll try again another day, without the young'un.
And it wasn't the main bad creature that scared him. It was the house creature who seems basically good except when he gets cranky and turns into something green and bad. Maybe that character cut too close to home for Coco.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Madge Monday

She's back into Barbies and it's cute.
She spraypaints their hair and everything. Chats dialogues (which, unfortunately, I can't quite hear) and changes outfits incessantly. Great way to spend this Presidential winter break.


I can't help it, but I always smirk when I see posters on which teeth have been blackened.


For some reason, I happened to be wearing a tie yesterday in Manhattan.
I don't get into Manhattan much, so I still feel oogly about it. It was breezy and drizzly and I was making my way across the street when my iPod, in its infinite wisdom, swelled with Nelson Riddle strings which introduced Ol' Blue Eyes.
There's something special about Sinatra when your tie is flapping in the wind.

Friday, February 15, 2008

predictable ending

Here's the set-up.
When I take out my contacts, I let the water just dribble into the sink, which makes the cat show up and drink.
Madge loves to be nice to the cat.
The sink in that bathroom doesn't have an overflow drainage hole near the top. The overflow drain is, in effect, the staircase.
Luckily I caught it before the water made it past the door.
The floor and the towels needed washing anyway.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

the point of no point

I figured, hey, why not chase down one of the references at the back of my copy of Dubliners. So I went to the library site and got Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle: A Study of the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930. Julie's out of town, briefly, TV isn't all it's cracked up to be, so why not (I write, as the TV is playing in the background and the book is lying shut on the table)?
Unfortunately for me, the Joyce chapter is on Ulysses (which the book puts in quotes rather than italics indicating what? it's just an overgrown poem or short story?), not Dubliners.
Still the introductory chapter is interesting and the concluding one promises to be (haven't gotten there yet).
To save you some reading: It appears that there's been stylistic ping-pong going on in literature as well as the other arts. Objectivism - subjectivism; rules - no rules; filtered - hand-rolled; call it what you want. Wilson uses the terms Classicism - Romanticism. Works for me. But he complicates things by saying that French literature is generally Classical and English is generally Romantic and therefore their incursions on the other side of the pendulum swing seem like childish attempts at the style/form. Which is how you end up with a sentence like this one:

Two of the Symbolist poets, Stuart Merrill and Francis
Viele-Griffin, were Americans who lived in Paris and wrote French; and an American, reading to-day the latter's "Chevauchee d'Yeldis," for example, may wonder how, when Symbolism was new, such a poem could ever have been regarded as one of the movement's acknowledged masterpieces: to us, it seems merely agreeable, not in the least revolutionary or novel, but like something which might not impossibly have been written by Thomas Bailey Aldrich if he had been influenced by Browning.


So it turns out Dubliners is a sort of ultra-naturalism as transported from France to Ireland, written quite exquisitely but without much of a point except to expose tiny alterations in the characters' approaches to life without commenting upon said alterations - transformations is too strong a word.

No real ha-ha today except maybe this.
One of the movements identified was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
In a forward-looking way (unlike them, in other words), I might call myself Pre-Madgeite or Pre-Cocoite. Which has the better ring?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


One of the reasons I found Madge's question yesterday so overwhelming is this.
Just after she had put on the snow pants (snowboard pants, technically), I had looked at her and thought, "cute, she's got a bit of a tushie in this thing." So her timing of the question was really superb. Because, really, whenever someone asks the question, the honest answer is usually yes, if not "what do mean, these pants?"
And then, of course, Madge was amazed that I ran to my desk to jot down some notes so I wouldn't forget the date or the question. And afterwards she kept peppering me with, "You mean all women ask this?"

It's a good thing, by the way, that we took the sled out again yesterday, because the snow has already disappeared. I'm feeling ripped off here in New York.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Madge bonus

See, now that she's better, she's in top form.
Mark your calendars. Apparently, eight-and-a-half is when it starts. She put on her new snow pants today because it finally snowed. The shirt that carried over from her school outfit didn't work, so she changed it and looked at herself in the mirror.
Then she turned to me and said, in all seriousness,
"Do these pants make my butt look big?"

What?!? I thought I had another four years or so!

Coco Tuesday

A sign of the times, I think.
Coco plays on his friend's Gameboy, a Star Wars game. In it, one of the droids - the Felix of the droid Odd Couple - occasionally gets hurt. To which Coco says,
"Poor mp3-0."

Madge Monday

It gets difficult to come up with charming things about a kid who's been at home, sick-ish, for the past four days. Between the TV and the computer games, there have been brief bouts of jealousy and whining and demands.
But enough about me...
zing! (see, even my comedic inclinations are getting rusty)
Madge really hasn't been feeling well, so much so that she just stayed in her top bunk during Coco's birthday party. But she started rereading the Pullman series (His Dark Materials) and is upset that there are only three books in the trilogy. See, she's seen Star Wars and therefore doesn't really know that trilogy has something to do with the number three.
Just wait till she sees the Godfather movies and understands that trilogy really means two.

Friday, February 08, 2008

deja vu

Here's a conversation I have way too often.
"Daddy, when I do this, it hurts."
"Then don't do it."

Today it involved chewing on a pointy toy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The cat

It's ironic that I posted about the cat last night.
See, because of him, I now need a new desk chair.
His fur blends in with the pillow I have on the chair, and in order to avoid making a cat pancake as I sat down (without looking first, but why would I?) I contorted myself and the loose chair arm to such a degree that something snapped.
Luckily it wasn't any of my or the cat's limbs.
But now, as I said, I need a new desk chair.

(I can hear Julie saying "Finally!" as she's reading this.)


That is Madge's neologism for our cat. She derived it from Tomboy, not knowing the term Tomcat, which we then explained to her.
See, our cat:
eats all of his food at once
drinks from the toilet
wants you to scratch his belly
chases his tail
plays fetch with thrown toy mice
even drops the fetched mice at your feet to play again
is happy to see people
mounts visitors' legs (okay, maybe not this one)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Coco Tuesday

This evening, Coco came running into the kitchen.
Coco: Look, I found a nickel!
Mommy: Where did you find it?
Coco: By your bed.
Mommy: Well, then you can keep it.
Coco: I got a nickel!
Madge [rolling eyes, older-sistery]: That's not a nickel; it's just a penny.
Coco [skipping down hallway, sing-song]: A penny! A penny!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Madge Monday

We had a bit of an incident today. Madge changed her mind about going to the party store after Coco waited all day so she could go along as she asked to, earlier that day. So now he's a day behind in his party planning and Madge has encountered the power of the refusal to accept an apology. It is usually her game to deny someone the opportunity to apologize, but today she found no buyer for her sorries. And boy is she repentent now.

bit o' reading

The local bookstore has a book club which I may or may not take part in. I've read the book, Dubliners, by James Joyce, just in case I do. I'm not sure I get the point of the stories - or the point of not having a point -, but occasionally they have quite gorgeous lines. Here's one:

The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze began with a defiant note but was confused by what seemed a deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris, revealing for an instant a temperament of great sensibility.

"Deliberate swoon" - awesome.

Friday, February 01, 2008


Turner Classic Movies. Always a fun channel to watch. Last night I sort of watched Portrait of Jennie (don't know if it was A or The). Weird, especially since the weirdness of the older girl playing a younger girl made me dismiss it as being miscast. I figured she must have been someone's girlfriend. I mean, she may have been, anyway, but I thought that's what got her the role. Then, later, when the twist became more obvious and then finally was revealed, I realized I should have been paying more attention.
I was also annoyed by the constant quotation of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun in the soundtrack. Oh, well.
Then I started Now, Voyager, which I've always wanted to see and still do, but the whole thing was too late and I got irritated by the overly fake ocean-cruise scene. They could have just had a white backdrop with the words "We're on an ocean now" and it would have been just as believable.