Friday, October 31, 2003

Friday Five

Craig's topic:

"The biggest advantage to being a teacher is the time off in the summer. Yeah, the annual salary isn’t the best, but I get two friggin’ months off a year! Not to mention two weeks for Christmas, a week for Thanksgiving, Spring Break, and other assorted days off.

If you were paid for two months of not going to work, what are five things you would do with your time off?"

1. Go to Europe. Take my kids to museums and castles and plays. Eat English icecream and drink French wine.
2. Sail. Hang out on deserted Caribbean islands. Drink a lot of rum.
3. Go to the beach with my kids (please note this is distinct from #2, which would be a decidedly adults only adventure). Rent a beach house in Perdido Key. Build sand castles. Eat really fresh seafood at tacky ship themed restaurants.
4. Write. Lock myself in my office and write nonstop for hours and hours. Stop to go to the bookstore and buy books for research. Read said books. Write some more.
5. Catch up on my movie and tv watching. Lounge on the couch in my pj's. Eat popcorn. Watch everything I've missed since approximately 1980.

Other participants listed on the sidebar.

Notice how travel dominated all the lists? People who have time and money and don't travel are suckers. That's all there is to it.


Sorry for my recent absence (and thanks to those who sent very kind emails). My grandfather died last week. The funeral was over the weekend, in East Texas, and between getting ready, the weekend itself, recovering from the weekend away from home, and, oh yeah, sick kids, I haven't had much blogging time. I really want to write about my grandfather, who was a truly wonderful man, but I think I need to mull it over and be sad for a while.

I've also been using most of my writing time to work on my short story, which is now approaching novella length (with about 1/3 of the story to go). This is the first fiction project that I've come close to finishing and feeling good about, ever. So, hurray for me.

My goal for the weekend is to catch up on my life and get back into my usual routines, so I hope I'll be blogging more regularly again.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Friday Five

Gina asks:
I don't have children myself, but I love to hear the knee-slappers that my godson, his siblings, and my nieces come out with. Or, for that matter, the "logic" espoused by the adults around them when speaking to them.

To whit, what are the most amusing things you've ever heard in a household with children?

1. Drew: "It's against the law to eat people. Even in Paris, France you can't eat people."
2. My mom to my brother: "Stop sucking on the cat's ears."
3. Me to my kids: "Please do not smear caramel on the dog."
4. Drew: "How do a mommy alien and a daddy alien make a baby alien?"
5. Drew to Adam: "Can I feel your baby move, Daddy?"

Honorable mention, more cute and sweet than amusing - Franny, "Moths are just little bedtime butterflies."
Honorable mention 2, not one bit amusing, in fact horrifying, but an example of the bizarre things adults say to kids - Unknown mom on the street to her misbehaving kid: "If you don't start behaving, I'm going to make you read when you get home!"

Also playing: Adam, Merideth, Will, Chris, Dave, Colleen, Craig, Gord, Adrienne, Nanette, Marvin, and Rob.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Formula feeding guilt, or the lack thereof

Interesting article from Dr. Jack Newman about why formula feeding gets a pass from doctors and healthcare professionals, who are usually very quick to guilt trip mothers for real or perceived parenting inadequacies, like smoking during pregnancy or co-sleeping.

Newman has some very good points about how much the formula companies have invested in the idea that formula is almost, really pretty-much-the-same-as breastmilk. And he is absolutely correct that healthcare professionals, no matter how well meaning, often give bad advice that makes it harder for women to continue nursing.

I found this link at Loco Parentis.

Obligatory disclaimer: I realize there are many women who can't breastfeed their children for various reasons and it is not my intention to make them feel guilty. However, it's important to realize that this blindspot on the part of healthcare professionals contributes to the problem.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Domestic Disturbance

My October column is up at Go. Read. Comment.

Also an excellent feature article by one of my favorite mama-writers, Katie Allison Granju.

Signs of the Coming Apocalypse?

Ah-nuld elected governor of California. Redistricting passed by the Texas legislature. The continued career (even if it's just in those damn phone commercials) of Carrot Top. It's a scary world, boys and girls.

Speculative Fiction authors comment on the new governor of CA - link courtesy of Bookslut. Harlan Ellison and Ursula Le Guin have the best responses.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Friday Five

Chris' Topic:
"I want to expose my son to the very best literature as he grows up -- "best" being defined as "engaging his interest, challenging his intellect, and building his character." Based on your own life experiences, what five books would you recommend?"

This question is problematic (and not because of any gender implications - I am quite certain that, aside from personal taste, boys and girls should all be exposed to the same basic canon) - I'd pick different books for different age children, but here's 5 that I think everyone should have read by the time he or she is an adult.

1. A good edition of Greek myths - Graves' is good. There are also some good versions for younger children, including several comic style ones.
2. The Illiad and The Odyssey, in good translations. For the youngsters, Marcia Williams has done a comic version of both stories that is clever and accesible.
3. A selection of Shakespeare - I've started my kids with Marcia William's comic versions. Something like Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare would also be a good introduction. By the junior high years, I hope my kids will have read at least A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet in the original.
4. A good anthology of poetry, fables, fairy tales and literature for children - My Book House is a wonderful series that starts with a volume of nursery rhymes and ends (at volume 12) with excerpts from Don Quixote and Chaucer's Tales. Each version includes short biographies of historical figures as well as myths from varioius cultures. The series is certainly not perfect - it was originally assembled in the 1920's and revised in the 1950's so it presents a very anglo, male version of the canon and some of the writing sounds stilted to a modern ear, but it is one of the best efforts at cultural literacy for children. Sadly the series is out of print, but it is readily available from used book services (except for the first volume - In the Nursery, which is missing from many sets, including mine.)
5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.

Honorable Mentions:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien , The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, some version of the Matter of Britain - Le Morte d'Arthur would be great, but any version that sticks close to the traditional story will do, a good collection of traditional fairy tales - any edition is good, so long as it's not too Disneyfied or whitewashed, and I could go on and on here (children's literature is one of my pet obsessions) so I'll just stop without mentioning Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. . .ok, I'm really stopping now.

Also playing: Adam, Will, Merideth, Gina, Colleen (?), Dave (?), Craig, Gord, Adrienne, Nanette, and introducing Marvin and Rob.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Bar Baby Update

I got an email from the owner of Casino el Camino yesterday, asking me to call him so he could apologize for the incident on Friday night. When we talked on the phone he was very apologetic and explained that it was the waitress' last day, so she no longer works there. The bartender had already let him know about what had happened on Friday night, and he was glad to hear from me so he could make things right. He also said it's not anything unusual for children to be there at that time of day - their policy is that underage children are allowed until 8, when things usually get louder and rowdier. He even offered to comp my next meal at Casino el Camino, proving that he's a real mensch.

So, to recap: the burgers and sandwiches at Casino el Camino are fabulous, the bitchy waitress no longer works there, the owner and the rest of the staff seem like great folks, and you can go there with your kids until 8. Go have a beer and a burger! (And after that stick around for the show at Esther's - they're getting all kinds of good material out of this session of the lege.)

New Book Slut

After a month hiatus, Book Slut is back with a new issue. Highlights include an interview with Scott McCloud (See Merideth. See Merideth squee. Squee, Merideth, squee.), Jessa Crispin on Stranger in a Strange Land, the debut of a new column which will focus on banned or challenged books, and an open letter to mainstream reviewers of comics.

Monday, October 06, 2003

You have a baby! In a bar.

One of the things I enjoy about Austin is the laid back attitude towards infants and children. When my kids are babies I tend to take them everywhere with me under the theory that babies are just noisy luggage until about 9 months - they can't exactly get into trouble or make a scene, and if they start fussing you can always quiet them down by nursing them. Also, if you're nursing, it's easier to take the baby with you than to hire a sitter, pump a bottle before you leave, and then pump while you're out to prevent engorgment. I've taken my babies to dinner all over town, to hear live music and to all sorts of adult events, and no one has ever had anything negative to say. (I hasten to add that I'm fanatically about not disturbing the people around me, and if the nursing doesn't calm the baby down, we're out of there.)

I guess there's always going to be one jerk who tries to ruin it for everybody else. Friday night I went to my friend Bethany's bachelorette party and had a great evening with my gal pals. We agreed to meet for dinner at a bar on Sixth St. that's well known for it's food. (I'm not going to name this establishment until I give them a few more days to respond to my complaint letter.) It was 5:30 in the evening and we sat outside in the courtyard away from the smoke and any loud noise. It was exactly as if we'd been eating at a restaurant with an outside seating area. Despite this, our waitress was terribly concerned about how "inappropriate" it was that I had a baby in a bar. She made this concern known while we were waiting in line at the kitchen window to order food, by complaining loudly (as in, I want to make sure you hear me, even though I'm going to pretend I'm not talking to you) to the folks in line ahead of us. She then refused to take my order. My friends ordered for me, but she never brought the part of our order that included my sandwhich, and we had to go ourselves and get it from the kitchen where it had been sitting for some time.

It's unclear what the problem was - she mentioned the breastfeeding, but claimed that didn't really bother her. She said it was not an appropriate place to have a baby, but again, it wasn't any different than a restaurant. And Alec was very quiet the whole time we were there, so there's no way he was disturbing other customers.

The amusing part is that this chick was the typical wild child Austinite - bleached hair, tattoos up and down both arms, and a punky rock and roll attitude. I'm sure she thinks of herself as an alternative, unconventional type; and she probably considers people like me - no dyed hair (today), no tattoos, plain jane clothes and a kid - to be the essence of conventional squaredom. And yet she's the one espousing the hardcore conservative attitude that allowing an infant to be in a place where people are consuming alcohol will warp him forever. So much for her alternative street cred.

I'm happy to report that the rest of our evening was a blast. We saw a great show at Esther's Follies and finished up with drinks on the patio at Club DeVille. Both of these places might have had more reason to be concerned about a baby than the place we ate dinner - at Esther's they're doing a show and Club DeVille is more of a bar bar than the other place (for one thing they don't serve food). Instead, at both places they doted over the baby and acted like it was the most natural thing in the world for me to have him with me. So I'm in hopes that the waitress at the first place was an annomaly, and not an indication of an attitude shift.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Friday Five

Will's turn to suggest a topic:

"Heinlein's Number of the Beast theorizes that all realities, even ours, come from someone else's imagination. And therefore, if you could learn to travel across dimensions it would be possible to find the worlds where every story occurred. The more fully realized story (and the better the story-teller) the more fully realized the world.


What five fictional worlds would you like to visit once William perfects his inter-dimensional mini-van?"

1. The Dreaming, from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Home of Morpheus, the King of Dreams. The prime attraction for me is the library, which contains all stories ever dreamt of, from the Lord Peter mysteries that Dorothy Sayers never got around to writing to the super cool spy novel you were idly plotting out on the bus some time last year.

2. The England of Connie Willis' time travel stories (e.g. Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog): The world itself is nothing particularly special (a standard future extrapolated from current events) but it has one piece of technology to die for - time machines. Time machines used by historians. I want to live in Willis' Oxford and quietly study the Edwardian era.

3. Narnia from C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: A pastoral paradise with talking animals, dryads and fauns. As a child, I retreated into these books more times than I can count and the world of the books is inescapably entwined with my most nostalgic memories of childhood.

4. Darkover from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover stories (e.g. The Forbidden Tower): A pre-industrial world where some people exhibit extrasensory mental abilities like telepathy or telekinesis. The culture is the thrilling mishmash of medieval and renaissance cliches - long flowing dresses, sword fights, strict ritual and hierarchy - that is typical of fantasy, but Bradley manages to ground it in a way that makes it feel more realistic and fully fleshed out and she adds some less expected twists.

5. Dorothy Dunnett's 16th century, as seen in The Game of King's and it's sequels: Pretty much the historical 16th century with a bit more swashbuckling. And Francis Lymond, sigh. . . .

Also playing: Adam, Merideth, Chris (?), Gina, Colleen, Dave, Craig, Gord, Adrienne, Nannette.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Feminism Responsible for Bad Sex?

It is according to a recent Salon article by Ann Marlowe (watch the ads, read the article, you know the drill). Marlow argues that feminism has triumphed, resulting in wimpy, feminized men who are incapable of sexually exciting women. She also claims that, because of feminism, couples no longer have intercourse, instead settling for oral sex in order to keep a strict balance of orgasms on their sexual tally sheets. And, in what is perhaps her most bizarre assertion, she suggests that oral sex is "sex lite" - somehow less fulfilling or intense than intercourse. She writes, "No one loses control, loses track of where they are, forgets that music is playing, screams, or weeps, when someone performs oral sex on them. But fucking stirs deep emotions that go to our core as animals and humans. And with the absence of tenderness and trust between men and women, we're more and more inclined to banish deep emotion from our post-patriarchal lives."

The number of questionable assumptions in this short essay are truly mind boggling. First, the idea that feminism has triumphed and that the balance of power in relationships has shifted to women is laughable. Egalitarianism may, possibly, be the norm for upper middle class, educated couples, but maybe Marlow should take a look outside the ivory tower. I doubt the woman I know who was emotionally and physically abused by both of her ex-husbands would agree that she had the upper hand in those relationships. Probably most American couples fall somewhere between these two extremes, but I sincerely doubt that most men are, as Marlow so elegantly puts it, "pussy whipped."

Second, who says women have to be dominated to enjoy sex? Even if that's your kink, surely you can roleplay in the bed without sacrificing your independence or autonomy in other aspects of your relationship.

Third, where are all these couples who have have given up on intercourse? Marlow offers no evidence so support this claim, which doesn't apply to anyone I know. And believe me, I know some over-educated, hippy dippy "womyn."

Fourth, not to put too fine a point on it, but if that's really what Marlow thinks of oral sex, she's been doing it wrong. Or, I suppose, her partners have.

Finally, I'm more than a little offended by the idea that the only real, legitimate sex is vaginal intercourse. So, what, it's impossibly for gays and lesbians to have sex that "stirs deep emotions"? What a crock of homophobic shit.

I'm not going to venture into TMI territory, but let me assure you that everything is A-ok in my bedroom. "I'm a feminist and I have great sex!" Maybe it could be NOW's next advertising campaign?

I'm a Schmuck

Due to the chaos in my life, I missed my dear friend Gina's birthday. I'm the Worst. Friend. Ever. Happy belated birthday, Gina - I'm glad it was a good one.