Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

February 26, 2010

Every Friday I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. Here’s a really interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about why the “aging” of scientific research grants may impede creativity.

2. And while we’re on the topic of aging – according to the Los Angeles Times – the Tea Partiers are just a bunch of baby boomers longing for the 60s. Who knew?

3. I absolutely adored this homage to The New Yorker over on A Boat Against The Current. Who amongst us didn’t dream of the day the New Yorker would call? (Who am I kidding? Who amongst us *still* doesn’t dream…)

4. I’m now a regular over at Roger Ebert’s Journal on the SunTimes. Here’s a recent post he did on a visit to London (with many ref’s to my very own ‘hood.) It’s about writing…and walking…and, well, writing and walking. Fabulous.

5. If you’re into libraries, have a look at this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Joyce Carol Oates’ abiding love of libraries. While you’re at it, here’s an interview in Salon with Marilyn Johnson, the author of a new book on librarians entitled This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All.

6. Finally, a dispatch from Fast Company on why it’s actually more productive to nap. Hallelujah!

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Join A Book Club

February 24, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’ve been thinking a lot about book clubs lately.

It started when I read this vaguely dismissive piece in the New York Times about why reading has become “too social” and should remain a fundamentally private experience.

Then I read Kristen’s post over on Motherese yesterday about the sheer variety of book club experiences out there and her uncertainty as to what she’s meant to get out of them anyway.

I can relate to both points of view. I’ve been in several book clubs over the course of my adult life and they’ve all been quite different from one another. At times, I’ve been quite frustrated by these clubs, whether because people came to the meeting not having finished the book (gasp) or because they chose titles that I thought were too…cheesy. (For a great spoof on the potential shallowness of book clubs, see this New Yorker piece.)

I’ve since reformed my ways and come to see that you go to book clubs for lots of different reasons, and it’s best to just chill out and lower your expectations.

And so, as a reformed book club snob (Yes, Katy, that’s my definition!), let me offer five reasons that I think it’s a good idea to join a book club:

1. You meet interesting people. IMHO, the trick is not to join a book club full of your best friends. Some people do that and absolutely love it. But I find book clubs more interesting when none of my close friends are in them. After all, I’ll probably end up talking about books with my close friends anyway. But I’ll learn more from drawing upon a wider range of individuals. My current book club is composed of a bunch of women I almost never see (except occasionally on the street) and that’s precisely why I like it. It features – among others – a midwife, an entrepreneur, a SAHM and an urban planner. These ladies hail from all over the world. So in addition to gaining their quite distinct takes on the book at hand, I also gain a window into their lives, which are so very different from my own.

2. You read things that you wouldn’t otherwise read. Which ties to point #1, because people who are outside of your immediate circle of friends are more likely to have literary tastes that differ from your own. For example, I just read Stieg Larson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It’s a thriller set in Sweden with loads of sex and violence and family sagas. Though I’m still not convinced that it’s a great “book group” book (see point #3), it was a terrific read and I absolutely devoured it. But I never would have gone near it with a ten foot pole had it not been for book club.

3. Some books need to be discussed. This gets back to the New York Times article and the idea that reading should (arguably) remain a private pursuit (although, to be fair, the author of that article acknowledges that some particularly difficult books demand discussion.) A case in point: José Saramago’s Blindness, which I also just read in my book club. Wow! What an amazing novel. It totally changed the way that I think about fiction. But what was it about? Clearly, it was an allegory of some sort. But for what? Authoritarian rule? Religion? Capitalism? All of the above? We all had different ideas about what this great book “meant” and I felt like I understood it so much better having talked about it.

4. You eat great food. Most book groups entail some sort of snack alongside them, and usually – let’s be honest – some alcohol. I had grown accustomed to the standard wine/cheese/grapes fare at my old book club in Chicago, and that suited me fine. But, boy did they up the ante when we moved to London. One of my hostesses is Swedish, and she regularly prepares Swedish mulled wine – appropriately named Glögg – as well as Swedish apple tarts whenever we meet at her home. Yum!

5. Sometimes it’s fun just to chat. Finally – all book clubs – no matter how serious, entail some chit chat. And that’s just how it should be. Whether or not you’re in one that’s all-women – as seems to be the norm – or contains “the male element” (as someone ominously referred to men recently…yikes! sounds contagious!) we all thrive on friendship as we grow older. And book clubs are a great excuse to make and keep friends.

*****

I was delighted to get this shout-out on the fabulous Alpha Mummy blog in London today for my recent piece on peanut allergies.

*****

I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com today talking about why I think Nicaragua’s abortion ban is inhumane and backward. (But other than that, I think it’s really great…) Have a look.

Image: My Book Group Met At A Knit Shop by ellenmac11 via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Coping With Peanut Allergies: New Hope

February 22, 2010

There are plenty of things you don’t bargain for before you become a parent: just how little sleep you’ll actually get that first year (five years?)…just how inarticulate you’ll be the first time your kid asks you where babies come from (Um…that’s a really good question )…and – oh yeah – the fact that you’ll never go to a movie theatre again. (Hello, Netflix!)

I kind of knew all of those things were on the horizon. One thing I didn’t see coming was that my son would also arrive into this world allergic to more than 20 different foods, some of which might possibly kill him.

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about some new research on peanut allergies coming out of the UK and what it means for parents like me. Have a look

Image: 52 Weeks – Week 5 – Food Allergy and Intolerance Week (25th-29th January 2010) via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

February 19, 2010

Every Friday I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. Here’s a hilarious spoof of the Ipad (and Apple more generally) from The Onion.

2. And while we’re on the subject of technology, The New Republic also has a very funny piece on how middle aged people are being ruined by new media.

3. If you’re a wordsmith, you’ll love this piece from The Nieman Journalism Lab about words New York Times readers find difficult.

4. You’ll also love this video of a real, live calligrapher in The Guardian.

5. This feature on Roger Ebert in Esquire is amazing, as is his response to it in The Sun Times. (Hat Tip: Lisa Romeo Writes.)

6. Finally, here’s a piece I did on the evolving diplomatic row between the UK and Israel over the Hamas Assassination in Dubai in PoliticsDaily.com.

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Enjoy your weekend!

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Parenting Duties I’d Readily Outsource

February 17, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week’s list is inspired by a recent post I did on five reasons we all need a wife.

As with the division of labor within marriage, I’m a big believer that – it’s best to be honest as a parent about which tasks you like and which tasks you find onerous.

I’m not in a position to hire a nanny right now – (and we all know how hard that can be) – but if I had an imaginary care-taker for my children, here are five jobs I’d readily delegate:

1. Swim Lessons. Much like riding a bike (see below), learning to swim is one of those formative childhood experiences that’s meant to stay with you your entire life. I was at a dinner party last night and everyone at the table very clearly remembered their first swim lesson (often with a grimace.) I don’t mind going to watch my kids swim (as I currently do every Sunday morning.) But those early lessons where you also have to don a bathing suit and jump in and “acclimate them to the water” while singing Motorboat, Motorboat over and over? No thanks.

2. Riding a Bike. You know how they have that expression “It’s like riding a bike!”? I think there should be a sister expression: “It’s like learning to ride a bike” which captures the tedium, frustration, and near-death experiences that characterize the bike-learning process. Yeah, I know. This is parent blasphemy. What can I say? I told you I valued honesty.

3. Art Projects. I’m cool with some paper and crayons, even a scissor or two. But once glue, paint and – God Forbid – anything with a needle and thread get involved, I’m totally ready to hand off to someone else. I don’t, mind you. But I’d like to. Which is why I’m *so* jazzed that my daughter is at a camp this week where she’s learning to make her own clothes. Today she came home in a tiger-fur waist coat (vest, for you Americans.) She was so proud of herself. And so was I. And relieved.

4. Science Experiments. Ditto. Mind you, I love the *idea* of a test tube. But once you actually start mixing things in those beakers and waiting for them to react…uh-uh. (And by the way, why do all the experiments require iron filings? I mean, really. Who has those just lying around the house? Sure. Right here with my copy of the Constitution…)

5. Spectator Sports. I enjoy watching my kids compete in sporting events. It’s when they ask me to take them to watch a sporting event that I wince inwardly. This might be because – as someone whose own sporting prowess doesn’t extend much beyond pool and bowling – I just don’t find sports that interesting (Musical Theatre, in contrast? Now you’re talking…). So attending, say, a professional soccer game? Not my cuppa…

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of parenting duties I do enjoy: reading, writing, singing, play acting, playing board games, doing homework, baking cookies, ice skating. And more.

But I’ll happily pass on those listed above.

What’s on your list?

*****

I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com today talking about a controversial CIA torture case in the UK and why it’s been so divisive for this country.


Image: Sewing Lesson by Robert the Noid via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Coping With Depression: A Poem

February 15, 2010

Some people I’m close to are going through some difficult times right now. Some are having relationship problems, others are enduring career crises, and some are just very, very low.

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day – which is, at the end of the day, a celebration of friendship and love – I thought I’d post this poem written by the fabulous Colleen Wainwright of Communicatrix fame.

I’ve been sending it around a lot lately:

For Occasional Blues

When you are low

—and you will be,
just as sure as you
may not be now—

it is good to have
a few necessities in stock
to keep the beasts
at bay.

Like your day at Point Dume,
and that wall of wind pushing back
as you sung the first three lines
of fifty pop songs
against it
while your heart screamed,
my ocean!

Or sinking into the air-cooled comfort
of first show at the Grove
and tucking your chilled toes
up under your tush
as you prepared
to disappear
for two delicious hours

Or the heat of the tarpaper tiles
on the low-slanted roof
as you baked between classes
beside your traveling companion,
passing salted Ruffles
and a half-quart tub of sour cream
back and forth
against the prospect
of imminent minor discomfort.

The trick
if there is one
is to recall specifics
with the precision
of an ichthyologist
aligning individual scales:
the feel of leaning in
the nap of new velour
the slope of the incline

And if you can’t,
make it up

But precisely

God is in the details
even if you are the god
who put them there

and it is through these million
man-made pinholes
that you will reconnect
with the All-That-Is
and find the love
that eludes you now.

Send this to someone you love. We all need a pick-me-up once in awhile…

Image: Depression by Canonsnapper via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

February 12, 2010

Every Friday I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. As someone who blogs about adulthood, I really liked Jacob Weisberg’s analysis in Slate of what’s wrong with American politics right now. (Answer: The voters haven’t grown up.)

2. I absolutely adored Kate Harding’s paean to the LRB personals ads in Salon. Her own two ads are laugh-out-loud funny. And while I’m at it, allow me to plug my good friend Paul Reizin’s memoir of how he met his wife through a personals ad: Date Expectations: One Man’s Voyage Through The Lonely Hearts.

3. With all the gloomy talk of marriage lately (and the real-life implosion of several high profile marriages…I mention no names!), it was heartening to read this account of what makes for a successful long-term marriage in The Wall Street Journal. You gotta love an article that includes the Carters (as in Jimmy and Rosalyn) and the  Osbournes (as in Sharon and Ozzy) under one tent.

4. Here’s a thoughtful piece by author Dani Shapiro in The Los Angeles Times about how publishing has overtaken writing as a goal for writers these days.

5. Finally, I was delighted to discover (via Practicing Writing) this new (to me) blog about the adventures of an expatriate writer called Writer Abroad. For obvious reasons, I was particularly taken with this post on how one can become addicted to living abroad.

Oh yes. And please do follow me on Twitter!

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