Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On John Updike and Coffee Mugs

"[T]hese mugs, with their painted parrots and red-and-green stripes, have that quality pets do, of sharing your innermost domestic existence, so that you come gracefully home to them from a venture into human society. They give you back yourself after others have dirtied and addled it."
I was reading John Updike's Seek My Face before the venerable author died yesterday (a friend suggested I stop reading living authors on the chance that I am a bad-luck charm or something), and so it seems appropriate to post the above quote, which is from the novel and which I really liked (I also am really liking the novel).  
It may just be because I am a coffee drinker addict, but the quote rang true to me. Mugs do seem more sentimental than kitschy to me—there is something calming not only about the hot, dark, addictive liquid I put in them, but about the mugs themselves.
Perhaps it's because the mugs make me smile because they come with memories of the people who gave them to me and why or of where they are from. The mugs I use most frequently (all gifts) are: a Starbucks mug; one that says, "Peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart"; a cool one that looks black but shows photos when you pour in hot water. When I'm home, I use a Columbia Mom mug that is totally rubbed off so that you cannot even tell what it once said. I tell my mother it's a segulah that my kids should go to Columbia.
I'm not sure what any of this says about me other than that I am easy to buy gifts for—buy me a coffee mug and you're set.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Qaddafi and the Copy Editor

This may come as a surprise, but I don't read [Pause for the shock to sink in.] A friend, though, does and sent me this commentary from ESPN sports columnist Gregg Easterbrook on the Qaddafi op-ed in The Times:

 As a Christian, I believe in redemptive power, so I am willing to believe Qaddafi has changed. Still, encountering the jarring sight of an op-ed by Muammar Qaddafi, I envisioned this scene:

FACTOTUM: (Trembling.) Brotherly Leader, we have received the read-back from the Times copy editor.

QADDAFI: Did it come on purest vellum?

FACTOTUM: Not exactly. Staples fax paper, I used an Internet coupon. (Hesitates.) The Times copy editor -- she changed a semicolon.

QADDAFI: Infidel! She will die for this! Have her buried in sand up to her head in the village quad, then let loose the scorpions!

FACTOTUM: (Shaking.) If you would deign to cast your magnificent gaze upon this PDF …

QADDAFI: (Takes the edited copy, reads.) Hey, she's right -- the sentence flows better now. Forget what I said. Send her a thousand red roses. Name a school after her.

FACTOTUM: (Immensely relieved.) Of course!

QADDAFI: Buy the entire day's press run. Also, tell the Times editors if they don't want anything to happen to their fancy new building, give me the crossword puzzle answers in advance. I like to dazzle people by doing the crossword really fast.

FACTOTUM: (Bows.) By your command.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Today's Dose of Shoe Lust


If I were in the business of spending ludicrous amounts of money on gorgeous shoes. And if I alternately either thought that open-toe shoes looked acceptable with pantyhose or didn't feel the need to wear pantyhose to shul (this shoe lust is not the place for that discussion)—or, I suppose, if I had occasions that called for gorgeous shoes to which I would feel comfortable going pantyhose-less—I would buy these shoes. Though, a friend just called them the "shoe equivalents of black lady church hats"—"middle-aged" after I asked her to convince me not to buy them (talk about a job well done). I think I am over them. Maybe. They will just live here on my blog and be pretty.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Times Defines Facebook Friendship

Just in case you were confused about what Facebook friendship means, the NYT let's you [or, rather, their reporters] know in their new Facebook policy. In answering the question of whether reporters can write about their Facebook friends, the Times says:
 The answer depends on whether a "friend" is really a friend. In general, being a "friend" of someone on Facebook is almost meaningless and does not signify the kind of relationship that could pose a conflict of interest for a reporter or editor writing about that person. But if a "friend" is really a personal friend, it would.


Inaugural Thoughts

  • Watching the inauguration with the crowd at Columbia was fun, though cold. I know, I know, not nearly as cold as I would have been had I been in D.C.but also not nearly as historic. Though I did get to hear Bollinger speak for like five seconds, which was a nice bonus. Negative points for Bollinger's comment that said something to the effect that Obama's inauguration is more important for Columbia than for anyone else and for the blue-and-white pom-poms, which would have been a nice touch except that it's hard to see a TV screen when people are waving pom-poms in front of your face.
  • Real-time transcription must be incredibly hard. I recognize that, really. But all the same, if you were going to transcribe one of the most historic moments of our time, don't you think you'd go in knowing how to spell the names of the new president's children (Melia?)? The closed captioning was, um, not exactly accurate. My favorite gaffes: "shopping in heaven" instead of "shouting in heaven" and some mumbo jumbo instead of Obama's name when he took the oath of office. (Not that the oath of office wasn't flubbed anyway.)
  • As for the moment itself, I have nothing to say that hasn't been said better elsewhere. It was historic. It was fantastic. It was exciting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

'Because They Were Pretty'

Quotes I like from books I've read recently:
"The grandma's feet were lovely as pink pearls and dressed in velvety high heels that made her walk with a wobble, but she wore them anyway because they were pretty." —The House on Mango Street (I am pretty sure this is exactly what I will be like when I am a grandma.)
"We assume that because these people had shapes like ours, were so much like us, that they felt the same. Perhaps no one had taught them loneliness? Is that such a ridiculous question? Or sorrow?" —The Cleft
"But books, and sometimes movies, are more personal than that; they can be mutually appreciated, but the specific reasons for loving them cannot satisfactorily be shared." —The Fourth Hand (Don't construe this as a book recommendation—Irving can do so much better.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Story and So Many Comments I Will Not Make

Setting: My sister and I are getting our coats from the coatroom after shul.

Guy I vaguely know: I have a question for you.
My sister and I: OK.
Guy: Are you two sisters?
Us: Yeah.
Guy: Yes! So many people owe me so much money!
Me: Um, were people betting on us?
Guy: Well, we were looking at you and I was like: "They look exactly alike. They must be sisters." But everyone else was like, "But they can't be sisters--they have different color hair."

I'll just leave the story at that.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

Some new favorite things:
  • Settlers of Canaan. Brought to you by the same people who brought you Settlers of Catan , this game, though, involves some crazy Biblical components, like a plague instead of a robber, four random shevatim (Naphtali, Asher, Yissachar, and Zevulan), building Jerusalem, and an army of priests. It also took us four hours to play it through.
  • Eyebrow threading. Glad you asked, huh? And maybe favorite is not quite the right word for this. How about useful and significantly less painful than it sounds.
  • Potholders. This one has become sort of a necessity as the burns on my hands can attest to (though one of those is from a blow dryer, so whatever). The plan is to pick some up whenever I get the chance to make the trek to Target. Perhaps I'll even be all healthy and sporty and walk the 40 blocks. Unlikely.
  • Yes Pecan ice cream (in honor of Obama ). I haven't actually tried the ice cream, but it's sort of like my sister's theory on Imagine Whirled Peace ice cream. With a name like that, it has to be good.
  • Barnes & Noble free same-day shipping. I'm more of an Amazon girl myself, but this is pretty much fantastic. Your book comes the same day if you live in Manhattan. And it's free if your order is more than $25.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Front-Page Ads

So, The New York Times has started selling ads off its front page. It's not the first major newspaper to do so—in fact, the only major newspaper left that doesn't sell ads off its front page is The Washington Post—but it's still a sad reality. There is something to be said about the front page of a newspaper being devoted to, well, news.
I once saw a question on a journalism ethics test that asked would-be editors-in-chief if they would put an ad on the front page for an exorbitant sum, and the correct answer was assumed to be yes. The good the money could do the newspaper outweighed the unfortunate reality of having an ad on such prime journalistic real estate. And I have no qualms with that approach in theory, but it still does seem like selling out in a way one would hope a paper like The NY Times wouldn't have to.
Though as fewer people read The Times in print, fewer people will be bothered by this, I suppose. And maybe it's taking the Web model to heart—no one would suggest that a newspaper Web site not publish ads on its home page.
Still, the colorful CBS ad makes me sad.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Top 5 Awkward Family Moments of the Weekend

It's been quite a weekend.

  • "You've changed a lot. You don't look anything like you used to. Now you're a babe." --my 80-year-old great uncle, in which he managed to simultaneously disturb me and insult me. He added insult to injury by telling my sister right afterward that she "wasn't quite there yet." 
  • My cousin telling me how cute her son's chumash play was--the opening scene was set in a classroom with the boys asking their teacher why they had to have school on Sunday, with one of the boys specifying that his sister doesn't have school on Sunday. The answer? "Because we're boys and we need to learn Torah." Oh-so cute.
  • My sister and I contemplating whether taking a gemara off the shelf to look something up in my cousins' house would lead to a riot of some sort. A boy diving for the gemara, peyos flying, and snatching it out of our hands? We opted to avoid the gemara.
  • My uncle introducing everyone at the meal and just calling us "my nieces." He added "from Far Rockaway" after my aunt chimed in but clearly didn't know any other information about us--like our names.
  • My father naming various family members as they walked in to take pictures at a wedding: And there's cousin X. My brother: Who's X? My father: The groom.