Monthly Archives: May 2005

never gonna stop the rain by complainin’

5/15/05

Okay, enough turgid, navel-gazy whining. Didn’t someone in the comments tell me not to put more baby pictures here? So guess what you’re gonna get? That’s right, more baby pictures!

I don’t know why this one fascinates me, but it’s Tessa and Dana in November, and then again in April. Babies are inside, and then they’re outside. Bizarre.

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Another patented Foto Rekreation™ by yours truly. The first is my grandpa holding me in 1967, the one below is Lucy’s grandfather holding her. Funny how none of the same people are in both pictures, yet the relationship is exactly the same. Or maybe I’m overthinking. Note Steinway piano in both shots:

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Oh yeah. Did I mention that our daughter is not going to take it, nay, she is not going to take it?

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We have a tiny 2′ by 8′ fire escape terrace out back, and while Lucy and I were talking, a rainstorm swept through Brooklyn. I was going to take her in, but she became fascinated by the raindrops hitting her face. Mom took some pics of us without us knowing.

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I managed to capture an image of her smiling last week, but I’d given up hope of ever taking a picture of her gargantuan bellows of abject delight. And this was just luck, but I snapped the shutter at just the right time. Man, when she does this, I want to move mountains just to see it again.

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tantalus

5/12/05

Perhaps I should just let it go. It has obviously been slipping for a long time, and though there are occasional breakthroughs, I feel like an old fencer draped in a wet, heavy comforter. Things happen that have never happened before.

I suppose I could start an entirely new lifestyle, shed all the ballast that has kept me from soaring since – shit, seventh grade – but seriously, how many more dime-store revolutions, how many ten-day epiphanies sliding back into quo, how many am I willing to shoulder?

I should probably let the other thing go too. It’s just not worth the heartbreak, and perhaps there is a hint in the air that I haven’t picked up on in years. It may be all too obvious, but I have chosen to ignore it, chasing some postopian dream that doesn’t seem catching.

Really, I’m the only one left. Everyone else has gone on with their routines, exploded in their diaspora, and I’m still the little kid waving the captured flag, hoping somebody will notice.

Nobody else even tries. People don’t like doing, as it is more effort than not. If I were to stop, would anyone else pick up the rest of the rope? My fire burns the tallest, but the constant gathering of kindling has been excruciating for my back.

Is it enough just to have a kid, and derive your identity from them? It means becoming the kind of person I’d swore I’d never be, and with it, the end of that long dream. I’m not sure that’s particularly healthy, but man, I hear the call, and it’s hard to ignore. I’m not ready to stop pushing the rock, but the hill looks so tall, and I’ve almost forgotten why I love the futility.

holy shi’ite

5/11/05

Man, why are some Americans so goldurn stupid? A report comes out that interrogators had flushed copies of the Koran down the toilet in order to intimidate inmates at Guantanamo, and a few hours later, my old roommate Jiffer is dodging bullets in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. I’ll let today’s email from her speak for itself:

While walking across the compound to the cars we heard loud (close) machine gun fire. the security guy screams “bunker!” so we scurry back to the office and wait there… Ten minutes later, they say it is clear, a second attempt, more gunfire and we are back in the bunker. Soon the whole staff files in and a guard is eerily told to take down all of our names. The cause of the demonstrations, we learn, as we sit in the bunker, is apparently news from a recent returnee from the illegal prison in Guantanamo that Americans flushed Korans down the toilet. Riots broke out – we stayed in the bunker for an hour.

Word that the demonstration was moving in the opposite direction led security to throw us into the back of two cars, fly down the unpaved backroads and to the airport to catch our flight. we arrived at the airport amidst the sound of more gunfire and flew out in our little eight-seater over clouds of black smoke.

Reports have come in saying that the governors office and the human rights office and the red cross have been burnt to the ground. still unconfirmed. The rest of the UN staff was evacuated to the military base. They may be evacuating Logar, Wardak, Panjshir, Kandahar and other provinces because everyone is up in arms about Koran flushing – apparently demonstrations started yesterday in Pakistan. After unconfirmed rumors of an explosive devise here this morning, we are not allowed to go out at all. home. or others’ homes. and stay there… all this before noon today.

All I have to say to the people running The War On Terror: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? What vital piece of information on future attacks could POSSIBLY have been gleaned from flushing a Koran down the shitter? Was it like, “oh, I wasn’t going to tell you about our secret camp in Syria, but now that you’ve flushed my holy book down the latrine, I know you mean business”?

The Muslim world already thinks we’re a bunch of smug fuckholes who torture prisoners, and now this? And don’t give me the “we have to use extreme measures in this crisis” bullshit – everybody knows that Guantanamo’s info started getting stale about two months after the War on Terror started. Get us some information, you assholes, instead of desecrating an object guaranteed to enrage at least 1 billion people without any upside.

Jiffer is over there! I’ve got a baby daughter! I cross the Manhattan Bridge every day! GET US SOME PERTINENT COUNTER-INTELLIGENCE AND STOP PISSING MUSLIMS OFF FOR NO REASON!!!

As for this Bible-thumping administration, and, coincidentally, the drooling morons trying to force Creationism into the Kansas school system, I admit that I canceled my own protest in the bathroom tonight. I know that the Guantanamo folks flushed a Koran, but I’m not stupid enough to force my Bible in there. I may be a bleeding-heart lefty, but I’m not going to pay for a fucking plumber.

[update: Newsweek has basically retracted the story. I take the rant back if it was indeed false.]

s. charles w.

5/10/05

Happy Birthday to my brother Sean, who turns 35 today (and is thus outside of the much-coveted 18-34 demographic)! I would say more, but I think a few pictures might do him justice:

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me and him, 1972 – he apparently said something very droll about the Nixon/McGovern election

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me, Sean, Michelle, leaving for school, London 1978

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Sean and Michelle, CRUISIN’ 1987!

In 1920s garb for the Pink House shoot with Rick, Tessa and me, 2003

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note box of early-’70s Bisquick and the savaged frosting beaters

halcyon salad days

5/9/05

My friend and yours The Woods Warrior had an interesting entry about the generation gap between Generation X and Y, namely, how there isn’t one. I have to confess that I, too, feel as though I my own proclivities don’t stray far from your basic teen.

Yes, I’m married and have a kid, which now labels me as Unthinkably Old, but let’s look at some similarities:

1) crave distraction

2) obsess over new technology

3) completely addicted to email and the Web

4) quickly bored by art that doesn’t go anywhere

5) vestigal acne

6) crave gossip

7) emotionally affected by network television dramas

8) wear pants that hang very loose in the drawers

9) skate shoes

10) stupid hair

11) rampant masturbation (just kiddin’, ma!)

The only thing that really sets me and the Woods Warrior apart from your eclectic 18-year-old is that we can spell, and we actually bothered to vote in the last election. And I’ll tell you something else that will marry these two generations: no decent art is going to come out of either one.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this – “reactive” generations, like the “Lost” generation of the 1920s, typically give us our best art. It was why the poetry from WWI was awesome, and the “poetry” from WWII was dreck (Civic-minded generations are typically sentimental and ham-handed). Whether you believe in cyclical generational theory or not, our cadre of kids born 1961-1981 were in a unique position to churn out the next Hemingways, Pollocks, Brubecks and Langes.

So far, we have failed utterly. There are notable standouts in literature (Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon), music (Nirvana, Beck) and other fields, but there is certainly no Algonquin Round Table, no Mimi and Richard Farina and Dylan in the West Village, no Beats, no Haight. There won’t be a single person 25 years from now saying, “gosh, I wish I’d been living in Chicago in 2005.”

Tessa mentioned that the indie film scene of the early 90s in Austin (Rodriguez, Linklater and occasionally Tarantino) might have been fun, but those guys are all making blockbusters now, and independent film is two steps from dead in this country, digital media be damned. Shit, Gen X can’t even take credit for hip-hop or techno, both forged by late-era Boomers.

What the hell happened to us? We all had crappy childhoods, came of age in a recession, found a technology boom that evaporated as quickly as it began, suffered the worst terrorist attack in history as we got into our 30s – you’d think some of us would have something to say.

Perhaps we forget how close most artists are to infinite stagnation. Give any person on the verge of a great novel the keys to the liquor cabinet, and nothing ever gets written. Put a Playstation in front of Eliot, and “The Waste Land” never materializes, wire Sylvia Plath’s apartment with broadband and although she doesn’t kill herself, she doesn’t write “The Bell Jar” either.

Anyone looking to the next generation to fix the problem is going to be shit out of luck; they’re just as infested with irony, post-mod and “rediscovering old bullshit and selling it as new” as we are. Perhaps the Blog, as imprecise, fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying an art form as there ever was, will be the one thing that we added to the discussion.

Which would be a real pity. My blog’s pretty fucking good and all, but all three years cannot hold a candle to Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda.

cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise

5/8/05

Yes, yes, I know I can be a bit lugubrious when I go on about my wife, but yesterday was Mother’s Day, and today is her birthday, so you’ll just have to hear me prattle on once more.

I’ve always managed to keep my gifts secret from her, even the elaborate ones, but this time there was no way of hiding the goods.

When we were in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden a few weeks back, I noticed how Tessa always lit up around the cherry trees. The blossoms are insane (as those of you in D.C. know) and the ornamental varieties don’t even bear fruit that you then track back into your house carpet. After a bit of research, I thought the Kwanzan Cherry tree was the winner, as it is obnoxiously beautiful and would bloom in time for her birthday, thus she gets the tree for turning 36, and the flowers for Mother’s Day.

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Those of you who know my wife know that “distractions” and “sleight of hand” don’t really work against her, so I had to go ahead and cover her face with my hand when the nursery truck pulled up to the farm to plant the tree. And since it has been cold up here, the blooms aren’t really out yet. But she was still surprised, and that’s all that really matters.

Sadly, the Kwanzan Cherry only lives up to 25 years (nature always exacts a price for that kind of beauty), so it will be a temporary mainstay for the first third of our marriage. It will be time for a new one when Lucy gets out of college. Any college except Dook, I was quick to add.

Speaking of Ol’ Ironsides, she has begun to giggle and smile her way through the afternoon, and it just breaks your heart. What was once a twice-a-week phenomenon has turned into fireworks of smilie-ness. Yet, like Bill T., gigs of electronic media have been wasted trying to capture the moment. After all, it’s usually a spasm of delight, long gone by the time you click the shutter (assuming you’re holding the camera).

Until this weekend, when she finally got so engrossed in her Auntie Michelle that I was able to catch a tiny bit before they faded. I vote YES for SMILES!

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Slice, Serrate, Squash, Subsume and Slag

5/5/05

JJE asked me if the “5 S’s” from the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD were working, and I thought I’d just go ahead and say what’s been good luck for us as Lucy turns 3 weeks old. For the uninitiated, HBOTB uses Dr. Harvey Karp’s method of getting newborns to shut the hell up, and they all start with S: Shushing, Swaddling, Side (laying the baby on its side or stomach), Swinging and Sucking.

Are those blog readers not having kids totally bored yet? Good.

Lucy responds to swaddling when we put her to bed for the night, but at any other time, she shadowboxes her way out of that fucker in about fourteen seconds. Her legs are so strong that she kicks herself free, and then the rest of it just pisses her off. We’ve had to resort to the Swaddle Me thing with velcro, so we can straightjacket her torso while leaving her legs free to thrash around.

If you’ve ever seen the “Happiest Baby” DVD, Dr. Karp quiets these kids in an almost miraculous fashion, and it’s true, the shit works. However, like anything, it works until it doesn’t anymore, which ranges from 45 minutes to 4.5 minutes.

We subscribe to the whole “attachment parenting” thing, because a) we’re young and foolish, and b) there’s no such thing as Lucy “crying it out.” We’ve tried that, and she works herself into such a furious lather that her body heats up like an iron skillet and she makes Chopes hide in the bathroom. After a total meltdown, however, she’s ready for her 4-5 hour sleep, which has been a GODSEND.

Here’s what we’ve figured out: almost all babies go apeshit at some point in the evening. Their nervous system, tired from a day full of input, needs to reset, so they just explode as a way of de-fragmenting their hard drive. This has nothing to do with you as a parent, it’s just the way newborns are wired. Once you come to grips with this, your empathy is contagious.

I don’t mean to say that Lucy is a fussy baby or colicky; she is a normal newborn with a few fussy periods. I still wonder how Matt McM. and Carrie survived Cogan’s three months of screaming, in fact, I’d give those guys a guest day on the blog to tell the whole story, which sounds harrowing and ultimately redemptive.

But, in brief, these are the ways we get Lucy to cool her jets:

1. Swaddling and rocking. Shushing does not work for Lucy, although we have a very engrossing white noise machine (actually an air purifier) that recreates the womb in our bedroom.

2. I tap her back lightly with two fingers, simulating Tessa’s slow heartbeat (50 bpm or so).

3. THE SLING. Works wonders, and is the way dad can earn his fucking keep for once. We like the New Native Carrier, as it is easy on the back. Tessa is wearing it here.

4. The pacifier – annoying, because you need to hold it in her mouth for her (she doesn’t have the skill set yet) but man, it works in a pinch. Unless of course, she doesn’t want it, and then your neighbors will know it.

5. Your confidence. I honestly think that 85% of first-time parenting is not freaking out when your baby does. If you keep your cool, and refuse to be daunted, the kid will eventually follow suit. Even during the loudest screams, when nothing is working, just try to maintain your sense of the absurd.

6. Marrying a superstar like my wife. God, she is so great. I get weepy just thinking about how awesome a mom she is, after only three weeks. She’s had a rough couple of days with Ol’ Ironsides, and she still soldiers through. She’s my hero and I love her like heroin.

1. buy 2. repeat

5/4/05

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While Tessa and Nell went over their shopping lists at our fiftieth visit to Buy Buy Baby, Lucy and I had to drag our asses around the store looking for things to do. They aren’t very kind to dads in there, there’s no lounge with a TV or anything, so I wandered the aisles, getting more and more… creeped out.

Y’see, every baby product has a picture of a frickin’ baby on it, and they always choose some little munchkin and then Photoshop the ever-livin’ fuck out of it until the babies start to resemble alien gobs of beige Jell-o.

To wit:

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this kid looks like a carved turkey that has been blanched clean by a sandblaster

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this young Teutonic in the Baby Bjorn can’t wait to annex Austria for the Motherland

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hello. I’m going to eat your testicles

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all the body parts of this baby came from OTHER BABIES

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I don’t trust this guy

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we have this one in our house: he looks like a unset bowl of farina

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and of course, this mom is going to DROWN THAT FUCKING ROBOT as soon as the camera crew leaves

deus ex mach 3

5/3/05

It’s not often you get heartening news about your country’s future, but a spate of recent studies and articles have come to the surprising conclusion that Generation Y – or what Neil Howe and Bill Strauss call the Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000 – are not shaping up to be the conservative, yes-men robots that they were predicted to be. These kids, in case you haven’t noticed them, range from “just out of college a couple of years” on down to the brats screaming the loudest at the Walmart, and while their belief systems are shallow, but at least they’re pointed in the right direction.

A study called OMG: How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era (PDF) conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner found, among other things, that Gen Y supports gay marriage (53%) and a woman’s right to an abortion (63%) and identify themselves as Democrats by an 11-point margin.

Yeah, yeah, young people don’t vote, and there’s still time for them to change their minds, but as Rux Teixeira notes, these shifts are much less likely once they hit 30, which is not that far away from the elder edge of Gen Y.

More interesting, the Millennials are less religious than the rest of the country (almost a quarter claim agnosticism) and are part of what CUNY’s American Religious Identification Survey call a rising tide of America’s “non-Christian coalition,” which rose from 20 to 37 million Americans in the last decade.

But there’s more: according to the National Study of Youth and Religion (a team of sociologists led by UNC’s very own – and ironically named – Christian Smith), Christianity is widespread among the younger cohorts of Generation Y, but they have little understanding of religious specifics and are more likely to think of Jesus as a pal, or to ignore the Big Questions altogether. He calls it “Benign Whateverism” and was surprised at how conventional these teens were, taking their parents’ religion with no particular argument (something that should not surprise Neil and Bill at all).

Why is this good news? Because it means the guys and gals 10-20 years older than my daughter Lucy (thus giving them a lot of power in her eventual eyes) will not be shoving the New Testament down her throat. The religion Gen Y does have is of a distinctly unexamined variety, the kind that falls away most easily when exposed to other theories in life (like, say, “evolution” or “homosexuals being real people”). I had been worried that a horde of bible-thumping nimrods were goose-stepping through the Halloween Hell Houses of America, lining up at abortion clinics, taking virginity pledges and saying the word “faggot” at the dinner table. Now it looks like they can’t be bothered.

“What’s your beef with Jesus?” you might ask, and I’d respond that this blog is not the place to visit if you dig on organized religion. Like all sweeping statements, there are exceptions – if Cathie’s sermons are anywhere near as heart-warming and magnanimous as the woman herself, then I’d be happy for Luce to hang out at St. Philips. But my experience of almost any Christianity – or any other goddamn religion – is that the proponents can’t keep their fucking opinions to themselves. Their faith bleeds all over our government, all over our laws, all over our schools, all over women’s bodies, all over queers, and all over me.

I have bemoaned how pathetic my generation is turning out to be, and I’ve paid my fucking dues. I’m just happy to find out that the next cohort of mall rats don’t plan on riding the Body of Christ all the way to Armageddon. Maybe the famously cranky, brilliant biologist Richard Dawkins is right:

…the broad direction of history is toward enlightenment, and so I think that what America is going through at the moment will prove to be a temporary reverse. I think there is great hope for the future. My advice would be, Don’t despair, these things pass.

daguerreotypes for mumsy

5/2/05

I had a huge rant worked up on generational politics, but then my mom called and said she wanted a bunch of pictures. Although posting pictures on the blog can be a hassle, it certainly isn’t a big a hassle as working up a rant on generational politics, so I decided to go easy on myself and put a few of these up for her.

As much of a relentless archivist as I am, I haven’t really taken an assload of pictures of Ol’ Ironsides, mostly because it’s hard to run and get the camera when you’re cleaning barf off your back.

That, and all baby pictures look the same, you know: dad holds baby, mom holds baby, baby freaks out dog, etc… I wonder how many millions of terabytes are spent yearly on this sort of thing. OH WELL!!! TOO BAD FOR YOU, BLOG AUDIENCE!!!

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I like this one – it’s Tessa taking le bébé on her first stroll

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when she finally burps, she goes back to work on the Powerbook

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she loves the Picasso on the wall – newborns see in black-and-white and they love faces, so she just STARES at it

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I have one of my mom doing this to me, so I captured her first bath

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man, when you come home from hoops to see this…

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INITIATE INDOCTRINATION PROCEDURE

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the family unit (or as we say, “the family eunuch”)