Monthly Archives: July 2008

tuppence a bag



Mary Poppins pulls out the tape measure to see how Jane and Michael “measure up”, and subsequently, they ask her to do it to herself. Apparently she’s “practically perfect in every way”, but really, I beg to differ. I think Mary Poppins is actually a bit self-involved, judgmental, and definitely a buzzkill.

Don’t get me wrong – I adore “Mary Poppins”, but contrary to the song Bert sings, every day is not a holiday with Mary. She commandeers the nanny job by physically “blowing away” all the other applicants, wins the merry-go-round horse race by making the other riders demur, and always cuts short the adventure just when it’s getting fun.

In my house, there are two things Lucy likes to mess with. I have a convertible Carolina blue VW bug alarm clock with headlights that come on when the radio plays. We also have a heavy-duty box-cutting knife that is festooned with pink flowers. It’s hard to take ourselves seriously when I tell her to “put my pink flower knife away” or “stop playing with my baby-blue blinking-light radio car toy”.

In the same vein, it’s a little hard to take Mary Poppins’ admonitions seriously, when they’re all occurring in a crazy magical cartoon landscape she created. When she says, “Honestly Bert, you’re as bad as the children,” maybe Bert should have said, “well, Mary, perhaps you shouldn’t have allowed us all to jump into my sidewalk chalk drawing and go on an acid-inspired fox hunt.”

And yet, you have to hand it to Mary – when she disappears for the last third of the movie, it gets boring fast. The movie is called “Mary Poppins”, not “My Dad’s Bank Freakout”. Besides, there’s some crazy unspoken sexual dynamic between Mary and Bert, and all he gets is a sad wave from about 11,000 feet.

All the best children’s movies have a heart of darkness – think the original “Willy Wonka” and even “Escape From Witch Mountain”. With the chimney sweeps scampering like brilliant rats upon the rooftops, the rain ruining dream sequences like tears of blue, red and green – and even Mary herself being, at heart, supremely scary with her flying umbrella and bizarre feet position – this isn’t so much a movie as a gorgeous hallucination.

But let’s be honest. “Practically perfect in every way?” I think we all know it should read “Very Beautiful, Very British and Vaguely Creepy.”

castor and pollux



And here they are! Around midnight last night, Jiffer gave birth to a healthy, wonderful set of twins: a girl, and then 20 minutes later, a boy. Girl presently roolz at 7.5 pounds, and the boy droolz (but is cute) at 6.8 pounds. The girl has curly dark hair like her momma! No names yet, they’re still percolating.

And oh yeah… NATURAL CHILDBIRTH. Mom and Dad are tired, but doing great. Jif, you are our hero. Ingo, you’re about to be. Huzzah!

[update: more pics and email from Ingo:]

Dear all,

this is just briefly, as I am running a couple of errands between diaper-changes. I don´t want to take it away from Jiff, and I can assure you all that she is dying to put yesterday´s events in writing for you once she gets access to email, so I am only gonna say this: THANK YOU ALL SOOOOO MUCH for the wonderful support, best wishes and good karma sent from all around the world. It helped Jiff enormously mastering a feat which I am still deeply awed by. Attached find the first picture after delivery, everyone still a bit battle-torn but glorious (see the girl´s thick dark hair behind my hand?!). The other after they had their first round of breast-milk!

More to come (especially names!!!) soon,

again thanks so much,

we love you all,




oh, such zesty persiflage


Contrary to my behavior here, I don’t actually like talking about Obvious Current Event Blog Topics®, but until we get news or pictures of some li’l Jif-Jif twins flailing about, the latest cover of the New Yorker is pretty frickin’ ripe. For those of you who don’t keep their antenna up, the magazine looks like this next week, a cartoon of Obama “terrorist-fist-jabbing” his wife in Muslim dress while a portrait of Bin Laden hangs over a flag-burning fireplace.

What is fascinating about the brouhaha that ensued, as always, is that it missed the point. The cartoon isn’t offensive, nor should it be called “satire”, nor anything else that simple. This cartoon sucks because it missed the crucial difference between something that is funny in vague theory, and something funny in practice.

If you say “what if the New Yorker had a cover with Obama giving his wife a terrorist fist jab?” you might get a casual laugh among your well-heeled lefty friends (or, in the case of my friends, it would be followed up with “Yeah. Or how about a cartoon of Obama getting penetrated by Catherine the Great’s sex horse?”) You know, the usual things said in the one-upmanship of Gen X badinage.

It’s quite another thing to actually make a New Yorker cover out of the idea – a decision so tone-deaf that it really does lend credence to the idea that Manhattanites are hopelessly solipsistic and have no idea how the rest of the country thinks. What you’re seeing here is meta-humor gone wrong; it’s what happens when you stand too close to your own sarcasm bomb.

Let’s see: it’s supposed to be funny, because it’s so far from the truth, yet some people still believe these things about Obama, and aren’t they stupid? Just kidding! Except we’re not! Because we’re progressives, and really want to see Obama become president, so the way to do that is show stupid voters how stupid they are through impenetrably thick satire! Even if this cover makes them more likely to think Obama is a Muslim… hey, wait a minute. Now I’m confused by our act of aggressive meta-parody. What were we trying to say again? And WHY DID MY CAR JUST GET TOWED?!?!?

I dunno – if the New Yorker did it to be salacious, then it worked, but that was never their strong suit. They’re much, much better at “actually being a good magazine.”

If they did it with a progressive agenda, then they flunked out of their psych seminar at Columbia: every behavioral psychologist knows that when you show a movie about the horrors of bulimia, you make more bulimics. Same goes for politics – why give this Obama-terrorist bullshit more airtime than it already gets from your crazy right-wingnut family members?

But if they did it to be actually funny in their own snooty so-obvious-it-simply-HAS-to-be-humorous way, they just made Obama’s work that much harder, which, if you’re scoring at home, is a meta-meta-funny piece of satire. Which is absolutely hilarious, if you happen to be a Republican.

bulging mattress


I accept that we, here, are a skewed demographic in all kinds of ways, but I’d like to put out this question today: how has the current economy affected you personally, and what things are you doing differently, or cannot do anymore, specifically?

and your oh-so-nutty chocolate covering


024670 Jelly Belly Assorted Jelly Beans.jpg

FINALLY the Newspaper of Record has printed a story I can get behind: the awesomeness of the Jelly Belly. I have been a connoisseur of these little guys since high school, and it’s about time they got the respect they are due. In that light, I’d like to list my favorite tiny little candies, in no particular order:

1. Jelly Bellies – with emphasis on Sizzling Cinnamon, Root Beer and green apple

2. Cherry Coke Sour gummies

3. SweetTarts – the blue ones

4. Jolly Rancher fruit gummies – all flavors, especially grape

5. Peanut M&Ms – the yellow ones

6. “Real Fruit” gummies, berry flavor

7. Haribo gummi bears, all except “clear” ones

8. Sprees – the purple and green ones

9. Starbucks Dark Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans

10. ¡Los Tamales Calientes!

most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps


I liked GFWD’s list of questions from a few days ago, so I’m going to post my own answers and encourage anyone else to do so.

1. What are the most important qualities you want in the next POTUS?

Three things: someone willing to address the problem of black-market nuclear materials, someone to provide a brave vision of America powered solely on alternative energy, and someone willing to sharply reduce the influence of “corporate personhood”.

2. What do you think of the passing of Jesse Helms?

Okay, time for Lefty McLiberalpants. No offense to some commenters (whose opinions I always respect), but frankly, I have zero amount of respect for that fucking asshole and the planet breathes easier without him. He did nothing but create abject misery for people that weren’t white and straight, and while we’ll always hear the mantra “nobody fought harder for North Carolina”, I don’t think many Tar Heels can fathom what an embarrassment he was to my adopted home state.

When I’d tell anyone outside of the South that I was going to NC, most of them would shudder and say “you mean, where Jesse Helms is?” He was not deserving of grudging respect. He was not deserving of anyone saying “you gotta hand it to the guy, he got things done.” He was a rotten guy that did a lot of rotten things, and it needs to be in writing. I’m reminded of the Public Enemy lyric:

Elvis was a hero to most

But he never meant shit to me you see

Straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain

(Motherfuck him and John Wayne).


3. What song was playing that “first” time?

“The Lark Ascending” by Ralph Vaughn Williams. I’m serious: download it and play it in headphones with your eyes closed. Just do it right now.

4. Favorite Tar Heel basketball player of all time and why?

I’m with Dean (and Chip): Tyler and Sheed. Just magnificent and inspiring.

5. Most famous person you’ve shaken hands with or met?

In terms of being “famous”, I guess it’d have to be Bill Clinton – I met him in Chapel Hill in ’92 when he was still running in the Democratic primary and he talked to a bunch of us about baseball and the designated hitter rule.

Best story, however, is probably Michael Jordan. In 1988, I was trying to drop my badminton P.E. class, but they said I needed an advisor to sign my drop/add form (young-timers, ask somebody what those were). That weekend, I took a plane to Los Angeles, and the Chicago Bulls were also on the flight. I wandered up to first class, stuck my drop/add form in Michael’s face and asked him to sign as my advisor. He looked at the form, shook his head in that “I remember this crap” sort of way, and signed it with a smile.

I figured if UNC wouldn’t count Michael Jordan as my advisor for a P.E. class, they were nuts. Turns out they were nuts. Man, didn’t anybody have a sense of humor?

the october project


I’d like to declare this Jiffer Worldwide Appreciation Week™ as our favorite Wisconsonian transplant is now 39 weeks full of TWINS IN HER BELLY, longer than most twins ever dare to stay. At this very moment, she could either be sitting in Hamburg, staring at her stomach with breath bated, or she’s actually giving birth.


with Jiff in late March, Grasse, France


two weeks ago, if you can believe it

Yes, get it out of your system and stare. Everyone in Germany does. They’ve stopped being clandestine about it, and just shouting when she walks around town. Everyone loves a freak of nature, I guess, but Jiff and Ingo are about to be heroes, taking on twice what mere mortals usually shoulder.

I have to say, at this juncture, that Jiffer is a freak of nature, not from her belly, but because nobody with her laid-back serenity has ever charted such an amazing path in life, and silence anyone who ever thought she wasn’t the real deal. When I met her 13 years ago, she was an earthy, beautiful, sarcastic Pi Phi with a cup full of beer; we immediately had a jelly donut fight and then I asked her to live in the Pink House.

She met Ingo on her last night at Carolina, and we all guffawed and secretly gossiped it’d never last. Then she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Mauritania – known as the worst mission there is – and folks thought she wouldn’t hack it. Afterwards, she applied to Columbia for grad school in International Relations and got in, and soon enough, the girl who always came to my room in 1996 moaning about writing papers… was editing Columbia’s SIPA Magazine.

She married Ingo nine years after meeting him that night in North Carolina, spent years making the world better in Cambodia and Afghanistan (remember the pictures?) and now that Ingo has become the Anderson Cooper of Germany, they’re back in Hamburg awaiting the brood.

I’m hoping she’ll tell us, as soon as she can, that the twins are amongst us, so we can stop worrying. Until then, I’ll leave off with a couple of things I just found on my computer. This one is an email:

Date: Mon, 25 Sep 1995 13:53:56 -0700 (PDT)

From: Jiffer Bourguignon (

To: Ian Williams (

So, ian, what do you do all day? Besides masturbate. Hehehe. I’ve taken it upon myself to make me laugh since all you could come up with was a Helen Keller joke. I know you can do better. I have play practice tonight til 11 or so. Let’s go get a beer afterwards.

And this was a note I wrote on my last day in the Pink House as it was being boarded up:

July 22, 1997

Jiffer honey…

I am the last one here…

Here’s all the mail I could find. Remember… stay in touch with me throughout the ages and never let me out of your sight for long. I love you very much and miss you terribly.


Still sums it up.

[UPDATE: another pic:]


Jiff yesterday (week 39)

liking one’s oatmeal lumpy


I have some sort of envy of folks who seem to blog effortlessly from far-flung places, as though the blog itself wafts directly from their brain via USB cord to the internet itself. Of course, that begs the question: is anything worth “liveblogging”? Can anything need commentary so badly that only 5-minute updates will suffice? Maybe surgeries and births, but that’s still fairly creepy.

All this to say, I’m on top of a hill without a real internet connection and I’m typing this on my phone and hoping it works. Thus, I will leave it to the first commenters to establish today’s debate. Before I go I’d like to add that I love the fireworks that are just the bright white light and the big BOOM!

eat my fruited plain


You can’t deny this isn’t an interesting time to be an American. I never use a national holiday to think much about anything other than planning my distractions, but this Friday seems to fall during a particularly charged moment. In 1914, Louis Brandeis said “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

In the same vein, I’d like to publish a few of my worries today – nothing personal, only global. Maybe I can look back on them someday and consider myself either clairvoyant or hysterical. Or vaguely boring; I don’t pretend to have a stranglehold on historical drama. Either way, here they are:

– I’m worried Obama isn’t who we thought he was. His statements and decisions over the last few weeks (the FISA vote, his views on the death penalty and guns, the decision to have religion playing a role in government) all read like a horror show to any of us who are remotely progressive. He’s still the best candidate by a country mile, but these developments have been depressing.

– Given that the stock market and America’s financial infrastructure exists largely on a crumbling gentleman’s agreement, I’m worried about the Dow/NASDAQ finding a bottom lower than anyone could possibly have predicted. I’m concerned about my extended family being so heavily invested.

– The North Pole has a 50% chance of having open water this summer. Ice reflects heat; black water retains it – this has gone past science fiction and become such bad news that it all feels completely hopeless.

– I’m worried about something happening to Obama, and the Republicans managing to swipe the election. There, I said it.

– I’m concerned that a fairly simple yet audacious attack on petroleum supplies in the Middle East could push gas to just under $7 a gallon. Never mind Germany already pays $11 a gallon; we’re not Germany, and this country will fundamentally change. Long-term for the better, yes, but the immediate 5-year period would be horrifying for Americans.

– I’m worried UNC will have chemistry problems with all the players we have next year, and I’m sickened by the possibility that Kobe, Lebron, etc. will actually decide to play well and win the basketball gold in Beijing, and the credit will go to Koach K.

Okay, your worries? Air ’em out here! And see you on Monday!