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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Pets & the Sub-pets. And Gender. And Barbie.

Here they are: the pets. They are the ones who eat the crickets, the earthworms my son digs up in our garden. When my daughter sees one of the fire-bellied toads chomping away on one of her precious "wahms," she bursts into tears. "Predator/prey" I whisper to myself, wondering how to explain to a 3-year old that it's a frog-eat-worm world. My son, on the other hand, relishes the world of eat or be eaten. Since he was barely verbal he's been captivated by the osprey catching a fish, by the peregrine falcon tearing apart a pigeon.  My daughter, though. She's not sure about all this predation, all this killing. 

Katha Pollitt, bless her heart, would probably say that I'm (or we're) the root cause of her squeamishness, her reluctance to embrace carnivores. But  lo and behold: instead of running around roaring like a t. rex, she prefers combing her Little Pony's manes. 

And we're to blame, right Katha? Because we put her in a pink room, in a pink blanket, in a pink world? But Ruby was born into a blue and green world. She inherited her brother's nursery. Not one thing changed. She rejects dolls and she isn't fond of princess outfits, but she does like dinosaurs, though only certain, specific ones: the mommy herbivores. Did I tell her that she must love mama maisaura? Protoceratops and psittacasaurus? Give me a break! If anything, I pushed for the big guns--carnatorous and deinonychus--but she would have nothing to do with those guys. Nope, she loves her sweet, plant eating friends. Did society do this to her? Is all the while a Barbie whispering in her ear to wear tights and a pink skort? For a year she refused to wear pink OR skirts, but now she occasionally concedes. 

Not that there's anything wrong with pink. It's just that since I'm a mom, I feel more certain that kids are who they are b/c they're hardwired to be who they are, not b/c society's putting pressure on them to conform to a narrow set of characteristics. But hey,  and even if she did want a Barbie doll (and I bought her one), would  it prevent her from getting into Harvard? Our finances might impinge on her academic wishes, but not Barbie. Would Barbie give her a warped self-image? Make her bulimic? Perhaps . . . but lots of women grew up in Barbie-land and escaped those fates. 

Where do you stand on this gender stuff? When does peer pressure take over? My son is 8 now. When will he come home in tears because he hugged his best friend on the playground? 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Dickman Brothers

Did you read about them in Poets and Writers? (For the life of me I don't know why they haven't put this story on their website.) They are twin brothers, Michael and Matthew, and they grew up in the Lents neighborhood of Portland, Oregon (you really need to read the story about them in the September/October Issue of Poets & Writers--it's the issue with Billy Collins on the cover. Go out right now and buy it). Anyway, both of them have books forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. I am SO excited about their work. Here's one by Michael called We Did Not Make Ourselves, recently in The New Yorker. I like how this poem makes me feel--light in the head and heart, but satisfied, too--like reading Neruda but more toothsome--like if Neruda had been a Beat? Anyway, I like! What do you think?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I Love Thrift Stores

1. You never know when you're gonna come across exactly the thing you almost paid full price for (a really nice corkscrew, a new-fangled water bottle, a terra cotta pot, etc.)

2. The chiffon blue-flowered print dress that looked so nice pool side, but could also pass for dressy when worn with heels  and a sassy piece of jewelry. Um, $5.99, by the way, and it isn't Dry Clean Only.

3. Let's face it, it's the best place to do your Halloween shopping. Also not bad for dorky Christmas wreaths (our perennial favorite definitely should win a prize: a little teddy bear sitting inside a circle of fake plastic pine boughs).

4. The musical selections are always superb ("Let's Get Physical," etc.)

5. You can go on a really, really huge spree and usually not spend more than $20 total.

6. Great for scarves, travel bags, picture frames, kitchen doo-dads. 

7. Did I mention the prices?

8. Did I mention it's sorta like being a gleaner, but you don't have to actually go inside a dumpster?

9. Did I mention the part about doing your part to save the planet, give the finger to Walmart and cheap overseas labor?

10. Great cashiers.      

Monday, September 15, 2008

May Summer Never End

Who doesn't love a day at the beach? Even better, a completely cloudless day at the beach in mid-September, where there also happen to be huge, globular clusters of blackberries right nearby, which my son quickly decides are called minickles. Minickles are the kind of blackberry so ripe you can't put 'em in your bucket--you have to immediately pop them into your mouth. Otherwise, they fall apart. We were all finding so many minickles we were starting to get tummy aches, so then it was time to hit the beach for a little sand throwing, ball throwing, and the making of wet sand balls (the latter my son's favorite beach activity). Then, when that got old, we took a walk and admired all the American flags blowing in the wind. I am not a Republican (had you figured that out?), and I am NOT in favor of either of our current wars, but I belted out a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner I was right proud of (while my kids did their best to ignore me). 

What wasn't minickles came home in three kids beach buckets, awaiting to be made into none other than blackberry crisp. 

by Galway Kinnell

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oh, Them Golden Crickets

Okay, so I've had
 about enough of the chirping. I mean. I used to think it was kind of cute (see previous cricket post), but now their incessant stridulating (!) is getting on my nerves. I am starting to think about serving them up! 

This week, thanks to my pals from the Ruby Group and the incomparable Kelli Russell Agodon, I've had a great week of poetry writing. Exercises galore! My notebook runneth over, etc. I don't know if I've written anything worth keeping, but it sure was a lot of fun, and surely there are a few good images, a few arresting phrases, among it all. The best fun was getting to hang out in Kelli's new Poetry Barn, which is definitely endowed with all kinds of great poetic juju.

I'm excited about the release of Erin Malone's chapbook, What Sound Does It Make, 2008 winner of the Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award. Erin reads at Open Books: A Poem Emporium on September 25 at 7:30 pm.  Erin's work is well-crafted, visceral, spellbinding. This reading is not to be missed.

Hope everyone else isn't coming down w the cold I managed to pick up this week. Stay warm and dry, you Texas folk.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

All Jazzed Up

since four this morning about my research paper class on food politics. I am so proud of my list of possible topics, including the following:

1. Feedlots-n-You: Can we talk about methane, the contamination of our great waterways, and loads o fecal matter?

2. E.Coli Outbreaks: aka There's Sh*t in the Meat (w apologies to Schlosser) and over 70,000 people a year are sickened from it (CDC). 

3. Chickens Eating Dead Cows, Cows Eating Dead Chickens: What Exactly was Banned back in 1997? (less than we thought, it turns out)

4. Why are the People in McDonald's Ads Always Either (1) Smiling or (2) People of Color, (3) Both? Why do they have to spend $1.6 billion a year marketing to our dear, sweet chillens?

5. The French Paradox or Pass Me the Cab/Merlot

6. The "Eat Real Food" Movement: How to have your corn and skip the corn syrup.

Okay, just a taste (ha!) of what's to come, you lucky 25 in my Eng 201 class. The rest of you I'll keep posted as the quarter goes on (as I know my students will do wonderful things w these topics and others).

Okay, so . . . 

Palin. I read her speech this morning b/c I didn't want to expose harmful toxins to my children during the post-dinner hour last night (we eat late around here, esp. when hubby comes home w foraged chanterelles post 7 pm; luckily, the kids wanted Tuna Surprise, so they were all long-ago fed when the man of the house starting pouring gallons of heavy cream into the skillet for our adult dinner). 

But not to digress. I dunno--I like her spunk, and everyone keeps saying she's been shaking up the ol boy network, appealing to grassroots, making big changes, but all I keep seeing/hearing are the words pro-life, creationism in the schools, no abortions even in the case of rape, big oil, and drill, drill, drill. I know she has to appeal to a certain ilk of folk in the wilds of Alaska, but is the answer really to make 14-year old rape victims have the babies of their rapists? To, instead of solving our oil dependency, prolong it? I mean, I'm all for shaking up the status quo, but some of this stuff sounds like the same old Republican crappola. They keep saying us Dems are nebulous about our HOPE and our CHANGE, but I know exactly what Obama's talking about, and so would they if they really knew what poverty is, what racism is.If they would only stop lying about how they'll stop spending our money (um, the WARS? the wars they started are not expensive?) Come on!

Through all this convention hoopla, plus getting the kids off to their first day of school, plus trying to get ready for fall quarter, I also managed to plant the fall garden. Hubby kept asking me, w a big smile on his face, if I knew what I was doing. (Of course I know what I'm doing. I mean, my dad used to call me his little farmer-ette. I mean, I was planting freaking corn before you were even BORN!) But seriously, I will be genuinely relieved if and when I see the rocquet (which I always thought was ROCKET, duh!) and spinach seedlings rearing their pretty little heads.