Friday, April 29, 2005

Gender Studies

For a variety of reasons that I would estimate as 50% my fault and 50% not my fault, I am at a work standstill and yet still at work. So, I start reading Arts and Letters Daily, where I find this as the opening teaser:

Give little boys and little girls a choice of toy cars or dolls: is what they reach for dictated by culture? Okay, now try it with vervet monkeys... more»

Took me a good five minutes to understand that they meant giving monkeys dolls and toys, not giving little boys and girls vervet monkeys. I'm frankly a little disappointed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Popemobile (a little late)

So I know the point of blogs is their immediacy, but, well, it’s taken me a week to get around to this.

Pope Benedict XVI.

He wasn’t who I was hoping for – in a lot of ways. I was hoping for someone who’d focus on reaching out. To the Third World most of all, and to members of other religions, too. I’m enough of a realist that I wasn’t expecting a reversal on women priests or gays or abortions or birth control (well, maybe chilling out about condoms in Africa. That would be nice.) but I was hoping to at least not hear as much about sex compared to things like selfishness and debt relief. That if he had to get his papal vestments in a bunch, to do so about war or wealth inequality. I was hoping for someone who remembered that we all need forgiveness and that judging is the work of, you know, God.

But, based on what ol’ Benny did as Cardinal Ratzinger, there’s not so many grounds to think that any of this will be his legacy. I’m afraid of more division and blame. I’m afraid of people leaving the church. I’m afraid of people using the church’s pronouncements to justify their own prejudices and hatred.

But, I’m also not going anywhere. He’s the pope. And, he’s my pope. Next time I go to church I’ll pray for him.

There was a poll in the Washington Post I saw last week, whose headline read “Majority of American Catholics Support New Pope.” And I thought, what the hell does that mean? Of course they support him. He’s the pope. “Support” doesn’t mean “will agree with everything he does.” It also doesn’t mean “would have voted for him if they were men who had decided to become priests who had then become cardinals.” It just means support. This is going to come across as WAY more hokey than I intend it to, but the best analogy I can think of is a family. It’s not a political election. Nobody held a town hall. There weren’t ad campaigns. I didn’t get to vote. It’s like I’m Cinderella and my father just brought home a woman I don’t particularly care for. I don’t have to be happy about it, I don't have to like her, but she’s still my stepmother. Maybe the next one will let more people go to the ball.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Just wondering

Does anybody (or perhaps everybody) else, when reading an article by nouvelle-Caitlin-Flanagan Atlantic parent-book columnist Sandra Tsing Loh, start humming "Tsing Loh, sweet chariot" or am I the only one?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Take me out

As Beloved Fiance pointed out recently, baseball has come to our nation's capital and despite diverting funds from a failing school system and an affordable housing crisis, it's damn good fun.

We went to the game Saturday with the Rockivist (in town from Boston), showing off our glamorous and exciting social life, and it was pretty awesome. Winning is always fun -- one reason I can't really call myself a Red Sox fan -- but the best part, honest to God, was watching the fans.

Keep in mind that this is a Brand New Team. DC hasn't had baseball for decades, so a quick age estimate was enough to ascertain that most of these folks hadn't ever been to a DC baseball game before. And, it's not like the Orioles moved or something; the fan base needed a newspaper handout to remember who the players were and what positions they played. And yet . . .

Fans were fans. Almost like aborigines who learned to moonwalk from watching too much MTV, the Nats fans were cheering, screaming, clapping with the studied precision and dorky abandon of Napoleon Dynamite's big dance number. I kept thinking of the time on Fawlty Towers when the Spanish dude hid behind the giant moose head (you're either with me on this one, or so very far behind), saying "I speeeek Eeeengleesh. I learnt eet from a boooook." We all knew how to be fans. We'd been fans of other teams, in other cities or for other sports, so we knew how to act. There were these three teenage boys who painted their chests with "N" "A" and "TS" (on the most rotund of the the three). These dudes weren't raised with baby Nats jerseys, they didn't grow up with their dads watching the game on the weekend. But there they were, bravely pushing the Wave forward.

As Simone de Beauvoir might have put it, "one is not born a Nats fan, one becomes one." Here goes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Oh yeah, and Britney Spears is pregnant.

Hare-brained scheme #1

So, educators are finally realizing that middle school is a terrible, awful time and that maybe we as a nation should do something about it. Some are proposing school reform while others advocate anti-mean girl therapy, but, really, they could relax if they adopted my not-quite-patented-but-sure-to-be-revolutionary plan for dealing with middle school.

I like to call it "put 'em all on a boat."

I know what you're saying, "You can't put all the middle school students in the country on a boat." Or "That would have to be a big boat," but hear me out.

First of all, middle school is pointless. I'm sorry, all you devoted middle-school-teachers who faithfully read this ever day, but I really don't remember learning very much. Until 8th grade, when we got to Algebra and some cool American history stuff, 7th grade was a lot like 6th grade was a lot like 5th grade. Besides, there will be teachers on board. As the boat sails from country to country, the students can totally learn stuff . . . like navigation and geography -- see how awesome this is? Which brings us to . . .

Second of all, middle school is miserable and self-pitying. Way too much time thinking about self and whether self should start shaving legs or lifting weights or kissing boys or sniffing glue or whatever. And way too much time thinking about whether self is taller/shorter/fatter/thinner/pimplier/more developed/less developed than "normal." Once the middle school students in my plan get on the boat, they travel to different countries. They meet people who are different from them. They get the whole obsession with "normal" out of their pointy little heads because they see so many different types of life and home and culture that "normal" doesn't matter as much. Plus, perhaps seeing people living in a less luxurious manner than we're used to would help get rid of the "Ohmygod, I just want to die because you won't let me shop at Limited Too!" phenomenon. But, you say, they'll still have their boat rides to focus obsessively on themselves. But no! Because . . .

Third of all, they will be joined by the only group capable of rivaling them in stubborness and self-absorption: old people! Now look, old people (or, as I've learned to say, "senior citizens") can be wonderful, kind, funny, awesome folks. And so can 12-year-olds. But, as a group, they tend to be a little, shall we say, whiny and demanding. And what would be better to make them stop obsessing about themselves than giving them a bunch of obnoxious middle school students to fight with (sorry, I mean "learn from")? And how about showing them different countries and cultures? We're always saying, "Oh, in the US, we don't value our elders' wisdom like they do in other societies [to which I always say, look at the average age of a Supreme Court justice, but that's getting a little off track]" What better way to check out how other societies view those on the either end of adulthood than by visiting them?

In conclusion, I'd like to offer a few quick practical tips for any of you thinking of implementing this strategy:

No, they don't all have to be on the same boat. I'd say maybe 25 seniors and 25 middle schoolers per boat.

Trip duration? I'm advocating 9 months, the typical school year. Let 'em slot right back into high school when they're done. Or even come back for 8th grade and just miss 7th.

Boat staff? Well, you'd want someone willing to have a kind of crappy job in exchange for seeing a lot of the world and doing some community service. Sounds to me like a job for a recent college graduate. You could even set it up like AmeriCorps and forgive their student loans.

Anyway, I feel like I've done all the hard work here coming up with this scheme. Now, I just need a billionaire with some spare boats to help make it happen . . . any leads?