The Other Side of the Ocean

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Poland, turning nannyish?? Never! 

A reader sent a link to a story in the Boston Globe that compared Poland today with where Ireland was some ten, twenty years ago: only Poland is even poorer, even more agricultural and devoutly Catholic in the rural communities, and even more historically dominated by powerful and oppressive neighbors.

It is suggested that Poles feel comfortable in Ireland and view it as the model for where they would like to be a few years down the road (given that Ireland was ranked by the Economist as having the highest quality of life in the entire world, it is not a bad goal for Poland to aspire to, especially since currently, the standard of living index for Poland is 40% of the EU average).

Okay, fine. But I’m reading as well that what Poles admire tremendously in the Irish is their confidence. We know that Poles have a strong inferiority complex, cultivated fastidiously over the centuries. There is reason for it: the country has suffered terribly in the most degrading and base ways. The resultant sense of humiliation and plain old sadness wont go away overnight, not even with a giant leap into prosperity.

But are we slated to then have a nannyish government (an accusation levied against the British as well as the Irish)? Not likely. There is a felt national defiance that is resilient to paternalism. Nannyish legislation works well in places where people continue to fuss about the proper way to drink tea – Britain comes to mind (Melanie Phillips at the Daily Mail wrote several months back when commenting on Blair’s tough stance on national vices: "Our nannyish government—which is trying so hard to stop us smoking or stuffing our faces with cream buns or behaving in other ways of which it disapproves...”). Poland has yet to even suggest, for example, a smoking ban in bars. If and when it does so, I can guarantee that the stubborn majority will roll their eyes while it’s rolling another cigarette.

posted by nina, 11/30/2004 08:43:09 PM | link | (0) comments

weather watch 

Last week I complained bitterly about traveling to Poland where early snowstorms have hit Warsaw with a fury, given that I still had roses blooming in my Wisconsin back yard.

Today I must issue a correction.

Current temp. in Madison: 36 degrees F
Current temp. in Warsaw: 36 degrees F

Now, can we just keep it at that sublime (upwards of freezing) level in both places for a month or two?

posted by nina, 11/30/2004 10:30:21 AM | link | (0) comments

in the competition of frost v. bud, frost won Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/30/2004 10:14:15 AM | link | (0) comments

What's so odd about Hazel? 

Someone asked me just yesterday what name I would choose if I had to have a different first name. I was stumped. ‘Nina’ is all that comes to mind. Not that it is a typical Polish name. Au contraire-- I remained nameless for a while as my mother stubbornly petitioned the authorities in Poland to permit a name that was not an official entry on the calendar of saints (ah the paradoxes of communist governance!).

Today, the press is bemused at the name choices for the Julia Roberts twins (Hazel and Phinnaeus). But a
WashPost article reminds us that celebrities have often found apt names for their offspring on lists that are anything but pedestrian:
Celebrity baby names these days are very . . . different. We say this not to pass judgment, but to point out one more way celebrities are not like the rest of us.

The list keeps growing. Demi Moore and Bruce Willis are the parents of Rumer Glenn, Scout LaRue and Tallulah Belle. Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay singer Chris Martin recently begat Apple. Sylvester Stallone sired Sage Moonblood and Sistine Rose. Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette are the proud parents of Coco. Singer Erykah Badu -- herself on the celebrity all-name team -- has a child named Puma. John Travolta and Kelly Preston named their boy Jett. Christie Brinkley's youngest is a girl named Sailor. The late rock star Michael Hutchence named his daughter Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. Long-ago rock star Bob Geldof calls daughter Fifi Trixabelle to dinner. Soccer star David Beckham and Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams's brood includes Brooklyn, Romeo and a soon-to-be wee one who reportedly may be dubbed San Miguel. Supermodel Claudia Schiffer has a girl named Clementine, as does Cybill Shepherd. Rob Morrow, of "Northern Exposure" quasi-fame, dubbed his baby Tu, as in Tu Morrow.

We'd mention that Michael Jackson named one of his children Prince Michael, but this seems like the least Out There thing about Michael Jackson.

Of course, there are those that follow another extreme, opting to choose a plain and simple name and use it over and over again. The article notes that George Foreman named five of his ten children ‘George.’
posted by nina, 11/30/2004 08:03:01 AM | link | (0) comments

Worry more, age more (worry less, get less done, look the same) 

The WashPost reports on a study that demonstrates the relationship between long-term stress and aging. If there is a definite causal relationship, does it follow that a stress-free lifestyle puts you ahead of the pack in terms of reducing physical manifestations of old age? My guess is that it does not. However, I would be willing to offer myself up for study, since I have perfected the art of blocking to such a degree that I can actually be writing emails or a taking a splendid walk outside and remain completely oblivious to the work deadlines, household management issues, etc., that are pounding at the door trying to force me to take seriously their presence.
posted by nina, 11/30/2004 07:17:33 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, November 29, 2004

"...And what book are you reading right now?" 

If there is one type of book that I cannot resist buying (and also oftentimes cannot finish reading), it is the biography. The thicker the better. I like it to be rich in detail and annotation, preferably a product of several decades’ worth of research. (These same traits, of course, make reading it casually almost impossible. For example, I lugged a 985 page tome to the gym this evening. Horrible choice – the workout dragged, the dilligent page-by-page reading stalled.)

If blog entries are bullet-sized chapters of an author’s work in progress, then bloggers’ question-and-answer posts must be the capsule equivalents to biographies. Not surprisingly, once I stumbled tonight onto the normblog's 52 (per year) featured bloggers, I could not tear myself away from the site. Click here and learn how bloggers describe themselves. Fascinating stuff.
posted by nina, 11/29/2004 10:13:43 PM | link | (0) comments

A Dell-icious encounter: okay, what are you guys trying to do here? Your stock’s going under? Your company’s in trouble? What? 

I used to say that Ocean *tries* to entertain and that it is not, therefore, a place where I want to let off steam. Still, sometimes I’ve been tempted. Yes, alright, I have indeed noted at times the irksome, stormy little episodes and encounters that have caused even Ocean waters to turn turbulent. A good candidate for a fuming-type post would be a recount of any exchange with a Dell service rep.

Just minutes ago, in fact, I ended a long-dreaded conversation with a Dell rep. Think I am now entering into “rant mode?” Think again:

I’m calling because my Latitude has a defective cord that often spontaneously disconnects.
That’s too bad. Wear and tear maybe?

Uh, I don’t know… Oh, and also a handful of those little screws on the bottom fell out.
You mean the thing still hangs together with the little screws missing?

Yeeees… sort of ... I didn't do anything!
We’ll have to send you some replacements right away! And a new power source. And a new cord, just in case. There’ll be no charge of course. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

I’m leaving for an extended trip within a week…
Oh, Nina, you’ll be getting these tomorrow.

BTW, I’m always curious, which part of the world are you located in?
Alabama. Worried about outsourcing, are you? Nope, right here in the States. Here’s your order number! I so enjoyed talking with you, Nina!

Weird, isn’t it?
posted by nina, 11/29/2004 04:04:35 PM | link | (0) comments

The world may be hostile toward our military interventions overseas, but gosh, at least we’re doing a good job with the highway to the South Pole 

…And still there are those who are knocking this latest expansionist, U.S.-sponsored project. Sir Edmund Hillary (the first to drive a vehicle to the South Pole) is speaking out against the American ice-highway across Antarctica. Why? After all, according to the New Zealand foreign minister, our efforts are “environmentally acceptable” (I know, I was surprised too). Still, Sir Ed says we’re doing a “terrible job.”

Here at Ocean, I must admit I have not been following the debate very closely. But the idea is in keeping with this blog's philosophy of linking people across vast territories and bodies of water, frozen or otherwise. Thus a 1,020 mile ice highway (allowing year-round access to a research station) seems totally cool to me, undeserving of Sir Ed’s icy reception. So long as we leave the seals and polar bears alone, I’m for it. Go pick on some of our other projects – ones deemed environmentally irresponsible and foolish. I’m sure there are plenty to choose from.

posted by nina, 11/29/2004 07:19:16 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Do people on this side of the ocean ever cry over the strains of the balalaika? 

Is there anyone aside from me who swells with great emotion when the balalaika plays its little tune as spring comes to Yuriatin?

Doctor Zhivago is not a great movie. Yurii is in many ways a despicable character. History is simplified, love is simplified. Pasternak is not at the top of the Russian heap of great writers.

But play that tune, flash those daffodils and birches and I am lost in the world that has absolutely no resemblance to this one. This is a Russian fairy tale and I love all elements that make it exactly that.

I came back to Madison tonight and I mindlessly clicked on the TV. I don't typically do this, but I was tired and I spent way too many hours at airports (on the busiest travel day of the year). Dr. Z. spun me back to another world, made up of a different range of emotions -- one I'll fully plunge into next week on my trek back to Poland. Wonderful transition. Thank you cable TV. You came through at last.
posted by nina, 11/28/2004 07:19:38 PM | link | (0) comments

I could be home by now 

I noticed that practically all my posts today have been about the "materialistic impulse." It may have something to do with being stuck at La Guardia for half the day because I caved in to the "free ticket" grabbing game. There is no free anything. I could be sipping a nice latte at Borders right now. Instead, I am watching the fog roll in from the Long Island Sound as the post-Thanksgiving crowds get fidgety. Free travel in the future hardly seems like a pleasant prospect at the moment.
posted by nina, 11/28/2004 01:09:14 PM | link | (0) comments

Even the liquidators found the stuff to be "down there" in terms of quality 

Would you run over to the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West (or -- the former Mayflower Hotel) to pick up a bargain -- like maybe a beat-up garbage can, or an old mattress, or a sink? Some did. For the hobby of it. In the NYTimes Metro section today I read the following (emph. my own):
Riechler's Law of Shopping states that necessity has an inverse relationship to cost. As the price of an item drops, the need to own it increases... "Do I really need a portable fridge?" [Dick Riechler, the author of the law] asked, in the Socratic style. "It's cheap. Why not?"

Okay, but a used (splattered, tarnished, chipped, stained, ugh!) garbage can? Because it came from a mediocre hotel that you once stayed in? I can think of a number of reasons for "why not."
posted by nina, 11/28/2004 11:40:36 AM | link | (1) comments

Finding beauty in a broom that you don't necessarily use with any great frequency 

Always interested in learning from those who celebrate *humble beauty,* I was drawn today to the review in the Times of The Wabi-Sabi House. Wabi-sabi doesn’t seem a difficult concept (emphases throughout are my own):

It's about spare living spaces and well-worn handmade objects, and an appreciation of quiet pleasures — indeed, of plain old quiet. Sweeping a floor rather than vacuuming, taking up knitting, washing the dishes by hand — these are wabi-sabi activities. Using a glue gun (or a vibrator) is not.

I am sorry to sound contrary, but these seem to me to be indeed quiet, but not exactly pleasure-inducing activities. I am not publicly backing glue guns or vibrators, but I stand in opposition to describing cleaning as an artistic expression of humble beauty.

Further in the article, I learn that those who practice wabi-sabi believe it to be completely un-American. Perhaps as un-American as apple pie. [This is my phrase. Apple pie is Polish. Everyone should know that. Szarlotka = apple pie. Simple.] Why does wabi-sabi confuse the average American?

That's because, [the Wabi-Sabi House author] writes: "We're afraid of real poverty and decay. … [If you want to practice wabi-sabi] try not to freak out when you come home to a dirty house. Turn the lights off and light some candles, making sure they're strategically placed away from the dirty dishes and the dog hair on the carpet.
So first I am told to celebrate quiet house cleaning and then to revel in poverty and decay. This would be tough. The third identified component – not freaking out when you come home to a house that is in disarray: no problem. I am about to do that today. Though I am not too pleased with the guy who just spilled a bag of crumbled potato chips at my feet at the airport gate area. I want to tell him to humbly sweep it up for the sake of simple beauty.
posted by nina, 11/28/2004 10:28:47 AM | link | (0) comments

Posting in limbo 

Would you give up your seat on an overbooked flight for $100?
For $200?
For $200, and a confirmed seat on a flight in three hours?
For a free roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the 48 states?
For a free roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the 48 states, and a guaranteed seat on a flight that’ll get you back home in time for dinner?
For a free roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the 48 states, and a guaranteed seat on a flight that’ll get you back home in time for dinner, and access to WiFi during your three-hour wait at La Guardia?
Do you even need to ask?
posted by nina, 11/28/2004 08:57:05 AM | link | (0) comments

Mail from across the ocean 

A message from Warsaw:
[I]t's snowing often these days and today for the first time this season I heard the sound of somebody beating away at their carpet outside (trzepanie dywanu) - the ritual that's a sure sign that Christmas is on its way (heard again before Easter).

posted by nina, 11/28/2004 08:35:12 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Seals on a rock and a rider with a beautiful Slavic face 

Where would New York be without Central Park? I remember a long time ago crashing on a rented bike there and being rushed to Lennox Hospital with bloodied limbs. Pleasant memories. I wasn’t the strolling type then, but I am now and today I must have cut through the park enough times to warrant a frequent-cutter upgrade – perhaps even to gold status.

For others, the Park must be all about serenity and peaceful lakes and benches and jugglers. For me, it has always felt like not quite the real thing (remember that I come from a place that has Lazienki Park; you haven’t lived until you’ve cut through Lazienki in Warsaw). But when in New York, I go to Central Park anyway, because it is so wonderful to get lost in lanes that don’t head in any linear direction, but meander and lead you to exit ten blocks from where you want to be.

posted by nina, 11/27/2004 05:56:04 PM | link | (0) comments

Central Park: a Lake Mendota analogue? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/27/2004 05:55:06 PM | link | (0) comments

I can do this! Sort of. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/27/2004 05:54:04 PM | link | (0) comments

Central Park: seals on a rock?  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/27/2004 05:52:03 PM | link | (0) comments
In the afternoon I stopped by the Frick Museum. Now THAT was a real place of escape for me when I was fewer than half my current years. Back in the early seventies, I’d take a notebook, scoot over to the Frick cloister, sit on a stone bench and write (amidst artwork that I occasionally looked at).

Today I did not write. I’m not even sure I still know how, given my addiction to the keyboard. And I am certain there’s no wireless at the Frick. They don’t even permit flashless photos let alone machines that don’t fit in your pocket.

But I did spend some time in front of a painting that I’d always felt perversely *proud* of: the Polish Rider by Rembrandt. Yes, it pained me when, not too long ago, critics claimed it could not have been done by the great master. But now I hear we’re back on track: that gorgeous Slavic face was almost certainly painted by Rembrandt. And what beyond the face may be attributed to Rembrandt? No one knows for sure. At the Frick, they tell you that the canvas is among the most beloved in the collection, possibly because of the aura of mystery that exists about it. It is a simple painting and it is surrounded by tremendous canvases done by Bellini, El Greco, Renoir, Titian Gainsborough, Degas, Millet, Constable, Vermeer, and more. All good, all wonderful, but none depicting those classic features of a face that belongs to people from my neck of the woods. Brushed onto a canvas by a seventeenth century master. Maybe. Almost for sure.
posted by nina, 11/27/2004 05:47:57 PM | link | (0) comments

Rembrandt? the face for sure; probably not the skeletal horse. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/27/2004 05:38:49 PM | link | (0) comments

A frog for the mantle 

Poland is currently in the midst of its biggest international film festival, celebrating notable achievements in cinematography (read about it in Polish here; I can't help it if the NYT chose to stay away). It may be the most passed-over film festival of all time and yet it is, I think, an intriguing event. It includes workshops and screenings, where directors, cinematographers, actresses and actors view movies together and engage in discussions on film production. Is it geared toward students of film? To an extent. But this weekend you'll also find the likes of Oliver Stone and Charlize Theron in Lodz -- the city hosting the Festival. Unfortunately, Lodz is no Cannes or Venice (perhaps for this reason, Stone had to be coaxed and cajoled into making an appearance). Is this reason enough to avoid broadcasting the awards ceremony where cinematographers receive gold, silver and bronze frogs (yes, frogs -- it works in Polish) for their work? An Oscar from Hollywood, a Frog from Lodz -- it should be every filmmaker's dream. For the record: Ocean applauds the ceremony and offers full support for Polish frogs.
posted by nina, 11/27/2004 07:57:04 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, November 26, 2004

New York is a collage and I am in the middle of it 

I would never say that NY is a city of bright colors. (Neither is Warsaw – let’s be truthful here.)
But during a holiday season all cities stray toward the pink and red and gold. Suddenly I have flashes of eternally beautiful brightness everywhere around me.

I was lured into taking a walk across town past all the top department store window displays. A NYorker will tell you that this is a big thing: lines form to check the Lord &Taylor or Saks windows. Add to it Bergdorf’s and Bloomingdale’s and you’ll have a nice quartet, displaying (often, but not always) quite the creative flights of fancy.

Window glare and sidewalks teeming with people make photography nearly impossible. But sometimes the glare-related double-imaging works to your advantage. Could it not be that Santa (courtesy of Saks) is navigating his sleigh in and around Rockefeller Plaza?

posted by nina, 11/26/2004 07:44:36 PM | link | (0) comments

in the realm of the fantastic Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/26/2004 07:43:38 PM | link | (0) comments

gold and glitter over a sea of people Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/26/2004 07:40:28 PM | link | (0) comments
Lord & Taylor has the moving characters – playful, so playful; I especially like this one girl because she is holding that airplane with an exuberance and joy that is fitting for someone who associates planes with flights of imagination and adventure. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but she appears thrilled with her dreams and games…
posted by nina, 11/26/2004 07:34:49 PM | link | (0) comments

up, up and away Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/26/2004 07:30:01 PM | link | (0) comments
My closing shot is of the cursing chestnut guy who did NOT want me to shoot pictures. At least not after the first handful. Too many! He told me. Too many! Does he not know that it takes at least five bad ones to come up with one that is decent enough to post?
posted by nina, 11/26/2004 07:24:15 PM | link | (0) comments

a lightbulb over chestnuts Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/26/2004 07:23:41 PM | link | (0) comments


You’re in New York. You have 48 hours left in the city. The air is crisp, the skies are blue, the day is young. Anyone in his or her right mind would be on a subway zipping to some far corner of Manhattan to check out a gallery, or a place for brunch. Not me. I need to write something first. Insane? No, I have developed a blogger’s conscience.

New York can wait. Bright days are laughable anyway: they impose too much pressure on you to Take Full Advantage of them. I’ll wait ‘til the shadows settle in on the city. A comfortably oppressive darkness is far more consistent with what I expect from this place. In the meantime, the computer is open, the connection is good, I can read and write.

posted by nina, 11/26/2004 09:57:59 AM | link | (0) comments

They're talking about her over in Britain 

Ann Althouse and I began blogging about the same time (I beat her to it by a handful of days). We’ve each developed our own styles and we cling to our interests and slants sometimes with a fury. But I have said this before: Ann is a gracious blogger and she always shares in her tremendous success. While Ocean has remained small, almost flaunting its ridiculously expansive name, Althouse has grown and prospered (I don’t know if Ann herself has prospered yet, but her blog is bringing in readers by the thousands and so it’s only a matter of time, I’m sure, before you’ll see corporate giants vying for ad space in her margins). Today she is profiled over across the ocean, the real ocean. Here, I just want to add my own wee little congrats …and thanks. I’ll sign off with a photo of a corner of a MoMA painting.
posted by nina, 11/26/2004 08:15:02 AM | link | (0) comments

finding the familiar in one small corner of a large canvas Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/26/2004 08:14:44 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Out and about 

The nice thing about living in a city is that on any major holiday or special events day, many will choose to go outside rather than sequester themselves inside their homes for the course of the day.

…So that rather than facing empty streets, you can always encounter crowds enjoying a walk in the park, or along any of the avenues. True, today’s temps (in the mid sixties) may have played a role in the push to be outside, but I think that even if it were below freezing, there would always be those who need to go out and pace for a minute or two, making the streets forever pleasantly crowded.

posted by nina, 11/25/2004 10:55:39 PM | link | (0) comments

There are good reasons to stay indoors on a November late-afternoon, but there are also good reasons to go outside... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/25/2004 10:52:46 PM | link | (0) comments

Let's hang out on fifth and do some people-watching Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/25/2004 10:47:07 PM | link | (0) comments

A threatening day turns mild Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/25/2004 10:44:12 PM | link | (0) comments

Taking to the streets Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/25/2004 10:41:39 PM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

After the high-brow comes the low-brow 

In the late misty (try rainy) evening, I went with a two enthusiasts to watch Macy’s prepare the giant balloons for tomorrow’s parade. Forget mustering up excitement for the march down Central Park West on Thanksgiving Day – it’s all in the process of getting the show up and running.

Start with good instructions. And then, turn on the hot air. These may be the only characters in the world who are adored for the blast of air that makes them rise to the top of the world. Or at least to the top of CPW, and eventually Broadway.

posted by nina, 11/24/2004 11:52:05 PM | link | (0) comments

You don't know how to blow up Ronald? You start with the head... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 11:50:39 PM | link | (0) comments

Are we talking about balloons or politics? This guy got in front of my camera and ruined the balloon photo. Can I sue? I don't know, he's the mayor of NY, he may have connections... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 11:49:08 PM | link | (0) comments

Kermit, still groggy after a year in seclusion Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 11:42:02 PM | link | (0) comments

The foot, the worker trying to make it even bigger, and the sponsor Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 11:39:29 PM | link | (0) comments

A fifty-third street rhapsody, part 2  

Too much! It is, indeed, too much!

The new MoMA is overwhelming! It is a combination of Getty and d’Orsay and who knows what else. Matisse, Miro, Magritte, Hopper, Dali, Klee, Pollock, O’Keefe, Monet, Warhol, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Rodin, Picasso – stop! Stop already! This concentration of magnificent art, all under one roof, just cannot be.

My immediate reaction? I think there are more Picasso paintings here than the man could ever have possibly painted.

I bought tickets for MoMA ahead of time. The Museum just reopened this week after years of renovation. I was sure there would be crowds. There were. They stood in line, I did not.

The space, take a look at the space: from how many angles can you catch the Waterlillies?

Alright, no more words, let me run through my photos – be prepared! I can’t cut out too many, it was a fantastic visit!

posted by nina, 11/24/2004 10:14:02 PM | link | (0) comments

On the very top floor you can check out special exhibits, such as this one... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 10:13:40 PM | link | (0) comments

But there are many levels. And they intersect in wondrous ways. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 10:11:40 PM | link | (0) comments

The crowds naturally congregate around the Starry Night Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 10:09:09 PM | link | (0) comments

Maybe if one looks at Matisse from this angle... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 10:07:35 PM | link | (0) comments

And what do you make of the Demoiselles d'Avignon? Hey dude... I've no idea... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 10:05:13 PM | link | (0) comments

A professorial type will always read the notes and then stare endlessly at the painting... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 10:02:49 PM | link | (0) comments

The Broken Obelisk and the perfect Waterlillies Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 10:00:31 PM | link | (0) comments

Dear little one, we're in a museum... see the color red? It's a painting... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 09:57:38 PM | link | (0) comments

Over the river… 

Holiday food shopping at Grace’s (of Balducci fame): $2.59 for a small bunch of parsley? – I say under my breath. What? – asks a curious rich thing next to me. Oh, nothing, I’m just remarking at the cost of parsley. It’s only $2.59 today, she responds reassuringly.
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 01:13:50 PM | link | (0) comments

tight aisles, stuffed shelves, pushy shoppers, great food Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 01:12:53 PM | link | (0) comments
Why not go to the flagship Whole Foods on Columbus Circle? As of Sunday, the wait in line was estimated at an hour minimum.

On the way home, carrying the loaded bags of food for the next days, I am persuaded by two shopping companions to buy another holiday item: a small tree for the NY apartment. Which one? The cheapest, a real loser. The sales guy smiles and tells me : “Charlie Brown ain’t got nothin’ on this one!”

posted by nina, 11/24/2004 01:07:45 PM | link | (0) comments

New York: a fifty-third street rhapsody, part 1 

Destination for today: west 53rd street. I have such fond memories of west 53rd street. Between the ages of 10 and 13 it was probably the most frequented by me block in the entire city (apart from my home on east 46th and my school on east 70th). When I was not acting cool and walking with my transistor radio through Central Park, I was on west 53rd, spending hours there, mesmerized by the offerings.

A reader, thinking her(him)self to be a savvy New Yroker, is likely to be nodding in agreement (and at my precocity). Yeah -- that Museum of Modern Art is fantastic, isn't it?

In truth, I hardly ever went to MoMA. My place of worship and wonder was the building across the street: a branch of the NY Public Library.

I read every teen voulme on the shelves. It got to the point that the librarian would see me coming and look the other way, knowing that I would be disappointed to find nothing that I hadn't already digested, many times over. Precocious indeed -- in reading teen trash.

posted by nina, 11/24/2004 09:00:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Once a Clark Kent, always a Clark Kent 

The plane lands, I make my way to the phone booth for the great transformation. Goodbye sweet demeanor, hello metal-twisting, people-punching ms. fast-mouth, pushing her way to the front of the line.

Well, not exactly. First, what's this about a "sweet demeanor?" Not too long ago I was at a restaurant in Madison where my eating companion and I engaged in a joke before a poor, gullible waitress (I didn't start it, I swear!). When she found out that it was a tease, she displayed such hurt and bewilderment that we left with tails between legs, each blaming the other for being the meaner of the two. My only regret? That we didn't fully pull it off. Not too sweet, is it?

As for the metal-twisting, people punching bit-- not true either. When I land at La Guardia I am flooded with such effervescence that the immediate recipients of this ebullience, the cabbies, wish I would just shut up and stare at the decay around me. There's nothing worse than a chippper passenger straight off a flight from the Midwest to make 'em want to slam that little Plexiglas window between the front and the back-seat rider. With a bang.

What I like about being in New York though is this: no one stands out. Everyone is as weird as the next. If I limped along with a reptile wrapped around my neck no one would even notice. Complete anonymity in small doses is a good thing.
posted by nina, 11/24/2004 01:27:49 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

“Ah yes, I remember it well…” 

I haven’t spent a Thanksgiving in NY since… (before you were born? maybe..) 1977. Back THEN, I went to see my parents who were temporarily residing in the city. My mom was not a turkey person and she liked to do things ‘against the tide,’ so that when the world was sitting down to cranberries and yams, we were most likely at the movies, ‘avoiding the crowds,’ as she would say. NOW I am certain to be cooking for the better part of Thursday, though yams still will not make an appearance at the table. Majority rules.

I haven’t been in NY since before the election…(before you were born? that would be odd). Back THEN, I was on the look out for Kerry signs and symbols of the changes we would surely see if and when he became president. The ‘when’ turned to ‘never’ and so NOW I will try to forget that the next time I face a November 2nd, I’ll still have three more years of…you know who.

Next posting: tomorrow, from New York.

posted by nina, 11/23/2004 06:29:52 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, November 22, 2004

An afternoon conversation with a Texas friend (in town for the turkey and a wedding) during which I learn something about family law 

Hey, I am so sorry to be out of town and missing the wedding this week-end [of the off-spring of her husband].
It’s not a big deal. Just family and a few friends.

No, really, I hardly ever go to weddings anymore. I go to more divorces than weddings. So, is there going to be a rabbi or a judge or what?
Actually I am doing the ceremony.

You?? I mean, what do you know about marrying people??
Hey, I’ve been through two of my own weddings, I ought to know something.

And how is it that you are legally entitled to marry anyone? I teach this stuff: you need an officiating person and to my knowledge, you don’t fit the bill.
I’m a lawyer. Lawyers can apply to be Family Court Commissioners for a day so they can marry people.

You mean I could do this on the side? No kidding! I’d get to go to weddings and charge people for my presence! And what are you going to say? Dearly beloved, we are gathered here -- the whole bit?
I called Family Court and asked if there’s like a script or something that I could just read and they said no, I had to write it myself.

I’d go online and see what’s floating around.
Yes, I did that, and it’s all rather dated and old-fashioned and you know, corny. I’m just going to have to make it up as I go along.

Maybe it’s just as well that I can’t be there. I’d probably laugh or cause trouble.
posted by nina, 11/22/2004 05:15:05 PM | link | (0) comments

In case you haven't been listening, I am a Varsovian 

Further good reasons to be traveling to Warsaw in December:

…I suppose they’ll restore the electricity in Warsaw soon (cause of blackout: unknown)…
And I hear the airport is already open, blizzard notwithstanding…

They speak Polish there, don’t they?

Each year, it takes me a day or so to get used to speaking Polish again when I return there. I just lose the sublte inflection, the rapid fire “tak tak tak tak tak tak tak” that people answer when they want to say “yes” and mean it. So I’m clicking onto Polish newspapers on the Net to get used to it again, and I read the following title of one of the subsections: “Pani Renata …lider branzy cash and carry.” It translates as… well, obviously as “Ms. Renata…leader of the cash and carry branch.” How nice of everyone to stop speaking Polish just because I am coming…

I’m going to post the photo (of Ms. Renata) that accompanies the article (here), because I noticed that it is done by Konrad Pustola, son of a close university-days friend of mine:

posted by nina, 11/22/2004 02:20:13 PM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Bookish Thoughts 

As I was fixing my exciting dinner of scrambled eggs and put-by asparagus from the summer Market, I flicked on the National Book Awards, momentarily forgetting that the Awards were actually presented last Wednesday and this was merely a recap. The confusion became pronounced when they announced the winner for fiction (Lily Tuck) because suddenly I thought, wait a minute, this sounds familiar. Didn’t she win last year? Try last Wednesday, ye of feeble mind and even feebler memory.

But my post is about something else. Several small points were made in the course of the Awards Ceremony and before I turned the whole thing off (how can you take seriously an Awards Ceremony where half-way through, the host, Garrison Keillor, says “and now let’s all get to our dinner here; we’ll get back to the prizes after we’re done eating”), I did take note of the following: only 96 million Americans read any fiction whatsoever. The announcers thought this was tremendous. I thought it was paltry. Another stat: the vast majority of sold books are never read. Fine, I admit I am a sinner here: I covet fresh books like
others covet microbrewery beer or a good night’s sleep. And I do not finish a number of them. But is it really the case that most purchased books aren’t even cracked to the first page?

In a sense it is a relief. If I ever write the First Great Novel, I needn’t worry about delivering my message with aplomb. All I need to do is cozy up to someone at Borders and get them to display it at one of the front tables and issue one of those store-people cards that says “hey, like wow! You really need to read this! It was a favorite here among the Café employees and the noon-crowd too!” To fully appreciate the import of such a statement you need only go one day to Borders at around twelve and take a look at the noon crowd.

posted by nina, 11/21/2004 11:28:39 PM | link | (0) comments


Oscar is complaining about an overcrowded email Inbox. I am sympathetic. Mine has long crossed the 1000-message mark and since I have a separate Eudora program on my home computer, you might as well double that, because whatever folly guides me to preserve email in my office is perniciously at work at home as well.

Yes, I have files. The trouble is most email does not fit into the dozens and dozens of files that are already in place and I am loathe to add more because they are now scrolling off my screen, hence I am likely to forget all about them, let alone their content.

But this is not my point, because it is one Oscar has amply covered.

I just wanted to add that I am similarly beleaguered with regular mail****. A picture tells it all. Below, witness my mail from this week alone, and this is (like with important email) after I pulled out all urgent matters and items that are 100% trash. Of course, as a result of the onslaught of the “ambiguous and difficult to classify” mail, I am loathe to even approach my mailbox each day. And so oftentimes I just ignore it, resulting in the mailbox depicted below as of this morning (it is Sunday and yes, I am okay with the idea that the US Postal Service should not make deliveries on Saturdays and any other days it wants to call "postal holidays"):

****BTW: Last night I went to have dinner with a lovely couple (blogger friend!)***** and all I kept thinking was – I wonder where they hid their mail, because their counter was meticulously barren of a single shred of paper. The last time I myself had friends for dinner I hid my stacks as well (I have my secret hiding spots!) and then promptly forgot about them. Two weeks later, when the lights began to flicker, it struck me that I hadn’t written a check to MG&E recently. I’m not sure it was MG&E giving me the three-flicker notice, but I was grateful that something had jogged my memory to retrieve all that was buried in some forgotten

***** Do yourself a favor and cook up the salmon chowder I was served (recipe here). Yum! I also wanted to devour (with an embrace!) the children. They don't come any sweeter.
posted by nina, 11/21/2004 01:37:17 PM | link | (0) comments

I'll pay someone good money to come and tell me what I should do with all this. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/21/2004 12:36:19 PM | link | (0) comments

After I photographed it, I closed it and left it alone. I'll worry about it tomorrow. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/21/2004 12:35:12 PM | link | (0) comments

Message to women: speak loudly, but make yourself small in other ways… how sad. How true. 

Ann scooped the link that I’d been thinking about all morning – the NYT interview with the Austrian Nobel laureate, Elfriede Jelinek.

Ann’s post highlighted the same paragraphs that sent me spinning (emph. my own):
I describe the relationship between man and woman as a Hegelian relationship
between master and slave. As long as men are able to increase their sexual value through work, fame or wealth, while women are only powerful through their body, beauty and youth, nothing will change. ...

A woman who becomes famous through her work reduces her erotic value. A woman is permitted to chat or babble, but speaking in public with authority is still the greatest transgression.

(You're suggesting that your achievements, like winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, detract from your overall appeal.)

Certainly! A woman's artistic output makes her monstrous to men if she does not know to make herself small at the same time and present herself as a commodity. At best people are afraid of her.
The interview has other disturbingly vivid assertions that Ann bypassed:

I consider the current presidency to be dangerous to the world. I am really afraid of Bush, actually less of him than of the deputies standing in the shadows behind him. Compared to their activities, even Thomas Pynchon's paranoid conspiracy theories are just children's books.
And finally there is an interesting speculation about the relationship between art and political engagement:
(Why do you suppose European artists are so much more politically engaged than American ones?)

The smaller a group, the easier it is for more people to argue and enter into discussions. The U.S. is vast. It's too large. The intellectuals hide out in enclaves, in big cities or universities, like a bunch of chickens hiding from a fox.

posted by nina, 11/21/2004 11:34:43 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday entertainment: let’s see what the British royalty is up to 

Wouldn’t you know it, the Prince of Wales has gotten himself into a pickle, with a statement he issued concerning educational attainment. It seems that he had complained “ about a learning culture based on a child-centered system which admits no failure, that led people to believe they could succeed without work or talent.”

Well naturally he has to apologize. After all, critics right away interpreted the comments as “meaning people could not rise above their station.” So British to worry about stations!

But if I were to bet my shilling, I would say that the Prince was not thinking about station-attainment. Instead, mightn’t he have been following American elections and was now merely commenting on the ascent of our man George (such a British-sounding name, isn’t it?) to positions of leadership (“…people to believe they could succeed without work or talent”)?

And I’m not sure what I think of his rebuttal either. When he says “In my view it is just as great an achievement to be a plumber or a bricklayer as it is to be a lawyer or a doctor,” is he publicly manifesting his disdain for bricklayers and plumbers?

posted by nina, 11/21/2004 10:04:22 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, November 20, 2004

What day are we on anyway? 

Another day at the computer, pounding away at a self-imposed assignment. Hours pass and I do not notice. Outdoors, there is a transition from morning dark, to noon light and finally late afternoon dark, but I am oblivious. The only marker I have of the passage of time is in the traffic that I see outside the front window: from neighbors (in their night gear) picking up newspapers (why do people subscribe to the WStJ?), to obsessive yard pruners whacking away at the trees, to a child’s birthday party across the street, with the usual rush of cars dropping off eager attendees and, two hours later, the pick up flood, with parents walking their tired young ones back to the car, bending over them, asking “did you have a good time?” and the kids, wanting to kick the shins of the adults who ripped them out of a good game of “destroy everything in the house,” answering “uh-huh.”
posted by nina, 11/20/2004 06:10:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Some people really do prefer to have the snowdrifts and short days and long nights... 

For the rest of us, it's always a countdown toward spring.

So why would I choose to travel to the place pictured below in a couple of weeks, when I still have roses blooming in my back yard?

No answers today, just questions.
posted by nina, 11/20/2004 11:33:19 AM | link | (0) comments

Madison, November 20 2004 Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/20/2004 11:32:55 AM | link | (0) comments

Warsaw, November 20 2004
posted by nina, 11/20/2004 11:30:17 AM | link | (0) comments

Poland is asserting herself and she has the swing votes to make a difference 

For the American reader, it’s a small issue really: whether the EU should incorporate a certain patent directive (read here, via FistfulofEuros). But the important thing is that when Poland said “no,” the directive fell short of the needed votes and had to be scrapped.

As I understand it, companies pushing for it suffered a lost opportunity to basically patent any and all computer software. Internet users and innovators who build on existing programming models were the beneficiaries. But what really tickled me was to see Poland championing the public interest. A statement to be proud of:

"The questionable compromise that the EU Council reached in May was the biggest threat ever to our economic growth, and to our freedom of communication," said Wladyslaw Majewski, president of the Internet Society of Poland. "The desire of the patent system and the patent departments of certain large corporations must never prevail over the interests of the economy and society at large."

posted by nina, 11/20/2004 09:06:10 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, November 19, 2004

Looking cool and feeling crappy 

Oscar over at ColumnistManifesto analogizes cell phone patter to cigarette puffing. Both fill a void, both create an impression of connectedness. One is disgusting. The other is, a replacement for what medicine has forced us to reject.

But wait. Does anyone ever actually enjoy talking on a cell phone? I never really took to cigarettes and I don’t really take to cell phones either, but still, I did so want to love cigarettes (this is before studies labeled them as Certain Death, even in instances where the smoker is 100 feet removed from you). They were such great pauses in life – they transitioned you from one event to another, they let you take stock, to inhale not so much the smoke, but the moment…

Too bad they always made me feel so crappy. I was glad (some 30 years ago) when they went into disfavor. I was no longer torn between the love for the sport of it and the hatred for the physical effect.

But cell phones – who will take these instruments away from me and tell me they should be banished? Sure, I love them, indeed. There are people whom I would rarely talk to if it weren’t for the cell. But at the same time, I feel ill when it cackles and dies, when it rings at inopportune times, when I pass through areas where it seems just not to work.

Clearly I need a replacement. Should we reconsider chewing gun?

posted by nina, 11/19/2004 09:52:40 PM | link | (0) comments

A peachy predicament for our man Tony 

The Guardian is reporting (via Europhobia) that a motion has been put forth before the Parliament to impeach Tony Blair for his "gross misconduct" in Iraq. Chances of its success are small, but it is a strong statement, given that no such motion has been entertained in Britain for close to 200 years.

And if you are not a member of Parliament but would still like your voice heard on this, you are directed to an online petition (at where you can sign the following statement:
"I wish to see Tony Blair impeached and required to answer in the Court of Parliament that he repeatedly and substantively misled the people into the Iraq War of 2003 while choosing to remain in office when he is in clear violation of the traditional convention of ministerial resignation."

While the British are debating the propriety of impeachment based on misleading statements that led the country into armed conflict, we’re debating the propriety of not including more materials and evidence of the Lewinsky scandal in the “impeachment” exhibit of the Clinton Library.

posted by nina, 11/19/2004 11:27:32 AM | link | (0) comments

I knew it: the reason airfares have gone up is because there’s too much junk food out there 

As if there weren’t enough reasons to promote healthy eating and proper exercise, here’s another: staying with a sensible diet will reduce the cost of flying and cut back on fuel emissions.

From the
IHT today:

[A] report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine … said that "an obesity epidemic" among Americans has had "unexpected consequences beyond direct health effects." Throughout the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, or 4.5 kilograms, causing airlines to spend $275 million on an extra 350 million gallons of fuel just to carry the extra weight, the agency says. The extra fuel burned caused an estimated 3.8 [million] tons of carbon dioxide to be released into the air.

[UPDATE: The numbers are editorially corrected by me thanks to the very clever reader who did the math and determined that the IHT article had missed the word "million" in the transcription.]

posted by nina, 11/19/2004 08:40:20 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé ! 

So scream today's headlines across France's vineyard-studded landscape.

Oh, the rituals to get us through the hefty, dark, dank months of winter! Let’s play! –say the French. It’s the 3rd Thursday of November. We are allowed to uncork the 2004 Baujolais vintage.

Over the years I have responded to the call. I mean, why not? The wine is so young, so damn fresh! So UNprofound. Simple. Playful. I go over to Steve’s on this Thursday and have the same conversation: so guys, which one has the best color, the nicest tones this year? And they whisper conspiratorily – this one! (I wonder how they know? You are not allowed to open it before this day… were they nipping at the bottle while I was brewing my café au lait in the morning?)

To play games and engage in frivolity! How appropriate. How utterly harmless. How French.

posted by nina, 11/18/2004 06:14:43 PM | link | (0) comments

If it hadn’t been for my entry into the world of blogs… 

...I cannot emphasize this enough:
Much about this day in my life would be different.
Much of my food intake would be different.
Much of my social life would be different.

For one thing, I would not have two blogger dinners in one week (one last night, one ahead).
What does this say about me? That I only eat with people who blog? That I only meet people who blog? That there is a shadowy, sinewy connection between the keyboard and a dinner plate so that blogging, eating and talking all inevitably converge to form a harmonious and agreeable experience?

Did I say harmonious convergence? Consider last night, when Althouse, Brito, Camic and Freese set out to chomp and chat and huddle in a booth at Griglia T. There was a bit of a muddle over the huddle as we had a Freese-near-no-show (only Brito threats of a Freese expulsion from the tight circle of Bascom Bloggers caused him to reconsider and make an appearance, albeit without a repentant attitude) and a delay in the start of the evening (Althouse hair was at issue, as was Camic's declining insider- status at Griglia T., which, together, resulted in almost no food for Freese who was in a hurry to leave -- he had a singing engagement elsewhere, and almost no booth for all of us).

And how amicable was the evening anyway? I would say that all generously partook of punching at each other over pasta. Such phrases as “Stop saying that!” “Shut up!” and “Don’t you know how to tell time?” were bandied about with abandon.

What do bloggers talk about? Well, I have the reputation of introducing steamy elements into any conversation, but I think it’s safe to say that the three donnas were well behaved until Freese left at which time we did, momentarily, focus our attention on the waiter. It was hot in the booth, wasn’t it, Brito?

As to the blogger dinner later this week? I’m aiming for tame. Really truly. Though I may be out of practice.

posted by nina, 11/18/2004 02:29:48 PM | link | (0) comments

Since November 2nd, every morning I read something that attests to the growing rift between my home continent and my adopted country 

Today is no exception. In the IHT alone, I read this (emph. my own):
PARIS Ensuring that relations with the United States and Britain will remain cool, President Jacques Chirac of France said in a televised interview Wednesday that the world was a more dangerous place because of the American-led invasion of Iraq … The unvarnished tone of Chirac's remarks surprised many people in normally discreet diplomatic corridors of Europe. … His strong words are likely to resonate with people in other European countries, particularly Germany, where frustration with American foreign policy runs high. … Chirac's disdain for the Bush administration was striking.
One could argue that Chirac is seeking to align Europe behind France and that anti-Bush statements are the easiest method of accomplishing this. How wonderful that we have given Chirac fodder for his political agenda! Bush, as the force behind a more unified Europe, in addition to the more unified (in their opposition to us) Islamic states... And who said the man doesn’t have international appeal?

And lest you think that it’s only the Europeans who are muddying the diplomatic waters, you can find ample evidence that we, too haven’t lost our edge in addressing the problems of those across the ocean. Why should we lift a finger to assist the Euro after all? They wanted a unified Europe, let them eat their baguettes! Read (also in the IHT) this:

LONDON U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow on Wednesday warned Europeans not to expect help from Washington in slowing the ascent of the euro, whose rise to a record against the dollar added pressure on a wobbly Continental economic recovery. … In a speech here, Snow appeared to rule out any prospect of coordinated intervention in the currency markets and suggested that Europe ought to address its own economic problems, rather than looking to Washington.
I am so glad we have a uniter and not a divider here at home.
posted by nina, 11/18/2004 07:04:30 AM | link | (0) comments

It's better to give... 

You can tell the holidays are around the corner by the quantity of paper in your mailbox and by the friendly email reminders from retailers with whom you do business.

And so here it is, a little note this morning from J.Crew, taking me aside and whispering, hey, between you and me, we know why you give presents. The subjeact line reads thus:

Give more, get more this holiday season!

Cuts to the chase, doesn't it?
posted by nina, 11/18/2004 06:19:49 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What redeeming qualities does one find in someone who avoids the law by hiding out abroad, and then uses the law to file a claim of slander? 

BBC is reporting that Polanski, who is living in France to avoid facing a sentence for a conviction for a child sex offense in the States, wants to appear on video in a law suit, filed on his behalf in Britain against Vanity Fair. The 71-year old Polish-born director sued the magazine for libel. He has been on the run since leaving the States in 1977. If he travels to Britain he may face extradition.

His lawyer states: This leaves the case in a mess and a situation where a defendant can get away with libel scot-free.

Get away scot-free? Nice argument, Mr. Polanski.
posted by nina, 11/17/2004 05:55:18 PM | link | (0) comments

The important things in life 

I was working out this morning at the gym, reading a FOOD magazine (crazy, I know), and I came across this question (see poll below). It hit me right there in the gut. Because I really do not know how I would, myself, answer it. Right now I'm thinking I need every point to get me through each day. I'm thinking -- maybe I would even give up eating altogether for two extra points. I could have used them, for example, last night at around midnight when the brain was working at reduced speed. But what about you? Be honest in your answer, please! I've never done a blog-poll, but I am supremely curious as to what my readers would say.

posted by nina, 11/17/2004 01:22:17 PM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Extra extra: the Daily Show does…NOT scoop anything 

Tom Brokaw is interviewed on the Daily Show tonight.
Tom Brokaw reveals that he was surprised by the popular vote.
Jon Stewart misses an opportunity. Brokaw is about to give his opinion on the candidates and Stewart cuts in to tell a lame joke. Dang!

Tom Brokaw mentions bloggers.

Tom Brokaw says to Stewart: You were absolutely right to say what you did (on Crossfire).

I would so rather Rather were leaving network news than Brokaw. Life is not fair.
And it is, I suppose, unfair that I love Stewart anyway, even if he did miss an opening for a Brokaw political revelation.
posted by nina, 11/16/2004 10:30:23 PM | link | (0) comments

If it wasn't so funny, it would be scary: I am a New Yorker. At least to an extent. 

Thanks to that screaming New Yorker in our building (TB), I found myself taking the "Are you a real New Yorker" quiz on the Time Out NY website (here).

I have only one comment: you indeed have NY in your blood (whether you've been there, lived there, rotted there, or bypassed it altogether) if you can check this one off:

[] You find this quiz hilariously funny for no good reason and you recommend it to all your friends.
posted by nina, 11/16/2004 09:44:40 PM | link | (0) comments

I applaud Hardee’s for having the guts to market a silent killer to indulge our penchant for slow death 

I’m so glad I had the news on tonight. I would not have otherwise known that corporate ingenuity would steer a company to create something that would pander to the most vile cravings harbored by man, woman and child.

Why else introduce the “monster thick-burger," with slabs of bacon, cheese and mayo, all worth a hefty 1420 calories (basically my needed daily intake if I am having a slow-moving day, or, as is reported
here, enough calories to feed a family of three in many countries) and that’s before the soda and fries. One person commented that what we have is quintessential food porn. The SUV of burgers.

All we need now is to pack it up and ship it off to Europe (along with our SUVs). Maybe offer it as a food snack in high school cafeterias in France?
posted by nina, 11/16/2004 07:41:41 PM | link | (0) comments

Make new friends ... keep the old ... one is silver ... other is gold 

I could use a couple like that: friends that could be trusted to say "you are so cooooool, Nina! Yeah! you know those chumps who call you a lazy bum? What do they know? You want to stay in bed all day and skip class? Go for it! You want to kick ass and call your neighbors pigs? Yeah!" no matter what I did, they'd be there breaking champagne bottles over my chosen path, no matter what, no matter when. Mmmmmm... old friends. Friends that can be counted on to never question my superior knowledge of the world and my fanciful behavior. Gonzalez-type friends. Rice-type friends.

Half-listening to NBC news, I hear the usual about Condoleezza Rice’s nomination to the position of Secretary of State (all emphases in post are my own):

[She is] America’s face to the world. … Chosen to serve the president. …
She is charged with cleaning out the moderates … [She has] a chance to build on what [Bush has] already done…

And then on the Lehrer News hour I hear her shower GWB with praise. Did you know that under his leadership, "we have widen[ed] the circle of prosperity in every corner of the world" ?

Meanwhile, I read (here) this letter posted by her former colleague at Stanford back in 2002 (he received no response):

Dear Condi,
I'm 99.99% sure that my writing this letter will have no effect, but my conscience tells me to write it anyway. Danziger's cartoon has pushed me out of my lethargy.
[His cartoon shows her banging on a grand piano, saying "War! War! War!"]

When I knew you at Stanford I had the greatest admiration for your abilities and good sense. (And I was disappointed that we never were able to get together to play four-hands music.) But now I cannot help but express to you my chagrin that the warm feelings I once had have basically evaporated. I hope you can pause to try to understand why this might be the case.

Fundamentally I don't see how the government of my country has done anything whatsoever to address and correct the root causes of international terrorism. Quite the contrary; every action I can see seems almost designed to have the opposite effect --- as if orchestrated to maximize the finances of those who make armaments, by maximizing the number of people who now hate me personally for actions that I do not personally condone.

And worst of all, I find that my leaders, including you, are calling for war against a sovereign nation that we suspect to be corrupt, thereby (even if our suspicions are correct) undermining all precedents against unilateral action by other countries who might in future decide that our own policies are wrong. If we peremptorily strike country X, why shouldn't country X have a right to do the same to us, and to our children and grandchildren in future years?

On my trips to Europe all I can do is hope that my friends there can help their governments try to make somebody in my own government act responsibly.


Don Knuth

P.S. This is the second time in my life that I have written a letter to a U.S. government official. The first time was during the Vietnam war.

Now Knuth, notable and respected author that he is (eg. The Art of Computer Programming) -- he's no friend. He's more like my band of friends, ready to speak up whenever I misbehave. What fun is that??
posted by nina, 11/16/2004 06:30:05 PM | link | (0) comments

My shoulders are sagging 

I was a senior in high school in Poland in 1968, a mere 23 years after the end of World War II. The history teacher who taught us the Nuremberg Trials that year had her own personal accounts of the war to insert into the lesson. I wonder if I can express how it feels to have the following appear on the Net (via HS -- thank you), circulating now, 36 years later, to demonstrate historic parallels between then and now:

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country." Hermann Goering, Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe (the second man in the Third Reich), at the Nuremberg Trials.

For better or for worse, my generation ofPoles has always lived in the shadow of the war. After all, it was a war that ransacked our families and destroyed more than 90% of the city where I was born. "Never Again," I heard it over and over again during my Warsaw years.

There was still rubble in the Warsaw of my childhood, but there were no war planes threatening our safety. My generation was taught to listen: we would be the keepers of history, we needed to hear what had happened moments before we were born. And we were good listeners. We remember it all: every last story, every last reason offered for the horror that swept over the European continent and especially Poland.

And so I really cannot emphasize enough how shaken we are -- we the keepers of history, because I think we did not properly recount that which was taught to us. We did not link the past into a future for our children. Instead, we became members of a voting public that did not hear us, but instead, through a democratic process, elected a leader who chose to go to war, without apology, without reconsideration, without remorse.

Coincidentally, also today, I received an email from another friend. She is reading William James (on the subject of the Spanish-American War) and finds that he has this to say:

"The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved. The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly, by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and by preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks. Such nations have no need of wars to save them."
posted by nina, 11/16/2004 01:11:43 PM | link | (0) comments

Shake a few trees and out flies local talent 

I went to eat dinner at Crescent City Grill with Chef O from l’Etoile and a bunch of summer L’Etoilers to celebrate the end of the most successful season ever (on a ripe summer Saturday, they would sell 1700 croissants and I may have lugged 1700 lbs of fruit, though the latter is probably only in my perception of things).

We chatted with the Crescent City chef afterwards and I have to put in a plug for the place. You can go there on a Monday and get a degustation menu (the chef serves you whatever he damn pleases) of many fantastic courses for a price that would make a New Yorker gawk in amazement. And the food is far from ho-hum boring or conventional. Forget good manners: run your finger through some of the sauces on your plate (or on the plate of your neighbor) and give it a good lick: sensational! The preparations are cool and creative. [You think that's just standard food talk? I don't think so. 99% of eateries around here are anything but creative. Tasty? Sure. Creative? Not so much] And, just to keep my favorite descriptors in place -- it's all so fresh and honest.

I also talked to someone (Gail) who has been paying her bills as a L’Etoile baker (yes, a familiar pattern), but who has recently opened a chocolate shop of her own – the realization of a life-long dream. You absolutely must visit her website and/or her small little retail outlet and buy the stuff now, before the limos from distant places pull up and beat you to it. Her chocolates are like no other chocolates you’ll find on this side of the Mississippi. Sophisticated and clever, the Ambrosius will (I am certain of this) eventually knock the socks off the other (Seattle-based) chocolatier of choice (Fran’s). Someone did you a favor lately? Send them a small box from You’ll be forever their hero.
posted by nina, 11/16/2004 02:27:14 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, November 15, 2004

Steamy notes on quiet nights 

Last week I was telling my senior colleague how much I loved my Astor Piazzola CD (you know, the tango guy from Argentina). Did I ever read the album notes to some of his records and CDs – my colleague asked. No, can’t say that I have. I just like playing it in the background, especially when I am writing – it is so sensuously moody, a melancholy kind of music.

Today I opened an email from my colleague and there they were: program notes from some of the albums I did not have. They came with a suggestion to drink wine, listen to the music and read them out loud (presumably to someone). I am alone at the moment and if I drink wine I wont be able to work or do whatever I have set forth for myself tonight, so I’ll just share the notes with the blog readers. Remember the dry language that typically accompanies classical recordings? Piazzola is every bit a classical artist (this recording is from the 1960s I believe). But read this and tell me if you find it boring (if you are prudish, skip this post):

Album notes to Astor PIazzola y su Quinteto Tango Nuevo: Hora Zero (listen to it here)

Strip to your underwear if you’re not in black ties. Get obscene if you want, but never casual. You feel an urge? Touch its pain, wrap yourself around it. Don’t put on airs. What you seem must be what you are, and what you are is a mess, honey, but that’s okay, as long as you wear it inside. Look sharp! Don’t slouch. See anyone slouching here? Stay poised, taut. Listen to your nerves. It’s zero hour. Anxiety encroaches, wave after wave, with every squeeze of the bandoneon. Already twisted by the contraposto of uprightness and savagery, this new tango turns the screw even tighter with its jazz dissonances and truncated phrasings. No relief. No quarter. At zero hour only passion can save you… It’s all a game. You’re going to play too. You’re going to dance with the tiger. Don’t worry, your life is in danger. Remember your instructions. Listen up. And suffer, m*****f*****, this is the tango.

Man, they don’t write them like they used to!
posted by nina, 11/15/2004 05:46:36 PM | link | (0) comments

"They are a symbol of power without responsibility, and that's what we feel about you guys right now" 

This statement about SUVs (and Americans) was made by a professor of transport psychology at a university in Edinburgh (IHT story here).

SUVs are a fairly recent phenomenon in Europe. Driving around tight spaces in old cities and the astronomical cost of gas do not, for the most part, invite large-car ownership. But slowly, SUVs are making their way into the automobile market across the ocean amidst the protest and dismay of many. Read this (emph. my own):

European wariness of SUVs is expressed in different ways. In Rome, the city government has proposed charging SUV owners triple the regular rate for permits to drive in the historic city center. ... [T]he feeling goes, there is just no room for the unwieldy and intimidating SUVs.
The city's transportation commissioner, Mario Di Carlo, said that, if he could, he would put up signs saying, "Please don't come here with these cars."

"I don't want to be like Freud, but SUVs are a projection, a compensating thing," Di Carlo said in an interview. "They're when you want to show how rich, how powerful, how tall, how big you are."

..."SUV drivers are less respectful of other people - you can tell by the way they drive," Di Carlo said. "They park on the sidewalks. Mobility is freedom, but these cars in cities mean immobility, and someone has to have the guts to say it."

...In London, where SUVs are known derisively as "Chelsea tractors," after an upscale neighborhood in which they are especially thick on the road, Mayor Ken Livingston recently dismissed their drivers as "complete idiots."

Drivers report having rude things shouted at them by pedestrians, and a group called the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s has taken to slapping fake tickets on parked SUVs, citing them for poor vehicle choice... "People who see Hummers driving around think, 'Oh, disgusting Americans,"' said Sian Berry, a founding member of the group. "We're saying that what happened in America must not be allowed to happen here."

I sense a lot of displaced anger in this charge. In general, the more you read the international presses, the more you sense that the relationship between the US and Europe needs a nice long session on a shrink's leather couch. Of course, as in a dysfunctional marriage, it'll be the children of both who will be paying the price for years to come.

posted by nina, 11/15/2004 06:05:50 AM | link | (0) comments

Starting the week with an up-beat story 

Several of my friends are dating these days. Looking to find a partner in life, they turn to me with questions that I find difficult to answer: should I call him if he hadn’t called me? Should I bother, given the fact that he is shorter than I am? How should I interpret his email behavior, or lack thereof?

Recently everyone has been talking about the book He’s Just Not That Into You. Amidst the cacophony of reactions I hear one that stands out: since the beginning of time, men like to be the chasers. Do not bother calling: if he wants to see you he’ll call back. Add a few other conventional wisdoms: men don’t like smart women and women don’t like short men and you’ve limited your universe of acceptable dating behaviors considerably.

It’s all good advice I’m sure. I mean, what do I know about American men anyway.

Yet, last night, someone pointed me to a true story that breaks from the gaggle of noise about the one right way to date. (You can also find it if you follow the link from the story on dating short men here.) Sure, you can adhere to the *sound* advice of He’s Just Not That Into You. Or not. Here is an excerpt from a wedding announcement appearing in the New York Times:

The bride and bridegroom met two years ago at a dinner party. It was a few days after Ms. Schonfeld had taken the bar exam, and she was so exhausted that she fell asleep on a couch, awakening only after everyone else had left.

Even asleep, Ms. Schonfeld, stretching to 5-foot-10, made an impression on Mr. Leib. He made an impression, too, not only, she said, because he is ''notably short'' -- he is 5-foot-6 -- but also ''notably smart,'' with a disregard for small talk.

Even when she told him she thought she recognized him from a high school hockey game, she said, he seemed to have his mind on other things. ''I thought it was kind of neat,'' she said.
Mr. Leib acknowledged that he can seem brusque, adding, ''I have a tendency to be that way upon first impression.''

Two months later, through their dinner party host, a date was arranged.
''It seemed almost experimental to date someone who was four inches shorter than me,'' Ms. Schonfeld said with a laugh.

Mr. Leib said he wore his ''tall shoes.'' And as their first date extended to six hours, they discovered they had something in common worth talking about: both had engaged in comically bad behavior in previous relationships.

With that kind of history, Mr. Leib recalled, he was not certain either of them would want a second date.

Rather than call, he sent her an e-mail message, concluding, he said, ''Of course I should never see you,'' and ''of course I'm way too short for you.''

But she was not quite ready to walk away, she said.
''He was so emotionally intelligent about where he was coming from and what he was thinking,'' she noted. ''We were both so incredibly frank with each other. That was quite impressive to me.''

So she called him.

So ends the wedding announcement, so begins their life together. Sweet and unconventional, just the way it should be.
posted by nina, 11/15/2004 05:42:55 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Taking heart in being part of a decadent majority 

It’s odd to feel pleased in reading that we are not, after all, moving in a direction of strong “family values” and good “clean” fun. We are, according to Frank Rich of the NYTimes (Arts&Leisure Section), as decadent and coarse as always, whether we live under a Blue or Red sky. Rich writes:

There’s only one problem with the storyline proclaiming that the country swung to the right on cultural issues in 2004. Like so many narratives that immediately calcify into our 24/7 media’s conventional wisdom, it is fiction. Everything about the election results – and about American culture itself – confirms an inescapable reality: John Kerry’s defeat notwithstanding, it’s blue America, not red, that is inexorably winning the culture war, and by a landslide. Kerry voters who have been flagellating themselves since Election Day with a vengeance worthy of “The Passion of Christ” should wake up and smell the Chardonnay.

I cannot emphasize how relieved I feel. The idea of Democrats pandering to the Fox-news watching anti-same-sex marriage and stem-cell research banning moral absolutists turned my stomach. It is so heartening to read that, at least according to this commentator, there has been no real shift: nothing has pushed these people into a statistically prominent forefront. They remain a small (albeit vocal) minority.
posted by nina, 11/14/2004 02:08:34 PM | link | (0) comments

I’m on a new campaign: let’s lobby for the “old biddies,” shall we?  

Is there a person on this planet who hasn’t yet heard that I am 51 years old? I am on a campaign to infuse with pride the adding of deliciously complicated and brimming-with-experience years to one’s log book.

So I was somewhat disheartened to read in the NYTimes today that the Academy is, more than ever, dishing out Oscars to the dishes and I don’t mean of the type you put in your Whirlpool at the end of the day.

It has not always been thus. Even though lovely young things have always gotten their share of Academy accolades, we’ve also had the occasional “mature” stars recognized (Shirley Booth and Jessica Tandy come to mind). But as the article points out, since 1990, only one woman over 50 has won an Oscar and that was for her role as supporting actress (Judi Dench).

Why raise this now? Because the last two movies that I saw featured absolutely sublime performances: Annette Bening (a mere 46) in “Being Julia” and Imelda Staunton (48), absolutely brilliant in “Vera Drake.”

I will not be a happy movie-goer if these two get pushed out by the little ones (Rossum, Moreno, Swank or the cute and loveable little Winslet). Step aside, young things, and give the luminous "older" actresses a chance.
posted by nina, 11/14/2004 01:25:05 PM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Swing day 

It was so good not to have to work this morning.
I climbed up on the roof and cleaned gutters this morning.

Friends got me moving early on with a walk in the woods.
After that I hardly moved all day.

We were to eat at Greenbush, the old basement Italian place on Regent.
It was too crowded, we couldn’t get a table.

We ate at Nattspil instead. I’d never been there. It’s a cool, homey bar with food.
The food was slow in coming.

We caught the last showing of Vera Drake.
One of us was a doctor who saw this as an ominous and timely movie.*

* The movie is about a backstreet abortionist in post-war London. The acting, combining improvisation and script, is unimpeachable. I’m still shaking.
posted by nina, 11/13/2004 11:58:08 PM | link | (0) comments

Now that I’m done guest-posting (for a while), am I a changed blogger? 

Yes I am. It was great fun to react to the good, the bad and the ugly too. Like in politics, you can never be as clever pushing your own agenda as you can knocking someone else’s, or defending your choices against the attacks of others. [The blog where I guest-posted invites anonymous as well as registered comments and the commentators are sometimes thoughtful and sometimes, shall we say, quick and dirty in their responses]

Of course, banter without slander is even more fun, but I have yet to figure out how to get that without also getting the gratuitous nastiness that often makes people say and write things that are mean-spirited rather than sumptuously witty.

I do think that blog-versations are just in their infancy. Within a year, we’ll have fashioned more options and formats that fit our great desire to create something out of the mess of thoughts thrashing about inside our skulls. And when these blog-versations come out sounding intelligently funny or sardonic, or even poignant, or pensive, whew! they can be a thrill to read.
posted by nina, 11/13/2004 04:23:07 PM | link | (0) comments


This is the first Saturday morning at home for me since early April. [For those who are new to Ocean, I occasionally moonlight at the restaurant, L’Etoile, and this past season I did Market shopping for them every Saturday.]

I cannot get myself to look at the news. I’m sure I’ll read something like "Can Bush Deliver a Conservative Supreme Court?" and I’ll wish I were talking to the farmers instead of sitting with a computer perched on my lap.

Maybe I should revisit old allies (that word!) over at the Progressive. Here we go – Molly Ivins has posted her December piece in which she writes:

Of course, I'm devastated by the news John Ashcroft is leaving. Do you think we'll see tits on statues in Washington once more? [referring to Ashcroft’s prudish request to not be photographed by a statue that had a certain degree of nakedness about it]

Unfortunately, Ivins gets graphic in her speculations on what the next years will feel like for Americans. Consider this excerpt:

My friend John Henry Faulk always said the way to break a dog of that habit [of chasing and killing chickens in the yard] is to take one of the chickens the dog has killed and wire the thing around the dog's neck, good and strong. And leave it there until that dead chicken stinks so bad the dog won't be able to stand himself. You leave it on there until the last little bit of flesh rots and falls off, and that dog won't kill chickens again.

The Bush Administration is going to be wired around the neck of the American people for four more years, long enough for the stench to sicken everybody. It should cure the country of electing Republicans.

That’s a tough one to take with your breakfast granola and café au lait.

Maybe I could just go outside and shut the yard down for the winter. Good idea.
posted by nina, 11/13/2004 10:00:12 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, November 12, 2004

Where in the world is this? 

I’ve written that I spent this morning in the Dells. And I’ve reminisced about a winter sun gently touching Polish river banks. So where are these photos from? Can you guess?

posted by nina, 11/12/2004 05:50:45 PM | link | (0) comments

river banks... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/12/2004 05:49:37 PM | link | (0) comments

...and winter light Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/12/2004 05:48:55 PM | link | (0) comments
Correct, it’s Madison. This afternoon I took a long walk with someone I hadn’t seen for a long time. We hiked along the Wingra creek – just a short stroll from downtown Madison. Lovely. And so peaceful after another uncomfortably stressful week.

posted by nina, 11/12/2004 05:46:21 PM | link | (0) comments

Board of Directors is Stumped 

I attended a meeting of a Board of Directors of the State Bar. It was brought to our attention that Wisconsin will also have a referendum (either this April, or, strategically, when Doyle runs for reelection) on the same sex/civil union issue. It is believed that the 11 states that have already passed measures prohibiting same sex unions have created a momentum and that there is a good chance that Wisconsin may join the pack of blood-thirsty wolverine states.

We were asked for our input on this. It was clear that just about everyone in the room wanted to give a resounding “no!” to the ban. But we are elected representatives within the Bar and so we must weigh all arguments.

Our charge was to come up with ways in which these unions may affect families and in particular, children. The pro (union and/or marriage) side was easy: if you give a legal standing to relationships where children are being raised and cared for, then the couples will have tangible benefits available to them and their children. Moreover, the highest courts in Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts have already rejected state arguments that such unions are detrimental to the child’s well being, finding that children are better off living in stable, state-sanctioned family units.

Okay, but what’s on the other side? In what way are children hurt by these unions? Come on, Camic, the directors implored (more formally of course). You teach the stuff, give us some reasons to weigh here. No one, Camic included, could come up with any.

We agreed to have a special meeting where a lawyer from “the other side” will be invited to educate us. Then we will be able to issue a statement acknowledging that we will have fully considered both sides before reaching a decision.

posted by nina, 11/12/2004 05:25:39 PM | link | (0) comments

Sadness, one person at a time 

Thursday conversation with a guy who was holding something sharp over my head:

So, have people been talking about the elections here?
Not much. People talk about odd things when they get their hair cut.

How about you, did you watch them with your partner?
Yes, we stayed up half the night...

And at the end of it, I called my mother, of all people, and cried, really hard.

posted by nina, 11/12/2004 01:44:27 PM | link | (0) comments

The gentler Dells, as seen in November 

When I wrote earlier about the pleasures of “escaping” for a while in times of stress, I did not exactly count the little sojourn to the Wisconsin Dells that I had on my calendar for today. But I am glad I came (there is a State Bar meeting at the Kalahari Resort that I have to attend). Not only did I get to see a large formation of geese heading south on my way up, but I also saw something that so reminds me of the Polish countryside in the winter that I had to choke back on nostalgia: hoarfrost. I think that is the correct English word for it. It’s not unique to Poland, I know. But it is something I have woken up to repeatedly, because Poland has moist winters and the freezing layer of wetness creates a beautiful landscape on a snowless winter morning. Picture it: farmsteads, narrow strips of farmland and meadows, a birch forest, a riverbank, all muted by a white veil, to be dispensed with when the sun approaches the eleventh hour. So beautiful.
posted by nina, 11/12/2004 11:42:22 AM | link | (0) comments

“They don’t think like we do” 

European commentators are scrambling to interpret the American elections. Unfortunately, the sobering reality is that many are skeptical about finding common ground with us in the immediate future. Jonathan Steele (at the Guardian) has this to say about us (emphases are my own]:

In the wake of the huge support given to George Bush last week, it's time we realised how different America's majority culture is, and changed our policies accordingly. ...

American majority's social and moral values differ enormously from those which guide most Europeans.

Its dangerous ignorance of the world, a mixture of intellectual isolationism [ouch!] and imperial intervention abroad, is equally alien. In the United States more people have guns than have passports. Is there one European nation of which the same is true?...

Of course, millions of US citizens do share "European" values. But to believe that this minority amounts to 48% and that America is deeply polarised is incorrect. It encourages the illusion that things may improve when Bush is gone. In fact, most Kerry voters are as conservative as the Bush majority on the issues which worry Europeans. Kerry never came out for US even-handedness on the Israel-Palestine conflict, or for a withdrawal from Iraq.

With this assessment comes a call for an end to NATO:

Many commentators now argue for Europe to distance itself.

We must go all the way, up to the termination of Nato. An alliance which should have wound up when the Soviet Union collapsed now serves almost entirely as a device for giving the US an unfair and unreciprocated droit de regard over European foreign policy.

In fact, a handful of European states never saw the need to join NATO in the first place. Holding themselves out as “neutral” during the Cold War, Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden declined the invitation to find security in an alignment with the US. [These countries were also the most lenient toward Poland at a time of tremendous travel restrictions faced by Poles; they permitted visa-less travel even at the height of Communist Party rule. Interestingly, the US continues to refuse even tourist entry to Poles without a visa, a source of great bitterness among many of my friends who refuse to subject themselves to the indignity of begging for permission to visit.] These days many Europeans are wondering why the stronger nations (the troika: France, Germany, Great Britain) continue to keep the pretence of a unified front alive, given the increasing chasm between what is perceived to be the American worldview and the European one. Unfortunately, from their point of view, I have to agree. From ours, here in the States, I can only hope that countries across the ocean will fight and challenge our isolationism. Ours is a dangerous path and we need friends to put as many obstacles in our way as possible.
posted by nina, 11/12/2004 07:27:34 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Speaking of politics… 

I was at a dinner tonight where early into the election-politics discussion, one of the guests said “I would prefer not to talk about politics.” Now, I am not certain, but I assume that he was a Kerry supporter (one can get some indication by looking at the subject matter of the research, can’t one?). As were the three others. Where then was the glitch?

It is amazing how many topics these days suddenly hinge on the mention of politics and/or the election. The minute someone says “let’s not speak of xx” you right away find that every subject you can bring forth leads you back immediately to xx. Thus, with the imposed restriction, I found myself tongue-tied and incapable of saying anything sensible for the better part of the evening. In my head, I sifted through all possible conversational insiprations and came up with nothing.

I have not become a mouthpiece for political blogs, no I have not. But I do think that now, more than ever, it is impossible to step outside the political box and fein interests in matters that have no connection to the events of the day. We don’t begin, nor do we end the day with a clean slate. I wish we did, but some things have been just too damn difficult to erase.

posted by nina, 11/11/2004 11:03:38 PM | link | (0) comments

Overheard, pt.1 

Quote of the day:

GWB: “The cost of reforming [social security] is insignificant compared to, err much greater than leaving it…”

Which one now?

posted by nina, 11/11/2004 05:54:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Overheard, pt.2 

November 10, 2004 -- SEN. Zell Miller (D- Ga.) laced into New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd yesterday on the "Imus in the Morning" radio show, saying, "The more Maureen Loud [sic] gets on 'Meet the Press' and writes those columns, the redder these states get. I mean, they don't want some high brow hussy from New York City explaining to them that they're idiots and telling them that they're stupid." Miller also suggested "that red-headed woman at the New York Times" should not mock anyone's religion: "You can see horns just sprouting up through that Technicolor hair." Dowd responds: "I'm not a highbrow hussy from New York. I'm a highbrow hussy from Washington. Senator, pistols or swords?"
posted by nina, 11/11/2004 05:46:13 PM | link | (0) comments

Word choices 

So you’re blogging elsewhere as well?
It’s temporary – maybe for a couple of days or so.

Are you liking it?
You could say that it is like jumping into a steamy bathtub and finding out that sharks are swimming in it, ready to nip at your ankles and work their way up to your derriere.

Steamy bathtub? A curious choice of words.
Don’t you start in on me! On a blog where there are open comments, you are held accountable for every word you utter. It sucks. I can say it sucks here and nothing will happen. On the host blog, I say it sucks and thirty people can be rolling with laughter at my inopportune word selection. On the Internet. Communal glee.

Why don’t you quit then?
Because life is a challenge and I love the challenge writing presents. Besides, I can, at the end of the day, retreat to my safe little Ocean, where the only threat comes not from sharks in the warm, steamy tub, but from a weapon-promoting website pointing its menacing rifles at me. I mean, it’s like coming home! Mmmmmm, I love it here in my own little Ocean.

And while I am at it – thank-yous are again in order. To the Milwaukee reader who wrote that extremely nice email about wit and women writers – so wonderful. To the Republican-voting reader who called a recent post *endearing* – thank you. To those who wrote the *cool* comments to my posts on the other blog, I know you are Ocean loyalists who are helping me out over there –thank you. To those who read this blog regularly and let me know it – thank you. Your words mean a lot to me. Especially now when I am concurrently tredding the perilous waters of another blog.
posted by nina, 11/11/2004 05:18:07 PM | link | (0) comments

Why, Madison, why? 

Last night, weary and hungry, I revived considerably after a friend suggested we dash out for a quick bite to eat. Big Bowl! I offered. Closed, said he.

Why cannot we sustain a fresh and original Asian eatery in this town – one that wont break the budget and will reliably deliver ingredients in wonderfully simple, crisp and appealing presentations?

I am tired of people responding “what’s wrong with Imperial Gardens?” Plenty, and I’ll say this much here: I have a menu that I picked up (for take-out eating) at Imperial Gardens some twenty years ago. I am going to bet that absolutely nothing has changed on it since then. And the limp broccoli remains limp, and the waiters still have to scribble on the order form “customer requests no MSG.”

Having eaten frequently at Big Bowl off of Rush Street in Chicago, I looked forward for months to its arrival on the restaurant desert that is the west side of Madison. It is no more. Shame on us for flooding turkey eateries with our business and scorning places that offer fresh and healthy alternatives to the standard fare.
posted by nina, 11/11/2004 07:44:16 AM | link | (0) comments

The curious definition of torture 

A morning would not be complete anymore without at least one story to set you spinning.
In reviewing some of the press clippings on Gonzalez (Bush’s choice for attorney general) it is impossible to bypass references to a memo written by Gonzalez in 2002 where he states that laws prohibiting torture do "not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants."

But even if we (gulp) had to abide by the Geneva Convention and not resort to the use of torture, not to worry, because it’s a long way, according to Gonzalez, before we cross the line and enter the world of the pain caused by torture. Thus, according to an approved by Gonzalez memo:
pain caused by an interrogation must include "injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions—in order to constitute torture.” (from the NYT and Newsweek, June 2004, via Center for American Progress)

I’m relieved.

posted by nina, 11/11/2004 07:15:27 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Boutique guest blogging 

I remember the day Ann was asked to guest-blog for Instapundit. We applauded her success and cheered her on. Posting on such a high-readership blog was a coup.

Me, I run a small little sailboat here on the vast blogger ocean. I think I would look the other way if a big tanker came my way. But I was honored to be invited tonight to do a guest post on JFW (here). True, it was an act of desperation on the part of Jeremy (the author), but one takes these little gigs as they come.

If you haven’t read JFW, do so. You’re not going to find anything as addictive and invigorating as a read through some of his posts within miles of here (yes, like Katy Couric this morning, Jeremy can have a bad hair day, though please don’t mention that I said so, since he is obsessed about his hair or lack thereof). And I might add that being asked to post on JFW is like having your professor ask you to speak in his/her class, since Jeremy’s blog was the impetus for Ocean and then shortly after, Althouse. It makes you sweat, really it does.

posted by nina, 11/10/2004 09:36:24 PM | link | (0) comments

Let them eat Euros 

With the ballooning trade deficit, the dollar slumped past the 1.30 mark against the Euro today. Bad news for American travelers abroad. Bad news for Asian economies (which are dependent on the value of foreign reserves, mostly held in dollars). Bad news for European exports. Bad news for those wanting love and respect from our overseas ‘allies.’
posted by nina, 11/10/2004 04:03:40 PM | link | (0) comments

A country ripped in two. Wait a minute, who is kicking out whom? 

Following the elections, the email and blog worlds became jammed with bitter descriptions of a northern-coastal political unity, split geographically and ideologically from a burning-red south and mountain-state region. I alone must have received a dozen emails with the word secession embedded somewhere in the text. And I played into the dark humor of it as well (with a post of a popular among left-leaning blogs cartoonish map of a country split into a southern Jesusland and a northern US of Canada), as a consequence of which I got placed on the hit list of an assault weapon website (hi, fellas, I know you’re still readin’ – move on already!).

I assumed that the impetus for a breakaway came from the frustrated Kerry supporters who saw no chance EVER of appealing to the Red states with reasoned arguments about social policy issues and economic agendas.

But then I came across
the Human Events – a national conservative weekly (via, of all things). The former chairman of the Florida Conservative Union quotes Barry Goldwater --" Sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the eastern seaboard and let it float out to sea," and then has this to say about divisions within the US (emphases are my own):

Instead of wedge issues like slavery, federal subsidies for regional business, and high tariffs, society today is sundered by profound, insoluble Culture War conflicts (such as abortion and gay marriage), and debate about our role abroad (shall we remain the world's leader, or become an unprincipled chump for the cabal of globalist sybarites who play endless word-games inside the United Nations and European Union sanctuaries?).

Can we ever hope for unity? According to the article, not so long as the country has to deal with the likes of these:

As a class, liberals no longer are merely the vigorous opponents of the Right; they are spiteful enemies of civilization's core decency and traditions.

The conclusion?

The truth is, America is not just broken--it is becoming irreparable. … That is why the unthinkable must become thinkable. If the so-called "Red States" (those that voted for George W. Bush) cannot be respected or at least tolerated by the "Blue States" (those that voted for Al Gore and John Kerry), then the most disparate of them must live apart--not by secession of the former (a majority), but by expulsion of the latter.

How do the conservatives view the lay of the land?

The demographics revealed by the two most recent presidential elections are radically different and have resulted in "Two Americas" (but not the simplistic "Two Americas" [one rich, one poor] envisioned by Kerry'sMarxist-tongued running mate, John Edwards):

BUSH USA is predominantly white; devoutly Christian (mostly Protestant); openly, vigorously heterosexual; an open land of single-family homes and ranches; economically sound (except for a few farms), but not drunk with cyberworld business development, and mainly English-speaking, with a predilection for respectfully uttering "yes, ma'am" and "yes, sir."

GORE/KERRY USA is ethnically diverse; multi-religious, irreligious or nastily antireligious; more sexually liberated (if not in actual practice, certainly in attitude); awash with condo canyons and other high-end real estate bordered by sprawling, squalid public housing or neglected private homes, decidedly short of middle-class neighborhoods; both high tech and oddly primitive in its commerce; very artsy, and Babelesque, with abnormally loud speakers.

An interesting perspective. As liberals take heat for casting aspersions on the motivations behind the red vote, some right of the right conservatives are having a fine old time posting their thoughts on where the superior beings reside. Though in truth, if these were at all accurate portrayals, isn't it slam-dunk obvious that the choice place to set your roots in would be Gore/Kerry land? Of course, that's just me and my spiteful liberal take on things.

posted by nina, 11/10/2004 08:45:34 AM | link | (0) comments

Downing the perfect espresso 

I read with interest the NYTimes article today about the new coffee machines that are trying to overcome the “home” factor in coffee making. All those fancy espresso makers that have been made available for home use for some time now? Not good enough: they produce coffee that lacks the depth and frothiness of the professionally brewed cup. What’s a cappuccino devotee to do?

To me, trying to bring that cup from the coffee bar to your kitchen misses the point. Here’s what I use (retail price approximately $20; accompanied by a pot of heated milk for an instant caffe latte):

posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:45:34 AM | link | (0) comments

an Italian tip on the best machine for home use Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:44:35 AM | link | (0) comments
I’m not an expert on coffee at all so when in doubt as to how to brew at home, I follow the advice of those who really fuss about their java (the Italians and French). Their take on this? The cheap little stove-top espresso takes care of the cup you need to serve up when a visitor knocks, or when you’re house-bound. For all other coffee, there’s this in the morning:

posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:42:06 AM | link | (0) comments

Venice: a shot of strong stuff at the corner cafe-bar Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:41:09 AM | link | (0) comments

Paris: starting the day right Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:40:40 AM | link | (0) comments
This in the afternoon:

posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:37:03 AM | link | (0) comments

what's the rush... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:36:31 AM | link | (0) comments
And this in the evening:

posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:34:26 AM | link | (0) comments

It’s never going to taste right if you’re drinking it in the quiet solitude of your own home.
 Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/10/2004 07:33:58 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Can the highest court shut down a political party that becomes too far-right in its beliefs? 

It happened in Belgium. BBC reports the following:

Belgium's highest court has ruled that the Flemish far-right Vlaams Blok party is racist.

[Now please, readers, I am not advocating any such measures here, and since I am still getting tons of traffic from the wonderful people from the site that advocates the use of assault weapons, I do not want at at all lead you to believe that I am out there promoting any ban on far-right political agendas. Uh-uh, no way! Free speech and all that, go 2nd Amendment! --or whatever it is that you are seeking to protect.]

Back to the Belgians then: With the ruling comes an end to federal funding and access to TV airtime and so the party has effectively been run out of business. Note that this wasn’t just a fringe movement. The BBC notes that recent opinion polls indicate that the Vlaams Blok party is the most popular party in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders. Where did it run into trouble? In taking a strong position on immigration (toned down recently from advocating the return of immigrants to their home countries, to saying that non-European immigrants can remain in Belgium so long as they adopt Belgian rules and values).

posted by nina, 11/09/2004 08:50:58 PM | link | (0) comments

I’m sorry for every short cut I ever took in teaching law 

This afternoon I had to attend a hearing and listen to a lawyer present an argument on behalf of a client. To say that he was a sleazy, crass, lacking in civility to say nothing of intellect – would be an understatement.

How did he ever ascend to the status of “primary litigator” in a local law firm? More importantly, how did he ever make it through law school?

I am determined to get tougher, to tighten-up in the classroom and demand even more of my students at every turn.

Am I scaring my one-L’s yet? Not to worry. Every single one I have right now is already better suited to practice law than the attorney I dealt with this afternoon. Ever try directing questions to a horse’s rear-end? I did, today.

Now, if the Republicans would like to pluck this character out of the ranks of trial attorneys and send him packing, it would be okay by me.

posted by nina, 11/09/2004 06:15:28 PM | link | (0) comments

2 soon 2 B 4-got-10 

An elementary school buddy wrote that in my autograph book (so ‘hot’ in the early 60s). She was bad at arithmetic and she made it out to be equation (2+2+4=10) that of course failed to be very convincing.

This morning a
WashPost article describes a re-energized Kerry who not only is intending to be a powerful force in the Senate in the next several years, but is currently also assessing the possibility of running again on the Democratic ticket in 2008. Other faces: Howard Dean is considering becoming chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Let’s be honest here. How excited about these developments are we? I myself did not vote for Kerry as merely an anti-Bush statement. Although initially an Edwards supporter, somewhere along the way (try: first debate) I became convinced that this guy was running on a pretty decent platform.

But now I want to say “step aside, fellows. I loved you when you were up (in the polls), I mourn your fall, but I do not want another ‘come up from behind’ election.” It’s not only about electability, but electability is a minimal prerequisite. I have toughened my position here. I don’t want the possibility of success. I want surefire success. The Democrats have lost to the Republicans in 5 out of the last 7 presidential elections. Enough already. Don’t we have a Karl Rove-type among our ranks (cunning, evil, effective)?

posted by nina, 11/09/2004 07:39:34 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, November 08, 2004

Uhhh, welcome almost all? 


What do you do when your blog gets linked to by a site that promotes the sale and use of assault weapons and makes references to prayer and belief in a mission (of sorts)?

And what if that site then generates a flood of readers who come to you because the site author has posted your blog, along with Michael Moore’s as ones deserving of…attention?

Hmmmmm, I’m thinking about the answer to the above.
posted by nina, 11/08/2004 10:45:18 PM | link | (0) comments

All I need is an ashtray filled with cigarette butts and a plate of sushi and I’d feel complete 

Yesterday I spent the day writing a paper that summarizes interviews I had conducted over the years in Japan. Basically that means I sat in front of my computer in flannel pajamas, hair pulled back messily, stacks of papers (did I really take notes once on a napkin? me!) spread in varying degrees of orderliness, and pounded at the keys of my laptop all day long.

Today a friend wrote –
Congratulations! The first draft of any paper is always the hardest! Is it just me then who thinks that the first draft is the easiest? It’s almost as fun as doing the interviews and collecting the information. How grand it would be to now retire the whole thing and go on to something new. Spoken like a true scholar.

Still, a celebration of step one is in order. How opportune that a pal, sensing my dismal mood of the week-end had said “we should do sushi soon” and I took her up on it today. I’ve never been to the Muramoto. I’m all about escapes. Japan seems plenty far.

posted by nina, 11/08/2004 06:14:46 PM | link | (0) comments

Afternoon conversation in the faculty lounge 

So how’s it going?
It’s been tough. We had a guy from Move On staying with us for over a month before the election. He worked so hard! Fourteen hours a day, every day…

At least he was successful here in Wisconsin.
True; and he said in the next election it will be so much easier because they now have a network in place.

It’s amazing how well-organized the Republicans were though... The right of the right always delivers their busloads right on schedule, from the pulpit to the voting booth.
Do you know what my theory is? I think that Bush’s fundamentalist beliefs are just a brilliant strategy, invented by the conservative Republicans so that they could reach that strategic vote.

You mean you don’t think GWB really is guided by God and prayer?
I think he acts the part well. You see, they knew, they KNEW that in order to keep the GOP viable in the face of an increasingly economically polarized nation, they had to get 100% of the Conservative Christian vote. And so they geared him for it. They had their man – he has very convincing facial expressions and he can speak down to people and talk of God and also get away with his prior record of drinking and carousing…He has, after all, ‘seen the light.’

Do you really believe that?
Uhhh, maybe.
posted by nina, 11/08/2004 03:19:01 PM | link | (0) comments

Another hurricane heading for Florida? 

Is it possible that registered Democrats, voting overwhelmingly for Kerry in all states, chose to turn pink and eventually red under the glare of the Florida sun? How could Bush have carried, by large margins no less, these Democratic counties? Is it another instance of our endlessly squabbling over return numbers (that have been turned in and tallied) because they produced a result we cannot accept? Perhaps it is more that we cannot fathom this one.

Tom Bozzo writes this at Marginal Utility:

I can think of some potential explanatory mechanisms -- stale party ID on old registrations, incompetent reporting of the registration data by the State of Florida, more evangelical-leaning Democrats, for instance -- but on the whole, the idea that Democrats largely stuck by Kerry (89 to 11, according to the exit polls; sorry, Ann Althouse) everywhere but Florida takes my credulity and drops it down a wormhole where it emerges in the Gamma Quadrant in no recognizable form.

Interestingly, the issue is with counties using optically-scanned ballots, which is generally considered the most reliable available voting technology. Though as a result, the optical scan jurisdictions would be under much less scrutiny than those using touch-screen voting. At least it should be straightforward, in principle, to validate the vote totals from the original ballots; I fervently hope someone with appropriate legal resources does so (hello, Florida Democrats)!

posted by nina, 11/08/2004 10:03:43 AM | link | (0) comments

Emboldened, embedded, embittered 

A headline in the NYTimes this morning reads: President Feels Emboldened, Not Accidental, After Victory.

Depending on your fate, you could wake up on this Monday morning and find yourself in a state of one of the three E’s.

If I were to do a documentary-type film of this morning, I would have a three-way montage. In the first frame, there would have to be a CNN-type clip from Iraq with the word Embedded underneath, followed by the words (from “thousands of U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers braced for all-out urban combat;” then in the second, we’d see a refreshed, smiling, raring-to-go image of GWB with the NYT reference to his “Emboldened” state of mind and their words: “re-election has already had a powerful effect on his psyche, his friends and advisers say;” followed, finally, by a clip of me (hey, it’s my film, for my own archives), tossing aside yesterday’s Week in Review with the tables that break down who voted in what way on November 2nd. I’d just stay with the “Embittered” label underneath the last frame.

I’d leave Kerry out of my film. Bad enough that anyone can now park in front of his house (yesterday it was reported that the minute he lost the election, he lost also the security detail that kept his street clear of unwelcome loiterers), he shouldn’t have to also suffer the indignity of being in my short film.

I’d end the documentary (it would only be about ten seconds long because I have only that much energy for it) with a flash to the text of the NYTimes, this time to the passage that picks up on my posted hubris contest from the other day (a not-so-impartial panel of judges decided that the winning entry may well be “megalomaniac”):

"The big danger is one of hubris," said David R. Gergen, a professor of public service at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a veteran of the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton White Houses. "There's a tendency after you win your second term to think you're invulnerable. You're not just king of the mountain, you've mastered the mountain. That can often lead to mistakes of excessive pride."

posted by nina, 11/08/2004 06:57:19 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Who says escapes don't cure an ailing spirit? 

A friend boarded a plane on November 3rd and flew to Hawaii. Today she really rubbed it in with this message:

Aloha Nina,

Maybe you could use some distance from the political bog to gain some perspective. Here on Hawai'i, we don't even receive the NY Times until a day later. By then, the news is old -- so who cares? Who needs to see photos of the smarmy smirk on Bush's face? We are busy contemplating which umbrella drink to order and which beach chair to choose. Mandate? Our only mandate is to notice the gorgeous view from the hotel room lanai:

posted by nina, 11/07/2004 08:12:21 PM | link | (0) comments

big deal, a coupla palm trees and a boat... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/07/2004 08:12:04 PM | link | (0) comments

Madison: Halloween party town of the Midwest, commiserate now with Prague, where things are a lot worse:  

I read European blogs and papers when I think I cannot take another ounce of American political chatter. Today I eventually made my way to the Prague TV site, which is a frequently linked-to source for European bloggers.

The Prague story elicited much cheering around the Czech blogland. “About time we took charge of this!” was the common response.

What’s at issue? In the last year or two, with the introduction of very cheap intra-European airfares, British men have been traveling in hordes to Prague in search of cheap beer and sex. Here are some excerpts:

[Prague] has become the stag capital of Europe. A report, released last week by the Czech tourism office, revealed that the historic capital of the Czech Republic, famed for its beautiful architecture, is now attracting large gangs of rowdy [British] men looking for a good time.

Mr Paroubek [the Czech tourism minister] said that tourism officials were planning an advertising campaign in London that would focus on the culinary experience that Prague could offer. The hope was that it would attract more refined tourists rather than the rowdy crowds."Food here is as good as in London. We don't need nightclubs or prostitutes to attract visitors," Mr Paroubek said. …

A petition of Prague residents was handed in recently at the town hall. … "Prague is a beautiful and romantic city and they are ruining it. We do not need this kind of visitor and the council and government should act."…

[Many] Britons acknowledged that they were in Prague to party, rather than to experience the city's history and culture. Neil Wilson, 39, from Newcastle, said that he had come to Prague for a friend's birthday and had no interest in sightseeing."We've come for a weekend to get drunk. It's not really a culture visit.”

The outpouring of support for the crackdown on the “drunken Brits” has been remarkable. Bloggers, native to Prague, but also to the British Isles, have cheered the efforts to rid the city of its party capital reputation. But a note of realism came through as well in the blog comments of this Czech resident:

I really support any initiative that will rid our streets of this shameful menace but I am not sure that the tourism minister is being entirely realistic when he writes"Food here is as good as in London." I would have thought it's more a question of like the old CSA [Czech Airlines] advert used to say "OK and getting better" !!

Please, no comparison to Polish cuisine at this time. What's been happening with Polish cooking is the subject of a separate (later) post. I do like the "truth in advertising" that the CSA adhered to. I'd like to see some of our airlines take to this more humble approach.
posted by nina, 11/07/2004 07:45:26 PM | link | (0) comments

It's not like a hang-over, it's more like a hang-in-there 

A reader writes about the pressure she feels from conservative victors to “move on,” “get over it,” etc. I, too, have heard my share of comments on this. And I know readers wonder how long Ocean will remain so immersed in postmortem politics.

My answer:

There is no cataclysmic death that we are trying to cope with. There is no sorrow for a loss experienced just on November 2nd. For me, there is no retro-wallowing in a campaign that failed to bring about the desired result. The sadness in not in the event of the election, it is in turning on the news and living with the result of it each and every day. It is the daily coverage of Cabinet Meetings, of the setting of a new policy agenda, of the poor health of Rehnquist, of the loss of life in Iraq, of struggles faced by people who can hardly afford life. That is the playground where feelings of loss are tossed around.

I believed that we could inhabit a better world had Kerry won. I am living in the world that suffers, therefore, a lost opportunity for significant improvement. Yes, the loss of Kerry is a singular event. Indeed, on November 2nd, the air was sucked out of my lung. But now it remains oxygen-deprived. It’s hard to get over that enduring disability because you feel it at every step. Ah well, I suppose I could take one big gulp of air and hold my breath for four years. It would be a Guinness Book of World Records moment, but I could give it a try: ………………………………………no, sorry, I am a mere mortal, good for only about 45 seconds.

posted by nina, 11/07/2004 10:48:38 AM | link | (0) comments

Reading the news: local fame and distant rumblings 

Once again Ann makes an Op-Ed appearance, this time in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. She writes about the quest for peace and unity following a pre-election season marked by bitter argument and rancor. Because in the piece she graciously acknowledges Ocean, noting that I blog with still not a small amount of pain and disbelief, I am again getting the email from less sympathetic readers (much of it fueled, I’m sure, by Ann’s reference to the map that I posted that’s been going around the left-leaning blogs – of Jesusland versus the United States of Canada).

Consider this generous soul:
I will pray for your peace of mind...that oughta creep you out big time

Not really. I am more “creeped-out” by news of the day than by someone’s praying for my peace of mind.

But I also read stories that are plain old fascinating accounts of ‘politics as ususal.’ For instance, I have noticed in past days how many Bush supporters are saying that we can again engage in an honest discussion of, say, the war in Iraq, now that the Kerry supporters no longer feel compelled to take a unilateral position against the invasion. Personally, I thought it was honest all along (at least it was on my part). I, of course, say the same thing about the “other side” and I was initially tickled to read the following in the NYTimes today: “The Antiwar Right is Ready to Rumble” with the side-quote: “Conservatives like William F. Buckley Jr have begun questioning the Iraq war.”

At first glance, “
questioning the war” resonated with me and I felt a surge of good will toward those who were willing to speak against it from the other side. But as I read further, I became disturbed by the Republicans who were only questioning it because it was becoming a political liability. Here’s a callous comment, quoted in the Times: Mr. Bush now has two years to “solve Iraq” to protect Republican candidates at the midterm elections, [Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform] said. His suggestions: withdrawing United States tropps to safe citadels within Iraq or by “handing Falluja over to the Iraquis and saying, ‘It’s your headache.’”

I am not commenting on the correctness of the Iraq strategy, but I am commenting on how amazing it is to keep learning about how so much of what happens in Iraq is dictated by Republican agendas that have little to do with destroying terrorism or with freedom marches.

Ah well, I did allow myself a chuckle as I looked at the NYT cartoon of Kerry standing in front of a giant heap of smoldering debris, noting:
“…and to think, all this could’ve been mine.”
posted by nina, 11/07/2004 09:06:35 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Simple arithmetic and mandates, another contest, and the 2008 ticket  

You hear it all the time: Bush enters his second term with the largest popular vote ever recorded in presidential elections. Mandate! – says our man of great humility. Mandate! – repeat the pundits (in horror or in joy, depending on their leanings). Okay, but we know who has the second largest number of votes ever:

GWB (04): 59,459,765
Kerry (04): 55, 949,407

Followed by:

Reagan (84): 54,455,075
Gore (00): 50,999,897
GWB (00): 50,456,002
the other Bush (88): 48,882,808
Clinton (96): 47,402,357
Nixon (72): 46,740,323
Clinton (92): 44,908,254
Reagan (80) 43,901,812

Note that in addition to the 55,949,407 Kerry supporters, more than 75,000,000 did not feel compelled to demonstrate their support for a GWB Mandate (meaning, more than 40% of eligible voters did not vote). Thus the *Mandate* effectively comes from about 30% of Americans.

The other interesting statistic is that, aside from the 2000 election (which Bush *won* by just 5 votes in the Electoral College), it was the smallest margin of victory won in the Electoral College since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson beat Charles Evans Hughes by 23 votes, 277 to 254.

Mandate indeed! With this in mind, I’ll post another contest, call it the “Hubris Contest” (it originated in my neighborhood, but people are feeling stumped). Here it is: Come up with a word that would describe the way over-the-top, overarching pride Dubya now has.

Commentators say Edwards is in an excellent position to jump into the race again in 08. And who on the Republican ticket? On the other side of the ocean, where people are trying to understand how we pick our leaders, Jeb and Jenna have both been mentioned.
posted by nina, 11/06/2004 08:26:32 PM | link | (0) comments

The otherworldliness of sleep deprivation 

Where am I? What time is it? Well might I ask. I know one thing – I’m into the fourth day after the election and I have yet to sleep more than two hours each of the nights. I’ve jotted some notes from when Friday turned into Saturday and I didn’t even notice:

Friday: one hour late for a dinner party (they were on dessert already when I arrived! Hey, these were ravenously starving individuals if you think about it, but still, how rude is that on my part – ONE HOUR LATE!); an hour and a half late for the Torts section party (I’ve lost all awareness of time passing); one broken glass at said party (thank you for pretending it was just some cheap piece of junk you picked up at Sears; I know darn well the Sears does not sell delicate, long-stemmed, tinted-blue wine glasses, but it was nice of you to try to make me feel better); a late start at L’Etoile this morning (when I dragged myself in at 7, the Market was robust, the Café was already opened and Chef O had called twice leaving messages for me); and a late finish at L’Etoile. [More than six hours of picking and lugging vegetables in slo-mo; SIX HOURS! How did I survive? With the help of this:]

posted by nina, 11/06/2004 04:56:46 PM | link | (0) comments

I needed that. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/06/2004 04:54:50 PM | link | (0) comments
It may surprise some to learn that today, on the last Outdoor- Market day, I ate my first L’Etoile croissant for the year (I had their pumpkin & chocolate one and it was fantastic!). If you work in a restaurant, you don’t really eat the food that is being prepared there. If you are cooking, you have to taste to adjust for flavors, but that’s all. Just about everyone I know practices this type of abstention. Oh sure, they, like me, will go to dine there now and then, but on days that they are working, there is a real separation of powers between labor and consumption.

While sipping my café au lait and munching on the croissant, I picked up a copy of yesterday’s paper. I found the front-page photo of the first post-election Cabinet Meeting quite entertaining in a sardonic sort of way. Take a look:

posted by nina, 11/06/2004 04:52:24 PM | link | (0) comments

The gray suit and the white shirt are back in style.  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/06/2004 04:51:01 PM | link | (0) comments
Missing is the look of people hard at work. There is not a single rolled-up sleeve at the table, figuratively-speaking or otherwise. And note the guy in the circle because he is on his way out! I have heard rumors from very well-informed sources that if he goes, half the staff at the State Department is going to quit. That, of course, would be awkward or awesome, depending on your perspective. But Donald Rumsfeld seems to feel that we want him to continue to pound his fists at everyone and their shadow overseas. So two more years of him. Two years? Want kind of a commitment is that anyway? He’s already announcing that two more years of this Administration is about as much as he can take? How about the rest of us? We're stuck with four!And aren’t we all happy happy to see that Condoleezza Rice may well be the next Rumsfeld. Such disarming people, the both of them!

At the Market today, farmers were engaged in political speculations (I only buy from Democrats. Honestly. It’s not that I disdain food coming from Red-tainted soil, it’s just that I have yet to MEET a Market farmer who voted for Bush). What now, why, where to... One young guy over at Harmony Valley was explaining to a customer how the only way this country can survive is if we take on seriously the task of providing information to people who are simply not knowledgeable about the crisis facing this country. He is sending his Bush-voting in-laws a subscription to the New York Times. I told him they either wont read it or call it a lefty rag. “No,” he said, “because I am not just a random person out there. I married their daughter. They like me. I can make inroads because they trust me. I tell you, this should be our mssion for the next 4 years: to educate those without access to hard facts. Education is huge!”

There’s a reason why it’s always refreshing to talk to farmers at the Market. They see their crops fail, they deal with droughts and flooded fields. And, if they at all can, they come back to it next year anyway.

Just two photos from the Market today – the post is obscenely long as it is. The first focuses in on the essence of a great Market: stacks of carrots, in the glow of a beautiful, sunny day. The other is more suggestive of things to come. The peppers are still there, but they are strung with seasonal pine cones. Damn. The Market changes, seasons change, but the president and vice president stay the same. Damn.

posted by nina, 11/06/2004 04:36:10 PM | link | (0) comments

a gaggle of carrots, reaching for the warm rays of the sun Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/06/2004 04:35:32 PM | link | (0) comments

peppers and cones with the yellow leaves of a lingering Fall Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/06/2004 04:34:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Friday, November 05, 2004

Alabama, I want to get to know you better… 

A reader forwarded this story on the referendum that was on the ballot in Alabama. It appears that it failed (thus far, because they are demanding a recount) to eliminate segregationist provisions (to be fair – long-unenforced) from the Alabama Constitution. Close call though, 50% against, 50% in favor. [The problem? The referendum was tied to another provision, the removal of which threatened to raise school taxes.]

I was all ready to get on the Ocean blog and write
you wont get this blogger to venture to Alabama if my sun-deprived self depended on it!

And then I thought to myself: no, Ocean will rise above such sweeping, pernicious and defamatory condemnations. I have written earlier, after all, about the ability of honorable Europeans (even those who are in the Coalition of the Unwilling) to differentiate between Americans and their war-boy antihero. The Other Side of the Ocean should be at least as noble as those on the other side of the ocean.

And so I forced myself, here on Ocean, to make that gesutre. Reach out! Reach out to the heart of Dixie, I said, feeling magnimonious and resisting the temptation to pinch my nose. And what did I come up with? I don’t have county by county data on the Amendment, but take a look at these counties in terms of the Bush – Kerry election (source: CNN):

(overall state numbers: 37% Kerry, 63% Bush)
Macon – 83% Kerry, 17% Bush
Greene – 80% Kerry, 20% Bush
Lowndes – 70% Kerry, 30% Bush

By comparison, us smug Dane County (our little island of idealism in the vast sea of reality) voters have produced only this:
Kerry – 66%

Bush – 33%

Okay, I’m sorry Alabama. I will not make generalizations about the state and (all) its people again. Just get rid of that Amendment.

posted by nina, 11/05/2004 06:52:39 PM | link | (0) comments

Be real, people! 

My words to our neighbors across the Pacific: let’s not hope for the impossible and we will not be disappointed.

I read in the IHT today that the Asahi Shimbun (a Japanese paper) posted this:

The newspaper … appealed to Bush's humility, reminding him that there was still "persistent opposition" to his security policy and saying, "We want him to respect the criticism humbly."

Come, come, have you looked closely at the face of our victor? This is not a man who gulps down humility with his orange juice each morning. Look at these humble servants from the official GOP website:

Japan, you are so UNREAL. You! A member of the Coalition of the Willing! And what’s this with the other Asian countries? I see a reference to a paper from South Korea, another American ally:

Similar sentiments were echoed by newspapers in South Korea. … The JoongAng Ilbo said the United States had "suffered great damage from its unilateral diplomacy over the past four years" and urged it to be more considerate of its allies.

Are you stuck on the old Bush or are you asking this of the current George? Don’t hold your breath, pals.
Hong Kong, at least, steps cautiously:

In Hong Kong, The South China Morning Post characterized Bush's victory as a "victory for divisiveness."
"Great challenges lie ahead," The Post said. "But they will be confronted by a nation that is at odds with itself. History will judge the price his country will have to pay for this most divisive of victories."

But you have to hand it to India, a great beneficiary of American outsourcing. What a sense of humor that country has! (as it cheers – now isn’t that interesting – the November 2nd results):

The Times of India touched on a growing trade issue with the United States by asking, "Should the U.S. outsource its electoral process to India's remarkably efficient election commission?"
posted by nina, 11/05/2004 12:36:38 PM | link | (0) comments

A review of day two 

(Or: How I got through yesterday on virtually no sleep for two nights in a row)

Was 2 minutes late for first class (never happened before), forgot lecture notes, poured cold water over tea bag, forgot to record exams, locked myself out of my office just before second class and was, therefore, 2 minutes late for that (unbeleivable!), called student by wrong name, fell asleep (visibly) during faculty meeting, was late for coffee meeting, kept complaining about the freezing weather during evening walk (an objectively inaccurate assesmment of the meteorological conditions outside), talked politics at dinner with Ann and remember none of it today, got a parking ticket, dozed off in the middle of writing a blog post.

A special treat for Ocean readers: tomorrow you get to read a post under the heading: How I got through yesterday on virtually no sleep for three nights in a row. It’ll be a doozie.
posted by nina, 11/05/2004 09:24:40 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, November 04, 2004

You forgot about Poland, redux (long post on building a new life elsewhere) 

That one-of-a-kind Jeremy, over at JFW wonders why people are so psyched about moving to Canada now and not choosing to relocate to, say, Poland.

I have always felt myself to be at a cultural disadvantage here. At times (eg November 3rd, a.m.) I have thought – man, I just don’t GET this place! In those moments I have felt inferior, marginalized and confused. But I can take comfort in the fact that every now and then I can rise to the challenge and participate meaningfully in the debate. For instance now: I think I can help you decide -- Poland? Canada? the Caribbean maybe? Read on!

First, why Canada remains a cool choice: it’s because they are not yet ready to bash our brains in, that’s why. They still want to help us out, even though we mock their affected French ways in Quebec and poo poo their pandering to environmentally-correct mammals. Check out this website, which urges Canadians to take on an American bride at our time of great need. here's an excerpt:

Now that George W. Bush has been officially elected, single, sexy, American liberals - already a threatened species - will be desperate to escape.
These lonely, afraid (did we mention really hot?) progressives will need a safe haven.
You can help. Open your heart, and your home. Marry an American. Legions of Canadians have already pledged to sacrifice their singlehood to save our southern neighbours from four more years of cowboy conservatism.

And why not Poland?

Here’s someone positing that very question on her (Madison-based) blog, just yesterday. She writes:

Accepting my brother’s offer to work in Poznan (Poland) where he lives with his Polish wife is also not an option. He’s right – I’d make more than the average Pole and the landscape (at least in selected areas) would be much better. But, let’s be honest…I just wouldn’t fit in. I don’t speak Polish, I do yoga (which the Catholic church in Poland seems to regard with some mystical suspicions), I like to run outside (which, judging by my visits to Poland, is not an acceptable outdoor activity and tends to cause alarm), I drink my vodka in cocktails, I like a large supermarket with an expansive and fresh produce section to be within walking distance, I love it that even in Wisconsin I have the opportunity to see live roller-derby, I love rodeos, and a Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre or White Stripes concert at least once per year is an absolute must. Oh, and I don’t speak Polish.

Now, I do think one shouldn't be quite this intimidated by the puzzled stares of my country-folk. Be bold! Kick the shi(ns) out of anyone who wont let you do yoga! The church is losing its grip on the Polish psyche anyway. Go! Relocate to Poland! (But do learn Polish first.)

In the alternative, a reader (thanks, Christina) brought the following Harper’s article to my attention:

A reader’s guide to expatriating on November 3

So the wrong candidate has won, and you want to leave the country. Let us consider your options.

Renouncing your citizenship

Given how much the United States as a nation professes to value freedom, your freedom to opt out of the nation itself is surprisingly limited. …
The most serious barrier to renouncing your citizenship is that the State Department, which oversees expatriation, is reluctant to allow citizens to go “stateless.” Before allowing expatriation, the department will want you to have obtained citizenship or legal asylum in another country…

Heading to Canada…

In your search for alternate citizenship, you might naturally think first of Canada and Mexico. But despite the generous terms of NAFTA, our neighbors to the north and south are, like us, far more interested in the flow of money than of persons. Canada, in particular, is no longer a paradise awaiting American dissidents... Today it takes an average of twenty-five months to be accepted as a permanent resident, and this is only the first step in what is likely to be a five-year process of becoming a citizen. At that point the gesture of expatriation may already be moot, particularly if a sympathetic political party has since resumed power.


… those who opposed the Iraq war might hope to find refuge in France, where a very select few are allowed to “assimilate” each year. Assimilation is reserved for persons of non-French descent who are able to prove that they are more French than American, having mastered the language as well as the philosophy of the French way of life…

The coalition of the willing

Should the other candidate win, war supporters might naturally look to join the coalition of the willing. But you may find a willing and developing nation as difficult to join as an unwilling and developed one. It takes at least five years to become a citizen of Pakistan, for instance, unless one marries into a family, and each applicant for residency in Pakistan is judged on a case-by-case basis. Uzbekistan imposes a five-year wait as well, with an additional twist: the nation does not recognize dual citizenship, and so you will be required to renounce your U.S. citizenship first. Given Uzbekistan’s standard of living (low), unemployment (high), and human-rights record (poor), this would be something of a leap of faith. …

The Caribbean

A more pleasant solution might be found in the Caribbean. Take, for example, the twin-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, which Frommer’s guide praises for its “average year-round temperature of 79°F (26°C), low humidity, white-sand beaches, and unspoiled natural beauty.” Citizenship in this paradise can be purchased outright. Prices start at around $125,000, which includes a $25,000 application fee and a minimum purchase of $100,000 in bonds. Processing time, which includes checks for criminal records and HIV, can take up to three months, but with luck you could be renouncing by Inauguration Day. ..

And, if all else fails, don’t forget about Poland. Start practicing: dziekuje and jak sie masz.

posted by nina, 11/04/2004 10:00:16 PM | link | (0) comments

Second Postcript to post below 

The European press reacts to the election results (thanks A., via

The Independent bore the front-page headline "Four more years" on a black page with grim pictures including a hooded Iraqi prisoner and an orange-clad detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

The left-leaning Guardian led its features section with a black page bearing the tiny words, "Oh, God." Inside a story described how Bush's victory "catapaulted liberal Britain into collective depression."

Across Europe, many newspapers expressed dismay at the prospect of another term for Bush, a president often regarded as inflexible and unilateralist.

"Oops — they did it again," Germany's left-leaning Tageszeitung newspaper said in a front-page English headlinectory. The cover of the Swiss newsmagazine Facts called Bush's re-election "Europe's Nightmare." "Victory for the hothead: how far will he go?" asked another Swiss weekly, L'Hebdo.

A few British papers welcomed the U.S. election result. "The world is a safer place with George W. Bush back in the Oval Office," the tabloid Sun said in an editorial.

All agreed the result reflected a sea-change in U.S. politics, a victory for neo-conservatives and the religious right.

"March of the Moral Majority" said the conservative Daily Mail, above a photo of Bush with his wife and daughters. "America's moral majority sweeps Bush back into the White House," The Daily Telegraph said.

The Times said Europe "must come to terms, not only with Mr. Bush, but with the nation that has elected him. This is a president who really can speak for America."

[Oh dear, how embarassing.]
posted by nina, 11/04/2004 05:26:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Postscript to post below 

Thanks to C, D, D & J for the stream of pick-me-ups, and especially for the sketch below, which speaks directly to my morning rage at news analyses of what was neglected by the Democrats in the course of the campaign.
posted by nina, 11/04/2004 03:28:02 PM | link | (0) comments

call it values-based redistricting Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/04/2004 03:23:01 PM | link | (0) comments
Hey, don't look at me, I wasn't consulted on what to put on the front page:

posted by nina, 11/04/2004 03:18:32 PM | link | (0) comments

I know, I know, I'm going to be a gracious loser real soon! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/04/2004 03:16:50 PM | link | (0) comments

Beginning of day two 

Oh shut up (my sophisticated response to this morning’s news commentaries on the presidential race).

Democrats, we have to wake up (I hear this yesterday and today). It was all about family values and you, Mr. Kerry missed the boat. No, no, not affordable health care and social security and minimum wage and the right to make reproductive decisions and sending sons and daughters to war. Family VALUES. You know, like faith and gays taking over the institution of marriage (11 states? Are we insane?). Values. Loving Laura -- that guy had it figured out. Brilliant language of immagery! And, btw, Mr. Kerry, why couldn’t you have cried for larger audiences prior to the election? Why did you save that for your concession speech? Half a million votes would have been yours right there (we’re consistent – we told Gore the same thing – what a schelp to save emotion for concession!).

Did I imagine that as recently as a week ago it was All About Keeping Us Safe?

posted by nina, 11/04/2004 07:42:09 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The end of day one.  

I want to know what kind of sorry state I was in last night to generate such a stream of sympathetic calls and emails today?

Here’s the thing. As I told my walking buddy tonight, I’ve got something that all of you don’t have: I can set in place my hidden PRM (Polish Recovery Mechanism). PRM works really well for brooding Slavs who basically can’t believe there is a tomorrow, because when they actually do wake up to a new day they are pleasantly surprised.

And so then we work work work to put aside whatever was troubling us the night before. If that doesn’t help, by evening we consider downing gallons of vodka. I am happy to report that I am in control and not reaching into the liqour cabinet. Just a little low on leftover Halloween candy and Organic Angel Fluffs.

P.S. Today’s Daily Show is better than vodka. If you missed it, pick it up tomorrow at 6. Unless you’re not ready to laugh yet. I can understand that. I guess.

posted by nina, 11/03/2004 10:19:57 PM | link | (0) comments

Musing, though not terribly amused, part 2: 

Listening to the acceptance speeches:

It’s hard to be gracious while listening to Cheney gloat about the success of the Republican Party. I'll be gracious later, I just can't warm up to this man. Each time he appears on the TV I want to say "remind me again how many times you dropped out of college and grad school? Three? Four was it"

Okay, okay, come on, it’s been a long night -- let this post be just one last lapse into cattiness:

Ha ha, the microphone isn’t working properly, ha ha..

Hmmmm… Bush WANTS to say *thank you for letting me keep my job; I’m not so good at finding new employment. Man, I love my wife, I love my life, I love my routines and hey, I did again something that my dad failed to do!*

Bush’s one nod toward Democrats seems to be that he’s wearing a blue tie.

Prayer has been mentioned many times.

I’m sleepy. It’s like attending a boring lecture. I look at the computer screen and notice that my finger has been slumbering on the “r” key. All those “r”s look menacing!

I must have dozed off… Oh! It’s over! What exactly did he say? I'd make a terrible simul-blogger, I failed. Let me listen to the CNN commentaters and pick up the highlights. Whaaat? They keep going back to Kerry’s speech and his beautiful, emotional acknowledgement of the workers in his campaign! Wait, aren’t we supposed to be talking about the Bush acceptance speech? There we go again, the shot is of Kerry and Edwards on stage.

Oh, now I get to listen to live coverage of the speech made by a disappointed Tony Blair. *Damn,* he’s thinking, *my goose is cooked; now I have to stick by this gent and watch my butt get kicked around back home.* Wow, he appears unenthusiastic! Oh, Blair is slipping away from Bush – he is rejecting ‘military might alone’… he is talking about ‘poverty’ and making the 'Middle East peace process' a priority. 'Europe and America must built an alliance'… Am I hearing him right??? Bush will have none of it, I’m sure. *With us or against us* – those are George words. IS BLAIR EVER SO SUBTLY INCHING AWAY FROM BUSH? The international saga continues...

The speeches are over. Back to work.

posted by nina, 11/03/2004 03:02:55 PM | link | (0) comments

Musing, though not terribly amused: 

We have never thrown out a sitting president at wartime.

Do you suppose Hillary is suddenly hopeful?

You are not allowed to tell me what Kerry should have done differently.

The election results immediately translate into corporate profit and the impoverishment of the middle class: I have decided to keep cable so that I can laugh, at the close of each day, with Jon Stewart. Charter – thank George for my business.

I am scheduled to soon travel to France. I know I will be regarded separately from an administration that squeaked its way into office by the slimmest of margins. I hear people fretting about how “they hate us” and I know how inaccurate that is. They hate the Bush administration. There’s a difference. However, I wish they’d start making pins that say “I never voted for him.”

Tom reminds us of the magnificence of our Constitution. Especially the 22nd Amendment, Section 1: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.

posted by nina, 11/03/2004 09:46:42 AM | link | (0) comments

Concession speech 

I want to thank all Ocean readers who also cared deeply about the elections.

So how to deal with failure? Well, it places a burden on us, doesn’t it? A burden to be even better at life: even kinder, more empathetic to those who are immediately affected, less self-centered in our unhappiness, more outwardly-focused in our lives.

As bloggers, we, too, have a responsibility: to be even more skillful at story-telling, more rigorous and precise in our writing, sharper, more intelligent, funnier, honing in on the topics that interest and inspire us.

It would have been deeply satisfying to wake up to a different result. It was not to be.

posted by nina, 11/03/2004 08:11:58 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

First street pre-election diary,* part 4 

Okay, okay, I voted, I did not forget.

This is only my fifth presidential election. [I became a citizen just before the 1988 elections, so there I was, casting my vote against Bush. Deja-vu!! Things that I liked about that election: Dukakis carried Wisconsin. Things that I did not like about that election: Dukakis carried hardly any other state.] My daughters, having visited DC earlier in the fall, were extremely enthused about the election. Here’s a fragment of a photo from that year:

posted by nina, 11/02/2004 05:15:21 PM | link | (0) comments

they didn't have the desired impact, but they tried... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/02/2004 05:13:52 PM | link | (0) comments
And this year? What are the things that I liked?

+ Hearing minutes ago on NPR that in northern counties of Wisconsin voter turn-out is expected to hit a record 90% (breaking the 2000 record of 86%; note that Gore carried these – eg Superior – 2:1 back in 2000).

+ Drawing a near-perfect straight line:

posted by nina, 11/02/2004 05:12:10 PM | link | (0) comments

so satisfying... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/02/2004 05:10:37 PM | link | (0) comments
+ Meeting teachers at the elementary school (my voting place) who used to teach my girls (both grown-up and living elsewhere now, but still registered to vote in Wisconsin). One, who remembered a composition my daughter wrote while in 2nd grade, especially caused me to blink back tears. I also liked her button: VOTE! -- it said. But if you lifted the paper covering the button you saw the familiar face of Kerry.

+ Having the two election officials look up my name on the computer printout and seeing that the three other residents, who voted from this address with absentee ballots, have been checked off already. Cool!

+ This cartoon, forwarded by my neighbor:

posted by nina, 11/02/2004 05:01:05 PM | link | (0) comments

yeah... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/02/2004 05:00:25 PM | link | (0) comments
Things that I did not like?

- Nothing at this point.

(*see “forty-second street pre-election diary” post, September 22, for explanation of post title)

posted by nina, 11/02/2004 04:57:19 PM | link | (0) comments

First street pre-election diary,* part 3 

Will I smile with sad remembrance at the moment when I looked at the very first exit polls from swinging states (here, thanks Tom)?

45 48 42 60 52 51 51 50 58 52 49 57 Kerry
55 51 57 40 48 48 47 48 40 43 49 41 Bush

I know, I know, margin or error, exit polls suck, bla bla bla. Say what you will, there is a certain wonderful consistency in these numbers (the first three are hardly a surprise).

[A second reminder just came from a concerned daughter who read the post below and said a tad more forcefully that I should vote already. So I'm going to vote already.]

(*see “forty-second street pre-election diary” post, September 22, for explanation of post title)
posted by nina, 11/02/2004 01:48:22 PM | link | (0) comments

First street pre-election diary,* part 2: A day doesn’t get any longer than this 

Manifestations of paranoia and neurosis in a person thrown into deep uncertainty:

+ In passing Midvale and University Avenue I saw the usual Wisconsin 'hardy' types (I'm borrowing a label used by Kerry yesterday to describe Wisconsinites; the man appears to have great faith in our 'constitution') standing, waving signs to honk for Kerry. A sea of traffic passed. I toot-toot-tooted a good number of times, but I was the only one. What does this mean??

+ I watched NBC this morning and I noted that Katy Couric interviewed Laura Bush. Katy!! What are you doing?? Why do I have to listen to Laura rhapsodize about her husband on the morning of the election?? And btw, for those who have long told me that they like Laura alright even as they hate George, let me just remark that she seemed barely sensible. Sharp would not be a word I would use to characterize her early morning conversation. Not that it matters, but I am feeling hostile toward that whole Laura-thing this morning, especially as I juxtapose it with memories of punches levied against Hillary, to say nothing of Teresa.

+ In my office, the lines are evenly drawn – and I am referring only to the Democrats (yes, we have diversity here among the faculty and staff, lots of political diversity; but just so you know, our traditionally most conservative professor emeritus told me that he is voting for Kerry – he cannot stand the current administration): there were the optimists and the pessimists. I want to say that there are more of the former than the latter, but it’s not true. Moreover, the optimists tell me that they are somewhat skewing their own perspective because they just want Kerry to win so very much.

+ I have not voted yet. I am reaching a point of deep paralysis. I want to spend the next four hours polling more colleagues, reading more reports and commentaries. One of my daughters gently said earlier today “please don’t forget to vote” and I laughed at the time, but could it be that I may be so lost in my neurotically fragmented world that I may, indeed, forget to vote???

(*see “forty-second street pre-election diary” post, September 22, for explanation of post title)

posted by nina, 11/02/2004 01:48:06 PM | link | (0) comments

First street pre-election diary* 

posted by nina, 11/02/2004 08:54:40 AM | link | (0) comments

Worn-out, rough around the edges, but still there: 1st, looking ahead, hopeful. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/02/2004 08:53:25 AM | link | (0) comments
Day one.
Jeden (Polish)

I get up and immediately I hear from two people – one whom I would, without hesitation, label as unabashedly optimistic (a neighbor hosting an election party which I will be attending) and the other – well, let me just say he keeps realism firmly tucked into his shirt pocket and when he reaches inside, often what comes out is despair.

So what do these two tell me? They are thinking that Kerry is going to pull it off! Move over Brokaw & Rather -- you heard it here, I am going to throw my chips into the blaze of victory. I am elated! (I am also easily swayed, so if ten people suddenly call me with contrary spirits, I may buckle under. Stay away, nay sayers, let this day begin!)

I have been writing about the campaign and my pre-election trepidations for 42 days now. In doing so, I have stuck to the blue- red description, happily handing New York and California over to the blue Democrats along with the rest of the commentators. Today in the WashPost (here) I read how quickly we have fallen into ascribing blue and red traits to states that we have identified with one camp or the other:

A "red state" bespeaks not just a Republican majority but an entire geography (rectangular borders in the country's midsection), an iconography (Bush in a cowboy hat), and a series of cultural cliches (churches and NASCAR). "Blue states" suggest something on, and of, the coastal extremes, urban and latte-drinking. Red states -- to reduce the stereotypes to an even more vulgar level -- are a little bit country, blues are a little more rock-and-roll.

We are reminded that this chromatic dichotomy is fairly recent, that not too long ago (I remember this!) the painting of the parties was inconsistent and often times red was reserved for the Democrats, which was perhaps ideologically more sensible given that, across the ocean at least, red is associated with the labor movement. But in the 2000 elections the labels converged and Texas began its life as perpetually red, leaving the coastal states awash in blue. The WashPost notes the superficial nature of these labels:

Is it really accurate, after all, to describe New Mexico as a "blue" state when Gore won it by just 366 votes in 2000? In California -- a state so blue that neither of the two leading candidates bothered campaigning much there this year -- voters have in recent years approved initiatives repealing racial preferences and bilingual education, and have ousted a Democratic governor in favor of a Republican. Ohio -- historically a red state -- is close enough that Kerry might eke out a narrow victory, but it is also poised to pass overwhelmingly a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Okay, okay, it’s more subtle, more multi-hued, more differentiated, less consistent than the blue-red map would have us believe. But tonight I’m paying attention to blue. I’m wearing blue, eating blue (berry muffin), and watching for blue to sweep over the map.

Ocean is proud to endorse and support the color blue. How could it be otherwise?

(*see “forty-second street pre-election diary” post, September 22, for explanation of post title)

posted by nina, 11/02/2004 08:40:18 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, November 01, 2004

Second street pre-election diary,* part 2  

One day more..

One day more! Another day, another destiny…

I could do an entire page of lyric runs that would speak to the maddening nature of this day. Why is it thus? Because its minutes are trickling away and so are the moments where one could nurse and sustain hope without facing tomorrow’s reality of actual numbers.

For instance, I can be buoyed at the reported early returns in Iowa and Florida (they appear to be significantly favoring Kerry) without worrying a great deal about whether this is at all an important development, or whether it is one of those insignificant blimps, in the same way that the polling of diners at a vegetarian restaurant on the popularity of steak is a tiny bit unreliable.

I can ignore the outlier CNN poll that makes Wisconsin look like in the last days it sold its soul to the red claws and I don’t mean the la-dee-da lobster claws. But I can take great joy in hearing on NBC that for those under 30, 54% favor Kerry and 37% favor George (those numbers were nowhere near so Democrat-driven in 2000). Isn’t this fun??

Here’s a prediction that I can agree with: there will be fewer babies in July, 2005. Today, not surprisingly perhaps, I noticed myself taking time out to read with great care the article in the New York Magazine on election-related anxiety disorders (here). Sure enough, many of us are on the edge right now and will remain there for…. indefinitely. There is no relief in sight! Consider this excerpt, for example:

Nor will the post-election world (whenever it begins) necessarily bring Klonopin-like relief. “I’ll be elated if Kerry wins,” says Joe, another patient. “But I fear that the damage caused by Bush may be insurmountable. I believe we’ll be attacked again. I travel to Europe and Asia for business, and I’ve never felt such a groundswell of hatred for Americans. And if this country reelects him, the rest of the world will think we’re just like him.”

Aaaaaargh! Even if, even if there is a favorable outcome, we may have passed the point of damage reversibility. We are DOOMED! According to the article, some have become so paralyzed by the news of the wild maneuvers of GWB, that they have even grow to fear sushi! Read this:

Joe [seeking therapy in NY] has also become obsessed with his son’s sushi habit. “My son loves sushi. Every Tuesday is sushi night. But I just finished Robert Kennedy’s book about what the Bush administration has done to the environment. It’s unsafe for my kid to eat fish. He has to get his mercury levels checked. ”
Joe has been discussing all this with his psychiatrist, Alan Manevitz, who believes that the nation’s polariza- tion is fraying already-fragile psyches.

Oh God, not death to sushi! And other seafood? I am eating shrimp at the moment. Forget it. Throw it out, throw it out, it’s probably CONTAMINATED! Not even Whole Foods is safe anymore, there are RED DEVILS everywhere!
[Hey, wait a minute, am I writing on the night before an election, or am I commenting on the Red Scare of the 1950s? Indeed, am I reliving now the slogan ‘better dead than
red’ where I am now on the other side of both the ocean and the issue?? Goodbye communist threat, hello GOP fear!]

As for the babies? Again, I am reading the New York Magazine article (no personal stories here and for Pete’s sake, I hardly want to place myself in the baby-making demographic!) and I see this (emphases are my own):

Dr. Elliot Wineburg, an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai [says] “Some people are so concerned, their sexual activity is not proceeding the way it should,” he says, though he declines to quantify the size of this burgeoning group, noting only that it is “significant.”
“Their libido is going down. During the blackout in the late seventies, we saw the birth rate go up nine months later. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite happens this time.”

(*see “forty-second street pre-election diary” post, September 22, for explanation of post title)

posted by nina, 11/01/2004 06:21:37 PM | link | (0) comments

An Ocean that’s *deeply* grateful 

If I had a sidebar of favorite blogs I would certainly include on it the following people whose blogs I read daily and whose comments I value greatly (there are many more, but I am especially appreciative of the past week’s links to Ocean and so my thanks today run to these):

The Columnist Manifesto – a law school guy whose comments tickle and make you think;

Marginal Utility – I like to think of it as a “Wisconsin idea” blog: it’s got good photos, good politics and notes on a growing family. It’s always a lovely, happy place to visit.

Life As Is – another law school guy with kindred commentary (!) and a side link to Sosy, his child; also with drop-dead gorgeous photos (scroll down to the one where Sosy is bathed in sunlight looking at his shoe).

Tired and Wired – There is something about this blog that made me read to its beginning. In a September 10 post, she said this about remembering 9/11 (she’d been in NY during the attacks):

When I traveled to Poland and visited the Warsaw history museum, though, the burden of my [9/11] memories and the sheer trauma I experienced lessened. Looking at the pictures of that achingly magnificent city destroyed, razed to rubble, and then looking at pictures of people lining up across the city to care for the sick, passing water and food, rebuilding in the face of complete devastation -- it was the most 9/11 "healing" experience I've had.

And you wonder why I have a blogadiction!
posted by nina, 11/01/2004 03:53:17 PM | link | (0) comments

Second street pre-election diary* 

posted by nina, 11/01/2004 12:58:20 AM | link | (0) comments

2nd: looking toward tomorrow Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/01/2004 12:58:08 AM | link | (0) comments
Sweet news: I, like so many others, are looking for sweet stuff to hit the news channels tomorrow.

Wisconsin is nicely turning out to be leaning in a terrifically sweet direction. And that’s the kind of delicious place this is. Here’s yet another example of it: yesterday, friends invited me to sample their 24 year old bottle of red Bordeaux. [They were uncorking a 1970 vintage that they’d been saving for a long, long time; to clarify --I love the fact that others can be so patient, even if the only really old bottle of wine that I myself have managed to preserve is a $5 version of some dessert atrocity that, for one reason or another, I forgot to throw away.] Cool. Yes, of course…..oh! but it’s Halloween, how can I abandon the 300 children that come through this block? I bargained for a slight delay so that I could at least take care of the littlest devils that ring the doorbell. It’s an awfully long path for small feet to climb. But at 7 pm I finally closed the door, leaving a monsterously big sign outside with this message:

Happy Halloween!
Take ONE piece!
[I’m watching! If you take
More than your share,

I left a big container of assorted candy bars and left. Family and friends scoffed. The first batch of kids will empty things out. Don’t even bother. Etc.

Oh, the cynics of this world, how wrong you can be! I came home after 10 p.m. and there were 6 candy bars left. (Over a hundred had been removed – which is about the number of kids that I would expect to come after 7.) Sweet.

Is it more of a challenge to find the sweet side of New York, especially around such intersections as 2nd and 2nd or 1st and 1st? The neighborhood begins to look more worn and tattered. If Giuliani (of “it’s the troops’ fault!” fame) cleaned up the streets of NY, he forgot about these blocks.

But it’s never too hard in New York to stumble upon treats such as these:

posted by nina, 11/01/2004 12:51:01 AM | link | (0) comments

good idea! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/01/2004 12:49:57 AM | link | (0) comments

a New York sweet drink Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 11/01/2004 12:48:59 AM | link | (0) comments
Or this:

A beautiful (detailed and compelling) endorsement of Kerry in the New Yorker (here), including this paragraph:

The damage visited upon America, and upon America’s standing in the world, by the Bush Administration’s reckless mishandling of the public trust will not easily be undone. And for many voters the desire to see the damage arrested is reason enough to vote for John Kerry. But the challenger has more to offer than the fact that he is not George W. Bush. In every crucial area of concern to Americans (the economy, health care, the environment, Social Security, the judiciary, national security, foreign policy, the war in Iraq, the fight against terrorism), Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush’s curious blend of smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery.

Yes. So, tomorrow, Bush's political career is shot down and he becomes a lame duck, right?

(*see “forty-second street pre-election diary” post, September 22, for explanation of post title)
posted by nina, 11/01/2004 12:46:19 AM | link | (1) comments

I'm Nina Camic. I teach law, but also write (here and elsewhere) on a number of non-legal topics. I often cross the ocean, in the stories I tell and the photos I take. My native Poland is a frequent destination.

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