The Other Side of the Ocean

Monday, February 28, 2005

I am sitting at a table, reading my text, waiting for the tires to be fixed… 

…and I notice he is back. Have you ever seen him? He comes to the Borders Café with his computer. He gets a drink. He goes to the newspaper shelves and picks out a few fat papers from all over the country. He takes these to his table and he reads them. Then he folds them up (more or less) and proceeds to do his computer stuff. Hours later he throws the papers over to the bench, packs up and leaves.

I cannot stare him down into shame. And it really is none of my business. Borders can afford the loss of a paper or two. People (myself included) leaf through books. Why not newspapers?

Because what small pleasure remains in the reading of a paper is in the freshness of it, the smell, the neatly folded sections, corners uncurled. And he ruins it for the next person. Oblivious. It bothers me that he is so oblivious to it all.
posted by nina, 2/28/2005 05:49:00 PM | link | (0) comments

In defense of good counting skills 

Ann writes this in support of her position that Chris Rock inappropriately brought anti-Bush material to the Oscar podium last night and alienated with it a great number of viewers (bold emphasis is my own):

Actually, I think the people who voted for Kerry should be worried. But they'll have to get past their in-group enjoyment of themselves and their own imagined superiority and get some concept of how the people who didn't vote for Kerry -- AKA the majority -- respond to this sort of display.

True, the majority of the viewing public did not vote for Kerry. But nor did they vote for Bush. The crude statistics told us that 60% of eligible voters cast a vote in November. Of those, 51% voted for Bush (CNN). That would put a generous bid of 60,608,582 who may have been offended.

But wait. Current support for Bush in this country is a more relevant marker of audience disenchantment with the jokes. According to a 1/05 NYT/CBS poll , 56% say things are worse now than five years ago. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to Ann and agree that those who believe things are the same or better might be offended. That would be 44% of the viewing American audience. So perhaps it is more accurate to say that maximally, 19,140,000 were offended (based on New Yorker stats that about 43.5 million Americans, or about 15% watch the Oscars).

Assuming that none of them had a sense of humor. Because I, for example, would have laughed at a good anti-Kerry joke last night if Kerry had been our president. I would have been so tickled at having him there that I would not have cared that Chris Rock compared him to a clerk in Gap pretending that Banana Republic had tanktops. I’d say a whooping ha ha to that! So let’s reduce the numbers by a bit – Bush supporters at this point are a somber lot so assume that only 10% can be discounted for having a sense of humor. So, we are now at 17,226,000 of Americans watching offended.

Still more: what of the rest of the world? Assume none of them cared about the budget deficit joke, so all offense has to be taken with respect to the anti- Banana Republic (targeting the war, but with no countries mentioned) humor campaign. Assume that only a percentage of the audience, perhaps corresponding to the Coalition of the Willing would take offense (though I have to say, anti-Bush sentiments are growing even in Poland these days). But I think I can safely say that the international Oscar audience does not consist of many from the Coalition of the Willing. Why? Because 1. the vast majority does not have cable access and therefore does not carry the Oscars (see New Yorker article for more accurate analysis of this) and 2. Just about every one of them do not have a Gap, nor a Banana Republic and so that what meager audience is generated from Bush-supporting (Coalition) countries, it will not get the joke, thus being spared the offense (honestly, you cannot be offended if you do not get the joke). I think that just about leaves all foreign audience (the distributors of the show put it at “several hundred” million in the international category) unoffended. Conservatively, that’s 200,000,ooo unoffended on both sides of the ocean and north and south of our borders. Okay, I’ll generously throw in 5,000,000 offended just to show I am not skewing the numbers here.

So, Ann, out of a conservative audience of 243,500,000 (international + national), 22,226,000 (17,226,000 offended American viewers and 5,000,000 generously granted international offended viewers), or fewer than 11 % may have been offended. A humoirist takes his/her chances. These are pretty good stats in favor of the joke, in my opinion.
posted by nina, 2/28/2005 12:01:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Blame it on your agent. Or maybe your lawyer? 

Thanks to jwz for the link to the other awards: the Razzies (given by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation on the night before the Oscars), where Halle Berry was named worst actress of the year for her appearance in Catwoman.

Showing up for the award, she offered this:

"I want to thank Warner Brothers for casting me in this piece of shit," she said as she dragged her agent on stage and warned him "next time read the script first."

Other winners: George W. Bush picked up a Razzie as worst actor of the year for his performance as president in Fahrenheit 9/11. I'm not sure who accepted the award on his behalf (given his need for a rest after his travels to Europe last week, I'm certain he had to send his personal regrets).
posted by nina, 2/28/2005 08:13:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Good Monday morning to you, too 

Starting the day with two flat tires is a good indication of where this week is heading.
posted by nina, 2/28/2005 08:01:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, February 27, 2005

What will you say when the clock is ticking and you have only ten seconds of breath left? 

If you are Hillary Swank (on stage at the Oscars and the trumpets are sounding), you’ll say --- wait! wait! I have been saving Clint Eastwood for last, don’t cut me off. Oh, but let me just say this: I want to thank the lawyers...

You're welcome.
posted by nina, 2/27/2005 11:20:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Surviving, though not thriving... 

A little one said this once and I drag it out on evenings like this one. I will be glad when the Oscars are over. Blogging about them proved impossible for a million reasons. This is as simul- as I get tonight.

To a better week!
posted by nina, 2/27/2005 10:20:00 PM | link | (0) comments

This place is littered with good souls 

A trashy day (weekend? winter?) made better by people sitting behind computer screens – you know who you are! But so that this does not become an inside story, let me acknowledge some of you in turn. Thank you so much for these messages today:

[On the subject of the Oscars, in response to this, from me: I am, however, dragging these days and so I'm guessing that I'll be reluctant to leave the house, let alone the neighborhood:] You should do whatever you prefer, whatever is more comfortable or fun…

[In response to my tattoo idea:] Anyway, if you weren't exaggerating for comic effect, I'd probably be compelled to drive over there and throw myself under the wheels of your van until the impulse passed.

[In response to my threat to come visit a certain blogger couple living in the Polish highlands this May and blog away from their family b&b:] Na pewno cos wykombinujemy. W najgorszym wypadku w moim starym pokoiku mozna sie podlaczyc do gniazdka przez modem. Czekamy na dalsze wiesci.

[And finally, the succinctly perfect one, in response to my own email saying this: I'm still up for a walk, but you may change your mind after you hear that I am not a little sullen all week-end, make that all week, make that all month:]
I still want to go. Sullen's alright.
posted by nina, 2/27/2005 04:08:00 PM | link | (0) comments

In answer to the emails that ensued, after my tossed around idea about a tattoo (see post below): 

Here’s why it wont happen: I would never be able to decide what piece of “art” I would not regret carrying with me for the rest of my life. Surely the choices are limited and snakes and dragons and astrological signs just do not do it for me. Now, if there was a Monet water lily, I may cave, but unless they got the colors precisely right, I’m afraid it’s a no go. If I am fussy about getting a blogroll set up exactly right, you can well imagine that I would be fussy about the creamy yellow tones to the petals of that lily. Body part hosting the tattoo? That’s easy: something perpetually covered up. Back of an earlobe maybe?
posted by nina, 2/27/2005 01:16:00 PM | link | (0) comments
The one flower I would never get tired of: Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/27/2005 01:14:14 PM | link | (0) comments

Promises, promises… 

Okay, blogroll is in production but production has been stalled for reasons having to do with the technical incompetence of the production team (me). I will prevail. I WILL PREVAIL, but the project is on hold until I bribe someone to help me do this in the complicated way I want to do it. Ocean is fussy. It has to look minimalist and cool. Your patience is deeply appreciated.

[You can laugh at me behind my back if it makes you feel better.]
posted by nina, 2/27/2005 11:24:00 AM | link | (0) comments

On this day, I should do something significant, like announce a major move or go get a tattoo or roll in the snow in my pajamas at midnight 

Oscar night. So many things to so many people. I dare say, no one could treat this event more seriously than I do. It’s not the awards per se, it’s the evening of watching them being handed out, like gifts bestowed to nobility, jewels and crowns and promises of undying loyalty.

If life is one capricious frolic and tumble, then mine certainly can be said to have been given a jumpstart the day that Rocky walked off with the Best Picture/Director award and Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch hauled it in for their acting in Network.

It was the year of Great Changes for me and each Oscar night is a reminder of that, a celebration of sorts, except each year, it is a quieter celebration.

And finally comes 2005 – the quietest of them all. Tonight, I’m staying home. I would love to spend the evening with my friend and her son – they are as knowledgeable about the industry as people who were in the room with me watching back in 1976. They will open the door for me gladly, they’ll even let me watch and write, too. Or, I could simply go across the street to my sweet sweet neighbors who are also movie nuts, in addition to having hearts of marzipan and dark chocolate and gold.

I wont do either. It’s one of those things. It’s my time to descend into quietness.

Or, I may get a tattoo. Body piercing is out of the question and the snow looks solidly iced-over. A move? I could, I suppose, conjure up an announcement of a major move, without necessarily committing to a physical relocation. Day is young. Possibilities are numerous.
posted by nina, 2/27/2005 10:03:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, February 26, 2005

What can you say about an ostensibly close to you person who tells you the following on the phone? 

You are home on a Saturday evening?
Yes, I have some writing to do. You know, work stuff.

You work at home??
Yes, I very often work at home.

Really? Like what kind of work?
[I pause and cosider the very real possibility that this person doesn't actually know what my job is.] Work work.

I’m surprised. Anyway, I just talked to [a young person, known to the two of us; in fact, a relative].

I enjoyed it. Unlike [a not too oblique reference to two grown women residing an ocean apart], he actually listens to me, is interested in what I have to say.

I mean, it’s a conversation stopper, isn’t it? Not to mention that I distinctly remember having like a ten hour spell of listening just a few days back.
posted by nina, 2/26/2005 09:30:00 PM | link | (0) comments

More on tracking the size of an audience 

Just remember, when they say tomorrow that more than a billion are watching the Oscars, it's not really true.
posted by nina, 2/26/2005 02:41:00 PM | link | (0) comments

A post where Ocean takes on both the mysteries of the universe and jokes about garlic breath 

As the health of the Pope makes headlines on an almost daily basis, stories about religion and Catholicism are trickling into blogs and bookstore lines.

For example, this Thursday I was standing in line at the University Bookstore downtown and a man was telling a quite funny joke about a Pope who needed a heart transplant (it’s about feathers and unwilling donors and garlic breath in Italy; really a nice little chuckle). A small group gathered and we had ourselves an impromptu discussion as to how Pontiffs get elected. I’d forgotten how long it’s been since there has been a change in the Vatican. Most students weren’t even born at the time of the last Papal inauguration (1978).

In the meantime, matchingtracksuits is posting about how difficult it is to admit to atheism in Poland (citing my comment on that blog about there being no reward for keeping an open mind to possibility of an absence of a God). I’d always felt that a lack of tolerance toward atheism should be especially pronounced in deeply Catholic countries. But is that really true? It is an accepted truth that an atheist would have no chance at political success in the States. The same cannot be said for Poland. Moreover, as matchingtracksuits points out, a Pole’s response to atheism is typically one of pity (“I cannot imagine living without God”). In the States, I think it breeds distrust (“So what else don’t you believe in? Democracy? Freedom? The American Way?”).

On the other hand, no one standing in a line in Poland would have thought the joke about a Pope’s heart transplant was funny. Rather than lingering, I would have looked for the nearest exit. It’s not safe to be in the midst of an angry mob.
posted by nina, 2/26/2005 09:08:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Rolling around the blog, linking games and traffic updates 

At the Wednesday blogger dinner, Bozzo and Oscar* cooked up a linking game, whereby they increase the number of links to each other, so that their blogs reach an elevated status in the ecosystem rankings, where such things count.

But count for what? If you reach a higher level for a day, for a week, forever, as a result of machinations and manipulations, what have you actually demonstrated except that your game was a success (which we already know will be the case)?

Again, the question has been raised as to why numbers – of links and readers – do not fascinate me as much. And it really is quite simple. Once I knew I had readers (and I do know, from emails that people write, which I absolutely treasure) I felt that I have an obligation to write for them, these real people who are already connected to me. Who cares if there are 100 or 500? What possible difference does it make?

Much as I like fashioning my own rules and sticking to my own way of doing things on Ocean, I will, however, give in to one recurring request: that I list the blogs I read on a regular basis. That will be my project for this week-end. And I want it to be an inclusive list, so if you have included Ocean on your blogroll and want to be mentioned here, please send me an email. Since I am not a checker, chances are I do not know about Ocean’s appearance elsewhere, if indeed it does appear elsewhere.

*Why am I on a first name basis with Oscar but not Bozzo in my references to them here? Because tradition has it that we’ve used last names in posting about blogger dinner attendees. Oscar muddled things up by giving himself the last name of Madison. It is too odd to refer to him as Madison. It’s as if I am writing about my home town. Thus – he shall be Oscar, while the rest of us will suffer away with our authentically honest last names.
posted by nina, 2/26/2005 07:49:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, February 25, 2005

Lattes and juniper berries 

Some days are out of control. We all have them. They begin early, finish late, and you wonder what it is that took up all of that middle part.

I happen to (sometimes) capture the essence of things by having my trusty non-rusty camera throughout. This is what I came up with:
posted by nina, 2/25/2005 10:46:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Breakfast: But where's the food?? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/25/2005 10:43:02 PM | link | (0) comments
Lunch: What can I say, I was pressed for time and M., my eating companion, was willing to call this lunch. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/25/2005 10:40:24 PM | link | (0) comments
Dinner! Focus in on the juniper berries. Whew! Some kind of wonderful... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/25/2005 10:38:02 PM | link | (0) comments
Late in the day: Angel Fluffs hit the spot. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/25/2005 10:36:21 PM | link | (0) comments

Watching snow melt 

Back from California on Tuesday. Found lots of snow on the ground. Nice neighbor had shoveled sidewalk. Driveway and walkway remain covered. Was lazy. Remain lazy. Decide not to shovel any of it. It is February 25. How long can it last? Will watch it melt. Will report when the last trace is gone. Neighbors realize my lazy streak. Probably feel sorry for me. Snow is awfully deep. Ah well.
posted by nina, 2/25/2005 07:14:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Tonight, as I sipped and ate dinner downtown with two attorneys (former students of mine) who do not mind being blogged about, habits and all, it struck me how different the world of the law prof is (the average one, or at least me, I am not intending to generalize, so do not tell me that this is not your experience) from that of, say, the social science prof with respect to our conversations with students (for the most part, I know that there are exceptions, do not write and note for me the exceptions, yes yes, you are unique, I am not writing about you, only about me). In graduate school, the profs are fixtures for an extended period of time in the life and professional development of the grad student (six years? more?). As students slowly progress toward faculty status, the divisional lines starts to blur. And in anticipation of that, they actually blur quite early. Students wont admit this – they tend to distinguish between THEM and us (remember, I was once one of you, I speak from experience) – but all this is a pretence, because in reality, grades and letters of recommendation notwithstanding, boundaries are not clearly defined, in the domain of social interaction, between THEM and us.

In Law School, they are. I have to say this: no matter how stern my demeanor on the first day of class, the law student will quickly figure out (google and find the blog, for one thing) that I am one of the more approachable law profs around. Some call me “Nina” from day one (you could not do that to everyone). I understand. I like the prof title, but I shrug with indifference at those who choose to bypass it. Yet, in spite of thes degrees of informality, I know better. For example, bonded as I am to my small classes (we tell stories on break, we comment on each other’s eating habits – yes you, I am talking about the macaroni pizza you munch on each Wednesday, which makes us jealous and wistful), we would not, I don't think, go out to karaoke together. Somehow doing this with law students seems wrong (even though I did, smoke my one and only cigarette in the last 25 years with you guys out on the balcony this fall).


… then comes graduation. And my wonderful students become lawyers. And they write to me and call me and we have dinners and drinks and they report on the professional shenanigans out there and most of all (and this is so different from grad students), so many of them stay in town. I watch them surpass me in their ability to quickly provide a service and I AM SO PROUD! I ask them questions and even though they are half my age (just about, really!), they are my friends, suddenly, unequivocally.

God, I love my job.
posted by nina, 2/24/2005 09:08:00 PM | link | (0) comments
holly, nina, sara -- lawyers in pink and black Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/24/2005 09:06:57 PM | link | (0) comments

Teaching on a roll 

Sometimes I come into class and I have my materials set before me and my lecture notes and texts marked with post-its. My seating chart is ready, my first page of notes is underlined properly, drawing attention to the important points that need to be emphasized before the day is done. And then a student offers an interesting (and provocative) observation and the notes suddenly seem redundant, unimportant, because the burning issue has just been framed in exactly the way you want it to be framed and the discussion takes off. And it is a worthwhile discussion because there are strong arguments to be made on both sides and suddenly I hear students making them. And they continue to make them after class.

Today was such a day.
posted by nina, 2/24/2005 11:28:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Blogger dinner: tying up loose ends 

[Posts below explain cast of bloggers]

It wasn’t billed as a karaoke night, but if you put Brito and Freese in the same room for more than five minutes, one of them will mention singing. And the other will surely oblige.

Oscar and I complained bitterly about the absence of cool music, but in the end we could not resist a moment on stage. Oscar even played the guitar (though he could have been playing row row row your boat continuously and no one would have noticed; occasionally when someone would look up, he’d mumble something about the guitar being grossly out of tune). Bozzo’s humming turned into out-loud singing. The “I’m going to go along with the whole odd lot of you” moment belonged to Althouse, who tried hard to Get Stuff Done in spite of the noise (I cannot call all that we belted into the mike singing). Oh, and a door prize to Brito who enticed me to dance along in the moments when I wasn’t the back-up girl to their music. Ooooo, weee, dooo dah DAH!

Thank you, Brito, for the dinner. It was a supremely wonderful meal. Each work day should end like this.
posted by nina, 2/24/2005 06:16:00 AM | link | (0) comments
Yummy chicken with tomatoes, olives, ricotta... and she only had two hours to cook dinner for us Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/24/2005 06:15:59 AM | link | (0) comments
How many bottles of wine on the wall, how many bottles of wine... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/24/2005 06:14:26 AM | link | (0) comments
Eyes closed, mikes held tight, melodies bursting forth with passion and...nerve. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/24/2005 06:13:07 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Blogger dinner, continued 

Why am I not a fastidious simul-blogger? Why have I not risen to the challenge? Because I think these fellow bloggers are all wonderful nuts – like the type you purchase in a specialty store for no good reason, except that they are a pleasure in life.

Brito is singing right now. Oscar is trying to appear at ease. Althouse is sweating her MSNBC post. Freese is absolutely relaxed – this is his forté after all. Bozzo is cool and willing to hum along. Me, I am just loving the relaxededness of it all. I can't quite follow the lyrics about it being hot in here and taking off all your clothes, but maybe it's just my age. Oh oh, Freese is picking up the mike. So far it is absolutely for visual effect only. The two of them look Now Freese is complaining that HIS MIKE DOESNT WORK (and yet he claims that he can PROJECT). Yes, assuredly he can. Yes. He can. Oh my. He can. Brito keeps repeating " hot.. take my clothes off.." but she doesn't mean it.

The water. It's all in the Madison water.
posted by nina, 2/23/2005 09:19:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Let them eat blogs 

I know I have new readers who are possibly unfamiliar with the idea of a blogger dinner. Then there are those living far away who have read accounts in the past and have wondered what substance ran through the water pipes of the city to make us act in this rather bizarre way.

It’s simple, really. A year ago, a handful of blogging law and soc profs came together, perhaps to counter aspersions that blogging promotes solitude. Faces and personalities were matched with blog pages (you’d be surprised at how much the blogging persona may not fully represent the wonderful complexity of any given blogger). Eventually we moved from restaurants to a home setting and the inevitable happened. Someone brought their computer. So did the others. Simul-blogging the dinner itself was born (where all participants write about the event simultaneously, as it is unfolding).

Now, thus far I have always hosted the at-home blogger dinners. Therefore, I have never participated in simul-blogging. I have been too busy filling plates to ever bring a computer into my kitchen. Perhaps as a result of my abstinence, some pretty shady-shifty aspersion were cast, as I endured the jokes of those who knew that retaliation was not about to take place.

Tonight I have my moment. The blogger dinner has moved to Brito’s. I am simul-blogging alright. In attendance: Althouse, Bozzo, Brito, Freese, and a newcomer – Oscar. I’m sharpening my fingers in anticipation. No more “Camic is burning the crostini!” or “Camic has turned up the heat to a hellish 130 degrees!” None of that. Sweet, sweet revenge, about to happen. Tonight.
posted by nina, 2/23/2005 05:56:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Putting the good spin on being back home, at work, in the middle of a cold spell 

Things that Madison has that Californians can only dream about:

* Clear skies and sunshine in February, strong enough to melt 12% of the snow that accumulated in my driveway during my California absence (thank you, neighbor, for clearing my sidewalk and sparing me the ticket that the snow cops hand out at this time of the year);

I’ll add to the list as soon as another idea strikes me.

In the meantime, the wet hills and fields of flowers in the Wine Country left an indelible mark on me. And the people: northern Californians mix and match in ways that are refreshing! Age-wise, politics-wise, otherwise – the groups that I hung out with were at ease in these various configurations. And the honest teasing about differences was completely enlivening.

Wait, I’m straying into California-adoration. I’m in Madison now. It’s good to be home. Yeah, it’s good to immerse myself in work, to catch myself (how pathetic) rereading my own posts about California ramblings.

And it’s great to hear from Mary, issuing an invitation for the next trek out west. There’s Anderson Valley to visit, the North Beach to walk through, a spa morning at Cinta, a MoMA afternoon... she writes.

I wonder if my Berkeley mother needs another visit from me. I’m sure she does. Take heed, all you adult readers with aging parents! Ocean is going on record in its support and encouragement of intergenerational family visists. How lucky that for once, for once, someone in my family has kindly chosen a place to live that is intensely exciting to explore.
posted by nina, 2/23/2005 10:36:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Romantic Comedy 

Some people (me for example) like watching romantic comedies. I frequently hear this: when I go to a movie, I like to forget about the reality waiting for me back home. I want to be happy along with the couple on the screen.

It struck me that increasingly, this blog is turning into one romantic comedy. Like the movie form, it is not especially funny, but it stumbles along hoping to entertain – myself if not the reader.

Anyone who knows me, knows also that this has been a rather tough winter for me. I’ve a lot going on at work and just about at every front and I find most of it very trying and unamusing. Ocean goes through phases and it has definitely hit a level of inconsequentiality that is astonishing to a reader who may have logged on prior to the elections, for example.

This morning, at the Denver airport, I wrote tentatively a post on a more serious topic – having to do with the EU. I used to love writing about things having to do with the EU. Not anymore. I read my own post and deleted it. It struck me as wrong for the here and now.

I know there is a danger: one of these days I will slide into writing about something so trivial that it may as well appear as a blank page on the computer screen: it will say absolutely nothing.

For now, I am running with my own inclination. Martinis, truck stops, hair color, barnyard manure if I come across any that strikes me as amusing. Nothing serious. Not this month or next, for sure.

P.S. to the kind reader (click onto his cool new blog here) who suggested that perhaps I should have purchased the whoopass t-shirt (see last night’s post here) and worn it to class this week, let me assure you, the students may have laughed, but some of my senior colleagues would not have been amused.
posted by nina, 2/22/2005 04:36:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Where I announced to a full flight of people that I add color to my hair 

Though we are a noisy nation (no problem picking out Americans abroad – they talk ten notches louder than everyone else; it is a vast country that we inhabit and we have trained ourselves to shout in order to be heard from Maine to California), on planes, people for the most part tend to be quiet.

They were quiet when we were settling into our seats. And very quiet when I took out my cell for a quick call to my man Jason who was to work on my hair this afternoon were it not for my complicated layovers and missed return connections. And they were super quiet when I said to the Salon receptionist: what do you mean you cannot find Jason?? I need to beg him on my knees to take me this week. I cannot stand the color of my hair another minute! He’ll do this for me, I know he will! Please go find him!

And they continued to be quiet as I said, while getting up to disembark, right into my reconnected cell: well if you cannot find him go search for Robyn, his assistant. You do not understand, this is a color emergency!

Everyone heard, everyone smiled with understanding (after all, they had full view of my head of hair). But I had to do it anyway. I was past being embarrassed. I needed action.

[BTW, have I said this before? 70% of women past 40 color their hair and 17% of men do. Just keep that in mind as you next scan the heads of people in an audience or an airplane.]
posted by nina, 2/22/2005 04:12:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Denver Airport: I used to laugh at people like me 

There was a time when passengers, overloaded with carryons, brought out a little secret smirk in me. I would embark smugly on a nine-hour flight with a novel in hand and a dainty purse swinging from the shoulder and that would be it. Crazy people, those who think they need every piece of entertainment on board, or who load themselves down with souvenirs and travel purchases. Plain nutty.

That was then. This trip is reason enough to feel regret at my past smugness. I am loaded down by projects I want to work on but don’t have time for back home. I am burdened by a computer that was purchased when lightweight was not an option. Burnt by too many instances of lost luggage, I have all important items stuffed into the computer bag. My handbag has life’s essentials, which, as of this morning, appear to include a lifetime supply of tictacs and my growing collection of coffee cards. And on this leg of the journey, I also have a little crate of wine purchased in Sonoma and Napa. Oh, and the gorgeous pear apple vinegar from Sebastiani.

The United cart, the one that transports elderly and disabled travelers, stopped and asked if I would like assistance. I accepted. During the ride I made all sorts of promises to myself about dainty purses and novels for the future.
The very distant future.
posted by nina, 2/22/2005 11:01:00 AM | link | (0) comments

In Aurora, Colorado: good morning! breakfast is now being served 

A treat from United (the airline that is making this little Colorado getaway possible, as explained in the post below): I have two breakfast options: a full, warm breakfast at the Crystal Inn, or the use of a $4 coupon for breakfast anywhere at the airport.

Which would you choose?

True, the Crystal Inn breakfast has its advantages: the shuttle bus driver could not praise it enough: and they give you warmed up sausage patties or bacon with your cereal and toast! But then, this was the same guy who highly recommended the frozen sandwiches at the truck stop, easily reheated at the communal Crystal Inn microwave.

But a $4 coupon? A latte alone is $3.65. What a snob, you’re thinking, she has to have a latte while the rest of America struggles with watery coffee. And there’s your answer: the rest of America struggles with watery coffee. Go ahead and struggle. I prefer to shock myself into existence in the early hours of a day.

The decision is made: I’m heading for the airport.
posted by nina, 2/22/2005 08:16:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, February 21, 2005

In Aurora, Colorado: what can I say about a late night dinner of iceberg lettuce and BBQ sauce “purchased” at a truck stop? 

This post is dedicated to Mary in SF, to an old man staying in a trailer at a truck stop in Colorado, and to United Airlines, the best care in the air (but not on the ground).

Say what? Are you home or not?

What happened??
Long story. Bottom line – the cheese made me do it.
A nice morning. Mary and I went grocery shopping outside Palo Alto. She swore I could fit in a half bottle of Murphy-Goode Reserve Fumé into my suitcase. We eat California rolls for lunch at her place. So California! She takes me to the Oakland airport. A hug and I am on my way.

Oops – a two hour delay in departure to Denver. United rep asks: would you like to chance it? The Madison-bound flight may be late as well. I know better. The Madison connection is never late when I need it to be late and always late when I need it to be on time. Besides, I have this aritisanal Monterey Jack cheese that Mary thought I should take back home. Eh, just assume that I cannot make the connection and put me up in Denver. Ship my suitcase there as well – it’s got a cheese that requires refrigeration. And after all, YOU, my dear United, are paying (the cause of the delay: the crew did not toddle in on time on the arriving flight).

Yay! You got a free overnight in Denver and probably a yummy meal too?
Correction: I got an overnight at the Crystal Inn at Aurora, Colorado, which is as good as it sounds. Meaning – it’s in the middle of nowhere.

…And the meal?
Yes, the meal. I got a $9 coupon from United to buy myself a dinner at the adjacent truck stop. This in itself deserved a glass of wine or at least a beer to make it all go down, don’t you think?

So you had your beer or wine.
It was a close one. I asked at the lovely Crystal Inn (where you can book a Romantic Getaway Package for two…DON’T!) if a glass of wine was within reach. Answer: no. Okay, I have my own supplies. Many a passenger on the delayed Oakland flight coveted my box of wines picked up at Sonoma and Napa. Do you have a corkscrew? No, but maybe you can purchase one at the truck stop, where you can also pick up $9 worth of free dinner, courtesy of United.

There you go! A solution, right at hand!
Not really. At the truck stop shop they had the following items available for purchase:
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 11:46:00 PM | link | (0) comments
a little gift for your beloved? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 11:43:48 PM | link | (0) comments
A fashionable t-shirt maybe? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 11:42:40 PM | link | (0) comments
a gift for your loved one back home.. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 11:41:23 PM | link | (0) comments
But no corkscrew.

So no wine for you?
Not the end of the story. Remember, there’s still the part about the guy in the trailer.

Oh boy…
I was deliberating between these mouth-watering options:
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 11:37:00 PM | link | (0) comments
each one looks yummier than the next! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 11:36:36 PM | link | (0) comments
…And decided I should chance it on the salad with BBQed something or other (I cannot say it, it makes me feel ill). Total price of said dish: exactly $9 (it was one of their splurges).
When it was ready, the astute cashier shouted: Crystal Inn order ready, charge it to room #406! Great. Let every trucker know that a helpless older damsel is staying by herself at the Crystal Inn, room 406. Robbery about to happen.

But then I ask again – I really cannot borrow a corkscrew for even a minute?
Answer: no.

A grizzly-looking dude comes up and says: I got one in my trailer. You can have it.

QUESTION FOR THE AUDIENCE: Would you follow a stranger to his trailer just because he offered you a corkscrew?
ANSWER: Of course not!

Still, this was safe. He explained about having just come from California with his wife and how they had to purchase a corkscrew because their friends gave them wine… and besides, he was parked right outside the store.

And so that is how I find myself typing away in Aurora, Colorado, with a disgusting dinner, locked in a Styrofoam box (unmentionable content inside), sipping away at a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc from a half-bottle picked out by Mary, opened by the fanciest, plushest Kitchen Aid corkscrew.
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 11:30:00 PM | link | (0) comments
dinner at the Crystal Inn Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 11:29:58 PM | link | (0) comments

In California: Sonoma, Napa – it’s all a blur of hills and vines, misty skies and mustard greens 

It’s not like it once was, they told me. The big S is blasted out of Sebastiani and it’s all about quality now. The producers care. The vines are getting older, the yield is smaller and the wines are magnificent.

Yeah, sure. Show me.

And they did. Winding through the Silverado Trail I thought maybe we were transported. In California’s brief green season (it lasts two months), the countryside looks vibrant and refreshed.

They also corrected me about Sideways (as did a number of readers who, unlike me, actually saw the film): that movie is about south of SF, not north, where Napa and Sonoma rule.

It helped to see the Wine Country in brooding weather, almost as if it wanted to mock the ancient stereotypes. I compare the wines of Sebastiani with those of the smaller Robert Sinskey Winery. I’m impressed.

A visit to Copia in Napa is a must. Copia is a nonprofit, established to further our understanding of foods and wines. Julia Child was a primary instigator here and we ate at Julia’s Kitchen, then walked through a garden filled with already burgeoning veggies and herbs. In an exhibit on “What the world eats” we could compare the eating habits of some two dozen countries around the world. Predictably, the French spend the most on food, followed by Japan and then the United States. Oh, and here’s another LKF (little known fact): did you know that 92% of all wine is consumed within 2 hours of its purchase?

We ended the day at St Helena, eating the hours away at a Napa cuisine classic, Tra Vigne. I was indulged. Mary and Tom treated me to the in-season Dungeness crab. You want to see pigishness? Imagine me digging into the monstrous plate of food shown at the bottom of the photo run.

Tomorrow (make that today, I’m posting Monday morning) I return to Madison. I have tons on my plate there and none is as lip-smackin’ as the crab dish. But the tight grip of people who care and who keep me steady is always there. I appreciate it so much, at every turn.
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:35:00 AM | link | (0) comments
It's the month of blooming mustard greens... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:31:14 AM | link | (0) comments
California vineyards? Looks more like Ireland... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:30:21 AM | link | (0) comments
Julia's Kitchen: this day is thanks to my pals, Mary and Tom.  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:29:24 AM | link | (0) comments
Sautéed Dayboat Scallops, sunchoke puree, pomegranates and chestnut jus Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:27:35 AM | link | (0) comments
The Copia garden: in full swing. I'd never seen chard look Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:26:36 AM | link | (2) comments
I'd never seen a pepper tree before. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:25:18 AM | link | (0) comments
Sinskey Vineyards - breathtakingly beautiful  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:24:08 AM | link | (0) comments
Garlic roasted dungeness crab, balsamic glazed cipollini onions and aioli Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:22:25 AM | link | (0) comments
Ta Vigne: one last look at a wet, but oh so lovely, night scene. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/21/2005 10:20:49 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, February 20, 2005

In California: heading sideways into the vineyards 

My hosts have set aside this day for a Napa romp.

I have been asked by numerous folks here if I have seen Sideways. Each time the movie comes up everyone trips over the other to recall a scene that was exactly right in flavor and tone. It's like talking to Americans spending time in Japan and hitting on moments from Lost in Translation. Sideways is the northern Californian's little tale about heading into the wine country.

Of course, I missed the movie. That was the day I was to see it with my Madison pals and they decided to have a head-on car crash instead. And I haven't been to Napa since the ASA meetings of some fifteen years ago, when I dragged my little ones to check out the landscape north of San Francisco. Perhaps they didn't get that much out of it, but I did. It was my first visit to wineries and I suppose my love of exploring vineyards was born then.

Mary (my friend here in California) and I have traveled together recently on a week-end escape to the Burgundian countryside. She and I are compatible when we are on the road: we pack in as much as humanly possible and we eat tons. Today promises to be in line with our usual style. But a warning: unless they have a Starbucks (with a WiFi connection) in the middle of Napa, I may have to wait with a post until tomorrow morning.

The weather? I guess it could be worse.
posted by nina, 2/20/2005 09:13:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, February 19, 2005

In California: not too sunny today 

It’s not that you need good weather for the SF Ferry Building Saturday morning market. It would be interesting to stay dry, but not necessary. What’s SF without a few dripping clouds over the Bay, over the streets, over the tables where you could eat crab cakes and scrambled eggs off the Embarcadero…

And you don’t need good weather for the Grace Cathedral, or lunch at the Big 4 or a nibble here and there on Nob Hill. Not needed at all. Still, it would have been interesting to stay a little dry. I mean, my group of SF-ers didn’t seem to mind, but they did tell me that maybe next time I could keep my humid, wet weather in my notoriously harsh-climate home state. I reminded them that humid damp weather is not what we are known for in Wisconsin in Feburary.
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:50:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Not a good day for eating your crab cakes at the Bayside tables Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:46:28 PM | link | (0) comments
it's all about Meyer lemons here, even in the bread  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:42:36 PM | link | (0) comments
friends Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:41:30 PM | link | (0) comments
indoor market: (white) chocolate art for sale Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:35:51 PM | link | (0) comments
anyone doubting it's spring? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:34:16 PM | link | (0) comments
a very wet bird Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:33:33 PM | link | (0) comments
...snacking at the top of the Mark Hopkins Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:32:45 PM | link | (0) comments
just one more look to make sure it's still overcast...yes... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:30:51 PM | link | (0) comments

In California: notes on a day spent rambling throught the past and present with my mother 

Yesterday belonged to my Berkeley-residing mother. Things that stand out for me:

She wears a pedometer. We clocked in 12,000 steps. She says that's close to 6 miles. Not bad for an 81-year old.

She lives in a retirement home. It is where my grandmother lived and eventually died, back in 1993. The last time I had seen my grandmother, she was half there, half elsewhere, but in recognizing me, she made her way to the freezer and took out some chicken for me to take home to Madison. The women in my family are always hell bent on feeding others. My mother reached into her cupboard and gve me containers of Trader Joe's chocolate covered ginger. It is easier to take back home than frozen chicken.

I looked at numerous photos of her, of my grandparents. Theirs is an original story. They traveled to the States in the twenties. The Depression wiped out my grandfather's decent job in the auto manufacturing industry. My granfmother took night work baking bread and a day job cleaning. My grandfather became the head of the Polish chapter of the IWO. Eventually they all returned to Poland, in part fearing the McCarthy repercussions for their ties to the community of progressives and communists.

I spent a good part of the day preoccupied with a problem that had arisen back in Madison, about which I found out through email when I logged in back in Denver. Someday I will write a book outlining my theory of the inevitable destruction of civilized life as we know it, on par with the demise of the Roman Empire. But whereas I once read that the main (unappreciated) reason for the fall of the Empire was that the Romans cooked and ate out of copper pots, thereby gradually poisoning themselves to a weakened state, our own world will crumble because we do not know how to be civil and kind to each other anymore.

Berkeley is a fantastic place for seniors. The list of things my mother does to keep herself engaged in life sent me spinning.

When I visited Berkeley as a young adult (my uncle once lived there and so I have had family ties tot he place for a while now), I thought it was a cool town. All those hippies seemed to be part of a wonderful song where people lived for love, peace, and a little bit of pot and they did it all in colorful clothes, listening to cool music. Now, threads of that culture remain of course and it still has its radical underpinnings (90% voted for Kerry and as of yesterday, not a single Ronald Reagan stamp had been purchased at the post office -- so the local paper claims), the hippiness of it all seems sadder, poorer, without an anchor or a theme.

My California hosts met me in Berkeley for dinner at Zax Tavern. Yes, I have pictures of the wonderful food we ate there, but I am in Newark now. Remember? It's the place where my little trusty computer has been shunned and rejected by the Silicon hot shots who have ruled that it's not good enough for their high-tech scene. And BTW, cell phones do not work here either: it's
one of the few spots in the country where you cannot pick up a signal. How odd is that!
posted by nina, 2/19/2005 09:01:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, February 18, 2005

In California: partly cloudy and warm (he, he) 

Thanks for turning the forcast upside down and letting me have this day of sun, clouds and breezy warm air! To whomever accomplished this miracle: I am grateful.

I haven’t the time to write much, but I’m hoping the few shots, favoring what most delights me right now (fruits and flowers), will satisfy.
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:30:00 PM | link | (0) comments
the first signs of Berkeley: two rain-washed faces looking out... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:25:36 PM | link | (0) comments
Paradise flowers in the front yard Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:22:52 PM | link | (0) comments
Winter garden: a lemon, a blue sky, blooming fruit trees Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:20:14 PM | link | (0) comments
A February garden Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:16:58 PM | link | (0) comments
limes at the Monterey Market, after a morning rain Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:15:38 PM | link | (0) comments
Buckets on Shattuck Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:13:05 PM | link | (0) comments
strawberry prices I'd like to see in Madison Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:06:05 PM | link | (0) comments
looking out from Chez Panisse: a saffron gate or the Golden Gate? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:05:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Chez Panisse: Quinault River Steelhead baked in the wood oven with braised cabbage and Meyer lemon Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 07:04:04 PM | link | (0) comments
From Cody's, looking out on Berkeley hills Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 06:54:19 PM | link | (0) comments

In California: wet and ch-ch-ch-chilly 

Why "Newark" (the place of my overnights)? Perhaps it is named thus because the immigrants from the east, as always, felt a lack of imagination when naming the new promised land and so they brought with them names of places they remembered with great nostalgia.

Perhaps not.

I am in the middle of Silicon Valley so my cabbie told me last night. My kind hosts -- let me call them Mary and Tom (for one thing, these are their names), are techie-bio-sciencie-engineering types. For once I thought blogging would be a breeze.Not so. Here in Silicon-valley-land (if that is where I am) the phone lines have too little juice to push forward a single post. I could publish from a tiny village in Umbria, from the hilly heights of Ravello, from the mountains of Nagano, from the desert of Arizona, but in Silicon Valley I am stumped.

Not to worry. Today I head out of the valley and into the Bay area with computer in hand.

(P.S. I can already tell what sentence I am likely to hear again and again on this trip: "it's never this wet and cold in mid-February, never!" Maybe this whole sunny California thing is a myth. Maybe they actually have terrible weather here this time of the year but they never admit it to those of us in the upper Midwest who struggle with surviving winter.)

(P.P.S. The triple posting from last night -- now corrected and removed -- is an indication of how my partnership with blogger has worked thus far out here on the west coast. Please be patient with any or all posting errors. It's going to be a challenge to get this right.)
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 09:44:00 AM | link | (0) comments

In California: wet and warm-ish 

I think my computer has a dependency problem. In Denver, it begged to be removed from the case, lovingly to be touched at the Wi-Fi points (basically the airport is one big internet café), then, again, as I arrived in Newark (yes, the odd thing is that I am staying in Newark, California), out it came and dialed itself up to life.

Would it be odd to visit with my mother in Berkeley tomorrow and blog at the same time, given that she does not know about blogs? And how about at lunch time, if I get inspired to comment on the food?

California – it’s a forward looking state, isn’t it? A blogger should feel right at home.
posted by nina, 2/18/2005 02:33:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Word of my new love spreads as closet aficionados come forth and admit to their own sinful passion 

No sooner had I posted my affection for the martini and suddenly my narrow world of wines and kir royals appears sheltered and small. I find that there is a bigger planet where gin and vermouth lovers mix and mingle. Only they never talk about it. Until this week.

Now that I am one of them, the door has opened and I feel included. This week I found myself a guest of a skilled martini mixer. Noting this in a blog post caught the attention of a friend, who thus far had talked only of an occasional indulgence into the world of wine. Suddenly he and his wife are issuing invitations to their (secret?) happy hour. The featured drink? A classic martini. I hadn’t heard from them for months and here I am, at once someone to include on a post-work gin and vermouth fest.

My own cabinet remains woefully inadequate for the preparation of anything that require something more than a corkscrew. Still, I am enjoying the discovery of this other world of cone-shaped glasses and submerged olives. In a month such as February, these are heavenly adventures indeed.

[Forgive the somewhat air-born tone of this post. I am currently onboard a flight out west.]
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 08:36:00 PM | link | (0) comments

California, work your magic! 

I am glad that I am flying west tonight.

What a week. After a totally humiliating Friday morning, a sad Sunday afternoon, a sadder Monday afternoon, a stressful Tuesday, an even more stressful Wednesday, I come home to this:
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 11:55:00 AM | link | (0) comments
great, I'm being sued for being absent-minded Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 11:54:00 AM | link | (0) comments
Yes, law profs can get sued! Yes it was my fault! (Did I know that those envelopes from said business had contained a bill? No I did not. I threw them away thinking they were yet again trying to solicit my business. Is that a good defense? No it is not. )

I sat by the clock this morning waiting until the magic hour appeared on its face (8:00 am) so that I could call said business, complete the payment that very second, expunge this horror from my kitchen counter and attempt to regain my internal sense of Being In Control Of Things.

Still, the weeks have got to improve! Honestly, I am not usually so in need of comfort foods and martinis late in the evening. But it's nice to know they're there. For the days that sometimes just appear too turbulent to be real.
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 11:43:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Local talent recognized among bloggers in academe (and beyond) 

Because we are one day after a big-time dog show and a few days short of the Oscars, I thought I’d sneak in my own little awards ceremony. Here’s to you, guys:

Best blogger residence where you can simultaneously 1. blog 2. eat 3. watch DVDs 4. doze off and no one will notice: Althouse, hands down. Others may come close on 1, 2 and 4, but the entire package belongs to her.

Best martini with almond-stuffed olives server, and best betting bandit in town: Bozzo (why bandit? he ran off with my chance at a Trotter dinner! read about it here)
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 05:10:00 AM | link | (0) comments
yum Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 05:02:27 AM | link | (0) comments
Best advice giver, in the style of the now defunct Dear Abbey: Brito (paraphrased: if there is going to be an uneven exchange in gift giving, he should be the one paying the larger sum; unfair? who cares! Since I am, for once, on the benefiting side of the gender dichotomy, I’m fully in support of this advice.)

Best self-promotion effort: Freese (I’m not even going to post photos of the billboards around town that have gone up, seemingly overnight)
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 04:59:00 AM | link | (0) comments
...almost wrecked my own car trying to take this photo while driving behind... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 04:58:22 AM | link | (0) comments
Best alias retention by a “pretend-anonymous” blogger, long after everyone in the world knows who he is: "Oscar"

Best stick-to-the-law blogger, also reporter on topics I cannot possibly fathom given my miniscule knowledge of corporate law (prize awarded in spite of his effort to appease me with a post on cheese today): Smith
posted by nina, 2/17/2005 04:47:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Hey law prof, have you spoken to a lawyer lately? 

An interesting aspect of teaching law is that you can go a long time without actually speaking to a client or lawyer. Decades perhaps. This is, I think, unique to our profession. It would be unthinkable for medical profs to have zippo contact with a sick person or a practicing doctor, or for art profs to never encounter artists or pick up a paint brush, or to have music profs who would not be able to play the piano or some such instrument. But we do not need to know how to practice law – we simply have to know how to teach it. Whether you have any contact with the legal profession is entirely up to you.

Since my entry into the Law School was through the doors of practice (I directed a clinical program where we provided legal services to indigent people in the community), I am one of those who misses contact with my *other colleagues,* the practitioners in my field. I was, therefore, happy to spend an evening yesterday with a group of lawyers who are guest lecturing at the Law School this week.

As I listened to stories of bizarre clients doing awful things to each other, I though about how much I missed the days when I was part of that world. I thought back to my days in the courtroom and those minutes before your case is called, when you are making idle conversation with clients who are desperate, nervous, and angry. I missed it, but only for a minute.

Now that I have had my moment of nostalgia, I am happy to spin around and say – whew! Sure glad I’m not in the thick of it anymore. It’s a tense world out there, beyond the safe halls on Bascom hill.
posted by nina, 2/16/2005 06:25:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Resolved: after a lifetime of distractions, I have decided to settle down. I have whittled my interests down to a handful; everything else is tabled. 

Why this resolution? Because this week I am being reminded of a crazy year I had not too long ago. This year, things will be different: I am determined to stick with one large project. And just a wee handful of little ones.

A couple of years ago I got it into my head that I should try a different kind of hobby. I was then cooking several nights each week at l’Etoile and I developed a true interest in the small farms and wineries that stocked the shelves of the restaurant.

Wouldn’t anyone in my place decide to set up a nonprofit and advertise on the Net their services for taking small groups to France on an exploration of wineries, cheesemakers, distilleries and the like?

I did. Field to Table was born, with a staff of one – me. I was the trip planner, the driver, the idea person and the accountant. I even wrote out all sorts of legal disclaimers to preclude gross liability in case I messed up. Not that it would have helped.

In the end, I made three trips to France (Provence, Alsasce and Brittany) before I understood that my life was spinning out of control and I had to put a stop to some of my extracurriculars. Ceasing parenting responsibilities wasn’t an option and I like my law teaching job just fine. Field to Table closed doors after a mad year of trekking through vineyards, farmlands and some damn good country inn-cooking places on the continent.

But nothing really ends. One cheerful group that traveled with me to Provence remained quite bonded. Indeed, the trip, which could have ended with us killing each other in the cramped little minivan that I drove along obsolete and hilly backroads, actually resulted in lifelong friendships. I’m going to spend a long week-end with one of the Provence couples that lives in the Bay Area (family obligations require that I pop into Berkeley for a bit this month). They’re foodies, both of them and so postings about Things That You Eat will be part of Ocean fare once more.

Of course, having left New York in a total rain shower, having arrived in Madison to a drizzle, I am this week heading out to downpours in the SF area. Could someone pull some strings and help get rid of the clouds that are hovering over my days right now?
posted by nina, 2/15/2005 05:14:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Field to Table memories: if it's Tuesday, it must be Aix... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/15/2005 05:12:20 PM | link | (0) comments

The aesthetic pleasure of noise, clutter and discomfort 

Those of us who love coffee shops have a habit of groaning about how inadequate they are in New York. You get to the point where you are willing to buy stock in Starbucks just so that there would be more of them in the city and, even more importantly, that they would be larger, so that you could indeed count on sitting down to drink your coffee.

But it is not to be. In NY, my latte addiction either has to be treated at home (though drinking it in private is like downing shots of vodka in the bathroom; these are activities that demand companionship, or at least a murmur of voices in the background), or it has to be a commodity purchased on the run.

I wish I had taken photos of all the people I'd seen drinking their espressos while biking, roller-blading, walking.

In Madison, the problem is of a different kind. Oh there are Starbucks alright. And Ancoras and Victors and Steep and Brews, plus a host of newish babies on State Street. Many are large. Did anyone else think we were getting a Taco Palace of some sort when the new Starbucks went up on University?

Inside, our coffee shops are just too comfortable for words. We have plush chairs, tables, Wi-Fi, we have fireplaces, and newspapers loosely scattered. There are always a few people, but not so many that you could not get a seat at a table.

So why is it that sometimes I think back nostalgically to the inadequate coffee scene in New York? That I smile when I recall my impatience on Sunday as I stood with my paper cup, waiting for the oblivious idiot to get up and gather his trash from the dirty table, so that I could grab his chair and rest for a minute?
posted by nina, 2/15/2005 07:23:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, February 14, 2005

Dear New York, I miss you… 

I am back in Madison. It took twenty minutes to drive home (I live about as far as you can get from the Airport). I miss New York.

The same rain that fell in the city this morning, created a slick surface here, in Madison. And my windshield froze over. And why am I driving anyway? People should not have to drive every day of their lives.

I got home and found that no one had broken into my house. The mail had accumulated in the mailbox at the curbside. No one had gone through it looking for checks and other good stuff. It’s eerily quiet here. I checked my email and answered all those wonderful wonderful people who wrote nice things in my absence.

Then it became horrendously quiet. Great! I have work to do!

I miss New York.
posted by nina, 2/14/2005 09:57:00 PM | link | (0) comments
At this very minute, I would like to take a walk and pass places like this.. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/14/2005 09:56:26 PM | link | (0) comments
(When I am not driven crazy by it) I miss the pace most of all... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/14/2005 09:52:28 PM | link | (0) comments
yeah, little city horse, I miss you too... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/14/2005 09:49:53 PM | link | (0) comments

In New York: Monday morning 

Today, the city returns to its workday insanity and I return to Madison. Next month, when I am in New York again, the saffron color will be a memory and nothing more.

I have never (before) much liked Central Park, at the same time that I found it to be an idea with genius written all over it. A New York without it would be a city without a heart, without air, without sun, without the seasons leaving a mark.

But this week-end, I loved the Park -- for its community, for its banter (“it is saffron,” no, “it is orange vomit”), for its love of art and love of hating art. People came out and commented outside of New York as well. Friends and strangers wrote emails and blogposts, there, too, sharing something of themselves (who would you want to spend your days with – someone who saw saffron and community, or someone who saw vomit and plastic-coated dirty laundry? Or, who saw no reason to comment at all?).

Just one last look at the ripple of saffron on a rainy Monday morning. It sent a ripple through the city, alright. And the world watched, for once not repulsed by our audacity as we let Christo do his thing, boldly, brilliantly.
posted by nina, 2/14/2005 11:08:00 AM | link | (0) comments
black umbrella, bleak morning, saffron path Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/14/2005 11:03:56 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, February 13, 2005

In New York: Sunday in the park 

Today I felt Central Park measured up to my beloved Lazienki Park in Warsaw. It was a day of play and promenades, always against the saffron banners.

Certainly there are critics who feel compelled to knock down the Gates art project. One reader wrote to me and said: "but it's sooo last century!" Maybe. But my reaction is closer to that of a New Yorker, an older woman who stood next to me on the Terrace of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and said: "This is a real happening! I cannot remember when we have had one of those, it's been so long. The measure of its success? That people came and got engaged. Just look at the crowds that are filling the park!"
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:52:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Swinging up to an orange gate Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:51:38 PM | link | (0) comments
In the far northern corner of the park, mud football against a sea of orange Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:49:00 PM | link | (0) comments
everyone is climbing rocks to get a better view Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:46:02 PM | link | (0) comments
Shadows... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:43:41 PM | link | (0) comments
monster shadows! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:41:49 PM | link | (0) comments
gray and yellow Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:39:37 PM | link | (0) comments
flying! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:37:20 PM | link | (0) comments
From the Terrace of the Met: orange troop formations. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:35:30 PM | link | (0) comments

In New York: instant makeover! 

I am deeply appreciative of emails that came following my Gates posts of the last two days. Hearing from those who are professionally engaged with the arts was especially cool.

I should admit that I am a very basic poster. I do not work with the photos at all (except to crop out some irrelevant edging). And though I toyed with the idea of doing serious photography back in college years and even took a darkroom class or two, to learn what the hell happens behind closed photo-printing doors, photography went the way of so many other careers I have considered and put aside for one reason or another.

So I was thrilled to get an immensely kind pat on the back from someone who has made a career of photography for several decades now and who liked my photos enough to do some basic tricks to improve their lighting

I feel like I’ve just gone to a spa for a professional makeover. I like the results so much, that I decided to do a “before” and “after” post. As you can see, it’s worth getting into basic photo-shop technology. I’m sold.

* The makeover was done by Rick Lee. Many thanks!
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:25:00 PM | link | (0) comments
BEFORE No.1 Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:24:28 PM | link | (0) comments
AFTER Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:22:04 PM | link | (0) comments
BEFORE no.2 Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:20:16 PM | link | (0) comments
AFTER Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/13/2005 04:16:42 PM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, February 12, 2005

In New York: closing the day on the Gates 

Is it all that I can write about? Today, yes. The park burst at the Gates. Pleats and skirts and billowing sheaths of fabric, still at times, flouncing and puffing up, only to settle again.

I did otherwise occupy myself. At the Metropolitan, I watched the two visitors doing stretching exercises in the empty modern art section (most were strolling among gates, the rest were at MoMA). I would catch my breath among a different set of colors, but only for a minute.

I also spend a few hours at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Square, where someone near and dear to me was singing this afternoon.

But I kept going back to Central Park. In the afternoon, and then again in the evening, I was as much focused on the people as on the gates themselves. And the light, of course, as it moved from morning pale to afternoon bold and eventually to the dark, helped only by the lamps and the tall buildings on the perimeter, and still the gates danced and played with the strollers. Thousands and thousands of strollers. And me.
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 06:14:00 PM | link | (0) comments
and when two lovers meet... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 06:05:56 PM | link | (0) comments
a dizzying look toward the sky Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 06:04:02 PM | link | (0) comments
staid pleats mildly tickled by the sun Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 06:02:18 PM | link | (0) comments
wacky and out of control! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 06:00:02 PM | link | (0) comments
keeping order, grinning broadly Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 05:57:34 PM | link | (0) comments
no more sun? no moon tonight? no problem, the lamps will help... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 05:53:39 PM | link | (0) comments
one more stroll... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 05:51:34 PM | link | (0) comments
A dark lake path made brighter by saffron banners. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 05:49:23 PM | link | (0) comments

In New York: a surreal walk 

The gates spill out their skirts today. Christo, the artist, has repeatedly said that there is no “opening show,” no beginning, that it is a process, continuing throughout the day, until all 7500 gates have released their saffron splendor. But yesterday, a Gates worker told me that they are to start unfurling the fabric just about at 8:30 in the morning.

The blogosphere is represented in the press box, along with the major news networks

I am in the Park at 8. I’ve never seen it so crowded on a week-end morning! Palpable restlessness, people looking around at the still tightly closed gates. I spot a film camera. I follow its owner. He seems to be heading somewhere. Maybe he knows something I don’t know.

He does! Suddenly I am in a place where a large crowd has gathered. Police are keeping the public away, but there is a press box, right next to the gates. Press? The guard shouts to the man I am following. Yes! -- the cameraman shouts back. He has an ID around his neck and an assistant at his elbow. This way! -- he is told. I follow close behind. I wonder if I can get away with this. I can! I am in on the press stand, with the cameras and people with fancy equipment. I tell myself: if I am questioned, I’ll say I, too am writing for the public!

No one questions me. I feel somewhat foolish with my nice little Sony digital. Everyone’s equipment is monstrously complicated. They are exchanging comments on the light and camera settings. I join in when the discussion turns to yesterday’s brilliant sky. Still, no one asks what the hell I am doing there. It must be my black coat – it gets me places.

There is a flurry of activity toward the front. The TV cameras and mikes surge forward, I go with them. I shout with the rest: get down, get down! Move that elbow! Moreover, I have the audacity to push toward the front. I’m short! -- I plead. I am right at the front.

The first gate releases its saffron skirt.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are here. So is the mayor. So am I. The first skirt comes down. Perfect! Watch out, you have to step back or the cardboard roll will beam you on the head! Mayor Bloomberg is doing the honors (see photo below). I had no idea that the fabric would be pleated!

I say to the cameraman next to me – Jeanne-Claude’s hair matches the gates! He answers - That’s the idea. So, does life imitate art, or did Christo design it to correspond to her preferred hair color?

You should have heard the oohs and aahs

I move on. Groups of Gates workers are making their way through segments of the gates, releasing each, one at a time. Small crowds gather around them, watching, clapping and laughing, as each release brings down the clatter of a cardboard roll that held the fabric tightly together. The workers are equally delighted. They take turns and they photograph each other as we photograph them.

Pockets of community, right in the center of the city. Helicopters buzzing overhead. Joy in the faces of those who are performing for us and those who are watching, participating. I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 09:45:00 AM | link | (0) comments
In the press box: New York chutzpah, Midwestern temerity, Polish spunk. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 09:42:32 AM | link | (0) comments
The Mayor does the honors; Christo and Jeanne-Claude watch. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 09:38:10 AM | link | (0) comments
Jeanne-Claude's hair against the orange of the gate; flanked by Christo and Mayor Bloomberg. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 09:33:35 AM | link | (0) comments
The Gates crew: enjoying a group pull to release yet another panel of fabric. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 09:30:59 AM | link | (0) comments
A gust raises the skirts. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 09:28:02 AM | link | (0) comments
Now that the "frames" have the added fabric, they have become curvy and flirtatious.  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 09:26:11 AM | link | (0) comments
From the top of a rock, watching the wave of orange unfold. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/12/2005 09:22:24 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, February 11, 2005

In New York: The Gates pre-show, part 2 

Last moments before the tightly held cocoons at the top of the gates are opened. I walk to Whole Foods – why? Because it forces me to cross Central Park once more (and I am feeding a familial addiction to Angel Fluffs – see photo below). The wind will not let up. I could imagine it doing beautiful things with the banners – but those wont be released until tomorrow.

I love listening to the comments of people who are in the park… Is there a deeper meaning to this? -- one asks. No, I think we should just regard this as a statement about orange – is the response. Take a photo of me lying down next to the post! And: did it really cost $21 million? Is it worth it? My own response: we live in a world were beautiful things are provided for people who can afford them all the time. Why object to something that is so absolutely free, and so enchanting?

You should see the smiles on people’s faces! This is so new to me, being here in the middle of the city and observing how people slow down to take it all in. Pedestrians walk through, with buggies, with groceries (me!), and they comment and say accurate and inaccurate facts about it, but you can tell that they are enchanted. And this is still before the letting go of the saffron banners.

Just a few more photos, so you can see how different the light is in Central Park in the late afternoon, just before dusk.
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 05:50:00 PM | link | (0) comments
The pre-dusk blue tone makes its way down to the trees and path... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 05:48:57 PM | link | (0) comments
The sun hits the orange post head on, as it retreats for the day Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 05:46:00 PM | link | (0) comments
A classic New York scene, only with an orange twist. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 05:43:06 PM | link | (0) comments
an evening's supply Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 05:40:45 PM | link | (0) comments

In New York: The Gates pre-show 

I take my time this morning. It’s almost as if I don’t want to be overwhelmed just yet.

[Besides, the wind is vicious. Last night, the flight into La Guardia battled the invisible bursts of air and I think many of us wondered if the plane would give up and land at any random place, instead of the runway. In the end it was routed the “old” way, the way you used to fly in before September 11th, just to the right of Manhattan. The man next to me, sitting huddled into his jacket with a cap pulled low over his head, became excited by the flight, the winds, the entire experience. Reaching into his pocket, he took out a candy bar and insisted that I share. So sweet – both the candy bar and him.]

But by 9, I can’t take my own diddling and I head out, up on 64th where I am staying, into Central Park at the Zoo entrance.

And immediately I see the difference between this and Christo’s earlier California art project, “Running Fence.” New York’s “The Gates” (or, in its full name: “The Gates Central Park, New York City 1979 – 2005,” referring to the time it took, logistically, politically, otherwise, to put this 16-day wonder on the City turf) are not a contiguous serpentine. They follow a curve, a path, a road and then they stop, only to be picked up again elsewhere.

The result is nothing short of magnificent. True, the colors were matched to this day: the blue of the sky reflects against the glass buildings, the grayish brown of the land retreats to the back and the contrast of the vivid orange against the blue becomes piercingly stunning.

I talk to a group of Gates workers. There are 600 scattered throughout. All are paid $6.25 an hour and are given one free hot meal each day at the park. Wisconsin? I know about Madison! – one says. It’s a progressive state, isn’t it? But so far from everything! Yes to all of that, I answer. Kristen, a worker from Seattle tells me to find her tomorrow. She’ll save me a scrap of fabric (they’ll be handing out swatches of it on a first come basis). Her friend, a retired New Yorker, lifts up the base covers and shows me how each gate was assembled.

I go to the Metropolitan Museum because there, from the Terrace, I know I can get an aerial view. But the terrace is closed to visitors today. A reception is being held there for Christo (people say he is French, but he only lived there later in life, after a childhood in Bulgaria). I go to the elevators anyway. Maybe no one will notice if I go there now, before any of the guests show up. They notice and turn me away. But I think I can catch the elevator on the second floor, without guard interference. I do! I alight at the Trustee’s Dining Room. A receptionist greets me. I tell her I am here just to take a few photos. I hope I sound official. My black coat hides my unofficial looking corduroys. She says – yes of course, go right ahead. I comment on the brilliant weather, the view, the beauty of it all. She smiles.

Outside again it is still cold. I buy a Gates t-shirt in support of Central Park Conservancy. And on Madison Avenue, I snatch a sample pair of prototype boots (next year’s style, sold for one fourth the price). I am lucky because French distributors always use my size as the prototype. The boots are almost orange. My day is complete.
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 01:13:00 PM | link | (0) comments

A denseness of blues and oranges Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 01:12:39 PM | link | (0) comments

Just three here, on a rocky path Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 01:10:13 PM | link | (0) comments

one step at a time, around the frozen lake Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 01:06:41 PM | link | (0) comments

Curving gently with the bridge Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 01:03:47 PM | link | (0) comments

Suddenly, the gates are everywhere, almost running into each other. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 01:00:34 PM | link | (0) comments

Seeing things differently, with the help of the rectangular orange gates. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 12:58:24 PM | link | (0) comments

At the Petrie Court Café of the Metropolitan Museum, the multiple frames of windows and gates give the statue special prominenece Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 12:56:00 PM | link | (0) comments

From the Trustees' Lounge at the Metropolitan Museum: a parade of gates among the trees in February light. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 12:52:00 PM | link | (0) comments

something to take home Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 12:48:15 PM | link | (0) comments

In New York: saffron-colored fabric 

7500 gates on 23 miles of footpaths in Central Park. An art project 26 years in the making – up for sixteen days then down again. Like life – born, then left only in the memory.

Christo, the artist writes that it is a golden ceiling creating warm shadows. Newsweek declares it to be a stunning extravaganza whose purity lies partly in being so impractical and ephemeral. Tomorrow, all the cocoons are opened. 7500 impractical gates.

This morning, I'm off to explore the emergent path of saffron. It is up and waiting. The sun is brilliant. The stage is set.
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 07:04:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Would you accept $10,000 to shave your head and continue your normal activities sans hat or wig without explaining the reason for your haircut? 

[In answer to a blogger’s question, as posed here]

Of course! I’d do it for $5,0000. I’d do it for free if a handful of good friends did it with me. I’d eat spiders and get a tattoo. These are only ornamentations in life, they speak to none of the essentials.

Besides, I keep a blog, don’t I? If you think about it, that’s more ridiculous than any of the above.
posted by nina, 2/11/2005 12:01:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Games, bets, no meals, no automobiles 

Gary, an American living in southern Poland, throws out a question for his readers. The deal is we answer it in unison, posting a response on the same day (tomorrow) on our own blogs. Then we compare and contrast.

I had always wanted to do this during one of our blogger dinners in Madison. There, we’d have the pressure of time and no opportunity to cheat and peak. Still, an invitation to simul-blog is always to be treated seriously and so I signed on to the challenge. If you are a blogger, you might want to as well. Just follow the link to the post on trackingsuits. The handful of participants are a wonderful group of bloggers whom you probably haven’t read thus far. Check them out -- they all are thoughtful, creative, interesting and funny (plus Ocean supports any community that crosses an ocean or two -- from India, through Germany, France, to the States and of course, Poland).

I’m off to New York for a few days. Next post will be from there.

posted by nina, 2/10/2005 07:49:21 AM | link | (0) comments

Games, bets, meals and automobiles 

I never gamble. I do not want to depend on luck for my good fortune. I have never bought a lottery ticket and I have not touched a slot machine since I was seven and stranded in Vegas for a week (my dad had a car accident while we were passing through; it was his fault, too, but I pretended not to notice this little aside as everyone rallied behind him and caused him to come out financially unscathed).

But Marginal Utility offered a deal I could not resist: Rice on the Republican ticket in 08 - Tom says dinner on him at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. The TradesSports politics market indicates I have more than a spittin’ chance to eat my way to culinary heaven if I take on this challenge and so I signed on. My reasoning: it’s not a gamble, it’s a win – win. Rice is the nominee, I get to eat the dinner of the century. She’s not on – I relax (and pay for a round of drinks).

[Listening to her during this last week makes me a little nervous: she has a persuasive edge to her and she may in fact, if she survives the nomination process, pull out a win over our Democratic candidate X, especially since there is no candidate X who at this point even begins to spark anyone’s fancy. I’ll bet anyone (should I pony up a brand new car? If I win, will someone buy me a snazzy brand new car?*) that Feingold will NOT be on the ticket. Damn, this is how betting leads to corruption of the soul and an empty bank account…]

* This is a speculation, not a serious wager; the terms of the Feingold wager are yet to be determined. Always read the fine print!

posted by nina, 2/10/2005 05:50:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Blogger Brian's beautiful baby boy is born  

A few days late, but who's counting...
I am sending the link to Brian's blog not only so all can admire the picture of his (very new) son (some institutional pride here since Brian is a law student), but also because Brian's second blog (SosySteps) is always good to click on whenever you want to reassure yourself that there is indeed a new generation of wonderful children out there who will someday take charge.

Brian and Kris -- congratulations from all of us!
posted by nina, 2/10/2005 04:32:05 AM | link | (0) comments

a cowardly, cowering ninny 

Over on one of the European blogs, a writer wanted to take a pause for a day (I’m guessing that this was the motivation). He wrote something like this – okay you commenters (he has a fairly regular trickle of them), why don’t you have a conversation among yourselves today? And then he retreated. And they spoke up.

Now, everyone who has ever mentioned the word “blog” to me knows that I am terrified of random people saying random things and so I would never ever enable a Comments function on Ocean. I love it when people write emails to me and I almost always answer. Indeed, I have met some wonderful people in this way. Friends for life and all that. But I am way too marmish and sensitive to give free reign to readers who would, I am certain, slaughter me or something/someone that I care about in public while my attention was elsewhere.

However, today I was tempted, just for this one day, to let people talk while I took a back seat and listened. I have a hell-schedule of teaching and then traveling and I really did not think I could afford to take a moment to post anything. Still, I held back with this kind of an open invitation. Why? Because this is how I imagine the comments would look were I to solicit the words of random readers (I’m making up names, but the personalities are of people that I know read my blog):

Polish kielbasa is inferior to German sausage and in any event I don’t eat sausage. But this does not stop me from posting a comment! Because sausage rules and I rule and you Polish goons, geaks and freaks are all the same, pushing your keilbasa as if it were the import from paradise. Roll out the brats, dude!
-- raving anti-kielbasa lunatic

I came to your blog via xxxx (a PD blog from DC) and I expected some legal insights, given that you are a law prof. I must say I was horribly disappointed. May I suggest picking topics more profound than oatmeal in Pittsburgh or martinis in Madison if you wish to maintain some semblance of a professional reputation?
-- lawyer in limbo

Nie wiem co mam napisac. Na pewno mowisz po Polsku ale ja nic tutaj nie widze co by mi tu odpowiadalo.
-- niezadowolona z Warszawy

Hey muz, how come you haven’t answered our emails in the past 24 hours? And how come you never call? It’s all about your blog now, isn’t it?
-- a *relative* living far from home

I seekth thou, dearest, with sweet suggestion,
For willst thou giveth me indigestion
To think that all doth scorn my syrup
Thou kicketh my ass with one sharp stirrup
-- LDMsquared

O.M.G., it’s that lascivious, lecherous, lunatic again! Get him out of here!
-- embarrassed in eau claire

I recognize the communist overtones in your blog. I looked up your father and learned that he was a member of the Communist Party in Poland during the crucial years of Communism Over There. I am not a communist nor especially loyal to Poland but it pleases me no end to expose you in this way.
--Immigrant from you know where

And so on. Thinking about the range of possible contributors makes me produce more sweat than did the guy at the gym who covered the elliptical machine with a running stream of body water. So, thanks but I am too much of a thin-skinned and tender-hoofed ninny*. I guess I’ll just have to find the time for a (benignly marmish) post myself, work and travel notwithstanding.

*And inevitably someone from my past would write and point out that this was indeed my nickname while in grad school. I won it at a poker game and it stuck.
posted by nina, 2/10/2005 01:01:33 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Teaching on a late Wednesday afternoon 

The seminar room has no windows. And it is warm. Initially it had no desk or table at the end where I sit and so I would balance my tea mug, my notes, and my other papers on a makeshift, wobbly movable something that had slanting leaves, causing things to spill and papers to slide.

I enter dressed in proper teaching clothes: skirt and sweater set today. I keep my long scarf just in case the temps drop and I get nippy. But as I give an overview of a point (I’m talking about Burundi today, the class is Comparative Family Law and I want to demonstrate the interplay of customary law and imported general written law) I keep being distracted by the scarf. It reminds me of something the Pope would wear. Off it goes.

Is it me or is it hot in the room? It’s me. Off goes the top sweater, I am now in short sleeves. That’s better.

I want to keep going because the materials are so interesting (I would think that), but everyone hates teachers who sacrifice breaks and so I stop. I go up to my office, catch my breath, get more tea. On goes the sweater. It’s cold up here.

Back to the classroom for the final round. I get so into this topic that I sound hoarse by the time I’m done. I ask them if I had been shouting. They smile benevolently. Someone finishes her macaroni pizza. God, I’m hungry.

posted by nina, 2/09/2005 05:43:19 PM | link | (0) comments

We begin a run with the rooster 

If the Chinese New Year imposes Rooster-type traits on children born now (the Year of the Rooster starts today), I say hold off on your plans to conceive until we reach again the Year of the Snake. In a BBC article that describes the typical characteristics ascribed to people born under the different animal symbols (find yours here), I learn this about Rooster-ites:

People born under the year of the Rooster tend to hide their conservative natures via a display of aggression and self-confidence, however they are very "dignified". Roosters come in two types: those that are very somber and those that are very communicative. They love to be the focus of attention, showing scant regard for the feelings of others and as a result they are often susceptible to flattery and sycophancy.

Me, I was born in the year of the Snake. True, snake-types aren’t going to come around again until 2013, but it may be worth holding back on your desire to mate and procreate until then. Compare us to the above:

People born under the year of the Snake are intellectual, superstitious, sceptical, astute, have elegance, innate wisdom, and possibly some levels of supernatural capability. Snake people rarely seek independent advice or advice from others, possibly because on the whole they don't communicate well with others.

P.S.: I am working on my communication skills. That is something that you can acquire over time. Innate wisdom and supernatural capability on the other hand – those come from Snake-birth

posted by nina, 2/09/2005 05:55:31 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Headed for ruin and damnation 

Until recently I could honestly say that I disliked drinking virtually all alcohol save for wine and an occasional beer. Oh sure, there’d been a gin and tonic era in my past (they were so fashionable once, especially in the summer), and a bloody mary moment (so “brunch from the seventies”), and I pumped all sorts of cognacs and liqueurs into sauces and baked goods, but all those oddly shaped bottles basically collect dust in my cabinet.

So what happened? Recently I decided that nothing tastes better than a martini after a day of not-getting-enough-work-done. There are a number of martini models and martini-look-alikes that suit me just fine (and that number is growing). I like the entire experience, the glass shape, the fact that you almost never drink martinis alone (it hasn’t come to that), the jolt of cold, all of it.

My reader from Boston writes this morning:

Another nice thing about martinis: one can talk for hours about them. …[A]t one point in Harvard History Department circles, the Bernard DeVoto formula was favored (2.6 [gin] to 1 [vermouth]— but the ice factor is VERY important; you must experiment. Then it's perfect).

I’ll add this: you can read people’s martini stories for hours as well. There is something about the drink that spells adulthood, irreverence, precision. It is a brainy piece of art, a drink for the strong-headed. A classic.

P.S. Oh why don’t I just blurt it out: ever since cooking late at night at L’Etoile and hanging out with the chefs and waiters afterwards at the bar, I have also grown fond of Cosmos. But these have to be even more perfectly prepared than Martinis: Triple Sec, not Cointreau! And if you overdo the cranberry, you may as well pour it down the back of your enemy.

Like I said in the title, I am steps away from a complete spiral toward hell and damnation.
posted by nina, 2/08/2005 12:33:44 PM | link | (0) comments

Looking for something else and finding yourself 

It turns out that for some unbeknownst to me reason, my photos come up on a Google image search pretty quickly. I was searching yesterday afternoon, for reasons that are irrelevant (as is most of my searching, I admit), for an image of Umbria (really, it doesn’t matter why, in the middle of writing my lecture I was looking up Umbria) and the first page, indeed the first photo that came up on Google was one from an Ocean post.

Now, I suppose that would be considered a good thing if you took it upon yourself to keep one of those photo blogs where people could come and admire (or so you hope in your delusional state of exalted pride) your photos. But Ocean is primarily a text blog and what also comes up is lots of text (always the last entry of the month where the photo is hidden). That is sort of funny. Or pathetic. Because I am sure that people looking for photos of Umbria are not a little surprised at where they are taken – to some lame blog of a Polish-born law prof in Wisconsin.

Welcome anyway. At least that first photo of Umbria is a decent-ish one. It would be terrible if the one that came up immediately was the one of me eating an ice cream dessert. Thankfully you don’t get to that one until much later in the search.

posted by nina, 2/08/2005 05:55:14 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, February 07, 2005

No, I did not attend a meat-eaters' convention, I am merely responding to the pressure to post more about FOOD 

Tonight I had so much work to do that I went out for a healthy round of blogger martinis and cosmos. It did not end there. What started out as a meeting for a drink ended as many drinks and then some meat-eating. I think there were other foods proffered that evening. I think. Or maybe it was all about martinis and protein? I feel set for another night of work now. Really. Not sleepy at all. Not at all.
posted by nina, 2/07/2005 07:57:39 PM | link | (0) comments

hunger struck Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/07/2005 07:56:24 PM | link | (0) comments

Polish lessons 

Today’s front page of the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza can stump a foreigner. On the one hand, there is a headline where only one word is unrecognizable to the English-speaking person:

New England Patriots Zdobyli Super Bowl!

I mean, you can guess what “zdobyli” means in a second – consider yourself then a fluent reader of the Polish press. But in another story, I read about an asteroid discovered by a young Polish astronomer. The young man has naming privileges now and he solicited suggestions from the general public. Thousands sent in names and most demonstrated Polish pride (okay, maybe I would not have submitted “Kiełbasa,” even if is suggestive of Polishness). What they also demonstrated was the inscrutability of my native language. Forget the Super Bowl headline. Try saying these out loud (any of which could easily be spoken by a Polish kid):

Brzęczyszczykiewicz, Chrząszcz, Szczebrzeszyn.

We are a mixture of the unpronounceable and the Polenglish. A mysterious lot. But predictable as well. The winning entry for the unnamed asteroid? Karol Wojtyła.
posted by nina, 2/07/2005 08:13:07 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Gates  

I know, it is wrong to be in Rome and not do as the Romans do, but I am a football ignoramus and so I benevolently tolerate the Super Bowl craze, but I never participate in it.

Instead, tonight I went over to a friend’s and we watched documentaries. Your adrenaline flow could not surpass mine, because I finally got to see Running Fence, the film about Christo’s art project in California from the 70s. Why is this exciting? Because Christo is again setting up his miles and miles of terrain art (titled this time “The Gates”) and the unveiling of this two week wonder (26 years in the planning) will be in Central Park this Saturday, coinciding with my trip to the city. Will I blog about it? Stay tuned.

posted by nina, 2/06/2005 11:12:23 PM | link | (0) comments

And speaking of mincing (garlic, etc.)… 

A reader kindly requested that I increase the number of posts devoted to food. I cannot. I have a confession to make: I am taking a (rather extensive) break from major cooking. Indeed, today I restocked my refrigerator and this is how it now looks:
posted by nina, 2/06/2005 05:10:28 PM | link | (0) comments

an exciting array of foods and beverages Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/06/2005 05:08:57 PM | link | (0) comments
It would be even less full if someone hadn’t packed in a dozen cans of Klarbrunn many weeks back.

Have I grown tired of the culinary arts? Have I thrown in my polka-dot apron and replaced it with the now ever-present in the kitchen Dell Latitude? No. I continue to love to cook and I diligently have the Food Channel on every time I am at the gym, in case a new creative cooking idea pops up on the screen. But everything needs a pause and a rest in life and this is the season for me to withdraw from cooking (the exception: when people come over – then I am all about pots and pans again).

Do I not eat? Oh, I’ll broil a fish now and then. But I am discovering the simplistic beauty of eggs, cheeses and raw vegetables – hardly postable material! Not to worry, though. My trends never last. Today’s cooking calm may soon develop into a cooking mania. One never knows.

posted by nina, 2/06/2005 05:04:11 PM | link | (0) comments

Ocean proceeds mincingly  

Brian writes that if you type in ninacamic into Blogger, the spell check will suggest a replacement: mincingly (M-W def: “affectedly dainty or delicate”). Although some would scoff and say that a person who plunges into each day with spirit cannot lay claim to any such finespun imagery, that robustness is incompatible with something balmy and light, let me (timidly) suggest otherwise: Ocean does indeed at least aspire to be more subtle than bold, more whimsical than forceful, more delicate than coarse. Bottom line – Blogger spell check and I are friends. Mincingly is a better fit than schoolmarmishly.
posted by nina, 2/06/2005 02:31:35 PM | link | (0) comments

Neither prudish nor school-marmish 

Last night a friend mentioned that my reputation may run the way of Marion the librarian in some blogging circles. Oh, how wrong you, who think that, are! [And I am not referring to episodes of skinny dipping in my employer’s pool with the lively crowds that frequented the Connecticut summer residence where I once worked as a nanny.]

I want to raise a quiet thumbs up to references to sex and nudity (caveat: in their non-exploitative form, and I don’t care if that is a hard line to draw, it can be done!) though I’m still firmly negative on gore and violence. Just because I refrain from dotting the Ocean pages with words that would make Margaret Spellings ears turn pink, I see no reason why others cannot express themselves more *creatively*. There’s a long stretch of road from acknowledging our interest in sex and the various fascinating parts of our anatomy, to plastering highway billboards with pictures of naked women and men having sex with animals.

It came as no surprise that the public response to nipple-gate was usurped by those who were eager to turn this into an all-out campaign against any positive reference to gays or even cohabitants on network TV. A cleaned-up Super Bowl is a blimp of an event. An absence of racy dicey commercials may lead to a boring half-time, but in the scheme of things, it is just a moment in television history. The pendulum will swing back and Paul McCartney in a turtle neck will again be replaced by something more representative of our lust for the daring and the obscene.

But the door has indeed been propped open for regulation of a more invidious kind: the banning of references to sexuality (sad in its own right) has spread to a standing ovation in favor of the clean, the morally upright, the perfect heterosexual couple, raising the clean the morally upright, the perfectly groomed pair of children.

I say no. I’m all in favor of getting rid of violence and meanness, of cleaning up our discourse so that degrading offense is not bandied randomly, endlessly. But please, let's not go the route of a sanitized nation, where even this splendid Ocean post would be regarded as inappropriate for public viewing.

posted by nina, 2/06/2005 09:13:44 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Parental discretion advised: the post starts out in a gentle, bucolic tone and then turns towards violence and murder 

It seems that for years now I have been foisting Indian Lake Park on friends and family. They always tell me they like it, but when I suggest a return visit, they balk. Too far (it’s only 15 minutes northwest of Madison), too doggy (people do like to take their dogs for a walk there – it’s permitted), too hilly (why is this a drawback?)!

But today I may have found an Indian Lake sucker and she packs a camera – meaning she doesn’t tsk tsk with annoyance every time I myself pause to take photos. In fact she takes even more than I do.

Indian Lake is splendid. A birch forest covers a hilly terrain on one side, and on the other, fields stretch upwards, from the lake toward the tree line. In spring the birches dazzle. But in my current “I love February every since yesterday’s post and ever since it decided to be a record-breaking 50 degrees today” mode, they are equally beautiful now.

Two small incidents did remind me that we are not always at peace with the animals that roam the wild, or even those under human stewardship: two dogs were (playfully, we were told) mauling each other and in their exuberance, one decided to entice Ann into the game, nearly knocking her down in the process. Then, as we retraced our steps, we came across a large bone. Those dogs! -- we said. But a few paces further, there was another large bone, this one with a perfectly preserved deer hoof at the end of it, leaving us with these tricky questions: who attacked the deer? And are we next in line?

Oh, it did not strike me until now that maybe Ann will not be so fond of returning to Indian Lake County Park after all!

posted by nina, 2/05/2005 04:48:57 PM | link | (0) comments

They look like they're swaying to music. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/05/2005 04:46:08 PM | link | (0) comments

Are they bat houses or bird houses? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/05/2005 04:44:50 PM | link | (0) comments

A flash of color: a skier passing through. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/05/2005 04:43:55 PM | link | (0) comments

From a distance, the ice fishermen look like they are suspended in air. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/05/2005 04:42:41 PM | link | (0) comments

Crooked timber? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/05/2005 04:41:38 PM | link | (0) comments

A lovely path: heading in one direction, we find it littered with branches, on the return trek, it is littered with... other things. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/05/2005 04:39:49 PM | link | (0) comments

Law School: a place where enduring friendships emerge and where you're supposed to learn how to think like a lawyer. These are not mutually exclusive. 

If someday you are lucky enough to have a class as together and as bonded as my Torts section from the Fall is, you don’t have to imagine you will never again come together as a group when the semester ends.

In spite of horrendous time/place scheduling issues, a reunion was indeed orchestrated and it took place at the Orpheum last night. [For non-Madison readers, this is an old movie-house-turned-restaurant (and theater).]

It was perfect. You’re all terrific. Thank you!

posted by nina, 2/05/2005 06:56:59 AM | link | (0) comments

Are they announcing our arrival? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/05/2005 06:55:13 AM | link | (0) comments

The table is set... let the festivities begin! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/05/2005 06:54:17 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, February 04, 2005

Posting on a quiet Friday afternoon  

Yesterday, in an email exchange with a blogger and friend, we noted how little we actually knew about each other. One could argue that bloggers are people in search of stages, with not always a very interesting story to tell, that they seek audiences, that they reveal too much for no good reason.

And yet, my blogger friends (at least a good many of them) are some of the most guarded people I know (me included). If Ocean speaks for me, it does so quietly, I think, and the story it tells often is not an obvious one.

And isn’t it always like that with people? How many of their stories do we really know? I am reminded of a conversation I had a few years back with a relative of mine (whose identity and relationship to me, for obvious reasons, shall remain an Ocean mystery). We were sitting around a kitchen table, talking (this is a favorite spot and manner of communicating for me) and suddenly he got up, paced back and forth, faced me and said: “I killed a person once. You never knew this about me, did you? With my own bare hands.”

No need to worry, I do not think I am predisposed, by virtue of my relation to him, to commit heinous acts of this sort, yet it did strike me then that not only did I really not know of this particular episode of violence in his life, it is not the only thing that I did not know.

It seems to me that the dissatisfied person is the one who cannot live with that degree of mystery. The calm person accepts this inability of ours to find out much about the other, through blogs, conversations, or otherwise, even as he or she enjoys both the experience of perusing what little information is made available, and the experience of putting forth a little of his or her own life for someone else to take a look at.

posted by nina, 2/04/2005 04:14:21 PM | link | (0) comments

A post card from Madison: rewriting the month of February 

A reader from Massachusetts sent me an evocative note describing an early February outdoor ritual that she has put in place, and now I am wondering if I have been unfair to this month. She is right – there is something about the light outdoors that is a unique February phenomenon. And it is beautiful.

I cannot show it off well, not from a simple post of two photos that I took this morning during a walk along the Highlands, but if you look at the play of sunshine against the trees and snow, you’ll understand that there is a magic there and it does not appear in March, or April, or May. It belongs to February.

posted by nina, 2/04/2005 11:49:00 AM | link | (0) comments

the tones are gently calming, the harshness has been put aside until next year... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/04/2005 11:46:47 AM | link | (0) comments

a misty blue sky and ink shadows on the snow Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/04/2005 11:41:13 AM | link | (0) comments

Role reversal 

I received a notice of a preferred customer sale at Sherry-Lehmann (one of the top wine merchants in NY). Apparently I have been selected as one of their “Best Clients.” This surprised me, as in the last twelve months, I have purchased a total of 4 bottles of wine there, none costing more than $20. My love for good wine must have wafted over from Wisconsin – in other words, they could smell a sucker from a thousand miles away.

I left the brochure on the kitchen counter for several days, thinking it is a bit ridiculous to purchase wine in NY, given that Steve’s in Madison sells perfectly acceptable wines. But I am mad at Steve’s because they have not restocked their wonderfully inexpensive yet full-bodied Sicilian Cusumano Chardonnay 03 and so I picked up the brochure from Sherry-Lehmann this morning and examined it more closely, reveling in my Preferred Customer status.

And I was tempted. Wouldn’t you be? A special private shipment is coming in from the south of France of Les Romains, Terroirs Historiques – Grand Cru quality at an every day price. “Light, pale yellow gold…citrus fruits…Chardonnay richness…competes with many top Burgundies…” Say no more!

posted by nina, 2/04/2005 09:59:18 AM | link | (0) comments

...full-bodied... every day price... tempting... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/04/2005 09:59:16 AM | link | (0) comments
I call.

You’re from Wisconsin? Madison Wisconsin?

I used to live there. You probably were not even alive then… 1969 -72.
I was alive.

So you want a case of Les Romains?

Don’t you have a good local wine store there?
Yes, but I am mad at them for not having any more of the Sicilian Cusumano Chardonnay 03.

So you want us to ship you a case of this from the South of France?
Could you please? Isn’t it a nice, full-bodied wine with citrus fruits and Chardonnay richness?

Oh yeah. It’s a good enough wine. It’ll come sometime in mid-March. It’s still in France. I used to live right off of Park Street, near the Belt-way.
That would be Beltline. So do you have anything else, as long as I have you on the line?

Well yes, sure, but do you want my advice? Go to your local wine merchant and buy some wine from him. We’ll get this case out to you soon though. Take care now!
posted by nina, 2/04/2005 09:52:30 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Why would I undertake the incredibly unrewarding task of simul-blogging the Apprentice? 

Because I had a terribly long week and I need a diversion. It’s that simple. Ann suggested it, and it seemed preferable to surfing through yet another three dozen blogs and then falling asleep on the kitchen floor (remember: I have had almost no sleep in the last twenty four hours). Why not simply read a book? I need a new influx of reading material. Tomorrow I am sending out a dozen emails with the Q: have you read anything recently that you’ve loved?

Here’s the caveat: I have never seen the Apprentice. I am an Apprentice novice. I know about The Trump of course, and that’s reason enough not to ever turn on the show. Another issue that I have to face: I am so tired that I am concerned that I will not stay awake long enough to even see the beginning of the Apprentice, let alone the conclusion (is there a conclusion? does someone win? I do not know). If I suddenly stop, forgive me. Imagine that I am then asleep. Most likely on the kitchen floor.

Sixteen candidates are left. Who will be fired next? Oh. We only lose one tonight? Fifteen to go? To be resolved in fifteen weeks of shows? The Apprentice seems terribly long suddenly. Like a commitment to a semester of classes.

Okay. Suddenly someone is playing the guitar. It’s Danny. I don’t get it already. I am fired as a simlublogger.

No? Let me continue then.

A lot of people are talking about feelings. And teams! How did I miss that? Are there teams? Okay, I am rooting for this one! (Is there another?) (I am in over my head. On the Apprentice?! Yes, my IQ is higher than 100!)


Here’s Mr.Trump. The pink tie, the horrible hair, the bad performance – it makes me think that this man is famous ONLY because he is rich. Oh. That’s not an original point?

Now we are talking about Nescafe. I hear French-style music in the background. Actually I am reliving a nightmare: I have stepped into a class and I seem to have missed the first dozen lectures, yet I still have to take the exam. This is the Apprentice for me: the nightmare class that I joined mid-stream. Tomorrow I will get one hundred emails telling me I have completely misunderstood the show (ie not studied well enough for the exam).

This show makes me feel like a failure even though I have not been fired.

I am only twenty minutes into it. I know! I can fire myself from simulblogging!


posted by nina, 2/03/2005 07:56:24 PM | link | (0) comments

Stuffed with rose jelly, glazed, and with a sprinkling of candied orange peel 

My sister writes from Poland and reminds me that today is Fat Thursday – the day everyone in the country eats one (actually more like two or three) of these:
posted by nina, 2/03/2005 04:52:37 PM | link | (0) comments

glazed until it glistens Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 2/03/2005 04:52:08 PM | link | (0) comments
And now I know I have come full circle, because I remember blogging about Fat Thursday last year in February. If I began inserting reruns of posts would anyone notice? [This is merely a hypothetical question; Ocean remains true to its posted date.] Who digs into archives these days, given the wealth of current, freshly posted blog material out there?

Blogs seem tired if they have an older date attached to them, possibly because we associate blogs with commentaries on developing news stories. If I click on to someone’s blog today and I see a January post mark, I am disappointed. I think to myself – how stale! So why prowl around someone's even older material? And yet, believe me, my own Fat Thursday this year looks pretty much like my Fat Thursday did last year. And I am certain that people are standing in line in Poland waiting to buy a dozen doughnuts right now. Just as they did last year and the year before.

posted by nina, 2/03/2005 04:47:47 PM | link | (0) comments

Last night’s conversation over burgers on the Square 

For some, it was a theoretical musing. For others, a very real dilemma:

In a search for meaningful relationships in life, which is the better choice: a passionate engagement with a person who has obvious faults, ill-suited to your needs and temperament, or a calm and steady affection for someone who inspires little else?

[Two of us gave a thumbs down to either option, preferring the risk of continued search than an engagement with mediocrity or petulance. Our third burger-eater is still waffling.]
posted by nina, 2/03/2005 07:19:50 AM | link | (0) comments

Satin Pajamas 

If you're like me and crave blog-terruptions when working late at night, may I suggest taking a flight over to the European best-blog awards (aka the Satin Pajama Awards)? The winners, announced this Tuesday, are worth a visit and if you want to completely abandon yourself to blogo-mania, you can spend a wonderful night just following the various European links found on these sites. Yes, I know, why stay up all night to work if you're going to be so easily distracted? Why indeed...

(If you follow the blog commentary on the awards themselves, you'll note some regional sniping and grousing over which country produces the fairest of the blogs. Who says blog-biting is a product of the American right - left divide...)
posted by nina, 2/03/2005 05:22:21 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Poles on the Pope 

It’s hard to take seriously those who say that the Pope is just struggling with a bout of the flu. Haven’t they noticed that the Pontiff cannot hold his torso in an upright position anymore? And still, the Poles have hope, as if their privilege will end with the end of the Polish papacy. Consider this statement by Walesa:

"Every person past the age of 50 has some ailments and that is why we must understand…''

Indeed, the Pope, Mr. Walesa and I (according to Mr. Walesa) are swimming in the same sea of ill health. It may be the only time a comment is made that places the three of us in the same boat over anything. Oh, and the fact that we’re Polish. That’s it. No other similarities are readily identifiable.
posted by nina, 2/02/2005 09:19:44 PM | link | (0) comments

I’m ready for my Benidorm leave 

It’s February in Wisconsin – possibly the worst combination of place and time-of-year on the planet. The groundhog may feel ready to reach into storage and take out his bathing trunks, but I know this is all show and no substance. We have ahead of us a number of months (not weeks)where the dominant color outside will be a muddy gray.

Now, were I an employee of the large British food chain, ASDA, things would be different. The company has implemented a package of work-leave options for employees that is consistent with the British government’s desire to move more employers toward a greater appreciation for the “work – life balance.” One of the many* offerings is the so-called Benidorm leave (named after a Spanish beach resort) – available for employees over 50 who wish to spend winter months in warmer climates. I qualify! Oh, could I go for a Benidorm leave!

* Other benefits include: time off to conceive a child (recognizing that some couples need a little extra time and space…), grandparents’ leave, the usual maternity and paternity stuff, time off for religious festivals, etc. For those who are willing to forgo a salary but still want their job held for them, the company offers even more extensive “time off from work” options. If you have been an employee for at least three years you can take between 6 months and two years off for a career break.
posted by nina, 2/02/2005 08:18:37 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Back to community service: Ocean wants to take a stand on the matter of gifts and urge you to make friends with the post office 

Tonya recently posted a question on her blog: what does one send in a care package to a (obviously favorite!) college kid?

It’s so easy to fill a box with pleasurable items for a kid. But why do we neglect ourselves? When Tonya and Ann were in a serious car crash, I wondered if either would have liked a care package… There is nothing (I think) as uplifting as an unexpected mail gift.

Perhaps I am reacting to a week-end of stress, but I do have this nagging thought: why is it that we celebrate and honor the obvious and neglect the days when a gift wrapped in tissue paper and decorated with a cloth ribbon would have meant a lot?

I am reminded of the obsessive gift giving I encountered while traveling in Japan last spring. Could it be that they have it figured out and we are still muddled and confused? Instead of selling trashy candy bars at airports and train stations, why aren’t vendors displaying gift boxes for us to purchase and deliver to the important people in our lives?

posted by nina, 2/01/2005 07:00:54 PM | link | (0) comments

Hand me the mike, I have something to say! [Or not.] 

Ann, who views herself as a political moderate, is saddened by the vicious way in which she is discussed and linked to by lefties.

I have to both agree and disagree with her. Because, as a “lefty*,” I have to say that, in the days when Ocean was more engaged in political commentary, I was plenty slandered for it on right-leaning blogs. Not many, but then Ocean addresses a smaller audience than Althouse.

But I do agree with one aspect of her post: I, too, am saddened by so much of what I read in blogs, and comment threads are even worse. It’s as if writers are grabbing the mike and running to the stage without having once practiced the song they are about to force onto the audience. At first it seems funny and then it just seems sad, desperate, irresponsible.

The blog is a stage and unfortunately anyone can grab the mike. And I admit, sometimes, in fascination, I log on and listen, mesmerized by the lack of restraint, a demonic pleasure derived from seeing someone so exposed, so childishly out of control. But the experience always leaves me feeling empty. Writing and ranting that is neither clever nor funny hardly qualifies as banter. And most often, it pushes the boundaries of meanness.

It’s not just the left or the right. Thoughtlessness and meanness are, unfortunately, universal. Though thankfully, I have come across far more kind posts and blogs than snarky ones. Now if only blogs had a two-hour delay before publication, so that people would have a chance to think about what they had just typed with that first rush of adrenaline and reconsider going up on stage with it...

* I think Ann would agree that I do not shy away from talking about politics with moderates or even (gasp) right-leaning types, though I routinely walk away from people who feel they have to shout their ideas and use screechy language to be heard.
posted by nina, 2/01/2005 07:18:14 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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