We passed the time at places both swank and mundane, freaked my son out by touring a coal mine and a salt mine (too many dark places, though he did grow to like the salt mine when he found out about all the movie props stored there that are on display - and Dan and I got a kick out of hearing about the Boy Scout troops that have sleepovers in the museum part of the mine only to be awakened at midnight by the blasting that is still going on in working parts of the mine), spent the night at some hotels, one of which provided clarifying shampoo for my apparently misunderstood hair, and capped it off with a visit with my parents before driving on back home.
It was there that I took advantage of access to their cable teevee and their periodicals.
The only reality show that has any business being on TV these days? Say Yes to the Dress. Not even house flipping shows are that much fun anymore - who can sell anything in this market? People are still getting married, so check out all the blowout sales, watch for those brides trying to stuff an entire dress into their purses without paying, and take some bets on which styles the women are gonna choose - there might be apple martinis riding on your pick.
In Newsweek, a reporter who was in captivity at Tehran's infamous Evin Prison details how paranoid the Islamic Republic's clerics are. (Clay has also found evidence that Iran's Revolutionary Guard has even less regard for the rest of the world's opinion. Shirin Ebadi is one of the people working very hard to heal her country, and her country is spitting in her face again and again and again. So not good.) The latest Time magazine, however, has declared the 2000's to be "the Decade from Hell" - and guess what event is the centerpiece?
And what about the Hurricane Katrina debacle? An act of God, right? Not really. When the storm raced toward New Orleans in late August 2005, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration feared the worst. For years they had been warning the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversaw the city's 350 miles of levees, that its system was inadequate. The scientists wanted the Corps to revise the Standard Project Hurricane, a model that determines how extensive the levees should be. For instance, the Corps did not consider the tendency of soil to sink over time, and it excluded the possibility of a highly powerful storm hitting the city because that was unlikely, which violates sophisticated principles of statistics and just plain common sense. On Nov. 18, a federal judge ruled that the Corps was directly responsible for flooding in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward. "The Corps' lassitude and failure to fulfill its duties resulted in a catastrophic loss of human life and property in unprecedented proportions," the judge said. The government is expected to appeal.
Update, 12/1: BuggyQ has more on Time's verdict on the decade over at First Draft.
Another neat thing about visiting my family is checking out all the reading material they have in the form of catalogs. Loads and loads of catalogs. The catalogs are attractive and repellent all at the same time. So much stuff, so few bucks. Capitalist fantasies dance from their stapled spines, beckoning us to dispose of any disposable income we might still possess in these trying times. One of my personal favorites is one that is held together without any staples whatsoever: Neiman Marcus' Christmas Book.
The fun this year really begins on page 48.
Cupcake-shaped cars? Kinda sick-sweet.
A chandelier made of recycled plastic bottoms of soda bottles? I could make that.
A Neiman's edition Jaguar? Feh. Bring back the mauve Neiman's Hummer.
Oooh, a modern-day Algonquin round table! Roz Chast! Anna Deavere Smith! The Ephrons, Nora and Delia! Adam Gopnik! Henry Louis Gates! George Stephanopoulos! ???? Ummm, John Lithgow? And fine print on this one? *Final guest list will include at least eight authors committed to donating their time for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, pending scheduling arrangements. Final guest list is at our discretion. Substitutions could occur if unplanned absences become necessary.
Hell, I'll just donate to First Book instead.
I mean, you ever had the chicken at the Algonquin? Dry as a biblical bone.