Saturday, November 07, 2009

I saw this in a snazzy display in the local bookstore and couldn't resist venting to the bookstore employees over the sad irony of the sticker on the front proclaiming a free Gourmet subscription offer to the purchaser of the cookbook...especially after I'd seen the aftermath of Conde Nast's decision. Run and get that copy of Gourmet Today before they go into a second printing that will, no doubt, contain a new forward by Ruth Reichl complete with an atmosphere of sackcloth and ashes....but boy, those chocolate hazelnut cookies you bake will be divine, I'm sure.

Been reading about Dubai. It's fascinating, but I don't want to drive there. Really, I'd rather be dodging traffic on Manhattan's Central Park West.

Please give G some love. Send some good vibes out to all those who just applied to get their kids into what are still the better public schools here as well. It's all still one giant clusterfook 'round here. I wish I could give parents and teachers more hope in this area, I do.

Dan turned 38 today. He's planning a trip this summer for the family to head to Bialystok to check out some ancestral roots. Granted, when I think of Bialystok and Poland, I think of at least four things:
Happy birthday to my travelin' man.


What I have had on the brain for most of this week, however, are musings on the power of words.

One man used his words to try to cover his lack of deeds, and, though there was some food for thought in his criticisms of New Orleans, his actions spoke much louder. Don't go calling the former Setback Czar a carpetbagger, though, as, once one looks back on the true meaning of the term, the nature of it opens the critic himself to criticism as well as a big picture of how the meanings of words can get bent, twisted, and obscured over time to the point where one is left thinking My God, I never knew that, but you know, I was educated that it meant this.

That thought really doesn't mean too much in the scheme of things. My father had to confront an educated woman and fellow scientist when he gave a scientific seminar in Europe a few years back on her still-held erroneous belief that Jewish people used the blood of Christian children in baking Passover matzah - because her father taught her. About the craziest thing I've ever heard of involving the actions of Jewish people was when Shabbetai Zvi, the self-proclaimed seventeenth-century messiah, married himself to a Torah scroll...but we don't do blood libel. Hell, I can't stand the sight of my own blood being taken, or of anyone else's being taken, thanks. But I digress.

Words. Obscuring, illuminating, insane words, perfect for criticism in all directions and for the ones Greg Meffert did his best to throw in the direction of our local daily purveyor of words to try to mask his actions. Thankfully, the feds aren't buying it - they are throwing a bookcase or two of indictments at Meffert, his wife, and Mark St. Pierre, for bilking us all out of money meant to serve the city's technological needs in order to line their pockets and enjoy perks such as trips abroad or trips to local adult entertainment clubs. Cue my favorite look of shock here. No amount of pretty words can save the man now...they can, at the most, get him a reduced sentence.

Sentence - ha! Could be a group of words structured to form meaning, or a grouping of years spent in jail. The tangled webs we weave with these letters of the alphabet we have at our disposal.

Finally, I just finished reading Dave Cullen's amazing work Columbine, which showed me how absolutely wrong I was - and how wrong we all were - about the whys of the massacre there. Cullen doesn't mince words over what we ought to be doing regarding the latest shooting at Fort Hood: reserve judgment until more of the facts are known, something that, in this age of multiple news outlets rolling out pundits for every miniscule aspect of our lives, we could all use more of:

If we have learned anything from these tragedies, is that we won't get a firm handle on why for weeks, months, or even years. At this distance from Oklahoma City, we were convinced it was the work of Arabs or Muslims, and what was the difference between those two anyway? The Columbine killers' journals---far and away the most revealing evidence---were released in 2006, more than seven years after the murders....

...If we guess now, the myths will be with us forever. Ten years after Columbine, most of the public still believes it was about jocks, Goths, and the Trench Coat Mafia. No, no, and no. It wasn't even intended primarily as a school shooting: the failed bombs were supposed to be the main event. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not loners, outcasts, or misfits, nor were most of the school shooters. Most shooters do not fit the profile we have come to accept, because no accurate profile exists.

The whole thing is here. And that rush to judge "why" Cullen cautions against would have been quite useful when the events of 8-29-05 came 'round here.

It makes one wonder at times if words mean a damn thing. Are they contributing to the apathy and numbness of some about the news? Perhaps the right words might be better, if we could only find them. The search can seem akin to ferreting out needles in haystacks. Why even bother? All that anguish could well breed only more anguish and misunderstanding, or outright contempt and hate.

Well, sometimes a little inspiration comes down the pike when you least expect it.
I was in Amsterdam and I just stumbled into the Jewish museum. (Charlotte)Salomon's work - the paintings and the text that make up this book - was on display there. There was something about the line of suicides in her family - her grandmother, aunt and mother all took their own lives - and the idea of inescapable fate that drew me in. Since I've become a father I've become very aware of the things that are handed down on purpose and by accident. And I'm interested in what can be resisted. I have a bad habit, for example, of being anti-confrontational. I know why I have it - we can usually trace these things to historical and familial trauma. Part of being a parent is the opportunity to correct these things. I admire Salomon for resisting her fate so forcefully through her art. Sorrowfully, the Nazis captured her not long after she made these paintings and she was killed at Auschwitz. The conflict is: How can art redeem or correct? Sometimes it can't. And yet we keep doing it.

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