Sunday, December 21, 2008

Don't Burn Down the Little House

Recently someone in my book group expressed a strong opinion that the Little House on the Prairie Books were pretty much useless in terms of literary significance because of Ma's racist references to the Native Americans. She felt these references impugned the value of the entire book. It was an interesting idea to consider, because of course no one would be supportive of anything that even suggests racism. But somehow, her stance felt wrong to me and I had to let it sit for a while to consider it, and eventually (as always) my thoughts settled and I understood how I felt.

There are many books with racist overtones that are highly valued in literature because they present the complete picture of life at a particular point in time. We don't stop reading them because of a racist remark. If we did, we would lose some of our greatest literary treasures. Would we change Gone With the Wind, for example?    That's tantamount to censorship and really, what is the next step? Shall we start book burning? Or maybe just red-lining the parts that offend us?

I think this woman is assuming that one would read Little House and think it is somehow correct to make these racist references. But for heaven's sake -- this was written hundreds of years ago. No intelligent person would make that leap today and, in fact, it makes perfect fodder for thinking about how much life has changed. (Along with thinking about how we no longer blow up pig bladders to toss around as balloons.)

Please God, let us never in our world start to edit our book choices based on some individual's decision about what they decide seems inappropriate to them. It has happened too many times in history and is happening right now in this world. If anything, as readers we should fight against this kind of controlling behavior because what are we as a society if we are not, at the very bottom of it, able to be free thinkers? While often well intentioned, it never, ever ends well.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


"A Santa hat is not enough. Get a Santa suit. Buy a Santa suit. Make a Santa suit. Steal a Santa suit. Get creative: be a Secret Santa, a Santasaurus, Candy-cane, a Reindeer, a Chanukah Chicken, a GD latke, Stewardess Santa, Knight Rider Santa, Crusty Peace Punk Santa, the occasional Legless Reindeer, Chanukah Squirrel, Emo-Elf, or the Santichrist.
Just don't wear your++++ing jeans."

These are some of the Santa Rules that are part of the instructions on the SantaCon NYC website, part of the larger site.  If you haven't been to it ---------well folks, you are missing out on quite a site.  And hey, there are many places around the U.S. where it is not too late for you, too, to take part in this annual debacle of debatable debauchery. Personally I grimace when I see them coming, but I'm a fairly good sport and they do have rules (expletives deleted as there are some minors who read my blog):  

"Santa acts like Santa. Be jolly. Belly-laugh. Let people sit on your lap. Give out gifts.
Santa doesn't seek media attention. "Ho-ho-ho" is good. "Publicity ho" is lame.
Santa doesn't get arrested. Please remember the FOUR F's:
Don't fool with kids.
Don't fool with cops.
Don't fool with security.
Don't fool with Santa."

(Note that nowhere in the original four F's did the word "fool" actually appear.)

Basically you can think of the SantaCons as a swarthy group of pirates, mostly male but some female, dressed as jolly old St. Nicholas, who roam the streets of specific cities together on designated days in search of buried treasure and other booty, all in the interest of holly jolly fun.  I think that's pretty accurate.  They're interesting to watch, sort of in the way you watch, say, a really bad singer completely botch the National Anthem -- covering your ears but somehow not quite running away in horror.

This last line from the SantaCon site may sum up exactly what they are all about perfectly: 
"Santa does not make children cry (unless they whine, snivel, or otherwise deserve it).
Really - If you see kids, give them nice toys, candy, or something pleasant. Feel free to urinate on the parents. Tourists fall somewhere in between the two -- adjust depending on their attitude."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Have an organized holiday

Someone on a chat board I visit recently asked the four "important" questions, below, about holiday gift wrapping.  Given that today is November 30, I was astounded at the answers she received,  since so many people said they were done shopping and wrapping, had color-coded their gifts and were completely organized for their holidays (whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.) -- an entire month in advance.  Here are the aforementioned questions, and below them are my answers.
1.  Have you wrapped your presents yet?
2.  Do you color code your wrapping paper for different people, destinations, etc.?
3.  Do you buy new each year or use the leftovers?
4.  Do your gifts go under the tree?

And herewith my heretical answers:

1.  I wrap as I buy, so I have wrapped two presents.  In cute red paper with a tiny white floral print with a lovely gold satin ribbon.

2.  I never even thought of color coding.  How clever.  (And where were you when I had kids living at home and I needed someone to suggest this amazing idea?)

3.  I buy new wrapping paper and pay top price, because I have to wait for inspiration to move me to "wrapping action."  On the day after Christmas, when others are out grabbing up those fantastic gift paper bargains, I'm home savoring cookies, clementines and coffee.  

4.  No gifts shall appear under the tree.  The cat(s) and dog will occupy that position as long as possible.

Clearly I'm not a candidate for the "Holiday Shopping Person of the Year Award."  I really do admire those who are buttoned-up and prepared in advance; however, I've reached a point in my life where I accept that I'm not one of them.  It's all good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gratitude Journals

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is Thank You, it will be enough."
-meister eckhart

My gratitude journal started when I was in my 20's.  I didn't actually call it a gratitude journal back then, but it was a place where I recorded all the  things that made me happy or inspired me or for which I was grateful -- quotes that struck a chord in me, pictures that made me happy, anything in my life that was especially uplifting and made my spirit soar.  I started compiling it at a time when I was particularly grateful for the spiritual help I had been given with a difficult problem -- one I couldn't solve on my own.  I asked -- prayed really, and I'm not a praying person -- for the help out loud, and the impossible was given to me.  It was really a miracle, and I was so grateful that I needed to find a way to say thank you.  That's when my gratitude journal began, and I've never stopped.  

These days I still put all kinds of things into my gratitude journal -- funny jokes I come across, silly pictures (dogs wearing hats, people  making faces), quotes that inspire me, anecdotes about things that at first don't seem gratitude-provoking but later remind me that I should be grateful for even the annoyances in my life.  I'm thinking of it today because tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the day when we all stop to think about things we are grateful for.  

I love Thanksgiving, (even if I do have to deal with the stress of trying to cook a reasonable meal), because I love to look at the faces of the family that I love all together in one place.  I think back to the many  Thanksgivings that have passed and especially those of my childhood, of my father's delight in saying "I have all of my loved ones with me!" and of the faces of my brothers and sister, mom and dad  and grandma as we were growing up, sitting around the dining room table.  I remember the year it snowed on Thanksgiving just as we were eating our dinner, and the walks I took with my dad after our meal.  And I remember my grandma Flora talking endlessly in Italian.  They are treasures that are just as much a part of my gratitude journal as the pictures I've pasted in there over the years.  Tomorrow I will be grateful for those memories and for having my own children with me, just as my father was with us.  Life is indeed a circle and love?  Immortal.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's Your Holiday Tradition?

I'm feeling in need of some adult holiday traditions in my life.  Someone in one of my groups (and I can't recall which one) asked what adult holiday traditions we each have -- not the ones that revolve around being children or around having children, like putting cookies out for Santa, but actual adult things.  And people started naming all sorts of things.  Do you know there is a couple who happily decorate their turkey's wishbone every Thanksgiving evening?   This is true.  *nodding head with seriousness here*   They grab some champagne, glue and ribbons and glitter (I suppose) and decorate away.  They have a history of doing this every year.  My tradition is washing the dishes and falling asleep or watching other people sleep; namely, my husband and his brother or my son.   Once my kids got past the Santa stage I forgot about traditions altogether.  I didn't think I needed them, but now I'm wondering if I'm missing out on something.

So this year, with an eye toward trying new things,  I'm officially reinstating traditions.  However, I'm not really sure how a tradition gets started when it doesn't revolve around official things like the Santa cookies or the Halloween pumpkin.  Do you do something once and find that you  like it so much that you do it again, and after a while it's kind of a tradition?   And when is it officially "The Tradition?"  Hmmm.  But the thing is, (and I can feel myself veering off the path here) what if there is a year when you don't want to do it?  Or someone who was involved the first or second time can't make it or doesn't want to do the thing?  Then are you breaking tradition?  Here is the little twist in the path where my problems start to pop  their heads up.  This is exactly why my first five blogs ended after the first two entries:  the minute I started them, they felt like serious commitments from which I could not escape.  A net.  A trap.

Ok, maybe now I'm letting you, my anonymous reader know just a little too much about me. I'm not commitment phobic.  I have a mortgage, for God's sake.  So back to the topic:  traditions and how they get a stranglehold on you and choke the life out of you until you can't breathe and want to die, like a box of godiva chocolates on a Christmas table.  

I've decided this year will be our first Thanksgiving movie day; potentially the start of a tradition if all goes well.  So in this case, it will be Ally and Ben, Lou and me. We'll watch a new DVD at home:  The Clique movie because our dear friend Ellen Marlow happens to be starring in it, and how often do you get to do that?  Then dinner, and after dinner a movie out -- and I might even skip the popcorn if I'm disgustingly full of turkey and dessert.  And voila!  A tradition for this year at least.  If we want to see a movie again next year?  Two years of a tradition!   And if we have company on an occasion of Thanksgiving Future, and if the companeers want to join us, along they come.    If they are busy?  No problem.  No nets, no traps. It's not their tradition, after all.  And if I don't want to go, I won't go and they can go themselves.  The perfect tradition:  you can put it on auto pilot.    Tradition  It's a perfect thing, is it not?  

I'm practically feeling like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

Monday, November 3, 2008

book sculptures

If you enjoy altered books, then you might be interested in a different kind of artistic "altering" -- the actual folding of the book into geometric shapes or the arrangement of books into realistic or abstract shapes or designs. The clever window artists at Anthropologie's flagship store, Rockefeller Center here in New York City are currently featuring a display of such art. While it is under the radar of the usual gallery write-ups and reviews, I think it's an absolute must-see for every artist who likes to think not just between the lines but perhaps even beyond them. Not sure how long the windows will stay up, but if you go to Rock for Christmas, peek over to see if the books are still there.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Dewey Goes Halloweening

Not strictly artistic, I know, but I couldn't resist putting a shot of Dewey in his Viking outfit on here. He does love posing and wearing this stuff. Really.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's your Six-Word Memoir

From the book Not Quite What I Was Planning to Say by Larry Smith:

When Hemingway famously wrote, "For sale, baby shoes, never worn," he proved that an entire story can be told using a half dozen words.  When the online storytelling magazine Smith asked readers to submit six-word memoirs, they proved a whole, real life can be told this way, too.  The results are fascinating, hilarious, shocking and moving.

From small sagas of bittersweet romance ("Found true love, married someone else") to proud achievements and stinging regrets ("After Harvard, had baby with crackhead") these terse true tales relate to the diversity of human experience in tasty, bite-size pieces.

What's your six-word memoir?  And what would the art look like to accompany it?  I'm thinking about mine now...

P.S.: My six word memoir is this: "Moving Day Tomorrow; No Forwarding Address." I think you would need to think about it for a while to understand. I'd love to hear more of yours.