Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Jesus Junk"

Ever wonder what happened to Willie Aames? I hadn’t either until I came across the chapter on Bibleman in Daniel Radosh’s Rapture Ready.

From skater devotionals to the UCW (Ultimate Christian Wrestling), Radosh has pulled together a surprising page-turner on Christian culture. Radosh, who is Jewish, examines the multi-faceted marketplace where Jesus is the reason to spend your money. He spends nary a moment at an actual church service but divides his time between passion plays, raves, and comedy acts.

Journey with him to get Kirk Cameron’s autograph inside a mock museum of evolution (Exhibit A: “The Ascent of Women (rescheduled due to hair appointment)”), hang out at the Cornerstone music festival (“Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music?”), and sit in on a seminar on sex ( "We discovered that God’s Word is holy and hot.”).

But wait, there’s more. A handy web appendix of video clips allow the table of contents to speak for themselves.

Testamint, anyone?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Feeling WASPish?

You know that friend of yours that sends the funny emails, takes her kids to pick organic produce, and married the sickeningly handsome poetry professor? Well, she wrote a book.

To be exact, she wrote a memoir about her divorce. These seem to be all the rage these days. An Amazon search for "divorce memoir" came back with 896 titles. Among them - Split, Eat Pray Love, and now, Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies.

Whether you read this as a cautionary tale, for solace, or simply because she's that chick from Law and Order, you'll find a strange form of escapism in this memoir if you've always longed to be one of those people that "summers."

Gillies and her husband Josiah move to Ohio when he gets hired to teach at Oberlin. As Gillies writes, "I got a thrill knowing I was going to take on my children without help, cook every meal, and go it on my own in a new town where I knew nobody." A few pages later, she and the children (and summer babysitter) travel from the summer house in Maine to Ohio to join Josiah who is already there. When he fails to prepare dinner for their arrival, we can already see where this marriage is headed.

A few idyllic decriptions of William Morris wallpaper and produce stands later, enter Sylvia stage left. Sylvia is the latest English dept. hire at Oberlin. Although Gillies confesses she - like her mother - says certain words in French, Sylvia is French, a smoker, and curiously married to her first cousin (conveniently left behind in New York). Befriended by Gillies, Sylvia eats at their house at least one night a week and asks Josiah for help in her job search. A few months later, at Gillies' suggestion, Sylvia and Josiah end up at the opera together one Sunday afternoon. When he returns, the following exchange occurs:
Gillies: "Bully, you were there for one hundred years."

Josiah: "I know. Awful - Go take a bath- I've got the boys."
As removed from reality as this dialogue seems, it's this very quality that keeps you transfixed from the first cat fight (fight about cats) to the moment Josiah tells her he's leaving. Like that friend you love to hate because she loses weight when she's stressed, paints her kitchen in a yellow named for her toddler, and gets paid to kiss Chris Meloni, you put up with her for her dramatic spin on things. And these days, you need that spin.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


A few weeks ago, I was telling my husband about the fascinating opening chapter of this book over dinner. Here’s the deal. The Canadian professional hockey world is dominated by players with January, February, and March birthdays. As author Malcom Gladwell explains, the cut-off is January 1st for the kiddie hockey leagues. Therefore, December boys are competing with the much bigger January boys. Of course size alone doesn’t determine success. The bigger boys, most often born in the early months of the year, are chosen to play on the select teams and receive better coaching, play more games, and invest in more practice time. AND that’s the kicker. Time. 10,000 hours of time should you want to be an expert at something.

The next thing I knew, the book had disappeared from my nightstand.

Once I got the book back from M, I was more intrigued by the chapter on plane crashes being caused by mitigated speech. Gladwell includes transcripts of Colombian and Korean co-pilots who hinted at dire circumstances rather than risk disrespecting their captain with more direct language. This combined along with minor technical glitches, bad weather, and pilot fatigue causes more crashes than I realized. Interestingly, Korean Air has improved their safety record by implementing an English-only policy for their pilots.

While I was finishing the book, M was working on some figures. He’s concluded that he’s got around 352,800 hours left: 88,200 for sleep, 147,000 for work, 29,400 for eating, and 88,200 hours for husbandry, fathering, and becoming an expert in...well, something.

As M contemplates his 10,000 hours, we’re also considering “red-shirting” or holding back our children who have July and August birthdays. The concern is they won’t be as developmentally ready to learn the same math concepts as those older September babies. And as Outliers emphasizes, success is all about opportuntity. And hours. Hours of practice.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Library Valet

In the weeks leading up to E’s birth I requested several books on toddlers and babies through our library’s website. Since our library is part of a system of nearly 30 branches, it is much easier to go online and request that a certain book be transferred to my branch rather than try to browse or seek out call numbers with an active three-year-old. I usually go to the library once or twice a week to pick up the books I’ve reserved and to let P pick out books or DVDs.

After I had E, it was at least 10 days before I could get it together to go pick up my latest requests. Eager to show off the new baby – all the library ladies took an interest in my pregnancy - I went up to the desk. Before I could even find my library card, the librarians were already making trips to the back room to haul out my reserves. Turns out I had more than 15 books to pick up. As I cradled E in one arm and tried to prevent P from running back to the children’s section or going home with one of the non-mainstream Internet users, the librarians proceeded to fill up my bag with heavy parenting books, novels, and DVDs. While I carried E and held P’s hand, one of the librarians picked up my bag and carried it out to the car for me. She even buckled P into her car seat.

Since then I’ve broken my request record. One morning I had 17 children’s books to pick up. However, as I only had E that day, I managed not to need the library’s personal valet service.