November 28, 2012

Something beautiful

I've had little enthusiasm for blogging of late but if I never link to another piece of writing this would be a beautiful one to finish up with:

Loving a Child on the Fringe by Cristina Nehring

Cut to: Paris, fall 2012. I am sitting next to my cherry-lipped, porcelain-skinned daughter, now 4 years old. I step out of the medical transport van that has ferried us home from her preschool and heave her onto the sidewalk. She giggles and extends two fingers to stroke my cheek. Before the driver can pull away from the curb, I gather her against my heart, draw back a few inches, smile in wonder into her radiant smile, and kiss her face and hair and temples as holiday shoppers stop and stare.

Eurydice’s and my walks through town are punctuated by spontaneous remakes of Doisneau’s “The Kiss”—except with toddler and mother switched in for boy and girl. Not that things are easy . . .
And they are not. Read the rest and pass it on.

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November 23, 2012

Steyn stuff

Well, I'm disappointed. It has become apparent that Santa won't be bringing me a new Christmas CD from Mark and Jessica this year. But there is some compensation: Steyn is making his two-hour The Mark Steyn Christmas Show available and it's really great. Here's what I said about it in 2009:

Aside from its intrinsic appeal as a Steyn production, it contains some authentic musical gems by Dorothée Berryman, Monique Fauteux, and Elisabeth von Trapp. I'm looking for Berryman recordings but there isn't much out there. The carol by Fauteux is gorgeous, with the added interest that its lyrics were composed by one of the awesome North American Martyrs, St. Jean de Brebeuf.

Update 12/26: I've since listened to the entire two hours of Steyn's Christmas show (some parts more than once) and need to mention a few more highlights:
- Mark's interview with Hugh Martin, composer of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, featuring the composer's own poignant rendition of the song.
- Berryman, Fauteux, and Steyn's performance of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Ooh-la-la!
Assuming the recording is the same as the one originally offered as a podcast, other features worthy of note:
- Mark and Rob Long discuss the best sitcom ever, The Dick Van Dyke Show
- Mark and Jessica do a rollicking extended version of "It's De-Lovely." I can testify that it holds up to compulsive repeated listening, a la "The Christmas Glow Worm."
- Dorothée Berryman performs a beautiful winter medley which includes the neglected "Winter Weather." (Hey Mark, how's about you and Jessica do a full version of that next year?)

("Winter Weather" was written by Ted Shapiro in 1941. Here's Peggy Lee's version.)

Speaking of Christmas shopping, we'll be posting our annual children's books suggestions soon. For now, here's last year's list. More recommended titles here. As always, we greatly appreciate any shopping you do through out site.

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November 21, 2012

How ironic

Today's must-read is Christy Wampole's How to Live Without Irony. Every word rings true for me. A few excerpts:

The ironic frame functions as a shield against criticism. The same goes for ironic living. Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.

How did this happen? It stems in part from the belief that this generation has little to offer in terms of culture, that everything has already been done, or that serious commitment to any belief will eventually be subsumed by an opposing belief, rendering the first laughable at best and contemptible at worst. This kind of defensive living works as a pre-emptive surrender and takes the form of reaction rather than action. 
Excuse me while I hop on my hobby-horse for a minute and add that the flight from vulnerability and embrace of defensiveness are found not only in hipsters but in insecurely attached children as well. Gordon Neufeld, co-author of my favorite parenting book, has written:
But there’s the rub: the heart is also a place of great vulnerability. To care about someone is to set the stage for getting hurt if the caring is not reciprocated. To seek to matter to someone is to be wounded by signs of not mattering. To give ones heart away is to risk it being broken. To share the secrets of ones heart is to chance being misunderstood and abused. A child can bear only so much vulnerability. When attachments aren’t safe, the vulnerability is overwhelming. [. . .]

The flight from vulnerability involves a numbing out of vulnerable feelings, a tuning out of perceptions that lead to vulnerable feelings, and even a backing out of attachment. It is this flight from vulnerability that is at the heart of the matter with children who have problems learning and behaving. It is this flight from vulnerability that we are witnessing when we see children divesting of caring, protesting of boredom, no longer feeling shame and embarrassment, no longer experiencing felt fear.
You can read portions of Neufeld's book on Amazon. I especially recommend  Chapter 7, "The Flatlining of Culture." But back to Ms. Wampole:
What would it take to overcome the cultural pull of irony? Moving away from the ironic involves saying what you mean, meaning what you say and considering seriousness and forthrightness as expressive possibilities, despite the inherent risks. It means undertaking the cultivation of sincerity, humility and self-effacement, and demoting the frivolous and the kitschy on our collective scale of values. It might also consist of an honest self-inventory.
Okay, I'll come clean. I have a pair of ironic chairs in my living room. Here's one of them:
I like to think of them as Mad Men chairs. I got them at the thrift store for $15 each (talked-down from $20!) and I do actually like some things about them -- they're comfortable, not too large, and pleasing in shape. But then there's the fabric. The only way to live with that is ironically. Not only is it really shiny, but the glaring gold can sometimes take on an unwholesome greenish tint. Maybe I'll take Wampole's advice and demote my finds to a less visible location. Or throw a couple of discreet brown blankets over them.

Anyway, read the whole thing. Hat tip goes to husband @Campion1581 who tweeted a couple of great excerpts from the piece.

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November 18, 2012

Music break: Not Sinatra

Fitz and the Tantrums. It's kind of a retro sound:

Hat tip: @Michaelbd. Tons more music at Live from Daryl's House.

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