"Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics
live in them. My mother cleans them."
Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
I found #62 especially trenchant:
A great way to make white people feel good is to tell them about situations where poor people changed how they were doing things because they were given the ‘whiter’ option. “Back in my old town, people used to shop at Wal*Mart and then this non-profit organization came in and set up a special farmers co-op so that we could buy more local produce, and within two weeks the Wal*Mart shut down and we elected our first Democratic representative in 40 years.” White people ... will be filled with euphoria and will invite you to more parties to tell this story to their friends, so that they can feel great.From Shannon and Colleen, two of the whitest girls around. Erin go bragh!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Had they been available at the time, I probably would have received one of these instead.
Thanks to Derek.
Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
No sooner had the ink dried on her first book than my pal Zana began talking about another. The previous effort had been collaborative, but the next would be all about her.
In the years since, she'd occasionally fed me pages of her journal, which I scarfed down like truffles. (The chocolate kind, not the mushroom kind. I hate mushrooms.) I encouraged her to publish -- so she could reach a wider audience and so I could read more myself. And now, finally, she has.
Legless in the Garden deals mostly with Zana's ALS experience. But it also offers a candid look into other aspects of her life, including her relationships, her childhood in Malaysia, and the exotic (to me) flora and fauna of her enchanting garden in suburban Sydney. It's given me a deeper perspective on my friend than more than a decade of emailing.
You can buy a copy here. It's available in both traditional and (yay!) electronic forms.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
She saw herself as an ordinary person, but few others shared that view. Her good sense, goodwill, and courage endeared her to people far beyond our family and even secured her a footnote in history.
Grandmère* was neither the first nor the last in the family to earn distinction. Her paternal grandfather, Jules-Émile Planchon, was a renowned botanist, and the Impressionist painter Frédéric Bazille was a relation. Her husband, Ernest-Charles Babut, was a noted scholar in early Christianity; his father, Charles, was a beloved and influential Protestant pastor; and a nephew, Daniel Bovet, would win a Nobel Prize in 1957. Grandmère’s endeavors, though less celebrated, were at least as consequential.
It’s hard to know what role misfortune played in forging her character, but it certainly helps explain her lifelong concern for the disadvantaged and dispossessed. Between 1909 and 1922, she lost her father, her husband, both sons, and her financial security. She also endured the privations of two major wars, and yet she somehow remained almost preternaturally warm and optimistic.
Grandmère was an early suffragette, and during World War I she trained and volunteered as a nurse. When that conflict left her a widow at 29 with a meager pension, she tapped her only real asset: the commodious house and garden that were her grandfather’s legacy. She rented rooms and served meals to paying guests, most from the nearby University of Montpellier, where her family had studied and taught for generations.
Not all of the lodgers were locals. When Franco’s takeover sent Spanish republicans scrambling in the mid-’30s, Grandmère took in several, including a family that stayed for over a decade. She did the same for refugees during the French-Algerian War and later for a few ex-convicts she’d befriended while they were in prison.
World War II put her legendary resourcefulness to its greatest test. Like many Huguenots, with their own long history of persecution, Grandmère became involved in the Resistance. Gambling that no one would hassle a sweet-looking middle-aged woman, she relayed messages, pedaling into the countryside and leaving them under a rock for pickup by the next link in the chain. (Years later, she would be greatly amused to learn that said comrade was her next-door neighbor.)
As the Germans closed in, members of Grandmère’s church helped as many Jews as possible to safety. She and her confrères, as part of an underground railroad, shepherded children to such havens as Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, the Cévenol village whose heroic story was recounted in the documentary Weapons of the Spirit. But many people were inevitably left behind, and Grandmère heeded her instincts and opened her home, quietly sheltering up to 20 at a time, some for long periods.
The next several years were spent under the enemy’s nose – almost literally. A French army installation sat directly across the street, and the Gestapo had commandeered a neighboring villa as their local headquarters.
The latter provided a rare moment of comic relief during those dark days. One of Grandmère’s trees was toppled in a storm, falling onto the garden wall and projecting into the street. When she went out to have a look, she was startled to find a Nazi officer wringing his hands and bemoaning the “tragic loss” of “such a beautiful tree.” Tiens, she thought. Il torture les gens, mais il pleure pour mon arbre. (How odd. He tortures people, yet he’s crying over my tree.)
“Wasn’t she scared?” I once asked my great-aunt Antoinette, who admitted with a chuckle, “Once or twice she got a little nervous when people argued in Yiddish in the garden.”
Somehow they survived, thanks to Providence and the complicit silence of untold people. Many of those who’d found refuge chez Grandmère stayed in touch after the war, some returning to visit in happier circumstances.
In 1976, Grandmère was informed that Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial authority in Israel, had named her one of the Righteous Among the Nations. (I much prefer the simple French term, les Justes.)
Her response, translated in a 1993 book on the subject, was very much in character. The designation, she wrote, “has confounded me, for I deserve no decoration. Besides, I am against decorations. However, I accept your medal not as a decoration but as a sign of the friendship which penetrates my heart…. Please, I beg of you, do not arrange an official ceremony for the awarding of this medal. One deserves no credit for doing what one’s heart and conscience dictate. One need not be thanked for this; even less to glorify in it. Hence, I say: ‘thank you’ … simply thanks, with all the admiration and friendship that I bear toward your people.”
She ultimately consented to a local ceremony, hosted in February 1977 by the mayor of Montpellier, in which the Israeli consul from Marseille presented her with the medal. She pronounced the gathering delightful: "not cold or official," but "almost a family reunion, with so many old friends."
A year later, Grandmère died at the age of 91. (Curiously, the date was February 28th - the same as her sister, in 1966, and her husband, in 1916. Their younger son almost shared the distinction, but he died after midnight, ergo on March 1st, in 1922.) And in October 1979, on a tour of the Holy Land, Antoinette dedicated her mother's tree at Yad Vashem.
I was lucky enough to know Grandmère for my first 11 years, and I never heard her mention her travails – or anything else negative, for that matter. She retained her thrifty ways, saving scraps of paper and cloth and sewing them into little notebooks. Several survive, along with sachets of lavender from her garden. When I remember Grandmère, she’s sitting outside in the sun, or the shade, or in Antoinette’s parlor – knitting, stitching, always busy. And always smiling.
* The term is actually grand-mère, but I somehow learned it without a hyphen and was never corrected - not by my grandmother, nor by the subject herself - so she remains Grandmère to me.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
You might find it depressing that such a thing excites me. What I find depressing is how rarely it occurs. Fortunately, I'm in good company.
Thanks to Bobbie.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Upon arrival, we came face to gnarled face with a vast wave of ancient people, all lurching and tottering towards us on canes and walkers. It was Dawn of the Dead meets Cocoon. Turned out they were on a field trip -- from death's doorstep, apparently -- and it was time to go home for their nap. Never get between old people and their bus; you'll be scraping polyester off your shoes for days.
Our contractor has checked in a couple of times to report commendable progress. In just three days, they did all the demo, framed the new walls, and roughed in the plumbing and electric. Tomorrow the city inspector comes, and if s/he signs off they can proceed with drywalling etc. Very exciting.
* Alternate title: The Codgers and the Crapper.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Sonya Rinker was looking for a guy: someone who was kind, respectful and had a special place in his heart ... for tractors. She wanted a man who could share the thrill of a good tractor-pull show, who could see beauty in a shiny row of green and yellow of John Deere tractors.From Colleen, whose farmer is out there somewhere.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Friday, February 08, 2008
Our long-planned bog project is finally getting under way, so we're skipping town for a while, hoping to miss the worst of the mess. We'll be with Dan's parents in South Cackalackee.
If I fall silent while we're away, it's not because I stopped loving you; it's because the Iglfolks' wireless network is tighter than a Republican's sphincter at the thought of President Hillary Clinton. Which is a topic we'll be diligently trying to avoid for the next nine days.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
If you've ever had the pleasure of a birthday serenade by Zap and Devo, the effect is remarkably similar. On second thought, it's more like Yoko Ono ... eerily so.
I found her renditions of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "In the Ghetto" especially poignant.
Need more? Her official site is here. Sadly, it's too late to request "Wing Sings AC/DC" for my birthday. I listened to a sample, and it's bitchin'.
Thanks to Clark for filling in this appalling gap in my knowledge.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Monday, February 04, 2008
In Canada, Franglais helps French and English speakers co-exist, even if it's a shoddy compromise for some. In France it is something quite different. It is a cultural attack.
My favorite example: Il y a un petit homme dans ma tête qui fait le demolition work.Merci à Prunelle.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Saturday, February 02, 2008
The candidates are hoping to be affable, brave, capable, decisive, electable, etc., but wit and combativeness are not evidently what Americans hope for in a leader; otherwise, the pollsters would have located this hope and measured it, and speechwriters would be assigned to write invective that truly lashes and makes the lashee weep for pain. Personally, I think it would be a blast.From Riley, who as a good Quaker enjoys nothing more than a bloody brawl.