Archive for July, 2012

Quote of the day: UNDERPARENTING

July 10, 2012


The helicopter parent is taking ever-heavier fire. American mothers and fathers, at once too involved in their children’s development and too lenient in dispensing discipline, stand ­accused of creating some of “the most indulged young people in the history of the world,” as Elizabeth Kolbert put it in The New Yorker earlier this month. Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE), a burgeoning hands-off parenting movement with California roots and classes at two Manhattan locations, offers a kind of corrective therapy. Here, five things I learned not to do in my underparenting course:

1. Underestimate my daughter’s ability to sit still when she’s got a ­banana in her sights. RIE classes consist largely of uninterrupted, self-directed play for the children and anxious onlooking by their parents. Instructors often conclude sessions by serving the children a snack of banana and water, requiring them to sit still on the floor (unrestrained!) before getting their share. As my daughter spends most of her meals climbing in and out of her high chair, smearing her chicken nuggets all over my clothing, I’m shocked to see her wait her turn while two other kids get their food ahead of her.

2. Tell my daughter to share the plastic hair curler that a little boy is trying to take from her and to which she is now clinging maniacally. RIE calls for letting kids resolve their own disputes (barring physical violence). “If every time adults jump in and bring in their version of what is right, the children learn either to depend on them or defy them,” writes RIE founder Magda Gerber. While I sometimes worry my daughter will grow to be a selfish, friendless 5-year-old, it’s a relief to skip explaining the concept of sharing to a baffled toddler. At least during the ­classes—out in the world, I get dirty looks from parents for ignoring such a widely held social norm.

3. Rush to comfort my daughter when an older child pushes a plastic milk crate into her face. RIE advises parents to give their kids a moment to recover on their own before swooping in with kisses and cuddles. It also discourages parents from saying “You’re okay” or distracting children from their pain—my preferred technique is to grab a shiny toy and jiggle it in front of her—lest they learn that experiencing emotions is a bad thing.

4. Let my daughter use me as a jungle gym, even though she really, ­really wants to. The RIE approach to discipline is simple: Set reasonable, consistent rules and stick to them even if they’re unpopular with those expected to abide by them. “It is not the best thing to try to keep your children happy all the time,” writes Gerber. “That is not the way life is.”

5. Rescue my daughter from a stair-climbing toy when she realizes that crawling down the stairs is harder than crawling up them. RIE teaches that giving children the chance to solve their own problems makes them feel confident and competent. (Gerber: “The more often we have mastered a minute difficulty, the more capable we feel the next time.”) It’s both tedious and scary to watch my daughter attempt fifteen different methods of descent from the contraption she is now sitting precariously atop, but an RIE associate cuts me off when I reflexively move to intervene. My daughter, for her part, looks awfully proud of herself when she finally finds her own way down.

— Dwyer Gunn, “Sit. Stay. Good Mom!” in New York magazine

Photo diary: weekend

July 8, 2012

Bergdorf Goodman

study in anatomy

Bargain Store, Astoria

Bargain Store (detail)

Culture Vulture: Woody Allen, Scissor Sisters, Frank Langella, ACT UP documentary, Louis C.K.

July 8, 2012

TO ROME WITH LOVE– I’ve always been a big Woody Allen fan. When I first moved to New York, I would line up to see his movies on opening day. I treasured the many years when I got invited to advance press screenings, so I got to sit in the plush seats at the Broadway Screening Room (Manhattan’s finest) and see the movie before anyone knew anything about it. Somewhere in the early 21st century, that interest took a dip, as Woody’s movies got pretty thin and bad. I actually skipped eight of them, starting with The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. I only saw one of his London movies, Match Point. But his other European films have been a cut above the recent crap – Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris, and now To Rome with Love, in which Woody gives himself a huge canvas, a large cast, and a Fellini-esque freedom to wander back and forth between surrealism and living-room naturalism. The several stories don’t interlock, and they don’t even take place in the same time frame or the same language. One subplot rather wittily comments on reality TV and another is equally clever in reflecting the banal absurdism of shows like “American Idol” and the unlikely stardom of Susan Boyle. As a travelogue, it’s strictly lowest-common-denominator, but it’s fun to spy Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Venezia, etc. The one booboo I caught was when Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page stroll through a produce market handling the veggies themselves, which is just not done, as this sign from a Bologna vendor attests:

MAGIC HOUR – The new Scissor Sisters CD didn’t really kick in for me until I jacked into my super-fine bass-boosting Klipsch headphones. Now I’m so addicted to it I can’t get certain fun, trashy dance tracks out of my head – namely, “Shady Love,” “F*** Yeah,” and the instant gay classic “Let’s Have a Kiki,” with one of those Anna Matronic spoken-word raps that you can’t help memorizing and repeating until the people around you have to beg you to stop. The pop triumph of the summer so far.

DROPPED NAMES – Frank Langella’s memoir, subtitled “Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them,” is a fascinating mixture of humility and arrogance, compassion and snarkery, shrewd observation and self-protection, radical honesty and annoying coyness. There are 65 chapters, one per famous name, each one seen through the lens of Langella’s particular fixations: how theater and film colleagues view the acting profession, how showbiz celebs handle their drinking, how nimbly they stroke the author’s ego, and sex sex sex sex sex. Often adoring, often admiring from a distance, sometimes petty and competitive, Langella (above) writes only about dead people (with the exception of Bunny Mellon, who’s 102 and gave her blessing. I found myself annoyed a lot by Langella’s tone – he describes his two dates with Elizabeth Taylor in great detail, emphasizing that they never had sex; but then he’s very coy about Jackie Kennedy Onassis, implying that they had a sexual relationship without actually stating it. He never admits to any homosexual liaisons himself but lectures Dominick Dunne on his deathbed for not coming out to his children. Nevertheless, he reveals a lot about both himself and his subjects. I’m haunted by his description of Ida Lupino, fired after four days’ work on a film version of Tennessee Williams’ Eccentricities of a Nightingale because the director couldn’t answer her keenly intelligent questions, and his account of meeting Bette Davis very briefly in a hotel lobby, watching her tell her young female assistant “Get the car” in a tone of voice that implied “…or I’ll kill you.” I love that he chatted with Jessica Tandy about sex in Broadway dressing rooms and that he asked Brooke Astor how she lost her virginity. All in all, a quirky and artful (and compulsively readable) survey of a rich, full life.

UNITED IN ANGER – Jim Hubbard’s documentary film at the Quad Cinema culls 90 minutes from the vast archive that he and Sarah Schulman have created with the ACT UP Oral History project. The film distils the important story of how a grass-roots community activist movement changed the American medical establishment’s approach to AIDS forever and leaves it to viewers to extrapolate the rest – how that example has and hasn’t affected medical treatment, government policy, world health initiatives, and the perception of gay and lesbian people since then. For me, watching the film was deeply personal and unavoidably emotional – this was the story of my life from 1987, when I attended the first ACT UP demonstration on Wall Street, through 1992, when ACT UP responded to the first Gulf War by taking over Grand Central Station declaring a “Day of Desperation” and demanding “Money for AIDS, Not for War.” I took part in “Storm the NIH” and spent the night in jail in Albany as a footsoldier in ACT UP’s army of lovers, friends, sick and dying warriors. The story is told both through contemporary footage (shot by video activists, many of them very young lesbians) and talking heads – people like Ann Northrup, Jim Eigo, Ron Goldberg, Mark Harrington, Gregg Bordowitz. These people were the heroes of Monday night ACT UP meetings at the Center because of their intelligence, courage, passion, political savvy, and commitment to direct action, all of which the film conveys. Like the best AIDS documentation, it’s sad, infuriating, and inspiring. This film limits its ambition to telling the history of ACT UP – I would have been happy to watch an hour more, and for the sake of Andy or others of his younger generation I might have wanted some way of stepping back and placing ACT UP in the context of gay culture, its relationship to Gay Men’s Health Crisis (the world’s first community-based AIDS health organization) and spin-offs such as Queer Nation, Lesbian Avengers, and (you could say) Occupy Wall Street. Nevertheless, it’s a good honest piece of work. Go see it. It will eventually be available digitally and on DVD, but seeing it in the movie theater, as a community experience, is the best way.

LOUIE – I’m chewing my way through the second season of Louis C.K.’s astonishing comedy series on Netflix. It’s so weird, so strangely paced, so original, so nakedly honest about race and parenting and the horrendous awkwardness of middle-aged dating that I can’t help feeling like Pavlov’s dog: when one episode is over, the only think to do is click the button, continue to next episode….

Playlist: iPod shuffle, 7/8/12

July 8, 2012

“Whole Foods Parking Lot,” DJ Dave
“And So Is Love,” Kate Bush
“Filling Out the Form,” [title of show] OCR
“The Crying Light,” Antony & the Johnsons
“Up on the North Shore,” the Sea and Cake
“It’s Only Life,” the Shins
“Bitch Went Nuts,” Ben Folds
“Stars and Sons,” Broken Social Scene
“Campfire” (Hisham Bharocha & Rusy Santos Remix), Grizzy Bear
“Can’t Beat the Feeling,” Kylie Minogue
“Sunny Sunday,” Joni Mitchell
“Ekki mukk,” Sigur Ros
“Tarde Nordestina,” Marinalva
“Belles,” Andrew Bird
“Gold (a cappella),” Once OCR
“Are You Awake?” Kevin Shields (Lost in Translation OST)
“De La Soul – Breakadawn (Jon Kwest remix),” DJ Mr. E
“Lovin’ Your Love,” Desmond Child and Rouge
“Blastit…,” Shabazz Palaces
“Hung Up,” Madonna
“Concrete and Clay,” Unit 4 + 2
“Angel (in the Sway of a Summer Night),” Maria Vidal
“Jesus Didn’t Love Us Enough,” Dudley Saunders
“Fridays Dust,” Doves
“Crystalised,” the XX
“Ej Pada Pada Rosicka,” Once OCR
“Buy and Sell,” Judy Kuhn
“Fly Away,” Phil Roy
“Love Affair,” k.d. lang
“Before We Begin,” Broadcast
“Boa Reza,” Vanessa da Mata, Seu Jorge & Almaz
“Relator,” Pete Yorn &S carlett Johnasson
“Come Back Down,” Greg Laswell (featuring Sara Bareilles)
“Separator,” Radiohead
“That Face,” Barbra Streisand
“Core of Sound (Modinha),” Manhattan Transfer
“Festival,” Sigur Ros
“Columbus Ave.,” Aimee Mann
“More Than That,” Ferron
“Edith and the Kingpin,” Elvis Costello
“IWAAD,” Actress
“Free Press and Curl,” Shabazz Palaces

Quote of the day: ORBIT

July 5, 2012


July 5 is the aphelion, the point in the year when the Earth is at its farthest distance from the Sun. The Earth and all the other planets have orbits that are “eccentric,” a slightly squashed circle, and the Sun is slightly closer to one end of the ellipse. The perihelion — the point in the orbit when we’re closest to the Sun — occurs in January, and at that time we’re about 5 million kilometers closer than we are at aphelion in July.

— The Writer’s Almanac

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