Archive for the ‘Mostly about (pop) culture’ Category

One hundred and fifty years ago today, Stonewall Jackson, general in the Confederate army, died of pneumonia in a small cottage in central Virginia.  A week earlier he had his right arm amputated after being shot — by accident — by his own men.  I wrote a piece about looking for the arm’s grave, and you can read it at The Virginia Quarterly Review’s blog.

Stonewall Jackson

I’ve been thinking about Jackson all this week.  My piece was posted the day before the amputation and I read it (again) when it came out.  I imagined (more…)


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Dear girls behind me watching Wonder Women,

I wasn’t thinking about you while I was there.  In fact, I didn’t even know you were there until the moment I left.  I was so happy to be out with a friend (and away from my darling but draining two-year-old twins) and watching the documentary Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines at Busboys and Poets while eating sweet potato fries — I wasn’t thinking about who else was there and what they were getting from this evening, or what they needed to get from this evening.  I was just feeling, well, wonderful.

Wonder Women logoBut after the film there was a panel discussion, not about the film but about the two panelists.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t paying much attention during the introductions — I was letting the film wash over me, and thinking about the twins, and what kind of world they might grow up in.  I was also thinking about maybe ordering a slice of cake and a cup of coffee.  But I sat respectfully if distractedly as I heard something about Women’s History Month and the two panelists being strong Hispanic women, and one of the filmmakers is Hispanic, and Linda Carter (who, as you know, played Wonder Woman on TV in the 70s) is also Hispanic (which you might not have known; I didn’t).

But then the first panelist started speaking and I came out of my happy haze, first puzzled, then uneasy (more…)

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Downton Abbey season 3 cast

Downton Abbey Season 3 cast. From downtonline.com

Tonight is the season finale of Downton Abbey.  A lot has happened in this third season, but I’m not going to write about it.  (No spoilers here!)  Instead I’m thinking about how watching Downton Abbey has — subtly — changed my life.


Last year I wrote (in I [heart] Downton Abbey) that

For the first few months of the twins’ first year I felt like I was living in another century.  Not much happened (other than eating and sleeping and diaper-changing).  I didn’t get out much.  I didn’t read much.  I didn’t see many movies (on Netflix) or even watch much TV.  And when I did read or watch something, it felt like I had many days to mull it over while I rocked a baby or jiggled a bouncy seat.  It reminded me of drawing room life — especially for a woman: lots of sitting around and processing the few things that actually happened.


This drawing-room mood was helped by … Downton Abbey.

Now the twins are almost two, and I find it hard to remember what that “drawing-room mood” felt like!  But I do remember, when they were infants, how (more…)

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Last night I watched The Queen of Versailles and was reminded once again of the idea of “enough.”

It’s very simple: stop when you have enough.

This goes for all kinds of consumption: eating (especially large meals at restaurants where you don’t usually get to pick your portion), drinking (coffee, alcohol, milkshakes or any “vice” drinks), shopping (for clothes, shoes, and even more “educational” items like books, CDs or toys for the twins).  You get to decide for yourself what “enough” is.  But stopping when you’ve had enough allows you to enjoy what you have and avoid all kinds of bloat and clutter — such as the piles of clothes and toys and papers I saw in The Queen of Versailles.

Now, the Queen and her family were very, very rich.  And then the market crashed and they (more…)

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So today is the last day of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, the day before the so-called Mayan apocalypse.

A date inscription in the Mayan Long Count.  From Wikipedia.

A date inscription in the Mayan Long Count. (From Wikipedia.)

I’ve always thought that if I had one day left to live it might not be such a bad thing to spend it as if I had all the time in the world.  Sure, I could (more…)

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I strongly recommend seeing Anna Karenina in a theatre, but preferably a nearly empty one.  Try for a matinee or a very late show, and try not to sit near anyone else — I don’t want other people’s whispered commentary (or snorts or sighs or gasps) to distract you from your own opinion of this curious film.

As you may have read in other reviews (and as you can somewhat see in the picture above) much of the story — including Vronsky’s horse race — is set in a theatre.  This will either totally work for you or it may totally alienate you.  I, for one, loved it.  The stylized nature of the “society” scenes call attention to their rigidity and ridiculousness in a shorthand that I think Tolstoy would have admired.  And watching Matthew Macfadyen — as Oblonsky — spin in and out of different coats as he marches in and out of different scenes was a choreographic pleasure all its own.

Less enjoyable was (more…)

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About a month ago a friend and I were talking about a photograph taken at Grrls Meat Camp, a gathering where women spend a week learning how to butcher animals.  The photo was of a woman butcher wearing a fleece, an apron and sunglasses gesturing to a beef hip.  I made a joke about hipness — was she giving a lesson in how to handle a beef hip, or how to be hip while handing beef? This led to a discussion about the term “hip.”  I had thought it was a neutral term, but my friend thought it was too close to “hipster,” which has grown to have more negative connotations.  I debated this, and my jury was still out when I read this article in this Sunday’s New York Times: “How to Live without Irony.”

From “How to Live without Irony.” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

I think my favorite quote is:

[The hipster] harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness.

A hipster isn’t just awkward and self-conscious (much of the time I fear I am both of those things) but he harvests it.  He (more…)

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