30 September 2008

Not making bail

One thing was painfully clear to me last night as I watched the BBC coverage of the House vote against the “bail-out”:

It seems that most Americans see the financial crisis as a national case – an us vs them, fat-cat vs joe 6-pack type situation. They do not see themselves or the situation as part of a much larger global market.

In my gut I felt “quite right” when I heard snippets from Nancy Pelosi. It does seem that the market “rules” – until there’s a colossal oopsy.

But who will suffer really, in the end? I fear that it will not be the members of the board of Lehmans….

What we should be writing to Congress now? Make sure that there’s something in it for us peasants this time! Off the top of my head: Caps on the ginormous salaries of board members and CEOs. More stringent regulation. Something to stop this happening again. And while we’re at it, can we all just stop believing that “the free market” is actually free?

I went to bed thinking, “what timing.” In yesterday’s post I finally received my absentee ballot for the November election.

29 September 2008

I've been roused...

I've been roused from my mulling by an article in today's Guardian: Hockey moms are key players in hunt for women's vote.

The author of the article, Suzanne Goldenberg, interviews "hockey moms" in Livonia, Michigan -- right around the corner from where I grew up. Here's what a couple of them has to say:

[Susan] Wejroch, who says she will vote for the Republican ticket in November, does not think that Palin's career as Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate makes McCain's running mate any less focused on her traditional role. "Even though she is involved in such a high position in her state, she makes sure she has got time for her family," says Wejroch.


"[Palin] just seems like someone you can relate to. Hillary Clinton doesn't seem like you could sit down and have a cup of coffee with her," says Vicky Rokas, a solid Republican voter who counts herself a Palin fan.

For Rokas, who has spent years shuttling three hockey-playing children to practice and out-of-state tournaments, Palin's hockey mom experience is just as valid as her professional credentials.

While I really wonder whether it is worth repeating quotes like these, I have to ask: when are we going to get past this hockey mom nonsense? Since when do we vote for Pres/Vice Pres on the basis of whether we'd like to have coffee with them? This is not a popularity contest. It's a presidential election.

Personally, I don't want a VP who is devoted to his/her family. I want a VP that's devoted to being VP. Who cares about traditional roles at this level? What are people thinking? Hm, let's have a president who can only do one thing at a time, and a VP whose credentials include taking her children to sports practice. Sorry, Republican party.... But the fact that you think I'll vote like that is insulting to my intelligence.


I know, I haven't been posting. The truth is, I'm mulling things over. Nothing has reached the level, just yet, of wanting to be aired or stated. I don't feel like commenting for the sake of commenting, either .... There's so much chatter in the world already, isn't there?

16 September 2008

Ladies, Look Closer. Please!

I continue to be alarmed by women who approve of Sarah Palin. One report quotes an ABC/Washington Post poll suggesting McCain's approval rating with white women had improved by 20 points since Palin was brought on board.

Equally alarming, when a reporter asked Mrs Palin's supporters there if there were any specific policies of hers they admired,
None could name a single one, but that did not seem to dampen their admiration.
Ladies, this is a woman who does not support reproductive liberty.  Are we really ready to give that up?  She may be a mother of five, but since when does parenthood qualifiy someone to be the 2d in command of our country? Is this a person who could lead the free world out of financial chaos and make crucial foreign policy decisions?

She's taken over the media for the moment. But this is no time to give in to glossy images....  The "working mother"  image may strike a chord with many of us, but if it does we have got to ask ourselves, did it also strike a chord when it was Hilary? If not, why not?

Palin's surely being put through a PR  machine.  She may not be styled as "old Washington" but how much of a regular joette can she be?  Is a state governor home by 5 most nights making dinner for her family or schlepping the groceries, school books, etc like the rest of us? Admire the image that's being presented if you want to... But it's got to go deeper than that in a presidential election.

In case you're wondering

I have not heard back from Cheerios. Cheerios Central, where are you???

12 September 2008


My word count for the week is 2746 (including Sunday). Word average: 549 per day.

Since 11 August, I've done 5368 words, averaging 488 each writing day.

I expect this to go down slightly in the next week or so, as I've reached the end of the first writing phase of the story. This morning I started cutting and pasting... Then I had to go to work and it was very hard to tear myself away!

08 September 2008

Cheerios, anyone?

I have just one question at the moment, and that is, why are original Cheerios not available in Belgium (except from specialist shops that charge about 10 eurs per box)?
Why are only sugar-coated versions available? In both the UK, and continental Europe?
I have emailed Cheerios customer service to find out for once and for all.

PS 2008 Booker

In other Booker news, Asylum has been reading this year's Booker longlist.

The 40 years' reading list

The Guardian is running a piece that features "the inside story" from 40 years of Booker Prize judges. It gets a little long to read in one go, but makes a fantastic list of novels and authors to discover. It's amazing how many shortlisted authors you won't recognize!

05 September 2008

I was here ... Where were you?

I've seen this meme twice now (Norm and Thoughtful Dresser) so I thought I'd best get my two cents in

Princess Diana's death - 31st August 1997
I'd just given birth, a month before, to my oldest daughter. I was living in Michigan with my grandmother, waiting to come over to Belgium to join my now ex-husband (who is British). It was Grandma who had the TV on and saw the news first. I can't remember if it was morning or afternoon.... With the newborn in the house, we were both in a perpetual daze. So we sat in the living room, glued to the news coverage, taking turns rocking the baby.

Margaret Thatcher's Resignation - 22nd November 1990
I have no recollection of this event. I was probably at work in my first job out of college. Margaret Thatcher was totally off of my radar.

Attack on the Twin Towers - 11 September 2001
In Brussels, Belgium. Around 3 in the afternoon I went to collect the girls from school. The uncle of one of their school friends, who I knew fairly well, was there too. He said, 'An airplane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.' I said, 'What???' I didn't believe him. Also we were speaking in French so I thought I'd heard wrong. He said, 'When you go home, turn on the news.' Well of course I did and then didn't stop watching the news for the next 6 weeks....

England's World Cup Semi-Final against Germany - 4 July 1990

Since it was 4th of July I was probably at a barbecue or fireworks in Michigan. But did I know this world cup was going on? (Cf above, Margaret Thatcher, 'totally off of my radar'...)

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
This one really shows up the ol' generation gap... I wasn't born yet!

04 September 2008

Danger! Poem contains knife!

Top UK exam board asks schools to destroy book containing poem "Education for Leisure" by Carol Ann Duffy.... because the poem, written in the 1980s, ends with the poem's narrator going out into the rain with a knife.

Apparently there were three complaints about the poem, two of which were from 2004.

The poem -- read it yourself in the link! -- does not glamo(u)rize or advocate knife crime. It is very effective chilling social commentary. And I imagine that many students could relate to the emotion in the poem, and the narrator's situation.

The exam board spokesperson said that while young people need "to think critically about difficult but important topics", this needs to be done in a way "which is sensitive to social issues and public concern."

Hm. Perhaps censorship could be the next important topic on the exam board's agenda!

Big government who?

I'm not going to add to the comments -- for the moment -- on Sarah Palin. What got me riled up politcally this morning was a quote in the BBC news from Mitt Romney's speech yesterday: "We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington - throw out the big government liberals and elect John McCain," the former Massachusetts governor said.

What I want to know is, who seriously still believes in this "Democrats = big goverment, Republicans = little government" line of bs?

I grew up with this idea. That the Democrats were all about spending. That Republicans were all free-marketing economists cum civil libertarians. But this is not the case. Biggest example in 3 words: military industrial complex. If that is not big government spending, nothing is. Didn't Clinton leave the presidency with a balanced budget, maybe even a surplus? We sure don't have that now!

Quest: Reading in French

I haven't mentioned this before, but I decided to start reading more in French. Broaden my horizons and set a good example for the girls, etc. For my first attempt, earlier this summer I chose Les petits secrets d'Emma, de Sophie Kinsella (Auteur), Daphné Bernard (Traduction) .... which funnily enough is listed as Number 4 on the best-seller list on Amazon.fr! As you can see it is a translation of chick-lit queen Sophie Kinsella. Mais tant mieux pour moi! It is a totally enjoyable romp of a book and I'm enjoying it all the more because, despite the fact that it is absolute froth, I'm reading it in French.

Now I am looking for my next French read....frothy or not. Any recommendations?


"The reality of love is mutilated when it is removed from all its unreality."

-- Gaston Bachelard (French philosopher) in The Poetics of Reverie

thanks Rob Brezsny!

03 September 2008

Hear, hear

From Jonathan Freedland, writing in The Guardian:

In his stirring speech last week, Obama urged America not to "make a big election about small things". Yet here we are, discussing not Sarah Palin's record or programme but Jesus, guns, and as one feminist blogger put it yesterday, "the uterine activity of her family". This is a setback for women, especially in a year that seemed to promise a breakthrough, but it is also a setback for America itself.

Obama made his name four years ago with a speech that called for an end to the civil war of red against blue. In 2008, he urged a different kind of election, one that would match the gravity of the hour. But the naming of Sarah Palin, and the reaction it has provoked, has dashed that hope. Americans are, once again, fighting over the questions that politics can never really settle - faith, sexuality - and pushing aside the ones that it can. And which it must.

I second those last two sentences.

02 September 2008

That Creativity Thing

Great post today from Alice at Finslippy about the dark side of the writing life.... And any other creative endeavour, actually.

I'm putting Art and Fear (which she mentions in there) on my book-wish-list. It will join The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, which I've been wanting for several months.

Happily, I've been busy writing the past two weeks due to having made a schedule and then sticking to it. I've been able to write for at least an hour a day. This week the schedule's a little out the window because of "la rentrée". But that's temporary.

The other thing I found has helped enormously is keeping track of my word count. This didn't matter so much when I was writing a lot of poetry. But with prose.... There's no sense of accomplishment when you're in the middle of a long short story or anything even longer. Keeping track of the numbers shows that yes, I am making progress. And it is a simple, non-distracting procedure: I simply record the latest word count in the back of my journal, when I'm done for the day. OK, so the other day I made a chart in Excel with the data. But that's about the end of the distractions.

01 September 2008

Out and About

I had the good fortune to have a day trip to Maastricht yesterday, where I visited the most gorgeous bookstore I've ever been in. It's called the Selexyz Dominicanen -- Selexyz because it that is the name of the chain of booksellers, and Dominicanen because it is located in the city’s old Dominican Church.

The best photos I could find are here.

Further descriptions here and here.

Highly recommended!