sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

May 19, 2011

Do French Women Need Our Help?

Filed under: feminism — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:56 pm

Via Instapundit comes this take on Strauss-Kahn’s “womanizing”:

The case in New York City reflects another dimension of the problem in France. “If I try transposing the situation in New York on Sunday to France, I just can’t do it,” says Diallo. “Not only because the woman is black and apparently an immigrant. [Hotel maids in France are white?  Perhaps. — ed.]  But also because she’s a housekeeper. Perhaps even more than her race, her station in society would probably prevent authorities [in France] from taking her accusations against a rich and powerful man seriously.

France is the land of lofty feminist theory.  I admit I couldn’t get through any of it, like I couldn’t get through any French theory in general. In part because when people explain what it’s all about, all I can say is “That’s it?  Is it worth the struggle?”  And if feminism is good for anything at all, it should stand to protect a disadvantaged woman against assault (and it’s assault that Staruass-Kahn is accused of, not womanizing).  French women got suffrage under the Allied occupation.  Gosh, maybe we should invade them again.


May 18, 2011

Nothing’s the Matter with San Francisco

In 2004 liberals wondered What’s the Matter with Kansas? because if  people of modest means vote Republican something must be wrong with them.  Walter Shapiro penned a response What’s the Matter with Central Park West? because if the poor are natural Democrats, then the rich should be Republicans.  Shapiro thinks that the rich are liberal for purely social reasons.  Now we are finding out that he’s wrong.  Because well-connected urban dwellers are perfectly positioned to mooch off the government and outcompete other businesses in regulation.  Take Nancy Pelosi’s home district.  According to the Daily Caller:

Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama’s administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Northern California district.

Makes you wonder if Nancy gets her nails done at Tru Spa and what lobbying looks like these days.

UPDATE: Linked by American Housewife in London — Thanks!

May 16, 2011

Gingrich is a W****

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 8:45 pm

I’m not surprised about Gingrich attacking Ryan’s Medicare plan.  Not after he molested the former Speaker of the House in the name of global warming.

Good thing he’s not running running.

Anyhow, I promised a long post about feminism, so maybe I should work on that.

May 15, 2011

Brace Yourself for A Hipster Invasion

Filed under: politics, society — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:44 pm

Via Instapundit: young New Yorkers are pessimistic about the future and threatening to leave the state.  Ah!  But New Yorkers are apparently already leaving in droves — for San Francisco.  It’s assumed in the Bay Area that San Francisco wants to move to New York City, and New York City wants to move to San Francisco.  Me and DH used to talk about how we should have moved to New York separately and then meet there.  Now I’m actually glad we stayed put.  The people and entertainment in the two cities are not that different, but the weather is better in Northern California, and in New York we’d have to put our children into a tony private school that has a competitive Kindergarten entrance exam.

Anyhow, San Francisco is already bursting with funemployed hipsters.  Many overflow hipsters go to Oakland where in the 90s they became foot soldiers of gentrification.  To be sure, they feel bad about taking over black neighborhoods.  Because Oakland can’t possibly absorb all of SF’s surplus youngsters, states where jobs are plentiful and housing is affordable, such as Washington and Oregon, became a popular relocation destination.  These states are now known as “purple states”.  In the past solidly conservative or libertarian, these states are now absorbing California expats who are more than happy to “take over” from the “rednecks”.  They don’t mind ruining the local economy in the meantime.

Ruby Room, a hipster bar in downtown Oakland. This picture makes it look fun.

Another angle: given that young women outnumber young men in NYC at nearly 3:2 ratio, there is going to be a lot of unhappy gals moving from one heavily female urban area to another.

May 13, 2011

Birthday Madness, etc.

Filed under: Kids!.., society, whatever — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:49 pm

I suppose my agony is — oh — tres banal to all of you seasoned parents out there, but my daughter, lets call her Yelena, after the Russian fairytale princess, is turning four, and she’s getting her first real Birthday party.   I am determined to spend less then $500 on the bash, which, apparently, is a bit of a challenge.  We don’t have the space in our house to accommodate all her guests and their parents, so I have to rent out a location.  We need an entertainer because all other kids invited entertainers, and because we need somebody there to keep the little ones from thrashing the place.  Then there are the traditional concerns, like favors and food (are the guests going to eat non-organic ?)  Plus something like 1/4 of the guest list didn’t bother to RSVP.  And somehow I got myself into making this cake:

I don’t remember being that stressed out when I was getting married, which probably has something to do with not having to take care of two children while working out all the details.

Yelena is going to have a princess party, but we are inviting boys.  We can’t insult them with glittery magic wands for favors.  A natural companion for a princess would be a knight or a Jack, right?  A prince is too pampered, and a king is too grown up.  I looked everywhere and couldn’t find any Jack/knight favors.  So I bought them pirate toys.  Pirates are cool, and, although they don’t figure in traditional tales, they kind of go with princesses.  Only pirates are anti-heroes, and it’s kind of sad that I couldn’t find a positive male character to compliment a princess.

Oh, and my son, lets call him Ivan, like a hero in Russian folk tales, is trying to sit on the potty.  Heaven help me!

Meanwhile I read and enjoyed:

What’s Up with That?  Greenpeace Looses Charity Status in New Zealand.

Manhattan Infidel: New York Bans Competitive Sports for Children.

King Shamus: “Shoot first So No Questions Can Be Asked Later”.

I suppose Trump peaked weeks ago, but this two month old Commentary post is worth noting: Why Is Donald Trump Embracing an Anti-Semite?

Is the end of history in Europe officially over?  End of Passport-Free Travel in Europe.

An artist creates his own moral universe.  Recipient of a 3/4 mil grant once executed a dog just to see how it feels for art.  Check out the old hippy in CBGB t-shirt here, and hugging a teddy sculpture here.

Nice Deb: Excellent: TX House Bans Offensive Security Pat-Downs.

Unibomber possessions are going on sale.

Bin Laden had three wives (or is it four?) and never took any of them dancing.  Sounds like he couldn’t handle one.  That reminds me of a song from the classic 1960s Russian comedy “Prisoner of Caucuses.”  I couldn’t find a subtitled clip, but here it is, If I Were a Sultan, a masterpiece of Soviet orientalism:

After expressing his wish to have three wives to be surrounded with three times the beauty, the singer contends that even a single wife is too much to handle, and if he were a sultan, he’d be a bachelor.

May 9, 2011

Israel Independence Day Special: Something from Nothing

Three and a half years ago I signed up my children with something called PJ Library, a non-profit that sends a free Jewish content book every month.  Since then we received two books based on the same traditional song, Simms Taback’s Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (1999) and Phoebe Gilman’s Something from Nothing (2008).  It’s a charming story in which the protagonist starts of with a large item, like an overcoat or a blanket, and when the item gets tarnished, he remakes it into a smaller one, like a vest, then a tie, then a handkerchief, etc until all that’s left is a button.  And then the button gets lost.  To deal with the loss of his beloved possession,  the protagonist decides to make something out of nothing and writes a story about it.

Both illustrators set the story in late 19th century Eastern Europe and the art is terrific.  Taback’s pictures are bright and fantastical, and Gilman’s are realist, with much detail to talk about.  Both books have a distinct Yiddish sensibility, and it’s tempting to claim that Something from Nothing is a Jewish folktale.  I don’t know for a fact that the narrative is exclusively Jewish, that other peoples, like Ukrainians or, say, Berbers don’t tell it as well, as is usually the case with folklore.  Because I can’t assume that the story is Jewish and only Jewish, this post is going to be about the way Jewish people in America today think of the Jewish tradition based on what they make out of the story.

American Jews certainly like to rhapsodize Pale of Settlement Jewry of the turn of the century, and Taback does it so well!

Both books arrived with PJ Library’s suggestions of how to discuss it with kids.  Per publisher, the books carry an environmentalist message, and teach kids to conserve and recycle:

Go through your children’s wardrobe together. Select clothing that no longer fits or is too “old and
worn” to be serviceable. How can those items still be of use? Perhaps the fabric can be cut and
sewn into clothing for a favorite stuffed animal or made into a patch for a pair of jeans. If the
clothing is outgrown but still in good condition, consider donating it – you’ll be practicing bal


A core Jewish value is that of bal tashchit, an injunction against needless destruction or wastefulness
and a commandment to preserve our Earth. Judaism is an ancient religion, but laws guiding us to
live in an environmentally responsible way are perhaps more significant today than ever before. The
Talmud (a collection of rabbinic thought and laws) teaches: “Whoever destroys anything that could
be useful to others breaks the law of bal tashchit” (Kadoshim 32a). When Taback wrote: “(and there’s a
moral, too!)” on the title page, he referred to this teaching.

I’m for reducing waste and preserving the Earth.  I was raised in a household where everything was reused, and it really pains me to throw away an old item.  I’m not a rabbi, but I know a thing or two about scarcity.  There is plenty of conservation going on in Something from Nothing, but the society that told the tale had no concept of recycling.  Shtetl thriftiness was not driven by concerns for allegedly overflowing landfills.   Most importantly, an environmentalist explanation fails to account for the pivotal moment of the narrative when Joseph runs out of matter to reuse and writes a story.  By the way, in doing so he uses new resources: paper, ink and a writing pen.  If abstaining from consumption is so supremely important, why bother inventing writing?  Tisk-tisk-tisk! The people of the Book should have stuck to oral tradition!

Funny how many books from PJ Library feature characters with stereotypical Jewish faces making stereotypical Jewish gestures.

Something from Nothing is a story about impoverished people who used resources wisely (and with the notable exception of aluminum, recycling is not a wise use of resources).  It’s a story about people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, and about overcoming adversity.  But most importantly, Something from Nothing is a story about moving from mere physical sustenance to the spiritual world.  It’s about overcoming adversity, but it’s also about the creative impulse.  It’s a story of the creation of modern Israel, too: Jews coming out of Pale of Settlement building a thriving country in a desert.  That’s something from nothing.  And, I think, all Americans, not just Jewish Americans can relate to the resourcefulness, innovation and individualism displayed by the characters.

Unfortunately, Western Civilization in general and Jewish Americans in particular became too engrossed in waste.  In our quest to “reduce, reuse, recycle” we became obsessed with making something from something — if we can’t help not making anything at all.  Something from Nothing teaches us that there are limits to the 3Rs, like there are limitations to the material world in general.  The greatness of our civilization originates in inspired individuals who create new things and ideas.

So happy 63rd Israel!  Israel Independence day is celebrated today this year.


I was going to make a post commemorating the Allied victory in World War Two 66 years ago.  V.E. day is May 8 in the former Western Block, and May 9 in Russia.  I was going to share some family history, but we had computer issues, plus it was Mother’s Day.  So that post will have to wait a year.  Anyhow, happy V.E. day!

May 7, 2011

Mother’s Day Special: 20 Year of Celebrity “Bump Watch”

Filed under: society — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:01 am

In the good ol’ days you couldn’t say the word “pregnant” on TV.  Now you can say it, but you won’t.  Instead we use all sort of cutesy expressions, like “baby bump” which is symptomatic of an obsession.  To be sure, people are always mindful of their talk about pregnancy because there is the obvious sexual side of the “condition”.  Plus, the superstitious don’t want to jinx the baby and the labor.  But when old expressions like “she’s expecting” are respectful, to me “baby bump” is a verbal equivalent of strangers feeling a pregnant woman’s stomach.

Fascination with celebrity pregnancy is a fairly recent phenomena, dating no further back then 1991 pregnant Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover.

The photo set the trend of maternity shots among us mortals. I confess, I'm the biggest offender in this department. I had my pictures taken when I was pregnant, and one of them is blown up 8X10 and hanging on the wall. I suppose I could have framed a wedding picture or some other version of slender me, but no.

Even though we like to drag them down to our level, stars are interesting because they are different from us.  A half a century ago when childbearing was commonplace celebrity “bump watch” didn’t exist.  Today pregnancy is a twice in a lifetime event, and many women delay parenting so much that they can no longer conceive.  Pregnancy pampering is nothing new, but now it’s getting more and more elaborate and expensive, complete with massages, photography and chic wardrobe, all spearheaded by Hollywood starlets.  I’m not trying to suggest that we as a society should cease to celebrate pregnancy, but to point out that the reason we celebrate it is because it became increasingly rare.

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