In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
A few highlights from the holiday break:
Words coined by The Girl: hoggy (synonym for piggy); aminal; psghettio's; velcwo (my fave)
For New Year's afternoon, we took the kids and several of their friends bowling. One kid TB's age did something I've never seen done before: he slid towards the lane, like a runner sliding into third, releasing the ball roughly at the moment his front foot hit the line. By the time the ball was a few feet away, he was fully horizontal. It reminded me of watching the reliever Mitch Williams nearly fall off the mound after each pitch. I also got to see a three-year-old girl bowl overhand, which is a sight worth seeing.
TB got a Lego plane and airport -- 692 pieces! -- and actually put the whole thing together, without parental help, in two days. I didn't know he had that kind of focus! He followed the diagrams step by step, and saw it through without even a single snarky moment. My spatial skills could be described as "modest," if one were generously inclined, so I'm glad to see he picked up some key chromosomes from TW's side. My foray into construction -- assembling a play kitchen two nights before Christmas -- was somewhat less decorous. If the room were bugged, my lifetime dream of a Supreme Court appointment would be ruined.
In a striking break from my usual pattern, I actually got to read fun books and see movies. Robert Reich's "Supercapitalism" is surprisingly good, if you just shave off the first and last chapters. Among the nifty nuggets: according to Reich, Japanese exporters to America got a huge boost in the late 1960's when container ships returning from military supply runs to South Vietnam stopped in Japan on the way back. The idea was that it made better financial sense to get paid for both halves of the trip. Japanese exporters effectively got a transportation subsidy, courtesy of the Vietnam war. I'll admit, I hadn't heard that before, but it makes a certain sense.
Steve Martin's "Born Standing Up" is frustratingly enigmatic, but it has flashes of brilliance. I've read most of his published stuff, so I knew the guy could write, but his reluctance to delve into his subject matter -- it's a freakin' autobiography -- is weirdly limiting. In one of those brilliant moments, though, he tosses off what I think of as the Blogger's Credo: "The consistent work enhanced my act. I learned a lesson: It was easy to be great. Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking. These nights are accidental and statistical: Like lucky cards in poker, you can count of them occurring over time. What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the abominable circumstances." (p. 139)
TW and I saw "Atonement," which was a pleasant surprise. I saw "costume drama" and "British" and "romantic" and "Keira Knightley" and braced myself for yet another soporific Merchant/Ivory chick flick in which pasty, uselessly wealthy aristocrats pine for connection, but it was actually riveting. (I got the "pasty" part right, though.) Weirdly, we were among the youngest people in the (packed) theater.
We hauled TB and TG to see "Alvin and the Chipmunks." It was better than it could have been, which is just about all that one can ask of a movie called "Alvin and the Chipmunks." The scene in which Jason Lee's presentation at work was ruined by the Chipmunks' graffiti actually made me laugh out loud, and I never actually fell asleep or wished for death, so it was better than most children's movies. Jason Lee gets a "good sport" award for that one.
TW and I did our standard "lame married couple with young children" New Year's Eve, featuring takeout food eaten in front of the fire when the kids are in bed, followed by a rented movie. But it occurred to me, as the fire warmed my feet and the Pad Thai warmed my belly, that this was what I had been looking for all those earlier New Year's Eves, when I had more hair but less happiness. There are worse things.