At the 9/11 Memorial
Published on September 26, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over the weekend, I had the chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial, which I wrote about today in my blog at the DG.

Here's an excerpt:

"I never had any interest in visiting Ground Zero, because it seemed like a sort of ghoulish and weird thing to do. I didn’t know any of the victims, and I didn’t like the idea of turning the site into a tourist attraction. But I felt perfectly comfortable visiting a memorial, and after watching some of the coverage of the 10th anniversary events, I knew that I wanted to go there myself. For me, the memorial provides a place to reflect upon the lives lost and the horror of what happened that day, which I think is important. September 11 had a broad and sweeping impact, resulting in wars, an overhaul of airport security and drastic changes to civil liberties, but the memorial takes you back to a time before that, when the scale of the attacks and the enormity of the loss were first becoming apparent.


The 9/11 Memorial is free, but you need a ticket to get in at a certain time. I actually liked this system, because it keeps crowds down, and although I didn’t think it was necessary to show my visitor pass four or five times to enter the memorial (maybe three times would have been sufficient?) I appreciated the orderly approach. I had seen pictures of the memorial, but it was much more impressive in person. The memorial comprises two reflecting pools, each about an acre in size, located within the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood. Each reflecting pool features an enormous waterfall that cascades into a smaller, central hole, and the site is surrounded by swamp white oak trees, which helps create a surprisingly peaceful atmosphere. Of course, the memorial is located in the heart of New York City, and the construction around the site is ongoing. I liked this contrast — the memorial is a quiet space, but the hustle and bustle of the city never full recedes."

Still Frost Free
Published on September 26, 2011 by Sara Foss

In her column Greenpoint, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the change of seasons, and how fortunate we've been not to have a frost.

Here's an excerpt:

"Late September and we’ve avoided frost so far. Since our first frost date — the earliest we can expect a freeze to wipe out the tender plants in our vegetable garden — is Sept. 6, every night that it doesn’t freeze is like a gift. One more day of summer.

We had a few frost warnings a couple of weeks ago, so we picked everything we could just in case. I came home from work one Friday and found the kids — my own two and that teen boy who tends to stand right next to my daughter whenever possible — had filled every available container with vegetables and herbs.

There were two willow laundry baskets of Roma and beefsteak tomatoes, a picnic basket full of cherry and grape tomatoes, a big bowl of green peppers. That was because all the bushel and half-bushel baskets were already filled, with cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash and basil. The back seat of the station wagon is full of watermelons.

I spend the weekend making pesto and salsa, and we had melon with just about every meal. I dried sage and mint in the warming oven of the wood stove, and froze another batch of chard.

But there was no frost, so we’re still picking and the plants are still producing. There’ll be another round of string beans, and maybe enough basil for another batch of pesto before frost. And more cucumber salads."

Worse Than Psychopaths
Published on September 26, 2011 by Sara Foss

Last week I posted a short item about a study claiming that one in every 25 business leaders could be psychopathic.

Now I learn of a Swiss study that claims share traders behave more recklessly and are more manipulative than psychopaths.

Again, this is not the sort of thing that surprises me at all.

It's OK To Be Angry If Someone Mugs You
Published on September 26, 2011 by Sara Foss

Blogger Matthew Yglesias flags some interesting comments made by an assault victim in an article in the Washington Post.

The victim, who was attacked and beaten up by ten teenagers, claimed he wasn't angry at his assailants, and that instead he felt sympathy for them. "I don’t want to be angry with them,” [the victim] said. “It just concerns me that their future is being taken away from them, by them, so early. ... I’ve already got the bruises and stuff. I want to put a message out that we hear you. . . . We don’t want you to be out here robbing people and hurting people to displace your anger, or to feel that this is what you need to do to get food on the table, or to get the help and attention that you deserve, or to have a bond by attacking people together.”

Yglesias, who has been mugged himself, thinks this is a dumb reaction. In a brief post, he writes, "When I read this story, I related to it. I myself suffered a random street assault over the summer, and it’s happened to plenty of other people who I know as well. But the flipside of this is that I’ve lived in DC for eight years and the number of times I’ve walked past poor young black dudes who didn’t punch me in the head for no reason clearly outweighs the one time that did happen. When people sort of vaguely gesture toward social problems as the root cause of sociopathic violence, they’re really erasing that vast majority of people who grow up in sometimes troubled situations and don’t respond by assaulting strangers. Erasing the line between people who are doing bad things and those who aren’t doesn’t really help anyone."

I, too, have been mugged, and I'd like to echo this sentiment. And I'd like to go a step further, and say that it's perfectly all right to be furious with the person who mugged you, and fantasize about punching them in the face and making them experience a small measure of the fear and pain that you did. Now, do I think this would be a better world if all crime victims were given the opportunity to physically harm their perpetrators, and took advantage of it? No, I don't, because I believe in due process and the law. But I think it's very human to feel this way, that there's no reason to make excuses for violent criminals and that if someone attacks you, you're well within your rights to be mad about it and hold a grudge.

Goats In Trees
Published on September 26, 2011 by Sara Foss

Did you know that in Morocco there are tree-climbing goats? And that they eat the berries of the Argan tree? And that their droppings contain seed kernels that local farmers grind into an oil that is used in cooking and cosmetics? No? Well, you should click here and look at some pictures of tree-climbing goats, then. Seriously. It will be worth your time.


The Wrong Way to Garden
Published on September 25, 2011 by guest author: Tatiana Zarnowski

I really do everything wrong when I garden.

I think this as I carry a paper bag out for tomato-picking the morning after a hard rain.

"A paper bag, Tatiana?" I thought once I got outside. "Seriously?"

The 6-by-3-foot raised bed I commandeered from my landlord is home to a couple of tomato plants, some herbs and a few zinnias. All are doing well, though I can barely see them through the weeds.

Yes, in addition to picking a type of bag that will disintegrate in moisture, I almost never weed. Also, I start plants indoors too late in the spring for them to reach their full harvest potential before frost. And after the first year where my staked-up tomatoes fell back down into a tangled mass on the ground, I never stake tomatoes.

These habits are all gardening no-no's, and sometimes I feel vaguely ashamed of my "crops," because I have several friends (and many family members) who do gardening the "right" way.




Finding Time To Help
Published on September 25, 2011 by Sara Foss

In my column this week at the DG, I write about volunteerism, and Hurricane Irene.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last week I interviewed some of the people who have been volunteering regularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, helping those affected by flooding clear out their homes, get electricity restored and replace damaged possessions.

Many of these people were helping friends and neighbors and spoke of volunteering as something they simply had to do. They talked about being called, often by God. Two women from Herkimer told me they planned to drive to the village of Schoharie every Thursday to drop off food, and I admired both their sense of purpose and ability to stick to a schedule. Other volunteers have been working constantly since the hurricane hit and have no plans to take a break. While speaking to these folks, it occurred to me that massive disasters require volunteers of all types — those who can work round the clock and those who can provide relief and aid for an hour or two every week.

I know from experience that volunteer work is rewarding.

When I was in high school, one of the highlights of my church youth group experience was traveling to rural Kentucky and working for a wonderful organization called the Appalachia Service Project. A small band of us were dispatched to the home of an impoverished woman and her sons and spent the next week fixing her roof and rebuilding her bathroom. I got stuck in the bathroom with my father, where I found myself tearing up floorboards and clearing out water and mud. At times, it was pretty disgusting, but by the end of the week the family had a clean and functional bathroom, and I took some satisfaction in knowing that I had actually helped build something, despite a notable lack of construction experience or expertise."

The Guy Maddin Blog-A-Thon
Published on September 25, 2011 by Sara Foss

Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin makes movies that are like nothing else out there. His influences include German expressionism, fairy tales, silent films and dance, and as a result his movies feel like films out of time - they could have been made in 1975, or last year, or 20 years from now. I watched four or five Maddin films about a year ago, and I've got several more in my queue. So I've probably seen about half his works.

For the curious, Fandor has been running a blog tribute to Maddin, which you can check out here.

Nirvana Rembrances
Published on September 25, 2011 by Sara Foss

Nirvana is getting a lot of ink lately, as this year marks the 20th anniversary of the group's classic, game-changing album, "Nevermind." During the summer, I blogged about Nirvana over at the DG, but many others have also offered their thoughts and remembrances on the band.

At the Daily Beast, Amanda Marcotte makes the case for Nirvana's feminist credentials.

Here's an excerpt:

"Nirvana’s opening salvo in its assault on mainstream rock, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' did more than just wash away any musical relevance of bands like Poison and Winger, but it also laid waste to the sexism that fueled so much hair metal and other dude-centric hard rock. The first human faces you see in the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” belong not to the band members, but to a group of heavily tattooed women dressed like anarchist cheerleaders, a swift but brutal rebuttal to all the images of acceptable femininity that your average suburban teenager lived with at the time. Forget the hair metal groupies or the bubbly beauty queen cheerleaders. For girls watching this video, it was a revelation: You could instead choose to be a badass."

At Racialicious, Latoya Peterson offers some interesting Nirvana anecdotes and commentary.

Over at The Daily, David Hudson provides some links and thoughts in a piece that takes a broader look at grunge, punk and other seminal musical of the early 1990s. In addition to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho" all get mentions.

Is Your Boss A Psychopath?
Published on September 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

For some reason, this doesn't surprise me at all.

One Man's Dealbreaker: She Read the Wrong Kind of Books
Published on September 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

GOOD magazine has an ongoing series in which people explain why they broke up with someone. The most recent entry was about a dealbreaker I could relate to - poor taste in literature. Or, perhaps more damning, a lack of taste.

Here's an excerpt:

"When I was 21, my love of books ended my first post-college relationship. My girlfriend was flabbergasted as to why anyone would read anything that wasn’t required for class credit; I was offended that she dismissed my love of the printed word alongside her previous boyfriend’s obsession with video games. To really put this in nerd terms: If you’ve ever seen that iconic Twilight Zone episode in which Henry Bemis’ wife defaces his books in an effort to break his 'habit' of reading, this was similar. She was oppressive to the bookish. And she liked Reba McEntire.

After the breakup, I elevated my criteria for girlfriend material to levels rivaling Hammurabi’s Code. The contents of a woman’s bookcase had to at least be on par with her physical profile. Dating websites always give you pictures first, intel second, but some of us are turned on by brains, too. I’m not saying I could carry on a romance with a disembodied head who told awesome Goethe jokes. Nor is the possession of panties depicting Poe poetry an automatic win for a woman. But books have to be there."

I know that I would never consider dating anyone who claims that "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Da Vinci Code" is their favorite book. This probably seems like a pretty minor concern, but I've been amazed by how many guys claim that one of these books is their favorite book of all time.

NFL Picks, Week 3
Published on September 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer my week 3 NFL picks.

Here's an excerpt:

"NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at Buffalo Bills — The Bills are a nice little story, but are they really going to beat the Patriots? We’ll learn a lot about both teams in this game, which could be pretty interesting. How good are the Bills? How will the Patriots respond to a feisty team with a smart quarterback?

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS at Cincinnati Bengals — This should be a close game. The Bengals have been surprisingly competitive so far this season, as have the 49ers. I'm going with the team that looks a little better on paper.

Miami Dolphins at CLEVELAND BROWNS — Sorry, Dolphins fans. It is going to be a long season.

Denver Broncos at TENNESSEE TITANS — Last week I suggested that Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck was done. Well, maybe I was wrong — he did pretty well against the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Broncos are a mess."

Click here for the rest of the picks.

And click here for The Awl's hilarious haiku picks.

Thinking About the Death Penalty
Published on September 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

The execution of Troy Davis made headlines throughout the country this week.

As a result, I've decided to re-post the New Yorker's 2009 article about the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, whose case prompted similar soul-searching about capital punishment and the unfortunate reality that innocent people have been sent to death row. The article raises numerous questions about Willingham's case, and is well worth a look.

R.E.M. Calls It Quits
Published on September 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

Some links:

- Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield on how R.E.M. basically invented indie rock as we know it.

Here's an excerpt from Sheffield's piece:

"At a time when the term 'indie rock' didn't exist, R.E.M. basically invented it as we know it, more or less overnight. I can't even count how many of my favorite bands I first heard about from R.E.M.. I tracked down Exile on Main Street because Peter Buck couldn't shut up about it, back when it was as impossible to find as those out-of-print Velvet Underground records. They invented whole new ways of being a music fan. They also invented 'girls who like R.E.M.,' who became my crush genre for the rest of my life.

People love to complain that R.E.M. should have broken up when Bill Berry quit in 1997, to preserve their legacy in a pristine state. Except this misses the fundamental point of R.E.M., which is that rock and roll is something you do, something that's part of your real sloppy life, rather than a fleeting phase. They decided not to be a 'go out in a blaze of glory' band like the Smiths or Husker Du, and they also decided not to be a 'blaze gloriously and then kinda fade out so everybody assumes you broke up even though maybe you officially didn't' kind of band, like Echo and the Bunnymen or the Jesus and Mary Chain. They decided to be a 'run it into the ground' band, plowing ahead whether they had the wind at their backs or not.

And they ran it into the ground. That's an essential part of their greatness."

- The A.V. Club staff says farewell to R.E.M.

- At Salon, indie luminaries such as Bob Mould and Rhett Miller talk about R.E.M.

- At Slate, Bill Wyman discusses R.E.M.'s impact on music

Also, here's R.E.M. performing the song that got my vote for class song. Unfortunately, "These Are Days" by 10,000 Maniacs won.

Edward Gorey's Letters
Published on September 21, 2011 by Sara Foss

I'm a huge fan of macabre illustrator Edward Gorey (who isn't?), and so naturally I enjoyed this recent article, courtesy of Brain Pickings, about a new book on the correspondence between Gorey and author/editor Peter F. Neumeyer.

The book, titled "Floating Worlds," is "a magnificent collection of 75 typewriter-transcribed letters, 38 stunningly illustrated envelopes, and more than 60 postcards and illustrations exchanged between two collaborators-turned-close-friends, featuring Gorey’s his witty, wise meditations on such eclectic topics as insect life, the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, and Japanese art," according to Brain Pickings.

Click here to read a little bit about book and also see some of the drawings featured in it.

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