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Connecting with Friends
Published on March 11, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how much easier it is to connect with friends these days, and how much I still enjoy the random, unplanned encounter.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last week, for reasons that are too convoluted to explain, I found myself roaming around the Palace Theatre searching for my seat.

I didn’t have my ticket, but I knew I was seated somewhere in the balcony, with my friends Bruce and Anna. The opening band had just stopped playing, which gave me a small window of time in which to locate my seat, and my friends. Once the headliner, the alternative-rock band Jane’s Addiction, took the stage, it would become much more difficult to hear and see them.

Not being able to find my friends is always a source of anxiety, and although technology has made it much easier to track people down, there are limits to what it can do. Maybe Bruce didn’t have his phone on, or wouldn’t think to check his messages. Maybe he’d turned it off for some reason. Worried that he wouldn’t get my message, I headed up to the balcony to search for him.

I heard someone call my name but it wasn’t Bruce. It was the New England Sports Fan Friend, waving to me from his seat. He was there with his wife, his sister-in-law and another couple, and I ran up to say hello. 'I’d love to stay and chat,' I said, 'but I need to find Bruce and Anna.'

As I turned to leave, I heard someone else call my name. I whirled around and was greeted by an old high school classmate — someone I probably hadn’t seen since the mid- to late 1990s. I was confused. Did the New England Sports Fan Friend know my old high school classmate? And, if so, how? But he seemed as baffled as I was. 'This is the row of people who know Sara Foss,' he cracked.

I exchanged a few words with the high school classmate, then rushed off to continue my search. I ran into my friend Sue and her crew, as well as a former colleague. But not Bruce and Anna."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Cool Staircases
Published on March 11, 2012 by Sara Foss

Click here to see some pictures of cool staircases.


Top Reads of the Week:
Published on March 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Parenting: Cindy F. Crawford on her streaking children, and J LeBlanc on her son's many phases

Movies: J.K. Eisen offers some low-budget alternatives to "Star Wars," and Sara Foss reviews "A Dangerous Method"

Poetry: Dan Schneider on his poetry twitter project

Work: R.B. Austen on her newest part-time job

Music: Sara Foss on Jane's Addiction

Lent: Sara Foss on giving up soda


Am I A Barbarian?
Published on March 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

Maybe I'm a barbarian, but I'm not at all shocked by the so-called scandal currently rocking the NFL, the not-at-all surprising revelation that the New Orleans Saints maintained a "bounty system" that provided players with payments for hits that injured opposing players. From what I've read, other teams have maintained similar systems, and the scandal involving the Saints simply exposes something that's a part of the NFL.

Charles Pierce, writing over at Grantland, explains:

"Think of all the illusions about the National Football League that the revelations of a bounty program in New Orleans shatter. Think of all the silly pretensions those revelations deflate. The preposterous prayer circles at midfield. The weepy tinpot patriotism of the flyovers and the martial music. The dime-store Americanism that's draped on anything that moves. The suffocating corporate miasma that attends everything the league does — from the groaning buffet tables at the Super Bowl to the Queegish fascination with headbands and sock lengths while teams are paying "bounties" to tee up the stars of your game so they don't get to play anymore. What we have here now is the face of organized savagery, plain and simple, and no amount of commercials showing happy kids cavorting with your dinged-up superstars can ameliorate any of that."

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Do We Really Need Eight Hours of Sleep?
Published on March 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

I've always heard that we need eight hours sleep a night. But recently I've been seeing articles suggesting that we might not. This piece, on Alternet, suggests that our understanding of sleep is all wrong. The author, Lynn Parramore, writes: 

"Pursuing the truth about sleep means winding your way through a labyrinth of science, consumerism and myth. Researchers have had barely a clue about what constitutes 'normal' sleep. Is it total time spent sleeping? A certain amount of time in a particular phase? The pharmaceutical industry recommends that we drug ourselves through the night, which, it turns out, doesn’t even work. The average time spent sleeping increases by only a few minutes with the use of prescription sleep aids. And -- surprise! -- doctors have just linked sleeping pills to cancer.  We have memory foam mattresses, sleep clinics, hotel pillow concierges, and countless others strategies to put us to bed. And yet we complain about sleep more than ever."

She goes on to explain that, until recently, humans slept in two stages - often four hour chunks.

This squares with something I remember hearing in college, that we sleep in four increments. And on nights when I had a lot of work to do, I often aimed for four hours of sleep, because it seemed like an amount that corresponded with the natural rhythms of my body.

Anyway, sleep is important, and people need to do more of it. If research can help people learn how to sleep better, we should pay attention to it.


Walking the High Line
Published on March 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

Last weekend I had the chance to walk the High Ligh - a cool, relatively new park built on an elevated railway platform in Manhattan- and I wrote about this experience over at the DG. Here's an excerpt:

"I enjoy exploring unusual spaces and I support repurposing blighted properties for public use, and the High Line struck me as a unique and interesting project. Plus, it’s about two stories high, and offers aerial views of the city and the Hudson River. I’ve always liked surveying my surroundings from up above, and the High Line seemed like it would provide a nice break from New York’s relentless grid system and endless stream of busy pedestrians.

I first read about the High Line in a 2001 New Yorker story by Adam Gopnik. The park didn’t open until 2006, and Gopnik does an excellent job of evoking the pre-park wildness of the West Side Line. 'For the moment, the High Line has gone not to wrack and ruin but to seed: weeds and grasses and even small trees sprout from the track bed,' he writes. 'There are irises and lamb’s ears and thistle-tufted onion grass, white-flowering bushes and pink-budded trees and grape hyacinths, and strange New York weeds that shoot straight up with horizontal arms, as though electrified. A single, improbable Christmas tree can be found there, and a flock of warblers have made themselves a home, too. In one sheltered stretch between two tall buildings is a stand of hardwood trees. The High Line combines the appeal of those fantasies in which New York has returned to the wild with an almost Zen quality of measured, peaceful distance.'"

Click here to read the whole thing.


Mommy Making It Work
My Kids Are Streakers
Published on March 7, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

For the last few months, whenever I walk in the door after a long day at work, my kids are running around stark naked.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk in the door after a long day, I put my purse down, take my shoes off, hang up my jacket. The usual. But for some reason, my kids, who are 5 and 2, take off their shoes, their socks – and everything else.

I think part of it is because at that hour, it is daddy daycare. Because I work long hours and commute at least 30 minutes, my husband has night duty since he works really close to home. And he doesn’t care whether they’re dressed or not. And he’s not the first dad in charge. Before hubby takes over, his dad holds court by keeping them several days a week. So it’s possible clothing is optional when the men are in charge, even if it is 6 p.m. and company could show up at any time.

The streaking probably popped up when we started ramping up the potty training with Alli around Christmas. Right now, she sits on the potty a million times a night (and does nothing, mind you), then she gets off, flushes the empty toilet and goes back to playing. After doing that a bunch of times, putting the pullup and pants back on gets tiresome, so we all just let her run around bottomless. Then the shirt comes off around dinnertime so it won’t get dirty (because she hates getting anything on her shirt) - hence the nakedness.

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Lessons in Parenting
Phases
Published on March 7, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Last night, I was holding my son and swaying in time to some early Beatles songs, an activity he loves. As usual, he was looking away from me, a serious expression on his face, intently listening and occasionally cooing as though trying to sing along. We had listened to several songs when, abruptly, he twisted away from me, indicating he was ready for me to release him to go and play. He had never done this before; he always seemed to have limitless interest in our “dancing.” And thus, one more little phase ended.

Ever since my son reached the one-year mark, I have found myself reflecting on what our lives were like a year ago when he was a newborn and retracing his route to where we are now. At times it seemed so slow, but somehow I find myself wondering how we got here.

Having a child has forced me to change the way I look at time. Before, if I saw something was coming, I would take measures to prepare, to make the transition and the change itself easier on a long-term basis. My son’s phases, though, are so relatively short compared to other changes I’ve experienced, it has taken me a while to realize that I can’t keep planning for a future in which he is doing a particular thing indefinitely. For example, during our dancing session, I was thinking how I should try getting him to dance standing on his own, since he will soon be too heavy for me to hold him and do this for very long at a time. When he began to squirm, the lesson really hit home: I should just to do this as long as he will let me, because the odds are much greater that he will tire of it before I do.

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Annals of Online Dating
Published on March 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

The Awl has collected some horror stories.


Are You a Trollop?
Published on March 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

Mother Jones provides a helpful chart.


The Case For "How Green Was My Valley"
Published on March 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

I was hanging out in the podiatrist's office the other day, and decided to flip through a back issue of Entertainment Weekly while waiting for my appointment. One piece, in particular caught my eye - a list of the worst Best Picture winners ever. Much to my surprise, the first film listed was John Ford's 1941 film "How Green Was My Valley," about a close-knit Welsh mining family.

"How Green Was My Valley" is often maligned for beating "Citizen Kane," but here's the thing: It's a great movie. As great as "Kane" is, I feel that "How Green Was My Valley" is more rewarding on an emotional level. Of course, I didn't expect much from the film before I saw it, because people are always rolling their eyes and grumbling about how "Citizen Kane" should have won the Oscar. Fine. But I don't think it deserves to be lumped with "Gandhi" and "Shakespeare in Love" on a list of Oscar misfires.

Apparently, I'm not the only person who thinks this. Over at the website Observations on Film Art, Kristin Thompson explains why "How Green Was My Valley" deserves more respect, and even suggests it might be better than "Citizen Kane." Apparently, Thompson was inspired to defend "How Green Was My Valley" after reading the same EW piece I did.

Click here to read Thompson's essay.


A 3D Menace
Published on March 6, 2012 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

It’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to see Jar Jar Binks in 3D.

Nevertheless, George Lucas is giving the movie-going public that opportunity with "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D." A lot of ink has been spilled criticizing the first installment of the Star Wars prequels. But the bottom line is that "Phantom Menace" simply doesn’t lend itself to multiple viewings. This may explain why Lucas had to add something new – 3D – for this re-release.

There’s no doubt it’s a monumental task to produce anything that stacks up to the classic Star Wars trilogy, which can be watched over and over. But "Phantom Menace" doesn’t even stack up to the slew of little-known movies released in the late 1970s and early 1980s to cash-in on the success of Star Wars.

There are several movies from this period that can be watched multiple times, even if it’s just to gather a few friends to enjoy a fun B-movie. Two sci-fi films from this period that definitely fit this bill are "Message from Space" and "Laserblast."

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"Savage" Barbecue Sauce
Published on March 6, 2012 by Sara Foss

My former colleague Wade Kwon has written a smart piece about an Alabama-made barbecue sauce that features a racist logo, and can be found in supermarkets statewide.

Click here to find out more.


Watching "A Dangerous Method"
Published on March 6, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new David Cronenberg movie "A Dangerous Method."

Here's an excerpt:

"'A Dangerous Method' is one of those movies that seemed like it was made for me. The film is about the relationship between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Russian psychologist Sabina Spielrein, and it was directed by David Cronenberg, whose films have long explored issues of repression, violence, desire and identity. Where a lesser director would give this rich material the standard biopic treatment, I expected Cronenberg to approach it with his usual eye for the subversive, and knack for crafting perverse and fascinating set pieces.

Much to my surprise, 'A Dangerous Method' is much closer in spirit to a traditional biopic than the Cronenberg oeuvre. Which isn’t to say it isn’t well made, and interesting. It just wasn’t the wild psychosexual tour-de-force I was expecting, that’s all."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Adventures in Work
Becoming a Parent Aide
Published on March 5, 2012 by guest author: R.B. Austen

In my continued search for gainful employment, I now have another new part-time job!

None of my three part-time jobs are alike, but this one finds me back in the nonprofit sector. As a Parent Aide, I will be
supervising visits between parents and children and provide families with supportive services that can range from nutrition and meal planning to teaching them about positive discipline.

My orientation started out as most do. I sat down with my supervisor and received a binder of information. At first we reviewed the standard stuff like timesheets, paperwork and boundaries. Then we turned the page to “Safety Guidelines at a Glance.” These were mostly common-sense tips, such as “Choose parking that will not block you in and in the direction you want to go when leaving the home.” Then we arrived at, “Avoid bodily secretions,” which is not typically something you think of when you think of a day at work.

My favorite tip was, “Ask ahead of time if there are any animals in the house that you should be aware of.” This prompted a story about a Parent Aide arriving at a first visit to discover that the family had a traveling animal show that lived in the house, and that this included housing a tortoise in the bathroom and tarantulas and snakes in the dining room.

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