On Swimming
Published on May 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

As a swimmer, I enjoyed this New York Times piece on the joys and health benefits of swimming.

At Least I've Never Lost $2 Billion
Published on May 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

When I was a kid, I often lost things, like mittens and shoes. This infuriated my mother, who responded to such losses by making me feel like I'd committed a terrible crime. But I never lost $2 billion, and although this strikes me as a far more serious crime, I have this nagging suspicion that our elected officials are going to respond to JPMorgan's stunning loss of $2 billion by throwing their hands up in the air and saying that it's regrettable, but nothing can be done, either to punish JPMorgan, or to prevent future mishaps.

What I love about JPMorgan's $2 billion lose is that their CEO Jamie Dimon is considered one of the smarter bankers, and his bank is considered one of the better banks. Which raises the question: Can you really be considered smart if you head up a company that loses $2 billion? Can your bank really be considered a good bank if it loses $2 billion? I mean, that is a lot of money! Losing that much money is basically the opposite of what a bank should be doing.

Nevertheless, we're already seeing the same stories and op-eds we saw four years ago when the banks ruined the global economy, examining how this could have happened, whether more regulation is needed, whether the banks are too big, etc. I feel like I'm living in the movie "Groundhog Day," except in my scenario a financial catastrophe occurs every two years, prompting everybody to wring their hands and wonder what hit them.


Watching "The Avengers"
Published on May 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review "The Avengers."

Click here to see what I thought.

NBA Playoff Picks, Round Two
Published on May 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer up my second round NBA playoff picks.

Click here to read them.

Carnival of the Chickens
Published on May 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about chickens, and their quirky antics.

Here's an excerpt:

"Four chickens huddled together, braced themselves, then marched out as a pack, tails up, heads poking forward with each step of their orange legs. A stray hen scurried out from another corner of the yard, peeking warily over her shoulder, and the four biddies reacted as one: squawking, clucking, shushing and finally herding and prodding the stray hen back into the group.

It could have been our own backyard.

Instead it was on stage, at a rehearsal of my daughter’s ballet company’s production of 'Carnival of the Animals.'

'That chicken dance is spot on,' I told my daughter who, for the record, is a swan.

Observers — and impersonators — of animals look for the telltale movements or postures that differentiate a chicken from, say, a duck. Or a swan."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Grown Up Dress Code
Published on May 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my sense of fashion ... or lack thereof.

Here's an excerpt:

"The other day it was raining pretty heavily, which prompted me to do what I usually do when it rains: wistfully think of my old umbrella.

I can’t remember what happened to that umbrella, but I know where it came from: My good friend Matt gave it to me because I was wandering around without an umbrella. “Here, take this,” he said.

Even then it had seen better days: The metal tips were poking through the fabric, which was faded and frayed, and I worried about accidentally stabbing someone.

I seldom remembered to take the umbrella with me when I left my apartment, but I found it moderately useful on those rare occasions when I did. It was nice to go for a walk and not be dripping wet by the end of it. Still, I never came to regard the umbrella as essential, and when it disappeared I didn’t replace it. It rarely rains all that hard, anyway. The other night, I went for a walk in the rain and managed to protect myself just fine by wearing a hooded sweatshirt."

Click here to read more

Reflecting on the Passing of Two Unlikely Mentors
Published on May 13, 2012 by guest author: Adam Rust

There is truism out there that says that people dies in threes. I must confess that I have succumbed to agreeing. Just this week, three famous people died. Each made their mark in the arts, beginning in the 60s: Horst Faas, Vidal Sassoon, and Maurice Sendak. As a child of the 70s, I can remember when my mother read “Where the Wild Things Are” while wearing a bob.

Two people that made a bigger impact in my life died this year. I knew both for only a short while, but they were people who helped me through some hard questions. While their memories have remained in my mind, the news of their deaths was the first time that I had spoken about either of them in years. This story is both a recounting of my own history but also a warning for a reader – you should realize that you can have an impact on a person that you barely know.

I met Dave when my parents hired him to remodel their bathroom. Dave was about 35. In spite of his age, he was just starting his own carpentry business. He had lived a hard life. He learned to be a carpenter during his two-year stay in a rehabilitation clinic in the Bay area.

He worked in our home for about three weeks. My parents were expanding their bathroom into the last seven feet of their bedroom. Looking back, I wonder if my parents realized that this carpenter-in-recovery was also going to be a counselor to their son.


I Was That Girl
Published on May 13, 2012 by Sara Foss

Out of Arizona last week came the story of a high school baseball team that decided to forfeit a state championship game rather than play against a team with a girl, second baseman Paige Sultzbach. The fundamentalist Catholic school Our Lady of Sorrows decided that playing in the game would violate the school's mission to teach boys and girls separately - a mission they apparently seek to impose on everyone else. After all, nobody is forcing Our Lady of Sorrows to add girls to their roster.

This is a maddening story for numerous reasons, but I find it maddening on a personal level, because I was once Paige Sultzbach. Through much of middle school, I played on a boys soccer team. Sometimes I was joined by a few other girls. Sometimes I wasn't. In eighth grade, I was the only girl on my team. This meant I had to work twice as hard as everyone else, for less respect on the field. Was I the best person on the team? No. But I was OK, and sometimes even better than that. 


How to Make Gruel
Published on May 13, 2012 by Sara Foss

I've always enjoyed lying to kids, and when I worked at camp, I lied to kids often. One of my favorite lies involved dinner - whenever the kids asked me what we were having, I always said, "Gruel."

Anyway, The Awl has a nice little story about how historians and scientists are able to reconstruct millennium-old recipes, and how they were able to recreate the recipe for Bogman's Weedseed Gruel, which sounds like an even better answer to the "What are we having for dinner?" question than plain old gruel. Much to my delight, this recipe calls for water infused with sphagnum moss, which makes me think of the eighth grade, when I ran for class president on the slogan "Vote For Sara Foss or She'll Turn You Into Sphagnum Moss." Ah, nostalgia.

Click here to visit the piece in The Awl.


Top Reads of the Week
Published on May 11, 2012 by Sara Foss

Books: J LeBlanc on Maurice Sendak, and children books in general

Music: Roger Noyes on Levon Helm, and Sara Foss on Adam Yauch

Parenting: Cindy F. Crawford on losing a tooth

Travel: Sara Foss on ordinary places

Lessons in Parenting
Missing Maurice Sendak
Published on May 9, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

A great children’s book author passed away this week. He is probably best known as the author of "Where the Wild Things Are," a favorite of ours, but we also love "The Nutshell Library" (which has accompanying songs by Carole King from a 1970’s era television special), "In the Night Kitchen," and "Outside Over There."

Maurice Sendak is known for not sugar-coating the life of a child: The children featured in his stories are brazen and selfish at times, loveable and imaginative at others. In the course of reading to my son, I noticed there is something that sets apart the really well-known children’s book authors, and a part of that is the realism that they attempt to portray.  Sendak’s hero Max is terrorizing the house before he is sent to bed without supper, but he is more than simply a mischief-maker, as we realize when he suddenly wants to be with someone “who loves him best of all." Dr. Seuss is another of our favorites, and I hope my son will pick up on the message "Green Eggs and Ham" has for the picky eater. While my son has yet to really warm to Beatrix Potter, I love her stories and how the animals act like little boys and girls, such as when Tom Kitten and his siblings run around getting their nice clothes dirty playing outside.

There are a lot of newer children’s books out there and a surprising number of them are not very good. First, too many celebrities think they can write children’s books. Nothing against John Lithgow - I admire his acting - but I picked up a children’s book written by him at the library the other day and it looked like lackluster folk song lyrics written in tribute to his dogs. There are others who seem to take children’s book writing more seriously, but they often make childhood seem too saccharine. Take for example, "Guess How Much I Love You." It is, as a mother at one of my playgroups pointed out, basically a competition between parent and child as to who loves whom the most. The parent wins - big surprise. What’s more, it’s just not that interesting to read. Another author we’ve run into frequently is Karen Katz. We have a copy of "Counting Kisses," which I have altered. Rather than reading to my son about how someone is kissing the baby’s “yummy, chubby knees,” a description only a parent will appreciate and maybe not even then, I have focused instead on who is kissing (mom, dad, sister, cat, dog, etc.) and the body part, minus the strings of syrupy adjectives so as to teach my son about the people in the household and body parts, in addition to numbers.


Licorice Can Fight Diabetes, Maybe
Published on May 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

I don't have diabetes, but if I did, I'd be very excited by the news that licorice root contains substances with an "anti-diabetic effect." Why? Because I love licorice, that's why.

According to an item at The Atlantic:

"The licorice root has been used as a traditional healer since ancient times. Certain forms of licorice root have already been shown to calm the digestive system and ameliorate respiratory ailments in humans. Because of its beneficial effects, the licorice root has been dubbed the 'Medicinal plant of 2012.'

Now scientists have discovered that licorice root from the papilionaceae or leguminous family might also be effective in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes affects humans who are usually overweight or obese, causing the body becoming resistant to insulin. So far, treatments for type 2 diabetes have been developed but none of them halt disease progression. Many clinicians believe that the best treatment for type 2 diabetes is to prevent it before it starts."

Click here to learn more.

The 50 Greatest Movie Romances
Published on May 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at MSN Movies, Glenn Kenny has put together a pretty interesting list of the 50 greatest movie romances. It includes some pretty standard choices, such as "Titanic" and "Gone With the Wind" (a movie I hate, by the way), but also some more offbeat selections, such as Luis Bunuel's "That Obscure Object of Desire" and Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude."

Anyway, click here to see the list.

Watching "The Deep Blue Sea"
Published on May 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Terence Davies film, "The Deep Blue Sea."

Here's an excerpt:

“'The Deep Blue Sea' is a deeply felt and richly textured examination of a love triangle, centering on a strong-willed woman named Hester (Rachel Weisz) who leaves her older husband, Sir William, for a younger lover, named Freddie. Neither of these men are quite worthy of Hester, a smart, vibrant and passionate woman who, as the film opens, is attempting to gas herself to death because Freddie has neglected her on her birthday. How did things get so bad? And is there any hope?

Based on a play by Terence Rattigan, 'The Deep Blue Sea' is a bit of a chamber piece, focused primarily on Hester and the two men who orbit around her. But it also paints a vivid and detailed portrait of post-World War II England — of sing-a-longs in pubs, and chilly rooming houses and bombed-out streetscapes that have yet to be rebuilt. The love triangle that propels the plot could only happen against this somewhat shell-shocked backdrop — a veteran, Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) has struggled to adapt to civilian life, and taken to drinking too much, while Hester remains haunted by memories of life during the Blitz. As she contemplates suicide in a subway station, she remembers joining her fellow citizens there during a bombing raid, her husband’s arms around her, as a soldier sings 'Molly Malone.'"

Click here for more.

Breaking Up With Mom and Dad
Published on May 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

When I was in college, I talked to my parents once a week. I went home on breaks, and spent part of the summer at home, before my summer camp job began. I love my parents, but I did not feel the need to talk to them five or six tiimes, or see them all that much.

Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Terry Castle writes about how the Millennials are tethered to their parents, and why this is bad. She makes the case for orphanhood -for separating from your parents, and becoming your own person. I think she's right, and that this is an essential part of growing up, but recent trends - helicopter parents, college students who talk to their parents five or six times a day - suggest that maybe this changing. Castle asks:

"So where are we today? Are we in the midst of some countertransformation? A rolling back of the Enlightenment parent-child story? Are we returning to an older model of belief—to a more authoritarian and "elder centric" world? The deferential-child model has dominated most of human history, after all. Maybe the extraordinary Enlightenment break with the age-old commandment—honor thy father and thy mother—was temporary, an aberration, a blip on the screen."

Anyway, the whole essay is interesting, and you can read it here.

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