Let the Wild Rumpus Start
Published on May 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

In 2011, NPR's Terry Gross had a nice chat with Maurice Sendak.

You can check out her interview here.

Corn For the Table, or the Tank
Published on May 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

In her column Greenpoint over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the use of corn for ethanol, rising food prices and the benefits of growing your own food.

Here's an excerpt:

"It’s almost time to plant the corn — and I’m talking about corn in our own gardens, grown for food, not fuel.

But the use of corn for ethanol has changed our food supply, and is changing how people eat and how much. And it’s affecting food prices.

It stands to reason. If fertile agricultural land is being used to grow corn for ethanol, it’s taking land out of food production. Subsidies for ethanol keep corn prices high, which also makes animal feed expensive, which makes meat expensive.

Of course, there are a lot of things affecting food prices. The World Bank reported late last month that rising fuel costs, bad weather in Europe and the United States, and increasing demand in Asia combined to push food prices up 8 percent worldwide between December and March. Because our food supply is no longer local, problems far from home — tsunamis in Japan, droughts in Australia — affect both prices and supply in our local stores.

The globalization of our food supply is not all bad, of course. It keeps us in oranges and coffee, and gives us cheap rice and cinnamon."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Mommy Making It Work
Losing A Tooth
Published on May 7, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

About a month ago, my husband put my 5-year-old, William, to bed a few nights in a row, switching off with me for the not-so-easy 2-year-old Alli.

So when it was my turn again, I went to brush his teeth and noticed something poking out of his bottom gums, behind a tooth. At first, I thought it was a popcorn kernel. The kids were in an everyday popcorn phase at the time.

Then I realized it was a tooth. His first adult tooth!, While I know it happens with every kid, I wasn’t prepared for how I would react. This was one of the first signs that my little boy wasn’t a baby anymore.

And as he becomes a big boy, that baby tooth has to go. I wriggled the baby tooth in front of the new one, and it was barely moving. It just looked like he was growing a second layer of teeth, like a shark.


Adam Yauch, R.I.P.
Published on May 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I pay tribute to Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who died last week from cancer.

For the record, here are my top 5 Beastie Boys songs:

1. Egg Man

2. Get It Together

3. Fight For Your Right

4. Sabotage

5. Girls

Anyway, click here to read my piece.

Continuing the Tradition of Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble
Published on May 7, 2012 by guest author: Roger Noyes

The recent passing of drummer-vocalist Levon Helm, best known for his work with The Band, affected me very deeply. Of his significance culturally, I can do little more than amplify what has already been said by countless fans who were greatly touched by Helm’s music, and by fellow musicians who had the privilege to share a stage with him.

Such tributes are themselves heartening reminders of Helm’s generous spirit, revealing the many ways that people – a culture, really – can very purely reflect a single individual’s humanity and grace. We need such reminders more often, and I will surely remember these recent weeks whenever I hear a recording of Helm’s rolling drum style and soulful voice, and whenever my fellow musician friends and I gather to sing songs in what has become a yearly tradition modeled after Helm's
storied Midnight Ramble shows.

Living in upstate New York, I was extremely fortunate to have attended three Midnight Ramble shows at Helm's barn/studio in Woodstock. Rooted in the spirit of the traveling “tent shows” that Helm witnessed in Arkansas during his youth, the intimate Woodstock Rambles of recent years – presided by Helm and his exceptional house band – had an almost participatory feel to them, offering perhaps the closest opportunity for pure audience involvement in a musical act without actually being on stage. These shows were electrifying and magical, with world-class musicians giving their all, sometimes assisted by surprise guest artists, including the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Gillian Welch and Elvis Costello. On two of the nights I attended, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan sat behind the piano and the Loving Spoonful's John Sebastian was introduced for a few numbers.


Ordinary Places
Published on May 6, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my recent trip to Auburn, N.Y., and how I generally like most places - even places generally regarded as boring.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last weekend I went to visit friends in Auburn, a trip I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time.

Auburn is about 40 minutes outside of Syracuse, which is where my friends used to live. I always have a good time when I visit them, which has given me fond memories of both Auburn and Syracuse. I mean, who can forget their first trip to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que?

But when I mentioned my Auburn trip to a friend, he looked at me with pity.

'I’m sorry,' he said.

'Don’t be sorry,' I said. 'I like Auburn.'

My friend is from Syracuse, so it’s not like he’s sneering down his nose at a region of the state he’s never set foot in, which is the sort of thing that drives me crazy. He’s sneering down his nose at his hometown, and he has every right to do that. But his hometown really isn’t that bad, in my opinion.

Of course, I might be a bit unusual in that I tend to like most of the places I go."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Top Reads of the Week
Published on May 4, 2012 by Sara Foss

Greed: Sara Foss on wanting more

Parenting: J LeBlanc on traveling with a lap child

Movies: Sara Foss on "The Cabin in the Woods"

Sports: Sara Foss on the death of Junior Seau

Thoughts on Stand-Up Comedy
Published on May 3, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about recent performances by two stand-up comics, Mike Birbiglia and Andy Pitz. I'm always interested in humor, and how it works, and stand-up comedy can provide insight into such matters.

Anyway, click here to read it.

Junior Seau, R.I.P.
Published on May 2, 2012 by Sara Foss

The death of Junior Seau is a very sad thing. And it's the sort of thing that should make people think long and hard about violence in the NFL, and the impact it has on players.

According to police, the 43-year-old Seau committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. This is an interesting detail, because it mirrors the way Chicago Bears great Dave Duerson chose to end his life in 2011. Duerson had wanted to preserve his brain, so that it could be examined by doctors to determine whether he had CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a trauma-induced disease common to people who have received repeated blows to the head. Symptoms of CTE include depression, demention and memory loss.

Seau's suicide is the second by a former NFL player in the past two weeks. In April, Ray Easterling, who played for the Atlanta Falcons and a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NFL for their handling of head injuries, killed himself. Also noteworthy is the fact that Seau is the eighth member of the 1994 AFC champion San Diego Chargers team to die - an astonishing and horrific detail that sounds like something Stephen King might dream up if he ever decided to write a novel about the NFL.

Seau's death might finally prompt some soul-searching over head injuries within the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell has given lip service to this topic, while also trying to expand the regular season to 18 games. Note to the NFL: Extending the regular season will only make your head-injury problem worse. Sportswriter Dave Zirin writes, "In Seau, a larger than life Hall of Fame player, we have someone with friends throughout the ranks of the league and especially in the media. It will be incredibly difficult to keep this under wraps. People will want answers. ... There is a discussion that the NFL is going to have to have with a team of doctors, players and the public. Right now, this is not a league safe for human involvement. I have no idea how to make it safer. But I do know that the status quo is absolutely unacceptable.

Over at Slate, Josh Levin also raises interesting questions about Seau's death.

Seau spent most of his career with the Chargers, but I especially enjoyed his stint with the Patriots. I'm not sure it's possible to make professional football safe - football is an inherently violent sport - but we need to figure out how to make the game less damaging to the young men who play it. Seau's death is not an isolated incident, and if something isn't done, there will be more deaths like his.


Saying Good-Bye to Your First Car
Published on May 2, 2012 by Sara Foss

My first car was a 1995 Ford Escort that I acquired during my senior year of college.

The engine blew at 150,000 miles, and I left it at a garage in Tarrytown, N.Y., called Stiloski's.

(Meanest garage in the world, by the way. Don't ever go there. Someday, in a small act of revenge, I'm going to write a novel that features a villainous character named Stiloski.)

Saying good-bye to a car is weird. It's kind of like the end of a relationship. You spend all this time with the car, and invest a lot of energy and time into, and then one day you basically leave it for dead. This year, I got rid of my 1997 Subaru Legacy. As I was driving to the dealership to turn it in, the song "How It Ends" by the Denver band DeVotchKa came on the radio. It was pretty bittersweet, and I almost cried.

Anyway, today The Awl ran a nice piece titled "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Your First Car."

You can check it out here.


Lessons in Parenting
Traveling With a Lap Child
Published on May 1, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

When my son took his first plane ride at age four months, I was afraid he would cry (he didn’t) or have a blowout (he did). When he next flew at seven months, I was more concerned about him being a lap child, as we had a long day of flying ahead. Luckily, my husband went along that time, so we passed him back and forth. At age thirteen months, I was nervous that the entire time on the plane would be one hours-long wrestling match. After all, that’s what diaper changing and clothes-changing times have become.

I came as prepared as I could. I asked friends for advice; I did research. I had toys he knew and loved, toys he’d never seen before, his favorite books, lots of snacks, and my Baby Björn to strap him into if all else failed.

When I got to the airport to check in, the attendant suggested I keep his car seat with me in case there were empty seats. The first flight was the longest, so I leapt at the hope of being able to strap him in, although I had not purchased a seat for him. As it turned out, there were empty seats, but the airline announced that the flight was full before we got on, so I gate-checked the car seat. That meant I had to manage a car seat, stroller, and toddler when we changed planes. I wish I had not taken that advice.


Trees For Birds
Published on May 1, 2012 by Sara Foss

In her column Greenpoint over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the fondness birds have for trees, and how planting trees is a good way to attract birds.

Here's an excerpt:

"In the Faroe islands, there are no native trees. A series of volcano tops sticking out of the North Atlantic about halfway between Scotland and Iceland, the Faroes are naturally home to grasses and some shrubby plants — good sheep country.

But over the past century, people have been planting trees there, in areas sheltered enough from the winds that they can take root and grow, albeit slowly. These trees offer shelter to the sheep, but also something else: a comfortable hangout for migrating birds.

Like other islands in the North Atlantic — the Shetlands, the Hebrides, Iceland — the Faroes are a natural landing zone for all kinds of migrating birds. Faroese birder and blogger Silas Olofson says those migrations can make the islands loaded with birds sometimes, and almost empty at others. The tree plantations (the U.N. estimates them at about a total of 200 acres) offer an added incentive for touring birds to land on the Faroes, and to hang out for a while."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Watching "The Cabin in the Woods"
Published on May 1, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new horror movie "The Cabin in the Woods."

Here's an excerpt:


I knew very little about the new horror film 'The Cabin in the Woods.' I knew it had an unusual twist that would supposedly blow me away, but I had no idea what that twist entailed. I assumed the film would be a bit like 'Scream' — a self-aware horror comedy that deconstructs the genre while also paying tribute to it, and providing genuine scares. So I was somewhat confused by the film’s opening scene, which features two middle-aged technocrats, played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, amiably chatting by a water cooler. Where was the cabin in the woods? And the nubile young victims? I felt like I was watching 'The Office.'

'The Cabin in the Woods' does feature nubile young victims — five college students who are heading off to spend a drunken weekend in the woods. The movie actually takes time to develop these characters a bit — they fit clear archetypes (the jock, the stoner, the girl who sleeps around, the girl who doesn’t, the smart guy), but they also subvert those stereotypes.

For instance, the athlete Curt (Chris Hemsworth) is actually a pretty bright guy — we later find out that he’s a sociology major. The college students meet a creepy man at a gas station on their drive to the woods, who warns them against going any further, but they ignore them and eventually arrive at the cabin, which has a few weird quirks, such as a one-way window that enables one to spy on the occupant of an adjoining room."

Click here to read the whole thing.

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