Watching "Shut Up and Play the Hits"
Published on July 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about "Shut Up and Play the Hits," the LCD Soundsystem concert film/documentary that played for one night only on Wednesday.

Click here to read my piece.

Mommy Making It Work
Potty Training Boot Camp 311
Published on July 18, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

In December, I wrote about my attempts to get my then freshly 2-year-old daughter Alli potty trained, mostly because – now on my second kid – I was sick of changing diapers.

If you read that story, “Potty Training Boot Camp,” you could clearly sense my determination to get her in panties and into the world of big people. But in the end, after she peed all over my house and ended the eight-hour ordeal by pooping in her hand instead of the singing toddler potty, I gave up and said in the blog, “One lesson of potty training: The kid has to want it. Not just the parents.”

Boy was I right. I tried one more time, with a slightly less strict “Potty Training Boot Camp 211” during spring break in March and, lo and behold, Alli still wasn’t ready.

But Memorial Day weekend, a month shy of turning 2 1/2, I was vacuuming my bedroom when Alli triumphantly walked in and announced that she had poo-pooed on the potty.


Watching "Moonrise Kingdom"
Published on July 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Wes Anderson movie, "Moonrise Kingdom."

Here's an excerpt:

"During my vacation, my sister dressed my baby niece in a funny little sun hat and white handknit sweater with a dog motif. It was an unusual outfit, and my niece’s expression was unusually solemn. 'She looks like a character in a Wes Anderson movie,' my sister observed.

If you’re the type of person who understands what this means, you’ll definitely want to check out the new Wes Anderson movie, 'Moonrise Kingdom.' Anderson is one of the more meticulous, visually distinct filmmakers out there, known for dressing his characters in quirky outfits and uniforms (he’s a big fan of tweed) and creating odd and captivating buildings and interiors: A house is not just a house in a Wes Anderson film, but a character in its own right. His human characters are often mournful and lonely, struggling to cope with broken hearts or their inability to fit in. In his latest film, Anderson offers his fans more of the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: 'Moonrise Kingdom' is the director’s most accomplished film to date, and although I didn’t like it quite as much as his excellent 2009 animated film 'Fantastic Mr. Fox,' it represents a step forward for a director often accused of treating his characters like dolls. Roiling beneath 'Moonrise Kingdom’s' beautiful and entrancing sets and surfaces are real emotions — melancholy, joy, sorrow and wonder."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Rule of Thumb contributor Eric J. Perkins also reviewed "Moonrise Kingdom." Click here for his thoughts.

How I Decided to Stop Worrying and Love the Drive-Through
Published on July 16, 2012 by guest author: Dan Schneider

Grilled or crispy? Ordinarily a question concerning a chicken sandwich would not strike fear into my heart. But a couple nights ago as I sat at the Wendy’s drive-through lane, I was faced with a circumstance I had not prepared for, had not rehearsed, that gave me no time to make a call to my wife (for whom the late night sandwich was destined). The Wendy’s guy’s voice squawking out of the scratchy speaker sounded as if he was in a hurry, though there was no one behind me.  And I felt the familiar moment of panic set in as I ordered “grilled,” and hoped this would be the right choice.

The whole experience took less than five minutes, but it reminded me just how much I dislike drive-throughs in almost every form. The one exception is the station at the bank where I can send deposits whooshing up pneumatic tubes, an experience at the same time so ultramodern and completely outdated it somehow doesn’t bother me. But for a long time fast food drive-through lines bothered me to the point that I would just go inside and watch as bags of food shuttled out the drive-through window while I stood waiting for my order, the lone indoor customer.

I still develop an almost nauseous tightness in my chest when I turn into the lane, pull up to the incomprehensible menu, talk into a faceless brown or yellow pole, and hope my order will be transmitted correctly. The feeling is only heightened when, inevitably, a car pulls behind me with a driver who I imagine has no trouble with drive-throughs. He probably gets his coffee from the Duncan Donuts drive-through every morning, I think to myself, and the tapping of his fingers on the wheel must mean he is growing more and more impatient with me as I try to find exactly where on the menu are printed the sides and kids meals.


The Long Days of Summer
Published on July 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley discusses the importance of slowing down to enjoy summer in her weekly column.

Here's an excerpt:

"We’re in the longest days of the year right now, which should give us the most time to do all the things we love to do — climb mountains, forage for wild fruit, swim in lakes, eat outdoors, watch the sun set, visit with friends and family.

Summertime is all about time, the long lazy days or the days crammed full of too many things to do. The trick is remembering to enjoy the time we have, and to push back against the busyness that tries to steal it.

In a way, we are still programmed from our school days to want summers off, with no obligations but to ride bikes, climb trees, take long walks and eat fresh tomatoes.

But we’re all grown up now, and we’re supposed to stay busy. This is the first summer everyone in my family is working — the teen daughter with a full-time summer job plus dance classes, and the boy with an extremely part-time job doing chores at a neighbor’s house."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Reading "Working"
Published on July 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Studs Terkel book "Working."

Here's an excerpt:

"A description of 'Working' might make it sound rather tedious. Published in 1974, the book is a collection of interviews in which people talk about their jobs — what they do, how they feel about it and their attitudes toward work and life in general. What’s amazing is how interesting the interviews are — Terkel’s subjects provide vivid accounts of their work, as well as wise insights drawn from years of toil, even when the jobs being discussed seem fairly mundane: waitress, accountant, hospital aide, bus driver. I was also impressed with how many of Terkel’s subjects are gifted storytellers — how eloquently they speak of their hopes, dreams, fears and joys. Each interview contains poetry, and truth.

'Working' gives lie to one of the big myths of our time: that blue-collar work is somehow less important, less worthy of respect, than white collar work. Terkel speaks with auto workers, truck drivers, welders, heavy equipment operators and miners, who all give the impression that they’re working very hard, at jobs that are physically demanding and require a certain amount of know-how to do well. We hear from a service station owners who put in 12-hour days, a cab driver who fears for his safety and a janitor who takes pride in his work, saying, 'You can call me a janitor. There’s nothing wrong with a janitor.'"

Click here to read more.

The Heroic Nazi Fighting Bear
Published on July 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Courtesy of Yahoo News, comes a delightful story about Wojtek, an orphaned bear who was sold to the Polish Army and made an official soldier, with a number and rank.

Click here to read more.

Can a Vacation Be Too Busy?
Published on July 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

In my column at the DG, I continue pondering whether people are too busy, this time by reflecting upon my sometimes-hectic vacation.

Here's an excerpt:

"I spent my weeklong vacation at my parents’ house in Maine, and when I set out for my trip it seemed like I had all the time in the world.

Of course, this was something of an illusion: About an hour after I arrived, I dashed off to a barbecue for a bride-and-groom-to-be, and then on Saturday I attended their wedding in Portland, which was followed by a very nice reception where I got to eat Taiwanese wedding cake for the first time. Which is, by the way, the best wedding cake I’ve ever had — like angel food cake, but lighter, with a lot of whipped cream and berries.

On Sunday I got up early and went to church, which was followed by the world’s best lobster roll, from Red’s Eats in Wiscasset (the hour wait is worth it), and a stop at the nearby botanical gardens. Monday was spent hiking in New Hampshire, but on Tuesday the schedule relaxed a little. Until I glanced at Facebook and noticed that an old high-school friend, who lives in Miami, was also vacationing in Maine. We exchanged messages, and around 5 p.m. I set off for York to see my friend, meet his 6-month-old baby and eat lobster. The next morning my parents and I traveled to Rye, N.H., for a Fourth of July party with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The rest of the week was, thankfully, free of events."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Top Reads of the Week
Published on July 13, 2012 by Sara Foss

Parenting: J LeBlanc on making a friend

Movies: J.K. Eisen on "Ted," and Sara Foss on "Brave"

Sports: Sara Foss on Ray Allen

Society: Sara Foss on whether Americans are too busy

Where to Find Good Beer
Published on July 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about some cool bars I've visited recently. The common thread: They all promote and specialize in good beer, from both American craft breweries and well-regarded overseas breweries.

Click here to learn ore.

Lessons in Parenting
Making a Friend
Published on July 11, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Recently, my son got to meet his cousin who lives overseas and who is just over a month younger than he is. Despite the fact that he attends numerous playgroups and sees several babies regularly, it was interesting to see his reaction to his cousin’s presence at his grandparents’ house, at our house, and other places. At first he was suspicious (after all, he was chased down and hugged against his will at their first meeting), but mostly he seemed perplexed by the idea that this little person kept showing up over and over again. This deepened for a short while to what I think was genuine distress. Aside from his cousin who is several years older, he’s never seen kids at his grandparents’ house and the separation anxiety that was already causing him to suddenly tear up if I even left the room led to the idea that maybe he could be supplanted. 

Fortunately, he didn’t seem to hold this against his cousin. In fact, after a couple of weeks, they were taking turns chasing each other through the house and sometimes even sharing toys. But anytime his grandparents were around, my son held out his arms to be picked up and at home he slept poorly, as if worried his cousin would suddenly show up to claim all the attention.

Then his cousin disappeared for a month to go traveling with his parents and things went back to normal. When he came back, my son eyed him with a thoughtful look, then went up to hug his cousin. This time his cousin didn’t want to be on the receiving end and a chase ensued, but a couple of days later they had worked it out and were hugging each other, although with toddlers this ends up looking a little like wrestling.


Are We Too Busy?
Published on July 11, 2012 by Sara Foss

In the past two weeks, I've seen several interesting articles/essays on whether people are too busy, and whether there's anything that can be done about this.

The first piece, titled "The 'Busy' Trap," comes courtesy of Tim Krieder in the New York Times, who writes that everyone he knows constantly complains about how busy they are. Or is it a complaint? Krieder suggests that it might actually be a boast, a way of demonstrating how important and full their lives are, in a world where the number of activities and distractions at our disposal seems to be increasing. He also hits upon one of my big pet peeves: friends who are too busy to do anything. He writes:

"Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it."

I agreed with most of Kreider's essay. I know plenty of people whose kids are enrolled in numerous activities by the time they're in kindergarten, and who think their jobs are far more important than they actually are. And when there's an emphasis on organized, planned activities, for both adults and children, the simple act of hanging out and catching up with friends inevitably falls by the wayside.

Krieder's essay is interesting, as far as it goes, but it doesn't address one big reason why people are so busy: Their jobs demand it. And at a time of great economic anxiety, few people feel they can ditch their responsibilities to clear their minds of clutter and white noise.


Seth MacFarlane's Silver Screen Success
Published on July 10, 2012 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

Seth MacFarlane may be one of the busiest people in show business.

He is the creator or co-creator of not one, but three animated comedies on Fox ("Family Guy," "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show"). He’s roasted Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump and David Hasselhoff on Comedy Central. He’s even released an album where he sings classic big band songs – "Music is Better Than Words."

Now MacFarlane has released his first foray into feature filmmaking, "Ted." By all measures, it’s a resounding R-rated success for MacFarlane, who directed and co-wrote the film. He has successfully brought his brand of no-holds-barred comedy to the big screen, which is sure to please his fans and create new fans. The movie not only topped the box office during its opening weekend, but it’s sure to have a rabid following that will ensure that the film’s dialogue will be heard spilling out of dorm rooms for years to come. On top of all of these achievements, MacFarlane delivered a story about growing up that has a lot of heart.


Watching "Brave"
Published on July 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Pixar movie "Brave."

Here's an excerpt:

"In some corners, the new Pixar film 'Brave' is regarded as something of a disappointment, a lesser effort from a studio that has churned out one timeless animated classic after another since 1995.

But don’t be fooled: 'Brave' is a very good film — perhaps not as groundbreaking as the 'Toy Story' films or 'WALL-E,' but an excellent adventure story with fun characters, an interesting setting, complex themes and beautiful animation. The long, wild red hair of the film’s protagonist, the princess Merida, is so richly detailed and vivid that it’s almost worth the price of admission by itself. Every time Merida’s hair appeared on screen, I thought, 'That’s the most amazing hair I’ve ever seen in a movie.'

'Brave' is a coming-of-age story concerning the rebellious Merida’s reluctance to be married off to the son of another clan, and her desire to ride horses through the forest, excel at archery and have the same freedom to roam the family castle and pilfer snacks that her mischievous younger brothers have. Much has been made of the increasing interest in archery among our nation’s youth due to 'The Hunger Games,' but 'Brave' makes archery look pretty cool: If I had seen this film when I was 10, I probably would have returned home begging my parents to buy me a bow and arrow."

Click here to read the whole thing.

On Rabbits
Published on July 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about rabbits in her weekly column, Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"Every morning, our indoor rabbit friend comes out of her hutch when the dogs go outside.

It’s a routine: I tie the big dog to the post and let the little dog run around while I free the bunny. She gets her pats and chats for a while, then I let the little dog back inside and take the big dog for a ramble. When we come back, 45 minutes or an hour later, I tie the big dog outside again, and come back in for more bunny time. She might need her bedding replaced and her water checked, and she certainly needs fresh greens from outside: a mixed salad of grasses, plantain weed (her favorite) and clovers.

Once her greens and a bowl of bunny food are in place, she’ll hop into her hutch and settle down to munching. And once her door is locked behind her, the dog can come back in."

Click here to read the whole thing.

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