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.

Is It Possible To Build an Economy Without Jobs?
Published on April 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

This interesting Alternet piece tries to imagine a different system.

History Colorado
Published on April 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

My friend Melissa's museum was reviewed in the New York Times, which makes me eager to visit it the next time I'm in Denver.

However, the review also makes me wonder whether it's possible to work at the Times and not be a raging snob. Check out the first three paragraphs:

"An East Coast visitor’s first reaction, provincially enough, has to be skepticism: does Colorado even have that much history?

Enough history to justify a $110 million museum — the History Colorado Center — which is opening on Saturday, with plans for 40,000 square feet of exhibitions costing an additional $33 million, state-of-the-art technological displays, a research center and archival storage for over 15 million items, including more than 750,000 photographs and 200,000 artifacts?

The state is under 140 years old, and even if you include the ancient cliff dwellings preserved in Mesa Verde National Park, there is little documented history before the incursion of outsiders in the 18th century."

I think Erik Loomis captures the ridiculousness of this review pretty well, when he writes: "Well, thank you Mr. East Coast Elite for giving your seal of approval that a state like Colorado has History! As a native of Oregon, will you please fly out to Portland and tell us whether we have enough history so I can know whether to write my book or not?"

NBA Playoff Picks, First Round
Published on April 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

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

Click here to read them.

More! More! More!
Published on April 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my insatiable greediness.

Here's an excerpt:

"The other day, I set up a new CD rack to accommodate my ever-growing music collection.

My CDs now span an entire wall — albeit not a very big wall. And the racks are only a few feet high, so this isn’t as excessive as it sounds. But my CD collection is likely to keep growing and at some point I’ll need to get another rack, and then what will I do? I’m running out of room for my CDs. And the situation is only going to get worse, not better.

One option, of course, is to stop buying CDs altogether and stream everything on my computer. I’m not quite ready to make that step, despite eye-rolling from friends who are opposed to things like clutter. I happen to like having a large CD collection, and I’m always updating my list of music, both new and old, that I want to acquire.

Years ago, my mother questioned the size of my CD collection. Which is funny, because it was so much smaller back then. She said, 'Don’t you think you own enough CDs?' My mother might as well have been speaking another language. The idea that there was a limit to how much music one could, or should, own just didn’t make any sense to me.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Top Reads of the Week
Published on April 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

Responsibility: Sara Foss on jury duty

Work: R.B. Austen on working as a parent aide

Movies: Sara Foss on "The Kid With a Bike"

Politics: George Costanza's Number One Fan on three recent scandals

Parenting: J LeBlanc on buying dishware for kids

The Storm Comes Around
Published on April 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

I'm afraid of tornadoes. My grandfather died when an F-5 tornado hit Massachusetts in 1953, and my mother, grandmother and uncle were all injured. I've covered the aftermath of a tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Ala., and I'm worried about friends in the South when subsequent tornadoes have hit.

Which might explain why I appreciated John Hawbaker's essay about living in tornado country at The Morning News.

Click here to read it.

Tetris and PTSD
Published on April 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

When my friend Kori committed suicide, I spent a lot of time playing Tetris. It helped me relax. Which made me think that maybe Tetris was good for the soul.

Anyway, new research suggests that playing Tetris might help people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Based on my own Tetris experiences, I believe it.

Click here to learn more.

State of the Teams
Published on April 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer brief thoughts on my four favorite teams: The Celtics, Red Sox, New England Patriots and Bruins.

Click here to learn more.

Lessons in Parenting
Procrastination Station
Published on April 25, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

When it comes to baby dishes, I have been very lazy. I just haven’t bothered to get any, even though my son has been eating solids for nine months now. When he was about five and half months old, I started thinking about the whole feeding thing, as he was starting to go bug-eyed every time I ate something. One friend had just bought a set of bamboo dishes for her baby. I liked the sound of that - environmentally friendly and chic - until I read an internet review which said they could get moldy if they didn’t get fully dry. Since I was planning to buy only one set, I figured that was a distinct possibility - what were the odds of it drying fully once I was feeding him several times a day? Another friend bought a plastic set with a cute whale on the bottom of the bowl. Her son loved the whale. So much, in fact, that he would dump his food out of the bowl to get a better look.

Unable to decide, I bought a sippy cup and a set of four baby spoons to help me get by in the short term. I used my conveniently microwavable teacups to heat his food and fed him from those. The sippy cup didn’t get much use - he didn’t seem to have the hang of it (he never drank well from a bottle either) and I quickly realized that, with only one, I’d have to wash it after every meal. So I just gave him a small amount to drink in the same half-glasses my husband and I use. Since there are twelve glasses, I can go quite a while before running out of them. At least now he is a pro at drinking from a glass, although he gets bored quickly and likes to waggle his fingers in the bottom of the glass or tilt it the opposite way, so that all the liquid spills out onto his high chair tray. 


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