Wednesday, March 22, 2006

End of NPR

Well, I may be cutting back on listening soon. The other night I was making dinner and Austin said, "I don't want to go in a house with a fire." Okay, please don't, I told him. Then he said, "Killed?" and I realized that All Things Considered was reporting on Iraq, about a firefight at a house where a woman and child were killed.

It's gonna just be Car Talk and Wait Wait from now on.

And... on the subject of voices in our heads, check out this video which features the five most ubiquitous voice-over artists. Funny material they work with, too.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Comic pages

Is there any point in reading the Sunday comics anymore? I used to read the Calvin and Hobbes reprints with Austin but since the Globe stopped running them, there's nothing to read to him. No Peanuts, Family Circus is making all sorts of pop culture references these days, Get Fuzzy is clever but adult, Rose is Rose is still cloyingly sweet. Boondocks has gotten worse since Aaron Magruder spends all his time on his tv show.

But I still read the comics. In fact, there's one I read daily. Yep, that ol' standby, Doonesbury. I don't care for all of it, to be honest. Duke does nothing for me. The political stuff is depressing as much as anything. But Zonker's okay. And I love, love, love the BD storyline.

Remember BD? Never took off his helmet? Until a couple years ago, that is, when he was in Afghanistan and his leg was blown off, and the medics removed the helmet. What's great about the story is that BD has really come alive for me. He was always too conservative and shut off for me to relate to, but he's become quite sympathetic. Furthermore, his story gives Gary Trudeau a chance to show off his reporting and I'm learning a lot about amputees and vets from the strip (this is either a great compliment to him or further proof that I'm an idiot as well as an ignoramus).

Here's a collection of recent strips on BD.

They are linked from Weekend America, a PRI program that had an interview with the guy who talked to Trudeau about counseling and has since morphed into Elias, the Puerto Rican vet counselor who is my favorite new character in a long time. Here's the interview.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Reading; Greek myths

Here's a Slate article about the difference in what boys and girls like to read -- and why. Boys like to read about how things work -- for information -- and girls like to read about relationships -- for the story.

This explains Austin's obsessions with Richard Scarry's Postman Pig (apparently out of print -- there's a used copy on Amazon for $120!) and You Can Name 100 Trucks. As Emily Bazelon in her article whines, "But there's no story there!"

To be fair to him, Austin has recently really gotten into stories, especially stories about Greek myths and monsters, nursery tales and folk tales like Baba Yaga. What does this mean? Well, I should point out that he doesn't listen to the stories of the monsters so much as listen for information. He is memorizing what a Basilisk is, or who Medusa is. And he'll quiz me later. "Daddy, who killed Medusa?" Me: "Hercules?" Him: "No! It was Perseus!"

We're also kind of squeamish about reading him stories about beheadings and too much monster stuff because it freaks him out, but a few books tell the story vaguely enough that it's not that horrifying. Here are some suggestions of Greek stories appropriate for the 3 and under set:

Greece! Rome! Monsters! by John Harris has excellent pictures by Calef Brown. The text describes each creature and maybe a story about them in a breathless, supermarket tabloid way:
"every time Phineus started to eat, the Harpies would swoop down and, well, make a mess in his food. Result: a very skinny Phineus."
The back of the book has a pronounciation guide. There's a puzzle based on the artwork, too -- that's the one Austin is obsessed with and got us on this Greek kick. This is kind of encyclopedia style -- Austin looks up the monsters on his puzzle in the book. Bibliographic research! Iconography!

Greek Myths by Geraldine McCaughrean has very clear illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark. These are retellings of stories and Austin likes them as background, I think. He likes to hear more about the cyclops and Odysseus, for example.

And I just checked The One-Eyed Giant and Other Monsters from the Greek Myths out from the library. It looks to be similar to Greece! Rome! Monsters! with one or two pages on each creature with some story. The pictures are more representational and less fanciful and colorful than Calef Brown's.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Organic food

I don't always buy organic food for the family, with some exceptions. If the price difference isn't great, I'll get the organic, but it's not a rule even though I know it's better for us and the environment.

We always buy organic milk for the kids, though, since they drink a lot of it and we worry about the growth hormones. John also told us to get organic raisins because the chemicals used on grapes get concentrated when they are dried out.

In other words, I'm a cheap pragmatic about organic foods.

There was an article in the Boston Globe this Sunday about organics that may help me decide how to buy other foods. The Environmental Working Group has found that
"peaches, nectarines, berries, cherries, apples, pears, spinach, potatoes, bell peppers, celery, and imported grapes are consistently found to be the most laden with pesticide residue."
By the way, this is taking into account regular washing. At the other end of the scale are foods that have the last amount of contamination:
"asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, and sweet peas."
The other caution is that if you eat a lot of the same food -- broccoli every night, for example -- you may want to buy organic so that you are not building up particular contaminants in your body.

So there you go. Here's the EWG's Food News website. And here's the page that lists the foods that are most and least contaminated (with links to a wallet sized guide and an explanation of methodology).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Children's Museum

This weekend we went to Boston's Children's Museum and met Ada, Pete and Elke there.

There's a great exhibit with airflow and plastic balls, and also a Blue Man Group exhibit where you can thunk versions of their crazy instruments.

The most photogenic exhibit, though, was the bubble room:

Austin got pretty good at making bubbles.

The girls had fun, too. Don't drink that water, though!

Austin even broke bubbles with his nose.

Here, Austin and Mari are asked who is in charge here. They answer, "The claw!"

Friday, March 03, 2006

Schoolhouse Rock in the Age of Terror

Funny political cartoon. Well, not hilarious, but really clever

Islamic Art

My friend Ladan co-curated an exhibition at the Sackler Museum at Harvard.

She's giving a gallery talk on Saturday March 11, at 10:30am. It's free. Anyone want to go?

Protective headgear

How much does Sara Ivry rock your world? Are you wearing a bike helmet? Put one on before you listen to her podcast interview of Balkan Beat Box, the guys opening for kosher rapper Matisyahu.

Small Beer Press extravaganza


I don't usually use full names here to protect the innocent, but these folks are not innocent:

Kelly Link and Gavin Grant's Small Beer Press is having a blowout sale for this month only.

Did you know Kelly has a new book out? Magic for Beginners.

They're also publishing the very well received Mothers and Other Monsters

In other news, I've been adding random bits to Kelly's Wikipedia Entry to amuse myself. Yes! I added that she went to Columbia. I'm restraining myself so the Wiki editors don't boot me off the system.

By the way, if you are too cheap to buy their books, you can get a Free e-book of her first collection of stories at their website. Make a Paypal donation while you're there, cheapo! There're also MP3s of a couple stories on that page.

Here's Kelly's latest story.

Cool! And in case you needed proof that we know Kelly, here's a photo from two and half years ago (!).

Austin and Hunter video

Hey! Ching just posted some video of Austin and his cousin Hunter from Christmas time.

Here it is on Google Video. I like the end where they're just sitting around waiting... for something...

Thanks, Ching!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Movie Review: Curious George

A couple of weeks ago we took Austin to see the new Curious George movie.

He liked it.

My opinion is that they spent a lot of time making George very cute and well animated and they cheaped out on the rest (including the story). The man in the yellow hat's nose was especially irritating to me.

Too much time was spent on the Man and his girlfriend and his job and all this random stuff and not enough on George having fun. The opening, with George in the jungle, and then the scene where he paints a lady's apartment are both excellent.

George was clearly modelled on human babies and Julie said she missed Mari during the movie.

One last thing: no longer is George unceremoniously ripped from his home and brought to "civilization" by the Man -- George's curiosity leads him onto the ship. Fine. But then the Man simply takes some African statues out of the jungle to display in his museum. Hello? That's also illegal, immoral and offensive.

I think Andrew should put out a State Department bulletin pointing out how egregious this is.

Anyway, bottom line is really, don't bother. To see George in action without the annoying Man, check out the Upside Down video on Jack Johnson's website.