Monday, December 26, 2011

End of year riches

At this time of year, these long days off, it's hard to know what to consume.  On the one hand, there are all these books I'm in the middle of, most prominently Peter Hessler's Oracle Bones and Ron Susskind's somewhat overrated Confidence Men, but also that biography of Henry Aaron that I need to polish off. Just finished John Elder Robison's Look Me in the Eye, which is well worth reading.

But then there's all the year end journalism, including the Economist year-end edition, always good, and the New York Times necrographies of those who died during the year, including Ira Glass's "These American Lives," much of which is touching.  And then, being here in Larchmont, there are all these Time magazines lying around, and many of the cover stories resonate.

And then there are movies to watch with the kids, including Elf, surprisingly good, with Will Farrell and James Caan and Ed Asner and Zoey Deschanel. 

And new CDs.  It's all just so much.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Spirit

It is a shame in many ways that I am so apart from the giving part of Christmas.  I participate in gifts Mary and I give the kids, but I never do any shopping whatsoever, now that the family has gotten out of the habit of giving gifts between adults.  Which is kind of a shame.  It is, admittedly, a total pain in the ass to figure out what people want, and I have done considerable and pretty successful research trying to find new Christmas music for Mary, but other than that I've been totally out of the hunt. Ahh well. Maybe next year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lessons and Carols

Just went to the Christmas eve service at the Episcopal Church in Larchmont. After all one reads about the waning of the traditional denominations, I felt like I was doing the church a favor by putting on a jacket and showing up. I needn't have worried. The little church was packed to the gills with dolled up WASPs.  Here in Westchester, the ruling class lives.

And they put on a nice little pageant, the kids did. Confident 7-year olds in front of the mike.

The odd thing was that the carols differed.  "Away in a manger" was sung to a completely different melody.  "Go Tell It on the Mountain" was very officious and formal.  I grew up singing:

Once I was a sinner,
I sinned both night and day.
I asked the Lord to help me,
And he showed me the way...

Go tell it on the mountain yatta yatta

Here they picked other verses:

While shepherds kept their watching
o'er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens
there shone a holy night.. yatta yatta

And some other voice closely tied to the Xmas story. The point is, it was very formal, nothing about sin or salvation, as we had in our southern rendition, which certainly felt more influenced by Baptist, Methodist, proto-charismatic traditions where the emphasis was much more on the personal connection to Christ, the Lord, the whole nine.

At the end of the day, I don't feel a strong need to go back to church anytime soon.  I got my taste for now.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Young adults

Interesting discussion with Diablo Cody on NPR this morning about her new film Young Adult.  She mentioned that the movie was typical for our generation because we were so incredibly self-involved and rearwards-facing, that with Facebook and all we have succeeded in "completely recreating high school" and judge ourselves relative to our peers based on wealth, etc. yatta yatta.  Obviously I find this an interesting comment.  Initially it sounds very deep and true.

But, then again, it ain't all that true.  The prior condition, that of earlier generations, was of limited mobility where people lived in the same place and had relatively stable social environments over the course of their lives. More people lived amongst those they went to high school, and so were already doing the stuff she talks about. America has traditionally been a place of relative mobility, and certainly the Depression-era, WWII, and post-war generations did move around some. Those that did were less able to keep in touch with those they grew up with, and that's frankly kind of a loss.

At the end of the day, I don't feel oppressed by social networks or the fact that I'm back in my hometown.  I'm happy to see friends of mine who are doing well, but it's not really about money. The ones with good vibes in their homes and happy kids are in that category. I could give a fuck how rich people are, I want to see a good aura.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Check Engine

The "Check Engine" light on our 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback has been on for about 6 months now. It has been coming and going for many years now, almost always put down to a solenoid switch somewhere in the transmission, which we've fixed a few times. How liberating, then, it was to read a couple of years ago in the Journal about how Paul Kasriel -- the chief economist of Northern Trust. Kasriel -- according to his daughter -- put a piece of tape over the very same indicator on his 1995 Outback.

I will confess that, as we prepare to pack the thing Griswold-full of stuff to drive north to New York for the holidays, I am sorely tempted to take it in to the shop for them to double check that nothing is wrong with the car. It is, after all, gently creeping up on 200,000 miles (we probably won't quite make it there on this trip).

Mostly, though, it makes me wonder if I should have been an economist. Certainly, just writing this reminds me that I should try to drive the thing a little bit today so I can be sure to check the oil, which sometimes gets low this late in the oil change cycle.  We're about 2400 miles into the 3k cycle, so I should really get it changed in up North (if not before).

Friday, December 09, 2011

Xmas tunes

Thought this was published on Monday Started a quest for new Xmas music on Facebook last night, and got some good suggestions (if you're friended to me, and likely are, check out the thread). Then I realized that all I really needed to do was go to YouTube and look up "Lo How a Rose e'er Blooming," because the song is really difficult to mess up. Here are three versions. One we've been listening to for a couple of years, and a couple of ones new to us. Tallis Scholars Sufjan Stevens Feist Actually, the Feist version somehow stuck in my head so much that I was seemingly unable to go to sleep till about 2am, despite or perhaps because of the fact that I was in an excellent mood. Somehow new music and the promise of new music, particularly in a category where we had been stalled, got me all worked up, right when I needed it least.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Colonel Sanders Story

After a somewhat crappy day at work, came home and turned on the TV. The soccer on FSC was kind of middling and definitely a comedown after last night's defenestration of Man U by Basel (who were impressive), so I ended up on CNBC, for the first time in years, really since the crisis. While eating my Chinese leftovers, I settled in to watching "How I Made My Millions," which featured first a guy who made mattresses, and then a woman who printed bags and other promotional materials. Now I'm watching the biography of Colonel Sanders. I gotta tell you, CNBC is striking a good note here. Instead of focusing on financial markets or drug dealers or pornography, as it so often does, it's going back to the roots and looking at entrepreneurs. Of course, I really should be working, but that's another story entirely.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Driving and spacing

Was driving Graham to Tae Kwon Do today, after I dropped Natalie off at her singing lesson, when I put on Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations, which my uncle Ballard gave me vinyl of a quarter of a century ago and which I've never grown tired of. This is, by the way, the recording of the second time he recorded them, from the early 80s. When Gould recorded them the first time, in the 50s, it was, if memory serves correctly, a career-making event, and listening to the two recordings one after another is a fascinating study in growth/maturation/flux, but that's a different blog post entirely, and one which I may have already written... In any case, I was driving along listening and, before I knew it, I found myself going 40 in a 45 zone, even though I should have been going 50 to be sure of getting Graham to class on time. This is, of course, a great space to be in. After class, I will face a dilemma, because Car Talk is on and even Graham seems to enjoy listening to Click and Clack. This is what is known as an embarassment of riches.