lundi 22 mars 2010

Three years and not counting

That's how I feel.
I am married to the best man in the whole world.
That sounds pretty lame, but consider this:

He makes a perfect marinara sauce.

Last week he did all the laundry and then cleaned the laundry room.

He always notices when I cut my hair or am wearing something new, and he always compliments me. I don't know if he is being sincere, but I don't care.

He is endlessly patient but not a pushover. I don't know how he manages this delicate balance.

He actually loves to read and talk about books.

He will watch as many Law & Order reruns as I want to see (they aren't reruns for me).

He opens doors for me, including car doors.

He helps little old ladies carry their groceries.

He's really, really cute.

He makes sure we always have great music to listen to.

He likes simple things, like walking with me and Neko.

He's very romantic.

He plays the rhyming game with me even though he knows he will lose because I am the champion.

He is cheerful most of the time but not so cheerful you want to smack him.

I could go on and on, but who's counting? Not me.

If you read only one book on the Knox case...

The local media (with the exception of Andrea Vogt's reporting for the Seattle PI, from Italy) has been just appallingly bad in its treatment of this case. Indeed, the US media has been nearly as bad. The local talking heads, in lieu of any real reporting, just read press releases handed to them by the PR firm hired to mislead the American public. Blame it on budget cuts if you will. But I say if you don't have the money to pay reporters on the ground then you should stick to covering local things and leave the complex international stuff to the pros. The fact that one of the three people convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, in November 2007 is from Seattle is irrelevant.

In her book on the case, Newsweek and Daily Beast reporter Barbie Nadeau corrects the hundreds of errors that have been committed by the local media, for anyone who is willing to take the time to read her short and well-written book.

I was going to write a brief review to go with this recommendation, but Tina Brown's introduction (in the Daily Beast) fills the bill quite nicely. An excerpt:

Barbie Latza Nadeau, who has been reporting from Italy for Newsweek since 1997, arrived in Perugia the day after Meredith’s battered body was discovered in the house she shared with three other girls. A resident of Rome, fluent in Italian, Nadeau (who also happened to have been married in Knox’s hometown of Seattle) was uniquely suited to grasp all the factual and cultural nuances of this confounding case.

And she pursued them zealously. Over the next two years, she attended almost every session of Knox’s murder trial, read the entire 10,000-page legal dossier in Italian, and invested countless coffees, dinners, and glasses of prosecco in cultivating cops, lawyers, judges, witnesses, jurors, friends, and families. Nadeau’s regular posts on The Daily Beast during the 11-month trial established her as an authoritative voice on the case—with appearances on CNN, CBS, NPR, the BBC, and NBC’s Dateline. But her pieces also got her blackballed by the Knox family because she declined to toe the line they force-fed to a U.S. media eager to get them on-camera: that Amanda was a total innocent railroaded by a rogue prosecutor in a corrupt justice system.

Daily Beast readers knew otherwise, thanks to Nadeau’s thorough and balanced reporting. But her objective dispatches also earned her the enmity of ferocious pro-Knox bloggers, who hurled insults and threats, hoping to discredit her professionally. Instead, her reputation has been enhanced by her diligent pursuit of a story that most of the U.S. media, including The New York Times, badly misread.

Barbie Latza Nadeau’s sensitive, clear-eyed, and compelling examination of a perplexing case is now a book—the second in our provocative Beast Book series—that brings to American readers the first full account of this baffling case. The book finally gets behind the impassive “angel face” (as the Italian tabs sneeringly called the defendant) to find the real Amanda Knox. Mining diaries, social-networking sites, exclusive interviews, and telling moments in the courtroom, Nadeau paints the first full portrait of a quirky young woman who is neither the “she-devil” presented to an Italian jury nor the blameless ingénue her parents believe her to be. What Nadeau shows is that Amanda Knox is, in fact, a 21st-century all-American girl—a serious student with plans and passions—but is also a thrill-seeking young woman who loves sex and enjoys drugs and who, in the wrong environment with the wrong people, develops a dark side that takes her over and tips her into the abyss.

samedi 13 mars 2010

Getting to know me

Finally, my first paper is behind me, and no, I am not sitting on the smallest seat in the smallest room of the house. For anyone wondering about my sanity, that is a reference to Voltaire. The story goes that in reply to a letter critical of something he had written, he replied: Monsieur, Je suis chez moi, assis sur le plus petit siège dans la plus petite pièce. Votre lettre est devant moi. Bientot, elle sera derrière moi.

I don't know if this story is true. However, my first graduate school paper in more than a quarter of a century is behind me. Once I got into it, I didn't want to finish it off. What a vital mental exercise! Why do most of us stop writing papers as soon as we are allowed to? Yesterday, in preparation for my next paper, I went to Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington and came across all 40 volumes or so of Rousseau's collected letters. 40 volumes, people! Maybe more, I didn't count. But think about it... think about the sheer volume of thought he committed to paper. He also wrote books, lots of them. We fancy ourselves writers today because we unload our petty thoughts in blog entries and dash off rapid emails. Most of us have no idea what it means to write any more. Yet another reason to tip my hat to my hardworking and underpaid journalist friends. You know who you are. I admire you for what you do.

And now for something different, taken from a friend's blog. Thanks, friend. You know who you are.

It's one of those getting to know you questionnaires that imply the existence of a stable self and lots of amour-propre. These are the subjects of my next paper, which spans the century separating La Rochefoucauld (17th) from Rousseau (18th). But first, a little banality (or is it anality?):

1. What time did you get up this morning
6:20, to feed the cats before they ate us.

2. Diamonds or pearls?
Diamonds and Rust.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
In the Loop or was it Entre les Murs? Not sure.

4. What is your favorite TV show?
The ones I watch most regularly (while on the elliptical) are Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow. I'm a news junkie. Not really, but I like saying it. I also like 30 Rock because it is just a bunch of usually hilarious non sequitirs.

5. What do you usually have for breakfast?
Breakfast 1 (6 am): Coffee and 2 squares of dark chocolate
Breakfast 2 (9 am): Yogurt and fruit or toast and egg.

6. What is your middle name?

7. What food do you dislike?
Cooked spinach (I like all other cooked greens, but cooked spinach makes my teeth feel weird).

8. What is your favorite CD at the moment?
Renaud, Tournée Rouge Sang.

9. What kind of car do you drive?
Mini Cooper S (the S says it all).

10. Favorite sandwich?
Admiral Sandwich.

11. What characteristic do you despise?

12. Favorite item of clothing?
My fitted gray hoodie

13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
South Africa

14. Favorite brand of clothing?
Prairie Underground (see fitted gray hoodie)

15. Where would you like to retire to?
A little red house with white trim in rural Sweden.

16. What was your most memorable birthday?
Always the last one.

17. Favorite sport to watch?
Gotta go with baseball, though curling is a close second.

18. Furthest place you are sending this?

19. Person you expect to send it back first?

20. When is your birthday?
July 10th (same as Marcel Proust).

21. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Both. It's the in-between that can be tough, requiring a nap.

22. What is your shoe size?
37 1/2 - 38.

23. Pets?
Our dog Neko and two cats, Pushkin and Munchkin. We also have about 5 fish in our outdoor pond, but I don't know their names.

24. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us?
My tulips are coming up!

25. As a child, what you thought you wanted to be when you were grown up?
First a wordsmith (there was a show on channel 9 of that name and I thought that was the job of the host), then a vet.

26. How are you today?
Not wanting to work on the annual report I have to translate.

27. What is your favorite candy?
Dark chocolate. As a kid, red licorice.

28. What is your favorite flower?

29. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to?
Tous les matins du monde.

31. What are you listening to right now?
The tinkling of Neko's collar tags.

32. What was the last thing you ate?
Yogurt with pistachios, golden raisins and a cut-up fig.

33. Do you wish on stars?

34. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Aqua marine.

35. How is the weather right now?
Sunny and a bit windy.

36. Favorite way to exercise?
Fast walking with Neko/My stick routine.

37. Favorite soft drink?
Fuze Slenderize.

38. Favorite restaurant?
Le Pichet in Seattle.

39. Favorite color of nail polish?
I hate nail polish.

40. What was your favorite toy as a child?
I honestly have no idea.

41. Summer or winter?
Fall. So there.

42. Hugs or kisses?
Depends on who is doing the hugging or kissing.

43. Chocolate or Vanilla?
What a question! Chocolate, like any civilized person.

44. Coffee or tea?

45. Do you want your friends to email you back?

46. When was the last time you cried?
I don't remember.

47. What is under your bed?
A boogie man.

48. What did you do last night?
Went to dinner at Bob and Chris's house. Chris made a delicious pizza and brownies.

49. What are you afraid of?
The world going to hell in a handbasket.

50. Salty or sweet?

51. How many keys on your key ring?
4 - three house keys and one car key.

52. How many years at your current job?

53. Favorite day of the week?

54. How many cities have you lived in?
Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles, South Hadley, Shanghai, Paris, La Rochelle

55. Do you make friends easily?
Yes, so far.

56. How many people will you send this to?
To everyone who reads this.

57. How many will respond?
It's up to them.

By the way, my paper was on Françoise Sagan's Bonjour tristesse. Here she is in 1968.

lundi 1 mars 2010

Munchkin and Neko

Because of her disability, we decided not to get Munchkin fixed. We took her to the vet once, and it took her about six weeks to get over it. It took roughly half that time to get her into a cage so we could get her to the vet. She may be unable to run or jump, but when she wants to elude the human grasp she is talented and dangerously armed. To compensate for her equilibrium troubles, she has developed the most muscular claws I have ever seen on a cat. And she knows how to use them.

The end result is that Munchkin is often in heat, and the object of her desire is Neko. She follows Neko everywhere during this period, cooing and clinging. Neko is amazingly patient, and every once in awhile gives Munchkin a few playful bites that seem to scratch the itch.

Neko, because she lives among cats, does many catlike things. For example, she finds small and tight places to sleep in. She also licks her paw before using it to scratch behind her ear. Stuff like that. Just now, I found her in one of her favorite tight spots, inside the mail basket under the table near the front door. When she thinks I might be going out without her, she will jump up on this low table and position herself next to the basket where we keep the car keys. Don't leave home without me is the message.

So here's Neko, in one of her favorite spots. But she's not alone. Munchy is in heat:

I have also seen Munchy get inside Neko's basket of toys and lie there, waiting for Neko to choose her as the preferred thing to chew on.