Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Family Day, Part Three

When we left the orphanage the last time, I felt pretty good. "Two weeks," we kept saying to each other. "That's nothing."

When we flew back, we told our Dutch flight attendant what we were doing. As it turns out, she was adopted too and she told us this great story about how when she first came to her family's home, she kept secreting away pieces of bread into her pockets and her mother smiled at her and said, "No matter how much bread you take, I'll always give you more." I loved that story so much. And I loved how happy our flight attendant was for us. It gave us so much hope for the future. Here was this happy young woman who told us these stories that were beyond her memory, but which nevertheless exemplified her relationship to her own adoption. We saw how good it could be.

We got to Chicago and got ready.

Our friends threw us this wonderful shower. We had so many things for Laney! This little girl who'd never had anything of her own.

So we waited. And waited and waited and waited. There was nothing anyone could say to us that would sound good. More to the point: there was nothing anyone could say to us that wouldn't piss us off. It was impossible for anyone to understand what we were going through and that (understandably, if not reasonably) pissed us off.

We waited and waited and waited. And waited and waited some more. And heard nothing.

It took 10 weeks. Two and a half months. Not two weeks. With no word, no acknowledgment that anything was in the works. Nothing.

I survived on a steady diet of nicotine, alcohol and spite. I'm not sure how Don survived. I was just barely getting by on my own.

But then, one day, I got an email from Larina. "When are you coming?" she said. "We've got a really good judge."

So I called the agency and told them about the email. They concurred and told us we were going back to Russia.

When we got back to Blagoveshensck it was spring. When we were there in February, the whole city looked like his kind of dystopic Narnia, all white frozen sidewalks, with bullet-like puncture wounds from the stiletto heels that the Russian ladies wore all the time. When we got there in May, it was green and beautiful.

This time when we visited the orphanage, they let us take her outside. And they didn't time our visits. We could hang out with her as much as we wanted. And so we took her outside and walked her around and played. The other kids in the orphanage got to go out with the aides. You know how there's that warning on strollers to not put kids in the basket? They'd have two kids in the seat, one in the basket and, sometimes, one on the top. Once, Don was walking Laney around and found himself surrounded by about 15 three year olds. They all pointed at him and said "Dadya! Dadya!" which we think is Russian for Uncle. They all wanted him to play with them, pay attention to them, pick them up. It would have broken your heart into a million pieces, if you'd been there. It might be breaking it now to hear that.

A quick aside about the people who work at the orphanage. These were wonderful women. These were women who cared deeply about these kids. But they were operating under such a tremendous load. There were 500 kids in Laney's orphanage, and not nearly enough resources for them. We knew Laney was hungry, but we also knew that the people there were looking out for her. Most of those kids would languish away there, but that the doctor (remember her? from the green room?) was doing everything in her power to get this sickly little girl adopted. I believe that the doctor at the orphanage thought that Laney would die if she weren't adopted. This is a hard thing for me to write down. But I'm pretty sure I'm right. The kids in the orphanage who were healthier? Ironically, they weren't so lucky.

On Thursday, May 26, 2005 we had our court date. We found out that the day before officials had gone to Laney's birth mother and asked "Are you sure you want to to this?"

I have nothing but good feelings about Laney's birth mother. When I talk about her to Laney, I always describe her as the beautiful Russian lady who was very sad. She gave us this enormous gift. She gave us our life. But it pisses me off that the government officials did that. They had almost two years to establish her certainty. They didn't approach her when Laney was sick and hungry in that orphanage. They waited until she was going to leave Russia. In the end. it didn't matter. She was sure. And I love her (really, love her) for being sure.

At court, the representative from the Ministry of Education (they're in charge of adoption in Russia) did her damnedest to block our adoption. She insisted in court that we wouldn't be able to afford to raise Laney. She did everything she could to convince the judge to stop the adoption. Not for the faint of heart, remember? We had her nonsense translated into our ears as she spoke and didn't have the words or the opportunity to object. Luckily, Sveta, our lawyer, did.

I stood up to speak. And, me being who I am, said most of what I wanted to say through tears. "Please, your honor," I said. "We are so in love with Lena. We promise to take such good care of her."

And then the judge said "I see no reason to interfere with this adoption."

And that was it! Larina told us through this massive grin. Don and I hugged each other and everyone else.

We went to file the last paperwork in the region. It was giddy and exciting. Sveta and Slava and Larina were so happy for us. They encouraged us to stop and buy flowers for the women in the orphanage. We could have lit up Blagoveshensk with our smiles. Don bought a huge bouquet.

As we were driving up to the orphanage in the rickety old van, driven by the wonderfully sweet Slava who'd picked flowers with Laney earlier in the week, I thought "This is it. This is the last time we'll have to come to this place." I'd say it was bittersweet, but I don't want to lie. It was just sweet.

We walked in and had to wait for a long while. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to say goodbye to Laney. I don't know what happened while we waited, but I imagine tiny little Lena was showered with kisses and tears.

When a kid leaves an orphanage, they leave with nothing from it. The clothes they're wearing are necessary. She was our daughter now. We'd have to dress her. They gave us exactly one diaper. I'd bought this blue plaid dress with a little hat and a blue coat. Don and I were such rookies. You should have seen us try to diaper her and get her tights on. It was a joyful comedy of errors. She looked so sweet in her little dress and her giant hat.

Larina was very proud to tell us that in Russia, children can't sit in the front seat. Laney sat on my lap in the back of the van. We'd brought a can of those toddler puffs, and she sat on my lap, just looking around popping puffs into her mouth. She was so chill. It was awesome.

We spent the weekend in the hotel in Blagoveschensk. We'd take walks along the Amur River and play in the room. The room had a couch and a double bed. At night, we'd pull the couch up to the bed to make a secure place for her to sleep. She'd fall asleep and Don and I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer on my laptop.

Laney never cried when we visited her in the orphanage. She'd always been very even tempered. But when we pulled out the food in the hotel room, she went just about feral. She'd eat and eat and eat. And if she saw food, she had to have it. And if we didn't give it to her, she'd throw herself on the ground and scream. We worried she'd get sick, she ate so much. So we hid food from her. But we remembered the flight attendant's story and let her have as much as she could eat.

The diapers were epic.

Flying from Blagoveshensk to Moscow was ... well, you know the worst flight you've ever had? This was worse. This was like Oceanic 815 bad. Without the crashing. It started off OK. But then the food cart came around. She ate all of her dinner, all of mine and the lion's share of Don's. Laney weighed 19 pounds at this point. But when our three meals were gone and she realized that she wasn't going to get any of the food from the other 200 people on the plane? Well, that pissed her off. And she cried. And then she pooped. I changed her ginormous diaper in the bathroom, while she wailed in anger.

She cried for seven straight hours. It never waned into whimpers. She wailed the wail of righteous fury. It was so bad that Don divided the trip up into 15 minute intervals. There were 28 fifteen minute intervals. Don counted them down. 22 intervals to go, he'd say. 17 intervals to go. It helped.

So, here's what we learned on that flight: Failure to thrive, my ass. That kid was thriving right in front of our faces. She was thriving with extreme prejudice. All she needed was enough to eat, and someone to love her best of all, and that kid was mighty.

She still is. She's a mighty girl. She's our mighty girl.

Family Day, Part Two (gettin' schmoopy)

Go here for part one)

On Feb. 11, 2005 (which was Don's 39th birthday, not for nothing), a FedEx was delivered to my office with pictures of Laney. She was clearly not nine months old. She was nineteen months old. And so beautiful.

I took the pictures to Don at One North and we began planning the trip almost immediately.

It was a thrilling, overwhelming day. Our consultant at EAC was not an adoptive parent. I still have an email from her in which she said "Calm down. Take a pill. Lol." She was a dumbass. I didn't care. We were adopting little Elena. We were at the end!

We traveled just a few days later. First to London, then to Moscow. We stayed in Moscow for a few days where we met the family who'd be traveling with us. They were not like us. They didn't like us. Who cares. We were getting our baby girl!

It takes 7 hours to fly from Moscow to Blagoveschensk and you do this flight in a post-Soviet airplane. Which is a lot like a bus. American air travel is hardly glamorous anymore. But we're talking about a whole 'nother level of not-glamorous. Also, it was roughly 8 million degrees on the plane. It was the second most miserable flight of my life. You'll hear about the most miserable a bit later.

When we landed, I was so pleased to get out of that plane and into the negative 8 million degree air. Blagovechensck, dear readers, was hella cold. But, Russian ladies (if I dare to stereotype) will not let you be in the cold. They are very insistent that you button your coat and get out of the cold! So while Don waited for our luggage, I sat in the van with the heat on full blast. I felt like I was falling apart. I was so tired and so hot and so scared and so excited.

We rode the rickety old van to the hotel with the couple who weren't like us (and didn't like us). We checked in. I put on a little makeup and brushed my hair. Larina, our translator, looked at me and said "You look wonderful!" I found this very bracing, even though she probably meant "thank god you don't look as terrible as you did a few minutes ago." And then we went to the orphanage. The utilitarian, bleak, barren orphanage, down at the end of a sparse gravel road, where you always heard dogs barking like they were really hungry.

After a bit of a wait, we were taken into this big green room where we waited for them to bring us Laney. Oh, lordy, were we nervous! There was a woman at a desk in the middle of the room, in a white nurse's uniform. Turns out she was the doctor and was there to observe us. We perched on a couch. An orphanage attendant brought Laney in and we sprang up. Laney (or as we called her then, Lena) was all done up in the same fancy red dress from the pictures. The nurse put her in my arms.

This is the important part:

I was wearing a zippered jacket. I was feeling the weight of Laney in my arms for the first time and felt so happy and so in love. She was tiny and delicate and pale to the point of translucence. She reached to the zipper pull on my jacket, touched it, tugged it a little and looked at me. It was the sweetest moment of my life.I can still feel it if I think about it for just a second.

And then she sneezed. This enormous, productive sneeze! It was like half her body weight in snot! Larina swept over and just grabbed the snot off her nose with her bare hands. Because that's what Moms do, right?

Don held her and taught her to make funny faces and cuddled and hugged her.

Oh, we were such smitten kittens, the two of us!

We went to the orphanage twice a day to visit her. We played and played with her. Laney loved to put the charm on my necklace in my mouth. She loved to make fishfaces with Don. She was so wee and so hungry and so sweet. And sick. She had this lump on the back of her head. We emailed a doctor back home about it. He wrote back:

Thank you for your note. I am very concerned because of this child's extreme failure to thrive and the "lymph nodes" you described that were "drained." In fact, I think the "lump" on the back of her head may be another lymph node. This raises a number of concerns, especially if she might have some kind of chronic infection such as tuberculosis. There were no pictures attached so I can't give you feedback on that. But her medical history is very disconcerting for me

Do you see what I mean about adoption not being for the faint of heart? That email scared the shit out of us. But it was too late. That little girl was OURS!

At the end of the week, we pulled up in the rickety old van to the orphanage. We had to leave. We had to leave and wait for them to tell us when we could come back. I cried and cried and cried. I'm crying a little right now remembering it.

As we walked up to the door, Don stopped me and said "Let's leave her with a smile." And I did my best. But, oh, it was so hard to walk out that door and not know when we were coming back.

"Two weeks," said Don. "We'll be back in two weeks."

Next post: we weren't back in two weeks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Family Day, Part One

Five years ago tomorrow (or, if you're keeping up with the crazy time difference between Chicago and Blagoveschensk, Russia: today) we officially adopted Helena Marjorie Westhoff. Laney Bon Westhoff.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I thought I'd write a couple of blogposts. Today, I'm putting up one for the grown ups. A bunch of unfettered, unadulterated, unromanticized shit. Tomorrow night, I'll pour myself a glass of red wine and write up the schmoopy one. I prefer the schmoopy one because, as you may know, I think my daughter is made of awesome and she makes me feel all schmoopy. But there's merit in the warts-and-all stuff. And, I shall do my best to present it in a way that's reasonably entertaining and shall furthermore try to keep my f-bombs to a minimum.

First of all, it was worth it. It was all worth it in spades. If I had to go through it again; the agonizing waits, the mind-numbing bureaucracy, and (worst of all), the crushing expense, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart. It's hard. It's really really hard. And it costs a lot of money. Laney's adoption has put us in a financial hole from which we can barely make out the light at the top. I kid when I say we'll have done paying for this adoption just about the time when Laney's ready to head off to college. And that, dear readers, is what we call "kidding on the square."

And it was worth it all. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Secondly, and I cannot overstate this: adoption is NOT about rescue. It's about desperately wanting a child. If anything, it's an act of pure selfishness. If you ever wonder why your average adopted parent adopted, understand this: they did it for the same reason you had your children. Unless your pregnancy was unintentional. In that case, pretty much the exact opposite. But when we adoptive parents think about the orphanages we took our children from, we don't feel a swell of pride that we've rescued them from these hard places. We feel the same way you'd feel imagining your own child in a place where they didn't get enough food, much less enough love. It feels awful to remember those places.

I got married in May of 2000. Two weeks later (after a charming Mexican honeymoon) we pulled the goalie. So to speak. We spent the next two years trying to conceive. It sucked. Nothing will take the romance out of sex faster than trying, month after month, to make a baby and failing. Every month, when I got my period, I felt like my greatest and fondest wish had died. Every month, I felt like someone I loved had died. It was hard for Don. It was hard for him to want a baby so bad but not get a chance to grieve because he had to be strong for me. It was hard for us to be happy for friends who were having babies. It was really hard to be happy for my brother and his wife who got married a year after us and had their baby barely a year later. But, you suck it up and try not to force your damage onto the people you love. You try, in a word, not to pee in other people's cornflakes. I like to think we did a pretty good job. But, it was hard.

Finally, at some point during these two years, we determined that there was no biological reason for our failure to conceive and we considered, briefly, alternate paths to pregnancy.

But I'm a planner. And a problem solver. If you know me, this is probably something that drives you crazy. I like to find a way to attack a problem and I couldn't stand the not-knowing of clomid or IVF. Besides, my heart had been too broken by all those months of trying. And we didn't trip on the biological tip so much, anyway. So, we decided to go the adoption route.

We'd had friends who'd adopted from Russia. And they had the gold standard experience. Nine months after they filled out their first forms, they were home with their daughter.

Our experience was roundly different.

You do a lot of paperwork when you're adopting. You have to get your fingerprints taken. And you have to have things notarized and then you have to notarize the notarization. Seriously. There's a word for this, but I've forgotten it. It takes a long time to gather all this paperwork together. And it costs a lot of money. All that notarization comes at a cost. Plus you had to pay whichever governmental apparatchik was managing the form. We did it all. Got it all turned in. And then it took so fucking long to get a referral, we had to do it all over again.

And then one day we got a call. You think this is going to go well, don't you? Well, this wasn't the call you're thinking of. This was the call where they told us that there just weren't any kids coming out of Russia. I think this was about 18 months into the process. They told us it wasn't happening and that we should start all over again and that Ukraine was probably a good place to go.

I called in sick to work. So did Don. We went to see a movie. I don't think we talked all the way to the movie. Finally, at the bar after the movie, Don said to me "I haven't felt like this since your father died." And I nodded. Because, it felt almost that bad. Almost.

Eighteen months of focusing our energy and hope and money in one direction and then one phone call and... sorry, not happening.

But, we are made of steely stuff, me and Don. So, after a day or so (maybe a few weeks... Don remembers this stuff better) of wallowing. We jumped back up on the horse and got cracking. A few weeks? months? after that call I was exercising in my bedroom when we got another call. I answered the phone and the caller identified herself as our liaison at the adoption agency.

"Oh good," I said. "I'm glad you called. Listen, we've got our paperwork for the Ukraine adoption and..."

"Hold on," she said (and I could hear the smile in her voice). "I'm calling because we have a referral for you."

Two(ish) years after we got our first packet from the adoption agency, and we'd finally gotten our referral. She told me she was nine months old and her name was Elena.

I had to sit down.

Tomorrow at lunch, I'll tell you about the trips. It's time for me to make Laney's lunch and watch Glee now. But, I feel just filled with happiness remembering that phone call. Best. Phone Call. Ever.

Edited to add links to the next part of the story. Here for Part Two. Here for Part Three.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Own Lost Post-Mortem

Let me start off with this: I do not regret watching Lost. And the finale did not suck. Much like the whole series, it was in turn touching and fun and exciting and hilarious. There was good acting, compelling stories, big questions, challenging narrative. It was good goddamn TV.

That said, I'm sticking with my feelings that the end (I can't call it a resolution) was unbelievably cheap.

There seems to be some debate about whether the show was plot- or character-driven. Here's my contention: it was both plot- and character-driven. Until the last 15 minutes of the series when the show patted us all on the head and said "shhh, honey, it's ok. The plot's not important."

I'm all for a macguffin or two, a cool unanswered question that you can ponder for the ages (I think it was Marcellus' soul in the briefcase). But it's just not cool to take all that awesome sci-fi PLOT stuff and toss it out the window with a "this doesn't matter."

The numbers, the island's glowing vagina of electromagnetic power, the super specialness of Walt and Aaron and Desmond, THE NUMBERS, the temple, the fertility stuff, the dharma initiative, the donkey wheel, have I mentioned the numbers?... in the end, none of that mattered? Not cool, Lost. Not cool.

Because you know what, bitches? It mattered to me. I'll give you some unanswered questions - but not all of them. Only The Sopranos can do that.

I believed the writers that they'd had it all mapped out and knew what it all meant. And instead, it was all just tricks and manipulation.

They were fun tricks and manipulation. I enjoyed the hell out of the tricks and the manipulation. But the next scifi/mysticism show that I watch had BETTER pay some expository, resolution-oriented attention to the sci-fucking-fi part of it. Or else, by golly, I'll be writing an angry letter or something.

I will miss those characters. And I'm glad they're up in their inter-religious heaven having been led there by someone named Christian Shepard (sheesh - I mean, why not Desmond leading them? Was it because it didn't matter that he wasn't super special after all? God.). I'll miss all of them. Even Waaaaalt. Who doesn't get to go. Why? It doesn't matter. And Penny, who was never on the island. Why? It doesn't matter. Shhh. It was a character-driven show. Plot doesn't matter.

Actually, I won't miss Shannon. I never bought her backstory anyway.

*Edited - My friend, Shanon (not to be confused with Shannon of the unbelievable backstory who was also most definitely NOT Sayid's great love because, duh, that was Nadia. God), pointed out that the Lost finale was a very effective finale for the last season of Lost. But not the full six seasons. I think that's hitting the nail right on the head.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Excommunication

I was going to leave this alone. I really was. I thought I'd made my peace with the Catholic church long ago. More to the point, I realized there was no place in it for me, so I left. My own atheism is obviously at the heart of this. But, even if I were a believer I couldn't in good conscience be a member of an organization where women are disqualified for leadership positions solely because they are women. You can cover that pig in as much lipstick as you got,* but that's how it is.

That said, I'm a big time believer in the first amendment. The Catholic church has a right to its own orthodoxy and I have a right not to be a part of it anymore.

But driving home today, I listened to the story of the Phoenix nun who was recently excommunicated. She was serving on the ethics boards of a Catholic hospital, where abortions are strictly verboten. A woman, 11 weeks pregnant, was brought in with pulmonary hypertension. Without an abortion, this condition carried a mortality threat of nearly 100%. That is to say, without an abortion, this 27 year old mother of four ex-utero children, would die. At 11 weeks, it's fair to assume that the fetus wasn't making it either.

The ethics panel on which the nun served, decided that the abortion was necessary and should be performed.

The nun was then excommunicated and removed from the ethics panel.

In the meantime, that priest who molested upwards of 200 deaf boys? Not excommunicated. Not even defrocked.

So, here's the thing. The problem isn't this priest or that bishop or this newish pope. The problem is institutional. I understood that as I listened to the medical ethics director of the Phoenix diocese on the radio. This joker couldn't even be bothered to explain why this nun needed to be excommunicated, but the punishment for child-rape seems to be relocation and shhhhh. Who seemed, even, to find the question a little wearisome and kind of silly. And I found myself seething over the Catholic church the same way I seethe when I hear about those asshole mullahs telling us how god doesn't want girls to go to school.

If men could get pregnant, they'd be selling take home abortion kits at the Vatican Gift Shop. The Catholic church traffics in obscene patriarchy, where women's lives are only valuable as vessels for fetal pre-Catholics. No doubt, individual churches and priests and nuns do good works. But they do them from an organization that is more committed to hating women than it is to loving god.


*I asterisked that because whenever I talk about how women are disqualified from positions of power in the Catholic church, I'm reminded of the argument I had with a friend's dad. He told me that I was wrong about all this. He's been in positions were women had power of him. Where? Grade school. Seriously. Grade school. This fellow honestly thought he was proving me Q.E. motherfucking D. wrong because a nun was authorized to give his be-penised self a B- when he was 11. One wonders, of course, what would have happened if the resident priest told her she'd better bump that up to a B+.

Friday, May 14, 2010

On and on..

[I originally posted this earlier this week on the day my grandmother actually died and then I decided to take it down, and marinate on it little before re-posting. Anyway, here it is again, a little edited]

All day today I'd find myself doing something... answering a support call or laughing at a joke or wondering why Lost thought it was a good idea to waste one of their last five hours... and then I'd remember that my grandmother died this morning.

She died from being old which is really the best that any of us can hope for in this life. And I went down to Memphis a couple of weeks ago to say goodbye to her. But, this morning when my mother called and told me that she'd died, I found myself feeling like "well, Grandma died." Two weeks ago when she told me that Grandma didn't have a lot of time, I spent the whole day crying. But when she actually died, I was surprised at how at peace I felt about the whole thing.

I've told this story to so many people in my family, I'm sure it's tedious. But, I'll tell you guys anyway. Years and years and years ago, it was the Fourth of July and we were at Grandma's house. The guy across the street was setting off fireworks and we were sitting in the yard to watch. Grandma ran her hands through the grass and said to my mother or an aunt or someone "This Bermuda grass feels so good, doesn't it?" It means something, I think, that this is one of the only moments I can remember her seeming happy.

Or maybe it doesn't mean that much. It would be easy, I think to shove her into a box of "she was an unhappy woman." But that's not fair. I can't say I knew who Grandma was, all of her, because it just doesn't work that way. No matter how many anecdotes or incidents we put together, there will always be large swaths of her that will remain obscured to the generations that follow, sometimes on purpose, other times incidentally.

But, still, the whole of who she was informed who my mother is, who all my aunts and uncles are, and they in turn passed onto their children and we pass it onto ours. We go on and on this way, I think. Laney never knew my father, but, adopted as she is, he's in her. So is Grandma and her sisters, who are all dead now.

All that said, here's a little bit about her:

My mother calls her mother an institution. And she was. She was formidable. She could scare the shit out of you. As I traveled into adulthood, I stayed on her good side, for three reasons: I left Memphis, I liked baseball and I thought Republicans were bullshit. You may take note here that I come by my tendencies towards lefty political stridency honestly.

Don was in with her on his first trip to Memphis when, during a game of charades where the "book" in question was the Starr Report and he nudged her and said "they didn't say fiction." Oh, she liked that!

When we were kids and spent the night, she had us brush our teeth with baking soda and if we acted up, she would spank us with a wooden spoon (I don't think I ever got the wooden spoon treatment, but I know my cousin, Jason did). She lived in this tiny house on an expansive lawn and had one of those clothes lines that you can rotate. She mowed her own lawn up into her 80s, I think. She was mighty.

One Christmas, my aunt gave her crocheted "titty warmers" for Christmas and Grandma thought it was hilarious. She'd probably have had a few scotches to think that was hilarious. It was hilarious, but Grandma was normally not a woman who'd be amused by the word "titty."

She read all the time. Books and books and books. And I think she read the New York Times every day.

And I know she loved us all a whole lot.

I think that one day, off in the future, I'll be with my mother when she's dying. And maybe then, Laney will be in her 40s, with young children who will barely know my mother at all.

But, she'll be in them, and so will Grandma. We raise our children and pass things on, and they just keep going on and going on.

The last thing I said to my grandmother was "I'll see you soon." I expect, in a way, this is true. Someone in my family will say or do something and I'll think, "There's Grandma."

Monday, May 10, 2010

SCOTUS Blog

Barack Obama has made his pick and pissed of people on the left and the right. I suppose there may be some merit to the thought that if you're pissing off both sides, you're probably doing something right. I don't buy that. Frankly, I think the most ideological suspect position in the world is centrist.

That said, I don't have any real strong position on Elena Kagan. I don't know fuck all about her. Over at Firedoglake that seems to mean she's an empty vessel. Rush Limbaugh evidently agrees because he can fill up that empty vessel with some crazy shit and pretend that Elena Kagan believes it.

That said, who knows? Barack Obama knows her and evidently thinks real highly of her. I like him. He's a smart guy. I think she'll probably be fine. But, let us never forget that the justice she's replacing, the liberalest liberal that every liberaled, was appointed by one Richard Milhouse Nixon. These are lifetime appointments. By 2040, Elena Kagan may be prepared to gay marry the shit out of everyone. Or she may end up jailing reporters for being insuffiently American.

You know what I do know? There are probably a good 100 people in the US qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. And, I'm low-balling that number. The idea that there's one person who can do it, and putting a priority on seating women and minorities is somehow robbing a more qualified man, is pernicious, narrow-minded, and just flat out stupid.

I don't know what kind of justice Elena Kagan will be. But I'm happy to see another proud vagina-American sitting on the court. And any boo-hooing over the Ballad of the Poor, White Man should be met with ridicule. Or, if you're Jon Stewart, a full on Go Fuck Yourself gospel choir.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Roger Ebert

If you'd have told me 20 years ago that in my (way) early 40s I would not only love Roger Ebert, but I would LOVE Roger Ebert, I'd have said "Is he the bald one or the other?" But I love him now. So so so much.

Here, go read this. Read it all. I'll wait.

You didn't read it did you? Fine. Read this - it made me swoon a little.

What the internet is creating is a class of literate, gifted amateur writers, in an old tradition. Like Trollope, who was a British Post official all his working life, they write for love and because they must. Like Rohinton Mistry, a banking executive, or Wallace Stevens, an insurance executive, or Edmund Wilson, who spent his most productive years sitting in his big stone house in upstate New York and writing about what he damned well pleased. Samuel Pepys, who wrote the greatest diary in the language, was a high officials in the British Admiralty. Many people can write well and yearn to, but they are not content, like Pepys, for their work to go unread. A blog on the internet gives them a place to publish. Maybe they don't get a lot of visits, but it's out there.

This too:

I tell young students: Take film courses, certainly. But cover the liberal arts. Take English literature, drama, art, music, and the areas Bordwell lists. Learn something about science and math. A physical anthropology course was my introduction to the theory of evolution, which is an opening to all of modern science. Don't train for a career--train for a life. The career will take care of itself, and give you more satisfaction than a surrender to corporate or professional bureaucracy. If you make careers in that world, you will be more successful because your education was not narrow.

I'd say the same to every young person I know (and I got two nieces on their way to college in the fall). Learn, learn, learn. Don't wonder why you're learning, what material affect it will have on your life. Learn to learn. Learn because it makes your world richer and bigger. Learn because it makes you kinder and easier to be around. Learn because that's how you stay in the world.

And, while you're learning, think. Think hard and deep. Have late nights and tussle with truths, and if you're of a mind to, write it all down and write it down without caring who or how many people will read it

Roger Ebert cannot even eat food anymore. He can't talk. But he is still living the SHIT out of his life. He's officially on the hero list (note to self: start a heroes list).