Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Snow Day!

It's the third snow day in less than a week, here in Missouri, and I wanted to share the magic.  There's something about snow days that bring out the kid in everyone.  What a weird phenomenon -- first crouching around the radio or T.V. to be extra sure your school or place of business is, indeed, closed; then the celebratory jig or sigh; then the "free" day to spend shoveling, cooking, eating, playing.  Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins nails the essence of a snow day in his poem bearing the same title.  Enjoy!

Snow Day
By Billy Collins
Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,  
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,

and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,  
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School  
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School. 

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,  
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Billy Collins, “Snow Day” from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (New York: Random House, 2001). Copyright © 2001 by Billy Collins.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Exhausted Workforce

Warning:  This post has no suggestions for solutions.  It is full of observations, some of which might make you cranky.

A recent New York Times article about gender inequality cited various statistics comparing the United States' workplace policies and practices to roughly 190 other countries of similar economic and political development.  The results were heartbreaking, but did help to explain why so many people feel like the cartoon man in the above picture -- exhausted and overwhelmed at work.

According to the article, the United States places "dead last" as far as family-work policies and ranked among the very highest in the hours most employers required their average employees to work.  Many Americans now clock 50 or more hours per week at work, far more than any other industrialized country, including Japan.  Add to this the increasingly-popular practice of hiring young people as "interns," for no wages, and we've certainly got a workforce crisis in the making.

There's a myth that the United States is the most progressive place around, that we are the world's leader, the most-progressive of the progressive.  This article is one of many that challenge that myth.  The question, of course, is:  What can we do about it?

The lengthly article discussed much more than the increase in work hours.  Click here to read the article for yourself:  NY Times Article

Monday, February 11, 2013


With the Academy Awards coming up, I'm sure more than a few of you have seen the wonderful Les Mis.  Talk about a tearjerker.  There's something satisfyingly cathartic about crying through a film and if that's your goal, this film is the ticket.  In fact, if you aren't already singing all of the musical's songs, take another look at Anne Hathaway's version of "I Dreamed a Dream."  It'll turn on your waterworks -- in a good way -- because her rendition is utterly convincing.

I Dreamed a Dream -- Anne Hathaway

Monday, February 4, 2013


What's wrong with this picture? Yes, you may have noticed that the model's teeth are not perfect. But, that's not what's wrong. What's wrong is that she is a model for a dental procedure popular in Japan (and getting popular elsewhere) that causes teeth imperfections.
Call it the opposite of braces. Apparently, some young women are now afraid to have perfect teeth because no decent man is going to be attracted to someone who is too perfect -- in fact men, in general, the logic goes, will feel most secure with a flawed woman.  Such teenagers beg their parents to pay hundreds of dollars to mess up their mouths. Specifically, most want the "snaggletooth" look -- a vampire-like look where plastic fronts are affixed to the canines, or eye teeth.  Called yaeba in Japanese, cultural studies theorists say the look is “pre-orthodontic,” a look that suggests delayed baby teeth or a too-small mouth. 

How surprising that, once again, the latest craze not only emphasizes youth, but sexualizes younger and younger "looks" and makes perfectly normal women willing to change their appearance primarily for male approval.  Sigh.