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November 15th, 2008

role models

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5147422.ece

We worried a lot about the example in world politics the Bush administration set. We don't really want our citizens tortured and renditioned and whatever. Certainly not by other countries.

Apparently, what we've done to Bush in the last few months has served as a bit of a lesson overseas (and we haven't even prosecuted him yet):

"According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. “I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin declared.

Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. “Hang him?” — he asked. “Why not?” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: “Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?” Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah — you have scored a point there.” "

Not _enough_ of a lesson -- but definitely in the right direction.
I won't mention her name here.

Post-election day, she's been _everywhere_. Judging from the snippets appearing on Countdown, Rachel Maddow and elsewhere, her kitchen in Wasilla has served up an incredible amount of food to reporters over the last weekish. And that's exactly what I want to talk about here, once I get through a little of the setup, viz. all those people quoted during the campaign as saying they identified with her. I think I blogged about how mystified I was by the number of women willing to be quoted on air as identifying with a woman from Alaska, mother of five, etc.

Mother of _five_. The childless-for-life rate is still climbing and we've got a meaningful number of women identifying with the mother of _five_? Really?

On Beat the Press (this is a Boston area show that recaps the media's coverage of the previous week's news), Niwa (slightly annoying guy from Emerson College) commented that if _he_ tried to chop carrots and talk about energy policy at the same time there'd better be medical assistance nearby because he'd wind up cutting a finger off. And at this point, I had a huge epiphany: the Phenom from Alaska Actually Participates in Her Domestic Life. And this is an absolute novelty and Revelation to politicians and punditry at the national level. Those people don't cook daily (much less more than one meal a day for people including children). I don't know about the Phenom, but I'm perfectly prepared to believe she swishes a brush around her toilets every once in a while -- or at least she has in the last decade or so. Most people active at the national level have outsourced their entire home life: people to care for the kids, people to care for the house, take out, restaurant and prepared meals, blah, blah, bleeping, blah. If they haven't, they're desperately concealing their domestic life because Failing to Outsource the Chores is a Serious Social Faux Pas. Remember the old definition of the middle class (having at least one servant)? As near as I can tell, it's now the definition of the political class.

Let me be really clear here: I don't have a problem with outsourcing one's domestic life. Okay, I do -- I think you should participate in your children's lives. I do -- I think you have a responsibility not to mention you're the worst kind of fool if you miss participating in their lives. We don't want the Worst Kinds of Fools making decisions for us all, now do we? But I also believe that more than just the parents should be involved in raising the kiddies, so child care is fine by me. And if you can get someone to cook the kind of food you like, and clean your house and etc., more power to you just try to treat them decently. And pay them well.

But a _lot_ of people in this country cannot afford to outsource their domestic life. Quite a lot of this country is doing the domestic work for the other people. I strongly suspect that when the phenom appeared on the horizon, a lot of people went, _finally_ someone who really knows the cost of a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and _not_ because it appeared in that morning's briefing. When I run across folk like Niwa who are amazed that someone can chop carrots and speak intelligently about energy policy, I want to push the carrots aside and start gesturing with the knife to make an entirely different set of points (pun intended) about how women in general and non-rich people as well _have_ to be able to multi-task in the home and that doesn't mean our voices shouldn't be heard when policy is being made.

That said, I've heard the phenom on energy policy and I'm not that impressed. The episode also included footage of the phenom on Cessnas (compared to a tin can -- that explains why she doesn't commute several days a week by plane from Wasilla to the capital). I suspect that if the phenom manages to make the transition to a national-level political career (she won't, so don't lose sleep over it), either elected, appointed, or as a pundit on TV (actually, that's remotely possible -- literally. If they set up a studio in her home, I'm sure she'd love to do it), she'll be outsourcing her domestic life just like her competitors and colleagues and over time, her appeal on that basis will erode. Whether she can replace that appeal with anything else is an open question. I kinda doubt it, but you never know.

lots o' kids in the post-Pill world

When I was a child, I lived on a dead end street in then-unincorporated King County, near a Catholic school (grades K-8). What this means: commuting distance to a city, but low property taxes, and the proximity to the Catholic school meant huge families (literally a dozen kids in at least one of the families).

Since then, a town has incorporated (property taxes now somewhat higher) and time has gone by. Catholics remain (the school is still there), but they're having 2-3 kids like everyone else. And yet, judging by the programming on certain cables channels, there are still some big families out there.

Hadn't noticed the massive-family-programming-binge? Jon and Kate Plus 8? 17 Kids and Counting? I got to thinking about this partly because I watch an appalling amount of TV (altho not these shows) right now, and then there's that mother of five who has been in the news so much lately. It seems there are more large families on television now than in real life. Whenever this happens, I start asking questions: why don't _I_ know anyone like this? Alternatively, why would we all be so fascinated by something so utterly bizarre and rare? And which is it?

Between the pregnancy and the followup visits to the midwives, I've been around a fair number of conversations about family planning. I knew (even tho he was my first) that T. was not a normal baby. Plenty healthy, plenty smart and a wonderful person -- but a handful. That has not changed and I doubt it ever will. That's not the only reason we're stopping at 2, but it's certainly part of it. I've talked to a lot of other people now who wanted really big families until they either (a) had a baby and realized how much work a baby is or (b) had an unusually difficult baby, and realized that you just never can tell which kind you're going to get. It's not that we don't love the tough ones -- it's just that they wear you down quicker than the other ones.

This leaves me with a couple of theories about who has big families in the post-Pill world (pre-Pill and the legal changes of that time frame, difficulty of laying hands on safe and effective birth control meant other factors were dominant). The first theory revolves around easy babies: maybe people with big families tend to have easy babies (or easy babies early in the process so they've got built in assistance with the later kids -- the kind that can't quit, leave or say no). The second theory revolves around unusual skill in parenting -- these people know something the rest of us don't (and I suspect this is part of the attraction of these shows. Maybe they can teach us how to survive babies). The third theory is: hey, they _love_ the pain. The attraction of the shows would then be, at least I'm not as bad off as they are.

And the fourth theory, which I like best, is that these are people who basically do not learn. They don't learn by watching other people. They don't learn from personal experience. They are Insensitive to Feedback. And we _love_ watching people who are insensitive to feedback. Addicts. Thrill seekers. Substance abusers. Drama queens. Etc. Reality TV is built on people who are insensitive to feedback. (Also, hooked on attention and never satisfied no matter how much they get.)

I'm at least mildly interested in other opinion on this topic, but I would encourage anyone weighing in to not get into the specific details of the shows, or the morality of the people involved. I don't think either is particularly relevant (lots of people with the same moral system _don't_ have huge families), but if there's internal evidence in the shows regarding the these-folk-don't-learn theory, I would be interested in that (for or against).

the bin shuffle

I'm continuing the bin shuffle, particularly since I'm more able to get A. to sleep in the baby hammock (so _not_ trapped in the chair; this also explains why I'm blogging a bit more). Today's finds include: more stuff to go in the newly created bin o' halloween goodness (mostly small stuff like Halloween books and tattoos); a pair of size 9 snow boots (T. is currently outgrowing 8 1/2 sneakers but the 9 1/2 sneaks are a big large; we bought him size 10 snow boots but weren't at all sure if that would work; these are from last year); and the stroller foot muff. Which I bought impulsively either last year or the year before, and am now belatedly realizing was an incredible score.

A. is cranking. Will be back in a bit to whinge about Britax Companion incompatibility issues and lack of availability of accessories in the US.

ETA: Where was I? Oh, yeah. Whining. We love the Britax Companion, but it is a bummer in terms of connecting it to the rest of the world of baby gear: stroller to connect it to, footmuff. I eventually bought the Vigour (on ebay), and now I'm looking at tricking it out with things like a cupholder and goddess only knows what else. The footmuff/baby bunting/wtf (called Cosytoes but apparently only available in the UK and out of stock at some sites there as well) exist, but getting one seems like a horrendous amount of trouble.

The stroller bag I bought a couple winters ago is a Kaiser and for the life of me, I can't quite figure out where I bought it online back then (maybe the same store that sold me the Suse's Kinder Baby Wearing crap, er, gear -- the waist pack diaper bag, the poncho, etc.). It's really nice, and R. says it fits in the Vigour (which is to say, sticks out over the bottom, but buntings/footmuffs/wtfs tend to do that anyway -- the crucial bit is whether the straps fit through the holes in the back) so that's good enough for me.

I'm eying a baby bucket cover (the JJ Cole Bundle Me is legendary for not fitting well in the Companion, so I'd have to get one of the massive ones that goes over the outside rather than one that fits inside) but suspect it is superfluous, particularly since long walks will likely involve the stroller seat + stroller bag, rather than the baby bucket.

Oh, and there goes A. I'm about done whining about incompatibility anyway.

crafty dads and DIY baby gear

http://daddytypes.com/2008/11/12/stroll_in_a_circle_stroll_in_a_circle_now.php

Daddytypes is not real impressed (hence the Neglect-o-matic remark).

Short form: umbrella stroller, cordless drill and a few oddments creates a device that goes in a circle in an empty room carrying a kid.

Pro: drill makes great white noise. Hands-free operation.
Con: umbrella stroller with no recline; can't really use this at the very young colicky age when you'd really want it

Disturbingly interesting idea, but who has an empty room to run it in?

Stroller Update: gearing up the britax

I've gone in search of hooks and a caddy (for the pusher, not the pushee); we'll see how they are when they show up in a couple days. I _think_ the weather stuff I have for the other strollers can be repurposed for this one, but I'm not certain. I'll have to track it down and then test it out.

ETA: More whining: there's a rain cover for this thing. But not in the US. There's one available in the US (might or might not be the same as the one in the UK) -- but it's far from clear whether it works in front-facing position only, or both front and rear facing.