July 9th, 2010

_Good Night Moon_, Margaret Wise Brown

Does anyone pay attention to this when they are reading it? Because if you _do_ pay attention to it, it is some creepy. If you love this book, you might want to stop reading now.

First off, I get why it works. It is simple. It is concrete. It is repetitive. It is a catalog. This kind of thing Really Work for People. Like, whoa and like damn. Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of a catalog to bewitch and seduce. And it need only be marginally comprehensible to be effective (in fact, catalogs that are fully understood are much less powerful).

Now that that's out of the way, let's think about what's going on here. This is a _nursery_: a room where that kid probably spends every night and most of every day. That mush on the table makes it into the list with the comb and the brush because that kid eats that mush every day -- maybe more than once a day. The old woman who says hush and who knits? That would be the nanny, and not the nanny in the sense of the person who takes care of the kids while mummy and daddy go to work, but rather the person who takes care of the kid 24 X 6 and quite a few hours on the 7th day as well, and in a wealthy household there's a head nanny and then one nanny per kid.

That page where the kid goes, "good night nobody" that is mostly blank? Notice how the kid isn't thinking of saying good night to mummy and/or daddy and/or siblings. That "nobody" wasn't a philosophical or funny thing for that kid to say. That was a lonely, possibly developing attachment disorders moment that the kid probably experienced every night. It was "good night nobody" because it was too painful to even think of the absent person or persons who should have been central to the catalog of good nights.

_Now_, of course, when parents read this to their kid, the "nobody" is very present. But not so when Brown wrote the book.

Does anyone _notice_ this when they are reading it? Is this all an artifact of reading Gathorne-Hardy's _Unnatural History of the Nanny_?

Some analysis of this book points out that there is no good night to the telephone (rather conspicuously so, actually). Other things one might point out would include, hey, _there's a telephone_, what is that doing there? Well you should ask. The kid sure isn't going to be talking on it. This family may be so detached they issue instructions to the nanny over the phone, rather than risk interacting with the kid by coming all the way up to the attic to issue them in person. I'm not sure, really, one way or the other.

But jeez. That is some seductive catalog. A. is obsessed with this book. When we aren't reading one of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse number books, or _Quiet, Loud_, or _Jungle Colors_ (a Backyardigans book), or Jez Alborough's _Hug_, or something by Boynton, we're probably reading this one. Altho we did rattle through some Seuss today, there were no requests for repeats.

the rich are different


This is an article that contains some interesting information combined with either bad exposition or terrible analysis. The interesting information is that there's a higher rate of serious delinquency on mortgages with more than a million outstanding on them. Perhaps on some other occasion, someone could explain to me why anyone would ever write a mortgage for more than a million. Because I have not been happy with any explanation I've ever seen.

On what basis can one conclude that people who owe more than a million dollars on a mortgage are high net worth individuals? I think you can conclude that during the boom, they had high incomes and they convinced someone to loan them a lot of money on a house that was considered worth that much, plus or minus. But high _net_ worth? Does not follow.

Also, I don't understand using an example of dual layoffs and then talking about strategic default. If both earners lost their jobs, it probably wasn't a strategic default -- and there's no example given in the article of anyone engaging in strategic default. Even the possible ones -- the rapper and the "businessman" -- sounded more like people trying to put a positive front on a very bad situation, rather than someone making a calculated decision to not make payments when they were underwater.

And about that "businessman": given that every business critter showing up on the cable money channels is talking hugely doomy, I don't understand why he thinks he has to stay upbeat. No one else is. The fact that he thinks he has to be upbeat puts the lie to his assertion of being a business critter.