Where you’ll find me

I’m reading a biography of Coleridge, not because I love Coleridge’s poetry (it feels antiquated to me–because, you know, it is!–but I think I mean it feels antique) but because the biographer is Richard Holmes, the most marvelous companion you could want if you were wanting to conduct a psycho-socio-literary autopsy of a writer.

Anyway. The point is that Coleridge once frequented a tavern called The Salutation & Cat. The Salutation & Cat! I would like to live at a tavern called The Salutation & Cat. (And indeed it takes lodgers.) I’m reading a book filled with striking insights about everything I care about, but what I will most remember from this experience, I’m sure, is that there was once a tavern called The Salutation & Cat.

A word in Spanish

I was walking J. to school this morning, the sun was warm in our jackets, and he was talking about words he’d been learning in Spanish class, the words for the seasons, and he was saying that words in Spanish are either male or female, el or la, fall and winter and summer are el, but spring–“spring is the only girl.”

Top 10 Things To Know about Me!

An assignment completed by my eight-year-old son:

10. My favorite books are field guides.
9. I love CUPCAKES.
8. I celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, but I’m an atheist.
7. I want to learn how to code.
6. I aim for the stars.
5. I like making stuff up.
4. My favorite time is bedtime.
2. I got poor grades in school.*
1. I grew hair that covers my eyes.

* I asked him about this. His grades are fine. He said: “This is sort of looking back on myself. That’s what Albert Einstein said about his grades.”

The Last Bad News Bears Strike Back

No one has asked for my opinion of the new Star Wars movie. I am delighted to respond to this non-call. Here is a short list of observations:

> This movie, like so many movies, is actually The Bad News Bears. A ragtag band of misfits overcomes huge odds and shows us something about courage.

> Mark Hamill can’t act. Adam Driver can. That’s a good torch to have passed.

> There’s no plot, is there? It’s just: We’re doomed; only this one crazy plan can save us; we did it; we’re doomed; only this one crazy plan can save us; etc.

> The franchise seems unable (or unwilling) to stop itself from repeating its own gestures. There’s always a wacky bar/casino scene; there’s always a pasty British commander standing on the deck of the Death Star (or whatever) and saying, “Soon they will be finished”; the one last Rebel fighter always has one last chance to drop one last bomb into the one slot/tunnel/cannon that will blow everything apart. There’s always a brash flyboy, a cynical quasi-outlaw, an irrepressible robot, and so on.

> The dialogue is 80s-era CBS-sitcom bad. Fine actors (plus you, Mark Hamill!) are made to say things that only a young Scott Baio and the children under his loving watch would say. In a film that is eager to be relevant (the casting is a model–almost too perfect a model–of diversity), the “wit” of the script (including a number of visual gags) feels conspicuously stale.

> One of the franchise’s telling weaknesses has always been the names it gives to its characters. Leia Organa, Kylo Ren, Maz Kanata–these are not serious names. These are names that were rejected during a brainstorming session to name a new model of Toyota. If you can’t name your characters, you don’t really have characters.

This is not a movie you should love. And yet we want to love it.

The truth is that no film in the franchise has recaptured the sense of awe that so many people felt when they saw the first Star Wars. And so when we say we’re in love with The Last Jedi, what we’re really saying is that we’re in love with the memory of having once loved a movie so much.

The collected wit and wisdom of my children

My 12-year-old daughter, W., was preparing to brush her teeth and reflecting on how she’s changed over the past year. She said, “I’m about 10% more mature and 20% more gay.”

The other day, W. was telling my mother the story of the Torah portion she’s studying for her bat mitzvah. When she finished, my mom asked, “So–what’s the moral of the story?” And my 8-year-old son, J., said: “Don’t insult a Jew or you’ll fall off your donkey.” Which is funny even if you don’t know the original story (which I don’t).

W. was feeling sad because J. had received a great deal of praise for swimming underwater for the first time, while W.’s achievements in the pool, including swimming a slightly longer distance than usual, had been overlooked. As W. and I sat on her bed and talked through her feelings, J. would drift in and out, waiting for the conversation to end so he and W. could start playing together. Eventually he passed through the room and said, in a mock-formal tone, “I myself often feel that I am too spoiled.”

And then later, as he was getting ready for bed, J. said to me: “The attention I get is both a blessing and a curse.”

What I saw

An entry in my son’s April journal, a regular writing exercise in his second grade classroom:

What I saw was not normal. It had a cat’s head and a wolf’s snout. It had monkey fur too. But whatever I saw I want it.

The writing on the wall

At the aforementioned birthday celebration, my son and his group of friends found graffiti on a wall behind a tall hedge in a park. They decided that it was the key to a mystery, which they spent the next 30 minutes trying to solve. It said: Love stories may save me.

I believe that children are the future, part MCLLVI

My daughter asked to have a spider removed from her room. When we didn’t respond quickly enough, she said, in a raised voice, “Regarding the aforementioned spider, please remove it!”

My son and a few friends were celebrating his 8th birthday. They had finished one game and were considering what to do next. One of them said, “Let’s steal a minivan!”

My son and daughter were playing an imaginary game the logic of which I was unable to follow. But eventually my daughter said to my son, “Why are you hiding a nun from me?”

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