08 December 2009

Minutes of the meeting, Thanksgiving 2009

Time: ~0800, the morning after Thanksgiving 2009

Place: The kitchen, 79 Rittenhouse Rd, Sergeantsville NJ 08559

Members present (in order of appearance): Peter Spellman, BBly, Deborah Spitalnik, John Weingart, Claire Spellman, Deborah Griffin Bly, Molly Weingart.


Old Spellman family joke:

What are we this year — Polish or Russian?
O thank God, I *hate* those long Russian winters!
— Peter Spellman

Deadly Medicine, Series at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington — Deb Spitalnik

Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers: the story of a Muslim family of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. — Pete

Review in NY Times.

Also see Josh Neufield's wonderful webcomic, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, serialized in Smith magazine — BBly

"... this should appeal to their fans." — John Weingart, quoting the harshest criticism imposed by reviewers in the bluegrass magazines he reads.

Translation: Life's too short...

How is Your Brain Like a Zebra?, from a podcast Deborah Bly listened to last night as she was falling asleep.

Olivia Judson, every Wednesday in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times. — Pete

This week's post: An Evolve-by Date, on the importance of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

Adam Gopnik, Angels & Ages — Claire Spellman

Review in Washington Post.

The Little Book (NOT Strunk & White!), about Vienna in 1890s, the height of civilization. — John

Review in January Magazine.

Bella Abzug's mock American Express ad. — John

We were talking about the existential questions young kids often ask their parents. Two of BBly's favorites, from his daughter Nelly:

Deb remembered one she asked her mother: What Do Black People Use for Band-Aids?

All agreed: Great idea for a book title.

Back in the day, Deb Spitalnik recalled, Bloomingdale's had a counter for Charles of the Ritz, where they would formulate face powder based on your skin tone, then mix it up out of big glass jars.

John recommends Stephen L. Carter's New England White, et. al., mysteries —

Review, excerpt, and reading at NPR.org


John's Picks for movies to rent from Netflix:

I didn't hear the beginning of John's story about a party he & Deb went to at a Harlem home on 144th St between Convent & Amsterdam, where the owner had set up a jazz club in the basement: the joint was packed, with a kitchen in one corner and a jazz trio in the other — and all the musicians were white.

Deb Bly regaled us with many a tale of her old boyfriend Sam's mother Mickey Hurwitt and Thaddeus McDowell. (Darling? perhaps you'd like to write them up?)

Claire recalled BBly's post-prandial Sermonette on The Five Real Things in Life:

  • sex
  • bearing & raising children
  • taking care of the sick & helpless
  • teaching
  • making beautiful things

Everything else is logistics.

Too many TLAs around here. — Pete.

John's favorite xmas tree ornament: Merry Christmas from the Savages

Last but not least, the poem BBly meant to read at dinner, but left at home on the dining room table:

The Landing Game (April 23, 1500)

As our longboats approached,
I can tell you now, each of us aboard
struggled with a thrill of terror.

We could see men coming donw to the beach
in twos and threes—naked, young,
their skin the reddish-brown

of mahogany, their heads tonsured,
like our monks—butt for the fringe
of straight, dark hair below the ears.

Watching us, they gathered on the sand,
so by the time we reached
the river mouth almost twenty of them

waited, bows and arrows in their hands.
And we, all along rowing slowly,
came unarmed—such pounding

in my chest—with caution
our only strategy, our only noise
the creak-and-splash we made.

But how to greet them? How to show them
courtesy? No one spoke.
It simply happened—one of us tossed his hat

into the gulf between our languages,
and the youth who caught it
threw his feathered headpiece to our boat,

so all of us let fly, until the air was full
of hats and feathers, full of laughter
at the useless trade.

Disembarking then, we waded
through the surf, breathing anew
like divers coming up for air.

And they advanced, putting down
their bows and arrows, encircled us to see
our strangeness—our clothes, our skin,

our bearded faces, especially those
of us with sea-tinted eyes. They wanted
to stroke our hair, like lovers.

Faces reading faces, hands gesturing, pointing
toward the land or toward our ships
anchored six leagues out, and all of us

so fully absorbed in mutual scrutiny how could we
have imagined—mingling that day
on the beach—the exchange we'd made?

— Jane O. Wayne, in River Styx 80, Fall 2009

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