odds and ends / 6.13.2019

Ruth Clark, Simple Group Dances for Use in Schools, via The Second Shelf.


Madeline Weinrib quilt, ca. 2012.


William B. Closson, Butterflies, ca. 1887.

Pimlico House kitchen designed by Rose Uniacke.


The Corleck head, a three-faced stone carving. Ireland, 1st-2nd century A.D.

She describes herself as a messy reader, and a messy thinker, and she is stylishly disheveled, with a preference for comfy, colorful clothing with pockets and Birkenstocks with socks.
As a procession of speeches and toasts lauded her life’s work, Dr. Uhlenbeck stood to the side of the lectern and listened, eyes mostly closed. When it finally came time to make her own remarks (unprepared), she began by simply agreeing: “From the perspective of my late seventies, I find myself as a young mathematician sort of impressive, too.”

She went on to note that, for lack of mathematical candidates, her role model had been the chef Julia Child. “She knew how to pick the turkey up off the floor and serve it,” Dr. Uhlenbeck said.

Siobhan Roberts, "In Bubbles, She Sees a Mathematical Universe." NYT, 4/8/2019. A profile of Karen Uhlenbeck, winner of the Abel Prize.


Also: 'Astrophysicists have long postulated, if only symbolically, that galaxy clusters have a soapsuds structure.'


'She weighed about ninety pounds without her jewels, and when I met her she was ninety years old.'


The children's book coverage in the New Yorker's Page-Turner is a platter of delicious treats: Jia Tolentino on Ellen Raskin's The Westing GameRivka Galchen on Curious GeorgeSarah Blackwood on Amelia BedeliaRumaan Alam on William Steig.


Lyz Lenz attends Mom 2.0: 'We are preparing ourselves to perform motherhood with a hashtag.'

Related: a 14-year-old on her mom and sister's social media accounts: 'For my generation, being anonymous is no longer an option. For many of us, the decisions about our online presence are made before we can even speak.'

Once the queue nears baggage control, despondent submission to contemporary travel proceedings gives way to a fluster of semi-autonomous acts that demonstrate to the persons behind you in the queue the ability to stay calm while efficiently slinging your suitcase into the grey tray and stuffing your hand luggage in another, along with your coat, your cardigan, your shoes, your belt, your mobile phone, your earplugs, your tablet, your battery, your keys, your wallet, your external hard drive, your umbrella, your loose change and your passport – in short, all the belongings that make you you barring your inner organs, crammed into these plastic open caskets that roll into the X-ray machine as into a furnace, ready to be incinerated. Surely, to travel should not cause such fear of discovery?

Astrid Albin, 'Eighteen Seconds to Impact.' The Times Literary Supplement, 3/27/2019.


Speaking of bags for travel: I saw some totes by Epperson Mountaineering at Seven Sisters in Portland, Oregon, and am now coveting their backpacks.


Strawberry dumpling (easy and delicious).


Ordinary sex.

ohio, georgia, alabama

Yesterday, angry and upset at the passage of draconian abortion laws in OhioGeorgia, and Alabama, I posted a list of questions about the "pro-life" movement on my Instagram stories. Here they are, with some additions that have occurred to me since.

I thought it might be useful to look at just one issue—a noncontroversial one, child poverty, because who wants kids to be poor?—to see how these allegedly "pro-life" states are doing at creating a "pro-life" culture.

So, how are the children living in these states faring? Per the Children's Defense Fund, in the United States:
Nearly 1 in 5 children—12.8 million in total—were poor in 2017. Over 45 percent of these children lived in extreme poverty at less than half the poverty level. Nearly 70 percent of poor children were children of color. About 1 in 3 American Indian/Alaska Native children and more than 1 in 4 Black and Hispanic children were poor, compared with 1 in 9 White children. The youngest children are most likely to be poor, with 1 in 5 children under 5 living in poverty during the years of rapid brain development.

All three states have the dubious distinction of being leaders in the number of children under six living in extreme poverty—defined as "an annual income of less than half of the poverty level or $12,642 a year, $1,053 a month, $243 a week or $35 a day for the average family of four."

That same report also offers a ranking by state for how many children live in just regular old poverty—defined as an annual income below $25,283 for the average family of four—$2,107 a month, $486 a week or $69 a day—as of 2017:

  • Alabama: 265,078 children living in poverty (Alabama ranks 46th out of 50 states, 50 being the worst.)
  • Georgia: 519,099 children living in poverty (Georgia ranks 39th.)
  • Ohio: 513,231 children living in poverty (Ohio ranks 35th.)
These states are also among the worst when it comes to infant mortality statistic, per the CDC.

Unsurprisingly, Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio also have terrible maternal mortality rates. Alabama averages 18.7 maternal deaths per live births, Ohio 19.2, and Georgia a staggering 48.4.

It's hard to square these statistics with a so-called "culture of life."I live in Ohio and I can tell you that it is not a "pro-life" state, and it is certainly not pro-child. Beyond the 500,000 children living in poverty, the public schools are poorly funded (the public school funding system has been unconstitutional for 22 years). In Cleveland, thousands of children are suffering from lead poisoning while lawmakers in Columbus offer zero help or support (they have found the time to pass anti-woman legislation and fund all the legal challenges that will follow). Guns are everywhere. Ohioans are dying of opiods and social services are struggling to support the children left behind. I could go on; the examples are many.

As someone who cares about supporting human lives and believes that women having choice is the only way to create a true pro-life culture, the hypocrisy is appalling. But that's because these laws have nothing to do with a "culture of life" and everything to do with regulating women's bodies and behavior—"about imposing a moral judgment on women for having sex." Infuriating is too mild a word to describe my feelings.

My friend Lisa Butterworth, who has been a feminist inspiration for me for many years, posted this about ways to take action:

Abortion Care Network
National Network of Abortion Funds
Yellowhammer Fund
Access Reproductive Care—Southeast

It's horrible that so many women are having to share traumatic personal stories and open themselves up to harassment to try and reach the hard hearts and thick heads of abortion opponents. But lives are at stake.
To understand Win’s story—what had happened to her, what she had done, and why—my daughter would need a number of moral and biological concepts that were not yet in place in her young mind. Still, I wanted to offer her a simplified version of the truth that could remain stable for her as she got older. I wanted to assure her that, even though this was a story she needed to grow into, she should always feel free to ask questions, and that I would answer as honestly as I could. And I wanted to break my family’s long-standing silence surrounding Win’s death, because silence only helps to perpetuate the fallacy that outlawing abortion has ever stopped women from attempting it.
If I couldn’t immediately explain to my daughter how Win died, I decided, I could at least explain why. “She needed help really badly and no one would help her so she died,” I told her. Then I added a reassurance that I’m not sure I’d feel confident offering today. “It’s not a thing that would happen to us now,” I said. “If we ever needed that kind of help, we would get it and we would be safe.”

Kate Doloz, "My Grandmother's Desperate Choice." The New Yorker, May 14, 2017.

gifts some mothers might enjoy

Teeny-tiny lotuses to grow in bowls on tabletops.
A carnation-scented perfume with a wryly apt name.
Appealing notebooks for surreal thoughts by Papier Tigre.
Blue suede shoes (I have a non-blue pair and can attest that they do a pretty good job in sandboxes and on playgrounds).
The flying Martha by Haptic Lap; an ornithopter inspired by the last passenger pigeon.
A friendly mug for coffee runs, made by Debbie Carlos.
sunny backpack for the endless parenting schlepp by Clare V. 
bright, easy dress by Raquel Allegra.
A new edition of Natalia Ginzberg's essays, with an introduction by Rachel Cusk. 
Kaye Blegvad safety pin (a flower or a hand) to celebrate another year of holding it all together, more or less.


Ginzberg on parenting (translated here by Dick Davis):
We must be important to our children and yet not too important; they must like us a little, and yet not like us too much — so that it does not enter their heads to become identical to us, to copy us and the vocation we follow, to seek our likeness in the friends they choose throughout their lives ... For them we should be a simple point of departure; we should offer them the springboard from which they make their leap. And we must be there to help them, if help should be necessary; they must realize that they do not belong to us, but that we belong to them, that we are always available, present in the next room, ready to answer every possible question and demand as far as we know how to.

sunday tune: matt pond pa - love to get used

My favorite local radio station WRUW is having their annual telethon; we made a donation because nothing beats music made and chosen by humans and because Chasing Infinity and The Cream of Broccoli Radio Hour have been the soundtrack for our Sunday mornings for more years than I care to tot up.

odds and ends / 4.9.2019

Margaret Barker, Any Morning. The Tate.


"So I to thee" sun and flower carnelian Georgian-era signet ring at Erica Weiner.


Detail from Laurent de La Hyre's Allegory of Grammar, 1650. The National Gallery (UK).



I love the cakes Terry Glover makes for The London Review of Books Cakeshop. (see also: swans, dancing ladies). 


Bird pins (brooches) made out of scrap materials by Japanese Americans held in internment camps during World War II. From The Art of Gaman: Arts & Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946 by Delphine Hirasuna (Ten Speed Press, 2005). 
Gaman is a Japanese term of Zen Buddhist origin which means “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity”.

Related: the story of Yoneguma and Kiyoka Takahashi.

My five-year-old daughter often says to me, “Tell me a story about something that was going to be bad but then it turned out good.” (She makes this request on the way to the doctor.) Or, “Tell me a story of something that was going to be good but then it went badly and you were sad.” (She makes this request on the way to school.) Or even, “Tell me about something that was going to be bad but then it was good, but then it was bad, but then it was good, but then it was bad . . . And,” reluctantly, “then it was good.” I find these assignments very difficult, even though she considers losing a favorite sock and then finding it (then losing it again, but then finding it) to be a perfectly acceptable plot. It’s the emotion that is difficult. I find myself longing for something like “It was nice and nothing changed.”

Rivka Galchen, "William Goldman's Strange, Sad, Captivating Children's Book About a Girl and Her Blanket." The New Yorker, 1/31/2019.

"But if there was a bubble big enough, I’d move there in a second.” Everyone gets very quiet. “Tell me where the bubble is. Where’s the bubble?”

Sabrina Orah Mark, "On Pinocchio and raising boys." The Paris Review Daily, 1/3/2019.

I am seeing around me ... the performance of wokeness and the idea that being woke is a destination. It seems to me that some people think it’s literally a plane trip and you’re in another land and then you are woke and from that land you can criticize the land you used to be in and all people that remain in it. I just find that such a load of shit. I think there is only ever waking, right? There’s only ever going to be waking.

Mira Jacob, interviewed by Naomi Elias. Longreads, March 2019.  Jacob's new book: Good Talk.



'What is gained – or lost – when everyone has a Dorito tailored for them?'


The Fearless Tryer, a Trader Joe's zine.

In the early hours of New Year’s Day, billions of miles from any Earthly celebrations, the New Horizons space probe swung by a small and extremely distant lump of ice and rock. It’s known to cataloguers as (486958) 2014 MU69, but the New Horizons team call it ‘Ultima Thule’ after the ancient expression for a place at the edge of the known world.

Chris Lintott, London Review of Books blog, 1/2/2019.


Wilderness Babel, an online exhibition:

If one wishes to save wilderness, or sets out to recreate or rewild it, what does this mean in places where people predominantly speak Dutch or Finnish or Greek or Nez Percé, and where wilderness does not exist—cannot exist—at least by the same name? What does it mean to protect or bring back any of the following … Wilderniserämaaερημιά or titoqanót wétes
This exhibit collects wilderness-equivalent terms and describes them in a few short paragraphs, discussing how they may be similar to or different from the wilderness that native English speakers know and admire. The subtleties of meanings encompassed by the above terms, say, between human presence or absence, or between love and fear for the wild regions, is what we hope to explore. Our focus in these webpages is less the history of wilderness than the linguistics of wilderness, even though word meanings have their own histories. Even across the English-speaking countries, a reference to “wilderness” may evoke different feelings, images, and sounds.

Russian birds saved centuries-old documents in their nestswasps built nests using colored paper.


People are stacking too many stones.