Tuesday, March 29, 2016


A few days ago I was sitting at the kitchen table working on my laptop with my husband a few feet away, working on his laptop. Suddenly he said, "Something's burning!"
Naturally I leapt to my feet, knowing well exactly what was burning. "Oh no," I declared. "It's the greens." I rushed over to the stove. And sure enough the chopped kale, chard, etc. was burnt to a crisp. I turned off the stove and carried the mess to the sink to plunge into cold water.
"I don't know how we've stayed married so long," I lamented. For this wasn't the first time something had burnt on the stove. In fact, it probably was the 50th time or even the 100th time. The truth is that I'll often start cooking something and then get distracted by my work, by the phone, by any little thing and then, oops, the bacon or the potatoes or the brussels sprouts or the oatmeal burns to cinders. I can't count the number of pots and pans I've had to rescue with baking soda. And always, always I feel terrible about it. I feel like a giant failure -- as a cook, as a wife, as a human being. Isn't that the most elemental thing you're supposed to be able to do: cook oatmeal without burning it?
Suddenly, however, my husband exclaimed, "Do you think I give a (expletive) if you burn the greens!" And suddenly I realized that this huge shame that had burdened me for decades was entirely a figment of my imagination. I had this idea that I needed to be a good cook or at least a competent cook who didn't burn the bacon. If I wasn't, I was worthless in the eyes of the world.
His comment erased all that shame. I mean really --what does it matter if I burn the greens?

Monday, March 28, 2016


I always thought Obama was able to be elected because of Denzel Washington. Well, not just Denzel Washington but all the handsome competent black men who've been featured as heroes in American action films. Denzel is just a striking example. I'm talking about American mass media films -- the kind that everybody sees to the movie theater to see or as a rerun on TV. In an action film, the hero struggles against insuperable odds but eventually saves everyone through his intelligence and strength and courage. Denzel saved enough people enough times that voters believed Obama could save us as well. Films have an amazing and powerful subliminal impact on viewers. And often it's very positive. Though not always. (See my blog on the reason I hate the film MILLION DOLLAR BABY.)
Take the recent film THE MARTIAN, for instance. Not a great film, not an Academy Award-winner, but a crowd-pleaser that's chock-full of very typically American themes. Theme #1 the lone American hero who is isolated from the bunch but doesn't give up -- far from giving up, Matt Damon displays great intelligence, ingenuity, and perseverance to stay alive. But Theme #2 he couldn't have made it alone on Mars without Mission Control -- that's what I call the room back at NASA that's filled with people of different ages, genders, races and so forth. When they wake up to the fact that a lone American has been left on Mars, they all get together and pursue the common goal of bringing him back alive. I don't think you'd see this diverse group of people talking to one another, listening to one another, respecting one another, and pursuing a common goal with one another in a film from France or England or  Germany. It's very American theme. Kind of OCEANS 11 on a bigger scale. And finally there's Theme #3 which is the team that in THE MARTIAN made the terrible error of leaving Matt Damon behind so they have to risk their lives to go back to get him. Shades of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Kind of stupid really - to risk a dozen lives to save one. But America has this football team, Marine corps, "I've got your back, bro" mentality or at least we aspire to believe that about ourselves. Probably dates back to the cowboy and Indian movies where you never left a wounded cowboy behind 'cause he might get scalped.
Anyway, let me know what you think on this....