Sunday, December 30, 2007


There is supposed to be a picture of Tom Brady here, but I can't quite negotiate the laptop I am on here in my undisclosed location.

Sean McDonough on NESN used to say when he interviewed sports stars, "we're running out of superlatives." That's the challenge when it comes to describing Tommy Boy. Is there any mountain he isn't king of? I'm certainly in thrall.

I do think I could beat him in table hockey, though. I am awesome at that. If he's interested in a little match, it could be arranged, know what I'm saying? Giselle could come along too and hopefully the water would work and she could stay upstairs and flush all she wanted.

Notes from the game:

It was fun to see the official imitating Randy Moss's dance. It's too bad there can't be penalties on the refs. YOU'RE OUTTA HERE, BUDDY. THAT WAS THE WORST MOVE EVER SEEN.

I usually dislike Bryant Gumbel, but last night I kind of felt sorry for him. He gets the Most Times Using the Phrase "With That" In a Sports Broadcast prize for sure.

I don't see a lot of television, but is it pretty much all sex ads now? Viagra, Levitra, etc? I like the one where the guy is in the swimming pool with the woman.



They never show the guy with some babe he picked up at the muscle car rally.

The sex ads seem to be tempered with painkilling ads, which I guess makes sense.I HOPE YOU DON'T THINK THAT ALEVE CRAP IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF THIS CHLORINE HEADACHE. GEESH, I'M GOING IN THE HOUSE TO WATCH LIFETIME.

Most football coaches look mentally disturbed, but some more than others. Bill Belichick looks moderately anxious at all times, but not desperate like Tom Coughlin or truly psychotic like Mike Shanahan. Can you imagine trying to tell Bill B a joke? See, Bill, the guy is from Nantucket, get it? They say Belichick is good friends with Jon Bon Jovi, which I can't picture. Hey Jon, want to watch the Saints/Bears 97 fourth quarter again? We can open a new bag of Cheet-O's if you want.

ONE LAST BLOOPER on this Sunday as I remember Father Groff long ago stepping down from the altar after Mass and announcing: "And now an act in preparation for profane language." Father Groff became my idol on that day. ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GODDAMN, SONOFAB, MOFO, etc.

Gots to get gone, dear reader. I'm preparing my Year in Review, though I may have to wait until I get home.

I notice central Mass. is scheduled to get ten inches of snow tomorrow. Good grief.

A bientot

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Remembrance of Chocolate Mousse

Becky's To Die For chocolate mousse pie (recipe in last December's archives) is not inexpensive, particularly when you use her double boiler system on view here. Translation: I own no double boiler and don't intend to purchase one at this late date. Therefore, I use one big pot with water in it and one smaller saucepan balanced precariously on top. One false move and the whole chocolate concoction (one pound of semi-sweet Ghirardelli just for starters) falls into the drink. It ain't cheap and it's happened to me a few times, although not this Christmas.
I had other problems.
In the middle of Christmas Eve dinner, family and friends close by, enjoying themselves, flushing the toilet at will---BANG, the water goes out.
That's right. No water. No flushing, no washing of the hands, no rinsing of the plates.
Don't ask.
To show solidarity with its fellow machine, (and of course its other sibling the vacuum cleaner), my computer acquired a horrible virus just in time for the holiday. It has been reconfigured and lobotomized by my brilliant daughter. Naturally, it has forgotten my address list and a few other things, but no big woop. I'm just happy to be online.
There were other problems too, but most have been solved. As Fantine says in Les Miz, some storms we cannot weather.
I will be traveling for a few days, dear reader, so not sure when I can post.
Hope everyone is happy.
It's all good. Even the bad parts.
Mary Poppins

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why Christmas Doesn't Suck

Christmas is synonymous in our culture with happiness. If something wonderful happens or you're successful in a task, you say "it was Christmas." If something ends that previously was wonderful, we say "Christmas is over" (and I really hate when that happens). So here we are at the apex, kids. Top of the heap, A-number one, king of the--oh wait, that's New York. Can you pour me some more of that?

Even a naysayer like me looks up at the stars sometimes and wonders what the heck is going on. I make fun of this holiday and do a lot of bitching and moaning about it, but that's because I don't like to dust. However, I do in the end enjoy the magic. There are plenty of scholars and philosophers to quote on the meaning of life, but I think I will choose my friend Chris, who says most people are doing the best they can.

I think she is right

And so, dear reader, I hope you are with the ones you love best. If there's an empty chair at your table this year, my heart is with you.

I wish you joy on this day and all days.


Thursday, December 20, 2007


See those napkins? Guess who folded them in the upscale restaurant "pyramid" style? Yup, yours truly. You really can learn anything on the internet. Thank you very much. I'm seeing myself as Martha's little known but clumsier (younger?) sibling. I fold napkins. I change toilet seats. So far, that's all she lets me do, but someday I will get my hands on the fricassee pan and then we'll see who knows how to braise the bratwurst. Or perhaps to avoid coarseness I should say brulee.

What am I talking about?

I'm into it. I'm playing Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra performing The Nutracker and sometimes I try a few of those ballet moves right there in my kitchen.

It's an odd sight.

I haven't taken out a window or anything yet, but then I haven't really cracked into the Bailey's yet either. There are two giant virgin bottles of the stuff in the closet. They are for our Christmas Eve mudslides. Martha won't be here for that. We tend to go a little wild when she's not around. I spent $215 on liquor and it makes me feel faint. You'd be surprised how little that is.

Here is my REAL LIVE tree. I was talked into it, of course, by members of the royal family. They helped decorate it, but I noticed a few days later that almost half of the decorations are still in the box.

Guess what, dear reader? They still are.

I made this angel when I was around nine.

I had help.

My mother made this doll and it reminds me for some reason of Chucky, the doll that stabs people. It's rather eerie, but Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.

I have a friend who likes to hide it on me. I have found it in the microwave, in the bathroom, and the refrigerator. I think it is alive and so does my friend.
This is a very large Santa Claus that my son once said was big enough to frighten small children. I hope it does not.
Here it is trying to run my recalcitrant vacuum cleaner, the one that ONCE AGAIN HAS FAILED WHEN I NEED IT.
I am incredibly angry about this, but keeping myself controlled. It's what Martha would want.
I guess.
Anyway, dear reader, those are the preparations to date.
People are nice in the stores right now, although not as nice in the liquor store as you would think. Maybe we're all a little embarrassed. Geez, do you think you have enough beer, mister? Who's coming over, the belching football team? Sorry. No, actually, I don't think I do have enough Bailey's. I may be back for more.
A bientot

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Pillows

I actually bought the pillows a few weeks ago but have not put them on the bed yet. This is me in my maid's uniform which I always wear when I'm cleaning house. Every day. Sometimes twice a day.


BIG HUGE TUPPERWARE LAUGH!!! (That's the side-splitting kind you erupt into when someone asks if you want to have a Tupperware party)

The pillows were the opening salvo of my new favorite holiday tradition... BUYING TREATS FOR MYSELF!!!! It works like this:

1) When standing in line to pay for three gifts, you might as well grab something else nearby for yourself. It will give you a reason to live.

2) When faced with a cute scarf or trinket that you would like and no good reason why you should have it, search in the vicinity for something giftable. Buy both.

3) Remember--it's so easy to throw one more thing into the cart.

I guess there aren't as many guidelines as I thought. Recent fun things I have snuck into the cart: black sweater, weird necklace, red tablecloth, humongo red/green candle, John Singer Sargent 2008 calendar, odd dark red tablecloth with matching napkins, 2 used copies of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, small green tablecloth [wtf is with the tablecloths--I just noticed this myself], and more shopping to come!!!!

Today I have to clean the house.

I may never be seen again.

Give me a FA!!!

Give me a LA!!!

Give me another LA!!!

Whaddya got?

Yeah, I can't remember either. Stay warm, dear reader.

A bientot

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why Christmas Sucks (continued)

One word, dear reader.....MUZAK!!!!!! Or whatever you want to call the obnoxious piped-in music that permeates the retail atmosphere. They don't play the great choral compositions, of course, like the Messiah or Ode to Joy or anything like that. It's all secular, which is boring to start with and sickening to listen to. Every singer, from country to hip hop, has made some kind of "holiday" album and the more upscale the store you are in, the more jazzy and finger-snappingly sickening it is.

I don't want to hear anyone from the Rat Pack singing while I shop. Okay? If I hear another syncopated weird interpretation of "the weather outside is frightening," I will begin snorting and rolling my eyes and saying things under my breath. I suppose I'll be acting like Mr. Ed, and I never thought I would come to that, but so be it. I do admit to a tiny enjoyment of that sexy whiny "Santa Baby" tune, but that's it, okay? Otherwise, I am resolutely grinchy in this respect.

Here is another reason for suckiness. Before you can have beautiful wrapped gifts to put under the tree (WHAT TREE? HAH!!! I DON'T EVEN HAVE THAT YET!!!), you have to have a room somewhere in your house that is dedicated to consumer sprawl, the big Money Hemorrhage. This is my guest room/computer room. It gradually gets taken over by plastic bags. In the end, dear reader, it you don't keep a careful list, you lose control of these bags, forget everything you bought, and buy some things over again. If you are related to me, please don't look too closely at these items. See the three puny rolls of gift wrap? My mother always taught me to buy it the day after Christmas when it is half off and I did for many years. I marched out there and purchased rolls and rolls of it. Then I started feeling superstitious. What if I get hit by a bus before next holiday season? What if I'm dead and can't wrap?
So now I'm alive and paying four bucks for a small roll.
C'est la noel.
A bientot
Her Royal Curmudgeonliness

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Becky Interviews Eliza Graham and Doesn't Mess Up

Of course all the Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit books are worth reading. But some are REALLY EXCITING, dear reader, and this is one.
Doesn't it look great? It's English, and of course that makes my blood run faster. It's World War II era and that guarantees my enthrallment. This book is haunting and richly evocative and it's called PLAYING WITH THE MOON, which has been nominated as a World Book Day Hidden Gem!!! (And if you want, you can go vote for it right now!)
What's it about? I thought you would never ask:
Shattered by a recent bereavement, Minna and her husband Tom retreat to an isolated village on the Dorset coast, seeking the solitude that will allow them to cope with their loss and rebuild their foundering marriage. Walking on the beach one day, they unearth a human skeleton. It is a discovery which will plunge Minna into a mystery which will consume her for months to come.

The remains are soon identified as those of Private Lew Campbell, a black American GI who, it seems, drowned during a wartime exercise in the area half a century before. Growing increasingly preoccupied with the dead soldier's fate, Minna befriends a melancholy elderly woman, Felix, who lived in the village during the war. As Minna coaxes Felix's story from her, it becomes clear that the old woman knows more about the dead GI than she initially let on.
And now while I get the refreshments ready, you can read some of the great reviews this book has received:
The (London) Times
A chance visit to a depopulated Dorset village was the inspiration for Playing With The Moon, the first novel by a former Towers Perrin staffer turned freelance. Eliza Graham, who has worked for the actuaries for 13 years, spent the past five of these trying to find a publisher for the novel, which is about a 1940s inter-racial love affair and the eventual murder of a black GI. The village is Tyneham on the Isle of Purbeck, emptied in 1943 to be used in the preparations for the D-Day landings. "It was poignant, walking around the village," Graham tells me. "It was as if they just stepped out for a day or two – 60 years ago."

The Oxford Times
She seems to have hit on a winning formula, interweaving an evocative historical tale with a modern story of relationships.

I loved this book. It had me completely hooked before I'd read the first page and I didn't put it down until I'd read the last. The characters are compelling.
Okay, dear reader, of course I am a big anglophile, what else? And I've invited Eliza to stop by today. I'm a little nervous, but I have tea ready.
She'll like that, don't you think?
And I have cake too. Who doesn't like cake?
Okay, so maybe you're right. What about crumpets? She's bound to like those.
I'll offer both. Mmmm, a little butter too. Okay, here goes.
B: Hi, Eliza. What gave you the idea for the book?
E: Well, Becky, some years ago I visited an abandoned village on the south coast of England. It had been evacuated for D-Day landings practice and the villagers were told they could go home at the end of the war. In fact they never returned. You can walk round the semi-ruined cottages and see the children's work in the schoolhouse. It's a very poignant place and you can almost feel the ghosts of those who lived. It's also very beautiful. I came away longing to write about it. Then, years later, I read an article about black American GIs in England during WW2 and how they got along with English civilians (often very well). I had the two strands I needed for the novel.

B: That's good. What is your favorite junk food?

E: Chocolate. But it's not junk food really, Becky. It's extremely good for you--honest.

B: Oh, don't I know it. Try some of this cake. People seem endlessly fascinated by WWII. Do you have a theory about this? There's crumpets here too.
E: Why, thank you. I think that, unlike our muddled times and somewhat ambiguous conflicts, WW2 appears clear-cut. Hitler was evil and it was the right thing to fight him. Of course, if you look at it in detail there are gray areas. Like the way the Allies effectively gave Stalin free rein in eastern Europe at the end of the war. Or the heavy bombing of Germany. But for many people in Britain and the US taking part in WW2 was something that they could feel justifiably proud of. And that feeling has passed down the generations. In Britain it was a socially very cohesive time as well, with people really feeling bound together against a common enemy. And that war is still within living memory.

B: When you are writing, do you eat or drink? What or which? [dear reader, am I seeming obsessed with food? Like a simpleton?]

E: Erm, both. Unfortunately. I drink lots of instant coffee and occasionally go into the kitchen just to make sure everything's OK in the cookie tin.

B: [god, she is so nice] What is next for you? When can we read it?

E: RESTITUTION, my novel about falling in love at the wrong time and with the wrong person just as the Red Army moves into Germany in 1945, comes out in September 2007. [geez, I've done that wrong time/wrong person thing, but I don't think I'll bring that up]

B: What do you think is the biggest fashion mistake ever? [Hey. This question is not about food, okay? I'm not going to ask about the National Health program, for god's sake]

E: Bared midriffs on women who aren't slim. [she's right about that, dear reader.]
While Eliza and I chat (and I am so going to crack out something better than tea), you're free to zip over to her blog
A bientot

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why Christmas Sucks

Norman Rockwell Christmas Elves Print SANTA'S HELPERSEven Santa feels it sometimes, dear reader. GOOD GRIEF. HOW MANY MORE OF THESE STINKING IPODS DO I HAVE TO ASSEMBLE? In truth, one shudders at the prospect of Santa working with motherboards, doesn't one? Then again, he's got plenty of fresh air just out the door of his studio, the really pure air that you get at the North Pole. One breath of that and he'd sit back down and think things over. DO I REALLY WANT TO GO POSTAL? SLAUGHTER ALL THE REINDEER OUT THERE SINGING CAROLS? IF THEY'D ONLY SHUT UP FOR FIVE MINUTES.

And that, dear reader, is surely the crux. It's the pressure. Each day creeps closer to the Big One and I STILL HAVEN'T GOT A TREE OR A WREATH OR ONE SINGLE GIFT OR ANY REASON TO LIVE.

Women especially fall into this trap of course. The good ones, the good mommies, make cookies and send cards and do all the little things that make the holiday special. The bad ones make plans to meet friends in bars and screw the cookies. I will leave the reader to guess which group I am in.


The only way out of this pressurized dilemma is Making Lists and Managing Time. As a Virgo, I adore lists to start with. So soon I will be doing it. Just not today.

Today I am still buried with papers and when I take a break it is to read The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates, my idol. Her works grip me as no others. I think my eyes are wider when I'm reading. You just know that something really bad is going to happen to somebody and I know that sounds simplistic as all hell, but it's compelling to read.

Time to buy the Bailey's or at least Emmett's (who can afford Bailey's?).
Thanks to Norman Rockwell, Readers Digest and Edouard Manet.

A bientot and a big fa la.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Picasso must have time-traveled ahead to my bathroom mirror and seen me there this morning. By tomorrow one of the eyes could be completely closed from too much reading. The bloops keep me alive.

"There were a number of shark sittings while we were there."
[ed. note: it's not easy for a shark to book a sitting. Artists get busy, they have other subjects, and they don't like working underwater in general, though some will who are desperate for fame.]

"Our Thanksgiving table had delicious dishes such as sweet potatoes and root beggars."

"It's tragic that [Terri Schiavo] died after a fourteen-year battle with a feeding tube."

"Norman Rockwell shows a young boy caught going through his parents' drawers."

"The government enacted a number of statues dealing with the controversy."

"It boils down to this. Our four fathers said we could carry guns."

On that note, dear reader, I return to my task.

Holiday Bitchiness coming soon!!!!

A bientot

Thursday, December 06, 2007

In The Box

Mary Cassatt - In the Box - Art Prints and Posters

That is the name of this painting by Mary Cassatt and it obviously means the opera box. What a gorgeous and unique view we get, not just of the opera house, but also of the two young women who might just be looking for someone in the audience and not on the stage. How I long to be with them. I do love romantic intrigue and could have joined the spyfest with pleasure.

Everyone today talks about thinking "out of the box," a phrase that has become totally trite.

That has almost replaced "in the zone," a term that started in sports but leached out into every other area of life. I am having trouble getting in the zone for the 150 papers I have to grade over the next few days. Here's what I'd rather be doing:
Image:Cassatt Mary The Cup of Tea 1880.jpg

Dressed up in flounces and frills, enjoying a delightful cup of tea (again by Cassatt). It's not easy to eat or drink in white gloves, but I could do it. Or I could stay home and invite a girlfriend to join me (one more by Mary C).
Tea. (1880). Mary Cassatt, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
It must be said, dear reader, that the woman on the left doesn't look so thrilled as I would be. She looks as though she is wondering what might be in the liquor cabinet that she could add to her own beverage if her guest continues to sit there and yakkity yak. Maybe she is longing for some dashing gentleman to knock on the door and take her out for more than tea.
Meanwhile, I am remaining calm in the face of this paper storm. I will probably have lots of bloopers. Morituribus salutamus, which means:
a) we who are about to die salute you
b) we who are about to die are at least glad we're not doing it at Hannaford's.
c) we who are about to salute wish we were dead.
d) pour me some of that, will you?
.Munch's Scream
A bientot

Monday, December 03, 2007


Note to Theo Epstein who is at an owners' meeting right now, possibly enjoying a big cigar, or a big slice of molten chocolate cake:
JMS, Theo!!!!
We have to keep Jacoby Ellsbury, not just because of his talent, but because he is so cute and, and, promising. He's the future. Or at least we want him to be the future. He even seems a bit gullible in some ways, like when he let himself get used in that Taco Bell promotion thing. Other studly types in New England USED to be humble.
Before they became movie star types. Don't get me wrong. We still love Tommy Boy, but I'm thinking he's moved up lately. He's buying the three-ply paper towels. Or four. [what is the max?] And throwing them out with impunity. And five dollar lattes at Star's. And throwing THEM out. He's in Rolex Country or Piaget, not that I have ever visited there, and not that I would know a good watch from a bad.
If Tom Brady walked through Hannaford's, probably all the electricity would short out. Everything would stop. The scanners wouldn't work. The yogurt would heat up. Maybe they'd stop charging three dollars a pound for grapes. Maybe I'll beg him to do it. Every female working there would quit her job and follow him out the front door. I mean some people are famous and some people are FAMOUS.
MATT DAMON photo  Matt Damon
What if you combined Brady and Ellsbury? Think about it.
This gentleman is not what you call cute. He is what you call Charles Darwin. A student of mine a couple of years ago complained that "his Origin of Spices is extremely boring."
Obviously, this person did not persevere into the nutmeg section, which I found riveting.
All in fun, dear reader.
And my students are fine with it. Thanks also to the Boston Globe and People Magazine.
A bientot

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More Bloopers

From recent argumentation essays on the death penalty:

"...the evil men who decided to take the lives of the innocent have been put to rest and can move on."

"If people keep comitting crimes on the streets, is it safe that they are wandering around neighborhoods where little children sleep at night after they have been let out of jail for murder?"

"This happened to a girl who was barley in high school."

[this one is describing the development of a pregnancy}
"At twelve weeks, the gentiles appear."
[ed. note: I never knew this. Apparently, if you put the cells from a 12-week fetus under the microscope you can actually see a whole bunch of little Presbyterians swimming around, some with pink and green whales on their trunks.]

Okay, so enough of that.

On Google, when you sign in, it says "Choose Your Identity." And you know, I wish I could. I'd pick Winona Ryder. She's so pretty and probably got a bad rap on that shoplifting thing. I wouldn't care. I'd be Winona.

Or I'd pick Molly Ringwald. She's grown up and lives in Paris I read and still carries that innocence, tempered of course with whatever life has thrown at her, most likely loss of fame. If she walked through Hannaford's, would anyone know her?

That's the True Fame Criterion: the Hannaford Walk.

I would not be Marie Osmond or anyone who has to dance or faint or pretend to faint. Well, that's not entirely true since I pretended to faint when I played the Mayor's Wife in Bye Bye Birdie many years ago. But I ain't bein' Marie, know what I'm sayin'?

This is me, dear reader.

My pace has been ten research papers per day and when I do take time out for a nuked-up something-or-other, my mental skills more closely resemble little Dahlia's:

In truth, Dahlia's mental proficiency is quite high. It's just that in her case it is all directed toward having fun.

Shouldn't we all be having more fun?

Things look tough sometimes, dear reader. I keep having to learn the same lessons over and over.

But my favorite season is here.

A bientot