Failing Toward 40: The Conclusion of the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs (Part III)

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Good morning, kittens, and welcome to what people of good taste can only hope is the final installment of the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs. It seemed an auspicious day for it because it happens to be—I shit you not—my 40th birthday.

But first… I want to speak about something rather delicate, my friends.

Can we bring the house lights up for a second? (Not that bright. Thank you.)

Before I begin, I thought you might like an explanation as to why I went away for six months, leaving no note about where I was going, or when I’d return? Or maybe you don’t, and that’s fine. As I’ve said before, blog abandonment is hard to talk about, but we must, since nearly every American woman I know has a blog that she is actively Not Writing.

Look, the point is that there were some serious matters of life and loss going on in the House of Rhapsody, and that’s why I accidentally-on-purpose went out for another bottle of chardonnay and forgot to come back. I know that while I was out, you’ve all waited faithfully for me, doing nothing else, just draped like a bunch of Victorian consumptives across your chaise lounges, hysterical with concern.

That’s so sweet of you. But now, your worry is over. Rhapsody is back, and this New Zealand savvie I’ve just opened is as crisp as the summer morn.

Also, to be honest, a trusted friend told me I need “a more robust on-line platform” from which to launch other projects into orbit. That’s why there’s a big pile of fiberglass and bolts in the corner over there. After today’s post, you can all help me get the high dive installed and test it out for bounciness.

Now then: let’s pull on our flowered bathing caps and begin, shall we? It’s so good to be back.

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How to avoid PTO meetings and other civic duties (with free pamphlet on Bitch Face)

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Hello, Kittens, and welcome back to the salon. I’m glad you made it, because we have serious matters to discuss. I’ll be as brief as I feel like.

It is an unfortunate fact of Western Civilization that small groups of people left to their own devices will tend to form committees. And when small-group intentions are good, the results are almost always bad.

(Yes, I know what Margaret Mead said. Please be quiet.)

Committees go to work on ideas like viruses in a Petri dish: they surround it, study it, then kill it, having appropriated just enough of its DNA to disarm the defense systems of the next good idea they meet. The idea’s entrails are then written up and published in a newsletter.

Why must this committee formation happen, when groups could just as readily form a religious cult, a chorus or a circus act? Alas: committees are formed, resolutions are taken up and pretty soon, just when you thought it might be safe to sit down amongst friends and have a cup of coffee—perhaps even a muffin—you are grabbed around the ankle by a Strategic Plan and dragged, screaming, into service.

And that’s why, when the monthly PTO meeting at Brioche’s school rolls around, Rhapsody is always indisposed. Under a mountain of work. Fighting off a highly contagious strain of strep throat. Down with the cramps.

It’s not that I, or other committee-phobes don’t see the value of civic projects, or even that we don’t want to help, but we’re shade plants of the social world, and all that cheer and industry from you non-morose types is like too much afternoon sun on our tender leaves.

Are you exasperated by my attitude? If you think I’m hard to take as a blogging actress, you’ve got it easy, my friend. I could be your wife. I could be your mother. You just think about that for a moment, while I pour you a whiskey sour in these special holiday tumblers I’ve dusted off for today’s gathering.

And before we go on, please initial that you have read this Vital Disclaimer: Although I am a rabid volunteer elsewhere, I have not yet actually attended a PTO meeting at Brioche’s school. This post (like most of my life) is based on supposition and hearsay. Also: I am a blogging celebrity—not a real person. So if this post hurts your feelings and you think Rhapsody is talking about you, please consider two things:

  1. Confronting me will require you to admit that you are being teased by an avatar—a gorgeous, chimerical demon made of pixels and stardust. How does that help your cause?
  2. Sarcastic. Bitter. Acid-tongued. You keep using these words but I do not think they mean what you think they mean. Instead of arguing with me, why not try sword fighting as a way to relax?

Now, then. Shall we do as they do at Town Meeting and get this bitch over with? Continue reading

Sleep Training for the American Right (and if you think you won’t like this post: you won’t)

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Welcome to Rhapsody’s post-election and penultimate-to-the-first-anniversary-of-Rhapsody post. Yes, it’s been weeks and weeks since the last salon meeting, but we’ll talk about that later. Right now just grab an armchair, pour a drink and settle in.

I’m mixing a classic bourbon cocktail today, The Last Word because it goes so well with a blog, my favorite setting for conversation these days, that being a forum in which only I get to talk.

What I want to talk about today, kittens, is the distressing case of American political conservatives and what’s to be done about them.

Now, I know you didn’t come here looking for a left-leaning political rant (or maybe you did, in which case: “fist bump!” as the young folk say) but little else seems even worth thinking about when you consider how the earth is warming and growing more dangerous by the year, and even the words that I type right now are entering a bank of “cloud” computers, which are not, despite the wispy coolness of real clouds, a cloud at all but a hot, hot and ever hotter bank of metal processors humming away somewhere in the already drier-than-hell central valley of California—

I mean, I suppose it’s in California. I don’t know, actually, where the cloud lives. It could be in my garden shed for all I know, and probably is, since the more critical we are of something the more likely it is that we are seated directly on top of it.

But for now I don’t want to talk about how you and I are the problem. I want to stay on the much more riveting—if upsetting—subject of the faults of others. The people responsible for everything bad, everything mean and unreasonable and shockingly ill-informed.

By which I mean the right in American politics. (Not you. I mean the people to the right of you, obviously!)

That whirring noise you just heard was a whole lot of angry comments that are going to hit Rhapsody in Cool from all over the place. I won’t publish them, but I will keep them in a keepsake box so that we can open them up at the holidays and enjoy them, with cocoa before a roaring fire. They’re so fun! Did I tell you about the one that came in about my Ree Drummond screed? You’ll love it. Email me and I’ll send it right over.

Now, then. Shall we begin?

* * * *

If you are among the liberal friends still here in the salon, then you’ll be glad to know I’m just getting to the central point, right here, and that is the wild epiphany I had this morning, which offers us—much like climate science—a viable and supportable theory to explain a troubling phenomenon.

The question that led me to my visionary realization is this: Why do political conservatives on the far right seem so maddeningly stupid? I’m not an optimist, goodness knows, but even I find this fact hard to fathom: 58% of congressional Republicans do not accept climate change as an actual, human-driven reality.

Fifty. Eight. Percent. Have a big gulp of your cocktail and sit with that a moment.

As I tried to wrap my head around this one this morning, stomach acids burning a hole in my esophagus, it suddenly dawned on me—good gracious it’s simple when you finally see it—just why so many conservatives seem stupid.

You see, they’re not actually stupid, they’re simply spending 95% of their attention and will power doing battle with that inner voice (conscience? common sense?) which is whispering, “What you profess to believe—and are turning into policies and laws and systemic neglect that will waste us all—actually flies in the face of common sense.”

Just think of the hard work it is for them, day upon day, one Fox & Friends broadcast after another, to stuff down the buoyant forces of sense and fairness as they rise back to the surface.

Because they do that, our better instincts do. I believe this. Logic is a permanent resident in each of our brains, and you can only treat it like an illegal immigrant at your own peril. Logic lives patiently in the primeval caves, sharing camp with our own inner Selfishness, that little creep. Logic survives. It won’t go quietly into that good night unless you work really, really hard to muffle it. And that is why right-wing conservatives are tuckered out, all over this country, my friends.

They’re just plain fatigued.

I would compare these individuals—let’s take Bill O’Reilly as one blotchy and loud example—to an extremely worn out toddler. When a small child has stayed up past the hour of napping or bedtime, he doesn’t simply do what his body so clearly needs to do, by lying down and closing his eyes. No: he fights the need for rest with every fiber of his being. He fights it like it’s a matter of life and death.

If you’ve seen this you already know what I’m talking about: an exhausted toddler is the most wired, most viciously, most unreasonably awake creature on the face of this earth. The terrified parent must deploy all manner of soothing strategies to trick the child into obeying the instincts of his own body, like saying, “Shhhhhh, there there now, Rep. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), it’s all right, it’s just climate science and it doesn’t really want to hurt you, if you’ll just stop screaming for a minute you’ll see that it’s really all very clear and straightforward, just… ow! Why are you biting me?!”

That’s what’s wrong with all of these fuckwit conservatives (begging your pardon for the coarseness, but have you seen these shameful election results?). They aren’t stupid. They are scared, they are overtired, they are afraid of the arguments being proffered by their very own better selves and they need a nap.

No wonder they seem ready to take the head off of anyone speaking in plain facts. I look at them and—as frightening as they truly are because they are out to wreck the entire world with the help of their punch-drunk classmates in the GOP—part of me just wants to hand them a sippy cup and say, “That is enough. Time for nighty-nite.”

Just look at how silly Bill O’Reilly is here, while Alan Colmes tries to speak sense:

And poor Sarah hasn’t been able to string a coherent sentence together in her entire political life, it’s so far past her bedtime. Look!

I’m getting a bit fractious myself thinking about all this, so I’m going to turn it over to Bill Maher for a moment. Bill is never afraid to look the god-awful truth in the face (maybe because the whole “god” part of that doesn’t worry him, and that does help). Take a listen.

Do you find yourself just staring off into space, like Lisa Kudrow is doing in that clip? Well, that’s because being the parent of one of these tired toddlers is tiring in itself. You start to give up. You start agreeing with whatever the little bastard is saying because it’s hopeless to talk sense to someone who can’t even hear you anymore.

Yes, sweetie: climate change is just part of the ebb and flow of a God-directed ballet of nature. No, my love: human industry and cars and profligate consumption have nothing to do with it. Fine. You’re right. Have a cookie. Mommy’s going to lie down for a little bit and just close her eyes….

I think I’m done with this jag for today, and I’ve got a lot of notes and exciting tidbits for the Rhapsody 1st Birthday Bash, which is happening in just about a week or seven. Do drop by! We have a lot to talk about.

As always, gift giving is not discouraged.




Rhapsody’s Guide to Childrearing: Everything you wanted to know about parenting but had the good sense not to ask


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Welcome back, kittens! The first weeks of school are over and in the ten minutes remaining before the school nurse calls to inform me that Brioche and Tannery are contagious or infested, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on parenting.


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I promise you that Rhapsody will not morph into a parenting blog. I don’t have the patience, or even that much to say, so I’ll just mash all my thoughts on this topic into one piping hot post and serve it casserole style, with a topping of crushed crackers.

You see, it has come to our attention that the dyspepsia of mommy bloggers has started to be a major downer for the as-yet-childless columnists at Slate and Salon. Why, they scream from their loft-style apartments, must we spoil the experience of Parenting in the Abstract? Where are our catalogues of parenting joy?

Why are we making it sound hard when it’s obvious to those who’ve not yet tried it that parenting is easy and fun?

I see that you parents in the salon are beginning to gnaw lightly on the furniture as you take this in. Please stay calm, everyone. Rhapsody will handle this. As your trusted imaginary friend, I feel it is my duty—and privilege—to provide serious answers to these rhetorical questions.

And to our salon-goers without children: no need to roll up your yoga mats and leave so soon. There’s plenty of chardonnay and schadenfreude to go ‘round, so please, resume savasana pose and stay awhile!

Now a deeeeeeeep exhale through the nose, and…. we’re off.

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My Life in Cookbooks: A Visit to the Rhapsody Culinary Lab

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“First, I am an amateur. If that strikes you as disappointing, consider how much in error you are, and how the error is entirely of your own devising.” –Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb.

Greetings, friends, and welcome to the Rhapsody test kitchen! I’ve moved today’s meeting to the breakfast bar for an up-close discussion of food, cookbooks and the histoire de la cuisine Rhapsodaise. This coy mangling of French is my way of saying that I’m not really going to talk about food so much as myself. Please don’t mistake this for an instructional post about serious cooking, unless you are wondering how to make Prune Whip. That we will cover.

And if you’re new to our salon, and feeling mildly alarmed, don’t fret. Just pop over to All About Me while I mix you our drink of the day: a Kir Royale (crème de cassis and Chablis). If, after a few minutes with us, you decide you really just wanted to look at recipes, they’re at Epicurious. You’re welcome.

Loyal readers will remember that we have lectured about food before at Rhapsody, from essential guidance on making vegan loaf entrees (in sum: don’t) to Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s 35 easy steps for buttering French toast. And who could forget swanning around the kitchen in our dressing gowns with Nigella Lawson?

Today, we delve into something more personal– selections from the Rhapsody Cookbook Collection, including:

  1. “Cooking in a Bedsitter” by Katherine Whitehorn, 1961
  2. “Wild in the Kitchen” by Will Jones (1961 again. I detect a theme.)
  3. “What To Cook” by Arthur Schwartz, 1992
  4. “Simple Cooking,” “Outlaw Cook,” “Serious Pig, “Pot on the Fire,” plus anything and everything else by John (and Matt) Thorne; and lastly
  5. A binder of newspaper clippings bought at an estate sale.

As a group, these items make no sense, but if I’ve learned one thing from Buzzfeed it’s that people will read anything if you present it as a numbered list, a weight-loss secret, or an arbitrary way to categorize oneself based on characters from The Breakfast Club. (Claire. And thank you for asking.)

And now that we’ve moved that important business out of the way, let’s tie on our aprons and get started! Continue reading

Mistakes Were Made: Walking the Stations of Quality, Taste and Style with Fashion Guru, Tim Gunn

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Miss me, dear ones? I’ve been so busy scrubbing the extra layers of dermis from my feet in anticipation of sandal season that before I knew it, the rough spots on my heels and the entire month of June had vanished. But I promise today’s gathering will be worth the wait.

This afternoon, we are hosting none other than Tim Gunn, debonnaire fashion scholar and cucumber-cool star of Project Runway. Mr. Gunn is here, in gorgeous pinstripe, to impart the lessons of Quality, Taste and Style, and to help Rhapsody understand why her own wardrobe is one step away from being deemed a Superfund site.

Now, when I say Tim Gunn is here, perhaps I should be more precise. Which is to say, he is not. Gunn is a busy man who tends not to accept invitations to pretend salons, so we’ll have to use our imaginations, and a very narrow interpretation of the term “libel.” Today’s topic may be surprising to some Rhapsody readers, but as my friend Daphne says, “There’s a reason I’ve left myself such a mess. I’m simply making it easier for Tim Gunn to find me!”

And find us he has, my friends. Rhapsody has spent countless minutes poring over Gunn’s book “A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style” and quite a bit longer wandering the walk-in closets of the internet, sampling interviews in which Gunn wears those devastating suits that seem to have been sewn directly onto his body by a team of Lilliputian fashion designers.

And, oh, Readers, the topspin that man can put on a rhetorical question! Why won’t straight men ever learn to talk like that?

I’m know I’m very late to the party of idolizing Tim Gunn. “A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style” is seven years old, and he has several other books including a brand new one I’ve not yet bothered to read. But these are timeless lessons in style, and I will spend a lifetime misunderstanding them, so why rush?

We’re serving Manhattans today, of course. Gunn’s hometown is Washington D.C., but he practically owns New York, so it just felt right. And let’s have none of this “skinny cocktail” nonsense, please. If you only want half a drink, then for heaven’s sake, hand it to me first.

Now, then. Shall we begin? Continue reading

The Worrier’s Life: A Post From My Cabin in the Molehill Mountains

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“If you’re not worrying, you’re not family.” — Rhapsody’s sister, Andromeda

So good to see you, friends! For today’s post, I’ve thoughtfully arranged the chairs in a semi-circle so you can all see me on the screen up here, and still reach the cocktail olives with ease. The reason I’m addressing you by video today is that I’ve taken myself off for a little rest at the cabin—my retreat when the daily effort of being “somewhat difficult” overwhelms me.

Mr. Roboto and the children aren’t here; this is my time for picking wildflowers, journaling and sipping homemade blueberry wine that doubles as paint thinner.

Arm’s length seemed the optimal distance for today’s topic. With you in the salon, and me in an undisclosed location with a camcorder, I can more comfortably explain what it’s like to be a mildly depressive worrier with just the tiiiiiiiniest bit of an anxiety disorder. To save money and time, I self-diagnosed with the help of pharmaceutical commercials. My doctor was glad I confided to her that I suffer from Rich-Woman-Gardening-But-Not-Enjoying-It Disease.

You see, I’m afraid you won’t understand what I’m talking about today, and will think Rhapsody is a strange and embarrassing misfit—and that is precisely why I must come forward. As a reward for listening, or at least keeping one eye open, I’ve made you each a Rhapsody in Cool first-aid kit stocked with band-aids, emergency flares and a fifth of bourbon.

So grab your life vests, friends, and follow me for an adventure of the imagination! That’s Shit Creek up ahead and we’re putting our canoes in right above the rapids. No paddles on board, please: we’ll just scoop the water frantically with our hands. Continue reading