Monthly Archives: September 2009

G.I. Court

I left behind my MLK books and my little Brooklyn apartment and spent last week at a Media & the Military workshop at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The experience was designed to help the military understand the unique culture of the media and visa versa (we’re notorious for not understanding one another). So, after a week in the trenches, I present you with my three biggest surprises about military culture:

1. The physical training is not actually that hard, just constant. I had sort of blown this part of military life out of proportion, thinking that every soldier is a physical machine. In fact, plenty are in amazing shape, but it’s more a product of consistency and community support as opposed to sheer strength or intensity.

2. Much of the work being done in Iraq and Afghanistan is humanitarian work. When I spoke with Army majors, many of whom had spent three and even four tours of duty “in theater,” as they call it, the majority of what they spoke about were their experienced building schools, interacting with local leaders, figuring out sanitation systems etc. There is some serious nation-building going on.

3. I sometimes felt as if I had less in common with the other journalists than I did with the military officers. As always, it turns out that what separates us is often far less significant than what we share, and that a uniform–camo or blazer–doesn’t determine world view.

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Liquid Gold

I splashed some of it on the couch this morning and spilled some on the floor. Worse than that, there are a few dozen ounces of it in the freezer that must be thrown away because of possible contamination. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you may not have been around the breastfeeding community recently. Nurses, lactation consultants, childbirth educators, friends have said on more than one occasion in the last couple of months, “It’s liquid gold.” This is often followed by “Remember, breast is best.” And, “Don’t keep formula in the house or you’ll use it.”

I may have left out the part in my childbirth story when I thought to myself, hmm, I don’t know that I ever need to go through this again. I think that was somewhere between the car door and the hospital. Or maybe it was when the troll woman forced me to sit in a broken wheelchair and hold my leg up in the air as she bumped me into door frames. The point is that I expected childbirth to be painful or at least the greatest challenge of my life. I focused all my will power on getting through it as mindfully and calmly as possible. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, I expected to be easier or at least natural. Friends told me about the challenges that they or their partners faced in nursing, so we did take a class. Still, I felt incredibly unprepared for the journey that is feeding someone from your own body.

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Filed under Health

My Addiction or "How To Live"

brainI have an addiction. I admitted this yesterday while staring at the ancient lady–her bright-red, hair-sprayed beehive and two-tone glasses–at the New York Public Library. She is practically a fixture, and has been here forever, or at least during the three years I lived here, and even now when I stroll the marble halls as a visitor. She looks the same. She is still perfectly coiffed. I like that she’s still here. But my brain says, Ugh, how boring. I don’t want to be her, or someone who, at any point in time, is still anything. And therein lies my addiction. I am addicted to that shameful, self-conscious, liberal, privileged concept–new experiences in new places. It feels as strong and confusing as a drug.

“Go a mile wide, not deep” has always been my family’s mantra. I lived in five different countries before the age of 11 and my parents instilled in me the importance of a particular mindset–global, open and evolving. As an adult, I have translated that vision into two principles: the need to continually change environments in job and place (not so hard) and to seek out, in our “like-attracts-like” world, a good proportion of friends who don’t think, look, act, or feel like me (harder than it sounds).

But, knowing that the flip side can be sweet, I also have a thing for the word local and the idea of being deeply connected to a community and a landscape. The instant I start to slip into reverie about such a life, my wandering self barks, “But you must always push beyond your comfort zone! DO NOT get stuck in your comfort zone.” So I live my life wondering, Which way is better?

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Filed under Career/Life, Environment, Orienting

And the Winner Is…

“Small Changes” by Jennifer and Christopher Gandin Le!!

Tonight was the Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition Screening and Awards ceremony, held at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. It was thrilling to see our work on a big screen and to hear the audience’s reaction. And it was even more thrilling to receive the Jury Prize, complete with big check and all!

For an encore, here it is again:

Written by Jennifer & Christopher Gandin Le
Edited by Matt Donaldson
Music by Liz Clark
Starring our brilliant friends and cohorts!

Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.


Filed under Beauty in a Wicked World, Environment, Movies, Writing

Women, Men and Trains

470_indiaIndian women have been granted an unprecedented break–8 women-only commuter trains. Was anyone else struck by this headline news, and by “struck” I mean,… did you pause?

On these trains known as Ladies Specials, a weight has been lifted. Men are not there to do what they reportedly do onboard every day–pinch, grope, molest, threaten and shout insults at the women. Apparently, this harassment is the norm. Apparently, it was bad enough to warrant the government stepping in. 

Imagine a women-only train. It might be like a big slumber party. In my world, it would manifest as a man-free subway at 4am on a Saturday night. Oooooo. How fucking freeing! What about a man-free traveling experience? I would drive across America or any wild country and push deep into the night, until I collapsed alone and sleepy in my car, a tent, or a grassy ditch on the side of the road. I’d be relaxed, watching the stars sparkle without letting my imagination roar me into at least twenty minutes of heart palpitations: A man is going to find me here and hurt me. A man is going to find me here and hurt me. (An aside: I know plenty of women who are braver than me on that front.) Though I am deeply nourished by the different men in my life, I am also convinced, after 30 short years of living, that this fear of men is inherent in all women, even those who refuse to admit it.

Why? There are so many books that attempt to pin it down, so many poems. No need to descend into the messy discussion of biology (predators, the mechanics of body parts, sowing seeds, choosing carefully for your womb and all that fraught stuff). Instead, here’s some wisdom from a man on the topic… Continue reading


Filed under All The World, Environment, In The News, Politics

Better than Drugs

Tuesday morning was the first time I left a twenty foot radius from my infant’s side. She’s still reticent to accept a bottle after a week of coaxing, but it was time for me to get back to teaching my Playwriting class. I had to convince myself that she would survive the two hours away from her primary food source while in the care of her doting dad. So, I borrowed Joe’s car and headed to the university, listening to NPR for the first time in over a month. A soldier was talking about the blog he kept in Afghanistan. He said that the Army offers medicine for depression, sleeplessness and anxiety, but that he found writing to be better than any drug.

Then, bam. I was rear-ended just a block from the university. Since this was the first time I was outside of the twenty-foot-from-infant radius, it was also the first time I had been in a car without her since she was born. My mind raced from oh my god I can’t believe that just happened to what if she were in the car with me? Would she be hurt? And what if this had happened, and she were in the car, and it was that first day or two of parenting when I kept buckling her legs through the arm straps? What then? Or what if this accident were worse, and something happened to me, and she can’t drink from a bottle?

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Filed under All The World, Writing

Tiny Knitted Things

Talk about 180 degrees from my enraged post on Sunday! These tiny items are more adorable than beautiful, but the human imagination involved in making them is very much so. They’re Tiny Knitted Things, designed and made by Anna Hrachovec, a knitter who lives in New York.

My favorites are the bats; since moving to Austin, I’ve become quite fond of stuffed toy bats.


Ahhh! Kawaii!!!

Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.

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Filed under Art, Beauty in a Wicked World, Pop Culture, Random