Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Resting on my Laurels

I made it through Manic Monday with the flu. (Dress and feed kids, put one on a school bus, go to the playground with the other, put baby down for a nap, wake him up, pick up from school, lunch, get dinner ready, babysitter arrives, prepare for class, answer e-mail, give lecture, go home.) The only way I can make it through that forced march is to be over caffeinated the whole day. Can you get the DTs from caffeine withdrawal?

And yesterday's lecture went very well. I created five models of governing schools. They got some history -- how the Progressives reformed city government, the origins of the voucher idea, the impact of the sixties. And some political theory; I threw out Plato and Locke and Arendt. I even handed out a chart with a full breakdown of my models. Pure genius, I tell you.

Tuesday is my day off from stress. I refuse to worry about next week's lecture until later in the week. Today, I rest on my laurels.

In the October edition of Atlantic Montly, there is a review of Virginia Postrel's new book,
The Substance of Style
. (The review is not on line yet, but they do have an interview with her.) She maintains that Americans are able to take advantage of the beautifully designed home furnishings at cheap prices and are remaking their worlds. She writes,
We are demanding and creating an enticing, stimulating, diverse, and beautiful world. We want our vacuum cleaners and mobile phones to sparkle, our bathroom faucets and desk accessories to express our personalities.

Before I criticize, let me just say that I love beautiful things. I read Lucky, Elle Decor, Metropolitan Home, Vogue. I go to Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel just to touch things. MOMA has an amazing collection of modern design, which I love. I freak out about mid-century furniture. I have opinions about different shades of green. And don't get me going about how much I love the new Macs. Clearly, Postrel and I see eye to eye on this.

However, after house hunting over the weekend, I'm not sure there is really any trickle down of style that she described. I saw a lot of barko-loungers in converted gararges, country-style kitchens with ducky wallpaper borders, and teddy bears in dresses displayed proudly in the living room. One house had been made over to look like an inside of a cabin. The owners had painted wooden planks on the walls and ceilings. They had even painted fake holes in their cabin with clouds showing through and fireplaces with flames licking logs. I get the feeling that Postrel would not approve.

The reviewer in Atlantic Monthly had some reservations about Postrel's hidden elitism. Postrel's points to a future, when doctors and lawyers and even graduate students will be able to delegate their grunt work to peons (nannies, cooks, dog walkers), so that they can work more to buy more beautiful things. I guess peons will have to paint their walls to look like wood.

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