Full Deck by Barbara Shulgasser-Parker

October 2, 2007


Filed under: we need solomon's wisdom here — bshulg @ 4:24 pm

On the advice of parents more experienced than myself, we had our son’s intelligence and personality tested so that when he enters kindergarten next August he will start school in the gifted kindgergarten class. I am told that if we were to let him start regular kindergarten and if the teacher were to observe that he seemed gifted, the school system would pay for the testing. However, if he were to be officially stamped gifted at that later time, he would not be admitted into the gifted program until first grade.  I was also assured by those same above mentioned men and women of experience that if he waited to begin the gifted program until first grade,  the opportunity for a happy and productive future for our son would already have passed. That window is evidently very small.

 So a few days before our appointment with the psychologist, I explained to our son that we were going to meet a nice woman who would talk to him about kindergarten. He told me unhesitatingly that he had no intention of going.  A man of his word, the morning of the test he restated his unflinching position. I managed to persuade him into the car for a grumpy ride. Fortunately, the lovely psychologist and her well-equipped toy room  helped alter his attitude  and he relaxed into a fun morning and good performance. 

 Now it is certified, and one of my worst nightmares has been realized: he is smarter than I am.

 But we already knew this. In fact, he told us so. The other day, my husband said something to him and he replied “I knew you were going to say that.” My husband asked how he knew and our son said,  pointing to his  noggin, “Super brain.”



October 1, 2007


Filed under: 1 — bshulg @ 7:35 pm

Esteem should be awarded only on evidence. I think Thorstein Veblen said that. Thorstein and I agree one hundred percent, but we comprise an increasingly shrinking minority. I mean, for the last thirty-five years or so every form of pop therapy – in complete misinterpretation of the works of J.D. Salinger, of Hermann Hesse, of all those popularizers of the thoughts of Buddha – has relentlessly instructed us that you can’t love anyone until you love yourself, that you’re not worthy of the love of others until you love yourself. People plop themselves into therapy, bury themselves in self-help books and blandly chant the jargon of the moment, all of it in proud announcement of a desire to forgive themselves, to embrace who they are, to love themselves. It is my experience that people who proclaim self-love not only don’t love themselves, but often have very good reason not to. Why embrace who you are if you are awful? Thus good old Thorstein. When you decide to love yourself based on no good reason, without having earned it, without having gone out into the world and accomplished something that merits one’s own admiration of oneself, then what the hell good is it? One of human nature’s greatest coping mechanisms is the ability to lie to oneself, which reminds me that my favorite New York Times front page headline of the decade is the one proclaiming that incompetent people don’t know they are incompetent. I extrapolate from this the obvious: that stupid people don’t know that they are stupid, talentless people think they are talented and monsters believe they are saints.

     The battle against self-love is what every decent philosophy, every effort to socialize man’s unruly nature – from the Ten Commandments to table manners – is all about. You don’t have to work at self-love. You’re born with it. Frankly the last person on earth I’d want to spend any time with is someone who loves himself. Loving yourself is not something that can be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole-time job. Unceasing vigilance is required. And what could be more horrifying, or boring, than that smug self-satisfaction of the self-loving? (more…)

September 22, 2007

low expectations

Filed under: looking on the bleak side — bshulg @ 10:04 pm

  Pessimism gets a bum rap. Optimism is nice, but the unchecked variety leads to bad government (“Mission accomplished!”); divorce (“Love conquers all.”); and dental problems (“One more little caramel won’t hurt you.”).  

  I am a child of Holocaust survivors, so pessimism comes naturally to me. You could call it an inherited trait. I still view my parents’ experiences in the Lithuanian ghetto with a child’s incomplete comprehension of horror, but I’m adult now and everywhere I look the irrational lives on. Why detest every Frenchman? Why trust Dick Cheney? Why did Hitler hate the Jews? Who knows. The irrationality is best summed up in a scene from the film “Ship of Fools.”

  A Jewish passenger politely listens to a hate-spewing German.    

  “The Jews are to blame for all society’s ills,” the German pronounces.  

  “Yes,” the Jew agrees. “The Jews and the bicycle riders.”  

  The German’s face goes blank.  

  “Why the bicycle riders?” he asks.  

  The Jew shrugs.

  “Why the Jews?”    

  So, I am never surprised by betrayal, by dishonesty, by selfishness, by greed, by corruption. As a pessimist, I expect the worst and I feel kind of sorry for anyone who doesn’t.  

  Pessimism prepared me perfectly for the election of George W. Bush in 2000. I believed that he was capable of stealing the election. I believed that he would bring his energy industry cronies to power and let them design self-serving policies. I believed that as a privileged frat boy he would care nothing for the poor, the disenfranchised and the weak. I believed that he would lie about his past (his military service), his intentions in Iraq (where does one begin?), that he would sanction dirty politics (the Swift Boaters, unethical Justice Department firings, sanctioning of torture, illegal wiretapping) and try to prove he was a better man than his father by sacrificing American lives to bring down his father’s bete noir Saddam Hussein.


September 20, 2007

presenting the ford allergy

Filed under: Uncategorized — bshulg @ 1:11 am

  It looks like the U.S. automakers dodged another big fat legal bullet. On September 17, a federal court in San Francisco dismissed efforts by the state of California to sue the car companies for their role in global warming.  

   For years, Ford and General Motors chose to hawk gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks with names recalling the Wild West, continental expansion and the American spirit of adventure. Silverado, Mustang, Expedition, TrailBlazer, Bronco and Explorer catered to our nostalgia for simpler times, our need for clean, safe cars be damned.

   Year after year, the car companies lobbied the federal government to postpone mandated lower emissions, better gas mileage and improved safety. They claimed that the costly retooling required to produce efficient cars would reduce dividends to shareholders and ultimately undermine American markets. That’s not good for America, they cried, and when big corporations are not happy, and markets are not happy, rich contributors to campaigns are not happy, which means that senators, congressmen and presidents, who depend on contributions, don’t get elected to new terms. Hence the reluctance to act by our brave representatives in Washington.                                           (more…)

September 19, 2007

I am a Who

Filed under: mystification — bshulg @ 1:17 am

I don’t know why I am listed in Who’s Who in America. The editors there have every reason to wonder themselves. Thirteen years ago I assumed I was first included because they may have thought I was an up-and-coming young writer and Who’s Who wanted to be in at the ground level of my ascendancy. Perhaps my rise had been detected by the experienced professionals at the Marquis publishing group using some proprietary mathematical formula based on volume of published words, divided by something or other, under which I scarcely qualified. Or maybe it had to do with my feather-headed willingness to immediately send off a check for a substantial amount to secure my copy of the 1994 edition that might, perhaps, showcase my name.

   Early on, my skepticism was triggered regarding the good sense of the Who’s Who marketing department. Every year they’d ask me yet again if I wished to buy the latest edition, having forgotten that I’d already purchased my Who’s Who back when they first offered it at the special, low-low, 30-percent-off, two hundred-something dollar-honoree-only price. (Non-honorees can now pay $749 for this year’s “Classic” edition and $790 for the leather-bound.)


September 18, 2007

eye yous to be a riter before I lost my mind

Filed under: thoughts on child-rearing — bshulg @ 2:25 am

   I used to be a writer. For more than twenty years, I negotiated the stress of deadlines, difficult bosses and office politics with good manners and restraint. I took myself to be accomplished, self-possessed and a pillar of composure under pressure.

  I didn’t know what pressure is.

  Now I stay home looking after our four-year-old. When asked if I work, I say, “Harder than I ever have in my life.” I haven’t slept since I was seven months pregnant. I cry at the drop of a sippy cup. At times I have lost my temper. Often I have lost my train of thought. My equilibrium? Out the window. How do I doubt my ability? Let me count the ways: as a parent, as a wife, as a human being.

  When my son was four-and-a-half months old and I was well into my forties, I dropped him on his head. (more…)

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