Pushing the buttons.

I didn’t trust my first reaction to Alex Kuczynski’s cover story in Sunday’s NYT magazine. The story is about how she, a very rich woman with a “successful investor” multimillionaire husband, had a child with the help of a surrogate, obviously far less fortunate, although not the white-trash rent-a-womb you might be expecting. We know this because Kuczynski, in explaining her reasons for choosing Cathy Hilling to be her designated vessel, makes an issue of it:

When we came across Cathy’s application, we saw that she was by far the most coherent and intelligent of the group. She wrote that she was happily married with three children. Her answers were not handwritten in the tiny allotted spaces; she had downloaded the original questionnaire and typed her responses at thoughtful length. Her attention to detail was heartening. And her computer-generated essay indicated, among other things, a certain level of competence. This gleaned morsel of information made me glad: she must live in a house with a computer and know how to use it.

See? She lives in a house with a computer and knows how to use it. So much for any class guilt.

But what am I talking about? Alex Kuczynski suffers from no such thing. If she did, she might have hesitated at posing for the remarkable photos that accompany the piece. For starters, there’s the cover…


…which sort of suggests someone thought stretch marks and fat ankles would totally not go with that black sheath dress. The copy contradicts that — Kuczynski did indeed try to get pregnant herself for years before hiring Hilling. But then there’s the real money shot, inside:


That was taken “at home in Southampton, N.Y.,” just one of the couple’s fabulous homes. Note the “baby nurse” standing at attention, waiting for Mistress to hand off little Max, about two months old, should he need something only a nurse is qualified to provide, like maybe a diaper change.

I’m aware that my reaction to these photos seems pretty by-the-book. I can scarcely believe Kuczynski is so clueless that she didn’t know what the pictures would suggest. (There’s another porch shot, of Hilling on her own. You should not be surprised to learn it isn’t nearly so grand. Go ahead and click to see it, because I’m done hot-linking.) So I have to believe she planned it this way, for the “buzz.” As long as I’ve been doing this job, I’ve always held my most toxic contempt for people who say or do things they don’t believe, just to get the phones ringing.

So I’ll refrain from taking the bait, and hope little Max Dudley Stevenson is soon kidnapped by loving fairies who will spirit him away and raise him far from his horrible parents, perhaps on a farm in Iowa, like Clark Kent. (Kuczynski is her husband’s fourth wife, and Max either his sixth or seventh kid.)

I asked a bona fide member of the eastern media elite what he thought of this, and while he hadn’t read the story yet, he offered an interesting observation I hadn’t thought of:

Before the great weeding out of newsrooms, didn’t every shop have (or should have had) a pampered richie-bitchy? Whom all the male editors could not wilfully ignore? In features? (Or metro g/a? If nothing else, I’ve seen it in ingenue photogs, who just arrived from the Eddie Adams Photo Workshop and had long blond hair and only weeks or months into their extended internship do you learn she’s, like, a Rockefeller or something.)

I think he’s right. One of my first colleagues in Columbus used to speak of a former secretary, who cashed her paycheck every Friday and promptly took the loot next door to an upscale boutique, where she spent every penny on a new outfit. There was a columnist at the other paper who gave the accountants fits; they had to remind her to please cash her paycheck, because she always had half a dozen stacked up in her drawer, and they needed to get them off the books. And now that I think of it, I recall a copy editor in Fort Wayne who had married well and was passionately devoted to the cause of animal rights. She refused to wear leather, although she made an exception for the upholstery in her Mercedes.

And Caroline Kennedy interned at the New York Daily News. So I guess it could be worse.

My Monday-morning moping went away almost as soon as I expressed it yesterday. On my way to the gym, I returned a missed call to my cell phone. A man with a heavy Indian accent answered, and when I asked who had called me, said he represented something like Tech-Ar Corporation, and if I’d share a little personal information, he’d be happy to tell me about their exciting financial services.

“Please put me on your no-call list,” I said.

“We are not selling products or telemarketing,” he protested.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“I am …Don …Junior,” he said. I started to laugh. In the background, I could hear another Indian accent saying, “Ma’am? Ma’am? I am not harassing you!”

I finally told Don Junior that if he made another call to a phone I have to buy minutes for, I’d be reporting him to the attorney general. Total b.s., but I figure they have their hands full in Mumbai these days, and really don’t need to be calling me.

Posted at 1:13 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' |

57 responses to “Pushing the buttons.”

  1. Gasman said on December 2, 2008 at 1:43 am

    With apologies to Nancy for totally ignoring her thread, but I wanted to update NN.com readers about the puppycam: this is its last week. They did a story about it this weekend on NPR:


    If you haven’t seen it for awhile, they’ve moved the location. The pups now have access to a porch or back yard via a dog door. They are also just a blur most of the time. They are too fast for the pokey webcam. Kind of like 6 puppies in a blender.

    I’ve seen the humans in with them on a couple of occasions recently. Even though I’ve never seen the human faces, I detected a bit of wistfulness in the way they played with the puppies. Their time together is coming to an end and the humans seem painfully aware of that fact. I will miss the little ones as well. They remind me of a litter of 8 chocolate labs about 27 years ago. Bon chance mes amis.

    Nancy, the NYT story is a bit creepy. Am I supposed to feel warm and fuzzy? ‘Cause I sure don’t.

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  2. JGW said on December 2, 2008 at 2:43 am

    I’m impressed with the Shiba Inu owners in that they aren’t running into the limelight, and cashing in on their 15 minutes. There have been some clues as to their values, and I like them. The day before and on Election Day they took the feed down, they were angry that certain politcal ads were running on the feed site: the ads were McCain-Palin and Yes on 8. They are in the S.F. bay area.

    My 9-year old wants one for Christmas, but doesn’t want to take our current dogs out.

    Gasman made me think. Our dog had puppies in late May, during a tornado warning and horrific storm, and when we had 50 people in our house; it was my daughter’s HS graduation. I miss them all. They were named after the final five Cylons… except the fifth one we named FIVE, since we don’t know the proper name.

    I worked with newsroom princesses too. One was the 22ish daughter of a wealthy NJ DEM leader, so the wealth was more power than coin. She was a typist, receptionist, and fashion plate.
    We suffered from a newsroom leak for 18 months until (DUH) I told the management it had to be her. We (the reporters, not the brass) started having staff meetings about local pols and a rumor involving incest, sheep, whatever. Trolling works because the bait was swallowed hard, and the resulting mess was amusing. It wasn’t D vs. R, it was just a life lesson.
    I have to add, when Nance serves up leftover turkey sandwiches, we all bellied up… 104 posts and climbing. I’m comparing posts to the DOW and wondering if we post more when the dow tumbles.
    On Hillary – I realized she only does the “mars attacks, “Ack, ack, rack,” stuff when she is campaigning. It’s her take on being pumped up. I told my kids, only half joking that Obama picked her for State because she would have to kill more people to grab the oval office than if she was V-P.
    If she was V-P, Obama would have to watch his back 24-7 and avoid non-ILS approaches into Croatia, ala Ron Brown.
    Now she only has to whack Biden, Pelosi, and for now Byrd. Sounds hard, but after Biden the other two are child’s play.
    I once had to cover an event in NJ where Speaker Hastert was endorsing a local congressman. I met Denny in the bathroom – no foot tapping occurred – and realized no one screened me, no one checked if I was press or John Q. Public, and I was urinating next to the Num. 3 in line.
    This was post 9-11, and I came away shocked at the shoddy security.
    Bear in mind this is the same Hillary who in late May played the ,”he can still be killed,” bit and invoked RFK.
    Trust no one Mr. Obama…. Any comparisons to JFK have to include LBJ.

    We do get a bonus as amused observers – Bill is a wild card and has zipper issues, which could provide some humor. I think they are drafting him for the “former presidents in space,” program.

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  3. caliban said on December 2, 2008 at 4:17 am

    This bullshit about Clintons is idiot garbage from Rovistan. Y’all are foolas that still believe in shock and awe. You’re motherfucking morons, you chidkenhawk assholes. The bullshit pulled on Kerry was inexcusable. Are you oeople idiodts? Little W as a coward, Keerry was a hero. And you’re ll bunch of morooonz.

    Kerry was a hero, McCain sure as shit wasn’t. Anyboddy with a brain understands. Here’s where you get ya dick. Dickless Cheney, you assholes. Viagra woudn’t work, but he’s fucked ou up the ass.

    You coul’dnt be bigger idiots.

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  4. caliban said on December 2, 2008 at 4:40 am

    This keeps you from really writing.

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  5. JGW said on December 2, 2008 at 4:58 am

    Hmm, Caliban types worse and rambles more in the late night hours. Observation noted – conclusions to myself. But either way, when the bottle is empty start using it as a curse jar…

    He’s right in a small way… McCain was shitty pilot compared to Bush II who never crashed his plane or ran away from a huge wreck on the flight deck. Kerry may have been a hero but he turned into a cartoon figure of his own existance, never properly dealt with the swift boat crap, and lost my vote years before by marrying the ketchup queen. McCain’s wife was equally spooky and thankfully, Cindy, we hardly knew you….

    Caliban, there are meetings that might help.

    PS – I type bad, have fat fingers that move too fast, but when I mess up HINT to CALIBAN: cut and paste to Word, then edit and paste back… But if you are posting from a bar on your blackberry, just ask for another round and thank the nice “oeople” for your grog..

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  6. Kirk said on December 2, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Last summer, we had a genuine Pulliam as an intern. She was a nice kid, and pretty good, too.

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  7. coozledad said on December 2, 2008 at 8:07 am

    For some reason, I can see that picture of Kuczynski with the black nurse as a Hockney acrylic, except for the bloated excess of the topiary gate and the swan lawn ornaments. The place screams new money. The tanning bed is probably in the Frederic Remington room.
    I was on the board of a college library once, and I served humbly with a number of women like Alex. It was like being in a film version of “The Fountainhead”, except the men were mostly sneak drinkers like me.

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Time of day factors aside (and i make less sense as the night wears on just because the caffeine wears off, eliminating my super powers), i still read Caliban as someone working up or working out a role, or a persona, more than a troubled soul soused at a keyboard. I figure that could be a person overcompensating for a day job where they can’t express themselves a’tall, or an actor/writer constructing a backstory or internal dialogue, but whatever i’m thinking, i don’t think insincere, just . . . not someone looking for dialogue.

    Except i get it sometimes, which is always good, so as we say in the Big Ten, no blood, no foul. On the other hand, as JGW says, this ain’t no meeting (this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around).

    Nice call on the tanning bed, Cooze — you can glance at the Remington bronzes to check how close you are to tanned enough. Second on the Hockney, or that photog who does the oddly lit suburban street scenes. Could we see Tina Fey doing Alex next on SNL?

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  9. jcburns said on December 2, 2008 at 8:14 am

    That kid is going to grow up terrified of that immaculately-topiaried hedge-gate-thing at the left of the bottom photo.

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  10. beb said on December 2, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Caliban at 4:17 am was a masterpiece of scatology. Bravo, my good man.

    But Nancy, sweetie, what are you doing up a ! am creating fresh thread for us? No wonder your tired all the time, don’t get any rest. Sleep, already!

    And at the risk of hijacking the comment thread, I want to remind the people arguing over the US Attorney scandal that Bush ability to fine the USA was never in doubt, it was the reason given for those firings (incompetence) which was clearly a lie and that he was able to replace those eight or nine attorney’s without any of the replacement having to go before Congress for approval. Prior to the Patriot Act all US Attorney’s had to be approved by Congress. One of the many surprises hidden deep inside the Patroit Act was a rule allowing the Attorney General to make permanent (as opposed to temporary) appointments without Congressional appproval. It is very doubtful that any of the replacements would have been given Congressional approval since they were ardent political hacks. And having eight nominations before Congress in one group would have caused Congress to look into the firing, something Bush never wanted.

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  11. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2008 at 8:33 am

    “Prior to the Patriot Act all US Attorney’s had to be approved by Congress” — and were appointed by the District Court when there was a vacancy. It was an odd melange before, but however it should have been fixed, giving all control to the Executive branch was not the right idea, and it sure as skanky shouldn’t have been in the USA PATRIOT ™ Act.

    Seriously, lots of Republicans (albeit those who have never drawn a paycheck from within the Beltway) agree with that. It’s not just me.

    Lileks gets off a good one on journalism, annual stories, and the 12 Days — http://www.buzz.mn/?q=node/5548

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  12. MichaelG said on December 2, 2008 at 9:09 am

    I get those non-sales people as well, at my door and on the phone. “Oh, I’m not selling anything, I’m just here to help you.” But everything’s come up roses! Yesterday evening I checked my messages and learned that I’ve won a free five day vacation to Costa Rica. Now if I could just find that number . . .

    I find this Alex K. more interesting than than Ms. Self Parody of 2008:


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  13. Julie Robinson said on December 2, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Say what you will about Indiana, our no-call law is effective. I’d almost forgotten about phone solicitors.

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  14. Randy said on December 2, 2008 at 9:54 am

    To get back to your thread Nancy, I was struck by another thing in the story, where she felt guilty for not carrying the baby herself, and her hubby told her that since the egg came from her body, it was pretty much the same thing as carrying it. Sure, except… not.

    And in the Tess Monaghan books, I guess Whitney fits that “rich-b*tch” bill, at least in the early books? Except she’s likeable, and not having kids under any circumstances.

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  15. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Oh, crud. I finally looked at the story. The surrogate is NOT from a town named Harleyville, and she is NOT barefoot in the picture, and she is NOT sitting on a decaying porch with a Big Dog sitting next to her.

    What is this, anyhow? The story and the photos line up, except they don’t. Unless her editor hates her, and saw a chance to exploit her deeply rooted cluelessness for a few laughs at McSorleys. If there’s a meta-ironic point about Ms. Sheathdress and Mrs. Barefoot in the story itself, i’m too clueless myself to hear it, but the pictures are working *soooo* hard to make this be all about class and privilege and exploitation, while the text skims off of a faint puddle of guilt, skipping on to Idaho and the summer vacation house.

    Found it — the pictures make me think of this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Crewdson

    Adding later — i see he was profiled in Smithsonian this summer, which tells me i’m overdue for a doctor’s appt. There’s an interesting set of his “productions” at http://www.luhringaugustine.com/index.php?mode=artists&object_id=66 but the point is — someone was going for “an effect” like these with the cover and internal shots in the NYTMag story. Was it Kuczynski’s idea, or was someone else at the Mag using her to create some found art?

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  16. mark said on December 2, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Women of the apparent age of Ms. Sheathdress who choose to become the 4th Mrs. Whatever should be profiled only in law school examination questions concerning pre-nuptial agreements and will contests. I’m sure this pregnancy was the easiest of the seven or eight her husband has endured, and surrogacy fees were probably less than the maternity wardrobe would have cost.

    Thank you Alex for doing your best to repair the cracks in the glass ceiling.

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  17. Peter said on December 2, 2008 at 11:16 am

    At first, i was going to get on my soapbox and just state that is just has to be easier to adopt than to go through all of this, but I think there’s a missed marketing opportunity – CELEBRITY ADOPTIONS – not like the old days, where celebrities adopted kids, but rich people adopting celebrities babies – I’m sure some megamillionaire would pay plenty for a Brittney Baby, or perhaps some western governor has a grandkid that needs to be offloaded – the RNC could sure use the money that would generate! This is a win-win situation and news generator!

    No need to thank me. Just thank the Bush Adminsitration for making this whole scenario possible!

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  18. alex said on December 2, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Off topic, but I just learned of a tragedy in my neighborhood. These are the folks who give me garden compost every spring. Their horse used to come nuzzle me while I waited for the loader to fill my truck bed.


    I’m betting it was one of the imbeciles who hunt illegally in the area, and I seriously doubt this was accidental.

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  19. coozledad said on December 2, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Alex: I feel bad for that family. My wife bottle fed a couple of goats that someone gave us when the mother rejected them. They followed us around like dogs. The neighbor’s chow mixes mortally wounded them one evening just before supper, and they died around daybreak.
    For about a month after, my wife and I both kept waking up thinking we heard them crying.
    That neighbor has since moved, but I’m willing to bet he’s an insufferable pain in someone else’s ass now. I keep checking the paper for his obit.

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  20. Catherine said on December 2, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Five years of infertility treatments is no walk in the park. Anyone who has not been through that should think twice before judging Alex K too harshly. She had more choices available to her than most, because of her husband’s wealth. But in her position, who among us wouldn’t try everything?

    I think the piece is interesting, because she puts it all out there. There are contradictions, class issues, guilt, great good fortune and extreme sadness. She doesn’t come across to me as clueless at all — if anything, rather self-aware and a little defiant. I liked that there is no obvious point or takeaway to the article. She’s not trying to get you to like her, it’s just: I’m ecstatic that I have a child, here’s how it went down.

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  21. Danny said on December 2, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Moe, here is a list of some of my favs over the years.

    Stephen R. Donaldson: I’ve read all of his stuff, but the Gap series is my favorite of his, followed closely by the Covenant series.

    Vernor Vinge: “A Fire Upon the Deep” and “A Deepness in the Sky” are his best, but it’s hard to go wrong with Vernor. He tends to collect Hugo awards readily.

    Robert Jordan: “Wheel of Time” I’m really sad he passed so soon. Amazingly, he wrote up to the end (he always said in the book jackets that he would write until they nailed his coffin shut!) and left a legacy of notes and recorded messages so that a young author, Brandon Sanderson, can finish the last (12th) book in the series. It’s likely to be split into two volumes because the word count is going to be close to 600,000.

    Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon is awesome. I like his other stuff too. Diamond Age was very good.

    Iain M. Banks: Man, I love his Culture novels. The latest three are great.

    Lois McMaster Bujold: The Vorkosigan series is very fun.

    Joan D. Vinge: She’s Vernor’s ex-wife. The Snow Queen/Summer Queen series was very satisfying.

    Dan Simmons: The Hyperion Cantos is excellent.

    Tad Williams: I really liked his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. Other stuff, not so much.

    David Brin: Earth was a great read. Uplift series was okay.

    Kim Stanley Robinson: Loved his Mars trilogy.

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  22. nancy said on December 2, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Catherine, I’ll agree with you on much of Kuczynski’s story. Which is one reason I didn’t trust my initial reaction. I don’t have many objections to surrogacy in general, although I think adoption is a lovely option and I’m naturally a little wary of people who fret over their genes, as though any set of 46 chromosomes is better than any other set.

    I keep coming back to the pictures, and how they underline the dodgier parts of the narrative. Presumably A.K. is no fool; why would she agree to a set of photos that push so many buttons? Why not have the nanny step outside the frame? Why the skinny black dress? And, having agreed, why can’t she acknowledge their burdensome subtext and maybe address them? I’m puzzled.

    Just the nanny picture is horrible, and not because the nanny is black, either. She’s just spent a decade and a vast amount of money bringing this kid into the world; can she just pretend, for a little bit of time, that she intends to care for it herself? Alan said he misread the phrase “baby nurse” in the cutline for “wet nurse.” It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit.

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  23. LA Mary said on December 2, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    That’s it. I was really trying to figure out what was so wrong with this whole thing. That nanny photo, the nanny at attention wearing scrubs. I’m going to guess the nanny is from the Caribbean or maybe Nigeria.

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  24. John said on December 2, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I would pick the Caribbean too. But to me, this is really just another “So?” story.

    LA Mary, what is the deal with the illegal access to celebrity medical records? Is that woman (currently under indictment for getting paid for records) going to do some serious jail time? And has it put a damper in the halls of an LA hospital?

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  25. Jean S said on December 2, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    just checked the puppies–they’re passed out. I’m gonna miss those little guys….

    I’ve read much of AK’s writing in the NYTimes. She’s not bad, though a little of her goes a long way.

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  26. LA Mary said on December 2, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    We all have to sign HIPAA agreements and learn the HIPAA guidelines for patient confidentiality. I don’t know of anything that’s happened here to compromise celebrity confidentiality, but Cedars Sinai is the place the stars go. UCLA and Saint Johns are also big with movie stars.
    I know we’ve had famous people here in the time I’ve worked here, but I’ve never heard any gossip. Occasionally I hear about bizarre cases in the ER, but that’s rare and only if they are really bizarre. No names are mentioned either.
    We’re near three studios, so we get anyone who gets injured or sick on the job. John Ritter died here and his wife sued twice. We settled once, won once.

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  27. moe99 said on December 2, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Joe the Plumber has recommended books for Christmas:


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  28. Catherine said on December 2, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    The nanny picture is odd, definitely. I think the cover was Photoshopped, though. I agree that the photographs undermine the narrative, and the suggestion that an editor somewhere hates her is probably pretty close.

    And, the presence of the nurse certainly does bring up the question of how much she intends to care for the child herself. I’m not sure she will actually have much time for that, between her career and trying not to become ex-wife #3 or #4. That can actually be a lot of work, and I’m being factual not snarky. The women I know in that sort of milieu work darn hard — though not on anything that interests me — and still need lots of help. Obviously the difference is that they can afford it. But let’s not assume that because there is more money, there are no difficult choices.

    Maybe that’s why she let the photos stand. She’s defiantly exposing the whole situation — a bed she made herself and in which she’s chosen to sleep. I agree that addressing it in the narrative would have been a good idea — but then where’s the fun in deconstructing the whole thing?

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  29. velvet goldmine said on December 2, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Nance, I just got an email that today or yesterday is supposedly The Big Day for cell phones lists to go public to telemarketers.

    I have no idea if this is true or not, so I suppose making a big warning here is a premature ejaculation, but pre-Snopes, I’ll just pass along the “do not call” number: 1-888-382-1222.

    I think I may have the one to gleefully post here that Palin had faked her last pregnancy, so no one should listen to me without a few mountains of salt handy, obviously.

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  30. alex said on December 2, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Off topic, but after watching the dismal news about the auto industry, it occurred to me that maybe we don’t have to bail out the Big Three. Let the Japanese brands buy them out of bankruptcy, restructure them to run as efficiently as their own operations, and they’ll own the market. And they’ll probably put a fleet of hybrid and hydrogen cars on the roads in the next five to ten years that perform even better than the vehicles we drive today.

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  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2008 at 7:59 pm


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  32. basset said on December 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    I’m still looking for a Neal Stephenson novel I can enjoy as much as “Snow Crash’; about two-thirds of the way through “Anathem” right now and have almost given up on it a couple of times. As a lifelong math-phobe I didn’t even attempt “Cryptonomicon” – no way in hell am I going to be able to treat anything with math formulas in it as recreational reading, and some of the appendices to “Anathem” come pretty close.

    just finished Philip Norman’s John Lennon biography on a break from “Anathem” and was duly impressed, though; and there’s a new one out about the Beatles’ finances which sounds interesting.

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  33. brian stouder said on December 2, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    I was curious about two things; How much money was the birth mother paid, and what was ‘with’ the title of the essay?

    Gotta say – $25 thousand sounded pretty low-ball to me. But what do I know? – so I asked our resident expert on birth-giving, Pam, and she immediately said $75 thousand would be her minimum.

    Thinking about it, $25K divides down to $15.63/hour, even if all you pay for is 40 hours per week, and no weekends or time and a half for holidays; or $3.72/hour if you pay for every hour. (I bet the Costa Rican nanny makes more than the birth mom)

    So – if we accept $3.72/hour for sleeping and uneventful days – what about the labor process required to give birth to a 10 pound 10 ounce human being?!! $3.72/hour ain’t gonna get it for that last day!!

    Leaving that aside – I almost take the “Her Body, My Baby” title as a somewhat jaded jab; a sarcastic play off of “Our Bodies Ourselves”…but, usually I misinterpret these things!

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  34. Catherine said on December 2, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    There is almost no amount you could pay me to do it again. It would be well into 6 figures. But no one ever called me the Easy Bake Oven.

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  35. John said on December 2, 2008 at 10:23 pm


    Former UCLA hospital worker admits selling records
    A former employee of UCLA Medical Center pleaded guilty Monday to selling information from the medical records of celebrities and high-profile patients, including Britney Spears and Farrah Fawcett, to the National Enquirer.

    Lawanda Jackson, 49, spoke quietly as she entered her plea to the felony charge of violating federal medical privacy law for commercial purposes in U.S. District Court.

    She faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for May.

    She pled out and is awaiting sentencing. What she did was illegal and wrong, but 10 year in the federal pen and a quarter of a million fine has got to send a message to the industry.

    By the way, John Ritter (the actor) was a distant cousin of mine.

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  36. joodyb said on December 2, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Thank you, Nancy, for giving word to the astonished Sunday ayem sputterings at 4412. Anyone not familiar with AK’s body of work should do the Google. only another sterling chapter in her long CV of couture/courant shenanigans. a Sept. ’05 WWD sty (no longer available online, sorry) about their Idaho vacation home contained this edifying nosegay:

    ‘Aside from the masseuses, she and Stevenson flew in a yoga instructor, three chefs and a trove of delicacies for the larder (Alaskan halibut, organic rack of lamb), all for the enjoyment of their guests at Middle Fork Lodge, an 80-acre property on the banks of the Salmon River. Situated amid 2.3 million acres of federally protected wilderness, the lodge is reachable only by small aircraft, horse or raft.’

    they were working on the baby then, by my calculations.

    as Liz Lemon would say, What the WHAT.
    can the NYT poobahs really find her that much of franchise nowadays? a drink says she goes out with a whimper on the dawn of the New Frontier.

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  37. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    wal, you’ve just confirmed for me the theory that some contemptuous editor knew that they could spoof her, and that she wouldn’t even know she’d been spoofed, so why not spoof away.

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  38. Jean S said on December 2, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    oy, but I missed that particular item. Yep, she done been spoofed, big time….

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  39. moe99 said on December 3, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Oh, basset, I loved Cryptonomicon and I flunked trigonometry when I was masquerading as a senior in a suburban Mpls high school for a college sociology project. I never took a single math course in college as a result. But the plot in Cryptonomicon is way better and overpowers the math. Best of his since Snow Crash (which has the very funniest first chapter on record). Do try it again.

    Or better yet, start with Declare by Tim Powers and then go to Cryptonomicon.

    I’ve got Anathem for my holiday reading. Just sent a Pamela Freeman book, the first in her Castings Trilogy to my oldest son so he could have something to read after finals.

    btw, here’s Matthew Yglesias’ take on the NYT surrogate mom:


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  40. Danny said on December 3, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Moe, are you familiar with any of the others I listed?

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  41. Gasman said on December 3, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Check out my mea culpa for my errant post on the last thread. Sorry. We all deserve to be called by our proper monikers.

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  42. Connie said on December 3, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Basset, I gave Anathem my best effort and failed. The older I get the less willing I am to put that effort into something that just hasn’t “grabbed” me.

    Danny, I’ve read most of those, love the Vorkosigan series. Why doesn’t she stop write those award winning fantasies and get back to Miles? Also love Brin, esp the Uplift stories, and am a huge fan of Honor Harrington series as well.

    I am currently re-reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series, just finished Green, have Blue in hand, but am reading PD James’ new novel first.

    My co-workers at the library think it is very strange that a 50 something old woman loves hard science fiction.

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  43. basset said on December 3, 2008 at 8:35 am

    well, I flunked algebra in a rural Indiana high school when I was masquerading as a normal, well-adjusted ninth-grader, and I never took any math in college either.

    my usual book-swapping partner has a math degree and just cannot understand why I can’t deal with it… he brought over a novel called “The Algebraist” & I wouldn’t even open it.

    I’m gonna give “Anathem” one more shot – someone who can handle math and doesn’t shut down at the sight of it might have a better experience.

    that and the standard-issue plot (young hero splits from his insular culture and goes off on an adventure) are making it hard to get through, though.

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  44. Danny said on December 3, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Heehe.. The Algebraist is in my nighstand. Maybe over the holidays I’ll get to it.

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  45. MichaelG said on December 3, 2008 at 10:03 am

    No sweat, Gasman.

    Basset, read Stephenson’s “The Baroque Cycle”. It’s a big three but you’ll be amazed at how fast it goes. I need to read it again.

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  46. moe99 said on December 3, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Hated, absolutely hated the Baroque Cycle even though Stephenson gave a shout out to my favorite writer of historical fiction: Dorothy Dunnett. Stephenson’s oeuvre is spotty for me. Also hated the Diamond Age.

    Danny, here is a partial list of my favorite authors besides the master JRR Tolkien who I first read when I was in junior high in Defiance, OH:

    George RR Martin: still have to put him first though his procrastination is making me crazy.

    Joe Abercrombie: A great new Trilogy starting with The Last Blade

    Patricia Briggs: A Washington writer. Like her fantasy better than her coyote changer stuff

    Greg Keyes: His last quartet was fabulous

    Bujold: Love everything except the Subtle Knife crap. That was to gag for.

    Mary Doria Russell: Jesuits in space written by a woman who converted to Judaism. What’s not to like?

    Connie Willis: Recommended Lincoln’s Dreams before but as a former medieval history major, her Domesday Book is fabulous (the American publisher changed the term to Doomsday because they figured that the American reading public would not get it) Great book

    Sherrie Tepper: Grass should have won big the year it came out but lost to Hyperion (which I did not like as well)

    Robert Jordan: Loved him when he first started writing but the series went on too long and especially the 5th book, which he wrote when he was going through a divorce, sucks. I don’t like who they hired to finish it either.

    Tim Powers: a master of the craft. Declare is a great read but almost everything he writes is.

    Sean Stewart: Galveston is a wonderful book, particularly given the hurrican this summer.

    Martha Wells: an underrated writer.

    Doris Eagan: She’s now the executive producer for House, MD but her trilogy about being a graduate student on another planet is great fun

    Barbara Hambly: The Ladies of Mandrigyn is great fun.

    Tad Williams: Love Everything he has written so far.

    Dave Duncan: Lots of fun from the first series to the last. My boys particularly liked him.

    Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead but outside that he gets too Mormon for my taste.

    Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer: Great series these two authors have put together.

    Pamela Freeman: two of three finished in the Castings Trilogy

    Patricia McKillip: started reading her more than 30 years ago and she does not disappoint

    Ursula K. Leguin: left hand of Darkness is a classic

    Those are what I can come up with off the top of my head, but I know that there are more.

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  47. moe99 said on December 3, 2008 at 11:11 am

    One more:

    Guy Gavriel Kay. A Song for Arbonne and The Lions of Al Rassan take myth to new heights. I thought the Arthurian legend had been mined out, but The Fionnavar Tapestry had me crying at the end. And I’ve only done that with one other book: Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett.

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  48. Danny said on December 3, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Moe, I really tried with the Sci-Fi saga that Tad Williams did. read three of the four books. I just couldn’t get into it.

    Also, funny story about Sherri Tepper. I read Grass and did not enjoy it and posted a criticism to an old BBS back in the early days of the net. Sherri was on the board. Oh well, I was honest. I thought the novel had some issues… or maybe the author.

    Oh, and I didn’t mention JRR because he is a given. As a youngster, I had maps of Middle-Earth on the wall in my room.

    I read all of the Card Ender stuff too. One thing that jumped out from the books was the idea that at least some Mormons considered themselves marginalized Protestants. I didn’t realize that.

    Hey, I didn’t realize Jordan (Rigney) was divorced. Are you sure? I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything. I just figured his later works suffered from poor editing becasue he was married to his editor. That’s gotta be a conflict of interest, especially if the man had any sense of self-preservation!

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  49. MaryRC said on December 3, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    I read the NYT story and my first thought was not about class distinctions or nannies from the Caribbean or what a rich bitch Alex K. is, but rather how desperate she was to have that baby.

    Anyone who becomes wife #4 (or was it #3) to a billionaire must know that nubile young wife #5 (or #4) is pretty much inevitable. Without that child, Alex is a just a page in Mr. Serial Marrier’s diary.

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  50. MaryRC said on December 3, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Oh, and Don Junior? The funniest name a telemarketer with an Indian accent gave me was Brian. Which may only be funny, I guess, if you’re from a Scots-Irish family like mine and every second cousin on the Irish side is called Brian. I was tempted to ask him if we were related.

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  51. Rana said on December 3, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    moe99, it sounds like we have similar taste in sci-fi/fantasy!

    If I listed all my favorites it’d take all day – but here’s my Library Thing catalog if anyone’s interested. 🙂

    Sorted for science fiction and for fantasy

    btw, if you don’t know about LibraryThing and you love books, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s a great site.

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  52. moe99 said on December 3, 2008 at 5:40 pm


    Went back and looked for divorce info and I can’t find it. I just remember reading it somewhere online Jordan readers were grousing about the decline of quality in the volumes. I will check with a friend back in DC who followed it more closely than I–she even got Jordan to autograph copies of his books about 10 years ago and he did not take kindly to her suggestion back then that he move things along.

    It’s my greatest fear wrt George RR Martin because he’s rather overweight and aging and there’s no end in sight for the Song of Ice and Fire Series. Which is by far the best I’ve read because he is not afraid to off major characters which drives the plot in ways you don’t normally see in this genre since it is so character dependant.

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  53. Danny said on December 3, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Yeah, Iain Banks’ novels have a very large body count, but his character development isn’t the same. Although his Culture novels are set in the same universe, there is no continuing story arc for any characters between books.

    And after one or two of his novels, you just know not to get too attached to any characters. HA!

    On Stephenson, I left off after Cryptonomicon, but I do plan to read the Baroque Cycle. My brother said he liked it, but thought it slow. Then again, he’s kinda ADD.

    Hey, has anyone else here read Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series?

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  54. LA Mary said on December 3, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    I spoke to a customer service rep, clearly based in India, who said her name was Debbie. I made a point of using her name a lot in our conversation.

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  55. Danny said on December 3, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    I spoke to a customer service rep, clearly based in India, who said her name was Debbie. I made a point of using her name a lot in our conversation.

    I can hear that conversation even as I read your post. I sure there were a lot of pregnant pauses for the comma before “Debbie.” Right?

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  56. moe99 said on December 3, 2008 at 6:49 pm


    thanks for the library thing recommendation. I’ll go home and join after work. It would be good to have an online collection like that. i just wish that I could keep track of who I loan my books out to because I never get them back. I ordered a used edition of The Blade Itself from owlbooks on amazon.com Nov 1 and it has not come yet. i am crabby.

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  57. joodyb said on December 3, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    these are wonderful reading lists. thanks for posting.

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