how to raise a civil kid in an uncivil society

Had one of those conversations with N this morning on the way to school.  Where she didn’t like my answer to a question, so she kept talking at me in a snarky way. I finally pulled rank and said,  “I’m your mother.  When I say no, that’s it.  You can think whatever you like, but sometimes, in life,  it’s best to keep it to yourself and keep your mouth shut. Now is one of those times – you don’t get to have the last word here.”

She was furious.  Muttered some – which I pointed out was the same thing as talking back – and reminded her that the last word was mine.   Then we were at school and she was climbing out of the car, looking miserable because I had “won” and the whole interchange felt yucky and she wanted to stay mad and hate me, but still loves me, and I can relate.  The whole interchange felt yucky to me too.  But she’s nine and I can’t let her treat me that way or she’ll grow up to be a prima donna jerk who’s unemployable.

Being a mom is much, much harder than getting a PhD or teaching or writing.

On the short drive home, I thought about the messages about power she gets in school and the one I had tried to send this morning – that sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself – and I wondered if power messages are one of the things wrong with our schools and our democracy.

Then again, I was trying to teach her about respect – about treating other people with respect and not ventilating emotionally at them whenever one feels like it.  Our society could use a bit more of that basic civility – online and in lines and on the air and everywhere.


on comps and kids

The comps questions arrived yesterday around 11 am.  Writing has been a relief.  I feel a little bit like I’m snowed in – I brought in supplies from the grocery store and have no plans to go anywhere or do anything except feed myself and write all weekend.  I’ve got a rough draft of one essay done and I’m within 600 words of finishing a draft of the second essay.  Then, of course, I’ll revise until the clock strikes “deadline” on Monday morning.

Isn’t deadline a great word – invoking death & all?

It occurs to me that I could do this again – not comps, but a weekend of writing something creative without the external pressure.  I could tell my family (and the world) that I’m on a writing retreat (they don’t have to know it’s in my house).  I could start at noon on Friday and stop at noon on Monday.

The plan this weekend was for D and N to camp out at my parent’s apartment – enjoy their cable television and have daddy/daughter adventures, leaving me alone to write at home with the dog. I had been asleep about an hour last night when I heard them come in the house – N had vomited all over the sheets at the apartment and D didn’t know where my mom’s washing machine was and it was just better to bring the sick kid home.  She’s been ill all day, even running a high fever.  Needless to say their weekend plans (and mine) changed some.  I couldn’t go back to sleep right away so I ended up writing most of the night.

D’s been great – when I stop writing and put on my mom-taking-care-of-sick-kid hat, he reminds me to take it off.  It’s a dad-taking-care-of-sick-kid weekend.  He’s enjoying it.  As much as anyone enjoys taking care of a sick kid.

Well – back to writing.

on disneyworld and comps

Walking around Walt Disney World is like walking through a movie set.  This boat sits, like a workboat in use, near the Expedition Everest roller coaster in the Animal Kingdom park.

 I don’t know how I’d feel if I were from Tibet or Nepal or Thailand – I might be offended – but there is something cool about walking around a place and feeling like you’re someplace far, far away from the familiar.  A little too clean, I suspect, to be authentic.  Authentic is not what’s wanted at a Disney theme park.  Safe, fun … more real than real.  A Baudrillard third order simulation moment, I guess.

I didn’t expect to like DisneyWorld so much. But I made myself go in with an open mind and my visit has left me wanting to learn more about imagineering and their concepts of immersive theatre.  Because that’s what they’re doing … with their rides and their parks and their productions, including the parades and firework displays … they create experiences and tell stories.

Of course a lot of it is about marketing and sales – about branding and celebrity. Still, they do it very, very well.

Why am I thinking about Disney now?

Okay – it’s a distraction from preparing for comps – I’ll admit that I’m tired of preparing and just want to do the writing, hand the two essays in, and have preliminary comps recede behind me.

This morning I checked on my website and looked at my work there for the first time since I handed in my eportfolio in November.  And I thought about the hundreds of photos I took in Walt Disney World and how another photo gallery would be cool to add.  Of course, like everything else, it’ll have to wait now until comps are behind me.

One of the reasons I revisited my website is that I’m disheartened again by the MATX program.  I don’t know why going to class last night made me doubt what I’m doing in this program.  I know that work is the only cure for doubt.  But I know that my “mastery” of the material is thinner than I’d like it to be.

Wonder if I can write about my observations of Disney World and immersive theatre as part of my comps – that’s what I’m most interested in right now and I always write better if I’m really interested in what I’m writing about.  My blogging comics paper last semester was way better than my celebrity outlaw paper on Jesse James.  I could tell by the way I slogged through the outlaw paper and enjoyed writing the blogging comics paper.

The writing I’m doing in preparation for the comps feels very sloggy.  A bad sign.  I think I’ll write about Disney and multimedia this afternoon – see where that gets me.

memories and the risk that comes with writing

In 1992, artist Dennis Ashbaugh and writer William Gibson published Agrippa (a book of the dead).  The pages in the book “were treated with photosensitive chemicals, effecting the gradual fading of the words and images from the book’s first exposure to light.”  The poem, stored on a floppy disk, was programmed to erase itself after a single reading.  The point seems to be that memories (and our lives) are ephemeral.

It’s cool that the material object disintegrates, self-destructs in our hands.  But we’re left with reading about it … or looking at archived copies available digitally on the web.  Which changes the whole experience entirely, doesn’t it?

Certainly raises questions about the tension between owning a thing, of penning it down to keep it forever, and the ephemerality of memory and experience.  Isn’t this the tension informing what writing and books have done for Western Civilization?  The technology of writing and the book (and later photography) have allowed us the illusion that ideas and memories can be made solid, palpable, material and stored / archived over centuries.  It’s the grand hope of the digital revolution that ideas and human products can now be stored, without deterioration, in tiny drives with terabytes of storage capability, for centuries.  The tension eloquently embodied in Agrippa makes the point, however, that our desire to own and keep may be just an illusion.

As Annie Dillard writes in her essay, “To Fashion a Text” : “After I’ve written about any experience, my memories – those elusive, fragmentary patches of color and feeling – are gone; they’ve been replaced by the work.”  Writing, she says, are a sure way to lose your memories as memories. It’s been my experience that she’s right.

I love to write so, like Annie Dillard, I’m willing to risk “cannibalizing my life for its parts.”  But I do recognize the loss as well as the gain.

the internet can "deep six" a writing day

I’ve read that Neil Gaiman has a spot on the edge of his garden where he can’t get a wireless signal and sometimes he goes there to get writing done. For the past week +, I’ve been reading and taking notes to prepare for my comps exam, which is barreling toward me on the calendar like a tsunami I know going to take me under. My plan today was to craft some sentences and paragraphs articulating my understanding of multimedia, medium specificity, and shifting ideas of authorship. Instead I’ve been researching possible trips to New York City and Staunton and listening to TED talks.

David Carson is described as a surfer-sociologist-turned-graphic-designer. This is a talk D’s design students would enjoy. Plus – lots of pictures. I searched for Marshall McLuhan and David Carson on design + discovery is what turned up – because he created a book of McLuhan quotes.

My favorite talk today was this one about the importance of taking time off. The posted comments afterward range from “how offensive to hear someone white and privileged talk about taking a year off” and “if more of us did this / regardless of money / we’d all be better off.” It is hard to reconcile this with the economic hardship that’s hit so many people.

This guy’s design work is stunning, though, definitely worth a look. And I love his idea of taking sabbaticals every seven years. He does it to regenerate creatively and claims it has paid off financially as well.
Enjoy! I’m going to try and get some work done before my family gets home.

time travel on studio 360

I love to listen to to radio shows, especially creatively produced talk shows. Two favorites, both from NPR, are Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me and On the Media.   Studio 360, with the slogan “get inside the creative mind” is another favorite.
I don’t usually catch Studio 360 through WRIR‘s weekly broadcast, but pull it up online and listen to the segments streaming on my laptop. An advantage of the website is that they embed videos and have slide shows to go along with the sound content. A cool model for something I might try for my dissertation work. Later, though – this month I have to prepare for preliminary comps.