Tuesday, March 24, 2009

World's Worst Mother On TV

I let my kids watch TV. I watched lots of TV as a kid. I know there are better things a child can do, but TV has been a godsend for me (and you! admit it!) when I wanted to make sure no one snuck up on me while I was inches from a hot stove burner, or when the groceries I just bought needed to be put away ASAP.

Of course the various cable and broadcast channels carry a great deal of crap. I keep trying to explain to my father-in-law that "animated show" does not automatically translate to "kids' show." (Has anyone seen Making Fiends? Check it out; it's actually very clever, but very disturbing and not for kids, even though that is the intended audience. There are also countless shows that are mind-meltingly stupid, which we try like heck to avoid.)

Fortunately, there is quality TV to make up for this. One of my favorite shows is Arthur, which is not only educational, but, as Wikipedia puts it, is "noted for its self-referential humor" and "features a discernible, complex continuity, which is uncommon in children's cartoons." I also have great respect for Between the Lions, which I have found to be reminiscent of the old, trippy Electric Company, which I fanatically loved as a kid. For older kids who can handle the violence, there are even some good, new superhero cartoons. And the kids have DVDs of the really good classic material, such as Looney Tunes, which is not violent at all. Ahem.

My kids have portable DVD players that they bring for long trips (they are also the perfect distraction/reward if you have to take a child to get a shot...if he is watching a video he won't even know the needle went in.) We only let them bring the players in the car if the trip is longer than an hour. They call them "our little TVs."

The other day we were all watching Pinocchio, which Disney has finally seen fit to release again. When we reached the part where Geppetto, Figaro, and Cleo are all trapped inside a whale, I tried to prompt a little discussion by saying to the kids that I did not think it would be good at all to be in a whale's belly.

Having quickly realized what was most notably missing from Geppetto's whale, my 6-year-old, Einstein, agreed.

"We'd have to bring our little TVs!" he said.

He's got his priorities down, people. He's all ready for that desert island we might get stranded upon.

Here's an example of the awesomeness that is Between the Lions. You have to watch an entire episode to really understand, but here is one of its recurring features. Thank you, Chicken Jane!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blame the Danish

Short on time? For syllabus, click here.

If you saw the last post, you know that Absorbing the Genius now has a new car. It's a Porsche Cayman. ATG Readers are eligible for rides around town (in exchange for comments, of course).

With announcements out of the way...

Did they do this in your high school? In the 10th grade, our history and English classes were connected, because in English we studied literature from the period we were studying in history. It was American History: 1865 and on. That all starts with the Emancipation Proclamation, and later on there's the New Deal, and a couple of World Wars, but somewhere in the middle it gets awful "QR" to me, Big Bird. I was in the Honors level, and at some point we started talking about Politics. My fellow smartypants students got it, or they talked like they did. I wanted to get it, but I didn't. My father, who had a history degree from Harvard University, tried to explain it to me. It refused to absorb.

All I know about politics, I learned from Schoolhouse Rock.

(Admit it, weren't you really happy for the animated rolled-up paper?)

I got a few bad marks in history, there in the 10th grade. Fortunately, I had the same teacher for English as history, and I did very well in English, so the teacher didn't think I was an idiot. As a matter of fact, she called me into her office one day to find out if I'd received assistance in writing my (five-paragraph expository) essay on Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, because she was impressed with it. That was all me, I told her. I get literature! Just not politics.

(This one time? My teacher and I had a disagreement over a point of grammar. I really wish I could remember what we were arguing about, but the cool thing was that she knew I was good at this. So, she sent me off to another English teacher, saying that if that second teacher agreed with me, she'd give me the points. Teacher 2 sided with Teacher 1, but I still love to tell that story.)

(Then there was the time all the guys wore skirts to history class. Ask me about that; it was funny, but way off the topic.)

I've always been embarrassed by my mental block, and I've dealt with it by avoiding discussion. I would nod, smile, and agree. I got away with it for a long time. Then came the 2008 election.

The Obama Opposition

Some of you will gasp in horror when I declare that: I never really liked Barack Obama. I can't tell you exactly why, it's just a feeling that I had. When he spoke it just seemed like he wasn't saying anything (and by contrast, the more I heard Hillary Clinton talk, the smarter and more capable she seemed to me). During the course of the election Mr. O. started to get more and more and more popular, like scary popular, like messiah-worship popular. The day after the election, it seemed that everyone but me had these silly grins on their faces and were acting like Skittles actually had rained down from heaven (taste the rainbow!). We're talking smart, accomplished people acting this way.

(And I have to add that I didn't think Gov. Palin was all that bad either. Stop buggin' yer eyes at me.)

As I have mentioned, I have two small children, so there isn't a whole lot of time for extra reading and research (and I really really like fiction, so if I have a free moment I'm likely to go for that). However, I did make the attempt to understand what was going on here. I did some reading. The mental block was still there.

Some of what I read online was vehemently anti-Obama, very different from what I was seeing all around me. For example, I learned that delegates to the Democratic National Convention were intimidated and harassed, in an attempt to persuade a change of allegiance, and that, as a result, the roll call in Denver was a sham. I said something to the hubs about this and he said, "wouldn't we have heard about this on the news?" That's what I would normally think, but this came from a reliable source. I discovered that there were numerous bloggers saying the same basic things and making Obama appear to be the worst possible choice to lead our country. Worse than GW Bush even. How could this be?

I felt like there was nowhere for me to fit in. My mother's cheering for the senator from Illinois instantly put me on the defensive, and--since I'm not all that good at defensive--a bit dizzy, but reading stuff about Obama being a total douchebag (and every other nasty name there is) made my stomach hurt. It just didn't feel right, none of it. There did not seem to be a right answer. Isn't a democracy designed to get to the right answer? (Ohhh, 12t, wake up, you are sooo naive....)

I tested a couple of my very smart friends at work, Hank Azaria and George Clooney, by mentioning a point or two made by those trying very hard to publicize the Truth about Barack Obama. They shook their heads and said, oh no, you don't have to listen to this. I felt better immediately! Until the next time I happened to be online....

By now, if you know me, you're all amazed and thinking "she fooled me! I had no idea how ignorant she was!" Or maybe you are thinking that you don't completely understand all this either. Maybe you, like me, could use some stripped-down reasoning, a 10th grade (or 6th grade) lesson in the workings of government and election campaigns in the Present Day. A refresher. Sound boring? I promise it won't be. You waste your time here, let me know and I'll make it up to you somehow. Maybe I'll let you drive the Porsche...

I plan to get the lowdown from a variety of sources (including everyone reading this now), but on a Schoolhouse Rock level. I'll ask everyone to turn off their emotion and think slower so I can carefully absorb all of their genius, gently combine (wearing safety googles and gloves of course) and use my mutant superhero zapping powers to smear it all over YOUR computer screen.

Government and Politics 100 Remedial will appear here on ATG like the Smoking Man from the X-Files continuing storyline. I also hope to provide lots of other fun stuff that gets resolved at the end of the hour, so to speak.

SYLLABUS. This post reveals a deep dark secret to the Internet; namely that I have a total mental block regarding all things political. I figure that I'm not the only one with at least some degree of this blurred vision, and so I'm trying to help others by collecting data from political bloggers and others with great minds, after which I will try to explain the differing viewpoints in this blog, treating my audience as if they are as dumb confused as I am. It's a tall order. Encourage me!

Don't go yet....

In 1989 Alphaville released a video album based on their Breathtaking Blue record, which is more accurately described as a collection of short films. The collection reflected a variety of styles and there are a few famous names involved. One of the shorts even won an Oscar. To my knowledge, it was never available in a viewable format this side of the pond, but thanks to YouTube a few of the vids can now be enjoyed.

The following is Summer Rain, starring one Mikael Bertelsen, a Danish TV anchor. This flavor of Danish is always welcome here at ATG. And, this is film-festival-worthy stuff. The lesson to be learned from this film is that the right pair of glasses can really...well, see for yourself.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Visions and Revisions

I was a sociology major in college. A required course was SOCY 103, Sociological Theory, and I was fortunate enough to have as my professor George Ritzer, who wrote The McDonaldization of Society, now in its 5th edition.

Ritzer encouraged us to conduct sociological experiments wherever we went. For example, he said that when we make our way around campus, we should fall into step with someone and walk right next to them. As you might hypothesize, this weirds people out (that's the sociological term), because it is unexpected. Similarly, Ritzer said that when we step into elevators we should face the people in them, contravening the typical practice of turning to face the doors. The riders don't quite know what to do with themselves.

This morning, I was riding in the elevator from the 6th level of the Metro parking garage. The elevator doors opened on the second level. Since the elevator never stops on 2 (these people couldn't walk down ONE flight), a couple of riders got confused and stepped off, and others followed without thinking. This had the effect of breaking the silent elevator tension, and we all had a good laugh and slapped our foreheads at how scatterbrained we are.

It often amazes me how tiny behavior bits can sometimes have tectonic shift effects. I had content in a post here that turned out to be objectionable, and when I found out, I completely flipped and removed the post before anyone else was exposed to it. My confidence was severely wounded, and since this blog has only just begun, I felt kind of like I'd just bought a car, driven it off the lot, and promptly hit an innocent mailbox with it, crunching its right front fender and marring the brand-newness immediately.

But then I realized that once the car is dented, you don't have to worry so much about retaining perfection. Just keep changing the oil and rotate the tires every so often. The gorgeous and divine sjfrog left a comment here with the words "extremely funny" in it, and another lovely reader today referred to me as a "bearer of joy." More than enough to restore my confidence, and now, you can only see the dent when the sun shines on the car in a certain way.

This is an ever-evolving experiment, Professor. With trial comes error, and perhaps some happy accidents, too. In the words of Hell's Kitchen contestant Robert, when he was handed a bit of authority: "Yeah, baby, gimme the reins, let me drive this bitch."

The things that happen may affect us, but we are still in control.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This is the First Post on Absorbing the Genius. I shan't call it the "inaugural" post, for reasons that will become clear later on.

But it is certainly The Beginning of Everything.

I suppose I should get some of the introductory stuff out of the way.

I am one of many who read blogs for quite some time, thinking, "I would like to have a blog of my own, but I am not as entertaining as these folks I read every day." Many of the bloggers I was reading then thought the same thing, before they finally realized they were wrong (was I wrong? comment below!). Much of what I was reading then (blogs and pre-blog "diaries" or whatever) were written by women struggling with infertility of one kind or another. The vast majority found some way of having children but the lengths they went to were incredible, and inspiring. I just had to take some pills, give myself some injections, succumb to multiple ultrasounds and blood draws, suffer a couple of losses, and the eventual result was: I am a mother of two boys. (I don't mean to make light of this; it was heartbreaking and frustrating but I'm not getting into it now.)

I finally started a blog on momsbuzz.com, but there were technical problems with that one. I think of it as the practice blog. I didn't tell any of my friends and family it was there.

I complained to my friend Linda about the problems I was having at momsbuzz, and she kindly offered me a contributor spot on her blog. In the beginning I received comments from the other contributors, so I knew someone was reading me. I posted about life, trying to relate to others, the way the blogs I followed did for me. But no one really knew I was there. (I must take a moment now to thank Linda, without whom I would not be here. Linda has the distinction of writing some posts that have garnered hits from all over, for years on end, such as this one.)

So when this post of mine, which actually tackled a Substantive Issue, went live, I e-mailed a boatload of friends and family about it. I figured if I was taking the time to let them know about something I'd published on the Internet, they'd go read it. I went as far as telling them that I'd send homebaked brownies to the person who left the "best" comment (because we all know that a blogger doesn't know your opinion of what you've just read unless you comment).

Brownies for comments. I know, it's pathetic. It didn't stop there. On Facebook, I linked to the Big Issue post and other posts recounting cute things my kids did, pretending each time that "I" (using my real name) couldn't stand this 12tequilas person, warning people to stay far away from her blog posts, and expressing my disbelief that she would beg shamelessly for comments by offering baked goods and other prizes. (Then I would comment on my own status, conversation style, as if I were two people, to save others the trouble.) I thought that this was an incredibly clever form of reverse psychology and that it would work.

Status Update: I want to make sure that no one goes to auterrific.mu.nu to read 12 Tequilas's loony writings.

Comment (from me): Uh, didn't you already tell us about this? And why shouldn't we go read the new blog post with the provocative title?

Reply (still from me): Yes, I told you already, but I worry. If people read this, and leave complimentary comments, her head will swell so much it will explode. And then her charming and handsome husband will have to scrape brain matter from the wall. We can't have that.

Surreply (from me, again): I see. It's so good of you to warn all of your Facebook friends of this danger.

A friend commented to ask if my brain scan had come out normal, to which I replied, "It's all from reading SCARY blogs, which are a form of MIND CONTROL." When another friend noted that such comments would make everyone want to go to that blog (which, duh, was the whole point), I said, "Look, [friend], if you want to give that crazypants 12 Tequilas the satisfaction, then go check out her stuff. Beware, you might be entertained or you might learn something. And if you comment, I hear you could get brownies. Don't say I didn't warn you."

Wouldn't you at least be CURIOUS?? To be fair, I did get several hits, but as for the rest of the folks who received my mass e-mail or saw my Facebook announcements, I figured out that they did not read (or read the one time but didn't go back) because 1) they are too busy, 2) they don't "get the point" of blogs, or 3) they refuse to leave the safe confines of Facebook by clicking on a link.

Furthermore, another friend of mine advised that my posts were too "long and rambly." The blogs I frequent have long posts all the time (and have readers out the wazoo), but I have to admit I got more people to click over from FB when they were told the post was diminutive.

Which brings me to an important feature of Absorbing the Genius: the Syllabus. I'm going to provide a truncated version of the long posts for those who might want to be kept up to date, but don't have time for the long (and rambling) read. A digest. An abstract. The Cliff's Notes version, if you will.

And in the interest of keeping things concise, I'll save for the next post the stuff about the Purpose of This Blog, Its Possible Future, and the Reason for its Title. (If you would like to know why I'm 12tequilas, that's easy, click here.)

Coming up next: others' blogging habits, news, politics, and mayhem. In the meantime, relax to this, from when computer animation was new and cooool.