Wanna Help Think About “The Help”?

31 08 2011

I was up past 3 am reading in bed and couldn’t quite finish, but I’m ready to talk and it seems worth its own post if not several posts.

Already I’ve been swamped by outrage from my African-American female friends, particularly those who didn’t grow up in the Jim Crow South themselves, and I’ve heard (and felt myself) some reverse-outrage from “white women” in response, particularly those who DID grow up in the South and resent being lumped together and set apart by people insisting that the lumping and setting apart by race is wrong, especially after a half-century when we really believed the woman part of that phrase had taken precedence over the white part — but there’s plenty more power of story to this story than race and region to think and talk about, too.

So consider this an open thread for all our friends, to discuss The Help.

The Upside of THE HELP Controversy:
I thought about my own power and class privilege. Seeing The Help has made me even more committed to challenging racial disparities in Hollywood. And it has reminded me to keep encouraging people of color to write, produce, and direct films—to keep fighting for our stories to be told through our own eyes, not through others’ fantasies.

Mostly, seeing The Help made me want to hear my own grandma’s experiences. I have a plan for the next time I visit her in North Carolina. I’m bringing my Flip Cam, sitting next to her, listening to her story, and recording it—on my own terms.





What Will Aliens Really Want From Us?

19 08 2011

Well, damn! 😀

[I]t’s really remarkable, in fact, how often the aliens in science fiction just happen to be preoccupied with the exact same political issues that obsessed intellectuals of the era when the fiction was written. And yet it’s still somehow breathtaking. They don’t even notice that they’re not noticing all their embedded assumptions.

For example, the scientists do not even consider the possibility that the recent decline in church attendance among the citizens of the world’s most powerful nations could be a signal to advanced, god-fearing aliens that we are a decadent and irreligious species who should be wiped out.

Reminded me of other science fiction snooking like:

Science Fiction — and Anti-Science Fiction

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Is True Story

“We Prefer Your Extinction to the Loss of Our Job”

calvin hobbes we prefer your extinction to our job loss

(Source)





A Musical Theatre Unschooler’s Ode to Last Harry Potter Premiere

14 07 2011

I woke up this morning to discover — posted as a new note on his FaceBook page — what Young Son had been up to all night. Talk about flow! 🙂

As far as his mother knows, this is the first song parody he’s even tried to write, so it just astounds me.

He’s still asleep so for now I can only speculate how it came about. (When I checked just now, one of his Jim Dale-performed Harry Potter audiobooks was playing, as it has all night every night since he started putting together a premiere character costume and pre-purchased his ticket for tomorrow.)

He’s studying French with a private tutor, yet I wonder whether he noticed his parody particularly fits today as Bastille Day, set as it is to music from a French musical, his all-time favorite, Les Miserables.

For my part, I never imagined much less planned for Bastille Day to figure into our unschooling musically or any other way, even though it already has done, for both of them.

Young Son and Les Miserables power of story

Harry Potter power of story

You’ll appreciate this much more if you have the soaring Les Mis lyrics and rhythms in your head, which doubtless aren’t QUITE as deeply bred into everyone as in my house:

Okay? Did you play the video? Do you have a goose-bump or two? Then here we go, exactly as he wrote and posted it! [hush falls over the audience]

“Ode to the Harry Potter premiere”
by Young Son Ross on Thursday, July 14, 2011

(To the tune of “1 day more” from Les Miserables)

‎FAN #1: One day more, another day another costume piece, in this never ending wait to the release. The fans all seem to know it’s time, to buy tickets is not a crime, one day more.

FAN #2: I will not live until that day, the day when it all ends forever

Read the rest of this entry »





Power of Story in One Teacher’s Century-long Life

17 05 2011

At 100 Still a Teacher, and Quite a Character:

. . . she recalled how difficult it was to get fully certified by a byzantine school bureaucracy. The examiners had her explain a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and told her afterward she had given “a poor interpretation.” Having been blocked once before because of a trace of a greenhorn accent, she refused to be stopped a second time.

So she did what any true aspirant would have done: she wrote a letter to Ms. Millay and had her evaluate her interpretation.

“You gave a much better explanation of it than I myself should have,” the poet wrote back, and the chastened examiners saved face by urging Ms. Kaufman to try for the license again.

This power of story goes beyond one poem and what’s in work-school words like teacher, certification and accountability. It’s about human identity, who we are and how we came to be and what to do with it.

Her grandfather was the great Yiddish storyteller Sholem Aleichem, a writer who was able to squeeze heartbreaking humor out of the most threadbare deprivation and wove the bittersweet Tevye stories that became Read the rest of this entry »





Unschooling Lion in Winter: Deb Lewis Is Classic

14 01 2011

Chilly cock of the snook to one of the two unschooling yahoolists I still actively enjoy, where I was reminded of Sandra Dodd dot com having EVERYTHING. It’s been so cold even in Florida this winter, that I thought it was a good time to highlight this.

(I don’t know how old the list, is but if I were updating it now I personally would add something new to us this winter, something fun for which I’m thanking the FSM while the light is thin and it’s stuck at freezing outside: Netflix!)

Deb Lewis’s List of Things to Do in the Winter:

I have found so many interesting things to do around our little town just by talking with people and asking questions. . .

The man who runs the local green house lets us help transplant seedlings. He grows worms too, and lets Dylan dig around in the worm beds.

The guy who works at the newspaper speaks Chinese and draws cartoons. He’s given Dylan lots of pointers about where to get good paper and story boards, etc.

The old guy at the antique shop was a college professor and is a huge Montana History buff; whenever Read the rest of this entry »





Ideas of 2010: Happy Thinking!

17 12 2010

Better than shopping or Christmas punch for holiday stimulation. . .

Think of fashion constrained by public dress codes for example, as Snook often does over t-shirts, kilts and serious hats.

This collection offers all sorts of ideas to unwrap, everything from the Armored T-Shirt and the Bra Gas Mask to End-of-Men Fashion and the Raw Meat Dress. (Oh, not to give, um, short shrift? — to the Small-Enough Youth Condom and Performance-Enhancing Basketball Shoes!)

For the 10th consecutive December, the magazine has chosen to look back on the past year through a distinctive prism: ideas.

Our digest of short entries refracts the light beam of human inspiration, breaking it up into its constituent colors — innovations and insights from a spectrum of fields, including economics, biology, engineering, medicine, literature, sports, music and, of course, raw-meat clothing.

Happy thinking!

Maybe the expressive antics themselves are enough to ponder without delving into what ideas they represent, a thought suggested by the magazine quoting Andy Warhol.

Or maybe these ideas are best contemplated not individually but as one panoramic whole, power of story like A Christmas Carol forcing us to face how we got here, where we are and where we’re heading, unless we somehow wake up sufficiently to change our future and fast?

And just where is that, would the piece have us think? Read the rest of this entry »





Harry Potter: We Better Believe It’s Real

19 11 2010

Is the new Harry Potter movie life imitating art?

Do you need to know who said this, about whom, when and where, to believe it?

The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment.

. . .The era we face, that is soon upon us, will require a great deal from our leaders. They had better be sturdy. They will have to be gifted. There will be many who cannot, and should not, make the cut. Now is the time to look for those who can. . .

It’s not a time to be frivolous, or to feel the temptation of resentment, or the temptation of thinking next year will be more or less like last year, and the assumptions of our childhoods will more or less reign in our future. It won’t be that way.

We are going to need the best.

(It was Rita Skeeter’s real-world counterpart, in Rupert World’s Wall Street Journal.)

No need for a night at the movies, to experience a war-riven world without real grown-ups, this “bleak, perilous grown-up world that tests the independence [we] have struggled to obtain” in an “especially somber and scary coloration.”

Childish things have been put away — this time there is no quidditch, no school uniforms, no schoolboy crushes or classroom pranks — and adult supervision has all but vanished. . . . Harry and his companions must rely . . . above all, on one another.

. . . Hermione for her part, seems lonelier than ever. She has broken entirely with her Muggle parents, expunging herself from their memories to prevent them from being caught up in an increasingly vicious intrawizard civil war. . . .

Time to put away childish things including the fiction that school is preparation for real life, instead of Dark Art in itself. Time for serious leaders to do serious work in serious ways.

Small screen queens billed as real moms tweeting and dancing like bears animated by corporate control set up to seem like America’s “votes” are really dangerous only if we believe it’s real. Harry Potter is dangerous only if we don’t..

Watch tv and see the new movie, or not, but get the picture.

And then act, for real.





Power of Story Can Change the World

18 11 2010

Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has done.

We need to sing our epics or lose them. For any nation in any age including here and now, the ultimate war is over competing narratives, conflicting power of story.

Oh sure, the usual ancient stories and myths of course — and here we go fighting about the meaning of Christmas again — but wasn’t the world-changing power of old religious stories most potent in their own real-world time? We don’t call “currency” that for nothing. What are world-changing power of story stories with currency in our time, in this world?

MisEducation humbly suggests she herself may be the first — of whom she in her cloistered library is aware!– to ponder The World of Potter for real school themes rather than Sunday School themes.

. . .I think Rowling’s genius is to see humans as carrying both hope and fear, both good and evil, to see us as magnificent, and animals, and facing new threats of extinction — to realize our ancient songs and stories need to be understood in progressively evolving ways, for anyone to win anything worth living or dying for.

. . . we love movies about learning to define yourself and your own creative power in the world, instead of any organized institution (church or school) conspiring with society to standardize and subjugate individuals, the better to keep them under control . .

Stories like Avatar and the Harry Potter series might seem like unlikely starting points for civic engagement, but they speak a global language, and they stir something in people.

Did you ever wish that Harry Potter was real? Well, it kind of is.

Just as Dumbledore’s Army wakes the world up to Voldemort’s return, works for equal rights of house elves and werewolves, and empowers its members, we:

* Work with partner NGOs in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty, and genocide.

* Work with our partners for equal rights regardless of race, gender, and sexuality.

* Encourage our members to hone the magic of their creativity in endeavoring to make the world a better place.

Join our army to make the world a safer, more magical place, and let your voice be heard!

Remember whatever your personal world and worldview:

. . .the whole purpose of “education” anywhere, is more and forward and freedom, not less and backward in a box. . .





Private Power of Story in Censorship

15 11 2010

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION (subscription only)
“The Future of Free Speech”
By Tim Wu

Tim Wu is a professor of law at Columbia Law School. His new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, was just published by Knopf.

This is what speech management looks like in 2010. No one elected Facebook or YouTube, and neither one is beholden to the First Amendment. Nonetheless, it is their decisions that dictate, effectively, who gets heard.

What’s the answer? There is no easy answer. Monopolies like Google, Facebook, and Hollywood have certain advantages: That’s why they tend to come into existence. That means the American public needs to be aware of the dangers that private censors can pose to free speech.

The American Constitution was written to control abuses of power, but it didn’t account for the heavy concentration of private power that we see today.

And in the end, power is power, whether in private or public hands.

More snooking on censorship power of story:

School theatre and citizen censorship

Ideas are incombustible

More t-shirts and dress message stories, from stupid to dead serious this time

So we were saying censorship is a bad thing . . .

How the Oscars offended me today

Palin’s “Actual Responsibilities” as Madame Mayor

Ignorance makes the N-word Even Scarier Unspoken





Keeping the Spirit of the Holiday for Spirits

1 11 2010

The Onion has a fun news video here and we got some fun local photos:

FSU's Nobel Prize-winning professor Paul Dirac in the holiday spirit outside campus science library, photo credit Kiki Ramsey

Young Son is the other new Sherlock Holmes, move over BBC





Celebrating Power of Story in Books & Movies

25 10 2010

I was just poking around the PBS site because of the new Sherlock Holmes series that started airing last night.

Young Son is a huge fan of everything Holmesian and he’s put together a Sherlock Holmes costume for this Halloween (last year he was Inspector Javert from Les Miserables but that was more about the singing than the detecting, I think) — point being, they are both book characters. As I always say, our unschooling is mostly “power of story” and seeing the same characters and story in different interpretations is an important part of the learning and fun.

The website has a short video of the new young Holmes, who said it was on record that Holmes is the single most often re-interpreted literary character.

The exhibition items have not changed since they were first installed, and are now complemented by an interesting and nostalgic collection of television and film stills, featuring the famous actors who have played the Great Detective and his trusty sidekick, Watson, down the years.

I can’t vouch for Holmes holding the record, but it was interesting and while I was waiting for Young Son to wake up so I could show him, I was thinking we sort of have our own book club mentality around here, not formalized of course, but that’s what we talk about and how we have fun.

Anyway, all that led me to this and I thought I’d share — Read the rest of this entry »





Young Son’s Unschooling This Week: Dracula Offspring

22 10 2010

Young Son got so absorbed reading Les Miserables, then Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes, that he teed up Bram Stoker’s Dracula next. He’s nearly finished the book but because it’s October and Halloween is nigh (one supposes) some cable movie channels are showing different versions of the story and Young Son is recording them at all hours and then watching them critically, comparing and contrasting them.

The other day it was a science fiction spoof:

We got a bite to eat at Chili’s yesterday before show rehearsal, just the two of us. He regaled me with all sorts of Dracula story aspects I had never considered. It was like listening to him talk about real history of, say, the Red Baron or Napoleon — power of story! (Which reminds me, let’s talk about Virginia’s fourth grade history textbooks later, huh?)

Then this morning I awoke to see he had updated his Facebook status in the wee hours:

. . . just finished, in addition to the Keanu Reeves Dracula, Van Helsing, which somehow manages to take characters from Stoker’s novel, completely change the backstory of one to the point where he can no longer be used in the novel and kill the other one, all of this 10 years before the novel takes place.

Also, Dracula offspring is not a concept that ever needed to be explored…

I can’t wait for him to wake up so I can get him going on that last point! 😉