Saturday, August 26, 2006

Orton Park Fest

This post still needs links. The original Blogware post

U and I went to the Orton Park Festival with our friend Michelle, who recently moved to just about a block from there. It was the third year in a row that U and I had gone down there. I think. Maybe we just went once, two years ago. We saw Lou and Peter Berryman play -- fantastic, of course -- and bought a dark red long-sleeved T-shirt with the Orton Park Festival logo on it (No year on it, so can't use that as a clue) from a table manned by Cynthia Nolen, who was at the time a teacher at the East-West Healing Arts Institute, where at the time I was the school administrator. (I think. Unless it happened last summer.) Two years ago, I bought a sarong with the sun and moon and other celestial objects from a table with fantastic Indonesian wares, and used it in the Touching the Ground ceremony we held for then 6-month-old Ulysses the following weekend.

This year, Michelle and I walked on over and beelined to the beer tent. Or tried to -- we got sidetracked chatting with Chris, the person who, with his wife Polly, introduced me to Great Big Pictures. During the chat, U climbed down from my arms and began exploring, so I went in pursuit. Finally, success and a pair of Capital Octoberfests.

U was desperate to drink some Octoberfest. Very cute, except for the part where he wasn't going to quit and the brimming plastic pint glass was not going to survive. Brilliant idea: ice cream. We got in line at the Chocolate Shoppe booth -- ten flavors and no vanilla, can you believe it? As the last person before us was turning to leave, Ulysses found himself eye-to-scoop with her waffle cone mounded with ice cream. He was stunned. He had had no idea that the magical substance was nearby. His eyes widened and his body tensed. It was like a cartoon where the character's eyes bug out into pointy cones directed at the object of shock. "Eh!" he fairly shouted.

But, without vanilla, what flavor to get? I didn't want to spend $2.50 on a cone that might then be rejected. Fortunately, the person at the booth -- she had a 4-year-old herself, she told me -- was happy to give us a test spoon. We started with Malted Milk, after the assurance that it didn't have any pieces of stuff in it. U looked suspicicously at the spoon I held before him. "," and some head shaking. I darted in with the spoon and lightly touched it to his lips, then drew it back. And waited for a verdict. First, the crinkly face. Then the look of delight. Then, reaching for the spoon. "One scoop in a cone of Malted Milk, please." Success!

And hours passed before he noticed my interesting beer again!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Book: Inventing the Child

Following is my review of:
Inventing the Child: Culture, Ideology, and the Story of Childhood (Children's Literature and Culture)
Author: J. Zornado
Publisher: Routledge
ISBN: 0415979668
Genre: Literature & Fiction/History & Criticism
Pages: 256
Summary: 400 years of children's literature teaching authority, obedience and violence

To use the type of language that quickly becomes familiar to a reader of this book:

The dominant culture reproduces itself by telling itself stories about itself. These stories tell of the rightness of obedience to authority, of the natural order of hierarchy, of power, of the obvious right of the strong to use violence and force to coerce the weak, of the need of the subjugated to be controlled. Children learn these stories, which reinforce the realities that they themselves experience and that they see around them.

By telling these stories about children (or stand-ins for children, as Curious George the monkey represents a child), adults create the notion of what a child is. The child grows into an adult who is shaped by lessons learned -- through stories and through experience -- at so fundamental and unconscious a level that these precepts seem to be reality itself. Nurture is taken for nature, training for instinct, and so on.

Zornado reviews 400 years of children's literature, as well as pedagogy and mainstream thinking about the nature of children and childhood, in the Western world. The results are eye-opening and can be more than a little disturbing.

It is easy to feel outrage and to distance ourselves from the cultural world revealed in earliest examples given, among them the school primer alphabet that read, in part: "A: In Adam's fall we sinned all...J: Job felt the rod but loved God," when learning how extensively beating was used to make children behave and remind them of their sinfulness and inferiority. The interpretations of more modern texts are more apt to make us squirm, from the readings of Babar as a celebration of colonialism and Barney as a lesson in happiness through group conformity and consumerism, and the Lion King as a text of racial hierarchy and dinine monarchical right.

Some are sure to protest that children's stories are by their nature innocuous and that Zornado's whole enterprise is overblown, perhaps silly. But the interesting fact remains that children's literature, as Zornado points out, is the only category of literature produced entirely by people who are not its own target audience.