Sunday, March 31, 2013

Videos that may hook you like they hooked me

Videos of little kids talking and adults acting out what they say wouldn't necessarily sound funny to me in the abstract.  In lesser hands, these videos might not be funny.  In reality, though, the Kid Snippets and Kid History videos at Bored Shorts TV's YouTube channel are totally captivating.  Clean, inter-generational family fun.  The main guys are brothers (and maybe Mormons, so you know it's clean).  The whole thing seems to be a real family affair.  Do yourself a solid and watch one.  Or ten.

Tip of the blog to the Jacksons for introducing us to this unique entertainment.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Faces of Teddy, Age 6

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Teddy is the plastic-faced Jim Carey of our family.  His expression can change from super-happy to super-sad and back very quickly.  I asked him to make some faces for me at this moment when he's six and there's still some babyfat tenderness to his cheeks.  I think his face will change a lot in the next year, and this feels like the end of a phase.  Of course, every day can end a phase.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Saturday, March 2, 2013

An Epiphany about Fifth Grade Graduation

When I first became aware of candidate Obama, one thing that caught my attention was his stance that schools - especially urban schools - should stop holding eighth grade graduation ceremonies.  He said that finishing eighth grade is not a meaningful accomplishment in a country where the real baseline credential for success for almost everyone is a college degree (a subject for another post).  I agreed with this anti-eighth-grade graduation stance and - by extension - saw fifth grade graduation as simply ridiculous.  

Now that I have a fifth grader in a big urban school district, I'm starting to see that ritual a little differently.  Although I moved around a lot growing up, I always attended suburban school districts.  The feeder pattern in most small suburban districts has multiple elementary schools converging into one middle school.  So, it's a new school with new classmates in sixth grade, but the students with whom you've shared your K-5 years are still there on the bus and in classes.

When the subject of middle school came up during a recent haircut, Charlie told the barber that he wasn't that happy about leaving his elementary school.  After all, as he said, he's "spent half his life at that elementary school."  The transition to middle school in a city district like Pittsburgh's differs from the suburbs because Charlie's class at his magnet elementary school will split up for different neighborhood and magnet middle schools.  The crowd at his middle school will have lots of unfamiliar faces and maybe only 15% of his current classmates.  Some of his buds are headed off to 6-12 schools, where if all goes well, they'll stay until (real) graduation.  On the other hand, he may reunite with some of his grade school chums when he gets to high school, having not seen them through the middle school years.

All of that is a long way to say that fifth grade graduation this spring won't be about Charlie and his classmates accomplishing some serious academic milestone.  It will, however, be a chance for the kids and parents to gather in this unique community one last time before it scatters to the four winds.  It will be a chance to mark the end of a happy part of childhood in a group that will never be reconstituted.  What this transition/farewell really calls for - if it weren't creepier than a graduation - is a fifth grade prom.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Kindling Quarterly

My friend Tirzah pointed out in the comment section here that there is a new publication for/by/about fathers.  Intrigued, I ponied up the fourteen dollars ($14!) to get the inaugural edition.  I've now digested it and thought I'd share some reactions.

First of all, it's a beautiful object.  Originating in the NYC DIY movement and highlighting "creative individuals whose work and lives are inseparable from their role as a parent", it's printed matte on heavy stock and features very good design and arresting images, mostly of fathers and children.  While the photo subjects are refreshingly not model-level attractive, the composition of the photos really catches the eye.

Secondly, there's definitely a gap in the parenting publications out there.  I remember being disappointed in early fatherhood that Parents magazine really should be called Mothers magazine.  It really doesn't address fathers at all.  So huzzah to KQ for stepping into the breach and making a dad mag.

Unlike a great music album that catches your attention by beginning with strong tracks, having the best song third in the lineup (check your record collection - true more often than not) burying the weak stuff in the middle and then finishing with something very satisfying, Kindling Quarterly's first issue starts off extremely weakly.  It does finish in a sublime fashion, but oh! the start.  Right inside the front cover, we find a lovely-to-look-at paragraph strong on the passive voice and weak on basic punctuation.  The opening essay that follows features similar problems that smack of an editor who is not himself a reader.  I would not have expected such laxness in the text from a publication that is so carefully crafted as an objet.  Also, it's great to look different from other magazines out there, but why eschew bylines?  Especially when the front of the book was so poorly written, I wanted to know who wrote each piece.  I couldn't tell most of the time.  The enterprise looked rotten at the core; lovely to look at but a product of our society's long slide into ignorance of the rules of language.

As I said, the quality of the writing and editing got noticeably better as the issue went along (wedding at Cana, anyone?).  So let's call that an "opportunity for improvement".  I really liked the Dan Funderburgh mash note/photo essay at the end, the interview with Joe Randazzo from Thing X (formerly of The Onion) and August Heffner's travelogue about how Turkish men love babies.>

I have no idea why it's called Kindling Quarterly, by the way.  It never says.

Finally, I do hope that the first issue's Brooklyn-centric myopia dissipates over time.  It's probably just the founders tapping their near network first.  Needless to say, there are interesting dads who do not now and never have lived in hipster ground zero.  The opening manifesto says that KQ hopes to be a place where "men's parental stories can proliferate"  and says that "Done in an inclusive manner, surely only good can come of this proliferation."  I'll take them at their word and believe that it's going to be more inclusive than Issue 1 looks.