Althouse | category: children



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"One of the main tenets of gentle parenting is choice. Rather than saying no, you try and offer alternatives..."

"... to empower your child to participate in decision making. The other night my son asked for ice cream after dinner and I obliged but he didn’t like the flavor so I let him know there was another one I could get him. He promptly let me know that one wasn’t good either and because he’s so used to options, started asking what else was in stock. I had to laugh, hearing my own mom’s voice in my head bluntly stating that this isn’t a grocery store. It’s inevitable that this all-in method breeds feelings of resentment, not necessarily against my kids but against this philosophy that more often than not feels designed to constrain and shame parents, moms in particular.... In our quest to do better by our kids, are we making things worse? So in the spirit of my promise to myself to fill my tank first, I’m going for an adapted model, a kind of 'gentler parenting' that takes into account my humanity as well as my kids'. Just the other day, I was pretty blunt with my kids about getting to school on time...."

Writes Amil Niazi in "Gentle Parenting Is Too Gentle" (The Cut).

It's interesting that she's only talking about preserving her own temper, not contemplating whether the child might be better off if the parent — much of the time — just showed — or told — the child what to do. I haven't looked into the credo of "gentle parenting," but I don't see why gentleness involves making the child the decision-maker. And I don't see why telling the child what to do — getting ready for school and so forth — is being "pretty blunt." I think it can be more gentle than confronting the child with one choice after another, especially if you are concocting choices for the sake of enacting the concept of gentleness. And I think young parents may not realize how influential they are to their children. You don't need to explain and justify and elicit informed consent for everything. A lot of good can be accomplished simply by telling children this is what we do. 

"I think that children are like animals that don't have any natural predators left and they're just not afraid of anything...."

"I was in London not long ago and there were these boys breaking the branches off a tree and this woman said, 'You boys stop doing that,' and they said, 'You can't talk to us,' and they were right. You know what I mean? What she was doing was bullying, you know, according to the law, and they knew it."

Said David Sedaris, in conversation with Bill Maher.

Maher added: "That's a sea change from when we were kids when... not only could your parent hit you, the neighbor could hit you.... It was like it takes a village — that was the mentality like any adult could — maybe that's going a little too far — but — I don't know — I think that's better than what we have now.... I mean, I I don't have children, you don't have children and some people say to me, you know, like, 'How do you know?' I'm sentient!..."

Sedaris: "I'm always surprised I meet a teenager and I say... you have to have an after-school job, and the parent, always: "This is Atticus's time to be Atticus.'"

ADDED: The first commenter (Tank) says, "No shorts tag?" Sorry, I'd meant to do the "men in shorts" tag and also to write a little something about this particular and unusual wearing of shorts.

First, I love David Sedaris and will, whenever I can, defer to his judgment. Let David be David.

Second, I know, because I read all his books — over and over again — that he cares a lot about fashion and avidly shops in unusual places, and plays with really odd things, and seems to embrace some clown elements. Can you see the shoes in that video? They're black, but otherwise they are clown shoes — very expensive ones too, I would guess. I'm interested in his selections. It's part of the show.

Third, I know that he regards his calves as his best feature, and ordinary pants deprive you of the chance to show off your calves.

Fourth, he's wearing knee socks with knee length shorts, an effort at elegance. The men-in-shorts looks that I've been disapproving of for the last 20 years are, basically, play clothes, worn without regard for whether you look good or even like an adult, as opposed to an enlarged child.

"I know people want to get their kids and travel. I get that. However, I never flew until I was 19+ yrs."

" parents could not afford to fly. Even tho we had a decent middle class lifestyle we never flew any where on a vacation when I was a kid. Now. I HATE people who drag their infants/toddlers on a plane. Put your kid in the seat, like a car seat, and they'll fall asleep. On your lap they are squirming, screaming little terrors and possibly a 20-30lb projectile. If you INSIST on flying with small children, secure them in their OWN SEAT !!!! If you can't afford the extra ticket then DON"T FLY to your destination!"

That's putting it brutally — in the comments to the WaPo article "Flight attendants want to ban lap-babies on planes/Experts agree that flying with a baby in your lap is a safety risk, but regulators still allow it." 

This isn't really about safety, is it? Safety is the leverage. The truth is people don't like babies and toddlers on planes and requiring them to have a paid-for seat will lower the number of these deprecated humans. 

"The average child has its image shared on social media 1,300 times before the age of 13...."

"[Bruno Studer, an Alsace MP for Macron’s Renaissance party] said parents seemed oblivious to the fact that 50 per cent of the pictures exchanged on paedophile forums originated from photographs posted by families on social media. 'Certain images, notably photographs of naked babies or young girls in gym outfits, particularly interest paedophile circles,' Studer’s bill says.... The law is aimed at reinforcing minors’ privacy and enabling family court judges to deprive parents of rights over their child’s image, which would be transferred to a third party such as a social worker. The child must be involved in a decision to post their image 'according to his or her age and degree of maturity,' the preamble to the bill says....  Some campaigners say the proposed law does not go far enough. 'It talks a lot about the right to one’s image, but not about the dignity of children'...."

"Founded at the pinnacle of the British Empire, the [Manchester Museum] is now undergoing a rethink..."

"... led by its director Esme Ward. In her post since 2018, Ward wants to make the free-of-charge institution more inclusive, imaginative and caring. She has repatriated 43 ceremonial and sacred objects to Aboriginal communities in Australia, and appointed a curator to re-examine the collections from an Indigenous perspective.... 'All of us in museums have a responsibility to really think about who they are for, not just what they are for,' Ward said in a recent interview in her office, which has a velvet sofa and a framed poster reading 'No Sexists, No Racists, No Fascists.' Calling museums 'empathy machines,' she said their mission extended beyond caring for objects and collections to 'caring for beliefs and ideas and relationships,' and being 'a space that brings people together.'"

Empathy machines.

Empathy machines.

Empathy machines.

What if there were a machine that could manufacture empathy? It would be a torture device! What did your literal mind — if you have one — picture? I thought first of the machine in Kafka's "Penal Colony," then of the device strapped to Malcolm McDowell's head in "A Clockwork Orange."

But, you may say, a museum that's an empathy machine cannot be a torture device because nobody is forced to go to the museum or to stay there, but that's not true. Kids are forced. 

Why would someone who loves art — does Ms. Ward love art?! — think of the museum as a machine? To help you think about her thinking, here's art about a machine, Paul Klee's "Twittering Machine":

Extra background:
Originally displayed in Germany, the image was declared "degenerate art" by Adolf Hitler in 1933 and sold by the Nazi Party to an art dealer in 1939, whence it made its way to New York.... 
The picture depicts a group of birds, largely line drawings; all save the first are shackled on a wire or, according to The Washington Post, a "sine-wave branch" over a blue and purple background which the MoMA equates with the "misty cool blue of night giving way to the pink flow of dawn." Each of the birds is open-beaked, with a jagged or rounded shape emerging from its mouth, widely interpreted as its protruding tongue. The end of the perch dips into a crank.... 
"Perhaps no other artist of the 20th century matched Klee's subtlety as he deftly created a world of ambiguity and understatement that draws each viewer into finding a unique interpretation of the work."... 
Sometimes, the image is perceived as quite dark. MoMA suggests that, while evocative of an "abbreviated pastoral", the painting inspires "an uneasy sensation of looming menace" as the birds themselves "appear closer to deformations of nature". 
They speculate that the "twittering machine" may in fact be a music box that produces a "fiendish cacophony" as it "lure[s] victims to the pit over which the machine hovers". 
Kay Larson of New York magazine (1987), too, found menace in the image, which she describes as "a fierce parable of the artist's life among the philistines": "Like Charles Chaplin caught in the gears of Modern Times, they [the birds] whir helplessly, their heads flopping in exhaustion and pathos. One bird's tongue flies up out of its beak, an exclamation point punctuating its grim fate—to chirp under compulsion." 
Arthur Danto, who does not see the birds as deformed mechanical creatures but instead as separate living elements, speculates in Encounters & Reflections (1997) that "Klee is making some kind of point about the futility of machines, almost humanizing machines into things from which nothing great is to be hoped or feared, and the futility in this case is underscored by the silly project of bringing forth by mechanical means what nature in any case provides in abundance."... 
Since a characteristic of chirping birds is that their racket resumes as soon as it seems to be ending, the bird in the center droops with lolling tongue, while another begins to falter in song; both birds will come up again full blast as soon as the machine's crank is turned.

"I know auto theft is a growing issue, not just in Denver but everywhere, and it’s infuriating to be victimized like that, but I discourage any resident to taking a vigilante approach."

Was this vigilantism? 

From the Wikipedia article on the topic:

According to political scientist Regina Bateson, vigilantism is "the extralegal prevention, investigation, or punishment of offenses."[1] The definition has three components:

  1. Extralegal: Vigilantism is done outside of the law (not necessarily in violation of the law)
  2. Prevention, investigation, or punishment: Vigilantism requires specific actions, not just attitudes or beliefs
  3. Offense: Vigilantism is a response to a perceived crime or violation of an authoritative norm
Can an owner of a car use an app to go in search of his stolen car? If he does, is it wrong to be armed? If, on finding his car, persons in the car point guns at him, isn't it self-defense to shoot the gun? I understand that the authorities like the idea of leaving it to them to decide what to do about crime, and I can see why they generally prefer that people not risk a confrontation, but I don't think it's "vigilantism" to go to retrieve your own property and to engage in legal self-defense. 

I don't know the facts of this case. I'm merely trying to picture what the words "exchanged fire" mean, and I note that the shooter has not been arrested. And I don't know the extent to which the Denver police have been effective in dealing with car theft.

Of course, the biggest problem is that a 12-year-old became involved in car theft. It led to his death. We're told that after he was shot in the head he "drove the car about two blocks" and "It was not clear if the boy had been driving the car before the shooting." Those are puzzling facts. Could he have moved into the driver's seat after being shot in the head? It seems more likely that he stepped on the gas to escape and as he was getting shot in the head and the car propelled itself 2 blocks. 

It's very sad that a boy is dead and that his life was such that it ended the way he did. 

"Last week, in a conversation with colleague Gail Collins, [Bret] Stephens argued that a couple with a combined income of $400,000 a year doesn’t necessarily have a lifestyle we’d describe as 'rich.'"

"'They’re scrimping to send their kids to college, driving a Camry, if they have a car at all, and wondering why eggs have gotten so damned expensive.' 'Granted,' said Collins, which was the most fascinating part of this exchange.... How have liberals gotten so comfortable with the idea that $400,000 a year — more than what 98 percent of the population makes — is really just a middle-class income?..."
Compared with the old establishment that survived on inherited wealth and social position, they are insecure, and many worry that their offspring will be downwardly mobile, which leads them to spend virtually all of their outsize disposable incomes on preparing the children to become star performers in the next round of competition.... 
What self-respecting mammals don’t want their kids to have it at least as good as they did? At the median household income, that’s even a semi-plausible demand, because here all government needs to provide is median-grade public goods.... If you would be satisfied knowing that your child had a secure but unremarkable life managing a Walmart in some exurb, the government could probably guarantee that.... 

But — as McArdle sees it — if you worked hard enough to get to $400,000 a year, you expected something bigger for yourself and then you'll probably want the same — and more — for your children, and — overspending for them — you're stuck with an ordinary life for yourself. The Camry. The eggs.

Is that really the explanation for the Collins/Stephens agreement? I don't know. But if it is, there are some good solutions for young people looking on and thinking I don't want that to happen to me:

1. Don't have children.

2. Don't get the idea that you're special and you need to win in economic terms. If you sort of win — within the range that you're likely to win — you'll still have an ordinary life, and it will be much more work and much more disappointing. So come to terms with your mediocrity early. If you do this, it's easier to....

3. Live somewhere cheap (and close to nature).

4. Do some sort of work that you can enjoy and feel good about. 

5. Go ahead and have children. If you're doing ##2-4, you can skip the non-having of children. Make life about love, not boosting these random new humans to the next higher rung above some other couple's random new humans.

"We are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drool about in their dreams."

"All the dictators up to now have had to work hard at suppressing the truth. We, by our actions, are saying that this is no longer necessary, that we have acquired a spiritual mechanism that can denude truth of any significance. In a very fundamental way we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world...."

 Wrote Steve Tesich in "A government of lies," published in The Nation in 1992.

The current levels of misery and decomposition of our cities and the economic gulags of our ghettos are acceptable. Since there is only so much hope to go around, there is a freeze on hope. The have-nots have now been reclassified as never-will-haves. The dismantling of our Republic goes on, and if the spiritual and intellectual vigor of our children is the true indication of our future, then our future is even more troubling than our present....

We keep asking why the level of our children's intelligence and competence, as measured by all our tests, keeps dropping. The reason is very simple: We don't want them to be well educated. The last thing we want now is for an intellectually and spiritually vigorous generation to confront us with the question of what we have done to this country....

We have lost both faith and contact with our national myth.... When lost, the most dangerous thing one can do is to blunder blindly ahead. The comparison may be too extreme, but when Europe was lost in the Dark Ages it went back to its heritage for enlightenment and proceeded into the Renaissance. We have that option as well, and with it the hope and promise of our own renewal....

Tesich — who won an Oscar for writing the 1979 movie "Breaking Away" — was credited with coining the term "post-truth." 

Here's a Nation article about the coinage — "Post-Truth and Its Consequences: What a 25-Year-Old Essay Tells Us About the Current Moment." That's from November 2016, when Oxford Dictionaries made "post-truth" the "Word of the Year."

You still have something of a grasp on truth if you can use the term "post-truth." You're probably observing that other people are living in the realm beyond truth, but you're still in touch with the truth, you must be thinking, perhaps dishonestly.

Obviously, November 2016 was the time for finally getting around to making "post-truth" the "Word of the Year." We know what happened in November 2016. 

Tesich had died by then. He had a heart attack in 1996. Wikipedia says: 

Steve Tesich was born as Stojan Tešić (pronounced TESH-ich) in Užice, in Axis-occupied Yugoslavia (now Serbia) on September 29, 1942. He immigrated to the United States with his mother and sister when he was 14 years old. His family settled in East Chicago, Indiana. His father died in 1962.

I was reading about Tesich not because I was researching "post-truth," but because I was reading about "Breaking Away." 

That happened because after watching 2 seasons of "The White Lotus," I started watching another HBO series created by Mike White, "Enlightened." And I loved the scene in Season 1, Episode 9 where the Diane Ladd character has a conversation with another old woman in the grocery store. Who was that other actress? She seemed so familiar. It was Barbara Barrie, who, 3 decades earlier, had played the mother in "Breaking Away."

So I merely stumbled into the Steve Tesich essay and "post-truth."

"I think that children are like animals that don't have any natural predators left and they're just not afraid of anything....""Founded at the pinnacle of the British Empire, the [Manchester Museum] is now undergoing a rethink..."

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