Archive for June, 2011

Panic in Piddle Park: Self and Self-Esteem

June 29, 2011

A recent Atlantic article by Lori Gottlieb, “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,” goes by a different hook on the magazine’s cover:  “How the Cult of Self-Esteem is Ruining our Kids.”

It’s summer so I’ll keep it brief:  fear-driven pitches sell books and magazines but do little to help parents do better with children.  The end.


But… if you’ve got a couple of extra minutes we can drill a little deeper.  Gottlieb traces the ever-swinging parenting-styles pendulum that proves about as helpful as an Edgar Allen Poe accompaniment to the pit.

The experts tell us that we’re messing up our kids, and then we embrace this year’s new-new panacea.  We’re giving too many choices.  We’re telling kids they are special when they are not.  We are failing to say no and set limits.  We are failing to give our kids space to separate from us and learn from a little adversity.

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Eat, Poop, Be On Our Way: Diarrhea at Delphi

June 22, 2011

Maybe it was a bad piece of goat, in fact I’m pretty sure it was some bad goat… but who the hell eats goat in the first place?  Especially from some sketchy food cart on a filthy Athens side street.  But we were young and hungry and the tour-bus was about to depart on a three-hour ride to the mysterious Oracle at Delphi; and whatever was roasting there on the cart smelled, more or less, good… and looked, more or less, like Gyros… which was something we were used to from Greek joints in Chicago.

This was thirty-one years ago as I write, a twentieth birthday had in a cheap pensionne in Rome and a summer solstice sunset dropped softly into the Aegean in Corfu… and now a trip to the center of the ancient Greek world—of which I knew absolutely nothing—a couple of Jewish college boys blithely slouching toward pagan central.  Yet I never think of the summer solstice without thinking of the bittersweet birth of darkness—the longest day a birth (six months later) of darkest night; just as the darkest day in December births the light.

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June 15, 2011

A recent post by Kristen over at Motherese, in which she mentioned the breaking of water, brought a vivid memory spilling back into the cove of working memory…

“There’s water everywhere!” Andy breathlessly shouts into the pay-phone. I’m standing on Pico Boulevard with my finger in one ear, having pulled over after getting a 911 page from my home number.  She’s nine months pregnant and this is it.  This is also 1996 and cell-phones, if you can afford one (and I cannot) are the size of air-conditioners.  “I’ll be right there,” I hollered over the roar of traffic and jumped into my baby-blue Honda Civic, racing through traffic to Sherbourne Drive with images of Dick Van-Dyke rushing pregnant Laura to the hospital like some Clockwork Orange montage in my squirming toad-brain.

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In Praise of Bad Ideas

June 8, 2011

A recent article by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, “Creation Myth,” is ostensibly about how Steve Jobs walked into Xerox’s secret lab in 1979 (in exchange for giving Xerox a crate of Apple stock) and walked out with everything he needed to re-think cutting edge technology for use (and monetization) in the real world.  It turns out that Xerox actually invented the personal computer and the mouse, but it was Jobs who realized how to take it to the people, with panache and at a price-point that lead to today’s Apple (and in some ways to this blogosphere and our virtual connection).

The part of the article that caught my attention personally was a quote of Dean Simonton, a psychologist I read closely when doing my doctoral work on creativity.  He says, “The more successes there are, the more failures there are as well.”  This is about the nature of innovation, where true innovators have hundreds of ideas… and therefore hundreds of bad ideas.  Gladwell underscores the point that creativity is messy and inefficient; a process that is difficult to manage.

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Waiting for the End of the World… on the couch

June 1, 2011

We’ve made it well past May’s doomsday prognostications and mercifully into June.  Recent Rapturous predictions of the world’s end have, once again, proven to be greatly exaggerated.  So, now that we’ve dodged yet another kooky bullet, is there anything beyond mirth, snarkiness or the need to invent a new-new-Armageddon math to be learned from this age-old trope?

The freaky guy with an “End is Near” sign is, arguably, an archetype.  If so, Jung’s thinking would suggest that a doomsday figure (Grim Reaper, for example) coils embedded in our individual and collective memories, in our bones or at least in our more esoteric metaphysical collective unconscious.  The power of this archetype (think Darth Vader) is one way to make sense of how much media coverage an unlikely, and now failed, prediction was able to generate; even for a hundred million bucks (what Harold Camping spent) it would be hard for most multinational corporations to get so many of us to be aware of the same thing, even if it was to collectively joke about the same joke.

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