Sunday, February 7, 2016

Photo Booth

In my neighborhood is a new store called Therapy.  Lot's of folks go in this boutique like establishment that carries everything from greeting cards to furniture.  Lots of "Made in Oregon" type objects and a selection of books, art, and clothing that reflects Northwest tastes.  Many people like to say they are "in therapy."

The other day I noticed a new item.  It was one of those old school type photo booths.  On closer inspection, it looked like one of the originals with the small strips of sample photos proudly displayed on the sides of the machine.  But in talking with the sales person a bit, I found out this is a modern version of one of the originals.  The cost is $5.00 for a strip of 4 small photographs and the machine has the ability to post one or more on Facebook instantly as well.  Of course.
Not exactly the 25 cent version of my childhood.  But enough to get me thinking on the photo booth that my neighborhood posse and I used to frequent at the miniature golf course in our neck of the woods.  After playing a round of gold, still full of laughter, we'd wait our turn and pile into the photo booth.  Jimmy, Paul, Randy (sometimes) and myself hovered around the small stool inside and attempt to close the curtain.  We had a few quarters between us so there was enough for three or four rounds.  There was no such thing as instant photography in those days so the entire process often took some time.  After the mugging for the 4 shots was done we'd wait huddled around the yellow mound below the glass screen that house the red light that would flash before each snap of the shutter.  One night Jimmy noticed that the yellow mound resembled a large breast with a slit in the middle that would usher forth the much awaited photo strip.  "Give titty give," he started to chant.  It wasn't long until the four of us demanded, in chorus-like fashion, "Give titty give."  When after what seemed like much too long, the slim strip of paper appeared, we'd cheer and then slowly turn over the photo strip. More laughter.  Repeat the process.

I've often thought that putting one of these photo booths on a high school campus would be a real moneymaker.  Of course that was before everyone carried around a camera and the phenomena of selfies.  Today, the impact would be rather underwhelming, I fear.  Unless, of course, there was a rebirth of fondness for the genre.  A sepia toned contact sheet of your childhood available, on demand, from Mother Nature herself.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

First World Problems

First World Problems

    are minor inconveniences.
My password is temporarily blocked,
   and I haven't been able to find that brand
                       of crackers I like.
Why do some food items appear, endear,  and then disappear

The yellow plastic cap on the bathroom
    cleanser popped off and went down the toilet...
course I flushed it down but worried that I might block the
         pipes...It's probably at the sewage treatment plant by now.

How many days must I wait until I know
                for sure

that my picture wasn't taken by the "Your Speed Is...." contraption
on Hawthorne Blvd?

I wasn't able to get the elliptical machine at the gym that I usually use.  It's getting crowded
in there on the days I go most often.
Some folks don't check their email for days and I can't seem to find a morning newspaper
in the coin box anymore.
   Go paperless...go paperless...go paperless..
How many passwords will it take till they know
that too many passwords have died?

Another package in the neighborhood stolen
   off the front porch.
My car leaks...sometimes.
It's tax time again.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Going Beyond

So there we were, the young student teacher and me, the veteran mentor, meeting to discuss his teaching unit on World War II.  It could have been the all business type of review where I approve what he's planned, or I suggest a few resources, or even encourage him to develop his own curriculum instead of depending on what his Cooperating Teacher (placement) had to offer.  All typical agendas for such meetings.  But this one felt differently.
At the outset, I could tell he was eager to ask me questions, eager to listen to my responses.  What started out as wanting to carefully explain that he needed to focus in on just a few topics became unnecessary because he began by noting just that.  We easily agreed on two or three components from a list of 10 possible topics he has written.

He asked for strategies and when I gave him a diagram of a Problem Analysis, he immediately liked the idea and saw exactly how he might enhance some of his ideas by including that activity.  Having students discuss moral dilemmas and reason the consequences of proposed solutions is always preferable to filling in blanks or responding to multiple choice questions. We spoke about everything from Japanese Relocation to the Holocaust, to the decision to drop the atomic bomb.  I think it was when he mentioned that he's taken some photographs at former concentration camps when visiting relatives in Germany that it hit me.  Here we were, the grandson of a German POW captured in France and the great grandson of Eastern European Jews, so of which were imprisoned in camps sitting down together to discuss teaching World War II.
As his supervisor, I'll be dropping in and observing a lesson or two.  Hopefully I see something I've not seen before.  For teachers, WWII is the mother lode of teaching materials. So much is available.  So much is online or on film.  If a teacher decides to go beyond names, dates, and terms; to go beyond video clips, movie scenes, and traditional texts, there is always room for something new. War, through the eyes of those who experienced it on all levels, in all places, always leaves more of an impression than a chapter in a book.  When Kristof, my young teacher colleague shows some photos taken inside those camps, he'll no doubt share his emotional reactions with his students.  He will offer another dimension to their learning.  I may be there to offer mine as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Political Action II

Frank Zappa once said, "Politics is the entertainment branch of industry."  He seems to have foreseen the current political scene.  If politics has become entertainment, so too has entertainment become politics.  In fact , a large majority of folks get their news and political perspective from entertainers these days.As a horrified portion of our country is coming to realize that Donald Trump is not going away and that buttressed by the non-sensical monologues of Sarah Palin, he's got a bit more traction than they'd like to admit, we recoil.  Isn't this how Nazi Germany began.  The diatribes and ranting of people who dare to say repugnant and outrageous things to an angry mob all too willing to buy the simplistic version of political reality are a natural consequence if you look at the bigger picture.  What I'm saying here is that the rise of candidates like Trump isn't so mysterious given the course of history and this country's role in current affairs

We were due for this vitriol.  Our demographics are changing, we've supported dictators and armed the wrong side of other nation's rebels so many times that the whole we find ourselves in is no surprise.  As David Harris, the anti-war activist used to say, "when you do shit all your life, at the end all you've got is one big pile of shit."  What part of that isn't clear?
I see folks like Palin and Trump as a last gasp.  They bring a twisted smile to the lips of people who feel lost, small angry, frustrated and most of all incapable of understanding change.  Add to that their lace of the empathy gene and the desire to make right with might and you've got the perfect audience.

Political Action

We were due for this vitriol.  Our demographics are changing, we've supported dictators and armed the wrong side of other nation's rebels so many times that the hole we find ourselves in is no surprise.  As David Harris, the anti-war activist used to say, "when you do shit all your life, at the end all you've got is one big pile of shit."  What part of that isn't clear?

I see folks like Palin and Trump as a last gasp.  They bring a twisted smile to the lips of people who feel lost, small angry, frustrated and most of all incapable of understanding change.  Add to that their lack of the empathy gene and the desire to make right with might and you've got the perfect audience.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Both Sides

Since the recent passing of David Bowie, I've read a half dozen articles on how this avant grade icon has formed the sound track for many people's lives.  Bowie, warts and all, has given thousands of folks the courage to be who they are.  No wonder his music, eclectic as it is, contains so much emotional involvement for his fans.  The great German philosopher Schopenhauer postulated that music, above everything else penetrates directly to the soul.  Soul, as you know is a popular genre of music in it's own right.  Said Schopenhauer, "The effect of music is so very much more powerful and penetrating than is that of the other arts, for these others speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence."
But just as Bowie's followers are reliving some of the most significant junctures and experiences of their lives this week, I think that everyone, of every generation has an icon or two that serves the same function.
This morning during my gym workout I switched Pandora stations from blues to Buffy St. Marie.  My motive was too hopefully hear some of her music to see if a student teacher I'm working with might be able to use some song lyrics as poetry for a unit on Native American culture.  As with all Pandora stations, I heard a bit of Buffy's music but a bit more of similar artists.  I suppose the good folks at Pandora who make the music decisions think that to listen to Buffy is to listen to artists at their prime in the late 60s.  They paired her with Dylan, Neil Young, and Emmy Lou Harris for the most part.

Then came a song that almost stopped me in my tracts, or should I say stopped my elliptical machine:
The Weight, by The Band.  Immediately memories flooded my brain.  I was taken back to the summer of 1970 and driving across the country, coast to coast, literally, in a VW van with a group of like-minded wanderers searching not only for America, but our own identities along the way.  When I listen to the lyrics today the meaning takes on so much more than it originally did.  Lots of life lived will do that and the perspective that age gives sharpens the focus about as sharp as it can get.  When the song ended, I began to think of Bowie's music and the role it played for his fan base and wonder how they feel when they hear it after his death.  That reflection was quickly ended by the beginning of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and like the turning of the wheel on the machine under my feet, the process began again and again.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hand Held

We live in a remarkable time.  Those of us to have fantasies that are decades old are now in the position to be living some of these dreams.  I used to fantasize that I had a small TV screen I could take out of my shirt pocket and catch an important sporting event I was missing.  Of course, the smart phone now makes that possible.  In recent months I've been able to watch part of the Triple Crown or a Final Four game within inches of my shirt pocket.
As a kid growing up in the 50s and 60s all TV was black and white (for most of us) and big games and horse races were available only once a week.  Usually Saturday was the "game of the week" for baseball.  I fondly recall sneaking into our living room, opening the double wooden doors to our Packard Bell TV and defying all authority by turning on a baseball game. There was only one dial to click and one to turn for channel switching.   I had finished raking the leaves my family's big silver maple tree over supplied our front lawn with and while my dad was finishing up I started this cheating maneuver.  It was like the sweet taste of stolen watermelon.  It was seeing something I'm not supposed to see.  It was my secret.

Today, we often sneak a peak at our personal small screens.  We know we shouldn't do it and we really do try.  But sometimes our desires are connected to these ancient behaviors that won't go away.
Every generation seems to be on the cusp of lost technology.  Sometimes it requires an adjustment.  Very few folks read a newspaper these days.  The task of purchasing a paper form a newsstand or coin box is virtually gone in some places.  Print media continues to shrink.  But what is lost and what is gained?
As a thoroughbred horse enthusiast, I still cling to the ritual of reading the Daily Racing Form.  The publication that once cost  quarter is now $6.  But the pleasure that comes from handicapping a race and then marking the form with colored ink  just can't be replaced by a computer screen.  Oh I know the day is coming when consumable publications on newsprint will be a thing of the past, but for now all the more reason to cling to and savor the experiences.  Those coming after will never know anything different and then the day will come when old timers will long for the online version of something that has been replaced by a new device.

If baseball, with it's techno soundtrack and horse racing with it's empty grandstands are to survive, they will no doubt have to make more adjustments.  Adjustments that we can follow by stealing a glance, from time to time, at an electronic hand-held device.