Tuesday, August 29, 2006

If I Went Home Tomorrow, Would It Still Be There?

As you can tell from the recent blog about my son asserting his 5th Amendment Rights at three years old - I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether my home - The United States Of America - is still the same country. From afar - it does not appear to be. I wonder - why with the quick and easy dissemination of information today people haven’t woken up?

Everyday, I come across a new story (or an old story making the internet rounds) which make me say, This happened where? And people aren’t suing? Aren’t marching in the streets? Or if they are, why aren’t there more of them.

Then I think about all of the opportunities I had to march in the streets before I left. I remember having a teenager I had to shuttle about the city, nag about homework, and long discussions about ethics and “right choices.” I had a career as an artist (running my mouth on a stage about various topics - often political) I was running a non-profit supporting emerging artists (often very political.) I remember being on bed rest for 6 of the nine months of my pregnancy. I remember having a small breast-feeding child.

I remember writing long letters to my congress people and senators. (Unlike in the U.K. - often these elected officials wrote back to inform me that they disagreed with me and most of their constituents but were going to vote however they damn well pleased.)

But - it didn’t change the fact that I was not out in the streets. I lacked that singular courage my good friend, Lawrence, acts upon. In his sermon, Unitarian Universalist Satyagraha he describes laying in the snowy streets of Pittsburgh to protest the bombing of Iraq. Lawrence is a deeply thoughtful, beautiful soul who is the stay at home father of his two lovely girls. And I believe it is his vision for a peaceful world for his girls which drives him into the streets in peaceful protest.

These days, this is dangerous. These days, children might not have parents if we all did that. Not a year after Lawrence’s sermon, an unarmed woman was tasered at a peaceful, antiwar protest in Pittsburgh. At this same demonstration, an over 60 year old woman was bitten by a police dog from behind and children were sprayed with pepper spray.

Of course, this was tame. At least the Pittsburgh police weren’t shooting an unarmed woman with rubber bullets from behind and laughing about it. And to the best of my knowledge, in Pittsburgh, I can still file a complaint against the police without being harassed, arrested or beaten. This is not so everywhere. In many places, the police will intimidate and or use force to prevent people from filing complaints.

But, how long will this last? We are handing over more an more power everyday to people who shouldn’t really even have the authority to question or detain us, as in the case of Deborah Davis. Sometimes, they damage us beyond belief, as Nicholas Monahan and his wife experienced. But, most of all, as in the case of Larry Hiibel, they rip apart the very seams of our country’s fabric.. Even people documenting the abuse of our civil liberties can be dangerous. And yet, we have no real recourse.

I must admit, John Gilmore is spending a considerable amount of his fortune to help others protect their right to privacy. I have to admit, I admire the man. But, he is losing. Losing as this current regime invokes secret laws which even judges can’t get security clearance to read. But, he is inspiring others. Jim Harper took his challenge to try to fly without ID. But, it seems that you have to be rich or famous to challenge the system, such as a media personality like Penn did.

Now, they can place you in exile without any trail. This American father and son of Pakistani heritage have been denied the right to return home unless they relinquish their Constitutional Rights by submitting to an interview with the FBI without an attorney present. (The FBI is in Islamabad? Since when have they had juristriction outside of the U.S.?)

And I wonder, if even writing this will endanger my family, somehow. After all, it feels as if everyone is being watched and subdued these days. And while it is illegal, nobody has seen fit to seriously discuss the multiple felon who is in charge. If I were to go home tomorrow, would it still be there? I have to believe so. If only from the memories of how my friends act.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Two Children's Shows | Two Very Different Experiences

Pirates At the Horniman Museum VS The Little Angel Theatre

A friend and I meandered about Hackney on Friday. We were doing that standard tour of green spaces with 2 small boys with large imaginations. Eventually, we found ourselves down at the Hackney City Farm. Over lunch, she gathers all available promotional materials and begins skimming them. Suddenly, we’re rolling through lunch, jumping in her car and dashing from East london to South London. Our destination is The Horniman Museum to see a Pirate Show.

I’m thrilled. I haven’t done something this spontaneous since I moved here. Winston is beside himself with joy. He’s getting a car ride and a show with Pirates at a museum with fish. And we’re both going somewhere with friends!

We make it with 15 minutes to spare. So, we loiter outside of the amphitheatre. Behind a fence, are ten rows of green metal folding chairs. JJ can see the pirate ship behind the barricade. He and Winston are already planning exactly what the show will have. His mother and I keep reminding them not to plan everything out so completely that they can’t accept what happens. Roosters crow. The goats have noticed that there are lots of children with food in their hands nearby. They press against the fence looking dolefully hopeful. The children guard their biscuits and ice cream.

The pirate ship is rolled out of the staging area. Anticipation grows. Everyone begins to queue. Finally - the staff opens the barricade. Children and adults politely elbow and surreptitiously nudge each other out of the way in order to get the choice bit of floor space on top of the blue tarp. Every adult is unobtrusively elbowing and pushing themself towards the front row - the one closest to the children. They diligently attempt to disguise their rudeness as accidental. After a bit of jostling and wriggling, we hear music and singing. The show is about to begin!

After having attended Little Red...You Know Who at The Little Angel Theatre, I settled in for another splendid display of brilliant children’s theatre. Winston in my lap on pavement, I snuggled in for the kind of theatre where the producer, writer, director and performers are well aware of children’s developmental abilities. I sighed, kissed his head and prepared for the kind of well-researched theatre designed to fully engage and enliven the creative soul within the child.

Wrong! The show was so bawdy, politically incorrect and filled with dubious sexual innuendo. (I think it flew over the children’s heads, but I’m not sure.) The different stories they were trying to tell got lost behind a score of cheap gags, over-the-top audience participation and loud bangs involving guns and bombs. These artists had such a blatant lack of interest in the children. Almost as if their thought was, “as long as they get to scream a lot, laugh at slapstick and jump in their seats from gun fire, they’ll have a good time.

Which to be truthful, many of the children did. One kid sitting near us had seen the show earlier in the day. He spent the first ten minutes of the show yelling, “Hi! It’s me again! I’m back.” For every stunt there was the obligatory drum roll. Except, they kept misplacing (not accidentally) the drum sticks and other props necessary to seamlessly execute their gags. When it came to chaining up “Captain Mark,” the older kids had a delightful time getting the female adult audience volunteer to put as many padlocks as possible on his genital and posterior regions. They didn’t care that it was sloppy or took 20 long minutes to complete. They were having a good time telling a woman to put padlocks around a man’s dick and yelling for the chains to be tighter so he’d get a metal wedgie.

JJ’s mother and I had a good laugh. Both of us are artists and performers. We could stand back from the show and enjoy it for what it was. It was refreshing - in a way. It was a show for adults. The children were entertained. A lot of bored housewives were titillated by a great deal of discussion about and demonstration of bondage and discipline techniques. I’m sure it made their year. The vibrators of South London were abuzzing Friday night. (Personally, I like to communicate my fantasies to my partner. Examine them, dissect them, discuss their relevance to my evolving humanity and determine the root cause of them. I don’t need to attend children’s theatre for that. But, hey - that’s me. Power and respect to everyone and their choices.)

Not wanting to leave this brand new theatrical note hanging on the air of Winston’s internal landscape, we went to The Three Billy Goats Gruff at The Little Angel Theatre today. It was most of what I had expected. Again, it felt more like a one woman show with props.

The set had a very “Steiner” feel to it. The audience walked into a very simple suggestion of the world which was yet to come. At the opening of the play, the story teller created the set by diligently placing small items which suggested the landscape. There was a white dome which was covered in green felt. Simple sticks were placed into a plain white triangle which represented the goat’s thorny, mountain. Flowing blue silks became the river. A roughly stitched piece of felt was placed on the back drop to suggest the nearby village. Each piece was placed carefully while the storyteller created the full and exquisite details with her words. (Sorry for not providing names. Again, there was no comprehensive program handed out which I could check.)

The thing I have come to appreciate about the recent shows at the Little Angel Theatre is that quiet, precise Steiner-esque story telling intensity. In many ways it reminds me of how the many of the First Nation People tell stories. The teller’s focus and belief in the power of the story is what embraces the child’s imagination. That precise and mindful way of telling a story is what holds, nurtures and feeds a child. It is a simple statement that the adult on stage makes. It says, I respect you child. I trust you to create this story with me. I understand that you have the power to build worlds. And this is what holds them entranced in a darkened theatre for 40 minutes. It is the fact that someone has invited and encouraged to open their hearts, souls and imagination. It triumphs over our over-media-stimulated children because the children are co-creators in the process. It as if the storyteller is nurturing, stroking, soothing and caressing their inner most soul.

However, The Three Billy Goats Gruff was far from perfect. The puppets were nicely rendered. As I stated before the set was delightful in its simplicity. However, this show relied a bit too much on “what is familiar” to children rather than inviting them safely into an adventure into the unknown. For example, the words for “See The Little Bunnies Sleeping” was changed to goats. It is a song every child who has ever attended a nursery or play group knows. It made them feel safe and familiar. Unlike Little Red...You Know Who which relied on originality and the talent of the storyteller.

As an artist, I think this story teller had a hard time trusting in her own own abilities and the power of the story to create that all powerful willing suspension of disbelief that children are so ready to hand over. There was also a conscious effort to set up audience participation. This was overused. Little Red seemed to have an organic understanding of the places when children would naturally shout out. And trusted them to do so. She also relied on goofiness to evoke laughter from the children, such as when the troll ate fish and then it was thrown willy-nilly to one side. Whereas, in the previous show, no movement was wasted. The storyteller carefully put each prop and puppet away in its place. And even though it took time, it helped the small children remember that this was not “real.”

This is not to say it was a bad show. I’m actually nit-picking here. Winston was spellbound the entire time. His imagination was going full tilt. The second time the troll appeared, he kept asking, Is it real? Is the troll real? Eventually, he needed to move out of his seat to my lap because he was scared. But, the show brought him back and he left my lap. It also had a sweet and not too heavily laid on environmental message. So, once again, I’m glad I forked out the cash. (In fact - I’m so appreciative of the thoughtfulness which with this theatre provides opportunities to safely experience theatre - I’ve bought tickets to the next 2 shows in the series. )

While Three Billy Goats Gruff ends tomorrow, if you read this and can go, I urge you to support this work! But, the notice is too late - so they are offering Chicken Licken 2 & 3 September and Cinderella Ashputtel 9 & 10 September. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Let me end with the fact that The Horniman Museum is a fantastic time. The exhibits actively and conscientiously engage children in in nature, history and culture. There are tons of free xerox worksheets and hands on activities. The grounds are lovely. The new aquarium is fantastic. And it is free! If they’d only book their children’s performances with the same diligence used to construct the exhibits - I’d be there for every event. But, at present, I think we’ll just go for the groovy canoe, the fish, crabs and music room.

As to theatre, trust in a Little Angel.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My Son, The Civil Rights Activist

Tonight Winston came racing out of the bedroom, shouting, "Daddy pushed me!"

"Daddy would never push you," I said.

"He did. He did push me!" Winston yelled.

"Hmmmm, that's a new idea about Daddy I haven't seen or heard before." I said while stirring a bubbling pot of chilli. "You're supposed to be getting pyjamas on and brushing teeth. What were you doing when Daddy pushed you?"

Norman calls out from the bedroom, "I was blocking him from hitting me."

"Winston, were you hitting Daddy?" I ask him.

He puts his hands on his hips and states, "I'm not talking."

Norman and I burst into laughter. Winston seriously and firmly states, "It's not funny." Which gave us a wonderful opening in discussing "being American." And how proud we were that he knew his rights. He listened intently for a few moments. Decided he had enough information about laws, lawyers and rights. Then promptly headed to the bedroom to get ready for bed.

Amazing how even a 3 year old can intuitively understand his Constitutional rights and use them effortlessly. Now, if only we could help the majority of Americans to act like 3 year olds - our country would be in better shape.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sometimes You Just Have To Have Imani.....Faith

dedicated to my newest ancestor, Dr. Edward Hale. Thank you, Uncle Ed!

I just watched a documentary about Black female identity and choosing dolls. It was sad - to say the least. It was enraging. It made me want to take some of my brethren and sistren around the waist, shake them and shout, “Wake up! Wake up, you stupid fuck!”

It’s only a 7 minute video made by a teen. You can find it here:
UTH TV
or here:
REEL WORKS

But, it jogged me back to a somewhat embarrassing six months of our lives.

As most of you know, my firstborn, Imani is very fair with steel blue eyes and lovely chestnut ringlets. In other words, she can “pass.” During those early years, I had instilled in her a very strong sense of identity. (In spite of my mother always sniping things like, “Why are you teaching that Black pride stuff to a child who will grow up to pass?”

In addition, we were surrounded by a diverse Black community. Many of the elders were as fair as she was. In addition - back in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s - they made a clear choice not to “pass.” They had enough fortitude, pride of family, culture and identity to take what would have been the “hardest road” and they didn’t. And they triumphed over racism and segregation to become community leaders, civil rights activists and professionals. I remember making this a big issue with her.

I was eternally pointing out that “Aunt So-and-So” or “Uncle That Guy” was “Black” like she was. I was tedious.

And I was probably very trying. We had a lot of Black dolls. We also had a lot of “Latina” dolls. My opinion on “Dolls of European Descent” was clear. Okay - I was a bit of a benign segregationist. She could have and play with as many Blonde babies and Barbies as she wanted ....by herself or with her friends. But, I couldn’t be bothered. Friends go home. Mom is around all of the time and Mom will always play with you....sort of....when it suits her opinion of how you ‘ought to be developing.”

Call me wrong. I certainly questioned myself at the time. In fact - I wrote elaborate essays about my daughter’s dolls. (Too bad they are all pre-internet age, they were pretty funny. At that point, I was hand-sewing Barbie clothes. The different ethic dolls had very stereotypical measurements. Yes! The Barbies had different measurements. And I raged and wrote about it. )

Any way, one day, I remember her looking up at me when she was around 6 or 7. She looked into my eyes and said, "I know I'm African-American. Why doesn't anyone else?"

And I said something stupid like, “You know who you are.” or “Don’t worry about anyone other than yourself. You be you.”

It was shortly after this point, we went through the “embarrassing phase.” We would be somewhere - the grocery store, an elevator in the library, on the street. Inevitably, there would be an African-American person. The “nod of the head” would happen. Everyone would go back to sharing public space, such as: studying carrots, examining elevator buttons, or diligently observing traffic. Imani always noticed this “nod of the head” which often happens when Black folks share space.

She’d pipe up, “Say hello to me too. I’m African-American.”

This would invariably halt people in their tracks. Often they’d just look at her. Then, they’d look at me - surely I was the nanny.

And I’d shrug, smile and say, “That’s my daughter. Demanding unity where ever she goes.” Or some such nonsense cobbled together on the spot. And I’d chuckle.

They’d back step a second. Smile at her and nod their head or say hello or do whatever to validate her sense of belonging.

I often felt like shushing her. But, in hindsight, I realise that I was correct not to “shush” her or ask her “to behave.” In fact, sometimes - especially in African-American environments - I encourage her.

She still isn’t “passing.” She still has a strong sense of identity. She has chosen different battles than my great grandmother, grandmother, mother and I have chosen to fight. But, her battles reflect the times in which she is living and a profound fire at the her core being. In fact, she’s the coolest, most politically aware, culturally sensitive 20 year old I know, which is not my humble opinion, it is a fact.

P.S. Can you tell I’m chuffed she’ll be “home” with us for a whole year in just 4 weeks?

Sometimes You Just Have To Have Imani.....Faith

dedicated to my newest ancestor, Dr. Edward Hale. Thank you, Uncle Ed!

I just watched a documentary about Black female identity and choosing dolls. It was sad - to say the least. It was enraging. It made me want to take some of my brethren and sistren around the waist, shake them and shout, “Wake up! Wake up, you stupid fuck!”

It’s only a 7 minute video made by a teen. You can find it here:
UTH TV
or here:
REEL WORKS

But, it jogged me back to a somewhat embarrassing six months of our lives.

As most of you know, my firstborn, Imani is very fair with steel blue eyes and lovely chestnut ringlets. In other words, she can “pass.” During those early years, I had instilled in her a very strong sense of identity. (In spite of my mother always sniping things like, “Why are you teaching that Black pride stuff to a child who will grow up to pass?”

In addition, we were surrounded by a diverse Black community. Many of the elders were as fair as she was. In addition - back in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s - they made a clear choice not to “pass.” They had enough fortitude, pride of family, culture and identity to take what would have been the “hardest road” and they didn’t. And they triumphed over racism and segregation to become community leaders, civil rights activists and professionals. I remember making this a big issue with her.

I was eternally pointing out that “Aunt So-and-So” or “Uncle That Guy” was “Black” like she was. I was tedious.

And I was probably very trying. We had a lot of Black dolls. We also had a lot of “Latina” dolls. My opinion on “Dolls of European Descent” was clear. Okay - I was a bit of a benign segregationist. She could have and play with as many Blonde babies and Barbies as she wanted ....by herself or with her friends. But, I couldn’t be bothered. Friends go home. Mom is around all of the time and Mom will always play with you....sort of....when it suits her opinion of how you ‘ought to be developing.”

Call me wrong. I certainly questioned myself at the time. In fact - I wrote elaborate essays about my daughter’s dolls. (Too bad they are all pre-internet age, they were pretty funny. At that point, I was hand-sewing Barbie clothes. The different ethic dolls had very stereotypical measurements. Yes! The Barbies had different measurements. And I raged and wrote about it. )

Any way, one day, I remember her looking up at me when she was around 6 or 7. She looked into my eyes and said, "I know I'm African-American. Why doesn't anyone else?"

And I said something stupid like, “You know who you are.” or “Don’t worry about anyone other than yourself. You be you.”

It was shortly after this point, we went through the “embarrassing phase.” We would be somewhere - the grocery store, an elevator in the library, on the street. Inevitably, there would be an African-American person. The “nod of the head” would happen. Everyone would go back to sharing public space, such as: studying carrots, examining elevator buttons, or diligently observing traffic. Imani always noticed this “nod of the head” which often happens when Black folks share space.

She’d pipe up, “Say hello to me too. I’m African-American.”

This would invariably halt people in their tracks. Often they’d just look at her. Then, they’d look at me - surely I was the nanny.

And I’d shrug, smile and say, “That’s my daughter. Demanding unity where ever she goes.” Or some such nonsense cobbled together on the spot. And I’d chuckle.

They’d back step a second. Smile at her and nod their head or say hello or do whatever to validate her sense of belonging.

I often felt like shushing her. But, in hindsight, I realise that I was correct not to “shush” her or ask her “to behave.” In fact, sometimes - especially in African-American environments - I encourage her.

She still isn’t “passing.” She still has a strong sense of identity. She has chosen different battles than my great grandmother, grandmother, mother and I have chosen to fight. But, her battles reflect the times in which she is living and a profound fire at the her core being. In fact, she’s the coolest, most politically aware, culturally sensitive 20 year old I know, which is not my humble opinion, it is a fact.

P.S. Can you tell I’m chuffed she’ll be “home” with us for a whole year in just 4 weeks?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Still - Gina Ford ... Mumsnet ... and Justice

Who Is That Parenting Guru Okay - I've been learning more and more about Gina Ford than I personally have need. But, I do have a huge need for justice. (One of the problems with being raised by an incredible father, lawyer, civic leader, and civil right activist is a love of the law and why it is there.) But, I came across the above blog. I love it! It is relentless and anonymous like many Mumsnet supporters out there doing their best to save freedom of speech on the internet. It is clearly written, well thought out, concise. (Unlike my fantastic ramblings and verbal tumblings.)

There is also a petition circulating here.

Buy a t-shirt and support the Mumsnet Fighting Fund and/or NSPCC here.

Take a visit - show some support.

Gina Ford & Mumsnet, Freedom Of Speech | Again?!?

My previous post about Gina Ford generated a few comments. Rather than leave my responses where you might not be able to see them. I am bringing them forward.

Anony said: “Moderators exist in order to police a site.”

A support forum for mothers is not a police state. It should not have to be “policed.” It is not “at war” with anyone - including Gina Ford. No one there is advocating violence or threatening physical harm to Ms. Ford.

Moderation is a form of censorship. “Freedom of speech involves toleration of a great deal of nonsense, and even of matters which are in bad taste.” Dr. Mark Cooray.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire

Deciding who gets to speak is arrogant in the least and Fascist at worst. For example, as an African-American, I support the rights of the Ku Klux Klan to communicate what I believe to be heinous and wrongful statements regarding a great number of people. I find much of what they say harmful. Sometimes, it even outrages me. But, they have the right to their opinions.

And I will defend their right to express them. It is only when they cross the line by advocating violence or incite others to take illegal actions which threaten the physical well-being of others that they have abused their rights.

If I allow them to be silenced, I am, in suggesting that freedom of speech and freedom of expression should only be granted to people who agree with me. Noam Chomsky, of course says it better. If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.

Anony says: “ if the women on the web site had proven they could act like grown ups they might deserve the right to discuss her there.”

Dr. Cooray sums it much more elegantly than I can:
“Those who attempt to resort to such tactics to stifle presentation of an opposing view give the impression that reason and logic are not on their side. Freedom of speech has as its necessary corollary the expression of a wide range of views, some of which of course will be unpalatable, or clearly wrong. But the alternative of placing the agenda for public discussion in the hands of paternalistic bureaucrats (who as human beings will be fallible and have subjective views and personal prejudices) whose rulings often cannot or can only with difficulty and cost be reviewed in the courts, is increasingly becoming the norm. It is an undesirable and unfortunate trend.”


However, “grown-ups” are able to think logically. Presumably, grown-ups are also able to analyse and understand the subtle nature of complex humour, sarcasm and satire. According to a Guardian interview done with Ms. Ford in 2003, "Someone called me the Howard Hughes of childcare because I'm so reclusive, I don't like talking to people. I don't have time to analyse things unless they're affecting my life seriously, but I expect that goes back to my childhood." Ms Ford is unable to analyse things. She also admits to being a control freak in that same article. "A lot of the jokes are that the book [The Contented Little Baby Book] is for control freaks and I think that there's an element of truth in that.”

She seeks to control. She publicly admits it. So, the effort to silence Mumsnet and The Bad Mother’s Club are symptoms of a person who does not believe in democracy.

In addition to all of my other points about her “expertise,” this calls into question the method by which she formed her ideology. She also admits to being an insomniac. (It’s her mother’s fault.) Her books serve more as a personal therapeutic catharsis for all of the “wrongs” she suffered as a child. She says, “If my mother had had my book, I probably wouldn't be the way I am. I would be a solicitor or something, with three kids, and that would be no bad thing...” She is not - in my opinion - a very healthy woman.

Healthy grown-ups are able to shrug off a few unpleasentries and keep going. Furthermore, grown ups who put themselves in the public spotlight should expect to get their feelings hurt every now and then. It comes with the territory. How do you feel George Bush feels every time The Daily Show comes on. Does he run out and try to silence Jon Stewart? No, he sucks it up and takes it. He may not like it. But, he realizes that he put himself in the spotlight. And on some bizarre and deep level he kind of believes in freedom of speech. However, Ms. Ford is unable to even comprehend this fact. On those web sites, for every negative thing posted about Ms Ford, there was usually a positive one. Grown ups engage in conversations. Conversations are not one sided. But, Ms. Ford does not believe in conversation. She likes to be the one in control of what she perceives to be a world out of control. She clearly enjoys being “the guru” or the “Queen Of Routine.” Which makes every unsupportive statement “seditious” in her view because it challenges her authority. But, she is neither a queen or guru. She is a woman with an opinion.

I still stand by my assertion that every time she attacks a web site - she performs an act of terror. Terrorists use fear tactics. Threatening every web site which has people who dislike her methods is a calculated campaign of terror. She prevents people from expressing themselves. Participants in that community now fear retaliation for simply saying what is on their mind. By advocating moderators, she injures freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

Finally - she is a hypocrite. Further exploration of Ms. Ford reveals that she is not willing to be held liable for damages resulting from inaccurate content posted on her ownThe Contented Baby’s website:

From her own site’s legal notices.

3. Disclaimers and Limitation of Liability

3.2 Under no circumstances will CONTENTED BABY be liable for any of the following losses or damage (whether such losses where foreseen, foreseeable, known or otherwise): (a) loss of data; (b) loss of revenue or anticipated profits; (c) loss of business; (d) loss of opportunity; (e) loss of goodwill or injury to reputation; (f) losses suffered by third parties; or (g) any indirect, consequential, special or exemplary damages arising from the use of the Site regardless of the form of action.

3.4 You may find in the text and content and other materials included on this Site inaccuracies and typographical errors. We do not warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information and materials or the reliability of any statement or other information displayed or distributed through the Site (including, without limitation, the information provided through the use of any software). We make no representations or warranties as to the suitability, functionality, accuracy or reliability of any material made available to you.”


So she is unable to grant to other’s the very same rights she herself expects. That is unfair and immoral.

In regards to MorningPaper’s apology, it was written in her style. The very same style she used to make the original comment. She wrote:

"I apologise profusely to any childcare guru that I may have offended by suggesting that they are involved in military action in Lebanon and to her followers for suggesting that she/they strap their babies to weapons of mass destruction. I have read her book many times and I can confirm that this IS NOT suggested as part of any childcare guru's recommended routine. I apologise to any new mums who may have been confused by my post, and would advise that if you are considering utilising your baby in any sort of warfare or military conflict, please speak to your health visitor first."

She should change the way she thinks and communicates? I don’t think so. She has a right to express herself in any manner she wishes. She apologized. She didn’t have to do that. It just goes to show she has a large spirit.

Speaking of large spirits - I agree that the fat joke was in poor taste. However, as a large woman myself, I attempt to be larger in spirit than my body. (That makes for a pretty big spirit.) I can not say the same for Ms Ford.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Little Red...You Know Who

Little Angel Theatre
show runs until Sun., 20, August 2006

Yesterday, Winston and I attended a production of “Little Red...You Know Who” at the Little Angel Theatre Company in Islington. London parents, do not miss this show! Okay, tix for adults are £7.50 and kiddie tix are a fiver, but I have not experienced “children’s theatre in this manner before. Maybe it is a reflection of my limited American cultural experiences - but - most kiddie shows scream, shout, jump up and down, race back and forth and generally annoy me. As if in order to have a good time, children must be beaten on the head with as many loud tricks as the company can imagine.

Not this show. Usually - when I want to describe a particularly moving theatrical experience I use words like:

elegant,
mesmerising,
exquisite,
compelling,
moving,
technically precise,
attention given to the thiniest details,
impeccable showmanship,
demonstrates mastery of the genre.

Never - in my entire life - have I ever wanted to use these words in conjunction with a kiddie show. But, here I am.

Imagine me sitting in a darkened theatre with my 3 year old son. He is absolutely still. (Not in that “nasty children at the playground way.”) He is simultaneously at ease and on guard. His eyes are wide. His body is melting into my own. Every now and again, he looks up into my eyes with adoration, wonder, excitement and joy. Yet, he can not hold my gaze for long. (And we still gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes for over a 1/2 hour everyday when he has his afternoon nurse.) It is that look he gives me when we share the most soul stirring moments of our lives together. But, in this theatre - he is giving that look to another person. he is giving it to a man telling a tory with props and puppets.

The show does not attempt to trick him into thinking the “puppets are real. It is obvious that the “story man” is manipulating toys and props. This feels safe to him. Kind of like the way I tell stories to him at home - only so much better because this man has more energy and props than Mommy could ever cobble together. Not to mention - this man can create MOOD. He has a technical team who dims the lights, raise the lights, pulls up a spotlight on a specific area and delivers music and sound cues at the exact precise moment.

I don’t have much more time for this review. This show has created a demand in this household for even more organic storytelling. So, just a few highlights. 1. When Little Red set off for the forest, he quietly and with great focus added small wooden trees to the set. One by one, the forest “grew before our eyes.” So that when it was done, I found myself bursting into applause. (Like the rest of the audience.) 2. The Big Bad Wolf was so exquisitely rendered in a manner such that my timid 3 year old was entranced and yet not terrified. Basically, this actor (no, no programs for me to reference) donned a suit jacket, bow tie, fancy top hat and gold topped cane. He did a song and dance. He shook hands with (willing) kids in the first 2 rows. (Unwilling kids were positively reinforced by telling them that they were clever not to shake hands with a wolf. Willing kids were “daring.” A win-win for every participant. That is skilful. That is not mambi-pambi capitulation to overfeeding kids self-esteem. It was thoughtful and elegant and individualised 3. Every single prop, object and tiny “gag bit” was used meaningfully and consciously. This created narrative continuity and promoted ongoing focus amongst the children.

Okay - my young theatre goer is finished with a mother who wants to rant on and on about the value of this production and why she thinks everyone in the whole world should see this rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. So - adieu. And maybe we'll see you Saturday when we attend the 11:00 AM show. We could always discuss it afterwards - if you go.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Gina Ford: Charlaton Child Rearing "Expert", Free Speech Terrorist, Mother Muzzler

What kind of expert demands that critical analysis, discussions or personal opinions of her published theories about child rearing be silenced? A loser who knows she’s about to exposed as a big, stupid fraud. That’s what kind of expert.

According to Gina Ford’s official web site She studied Hotels and Catering in Edinboro. But, then, poof! She became a maternity nurse. For 12 years, she was a maternity nurse. That’s 8 years shy of raising a a child to maturity. Then some rich and famous people thought she did some decent work with their own children. Poof! She is an expert.

Does she have children of her own? No.

Does she have any background in child development or psychology? No.

What does she have? A lot of really bad opinions some publisher thought could make her a lot of money.

Compare her qualifications with those of say...The Sears Family and suddenly you begin to notice some striking lack of qualifications. How many parents do you know who have valid and impressive credentials; have raised children to adulthood; whose children enter the family business -- which is all about advocating the same child-rearing tactics their parents used? That’s a pretty strong testimony as far as I’m concerned.

What has Gina Ford got? Nothing. No names of universities, no personal experience in the field, no published credentials that I could find. And she is an expert that thousands of families are following? (Oh, England. Where is your own inner Lionheart?)

I’m sorry, I do not care one iota for Gina ford. I place her child-rearing tactics about two rungs below those advocated by The Pearls, a couple whose “parenting advice” recently resulted in the death of a child in North Carolina, Sean Paddock. Yes, that’s how I see her. In the most extreme, out-of-control, egomaniacal parent psyche...Step 1 is Gina Ford. When that fails, Step 2, The Pearls. Step 3 are the results you just read about in the article about Sean Paddock. (And isn’t that a nice tidy solution. Because parenthood is stressful, especially when your children just ‘won’t get on with it.’ At least you’ll get lots of pity and pints out of it all. It was all the “experts” fault.)

Okay - so why am I on my high horse about Gina Ford? Because I want all of you to know about her recent antics. And I want all of you to know what kind of a “shamed to be exposed as a fraud and a sham” woman she is. There is a web site I frequent. Mumsnet has been a critical part of my adjustment here to England. And unless the users “refrain from discussing Gina Ford,” She will attempt to shut down the site.

I just happen to have been brought up with the idea that:

1. If your theories are sound, well-researched, and
2. beyond academic scrutiny, and
3. beyond scientific scrutiny, then

what should you be afraid of? A bunch of inexperienced new mommies chatting with other lonly mothers on an internet support forum? That's a bit of an over reaction in my humble opinion. Or is it that a scientist has actually done some serious scholarship refuting her "theories" and she's facing a financial issue because she's been proven wrong? Margot Sunderland, director of education at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London's findings that children should sleep with their parent until age 5... What Sutherland is saying sounds like that Sears Family, doesn't it? You know, the ones with all of the research, experience and medical degrees.

More info from Mumsnet:
Mumsnet And Gina Ford

ITV
ITV article

Ms Ford is setting a dangerous precedent. She is asking that a web forum take responsibility for the content posted by its users. In essence, she is demanding that entities who provide “any asshole on the internet “with an opinion be held liable for that individual’s libel. Myspace, Friendster users...are you paying attention?

And that's not even mentioning that she is a sham, a fraud and a charlatan who now thinks she should have the right to silence the very women she is supposedly dedicated to serving.

While I'm at it: Let's all write her publisher demanding that if this terrorist, snake oil peddlar does not cease and desist in harassing Mumsnet, then we'll all have larger issues about the authors they choose to print.
Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road
London SW1V 2SA
020 7840 8400 (phone)
020 7233 6117 (fax)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lady Swatting Flies

I just read that, we are raising a nation of wimps.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/index.php?term=pto-20041112-000010&print=1

Well, I've got to tell you, that England is NOT!

Kids have to experiment. It's the only way they develop an "inner knowing." I always say, "if they aren't filthy by 4:00 in the afternoon, then they haven't learnt a damn thing all day."

On the other hand - I see vast execesses in this philsophy. I have seen the exact parents about whom this article is written. (And at times - like when my son was 17 months old, walking and determined to climb the 6 - 9 year old climbing frame - I am that parent. Yes, I coached, helped, encouraged and was there to break his fall. Of course, if I hadn't been - all the other parents would have been talking smack about me and when we had to make the ER visit because I was "chillin'" on a bench - some social service agency would have been called. )

Then, there are the parents who take this to excess.

On the other hand - living here in London - I have seen the results of this article's opinion. I witness self-absorbed, over-indulged, bully/brats whose parents are on eternal chill. (And yes, they are quite often having their full measure whilst chillin on the bench or are just "letting them 'get on with it".)

What this turns into is a Lord Of The Flies scenario where the children turn into brutal, narcissistic, violent creatures. I have actually been feeding my child a snack whilst someone's child was brutally pummeling another child.

I - with my American sensibility - jump up to intervene.

Another adult sees me jump up. Runs over to me and says, "Oh, they've got to work it out."

I say, "First, he did a jump kick and nailed him in the kidneys. Now, he has a hammerlock and is punching him in the stomach!"

To which she says, "Oh, that's my son, he's got to learn to work it out." She sits back down, pours a cup of tea and begins chatting her friend up again. A little blood later - and she's walking home with her screaming, bruised child, yelling at him about how he has to learn to get along.

And then you have parents like me who don't particularly care for cleaning up someone else's household mess. I don't think it is important for my son to learn to get along. As far as I'm concerned, he has a right to play without threat of harm or injury.

So, I have to hover about waiting for the inevitable bully to push him off the 8 foot tall climbing frame. So I can tell him off. (Of course, Winston is only just 3...eventually, he'll develop the skills to do it for himself. Right? And as far as I'm concerned, my job is to model the expected behavior until that time.)

Besides - what do experts know anyway? Until they prove me wrong, I'll be that nasty lady swatting flies.