Posts tagged ‘iPod’

Laissez-faire or Beatings? The two Extremes of Fast-Food Parenting….

My wife and I were travelling by plane a while ago.  Just after the pilot extinguished the seat belt sign, the aisle and area near the front door became a children’s daycare.  Children of all sizes and shapes started running and crawling and jumping in the aisle, blocking passengers from getting to the restrooms. Now, some of you will say I was only distressed because the kids were preventing the attendants from dispensing the miniature bottles, but really…they created a totally unpleasant atmosphere for anyone in the cabin over 30. (Anyone under 30 was too busy with their iPads, iPods and other i-Ignore-U devices.)  Most of the passengers were really annoyed – sharing that beseeching look of “Please. Someone stop this!”  But no one did anything – especially not the parents. What was the parents’ reaction?  Incomprehensibly, it was support, encouragement and the annoying cluck, cluck of “Aren’t they precious?”  Shockingly and sadly, I have run into the same phenomenon at restaurants, cinemas, grocery stores, shopping malls – almost every place where children are allowed.  What the heck is going on?

But honestly, while I may be perturbed by the children’s behaviour, I really was dismayed and angry at the parents.  What were they thinking? How could they possibly believe it was okay  to have little Johnny spread-eagled across the airplane aisle, screeching at the top of his lungs for his soother? There were not enough 50ml bottles of airplane liquor (1.7 ounces for my Imperial-based friends) to deal with this!

I ask myself, why does this happen – especially when I am in a confined space with no escape route?  I read an article in the UK Telegraph (Children out of Control: Britain’s new brat pack by Kate Mulvey) and thought – Bang on, Kate!  She contends that the issue is not the kids; kids act within the boundaries, or lack thereof, set by the parents. She blames the Me Generation’s mommies and daddies. Parents focused on self; parents who allow children to set the boundaries to compensate for their inattention and poor parenting skills; as if treating their children as peers equals good parenting.

Sometimes I wonder who is calling the shots – the three-year old or the 30-year-old. When I was a kid there was absolutely no doubt who called the shots in our house!  And, though it was a long time ago that my kids were that age, I can’t ever recall letting them run around like savage children  – annoying other passengers or patrons with the antithesis of “seen but not heard”.  No, my kids were socialised to the world and understood there were places that were playgrounds, and places that were not.

My kids fit into the dominant culture and adapted – not vice versa.

Lately, the issue of children’s behaviour has become a hot topic in   the UK. The “iffy” Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) mixed with last summer’s riots (particularly as the majority of the violators were hoodie-wearing minors) produce an intense bonfire of emotions centred on effective parenting.

The argument underway now whirls around Britain’s law that limits corporal punishment, and how it prevents parents from controlling their children.

From Wikipedia (and yes, I know it is not authoritative – but the dictionary definitions make me swallow my tongue),

Corporal punishment involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable. The term usually refers to methodically striking the offender with an implement

(You can imagine how bad the dictionary definitions were!)

And the UK is not the only country thinking about corporal punishment for minors…tranquil New Zealand – the Home of the Hobbits and peaceful shepherds – held a referendum on the corporal punishment question – whether to slap or not to slap?

Seriously, what century is this?  What are we – in a Dickens’ novel?  Do we bring back the workhouses for unruly children? What happens when we bring the children home from the maternity ward – the Government issues all parents a leather strap and a rubber paddle?

I mean, is it ever alright to hit a child? Ever? Some will say that every rule has an exception, but this one is pretty absolute to me – forget corporal punishment.  I believe that effective tough love cuts out the need to train children like scared Pavlov’s dogs.  To me, corporal punishment is a cop-out. It lets a parent or guardian deploy the Bomb before they have even tried to use diplomacy.  With the “let them do whatever they want” technique at one end, corporal punishment is at the other end of the “I-want-parenting-to-be- easy” spectrum.

It’s ironic, that when my wife and I went to the SPCA to adopt our cats a couple of years ago, we had to fill out a lengthy, intrusive questionnaire that asked about our lifestyle, our care plan and our commitment to the cats. It was reviewed by the SPCA powers that be, and after a few days of anxiety, we were deemed trustworthy enough to care for cats.  And I know from friends that it is a much more intimate, intrusive and harrowing process for those who wish to adopt a child.

But, to have a child naturally demands no scrutiny.  All that is needed is the coupling of a complementary set of reproductive organs – no forethought, no plan, no education, no commitment. You need more than that to get a driver’s licence.  That isn’t right.   Many potential parents may not have what it takes to raise children with the care, affection and occasional tough love that is required. They need to prove they do. Why don’t “wannabe” parents need a child-raising licence? Wouldn’t a simple pre-conception education/certification process save a lot of grief for society, aid agencies, the prospective parents and the soon-to-be conceived child?  Aren’t the needs of the child just as important as the rights of the parents? Is it really too intrusive?

I admit that I was not a perfect parent – there was the occasional overindulgence, the extremely late bed time, one too many Happy Meals, the occasional missed bath and woefully, the Tooth Fairy fiasco.  But my kids always had my time and my love – including tough love. When they were little, they always knew when they had overstepped the bounds.   They knew it through a cross word or the”time-out”, always followed by an age-appropriate explanation when the time was right.  And now, they are well adjusted young adults, who I hope learned from my example. They learned what was acceptable and what wasn’t – with no need for smacks, backhands, switches or belts.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was never too hard.

So in the future, when you are suffering the hysterical cacophony or exasperating disruption of the wayward child, perhaps you should curb your desire to discipline the child.  Maybe, just maybe, it is the parents who would behave better after some corporal punishment…

Later,

ASF

They don’t make commercials like they used to…

I was multi-tasking recently, surfing the net and listening to TV, when I glanced up to see another bland, unimaginative commercial hawking the latest in video games.  Now don’t get me wrong, like most guys, I like video games – I have spent more than a few hours with my Xbox – and the game play footage was spectacular.  But as a commercial, it sucked.

Then it got me thinking.  While I can remember a handful of commercials I have seen in the past few years, it usually takes someone to ask, “Did you see the last Brand X commercial?”  and some careful cajoling, like, “C’mon you remember.  The car one; the one that had the girl with the big….”,  before I remember.

But, you know which ones I have never forgotten?  Yep, the ones from the heyday of commercials – the 1970s. The 70s were a happy time full of promise and optimism and great fashion.   I still look back at those days with a great deal of fondness – even if no one showed up for my 7th birthday. Life was  simpler back then; I was a simple boy who enjoyed simple things.  I was not worried about iPhones, or iPods or iPads or any of the things that vex kids today.  I would play street hockey until I was numb with cold; I would have great fun shouting “Olly Olly All come in free-oh” when I gave up the seek; I would stay out all day and my parents never once felt anxious about my safety.

And I remember the commercials – the bread that sandwiched the peanut butter that was great TV shows. Shows that had manly characters like John Gage and Roy Desoto, or Steve Austin and Oscar Goldman. Holy Childhood heroes, Batman – that is a topic that could lend itself to a whole other blog!  Great TV shows…note to self.

Let me get back on track…

The products, like the commercials, were simple too.  Some would say cheesy, but really, wasn’t the whole decade of 1970 cheesy? I mean we listened to songs like “Muskrat Love” by the Captain and Tennille (enjoy the muskrat fart solo at 2.25).  But, I liked cheesy – I remember cheesy; cheesiness had a charm.

So, in honour of the period and as a backlash against the sophistication of today’s adverts, You Tube and I will offer you a few of the classics. If you are my vintage, I am sure you will be saying, “I remember that one, I loved it!”

Canadian Tire had lots of great icons…Funny Money that still passes as currency in other parts of the world, Teddy Ruxpin and Playmaker Hockey equipment are but three.  And they have had some great advertising campaigns, “Albert, Albert, Albert” and the always annoying Canadian Tire Couple who owned every Canadian Tire product imaginable (and who probably made their monthly mortgage payments in Canadian Tire Money).  The first one is a cheat, as this was from the mid-1980s, but it is still one of my favorites…Give like Santa, save like Scrooge (PS check the system on offer!). This ad was smart; and how perfectly Canadian – thoughtful and cheap – the classic Canuck combo.  I have no doubt that the ad exec that came up with that slogan is rolling in the dough.

To channel Mr Spock, “Now Captain, with that temporal anomaly dealt with…”, how more 1970s Canada can you get than good old Pop Shoppe soda pop – with 26 great flavours such as non-alcoholic Lime Rickey, black cherry, blue raspberry, pink “something-or-other” and my favorite, ginger’s ale. With refillable glass bottles, and the crate deposit, it was so ahead of its time. (You may be happy to hear it is making a comeback.) It is funny how the strangest of pitchman made deals to become the face of the products.  And one of the most memorable tag lines from my childhood came from The Entertainer himself – Number 23 in your program, but number one in your hearts, ”Clear the Track for Edddddddddddddyyyyyy Shack!”…and “do I have a nose for value!” (Was he drunk?) With the cool kids in their Detroit Red Wing wannabee uniforms and the smokin’ cashier with the Dorothy Hamill hair  (remember I was only 8), I so wanted to be in one of those commercials drinking free pop.

Now while that commercial was Mom and Poppe (forgive the pun), there were some expensive and slick commercials, too. Take for example, another soda classic…this company had more money, a better ad company and offered a subtler and more idealist notion that never really said anything about the product, but it was still very cutting edge and memorable. I bet you even remember the words – c’mon, sing them with me…

“I’d like to buy the world a home, and furnish it with love…buy apple trees and honey bees….”  (Bet you’ll even sing the unwritten lyrics )

Got it?  “What is the Real Thing? for $200, Alex”, is correct.  Now if that commercial wasn’t flower power and a symbol of everything that the 70s was – globalism, multiculturalism, bad clothes-ism – I don’t know what was…

Well, thinking about it, maybe there was one thing that was more 70s…before Kyoto or Save the Seals or Ban the Tar Sands, there were the Hippy Environmentalists who were telling us we were all headed down the path to destruction.  We were evil consumers who just didn’t give a shit about Mother Earth…and even though Society had moved all the First Nations to the Reservations, and I had never seen a birch bark canoe in Toronto, nothing quite conveyed how much sadness I felt than when I watched The Crying Brave.  The sound track alone was epic!  Shame on us…I am so glad we have mended our evil ways since then.

Now at the start of this long blog, I mentioned it was a video game that got me thinking. But, before the game console, or the internet or the AAA battery, we young kids had to rely on good old kinetics and physics to play our games.  Think of all of them, Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots, Bing Bang Boing, Pop-o-matic Trouble, the list goes on and on.  But as a boy, I was like most – I had a fascination with cars and destruction and mayhem and collisions…what better than the Goler-themed Smash Up Derby commercial to appeal to my XY chromosome? How many hours did my brother and I play that game, feigning Deep South accents and calling each other names like Billy Bob and Jeremiah? All i can say is that when that SSP Smash Up Derby is coming on to you like that, what’s a feller to do?

Ahem…moving on then. Another area that ads perfected was the art of pushing kids’ breakfast cereals.  All those sugar-coated confectionaries were guaranteed to send kids into insulin shock or spinning around the house bouncing off the walls. Frosties, Cocoa Puffs, Cap’n Crunch, Honeycomb, Alpha Bits, Apple Jacks are just a few off the top of my head.  But my favorite was the Monsters – Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo-berry.  I just loved the names…they were so cool!  Now don’t get me wrong, I never got to eat any of these cereals – well maybe Frosties, as they were only sugared corn flakes – but the commercials offered the promise of so much kid joy, how could you not want them?

I am now guilty of droning on, so it is time to finish off this blog. Happily, I have saved the best for last.  I must admit that my most favorite “commercials” had nothing to do with selling a product. These ads were probably the start of what we would now call “edutainment”, the precursor to the flash card.  In retrospect it was subliminal teaching of A Clockwork Orange proportion…and it was something all kids enjoyed watching mixed in with the entire Saturday morning gang – Scooby Doo, The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show, Josie and the Pussycats.  In hindsight, the ads were cleverly insidious: a classroom lecture right in the middle of my Count Chocula cravings.  And dammit, I sang along! Surely you remember Schoolhouse Rock with great ditties such as  Conjunction Function , My Hero – Zero, Three is a Magic Number….aaahhh good times!  Of all the “commercials” these were the most brilliant. It was the medium being used for good – and we did not have a clue we were being schooled! Why couldn’t real school be like that?

So if you have stuck with me for this long, I hope you found looking back on the commercials of our kid-hood as much fun as I did.  If you are like me, all the commercials dredge up a lot of happy memories.  When I think about it though, maybe it is isn’t the commercials that are any better; maybe it’s the nostalgic warm and fuzzy feeling I get when I watch them that makes me think they are better than today’s .  You know the feeling… the sense that I was safe and cared for and that life was pretty great.  Perhaps that is it – I was a happy kid and these commercials remind me of that.

I hope that my kids will remember that feeling when they are my age, too.  Perhaps in 2040, they will feel the same about the Grand Theft Auto 3 commercial, the Axe Body Spray spots or the Calvin Klein underwear ads  Sadly enough,  comparing the ads of yesterday and today,  I do not think they will.  And that is just kinda sad.

Looking forward to hearing about your favorites!  Drop me a comment and share a thought.

Later,

ASF

Forget pop, Pop. You are ready for the Blues now…

While we all try to stay current and “with it”, listening to Katy Perry, Rihanna, Eminem or Lady Gaga is just not suitable for a 45+ man in public (even using an iPod with airtight headphones). Google the term “music appropriate for middle-aged men” and you will see the screen filled with many recommendations and streams –  obviously it is an extremely critical subject!  While the classics – AC DC, The Cars, B52s, Talking Heads etcetera – will still raise a nostalgic smile, and result in the odd head bob or Carlton Banks dance move (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKlxjbhB9HE ), if you have kids in their teens, it is time to man-up and show the world that your music is like you – weathered, wise, tough and savvy.  So for you, my adventurous colleague, there is only one choice: the rugged and man-friendly blues.

If it is not obvious, I love the Blues. Ever since I first heard Howling Wolf croaking his way through Ol’ Smokestack Lightning (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiExHrVXmtE&feature=related) I realised how much the Blues has been a part of my life, even though I may not have known it.  All my musical heroes were either inspired by the old slide guitarists, or were just shameless copycats and plagiarists (Don’t believe me? Check out the Wiki at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokestack_Lightning).  Even my teen-hood heroes – Robert, Jimmy, John Paul and Bonzo – were avid “borrowers” of old-school blues; just compare Led Zeppelin’s  Lemon Song to Killer Floor or Travellin’ Riverside Blues. (See http://www.warr.org/zep.html for more.)

Oh no….Sorry, sorry…before you tell me to “Whoa, whoa there little doggy…you’re scaring me,” I will exit the “Blues Geek Zone” and get back to the issue at hand.  Why do the Blues fit your age?

So, middle-aged man, if you don’t believe me that you are now the right age for the blues, ask yourself at what other stage in life would you have gained enough life experience to understand The Blues?  When, before now, were you so worldly, battered, jaded, weary or patient? Still not persuaded? Then ask yourself, at what age do you think a person could write or sing a legit Blues song?

Now, there are some youngsters who might argue a teen could do it. My counter: only if that teen is in the Rainman range – the kind of person who can play chess without a board, or master the violin after hearing three bars of Beethoven’s Fifth.  I will admit though, that with all the hormones, confusion, angst, worry, and high school mean-ness, there may be enough raw material for a teen to write a good song.  But it takes longer than 15 years to reach Maslow’s sixth or seventh level and stop worrying about the next sandwich or getting laid (wait, on second thought it takes longer that 45+ years to do that).  I mean, it takes many years to gain the experience needed to makes sense of all the teenage bullshit. Everything in High School was just so serious, how could we find time between the tears, rage and the horninesss to analyse it all?  Though not a classic 12 or 16 bar blues tune, Rough Trade captured all that angst in the song High School Confidential –  which has the best product endorsemnt ever conceived!( Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsJHtzdvfKg ) But,  I don’t remember seeing anyone of Carol Pope’s vintage in High School…unless it was Night School.  It took her until her 50s to write that song (I think that is how old she is, but that may have been the 80s look.)

Some might argue that you can sing the blues when you are in your twenties…after all you have likely moved away from home, you are just coming to grips with making it on your own, and you may be balancing between credit cards to bankroll your partying, internet downloads, designer coffee, rent, utilities and food (most likely in that order).  But seriously, what wisdom can you share on any subject? I do not think that there would be much interest in a song called “The I-Know-It-All and My-Parents-Know-Less-Than-Nothing Blues”, (though I might be tempted by a hemp-head version of “My Cheatin’ Kraft Dinner Jus’ Plain Gawn”. Then again that would probably better fit into the genre of Acid Country AND Western).

How about your thirties? Toddlers, onset of the receding hairline, start of the muffin top, Fred Penner, Barney (or whatever their present incarnations are)…all good things to moan about if we weren’t having so much “fun”.  But really, “The Honda Odyssey Blues” or “The Full Pampers Shuffle”.  Pass…

So that leaves us old timers (for me, defined as anyone who is close to, or over, a half-century old) as the only practical group left – a reverse battle of attrition.  By 45 we have likely seen most of it and survived –  we can put it all into perspective! Love – unrequited or departed, debt, jealousy, cheatin’, sadness, rage, missed opportunities…universal constants that are all good fodder for the blues artist.  We get it, We can appreciate it.  And what will the blues do for you? Aside from letting you groove to great rhythms, licks, vocals and lyrics, the music serves as a reminder you are not the only to have it tough. People long before you have suffered and have had moments of sadness. Life is not meant to be easy, that everyone feels pain – but gets through it. And it shows you that despite the hurt, there are really cool and clever ways to bitch about it!  Most importantly, you will find that in even the most bleak blues ditty, there is always a silver lining or glimmer of light that will give you hope.  What more could you ask for from your music?

So if you think your life has been battered enough to start a career as a blues artist, check out this primer for a giggle:  http://www.greatstoryteller.com/1/post/2010/4/how-to-write-a-blues-song-funny.html .

And, if you’re just interested in expanding your music library with age-appropriate stuff, check out the following PBS sites that will point you at some classic, contemporary, and modern blues artists and their music. They’ll nudge you gently into the world of the sliding steel guitar.

http://www.pbs.org/theblues/songsartists/songsbioalpha.html

http://www.pbs.org/theblues/classroom/cd.html#null

Hope you enjoy!  Later…

ASF