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Wednesday, December 27, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Gee Whiz! There was this guy on the radio today, and he was talking about how cool the Wireless Web is going to be!

In the future, when all our devices know where we are, the Web will be even more useful! For instance, businesses and stores will be able to do location-targetted advertising, using your digital device to tell you about buyable things that are near you!

And even more interesting, the Wireless Web will offer "microgroups", where you can talk to the people who are near you! So in the grocery, for instance, your cellphone could talk to your shopping cart, and you could communicate with other people in the store about the quality of the produce, or the location of the best deals! Why, it'd be almost like talking in pers--


Never mind!

Tuesday, December 26, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

I'm always torn (sometimes torn), on finishing a book, between on the one hand sitting (standing, walking, lying) for awhile and thinking about the book I've just finished, thinking about how it fits into my picture of the universe, and on the other hand rushing madly on, to the next book waiting for me on top of some swaying stack or buried under coats and backpacks on the back room couch.

I've just finished David Chadwick's "Thank You and OK! / An American Zen Failure in Japan". It was a good book (I always seem to say "It was a good book"; ref my complaints about adjectives the other Wednesday); gentle and unassuming reminiscences about a few years the author spent in Japan, first as guest monk at a Soto temple, then as a teacher of English with a loose lay association with another Zen temple. Nothing esoteric about Zen or Japan, but lots of daily-routine stuff about both, with humor and some insight and a good deal of laughing at himself.

One of the pillars of Buddhism is the sangha, the community of practice in which one takes refuge (the other things in which one takes refuge are, as I recall, the Buddha and the dharma). I like the concept of sangha, generalized away from specific beliefs about divinity. We all need a community, a system, a something (many somethings) in which to take refuge. Another way to say what I said about used book stores the other day is that walking into a used book store is entering into my sangha, and at least for a little while taking a certain kind of refuge...

So what should I read next? Prime candidate at the moment is Jhumpa Lahiri's short story collection "Interpreter of Maladies"; M thrust it into my hands at Barnes & Noble the other day. I do like short stories.

My cold persists; stuffy nose and scratchy throat. We had a warm and together Christmas day, with presents and ham and sweet potatoes and minimal friction, and a partial solar eclipse to project through pinholes. I made the kids come out onto the porch in their jammies to get a better image. I imagine this will help them remember the whole eclipse thing in later years. "Daddy made us go out on the porch to see it; it was cold!"

Sunday, December 24, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Nothing very profound today. All sortsa stuff saved up to point to and talk about and pass on, but I've got some sort of bug (sore throat, stuffy nose) and I'm tired, and it's awfully relaxing to just lie around and not worry about computers and weblogs and stuff.

We watched Star Wars: Episode I, and I was reminded strongly of all the reasons I don't really like it much. There's a sort of slimy feeling when it's over, not just because of the encroaching shadow, but somehow in the essence of the film itself. As though one had been watching fascist propaganda movies or something.

And don't get me started about "midochlorians" or whatever it is. Sheesh!

Anyway, with Christmas tomorrow (we aren't particularly Christian, but everyone needs a solstice holiday, and the 25th is the one that we do), and family coming to visit after that, and this sore throat, I hereby absolve myself from posting here for some period or other. So if there seem to be some days missing after today, there you are. Be good!

Friday, December 22, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

So is the Girl Power movement (phenomenon / thing / style) an authentic successor to Women's Liberation and Feminism? Or is it a commercially defanged shadow of those, designed to fit girls and women into the existing power structures, to keep them spending money? Was it originally the former, but since co-opted into the latter? Or is it the latter, which might be transformed into the former? Is it some of both? Or is it something else entirely?

This seems like a pretty important question for anyone with a self or a loved one that's a young girl. But it's far outside my area of expertise. How do we even start figuring out the answer? Is this something that everyone who has a clue in the relevant area already knows?

I've just finished "Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls" by clinical psychologist Mary Pipher (sorry no convenient links today; I'm composing offline). She doesn't mention Girl Power; she seems to see modern (western, commercial) culture as essentially of a piece, and as uniformly inimical to girls' selves. It's a good book; lots of real-life examples to think about and internalize.

I think she tends to oversimplify and overstate here and there. For instance she spends a whole chapter, and numerous paragraphs in other chapters, talking about how different girls' lives are nowadays; but when she contrasts her own adolescence in a tiny town in the 50's with a modern girl growing up in a city, I think she overestimates how much of the difference is due to time, and overgeneralizes this to a conclusion about how little mothers' own pasts can be used to understand their daughters' presents.

Her view of the world is, I suspect, a bit biased by the set of people she tends to see in her practice. She says that all girls are potentially self-destructive, that no girl "escapes the hurricane" of adolescent trauma, that "no girls look or feel strong" in early adolescence. That last at least is certainly overdoing the point; I've seen girls that age who undeniably look strong. But I'll certainly believe that the hurricane is very common, and most of the book is somewhat more nuanced.

I went into the kids' school twice today, once with M to help out at the little boy's holiday party, and then again in the afternoon to help out at the little daughter's. It was great fun; these kids are the brash laughing confident androgynous pre-puberty spirits whose fates Pipher mourns. I hate to think that they're all doomed to go through Hell in a few years, the girls with their selves twisted by misogynistic advertising and sexualized relationships, the boys pressured to be tough and mean. How do we avoid this? How do we avoid it as a culture, how do M and I avoid it as parents? Do you have kids who've been through it lately? Did you recently go through it yourself, or are you there now? What did you do? What works? What's it like?

Stories, URLs, books, wisdom, all greatly appreciated...


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