This blog has been created to discuss the topics covered in my book : Beyond Discouragement-Creativity.
My goal is to post relevant news articles which both reflect and refute my opinions and observations. As a visitor, your comments would be most appreciated. - Bienvenue. À vous la parole.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I haven't bugged you in a long time. . . So. . .

I don't blog often but when I do. . . I blog long. . . . . . .

So with no further ado. . .

I sometimes get the feeling that I am a negative reporter of what is. I apologize if I come across that way. But then, our societies and our world are not only places of abode but  environments which tone the colours of our lives. And that needs to be looked into - and dealt with. We can’t go around with our heads in the sand. We need to know and to feel deep down in our gut whether ourenvironment is conducive to positive or negative mental and physical health. For our children and grand-children's future well being, that is a must.

This is not to say that I don’t question what I have written in Beyond Discouragement-Creativity. I repeatedly do. Was I right? Was I self-righteous? Am I wrong to think the way I do? Are children really suffering from an environment which is not encouraging of individual thought and unique creative impulses? I am not a guru. I don’t have all the answers or even a few. I can only hope my words encourage dialogue.

And so. . . here are a few contemporary issues (as reported in newspapers of the day) which highlight my books commentary.

    The Ottawa Citizen via an article entitled : Rise In Drugs Used For Mentally Ill Youth (Nov 09,11) reports an increase of 114% in the use of antipsychotics, once reserved for schizophrenics and mania in adults. How can this be written about and nothing other than this done? Nothing. . .  But then. . .  They’re only kids. They don't fight back. . . And we need our peace don’t we. . . And specialists need their syndromes and quasi impossible to diagnose diseases. And pharmaceuticals need their profits  - especially where kids are concerned.

And what about the kids?

In the Globe and Mail recently, an article extolled the virtues of good teacher-student rapport - right from Grade 1. . . . . Good Teacher Rapport Curbs Aggression. (26-10-11) The article states that bullying is mostly non existent when teachers and students get along. . . . . .

Sometimes I think saying things like the grass is green and the sky is blue and red roses are red can sound really dumb. . . especially to those of us who still believe in common sense. Naturally, children get along better with each other if they feel wanted and cared for and paid attention to in class! Many of our grandmothers who had tremendous wisdom but no education whatsoever knew that without ever being told.

And after school?

Kids Drinking As Young As 12, UK Study Finds. (National Post31-10-11) Nothing new to those of us who recently walked to the grocers a quarter mile away. . . in an idyllic Irish village - encountering groups (not gangs) of kids already tipsy and giggly - bottle in hand. And this, not a half hour after school had let out. . . No one but we “away people” (we strangers)  seemed to be bothered by it. Cheers. . .

Suicide rears its ugly head

Parents Seek Answers On Suicide. (Nov 2011)  An article in the Ottawa Citizen mirrors universally expressed feelings as, once again, a teenager chooses death over life. How sad it is that, as always, we adults return to one dominant thought in such situations. That adolescence is the problem stage rather than the environment in which these and all teens find themselves. And that the adolescent is the one in need of change or adaptation

For all intents and purposes, and for anyone who might have their doubts. . . adolescence is a normal stage in the life of a human being, But that’s not how our free, fun, easy and lazy democracies see it. Adolescence, to us, is annoying. It disturbs our me lifestyles and that is irritating. . . Teens are the problem not US. . . They act up because they act up. And as long as that is so in our minds, nothing will change and teens will continue to live their lives and give up their lives because no one cares enough to invite and mentor them into the adult big house. 
Teens are no longer children. They are naturally wannabe adults. That is angrily, upsettingly  and frighteningly the next stage in the evolution. But adults near and far don't see it that way. And as long as we perceive an adolescent to be not one of us, not worthy to be encouraged, not apprentices in adulthood, they will fall away from us - and far too often away from themselves.

Time for us to grow up.

Define prevention. . .

US Advisers Recommend HPV Shots For Boys. Gardasil’s sales hit $1.1 billion worldwide in 2009, So an Ottawa Citizen article reports (26-10-11). . . I guess if giving shots to girls has had this effect on “the economy”, adding boys to the HPV bandwagon just might boost sales to a record high.  (Sarcasm aside) I find it rather odd that we are willing to give our children HPV prevention shots (which are all about sex many of them wouldn't even have begun thinking about) but we cringe at teaching them sex-ed which would render them knowledgeable, more mature minded and safer. We are a bizarre lot.

The Globe and Mail (05-11-11) reminded me once again that article titles are what sell papers - not content. The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Lesbian Families is sensational in its announcement though rather universal in much of its content. As far as habits go, none of them cited can legitimately be appropriated by any couples or group be they gay or straight. They’re simply common sense.

I can’t help but wonder if lesbian and gay parents would have been upset had the article been written under the title : The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Straight Families. 

As for the information presented which relates directly to parents and children of lesbian mother households, the article is truly informative, highlighting the fact that many of us could be more sensitive to both parents and children in this family construct as well as any other type (other than straight) of family arrangement. Hell, we're all in this together.

In essence, what I am saying is that gay parenting is straight parenting is parenting. The less we separate one parenting position from another, the more we respect parenting for what it is - the mentoring job of any and all adults in our “villages” to do the right thing by our children. Parenting is NOT ABOUT US!!!!! It’s about teaching and mentoring and encouraging and guiding children. It's about being responsible adults - whether gay or straight.

So back to too many highs. . .

Antipsychotic Drugs For Children May Be Overused (National Post).  (Reallllly?)

At the same time that I comment on advisors in the US wanting to add HPV to a boy’s life. And in another article that there is a 114% increase in the use of antipsychotics with children. . . I also read on November 9, 2011 that overuse of drugs with children is becoming a complication issue. . . .  Now, why am I not surprised? 

Further questions should be : Why are so many drugs being used on so many children? How did our children get to be sicker than any other generation of children before them - since the beginning of time??? How did we get this far without taking into account the possibly that we could be (and are) over-dosing our youngsters - rendering the success of their futures questionable if not impossible?

At the same time as we are purportedly over-drugging brattychildren in North America, Canada now wants to add jail time and punishment of a harsher nature to children and youth (at a time when crime has been down so far in the past 20 years we can actually consider our world civilized (somewhat. . . ) Read: More Jail Time For Youth Harmful Experts Say. Bravo to those experts who actually know about youth and crime and are knowledgeable about child and youth mental health. Maybe they will have some informed say in toning down the self-righteous punishment rhetoric overtaking our societies. (Ottawa Citizen 26-10-11)

Last but not least, 2 articles caught my eye on this 21st day of November. They both remind me that 2 things very easily accepted today : mediocrity rather than talent and lowest common denominator effort as excellence. And some wonder why I rant about the lack of opportunity for encouraging individual thought and unique creative expression.

In regards to the entertainment industry, (more specifically the American Music Awards) reporters state internationally that the music industry celebrates success rather than talent. They imply that sales rather than creativity or excellence is being encouraged, awarded and rewarded. This is rather ironic since the media itself elevates the off-stage antics and addictions of stars and starlets to a level of side-show freakism that is rather yellow journalistic. But what about us? Are we not as titillated by the countless televison hours, newspaper and magazine column content which report all the nasty tidbits? Is being talented in the areas of acting, singing or musicianship even worth the trouble anymore?

The second article which struck me comes from today's first page of the National Post (21-11-11). It actually highlighted a point made in Beyond Discouragement-Creativity; offering up the following title: Statistics Can Prove Almost Anything, Study Finds. In other words, anything can be true (even outright lies) if you manipulate its elements, say it loud enough, long enough and anoint yourself with a title of specialist. Though the study professors specifically targeted psychological research, their findings are true when applied elsewhere - and possibly more dangerously so.

Selling patently false ideas is a much bigger business today than snake oil selling was in past centuries. It is so because we take too many things for granted. Today, anything can be true if it is sold as fact through the media, pseudo-research and specialist commentary. In the past, you’d take a gun to the ornery crook who cheated you out of your hard-earned gold nugget . Today, we have a lot more gold nuggets so we just say “what the hey”, sip on our latte and the crooks keep selling their snake oil.

The journal Psychological Science (of the Association of Psychological Science) confirms the above. It describes how easy it is to render outright lies to be truth. It’s all in the way of laying out and processing information in order to achieve a specifically sought after outcome. Eliminating that which does not fit a desired conclusion also plays a part in denying a truth or establishing falsehood as fact. The gullibility of an ever wanting (rather than in need) public also engages in the possibility of such research being undertaken without consideration for the resulting effects of false findings. Such research practice also allows a lowest common denominator consideration of what is valid or not as a studied finding. Over the years, may or may not, might or might not, possibly or possibly not, could or could not, should or should not have become acceptable scientific terms - at least in the media coverage of achievements. As stated in this article, science related to social (and I would venture) commercial psychology is more often prone to such manipulations of fact. Such descriptions of findings, though iffy in definition find themselves becoming acceptable as scientific terminology in the minds of a population.  Yet, these words describe a less than stellar  examination of elements which in a not so distant past would never have been recognized as professional or ethical. In other words we must come to realise that there has to be something more reassuring from our scientific milieu than : may achieve the intended results

We only have to read the lengthy and often times dangerous side-effects of drugs that we too commonly imbibe to know that all is not well in the contemporary world of commercial science. The authors of a study regarding manipulation (if not falsification) of findings (Joseph P Simmons, Leif D. Nelson and Uri Simonsohn) politely describe this conscienceless manipulation of factual research as researcher degrees of freedom. In other words : Anything goes if you can sell your idea to be true - and no one bothers to stop you in your tracks.

I’d rather teach our children ethics and to think and analyse before they too are duped into believing everything they hear or read.


I feel giddy. I feel giddy and witty and wild!!! (OK. I know the lyrics are wrong. BUT I have again been exonerated.) I am not the only person to be yelled at for saying our kids are dangerously fat.

In the Ottawa Citizen of today: (24-11-11) an article by Teresa Smith indicates that our lifestyles are not only becoming dangerous they are causing other ills. Eating habits MUST change if these weight related issues are to be resolved. The title of this article is: Quarter of Canadian Children Overweight, New Report Finds., This report does not say maybe, might be or could be. It indicates that for sure, definitely and dangerously 25% of OUR children are overweight.

So does that make me happy??? NO! What makes me happy (on a strictly selfish level) is that I no longer feel like I am in a wilderness of bad vibesfor saying this same thing for several years now. In other words, it's nice to know somebody else can sit by my side to be berated. Thank you journalist Teresa Smith.

And so, we come to the end of another of my reviews. . .

Let’s get on with encouraging others (especially our kids) to think and create for themselves. This world is ours to tame and be responsible for. And that won’t happen without action and without considering ourselves and our kids intelligent enough to know that what we see and hear, these days, is not what we often actually get.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I have always thought of myself as an optimist but being so does get difficult at times. Possibly, I am more of a reactive optimist than a proactive one. Haley Joel Osment saw dead people. I, on the other hand, see dead (read uncreative) souls increasingly populating our earth.

In essence, the world has not altered its rather obsessive cum neuritic cum psychotic stance. . .  It fears everything it should be anxious about and is anxious about everything it should fear. .  I so agree with Dr James Hillman in ascribing the following title to his 1993 book: We’ve Had 100 years Of Psychotherapy And The World’s Getting Worse. (I know. . .  I said that in my last posting. . . )

I hope you all get to read online the article on teen suicide written by Melissa Carole in the Globe and Mail on October 07 2011. Though “only” a PhD student, she says more in this article than most graduates and pros have articulated in the past decade.

On educational and parenting fronts, the media is kicking up a storm re: math and bullying. In an article entitled Go Figure, Because Teachers Can’t (Margaret Wente) The Globe and Mail - 29-09-11 writes that students are struggling not so much because they are at fault (a responsibility issue again?) but because teachers are being tested and THEY can’t do the math they are purportedly teaching................... I agree with Wente when she implies that schools are getting so involved in non-academic topics they are forgetting what their real job is.

When Your Teen Is The Bully (Anthony Wolf) Globe and Mail - 07-10-11 describes the horror of discovering that our children are not the angels we pray and hope they are. . . Too bad he doesn’t go further in prescribing a solution to this horrid discovery - along with a deeper look into our own parenting and social  psyche re this problem. It is rather facile as an article on such an important topic but at least it is being raised. Bullying remains to this day one of the key problems our kids face both in school and out. And, once again, the environment is never taken to task in this regard.

Last, but horribly NOT least. The American Pediatric Society in its quest to “make annoying things go away” (such as loud and obnoxious children) has decreed that 12  is really not a good age to ascribe ADHD titles to a child. 4 year olds should now be considered when thinking of prescribing psychostimulants to clam up the little bugge. . . .  Uhm. . .  kiddies...........

Kids Can Have ADD Drugs At Age 4, Mds Told -  (Sharon Kirkey) National Post - 17-10-11
Who tells ther MDs that this is an OK train of thought - coming from mature adults responsible for schildren and teens? Pharmaceutical interests of course. Toddlers Now In Range Of ADHD Diagnosis - (Sharon Kirkey) Ottawa Citizen - 17-10-11 (Same article in 2 different (though associated) papers. I guess someone sees it as an important issue. Too bad the world's collective voices, now being heard on the Wall Streets of the world NEVER take issue with the normalization of drugging our nations' children. Not important enough, I guess.

Too Many Just Give Up

Teen Suicide - Mental Illness? Yes, But Also Homophobia - Melissa Carole (PhD student at McMaster University) Globe and Mail - October 7, 2011

In response to the wisdom-filled commentary of Ms Carole I corroborate the claim that “blaming” teens “ exonerates each of us from our social responsibilities. . . (and) overlooks the evidence that there are other risk factors that go beyond mental illness.

James Hillman the prominent psychologist entitled his 1993 book : We’ve Had A Hundred Years Of Psychotherapy - And The World’s Getting Worse. His premise was then, and remains to this day, based on too much of a focus being placed on the within and not enough on the environment which affects us and which spawns aberrant thinking, feelings and actions.

There is no life in a vacuum - no winning, no losing, no calm, no turmoil. Suicide, or the attempt, is impossible without taking into account the environment that feeds such inclinations and actions. Suicide attempters do not consider it so much a reflection of their inner turmoil as they see it as the only way they can cope with a world within which they have no place. Suicide is less a mental disturbance of an individual than it is a reflection of a disturbed society which sociopathically shows no sign of consideration for those who populate it.

But are we not more informed and caring regarding this subject today? No. A heavy dose of lowest common denominator stimulation does not constitute a more informed mind, substantive thought or a more caring viewpoint. It simply makes what we know “user friendly”. Our most recent obsessive attachment to the discussion of suicide is also rather eerie. It  appears tainted with a celebratory tone. . . We seem to laud those who suffer from its effects rather than wonder why suicide is a sad reality in need of objective analysis. We introduce the subject in the media more in line with entertainment (i.e.: emotional post-news hour presentations) rather than vital information. We seem to treat individuals touched by the horrid hand they are dealt as proud victims and their fate a manifesto. Never do we contemplate that it is an attack by an outside force on the very soul of an individual. The attempt, the act, is always the titillating topic, never the research delving into its causes or solutions.

In the visual arts, portrait painters often encounter problems with drawing a nose, a mouth a hand. . . An amateur focuses on the incorrectness of the nose, mouth or hand. The professional hones in on the surrounding areas in order to discover the “real” problem. If we are to understand reactive suicide we must consider what that soul is reacting to. We must stop honing in on the subject and realign our thinking to the environment which spawns such aberrant feelings, thoughts and actions. We have to stop being enamoured with the heroism with which we imbue victimhood. We must stop celebrating and sentimentalizing pain long enough to focus our attentions on what surrounds those who feel it so intensely. We need to focus on what needs changing in our communities, societies and countries in order that they offer each of us a healthier life, a more promising future.

As it stands, the whole concept of the media and society’s feeling your pain has more to do with reality TV formatting than it does with the reality of suicide and its causes. And that is sad.

Monday, September 12, 2011

SpongeBob’s bad?

Aw, Fish paste! SpongeBob’s bad For Kids
(research) Tralee Pearce - Globe and Mail - 12-09-11

Frenetic TV fare absolutely insane for kids to be watching daily? Absolutely! Would we feed our kids sugar the minute they wake up and continue on through the day until they fall asleep from exhaustion? No. (At least, not if we love them.) And so a research study (another of those deep research studies) states that watching SpongeBob can, may, might, could damage your kid’s ability to focus and calm down. It doesn’t take expensive fad research to discover those findings. All you have to do is be an aware parent or grand-parent to realize when to turn the TV off and send the kids outside to run off their excess intake ofg SpongeBob. No research needed. And just think. . . All those funds expended on such inane projects could be shunted off to better projects such as obesity and disease prevention programs and improving medical and social services. . .

We’re Only As Happy As Our Least Happy Child - Sarah Simpson - Globe and Mail - 12-09-11

WE need our kids to be happy so that WE can be happy. . . As children put it so succinctly : That’s creepy. . . Anything that has to do with care of but focuses more on the care-giver is creepy. 

Helicopter parenting is all about parents - not about kids. Is the very act of parenting problematic? At times. Is it difficult? At times. Is it about being happy? No. It is about being filled with wonder and hope and dreams for now and the future. If we want to be esoteric : It’s about giving a serious portion of one’s self to a dedicated plan of nurturing of guiding growth and the eventual independent functioning of a vibrant and creative human being.

In down to earth language, parenting is about being there when you’re needed and sticking your nose out of it when you’re not. Children have an agenda. They wish to explore, discover, analyse, wonder, experiment and go off on adventures to discover even more. That is their world - not ours. Ours is to provide the environment in which all of that creative energy can happen. . . even if it scares the living daylights out of us.

Over the past century specialists have taught us all to either slap the badness out of our kids or to hover over them - protect them from every possible and imaginary harm that we and the media can conjure. Modern parents have been "programmed" to be afraid, to feel weak and in need of (1) every parenting and safety product possible and (2) every pocket-book psychology concept possible (at least for the next 6 months. . .) Another new and improved version is in a stage of "soon to be announced".

The 21st century is bound to be referred to as the "silly era".

Monday, September 5, 2011

Road To Redemption

Road To Redemption - A new homegrown series helps Canadians battle their demons on Intervention Canada. (Fridays on Slice TV) 
It is obvious to anybody who has read my book that I have difficulty (!) with the concept of “reality TV”. The very idea that it is considered “real” or honest, by even a small portion of the population, is disturbing if not disturbed. More and more, truth is what we manipulate or make of it - rather than what it is. . . And so. . .

Long live truth and ethics in advertising, promotion. . . and entertainment. What once would have been considered sick, as television fare, has gone mainstream. Slice TV brings us Road To Redemption. . . a new homegrown series (homegrown as in : more valid than foreign?). . . which helps Canadians battle their demons (?)  (Hmmm.) So, television is now a "helping professional's medioum?. We should all display before cameras (homegrown Canadian cameras of course!) what ails us. We should “share” with the world our pains and deficiencies and addictions and sorrows? Truth is, public confessions and self-flagellation are healthy - or so we are told. But, if we can't submit ourselves to lowest common denominator antics of self-loathing - we can at least be good consumers and ogle (enjoy) and point the finger at the dumb people on TV who do.

With such side-show freakism considered legitimate "helpful" entertainment no society needs a Big Brother to reduce us all to a submissive level. We can do that all by ourselves. . . By belittling those who suffer or those who play at suffering to attract attention. . . by redefining entertainment as finding pleasure in self-righteous superiority, we have become. . . we are Big Brother.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Oh woe! Oh Woe! The Silly Season Is Upon Us

The silly season has begun. It’s September. Kids are going back to school. And so, articles appear in the papers - such as: “How to prepare your child for the difficult first days”. “How mothers and fathers can say good-bye to their children without upsetting them. . " "How to survive the first days after your child has started school". It seems we are all blithering idiots in this era of co-dependency. Oddly, no articles on getting your children back into a school year sleep routine. proper diets for good learning. . . exercise programs to motivate the brain. . . That would be too obvious. . . But then. . ..  EUREKA: an article on just that : Tutors are less effective on our children's academic performance than is regular physical exercise. . . . . I could just cry........ (Sniff). Finally common sense is being allowed as valid infrmation.
TV is no less a promoter of the horrors and tribulations of school attendance. And it starts from a child's very first encounter with this fiendish system. This morning, a “specialist” advised us on (Canadian) CTV “How our children can ace kindergarten. . .”  Heck, I never even attended  kindergarten. (Possibly that explains all my problems. . . No specialists, no computer games and ugh. . . no kindergarten).

But then, the world isn’t all dumb and dumber. The famous documentary photographer George S. Zimbel’s collection of photographs of children (presently at the Bulger Gallery in Toronto) is mesmerizing. Such an exhibition is nothing less than a treasury of how encouraging times once were and are no longer. The exhibition is cited as : “images from the middle of the last century showing what childhood used to be before bubble-wrap parenting”. The Globe and Mail article on the show ends with the comment : “. . . the freewheeling children depicted are an endangered species.”

The war on children - Globe and Mail - Elisabeth Young-Bruehl 27 August, 2011

A new book entitled : Childhood Under Siege by Joel Bakan speaks on the topic of Big Business targeting children. (So what's new?) Reviewed by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, a psychoanalyst, Bakan’s book is given short shrift as well as considered somewhat hystrionic in its accusations of big business. It is, as other essays on the topic (Beyond Discouragement-Creativity included) pooh-poohed - called “simplistic”. Though Young-Bruehl may be right about the intensity of the book, the comments made should not be so easily dismissed as overkill. Why? Because no one seem s interested in taking a closer look at our promotion and advertising systems which are so powerful when directed at children. And because they are not big busines smiles all the way to the bank, while our kids. . . . .

Enfants surprotégés - La presse - Marie Larocque

While we sem to ignore the real dangers our children face in these "modern" times, we are a seriously over-protective lot when it comes to our chjildren. It seems. . . .  we like our children dumb and dependent. And this to the point of them not knowing what danger is - as in : children are no longer able to analyse what is or is not dangerous because they are prevented from learning about danger, from assessing it and from confronting and dealing with danger. Being danger-smart doesn’t seem to fit a contemporary parent’s view of childhood and growing up.

Last but definitely not least, it is reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that hundreds of times a day, doctors prescribe drugs to children with little safety or dosing data....... Because, it seems, companies are NOT disclosing the information to Health Canada. My question has more to do with WHY these drugs are allowed AND prescribed if there is no disclosure. But then. . .  I am such a silly bear of little brain.............................

Friday, August 19, 2011

How Low Can We Go.

French Lingerie Firms Pretty Babies Prompt Calls To Let Girls Be Girls. - Globe and Mail (Anita Lesh) August 19, 2011.

We do live in bizarre times. . . While European lingerie firms promote their "sexual accoutrements" to a 4 to 12 year old demographic, some segments of North American society parade this same age group (and younger) by tarting them up to look slutty. In expensive custom-made "adult-like" get-ups and heavy make-up (more reminiscent of the "first profession" than identifiable with average looking female adults) they prance, swing their hips and dance in ways no toddler or preteen should. Reality TV has "normalized" such pageants through shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras. American Eagle, from its advertising pulpit promotes push up bras, Abercrombie and Fitch sells padded bras and thongs to 8 year olds. . . But then, who’s buying? The 5 year old?. Add to this scenario the fact that disposable diaper companies are now producing products for 4 to 8 year olds - not as "specialty" items geared to problem situations - but rather as "standard" customer requested fare. . . Me thinks our children are telling us something. Just possibly, just maybe we’re doing something terribly wrong with them and we don’t seem to be getting it.

While writing this blog segment, I listened to a CBC interview about the realities of Reality TV. (19-08-11). While the author of a new book on reality TV expressed her dismay on the CBC radio one show "Q", I thought that I had been harsh (in my book Beyond Discouragement - Creativity) in my evaluation of this sickly form of entertainment. It seems, I only touched on the surface. The disgusting practices of networks, advertisers and promoters is appalling. Their disrespect of human frailties and of the persons who submit themselves to such side-show freakism is almost impossible to imagine in a society calling itself free and advanced. Advertisers and promoters are telling us what is real. They "blame" us for enjoying this type of television. They tell us we enjoy, viciousness and violence and hurtfulness and hatefulness. Eventually, it seems, we get sold on this garbage. Their capacity to titillate is in total sync with their capacity to take in the multi-millions that their "shows" cause to be made. Jennifer Pozner, author of Reality Bites Back lays it all out regarding Reality TV. Its total viciousness is laid bare. In essence it proves the point I less strifently made: Reality TV is probably one of the sickest forms of entertainment since Lions raged in the Roman forum - and we seem to be taking it all in. . .

Monday, July 11, 2011

Type! Don't Write!!!

A lot of food for thought in the press these days., No, I am not talking about SDK or Rupert Murdoch scandals.  What really strikes home are contradictory yet complementary articles such as :

“Workers Unite! You Have Nothing To Lose But Your E-Mail Chains” - (Harvey Schachter) Globe and Mail - 11-07-11.

vs (and yet not. . .)

“The Handwriting On The Wall At Public Schools In Indiana”
(Laura Baziuk) Ottawa Citizen - Post Media News - 11-07-11.

The first article encourages individuality and creativity in professional life. It does so by offering up rules of engagement re: emails and an understanding and  respect for a “Doodling Manifesto”. And what has one to do with the other? The e-mail rules of engagement encourage a more humane use of this tool - a less mechanical acceptance of it as a be-all-and-end-all contact medium.

Regardless of e-mailing’s potential as a quick (and even flippant) form of communication, its overuse and abuse are reaching epic proportions throughout business and even personal worlds. And so, the article includes (as a compensation?) a Doodling Manifesto”. It highlights the creative potential of visual thinking - through the productivity angled, yet seemingly “nonsensical”, art of doodling. What is doodling? It is the physical act of rendering concrete a thought, emotion or concept through (from abstract to realistic) renditions of brain pattern playing. In essence, doodling stimulates the brain into action. It neurologically enriches our ability to analyse, formulate and implement solutions to problems - which otherwise could remain unsolved. Doodling is sited as nothing short of miraculous in its capacity to stimulate visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities. And this is ironic since we live in times which do not consider thinking things out important. Our technical wizardry does that for us - (at least as long as batteries, electricity and oil allow us to depend on them. . .) What is troublesome is that we are gradually shutting down our brains - much as couch-potato-ing is gradually shutting down our bodies.

Not specifically stated in the article is that doodling is like an inexpensive and self-recharging battery which stimulates lazy or misused thinking patterns. But then. . .  contemporary academic,  productivity minds and other authorities don’t really consider it a viable “tool” since it is one of those things whose specific attributes you can’t really ascertain or pinpoint in mathematical or scientific terms. Even worse. . . You can’t market or “buy” what it offers - so. . .  Of what use is it?

And so, this article (not in so many words) reminds us that with the shutting down of brain exercises we are increasingly showing signs of a new ailment - roboticism - where tech tools handle most of our thinking processes in order that we profit from the contemporary “beingness ” of our anorexic mental lifestyle (i.e.: a slowing down of our ability to move forward creatively). Encase this individual inability to thrive in an increasingly obese physical shell - and what we have is a gradual slowing down to a crawl - and dead stand-still of anything and everything which has ever been created.

This first article - left to its own devices - could simply be a whimsical “à côté”. But fear not. . . It seems journalists are becoming more and more interested in our gradual mental and physical demise. . .

Doodling has always been the realm of creative, of thinking peoples. . .  Maybe it is no longer common because we are doing exactly that - increasingly not thinking. And so, maybe we are even encouraging the “not” thinking side of us all. . .  Not-thinking makes the world a less messy place - a “neater” and more predictable place. But mostly it offers us a less stressful state - an environment in which we don’t have to cope with what life imposes upon us. To simply let “others” think for us - and, to simply let things be is so much “easier”. . .

The second Ottawa Citizen (Laura Baziuk) article (inadvertently related to the above) is in regards to Indiana schools. "The Handwriting On The Wall At Public Schools In Indiana". It seems that starting in the fall, children in this school system will no longer need to learn cursive writing. . . (one of the last vestiges of individuality left in our increasingly homogenous world of sameness).  Writing is out. "But they do, however, have to sharpen their typing skills" - states an academic memo. .  . Just think. . .  a million little busy fingers tip-tapping away . . .  All the letters the same - neat, uncomplicated, simple, homogenous. . . readable. . .  NOT one unique scribbler in the bunch. . . . Just a horde of carpal tunnelled 6 year olds wincing in pain for approval. . . No more “curlicues” or hearts doting “I’s” or fancy swirls encasing capitals. . .

One teacher  even poutingly states that there are more important skills to be learned than writing - such as critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork and literacy. . .  Am I missing something? Aren’t these individual items the exact skills few if any of our children possess today - because over time we have taken away any of the acquisition exercises which trained our children’s minds to assimilate these attributes?

Aren’t these the very skills that Universities and colleges say are totally missing in our entitled children? Aren’t these the skills that are falling by the wayside because school boards consider killing recess, shortening school days and putting a computer on every desk more important than giving our children the opportunity to become the best they can be as INDIVIDUALS - rather than cloned patsies of a faltering system?

But then. . . Maybe writing is simply the last skill we are ripping away from the system in order to take oppression away from the heavy task of “discovering and learning things”. And anyway, kids would rather type than write. Writing is hard. . . (Sigh).

But then, possibly the goal just may be to not teach skills to children. . . And such a statement begins to make sense when we look at recent statistical evidence which shows that more and more “children” continue to live with their parents beyond their 20s. Between 1997 and 2006 the age of “stay at home children increased from the late teens to the late 20s and mid 30s. Percentagewise stay-at-home children have also risen from the low 20% to 42.7%. Now this does not mean that most are helping their parents pay off the mortgage or are buying groceries. . . No, we must realize that many are being fed like fledglings without wings, dependent on laundry services and room and board, to which - like the expected passing grades in school - they feel “entitled”.

Oh am I on a roll today. . .

But please, dear reader, be assured that if I add a third article in the area of school “progress” in today's blog I am not going out of my way to search these things out. All of the mentioned articles were blatantly obvious  - on this same day - in various national and local papers - from international media sources.

And so. . .  Bear with me. . .

“British Teachers Told To Use Force To Restrain Unruly Pupils”
(Graeme Paton) Ottawa Citizen - The Daily Telegraph - 11-07-11

Well, well. . .  Many years ago, the child-centered worlds of specialists insisted that we allow children to call teachers and other adults by their first names. That, they said, would make the school environment more friendly - more learning oriented. . . Actually, it was a primary crucial step in the disintegration of school and parental authority. Why? What we forget, is that a first name only communication has always been used with "subordinates" - especially children. For centuries it was the lot of the indentured and enslaved. We allowed them a “base” name BUT with no connection to anything other than their status. . .  And so Miss Henry - the teacher - who is a daughter of the Henry clan (and everything that name historically implies) and linked to other Henrys and known by her clan affiliations - is now. . . no more than “Sally” - "a" generic kindergarten teacher, identifiable (for convenience sake) by a single name.

Such is the power, for example, of a promoter who wishes to call you by your first name in order to impose his product upon you. It's basic psychology. It takes away your authority and hands it over to another. It demeans the stature of any and all people to a "nametag" - an identifying series of letters of no consequence beyond the reading of them. Slaves never had last names.  They were not respected as individuals born of a collective and therefore neither their past nor their future were ever taken into consideration. In essence, "first" name only environments use this tactic to "render lower" the position of an individual. This is how people, whether children or adults are mentally and emotionally subdued.

To this new “democratising (!)” practice we began taking away all authority from teachers and academic institutions. Children’s demands became pre-eminent. To this we began gazing upon any and all adults as enemies of childhood. The village helping to raise a child concept was tossed into the trash as strangers became dangers.  And so, community values were gradually diminished and eventually added to the pile of  “traditional” trash. And with the elimination of anything and everything we had learned from our elders, we eventually handed over our capacity and authority to raise our children as we saw fit. These rights and privileges were handed over to “specialists” and private enterprise who then quickly determined us incapable without their “help” and products.

And so. . .  several generations later. . .  Our kids are now telling us all what to do (or is that : where to go). And they’re doing it aggressively. And suddenly we are frightened of our own offspring. . . And now, elder abuse increases and we wonder why. . . And so, we suddenly react. We think we are going to make everything well, make everything OK by giving now powerless teachers the authority to grab our kids physically and tell them to “STOP!”  But we fail to see that the whole environment needs to change before this can ever be possible. And at this point. . .  will those entitled children allow us?

It seems we now feel compelled to call upon brute force to reinstate calm and eliminate abuse and bullying perpetrated by the very angelic children gone wild that we have sculpted. Definitely more grown tall, more powerful and ever more demanding of their “rights”, we suddenly find ourselves crying out in disgust at the not so petty antics of our “conscienceless?” broods. And they, just as suddenly, have no idea what "our problem" is.

I am generally a smiling individual, despite my words. I love the world which offers me so much to be creative with. If not the irreverent creative clown I wish to be considered by my children, I do find it difficult to grin for pleasure rather than cynicism today. That is why I write. I don’t think we are all going to hell in a hand-basket. But I do think we need to get off our butts and “think” about what is going on - before it does get to be too late.

All of these constantly being referred to articles on human behaviour, added to my observations over the years goaded me into writing Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. I wrote things I (sadly) believed to be true. I just never thought that the world media would so consistently concur with those self-same findings.

Nonetheless, Happy week all!

PS: School is out. . .  So where are the thousands of children we’re supposed to be being careful about as we drive around town going to work and doing our shopping? (Does the absence of children riding bikes and running around outside their homes mean we should now consider Nintendos and Gameboys “child-safety” equipment?)  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Same Old, Same Old

I've skipped a few weeks of reading and reporting on pertinent news items. Sadly, things haven't changed. (dreamer that I am) The ill health of individuals and family life are still in the forefront of daily news items. Same old, same old. . .  This week an article in Le Droit newspaper had as a title: "Une surveillance à l'américaine". Loosely translated : "Surveillance, American Style". That's a rather arrogant title, since parenting styles in Canada are not much different than those in the UK, the US and Australia - i.e.: Each "style" is on rather shaky ground sanity wise. Nonetheless, this particular article presents us with a fait accompli : i.e.: a nursery in Gatineau Québec has installed a full time surveillance system. All adults working in this environment and children in care. . .  will be videod at all times. . . Parents can "visit" virtually their children, at any time. I wonder whether this plan of action is based on a real fear of staffers being "not kosher" around kids or whether the plan is to satisfy the hovering needs of contemporary parents. Either way, it feels sick. . .  Certainly not something a healthy child would agree to. . . having his or her every "picking of nose goo" and elbow scratch recorded. Bizarre behaviours we "normal" adults consider to be . . .  normal. . .

On another note - another article which does not say anything new but emphasizes how drastic an old situation has become : "Will Young Men Ever Grow Up?"

This article in the Ottawa Citizen (July 4, 2011) mentions the problem of boys not really wanting to become men anymore. Patricia Cayo Sexton reported in the 60s (in her book : The Feminized Male) that schools were detrimental to the physical, mental and emotional health of boys. North America's reaction to her research findings? Nothing. Why bother. If little boys can't sit still for a few hours every day being bored into a stupor than  there's something wrong with them - not the system. And so, the encouraged lowest common denominatior life styles males embrace today shouldn't be a surprise. Life without passion has become the norm. Living at home, having their laundry done by Mom and being fed like wingless chicks who refuse to leave the nest - (while feeling entitled to all manner of their freeby lifestyles) - is now the norm. . . Between 1981 and 2006, the numbers of males living at home - and failing to embrace "growing up"  - between 20 and 29 have risen from 27 % to 43.5%. . . There's literally nothing out there to excite men to become men - to take on the world, to get excited about possibilities. So they might as well stay home and remain the boys they have always been. Why bother with growing up? It's been disappointing to be male all this while anyway. . .  Why  would it suddenly change? So. . . "Who gives a damn about tomorrow."

But then. . .  There's always the encouraging article filled with discouraging data. . .  "Go Outside and Play" is a new mantrra that doesn't seem to be catching on. It simply isn't being stated with much enthusiasm. School days are shorter and that means no time for recesses of any consequence. Parents have been taught that there are strangers around every tree - so children can't go out and play "safely".

An article witht that exact title : Go Out And Play appeared in the Globe and Mail (July 4). It announces to the world that children have a hard time playing. . .  They don't know how. . .  My reaction : So what's new?. . .   Children haven't been allowed to play on their own for the past decade. Organized sports, where there are some, are so adult oriented in content and goals, they fail to meet the creative pursuits of healthy children. The results? Unhealthy children in mind and body and "willingness" to achieve or even attempt anything on their own. And so, "specialists"  (they're always there. . . . ) are finally coming to an umpteenth conclusion. . .  Maybe they should slack off and let children be children. Hmmmmmm. Isn't it amazing how an intelligent conclusion always crops up after so much time and energy has been spent ruining good child lives for generations - a period which can only be judged as abusive and neglectful? Well, I guess we can do what we always do when we don't want to accept responsibility for having caused so much pain and damaged so many lives. . . We can simply chalk up those children unable to do anything on their own as "collateral damage". . . .

Sorry to be so cynical, but I don't see anything moving forward at any healthy pace which might be of service to present generations of children and adolescents. 

On a more positive note: I've decided to congratulate parents whenever I can - wherever I am - when I see them "allow" their children to grow and become "individuals" rather than clones of the world. I am doing this in shops and grocery stores and even on the street. I simply step up and tell these parents how wonderful they are doing as parents. - for allowing their children to become the best that they can be. . .  without hovering and constant reprimands to "be careful". I can tell you. There are some surprised and even blushing looks when this "stranger" posps up to tell them how wonderful they are as parents. The kids standing next to their parents?  Their smiles are beaming with pride for these adults who are constantly being told by "specialists" that they're too dumb to know how to parent.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Children have a right to violence. . . . . . .

 It seems that in California it is important that the "rights" of children to play (virtual) violent games be protected. From the mouths of those who advocate such a right, (it seems) that the damage done to their thinking and emotions and empathy and socialization abilities is negligible. . .

Have people who voice such thoughts given any consideration to how ludicrous this sounds? Has anyone considered that (possibly) the real violence done to children is that we routinely abdicate our responsibilities where children are concerned? As I have repeated at nauseum : It's simply easier that way. . . (Sigh)

Nonetheless, I cannot be defeated in my obsession for staring ahead positively. . .  I still work hard at finding stories to counterbalance the stupidity that human nature seems to embrace now and then. . . (more often than not. . . now.) And EUREKA! They exist.

Visiting the following site will prove that there is still sanity in parenting out there and environments in which kids can actually "grow" enthusiastically. The following is uplifting. I hope it adds to your day. It certainly made me smile. Free Your Kids.

Signing off - your slmost daily Curmudgeon

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As the world turns. . .

And as the world turns things don't change much. Silliness increases and normality wanes. . .

Why do I say this? Let's take a peek at this week's news which highlights what humans are about these days. 

  1. Bumper cars in three amusement parks in Britain have banned people from "bumping". They must drive slowly and "avoid" other "bumper cars". . .  Sigh. . .  
  2. Seriously Obese (I thought obese in and of itself was serious) children in North America are being offered stomach stapling. . .  No interest, it seems, in preventative measures, training parents to say "NO!", healthy eating or lengthening the school day (as it was in the past) to permit time for recesses and physical exercise, etc. No. . .  That would be too simple. Rather, we wait until 12 year olds near 300 lbs before reacting. .  . Sigh. . . Dr Maggie Mamen (psychologist) says parents can't say no. and actually find the thought abhorring. . . And so the old warnings remain - children with adult onset type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, cyst-filled ovaries. . . . I guess that's how we like our kids today. . .
  3. Then, there's a refugee claimant and migrant from China who, in Canada, can't answer the question: "What is Jesus like as a person?" His fate, it seems, is to have his Canadian citizenship application reversed and possibly be sent back to China. . .Interesting. I didn't know that to be welcomed to Canada today, the government must assess your religious beliefs.And who, pray tell, assesses theirs?
  4. Then there's the art student from the Ontario College of Art and design who places a bomb (fake that is) on the doorstep of the Royal Ontario Museum. (It's a conceptual piece. . . . . . ) You can get a degree in fine arts at our loftiest Universities without knowing how to draw or paint or sculpt but you can play conceptual mind games and be perceived as "creative". (I think I am getting sick to my stomach. . . )
  5. And in the same week, there's the article by the Globe and Mail"s Margaret Wente (entitled : "What's Wrong With Us? Not Much Apparently")  It seems that every sniggly symptom deserves immediate attention lest you discover even worse. . . The whole basis for this interesting article is to point out that our health concerns are less real than they are figments of our fear-mongering environment.
  6. Then there's the animal protectors telling us to STOP the abuse and verbal violence against animals. . .  We are being told to STOP the name calling. Vermin are not vermin. . .  They are "differentiated beings". . .  Are these the same peoplewqho ignore the fact that even in Canada many children go to school hungry? Even the word animal is perceived as abusive. . .  Sigh. . .  Can someone tell me why we perceive our modern democracy to be a sane environment into which our children are made to grow? Isn't that abusive? The Journal of Animal Ethics" invites us to meditate on these ideas. . .  Hmm. I thought they said "animal" was an abusive term. Why is it therefore in the title of their organization?
  7. And then we come to a British elementary school which disciplined two 7 year olds for pointing. . .  pointing in the manner of a gun. . . that is.  "Finger guns" are banned in this school. . .  This means that no child may allow himself (usually boys, wouldn't you know) the urge to create a finger gun by raising a thumb to the sky while pointing the index of the same hand (I would presume) at a potential victim. . . Doing so constitutes (according to the authorities at Nathaniel Newton Infant School in Nuneaton, Warwickshire) "threatening behaviour" which merits severe disciplinary consequences. . . (And our children are left in the hands of such minds for teaching purposes? We must really hate our children!)
  8. And yes, when reality is too insane to accept, there is always reality TV where "rich, pregnant and stupid - the perfect people to hate" can be ogled and fawned over as we are wont to do when TV reality is being broadcast. (see article on TV listings by John Doyle of the Globe and Mail)
  9. Then there's the teen-aged mother phenomenon. It seems we like to watch girls (not old enough to handle their own lives) screw up the lives of their offspring. This week, one of them has had her profile go viral. How did she do that? She attempted suicide- or so the media is promoting the "event". (What better way to get even more attention and ratings than your rival tv show starlets.
Yes, this is a short review of the past 10 or so days. . . .courtesy of the local, national and international press.  And I haven't even touched upon other things such as war allies, government spending and policies or business practices of the day. Yes. We do live in the most forward thinking democracies in the world. . . don't we. . . . That's what we're told, anyway.

If you can. . .  have a great week. B

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quand l'école fait mal"

Intimidation and violence  in our schools - but who cares!

So what's new today. Nothing actually. . .  Except maybe that the brutality of bullying is in greater focus. If Le Droit (Ottawa)n newspaper's 3 page spread is anything to think about. . . (Quand l'école fait mal - Louis-Denis Ébacher - June 08, 2011) children are under siege right below our noses and, it seems, no one gives a damn. We have 2 generations of children who have been raised on fear of strangers but none who have been made aware of standing up to those they know - including school (child) acquaintances and or other adult 's known to them in the spheres of their own lives. Fight back? You become the bully. So what's to do? In the minds of some pre-adolescents and teens - suicide has been the only answer. After an initial "honest" reaction on that front, we sigh and all go back to our daily routines. . .  sending money to save the lives of teary-eyed children from war-torn or famished countries while ignoring the emotional needs of our own sanitized and worry-free "looking" children of democracy. I may not be the most religious man in the world but this is more than slightly sinful.

For those who read French, this article is most revealing - but then. ..  who's listening anyway.

Other interesting articles:

Preschoolers aware of their status (!!!) (National Post- Misty Harris, June 08, 2011) It seems that 4 year olds know what to do to get attention - at least middle-class kids raised via contemporary parenting standards do. They disrupt and interrupt, treat adults (even those in authority) as their equals and use "adult words" rather than their own age appropriate words to get their points across - and to get all of the attention. Children from less fortunate backgrounds get the short end of the stick in schools. All the 4 year olds seem aware that  this "power behaviour" gets rewarded - whereas more submissive or courteous or independent behaviour does not.

It seems. . . (I'm trying to be fair. . . . . yeah right) those who are more forward and demanding get all of the attention - whether that is adult-child attention or academic attention. And as this seems to be the case, it becomes easier to surmise why certain children (read : less advantaged) begin their gradual disinterest in schooling. . .  Why bother. It doesn't get you anywhere (and that is in a 4 year old's moldable mind).


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today, I was lucky. I was privileged to hear the voice of a real artist. . .

I generally rant about various problems inherent to contemporary life but today. . . I am (trying to be) less of a curmudgeon.

I saw and heard something extraordinary; something which is most ENCOURAGING!

And so. . . I share it with you.

All of us have the capacity to be creative. Whether that creativity is expressed in mathematics, science, sports, music, writing or the visual arts is irrelevant. Creativity is that which allows us all to  survive and thrive in a demanding and difficult world. That we are creative neither makes us geniuses nor does it make life easier. It simply makes us wondrously human. It helps make  life more livable, more challenging and more exciting. Without it, we would all become discouraged and life unbearable.  But does being creative mean we are all artists?

No. It simply means that we are healthy. It means that we have not lost our capacity to be exhilarated by discoveries as much as we are excited about communicating our findings. It means that  sharing, giving and conversing with others on topics and feelings that move us is essential. Creativity is not a requirement which is solely associated with “Art” making. It is, rather, a universal ability which nurtures our need to marvel at and profit from the lives we find ourselves living. It goads us to constantly better that life and to offer to others the same possibility. In essence, creativity encourages us to better anything and everything that we do normally. De facto, being creative has nothing to do with “being” anything other than positively human.

And yet, this talent and effort normality aside, we must admit that some people do "have it" more than others - whatever “it” is. These people not only are curious and talented, they seem to know something we don't. As we do, they work hard at assimilating skills required to poetically transmit their individual messages. . . But. . .  They also seem to have a special capacity to say, through their own chosen medium, ordinary things in an extraordinary way. And in so doing, their creative abilities loom larger than life. The reach their statements make even has a universal appeal.

Now this capacity to reach out, touch and move people in an extraordinary fashion is actually achieved daily by corporate America through their incessant advertising and promotions. So what makes individual "artists" so incredible? Is marketing and promotion to the masses more creative simply because they reach and effect astounding numbers? Is this what is art? Innovative and powerful, it definitely is. Creative and artistic? Well, that's another question. Is it artistic to lure the masses into minimizing and even eliminating difference and individuality through the homogenization of thought and action?. . .  That's a topic already covered by Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. 

Individual artists are those who, above and beyond all the pressures of contemporary homogeneity, strive to impress upon us the privilege and right to individual thinking, dreaming, curiosity, discovering and simply “to having a say”.  And so, though many of us paint, sculpt, sing, dance and write with superior talent and energy, the varying degrees of notoriety we achieve is more often than not based on our being skilled painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers and poets - not artists.  But then, do we have to be “artists” in order to enjoy what we do? Most of us don’t crave stardom to validate our existence. We simply find pleasure in being creative. We “do” things to the best of our abilities and skill and are proud that our creative efforts are, in addition, of value to others.

Artists, as stated above, are a rare breed. They are the same, yet different. Their processes are similar yet the outcome of their concerted efforts is extraordinary. Their work exudes a  “je ne sais quoi”. They tend to step back to let their artwork sing. (They have already had their say in creating the artwork and, anyway. . .  They’re already off thinking, considering and feeling another communication). Artists are a rare breed. Despite popular lore, most are not those who say they are artists or those who say they create “because of suffering” or those whose lives are problematic or Hollywood-style reality in stature. No. Artists are those who would rather concentrate on presenting to us what they have discovered, how those discoveries have made them feel and how they consider these discoveries will impact upon our lives. Artists are sharing individuals. Despite their often times monastic work habits, rarely do these individuals deny their connection with the world or public at large.

In essence, being called an artist is not the same as saying we are an artist. The former implies that a general public appreciates a level of artistry which has the ability to communicate a message powerfully. And because it does, that public shows its appreciation of excellence by bestowing upon out-of-ordinary creators the most revered title : of “artist”. On the other hand, the latter suggests that, being impatient, we have absconded with the title - simply because we wanted it. 

Commenting further on the concept of suffering and victimhood in the arts, it is impossible to deny the importance of creativity and self-expression in surmounting turmoil and healing. These are part of a respected therapeutic process which gives “body” to a hurt. They introduce the concept of real and “tangible” to pain. Subsequently, through such a concrete incarnation, the possibility of defeating or taming suffering becomes real. Creativity, in that sense, helps heal wounded souls through the creation of a tool called : "artwork".  And the reasoning behind such therapeutic processes is to eliminate or minimize pain and to defeating a sense of victimhood.

Victimhood, as it is too often promoted by our reality TV environment, actually minimizes real pain and suffering. It has become so ingrained in our contemporary psyches that differentiating true victims from pseudo-victims is proving itself to be more and more difficult every day. Being a victim (or playing at it) should not be a status or tool to promote oneself - not if our society is healthy. And it is certainly even less a state which is desired by real artists. If anything, victimhood should be something we desire greatly to overcome - not take advantage of. It is only through its elimination that we become strong as individuals and as a collective.

Where artists are concerned, hurt and suffering can be part and parcel of their human existence, as much as it can be part of ours. There is nothing extraordinary about an “artist” being in pain. The role of hurt or pain, in most of our lives, is that of an inconvenient annoyance which, depending on its intensity, can dictate (or not) whether our lives are positive and creative (or not). In the life of any victim, creativity may exist in tandem with pain - and through this connection a healthy therapeutic expression may begin. But in the life of an artist who also happens to suffer, the “raison d’être” of pain seems different. True artists have always created “despite” pain, not because of it. For many years I have spoken on this very point - though some have pooh-poohed my assertions. 

Today, I was somewhat vindicated. I heard the voice of Sung Bong Choi. (see You Tube link).  And I heard the young man’s story. I knew then that I was listening not to a voice in pain but a voice which rang out, which existed and exploded with a powerful sense of life-giving energy - “despite” the serious emotional pain which afflicts him. An artist’s voice is never anti hope nor desperate nor despairing nor filled with discouragement.  I repeat : A true artist’s voice exists despite pain. And when pain is involved in the life of an artist, THAT “despiteness” is what makes creative genius ART. And, subsequently, an individual an artist. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Name Calling. . . ENOUGH!!!!

Our times are amazing. . .  I finally gave up on posting anything new on mothering and mother's day 24 hours before the international event. . . . Rather than being uplifting, the media references were just too depressing.

And so what's new since Mother's Day?

Well. . .  An article which is truly an eye-opener. . . But first, a bit of background to set the tone :

We award our children for being present rather than for actually achieving. We reprimand teachers for being too tough on our poor little dears. We teach our children to find themselves “beautiful” - just because they exist. But we don’t ask them to participate or share or be generous or kind or give out effort or challenge them or ask anything of them. . . They’re children after all. . .  A much too large minority in North America find  beauty contests for 2 and 3 and 4 year old made-up dolls and kiddy thongs ( for 6 to 8 year olds) acceptable. All of this considered “cute”.

We not only allow our children to be entitled we encourage them to get credit for not having achieved anything. They can’t read or count well enough (without technical assistance) to hold down a job. We either hover over them like paranoid grannies or give them so much freedom from responsibility they crash and burn at their first encounter with reality.  We sneer at losers on tv and fail to comprehend the connection of that type of entertainment with the immensity of bullying - both in schools and on the internet. Our children eat badly and too much and they now face heart problems and diabetes and other related illnesses in their teens because of increasing obesity - but that doesn’t seem to bother us. We fear the horrors of the internet but allow our kids to have computers in their “private” room.

And so what is the incredible first full page news of the day?. . . Humans Urged To Stop The Name-Calling (Adrian Humphries) National Post 10-05-11

Now that sounds reasonable enough. .   Even progressive. . .  Name calling is an aspect of bullying isn’t it? But wait. . .

This first full page article in a National newspaper. . . is about stopping each other from “verbally abusing animals. . . not each other, not our children - animals. We must stop using phrases such as “drunk as a skunk”. . .  Because that is insulting to animals (Even animal is perceived as a derogatory word by the Journal of animal ethics. . .  Rather we should use the term : non-human animals. . . To read this article is to enter into a vortex of mindless perspectives. And yet this "journal" is called an "academic" journal. . .  Un-Hunh. . .

We should pay so much attention to the hearts and minds of our children. . . (Sigh).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mothers Day

To vilify or celebrate - It's Mothers Day again.

It's interesting to read articles that various newspapers find appropriate to print regarding the value, intensity of, acceptance or rejection of today's mothering techniques. The Globe and Mail presents a full page and a half article about the differences between "then and now".   It is so bewildering to read common sense versus paranoia information. . . In Erin Anderssen's article a grandmother underscores the point of calm and efficient child-rearing practices based on tradition, values and not much worry about whether their children would survive their rearing or cooking abilities. That same grandmother today is helping raise her grandchild where notes on the fridge door WARN about the amount of fish and eggs eaten. Kraft dinner GOD FORBID!!!! Mothers look back on their own mothers and see that these women were calm and efficient and rarely raised their voices whereas mothers today raise their voices CONSTANTLY!!! Have I made my point? Parenting is now (it seems) filled with tension, worry and even fear. Calming down and being less paranoid doesn't seem to fit today's "normal". Following this particular article is another about "Kids Can Exercise Their Way To Better Marks" (Paul Taylor) Hello!!!! Is that science or simply basic common sense again. . .  Actually it's more a question of advertising and promotion. If kids were promoted the idea that what is "good for them" (and what everybody else does) is running around and having a helluva good time - then they would. (But then somebody would have to be making a profit for advertisers to care this much about the health of our nations.) And since healthy exuberant kids don't cut it in our commercially run societies, they stay on their butts playing video games rather than getting smarter and healthier and happier - because the healthy "bottom line" of our democracies requires us to be dependent, submissive and overweight. (Hey, we'll deal with our kids' heart problems and diabetes when it hits them - at around 11 or 13, or 14. . .)
Naturally, the Globe and Mail wanted me depressed today so  they added another article on how screwed up parenting is perceived to be these days. The article by Anne-Marie Tobin is enough to turn mothers off completely. . .  "A Bedtime Bottle At 2 Can Mean Obesity At 5" That's interesting. . .  All of the ills of the parenting world  are now relegated to the bottle (so what's new?) Ha! Actually, if that 2 year old is active and having a great old time being "physical" that obesity threat would be long gone by the time the rambunctious, exuberant, wondrously curious child of 5 hits his or her stride. Oh well, add another fear factor onto the parenting list. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY Moms! . . .  They're telling you your a rotten parent again! And all that just before Mothers Day. Wow!

I was therefore thankful when I began reading the 5 page article on mothering in La Presse, the Montreal French paper. (Sylvia Galipeau). I can't say that I agree with all of the mothering styles presented but I am MOST impressed with the idea that it was not a negative or positive article but simply a GOOD article extolling the virtues of independence of thought - of individuality and creativity in the area of contemporary parenting. Bravo for positivity! Bravo for encouragement being touted as a virtue rather than a non-existent part of life.

Naturally, my hope for a warm and fuzzy Mothers Day weekend was not to be. . .  Following this great stuff in La Presse, there was an article (Marie Allard) on where oh where does obesity come from?. . . (Les causes méconnues du gain de poids) Yeah. . .  Moms really need to read that right after a great article encouraging them to be the best THEY feel they can be. It's like saying to a group of individuals : "I love you. . .  BUT!"

The articles I refer to (above) are the following:  (as well as others to read on similar topics)
  •  Globe and Mail : 1970s The Golden Age Of Motherhood (Erin Anderssen) May 6, 2011
      •  Big Boys Do Cry - They Just Do It Differently Katherine Rossman) 
      • How To Get Your Teen To Do What You Want (Anthony Wolf) That's a no-brainer - Get him to do it at 2 and he'll do it at 15 without complaining.
      • The Secret To Being A Happier Parent? Don't Try So Hard - (Tralee Pearce)
  • La Presse : Mères et fières de l'être ( Sylvia Galipeau)
  • Les causes méconnues du gain de poids (Marie Allard) 
      • Est-ce normal? (Rose-Marie Charest) The eternal question of "normalcy" Please people. . .  Normal is nothing more than "what there is the most of". Other than that this measure does  nothing but legitimize conformity and submission to rules rather than values.
All of this notwithstanding : To Mothers everywhere: Have a wonderful calm and relaxing and non-paranoid Mother's Day.

PS: (Don't worry. The kids will be fine. . .  That duct tape on their mouths is soft and the silk ropes tying their arms behind their backs won't hurt them a bit. . .  They'll be OK for 24 hours or until Mother's Day is over. . . Til then: "Cheers!")

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grief Is A Certifiable Mental Disorder

Sometimes Life Is Just Really Sad - (Barbara Kay) National Post - 27-04-11

This powerful article refers to the excessive use of pharmaceuticals and the upcoming DSM-5 - (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) - the bible of psychiatrists - which in 2013 will be determining "grief" as a certifiable MENTAL DISORDER. . . i.e.: it will be a treatable (read: medicatable) illness in the future. (I guess we're all safe from being committed until it is published. . . . . .)

So, as Barbara Kay states: If after 2 weeks you are still grieving. . .  the DSM-5 will consider you to be suffering from a mental disorder. Kay's article highlights the pharmaceutical and treatment professions' dehumanization and infantilization and victimization of humanity. Reading it is a MUST.

(Vindicated again!!!!!)  Beyond Discouragement - Creativity brought all of this up when it was published.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slow on the uptake

Sorry about not being around. Still creating atwork for Bermuda exhibition.Nonetheless, the world keeps on rolling. So here's a quick update on recent media commentary which relates to Beyond Discouragement - Creativity's content:

Drugs good and bad :

Common Pain Killers Make Antidepressants Less Effective - (André Picard) Globe and Mail - April 26, 2011
It seems that combinations of drugs have always been part and parcel of contemporary treatment and now we "discover" that over and above the incredible list of side-effects most of these drugs have on our systems - they work against each other - which means they work against our bodies and minds. But then again - as I have been stating, the research always says : there can be, may be, might be could be side-effects and interactions but nothing is ever concrete. Is this part of a "keep them fearful (ignorant)" campaign? Wouldn't it be nice to have scientists offer us solid information - without the maybes and "not sures"? 

COPS - Spending On Police Has Jumped 41 Per Cent Across Canada In A Decade - What Price For Law and Order? (Adrian Morrow) Globe and Mail - January 8, 2011
 (Adrian Morrow) Globe and Mail - 
So what's next? Altering the definitions of crime to justify the increases and fear mongering?

Study Links Obesity, Economic Insecurity - (Kate Kelland) -  Globe and Mail - January 8, 2011
So what's new. Both obesity and insecurity are discussed in Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. Once again the content is simply being validated. 

Dr. Brinkley's Stem Cell Lotion And Magic Elixir -  Carolyn Abraham) Globe and Mail - January 8, 2011
It seems that scientific research is repeatedly jumping onto a common contemporary bandwagon which has been discussed in Beyond Discouragement - Creativity : the lowest common denominator factor : as stated above: research findings which have no firm ground upon which to stand -  dictate treatment modalities - despite no concrete evidence to back their "possibility" claims.

Self-Esteem Is Falling Out Of Favour. Is The Replacement Just As Bad? National Post - April 2, 2011
Definitely one of my bug-bears. . .  Though this article shows a fearsome side to altering our perceptions re the self-esteem issue, it nonetheless points out that this UBER-ME generation is out of whack and basic common sense when it comes to looking at yourself.  When little girls look at their mirrored image and ecstatically proclaim themselves beautiful for no other reason than that they exist, we
need to re-read (as I did ) the chapter on self-esteem in Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. Narcissism is more like what we have today - not a simple "me" infatuation.

High Opioid Dose Risks Death - (Carly Weeks) - Globe and Mail - April 12, 2011
Prescriptions - i.e.: what the doctor orders. . .  are killing not healing us. Misuse of medication., over-prescriptions. . .  Only one little element in the mile high pile of contradictions and incredible blunders by our medical professions now become "medicators" rather than physicians.We're reaching a time when we will not be dying of illness but rather dying from treatment.

Tough Love Yourself - (Sarah Boesveld) National Post - April 2, 2011 Once again a topic from Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. . .   This article treats the topic of praise versus encouragement - rightly highlights the dangers of such practices which motivate narcissistic tendencies which persist throughout a child and adolescent and adult life. The 70s were the beginning of many new things - this praise epidemic was one of the plagues which now have serious consequences. 

Who's Your Role Model? Probably Your Mother - (Misty Harris) Ottawa Citizen - 15-04-11
Isn't it amazing how "scientific bodies" seem to need to study the obvious - and then expect us to respect the "superlative knowledge"  upon which their erudite thinking is based?  Good or bad, pro or con. . .  The facts have been borne out for millenia. . .  Mother's have enormous influence over their children! It doesn't take a doctoral thesis to prove that . Maybe what needs studying is whether parents are doing a good job of parenting and why.. . Are we actually parenting or are we simply : "providers" as discussed in Beyond Discouragement - Creativity?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Growing up bullied

Why such a topic? What does it mean to grow up bullied?

Bullying is as prevalent in both elementary and high school as it is too often pooh-poohed by school authorities. No one seems to take it seriously - parents are somewhat annoyed but the academic world is not. And that is not only sad for the children involved, it is dangerous for the societies which deny or belittle its existence.

The fact of the matter is, bullying is becoming universally endured if not accepted as a “norm”.  And the stretch from child to adult environment bullying is not that great. But only children seem to know of it. They are like canaries in a fowl mine. They know something uncomfortable is lurking but they don’t have the power to stop it. We adults seem less aware, if not neglectful. Possibly, it’s because we don’t think as much as we feel these days.

In essence, the only components which have been missing for bullying to be fully integrated into society are 3 in number. . .  The environment has to be ripe for the plucking, there has to be a profit margin. . . and most especially, everything has to be “personal”. Until then, bullying awaits on the sidelines.

First : the environment

Bullying is snake-like. Fearful and threatened by the strengths of others, a bully’s motivation is fashioned by its own weak ego. It usually slithers along unnoticed - rearing its ugliness only when there is no way of defeating it. It cannot endure individual or collective strength. Bullying thrives on individual and collective weakness and submission - when, finally, everyone is mesmerized by it. Until then it lies in wait hibernating, gaining strength. It can only exist in a flabby environment - one in which life is taken for granted and cultural values and integrity are ignored.

But the fact of the matter is : we like bullying. . .  Without realizing it, it is part and parcel of the aggressive and often times manipulative attitudes which dominate our work and family lives - as well as sport and entertainment choices. Children are not the only bullied individuals in our society. They may spend more time killing off undesirables in their computer games, but we watch TV reality shows which promote “nothing” as a viable lifestyle and losers as “victims” - and because they are  - we call them heroic. . . So what’s more virtually inane? Us watching individuals making fools of themselves for 15 minutes of fame? Or, us watching freak-show styled programming or cheering-on hockey goons smashing opponent brains into stanchions - without conscience or consequence?

All the while. . . our children wonder why nothing is being done about school yard and internet bullying?

Second : The profit margin

TV reality shows - due to their larger and larger audiences are proving themselves to be cheaper to produce and more lucrative than standard fare. And so. . .  On with the sanctioned bullying process! Add to this a bonus - an addiction to a bullying mentality can be practised in the privacy of our own homes. . . where we can all pretend that we don't really watch. . . such horrible stuff.

In essence, bullying is only possible in such environments where reaction is more prevalent than action. Bullying thrives on a flabby environment - one which, unbeknownst to itself, is gradually rendered weak and submissive by the lowest common denominator mental food it imbibes.   Only in this way can a smaller group of individuals play havoc with the whole - in order to impose, control and . . . well, bully. 

And what of the canary children? Well, they see us mesmerized and enthralled by the displayed faults and failure and laughable weakness and disturbances of others on TV. . . And they can only fear the day that attention will be turned to “their” situations. . .  Their parents and others could be laughing  and sneering at them one day too. . . Who knows? . . . Who knows when?

Third : The personal factor

A bullying environment opens the door wide to everything becoming “personal”. Everything personal gives authority to those who have the power to control how we feel and if and when we can think for ourselves. Children may not “know” this but they feel it. . .

Bullies bully as long as they are mesmerized by our submission and we, by their gall. And they can bully even more powerfully when that submission is generalized rather than individual. And this is where corporate, governmental, societal and parental authorities must weigh in. Bullying is becoming universal and our children are warning us of an impending disaster - if we don’t start to “act our age”.

24 hour a day news offerings where we’re fed daily doses of  lowest common denominator information renders us feeble-minded, submissive and ripe for bullying, political attack ads and snake-oil science. And how we feel about it all (or so they say) is more important than rebelliously thinking about it all. Because if we start “really” thinking and questioning again - we will, once again, become strong. And bullies can’t have that happen. . .

Nonetheless, the first step is to take back the 3 elements which make up our birthright as individuals : thinking, questioning and creating. . .  And then let’s practice the one thing our children are desperate for : encouragement. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

"F U"

It’s All About U - (Ken Coates & Bill Morrison) - National Post - 11-04-11

In another book : Campus Confidential,  2 authors give us a painful truth about student life and university campuses - a truth which I discussed in Beyond Discouragement - Creativity, including a quote by an Ottawa  college professor. Things are not well in academe.

It seems we have raised a few generations of entitled and spoiled young people. Like China, through its one child policy, we have raised  generations of little emperors. (We just made our lives more miserable by not limiting how many 2 to 18 year olds would be telling us what to do. . .  Ha!)

But it is in elementary, high school, college and universities where we see the most tangible results of our abdication of societal and parental responsibility. Universities are filled with a ragtag bunch where, today, a predominant group exists. If not the most numerous it is the most vocal collection of domineering characters.

The most generic term used for them is "The entitled".

Pros:    They are “more assertive than in the past. They are very confident, able and willing to express their opinions and they are not intimidated by adults and professors.They are, in essence, very sure of themselves.

Cons: They are inconsistent in their class attendance, but expect good marks. They lack respect for professors and have poor classroom behaviour. They are litigious, and reluctant to complete assignments. They have high expectations, despite their low performance. They are unreasonable in their demands and expectations of others. They have more money than they can handle. Society allows them to do and say what they want, They come from child-centered schools and homes which had no control over any of their behaviours. But mostly, they have a deep sense of entitlement. They expect to be well off and if they are not it is the fault of someone or something else.  They expect school to be easy and exams to give them passing grades whether they have earned them or not. Mean spirited retorts and litigious action is not far off if they don’t get what they want or their parents are unable to coerce the system to bow to their demands. They expect deadlines to be changed, their explanations for lax performance taken in without question and demand that courses fit their requirements.

The result (since universities are now businesses) is that the academic milieu bends to their demands - even if the ultimate outcomes are devastating to the universities, the future work force and the country as a whole.

So, once again. . .  The times they are a wasting.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cognitive drugs. . . Who would have thunk?

Academic Doping - Tom Blackwell) National Post. 09-04-11

Wow. . .  How stupid of me to think that the only way to get an edge on other students and achieve higher marks was through studying harder! How naïve. . .  How dumb of me!

Nothing like being vindicated by the best. . .

Chomsky Talks Fear in Western Society - (Robert Riley) Ottawa Citizen - 09-04-11

Noam Chomsky. . .  professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, widely acknowledged as the most famous and most cited public intellectual in the world said to students of Carleton University in Ottawa on April 8th, 2011: 

Students, like many other groups in contemporary society, are being indoctrinated with notions of privatization, efficiency and distorted ideas about capitalism to keep them passive and obedient so rich people who run the corporate world can become more wealthy. . . Such a system, Chomsky states, fosters fear and insecurity among people who, burdened by debt, anxious for their jobs or stuck in low paying jobs  are afraid to question or challenge the system. . .

I knew that when I wrote my book I was not wrong. . . But to hear these words from the greatest mind of our times is definitely MOST reassuring.

Media Reference Updates.

A few more media references highlighting Beyond Discouragement - Creativity content:

A Road Map For Harnessing Creativity - (Harvey Schachter) The Globe and Mail - 30-03-11. Ideas are fine but without structure and discipline - Nada. . .

Graffiti May Be Art, But Taste Is Individual - (Linda Mathies and Patricia McCarthy) - Letters to the editor, Ottawa Citizen. It seems that graffiti - as in : "I am imposing my perception of beauty and artwork on you whether you like it or not" is a mater of "personal taste????? Wow. I'd love to hear the comments emanating from the brilliant minds of this world (those who consider imposition an entitlement) when the graffiti artists decide to desecrate their private property. . . 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Finally, some positive feedback from the press

Take The Rocky Road - (Mark Fenske) The Globe and Mail.
Finally, an article of encouragement in the press. It seems that technology is taking over, making our lives "quick" and "easy". . . .  (Sounds like familiar information. . . as from that latest book entitled : Beyond Discouragement- - Creativity. . . )
It seems we have unwittingly relinquished the control over our lives and capacities to technical wizardry. In so doing. . .  we now fail to use part of our brain which in essence give us the freedom to "be" something other than a "being" - that part which allows us to create and succeed despite the odds. . . Cognitive control is being lost. And in the words of the author : ". . . some ask whether the technology designed to increase our performance and productivity is instead MAKING US STUPID. . . " Something to think about.

Bullying, the ignored plague.

L'intimidation à l'école - (Sylvie Beaulieu) La Presse Montréal

Bullying is a major problem in schools today. We've learned to sneer and attack others via our addiction to Reality TV and so have our children., They have also learned fear and how to be victims. Our lax attitude in the area of respect and self-respect hasn't helped any either.

Now, children in our schools are afraid, are bullied and cowed by viciousness.Add to his problem that bullies are using the internet and we have a situation which has become untenable. Parents speak with school authorities and report that there is little if any support. . . Bullying is one of the major problems I discuss in Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. I am definitely NOT happy that I was right. . .

On The Mark. . .

Being on the mark is at times positive and at other times troubling.

Though inadvertently, the contents of Beyond Discouragement Creativity is constantly (if not daily)being sited in the media. . . Today is  quite a heavy case in point.

  •   UK School Cracks Down On Bad Manners - National Post. Since over time we have gone from excessive demands of proper behaviour to none at all in this past century - balancing out the requirements of good communal living seems to demand an excessive amount of control in the guise of zero tolerance. We reap what we sow. I think something in that vein is mentioned in my book. . .
  •   Brains Show Political Differences - (Andrew Duffy) Ottawa Citizen. It seems that more conservative brains revolve around fear issues - either taking them in, sublimating them or imposing them on others whereas liberal minded types are more able to handle uncertainty and intangibles.No mater how we look at it, both sides affect creativity and the capacity to think and flower independently. If I'm not wrong, Beyond Discouragement - Creativity deals with the fear and independence factors abundantly.
  • School Trustees Don't Know What's What - (Cathy Curry) Ottawa Citizen. Now, I am definitely busting a gut. . . School Board and trustee issues are definitely a part of Beyond Discouragement - Creativity.
  • Risk, Urge, Desire, Danger - (Susan Krashinsky) The Globe and Mail. The power of marketing and advertising . . .  Once again Beyond Discouragement -Creativity deals with this issue in spades!!!
  • Just Call Me Mrs - (Deanna Wong) The Globe And Mail. This is an issue which has its underlying current in the need for today's parents and teachers to be friends with their children rather than responsible adult guides and mentors - a crucial topic in the Beyond Discouragement - Creativity eassy.  It speaks to the inordinate need of individual members of a society to democratize communication to the point of lowest common denominator, if not oblivion. Elders are more aware of this imposition of familiarity than are younger generations. Respect of strangers has given way to fear of strangers and therefore we claim each other as friends  in order to feel safer as victimized entities. We display familiarity whether the other wishes it or not.                                                                                                                                                          Actually, the problem is rather a simple one to solve - Let's stop calling each other by our first name when we are not family or friend. Historically, it is a practice which was meant to BELITTLE. First names only (when not used between family and friends) date back to slavery connotations where indentured servants and slaves were nothing more than possessions. As such, they were perceived to have no families and therefore no family names - just a first name. . . Once, young people called themselves by their family names out of respect and deference ( a usual college or workplace trait). Today, they call themselves by their first names in order to be democratic - to be equal to each other - to eliminate a trait which causes fear. . .  the dreaded being different. They also call us oldsters (or ask for our first name) in order to "put us in our place" - to render us not more important or empowered than they are. In other words - a contemporary first name basis society - uses excessive doses of democracy (out of fear and anxiety) in order to establish a (safe) norm which eliminates anything which smacks of creative individuality - i.e.: adventure, difference, daring, excitement, innovation, bravery, etc.   Today, we seek what is normal (i.e.: what there is the most of. . .) Ironically (!) Beyond Discouragement - Creativity talks about that too. Sometimes it is humbling to be on the mark. . . At other times it is quite invigorating! Ha!