April 24, 2011

Video: Easter Parade

One of the sweetest numbers from any musical ever:

And Mark Steyn has done a special Song of the Week podcast on this Irving Berlin classic. Learn the genesis of the song as well as the history of Easter bonnets and parades. Also some background on this remarkable song:

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April 12, 2011

Excellent advice for mothers

Dr. Meg Meeker talks to Kathryn Jean Lopez. Hear her!

Lopez: Someone is looking at this Q&A and thinking: “I’m a busy mother with NO TIME TO READ THIS INTERVIEW NEVER MIND YOUR BOOK. What do you want out of me besides my Amazon purchase? How exactly do you suggest I find time to take all your advice?

Meeker: The reason that you have no time to read, spend a few moments relaxing, or play Monopoly with your kids is that your life is out of control. You, like many mothers in America spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of things that you don’t need to do. We mothers succumb to more peer pressure than our kids do. We over-schedule ourselves and our kids — making us all crazy — because we feel that’s what successful mothers do! Where does that thought come from? The subculture of mothers around us. We have jumped aboard the hyper-performance train where each of us feels that we need to raise stellar kids, perform as outstanding mothers (be home-room Mom, bake cookies from scratch), advance in our careers, and — of course — hit the gym four times per week for 45 minutes to battle that last ten pounds. The course we are on is unsustainable and we are stressed to the max.
Have you noticed that crazy-busy-ness is worn as a badge of honor by many moms? It makes them feel as though they're doing their jobs well. But it's folly, not good for them or their families.

Moms motivated by fear:
Lopez: Overcoming fears is one or your recommended habits. Isn’t that just solid advice for anyone?

Meeker: Of course, it’s good for everyone to confront her fears, but I am speaking very specifically of the fears we mothers harbor (subconsciously) which drive much of our parenting. For instance, we sign our kids up for too many activities because we “fear” feeling like a failure if we don’t provide every opportunity for our kids. Many mothers drive ourselves to work compulsively because we “fear” that we will feel like failures at work.

I strongly believe that we mothers should never live our lives out of fear and we should most certainly never parent out of fear. In my chapter on fear, I address the specific fears that most mothers face which, I believe, are sapping us of energy and joy.
What to do? Drop out of the rat race:
We need to be bold in cutting activities from our kids’ schedules. Whether it’s hockey practice, flute lessons, or tutoring, we need to realize that kids simply aren’t getting enough time with us. And time with us is very important because sound identity formation in kids comes from being with parents, discovering what we think about them and expect from them, and then internalizing what they glean. If we don’t simplify their lives and ours in order to open up more time for our kids, the results from kids can be poor identity formation. The bottom line is that if our kids don’t find their identity by spending time with us, they will find it elsewhere — and those other places are usually very dangerous (gangs, forming a new “family of their own,” etc.)
As a proponent of attachment parenting, I'm totally on board with her diagnosis and recommended treatment -- spend time with your kids. If you substitute "secure attachment" for Meeker's term, "identity formation," this could come straight from my favorite parenting book. When kids don't have the secure attachment to their parents so necessary to their well-being, they will seek to fill the void by attaching to someone else, usually peers.

I like this part on establishing habits, so often viewed as a mere function of "positive and negative reinforcement." Not so. It's a matter of understanding, will, and commitment:
The only way we can make any habit stick is to understand what the habit involves, why we need it, and how it is important to us. In short, if we don’t feel that we need it, we will never make it stick. So I believe that understanding our need is the first step in making it stick. Then it is simply a matter of making a plan for how to change. 
Read the whole thing. I've just added Dr. Meeker's 10 Habits of Happy Mothers to my Amazon store.

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April 11, 2011

Culture watch: Love songs endangered

Mark Steyn's song of the week is Rogers & Hart's There's a Small Hotel. It embodies, as Mark says, something basic that seems to be dying out:

It’s not the vulgarity of current pop that alarms me (Katy Perry’s “F**k You” , Pink’s “F**kin’ Perfect”), nor the crassness (Kesha’s “Take It Off”) nor even the grunting moronic ugliness (“Sex Room” and “Candy Shop”, the latter apparently a synonym for the former). I’m way beyond that: Driving around and roaming the dial, I’m struck, even in the non-effin’, disrobin’, sex-room humpin’ numbers, by something more basic - the absence of tenderness. The first quarter-century of rock’n’roll saw a diminution in harmonic sophistication and the discipline of rhyme but its practitioners inhabited broadly the same emotional universe as their predecessors. These days, as time goes by I’m not so sure, as I said somewhere or other recently, that the fundamental things do still apply. 
He said it in March 29th's Pushing Deviancy Up:
A hyper-sexualized society becomes, paradoxically, sexless, and certainly joyless. Listening in recent weeks to young women in both New York and London complain that the men they meet would rather look at pictures of them naked on the Internet than actually see them naked in the same room reminded me of The Children Of Men, in which P D James' characters, liberated from human fertility, find sex too much trouble. Eight-year olds with fake breasts are almost too obvious a satirist's fancy for a last desperate transgression of the terminally jaded. On WGN the other night, Milt Rosenberg and I were talking about popular music and the University of Chicago's approval of "hook-up" culture, and I made the not terribly original observation that a song such as "It Had To Be You" or "The Very Thought Of You" pre-supposes certain courtship rituals. If you no longer have those, it's not surprising that you no longer have songs to embody them: A love ballad, after all, is a kind of aspiration. So, if the fundamental things no longer apply as time goes by, who needs a song about them?
Read the rest if you missed it. When love and beauty go out of style, we're in deep, deep cultural trouble. Kids and young adults are the main consumers of this brutal, soulless music. Why aren't parents shielding their children from such poison? It should be among their highest priorities. If we can keep them from consuming ugliness when they're young, they'll likely reject it later on.

Back to the song of the week: Frank sings it here, Diana Ross swings it here.

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