Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What to do with all the leftover Barbie Spies

Remember this fun toy?


A Barbie.  That talks to your kid.  And records what your kid says.  And stores all that information in a cloud.  And uses that information to market to children more specifically.


Brought to my attention by the ever-marvelous Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, I posted about it here in March 2015.


Many of you signed a petition telling Christopher Sinclair, the CEO of Mattel, that this was a creepy, unethical, and wretched idea.  Those were the printable adjectives. 


Advocacy works!  Not always how we imagine it will!  But still!


If you would like to see the fruits of your signature, or just a reminder that protecting kids is generally always a good idea, read CCFC's postYou did it!  Hello Barbie is a flop.


An excerpt:


Long before the doll’s release, CCFC publicized how Hello Barbie would threaten children’s privacy, creativity, and wellbeing. Nearly 45,000 people signed our petitions urging Mattel not to release the doll that records and analyzes children’s conversations, and our concerns were featured in media outlets around the world, including the Washington Post and Fox News.
In November, just before the doll hit stores, we enlisted experts to help us tell parents exactly why Hello Barbie is bad for children. Our Hell No Barbie: 8 reasons to leave Hello Barbie on the Shelf was shared far and wide on social media and inspired a fresh wave of media attention, including The Today Show


Yay for good things.


Mattel did not make a good choice on this one.  But parents did, and so Spy Barbie flopped.




Perhaps she could be placed in the center of the table at the next strategic planning meeting of Mattel, and report back what the hale they were thinking on this. 


No? 


Executives wouldn't want a real purdy data gathering recording device to attend their meeting?


In-ter-es-ting!


Imagine:  at all future gatherings, if each person had to speak into the Barbie...
Speak into the Barbie please.  Could you adjust the Barbie?  So that we can all hear and record you properly?  Thank you.  Yes, that's better. 




I think the audio playback might sound like this:



Monday, April 18, 2016

"Automatic and Invisible"


One dad shares how he and wife moved through a common scenario:

"...no policy solution could have intervened in our situation. The variables were few and personal: two parents, two jobs, one sick kid....

It had seemed like a hassle, but it was the point that we do this negotiation. That's both the cost and the payoff of breaking out of the gender roles that make these decisions both automatic and invisible."

--- Two Parents, One Sick Kid by Alexis Madrigal

Friday, January 8, 2016

Awakening The Force

It is Star Wars (time, year, life). 



 She Who Wears the Tunic That Looks Like Pants....back in the day




i.


Miss C has been reading Harry Potter and for Christmas she received books 4 - 7, as well as the DVD collection of movies 1 - 8.  (As fans know, and as was explained to me, the last book was so long it was made into two films.)
Each time she finishes a book, she loves to watch the movie, and compare how it plays out on screen versus how it played out in her imagination.  She recently finished book 3 and wanted to dive into the movie immediately.  I reminded her to do her homework, tend to whatever else needed tending, and then, then, she could have screen time. 
She started laughing hysterically.


"Do you know what you just said?" she asked.
"Yes.  Do your jobs then you can watch tv."
"No!  You said, 'And then you can watch some Star Wars.' "


I had. 
I had swapped out HP and put in SW just like that. 


She went off to tend what needed tending, still laughing, saying, "We don't even have Star Wars!" 


ii.


Before she had seen The Movie, Miss C was walking the line of inquiry about Star Wars, trying to grasp what was all the to-do.  For important matters like this, I direct Miss C back to her dad because my depth of knowledge on Star Wars is like the kiddie pool, a mini, shallow version of the big pool. 
But she wasn't interested in the plot points. 
She wanted to know why she was supposed to like it.


"You're not supposed to like it," I said.  "You can like it, or not like it, or sort of like it."
"But I feel like I'm supposed to like it," she'd insisted.  "No one said I have to like it, but I feel like I should." 




iii.


Not long after this conversation, but still before she'd seen the movie (which transformed all uncertainty into full Force love), we were in Barnes and Noble, picking up a gift.  She stopped in the middle of the first floor, as though taken over by something.  She became serious, and said, "I feel like I suddenly like Star Wars.  Like I actually like it now, and I don't know why."


She was surprised by this sudden liking, a new feeling she hadn't had before.


We stood still in the center of what seemed to be a new department at Barnes and Noble:  Vader alarm clocks, Clone Troopers, embroidered Yoda hats, Yoda string lights, Perplexus's's's, Air Hogs, Star Wars Catch Phrase and lunch boxes and woolly gloves and Monopoly, and of course,  Lightsabers of every size and color. 


And suddenly, without having deepened my kiddie pool knowledge of this story, and without knowing why, I felt the exact same way. 


And I really wanted the Yoda hat. 


iv.


The Force Awakens opens in China this weekend.  If you want to see 500 Storm Troopers stationed on the Great Wall (truly a sight to behold), or read about how to create retroactive nostalgia, here you go.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bic For Her

Earlier this week I was standing around with a few runners, drinking water and not talking about running.  Talking about running is what many Runners do when they are running.  It is how I know to never call myself a Runner.  Or "not yet," as one Runner told me.   I can't talk about running--yet--for many reasons.  The first is that I can't breathe.  Because I'm running.  But the others are that I have too many "no" answers to questions that would expand a conversation. 


R: "How long have you been running?"


Me:  (gasping)


R: "Do you have any races coming up?"


Me:  (panting) "No."


Other ways I know I am not yet a Runner is that I don't have that watch that beeps, I never know what mile we are on, and headlamps, I don't have one, though every time it is dark, I lurk creepily behind someone who is wearing one so I can see where I am going.  Or else practice running in the dark.  Is that a raccoon or a giant pot hole?  Ouch.  Not a raccoon.  Also, reflective gear, like those criss-cross yellow blinking Safety Patrol belts.  And those water bottles that strap to your hand.  Or your back.  Also, special sneakers.  Or proper clothing.


There are too many signs to keep listing.  The fact that if it is 10 degrees with a windchill of -15, you could not pay me to even contemplate the joy of Running.  "You just need the right clothing," one Runner stated, when I explained my 4 month absence from November through March.  This is where silence is useful, because I really like hot drinks, listening to the wind howl outside my window, and feeling generally glad to be out of the elements.  No amount of Under Armour is going to change that. 


Another tell-tale sign is that I don't understand a 50K.  I don't admire or mock it.  I just don't get it.  I've spent a little bit of time wondering what makes us gravitate toward intentional pain and suffering, with little pay off, and I think that in lieu of living in dangerous environments, we seek out a bit of anguish and physical harm.  And wear beeping watches and blinking lights to help us achieve this goal.


All of these things demonstrate what makes one a R, which is a commitment to something, an attention to the details that maximize the experience, and a goal-focused way of making sure that you are growing in an area that you value.  It's very teaching. 


If you don't have any races coming up and you can't breathe, it makes conversation after the run much more fluid and manageable. 


And sometimes pretty funny. 
Because I gravitate toward others who are similarly unprepared but keep showing up. 
In one such recent conversation, I was "hydrating" (which is a Runner's word for drinking water) and talking to a man and a woman.  The woman was mentioning a yoga class that she goes to, and how she feels bad for always being late. 
"It's like, all peaceful in there and I try to sneak in without being loud but then I'll bump someone or drop my mat and interrupt everything."
I nod my head in sympathy. 
The man is quiet, no nodding.  Then he says, "I like to get there 15 minutes early."  I nod, again, in sympathy.  Too early, too late.  Both can be difficult qualities to embody.
"And," he say, "get my things all lined up. My mat the way I like it, my waterbottle and my blocks and the band," he is physically lining them up with his hands.  It's all organized in his chosen corner and then I imagine this woman tripping over him as she enters the room 30 minutes later.  He tells a tale about a woman who always arrives ahead of him to get the exact same spot in the class, every single time.  This intrigues me the way someone doing a 50K intrigues me. 
"What would happen if someone took her spot?"  I ask.
He thinks it wouldn't be good.
"Have you ever tried?"
"Oh, I wouldn't," he says. 
I would.  Just to see.  This is probably why it's good I don't go to yoga classes.
The yoga conversation continues, and it gets funnier and funnier.  I ask a question and immediately regret it.  I don't know where the question comes from.
"What kind of yoga class is it?" This is my question.  As soon as I ask, I realize:
1. She could make up a name and I wouldn't know the difference
2. I know there are different kinds of yoga, but I don't know what they are, so I'm not sure why I am asking this. 
But no question is ever wasted, because she knows as much as I do, but now the man is trying to guess which kind it is. 
He asks if it is the fast breathing yoga.
"I don't think so," she says, looking like she is playing out the last class in memory to look for any fast breathing.  "You mean, like, deep breathing?"
No.  He means fast breathing.  He demonstrates.  And what he demonstrates is very familiar.  I recall learning it in a natural child birthing class.  He's showing the part of breathing you do during a contraction.
"Are you sure you were in a yoga class?"  I ask.  "That sounds like Lamaze."
"No, it was yoga," he says. 
"Because I can see how you might accidentally enter a Lamaze class and it would be similar to yoga, and the instructor would be pretty laid-back and accepting and would see you practicing labor breathing and would just, you know, encourage you, thinking, 'Well, to each their own.' "
"It was yoga," he says. 


She's not sure the kind of yoga class it is, and so he is guessing: lots of poses?  Fast flowing?   I think of all the information about yoga that has been deposited into my brain by people who say You have to try it and then tell me how they go to rooms where it is 150 degrees and just sweat.  There are the cold Under Armour Runners and the Hot Yoga breathers and the man who is guessing what kind of yoga this woman does says something like, "It roots your soul.  Does she say that in class?"
"Yes!" the woman says. 
And then they are exchanging the many times that soul is referenced during their 60 minute workout class.  "Like, 'Feel your soul flow,' and 'Now s-t-r-e-t-c-h your soul!'" 


I am getting the sense that there are Runners, and those who run, and there are Yogis, and those who do drop in classes.  And the drop-ins don't know why the soul is referenced just as those who run don't have any races lined up.  Yet. 


Somewhere in this post-Running post-running conversation, the woman asked if we had seen a bit done by Ellen DeGeneres on Pens for Women.
I hadn't, but said that that's a funny idea. 
"No, it's real.  These pens made for women, by Bic.  It's called Bic for Her."


Without further ado, fast breathing, or upcoming races, I bring to you, Bic.  For Her

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Changing Lives of Women: Going Blue

In 2013, NPR launched a series titled The Changing Lives of Women.

Today's segment features 85 year old Anne Bernays: novelist, teacher, and blue haired beauty.

"While young people sparkle like diamonds, old folks are invisible — except, as I discovered, if you have bright blue hair."
Well worth the listen.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Alternatively Titled

I heard this on the radio this morning and my brain immediately started retitling the story.


Here are just a few:


I Really Do Read it for the Articles


Why Buy the Cow Magazine When There's The Internet For Free


Naked is as Naked Does  (this one makes no sense, but has a nice ring)


Less is More, and Turtlenecks are Ba-aack


Hugh Hefner: 89 and still sporting a bathrobe everywhere he goes.  God bless him. 


From the story:


Playboy will stop publishing photos of nude women. Its website stopped featuring nudity in August, and traffic has since increased from 4 million to 16 million users a month, according to Playboy executives. 
 --'Playboy' to Stop Publishing Nude Images


What if you were the next model/celebrity/human who was scheduled to appear in the magazine, and then you received a phone call: "Actually, we're all set.  But thanks anyway.  We're going to focus on art and the economy instead."
You'd be calling your agent stat to see if hell had frozen over.
 



Sunday, October 11, 2015

And Justice for All*



The first time I entered a court room I was in my 20's, had been practicing as a psychotherapist for under a year, and had been summoned to testify as a witness.

A convicted pedophile was requesting permission to coach a children's baseball team. He had served his time, been released, and had had good behavior.

I consulted with the director of my agency, who in the course of his long career working with both child victims of sexual abuse and perpetrators of sexual abuse, had been called to testify in numerous trials, countless times.

He normalized my nervousness, stated that I'd simply be answering questions, and predicted that as soon as this part started, I'd feel at ease.

It turned out to be entirely accurate.

I was asked questions about a child I was seeing in therapy. The child had been molested and raped by the man who sought permission to coach. The man was not some dangerous stranger. As is often the case, he was a relative and trusted member of the family. The abuse went on for two years until it was finally disclosed. The child was so confused, felt guilty, and also, eventually, feared for her life. The trajectory was not an uncommon one: her innocence was the perpetrator's tool in ensuring her silence. As the pain of abuse became increasingly unbearable, she became less compliant and he threatened to hurt her and her family if she told.
(She was 6, then 7, then 8.)
Eventually the truth was disclosed and the miracle was this: her family believed her.
(How many families do not believe, or do nothing when a child is brave enough to speak. It is heart-shattering.  The shame of sexual abuse is so high that many families simply....do nothing. )

I answered questions about the wellness of the child.
The child, knowing the perpetrator had been released from jail, had been having recurrent nightmares. He was coming for her, he was going to get her, he was picking her up in his car. She dreamt over and over again of finding herself alone with him, her mouth sewn shut, her throat constricted, a scream that could not emerge.
As he moved toward her, she'd scream herself awake. 
Her aunt would be there by her bed, to say over and over:
"You're okay.  He's not going to get you.  You are safe."




The judge denied the offender's request. The hearing ended.

I reported back that day to the director. I was aglow with thankfulness for how well our legal system worked. Things that happen to the vulnerable should never happen. But here, I'd been able to see a place where the vulnerable were represented, and protected.

"This time," my director said. "It worked this time." And he smiled a weary smile. He was glad it worked this time.

He had testified so many times and he had witnessed so many outcomes.

"You got lucky," he said.

Though I'd taken an oath and reported truthfully, it wasn't the strength of my testimony.

It wasn't our well oiled and finely tuned legal system.


It was roll the dice, see who the judge is, see who the attorneys are, see what the weather is, and see what happens.


Every time you enter a courtroom, he said, roll the dice.
See if you encounter an attorney who will win at any cost, who see children as collateral. 
See how fast ethical conduct is given wings so that it might fly out the window.
See how it goes.

He was glad my first time had been positive.
He was too experienced to believe what I believed at that moment, which was, "It works!"
    

I've been in the courtroom since then and have come to understand what the seasoned director of the agency was saying.


You enter a courtroom and you roll the dice.



Sometimes you leave a courtroom glad to know that children, who are always vulnerable, are protected.
 

Other times, you might as well be handed a puddin' pop.


*mostly in the movies