about that Kent State shirt

The people I follow on various social media channels are righteously upset today. They are appalled at a tacky shirt that a large chain store is selling. The shirt has Kent State printed on it, but it is printed to look blood splattered. The shirt mocks the tragic death of college students. Nothing about it is funny. It is a vile marketing decision by Urban Outfitters.

The social media reaction is predictable. I follow the people speaking out against this shirt, BECAUSE of their passion and constant effort to make the world a little better. That said, I need to tell a snippet of a story from my past. It took place during my early college career. With my foot in a cast, the only summer job I could get was at Spencer’s in the mall. It made my parents livid, so I kept the job even though the manager was questionably suited for his career.

My manager went to Kent State. He was on campus the day of the shootings. I know these things because they were part of this manager’s pick-up routine. The closer he moved to breathing on your neck, the more details he shared. It was beyond creepy and I spent most of my summer going to great lengths to avoid my manager. The fact that his main “move” was to tell a horror story means that some percentage of the time, people reacted positively to his gross out romance technique.

While my social media and IRL circle of people work non-violently to get an unfunny and cruel shirt removed from a store’s shelves, there are far too many people out there who only care about issues if there’s something in it for themselves. There’s always going to be some guy trying to use something offensive to get someone in his bed. Always.

Don’t buy the shirt. Don’t hang out with the people who do buy the shirt. This shirt has gotten the publicity that the store wanted and it will quietly disappear. Now, they’ll print something equally terrible. Don’t buy it.

timing is everything

Me: “I’m going out to run errands. Need anything?”
Family: “Nope.”

I text home two hours later. “Heading home unless anyone needs something.”
Text from child: “Nobody needs anything.”

I come home, unload groceries and sit down to remove my shoes and read email.

An hour later, I remove my bra and spend half an hour washing dishes. Those things aren’t related, but are part of the timeline.

Another hour later, I put on pajamas and curl up in a chair with a book.
“Mom! We’re completely out of cat food.”

resisting retargeting

There’s a clothing website that I like to visit occasionally. Everything on the site is unaffordable, but it’s fun to window shop in a wealthy hippie store. The instant I close that site’s tab, an email arrives in my box with an image of whatever I spent too long ogling. “Are you suuure you don’t want to buy this?” Yes, I’m sure. They never include a free shipping or discount offer. They are much too sure of themselves.

For days after my imaginary clothing shopping, the images of whatever I looked at will be in the sidebar of many of my daily reads. “Look at this cute shirt. You know you want it.” I totally understand the concept of targeted ads. I fail to see how it is effective. This website has been playing coy with me for years and I still own nothing of theirs.

What I need are targeted coupon codes.

Questions about ‘The Giver’ in the classroom

I read my children’s assigned books. It is the only way that I can check their reports on the books. It is also the only way that I can be certain they think about and discuss the themes in their books. I suspect that school has neither the time nor the ability to do this. They check reports for accuracy about book content and proper grammar. I want my children to have less clinical analysis of books and more appreciation of ideas that are intended to make them think. So, we read the books and we talk about them.

I seriously need someone in my children’s school system to explain the logic in banning ‘The Graveyard Book’ while ‘The Giver’ is assigned reading. Let me be clearer. Neither book should be banned. I deliberately did not prepare SuperTween for the scene that I suspect caused The Graveyard Book to be banned. It is a scene that pulls you deep into the book. I won’t prepare her for the scene in The Giver that I found far more unsettling. Because of that scene, someone else is going to have to take her to see the movie. I won’t prepare her, but I will be extremely disappointed if she didn’t see it coming. It is clear from the first chapter what is happening in that community. That doesn’t change the fact that I cannot watch that scene on a movie screen.

What is the criteria for a book becoming unacceptable by a school? It clearly isn’t dystopian themes. Maybe they act as ominous warnings against change. Maybe they serve to promote the author’s philosophical and political ideology. Maybe we are a dark and broody species who only tell campfire horror stories. Does the clinical representation of death and violence pass muster while poetic representation of it does not? Do the characters have to be chemically castrated to avoid human sexuality? That seems more unhealthy than honest and real representations of a normal part of our lives.

Is the decision for which books are banned based solely on whatever a select few parents complain about?

about the Megabus

I posted slideshows for every day of Evan’s DC adventure. I wrote about the things that we saw and did. I failed to write about the travel to and from DC on the Megabus. If you follow Doug or me on Twitter, you know that we tweeted the entire journey. It would have been easy to make a post consisting only of the tweets sent while on the bus. That would have been an incomplete picture of our journey.

The ride from Knoxville to DC was completely packed. There were zero empty seats for stretching out to nap. Granted, that didn’t stop some passengers from spending the entire journey with their seat reclined so that the passenger behind them had zero leg room. There was no wi-fi and most of the power outlets didn’t work. The bus passengers were noisy, like elementary school bus loud. All of those issues were overshadowed by the broken a/c and the hot summer sun baking everyone thru the glass sunroof of the bus. When we disembarked in DC, we looked like we had been caught in a rainstorm. Let’s just pretend that we left that smell on the bus.

The ride from DC to Knoxville was something entirely different. The air was cool and comfortable. The only noise was the gentle hum of the a/c. Every other seat was vacant so that people could stretch out or curl up. People slept, read and slept more. When we disembarked in Knoxville, we were rested and relaxed.

Truth be told, we enjoyed the entire journey. It was an adventure. Obviously, the ride home was comfortable and relaxing. The ride there wasn’t physically comfortable in any way, but it was funny. Everyone on the bus talked to each other. Strangers joked and laughed together. Because of the excessive heat, the bus made an unplanned stop. Planned stops are always a McDonalds. Our unplanned stop was between a McDonalds and a convenience store. All the children from the bus bought ice cream and popsicles. I paid way too much for a cup of grapes and in that moment, they were the tastiest grapes in the entire world. Our bus driver sounded like a cheerleader whenever he spoke to the bus passengers.

Megabus riders are there because of economic necessity. As such, we have all suffered things far worse than no air conditioning. We are a class of people experienced in patience and coping. Hot and sweaty doesn’t even register on the scale of real world problems. Nobody got angry. Everyone laughed.

Would I travel Megabus again? Sure. It’s cheap compared to other forms of travel. Would I Megabus with a young child? I don’t know. Probably. I think that his memories of the trip will be playing games with his dad, coloring with mom, reading comic books and watching movies. Actually, I think that is what I want to remember most about the trip, too.

rambling thoughts about books

When I have spent too many days staring at laptop and phone screens, I get a dull headache and my eyes feel sunburned from the brightness of electronics. If I still have work to do, I take two Aleve and put on a pair of sunglasses. The rest of the time, I try to take breaks from tech and busy myself washing dishes or folding laundry. There’s only so many dishes that need washing or clothes that need folding. Last week, I decided that I needed a new book to read. A real, paper book that would allow me to take a break from electronics on something that wasn’t another chore. Something to read that didn’t weigh heavy on me like the news articles and op-eds that I read online all day long. I wanted a light, summer read.

I went in the older boys’ room to scour their wall of books and video games. I couldn’t find any books that didn’t fall under the umbrella of dystopian literature. The only thing close to a light read was their old MAD magazines and that wasn’t what I was craving. I wasn’t just craving a book. I really NEEDED to get lost in a good book. So, I tweeted a complaint.


Another Tweeter pondered about the connection between the abundance of dystopian literature and his theory that current teens have less optimistic hopes for the future than our generation. We both pondered that chicken-egg concept and concluded that the books WE read as young people weren’t any lighter than what our children read. He’ll have to use something else as evidence for his imaginary thesis on hope and optimism. I still needed something to read.

I bought a book. It appealed to me. It was also dystopian. I guess I was wrong about not needing dystopian literature. I know I was right about needing a book. I started reading it last night. I finished it this afternoon. Now I need a new book and clicking a link to download a new one won’t satisfy my need.

I’ve tried reading books online. It takes me forever. Technology makes me feel ADD. I feel compelled to be doing a dozen different tasks simultaneously when I’m using tech. I’m editing and uploading pictures, while I’m following a breaking news story, while I’m chatting with someone, while I’m waiting for updated code to work, while I’m reading three different articles, while I’m not fully focused on ANYTHING. I don’t know if it’s something that has gotten worse over time or something that I only now recognize about myself.

Since I’m not going to take Ritalin just to read an e-book and I can’t go to the library or bookstore every day, I need to learn how to focus on a tablet reader… or hack into the database of a publisher and add my name to their list of book reviewers… for lightly dystopian fiction.

I did a bad, bad thing

When the National Mall fireworks ended, we marched with hordes of people down dark and unfamiliar streets, past waterfront restaurants that smelled like fishing piers and across a street that required walking down a flight of stairs and up a flight of stairs. At the end of the walking maze, we entered a Metro Station that was a mob of people so closely packed, I feared Evan being trampled. We stood in the hot and cramped room of people with crying babies and drunks saying “Moo” for what seemed like forever.

Me: “This is what it’s like to live in New York.”
Evan: “I changed my mind. I don’t want to move to New York any more.”