Copyright ©1997-2011 Glenn Fleishman except as noted otherwise. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact Glenn Fleishman at glenn at glennf.com. Photo © 2008 Laurence Chen; used with permission.
Turning technology from mumbo-jumbo into rich tasty gumbo
As transcribed by Lynn:
[Daddy]: Yes, I have a beard. You know, someday, Ben, you’ll have a beard too. How old do you think you have to be to have a beard?
[Ben] You have to have a beard to drink some beer.
[Ben] Want more brussels sprouts!
Yes, dear readers, Ben likes brussels sprouts. He also eats edamame beans (steamed soy beans), green beans, green peas, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, asparagus, and other improbable toddler foods. We don’t pander, we only force a little, but we have this little deal these days. “If you want some watermelon, you have to eat your ______.” That is, “If you want one healthy fresh food, you have to first eat another healthy, fresh food.”
It won’t last.
I took my first trip to the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park yesterday with Lynn, Rex, and Ben. Ben was delighted with it: things to run around and look at, meadows, trains and train tracks, boats in the distance, a fountain…remarkably toddler friendly if they can remember to not touch most of the art (he did a great job). My reaction was very positive, as was Lynn’s. (Here’s a set of photos.)
I had heard it was pretty great, but I have to say it’s far beyond great—it’s an incredible realization of the melding of public art, public space, private space, and urban life, incorporating infrastructure (the roads and train tracks running all around and through it) and presenting a simulacrum of nature, too, that’s both self-conscious (the beautiful, enormous metal tree sculpture that the crows find convincing enough) but not so ironic that it’s not just also a real meadow full of native plants and wild flowers.
The space was seen as pretty troublesome because of the intersecting streets and the train tracks running through it. Somehow, the museum and its park designers managed to turn each weakness into a strength. Every part of the park has multiple approaches. Even the garage, integrating underneath the southeast corner of the park, has three separate exits (an elevator and pedestrian access on either end).
As you walk, you are presenting always with a unique outlook, whether “art” or “nature” is involved. I set those off in quotes, because part of the art is the mise-en-scéne: the placement of the specific created pieces or scenarios in the greater context of the park itself. There are no two moments when the park looks the same, and it’s difficult to predict from any point in the park how the scenery will look when you take the next step.
They have also managed, again implausibly, to use monumental art that doesn’t make you feel tiny. Instead, they have created the right spaces and relationships, so that you can take in the scope of something like Richard Serra’s Wake—giant metal waves that were made in a ship-making ironworks—or Alexander Calder’s Eagle without feeling overwhelmed by their size.
Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser is positioned in a pretty jaunty way, to provoke you into seeing something unexpected in the landscape. It’s a joke that an obsolete tool, a typewriter eraser, something that has been in little demand for decades, was turned into this massive, persistent object in 1999 (in an edition of three, from what I can tell, with another in D.C.). It’s intended, clearly, to be amusing that it’s sitting there out in nature. But it’s not nature. From the angle of my photo above, you think you’re looking at an endless park. Walk down the hill, and there’s a huge street right there, and urban life. Walk above it, and you get a nice clear look at it, much more as if it’s within the sculpture park. (There’s also apparently a plaque forbidding photography of the item.)
Calder’s Eagle I find much less successful as anything but an icon of the park. Up close, it’s not that interesting, and its placement is rather dull. From any place other than right underneath it, however, it’s an iconic image of the park, visible from great distances due to its location, color, and size. Lynn points out that that’s its purpose, and she’s right. But I think it’s the only failure of imagination in the park, not being able to site the object and make it iconic at the same time.
There’s quite a bit more, too, hard to take in at one setting. The cafe is rather nice, again a sort of monumental space that’s designed for many purposes, and with lots of light. The food, very good. Someone had had a birthday celebration there that day, so were offered some free cake!
We took one path through the park, so we have a lot more to discover on subsequent visits, but it’s a good first pass at a phenomenal new element of Seattle’s landscape. We’re doing pretty well: world-class new library (and building); world-class new sculpture park. How about world-class light-rail and transportation system (due in 2009, in its first phase)?
Lynn and I have been wrestling with Rex’s reflux. Rex is growing apace and is not a spit-up-y baby, but, like his big brother Ben, he has acid reflux (known as GERD among the cognoscenti). The reflux means that certain positions make him uncomfortable, that he starts wailing and thrashing his legs while nursing, and that burping can make him unhappy. It leaves him with acid breath, too. With Ben, once we had it all figured out with the help of our pediatrician and our post-partum doula, Zantac took care of the problem. He stayed on it well into his second year of life.
Rex is a harder nut to crack. We started him on Zantac a couple of weeks ago, but it had only an initial effect, which soon wore off. Lynn tried eliminating dairy for a week, too, as that can be a reflux contributor. She’s pretty careful with what she eats because of that already. That didn’t help. Our pediatrician said that Prilosec was the next option, which has a stronger effect (it’s somewhat different in how it works), and we’ve been three days on that without any real help, so we got the word to up the dosage tonight.
We’re very lucky, because Rex still sleeps long stretches, he’s gaining weight, and he’s not spitting up hardly at all. He’s also not colicky—he can be consoled, although that’s hard on Lynn and my 39-year-old backs. We learned a lot from Ben, so we have a huge number of tricks, and our post-partum doula is coming in to help with advice and household stuff twice a week, and that helps an enormous amount in staying on top of it.
Rex does have some happy alert time during the day—we had a nice batch of it this evening, in fact, where he was cooing, and nearly smiling. He was six weeks old yesterday, and Ben started smiling at five weeks, so we expect a grin any day. (He practices smiling in his sleep, like all babies.)
Now for the fun stuff, this evening’s conversation with Ben.
I had mentioned to Ben a few days ago that because Rex does pretty well in the car while we’re driving (also unusual for a reflux baby), we might take a long drive somewhere.
[Ben]: Want to go on a long drive.
[Daddy]: When Rex’s stomach is feeling better, we could go visit a farm or go to the water.
[Ben]: Want to go to a farm. Go to a pumpkin patch!
[Daddy]: Well, the pumpkins aren’t ready for about five months—a couple months after your birthday.
[Ben]: My birthday.
[Daddy]: Your birthday is just about three months away.
[Ben]: Want to have a party!
[Some discussion about who will come]
[Ben]: Want a castle cake! [Our friends the Blatner/Carlson’s had an amazing cake in the form of a castle created by one of the grandmas for their younger boy’s birthday last year.]
[More discussion about who will come]
[Ben]: Mr. Frumble can come! [Mr. Frumble is a bumbling pig in Richard Scarry books.]
[Daddy]: Do you want a cake shaped like Mr. Frumble?
[Daddy]: Like Mr. Frumble’s hat? [Which Mr. Frumble is always losing, and is green.]
[Ben runs into the dining room, where Lynn is eating]
[Ben]: I want to eat Mr. Frumble’s hat!
At dinner with my parents
Ben: We don’t eat bugs!
Daddy: Some people eat bugs. They eat bugs in the Amazon.
Ben: [blank look]
Lynn: Most people don’t eat bugs.
Daddy: Some bugs are really big [holding hands apart about two feet]
Ben: [looks excited]
Daddy: They just discovered some enormous spider. It can eat baby goats [exaggeration]
Lynn [bereft of REM sleep due to our newborn]: If I were having dreams, that would be trouble.
Daddy: [laughs uncontrollably]
Lynn [showing Ben a Richard Scarry drawing of Paris]: That’s Paris. People in Paris speak French.
Daddy: Watch this. [In Ben’s ear] Ben, can you say green beans in French.
Ben: Green beans in French.
Daddy: Haricots verts.
Ben: Haricots verts.
I feel a bit vindicated via this New York Times story about how some schools are starting to reassess or cancel their student laptop programs. I have been writing for years in this blog about how the squishy, poorly stated goals, and terribly measured outcomes of giving every student in a school or class year a laptop computer was a terrible misuse of funds. Yes, computers. Yes, education. Yes, even some business training on standard principles, operating systems, and software. But, no, no, no, on integrating a laptop into general classes. Far better to buy textbooks that can be used and shared among many students. Far better to improve lab equipment. Far better to reduce student to teacher ratios.
The Times article cites a number of studies as well as experiences at individual schools that show no improvements in grades, performance, etc., and a lot of additional costs in dealing with inevitable accidental damage and wear and tear. Laptops are already sensitive: my Apple laptop has gone back four times under warranty for repairs.
The article cites the old canard: “Many school administrators and teachers say laptops in the classroom have motivated even reluctant students to learn, resulting in higher attendance and lower detention and dropout rates.”
Right—and when pressed for these cold, hard numbers, they never materialize.
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