Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pop Culture Osmosis or How My 6 Year Old Heard About Justin Bieber

Distinguished readers, colleagues, mom and dad. Thank you for joining me today as I present my research on the theory of pop culture osmosis, also referred to as, How My 6 Year Old Heard About Justin Bieber. In the interest of clarity I'd like to note that although it’s reported that many two to four year olds say Justin Beaver, it is the same Bieber about whom we speak, and who shall henceforth be referred to as JB.

First, I’d like to establish the fact that at no time did my husband or I speak about JB in our house, play his music, or put his autobiography, First Step 2 Forever on request for interlibrary loan.

A simple hacking into my iTunes library will prove that my pop culture literacy blossomed with Natalie Merchant’s debut solo album and pretty much stayed there. While my husband’s musical tastes are more expansive, he has informed me that he’d rather listen to Selena Gomez.

It is possible that our six year old turned on the television without our knowledge and accessed a channel featuring JB but we highly doubt it; certainly her three year old sister would have tattled.

We therefore conclude that it is due to external contact, i.e. association with peers who do know about JB, that our daughter was exposed and now indoctrinated in the adoration of JB. Symptoms of this exposure reached a feverish peak last Thursday, August 18 while eating a plain bagel with cream cheese, when she said, “Mom do you know who Justin Bieber is? He sings Dynamite. And I want an iPod.” (*We've been informed that JB doesn't actually sing this song, but as long as she and her friends think he does that fact is irrelevant.)

What is noteworthy, however, is the hierarchy of the transmission which starts, we believe, in households with tweens or teens.

To be influential, these tweens or teens must have younger siblings with whom they love to spend time or detest. In either case, the younger sibling will dote upon the oldest and assume his or her musical taste.

This younger sibling is then sent to play with his or her peer group and brings with him or her knowledge (accurate or not) of the life and culture of the older age-set. This youth may even be an early adaptor of gadgetry, given an iPod, for example, so he will not break an older sibling’s or worse, learn how to use it more adeptly in front of them.

This younger, culturally advanced sibling is a transmitter of fads and knowledge and gains status as the gatekeeper of what’s to come. No doubt this trend explains our own youngest daughter’s playground talk during which she’s been known to trash-talk "Sesame Street" in favor of her sister’s preference, "The Electric Company."

We believe the JB exposure was gradual, but that our six year old finally connected JB to a piece of music and the versatility of an iPod to play such music ad nauseum when she was tossed into a mixed aged pottery class because of the astonishingly poor judgment and discretion of her naive and foolish mother, me.

Not only were there multi-aged siblings in attendance, there was a tween, and perhaps a teen, creating the perfect storm of access, interest, and very bad odds for the instructor.

After four days, knowledge of JB eased into the susceptible membrane of our six year old’s pop culture knowledge base as naturally as water into an area of higher solute concentration.

As with many things, we have been told that exposure breeds inoculation, and that within a year or two our six year old will fight off JB in favor of something more shocking. We can only hope. At present, the obsession is so complete that music not even sung by JB is now being attributed to him despite intervention.

In conclusion, while JB adoration may be a passing fad, we believe pop culture osmosis is here to stay.

On a side note, if anyone does have a copy of First Step 2 Forever, I have a friend who says she’d like to read it.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, posted by Daniel Ogren.

PS: Readers might remember the story I did on Danielle Gletow, the founder of One Simple Wish, an organization that grants wishes, or requests, to children in foster care. This September 24 at 6pm One Simple Wish is holding an evening to honor foster children and celebrate supporters who've helped them grant over 1,600 wishes. Local folks who might want to attend this night at the Trenton War Memorial can find more information about A Night of 1000 Wishes by clicking here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Postcards From the Edge

The number of emails a person can handle a day is said to be about fifty, according to a  2010 survey commission by an email provider Intermedia.

Last week, as we headed west from New Jersey on a two day drive to Fontana Village, North Carolina, I handled close to zero.

That was because the only network I had deep in the Smoky Mountains was one formed by the relatives we’d traveled so far to see; Verizon’s web of connectivity was lost somewhere in the North Carolina dust.

To be without Internet and cell reception for four to five days is no heroic accomplishment, but it is different, at least for me. There was one spot in the Village that had Wi-Fi and cell reception and I asked to go there one time especially. “I just need to call the guy who’s building our fence,” I told my husband, “to remind him he can’t reach us.”

The irony did not escape me, nor did the fact that even if the builder could reach us, what good I’d be to him hundreds of miles away should he hit a pipe or knock a tree into our house was questionable.

Still, this was my first lesson in disconnecting: I felt an obligation to explain my absence.

The other thing I learned was that when a phone’s primary purpose is rendered ineffective, it’s ancillary ones seem less urgent. The result: I didn’t tote the phone around to take pictures, and now, looking back, I have memories, but few photographs.

If I didn’t miss email, or too much of Facebook and the Internet, there was one moment when having the ability to use cell phones felt like a security blanket we’d forgotten to pack. I missed it when we dropped our kids off at my parent’s cabin and went five minutes down the mountain to a little recreation center to watch a black and white documentary on the building of the local dam.

How, I wondered, would my mom reach us if she needed to?

Ah, yes, a landline. I seemed to remember those....

How quickly older forms of communication seem ancient. I thought of the box I was given a few months after my grandmother’s death, a Mi Choice Chocolates from Bunte of Chicago.  Inside were about a hundred postcards once belonging to her mother, my great-grandmother Ceil.

I’d hoped to follow a love story, or get a glimpse into the saga of her family’s life reading the postcards. What I learned was that these notes, at least in her circle, were the text messages of our world. And I don't mean the kind that make headlines and bring down political careers.

No, these were more like post-it notes, or quick little voice mails. Just enough to say, days after the fact, that “we’d made it home,” or invite someone to “come on down” for a visit.

According to a website on postcard history, the cards I have from 1909 to 1915 represent some of the advancements in the peak of postcard communication.

Souvenir Postal Cards entered the scene in the late 1890’s, but the novel  “divided back” post card with a special section for an address as well as personal note arrived in 1907. And it’s these that fill most of my great-grandmother’s collection. She was born at the turn of the century, meaning that just as the teens of today turn to their G4, Ceil turned to her fancy cards.

Postmark December 30, 1909

We received yours and tell mama to write and give me her address, for she says you have moved. From Mr. & Mrs. Jackson

Postmark June 30, 1914

Dear Cecilia,

We got home safe and hope you got home safe too. Best Regards to All. From Edwin Miller

Postmark January 15, 1915

Dear Cousin Celie,

Received your letter but I’m sorry to say that we are going to Stella’s Birthday party Sat. with Irma. Sun. afternoon to Fort Thomas to her aunts. If I am home next Sat. will let you know and you can come down Fri. after school and then we will go to town Saturday afternoon. With love from Elsie. Tell your Ma and Pa to come down.

I can image how excited my fifteen year old great-grandmother would have been to get a note from her cousin and that she probably sat down to write her back later that day, sending her communication the fastest way she could, then checking the mail every day to see if there was news.

While she undoubtedly wished her messages could be conveyed even more swiftly, now it seems we have to take ourselves deep into the mountains or swim against a broadband of access to slow it down just a bit.

Then again, maybe I'll buy some 29 cent stamps and start writing postcards.

Video, featuring a few of my great-grandmother's postcards.

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Week...

This week I am on vacation, which means the title of this post should actually be 'Next Week', because that is when I will return with a new Lunch Box Mom post. After 97 consecutive weeks it's both hard and easy to take a week off. Back again with a new post on August 14th.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What To Expect: How About a Book

What to Expect When You’re Expecting is such a standard reference book for pregnant women it’s easy to forget that someone actually wrote it.

Amazon says the book is, “a perennial New York Times bestseller and one of USA Today's 25 most influential books of the past 25 years. It's read by more than 90% of pregnant women who read a pregnancy book--the most iconic, must-have book for parents-to-be, with over 14.5 million copies in print.”

These days, the website is also a hit, with the second-largest audience of moms-to-be online. Still, it was the book that I kept on my nightstand for both of my pregnancies. I’d alternate between reading it and thinking about the child developing within me and turning to a book of baby names, thinking about how this individual would be identified by the world once she was born.

What to Expect is exhaustive, but for the nine months I read it, I didn’t realize it had solved the baby name search, too. I discovered that several months after my oldest was born when I finally took a closer look at the cover of the book, a page I’d skipped over when I was eager to get to the chapters within.

The name we had sought was right there all along. We found it, however, a different way, joking with my grandfather who would ask, "How is Heidi doing?" whenever I called during my pregnancy. One day my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Well, why not Heidi?”

So, Heidi it was and Heidi it is.

And it’s Heidi Murkoff whose name you’ll find on the cover of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

If you’re expecting, or know someone who is, and think they’d like to name their child Sharon (the co-author listed on the cover), send me an email. I don’t usually do give-aways, but when Heidi and her crew asked, I thought I could make an exception.

What to Expect: The Second Year. You're braver than I was if you want to read about the second year before it happens, but if you do, let me know. They'll give away one of these, too. And, What to Expect: The First Year goes to Jessica Provenz, a reader, writer, and new mother, who, I think, managed to comment on a blog post while in labor.

From the emails I get, I'll pick the winners out of a hat on Wednesday of this week and then I expect to get back to non-give-away life as we know it.