Rubber-band Relationships

rubber band

More Little Theories

What do rubber-bands, relationships and dishwashers have in common?

Today I offer another Little Theory: this one about rubber-bands, which proves an apt metaphor for human relationships and household appliances.

What comes to mind when I mention rubber-bands?

I think of childhood ponytails, which we secured with bands from home-delivered newspapers.

Today I find rubber-bands embracing store-bought spinach and broccoli.

That means I need to wash the rubber-bands for future employment.

Rubber-bands are full of dirt.

So I wash them.

I load them in the dishwasher, placing them carefully in the silverware basket, safe from the propellers of the magic machine.

I figure the dishwasher saves me time and there’s no extra effort in cleansing the rubber-bands along with the spoons and forks.

I learned this technique from my mum, who would bathe household keys in the dishwasher.

She would take your keys, remove the ring, and run them through a cycle.

Clean keys.

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LITTLE THEORIES

magpie

Magpies and Maggots

While listening to a morning radio program—hosted by a journalist I admire—I heard her talk about how information about all of us has been captured by social media companies that helps target us for advertisers.

When she said, “the data is …,” I winced.

One of my peeves is that data are plural (the singular is datum).

As a scientist—albeit a social scientist—the data-are-plural mantra was drummed into my noggin in college.

The journalist is on my Twitter feed, so I figured I would send her a quick Tweet to remind her that data are plural.

But I talked myself out of it before I opened my tablet.

The problem is that social media, like Twitter, make it super easy for me to drop a note to a stranger and voice my opinion.

And react.

Just because I can react online doesn’t mean I should.

I’m not pals with the reporter: I’m not her editor and I’m not her judge.

Think of Twitter’s winged logomark as a magpie.

Magpies became symbols of gossip-hounds in English parlance.

A chatterbox was considered a magpie where I grew up, in England.

The word “pie” refers to pica—the genus name for the magpie (a member of the crow family).

And mag refers to maggot.

You know: larvae. Grubs. Bugs.

I will think of a chattering, maggoty bird next time I hear about a tweet with a cruel message.

You are what you tweet.

18 March 2019

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#magpies

#maggots

#journalism

#littletheories

#massmediaeffects

#childhoodvaccinesandautism

#MMR

#bearpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#dumptrump

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LITTLE THEORIES

third person

When we act like muggles

In my field—mass communication—you learn that folks have all sorts of theories about how media affect us.

But, many assumptions about media fail to pan out in real life, and here are three:

  1. Even bad publicity is good publicity
  2. Readers and viewers are easily persuaded
  3. Media have great influence on publics, especially when it comes to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll

Publicity about you might be positive, negative or neutral, but the critical indicator is whether people think of you well or poorly—not the mere portrayal in a news story.

In other words, if you are an actor, bad publicity might earn you negative headlines, but how does it affect your paycheck?

For example, Tom Cruise received caustic publicity after his break-up with Katie Holmes, with damning headlines, like this one in the popular British Mirror tabloid: “Weird marriage rules Tom Cruise imposed on Katie Holmes.”

Regardless of cruel headlines, Cruise continues to earn box office gold, and was among North America’s most sought-after actors in 2018, according to CNBC.

We’re not very good at gauging what publics believe because we take our cues in an echo chamber.

In contrast, when Ellen DeGeneres came out as gay in 1997, national news coverage was rarely negative: it was neutral or mildly supportive.

But advertisers like Chrysler and JC Penney pulled out of DeGeneres’ TV show, which was cancelled.

While DeGeneres eventually earned back advertisers’ blessings, she was blackballed by Hollywood’s elites for several years.

Why?

They feared public opinion.

Or what they thought was public opinion.

We’re not very good at gauging what publics believe because we take our cues in an echo chamber.

Most of us surround ourselves with news that we agree with, which means we don’t realize that some folks disagree with out viewpoint.

As for the power of the press, we muggles believe that we are (individually) immune to press persuasion, but assume everyone else is a stooge.

So prevalent is the belief that we are personally immune that scholars give it a name: Third Person Syndrome.

That means everyone else is a lemming when it comes to mass media.

And the third myth–that exposure to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll will warp your mind—just never materialized.

Early researchers wanted to find that media had awesome effects, particularly in the wake of World War II.

Researchers reasoned that Nazi-era propaganda had fried people’s brains, so they set out to prove it.

But they found that media don’t have the all-encompassing persuasive effects they thought.

Slasher movies don’t make folks turn to violence, and pornography doesn’t produce pedophiles.

People are much more likely to be persuaded by their friends, families and communities.

And by ourselves.

Our values sometimes make us blind to fact-based evidence, such as the example that no researcher has ever found a link between childhood vaccines and autism.

The best persuaders are… our own judgments: whether right or wrong.

3 March 2019

Image published on Pinterest

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#littletheories

#massmediaeffects

#childhoodvaccinesandautism

#MMR

#bearpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

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This Book will Haunt You

sacred smokes

Sacred Smokes is available in all the usual places: Powell’s and Broadway Books in Portland, from the publisher (University of New Mexico Press) and online

Watch out for Teddy

I’m beginning to hear voices.

Ted Van Alst’s latest story about growing-up-Indian in Chicago has a captivating spirit that won me over. Completely.

His character—Teddy—gets inside your head.

Here’s a scene in the book (Sacred Smokes) where Teddy’s father won’t let him leave the house until he has memorized the Lord’s Prayer:

A photo from the ‘30s sits on my shelf at home, near to hand at my desk. It’s my grandpa and his sister and their ma. Auntie looks like a big, wide, round-eyed Dorothy Dandridge, Grandpa looks like a swanky Richard Gere as Dixie Dwyer in the Cotton Club, and Grandma Mary Josephine—well, she looks serene, but extra lively, and like she made both of them learn the Lordsprayer, with no small relish.

Teddy memorizes the prayer and takes off with his pals, who roam the streets, smoke cigarettes, drink beer, punch each other, and flee the cops.

To make the book last longer, I read only a chapter at a time.

I often pop the book in my shoulder bag and walk to a local café tucked in the shoulder of our neighborhood Library, order a coffee, and dig in.

On my most recent jaunt I bought a chocolate chunk cookie to savor the last morsels of the book.

The cookie tasted so good I got one for my husband in a paper sleeve and stuck the treat in my purse: upright, so it wouldn’t break when bouncing between my shoulder blades.

On my way home I remembered we needed liquid soap.

Being a California native, a product of the 1970s, and this being Portland, I use Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap—the lavender kind—for showering and bathing.

Our local store not only carries Dr. Bronner’s—the store devotes a shrine to the soapmaker, and you can fill your cart with “magic” soap in scents including peppermint, citrus, tea tree, and—of course—lavender.

If you’ve used Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap then you know you can lollygag in the tub while reading the label on the bottle.

You will learn nine uses for the soap and hear about Bronner’s All-One philosophy.

Teddy—in the book—reads everything: beer flasks, cigarette packages and cereal boxes.

So I wasn’t surprised that he spoke up when I was paying for Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap—the lavender kind.

The cashier asked if I needed a sack and—this being Portland—I demurred and assured her the soap would fit in my shoulder bag.

That’s when Teddy let me know that, in his story, by the time I got home, the soap would spill inside my purse and drench the chocolate chunk cookie.

I told Teddy this is my story, and the cookie will be fine.

As I walked home, Teddy kept telling me to check my purse.

And when I arrived, the cookie—and the soap—were just fine.

I hope you get the chance to read Sacred Smokes—it is wonderful book.

But watch out for Teddy.

He’ll get inside your head.

26 February 2019

Today’s blog is dedicated to my pal, Ted, who likes to read the labels

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#theodorevanalst

#sacredsmokes

#bearpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

 

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LITTLE THEORIES

(NOTE: I write from time-to-time about Little Theories, which I see as our assumptions of how the world works: sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. But it makes for good conversation.)

woman

Art by Elisa Riva for pixabay

 Poodle skirts and persistence

 I wrote recently about how something as simple as sewing can make us a bit more mindful, stitch-by-stitch.

The gift of a hand-made item when our personal time has become so meagre increases the value of a present that results from our own labor.

While writing, I was struck by how much the act of sewing enriched my growth.

Here’s what I’ve gained:

  • Engineering skills
  • Planning
  • Persistence

It all started in elementary school.

When I was a lass, all the kids in first grade—girls and boys—learned how to make a wooden tugboat.

The teacher brought us boat-parts: a pentagon-like shape for the hull, a square for the deck, another square for the upper deck (wheelhouse), and a roundish peg for the smokestack.

We learned to hammer and glue the parts together (I was impressed that six year-olds were entrusted with hammers) and then painted our boats with bright tempera colors.

While I don’t build boats any more, I find that sewing flexes the same muscles.

When I’m getting ready to cut pattern pieces for a garment, I first imagine what all the shapes will look like once they are sewn together, just like an engineer building a boat.

Sewing requires planning: some parts get stitched together before others, so you have to be able to envision each step and imagine—or draw on paper—each stage.

The thing about projects like sewing and boat-building is that they take time.

Typically I spend a few hours on a project one day, and then resume the following day, and the day after that, and the day after that.

The task may take several days, or even weeks, so sewing requires persistence and a leap of faith that your labor will result in a completed creation.

Pity that sewing seems to have gone the way of poodle-skirts and eight-track players.

I discovered schools in California (where I learned my tugboat skills before moving overseas at age 10) no longer offer classes where students learn sewing, mechanics, building and cooking.

Learning the skills to create something—whether it is changing the oil in your car or hemming a skirt—lasts a lifetime with surprising payoffs.

Sewing helped me become a better writer because I know if I keep at the task of refining and pruning and polishing that I will (eventually) have a completed project.

I see college students struggle with their writing and I’m convinced one reason is they lack persistence: they don’t have the patience to chip away at a task that may require hours, days or weeks.

Maybe we should require that college students first take sewing instead of statistics, or carpentry before calculus, so they can flex their muscles and learn persistence.

5 February 2019

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Today’s blog is for my pal, Jen, who is always looking for ways to be a better teacher

#littletheories

#persistence

#sewing

#gifting

#homeeconomics

#shop

#bearpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

 

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Gifting

pj

Jam-packed with feeling

 I dusted off my sewing machine to construct a pair of jammies for my husband and was struck by the lessons sewing can teach us.

For me and most of my pals, time is a true commodity, and one that companies like Amazon recognize fully.

Rather than spending your precious time searching at the mall for the right Instant-Pot, Amazon can deliver one straight to your door.

Same for pajamas.

Why toil over cutting, stitching and ironing a pair of PJs when you can find your size with a few strokes on your electronic wizard?

One reason I decided to make my own jammies is because I could choose a flannel fabric with just the right colors, and make small adjustments you won’t find in a factory-made pair.

Adjustments like just-the-right-size elastic for his girth and the custom-made hem.

I see the hours spent in labor as a gift of love.

Every stitch in is infused with meaning, even if we can’t see it.

But I know it is there.

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#gifting

#bearpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

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Toilet Paper: Art and Conversation Piece

Cynthia Coleman Emery's Blog

For Molly

scottissue (1) The eponymously named toilet paper

Seems toilet paper has become front and center.

I got somewhat obsessed during my recent visit to India.

After just a few days on the journey, I ran out of the purse-packet size of Kleenex I brought for the trip, and ended up stuffing my bag with fistfuls of toilet tissue from our hotel.

The reason?

Most public toilets in India avoid paper altogether (it clogs the drain) and users rely instead on a blast of cold water from a hose in the loo.

The method is simple and basic, unlike the porcelain bidets of my youth, growing up overseas.

Bidets were commonplace in homes and hotels in the Middle East and Europe, where they’re plumbed right next to a Western toilet in high-class bathrooms.

Experts are uncertain how the term “bidet” evolved.

Oxford says the French term refers to a pony, and…

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