I've been on and off the internet since mid-June and are thinking about what is good and what is bad about the virtual world, or rather what we'd like to keep and what we'd like to discard. Facebook went out the window some time ago. Our friend Eck calls it "Fakebook". And I've been realizing that so much of the internet is about the illusion of who we are/who we want to be/who we want the world to think we are. Wikipedia is another example of this for me. Academics and some poets have Wikipedia sites that help to grease the wheels of job searches and gigs and publicity. I wonder sometimes who builds those entries and puts the pretty pictures up. When I tried to delete my entry on Wikipedia I was told this was "vandalism". I'm not sure who created the entry, or who updates it, but I can occassionally hack it back down in size without the Wikipedia people flagging me as a vandal.
These are the notes I took about being mostly off and sometimes on the internet over the last month. These are questions I would have googled, answers I arrived at, and miscellaneous facts and musings:
How much holy basil can I drink? Why did our electricity bill go up? Mark F said "email me". I need a RK-33 Panasonic typewriter ribbon. (I ordered it online.) How expensive is domestic adoption? I never emailed Mark F. What's the weather in Buffalo? (Ask someone! Read the newspaper!) The average IPhone user checks his or her IPhone 150 times a day (NPR). Tickets for the puppet show? I did order them online. I read the New York Times, found the weather (national), read book reviews, found movie listings and horse racing news, news also about Burma, Australia, Syria, Israel, and the United States. When I'm not on the computer I cook, sew, read, and run. I was online to look at the energy calculator provided by ConEd and realized our electirc range is an energy demon, but our crock pot is fine. We need groceries from Fresh Direct, so I go to the store instead. Our neighbor says, "You don't text? How do you do that?" She has the phone number for Lana's gymnastics in Flushing and slips the flyer under the door.
What I've found is that I do want to use the internet a couple times a week as an informational tool. Sometimes there are kid events around town for Bea, other times there are rare things I'm looking for like the typewriter ribbon. But I don't want to have relationships online. I want to see people and talk to people on the phone if they are too far away to meet up with in person. I want to write letters also, and I want to remember the names of streets that people live on and also their telephone numbers.
With a kid in the house, these questions have taken on a new importance: how do I help my kid negotiate her way through a real world that is so hooked up to a virtual world? It doesn't make sense to ban screens from a kid who will live in an increasingly virtual world, but I do hope that giving the example of not living connected to a screen will help to keep a balance. The solitary nature of a computer or an iPhone bothers me. We do watch movies a lot, so the screen is present, but it's a communal screen that is about 6 or 8 feet from our heads. When I peer into a tiny screen I disappear from my family, which is what I don't want to do, and what I don't want my kid to do (or at least not much). We've been playing more games here: cards and checkers and of course Barbie marries a frog and the frog runs off with another prince or some variation of that. I've also been noticing that my days are a lot more satisfying when I don't wake up and check my email first thing. And days are extremely satisfying when I'm not online at all. This shouldn't be a big surprise. There are still chunks of the world that are not online and they're not missing out on much. (Though their economic statuses may make them miss out on other things like food and health care.) When I was a smoker, I needed a cigarette in the morning, and when I was bored, I smoked a cigarette. The internet looms in the same way for me, which is why I'm not keen on it these days.
In other news, there was summer camp. Not for me, but for the kid. Not a big deal summer camp, but a couple weeks of dropping her off for a couple hours every morning to play instruments and make art. That experience was a trip-- a chance to see (on a small scale) how counter-intuitive the structure of school really is. We learned to be somewhere every morning at 9:30, which was also counter-intuitive, because sometimes we weren't awake that early and sometimes she wasn't interested in going to this venue at this time on this day. Learning became part of a box: 9:30-12:30, in one particular space, with a lot of instructions about what she should do with her body: stand here, sit here, line up here, eat at this time, etc. It was novel, but also draining, and also ultimately another reminder that ours is an autonomous learning household. Then she learned the phrase "You get what you get and you don't get upset." (for example, when handed an instrument or given a seat to sit in.) Puritanical? Stalinist bread line? I did say kind of bluntly "That's a crock of shit." We talked about it a little bit and changed it to "You get what you need," which seems only fair to a kid. Needs are so various, and schools are so narrow. That's why we're glad that summer camp is over.
Peace out people. And see you soon.
An Autumn Writing Workshop
(Beginning Monday September 9, 6 pm) in Jackson Heights, Queens
Topic: Autobiography: how do we create art from the personal without lapsing into the confessional, touchy-feely, sentimental.
We'll read short stories by James Joyce, works by Gertrude Stein, Bernadette Mayer's Midwinter Day, and others.
Projects will include research on the neighbor you hated as a kid, google map poems of places you've lived, and new angles on the tribute to the dead grandmother.
Open to poets, fiction writers, musicians, filmmakers, visual artists.
Limit eight students, 10 weeks, $300. Reserve a spot today!
1. For the past year or so, maybe longer I guess, we've been without proper computers in our household. In the old days I had my own machine, something with files on it, with a desktop I could rearrange and add photos to. It was a grounding force, that machine. But circumstances of an expanding household and less money changed all that. At first maybe we didn't notice. The computers were dying, first one, then another, then the iPod got smashed, then the computer we borrowed from friend broke too. Thomas borrowed one from work. We call it "the work computer". We surf on and off it like tourists in an internet cafe. I think, often, that I should only have a notebook.
2. I have three notebooks that Thomas brought home from work. They are mock-ups for books. Most of the pages are shiny white. They're all unlined, which is the dilemna. I think that I should only have a notebook, but it should not be an unlined notebook.
3. In September I'm supposed to write a series for Jacket 2 on Mother Poets. I had in mind that mostly I wanted to write about Bernadette Mayer. And also about being an unschooling poet mom. Then other thoughts crept in. Would I be obliged to write about Sylvia Plath? If I think she is not an interesting poet will I also conclude that she is not an interesting mother. If I write publically about mother poets, will the wrath of the mother poet world come down upon me? For a few days a few years ago I was on a mother poet listserv and I had to leave when some of the mothers began talking about enjoying sleep training their kids. (I did note a trend that conservative poets sleep-trained and avant poets did not. There is a dissertation in there somewhere.)
4. The rains have been torrential in New York City, and it feels more like another place, but I'm not sure what place. The coast of Florida the day before a hurricane? Maybe. We've had one tropical storm come through and we're not even very deep into the season of storns with names.
5. Working in my gardens, I can see the wonders of rain. It's a tropical paradise. Should I plant lemon trees in Queens? Peppermint, Spearmint, Oregano, and Chamomile are growing side by side.
6. In the park this week we made masks. It's part of a summer project to explore theatre with the kids. Next week we do puppets. Masks were exciting, because they were not what I thought they'd be. They are spooky, even if they're light-hearted and yellow and pink. Here is the crew on Summit Rock:
7. I'd like to know more about masks. Bea and I went to look at the Franz Boas collection of masks at the Museum of Natural History:
Spooky especially in the dim light of that room. Bea shrugged and said "let's go to Gems". I still want to know more about masks.
8. In the summer workshop, we're exploring the Five Senses. We started with vision, which to me feels like the hardest to think about as the dominant familiar in your face sense. I started by asking trite questions. Why am I so happy when the sky is blue? I took some pictures:
9. I don't understand philosophy, but Thomas was reading a good book about Spinoza and Leibniz, and then I started telling Bea a story about a bottle nosed turtle named Spinoza, and now Spinoza is all the rage around here. (As a turtle, not a philosopher.)
10. One more picture, this one of Gem Girl in the Gem Room at the Museum of Natural History.
Peace Out People.
We've been getting very strange blog comments lately about our unschooling posts. So, this is a shout out to our anonymous friends who want to write, but can't quite tell us who they are. We do like to keep the comments line running for folks who want to connect about poetry, parenting, food politics, and unschooling. So, this is to say if you want to leave a comment, please introduce yourself to the Lisablog Readers! And Hello Walter, thanks for checking in. Peace out People.
This summer I'll be continuing the theme of The Poet's Notebook with an emphasis on The Five Senses. The class will run for ten weeks, with a sequence of two week segments exploring the fields of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
We'll experiment with braille and sign language and synesthesia, and we will think about our habits as writers (what sensory information do we favor? what sensory information do we ignore?).
The class is open to creative people of all kinds, and the dates of meetings are Mondays (6 pm to 8:30 pm):
June 3, 10, 17, 24,
Fee for the class is $300 ($275 for returning students) and the class will be held in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Contact me at email@example.com to register.
From The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter:
Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, of the University of Chicago, studied the greenhouse gases emitted by the production of animal products, and concluded that the typical US diet , about 28 percent of which comes from animal sources, generates the equivalent of nearly 1.5 tons more carbon dioxide per year than a vegan diet with the same number of calories. (240)
The prevailing Western ethic assumes that human interests must always prevail over the comparable interests of members of other species. Since the rise of the modern animal movement in the 1970s, however, this ethic has been on the defensive. The argument is that, despite obvious differences between human and nonhuman animals, we share a capacity to suffer, and this means that they, like us, have interests. If we ignore or discount their interests simply on the grounds that they are not members of our species, the logic of our position is similar to that of the most blatant racists or sexists— those who think that to be white, or male, is to be inherently superior in moral status, irrespective of other characteristics or qualities. (246)
According to Dr Timothy Jones, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona who led a US government funded study of food waste, more than 40 percent of the food grown in the United States is lost or thrown away— that's about $100 billion of wasted food a year. (268)
I read Peter Singer and Jim Mason's The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, and as I said to my friend Evan today, I don't think a book has changed my life so much since I read Ulysses.
In our household we've eaten sustainable meat and dairy for some time (coming from local farmers at our Green Market or from Amish farmers who also deliver raw milk to us). That felt like a step in the right direction.
We assumed that the animals were better cared for than factory farmed animals (and this was confirmed by word-of-mouth from friends who had visited the farms, and from website information about the farmers' practices.)
A couple things came up in Peter Singer's book that revised our food-thinking yet again. Firstly, we don't own a car and don't drive because of its impact on the environment. I've always thought of that as a basic important step I can take to help. But cow-eating (and milk-drinking) has as much of an impact on the environment as car-driving. So now I ask, do I really need to eat cows? The answer is no. Chickens? Well chickens are treated really poorly, sometimes even in "organic" farming contexts. Cage-free doesn't mean free-range; it can mean that the chicken is kept in a shed in close proximity to a lot of other chickens with its beak clipped off. It can not see sunlight and still be cage-free. So, this is a bummer, as they say. Fish? Forget it. Fishing is almost entirely not-sustainable in the 21st Century. Our old friend salmon is either farmed (requiring tons to fish-food which is trawled from the ocean in the form of fish that are then ground up and processed to feed the salmon fish-pellets) or mislabeled as "wild" when often it is farmed. Turkeys: see Chickens. Pigs: pigs have really awful lives in captivity, and yes, they are pretty smart.
I'm always trying to conserve. (I take public transport, I turn off lights, I dislike plastic bags, etc. etc.) It's nothing radical, and in most of the world it's really just the way things are (in Europe people are food and energy conscious, in the Third World they don't have choices— they eat less meat because they can't afford it or can't access it.) But the impact of animal-eating on land, water reserves, and oil energy (pesticides are oil-based and necessary to grow cattle-feed) is phenomenal. The impact of vegetable and fruit eating is usually three times less and sometimes ten times less than the impact of meat eating. Under these circumstances, I think I shouldn't eat meat. I certainly don't need cow milk. I might still eat some goat cheese. And eggs, yes, I use them for our morning pancakes, but I have an egg connection, and I know those chickens personally. (They're pretty happy girls.)
This is the news from the Lisablog headquarters. I think everyone should read The Way We Eat. I think people should stop eating cows too. I mean people who are worried about global warming need to stop eating cows. People who are worried about corral reefs should stop eating fish and shrimp. People who are worried about global warming and about corral reefs should just give up and become vegetarians.
More on this soon. Meanwhile, keep eating the rich!
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