Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More on Bullying

I can't help myself.  I've got to talk about bullying again.  I was minding my own business, reading the "Living" section (of all things) in today's Trenton Times, and there it was:  an article in a column labeled Parenting entitled, "Does coach need to know of child's bullied past?"  The article was lifted from the Chicago Tribune and posed the following hypothetical dilemma:
Your daughter earned a spot on a high school team with two girls who bullied her in the past. Should you warn the coach, or hope this is a new beginning?
It then posted a variety of answers from a "panel of staff contributors" before posting Expert Advice from a clinical psychologist.  Before looking at the Expert Advice, though, I decided to play the game.  As a parent of three grown children, all of whom had been bullied at one time or another in high school, how would I have handled this particular problem?

First off, since this scenario is only concerned about talking to the coach (and not the bullies' parents, the school principal, or the police), I'll assume that this "bullying" is not something physically dangerous and is more on the order of derogatory comments and mind games at which high school cliques excel.  

My answer was almost instantaneous: I'd talk with my daughter about it.  If she wasn't worried about it, the conversation would be brief.  But if I sensed that she was getting stressed out about it, I'd give her the following advice:
  • I'll back you up (if needed) but this is something that you have to handle yourself.  
  • At this point, say nothing to the coach.  There's no indication that a problem even exists. 
  • The fact that the three of you are participating in a team sport like soccer is one of the best ways of eliminating the bullying.  You'll be hearing the word "Teamwork" every day in practice.  If the girls' attitude towards you affects their ability to play with you, the coach will notice. 
  • If the coach doesn't notice, though, it means that you have a very bad coach.  Meet with your coach privately and explain the situation.  It probably won't do any good (since the coach is pathetic) but it's a last-ditch effort. 
  • If the stress outweighs the enjoyment, quit the team, tell the coach why you are quitting, and play travel soccer or club soccer or intramural soccer.
Having formulated my answer, I then looked at the Expert Advice.  It basically said that you, as the parent, should immediately talk to the coach!!   I couldn't believe it!  To her credit, though, the Expert did say that you should let your daughter know that you're going to do this.  Oh, really? How thoughtful!  So here's why I think the Expert got it dead wrong:
  • Parents should be trying to instill self-reliance in their children.  Let them at least try to fight their own battles before Mom or Dad swoop in to save the day.
  • We're talking about a trivial issue here.  It's not about your kid seeing another kid with a gun at school, it's about two kids who may or may not pass the ball to your kid when she's open.
  • The coach's job is to ensure that his kids play like a team and support each other 100% while they're on the field, not to make them like each other off the field.  If two kids aren't playing team ball, the coach should see this without Mom or Dad pointing it out.
So, per the Expert Advice, you should weaken your daughter's self-reliance, give more ammunition to her bullies, and insult her coach.  Who would have thought?  Glad my teenage parenting days are over!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Music Box

Often, especially on the weekends, I "go down the rat hole" while reading the morning paper.  A perfect example of this happened yesterday while reading the Sunday New York Times.  I began my breakfast reading this great article by Dick Cavett regarding a meeting he had with Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame) back in the 60's.  Early in the article, he states:
"I actually was about to meet the man who helped the fat man struggle and wrestle and heave that piano up that long flight of steps in "The Music Box.'"

Now, I've always been a fan of slapstick, particularly back in the 60's.  I loved Abbot & Costello, The Three Stooges, and Dick van Dyke, and I was somewhat familiar with Laurel and Hardy, occasionally watching chopped up versions of their many short films from the 20's and 30's on syndicated TV.  And, of course, there was "Babes in Toyland" (aka "The March of the Wooden Soldiers"), their holiday classic that is still a TV staple between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But I had never heard of "The Music Box", so it was off to the Internet and down the rat hole.

The first stop was YouTube.  I wanted to see that piano scene for myself!  I searched on "Laurel and Hardy" and "piano" and came up with a number of hits.  Click on the image below to see the first excerpt I selected, probably because it was colorized.

Encountering The Professor
If you found that scene lame, you can stop reading right now.  For me, though, there were at least three parts of that 100 second clip that had me laughing 15 minutes later whenever I thought of them.  I had to see another excerpt.   If you're still with me, click on the image below and watch another 90 seconds:

Getting a look at the stairs
That excerpt wasn't as uproarious as the first, but it was funny enough to pique my interest.  It was off to Wikipedia to research this film.  As it turns out, it's probably Laurel and Hardy's most famous, winning the very first Academy Award for Live Action Short Film (Comedy) in 1932.  On top of that, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

So, some night when you're looking for a few laughs and you've only got about 30 minutes available, grab a beer, open up your laptop, and click on the image below.   It's the full 27 minute and 43 second version in the original black and white and with all of the opening credits intact.

"The Music Box" in its entirety
One more thing:  For those of you who've seen the movie Barbershop (which all of you should), Laurel and Hardy were alive and well when those two guys tried to get that stolen ATM machine up a flight of stairs!

Trailer for "Barbershop" --  0:24 mark
It doesn't take much for me to fall into a rat hole but -- at least this time -- I'm glad I did.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cosmos .... A Star is Born!

Untitled painting by Gavin Jantjes

It's time for me to brag a little.

One of my sisters, Chris Mullen Kreamer, is a graduate of Indiana University with a PhD in African Art History and minors in Anthropology and African Studies.  She is also the Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of African Arts, located on the National Mall in Washington, DC.  

National Museum of African Arts

Despite her demanding job and busy schedule, Chris is a regular at almost every Mullen family function, including the 2008 Mullen Family Reunion in Ballina.  If you were fortunate enough to meet her at that event, she probably didn't talk a lot about her work.  Like nuclear physics and brain surgery, her field is complex, specialized, and not easily discussed at a bar while drinking a Guinness.   

Chris at the 2008 Reunion in Ireland

Those of us close to Chris, though, have long been aware of her preeminence in the field and her reputation among colleagues.  But now, thanks to the August 31 edition of the New York Times, the entire world knows!  It contains a review of an exhibition organized by Chris that opened in June entitled "African Cosmos: Stellar Arts".  And I'm not talking about a teeny-weeny review buried deep within the paper;  I'm talking about a huge page-and-a-half article with full color photos that headlines the Weekend Arts section and is referenced on the front page of the whole damn paper!!  I nearly choked on my morning coffee when I saw it on Friday!

For those of you that missed it, an online version of that review can be found here.  Before reading it, though, click on the photo below to hear Chris describe the exhibition on PBS NewsHour (formerly The MacNeil/Lehrer Report) in her own words. 

Being interviewed on PBS NewsHour

What Chris doesn't say in this interview is that the entire exhibition was her brainchild, that its content is totally original, and that it took almost ten years to bring it to fruition!  That type of modesty is typical of Chris.  With that as a backdrop, go back and read the NY Times article.   I'll wait .....

Fantastic article, wasn't it?  I particularly liked the closing paragraph:
"Ms. Kreamer is certainly busy; she seems to have been given a free hand in helping to determine where the museum is going and how it’s going to get there. Judging by her recent work the directions will be manifold and pursued with imagination and passion. At the end of the day the future of a museum that once fell short is now looking up."
Two other things to check out:
  1. A July 6 interview with Chris in the Washington Post that quoted Chris extensively and gave the exhibition some much-needed publicity.
  2. An online tour of the exhibition.  
If you live within traveling distance of Washington, DC (which, these days, means everyone), the Cosmos exhibition will be on display until December 9, 2012.  Needless to say, I highly recommend it.  

There's a new star in the Cosmos and this one's a Mullen!

Upper level view of the Cosmos exhibition