Sunday, November 29, 2009

An open letter to everyone

Dear everyone who has ever lived, specifically long enough to be allowed to vote:

Please stop telling unhappy teenagers that these are the best years of their lives. Telling someone who is miserable that it will only get worse from here is abusive, cruel, and inexcusable.

If you were going through a bad divorce, the death of a loved one, or some other tough time, and someone told you to suck it up because the rest of your life will be even worse than this, you would never speak to them again, and rightfully so.

So please, don't do this to teenagers. Because I have a feeling this is a big factor in the high teenage suicide rate - these kids have been kept separate from real life, and have no idea that it gets better. And people are telling them it only gets worse.

(Pro tip for teens: It gets better.)


A bit about TV, with relevant meme

(Feel free to just scroll down to the meme if you're in a tl;dr kinda mood.)

As a kid, I was allowed to as much TV as I wanted. And I watched hours and hours a day, while still finding time to do other stuff. Often, that "other stuff" included acting out elaborate stories inspired by my favorite shows. Usually once I'd been watching a show for awhile, my little universe it had inspired bore no resemblance to the show itself.

By adulthood, I had my fill of TV - the internet was a lot more interactive - and watched very little. I'm ashamed to say I also got a bit snobby about that, thinking people who watch a lot of TV were just too lazy or uncreative to think of anything else to do. It seemed every time I got invited to friends' houses, the only thing we'd do was watch movies. No playing video games, or board games, or doing crafts, or anything actually interactive. Just sitting and watching. I could do that at home!

At the beginning of this year, my mom and I decided paying $70 a month when nothing was ever on was ridiculous, and we got rid of TV. Ironically, getting rid of it is what made me love it again. See, my mom still loved TV, so we sought out other ways to watch it. We got Netflix and put a computer in the living room for watching shows on Hulu and Youtube. Now, instead of flipping channels, I could watch any show in the world. I rediscovered childhood favorites like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Animaniacs, and discovered new favorites like Star Trek TOS, which I would never have seen on TV.

Being able to control what I watched and when I watched it meant that I could really pay attention to shows, analyze them, learn from them. I discovered favorite actors and voice actors, and began to appreciate acting as an art (I had mostly dismissed it before). I started to understand the nuances of plotlines and archetypes. Recently, I've been doing tons of reading on TV Tropes - which is like taking a course in literary analysis, with a surprising amount of science thrown in.

So I'm really, really thankful for the influence that TV has had on my life, ever since I got rid of it.

And now, a meme.

Rules: Bold all of the following TV shows which you’ve ever seen 3 or more episodes of in your lifetime. Italicize a show if you’re positive you’ve seen every episode of it. Add a * for particular favorites.

(For my own posterity/psychoanalytic purposes, I'm putting my mom's favorites in pink and my grandma's favorites in purple. This is partly to demonstrate the "TV culture" in which I grew up, and partly to explain why I've seen things like Northern Exposure. Colored-and-bold means I watched with them at least occasionally.

Also, some of my asterisks are for childhood favorites that I may or may not find appalling if I rewatched them now.)

7th Heaven
American Gothic
America’s Next Top Model
Arrested Development
Babylon 5
Batman: The Animated Series
Battlestar Galactica (the old one)
Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
Beverly Hills 90210
Bosom Buddies
Boston Legal
Boy Meets World
Brothers And Sisters
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Chappelle’s Show
Charlie’s Angels
Chicago Hope*
Clarissa Explains it All*
Commander in Chief
Crossing Jordan
CSI: Miami
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dark Angel
Dark Skies
DaVinci’s Inquest
Dawson’s Creek
Dead Like Me
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Designing Women
Desperate Housewives
Dharma & Greg
Different Strokes
Doctor Who (original series)
Doctor Who 2005
Due South
ER* (This show provided "family TV night" for me, my mom, and my grandma for about a year - until George Clooney left, at which point we unanimously stopped watching.)
Even Stevens
Everybody Loves Raymond
Facts of Life
Family Guy
Fantasy Island
Fawlty Towers
Freaks and Geeks
Get Smart*
Gilligan’s Island*
Gilmore Girls
Gossip Girl
Grey’s Anatomy
Grange Hill
Growing Pains
Happy Days
Hercules: the Legendary Journeys
Home Improvement
Homicide: Life on the Street
I Dream of Jeannie
I Love Lucy*
Invader Zim
Hell’s Kitchen
Kim Possible
Knight Rider
Knight Rider: 2008
Kung Fu
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
La Femme Nikita
LA Law
Laverne and Shirley
Law and Order: SVU
Life on Mars (UK)
Life on Mars (US)
Little House on the Prairie
Lizzie McGuire
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Lost in Space
Malcolm in the Middle (Note: I hate this show, but it came on after the Simpsons, so I watched by default, like many other people. I'm positive this is the only reason it was successful. Futurama should've had that timeslot instead.)
Married… With Children
McLeods Daughters
Melrose Place
Miami Vice
Mission: Impossible
Mod Squad
Mork & Mindy*
Murphy Brown
Mystery Science Theater 3000
My Life As A Dog
My So Called Life
My Three Sons
My Two Dads
Ned Bigby’s Declassified School Survival Guide
Northern Exposure
One Tree Hill
Perry Mason
Power Rangers (I have not seen even one episode of this, which is incredible for someone of my generation.)
Press Gang
Prison Break
Private Practice
Project Runway
Pushing Daisies
Quantum Leap
Queer As Folk (US)
Queer as Folk (UK)
Remington Steele
Rescue Me
Road Rules
Roseanne* (I am still angry about the series finale.)
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Seaquest DSV
Sex and the City
Six Feet Under
Slings and Arrows
So Weird
South of Nowhere
South Park*
Spongebob Squarepants*
Star Trek*
Star Trek: The Next Generation*
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise
Stargate Atlantis
Stargate SG-1
Starsky & Hutch
Teen Titans
That 70’s Show*
That’s So Raven
The 4400
The Addams Family
The Amazing Race
The Andy Griffith Show (The only two silver linings of my mother's death are that I no longer have to eat boiled cabbage, and I never have to listen to this theme song again.)
The A-Team
The Avengers
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Brady Bunch
The Cosby Show*
The Daily Show*
The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
The Dead Zone
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Flintstones
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Golden Girls* (I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode, although occasionally a new one sneaks in. My whackjob conspiracy theory is that they secretly kept making new ones to release Tupac-style after the Girls died.)
The Honeymooners
The Jeffersons
The Jetsons
The L Word
The Love Boat
The Magnificent Seven
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Monkees
The Munsters*
The Office (US)
The Office (UK)
The Powerpuff Girls
The Pretender
The Real World
The Shield
The Simpsons* (I've seen, and nearly memorized, every episode up to about season 10. After that I lost track.)
The Six Million Dollar Man
The Sopranos
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
The Twilight Zone
The Waltons
The West Wing
The Wonder Years
The X-Files
Third Watch
Three’s Company
Twin Peaks
Twitch City
True Blood
Ugly Betty
Veronica Mars
Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)*
Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)*
Will and Grace
Xena: Warrior Princess

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Unschooling And...

I haven't had much of a desire to blog lately, and this will likely be short*. But I want to address something I see cropping up here and there in the unschooling community that's been bugging me. A lot of unschoolers - usually unschooling parents - seem to be making the assumption that unschoolers are, or should be, unified in also following some other specific "alternative" lifestyle. I've seen it with green living, Libertarianism, the Law of Attraction, home birth, veganism, you name it. Where I personally stand on these various topics is beyond the scope of this post, and also irrelevant. The point here is that it really pisses me off when anyone - especially people within the community! - assumes unschoolers are a monolithic group, who all have the exact same values and live the exact same way.

No. Despite how much more accepting unschoolers are likely to be of various political affiliations or lifestyle choices** that the mainstream rejects, unschooling itself is not synonymous with any of them. The one and only shared value that is required for unschooling is the idea that children should be respected as whole people who can make their own choices. Period. It has nothing to do with what you worship (or don't), who you vote for, what you eat, or where you shop. There are unschoolers who practice traditional religions, buy meat and eggs at Walmart, vote straight-up George Bush conservative, take antidepressants, hunt deer, thoroughly enjoy mainstream media, love to shop at the mall, love Starbucks, whatever. Some of these are things I do, some aren't. Some I agree with and some I don't. Maybe you think all of these things are wrong and would never do any of them. That's all beside the point.

What does matter is that there needs to be room for all of those things in the unschooling community. And most unschoolers consider themselves to be open-minded, accepting people. But statements like "I think unschooling goes hand-in-hand with green living" or "Unschooling has merged with LoA" unintentionally cast people who don't practice those things as outsiders. Newcomers who want a mostly-conventional life that just doesn't include being coercive toward their kids will be scared off. Maybe they'll be turned off of unschooling altogether, or maybe they'll just keep to themselves and stay away from the conventions, causing their families to miss out on valuable support and connections.

This isn't a knock at any of the ways of living I've named. I applaud anyone who stands up for their values and tries their best to live according to them (provided they do so without harming other people, of course). But making unfair assumptions about people makes unschooling less inclusive and less friendly, confuses people who are considering unschooling, and ultimately does no one any favors. I want to see the community be as diverse as possible. There's already a stereotype that unschooling is only a white, privileged hippie thing. I don't want to design my life as a response to stereotypes, but it's worth taking a look at what we might be doing, intentionally or not, to make people feel unwelcome.

*Yes, four paragraphs is short for me :p
**Note that I'm using "lifestyle choices" in the correct, literal sense, not the "dismissive euphemism for being gay" sense.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My new favorite holiday

Last year, I realized I had gotten way too perfectionist about the holidays. I vowed that this year I would celebrate them however felt right instead of according to the arbitrary rules in my head about how you're supposed to celebrate.

This is my first holiday season without my mom. I'm lucky enough to have good friends who made sure I wasn't alone on Thanksgiving, which is usually my favorite holiday. But something didn't feel right. I just couldn't get into the mood when I wasn't doing Thanksgiving the usual way. It used to be a quiet holiday for me; just me, my mom and maybe one or at MOST two invited guests. I'd cook, while watching the parade. We'd eat dinner - the same meal my grandma used to make - around 12:30 and then maybe catch some of the dog show (this invariably ended in us getting pissy because some bloodhound beat the smooth dachshund and some Yorkie beat the bull terrier). Then I'd go to my room to become comatose and watch the silly marathons on TV, while my mom watched football in the living room. That night, we'd decorate the Christmas tree.

Yesterday was a big, fun day with lots of people. But I didn't get to cook, we missed the parade because we were driving and the dog show because no one else cared, there was no squash casserole or baked sweet potatoes, and my tree is still bare. And, of course, my mom wasn't there. It just didn't feel like Thanksgiving to me.

So today I'm celebrating a second Thanksgiving, by myself, the way I want to. I'm going to make myself the dinner I want (baked chicken, sweet potatoes, coleslaw and dressing), watch clips of the parade on Youtube, and relax. I don't care about the dog show, but I do think I'm going to make a tradition of having an afternoon marathon of whatever has caught my attention the most during the year. See, last year my big thing was prog rock, and I spent Thanksgiving afternoon watching a marathon of Pink Floyd concerts on VH1. So this year I'll watch a marathon of Star Trek. Then I'll decorate my tree, provided my kitten decides to allow it.

In short, Thanksgiving is for traveling and seeing people and being thankful for everything I have now. This second Thanksgiving, celebrated on Black Friday, is for following my family traditions and being thankful for everything I had before. It's a time to remember the people and experiences in my past that made me the person I am.