Friday, October 30, 2009

The Little Teapot Who Needed a Home

I honestly think it's a mistake to teach young children to anthropomorphize inanimate objects. It can be really hard to unteach this whole "inanimate objects have feelings" thing.

I was immersed in all the usual kids' stories about The Little Engine That Could, and The Brave Little Steam Shovel and all that. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years was one godawful tearjerker. Apparently most kids outgrow the idea that manmade objects have feelings. But for some of us -- and I don't think it's very emotionally healthy -- it lives on. There's a child-mind alternate reality that my rational adult mind seems to maintain like an archive, in which everything around me has emotions. Stuffed animals. An old worn shirt. My grandparents' 1950's radio.

Sure, there's an emotional connection with people we love, which kind of gets conducted through something that they used and loved, but I can't seem to break myself of the habit of crediting the objects themselves with having emotions.

My rational mind knows that, for example, a lovely old clock in a junk shop is really just composed of gears and wires and glass formed in a factory. But back there in my Childhood Mind, there's this ghastly little kiddie tale taking shape, of The Little Clock Nobody Wanted.

It's awful. Life has enough real heart-tugging stories. Heck, any animal shelter has plenty of them, and those inmates really do have feelings.

The metaphor could get out of hand but if I picture my mind as a house, with different functions and activities happening in its various rooms, this lingering childhood part of it is like the mudroom in almost every way:

It's messy and organized (if you can call it that) by momentary feeling rather than with Mr. Spock-like logic; I kick this off here, I fling that wherever. It's not served by the heating/cooling system of the house; instead it experiences all the highs and lows of my emotional weather. No pretty wallpaper hides the raw beams and no decorative furniture conceals mud-spattered jackets or dirty shoes. In the mudroom, life's grit and grime have not been cleaned up. It's definitely not part of the house tour.

I'd truly like to quit empathizing with objects, but some part of my psyche got arrested in its development. My rational thinking is alive and well and I do manage to call it up, but it has not banished the magical kid-thinking. Maybe that makes me a better writer. I sure hope it serves me in some way.

So we're in this antique shop day before yesterday, and they have a 75% -off shelf. And on that shelf is a pretty little teapot, date unknown.

When I looked closer, I could see that it was, of all things, an electric teapot. With a heating element built in.

Now that I've researched it, I find that these teapots are very common. They're the precursors of those tinny little hotpots we had in the college dorm. There were and are lots of them around, but since we never had them at home and I never collected anything breakable until we got into this collectibles business, I never knew china pots with built-in heating elements existed.

But its commonness would not have made a bit of difference to me even if I'd known it. I looked at this pretty little thing and said, "Oh, it wants to go home with me!"

The shop owner obviously knew that these pots are abundant, because even before it moved to the 75% -off shelf, she'd priced it at only $7.00. Search for "Moss Rose electric teapot" on eBay and see how many you find, selling for about 9+ dollars. But then, add shipping.

Anyway, I loved it, and here it is. 75% -off of $7.00 is ONE dollar and SEVENTY-FIVE cents, and that's what I paid, and however many there are out there, it makes me happy to glance up and see it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To an Old Love

Corn syrup solids ne'er more brightly dyed!
Confection once belov├ęd, not despised!

Young alchemists, we bit each layer to savour
each subtle nuance of each colour's flavour.
Yet such restraint, our passion must defeat.
We'd by the fistful cram ourselves with sweet.
Thou caked among our teeth, we'd ram our tongues
thy sug'ry mortar to dislodge therefrom!

O how we loved and gorged ourselves on thee!
O! fickle lovers? never would we be!

But lo, now others fly to other Chews
of faddish shapes and flavours, garish hues,
and in their shadow thou hast come to rest
like fruitcake, an obligatory guest
derided and dismissed, at Hallow's Fest!

But thou deservest better, for the years
of joy thou gavest us, despite our tears
when sentence harsh the dentist would pronounce -
Sweet memories those sorrows surely trounce!

They err who treat their early love with scorn.
For first loves merely sleep and are reborn!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Building business for you !

You can click this for a more legible version.

But the cartoon captions are STILL hard to read, so I'm adding bigger versions of each one -- scroll down to the bottom of this post and you can click them there for the big versions.

I occasionally post a comic-strip ad from the heyday of that kind of advertising. This one uses panel cartoons, but I thought I'd throw it in because it's an ad for ads, touting the benefits of signing on with Sylvania and letting their cartoon ads help you attract customers to your repair business.

Sylvania asks you to contact them in order to participate. It sounds like you made Sylvania your parts supplier and you'd get a big version of that round logo for your window. Passers-by see it and recognize it from Look or the Post and know that it's "the Sylvania sign of dependable service"! And of quality, name-brand, Made In U. S. A. parts.

It's from Radio & Television News for January, 1950:
These humorous ads, running in the cream of the nation's publications, help assure you a steady stream of new customers and greater profit.
The artist is Russell Patterson whose Jazz Age drawings became iconic and who kept going strong for decades.

Eye-catchers, they definitely are.

If you click each one below, it should come up at a readable size:


Friday, October 09, 2009

Me and Authority

I sometimes say that I'm really not a very sweet, nice person and I usually get reactions along the lines of "Ha ha! You're funny!" or "You're too hard on yourself."

But honestly, sweetness has never been one of my major virtues. As a young child I trusted nobody, felt suspicious of any motivator or program designed to improve my mind or attitude, and felt contempt for kids who jumped enthusiastically into whatever project they were told to jump into.

It would be easy to pump myself up by saying that such children were duller and more sheeplike than I was, but it's seriously untrue. School Enthusiasts were often genuinely bright, creative kids.

Below you'll find an approximation of one of those elementary school motivational doohickeys : The Rainbow Reading Chart.

This is NOT the actual chart. I did not cherish or keep mine, and I've looked at all kinds of reading incentive tools online but cannot find anything like it, so this is a guesswork version that I've created purely from memory.

I've guessed at the categories, but I think the chart was evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction and I'm pretty sure that we got that bonus circle in the middle to use for an extra book in a category we liked best.

No matter - it gives you the general idea.

It's good for kids to expand their horizons and not just read the same kind of thing over and over -- actually I do, really, pretty much see the merit in that -- so some educator somewhere came up with using color as a motivator.

For each book we read, we colored one box in the correct subject row. We were allegedly inspired to read at least one book in every category so as to complete the outer circle, coloring every box around the rim. Then work our way inward, reading more in each row.

We all had to do and turn in a chart, but our level of achievement was up to us. It was handed out by the librarian during weekly Library Time, and wasn't graded. This being the 1960s, when humiliating kids was considered just fine, she held up each chart when we turned them in, so that the reluctant reader, with only 3 or 4 boxes colored at all, got to squirm for a few seconds. In many ways it was a majorly sukky era.

Here's my recreation of the completely filled and exquisitely colored chart of a Paragon Of Educational Achievement and Good Attitude, whom I will call Suzy :

"Suzy" always delivered with gusto. See how snarky I'm being? It's jealousy. She was truly smart, both a good artist and a good creative writer. No idea what became of her after elementary school but I suspect good things.

Anyway she got really into assignments like this and her chart was held up for us as both a show of well-rounded reading -- I mean, Suzy would read anything -- and a great coloring job. Other cool coloring jobs were also praised.

Creative coloring was not discouraged. They weren't rigid about coloring rules, really. Fun was OK. You could use the rainbow, or do all shades of purple or whatever you liked. The main idea was to read widely.

My chart was nothing to brag on. I read only what I wanted to read. It annoyed me that extra books weren't counted once their category was filled, but I basically said "Pffft" to switching over to some topic I didn't care about, when I could be reading another Nancy Drew or Little House story.

My interests really weren't all that narrow. I had spells of engagement in various topics. I pored over the World Book's anthropology section. My family was full of doctors and I went through a phase of fascination with medical advances. History was fun if there was good drama. Squanto and the Pilgrims was a wonderful, sad story. I devoured lots of those Bobbs Merrill Childhood of Famous Americans biographies for kids that later, in library school, we were told were didactic and boring turnoffs for children. Sheesh. They weren't for me!

But anyway, this chart was a one-time thing, done between certain dates. My bursts of nonfiction interest took place either before or after it, and naturally, reading World Book for fun didn't count.

My parents, who were/are none too fond of conformity either (This, by the way, is a Clue), instilled in me no ardor for incentive programs. I read plenty without charts, and they actually kind of wanted me reading less and playing outdoors more. I was really a little snot about the enthusiastic kids. Can't they see through all this Pretty Colors, certificates, Gold Stars crap?! I wondered. When the grownups want to make us do something, they try to fool us into thinking that we're the ones who want to do it.

The thing that -- I guess? -- made me differ from the other kids was not that I was such an independent thinker, but that I had a trust problem. The Suzys of the world really believed that teachers and other Powers That Be had our best interests at heart; that even annoying assignments most likely had good motives behind them. For Suzy, the glass was half full; for me, half empty.

It persists, in that I really really do NOT like authority. I always saw authority as being the creator of meaningless Dilbert-style busywork that keeps people too busy to rock the boat.

It's how I felt about assignments that actually had no dark purpose at all, and were only ways to help me grow and learn. This was one of them -- now I see it as kind of a neat idea.

It's how I still feel about School Spirit blather, which I think is strictly a way to channel kids' energies into supporting the Regime in Power, rather than questioning it. It's for sure how I felt about the county I used to work for, with its endless round of meaningless meetings and procedures.

My mission, and I guess I choose to accept it, is to learn to sort good authority from bad, but I will probably never get past thinking that anyone who issues rules or requirements for me is guilty of a power trip until proven innocent.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Major announcement

Since I occasionally mention the fact that i'm a professed Christian, I need to make an announcement.

I've switched. I've become an atheist. If there were a God, then no child would be saddled with the family that Tripp Johnston is saddled with.

- Ruth
with a cold and in a bad mood

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tonight's excitement