Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving is a great holiday. Not only is it specifically devoted to the virtue of gratitude over consumption, but it even offers us a way past the too-abstract notion of “being thankful,” by means of a story.

Yes, I mean the story of the Pilgrims who settled at Plymouth. It’s a complex story, with plenty of food for thought about the effects of colonialism, the experiment in communal living, and so on, and we probably take it too much for granted. The funny thing is, however, no child knows this too-familiar story until it is told to them. Stranger still (to me), every child has a first time to hear the story, and a first time to remember hearing it – and the remembering rarely happens upon the second hearing! I think it’s important that the first many tellings convey the bright kernel at the center.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What is Childhood For?

Is childhood preparation for adulthood, or a magical time of life to be savored?

Reading variously across that great font of wisdom known as The Internet, I’ve found most parenting “experts” fall into one of two camps: Camp Preparation, or Camp Magic.

Camp Preparation has little time for fluffy foolishness about enjoying the endearing foibles and short attention spans of adults-in-the-making. People of all ages can, and should, be productive citizens. Camp Magic, meanwhile, recoils in horror from terrible taskmasters demanding work and responsibility from winsome little souls only briefly unshackled from a burdensome world.

But what if childhood is both?

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Eric Peters: Far Side of the Sea

Singer-songwriter transforms electro-pop from a guilty pleasure to deep joy.

If you're looking for a mellow summer-time album to play on a long stretch of highway, or across a tiki-torch-lit deck, look no further. Musically, this is a terrifically accessible album, planted firmly in a category you might be tempted to call "guilty pleasures." But there is no guilt here, except perhaps the guilt Peters wrestles with in his probing, vulnerable, yet hopeful lyrics.

The album opens with the kind of songwriter line that could drive you crazy wondering about the story behind it:
I'll never steal the show / but I once stole a car
Peters paints this plaintive, tantalizing statement with a sunflower-golden melody and inky, electro-pop production - a combination this album keeps bringing for song after song.

Fear of hurting others, the spectre of failure, and a gritty, dust-bowl weariness are the monsters loose under Peters' starry night. The swirl of each song describes a search for hope that stubbornly refuses to be caught until, in the end, it catches you instead.

In an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, written by Richard Curtis, a character explains the value of Vincent Van Gogh's work:
"He transformed the pain of his life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstacy and joy and magnificance of our one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again."
It's a great quote, and I love it none the less for knowing Eric Peters has done just that.

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