The shrinking family

Shrkinking families have a long history. The terminology of “the nuclear family” is long gone, but ever more present. “Nuclear families” were referred to as families consisting only of parents and children living in the same dwelling. This was in contrast to “extended families”, once called “families” in an earlier time, which consisted of children, parents, and grandparents living in the same dwelling. The now-universal expectation that adult children must leave their families and seek their own independent living has only become the norm since World War II, after we have all experienced great increases in living standards since then, and could afford to move out.

The prosperity came at a price, not measured in dollars. I think that with the shrinking family, there was also a shrinking in our connectedness as a society in general. The term “atomization” in reference to the separation of individuals from each other became a popular term, popularized by Emile Durkheim near the end of the 19th century, has now become the cornerstone of sociology. In addition to atomie, he also coined “anomie”, which is the opposite where you blend in so much with society that you lose your individuality. Both extremes can be bad for us and our mental and social health. But our close association with each other, when it is healthy, is self-affirming and life-affirming in no way that a motivational poster or book ever could be.

The main force in today’s culture are clearly the ones driving us apart. This time, not just from our families, but from each other. Atomization has been raised an order of magnitude in our culture. Along with that, we have become easier targets for society’s more totalitarian forces. The internet is one medium that separates us, and it is common these days to see a couple enter a restaurant, be shown to their seats, given their menus, order, and then promptly get on their cell phones to check their messages, remaining that way until the food arrives, and even beyond that. You start to think what the point is in dating anymore, when one or both people are not speaking to each other, opting instead to check their facebook accounts for lolcat videos instead.

OK, so it may not be lolcat videos — perhaps it is something of greater import, such as messages from your boss. Whatever it is, it can wait. I believe at that moment, no matter who or where you are, the most important thing at that moment should be chatting with your date, and being attentive to the person in front of you. This inattentiveness adds up over time in lost connections with actual human beings whom you see face-to-face, and relationships don’t strengthen, and feelings of alientation become stronger. The greatest beneficiaries of social media use are the social media companies.

I digress. But text messages from your boss that “can’t wait” is a recent phenomenon which has extended the workplace’s control over the worker to hours outside of work. This segues into another atomizing force: extended work hours, which have become commonplace in society.

This last atomizing force, in my opinion, makes it more difficult for individuals to consider families as an option, let alone marriage. The importance of career over marriage, once an individual decision not chosen by many individuals, appears to be largely an employer-driven decision and a means of worker enslavement. The cost of this was to make employment, even self-employment all-encompassing, making families less and less of an attractive option to the point where we live in an urbanized culture with a significant increase in single person dwellings, increasing with each generation. That means for most of us, the single driving force in shaping our social perceptions becomes less to do with neighbours and family and more to do with media, especially corporate media.

And the best way out of atomization are social contact, discussing your concerns and feelings with others, and in forming social groups, visiting relatives, parents, sisters and brothers. The only group that becomes stronger are the corporate structures that rely on increased atomization to keep us from forming groups and — God forbid — making demands.

It is understood immediately how capitalism pollutes the natural environment around us, and our world has been replete with examples of polluted rivers and lakes over several decades, with new issues piling up with each year. Now, it is becoming clear that capitalism also pollutes the human condition, our psyches. They drive us from our natural, social selves, to alone, lonely, and confused people who are easier to control and scare into obedience.

Coverage by the failing New York Times (and nearly everyone else)

While I sip on my Covfefe, I find that the New York Times has already declared that Trump will lose the 2020 race. To be sure, Trump’s popularity is tanking, but that’s also what the press said before the 2016 race. I don’t consider this fake news, just premature news.

Like in the 2016 election, I wonder if this prognostication of Trump’s 2020 demise, albeit based on very real unpopularity, is still premature. I notice that there are not a whole lot of Republican opportunists sensing a vacuum and denouncing Trump to take the leadership for themselves. Why is that happening? I am sensing that Republicans, despite some rumblings, are getting a different message, and are still throwing their support behind Trump despite, as the Times reports, the lowest polling for a sitting president in 70 years or so.

Also, why aren’t more notable opponents running for the leadership of the Democrats?

A whole lot of the media coverage smells funny surrounding Trump, according to an analysis by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). For example, has anyone read any media reports as to why the figure $5.7 billion is touted as being needed to build the wall/slats/barrier/whatchamacallit along the Tex-Mex border? Why that amount? How are they spending it? Where did that number come from, outside of Trump’s declaration-by-fiat that that is what it will cost? Why was that figure unchanged after Trump changed the material from concrete to steel slats? The media appears silent on all of this. These are not minor questions, these are at the heart of the reason for the longest government shutdown in American history.

For those of us who read this news, it would be a good question to ponder: how does this premature prognostication help the far right?

Exactly how valuable to the Republicans is this “base” they like to appeal to so much? Why is this “base” not being abandoned without a second thought?

Computers in education

Children enjoying some time reading at their desktops.
The debate over computers in the schools has finally comeĀ  around to giving naysayers equal time. There was an article in the Sunday New York Times regarding a school in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley that teaches math, music, and other standard elementary school subjects in a computer-free environment.Computers are touted as an enhancer for learning in education. However, data is unclear as to whether they do anything at all. There appear to do some things better, such as helping us to visualise certain concepts such as transformations in graphs in math. But it doesn’t help matters if by grade 10 a student is still lunging for his or her calculator to figure out 7×6.

A famous american president, reading at his desktop.
The Waldorf school in the article appeared to have caught on to the idea that in order to learn something, your brain should be doing the work. A machine shouldn’t be doing the work for you. Otherwise, you are accepting your own obsolescence, and admitting to the world that you are replaceable by a machine.There is no substitute for a live, human teacher or the child’s own parent in helping a child learn. The Waldorf school bans computers up to at least grade 8, afterward allowing limited access to computer technology. Most user interfaces are braindead simple these days anyway. It takes you minutes to learn how to use your iTouch device. These days, if you have to read a manual to learn the operation of a new computer gizmo, the designers have failed. Windows and OSX are designed that way too. The learning of how to use a computer is easier than it has ever been, and students lose nothing by delaying their exposure to computers to a later age.

Crappy Album Covers #63 — The Search for Inner Peace

Announcement: This series of Crappy Album Covers will be sent out every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from now on, and it will be roughly at 6 PM, EDT/EST. Just so everyone knows what is going on. For reference, I left a permanent note on the “About” page.

album-cover-crap-79_ppot_com1 Yes. Nothing says “I love my life” more than being dunked in a pool of water and looking like a drowned rat. Jim Post’s 1978 folk recording appears to be his third album from a recording career that began in 1973.Jim has played Mark Twain a number of times for various plays, recordings, and videos, and has done children’s albums. He has also been written up in The Smithsonian.
album-cover-crap-82_vinylcoversfreefr_00237 I’m OK, You’re OK; I’m alright; you’re alright. We are at one with the world. This 1982 British single from Young Steve and The Afternoon Boys is the only single I know of whose flip side is music from a different artist: “Oh Damien” by a group called Damien And The Social Workers.The Single Covers Archive (UK) lists this record as “novelty”. In ’82, this single reached as high as #40 on the singles chart.
album-cover-crap-80_normal_vinylcoversfreefr_00251 If you think Gary Wilson looks like a dork with those dark glasses, then it is because you don’t really know him. For awhile during the early disco era, Wilson led a band called “Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates”.

“You Think You Really Know Me” is a 2002 re-release recorded in Wilson’s basement on a TEAC 2340 4-track 7″ reel-to-reel prior to its initial release in 1977. There was some effort trying to find him to give the go-ahead to re-release the LP throughout the ’90s and into the early part of the 00’s. This is because there is indeed a cult following of fans that are quite fascinated by Wilson’s music. He also was once written up in the New York Times.

For those interested in Gary Wilson and want to have some idea of the cult following he had, below is a video, with links to a variety of others: