Category Archives: environmentalism

The Lovers, the Dreamers, and Me

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Have you noticed that they just don’t make children’s programming like they used to?  I say that at the risk of someone leaving a comment of something like, “every generation complains that new shows aren’t like the shows with which they grew up!”  But really, it’s true.  Children’s programming after 2000 just went downhill.  The early Disney cartoons, even though I used to find them boring, introduced children to refined music.  I’m not talking about “Little Einsteins” we-play-the-first-eight-bars-over-and-over-for-30-minutes kind of introductions.  Disney, Warner Brothers…they introduced children to the real, non-bastardized, actual instrumentals, as-intended-by-the-composer recordings of this music.  I’m sure this isn’t a big deal to many of you; however, I would venture to say that for those of you don’t care about the real versions of refined music being in children’s programming, probably don’t like it anyway…and maybe it’s because you didn’t watch enough of (or any of) those cartoons as a child.

So, let’s discuss what I consider to be the best three children’s shows of all time: Sesame Street (original, not current), The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock.  On the surface, none of these shows are (what I call) Pokemanimation.  What is that?  The insane form of animation found in Pokemon that is super bubbly with no details whatsoever.  You know, the same kind found on the avatars in World of Warcraft.  I’m convinced that this has become a popular style of animation because the artists got lazy, eventually making the eye-brain connection of young people lazy.  That is, if they see too many hard edges and details, their brains will explode.  All three of the shows that I previously mentioned utilize(d) puppets, costumes, and actual humans (and not humans in front of a green screen, a la Blue’s Clues).

Sesame Street, created in 1966, was the first show that had a researched, comprehensive curriculum for its age group.  The whole purpose of Sesame Street was to prepare two to four-year olds for school–especially those who came from low-income families.  The show had educational segments interspersed with short segments of entertainment.  Other than teaching numbers, letters, words, and small amounts of Spanish, the show had underlying themes of social competence, non-aggressive conflict resolution,  and tolerance of diversity.

Fraggle Rock had three main types of characters: Fraggles, Doozers, and Gorgs.  Fraggles are the funny looking things in the above picture.  They spent most of their days exploring, playing, and creating…though they also had responsibilities in their society.  Doozers, on the other hand, lived for work and work alone.  They spent all day building structures out of radish sugar that the Fraggles would then eat.  They relied on the Fraggles to eat these structures so they could continue building.  The Gorgs were a self-proclaimed royal family (though in actuality, they were a farming family).  They grew radishes in order to make anti-vanishing cream.  The show as a whole was fun, had lots of music, and was entertaining.  The underlying messages were that of race, social responsibility, and environmental care.

The Muppet Show was Jim Henson’s attempt to break away from the “children’s programming” niche, and in doing so, he stumbled upon a format that was a hit with all age groups.  The puppets (Muppets) and basic storylines kept children entertained (along with the music), and the deeper jokes kept the adults entertained.  Musically speaking, everyone who was anyone was on The Muppet Show from Elton John to Ethel Merman, and everyone in between.  Though this isn’t considered strictly children’s programming, I lumped this in anyway as it had all of the stimulation involved in the other children’s programming.

So why all of this animosity toward current children’s programming?  Maybe it’s because the programming doesn’t have any deeper messages than “be nice” and “don’t hit people”…  Combine that with pokemanimation and you just might be able to raise a child who is extraordinarily good at drooling on themself.  In an age where parents use the television as a babysitter (and then put crap on like Dora the Explorer or Handy Manny), it’s no wonder that we are raising a group of children who can’t write their own names or read basic sentences by the time they are graduated from high school.  When we eventually have children, they will watch Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and The Muppet Show.  Hell, I’ll even throw in some School House Rock.  Why these shows?  Because there is just not a household cleaner strong enough to take melted brain out of the carpet.

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Il nostro Ambiente

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After living in the desert for a year, I have come to gain a new appreciation for the environment.  In the midwest, environmental responsibility is almost strictly limited to recycling (though admittedly, a very small percentage of people either take the bus, ride their bike, or walk to work).  The desert version of environmental responsibility is vastly different, partially because of the region and partially because of the people.

I’m sure it comes as no shock to all of you that in the desert (even the high desert) we have quite the shortage of water.  I’ve never lived somewhere that I actually looked forward to the rain; however, New Mexico is a whole different playing field.  In the midwest, it seemed as though it rained two or three times a month, and when it did rain, it would pour for a week.  The rain was so intense that we would sit inside for hours, just hoping that it would stop so we could go outside.  Many times it would be raining so hard that we couldn’t see even a foot in front of the car, making it impossible to drive.  It used to be somewhat of a joke that as soon as it started raining, we would see more people pulled over on the side of the highway than actually driving on it.  Here, that isn’t the case.

We are currently in what is supposed to be our monsoon season (my favorite time of the year here).  It rains pretty much every day for about 20 minutes and then goes right back to being sunny.  This year, however, that hasn’t happened yet.  Sure, it has rained a few times in the past two months, but nowhere near as much as it’s supposed to.  This lack of rain leads to extended periods of incredibly high fire warnings (for those of you playing the home game, most of our part of the state has, at some point, been on fire in the last two months…and most of that area is still closed).

So here in New Mexico, it is amazing to see how the people treat the earth on which they live.  The entire theme around which everything is based has to do with the natural state of the desert.  All of the architecture reflects this, the art reflects this, and even the music reflects this (keep your ears open in November for the premier of one Desert Faith Mass which promises to be amazing…or, I promise it’ll be amazing…I should know, because I’ve heard most of it).  In a discussion with a friend the other day, we both noted that in many places in the country, people landscape with plants nonindigenous to their region.  The more things you can fit in your yard, the better–especially if the plants are “out-of-towners.”  In New Mexico, for example, there isn’t a lot of grass.  If you have a yard full of grass, people actually look at you like you are insane (which honestly, if you have grass, you ARE insane).  We both said the same thing: “Do you know how much water you’re wasting by trying to keep that grass alive?”

So when is it that we decide that taking care of the environment is more important than bending it to our whim?  When do we stop treating the earth like our personal molding clay and start treating it with respect?  It is our job to take care of the environment, not destroy it.  It is our job to live amongst it, not radically alter it in order to make it something that “works better” with our lifestyles.

We’ve been singing this song at church for the last month or so, and I feel like it’s pretty appropriate to put right here.  Maybe it’ll make you think–maybe it won’t.  At any rate, at least it might make you vaguely more aware of the larger picture, even at a subconscious level.

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care;

Gift of great wonder, ours to surrender, trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses, and air that is sweet;

Health in God’s Garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete.