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Posts tagged family

from "Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre," by Andrew Curry, Wired, 23 March 2009 :: via @jamescham :: first posted here 30 March 2009

Part of the reason we don’t play much Risk and Monopoly as adults is that those are actually poorly designed games, at least in the German sense. Derk Solko, a garrulous former Wall Streeter who cofounded the Web site in 2000 after discovering Settlers, explains it this way: “Monopoly has you grinding your opponents into dust. It’s a very negative experience. It’s all about cackling when your opponent lands on your space and you get to take all their money.” . . . Monopoly also fails with many adults because it requires almost no strategy.

German-style games, on the other hand, avoid direct conflict. Violence in particular is taboo in Germany’s gaming culture, a holdover from decades of post-World War II soul-searching. In fact, when Parker Brothers tried to introduce Risk there in 1982, the government threatened to ban it on the grounds that it might encourage imperialist and militaristic impulses in the nation’s youth. (The German rules for Risk were hastily rewritten so players could “liberate” their opponents’ territories, and censors let it slide.)

Instead of direct conflict, German-style games tend to let players win without having to undercut or destroy their friends. . . . Designed with busy parents in mind, German games also tend to be fast, requiring anywhere from 15 minutes to a little more than an hour to complete. They are balanced, preventing one person from running away with the game while the others painfully play out their eventual defeat.

"Migrant family from Arkansas playing hill-billy songs," Farm Security Administration emergency migrant camp, Calipatria, California, photo by Dorothea Lange, February 1939 :: via the Oxford American,
from "The Attack of the Zombies," by Andrew Root, Fuller Youth Institute, April 2010

For most of human history our social lives were organized by communities and the traditions and rituals that they upheld and protected.  But modernity, for good or ill, has freed us from this fundamental need for community.  We turned over the job of ordering our social world from communities to institutions. It is institutions, and not communities, that we depend upon. It is institutions that don’t know my name (most know me as number) or my story (only my balance or record) that I have built my life around. It seems that I can live without my parents or friends but not without my ATM card, driver’s license, and Internet access. I can live without knowing anything about my great-grandparents but I must know my Social Security number and credit rating.

Or to put it more pointedly, who would take care of my family if I died in the next few years? Who would make sure my mortgage was paid and my wife had money to maintain her life? Not my community, not my church, not even my extended family. They may all help, dropping off a casserole and offering a shoulder to cry on, but their job, we assume, would be emotional support. No, if I died it would not be a community that would take care of my kids and wife; it would be an institution, the insurance company I’ve been paying to provide for them if the monster of death takes me sooner rather than later. For most of human history this was the work of the community: widows and orphans were to be cared for by uncles, aunts, and neighbors. Their emotional, but most fundamentally their basic financial and material, needs were the responsibility of those who knew them and were part of their story. This was not easy and I’m sure a burden, but it was dependable and communal.

What do we do, and what is our future, when institutions (i.e., insurance companies, various governmental agencies) continue to show us they cannot always be trusted to care for anything other than their own survival? Most of our institutions are what Ulrich Beck calls “Zombie institutions.” They are still moving and breathing, but they have become more haunting than helpful because they are more dead than alive. Standing in late modernity there is more than a little despair knowing that we cannot go back to the tradition-based community, but that the institutions of modernity are ghouls.

from "There’s No Place Like Home," by Joel Kotkin,, 9 October 2009 :: via Arts & Letters Daily

Perhaps nothing will be as surprising about 21st-century America as its settledness. For more than a generation Americans have believed that “spatial mobility” would increase, and, as it did, feed an inexorable trend toward rootlessness and anomie. This vision of social disintegration was perhaps best epitomized in Vance Packard’s 1972 bestseller A Nation of Strangers, with its vision of America becoming “a society coming apart at the seams.” In 2000, Harvard’s Robert Putnam made a similar point, albeit less hyperbolically, in Bowling Alone, in which he wrote about the “civic malaise” he saw gripping the country. In Putnam’s view, society was being undermined, largely due to suburbanization and what he called “the growth of mobility.”

Yet in reality Americans actually are becoming less nomadic. As recently as the 1970s as many as one in five people moved annually; by 2006, long before the current recession took hold, that number was 14 percent, the lowest rate since the census starting following movement in 1940. Since then tougher times have accelerated these trends, in large part because opportunities to sell houses and find new employment have dried up. In 2008, the total number of people changing residences was less than those who did so in 1962, when the country had 120 million fewer people. The stay-at-home trend appears particularly strong among aging boomers, who are largely eschewing Sunbelt retirement condos to stay tethered to their suburban homes—close to family, friends, clubs, churches, and familiar surroundings. . . .

Family, as one Pew researcher notes, “trumps money when people make decisions about where to live.” Interdependence is replacing independence. More parents are helping their children financially well into their 30s and 40s; the numbers of “boomerang kids” moving back home with their parents, has also been growing as job options and the ability to buy houses has decreased for the young. Recent surveys of the emerging millennial generation suggest this family-centric focus will last well into the coming decades.

Author Donald Miller, interviewed by Christy Tennant, IAM Conversations, 15 October 2009
from "Ingenious and Demanding," by Ada Louise Huxtable,, 30 September 2009

Ms. Acedo [the housekeeper who must clean Rem Koolhaas’s Lemoîne house in Bordeaux, France] is a star, a woman of determination, ingenuity and forthright opinions who can match anything the house throws at her. As the film starts, she stands on the platform surrounded by her pails, mops, brooms, rags and vacuum cleaner while it rises slowly to the strains of a romantic Strauss melody. (Actually, she does not use the platform, preferring the arduous stair route ever since she got stuck between floors and a technician had to crawl through the books to reach the controls.)

She even succeeds in confounding the notoriously self-possessed architect, in his recorded 10-minute response to the film. One sequence shows her aggressive cleaning of one of the house’s most offputting features, a punitive spiral stair consisting only of toe holds in a round concrete void open to the rain, unfazed by the seeming impossibility of dragging a vacuum up it. Mr. Koolhaas is momentarily flummoxed by the irreconcilability of his architecture and her cleaning methods.

But only momentarily. He quickly redefines the subject as the collision of two systems—“the platonic conception of cleaning and the platonic idea of architecture”—which I take to be the consideration of each on an elevated abstract plane of theoretical existence. Anyone who has ever done any cleaning knows that is not where it lives.

Let us concede the point: It is clear that the job is being pursued with familiar and archaic methods and devices that seem surreally unrelated to the task at hand, revealing how out of sync the vision—no matter how beautifully executed—and the result can be.

from "The Champions of Marriage - Part 1," by Tim Stafford, Timstafford's Blog, 22 July 2009

My son Silas related a startling experience at Stanford. His dorm of about 100 residents had a “get to know you” session. At one point they asked students to divide themselves according to a series of questions—how many played a musical instrument, how many had acted in a play, how many had three or more siblings, that sort of thing. One question was whether their parents were divorced. Almost everybody in the room—all but a handful—rushed to the side of “intact family.” Silas was amazed. He expected a very high divorce rate among the families of these liberal-minded students.

College graduates may think and talk very liberally, but they don’t act like all choices are equal. Most college educated people are quite careful and determined when it comes to marriage, as with most things in life.

These statistics help explain, by the way, why the intelligentsia don’t treat divorce like the plague it is. Intellectually they may know that divorce is a very common thing and a very bad thing. But in their daily experience, among their friends and colleagues, the problem is not severe. It involves significant failures and deep wounds, but only among less than one fifth of the families they know well. College-educated opinion leaders are like people who read about bad traffic, but who find that whenever they get on the freeway, traffic is light.

from "A new idea in travel: Airline for pets," by Andrea K. Walker, Baltimore Sun, 15 July 2009

Dan Wiesel and his wife, Alysa Binder, remember the guilt they felt after their Jack Russell terrier Zoe had to fly cross country in the cargo area of a plane when they moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Florida. “When she came out she just wasn’t herself,” Binder said. “We thought there had to be a better way.” The couple’s answer is Pet Airways, a new airline just for cats and dogs that the couple founded. The airline had its inaugural flights Tuesday from several airports, including BWI Marshall Airport.

There are no human passengers aboard Pet Airways flights, just animals, which are called “pawsengers…”

The airline is sold out for its first two months, Binder said. Pet Airways serves Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles, but Binder said the company hopes to expand to 25 cities in a couple of years. Ticket prices average $250, Binder said. Other airlines charge $75 to $275 for pets, with prices varying depending on where the pets ride. In May, Southwest began allowing people to bring small pets on board for $75.

One airline expert said there is a niche for people who want to take their pets on vacation and other travels. But it is unclear if this airline is the answer.

It may be complicated for passengers to plan their flights with their pet’s flights, said Robert Mann, president of airline consulting firm R.W. Mann & Co. Inc.

“It’s an interesting concept,” Mann said. “There is a need for it. The key question is if this particular concept really meets that need. Time will tell, as it usually does.”

from "Ya Gotta Have (Real) Friends," by Tony Woodlief,, 12 June 2009

We assemble relationships because we need them, but many of us—particularly men—shrink from intimacy, generating the modern dilemma of dense social networks afflicted with loneliness. Allan Bloom indicates this in “Love and Friendship”: “Isolation, a sense of lack of profound contact with other human beings, seems to be the disease of our time.” He decried the word “relationship” as “pallid” and “pseudoscientific,” itself an obstacle to genuine intimacy.

My 298 Facebook friends aren’t the ones who remember our dead daughter’s birthday or leave flowers at her grave. Nor among them is the pastor who baptized each of our children and waged a personal holy war to keep our marriage from crumbling years ago. We have these deeper friendships because we’ve tried to build a life in one place. They sprang up because the stuff of life happened to this cluster of us living near one another, and much of it was too joyous or heartbreaking not to share with someone. If friendship is the key to happiness, then maybe this is the key to friendship, to be enmeshed—not just tangentially or voyeuristically, but physically—in the lives of others.

excerpt Girls rock

[When] our 10-year-old Jordan started to sound a little like the snotty teenagers she was watching on TV, Hannah Montana and Wizards were outlawed. Soon after, we were fortunate enough to be guests on the Cayamo [singer-songwriter cruise ship], and I made the family a mix of Cayamo artists for the drive down—Lyle Lovett, Patty Griffin, Kathleen Edwards, Over the Rhine, John Hiatt. But it was Brandi Carlile they kept wanting to hear. By the time we saw her concert, my girls knew most of the words. At Emma’s ninth birthday party (a lock-in at the Paste office) she cranked up “The Story” for her friends like it was the latest Miley Cyrus hit. The requests for Radio Disney stopped, and I overheard Jordan telling her friends she doesn’t think Cyrus is a very good singer anymore.

So when Brandi recently came within half a mile of our house last week to play a pair of intimate performances at Eddie’s Attic, I took them to the early show. It was the first real club concert for my kids. Eddie’s has a no-talking-during-the-performance rule, and my usually very loud children abided. . . . They mouthed all the words except when they couldn’t resist singing along. When Brandi started clapping, they clapped. When Brandi told the audience to stand, Emma stood up on her stool with her hands in the air.

Jordan wrote her first song a couple of days after the show. She won’t sing it to me yet, but the lyrics are great. She began guitar lessons earlier this year and is headed to girls rock camp this summer. Emma is saving up her money for a guitar now. When they think of a future rock star, the image is of a down-to-earth Carlile instead of a glammed-up Ashley Tisdale.


By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women’s declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging—one with higher subjective well-being for men.

from "Happy Mother’s Day," by John Maeda, Our (and Your) RISD,10 May 2009

When I was a child and worked in our family business, a tiny tofu store in the International District of Seattle, I recall that although my father’s silently arduous, craftsman approach to tofu was what drew customers from far abouts, it was my mother’s warm Hawaiian personality (she was born and raised in Oahu) that seemed to keep the customers drawn close to our little, and literal, “hole in the wall” shop. By growing up and watching the two of them work together, I learned the basics of business — a superior product delivered with superior customer service. Were it not for my mother, I’d probably have never discovered a way out of my paternally-inspired introverted ways of the silent craftsman; it was my mother that showed me that talking about what you do with a sense of humor and plenty of irreverence was just as important as the tofu that my father made.

from "The Way We Live Now - Kindergarten Cram," by Peggy Orenstein,, 3 May 2009 :: via Patton Dodd

[Testing] neither predicts nor improves young children’s educational outcomes. More disturbing, along with other academic demands, like assigning homework to 5-year-olds, it is crowding out the one thing that truly is vital to their future success: play.

A survey of 254 teachers in New York and Los Angeles the group commissioned found that kindergartners spent two to three hours a day being instructed and tested in reading and math. They spent less than 30 minutes playing. “Play at age 5 is of great importance not just to intellectual but emotional, psychological social and spiritual development,” says Edward Miller, the report’s co-author. Play — especially the let’s-pretend, dramatic sort — is how kids develop higher-level thinking, hone their language and social skills, cultivate empathy. It also reduces stress, and that’s a word that should not have to be used in the same sentence as “kindergartner” in the first place.

excerpt Awakening
from "Artist Profile: Anna Kocher," by Elrena Evans, Her.meneutics, 30 April 2009

What is the role of a Christian artist? One of your paintings, for instance, shows a man sitting on a toilet — is there anything fundamentally Christian about that piece?

I think the role of the Christian artist is the same as that of a secular artist: to make the best artwork possible. . . . My work is inherently Christian because I am a Christian and my work comes out of who I am. I don’t think the highest calling for the Christian artist is to use his or her art as a platform for opinions, convictions, or beliefs. If art is to be anything other than preaching, illustrating, decorating (all of which have their place), it has to transcend what you, as an artist, are trying to say and actually become a living thing in its own right.

My Awakening series (of which the infamous man-on-toilet painting is one) was actually one of my more intentionally Christian projects. I might even call it allegorical. In doing those seven paintings, I was thinking about spiritual transformation and how you expect it to happen in the blink of an eye but it often happens incrementally. For me, going from being asleep to being awake and ready to face the day is a process . . . and involves lots of elaborate routines (revolving mostly around hot beverages). This relates to the process of going from spiritual deadness, stagnation, and denial to being spiritually awake and ready to face life or whatever you are presented with. . . . Discipline, or routine even, plays a role in this. You go through these small, seemingly insignificant processes and find yourself changed at the end without being able to see the exact moment when the change occurred.

[I’m] disappointed that my Awakening series is probably among the least likely of my projects to be displayed in a church or Christian setting, in spite of the fact that it was more consciously influenced by my faith than much of my other work. I think that art has a much higher capacity for being influential, in a positive way, in the church, but we have to be less afraid of incorporating things that we may not completely understand or be able to define.


No one wishes for hardship. But as we pick through the economic rubble, we may find that our riches have buried our treasures. Money does not buy happiness; Scripture asserts this, research confirms it. Once you reach the median level of income, roughly $50,000 a year, wealth and contentment go their separate ways, and studies find that a millionaire is no more likely to be happy than someone earning one-twentieth as much. Now a third of people polled say they are spending more time with family and friends, and nearly four times as many people say their relations with their kids have gotten better during this crisis than say they have gotten worse.

A consumer culture invites us to want more than we can ever have; a culture of thrift invites us to be grateful for whatever we can get. So we pass the time by tending our gardens and patching our safety nets and debating whether, years from now, this season will be remembered for what we lost, or all that we found.

from "The Passover Song," by Nathan Englander,, 9 April 2009 :: via TitusOneNine

I remember when the herbs were dipped, the horseradish eaten, and I can still see the grown-up faces turning fiery red. I remember the egg served in salt water (a family tradition). And I remember all the sweet wine drunk, and a drunk little boy sliding under the table, which I retell here but don’t recall. I remember — a strange thought in this year of my father’s death — that, aside from my mother, sister and me, everyone else from those dinners is gone. The individual Passovers now melt together into warm memories of relatives long dead.

What I most remember, though, what stays most vivid, is the Haggadah itself — the words and the rhythms, rendered here in the translation I’ve been working on:

Were it our mouths were filled with a singing like the sea,
And our tongues awash with song, as waves-countless,
And our lips to lauding, as the skies are wide,
And our eyes illumined like the sun and the moon,
And our hands spread-out like the eagles of heaven,
And our feet as fleet as fawns,
Still, we would not suffice in thanking You, Lord God-of-us…

In studying this tale built around remembering, I came to see how much it’s also one of looking ahead. These are times of great uncertainty. Even the dream of returning to Zion as “our mouths swell with laughter, and our tongues are overspread with songs of joy,” will take us to a country of walls and war. It is nice then to come away from the translation feeling that the Haggadah is as focused on promise as it is on rescue. As the psalm, from which the above line is taken, ends,

For those that sow with tears, with joy will reap.
Walks-on the walker crying, bearing the sack of seed;
then comes the comer, rejoicing, carrying his sheaves.

from "Till Children Do Us Part," by Stephanie Coontz,, 4 February 2009 :: via The .Plan: A Quasi-Blog

Parents today spend much more time with their children than they did 40 years ago. The sociologists Suzanne Bianchi, John Robinson and Melissa Milkie report that married mothers in 2000 spent 20 percent more time with their children than in 1965. Married fathers spent more than twice as much time.

A study by John Sandberg and Sandra Hofferth at the University of Michigan showed that by 1997 children in two-parent families were getting six more hours a week with Mom and four more hours with Dad than in 1981. And these increases occurred even as more mothers entered the labor force.

excerpt Law and love
from "We Shall Not Weary, We Shall Not Rest," by Richard John Neuhaus (an address to the July 2008 convention of the National Right to Life Committee), FIRST THINGS: On the Square, 22 January 2009

We contend, and we contend relentlessly, for the dignity of the human person, of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, destined from eternity for eternity—every human person, no matter how weak or how strong, no matter how young or how old, no matter how productive or how burdensome, no matter how welcome or how inconvenient. Nobody is a nobody; nobody is unwanted. All are wanted by God, and therefore to be respected, protected, and cherished by us.

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.


Yet something happened the other day that made me think I have been too hard on my students. I often try to describe to them the way their ancestors, not all that long ago, would have chosen the mates of their children, a practice they associate today with some backward part of India. I try to help them see that the choice of a marriage partner should be based on wider considerations than romance alone. To focus this discussion, I ask them a hypothetical question. Suppose you were to be guided in your selection of a wife by one, and only one, of two factors, either your hormones or your parents. That is, would you let your parents pick your wife or would you rather trust your sensual desire, that spark of attraction that makes you light up with sexual longing?

In past years, my students were horrified at the thought of their parents choosing their marriage partners. This year was different. Many of them said they would trust their parents. In fact, more said they would trust their dads than their moms. They thought their moms would look for a good girl and disregard looks altogether, while they thought their dads would probably get the balance of moral and physical attributes just about right.

I found their conversation to be very moving, and wondered if my two young boys, when they reach the marrying age, will have that kind of trust in me. We lose something when we do not have to fight for what we believe, but what we have gained in father and son relationships is so much more important that I do not regret that my boys will never be able to relate to Cat’s in the Cradle.

from "Ghosts of Christmas Past," by Laura Vanderkam, Culture11, 3 December 2008 :: via more than 95 theses

Why would the housewives of 2008 — many of whom read Good Housekeeping — choose to spend so much less time cooking and cleaning than their grandmothers did? You can’t blame the lack of technology for grandma’s intensity; ads for Norge dishwashers and Spam show that labor-saving devices and prepared foods existed in 1958.

Instead, the answer might be found in another striking difference between the 1958 Good Housekeeping and its 2008 counterpart. There is almost nothing in the older magazine about parenting. There are instructions on making clothes for your kids, but little about nurturing their souls or brains. In 2008, on the other hand, one of the longest articles is about “Staying Close to Your Teen” by doing crafts together, jamming to her music, or learning about his hobbies. An essay by Anna Wulick talks about teaching Hanukkah traditions to her daughter; a “Book Bonus” excerpt from Amy Dickinson’s new memoir recounts introducing her daughter to God and teaching her that “when prayers go unanswered, you learn to change your prayers.”

Indeed, reading through the two Good Housekeping issues back to back, it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that, on the whole, American culture is far more child-centered now, in these days of two-income families, than when most women stayed home. If the 1958 Good Housekeeping is any indication, many moms in the June Cleaver era were too busy brushing the nap of their electric blankets to ponder how best to bond with their teens. As women’s time has become more valuable, though, because so many are working, working moms have chosen to spend their limited time not sewing tops for their kids, but playing, talking, and praying with them instead.