Friday, December 18, 2009

Yo, Yo-yo Ma, Ma Man!

We use YouTube to expose the grandbabies to different kinds of music. It all started when we were reading The Hungry Caterpillar to Augie five times in a row every day. (Us: "The end." Augie: "Again?") At some point we livened up the list of Saturday foods (pictured) by asking "Do You Want a Pickle" and singing Arlo Guthrie's old Motorcycle Song. And then the Chordettes' Lollipop. As you can see, they are relevant to the story.

It snowballed from there. Via YouTube, we've watched opera, jazz, rock, endless productions of kids' songs ranging from inane to wonderful, and, of course, tons of Sesame Street. We limit our viewing to 30 minutes or less, and we always try to talk about what we're seeing and hearing. It's as delightful for Pa and me as for the children here at Wild Rumpus Daycare for Grandkids Only.

This week we discovered a whole set of Yo-Yo Ma appearances. This one is a particular favorite. The man can make his mellow cello sound a whole lot like a saxophone playing the blues...surely one of the greatest sounds in the world. And today we found this version of Mockingbird with Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin, and a couple of others. That leads to a whole set of fabulous McFerrin performances. There are a couple that I'd heard often on public radio, but it's so much more powerful to see him making his one-man-orchestra sounds. Look up his Wizard of Oz, for example. I'm not embedding any more links; you're on your own. What a great time to be alive.

Target misses the mark

I love Target. The first-ever Target store was a mile from my house (it's been replaced by a SuperTarget). Their headquarters are still local, their policies are a little more progressive than other big-box stores, and returning stuff is easy so it's a good place to buy gifts for people you don't know well (such as the families for whom I shop each year). Oh, and the merchandise is pretty good, especially when you don't need top-of-the-line, which covers a lot of ground.

So why are they messing with our beautiful friendship?

Their Black Friday ads were may recall the manic Christmas shopper woman pulling weighted carts uphill to train for the weekend's shopping. She was also decorating and baking in what was supposed to be a sendup of holiday excess, but was totally joyless. At best, I have to think people felt a little revulsion at the thought of running into other shoppers like the one featured in the ads. At worst, is that how Target sees me, its potential customer, er, guest?

The nastiness has continued. All of their holiday ads are featuring people in conflict or frustration. Probably the mildest is the family where the dad is trying to hook up the camcorder to the TV and the kids are saying, "No, it's not working yet" although we know it is--because we see that they are focusing the video camera on dad's butt. The whole family is snickering while he struggles. Okay, we've all been there, and maybe he'll laugh when he turns around and finds out they've been yanking his chain. But WHAT IS THIS AD SELLING? As I recall, it never mentions the video cam; it talks about family fun in general. This fun is a little skewed, and it doesn't inspire me to buy a big-ticket item so I can make fun of...whomever.

In another example, kids are opening presents from Santa. The dad whispers to the Mom (paraphrasing here), I thought we agreed not to spend so much. Mom says it didn't cost all that much. Pretty soon they're talking out loud and the kids can hear, so he says something like Santa must have forgotten about his budget. Mom, very tense, says icily, Maybe Santa doesn't need any help doing his job. And it's left there, the kind of grit-your-teeth resentment that has ruined (or threatened) at least one of your holidays, no?

Until recently, Target had some of the best advertising always supported their brand, their focus on design, the huge variety of both useful and decorative stuff, and the straightforward pricing. They didn't show the logo until the very end, but you always knew within about 10 seconds that it was Target. And they did clever things that were fun to watch.

Whoever came up with this nasty new campaign is way off the mark. Whoever approved it should have greater consideration for the tone they bring into people's homes with their advertising, and for the intelligence of their customers.

Unfortunately, some research has shown that irritating people can cause them to be more aware of you. It will be interesting to see whether the advertising has worked as Target hopes...whether December sales do well compared with last year and compared with other retailers.

I'm not exactly boycotting, but I'm spending less there this year. And I'm disappointed in them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vi discovers Vi

I am delighted to report that Vi is developing an appropriately positive awareness of herself. I'm pretty sure nobody else worried about this, but I can explain. You see, until just the last couple of weeks, she didn't care much about seeing her own image, either in pictures or in the mirror. Ask her who she saw and she'd say "Augie," or "Augie and Grandma," as if she was invisible to herself.

This tapped into a deep-seated old issue of mine. I have had a couple of bosses who paid precious little attention to my ideas and recommendations... and who even attributed some of my best proposals to someone else. Being underappreciated translated into feeling invisible. One night I had a vivid dream in which my portrait was being unveiled high on a wall in a very visible spot--only the face in the portrait was someone else. The trauma (and the truth) of that dream stayed with me a long time. Seeing Vi overlook her own reflection made me nervous. But no more.

She has discovered the joy of watching herself dance in the mirror, something her brother perfected at an early age. And she loves to see herself in photos--especially in the display on the back of the camera. This, of course, causes a new problem: Miss Vi, if you constantly walk out of the frame and demand to see the back of the camera, I can't take your picture. I'll keep working on it, though, because this grandma isn't having any little granddaughter grow up to be invisible!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Here come the jokes, folks!

Augie was sitting on the potty chair, drumming on a step-stool with his fingers. I said, "Can you make a tiny noise, to wake a sleeping bee?"

(Background: In The Whispering Rabbit, a bee has flown into a rabbit's throat and fallen asleep. A groundhog tells the rabbit that he must make a very LITTLE noise to wake the bee, because a bee is not interested in big noises. He makes the click of a bee swallowing nectar hundreds of miles away. It works; the bee wakes up and flies away.)

Augie, who is not much interested in little noises and who loves to wake his sister Vi, said with a big grin, "I make a medium-size noise to wake a Sleeping V."

Wow, I said, that's a great joke. So he repeated it 15 or 20 times and I laughed each time. Once he was off the potty and dressed again, I said let's go upstairs and wake up Pa, who was taking advantage of naptime. Augie, again: "Here come Sleeping A and Sleeping G to see Sleeping P."

Half an hour later, Daddy arrived to pick them up. "Driving D is here," Augie said. I have a feeling this is going to continue for a while. He's figuring out in his head, this word starts with this letter... and then working it into his new game. Should he be able to do this at 33 months? I dunno, but I sure love it. And him.


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