My wife Mil took this photo today after she’d cleared the lilies from the back wall garden. No context, really. They just are what they are.
My wife Mil took this photo today after she’d cleared the lilies from the back wall garden. No context, really. They just are what they are.
Well, there are always Odds Bodkin stories to free your child’s mind. The first few seconds are usually enough to engage their attention, even children accustomed to a constant flow of visual stimuli like TV or video games. Odds’ stories are for kids 4 and up. There are many age-appropriate categories.
To buy Odds Bodkin’s audio stories as downloads, you don’t have to go out, which is a good thing nowadays. Instead, just visit his online shop, purchase what interests you, and download to your device. The mp3s are ready to play. Nature stories. Fairy tales. Viking myths. Greek mythology. From two-minute tales to spoken-word epics that last for hours. All told with characters, music and a legendary joie de vivre, which we all need around now.
Joie de vivre. That’s French for “the joy of life.”
Find out more here.
Studies warn nowadays that increasing numbers of young kids are entering school without deep trust in an adult figure. Any adult figure. You can blame it on family breakup, drugs, poverty, or just frenetic modern life in general, I suppose, because even in affluent families, plenty of kids have to compete with their parents’ smartphones to get their attention.
Whatever the causes, Story Preservation Initiative (SPI) has decided that my audio stories for young kids might help by providing a consistent and trusted voice in their lives.
I’m honored and delighted to have my works viewed in this way, and to be part of a school-based program like SPI’s.
Why do Silicon Valley executives raise their children technology-free? This headline from The Guardian says it all: TABLETS OUT, IMAGINATION IN: THE SCHOOLS THAT SHUN TECHNOLOGY.
They do it because they want their kids to be imaginative and mentally healthy, basically. Looking out over the wasteland of anger, narcissism, teen suicides, obesity and incivility that social media networks have caused in young lives recently, many of these tech wizards are scared for their own kids.
Like King Midas, everything they touched has turned to gold. But don’t forget the old story: When King Midas touches his own daughter, whom he loves, she turns to gold, too. That’s the end of her.
Digital Addiction begins with kids interacting with screens. The colorful, always-changing worlds they find are so much fun that when they’re suddenly without their screens and look up to see the real world around them, it simply moves too slowly. It’s boring. This causes a kind of free-floating, stimulation-seeking depression.
Down through the ages, kids engaged in creative play with toys and role-playing, attempting to do what grownups did, but in miniature. It has always been this way. But not now, not in the dopamine-laden world of video games and social networks. Not unless the kids’ lives are balanced by getting them away from these devices.
It’s ironic. Now that the digital masters of the universe are having families, too, they realize this, smart as they are. Heck, they built these things to be addictive. And yes, they love their kids, too.
So what is the indispensable skill they want their children to develop at these very expensive, very selective kindergartens and elementary schools where less is more?
What grows imagination best?
Creative outdoor play, kids playing with kids, without any adults around.
If that’s not possible, what’s the next best thing?
As Einstein said, “If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.”
Wait a moment, you might say. Odds Bodkin is using digital media at the moment. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?
That’s because my imagination developed long ago, when I was a kid, playing outside all day, and then, after coming back home, listening to my dad tell me stories.
Hard-Hitting Adult Storytelling Sunday July 29th in New Hampshire
If you want to grab some elemental Greek mythology, tragic and beautiful, told for adults, mark your calendar for Sunday, July 29th. The tale you’ll hear, much like Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, won the hearts of 200 convicts in a California prison one afternoon, so much so that I actually signed autographs on scraps of paper and napkins afterwards for a half an hour. As an audio, this 100-minute epic won the national Golden Headset Award from Audiofile Magazine, among other awards.
With so much violence afoot in our culture today, it’s more relevant than ever.
It’s called Hercules in Hell, and it just might break your heart.
I’ll be performing it with my 12-string guitar at 7:00 pm at the Riverwalk Music Bar in Nashua, New Hampshire on Sunday evening in two weeks’ time. One of the more interesting features of this work, other than the full, moment-to-moment guitar score, is that unlike in most of my storytellings, I don’t narrate. I never appear. Only Hercules does.
STORYTELLING LOVERS DISCOVER THE EPIC DRIVE
Fans of storytelling have discovered Odds Bodkin’s EPIC DRIVE, the product that contains all this master storyteller’s musical spoken-word works. From adventure epics to titles for young children, the flash drive, loaded with mp3s and cover art, arrives in the mail. Plug it in and load eighteen widely varying titles, from The Odyssey for teens to The Little Proto Trilogy for young kids.
Meaningful, ethical stories with a plus: original music, character voices and vivid vocal effects!
Support creativity and mental health in your family by listening together and discussing these classic stories. Kids never forget. Get yours today.
“THE BEST ANTI-BULLYING ASSEMBLY WE’VE EVER HAD, HANDS-DOWN”
A school principal wrote me recently, commenting on GOLDEN RULE, my storytelling assembly for elementary kids. Sure, I tell stories for adults, but it’s close to my heart, this empathy issue. Kids raised without notions of civility and simple human kindness toward others––no matter what somebody else looks like or where they come from––just makes the bullies feel that power. In the long run, though, it hurts them just as much.
Although many Americans follow faith traditions, just as many don’t these days, and with that change has come a loss of religious teaching stories, traditionally told to kids by adults in their lives. In their absence and in the presence of cynical cartoons and visual games, the fabric of civility has worn thin in lots of children. It’s not their fault. They’re kids. They’re not born civil; they need to be taught why it’s important.
Be kind. Treat others honorably. Yes, you can say those things to kids, but nothing penetrates the cruelty they see in media like a spoken-world story told by an adult. Instead of saying “do this,” a good Golden Rule story simply offers a lesson about power and its uses. Kids can’t help but internalize its impact because they’ve been opened up. They’ve been opened up because their minds are overwhelmed. The boys. The girls. The ADHD kids, all attentive. With the voices, music and wild sounds, the storytelling is too evanescent for them to ignore.
At a public school in Massachusetts the other day, my young audience looked like the United Nations. Kids from everywhere. Never knowing what religions, if any, their families practice at home, I tell stories from non-religious wisdom traditions. Folktales from Japan, Ireland, Africa, India and Italy. And Aesop’s Fables from ancient Greece, which is about all I can fit into an hour. But I always ask the kids the same questions about them afterwards, and about the Golden Rule.
And if they’ve never heard “Treat others the way you would like to be treated” before they’ve attended a GOLDEN RULE assembly, they certainly know it by the time it’s over.
If kids don’t get these kinds of stories from adults in America when they’re young, stories that buoy up their best angels and sink into their souls, when they get to high school, more and more of them are so fragile and full of violence that they misuse their power and end up thinking it’s okay to bring guns to class, and all to often these days, in the ultimate act of bullying, to use them.
An unsophisticated youth out in the world for the first time, Percival comes upon a young woman in a knight’s pavilion. His mother’s words come into the country boy’s mind, “If a lady gives you a kiss, ‘tis a great honor. If she gives you a ring, ‘tis a double honor.”
Stupidly, he forces her to kiss him and pulls off her wedding ring, thinking he’s now been honored. Instead, he’s ruined her life, although he does not know it. Not until much later in the epic, when he meets her again with her angry husband (he thinks she’s been unfaithful), does Percival return the ring and confess what he’s done.
If modern boys do not know how to treat women with courtesy, perhaps they haven’t yet heard The Hidden Grail: Sir Percival and the Fisher King, Odds Bodkin’s 90-minute Arthurian tale about chivalry.
Billboard writes “one of the best spoken-word stories we’ve ever heard.” The reviewers were a mother/daughter team.
“Smartphone dystopia” is a term recently coined by Google engineers who now send their young kids to elite Silicon Valley schools that ban smartphones and iPads. Read about that here.
To completely escape smartphone dystopia, at least for an hour, tonight I’ll be performing a story show, THE HARVEST: Tales of the Land at 6 pm in Gilford, NH for the Belknap County Farm Bureau. My audience: farmers. Three disarming and insightful adult stories, with echoes of the Monsanto vs organics war. It’s a private function.
However, Sunday night’s show at 7 pm is public. HEARTPOUNDERS: Halloween Tales of Horror unfolds at the Riverwalk Music Bar in Nashua, NH. Composed of the grittiest, most unsettling supernatural tales I know, the show includes mythic material from New England, Russia, China and other far flung places. It also explores Samhain, the old Celtic celebration, and how it was turned into All Hallow’s Eve by the Church during the conversion centuries following St. Patrick’s and others’ arrivals among the Druid pagan sacrificers of Northern Europe.
Tickets are $10 in advance, $13 at the door.
You’ll have a chance to enjoy your natural imagination at work, without a single “Like” button.
Have a great weekend!
Thanatos was the ancient Greek god of death. He seldom made an appearance in person. If you think about it, that makes sense. He only shows up when there’s no time left to tell a story about him.
As the son of Night and Darkness, his siblings were Old Age, Deception, Blame, Suffering, Doom, Strife, Retribution and Atropos, a goddess of death herself. She’s the root of our modern word “atrophy.”
As you can sense by his mythical brothers and sisters (the Greek gods were personifications of various human conditions) Thanatos normally has to do with death in old age. Old people die when their times come. That’s the way of nature.
But a new Digital Thanatos Ethic has appeared among teens. Witness the young Massachusetts girl who was just convicted of urging her depressed boyfriend to kill himself in his monoxide-filled truck. Witness the tens of thousands of other young girls who are cutting themselves, along with the millions of boys who worship all-powerful killer monsters they inhabit inside avatars, living a false heroism that has nothing to do with the real world around them.
“The other day I put up a self-harm picture,” she says. “I was alone and in a dark place. […] Of course, nobody would help, but posting it boosted my confidence a little; finding it buried in amongst all the other self-harm posts reminded me I’m not alone.” Full article in The Guardian.
Sites like these where depressed teens commiserate and urge each other to suicide and self-harm are appearing on the web like poisonous mushrooms. Depression blogs. Teen suicides on Facebook Live. Anorexia-promotion sites. This is a new species of digital connection so unnatural, so profoundly unhealthy, that parents and policymakers should take notice and shut these sites down, or at least get their kids away from them. And from cynical, exploitative TV shows that explore and justify them.
As for First Amendment considerations, media like this is the slow-moving equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Loneliness is one thing. But lonely kids who never meet each other in person gathering together online to compare ways to hurt themselves?
Even in an utterly secular world, that’s just not right. It’s a digital disease.
From a recent Susanna Schrobsdorff Time article, Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright:
“If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, as can school stress, but Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drivers of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to get away from, or don’t know how to get away from,” she says.
In my life I meet families all the time whose kids have grown up with my audio stories. At some point the parents found them in this wild, busy world and exposed their children to them during their formative years. For instance, I just met Stephanie from Pennsylvania, a great mom who invited me to perform there a couple of weeks ago. Afterwards she wrote me a kind letter, part of which said,
“I am proud that in our modern age, your stories played a large role in my children’s lives for several years. I can’t remember if I told you that for years we imitated the saluting bedbugs, or that we created an elaborate drip-sand castle and forest at the beach for the lovely Bargaglina after listening to The Little Shepherd on the way to Cape May Point. And of course you know about the Odyssey on the way to the Bay of Fundy. Your stories were such a gift to my kids’ development!”
So maybe part of the cure for kids going off the rails is mythic storytelling. Old tales, filled with the struggles of men and women who are long gone but whose stories tell us that yes, life is rugged and has its dark times, but heroes are people who overcome those obstacles because they never give up. People who are driven by love or honor or just the deep motivation to survive.
And that’s just the story part. The other healthful factor is imagination itself, the natural sort our minds are capable of. When we imagine, endorphins are released into the bloodstream, much like a runner’s high. The cerebral cortex lights up like a fire, drawing on memories and feelings from deep inside, rather than stimulus from that social media cauldron beyond ourselves. It’s a creative act, and quite refreshing. Imagination in childhood becomes creativity in adulthood, and we live in times when creativity and adaptability are premium skills. If there’s one thing young people can count on in their futures these days, it’s rapid change. Unpredictable change.
For younger kids, fairytales operate in the same beneficial way. The Little Shepherd is one I just performed for three hundred K-2 public school kids last week. For twenty-five minutes they sat, still and quiet, for this longest story in the show, all of them lost in fantasy. What’s the value of that? Well, as Bruno Bettelheim wrote in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairytales, “While the fantasy is unreal, the good feelings it gives us about ourselves and our future are real, and these good feelings are what we need to sustain us.”