18 full-length storytelling albums on a single flash drive.
18 full-length storytelling albums on a single flash drive.
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.
When I first got into the storytelling business and began to sell audios long ago, I first made them in Mil’s and my summer camp lodging in a trailer back by the cemetery. Using an Akai boom box that could duplicate cassettes, I’d load the master on the right and load a blank cassette on the left, then hit “duplicate.” I designed labels and glued them on myself, then sold those storytelling cassettes to families.
After the numbers we were selling became too great, I made new recordings of new stories and contracted with mass duplicators in Boston to make bunches of cassettes. We sold thousands of them to discerning parents, through national catalogs and bookstores. Next came CDs. Same thing. Boxes and boxes, stored in warehouses and mailed all over the world. Finally, as CDs were drowned in the rather unhealthy digital floodwaters we all swim in now, we dropped physical products and went to downloads.
But those old products never completely disappeared, it seems. Today––and you may not believe this but it’s true––you can go on Amazon and buy my old Odds Bodkin cassettes in original mint-condition for a mere $978.00 apiece, still in their colorful boxes.
For better or worse, it seems I have become collectible.
You can also go on Spotify and who knows where else and download pirated versions of my storytellings, some put there by supposedly reputable companies that I won’t name in this post.
All this is to say as the Holiday giving season approaches that the only legitimate place you can purchase my storytelling recordings nowadays as mp3s is directly from me at www.oddsbodkin.net/shop. My stories are not streamed legitimately anywhere, except at Tales2Go. Some of my children’s books are still available from publishers like Harcourt/Brace, Little Brown and Houghton. I don’t have a problem with them selling them at all.
Drawing on ancient myths and stories that have nothing to do with today’s woes and forms of popular music, the tales are designed to be timeless. So you can either pay $978 for one title on Amazon or eBay and never open it, hoping it gains value as a collector’s item, or you can download the same thing at my shop for $5.95 and enjoy listening to it. You might not get the colorful cardboard packaging or the shrink wrap, but at least I’ll see the $5.95. And you and your kids get to listen to the stories.
A Fusion of Climate Science and Storytelling
Although I’m an artist, I’ve been an amateur student of environmental disruption since 1985.
Witness the two Virginia tulip poplars thriving in my New Hampshire back yard for a decade now, where I planted them as tiny saplings in hopes they’d survive our harsh winters. They’re now eight feet tall, growing in a place they shouldn’t be. When they mature, long after I’m gone, they’ll be seventy feet, taller than the red oaks and maples living there now. Thirty years ago, the first winter would have killed those little saplings, but the winters are no longer so harsh.
Why did I plant them? Call it worry. Call it knowing that in another thirty years my back yard may be too hot a world for the sugar maples I love so much. Call it knowing that if there’s a die-off of maples and oaks, at least these tulip trees from a southern biome will survive to help build a new forest for New Hampshire. Our state is 80% woods.
Curious why the seasons where I live have been shoved back a month, I set about studying climate dynamics and Gaia Theory in earnest about eight years ago. My early background studying science at Duke helped a lot. Biology. Statistics. Geology. Calculus. The sorts of intellectual tools that allow science to make sense, even to a non-scientist like me. Gaia Theory is a bundle of sciences that looks at earth as a vast, self-regulating organism. It combines every science, from chemistry and physics to botany, biology and geology. And all the disciplines in between. It’s not a religion.
Since for thirty years climatologists have been warning of what’s upon us now–– despite members of Congress holding snowballs in Washington, D.C. and asking, “What global warming? Hell, it just snowed.”––the message hasn’t gotten through to the American people. With hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in our recent past, however, it may be sinking in. Our local Caribbean paradise has been destroyed this fall. And there’s no guarantee that next year, more superstorms won’t come and scour off the last untouched islands. Not to mention more of the Gulf Coast.
Snowballs have never been the point in all this anyway. It’s not that it doesn’t still get cold. It’s simply the changing patterns of cold. And heat. And the same old things humans have known for millennia. Storms. Droughts. Thaws. Downpours. Heat waves. Forests. Deserts. Beaches. No, it’s the trend lines that the people who pay attention to climate are most worried about.
Ever boiled an egg? On medium heat, thin streams of bubbles begin to drift upward from the bottom past the egg. Keep the heat on and it will take a while, but eventually your egg will cook.
That consistent stream of bubbles reminds me of the Holocene Epoch, the last ten thousand years of climate history. A time during which a consistent rate of boil on earth provided monsoons and seasons, snowpacks and standard sea levels for our coastal cities. A time when rain fell and ancient glaciers melted, providing reliable river flows down to the coasts. A period that allowed human populations to grow from a few hundred thousand hunter/gatherers wandering around following game to the billions of us living in mega-cities today. Most of our greatest cities sit at the edge of the sea.
Now, put a lid on the pot and watch closely. Without the steam escaping the open top, the same amount of incoming heat is trapped and the bubbles become larger and less uniform. Your egg cooks much more quickly, too.
Of course, the metaphor is this: the pot is the earth and the lid is greenhouse gases. The bigger bubbles? More extreme weather events, since that’s all weather really is. Bubbles. Just big ones, drifting around under our thin skin of atmosphere, which, even though it seems so immense, is a closed system. A pot with a lid we ourselves have put on it.
With all this in my mind I went to Boulder this past mid-September with an idea I developed over the summer along with David Takahashi, a producer out there, and a committee of climate scientists who helped jury the concept. Called 16 TITANS, it’s a grassroots effort to turn climate scientists and activists into good storytellers. Good enough to explain to congressmen about snowballs in winter. Not by using graphs and data, but instead by turning that hard-to-grasp truth into stories anybody can understand.
A young woman scientist from NCAR in Boulder (National Center for Atmospheric Research) in one of my workshops described her work. She studies cloud cover and mentioned how water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas in and of itself. It traps heat close to earth’s surface, too. The problem is not just CO2 and methane. “How do I tell a story about that?” she asked.
As I was thinking, she mentioned an interesting theory about the planet Venus. Planetary scientists theorize that at some point in solar system history, Venus entrapped so much heat that its water seas boiled off, releasing even more vapor and leaving Venus in a permanent state of super-heating with a surface temperature of 864 degrees, hot enough to melt lead. This could potentially happen to earth, she worried, if we don’t get a handle on the heat feedback loop. The clouds she studied would play an increasing part in such an awful scenario.
“Begin your story on ancient Venus,” I said. “Place your listeners’ POV (point of view) at a beach, only the sea before you is boiling. The air is noxious and the heat is unbearable, and you’re a human. In the few seconds you have before you lose consciousness, the pain is horrific and you can smell ammonia everywhere. This is the end result you worry about. It’s scary and sad. So once you’ve described this atmospheric end game, then move to earth today, and tell your listeners that no planet is exempt from change like this. Not if you know physics and chemistry and how matter behaves in the presence of energy. It all depends upon heat feedback loops. Point to the trends. That gives you an opening to describe your research more fully.”
Other Coloradans in my workshop were worried about fracking, the first extractive industry ever to dot people’s back yards. They are wildly and desperately against it, mostly due to the fouling of groundwater. They presented another case in point.
“Do you know how amazingly creative a technology fracking is?” I asked. “Do you know everything about the process?” I’ve researched it quite a bit for books, and frankly marvel at the engineering involved. That’s wholly different from wanting to keep it out of my back yard, or my neighbor’s back yard (since that means it’s essentially under my back yard, too), poisoning my well water.
Even if you hate its effects, you can’t escape the elegance of the technology. And if you’re trying to keep it out of your own town, don’t demonize the people who invented and survive on it (wouldn’t it be nice, geopolitically, to no longer need oil from the Saudis?), but instead praise their ingenuity and be honest about it. That might do far more to convince them to sit down and compromise here and there than to scream in some intersectional crowd, holding up an obscene placard. In other words, honor thine enemy. Better than getting everybody’s backs up in a fury of competing economic visions. At least among Americans. Despite our warts, we’re still the greatest republic on earth.
And so the workshops went. People told stories and came to the conclusion that “climate deniers” have just been better storytellers than we Cassandras. Climate activists see the future and fear the long term. Deniers want to survive in the short term and live in luxury. Both groups see the short term. It’s in the news every day. But to imagine the long one, well, that takes a solidly skilled imagination.
Somewhere between those two perspectives, in a democracy, there has to be common ground.
More on the 16 TITANS project to come.
“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!