06.28.06 Salon Story on kidgames
Salon just published a story of mine about a whirlwind kidgame tour I did a month back, in which I went head-to-head with some of the most dedicated adult players of rock paper scissors, kickball, tag and a “watergun assassination tournament.” It was an enormous amount of fun to report and write - who knew a grown up could get paid to travel around the country for a bunch of playdates? I was especially happy to expand on ideas in the book, mainly about the fundamental appeal of this stuff to play-starved adults. (hint: you can’t take ‘em too seriously)…
Only downside is the weirdly inflamed debate that has popped up on the letters page—who knew kidgames could prompt such fury? Maybe I shouldn’t have quoted my ill-tempered friend’s remark about all ages tag being “so gay”?
Posted at 11:42 am in 3 Comments
06.26.06 Crazy Media Week
The media blitz is on. This week I’m running around talking to a bunch of fancy media folks about the book Rejuvenile. Here’s a rundown, for those who’d like to watch or listen in:
Wednesday, June 28
Thursday, June 29
I’ve also started posting blog entries on HuffingtonPost.com. First one is here.
Shameless self promotion! Shameless, I tell you!
06.22.06 Why this new word
Pop quiz: what’s a “rejuvenile”?
If you said all of the above, you get a lollipop. “Rejuvenile” says it all.
I’m partial to (e), of course. But since coining what I thought was an entirely new word three years ago while researching my book of the same name, I’ve come across these other, wonderfully esoteric uses. All hail Google. It’s a little like feeding your own name into a search engine and discovering you’re also a minor league first baseman, a convicted embezzler and a Nevada shopkeeper. (Shoutout to Christopher Noxon, mid-level executive at Kodak corporate headquarters!).
To wit: Rejuvenile Night Cream is sold via online beauty supply shops. It’s produced by a company called Health Herb Products, Thailand and is said to “make skin smooth, tender and shiny.” All of which sounds like one of those wonderful malapropisms common in the Far East – a product of too little ESL and a cheerful stab at English phrasing (a friend recently got back from China where she spotted a sign that read “naughty family veterinary hospital").
In that same vein, “rejuvenile” appears in promotional literature for Thai surgical practices that specialize in sex change procedures. Bancock-based Dr. Chettawut Tulayaphanich will perform “facial rejuvenile surgery” to help our trans-gendered friends lift, tuck and stretch their way to more feminine selves. The same sort of curious attempt at Englishness appears to be at work in the name of the Rejuvenile Cricket Club, a pro team whose contests are covered in the Indian newspaper the Daily Excelsior (sadly, they’re not particularly good).
Then there’s the use of the word by members of the Immortality Institute, an Internet-based organization for those who literally believe they can live forever. I’ve heard tell of a few eccentric, creepily intense folks here in L.A. who’ve gone on starvation diets of nuts and fish oils with the aim of living past 100, but I had no idea that there were people out there who’d gone for the full vampire schtick. In a 2002 forum, members were asked to propose names for “someone who has many years, but has a biological age of a 26 year old. We have ‘young’ and ‘old’ but not a word to describe a healthy, hearty and exuberant 500 year old.” One member proposed, you guessed it, “rejuvenile” – but it quickly was discarded in favor of the phrases “perennials,” “transhumans,” “lifers” and “Generation Eight” (which naturally stands for Enlightened, Infinite, Galactic, Human, Tireless).
As for my definition, it’s worth repeating that there are many other words to describe the same basic idea, or at least aspects of it. Sociologists talk about “adultescence” to describe the years between adolescence and adulthood. “Kidult” is a popular word in Europe for adults with a fondness for kid culture. Time coined “Twixter,” New York Magazine tried “Grup” and Faith Popcorn proposed “B2B” (for back-to-bedroom).
So why “rejuvenile”? New words can be reflexively annoying – one blogger made the inevitable comparison between “rejuvenile” and words like “metrosexual” and “bobo,” which he called “endemic marketing speak we love to hate.” But here’s the thing: none of the other words that attempt to describe this phenomenon cover the whole cross-generational scope – rejuveniles include 10-year-olds who veg out to Teletubbies, teenage punks who sport Care Bear T-shirts, twentysomethings who live at home, CEO’s who champion the power of play in the workplace and card-carrying members of the AARP who go on extreme sport excursions. They all share an impulse to cultivate and protect a childlike (and sometimes childish) part of themselves. It’s an actual phenomenon and it deserves its own real word.
And sorry – “Grup” just sounds like a venereal disease.
06.20.06 Publication day!
Rejuvenile arrives today in bookstores all over this fair land. I’m thrilled, relieved and more than a little astonished. It’s a real book! In actual stores!
First-week sales are a big deal in the publishing biz, so I’ll be forever grateful to those who pick up a copy soon. Help spark the rejuvenile movement! Support your local independent bookstore!
I’ll be in New York next week for the Today Show, NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” and Colbert (yikes!); there are also stories, interviews and reviews in the works for the Wall Street Journal, the Detroit Free Press and the Weekly Standard (expect a drubbing from the neocons). USA Today ran a story today on the cover of the Life section.
A wildly effusive thank you to all the friends, family and kindred spirits who’ve played a part so far. I have no idea how the book will be received, but for now I’m just happy the book is out and in the world.
06.13.06 Ascension of the Alterna-parents
If you dress your infant in a Sex Pistols or Jimi Hendrix onesie, will they grow up Republican?
Surely this question has at some point crossed the mind of the quasi-adult, alterna-leaning moms and dads now snatching up coolie baby merch stocked in boutiques in the burgs of Williamsburg and Silver Lake. Walk those streets and it’s hard to miss the booming business in baby and toddler gear printed with logos and slogans swiped straight from punk or heavy metal – you can now get a black bib printed with the words “My mom kicks ass!” or a diaper bag festooned with anarchy symbols. My own 10-month-old son has a black T-shirt printed with the logo for three-chord Aussie maestros AC/DC cleverly rearranged to say “AB/CD.”
A lot of the same parents buying this stuff are the same ones making plans for the upcoming Lollapalooza festival, which along with an impressive lineup of indie-rock stalwarts (Wilco, Chili Peppers, Flaming Lips) is mounting a sidestage called Kidzapalooza. It’s the brainchild of festival honcho Perry Ferrell, who in a canny attempt to accommodate fellow parents eager to introduce their kids to the glories of festival rock, is admitting kids free and is hosting a sidestage of coolie kid acts (School of Rock, the Candy Band, Justin Roberts), along with free yoga instruction, an “instrument petting zoo” and tons of hipster merch in children and adult sizes.
All this can be seen as yet another example of Playalong Parenting – the impulse among rejuvenile parents to hop the generational divide, to share mutual experience and to make a loud announcement to the world that the parents of said tiny-tot rockers are… if not cool, than at least more evolved than a generation ago. A friend of mine recently mentioned he was on the lookout for a rock show that could serve as a “starter concert” for his small kids. Should it be a safe play like They Might Be Giants, or a balls-out rock fest like the Warped Tour? Sadly, Drs. Spock or Sears are silent on the topic.
Here’s my worry: what will these kids grow up to rebel against? Might a lot of the kids in tiny Mohawks and itty bitty Doc Martins today turn into buttoned-down, Alex P. Keaton neo-conservatives when adolescence kicks in? Or maybe it’ll work the other way – perhaps introducing kids to “Back in Black” early will reduce the chances that kids will grow up hating their parents as teenagers.
I for one am happy that my kids appreciate a good power chord (and really, consider the alternative: Raffi). To me, it’s about where it starts and who’s it for. I’m all for parents and kids bonding over a common love Green Day, but I worry about parents imposing their need for an extended adolescence on their offspring, like frustrated jocks hollering at their kids in pony league football. Writer/comedian Greg Behrent put it best in a funny bit about playing Black Sabbath for his 13-month-old daughter:
Posted at 12:41 pm in 1 Comments
06.09.06 First Review is In
BusinessWeek jumped the gun and published a review of the book today, two weeks before it’s actually released. I’d be bitter, if their assessment - cheekily titled “Adults Do the Darndest Things” - wasn’t so complimentary and comprehensive. Three-and-a-half stars! “Breezy” and “provocative”! I’ll take it!
The harrumphing codgers will surely weigh in soon, but today I’m just grateful the book was greeted so graciously by the MBAs at BusinessWeek.
06.09.06 Swimmin’ in the Fishbowl
Bill Maher and the good folks at Amazon were nice enough to ask me to talk about the book on their new show Fishbowl last night. You can watch the segment here. It was a rather terrifying prospect – I filled a slot that’s so far been occupied by Steven King and Dean Koontz, and it seems clear the booking was in part an opportunity for Mr. Maher to reestablish his bonafides as a cantankerous cynic on a show that’s in large part promotional (or as he put it to fellow guest John Favreau, “on this show, we’re selling crap.”)
Anyhow, I managed to keep my twitch reflex and sweaty palms in check (though I couldn’t stifle a few girly chuckles). Mr. Maher obviously has some major issues with kids and all things childlike, but I hope I held my own and managed a reasonably coherent defense against attacks on kickball, cupcakes and kiddie movies. I’m a big admirer of Mr. Maher, but as a fellow kickballer vet e-mailed me today, he does seem a bit, well, crotchety. My pal’s advice: “I recommend playing on his lawn til he shakes his cane at you.”
One thing I wished I’d said: rejuveniles aren’t, as Mr. Maher seems to believe, a bunch of stoners who stay at home all day in Speed Racer T-shirts playing Halo on the X Box. The vast majority of the people profiled in the book are responsible, respectable adults with families and careers and a commitment to maintaining a childlike, playful, imaginative part of themselves. In fact, many rejuveniles find that their childlike tendencies enhance their adult lives – they’re often better parents, more creative and productive workers and just plain happier people.
One big bonus from the experience: I got a goodie bag! No fancy gadgets or free vacations, but this morning I’m drinking my grown-up coffee from a new Fishbowl mug. Thanks Bill. Hope the hollering out front doesn’t bother you; feel free to come play whenever you like…
06.01.06 In Further Praise of Miyazaki
I know he’s got an Academy Award and a big fans at Pixar, but why isn’t Hayao Miyazaki a bigger deal in the U.S.? I finally got around to seeing his latest, Howl’s Moving Castle, and was reminded anew what a godhead storyteller this guy is. Honestly: Miyazaki is up there with the greats of modern movie-making, animated and otherwise. For two-plus hours, I sat with my two oldest kids (four and six – my littlest, at nine months, is still a few months away from having his eyelids pried open before the mighty TV), all of us transfixed at a bewildering world that nonetheless contained a tight interior logic. Anyone who has seen his celebrated 2001 feature Spirited Away knows what I’m talking about – Miyazaki’s world is at once totally unpredictable (characters dematerialize, grow feathers, and transform into rippling blobs of energy) and confined to a set of rules that you learn as you go along. It’s the wonderland of childhood imagination writ large, in full-color, hand-drawn glory.
As impressive as Howl is, I’m still partial to more restrained earlier movies like Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Tortoro. Both are especially great to watch with little kids because there are no real enemies – unlike so many other kid movies, Kiki and Tortoro are entirely concerned with a kid’s quest to find their place in a world that’s hard to fathom – a story that resonates as deeply with children as rejuvenile adults.
Some of the wonder of these movies stems from the abundance of cultural disconnects – they’re so magical in large part because they’re so far removed from the stories we Westerners are accustomed to. I’m reminded of an exchange I had with Japanese social critic Masaki Ikeda while writing about “kawaii,” the Japanese term for “cute” or “adorable” used to describe Hello Kitty and other kiddie icons enjoyed by adults. He bristled at my first questions about why so many Japanese adults are so fanatical about cartoon kitty cats or puppy dogs. I had it all wrong, he wrote. The appeal of these characters, he insisted, wasn’t about their appeal in childhood. The characters are better understood as “yaokai,” long suppressed mystical spirits from pre-modern Japan that have found a circuitous route back to the adult imagination. It’s a farfetched but intriguing notion, and it has stayed with me and may help explain why movies like Howl are so compelling – often, our fondness for the playful and fantastical can often lead us into surprisingly profound territory.