Media and Art · Personal Entries

A toe in the pool of prepubescent crazy

We have two weeks of stuff to cover here, so let’s all pipe down and focus, shall we?

We have field trips with insane preteens,  a class mural,  swearing off dating forever and ever until I die and the pixie haircut which accompanied this decision,  and a graduation or two.   Where shall we start?

Although I’ve worked myself up into quite a state thinking about the haircut and the swearing-off dating,  I’ll start with the mural because it gives you something to look at.   Complaining about my bad attitude towards dating has no visual hook.

This year, as I have in previous years, I offered to do a painting with Matt’s class.  The idea is this: I provide all the materials, and guide the kids through the process of creating a large-scale collaborative painting.  I provide the steadying adult voice of reason, and they make all the decisions and do all the work.

After much brainstorming and voting, the kids decided to paint an amusement park scene,  anchoring the painting with a horizon line and a roller coaster, and setting the scene at night.  They would all add their own elements to the painting, and each would also draw themselves on the roller coaster.   They worked together to come up with a strong, cohesive theme, and I was impressed.

Which is why I’m so, so baffled about how we ended up with this:

Click to enlarge this fabulousness: 5th grade Amusement Park, 4 ft x 7.5 ft. Acrylic and watercolor on Arches paper.

An amusement park with an erupting volcano, under attack from nine space ships, three dragons, two bears, and many, many zombies.    I had no idea how much time zombies spend at amusements parks.

I’ve learned some things about fifth-graders:  They’ve dipped a toe in the pool of pubescent crazy.  They like to draw very, very small.  Their collective goal is to out-funny one another.  They don’t do collaborative. They erase each other’s preliminary drawings, and this goes about as well as you’re imagining it does.

1.  This, blogosphere, is Tiger Woods on the moon, in a bikini.  His golf club is floating away, and that’s why he’s shouting, “Nooo!”   “Let’s draw all his girlfriends, too!” Said the fifth-graders. “Nooo,” said Ms. Stein.

2.  This pretty little clock and the things drawn around it are the work of a very sweet autistic boy who joins the class for much of the day.  The kids collectively bossed him about his clock being off-theme.  When he left, they all started drawing clocks.  I urged them to erase their clocks, and they took this to mean that they should erase anyone else’s work that they didn’t like.

3.  Bears!

4. “Honey, what is that?” I asked.   “A volcano,”  she said. OK.  By this point I had realized that artistic coherence was a pipe-dream.

4.5.  “I’m confused about why you’re drawing ice cream cones in the sky.”   “I like drawing ice cream cones.” Later, these became ice cream cone rockets.

5.  An upside-down zombie paratrooper with an ice cream cone instead of a parachute.   This drawing was explained to me at the time, but because fifth-graders all talk at once, all I heard was, “MS. STEIN HE ERASED MY CAN I PAINT NOW ZOMBIE PARACHUTE FAIRY ROLLER COASTER FALLING HAHAHAHAHA BEARS!!!!!”

6.  This family of zombies did not make sure they were securely belted in before the ride started.  Luckily, they are the walking dead and so their fall can’t kill them.

7.  Several things are happening in this part of the picture.

a.  A dragon is heating up some pizza.  The dragon was drawn by child A, and the pizza was drawn by child B.  Child B did not discuss the addition of pizza with child A, and child A was not pleased.  Pizza made a mockery of the dragon.

b. Medusa and Frankenstein are getting married.  I have no idea.


The kids, somehow, came away from all that lovely planning with the message, “Go forth and draw twenty-three different pictures!  Make it as random as you can!”  Amused, shell-shocked, baffled; halfway through the first day I caught Matt’s teacher’s eye.

“Wow,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief.

“I know!”  She said excitedly, “this is the best they’ve worked together all year!

Teachers are not paid nearly enough.



Media and Art · Personal Entries

Sculpture and sex ed

Last night,  Jake called me over to question me about a sculpture he was studying for his art history homework.   He was working at the computer, and Riley was huddled next to him.  While Jake and Matt are very interested in art, Riley is not, and so I was surprised and happy to see him showing interest in whatever Jake was studying.  A little wave of self-satisfied superiority washed over me; my sons: citizens of the art world.

Brancusi’s The Endless Column

The sculpture they were viewing is a tower composed of 17 cast iron rhombus-shaped modules, stacked one atop the other and rising over 96 feet into the air:  Constantin Brancusi’s “The Endless Column.”  When viewed from the ground, it seems to disappear into the heavens; it’s a monument to the Romanians who died in World War I, and its structure is a reference to funerary pillars, its rhombus modules are a nod to the concept of axis mundi: the point where heaven, earth, and the four compass points meet.

Jake’s question was logistical: how does this tower stand up?  I tell him the tower probably has a deep footer which anchors some sort of pole on which the rhombus modules are stacked.

But, the first thing he thought of when viewing this piece was how its size was engineered, and that brings to mind a quote which is well-known in the art world, one that most art students hear by the time they’ve been through a few studio courses.  Rob Roy Kelly, a graphic design professor, once said:

If you can’t make it good, make it big.
If you can’t make it big, make it red.
If you can’t make it red, make a lot of ’em.
If you can’t make a lot of ’em, make it move.

I tell Ri and Jake this, and ask them to think about it in regards to the sculpture they are viewing.

“How much of this piece’s success is due to its scale?”  I ask them.

“A lot,” says Riley.

“Why?”  I ask.

“It wouldn’t be as cool if it was little,” says Ri.

“So if it was only as tall as this room, would it still be as successful?”

“No,” says Riley. ” I mean, it might still be nice, but it’s cool because it’s so tall.”

I’m so impressed with us.  We have sophisticated conversations at my house. I’m an excellent parent.

“Should that matter?” I ask Riley.  “If the success of the sculpture is so tied to its size,  is it still successful?”

Riley nods, and Jake says, “I hear what you’re saying, but I think this sculpture needs to be big because it’s supposed to draw your eye to the heavens–“

“But Mom?” Interrupts Riley.

“Hold on Riley,”  I say. “So it needs the height?  The height isn’t gratuitous?

“No,” says Jake firmly.

“OK, then within that height–“


I hold my hand up like a stop sign to Riley, and continue,” –is what this piece saying valuable?  How do the other aspects of this piece push it beyond ‘cool?’ “

We are having an awesome moment of art education.  We’re conversing about art concepts and design.  This is what superior parenting leads to.  My children are lucky to have me.   I’m an art world mentor.

“I think so,” says Jake, “the rhombus modules–“

“Mom?” says Riley, again. ” I have a question.”

I’m torn.  Riley is a big interrupter, and he knows this drives me nuts.  But, he’s interrupting this time because he’s so enthusiastic about art.  Art!  And I can understand being that excited about art.   Art reflects and questions and explores everything in life, and so how can one not be passionate about that?   It’s cool to see him excited.  He’s a sophisticated interrupter.

“Ri, let Jake finish, and then I’ll answer your question.”

“But—” And he starts to point to something else on Wikipedia’s Brancusi page.

“Riley, honey, just a minute, ok?”  I don’t want to be so harsh that he gives up and walks away from his interest in Brancusi.  Gentle with the budding artophile.

“The rhombus modules,” continues Jake, “are really important to the piece.  They signify axis mundi, so the height of the piece is really cool, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”

I nod, and smile beatifically.  I’ve led my little art sheep through a beautiful, rich pasture of art analysis they would not have ventured through otherwise.

Turning to Riley, I ask, “OK, Ri.  What was your question, honey?”

“What does ‘orgasm’ mean?”


Riley points to a paragraph in the Wikipedia article about Brancusi’s sculpture, “Princess X.”   “It says here that she couldn’t achieve vaginal orgasm.  What does orgasm mean?”

A 2280 word article about a famous sculptor, and my thirteen year old managed to spot and focus on the one paragraph containing the words phallus, vaginal, and orgasm.

This is what superior parenting leads to.

Media and Art

Sinterklaas Day

Update:  My Mom, who might or might not be drunk, has clarified: Sinterklaas and his crew of good-friends-who-used-to-be-slaves have been around town for about two weeks, but tonight is the big night where they break into people’s houses. Tomorrow they will leave for Spain, thereby breaking international law by transporting the Dutch children they have kidnapped over international borders.  My mother is helping.

My Mom, who lives in The Netherlands, tells me today’s the day!  Sinterklaas and  Swarte Pete have arrived in Den Hague, and will roam The Netherlands for the next several weeks.  They will either beat and kidnap children, or give them little treats.  You never know.  The Dutch, they’re different.

David Sedaris, reading one of my favorite of his stories, “Six to Eight Black Men”

Media and Art

Food monsters?

So Kseverny commented that he could not make a monster because he was drunk.  That’s sad, and I think we all need to offer him a little bit of internet intervention.   But not right this minute, because now we are talking about Monsterbling Contest..

Kseverny could rock a serious food monster, don’t you think?  Check out his food photos.  If he can do that, then he can absolutely, easily go full food monster.

I’ll wait while you go do that, Kseverny.


Media and Art · Older favorites

Spit my flow

“Mom, I’m gonna download an explicit song on iTunes, is that ok?”

I appreciate Jake asking.  At eighteen, I’m not worried about the choices he makes in music, but we only have one computer and he knows that whatever he downloads is available to my two younger boys, too.

“What is it,” I ask, “is it really bad, or not that big a deal?”

“Well, it…’s not the lyrics I like, it’s the music.  It’s not that bad.  But I don’t really listen to the words.”

Ah, verbal shuffling and vagueness.  Now my curiosity is peaked. When Jake gets vague I can’t help but go digging for more information, because there is usually really good stuff right under the surface.

“Huh.  What is the song, honey?”

“It’s just a rap song.  I just like how it sounds.  I don’t even know the lyrics.”

“Well, why don’t you let me help you with that?  Here, let’s look them up, and then you’ll know!  Now what’s the song called?”

“It’s by Drake, and it’s on the soundtrack for the new LeBron James documentary.”

“And it’s called….?

“It’s actually a bunch of rappers.”


“Eminem, L’il Wayne, Kanye….”

“Oooh, this should be good,” I say, ” but what’s it called?”

He tells me the song is “Forever,” and I pull up the lyrics on a site called   I start reading and nearly choke on the tea I’m drinking.

“Oh, these are goooood.  Wow.  You know what?  We should rap this out to get a better idea of how it goes.”

“No, ” says Jake, “please don’t.”

“No, no, really, honey.  It would be a shame to only appreciate the music and beat and miss the lyrics.”

And so I begin rapping every word below, even the lines that read, “lyrics courtesy of”

What has come to be acceptable in lyrics is never quite as much so when your mother is spittin’  it.  When I rap ” i stuck my d-ck inside this life until that b-tch came,” it makes the boy cringe, and tips him over the edge into hilarity.   The comments I stop to make while I rap don’t help, and by the time I’m done Jake is collapsed on the floor, laughing.

I wait for him to catch his breath, and I ask him, “Seriously?  Seriously, dude?”

“Mom,” he says, “I just. Like. The music.”

“Jake honey, there are so many things I could say about this song, I don’t even know where to begin. ”

“So I’m gonna buy it, ok?”

“You may NOT buy this song, ” I say, and Jake looks shocked.  He hadn’t really been asking my permission to begin with.  I’ve never told him not to download a song before.

“It’s not that it’s explicit,” I say,  “I won’t let you buy this song because it’s the most STUPID-ASS thing I have ever heard.”

Mz. Stinz in the building, spitting her flow.

The lyrics (courtesy of   My mid-rap asides to Jake are in blue, Jake’s comments in red.

Drake – Forever Lyrics (Feat Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Eminem)

It may not mean nothing to y’all,
but understand nothing was done for me,
so i don’t plan on stopping at all,
I want this sh-t forever man, ever man, ever man, Please stop. You’re really bad.
I’m shutting sh-t down in the mall,
and telling every girl she the one for me,
and i aint even planning to call,  That is not nice, you know that right? Yes, Mom.
i want this sh-t forever man, ever man, ever man,

Last name ever,
first name greatest,
like a sprained ankle boy I ain’t nuttin to play with,
it started off local but thanks to all the haters,  You’re not saying it in the right rhythm.  I’m makin’ it my own, yo!
i know G4 pilots on a first name basis,
and your city faded off to brown, Nino,
she insists she got more class, we know!
swimming in the money come and find me, Nemo, Oh, come ONHe rhymed Nemo?
if i was at the club you know I ball’d, Kimo,
drop the mixtape that sh-t sounded like an album
who’d have thought a country wide tour would be the outcome
labels want my name beside the X like Malcolm Malcolm is rolling in his grave right now.  Malcolm would have said this was a stupid song.
everybody got a deal, I did it without one,
yeah n-gga i’m about my business,
killing all these rappers you would swear I had a hit list,
everyone who doubted me is asking for forgiveness,
if you aint been a part of it at least you got to witness,


[Kanye West]
Ever ever, Mr West is in the Building,  I’m totally announcing that  I’m in the building every time I talk from now on.
Aint no question who about to kill em,
I used to have hood dreams,
big fame, big chains,
i stuck my d-ck inside this life until that b-tch came,  (strangled cry from Jake)  Uh-huh, brother, I said it.

I went hard all fall like the ball teams,
just so I can make it rain all spring,
y’all seen my story my glory,
i had raped the game young,
you can call it statutory,
when a n-gga blow up they gon build statues for me
old money Benjamin Button, whaat, nuttin,
now superbad chicks giving me mcLovin,
you would think I ran the world like Michelle’s husband,
you would think these n-ggas would know me when they really doesn’t
like they was down with the old me no you f-cking wasn’t,
your’e such a f-cking loser,
he didn’t even go to class Bueller,
trade the Grammy plaques just to have my granny back,
lyrics courtesy of  Mom, that’s not part of the song.  It’s here. I rap it.
remember she had that bad hip like a fanny pack,  Like a fanny pack.
chasing that stardom would turn you into a maniac,
all the way in Hollywood and I can’t even act,
they pull their cameras out and God damn they snap,
I used to want this thing forever y’all can have it back,


[Lil Wayne]

Ok, hello its da martian,
space jam Jordan’s,
I want this sh-t forever wake up and smell the Garden,
fresher than the harvest
step up to the target,
if i had one guess than I guess im just New Orleans,
and I will never stop like i’m running from the cops,
hop up in my car and told my chauffeur “to the top”,
life is such a f-cking roller coaster then it drops,
but what should I scream for this is my theme park,
my minds shine even when my thoughts seem dark,
pistol on my side you don’t wanna hear that thing talk,  I think he went to the University of Houston.  Lotta gun play there, I guess.
let the king talk check the price and pay attention,
Lil Wayne thats what they got to say or mention,
lyrics courtesy of   Mom.
Im like Nevada in the middle of the summer,
i’m resting in the lead I need a pillow and a cover,
shhh, my foots sleeping on the gas,
no brake pads no such thing as last,   OK, that was the best one so far.  And L’il Wayne is kind of cute.  But he needs to learn to keep his pants on.  He had, like, 35 kids this year.



There they go packing stadiums
as Shady spits his flow,  I’m using that one, too.

nuts they go, macadamia they go so balistic whoa,  Macadamia.  Macadamia?
we can make them look like boso’s,
he’s wondering if he should spit this slow,
f-ck no go for broke,
his cup just runneth over oh no
he aint had a buzz like this since the last time that he overdosed,
they’ve been waiting patiently for Pinnochio to poke his nose,
back into the game and they know,
rap will never be the same as before,
bashing in the brains of these hoes,  That is not nice.
and establishing a name as he goes,
the passion and the flame is ignited,
you can’t put it out once we light it,
this sh-t is exactly what the f-ck that i’m talking about when we riot,
you dealin with a few true villians
who stand inside of the booth truth spillin,
lyrics courtesy of
and spit true feelings, til our tooth fillings come flying up out of our mouths who knew rapping was so hard on your dental work?  I spit my true feelings all the time, and my dental work is rarely damaged.
now rewind it
payback muthaf-cka for the way that you doubted me so how’s it taste?
when I slap the taste out your mouth with the bass so loud that it shakes the place,
i’m hannibal lecter so just in case your thinking of saving face,
you aint gonna have no face to save by the time Im through with this place,
so Drake….  OHhh!  Drake’s gonna be in the building now!


Media and Art

Eminem is worried

I love this picture so much, and I start laughing every time I look at it.  It’s the look on Eminem’s face; he looks so concerned for Lady Gaga.  His hand on her shoulder as she accepts her award, he seems to be attempting a telepathic query: “Are you alright?” 

If he weren’t in this picture?  Feh.  Oh look, Lady Gaga is trying to shock us by wearing a see-through dress made out of crazy.  Again.  Yawn.  But when Eminem is worried about your well-being, then you might have overshot the mark in your attempt to hit “cutting edge,” and landed in Nutterville, instead.


Media and Art

A real bodice ripper

Jake is very excited because Barnes and Noble has just made his day by delivering what one reviewer calls “the second best book ever” about the history of radioactive particles leading up to the Hiroshima bombing!  Ever!  I guess he didn’t order the first best book ever because it would have been too exciting.

before the fallout

And my response after Jake enthusiastically explained in detail why this book is going to be so fascinating to read?  “Nakie boobs!”

Media and Art · Personal Entries


Holy wow.  Wowwy wow wow wow.  Huh. 

So.  This was new to me.  Did the rest of you know about “creative grooming” competitions for poodles?   I did not know about these, and I’m…..I don’t know what to say.  Should I suggest that we all take a minute and help these dogs find their missing dignity?

These are photographs taken by Ren Netherland, who travels around the world attending creative grooming events. 

Nope.  No. No. No.


Hold on, I'm trying to find this dog's's seems to have gone missing.
Someone sprayed this poor puppy with a big can of Insane.


Nothing says cultural sensitivity like grooming your poodle into a bison and smacking a red Native American hand symbol on its ass.
Sweet mother of pearl. That rumbling you hear? That would be millions of Native Americans rolling over in their graves.


Great googly mooglies, I said no.
Great googly mooglies, I said no.
Look at this dog's eyes. They're saying, "Why? Why did you put chicks on my hienie?"


After I saw the pictures above, I went exploring this competitive genre and found the image below.   I think Teenage Mutant Ninja Poodle might be my favorite.  As my little nephew says, “I very love it.”