ICHTHYS: “i see you not but i love you i love” words from Robert Lax (1915-2000) from “In the Beginning was Love: Contemplative Words of Robert Lax,” edited with an introduction by S. T. Georgiou (2015), design by Meredith Eliassen, 2016.

ICHYHYS Notecard

Who is this Lady Luck?

September 22, 2016

My mother has been telling me about the “lady friend” of Lucky the Lizard for several months now… and she always refers to her as Lady Luck. This past weekend she finally described Lady to me in a way that I could picture her. Though the description changes with Lady’s mood and backdrop from her having gray and black stripes to Pokka dots remains the same… I am not yet convinced that she is part of Lucky’s posse, because she is reportedly pissed whenever he goes on his travels… whatever.


Lady Luck, a lizard in Sedona, Arizona, as seen by Meredith Eliassen, 2016.

The one constant in descriptions of Lady’s tail… you see… is that she lost it and it grew back gray. Nobody knows the story, and she won’t tell. Maybe a hawk stole it, or a lightening bolt hit her, or she was not fast enough in exiting my parents’ place and one of the poodles took a bite out of her (though they are both gentlemen, really…) Whatever her story might be, her tail grew back, you see, and life goes on…

As this description filled my thought, a true picture emerged of Lady Luck as a survivor in the desert, as the lizard that captured Lucky’s heart when he first saw her in the light of morning dawn as she perched on the Red Rock. Not only was her tail regrown but she was transformed into a critter, more strong, more beautiful, and energized.

Lady Luck Notecard


“Brother Buzz” design by Meredith Eliassen, 2016.

The Latham Foundation to promote Humane Education was established in 1918 to foster in children a better understanding of the importance of treating animals well. The character of Brother Buzz (an elf in the form of a bee) was created to appeal to children and teach them about animals. Brother Buzz appeared first in print form in 1927, then on radio in the 1930s during the Great Depression, and then local television as World War II veterans opened up the broadcasting industry. The Wonderful World of Brother Buzz (1952-1969) was the longest running locally produced children’s program in the San Francisco Bay Area and the first to feature a puppet promoting the humane treatment of animals.

American pediatrician Benjamin Spock (1903-1998) revolutionized child rearing and childhood with his book Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946) that promoted a kind of permissive parenting when it asserted to mothers, ”You know more than you think you know.” Spock brought about major social change in childhood as young mothers in the post-war years relied more upon his marketed advice than upon family advice. American psycho-historian Lloyd deMause in examining the overarching psychological motivations of childhood through history found that Spock was part of a movement that asserted that the child “knows better than the parent what it needs at each stage in life.” While this perhaps gave parents the opportunity for nostalgic visits to childhood through their children, and the opportunity for children to be more independent to express views, it also subverted traditional safety boundaries. It would also bring in huge profits for baby and children’s stores lasting from approximately 1948 until 1970 when the baby bust occurred.


Wait… wait… wait… act…

September 14, 2016


“wait * wait * wait * act * wait * — * the * rhythm * of * things * — * make * it * a * song * & * it * will * be * come * one * — * lis * ten * lov * ing * ly * to * the * mu * sic * slow * ly * joy * ous * ly * join * the * dance” inspired by the words of Robert Lax, dancing being designed by Meredith Eliassen, 2016.

“wait wait wait act” Notecard and Survivors’ Hub Postcard

The Ancients and Media Ecology

September 12, 2016

Child culture has to some extent always been an adult societal construct since children are dependent upon adults as this stage. Lydia Maria Child, 1802-1880 wrote in the preface of her The Mother’s Book (1832): “We are told that when Antipater demanded of the Lacedemonians fifty of their children as hostages, they replied that they would rather surrender fifty of the most eminent men in the state, whose principles were already formed, than children to whom the want of early instruction would be a loss altogether irreparable (vii).”

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) asserted that three inventions were vectors for successive social transformation: the written phonetic alphabet carried humans from tribal to literate society; the printing press carried humans from literate to print society; and the telegraph carried humans from print to today’s increasingly electronic society by progressively arousing different brain patterns over generations that are distinctive to each particular form of dominant communication.


Plato… on writing, in “Phaedrus”: ‘If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls… they will cease to exercise memory because they will rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.’ Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2016.

In the medieval world, there was no separate sphere for children; adults and the young had access to all common conversations that were part of the culture; a seven year old boy only differed from his father in his capacity to engage in love and war. The translation of sounds into letters and new visible symbolic objects radically altered the human consciousness: words could be read repeatedly and when individuals became literate, they could build upon recorded knowledge and advance thinking. When Aldus Manutius (1449-1515) began to mass-produce pocket-sized texts featuring italic type in 1502, this technology allowed humans to easily transport and share ideas. Media ecologists concur that with the print age, a consciousness of childhood as a distinct period of human development first emerged with a moral chiaroscuro of print media where the semantics of childhood was delineated by adult societal constructs of parenthood.


Aldus Manutius (1449-1515) established his printing house in Venice in about 1490. The Aldine Press was a corporate entity; the entrance placard conveyed the proprietor’s eithic: “Talk of nothing but business; and dispatch that business quickly.” Pietro Aretino (1492 -1556) was an Italian author, playwright, poet, satirist and blackmailer who wielded immense influence on contemporary art and politics and developed early pornographic literature. He wrote “We are the buffoons of our children.” Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2016.

Giovanni Francesco Straparola, approximately 1460-1557 (roughly translates to “The Babbler”) is credited with having introduced the genre of fairy tale, including “The Puss in Boots,” into contemporary European literature. He published a collection of popular stories incorporating practical jokes, romances, and fables in the style of the Decameron in Venice in 1550. It passed through sixteen editions in twenty years and was translated into French and German. The frame story is that Francesca Gonzaga, daughter of Ottaviano Sforza, Duke of Milan, escapes the commotions in that city and retires to the island of Murano, near Venice, where surrounded by a number of distinguished ladies and gentlemen, she passes the time in listening to stories related by the company. Thirteen nights are spent in this way, and seventy-four stories are told, when the approach of Lent cuts short the diversion. These stories are of the most varied form and origin and many are borrowed without acknowledgment from other writers including Morlini, Boccaccio, and others. Twenty-nine of the tales are from Straparola; they had never appeared before in European literature, but they were in no sense original to Straparola. His work had no influence on contemporary Italian literature (and was actually banned in areas), and was soon forgotten.

Learn more about media ecologists from the Media Ecologist Association.



“I can write my name but I can’t spell the letters.” Words by Joseph Simas, “Kinderpart,” 1989, design by Meredith Eliassen, 2016.

If a folkway is defined as a way of thinking or acting shared by members of a group as part of their common culture, then childhood is the means for accessing common culture. Children are vectors of imaginary landscapes within adult societal constructs. Children naturally explore, experiment, and create opportunities to test and expand boundaries within familial and community contexts. Original play allows children to holistically experience events that involve a certain degree of risk and failure to provide opportunities to learn and develop knowledge and skills needed to survive as adults engaged with society. For instance play jumping into and over puddles can test a child’s physical attributes as well as properties of the physical world. Likewise, childhood offers the potential to choose a simple vessel portal for imaginative play in order to explore its possibilities.


“Media as an extension of the human hand,” conceptual drawing by Meredith Eliassen, 2016

The cell phone can now be an interactive medium for child’s play and entertainment in an increasingly secular world. As folklorist, we can see with the lens of media ecology that this little device (like a play doll or ball of earlier days) has become an extension of the child or teenager’s arm and hand. Therefore, we can ask as with other media:

  • Does this device structure what we can see and say and, therefore, do?
  • Does this device assign to us roles to play? And then insist upon our playing them?
  • Does this “smart” device explicitly specify what we are permitted to do and what we cannot do?
  • Does this device offer half-concealed implicit and informal specifications that compel us assumption that what we are dealing with merely a machine and not a highly-corporate media environment?

When mass-produced toys create total-entertainment-experiences, society can loose ecosystems where holistic inner-imaginary landscapes flourish. Although folklorists will adapt to this technologist for studying First World childhood, we may need to head for the Cloud[s] to find our fodder for studying the real or ordinary lives of children. Media ecology surfaces roles that media compel us to play. Media ecology will continue to spotlight how emerging media structures the semantics of what we see and how media informs how we feel and act as we approach the gateway to the future with our eyes, ears, and hands wide open. In the coming weeks, I will explore the transitions of earlier media in this blog to identify areas that might be considered when asking the question: Is childhood at risk?

Here is a recent article from the Washington Post: And everyone saw it… by Jessica Contrera

To learn more about media ecologist go to the Media Ecologist Association.