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ABF Friday:  Jamie edition!

So I missed two days of posting.  I’m all right, just a bit tired after spending all Tuesday on Beckett, all Wednesday catching up with my ordinary work, and all Thursday watching CNN on the Middle East.  I have to say their Rapture coverage is some of the most thorough I’ve ever seen on the secular media.  I especially appreciated their advice that incipient Rapturees should dress warmly.  It sounds counterintuitive in late July, but sure enough, in their ascent through the upper layers of the atmosphere the Elect will be getting quite chilly, so it’s only sensible to bring along a down comforter and an extra pair of socks just in case.


Tuesday night the cast of Beatlemania came to town, as they do every summer.  It’s one of the highlights of Jamie’s summer, for reasons you can imagine.  But we missed it!  We completely blew it!  We didn’t even know it was going on!  And when Jamie saw the coverage in Wednesday morning’s newspaper, you can bet he was crestfallen. 

But we had good news for him. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were supposed to play the Crowbar, which was practically State College’s only venue for visiting Bands of Stature.  But the Crowbar closed, possibly because it was run by the same evil consortium that owns four or five local restaurants of stunning mediocrity; we look forward to visiting the new Slop ‘n’ Stew that will take its place, unless of course it turns into yet another t-shirt emporium.  However, some enterprising soul booked Ted Leo at the open-air Tussey Mountain Amphitheater instead, about five miles from here, and the gig was scheduled for this past Wednesday night.  Now, who likes Ted Leo in this house?  Well, Nick most of all, and he heard about them first.  And me and Janet.  And Jamie too!  His favorite song is “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone,” from Hearts of Oak, but he likes a few from Shake the Sheets too.  So Ted Leo promised to be Fun for the Whole Family!

Nick told us that the promoters needed about 250 people to show up if they were to break even.  They didn’t get half that: instead, a sparse and strangely subdued crowd of about 100 gathered to hear Ted Leo play a generous set of about fifteen songs, plus five more in a mini-set encore.  Six or seven new tunes were hauled out; half of them sounded great, and the other half, as Mr. Leo himself noted, still need a bit of work.  Leo was winsome and mordantly funny, and the band was crisp.  The evening was blissfully cool, and though we were sorry that the good people of the State College area hadn’t quite done the band justice, we had to admit it was great to be standing only a few yards from the stage on a nice summer night.

But this post is not about Ted Leo.  It’s not even about the Rapture.  It’s about Jamie.

Nick hung with his friends to the left of the stage; Janet and I were on the other side.  Jamie did not stand with his parents, of course.  He took up a position on the right edge of the front row and did his very own Jamie thing, alternating between mild thrashing (ramping it up to moderate thrashing for “Rude Boys,” which, to Jamie’s delight, came early in the set) and watching the band intently with arms folded.  You know, like pretty much every other teenager.

OK, so he played with someone’s hat for a few minutes, until Janet told him that it was “completely inappropriate” to do so.  But still, Jamie is so cool, just about as cool as his older brother.  And so I dedicate this Arbitrary But Fun Friday to Jamie, because there are so many cool things about him that I can’t decide which is coolest.  Apart from the Ted Leo thing, which is fairly traditional adolescent-male alt.rock cool:

___ He is utterly free of any form of racial prejudice, and he is particularly intrigued by African-American history.  Though I’m not sure he “gets” slavery (for what sane person can?), he has always been curious about African-American leaders who fought for civil rights (and he certainly understands the principle that all children should be able to attend the same school).  At one point last month, on our way through a box store, he insisted that we buy a placemat with pictures of all 43 U.S. Presidents, and after he got through reading everyone’s names and listing their home states, he asked me which ones were good for African-Americans.  Well, that narrowed things down in a hurry!  Good question, Jamie.

___ He loves more forms of animal life than most people are aware of, and he’s always game for learning more.  Habitat, diet, means of reproduction, salient characteristics, you name it.  He’s a shark fanatic and a marine specialist, yes, but he can also get excited by sitatungas, bison, sparrows, salamanders, crocodiles, eagles, jellyfish, baboons, and snakes (on planes and off). “Is that an emu?” I asked him as we stopped at Clyde Peeling’s Reptileland on our way back from Syracuse.  “Yes,” he replied.  “It’s related to the ostrich.” Though he doesn’t have quite the same enthusiasm for plants, being somewhat kingdomcentric and all, his fascination with animals is a genuine intellectual curiosity, and it shows no sign of letting up.

___ His intellectual curiosity is also the reason he loves to travel.  He initially resisted going to France this year on the grounds that we’d been there before; he suggested we go to Germany.  He also wants to go to Japan, China, and New Zealand (for starters).  He’s quite good at geography, but for him it’s not just a question of maps and capitals; he knows that the planet is populated by a dazzling variety of people (some of whom are not wholly devoted to slaughtering each other, though the Slaughtering Party just happens to be in the ascendant), and if he had his way he would meet them all, just to find out what they’re like and what they eat and how they talk.

___ He did his best to speak some French in France.  This fact, together with his knowledge of the world’s geography, makes him a most atypical—and very cool—American traveler.  Jamie took French in seventh grade, and though that little experiment wasn’t so successful as to get him producing French sentences on his own, he did master the days of the week, the months of the year, the numbers up to 60, and an armload of basic vocabulary words.  The fruits of his labor became clearest in the grocery stores, where he was able to see the names of products (including fruits) and had much fun reading them aloud as he walked through the aisles.  Although this made him irrationally exuberant at times, greeting strange people and chattering too loudly, it also inspired him to address the woman at the cheese counter politely, and to say, with my prompting, nous voudrions du fromage de chèvre, s’il vous plait. Jamie knew what he was doing:  he loves goat cheese.  Which is also cool.

___ Though he spurns most fruits (except tomatoes) and vegetables (except lettuce and red peppers), he is far more willing to try strange foods than I was at fourteen.  He has been a fan of Indian food for the past five years, and welcomes Viet-Thai and Korean dishes as well.  One of these days I have to take him to a good churrascuria.  He would love that.  In Fayence he agreed to try escargot, and did not rebel even when he was told what escargot means.  He also tried paté and mussels and a bit of carrot salad.  And he loves Orangina and rich black olives, too.

___ He likes Ted Leo.  But I already said that.

I’ve told him all these things many times, usually when I put him to bed at night.  But I thought I’d set them down here, for future reference and for the benefit of his many Internet friends.  And, of course, for the benefit of all those people who foolishly think of Down syndrome as something akin to polio or Alzheimer’s or Tay-Sachs—namely, a regrettable intraspecies variation whose elimination would be an unqualified good.  For I can honestly say that even though I can’t figure out which cool thing about Jamie is the very coolest, I would be very happy indeed if the world contained more people like him.

Posted by on 07/28 at 07:50 AM
  1. I think the world would be waaaay cooler if more people were like Jamie. 

    I like ABF Friday posts, but I LOVE Jamie posts.  It makes me think of the cool things my kids do and say, in spite of their young ages.  Thanks for a great start to my day.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  09:07 AM
  2. Hey Michael,

    Thought you might like to hear about another conservative professor claiming discrimination. From today’s Buffalo News:

    Professor claims criticizing policies cost him a promotion
    By JAY REY
    News Staff Reporter

    A Fredonia State College instructor said he is being denied a promotion for speaking out against campus policies in the media.
    Stephen Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, was nominated in January for promotion to the rank of professor. While he received support from his department’s chairman, dean and vice president, the request was turned down by Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner.

    Kershnar said he is being punished because he wrote a column in the Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer charging that the college’s affirmative-action policies lower academic standards.

    And Kershnar was critical of the college last year in a Buffalo News story about Fredonia students being required to report violations of campus rules. The policy seemed a “little heavy-handed” and would turn students “into a group of snitches,” he said.

    “Your deliberate and repeated public misrepresentation of campus policies and procedures . . . to the media has impugned the reputation of SUNY Fredonia,” Hefner wrote to Kershnar. “You have clearly failed to make the distinction between presenting opinions and making false representations, which reflect poorly on the quality of your service to this university.”

    Kershnar stands by his comments.

    “I have yet to get an example of one misrepresentation,” Kershnar said.

    “There’s a freedom of expression that’s just being ignored,” Kershnar said. Hefner was unavailable to comment Wednesday.

    “The argument is really over accuracy of Dr. Kershnar’s statements and not his opinions,” said Christine Davis Mantai, a spokeswoman for the university.

    The president agrees Kershnar’s teaching is excellent, she said.

    Kershnar, who has been at Fredonia for nine years and has tenure, has published a book and at least 11 articles. He has been recognized by the college for his work and was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002.

    Ultimately, though, Kershnar’s service to the campus and community is inadequate for promotion, Davis Mantai said.

    Kershnar came back with a compromise. For one year, he would submit any writings to a two-member committee for approval before being published. Hefner countered with stronger terms for an indefinite period.

    Kershnar rejected the proposal and sought help from the Foundation for Individuals Rights in Education, which wrote Hefner seeking an explanation.

    “Fredonia’s bungling attempt to suppress a professor’s criticism of university policies is both reprehensible and embarrassing,” said Greg Lukianoff, president of the nonprofit organization.

    Kershnar said he still wants the promotion.

    And he can try again next year, when he builds upon his community service, Davis Mantai said.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  09:33 AM
  3. The coolest thing about Jamie is that he’s got the parents he so surely deserves.  More Jamie!

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  09:37 AM
  4. I’m very pro-rapture. I can’t wait for the christians to leave. Do you think there’s any way we can convince their diety to take the scientologists too?

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  07/28  at  09:54 AM
  5. Actually, silverside, I read the Chronicle of Higher Education every week and Inside Higher Ed every weekday.  And I read the Kershnar story, sure, but I didn’t see Jamie mentioned there.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  09:54 AM
  6. This post is just about perfect:  ABF and Jamie together.  And for an extra added bonus, reading this post did not make me feel as if my skull was being removed.

    Are we supposed to vote for The One Thing That Is Most Cool About Jamie?  It’s a pretty hard vote.  All of these have one element in common:  Jamie likes New Things way more than most teenagers.  I vote for number three.  Get that cool kid to New Zealand ASAP!

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  10:11 AM
  7. Well, you don’t have to vote for the One Coolest Thing, Charles, but I’m glad you did.  The crucial thing about this ABF Friday is that there’s no good reason to choose only one cool thing about Jamie.  That’s what puts the “arbitrary” in “arbitrary but fun”!

    CCP, I’m objectively pro-Rapture too, but I really hate the fact that these people think they can screw the planet up for the rest of us before they take off.  At the moment, they seem to be the only people on earth rooting for both Israel and Hezbollah. . . .

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  10:20 AM
  8. That’s a relief, although I still like my vote, partially on the grounds that selecting one from that list of Cool Things is basically an arbitrary choice.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  10:29 AM
  9. If Jamie were running for President, he’d get my vote!

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  10:51 AM
  10. I’m sorry Jamie missed Beatlemania, but trips to Ireland and France make for a pretty full summer. I’m struggling with the question of which President’s were good for African Americans. There’s Lincoln (and that’s one with qualifications), Truman, and Carter. Others had to be dragged into civil rights kicking and screaming (FDR, Kennedy, Johnson). It is a great question. A couple of weeks ago I say Jacques Cousteau’s son actually swimming with a Great White Shark off the coast of South Africa. He grabbed onto its dorsal fin and it carried him. I was hoping Jamie got to see that.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  11:13 AM
  11. Parents get to again pick up childish things put away when escaping childhood. Jamie’s curiousity is contagious. That’s pretty cool too.

    Posted by black dog barking  on  07/28  at  12:42 PM
  12. Is Jamie aware that this Sunday marks the beginning of Shark Week on the Discovery channel?  Most of it looks to be perpetuating shark stereotypes and fear mongering, but who knows:


    Posted by  on  07/28  at  12:51 PM
  13. Well, michael at the risk of gushing I think the coolest thing about Jamie is that he has parents who never gave up on him despite his physical and mental limitations-I really don’t think your son would do all the “cool” things he does if his parents didn’t encourage him

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  01:12 PM
  14. I love Jamie posts too; your exhuberant joy in writing them comes through like a Stevie Wonder harmonica solo.

    Posted by mrgumby2u  on  07/28  at  02:00 PM
  15. ”...I would be very happy indeed if the world contained more people like him.”


    We definitely need a much higher proportion of people who approach life with curiosity, love and acceptance. Sometimes I’m amazed there are any at all. I hope Jamie can hang on to those beautiful qualities.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  02:07 PM
  16. Whenever my husband steps out of his pants and underwear and leaves them on the floor right where he took them off, I always wonder if he’s been raptured away and left me to the apocalypse. (He invariably turns up, though.)

    Ooh, I want to smack CNN. This is objective news?

    I like that Jamie and his lack of racial prejudice. My kid is following in his footsteps there—and also eats some crazy food. (Ben enjoyed a brie/ciabatta/prosciutto/arugula/cantaloupe concoction yesterday.) Is Jamie also free of heterosexist attitudes? Ben is, though he’s terribly ageist about babyish things and slow-moving old people.

    Posted by Orange  on  07/28  at  02:08 PM
  17. On the topic of kids and their lack of racial prejudice:  I was watching some World Cup soccer with my four year old.  The match was Sweden versus Trinidad & Tobago.  To his eyes, it was the “yellow guys” versus the “red guys.” He simply didn’t see that Sweden was all “white” and T&T was all “black.”

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  02:23 PM
  18. Great post! I never get tired of Jamie stories. Especially as I spent the morning here discussing how our local public school board won’t allow children with DS (once they turn 12) to do anything except enrol in a Developmentally Challenged segregated class. They won’t even consider allowing them to enrol in a Life Skills class, which is one level up the rung. You can forget inclusion. Thankfully we’re with the Catholic board, but I end up frustrated with friends’ challenges.

    We’re having a good week. Russell turned 13 on Tuesday and he is so pumped to be a teenager. All the rules in the house must change to accommodate his new status. And what did he want (and get) for his birthday? An iPod.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  03:01 PM
  19. Shirt color makes much more sense, Charles, especially in that context.  When Nick was two, he used to call everybody by their shirt color, so that one person was “blue man” and another was “yellow woman” and so on.  He gave one young black man pause when, in the supermarket, he called him “black man” (for he was wearing, as I explained to the curious fellow, a black shirt); and he called U of Virginia offensive lineman Ray Roberts (a black man) “red man,” a nickname that, I hear, stayed with him right into the NFL (Lions, Seahawks).

    chris, I said Lincoln, Truman, Carter (with reservations), and FDR (with more reservations).  But I ranked LBJ much more highly than you did.  And I mentioned Clinton’s popularity among African-Americans, regardless of whether it was merited by actual Clintonian policies.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/28  at  03:02 PM
  20. His favorite song is “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone,” from Hearts of Oak

    So I take it he knows who “Jerry,” “Terry” & “Rhoda” are, and why they’re name-checked in the song? And has he seen “Dance Craze” yet?

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  03:45 PM
  21. Jamie definitely sounds like a cool guy. I like Orangina too, I really miss it here in Missouri.

    Since Jamie likes animals, here is a photo of my Bengal Cat, Ganesh, for him to check out. Bengal cats are very interesting to research (if you think Jamie would be interested in that), since they are descended from Asian Leopard Cats. Lots of info on the internets about them, too.

    Ganesh is named after the elephant-headed Hindu god, because he is the Remover of Obstacles wink


    Posted by  on  07/28  at  03:46 PM
  22. Many people have used the word “thrashing” to describe my form of dancing.  So I think that has to be the coolest thing about Jamie.  We thrashers have to stick together...but not too close on the dance floor!

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  04:35 PM
  23. There’s nothing cooler than the love a parent has for their child.  Yay, Jamie!  Yay, Michael!  Thanks for the demonstration of love in a world too full of war.

    Posted by gmoke  on  07/28  at  07:03 PM
  24. A reminder to make a list of all the cool things about my daughter and to share it with her! Thanks, Michael.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  07:30 PM
  25. Yes, to the last sentence---I would be very happy too.

    Posted by Kristina  on  07/28  at  09:48 PM
  26. ...time to throw out the politicians...let’s call for the magicians...those of the inspired imagination.  Thanks, Jamie, you’re all cool!

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  07:11 AM
  27. Clare, congratulations to Russell!  The thirteenth birthday is indeed a milestone, and his new status must be recognized by all the household.  We got Jamie a wallet and his own bank account; the iPod will wait til this year . . . but don’t tell him that!  It’s supposed to be a surprise.  In the meantime he borrows Nick’s and Janet’s, and . . . hey!  where’s my iPod?

    So I take it he knows who “Jerry,” “Terry” & “Rhoda” are, and why they’re name-checked in the song? And has he seen “Dance Craze” yet?

    Why, no, Uncle K.  Tell, tell. 

    And thanks to everyone who stopped by.  I’ll try to return to the larger world next week, if I can manage it.  In the meantime, Jamie and I have to practice our putting.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/29  at  04:58 PM
  28. Come on, come on.  Since when has ‘cool’ been comparable to ‘nice’?  Cool (insofar as it’s not entirely synonymous with sunglasses) involves, unbreakably, bringing your parents’ white hairs in sorrow to the grave, and by definition nothing that your parents list approvingly can score. When I hear that Jamie has got himself a tatt, joined the Weathermen (or, come to that, passed out leaflets for Nader), smokes thin Toscano cheroots (or crack) - well, you out there can add to that list, too - then we can start talking about cool.  In the meantime he can work his way up by whining, complaining, sulking, storming out of the room, and wearing a t-shirt saying “It’s a Down Thing.  You wouldn’t understand” under a long black Columbine leather coat. Oh, and the sunglasses.

    Posted by  on  07/29  at  11:34 PM
  29. Why, no, Uncle K.  Tell, tell.

    The song is a paean to the British “2-Tone” ska revival of the late 70s-early 80s (2-Tone being the record label that spearheaded it): The Specials, The [English] Beat, Madness, The Selecter, et al. “Jerry” and “Terry” would be founder/keyboard player Jerry Dammers & lead singer Terry Hall of the Specials. “Rhoda” is Rhoda Dakar of the Bodysnatchers.

    As for Dance Craze, a concert film featuring all the big names from that scene, it doesn’t seem to be available on DVD or VHS these days, but I highly recommend it.

    Posted by  on  07/30  at  02:43 PM
  30. Ah, yes, it is all clear now.  Thanks, Uncle K.

    Chris, nice is the new black.  And the Weathermen were never cool.  They were always Milhouse- meets- Mao.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/30  at  08:45 PM
  31. Milhouse-meets-Mao.  I love you, man - that kills me.

    I too vote for
    __ He likes Ted Leo

    Ted Leo friggin’ rocks, and to be able to say, years from now, that you were at that State College outdoors show when only 100 people showed up and Ted played six or seven brand new not-even-recorded-yet songs, whoa nelly, is that some gargantuan hipster cred right there.  Except that Ted Leo and his music are all about dealing with things that matter and getting past stupid concepts like hipster cred - which, naturally, just gives him MORE cred - it’s an endless feedback loop and he can’t escape it.  And Jamie can’t escape being uber-cool.

    And for the record, the Swedish team featured at least one player who in the U.S. would be considered black - Henrik Larsson (sp?).

    Posted by  on  07/31  at  11:40 AM
  32. The “shirts vs. skins” stories remind me of my favorite story about my brother, who has Asperger’s syndrome--which he persists in seeing as a personality, not a syndrome, though he recognizes that it has special challenges.  When he was about four or five, my father took him to a Chinese restaurant where the waiters were all dressed in red suit jackets.  My brother looked around and said to my father, “Dad, can you ask the British guys to get me some more rice?” My father was briefly flummoxed, wondering what my brother was talking about, then realized that because the waiters were wearing red coats, my brother assumed they were British.  He said to my brother, “Sean, I think they’re Chinese guys,” to which my brother replied, “Dad, can you ask the Chinese guys to get me more rice?” without missing a beat.

    He just graduated from college as the top graduate from the history department, and is headed to library science school to put his naturally detail-oriented personality to use as a historical archivist.  I think that’s pretty cool.

    Posted by  on  07/31  at  11:49 AM
  33. Though I’m rudely late to this post (perhaps somewhere in the universe it’s still Friday), it’s still the best thing I’ve read all week (last week and this week both). You rock, Jamie. Thanks for reminding everyone about the really cool ‘tudes, outlooks, and moments in life.

    Posted by  on  07/31  at  04:56 PM
  34. My brother, who as far as we know has no syndromes of any identified sort…

    aged 3, standing on a jetty waiting for the ferry and gazing idly into the sea. A large and patronising English lady bent down, pointed and said, loudly and slowly “Look at that. That’s a jell-y-fish”.
    My brother turned to her and said, with the superior disdain of a young Oscar Wilde:
    “Mmm. Yes. Aurelia aurita.”

    Posted by  on  08/01  at  11:07 AM
  35. I can see no reason not to include Grant in the list of “Presidents who were good for African-Americans"--for his actions both as a general and as a President.  He did more than any other single person to destroy the Klan.

    Captcha, want, as in “I want to mention the Grant is considered a war criminal by many for ordering Sheridan to destroy the valley of Virginia.”

    Posted by  on  08/01  at  03:02 PM
  36. Good point, Sam.  I was thinking only of Grant’s contribution to the US whiskey industry, and not giving him his due on this count.

    Betsy, congratulations to your brother!  Way, way cool.

    Posted by  on  08/02  at  01:29 PM
  37. Michael, go raibh maith agat.  It took a lot of perseverance, on his part and on ours, to get him graduated from college and headed to grad school.  Consequently it was probably the sweetest event in our family’s history.

    Posted by  on  08/03  at  08:52 AM
  38. Michael, I agree there should be more people like Jamie; I’m hopeful my own squids approach his acceptance of and appreciation for differences among creatures, and enduring fascination with the natural (and unnatural, I guess) world…

    But I also want a lot more people like you and Janet!

    The lat and long is for Mr. Geography. Have you ever been here? It’s a beautiful place with many unusual people and critters. 


    Posted by  on  08/19  at  10:59 PM





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