Restorative Exercise Breaks Between Stimulating Remote Learning Classes:
It has been said that because of recent world events: in the war between the screens and the not-screens, the screens have definitely triumphed.
Our sons have never been convinced of the goodness of exercise or the merits of outdoor activities.
And the harder I am selling something, the harder the pass.
I would like to say these things are a recent development, but, no they’re not.
My ability to form memories was severely compromised by extreme sleep deprivation for many years during their early childhood....but I can clearly recall our first son prone on the floor wailing, “I HATE OUTSIDE!” when he was a toddler trying to avoid a trip to the playground.
So this stay-home-all-day-with-your-WIFI hasn’t exactly been the kids’ worst nightmare come true.
Though after a month, there have been suggestions that they might actually miss going to school.
Remote Learning May Not Be As Stimulating as Non Remote Learning:
Spending 24 hours a day with my kids is delightful...maybe. I’m sure I will reflect fondly back on this period of time in my old age after they have moved far away. (ok, in my older, old age)
But the remote learning situation is really a bit of a challenge for us for many reasons.
Perhaps the least of the challenges is the physical environment...but it’s still a problem nonetheless.
In the past, we always wanted to avoid having the kids on their screens while alone in their rooms, so their desks and gaming have been out in the communal space. This doesn’t work so well for virtual school, so they both set themselves up in makeshift situations in their bedrooms.
In all fairness, what you see in this drawing is no longer the arrangement for this particular student. He is now actually sitting on a chair rather than crumpled in the corner.
It’s a very uncomfortable chair in an uncomfortable location, but at least he is no longer stuffed between a stairway and a dresser.
I don’t observe any additional evidence of physical vigor, however.
(Because fear of imaginary things is so much more fun than fear of real things)
As contagion spreads throughout the world, and we hunker down in our apartment, pathetically bickering with one another and eyeing our diminishing stock of toilet paper, it is amusing to think about fictional threats.
I had been unsuccessfully trying to understand my sons’ interest in SCPs for quite a while before the current pandemic.
As usual in these sorts of posts: either your eyes have just rolled up in your head because how slow can this old napkin lady be? or, you don’t have the vaguest idea what an SCP is and are pretty sure you don’t want or need to know.
But to soldier on, despite your reasonable reservations:
As far as I can tell, the SCP thing is a more recent instance of the online “Creepypasta” phenomenon: scary stories based in a basic organizing concept, collaboratively posted online by many people.
For the sake of expediency, I will quote from the knowyourmeme page: “SCP is a creative writing wiki centered around documenting descriptions and containment procedures of fictional objects and entities that are considered scientific anomalies and often pose a threat to society or the personnel containing it. Every entity has its own entry is labeled with a number, with "SCP" as a prefix”
SCP-049 resembles a medieval plague doctor, though the clothing and mask are somehow part of the entity’s physical body. Sadly, we can’t grow our own masks to prevent COVID-2.
SCP-096, or “Shy Guy” on the right, is often pictured with a huge gaping, muti-toothed maw. So he needs an extra large 3M mask. I won’t attempt to detail his characteristics here, but it seems he is compelled to kill anyone who catches a glimpse of his face (even, perplexingly, represented in a photograph.... but drawings are ok- so we are safe!)
Perhaps Shy Guy is enjoying all the social distancing.
Assessing my kids’ tastes grows ever more challenging. The day when I was sure that drawing Batman and Lightning McQueen on a napkin would be satisfying to someone have definitely passed...(which is not to say that the four year old recipient of that napkin would not have given me extensive notes on how I could have done a better job)
Selecting gifts for the recent 17th birthday definitely presented a challenge as well. I picked out a couple of t-shirts, though I was concerned that they would be deemed hopelessly uncool.
But one of the two, featuring a fight poster proclaiming a match between Godzilla and Cthulhu was deemed “actually sort of fire” by the recipient, and he even wore it for his birthday party. The other one hasn’t been worn and will go unmentioned here.
To go with the T-shirt, here is the napkin.
Will they fight over the cupcake? I made 96 mini cupcakes for the party and we still have an appalling number left a week later...so maybe not.
I gather from a few minutes of online research that today’s school holiday originated as George Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd), later included Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th)...and was finally codified into a federal holiday by Richard Nixon’s executive order, passing all of the provisions of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971.
In other words, an opportunity to draw our current executive in chief with some of his holiday-related predecessors.
I notice the color photos of Richard Nixon available online seem to suggest that he was often a well tanned man. (The days of Kodachrome film perhaps?)
One can only guess that in the days before electric lights, Presidents Washington and Lincoln got enough outdoor time to maintain their healthy complexions.
We don’t live with a cat. After many years of cohabitation with felines, I may have a special place in my heart that is lined with hairballs and clawed funiture, but my sons don’t.
But they still appreciate online cats. Because... apparently everyone does. Our older son has shown me innumerable cat memes and vines, including recently one of his favorites from 2018 featuring internet famous cat Wilfred and actor Michael Rappaport.
I think it was the author of “The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World,” Abigail Tucker who explained that cats combine three persuasive qualities: Their giant forward facing eyes remind us of cute babies. But the same facial structure also suggests their predatory name. And cats are not facially emotive like dogs, so they present us with a blank surface on which to project our emotions....and memes.
And who better combines the triumvirate of cuteness, menace and blankness than internet famous cat, Wilfred? The Chinchilla Persian’s social media presence is what you might expect from a feline with 1.2 million followers: pictures and videos of Winfred, lapping water, sitting various places, riding in the car, being taken shopping...
....all the while, projecting an existentially destabilizing, double Eye of Sauron-like, baleful, yet blank, judging gaze over all of humanity.
Michael Rapport’s YouTube video where he profanely and hysterically exclaims over a video of Wilfred, well, just sitting blankly in a backyard, comedically underlines the potential threat of that unblinking saucer eyed stare.
According to Rappaport, YouTube took the video down because of “cat shaming.”
Or because it is not wise to make fun of your predator.
Birthday Child with the Imaginary Uncles He Didn’t Know He Wanted at the Time
One of our kids just had a significant birthday, marking his transition into official teenhood.
The birthday elicited reminiscing about his receding youth. We spent some time looking at a disk of photos from kindergarten. (Though it was challenging- at this point, we only have one ancient computer in the house that has a disk drive)
For the birthday napkin- and to thwart facial recognition software-I thought I would draw him as a five year old. He is posed with two of his favorite characters from the present day...because violent and horror themed characters hanging around a small child is quite amusing to snarky teens.
I’m pretty sure he was familiar with the Batman Animated version of the Joker as a five year old, but fortunately Pennywise was not present in any format.
Last week I thought it was time to be done with Baby Yoda napkins, but then I watched some of Netflix’s The Witcher, featuring the plot point of “The Law of Surprise” which becomes “The Child Surprise,” and suddenly “The Child” from the Mandalorian popped back into my mind.
The Witcher show, the Witcher game and Witcher memes have all been in circulation at our house lately. I initially had some difficulty watching Henry Cavill grumbling in a dirty white hairpiece, but eventually succumbed to the sublime ridiculousness of it all.
And there ‘s not one, but two! bathtub scenes in the course of one season! Strangely, bathing seems to be a thing in fantasy video games. I often find our older son’s avatars in some sort of undressed state in a bath while recuperating between bouts of dueling and pillaging. Apparently Geralt the Witcher also sits in a bathtub in his game. But he does not have Superman’s body.
While looking for source material for this image, I particularly enjoyed watching a video clip of a slightly less chiseled Mr. Cavill on a talk show couch, explaining how he severely dehydrated himself for days to make his muscles look better before these scenes.
So if I were going to draw Geralt, I felt I had to put him in a bath. The fact that he is shirtless, of course “makes it one hundred times worse!” according to our younger son.
Mission accomplished, I think.
Our son did add that it was not as bad as the previous “Boob Yoda” napkin. (Wonder Woman armor with Baby Yoda breast plates)
I have to point out that “Boob Yoda” has been marginally more liked than many of our other recent napkins.
I have to admit the exact dates are a bit imprecise before 2011 when I started posting them at dailynapkins.com.
Before that, used napkins were collected in cardboard boxes and the kids spread them around the house when they waxed nostalgic and wanted to revisit their fixations of years, or months, past.
I started drawing for the first kid in 2006, and there were maybe three or four years of just Sharpie, mostly black, with some special efforts in Sharpie colors.
By the time the second child was added to the program in 2009, I had caved in to the pressure for more color.
Then there was the pressure to fill in the whole napkin and have multiple characters.
Napkins with too much white space were perceived as shirking. And god forbid if one kid’s napkin had less white space than the other- that was a blatant case of favoritism.
While the napkins did return home most often, they were improved by selective crumpling and applications of yogurt and catsup.
Eventually I graduated to more expensive art markers that allowed a wider palette and faster coverage of the surface.
And eventually the kids stopped using them as, well, napkins.
My younger son looked at the image of the sand person napkin tonight and told me my drawing has improved a lot. While this is true, these truly daily napkins back from the early days with a six year old and a two year old were only drawn at night after the kids were in bed in the midst of multiple other domestic chores including of course, the packing of a nutritious lunch (so nutritious!)
So, my time was rather limited, and the finessing of sand person fingers was not a priority.
But yes, I do draw better after 13 years of napkins, it is true.
(which seemed obvious to me... but my son promises we will lose even more followers than usual)
Now that I am more or less liberated from trying to make a small child happy at a school lunch by drawing on a napkin, I can focus on producing napkins that make adolescents cringe.
Cringing is a term that is definitely compelling to the contemporary adolescent mind, compelling in a way that I can’t quite grasp.
One of our sons eagerly follows “make me suffer” on reddit, which is definitely a cringe fest.
But nothing makes one suffer more than the embarrassing behavior of one’s parents during one’s adolescence.
But, beyond tormenting my sons: let me be honest, when I saw the promotional materials for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, featuring this fetishized, neon, 80’s style, close-up of the breastplate of her “Eagle Armor,” the universe whispered “Baby Yoda” in my ear.