Sunday, May 20, 2018

New Superheroes & New Generations

I immediately fell for “Anpanman” on BTS’s newest album, Love Yourself: Tear. The rhythm is incredibly infectious and the layers of vocals, including a luring synth-modified V for the Intro, pull you right in. In typical BTS fashion, though, once I dug into the lyrics, a whole new attraction arose. I used and thank for their translations.

I did not know of the Anpanman superhero and his world before this song. He was introduced in 1973 in a Japanese picture book by Takashi Yanase, who worked on Anpanman until his death in 2013. The franchise has spread across Asia for 45 years, becoming extremely popular in both merchandising and publications, including manga, a comic strip, and a long-running TV show.

Music enjoyment was impacted this week by another mass shooting and killing spree in a high school in the United States. We crave solutions. I think there are 4 lessons in this song that we can use to help construct a more positive future that might make conditions less ripe for horrific situations such as this.

1. We have a personal responsibility to help each other.

Suga sings:

I don’t know
But I have to do this, Mom
Who can it be if it’s not me?
You can call me say Anpan

Anpanman is quite a the odd character. BTS members have historically described their own awkwardness in detail. Yet, they persisted.  As they have risen in fame, their advocacy has spread beyond themselves and surroundings to others. They firmly believe that the more one has, the more one should give.

That attitude of servitude needs to spread.

2. We must work with what we have and give it freely.

J-Hope sings:

I don’t have biceps or pecs*
I don’t have a super car like Batman
It was my dream to become a hero
But the only thing I can give you is Anpan

Anpan is a Japanese jam-filled bun. Anpanman fed children using his head, which is an anpan. Not the most glamorous of superpowers, but what’s more basic and vital than keeping people well-fed? Many of the characters in his world had connections with food and I like the symbolism of that: the importance of feeding each other with helpful things. BTS live who they are- they give what they have. That’s a healthy view of life.

Whether with food, advice, or moral support, we should feed one another well.

3. It’s going to be tough and we’ll fail.

Jungkook and Jimin sing:

But still, even if I have to use all my strength
I will stay by your side
Though I’ll fall again
Though I’ll make mistakes again
Though I’ll fall into a mud pit again
Trust me, because I’m a hero

I love that BTS admits we’ll screw up. We will ALWAYS fail along the way- the only way to avoid failure is to do nothing. To blame other people. We see this type of behavior pattern so much today and it has to stop. We must try. Accept temporary setbacks. And try again. Together.

That is the true mark of a real superhero.

4. New voices and songs can accomplish much.

RM and Suga close out the song singing this:

I’m a new generation Anpanman
I’m a new superhero Anpanman
What I have is this song here
Lemme say “All the bad men, cop out”

We all carry a song of some kind. I hear similar messages echoed in voices, like Cameron Kasky, that rose to prominence after the Parkland shootings. To me, the young people like Naomi Wadler, who stood up at the podiums during the March for Our Lives, said things similar to what BTS is declaring. I hear the same intent in the actions of people like James Shaw Jr.. It doesn’t matter what skills we have or don’t have or our age. It just matters that we will work together to force the bad attitudes, behaviors and ways to stop controlling things.

I, for one, welcome the new superheroes and generations.

*Translation note: This line is a perfect example of why we need translations from those who really understand the languages involved. As a basic learner of Korean, I can't see how this line translates to this. I see it as saying something like, "I don't have an awesome cape". I'll go with the biceps and pecs interpretations, although as was seen on the BBMAs, BTS definitely has pecs. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

I Don't Want to Write My Next Book

I don’t want to write my next book.

I’m not talking about Dear Warriors. That book is moving along in amazingly cool ways. (I could use more art by those with type 1 diabetes, though! More info on my Dear Warriors blog. Deadline for that is July 31.)

I’m looking ahead to my future in writing, based on how I've changed.

I’ve already seen my concepts and direction evolve from 2017’s Dear Teachers. In that, I took 40 nature scenes by my good friend and awesome hobby photographer, Marlene Oswald, and built a story that I hoped would inspire and support all those hard-working teachers out there. I had several people comment that, to them, it spoke to anyone with children or anyone in the field of education.

That sense of “universality” flavored my thinking as Dear Warriors began and fledged. Dear Warriors was originally to be focused on boosting those of us with type 1 diabetes. As I began writing, I realized it also had to be for all the people related to those with T1D. Then, I saw so many connections, I had to explore the dots between people with T1D and all of humanity...and vice versa. We need each other. We can’t do this alone, and in fact, we are not.

Unlike Dear Teachers, I began developing the texts within Dear Warriors before I had visuals. From the beginning, I wanted multiple contributors from the T1D community. I wanted randomness and decided I’d work with what the creators who gave me a chance submitted. As pieces have come in, I’ve been struck by how well they fold into the narrative that I had sketched out. Their work is fueling my revisions and editing. When writing changes are needed, they are ones that excite me because the overall message is getting clearer and clearer. Talking with the artists and their families has been more thought-provoking, moving and inspiring than I had even hoped.

The idea that we all have a part of us that craves and benefits from other humans (let’s call it collaborative spirit) really took off in the writing and development of Dear Warriors. I’m left now wondering: how can I dive into this even more deeply?

As you’ll see in my blog biography About Me, it’s been my intention to write about a third subject: the boys we are raising today. I’m a mom of two boys, and it has bothered me to see the ways we continue to restrict this gender in so many ways, including their looks, behaviors and interests. That book idea has evolved as I’ve worked through the first two subjects on my list.

Writing about raising our “boys” feeds into the very thing I’m concerned about. It’s too binary. What I really want to explore is the ways we can and should raise our children. There should be more universality- some broader umbrellas. How can I do that in a collaborative way?

What if I could work with some children themselves and help them write and illustrate their own book about themselves? Using my book series verbiage, I’m picturing something like this:

Dear Us:
A student-led guided journal to support & inspire youth and our adult allies.

What if I found a school that will let me get an entire student body to express themselves in terms of their bodies, minds and spirits? What could I learn about, and show to them, myself and the world, what they really experience, want and hope for? How could the students use one another's’ work (art and writing) to build their own expressions on these subjects?

Kids writing books is not a new concept by any means. Teachers have been having their students create books forever. The underlying purpose of this one, though, would be to see if the children could, as a whole, express what I’d hoped to explore on my own. What do they really want? What do they really see and feel? What brings them joy? What do they love and hate? What do they long for? What ideas might they have to make their lives, and other people’s lives, better? How do they relate to one another? How do they want to?

If you know of someone who’d be willing to explore this idea, let me know! I’m picturing this as a school year-long project, at the very least. Ideally, I’d like to be hired on where I could develop relationships with students and staff to create an overall framework before getting the students creating and building their book with their messages.

I don’t want to write my next book- I want to help other voices write one that they can call their own. Perhaps from there, I might find a path to yet another work of my own.