For those in the world who do not watch children’s cartoons–I’m so sorry for you. There’s one I just encountered this summer called Kick Buttowski. He’s a 12-year old boy who’s a suburban daredevil. His name is Clarence Buttowski. “Kick” is much better than Clarence.
Kick has a suburban family: mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend.
- His older brother, Brad, sings in a boy band (at least once) and is as obnoxious as the older brother in Weird Science (which I’m sorry to admit I’ve seen): Chet (I even remembered his name).
- His younger sister is evil but looks so sweet.
- Parents–don’t really know much about them (the dad really likes his car “Monique”; the mom was a former boat racer).
- Kick’s best friend, Gunther–a rotund blonde-haired kid is as funny as he is unaware and strangely clever.
Kick goes to a suburban school. He’s great at stunts and not so great at school. One of my favorite episodes is when Kick’s dog eats his homework. (That actually happened to me, only my dog, Friday the 13th, ate a student’s paper. Also had some cats attack a few student papers. Turns out Elvis and Col. Parker–who were my favorite cats ever–really enjoyed stalking alligator clips and occasionally the student papers got in the way.)
What I love about Kick is that he embraces his daredevil desires and lives each day with abandon.
A body could learn a lot from Kick; I actually have. If I forget that I’m watching a children’s cartoon and think about being mindful of what I’m doing–being present in the moment–not such a bad thing to remember. And if I can achieve that sort of out-of-body experience with my writing and my teaching–then I have done something grand indeed.
I had a similar experience when I watched Pucca. Again, if you missed this, you have missed something special. She is a young girl, perhaps 10 or 11 and the niece of three bachelor noodle makers–she works in their shop. Not only is she present to the noodle making (and delivery of the same), her uncles are masters at noodle making. She’s adorable, but when provoked, she is a bad ass ninja who cannot be defeated–greater than even the ninja boy she is entirely in love with, Garu.
She’s got some friends (a crazy girlfriend, Ching, a sweet sword-fighting girl who carries around a magic egg-laying chicken on her head) and Abyo (he regularly rips off his shirt when practicing Kung Fu–think Jacob from Twilight).
Pucca lives in Sooga, a village that includes every conceivable type including Santa who hangs in the village when he’s not working, a Jewish deity who was a former ninja, villains and good folk, and Policeman Bruce, Abyo’s father, who utters “over” whenever he speaks: “Pass the cereal, over.”
When I first started watching this cartoon, I was annoyed that Pucca doesn’t speak, that there are visual punctuation marks (sort of) to signal emotions, that there were all these nutty characters that I couldn’t really get a handle on. However, I soon came to love how odd the show was and to particularly appreciate Pucca as a strong and capable female character. I can’t say how much I loved taking a sword class (Haidong Gumdo) at about the same time in my life when Pucca was regularly available to me, because I cannot find the words to describe the HUGE powerful amazing remarkable incredible way it felt to yield a sword and smack Bob’s torso with it… Bob, the Body Opponent Bag. I love weapons and forms. I do not love hitting real humans.
But I liked Pucca for the way the characters (mostly children) totally focused on martial arts–not to say that’s all they did–but they focused on the study of martial arts and worked at it and pursued prowess. I also had a soft spot for the way Pucca was mad for Garu and tried regularly to kiss him. Sometimes he was angry to be kissed and sometimes it actually turned him blue (ill), but no matter Garu’s reaction, Pucca was triumphant. It was a running joke that Ching had a crush on Abyo and Pucca liked Garu–though Pucca’s passion for Garu was an awesome thing to behold. Often the four of them saved the village, the heavens, the world. But Pucca’s kiss was the most spectacular moment of the episode.
Pucca and Kick are much alike in their single-minded pursuit of a goal. I appreciate that very much. I like watching children characters work in this way, bringing every ounce of their beings to the action at hand, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always there–in the moment with something less than fear–in the moment with bravery, courage, total commitment.
That may be what I like about these cartoons the best–the commitment. I do commitment weird. I commit to some activities with passion and no fear and for years I bring the love. Then it’s over–people scatter and it’s not sustainable. Or I move and my relationship with a group is no longer sustainable.
What shapes me now is the digital world of a commons. I do not have to be apart from my commons should I actually physically move–I’m not physically with my commons now. If I chose to live in New Zealand, I could still work with Writing Spaces. If I decided I wanted to teach literacy in the Yukon Territory, I could still work with Writing Spaces. If I wanted to live in Greece and sail around the islands, I could do that and still work with Writing Spaces. If I no longer worked with Writing Spaces, I could still advocate for it, use it, and be proud of the work that group created–wherever I lived. Like Kick has daredeviling, like Pucca has Garu and her ninja skills, I have writing and editing and thinking and growing and being part of something that doesn’t have to keep me rooted to one spot. It might be the ideal project for a person like me who has a lot of rabbit in her. Admittedly, the rabbit is less spry and less likely to bolt than in the past, but Writing Spaces and the writing that experience has prompted me to undertake, the ideas I’ve mashed up over the last year–better than being in one place for 25 years (something that would never happen). It’s a comfort I haven’t ever known before professionally. Never.
And on top of that, my teaching has changed in deep and profound ways–not outwardly–but inside where I was regularly unsure of what I was doing. Not now. I have 35+ other teachers working with me in that OER alone. If I include other teachers who have created other OER, we’re talking now thousands of teachers supporting me. And the style of teaching I advocate with my practice is loose and dynamic and demanding–it just keeps getting better and better the more OER I know, adapt, and use.
I said yes to Writing Spaces just about a year ago, and it’s been transformative. I’ve written about that before here and in other places. I’ve shared it with friends, all my students (and I mean all), college writing teachers, college WAC instructors, high school teachers, middle school teachers, USAF officers, welding teachers, and more. I do often sound like a preacher… So what. Knowing this OER, knowing the ideal of the commons, knowing something about intellectual freedom, understanding how the world has changed because of open… it’s like being a suburban daredevil who amazes his less fearless peers, and it’s like being a little Korean girl who kicks ass and kisses the boy she likes.
That is exactly what it’s like. Who gets to say that about their jobs?