Produced by Gary Drevitch
SO, IF WE HAVE THIS RIGHT, WHEN WE'RE LEFT HOME ALONE WITH THE KIDS, IF WE TURN ON THE TV, THEN EVERYBODY'S HAPPY
More stunning revelations from the world of science: For most adults, watching TV ("The Real Gilligan's Island" not included) is more fun than taking care of the kids.
HUMPTY DUMPTY WAS PUSHED
All of the best childhood science happens in England. According to its Archives of Disease in Childhood, researchers recently compared the violence in an hour of nursery rhymes to the violence in an hour of demon TV, and found the rhymes to be much more violent. The authors' point was not to ban Mother Goose rhymes (though they'd get no argument from us on that) or to get kids to watch more violent television programming,* but to make the point that everyone needs some perspective, historical and otherwise, on the issue of violence, kids, and the media.
FD is a case study. We were tragically desensitized to violence at an early age by the nursery rhymes our father sung to us:
Hush, little baby, don't say a word.* (Last night, the consequences of an out-of-character 6:30 p.m. Tiny Girl catnap was that she was up with us at 10:30 watching an unusually explicit installment of "Law and Order - Criminal Intent," which opened not with the traditional "L&O" "madre de dios" moment - a cleaning lady finding a corpse in a hotel bed - but with a woman, foaming at the mouth, who gets hit by three different cars, one of which we see drive over her prone body. At which point Tiny Girl asked, "What happens with the people and the car?")
Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird won't sing,
Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring.
And if that diamond ring won’t shine,
Papa’s gonna buy you a bottle of wine.
And if that bottle of wine goes flat
Papa’s gonna whack that liquor store &!*# with a bat.
And once that packy store bastard dies
Papa’s gonna order you some pizza pies.
And if those pizza pies come late,
Papa’s gonna have to negotiate.
And once Papa gets to that pizza place,
He’s gonna rearrange the owner’s face.
Now here’s five bucks.
Go get yourself some comic books.
Papa’s gotta get to the club.
BROOKS TO LIBERALS: START #@&*ING
The Times' conservative columnist David Brooks recently chastised blue-staters for not having enough children. We're doomed to several more cycles of electoral defeats, he argues, because we godless liberals aren't nearly as fertile as our country cousins in the red states. The numbers make his case: In November, President Bush won the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, while Kerry took the 16 states with the lowest rates.
But Brooks assures us that we have nothing to fear from our new barefoot-and-pregnant overlords:
Natalists are associated with red America, but they're not launching a jihad. . . . What they cherish, like most Americans, is the self-sacrificial love shown by parents. People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to fight a culture war.
An alternate ending to Brooks' column is: People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too numerous to ignore at PTA meetings. So watch your back.
HEY, MAN, WE GOT NO TIME FOR YOUR ALGEBRA. WE'RE BUSY TRYING TO REPOPULATE THE BLUE STATES!
In case you missed it, the annual survey of student abilities in developed countries around the world recently proved (again) that American kids are slacking off in math, with scores above Mexico's and Indonesia's, but way behind perennial mathematics powerhouses like . . . everyone else.
Should we be worried that our kids can't solve calculus problems like the boys from Singapore? We say no. High-level math is like swimming. The US is a big country and it doesn't require a huge percentage of able swimmers in the population to be able to dominate international competition - as it does - and it doesn't require a huge percentage of math stars in the population to produce a sizable bloc of the world's leading math thinkers, which it also does. A couple of weeks back, the Times took a look at the pros and cons of worrying about our international math rankings, and essentially agreed with this outlook.
ON NEWSSTANDS NOW: LONDON BRIDGE IS . . . LINE!
In the current issue of Parents magazine, we have an item on the Dads page about singing to your children, or, more specifically, finding the lyrics to the long-forgotten songs you really WANT to sing to them. The article is not available online, but here are a few resources we mentioned:
* The National Institutes of Health has produced a "Sing-Along Songs" Web site featuring the lyrics to hundreds of children’s, patriotic, and Broadway songs, complete with music so you can learn karaoke-style.
* Mama Lisa’s World has an ongoing mission to collect great children’s songs from cultures around the world. The Web site offers lyrics side-by-side in English and foreign languages, as well as music files for singing along.
* Each of the four CDs in Walt Disney Records’ classic "Children’s Favorite Songs" series contains about two dozen children’s tunes, from "Home on the Range" to "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt," an FD favorite, all gently sung by the Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus ($6.99 each at Disney's online store).
THE FREELANCEDAD.COM FREELANCE DAD SIDE PROJECT OF THE MONTH
When you type "education" into Google, the first listing you get is EducationWorld.com, "The Educator's Best Friend." This encyclopedic site for teachers recently added an area for parents and kids, to which FD will be a regular contributor. Check Education World at Home each month for fresh FD and non-FD content for your pro-education home.
LOOK OUT, OLD BOB IS BACK! (AND READY TO SELL TOYS TO YOUR KIDS)
New episodes of "Bob the Builder" are coming to America's airwaves in January, and apparently just in time for his struggling parent company. The rumors are that, like "Cheers" and other predecessors, "Bob" will end the will-they-or-won't-they suspense and finally bring Bob and Wendy together this season. ("With this wrench, I thee wed. . .")
But seriously, the Guardian in London reports that an all-new "Bob" series is being prepared for the fall 2005 launch of Comcast's new cable channel for toddlers, and the new show's premise is that Bob sells more stuff:
The as yet unnamed channel will be co-owned by Hit, US cable giant Comcast, public television channel PBS, and Sesame Workshop, the company behind the longest-running children's TV series in America. Importantly, it will feature a brand new series of Bob, based around plans to create a new town.
Designed specifically with retailers in mind, the new series aims to expand the range of toys - a handful of trucks - that are sold alongside Bob. Hit has appointed toy manufacturer RC2 to develop the shops, roads and public amenities that make up a new town.
RC2 already makes the huge array of trains and tracks that are coveted by small fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, which is also owned by Hit.
HEY, KID, DON'T GET ANY FUNNY IDEAS. (NO, REALLY, DON'T GET ANY FUNNY IDEAS. FUNNY IDEAS'LL KILL YOU. JUST ANSWER THE QUESTIONS ON THE TEST AND MOVE ON TO THE NEXT SECTION.)
The Learning Resources Time Tracker is apparently the hot toy this season for parents eager to train their four-year-olds for a future of dreary standardized tests. You can program the tracker to alert your child that time is running out on whatever makework task you've assigned him. And, at $34.95, it's truly a bargain, unless you consider that, while this thing looks like a bargain-basement sex toy, tiny sand hourglass timers are available for $1.79 at stores everywhere for your creativity-squelching needs.
IN ANOTHER STUNNING DISCOVERY, TEENS WERE FOUND LIKELY TO SLIP ADULT VIDEOS UNDER DOCUMENTARIES AS THEY APPROACHED THE COUNTER AT THE VIDEO STORE
A University of Florida researcher has discovered that young people may be hesitant to buy condoms for the first time because they are embarrassed. But wait, there's more: Young men reported being less embarrassed than young women. And are you sitting down? Young people of both sexes sought out sales clerks of the same sex, tried to buy other items to distract attention, and kept an eye out for other customers while making their purchase. Wow, groundbreaking stuff. Thank you, University of Florida.
DON'T LET YOUR KID READ THIS STUDY
He'll only use it to justify the B grades on his report card. Or, worse, use it to prove to you that his low test scores are actually a result of his being ultra-high-functioning.
TARGET: SANTA CLAUS
We have been big fans of Target's "Ready. Sit. Read." program since it started several months back. As part of the program, once a month, Target buys half-page color ads in the New York Times and other papers to run a crossword puzzle for early readers. We've done every one of them with Small Fellow. What's especially nice about the puzzles is that each has only eight clues and almost all of the clues can be answered just by looking at the large image that accompanies the puzzle. (Example: How many dogs are sitting on the chair?) So the child doesn't need to bring any prior knowledge to the puzzle. It's a pedagogically sound approach, one that Target has chucked out the window for its December offering.
The image for the puzzle is Santa Claus (actually, just "Santa") reading to a little girl and a group of elves. And here are some of the puzzle clues:
Santa lives at the ____ Pole.
What animal pulls Santa's sleigh?
What do elves make in their workshop?
FEDS TO KIDS: DROP DEAD
Well, not exactly. But they are taking money earmarked for kids' flu vaccines and using it on adult treatments instead. Insert your lifeboats on the Titanic joke here.
NOW IF ONLY THEY COULD INVENT SOMETHING TO SIMULATE GRANDPARENTS GETTING PHONE CALLS FROM THEIR FAMILIES, THEY'D REALLY BE ONTO SOMETHING
But for now we'll have to settle for vibrating pillows that make grandma feel like she's getting a hug - from an android.
SEVERAL NIGHTS, YES, VERY SAD. BUT A FEW NIGHTS, HERE AND THERE, ACTUALLY, PRETTY HAPPY. . .
Freelance Dad (as we strolled through the Upper East Side, passing two apartments where FD lived when he was a single fellow): This is the building where Daddy lived by himself, before he lived with mommy!
Small Fellow: Were you very sad when you were living all alone?
BUT WHEN WE GOT MARRIED, WE WERE HAPPY, AND THEN DO YOU KNOW WHAT MADE US VERY, VERY, VERY HAPPY? . . .
Well, for us, it was the birth of Small Fellow. But to read most of what's written about new families these days, we're the exception. This piece from the Journal analyzes why kids are an obstacle to married bliss, which they may be for many people. The claim is that marital satisfaction after the first baby's birth is 42% lower among Gen X parents. A key factor? The accumulation of debt as new parents buy expensive, unnecessary gear like the suckers they are. Another? The sudden lack of time together alone.
1. Don't buy all that stuff. You need a stroller, some diapers, and some plastic bags. The rest is commentary.
2. The crisis of dwindling alone time after baby comes could be a sign of marital stress. Alternately, it's a sign of selfishness. You're supposed to LIKE having a baby around, even if it means you get stroked less by your partner because he or she is stroking the new arrival.
NEXT ON FOX: "URINALYSIS." AND TUNE IN TOMORROW FOR "LOVELESS MARRIAGE"
This is not so much a VCR alert as it is a "Wife of Lot, if you loved 'Wife Swap,' our next program will turn you into a pillar of salt!" alert: On Jan. 3, just in time for everyone to toss in the hopper any hopes that 2005 would be a slightly less debased year than any of the several annos previous, Fox foists upon us "Who's Your Daddy?" in which an adopted young adult faces a panel of eight men, one of whom is her real father, the other seven of whom are . . . IMPOSTORS! If she picks her real dad after three rounds, she gets $100,000. If she eventually picks an impostor, the impostor gets the money. But watch out for Possible Daddy Number 5: If you pick him, he'll tell you he's your father, and then touch you inappropriately in the parking lot!
THE FREELANCEDAD.COM CONFUCIANISM FOR THE DAY: IF YOU COMBINE A MENORAH WITH A CHRISTMAS TREE, YOU'RE LIKELY TO START A FOREST FIRE
Chrismukkah is catching on among families eager to put off serious discussion of their religious differences for years by subverting them with silly ideas cribbed from a teen-sex soap opera. Could be worse, we suppose: You could adopt a holiday from "Seinfeld."
LOOK, EVERYONE, IT'S OUR VERY FIRST VCR ALERT
"Davey and Goliath" is back on the air this week, in an all-new special on the Hallmark Channel. As we reported earlier, our friends at the Lutheran Church are reviving the wholesome characters after a nearly 30-year hiatus, for "Davey and Goliath's Snowboard Christmas." There are sure to be several awkward attempts to make Davey relevant for today's hip snowboarding youth culture, so don't miss it.
Dec. 19, 12 noon; will be repeated on Dec. 26 at noon.
PEOPLE TRY TO PUT US DOWN --- TALKIN' ABOUT MY GENERATION --- JUST BECAUSE WE - - KNOCK OVER LITTLE KIDS TO BEAT THEM TO THE HOT WHEELS DISPLAY
Hot Wheels collectors come out of the closet to tell the world about their magnificent obsession. So just why do these reflective gentlemen pursue tens of thousands of Hot Wheels models? Because they're faster than Matchbox cars. Can't argue with that logic.
The hidden point of interest here is that Hot Wheels have remained a top-selling toy for decades because they've remained cheap - still just about a dollar a pop (though it's really more like $1.33 when you factor in that 1 in 4 cars is lost forever under a wall unit). On the other hand, Lionel trains has declared bankruptcy in part because it has always refused to lower its family-unfriendly price points.
RIGHT. THE LAST THING YOU WANT IS TO HAVE YOUR PARKING FINES GO INTO SOME BIG POT THAT PAYS FOR HIGHWAY REPAIRS AND POLICE SALARIES.
Boston gives its oft-ticketed drivers the opportunity to pay their fines with a donation of equal value to Toys for Tots and everyone the Boston Herald talks to about it completely loses perspective. We begin with this Marine involved with Toys for Tots:
Marine Sgt. Maj. Rudy Wieners said he knew of no other city in the country that offers a similar ticket exchange to benefit Toys for Tots. . . . "These toys go to needy kids. And it's bad enough to get a ticket, but at least you feel the money is going to something that means something rather than being thrown in a big pot up there in Boston,'' he said.
Marcia Harris, of Cambridge, showed up at City Hall on Wednesday with stuffed animals, a yo-yo and other toys to pay off her $36 violation for an expired meter. She said she was initially irritated to get a ticket . . . . The meter maid . . . described an alternative way to get out of it. "I thought the paper would say I could go protest at City Hall,'' Harris said. "This was much better. I would spend two-for-one, I think this is such a great idea.''
Fill in your own, when-you're-here-you're-family joke here.
WHY NOT JUST GIVE THE MEN TUBEFARE HOME?
Britain's legendary Marks & Spencer department store infantilizes its male customers by putting them in a playpen while their wives shop. If there was still any lingering doubt, we think we can now truly say the sun has set on the British Empire.
NINE MILLION AMERICAN KIDS ARE WAITING TO EXHALE
In another sign of the reversal of the American Dream, we continue to produce a next generation less healthy than the one that preceded it - 12 percent of U.S. kids have asthma, and according to Newsweek, most of them don't know how to properly medicate themselves. The hopeful news: If they did, they would all be "symptom-free most of the time."
ALSO, AVOID PURCHASING SNACKS LABELED "OBESITY BLASTED," "FACE STUFFING," OR "GLUTTONOUS GUSH"
Makers of foods popular with kids, including Quaker Oatmeal (et tu, funny hat guy?), are upping the calories on many popular snacks and then infusing their labels with terms like "blasted," "XL," or "Mega." The Journal properly labels the fat-friendly trend as an "insidious" increase "that likely will go unnoticed." That is, unless you start reading food labels like a crazy person - which we will begin doing now.
EXCLUSIVE SECRETS TO WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS WILL BE AVAILABLE FROM FD.COM AS SOON AS WE HAVE SOME SUCCESS
We've written about it, everyone else has written about it, it's no secret, but the moms and the dads who were raised to clean their plates because of the damn starving kids in Bangladesh are now clearing their kids' plates, and then comes the fat. Doc La Puma tells it like it is, and hurts our feelings:
"'... Throw away every morsel of food the kids left behind.' Parents say, "It'll
go to waste; I'll drink it." That means you are a trash can,' he says. 'You are
more important than that. You are trying to protect your health so you will be
around for your kids.'"
ACTUAL, LEGIT, NO JOKE ADVICE ALERT
The more daylight your baby gets in the afternoon, the better prepared she'll be to go to sleep at night. So apparently Tiny Girl must be kept locked in the Batcave all afternoon. . .
PAY ATTENTION: THIS IS AS CRUNCHY AS WE GET
For the love of God, can't we all just give up gift wrap for one holiday season? The Journal had an article the other day (not available online) called "Gift Wrap Goes Over the Top" which detailed the hottest trends in "flocked, metallic and glittery paper."
"It's the first thing everyone sees," says Lawrence Louis, president of the Gift
Wrap Co. of Atlanta, one of the country's oldest gift wrap makers. "I've cringed
when I've gone into some houses where they've spent so much money on tress,
ornaments and decorations and they have ugly or boring wrapping or gifts. It
ruins a beautiful presentation."
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, where do we begin? Wrapping paper is wasteful. It's excessive. It's expensive. It's non-recyclable. It is appreciated for mere seconds, if that, and then torn to shreds and thrown in the landfill. Newspaper could do the job. Reusable gift bags could do the job. This is how Rome fell, people.
BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE SEA MONKEYS
Inexplicably popular new critter-gowing kits for kids have gone beyond sea monkeys to encompass hissing coakroaches, butterflies, frogs, pill bugs, and the like. Yeah, yeah, it satisfies the kids' curiosity. Yeah, yeah, it's just like a pet - a pet in a lucite box which, if it got loose, would force you to have your house gassed. But, no, it's not for us. When we read that these critters, when fully grown, "like the hissing cockroaches, [which] aren't native to the United States ... must be killed instead of released into the wild," it gives us. . . pause.
THIS ONE STRICTLY AN "IN CASE YOU MISSED IT" ITEM
The maker of Lionel trains, partly owned by rock god Neil Young, filed for bankruptcy protection a couple of weeks back, done in by a costly lawsuit, the "Polar Express" movie, and its own clinically insane price points.
WHEN YOU GET A BUS RUNNING ON BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE, GIVE US A CALL
Several weeks back, we promised our readers we'd monitor George Lucas' new education magazine, Edutopia, for any new developments on standardized testing in Tatooine or busing in the Cloud City. We've yet to spot any news on those fronts, but the Sept./Oct. issue did have an item of note on the switch in school buses from diesel to vegetable-oil infused biodiesel fuel. The fuel is more expensive, of course, but grants from the Clean School Bus USA program are keeping down the cost of trials. Which is all very interesting, but the article's litany of statistics on bus pollution remind us again how much lower in quality school buses are compared to commercial or public buses, especially in terms of ventilation. In short, the air quality inside the bus is worse than the air quality outside. Enjoy your carpool.
BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, THEY'LL BE GIVING THE VOTE TO THE SITH LORDS
One more from Lucas: A report on the campaign to lower the voting age. California lawmakers with an extraordinary amount of time on their hands are considering a bill to give a one-quarter vote to 14- and 15-year-olds, and a one-half vote to 16- and 17-year-olds. These lawmakers may have forgotten that the reason 18-year-olds have the vote is because that was the Vietnam-era draft age. If you're old enough to be a warrior in defense of our policies, you're old enough to vote on them, the thinking went. There's no similar motivation to lower the voting age to the driving age, unless California has renamed itself "Beyond Thunderdome."
HEY, DON'T TALK THAT WAY ABOUT OUR MOM, SHE'S A SAINT! PARDON? OH, SORRY, YOU MEAN OUR KIDS' MOM . . .
Parenting has a major article in its latest issue called "How to Make Love to a Mom." The article isn't available online, but we'll reproduce a few of the subheads for you here and let the jokes write themselves:
"Let me get more shuteye"
"Learn to love 'speed sex'"
"Be flexible about timing"
"Watch what I'm doing"
"Give me a hand"
Parenting has a less ribald item in their November issue offering "Superstore-shopping secrets." It's notable only in that it features the single most stunning piece of advice we've ever seen in a major magazine:
"One-stop shopping is convenient, but it can also feel like one big scavenger hunt. To save your sanity. . . . Tackle the store on two separate days, especially if toiletries and groceries are on different sides."