Produced by Gary Drevitch
BUT, MOM, SITTING IN THE FILTHY BASKET WITH THE ONION PEELS, THE MUENSTER CHEESE EDGES, AND THE EMPTY PLASTIC BAGS -- THAT'S HALF THE FUN OF RIDING IN THE CART
For those of you worried about your child's exposure to "disease-causing bacteria" while they ride in your supermarket shopping cart, cleanshopper.com has just the product for you - the $29.95 "Clean Shopper" cart insert. This stylish item "protects the entire shopping cart seating area—sides, back, handlebars and front," but sadly it will not protect you or your child from the sneers, smirks, and general scorn of your fellow shoppers.
(As seen in the New York Times Sunday Styles section.)
KANSAS OFFICIALS REFUSE TO BRING THE GAME INTO THEIR SCHOOLS UNTIL KONAMI DELETES "SHOCK THE MONKEY" FROM ITS PLAYLIST
West Virginia schools (new slogan: "Come for the dance videos, stay for the algebra") has signed a deal with Japanese video-game maker Konami to put XBox consoles with the insanely popular "Dance Dance Revolution" game into each of its 765 public schools. The "quickstepping" game will be used in phys ed classes to help kids get in shape and foster a lifelong love of exercise - and Japanese techno-pop.
OK, SURE, THE MUSIC'S CATCHY, BUT GET TO THE POINT - WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HER RACK?
Fast on the heels of our recent cross-blog debate over the merits of Laurie Berkner, musical and otherwise, Slate joins the children's music fray today with a writer who can't get Berkner's "Victor Vito" or They Might Be Giants' "Here Come the ABCs" out of his head. The oddest thing about Slate's report, though, is that while the writer claims to have sampled "a constant stream of children's music" over the past two years, he says he was only just recently introduced to the Wiggles, typically the gateway drug to the addictive world of tot rock.
FROM THE LATE SHOW'S "TOP 10 SIGNS YOU'VE CHOSEN THE WRONG DAY CARE CENTER"
3. An eight-year-old boy brings a handgun to the center, pulls it out of his backpack, and accidentally shoots a seven-year-old girl. (Yes, officials say the girl will survive her injury.)
AND NOW IT'S TIME FOR AT THE MOVIES WITH SMALL FELLOW AND TINY GIRL
If you'll allow us to break the fourth wall for a moment, this past Sunday was a momentous day for Fellow, as he gamely participated in his first-ever official chess tournament, run with a solid level of professionalism by the PTA of PS 6 on the Upper East Side. Competing as the youngest player in the kindergarten/Grade 1 section, Fellow finished among the bottom four of the 33-student group, but maintained high spirits, held his head up (even when the eventual age-group champ dispatched him inside of five minutes - in his first game), and proudly claimed the medal awarded to all primary-grade participants. And the tournament had the effect predicted by his chess teacher - Fellow now wants to play chess every night, eagerly preparing to return to the tournament circuit in February with better results. (We'll see.)
Anticipating (wrongly, as it happened) a stressful, demoralizing day for the Fellow, we promised him all week that when he returned home from the tournament, he could finally watch his new DVD of the original "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." And so he did. Now, as we mentioned the other day, we just completed reading the Roald Dahl book, and Fellow knows the soundtrack CD by heart, so he loved the movie, even as he pointed out every departure from Dahl's original. (Now we understand why they've made the Harry Potter films so lockstep-faithful to Rowling's prose . . .)
At the end of the movie, in a display of perspicacity that may presage a career as a film or book critic, Fellow quickly pointed out what has always so clearly been the major flaw of the adapted screenplay - that Charlie and Grandpa Joe drink Fizzy Lifting Drink when they were specifically told not to, nearly killing themselves, and yet Charlie still wins the factory. Fellow latched onto the inherent unfairness of this. Throughout our reading of the book and watching of the film, he and Tiny Girl (who is still seeking reassurance that the girl who "blew up like a blueberry" was OK) expressed a much higher level of empathy for the four "bad" children than the average grownup or Oompa Loompa would. If those kids got kicked out of the factory, Fellow demanded, why not Charlie?
And why not indeed? Yes, the screenplay provides somewhat more drama than the book by putting Charlie's chances of claiming the big prize in play, and forcing him to redeem himself by returning the Everlasting Gobstopper, but when three- and five-year-olds are spotting the flaw in your solution, you've got to believe there could have been a better way.
LET THEM ROLL! LET THEM ROLL! LET THEM ROLL!
According to the deeply troubled Weekly Standard, "a church-based homosexual rights group" called Soulforce plans to crash the sacred heterosexual fertility rite known as the White House Easter Egg Roll by staging a "family visibility action." According to an e-mail the group sent to members earlier this month:
"On April 17, 2006, when the White House lawn is opened to families for the Annual Easter Egg Roll, imagine if the first 1,000 families onto the lawn were LGBT families . . . . there will be no going back."
Soulforce is urging its families to stand in line the night before to ensure that they'll get in, and to wear "non-political" T-shirts identifying them LGBT.
Won't someone put a stop to this? Apparently not, according to the Washington Post:
On conservative chat rooms, some critics of Family Pride suggested the White House could make the egg roll an invitation-only event . . . . Other critics said conservatives should mobilize to outnumber gay families at the egg roll.
But at the end of the day, the White House will apparently let all families have their turn on the lawn, no matter which way they roll. Susan Whitson, Laura Bush's press secretary, said the administration has no plans to restrict admission: "All families are really welcome to attend." She later did not add, "But of course we will be collecting home and mobile phone numbers from all visitors and plan to begin the wiretaps as soon as they leave the property."
THE OTHER DAY, SMALL FELLOW SAW FIVE $20 BILLS ON THE COUNTER AND ASKED WHAT WE WERE DOING WITH THE $100. THERE'S NO DOWNSIDE TO DEVELOPING MATH SKILLS LIKE THAT, BUT WHEN HE STARTS TO MAKE CONNECTIONS LIKE THIS, WE'LL HAVE A TOUGH TIME ANSWERING HIS INEVITABLE QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR SOCIETY'S PRIORITIES
Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington, the lead scientist studying particles retrieved by the Stardust mission, which collected samples of comet and interstellar dust, said that the seven-year space mission "exceeded all of our grandest expectations." The 100-pound sample container captured thousands of particles that originated at the edge of the solar system or from distant stars. Brownlee added that the mission's $212 million cost was a bargain given the amount of knowledge it will provide:
"The way I like to look at it," he said with a laugh, "it's the same cost as a well-paid baseball player over a 10-year period."
Hey, easy, there, doc. Nobody wants any trouble . . .
THIS WEEK ON GAZA SESAME STREET: TERRORIST MASTERMIND OSCAR THE GROUCH SENDS GROVER ON A SUICIDE ATTACK WHICH DECAPITATES PRAIRIE DAWN. LATER, GORDON AND MARIA BUILD A SHRINE TO GROVER AND PRAISE HIS MARTYRED SOUL
Palestinian terror group Hamas announced last week that, as part of an ongoing effort to diversify its product, it will soon begin broadcasting a children's television show to the Gaza Strip, via its Al Aksa TV network. Host and producer "Uncle Hazim" Sharawi says:
"Our television show will have a message, but without getting into the tanks, the guns, the killing and the blood . . . I will show them our rights through the history, show them, 'This is Nablus, this is Gaza, this is Al Aksa mosque, which is with the Israelis and should be in our hands.'"
Sounds like fun, but don't bother sending in postcards to try to get a seat in the studio audience: Since Israel attacked the network's previous site, its new studio location is a heavily guarded secret.
THE BEST BARGAIN IN NEW YORK CITY (NON-HOT-DOG-AND-PAPAYA-JUICE CATEGORY)
Not only is the New York Hall of Science at the old World's Fair site in Queens a great hands-on science museum for kids. Not only does it have arguably the city's best playground, not to mention the majestic, refurbished NASA spacecraft of Rocket Park. But it also offers its member families what we see as the single greatest bargain in the city: The Association of Science-Technology Centers reciprocal membership package, especially valuable for families who travel.
The skinny: A one-year family membership at the museum is $65, though there's no reason not to take the deal and sign up for two years for $100, because along with all the normal benefits of membership, you'll receive free reciprocal admission (and members-only line-cutting privileges) at attractions around the country, like the Liberty Science Center, Transit Museum, and Yale Peabody Museum here in the tri-state area, plus Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, Chicago's Field Museum, and Boston's Museum of Science and Children's Museum, among dozens of others. For the Freelance Family, the membership has already paid for itself at least twice over.
IF ONLY HAAGEN DAZS, FRITO-LAY, AND ENTENMANN'S MADE SIMILAR INGREDIENT CHANGES, WE'D BE BACK DOWN TO OUR FIGHTING WEIGHT IN NO TIME
The parent company of both Hostess and Drake's placed an "Important Message for Our Kosher Consumers" in the most recent issue of New York Jewish Week, informing us that, in an "effort to reduce the amount of trans fat in Hostess snack cakes" (you might ask, Why bother?) the company was discontinuing the kosher shortening it had been using to make Twinkies in its northeast bakeries. The company regrets any inconvenience this might cause. (Inconvenience?)
But Interstate wants to reassure kosher consumers that its complete line of Drake's Cakes, including Devil Dogs and Ring Dings, continues to be made with the same kosher, transfattyful ingredients we've come to love and cherish. So, party on, our observant brothers! The Yodels are on us!
IN WHICH PETER VIOLATES HIS RESTRAINING ORDER BY HOVERING OUTSIDE THE WINDOW OF WENDY WILLIAMS (NEE DARLING) ONE TOO MANY TIMES, AND HER HUSBAND DOWNS HIM WITH A 150,000-VOLT STUN GUN, THEN TURNS TO HIS WIFE AND SNEERS, "CLAP ALL YOU WANT -- HE AIN'T GETTIN' UP!"
An authorized follow-up to Peter Pan has been completed by UK author Geraldine McCaughrean - or, as Reuters puts it, she was commissioned to "pen the Pan sequel." Oxford will release "Peter Pan in Scarlet" in October. The author confirms that the Darlings will return to Neverland in the new book, which should raise a fortune for the children's hospital to which J.M. Barrie bequeathed the copyright to his creations in 1929.
OK, BUT IF ANYONE THROWS A FRISBEE OVER THE GREAT WALL, THEY'D BETTER BE PREPARED TO CLIMB OVER AND FETCH IT
A Chinese firm has purchased Wham-O, maker of American icons like Frisbees, Hula Hoops, and Silly String. James Rybakoff, chief executive of Akin Bay Co., the investment company that advised Cornerstone, was on target when he said:
"American retro-legacy brand names is what is in, and the Chinese love them."
In a related story, we've seen gifts like Spirograph and Lite-Brite win much praise on the 3-to-5-year-old birthday party circuit this season. In fact, we're making a promise right now: Next kid who invites Fellow to a birthday party is getting a Ghost Gun.
THIS LAWSUIT HAS A GRRRRRREAT CHANCE OF GOING NOWHERE
The Center for Science in the Public Interest will sue Kellogg's and Nickelodeon in a Massachusetts court to try to stop the companies from marketing junk food to children under 8 - "and to stop marketing junk foods through Web sites, toy giveaways, contests and other techniques aimed at that age group."
CSPI says that spots for unhealthy foods constitute more than half of the ads on Nickelodeon, and 98% on Saturday morning programming overall. The cumulative effect of the ads is clearly taking a toll on parents who neither play outside on weekend mornings, limit their children's TV viewing time, nor limit how much junk food they buy:
“As a parent, I do my best to get my kids to eat healthy foods,” Sherri Carlson, a plaintiff and mother of three, said in the center’s news release. “But then they turn on Nickelodeon and see all those enticing junk-food ads.”
ANNOUNCING THE FD.COM CONTEST OF THE WEEK: TELL US HOW TO KEEP TINY GIRL OUT OF OUR BED (WITHOUT HAVING TO IMPORT SCORPIONS OR DIG A MOAT), WIN A FREE YEAR'S SUBSCRIPTION
We have no idea why these couples are smiling, because they've been sharing their conjugal bed with a small child, and that gives us nothing but frowns. We're becoming one of those families on a "slippery slope" as the arrival of a mysterious and fidgety three-year-old visitor in our bed each night is becoming our default setting. And even if it's suddenly OK with Dr. Richard Ferber ("You have to buy my new book - it says the opposite of the last one!") it's not OK with us.
... certain programmes are far more likely to impede passion than others. Violent films will put a stop to sexual relations for half of all couples, while reality shows stem passion for a third of couples.
THE LAURIE BERKNER CONUNDRUM: HOT OR NOT?
Big-league blogger Daniel Radosh weighs in today on the erotic appeal of toddler-music superstar Laurie Berkner. Personally, we had never been a big Berkner fan, which put us in the minority in the circle of parents we run with. It came down to this: We joined the Dan Zanes/They Might Be Giants camp early on, and always felt more comfortable with the converted-rocker brand of kid music stars vs. the authentic children's performers, like Berkner. But then Noggin started playing her videos in heavy rotation between morning shows, and "Victor Vito" and "We Are the Dinosaurs" burrowed into our consciousness and refused to budge, forcing us to at least grudgingly respect her tunesmithing skills even as we banged our head against the corner of our dining room table.
However, we've never remotely considered Berkner, a perfectly attractive gal, to be any kind of a sex symbol. In fact, we felt kind of bad for her when she started appearing in new promo spots for Jack's Big Music Show on Noggin with what appeared to be a poor Botox job - Why, we wondered, would anyone need to get Botoxed for a Noggin show? [Also, when Berkner signed on as the lead act on the music show, Zanes pulled his videos from Noggin and stalked off to strike a deal with the Disney Channel.]
Radosh, however, claims to have zeroed in on Berkner's erotic potential long ago, and further claims that he's not alone:
I have my own list of articles I'll never write … at the top is a piece that would have been titled The Erotic Pleasures of Laurie Berkner … Basically, it's about how every father of young children has a secret crush on LB … I already had a great quote from one friend about her appeal: "It's pretty obvious. She's got a huge rack and she takes care of your kids." ... I don't think the BerknerBoobies are the only attraction.
We still don't see it, but eye of the beholder, etc. But then Radosh completely loses us when he goes searching for other sexy stars on his kids' CD shelves:
...I would have settled the popular Ginger/Mary-Ann debate about LB vs. Dan Zanes's accordian player by pointing out that once you see accordian chick without the funky hair (in, say, the Jump Up vid), you realize she's a one-trick pony.
...I would have settled the popular Ginger/Mary-Ann debate about LB vs. Dan Zanes's accordian player by pointing out that once you see accordian chick without the funky hair (in, say, the Jump Up vid), you realize she's a one-trick pony.
Daniel, Daniel, Daniel, you're completely ignoring the most alluring sidewoman in kids music - and she stands just on the other side of Dan in the Rocket Ship Revue. We speak, of course, of slinky and stylish singer/guitarist Barbara Brousal. She's got it all over both Berkner and Cynthia Hopkins - and a sexy, grown-up voice promising that after she sings the kids to sleep she'll come upstairs and put you down. She leaves the others in the sandbox.
DADDY, I DON'T WANT A CYCLOPS CAT!
It's been too long since we've offered disturbing animal photos on the site, and while neither the glow-in-the-dark pig (who bears a pretty striking resemblance to Olivia) nor the Cyclops cat are shown nursing from human volunteers, as was the case in the last batch we linked to (that would be this and this), we still find them pretty bizarre.
-- WELL, MR. SALT FINALLY GOT WHAT HE WANTED.
-- WHAT'S THAT?
-- VERUCA WENT FIRST.
Speaking of Veruca, we've been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory every night before bed with Fellow for the past week, and should wrap it up in about 10 days. It's the first time we've read a "grown-up" book beginning to end with him - well, we actually read Gilgamesh to him over the course of a month when he was about 18 months old, but we're not sure that counts, although that Gilgamesh paperback remains one of his prized possessions and he would often sit on his bed and "read" it when he was 2 and 3.
But the Charlie experiment has so far been a major success. Dahl's cliffhanger chapter endings have him screaming for more chapters every night, and he's retaining pretty well. Tiny Girl has also enjoyed listening in - unlike Fellow, at some point she watched a little of the original film on TV (we got the DVD for the kids at Chanukah but won't screen it till we're done with the book, although they've listened to the brilliant soundtrack CD since they were infants). And so Tiny Girl curls up with us every evening asking if this will be the night we get to what, for her, is the story's most memorable scene, "when that girl blows up like a BLUEBERRY and they roll her away - that's SILLY!"
FREELANCE GREAT-GRANDMOTHER, WHO HAILS FROM THE OLD COUNTRY (THE BAD ONE) ALWAYS CALLED THE CHILDREN "MY LITTLE SNOOPY" WHEN THEY WERE TOTS, WHICH ONCE INSPIRED THEIR MOTHER TO ASK HER, "NANNY, IS 'SNOOPY' SOME KIND OF GERMAN TERM OF ENDEARMENT?" TO WHICH SHE DEADPANNED, "NO, DEAR. . . IT'S THE NAME OF THAT DOG FROM THE CARTOON"
Small and Tiny have become major Peanuts fans since they watched "It's the Great Pumpkin" and "Charlie Brown Christmas" over the recent holidays, which has led to a sudden rise in popularity of "Joe Cool's Blues," a CD we had been pushing on them since they were tots, and which they had repeatedly rejected.
We're thrilled that it's finally been placed in heavy rotation, and you should be playing it for your kids as well. The CD, a Wynton Marsalis project, alternates between recordings of Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts classics and reinterpretations/responses to Guaraldi from a band led by Wynton, his brothers Brandon and Delfeayo, and their father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. It's solid, jaunty material that expands on and deepens the role Guaraldi's Peanuts tunes have always played for young audiences - introducing them to the language of jazz.
ADDING TO THE LONG-RUNNING DEBATE OVER WHETHER A FETUS BECOMES A PASSENGER AT CONCEPTION OR AT BIRTH
Court ruling of the week comes from an Arizona judge in the case of a woman who appealed the ticket she received for driving alone in an HOV lane because she was visibly pregnant:
Municipal Judge Dennis Freeman rejected Dickinson's argument Tuesday, applying a "common sense" definition in which an individual is someone who occupies a "separate and distinct" space in a vehicle.
In response, Pat Robertson said that if Phoenix is suddenly hit by an earthquake or an alien invasion, they'll have Freeman to blame.
DEPENDS ON YOUR DEFINITION OF "MISSING"
Widespread traditional preference for male children has led to so many abortions of female fetuses in India, according to a United Nations study, that the nation's population is "missing" about 10 million girls. And, in answer to your anticipated questions, the study reports:
The "girl deficit" is far more prominent in educated women, the investigators found. The number of boys born as second children was twice as high among this group than among illiterate mothers.
However, the deficit did not vary by religion.
In a statement released earlier today, Pat Robertson declared that this practice directly led to the recent devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region.
ALTHOUGH IT MAKES MORE SENSE THAN WHAT OUR FAMILY HAS DONE WHENEVER WE'VE HAD A PREGNANCY SCARE: PEEING ON A HERMIT CRAB TO SEE IF IT TURNS PINK OR BLUE
Slate explains how you can use a frog to test for pregnancy - one of those classic scientific questions that makes you wonder, "How in the Hell did people ever find this out?"
IS THERE ANY IDEA AS DANGEROUS AS TRUMP UNIVERSITY?
Every year, the Web site edge.org - "The World Question Center" - poses a provocative, open-ended question to thinkers and scientists around the world, yielding much gold and a bit of dross. Let's examine one example of each in response to the 2006 question, "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?"
First up, Roger Schank, psychologist, "Chief Learning Officer" of Trump University, and blithering idiot, who offers this reckless - sorry, dangerous - idea: Close all the schools and instead allow eight-year-olds to roam the streets, hoping that at some point they’ll be motivated to drop into a marginally-supervised center where they can learn whatever they need to fulfill their destiny – presumably, how to make a killing in the real-estate market:
… school is bad for kids — it makes them unhappy and as tests show. . . they don't learn much. When you listen to children talk about school you easily discover what they are thinking about in school: who likes them, who is being mean to them, how to improve their social ranking, how to get the teacher to treat them well and give them good grades. . . Schools should simply cease to exist as we know them. The Government needs to get out of the education business and stop thinking it knows what children should know and then testing them constantly . . . Schools need to be replaced by safe places where children can go to learn how to do things that they are interested in learning how to do. Their interests should guide their learning. The government's role should be to create places that are attractive to children and would cause them to want to go there. . . Just call school off. Turn them all into apartment houses.
Now Leasing: The Trump Jefferson High. Four floors of luxury living, with Olympic-size pool. (Just stay out of the boiler room.)
Meanwhile, Diane Halpern of Claremont-McKenna and the American Psychological Association offered her own most dangerous idea: Choosing your child’s sex. As she puts it:
For an idea to be truly dangerous, it needs to have a strong and near universal appeal. The idea of being able to choose the sex of one's own baby is just such an idea. . . Every year for the last two decades I have asked students in my college classes to write down the number of children they would like to have and the order in which they ideally want to have girls and boys. . . the modal response is 2 children, first a boy, then a girl. If students reply that they want one child, it is most often a boy; if it is 3 children, they are most likely to want a boy, then a girl, then a boy. . . if they acted on their stated intentions. . . they would have an excess of first-borns who are male, and an excess of males overall. In a short time, those personality characteristics associated with being either an only-child or first-born and those associated with being male would be so confounded, it would be difficult to separate them. . . .
I am guessing that many readers of child-bearing age want to choose the sex of their (as yet) unconceived children and can reason that there is no harm in this practice. And, if you could also choose intelligence, height, and hair color, would you add that too? But then, there are few things in life that are as appealing as the possibility of a perfectly balanced family, which according to the modal response means an older son and younger daughter, looking just like an improved version of you.