FROM THE CENTER FOR BUZZKILL IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

07_2Hey, kids, look at this: Dunkin' Donuts has taken trans fats out of its treats! Awesome! Let's go right out and get some Munchkins!
Oops, hold on a second. Just need to take this call:

Yes, hello?

“It’s good news that they’re dropping most, if not quite all, trans fat,” said Jeff Cronin, spokesman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based nonprofit, [but], “we’re still talking about a food that’s mostly white flour, sugar, and fat.”

Dammit! OK, kids, take off your shoes, sit down, and eat your apples. . . Miserable scientists. . .

AT THIS POINT, THE STORY WRITES ITSELF

Tops. Notebooks. SpongeBob. Curious George. Recall. Lead paint. China.

THE FD.COM MUST-READ ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

Over on Slate, the estimable Darshak Sanghavi, author of "A Map of the Child," tells us that disposing of all of our Chinese-made, lead-painted toys probably won't do much to protect our kids from the hazards of lead—because it's too little too late. Trace amounts of lead—much lower than the government's liberal official "level of concern"—are steadily dropping your child's IQ right now, point by precious point, and there's not a thing you can do about it. It won't be news to anyone who's been paying attention to the full scope of the lead debate since the summer's recalls began that a few million toys from China are the least of our problems. Sanghavi's review of the debate over what, if anything, can actually be done about the threat of lead illuminates the scope of the problem and raises other interesting questions, such as: Exactly how much is one point of your child's IQ worth to you?

[PS: If you're like us, and you've been wondering how all that lead got into our paint in the first place, Natalie Angier offered an elegant explanation in last week's Science Times.]

WE DON'T LIKE "MR. MOM," EITHER, SO YEARS AGO, WE ASKED EVERYONE HERE AT HQ TO CALL US "LORD GREYSKULL"

31986largeUniversity of Texas researchers Aaron Rochlen and Ryan McKelley recently completed a study of more than 200 of the nation's 150,000-plus stay-at-home dads, and found their satisfaction and marital happiness to be as high as that of so-called "traditional parents," USA Today reports. However, Rochlen said, the dads did have at least one complaint: "Just don't call them 'Mr. Mom.' They really don't like it."

No, they don't. Freelance Dad appeared in a segment about "the new dad" last week on the CBS News Early Show (see video clip here), which got a good deal of attention in the at-home dad corner of the blogosphere, much of it mercifully positive, at least regarding our own performance. But the network did choose to begin its segment with a clip from, yes, "Mr. Mom," and, man oh man, did that push all kinds of buttons for the bloggers, who justifiably resent their life choices being dismissed by comparison to a domestically clueless character in a 24-year-old movie.

By the way, for a somewhat more in-depth report on the results of that first-of-its-kind University of Texas study, as well as a look at the choices made by a variety of super-cool at-home dads across the country, we'd direct you toward the cover story from the June/July issue of Working Mother, written by Freelance Dad, aka Gary Drevitch. (Yes, the article does have an obligatory "Mr. Mom" reference, but just one, and it's brief. Sorry!)

BECAUSE NOTHING SAYS "HELP AFRICA" LIKE LITTLE GERMAN KIDS IN BLACKFACE

Unifef_3UNICEF Germany has agreed to pull a series of jaw-dropping print ads in which little white kids in blackface urged people to support a campaign to help build new schools in Africa. You can see the ads, and read their English translations, here. And you can read the statement from UNICEF Germany upon agreeing to pull the ads here. As for the kids from the ads, they had been working on a school production of "The Color Purple," but those plans are now on hold.

August 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

UPDATE: CBS EARLY SHOW VIDEO IS AVAILABLE ONLINE

CBS News has posted the video of this morning's segment on "the new dad," which featured Freelance Dad, Small Fellow, Tiny Girl, and Little Guy.

You can view the segment now on the Early Show Web site.

August 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

41q1kcgnmjl_aa240_LEADING CANDIDATE FOR MOST IRONIC PARENTING BOOK TITLE OF THE YEAR

Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years
by Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum

Because, really, who knows more about "practical" parenting than the directors of Manhattan's 92nd Street Y Nursery School? But don't just take our word for it:

“All four of our kids are 92nd Street Y Alumni, so we’ve long benefited from the calming wit and considerable wisdom of Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum. . . . Do yourself, your family and your child a favor: read this book.” —Tracy Pollan & Michael J. Fox

OK, OK, to be fair, the book actually got a rave, starred review from Publisher's Weekly, which reports that:

The authors note that there are many viable preschool choices that will provide youngsters with an opportunity to access the five core learning experiences of preschool. . . .

And that's certainly reassuring, because there's no chance in Hell that your youngster's going to get into the authors' preschool. . .

MOMMAS, DON'T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE SARA BERMAN'S NANNIES

Oh! My! God! New York Sun parenting columnist Sara Berman (full disclosure: she's the daughter of half-billionaire Michael Steinhardt, a co-owner of the paper that publishes her) absolutely unloaded on uppity nannies yesterday as she "revisited" the issues raised by "The Nanny Diaries" in advance of the premiere of the movie based on the book. Read along with us, won't you, as Berman sets the scene for the psychodrama?

While I chopped a melon for dessert, doled out napkins, cut food into small bites, and played silly guessing games with the girls, I noticed that my weekend baby sitter sat down on the couch. Then I noticed that she opened the new "Harry Potter" book and started to read.

Ten minutes later, she was still reading. What a great job she has, I thought as I silently fumed. Don't worry about the toys that need sorting out, or the clothes that need folding, or the sheets that need to be changed. Why should she bother, when she's found a fool like to me to pay her while she reads "Harry Potter"?

When the movie version of "The Nanny Diaries" . . . is released this Friday, I will not be crying any tears for any nannies. . .

I know countless families — especially those in the socioeconomic bracket that star front and center in "The Nanny Diaries" — that have helped their nannies buy apartments. . . . Plenty of families have helped pay for their nannies' and their nannies' children's college and graduate degrees, as well as treat them and their children to clothes, camps, laptops, and cars. Many such generous families . . . have found their nannies stealing money, telling lies, showing up progressively late, and taking more and more sick days. . .

Oh, no, she didn't! Oh, yes, she did! She called the nannies out! "There is no way to generalize about a very complicated personal relationship," Berman writes later in the column. Well, no, we guess there isn't, unless you call all the employees ungrateful, shiftless thieves and liars, that is!

Berman wraps up this stunning hatchet job on the servant class by relating some good advice that her mother gave her the first time she interviewed potential sitters. (We're going to go out on a limb and guess she's had many opportunities to use that advice in the intervening years.) And the kicker?:

I'll be keeping these words in mind when I interview new weekend nannies this week.

Awesome!

IT GETS WORSE: WE UNDERSTAND HIS BLOG TRAFFIC IS ALSO WAY DOWN

Self-proclaimed Los Angeles pedophile Jack McClellan is in the news again, just weeks after the New York Times promoted on page A1 his blogs in which he detailed where he likes to go to look at young children. Earlier this month, a judge hit McClellan with a restraining order mandating that he stay 30 feet away from every child in the state—which effectively meant house arrest or banishment from the state. But now, after two arrests for violating the restraining order, that order has been rescinded on a technicality and McClellan is a free man again, albeit one living out of his car, with no fixed income, and with the constant scrutiny of concerned members of the community.

ALASKA AIRLINES: WE LOVE TO FLY RUNAWAYS, AND IT SHOWS!

A 15-year-old Alaska girl steals money from her parents, heads to the Juneau airport, pays for a ticket at the counter with cash—mostly ones and fives—and boards an Alaska Airlines flight, all without once being asked to show any form or ID or answer any questions about her plans. (She apparently planned to run off to meet a boy she'd met online.) The teen was intercepted by authorities in Seattle, her parents pressed charges, and she's now in a youth detention center. As for the airline, its officials note that federal regulations do not require them to ask for ID from anyone under 18, and so they technically broke no rules by ignoring the various red flags raised by the girl's attempted odyssey.
 

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST (NO, LITERALLY)

19goodxlarge1The Times Sunday arts section just ran a piece on the free ballet classes for boys offered by the city's major dance companies, a piece perhaps inspired by the Time Out New York Kids feature several weeks back on the same subject, which was written by Freelance Dad, aka Gary Drevitch.

The only new news in the Times feature for readers of the earlier article is that, back in May, the School of American Ballet had 65 boys attend its open auditions for spots in next year's classes, and accepted about 46% of those boys. Which means that Small Fellow really must not have made much of an impression on the instructors at his own audition . . .

25950_cheeriosHEY, WE'VE GOT ONE, TOO: "FEED THEM TO THE BABY"

If Little Guy could speak, he'd probably say, "Gimme some more Cheerios!"

If he could speak a lot, he'd probably say to the authors of this piece on alternative uses for the cereal, "An exfoliant?! What are you, high? They're Cheerios! You just eat 'em, you freak!" But then, apparently, he'd be wrong. Cheerios, it turns out, make an excellent exfoliant. So we suppose it's just as well that Little Guy mostly says, "Ga!"

August 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

UPDATE: CBS EARLY SHOW VIDEO IS AVAILABLE ONLINE

CBS News has now posted the segment that featured Freelance Dad this morning.

You can find it on the Early Show Web site.

August 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

REVIEW: FREELANCE DAD ON THE CBS EARLY SHOW   

CbsearlyshowImage3193122gA couple of weeks ago, the CBS News Early Show taped us here at FD headquarters for a segment on "the new dad." The taping was completely fun—we put all of our possessions in the bathtub so HQ would look presentable—in fact, it never looked better—and once the cameras started rolling, a network staffer periodically rushed over to wipe sweat off our nose, a level of service we rarely receive in everyday life.

The piece aired this morning at 8:08 am, and we screened it with Small Fellow, Tiny Girl, and Little Guy, all of whom had recorded cameo appearances when we escorted the crew to the playground at Big City Elementary for some "b-roll" of dads and kids at play. Fortunately, the network editors successfully eliminated all of our stammers and stutters, so we sounded reasonably authoritative as we talked about how and why "the new dad" is involved with his kids.

CBS tells us that the segment should be posted later today on the network's Web site and we will do our best to link to the video when it's available, so check back here later this week if you missed the show this morning.

And thanks to all of you for the kind comments you've already sent in on our appearance. They're much appreciated.

August 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

ALL YOUR TOYS ARE BASE

826222pollypocketpostersAs if anyone needed confirmation that Polly Pocket toys are the most dangerous on the market, Mattel's 19-million-item, $30-million worldwide recall should settle any doubts. (Half the toys, which also include Batman and Cars tie-ins, were shipped to the U.S.; the rest are in other countries.) We find it ironic that Polly Pocket  toys are being recalled for possessing those killer micro-magnets, which have been giving us nightmares since they started perforating toddler intestines a year or so ago. We would have issued a recall of the entire Polly batch years ago because the pieces are so damned small that if a child under two ever happened into your home, he'd have a better-than-even chance of crawling home with a tiny plastic hair-dryer in his gut. Polly Pocket - which Tiny Girl loves, by the way (it appears we may have just one of the recalled play sets here) - has always struck us as such a fundamentally reckless toy to begin with that we're only surprised by the reason for its recall. (Mattel's complete recall list is here. The bad - worse? - news is that some of these risky magnetized sets have been in homes for several years.) Also, 18 million children's trinkets (charms, rings, bracelets, necklaces) have been pulled from the market since 2005 for unacceptable lead content. You can check the recall lists, or (our recommendation) just throw them all away.

Some conclusions being expressed everywhere else about the latest recalls, but which we've expressed here before:

* Those micro-magnets will inevitably have to be eliminated from toys in the U.S. market.

* Given that the country's biggest (and, arguably, most responsible) toymaker has now issued two huge recalls in a month, we'll reiterate: There is NO CHANCE that the cheap, made-in-China crap you buy for your birthday party goody bags is safe. Sorry, Oriental Trading Company, but the bottom is about to fall out of your market.

* Mattel to Wall Street: "The recall's costing us $30 million? So it goes. Still cheaper than paying health insurance for American union workers. We'll maintain our presence in China, thank you very much. We like it in China. Instead of going on strike, workers there just commit the occasional suicide."

In other news: BIBS, TOO?! Oh, come on! (Though we've always believed that any bib not made of terry cloth wasn't worth the trouble. . . )

Oh, and while you're up, here's another thought to keep you awake tonight: Lead-painted toys can gradually stunt your child's mental development, unless they're recalled in time. (The toys, not the kids.) But it's well nigh impossible to recall a house or apartment building, and the government estimates that kids live in 4 million homes with "deteriorated lead paint and lead-contaminated house dust."

IVY LEAGUE ACADEMIC TO PARENTS: IF YOU BUY TOYS BASED ON TV CHARACTERS, YOUR KIDS DESERVE LEAD POISONING

The Times talks to Howard Chudacoff, whose new book, "Children at Play: An American History," advocates that when it's time for play, parents deliver children to open fields, then stay the Hell out of the way—like their forefathers did. Which is not bad advice—unless one feels there's some benefit for parents playing with their children. But, moving on, Chudacoff also makes a case for the virtues of simple, old-fashioned toys:

Mr. Chudacoff led the way to a small, old-fashioned Providence toy store, Creatoyvity, which carries hardly any toys licensed from television and movies. Mr. Chudacoff looked over the figures of knights and kings, gorillas, giraffes, cows, monkeys, rhinos, chickens and dinosaurs, as well as the beads, blocks, paint, glitter, trucks, cranes, tractors and wooden toys imported from Germany.

“It’s a toy store rather than an entertainment center,” Mr. Chudacoff said, explaining that with so much commercial licensing, toys have become more of an offshoot of the television and film industries than elements of play. One result is that a toy comes with a prepackaged back story and ready-made fantasy life, he said, meaning that “some of the freedom is lost, and unstructured play is limited.”

Maybe. Maybe not. A knight and a king, and even a gorilla and a chicken, for that matter, come with built-in narratives—jousting, growling, crossing the road—as much as Batman and Pikachu do. We've observed kids playing with character tie-in figures and they don't always follow "the script." Just like the enlightened children who pit knights against monkeys, they can take the characters they've seen on TV and take off creatively from the archetype, coming up with scenarios that we'd never have imagined. To us, frankly, the argument that a youngster cannot possibly play creatively with a toy that comes with a back story really sells kids short.

SPEAKING OF COMMERCIALIZED CHILDREN'S CHARACTERS, THEY'LL SOON BE AVAILABLE 24 HOURS A DAY. WOO HOO!

Log132x071nogginIn what we see as indisputably the best news of the week, MTV Networks announced that it is—finally— breaking up Noggin and The N. Noggin is the commercial-free channel for preschoolers that broadcasts from 3 a.m. until 6 p.m., when it abruptly turns into "The N," exposing unsuspecting children to the rampaging hormones of DeGrassi High students, and the rampaging early-90s haircuts of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Now the company is announcing plans to split Noggin and the N into a pair of standalone, 24-hour cable channels at the end of the year, which is outstanding news for any work-at-home parents who rush to meet writing deadlines as their nannies leave work at 5:30, then try to complete tasks while the kids watch a little bit of Noggin, the only channel still airing preschool programming at that hour, only to have the children scream moments later when the channel's content ages 12 years. (Um, yeah, that's us. . .)

DON'T WORRY, THERE'S ALWAYS CASTOR OIL   

The FDA finally got around to issuing a public health advisory warning parents not to give over-the-counter cold and cough medicines to children under 2 without a doctor's instructions, even though the recently-discovered risks of giving cold medicines to toddlers have been widely reported for several months.

WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT US THAT AT SOME LEVEL WE SEE THIS AS BRINGING HIM CLOSER TO BEING ABLE TO RUN AWAY FROM HOME?

Please join us in congratulating Small Fellow for taking his first bicycle ride without training wheels last weekend. Along with learning to tie his shoes a few weeks ago, this makes two impressive accomplishments this summer, and, honestly? — Two more than we expected.

WHEN LIFE IMITATES CHILDREN'S BOOKS

51n21vp0f9l_bo2204203200_pisitbdp50A man smuggled a monkey onto an airplane Tuesday, stashing the furry fist-size primate under his hat until passengers spotted it perched on his ponytail, [said Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Alison Russell]. During the flight, people around the man noticed that the marmoset, which normally lives in forests and eats fruit and insects, had emerged from underneath his hat, Russell said. “Other passengers asked the man if he knew he had a monkey on him,” she said. The monkey spent the remainder of the flight in the man’s seat and behaved well, said Russell, who didn’t know how it skirted customs and security.

Wait, we know how the monkey and his pal evaded customs and security: It's a trick they learned from a bear, as in one of our favorite children's books, Milo's Hat Trick, by Jon Agee.

IT SOUNDS GREAT ON PAPER, BUT WE'LL WITHHOLD JUDGMENT UNTIL WE SEE WHAT IT DOES TO PROPERTY VALUES IN RIVERDALE

Archie Comics welcomes Raj Patel to Riverdale High, introducing the company's first South Asian character in a story titled—no, really—"Out-Raj-ous Behavior!" Apparently, Raj's attractive, "super-smart" sister Tina is being pitched as an "Indian Veronica," offering children an important lesson—no matter her race or religion, any girl can be a tease.

IF YOUR FAMILY TRAVEL PLANS WILL TAKE YOU TO THE SOUTHWEST THIS SUMMER, BE SURE TO BRING THE KIDS TO THE HOTTEST PLAYGROUND IN TEXAS

-- just be sure you identify all potential exits as you enter the playground, should it happen to spontaneously combust again, although that's unlikely because, as gloriously understated Arlington schools superintendent Mac Bernd told the Houston Chronicle, the first fire "was a very unusual occurrence."

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HANDING A NEW DAD A CIGAR?

Back in April, an off-duty police officer working security at a Houston hospital tasered a man attempting to take his newborn out of the maternity ward without proper authorization. The only (well, maybe not the only) problem: The man was holding the baby at the time, and instantly dropped her to the floor when he was hit by the stun gun.

WOMEN INCREASINGLY BRING HOME THE BACON, REFUSE TO FRY IT UP IN A PAN

EnjoliMore women than ever are working full time, putting in at least as many hours as their husbands for at least as much pay. But, according to the Times, some things never change—men continue to come home, ignore housework, and demand a hot dinner, while women—no matter their job or income—scramble to perform the daily household chores:

With two-income families now the norm, and both men and women working a record-breaking number of hours, the question has become how to accomplish what used to be a wife’s job, even as old-fashioned standards of household management and entertaining have been relaxed. Many men are sharing the work of chores and child care with their wives, and some do it all as single parents, but women still generally shoulder a greater burden of household business . . .

OH, MAN, WE'RE SCREWED: FELLOW'S BACKPACK ISN'T EVEN WATERPROOF

It's August in America, and everyone's talking about the must-have back-to-school item: Bulletproof backpacks. A pair of Massachusetts dads are marketing the $175 "ballistic bookbags" to parents who fear a school shooting in their town. According to MJ Safety Solutions:

Finally there is a product that will help you take an active step towards safeguarding yourself and the people you care about from shooting incidents. MJ Safety Solutions has developed, for the first time ever, a full size, lightweight ballistic protection back pack that is affordable and practical. Now you can provide on the spot protection against guns and knife violence!

Independently tested to the standards set by the National Institute for Justice to provide Level II ballistic protection, as found in most police body armor, at almost 1/10 the weight.

Depressingly, the inventors report that sales of the backpacks have been "phenomenal," aided by media reports from around the world. The co-owners claim to have rung up 1,000 sales on their Web site last weekend alone. Welcome to Hell.

RedcrossTHIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN JOHNSON & JOHNSON'S HEAD OF CORPORATE PR TAKES HIS FAMILY ON A MIDSUMMER SAFARI IN AFRICA, FAR FROM BLACKBERRY RANGE

Health care giant J & J has sued the American Red Cross over what it claims is the "commercializing" of the widely recognized symbol the company and the organization share, by allowing that symbol to be used on products it approves for use in emergencies. Yeah, this should definitely go to court. Let's see J & J convince a jury to take a few million dollars away from the Red Cross. . .

". . . AND THEN HE GETS DEPORTED BY THE INS."

Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna will write a children’s book for HarperCollins. The book, as yet untitled, to be published in English and Spanish in the spring, is set in a school where a mischievous little boy learns the fun of reading with the help of his teacher. . . 

August 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

IN RESPONSE TO THE NEW STUDY, THE COMPANY IS RENAMING ITS MAIN PRODUCT LINE "BABY CLETUS"

41qtx42r15l_aa280_Science has revealed what FD has always suspected: Insipid videos make for insipid kids. Watching the "Baby Einstein" line of brilliantly-marketed, cheaply-produced videos about animals, colors, art, and music actually make your kids less bright than they would be otherwise, a University of Washington professor has concluded after studying 1,000 families. Dimitri Christakis found that:

For every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as "Brainy Baby" or "Baby Einstein," they knew six to eight fewer words than other children. . .

Adding insult to injury, Christakis added that he'd rather kids watched "American Idol," because, he explained to the LA Times, there is at least a chance their parents would watch with them — which does have developmental benefits.

Christakis came to the same realization that we did about these videos - their alien-bright colors and ambient sounds are particularly effective not for teaching kids, but mesmerizing them, so parents can leave their children alone in front of the TV while they do whatever it is they'd rather do - like, say, posting on their blogs. Gawker, taking up its own cudgel this morning, dug, "Hope that extra time you spent on your Blackberry was worth the lifetime of stagnant wages and mediocre employment to which you've doomed your offspring."

We much prefer the "Eyewitness" nature videos from DK, which we often showed our kids when they were little. Even though the narration was over their heads, they at least showed the sights and sounds of the real world. In fact, it's always been one of our nagging concerns that Tiny has such a strong preference for unreal, candy-colored cartoon shows, while Fellow prefers watching non-fiction shows.

Fellow did enjoy a couple of Baby Einstein books he received as gifts when he was little, including one about Van Gogh, which for us was still ruined by the ridiculous, superfluous "Van Goat" character which contributed nothing to the art appreciation, and made our kid think (for a brief while) that the actual artist's name might actually be "Van Goat."

And while we're on the subject: What the Hell is the point of putting a bandage on Van Goat's ear? Are the producers making fun of Van Gogh's depression? Do they think the artist's self-mutilation is a "teachable moment" for parents and three-year-olds? No, really, what the Hell?

DROOL IF YOU LOVE MCDONALD'S

Mcdonalds_archesWhy do kids love McDonald's so much? A Stanford professor peddling a new study says it's all about the marketing. The brand's advertising is so ubiquitous in a child's world that the mere sight of a Mc Donald's logo will make most kids age 3-5 salivate, claims lead researcher Tom Robinson.

FD, however, is skeptical. Here's how the study was done: Sixty-three kids enrolled in Head Start - significantly, all but two of whom had previously eaten at McDonald's, and many of whom ate their regularly - were given identical hamburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries, milk or juice, and carrots. The difference? Some kids got the food in McDonald's wrappers, on McDonald's trays. The others got their meals on plain plates, cups, and napkins. The winners of subsequent taste tests, every time, for every food? The items in McDonald's packaging.

Today's Chicago Tribune interviewed several child-development advocates bemoaning the stunning effect of McDonald's marketing on even the youngest consumer, and they're right to be concerned, but our knee-jerk response to this study is: Well, duh! Of COURSE kids will say they prefer McDonald's and there are any number of reasons why they would do so, beyond the company's commercials. Food in McDonald's packages means eating out. It reminds kids of good times out for dinner with their families. Other kids think McDonald's is cool, so in the absence of any difference between the foods, they'll choose McDonald's to look cool. We've seen Fellow do it when discussing products he could care less about. Is that marketing influence or peer pressure? Maybe both, but there's also this: McDonald's restaurant food, placed next to unmarked, generic foods, may look like it's more expensive, and, in the kids' mind, better.

As U. Chicago marketing professor Pradeep Chintagunta told the Tribune, a fairer study would have gauged kids' preferences for the McDonald's label versus another familiar brand, such as Mickey Mouse.

Are we saying we have no problem with McDonald's? No way. Our kids have eaten there maybe five times in their lives, and only for other kids' birthday parties or because of a desperate time crunch as we took a long-distance drive. Still, they claim to love the Arches, and while we find that terribly annoying and disturbing, the restaurant happens to be ubiquitous, and it's vastly more kid-friendly than most restaurants, so why wouldn't they think it's good? Kids assume that successful businesses are inherently good, which, while wrong, is entirely logical. We still don't take them there.

HE'S YOUR ICE CREAM MAN. STOP HIM WHEN HE'S PASSING BY . . . OR MAYBE NOT.

The driver of a Mister Softee ice cream truck was arrested yesterday on charges of selling cocaine and marijuana from his truck while it was parked outside a middle school in Queens, the police said.

IT'S LIKE WE'VE ALWAYS TOLD OUR FELLOW BLOGGERS: SOMETIMES, THE THINGS YOU DO TO GET ATTENTION WILL BACKFIRE ON YOU

The self-declared pedophile whose blog about children he observed in his Southern California neighborhood recently got Page One attention in the New York Times—a spotlight which Freelance Dad (who has an unblemished record of non-pedophilia) still awaits—has been hit with a remarkable restraining honor by a California state judge, who ordered him to stay 10 yards away from every minor in the state (although, it should be noted, the man has no criminal record and the photos he posted on his Web sites were of clothed children). As a UCLA First Amendment authority told the Times, the restraining order is effectively a banishment from the state of California.

Today, another of Slate's consistently satisfying Explainer columns details how sex offenders contend with the restrictions on their residency and travel typically imposed by judges.

NO, DIEGO, NO!

Go_diego_go_resized200In case you missed it, 1.5 million more toys are under recall, as Fisher-Price becomes the latest company to discover that Chinese factories love lead paint.

. . . . Fisher-Price is recalling 83 types of toys — including the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters — because their paint contains excessive amounts of lead. The worldwide recall . . . involves . . . plastic preschool toys made by a Chinese vendor and sold in the United States between May and August.

Still, to the company's credit, it apparently fast-tracked its recall so that two-thirds of the products in question never made it onto store shelves. As toy-industry observers did not need to note (but did), Fisher-Price could teach some corporate PR lessons to RC2, the maker of the recently recalled, lead-paint-enhanced Thomas products. (Fisher-Price also took a charge of $30 million for the recall.) You can check the full list of recalled models here.

In a positive sign, the Times reports that "Nickelodeon — which owns the characters Dora the Explorer and Diego — has decided to introduce a third-party monitor to check up on all of the companies that make toys under its brands, including Mattel." Sesame Workshop appears ready to follow suit.

[PS: RC2 has been hit with a pair of lawsuits by parents "demanding the company provide medical monitoring to children who may have ingested lead paint from its products." And the company's chief has finally said something about its missteps, but it's not "sorry."]

07thai265IN A RELATED STORY, TINY GIRL HAS APPLIED FOR ADMISSION TO THE BANGKOK POLICE ACADEMY

BANGKOK, Thailand — Police officers who break rules will be forced to wear hot pink armbands featuring "Hello Kitty," the Japanese icon of cute, as a mark of shame, a senior officer said yesterday. Police officers caught littering, parking in a prohibited area, or arriving late — among other misdemeanors — will be forced to stay in the division office and wear the armband all day, said Police Colonel Pongpat Chayaphan. The officers won't wear the armband in public. The striking armband features Hello Kitty sitting atop two hearts -- The Associated Press

MANY SEVEN-YEAR-OLDS UNDERSTAND THE FOOD CHAIN. VEGANSEXUALS, NOT SO MUCH.

Vegans in New Zealand are declaring that they will no longer have sex with carnivores, or at least that's what they're telling their local paper:

"I would not want to be intimate with someone whose body is literally made up from the bodies of others who have died for their sustenance," [one vegansexual] said.

Christchurch vegan Nichola Kriek . . . . could understand people not wanting to get too close to non-vegan or non-vegetarians. "When you are vegan or vegetarian, you are very aware that when people eat a meaty diet, they are kind of a graveyard for animals."

Right. Now, children, can anyone tell us what we grow in animal graveyards? Yes, you, in the back? Right! Crops! Good for you! Now, go explain that to the vegans.

TRAGEDY IN BED-STUY IS FD.COM'S MUST-READ ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

An 18-year-old mother remains behind bars, and her 11-month-old daughter remains unresponsive on a ventilator, a month after the girl almost drowned in a shallow bathtub in their Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment. The mother had left the girl, and a visiting two-year-old, in the tub as she went down the hall to tend to some boiling rice. Yesterday's wrenching Times article asks the right questions, like, how do prosecutors decide that this teen mother ought to be in prison, charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child, while other parents in similar cases do not? The answer, well worth reading, is that it depends, and that making that call is an inexact science for the authorities. In any event, our takeaway is that it's hard to imagine how society benefits by keeping this girl in detention at Rikers.

August 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS