Had some time to kill with Small Fellow before an appointment this afternoon, so we stopped in at the Whitney Museum. The galleries were closed, but the museum store was open. (For a fuller discourse on art vs. commerce in American museums . . . well, you've really come to the wrong place, haven't you?) We headed straight to the Art*o*Mat vending machine and picked out a new piece of art for Fellow. The Art*o*Mat, for the uninitiated, is a seven-year-old project that converts antique cigarette machines into dispensers of honest-to-goodness, original art. Put up $6.95 for a token, drop it in, pull the lever, and just like that, you're a patron of the arts. All of the pieces are the size of a pack of smokes, or smaller, and some of it may be a little political/avanty for kids, but you can get a pretty good idea of what you're going to get by looking at the thumbnail images under each lever. Small Fellow chose something from Carrie Price today, and it was an outstanding choice for the second piece in his collection. The Art*o*Mat Web site tells you where you can find a machine near you.


A well-reviewed new book we have not read yet but will soon, "The State Boys Rebellion" by Michael D'Antonio, tells the story of the boys of the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded in Waltham, Mass., and the stunning abuses they endured in the 1940s and 1950s. Several years ago, FD wrote a small piece about the most sensational of the indignities heaped on the "state boys": For years, members of the school's ironically-named "Science Club" were fed cereal laced with radioactive calcium. It was just one of a network of secret cold-war-era radiation experiments across the nation, and, in truth, far from the worst. But that 1993 revelation opened a window onto what institutions like Fernald had done to its charges - orphans, foster children, and others who had been placed in the homes because their poor scores on public school-administered IQ tests led the state to declare them "morons." As many of us prepare to test the IQs of our preschoolers in advance of competitive kindergarten placements, it's worth reading about the boys of Fernald to get a sobering view of how we've misused those tests in the past.


New moms with a powerful urge to spend $100 a day to have their meals delivered to them are strongly urged to contact this organization. "We can help ease your stress during the first exhilarating but hectic weeks," the Web site reads, "by removing the factor of what to eat, where to get it, and when to make it." Moms will still have to excrete on their own, however. Dads are welcome to "make themselves a damn sandwich and leave us alone."


We got a note from the makers of Enfamil yesterday warning us that the black-and-white "Baby Eye Treat Flash Cards" they sent us as a free gift 18 months ago should be discarded immediately, as the company has received several reports of the cards or the ring that holds them breaking.

We provide this news as a public service to our readers, and as an opportunity to unearth one of our favorite punchlines, one for which we've had no use the past six weeks or so:

Enfamil yesterday announced it was recalling its Baby Eye Treat Flash Cards. In a related story, Ronald Reagan recalled his high-school locker combination.

That's it for me. Tip your waitresses and drive safely. We're here all week!


There's Regular America, and Parents' America. Before we had children, for example, we had no idea there were five playgrounds within a few blocks of our home. We suppose they were there all the time, but they were virtually invisible, like that linen shop Loving Mother keeps telling me is on the ground floor of our building. Similarly, we had no idea which neighborhood merchants would let us use their bathrooms, or, for that matter, where the crosswalks were. But we do now.

Because we're parents, and we see the world through entirely different lenses. Case in point: A few months back, New York City unveiled a monument to all of America's Nobel Prize winners near our home, in the small park behind the American Museum of Natural History. Now, if we had no children, we'd think to ourselves, "Well, this monument may resemble an inflated, off-color fire hydrant, and it sure seems to be an utterly pointless addition to our neighborhood, but on the bright side, it only took 15 months to construct." But since we're parents, we see things differently. And so every time we pass by the monument, we can't help but think, "Well, we can't let Tiny Girl run down this path anymore, because someone seems to have dropped an old Land of the Lost prop on it, and she'll crash right into it and get transported into a different dimension." Or we think, "Wow, this used to be an ideal spot to come with Small Fellow to play ball or blow bubbles at the end of the work day. Too bad someone dropped a gigantic granite sex toy right in the middle of the plaza and inscribed it with the names of every American winner of the Nobel Prize. Maybe they could have just handed us a pamphlet of some kind . . . "

July 27, 2004 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS


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