Produced by Gary Drevitch
TODAY'S WEB SITE THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD
Best-selling business writer and "agent of change" Seth Godin has launched changethis.com, a Web site dedicated to disseminating "manifestos" from thinkers both notable and obscure. The idea is that bloggers will spread the ideas around the globe and, soon enough, the world will change.
The first batch was released over the weekend and includes "Kill Your Children" by Tyler Lackey, an indictment of the "agricultural-marketing complex" that has duped our children into consuming nutritionally valueless sugared drinks and which apparently has plans to fatten up our children's children as well.
The basic point is indisputable - no one, especially kids, should consume high-calorie sodas and "fruit drinks." But Lackey ignores the fact that active kids who exercise don't get so fat, even if they drink some soda. He says a soda a day will add 120 pounds to your frame in a decade. But we all know people who drink a soda a day, and most of them aren't carrying a spare 120 pounds. He also posits that when you throw a kid's birthday party, you'll be run out of town on a rail if you don't offer kids Coke and Sprite, with a couple of bottles of water "for the nerds, the geeks, and diabetics." Wow. Apparently this fellow lives on the floor of a Coca-Cola bottling plant because that hasn't been our experience. Lackey's posted bio says that he gave up soda at age 26, and allows his 4 and 6-year-old kids one soda a month. OK, hero, but FD has a kid who's almost four and he's not going to be let anywhere near a soda other than seltzer for years.
While reporting for an upcoming article on children's nutrition, FD spoke to leading pediatric nutritionists who firmly believe these drinks are Public Enemy No. 1 in the fight to keep kids from getting fat and sick. Much more on that when it's on newsstands. In the meantime, this manifesto is a decent, if hysterical, introduction to the issue.
FINALLY, AN ANSWER THAT TOPS "ASK YOUR MOTHER"
Here's the thing about dinosaurs: They're huge, your kids love them, and you don't know much about them. That's why we should all applaud the efforts of Chicago's Field Museum to figure out just how T Rex grew so large. Apparently, teenage T Rexes (Rexi?) were quite a handful, growing five tons between the ages of 14 and 18. Among the clues researchers used to come to this conclusion were the massive troves of Sunny Delight bottles and Fritos bags found among T Rex fossils.
WELL, IT'S COOLER THAN A MEDICALERT BRACELET
In case you missed it, this story of survival on a small, crowded wooden boat adrift between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic is truly chilling, particularly the heroism - and mistreatment - of the lactating mothers on board.
IN A RELATED STORY, JIM McGREEVEY RECALLED SOMETHING OR OTHER ABOUT HIS FORMER SECURITY ADVISER
Britax has a major child-seat recall. See if you should be concerned here.
BUILDERS USED THEM TO BUILD A SIDEWALK, BUT AFTER EVERYONE STARTED WALKING ON IT, IT GREW INTO A SUPERHIGHWAY
Just like FD, the government of India favors limiting population growth. Unlike FD, it has put its latex where its mouth is by distributing 900 million free condoms to its citizenry. Too bad no one's putting them where New Delhi intended. Builders, pavers, weavers, and soldiers have all found better uses for them. Which has prompted us to get right to work on an update of our best-selling 1997 book, "101 Industrial Uses for Prophylactics."
NEW YORK'S STRONGEST
Maybe it was lingering 9/11 emotions, but we taught Small Fellow a while back to call his local firefighters "New York's Bravest," the police "New York's Finest," and our sanitation workers, "New York's Strongest." (Don't get him started on garbage trucks; he wants FD to learn their routes so we can follow them around the city all day watching them load trash.) Sure, it's hokey to put all these guys on a pedestal, but then you read a story like this one and realize there are plenty worse things to teach your kids.
SEX AND THE SINGLE OLYMPIAN
[This letter was posted on the Romenesko media-news Web site last night.]
From GARY DREVITCH: The New York Times today jumped on the bandwagon hyping the sexual angle of the Athens Olympics with its front-page story on female Olympians posing for pinup shots, and its online slide show featuring several of those cheesecake photos. And why not? Nearly everyone else has already reported on the possibilities for sexual liaisons in the Olympic Village, down to the number of condoms to be distributed and speculation on which athletes might have the most sexual stamina. (Swimmers seem to lead the field.)
As I see volleyball star Logan Tom in a tiny bikini on the cover of FHM, reproduced in the Times, I think back to my own experience with her four years ago, when I was an editor at Teen People and helped to produce the magazine's 2000 Olympic preview. We assembled a collection of America's youngest Olympians (Serena Williams got the cover) and had them shot at sites around the country by the same talented photographer who produced FHM's new portfolio. But given the age of some of the athletes, and of our audience, I was taken aback by the frankly sexual poses in which some of them were placed. At the USOC training facility in Colorado Springs, I interviewed Tom during her photo shoot. Then a Stanford freshman, Tom was the youngest member of the 2000 squad. She struck me with her humor, her humility, and her awkwardness. She was not used to talking to the national media - our interview was one of her first - and that made for one of the most open and pleasant exchanges in our series. The shoot was another story. She had never done anything remotely like it, and as she looked at her wardrobe choices and saw the makeup job done on her face, she grew uncertain, reaching out to her USOC handler for assurance that she wasn't doing anything she would regret. But she was talked through it, and the photo got done. Four years later, Tom is all grown up, bantering with FHM about clubbing with her teammates and losing her bikini at the beach. In one photo inside the magazine, she's shot from behind, wearing only a bikini bottom.
Unlike in 2000, the American women are legitimate medal contenders in Athens, with Tom one of their most fearsome weapons. And as she has grown into a leadership role on her team, she's apparently also grown comfortable with the expectations set for female athletes seeking attention for traditionally marginal sports. In all senses, she's learned how to play the game. And the media is happy to play along.
ON NEWSSTANDS NOW
FD has an item on the "Dads" page of the September issue of Parents, on taking your preschooler to visit your local police and fire stations. And it's not the first time we've written for the magazine about the importance of community and introducing children to their protectors.
OUR STATE FAIR IS A GREAT STATE FAIR
A county fair is a terrific day trip for the little ones - like an amusement park, carnival, petting zoo, and food court rolled into one, and served with a dollop of country hokum. We visited to Wayne (PA) County Fair over the weekend, and took some new photos for the other site - Rated T for Tractors. If you're looking to feed your jones for pig racing, horse pulling, or bunny petting, visit this thorough online guide to fairs all across this great nation.
LET THE MEETING OF THE FUTURE SNITCHES OF AMERICA CLUB COME TO ORDER
When we drop by the home offices of Scholastic Inc. on business, we always fill our backpack with spare copies of pre-K and kindergarten magazines to occupy Small Fellow on road trips. This weekend, as dinner at a Pocono region restaurant dragged on, and on, we pulled an old issue of Let's Find Out called "People on the Go" out of our backpack.
The issue's back-page visual discrimination exercise asked Fellow to look at a picture of a busy neighborhood and "circle the silly things." Now, among the very silly images on this page were a car riding on tires made of pizza, a bear on a bus, and a rowboat atop a tree. To his credit, Fellow spotted most of these anomalies. But he also told us that a dog running down a sidewalk was silly. Why? "It doesn't have an owner." And a hot dog stand (not a cart; more like a shack) was silly, because "it doesn't have a door." Curious, we sent his responses to a career counselor. She has advised us that Fellow is best suited to a career as a "gadfly."
YES, THIS IS BRILLIANT, AND INSPIRING. I'M STILL NOT BUYING ONE.
The LeapPad gets a new mission helping to teach Afghan women about basic health care.
CAN YOU HEAR ME LYING NOW?
The New York Times was all over the map with its editorial the other day about Cingular Wireless' "Escape-a-Date" service. The new feature allows you to program your cell phone to call you during a blind date and give you voice prompts to help you trick your companion into thinking you have to leave urgently. Silly enough, and obviously for people of low character. Fine. But the Times seems somehow offended that liars are now able to take advantage of automated services. Escape-a-Date is:
another step forward in the institutionalization of lying, for those who lack the mental wherewithal to lie for themselves.So your concern is a lack of imagination? Um, excuse me, paper of record? It's Freelance Dad here, trying to raise kids who tell the truth, and asking you to keep your eye on the ball: The problem isn't that cell phones are making it too easy for people to lie. The problem is (wait for it) that people are lying!
Flailing its arms wildly as it tries to crack open some pinata full of morality with the editorial, this very brief item also summons up this nightmarish vision of our wireless future:
It's easy to imagine a whole new series of automated cellphone services . . . [such as] "Disappoint a Child."Yes, that's right. We know that when we've been saddled with a particularly Dickensian moppet, hungrily slurping her gruel across the table from us at Balthazar, we can't wait for the prearranged call from Cingular:
"No, no, don't apologize, You did the right thing calling me. Now tell me exactly where you are." ...
"OK, got it. I'll be right there. Stay calm." ...
"Sweetie, I want you to listen to Daddy now. That was Elmo on the phone. He's fallen down a well and he needs Daddy to come rescue him, so I've got to drive to Sesame Street right away. Now, you go ahead and finish your gruel, and then Marcel will bring you some Nilla Wafers. Don't worry, Daddy paid the check already, and here's $20 for cabfare home, OK? Now you be a good girl, brush your teeth and go right to bed and Daddy promises he'll give you a call tomorrow. Gotta go now, before Elmo chews off his foot."
FD.COM: AD-FREE SINCE 1966
The Children's Museum of Manhattan is a jewel for Upper West Side families, an interactive feast for young hands and minds. And yet, we've recently received an unsettling series of invites from CMOM's membership department for special events sponsored by baby-product companies. Like most museums, CMOM relies on corporate sponsors to mount its exhibits, but these special events clearly put the institution in the position of product endorser. For example, the latest invite sounds like a virtual Tupperware party for Evenflo:
Please join the Evenflo Safe Baby & Toddler Council for an educational roundtable discussion on infant learning and development. This interactive workshop will bring together a diverse panel of industry leaders to share their expertise on important developmental issues and demonstrate practical tips to help today's time-starved parents maximize learning time with their children.We're not calling for a boycott, but a family membership at CMOM is pricier than for most other museums or attractions in town. It wouldn't hurt their image to tone down the sales events.
You'll also be the first to see the new Evenflo SmartSteps line – an entire suite of products that are designed to encourage the learning, interaction and social activity of infants and toddlers. Your infants and toddlers are invited too -- the new products will be on hand to "test-drive."
In a scene straight out of a David E. Kelley courtroom drama, one of the actor's defense lawyers actually donned a Tigger costume as part of his closing argument, to show the jury how difficult it is to maneuver, or even see straight, in the bouncy, trouncy tiger's skin. This scene is sure to be ripped from the headlines for TV soon. In fact, in the pool for which fictional defense attorney will be the first to wear a mascot costume in the courtroom this fall, I'll take Rhona Mitra, in a tight-fitting panther suit, in the season premiere of "The Practice" spinoff, "Boston Legal."
BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF FD'S FAMILY
Just kidding. I mean, I suppose we may someday announce that we're going to have a new baby, but, I gotta tell you, that's not going to be until after Tiny Girl stops coming into our bed to throw up on us . . .
AND OUR NEXT-GENERATION CARTS WILL EMIT A POWERFUL ANESTHETIC VAPOR TO PROVIDE A NEARLY CHILD-FREE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
If you believe a good DVD is the cure for any potential parenting problem, have we got a shopping cart for you. UK supermarket chain Tesco is preparing to introduce carts with built-in screens so parents can play movies for their children as they trod the aisles. Apparently, shopping is so boring and tantrum-inducing for British tots that the only solution the chain can think of is to purchase a fleet of what one can only assume are preposterously expensive and glitch-prone electronic shopping carts. (And while the store seeks to improve the experience for non-parents by cutting down on tantrums, have they considered the effect of having "Spy Kids" blaring full blast from carts in every aisle?)
FD has taken Small Fellow and Tiny Girl to supermarkets in several states, sans DVDs, and has never had much trouble. The tantrums that have developed can generally be traced to non-shopping-related issues, like wet diapers or the sudden disappearance of Loving Mother around the corner. But that could be because we tend to patronize supermarkets that hand out a lot of free cheese and cracker samples . . .
THE PRIME OF MISS JANE BRODY . . . WAS LONG AGO
Jane Brody's Personal Health column in the Times' Science section consistently offers sensible advice for parents, on nutrition, illness, discipline, and other critical issues. One just wishes she wouldn't introduce every column with a sanctimonious lecture about how well she raised her own kids three decades ago. A few months back, she berated us all for not raising low-fat, veggie-loving, physically-fit kids like her own two golden boys (and, yet, they never call).
Now she's back with a column on television viewing that opens with four paragraphs of scolding before she gets to anything approaching a point. Her finger in full waggling mode, Jane intones, "Unfortunately, our experience with television is rarely duplicated these days." OK, Jane, we surrender: You're a better parent. You have better children. (Her boys even "knew more about wildlife than the leader of a trip to Kenya"! Now, you might ask what that has to do with your personal health, but Jane would rap you across the knuckles with a ruler for your insolence.)
Still, the main points of yesterday's piece, if not original, are still valid. One tip is to "make sure young children know that TV characters aren't real." We're not sure if Tiny Girl grasps this yet. But last weekend, she watched episodes of "Monk" and "The 4400" with us. (Sorry, Jane, but here's FD's policy: If she's still awake at 10:00, all bets are off. The TV comes on, and she gets to watch with us while she falls asleep.) In the "Monk" episode, she saw a character staggering around bleeding from a screwdriver stabbing. In the latter, she saw a home destroyed by firebombing. Her response to each was the same: "Uh-oh!"
UPDATED CHILDREN'S SONGS, PART ONE
Our exhaustive study of nursery rhymes has found many of their lyrics to be utter gibberish. And so we present the first in an ongoing series offering our readers more relevant words for classic children's tunes.
Today's installment: "I'm a Little Filthpot," with new lyrics inspired by Tiny Girl's fondness for shoveling playground sand into her clothes and onto her hair:
I'm a little filthpot, short and stout,(Readers are welcome to share their own versions of this or other nursery rhymes. If your lyrics are published here, you'll win a one-year subscription to this free site.)
I get so filthy, when I go out,
If you clean me up, then I will shout,
I'm a little filthpot, short and stout.
We're new to summer day camp in the city, but Small Fellow's first experience is teaching us how times have changed: In FD's day, he'd take a peanut-butter sandwich (on pumpernickel) in his King Kong or Six Million Dollar Man metal lunchbox. Today, that would get FD sent home on two counts: First, the peanut butter, which has been banned from many day camps because of the allergy risk for other campers, and, second, the metal lunchbox itself. Fellow's camp doesn't put it in writing, but other neighborhood camps do explicitly require soft padded lunch sacks. The authors of the forthcoming book, "Lunchbox: Inside and Out," date the banning of metal lunchboxes to the late 1980s, when schools began to see them as potential weapons. As a child, FD never considered using his box as a weapon, but often fantasized about his Adam-12 lunchbox taking a bullet for him. (And if we can pretend for a moment that this is one of them 70s nostalgia blogs, don't you have to love a cop show whose iconic moment, immortalized on its lunchbox for all time, is the kid who got his head stuck in the bars of a metal fence? As we recall, that's about as dangerous as it got for Kent McCord and company.)
(PS on the peanut-butter ban: We've been pleasantly surprised by the taste, texture and affordability of our PB substitute of choice, Trader Joe's Roasted Soybean Butter. Ask for it by name, but only if you're in a Trader Joe's, because that's the only place you'll find it.)
FOR THEM, A HAPPY MEAL IS ANY MEAL WITHOUT YOUR KIDS
If you're in the Rochester, NY area looking for lunch with the kids, and imagine that the restaurant up ahead must be family-friendly - after all, it's called "The Village Pig" - don't be fooled. Just keep on driving.