Produced by Gary Drevitch
AS ALWAYS, IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO KEEP USA TODAY AWAY FROM YOUR CHILDREN
There's another one of those "interviews" with a "Sesame Street" character, in which the beloved childhood friend is made to offer up faux-celebrity-cliche punchlines for the adult audience. Today's victim: Grover.
Q: Kids are looking forward to your new movie.
A: I have a new movie? Really? Michael Moore didn't make it, did he?
Q: No, no. It's a DVD called A Celebration of Me, Grover, with all your friends from Sesame Street saying what a great guy you are and remembering all the jobs you've done. It's all about you.
More TV bashing today from MSNBC, via the latest study on attention deficit disorder. Not only might early-childhood TV watching be a key factor in ADHD, but even the cited experts' "more moderate" suggestions include banning TV for kids under 2, limiting it to an hour per day for youngsters over 2, and eliminating television "background noise" altogether. Still, it's the cold water thrown on the study's frightening conclusions that we find most intriguing:
ADHD expert Dr. David Rabiner of Duke University [says], “At this point there’s a compelling body of evidence that suggests that it’s genetics that plays the biggest role in ADHD. Not bad parenting.” While some research has been done to determine if there are links between ADHD and environmental factors, as well as nutrition, sleep disorders, exposure to toxins and certain prenatal conditions, Rabiner says the connections have consistently been found to be weak or nonexistent. “I think it’s a gross misunderstanding of the recent study to jump to the conclusion that television watching leads to ADHD,” says Rabiner.
We had such a lovely early evening with Small Fellow and Tiny Girl last night - taking the bus to the New York Society Library to get eight new well-chosen books - that when we got home, we decided to open a box of Annie's organic mac-and-cheese, a dinner treat we'd not made in at least six weeks. And with full, happy bellies, we all did some puzzles and went to bed more or less on time.
And then Tiny Girl woke up at 2 a.m., threw up her entire pasta portion on the doorstep of FD's office, and stayed awake until 4:00. So, tonight . . . it's back to chicken and string beans.
SUFFICE TO SAY, THIS DOESN'T JIBE WITH OUR OWN EXPERIENCE
According to a RAND Corporation study, teens who watch television with sexual content are twice as likely to engage in sexual intercourse than their peers who watch only the Food Channel. Shows in which sex was talked about but not depicted were found to be just as dangerous as more explicit programs. The overexposed teens are also far more likely to initiate sexual encounters than peers who limit their primetime viewing to ESPN Classic.
We at FD.com would never question the veracity of a study by the estimable RAND Corporation. All we can say is that we watched television with sexual content almost exclusively as a teenager, but it did not lead us to have a higher level of intercourse than our peers, or make us any more likely to initiate encounters. We guess we were just lucky.
But since this is above all a service Web site, here is expert advice from RAND psychologist Rebecca Collins, directed to parents having trouble determining if their teen might be watching too much sexually-explicit programming:
"The best way for parents who are trying to figure out what is a lot versus little is to realize that the average (U.S.) child watches about three hours of television a day, and that the heaviest rates of sexual content are in prime time which is probably what those hours are made of."
In an online poll, Brits have named Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his intrepid assistant Beaker their favorite onscreen scientists. The Muppet researchers outpolled Mr. Spock, Doctor Who and Dr. Evil, among others. In other news, several dozen British fans of "The Muppet Show" flung themselves to their deaths after going online and discovering this image.
CHILDREN'S MUSEUM ROUNDUP, PART ONE
We brought Small Fellow and Tiny Girl to children's museums in two boroughs this weekend, starting with the Brooklyn Children's Museum, located nowhere near the closest subway stop in "the charming, brownstone-filled neighborhood of Crown Heights."
This is clearly an institution biding its time, exhibit-wise, as it prepares for a $39 million expansion that will bring it above ground for the first time in almost 30 years. (Yeah, the museum is underground, which probably seemed like a great idea back in 1977, a time before new research emerged to show the benefits of sunlight and fresh air to children, but also, to be fair, an era when dystopian films like "Logan's Run" inspired a bunker mentality among architects of children's museums around the world.) *
The museum's current special attraction is a well-done exhibit on traveling, which was transferred whole to Brooklyn from a Canadian museum, complete with its bilingual displays, for all of the native French speakers one typically encounters in Crown Heights. As for the permanent displays, even though none appear to have been updated (or even tidied up) since 1998, they still make the museum an above-average play space for kids, with a separate area for tots, some nice locally-themed interactive video features, a modest animal-and-plant menagerie and, our favorite, a complete mock pizzeria, where children can take an order on the phone, construct a pizza out of felt on a real tray, pop it in a faux oven (Small Fellow: Why there's no door on the pizza oven?), sprinkle ersatz spices on it, deliver it on a tray to a row of tables, and even fix a drink from a pretend soda machine. Why, they'll still be enjoying themselves long after you've run out of synonyms for "faux"!
* HEY, IT'S OUR FIRST ASTERISK POST
Speaking of "Logan's Run," is there any more telling example of Hollywood's obsession with youth than the fact that, in the remake of this movie, scheduled for release sometime next year, instead of facing a law mandating euthanasia at age 30, citizens are barred from living past 21? We suppose that the role of "The Old Man," portrayed by Peter Ustinov in the original, will now be taken by Ashton Kutcher.
CHILDREN'S MUSEUM ROUNDUP, PART TWO
We also brought Small and Tiny this weekend to the Children's Museum of Manhattan, whose main space has been turned over to an enormous, state-of-the-art Dr. Seuss exhibition that wins you over almost literally by hitting you over the head. And in a truly brilliant programming decision, the museum's entire bottom floor has been made into a space where families can play with Kapla blocks. And that's it. You sit together with a big box of blocks and you build, which, after the saturation of the Seuss show, is exactly what you want to do. Perfect.
FD AND TINY GIRL AT THE MOVIES
Tiny Girl shows signs of becoming a promising TV and movie critic. Her capsule reviews ("I like it, Daddy!" or "I don't wanna watch it!") are direct and to the point, if perhaps not as catchy as "Two thumbs up." Occasionally, though, we have differences of opinion, as we did the other day when we tuned into the last half-hour of "Escape from the Planet of the Apes."
As soon as Tiny saw Dr. Zira and Cornelius running about, she said, "I wanna watch monkeys, Daddy!" to which we felt obligated to respond, "But, sweetie, the president's Senior Scientific Advisor is about to shoot the monkeys down in cold blood. You don't want to see that, do you?" She paused to consider my argument, then said, "I wanna watch. . . Zoboomafoo!"
SURE, HE'S A WEASEL, BUT COURTS HAVE SIDED WITH WEASELS BEFORE
The NY Daily News reported Saturday (article not online) on the case of "Weasel" dad Jose M., who went to court to be relieved of the responsibility of paying child support for two boys his ex-wife had with other men, but for whom he had willingly acted as father for several years. The two boys were conceived during periods Jose and his ex-wife were separated. The paper reports:
"He should not be permitted to have the children declared illegitimate for the sole purpose of furthering his own self-interest by avoiding child-support obligations," a five-member Appellate Division panel said Thursday. . . . The court found that because Jose acted as the boys' father since birth, he cannot force them to undergo DNA testing to help in his bid to stop paying child support for them - even though he knew they were not his biological children. . . . Jeannette became pregnant with Thomas, born in 1987, and Daniel, born in 1990, while separated from Jose. But Jose welcomed the kids as his own, even signing their birth certificates, according to court papers. . . . According to court records, the boys were devastated when Jose severed his relationship with them in 2000.This strikes us as an interesting case. FD is no expert on family law, or any other kind, but doesn't it tend to give weight to biology over other considerations? We have no problem with the appellate court's decision, but we're not entirely sure it's correct. And isn't there at least one other biological dad out there? Thoughts, class?
WE'D HEARD OF SUCH A THING, BUT WE'D NEVER SEEN IT WITH OUR OWN EYES
We'd read about the Christian themes that are a quite intentional part of the animated series "Jay Jay and the Jet Plane," a show whose videos and DVDs are marketed in different ways to mainstream and Christian audiences. As the NY Times reported several months back, "Jay Jay" videos are sold by Columbia TriStar under titles like "Good Friends Forever," but by Christian media mogul Thomas Nelson as "Fantastic Faith" or "God's Awesome Design," complete with ancillary materials pointing out the connections between episodes and specific Bible verses.
All of which is fine with us. "Jay Jay" is not a show we've encountered often, but it's mild and moraled and, overall, not so unlike "Bob the Builder." But the other morning we caught an episode in which Jay Jay and his pals got to talking about a mythical city in the clouds. Jay Jay was skeptical that such a place could exist, because he'd never seen it. His friends challenged him: Can't you believe in something even though you've never seen it? Jay Jay wasn't sure. Then, he experienced either a dream or a really high-altitude flight (we're not sure; we were busy trying last season's long-sleeve shirts on Small Fellow) that took him right to that city in the clouds. There he met the prince of the city, and yeah, you know where this is going. In the end (spoiler alert) he decided he does have faith, and all was well in Tarrytown.
INSERT YOUR VI*GR* JOKE HERE
More oldsters are feeling the urge to have kids, according to the Christian Science Monitor. The Monitor reports that "it can. . . simply take a while for a guy to decide it's time for him to be a dad." Some men had other priorities during their peak childhood years, some didn't realize until later that they should have a family, etc. Yeah yeah yeah . . . and a lot of them were just complete jackasses. There's no news here: A lot of men refuse commitment as long as they possibly can, that is, as long as they can still get the occasional 23-year-old office assistant to sleep with them. Then they get past 40, discover that the steno pool has dried up, and suddenly discover a suppressed, even burning, paternal instinct. And they come crying for sympathy to the Christian Science Monitor because no one will bear children for them, even with all they have to offer: "In touch with his feelings since 2003 -- John Johnson is the right man to impregnate you."
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN . . . COUNTERPOINT
There's new survey from The Children's Society of Britain which has gotten a lot of press over there because it makes a strong case that a lot of worthless jackanapes did in fact find a way to have children, apparently for the sole purpose of beating their brains out in cricket. The survey reported that not only do British children not play with their parents enough, but many kids don't even want to play with their overcompetitive dads. The Telegraph's reporter did an admirable job finding unsympathetic parents to support the survey's results, like this unnamed father of two:
I don't think I am overly competitive but it is better my children learn to lose with someone who cares for them. You have got to get the balance right. Most children are very bad losers and I say to mine, 'you could say well done to me occasionally.'
Yeah, friend, the children are bad losers, not you . . .
Simon Day, a comedian who created the character of "Competitive Dad" on British TV, also spoke of the dad who inspired him:
These two little kids [at a swimming pool] said, 'do you want to race, dad?' and he just tore off and beat them really easily and left them floundering in the pool - drowning while he waited at the other end, really proud of it.
FD, on the other hand, looks forward to the day Small Fellow can beat us in a footrace, or a swim race, because, on that day, perhaps we can finally stop running and swimming.
In the meantime, we don't really "let" Small Fellow win the games we play, but we do play a lot of games where we each have a reasonably equal chance of winning, like Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, and card games like Concentration and Crazy Eights. He wins some, he loses some, and it seems pretty obvious that that's how he's going to learn. And when he gets tired, he says, No! I have to win!, and then we try to find something else to do. For us, if we lose a game like Candyland, our ego can handle it. It's not like he's beating us at Galaga . . .