Produced by Gary Drevitch
AND THE MOVIE THEATER AT SYMPHONY SPACE IS NAMED FOR LEONARD NIMOY, WHICH IS A LOT COOLER THAN THE GEORGE TAKEI PORT-A-JOHN AT THE CONSTRUCTION SITE ACROSS THE STREET HERE
Dan Zanes is one of our favorites here at FD.com HQ, as we've discussed previously. His annual shows at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side have become "family reunions," as he's called them. We attended the early Saturday show there when he was in town last month, and it was a triumph. Our one grievance, albeit a major one, was that the late afternoon audience got special guest star Suzanne Vega contributing her brilliant "Erie Canal" from the first Zanes album for kids, "Rocket Ship Beach." But Fellow still had a great time, and he even got Zanes and bandmate Cynthia Hopkins to sign his copy of the newest Zanes CD after the show. (It's a fine album, but not really a "kid's CD" and certainly not the place to start your Dan Zanes collection; "House Party" will fill that bill better). We were disappointed that we couldn't convince Fellow to get an autograph from alluring Zanes sidekick Barbara Brousal, but those are the breaks.
In any case, in what we see as a significant sign of the rise of the respect being given to music for kids, and its audience, Symphony Space is launching a city-wide campaign using Zanes and his band as its new public face. The ad can be seen here, and it looks like everyone's having fun.
IN LESS GOOD NEWS FOR QUALITY KIDS MUSIC . . .
Time Warner Cable offers digital cable here in the city featuring about 45 music channels from Music Choice. Each channel represents a different genre or era of music (opera, big band, 70s, metal, etc.) and the For Kids Only station had been one of our favorites sine the birth of the Fellow. Kids Music played Dan Zanes and other modern kids music interpreters, along with songs from Sesame Street and other kid shows and musicals. If there were a few too many celebrity Muppet duets, so be it. Our major gripe was that there were too many songs from those execrable Kidz Bop albums - the ones in which a chorus of kids on speed re-record godawful pop songs somehow managing to sound even worse than the original artists.
Well, good news/bad news: We don't have to worry about Kidz Bop songs on the channel anymore. Because it's been dropped from the Music Choice lineup and replaced with the live feed of Radio Disney, aka all Hillary Duff all the time. If I were the man I was five years ago, I'd take a FLAMETHROWER to this place!
HOW TO FLUMMOX YOUR PRESCHOOLER: PART ONE OF AN ONGOING SERIES
1. Find his favorite CD.
2. No, we mean favorite; he has to have listened to this disk from beginning to end no less than 75 times - this week.
3. Tell him you're going to put the CD on for him. Otherwise, act normally.
4. Insert the CD into your stereo.
5. Press RANDOM
6. Retreat to the couch and await the flummoxing . . . It may take one or two songs, but it will come.
DON'T LET THE EVIL ONES WIN (NO, THAT'S NOT A DELAYED GET OUT THE VOTE EXHORTATION)
We've previously dealt with the arrival in stores of the V.Smile TV Learning System, the friendly orange game console created for no other apparent purpose than to train 3-to-7-year-olds to become rabid consumers of video games. Now the marketing strategy is laid bare:
"We have been looking at data that shows that kids at an earlier and earlier age are starting to play video games," said Julia Fitzgerald, vice president for marketing at VTech Electronics North America. "We wanted to know how we could make this phenomenon work for Mom."
"Companies have found that there was an untapped market with the really
young kid," said Vicky Rideout, a vice president of the [Henry Kaiser] foundation.
... Peter Dille, senior vice president for worldwide marketing at THQ ...
noted that the influx of young video game players "helps to feed in new gamers
all the time."
"It's great for us, introducing kids to video games at a young age," said Joe Brisbois, a game producer for Sony Computer Entertainment America in Foster City, Calif.
Oh, shame, shame, shame on you, business guys. We're not claiming a moral high ground here - Small Fellow plays his share of games on pbskids.com and noggin.com. But we have no plans to introduce the concepts of the console or the game cartridge/CD for at least a few years.
No matter what these companies claim about the educational value of their soul-sapping games, there's simply no way that their products offer any advantage to a four-year-old over Lincoln Logs, Connect-the-Dots, or ViewMasters. Except for training kids to be consumers of expensive game systems, of course.
THE SILICONE SKELETON IN SMALL FELLOW'S CLOSET (ACTUALLY, HIS MOUTH)
We have enjoyed contributing articles to Parents magazine for going on four years, and we've also enjoyed reading the magazine to find the advice of other parent-contributors. One long-running disconnect we've had with the magazine, though, is its generally conservative estimates of the ages at which kids are ready to move to whatever next developmental stage, or at which they can be expected to do certain things by themselves.
Well, now we've learned that it all evens out. Yes, when we saw the article on playground apparatus, we scoffed at the magazine's advice that no kids under five should do half the things that Tiny Girl already does without supervision. But then came the November issue and its feature on pacifiers. As the article reports:
Most babies wean themselves at 6 or 9 months when they start to crawl and become more interested in other things they can grab and touch. . . Giving up her Binky for naps and at nighttime may take a little longer, but it should lose its appeal by the time she's 2.
Hmm. Then again, here at FD HQ, we're just hoping that the pacifier will lose its appeal for Small Fellow by the time he's 4 . . .
WE DON'T WANT TO GET INTO A PISSING CONTEST (AND, YET, WE DO NEARLY EVERY DAY)
A significant percentage of Small Fellow's spells of misbehavior can be traced to his occasional willful delays in going to the potty. To encourage him to go when he must, we often cash in on our fame by offering him the opportunity to accompany us to the salle de bain, where we both find relief, as he puts it, "cross by cross." Toward the end of every session, Fellow takes it upon himself to declare a victor, who is, of course, the one "who had more." Ninety-nine out of 100 times (and, yes, at this point we're counting in the hundreds), Small Fellow is the victor. On the other occasions, he declares a tie. But what's really shocking to us is how difficult it is to repress our competitive instincts and accept his verdicts without screaming in protest that our splashy victory has been denied us. Still, we hold our tongue, because of the sheer ridiculousness of it all. What shall we do, bring in a third-party, impartial judge? Who, Tiny Girl? We think not.
We only bring this up since it is apparently skeletons in the closet day here at FD.com, and because one of our greatest fears has recently come to pass: Fellow has suddenly begun relating tales of our cross-by-cross competitions to friends, family, dogs, and people on the street. We stand exposed.
IN PART TWO OF OUR SERIES, IS YOUR CHILD PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE TO DEMON RUM? AND IN PART THREE, DON'T LOOK NOW, SNOOKER IS BACK!
The Times has turned its keen investigative eye on the suburbs and discovered . . . teenage boys playing poker! And not just any kind of poker, but that foul temptress, Texas Hold 'Em! Your 13-year-old could be playing Hold 'Em in Johnny Parker's basement right now!
Actually, this article, bafflingly placed on Page 1 just two days before the election, makes a case, backed by numerous parents, but not so many experts, that poker is a harmless, wholesome, and even inexpensive - pardon?! - pastime. We know where our kids are, we know what they're doing, and in this day and age, blah blah blah. Some parents interviewed were bold enough to praise poker for fostering concentration and math skills.
Listen, we started playing poker with friends in the backs of junior high classrooms when Texas Hold 'Em was something cowboys did out on the range but never talked about back at the ranch. We think poker has great benefits for kids, socialization being prime among them. But if any parents believe the most wild claim made in this article - that the boys in question typically only spend $5 or $10 in a marathon evening of play - they're in Texas-sized denial:
"They play for $5, so when it's done, they're done."
"I usually win, but when I lose I walk away."
We don't plan to prevent Small Fellow from playing poker with his pals when he's older, but we won't put blinders on, either. At some point, he'll lose, and lose big. How he reacts to it, what he chooses to tell us about it, and whether he can pull himself away from the table - those are the lessons he'll learn. The math he'll get in school.
THE NEXT SOUND YOU HEAR WILL BE FD TRANSFERRING ALL OF OUR ORDERS TO AMAZON.COM
Leonard Riggio, the chairman of Barnes and Noble, had an election eve op-ed in the Times on the flood of political books that took over his stores in recent weeks. But if you (sensibly) stopped reading after his first no-news-here insight - "the humor category is dominated by liberals" - you'd have missed this:
Citizens on the left, also believing the news media is out to get them, play a
few tricks on bookstores themselves. A favorite tactic is to remove books by the
likes of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, et al., from the shelves in the politics
section and hide them in a subject area that gets limited traffic (see
HEY, YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT, BUT WE'VE DONE THE RESEARCH, WE'VE TALKED TO THE EXPERTS, AND IT ALWAYS COMES OUT: VACCINATIONS GOOD, IRRATIONAL FEARS BAD. AND YOU'LL HEAR FROM US IF WE CATCH THE FLU FROM YOUR UNPROTECTED TOT.
But if you want to hear the other side of the argument, be our guest.
THE SECRET LIFE OF PARENTS OF SICK KIDS
It's a fairly open secret that many of us love it when the kids get sick. Not SICK sick, mind you, but a little cold, a little fever, even a dollop of spit up? Sign us up. We love them in sickness and health, but 80% of the time, in health means noise, disorder, disobedience, and a general level of enthusiasm which in any other circumstance would lead us to change buses. But when they're sick, and sad? Oh, then they are sweet sweet sweeties. They don't cry, they whimper. They don't yell, Leave me alone! They mutter, Please come and pat my head. And they snuggle. Oh, how they snuggle.
Downside, of course, is that all the snuggling will deliver their cold to you as reliably as a Fresh Direct order, but it's a fair price. Last night, as Small Fellow worked through a slight cold and fever, he rested for a while in the early evening on the FD.com bed. When FD and Loving Mother came to sleep later, the spots and stains on our pillowcases just screamed, Step Right Up, Right This Way for the Malaria!
BUT WHEN YOU'RE FD's AGE, THE ONLY DEODORANT FLAVOR YOU LOOK FOR IS "MASKING."
Boys as young as upper elementary grades (at least those without parents) are catching the Axe Body Spray bandwagon. As The Wall Street Journal reported the other day, these Still Fairly Small Fellows are seeking "The Axe Effect," as can be seen in the company's commercials, all of which involve beautiful women throwing themselves at any man, beast or coat rack sprayed with the alluring scent. If the product actually had this effect, we're sure most 12-year-old boys would avoid it like algebra. But it doesn't, so they don't.
The Journal article goes on to recall past preteen boy perfume fads. We were part of the Ralph Lauren Polo generation ourselves. But the new generation, built to handle multiple streams of data and information, have taken it to a new level:
The new body sprays come in multiple versions or, as teenagers call them, "flavors." So even boys on tight budgets are buying more than one scent, which they apply at different times to suit the occasion.
HEY, MAYBE MICHAEL JACKSON IS ONTO SOMETHING (WE MEAN WITH THE UBIQUITOUS GLOVES, NOT THE UBIQUITOUS SNIFFING AROUND OF THE SMALL FELLOWS)
Speaking of germs, the Times Business Travel page last week had an eye-opening item on the risks of handling money overseas, or over here. Apparently, money handled by dirty hands is always a suspect in "wrenching gastrointestinal illness." And American dollars are no less risky. During a meeting of the American Society of Microbiology, researchers collected and tested 68 one-dollar bills, found that 90% harbored illness-causing bacteria, then tore up the bills, put them in a hat, tapped it three times, and magically returned them to their original pockets.
If you're into the idea of raising neurotic kids, share the story with them. We're considering it, if for no other reason than to scare Small Fellow from offering our dollars in multiples to every street musician we encounter, even those just traveling on the subway with their instruments in their cases . . .