Produced by Gary Drevitch
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU A DEATH TRAP, MAKE LEMONADE
The 12-year-old who died after riding Disney's "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster" in Florida the other day turns out to have had a congential heart defect, according to preliminary autopsy conclusions. (Also, as it happens, there have been at least 15 Disney-ride deaths since 1989.) This has been the determination, actually, in several of the recent theme-park-ride deaths, which makes one wonder whether Disney shouldn't license its rides to cardiologists as medical-testing equipment, because if you do happen to have an undiagnosed congenital heart defect, there's nothing's better than a Disney ride to bring it out into the light of day.
OK, CAUTION IS CAUTION, BUT WE CAN'T REALLY GET BEHIND THE MESSAGE THIS IS SENDING TO AMERICA'S FARMERS
The National Zoo, in what we'll conservatively call an excess of caution, has relocated the ducks and chickens from its children's petting area. This, of course, is to protect visiting children from the avian flu. Which the animals don't have. And which no bird in America has had, as far as we know. And if one did, it wouldn't bloody likely be any of the ones living in a zoo.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S ROLLER COASTER
Disney theme parks claim another victim: A 12-year-old has died after riding the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney MGM in Florida. This appears to be the fifth recent Disney-ride death. In tomorrow's papers: Disney spokespeople will explain why the death was the victim's own damn fault and why their theme parks require no state or federal regulation.
AND THE GOOD NEWS JUST KEEPS COMING FOR DISNEY
Three Orlando-area theme park workers [two Disney, one Universal] were suspended on Monday after an online sex sting operation in Polk County. . . the men carried on graphic online chats for months with those who they believed were young teenage boys or girls.
IT'S CLEARLY THE WORST POSSIBLE SYSTEM - EXCEPT FOR ALL THE OTHERS
The New York Daily News weighed in with an editorial the other day (the link crashed our browser three times, so we won't burden you) on the state of the city's gifted-and-talented programs, just as we prepare to offer Tiny Girl up to the admissions process next fall:
Klein has set out to establish a uniform, citywide process for determining which kindergartners, first- and second-graders are admitted to special classes for bright children. . . The chancellor says he plans to establish a system in which every district would administer the same IQ test to 4- and 5-year-olds, supplement it with evaluations by nursery school teachers, combine the scores and admit children in rank order. This would start with the 2007-08 school year, and therein lies the first difficulty. . . Designing a test could take years; picking one off the shelf could take months. How the department expects to give the test it eventually selects to children too young to read and write is more problematic. The work is ordinarily done by psychologists trained in questioning young kids, and they meet regularly to try to ensure that all children are similarly tested. Without great care, deploying inexperienced in-house staff could undermine fairness. . . Finally, weighing preschool evaluations is dangerous, particularly where competition is fierce. Parental pressure on the upper West Side last year drove some preschools to give every student top marks. . .
The editorial is an effective summary/introduction to the problems which will face families seeking entry to the G&Ts for Fall 2007. This fall, the city will roll out its third different model for placing youngsters in three years. Last year's model - based on the city's dangerously subjective Gifted Ratings Scale - was a failure, for the reasons stated above. And the editorial doesn't even mention other citywide G&T concerns, such as whether school placement will involve sibling or catchment (neighborhood) preferences. Since the city has gone back and forth on those questions from year to year, the sense of G&T placement as a pure crapshoot grows and the department's credibility lessens. Of course, we expect Tiny will do just fine . . .
TAG, YOU'RE . . . COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR MIND!
According to USA Today, more elementary schools are banning competitive and/or contact sports like tag and soccer, "in the name of safety."
In January, Freedom Elementary School in Cheyenne prohibited tag at recess because it "progresses easily into slapping and hitting and pushing instead of just touching," Principal Cindy Farwell says.
Wow. Sounds like someone's basing school policy on her bad first-date flashbacks. But Ms. Farwell would really hate the game FD used to play before the start of middle school: Two groups of guys would stand on opposite ends of the school playground, fill their hands with whatever pebbles, rocks, and refuse they could find, then hurl the projectiles at each other. Good times, good times.
WE ACTUALLY SAW THIS COMING LAST SUNDAY WHEN BECKHAM SCORED ENGLAND'S WINNING ROUND-OF-16 GOAL AND THE CAMERAS FIXATED ON POSH CHEERING (OR WAS IT CONVULSING?) IN THE STANDS
Victoria Beckham, nee Posh Spice, footballer's wife of British star David Beckham, is in the public eye once again as the Union Jackers advance in the World Cup, which means teen girls across Britain are looking in the mirror and feeling fat:
. . . it is feared that the 31-year-old's ultra-slim figure is making her a 'thinspiration' for anorexics. The mother of three . . . is cited by many sufferers from the eating disorder as the celebrity they would most like to look like - and she has been hailed on pro-anorexia websites. . . [one poster] said: "I envy her thin legs and chest. She has beautiful bones sticking out of her chest."
HOW ABOUT THIS MODEST PROPOSAL: DON'T BAN THE STUFF BECAUSE IT'S FATTENING. BAN IT BECAUSE IT'S COMPLETELY DISGUSTING
Massachusetts' long nightmare is over: The much-ballyhooed proposal to limit the availability of (locally-produced product) Fluff in school cafeterias has been withdrawn.
CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITIES FOR ALICE'S "EAT ME," "DRINK ME" SCENES ALONE
Legendary comics creator Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) is working on
a "porno-graphic" novel in which Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz meets Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Wendy from Peter Pan, and . . . they tell each other X-rated versions of their stories while having hot sex with each other.
And it sounds bloody brilliant. Moore has mined this territory before, and mined it well. His League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which is to the extremely ordinary movie based on it as the Bible is to The Ten Commandments) brought together some of the darkest characters in Victorian fiction (Mina Harker, Captain Nemo, Mr. Hyde) to great and gruesome effect, and in his hard-to-find satirical series Top Ten, he answers the questions all comics readers have asked at some point, like what really happens when Mr. Fantastic gets it on with the Invisible Woman?
The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, which holds the rights to Peter Pan,
claims it must be asked permission for any use of characters like Wendy
- and presumably would not give it to Moore - but he says bollocks to
that. Consider Lost Girls at the top of FD's Amazon wish list whenever the notoriously slow Moore gets around to finishing it.
APPARENTLY, THE BREAST MILK CREATES AN IMPENETRABLE FORCE FIELD AROUND THE BABY, PROTECTING IT IN THE EVENT OF ANY DANGEROUS FALLS
We don't often take the temperature of the blogosphere, but the recent rollickingly irresponsible
Science Times article equating formula-feeding with smoking during
pregnancy drew a huge amount of fire. The Times implicitly acknowledged
its problems with an extraordinary half-page letters feature
the following week. The letters blasted the paper for insensitivity,
since many women are simply unable to breastfeed, either for physical
reasons or because they need to keep their jobs to support their
Now, as big-time blogger Daniel Radosh has pointed out, George Mason University's Stats.org has shown that, in re one of the article's money shots, yes, babies who are formula-fed, "are less likely to die. . . of injuries!"
We recommend reviewing Stats.org's point-by-point dissection of the
Times piece. For our money, the largest question it raises is why the
American Academy of Pediatrics, relied on as an honest broker by
millions of parents, chose to endorse some of the misleading
conclusions that appeared in the Times. Hardly anyone disagrees that,
all things being equal, it is probably better for babies to be
breastfed in the first year than formula-fed. And the AAP is right to
promote that view to new parents in its many materials. However, in
describing fomrula-feeding, it's a long way from "less preferable" to
"life-threatening." One hopes that the academy isn't willfully signing
on to misinformation to meet the ends of promoting breastfeeding. We'll
all be less poorly served if the academy can't be trusted to tell it
like it is.
WELCOME TO KIDSSAYTHEDARNEDESTTHINGS.COM
Before we enjoyed a night of Broadway theater the other night ("Lieutenant of Inishmore" - recommend it highly; not so much for cat-lovers), we called Fellow from our pre-show dinner, and had this exchange:
"We're seeing a show tonight."
"Is it a classical?"
"You mean musical? No, it's a play."
"Is it on Broadway?"
"Yes, it's a Broadway play."
"Oh, I want to see a classical on Broadway! I've only seen shows on Amsterdam! It's not fair!"
WE'VE SAID IT BEFORE: WE DON'T CONSIDER OURSELF TO BE ONE OF "THE
CRAZY PARENTS" WORRIED THAT OUR KIDS WILL PLUMMET TO THEIR DEATH FROM
THE PLAYGROUND SLIDE. BUT THE AMUSEMENT PARKS, THEY CONTINUE TO GIVE US
And this just in from Stockton, CA: A six-year-old falls to his death from a ferris wheel at a county fair.
OK, YOU HAVE TO GET PAST THE INEXPLICABLE HIRING OF DAVID BLAINE
AS THE CELEBRITY ENDORSER, BUT ONCE YOU DO, THIS IS A GREAT PROGRAM
You don't have to ask us twice to sing the praises of the New York
Public Library's children's activities. We've already thrown ourselves
into the 2006 version of the outstanding Summer Reading Program. Stop
by your local branch library
and register your child now for the full set of summer activities and
corporate-sponsored giveaways. Our branch started the season with a
mini-read-a-thon: As soon as we filled up a sheet listing about 10
books each kid had read (Fellow) or had read to them (Tiny), they
presented it at the neighborhood Barnes and Noble where they could each
choose his or her own free copy of a popular paperback book. Tough to
As for Blaine, he slipped out of his straitjacket and chains long enough to share his love of literacy and enclosed spaces:
Blaine spoke to children gathered in the reading room of the Brooklyn Public Library Park Slope Library, the very room where he first developed a love of magic.
"My Mom was on her own and had to work several jobs, so I came here and read about Houdini and other magicians. In this library, I got lost in the world of books and developed a love for magic," said the world-famous magician. "I can tell you from my life's experience: Books are a treasure and the library is truly a magical place."
REGULAR READERS OF THIS SITE WILL UNDERSTAND THAT HE DOESN'T GET THIS FROM US
This morning was kindergarten graduation, and it was quite a scene: Each child read from the "books" they had written about their first year in school; there was a musical performance (God bless them, they memorized the entire 12 months full of "Chicken Soup and Rice" songs); and, of course, the presentation of diplomas. The highlight, though, was after the formal ceremony, when blank pieces of construction paper had been set up around the room, one for each child, for classmates to write messages to each other (or dictate them to their parents to write). Fellow led us around the room, insisting that we write something nice to each kid for him - at one point, we suggested that he didn't have to write something to everyone, and he looked at us with shock and alarm: "But it wouldn't be fair to the other kids if I didn't write something to everybody!" And so he stopped at every paper and pondered the essence of each peer before dictating, "Tell her, 'I like you hair,'" or, "Say, 'I like your smile,'" or, "I love your artwork."
It was quite touching -- and, we imagine, the exact opposite of a high-school yearbook signing party.
"WELL, LAST WEEK WE SHOWED YOU HOW TO BECOME A GYNAECOLOGIST. AND THIS WEEK ON 'HOW TO DO IT' WE'RE GOING TO SHOW YOU HOW TO PLAY THE FLUTE . . . YOU BLOW THERE AND YOU MOVE YOUR FINGERS UP AND DOWN THERE."
Fellow's kindergarten teachers are clearly fans of the famous Monty Python sketch. As an end-of-the-year project, they had each student make their own "How To" book. Fellow's was typical of the set:
"How to Drive a Space Shuttle or Rocket Ship"
by Small Fellow
First you get the rocket ship or space shuttle.
Then you get on the ship.
Then you go to the moon.
WHY WE DO IT
We like telling the kids true stories about our own time growing up, and since our mother died, they've taken these glimpses into our family history very seriously. For example, we once told Fellow and Tiny about how when we were a boy and our own dad worked two jobs, he came home later than our bedtime, so we would draw him pictures or write him notes and then leave them under his pillow. Soon after, we began coming home from work ourselves to find drawings and hand-made cards under our own pillow. And you can't beat that.
Happy Father's Day.
HAPPY GENTILE FATHER'S DAY
Frustrating lunchtime outing today - went to the store for Father and Grandfather cards for our own Dad - but since he neither fishes, golfs, fetishizes his toolbox, or dreams of NASCAR glory, what's there for him on the Father's Day card rack? Really, nothing. Can't someone put out a line of cards depicting a shvitz, or a printing calculator, or a bowl of pickles on a deli table? Anyway, we found a couple of desultory, generic cards and returned to work in time to see the special "Father's Day" lunch at the cafeteria - pork with macaroni-and-cheese. We're having a hard time feeling the love.
FATHER'S DAY WILL BE VERY SPECIAL IN THE SENATE THIS YEAR - AND NOT JUST FOR THE ANNUAL PATERNITY SUIT AGAINST TED KENNEDY
Six U.S. senators: Evan Bayh, Chris Dodd, Bob Bennett, Lincoln Chafee, Lisa Murkowski and David Pryor — three Democrats and three Republicans — currently represent the same state his or her father once did in the Senate.
AND WE THOUGHT SMALL FELLOW HAD PROBLEMS
Highlights magazine is turning 60 this month, and is also celebrating the impending sale of its billionth issue. While it's always tempting to poke fun at the squarest of all American magazines, we'll resist the urge, because Fellow loves his Highlights and its Hidden Pictures. And if you've ever wondered where they get their ideas for Goofus and Gallant, it's basically the same place Freelance Dad gets his story ideas:
[Editor Christine French] Clark says the magazine's goal is to "make sure that every child who picks up a copy of Highlights sees his or her face in the pages. . . ."
That sensation was once all too literal for Clark's daughter. Several years ago, the girl, then 9 years old, was perusing a copy of Highlights while riding in a car with her mother. Goofus was depicted as forgetting to deliver an important message to his mother -- the same omission the girl had recently been guilty of.
Suddenly, Clark heard her daughter gasp. Then came the accusing cry from the back seat: "You're using me as a model for 'Goofus and Gallant!' "
BREAST-FED CHILDREN ALSO FLY UNDER THEIR OWN POWER, CONVERT LIGHT TO ENERGY, AND NEVER FORGET THEIR MOTHERS' BIRTHDAYS
Science Times collects every piece of research ever conducted - old, new, dubious, reliable, and otherwise - on the advantages breast-fed babies hold over formula-fed babies. The conclusion? A senior science adviser at the federal Department of Health and Human Services may be correct when she speculates, "Just like it's risky to smoke during pregnancy, it's risky not to breast-feed after." That's right: If you use baby formula, you're no better than a smoker. You might as well leave your baby sitting alone in a meadow during a lightning storm for all you apparently care about her. You might as well bring her to a drop-off play date at Britney Spears' house. It's all part of the Times' corporate sponsorship of "Make a Formula Feeding Mother Want to Kill Herself Month." E-mail the Times now to get your commemorative bookmark.
AND CHILDREN EXPOSED TO "TUESDAY NIGHT BOOK CLUB" ON CBS LAST NIGHT MAY NOT BE ABLE TO SLEEP FOR A WEEK
Five- and 6-year-old children who watch television, especially police dramas, news broadcasts and movies directed at adults, have a markedly increased risk for sleep problems, a new study suggests.
This explains a lot, but it's terrible news for Tiny Girl, a perennially poor sleeper who often finds herself lying on the couch late in the evening, watching perps do unspeakable things on "Law and Order" and keeping herself awake with questions like, "Mommy, why did they shoot that lady?"
FOR YOUR CHILD'S SAFETY THIS SUMMER, FD.COM RECOMMENDS CHUTES AND LADDERS
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has come out with a list of the summer sports which injure the most kids. Basketball is number one, with about a million annual summer injuries. However, the study doesn't tell us what percentage of kids playing a given sport suffer injuries. For example, trampoline caused only about 211,000 injuries - but we're thinking that sounds like about a 100% injury rate. Stay off those things.
ALSO, MACARONI AND CHEESE FOUND MORE FILLING THAN BROCCOLI
No, the Times breaks no new ground with this story:
Child Restraint Seats Found Safer Than Seat Belts
But there is one piece of useful information here. People often ask us, "Freelance Dad, you must know: How long does my child need to remain in a front-facing car seat or booster seat?" The answer: Until he or she is 4 feet, 9 inches tall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
CONSTRUCTION SITES HAVE ALSO REPORTED A RASH OF CINDER BLOCK THEFTS, AND POLICE SAY THERE COULD BE A CONNECTION
Hundreds of thousands of milk crates and plastic trays are stolen from dairies and bakeries across the country each year - not to decorate dorm rooms, but to get at the recyclable petroleum-based resin used to make them.
WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE DOING TAKING HER KIDS TO SEE "RV," ANYWAY? WE THOUGHT SHE HIRED PEOPLE TO DO THAT
Give Caitlin Flanagan credit: She could have criticized the execrable Robin Williams vehicle "RV" just for sucking, like everyone else did, but in the Wall Street Journal (article not available online) she blasts the film on religious grounds. Apparently there's a fundamentalist Christian family encountered along Williams' RV journey whose beliefs are sent up as an object of ridicule, offending Flanagan, who was sitting with her two boys:
At one point, as the Munros [Williams' family] attempt to escape the Gornickes [the fundamentalists], Mrs. G. calls after them, “Do you wanna hear about the time Jesus saved us from a hurricane?” . . . .
I felt anxious because Mrs. G. was expressing a concept — that Jesus has the power to spare people from disaster — that my children hear regularly in our home and at our church. Fortunately, as with so much of the movie, nobody laughed, and I was not forced to explain why our faith was being mocked.
I felt angry that I had paid good money to have my children exposed to the comedic potential of religious intolerance. If the joke had been anti-semitic I would have stood up and taken them out of the theater. If the joke had been anti-Muslim, I would have called the fire marshal. But it was just a joke about us — dopey old suck-it-up Christians — so I stayed put.
Point well taken, Caitlin. Honestly. But now let's explore the religious tolerance being displayed in your line, "If the joke had been anti-Muslim, I would have called the fire marshal."
HAPPY FLAG DAY - FROM YOUR CO-OP BOARD
Today is Flag Day, which for this flag buff is one of the nation's great minor holidays. We've always secretly dreamed of having a home with our own flagpole on which we could display the stars and stripes, in strict adherence to the Flag Code, and only on authorized days. It had actually never occurred to us that we could fly the star-spangled banner outside of our co-op apartment, until we read this piece in the Times the other day - which, sadly, is mostly about why our co-op board could probably force us to take the flag down. If we were half the man we were 10 years ago, we'd drop everything and go to work pro bono for the Community Associations Institute in Alexandria, Va., a national organization of homeowners' associations seeking to overturn rules that prevent Americans from displaying Old Glory:
"The Community Associations Institute strongly believes that all Americans should have the opportunity to display the U.S. flag to demonstrate their patriotism and support of our country," [spokesman Frank] Rathbun said.
PRESIDENT BUSH: FILTHY LICE LOVER. (TRY TO SPIN THAT, ROVE)
In one of our favorite articles in a while, The Wall Street Journal blames President Bush and his No Child Left Behind policy for leaving America's children defenseless in the face of lice infestations. The Journal claims that NCLB rules, which mandate 95% attendance on standardized testing days (which, of course, now means most school days) are forcing schools nationwide to reconsider longstanding policies requiring infested students to stay home as long as a week to get lice-free, and to then provide a doctor's note verifying that they are fully deloused. Some districts now allow students to return to school as soon as they can produce a box top from an over-the-counter remedy, whether or not they're completely lice-free. (With five box tops, they get a free Louie the Louse bobble-head doll, for just $3.95 shipping and handling.) While some medical authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have gone on record declaring lice to be more a nuisance than a public-health issue, and therefore beneath their interest, the Newton, MA-based National Pediculosis Association will have none of it, and calls the new policies tantamount to neglect: "It's not prudent, it's not sensible and it's not logical to turn away."
HOPEFULLY, THE SITUATION WILL RESOLVE ITSELF ONE WAY OR ANOTHER BY THE TIME SHE TURNS 12
Tiny Girl has been having some nether-region rashes and discomfort lately. So her pediatrician advised that she no longer wear anything under her pajama shorts when she goes to bed. Simultaneously, however, she's taken an interest in wearing some hand-me-down little-girl nightgowns to bed. So you can see the problem we now face . . .
PESKY CHILD-REARING PROBLEMS LIKE WHAT, BEING TAKEN CARE OF BY CARIBBEAN WOMEN?
From the New York Sun:
An investment banker from London is importing a small team of well trained British nannies to help with Manhattan's most pesky child-rearing problems.
Instead of going to work full-time for one family, Urban Nurture's nannies will go from apartment to apartment, consulting with parents about specific concerns. It's just like having "Supernanny" come into your home, but without the nationally televised embarrassment - that is, unless people find out what you're paying these guys. . . or unless they read between the lines of the company's publicity material:
Urban Nurture is offering New York City parents . . . the world-class childcare services they have long deserved . . . . where the best of proven childcare traditions, like the British nanny institution, are reinvented for 21st century New York.
Thanks, but no thanks: We don't want any uppity tart showin' up on our doorstep, whisking away the kids in 'er umbrella, and associatin' 'em wi' filthy chimney sweeps and the like. No, sir, we're a good Dad, we are.
PAPA RONALD, WHAT DID YOU DO DURING THE WAR AGAINST FAT?
Wendy's announces that it will drop the oil it uses to cook its french fries and chicken nuggets and switch to a trans fat-free replacement. The restaurant will begin selling products made with the new oils in August, putting its larger competitors to shame:
McDonald’s Corp. pledged four years ago to switch to an oil that would cut in half the level of trans fats in the top-selling chain’s fries. However, Chief Executive Jim Skinner said in April that the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company was still testing the oil and did not know when they would make the change. A McDonald’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Corporate one-upsmanship aside, though, there was one disconcerting note from the home of the curiously square burger:
Wendy’s also has to train workers on how to use the new oil, which has a shorter shelf life than the old one.
Which has to make you wonder, exactly how long do Wendy's franchises keep cooking oil on the shelves now?
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK, HE'S BEEN MEAN FOR YEARS
At Slate this week, Emily Bazelon reviews Dr. Ferber's revised sleep guide, and finds reports that the Sandman has softened in his old age to be greatly exaggerated. To summarize:
- OK, fine, so don't let them scream more than 30 minutes, whatever.
- You really want to co-sleep? Knock yourself out, moron.
- You may have read that the worst thing you can do to a screaming toddler is close the door on him. Now, please go and close the door on him. "Then stay on the other side of the door and hold it closed as needed."
- Your kids aren't listening to you? Well, maybe you have the most willful children in the world, that's definitely a possibility. Or maybe, as Bazelon paraphrases Ferber:
. . . if you have difficulty setting limits, you 1) don't understand their importance; 2) feel guilty—do you travel too much? 3) are using your child's wakefulness to avoid your spouse; or 4) are drug-addicted, sick, or depressed.
BUT WE DO HAVE SOME GOOD NEWS: WE’RE SAVING A BUNDLE ON OUR TUITION BILL BY SWITCHING TO PUBLIC
It's official. Tiny Girl will leave her elite, Upper West Side nursery school - the kind people will humiliate themselves on Nightline to get into - and enroll this fall at Big City Elementary, which is offering the only full-day public pre-K in our district. The only downside is, turns out Big City didn’t really want to have a pre-K at their school – they don’t currently have one - and so their planned Welcome Wagon for their littlest students this fall includes: No art, no music, no gym, no afterschool activities, and - really adding insult to injury - no naps, no treats, and no hugs. But Big City’s principal and parent coordinator are leaving this month, so perhaps a new administration will show some mercy on the kids. Should be an interesting season.
THE NEXT MORNING, AS WE GOT READY FOR WORK IN RELATIVE PEACE, TINY SCREAMED, "MOMMY! DADDY! COME QUICK! COME INTO MY ROOM!" WHEN WE RUSHED IN, SHE PROUDLY POINTED TO FELLOW'S BED AND SAID, "LOOK: NO FELLOW!"
Small Fellow had his first sleepover the other night, way out in Flatbush, Brooklyn, with one of his earliest childhood friends, and by all accounts it was a smashing success. The highlight for us, though, was when he called home right before his bedtime and said in a nervous little voice, "I have to talk to Daddy for a little while before I go to bed."
FRANKLY, IT’S STILL A MUCH BETTER CAMPAIGN THAN THE UNION’S CURRENT APPEAL TO YOUNG FANS: “HEY, KID, CAN I BORROW A VIAL OF URINE? I’VE GOT A BIG GROWTH HORMONE TEST THIS AFTERNOON”
The Major League Baseball Players Association is trying to revive kids’ interest in baseball cards, but it will be an uphill battle. This article details the rise and fall of the card business, which to our mind mimics that of comic books: During the early-to-mid-80s collectibles boom, new companies flooded the market with cards, and everyone joined an arms race to produce fancier, more expensive products, eventually exhausting and pricing out the kids who always have to be the base of the business plan, no matter how much adult interest there happens to be at a given moment.
(And did it bother anyone else that as card companies invested more and more in hard-stock, laminated cards with sharper colors and superfluous holograms, they stopped proving what, for us, had always been the most interesting, and fun, part of the card – a player’s lifetime stats?)
The new campaign has players encouraging kids to actually do stuff with their cards, like trade them, flip them, read them, or play proto-rotisserie games with them – contradicting the main advice kids have been getting about cards for the past 15 years, which is, Get them under plastic quick and don’t even look at them again until you retire. One has to like the new approach to the marketplace better:
…studies showed that kids were confused by the vast array of cards on the market. So last year, the players association cut back the number of licensees to two -- Topps and the Upper Deck -- and cut by more than half the number of cards sets produced to 40 from 89.
You may wonder why the players union is so concerned with the decline of card collecting that it’s spending $3 million of its own money on a national media campaign. You may imagine it’s because they want to build their young fan base, or to reconnect kids with a cherished childhood pastime, but you’d be out of your mind. Fact is,
This is a big issue for the union because trading cards are its top revenue source from licensing, generating more money than clothing, videogames and online fantasy leagues.
Now, that is old school.
AT THE MOVIES WITH SMALL FELLOW: “CARS"
We escorted Fellow to an 11 am showing of Pixar’s new feature “Cars,” as part of a classmate’s birthday party yesterday, and contrary to the negative reviews in the papers last weekend, we’re happy to tell you that the movie works: The anthropomorphized cars are believable, the scenery is staggeringly well-rendered – the film takes place around a fictionalized Monument Valley – and, as always, the biggest laughs come in the after-the-credits bits of business, in this case, a series of brief sendups of past Pixar films, with all the beloved characters replaced by cars. And while the plot is 1000% predictable once you get 15 minutes in, it’s not predictable for six-years-olds – it held their attention for close to two hours and they were on the edge of their seats during the climactic race.
A few quibbles: There were so many previews and Pixar shorts before the film began that at one point, Fellow stood up and yelled to everyone, “This is the wrong movie! It’s not “Cars”! We’re in the wrong room!” Also, fully enjoying “Cars” depends a little bit on being able to figure out what the Hell is going on in a Nascar-style race, which means some subtleties of the racing scenes (such as they are) will be lost on Northeasterners like, say, Freelance Dad. And, unfortunately (spoiler alert), the moral at the film’s conclusion - when Lightning McQueen wins by losing, by giving up his lead and pushing “the king” across the finish line – was lost on Fellow, who said his favorite character was “the green car,” Chick Hicks, because he actually won the race. But, Fellow, what about Lightning, who pushed the other car across the finish line – wasn’t he a good sport? “But he finished third!"
COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU: UTTER CRAP
We could not have imagined a more dispiriting set of trailers than the bunch we sat through before “Cars.” First, Paramount’s coming out with a live-action “Charlotte’s Web” (based on “the most beloved children’s story of our time”), done “Babe”-style, with Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte. Can’t really go wrong with that source material, right? Well, the producers apparently weren’t so sure, so they took care to punctuate the trailer with a big old fart joke, because everyone knows nobody could write flatulence like E.B. White.
And then there were two trailers for virtually identical, and identically frantic, animated movies in which animals attack, in one case, a group of deer hunters, and in the other, an insect exterminator. (Are Fox TV programmers getting a royalty for the “When Animals Attack” concept?) Julia Roberts plays an ant in the latter, “The Ant Bully,” the trailer for which climaxes with a pair of insects crawling up the pants leg of an exterminator, voiced by Paul Giamatti. As you see them moving up his leg, you hear one say to the other, “Hey, this looks like something to bite,” and then they chomp on his testicle and he screams for a minute and a half. Take the whole family.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’re not a member of the Christian Coalition, but we’ve gotta tell you, at this point, we’ve been a parent for going on six years and, all due respect to the producers of children’s films, there is nothing whatsoever charming about a little kid playing blue, or a movie encouraging him to do so. Fellow has been punctuating his speech lately with “Oh, God” and “damn,” and it is just unpleasant. “Cars” is not a great film - we’d prefer watching “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” and happily, so would Fellow and Tiny – but it doesn't pepper its screenplay with any of this business and that’s reason alone for Pixar to be considered today’s gold standard for animation.
"WHERE DOES AN 800-POUND GORILLA MUNCH?"
"ANYWHERE IT WANTS!"
Organic cereals may or may not conquer the breakfast market, but Fellow and Tiny have a new favorite cereal, and it’s organic, gluten free, and sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice. The name's Gorilla Munch, it’s a dead ringer for Kix, and when there’s a box in the house, it’s what’s for breakfast until it’s gone. Although FD sometimes longs wistfully for his childhood breakfast bowl, a Rice Krispies-Apple Jacks combo that wouldn’t get past the front door today.
"ATTENTION, CVS STAFF, ATTENTION: WE NEED A VACCINATION ON AISLE 2. RUBELLA VACCINATION, AISLE 2. THANK YOU."
Primary care is franchising, as hundreds of mini-clinics are opening up in CVS, Wal-Mart and other stores, offering $30 flu shots, $45 ear-infection treatments, and driving business to their pharmacy desks. In this article, the medical establishment expresses some conflict-of-interest concerns over just that in-store connection, as well as the risk of nurse-practitioners (who typically man the clinics) missing more serious health issues. But mostly, they’re afraid that Wal-Mart’s going to break them like it has everyone else in its path.
HER BIRTH STORY WOULD TOP YOURS – IF ONLY SHE COULD TELL IT
A pregnant Italian woman kept alive for 78 days after a cerebral aneurysm caused her brain death delivered a 1.5 pound baby girl two months ahead of her due date, then passed away.
THANKS, BUT WE’VE ALREADY GOT A RING TONE WE NEVER HEAR
A few months back, everyone got excited when a Welsh inventor came up with the idea of using a high-pitched tone most adults could not hear to repel teenagers from hanging out where they weren’t wanted. Now his technology is being used by teenagers as a ring tone only they can hear. When the “Mosquito” tone goes off in schools, adult teachers can’t hear it, and the kids can pick up their text messages without attracting detention.
SIR, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THE RUCKUS?
A pair of Carolina Panthers defensive stars have opened a pair of Christian day-care centers, called Ruckus House, where we presume misbehaving tots are often told, “Hey, this is the NFL, which means ‘Not For Long’ with that attitude, understand?"
HEY, IN A PURELY DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM, IF THEY CAN GET THEIR BOYS TO AGREE TO DO ANYTHING OTHER THAN PLAY YU-GI-OH, THEY’RE DOING GREAT
At the Brooklyn Free School, there are no grades, no tests, and no formal classes. All kids in all grades (even K) have an equal vote in setting school policies, and all have the right to do whatever they want in school (even play some video games), whenever they want – everything, that is, except have Fellow and Tiny as classmates.
THIS WON'T BE A PROBLEM FOR OUR NEW BABY, BECAUSE OF COURSE FREELANCE DAD IS ONLY 27
Sorry, old dads, but the Science Times does not even try to sugarcoat it for you today:
As men get older, their sperm deteriorates, a new study has found, and it is likely that the damaged sperm of older men is a significant factor in certain specific birth defects and in increasing the risk of abnormal pregnancies.
[Click here for the full study, via Slate]
"I TRIED TO CHANGE A POOPY DIAPER ONCE. . . BUT THE ODOR WAS HUGE. . ."
Barron Trump is 10 weeks old, and his father says he hasn't changed a diaper yet.
WE ALL KNOW WHERE THIS RELATIONSHIP IS HEADED
The Times reports this week on the maybe-trend of private teachers
being hired to educate the children of the city's elite one-on-one in
their homes. Of course, child stars and actors have long used such
services, but what's striking to us is the realization that even at
$70-$110 per hour, private in-home teachers cost just about the same
per year as some of the city's leading private schools.
And you even save about $40 you'd have otherwise spent on a yearbook.
MOMS, WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR, DO YOU SEE BRITNEY SPEARS?
There's a predictable - and, we begrudgingly admit, wholly justified - backlash against the national tittering about Britney Spears' maternal foibles. Parenting magazine ran an online survey which showed 75% of moms felt the media had been too harsh on the hillbilly superstar. As one told AP:
"If someone was watching me 24/7, I'm sure they would find any number of things I've done that would be questionable," [Stacey] Thaler says. "Almost dropped my kids? Definitely. Raising kids is hard — no one can really stand in judgment unless they're much closer to the situation."
OK, JUST ONE MORE: WHEN BRITNEY READ THIS PIECE, SHE ASKED, "NOW WHY WOULD BEIN' BIRTHED IN THE MORNIN' HURT A BABY?"
As Babies Are Born Earlier, They Risk Problems Later
NO, REALLY, THIS IS DEFINITELY THE LAST ONE: HASBRO ANNOUNCED IT STILL PLANS
TO MARKET THE BRITNEY SPEARS MOMMY PLAY SET, COMPLETE WITH TOY WINE
COOLERS AND FIRST-AID KIT. CAR SEAT SOLD SEPARATELY.
Hasbro is shelving plans to produce a line of Pussycat Doll dolls
for girls. In its statement, the company claims the Dolls' record
company had plotted out a "creative direction and images for the group"
focused on "a much older target" than Hasbro had anticipated, and so
the release of the dolls for young girls would be "inappropriate." Just
so we're all clear, the Pussycat Dolls is a pop group based on a
Credit for unintentionally hilarious line of the day goes to MTV,
which began its report on the Dolls with this: "It looks like the
Pussycat Dolls won't get their plastic makeover after all."
ALSO RECENTLY UNCOVERED BY THE TIMES' INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS: MANY EMPLOYEES SURF NON-BUSINESS-RELATED WEB SITES WHILE ON THE JOB, AND MANY PEDESTRIANS CROSS THE STREET BEFORE THE SIGN TURNS TO WALK
Turns out, many parents sometimes put their children in front of the TV just because they feel like they need a break from them.
Fellow's first sleepover is coming up tomorrow. Check back later this week for the report.
NO-TV WEEK UPDATE
Fellow's No-TV Week, as mandated by his public school library, continues to deliver startling results. For example, morning at FD.com HQ usually begins with one child or the other rising first and coming out to the living room to demand TV. If it's Fellow, he'll request "a science show." Then Tiny will come in, see astronomers or paleontologists on the screen, and scream "NOOOO! I want a kid's show! I want a kid's show! Aaargh!" Similarly, if Tiny wakes first, and we put on "a kid's show" for her, then when Fellow joins us, he can be expected to moan, "Hey, I want a science show! It's not fair! It's never fair!"
Which is why the tableau before us yesterday morning was so shocking: Both children, denying themselves TV, got dressed and then worked together to assemble a series of puzzles on our office floor. If that wasn't enough, then came -- the compliments! First, Tiny said to Fellow: "You look very handsome today," then Fellow, fishing for a friendly response told her, "YOU really look like you're ready to get your picture taken today!"
This morning, for the final day of No-TV Week, Tiny awoke first and since she's been struggling with a cold for a couple of days, we gave her medicine and allowed her some viewing time. Then Fellow woke up, heard the distinctly grating sounds of "Caillou," and stood stock-still in the hallway, out of sight of the set, with his hands on his ears, until we turned the TV off and he could enter the room without breaking his vow of avoiding TV all week.
All in all, it was an impressive experiment, and we look forward to repeating it again some other week when there's nothing on that we want to watch.
HOLD ON. ISN'T THIS THE SAME THING THE MONSTER SAID TO THE TOWNSFOLK AT THE END OF "YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN"?
"That sent the wrong signal to people," Bush said. "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know." The biggest mistake, Bush said, was the abuse of inmates by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
WON'T YOU HELP THESE HOME-SCHOOLED KIDS DISCOVER THEIR BODIES?
If you're home-schooling your kids, what do you do for phys. ed? According to the Times, many families facing that conundrum look to private classes, and not just because the coaches are skilled:
Even at $37 a class, parents are happy to let someone else instruct their children. ''As a home schooler, you don't get those breaks from your kids,'' said [Raina] McGrath, who works out or socializes with other mothers for the hour. ''It's more like a break for me.''
Really want a break? We can tell you how to get the kids out of your hair for up to six hours a day. . .
FOR A WHALE OF A TIME
As we reported after our Cape Cod vacation a year ago, for education and entertainment, the New Bedford (MA) Whaling Museum is about as good as it gets for your family museum dollar. The latest installment of the Times' "36 Hours" series seconds that opinion, and then struggles mightily but largely succeeds in figuring out what the Hell else to do with the family in the former whaling center. The big news for our Hamptons readers seeking a quality day trip:
Starting July 1, you can take a ferry from Montauk, N.Y., via Block Island, R.I. (631-668-5700, www.vikingfleet.com).