Produced by Gary Drevitch
COMING SOON: "SPIDEY!: THE MUSICAL"
Instead of quitting while they're ahead, after miraculously producing at least two successful Spider-Man movies, Marvel now plans to bring Spider-Man to Broadway for what will surely be a colossal flop. The musical production will be directed by Julie Taymor, who, as we understand it, plans to have Spidey fight off an army of puppets to save Mary Jane and his own childhood. Bono is already attached to the project and plans to write original music, but we hope he'll consider a remake of "Eight Arms to Hold You," recorded by the Goon Squad for "The Goonies," as it would make a perfect love ballad for Doctor Octopus and Aunt May.
In other Spidey spinoff news, comics maven Evan Narcisse at Time Out New York Kids recommends "The Amazing Spider-Man Pop-Up" as "a history lesson" to help your kids "realize just how long Spider-Man has been amazing." We'll take his word for it, and put it on order.
And in even further Web-slinger news (what, is there a new movie coming out?) April 30-May 6 is Spider-Man Week in New York City: "A Hero Comes Home." There is an exhausting lineup of activities planned, all of which Fellow is demanding to attend. Thanks again, Marvel!
PRODUCT FEATURE OF THE MONTH
Lately, Loving Mother has been bringing home Cookie magazine, Conde Nast's relatively new upscale parenting bible. The April/May issue has a one-page product feature called "Rip-Off Artists," all about kid bandage design, from Curad Superman Bandages to Duct Tape Bandages, and, of course, the obligatory green choice, EcoGuard Bandages. Completely fun idea, elegantly executed (but apparently not available online).
SPEAKING OF GREAT PRODUCT FEATURES. . .
Parenting celebrates its 20th anniversary this month with a look back at "20 Great Products" released since its first issue, including the Crayola Washable Marker (1987), the Gymini (1993), the Snap-N-Go (1994), the Playtex No-Spill Sippy Cup (1994), and the Medela Pump in Style (1996). Reading the list really brings home how ubiquitous some of these products have become, and can only make one wonder how phenomenally wealthy they must have made their inventors. . .
We read about this in last month's Parents magazine and immediately put it on order: The Whale Faucet Fountain attachment from busywoman.com. It apparently attaches to your sink's faucet, and, when you flip it up, turns the water flow into a water fountain for kids, or parents. It promises to keep kids from drinking right from the faucet (like we did every day as a kid) or having to share the same germ-infested cup for days at a time (like Fellow and Tiny do now). We'll let you know how it works when it arrives.
BEST. TAX. EVER!
Albany is considering a tax on New York pet owners. They would:
pay a little more for milk bones, squeaky toys, hamster wheels, catnip, birdbaths, and other supplies for their loyal companions . . . . the statewide tax would be slapped on wholesale products for the following animals: dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, and caged birds.
The tax would be used to fund animal shelters, among other things.
Which is great with us—anything to keep our own tax dollars from paying for benefits for
pet owners as opposed to our own children. Our argument being that
while money spent on kids eventually benefits the state in the form of tax revenues collected from healthy, educated citizens, public
money spent on, say, dog runs, just encourages more people to let their
animals poop in front of our building. . .
According to today's New York Post:
"Claremont Riding Academy on the Upper West Side, a national historical site and the oldest continuously operated stable in the country, is closing down for lack of business."
WHEN SHOULD YOUR FLAG DIP?
Has there been a more interesting minor subplot to the war in Iraq than the frank criticism from U.S. soldiers, in their blogs and commentaries, about the ongoing actions in that country, and in Afghanistan? A Times piece this weekend revealed that today's soldiers are linked to the homeland to such an extent that bases routinely go into blackout mode after the deaths of troops:
The soldier checked a roster and discovered that the fallen American was Corporal Tillman. Had he wanted to share the news outside the tactical operations center, doing so would have been difficult. “The phones and Internet had been cut off, to prevent anyone from talking about the incident,” he told investigators. . . . Several Army officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan told The A.P. that pulling the plug on base phones and e-mail was routine after a soldier died. The practice is meant to ensure that the family is notified through official channels. . .
And then there are the columns like the one just written by a sergeant at the Bagram military base near Kabul:
“I find it ironic that the flags were flown at half-staff for the young men and women who were killed at [Virginia Tech], yet it is never lowered for the death of a U.S. service member. . . . I think it is sad that we do not raise the bases’ flag to half-staff when a member of our own task force dies. . . . If the flags on our (operating bases) were lowered for just one day after the death of a service member, it would show the people who knew the person that society cared, the American people care.” [Full text available from - no kidding - Fox News.]
The Web is full of similar commentaries today, many of them from citizens who don't believe the killings in Blacksburg, tragic as they were, merit the President's order to lower flags nationwide to half-mast this week.
And technically, they're absolutely correct:
". . . the President shall order the flag flown at half-staff for stipulated periods 'upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a state, territory, or possession.' . . . . Presidents also have ordered the fly to be flown at half-staff on the death of leading citizens, not covered by law, as a mark of official tribute to their service to the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. is among those who have been so honored."
So what's the point here, other than our coming out of the closet as a serious Flag Code geek? When you have a young child, you by necessity begin to see your community through their eyes, and kids are always alert to the presence of American flags. Kids notice when flags are missing, or at half-mast, faster than adults do. Which makes sense: Their world is smaller, so subtle differences in the neighborhood register with them more readily; plus, they can "read" the flag better than many other symbols. As parents, we need to be prepared to field questions about the flag, whether it's up, down, or at half-mast. Now, don't be alarmed: You haven't accidentally stumbled upon the Daily Kos; we're not saying that the administration's restrictions on flying flags at half-mast for the deaths of soldiers (states can do so if they choose, but that practice is also controversial) represent a conspiracy to keep parents from talking about the cost of war with their kids, but it is a byproduct. How many of us would be prepared to discuss the war(s) with our four-year-olds if the flag over the Post Office was constantly shifting from standard position to half-mast? In any event, the President is letting us all off the hook on that question, although good luck explaining to your kids why the flag is halfway down this week; we certainly haven't said a word to Fellow and Tiny about Virginia Tech.
TV-TURNOFF WEEK IS HERE
Today is the first day of TV-Turnoff Week. It snuck up on us a bit here, but even if it hadn't, there's a Red Sox -Yankee series coming up this weekend, so no way we'd be able to observe it here fully. But we absolutely plan to set a No-TV Week later this spring, before the end of school, and for anyone out there who's considering similar action, we hope you'll consider the startling success we had with a No-TV Week last year (read about it here and here) and try it out yourself. You don't need to believe the researchers who claim that no child under two should ever see a TV, or that extended viewing causes autism, or in fact any of the dire warnings, to appreciate the benefits of a week without the distraction—or option—of television.
IF THIS ABSTINENCE CLASS IS A ROCKIN', DON'T COME A'KNOCKIN'
Students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, according to a study ordered by Congress. . . those who attended one of the four abstinence classes that were reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes. And they first had sex at about the same age as other students — 14.9 years.
The findings are sure to spark a debate in Congress over whether the $176 million (wow) that the government spends on so-called Title V abstinence programs annually is a good investment (sounds like not), or whether that money would be better spent on comprehensive sex-ed courses in which abstinence would be presented as part of a package of safe sex lessons.
MC NUTS, WE'VE STUDIED WORDSWORTH. WE'VE VISITED HIS HOME. WORDSWORTH WAS A HERO OF OURS. SQUIRREL, YOU'RE NO WORDSWORTH.
Does everyone else remember that cultural moment several years ago when everyone tried to get their animated characters in on the rap craze because it was what "the kids" were into? We certainly remember how cool rapping made "MC Elmo" seem to our own audience of under-four-year-olds when we got the Sesame Street "1 2 3 Count With Me" video a couple of years back, not to mention his vintage MC Hammer parachute pants.
Well, you may have thought that cultural moment had mercifully passed, but in actuality it has just reached England's Lake District, whose tourism bureau has foisted on the world this video of Sam (or "MC Nuts"), the region's squirrel-suited mascot, rapping to Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud." We can't quite tell from the footage, but it's certainly possible that MC Nuts is dancing directly above Wordsworth's grave.
Swiss food giant Nestle is gobbling up Gerber, which dominates the U.S. baby-food market with a 79% share of sales, for a sweet $5 billion.
WELL, THEN, LET US ADD OUR OWN THREE CHEERS FOR THE BUS DRIVER
Despite a series of recent crashes, some of them deadly, the Wall Street Journal reports that:
accident data and interviews with transportation experts suggest school buses are actually far safer than other forms of school transport, including the family car. Indeed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are by far the safest passenger vehicles on the road.
The Journal article, well worth reading, details the many advances in safety technology which have made buses safer than the canary-colored death traps we all rode to the aquarium in the 70s. Today, fewer than eight children die in school-bus crashes each year, according the NHTSA. Of course, longtime FD.com visitors know that there's a movement to add shoulder-harness seat belts to all school buses, which gains momentum in every crash. We recently chaperoned school field trips for both Fellow and Tiny in recent weeks, and were pleasantly surprised to find seat belts on both buses. Given that school buses with any kind of belts are a distinct minority nationwide, New York City is clearly ahead of the curve.
ALL THIS TROUBLE COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED IF THE KIDS WENT TO THE VILLAGE TO BUY THEIR GUAYABERAS LIKE EVERYONE ELSE
A group of students from the "elite, alternative" Beacon School went on a spring break trip to Cuba with their history teacher, in defiance of their principal (and federal law) sparking a hubbub here in Manhattan. But despite the controversy, it still must have been a valuable educational experience for the children, right? Nope. According to Andrew Wolf of the New York Sun, the trip was simply an example of "the manipulation of young minds for political ends," and it was far from an isolated incident:
"It isn't just on the foreign policy front that radical activists have gained a foothold. . . the leadership of the Department of Education has accelerated the creation of schools with so-called social justice themes. Many of these schools were created using funds provided by Microsoft's founder, William Gates, the world's richest man."
So, decent Americans should be on the lookout for radical leftists and philanthropic billionaires. Check. Anyone else we should be worried about?:
"The public schools should not be used to advance the politics of any individual or group, whether it is the pro-Castro teacher at the Beacon School who is still fighting the Cold War, the math teachers looking to change societal priorities to something more to their liking, or Islamists who see the potential of a mini-madrassa in Park Slope."
Great, that sounds like everyone. Thanks.
THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE. . . AND PICKS YOUR POCKET
A New York City Council investigation finds widespread fraud among the city's nanny agencies, including improper fees being charged to parents, not to mention lax background checks of the nannies themselves.
The probe was overseen by councilman Eric Gioia, who became a father last summer. Thanks, Dad.
SO, DADS, IF YOUR THREE-YEAR-OLD STARTS LOOKING A LITTLE HUSKY, FEEL FREE TO BLAME YOUR WIFE FOR ALL THAT HAAGEN-DAZS SHE DOWNED DURING HER PREGNANCY
Women whose weight gain during pregnancy meets the current recommendations are significantly more likely to have a 3-year-old who is overweight than those who gain less than the recommended amount, researchers report.
WE'VE DISCOVERED, HOWEVER, THAT THEY MAKE A HELL OF A DIFFERENCE FOR THE FATHER
According to studies, timing and sexual position do not influence the sex of the baby.
THOUGH THERE WAS THAT TIME THE PAPARAZZI CAUGHT HIM COMING OUT OF FLASHDANCERS WITH JASON GIAMBI
NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg says he'll veto the city council's bill to ban metal bats at high school baseball games in the Big Apple. “I don’t know whether aluminum bats are more dangerous or less dangerous,” Bloomberg admits, but lest you think the mayor came by his decision lightly, he assured citizens, “I have had friends who are professional baseball players call me and argue both ways, but I don’t think it’s the city’s business to regulate that.”
We know what you're thinking: Mike Bloomberg has friends who are professional baseball players?!
IT'S SEVEN DAYS INTO PESACH, AND WE KNOW THE FEELING, BROTHER PACHYDERM
The New York Sun, whose editors certainly know from unleavened bread, scored with this headline for the photo at left the other day: "Love of Matzo Gives Asia Cardboard Congestion." Here are the details, via AP:
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus clown Olex Kartukov, right, offers Asia the elephant some fresh melon to coax her into opening her mouth as two handlers look to remove an entire box of matzo that she shoved into her mouth during a special feeding at Madison Square Garden in New York.
LEST ANY PARENTS OUT THERE WERE THINKING OF BREATHING A SIGH OF RELIEF AFTER GETTING PAST THE FIRST FALL
Children who suffer a head injury are much more likely to have another one within six months, according to new research which also found that boys were more likely to become repeat stumblers than girls.
$500 MILLION? WOW, THAT'D SURE BUY A LOT OF SUNNY D. (WE'RE JUST SAYING...)
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, fresh from its half-billion
dollar attack on teen smoking, is committing another $500 million to a comprehensive battle against child obesity.
As with the campaign against teen smoking (which has declined 18% since
1995), Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the foundation’s president and chief
executive, tells the Times, the new effort intends to capitalize on and
enhance efforts by the food industry and school districts and
governments to address the problem.
(For more from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, click here.)
"I MUST DEVOUR THIS CHILD BECAUSE ONLY THE BLOOD OF NEWBORNS CAN KEEP MY SKIN THIS MILKY WHITE!"
we call "Oh, Baby!" the Times magazine's recent Style feature, um,
"misconceived"? A model poses in a series of micro-mini-dresses with a
single prop: An infant (we're guessing about 10 months old). Because. .
. the dresses are small, and babies are also small? If that's the
thinking, why not just pose the gal with a cellphone?
Visit the slide show of the package here.
You'll be amazed at what you find, starting with the feature's subhead:
"This spring, good things come in teeny-weeny packages. So if you've
got it, milk it." Well, maybe, but in one photo the baby is touching
the model's breasts and based on her expression the last thing she's
inclined to do with that kid is "milk it" . . .
ONE MORE TIME!
Newsweek offers another reminder that your kids need a second chicken pox shot
(between ages 4 and 6) because the old single shot only offers about
85% protection, and outbreaks tend to start with (logically) kids who
aren't fully vaccinated. As we've lamented in this space before, health
officials face the inertia of parents who - wrongly - feel that the
second shot is an unnecessary burden because "no one gets chicken pox
TO ACQUIRE TOPPS, THE NEW OWNERS ARE TRADING TWO FLEERS AND A DONRUSS
Topps Co. Inc., maker of the iconic baseball cards that Fellow spends so much of his time sorting and resorting, has been purchased
by an investment group headed by Michael Eisner, the former Disney
chief. Eisner's first action was to order the factory to produce
cards picturing all the members of Disney's new management team. Eisner
then lined the cards up on his desk, told them all they were fired, and
immediately sold the company.
AND NO, YOUR TWELVE-YEAR-OLD SON CANNOT "ZOOM AND EXPLORE" HERMIONE
MSNBC's "zoom-and-explore" feature lets you take a virtual tour of the halls of Hogwarts. Pretty cool stuff, we think, for any 10-year-old fanboys out there.