Produced by Gary Drevitch
SCENES FROM A PRINCESS PARTY
Tiny had her 5th birthday party this weekend, as 12 or 13 of her closest friends joined us for an early AM screening of Disney's kinda-subversive hit princess movie, "Enchanted." Here's what we learned:
- That 5-and-6-year-old aspiring mean girls are tough. They go straight from slap fight to nuclear strike. Here's a typical exchange from the post-party pizza-and-cake session:
"Sally, do you want to trade the Belle Pez dispenser from your goody bag for my Jasmine Pez dispenser?"
"No! I like my Belle. You can keep Jasmine. Ha ha."
" . . . . Trade with me or I won't be your friend anymore."
What the - ?
- The movie itself was nearly ruined by a string of horribly age-inappropriate previews for coming attractions like "P.S. I Love You." There's nothing like looking down the aisle of a theater at your fellow class parents as their children, on your nickel, listen to Hilary Swank discuss the prospect of sex with her ghosty dead husband. But happily the sex talk eased when the actual movie began. In fact, one almost imagines that Disney purposely gave the film a slow, gentle animated opening to ease the kids out of the aggressive sounds and visuals of the trailers.
- And we liked "Enchanted." The music was nine or 10 levels above the typical kid's fare, and there was a showstopping number filmed just a few blocks from FD.com HQ. The story revolves around the misadventures of animated Princess (or soon-to-be Princess) Giselle and her cartoon fiancé Prince Edward, who get transported to the real world of Manhattan (albeit a Manhattan where one can see Philip Johnson's Lipstick Building from the window of one's office at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle). And the plot basically confirmed what we've always suspected: If a sweet and innocent cartoon princess and/or her square-jawed but oblivious prince were ever to land in the city, New Yorkers would just line up to tap that. In other words, pretty much the same story as "Midnight Cowboy," but with a talking chipmunk in the Ratso Rizzo role.
- Our personal highlight? When McDreamy lawyer and princess-lover Patrick Dempsey drops neurotic, nudgy fiancée Idina Menzel for Giselle, Menzel's character quickly seduces and runs off to cartoon world with similarly jilted Prince Edward, thus giving a happy ending not only to the Disney Princess but to the Jewish-American Princess as well.
- And we leave the last word to Fellow, who checked in with the line
of the day when we asked him if he had liked the movie on our way out
of the theater:
"Yeah, I liked the movie . . . Um, Daddy?"
"Can we please talk about football for a while now?"
WHEN YOU CAN'T FOOL ANY OF THE PEOPLE ANY OF THE TIME, JUST INSULT THEM, SEE HOW THAT TURNS OUT
The controversy over New York City's new, preposterous-on-its-face school grading system, which assigned Ds and Fs to many of Gotham's top-performing public schools while awarding As to some of the worst, continues unabated as, well, virtually no one buys in to chancellor Joel Klein's rationale for launching a grading system in which year-to-year improvement counts (randomly) for 55% of the grade, but in which only a one-year sample was used to judge "progress," thereby thumbing the department of ed's collective nose at every basic concept it should have learned in Statistics 101. Diane Ravitch's summary in today's Sun is as good as anyone's for people coming late to the game.
We taped and watched WNET's (Channel 13's) "New York Voices" feature on the grading system, and everyone who cares about this issue MUST watch 13's interview with Klein. The segment clearly laid out the operative question: How does the department justify a grading system which gives a D to a school that has 98% of its kids reading, or calculating, at a proficient level, as determined by New York's standardized testing, because a year ago its kids were 99% proficient, while at the same time awarding a different school an A because its kids were taken from, say, 18% proficiency to 20% proficiency?
Now, to the extent possible, we tried to watch 13's interview with
Klein with an open mind, because, sure, schools that bring their kids
from 18% proficiency to 21% proficiency absolutely ought be rewarded,
and we were willing to hear the overall justifications for the grading
process from Klein himself. But then he said this in answer to the question we paraphrased above, and completely lost us:
"Simple proficiency is not the game . . . " (!!)
[The interview continued: Wouldn't a two-or three-year sample have been better?]
"You have to start somewhere . . . two years, three years would be much more robust . . . I believe that . . . "
[So what message are you sending to generally top-ranked schools whose kids are already 98-100% proficient but getting Ds and Fs from your department anyway?]
"They don't want to be an F next year, they don't want to be a D next year . . . they had information from last year . . . without a grade and . . . . you know what happened? They paid far less attention to it . . . Let's be candid with each other . . . we [must] dramatically improve outcomes . . . and the way you do that is rigorous accountability and public information and knowledge."
[e.g., publicly embarrassing your top schools and distracting them from the mission they perform so well]
[How do you respond to your critics, then?]
". . . I enjoy the debate and I'm not saying we don't learn things from it. I do."
BEST. CHANUKAH. PRESENT. EVER.
closed the book on Chanukah 2007 but any Gentile friends out there
still seeking a gift for your tween or pre-tween girl should run, don't
walk to get her the official High School Musical Dance Mat. (K-Mart has it, too, and cheaper!) Tiny was so thrilled with this when she got it on Chaunkah's opening night she told us she loved us at least four times that night.
And the toy, we have to admit, is awesome. It's a dime-store version
of "Dance Dance Revolution," but provides a solid cardio workout for the
shoeless young or old as you sashay and hop from character to character when their respective lights flash to the beat of four songs from the movie (regrettably, not
the four least annoying songs). You're soarin'! You're
flyin'! And resistance is futile.
As every parent knows, your oldest child's birthday is also the anniversary of your becoming a parent. This week we are celebrating our seventh anniversary with all the members of the extended FD family. Fellow's grandmother, for example, was thoughtful enough to get him a new baseball glove for his birthday. When she delivered it to HQ earlier this week, we noticed that it was actually a catcher's mitt, and asked why she would have gotten it. She said, "That's specifically what I asked for, a catcher's glove—because he's going to be using it to catch, isn't he?" Yes, he sure is. We thanked grandma for her troubles and brought the glove back to the store.
I WANT MY, I WANT MY IVF
Over on Slate, Sarah Richards makes the case for reproductively-challenged couples skipping the middle man (hormone
shots) and moving right to IVF if the first round of treatment fails.
It's a strong case: IVF costs more, but has a higher rate of success
so at the end of the day it can actually save couples money, not to mention psychological
stress. IVF also lessens the chance of producing
triplets or more-lets. As we've said many times before, reproductive
technology is not our specialty here, but Richards' conclusions seem
very much worth a look.
FERTILITY EXPERTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD HAVE COME TO THE SHRINE,
EXAMINED THE CHAIR, AND FOUND TO THEIR SURPRISE THAT IT DOESN'T EVEN
Childless Catholic women from across the globe are high-tailing it to Naples to sit in the so-called "miracle chair" at the shrine of Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds in the city's Spanish Quarter. Women are convinced that the saint answers prayers for women who sit in her old armchair, especially those who are trying to conceive.
Um, like we said above, we're not really an expert on reproductive technology. . .
NEVER CALL A KID ON THE CALENDAR
Fellow routinely corrects us on calendrical issues, and tracks the
day and date so intently that we've come to accept his word on
upcoming days and dates as gospel. (He's also completely internalized
the remainder of the Patriots' schedule, but that's for another post.)
Earlier this week, for example, he told us that he was born during a leap year and
that next year would be his THIRD leap year. But then there's unusually
precocious eight-year-old future pundit Sophia McCrimmen of Mechanicsville, VA, who
recently contacted XM Satellite Radio to correct one of its political
channels' countdown to the 2008 election:
<<"I love politics so much! I just have one problem, you are underestimating the number of days until the election! You are forgeting that 2008 is a leap year!...Plese add one day too your total to acount for leap day. Keep up the good work.
"P.S. Can you mabie read this on the radio? That would be super cool!!!!
"P.P.S. If you have time. I don't want to mess you up.">>
According to the L.A. Times, XM not only corrected its error, it invited Sophia on air for a three-minute interview. Good for them.
The special-edition Bugaboo Cameleon in Metallic Silver is being sold for $1199,
but exclusively at Neiman-Marcus.
Which is just as well.
FREELANCE DAD: SUGGESTING MASSIVE, IRRESPONSIBLE TIME-SUCKS FOR YOUR SONS SINCE 2004
you live in, well, most places, there is probably not a great
comic-book shop near you. Which is one of the great tragedies of
early-21st-century life in America. However, Marvel Comics is now
bringing comic books to you (and your kids) with its new Digital Comics Unlimited
Web site. For $5 a month, you get access to thousands of previously
published comics, many of them organized into categories like "Origin
Stories," "First Appearances," and "Kid Friendly." We haven't
subscribed ourselves, but we've checked out the free samples, and the
image quality is terrific.
Think your kids aren't into comic books enough to be interested? Try
them. As Jeph Loeb, writer of recent and hugely popular runs of Batman,
Superman, and other heroes, and now a writer for baffling primetime hit
"Heroes," told the L.A. Times:
[he] has comics on display at his house in an old-fashioned spinner rack that fascinates the friends of his young son. "One of them walked up to me and asked where can I get more of these? He had no idea where comic books were sold," Loeb [said]. He said he doesn't buy the conventional logic that today's youth are too CGI-jaded to enjoy the simpler pleasures of comic books. "There's something in all of us that loves stories and storytelling and I don't think video games satisfy that," he said. "I think comics are like chocolate chip cookies. If they're not around, kids don't know they want them, but once they are exposed to them, they want them. . . . When I came home, my son and his friends were sprawled out on the floor reading those comics in the traditional pose, too, on the floor on their stomach with their feet dangling in the air, reading the book on their elbows. . . . Some things are natural."
ALL THREE OF THE NAMES WE'VE USED HERE AT FD.COM HQ ARE IN THE TOP
50 FOR THEIR RESPECTIVE SEXES, SO WE'RE NOT SO ORIGINAL EITHER
Ever feel like your kid has the same first name as every third kid in his or her school? You're right! New York City has released its annual list of the most popular names for new Broadway Babies, and in a stunning upset, Emily has been toppled by Ashley at the head of the girls' list. But the bigger news is that 14 of the top 20 girls' names share the predictabale "a" or "ia" ending, headlined by Isabella, Kayla, Sophia, and Mia in the top 7. As for the boys, Michael edged Daniel, Matthew, and Joshua at the top of the list, and Shlomo came in 114th.
(Access a PDF of the complete list via UrbanBaby.)
We know things have been quiet here the last few weeks, as FD has
worked his way through a variety of real-world (that is, paying)
deadlines. The good news is that there will be several newsstand and
Amazon alerts in the weeks and months ahead, as well as more columns on Disney's Family.com like the one we hope you saw
during its run last week. Hopefully one of our readers will win the
prize for "comment of the week" from the Mouse. And we're recommitted
to providing regular content here for the forseeable. Thanks for sticking around.