Thursday, May 26, 2011


I'm in a waiting room at the dentist's.  There is a circle of chairs, a TV on mute, and one other woman.
The woman and I chat on and off.  She is waiting for her son, a 14 year old with many cavities, and some anxiety that began when a tornado touched down in New York State.
"I'd told him that tornadoes most certainly don't come to where we live.  Wouldn't ya know it, next day, it's confirmed that one touched down here.  He's been scared shitless ever since."

She takes the remote and unmutes the television.  The newscaster describes a tornado in height, width, level of destruction, and velocity.  Photos are shown, live footage slowly moves across piles of rubble.  "This used to be a 3 story house.  See here that it now is a pile of wood."  I bite my cheeks, the woman sucks in her breath.

The reporter gets a gleam and says, "Now watch this."
Cut to a homemade video of a couple in their car as the tornado blows at them with speed and certainty, in agonizing force.
The sound of the car accelerating as they try to get beyond it.
The sound of her wimpering as she films with an unsteady hand.
Him clearing his throat repeatedly.
Her wimpers turning to pleas.

The woman in the waiting room turns to me, clucks her tongue.  "And they wonder why kids are so nervous today, you know?  Showing this stuff!  As if we don't get it with the pile of a neighborhood, they have to show this."

I find myself nodding in agreement.  "I wonder too," I say, "if it's desensitized us.  Maybe we're so accustomed to seeing these images that we no longer feel..."

"Holy crap!" the woman points to the screen.  "Have you seen this one.  This is the one---watch this---that motor home right there---BOOM!  Yup.  He's not gonna make it."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Good

Nothing but goodness here. 

Two bits:
1.From my friend Katie in Boston:
New website could boost body image in teen girls.

2.Books about Jane Goodall for the little ones:

The Watcher by Jeanette Winter
Me Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Review of the books by Steve Jenkins here.

The Bad and The Ugly

Listening to the news this morning in the car, Miss C interrupted each report 3 seconds in with a list of questions:

What is a levee?
What is a loss?
Will the farmers be okay if the losses keep...mounting?
What is mounting?
Why are the watermelons exploding?

As tired as I am of all things Wizard of Oz, I turned on the soundtrack at the end of the exploding watermelon story, before we got more details about Strauss-Kahn.

There is something strange going on with reporting on this story. 
Yes, it is in the early stages.
Yes, more details emerge every hour.
But the radio report I heard this morning was odd.
You know how it is said that if you answer the phone smiling, the person on the other end can hear it?
This is what I hear, intermittently, as reporters comment on this story.  There are details thrown in, things that seem so irrelevant to the allegation that a 32 year old woman, a single mother, was a attacked as she tried to do her job. 
It seems the gravity of sexual assault is getting old, boring, and we need to spice it up.  
Australian author Melinda Tankard Reist is apparently seeing a similar trend: "Not a tale of a charmer and a sexy French maid."

After looking through some of Melinda's writing, I'm including this post of hers below.  Because all things are related, and as we sexualize young girls, turn women into sexy little girls, it makes sense that reporting on sexual assault will be, world-wide, littered with winks and smirks. 

How come Brad Pitt is never asked to pose as a little boy with a firetruck?
 jennifer aniston bed

Monday, May 16, 2011

Scholastic...Smooth, Just like Silk

If you grew up in the US, or if you have a child in school here, then you know all about the Scholastic Book Order form.

The day the books are delivered in the classroom is like Christmas, with the teacher calling out the name of the student like The Wizard summoning the Lion for courage.
Except you'd walk back to your desk with a shiny copy of the latest sad story by Katherine Paterson.
And then bury your nose in the crease and smell that new book smell.

Orrr, you would wait to see what your sister ordered because it wasn't your turn and that's okay.

Or, you just went to the library for your hit of Beverly Cleary.

Anyway, however you got your Scholastic books: first hand, handed down, or through peeping over the shoulder of the student who sat in front of you, they've been around awhile.

In theory, the notion of a flyer going home to advertise books is awesome.  Kids looking at a catalog of books, and talking with friends about their favorites is better than them comparing which push-up bra they'll pick when they get to 2nd grade.  But in practice, Scholastic has something that detracts form this format.  It's called Scholastic InSchool.  From their website:
In schools, Scholastic provides partners with integrated communications and education campaigns that reach educators, students, and families. Scholastic InSchool develops and distributes curriculum connected, free educational programs, including behavioral change, pro-social, cause marketing, brand awareness, and consumer loyalty programs, with support from corporations, organizations, and government agencies. From initiatives like the recent 2010 Census In Schools: It's About Us education initiative to health and civic responsibility programs, Scholastic InSchool and our partners provide valuable, free materials for schools, educators, students and families throughout the U.S.
Translation: Scholastic advertises for Disney, McDonald's, Cartoon Network, SunnyD, Claritin, and most recently, the American Coal Foundation. 

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which works to get corporate advertising out of schools, has raised awareness about the connection between Scholastic and it's clients.  Why is this necessary?
According to the Executive Director of the American Coal Foundation, hiring Scholastic allowed ACF to dramatically increase its presence in schools—from about 7,000 to 70,000 classrooms.  “Four out of five parents know and trust the Scholastic brand,” she explained.

Awesome!  I'm going to think of something strange and inappropriate to market to young children, and then partner with Scholastic InSchool. I have so many ideas.

But there is good news.  Activism works!
Late Friday, Scholastic, the world’s largest educational publisher,  announced that it would immediately stop distributing “The United States of Energy,” a controversial fourth grade curriculum paid for by the American Coal Foundation.  
So while your 4th grader may have already told you in very descriptive language why Sunny D is the most satisfying and nutritious beverage available (and so so pretty as a river )

if you want them to extol the benefits of coal, you're going to have to teach them on your own.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


A few nights ago, tucking Miss C in, she made an announcement: "There are three people that I don't like."

She paused until she had our attention, and held up three fingers.

"The Wicked Witch of the West, the Wicked Witch of the East, and....Hosanna.  Bim.  Lobbem."

She said the last one with a question mark, either because she knows that's not quite the name, or because she's not sure about if she should not like him.

"Osama bin Laden?" I ask, just to be sure there's not a new student in her class.

"Yes, that one."

Earlier that day, we'd been having breakfast when my mom called, and it was a brief conversation, but when I got off the phone, Miss C had questions:

Why does Nana want us to listen to the news?
Who is...that man?
What happened to him?
What did he do?

I don't know how other parents have discussed this with their kids, especially when their kid wants to know everything.  How do you explain this and this and the past 10 years in between to a four year old?

In that moment, I told Miss C that this was a person who had hurt other people, and he'd just been captured.

What did he do to hurt other people?
Why did he do that?
Who captured him?
Where is he now?
Was he bad?
Did he have some goodness?
Will he become good?
Can I see a picture of him?

I pulled up a photograph of him on the computer.  She looked at the bearded face and said, "But!  He doesn't look bad at all!"

And then more questions:

Do you think he will become kind?
Do you think he had some kindness?
Was he kind to some people, or did he hurt everyone?

This news comes on the heels of many weeks spent listening to the soundtrack of The Wizard of Oz, and us reading her her favorite sections of the book over and over again.
Her initial questions about the Wicked Witches were along the same lines.  She seemed certain that given enough time and a good sequel, the Wicked Witches would shape up and be UnWicked.

Thus, Dave told her about prequels, specifically Wicked, which he has read, but I have not.
He told her that  perhaps we only knew one part of their story.
And that Glinda was a biatch in high school.

So some actual news trickles into her world and how she fits it all together looks like this:

People who aren't green are generally nice.
People who are green might be prone to being unkind, but had a hard time in high school.
Classifying situations without green people makes much less sense.