Posts Tagged ‘parenting’
New York (AP) – Against the backdrop of civil wars and the constant threat of famine, the producers of the hit children’s TV show Sesame Street have decided to provide dozens of deprived African children with the protein-rich meat of that largest regular Sesame Street character, Big Bird.
The plan calls for Big Bird to be sent next month by boat to either Nigeria or Burkina-Faso, where he will be slaughtered and butchered. Refrigerated trucks would spread across the region to at least ten remote villages most adversely affected by privation, with the goal of reaching a minimum of one hundred children by the end of January.
Persistent unrest and unchecked disease have disrupted life for millions of Africans. Revolutions, ongoing ethnic conflicts, diamond wars, separatist rebellions, climatic upheaval, and rampant AIDS have made the continent one of the world’s most unpleasant regions, especially south of the Sahara. International aid efforts to distribute food and basic necessities are often stymied by political barriers and local warlords who seek to control access to resources as a means of exercising and consolidating power. Sesame Street Workshop intends to ship Big Bird meat to one of two West African ports, and from there to be distributed to hungry children in the Sub-Saharan region.
Sesame Workshop CEO H. Melvin Ming announced the donation this morning at the company’s headquarters at Lincoln Plaza in Manhattan, telling reporters that the effort will exploit the company’s connections in various African countries, connections forged over decades through international distribution, syndication, and licensing of the TV show for production and broadcast in more than 140 countries.
“The vision of Sesame Street from the very beginning has been one that brings together people from all over the world to help improve the quality of children’s lives,” said Ming. “But we fail at an essential level if we aim only at children’s hearts and minds, when those hearts and minds can only function if attention has first been given to their stomachs.” He added that the company had considered donating Mr. Snuffleupagus, Big Bird’s sometime companion, who would have provided even more meat, but that idea was dismissed because that would drive the species, whatever it is, to extinction.
In parallel with the shipment, slaughter, and distribution of Big Bird meat, Sesame Workshop will embark on a promotional effort to both raise awareness of the specific project and of the importance of self-sacrifice for the greater good. Big Bird will be memorialized on the show with a “plaque” that will appear in the opening and closing credits. A farewell episode will be broadcast at the end of December, in which the other characters will have a chance to say their goodbyes to Big Bird, and select letters from viewers will be read aloud on the air. The show will broadcast scenes from Big Bird’s grand final journey in subsequent episodes, leveraging the event to show children how slaughterhouses work.
Ming expects some of the show’s international partners to buy into the publicity, and several such “co-producers” have already signaled their readiness to carry the message of devotion to a greater good. The Iraq and Gaza Strip Sesame Street affiliates have announced that they will use the Big Bird self-sacrifice narrative to serve in recruitment of suicide bombers.
Montvale, New Jersey (AP) – Seeking to tap into parental frustration over their children’s apparent addiction to spreading the contents of their noses on every available surface, the paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore & Company has begun marketing a line of paints to match the colors and textures of dried human nasal mucus.
The Pick-A-Paint series includes twenty-five different shades and five textures. With the selection, Benjamin Moore hopes to capitalize on the Sisyphean enterprise of keeping the walls of a house clean while children under the age of 14 inhabit it. Instead of actually trying to wipe – or, more likely, scrape – boogers off the wall, parents will now be able to paint entire walls or rooms the color of mucus and subsequently ignore the camouflaged boogers.
“Everyone can breathe more easily with Pick-A-Paint,” reads the company’s press release announcing the product launch. “Parents will love the convenience of never having to see these unpleasant sights on the walls. Children will never have to worry about waiting the excruciating twelve seconds it might take to get to the nearest available tissue to free up their nasal passages. And we at Benjamin Moore will be thrilled to know we’ve contributed to humanity by eliminating a major source of tension between parents and children.”
Company executive Dryden Crustee disclosed in an interview that Benjamin Moore expects certain selections from the new series to fare better than others. “There’s obvious demand for brownish-ocher-green with dark flecks,” he said, explaining that numerous focus groups of parents had ranked as “most disturbing” the discovery of blackish booger remnants festooning the walls above their children’s beds. “But we also found that some parents would appreciate the occasional shiny streak, to help mask the smears that inevitably result from some methods of booger disposal.”
Also available will be chunky streaks of red to mimic the occasional bloody boogers that parents often find, and paints that flake ever so slightly to replicate the texture and experience that wet mucus provides after it dries.
Benjamin Moore intends to roll out distribution of the new paints in January, initially along the eastern seaboard and gradually moving westward through 2014 and 2015. The parent company, Berkshire Hathaway, expects the stock price of Benjamin Moore to increase following the release of the products, betting that the appeal of Pick-A-Paint will stick.
Cambridge, MA (AP) – Physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have announced the results of a multi-year effort to define the ideal hour at which children should be put to bed, including confirmation of a long-held assumption that a “golden window” exists during which children who cooperate with parental bedtime directives will enjoy happier, healthier lives.
A team consisting of thirty-five researchers across the country who are also parents of young children examined data regarding a cohort of 70 youths from the ages of six months to eleven years. They found that the best time for children to be tucked into bed was in the range of 6:45 pm and 7:30 pm, and even earlier if Mom or Dad had something special planned just for the two of them. The researchers published their findings in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
According to the article, the benefits of adhering to this bedtime scheme include, but are not limited to: more frequent and more plentiful desserts; fewer occasions for parent-administered discipline; an easier time getting ready for school in the morning; more generous allowance; and a significantly decreased likelihood of getting grounded.
“This study essentially corroborates everything we’ve been saying for a long time,” said Dr. I. Sedso, a Columbia University professor of physics and father of three who was not involved in the research. “Our experience,” she said, referring to the informal studies undertaken by colleagues with small children at home, “bears out that the household functions at peak efficiency when children have dinner at about 5:15, have a bath or shower, change into pajamas, brush teeth, and are ready for maybe a bedtime story and to be tucked in by 7 pm, 7:15 if a lice-combing is necessary,” she said in a telephone interview.
The study is the most recent in a series of MIT efforts to define and quantify various aspects of the parent-child dynamic. A report released in February noted the character-building benefits of taking out the garbage even when one has already removed one’s shoes, and the myriad positive effects on one’s long-term satisfaction inherent in keeping that racket down.
The research is not without its detractors. “We believe studies of this nature are a priori biased,” claims Houston-area ten-year-old Greg Niedermeyer. “They fail to account for the negative social impact that adhering to, for example, an early bedtime, exerts on the life of a typical schoolchild.” Niedermeyer also criticized an earlier study that found only positive outcomes for children who finished their vegetables, noting that only losers ate Brussels sprouts or beets in any form.
Niedermeyer pointed to a conflicting set of studies conducted over the last year by children at various elementary schools in Texas, Vermont, Indiana, and Florida, which found a significant correlation between later bedtimes and freer access to candy. “It’s clear that from a happiness point of view, liberal parental attitudes are key. The studies indicating otherwise suffer from a prejudiced set of assumptions, among them that whatever a parent wants is ipso facto desirable.”
Adult researchers, in turn, have assailed the schoolchildren’s research as agenda-driven, and noted that it was all underwritten by manufacturers of unnecessarily sweet breakfast cereals and of violent video games masquerading as educational tools.
Woodmere, NY (AP) – A local man who experts say must have a chemical imbalance of some sort has grown increasingly excited during recent weeks as a planned get-together with cousins, parents, and siblings approaches.
Gary Innes, 37, of North Woodmere, has inexplicably shown greater and greater eagerness since the reunion was finalized in July, and exhibits no signs of awareness that such a positive orientation toward one’s relatives is widely considered weird. According to several neighbors, Innes has repeatedly mentioned how happy he was to be able to see his older brother again, seemingly oblivious to the fact that older brothers, as a rule, are not supposed to be viewed in a positive light.
Similarly, his iterative mentions of getting together with his parents has sent waves of revulsion through this bedroom community, where, as in any normal place, parents are seen at best as a necessary evil, and at worst – and most commonly – as a neverending source of awkwardness and shame.
“He seems so normal, so harmless,” said a neighbor who requested anonymity to forestall any further strain in what will soon be a stilted, overly formal relationship, at least from her end. “What sort of traumatic, depraved childhood did this man have that he sees absolutely nothing wrong with feeling close to siblings and parents?” she wondered.
Indeed, says Stephen Strohmayer, a fellow member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in nearby Hewlett, the attachment and affection that Mr. Innes feels for family extends even to the unthinkable: he apparently has warm regard, even admiration, for his in-laws. “I just can’t wrap my head around it,” said Strohmayer, who has appealed to others within the parish to come together to find a way to set Innes straight.
Lucille Bergen, another church member, even attempted to offer support for Melissa, Gary’s wife, gently probing to see whether Melissa felt perplexed or confused by Gary’s easy relationship with her parents. “She looked at me like I was the one from Mars, not her,” recalled Bergen. “I’m afraid he’s got her brainwashed or something, and she doesn’t even want to live in reality anymore. She seems to think it’s preferable to live in a world where family members love one another,” concluded Bergen in disbelief.
Eyewitness accounts indicate the extent to which Gary’s freakish world view has affected Melissa. Reports from other relatives indicate that at Christmas dinner last year, Melissa was seen smiling easily and embracing Gary’s parents, and alcohol was not served. The most serious, severe disagreement of the evening involved a spirited, good-natured discussion of favorite TV shows from the 1980′s, in which Melissa touted the virtues of MacGyver and the Inneses stood by their choice of Cheers. Not a single arch comment about the former’s child-rearing choices, sartorial habits, cooking, or lifestyle choices was recorded.
“I know it must be eating her up inside, to have this grotesque, supportive dynamic with her in-laws,” says the neighbor who wishes to remain anonymous. “It must be a Stockholm Syndrome kind of thing, where she’s adopted Gary’s espousal of outlandish family ideas as a sort of defense mechanism so she doesn’t have to deal with the manifest wrongness of it all.”
Fresh Kills Landfill, Staten Island (AP) – Environmental groups and parents came together this week to raise alarm over the worldwide accumulation of projects that children bring home from day care, day camp, preschool and the early years of elementary school.
A new movement calling itself Don’t Employ Take-home Regalia In Teaching Us Stuff (DETRITUS) has issued a warning to local and national governments, admonishing them to do something to prevent children’s art projects from taking up any more valuable space in the nation’s homes, gardens, bedrooms, and storage facilities, which are already filled to capacity.
“Every parent struggles with the notion of disposing of the unwieldy, crude, and poorly conceived pieces of junk that their children bring home from nursery school or kindergarten,” said Polly Styrene, a DETRITUS representative. “But they must always confront the guilt that comes with throwing away anything at all, lest the poor children then get the feeling their parents care nothing for all the work that went into those pieces of crap.”
The accumulation of old projects has reached crisis proportion, DETRITUS warns. “Following a generation and a half of children bringing home seasonal decorative project after seasonal decorative project, parents do not even have the option of handing off any of these so-called objets-d’art to grandparents or other relatives, who spent their own children’s younger years saturating their homes with all that worthless junk, and have no remaining space to display or store the monstrosities.”
The DETRITUS statement outlined several crucial measures that must be implemented immediately if people are to avoid being pushed out of their homes by styrofoam, construction paper, sequins, wooden skewers, cardboard, cotton balls, toothpicks, stickers, glitter, gift wrap, matchsticks, feathers, yarn, plastic bottles, paper fasteners, ribbons, picture frames, popsicle sticks, plastic and paper cups, small jars, egg cartons, pipe cleaners, doilies, tissue paper, corks, socks, buttons, Elmer’s glue, stamps, beads, cellophane, milk cartons, crepe paper, beans, fabric swatches, plastic laminate, pom-poms, lanyard, dried flowers, empty thread spools, drinking straws, aluminum cans, modeling clay, little bells, rhinestones, bottle caps, flags, toilet paper rolls, key rings, signs, puff paint, tinsel, coffee stirrers, plastic containers, rubber bands, washers, dry elbow macaroni, colored sand, corn kernels, shoe boxes, old compact discs, colored pebbles, twist ties, foil, paper bags, disposable plates and bowls, papier maché, string, sealing wax, and other fancy stuff.
First, teachers and day-care workers must be barred under penalty of law from initiating any new projects, starting immediately. That would effectively reduce the creation of new problematic creations to zero. Strict enforcement would be necessary to ensure that no children would be instructed to make, for example, Christmas tree ornaments, Halloween decorations, or Mothers Day cards. Resistance to this measure is expected from teachers and others who work with children, who will be forced to engage in activities with their charges that do not involve permanent additions to this civilization’s archaeological record.
Second, government-supervised efforts must be made to eliminate some of the clutter already congesting America’s households, beginning with projects that no one ever uses whose creators have long since moved out or forgotten them. Local police forces will be tasked with ensuring, by force if necessary, that each household with children in its jurisdiction parts with at least 20 such projects over the course of the next two years. Power plants will be required to begin burning these objects to produce electricity and thus reduce the space the items occupy by an estimated 40,000 tons per month. The requirement to switch to art-project-based fuel will remain in effect until the availability of local art garbage falls to acceptable levels.
Third, In order to soften the sentimental blow, families will be allowed to apply for a team of archivists to document, photograph, and record clips of pieces that meet certain minimum criteria of nostalgic or sentimental value before their worthless crud is destroyed.
“We have to act now, before we are inundated by more crap,” said Styrene. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to a school meeting, where the teacher has made sure each kid made some useless thing to welcome each parent,” she added through gritted teeth.
Atlanta, August 23 (AP) – The Centers for Disease Control has announced new findings in orthopedic research, noting that nearly half of the vertebral fractures among mothers occur subsequent to their child treading upon a crack in the pavement or the space where one piece of flooring meets another.
In a paper to be published in next week’s New England Journal of Medicine, the CDC team outlines its analysis of hospital orthopedics department statistics, which the study says indicate a close correlation between offspring crack-stepping and maternal spine fractures. The study authors did caution that the time interval between the stepping and the breaking has not yet been defined, but that the team currently believes it ranges from fractions of a second to several years.
“The implications of this study are obvious,” noted the lead author, Dr. Mo Thergus. “Beyond mere aesthetics and road safety, proper maintenance of road, sidewalk, and flooring surfaces can now be understood as a bona fide public health concern.”
Houston-area physician Allie Oxenfree, who was not involved in the study, agrees. “My orthopedic clinic sees a good number of back injuries among mothers, and one of my first questions is always, ‘Has your child been stepping on cracks recently?’ It’s been anecdotal for some time, and it’s good to see the CDC doing real clinical research to pin down this important injury factor.”
Others would like to see more research before they are prepared to accept the link between crack-stepping and back fractures. “We saw the same rush to judgment when alligator purses were linked to the likelihood of a doctor-nurse team paying housecalls,” said Lucy Steamboat, currently the head of pediatric orthopedics at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York. “But it turns out the sample size for that study was small, and it involved only fourth-grade girls with a sense of rhythm.”
What used to be Phoenix, Arizona, August 4 (AP) – Human civilization ceased to exist this morning (Sunday) after Jon Swarz, 4, of Scottsdale, was not given what he demanded.
While Jon’s mother was preparing a wholesome lunch consisting of homemade broccoli pizza and a side of carrot sticks, the pre-K student requested a chocolate ice cream cone. His mother, Beth, gently refused, reassuring Jon that there would be plenty of time later in the day for a treat, but now was time for lunch.
Unwillling to accept this rebuff, the junior Swarz continued to agitate for the creamy frozen delicacy, proclaiming the he was uninterested in lunch and wanted a chocolate ice cream cone forthwith. His mother set down the carrots she was slicing and threatened to send the young man to his room without lunch if he continued to behave in such an unbecoming manner.
Details are still sketchy on the events that then occurred, but the available evidence indicates that as soon as Jon discovered that his wishes would go unfulfilled, massive earthquakes struck major population centers and volcanic eruptions flooded low-lying regions with deadly hot lava. In this initial apocalyptic wave, approximately 800 million people perished in fear and pain.
Almost immediately afterwards, when Jon was on his way to his room, several asteroids the size of Iowa, with one more of them at least as big as Montana, entered Earth’s atmosphere and impacted at points in the Americas, Africa, Northern Europe, Japan, and eight locations across China. While living things directly in the paths of these interstellar rocks were incinerated even before direct impact, the kinetic energy and atmospheric disturbances wrought by the asteroids resulted in conflagrations that consumed thousands of square miles of woodlands, farms, and residential areas throughout the world. This second episode of destruction claimed an additional three billion lives. Among the victims were Jon’s parents, who failed to foresee the calamity that would be the inevitable result of refusing to honor their son’s wishes.
As the earthquakes and fires continued, the entire world’s nuclear stockpile detonated simultaneously, leveling all remaining cities, melting the polar ice caps, and inundating coastal regions up to fifty miles inland. Radiation poisoning quickly set in among the few surviving humans, condemning them to a brief, miserable time until death claimed them, as well.
Although this is the first time that the human population has been completely wiped out as a result of a preschooler not getting what he wanted, there have been several close calls. In 1980, Melanie Carter, 3, of Montreal, sneaked into the living room and turned on the television set in defiance of her parents’ explicit instructions to go to bed at once. Ms. Carter’s initiative narrowly averted the sun transforming into a red giant and making life on Earth impossible.
Similarly, in approximately 2500 BCE, a deluge of Biblical proportions erased all human life except for one family. That catastrophe occurred when one of that family’s sons was ignored by a parent who was too busy building a wooden boat to properly address little Ham’s request for an extra bit of pigeon steak with olives. Only when that need was finally met did the waters begin to recede in earnest.
Only ten generations later, four cities in what is today the Dead Sea region were annihilated by fire and brimstone when a young woman was refused some salt with her flatbread.
Prospects remain unclear for a reestablishment of human life on Earth, but public opinion seems not to be in favor of such a development, as it would most likely entail another plague of people with an overgrown sense of entitlement.
New York, August 11 (AP) – Still reeling from revelations that the institution covered up and did not adequately address allegations that members of its staff had abused high school students in its care in the 1980′s, the Yeshiva University leadership nevertheless sees a silver lining to the scandal.
The flagship institution of the Modern Orthodox movement in Judaism anticipates that its emerging history of treating pedophile faculty with kid gloves will attract other potential teachers to its high school, teachers in search of an environment that better accommodates their attraction to adolescent males.
“This episode could really work in our favor,” said Dr. Seth Taylor, Principal of General Studies at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy, the high school in question. “There are untold numbers of educators out there who could expose our students to everything imaginable, but who are deterred by the potential career and personal fallout from their tendencies.”
“But now that it turns out YU – and the boys’ high school in particular – has been friendly to those who have a more open way of expressing attraction to teenage boys, we fully expect to find quality applicants for teaching positions who would be afraid to apply anywhere else,” he concluded.
Head of School Rabbi Michael Taubes concurs. “MTA has unwittingly placed itself in the vanguard of institutions vying for the experience - both inside and outside the classroom – that this uncharted demographic can get a better feel than most for the students’ bodies – I mean the student body,” said Taubes, who assumed his current position during the previous school year, referring to the boys’ high school by the initials by which it is popularly known.
In the cases that received recent media attention, several men who attended MTA in the 1980′s charged that the school had ignored their accusations that the principal at the time had engaged in inappropriate physical activities with students, such as wrestling; the principal and another faculty member were quietly advised to resign, and found employment in other Jewish high schools elsewhere in the country. YU declined to inform those institutions of the questionable background to those former employees’ resignations.
In a letter marking his retirement as Chancellor of the university, this year Dr. Norman Lamm, who served as president when the faculty members were accused of the misconduct, acknowledged that he and other administration figures mishandled the cases. In a response to that portion of the letter, current YU president Richard Joel honored Dr. Lamm’s expression of regret, but asserted that in fact the erstwhile scandal would in the end benefit Yeshiva by demonstrating its longtime commitment to protecting faculty who stray.
“Recent events in academia have shown what top-notch educators and leaders can do for our children when left unmolested,” wrote Joel, making reference to the saga of Penn State University athletics figure Jerry Sandusky. “We at Yeshiva fully resolve to pioneer a new avenue in the recruitment of faculty, drawing those teachers to us who would be uncomfortable anywhere else.”
New York, NY (AP) – Continuing his efforts to employ mayoral authority to stem the rising tide of obesity, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg launched another initiative today aimed at curtailing children’s consumption of fatty, sugary foods, this time as part of the treats traditionally distributed by the birthday celebrant to his or her departing guests.
The goody bag, or loot bag, as it is known in some quarters, traditionally contains several sweets and greasy or salty snacks, and sometimes cake or cookies. Some versions also include a small game or toy, but the focus of the new initiative – and of the kids who receive the bags – remains on the food portion of the contents.
Pending approval by the City Council, the measure would limit such bags to a single “fun size” sweet or salty treat, with the remainder of the contents comprising unprocessed fruits or vegetables and no more than 2 ounces of starchy, unsweetened material such as crackers or pretzels. Non-food items are not subject to the new legislation, and no limits would be placed on the quantity or type.
Earlier versions of the measure had a proposed mandatory inclusion of information on the importance of healthful eating habits, but according mayoral aides, Mr. Bloomberg quickly realized that such a requirement would be cumbersome and would necessitate further bureaucratic involvement to produce or approve such material and provide for its adequate distribution throughout the five boroughs.
The mayor’s previous anti-obesity initiative sought to ban the sale of large-size soft drinks. Though that measure passed the City Council, a subsequent lawsuit and opposition by the soft drink industry resulted in its cancellation. The goody bag industry does not enjoy the same financial and political clout as the soft drink companies, and experts expect the measure to remain on the books if it passes.
“Odds are this one will do well,” said N. Annie State, a political analyst for the journal Welfare Mom’s Day. “The snack food industry is too fragmented to put up much of a fight, and parents everywhere are getting more and more health-conscious.”
Other experts disagreed. “The demographic that actually puts together goody bags is not the demographic that suffers most from childhood obesity,” noted Ray Syst, who writes about diet and class issues for Time Magazine. “The people who buy the junk food in quantity are the ones who don’t have time to prepare a wholesome birthday party to begin with – they’ll just take the kid out to Burger King or some pizza place. This legislation misses the point entirely, and inconveniences people without accomplishing its goal.”
Syst said a better initiative would be to institute a minimum age for fast food items such as most states already have for tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, but acknowledges that would be an uphill fight even in regulation-friendly sates such as New York. Alternatively, he suggested, bag manufacturers could be required to print warnings regarding the dangers of overconsumption of unhealthy foods, much in the way cigarette packages must feature such a prominent label.
Chicago, IL, April 24 (AP) – S, an infant born early last week, is already dreading the lifetime of hearing about the discomfort and trouble he caused his parents in the day leading up to his birth.
“I can’t wait for it to kick in,” remarked the nine-day-old, grimacing at the thought, or possibly at nothing. “You’d think world events, or actually amusing things, would make better fodder for conversation, but no, it’ll be decades before discussion of my mother’s experience with me peters out.”
His mother is expected to regale friends and acquaintances with the 34 hours of labor preceding S’s delivery by suction in the wee hours of last Sunday. After the postpartum period, when talk of the labor and delivery is typical of any birth aftermath, the mother’s relatively unusual travails will continue to be described when she wishes to contribute to a conversation about childbirth, or when she wishes to half-jokingly explain her child’s tendencies or behavior.
S’s fears are well founded, says Columbia University cultural anthropologist Beth Nossentrik. “The difficulty of a labor and delivery is a reliable predictor of the number of times the experience will be brought up in conversation,” she explained in a telephone interview. “For each additional hour of labor, a mother can be expected to tell her story an average of eleven times per year in the first four years, with the number gradually decreasing – unless she subsequently has more children, in which case the number actually increases by two until four years after the last child is born.”
According to Nossentrik, other factors can add to the number of times the narrative is rehashed. In this case, she says the fact the labor went on that long without a Cesarean Section being performed has the potential to add anywhere from six to eight occasions for relating the story over the next two years, and twice per year on average after that.
Chicago-area family therapist Hedda Schrinker concurs. “The statistics are pretty robust in that regard,” she said in an e-mail. “Mothers tend to want to share the unusual aspects of their childbirth experience. What I would also add is that the numbers tick up again slightly when she is about to become a grandmother, and do not really come down again,” unless she eventually suffers a stroke or other debilitating condition that removes her ability to communicate coherently.
S’s parents also feature the additional augmenting factor of friends in multiple far-flung places who will need the story repeated to them individually, as they will not be in position to hear it collectively. Shrinker has attempted to reassure S that his situation is not unique, and that many other perfectly dysfunctional parent-child relationships have weathered this sort of repeated rehashing.
“He kind of whined when I said that,” admitted Shrinker. “It reminds me of when I had my second daughter…” she began.
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, where you will not encounter such a tale because my wife insisted I have the contractions.
New York, NY, April 19 (AP) – Responding to increasing pressure from parents, the Bloomberg administration announced this morning that it will begin penalizing people who offer advice to parents without being asked to do so. Additionally, people whose unsolicited remarks include implied or outright criticism will be subject to further fines.
At a press conference on the steps of City Hall, Mayor Bloomberg introduced the initiative, which he called Urban Parent-Youth Operation to Urge Restraint in Scolding (UPYOURS). UPYOURS, approval of which in the City Council is all but assured, will take effect in time for the more pleasant spring weather, when children and their parents return to playgrounds en masse, often attracting “helpful” comments from others.
“It’s high time we defend the good citizens of this city from the scourge of harassers,” said the mayor. He cited statistics compiled over the last decade which document a fourfold increase in the number of uninvited parenting critiques or remarks within the five boroughs. “As the most responsive administration this city has ever seen, our response is UPYOURS.”
Neighborhood parent associations had taken note of the increase and began petitioning the city to address the problem. “We parents have enough challenges living in this city,” said Getta Wayfromme, a Park Slope mother of two preschoolers. “Between the mommy-child yoga, the swimming lessons, the interrogation – I mean vetting – of possible caregivers and the shopping for stylish accessories, it’s tough enough as it is. We don’t need people implying that we’re not already giving our children the very best, let alone saying it outright.”
Not everyone is pleased with UPYOURS. Sharyn N. Karen, 54, of Williamsburg, says she has seen enough parents to know which ones are doing fine and which ones could use some helpful guidance. “People don’t like to admit it, but they need other people,” said the childless, single artist. “It’s just good that there are people such as I to helpfully correct the errors of others’ ways, such as when they fail to impart when to use the phrase, ‘such as I’ instead of ‘like me.’”
Other provisions of the city ordinance include: greater leniency for advice-givers who have children the same age as the parent receiving the comments, all the more so if the children have been playing together for more than thirty seconds; additional fines for belittling or dismissing the anxiety of a parent over his or her child’s possibly fatal food allergies; and mandatory jail sentences for lecturing on the benefits of cloth diapers or for treating breastfeeding in public as objectionable.
At the press conference, Bloomberg praised the parents who first proposed UPYOURS. “This city has always benefited from citizens who understand where public action is necessary and where things are best left in the realm of the individual. As this administration has made clear before, it is not the place of other individuals to tell people how to live their lives.”
“That’s the city’s job,” he said.
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, where super-size soft drinks were banned even before they existed.
Cambridge, MA (AP) – Researchers at Harvard have found what they consider convincing proof that it is just fine for complete strangers to make unsolicited contact with the protruding midsection of a pregnant woman.
In a paper to be published next month in the New England Journal of Medicine, a team of physicians presents the evidence in favor of people you don’t know from Adam up and touching your pregnant belly. “It’s a life-affirming experience to encounter a mother-to-be, and the healthiest possible reaction is to invade the personal space of that mother,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Leonard Asperger. “Such women have already had several months to adapt to the notion that their bodies are not exclusively their own, and having complete strangers give them an appreciative pat or stroke is just the thing to bring everyone together in a warm moment.”
The study, which observed the social effects of 1,023 visibly pregnant women over the course of six years, cataloged over 4,000 individual incidences of stranger-belly contact. It found that invariably, the mood in the immediate vicinity of the contact improved, as indicated by the number of smiles and the increased heart rate of the pregnant woman. If the contact persisted more than a second or two, the cardiovascular benefits to the pregnant mother were even more in evidence, and if the mother’s romantic partner or sibling was present, those benefits extended even to them.
“The adrenalin increase associated with the touch of the stranger has myriad positive health benefits. The increased pulse can often help during gravidity, when many women experience drops in blood pressure,” the study says. “A consistent regimen of being in an environment where strangers feel welcome to touch the protruding abdomen can help in reducing the need for medication to combat the hypotension.”
According to the researchers, such locales include, but are not limited to, train stations, bus stops, waiting rooms, supermarket aisles and Park Slope, Brooklyn. They observed that the demographic most likely to touch a pregnant stranger’s belly was people over the age of 50. Approximately the same percentage of men and women could be counted on to engage in such impromptu contact.
Asperger intends to follow up the study with an investigation into the positive impact generated when strangers offer unsolicited criticism or advice regarding someone else’s parenting.
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, and put a sweater on that poor child!
Seattle, WA (AP) – The Association of American Body Piercing, a trade group, is warning its members to expect a slowdown in demand in the coming years as American youth run out of body parts in which to make holes.
Citing statistics that point to the emerging trend, the association sent a notice to its 24,000 member practitioners that discussed the challenges soon to confront the industry as fewer and fewer American youngsters have available areas of epithelial tissue through which to stick a metal stud or other adornment. Though many piercing experts expected continued growth ever since the emergence of the punk scene decades ago, it appears that the industry has increasingly depended on repeat business from goths, misfits and just plain weirdos.
“We should have seen years ago that our business model was unsustainable,” said Loeb Needler, a tattoo and piercing parlor owner in Spokane. “But we kept looking at the total numbers, not once looking at the fact that we’ve been piercing the same people over and over again, and they’re running out of places to stick a new accessory.”
Perversely, according to the association notice, although more and more American youths are overweight or even obese, which should reflect vastly increased potential areas for piercings, the increasing prevalence of the overweight among American youth has a depressing effect on the piercing industry. Heavier people tend to be more sedentary, and thus are less likely to pay an impulse visit to a piercing studio. Also, the increased fleshiness of American youth means plentiful folds that wind up concealing or obscuring desirable piercing locations. That fleshiness both makes infection more likely and eliminates the aesthetic or social value, if any, of the piercing.
Another factor is the greater and greater reliance among American youth on social interactions in the online realm, where one can easily Photoshop as many piercings into once image as desired, but without the headache of actually undergoing what might be a permanent alteration.
Needler is not completely convinced, however, that the industry faces a mortal threat. “There have to be other people out there who aren’t obese,” he contends. “I mean, if American kids are so damn fat, who’s buying all the skinny jeans?”
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook. That is, if you can follow the link at all, what with your pierced fingertips. Good lord, that’s disgusting. What were you thinking? That it’ll impress the babes in the retirement home in sixty years?
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, because a mind is a terrible thing,and it must be stopped before it kills somebody.
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, just as soon as you can find an excuse to leave your kid’s lame school event.
Terre Haute, Indiana (AP) – Lice at the Kiddie Carousel Day Care are complaining that the facility, on South Seventh Street, is infested with human children. Children are a risk factor in the forcible uprooting and premature death of millions of lice every year.
The two-legged, immature humans provide an initially welcoming environment for lice. But often, once the insect population has been lulled into complacency, the surroundings suddenly become hostile. Baths of harsh chemicals often occur just when the lice population has begun to thrive, and sweeps of the child’s scalp area indiscriminately carry off young and old alike when the dreaded Comb passes through.
The International Taskforce on Cootie Hosting, or ITCH, has documented at least seven hundred thousand cases of child infestation in North America this year alone, representing an increase of eight percent over last year, which in turn grew from eight percent the year before. According to government statistics, although the number of human children has remained steady in North America during that time, an increase has been noted in the number of the hazardous human spawn inhabiting sites that lice once found more friendly.
ITCH has documented a general increase in dangerous conditions for lice. Famine and wars in Africa have reduced the number of available hosts in certain areas, although the most recent data point to stagnant growth in the African cephalic environment to begin with, as the hair of the African human tends to be less suitable to habitation by lice. But violent conflict in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have wrought havoc with the consistency of available residences.
The situation is not nearly as dire as it was seven hundred years ago, when the Black Plague swept through Europe and severely reduced the human population. Rival arthropod species seemed poised to assert dominance over the parasitic world, but a steady rebound in the number of humans on the continent, coupled with the displacement of bubonic plague hosts, assured the ascendance of head lice for centuries after.
In fact the lice future has never looked rosier, according to a new report by SUCK, the Society of Users of Chitin Knees. The SUCK report notes an overall global increase in human population, which will provide many more heads for lice to inhabit, and global warming means more of the planet will be hospitable to the insects, which survive longer in warmer environments if they become detached from the scalps of their hosts.
But the lice at Kiddie Carousel are still worried, as the presence of the deadly combs and topical treatments have been detected, according to rampant rumors among the lice.
A vocal contingent denies the rumors, calling into question the evidence for the comb and shampoo phenomena, as well as any indication of silicone spray. The skeptics note that all the fear-mongering stifles the productivity and growth of the population, and deem the rumors “pediculous.” Moreover, they argue, any such threat, even if imminent, lies beyond the capability of the lice community to address.
At press time, a louse with dyed, otherworldly-shaped orange hair was seen departing the preschool in a tiny helicopter marked “Trump.”
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch.
Ann Arbor, MI (AP) – Fast-food giant Domino’s Pizza, confronted with anemic sales of its new pizza suppositories, has put further marketing efforts for the product on hold, according to a statement from the company’s corporate headquarters.
Following a lengthy promotional campaign, the Italian food chain finally released its line of “Up Yours” pizza suppositories, hoping to tap into the growing need for ever-more-efficient food delivery in a busy era. With Up Yours, Domino’s hoped to appeal to rushed parents and hurried workers who lack the time to properly ingest and digest even typical fast food. Its “Taste is waste” slogan leveraged the company’s reputation for providing a less-than-stellar culinary experience; a 2009 survey of consumer taste preferences among national chains by Brand Keys, Domino’s tied with Chuck E. Cheese’s for last place.
The advertising push followed an intensive program to get buy-in from the chain’s more than 5,000 franchise holders, but that stage of the program took several months longer than expected because headquarters found it difficult to convince the franchisees to get behind the initiative, according to Seymour Butz, an analyst at Sphincter Industries who studies the fast food industry.
“The franchisees were worried about bottlenecks in supply and production,” said Butz, who also noted that trial runs of that production exposed lax adherence to quality standards. Although the company addressed those concerns, problems continued to emerge even as the release date approached.
Domino’s was forced to push back the start of the promotional campaign to fix those emerging issues, and the executives were apparently satisfied that they had managed to wipe away the sticky problems by softening its position on franchisee contribution. Advertising began in January, and the first Up Yours suppositories were offered in Kansas, Texas and Arkansas. Hopeful initial data from the “In Testin’” phase prompted the further roll-out of the products up and down the eastern seaboard and Illinois.
But sales logs, initially positive, proved disappointing, and continued to contract through the spring and summer, skidding almost entirely to a halt by August. The board pinned its hopes on the September “Backside to School” advertising blitz, aiming to appeal to more regular customers, but decided that if October sales showed no major improvement they would be forced to cancel production. Despite an $18 million investment in equipment, materials and marketing, the company’s bottom line has suffered, limiting Domino’s to a second-quarter profit only slightly higher than the same period last year.
Hopes had been high until then, as a program in the same spirit by a different fast food player had shown its potential. In 2009 White Castle announced that it was “eliminating the middle man” by liquefying its burgers and spraying them directly on the insides of toilet bowls. White Castle sales figures had not appreciably suffered as a result, and Domino’s executives apparently felt that their marketing acumen could make such an approach profitable.
This is not the first abortive Domino’s marketing program. In 1992 and 1993, high-profile lawsuits charged the company with recklessness in guaranteeing home delivery within 30 minutes of an order’s placement; two fatalities had resulted from Domino’s delivery men’s driving. Of particular interest to the plaintiff was a provision calling for the public beheading of drivers who failed to reach their destinations within the allotted time. The company settled both cases, but agreed to eliminate the punitive measures for late deliveries, which had garnered initial popularity and a contract to televise the beheadings.
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, where, on principle, we do not post pictures of our lunch. Count yourself lucky.
Norfolk, Virginia (AP) – Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has denounced the legendary teller of nursery rhymes Mother Goose for encouraging violence and mistreatment of animals in her doggerel.
“Treating blackbirds as food is bad enough – but Mother Goose would have us sadistically putting the captive birds in a hot oven and baking them into a pie,” said Newkirk. “How out-of-touch with ethical behavior can you be?”
PETA released a litany of cruel acts against animals in Mother Goose’s rhyming verse and called for a boycott of her nursery rhymes until Mother Goose could demonstrate she had reformed.
The PETA report grades all of Mother Goose’s rhymes, assigning them a score on a scale of 1-4, with 1 representing an “acceptable” attitude toward animals, 2 meaning “borderline” and 3 meaning “poor” and 4 meaning “reprehensible.”
“Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” was rated borderline, as the report indicates, because it takes for granted that the little sheep’s wool is meant to serve human needs, when, as PETA contends, any human appropriation of animal products violates the animals’ inherent rights. However, the rhyme does not cross the problematic line into “poor” because the lyrics can be construed as trying to elicit the black sheep’s consent to part with its wool, which bespeaks an attitude much more in keeping with proper ethics, the report says.
“Humpty Dumpty” presents a more disturbing situation, in which “all the king’s horses” are clearly being exploited by “all the king’s men” to reach Humpty Dumpty in time to put him back together. But the rhyme was rated 3 and not 4 because, as the report explains, the verse can be construed as meaning that the horses voluntarily participate in attempting to reassemble Dumpty, but with society’s current set of assumptions that is not an obvious reading.
“Pop Goes the Weasel” has a misleading title that might lead to the assumption that a rodent is being mistreated, but in fact the poem received a score of 1, since, as many scholars suggest, the “weasel” in question is cockney rhyming slang for a non-animal object being pawned by a pauper. In the report PETA expressed dislike for the reference to an animal, but the offense was not egregious enough to warrant a demotion to 2.
In an unusual twist, “Hey Diddle Diddle,” despite its myriad references to animals, scored 1 in the report, as the animals in the poem clearly behave the way they do in the absence of human interference, and the rhyme implies that when unfettered by exploitative, abusive captivity, cats can train themselves to play violin, cows can develop aerospace technology, dogs develop a philosophical sense of wonder and inanimate objects mature to the point of recognizing that fundamental physical differences are no barrier to emotional intimacy.
However, the flagrant and brutal treatment that occurs in a number of other rhymes prompted PETA to question Mother Goose’s moral compass. “To Market, To Market” encourages the purchase, slaughter and consumption of swine; “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” endorses the enslavement of animals and, worse yet, implies that the creatures prefer it that way; “Itsy Bitsy Spider” finds nothing cruel about watching an arachnid get repeatedly washed away.
Even some selections without overt mistreatment were rated as unacceptable by the PETA report. The three men in a tub include a butcher, a cruel profession so beyond the pale that its mere mention earned the poem a rating of 4. And in “Hickory Dickory Dock,” the implied use of a human-constructed implement, a clock, to scare away mice was deemed a poor choice.
Newkirk also demanded that Mother Goose clarify at once why the apocryphal, eighteenth-century folk figure uses the name of a blameless bird. She concluded, “Anyone who doubts the speciesism rampant in Mother Goose’s works just has to take a gander at them.”
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, where you cannot buy a bumper sticker or T-shirt that says, “If God doesn’t want us to eat animals, why are they made of meat?”
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, then have your sixth-grader copy you.
Fairfax, Virginia (AP) – In response to the fatal shooting of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said that had the students been allowed to carry a weapon, the murders could have been averted.
“A gun is an easy piece of equipment to use,” said LaPierre at a news conference at NRA headquarters. “A child as young as five can be properly trained to load and aim one. I’m not saying that arming the children would have necessarily prevented all the tragic deaths, but I know the gunman would have thought twice before entering a classroom of two dozen first-graders with upwards of 140 rounds of ammunition at their disposal.”
“And that’s just if you assume each one has a six-shooter,” he continued, referring to the standard revolver. The number of potential deterrent bullets could rise as high as 360, said LaPierre, if each first-grader were provided with a weapon holding a 15-round magazine. He said the NRA would soon be offering firearms purchasing and training programs in school districts throughout the country.
According to the evidence the police have pieced together so far, twenty-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into the school building and went from classroom to classroom, shooting students and faculty before taking his own life. It was as yet unclear how the weapons, which Lanza had taken from his mother after killing her earlier, came into her possession. They were a semiautomatic rifle and two semiautomatic pistols.
The shootings underscored the deep divide in the US between supporters of strict gun control and advocates of expansive Second Amendment rights. It is but the latest in a gruesome series of mass murders by gunfire over the last few years, each one rekindling the debate over what makes American society safer: more guns in the hands of more people, the fact of which might deter would-be attackers, or tougher access across the board to the acquisition of any firearms, which would make criminal shootings less likely.
The NRA has lobbied vigorously for freer access to firearms by the broadest possible section of American society. Aside from deterring crime, they contend, the preservation of Second Amendment liberties safeguards other fundamental rights that the government might, under some circumstances, attempt to deny, as if such an attempt would not be backed by firepower and tactics far that would overwhelm, to the point of ludicrousness, anything even collective US gun owners could muster.
As for statistics demonstrating that a gun owner is more likely to be killed by his own weapon than by anyone else’s, the NRA recommends expanding the pool of gun ownership even further. “We’re all about gun safety,” said NRA President David Keene. “Anyone who accidentally shoots himself probably deserves it, and anyone who does so intentionally, well, that’s one fewer loose cannon to worry about, right?” Arming elementary school children, argues Keene, would enable the youngsters to experience the responsibility at a tender age, responsibility that would bring a maturity currently in short supply.
“Kids love top play cops and robbers, or some variation thereof,” continued Keene. “Allowing them to do so with actual firearms would drive home the point that these things are not toys, and that their use requires a seriousness that can only serve them well – in school, at work, wherever.”
Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook, where you are free to use your howitzer to positively vaporize the virtual deer.