Saturday, October 24, 2009

Relatively speaking, Baby Einstein DVD's are full of dull FAIL

Forgive me, but it's hard for me to understand these parents who apparently believed a DVD could make their babies smarter and now want refunds from Disney (and are getting them) because, lo and behold, their babies didn't turn out to be Einsteins after all. Good grief.

Do I think all teevee is always bad, all the time? Of course not. I'm a committed Mad Men and Dexter fangirl; as such, on Sunday nights, you can have my cable remote when you can pry it from my cold, dead...well, you know. And as for children's video, if it weren't for the Sesame Street tapes we had piled high in the playroom ca. early-1990's, I'd never have been able to take a shower or get ready to go out. Indeed, brightly-hued bits of programming like Elmo's ABC's would entertain Son One, in particular, for about 20 minutes--tops--as he bounced around in his playpen. And that gave me just enough time to wash my hair and race back out before he started smashing things and hurling his Junior Legos across the room and beaning the cat. Now, this boy was able to recite the alphabet at 18 months (his favorite letter, God help me, was "da-do-ooo": W). He knew several words in Spanish, too.

Years later, when Son Three was born, someone gave me a Baby Einstein video. He pretty much ignored it then; in fact, none of the boys liked it and it sat on the shelf unwatched, but we did wind up using it when Son Three was four, as an adjunct to his thrice-weekly speech therapy (my youngest son didn't begin to speak until he was five; now, at age 10, he gets straight-A's and has a flawless 100% average in spelling, of all things.)

I guess what I'm getting at is this: Every child is different; there are different "brands" of intelligence; and every child develops at a unique pace. And most importantly, none of these different kinds of intelligence can reasonably be expected to benefit in any meaningful and measurable way from something as easily-packaged and mass-marketed as a series of dull, condescendingly simplistic videos, which, after all, are just slide-show-style image displays of familiar objects accompanied by single-word statements set to various commercially-accepted and (considerably) less-challenging classical pieces.

Hey, here's a bold idea: Why not just play the damned Mozart in the car? That way, you'll be pleasantly surprised when your four-year-old hums things like Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in the checkout line and can tell people exactly what it is he's singing (okay, so they didn't always get the Köchel numbers right, but still). Who knows--you might then find yourself and your progeny moving on to Schubert, Shostakovitch, Glass, and Zappa. (Be still, my beating heart.)

But back to these videos. For the most part, I think the vast majority of child-friendly teevee is dead boring and might even be a depressing experience for bright, creative babies (grownups, too); moreover, plunking children in front of the tube every day for extended periods of time seems counterintuitive, if not lazy. Instead, why not just read little books to your babies? Dance with the wee buggers and speak to them in different languages! Buy some old-fashioned globes for your house--yeah, I know, The World is Yours, Tony Montana, but they do look cool--and show them where they are, relative to everyone else on this Big Blue Marble (ahem). Cook with them and measure stuff out--one, two, three..okay, stop! Let them build towers out of your Tupperware (trust me, by five or six months, they'll have figured out how to pick the baby locks on your cabinets anyway). Get a telescope and look at the stars together.

Hell's bells, none of this is rocket science, so to speak.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The public option: Next year, we'll remember who did the right thing.

El Gato Negro has a message for our dear friends, the Blue Cross Dog ConservaDems: Remember all those people who worked so hard to get you elected? We want to see real health care reform, with a robust public option, become reality.

Next year, we'll remember who did the right thing.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

There's a rep for that

I dedicate this terrific bit of parody to Stephen, iPhone newbie and fellow pointer-outer of Republican homophobia sexism racism fanatic Christianism hypocrisy ah...let's say all of the above, plus abject Republican insanity. We are, all of us, compelled to point it out to you on an ongoing basis, since they keep topping themselves.

Via Shadowfax, the awesomest ER doc in the northeast.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Spare the spork and don't spoil the childhood

Coming soon to a school near you: legally-mandated padding that reduces schools' exposure during those increasingly frequent incidents wherein children are told not to let the door hit them in their expelled, camping-tool-toting asses.

As you'd imagine, I'm completely in favor of banning weapons in schools per se (though I would note that such bans weren't terribly effective at getting kids to not bring knives and loaded guns to my high school--some kids got caught and suspended, yes, but many more souls in that crowd of 4,500 just walked around with their protection devices well-concealed, and that was that). Having one's stuff stolen or one's ass groped--sometimes by teachers, counselors, and even administrators, I'd add--or contracting food poisoning via the cafeteria's liberal use of Magical Mystery Meat®, were far more common (not to mention clear and present) threats to one's health and well-being than getting stabbed, sliced, or blown to bits by a fellow student ever were.

This incident, however, involved a six-year-old boy and the Cub Scouts' camping tool that he received as a gift and was excited about showing to his class. And for his trouble (or, actually, the lack thereof), his school's officials suspended him and want to sentence him to 45 days of reform school because they have a "zero-tolerance weapon policy" in place. I'm dead serious (read the linked article).

So, I'm curious: what's next? No more baseball bats or tennis rackets? No more ropes in the gym? A ban on ballpoint pens and scissors and compasses and Exacto knives? No chopsticks in girls' hairdos and no popsicle sticks in art class, because someone might put an eye out?

They've already done away with Bunsen burners and most of the interesting chemicals in, um, chemistry, which in turn begs the question, What is the bloody point of having chemistry lab in the first place, then? They've already cut shop class and home-ec from the curricula in most Florida public schools, resulting in legions of kids who have no freaking idea how to repair a broken chair leg or turn on a stove and make a simple, healthy, affordable dinner, which idiotic policy in turn has rendered the current generation overly reliant on fatty, cholesterol-packed fast food that's full of unrecognizable ingredients and is expensive, to boot. Few teens these days (and God, how I cringed as I typed that) have the foggiest notion of how to shorten a pair of trousers or sew on a button or cut a slab of drywall or hang a picture on the wall. Forget doing any electrical wiring, plumbing, carpentry, shoe repairing, or furniture refinishing--all things that I not only know how to do myself without playing the damsel-in-distress card and calling Robert, but for which I actually have in my possession the necessary tools and chemicals. And I suspect I'm not terribly different from most of the women in my graduating class, ca. late-1970's, at the aforementioned High School of Peril.

Whatever happened to identifying the truly violent children and counseling, punishing, and--yes--re-assigning those individuals as needed? Whatever happened to affording our teachers a little respect for their intellect and good judgment and allowing them to, you know, exercise discretion, to be free to judge each unique incident on its face and instead of treating every child as a potential terrorist, to simply say, in cases like the one linked above, something to the effect of: That's wonderful, Timmy, but please hand that over to me for safekeeping for now, and we'll return it to your Mum at the end of the day.

Are we such a terrified, litigious, scapegoat-seeking nation that it's no longer possible to have a well-supervised environment--in art, in shop class, in home-ec, in chemistry lab--wherein our little ones can learn how to properly use all those Evil Sharp, Pointy, and Explode-y Things so they can grow up and face the world, in which, it must be said, there is no shortage of Evil Sharp, Pointy, and Explode-y Things?

And if we're going to bring up rare but horrific incidents like the Columbine school shootings in order to state the bleeding obvious--that we need to reduce violence in our culture--then why can't we start at the source and heavily regulate the sales and ownership of guns, and see if that doesn't do it for us?

Jesus wept.

Also at Cogitamus.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

And still it chills: Billie Holiday sings Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Lyrics by Lewis Allan

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Alan Grayson talks healthcare reform to Republicans: If you're against it, then get out of the way. Just get out of the way.

"You can lead, you can follow, or you can get out of the way.
And I'm telling you now to get out of the way."

Between Congressman Grayson's address today, and Keith Olbermann's heartfelt and highly personal hour-long comment last night, I'm thinking there might be enough passion and fire in the air this week to fuel some actual, well, honest-to-goodness change. And wouldn't that be nice?

We can't go on like this, Republicans and Blue Dogs and industry-sponsored trolls who show up in comment threads at some of our friends' blogs and newspaper columns and try their utmost to derail, defame, and delay. Let me repeat that: We cannot go on like this.

(If you missed it, here's the link to the MSNBC video of the outstanding hour of television that was Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on Healthcare Reform; there's a full written transcript provided, too.)

(H/T David aka TRex)

Afternoon Nocturne: Maurizio Pollini plays Chopin

Ah, what I wouldn't give to hear Maurizio Pollini in concert. He's my absolute favorite Chopin Man, possibly of all time (and I fully expect to be flamed by legions of Horowitz fans for saying that, but there you go.)

This is the Nocturne no. 8, opus 27 no. 2, one of my go-to pieces for those times when I need to escape the brash and visceral here-and-now and instead poke around in the tender bits of my soul. It's such achingly beautiful music, truly it is. In fact, if you can listen to this and not weep a little, or at the very least get a lump in your throat, you're obviously walking about with a heaving great clot of ice where your heart's supposed to be--you might want to get that looked at.



Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Michaelangelo's Artistic License Bible Project

I kept thinking about this Python sketch while I was reading Stephen's great post about the uncompromisingly stupid--not to mention patently blasphemous--Conservative Bible Project. Which risible undertaking, if you haven't yet heard, represents an effort to re-write the Bible in a way that removes and/or reworks those elements conservatives say unfairly imbue the Holy Book with a bias that's simultaneously liberal, feminist, and unflattering-to-Masters-of-the-Universe (other than the actual Master of the Universe, one presumes, since let's face it, He tends to be cast in a rather nice light across all the biblical versions).

At the End of the Times, though, any God who saw fit to grace this sorry world with the likes of John Cleese--ah, all the Pythons, really--is fine by me.

Oh, and wingnuts? Jesus said to love your neighbor, care for the sick, and help out the poor. So you might want to work on slimming down those camel-fat portfolios--from what I hear, your science-denying ways have led to warming effects extending far beyond this mortal globe. In other words, the Alternative Afterlife Destination to which you're clearly heading has been posting some record high temperatures lately.

Friday, October 02, 2009

More Grayson goodness

Because I'm guessing we could all use some encouragement and inspiration as we head into the weekend, here's Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) on CNN's The Situation Room, standing a head and shoulders--literally and figuratively--above Repbulican healthcare-naysayers and the Villagers who love them.

Via Driftglass, who notes:

Thirty years ago, there were Seven Words you could never say on teevee.

Now there are five.

They are:


And there they are in all their glory; a clown-car full of Serious Journalists reacting in absolute incredulity-bordering-on-horror at the sight of some guy telling the truth about Republicans.

Villagers: Isn't saying mean things about Republicans exactly as bad as Joe Wilson screaming "Liar" at the President in front of 40 million people?


Villagers: Why? Why why why why?!

Because I am telling the truth and can back it up, and Joe Wilson was lying.

Again, Bravissimo! More like this, please. And more Congressmen like this one would be a wonderful thing, too.

Also at Cogitamus.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

What a spine looks like

Meet Alan Grayson (D-FL) (yes, Florida!) aka Deborah's New Favorite Person on the Planet.

Yesterday, Grayson pointed out that the Republican solution to the health-care crisis faced by increasing numbers of Americans unable to afford care was this: Don't get sick. And if you do happen to get sick, he said, their next solution was: Die quickly.

House Republicans were not amused; many said that Speaker Pelosi should "rein him in" and others demanded that Grayson apologize. Watch today's video of Grayson on the floor and see him do just that. Apologize. Ha!

As you may remember, just last week, Grayson declared that as long as Congress was busily defunding ACORN following allegations of wrongdoing, matters of Constitutionality required that it also defund all the other organizations currently receiving tax dollars who were not only suspected of wrongdoing, but who were actually found guilty of, ahem, significant fraud. And, quelle surprise, a preliminary probe alone found that some of those organizations included the defense industry's heaviest hitters, including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman, with 20 fraud cases between them.

Bravo, Congressman Grayson. Make that, BRAVISSIMO!

(H/T David aka TRex)