Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Charity We Trust

For those of you who listen to public radio, you are familiar with the onslaught of non-profit organizations, foundations, and trusts that make NPR’s unparalleled reporting and insights possible. Understandably, the stations utilize the commercial breaks to credit these non-profits for their contribution to the programming being broadcast using the familiar “This program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the _________ Foundation.”

Invariably, once the name of the non-profit has been established, the “host” will convey the mission statement of the organization. While a handful of these mission statements are improbably specific, the majority lean toward hopelessly broad. My favorites are ones that wish to encourage “a more civil electorate” or a “more verdant society.” Worthwhile pursuits to be sure, but I can only imagine the headache this creates for the board of directors who are forced to quantify these goals and write actual checks.

If I were to find myself obscenely wealthy one day, I think it would be entertaining to create randomly-named foundations with ridiculously vague mission statements and direct the funds toward public media. The purpose of this would be threefold:

1.      It would provide needed funding for an informative and worthwhile journalistic pursuit.
2.      The anonymity would convey undeserved humility while shielding me from the inevitable backlash of my third and primary purpose.
3.      To hear seasoned, educated broadcasters repeat the ridiculous statements I write.

Here are some of my early ideas of the both the unnecessarily specific and comically-broad categories:

The Swaggle-Pimp Foundation – Dedicated to the elimination of unhappiness through the combined application of ambiguous political influence and rudderless endowments.

The Estate of Frank & Rosacea Horseknuckle – A bequest devoted to the elimination of metaphorical boundaries within hypothetical demographics.

The Dingleberry Collective – A charitable trust committed to the elimination of hypertension in color-blind mathematicians through nude agriculture.

The Worldwide Cooperative for Uncompromised Individualism – Utilizing pooled resources and shared directives to develop a universal framework for those seeking distinctive individuality.   

The Mutual Community Society – Supporting the arts, science, blind fundamentalism, literacy, physical wellness, basic human empathy, tort reform, organic haircare, charitable charity, house-pet monogamy, wastewater management, experimental window-tinting, ferret therapy, cancer treatment, investigative research, pre-school Crossfit, green space initiatives, left-handed cookbooks and all local parades with themes that promote or celebrate the consumption of bacon.     

Friday, November 21, 2014

Kid's Shows

Over the past year, I have become acquainted with a number of children’s television shows. After repeated viewings, my mind wanders and I find myself wondering how the series finales would look if HBO purchased the rights to the final season and was given creative control. These, of course, are not realistic since none of my portrayals feature gratuitous female nudity.

Doc McStuffins – Unbeknownst to the main protagonist, Stuffy the Dragon was collared for utilizing mom McStuffins’ prescription pad to write illegal scripts for narcotics. In exchange for leniency, Stuffy agreed to turn state’s evidence and cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation against Doc McStuffins for practicing medicine without a license.
With the support of Lambie, McStuffins vows to fight the charges. However, she eventually pleas down and finds herself in a state correctional facility where she is forced into an altercation with a fellow inmate. Viciously defending herself with a shiv fashioned from the tightly wound cover of her “Big Book of Boo Boos” she earns the nickname “McStabbins.”

Dinosaur Train - Having spent years gaining the trust of their dinosaur passengers, the Troodons (who run the prehistoric rail system) offer a complimentary day trip to the Big Pond as a thank you to their customers. Once aboard the train, Mr. Conductor orchestrates the other Troodons in a savage attack against The Pteranodon Family leaving Buddy as the only survivor.
Dr. Scott the paleontologist closes the final show by telling the assembled children that while the idea of carnivorous animals successfully running a mass transit system is entertaining; the truth is that the Mesozoic era was a time of darkness and barbarism. The camera pans wide to reveal that Dr. Scott is a resident at a state mental institution and just as the shot fades we see two orderlies enter and reprimand him for drawing dinosaurs on the wall again.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – In this series finale, Mickey gathers the gang inside the clubhouse before having the unnecessary mechanical hand lock the door behind them. His voice drops several octaves as he informs the faithful that their unit has been activated. Mickey reveals that the Mousekadoer mainframe has taken control of the United States power-grid and at 1400 hours they will commence Operation Iron Tail.
The group looks on as Mickey slowly begins circling his cohorts and reveals that someone in their midst has betrayed the motherland and will pay dearly for their transgressions. Each character watches apprehensively until Mickey finally makes eye contact with Daisy and solemnly shakes his head. In short order, Toodles is summoned and presents Daisy with the method of her execution: a rope, a pistol, or a cyanide capsule. In a show of unexpected defiance, she meets Mickey’s gaze and demands the “mystery Mousekatool!” A collective gasp is heard as the question mark gives way to reveal a wood-chipper.

Jake and the Never Land Pirates – Cubby and Izzie (after conferring with Never Bird) become convinced that Jake lacks the fortitude to finish off Captain Hook once and for all. Together they stage a mutiny and utilize the gold doubloons in the Team Treasure Chest to hire Marina the Mermaid to drown Captain Hook and Mr. Smee.
She agrees to meet Cubby and Izzie for the exchange, but instead takes the money and lures them to the doldrums to die. Seething from the double-cross and delirious from scurvy, Cubby and Izzie seek Jake’s counsel and agree to free him. Never Bird then gives the signal to Stormy, who is carrying Jake’s baby, and she drowns Cubby and Izzie before pledging her eternal devotion to Jake.

Unbeknownst to Stormy, Jake has been seeing Marina behind her back and has orchestrated the entire series of events (with the assistance of Never Bird) to free himself of his two crewmates and keep all of the gold doubloons for himself while casting doubt on Stormy’s claims of his paternity. Thanks to the testimony of Marina, Never Bird, and Jake (along with Hook’s influence with the maritime criminal justice system) Stormy is convicted and locked away.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Child Abuse Prevention & Tater-Tots

As a part of her ongoing education, my wife was signed up to attend a seminar on how to identify and prevent the sexual abuse of children. Nervous about facing such daunting subject matter alone, she asked if I would attend with her. I agreed, and was informed that although it began immediately after I got off work there would be a “snack supper” provided to the attendees. From past experience with the term “snack supper” I assumed this meant I would be provided with cubed cheese and cocktail weenies until I could get to a Wendy’s.

Fortunately, the coordinators had provided a spaghetti and tater-tot main course which was both delicious and filling. As with many of these events, we were seated at round tables with other attendees which meant we found ourselves in the company of a young woman we had never met before. We made the requisite small talk and then we were handed a pre-course evaluation quiz meant to gauge our current level of knowledge concerning sexual abuse in minors.

All questions were presented in a true/false format and while some were well-worded and concise, a few proved to be difficult to answer. One in particular that generated some discussion between us and our table-mate was, “Victims of childhood sexual abuse are statistically more likely to develop cancer and type 2 diabetes as adults.”

At first glance, we were all tempted to mark this one as false. After all, how could one draw a direct line from childhood sexual trauma to adult cancer? However, I began to reason out-loud that such trauma could perhaps lead to anxiety and addictive behavior which could in turn manifest itself as a nicotine habit which is statistically-likely to lead to a cancer diagnosis. My wife, eagerly jumping on this train of thought, added that the same anxiety and behavior could lead to compulsive overeating which, one could argue, is a harbinger for type 2 diabetes.

Basking in the glow of our impeccable reasoning, we glanced at our table-mate for input but she appeared to have become somewhat sullen. A few moments later, she left the table to smoke a cigarette and returned to the table with a plate of two-dozen tater-tots which she consumed in silence.  

Once again, I had managed to place my foot directly into my mouth but quickly rejected the idea of addressing it. What would I even say? “I know earlier my wife and I implied that a nicotine habit and robust appetite could indicate child-hood abuse and an untimely demise but we weren’t talking about you just because you enjoy menthols and have a penchant for tater-tots.” I decided that any continued conversation would be futile so we simply waited for the next video segment where a woman with severe eyebrows would lead us through the participant guide.

At the course’s conclusion (which was extremely worthwhile even if from a parenting perspective) we were given a post-training quiz. As the facilitator walked us through the correct answers on the post-quiz, several attendees would speak the answers out loud. For the most part, this process was handled with the dignity and emotional gravity demanded by the subject matter.

There was, however, one table that seemed to be under the impression that we were participating in bar trivia. As one speaker was leading us through statistics they would often shout “True” or “False” ahead of the conclusion of the sentence. There was also a few extremely awkward moments of inappropriate clapping if their answers were correct:

Speaker - 90% of child abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the family knows an……
Table 3 –True! True!
Speaker – That is true. [Clapping from table 3]

At least they weren’t taking shots for correct answers.

All in all, I would encourage anyone to attend child-abuse awareness training as we should take every opportunity to end this scourge that has tainted so many lives. Just try to refrain from victory dances when you correctly guess a statistic.