Friday, December 27, 2013

DJ Baby

I am always on the lookout for new parenting trends, so you can imagine my excitement upon learning of a popular new class in Brooklyn, New York that teaches children as young as three months old to “DJ.” At $200 for the eight week program, some might see Baby DJ school as an expensive fad but creator Natalie Elizabeth Weiss insists that utilizing the mixing equipment and turntables is no more complicated than playing with a train-set. Advocates insist that the activities increases cognitive development and enhance fine motor skills.
Despite being launched only a few months ago, Weiss has already had to expand to three different locations just to keep up with demand. The idea came to her while showing a friend’s child how her DJ equipment works and he showed interest. Now she exposes dozens of students to hip-hop, house, and electronic music. In some cases, the parents have proven to be more enthusiastic than the students themselves asking if their can bring their adult friends along to observe the class.

Perhaps children advance faster in the 5 Burroughs than in the rest of the world, but it is difficult for me to envision a three-month old manipulating an electronic mixer with any sense of purpose. Let’s face it, when you are only a few lunar cycles removed from the womb; your parents are paying $200 to watch you gnaw on headphone cords while listening to Swedish House Mafia. Once they get a couple of birthdays under their belt, a meaningful interaction with a Pioneer 2000Nexus becomes far more likely and perhaps the Baby DJ class is worth looking into. If nothing else it presents an opportunity to talk to your kids about ecstasy.

Don’t get me wrong, my son displayed a keen interest in music at an early age; but if I want to teach him about pre-recorded sound mixing at three-months I will put on some DJ Shadow and spend the $200 on diapers (or a foam canon). Whatever your feelings are about toddler-targeted entrepreneurship, it appears there is good money to be made so here are some ideas for a few early-development classes:

Toddler Strip Mining – Children as young as 2 months will sit in their parent’s lap as they manipulate the controls of a functioning dragline excavator in search of fossil fuels. Learned skills include eye-hand coordination and EPA avoidance. Each participant will be provided with a Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 coloring and activity book.

Butchery for Babies – It is never too early for your offspring to have contact with a mechanized deli-slicer. Watch their faces light up every time the block of Boar’s Head turkey is decimated by the spinning stainless steel blade! Learned skills include weights and measures experience and customer service. Each participant will be provided with a serrated knife and three raw cuts of beef. (Note: the class was formerly known as Baby Butchery, but had to be changed after three criminal investigations and a copyright infringement suit by the death-metal band Cannibal Corpse.)

Infant CSI – Engage all five of your child’s senses by having them crawl through the carnage of a real-life crime scene. Learned skills include decomposition math and projectile geometry. Don’t forget about the Luminol black light party! Each participant will get a copy of shell-casing bingo and our always popular blood-splatter flash cards.   

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil Roberston Says Words

As you all know, Phil Robertson gave an interview to GQ whereby he espoused his feelings about homosexuality.  His interview reads (in part):

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

First of all, if you find yourself uttering the phrase “a man’s anus” during the course of a magazine interview you may want to rethink your talking points. Obviously, Phil was eloquently conveying a sentiment shared by all heterosexual males and he has the right to do so without having his constitutional rights violated. Unfortunately for Phil, his employer disagreed with his opinions and decided to suspend him without pay. This turn of events was remarkable only because he is a wealthy reality-television personality and not a local plumber. 

Let’s say that I own a liquor store and I hired Phil to work the counter. Now let’s say every time someone comes in to purchase something he informs them that they are going to rot in Hell. While Phil’s actions are a direct result of his religious convictions (namely that the consumption of alcohol is a sin) I still have the right as the owner of the establishment to fire Phil and hire someone who chooses not to remind my customers of their eternal damnation each time they wish to procure some Chardonnay.

Have I violated Phil’s right to free speech by firing him? No. The first amendment reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Let me give you an opposite scenario. Let’s say I was given a show on the Trinity Christian Broadcasting Network and during an interview with Rolling Stone I mentioned that God does not exist. Now it is highly likely that Trinity Broadcasting will disavow my comments and cancel my show because I expressed an opinion that is contrary to their business model and would offend many of their viewers. Does that mean my constitutional rights have been violated? No. Does that mean I exercised my right to free speech despite its detriment to my income? Yes.

A&E is a business and their objective is to create as large a viewership as possible to generate as much revenue as possible and when an employee jeopardizes that revenue stream they might find themselves on the business end of a pink slip. Were Phil to be charged with sedition and sent to a Federal penitentiary, then you would have an example of someone’s right to free speech being violated. There are people all over the world rotting in prison for daring to practice their religion or speak against a totalitarian regime so let’s not trivialize their struggle by placing Phil Robertson’s inability to appear on a television show in the same category.

That being said, anyone who agrees with Phil has the right to boycott A&E or the companies that control it. In A&E’s case that would mean avoiding any assets jointly owned by Disney and the Hearst Publishing Corporation like ESPN. These same individuals also have the right to identify his predicament as “religious persecution” and find themselves caught off-guard that the network responsible for Gene Simmons Family Jewels doesn’t adhere to higher moral standard.  

Either way this is a windfall for A&E and its parent corporations. All of this outrage does nothing but generate free publicity and increase viewership and, by extension, ad revenue. Once enough supporters sign enough online petitions and use enough hashtags, they will agree to bring him back. This “return” episode will be viewed by millions more than it would be under any other circumstance with many of them believing that by watching they are “supporting” Phil's views. All the while, both The Robertson’s and A&E will continue to line their pockets with fruits of a controversy that they themselves made possible. Ah, the beauty of capitalism.    

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

White Christmas

As most of you are aware, Fox News host Megyn Kelly recently assured America’s children that both Jesus Christ and Santa Clause are white males. When these comments drew criticism, Kelly responded by clarifying her remarks as “tongue-in-cheek” humor and explained the controversy as “the knee-jerk instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst of people, especially the people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel." For good measure, she also acknowledged that there is a possibility that Jesus was not actually white. It is unclear whether the release of a long-form birth certificate would settle the issue.

I have seen the clip several times and I suppose it is a matter of interpretation whether or not Megyn is really good at asinine reporting or really bad at portraying sarcasm. It was also unclear how a nefarious outside party “race-baited” Mrs. Kelly and her producers into broaching Santa’s ethnicity as a topic of conversation. The most offensive aspect of the entire piece is that a news network felt it necessary to address the skin color of an allegorical figure at all.

As far as Jesus is concerned, the only thing we can be certain of is that he had great abs. I have yet to see a painting or crucifix where he had double-digit body fat. Whether this was a byproduct of his divinity or the result of a low-carb diet remains to be seen. In Mrs. Kelly’s defense, artistic renderings have such a powerful effect on our subconscious that it is easy to understand why she thought Jesus and Santa must have been honkeys. If I was honest with myself, most of my ideas about Santa’s appearance originated from Coca-Cola packaging.

Either way the controversy got me thinking about the characteristics of other mythical entities:

The Tooth Fairy – While there is not enough empirical evidence to make an ethnic determination, I am fairly confident that we are looking at a female. Let’s face it, the idea of some dude in tights sneaking into the bedroom of a minor while holding a wad of cash is somewhat disconcerting.

The Easter Bunny – Personally, I find the Eastern bunny the most horrifying of the three primary home-invasion entities. While Santa and the Tooth Fairy leave gifts and money, the Easter bunny hides graffitied chicken embryos in your home and then challenges you to locate them. Also, I have never heard a satisfactory explanation as to how a quadruped without opposable thumbs can weave a basket.   

The Sandman – The idea behind this nocturnal visitor is that he places sand into the eyes of children to provide them with a deep slumber. This supposedly explains morning eye-goop as the remnants of the Sandman’s visit. Given the name, I suppose one could safely rule out a woman unless we changed it to “Sandperson” which sounds dangerously close to a racial slur. To be honest, I never understood how tales of a magical creature throwing known corneal irritants into the ocular cavities of defenseless children was supposed to help me sleep anyway.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The New Birthdays

During a recent conversation about children’s birthday parties, my wife utilized Pinterest to open my eyes to what is trending in toddler celebrations. Unbeknownst to me, there is an entire subculture constructed around kid’s birthday parties. Gone are the days of inviting over the grandparents, taking a few photos, and watching the child decimate a cake. I now realize that as a member of middle-class America, the expectations have become much higher. Apparently, hosting a party for a toddler is closer to the Golden Globes than I realized. There will be a cohesive theme, custom invitations, and all attendees should receive gift bags upon their exit. From what I observed, planning a party for the modern child has many components.

We begin at the theme. What motif would properly express the child’s interests? Agriculture? Dinosaurs? Tort Reform? Once this has been identified, you are faced with creating the theme-based custom invitations. Hours must be spent painstakingly integrating the concept in a way that seems both original and clever. This usually involves rhyming something with the child’s age so that “You are invited to Timmy’s third birthday party” becomes “Timmy is just as excited as he can be, because his birthdays, like his nipples, can now be counted by three!

Now you are faced with the task of refreshments. Gone are the days were it was acceptable to set out a bag of Doritos and a case of Big K, now the party hosts are expected to churn out cleverly labeled custom appetizers. These, like all aspects of the celebration, must adhere to the theme. So if you were intent on utilizing Doritos and it was a traffic sign-themed party you could attach them to pretzel sticks and refer to them as “Yield Signs” or something comparably whimsical.

Toss in the gift bags and custom decorations and before you know it little Timmy is being forced to go to a state school because most of his college fund was drained on his Dubai-themed fourth birthday. I did feel that one component missing from all of the parties I saw was a gift bag fort the parents of the attendees. It could be filled with Merlot, ibuprofen, and the promise of a two-hour nap.

Either way, I am glad that my wife is creative so that our children will not grow up asking if they "have to have their birthday at the Pizza Hut by the Interstate again this year." After all, the only thing worse than your offspring posing that question is hearing the response, "Not if they keep jacking up their buffet prices."

Since it would appear that theme-planning for toddlers is rather lucrative, I have created the following ideas I plan to share on Pinterest:

Dark Arts – Pentagrahm crackers could be served and one lucky child would get to contact a deceased great-grandparent via séance. All attendees would receive a gift basket containing a sacrificial dagger, Ouija board, and selected children’s books by Anton LaVey.

OSHA Violation – The children would taking turns grabbing exposed electrical wiring until they found a live circuit and all caustic chemicals would be placed in Kool-Aid Squeeze-It bottles and labeled “super-hero fuel.” Gift basics would include OJI paperwork and a refrigerator magnet with the number for poison control.  

Hunger Games – Only one hotdog and two Capri Sun pouches would be provided during the course of this mandatory 6-hour celebration. Attendees would be armed with makeshift weapons and placed equidistant from the aforementioned refreshments. Gift baskets would contain gauze, antiseptic rinse, and diminished respect for humanity.

Controlled Substances – Guests would be encouraged to bob for Adderall in cough syrup and there would be a scavenger hunt for Pseudoephedrine in neighboring homes. Gift baskets would include barbiturate trail mix and the business card of a reputable criminal defense attorney.