Friday, August 28, 2009

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

Princess is in trouble.

Apparently, the following exchange took place at school yesterday:

Teacher: Children, you need to be quiet.

Princess: No, YOU need to be quiet!

My child.

Princess met me at school with her head hung down in shame. She wouldn't meet my eyes. When we got to the car and I managed to get her chin up, the corners of her mouth were turned down so low I thought they would meet underneath.

"It was an accident!" she wailed. "I didn't mean to be bad!"

"I'm not happy," I answered, Stern Mommy face in place. I knew I had to play the big card. "Wait until I tell Daddy about this."

"Aaaahhh," Princess wailed from the carseat. "I didn't mean to be bad! It was an accident!"

When we got home, Princess was sent to her room while Sven and I deliberated. We decided on the following punishment:

1. No cupcake. (My cousins sent me home with cupcakes last weekend, it's not like we constantly have cupcakes in the house to withdraw from the children for misbehavior.)

2. Removal of the DVD player from her room for the night. (Yes, she has a portable DVD player that she keeps in her room. I hear you, Mom.)

News of this punishment was greeted with the same level of distress that I imagine would result from a group of Lord of the Rings fans being told that Peter Jackson won't be directing the film version of "The Hobbit." Teeth were gnashed. Hair was pulled. Clothing was rent. She didn't have access to ashes or sackcloth, but you get the idea.

"Thank goodness we had the foresight to shower our children with a ridiculous amount of material objects, so we now have things to take away!" I said to Sven.

"I agree," he said.

Today, she was wonderful. A peach. She apologized to the teacher and played nicely all day. All is well.

Here's the problem:

Removing the DVD player caused her to sleep. Most of the night. She never does that. Now, I don't want to give the DVD player back.

I'll think of something...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I have blogged before about my disgust for so-called "educational" television. What does this dreck really teach our kids? That the world is:

  • Full of caring anthropomorphic creatures that will instruct them on how to use shapes to build a rocket to Mars so they can save a kitten, and
  • Completely tolerant and accepting of everyone, to the point that multi-ethnic groups of people will break into a dance of friendship after successfully reading the word "wiener."
This, of course, is poppycock. Where are the real lessons kids need to learn? You know, lessons like:

  • The universe is full of evil half-human supervillains with comical names like "Stinkor."
  • Appropriate attire for any occasion includes leg warmers and a hi-leg leotard
  • Mr. T can do anything
  • For it to count, your primary talent should be emblazoned on your stomach
These lessons are where we all belong: back in the 1980's.

To further my children's education and halt the alarming encroachments Dora the Explorer ("Blinking At You In Many Languages! *blink* *blink* Bueno!!") is making in our household, I recently purchased the following DVD's:

  • Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer
  • The Care Bears Movie
  • The My Little Pony Movie
  • She-Ra, Season 1, Part 1 (the first 32 episodes of this landmark series)
Each of these films sensitively conveys ideas that have been lost to today's generation due to the "misguidedness" of "political correctness" and "sensitivity."


Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer takes a very simple story and conveys it with a depth and maturity not often seen in animation. To summarize: there's a princess who loves shiny things who decides she wants Spectra, the diamond planet, which creates all light in the universe. Shockingly, she is not the heroine. Our heroine is Rainbow Brite, who, after being awakened by her commune of coeducational and multi-ethnic "roommates," sets off to recover Spectra so she can bring spring to Earth. (She knows about the situation because the robot horse told her. Don't question me.) Rainbow Brite takes her horse, Starlight (who speaks in a British accent but sings like Tom Petty) to Spectra, but she is followed by Murky and Lurky, who are her usual enemies because they hate color. Long story short (quiet!): Rainbow Brite saves Spectra and the magic key glows again and spring comes back to earth and the sprites rejoice. (Of course there are sprites. They work in the color mines, which are happy, fanciful mines that produce colored gems and, apparently, marijuana, judging by the sprites' facial expressions.)

Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer teaches us that greed is very, very bad. A courageous message for a movie based on a collectible toy series that constantly invented new colors just to have new dolls to market.


The Care Bears Movie follows three orphans whose names I can't recall. Two of the orphans are brother and sister, and they get sucked up to Care-a-Lot by the Care Bears, who teach them to love again. On earth, Nicholas (okay, I remembered one) finds a magic book that sucks the caring out of him and everyone else. The Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins must leave Care-A-Lot and the Forest of Feelings to defeat the evil book and make Nicholas care again. Starring Mickey Rooney.

The Care Bears Movie teaches us that books are evil. Well played, evil corporate toy merchants.


The My Little Pony Movie is so amazing that I couldn't even watch it. It also stars Mickey Rooney.


She-Ra, Princess of Power is the most amazing thing in the history of ever. It is a spin-off of the He-Man cartoon series. Those of you who think you remember the 80's, go to Youtube and watch some He-Man and then come back. I'll wait.


So He-Man really "transforms," right? He goes from a pageboy-haircut, pink stretch pants-wearing "regular guy" to an oiled-up bodybuilder? Very butch. And did you notice that He-Man's hair and face don't change at all? He just changes his clothes to become He-Man. His own parents don't know him. Here's how that would really work:


Momz: Hey, who are you and what are you doing here?

Deb: Mom, it's me.

Momz: Oh, I didn't recognize you. You look like a completely different person.

Deb: I took off my jacket.

Momz: That's it.


He-Man's parents must have either been unimaginably stupid (which some episodes suggest) or just playing along:


Dad: Where's Adam?

Mom: I don't know, he's out playing with his sword.

Adam: (from outside, faintly): I....Have....the POWER!!

Dad: Great. Here he comes.

Mom: Shut up, shut up, get into character...

He-Man (entering): Skeletor is coming!

Dad: Oh, no! Whatever shall we do? It's a good thing you're here, He-Man, instead of someone else who just looks like you but dresses like a female ice skater. (Winces as Mom elbows him)

Mom: But where is my son Adam? Not in front of me half-naked, that's for sure.

He-Man: There's no time, you have to leave before Skeletor gets here!

Mom: All right. There are cookies on the table, dear.

She-Ra's friends are even dumber, because Adora, She-Ra's alter-ego, used to be a Horde commander or something, and she showed up to join the rebellion at the same time She-Ra appeared. Coincidence? I think so!

What doesn't She-Ra teach us? Don't trust whisper-voiced shadow demon sorceress ladies? Check. People with metal bones for faces are bad? Check. If an organization voluntarily calls itself "The Horde," it's probably not good? Checkity check.

All still vital lessons for today.

I have the power.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ron Clark and Oprah

Written Last Week, but posting the first day of school

Today I had the privilege of listening to Ron Clark, founder of the Ron Clark Academy. You might know him from his appearances on Oprah, various media outlets, and the movie based on his experiences, "The Ron Clark Story" starring Matthew Perry, my favorite Friend.

This is just one more example of how Oprah is always right.

Scoff if you will, but years ago, I saw Oprah interview this darling Southern boy who had made such a success out of a school in Harlem, New York that he won the American Teacher of the Year award. He inspired me then. Now that I've seen him in person, I want to drop everything, move to Atlanta, and convince him that he needs a full time choir director/piano teacher on staff. (Mom, if you're reading this, I'm just joking.) (Mr. Clark, if you're reading this, I'm so not joking.)

Other things Oprah has been right about:

1. Reading is fun. When Oprah decided that Americans needed to read again, we all did. Well, technically you all did, because I read all along. However, at Oprah's suggestion, I did vary my Stephen King/Trashy Romance diet with some Barbara Kingsolver and Lalita Tademy. And, you know, a lot of those books were pretty good.

2. Dr. Phil. I always tell people that I can't stand Dr. Phil, but the truth is I usually get advice on his show that totally makes sense for me. I'm sorry. It's a sickness.

3. Every celebrity breakup ever. Well, maybe not, but I personally knew the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston marriage was over when Oprah, using her penetrating and deft interviewing style, asked Pitt about marriage and married life. His answer: "Well, it's great, it's a lot of fun, but I don't think there's such a thing as a lifetime of happiness with one person. I think you have to enjoy the time you have with someone, and then be ready for the next thing." Or something to that effect. How did Jen not see it coming?

4. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary. It sounds corny, but since I took the time to really clean and organize our bedroom, there is a sense of peace and relaxation there that I swear was not there before. Oprah, of course, recommends a complete redecoration for the whole "sanctuary" thing to be complete, so Sven... (cough)

I could go on, but I won't. (You're welcome.) But I have to tell you how inspired I was by today's talk. Mr. Clark is an energetic, goofy, lithe man who bounds all over the stage and has an expressive, mobile face. He is the antithesis of "passive." I've been going to these "Welcome back, now get inspired!" meetings for a long time now. Here's a sample of some of the other things I've heard:

1. Unintelligible mumbling about Los Angeles
2. How China and India are going to drive us all into homelessness and we can't stop it
3. How self-esteem is imaginary and we shouldn't cater to it
4. How test scores don't matter, but here's how you raise them.

I could go on, but I won't. (Stop it.) Fortunately, this year I got to hear Ron Clark, which meant I got dinner (a lot of good, substantive ideas for classroom management and instruction) and a show (Mr. Clark's humor and genuine feeling). What a treat! Although there was nothing said specifically about fine arts, I'm already imagining how I can incorporate some of his techniques into my classroom.

If nothing else, I can bring the enthusiasm. Come on, kids. I'm ready.