Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Useful Studies

When it comes to raising kids, it’s sometimes hard for us parents to lay down the law regarding things like diet, homework and bedtime. We often indulge our children although we know we shouldn’t. Instead of forcing ourselves to change, wouldn’t it be a lot easier if we could simply point to a series of new guilt-reducing studies? Studies like these:

1. Psychologists at the Child Welfare Institute of Fairytale University have completed a decade-long study on the effects of television viewing on child development. Much to their surprise, they found a direct correlation between the level of verbal and cognitive skills and the average daily amount of television viewing. Researchers also found that the benign effect of television viewing on children increased in the absence of parental supervision and did not require parental intervention at any stage. "Our study revealed that children will stop watching when they’ve had enough," said team leader Dr. Nathan Miller. "Contrary to previous speculation, there’s apparently no need to limit their TV viewing in any way."

2. Dieticians at the Children’s Hospital of Erewhon have published the results of a five-year review entitled "Dietary Effects of Increased Sucrose Consumption on Pre-adolescent Children." One group of juvenile hospital patients was given a diet high in sugar-rich foods such as ice cream, soft drinks and candy bars. Another group acted as a control and were fed a "healthy" diet comprised mainly of whole grains and green vegetables. The surprising results were that the first group had an increased growth rate and a marked reduction in health problems and temper tantrums. "It seems counterintuitive," said lead researcher Sherry Melville. "But the more sugar you feed children, the better off they are. Plus, they apparently know their own limits."

3. Researchers at the In Your Dreams Sleep Institute announced the results of their three-year childhood sleep pattern study at a recent press conference. Entitled "The Effects of Flexible Bedtime Commencement in Children Under 12", the study observed sleep patterns, growth rates and behavioural transformations in pre-adolescent children who were allowed to choose their own bedtimes. The unexpected results were that children given the freedom to select their own sleep schedule were healthier, happier and more alert. "It sure didn’t seem to fit with decades of anecdotal evidence," said sleep expert Dr. Ernest Tellier. "But there you have it. Let them stay up as late as they want since it’s probably better for their health."

4. Educators at the Wishful Thinking Institute issued a press release detailing the results of a long term study on pre-adolescent children and homework. Children in several school districts were grouped by age and test scores. All groups were assigned homework and half of the groups were monitored nightly by parents to ensure timely completion of assignments. Not surprisingly, the supervised groups showed a slight increase in average test scores. However, contrary to expectations, the unsupervised groups saw an even greater average test score increase. "I never thought I’d say it," said study author Dr. Norville Taylor. "But it appears that the best thing you can do is let your child manage his homework by himself."

5. Physicians at the Double Blind Sexuality Clinic released the results of their ten-year investigation of the effect of structured sexual education on post-adolescent children. Half of the subjects were provided with ongoing sexual information in a structured school setting. The other half were left to acquire information on sex informally. All subjects were tested and interviewed on a regular basis. The unanticipated result was that the teenagers who received their sex education "on the street" were far more knowledgeable than their class-instructed peers. "I never imagined it," said lead researcher Dr. Hans Awn. "But the best advice I can give parents today is to simply forget about the traditional ‘birds and bees’ lectures. They’ll discover more all on their own."

There, don’t you feel better about your parenting skills now? Just by doing nothing, you made the right choice. Next week we’ll review new studies on the beneficial effects on parenting skills of everything from beer drinking to napping.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rrroll Up The Rim

It’s that time of year when Canadians join together in our sacred rite of spring. That’s right; it’s the annual "Rrroll up the rim to win" contest at Tim Hortons.

Like most Canadians, I’m a fan of Tim Hortons but I have to say that I’m not always pleased with the various prizes on offer. I’d like to see some different items and apparently some of my fellow Canadian coffee drinkers agree:

Stephen Harper
"I’m fine with the hybrid car, of course. After all, if the latest budget passes, I should be able to pocket a $2,000 rebate. But what I’d really like to see under that rim is a few more seats in Ontario and Québec."

Stéphane Dion
"If I roll up the rim, there’s only one thing I really, really want: a few more election-free months to avoid a Tory landslide."

Jack Layton
"Tim Hortons is a fine Canadian institution. But in keeping with my party’s philosophy, I think everyone should be a winner. After all, we only want for our fellow citizens what we want for ourselves. In my case, that’s another minority government."

Gilles Duceppe
"I don’t really care what I win so long as you give me a double-double and keep the coffee and cream separate."

Michael Ignatieff
"A spring election. Can that be one of the premiums? The sooner my good friend Stéphane loses, the sooner I can claim my rightful place as the leader of the Liberal Party. If not, then one of those iPod nanos would be nice."

Jean Charest
"Nothing, really. Thanks to my new best friend Stephen Harper, I’ve got everything I need. Just don’t tell Alberta!"

Conrad Black
"Yes, a big-screen TV would be great. But where I’m going, I could sure use something like a comfy pillow or a gold-plated shiv. Ideally, I’d like to win one of those "get out of jail free" cards."

Barbara Amiel
"The last thing I need is a free donut. You think it’s easy maintaining this great figure? If those sluts behind the counter want to do me a favor, they should offer some real prizes like a pair of Manolo Blahniks, a Gucci bag or a week in Tahiti and Bora Bora."

Don Cherry
"Who needs some wimpy Japanese hybrid car? Just give me a Dougie Gilmour or a Bobby Orr. God, I love those guys! And while you’re at it, how about a Stanley Cup for Toronto?"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

March Madness

Spring is here and March Madness is in full swing. Sixty-five bellicose nations were selected and seeded by the UN&CIA and we’re already down to the Sweet Sixteen.

No big surprises in the Mideast regionals. Number one seed the United States won its bracket and is almost a sure bet to advance to the Final Four. Six years ago, they demolished small school rival Afghanistan in the opening round and two years later they appeared to do the same to Arab League longshot Iraq.

Other survivors in the Mideast include longtime hawks Iran and Syria. Overlooked once again was tiny regional powerhouse Israel who is sitting out the tournament for the thirtieth straight year.

The Far East seedings caught everyone by surprise. With the Pac 10 traditionally dominated by such giants as China and Japan, plucky North Korea garnered the number one slot. Despite its economic troubles and recent suspension, the Krazy Kingdom impressed the selection committee with its million man army and its capability for unpredictable outside shooting.

Historically, the Western European regional included some of the best match-ups. But most of the once powerful NATO Alliance have let their offensive game slip in the face of U.S. domination. Not surprisingly, the United Kingdom has advanced while former rivals France and Germany bowed out early.

The Eastern European regional traditionally was a lock for perennial Iron Curtain Conference champion Russia. But with the reorganization of that conference, Russia, although still seeded number one, no longer poses a serious threat to make the Final Four.

Some fans are looking to the Subcontinent regional for what could be the most explosive match-up of the year. Longtime rivals India and Pakistan were seeded one-two and will likely face off in the Asian final. Both possess the long bomb and are not averse to perimeter shooting.

In the end, all eyes will be on the U.S. who were the early pick to breeze through the Mideast region in their quest for world domination on the "Road to Armageddon." But victory, of course, is never guaranteed and every year there are one or two upsets. Longtime fans will remember that the U.S. itself once fell to little known Far East competitor Vietnam and they may face the same fate against the "Fightin’ Muslims" from Iraq.

However the tournament unfolds, fans can watch around-the-clock television coverage. It’s expected to last for as many weeks, months or years as it takes. Check your local listings.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Nickname Association of America

Now that Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice, it’s unclear if he’ll be sentenced to prison. But one punishment for Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff has already been determined: he will be stripped of his nickname.

Bill "Moose" Skowron, current president of the Nickname Association of America, made it official yesterday by formally rescinding Mr. Libby’s sobriquet. As the former Yankees first baseman explained at a hastily convened press conference:

"We here at the NAA are deeply saddened by the actions of one of our members, Mr. I. Lewis Libby. Due to his recent criminal conviction, we had no choice but to rescind his nickname and seek a permanent injunction against him."

While many are applauding Mr. Skowron’s announcement, others wish something had been done sooner.

"Too little, too late," said Phil "Scooter" Rizzutto. "The damage has already been done."

When asked to elaborate, the former Yankee broadcaster and Hall of Fame shortstop said: "Holy cow! What good is my nickname now? That huckleberry Libby has tarnished it forever. Unbelievable! It’s like my old pal "Tricky Dick" Stewart. After that Nixon clown messed up, he was ashamed to use his nickname and spent the rest of his days known only as "Dick."

"With a nickname comes a certain responsibility," said Ed "Too Tall" Jones. "You can’t be selfish; you have to think of the others who also bear your moniker."

The former Dallas Cowboy said that a nickname holder’s actions can be devastating for like-named individuals. "Just look at the case of Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme who tried to shoot President Ford," said Mr. Jones. "You wouldn’t know it today but before she pulled the trigger, there were dozens of "Squeakys" out there. Now it would be easier to find someone named Adolph or Judas."

Mr. Rizzutto concurred. "I’m glad that the NAA has taken action. I just wish they’d done it back when that Libby guy was indicted. Now it’s too late. Maybe if he gets pardoned or awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the name "Scooter" can still be salvaged. But even then, I can’t see myself using it anymore."

Mr. Skowron took his membership’s concerns to heart and vowed to take stronger and swifter action in the future. "Maybe we should have acted sooner and changed Libby’s alias to "Scapegoat" or "Fall Guy" last year. Whatever course of action we choose, however, we can’t allow our precious national heritage of nicknames to be put at risk. Where would we be without our Tigers, our Rockys and our Arnies?"

As for Mr. Libby’s particular situation, Mr. Skowron had these final thoughts:
"I hope this is the end of the matter. I’d hate to see this turn into some kind of Scootergate. After all, it would be a shame if this incident snowballed and put other great nicknames like "Turd Blossom", "Darth Vader" and "Dubya" at risk."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Queer Like John

Given the widespread negative reaction to her comment about former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, conservative pundit Ann Coulter today issued the following apology:

I don’t know what all the fuss is about. So I called Edwards a faggot. So what? The little liberal crybaby is now crying for his mommy because the big, bad columnist called him a name.

Whatever happened to "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me?" The next thing you know, he’s going to start whining every time I call him a "liberal." Oh, boohoo.

Let’s get serious here for a moment. If you look up the word "faggot" in the dictionary, it’s defined as a "bundle of sticks." So I called poor Johnny boy a bundle of sticks. Big deal. I get called "stick lady" or worse all the time. Be a mensch, John, or whatever the kikes call it.

And while we’re at it, what’s all the brouhaha about my using the word "raghead?" It’s a perfectly accurate term to describe some wog with a towel on his head. If people are going to take offense at that, then why don’t we just ban words like "gook", "spic" and "nigger", too?

The last time I looked, there was a little something in this country called the First Amendment. That means the right to free speech, a right that I proudly exercise on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Anyway, Rush, Rudy, Mitt and the boys say I should apologize. I’m not sure for what. But if that’s what it takes to get them off my back (and to boost sales of the soon-to-be-released paperback edition of my book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism"), here goes:

I am truly sorry and deeply regret if anyone, including that little fairy Edwards, was in any way offended by my remarks. And if someone is going to be upset by my upcoming reference to that "homo" Obama, just remember, that’s what Canadians call whole milk. Then again, they’ve got socialized medicine, the frozen queers.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

And What's With That Round Ball?

Here's another excerpt from my book "My Friend W." This piece originally appeared on the op-ed page of the L. A. Times on June 21, 2002, just before that year's World Cup tournament.

The White House today released a copy of a letter from President Bush to Joseph Blatter, president of the international soccer association charged with organizing the World Cup:

Dear Joe:

As you know, I'm not a big soccer fan. Like most of my fellow Americans, I don't know an offsides from a corner kick.

But I do know one thing: People in this country don't care for soccer. It's not that they don't want to like it. It's just that it's so darn boring and confusing.

I think it would be a great step toward world peace and international understanding if all the world's nations could compete in one sport together. I understand you've already got a lot of nations onside with this soccer thing. Here are some friendly suggestions to help sign up the rest:

* Stop calling it football. It's not football, for Pete's sake. Football is the Giants versus the Redskins, the Cowboys versus the 49ers, Notre Dame versus Ohio State. Your game is soccer. S_O_K_E_R. Got it?

* Please put more lines on the field so we know where the players are. How about some horizontal, parallel lines every five yards or so to let us know where the action is?

* Give the players some helmets and padding. Boy, it's hard to watch a guy hit the ball with his uncovered head, or collapse in pain when someone bumps him, and not think this is a cruel and dangerous sport. I assure you that protective equipment will make everybody safer.

* Let one team have the ball for more than 10 seconds. Why not give each team four tries to make 10 yards, say? If they do, they get four more tries. Then you've got some continuity instead of the current chaos.

* Stop the clock once in a while. The referees have whistles; why not let them use them? I'm sure the players could use a break, and I'd sure like a chance to get a snack or use the bathroom. And you know what, Joe? I bet you'd get a lot more advertisers. You might even want to consider splitting each half up into two quarters to provide more ad time.

* Change that offsides rule. Who the heck understands that? I can't even figure it out in hockey, where they've got a blue line and everything. Why not line both teams up and call that the offsides line or, say, the line of scrimmage?

* I've got one word for you, Joe: cheerleaders. A group of attractive, athletic young ladies is always entertaining for the folks in the stands and those watching at home. Let's face it, Joe. Your game can be a bit of a yawn_fest, and it's always nice to look at pretty gals.

* Let the players use their hands. Joe, they look like a bunch of sissies out there with their arms hanging limp. Let 'em catch the ball and pass the ball. If they have to kick it, why not set up some goal posts at either end and let them try to kick the ball through the posts?

* Now this playoff business, or what you folks call the World Cup tournament. I used to be in the baseball business, and I did OK. But it wasn't from holding playoffs every four years! You gotta hold them every year, Joe.

Now, if you folks could implement these minor changes, I'm sure you'd get Americans coming to your games in droves. At that point, I doubt any of them would even care if you still called it football.