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Eight awful childhood injuries and deaths Parents Magazine didn't warn you about!

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Dear Parents, 

Our children's safety is of course our number one concern. None of us wants to look foolish in the ER. So here's an article I came across in

Bad Parent Sunday


Cheap thrills on the Upper East Side


New York is the greatest city in the world. Don't bother writing in, this is not up for debate. For one glorious year my wife and I lived at 65th and York on the Upper East Side. 

But New York is an expensive place to live, and when you figure in the cost of a sitter, we didn't have a lot to spend on entertainment. …

Have a Carrot


Lucidity and the Low Shelf of the Bookcase

I like words. I like sentences, essays and books. I like reading and writing, which turned out to be quite handy in graduate school. I still like writing and find it a good way to spend my free hours. And I still like reading, which is a good way to spend my un-free hours with my kids. Obviously the focus of my reading and writing has changed. Instead of brilliantly insightful essays on Locke's Second Treatise of Government, I write offhandedly witty parodies of PTA meetings. And Plato and Parmenides have been replaced by Sendak and Seuss. 


When I think about this change I often let out a hollow gasp, "Good God! what has become of me?! What circle of intellectual hell have I sunk to?"

 

I miss the seriousness, the intellectual rigor of academia. 

I miss living among the big questions: Is the virtue of a great man the same as that of a great citizen? If there is a god, exactly how screwed are the Democrats? 

At times like these I long to be back in the library leafing through the academic journals like some self-satisfied debutante looking for her picture in Town and Country. But because it's nap time and I can't leave the house, I do the next best thing, troll the internet for free access to academic databases. 
Then 
I come across something like this:  

"In the speculative, exploratory endeavor that follows, I foreground the most important manifestation of the imbrication of technological advance and the capacity for emotive expression, and attempt to establish a coherent theory of assemblage and affect."

 

 

?!??!! To be fair, this is just one sentence, taken completely out of context, from the beginning of a carefully constructed argument. In defense of her work, the author would say that once you get to the end everything becomes clear and makes perfect sense. And she would be right; truly, the bibliography is extremely lucid and well-typed.

Cross my heart--this was written by a real professor, from a real university, in a peer-reviewed journal.
 
The best part? It's from a lecture sponsored by the Department of Comparative Literature (the tarted-up name for the English department) at the University of Pennsylvania. Yup, the ivy league one. Yup, the English department. Yup, the same English you and I speak. No doubt the professor was a gifted child. 

All academics, me included, have their linguistic vices. Bad ones. The combination of impressive-sounding jargon and sympathetic colleagues is too much to resist. But the offenses committed by
 
 English professors seem to be the most egregious. You would think that all that exposure to great English prose would encourage them to write intelligibly. But you would be wrong. 
 
S
ome of my best friends are English professors who write very well; the ones teaching your children probably aren't. My bet is they outsource their writing to 
 
a dyslexic Indian, who starts the essay in Hindi, translates it into French, then Ancient Greek, maybe Fortran, back into French, and finally into English. If
 
Professor Speculative Exploratory Endeavor (her friends in the Central American Studies department call her "Essay") were my son or daughter's professor,
I'd ask for a tuition discount.  

Reading stuff like this leaves me nauseated and a little itchy. I take a deep breath, put away the internet, go wake the kids up from their nap, and then start searching for something to reassure me that our language has not been damaged beyond repair, that words and coherent ideas are still on speaking terms. I go to the low shelf in the bookcase.
 
There's no ugly "theorizing narratology" rash that can't be soothed with a little Runaway Bunny

The best children's books (-please write in with your favorites-) are true marvels of the English language. The writing is so finely honed that nothing can be added or taken away. They flow with a rhythm and harmony that has the power to pull you off the ledge, again and again and again! again! again! A little Fox in Socks on autopilot will realign your neurons quicker than the new meditation app on your iPhone.

Even more impressive is how the best authors can take the most tired cliches and commonplace literary formulas and create something entirely fresh and beautiful. From page one we all know the the damn bunny isn't really going to run away from home. (Never too early to talk to your kids about hawks.) But when he takes the carrot his mom offers, doesn't it feel like the earth tilts a few degrees closer to the sun? 

And let's not overlook the clarity with which the best books render the emotional complexity of existence. Even a stupid three-year-old gets it when Virginia Lee Burton tells us how
 
along came the new gasoline shovels and the new electric shovels and the new Diesel motor shovels and took all the jobs away from the steam shovels, and this made Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne very, VERY SAD.

The illustrations are absolutely essential. Mary Anne without a face is just another tired old steam shovel. And Where the Wild Things Are on audio book is about as satisfying as fat-free mayo on an unsalted cracker. Ultimately, however
 
, it is the language that gives the book life. Even the best illustrations cannot compensate for bad text. Botticelli descended from heaven on a shimmering silver cloud carried by rosy-cheeked putti could not redeem the "cacophony of informational flows" coming from the pages of the Journal for the American Society of Critical Narratological Theory.  
************* 
BONUS FEATURE!

Heather Park


Guest Author Series: Nora Roberts

Catherine Elizabeth Parker-Carlisle was an attractive woman. She had long auburn hair that she kept tied neatly behind her head. Her skin was the color of warm sunshine and her dark eyes were strong but gentle. …

Burton Memorial Lecture Series


Toot, Toot Goes Mary Anne: Theorizing Voice, Narrative and Post-Industrial Loss in Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton


What follows is an annotated excerpt from the talk given by Professor Betty Wilkins, Asistant Professor of Narratological Studies at the University of [name withheld upon request]. 

 In the speculative, exploratory endeavor that follows, I foreground the most important manifestation of the imbrication of technological advance and the capacity for emotive expression, and attempt to establish a coherent theory of assemblage and affect. So it is with this in mind that I will take up Virginia Lee Burton's classic Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale, and will try to describe ways in which a positive approach to the voice (or voiceless voice) of the steam shovel Mary Anne refocuses the reader's attention to the period's uneven, quotidian efforts to improvise with work, labor, and social narration in a post-steam power industrial world. 

[This essay talks about Mary Anne, who has a remarkably expressive face for a shovel, and needs a job, because along came the new gasoline shovels and the new electric shovels and the new Diesel motor shovels and took all the jobs away from the steam shovels--which made Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne very VERY SAD.]   

With its emphases on bodies, emotions, pleasures, tactility, rhythms, steam, textures,  pain, sensation, and economic punishment, the work's necrotechnological present-future narrative deems it imperative to rearticulate the metatheories of "realpolitiks" of and around steam power  and the second-use, post-imperialist expansion, possibilities open to steam shovels that retained the work-capital functionality and input-output economic potentialities of generalized man-as-labor paradigmatic earth-versus-progress manifestations. 

[The professor means steam shovels that could still dig as much in a day as a hundred men could dig in a week.] 

Hard times require even harder modalities of thought, analysis, creativity, and expression in order to elaborate on what to do about the intersection of Mike Mulligan's economic incentive, the work-as-constraint rubric, and the undeniable absolutism of gravity and friction. 

[Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne had dug so fast and dug so well, that they had quite forgotten to leave a way out! Henry B. Swap wasn't going to pay Mike, but then the little boy suggested why not leave Mary Anne in the cellar and let her be the furnace for the new town hall and let Mike Mulligan be the janitor!]  

In conclusion, I want to posit a narrative argument that delineates a focus on steam shovel as assemblage enables attention to ontology in tandem with epistemology, affect in conjunction with representational economies, within which bodies, such as the human Mike Mulligan and the mechanical Mary Anne, interpenetrate [a few muted giggles run through the audience, followed by a sharp glance from the podium], swirl together, and transmit affects to each other. Through affect and ontology, the not-necessarily-outmoded Mary Anne in particular, I argue, as a new-furnace assemblage, is reshaping the terrain of the post-steam mechanical-digger diaspora. 

[The little boy's solution seems to work pretty well. Even Henry B. Swap smiles in a way that isn't mean at all!]


Great Moments in Father-Son History


Abraham and Isaac


Isaac: Hey Dad, remember the time you were going to kill me to prove your faith in The Lord our God, and He stopped you by, like, doing that Star-Trek teleporting thing and gave you a ram to sacrifice at the last minute?

Stickin' it to the Man


Being Master of the Universe has its drawbacks


I am a stay-at-home dad. I have assumed in our family the role traditionally held by mothers. And I'm not that bad at it. It suits me. So, I can say with confidence that I don't buy into the conventional assumption that fathers are better providers and mothers better caregivers. …

Copyright 2010 Paul J. Rasmussen