Saturday, February 27, 2010

Got Stoopid?

Chances are your child's school will hemorrhage dollars faster than a slot machine addict with six arms, as state aid to education is expected to plummet over the next couple of years.

While some cling to the vague expectation that schools will become more efficient, you can't escape reality: keeping the average classroom temperature above 60 degrees costs money. 

So does employing teachers.

Teachers are in the business of making people less stupid. Therefore, amount of stupidity in a society is inversely proportional to the number of teachers per capita.

In other words, more teachers = less stupidity.

Are you following me? Or was your k-12 education underfunded?

As newspapers begin to deliver tales of school budget catastrophe, keep in mind some of the following examples of colossal stupidity that could have been averted if only there were more teachers.

1)  The Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council is airing ads encouraging parents to give their children chocolate milk, claiming that it's "healthy." Okay, we ought to make sure kids get enough protein and calcium. But aren't these essential nutrients available in something that doesn't contain 30 or 40 grams of sugar per serving? 

The main ingredient in chocolate milk is high fructose corn syrup (you know what that is because of your amazing high school health class). 

The good news: once your child has diabetes, you can sue the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council for false advertising.

2)  The University of Maine has decided to go entirely smoke-free by 2012. On the surface, this looks like a great way to promote public health and get rid of some of those pesky tenured journalism and philosophy professors. But five seconds of deep thought reveal how lame this initiative really is.

First of all, the enforcement method for this policy -- an army of omniscient fairies carrying little fire extinguishers -- will not come cheaply. 

Secondly, alcohol abuse threatens public health on campus much more ominously, as nary a weekend goes by when someone isn't busted for OUI, raped in a drunken stupor, or hauled off in an ambulance with alcohol poisoning. Let's see the university get serious about underage alcohol possession first before they go inventing new draconian rules.

Of course, they'll never do that, because the students would freak out, protest, and transfer to someplace more tolerant. After all, drinking is an integral part of the college experience, particularly if you're stupid.

3.  Lots of people are calling Central Falls, Rhode Island school Supt. Frances Gallo a hero for standing up to the teachers' union. Give me a break.

She wanted high school teachers to spend more time with students by extending the school day and adding more lunch duties. Fine. 

The teachers said they wanted to be paid for this extra time on the job. Such an outlandish demand left Gallo no choice but to fire the entire faculty

Now she gets to hire a bunch of new teachers who are willing to work more hours for less money (read: rookies, plus maybe some people who didn't make it through the probationary period at their last job). Now watch those test scores soar!

That's right, Junior. You live in one of the poorest communities in the state, but your school rates low because your teachers all stink.

Now, finish your chocolate milk and Lucky Charms so you won't be late for the bus.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

(Your Name Here)

From the "Ideas I'm Enraged At Myself For Not Thinking of First" file (cross referenced with the "Too Many Prepositional Phrases" file) comes the story of Jason Sadler, a 27-year-old from Jacksonville who made $84,000 in a year by wearing tee shirts with company logos on them.

Sadler founded, where companies sign up for certain calendar dates when he makes himself publicly viewable wearing their logos.

Let's see that again, in slow motion:





For hanging out at the beach.

And farting around on Facebook and Twitter. 

New shirts every day, which the advertisers provide.

Do you remember that woman from Colorado who agreed to have a casino's emblem tattooed on her forehead for a mere $10,000? I bet she's feeling mighty stupid right now.

But, then again, so are the rest of us.

I mean, really: Where was your skull from 1998 to 2006, when you could have been thinking of this idea?

My only consolation is that it might not be too late for me to use this concept for a fun media ethics experiment, and maybe cash in at the same time.

I'll call it The "Your Name Here" Experiment.

Do you own a business? If so, I'd be happy to write about it in my column for just $10 per mention. I'll even include your slogan for an extra $35.

I am completely serious about this. I want to see if I can save journalism. ("This photo of a fatal accident scene is brought to you by Fred's Auto Body".)

Not sold? Let me allay your concerns with these Frequently Asked Questions:

Q.  Does anyone actually read this column?

A.  Well, you're reading it, aren't you? You can't possibly be the only one, Mom.

Q.  Will selling portions of the column to business interests compromise quality?

A.  It can't get any worse, can it?

Q.  Is this ethical?

A.  Depends how much money I make.

Q.  What if you write something I don't like in the same column (or sentence) where my name appears?

A.  Then you can take your ball and go home, if it will make you feel better.

Q.  Can you provide an example of what this might look like in practice?

A.  Sure. Last week I took my family to Boston to see Disney on Ice. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, and also visited the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Science.

Q.  Are those places that would have paid for space in your column?

A.  No; I'm just mentioning them so I can write them off on my tax return.

Q.  Oh, ok.

A.  Anywho, between "Disney on Ice," which featured a muscular and shirtless Aladdin doing triple axels, and all the svelte gentlemen prancing around the rink at the Olympics, I became temporarily convinced that ice skating, even for non-hockey purposes, could make me feel more masculine.

My family convinced me to rent some skates at the "Frog Pond" at Boston Common. For an hour or so, I minced around the perimeter of the rink like a baby giraffe trying to contain its diarrhea. 

"Wow," I said to myself. "I'm not moving nearly as fast as I would in a quality used vehicle from Daryl's Auto Sales."

9.  How do I sign up?

Email me at and I'll send you a free information packet with the details. Then, sit back and get ready for the rush of new customers. 

By the way: Jason Sadler, you owe me $20.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gold Medal Husband

Do we really need all this nationalism in the Olympics?

Don't get me wrong - I'm quite patriotic. If constitutionally protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens and advancing civilization were Olympic events, we would hold all the gold medals. Rock on, USA.

But I can't bring myself to care whether or not some guy from Minnesota can skate a little faster than some guy from Saskatchewan.

What about the underdogs? Show me the story about the kid from Timbuktu who comes out of nowhere to lead her team to an unexpected bronze metal in curling, and I'll show you one less time we have to hear about Lindsey Vonn being groomed her whole life to become the greatest winter olympic athlete of all time. Gag me with a ski pole.

Patriotism does not have to extend to sports. Maybe if we got to hear some of the interesting stories from other parts of the globe, NBC wouldn't be losing a zillion dollars on these games.

No matter what, though, it is hard to work up enthusiasm just a couple of weeks after one of the greatest and most heart-warmingly triumphant sporting events in American history.

I'm referring, of course, to the Dodge Charger ad that aired during the Super Bowl.

In case you haven't seen it, the ad features a series of forlorn-looking guys staring into the camera with the expression you'd expect to see from an 11-year-old girl who just watched her puppy get butchered by a guy with a swastika tattooed on his scalp.

The voice over says, "I will get up at 6:30 in the morning. I will eat breakfast. I will be sure to have fruit with my breakfast. I will shave. I will clean the sink after shaving.... I will sit through two hour meetings. I will carry your lip balm. I will watch your vampire shows with you..." At the end: "Because I do all of these things, I will drive the car I want to drive."

On one hand, it is sad that masculinity's "last stand" is reduced to some superficial status-grab based on the kind of car you drive.

On the other hand, this ad spoke to me. In fact, it inspired me to go out and buy the economy-sized bag of dog food, even though my wife insists that we get the smaller bag because it fits better in our utility room.

I say: as long as I'm lugging around the dog food, I'll decide how much we spend per pound on it.

(So far, she hasn't seemed to notice the change. Please don't mention it to her.)

By the way, everyone who appreciated that commercial should go on Youtube and search for "Woman's Last Stand," a rather pointed rebuttal that got me thinking.

The real reason I do all those types of things for my wife is because I watched her give birth. When I think of that moment (I say "moment" as if it didn't last 36 hours), and the succession of months and years that followed in which she nurtured our child brilliantly, I'd happily commute on a recumbent bicycle for that woman.

You can say I've been emasculated, but I went into marriage knowing exactly what to expect. I found the woman I wanted to raise a family with and I married her. No one forced me.

So if I have to forego the ice hockey semifinals so we can watch ice dancing, I'm lucky to be able to make such a sacrifice.