National Geographic Kids magazine has a mission – to prep a child to spend, spend, spend

H.o.p. was reading his “National Geographic Kids” magazine the other night and yesterday got up and asked me about a cute rabbit he’d seen in it, which he believed was like the Microsoft Agent, Peedy the Parrot, only this creature would text-to-speech “email and blogs!!” which he thought was great. “Can I get it?” H.o.p. asked, thinking this was downloadable text-to-speech software and would place a funky bunny on his desktop. So, I looked at the article and saw how he would easily have misinterpreted it as being just text-to-speech software, when instead it is Nabaztag, a wi-fi toy, which will read web text and emails and tell you the weather and play music and do other stuff, what stuff dependent on whether you’ve forked over for the $99 or the $199 model.

What was interesting to me was this little bunny was offered up in the National Geographic Kids June/July issue on the Cool Inventions page.

It’s a handful of ten year olds that aren’t going to go running to their parents, pleading, “I want this cute bunny, please, please! I NEED that cute bunny!”

Across was a full page ad for the movie “Tak”.

There are lots of full page ads and I give a rundown below.

Page 1, cover.
Page 2, full page ad for Yogos Sour Bits candy.
Page 3, table of contents.
Page 4, Guiness World Records, a few facts.
Page 5, Wii Boom Blox video game full page ad.
Page 6, Cool Inventions page with a paragraph on the Nabaztag Digital bunny (which in effect is an ad). Also a Centerfold folding electric guitar and a Die Moto green motorcycle.
Page 7, full page ad for the movie Tak.
Page 8, Sports Funnies shorts.
Page 9, full page ad for virtual sports cards.
Page 10, Weird but True shorts (statements).
Page 11, full page Pop Tarts ad.
Page 12, The Green List, 6 tips on being green.
Page 13, full page ad for
Page 14-15 Amazing Animals article, with an ad insert at this point for a subscription to National Geographic Kids.
Page 16-17 Naughty Pets shorts.
Page 17, 1/3 page ad for “The Edge Chronicles” books and online game.
Page 18, Wildlife Watch.
Page 19, full page ad for “Space Champs” movie.
Page 20, Bet You Didn’t Know (7 statements)
Page 21, full page ad for Pokeman trading card game.
Page 22, Video Game Central, a National Geographic article (description and playing tips) on the PC game, “Nancy Drew, Legend of the Crystal Skull,” and the two Nintendo DS games, “Professor Layton and the Curious Village” and “Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Warrior”. So, essentially it’s an ad for those three games.
Page 23, full page ad for Wii’s Emergency Heroes game.
Page 24 Happiness article, 10 tips for being happy.
2 page (4 sides) insert ad at this point for Wildlife Explorer game cards.
Page 25, the happiness article continues.
Pages 26-27, Jack Black article.
Pages 28-29, article on “Kung Fu Panda”, a new movie in which Jack Black stars.
Pages 30-31, Bamboozled, some facts about pandas.
Pages 32-33, Amazing Pet Rescue, short article.
Page 34-35, Secrets of Stonehenge article.
Subscription card insert here for National Geographic Kids.
Pages 36-37, article on the new movie “Wall-e”.
Page 39, Fun Stuff, a game.
Page 40, several cartoons and a 1/3 page ad for “Gregor” books.
Pages 40-41, Car Trip Fun ideas.
Page 42, What in the World, game.
Page 43, 1/3 page ad for Yogos fruit snacks and the movie “Tak”.
Page 44, Art Zone.
Page 45, Art Zone continued and a 1/3 page ad for the book “Savvy”.
Page 46, Funny Fill-In on Safari game.
Page 47, full page Legoland ad (chance to win trip).
Page 48, back cover, full page ad for the Disney movie “Camp Rock”.

About 25 percent of the magazine, which costs $19.99 for 10 issues ($15 for 10 if ordered online from National Geographic), is devoted to advertizing, and that’s not counting the inserts.

I explained to H.o.p. that the bunny was a fairly expensive product, and though he’s a fan of novelty he felt he’d been duped, especially when I told him the price tag, and said no he didn’t want it.

As I looked through the magazine, I realized the lay-out and font styles and sizes and coloring/graphic choices for the “articles” and ads render them in many respects, at least emotionally, siblings. There aren’t clear boundaries that a child may use to distinguish between what is ad and what is content, so the ads come close to seeming to be content, and content is fuzzily warm-warmer-hot close to being promo.

Still, when I then sat H.o.p. down and asked him to go through and point out all the ads to me, he did so easily. However, he also selected as being ads, the Jack Black article on pages 36-37, the following two page article on the “Kung Fu Panda” movie in which Jack Black stars, and the two page article on the movie “Wall-e”!

Ten Year Old Child Begs for Bergman’s "Seventh Seal" (Don’t They All)

I’m not big on Bergman. Yes, I’ve got “Bergman on Bergman” on the shelf but that’s from my late teens and early twenties.

However H.o.p. came across Bergman’s Seventh Seal I don’t know but a couple weeks ago he brought it up.

“What’s The Seventh Seal?” he asked.

Yes, I watch great movies with H.o.p. H.o.p. introduced me to great animation. I, in turn, have introduced him to great films and great trash films (suitable for his age and because I’m just that benevolent and wonderful) since he was little. I want him prepared for those film courses at whatever college/university he may end up attending. I want him to have a nice foundation in some of the classics. When he’s interested (and he tends to be interested) we watch Kurosawa and Fellini and Goddard and Antonioni and De Sica and Chaplin and Kubrick and Altman and…well, you get the idea…but I’ve never even brought up Bergman’s name so I, of course, thought H.o.p. was talking about a marine animal.

Continue reading Ten Year Old Child Begs for Bergman’s "Seventh Seal" (Don’t They All)

Well, one can't say the universe isn't into novelty

I read the Bad Astronomy Blog and watch Phil Plait’s films, and sometimes read parts of the posts to H.o.p., like today’s which was on the age of the universe and how it was formed and the birth of hydrogen. “That is so cool,” H.o.p. said.

Hydrogen means something to us as we’ve purchased a couple of things on the Periodic Table of Elements this year. I’m not crazy about the materials I’ve forked out money for but H.o.p. likes the latest one, which has funky pictures representing the different elements, and likes to read it before going to bed. Honestly, he does. I don’t think he gets much out of it, but he enjoys it none-the-less.

Hydrogen, I guess, was the decision that novelty was the way to go. “Just wait uhm 13 billion years and see what this moment hath wrought.”

While I’m getting my butt kicked again by yoga tomorrow, I will meditate upon the birth of hydrogen (like sure, but a bit about it will probably pop up in my fiction, which means I will indeed be meditating upon it actually).

I really want the yoga thing to become a habit and don’t want it sneaking out the door one morning with the plea of, “yes, we really ought to get together again, give me a call some time”.

Anyway, I breathed a lot today. Intentionally. The kind where you’re supposed to constrict your throat and make yourself sound like the ocean in a seashell just like H.o.p. was listening to and experimenting with today because of one of Krampf’s science videos. But I didn’t sound so much like an ocean at first. I sounded like really bad sinus congestion. So I adjusted it some and came up with a sound like someone snoring. Eventually, I wound my way around to sounding a lot like a kind of phone call you hang up on. Would that be ocean breath if I added salt?

The Quandry

H.o.p.: Mom, there’s something I want to talk to you about. I have this problem that freaks me out sometimes. It’s about life. Sometimes when I think about life it’s like something I can’t escape. It’s hard to describe. How can I forget about it, mom?

Bad mom softly laughs.

H.o.p.: And I sometimes get freaked about the earth, too. Like scientists say in the future the earth will be swallowed by the sun. How can I forget this? I don’t want my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren to die from it. How can they escape it? It freaks me out thinking about how the earth is going to be destroyed. They talk about it everywhere. Even Tim and Moby at Brainpop talk about it. I can prove it to you, and you’ll feel the same way I do.

Mom (knowing this won’t help one bit): That’s billions of years in the future.

H.o.p.: I can prove it to you. Lots of scientists are talking about it. (Going to his computer and opening a browser window.)

Mom: I know. I’ve read about it many times over the years.

H.o.p.: So, I got here for no reason?

Mom (thinking he meant being born): What do you mean?

H.o.p.: So I opened my browser window for no reason?

It Worked for Us – BBC Typing School (Ages 7 – 11)

BBC has an online typing program for kids ages 7 to 11, Dance Mat Typing. I thought I’d go ahead and give it a plug as it worked for us.

H.o.p. began the lessons last year but his interest collapsed. He started them again this year back in November or December and finished them, this time serious about it, on his own initiative. He would even have me drape a towel over his hands so that he would learn how to type without being tempted to look at the keypad.

He now periodically returns for practice, again on his own initiative. No, he’s no speed demon. In fact, he’s very slow at it. But how many weeks later and he hasn’t let any of what he learned lapse, his hands are always in position, and he doesn’t have to hunt and peck.

I didn’t pick up learning to type until I was around 11 and did it on my own as it was better than long hand, but it was a difficult trial of hunt and peck that turned into a two finger style until I took a year (or was it a half year) of typing in 10th grade, which was grueling and involved a lot of

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.

The story is this phrase was chosen because it fills out a 70 space line.

Do you believe that is why?

I don’t believe that is why.

Seriously, we were a room full of kids typing every day (or every other day) for an hour, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country”, multiplied how many times over every day in how many classrooms.

Yes, yes, I know that it is said to be the sentence devised to test the speed of the first typewriter, in 1867, during a terribly exciting political campaign, and that it was originally, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party”, or so it was written by Charles E. Weller in his “The Early History of the Typewriter” in 1918.


Is that REALLY how we got from a speed test on the first typewriter in 1867 to every child in America (probably) typing it repeatedly in typing class for how many years? Is that all there was to it?

“Men and women, this was the first speed typing phrase, kind of, and thus it is that from now until _________ the speed of typing shall be tested by this phrase.”


“Because it fills 70 spaces and we must all those 70 spaces fill with a phrase that uses every letter of the alphabet.”

“But it doesn’t use every letter of the alphabet.”

“Yes, well, blame it on the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog absconding with the rest of them.”

Cosmeo No Longer Has Maths Mansion (durn)

We use Cosmeo quite a bit and H.o.p. really enjoys it.

He really enjoyed the Brit show Maths Mansion which he discovered via Cosmeo, which was filmed about 2001 and is a math adventure game geared for 9 to 11 year olds (not to be confused with the Ms. Infinity’s Math Mansion).

Then suddenly the videos were gone from Cosmeo, not long after we discovered them and had begun making our way through them. I contacted Cosmeo and got no response. I contacted Cosmeo again saying we had really enjoyed them and were wondering if they would be getting them back and finally got a terse reply that said they’d done a search and saw no they were no longer available but could offer no reason why except for some perhapses such as perhaps the license had lapsed.

My question had been IF they would be getting them back. Instead I get, “Oh, yes, I see they aren’t there any longer.”

We already knew they were no longer there, which was why I was writing and asking if and when they might get them back.

There were 40 10 minute Maths Mansion shows and only 10 of them are available via Youtube.

You can purchase DVDs 1 and 2 from overseas via the Channel 4 Learning Shop but the cost is about $100 per DVD.

OUCH! $200 for 2 DVDs.

I don’t think so.

It’s too bad Cosmeo let the license lapse because H.o.p. was getting a lot out of the shows.

Raspberry on that.

Rosetta Stone Doesn't Like Libraries

I discovered what’s going on with Rosetta Stone and libraries. They’ve decided to not license them any longer. So I was reading that a library, patrons being hooked, had ordered CDs to lend out. But the new Rosetta Stone license is for one computer alone.

The librarian had felt that Rosetta Stone had used them as only an advertising outlet.

Blowing a big raspberry at Rosetta Stone.

Let's Not Watch it Again!

Netflix has some Sundance Film Festival animated shorts from 2007.

H.o.p. and I watched “Ask the Insects”, “Der Ostwind”, “In Passing” and “One Rat Short”.

“Ask the Insects” was the only one he asked to see again, the effects having sparked his interest, and then before I even began to replay it he had changed his mind and wanted to move on.

“One Rat Short” had cute animated rats but again H.o.p. was uninvolved by either animation or story.

“Der Ostwind”, about two fighter pilots facing off in WWI, also left him cold. Though I’d watched it first and told him it was OK (not bloody), he was too worried by the fighting, wondering if it was going to turn gross, to enjoy it. And, honestly, there wasn’t much to enjoy.

I’d not previewed “The Tragic Story of Nling” and as the others had been kid friendly we jumped in. But it began with a man saying things had gotten so bad he had eaten two friends and drunk the alcohol from their veins, which sent H.o.p. jumping up from my chair and running from the room. Perhaps I’ll return later to see if there’s anything to recommend it to adults.

All in all, we were unenthused by these selections.

While H.o.p. did some language arts, I did a search at Youtube for Sundance animation, hoping for better things. The result was the 2006 Sundance winner for Best Short Animation, “Fifty Percent Gray”. And H.o.p. will not be watching that film as the basic story concerns a dead warrior who, faced with a television for revelatory company in the afterlife, keeps blowing his brains out. The trace amount of philosophical content didn’t warrant the unnecessarily graphic violence, brains splurting out the back of the head and blood spraying everywhere. The resolution, intended to be dark comedy, was about as surprising and unimaginative as finally stubbing your toe on a protruding leg of a piano stand that you’d passed twenty times earlier and kept thinking that you’d better push the piano stand further out of the walkway but you didn’t and ouch.

We went on to better things, a couple of which I’ll post later.

Slinky in the Sky with Jittery Diamonds

Lo and behold the clouds cleared up and after watching for a while from the window we stepped outside for around 20 minutes of eclipse viewing with the binoculars.

“Wasn’t that exciting?” H.o.p. said.

It was pretty. I tried taking pictures but not having brought along the tripod the moon came out looking like a celestial slinky.

Tullie Smith Farm Log Cabin

Atlanta History Center, Tullie Smith Farm Area
Tullie Smith Farm Log Cabin
Atlanta History Center, 2008
View On White

Atlanta History Center, Tullie Smith Farm Area
Atlanta History Center, Tullie Smith Farm Area
View On White

Little log cabins and farm houses don’t exactly thrill me. Before H.o.p. was born, these are not scenes I would generally elect to go seek out, but if they were THERE right before my face then I would leap into the fray and go, “Oh, wow!” because hell why not learn something. And I tend to want to have fun even though I’m forever boiling over with angst.

Then came along H.o.p. and that means now I do all kinds of things I wouldn’t have done before…

Continue reading Tullie Smith Farm Log Cabin

Some Book Buying Out of the Way

Anybody got a Harold Jacob’s “Mathematics, A Human Endeavor” book they want to sell me for cheap? Never mind. I found a second edition copy that I purchased for $26.

I should not have. H.o.p. will hate it. But we’ll have it none-the-less.

I’m on a math list that is starting a study using the book, the plan being to use the first edition as it was very available and cheaper than the 3rd edition which goes for something like $75. But everyone started buying the first edition and the cost leaped to $50 and up for it.

In the meanwhile, Amazon tells me that I would be interested in all these books on the Mysteries of Mithras, which I would be, but there are so many and I can’t decide which one to buy. And I need other things besides.

Or I don’t.

Do I really need to buy a book specially on the Periodic Table of Elements with its own chart appropriate for hanging on the wall? A couple of months ago, I joined another list specifically for learning the Periodic Table of Elements and purchased a Periodic Table of Elements through it and was a little dismayed by the Table and accompanying material, that I paid for information that I can find better presented on the internet, nor have I been impressed with the list. But such is life and I didn’t pay that much. So…whatever.

Instead of buying any books on the Mysteries of Mithras I instead purchased for H.o.p. The Story of Mankind and A Little History of the World and The Story of Art and The Periodic Table, Elements with Style.

As my reward for spending my money on periodic tables instead of Mithraic Mysteries, I’m now going to go watch “Shakes, the Clown”.

I love that movie.