Friday, October 25, 2013

Long Island Middle School Bans Childhood

It seems Weber Middle School on Port Washington, Long Island hates children and wants them to get fat.

Earlier this month, the school banned footballs, soccer balls, and baseballs. They also banned games of tag and cartwheels unless an adult supervisor is present.

School administrators cited an overinflated, unreasonable fear of serious injuries, despite the fact that nearly every child in the history of the world has survived playing tag, doing cartwheels, and playing with footballs and soccer balls.

According to a story on CBS 2 News' website, they told students no more football, "hard soccer balls," baseballs, lacrosse balls, and that adults had to watch the kids play tag or do cartwheels, because as everyone knows, no child has ever been injured while an adult watches disinterestedly from several feet away.

However, to show that they still understand that children need to burn off energy, they allowed soft Nerf balls, because "the softer foam balls put students in the best situation to cut down the chance of getting injured."

Apparently they're not concerned about foam poisoning.

Port Washington schools superintendent Kathleen Maloney told CBS 2 they created the policy because they felt the community's helicopter parents weren't doing enough to ruin their own children's lives, so administrators decided to see if they could ruin everyone's.

Actually, what she said was "Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious, so we want to make sure our children have fun, but are also protected." Then she cackled, "everything I just said was true except for wanting our children to have fun."

But the Weber students aren't taking this lying down. At least not until administrators force them to sleep in those slime-filled pods from "The Matrix."

"I think we need the soccer balls, the footballs and everything, so we can have some fun," one student told CBS 2.

School administrators say that without protective gear, such as helmets and kneepads, children are more likely to get injured. This may be true, but no kid wants to go through childhood wearing a helmet and protective harness whenever they leave the house like Phillip the hyper hypo kid from Saturday Night Live.

"Children's safety is paramount, but at the same time, you have to let them live life," said Ellen Cohen, a Weber parent. Many parents echoed Cohen's sentiments, and said this was yet one more case of interfering lawyers wringing their hands about liability issues, instead of letting kids do the one thing that comes naturally to them: mildly injuring themselves.

Or as Arthur Caplan and Lee Iger wrote in Forbes, "(t)he idea that attorneys should decide what goes on during recess is akin to asking accountants to decide what would be the best way to spend your money at an amusement park."

But it's only going to get worse before it gets better: several school districts from Long Island have already been in touch with the school, possibly considering banning childhood from — and raising fat kids in — their own schools.

As the years continue to waddle by, there is less and less incentive for kids to go outside, thanks to 500 channels of TV, epic-length video games, and helicopter parents who won't let their precious snowflakes go past the driveway, kids will only continue to get fatter.

And no matter how many times First Lady Michelle Obama tells us to Just Say No to cheeseburgers, kids who don't engage in physical activity when they're young won't know how it's done when they're adults.

It's an ongoing problem. Schools cut physical education because George W. Bush didn't want to leave any kids behind. The problem is now many of them are too fat to keep up. Then schools started cutting down on games like kickball and football, because kids might get hurt. And now they're coming after balls and harmless games and activities.

To top it off, you get doctors like Salvatore Pardo who, on one hand, think kids shouldn't play unless they have helmets and body armor, and on the other, scratch their cotton-filled heads and wonder why there's a childhood obesity epidemic.

The two groups of people who are supposed to make sure kids have a fun childhood are now the same two groups responsible for ruining it. The whole point of childhood is to play and have fun, not to waddle through life wrapped up in bubble wrap and a parent's terror.

Because if Weber Middle School and these other school districts have their way, we'll have so many fat kids in the United States, the planet will tilt on its axis and send us spinning into the sun.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Press Releases and Perennial Rivalries

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery, Kansas City's leading garden center, is pleased to announce the arrival of their brand new, never-before-seen heirloom tulip species, the Tulipa Mendacem, just in time for the fall planting season.

"We're very excited about Tulipa Mendacem," said Adelia Blanda, owner of the Rose and Crown. "This is a very special flower we helped develop over the last four years, and we're introducing it to the world this week."

Blanda says the new tulips promise to be brighter and more vibrant than any others available in the greater Kansas City area.

(Kansas City, KS)—Thea's Tulips, Kansas City's number one garden center, today announced the arrival of their new species of tulips, Tulipa Dolus, making them the first ever nursery in the United States to create their own species.

Miriam Dumalis, owner of Thea's Tulips, said, "Regardless of what you've heard in local gardening news, we have developed the first and only new species of tulips in the last 23 years. We worked closely with leading botanists from Cornell University to develop Tulipa Dolus, and they have assured us that no one else is even close to creating another species."

According to Dumalis, the Tulipa Dolus has been in development for five years.

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery, which has been voted metro Kansas City's best garden center for the last eight years, continues to correct erroneous propaganda about their new Tulipa Mendacem.

"I don't know what kind of cow fertilizer other people are spreading, said Adelia Blanda. "We have been working with Dutch botanists from Leiden University on our new flower, although our original research started in our own labs six years ago."

Blanda has consulted an intellectual property attorney, and is considering legal action against any fraudsters and con artists who try to pass off ordinary tulip bulbs as a new species.

(Kansas City, KS)—Thea's Tulips, which carries more roses, orchids, and lilies than any nursery in the metro Kansas area, says they can provide documented proof that they began their initial tulip breeding research seven years, eight months, and 26 days ago.

"Any claims by other so-called garden centers to have a new tulip species must be sniffing their own non-organic chemical fertilizer," said Miriam Dumalis, owner of Thea's Tulips for the last 19 highly profitable years.

Dumalis said they have applied for a patent on the Tulipa Dolus and have already secured a place of honor at Holland's Tulip Time Festival next May.

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery, champion of the Twin Cities' Arbor Day Softball Tournament, says that just because a nursery carries a lot of different flowers and plants doesn't mean they're able to sell them all before the season ends.

"There are some garden centers whose compost is a lovely smell of roses, orchids, and lilies," said Adelia Blanda, award-winning owner and designer of Thea's Tulips, which she inherited from her mother Thea 23 years ago. "We're actually going to skip Holland's festival next year, because it's too small. Instead, our new species will be the featured flower at the world's largest tulip festival, the Canadian Tulip Festival in Gatineau, Quebec."

(Kansas City, KS)—Thea's Tulips, which doesn't give a hoot about softball because they prefer a more genteel pastime, instead spends its days working with elite clientele who, if KCMO were on fire, would not cross the river to spit on it.

"There may be plants and flowers available on that side of the river," said Miriam Dumalis, who worked hard for everything she has and was never given her business on a silver platter. "But that doesn't mean they're any good. I can't tell you how many Rose and Crown customers have asked us, begged us, to haul away their dead plants two weeks after being planted by Rose and Crown's so-called 'gardeners,' who must have been drunk when they were planting."

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery thinks Thea's Tulips is a haggard old witch who grinds up its customers and sells them as badger repellent. Like everything else they sell, the badger repellent clearly doesn't work, since Thea's staff continues to show up at work every day.

"Seriously, there are stories about customers who go in to complain about their constantly-dying flowers, and are never heard from again," said one source who wished to remain anonymous because she was in fear for her life.

(Kansas City, KS)—Harpy.

(Kansas City, MO)—Shrew.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Are You Phubbing Me?

Have you ever been sitting with a friend or family member while they constantly check their phone, send texts, tweet, or post Facebook status updates? Of course you have.

You've been "phubbed." Your friend or family member is "phubbing" you.

At least that's what Macquarie Dictionary of Australia (official motto: "Yes, we have dictionaries in Australia.") and the McCann global marketing agency wants you to call it. Macquarie and McCann are working together to spread the word around the globe through a year-long guerrilla marketing campaign.

I phub, I will phub, I have phubbed.

(The more I look at the word, the more I keep pronouncing it puh-hub.)

The Macquarie Dictionary wants to make people aware of how important language usage is, and for us to understand what it takes to create a new word. So they created the word "phubbing" with the help of lexicographers, poets, and authors during a consortium, because if anyone can create a catchy new word, it's a bunch of word nerds trying to reach consensus on a committee.

Macquarie then asked McCann to helped them push "phubbing" out around the world. McCann built the website, created a Facebook page, and launched a PR campaign to reach out to reporters about the Stop Phubbing campaign whenever anyone wrote a news article about mobile phone etiquette.

There are a lot of articles about mobile phone etiquette, since people are typically rude about using their phone when they're with family. Or I think that's what my wife told me the last time we were out to dinner. I think she even told me to put down my "phubbing phone."

See, it's catching on already.

McCann has had a lot of success, placing stories all around the United States, Latin America, Great Britain, and Australia.

They even set up a voting system, asking if people were for or against phubbing. As of the latest count, 81% of respondents were against phubbing. The remaining 19% haven't yet looked up from their phones to see that their friends left an hour ago.

But according to an article in AdAge magazine (official motto: "No, not adage, Ad. Age. Two words!"), while everyone knew McCann was behind the campaign, no one knew Macquarie Dictionary was the one pulling all the strings.

The AdAge article said Macquarie wanted people to understand "the importance of words to explain social phenomena — and the importance of having an updated dictionary that captures those words."

This falls into the problem many people have with dictionaries. Are they "proscriptive" or "descriptive?" Do they tell you how a word should be used, or should they inform you how other people use a word? Are they the arbiter of what is correct, or are they a "mirror to society?" In this case, Macquarie wants to be proscriptive, and to get people to use this new word (and then buy the dictionary that has it).

Of course, many people wonder why they need a print dictionary in the first place. They're big, heavy, and not much use beyond looking up words or throwing at zombies. Even then you have to choose between a heavier, deadlier dictionary that has all the words you need, compared to a lighter dictionary that's easier to throw, but doesn't have the impact of the larger one.

Also, it doesn't contain words like "witzelsucht," which means "feeble attempt at humor."

As in, "this week's column is one giant witzelsucht."

It looks like the print dictionary is going the way of the dodo. The Oxford English Dictionary said in 2010 that they will no longer produce a print version, while the Macmillan Dictionary stopped printing last year. (The Andwife companion dictionary ceased publication in 2003.)

The benefits of an online-only dictionary are numerous: they can be updated more frequently, errors can be fixed as soon as they're spotted, and they're more likely to be unabridged, which means your kids can look up dirty words more easily.

Sure they could just use the regular Internet to learn those words (plus a whole lot more interesting things), but having a dictionary gives the words a certain academic panache that you just don't get with something as pedestrian and unreliable as

But despite McCann's best efforts, "phubbing" doesn't seem to be taking off. Until this week, I wasn't even aware that "phubbing" was a word. Or that Macquarie had a dictionary.

Or what witzelsucht meant. Until now, I just thought it was the pet name Mrs. Steinbacher, my high school German teacher, had given me.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on


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Friday, October 04, 2013

Florida Boy, Common Sense Suspended Over Finger Gun

There's a great scene in the beginning of the 1997 movie, "Bean." Mr. Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson, arrives in the Los Angeles airport from England. When Bean, who's got the maturity of an 8-year-old, sees some armed police officers, he pretends he's similarly armed by making a finger gun and sliding it in and out of his jacket.

The police, who believe he has a real gun, surround him and point their guns at him. They order Bean to slowly remove the gun and lay it on the ground. He carefully pulls out his finger gun, sets it on the floor, and steps back. Since he never really had a gun, they send him on his way.

We've gotten a lot dumber in the intervening 16 years.

Eight-year-old Florida student, Jordan Bennett, was suspended from school for "simulating a gun with his finger." They kicked him out for pointing a finger and sticking up his thumb.

Miley Cyrus simulates "personal intercourse" with a foam finger on MTV's Video Music Awards, and not only can we not stop talking about it, but her album sales are through the roof.

Jordan said he was playing cops and robbers with his friends, and he pointed his finger gun at one of them and made "pkew! pkew!" sounds. So the principal suspended him immediately, citing their Zero Tolerance policy against all weapons, real, replica, or even invisible.

Yes, the Osceola County (Florida) school district has a policy that "prohibits students from playing with invisible guns."

"Look out! He's got a finger! Where the hell's the pretend SWAT team? I need somebody with a rock on the monkey bars NOW!"

Zero Tolerance just keeps getting worse. Last month, two 12-year-old boys in Virginia were supsended until the end of the school year for playing with airsoft guns in one of the boy's yards as they waited for their bus. School officials there said their zero tolerance policy extended to privacy property, which I'm sure had privacy advocates and libertarians in an uproar.

It also puts Virginia in the lead for stupidest decision of the year. But don't worry, Florida, you still have plenty of time to mount a comeback. It'll be like handing Peyton Manning the ball with eight minutes to go in the 4th quarter when the Broncos are down by one point.

I agree that the issue of violence in schools is a pressing one. There have been too many school shootings in the last 10 years for this to be taken lightly. Actual weapons of any kind should not be allowed in schools. (And yet some schools in Georgia are considering putting AR-15-type rifles in their schools in case a gunman starts attacking their schools.)

However, I think school administrators should be able to use some common sense judgment to make a distinction between a real gun that fires real bullets and a little boy's finger.

Even the Osceola School Board chairman thought this was stupid. Chairman Jay Wheeler told WFTV 9 News, "You got to treat it with a grain of salt. At the same time, I think that getting a parent involved if there's a real concern is the appropriate thing."

The parent in question is Bonnie Bennett, Jordan's mother, who thinks the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

"He didn't threaten violence," she told WFTV. "He didn't utter words that were inappropriate. He made a sound and used his fingers and that was it."

And it wasn't even that finger either, which will get you in trouble, but apparently won't get you suspended.

But we're not taking the whole situation into account, said Dana Schafer, a spokesperson for the school told WESH 2 in Orlando.

"It's not just a threat of finger guns. The principal looks at the totality of the incident, what occurred before, during, and after, and whether other students felt threatened," Schafer said.

I'm guessing that what happened before is a kid said "let's play cops and robbers. You be the robber!" Then they pulled out their finger guns and started going "pkew! pkew!" After, they argued about who shot each other and that "you're dead! No, you're dead!"

As to whether a child felt threatened, show me a kid who feels threated by a finger gun and I'll show you a kid who'll be living with his mother when he's 40.

Maybe instead of playing cops and robbers, Jordan and his friends should have played Reformed Criminals and the Group Therapy Counselor.

Or maybe the whole problem could have been averted if the Harmony School had been allowed to put sticks in their schools that could be used as pretend rifles.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My new book, The Owned Media Doctrine, is available on Amazon.


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