Thursday, December 29, 2005

Obesity -- It's Why P.E. is Important

As I am sure you are well aware, Hi and Lois is one of those "topical" strips, always commenting on the important issues of the day. We often get letters to the editor asking H&L to be moved to the Opinion Page. You know the "topical" stuff I'm talking about: slobby neighbors, truculent teens, messy babies, etc. Take today's strip for instance:

Yes, children's tv shows market sugar-fueled confectionary treats to children! In fact, in early December, the Institute of Medicine, an advisory arm of the National Academies, issued a report that linked the proliferation of junk-food advertising to the growing incidence of childhood obesity. You can even buy the report. Or, you can read about it in the Baltimore Sun.

In some corners, the report's conclusions were controversial. And they're right -- there's more to childhood obesity than pervasive marketing, but doesn't marketing of crappy food at least have SOMETHING to do with it?

And here, Hi and Lois jumps directly into this hot-button issue, as it does with all the important issues of our time. Dot and Ditto are simply watching their favorite Frankenstein's monster cartoon, when they are bombarded with entreaties to buy Super-Slammin' Blasto-Pops Frozen Treats. YUM! And, lookie there, Ditto went IMMEDIATELY to his mom to ask her to buy it. Marketing doesn't affect children? I beg to differ! Thank you, Hi and Lois for weighing in with your take.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Graduate Level Course: African American Studies

Someone with actual knowledge of African American Studies could probably do real justice to explaining the Boondocks daily. There's a lot of good stuff there. As it is, you are going to just have to stick to the stuff I found by Googling.

Googling racial overtones king kong led to14,600 results. Racial undertones king kong resulted in 836 hits. What does that tell us? That the racial component to King Kong is more of an "overtone" than an "undertone." I'm not really even sure what the difference is in those words. "Undertone" is "a quality underlying the surface of an utterance or action," and "overtone" is "a secondary effect, quality, or meaning." A linguist might be able to sort that out for you.


Are you kidding me? I'm not touching this issue with a 10 foot pole. Do the Googling yourself! Or, enjoy the highlights: an NPR interview, comment in the London Times online, there's even a skinheads forum, but I think I won't link to them (Google it if you really want to find it). Being a "skin" "head" makes no sense to me anyway.

In other news, Kitty has made it through the year:

Yep, Sally, it's true, but you can resolve to be a better pet owner in 2006!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats, living together... mass hysteria

It's still Christmas break, so we won't start our lessons again. Instead, a few words of helpful advice:

It's the time of year when many people are adding pets to their families (never mind that the ASPCA does not really recommend this -- it's too late now, right?). So, what if, like Luann (and, please note: Luann did NOT get Kitty for Christmas), you are adding a cat to your family? And what if that family already includes a dog?

First, let's hope that Puddles does not attack Kitty, because "Cats and rabbits rarely survive dog attacks," according to Willa's Ark. Here's what you should do if you are adding a cat to your family: Put the dog away, and allow the cat to sniff around and become comfortable with her surroundings. After the cat becomes comfortable, "introduce" the dog to the cat: keep the dog on a leash, and allow the dog to sniff out the cat. The cat may run off, but try this as many times a necessary. Also, you could keep the cat in a cage or box, and allow the dog to sniff around the cat as long as it takes for them to become comfortable with one another.

Finally, there is more info here. Did you know that according to humane society studies, these are some combinations of animals that tend to work well?
  • two kittens
  • an older kitten and a puppy
  • a pair of mature neutered animals (although this did not work for Liza Minnelli and David Gest)
  • two cats
  • two dogs

While doing research for this posting, I found this "Awful Plastic Surgery" blog. No, nothing to do with dogs and cats, but everything to do with the Cat Lady. GUH-ROSS!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Merry Christmas!

First, to everyone -- Happy Holidays! Or Merry Christmas . . . whatever it is I am supposed to say that pays homage to the blinged-out celebration of consumerism and overindulgence we enjoy every winter solstice! Peace on Earth! Goodwill to men!

Over Christmas, er . . . the holidays, you only have one homework problem, provided by Baby Blues:

While Hammie's answer is insightful, it doesn't actually answer the question: How much money DOES Dan have left? It's a word problem. You can get your mom to help you if you need it.

Seriously, everybody, enjoy the holidays! See you all next week!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Treetop Dome Scandal

Senator Belfry is being called to "speak before Congress," and as he plans to say "Not Guilty," we are to assume that he is being investigated for an impropriety.

Get out your pencils -- we are having a pop quiz!

Choose one of the three and answer in 50 words or less:

1) Does the presence of an independent press (i.e., Shoe and Cosmo) ensure that Senator Belfry will not get away with his abuse of power, or does his continued presence in the Treetops attest to a too cozy attitude between the Senator and the media?

2) The Senator wears pants, but the members of the media appear to only wear coats, shoes, and socks. Or in the case of Shoe, only socks and shoes (and a cigar). Does this reflect the power relationships in the Treetops community? Does the Senator really wear the pants in this relationship? How does this telling commentary on the bird community reflect the power structure humans confront?

3) If Cosmo were to use Senator Belfry as an anonymous source in an article, do you think Shoe (Cosmo's editor) would demand to know who the source was? If later called before an independent counsel, would Cosmo reveal his source (with Shoe's approval) or would Cosmo remain silent and go to jail? Do you think Senator Belfry would be a good anonymous source? Why or why not?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

HO HO HO! Would you like to see my Grotto?

Before we get to today's lesson, a personal reflection on Mutts: I used to think Mutts was just some treacly, cutesy-poo, updated Marmaduke pet jokes crap. Then, I got two cats. Now, I invariably find the strip cute, and every so often find a strip so endearing that it is worthy of refrigerator display. GOOD GOD: If I have kids, will the same happen with Family Circus???

Let's learn today about mall Santas. Did you know that noted humorist David Sedaris got his big break by talking about his experience as a mall Santa on NPR? It's here.

Now, in Great Britain, Santas must have a "minder" present. In order to prevent creepy stuff from happening, I guess. In, Switzerland, kids can't sit on Santa's lap. To prevent even creepier stuff from happening. A little too much Law & Order: SVU-induced paranoia, eh? Although, apparently in some places, Santa's area is called his "grotto" (see the BBC link above). That IS creepy, and I don't think I'd let my kids go sit on the lap of a solitary mall Santa is his dank, dark cave. I don't have kids, though (see above Family Circus rant), so what do I know?

You can see in the example above that in Mutts-world they don't have such restrictions. And they also let dogs get up on Santa's lap. And dogs speak English. So it's a magical world, indeed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hustle Up, Kids!

. . . it's time for gym! Yay! P.E! Even better than real P.E., here at Big Al's Comic Blog, you don't need to change into polyester gym shorts and ill-fitting School District t-shirts. Unless you want to.

And here's your lesson for the day: It isn't arm strength that gets you up the rope as much as it is getting your feet twisted in the rope so that you can actually push off with your feet. Lucky for Pasquale, his rope has knots tied at helpful intervals.

I am totally confused about Pasquale's age. He can't be older than kindergarten, can he? 2nd grader at the oldest. And they climb ropes in P.E.? Man, I didn't even attempt this until college. I guess that's why they have the knots -- they are little kids. Now, really, do little kids ever climb the rope? I'm asking seriously - if you know of such an instance please tell.

My Google search for rope climbing in P.E. attests to the unpopularity of this drill, as many schools have replaced it with a climbing wall. This is more fun. More fun than struggling to pull yourself up to a high ceiling? Getting rope burns all the way? Shocking!

So it seems that most schools don't do this anymore, and if they do, I doubt they make little kids like Pasquale do it. I am happy to be told I'm out of it, if you know better.

I also found that those ropes aren't particularly cheap.

OK, everyone, 3 laps around the gym, then hit the shower! (AIEEEEEEE! Embarrassed changing in front of your friends! Neurosis-inducing nakedness! AIEEEEEEEEEEE!)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Gift-Giving Guide

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and for those of us who celebrate the holiday, it is a time fraught with stress and indecision. What to give the boss? Your neighbor? How will you get all your gifts in time? Why don't we take some time for a lesson in gift-giving etiquette. Courtesy of Mr. Thirsty Thurston.

If you are a Hi and Lois follower, you will recognize Thirsty as Hi's ne'er do well neighbor AND co-worker. He is a drunken, lazy oaf who mis-treats his wife and whose idea of home upkeep surely depresses property values in at least a five mile radius. So, we can be sure that whatever Thirsty does is looked down upon and presented to us as an example of what not to do.

I am a little confused, because it appears that what Thirsty has done here is first, order some gifts online (while whistling a one note tune), and second, take out some cash and then distribute it in individually addressed envelopes. He is even thoughtful enough to provide the neighbor children with a gift. And . . . all 2 weeks before Christmas. And this is bad because???????? Because -- see the description of Thirsty in the paragraph above.

I am a little confused, because I think online is the very best way to shop -- no fighting crowds, no looking for parking spots, and they ship the stuff for you! But, see, I guess I am lazy like Mr. Thurston. Shopping should be painful and difficult (even to the point that you bring the wrong man home with you -- see today's Blondie.) And, while I think most of us would enjoy cash, it is indeed gauche (unless you are someone's uncle). Gift cards are NOT considered gauche. But, if you think about it, they're really just fancy cash. Fancy cash that you can only spend in a certain place. Still, they are acceptable gifts. Cash isn't. If that makes any sense. Although, cash seems to be considered an acceptable gift from an older relative. So, again, it's just a confusing social more.

I have no lesson to impart today, because I do think gift-giving etiquette is a minefield to be navigated carefully. If someone gives you a gift, but you weren't planning on giving them one, then do you go out right away and get a gift so that you can give them one back? Isn't what you just did totally obvious? If you are giving everyone in your office homemade cookies, but one of your co-workers is on a diet, do you just give her cookies, too, even though she either won't eat them or will feel guilty about eating them? Or, do you give everyone cookies, and give her a scented candle? How obvious is that???

So, it is a confusing world. Made even more confusing by today's Hi and Lois. Because it is Thirsty doing all this, and the creators of H&L have led us to believe that anything Thirsty does is BAD, I guess this shopping of his is bad, too. But it seems totally OK to me!!!

Aren't you glad you aren't on my Christmas list, eh?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Little Bo Peep Fell Fast Asleep

I have discovered that, amazingly, Blondie is a very valuable teaching tool. In addition to the lesson I gave yesterday, we had some members of the class share some valuable information with us. Anonymous told us about Clearwater's Scientology link. Meanwhile, Howard shared some Blondie/Mr. Dithers history with us. Thank you for sharing, Anonymous and Howard! Let's let the Bumsteads continue to educate us:

Dagwood says the reason counting sheep didn't help is: they would baaaaaah at him! This, of course, would be the layman's explanation of the inefficacy of counting sheep. And, sure, that explanation works fine for someone like Dagwood Bumstead. But, let's reach a little higher, shall we?

Behavior Research and Therapy published an article in 2002 wherein Oxford University researchers found that that counting sheep does not work because it is just too boring to keep the mind off problems and concerns. You can read the abstract of "The Management of Unwanted Pre-Sleep Thoughts in Insomnia: Distraction with Imagery Versus General Distraction" here. (Oh, here's another lesson for ya: The titles of scholarly research articles are boooooooooring. Editing these things is my day job -- trust me on this).

By the way, you can also find the e-mail of the study's lead author on that last link. In case you have any questions. For instance, "Dr. Allison Harvey, in your study, did you control for the fact that the sheep may 'baaaah' at an insomnia patient? I have evidence (insert Blondie strip image) showing that this is a problem in at least some people." Then, you can do your own research: finding out how long it takes a distinguished Oxford researcher to respond to a crazy crank using Dagwood Bumstead as evidence. Let us know the results.

Do you want the dumbed-down version of this report? CNN posted it here. Best part of the CNN article is the "Quickvote" poll that lists "have a stiff drink" and "make love" as ways to help you fall asleep. Aw, yeah! Counting sheep is boring enough, but when compared with a delicious adult beverage and a roll in the hay . . . ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Hey, it works!

No one has studied whether reading a Family Circus anthology will put you to sleep or rasie the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, to unsustainable levels. (If anyone e-mails Dr. Harvey, maybe you can suggest that as an avenue for future study).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BOO! Bureaucrats! Boo!

OH, HO, HO HO. . . Johnny Hart, you magnificent bastard! Now that you mention it, file clerks and bureaucrats of any stripe ARE often unnecessarily obstructive.

Now, the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics does not say anything about file clerks being "skilled in the art of concealment." Damn Labor Dept. feeding us file clerk propaganda! Here is an interesting fact: "Employment of file clerks is expected to experience little or no growth through the year 2012." But, the good news is that they aren't expected to lose a lot of jobs, either. I bet you didn't know that! That's what I am here for -- to teach you a little something.

So, how do bureaucrats make our life difficult? Can you provide an example? Here's one I found:

Hey, what is a "development service" permit? And why does Dagwood need one? Hmmm. As this is now an educational blog, I suppose I should look into this. Apparently, the Bureau of Development Services "issues building permits, performs land use reviews, and promotes compliance with the zoning codes and the state adopted construction codes." Fascinating!

Is Dagwood going to be adding on to the home? Except, he's renewing an annual permit. What sort of permit is this? And, hey! Dagwood lives in Clearwater, Florida? I had no idea! Well, in that case, let's just take a look at Clearwater's Development Services website. Unless you know what the hell Dag is up to, I guess it's not much help. But the good news is that you can View, Pay for, and Renew Permits and Occupational Licenses Online.

All I am saying is that maybe Dagwood should have done some online research before getting in that long line. Duh.

Where is Clearwater, you ask? Roughly Tampa-St. Pete. Hmmmm . . . Do the Bumsteads evacuate for hurricanes? Do they cheer for the Bucs? The Devil Rays (probably not, they stink)? Did you know the Philadelphia Phillies have Spring Training in Clearwater? You do now.

Comic Strip Lessons: Bureaucrats are bad; the Devil Rays are REALLY bad; file clerk employment should be OK through 2012, development services provides building permits, the Phillies' spring training is in Clearwater, and THE BUMSTEADS LIVE THERE!! (apparently.)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Being and Nothingness

Today, we will have a philosophy lesson, courtesy of Kudzu:

Click on the image to see a larger version.

What does "good" mean and how do we define it? I will now tell you in great detail how some of the world's foremost philosophers define the term. We will begin with Plato, and along the way, also discuss the theories of Aquinas, Descartes, Immanuel Kant, and end with a discussion of Jean-Paul Sartre and self-determination. Ready?

HA HA HA. That was a trick. I am not going to do that because A) I don't know enough about any of the above, and B) Well, I'd like some of you to come back here from time to time, and discussing "Philosophers Through the Ages" probably isn't the way to convince people this is a fun place to be.

So, here is your larnin' for today: Aristotle discusses moral virtue in Book 2 of the Nicomachean Ethics. If you really are interested, read more here.

HOMEWORK: Consider one of the following topics, and write an essay.

1) If Aristotle WERE to buy an iPod, which version (video, old-school, nano, mini, shuffle) would he buy? Justify your answer with reference to Aristotle's four causes.

2) When you buy an iPod, you have to pay extra for accessories such as an armband. Would Augustine agree with this? Use his City of God for examples.

3) Today's top 3 iTunes songs are Eminem's "When I'm Gone," Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You," and Madonna's "Hung Up." Which song would Rene Descartes be most likely to download, and why?

4) Compile a 10-song "Celebrity Playlist" for Niccolò Machiavelli. As for all iTunes Celebrity Playlists, write a blurb for each of Nic's songs.

5) Would Jean Jacques Rousseau choose a white or black iPod cover? Why?

EXTRA CREDIT: If Friedrich Nietzsche had a favorite comic strip, which one would it be?

Good luck!