Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

April 12, 2005

Cookie Monster needs your help

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:19 pm

Cookie Monster’s PR agent (who is a real person) at Sesame Street, informed me (through an intermediary) that Cookie (his first name) is up for “person of the day,” against Bill Clinton, on CNN’s show “Paula Zahn Now” (or is that “Paul Lazanow”?). So if you think Cookie should be person of the day, please vote here. (If you click this link after today, April 12, they may be on to the next poll.)

UPDATE 4/13/05 2:40pm: Cookie Monster won the poll. Thank you for stuffing the ballot box voting.

And now, a serious comment about a seemingly whimsical event.

This is, of course, prompted by the publicity surrounding Mr. Monster’s new diet — that is, they are taking away Cookie Monster’s cookies!

As Chelsea J. Carter writes via The Associated Press:

First PBS announced that “Sesame Street” would kick off its 36th season this week with a multiyear story arc about healthy habits. No problem there; childhood obesity rates are soaring. Then I learned of changes that turned my “Sesame Street” world upside-down.

My beloved blue, furry monster — who sang “C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me” — is now advocating eating healthy. There’s even a new song — “A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food,” where Cookie Monster learns there are “anytime” foods and “sometimes” foods.

“Sacrilege!” I cried. “That’s akin to Oscar the Grouch being nice and clean.” (Co-workers gave me strange looks. But I didn’t care.)

Being a journalist, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I investigated why “Sesame Street” gave Cookie Monster a health makeover.

(Despite?) not being a journalist, I was able to find that press release, too. It says, in part:

Sesame Street’s newest curriculum is part of a larger Sesame Workshop company-wide initiative, “Healthy Habits for Life,” created in response to the growing crisis of childhood obesity among children. The preschool years are a crucial time in children’s lives to foster healthy habits. Recent data reflect both the immediate and long-term consequences of poor dietary behaviors. Tackling the critical issues of health and well being, Sesame Workshop continues to set the benchmark in educational television with Sesame Street storylines that guide preschoolers and their caregivers through lessons related to healthy eating, the importance of active play and other key activities such as hygiene and rest.

Along with the “Healthy Moments,” the new season will feature all-new Muppet “street” scenes, new animations and original live-action films that all tout activities and behaviors that are good for you. Storylines include: “The Healthy Foods Name Game,” hosted by Mr. Healthy Foods, Elmo must find four healthy foods of various colors on Sesame Street before the mouse can climb to the top of the refrigerator; and “American Fruit Stand,” Sesame’s take on the 50s variety series that features a singing Miles rhapsodizing about the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables. Other segments include a song entitled, “A Cookie is a Sometimes Food,” where Hoots the Owl explains that there are anytime foods and sometimes foods: cookies are foods that you can eat sometimes, but fruits are delicious and healthy anytime! Additionally, every other show will feature a “Health Module;” a cluster of four segments related to health, exercise and nutrition.

Now, I’ll bet if they looked through the archives over at the Children’s Television Workshop, they’d find that whoever thought up the character of Cookie Monster 36 years ago had in mind precisely the same thing: to show that “cookies are foods that you can eat sometimes,” by creating a character who eats them to excess, and making that character an object of laughter.

In other words, it’s no new discovery that that eating too many cookies is not healthy, or that kids (and other people) like to eat cookies, and left unconstrained by parents or nutritional knowledge would eat too many cookies. They knew this in 1968 when they were designing Sesame Street. The original behavior of Cookie Monster was not some evil corporate conspiracy to get kids to eat more cookies — it was to get them to eat moderately by making gluttony look ridiculous.

Now, of course, we live in an era in which thje entertainment and educational elites believe in a “politically correctness” dictates that we not mention anything that’s bad. They have to pretend it doesn’t exist, in the hope that that will make it go away. They don’t want kids eating too many cookies, so they can’t have a character who eats too many cookies. They assume kids are too dumb to see, instinctively, parody for what it is — but not too dumb to know when they’re being nagged about what they eat. As a result, they can parody no one — except themselves, unintentionally.

Coming Home

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:07 am

Much ink has been spilled, and much breath spent, describing and bemoaning the damage war does even to those who survive it physically unscathed. Some people have nightmares from what they’ve seen, some have difficulty, when they return, relating to those they left behind. Some are so psychologically or emotionally scarred from the experience that they never recover.

But not all. Some come away with a greater appreciation for life, for peace, for the loyalty of their friends and comrades-in-arms, and for the companionship of the ones they love at home.

Staff Sergeant Greg Moore, of the New York Army National Guard, is one of these, as he describes in his column in today’s Wall Street Journal:

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y.–There are no longer generators running, or armored vehicles rumbling, or mortars exploding, and the roar of the silence is deafening to me. What I hear at night now is the gentle breaths released from the perfect lips of my sons. The same lips that I cannot kiss enough. The lips that make my eyes fill with tears every time they touch my cheeks.

My release from Fort Drum came earlier than expected, so when I pulled into my driveway at noon the house was empty. I dropped my bags inside and walked alone through the rooms, soaking in the images and smells that had been only a memory during ten months in Iraq.

[At my son's school] My heart was racing. I followed the sound of the piano and the little voices singing, then stood and watched. Trickles of love and pride started involuntarily down my cheeks as I listened to my son. He has gotten so big. The anticipation built as I waited for him to see me.

The little girl next to him was the first to notice the uniformed man standing in the doorway. The image she saw and the facts she had been told were doing battle in her brain. Then her eyes grew wide and her mouth fell open.

“Easton! Easton . . . your Daddy’s here!” she said in an electrified whisper.

My son’s head snapped around. The excitement and disbelief on his face is something I will never forget. I motioned him to me and he ran into my open arms. There was no hiding my tears, and I didn’t care to. This was the day I had waited for.

I choked out my words of love and hung on to this boy who had cried so many nights, who said he didn’t care if he got any other presents for Christmas, he only wanted his Daddy to come home. This boy who had used all his wishes on me. He kept pulling his head back from my shoulder to look at my face. Cheers rose from the other kids and teachers.

Hand-in-hand, Easton and I stepped outside and drove to the other side of town. I had another little boy to catch up with. When I went inside he was napping. “Marshal, wake up. I have a surprise for you,” I heard his day-care provider say.

She came out with his head on her shoulder. When he looked up his eyes grew wide and all signs of sleepiness disappeared. “Daddy!” he exclaimed in pure excitement as he fell forward into my arms. My heart ached with love, and pure joy soaked my cheeks.

I was complete again. I had my boys. And there have never been more perfect words spoken to me than “I love you, Dad.”

It may take my wife and children a long time to realize that while I look the same, I am not the same person who said goodbye to them many months ago. I will never be the same again–thankfully so.

Each day now I am acutely aware of what makes me happy, and what it is I do that makes other people happy. Walking point through the volatile streets in Iraq helped me see this much more clearly, and I will make every effort to preserve that awareness for the rest of my days.

This article also appears in the April/May issue of The American Enterprise.

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