The squeeze.

I don’t know if you’ve been following the Ralph Lauren Photoshopping story. It all started when Boing Boing called them out for trying to quash criticism of this preposterous ad image by getting the blog post pulled as a copyright violation. Things worsened (for Ralph, anyway) when it was revealed that the digitally squished model in question, Filippa Hamilton, had been fired by the fashion house for reaching a bovine 120 pounds. (Note: She is 5-feet-10.)

Yesterday, however, Photoshop Disasters, a truly amusing site that tracks these things, found yet another example of heinous manipulation by Ralph Lauren, in which a woman was turned into a “human Bratz doll.” (Original post at Photoshop Disasters.)

I’m baffled by this, because it seems that in all the howling about unrealistic body image and the pressure to be thin — arguments that have been growing hair for years — no one is asking the obvious, i.e., can’t Ralph Lauren afford better Photoshop artists? And if not, why? (Dump your stock!) Look at that latter image and ask yourself why whoever put this girl in a digital vise couldn’t be bothered to also manipulate her right hand, which looks like it was transplanted from a nearby cross-dressing linebacker. Photoshop is a skill, and one of the best articles I’ve read in recent years was the New Yorker piece about the world’s most well-paid Photoshop artist (name lost to the ether, sorry), a man who is kept on retainer by celebrities to handle all the pictures they have control over. (Which is to say, all the ones the paps don’t shoot. Yay paps.) He does the Louis Vuitton ads, which is why you don’t recognize their celebrity model (Madonna). If Ralph Lauren’s company can’t afford at least one of his assistants, they’ve got more trouble than some jeering from the internets.

But since Jezebel brought it up, this seems the time to get something off my chest.

I need to say a few words in defense of Bratz.

All conscientious parents hate Bratz, for lo, the Bratz are eminently hate-able. Conservative parents in particular hate Bratz. James Lileks? Hates ’em. Rod Dreher? Hates ’em. The latter fell victim to the curse of all overscheduled pundits the other day, and linked them to current events (see the link, but if you’re too busy, it starts with P and ends with olanski). It used to be feminists who wrote bilge like this, but I guess it’s spread:

A culture that markets Bratz to little girls, and that at nearly every turn tries to turn them into erotic objects, is not a culture whose fingers pointing at Polanski are entirely clean.

Sigh. I hated Bratz too, once upon a time, the big-eyed, clubfooted dolls dressed like streetwalkers, named like starlets (Jade, Yasmin, Cloe — yes, spelled that way) and interested in one thing only (collecting bling). I called them the Li’l Ho’s, Skankz, everything I could think of. But I came to change my mind, and even though Bratz are in eclipse now, their cultural impact on nervous parents lives on, and I’m here with one word of advice:


I kept my house a Bratz-free zone, but the small temptresses found their way in, just the same. Kate’s friend Sophia would bring them with her when she came to play, and even though this was in Ann Arbor, and every Ann Arbor child eventually becomes familiar with the sort of parent who bans toys on political or philosophical grounds, I decided to hold my fire and just watch them play with Yasmin and Sluté for a while. Guess what Yasmin and Sluté did in their imaginary world? They went to the playground, goofed around, practiced martial-arts kicks (lethal with those giant feet) — in short, they behaved exactly the way the girls holding them did, because that’s what dolls are for children, and always have been, and always will.

I’m glad I did this. I’m glad my neighbor brought Barbie into our house, too, another toy I swore I’d never buy. My experience as a parent with Barbie was exactly the same as with Bratz, and I was forced to admit the truth: A lot of women are walking around with advanced degrees based in part on elaborate theses of the female image in pop culture, theories that turned on the fact Barbie had an impossible waist-to-hip ratio or leg length or something, and these theories were, in a word, bullshit. When you have children you owe it to them to see the world through their eyes, and when they look at Barbie, even when they look at Yasmin, Sluté and the girlz, they don’t see sexy. They see pretty. When we forbid them from having these things, and use loaded, confusing code words like “inappropriate” or “unrealistic,” we’re making them see the world through our eyes, and folks, they shouldn’t have to do that. And when we fear that seeing a doll with plump lips and a short skirt will turn our little girls into prosti-tots, that’s just creepy.

Not long after I made peace with the visiting Bratz, Christmas rolled around. I’ve always believed that Christmas should be a time when you get one thing you didn’t ask for, and one thing you did, and that year, Kate asked for Bratz. I went to Target and considered my choices. Roxxi, Katia, Nevra — there were so many to choose from, each more horrible than the last. I stood there comparing this trashy detail to that trashy detail, until my brain finally short-circuited and I went all in. I chose the trampiest one of the lot, maybe Roxxi, I can’t remember. She wore a micro-mini and a shirt that showed her belly button, but what really sold her was her fun-fur shrug and day-glo hair extensions. She looked exactly like a woman you’d see standing on a street corner near a 24-hour adult bookstore, peering into the windows of passing cars.

Kate was thrilled to find her under the tree on Christmas morning, and she went off to introduce her to Barbie and the rest of the girls. Within three years, all the Bratz, and all the Barbies, lived in a seminude, dismembered tangle in a Rubbermaid box in the basement with all the other outgrown toys. Perhaps they planted the seed of trashy dressing in my darling daughter, but the last time I checked she was so modest she locks the bathroom door to change her clothes and refuses to wear shorts that rise too high above her knee. She’s an anti-Brat, essentially.

(I saw Sophia recently, too. She’s a top student and multi-sport, confident athlete. I don’t think she owns any fishnet hose, and if she did, it would be for a jazz dance class.)

So swallow your distaste, parents. Those handmade, hemp rag dolls you’ve been buying from indigenous artists might make you feel good, but your daughter wants the li’l clubfootz with a passion for fashion. A few years farther down this road, I’m here to tell you it all comes out in the pop-culture wash.

Posted at 10:35 am in Popculch |

77 responses to “The squeeze.”

  1. crinoidgirl said on October 15, 2009 at 10:51 am

    World’s best Photoshop expert, self-taught: Pascal Dangin. I loved this article, being a polymath myself.

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  2. brian stouder said on October 15, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Superb post!

    Don’t know if I’ve ever said that before – and indeed, probably there’s one or two NN.c pieces that I enjoyed more than this one, but I cannot think of one right off!

    The only thing that regularly makes me wince regarding our 11 year old girl (so far) is her selection of TV shows*; but a comforting thought is that she’s an avid reader – so cleansing breaths are my friend

    *lots of murder and mayhem on Lifetime

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  3. Dorothy said on October 15, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Excellent, excellent post, Nancy. No one can say it better than you.

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  4. Jeff Borden said on October 15, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Great post.

    We have friends in North Carolina who are mellow liberals. When they had a son, the mother insisted there was no way he would ever be allowed to play with guns. Never. And then one day she looked out the kitchen window and found him playing army with his pals using a caulking gun as his weapon. The next we saw this little guy, he was wearing a cowboy hat and a hoster set with a shiny pistol. Like Nancy, the mom had looked at world through her son’s eyes instead of her own. He was going to play cowboy, cops ‘n’ robbers and army anyways, so he got his toy guns.

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  5. coozledad said on October 15, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Somewhere, probably in a landfill, my GI Joe weeps tears of shame. Maybe. I can’t remember if I ripped his head off and burned it in his fiery space capsule crash.

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  6. Julie Robinson said on October 15, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Most of us had Barbies and still turned out okay. A bigger influence on me was my big sis’s 17 Magazine subscription. I would pore over it for all the rules on what to wear and colors that didn’t match. And of course, all those girls had straight hair, which was obtainable by me for approximately 10 minutes on days with zero humidity.

    We took a similar attitude with the books our kids read, as did my own folks. Put simply, all reading is good.
    When it came to guns we drew the line, but since they had index fingers the actual toy was unnecessary.

    I just started a Photoshop class this week with the idea of repairing damaged family photos. No doubt I’ve set my sights too low.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Boy-side echo — parents trying to keep guns and gun-like toys of all sorts out of their home. It’s their right, it has a sort of impact, but as for keeping every gun-ish object out of a house, “relax” does just as well.

    Or in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic.”

    edit: ahhh, the ur-Jeff did it faster and better. What he said. Off to go walk in the rain.

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  8. sue said on October 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Jeff, I could have been your friend in N. Caroline. I gave the “toy gun ban”up one morning, when my 4 year old son took bites of his toast until it was the shape of a pistol. He’s almost 15 now, and all is well. Glad I relaxed about it when I did.

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  9. adrianne said on October 15, 2009 at 11:46 am

    amen, sista! Sometimes I can’t contain myself when I hear parents from a certain twee town getting all involved in their children’s play and trying to steer them to “safe” choices.

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  10. Joe Kobiela said on October 15, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Gee, Do you think we can take this kind of attitude with a lot of other things in the world. Things like Global warming, I bring that up due to the fact I ran 7 miles this morning in Northern Indiana in a snow storm. Or Rush being a small part of buying a football team, or anyone of a hundred things that in the long run just run their course and disappear. Birthers? Bushes military service? Things are tough sure, but let’s lighten up a bit.
    Pilot Joe

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  11. Michael said on October 15, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I’m going to have to find the article I wrote in a local weekly nearly 20 years ago in which I confess to an unconditional surrender in my war against war toys. The name of the neighborhood game was called, simply enough, “guns”. It consisted of the boys running around, jumping over fences, hiding behind rocks in their endeavor to shoot each other. More time was spent in learning dispute resolution skills than doing the actual shooting.

    “Blam, Blam, I got you!”

    “No you didn’t. You missed by a mile”

    One Saturday I saw my neighbor, an Episcopal Priest, sitting in his study hard at work on the next day’s sermon. I called offering to quiet the boys down if they were bothering him. His reply? “Oh no, with all the usual Saturday noise from lawn equipment and the like, the sound of boys having fun is hardly a distraction”.

    One of the boys served as our State Representative until he was recently term limited. Next year I’ll be helping him in his campaign for the State Senate. Another now plays in the Bass section of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra . And my own kid has turned out to be a pretty special guy too.

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  12. Dorothy said on October 15, 2009 at 11:54 am

    You’ve got a point, Joe. We’d all be a lot healthier if we’d just stop over-stressing about so many things.

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  13. Jeff Borden said on October 15, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Right on, Pilot Joe, right on.

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  14. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 15, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    You are a fluke of the universe . . . Exercise caution in your daily affairs, especially with those persons closest to you… That lemon on your left, for instance. Be assured that a walk through the seas of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet. Fall not in love, therefore, it will stick to your face.

    Wait, maybe i meant this one — Desiderata

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  15. MarkH said on October 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    What Pilot Joe said.

    AND, what Michael said, too.

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  16. Connie said on October 15, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Well I will admit that my Barbies laid on the cardboard bed in the Dream House with Ken. I probably thought it meant sex.

    I have a green tub in the basement full of my kid’s barely played with Barbie dolls. And yesterday I found her first American Girl doll Mollie shoved in a box in her closet. Which is being converted to a guest room at the moment.

    While my Barbie dolls live quietly in two ancient vinyl Barbie cases on the shelf in the sewing room.

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  17. beb said on October 15, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I think Bratz got canceled after the lawsuit by Barbie’s makers. Can’t recall if Bratz won or lost. In any case I’m seeing new ads for a quartet of dolls called Liv or something, which, like Bratz, have oversized heads, hands and feet, but are more conventionally dressed.

    So, if Bratz are OK, what about beauty pagents for six year olds? There’s a series on (I think) A&E about them.

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  18. Dave K. said on October 15, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    “Skankz, Slute’, prosti-tots…”. Nance, you rule the ‘net!
    Joe, I saw that snow but pretended it was just rain. Either way, not conducive to riding the Harley down to Indy this morning. The ol’ pick-em-up had to do.
    Also, well stated on the “lighten up”! (I just saw Rush is out of the Rams’ deal. Glad for that, if only so I don’t have to hear about him on ESPN).

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  19. Joe Kobiela said on October 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    As far as running in the snow goes, it wasn’t to bad. I was running around Lake Gage up by Angola. The really neat part was after I was done, and got in the water. Pretty surreal, steam off the lake, snow flying, and me swimming!
    Pilot Joe

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  20. kayak woman said on October 15, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I love this post!

    Bratz didn’t come along until my daughters stopped playing with dolls but we had Barbies all over the place for a few years. Barbie was all the rage with the nursery school set and not only did I buy them for my kids, they inherited about a ton of that stuff from all their older girl cousins.

    By about age 7, they were pretty much over it. I remember finding a Barbie “case” in our basement filled with every remote control device in the house. They were using it to play a spy game. A couple years after that, we had a garage sale and they enthusiastically sold the whole lot.

    As Nancy knows, I’m one o’ them thar Ann Arbor parents. I don’t fit the stereotype very well, probably because one of my feet is firmly planted up in the Yoop but, yes, we have a few rather annoying folks around here.

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  21. Sue said on October 15, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I don’t recall a lot of gun-related play with my kids; don’t remember if we ever had any toy guns beyond Nerf. For some reason it wasn’t an issue. My kids seemed to play sports around the neighborhood more than anything. Here’s the idyllic neighborhood we lived in (and still do): our retired neighbors in back of us built a high extension on their fence with netting so the balls didn’t hit their house. No complaints to us, no yelling at the kids, just good neighbor-ness carried to an extremely logical conclusion. The neighbors are still there, asking about our kids when we chat.
    And the best example I can think of regarding good intentions being circumvented by your kids: Oregon Trail and Sym City. OF COURSE they’re learning history and math and urban planning from these educational games that we allowed them to play for hours (because they were educational!). They’re learning all these things by (on purpose) sending the poor pioneers across the river with hopelessly overloaded wagons and sending tsunamis and fires into a city where they have placed all the police and fire buildings on the other side of a bridge that’s about to collapse. And the game creators were in on the plot, too; I believe Sym City had a sea monster option.
    Creative, evil children.

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  22. Rana said on October 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I had a Barbie and a Skipper and two Kens (one with the plastic hair, one with real hair), and I had other strange dolls like mermaids and a Kewpie doll and a giant walking Barbie and so on.

    But I mostly played with stuffed animals and plastic animals. The dolls were fun for dress-up, but I found them frustrating on other counts – Barbie can’t stand on her own, for example, and Skipper’s head liked to pop off, which was both entertaining and weird.

    About the only thing about their appearance that annoyed me was that they were all blondes, except the real-hair Ken. As a dark-eyed, dark-haired child, I had a mild yearning for the “ethnic” Barbies, but I never got one.

    Of course, I also yearned for a Breyer Pegasus, a He-Man Battle Cat, and other sundry weird toys.

    In sum, then, Barbies were just one small part of a very large range of toys and play.

    ETA – I also had a squirt gun that looked like an Uzi – and this was back before the required orange tip thing – and it was So. Cool! (so it’s not just little boys that like playing with guns).

    Re: the orange tip – I saw the most ridiculous manifestation of this at a fair earlier this month. Several little boys were walking around with these bright-green-camou-colored inflatable “guns” – they looked more like malformed green splotchy balloons than anything else – but every one of them had that darn orange tip. Craziness.

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  23. Sue said on October 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Wow, just looked at that second Ralph Lauren photoshop disaster pic. She looks like she would have to come to a point at her feet, as she seems to disappear as she goes down.
    I may have mentioned this before (it’s a favorite story), but my husband noticed when my daughter was little that my son’s collection of gumball-machine football helmets fit perfectly on her Barbies, and that putting them on the Barbies, then throwing the Barbies off the bed made a game called “Daredevil Cliffdiving Barbies”. The Barbies, needless to say, were each dressed in very chic outfits along with the helmets prior to the jump.
    We also referred to Ken (all of us) as “Ken-the-dweeb”. So we were either sending my daughter horrible mixed messages or we got it completely right. Time will tell.

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  24. ROgirl said on October 15, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Now I wish I’d saved my Barbie instead of selling her at a garage sale after she’d sat in the closet for a couple of years. She would have been worth a lot of money.

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  25. nancy said on October 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Anne (Kayak Woman), my favorite A2 moment took place at the food co-op, which nearly dissolved when we were there over the gripping question of whether they should sell Israeli oranges. You can guess the battle lines. The co-op and Zingerman’s were only a few blocks apart, and yet, unlike the Israelis and Palestinians, they co-existed peacefully.

    Forgive me if I told the story before, but Anne’s husband told me once about the school system’s alternative high school, which was also in the neighborhood and was called Community High. This was naturally shortened to and Arborized into Commie High and then further embellished: Communist Martyrs High School. I still can’t drive past without chuckling.

    ROGirl: Likely it wouldn’t be worth much. Everyone thinks their Barbie is a gold mine, but collectors are extremely picky, and the big money goes to mint-in-box specimens. Your average, played-with Barbie is just landfill waiting to happen.

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  26. LAMary said on October 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Yesterday I made my midweek Trader Joe’s pilgrimage. I was in the Glendale store, where I’ve had several bizarre experiences. I should stick to the Eagle Rock branch. Anyway, the woman in front of me complained that the cashier, a young Russian guy, handed her change to her “like a socialist.” She wasn’t kidding. She told him to go back to whatever socialist country he came from if he was going to hand back change that way. I didn’t see anything unusual about his change handling style. He apologized and she went off in a huff.

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  27. nancy said on October 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Mary, doesn’t Michelle Malkin live in L.A.?

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  28. LAMary said on October 15, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Hmm, she might. Would she shop at Trader Joe’s? Damn sure she would not be shopping in the VietNamese groceries down in Chinatown or Westminster. No beef tendon Pho for that woman. She’s Amurrican.

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  29. Dexter said on October 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I drove to Lambertville, Michigan once just to get a Beanie Baby for my daughter.
    It was 150 miles r/t. A friend who lived there tipped me off as to the big giveaway (or maybe I had to pay for it?) . It was some big scam about a “rare” Beanie only available at a few stores. My daughter was totally impressed.
    Dolls. We reared three daughters…Barbies, Cabbage Patch, Betty Spaghetti (Ohio Art Company), and many more I have forgotten. Then two granddaughters lived with us for a few years while the family transitioned to their new realities. (divorce). The younger granddaughter loved something called “My Little Pony” or something like that. She brushed that toy horse’s tail daily.

    I had a motorcycle cop doll, and the motorcycle, a toy from The Auburn Rubber Company.
    On vacation, I detached the rubber toy cop and carried him in my pocket. The year was 1955. We were ferrying across the Mackinac Straits. My brother took my prized toy and …it’s still there on the bottom of Gitchigoomie.
    Twenty nine years later I took his Cross pen and pitched it into the depths of Lake Mendota. Payback’s a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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  30. paddyo' said on October 15, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I second the motion on what Michael said. We, too, simply called it “guns” growing up, and we played all variations — cowboys/Indians, WWII, etc. But instead of “blam-blam-blam!,” our across-the-street toy gun battles featured shouts of “dow-dow-dow-dow-dow!” Must’ve been our SoCal suburban dialect . . .

    And my brothers and I grew up not ever to own or covet actual firearms. Go figure.

    Besides a lingering and misguided case of gun-related political correctness, the only thing getting in the way today of returning to those wondrous days of yesteryear in Monkey Division helmets and Davy Crockett coonskin caps is this:

    The real-looking toy guns of our Baby Boom youth (Mattel “Fanner 50s,” Hubley Colt .45s, Remco “Monkey Division” bazookas and Mattel “Guerrilla Fighter” camouflaged Tommy guns, to name a few) would draw 9-1-1 calls, police drawdowns and SWAT sieges in today’s hyper-Columbine-ated world.

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  31. Jolene said on October 15, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Unless, she’s moved, Michelle Malkin lives in Northern Virginia. Her husband, Jesse, and I used to work at the same organization. I only met him a couple of times, as he resigned soon after he was hired. He did come to a party that I attended once upon a time and brought their absolutely beautiful young daughter with him. When he resigned, he sent around an email saying that he was leaving to join his wife’s business. They met as students at, of all places, Oberlin.

    Malkin’s most recent achievement was, as reported in this WaPo piece by Ann Gerhart, launching an attack on a woman who she thought might have been involved in teaching kids the “Obama song” that has been the topic of some of the most recent right-wing outrage. Very charming on her part, but good story by Gerhart.

    Re lightening up: I’m in favor of it w/ regard to kids’ toys, but I’m not sure I’d put climate change in the category of things we shouldn’t worry about too much.

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  32. Jen said on October 15, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    We had quite a few Barbies when my sister and I were kids. Often, we played “Star Wars” with them, since that was my very favorite movie. We had maybe one or two Ken dolls, but we also had a Barbie-sized G.I. Joe who Barbie much preferred to date. He was way cooler and more manly than Ken.

    Despite our years of playing with Barbies, my sister and I grew up to be strong, independent women with nary a body image issue between us. I agree with you, Nancy – it all comes out in the wash.

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  33. LAMary said on October 15, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I think Michelle has moved to El Paso County, CO. Probably Colorado Springs. I remember when Colorado Springs was a really nice town, before the Focus on Family people took over. It was more liberal when it was the Air Force dominating the scene.
    I thought Michelle Malkin was VietNamese, but she’s Filipino born in the US.

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  34. brian stouder said on October 15, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Back in the late ’60’s, my mom got my brother Alan an African American GI Joe. This caused the other kids to give him such a hard time that he became fiercely proud of the thing. Can’t really remember anything more about it – for example, whether mom was being progressive and open-minded (the Vietnam War was raging then, and certainly there were plenty of real African American GI Joes out in harm’s way) or subversive and provocative….but it made an impression!

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  35. Jolene said on October 15, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Anyone watching MSNBC right now? There’s an incredible scene unfolding in Colorado. A six-year-old boy is in a helium balloon floating a mile or so above the plains. His father is a storm-chaser, who had an “experimental” tethered to his home (or something at his home). The kid got inside it and somehow launched it. You can see that the helium is dissipating. Hope for a happy ending.

    Also, you’re right re Malkin, Mary. Several articles online indicating that she has moved to Colorado.

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  36. Jeff Borden said on October 15, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Michelle Malkin, known to some as the “rage imp,” is a woman of color devoting her lives to making sure other people of color who have sought a better life in the U.S. cannot stay here. She’s an extraordinarily creepy woman well-known for investigating the financial circumstances of a Baltimore couple whose child appeared in a TV commercial calling for better health care. She stooped to peering through their windows and reporting on the housing fixtures and furniture to prove her “point” that the family did not need additional funds for the treatment of their son.

    She would call herself a “citizen journalist.” I would call her a Peeping Tom.

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  37. Dorothy said on October 15, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I got a breaking-news email about that story Jolene. I’ve read that the basket under the balloon is made of a lightweight plywood and would not withstand any kind of crash. I’m hoping for a happy ending but I have a sick feeling it will not. They are speculating the kid might have already fallen out of the basket since it was not fastened shut.

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  38. basset said on October 15, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    >>…it’s still there on the bot­tom of Gitchi­goomie.

    When we lived in Cadillac, I worked with a Bay Mills Chippewa from Detour Village, right at the eastern point of the UP. He said he’d never heard the lake called anything but Superior, didn’t know of any native term for it, and had no idea where Gordon Lightfoot got the name from.

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  39. nancy said on October 15, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Maybe Longfellow invented it for the Song of Hiawatha. It does have a certain rhythm to it.

    I can’t watch balloon boy. Someone tell me how it ends.

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  40. Jean S said on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    …ugh on that kid in Colorado. Doesn’t sound good.

    …on the Barbie thread, I still have the old girl–and her little pal Skipper, too–and they are vintage (as in OLD). But as they are not pristine, they’ll just have to hang out in the closet, along with all of my horses.

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  41. Sue said on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Jeff Borden, MM has done some good. Her antics in that incident were instrumental in finally flipping John Cole, an A+ snark artist whose blog has commenters almost, but not quite, as good as Nancy’s:

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  42. Jolene said on October 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Soft landing for the balloon, but no kid in it. May have fallen out. Bad.

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  43. nancy said on October 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Bad news for the balloon kid, I see. Ah, well.

    Roy had a post on Malkin yesterday. Worth reading.

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  44. brian stouder said on October 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Now, dammit, I was JUST mellowing out, as per Pilot Joe’s injunction – and now all y’all are goin’ Malkin on me, and makin’ me mad.

    Knock it off, I say! Stop!! Stop!!

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  45. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 15, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    My sister once came in with a dog bite, and described a mutt that was searched for by my family, the neighborhood, the police, the fire department, my Scout troop, and many, many others for two days.

    When she was about to get the first rabies shot (in the belly), she admitted in a tearful six year old way that she was bitten by the neighbor dog four doors down, where she had been told not to go. So she made up the dog that ran into our yard to explain the bite.

    Which i tell not to embarrass a mom and professor today, but because i wondered as the mylar blob flew on edge (for most of what i saw), is there anything at all inside? And having had that aerodynamic thought, my next reaction was “i’ll bet the kid untied it accidentally while fiddling with it when he’d been told not to, and as it flew up and off, ran and hid . . .” Which is what i’m still fervently hoping.

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  46. Dorothy said on October 15, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Let’s hope so, eh Jeff? Or maybe he tumbled out when it was not too far off the ground and is wedged in a corn field somewhere, waiting to be found. That family could use a miracle about now I’d wager.

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  47. nancy said on October 15, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Where would we be without the internet? The story’s barely an hour old, and we already know the family is nuts.

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  48. brian stouder said on October 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    psssst, Nance – when we were told that the kiddo untethered dad’s helium filled balloon, we got our first clue (wouldn’t the neighbors disdain such a stupid thing floating from their house?)

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  49. Dorothy said on October 15, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Who wants to bet this was a publicity stunt and they knew all along the kid wasn’t in there?

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  50. MarkH said on October 15, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I won’t take that bet, Dorothy. As “nuts” as the family seems, that notion is pretty far out there. I’m with Jeff (tmmo), I think this is a case of kids covering their scared behinds. The older one said the younger one got inside and released the balloon. I don’t think form the looks of it he could have done it in that order. And from the description of the “gondola”, one couldn’t have stayed in it for long. If he did get in, he probably fell out quickly, wich could mean the worst. I can’t believe a neighbor would not have found a body by now, hence, they’ll probably find him hiding at some point today.

    Second degree of seperation: that balloon came down just down the road from my cousin’s house in Weld County; I’ll call him and get his account of things.

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  51. Sue said on October 15, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    From the Sheriff’s office re the balloon boy:
    “I’m very confident we will find him. I think it’s a matter of him being a little scared,” she said. “Maybe he’s not ready to be found.”

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  52. ROgirl said on October 15, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Here’s something that will put people in the holiday mood.

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  53. Holly said on October 15, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I worked at the local school watching all the kids during recess. Playing as if they had a gun was not allowed. I had to send a first grader into the office because he said he was going to shoot his teacher.

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  54. LAMary said on October 15, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    The balloon boy was found in his own garage.

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  55. MarkH said on October 15, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Like I (and Jeff tmmo) said…

    Who gets the first TV interview? Larry King? Matt Lauer? Imus?

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  56. LAMary said on October 15, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    These parents are crazy attention whores. I hope they get ignored. The kid hid in the garage for a couple of hours and his brother lied. It’s not news.

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  57. Jolene said on October 15, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    The Larimer County sheriff said that such “lost child” incidents are fairly common. Kids decide to hide for whatever reason; then, when a search is launched, the kid reappears, usually quaking w/ fear that he or she will be punished for having caused all the commotion. Of course, in the usual case, there is no balloon involved.

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  58. MarkH said on October 15, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Agree with your first sentence, Mary, but not your last. It IS news, given news is whatever who gives us the news says it is. Be prepared for a video onslaught through the weekend.

    This search and rescue effort had to have cost A LOT. I wonder how much authorities will make the family pay.

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  59. Holly said on October 15, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Does anyone know what happened to that man who tied all those helium balloons to his lawn chair? I never found out the ending to the story.

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  60. MarkH said on October 15, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Here he is, Holly, safe and sound(?):

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  61. Holly said on October 15, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    MarkH, Thanks for the info. I agree with you on the sound part.

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  62. kayak woman said on October 15, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Late comment once again… To Nancy’s earlier comment, yes, the food co-op arguments are typical around here (the planet Ann Arbor). It was always interesting to me that the parents who were the most fervent about “issues” (whatever issues they had) were often the ones who weren’t interested in helping out with classroom or girl/boy scout stuff. That was okay. But they were always more than willing to to send their kids off with those of us who did help, whatever our personal politics were.

    Actually, I think a similar scenario is probably true everywhere…

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  63. Dexter said on October 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Oh man…msnbc ran this story into the ground. Those kids would get punished severely in another place and time.
    The first caller reported a flying saucer / UFO. I saw the photo s/he sent to the authorities. That craft would have fit perfectly in “Plan 9 from Outer Space”.
    Was this a staged quasi-infomercial by the balloon company? Harrrrumph! Humbug!

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  64. brian stouder said on October 15, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Oh man – didja watch Rachel tonight? She conducted an interview with the specimen who runs “Americans for Prosperity”, which was altogether sublime. I don’t think anyone conducts an adversarial interview more skillfully (and pointedly) than she does*

    Anyway – off to Springfield, Illinois tomorrow morning. Y’all man the ramparts – and no more Malkin around, eh?

    *memo to corporate shills and hacks: “Grass Roots” means – your movement draws its sustenance from the ‘grass roots’; FROM donations from the little people who populate the country like grass in a field, including dandelions like me. If, instead, your movement gets millions of dollars from large corporate trusts – then even though your efforts are aimed at the fields of grass, you don’t have a “grass roots” movement.

    Maybe the critics of the phony “grass roots” folks should skip the astro-turf analogy – which, afterall, denigrates the real people who turn up at the events that the shills and hacks stage – and instead refer to them as ChemLawn events. The grass roots are real, but not safe to roll around in until 72 hours after they end.

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  65. Deborah said on October 15, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    When I was a pre-teen in the early sixties I got the poor man’s equivalent of Barbie called Babette for christmas one year. She was my pride and joy, I had no idea she was off-brand until I got older and then I was ashamed of her. How sad. What does that say about me/us?

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  66. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 15, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Oh, Kayak Woman, did you actually say that out loud? My my my.

    I agree that it goes both directions, issues-spectrum-wise. The five percent who do 95% of the driving, chaperoning, coaching, guiding, snack-making have a quality that is entirely separate from politics and ideology. The communities that have what’s considered “huge amounts of parent involvement” are the ones that have 7 to 10% instead of 5 or 4% doing 95% of the child activity support, but that makes all the difference.

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  67. crazycatlady said on October 16, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Our daughter loathed Barbie. I never bought them for her, but well meaning relatives did. Sarah liked Barbie’s cool stuff. She enjoyed Barbie’s horse and Barbie’s pets. She liked the Ken doll she got, and used him as a tub toy. Eventually his head came off and she did what was fun. She played baseball with his head. Yes, the headless Ken is in my garden. His head? I dunno.

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  68. alex said on October 16, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Well, balloon boy’s story is exploding in real time. They’re showing the family’s home video of the launch.

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  69. brian stouder said on October 16, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Alex – I just wanna say – I watched a live interview of those people on The Today Show, and the way the family is being treated just makes me wanna throw up!

    Dad talks to the press the way a guy with a trunk full of cocaine and attention deficit disorder might talk to a policeman during a traffic stop. (one wonders what they gave the kid before showtime this morning, to keep him piped down and quiet, ulike their interview last night)

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  70. alex said on October 16, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Balloon boy took a barf break during Diane Sawyer’s interview just now, speaking of throwing up. The law enforcement official interviewed afterward seemed to still be indulging them in their story, adding that false reporting is only a misdemeanor.

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  71. Sue said on October 16, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Dorothy calls it!
    (from CNN) ‘But in a later interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Falcon said he heard his parents call for him from the garage. When asked by his father on air why he didn’t respond, the boy replied, “You guys said we did this for the show.”‘

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  72. coozledad said on October 16, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Jake Tapper, Wolf, and the rest of them would be idiots to let this story die now, so I’ve got a suggestion. Reinflate that balloon, pile them into the plywood box, and they can report on what it would have been like if it had actually been real.
    For some reason, when episodes of Chris Elliot’s old show start to homogenize and become reality, I think “Moronic Inferno” is just too evasive as shorthand for American culture.

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  73. ROgirl said on October 16, 2009 at 8:55 am

    That poor little kid! He’s 6 years old and his father is exploiting this whole thing for publicity, instead of telling the media that they need to deal with this privately until they’re ready to come forward with a statement.

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  74. Peter said on October 16, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Communist Martyr’s High School! Don’t tell me that their archrival was More Science High School! “Well, you fight over that last piece of toast, boys, I’m off to my Bridge Club meeting” “Mom, when are you ever going to get that bridge built…”

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  75. mark said on October 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

    re: the baloon hoax

    We get what we deserve. Tragic, bizarre and dastardly thing happen somewhere on a daily basis. We choose to celebrate them and to obsess about them. Pick a pretty little blonde girl who’s gone missng and make it national news. Watch people misbehave on reality tv. Endless hours of squad car camera video recording the drunk, the stupid and the down and out.

    I’ve resorted to CNBC as my default background tv during the day because they DON’T break into coverage for Michael Jackson funerals, missing kid alerts and escaped balloon stories. They do break for speeches by the president, congressional hearings on things that matter (health care, financial regulation, not steroids in baseball.) They cover politics as it relates to something real, like the debt, health care, the market, not countless hours of “Is Rush racist?”

    If all this family faces is a misdemeanor charge, then they are true American heroes, giving us the distraction we apparently crave and setting themselves up for lots of money and instant celebritry. Paris Hilton potential without a sex tape.

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  76. Rana said on October 16, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Catching about 15 minutes of CNN morning news at the doctor’s today, I came to the conclusion that most broadcast news these days is basically Twitter for tv.

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