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Do-gooders gone wild, weight watchers, & more

From the Scrapbook

May 23, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 34 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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There’s nothing wrong with taking free money, of course. And Gaiman is entitled to take Minnesota’s suckers for all they’re willing to give him. But his huffy, and ultimately revealing, defense shows that Representative Dean at least had the “weasel” part right. ♦



Weight Watchers

Being a kid in America is getting harder these days. The Scrapbook can still recall our carefree summers of enjoying a well-earned ice cream sandwich after a long day playing outside. We cannot remember a time we were asked by anyone to count our calories or keep a food diary. As long as you drank a SunnyD with your after-school snack and ate your serving of broccoli with dinner, your diet could be deemed “well balanced.”

Kids today, however, must prove their commitment to personal health and well-being. In San Francisco, you can only earn your Happy Meal toy by choosing a meal with a reduced amount of calories. In some states, you must prove your care for your fellow students (and teachers) on your birthday by forgoing the cupcakes and bringing a healthy snack instead.

Now, Big Brother is taking a closer look at lunch trays in the cafeteria. A new program in San Antonio, Texas—yes, land of Tex-Mex and barbecue—will carefully monitor lunches in area elementary schools. These select cafeterias will be fitted with cameras that photograph children’s meal trays after they’ve made their selections and will photograph their trays again when they are done eating to calculate the leftovers. A special program will then analyze the food for caloric content and nutritional value. Each tray is marked with a special bar code to identify the child, and the findings will then be sent home in a report to the parents. This is to allow parents to “see” what their children are eating and help adjust their diets accordingly. (Of course, results could be skewed if any last-minute lunch-time trading occurs.)

As far as The Scrapbook is concerned, we’re wondering how some of our old school-lunch favorites would stack up—gone are the days when -bologna had a first name. ♦

Of Thee I Sing

The Scrapbook hasn’t done the dishes or swept the stoop in days. We’ve been too busy reading What So Proudly We Hail, a new anthology of American short stories, speeches, letters, and patriotic songs edited by Amy A. Kass, Leon R. Kass, and Diana Schaub (ISI Books, $35). This whopping collection—790 pages—is stuffed with great reading. Just don’t drop it on your foot.

The good professors have gathered texts from some of America’s greatest statesmen and writers. Their goal is to illuminate questions of national identity, creed, character, civic virtue, the goals of civic life, and unity and integration. “The patriotism we seek to encourage,” the editors write, “is deep, not superficial; reflective, not reflexive; and, above all, thoughtful.” Inside you’ll find authors who run the gamut from Benjamin Franklin to Herman Melville; George Patton to Michael Shaara; Tom Wolfe to our own Andrew Ferguson. These are writers, the editors continue, who “make us think, challenge our unexamined opinions, expand our sympathies, elevate our gaze, and introduce us to possibilities open to citizens in our everyday American life that may be undreamt of in our philosophizing.” They are also—this is important—fun to read.

What’s great about What So Proudly We Hail is that you can open it to any page and immediately begin exploring timeless questions of American creed and culture. And there are no better guides to the material than the Professors Kass and Schaub.

Memorial Day is coming up. What better time to celebrate the exceptional cultural products of this exceptional nation? And Father’s Day is right around the corner. Get Pops a copy—the whole family will be singing “America the Beautiful” and quoting Lincoln in no time. ♦

The Puppet Presidency

Weekly Standard reader John W. Thomas of Cincinnati writes to us wondering

if Bill Kristol is familiar with Larry Niven’s book Ringworld, where a cynical race of aliens called Puppeteers manipulate humans. Their leader is known as the “Hindmost” because he leads from behind! Is this then the source of The Scrapbook’s musings about exactly what kind of an alien the president’s father was (“Birth of a Conspiracy” in the 5/9/11 issue)? Perhaps Obama is a “space alien.” Or maybe we’re all living in a fictional universe, one where a liberal, antiwar president has us in three wars at once? Perhaps life is just stranger than fiction.

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