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journey to the center of a toddler's mind


Being a parent is great, but it�s easy to lose yourself in the toddler culture. It is a culture unto its own. It has its own language, rituals and customs, but thankfully it seems to draw the line at human sacrifice.

I�m trying to immerse myself in the culture and part of that is actively watching a cable channel called Noggin. Their advertising slogan is, �It�s like preschool on TV.�

They air commercial-free toddler shows from 6 am until 6 pm and in between the shows they have animated hosts -- a bird named Zee and a moose named Moose A. Moose. They teach a little, sing a little and share a little.

So like I said, I�m trying to feel the groove of Noggin. I�m trying to understand where my kids are coming from. But sometimes I just can�t suspend my disbelief.

This has been noted before on the web and I�m going to mention it again. On many of these shows the characters are animals that talk and live in houses. They never get into how the animals can afford the mortgage on their bitchin� tree house or why the animals who talk have pets (like a dog or a cat) that are simple animals who cannot talk. I�m just trying to find a framework of logic for myself to apply to the show.

I sometimes ask my kids what they think about that and they just say, I don�t know, Mom. Can�t we just watch the show?

The parts of Noggin that speak to me are the music videos spliced between the end of the cartoons and the banter of the bird and moose co-hosts. (Side note: the bird doesn�t speak at all. It�s like a toddler version of Jay and Silent Bob.) Sometimes they�re real videos of men and women who specialize in children�s music. Other times it�s Moose singing about candy corn. I�ve got to admit though, that tune does have a good hook.

There seems to be a real market for children�s music right now. I wonder if this musical niche is respected, or even noted, among current pop musicians. Do songwriters like John Mayer or india.aire appreciate the effort that goes into children�s music? My immediate guess would be a resounding no.

I think it's safe to assume most garage bands churning out rock tunes do not aspire to be a famous children�s musical group. Do you think it�s a let down to achieve musical fame on a cable station like Noggin? Is there a sullen rocker trying to escape the lips of the brightly-outfitted lead singer?

I have to say there is one documented case that I know of where there was, indeed, a silent rocker trying to escape from children�s television. That rocker was Steve Burns. You may know him as The Artist Formerly Known as Steve, Host of Blue�s Clues. He finally broke out and recorded an indie album called �Songs for Dustmites.�

But back to Noggin.

The other songs I enjoy are the music videos of Dora the Explorer, a 7-year-old Latina who hangs out with a monkey named Boots. She does a cover of �Celebration� by Kool and the Gang as well as a cover of �Get on Your Feet� by Gloria Estefan.

They remind me of a commercial Kathy Griffin did a really long time ago (before she had plastic surgery and her hair straightened) where she did a spoken word version of Wild Cherry�s �Play That Funky Music.�

She�s wearing a psychedelic kind of cat suit, I think, and she�s just saying the lyrics with no real feeling. It ends with her saying �Play that funky music.� And she walks off, then runs back and says �Til you die,� and then she leaves again.

It would be funnier if you saw it, instead of reading about it.

Anyway, Dora�s semi-spoken word version of Celebration cracks me up when she sings �We�re going to celebrate. Your. Party. with YOU.� The staccato delivery and the inflection are all wrong. It�s also a tad reminiscent of William Shatner�s interpretation of �Mr. Tambourine Man�. Most amusing.

I suppose the bottom line is this. Despite my best efforts to assimilate into the toddler world, I still feel like a stranger in a strange land.


2006-10-30 at 5:52 a.m.

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