Monthly Archives: December 2011

A case of news and propaganda

Union-Tribune masthead

The slogan on this masthead betrays basic journalistic principles

On Christmas Day I got a bit of a surprise, but it wasn’t wrapped up and placed under the tree. It was something I read in my local paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. On the front page, under the picture of a gold Christmas bauble, the new publisher and chairman of the paper printed a seasonal message. It starts with the birth of Christ and talks about families coming together. Then, Douglas Manchester takes us through his early years – selling the Union-Tribune in Coronado and how he made a fortune out of developing hotels and the San Diego Convention Center. ‘Ever since then,’ he writes, ‘I have come to love our San Diego as the finest city in the greatest country in the world. I give thanks to God for the gift of being able to live in this wonderful city.’

In a paragraph further down, he talks about how he takes his latest role as the 10th publisher of the U-T ‘very seriously’. ‘We will adhere to the highest standard of journalistic integrity and objectivity,’ he vows. He also prays that he will be able to be a positive force in the community ‘as we create a superior newspaper and a complement of digital information sources’. He has a postscript that reads: Congratulations Douglas and Lauren. I have no idea who these people are or why they have been included. Are they his children? It lends the entire column a personal touch that makes it read like a Christmas newsletter to friends and family.

I’m more than a bit troubled by Mr. Manchester’s views. I believe this publisher’s letter/column sends out the wrong message. Any journalist knows that you strive to be objective above all else – and it’s a value the U-T publisher claims to strive for. Newspapers should adhere to the simple journalistic instinct to expose the truth, to inform the public. When you write a news piece, you continually ask yourself: is this honest, is it tainted by my personal views? How can Mr. Manchester talk about his personal views on religion and his jingoistic views of the United States without exposing himself as totally biased? I don’t care whether he is religious, I don’t care how much he loves his country, and writing about this on the front page betrays the highest ethics of journalism. His views are irrelevant. Printing them makes his newspaper pure propaganda and a source you can’t trust. Once you can’t trust a journalist or a news source, the game is up.

UK media – is it all titillation and gossip?

In general I think the media in the UK gets a bad rap. It has been regarded as too sensationalist, too in love with titillating gossip and too in love with its tabloid newspapers. It’s no secret that the majority of people in the UK read The Sun, a newspaper best known for its scantily clad page 3 girls. Then, recently, there was the News of the World mobile phone hacking scandal, in which a number of journalists and editors, and their bosses, were found to be engaging in high-level corruption at a tabloid newspaper with a reputation for breaking scandalous stories about celebrities. The method for getting these stories appears to have involved bribing the police and obtaining passwords and phone numbers illegally. The News of the World shut down earlier this year.

This is only one half of the story, however, and I have developed respect for some of the journalism and documentary filmmaking that comes out of the UK. The BBC, for instance, has some of the world’s bravest and most tenacious journalists. At this point I will come clean and admit that I am probably a bit biased, since I worked at the broadcaster for over 10 years. This is something I believe you should know about me before I continue, because it’s important for setting this in a wider context. Am I biased for saying that the BBC’s reputation for integrity and objectivity means that it gets access to stories that other media outlets cannot touch? No. I believe this is a fact. It is often at the heart of some of the most volatile places on earth, and reports on what happens there. It strives not to gloss over the facts or play loose with them. That’s not to say the corporation hasn’t got things wrong. Of course it has; no one is perfect. When big mistakes happen, the broadcaster has held its hands up and apologized.

Sexing up the truth

In a radio broadcast in 2003, BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan reported that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that they could be deployed within 45 minutes. Gilligan also suggested that Prime Minister Tony Blair knew about this and misled the UK government. These claims were based on an interview with a single source he refused to name and a dossier he had seen. It was later discovered that this source – a weapons expert – was misinformed and that Gilligan ‘sexed up’ the dossier to make the story more explosive than it actually was. It did some serious damage to the BBC’s reputation at the time and resulted in the high-profile resignation of the BBC’s biggest boss, director general Greg Dyke, and its chairman. Gilligan’s source, David Kelly, committed suicide a week after an inquiry into the affair.

As bad as this was for the BBC, it was essentially an error of judgement – Gilligan’s editors shouldn’t have let the broadcast go out because it was based on a single, unnamed source and some of the claims were largely unsubstantiated. There’s a big difference between this and engaging in outright propaganda.

Andrew Gilligan

Andrew Gilligan's claims seriously damaged the BBC

It’s not my intention to put the BBC on a pedestal.There are some illustrious newspapers and broadcasters in the United States as well. The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN – I believe they are all worthy of being included with the BBC as serious and probing media organizations though they are not perfect. The Union-Tribune is not on this list and, as long as it continues to expound one man’s personal views, it never will be. Mr. Manchester would do well to learn a little from the BBC.

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A television from Santa

Vizio 42 inch

Our TV gets switched on for the first time - it's already a much-loved family member

The Christmas spirit in our household is on 42-inch, crystal-clear high definition as of today. My parents forked out a huge amount of money – about $600 including tax – to replace our old relic of a television that looked like it belonged on the set of Friends, circa 1996.

The new television was a hot topic for a while. Should we get it? Who has the best deal? What size? After heated debates that would put the American presidential nominees to shame, the parents ventured to Costco to talk to their friend Mike, a man who has advised them on a fortune’s worth of electronic goods. They know Costco Mike so well, I kind of felt like they owed him a Christmas card and some homemade cookies. Instead, Mike had the misfortune of listening to my dad’s probing questions for 10 minutes. Merry Christmas, Mike.

With the purchase made, it was a small matter of getting the damn thing in the car. It’s not like chucking your groceries in the trunk. When my dad told me it might not fit in our Toyota Camry before he left the house to buy it, I scoffed. ‘Of course it’s going to fit,’ I said confidently. My dad, as usual, did not believe me and got the measuring tape out and then stomped out to the car. Having now seen the size of the television and the box it came in, I can understand why he was worried. It’s huge. The box alone could be reused to erect a doll’s house made out of cardboard, should you have a crafty bone in your body. I don’t, so it’s going to get chucked away with the recycling.

Old Sony television

This television is no longer welcome in the family room and awaits its fate

Televisions are a big deal in the United States and other countries where people have a fair amount of disposable income (or access to a lot of credit cards). But it was a surprise to hear my parents discuss their new purchase with their friends. It went something like this:

Mother: ‘We got a new television today. Yes, we finally replaced the old one.’

Friend: ‘How big is it?’

Mother: ‘It’s 42 inches!’

Friend: Oh my god, Steve [the Friend’s husband]. They got a 42-inch television. That must be bigger than ours.’

Steve mumbles something in the background.

Friend: ‘Actually, ours is 50 inches.’

I am not going to make any snide remarks about how this could sound a little sexual. That would just be crude.

Sitting around the dinner table tonight, my mother summarized this whole telephone conversation. It prompted her to ask the English Husband what size our television is in London.

‘It’s 32 inches,’ he replied.

‘It might be smaller,’ I added. (I generally assume everything about our life in the UK is on a smaller scale.)

‘They don’t make them any smaller,’ said my mother.

I’d like to correct her American presumption that televisions don’t come smaller than 32 inches, because they most definitely do. I’ve seen them in a countless number of flats. But I suspect they no longer get made in black and white, which makes me wonder why the BBC even bothers with the black-and-white television licence.

Television box

The size of this box caused my dad a few headaches in the Costco parking lot

Our newly installed television looks like it could be a piece of modern art – it’s so sleek and stylish. I fight the temptation to kiss it. We are still behind most American households, however, who average about three of these monstrosities. If you want to know what this television means to my brother, who has just been given a Playstation 3 for his birthday, read my blog about taking part in a survey about our television viewing habits.

Merry watching, everyone.

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All things gingerbread

Gingerbread house

I swear that I didn’t vandalize this house

I don’t tend to get around town much these days. My travels generally take me up and down one very long street, which I have dubbed East County’s Champs de Elysee. I hope the French will forgive me for this woeful comparison, since this small part of San Diego doesn’t resemble the chic Paris street in the slightest, but the majority of what I do is either on this street or just off it.

In the last few days my little world has been turned upside down by the arrival of the English Husband. I ventured out of my 10-mile comfort zone and drove all the way to Los Angeles to pick him up last weekend. This would not be a major accomplishment for most people, but I have not driven a car regularly for over a decade and it usually induces some sort of panic when I have to get behind the wheel and go somewhere unfamiliar. I don’t know whether it’s a European trait, but I have come to regard the car as an enemy. Perhaps that is why I have an irrational fear that I will be involved in some sort of catastrophic car crash. It’s therefore a breakthrough that I managed to get to Los Angeles in a car and didn’t have some sort of psychological breakdown on the way. It came close. I did sit in snarled, slow-moving traffic for nearly two hours and had fantasies about helicopters rescuing me from the hell that is Interstate 5.

Add some spice

The rescue came later, in the form of a one-night getaway at a relaxing hotel in San Diego that was booked as a reunion treat. There were drinks, a bit of lounging, some dinner and there was a gingerbread house, lovingly put together near the entrance to the hotel. It was impossible not to walk past this paean to sugar without indulging in some childish need to be photographed near it. The hotel management even included a recipe, should you ever be inclined to try to reproduce it. You will probably need an industrial-sized kitchen and an army of elves to help you crack over 2,000 eggs.

Gingerbread house recipe

Warning: don’t try this at home unless you want to induce stress

Feeling emboldened by our drinks and the fact that we were paying guests, we sat inside the gingerbread walls and posed with wrapped presents and lollipops.

Gingerbread house

The English Husband got a bit more interactive than I did

Other people had got a bit too interactive with the festive display and had torn off the gumballs that decorated the walls; one vandal had even broken a lollipop and left it abandoned on the floor. I fear the house might not survive the holiday season without some serious damage.

The next day we went back to the gingerbread house with the Chatterbox, who hadn’t yet seen it. A heavy black rope was now draped in front of the sugary house, presumably to protect it from people like us.

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The Christmas show

Christmas singing

The Raging Bull in one of her more tranquil moments

It was a big night for the Raging Bull, who performed for the first time on stage at her nursery’s Christmas show yesterday. The Raging Bull is well used to performances, but these are normally tantrums that could win her an Academy Award for her histrionics.

Our trio (my mother, the Chatterbox and I) packed into a small church at her nursery to hear the kids, all five and under, sing Christmas songs. When small children are involved in any performance, there are enough cameras and video recorders to film a Hollywood blockbuster. I looked around the auditorium and all I could see was an undulating mass of arms holding mechanical devices. I got a mini panic attack that I wouldn’t be able to operate my simple point-and-shoot digital camera and that I’d spoil my children’s precious memories forever. As the blurry picture above demonstrates, my fears were justified.

Despite being threatened with some sort of punishment if they waved to their proud parents, friends and family, some kids couldn’t resist screaming ‘Mommy’ and waving so frantically I was worried they might dislocate a shoulder. Other children yawned and looked bored, scratching at their heads and digging their hands into their trouser pockets. As the kids marched to the stage, I realized that most people had dressed their children in holiday attire for the special occasion. Being a slightly disorganized, harried mother, I didn’t even think about changing the Raging Bull out of the grubby clothes she’d been wearing all day. Hence, she looked more like a boy in her fleece and jeans, while the other girls were wearing an assortment of bows, tulle and velvet. At least the Raging Bull is an original, I thought, trying to reassure myself.

Christmas tree

Oh Christmas tree!

The whole performance was mercifully short, since it looked like some of the children might start losing the plot and commence bawling or hitting each other. Afterwards there were some cookies and yet another chance to see Santa (our third opportunity in three weeks). This Santa looked a little stressed between the crush of screaming children and parents, so I gave him a wide berth and headed straight to the food.

It was at this moment that the night started to fall apart as quickly as an ice cream melting in the sun. The Raging Bull lost all her previous composure and started to wail about getting cookies and gummy fruits. It wasn’t enough that she had stuffed her mouth full with two rice crispy treats, she wanted to hold as many sweets as her chubby, two-year-old paws would allow. I tried to hold my ground as a sensible parent for about three seconds and then forked over as many cookies as it would take to keep the blubbering child quiet. Although bribery works well for most dictators, the Raging Bull is harder to please – so my tactic didn’t work for long.

The walk to the car was a walk of humiliation. When your child is having a major meltdown in public, it feels as if you are under a spotlight. Even though I didn’t see anyone staring directly at me, I could feel their eyes. I was never so relieved to reach the car and strap the Bucking Bull into her seat. I went straight home and poured myself a vodka after bath and bedtime.

And that was the most peaceful part of the day, fa la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

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A modern family

Our family

My five-year-old's interpretation of our family on a camping trip

ABC’s hit sitcom Modern Family is meant to be a humorous window into an extended American family living today, with a gay couple and their adopted daughter; a dysfunctional, competitive husband and wife, who bicker with one another and their three children; and the aging patriarch with the young and attractive Mexican wife (his second marriage) and their gawky, prepubescent son. Like most sitcoms – with a few exceptions – there seems to be a disconnect with reality. The houses these characters supposedly live in are extremely large and immaculate, they seem to be bathed in perpetual sunshine, they all have new cars and money, they’re all attractive and witty. Jobs – or the lack of them – don’t appear to be an issue. Real life, of course, is grittier and messier.

My own family falls into the gritty and messy category. It’s a peculiar thing to be living with your mother and brother at this stage in life (over 35). I feel a bit like a teenager – down to being reliant on my mother to borrow her car – but with added responsibilities and two growing children of my own. I even have to go pick my mother up from her job at an elementary school, in what is a weird reversal of our roles when I was a child. Unsurprisingly, we have an uneasy relationship. We chat to each other about the minutiae of our day, we share the responsibility of raising my children, we share dinners together and some chores; sometimes we argue. The arguments were explosive when I first got here five months ago, and I’m guessing that this was my mother’s way of dealing with the huge intrusion and disruption to her settled life, which was well on its way to retirement.

boomerangs

Boomerangs can be colourful and artistic; this is not true of barbells

It makes me wonder how I would feel if my children, with their complicated adult lives, suddenly dropped in on me in my advanced years and never left. ‘Boomerang kids’ – grown-up children who leave and come back, usually after traveling or going to university – are on the rise in the United States and presumably in other Western countries. According to the US Census Bureau (as reported by CBS News) there were 6 million young adults (18-24 years old) living at home in 1960.¬† In 2008 the number had grown to 15 million, with an additional 1.2 million living with their parents between 2008 and 2010, a gain of 5 percent. This can be attributed to the downturn in the economy and rising student debt and perhaps people putting off major life decisions, such as marriage, until later.

A scout in America

My situation is a little different, although it could be partly attributed to our flagging economy. If there were more job opportunities, perhaps the English Husband would have come out with me and taken the chance on finding a job. Instead, he continues to work in London while I take the temperature of the United States, to determine whether things could be better for us here. In this sense I am a bit like a solitary ant who is sent ahead by the troops to scout around for food. I see these scout ants wandering aimlessly through our bathroom upstairs and I am reminded of their fragility. I do a very un-Buddhist thing and squash them regularly. I wonder how this squares with my vegetarianism … but I digress.

Do I see myself as a boomerang kid? Not really – I’m far too old. Personally, I feel less like a boomerang – which has an implicit sense of fun – and more like a barbell. To lift a barbell out of its place, you have to make a huge effort – it’s all dead weight. With a boomerang, there’s a certain amount of zip and weightlessness.

The bed

The bed will have to be put away before we open presents

But there’s also some humor to be had from this situation. When the kids jump on my brother’s ‘bed’ – which is sprawled all over the formal dining room near the Christmas tree – I kind of laugh at how we ended up here. At this juncture, my brother would like me to tell everyone that he has just returned from an extended trip – about 9 months in total – that took him all over South East Asia. Not long before that, he traveled¬† through South America for 8 months. He wouldn’t change a thing, even if his closet is now squeezed between a water tank and a cupboard in the laundry room and he’s had to give up his room for me. Things are looking up for him, though, because it was his birthday yesterday and he got a Playstation 3. I fear that I will never again be able to watch the television while he’s in the house. Speaking of television, I’m certain that a better writer than me, perhaps someone like Roseanne Barr, could make television fodder out of my family dynamics. Modern Family is amusing but its characters aren’t much like any families I know. I think the best humor – no matter how elaborate, exaggerated or ridiculous – reveals an uncomfortable truth about ourselves or others.

A reunion

The English Husband arrives from London on Saturday. I’m sure we will have a long conversation about what I’m doing here and how long I’ll be doing it for. I could pretend that I’m looking for a job, but it’s a rather dispiriting process that I can only do for short bursts, usually about once or twice a week. At this rate I don’t know whether I will get a job, and that will mean returning to London and admitting defeat.

It’s not the worst thing that could happen. I don’t usually go around quoting proverbs, because it would make me a tad annoying, but this one popped into my head as I was writing this, so I looked up the full quote on the internet. (I wish I could say I knew it from memory.) It was the inventor Alexander Graham Bell who said: ‘When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.’ I think I spent too much time in London dwelling on the opportunities I might have missed when I left the United States 15 years ago. I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson.

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Christmas fairs and dive bars

Santa in Coronado

The cheesy Santa photo with accompanying elves

In the absence of any grown-up Christmas parties, I’ve had to make do with whatever excitement I get from the kids’ excitement in the run-up to the holidays. It’s what is more eloquently called ‘living vicariously’. It won’t spoil the plot to tell you that the excitement is minimal. I love my children and I like doing things with them, but taking them to evening events, for instance, is usually an exercise in Advanced Diplomacy, Patience and Stress.

But, like most parents, this knowledge doesn’t put me off. So off I go to my first Christmas fair of 2011 in Coronado with my mother, who has become to me what an iPhone is to a 20-year-old – we are inseparable. The fair was actually last weekend (picture above taken on December 2) , but I’ve been slow to blog about it. Given that this isn’t breaking news I’m reporting on, I’m sure you will forgive me. Coronado’s idea of the Christmas fair was to throw some fake snow on a fake hill, give out some Christmas cookies and cocoa and get Santa to show up via boat instead of a reindeer-drawn sleigh. They also put on a parade with dogs wearing twinkling lights and a Volkswagen bug that looked like a killer whale (courtesy of Sea World). I enjoyed myself, since there are days when going to the supermarket counts as an outing. I don’t have more pictures because, alas, I forgot to take the camera with me. I still can’t get used to taking it everywhere.

La Mesa Christmas Fair

A bad donkey picture

Then, last night, we go to La Mesa Village for their version of the Christmas fair, held among a tiny row of independently owned shops. There were bagpipes, carolers, mimes, bands, donkeys, puppet performances, rides and, of course, Santa Claus. I took the camera this time, but it ran out of battery power after I’d only taken two or three terrifically amateur photos. In a nutshell, the Raging Bull had a meltdown in front of the carnival rides and subsequently had to be rescued from a bouncy castle by an overweight teenager. I had to take the Chatterbox to the bathroom and had to settle on Starbucks, which apart from selling coffee, has one of the only available public toilets in a half-mile radius; we were waiting in line for half an hour. After an overdose of popcorn, the kids were weary and moaning and I was in need of a drink – so I parted ways with my mother and stayed out with my brother’s girlfriend.

A den of iniquity

This is where the night starts to tip into the bizarre. We begin with three strong margaritas in a stereotypically bad Mexican restaurant called Por Favor. We order a quesadilla, which is like a heart attack served on a plate – it was all grease and stodgy cheese. Bolstered by our buzz we decide to venture to another bar – a waiter at Por Favor has invited us to an Irish pub where he works when the Mexican restaurant shuts. I am feeling about 15 years too old to be following up invitations from waiters, but, hell, I never do anything and I don’t want to go home at 10pm. As we drive, I can tell that this place is in a very shabby part of town, in a strip mall surrounded by depressing shops in El Cajon. My brother calls as we are circling the parking lot and he tells us that the place is kind of rough. If my brother is saying this, I bet that I’ll want to turn around before we even get through the door.

The Landing as seen from outside

Credit for pic goes to Renegade of Dumb - I'm not that good

We give it a miss and then spot another watering hole nearby called The Landing. I know this place because, only a couple of weeks ago, my mother had lunch there with friends. I figure if my mother can go, how bad can it be? The verdict: it’s kind of like Cheers crossed with a working-man’s club. After only a few minutes we’re approached by Pat, who I would say is closer to 70 than 60. She’s with her friend Sharon and they’re on vacation from Washington state for the winter. I have no idea how they washed up in this place, but they are decked out for a night on the town – they’re wearing enough sequins to guide an airborne plane to the runway during a blackout. I think it’s cute that they’ve made this much effort to look good for what is effectively a dive bar.

Sharon and Pat

The Golden Girls you won't see on television

It turns out that Pat and her friend are on the prowl. They bring new meaning to the term ‘cougar’. She informs us that the men tonight are disappointing. She’s still thinking about some Latin guy called Arturo, who she met at The Landing last time she was here. ‘He was hot,’ she purrs. I’m still trying to get over the fact that this woman is probably older than my mother when one of the ‘disappointing men’ tells us jokingly that Pat is trouble. My new sequined friend leans over and whispers, ‘He’s been making eyes at me all night when his girlfriend isn’t watching. I say, dump the bitch and make the switch.’ At this point I’m glad that I’ve been drinking for two hours. I’m not sure how I would deal with all these comments stone-cold sober. Sharon remains quiet in the background and it’s not until I get closer that I realize she uses a wheelchair. Well, you have to admire their tenacity.

We get ready to leave when Remy, the local barfly, starts singing something that I think I recognize as Andrew Lloyd Webber but it’s being butchered, badly. Pat is not impressed and rolls her eyes at us. She asks where they could find some men, preferably with money, and I want to tell her that it’s not in a place where the happy hour goes from 6am to 10am (I am not kidding). I keep these thoughts to myself and wave goodbye. Pat and Sharon have taught me one thing: you are never too old for anything as long as you have a sense of adventure. I have landed in some strange places in my time, but The Landing is one of the strangest.

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Breaking news: baby tooth falls out

The lost tooth

An almond sits next to the tooth - it really is that small

Breaking news. This is not a catastrophic world event, but it might as well be in my household. The Chatterbox has lost her first tooth tonight. This milestone in a child’s life had been building for about a week, with my five-year-old paranoid that she would swallow it while I was washing her hair in the bath. I tried my best to reassure her that swallowing it was very unlikely, but I felt like a liar because I’d read on the internet that this is apparently quite common. It presented me with one of those parental dilemmas that only get harder with age: when should you lie and when would it be kinder to tell the truth?

My brother’s tactic is to be brutally honest so, rather predictably, he had already scared the Chatterbox half to death with tales of swallowing his own teeth. I’m not even sure he actually remembers this, but he claims he does. Today, in the bath, I asked the Chatterbox to wiggle her tooth again, and I could tell it was hanging by the proverbial thread. I then took the decision to just take it out myself and it was surprisingly easy. That’s not to say my child was brave – the screams could probably be heard by our neighbors.

My initial reaction was one of surprise – I couldn’t believe how small it was. The second surprise is how hard it is to photograph a tooth. I tried several times, but it just looked like a tiny white blur against a myriad of different backgrounds. I finally settled on giving it some perspective against our Christmas tablecloth. I think it came out rather well.

Some facts you can sink your teeth into

Like any good hypochondriac , I immediately starting searching the internet for information about the average age for losing your teeth and where the tradition of the tooth fairy comes from. I guess you can reliably predict that a child will lose their first baby tooth between the ages of 5 to 7. Babies get 20 teeth in total and they will lose every single one; this is something I didn’t know, since I assumed the molars stayed (they don’t). I’ve also read that the first teeth to come in at about 8 to 12 months (usually the two bottom central incisors) are also the ones that tend to come out first. The Chatterbox’s tooth was one of these.

Tales about the tooth fairy are harder to pin down and there are many cultural variations, although I’m hardly an expert, and all of this was found on the internet – so, you know, it can be as reliable as bus timetables after midnight. In Mexico and Spain, it’s not a fairy which collects the teeth but a mouse called Ratoncito Perez. In Japan and Korea, they apparently throw the bottom teeth onto the roof of the house and the upper teeth underneath the home. In Vietnam, upper and lower teeth get thrown over the house. These traditions are derived from superstitions about growing healthy roots. In England there was a tradition of burning teeth, perhaps to ward off evil. If you burn your tooth, it’s impossible for a witch to get hold of it. Those Middle Ages – from which the tooth fairy might have her origins – were not great times for children, it would seem.

Visa conducts survey about tooth fairy

But perhaps the biggest surprise is that only a few months ago, Visa – yes, that would be the credit card company – conducted a survey about how much money the average American leaves for their children after they’ve lost a tooth. Just over 1000 American adults were surveyed and the average comes out at $2.60 per tooth, down from $3 last year. I guess the recession has even hit the tooth fairy. There are some regional variations, with people on the East Coast ‘marking the biggest decrease in per-tooth payouts’.

A bottom central incisor

The tooth looking lost all on its own

I’m still trying to understand why Visa would conduct this survey in the first place, but the creditor has very conveniently written a press release about when parents should have the ‘money conversation’ with their children – and this is apparently it. I’ve decided not to have the money conversation just yet. I’d prefer my child to believe in the tooth fairy for as long as possible. Some of the mystique disappears when you start talking about money and bank accounts.

PS I’m leaving $5, mostly at the urging of my mother. I think this is far too much but inflation is crazy these days. I fear the Raging Bull, my second child, might eventually get less when my spendthrift tendencies kick in.

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