Don’t Have A Cow, Man: The Simpsons, Food, and Bovine University

In 1989, The Tracey Ullman Show was a sketch show with a recurring cartoon about a yellow family called The Simpsons. In 1989, the family became so popular, they had their own Christmas special. Now that Christmas special is considered the first episode of The Simpsons, a show that is now in its thirtieth season. The show has covered a myriad of topics – from frivolous topics like movie premieres, child beauty pageants, music, first crushes, sports, new neighbors, and secret societies, to more serious topics like political corruption, (repeated) attempted murder, teenage rebellion, cults, religion, animal rights, feminism, father-daughter relationships, racism, and class struggle, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg (and speaking of icebergs, The Simpsons has covered the Titanic, both the movie and the boat). Because of the different themes that span across many topics, The Simpsons has a reach that can only be achieved through popular culture. This reach can be used to inform the public about important health topics, like food. The show introduces viewers to industrialized farming in “Apocalypse Cow” (Season 19, Episode 17), sugar addiction and corruption in the sugar industry in “Sweets and Sour Marge” (Season 13, Episode 8), fast food addiction in “I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can” (Season 14, Episode 12), and vegetarianism in “Lisa the Vegetarian” (Season 7, Episode 5). These are only a few of the episodes specifically about food, but the series always has messages about food and food culture in the background of every episode – Homer’s consistently bad eating habits and the consequences on his health, the cereal commercials that influence Bart, Marge’s cooking choices for the family, and Lisa’s ongoing problems regarding her vegetarianism. The Simpsons is a better tool for teaching people about food and agricultural topics than any scientific journal.

Scientific journals are a great way to get information from world wide academia. About 1.8 million articles across 28,000 journals are published each year (Eveleth). But how many people actually read these articles? The answer is three. Three people read these articles. According to Rose Eveleth from the Smithsonian, “half of academic papers are read only by their authors and journal editors” and “90 percent of papers published are never cited.” The best information about food is not reaching the appropriate audience. How can we reach the most people with the same information?

According to Joseph F. Foy in his book Homer Simpson Goes to Washington, “By taking concepts and controversies . . . and explaining them through the lens of popular culture, it is my hope to break down the artificial barriers that keep people detached.” The best way to introduce issues is through popular culture, like television. The New York Times reports that the average American watches five hours and four minutes of television every day, and the trend is steadily climbing up with more programming options from Netflix and Hulu (Kobin).

The Simpsons averages 6.7 million viewers. Its highest rated episode is “Bart Gets an F” (Season 2, Episode 1), and over 33.7 million people watched the episode when it aired on October 11, 1990 (“The Simpsons, by the Numbers”). This doesn’t take into account people who rewatch the show in reruns, DVD, or streaming services like Hulu and FXNOW. More people watch The Simpsons than read scientific journals.

What about documentaries? People talk about them. They win Oscars! They become part of the cultural milieu known as “the water cooler.” The movie Food Inc. made $4.4 million dollars at the box office (“Food Inc.”). If each ticket was only $1 dollar, then that would mean four million people saw the movie at the cinema. That’s still less than The Simpsons average of 6.7 million viewers an episode. Even if that many people watch the show, how can we be certain they take anything away from the show.

A study from Ohio State University that was published in Teaching Sociology, said that The Simpsons’s hometown of Springfield is “a microcosm of mainstream American society” (Scanlan). The study used clips from the show in a sociology class, stating that the show’s “‘real-life’ illustrations provide an excellent foundation for lectures and classroom discussion on a number of topics.” The study continues, “It helps illustrate concepts, complements class lecture and discussion, and helps students think critically about course material.” Because “real-life” inspires the storylines in The Simpsons, the students can relate these examples to sociology topics and discuss these topics in a classroom setting. The students also reported enjoying the clips and that they believed the clips helped them grasp the topics. The study concluded with the following: “The true indication of successful teaching is measured by the students’ ability to grasp course material effectively, and then use that knowledge beyond the classroom. The Simpsons provides a wonderful way to accomplish this goal.” Critics might say of course a bunch of students will say they enjoyed the clips – they got to watch cartoons in class!

York University also used The Simpsons to teach sociological concepts, but they did something slightly different (Eaton). They used The Simpsons clips for only a few topics spread out through the semester. The remaining topics used traditional teaching approaches. Then they tested the students. “The midterm and final exams contained a total of 8 questions on the topics illustrated by the clips, and 142 questions on topics not illustrated by clips.” They found that the scores on “questions relating to the clips were significantly higher than the percentage of correct answers on the questions not relating to the clips.” They concluded that “the combination of self-report and actual performance measures in this study provides converging evidence that the clips were effective at both generating student interest and increasing comprehension of the material.” Just like in the Ohio State University study, the students learned the material better when their instructors paired the topics with clips from The Simpsons. The show broke down the “artificial barriers,” to use a term from Joseph Foy.

However, not everyone is going to use sociology outside an academic setting, and there’s no direct indication that these students were all studying to be sociologists. They were random students who may or may not have any interest in sociology whatsoever, and they still rated the topics with clips higher than the topics without clips, and their comprehension was reflected in test scores. If The Simpsons can be used to teach something as esoteric as sociology, with the clips only being shown in class once, The Simpsons can teach regular people about something as ubiquitous as food, especially since these episodes are shown continuously in syndication and online. Even casual and fatuous television viewing can affect people’s’ habits, from commercials (Broach) to eating choices (Chen). Even casual The Simpsons viewing and the lessons contained in the show can teach more people about food than scientific journals. So what does The Simpsons say about food?

The show centers around the titular family and the people in their city, known as Springfield. Homer is the patriarch of the family, and his eating habits are best described in David Sedaris’s essay “Tasteless:” “I’m a shoveler, a quantity man, and I like to keep going until I feel sick.” Homer scarfing down food without slowing down is a frequent scene in the show that is usually played for laughs. Donuts and beer are an omnipresent staple of Homer’s diet. The consequences of this habit are subjects of several episodes, including “Homer’s Triple Bypass” (Season 4, Episode 11) and “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)” (Season 8, Episode 9). His habits are usually seen as a detriment to his relationship with his family, especially with his wife, Marge, who constantly dotes on him as she wants him to be around for the family.

Marge is the matriarch of the family and serves as a guiding force for the family. Her role is usually support or encouragement. Her diet is relatively modest; while she cooks extensive and lavish meals for Homer, she cooks more sensible meals for herself, and vegetarian meals for her daughter Lisa. Their son and firstborn, Bart, is more akin to his father with regards to his eating habits.

Bart is the troublemaker and prankster of the family who serves as an instigator – someone for the other characters to react to. He is overrated, unlike his sister, Lisa.

Lisa is the middle child of the family. Her intellect makes her social pariah among her classmates, but her strong sense of right and wrong (most likely inherited from Marge) makes her the perfect voice-of-reason character. In a town (and family) populated by characters quick to anger and ready to react, she provides the reflection and thoughtfulness that should take place before action.

Maggie is the last child in the Simpson family. She is a baby who is just learning to walk, is constantly sucking on a pacifier, and is shown to be an expert marksman and tracker. Marge coddles her, which can lead to some pretty extreme examples of parenting, like in the first example of the show.

“Sweets and Sour Marge” (Season 13, Episode 8) starts innocently enough with a library sale. Homer purchases a copy of Duff’s Book of World Records, a parody of the Guinness Book of World Records. Marge encourages Homer to try to break a record. He convinces the town to come together to make the World’s Largest Human Pyramid. The attempt is a failure, and the town becomes a boulder, sucking up the remaining citizens as it rolls through Springfield. The town crashes onto a truck scale. The judges from the Duff Book of World Records announces that Springfield is now the World’s Fattest Town. Marge notices that the food her family eats is filled with sugar, and she goes to speak with the head of the local sugar conglomerate, The Motherloving Sugar Company. The CEO, Garth Motherloving, brushes her off, prompting her to sue the company in a class-action lawsuit. The presiding judge, Snyder, finds in her favor and bans all sugar from Springfield. The town goes into chaos, and Homer teams up with Apu, Mr. Burns, and Garth Motherloving to bring sugar back to Springfield. During a sugar run, they are caught. Mr. Burns, Apu, and Motherloving escape, leaving Homer to take the blame. Marge convinces him to dump the sugar into Springfield Bay instead of “obeying the bad guy.” The town jumps into the bay, drinking the sugar-seawater in desperation. Judge Snyder rescinds his declaration, saying he “overstepped his authority.”

Marge is seen as being in the right and the Motherloving Sugar Company is portrayed as evil and unscrupulous. Marge is compared to Erin Brockovich, a woman who bravely stood up to the powerful Pacific Gas & Electric Company – and won. Marge is well-meaning. When she asks him to stop putting so much sugar in all his food, he brushes her off by sarcastically saying, “That’ll boost sales. While we’re at it, why don’t I just change my name back to Hitler?” He is young and attractive, unlike the usual bad guy, Mr. Burns, who is a comically evil, crotchety old man. Garth Motherloving, while a little comical, is the antithesis of Marge, and is not someone to be lauded, especially after he threatens to kill the judge, jury, and his own lawyer during the lawsuit. Even though he loses his trial, he won’t give up on his quest to saturate the citizens in his sugar, instead of reassessing his business practices. In the end, the addiction to sugar is too much for the city, and they succumb to their base instincts, diving into sugar-saturated water regardless of taste. The city’s sugar addiction is too much, and Judge Snyder rescinds his ruling, but Homer calls Marge, “Caring A-lot-o-vich.” She was right, and while her law didn’t achieve the result she wanted, she’s still the character the audience is intended to hold in high regard. The episode ends with a Springfield citizen, Lenny, finding his own teeth in the water. He looks at the camera with a gummy smile, leaving the audience with a laugh and the image of a mouth ravaged by sugar. The message is about sugar’s addictiveness and the power of large sugar corporations, and how sugar companies aren’t going to change their habits, instead choosing profits over people. The Simpsons tackles food itself in this episode, but in “Apocalypse Cow” (Season 19, Episode 17), the show takes on large farming corporations.

The episode aired on April 27, 2008 – one year before the documentary Food Inc. showcased the horrors of corporate farming. Bart joins 4-H, a youth organization centered around farming (“What is 4-H?”), to run heavy farming machinery. After a montage of Bart using a combine, he is given a young calf, whom he names Lou. He raises Lou to win the Blue Ribbon at the State Fair, but the glory is short lived. Lisa reveals that Lou will be moved to a slaughterhouse and killed. He asks her to help him save Lou. They save the cow and enlist the help of Apu to get the cow passage to India, where Lou will be safe.

The episode portrays slaughterhouses as an uncomfortable waiting area for death. Cows are literally piled on top of one another and squeezed in steak to steak. When Bart finds Lou, he’s fatter than Bart remembers because Lou is “pumped up on beef hormones.” Lou licks Bart’s arm and a patch of hair unnaturally sprouts from his arm. Paired with some disgusting sound effects, the viewer cringes at the joke, but it’s effective. It gives the viewer pause. They can see the horrific conditions in a comedic fashion – they won’t turn away. A barrier is broken. These images allow the viewer to think about corporate farming conditions as well as the corporate use of hormones, even if it’s in the context of a joke. The Simpsons even uses food in B storylines, so the concept of food stays on the viewer’s mind.

“I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can” (Season 14, Episode 12) revolves around Lisa entering a school spelling bee and making it to the Spellympics, finally gaining respect and admiration for her intelligence. The B story revolves around Homer’s addiction to a sandwich. Krusty Burger, a parody of McDonald’s complete with its own clown spokesperson, announces a new sandwich called the “Ribwich.” The show parodies Requiem for a Dream when Homer eats the sandwich for the first time. When the sandwich is no longer available, Homer joins a group of “Ribheads” (a parody of “Deadheads”) – a group of people who follow the Ribwich as it is tested in other markets. Homer decides to join them, saying, “Maybe I should hook up with you guys. After all, how long do any of us have to live?” to which the Ribhead leader replies, “If you like the Ribwich, not very.” Homer follows them instead of supporting his daughter in the Spellympics. After Krusty announces Ribwich is being discontinued, Homer realizes that he has been choosing a sandwich over his daughter. He trades the last sandwich for a luxury sports car and speeds away to watch his daughter’s day in the sun.

This episode mocks corporate greed regarding food – they create a product that is deleterious to the eater’s health but fattening in profits. They prey on people with food addiction, like Homer. Like the Motherloving Sugar Corporation, Krusty Burger will not stop selling the product because it’s highly addictive or it’s bad for their consumers. The only reason Krusty Burger discontinued the Ribwich was that the animal they used went extinct. Even after taking years off their customers’ lives, and forcing them away from their families, the company had to inflict one last indignity – they made their customers fight over the last Ribwich. “Sweets and Sour Marge,” “Apocalypse Cow,” and “I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can” are all about corporate farming and their obvious disdain for their customers, but The Simpsons also has episodes about individual food choices.

“Lisa the Vegetarian” (Season 7, Episode 5) starts with the family visiting a depressing amusement park called Storytown Village. After perusing the park’s lackluster attractions, the family visits the petting zoo, where Lisa plays with an adorable lamb. At dinner that night, Marge serves the family lamb, and Lisa imagines the lamb manifesting over her food. “Please, Lisa, I thought you loved me!” She pushes away her food and declares, “I can’t eat any [animal].” She has trouble dissecting a worm in class and finding something eat in the school’s cafeteria, forcing the school to show a filmstrip ridiculing Lisa’s vegetarian beliefs. The filmstrip says, in regards to vegetarianism, “Your friend hasn’t heard of ‘The Food Chain.’” Meanwhile, Homer plans a bar-be-que so everyone in town will like him. Lisa asks if he could not serve meat. He refuses, singing, “You don’t win friends with salad.” Lisa steals his centerpiece, a roasting pig on a spit, and destroys it. The children at school call her “lettuce head” and claim she is going to marry a carrot. Lisa finds solace in Apu, and Paul and Linda McCartney. They show her there are other vegetarians out there, but you can’t force your beliefs on others. Lisa and Homer repair their relationship, and Lisa remains a vegetarian for the rest of the series.

This episode of The Simpsons shows people that vegetarianism is a real, acceptable moral decision. Being a vegetarian is hard for Lisa; her family can’t accept it, her schoolmates make fun of her, the school administration shows propaganda films deriding her, and the even the city itself seems to be against her (a sign on at Krusty Burger says, “Try our new beef-flavored chicken!”). Even though everyone seems against her, she still finds camaraderie with some other vegetarians. Those who choose not to murder an animal for sustenance may not be able to find local people to bond with, but they can find a friend in Lisa Simpson.

That’s the thing about The Simpsons. It doesn’t just “break down barriers” – it shatters them. It seems like a little cartoon show about some random family in some random town, but it’s really about everything – including food. This is where I first thought about corporate farming and how corporations use food addiction to sell their products. This is where I figured out exactly what being a “vegetarian” meant. Before “Lisa the Vegetarian” I thought vegetarians didn’t eat any food whatsoever. It’s not a perfect show. In “King Size Homer” (Season 7, Episode 7), Homer Simpson gains over a hundred pounds so he can get disability, but his gargantuan weight saves the city when the nuclear plant is threatened with a meltdown. It ends with Mr. Burns paying for Homer’s liposuction as thanks for saving the power plant. The episode’s message is confusing. It portrays purposeful, pointless weight gain as dangerous, but it’s Homer’s extreme obesity that saves the city. The show always tries to have a positive message, and scientific journals aren’t perfect either. When someone sits down and watches an episode, they may expect a half-hour of mindless entertainment, but what they’re actually getting is smart satire with a message. The Simpsons can teach a large population about everything, or at the very least, get them to think about it. Just thinking about a controversial topic is the first barrier.

Works Cited

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Century Fox, 1987.

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Eveleth, Rose. “Academic Write Papers Arguing Over How Many People Read (And Cite) Their

Papers.” Smithsonian, 25 Mar. 2014,

academic-studies-are-never-read-more-three-people-180950222/. Accessed 4 Nov. 2017.

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Teach and Learn Sociology.” Teaching Sociology, vol. 28, no. 2, 2000, pp. 127–139. JSTOR, JSTOR, Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.

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Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Monster Blood

When I was eight, during the summer between third and fourth grade, my parents took my sister and me halfway around the world to the Philippines. The trip was my first venture outside the United States, my first plane ride, and my first time in a country that spoke a completely different language. It wasn’t a random trip to a random country – my mother is Filipina, and we had (and still have) extensive family out there. I spent most of my time running around, exploring the countryside where my family lived on the slope of the Mayon Volcano. My favorite haunt was a dilapidated church and the adjacent graveyard. I was obsessed with the cracked gravestones and the icon of Mary with the faded paint and a chipped hand. Unlike Gabe in Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, I never came face to face with a supernatural creature, but I like to think I had an adventure, albeit a safe one.

R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb was an absolute delight to read. This is what I came to Goosebumps for: kids my age (or slightly older) overcoming scary situations with a little dash of humor. While on a trip to his ancestral home of Egypt, our protagonist, Gabe, explores the Great Pyramid of Giza. Gabe a sweet kid and his uncle, scientist Ben Hassan, is a likable adult who helps his nephew. Gabe adversary is his cousin, and Ben’s daughter, Sari, who is charming in her own way. I’m looking forward to exploring this book – this reminder of why I loved these books so much as a kid.


My copy of Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb – What will wake the dead? Anything! I have that mummy wrapped around my little finger! I’ll let myself out.

The book starts at the Great Pyramid and a thirsty child. Gabe asks his parents for water.

“We can’t you a drink now,” she answered, staring at the pyramid. “Stop acting like you’re four. You’re twelve, remember?”

“Twelve-year-olds get thirsty, too,” I muttered. “All this sand in the air, it’s making me gag.”

“Look at the pyramid,” she said, sounding a little irritated. “That’s why we came here. We didn’t come here to get a drink.”

Hey, Mom, you can drink and look at pyramids at the same time. The end of the first chapter surprised me. Instead of a danger that is revealed to not be a danger at all, we have an ominous passage:

“I’m afraid you’ll just have to appreciate the pyramid from the outside,” Dad said, peering over the yellow sand, trying to focus the binoculars.

“I’ve already appreciated it,” I told him glumly. “Can we get a drink now?”

Little did I know that in a few days, Mom and Dad would be gone, and I would be deep inside the pyramid we were staring at. Not just inside it, but trapped inside it, sealed inside it – probably forever.

I’m in. I’m interested. I want to know where the story is going, and I’m happy the first chapter’s cliffhanger wasn’t some fake out.

Gabe’s dismissive parents are quickly ushered away from the book and our protagonist is left with his Uncle Ben Hassan, an Egyptologist with a daughter, Sari. Gabe has an adversarial relationship with Sari. She treats him like a child despite their identical ages. She has a strained relationship with her cousin, but she has a great relationship with her father – one that sometimes forces Gabe to look at them through an invisible barrier. The father and daughter have inside jokes and play pranks on Gabe. He gets frustrated with them, but, as a reader, I never felt the jokes were too malicious, and I have the notion that Uncle Ben has played these pranks on his daughter and that the source of their inside jokes. He’s trying to pull his nephew into a relationship the only way he knows how – jokes.

Uncle Ben has discovered a new burial chamber in the Great Pyramid and he invites his nephew on a tour. This is where we have our classic horror warning.

Uncle Ben handed us both flashlights. “Clip them into your jeans as we go in,” he instructed. He gazed at me. “You don’t believe in curses, do you? You know – the ancient Egyptian kind.”

I didn’t know how to reply, so I shook my head.

“Good,” Uncle Ben replied, grinning. “Because one of my workers claims we’ve violated an ancient decree by entering this new tunnel, and that we’ve activated some curse.”

This is classic horror. The characters were warned. The strange old man told the teenager to avoid Camp Blood. The fortune teller told the young jock not to enter the abandoned funhouse. The cheerleader read the stories about the escaped convict who targets babysitters. They were warned, but they continued deeper into the pyramid.

Uncle Ben goes down a rope ladder first, followed by Gabe, who falls off. Sari catches him. She teases Gabe, but she would never let him get hurt.

They reach the bottom of the pyramid and Uncle Ben introduces us to his excavation team – Ahmed, a taciturn man who is obsessed with the curse, Quasimodo, which is a nickname, and Christy. It’s nice to see a woman among the archaeologists. Thank you for the representation, Stine.

Uncle Ben forbids the children from exploring on their own, but the kids do it anyway in typical kid fashion. Sari gets ahead of Gabe and he gets lost trying to find her. He stumbles on a “mummy case.”

Uttering another low cry, I took a step back.

The lid raised up another inch.

I took another step back.

And dropped the flashlight.

I picked it up with a trembling hand and shined it back into the mummy case.

The lid was now open nearly a foot.

I sucked in a deep breath of air and held it.

I wanted to run, but my fear was freezing me in place.

The lid creaked and opened another inch.

Another inch.

I lowered the flashlight to the opening, the light quivering with my hand.

From the dark depths of the ancient coffin, I saw two eyes staring out at me.

This is a fun, scary passage, even though the single sentence paragraphs make the passage look like a poem. The mummy is just Sari, but I wasn’t mad. I just thought, “Oh, that Sari, always with the pranks.”

Uncle Ben finds the children and admonishes them for running off. The next morning, Uncle Ben leaves the children behind at the hotel after two workers come down with a “mysterious illness.” Sari and Gabe get bored and decide to go to the museum. Gabe goes over the mummification process, complete with brain pulling and intestine yanking, much to Sari’s chagrin. We see that Sari is not impervious to everything around her. Her father is an Egyptologist and she has no problems spelunking in a stuffy pyramid, but she cannot listen to her cousin say things like, “The brain had to come out first. They had this special tool. It was like a long, skinny hook. They’d push it up the corpse’s nose until it reached the brain and then wiggled it back and forth, back and forth, until the brain became mush.” Sari is complicated. Just don’t talk about guts and she’s fine.

They see Ahmed in the museum and after a brief chase scene, Ahmed tells them that Uncle Ben sent him to get the children, so the children get into his car with him. They realize they aren’t heading back to the hotel – they’re being kidnapped! That’s terrifying! Fun fact! When I was a kid, someone tried to kidnap my sister and me, but that’s a story for another review.

The kids jump out of the car and run back to the hotel. Uncle Ben returns and they tell him about their experience with Ahmed. Uncle Ben believes them. He doesn’t imply that they didn’t understand what was happening, he doesn’t dismiss the children. He actually listens to them. Thank you, Stine, for having at least one adult actually listen to a child for once.

Uncle Ben wants to leave the children in the hotel, but Sari and Gabe convince him to take them with as he returns to the pyramid. He gives them beepers in case they get separated, and, of course, they get separated. If they didn’t get separated it would be the end of the story. The floor gives out from beneath Gabe and he falls on his beeper, breaking it, but he’s in an undiscovered section of the pyramid.

There were mummies leaning against the wall. Mummies lying on stone slabs, arms crossed over their chests. Mummies leaning at odd angles, crouched low or standing tall, their arms straight out in front of them like Frankenstein monsters.

I realized that I had made an incredible discovery here. By falling through the floor, I had found a hidden chamber, a chamber where mummies had been made. I had found all of the tools and all of the materials used to make mummies four thousand years ago.

That’s creepy – a room full of dead bodies. Sari catches up with Gabe, but Ahmed is close behind. He reveals that the chamber is the “sacred Preparation Chamber of the Priestess Khala” and Ahmed as trying to prevent anyone from trespassing on it. Then he the true identities of the surrounding mummies.

“They were all violators of the Priestess’s chamber,” Ahmed revealed. The thin smile that formed on his face could only be described as a proud smile.

“You mean – they’re not from ancient Egypt?” Sari cried, raising her hands in horror to her face.

“A few of them,” Ahmed replied, still smiling that frightening, cold smile. “A few of them were ancient intruders. Some are quite recent. But they all have one thing in common. They all became victims of the curse. And they all were mummified alive!”

Then he points out the one he did himself! This dude is insane and scary as shit. Uncle Ben finds them and tries to reason with him “scientist to scientist.” Ben, boobala, the man threatened your assistants by showing them what it would be like to be boiled alive. He’s not a scientist. He’s a crazy man with a knife who is threatening your daughter.

Ahmed knocks Uncle Ben out and forces the scientist into a coffin with the children. There’s a little crying and suspense before Uncle Ben wakes up and reveals that every coffin has a trap lever. That’s a little deus ex machina – I wanted the children to figure out a way out for themselves and save their Uncle, or maybe the kids could have observed the trap lever during their trip to the museum. I guess the book can’t be perfect.

The kids and Uncle Ben escape and are forced into a final confrontation with Ahmed. Gabe pulls out a mummy hand that he keeps with him. (This isn’t a deus ex machina – it’s been mentioned.)

Maybe I thought the mummy hand would distract Ahmed.

Or interest him.

Or confuse him.

Or frighten him.

Maybe I was just stalling for time.

Or maybe I was unconsciously remembering the legend behind the hand that the kid at the garage sale had told me.

The legend of why it was called The Summoner.

How it was used to call up ancient souls and spirits.

Or maybe I wasn’t thinking anything at all.

But I spun around and, gripping it by its slender wrist, held the mummy hand up high.

And waited.

Ahmed stared at it.

But nothing happened.

I waited, standing there like the Statue of Liberty with the little hand raised high above my head.

It seemed as if I were standing like that for hours.

The thought of this kid holding up a mummy hand while everyone around him is just staring at him and shrugging is a hilarious. I laughed out loud. If there’s an episode of the television show based on this book, I hope that’s played with a comedic beat. (I just checked – there is no television adaptation of this book.)

But the mummy hand does something eventually – the mummies come to life and chase Ahmed out of the pyramid, allowing Uncle Ben, Sari, and Gabe to escape. Ahmed should have been run into the tar pit, but that might be too gruesome for a kid’s book, even if the book is a horror book.

It ends with the three of them sharing a moment, including a silly pun that will probably be an inside joke between them.

“We’re okay,” Uncle Ben said gratefully, throwing his arms around Sari and me. “We’re okay. We’re okay.”

“We can go now!” Sari cried happily, hugging her dad. Then she turned to me. “You saved our lives,” she said. She had to choke out the words. But she said them.

Then Uncle Ben turned his gaze on me and the object I still gripped tightly in front of me. “Thanks for the helping hand,” Uncle Ben said.

I see what you did there.

Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb was a delight. It was scary, funny, and I loved the dynamic between Gabe, his cousin, and his uncle. This is what Goosebumps is all about: a kid overcoming a scary situation with gumption and humor. I had an adventure to an ancestral homeland when I was a kid and, while it didn’t involve any mummies, I keep those treasured memories in a special part of my brain. Gabe’s experience was scary, but he became closer to his uncle and cousin, and now he has a great story to tell. And I enjoyed reading it.

Next time: The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Stay Out of the Basement! 

Be Fruitful and Let’s Not Multiply So Much: An Argument for Birth Control to Combat Our Food Problem

Unless there’s an amazing undiscovered human who is half plant and gets energy from the sun, every human being needs food for energy. The United Nations estimates that the world population in 2050 will increase to 9.3 billion, up from a 1999 estimation of 8.9 billion (Kristof). In order to maintain that population, we are all going to need food. According to National Geographic’s Jonathan Foley, we need to double the number of crops we currently grow to feed a population of that size. We can drastically change people’s diets while increasing agricultural output, but there is something else we could do – we could control the population. Should the United Nations institute a One Child Policy? No. The answer is simple – free and easy access to birth control. Not only could we control the population from growing exponentially, we can reduce abortions (Williams), help families save and have more control over their economic futures (Fox), and mitigate climate change (Somerville).

Modern agricultural farmhouses are not the quaint farms of yesteryear, where farmers live in tune with nature and respect the animal. Corporate farming is mired in senseless animal cruelty and poor working conditions (Scully). As our need for food grows with our population, these large corporations will have to increase food production. Their business practices are not in our best interest (Fed Up) and they won’t suddenly become enlightened to sustainable food. While we help fix the food industry, we can also provide contraceptives to women, allowing them to choose when to have children.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that if women who were without access to birth control were provided with contraceptives, we could decrease greenhouse gas emission by at least thirty percent (Heikkinen). And it’s not just developing nations that could benefit. Women in the United States saved $1.4 billion when Obamacare expanded to cover contraceptives (Lachman). That money can be diverted toward buying organic food and green products, both of which have a perceived higher initial cost. And if women can choose when to have children, they can take more risks like following their ambitions and starting a business. According to Madeleine Somerville of The Guardian, female-run businesses “are more likely to make environmentally friendly decisions.” Just think about a new economy run by women making decisions that benefit the environment instead of harming it. Maybe the next innovation in green food technologies will be from a woman who was able to work before she had children.

But what about women who can’t control their birth control now? Condoms break. Pills are forgotten. There are more forms of contraceptives than condoms and the pill (Cooper). Condoms are the most practical and cheapest form of birth control and have an 85% effectiveness rate, even with humans biting the condom wrapper or the condom slipping off (“All About Birth Control Methods”). Birth control pills provide other benefits besides birth control, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) management, reducing acne, and preventing endometrial and ovarian cancers. Of course, women might forget to take the pill or the condom breaks. The most effective form of birth control is an Intrauterine Device or IUD. This is just a small device that sits in the uterus and prevents pregnancy either through spermicide or hormone control. The device lasts for years (depending on the specific type) and requires no maintenance. It has a 99% success rate, even accounting for human error. And that’s just the tip of the birth control iceberg. There is a birth control for every woman’s lifestyle, but some women don’t have access to the variety of birth control or the resources for some of the more expensive ones (Heikkinen).

If women choose when to have children, we might have a population decline, like Japan (Richey). Don’t we need an increasing population to sustain a growing economy? Companies incentivizing people to procreate can potentially lead to companies or even governments providing adequate day care, tax credits, encouragement for women to stay in the workforce, and investments in education (Richey). That sounds like a good problem to have. And what about the idea that an economy has to have an increasing population to grow? That’s not necessarily true claims Sean Fox and Tim Dyson of The International Growth Centre of the University of Oxford. A growing economy is a complicated idea, but the most basic definition according to the Investopedia is a country’s productivity per person. There are two ways to increase productivity: increase the population to increase productivity, or increase productivity per person. We can increase productivity per person with technology and innovation. And if women were able to add their full potential to the marketplace, instead of taking care of unwanted children, what kind of innovation could they manifest? Sean Fox and Tim Dyson add that when fertility rates decline over a sustained period, “the change in age composition creates a window of opportunity during which a country can potentially raise its level of saving and investment.” A stable population won’t stagnate our economy, but it will improve family savings and invest potential.

Also, why do we need a constantly growing economy in the first place? Why can’t we be happy with a stable economy? And what’s the point of arguing about economic growth if it will lead to entire business centers underwater due to rising water levels and corporations shoveling unhealthy food down our throats?

Making the world more amenable to birth control and providing it for women around the world will not only help stabilize the world’s population to a sustainable amount, but it will help other areas. Socially, women could choose when to have children, leading to less accidental pregnancy and less abortion. Politically, women could help affect change regarding environmental issues, as women are more likely to believe scientists (Somerville). Agriculturally, we could have a stable population so farms aren’t forced to produce beyond their means. Economically, women could contribute more by fully investing in their jobs, putting off children until they’re ready, and even take more risks, like starting businesses. And all these factors are good for the environment. Any problems that arise from a declining population, or a stagnant economy, or demographic changes can be solved. What’s more important is that we make sure we’re all alive, healthy, and above water so we can argue about these things.


Works Cited

“All About Birth Control Methods” Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood, Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Aubrey, Allison. “The Average American Ate (Literally) A Ton This Year.” NPR, 31 Dec. 2011,

lly-a-ton-this-year. Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.

Developed by Phyllis G. Cooper, RN, MN, and RelayHealth. “Birth Control Methods.” CRS –

Adult Health Advisor, Jan. 2013, p. 1. EBSCOhost,

“Economic Growth.” Investopedia, IAC Publishing, Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Fed Up. Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, Atlas Films, 19 Jan. 2014. Netflix, Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.

Foley, Jonathan. “A Five Step Plan to Feed the World.” National Geographic, Accessed 6 Oct. 2017.

Fox, Sean and Tim Dyson. “Is population growth good or bad for economic development?”

The International Growth Centre, University of Oxford, 3 Dec. 2015, Accessed 6 Oct. 2017.

Heikkinen, Niina. “Birth Control Could Help the Environment, but Not Quickly.” Scientific

American, 30 Oct. 2014,

kly/. Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.

Kristof, Nicholas. “The Birth Control Solution.” The New York Times, 2 Nov. 2011, Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.

Lachman, Samantha. “Women are Spending $1.4 Billion Less on Birth Control Due to

Obamacare: Report.” The Huffington Post, 7 July 2015, Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Richey, Michael. “Why Japan’s Population Will Lose 20 Million People By 2050.” Tofugu,

Tofugu, 7 Feb. 2017, Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Scully, Matthew. “Fear Factories.” Food, edited by Brooke Rollins and Lee Bauknight,

Fountainhead Press, 2010, pp. 151-167.

Somerville, Madeleine. “Want to help fight climate change? Start with reproductive rights.” The

Guardian, 31 May 2016, Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.

Williams, Diane Duke. “Access to free birth control reduces abortion rates.” Washington University

School of Medicine, 12 Oct. 2012, Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.

Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne!

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook

My first boyfriend was in first grade. His name was Michael. We went into the corner of the school and held hands and kissed. After a glorious week, we parted ways amicably. You could call it a “conscious uncoupling.” He married a friend of mine a week later in a beautiful playground ceremony. I was there, and I was happy for them.

Mary Anne’s first boyfriend isn’t as frivolous as mine, but I’m not sure how typical Mary Anne’s first boyfriend experience is to others. I’ve heard horror stories from my fellow women – their first boyfriend treated them like shit, or cheated on them, or myriad other dumb things teenage (and, let’s be honest, adult) boys do to girls. This book and Logan had me in its clutches, right up until the end, when Logan lost me with one cliche.


My copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne! Oh, Logan. Let’s ditch this broad and run away together! I’ll get my hand stuck in a jar. You’ll get it out. It will be our thing!

The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne! starts with a recap, like on X-Men: The Animated Series when Cyclops told that Storm is missing and with the Morlocs. Previously, on The Baby-Sitters Club: Dawn has a secret passage! Kristy’s mom got married! Claudia’s grandmother, Mimi, had a stroke! (Complete with Mary Anne mentioning Mimi’s accent. It’s not that big a deal, Martin. This is coming from someone whose mother has an accent.) Stacey had a crush!

During the last BSC meeting before eighth grade, the girls gush over a Sixteen magazine (a parody of Seventeen magazine) with Cam Geary, Mary Anne’s object of affection, on the cover. Apparently, young Geary is dating a 14-year-old girl with the ridiculous name Corrie Lalique. “She too old for him,” Stacey protested. Yeah, Lalique, get out of here, ya’ old maid, make way for Stacey and the other 12-year-olds.

Mary Anne carefully takes his poster out of the magazine and does something utterly disgusting with it on the first day of eighth grade:

My lunch money was in my purse, the photo of Cam Geary was folded and ready to be displayed in my locker. (That was what the gum was for. You’re not allowed to tape things up in the lockers of Stoneybrook Middle School, so a lot of kids get around that rule by sticking them up with bits of freshly chewed gum.)

That is worse than tape! It’s just tape! I’d rather have tape and tape residue than bits of chewed gum straight from some tween’s maw. Stoneybrook Middle School should reevaluate their tape policy.

At lunch, the BSC sit together, a departure from their disparate seventh-grade arrangement. This is where Mary Anne meets her Romeo.

I saw Trevor Sandbourne, one of Claudia’s old boyfriends from last year. I saw the Shillaber twins, who used to sit with Kristy and Dawn and me. They were sitting with the only set of boy twins in school. (For a moment, I thought I had double vision.) I saw Eric and Shawna from homeroom. And then I saw Cam Geary.

I nearly spit out a mouthful of milk.

“Stacey!” I whispered after I managed to swallow. “Cam Geary goes to our school! Look!”

All my friends turned to look. “Where? Where?”

“That boy?” said Stacey, smiling. “That’s not Cam Geary. That’s Logan Bruno. He’s new this year. He’s in my homeroom and my English class. I talked to him during homeroom. He used to live in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a southern accent.”

I didn’t care what he sounded like. He was the cutest boy I’d ever seen. He looked exactly like Cam Geary. I was in love with him. And because Stacey already knew so much about him, I was jealous of her. What a way to start the year.

Mary Anne falls into infatuation at first sight (love at first sight is a farce – love comes from respect and admiration, but I’ll rant about that some other time) with the new kid at school. Even though Mary Anne is jealous of Stacey at first, the jealousy recedes quickly and there is never a moment of competition over a boy between the friends. I love that. However, I don’t love Stacey’s other ideas in the book, and I don’t love Logan Bruno.

After Kristy advertises during a PTA meeting, the BSC is inundated with too many jobs, and they can’t handle all the new business. Logan offers his services – he has experience in his hometown. During his first meeting with the BSC, one of the girls mentions a bra and the mere mention of an undergarment sends the BSC and Logan into conniptions of ridiculous proportion. It’s just a word, it’s just a bra, and it’s not that big a deal – even if you are in eighth grade. It’s broken up when the BSC sends Logan on a trial run with a new client – Muriel Radowsky and her child Jackie. Mary Anne is sent to supervise Logan’s babysitting prowess.

Jackie is an energetic kid who likes grasshoppers. While he runs to get his grasshopper, Mary Anne and Logan have a moment together.

I gazed at the walls of the Rodowskys’ living room. They were covered with the boys’ artwork, professionally framed. Logan wandered over to one of the pictures – a house formed by a red square with a black triangle sitting on top of it. A green line below indicated grass, a blue line above indicated sky. A yellow sun peeked out of the corner.

“Well, what do you know,” said Logan. “We’ve got a painting just like this at our house. Only it says Logan at the bottom, not Jackie. All these years I thought it was an original.”

Okay, Logan. That was funny. Keep this charm up and I’ll understand why you stick around for the rest of the series. (He kills it in one cliche.)

Jackie tries to do a pull up on the shower curtain rod, which goes as well as expected. Then the kid spills juice. And then he gets his hand stuck in his grasshopper jar. Logan handles all these situations as well as the rest of the BSC. He ends his evaluation by remarking to Mary Anne, “You have a pretty smile.” Logan! You’ve done this before, haven’t you? (I’m telling you, this close to full charm.)

The next chapter is a handwriting chapter starring Claudia sitting for Myriah and Gabby “Gabbers” Perkins. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Gabbers is my favorite nickname. Claudia watches Gabby for a few hours and then has to pick up Myriah at the bus stop. Claudia gets the idea to take Chewy, the Perkins’s huge dog, with them. He gets loose and we get a string of cameos from the BSC regulars. Jamie Newton joins the chase. Mimi tries to catch the dog. Charlotte Johanssen helps out. The dog ends up in the Perkins’s backyard, but not without stealing a traffic cone.

During the next BSC meeting, the group discusses Logan’s potential admission into the club. They force Mary Anne to call him. He won’t join the club, but he does invite Mary Anne to the Remember September Dance. September remembrance is a big issue, and I’m glad that Stoneybrook Middle School wants to raise awareness to September.

Stacey sits for Charlotte and after a reading of Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss, Charlotte encourages Stacey to throw a surprise party for Mary Anne.

“Really, Stacey! A surprise party. You invite all of Mary Anne’s friends to come at one time, and you invite Mary Anne for half an hour later. Then everybody hides in the dark, and when Mary Anne comes over, you switch the lights on,” (Charlotte made a great flourish with her hand), “and everybody jumps out and yells, ‘surpri-ise’!”

I know how surprise parties work, Charlotte. Mary Anne hates surprises, crowds, and attention. Stacey should know that a surprise party is the worst idea – especially since the idea came from an 8-year-old.

The BSC takes Mary Anne to the mall to get a new outfit for the dance, complete with an insane skirt.

Then Claudia handed me a full white skirt with the words Paris, Rome, and London, and sketchy pink and blue pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Tower Bridge, and other stuff scrawled all over it. She matched it up with a pink shirt and a baggy pink sweater. I would never, ever have tried on that skirt, but with the shirt and sweater it looked really cool.

Her father drops the girls off at the school at “exactly 7:25.”

I joined my friends and we walked to the gym in a noisy bunch. We were all smoothing our hair and picking lint from our clothes and fussing with our jewelry. I thought we made a pretty good-looking group.

We’ll see about that, Mary Anne.

Claudia was wearing short, tight-fitting black pants and a big white shirt that said BE-BOP all over it in between pictures of rock and roll dancers. She had fixed a floppy blue bow in her hair.

Short pants? Like, bicycle shorts?

Stacey was wearing a white T-shirt under a hot pink jumpsuit.


Dawn and Kristy looked more casual. Dawn was wearing a green and white oversized sweater and stretchy green pants.

Matchy, matchy.

Kristy was wearing a white turtleneck shirt under a pink sweater with jeans. We just couldn’t seem to get her out of her blue jeans.

So she looks like a normal person. If I saw these girls, I’d think they were having a field day from the Institute of the Fashionably Insane and Kristy was their handler.

Logan meets Mary Anne at the dance, they dance, and Mary Anne’s shoe flies off her foot. She runs away, crying and embarrassed. That’s the end of the dance, I suppose.

The next chapter is about Kristy and Dawn watching Karen, Andrew, and David Michael. The other babysitters are busy for various reasons, so Kristy is forced to either hang out with Dawn or spend the night alone. She chooses the former. A fight breaks out over a game of “Memory.” “What is ‘Memory?’” asked no one. Good thing Mary Anne is here to explain it.

I guess I should explain here how Memory is played. It’s very simple. The game consists of a big stack of cards. On each is a picture – and each card has one, and only one, matching card. The cards are laid out facedown. The players take turns turning two cards over. If someone gets a pair, he or she goes again. When all the cards have been matched up, the winner is the one with the most pairs. Simple, right?

I know how Memory works, Mary Anne. I went to public school.

Then there’s some phone tag involving Mary Anne, Stacey, Logan, and Mr. Spier’s ten minutes per call rule. He’d be one of those parents who would let his daughter have a cell phone, but it had to be a feature phone and the only number programmed into it was his.

Mary Anne shows up to Stacey’s party, and our protagonist sees her classmates doing various things, including this one:

Alan Gray had put yellow M&M’s in his eyes and was going around telling the boys he was Little Orphan Annie.

That’s it. I don’t understand the reference. Was Little Orphan Annie known for having yellow eyes? Charlotte Johanssen explained surprise parties, and Mary Anne explained Memory. Why didn’t she explain what yellow eyes have to do with Little Orphan Annie? Googling “Little Orphan Annie” and “yellow eyes” does not garner any information.

Mary Anne is having a pretty okay time, but it all goes down in flames, even for the reader.

First of all, Logan says something misogynist and shitty. I was into him. I understood what Mary Anne saw in him. I thought, “Yeah, this guy deserves to be a consistent side character with his own spin-off books.” Then he ruined it.

“If you could just open up more – I mean, be the way you are right now – people would have a much easier time getting to know you. I almost didn’t ask you to the dance, you know.”

“Why did you ask me?”

“Because you’re different from other girls. More . . . something.”

“More what?” I asked, puzzled. I really wanted to know.

“More serious. Not serious like some old professor, but serious about people. You listen to them and understand them and take them seriously. People like to be taken seriously. It makes them feel worthwhile. But you have a sense of humor, too, which is nice. The only thing is, sometimes you’re too sensitive. I really wasn’t sure things would work out between us.”

“I’ve always been too sensitive,” I told him.

Fuck you, Logan. I thought you were cool. Now you’re just like every other shitty boy. These are the reasons this passage sucked:

  1. He’s trying to tell her how to be more appealing to everyone else. It’s none of his business why she won’t open up to others, and if she doesn’t want to, she doesn’t have to. You need to accept that.
  2. “You’re not like other girls” is misogynistic and pits women against each other. Girls have traits that are different and the same. Girls are human beings, just like boys, and come in a spectrum of personalities.
  3. This also implies that other could never be sensitive, which is just not true.
  4. Don’t otherize a girl, pulling her away from the sisterhood, separating her power. And don’t pull out a desirable trait and convince her that other girls don’t have that trait. What is wrong with you?
  5. Finally, he tries to change her. So what if Mary Anne is too sensitive? It’s who she is.
    He needs to accept her for who she is, good traits, and bad ones. And when did you, teenage boy, become the All-Knowing Eye of What’s Wrong With People? How do you like it when someone criticizes you? You know what’s wrong with you, Logan Bruno? You’re a judgemental, manipulative child who should just grow up. Some girls wear bras – it’s just an article of clothing. Girls are people and come with strengths and weaknesses. Deal with it. Some girls are sensitive and serious – some aren’t. Some girls are sensitive and playful. Did I just blow your mind? Boy, bye.

End of rant.

To make things worse, Stacey brings out a cake and forces everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” at Mary Anne. That preposition is a deliberate choice on my part. No one sings that song with or to someone else – they sing it at someone. Strangers sing that aural abortion at a victim. I don’t blame Mary Anne when she runs away. She has every right to do. Stacey knows that Mary Anne doesn’t like crowds, surprises, and attention, but she still went through with this disastrous plan. You’re being inconsiderate, Stacey.

Mary Anne runs home, and the next day she convinces her father to buy a cat. I’d get her a cat, too, and make Stacey pay for it as reparation for being a bad friend. Of course, Mary Anne apologizes to Stacey for being too sensitive about the party. Mary Anne has nothing to apologize for. “Happy Birthday” sucks. Strangers singing it is worse. Attending your friend’s party is fine, you can fade into the background, but when the party is suddenly about you, it’s terrible.

In the end, the BSC throws her the party they should have thrown, Logan joins the BSC as an associate member (he isn’t required to attend the meetings, but they call him when they need another sitter), and he and Mary Anne find a cat at the shelter and name it “Tigger after the tiger in Winnie-the-Pooh.” Mary Anne could be bothered to explain the reference to Tigger, but not the Little Orphan Annie reference? So kids in the early ‘90s are supposed to know what Little Orphan Annie is, but not Winnie-the-Pooh, because I was a kid in the early ‘90s and I understood one of those, but not the other.

I wanted to enjoy this book, I really did. Mary Anne is my favorite BSC member, and still is, despite this book. I wanted to like Logan, and I liked his humor at the beginning of the book. But just like most men, the second I let him in, he lets me down with some misogynistic comment meant to drive a wedge between me and the sisterhood while insisting it’s a compliment. If that was Martin’s intent, then she did a good job, but Mary Anne should have dumped his ass. However, I don’t think that’s what Martin was trying. Mary Anne doesn’t dump him and he gets two spin-off books of his own. Mary Anne is still my favorite, but I question her taste in boys. Do better Logan. Prove to me you deserve to be with the best babysitter. You have a hundred or so books to do it.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs