MAD DOG: Back to School Special

You can tell summer's over. The barbecue grill's been unused for weeks, movies are coming out with fewer asteroids and more plot, and the newspaper's filled with Back to School ads for $200 sneakers designed by NASA for Nike's money-making program.And if all that didn't tip you off, the days are getting shorter. About as short as your temper. Funny thing about summer, it hits a point towards the end where everything gets on your nerves no matter whether you're a bored kid, an out of patience parent, or those of us who have to put up with other people's bored kids and their out of patience parents.Now's a good time to sit down and talk to your kids about the importance of an education. Try to sneak it in during one of the (True Statistic Alert!) 10,000 commercials the average kid will see over summer vacation.As a public service to those parents who aren't sure what to tell their kids—since they already know more about sex, drugs, and having sex while on drugs than you do —I've made it simple. Just cut out the following paragraphs and hand it to them. After they look at you like you just landed from Alpha Centauri, they'll probably surprise you—they'll eat the newspaper, since they haven't read anything since school let out and they're not about to start now.KIDS! START PRETENDING TO READ HERE!The first thing to remember about school is not to draw smiley faces on your notebooks. Hearts are fine. Monsters are fine. But if you draw a smiley face you might wind up in front of Judge Judy.You see, in 1971 a Frenchman named Franklin Loufrani received a trademark on the smiley face and now he's going around threatening to sue people who use it without paying him. While this mostly upsets those people who say “Have a nice day” when they really mean “Rot in hell”, it's really infuriating the people of Worcester, Massachusetts. That's because they claim a local man, Harvey Ball, invented the smiley face, and they've nicknamed the town “The Birthplace of the Smiley Face” to prove it. I guess “The Town Without A Clue” was already taken. But until they finish this fight, play it safe and draw something innocuous like Barney beating up the Tellytubbies.The second thing to keep in mind is not to worry if the other kids tease you about having a different name. Remember, people with normal first names like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer grow up to be serial killers. People with different names like, say, Franklin Loufrani, may get beat up a lot, but when they grow up they trademark smiley faces and sue people.Someone should explain this to the cardinal in Guadalajara, Mexico who's changing children's names at baptism because he doesn't think they're normal enough. The names, not the children. The parents wanted Giovanni, so Cardinal Sandoval changed it to Juan. A girl was supposed to be Samantha, but he changed it to Maria. If he keeps this up serial killers will be a bigger problem in Mexico than gato tacos.But most importantly, Back to School is a good time to consider your future. Remember, it's never too soon to think about this, unless of course you're one of the lucky few whose parents were on the ball enough to enroll you in an MBA program while you were still a fetus.Remember, a career is an important decision. While most people think doctor, lawyer, or Powerball lottery winner, there are other careers you should consider. Being a TV weatherperson is a good choice—what other job is there where you can completely screw up 365 days a year and not only keep your job, but get a raise and judge the Miss Dry Rot pageant?You might also consider becoming a scientist. It's very gratifying to unravel the mysteries of life, like the researchers at Bristol University in England who recently released a study showing that coffee and tea improve attention, accuracy, and alertness. Look for their smiling faces (not to be confused with smiley faces) on the cover of Time when they win the Nobel Duh Award.Being a Congressman is a good career option. You get an office, a staff, a chance to serve your country, and you can sanctimoniously accuse the President of anything you can dream up. Another perk is free junkets paid for by lobbyists, which they take saying it helps them shape foreign policy. Except, of course, for House Majority Leader Richard Armey who won't take them. Not for moral reasons, but because, as he says, “I've been to Europe once. I don't have to go again.”(In a side civics lesson, remember that as an American you have the Constitutional right to say, “I voted for him once, I don't need to do it again.”)Finally, if none of these jobs appeal to you, you might consider becoming a beggar. While this may not impress anyone at your tenth high school reunion, it can be quite profitable. Not long ago a family in Egypt was arrested for begging and it turned out they'd salted away $294,000 plying their trade. Not bad in a country with an average per capita income of $600.I know this is a lot to think about. So please, talk it over with your parents. When you stop laughing at that suggestion, go back to watching Jerry Springer. Then during one of the 10,000 commercials you'll see this summer, make a decision. Something more important than Oreos vs. Cheet-os.You'll find it's a load off your mind and it will be help you sit through a boring school day with a happy face. Just don't make it a smiley face. Unless, of course, the kid sitting next to you is going to be a lawyer.


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