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Wednesday, November 26, 2003 Photos and articles 2003 the Bozeman Daily Chronicle
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News is constant source of amazement

One of the best things about being in a newsroom is the constant flow of information -- some of it quirky, some of it aggravating. A few things turned up this week that piqued my interest.

The first was the news that even America's infants and toddlers are spending, on average, two hours a day in front of a television or a computer.

"It's not just teenagers who are wired up and tuned in, it's babies in diapers as well," said Vicky Rideout of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A Kaiser study found that 43 percent of kids under 2 years old -- 2 YEARS OLD! -- watch TV every day. Nearly one-third of kids under 3 have used a computer.

"It's critical that we learn more about the impact it's having on child development," Rideout said.

I'll say. Even though parents said they're conscious of the need for quality programming and supervise their kids when they're on the computer, the study also found that kids who spend more time in front of a screen read fewer books. And that breaks my heart.

But there's no escaping the popularity of electronic entertainment.

A New York Times auto reviewer last month took a customized van, complete with all the trappings of a media center, for a spin. As he noted, traveling with young children can be trying. "How many more miles?" "What time is it?" "Are we there yet?"

An increasing number of road-weary parents are shelling out big bucks for minivans and SUVs complete with televisions and VCRs. Most such set-ups come with headphones for passengers riding behind the driver. Plug in, tune out.

Nobody talks to one another anymore.

And even if you don't want to converse, what about reading, doing word puzzles or learning how to use a map? Too old-fashioned?

Trends like this make me feel old and grumpy.

Speaking of old-fashioned, I recently got a circa-1934 postcard from Yellowstone National Park complete with a drawing of "a dude's map of Yellowstone."

Did you know that the word "dude" originated in Yellowstone? According to the postcard, the word was first used by early day park guides, and "ladies were occasionally called 'dudines' and the children 'dudettes.'"

In fact, the OTO Ranch near Gardiner was the first "Dude Ranch" in Montana. And in 1926 the Dude Ranchers Association was formed in Bozeman.

Cool. But increasingly, it's just quaint history.

Nearly a century later, the state's dude ranches are being replaced by "guest ranches" and spa-like retreats.

Ah, progress.

On the other hand, there's one guy in Texas who wants to reverse progress in the funeral business.

Ethician Church Bishop George Russell plans a "Green Family Cemetery" on 500 lakeside acres in Texas. The deceased will be buried sans embalmment, steel and copper caskets, "returned to nurture the earth," according to a press release.

Dust to dust. Bodies will be buried within 24 hours of death, in pine coffins or, preferably, shrouds "as simple as a favorite biodegradable blanket or quilt."

Russell became enamored of "natural burials" in 1968 while doing field research in Belize.

Details about the Ethician Church were scarce, but according to its Web page, it is an interfaith church dedicated to "protecting creation from destruction due to the unparalleled escalation of human greed and ignorance."

Good luck.

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