Thursday, December 20, 2007

So now I'm both old and uncool. Oh well.

So what is cool and who gets to decide? I suppose it’s a hopelessly subjective question;, cool is obviously in the eye of the beholder. I guess age also has a lot to do with it:, toddlers think mom is cool, fourth graders think snot is cool, and teenagers, depending on the day, think either nothing or everything is cool. People my age, however, seem to think it’s cool to go see It’s a Wonderful Life in a real theater with friends and family.

So that’s just what a small group of us did this last weekend at the Lafayette Theatre in Suffern, which is one of the rapidly diminishing number of original vaudeville houses that have been saved and still show first-run movies as well as “classic” films. On Saturday, though, they did a whole holiday thing, that included a Laurel and Hardy silent short accompanied by a Wurlitzer-organ-playing-guy, and a reading of A Visit From Saint Nick which was followed by, go figure, a visit from Saint Nick himself. You know, an actual fat guy in a red suit., Dopey? ,Sure, but the kids ate it up. I’d have preferred a few Rockettes myself, but that’s a different story.

Anyway, the main feature was It’s a Wonderful Life, which I, (and, as it turns out, much of the audience), had never actually seen from beginning to end. And yes, I know it’s a movie that has managed to polarize the masses like no other; ,some people love it with the same sort of blind allegiance they feel towards puppies and rainbows, and then there are those who feel waves of maudlin-induced nausea just thinking about George Bailey and Bedford Falls.

I of course fell firmly in the nausea camp, if only because I’m usually a curmudgeon and proud of it. ,(I occasionally consider myself smug bastard as well, but I usually save that for special occasions.) , Anyway, as you’ve probably already guessed, seeing It’s a Wonderful Life on a big silver screen while surrounded by cheery, unassuming folks really does make all the difference, and before I knew it the snow was falling in Bedford Falls, George was back with Mary, and I was sniffling along with everybody else.

All right, so there’s nothing cool about it, but it’s still not a bad way to spend an afternoon. ,And I got to see Santa, so there.


Monday, December 17, 2007


There’s a lot to be said for the holiday season: the smell of fresh cut Christmas trees, the crunch of new fallen snow underfoot, that special acid reflux that’s unique to eggnog with rum… ,really, it’s an endless cornucopia of sensorial treats when you think about it.

Even better though, as any parent will tell you, is that adding kids to the mix not only lets you hand down those cherished holiday traditions, but provides an excuse to create new ones. ,(Traditions, not kids. Although creating kids is fun too, if you like that sort of thing.) ,Anyway, what was I going on about? ,Oh yeah, new traditions. ,So…, yesterday we not only put up our tree and trimmed it with the usual jumble of shiny, but I also took the opportunity to play Mr. Science and showed the boys how to use a little bit of science foo to de-tarnish the silver ornaments.

To wit: ,rather than slogging it out in the trenches fighting the tarnish on it’s own territory with polishers and such, we simply dropped the ornaments in some hot water with a piece of aluminum foil and some baking soda. It’s the nuclear option, if you will. So, two minutes and an electrochemical reaction worthy of Beakman later, all that unsightly silver sulfide had jumped ship and made it’s way over to the aluminum foil in the form of aluminum sulfide. Fickle stuff, that sulfide is.

So there it is, a new kind of holiday tradition; ,one that celebrates brains over brawn, or as we say around here, good old fashioned smartosity. After all, if I raise my kids to value braininess properly, maybe they’ll stay away from the eggnog.


P.S., Speaking of cutting xmas trees... , anybody have a good cleanup solution other than ,$&#ing turpentine? ,This year our tree was sappier than a Nora Ephron movie... ,yuck.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dead horses, monkeys and my kids.

Although those who know me best might say otherwise, I think I’m an easygoing kind of guy who enjoys some of life’s simpler pleasures. You know, salt of the earth sort of stuff;, mom, baseball and apple pie. ,No wait, those are the things that make me a red-blooded all-American boy, right? ,So how about pina coladas and getting caught in the rain? ,Oh I don’t know, it’s all so confusing.

Anyway, there is one thing about which I’m quite sure, and that’s the pleasure I take in beating a dead horse. So today, even though everyone on the internets has spent the last week having fun with this little gem about Japanese research monkeys being “smarter” than college students, I’m still going to take my turn. Here we go.

So chimpanzees have better short term memories than so-called humans? No kidding. Any parent with a fifth and seventh grader will tell you that there seems to be an inexplicably steep curve with kids and their memory skills. But on the other hand, free will is certainly a part of the equation too. My boys, for instance, have entire episodes of the Simpsons imprinted on their little brains and will be only too happy to recite them word for word ad nauseam… ,and yet they both show a remarkable ability to jettison any information that they deem trivial. Trivial, like bringing home the books they need for homework, or putting on a coat before running out the door into the snow. Or even washing their hands after they go to the bathroom, for heaven’s sake.

So I ask you, is it really that big a surprise that our simian cousins display greater mental horsepower than your average kid? I think not. ,And jeez, unlike my kids we could probably even train them to wash their hands after flinging their poo..., if anybody's up for a challenge.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A day at the CIA. (No, the "good" CIA, silly.)

So here’s a question that’s been on my mind more and more lately:, what do you do for fun when you get older? And by older I mean once you’ve acquired all the customary trappings of the suburban bourgeoisie; ,not just the wrinkly kind of old. ,I mean where’s the challenge in simply aging? ,Everybody gets old. ,No, my goal is to age with the same sort of √©lan as Ivan Ilych. ,Except without all the existential horror and moral bankruptcy., You know what I mean.

Anyway, over the years I’ve found that having fun is getting more challenging than it used to be. After all, when you’re a kid all you need is a few of your knucklehead friends, a pocket full of cash and eight or ten hours to spend barhopping your way across the Village until you end up at McSorely’s. ,You know…, fun.

Now though, as ostensible adults, my Lovely Bride and I have been widening our horizons and trying new things. This last Saturday, for instance, we drove up to the Culinary Institute of America, (watch any of The Next Iron Chef.?) ,which offers all-day “enthusiast courses” which are not only a lot of fun but also very much like an episode of Iron Chef. Basically, we were let loose in one of their industrial teaching kitchens with about a dozen other “students,” ,a teaching chef, and two themed menus that we prepared together as teams.

Then once all the cooking was done we all sat together in one of the dining rooms and gorged on all the food we spent the day making, which was, in no particular order:, filet mignon, shrimp cocktail with cognac sauce, foi gras and caviar on toast points, Bellinis and Kirs, chocolate mouse, bananas foster, and then and rather a lot of Riesling and Medoc for good measure. It was, in short, as much a fun social event as it was culinary.

So then, feeling a little bit of that early winter ennui setting in? Try the CIA for a bit of grown up fun. After all, no matter how it turns out, McSorely’s will always be there for you, just in case.