Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Special Olympics of Holiday Cheer

There are very few races in which I have the slightest bit of interest, yet I believe I’ve found another I couldn’t care less about: The First Christmas Card Mailed race. I should have known it was coming, really.

As I wandered down to the mailbox yesterday there was a suspiciously wintry chill in the air and the hushed silence that pervaded the driveway meant that the omnipresent leaf blowers were all done for the season. It was, in short, December 1st. As I nosed through the effluvia that the United States Postal Service is forever leaving in the mailbox, I spied what could only be a bit of red and green glitter at the bottom. Glitter from a Christmas card that was winking and smirking at me in the way that only a harbinger of this particular holiday season can.

“Yoo hoo,” whispered the glittery card, “guess what? It’s December and you haven’t even thought about Christmas cards have you? No you haven’t. I, however, came from a family that is organized, has their shit together and probably looks like they belong in a Ralph Lauren catalogue to boot. So there.”

I rolled my eyes which is really the only thing you can do when faced with cheeky, albeit hallucinatory harbingers of this most glittery of holiday seasons. Worse, by the time I got the offending card indoors and isolated it as one would a biohazard, I realized that it had left a trail of glitter behind me that looked as if I was being stalked by Phyllis Diller.

What to do then? Well, even though I realize I’ll never win the First Christmas Cards Mailed race, I really do have to get my holiday game face on. So then, it’s time to 1: beat a few smiles out of the boys, 2: snap a picture of the enforced smiles regardless of what I’m assuming will be their spectacular insincerity, 3: think of a pithy seasonal remark to add to the cards, and 4: actually mail the damn things.

So, I figure if I get all that done by, say, the 23rd or so I’ll be a winner just for finishing. Kind of like the Special Olympics of holiday cheer, if you will. Happy holidays!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Tao of Wu? How about the Tao of Me?

Sure, we all know the Tao of Lao Tzu, the Tao of Steve, the Tao of Pooh and the Tao of goodness knows who else, but now the “abbot” of Wu-Tang Clan and awesome nickname owner Robert “The RZA” Diggs (The RZA? Yes, I believe a nickname pronounced “Rizz-a” is pretty awesome.) has offered us the Tao of Wu. Really. Well that’s just fine but I think it’s high time I stood up and shared the Tao of Me.

So what are my qualifications for flaunting my own, unique Tao? Well, mostly that I’m anything but unique, really. That is to say that basically I’m a young-ish guy who’s a husband, father of two and all around regular guy. And unlike Mr. Diggs who is, apparently, chock full of Tao, I’ve never had to overcome any great obstacles such as race, gender or disability. Everything in my life has, quite frankly, come pretty easily.

To put a finer point on it, I’ve never had to work very hard. Well... I did spend twenty years in the trenches of the food service industry, but I hardly think the difficulty of my career trajectory matches, say, coal miners, single moms, factory workers in South America, child laborers in Asia or even Victorian waifs selling pencils on snowy street corners. So in the scheme of things, working a job where I catered to cranky old people who liked to pretend they were still in the Catskills was, in short, a cake walk. Sometime literally, but that’s a different story.

Anyway, to summarize what otherwise might be an unnecessarily long winded treatise, the Tao of Me pretty much boils down to these two things:

1: Be nice to people. It’s not that hard and even if you don’t believe in Karma, you will, over the long term, feel better. (Except of course if you’re a douche bag, in which case never mind.)

2: Share. Or, put much less simply: even if you’re tempted to feel like an entitled libertarian because you don’t think your tax dollars should go to undeserving people or be used to light streets you don’t drive on… just stop. Stop feeling all persecuted because some government services are inefficient and there are some people who take advantage of them. And just because you don’t personally use a particular service doesn’t mean that it’s unnecessary or has nothing to do with you, because it does.

And how is that, exactly? Because even if you’re the sort of dismissive jerk that’s frightened by anything you think is liberal or touchy-feely… bear in mind that we’re all connected. How? What do you think happens if no one with dark skin can get a loan for a car, house or business? What happens if kids in struggling families can’t get access to meaningful higher education? What happens if everyone who’s born into a crummy neighborhood is allowed to fail? Chaos, that’s what. It’s the recipe for the creation and preservation of a permanent underclass. Remember the Watts riots? Sure you do. And if you don’t, look it up. ‘Nuff said.

Anyhow, I once again seem to have gotten far enough afield that there’s no obvious way to turn this little intellectual safari around. And that’s fine, really, because I actually like it here and it’s time for lunch anyway. Tao out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance.

There are few guilty pleasures I enjoy as much as reposting some of the shiny baubles I happen across on the interwebs each day, and that pleasure isn’t dampened in the slightest by the fact that it’s very likely that everyone has seen them already. And, as I also harbor a love of all things ironic with an ardor that may border on the unseemly, the following bit is sort of an exacta, if you will. =(Although to be fair to Irony, this piece is really more of an exercise in full-blown cognitive dissonance… so there you go.)

Anyway, enjoy:

"I am a conservative.

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level
determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its
valuables thanks to the local police department.

And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More Yummy Links? Really?

As I may have noted not too long ago, there are few things as satisfying as a little bit of shameless self promotion. Well, I suppose there are always things like flying to Vegas for the weekend and… well, that’s actually pretty different, isn’t it? Never mind. Anyway, I guess some more shamelessly yummy links will have to suffice:

The 10 Best Ways to Lose Weight and Keep it Off

Healthy, Delicious Recipes for Your Labor Day Celebration
Three Recipes that Add Up to One Great Meal

Indoor Rock Climbing in New York City
Three Places to Get Off that Boring Treadmill and Start Climbing

Mmmm, delish.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Routine? Not today, baby.

Although there are few things as reassuring as routine, occasionally breaking out of that routine can be enlightening. Or weirdly entertaining, or even liberating. So this afternoon I found myself on an elliptical machine at the gym a full three hours later than usual which meant that I was exposed to a whole new world of bad TV; as opposed to the bad TV to which I’ve already grown accustomed.

Anyway, it seems that a part of that world is someone named Bonnie Hunt who has a talk show (who knew?) which, this very afternoon, featured an overly-enthusiastic audience engaged in a karaoke competition. Normally my default reaction would have been something predictably smug like muttering “really?” while rolling my eyes, but in this case I was transfixed by a young couple that got up and sang Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. They shook. They shimmied. They gave themselves to this performance as though it was a life-defining moment, which it may well have been. Ultimately though, not only was the performance cringe-worthy in both a meta and specific-to-them kind of way, but my heart also went out to this young woman who... wait for it... has no idea that she’s married to a gay guy.

Or maybe she does. Or maybe he isn’t actually gay, but just super-thrilled in an especially fabulous way to be in front of an audience singing an Elton John song. Who knows? More to the point, I guess, is that this couple clearly broke out of their routine for an afternoon and had a great time. So go on, turn off the machine and go do something different for a change. Just like I’m doing right...

P.S. - Oh yeah, and as always, Calvin has something trenchant to add:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mmmm, smells like fresh links. Yummy.

There are really very few reasons that come to mind when trying to justify keeping a blog going while you’re busy writing here and there for other spaces; but of course there’s always shameless self promotion.

Not the sort of shameless self promotion that’s even aimed at real people exactly, but more of the sort that relies on tossing up links to work in as many places as possible just to give the All Powerful Search Engines something to chew on and index. (Yeah I’m looking at you, Google, Yahoo and yes, even you, little Bing. So cute!)

So then, on to business:

Review of the New Hard Rock Cafe in Yankee Stadium

Three "One-Tank-Getaway" Vacations from New York City

Day Hikes in the Lower Hudson Valley

Have a nice day!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Race to the Bottom Continues.

The new bank down the street from us doesn’t think I can figure out their ATM. At least that’s what I’m guessing, judging from the great lengths they’ve gone to make it as blinky, flashy and generally exciting as it is. Actually I think they’ve done such a good job of removing even the slightest hint of mystery as to how the contraption works that even our dog must be tempted to grab a cash card and give it a try.


I guess the next time I see that old guy on the floor next to the ATM I’ll have to consider that he may not be a hobo after all. For all I know he may just be a victim of a flash induced seizure. I really need to find a new bank.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson AND Farrah Fawcett? Somebody crossed the streams.

Goodness knows there’ll be terabytes written about both of them, but what I’m tickled by is that already the coincidence that they met their demise on the same day is being pondered, mused and mulled over by everyone from the Times to Blogger Bob. They don’t, after all, really have anything in common =(Except for the fact that they now share one very unpleasant date)= other than the fact that each was a cultural icon during roughly the same era.

But icon-wise, they were both compelling in their own way; one was a hot looking white chick, and the other starred in Charlie’s Angels. =(Too easy? Sure, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.) = But really though, there’s an entire generation in the western world that grew up with them and spent far too much time either listening to the Gloved One or gazing plaintively at that poster. Sigh.

So, that said, I have to admit that although I wasn’t really a fan of either of them I did still feel that odd sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach when I heard the news of their simultaneous demise. I guess the real lesson here is that that you don’t always get to choose the influences that wire your synapses and make you who you are. Go figure.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Coffee and cows. And rain, lots of rain.

It's not that I don’t enjoy a rainy day as much as the next guy (which I don’t, actually), but I’m pretty sure that we’ve all had quite enough of this month’s Old Testament-style precipitation. We are, in fact, in the middle of the wettest, coldest June on record here in the East.= Really.

Now this may not mean much to you if you’re A: in the southwest where it’s always hot and dry and everyday would be a beach day if you had any beaches, or B: if you’re in the northwest in which case you probably wouldn’t have noticed all this rain anyway. = (Although I am now starting to get a little perspective on why Seattle is the birthplace of such things as grunge music and Starbucks: ‘cause jeez, if it really did rain all the time I would need to either drown my sorrows in the self-indulgent music that launched the careers of a thousand crappy, self-indulgent bands like Nirvana… =or, I’d be self medicating with Grande-Frappe-Mocha-Chino-Lattes till the cows come home.) =Which pre-supposes that there are any cows in Seattle, which I doubt because I’m also under the impression that vegan diets are mandatory up there. Of course I may be wrong about that last part, but it’s really not my fault because all this rain has got me a little muddled up.

Anyway, my point is that somebody had better be mostly done building an ark of some sort, because it looks like we’re going to need it sooner rather than later. And my only suggestion there is that this time we learn from experience and leave a few things behind: mosquitoes, spiders and most of the other creepy-crawlies for instance. Yuck. = Oooh, but we can’t forget to bring the cows, because unlike those hippies from Seattle I think they’re delicious.

Have a great day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's day: 13 years and counting.

Oddly enough this started out as a Stay At Home Dad Blog about six years ago (Really? Is it possible that I've been clogging up the tubes for that long?) so I guess it's appropriate to give at least a passing nod to any and all dads out there, regardless of where they are or how far along they are on their journey towards producing fully grown and productive members of society. My progeny, for instance, are both teens now and there are days, quite frankly, that I can't wait for them to be done.

But anyway... I'm still looking froward to yet another Father's Day while working on a new list of entirely unreasonable demands, 'cause as far as I'm concerned if you can't exploit a day like this then you're just not trying hard enough. (Bwaa ha ha ha ha....)

Have a great Dad's day!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Who rocks? Clapton and Winwood, that's who.

Saw the Meadowlands kick-off of Clapton and Winwood’s 14 city tour last night; and it was, in a word, outstanding. A full review is forthcoming on Associated Content, but for the moment here’s a setlist and an especially crappy video I took. Whoo hoo.

01. Had To Cry Today
02. Low Down
03. After Midnight
04. Sleeping In The Ground
05. Presence Of The Lord
06. Glad
07. Well Alright
08. Tough Luck Blues
09. Tell The Truth
10. Pearly Queen
11. No Face, No Name, No Number
12. Forever Man
13. Georgia On My Mind - Steve Winwood solo
14. Driftin' - acoustic
15. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
16. Layla - acoustic version
17. Can't Find My Way Home
18. Split Decision
19. Little Wing
20. Voodoo Chile
21. Cocaine
22. Dear Mr. Fantasy (Encore)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sometimes it's all about Me

Just off the top of my head I can’t think of many things for which I’d be pleased to be paid a pittance, but writing seems to be one of them. Financially lucrative? Good lord no. Economically sensible? Of course not. =But… getting paid a pittance to write is not a bad place to start as it begins filling a few of those intellectual holes I seem to have been developing lately.

So then, let the shameless self promotion begin. Enjoy.

Review of the New Hard Rock Cafe in Yankee Stadium

Online Support Groups for Men Fighting Prostate Cancer

Professional Engagement Photographers in Westchester and Rockland County, New York
Five Fabulous Fall Wedding Dresses
Summer Festivals and Events in Westchester and Rockland County, New York
Book Review: Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
A Guide to Memorial Day Weekend in New York City
Pediatric Dentists in Rockland County and Northern New Jersey

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rip Van... Hey There, What's Up?

It’s May already? Jeez, how did that happen? Good lord, I feel just a little bit like Rip Van Winkle after a particularly epic bender. Well, I guess his thing was that he was just a lazy bastard who was hiding from his wife, and rather than whisky my thing is that I’ve actually been busy for a change.

Sure, I’ve been occupied at home keeping up with the boys and house all along, but I’ve actually been getting paid a little bit to write lately so I must admit that the urge to grace this little space with my unique brand of staggeringly insightful and amusing bon mots has waned. Or then again I might just be running out of steam.

Nope… I’ll have none of that. So then, in the next day or two I’ll be gearing up for a little story about our first Yankee game in the new stadium, and I have an absolutely original anecdote about how irritating teenagers can be. Really! Teenagers = exasperating! Whoda thunk? And since I’m obviously the first parent to experience such a thing I’ll be sharing like there’s no tomorrow.

Have a nice day!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Still Twittering? Yeah I'm a Luddite too.

Joseph Kennedy, as the story goes, realized it was time to get out of the market when he got a stock tip from a shoe shine boy in 1929. When I originally heard the tale it was Rockefeller Jr. that received that tip rather than Old Joe, but the moral remains the same: Once everyone’s in the pool, you know it’s time to towel off and go hit the bar before somebody poops it all up.

Anyway, there’s a lot of grumbling to that effect in the twitter-verse these days; and although opinion varies about who the ultimate culprit is, (Britney, Rep. Joe Barton et al, Hilton, Kutcher, Oprah…) there’s certainly a consensus among the cool kids that twitter has jumped the shark. In response, a lot of them seem to be following a sort of 21st century manifest destiny by moseying along to Friendfeed where they can graze the wide open spaces of social media undisturbed by those all those pesky celebrities, noobs and posers. Or so I’m told.

At any rate, in the face of these shifting social sands I’m still holding fast to my status as a Twitter luddite, and as such I would point out that just last night I had a fine time following an exchange between Adam Savage and John Hodgman regarding whether or not it might be possible to pee straight through one’s khakis. It was actually pretty funny. Really.

So you crazy kids can have your Friendfeeds and Jaikus and Delicious-es and Flikrs and Linkedins; I’m just fine hanging out with the 2008-set, thank you very much. (And no, we don’t even mind the Fail Whale too much either, so there.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Adam Lambert and the Lumpenproletariat

American Idol? =Really? =Yeah, well, as I’ve noted before it’s a shady netherworld into which I’ve been inadvertently drawn, just as one would be to Amway, midget tossing or being Born Again. One assumes.

Anyway, the embarrassingly all-too-sincere skinny on last night’s Idol is pretty much this:

• Early fave Danny Gokey continues coasting, and while he’s still going to be a finalist he’s been lazy and it’s disappointing to watch.
• Also-early-fave Lil Rounds continues coasting as well, and although I originally thought it was laziness like Gokey, after last night I think it’s clear that she really just has no idea what she’s doing.
• Nice-blind-guy Scott of the oddly distracting hair (Just me?) continues doing mostly OK, but he’s really a Christian Pop star and just doesn’t know it yet.
• Allison has an outstanding voice, but is clearly a 36 year-old Hooter’s waitress that at some point made a Mephistophelean bargain in which she’s switched bodies with a random teenager. Which is fine, except that if we’ve learned anything from all those body-switch movies from the 80s, she’s gonna get busted at the end when there’s a hilarious mix-up with the magic idol/statue/spell. Oh yeah, and she’s not going to win.
• Cute-guy (is his name Kris? Who can remember?) does a good job as well, but doesn’t have the charisma to win.
• Wormy-guy Matt is too inconsistent for my taste. As well as being vaguely reptilian. Ick.
• Anoop-dawg remains oddly compelling and strong, it’s just a shame that he feels like a lightweight and is probably just a little too goofy to go all the way.

Which leaves us with dark horse Adam Lambert; who, for the record, absolutely killed with his brilliant cover of Ring of Fire just as he did with last night’s outstanding performance of Strange World. Sure, the song was probably a little cliché for the nerdy set, but I can only hope that it was distinctive enough to prove to the Middle American lumpenproletariat that Adam is far and away stronger than the pleasant but lamely homogenous Gokey.

That is, I mean, as if I really cared about big dumb old American Idol. ‘Cause reality shows are all lame and I’m not really taking this seriously at all. Yeah, so there. (Well anyway, I’ve gotta sneak off now and catch up on some Dancing with the Stars. Shhh, don’t tell.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cue the Vultures.

Hey, feeling old? You find that it’s getting harder to think of ways to put a positive spin on just how tall your kids are getting and all that implies about your mortality? No? Just me? Yeah right. Anyway, it was just a few weeks ago that I realized that my oldest boy is as tall as me now, and I’ve gotta say it was a little more disconcerting than I thought it would be. Not life altering by any means, but still, humbling on the same sort of level as the first time you’re unpleasantly surprised by a birthday. Or the first day you catch yourself consciously thinking: “Easy now, don’t slip getting out of the tub.”

I guess it’s nothing more than a low-level, first skirmish with mortality though; so I suppose the positive spin here is that I still have time to save up for that mid-life-crisis-Corvette I’ll be wanting. Phew.

( "consciously thinking"?= Yeah, whatever.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sacrifice, Snark and Spin

As spouses and parents we all make sacrifices; indeed there’s no other way to successfully navigate any meaningful relationship without opening up and surrendering a part of one’s self. Or so I’ve been told. Actually I guess it makes sense that everything’s not all about me, because if it were I’d have probably ended up being That Guy on Cops who was holed up in a cheap motel room in Vegas with a one-legged hooker and a big stash of crank instead of being the all ‘round Good Guy that I am. One assumes. Actually I don’t even really know what crank is.

Anyway, what does all this mean, practically speaking? That instead of subsisting on an entertainment diet made up entirely of lasers, spaceships and things that go boom, I’ve begun watching American Idol with the rest of my family. And Dancing with the Stars. And probably a few other things I should be ashamed about as well. (What Not to Wear anybody? Bueller?)

It’s ok, though, (I tell myself) because it’s all really quality time spent with the Boys and my Lovely Bride. And actually it really is quality time, because rather than being passive, potato-like recipients of the reality show weirdness that ABC and Fox streams into our living room, we take a much more active role. Much like Joel and the ‘bots, my Boys and I spend our time amusing each other with a running commentary on the absurdities with which Ryan Seacrest and Tom Bergeron present us each week.

In fact it’s become something of a game to see which of us can be the sharpest, snarkiest wag in the room as we constantly hone our Oscar Wilde-like wit just to the point where my Lovely Bride finally snaps. Well, perhaps “snaps” puts too fine a point on it; but either way we know we aren’t really bringing our game until she sighs, rolls her eyes and pauses the DVR until we shut the hell up.

So there you go. I’d argue that far from being the wasteland that TV is often portrayed as being, it’s really an opportunity for not only some personal growth, but some genuinely constructive quality time with the family. =(And there's your spin.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring already? Ok, here we go:

Ah, Spring. The traditional season of growth and renewal. The daffodils are on their way and the magic of Daylight Savings Time means an extra hour of life-affirming sunlight at the end of each day. And as if that weren't enough, spring is also a harbinger of all sorts of other goodies as well: Easter baskets, a spate of first Communion celebrations, some Passover gatherings and even the occasional baptism or bris. So either Amen or Mazal tov… =whichever.

(Moreover, I believe it’s been noted that Spring is when a young man's thoughts turn to love. While that may be true, I seem to recall that my own youth seemed to revolve around "love" to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Indeed, I’m pretty sure that the vernal equinox has absolutely nothing to do with all those raging hormones…= I mean “love”. =But as usual, I digress.)

Anyway, this particular Spring is looking even brighter than usual because it’s the first time I’ve been spared the seasonal albatross that is Little League. That’s right, I don't like Little League. There, I said it.

Ok, I realize that my ambivalence towards (read: hatred of) Little League puts me just outside the norm, but jeez, how many hours can you sit there and watch your progeny wiff the ball? How many times can you applaud someone else’s kid for making it to first without falling down? And then there are the physical challenges: by the end of the season the sun is baking you on the same aluminum bleachers on which you froze your buns at the beginning of the season.

So, where does this all leave me? Well, despite this failure to conform I do still believe that I'm a good father, and yes, a good American. I play basketball in the driveway with my boys. We throw a football at each other in the back yard. I drive them to religion and karate. In the summer I cook slabs of corn-fed beef on my grill and offer the neighbors a cold one to go with it.

So, yeah, that's me: all round regular guy and good dad. =And yeah, I hate Little League. =Going to make something of it?= No, I didn't think so.= Go Spring!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Learning, Giving and Shaving. In that order.

Just recently I was mulling over the surprisingly long list of things that parents try to teach their children. It’s a list populated with not just life lessons to be learned as quickly and painlessly as possible, but pitfalls to be avoided. But it’s a really long list though, isn’t it?

It starts with the basics for the young ‘uns: Don’t-Take-Things-That-Aren’t-Yours, and then moves on to other seemingly simple concepts that are inexplicably much harder to follow, such as: Stop-Hitting-Your-Brother-With-That-Garbage-Can-Right-Now-Before-I-Have-To-Come-Down-There.

Anyway, two more things on that list are: Help-Others and Try-New-Things, which we managed to combine into one activity this weekend when our youngest decided to participate in our local St. Baldrick’s Day event. It’s a fundraiser in which participants not only have their heads shaved for the amusement of onlookers, but manage to raise a good bit of scratch for pediatric cancer research as well.

So really, it’s a win all the way around: a good cause got some dough, our shaggy youngest finally got an embarrassingly belated haircut, and now the rest of us have a peach-fuzz covered noggin around the house to mock for a little while. And, we get to mark a couple of things off the list.

Friday, March 13, 2009

...but some animals are more equal than others.

I’ve found, and I’d think you’d have to agree, that one of the great pleasures of growing up, making new friends and moving around is that your cultural horizons are inevitably expanded and your social life grows richer and more satisfying.

Having kids though, exposes a dark side of that very same dynamic; becoming a parent expands your cultural horizons as well, but in a very different direction. No longer are you hanging out with your cool friends and talking about music, books and politics… no, as a parent you wake up one day to find yourself adrift in a complex, baffling world populated by talking bears, pint-sized explorers and anthropomorphic trains.

So, bearing that in mind, I particularly enjoyed this bravura missive during a visit to Cheeky’s Hideaway. He does a fine job of demystifying some of the more complex economic forces that seem to govern the alternate reality that clutters up my TV every day. Go on, give it a thorough read. I’ll wait.

Back now? Good, because I still have a few questions of my own that remain unanswered. I am, for instance, still baffled by some of the thornier social issues involved, particularly those surrounding inter-species subjugation. How is it, for instance, that a sponge named Bob can in good conscience keep a mollusk named Gary as a pet? On a leash, no less?

Other such cell-shaded instances of domination abound: Mickey Mouse “owns” a dog, as does that disturbingly anthropomorphized aardvark named Arthur. There are, of course, countless other examples.

So just exactly what are the rules that govern this inter-species subjugation? Are they social, biological, or perhaps even intrinsically existential? I’m assuming it can’t simply be an issue of sentience, as we all know that Gary the snail is not only savvier than his “master” but has the natty fashion sense to wear wingtip shoes as well.

If it turns out, as I’m afraid it may, that this class distinction merely lies in the ability to verbalize, then the animated world must be legion with animals trapped in a nightmare of mute impotence, unable to articulate their desire for freedom.

Oooh creepy. Never mind. I should probably just watch something harmless like re-runs of The Bachelor instead… eeew, no. Hey, maybe I’ll just go outdoors and see what’s happening in the real world. =Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dreams deferred.

It occurs to me that one of the joys of parenthood is that not only do you get the underlying biological satisfaction of passing along your DNA, but as a bonus you get to pass along a lot of your emotional baggage as well. Now considering my propensity for monumental self absorption, which of those two gifts to posterity do you suppose interests me the most?

Yeah, it’s all about the baggage for me. After all, it’s fine that future generations will benefit from the genetic diversity I’ve injected into the collective gene pool, (Eeeew?) but what’s much more immediate and interesting to me is the near-instant gratification of projecting a lifetime of hopes and dreams on my unsuspecting offspring. Really now, who of you out there hasn’t put a bat into Little Billy’s hands while secretly fantasizing about the huge checks that are bound to come rolling in from Nike? Or a golf club, or a football or whatever. Play your cards right and a decadently comfortable retirement on the Cote d'Azur can be yours, thanks to Little Billy.

But life doesn’t always cooperate, does it? Nope, just when I thought I had everything worked out, Fate has gone and thrown a surprisingly large wrench into the midst of my little plans. It seems, if you can believe it, that kids have a natural selfish streak and don’t always play along. To wit: My older boy is 13 now, and he’s long since lost any interest he had in baseball (or any other sensible sport, for that matter) and has spent the last year or two doing what? Playing music, of course.

That’s right, my favorite little retirement plan… I mean son, has decided to follow his muse, literally, and be a Rock-God. That’s right, a guitar-playing, song-writing, vocal-wailing musician. I’ve tried pointing out to him that as a musician the only likely future he can look forward to is one of a perpetual diet of Cheetos and sleeping on other people’s couches, but of course he thinks that sounds great. Great. (And what makes it even just that much more galling is that I wasn’t really even married to the notion of sports-star. Really, any of the clichéd old faves would have been fine. You know, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.)

Oh well, I know it’s early yet and he’s liable to smarten up, but I guess it would be best for everybody if I just relaxed and let him be. When I look at it objectively, after all, he really is pretty talented. Ok, it’s more than that: he has a great ear, can pick up any instrument pretty much overnight, and jeez can he shred. Fine then. I guess I’ll just have to focus on his little brother instead.

And hey, you never know, it may work out for the older one. After all, I bet Mick Jagger bought his mum and dad a house or two.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

25 Random things... Oh for heaven's sake.

I suppose one of my favorite ways of categorizing people is by using a clear, unambiguous binary system of taxonomy. Which is, I suppose yet again, just a pretentious way of saying that I’m a fan of using the old saw: =“There are two kinds of people in the world…”

In this case, I was just thinking about the fact that I’m more of a scrutinizer than an enjoy-er… =if you will. = I always seem, for instance, to be more interested in what’s going on behind the scenes and how things work than in actually paying attention to whatever it is that I’m supposed to be enjoying. Sort of like a magic show I remember seeing when I was 8 or 9. It was just an affable guy in a cheap suit who was pretty good at sleight of hand tricks;= but I enjoyed the show in a very different way than the other kids around me because I was busy watching his every move and trying to figure out how he did the tricks.

Anyway, that’s all really just to say that my penchant for deconstruction also applies to this ‘25-Random-Things’ meme that’s been chugging along for the last month or two. It’s been sort of interesting to watch, but not because I really have much interest in the banal drivel that people are busy revealing about themselves. =(Not like the stuff you and I write, of course; we’re fascinating) =No, it’s the science behind the lifecycle of the 25-Things meme itself that’s actually kind of cool.

As Chris Wilson points out in Slate there’s a really interesting correlation between the seemingly inexplicable growth of the 25 meme and the way biological pathogens spread themselves. What’s more, just the fact that the meme evolved organically through several stages from one perfect square (16 Things) until it finally settled on another (25), suggests that it’s also yet another natural phenomenon that can be described using the mathematics of fractal geometry. How cool is that?

So anyway, yes it’s already occurred to me that the irony here is I’ve inadvertently just told you one or two things about myself that you didn’t know… = but hey, at least I didn’t number them. ‘Cause jeez, don’t even get me started about the internet blight of listing everything. =Bah. =Have a nice day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bringin' it.

“History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

Boy can that man deliver a speech. And yet it’s more than that; he delivers a lot of different qualities all rolled up into one nice tidy package: confidence and resolve tempered with an intellect that’s informed by a genuine interest in the world around him. Which certainly is a refreshing change from you-know-who.

And jeez, not that I was going to go on about it, but after eight years of all that squinting, smirking,= waiting for answers =and= jaw-jacking,= last night’s foray into the world of the 21st century was an absolute pleasure. Last night our president actually mentioned science and universities. Not just schools that are all too often just parking places for our kids until they’re old enough to flip burgers or carry a gun, mind you, but universities. Universities that are the real foundation from which the next generation of technology and leadership must come if we expect to pick ourselves up and get back in the global race.

Wow, how’s that that for a load of pretentious twaddle? =Yeah well, sometimes I just can’t help myself. =Anyway, have a nice day, and as long as I’m at it, enjoy this little send-off from our former Adolescent In Chief:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mmmmm... validation

So during any given day how often do you experience a serendipitous moment of perfection that embodies both the grandeur and mystery that is life? You know, one of those moments frozen in time that is as perfectly sublime as it is precious? =Not so often, huh?= Yeah, didn’t think so.

I, however, was lucky enough to have one of those moments just this morning.*= To wit: there I was, sniffing around the tubes minding my own business when I came across this little amuse-gueule that’s wonderful if for no other reason that it so perfectly reflects what my boys and I had already been yelling at the TV for months now.

All of which is to just to say that it’s nice to have one’s views validated and expressed so eloquently. =Sort of. Enjoy:

*Of course you have to remember that the bar for what I consider a transcendent moment is set really, really low.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

That's Some Dream.

This is Lincoln's first inaugural in front of the U.S. Capitol, a building built over the course of some seven decades, primarily by slaves.

And now, today...= well, 'nuf said.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kaaahhhnn !!!!

A Matador? If nothing else it must be an awesome way to get chicks. Or chicas, rather. Chiquitas? =Oh, you know.

Say it with me and don't forget to roll your rrrrrs: ="Rich, Corinthian Leather."

Well, I guess it was a paycheck. Hell, even Micheal Caine made The Swarm.

"Smiles, everybody, smiles!"

No thanks. In fact, I don't think there are any number of special appearances by Charo that can get Herve Villechaize out of my head. Blech.

"From Hell's heart I stab at thee. For hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."

Ahhh, now that's some good Montalban. R.I.P.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mmmmm, ignominy.

Hey, remember that first real big adult event you had to go to against your will when you were a teenager? =You know, the one where you had to dress up and stand around in a room full of grown-ups that not only you didn't know but had nothing in common with?= Or worse, how about that awkward family function when you were thirteen that was full of adults who’s names you couldn’t quite recall, and your worst fear was that one of them would start talking to you when you knew very well you wouldn’t be able to think of anything to say?

Yeah well, I was just reminded yesterday that not everyone grows out of that awful, fear-sweat fueled stage of adolescence. Just look at the hapless boob in the middle of this picture from yesterday’s Tribune:

Jeez, I almost feel bad for the poor dope. Well, not really, but you know. =(Of course Jimmy's not looking too sharp either, but at least he's having a good time.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

An Open Letter to All Those Who Have Made a New Year’s Resolution to Get Healthy:

Hi. =How are you?= Good. =So, it’s nice and all that you’ve decided that this is the year that you’re going to lose weight and get healthy; and yes I know, you all want to look better and feel fit. I understand. But here’s the thing...= why did you have to join my gym?

I mean jeez, not only are your extra cars making parking a real problem, but now there never any Arc Trainers open in front of the good TVs. How, I ask you, am I supposed to do three miles without the History Channel? And no, I can’t just move to the elliptical machines, because they’re over in the TV ghetto where nothing’s on but Fox “News” and perpetual re-runs of Family Guy. Blech.

So, yes, you stood there on New Year’s Eve with a flute full of champagne and a big primate forebrain full of good intentions, but now it’s time to let it go. You know you want to. It’s hard to stay motivated and get to the gym all the time. And it is, after all, time consuming, a lot of work and kind of mind-numbing. Well, more so if you have to watch Family Guy, but you know what I mean.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I want you to be unhealthy, per se, it’s just that I think you need to decide if my gym is really right for you. You could, after all, just stop being a tightwad like me and join the New York Sports Club right across the street. I’ll bet they have fancier bottled water. And their scale probably works too. Just a friendly suggestion.

Oh what the hell... =go for it, I guess. If you really are ready, then more power to you. I suppose it won’t kill me to make an extra circle or two around the parking lot, but just do us all a favor and work out in front of Fox News so I don’t have to. Thanks.