Do you like crackers? Yeah, you like crackers. They’re delicious. They’re crispy and salty and you can put things on them and then EAT THEM. Crackers are great!
But there are crackers, and then there are Triscuits. It’s a shame, really, to mention the two in the same sentence, because they are worlds apart. Saying “crackers” and “Triscuits” with some sort of implied equivalency is like talking about prime rib and cat food as equals, simply because both are meat-based and are excellent sources of protein.
Triscuits are awesome, and in this brief photo essay, I will demonstrate this using science. You cannot argue with science. It is empirical, as is the following collection of photos and observations. read more…
A couple of days ago, I was thinking about how and why the DC universe in general, and Batman in particular, is so off-putting to me anymore. I was playing the demo of DC Universe Online, and there’s a massive opening animation sequence, all the good guys and bad guys slamming each other around for 15 minutes, and it’s all good comic book fun, and then the Joker says something along the lines of, “Come on, let’s go – we’ve got more murdering to do!” And that word - murdering - just struck a tone that felt so non-comic-book, so real-world, that it soured the whole thing for me.
I felt the same way watching both of the first two Nolan Batman films. For me, they were miserable, unpleasant experiences to sit through – they were focused on the kinds of things that actual villains and terrorists do. Come down from Asgard to steal some magical artifact or whatever? That’s fun. Blow up a boat filled with mothers and fathers and children? Point a gun at the head of a child? That’s not fun. That’s the kind of shit that people sometimes actually do.
I remember having that feeling for the first time with the Frank Miller book, which I read as a teenager. I knew it was revolutionary as comics/graphic novels/sequential art/whatever goes, but it wasn’t any fun, and up to that point I had equated comic books with fun. But everything is all Dark now. Batman in particular.
This thing, this thing is breaking my heart in ways I haven’t had it broken before, because of the kids involved, and I’ve got little kids and I see everything through that lens. Imagine that you’re 10 or 11, and your mom and dad are not only going to let you stay up and go out for a midnight movie, but you’re going to get dressed up like a superhero and see this amazing movie (one that you probably shouldn’t be seeing anyway because it’s too grownup, but mom and dad are awesome and they’re bending the rules because of how special this is) and this is the EVENT OF THE SUMMER for you and you’ve been counting down the days to it for weeks. And then this happens, and the best thing in the world becomes the worst thing in the world. What does that do to a kid? In some other configuration, with other specifics and details and taking place fifteen years prior, it turns a happy kid into an angry and lonely kid, and angry and lonely kids sometimes grow up and do awful things.
Guns aren’t the issue. Well-balanced folks have a variety of guns for a variety of reasons. I don’t own any, but that’s just because I don’t like them. But my neighbor does; he’s a Vietnam veteran who would never lift a finger against anyone that wasn’t actively trying to hurt him. If you want to hurt 10-year-old kids and their parents during movie night, you’ll find a way, and the gun isn’t the issue. The issue is, why do you want to hurt people you don’t know? What does that do for you? What is the net benefit for you, to hurt people you don’t know?
For me, I have to believe that it is rooted in childhood, in those first few experiences of what the world is and what we can expect from it. All of the monsters that the human race has so far produced have operated under the delusion that they were wronged, that something is broken or unjust or unfair and must be fixed by WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY, that you have to break some eggs to make an omelet. Whatever. Fuck those people.
If you have young people in your care or sphere of influence, please do all you can do to let them know that they are loved, they are important, they are good and valuable the way they are, and, crucially, so are other people, every one of them.
“Knock knock.” read more…
There is a concept in business and economics called “opportunity cost.” There are wordier and more accurate definitions than the one I’m about to lay out, but for me, it comes down to this: When you make a choice, there is an associated cost because that choice will prevent you from doing other things. If you become a musician, you’ll probably not also become a lawyer. You get married and have children at a young age, you probably won’t travel the world to the extent that you would have otherwise.
Opportunity cost. Opportunities lost.
I’m thinking about this tonight because my wife just texted me from the Jefferson Mall, where she’s hanging out with our oldest child, our ten-year-old, getting some one-on-one mother-son time (crucial and necessary for the happiness of both parties) and picking up some stuff for the middle child’s birthday party this weekend. She just texted me from the big “Eurobungy” thingie in the center of the mall, that giant contraption of steel beams and rubber bands that lets kids fly up into the air, delirious with happiness, for the low low price of seven bucks for a couple of minutes.
We’ve spent untold hours and dollars at “the jumpy,” as it’s known in our family’s vernacular. The aforementioned birthday girl absolutely loves it, and the littlest one is pining for his chance to take on the thing, still too small to meet the minimum height requirement. We know our way around the Eurobungy, and have spent plenty of time helping the kids get properly airborne, one, two, three, JUMP!
Here’s what my wife just texted me: “He says he doesn’t want to do it anymore.”
He’s at that awful, awkward transitional stage from boy to young man. His body is just slightly too big for The Jumpy to be any fun, but his brain still tells him that it is the most awesome thing ever. The cognitive dissonance is starting to rear its ugly head, and very soon, my sweet boy will start to think that The Jumpy is stupid and is only for little kids.
And here’s why I’m sad and broken-hearted about this. It’s not because he’s growing up; I’m smart enough to realize that him growing up is beautiful and magical, and although it hurts, it’s necessary. I’m sad because for every time we walked through the mall and he got to go up on The Jumpy, there were probably three or four times where I said “No,” for no good reason. No reason other than that I was tired, or grumpy, or ready to go home, or was feeling stingy about the stupid damned seven dollars and what a waste is that and why do they have to charge so much for a kid’s ride?
There’s your opportunity cost, right there. Paulo Coelho said, “One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”
Miles, I am so sorry I said no to you, for no good reason, on this little thing you wanted to do. And now you don’t want it anymore. There are a finite number of days in a young man’s life in which The Jumpy is exciting, and I denied you many of them. You now want other things instead, but those particular opportunities are lost, and I am sorry I denied you those brief, giggly, five minutes of happiness. You will find other things that also delight you, and I’ll do a better job of helping you enjoy the moment. I promise.
Thank you for everything you are teaching me.
I just rewatched what I think is one of the best half-hours of television ever, the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode of the show Community. From a writer’s perspective, it’s a dizzying high-wire walk of invention and ambition. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the flowcharts from the writer’s room.
I’m pretty sure that there have already been masters or doctoral theses written about this one episode; in a very oblique way, it reminds me of Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” in that you can mine it for meanings almost indefinitely, and successfully find them, even if they weren’t actually in the mind of the writer at the time of its creation.
But for me, I think there’s a simple lesson to be learned from this story, and so I don’t spoil anyone who hasn’t yet watched it, I’ll include it inside the fold. read more…
A couple of years ago, when I was the morning DJ on WFPK, there was something that happened to me that felt like a strong punch to the stomach, and it still feels like it to remember it tonight.
My morning routine was always the same: At about 5:50, I’d put on the headphones – my next three hours of music mapped out and on the little shelf in front of me – and listen to the last song that Bob Parlocha would play, and his closing monologue (Bob’s a syndicated overnight jazz host that we use for the 1 am to 6 am stretch). Usually it was nothing very dramatic, and I’d come out of it and say good morning to the good people of Louisville and plunge right into some Husker Du or Pixies or whatever.
But this one particular morning, he played a song with a vocal, a song I’d never heard with a vocal before – “Waltz for Debby,” one of the immortal Bill Evans pieces. I’m pretty sure the version he played was sung by Al Jarreau. And the words … my god, the words …
My daughter is six years old now, so she was either four or five when this happened. And I’ve always been a sentimental fool. So these words, all about how ephemeral a little girl’s childhood is, absolutely destroyed me:
In her own sweet world
Populated by dolls and clowns
And a prince and a big purple bear
Lives my favorite girl.
Unaware of the worried frowns
That we weary grown-ups all wear.
In the sun she dances
To silent music-songs
That are spun of gold
Somewhere in her own little head.
Then one day all too soon
She’ll grow up & she’ll leave her doll
And her prince & her silly old bear.
When she goes they will cry
As they whisper good-bye
They will miss her I know
but then so will I.
This is exactly the same nerve that those beautiful bastards at Pixar willingly and knowingly poked and prodded with “Toy Story 3,” the nerve that connects a parent’s own childhood with his view of his child’s, now informed with the understanding that it all happens too fast. And it’s just not fair how fast it all is.
So that morning, I recall having about a minute and a half to pull myself together and get the quiver out of my voice in time to say “Good morning!” on the radio. And I guess I did it, but probably only barely. And no joke, from that morning forward, I didn’t put the headphones on until 5:59.
Tonight, my six-year-old daughter and my nine-year-old son had a fight. It was stupid, and unnecessarily mean, and they both acted badly and they knew it and both ended up in their respective rooms, in their beds. My son got some extra hugs from me and his mom, and I’m sure he still thinks he was right in the whole matter, but he was okay. My daughter got the hugs too, and cried a little bit more, and when it was over she retired to bed with a very battered and beaten babydoll that everyone in our house knows as Soft Baby, an absolutely precious couple of ounces of fluff and plastic that has provided her comfort on many, many occasions.
One day, all too soon, she’ll grow up and leave her Soft Baby and her silly old bear. And they will cry and whisper goodbye. They will miss her, but so will I.
Dear Dumb Guy: How did the Oakland Raiders get away with all that illegal stuff in the 70s? And, is it just me, or did their coach John Madden – circa 1976 – look a whole lot like Danny on the Partridge Family? - Bitter Vikings Fan
Dear Vikings: One question at a time, my man, one question at a time! So let’s take your second question – coincidentally the morally simpler of the two – first.
In 1976, the Madden NFL video game franchise was just beginning to stand up on its wobbly legs. Not much you can do with a few pixels and a controller that amounted to nothing more than four buttons and a rubber tube that you had to blow into, as hard as you could. So Electronic Arts was hard up for ideas, having already sunk millions of dollars into this burgeoning “video game” concept.
That led to the one video game imbroglio that would rival the 15 million copies of “E.T.” buried in the Mojave Wasteland in terms of its sheer notoriety – the decision to make Danny Bonaduce the public face of “Madden 1978.” I will leave the documenting of the details to the VH1s of the world, but suffice it to say, make-up can only go so far.
As for your first question: Those were different times, and protocols were different, and “bittorrent” was never whispered on your neighbor’s lips. So the illegal stuff the Raiders got away with? Take a long hard look and realize that maybe, just maybe, your children are “getting away with” those very same things today.
Earlier this week, it was announced that ABC was canceling “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The final episodes will air in January. And this made me deeply sad.
The show is cheesier than the aggregate of all of Wisconsin, it is corporate and sponsored out the wazoo, and it is heavily edited and storyline-manipulated within an inch of its life. But I love it very much because, as a parent, it has facilitated some amazing conversations between my children and I that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
For several years now, it has been the Sunday night routine at my house that we sit down to watch “the build-a-house show” as we call it, myself and my nine-year-old son and my six-year-old daughter. We “oooh” and “aahh” at all the moments everybody else does once the (Diamond Coach, yes, branding) bus has been moved. We talk about the things that would go into our dream house, and would you look how pretty that bedroom is, and oh my gosh, are you kidding me, that kid has got a climbing wall in his room now?
But leading up to that is something more important. The show, for us, has been an opportunity to talk about and explore empathy. It’s been an entry point for my kids and I to discuss the many ways we are fortunate, to talk about the struggles that lots of people have that we are fortunate not to have.
We have talked about our good health when the show chronicles a child with some debilitating illness that makes their current house a deathtrap. We talk about how grateful we are to be together when the show focuses on a family that has been split apart for one reason or another. We talk about how blessed we are to have a home that is a blessing rather than a curse.
You can try to explain to kids that they are better off than many other people and therefore should be grateful – just ask any parent who has attempted that “starving kids in China” routine. You can tell them just how lucky they are, and you will exhaust yourself, because only a tiny bit of what you are telling them will get through. (They’re not that different from us adults, in that they’re much more likely to focus on what they don’t have rather than what they do. It appears to be the default position on the switch of human emotion.)
But despite its relentless ad placement and goofball tone, this show has for years given us a real-world barometer for those conversations. It has humanized pain, suffering, guilt, regret – and along with those, compassion, hope, love and kindness – in a simple way that child and parent alike can understand. And talk about.
For all those reasons, I will miss it dearly.
Well, this is quite wonderful … 17 days and counting!