August 29, 2008

The Weeklies #51

The Weekly Strange But Amusing Display of Geeky Artistic Prowess. 135 Ways To Ruin The Olympics Using Technology.

The Weekly Kick-Ass Ancient T-shirt. Yesterday I got home and threw on my Robert Plant Non-Stop-Go Tour t-shirt. It's amazing it still fits so well since the concert was in 1988.

The Weekly Read. I mentioned last week that I had a book hangover after I finished All About Lulu. At that point, I was only a little way into The Cleaner by Brett Battles. It was just about the exact opposite of All About Lulu which I think it what you need when recovering from a book hangover. Kinda like a greasy burger after a night of heavy drinking. Though I'm guessing. I don't drink heavy nor do I eat meat. So, totally uninformed simile on my part. Sorry. Anyway, I wasn't really digging The Cleaner early on. It seemed silly and shallow but what it evolved into was a pretty strong, surprising spy novel in the spirit of Ludlum or Le Carre. Also a shitty comparison because I've never read Ludlum or Le Carre but I've seen movies based on their books and that has to count for something, right? Bottom line - The Cleaner was good. So much so, that I'm half tempted to buy the sequel in hardback but I know I have too big a pile of books to read so unless I can get it cheap, I'll resist.

The Weekly Music. I was walking through my music room checking out all my CDs last weekend when I realized that I had tons of good stuff I've never ripped into MP3s and plopped into my iTunes library. And some really obscure stuff. Like Richard Wright's Broken China. The second and most recent solo album from the Pink Floyd keyboardist captures the essence of the Pink Floyd sound and expands on it. Camel's I Can See Your House From Here is a little-known progressive rock gem containing the ten minute song Ice which is extremely cool (heh). I found Randy Newman's Sail Away was hidden away on my shelves. And Toy Matinee's self-titled album - which showcased the genius of now-departed Kevin Gilbert is truly a long lost gem I'm glad I found. It was a fun musical discovery (or re-discovery) week.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. I take no joy in this so it's more like Schadenirony this week. Dave Freeman, who authored the mega-hit 100 Things To Do Before You Die, well, died this week. He wasn't gored by a bull in Pamplona, didn't go down in a helicopter over the Amazon, nor was he smashed against pointy rocks whilst cliff diving in Mexico. No, he bumped his head in his house. And died. Bet that wasn't in the book.

The Weekly Best Political Speech Ever. Obama's speech last night accepting the nomination of the Democratic party was, perhaps, the most eloquent, brilliant, and moving speech I've ever heard. I was at a loss for words in its aftermath. Finally something real that could rival anything Aaron Sorkin could come up with.

The Weekly Hypothetical. Would you rather be a person of average intelligence, but a truly good person, or a truly brilliant person, but one of average morals? (Thanks, Alektra)

Posted by Chris at 6:57 AM | Comments (34)

August 28, 2008

I'm Running For President. Of Bitterland.

A few weeks back, I did a little political pulse check to see what you were thinking, to see what the buzz was. I got a lot of good, interesting responses. Now, despite all the political goodness that's transpired over the past week, can you believe I haven't mentioned it? It's like Amy Winehouse (I really need to find someone new to pick on) going a week without picking up the crack pipe that's right in front of her. But I have been paying attention. And here's what I've picked up:

I. Obama picked his new BFF
Last Saturday, around 3:00 in the morning, the Obama campaign shot out text messages revealing that Joe Biden, the Senior Senator from Delaware, would be Obama's running mate. I was not up at three but, three hours later when I rolled downstairs to hook up the IV coffee drip leaving my hands free to play "princess" with Mia - which involves me either playing the role of the Grand Duke and retrieving Cinderella's lost slipper or has me donning one of Beth's old nightgowns to actually be Cinderella and no before you ask there will be no pictures - I certainly found out as the announcement was everywhere. I was a bit taken aback at first. I love Biden but he sure has a mouth on him. He's a plain-spoken, very bright guy who takes no prisoners verbally and is politically shrewd. He's always been one of my favorite guys in politics. But is he an asset or a liability?

II. The Democratic National Convention kicked off
On the heels of the Olympics, the Democratic National Convention kicked off on Monday. I have to admit that, in this day and age, I'm not entirely clear what it's purpose is. These folks might as well just take off their clothes and pleasure themselves and, possibly each other because that, at its very core, is what it seems to be all about. It's politics at its most masturbatory. And from what I can tell, there's no consistent message beyond the refrain of we suck less. That's hardly inspiring.

III. The Clintons are kinda assholes
Aside from their performances - and please don't think these speeches are anything but carefully orchestrated, committee-written performances - which were well-delivered, Bill and Hillary have kinda come off like second graders who were kicked out of the sandbox. They have this really odd inability to play nice unless there's something in it for them. That said, both Bill and Hillary's speeches were utterly brilliant. But still, a message to the Clintons: This is not about you anymore than it is about me and I don't see any members of the press camping out on my front lawn so shut your yaps (unless you want to make speeches like you have over the last two days) and play nice.

IV. Political coverage in this country sucks donkey balls
Say what you want about the cult of Tim Russert but when he died we lost one of the last good political analysts left in this country. Or at least the last one on a major television network. What we're left with is a bunch of know-nothing hacks with some minor exceptions. I dig Keith Olberman but his partner in crime this week - Chris Matthews - doesn't seem to be able to spit out a complete sentence. Wolf Blitzer just cracks me up, all serious in his situation room. Anne Curry is just a travesty; she managed to corral Jimmy Carter, fresh off the stage, into an interview and closed with a pat on the shoulder saying "you look well." It was cringeworthy, something you say to an Alzheimer's-ridden grandfather.

I realize I sound bitter. I'm not. Not really. It's just that the mistakes the Democratic party is making are just so obvious and so avoidable. Where's the consistent message? Where's the challenge to the opponent over issues? I will proudly wear my Obama shirt and spread the message. I just hope that that shirt turns out to be more valuable than the John Kerry hat I bought four years ago.

I ask you - regardless of your political leanings, what do you see happening? How will this play out? Was Biden the right choice? Who would have been better? And does Obama have a shot? Could I ask more questions? Do these pants make my ass look big?

Posted by Chris at 6:38 AM | Comments (37)

August 27, 2008

Note To Self #295

Dear Self,

Please remember that, when calling someone named Clint and addressing that person by their first name, it is very important to make sure the name is properly pronounced. In particular, don't forget the n. Should you fail to pronounce the n, the remainder of the phone call could be slightly awkward.

Thanks,
Chris

Posted by Chris at 6:50 AM | Comments (26)

The Hard Questions

Immediately after Mia was born - and by immediately I mean after the blinding panic attack and mild hyperventilation - and I held her for the first time, I felt like a natural at parenting. It felt like there was nothing that the world could throw at me that I couldn't handle. Except, perhaps, an invasion of alien midgets or a leaked Celine Dion sex video. Parenting felt - and still feels - instinctual. I knew what to do at all times. Sure, she and now Owen wanted only the comfort of her mother for the first nine months of her life, howling at me whenever she was handed off. But still, I felt like I could handle the parenting thing, really pull it off with style. With few exceptions, I've always known how to handle the kids, how to deal with situations, how to say the right thing. But those exceptions, man, they're humbling as hell.

Earlier in the evening, over dinner with Nana, having a conversation about birthdays which inevitably led to talk of getting older:
Nana: Great grandma Pearl died but Great Grandpa Jack is still alive.
Mia: Why did Pearl die?
Beth: Because she got very old and then she got sick.
Mia: Oh.

In bed, whilst talking about Snow White and the evil stepmother's transformation into an old lady:
Mia: I'm getting older.
Me: You are! You're a big girl. You even wear underwear.
Mia: Uh-huh. But I don't want to get too old and die.
Me: (stunned silence)
Mia: I just want to get old enough to lose a tooth and give it to the Tooth Fairy.
Me: That'll happen soon enough.
Mia: But am I going to die?

Fuck. To say that I was at a complete and utter loss was like saying that the Pope is slightly spiritual or Amy Winehouse has a tiny problem with illegal substances. It wasn't that I didn't know the appropriate answer or that I couldn't articulate it into something she'd understand that wouldn't simultaneously scare the crap out of her and turn her into a semi-depressed prematurely emo-toddler, wearing black barrettes in her hair and listening to Death Cab for Elmo. In fact, I offered an answer with a minimum of intervening silence. You're not going to die anytime soon. I don't want you to worry about that. Ever.

What truly debilitated me was the way I felt about the question.

In the age old glass is half empty or half full debate, I come down squarely in the half full camp. I'm an incurable optimist. I believe that good things happen more often than bad and that if you do good, good will come back around. My optimistic views of the future in no way involve my daughter and death coexisting on the same temporal plane. The thought, actually, makes my insides clench resulting in the feeling that my entire body is collapsing in on itself. And while I don't want to worry about my kids dying (I cringed while I typed that, just so you know), I certainly don't want them to worry about it.

Parenting is a weird, fucked up balancing act involving - but not strictly limited to - honesty, happiness, pain, worry, silliness, laughter, heartbreak and dread. And while the gray hair will inevitably betray you, as one ad executive once declared, never let 'em see you sweat.

So, how do you deal with death, personally or with your kids? How do you or would you explain it?

Posted by Chris at 6:39 AM | Comments (45)

August 26, 2008

Outnumbered

Uh, does anyone need some fresh home-grown tomatoes? The ratio of tomatoes to people in my house that will actually consume them is about 5 to 1.


Posted by Chris at 8:12 AM | Comments (25)

Reflection

When I was a kid, my parents and I would jump in the family car and make the long drive from Houston to Wyoming. We did this just about every summer. It involved a lot of waking up before dawn and hitting the road for three or four days straight, one devoted entirely to getting out of Texas. That's how big it is. Despite the conventional wisdom that says it must be a truly horrific experience to be trapped with your family for 12 hours at a time, it was pretty wonderful. Having made that commitment, we'd stay in Wyoming for a couple of weeks. And on at least two or three mornings during each of these summer vacations, I'd hear my dad get up before dawn, pack his camera equipment, and head out.

Sometime around 1950, my dad, his sister and his parents made a similar road trip to the same destination from small-town Ohio. They didn't have any money. They pulled a camper behind the family car. They'd spend most of their nights in the camper, parked along a minor highway or in a national park. They'd cook by the side of the road. During one trip, my notoriously ill-mannered grandfather who died last year no longer knowing who he or anyone else was, accidentally cooked Spam in dishwashing liquid. They ate it anyway. Or tried. But when they got to Grand Teton National Park, everyone's mood improved. One morning, my grandfather awoke at dawn and quite accidentally snapped a picture of Jackson Lake with the Teton range just behind it. It was such a startlingly clear and calm morning, the lake reflected every detail of the mountains in a perfect, upside-down likeness.

Two or three mornings each trip, my dad would try to replicate this shot. It was something of an obsession. He'd scout locations trying to find the exact angle from which his father had snapped the picture. He'd find weather reports in the local paper. He'd fiddle with lenses, exposures, light readings. Then he'd go in the pre-dawn hours and set up, standing in the cold with his tripod-mounted camera, waiting for the sun to hit a precise angle, for the wind to settle, for the water to calm glass-like in the basin that was the lake. Then he'd push the button and hope for the best. These were the days before the instant gratification of digital cameras. My dad could only cross his fingers and wait. The day we got the photos back after each vacation was an event but I think it was always a little bit of a letdown for him. After a dozen or so years of making that pilgrimage to the west, I don't think he'd been pleased with more than a handful of the shots he'd taken.

When we moved into our new(ish) house, we inherited a huge intricately landscaped yard. It was, and still is, intimidating. But I've taken a liking to working in it. Few of us have everyday jobs in which we can see a definitive progress - a start, an end and what our labor accomplished. The fact that it's almost September, that the summer is dwindling to the point of non-existence, made me think about all that work. It seems like I was in this perpetual state of getting ready for summer without ever really taking the time to stop, spread out, enjoy the fruits of my labor. I love the yard, we've played a lot in it and even had a couple of nice little get-togethers. But we never really lived in it. Or lived it in.

And that's how I think my dad approached his relationship with his father. And how I, to a certain more limited extent, have approached my own relationship with my parents.

My dad chased after his father using a single, perfect photograph as his vehicle. I know he wanted to show that perfect shot to his own father so he'd be proud. My own relationship with my parents feels a little like that from time to time, too. Like my relationship with my backyard. It requires attention, which I give, but I don't take full advantage of it. I just don't wallow in its beauty.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, what prompted it or why - beyond the usual assessment of my own relationship with my own kids - I'm typing this all out. I know that in my mind there are parallels and relationships between and among all this stuff. You have my apologies if they're not one hundred percent clear. They're not to me either except in some visceral sense that's hard to articulate. I also know that I haven't hit save since I started typing. So I should probably just do that.

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (22)

August 25, 2008

Recappin' The Weekend (By The Numbers)

It was quite a weekend. I can explain it better through numbers than paragraphs. And pictures of course.


  • Insanely heavy rocks moved with my Herculean strength re-landscaping the front yard. 34
  • Fingers crushed during rock relocation: 1
  • Weeds pulled: 6,294
  • Bushes trimmed: 5
  • Gallons of water dumped on my lawn to save it from drought-induced scortching: Eleventy-billion
  • Tomatoes picked: 6
  • Watermelon harvested: 1
  • Lawns mowed: 1
  • Dates with my wife: 1
  • Dollars spent on dinner for two: $102.48
  • Dollars spent on therapy if we hadn't gotten a night out: $1024.80
  • CDs ripped to iTunes: 50
  • Songs now in iTunes: 17,032
  • Kids who learned to crawl: 1
  • Princess movies watched: 1 (Snow White)
  • Trips to Target: 1
  • Colors of Play-Doh bought: 24
  • Hours of Olympics coverage watched: 20
  • Pool visits: 1
  • Princess books read: 485
  • Times my daughter asked "why": 4,796
  • Times I sang Smoke On The Water to my son: 15
  • Times Smoke On The Water inexplicably became a song from West Side Story: 1

What were you guys up to? And what were your numbers?

Posted by Chris at 6:33 AM | Comments (29)

Haiku For Monday #232

Haiku number two
thirty two? That's a lot of
Asian poetry.

Posted by Chris at 6:23 AM | Comments (1)

August 22, 2008

The Weeklies #50

The Weekly Quote. "Are you there God? It's me Chris. Where's my fucking pizza?"

The Weekly Best Spam Subject. BREAKING NEWS: McCain Vows to Withdraw All Troops From The U.S. From the U.S.? Didn't Bush already do that?

The Weekly Second Best Spam Subject. Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus Announces Britney Spears to Perform Dangerous Act. What, she's going to sing live without lip-syncing?

The Weekly Read. Ever had a book hangover? It's when you've just read something so good that you just have a hard time getting into whatever you picked up next. All About Lulu gave me just such a hangover. 200 pages into the book I'm currently reading, my mind is still wandering back to it. It's an odd book, about family, love, and competitive body-building. Above all, it's very honest, very sincere. And who doesn't need a good, honest book about competitive body-building every once in a while?

The Weekly Music. Have you ever heard of Shawn Smith? I bet most of you haven't. He's one of my favorite vocalists and one of the most shamefully unrecognized artists in the country. Smith was part of the emerging Seattle scene in the 90's yet never fell into the grunge trap. He sang for the bands Pidgeonhead (a strange electronic-influenced experiment), Brad (a collaboration with Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard) and his own band Satchel. His third solo album - The Diamond Hand - showed up on iTunes, Amazon and other electronic outlets. When I saw it, I downloaded it immediately and without thought. It's brilliant. Smith has an insanely cool, soulful voice and his songs are beautiful and heartfelt. If you've never heard of this guy, give him a shot. I can almost guarantee you'll like what you hear.

The Weekly Environmental Tip. Check out Yellow Pages Goes Green if you'd like to get on board a grass-roots movement to stop unsolicited delivery of the over 500 million telephone directories across the country. That's a lot of paper, yo.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Last week a couple of hunters claimed to have nabbed - or, more accurately, stumbled across the deady body of - a yeti. Yeah. A yeti. They held a press conference and even had folks dropping by to take DNA samples. And of course we found out just days ago that the whole thing was bullshit. I mean, sure, I knew it was bullshit but a tiny little piece of me was hoping it wasn't bullshit. A boy can dream.

The Weekly Hypothetical. (Thanks to Maria for this one.) If you could spend one year in a perfect happiness but afterward would remember nothing of the experience would you do so? If not, why not? And what would you do during that year?

Posted by Chris at 6:51 AM | Comments (33)

August 21, 2008

Crime and Punishment

I hate to dip into the ever-flowing river of news two days running but when I saw this headline, my ears perked up and my butt began to sting: "223,000 Schoolkids Spanked, Paddled." Human Rights Watch and the ACLU did a study and determined that more than a couple hundred thousand kids were subjected to corporal punishment in schools during the 2007-2008 school year.

When I was a kid, I went to a private Southern Baptist elementary school. They took punishment fairly seriously, deeming us filled with evil and sin by default. I have absolutely no recollection of what I did to deserve the first paddling I got. Maybe the baby Jesus helpfully erased that memory for me. But I remember the second time vividly. I was in second or third grade, watching an indoor hockey game (a really lame version of hockey played with plastic sticks on the gym floor). When the team I was rooting for gave up a goal, I turned to the kid next to me - his name was Jerry - and muttered shit. Jerry immediately left the bleachers and told the teacher exactly what I'd said. I was called over and taken in to a small dark room just off the gym. She asked me what I'd said. I told her. She took a small wooden paddle from the wall and told me what was going to happen and that it would happen twice - once for saying it to Jerry and once for repeating it to her. I might have been a little kid but even I knew how stupid that was. I argued but it became obvious that it wasn't going to change a thing. I bent over. She hit me. It hurt. She hit me again and again it hurt. It hurt so much that I quite proudly said shit. This caught her by surprise. She informed me that she'd have to hit me again. And she did. Again I cursed. And again I was hit. She asked me if I was done and, my ass hurting by this point, I said yes. I've never trusted anyone named Jerry since.

In junior high - a public school, having strongly requested that my parents get me the hell out of private school in the middle of fourth grade - there was actually a corporal punishment authorization form that parents had to fill out. My parents ever so politely declined the school system's offer of abuse but so did a lot of kids' parents and it became pretty obvious pretty quickly that no one in the school cared what the parents thought. Especially the coaches. I was in a special athletic program. I was a runner. We had gym class the last period of the day and we were required to wear uniforms. One day I forgot mine. I wasn't a trouble maker by any stretch of the imagination but I was immediately called into Coach Cain's office. He asked me where my uniform was and, no even waiting for an excuse, told me to drop my pants. He pulled one of his many paddles off the wall - each worthy of any upstanding fraternity and some with holes to cut down on wind resistance - and asked me to put my elbows on the desk in front of me. I told him my parents hadn't given their permission for this to go down. He called me a pussy then gave me a pretty brutal shot to the ass. I remember telling my parents what happened. They visited the school and there was some yelling but not a damn thing happened. Especially to that sick fuck Cain.

If you've never had the pleasure of having a wooden plank meet your ass at high velocity, it hurts. In fact, it burns with the heat of a thousand suns. And it keeps burning for a good day or two. It's also very loud, like a gunshot going off behind you. To this very day - and sitting here writing this certainly didn't help - I get anxious just thinking about it.

In my mind 230,000 kids being subjected to this kind of behavior - so called discipline - each year is unconscionable. It hurts. It's terrifying. And it has absolutely no value as a deterrent. And frankly, anyone who calls or considers themselves an educator and wields anything stronger than a pencil or a piece of chalk with a child needs to be distanced from the kids they're trying to help.

But maybe that's just me. Maybe I'm off-base. What do you think? Corporal punishment - for, against or indifferent?

Posted by Chris at 6:36 AM | Comments (64)

August 20, 2008

When Age Matters

According to a recent article filed by the Associated Press, "College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus." College students everywhere raised beer bongs in celebration then promptly passed out while Mothers Against Drunk Driving members went apoplectic and tried unsuccessfully to make non-alcoholic Molotov cocktails to firebomb said colleges. Both understandable reactions.

There are as many schools of thought on this subject as there are actual schools with binge drinkers. Some folks say that if you lower the drinking age, kids will just start drinking at even younger ages. Others dismiss the issue entirely stating that booze is easy to get whether you're 21 or not and the law is virtually unenforceable. Many critical of the move by college presidents mention that lowering the age takes the burden of enforcement away from the colleges themselves. Of course, there's a study - or many studies - that can be cited to prove any of these arguments. Studies - and the data that comprise them like accident stats, drinking deaths and alcoholism rates - are a dime a dozen.

If you look at the cluster of freedoms and privileges we're granted starting around age 16 and continuing until we turn 21, there are a lot of similar concerns and arguments. I live near my old high school. I see kids heading to and leaving from school. And they're just that - kids. As an adult, I find it absolutely ridiculous that my parents ever tossed me the keys to a several-ton death machine car. Granted, it was an old Jeep Cherokee that really couldn't go that fast and broke down a lot. I know this view will be cemented when my own kids turn sixteen (god help me) and start driving (that's when I should start binge drinking). Two years after that magic sixteen mark, you can get drafted, enter the military voluntarily, vote and get charged as an adult for urinating in public. Of course, you can't drink.

Maybe I'm just getting old and crusty but to me sixteen seems too young to drive. And 21 seems too high and arbitrary an age to drink. You can go to war and die for your country but you can't get legally blitzed the night before you ship off. But if you grant all those freedoms at the same age - say 18 - then you end up with a bunch of drunks trying to vote and waking up in the morning to find themselves in Iraq with a large automatic weapon strapped to their backs. And that's crazy talk.

What do you think? Is the driving age too low? And what about the drinking age? What's the solution?

Posted by Chris at 6:27 AM | Comments (59)

August 19, 2008

Hypotheticals, Answered

For almost a year - since I started the weekly post I imaginatively call The Weeklies - I've been posing hypothetical questions. A few people have reminded me lately that rarely do I answer my own questions. Let it never be said that I don't pay attention to what you guys want. Here are the answers to a few of the best hypotheticals from the past year.

One day you find a magic charm. If you activate it, everyone will have to tell you the truth all day long. Do you use it? Or leave it alone? Why, or why not?
Nope. I saw Liar Liar. Not quite the same thing, I know, but still...

You can spend a day with any one author, musician or actor - living or dead. Who do you choose and why?
I find Peter Gabriel to be one of the most fascinating people in the modern entertainment scene. His genius transcends the simple pop song - he's a humanitarian, activist, writer, and innovator. I'd dig hanging out with him for a day. Unless he's really an asshat. In which case, I'd rather hang on to my favorable, albeit fictional, opinion of him.

If, indeed, a woodchuck could chuck wood, how much wood would said woodchuck chuck, do you think? And, honestly, why would he chuck all that wood to begin with?
3.8 cubic feet per hour. He's bored.

If you were elected President of the United States this very moment, what's the first thing you'd do?
Start criminal proceedings against former President Dubya? No, ever forward. I'd call a conference of the greatest minds in the world and everyday people of the United States - the homeless, the single parents, the teen mothers, the drug addicts, the wealthy, the philanthropists, the economists, the teachers, the students, the AIDS afflicted, the cancer-striken and the professionals - and try my damndest to find a way out of the seemingly endless cycle of poverty that impacts so many, needlessly, in this country that has so much.

You've been asked by Superman, Batman, The Boy Wonder and The Wonder Twins to join the Justice League. The only condition? You have to choose your own superhero persona. So what superhero do you choose to be and what are your powers?
InvisiCactus. That should hopefully be self-explanatory but I'd harness the power of invisibility to foil evil plots. Oh, and check out naked chicks in locker rooms. InvisiCactus is a bit of a perv.

You are given the opportunity to travel forwards or backwards in time at your leisure. Don't worry - you can come back. Which do you do? And why? Any particular time you want to check out?
I'd choose to visit the future. My kids weren't around in the past. And I'm kinda curious to see how this whole thing turns out.

You are given the opportunity to inhabit one fictional world - a civilization, time period, location, whatever - for one week. You can exist in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, Battlestar Galactica's future, or Friend's New York in which twenty-somethings can live in Manhattan on pretty crappy salaries. So, where - or when - do you go and why?
There was this tiny town Neil Gaiman created in American Gods. I wished that the entire book had happened there or that Gaiman revisited that small town at some later date, in some later book. It was beautiful. That's where I'd like to visit.

You are granted the power of invisibility. What's the first thing you do with this power?
I think I've already said too much.

What's the most bizarre gift you've ever received?
The notorious "Letter Glasses." When we got married, a dear friend of the family had some glass mugs made for us. They sport our initials and they are absolutely horrifically ugly. But we keep them because we know the intentions were good. Still, ugly.

You're forced to make a terrible choice - you must choose to keep either your hearing or your sight. Which do you keep and why?
Despite my absolute love of music, if given the choice, I'd choose to lose my hearing. I want to see my kids grow up. And read.

A stranger walks up to you on the street and tells you she knows the day and way you die. Do you get the answer or do you walk away? Why?
I walk away. That's not information I need to know.

If you could take a pill and suddenly become one of the brightest, most important thinkers in the world and make a lasting contribution to humanity, would you? Not so fast. When you're done being brilliant and stop taking the pills, you won't be right back where you started - you'll be mildly unintelligent. So, do you take it?
Absolutely not. I'm not terribly bright to begin with. I'd be barely functional if I got any dumber.

You have your choice between two superpowers. You must choose one. You can either stop time or walk through matter. Which do you choose and why?
I stop time. When paired with my previously mentioned invisibility, I could really stalk some good locker rooms and stay a while.

You will receive $100 million dollars for 20 years of your life. Let's say that those 20 years you lose will travel in a flash. You won't have any sense of the passage of time - nothing good, nothing bad...nothing. With the money you will obviously be set for life, every financial concern a thing of the past. Do you take it?
I don't take it. We're happy financially. We don't have everything but we don't need everything. What I don't need is time passing me by. That's happening rapidly enough without hypothetical intervention.

You find a sack of money. It contains $20,000. If you take it, you will not get caught. You don't know exactly where it came from but you can be assured that it's not coming out of any individual's pocket. Do you take it and live with whatever guilt you might have? Or do you take the money and enjoy spending it?
Call me dishonest (not Edna), but hell yes.

You are offered any talent - you can dance like Astaire, paint like VanGogh, or write like Hemingway for instance. The only problem is that, while this talent will make you famous and world-renown for whatever it is, you'll lose any other existing talents you have. What do you do? And what talent would you like to have above all?
Does the name John Holmes mean anything to you? I kid. I'm not hella talented but I play a decent guitar and I think I'm a halfway decent writer. I wouldn't want to give those up. I'm, well, me. And I'm happy with that.

You are wrongly accused of a serious crime. Given the opportunity, do you flee, living a life on the run while seeking to prove your innocence? Or do you turn yourself in and let justice run its course?
I like the idea of running, all Richard Kimball fugitive style, trying to find my own personal one-armed man. But I'm a goody-goody when it comes to laws and shit. I'd probably turn myself in. Though justice isn't what it used to be and I'm afraid the guys in prison would think I was pretty. If you know what I mean.

We're vegetarians and have been for, well, a long time. Why do we own a meat thermometer?
It was planted by PETA in a bizarre attempt to frame us...for...well, I don't know.

A comet is hurtling towards earth and, in two months, will destroy everything. A special project has been established to send a probe into space containing five items that best represent mankind. What are they?
The pessimist in me: a McDonald's quater pounder wrapper, a porn DVD, a copy of the National Inquirer, beef jerky, and a Barbie doll.
The optimist in me: a DVD copy of the movie Avalon, The Grapes of Wrath, the soundtrack from The Red Violin, a copy of Springsteen's Born To Run and Dave Egger's What Is The What.

Quick - the Sense Thief has arrived and given you approximately five seconds to decide which one of your five senses - taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing - you're most willing to part with. You have to give up one. Which one do you kiss goodbye? And which one is the most important to you?
Smell. I like the taste of pasta and beer so I'd hate to give up the taste thing. Touch, well, sex and good massages force me to hang onto that one. I love music so hearing stays, and, as I mentioned up there above, I really want to see my kids grow up. Smell's the only thing left.

Truth or dare? You know, in general, what kind of person are you? Truth? Or dare?
Truth. It's painfully boring, I know, but I'm a truth guy.

The world is going to end in 37 years. You and you alone know this and it is an absolute certainty. Do you tell anyone? Why or why not?
No. Absolutely no way in hell do I say anything to anyone. There are two ways it could go - mass panic for society or institutionalization for me. Neither one of those sound too appealing.

You have to spend 24 hours as a currently famous person. You're basically living their life for a day. So, what famous person do you choose and what do you do?
Tom Cruise. What better way to find out exactly what is going on in that dude's head? No, wait. I just remembered that Brad Pitt gets to boff Angelina Jolie. Screw that Tom Cruise thing.

If you were able to be transported anywhere (geographic location) for 24 hours, where would you go? What sight in the world would you most want to see?
The Olympics have inspired me. I'd like to visit China and see the Great Wall.

If you could go back and right any wrong in history - historic or personal - without having to worry about any of that Star Trek past changing the future paradox shit, what wrong would you right?
When I was a kid, a good friend of the family put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was autistic and terribly depressed. I'd unload the gun and hide the ammunition. He killed himself over something ridiculous. It wasn't to him, but I could have helped explain it. And saved everyone including him a great deal of pain.

You are forced to move either backwards or forwards in time. How far is unknown. What is known is that you can't return. Do you move ahead or back? And why?
Forwards. The past is the past. I was a history major in college but, you know, ever forward once again. I'd like to see what happens to the world and see how my kids turn out.

I'll admit that I'm running out of good hypotheticals. Do you have any good ones? Let me know and I might, with your permission, use them. Any hypothetical or non-hypothetical questions I haven't answered?

Posted by Chris at 6:24 AM | Comments (23)

August 18, 2008

The Long Weekend (With Pictures!)

I don't know about you but I'm exhausted. I took part of Thursday and all of Friday off. And we crammed a lot into that three and a half day weekend. And I need a nap. Or coffee out the wazoo. Well, not the actual wazoo. I was speaking figuratively. Roll with it. Anyway, this weekend we:

Stocked up on all kinds of princess-related gear at the Disney store (aka, the suburban outlet of The Evil Empire). And Beth shoplifted. Really. It was totally unintentional and she did return to pay about an hour later. But I'm still calling her Five Finger Discount Beth for the rest of the week.

Played a rousing game of full-contact musical chairs with Mia, Tigger, a seal, a bear, and Austin. True, Mia doesn't quite get the intricacies of the game but it was still fun.


Played with Play-Doh.

Watched the Olympics and reenacted every event. Gymnastics was, frankly, the toughest on me since I was forced to become the rings, the pommel-horse and even the beam. I got a nice back massage out of that last one, though.

Accessorized Owen.


Simultaneously supported my favorite presidential candidate and Michael Phelps. Mia was pretty impressed with the headgear I sported. She cried, "Emo fish! Emo fish!" Cheer up, emo fish. (Yeah, that's a swim diaper.)

We went to the pool a fair bit. Of course, we Owen wanted in on the action so he had to be dressed appropriately.

Then we took baths.

That explains why I'm so worn out. What did you guys do?

Posted by Chris at 6:36 AM | Comments (30)

Haiku For Monday #231

Late summer Mondays.
No smarter time to skip work.
But sadly, I'm dumb.

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (2)

August 15, 2008

The Weeklies #49

The Weekly Best Moment. All four of us, cuddling in bed. About five minutes ago. Twas awesome.

The Weekly Overreaction. Russia invaded Georgia. In fact they sent in over 15,000 troops to what they term a "breakaway republic" despite Georgia's claims of sovereignty. Nearly 2,000 Georgians were killed and numerous cease-fires were broken. Did we somehow land in 1950 when I wasn't paying attention?

The Weekly Green Idea. Want to save the universe? Okay...want to save a little energy? Check out LocalCooling, a nifty little application that'll help you (and your PC) save power.

The Weekly Read. At some point last year, I ran across Jason Pinter's debut novel, The Mark. It was great. So, when I saw The Guilty on shelves recently, I picked it up. Pinter's second novel proves that the strength of his debut wasn't a fluke. In fact, this is even more compelling as the investigation of a serial killer terrorizing NYC takes an interesting turn, forcing an investigation into a legend of the old American west. It's not fine literature but it's entertaining and well worth a read.

The Weekly Music. Okay, I'll admit it. I watched this GM commercial during the Olympics, got hooked on the song, figured out who it was by and downloaded the entire album. Brandi Carlile's The Story is freaking brilliant. Produced by T-Bone Burnett who can do absolutely no wrong lately, The Story is a folky, roots rocker that is comfortable while being truly innovative. Carlile's voice is unique and incredibly strong. I say give this one a spin.

The Weekly Gratuitous Product Placement. The fine folks at Schick sent me one of their new Quatro Titanium Trimmer razors. Now, I'm not a hairy dude and I don't have a beard or a goatee or anything, but I've gotta admit, the thing is pretty cool. After I got out of the shower, I was able to shave, even up my sideburns and trim them a little bit all with the same little razor. Pretty cool. Need a razor, pick one up. Need a really late Father's Day gift, pick one of these up and a case of the finest beer on the planet. And check out their Trim Flixx competition while you're at it.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Last week, the Edwards story broke right after I posted. Now, of course, everyone is pretty familiar with John and his extracurricular activities back in 2006. But despite my tardiness, he's still, by default, the schadenfreude of the week. But my question is this - if he was going to go out of his way and put so much on the line by cheating on his wife, couldn't he have picked someone, well, hotter? In other political news, John McCain's been using one of Jackson Browne's songs on his ads. If you know anything about Browne, you'd realize the inherent flaw with this is that he's a flaming liberal. Supposedly, Browne was pretty pissed. He filed a lawsuit. Funny, since McCain also did this with John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses." Doesn't he like any songs by republicans?

The Weekly Hypothetical. You are granted the choice of two options - eternal life or the knowledge of the exact date and time you will die. You must accept one. Which do you choose?

Posted by Chris at 7:35 AM | Comments (39)

August 14, 2008

Poll Position

Not all of you are political. Some of you shy away from conversations that involve politics and some of you don't give two shits (or even one) about the whole process. And that's cool. As long as you plan on voting. Because, as long as you're a citizen, not a convicted felon (are any of you convicted felons because that could be interesting) and not planning on scrawling Lynryd Skynyrd as your write-in candidate, it's pretty much the most important thing you can do this year (with the possible exception of commenting on this post which is actually the most important thing you can do today). I'm a curious guy. And I love politics. And you. So, naturally I'm curious about what you guys thing about politics and what it says about my readers as a group. Get set for a little informal poll action. (I said poll not pole.)

We know several things about politics that are relevant to the discussion. There are two candidates - John McCain and Barak Obama - unless you count Ralph Nader which, please don't, because the less attention we pay him now, the faster he'll go away. There are far more issues than candidates - jobs, the economy, national stance on Celene Dion, oil, the environment, will Pink Floyd ever reunite, foreign policy, peace in the Middle East, revealing the mysteries of Lost, illegal immigration and the war in Iraq. Then there are other issues, less tangible, less cut and dried - age, experience, personal lives, backgrounds, race and ethnicity and plain old gut reaction.

Here's where you come in. I want your thoughts on the following questions.
- Which candidate do you think will win in November?
- Does this differ from the candidate you want to win?
- Which issues matter most to you?

Posted by Chris at 7:23 AM | Comments (80)

August 13, 2008

A Hypothetical

Let's say that you've got the stupid theme song from the stupid Little Einsteins rocketing through your head not helped by the fact that you accidentally drank some super-humongous thing you picked up at 7-11 on your way home that, you discovered waaaaaay too late, was a super-powered energy drink. How do you make it stop? Please. Help!

Posted by Chris at 5:25 PM | Comments (29)

What The Elf

OR, YEP, STILL A FREAK MAGNET

I was in the bathroom (and you know that most of my really good stories start off with those five little words) and I discovered that it is well within the realm of possibility that I work with an elf. At least, I'm pretty sure. I ran back to my desk and Googled elf and, in addition to some pretty disturbing porn involving little people wearing strange shoes, I found a good solid elf reference. According to Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, an elf is:

An imaginary supernatural being, commonly a little sprite, much like a fairy; a mythological diminutive spirit, supposed to haunt hills and wild places, and generally represented as delighting in mischievous tricks

Now, let's look at the evidence:

  • He is wee. He has to be under five feet tall but in no way does he appear to be a dwarf or any of the other myriad of varieties of little people. (And hey, can you believe I actually used the politically correct terminology there instead of just saying midget? Heh, midget.)
  • I have absolutely no insight into his sexual preference nor am I about to ask. So he may or may not be a fairy.
  • He is commonly encountered in the bathroom, at least in my experience. And in my world, the bathroom is a pretty wild place.
  • I don't remember seeing him during the Christmas holidays. Was he with a certain white-bearded, jolly sleigh-driver? Hrm.
  • He looks nothing like Orlando Bloom (sorry ladies) but his ears are kinda pointy.
  • When encountered in the bathroom he's often rinsing out the plastic coffee mug he uses. It is slightly larger than his diminutive little fairy head. I shit you not. He needs a life vest or water wings in case he accidentally trips into his coffee. Little guy could drown in that thing.
  • The shoes this guy wears appear normal at first glance, but look closely enough and you'll realize that these supposed dress shoes taper into points that curl up at the ends. And also, I could just be imagining things but I could have sworn I saw a place to tie some bells on them too.
  • Mischievous? There was that time he though he was alone in the bathroom and lobbed a roll of toilet paper over the stall wall and giggled like a freak. I'd call that mischief. And also, a little fucked up and scary. Regardless, I'd say making coffee disappear from a cup the size of a small swimming pool is quite a trick.

Elf or not, I'm afraid I have to add this to my Great Big Book Of Strange Bathroom Encounters. The book's quite large. I might even have to start a second volume soon. How exactly does one go about demagnetizing their freak-magnet selves?

Posted by Chris at 6:46 AM | Comments (24)

August 12, 2008

The Shirt Off My Back

Kids have blankets, dolls or stuffed animals. People have rabbits' feet, a coin, a picture in their wallet. But everyone has something lucky or something they hold on to out of sentimentality or the perception that it's lucky. A long time ago Beth, as a joke, handed me the cap from a Foster's beer and told me to keep it forever. So that's what I did. Or at least for a very long time. The beer cap was on a small chain which also held a silver elephant charm. Alongside it, everyday, was a rock that Beth gave me. Over the years, I lost each one of these things. They simply fell out of my pocket. I wonder where they ended up. Now, I've got a rock that Mia handed me two weeks ago. And I've got my two lucky t-shirts.

The first shirt is from The Gap because I'm hip like that or at least I was ten years ago when I bought it. It's gray and short-sleeved. And it's as soft as a baby's bottom. (Really. I just rubbed the shirt then rubbed Owen's bottom.) Eons ago, I used it to open a beer (the shirt, non Owen's butt) and it's had two small holes in the front ever since. The collar is frayed, as if it's about to unravel at any second. And it's got a couple of hard to see stains. I try not to wear it a lot because I know that one day it's just going to fall apart. But it's hard because it might be the single most comfortable thing I own.


The other shirt is from Old Navy. I bought it on sale for $5 at the end of a summer five years ago. And despite the fact that I bought it so long ago, I still call it one of my "new shirts" which says really bad things about the state of my non-work wardrobe. It's a lucky shirt because I was wearing it when both Mia and Owen were born. Both of my kids arrived happy and healthy (though, happy is an arguable term since they both proved very early in their young lives how strong their lungs were) so I figure that's a pretty good qualification as a lucky shirt.

Both shirts have been subjected to more than their fair share of abuse. They've spent time in hospitals, ridden in the belly of airplanes to and from Paris, been whizzed up the coast to NYC and driven to the Atlantic Ocean via several states and beaches. They've seen a lot of yard work, been sweated in and wrung out. They've rocked kids to sleep, wiped up tears, been puked and peed on. They are both comfortable and comforting. And so long as they stay together, chances are you'll find me wearing one or the other when I'm not all wrapped up in my suit and tie.

What are your lucky charms, your comfort items, or your favorite clothes?

Posted by Chris at 6:39 AM | Comments (29)

August 11, 2008

Games People Play

I'm not a huge sports fan. I ran track in high school and played competitive tennis for a while but, nowadays, give me a book or a pile of CDs and I'm happy. All that changes when the Olympics are on. I'm a sucker for them. If I could swing it, I'd literally stay up 24 hours a day watching as much as I could. Even the lame human interest stories that I pretend to hate but actually find kinda cool. This weekend, I nixed our no television rule and tried my best to turn the kids into fans too.


"USA! USA! USA! Wait...Milk! Milk!

It all started with the opening ceremonies, of course. Usually, they bore the hell out of me but I'm convinced the opening of the 2008 games was one of the most jaw-dropping things I've ever seen on television. We watched volleyball, beach volleyball, swimming, weight lifting, gymnastics, basketball, rowing and soccer. I also spent a great deal of time explaining to Mia exactly what the games were and how they were played. (An aside: There are some sports that are really difficult to explain. And some questions about said games that are really difficult to answer. Why are they kicking the ball into the goal? Because those are the rules. Why do the rules say to kick the ball into the goal? Because that's how you score a point. What's a point? It's the score of the game and to win you have to score more points than the other team. Why? Because the Backyardigans said so and you know the Backyardigans rule the universe.) And then we went into the backyard and played each game. (Note to self: Needed - soccer goals, a second basketball hoop for full-court action, a volleyball net and a dick-load of sand. Oh, and one Olympic-size pool.)

And that was pretty much it for the weekend. Sure there was yard work - mowing, pulling a few errant limbs down, weeding - a couple of visits to the pool, some playground action and a very informal little dinner party with the inlaws. But I didn't cut down any trees or visit work. So that was a plus.

So, are you watching the Olympics this year? What are your favorite Olympic sports?

Posted by Chris at 6:44 AM | Comments (57)

Haiku For Monday #230

Back at work. I feel
like I spent the weekend in
Beijing. U-S-A!

Posted by Chris at 6:43 AM | Comments (1)

August 8, 2008

The Weeklies #48

The Weekly Movie. We watched Cinderella for the 735th time. I'm slightly over it.

The Weekly Worst Piece of Crap on TV. Instant Beauty Pageant. Yes, it's as bad as it sounds. Here's the down-low. Two hosts and a camera crew go to a mall and find five women to compete in an impromptu beauty pageant. They're given $400 and told to get everything they'll need. The competitions are standard - eveningwear, swimsuit and talent - and the payoff is a vacation. If it sounds bad in theory, the execution is worse. I'm not sure if they tell the women they pick to the most annoying, catty and obnoxious wastes of space on the planet or if they just get lucky and pick them randomly but the participants are some of the worst examples of humanity I've seen on television. Tragically bad. And yet I watched a whole episode.

The Weekly Read. Last week I tackled Heartsick by Chelsea Cain. This week, I plowed through the sequel, Sweetheart. It hasn't been released yet. I have a source. You can be jealous. Was it as good as the first? No, not really but it was damn strong. Take my advice: if you're up to a good serial killer novel, grab a copy of Heartsick. Then, when Sweetheart is released next month, you can be first in line to pick up a copy. Because you'll want to.

The Weekly Listen. Sail Away by Randy Newman is one of my all-time favorite songs yet, for some reason, I don't really own much stuff by Newman. So when I saw his latest - Harps and Angels - arrive this week, I pounced. Not literally but you get my drift. Anyway, it's good. It's happy and sad and everything in between. Newman's voice remains one of the most emotive I've ever heard. His lyrics are poignant and his messages are clear. There's no one like Newman. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go download everything he's ever recorded.

The Weekly Ways In Which America Pisses Off The World. Apparently we're keeping Iraqis in wooden boxes and executing foreign nationals against international law. Nice.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch preacher Joel, is on trial. Apparently she got pissy on a flight from Houston to Vail and knocked a flight attendant around. She's being sued for 10% of her overall worth. The ground? Loss of faith. But there's something else. This rather odd sentence jumped out at me in the CNN article I read: "According to court documents, Brown says that she suffers from anxiety and hemorrhoids because of the incident involving Victoria Osteen and said her faith was affected." Um, hemorrhoids?

The Weekly Hypothetical. You are forced to move either backwards or forwards in time. How far is unknown. What is known is that you can't return. Do you move ahead or back? And why?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (25)

August 7, 2008

Your Momma Dresses You Funny

You might remember that, once upon a time in the Land of Tragic Hairstyles, I had a mullet. Yep, hockey hair. An ape-drape. Kentucky Waterfall. Shorty Longback. Take a minute and soak in the glory of my hair.


I also had, for some inexplicable reason, parachute pants. Which - just when you thought this couldn't get any worse - I liked to wear with one of those English pork-pie hats. I also recall having an endless supply of K-Swiss shoes though I interrupted the trend with a pair of Kaepas, those shoes with the little colored triangles you could swap in and out depending on the color of, well, your parachute pants. Florescent clothing followed. Later came an obsession with beaten up cowboy boots of which there was no shortage since I went through this awkward fashion stage in Houston. At some point, Don Johnson became my personal hero and I, while I couldn't land myself a cigarette boat or a pet alligator, acquired pastel shirts with white jackets. Then paisley prints invaded the fashion landscape and I looked like a hippie's acid trip. Later, grunge - ripped jeans, flannel shirts and long hair.

As it turns out I can blame my mother for my tragic fashion history. I came home the other day to find Owen dressed a little funny.

Me: What the hell did you dress him in?
Beth: That onesie?
Me: Yeah, it looks like a preppie from the 80's threw up on him.
Beth: It's yours.
Me: I'm not that small and I never wear onesies anymore. Well, not that much.
Beth: No, it's yours. From when you were a baby. Your mom gave it to me.
Me: I wore that? Wow.
Beth: Yeah.
Me: That explains a lot.

Compare and contrast. Owen, and me in back in the seventies.

My folks really should have given me a quick shave before they snapped that one. What's your worst fashion faux pas?

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (58)

August 6, 2008

Feedback Loop

I'm a nice guy. Friends and folks at work always talk about how they never hear anything mean come out of my mouth. I get along with everyone and rarely dislike anyone. So I'd like you to know, first and foremost, that it's never my intent to pick on anyone who stops by, reads and comments. I don't make it a habit to jump all over people who disagree with me. Last week, two somewhat anonymous comments without corresponding email addresses were left so I responded rather publicly in the absence of being able to follow-up privately. Yesterday, I received an email that fundamentally bothered me. I asked the author if I could share it and talk about it. She said yes.

Yesterday I wrote about Orson Scott Card and the fact that his views taint the way I view one of my favorite books. In response, I received this:

Your views on gay marriage are not as "immaterial" as you seem to think. I think it is ridiculous for gays to try and force us to accept their deviant behavior as normal and acceptable. If they want to love each other, they are free to do so, but the world should not be forced to accept it as normal. It isn't normal and I am not about to teach my children that deviant behavior is acceptable. Further, I find your views on this matter dirty, repugnant, pathetic and frankly, very disappointing. Its a shame, but it also tarnishes the way I feel about one of my favorite bloggers.

Deep breath. I feel the need to make a few points.
  1. My post wasn't about homosexuality or gay marriage any more than it was about Mr. Rogers picking up transgendered hookers or Phil Collins clubbing baby seals. I don't know how much clearer I could have been about that especially since I specifically mentioned that my view on that [gay marriage and homosexuality] is immaterial to this conversation as is the argument as a whole. That's pretty clear, right? I hate having to explain the logic behind a post because it sucks all the life out of it like having to explain the punchline of a joke. But this one was pretty simple. It was about the fact that I liked some of Card's books but his views, which run contrary to my own, will now forever be inextricably linked with those books and I will enjoy them less. And I respect their author much less.
  2. I'm a self-professed liberal. I've made no secret about that. This site is about me and about my life and sometimes - not always - this involves my politics. And it has for the last five years. I'm not trying to preach my point of view or change your minds. I'm just being me. Long story short, if you've read for any length of time or even looked at the little "about me" blurb in the upper right, you should know what you're getting into. I mean, you don't rent a porn flick then complain about the nudity, right? You don't have to agree with my views but it's not like I've been hiding in the shadows just waiting to break out all kinds of liberal kung-fu on your asses.
  3. I don't believe there's anything wrong with homosexuality and I'm a strong supporter of gay marriage. It's not for me - women are hot - but that doesn't mean it's wrong. My moral compass is just that. Mine. I would like to see the sitting president impeached, troops pulled out of Iraq, increased sex education in schools, a comprehensive energy solution aimed at alternate fuels and lessening our environmental impact, clean needle programs in inner cities, the legalization of pot and stricter gun laws. You don't agree? That's cool. There's no rule that says we have to.
  4. I'll admit that I don't quite understand why anyone would object to two people who love each other shacking up and getting hitched. I mean, we're supposed to encourage stuff like love, right? And if I were gay and wanted to get married, I'd be a little bitter that I needed society's approval first. Once upon a time, relationships between African Americans and us white folks were considered deviant. Ooops. No one's asking you to march in a gay pride parade or slap one of those rainbow stickers on your bumper. Just be tolerant. And teach tolerance.

In the words of Mr. Tolerance himself (Bil O'Reilly), what say you?

Posted by Chris at 6:41 AM | Comments (79)

August 5, 2008

Trump Card

When I was a kid, my dad handed me a stack of old paperback books and told me I should read them. They were largely science fiction - Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C Clarke. I devoured them. I don't read that much science fiction anymore but I credit the genre and it's major authors with my love of reading. In college, between essays and studying for tests, drinking and skipping classes, I continued to pick up cheap, used sci-fi novels at a used bookstore behind our apartment. There I stumbled on Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It blew my mind. Justifiably so. I re-read it a couple years back and it was damn near as good as I remembered. It became one of those books that I recommend to anyone and everyone regardless of what they like to read. It's just that good.

The author, well, that's a different story.

Sometimes I refuse to find out more information about the stuff I love for fear that I'd learn something that would change my opinion. Like, you know I have a dorky love of Phil Collins (though, in a non-dorky sense he's one of the world's greatest drummers ever) and I'd be really disappointed to find out that he beat his wife or clubbed baby seals in his spare time. Or I'd be devastated to discover that Mr. Rogers had a thing for transgendered hookers. Or to find out that, in addition to being a great guitarist, David Gilmour was a coked-out member of a secret society aimed at reviving the Third Reich. The bottom line is this - we hold artists to our own personal standards that validate their creations and the esteem in which we hold them.

So, Orson Scott Card...

Card is a devout Mormon. I've got no problem with that. But recently, Card went on a verbal tirade about homosexuality and gay marriage that, when he was done, left me with very little respect for him. Now, I know the rest of the world isn't nearly as liberal as I but I took offense. You can read the whole thing online but brace yourself for things like Society gains no benefit whatsoever (except for a momentary warm feeling about how "fair" and "compassionate" we are) from renaming homosexual liaisons and friendships as marriage or regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn. Further investigation revealed that this wasn't his first time discussing gay marriage or questioning the sanity of homosexuals. Though, to his credit - and not in his defense - he has also written some inspiring columns about his faith. Its something that gives him strength and he writes quite eloquently about it.

I'm all for gay marriage. I think it's ridiculous to restrict or forbid unions of any two people who happen to have fallen in love with each other. But my view on that is immaterial to this conversation as is the argument as a whole. What it comes down to is that I find Card's views repugnant, ill-informed and, frankly, disappointing. And it tarnishes the way I look at one of my favorite books.

I know its not entirely fair to let someone's views or personal life overshadow their work and what it means to me. But I'm human. So I ask you - is it fair to judge an individual's work - their art, music, works or achievements - through the lens of their personal lives and believes brining our own value judgments into the equation? Is it possible to separate the two? Who have you been disappointed in or by in the past?

Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (39)

August 4, 2008

Picking Fights With A Forest

It was a hell of a weekend (all good) and I'm exhausted. So please excuse me if I take the easy way out and recap it...by the numbers. If you need me, I'll be making my way to the bottom of a pot of coffee.

  • Awesome Half-Day Mia-Daddy Adventures: 1
  • Pet stores visited: 1
  • Mexican restaurants eaten in: 1
  • Ice cream scoops eaten: 2
  • Hours spent with Mia showing her daddy's office: 1.5
  • Copies of our hands made on office copiers: 8
  • Trips to Home Depot: 3
  • Indian takeout meals ordered: 1
  • Books finished: 1
  • Trees single-handedly cut down without the aid of any motorized tools: 2
  • Wagonsfull of pears littering the yard after removal of said trees: 2
  • Actual number of pears: a bazillion
  • Gallons of Gatorade consumed: 4
  • Bundles of tree branches I'm hoping the trash guys will take: 25
  • Scratches, dents, cuts, and bruises attained during tree felling: 98
  • Sunburned shoulders: 2
  • Times I muttered, "why the fuck did this sound like a good idea?": 27
  • Advil I expect to have consumed at the end of the 48-hour period ending Tuesday night: 87
  • Hours of massages needed: 12

So, what did you do this weekend? And what were your numbers?

Posted by Chris at 6:28 AM | Comments (24)

Haiku For Monday #229

When I'm king of the
universe, I shall outlaw
Mondays. Vote for me!

Posted by Chris at 6:27 AM | Comments (4)

August 1, 2008

The Weeklies #47

The Weekly Mia Breakthrough. Mia pretty much potty trained herself in an hour. Like, on Monday she just decided she wanted to wear underwear and pee in the potty. So she did. And she's been doing it ever since. It's amazing.

The Weekly Mini-Bathroom Encounter. There's this guy who works in the building that apparently refuses to go into the bathroom while anyone else is in there. He stands outside until whoever's using it leaves. I've found him waiting outside on me twice. Come on dude, there are three sinks, two urinals and four stalls - that bathroom is big enough for the two of us. Or maybe I just look menacing when I have to take a leak.

The Weekly Reads. I've got two good ones for you this week. The first Traveler by Ron McLarty. McLarty's first novel - The Memory of Running - was awe-inspiringly wonderful. Traveler proves that it wasn't just an accident. While overall not as strong as The Memory of Running, there are parts that I like even more. McLarty is an actor you've seen before who stumbled onto a career as an author later in life. In Traveler, he even pokes fun at a few roles he's had. I highly recommend Traveler. I also recommend Heartsick by Chelsea Cain which is surprising since I was pretty convinced that the whole serial-killer thing was beaten to death. Like, if you read the blurbs on half the mass market paperbacks on stands they read something like, "The Midget Killer terrorized the city while Detective Joe Blow was forced to confront demons from his own past in order to stop the violence." The burbs on the back of Heartsick compare it to Silence of the Lambs and it's an apt comparison that doesn't blow up in Cain's face. In fact Cain's a better writer than Thomas Harris will ever be. (Seriously, Harris can't write. Go back and read his debut novel, Black Sunday. It's terrible.) Cain's characters are well developed, and the multiple plot lines unfold in some surprising ways. But beware - Cain doesn't spare the reader any gory details. It's pretty harsh in parts.

The Weekly Great Book I Haven't Read...Yet. 72 Things Younger Than John McCain.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. So, some dude is growing pot in Rock Creek Park here in DC. And gets busted by a turtle. Now that's whack. Better hope Barney Frank gets his way.

My Weekly Rave-Out. Day before yesterday, I wrote about the Butterfly Cake Incident. I thought it was a good post. I got a lot of comments and even some email about it. Some of them were buzzkills. First I was told that I shouldn't have bullied the sixteen year old Emo Kid. Specifically, "I find it sad that an adult would make fun a teenager who is clearly at an awkward stage of life. Perhaps you would better get your point across without the bullying." I've got to ask - how was I a bully? Even if I did cop a slight attitude, why shouldn't I have? She was absolutely terrible at her job and she didn't seem to give a damn. And she's in a service industry. It's not my fault she had the social skills of an unripened banana. Not really her fault either. She never should have landed the gig. But I didn't bully her. Second, I was scolded for using the word retarded. Now, don't think I use that word lightly. And don't think I didn't think long and hard about the implications of using that word. Since the time I was a wee child, my mom was a special education teacher. I spent many days in her classrooms and even taught summer school arts and crafts classes for kids with mental disabilities. There's not a bone in my body comfortable poking fun at folks with physical, learning, or mental disabilities. That said, when did retarded become a bad word? My trusty dictionary defines it as occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed. There's no judgment there, no subjectivity, no implication that the retardation is any way mental. Yeah, sure, it's a word that gets thrown around in deplorable ways. In ways that aren't actually accurate. If we all used words as they're defined, we'd spare a lot of confusion. So for the love of the baby jesus can't we all stop being so damn politically correct. It's fucking ridiculous. And retarded.

The Weekly Question. With respect to the rave-out, am I out of line?

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (78)


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