November 28, 2008

The Weeklies #63

The Weekly Funniest Thing I've Read In A Damn Long Time. Check out this exchange between a guy and a customer service rep.

The Weekly Read. One word (or acronym) about Night Work by Thomas Glavinic - WTF? So, I was roped in by the premise that our hero, Jonas, waked up to a world in which he might be the last remaining person alive. That's interesting. The rest of the book? Not so much. Reading it, like the hero's actions, is an effort in futility. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I just didn't get it. Regardless, give it a pass.

The Weekly Music. What, you think I actually had a chance to listen to more than GNR's latest album? Nope. Sorry.

The Weekly Under-appreciated Food Item. Mashed potatoes, sidedish of the gods. Seriously, mashed potatoes fucking rock.

The Weekly Hypothetical. You find $300 on the sidewalk. What do you do with it? You find $2.50 on the sidewalk. What do you do with it? Were your answers the same? Why or why not?

Posted by Chris at 7:11 AM | Comments (19)

November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

I was putting Mia to bed last night. When I got up to leave, she strenuously objected.

Mia: But daddy, I don't want you to go.
Me: Why?
Mia: Because I love you so much.

And that, folks, is what I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for my wife, my kids and the rest of my family. I'm thankful that I live in a wonderful country, that I was born here and not in abject poverty. I'm thankful for my job and the comfortable life I've shaped for myself. And I'm thankful for you. For some reason you grace my site everyday and take the time to say hi, to comment. Thank you.

Have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving.

Posted by Chris at 8:29 AM | Comments (37)

November 25, 2008

Chinese Democracy, Great Voices, and Brilliant Albums

(Note: If you don't give a rat's ass about Guns N Roses, there's probably more to interest you below.)

I was 15 when Appetite for Destruction came out. Despite the fact that we didn't know a damn thing about cocaine (Mr. Brownstone), had little experience with hardcore sex (Anything Goes) and knew little about the booze-filled world (Paradise City) of which Axl sang, there was something about that album that struck a chord, not just in me but in about everyone I knew. It was a perfect album for suburban high school kids. But more than that - and history has shown this, I think - it was almost a perfect album altogether. I later saw the band live in 1991, a few weeks before they released Use Your Illusion. The show was incredible. But after those two albums hit - aside from the awful Spaghetti Incident and lackluster live package - we were left hanging. For thirteen years.

With Chinese Democracy, Axl Rose would have you believe that he's created a new Guns N Roses album. But don't believe it for a minute. Guns N Roses was five guys making some great music. And even with the personnel changes that went down during their heyday, the band's music was a collection of the input of each of those musicians. This incarnation of the band is merely Axl with some hired guns. The more you think of this as an Axl solo album, the happier you'll be with it. Because the bottom line is that it's a crappy GNR album but a pretty decent piece of music once it stands on its own without the baggage the band name brings.

The first major observation? There is absolutely no reason this album should have taken 13 years to make. Axl didn't use those 13 years to generate better and better material, replacing older inferior songs with better new ones. Instead it seems like he used the time to nitpick the material he already had on hand. Most of the songs are packed tight with extra guitar solos, electonic blips and bleeps, strings and towering walls of backing vocals. And in most cases these touches don't improve the songs themselves. They sound merely as if someone spent way too much time messing with them trying in vain to make them perfect.

That's not to say the songs are bad. In fact there are some fine songs on the album. After the jump, I've reproduced the notes I took as I listened. The bottom line? I'm having a hard time figuring out what I think of this album. Here's what I know for sure.

  • This isn't a GNR album. It's an Axl album plain and simple.
  • Thirteen years of work does not automatically yield a good album.
  • Axl can pick some mean guitarists. There's some astonishingly good guitar work on the album. But aside from those great guitar moments, the musicianship isn't anything astonishing. And it's clear these guys are hired guns. There's no cohesive group vibe.
  • Axl's voice is, for the most part, intact and pretty darn good given the time that's passed.
  • These songs were assembled (and reassembled) with the conviction of an OCD sufferer.
  • Sometimes the attention to detail pays off. A lot of the time, it dulls the music.

As a Guns N Roses album - with all the baggage that name carries - Chinese Democracy isn't good. Last night I popped in Use Your Illusion II and Appetite for Destruction. Now, that's Guns N Roses. Chinese Democracy isn't. But as an Axl Rose album, Chinese Democracy ain't bad. The parts of the album that work best are those in which Axl isn't trying to capture Guns N Roses' heyday and is just being himself. I guess my simple piece of advice for Axl would be to stop hiding behind the name Guns N Roses. GNR was five guys, making some kick-ass music. Most of those guys are gone. What remains isn't a band but an individual. But lucky for us, that individual is pretty damn talented.

Should you buy it? Ah, hell. I don't know.

* * * * *

On a related topic, I'm pretty sure that, when Rolling Stone gets to the point of publishing at least two or three magazines full of lists a year, they've jumped the shark. This month? The 100 greatest singers of all time. And like all their recent attempts at lists, they made some wacky picks and missed some talent. Like, why would Bob Dylan ever be included in a list of great singers? Songwriters, yes. But his voice sucks. And where is Frank Sinatra? Where is Randy Newman? Where are Peter Gabriel, Chris Cornell and Charlotte Martin?

And above I mentioned that I thought Appetite for Destruction was a near-perfect album. Others that I lump into that category are U2's Joshua Tree, Peter Gabriel's So, The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed and, perhaps, Radiohead's The Bends.

I ask you - who, in your mind, are the greatest singers of our time? And which singers are criminally under-appreciated? And what, in your mind, are the greatest albums made?

The Postscript: My notes from the Chinese Democracy tracklist

  • Chinese Democracy. Sounds like something that should have been recorded on an early 2000s metal album, like something from Limp Bizkit. Besides Axl's voice, there's absolutely no signature GnR sound to kick off the album. The song is actually pretty terrible.
  • Shackler's Revenge. Okay, there's a hell of a hook here but otherwise the song is pretty much cliche. And there's a little too much going on - noises, guitar riffs everywhere, Axl all over the place. Still, not terrible. Actually, pretty good.
  • Better. Not tragic but not good. It sounds like a lame attempt at combining nu-metal and formulaic GNR sounds. The result is a combination of the crappiest aspects of both.
  • Street of Dreams. If Axl and Elton John co-wrote a song (yeah, I can see that happening), this is what it would sound like. A little wimpy for Axl but I like it. And fantastic guitars reminiscent of Slash.
  • If The World. There's a distinctly non-GNR funky cadence to it. It's not bad - different but not bad. This is definitely not something that would have ever come close to appearing on a previous GNR album but it's worth listening to. The Spanish guitar is a but much but the other guitar work is top-notch.
  • If There Was A Time. Son of Estranged. Which isn't a bad thing.
  • Catcher In The Rye. Another mid-tempo, not too hard, not too soft number. Something you can tap your foot to.
  • Scraped. A throwaway. Here's an attempted return to the hard-driving three and a half minute metal song that contributes almost nothing to the album. The tight, compressed rhythm guitars give it a nu-metal feel which might have sounded cutting-edge when the song was written (whenever that was) but sound dated now. The guitar solo, while good, tries a little too hard to sound like a Slash solo.
  • Riad N'the Bedouins. More electronic elements mixed with some crunchy guitars gives off that nu-metal vibe which leads to the same dated sound. And I've got to say there are a couple verses during which Axl sounds distinctly female. The song tries way too hard though the groove is good. The guitars are frantic and uncharacteristically annoying for this album. Throwaway.
  • Sorry. There's a distinctly dark, dirge-like feel to this song. Think Led Zeppelin's No Quarter or something in the early Sabbath catalog. In fact, Axl himself sounds like Ozzy from time to time. Totally different direction for GNR but a good one.
  • IRS. Again uncharacteristic for GNR, there's an electronic groove accompanied by acoustic guitars and an almost breezy feel. It hasn't changes much from the leaked version a couple of years ago. It's not a bad song and probably would have been at home on Use Your Illusion. The guitar work is fantastic.
  • Madagascar. Who broke Axl's leg and left the tape running in the studio? Seriously, it kinda sounds like he smoked way too much then sprained something. And honestly, the strings on this album are getting a little old. And oh goody - sound effects and samples. Again, great guitars.
  • This I Love. During the first 20 seconds I came to the conclusion that this was the worst piece of shit on the album. The remainder of the song did little to convince me otherwise. Ingredients: piano, strings, sap. Like November Rain only suckier which is, admittedly, difficult. The only saving grace is the guitar work which there's way too little of but it's fantastic. Otherwise? Really bad.
  • Prostitute. More drama. It's got a really big sound that alternates between quiet and laid back and completely over the top dramatic, similar to the way Axl interpreted Live And Let Die. Brilliant way to close the album.

Posted by Chris at 6:25 AM | Comments (35)

November 24, 2008

In Sickness and Health

This weekend was rough. Really rough.

Before we had Owen, a coworker with two kids took me aside and, in a fit of wisdom, told me something like hey, don't worry - having two isn't like it's double the work or anything. If he was still working with me, I'd pose a question to him: what the fuck were you smoking and what planet are you on?. He's right about one thing. It's not double the work. It's about three times the work. Imagine a Venn diagram. Once circle represents Kid 1, the other Kid 2. And in the middle, where those two circles overlap represents The Combined Kid Responsible For The Three Loads of Laundry A Day And The Five Times You Have To Run The Dishwasher. It's a force to be reckoned with. And it's more work when they both get together and get sick at the same time, when they both cough more than you thought possible and the one who needs sleep the most boycotts it altogether.

On Friday night, Owen decided to institute a complete ban on sleep. Of course, this meant that neither Beth nor I were to get any either. Surprisingly, a coughing, snotty Mia did manage to sleep through the night. On Saturday, Mia and I skipped her morning swimming class due to the rampant case of The Ick and also canceled - for the second time - dinner with some local blogger friends. Saturday night was better as far as the sleep thing went. But not by much. I found out that I can fit into Owen's crib pretty well. Getting out was rough. Then on Sunday, I learned an important lesson - it's really easy to spend $200 at Target.

This weekend wasn't the most exciting nor was it the most pleasant. But I got to spend some time with my wife and kids. And sure, there was lots of whining, coughing and some heavy-duty screaming, but that kinda goes with the territory. What's better is the fact that this is a two-day week for me. Yep, I'm working today and tomorrow then taking the rest of the week off. Now that's something to be thankful for.

So, to recap, lessons learned for the weekend:
- Two kids? Lots of work.
- Kids who don't sleep? Bad.
- Based on the weather, winter is here.
- Grey's Anatomy? Totally jumped the shark (again) with that whole knockin' boots with the dead thing.
- My son will eat anything, including the stuff we don't want him to eat.
- It's way too easy to spend money at Target.
- It's early. I need coffee.

What did you do this weekend? What important lessons have you learned recently? What's the worst parenting advice you ever got? And what are your Thanksgiving plans?

Posted by Chris at 6:25 AM | Comments (38)

Haiku For Monday #244

It's Monday, yes, but
I have a two day work week.
Damn that's fun to say.

Posted by Chris at 6:24 AM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2008

The Weeklies #62

The Weekly States. Frenzied and Ohio.

The Weekly Read. This week, I finished Then We Came To The End. As background, when the economy began to fail in the post 911 world, I became a victim of the dot-com bust. I was laid off in the third round of layoffs after seeing my company be reduced in size by around 75%. Something similar happens to the folks who work for the unnamed advertising agency in Then We Came To The End. The novel is an interesting, funny and quirky look into office life and politics. Anyone who has worked in an office can identify with something in this book. It's also, at times, incredibly heartfelt. For every ridiculous action there is an equally heartfelt reaction. Then We Came To The End is uniquely-written, wonderfully told, and ultimately satisfying. I highly recommend it.

The Weekly Music. So, remember when the Police got back together after more than 20 years? Well, the tour is documented on the DVD and CD set, Certifiable. Like most major releases these days, this release is retailer specific - Best Buy. I was honestly prepared to be let down but Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland sound great. And they put on a pretty great show. If you dig The Police, you really can't avoid this release. And at $20, it's a no-brainer.

The Weekly Movie Phenomenon I Don't Understand. Twilight. I just don't get it.

The Weekly Kid's Book. In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher - Hyperion/Disney - sent me a copy of Madam President for review. See, Mia was very interested in this past presidential election and this book sounded right up her alley. So I agreed to provide a review, expectations set low. People, this book is awesome. It is succinctly describes the duties of an American president while injecting a great deal of quirky humor, engaging kids and adults. I kept cracking up while reading it to Mia. It's possible, actually, that I found this more amusing than she did. Regardless, this one's a keeper.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. The execs of the big three automakers headed to Monkeytown just the other day asking for a bailout. How did they get to Monkeytown, you ask? Private jet. They were appropriately grilled about it. Here are my favorite quotes.

Gary Ackerman, democrat from New York: "There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses. It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious. Couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it."

Brad Sherman, democrat from California, asked each of the three CEOs to "raise their hand if they flew here commercial. Let the record show, no hands went up. Second, I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if you are planning to sell your jet in place now and fly back commercial. Let the record show, no hands went up."

You know, it's estimated that approximately 2.5 million people will be out of work if the auto industry in this country fails. And if it does, you have three greedy, private jet-flying individuals to blame for it. Sure, they're not single-handedly responsible for the downfall of the industry but they sure didn't make it easy to save either.

The Weekly Not-So-Hypotheticals. Should the US auto industry get bailed out? And why in god's name did I agree to a 6:30 AM meeting in Monkeytown on a Friday?

Posted by Chris at 5:13 AM | Comments (41)

November 20, 2008

Random Crap From Chris' Caffeine Deprived Head

I've got a lot floating around in my head and no good way to express it. A lack of coffee hasn't helped. So this fine (and cold) Thursday morning, you're getting Random Crap From Chris' Caffeine Deprived Head as well as quite a few questions because it's audience participation time.

Ohio. I have nothing very little against Ohio. It's a fine state. And a shapely one. I've always loved the way it looks on a map. In short, I'm not convinced that my daughter is actually correct, that the freshly departed end up in Ohio. A good 75% of my family is from Ohio. Small town Ohio. Many of them still live there. My parents? Met and went to high school together in small town Ohio. So while I wouldn't make it my number one vacation destination, I wouldn't exactly call it the armpit of the universe or anything. That title belongs to Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

My weird gay-bashing dream. The other night I had this really terrible dream. In it, people who showed any sympathy for the gay community, who supported gay rights or even associated with gay people were rounded up by mobs, beaten and locked away. Then I woke up and breathed a sigh of relief as I realized I wasn't in California. (I kid.)

Insurance. A few weeks ago, I got weighed, measured, probed and prodded as part of an insurance-related medical exam. I got the policy at the Healthy Person Who's Not Going To Keel Over Dead Any Day Now rate so I figured I must be doing something right, healthwise. Except for the lack of exercise and penchant for doughnuts. But I had them send me the lab results anyway. Now, despite my exhaustive medial training, a lot of the numbers didn't mean much but, under cholesterol, the reading of you're fucked was pretty self-explanatory. I shouldn't be surprised. I have a family history of higher-than-federal-deficit cholesterol. And I like ice cream too much. So I have embarked on a quest to be healthier, to eat better, to step away from the ice cream and eat something other than doughnuts for breakfast. Wish me luck.

The 80/20 Rule of Farts. I realized last night, as my wife drew attention to one of my daughter's stinky toots, that of the total number of farts "spotted in the wild" and attributed to one of my kids, I'm probably responsible for 20% of them. I'm not proud of it. But maybe I am just a little.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Are you guys worried about your jobs or the economy as a whole?
  2. Will you buy the new 13 years in the making Guns N Roses album (set for release on Sunday)? Do you care? Will it be worth the wait?
  3. Do you fart and let others take the blame?
  4. What should I eat for breakfast now that I'm shooting for low fat, low cholesterol?

Posted by Chris at 6:33 AM | Comments (69)

November 19, 2008

Strange Things Are Afoot At The Circle K

I realize Halloween has come and gone but there's some pretty scary stuff that's been happening around the Cactus Casa lately.

On Saturday, after getting dressed, Mia took a header down the stairs. I don't mean that she slipped and fell a couple of stairs. She started almost in the seated position, falling forward, ass over teakettle, then twisted somehow so that she was sliding feet-first down the stairs. She managed to clear the vast majority of the staircase that way. It was horrifying. Beth and I were both at the top of the stairs watching it happen. I was holding Owen. Neither of us could do a damn thing about it. I immediately ran down to where she'd landed with, I'm pretty sure, a look of horror on my face. She looked up at me and cheerfully said, "Daddy, I'm okay." Then began bawling.

Physically and emotionally, Mia was fine. She's talked about it a few times and mentioned that she's trying to be more careful when she's going up and down the stairs. Me? I'm less fine. I can't get the images of her falling down those stairs out of my head. It's like it's on some endless film loop being played over and over again by the crazy projectionist in my brain. I cringe every time and feel like someone with a really giant hand has wrapped that hand around my heart and started squeezing. I know, I know - it was only a little fall and she's fine, no harm done. But it was more than that. It was a reminder of what parenting, or at least part of it, is like. Letting your kids be free to make mistakes, to get hurt and not always being around or able to protect them.

Another scary thing is Polterbaby. Polterbaby is a doll that Mia acquired some time ago that scares the living crap out of us. Polterbaby is battery powered and springs to life at odd times, moving her head, squealing and cooing. We'll be sitting down for dinner, hear a really strange noise and realize that it's just Polterbaby in some other room. Owen loves Polterbaby so we've had her out and about a little bit more. Which is why I recently discovered that Polterbaby is even more evil than I'd previously guessed. She talks. Real English words buried amongst the cooing and whining. See and hear for yourself.

You hear that? Go into the light. This possessed little freak doll is urging us all into the afterlife. Or, you know, Ohio. I'm pretty sure if I played it backwards, we'd be subliminally urged to worship the devil, listen to Led Zeppelin or be a Republican . Some shit like that.

All of this - the discovery that the afterlife probably plays out in Ohio, the stairs incident, the possessed and possibly evil doll and the sign I drive past every day when I'm heading home from Monkeytown that flashes Leave nothing of value behind all are kinda freaking me out a little bit. Sure, there are worse places than Ohio (though nothing springs to mind), the stairs incident is behind us and all are well, the doll could be deactivated by pulling out the batteries (or could it?) and the sign then goes on to say, on a subsequent flashing screen, when you park your vehicle since its sitting outside the parking lot at Roosevelt Island, but makes you wonder.

So, what do you think? Do I have reason to be afraid? And what's scared you lately?

Posted by Chris at 6:56 AM | Comments (59)

November 18, 2008

A Bathroom Question

I have a long and sordid history with men's rooms. Those of you who've been paying attention know that I've had enough encounters to fill a book which, honestly, I don't object to writing yet I'm sure no publisher would believe me. I've had encounters with teeth-brushing, stall-sitting banana eaters, I've been busted talking to myself, visited by elves and clowns, assaulted by angry blind men and even been serenaded by the queen of soul. All whilst in the bathroom. In fact, doing a quick search of my site, I've written about bathrooms a whopping 80 times.

Men do terrible things in bathrooms. I mean, sure, I realize women probably do too but men just take foul to a whole new level. And locker rooms? There's a whole new level of horror. For some reason men who wouldn't otherwise be caught without clothing decide that this is the place to show off their hairy asses.

Every Saturday, Mia and I head to the local community center for swimming classes. Suits under our clothes, getting ready once we're there is easy. But changing afterward is a different story. The individual family locker rooms are usually full and I hate to expose her to the horror that is the men's locker room. So we usually end up in a bathroom somewhere. This weekend, we ran into a similar problem when we saw the musical up at my old high school. I broke down and took her into an empty men's room where we luckily found ourselves alone.

So, given all these things - my proclivity for attracting freaks in bathrooms, the inherent horrible nature of men's rooms and the fact that Mia is no longer a very little girl, when does it become inappropriate to take her into a public restroom with me? And worse, what if, by some strange happenstance, Mia inherited my bathroom freak magnet gene?

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (24)

November 17, 2008

Birthdays, Big-Ass Birds and High School Musicals

This weekend, we celebrated Beth's birthday. On Friday night we got ourselves a giant pile of pasta - fettuccine alfredo - and finished the dinner with birthday eclairs, Beth's favorite. And cupcakes. Then, granting Beth's birthday wish, we sat down and watched Sex And The City which was really and truly awful. Those of us with penises are just not programmed to like something like that. The director really could have thrown in some explosions and more gratuitous nudity. Unfortunately, during all this fun and bad movies, Owen managed to come down with a pretty evil cold and an accompanying cough. This meant that, when Saturday rolled around, Mia and I headed out to our normal weekly swimming class and returned home so Beth could take Mia to a birthday party. I hung with Owen. We watched a concert DVD and coughed.

On Saturday evening, the grandparents came over while I took Beth out for her birthday dinner. We had a wonderful evening of Burmese food (think Thai combined with Indian) but missed our movie-going window. So we hit the bookstore and Starbucks instead. Yeah, we're crazy when turned loose.

I was awakened early by Mia's arms wrapped around my neck. Not a bad way to get up. Then a big ass bird decided to hang out in our yard and that was kinda cool.

Later, Mia decided she wanted to go for a jog so Beth obliged.

Then Mia and I went to a high school musical. Not the High School Musical but, instead, an actual musical held at my old high school. (On a somewhat related noted, it's a really strange feeling to walk your kid through your old school. I even showed her where my old locker was. Bizarre.) The musical was not nearly as tragically bad as it could have been. I don't think there was ever that much talent back when I was in high school. Still, it was a little too long for Mia so we caved, went home about a half hour early, ate dinner and got in bed. Because we were just uber-wiped out.

I did make one very important discovery this weekend. I found out more about the afterlife than I ever thought I would. While Mia and I were drawing pictures for the great grandparents...

Mia: I'm drawing this one for great-grandma Pearl.
Me: Oh, that's nice. But great-grandma Pearl died, right?
Mia: Yeah, I know. We can just mail it to her.
Me: Oh, uh, okay. I think that'll be hard.
Mia: Why?
Me: Well, we don't really know where people go after they die.
Mia: That's easy. Ohio.
Me: Oh. Now I know. Mystery solved.

So, that's it ladies and gentlemen. When you slip the surly bonds of earth and shed this mortal coil, don't be surprised if you end up in Ohio.

What were your weekends all about? And how do you feel about an eternity in Ohio?

Posted by Chris at 6:33 AM | Comments (42)

Haiku For Monday #243

I had this dream that
it was Monday and then...oh,
wait. It is? Oh hell.

Posted by Chris at 6:32 AM

November 14, 2008

The Weeklies, Interrupted

For the past 61 weeks (wow) I've recapped the week discussing the music I've listened to, the books I've read, global schadenfreude, hypothetical questions and other random things. Today, however, I've got to shift gears. It's a very special Friday.

The Weekly Birthday. Beth. Today is my wife's birthday. How old? Well, I'd tell you that she was 21 but those of you paying attention would realize that we've been together for 15 years which would mean, well, uh, ew. That's neither here nor there.

For those of you who aren't in the loop, my wife is the strongest, kindest and smartest woman on the planet. She's a fantastic mother, a wonderful wife and an all-around fantastic person all while being smoking hot.

Happy Birthday, Beth. I love you.

Posted by Chris at 6:27 AM | Comments (28)

November 13, 2008

My Daughter Inadvertently Came Up With The Best Punk Rock Band Name Ever While Taking A Bath

Rinsed Nipples. 'Nuff said.

Posted by Chris at 6:56 PM | Comments (16)

Jokes, Of A Practical Nature

Humor and the workplace are not mutually exclusive. Or at least they shouldn't be. If they are it might be time for a new job. I'm in the middle of a book called Then We Came To The End which is pretty much all about work, office politics and the downfall of a company when the dot-com boom went bust. The book got me thinking about work and a recent conversation about hardboiled eggs got me thinking about workplace practical jokes. (Don't worry, I'm no more insane today than I was yesterday. The linkage between practical jokes and eggs will soon become clear.)

Peanuts. I used to share an office with a guy who got lots of shipments of stuff, mainly carefully packed computer equipment. All this equipment came packed tight with styrofoam packing peanuts. Combine those with a frequently traveling co-worker and a little time and you've got yourselves the making of a brilliant practical joke. Packing peanuts were stuffed in ever nook and cranny of her desk - every drawer, every overhead cabinet. A strategically placed ceiling tile was removed and packing peanuts were placed in the ceiling. A MacGyver-like rig of string and binder clips moved the ceiling tile aside when the overhead cabinets were opened. It worked like a charm and the result was an overwhelmingly devastating landslide of packing material the likes of which the office had never seen.

Inversion. I've learned from first hand experience that nothing quite freaks people out like meticulously turning everything in someone's office upside down and replacing it in the exact same place in which you found it. Similarly, turning small items - like pencil holders, name plates, staplers, etc - over and fixing them to ceilings also confuses victims and provides a great deal of amusement.

Egg Hunt. After a week at the beach, I returned to my office one Monday to find an inbox flooded with email I had to deal with and a rather faint, odd smell in my office. I plowed through the email, thinking nothing of the smell. On Tuesday, the smell was a little worse and, for some strange reason I couldn't hear folks who called me on my office phone. Still, I worked and went to meetings thinking nothing of it. By Wednesday, however, the smell was unavoidable. I went in search of whatever had died in my office. I couldn't find it. And oddly, a few buddies who worked down the hall kept calling me and I still couldn't hear them very well. It was then that I actually looked at my phone. Something squishy and brown was making its way through the holes in the mouthpiece. Further investigation revealed a similar substance coming from the earpiece. And whatever it was, it smelled like death. I used a pair of scissors to pry apart the handset revealing two very old and disgusting hardboiled eggs. I'd been had in perhaps the most disgusting way ever.

Green Computing. Grass grows quickly. Especially grass that's planted in the bottom tray of a keyboard. So fast that, hypothetically, were you to plant grass in a keyboard on a Monday, water it faithfully and keep it in the sun, you'd probably end up with a nice, fresh green keyboard by the time a coworker returned the following Monday. Hypothetically, of course.

Cruising. A coworker had, more than once, exclaimed her love of Tom Cruise. This was before his Oprah couch-jumping days but I somehow doubt that's her love has waned. We acquired several hundred copies of a Tom Cruise headshot and wallpapered her entire office with them. Seeing hundreds of Toms staring back at us was a little surreal. And frightening.

Dear John. After the egg thing - one of the greatest office pranks in my own personal history of victimization - it was important to ensure the instigator was repaid appropriately. Now, this instigator was pretty particular about his office chair. So, what better way to repay him than replace that carefully selected chair with a free-standing, fully functional portable toilet?

What kind of practical jokes - including those in the office - have you been a victim of? Or played upon others?

Posted by Chris at 6:37 AM | Comments (31)

November 12, 2008

Don't You Wish Your Husband Was Hot Like Me

When it comes to jammies - like the baby jesus, the possibility of an Abba reunion, and the benefits of an entirely raw diet - I'm somewhat of a non-believer. My default nighttime wardrobe consists of precisely nothing. But when there are kids in the picture - kids who wake up requiring attention in the middle of the night - freeballing (like the Tom Petty song, right?) isn't the most convenient option. Now that the weather's turned chilly, it seems as though the universe is conspiring against me and my night nudism. Over the past couple of months, I've intermittently caved to the whims of the universe. Add to that the fact that when I sleep I enjoy being buried under as many covers as is humanly possible. There's a giant lump on my side of the bed most nights. I start miles underneath.

With that in mind, fast forward to this morning.

When I got up and made it out from under those miles of blankets, I headed to the bathroom to get myself all clean and ready for work. I looked in the mirror and saw something that truly frightened me. Myself. I'm used to seeing my naked self and I'd like to think that's not terrifying. It was my wardrobe. Last night when I'd woken up to see what was wrong with Mia (because she's been doing that waking up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason thing) I'd quickly protected myself against the cold by throwing on a Pink Floyd concert t-shirt, dark green pajama bottoms and brown polka dot socks. And the fact that I own polka dot socks is, by itself, mildly traumatizing. But worse was the fact that I'd tucked my pajama bottoms into the socks so the legs wouldn't ride up in the night.

I? Am hott. With two Ts.

What do you wear at night? And what's your most embarrassing ensemble?

Posted by Chris at 6:26 AM | Comments (66)

November 11, 2008

Paper Poppies

A few years ago, I stood at the top of what could only be described as a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. On June 6, 1944, Operation Overlord - codename for the invasion of Normandy - was launched and 160,000 Allied troops swarmed the coastline, scrambled across the beaches and attempted the largest amphibious assault in the world's history. Standing up there looking down is awesome in the true sense of the word. You're immediately hit by three things - the wind, an impression of the vastness of the undertaking, and questions. Questions like what the hell was anyone thinking planning this? and how did anyone survive? The truth is, it was military genius and, in answer to that second question, many didn't.

Veteran's Day - or Armistice Day - was officially proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, commemorating the end of major hostilities of World War I. Armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The holiday was expanded to celebrate all veterans when an Emporia, Kansas shoe store owner decided to close his doors on Veteran's Day, 1953. His cause was taken up by Congressman Ed Rees who drummed up support from President Dwight Eisenhower. The rest, as they say, is history.

Every life lost there on that vast impossible battlefield in Normandy - along with every life lost in previous and subsequent conflicts - is someone who was loved, who had a family, who had a life separate from defending our country. They died doing something they thought was right, defending our country and, in turn, our way of life. Remembrance of those individuals must exist separate from political ideology and debates about morality. The people who go into battle are rarely the same individuals who made the decision to fight. Honor them.

Who do you remember, and how?

Posted by Chris at 6:49 AM | Comments (32)

November 10, 2008

What To Expect Before You're Expecting

This weekend it occurred to me that I'm often somewhat frustrated. Frustrated by being a dad, or, more specifically, frustrated by that whole having no time thing. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love my kids more than anyone could possibly imagine and more than I ever thought possible. But there are days when I look back, fondly, at the surplus of time I had on my hands before they entered and radically changed my world. Again, I love them and wouldn't want it any other way. But it has made me realize that there are certain things every couple should do before they get themselves knocked up. I've been developing a mental list this weekend and here it is, spilled out on the screen for all to see.

Eat out. Go to restaurants as much as you possibly can. Cooking at home is for sissies. And make sure you're eating at places without cartoon character mascots. There's a reason The Palm doesn't have a little animated palm tree popping corks on Cristal and opening jars of Beluga caviar. Food with cartoon characters sucks. Learn it, live it.

See a lot of movies. One a week - barring any financial woes attributed to the rising cost of movie viewing - should be your goal. You should be on the three at a time Netflix plan. You should be visiting your mailbox often. Any less than this and you're not really trying. One day when you realize that you last saw a movie three years prior, don't come crying to me.

Invite friends over and have adult conversations. Talking with kids is awesome but they employ a logic that makes you feel as though the space-time continuum is collapsing in on itself. So, have some friends over. Talk about politics. Talk about your jobs. Talk about all the movies you've seen or non-cartoon places you've eaten. Pretty soon you'll be spending a great deal of time talking about poop and debating the color of the sky with a pint-sized logician.

Read books. If you want to make up for the total number of books you will not be reading once you become a parent, you should try reading, on average, one book a day. Once you become a parent, you'll realize that making it through the latest 300 page piece of crap by Patricia Cornwell that happens to be written in a font large enough to be seen from space requires about three weeks. And that's frustrating.

Keep your house immaculate. Once the kid arrives, your house will look as though Toys R Us threw up on it followed by a minor but thorough cataclysmic disaster. Orderly will be a word best describing not the state of your house but an individual at the mental hospital you're bound to find yourself in if you worry about the cleanliness of your house. (I in no way mean to imply that my own house is a mess. It's not. Beth and her vacuuming partner Mia do an awesome job. But you'll find, being a parent, that it's more of a challenge.)

Take naps. There are few things that beat the pleasure of taking a nap in the middle of the day for no apparent reason in the comfort of your own bed. Be forewarned: as a parent, these things do not happen or, if they do, they are brief, interrupted after a scant five minutes by some minor catastrophe. In addition, napping or even sleeping the night in your own bed may not be something you can count on. Find a mattress you love and use it often. While you can.

Go to the bathroom by yourself. Just trust me on this one.

Have a lot of sex. There is absolutely no reason any non-parent should not be having sex three times a day, minimum. Once you have a child - or children - sex will be relegated to the wee hours or that small, ten minute window during which the child - or children - feigns sleep and lulls you into a false sense of security. To prolong this wonderful time of sex-having, use appropriate birth control.

Now, I realize I might sound bitter. I'm not. I love my life. The day after Mia was born - after a long night in the hospital - I came home to feed our cats and take a shower. Almost as soon as I got home, I sat down in a chair and cried my eyes out. It had been an emotional 24 hours. I'm sure that was part of it. But another part was the sudden realization that, now, everything was different, everything had changed. I mourned the loss of that life for five minutes and moved on. It would be tough to be a parent and still long for that, still mourn for that time but I don't think that happens. Because there's no one you'd rather be than mom or dad. Of course, I wouldn't mind another hour added to the day that I could call my own.

What practical advice would those of you with kids give those without? And for those of you without, what do you think will be the toughest aspect of parenting?

Posted by Chris at 6:44 AM | Comments (62)

Haiku For Monday #242

Hi Monkeytown. It's
been, what, forty-eight hours since
I saw you last? Gah!

Posted by Chris at 6:43 AM

November 7, 2008

The Weeklies #61

The Weekly Kid-related Breakthrough. I swear Owen said Obama night before last.

The Weekly Disastrous Election Day Outcome. California's Proposition 8. To constitutionally bar same sex couples from getting married is outrageous. At some point in our future, we're going to look back at this debate and wonder what we were thinking.

The Weekly Read. I continued my seemingly long streak of noir crime novels with Kill Now, Pay Later by Robert Terrall. Like most of these forgotten novels, it was equal parts hard boiled mystery and cheese. It was entertaining. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Weekly Music. Some time ago I talked about how insanely awesome Secret Machine's Ten Silver Drops is. It's a fantastic, compelling album. I was justifiably happy, therefore, when their most recent album (imaginatively titled Secret Machines) hit the shelves. Now that I've got it, I'm really underwhelmed. Where Ten Silver Drops was lush, emotionally charged and vibrant, Secret Machines seems phoned in. Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe I need to give it a few more spins. Maybe I haven't been in the right frame of mind. I hope its me and not the album. Because I desperately want it to be good. And it's not.

The Weekly Necessary Gadget. Having sex right this instant? What the hell are you doing reading this? And, uh, sorry about the interruption. You need a sex alarm.

The Weekly Photo. In case you missed it over at my wife's site, Mia has taken to occasionally sleeping in her closet. Which makes us feel like pathetic parents. But she doesn't care.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Two names for you - John McCain and Sarah Palin. 'Nuff said.

The Weekly Hypothetical. (From author Chuck Klosterman) The world is ending. It's ending quickly, and it's ending dramatically. It will either end at noon on your fortieth birthday, or it will end two days after you die (from natural causes) at the age of seventy-five. Which apocalyptic scenario do you prefer?

Posted by Chris at 6:34 AM | Comments (25)

November 6, 2008

A Gay Old Time

Okay, okay, I'll admit to something shameful and moderately embarrassing. Tonight, like every Thursday night, my friend TiVo will turn itself on and dutifully record Grey's Anatomy. Then, at some point - later tonight or over the weekend - I will watch it with the glee of a tween popping High School Musical into the DVD player for the fiftieth time and watching Zac Efron do whatever the hell it is Zac Efron does. Despite the insanely whiny Meredith Grey played by the getting-less-attractive-and-more-annoying-with-each-passing-episode Ellen Pompeo and the moderately annoying cast saved by the presence of George, I tune in religiously. Hey, I'm not proud. That's just the way it is.

If you watch the show at all - or have heard about it around the old watercooler - you're probably well aware of its gay-friendly past. Actor Isiah Washington was fired a few seasons back for his slurs about fellow actor and resident gay guy T.R. Knight. Since then, aside from a very brief arc on the now-canceled Bionic Woman remake, we don't see that much of him. This year's romance between Washington's replacement - Brooke Smith who plays Erica Hahn - and Callie Torres has taken the show's gay-friendliness to an even higher plane. But if you catch tonight's episode, you'll be seeing the last of Dr. Hahn. That's right - the actress and her character are gone after tonight.

Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes fell on her sword (or, rather, someone else's) earlier this week, claiming that the relationship couldn't be maintained in the long run. I call bullshit. And apparently I'm not alone. Insiders are reporting that Rhimes is covering up for the network suits who actually ordered the firing. Perhaps not surprisingly but very disappointingly, those suits were getting a little uncomfortable with the gay thing. Newcomer Melissa George - who you might remember from Alias and will be joining the cast later this month - had her bisexual character rewritten as well. Apparently she'll be straight but flirty. Whatever the hell that means.

On any night on almost any channel you can find a good gruesome dead body to feast your eyes on. You can see someone get shot, incinerated, decapitated, eviscerated, beaten, bloodied or bruised. But god forbid someone says shit or ass. And surely the sky will fall if you show two women kissing or, worse, in a loving relationship that does absolutely no one any harm. Clearly we, as a society, can't take it. Clearly we're not that advanced. Clearly we need a bunch of suits to protect us from the madness. Next thing you know, we'll be doing something crazy like electing an African American as our nation's 44th president. Oh, wait...

Whether your a fan or not, a social conservative or liberal, where do you come down on this stuff? As I asked a while back, why is violence okay but not sex? What kind of relationships are appropriate to portray on television? And is ABC's decision right, wrong or somewhere in between?

Posted by Chris at 6:25 AM | Comments (54)

November 5, 2008

America? You Rock!

You did it. You came through. Hell, even Virginia - my home state which hasn't gone blue since 1964 - came through and went blue. Last night was an historic evening. It was epic. It was extraordinary. It was what this country is all about. It proved - in a time in which we desperately needed such proof - that this is the land of opportunity, that change can exist, that the machinery of failed policies, of economic disaster, of being a nation of telling not showing can be abandoned in the hopes of something better. So what is there to do but dance?

Okay, now I've got to tuck in my shirt and throw on a tie. I've got to be in Monkeytown ASAP and I was up late. That's all I got.

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (71)

November 4, 2008

Poll Position

You probably have a lot on your plates today. You've got to get up, get dressed, have some breakfast, maybe a cup of coffee or two. Then you're probably headed to work, off to get stuck in traffic, sit in meetings, amuse yourself on conference calls. Maybe you have kids to take care of, laundry to do, mouths to feed. But today - if you live in these United States, you're over the age of 18 and you've never been convicted of a felony - you have one singularly important job, one you only have to do ever four years. You've got to vote in a presidential election.

Sometimes it's tough to figure out the issues, to find with whom you identify the most. Sometimes it's hard to convince yourself that your vote really matters or that the issues these guys are discussing actually affect you in some way. But while there may not be a perfect candidate, there's probably someone with whom you agree more than you disagree. And the issues these guys and all the talking heads to whom they provide endless fodder for debate really do matter to you and impact your everyday life. Especially now with the economy being what it is. Taxes and jobs matter now. The education of your kids (and mine) matter now. And your vote counts. So please please please get out there and cast it.

Obviously you know where I stand on this issue. You know who I'll be rooting for. You know whose numbers I'll be nervously watching tonight. Who you vote for is your decision alone. It's a personal decision. No one can tell you how to vote. Except Mia.

So go, do that voting thing and let me know how it goes. Have you driven by polling places? What are the lines like? What kind of experience have you had voting? And who does your gut tell you is going to win?

Posted by Chris at 6:01 AM | Comments (100)

November 3, 2008

Halloween, The Wizard, and Politics

This weekend was dominated by three things - Halloween, The Wizard of Oz and political anxiety.

First, Halloween. As I may have mentioned, Mia's passion for The Little Mermaid runs deep and strong and burns with the power of a thousand suns. She was, therefore, Ariel. Owen was Sebastian. And yeah, we're very well aware of the fact that his costume was indeed a lobster costume and not a crab but no one seemed to know the difference most importantly, Mia or Owen themselves. Owen lasted about, oh, half a block and then got pretty steamed (heh). Mia, however, was raring to go. It seems as though trick or treating is pretty much smack dab in her wheelhouse, like she was born to do it. We knocked on doors, collected the goods and allowed the cries of she's adorable to wash over us. After all, it was true. After an hour or so, we'd both had enough. Mia's plastic pumpkin was so full that I had to carry it home. When we returned, we dumped it all out on the coffee table and surveyed the haul. It was pretty impressive.

Second, The Wizard of Oz. We read The Wizard of Oz aloud to Mia last month. She was enthralled. I was shocked. She's a little bundle of energy yet she remained absolutely silent and attentive while we were reading. Despite the lack of pictures. She's talked about it constantly since. We decided to rent the movie. Unsurprisingly, it was a great big hit. The movie is a little over 100 minutes long and I can assure you that we have acted out nearly every single minute. We've sung the songs and when we haven't known the words we've made up words. I somehow suspect that this isn't the last time we've seen the movie. Oh, and I can tell you that while Beth went out on Sunday morning to work for Obama, I did what every good father would do with their kids - tested that Dark Side of The Moon/Wizard of Oz theory. Turns out the urban legend long-denied by Pink Floyd is right on.

Finally, the political anxiety. I'm anxious about the election. As much as I love politics, as into the election as I am, I'm done. I wore my Obama shirt out trick-or-treating with Mia. This being Virginia, I got some funny looks and I'm pretty sure that Mia got shortchanged some candy because of it. And on Sunday when we visited my parents - who have two Obama signs in their front yard - they showed me what they'd received from the neighborhood homeowners association (of which they're not technically a part):

Who does that? All I know is that this election has brought out both the best and worst in people. And I'd like fewer reminders how much people suck for a while.

What did you guys do this weekend? And are you as nervous about the election as I am?

Posted by Chris at 6:17 AM | Comments (72)

Haiku For Monday #241

That extra hour is
nice and all but how bout an
extra day instead?

Posted by Chris at 6:16 AM