May 29, 2009

The Weeklies #87

The Weekly Observation About Nature. We have the loudest frogs in our backyard ever.

The Weekly Beer. Shiner Bock. Yep, good Texas beer.

The Weekly Time Waster. Gridshock

The Weekly Read. I read Sarah Rainone's Love Will Tear Us Apart. I mean, how could I not after it was described as a cross between Nick Hornby and Brett Easton Ellis? And that's exactly what it was, minus Hornby's music literacy and Ellis' moderate depravity (not including the completely depraved Glamorama and American Psycho). In my mind, the best music-driven book ever written is Hornby's High Fidelity. This is no High Fidelity. Love Will Tear Us Apart is a decent book - at no point did I consider putting it down nor was I ever not entertained - but music certainly didn't drive the story. It wasn't even an integral part. And that was a little disappointing.

The Weekly Music. I heard about Billy Kelly's Thank You For Joining The Happy Club on NPR. And sure, it's a kid's album but it made me laugh because there was just enough inside grown-up oriented humor to keep me interested. Have kids? Buy it. Just want something happy and fun to listen to? Borrow a neighbor kid for cover and go buy it.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Jon and Kate pulled in TLC's biggest ratings ever?! People, if you keep watching, they'll never go away!

The Weekly Hypothetical. What kind of routine expedition were Marshall, Will and Holly on when they encountered the greatest earthquake ever known? And how is it routine for an expedition to include your 12 year old daughter? You have no clue what I'm talking about do you?

Posted by Chris at 5:57 AM | Comments (69)

May 28, 2009

Judgment

Last week I wrote about stupid people and the smart-ass things I had to say in response to said stupid people. As a result, I took some flack from some folks. I think some of you thought I was kind of an asshole. Maybe you're right but I sincerely don't think so. Then I was told that I am "unsure of my self-worth". And that just pissed me off.

When you read my site, you read me. If I'm doing this right, you should get a feel for who I am as a person, what my family is like, how I think, what I dig. But you don't know everything and you'd be mistaken to think that you truly understand me completely - my motivations, my fears, my passions, my life - based on the evidence you have in front of you. After all, I'm a pretty biased source of information. And I don't tell you everything. Certain things you just don't need to know. They're personal. And mine. Other things are just so mundane that they'd bore you to tears. I mean, you probably didn't know that:

  • I have kinda small feet. 8.5, maybe a 9.
  • I was the youngest ever recipient of a prestigious community service award in Virginia for my work supporting the homeless in the DC area.
  • I've played music most of my life but I can't read it to save my life.
  • I really love old episodes of Scooby-Doo, something my wife can't understand.
  • Large ships - specifically the bottoms of ships underwater - freak me out.
  • Crappy 50's science fiction movies are seriously my favorite movies ever.
  • My bellybutton is an outie.
  • I can't stand ketchup. Tartar sauce is even worse. It's the devil's jizz.
  • I think I kinda pee too frequently for someone who isn't 80.

You can judge me, fine, but you're judging me based on incomplete information (you know, like that tartar sauce thing). And to draw conclusions about a person based on so little evidence is kinda stupid.

As for the self-worth issues, I'd like to officially inform you know that I am awesome. I am pretty smart, graduated from high school and a well-respected university. I have a fantastic job that requires me to use a brain to solve difficult problems for which I am well compensated with a nice salary, insurance, benefits and a reasonable work-life balance. I am a father to two amazing children both of whom are happy and healthy, and I am husband to an amazing woman who is way out of my league but loves me anyway. I can write a mean sentence, play a guitar, pluck a bass (the instrument, not the fish though I'm sure I could do that too), tell a joke, write a sonnet, compose a song, dance a foxtrot, clean a house, grow vegetables, build a computer, take a photograph, read good literature (and crappy literature too), cook, change a tire, replace a ceiling fan, plant a tree, pitch a tent (heh) and build a campfire, lead a meeting, feed the homeless and take care of sick children in the middle of the night. In short, I do not have any issues with my self worth nor am I a raging egomaniac. I like to think I strike a nice balance.

When I read blogs, I try to keep in mind that, no matter how open and honest the author may be, I'm dealing with limited information about someone who, for the most part, I don't know. Additionally, not being a psychiatrist, I try not to psycho-analyze people. Making smart-ass quips in reaction to stupid situations and people isn't the sign of an asshole. Making snap-judgments about people with incomplete information and calling into question their mental state inclusive of their feelings of value in the grand scheme of society, well, that's pretty much an asshole move in my book.

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (75)

May 27, 2009

Catch-22

Mia and I were walking through one of our local giant chain mega-bookstores the other day. We were passing table after table of supposed best sellers, Oprah picks, picks naming up-and-coming authors, apparent non-fiction blockbusters. I knew this because that's exactly what the signs over each table told me they were. Anyway, walking back to the kids section, the tables' contents slowly shifted from adult to teen to children's literature. Smack dab in the middle were a few tables devoted to local school summer reading lists and assignments.

[An aside: I always knew there were summer reading lists and assignment but I'm not positive that I actually did any of them. Occasionally, I'd end up with an English teacher who demanded two pages about one of the books in which case I'd hurry home, read the back of the book and make something up. But I don't believe I ever read any of the summer assignments. Because having assignments over the summer? That's just wrong.]

I looked over the tables and found the usual suspects - Catcher In The Rye, Grapes of Wrath, Catch-22. There was some Hemingway, some Twain, and - sorry kids - Virginia Woolf (To The Lighthouse drove me fucking nuts). Once again kids would be subjected to the symbolism of the red light and blue light in The Great Gatsby and the metaphor of Animal Farm. I did a little mental happy dance, glad to be rid of the days in which I was forced to interpret bullshit symbolism probably not intended or even thought of by the author. And that I no longer had to read lines of Shakespeare out loud. Then something caught my eye, a contemporary author I hadn't expected to see in the pile, and a title that most definitely took me by surprise. Snuff by Chuck Palhaniuk.

Now, look - I'm no prude. In fact, I'm the farthest thing you can get. I'm a pinko commie liberal who values free speech over all and hates censorship more than I hate Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter combined into one hideous conservative anti-christ like uber-beast which is really saying something if you think about it. But seeing Snuff on that pile bothered me.

I just read it so it's fresh in my mind. And how could it not be? A couple lines from the first chapter lay out the premise of the novel nicely:

Six hundred dudes. One porn queen. A world record for the ages. A must-have movie for every discerning collector of things erotic. Didn't one of us on purpose set out to make a snuff movie.

And since Palahniuk has never pulled a punch, all the gritty details are there - sex, violence, drugs, bodily functions, bodily fluids and, uh, hair removal. Call me crazy but I'm thinking that a novel about a gang bang - with so many fabulous elements such as those I've just laid out - has pretty much no place in a high school classroom. Yet the former high school student - the one that lashed out about censorship in school newspaper editorials and felt so victimized by Tipper Gore and her PMRC - feels a little guilty about that. And the liberal pinko commie side of me feels that by limiting and censoring things like this, we'll find ourselves surfing down a rather slippery slope of which there is no bottom. Maybe common sense is somewhere in between.

Are common sense, schools, and free speech mutually exclusive concepts?

Posted by Chris at 6:19 AM | Comments (24)

May 26, 2009

Weekends, Fish and Zombies


DSC_4208copysm.jpg

Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel right about now. But hey, at least I'm not going back to work until tomorrow. But what have I done with my five days off?

SDC10315%20copy.sm.jpg
First and foremost, we attended Mia's final day of school on Thursday which was capped off with a musical extravaganza. It was awesome. She was awesome. It seriously seemed like the school year just started. I can't believe it's over.
SDC10326copy.sm.jpg

The majority of the weekend was spent in the yard. We spent a great deal of quality time in the yard, planting things that should be growing and removing things that shouldn't. Unfortunately for us, there was a vast difference between the number of things that needed to be put into the ground and the number of things that needed removing. And in some cases, I think we could have used a machete. You might think I'm exaggerating. I am not. I'm actually surprised we didn't find lost treasure in our yard. Or Jimmy Hoffa. All of this was made much easier by Mia's help which inexplicably involved a snow shovel. We're still unclear on that.

DSC_4202copysm.jpg
We made a few mini-trips, most notably up to Baltimore to hit the aquarium. It was a fantastic day. Mia loved the fish, the frogs, the rays. Owen tolerated the whole thing quite well. Then he collapsed upon arriving home.
SDC10329copysm.jpg
We also caught up on a vast amount of TiVo (finales of Survivor and Lost, a backlog of CSI with some HGTV and Food Network stuff thrown in for good measure). We also finally got around to watching the Netflix movie we've had sitting around for nearly six months (I shit you not). I'm not easily frightened but it had been a while since I'd watched a horror movie. So, 28 Weeks Later freaked my shit out. I was convinced zombies were going to come through the windows in the middle of the night.

Tomorrow, I return to the real world. That's always rough. I have to leave Beth and the kids behind. I trade arguments about going to the bathroom for arguments about client meetings. Both pissing contests. I realize the whole work thing is necessary, but I'd sure love more time hanging out with my family.

What did you guys do with your long weekends?

Posted by Chris at 8:53 AM | Comments (25)

May 25, 2009

Remember

american-flag-2a.jpg
Posted by Chris at 7:37 AM | Comments (4)

May 22, 2009

The Weeklies #86

The Weekly Awesome Thing. The fact that I have six days in a row off. That's right - yesterday, today, the long weekend and Tuesday. Off. As in not working. Awesomeness.

The Weekly Activities Planned During Time Off. Pretty much anything that involves my kids and my yard.

The Weekly Read. Rarely do I like books with insipid hypothetical questions on their covers just begging readers to pick them up. I didn't even realize Show Me The Sky by Nicholas Hogg had one until I had it home. It's a good thing too because I might have passed it by and missed a fantastic novel. The book itself was incredibly well written while unique in its approach. It tied four very different story lines together in a interesting and thought provoking way. Each story line could have supported its own novel. Together, the results were exceptional.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. California is bankrupt and trying to sell a prison while Texas Governor Rick Perry is dropping $11 million in stimulus money to fix the governor's mansion. Okay, I don't see much schadenfreude in the California thing because that's getting scary. But the mansion thing? Seriously? How many unemployed Texans could benefit from that cash? Damn people suck sometimes.

The Weekly Time-Waster. The Headspin Storybook is seriously one of the best time wasters I've found so far. Enjoy.

The Weekly Not-So-Hypothetical. So this week, Congress blocked funding that would allow the Obama administration to close Guantanamo. I totally understand the desire to keep our country safe, to keep bad people - even if they've never been proven to be bad - out. But since we created this problem, isn't it ours to solve? The question is how?

Posted by Chris at 6:58 AM | Comments (16)

May 21, 2009

The Cradle Will Rock

Me: Okay, Mia. Now for an important question.
Mia: Yeah?
Me: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?
Mia: What?
Me: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? Which camp are you in?
Mia: David Hagar.
Me: Come on. You have to pick one or the other.
Mia: No.
Me: Oh no. Don't tell me you're a Gary Cherone fan.
Mia: Yeah! Gary Cherone!
Me: Where did I go wrong?!
Mia: Why?
Me: Because everyone knows the album with Cherone is terrible. I mean, he was okay with Extreme but he sounded like he had a speech impediment through the whole Van Halen album.
Mia: What's a speech impediment?
Me: It's what Gary Cherone had on Van Halen III.
Mia: Oh. I pick Gary Cherone.
Me: You and me have a date with my stereo and Van Halen this weekend.
Mia: Gary Cherone!
Me: Stop.
Mia: Gary Cherone!
Me: You're killing me.

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (23)

May 20, 2009

I See Dumb People

Excuse me while I bitch about the dumb people I encountered yesterday during my very brief ride home and the errands I ran on the way.

Episode I: The Invisible Elevator
I made it outside my vast office complex, several feet from the parking garage and freedom for the afternoon. I encountered a woman, outside, looking up, appearing dazed.
Me: Do you need some help?
Her: Is there an elevator out here?
Me: Um. No. Where are you trying to go?
Her: The South Building.
Me: Not to be rude but, like, you're aware that you're outside, right?
Her: Uh-huh.
Me: And engineers in their vast wisdom usually don't put free standing elevators outside.
Her: Uh-huh. But where's the elevator?
Me: First step, turn around and go back inside where elevators usually are. Then take your first right.
Her: Thanks!

Admittedly, I didn't need to be a smart-ass but really I did.

Episode II: Idiot on Aisle Three
I was in the grocery store. Picking up beer. Fire Rock and Shiner Bock to be precise. Around the corner came a woman trying to find fish.

Her: Hey, do you work here? I'm looking for fish.
Me: Uh sorry. Don't know where the fish are though I have a sneaking suspicion you can find them under the sign that says seafood.
Her: Why wouldn't you know for sure?
Me: Maybe because I don't work here. And I'm just here for beer. And never buy fish.
Her: Oh, I'm sorry. You sure you don't work here?
Me: I'm pretty sure. No one seemed mystified when I showed up at my office this morning.
Her: Oh, okay. Well, I'm sorry about that.
Me: No problem.

I didn't ask her but I'll ask you - how many grocery store employees do you run into wearing suits and ties?

Episode III: Too Dumb To Drive
After the grocery store incident, I stopped to get some gas. In the parking lot was a man who had obviously locked his keys in his car. Yet, instead of using an actual slim-jim to pop the locks, this dude climbed a tree, tore off a branch and started using it - a stick - as a make-shift slim-jim. Imagine our collective surprise - mine feigned, his genuine - when it broke. What did he do? Climbed the damn tree again. He's probably still there.

Episode IV: Proof The Housing Market Is Bad
And finally, speaking of dumb, worst sign placement ever.

SDC10319copysm.jpg

Posted by Chris at 5:38 AM | Comments (33)

May 19, 2009

The Greatest Story Ever Told

The other night, Mia and I were coloring. We do this a lot. Coloring rocks. For some reason, Mia decided that she was going to write a story. And she did. Kinda. She scribbled lines of imaginary text across the paper. When the page was full of doodles, she told me that she'd finished.

Me: What's the story about, Mia?
Mia: Oh, it's about when you and mommy first met.
Me: Really?
Mia: Yeah.
Me: I can't wait to hear it.

And then she was done.

Me: Can you tell me the story?
Mia: Sure. Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Chris. He grew and he grew and he grew and then he was born. And then he grew and he grew and he grew some more. There was also a girl named Beth. And she grew and she grew and she grew. Then they met in college in a bathroom and they fell in love because it was love at first sight like a fairytale. Then they kissed and were married. Then along came a little girl and her name was Mia. And a little boy who was named Owen. And they all lived happily ever after.

I told her it was a beautiful story, because it is.

For some reason, hearing all of this coming out of Mia's mouth filled me with an absolute sense of pride and fulfillment. I think know why.

- This is proof that she actually listens to us.
- She mentioned her brother without intimating that he's ruined her life.
- Mia recounted the parts of my life that led to her being there. She goes on these kicks in which she wants to find all these things out - where we were born, where we grew up, what our parents were like, where our middle names came from - and she actually processes this stuff and bases some of her world around them. Watching that work is awesome in the true sense of the word.
- Our story - the story of Beth and I - is her story. And it's a story she loves, as we love her.

On a side note, I managed to catch an interesting discussion with children's author Mo Willems on NPR a few weeks ago. Long story short, the point was that somewhere along the way on the journey from adulthood from kidhood, we stop drawing. And that's a shame. Do you draw?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (37)

May 18, 2009

The Whole Nine Yards

When we moved into our house two years ago, we inherited a beautifully landscaped yard and a lot of pressure. We bought the house from the original owners who'd hand-selected the best lot when the neighborhood was just being built. They also started the neighborhood garden club. Our track records - which included killing unkillable ivy and murdering our former postage stamp-sized yard - paled in comparison. But, while there are weeds, it still looks pretty damn good if I do say so myself. However it needed a little rehab. This was the weekend we performed it.

The first step? A trip to the nursery on Saturday morning. Mia helped me load up two ginormous carts while Owen was our trip's goodwill ambassador. He said hi to everyone. And everyone said hi right back. We left the nursery with, seemingly, half it's contents and a trail of Owen admirers. Perhaps we bought a little too much. I had to share the front seat with a big-ass azalea while Beth drove us home. Halfway through the ride, I got Beth's attention, looked down and said, wow, I really need to trim my bush. I am 12. And very mature.

We bought 7 azaleas, 2 cacti, 2 large gold Euonymus, one variegated dwarf boxleaf Euonymus, one Japanese variegated Euonymus, and various vegetable plants (squash, zucchini, regular tomato, heirloom tomato, jalapeno, cucumber).

On Saturday afternoon, I learned that it takes about three and a half hours to do our lawn properly. And by properly I mean without crapping out after hour two, throwing up my hands and saying fuck it loudly enough so the neighbors think I'm a raving lunatic while letting the grass continue to overrun the driveway, flowerbeds and sidewalks. I also learned that accidentally weed-whacking one's ankles hurts. A lot. Especially when you do it twice.

On Sunday morning, Monkey Boy, The Bean and I let Beth sleep. We went out for doughnuts. When I was unloading the car, Owen followed Mia into the kitchen, closed the door then locked it. Awesome. There's a skill I've been eager for him to learn. Mia was able to let me in. But then she punched me in the balls. So Sunday was a mixed bag.

How about you? What did you guys do? And how green are your thumbs?

Posted by Chris at 6:40 AM | Comments (31)

Haiku For Monday #269

I need Mondays like
hookers need tricks with guys who
bring along monkeys.

Posted by Chris at 6:37 AM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2009

The Weeklies #85

The Weekly Word. Slimpsy meaning frail or flimsy. We stumbled across it in an Oz book last night and both Beth and I were at a loss.

The Weekly Time Waster. Card Toss - a seriously simple yet addictive game. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The Weekly Proud Moment. I parented solo for a while last night. Yeah, nothing to write home about, sure but it involved getting both kids fed, bathed and in bed all by my lonesome. By the time Beth got home, the kids were full, clean and asleep and the house was clean. I'm just a little bit proud of myself for that.

The Weekly Read. This week I polished off Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk. It's pretty much a book about a gangbang that only Palahniuk could pull off. My only complaint is that I'd expected it to be less simplistic than it actually was. Given the possibly extensive cast of characters, Chuck chose to involve only three, alternating protagonists chapter by chapter. Despite the subject matter, it was perhaps Chuck's most accessible novel. To me, it was good but not great.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. There's something rotten in Pennsylvania. Not just the fact that the Penguins trounced the Caps on Wednesday night. Though that did stink. No, I'm talking about Jon and Kate again (here's some background if you need it). Because I read something that peaked my interest. See, the new season starts on May 25th. And it's a 40 episode season. That's nearly twice the length of the average season run. In order to sustain that kind of demand, you need people to watch. And if you want people to watch, you probably need...wait for it...controversy. Are we being manipulated?

The Weekly Hypothetical. If you were a cheese, which cheese would you be and why?

Posted by Chris at 6:03 AM | Comments (33)

May 14, 2009

Jesus, Milli Vanilli, and Bad Home Recordings

When Mia was a mere parasitic fetus, I strapped headphones on her mom's belly and blared a specially developed iTunes mix consisting of bitchin' classic, indie and progressive rock along with jazz, hair metal and 80's hits. (Hey look! Because I'm lazy and never actually remove anything from my site, the playlist is still up!) Now, I can't say for sure because Mia doesn't remember her in utero days but I'm convinced it had a hand in helping her develop her current love of music. Boy does she love music. At least a couple times a month she hears or mentions something that prompts me to download a song or an album for her. As a result, I have an iTunes library with thrash metal right along side Disney and Backyardigans tunes. (Sure hope I never get those confused. That would be one scary-ass bedtime.) But the music Mia's currently stuck on is - there's no other way to say it - fantastically shitty. And she listens to it constantly. As a music lover, it's almost physically painful for me to turn it on. It's like, say, having your choice of Rachmaninoff, Miles Davis, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd and Van Morisson and, instead, choosing Milli Vanilli. Milli Fucking Vanilli.

The Milli Vanilli in question is a cheesy CD of self-professed silly songs sung by a group of tone-deaf kids who very well might held captive in the basement of some deranged, washed up musician with a lame keyboard. The vocals are bad. Not cute five year old bad but more who drove over the cat and can you make it stop please bad. The instrumentation is terrible. Like I said, I suspect some washed up 80's musician (Milli or maybe Vanilli?) got his hands on what was, in 1985, a cool keyboard. It does not sound good or even cool in a retro kinda way in 2009. It actually sounds more like the music I made and recorded in my "home studio" (which was a keyboard, a guitar, and a four track mixing board stashed under the dining room table in our college apartment and featured self-important titles like "Illusion and Metaphor" or some shit like that which are now unlistenable and incredibly repetitive because, while I could come up with a riff, I apparently found it impossible to surround said riffs with any actual, you know, music) back in 1993 (using, of course, a cheesy keyboard which might have actually been made in the 80's).

If you can get yourself past the Milli Vanilli cheesyness, the horrid singing and the worse music, you'll notice pretty quickly that there's nothing silly about the songs. In fact, there's not much about them that's not focused on the wonder that is Jesus. Seriously. Pick a kids' song that has nothing to do with Jesus. I can almost guarantee they inject a little of the savior into it. It's actually scary how talented they are, weaseling Jesus into the hallowed pantheon of children's classics.

I care more about the bad music than I do the religious references. That said, they're out of place. Do I want my kids to learn about Jesus? Sure. Do I want them to listen to good, fun music? You bet. But in this case, never the twain shall meet.

What I really need are Iron Maiden lullabies.

Row row row your boat, into the depths of hell....
Twinkle twinkle little pentagram...
How much is that hell-hound in the window...

Posted by Chris at 6:43 AM | Comments (28)

May 13, 2009

Weirdness, Cleft In Twain

A little weirdness from yesterday...

First, the bus. If you drive in DC during spring and summer, you drive behind buses. It sucks but it's inevitable. So I wasn't surprised when, heading out of town yesterday, I found myself behind - you guessed it - a great big bus. Only, the more I looked at the back of the bus, the more I started to wonder exactly what the guy on the bus company's little logo was supposed to be doing. Is he slipping on a rock as the bus' origin would suggest? Is he trying to pass a kidney stone? Is he just really, really constipated?

oddbus.jpg

Second, the haircut and the interesting conversation I had with the receptionist as I was attempting to pay and schedule my next appointment.

Her: How was the haircut?
Me: It was great, thanks.
Her: Would you like to schedule your next appointment?
Me: Yes, please. About five weeks out.
Her: Just a cut and a blowjob?
Me: Um...
Her: Oh sorry...short hair, no blowjob.
Me: Uh, yeah, right. Freudian slip or something?
Her: Freudian? No, my name's Alice.
Me: No, Freudian. Slip. A Freudian slip.
Her: My slip? I'm not wearing one.
Me: Has it been a long day?
Her: Yeah.
Me: I kinda thought so.

I'm hoping for a more intelligent day. But I'm not going to count on it. What random acts of stupidity have you been witness to lately? And what's up with that guy on the bus?

Posted by Chris at 7:59 AM | Comments (36)

May 12, 2009

Hate

God hates Obama
God hates Israel
God hates Jews

I was on my way home from work on Friday afternoon and passed a group of people holding large signs - red, white and blue signs as if these messages were somehow patriotic - bearing these words in large letters. They were shouting the same things as if the signs didn't clearly articulate their messages.

God hates Obama
God hates Israel
God hates Jews

And while displays like these aren't unheard of, especially in downtown DC where there are thousands of things to protest and at least one person who feels strongly enough to do so, it was somehow much worse given its location - in front of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I was horrified, confused, saddened and vaguely pissed off.

And I have questions for these people.

  • If god is so great and almighty and powerful and holds such hatred for a group of people, why is it god hasn't wiped Obama, Israel or the Jews out entirely?
  • How self-important are you to believe that you understand god completely enough to grasp its true preferences - its hate, its love, its indifference - for groups and individuals?
  • Approximately six million European Jews were murdered by the Nazis. Double-that if you throw in the other inferiors Hitler and his pals decided to do away with. What delusional frame of mind are you operating under that justifies singling out a group of people for such vehement hatred in front of the place that marks their near-annihilation?

Freedom of speech is an incredible thing. Rarely does a day go by during which I'm not thankful for being born into a family with roots in the greatest country in the world. A country with an abundance of prosperity, freedom and possibility. A country in which there is great despair, yes, but it is far outweighed by a positive spirit, an acceptance of responsibility to do good, and a challenge to the rest of the world to achieve great things. But with that freedom comes responsibility. Like science or engineering, just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done.

If I were to believe in god, I'd like to think that such a god truly understood the nature of a person, a god that saw the potential of a person, not just their actions or mistakes. A god who looked at an individual, not one that made snap judgments about a person based on a random sampling of those with whom he lived. I guess I expect the same thing out of people. It's easy to put a label on a group and proclaim hatred. It's harder to hate individuals. It's a cop-out to say you hate a country, a race or a faith unless you're prepared to carry a sign naming each individual man, woman or child that comprise them. Otherwise, you're just a douchebag with a sign.

Why do you believe or not believe in god? And what are the limits of free speech?

Posted by Chris at 6:08 AM | Comments (42)

May 11, 2009

Monkey Boy and the Skinned Knee Princess

This weekend was busy. And I know I always say that - I'm like the boy who cried busy weekend - but this time I'm serious. Punch-in-the-balls serious. I'm wiped out. It started with a mother's day brunch on Saturday and extended through the charity trike-a-thon (it is what it sounds like in case you're curious) on Saturday night and continued through the awesome lunch and playdate with Clementine and Oscar and their mom and dad. Throw in yard work - as we're trying to salvage the yard from the infestation of weeds we've inherited this spring - and, well, I'm kinda tired.

On Saturday afternoon, Mia was taking a walk with Beth and - there's no way to put this delicately - bit it on the sidewalk. Two very well-scraped knees later, The Skinned Knee Princess was born. Mia is nothing if not a drama queen princess so we spent the rest of the weekend discussing the boo-boos and changing the bandaids on them. I'm conservatively guessing that we went through a box and a half of bandages ranging from Dora to Barbie and Snoopy to Scooby-Doo.

DSC_4090%20copy_sm.jpg

This weekend was also challenging because Owen (aka Monkey Boy) learned that he could climb damn near anything. The couch? No problem. A kitchen chair? Easy. A bathroom vanity? Simple. Mt. Fuji? Like 2+2. As a result, we spent the majority of the weekend preventing Owen from scaling things five times his height. Or pulling him down from things five times his height. Or turning all the chairs into kindling and lighting a ginormous bonfire in the backyard.

Out of this weekend come four decisions, one of which is serious:

- Owen is getting a helmet. And possibly ankle weights to keep him on terra firma.
- Mia gets knee-pads at all times.
- We're replacing our flooring with those thick blue gym mats.
- Next weekend will be more relaxing.

To all the moms out there, I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day. If you work half as hard as Beth, you truly deserve it. In fact you deserve a billion dollars. And pie.

Posted by Chris at 6:49 AM | Comments (21)

Haiku For Monday #268

I need coffee like
Manny Ramirez needs a
big bag of fake pee.

Posted by Chris at 6:48 AM | Comments (4)

May 8, 2009

The Weeklies #84

The Weekly Great Idea. Meat Cards

The Weekly Music. Hold on to your hats (or whatever). I'm about to admit to something a little uncharacteristic for me. I've been listening to contemporary Christian rock. Okay, okay, just one artist. See, I'm pretty massively convinced that one of the absolutely most talented musicians working today is one Neal Morse, former voice of Spock's Beard, one of my favorite progressive rock bands. He was born again, left the band and started to record his own progressive rock albums with very strong Christian themes. And as much as I don't like the idea of Christian rock or the idea of Christianity for myself, Morse continues to write and release some of the most compelling, musically brilliant albums. A week or so ago, I broke out his 2005 release ? (or, Question Mark) and I've been listening to it almost non-stop. Say what you want about the message, agree or disagree with the theology, but the album is nothing short of genius. While I don't share his views, I love that his belief inspires him to make such beautiful music. Of course, you can get a taste for Morse's brilliance without the theology by hitting the back catalog of Spock's Beard. I wholeheartedly recommend V.

The Weekly Read. Gillian Flynn is a senior contributor to Entertainment Weekly. I was a little surprised when she released such a debut novel (Sharp Objects). It was strongly written, incredibly creepy, and totally engrossing. Dark Places, her sophomore novel, is even stronger. Dark Places feels gothic, but it's not. It seems like a horror novel in places, but again it's not. What it is is incredibly captivating, very dark, and more than a little disturbing. And I highly recommend it.

The Weekly Time Waster. Effing Hail. Yep, cause your own catastrophe.

The Weekly Winner. Remember, folks, I used the phrase entirely true when I posted the five possible answers to my little contest. As it turns out, the first person to guess that #4 was entirely true and also correctly guess the television character Owen's middle name was inspired by was indeed Dr. Gregory House. So, congrats SK! Here's a run down of the others.

1. My family and I did take road trips. Lots of them. Driving out of Texas was always a chore. But our destination was usually Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. I've never set foot in Oregon.
2. I did tell people I was a black belt but not in dark nipple.
3. Nope, never been to a Star Trek convention though I am a fan.
5. I did indeed built a toilet in my closet. But the one time it saw any use (and was immediately disposed of afterward) was for good old number one.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Oh, Miss California. How did you think the world would not find out about your topless pictures, thus disqualifying you from being Miss America? I kinda feel sorry for her. After all, the pictures that have surfaced showed less skin than the bathing suit she appeared in for the pageant.

The Weekly Hypothetical. Why do my sunglasses always break?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (19)

May 7, 2009

Recommended For You

Dear Amazon,

I love you. I can seriously buy just about anything from you. You are remarkable and I'm not sure what we all did before you were created. If Madonna wanted to adopt another Malawian child without taking all the heat she's gotten recently, I'm betting she could log on to her Amazon account and find just what she was looking for. And I bet you'd give her free shipping.

The one bone that I have to pick with you, oh mighty Amazon, is your recommendations. Sometimes they make sense and they're helpful. Like, last week I downloaded the recent Doves album and got a recommendation for Gomez's latest. That makes sense. Then I ordered a couple of Oz books for Mia; recommendations for Oz books in the series as well as other works by Frank Baum were made. Cool. I get that. But sometimes the recommendations are a little odd. Or you're just fucking with me, Amazon. I don't know what strange combination of things or what technobabblecomputerspeak algorithm triggered this recommendation but holy Jeff Bezos, I'm pretty sure I don't need a buttplug.

theplug.jpg

And I'm positive I don't want to buy a used one.

Yours in Christ,
Chris Cactus

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (49)

May 6, 2009

Winners! But Wait, There's More!

A while back I launched a little contest on the heels of the Comment And I'll Randomly Select Someone To Win A Kick-Ass Signed Copy Of Marshall Karp's Latest and Greatest Novel, Flipping Out Contest. I basically asked you guys to tell me something unusual about yourselves, something no one would guess, or something no one previously knew. I got a lot of great responses but I narrowed it down to two. I'm happy to announce not one but two winners!

Winner #1: Caleal: "Thanks to years of yoga and ballet, I can put both legs behind my head. Unfortunately, if you get me drunk, I'll show you. Even if it's publicly inappropriate."
How can that kind of response not be a winner? It can't.

Winner #2: Karen: "I literally choked on a lollipop when I was 6 and gave myself the Heimlich and routinely enjoy a huge bowl of spinach with romano cheese and garlic powder for breakfast."
I respect anyone who's successfully given themselves the Heimlich and I'm vaguely horrified by the prospect of spinach, cheese and garlic for breakfast.

Congratulations to Caleal and Karen. I will, of course, be in touch in order to get some vague idea of what you like so I don't assault you with unwanted death metal or 25-minute long progressive rock keyboard solos.

In the mean time, I have something of a dilemma.

I seem to have another signed copy of Marshall Karp's Flipping Out. I have my own signed copy as well as Marshall's phone number and address so I can stalk him and stake out his house and extort another copy whenever I'd like. So I want to give this extra signed copy away so you too can understand the genius that is Mr. Karp. I've also found myself with a brand spankin' new still-in-the-wrapper copy of the deluxe remastered edition of Pearl Jam's Ten. It's an astoundingly awesome two CD set containing the remastered release of Ten plus a version remixed by Brendan O'Brien. Ten isn't signed however I would gladly forge Eddie Vedder's signature if you'd like. I'm offering these up as a package because there's nothing quite like a little mystery and grunge.

What must I do to get my hands on so awesome a prize package you ask? Let me tell you. Of the five statements below, only one is entirely true. Guess the completely true statement and you win. Multiple winners? I'll randomly choose one.

1. When I was a kid, we'd often take long road trips from Texas, where I grew up, to Oregon.
2. Around age 12, I told people that I was a black belt in the martial art of ooguro which was a total lie because I saw it in some lame movie and later found out it meant dark nipple.
3. I have been to more than one (but I'm not admitting how many) Star Trek conventions.
4. There are reasons for each of my children's middle names. Mia's middle name was chosen because it's the name of a close friend who passed away. I got Owen's middle name from a popular television character. (Choose this one and guess the correct TV character and I'll throw in an extra $20.)
5. I once built a very extravagant homemade toilet in my closet. (This was, like, 30 years ago, not last week in case you were worried about my sanity or the living conditions to which I subject Beth and the kids.) I even used it. Unfortunately, not for, well, number one.

So there you go. Good luck.

Posted by Chris at 6:28 AM | Comments (55)

May 5, 2009

Jon and Kate Plus H8

When Jon and Kate Plus Eight first aired, Beth and I tuned in. First, we were curious. I mean, eight kids? That's insane. Second, it made us feel a little better about parenting. After all, at the time, we only had one kid running around. Watching someone deal with eight made our lives seem relaxing by comparison. Schadenfreude at it's finest. After all, they really came off like level-headed people who were trying to do their very best to parent. The cameras in their living room seemed like an after thought. The whole thing seems genuine.

But then two things happened.

Kate - the mom for those of you not in-the-know - revealed herself to be an uptight, OCD germaphobe who refused to let her kids get even remotely messy. At some point, from what we were presented on the show (which admittedly, isn't the whole story), it seemed like the personal choices she made for herself began to interfere with her kids being kids. At least in my humble opinion. Sure, it's a small thing and a personal choice but it seemed silly to me. More accurately, I found it fucking annoying.

Then all the free stuff they were getting took center stage. Look, I really can't fathom how much it costs to raise eight kids. Raising two is expensive enough. I don't begrudge anyone taking advantage of help. But it pisses me off when a reality show morphs into a haven for product placement just shy of an infomercial for whatever free stuff they landed that week. It seems that every show is devoted to a product, every five minutes there's a cutaway to a product with a slightly out of context riff about how awesome said product is. All they're missing is the 1-800 number and Billy Mays.

If you've paid attention to the headlines during the past week - and I have absolutely no clue how this nugget counts as news but somehow it does since it's everywhere - you know that husband Jon was caught leaving a bar with - OMFG - a woman who wasn't Kate. Despite the fact that Jon claims this was totally innocent and has apologized for the event even raising the possibility of impropriety, everyone's up in arms. But, uh, why exactly?

Follow me here. The earth's population is somewhat evenly divided between males and females. I don't think it's a stretch to imagine the odd occurrence of a man going out for a drink with a woman. Innocently. I'd even go so far as to say that hey, let's go out for a drink doesn't automatically translate to hey, let me put my little general into your hoo-ha. So I'm troubled by the attention this got. Because (a) it's stupid and the polar opposite of newsworthy and (b) it presupposes that men are just unfaithful, untrustworthy assholes.

I'm conflicted. On one hand, I want to slam the show because I think its stupid and bogus. The longer it continues, the further from reality it gets. The genre would be better served by a name like Self Serving Gratuitous Marketing Of Free Shit and Kid Fucking Up Television. And these people should expect backlash - for the free shit, for subjecting their family to this, for living so publicly. They should be the last people surprised that there was someone with a camera pointed at one of them when they were out with a person they were not married to. But then I find myself mentally defending the show. Not everything is a scandal, juicy tabloid fodder. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, a drink a drink.

The show started out depicting reality. A few years later, neither parent works. Their cars and most of the things in their house have been bought by someone else. Their house, in fact, was paid for by the network that films and broadcasts them. The crew lives in the house with them and their kids look at the production staff like family. This is not reality. This is what happens when the camera focuses too long on reality. When life imitates art. When the tail wags the dog. When the story tellers become the story.

What do you think? Are you a fan or, like me, skeptical at best? And what do you think of this recent "news"?

Posted by Chris at 6:46 AM | Comments (66)

May 4, 2009

I'm Tired. So...That Numbers Thing Again

I took Thursday and Friday off and, as a result, had four wonderful days from which I now need to recover. And while coffee is a wonderful thing, I'm not 100% sure I believe in miracles. So I'm going to leave you with the numbers.


  • Number of days in the weekend: 4
  • Days it rained: 4
  • Beers consumed: 8
  • Trips to the pool: 1
  • Hours spent in pool: 2
  • Burmese meals consumed: 1
  • CDs ripped to iTunes: 238
  • Hardware store trips: 3
  • Dresses worn by Owen: 1
  • Cross-dressing incidents involving Owen: 4
  • Times I contemplated the possibility of Owen being gay not that there's anything wrong with that: 15
  • Games of ping-pong played with pot lids: 35
  • Pot-lid ping-pong related injuries: 2
  • Games of catch called on account of poop: 1
  • Books finished: 1
  • Tivoed shows caught up on: 5
  • Times I checked work email: 3
  • Fierce dinosaurs adorned with pink purses: 3
  • Yards mowed: 1
  • Tries it took to mow yard due to rain: 3
  • Weed whackers conked out: 1
  • Photos taken: 76
  • Photos edited and posted anywhere: 0
  • Hours slept: 28
  • Garages cleaned: 1
  • Tools and other assorted crap organized: 5,402
  • Dinners with in-laws: 1
  • Cousins headed to Afghanistan: 1

But enough about me. How about you? How were your weekend and what were your numbers?

Posted by Chris at 6:53 AM | Comments (19)

Haiku For Monday #267

Somehow Monday seems
much worse after an awesome
long weekend. Hi, grind.

Posted by Chris at 6:52 AM | Comments (1)

May 1, 2009

The Weeklies #83

The Weekly Hysterical Affliction. Swine flu.

The Weekly Outfit. Last night, Mia was dressed in nothing other than underwear, socks and a pedometer. Kids are weird.

The Weekly Time Waster. The David Lee Roth Runnin' With The Devil Soundboard. It seriously rocks. (Thanks Rhonda)

The Weekly Read. The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris was a slow-burner. It didn't grab me at first. And even halfway through, I was thinking about bailing, shifting to something else a little more midless, a little faster. My initial reaction was that it was written by a creative writing teacher trying to show off. Turns out, it is written by a creative writing teacher but he wasn't just showing off. Morris is good. I'm glad I stuck with it. By the end of the book I was captivated and I was sad to turn the final page.

The Weekly Listen. You know who is classic and awesome? Billy Joel. His most recent live release - 12 Gardens Live - carried us all the way to Pennsylvania last weekend. And between Beth and I, we knew all the words. He still sounds pretty damn good too.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. This isn't schadenfreude but since celebrities are so often involved, I thought I'd share some nice news. Hugh Jackman learned that there were some 800 fans camped overnight outside the theater for his Wolverine premier. He sprang for $4308.87 worth of breakfast and coffee the next day for them. Finally, a celebrity who's not a complete ass.

The Weekly Hypothetical. Let's say, hypothetically, of course, that last week you finished a ginormous work thing that you've literally been working on for a year and, intensely, for a month. What do you do to celebrate? And what do you do with a Friday off?

Posted by Chris at 6:59 AM | Comments (23)


DEC08_RECENT.jpg


DEC08_ARCHIVE.jpg