August 31, 2009

We All Have Our Russells

People who know me in real life will say several things about me - that I'm nice, that I like everyone and everyone likes me. I explain that this is not always the case but no one seems to believe me. And it's true. I'm not lying to them. I'm generally well-mannered and favorable to all kinds of people but there's one stunning combination of obnoxiousness, arrogance and entitlement that causes immediate dislike. It's rare that I find someone who pushes all those buttons. When I was growing up, it was a kid named Russell. I've mentioned him a few times. He was a kid in my neighborhood who pissed me off to no end. I have not been able to trust anyone named Russell since then. And a little vindictive part of me hopes that he now spends his days making urinal cakes.

On Saturday, we hit our neighborhood pool. When we saw the family that was there, Beth and I turned to one another and said, at the same time great. Because there's an entire family of Russells in our neighborhood and try as we might, we cannot seem to get away from them.

The father is a jackass who goes to the pool, turns on his iPod and bakes in the sun while completely ignoring his children. The mother is one of those quiet, almost non-existent disciplinarians who can't seem to reprimand her children for doing anything short of torturing farm animals. The daughter is seven, and is personable enough. Mia likes her because she's older. Of course, whenever anyone cooler than my four year old daughter is around, Mia ceases to exist. Mia doesn't seem to mind. To me it's just a dick move. The son - four years old himself - is the most annoying member of the family and perhaps the most annoying child to walk the face of this great earth. He's obviously attention starved, cannot stop talking, says nearly nothing appropriate, and wants every adult in sight to watch whatever inane thing it is he's about to do.

Look, I'm not proud of the fact that I loathe a four year old kid. But I do. And the rest of his family along with him. So imagine what happened when the daughter asked Mia to come over for a play date.

The earth stopped rotating on its axis. The birds froze in the sky. The wind died, the seas stopped their roiling, and for a brief second my heart and all other autonomic bodily functions stopped while I considered the possibility that I would have to see these people - the sight of whom is the mental equivalent of nails on a chalkboard - outside the time I am forced to based on the simple dumb luck that we live in the same neighborhood and we share the same pool. My mind raced with possibilities.

  1. Move.
  2. Force them to move.
  3. Allow the playdate to happen only if they acknowledge that they too embrace Satan as their lord and master.
  4. Move.
  5. Hire a hit-man.
  6. Build a pool in the backyard and go into hiding.
  7. Move.
  8. Suck it up and accept the fact that you can't pick your neighbors and you certainly can't pick your kids' friends as shitty and unfair as that might seem.

I decided on option #3 but I'm going to consider #8 as plan-b.

Do you have any Russells? When you were growing up, did you have any friends your parents couldn't stand?

Posted by Chris at 6:36 AM | Comments (27)

Haiku For Monday #282

Summer's almost done.
Just when can I go into
hibernation? Now?

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (1)

August 28, 2009

The Weeklies #99

The Weekly Ice Cream. Ben & Jerry's Key Lime Pie.

The Weekly Loss. When my clock radio went off on Wednesday morning, I heard the voice of Ted Kennedy. I hit snooze, rolled over, then thought Ted Kennedy died. Why else would I be hearing his voice so early in the morning? Sadly, I was right. Regardless of your political persuasion, we lost a good guy this week and I'm deeply saddened by that loss.

The Weekly Scariest Product. Canned tactical bacon (TacBac). Canned bacon with a 10-year shelf life cannot be right.

The Weekly Time Waster. I'll just apologize now, in advance, for Must Pop Words.

The Weekly Music. Instead of an album, let's talk about live music. Beth and I went to see the Black Crowes on Tuesday night. It was an interesting show. Sometime over the last several years, the Crowes have transformed themselves from tight rock outfit to noodly backwoods rock and roll. That's not a bad thing. In fact, they were pretty damn good. Nearly every song was accentuated with a groove-heavy jam. It was unfocused but funky, fun to watch and listen to. So long as you weren't expecting them to actually play anything you recognized. We were a little disappointed that we were treated to only two or three of their traditional rock and roll barn burners. But the band sounded great. Lead singer Chris Robinson was awesome but brother - and supposed guitar god - Rich seemed bored, playing rhythm guitar much of the night while leaving the soloing up to Luther Dickinson who is a monster guitarist. Overall, good show, just not quite what we or, apparently, the crowd expected.

The Weekly Read. Despite the fact that I fed myself a steady diet of sci-fi when I was a kid, it's been a long time since I've read any. After reading a few reviews of John Scalzi's Old Man's War, I decided I'd pick it up. When the hell, right? I'm really, truly glad that I did. It was a fun, exceptionally written novel that reminded me of all the great old-school sci-fi novels I devoured as a kid. I immediately bought the second book in the series.

The Weekly Guilty TV Pleasure. Design Star.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. While performing in Romania, Madonna stuck up for gypsies and promptly got booed. The schadenfreude isn't so much about Madonna getting booed. I just feel sorry for the poor bastards who went to see her. Have you seen her lately? Scary. In related news, several people were recently kicked out of Britney Spears' Madison Square Garden show for - get this - "dancing provocatively". I'm sure this when down while Britney herself was shaking her ass in her corset and g-string. Hello, irony.

The Weekly Hypothetical. (Courtesy of Sarah via my Facebook group - you're a member, right?) If you had to describe yourself in terms of a pair of underwear, what kind would you be?

Posted by Chris at 6:04 AM | Comments (28)

August 27, 2009

The H1N1 Blues

Beth and I are creatures of technology. On most evenings, you'll find two laptops sitting open in the kitchen while we're doing watching TV. We'll occasionally check - check mail, check sites, check headlines - because we are both addicted. Earlier in the week, we both managed to check at the same time and we read, slightly hysterically, the same headline at the same time.


That'll get your attention. And after reading it, I got that horrible, sinking feeling, that helpless feeling like I got when all I could do was listen about the stock market tanking and wondering how it was going to impact me. Like I got when I got home on 9/11 and realized that there was actual video of the Twin Towers falling, something that hadn't even remotely occurred to me. And, the more you keep reading, the worse it gets, since the first line of the report is even more sinister than the headline, especially to parents:

The H1N1 flu virus could cause up to 90,000 U.S. deaths, mainly among children and young adults, if it resurges this fall as expected, according to a report released Monday by a presidential advisory panel.

Um, mainly among children? That's pretty much the worst thing an article could start out with. The only headline that could be more horrifying is:


But even then I could buy an arsenal of shotguns and baseball bats, hide the kids in the basement and kick some zombie and Lohan ass in an effort to protect my family. How am I supposed to protect them from the flu?

I'm not a sky is falling kinda guy. But I'll admit, this one has me a little nervous.

Are you worried about the flu, is this media hype, or is the truth somewhere in between? And what do you plan on doing in anticipation of a fall flu season?

Posted by Chris at 6:14 AM | Comments (50)

August 26, 2009

Truth In Blogging

Last week I posted a not-so-hypothetical. It centered around the Federal Trade Commission's recent requirement that bloggers disclose when they've received a product for consideration. Specifically, under the proposed changes now being considered, bloggers must disclose when they receive goods or services for review or promotion when and if they post about those goods and services. And bloggers are liable for any misrepresentation about those goods and services once posted. So, by way of an example, if I receive a three-legged puppy free of charge from Puppies R Us, when I discuss or review the puppy on my site, I'm on the hook to both tell you it was given to me and I can get sued if I pass it off as having four perfectly normal puppy legs.

My gut reaction to this is to call bullshit.

I am an authority on precisely nothing other than my life and progressive rock that approximately three of you may be remotely interested in. Other than that, I am just here in the world living my life like the rest of you. What I share with you are the facts of like (in which you take the good, you take the bad) as I know them. The rest? Opinions. But oddly enough this whole blogging thing has put me in some public spotlight whereby people are for some reason interested in my opinions. So some people send me things. And when they do I have a few hard and fast rules.

1. If whatever it is - book, CD, product, three-legged puppy - isn't something that fits in with my life or my site, I won't accept it. You all don't give a damn about oil for my car. I don't give a damn about oil for my car. If my car starts, we're cool. So I'm not about to tell someone that I'll take their oil when I have no interest in it. Nor am I about to lamely write about oil because you'd fall asleep, wouldn't comment, and that would make me feel bad.

2. This must be crystal clear - if I'm sent something lame or uninteresting or in any way unfit to write about, I will not. If there's an issue with that, what ever it is shouldn't be sent my way.

3. My opinions are mine. Honest ones will always be dispensed. There will be no drafts for review, no marketing-speak boiler-plate language included, no verbatim descriptions of three-legged puppies developed by marketing gurus and focus groups. Just my opinions, good, bad or indifferent.

4. I will disclose to my readers that I have received whatever product it is free of charge for the purposes of review.

I have these rules because I believe them to be common sense. Common sense should not in any way be legislated. Were I a blogger representing some authority other than my own - a marketing company, a newspaper, a law office - well, then, I'd expect to be somehow regulated. But I refuse to believe it's a good idea or even at all possible to hold your average everyday John Q. Blogger to regulatory truth-in-advertising practices. If I tell you that the three-legged puppy has four legs and can drive a car, knowing that neither of these things is true, maybe I can understand it. But telling you that I like the dog in the absence of full disclosure - whether or not it's true - shouldn't be the subject of a law or statute.

While I respect the end-game - to protect the consumer and encourage full disclosure - I don't want that infringing on my right to express myself and my opinions. It should not impact my writing - either the content or style - and I'm damn well not going to preface everything I say with an exhaustive accounting of why I'm saying it or the factors that could potentially influence my decision. Because that's stupid.

Here's the bottom line, what I think really bothers me most. This site is one of the few outlets I have to express myself exactly how I want. Though possibly well-intentioned, the idea of someone encroaching on that freedom really pisses me off.

So that's where I'm coming from. I know many of you shared your opinions on Friday but I want to hear more. Do you think the FTC guidelines are fair? Would you follow them? Do they infringe on free speech?

Posted by Chris at 7:08 AM | Comments (27)

August 25, 2009

Knock Knock

My daughter loves jokes. She loves hearing them, she loves telling them, and she loves making them up. And like her father, she absolutely cracks herself up to the point of nosing her milk. (To be fair, I rarely nose milk but I do make myself laugh such that telling a joke is far more amusing to me than it is the recipient.) Last night after dinner, Mia and I had a knock-knock joke-off. Here were some of Mia's:

Mia: Knock knock.
Me: Who's there?
Mia: Owen.
Me: Owen who?
Mia: Owen monkey.

Mia: Knock knock.
Me: Who's there?
Mia: Beer.
Me: Beer who?
Mia: Beer grapes.

Mia: Knock knock.
Me: Who's there?
Mia: Poopy.
Me: Poopy who?
Mia: Poopy diaper.

Mia: Knock knock.
Me: Who's there?
Mia: Brains.
Me: Brains who?
Mia: Brains xylophone.

Then Mia started working blue and went with a risque joke. (Warning: this might be somewhat objectionable.)

Mia: Knock knock.
Me: Who's there?
Mia: Bottom.
Me: Bottom who?
Mia: Bottom penis.

And then she started on her I'm Wearing jokes. Look at me, I'm wearing a chair or Look at me, I'm wearing your car or Look at me, I'm wearing a squid.

These jokes are absolutely hilarious. Mia howls and frankly so do I mainly because of the enthusiasm with which they're delivered. But, as you've probably figured out, the jokes make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

It turns out, jokes are learned things and while Mia has an awesome sense of humor, her ability to express that sense of humor hasn't quite caught up with her hilarious brain. Of course, I think I have a decent sense of humor too but I can't tell a joke to save my life. Maybe it just runs in the family.

Now it's your turn - lay your best joke on me. Seriously, I need it. I worked 16 hours yesterday.

Posted by Chris at 6:26 AM | Comments (47)

August 24, 2009

Manual Labor Jeopardy

The Answer: 8 hours, two wheelbarrows, two adults, a pitchfork, a shovel, and something akin to determination or stupidity (it's a fine line).

The Question: What does it take to move 25 yards of mulch?

When I got home from work on Friday, I was greeted with a site that stunned and mortified me. 25 yards of mulch. For those of you who don't quite grasp what 25 yards of mulch looks like, it's a full dump truck, the contents of which were piled up on the full length of my driveway. I lost a little of my will to live. But on Saturday morning around 8:00, I started shoveling.

A little later in the morning, my parents dropped by, armed with more shoveling implements and an extra wheelbarrow with which to do battle against the evil forces of shredded trees. This is how they get their revenge. My dad and I worked for about four hours then, after Beth got the kids down for their naps, she took over and the two of us drove it home. By 3:00 it was raining, and thunder started to rumble. We soldiered on and finished.

Later in the weekend, we spread the mulch, I put the finishing touches on the border and stained all the wood. And here are the results.


It is, perhaps, quite silly to feel this way but I am bruised, I am sore and I am exhausted but I can't help but feel an immense amount of satisfaction and pride that we managed to move a driveway full of mulch in a single day. I like my day job. I am very satisfied by the challenges it presents and the ways in which I have grown professionally. But jobs like mine - and, I'd argue, most of ours - don't provide that kind of immediate gratification and sense of accomplishment that moving a forest of shredded tress will give.

What's given you the greatest sense of accomplishment lately?

Posted by Chris at 6:07 AM | Comments (29)

Haiku For Monday #281

Advil. Advil and
coffee. Morning essentials
for this sore blogger.

Posted by Chris at 6:05 AM | Comments (1)

August 21, 2009

The Weeklies #98

The Weekly Milestone. This week, both kids slept through the night. Twice.

The Weekly Time Waster. Meloball. You're welcome.

The Weekly Beer. Tecate. I don't know why but maybe it's because it was hot out and the bottle was incredibly cold. Cold beer on a hot day is a magical thing. Not as magical as rainbow colored unicorns but how often do you get one of those on a cold day.

The Weekly Read. Friend and fellow blogger Lesley sent me a recommendation - Joe Schreiber's Eat The Dark. Since she and I usually have the same exact taste in books, I picked it up immediately. And I don't mind saying that it kinda fucked me up. It is a horror novel in the greatest sense of the word. I find it hard to get truly creeped out by anything I read but Eat The Dark did the trick. At less than 200 pages, it's this short burst of scary intensity that'll keep you turning pages. My only criticism - and it's my standard criticism for most horror books - was the source of the evil. I won't ruin it for you but I thought that aspect was silly. But it didn't change my overall impression of the book. If you wan something scary, pick it up.

The Weekly Thing That Pissed Me Off Disproportionately. About a year ago, I read Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. It was terrible. I wouldn't even wipe my ass with it. Max is a terrible person who filled 300 pages with evidence of just how terrible he is. What's more, the book is terribly written. Despite this, it blew up into an inexplicably huge hit. And now a movie. Can I ask a personal favor? If you're tempted to pick up the book, don't. And if you can avoid seeing the movie, please do. This asshat doesn't need the positive reinforcement.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. In the ongoing Jon and Kate saga, Jon has pitched a new reality show, something about celebrity divorced dads. I smell a winner! He's also rumored to be getting the axe from is TLC sugardaddies due to the negative press he's gotten. Can't they just fire them all on the grounds that they're stupid and pathetic? Then there's Patricia Heaton, she of Everybody Loves Raymond fame. She failed basic math in front of the world earlier this week while appearing on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Awesome.

The Weekly Not-So-Hypothetical. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently updated it's truth-in-advertising guidelines, requiring bloggers to reveal when they've been given a product to promote or paid for said promotion. I guess it's a sign that blogging has hit the big time but I don't mind saying that I feel a little infringed upon. If I get something to review - and then subsequently review it - I tell you. Because I think you should know. But I'll admit, I'm a little bitter that the government is now telling me that I have to. What say you? Should bloggers have to reveal this information? Should bloggers be on the Government's radar at all?

Posted by Chris at 6:28 AM | Comments (26)

August 20, 2009

The Bathroom Commandments

I was in the bathroom (because all good stories start with those five words) standing there at the urinal (I was at work - my bathroom at home isn't quite that well appointed) just beginning to do my thing (that thing being peeing, draining the lizard, seeing a man about a horse). It was early and I was alone. In fact, before I walked into the bathroom, before the motion-activated lights flipped on it was really and truly dark and silent.

Halfway through, zoning out staring straight ahead at the white subway tile, thinking about the day unfolding ahead of me while trying to hit the little pink urinal cake it became immediately clear that I was not alone. The scream tipped me off.


This exclamation quite literally scared the piss out of me. First, I made my default exclamation - FUCK! - then I peed all over the wall.

Given a couple moments to think about it, I started to piece together what had happened. Whoever it was down in stall #3 had fallen asleep, the lights had turned off and he'd entered dreamland, though a fairly fucked up dreamland, so fucked up in fact that I wanted to get the hell out of Dodge before he decided to make me his next victim.

Now, due to all my strange bathroom encounters, I have an extensive set of personal rules governing bathroom behavior, Bathroom Commandments, if you will. I follow them and I expect others to as well. Because they make sense.

  • Thou shalt not under any circumstances regardless of the intensity of hunger pains eat or drink while relieving one's self.
  • Thou shalt undertake no other grooming activities - for instance tooth brushing - while relieving one's self.
  • Thou shalt not fully remove any articles of clothing during one's tenure in the restroom. This includes shirts but it is especially critical that pants remain on.
  • Thou shalt not sing, dance, or stage any kind of musical or variety show in the restroom. This is distracting and weird.
  • Thou shalt not talk on the phone while performing standard bathroom operations. Thou dost not need to communicate that badly.
  • Thou shalt not sleep in the bathroom.
Do you have any commandments to add?
Posted by Chris at 6:39 AM | Comments (36)

August 19, 2009

Scare Tactics

Beth and I were watching TV the other night. Probably HGTV because we are addicted to HGTV like Eddie Murphy is addicted to bad movie scripts. Anyway, here's the setup.

There's a nice guy and a nice girl. They're in a car. It's obviously a first-date, or something close. He, being a gentleman, gets out of the car, opens her door and walks her to the front door of her place. After they make puppy-dog eyes at each other for a split second, she says something like, "I hope you understand, I just got out of a relationship." And, still the gentleman, he replies "of course" then returns to his car while we see her close the door. Seconds later, after Guy 1 drives away, we see Guy 2. It's clear he's Up To No Good. He gets out of the car motivated by obvious blind jealousy. Because he's the Ex Boyfriend. He bolts from the car, goes to the woman's door and kicks it open in a spontaneous burst of violence just as she's climbing the stairs to bed. And her burglar alarm goes off. Dissuaded by the loud noise, Guy 2 runs away. We're treated to a shot of Girl and policeman, the alarm having succeeded to save her life and call the cops simultaneously.

Never before have I seen a commercial so obviously geared towards scaring someone into a purchase. Especially one that preys on such fundamental fears. Beth was even more shocked than I was. I believe her exact response was what the fuck was that? That's bullshit! And I agree.

My dad tells a story about the worst job he ever had. He was a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman in small town Ohio. It sucked for a couple of reasons. First, it was a door-to-door sales job. And that can't be fun. Second, he was dropped off in the poorest areas of town and told to guilt trip those who could least afford the encyclopedias into buying them, to pray on the fear that their children, if uneducated, wouldn't ever make it out of the neighborhood. Needless to say, he didn't last long as an encyclopedia salesman. But can you imagine if everyone felt the need to scare us into buying whatever they're selling?

Now, I'm no marketing genius but I don't think scaring people is the most effective way of getting people to buy something. Because in order to sell something, you have to have something people actually need. And we're not only seeing this in marketing. In fact, scaring the shit out of us seemed to be the main goal of both political parties during the last election. Isn't there enough in the world to be afraid of without manufacturing more?

What gets you to buy something? Is fear a motivating factor? How much are you influenced by marketing?

Posted by Chris at 6:51 AM | Comments (32)

August 18, 2009

A Tale of Two Penises

Owen loves food - he loves blueberries, milk, Cheerios, Indian food (specifically samosas), spaghetti and tofu (seriously). Owen loves all animals but has a special fondness for dogs and cats. Owen loves his mom and his dad but goes ga-ga over his sister. Owen loves Blues Clues and Backyardigans. Owen loves to dance. Owen loves to perform death-defying maneuvers which scare his parents whenever possible. But more than any of these things, Owen loves Hibaby.

Owen was, at one point, insanely jealous of Mia's dolls. He'd find one, grab it and run off with it to hug it or kiss it or try to feed it raisins. This made Mia seethe with anger even though she only became interested in it after Owen showed interest. We decided that Owen needed a baby doll of his own. Beth ordered one, it arrived, and the second it was removed from the box Owen was in love. He yelled hi baby and waved, then sprinted and plucked it from Beth's arms. And ever since that fateful day, the doll has been dubbed Hibaby.


Hibaby is a constant companion. He eats with us frequently, accompanies us on car rides and is without fail a bedtime companion. Hibaby is lavished with kisses and frequently stripped naked. Owen loves to be naked and thinks everyone should be too. It was during this first foray into Hibaby nudity that we discovered two things:

Thing 1: Hibaby is anatomically correct.
Thing 2: Hibaby is hung.

So now Owen is obsessed with two penises. Hibaby's and his own.

Did you have a favorite toy as a kid? What possession did you most love?

Posted by Chris at 6:24 AM | Comments (25)

August 17, 2009

Price Gouging. Or, Why Parents Are Suckers

I am sometimes very naive. Latest example...

So, we got the playset - you remember playset, right? It was moderately expensive and the fee for having three men dick us around for a month then finally cobbling it together was nominal, though certainly more than I'd care to part with on any regular basis. Like a fool, I naively dusted off my hands and thought we're done. But no.

See, to make these things safe, you have to load a ton of mulch around them, six feet in either direction and to keep said mulch in place, from blowing all over your yard or smothering small woodland creatures, you have to have a nice, tall border. For some strange reason, I didn't not envision this as an opportunity for someone to make more money off of me. Silly.

Did you know that rubber mulch - it's cool, it comes in colors, and is made from recycled tires so that your kids bounce after a fall - costs about a trillion dollars per cubic yard? And I don't know quite how many cubic yards we'd need because I'm not good at math but I'm guessing somewhere between 1 and 1.5 metric dickloads. And the border? Turns out, depending on what kind you want, that's about a hundred bucks per millimeter. And ours would measure somewhere around 140 feet.

I decided, therefore, to do everything myself. This weekend, I made not one but two trips to Home Despot (that was an intentional spelling error, FYI) and packed the car with more lumber than I thought it could carry. $300 later, I secured myself an eight-hour yard gig. I am tired, burned, and incredibly sore but we now have 140 feet of 10 inch high border, a mostly dug-up yard inside the perimeter, and sheets of weed-preventing fabric covering the ground. All awaiting mulch. Not the dead-tire kind. The dead-tree kind. The dead trees are much cheaper. It turns out I'm something of a fair-weather environmentalist.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to hobble to the kitchen to get some more coffee and maybe some Advil. I am, apparently, cheap and old.

And how are you this Monday morning? What did you do with your weekend?

Posted by Chris at 6:33 AM | Comments (31)

Haiku For Monday #280

I enjoy every
chance to face a challenge but
Mondays ain't my thing.

Posted by Chris at 6:31 AM | Comments (2)

August 14, 2009

The Weeklies #97

The Weekly Unbelievable Fact. I've done this 97 times.

The Weekly Time Waster. Red Remover.

The Weekly Spiritual Rebirth. Apparently Omarosa - you probably remember her as the evil reality TV show villain from Trump's Apprentice - is entering a convent. Seriously. No joke. Or at least, not yet.

The Weekly Book. I desperately wanted Michael Craven's Body Copy to be good. I really did. But as I flew thought it - because it was a pretty simplistic read with a straightforward plot - I couldn't help but think that Craven was trying to draw too heavily on the spirit of John MacDonald and Don Wilson's Dawn Patrol. And Dawn Patrol was such an exquisite book, Body Copy couldn't help but fail in comparison. On Amazon and just about everywhere else, Body Copy has gotten excellent reviews. I can't help but think that I'm missing something. But I'm afraid I'm not.

The Weekly Photo. Wine? A pain reliever? Oh yes, grocery store, you do speak the truth.


The Weekly Departure From This Earthly Plane. Les Paul - inventor, musician, guitar god. If you're listening to music now, chances are he somehow made whatever you're listening to possible.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. It's not (sadly) my creation, but you might get a good schadenfreudy laugh out of poorly placed internet ads.

The Weekly Hypothetical. What author writes the book of your life?

Posted by Chris at 7:25 AM | Comments (15)

August 13, 2009


#1. In case you're wondering, the dinner I cooked for Beth on Monday consisted of a nice insalata caprese - tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar - followed by mushroom and rosemary risotto. It was good, if I do say so myself.

#2. I was fairly disappointed in the So You Think You Can Dance finale. I thought both Brandon and Kayla got robbed, probably Brandon most of all.

#3. Owen is a hardcore talker. My recent favorites? Saying hi to everything. Saying uh-oh whenever he accidentally or not-so-accidentally drops something. And asking for Mia wherever he goes. The boy loves his sister.

#4. I am more bummed by the disappearance of an amusement park than I think I should be. I even brought it up to a coworker today, also from Houston. We both lamented its passing.

#5. I got my hair cut tonight. Because I forgot to schedule the appointment early combined with the fact that I'm actually quite lazy, my hair was long. And very gray. The grayness doesn't bother me from an appearance perspective but from an age perspective, it doesn't exactly thrill me.

#6. I wouldn't actually punch a midget if I was forced to listen to any part of the Sound of Music soundtrack. I'm all talk when it comes to violence against midgets. Or violence in general.

Posted by Chris at 8:36 PM | Comments (7)

The Return of Crazy Slingshot Man

Last week I mentioned Mia's deep and abiding love of musicals. Her life is, actually, a musical. She sings. Constantly. Even while she pees. Her devotion to music is impressive. Her latest love is Grease. This would be awesome if it weren't for the fact that several parts of Grease are vastly inappropriate for a four year old. Beauty School Dropout, for instance, with it's references to hookers or Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee featuring Elvis' pelvis or even Greased Lightnin, the pussy wagon. Awesome. Pussy wagon. That's sure to become an instant Mia classic. I'll just tell her its a car for cats. I much preferred her previous obsession with The Sound of Music, as much as I loathed certain songs (Edleweiss makes me want to punch midgets and that whole Sixteen Going On Seventeen song could only be worse if it was performed by tone-deaf Celine Dion impersonating transvestites). But I can't control everything my kid hears, sees or likes, as much as I'd like to. That's a position I'm trying to resign myself to. Society isn't, however, helping.

Like when we were watching How It's Made the other day because Mia was curious how music boxes and canoes were constructed. Right in the middle of the show - which was pre-recorded and viewed using On-Demand - there was an ad for some insanely brutal looking show called Whale Wars which featured a dismembered whale hanging off the side of a ship. Luckily, Mia didn't notice. I know, four year olds aren't exactly the Science Channel's target demographic so I'll let them off the hook. But Animal Planet? Shame on you. Right in the middle of a nice, happy show about fluffy little dogs that was clearly geared for kids was an ad for some insanely dark looking show about monkeys and I watched this ad in horror as my TV screen was splashed with blood, so astounded that the only thing I could think of doing to distract the kids was to spontaneously fall down. Which I did. And it kinda worked.

Don't get me wrong. I'm totally not about censoring television - or anything, for that matter - just applying some common sense. Not slippery-slope common sense like yeah, that McCarthy guy might be onto something so let's just let him interview some people in front of Congress but, you know, normal common sense that would prevent my television from being drenched in blood in the middle of a show obviously targeted towards a children's demographic. The problem I'm beginning to sense, though, is that such common sense doesn't exist.

Case in point: You can imagine how impressed and happy I was when I heard Mia utter the words Hannah Montana for the first time a few weeks ago. In her defense, she heard the name somewhere and I doubt she could put a name to a face. But, thanks to a recent performance, we can all safely put an ass to a face. (That didn't sound right but follow me here.) Yes, Hannah's real-life alter ego Miley Cyrus performed at the Teen Choice awards. Wearing booty-shorts. On a stripper pole. And might I remind you she's 16. Now that's some fucking awesome parenting. And unfortunately the rest of us parents get to suffer from the mistakes of Mr. Achy Breakey Heart.

I have promised Beth that I won't be an uptight father. She apparently doesn't quite believe me. She won't let me buy a shotgun and practice target shooting on silhouettes of the teenage boys that might, someday, try to pick up my daughter. So I'm going to buy a slingshot, practice night and day and become a goddamn good shot. I will be legendary.

Guy 1: So, I think I'll ask Mia out.
Guy 2: Oh, yeah, she's cute. Just watch out for her dad.
Guy 1: What do you mean?
Guy 2: You haven't heard?
Guy 1: No.
Guy 2: He's that crazy asshole with a slingshot. Takes shots at every guy who sets foot in his yard.
Guy 1: Oh, that guy. How do you know so much?
Guy 2: How do you think I lost my left nut?
Guy 1: Oh, uh, yeah. I heard about that. But doesn't he know that he can't protect her forever and, at the same time is shielding her from valuable social experiences every child must go through?
Guy 2: Probably. But he's a hell of a shot.
Guy 1: Yeah.
Guy 2: I miss my nut.

Posted by Chris at 6:57 AM | Comments (25)

August 12, 2009

Um, Anyone Lose An Amusement Park?

In 1968, Roy Hofheinz built a 75 acre theme park in Houston, Texas. Called AstroWorld, Hofeinz located it just across the street from his previous accomplishment, the Astrodome. This was not a second-rate theme park. In the south, I'll go so far as to say that it was second only to Disney World, though it actually predated Disney World by three years.

I have no real recollection of the number of times I visited AstroWorld. It was an end-of-school-year staple and a summer hot-spot. At the time, it was a place where parents could turn their kids loose for the day, telling them to meet at the base of Greezed Lightnin' or the Texas Cyclone at the end of the day. Everyone would be exhausted.

Now, I love maps, especially Google Maps. I can look at far off places and old haunts. So the other day, I was looking at my old home town, poking around the Astrodome. I moved south, a bit, and my heart literally sank. This is what I should have seen:


And this is what I saw:


You see how I might have been a little thrown, right? Uh, guys, you seem to have misplaced an amusement park. Sadly, no, it's not merely lost. It's gone. Forever. Four years ago, the mighty AstroWorld closed its gates for the very last time. It's coasters were dismantled and sent to other parks around the country (even the world) if not destroyed completely. Hofheinz' 75 acres now sit vacant.

I'm no more or less attached to stuff - to things, possessions - than the next guy. And I know that profit dictates things such as these - Hofheinz's sale of AstroWorld to Six Flags and Six Flags' eventual closure of the park (and now Six Flags' bankruptcy which serves those bastards right for shutting down AstroWorld). But I'm a little bitter when the landmarks of my childhood fall victim. I mean, you can never go home again, that much is true. But it's a real bitch when the parts of home are rendered missing.

What were your favorite haunts growing up? And are they still around?

Posted by Chris at 6:32 AM | Comments (39)

August 11, 2009

The Original Mythbuster

Dear Astrid Lindgren,

You are (or were because Wikipedia tells me that you're now very dead) a world renowned children's book author. You have been translated into 95 languages and sold over 145 million copies of your books. And for some reason, up until now I'd never heard of you. And it could have stayed that way.

Earlier in the week, Mia went to the library to pick out books. She returned with a copy of your Lotta's Easter Surprise. That evening, Mia and I sat down to read it. It was fairly insipid, boring, populated with whiny characters and had a slightly depressing atmosphere about it. Luckily, Mia got bored after a few pages. Beth had better - or worse, depending on how you look at it - luck. She made it through to the end. And she was more than a little surprised when, two pages from the conclusion, you attempted to blow my child's belief system out of the water.

There, in black and white, shittily illustrated, was the revelation that Santa doesn't exist. Worse (yes, it can get worse), you took the Easter Bunny down with him.

Luckily, Beth was reading ever so slightly ahead and was able to maneuver quickly around these landmines. Mia was none the wiser.

Question - why did you feel it was necessary to fuck with my child's belief system, especially in so unassuming a manner? And shouldn't a book containing said revelation come with a big-ass warning sticker on the front that says something like DANGER: This Book Will Fuck Your Kid Up And Make Him Cry And He'll Never Believe Another Word You Say, Especially That Thing About Uncle Phil Moving To The Farm In A Remote Part Of Western Canada That Oddly Has No Phone or Mailing Address.

Word of warning to you parents out there - Astrid Lindgren is not to be trusted. And with all those books still in print, who knows what else she's revealed? The Tooth Fairy? Monsters in the closet? The Kennedy Assassination? Mom and dad's horizontal dancing sessions in the bedroom? Is nothing sacred?!

Warm regards from the right side of the dirt,

Posted by Chris at 7:35 AM | Comments (23)

August 10, 2009

My Wife Is Awesome Day 2009

Happy My Wife Is Awesome Day. Okay, undoubtedly, you're scratching your heads trying to figure out a) how you missed such a momentous day or b) what the hell I'm talking about. You are excused from such a lapse in holiday awareness. Today is the first annual and randomly occurring My Wife Is Awesome Day. Let me explain.

Right now as I type, my wife is upstairs asleep. Were she actually awake - and she very well might be in the process of waking up - she would be operating under the assumption that I was heading to work shortly, having put on my suit and tie. But that's not really how the day is going to play out. I have, unbeknownst to her, taken the day off. In a few minutes I'll start a nice breakfast for her. After that, she's got an appointment at a posh spa for a massage. And then I'll be cooking her a nice, rich and totally indulgent gourmet dinner. Because, believe it or not, I can totally do shit like that.

Why am I doing all this? Because, as the title of the day clearly articulates, my wife is awesome. Like me, I think most of you know that already. But, specifically, my wife puts up with a lot of shit which seems to emanate from my general direction. This is partially due to the fact that I'm somewhat neurotic, slightly obsessive compulsive, overly opinionated and frequently a giant pain in the ass. Not that she's completely devoid of her own shit but, well, I honestly think I'm, uh, full of more. She's a fantastic mom. My kids are totally lucky to have her in their corner. And she's my best friend, and has been for sixteen years.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have breakfast to cook and a gourmet dinner to plan.

Posted by Chris at 7:05 AM | Comments (52)

Haiku For Monday #279

I have a secret.
Tell you about it in a
minute. Then, shhh! 'kay?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (2)

August 7, 2009

The Weeklies #96

The Weekly Commodity In Short Supply. Sleep.

The Weekly Thing That Scares The Shit Out Of Me But Also Makes Me Laugh In An Awkward Kinda Way. The Kate Gosselin Halloween costume.

The Weekly Time Waster. Do you Twitter? Tired of seeing the "fail whale"? Now you can waste it in Die Fail Whale.

The Weekly TV Addiction. So You Think You Can Dance. And don't you even consider telling me who won last night. I've got it TiVoed and will be watching it tonight with the enthusiasm of a 12 year old girl at a Miley Cyrus concert.

The Weekly Read. Seven or eight years ago, I picked up a copy of Carter Beats The Devil. Guess what? I finally got around to reading it! Was it worth the wait? Oh hell yes. Carter Beats The Devil is one of those books you can just get lost in. It's so deeply woven, richly detailed and, more than anything, a lot of fun. Gold's style lends itself to the time period - the early 1900's - but doesn't try too hard or sound in any way contrived. He also provided a seamless blend between historical fact and fiction which was compelling and forced me to do some research myself out of curiosity. It's been a long time since I've read something this epic, this rich.

The Weekly Music. You've probably never heard of The Morning Benders, but you have to love their name. Their most recent album, Talking Through Tin Cans isn't bad either. It's the kind of great, low-key feel-good indie music that makes people who never existed in the 60's say it's got a really 60's vibe. The music is strong - not very tight but not lo-fi or cobbled together - and the lyrics are fun and smart.

The Weekly Awesome Advertisement. Snuggies...for dogs.

The Weekly Anti-Schadenfreude. Yeah, that's right - this week? Good news. Bill Clinton is still a rock star. On Tuesday, he swooped into North Korea and somehow secured the release of the two American journalists held for the past five months.

The Weekly Quote. You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed. Rest in peace John Hughes.

Posted by Chris at 7:07 AM | Comments (20)

August 6, 2009

The Refresh Culture

Back before Christmas, I was waiting for a big work thing. It was set to be announced via the internet. I had a browser window I never closed totally dedicated to the site. I refreshed it often. So often, in fact, that I became a little paranoid, convinced that geek ninjas would drop by in the night, disabling my computer or revoking my internet surfer's license so that I'd stop overtaxing their servers with my rapid-fire requests. It was kinda pathetic, actually. The thing finally hit the net in February. A lot of refreshing happened.

In retrospect, it hit me that I wasn't just this way with that specific thing. I'm this way all the time. And I suspect a lot of people are.

I'm an immediate gratification kind of guy. This behavior shouldn't surprise me. I'm networked, plugged in and connected - blog, smartphone, text messages, email, Google Voice, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and GoodReads are all part of my daily vocabulary. There's pretty much no way you can't reach me. And I can be gotten instantaneously. And get others, information, and feedback instantaneously too. And apparently that isn't quite fast enough.

At the same time, something else is going on.

I'm not a phone person. I'd rather use IM for quick questions and conversations. I really do realize that email is a fairly inferior form of communication but I tend to prefer it over the phone as well. And while I know that meetings do have to happen, that face-to-face conversations are vastly more effective, well, I'd like to avoid those. Because while I sound all extroverted, I'm really quite the opposite. I'm hyper-aware of these tendencies and do my best to ensure I don't disadvantage myself in the process. So it's curious that I've noticed the same things coming out in others. Phone calls instead of face-to-face meetings. Email instead of phone calls. Texts instead of email. While we're all trying to gather tons of information, opinions, see what people are saying in response to us, we're also, bizarrely, physically distancing ourselves from one another, from those from whom we seem to so desperately want input.

This all, somehow, when thought about together, seems perverse.

Is technology making you more or less social?

Posted by Chris at 6:38 AM | Comments (40)

August 5, 2009

The Word

On Sunday evening, coughing, stuffy yet unwilling to blow her nose, Mia fell asleep to the strains of Frankie Valli. She's obsessed with musicals, you see. And to her, right now, Grease is the word.

For some mysterious reason, Mia refuses to blow her nose once the sun has set. Perhaps she's hoarding snot for the apocalypse. Who knows. So sprinkled throughout the evening on Sunday were frustrated cries from her room. I'd go up, calm her down, and she'd be set for a half hour, maybe more, maybe less. The writhing in frustration began around 10:00. I scooped her up and we went to snuggle in the guest room. We were there the rest of the night.

Monday found everyone much improved. Mia was in rare form, putting on a show which sounded straight out of vaudeville. She called it Lady Sasha and Her Educated Monkeys. There was singing and dancing but we were a little unclear how the educated monkeys factored into the whole thing. Then a saleslady knocked and Mia was very frustrated that I wouldn't let her (Mia, not the saleslady) stand in front of the door in her (again, Mia, not the saleslady) underwear. This prompted a conversation about the appropriateness of wearing underwear in public and the differences between what women and men can get away with wearing - or not wearing - outside the house. Somehow all that led to both children playing what was, for them, a tremendously hilarious game involving my nipples and the pinching thereof. We will not be playing that game anytime soon.

Yet despite the better moods and healthier attitudes, the entire process played itself out again on Monday night. Frankie Valli, humidifiers, snuggles in the guest room. Later, rinse, repeat. Around 11:00, I got the call from Mia that it was time to move into the guest room to snuggle. So that's what we did.

I want things to be good, people to be healthy and everyone to be happy. When I can't make that happen, I get incredibly frustrated. So it's an intense experience when my kids are sick, when I can't snap my fingers and make everything better. But then, thinking back, I know that I did make things better. We cuddled and as we did, her breathing slowed, got deeper, her coughing stopped and miraculously, she slept.

I spent a long time as a dad wondering what, aside from a penis, sperm and an income, I was around for. Because mom is the go-to when you're under a certain age. But now, I'm Mia's go-to when she's sick, when she can't sleep, when she wants to tell me about all the evil things her mom made her do (like eat carrots, the sadistic woman!). And that need has to be pretty much the most fulfilling thing ever.

Dad. That's the word.

What's your word today?

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

August 4, 2009

Further Proof Beer And Reality Television Will Fix Anything

There are two stories in the news that I'm exceptionally tired of hearing about because, quite honestly, they mean sweet fuck-all to me and the world as we know it. Okay, I lied. Three. There are three stories.

I'm tired of hearing about Jon and Kate especially since they both seem to be terrible people. Jon, because he's been running around Europe and the Hamptons with various fame-seeking, barely legal hot-chick-opportunists (which Beth swears is exactly what I'd do if I suddenly became hugely wealthy and/or single but I so wouldn't) and Lindsay Lohan's dad (and talk about fame-seeking whore). And Kate is just as much of a shrew as she ever was, with her reverse porcupine mullet and heightened perception of her own importance. Plus, she's getting a crash-pad in the DC area, reportedly to be close to her new boy-toy who, apparently, isn't afraid of the prospect of being stabbed through the heart with a stray piece of heavily hair-sprayed white-lady weave.

Conclusion: Jon and Kate are irrelevant. If they were concerned about their kids, they'd drop out of public view and get their shit together. Obviously, they don't care that much.

I'm tired of Sara Palin because, well, she's Sarah Palin. Isn't that reason enough? She's noteworthy now only because she's a quitter. She swore an oath to do her job to the best of her ability (seriously, the text of the oath of office prescribed by the Constitution of the State of Alaska states in part I will faithfully discharge my duties as governor to the best of my ability) and apparently quitting her job is just about the extent of what we can expect from her. That's kinda like going to a bank and withdrawing $100 and the teller stopping at $60. My dad always taught me that when you quit something you limit your options in the future. I used to hate that speech but now, in retrospect, he was totally correct.

Conclusion: Palin might try a presidential run in 2012 but the best should hope for is another Emmy nomination for Tina Fey and a sequel to Nailin' Palin.

I'm tired of the whole Harvard Home Invasion debacle. Sure, race relations have a long way to go. Sure, black men in this country are unfairly targeted. Sure, cops sometimes overreact. But I'm not altogether sure that this is a case of any of those things. My perception of this incident (perception, because I wasn't there) was that this was a fuck up. Fuck ups happen. People apologize. And while I think Obama's Beer Summit was a great idea, the fanfare with which it was hyped totally overshadowed the intended laid-back approach to the whole affair. And, as I mentioned on Facebook, I'm no beer snob but did Obama really voluntarily choose Bud Light? Or did some team of staff members spend a week studying the beer-drinking habits of the Democratic base and determine that Bud Light was the most politically neutral beer Obama could publicly imbibe?

Conclusion: Beer is magical. It tastes yummy, especially on a nice hot day. And while beer is probably single-handedly responsible for some college dropouts, the occasional car accident and impromptu sex in the backrooms of bars around the world, I just can't make myself believe that beer's magical properties extend to healing America's racial divide and equality in the delivery of justice.

Maybe the Harvard professor and the cop should star in a reality TV show together. And maybe Jon and Kate should sit down and have a beer together. Sarah Palin can just go drink alone. There. Problems solved.

Posted by Chris at 6:40 AM | Comments (19)

August 3, 2009

Deluxe Apartment Playset In The Sky

And it's up.

Somehow, for some reason it took three men around 14 hours (42 combined) to get it done but, when they finally got through dicking around with us, it all came together nicely. Sure, they had to work well into the darkness but I'm afraid that I don't feel all that sorry for them. And it would appear as if two of the dudes had to give up a day of pot smoking in order to accomplish said construction with a marginal amount of sobriety but, again, not sorry.

We have a little bit to do before it's 100% done. Like dump a truckload of mulch around it and also find a little place to put Mia's playhouse which took up residence on our deck last summer. We kinda feel like the kids will get a lot of use out of this for a long time. They can play on it now, chill out alone with friends when they're older and pout and hide when they're inevitably moody teenagers. It's only been up for a few days but they already love it. And they damn well better. This hasn't exactly been the cheapest idea we've ever had.

Now, do you think they'll appreciate this outpouring of parental generosity enough to, you know, sleep?

(Oh, and good morning. How were your weekends?)

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

Haiku For Monday #278

Sometimes I wonder
strange things, like if Chuck Norris
wears boxers or briefs.

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (4)