June 30, 2010

Perfect Strangers

Do you ever make up elaborate stories about complete strangers?

I ask because I tend to. But I also talk to myself out loud and when I was a kid believed that there was a tiny elf named Pixie Pete that lived in my house and visited me in the night. So I'm not what literature would call a reliable narrator. But I do worn about people. Case in point - the people who run my neighborhood dry cleaners.

When I started going to that particular dry cleaners it became immediately clear to me that the owners were husband and wife. The husband is an older gentleman, maybe around 70, a tall, lanky American, slightly stooped. The wife is a bit younger but only by five years or so. She's an elegant woman who has aged well. She is Korean. They both have an amazing talent for remembering me - first and last name and my last name isn't easy - whenever I walk through their door. And seeing that I'm fairly lazy and only end up dropping off laundry once or twice a month, at most, it's pretty impressive. That's why I go back.

I'm afraid to ask them about their story. It's really none of my business. So I imagine that they met when he was a young soldier in Korea. He was, perhaps, an Army officer. She, a teacher in a local school. He and his fellow officers strolled past the school on their way to a local bar each evening. Maybe it was during those walks that they first saw each other. And seeing each other turned out to be a highlight of their days so they closely, secretly watched their clocks to ensure they were in the same place at the same time on each day. One day, for whatever reason, they were thrust together or ripped apart but whatever the cause, they found each other again, fell in love, moved to America and lived happily ever after.

Everyone has a story, how they came to be, well, them. Sometimes if we don't we don't know the truth, we fill in the gaps with our imaginations. Me, well, I like the story of my Dry Cleaning Couple.

Back to my question - do you make up stories about strangers? And how amusing is people watching to you?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (18)

June 29, 2010

Soapy Balls

Look, I hate to say it because it's crass but there's no other way of putting this - McGuyver was a pussy. Okay, sure he took down a nuclear missile headed for downtown L.A. with a whistle, a can of AquaNet and a highlighter (yellow). And he saved himself and a hundred other doomed souls in a pilotless private plane headed towards Mount Rushmore with tin-foil and a riding crop. And you can't forget liberating himself and a cadre of American political prisoners from a Central American jail using only a coconut, a toothpick and a bottle of Orangina. (Okay, I made these up because I can't remember the specifics from a single McGuyver episode.)

That's all well and good but he never had to get a golf ball out of a bathtub drain. Which is so much harder than it sounds.

Now, I'm not sure about the exact configurations of your tubs because I haven't yet snuck into all your houses in the middle of the night while you're sleeping but in our house the tub drains are the exact same dimensions of a soapy wet golf ball. What was I doing with my soapy wet balls in the tub - with children present - you may be asking? It's unclear but one kid or the other dragged them into the tub.

I won't bore you with the physics of removing a golf ball from a tub drain. Because I don't understand the physics of removing a golf ball from a tub drain or physics in general. But a number of options were tried which illustrate the futility.

  • Hands. It is impossible to remove a golf ball from a tub drain with your hands. The ball is, as we've established, soapy and wet, and the suction from the drain itself doesn't exactly make the ball a willing participant.
  • Thick paper. Paper and water do not mix. Duh.
  • Old credit cards. Thin and flexible. You'd think that would be a good enough combination to get around and under the ball but no such luck.
  • Qtips. See thick paper. Also? Bendy.
  • Yelling at the ball. Oddly this too failed.

At one point, Mia looked at me and said daddy, we might just have to call someone and I nearly resigned myself to closing the door and telling the kids okay, we're just never using this bathroom again. Nearly. I spied a doorstop loose in the wall, wrestled it out and noticed that it had a pointy end. And then I stabbed the golf ball through the heart, vampire-like, and plucked it from the tub. The children cheered. I quietly uttered take that you little fucker. And all was right with the world.

When was your last heroic moment?

Posted by Chris at 6:28 AM | Comments (16)

June 28, 2010

Ghosts of Fashion

Sunday was an interesting fashion day around the Cactus-Fish house. Both kids picked their own outfits. Mia's was relatively, uncharacteristically subdued - an orange shirt clashed with pink capris but otherwise there were no massive fashion crimes. Owen, on the other hand, was considerably more complicated in his self-styling. He wore:

  • Two shirts, one normal, one jammies, both inside out;
  • A dozen of those rubber-band bracelets that turn into animals or whatever when you take them off (if you don't know what these are, you clearly have no children or you aren't 12)
  • One bright red fingernail painted by Beth after some severe pressure
  • Rain boots
  • Swim goggles
  • No pants, or, if pants were worn, jorts
  • Bright yellow gardening gloves complete with cute little green caterpillars

It was quite a sight. I imagine the folks at the grocery store thought so too when Beth dared to take him with her. But it's not like I'm one to talk.

I, myself, had some pretty severe fashion violations. Two still make me tremble with regret to this very day. The first was influence by the trend that was Miami Vice in the early to mid-eighties. It consisted of white pants, a white blazer and a pink paisley shirt. If I'd had a Ferrari, a two-day growth of beard, a badge, a gun and a crocodile that kept me company on my sailboat, I very well might have gotten away with this. But no. I was a 12 year-old suburban kid who thought Don Johnson was the epitome of cool. The second was quite possibly worse. Apparently around the same time I fancied myself something of a Billy Idol type. I had, after all, the blond hair which could easily be spiked and I could do that Billy Idol sneer/lip thing. Of course, I was also - as I mentioned - a suburban kid who knew nothing about white weddings, rebel yells or eyes without faces though if I kept this fashion up, I'd grow accustomed to dancing with myself. This did not deter me. One evening, for a party, I casually threw on a gray vest with tons of zippers, an English driving cap, a nylon belt and - wait for it - parachute pants. It's amazing I ever found someone to marry me.

There were, of course, others. Like oversized Ray-Bans, fluorescent t-shirts that ordered those around me to relax because Frankie said to, and multiple Swatches worn at the same time. I'm comforted by the fact that I'm surely not alone.

What were your gravest fashion violations?

Posted by Chris at 6:47 AM | Comments (35)

Haiku For Monday #324

You know what would make
this Monday so much better?
My first thought? Tuesday.

Posted by Chris at 6:45 AM

June 25, 2010

The Weeklies #138

The Weekly Affliction. A packed calendar which included more meetings that you can shake a stick at, teaching two classes, and driving to West Virginia and back.

The Weekly Opinion. I just did a very quick survey of the answers you provided to the question I posed yesterday. Like the majority of those who responded, I am against the death penalty. For a lot of reason, none of which I'm going to weigh you down with early on a Friday morning. Thanks for providing your thoughts and insight.

The Weekly Canned Meat Product. I'm a vegetarian but I'm willing to make an exception for canned unicorn meat.

The Weekly Non-Canned Meat Product. Lion burger anyone?

The Weekly Read. Those of you who've read for a while know that I have a tiny crush on writer Lisa Lutz. Her Spellman novels are all kinds of smart and funny and awesome. The Spellmans Strike Again is no exception. Lutz pulls off a rare thing. Most series tend to get tired after a while. But four books in, Lutz's series is going strong and actually getting better.

The Weekly Music. Vuvuzelas everywhere!

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Poor Stanley McChrystal. An outstanding general who was unable to exercise good judgment and keep his mouth shut. McChrystal managed to orchestrate his own ousting by trash-talking the President, the Vice President and a handfull of others as reporters followed him around - with his approval - for a month.

The Weekly Question From Mia. When you were a kid, did you play sports? What was your favorite?

Posted by Chris at 7:26 AM | Comments (26)

June 24, 2010

Crime and Punishment

Can I ask you a personal question? I want you to level with me. Where do you guys come down on the death penalty?

I'm sure I've broached the subject before - I've been writing here for, like seven years and I'm not creative enough to avoid repetition. But I ask now because I got some interesting comments and email about the guy in Utah who was executed by firing squad last week. And that, of course, led to me wondering what you thought about it and the death penalty.

I grew up in Texas which I'm sure colored if not formed outright my opinions. When I was a kid, I took at least two trips to the Huntsville Prison Rodeo. The rodeo always had an edge to it. Probably because everything was performed by inmates who didn't much give a damn what happened to them. I mean, it was either that or trying not to drop soap. Huntsville is also where Texas' death row inmates go to die. It's a fact that's hard to forget when you visit. Since the death penalty was reinstated in the US in 1976, Texas has executed 459 at Huntsville. My current home - Virginia - comes in a distant second with 107 prisoners executed since '76. Nationwide, 1,215 people have been executed since 1976 and 3,287 people are current on death row.

Go ahead, open up the comments and tell me what you think. No opinions are wrong. You're entitled to them. No one - myself included - will think any less of you if we don't happen to agree.

(Yes, I did notice that I didn't exactly tell you where I came down on the death penalty argument. I did that for a reason.)

Posted by Chris at 7:08 AM | Comments (59)

June 23, 2010

Do The Right Thing (A Rude Cactus Joint)

I'm a lazy asshole. No, really. I know you guys tell me all the time how amazing it is that I do as much as I do in a day, and how I'm a kind and patient father. I appreciate that, really I do. But you've been had. I'm a lazy asshole. Because - like most of us - I don't like doing the hard stuff in life. I'm trying to get better, less lazy and less asshole.

I have this little - and really unoriginal - mantra that I've started playing in my head. Do the right thing. It goes around and around, its volume increasing when I veer farther and farther away from the right thing. Now I'm not talking about knocking over liquor stores or punching hookers. The right things I have to encourage myself to do are things like flossing before I go to bed or not buying a dozen books at the bookstore because our monthly budget is blown or not saying fuck in front of the kids when all I really want to say is would you just go the fuck to bed already? These are not right things of epic proportions. They're the right things that make my little world go round on a daily basis.

None of us like to do hard things. Like, I went four years without seeing a dentist and then paid a massive and somewhat painful price for such avoidance which is where that whole flossing thing comes from. And doing the right thing pays off. Two consecutive dentist visits and I haven't had to have any work done that requires a hypodermic needle, a drill and a sadistic grin. I'll admit to occasionally pretending to be asleep when the kids wake up in the night. I've gotten better about getting up. Especially since whenever Beth intervenes in the middle of the night she's met with a rather unhappy Owen screaming my want daddy. Smaller and less frequent ice cream portions have also become necessary so I don't have a coronary at age 40 or develop man-boobs.

Overall, I'd say my Do The Right Thing Percentage is somewhere around 92.4%. Which is pretty good for a lazy asshole.

How often do you do the right thing? And what's the last right thing you had to talk yourself into doing?

Posted by Chris at 6:46 AM | Comments (18)

June 22, 2010

Swim, Baby, Swim (Revisited)

Allow me once again to be a boastful, bragging father. On Saturday Mia had her first ever swim meet. Sure, she came in last in both races she swam but to me she completely kicked ass. Luckily for you I had my camera with me so you can see just how awesome she was.

Owen held a competition of his own, taking on a donut the size of his head. He got so into it, he attracted quite a crowd of onlookers. Owen 0, donut 1.

Mia got a little last-minute coaching.


And she's off.


When she comes up for air, she really comes up for air.


If you look closely, she's totally got her tongue hanging out.


The next race was the backstroke. We think this is her I'm gonna kick your ass face.


Off she goes!


Hi dad! Yeah, I had a long lens on the camera but perhaps I got a little distractingly close.


and that, my friends, is my awesome little girl.

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (18)

June 21, 2010


It's neat, I guess, that there's a whole day set aside for fathers. Sure, it might be a greeting card holiday developed in some corporate board room - by men - designed to sell cards and, maybe, get wives to serve up a manhattan and a cigarette when they got home (I choose to believe that this was a holiday cooked up by Darren Stevens and Larry Tate in the early 60's and if you don't understand that reference, please look it up but don't tell me about it because it will make me feel old) but its nice to be recognized.

But I have to admit, when I contemplate Father's Day, I end up thanking the lord Ronnie James Dio that I've got moms in my life.

As a dad, I have it easy. Sure, I get up every morning and head to work to earn the cash but I get to rejoin the real world. You know, the world where people go out to lunch at nice restaurants, have meetings to discuss all the stuff they have rattling around their brains, and communicate with other similarly knowledgable adults. While I am always a father, I get to escape fatherhood's duties for at least a few hours a day. Beth doesn't, at least not often.

And while dads can't replace moms any more than moms can't replace dads, its moms that are the heroes in this equation. Moms provide a child's entire world for nine months and struggle to set that life free. Its moms who, at least for the first few years of life, get called in the middle of the night, administer healing kisses to boo-boos, and vanquish a bad dream.

I guess what I'm trying to say in a very long-winded, roundabout way is this. I am honored to be a father. It is the greatest job I have ever had. I often finding myself thinking holy shit, I'm a dad and while this shouldn't be any great surprise after five years of dadhood, it still takes me by surprise and humbles me greatly. But I couldn't be the dad I am without the wife I have. And the beautiful kids the two of us brought, together, into the world.

Happy belated Father's Day to all the dads out there. And to all the moms who help them be great dads.

Posted by Chris at 6:57 AM | Comments (13)

Haiku For Monday #323

This week? Crazy as
college pledge week without all
the fun binge drinking.

Posted by Chris at 6:55 AM

June 18, 2010

The Weeklies #137

The Weekly Addiction. It's time to come out and admit that I'm addicted to Google Earth for no apparent reason.

The Weekly Sad Fact. According to CNN: President Obama's speech on the gulf oil disaster Tuesday night was written at a 10th-grade level, which, according to analysts, may have gone over the heads of many in his audience.. How sad is that?

The Weekly Foreshadowing. Next week is going to be crazy. Absolutely crazy. If you don't hear from me? It's because I'm hiding.

The Weekly Science Experiment. Scientists are mapping Ozzy Osbourne's genome. Why? They want to figure out why he's still alive and kicking. Maybe they'll also figure out what the hell he's saying.

The Weekly Music. I'm still a little addicted to Pandora though I think I might be too anal for it and the way it arranges and recommends music.

The Weekly Read. Down Among The Dead Men by Robert Gregory Browne was a strange little thriller and mystery. It started straightforward enough but gradually transformed into something else (I won't tell you what because that would ruin it), rooted in deep mystical and cultural beliefs south of the border. Those twists and turns made the book seem less plausible than it had when it started but no less enjoyable or compelling a read. The book was gritty and painted a fairly unflattering (and, my guess, realistic) picture of Mexico and Mexican-American border towns. My only complaints? Two dimensional characters (though Browne really tried to find that third dimension) and dialog that often sounded juvenile.

The Weekly Interesting (And Disturbing) Nugget. Did you know we still execute people by firing squad in this country? If it goes through, Utah death row prisoner Ronnie Lee Gardner will be the third person to die by firing squad in the last 33 years.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Sometime in the past week Perez Hilton posted a picture of Miley Cyrus in which she was quite obviously not wearing underwear. And now, since he's been threatened with imprisonment since she's, you know, jailbait, he's claiming that he fabricated the picture. Yeah. That's better.

The Weekly Question From Mia. What's your favorite dinner?

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (29)

June 17, 2010

Sitting In A Tree

Mia is very concerned that, when she's old enough, she will not be allowed to marry her best friend. Her best friend happens to be a girl. And she very much wants to marry her best friend and live with us at home in our house, after she goes to college (still while living with us). Without any coaching by Beth or me, Mia has come up with her idea of a perfect job. Her words:

I want to be the person who tells America that they can marry whoever they want to even if they're a girl and want to marry a girl or if they're a boy and want to marry a boy because people should be able to marry whoever they love if it makes them happy.

Now, of course this is also the girl who, if you didn't know she was four and went solely on transcripts of our conversations, you might think is actually an old woman raised during the Great Depression. She seems to rival my grandparents in her concern for running out of stuff. But, that aside, I think she's on to something. And I think it's a little troublesome that a four - almost five - year old sees just how crazy society sometimes is.

I'm kind of wondering what other problems we'd solve if we asked kids to solve our problems.

Which of the world's problems do you think would be best solved by kids? What do we do to our kids to make them so cynical? Does it happen naturally or do we bake it in like some bizarre cynical gravy over time?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (15)

June 16, 2010

Off Kilter

I realize it's only Wednesday but my week has been thoroughly bizarre and I'm curious if it's just me.

  1. I kinda wigged out yesterday. I was really pissed.

  2. Owen made up the following song:
    My no hatch* vagina
    My hatch penis
    Yay penis

  3. I passed a car for the third time in a week covered with bumper stickers. I mean covered. As in there's not a single square inch without a bumper sticker. How do you trade a car like that in?

  4. I was in the bathroom at work when the reasoning behind one of my many bathroom rules was proven sound. One should never pull pants and underwear down to ankle level when sitting on a toilet. First, the floor is dirty. Second, someone might notice that you - a professional individual - are wearing Hannah Montana boxers.

  5. This was recommended to me on Amazon:

    Interesting title. And that's some huge instrument he's got.

  6. My iPod started playing songs totally out of order for no apparent reason.

  7. I found out the first girl I ever dated in high school now works for my company in an office very close to mine.

  8. Owen was bitten by an emu. You know. An emu.

Am I the only one having a weird week?

* for those of you who don't speak Owen, this is the way he says "has"

Posted by Chris at 6:40 AM | Comments (14)

June 15, 2010

When Corporate America Shits the Bed

The words for the day are egregious and willful. I give you the two following examples of why I woke up pissed (as in angry, not the British for drunk though after reading all this I kinda wish I was).

BP Revisited
This from the Center for Public Integrity:

Two refineries owned by oil giant BP account for 97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the refining industry by government safety inspectors over the past three years, a Center for Public Integrity analysis shows. Most of BP’s citations were classified as “egregious willful” by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and reflect alleged violations of a rule designed to prevent catastrophic events at refineries.

BP is battling a massive oil well spill in the Gulf of Mexico after an April 20 platform blast that killed 11 workers. But the firm has been under intense OSHA scrutiny since its refinery in Texas City, Texas, exploded in March 2005, killing 15 workers. While continuing its probe in Texas City, OSHA launched a nationwide refinery inspection program in June 2007 in response to a series of fires, explosions and chemical releases throughout the industry.

Refinery inspection data obtained by the Center under the Freedom of Information Act for OSHA’s nationwide program and for the parallel Texas City inspection show that BP received a total of 862 citations between June 2007 and February 2010 for alleged violations at its refineries in Texas City and Toledo, Ohio.

Of those, 760 were classified as “egregious willful” and 69 were classified as “willful.” Thirty of the BP citations were deemed “serious” and three were unclassified. Virtually all of the citations were for alleged violations of OSHA’s process safety management standard, a sweeping rule governing everything from storage of flammable liquids to emergency shutdown systems. BP accounted for 829 of the 851 willful violations among all refiners cited by OSHA during the period analyzed by the Center.

Accidents happen. I get that. Sometimes I fall down for no apparent reason other than gravity exacting its cruel revenge. Sometimes I go to the fridge and get a drink of orange juice and accidentally get milk which makes me gag even though I like milk but, because I was expecting orange juice, the milk tastes like liquid evil. Like I said, accidents happen. But sometimes when you look at a particular accident, you can see a pattern. Accidents stop looking quite so accidental and instead, look willful and egregious. And that's exactly what happened with BP. Patterns of willful negligence led to the deaths of eleven people, triggered the collapse of an offshore oil platform and resulted in catastrophic side effects equal to the destruction of the Exxon Valdez happening every five days.

From Reuters:

Johnson & Johnson planned to remove potentially flawed lots of its Motrin over-the-counter pain reliever from store shelves by having contractors buy stocks of it, documents obtained by Reuters show.

One memo under the logo of McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a unit of J&J, instructed a contractor identified as Inmar: "Do not communicate to store personnel any information about this product. Simply visit each store, locate the product and, if any is found, purchase all of the product."

The Motrin recall came to light during a congressional hearing concerning J&J's widespread April recall of its Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and Zyrtec products for infants and children.

During a May 27 hearing, Committee chairman U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns cited a document it had received from the Food and Drug Administration and said it showed that "rather than issue a public recall, McNeil allegedly sent contractors out to stores to buy the product back and told the stores 'not to mention' a recall.

You have to be kidding. A company totally built around the health of others - including children - attempted to circumvent the recall process by buying up the entire stock of tainted drugs in an effort to avoid the bad press and financial implications? My kids took this stuff. We - Beth and I, their parents, you know, the adults charged with keeping them healthy and safe - gave it to them. My daughter's been hospitalized twice and some of this stuff was in our daily rotation of drugs to keep her out of the hospital. Fuck you, Johnson & Johnson. Fucking family company indeed. Fuck. You.

When I talked about healthcare a while back, I got some pushback from some of you. You're rightfully concerned about the government taking on the jobs of private industry. But, given what we've seen so far this year - financial institutions tanking, oil companies putting profit over safety or the environment, and drug companies choosing to look the other way at the expense of kids' lives - are you still so sure big business is the way to go?

Get this - I just came up with a new plan to stop the Gulf Coast oil leak. Let's round up all the BP executives who were egregiously willful. Then, we get all the Johnson & Johnson executives who allowed their house to get egregiously, willfully out of order. We put them on a boat - a big boat because there will be a lot of them - and take them to the Gulf then we put them on a big-ass decommissioned submarine on a collision course with the big ass oil-leaking hole and, boom, no more oil leak. Okay, I haven't gotten all the details down yet but it's a damn sight better than the plans BP's come up with.

Posted by Chris at 7:35 AM | Comments (13)

June 14, 2010

Swim, Baby, Swim

Last summer, Mia found herself loving the water. And, with that new-found love expressed to us that her ultimate goal in life was to be on the neighborhood swim team. We promised that if she worked on her swimming, got confident and, in turn, made us confident in her ability, that she could do it this summer. All winter she worked. She went to group lessons and spent time in the pool twice a week. And she got good. Really good. A couple of weeks ago, swim practice started. Mia was there. Time trials were on Saturday.
Mia is the youngest kid on the team. By at least a year. And she is, by far, the smallest. She gets easily lost in the crowd of other swimmers and her suit's a little baggy - they don't actually make team swimsuits quite small enough for her. Of course, judging by her attitude, these facts have never occur to her and, if they had, she would most certainly care less. It became clear on Saturday as she was halfway through her free-style lap, that there was a decided advantage. In the time it took for her to swim that lap, Mia was adopted as the team's mascot.

In addition to Beth, Owen and I screaming her name, the coaches kept walking pace beside the pool, urging her on, clapping. Her teammates shouted her name, cheering. The parents got in on the act too, each yelling her name and clapping. When she emerged, her pink swim-capped head poking out of the water, lap complete, she found herself confronted by at least 100 people screaming and shouting her name, congratulating her on finishing and, if I had to guess, wondering how this little person just did what she did. It was like something out of an underdog sports flick.

As her dad, it was awesome for me. I can only imagine how fantastic an experience it was for her.

Mia does not believe she is unable to do anything just because someone tells her she's too young or is too little. Those are not good excuses for her. Mia doesn't believe in conforming. Peer pressure is a non-issue with her. If asked to color inside the lines she'll kindly tell you that she's perfectly able to but it's just not as much fun. Mia does not believe in quitting. While neither Beth nor I believe you should throw in the towel, Mia gets this belief from within and she is unwavering in its practice. She is, in short, a stubborn, determined, and utterly unique person. On Saturday we got to see her in action. So did everyone else. And it made me proud. So very, very proud.

Posted by Chris at 7:06 AM | Comments (30)

Haiku For Monday #322

Got four little words:
Tropical. Island. Blogger.
Commune. Who's with me?

Posted by Chris at 7:05 AM | Comments (9)

June 11, 2010

The Weeklies #136

The Weekly Time Waster. Ragdoll Tennis.

The Weekly Winner. Susan wins! Yes, Susan was the randomly chosen winner. Now, I got 52 comments on that post and I sincerely wish I felt comfortable asking Marshall to sign 52 books for me. But he's co-authoring a book with James Patterson right now, promoting his latest release, and there's even the possibility that Lomax and Biggs are headed to the small screen. So, he's a busy guy. But I'm sure I can get a couple more copies so if you're not Susan, you're probably not out of luck yet.

The Weekly Best Sandwich Name Ever. The McGangBang. Take a McDonald's chicken sandwich and stuff it inside a cheeseburger. And there you go. Now, let's just hope no one comes up with a McRomanHelmet.

The Weekly Read. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I read Richard Lovenheim's In The Neighborhood. It wasn't a brilliantly written novel but, as you could probably tell from my post, it made an impression. Thanks to all of you who commented on Monday. It was interesting for me to hear your experiences.

The Weekly Music. A while back, I raved about Grace Potter & The Nocturnals' This Is Somewhere. It was a damn fine album. So I was pretty jazzed when the latest came out. And I had good reason to be jazzed. My initial impression is that it's not quite as strong as previous releases, in that it's more polished and less gritty. That said, it's a damn fine album. Highly recommended.

The Weekly Site I Wish Didn't Have To Exist. Dailydeadbirds.com keeps track of all the bird and turtle casualties of the Gulf Coast oil spill.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod! Speidi is splitting up? Ohmygod...that's...wait...who the fuck cares?

The Weekly Question. What's the most overrated movie ever made?

Posted by Chris at 6:53 AM | Comments (34)

June 10, 2010

Old Man Cactus

Every five weeks or so I go see a nice woman who cuts my hair. When it's all over I look down at the pile of gray hair and get a little depressed. Every five weeks I comment about this and every five weeks I get placated by but gray hair on men looks distinguished. And I agree. What I really want to say is bullshit, it looks old. But that would be rude.

In a prime example of just how old I'm getting, I actually had to ask Beth the other day if I was 36 or 37. Turns out I'm 37 and my 37 year-old memory sucks. Like my math skills.

Turn on any TV and it's immediately obvious that what we idealize are women with massive, perky boobs, nice asses, long legs and very little waist connecting the bits. And while a lot of very valid attention is paid to female stereotypes and the resulting body image issues, it's no less difficult for men. While we're assaulted with Victoria Secret women, we're also force-fed images of men who can bench-press small cars with their giant pecs or men who are strangely handsome despite the fact that they appear to be devoid of any sense of personal hygiene.

When I was a kid, I was skinny. I'm pretty sure that the you should eat a burger line didn't originate with anorexically-thin waif-like girls but teenage boys who were expected to be football players but had little interest. I got fucking tired of hearing that. And truth be told, my body hasn't really changed all that much in the last 20 years. If I gain a little weight - something that's easier for me to do now than it was in high school - I always get oh, you look good with a little weight on you which I find obnoxious.

So, long story short, body image issues aren't unique to women. And now, along with the gray hair, I'm starting to notice the toll age (and gravity) has taken on me. I seem to be developing a case of arthritis, the lines on my face are getting deeper and - I could just be imagining this but I don't think so - my stomach seems to be undergoing something of a growth spurt.

The differences are subtle but I'm an older looking and feeling person than I was when I started this site nearly seven years ago. But then that's how life goes and it's certainly better than the alternative.

How have you noticed age affecting you?

Posted by Chris at 7:14 AM | Comments (41)

June 9, 2010

Supporting a Life Of Crime

Some of you have heard this story but I'm telling it again. Because it's relevant, I happen to like it, and its my blog so I can say what I want.

A few years ago after turning the final page on The Rabbit Factory, I wrote a review, as I normally do, in my Friday The Weeklies post. I was surprised to get an email from Marshall Karp, the author. I'd read initial reviews of the book, looked high and low to find it, got my hands on it, and found that it totally lived up to both the search and the hype. I was pretty jazzed to hear from the author himself. He wrote not a short thank you note but a very thoughtful message that showed he'd clearly surfed my site and read quite a bit of what I'd written. I was truly impressed. I was blown away when he asked me to put together his website (which I did - that's my handy-work) a while later, after our email correspondence continued for a bit.

Things have come a long way since then. In October, Beth and I found ourselves hanging out with Marshall and his wife in NYC, having a nice dinner out then visiting their apartment to see new dog Kylie. Life is kind of surreal like that.

I'll always have a soft spot for The Rabbit Factory but Marshall's released three brilliant novels starring his crime-fighting duo of Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs since then - Bloodthirsty, Flipping Out and Cut, Paste, Kill. I mention all of this because Cut, Paste, Kill hit both brick and mortar and virtual store shelves yesterday. And I encourage you all to pick them up because they're wonderful books. But, perhaps equally important is the fact that Marshall's just a nice guy. There are lots of people out there writing, singing, acting, playing or painting for your attention but I want to support not only the ones who are talented but the ones who are, additionally, good people. Marshall's good people. I'm honored to have him as a friend.

How important is it to you to support good people? And how long do you think it'll take to order Marshall's new book? You can go ahead take care of that ordering thing now if you want. I'll wait.

By the way, drop a comment on this post and I'll hook one randomly chosen reader up with a signed copy of Marshall's latest.

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (53)

June 8, 2010

iCame, iSaw, iPad

A little over a month ago I ignored a vast percentage of you and jumped on-board the iPad train. As it turns out, I was in pretty good company since Apple has sold a metric shit-load since they debuted. The most interesting question surrounding the thing when it debuted was how are people going to use it? Well, I don't know about the rest of the shit-load but I can tell you how I use it and what I think.


  • Email. I've got every single email account I use making a stop at my iPad. I use it for both work and personal email. More than one coworker has commented on my early adoption and I'm sure a lot of you have seen the sent from my ipad signature line.
  • Blogging. I've hand crafted many a blog entry using the iPad. As a matter of fact, I'm to the point at which I prefer to use the iPad for blogging since it tends to be a little cooler than the laptop and I do hate roasting my nads.
  • News. The iPad is a news machine. The news apps are fantastic, chief among them Thomson Reuters' offering which was clearly designed to show off just how cool the iPad is. Throw in a news reader and, bam, there are all the blogs I try (and fail) my best to keep up with.
  • Reading. There, I said it. Reading. On something other than paper in traditional book form. The iPad is a killer e-book reader. Of course, some of that depends on the app you're using. There are many more Kindle selections available for Amazon's app but the reading experience on Apple's own iBook reader is superior. Barnes & Noble's contribution is pretty snazzy too. Since buying the iPad I've read six books and loved every minute of it.
  • Movies. Miss an episode of something on TV? Want to catch something on Netflix? The iPad is perfect and whatever you're watching looks so good on it.
  • Kids. Mia and Owen think the iPad is pure magic and were they in possession of $500 each, I'm sure they'd invest in one. But their allowance isn't nearly that good. They love to draw, listen to music, play the piano or bang on the drums. Or, if you're Owen and have just discovered the awesomeness that is old-school Doctor Who, you can constantly request Doctor Hoot Show.


What won't it do? Well, it won't cook dinner, clean the dishes or mow the lawn. But I wouldn't expect it to. I also wouldn't expect it to transform into a master photo editor (it doesn't) and based on Apple's fear and loathing of Flash, there's a lot of video content you just can't get. It probably wouldn't be great to write a novel on either. The onboard keyboard is surprisingly easy to use but the Bluetooth keyboard is a must for extended typing. It doesn't multitask but you can't hold that against it - it'll multitask as soon as the new iPhone OS is released.

Overall, I'm impressed and happy I made the investment when I did. It's no surprise that the folks at Apple are geniuses and the iPad merely confirms it. Will it change the world? Nope. Will it change your life? Maybe a teensy bit.

Now, I have a question - instead of that boring sent from my ipad signature, what should I use instead?

PS - Apple didn't in any way compensate me for anything. I'm a little bummed about that. Steve Jobs, send me free stuff. I am your willing whore.

Posted by Chris at 6:37 AM | Comments (26)

June 7, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Do you know your neighbors?

Over the weekend I finished In The Neighborhood by Peter Lovenheim. It was an interesting book. Not particularly brilliantly written, but the concept was compelling and hit home. The premise was this - a murder/suicide takes place in the author's neighborhood which forced the author to confront the fact that he didn't know anyone in the neighborhood. Nor did, he surmised, the majority of other neighbors. The author then decided he'd reach out to as many of his neighbors as he could. And, where possible, sleep over at their houses to learn how they led their daily lives.

Like I said, it struck a chord with me.

Since moving into our home three years ago, we haven't exactly formed any true relationships with our neighbors. We know each other to say hello. If we're out doing yard work or digging ourselves out after a massive blizzard, we'll stop and talk, usually about the weather or something that's happened in the neighborhood. I know the folks next door have a son in Iraq and a daughter ready to graduate from high school. On the other side, are also two kids, one who attends school with Mia, the other just certified to babysit. Across the street lives a couple both on their second marriages with one son living with them. They like football. But aside from those details, that's about all I know.

I'm not sure why that is but I suspect that a majority of folks are like that nowadays. Growing up it wasn't like that. We knew everyone on our street and had spent vast quantities of time in each others' homes. But now, perhaps, we're too insulated. Maybe we spend too much time sitting in front of screens. Hell, I can download or order most of the things I need to consume on a regular basis - books, music, movies, everything except food. We're living in a time in which we barely have to leave our houses. So we shouldn't be surprised that we don't know the people living next to us.

But I'm curious about you and your experience as a neighbor.

- What kind of area do you live in - rural, urban, suburban?
- How well do you think you know your neighbors?
- Do you think technology has in any way changed the way or amount you socialize?

This is something I'm really curious about and interested in. I hope you'll share your thoughts.

Posted by Chris at 7:18 AM | Comments (54)

Haiku For Monday #321

I'm bummed. This morning
I didn't wake up on a
tropical island.

Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (1)

June 4, 2010

The Weeklies #135

The Weekly Team Sport. My daughter - my little girl - is now on our local swim team. How did this growing up thing happen so fast?

The Weekly Highly Sought (But Not Found) Commodity. Sleep. It's just not happening around here.

The Weekly Read. 61 Hours by Lee Child is, I think, the 14th book featuring bad-ass hero Jack Reacher. The most amazing thing about Lee Child is that the 14th book is no less compelling than the first. The series might actually be getting better. Which is pretty astonishing. Reacher's kinda like the Hulk. He doesn't turn green but he does roam around from place to place fighting bad guys. And you won't like him when he's angry.

The Weekly Death. Two TV legends gone - Gary Coleman and Rue McClanahan. Sadly this leaves Betty White as the last Golden Girl standing.

The Weekly Reason I'm Sorry You Live In Ohio (If You Do, In Fact, Live In Ohio). According to Consumerist:

Ohio cops have been granted superpowers by the state's supreme court, which has ruled that officers needn't bother with such needless trivialities as radar guns. A visual estimate of speed is all that's necessary to give a driver a ticket, the court decided in a 5-1 vote.

Next time I get a bill in the mail, I'm shredding it. I'll just guess what I owe. And the next time I go out to eat, I'll refuse a menu. I'll just guess what's on it. Who cares if I order a pizza in a steak joint?

The Weekly Schadenfreude. "I would like my life back." This statement doesn't seem remarkable until you learn that it comes from BP CEO Tony Hayward. I'm so sorry that he's been inconvenienced by the largest spill in US history. I'm sure the people of the Gulf Coast who have lost their livelihoods, their ways of life and their land would like their lives back too. Somehow I'm inclined to feel sorry for them. Mr. Hayward doesn't get my sympathy.

The Weekly Question. What's your favorite thing about summer?

Posted by Chris at 6:55 AM | Comments (20)

June 3, 2010

The Kids Are Not Alright

Gary Coleman is dead. Dana Plato is similarly dead. Corey Haim? Dead. Michael Jackson, also dead. River Phoenix? Ditto. Jonathan Brandis has also left us. Willie Ames is a nutcase. Scott Baio enjoys taking shots at the First Lady on Twitter. Danny Bonaduce is one syringe away from a roid rage-out. Todd Bridges self-destructed in particularly stellar fashion. Screech made porn. Natalie Wood (old school) had a nice breakdown. So did Tatum O'Neal (she's still prone to both drama and drugs) and Judy Garland had some issues as well. Leif Garrett is reportedly turning high-priced tricks. Lindsay Lohan, well, duh.

The kids - former child stars, that is - are not alright. Though some have fared better than others.

I guess Doogie Howser did okay for himself, then and now. No one's found him in a cheap motel room with a dead hooker. Kirk Cameron is all right. Granted, he's developed a fairly extreme sort of faith which leads him to college campuses in an effort to refute proven science. Those Saved By The Bell kids - with the exception of the aforementioned Screech and that one chick who did the terrible stripper movie that I watched only to see a Saved By The Bell girl naked (wasn't worth it) - seem to be doing okay. But these are the exceptions, not the rule.

It feel like we're constantly watching some has-been's life unravel in front of us. It makes me wonder about the whole fame thing, whether or not its worth it. And it makes me wonder about parents. Specifically, with all the empirical evidence that points to the inevitability that showbiz is going to fuck a kid up, what kind of parent would willingly subject their kids to it?

Which child star have you been most disappointed by? And why do you think they all fall so far so fast?

Posted by Chris at 6:14 AM | Comments (21)

June 2, 2010

Give Us Your Tired

I got an email the other day that chapped my ass. I saved it, looked at it again, and got even more pissed. And I can't quite figure out why. I don't know how this person knows me. She could be a reader, a lurker, a commenter, or my email address could very well have been plucked out of thin virtual air. And this isn't the first email I've gotten. Here are the best bits:

I live in Arizona where they have just passed a very important bill to uphold federal law regarding illegal immigration.

The vast majority of folks support this bill and many states are following suit. But there are people who want to continue to flood our country with illegals. They support open borders leaving us vulnerable to crime and acts of terrorism. It's not just Mexican illegals crossing our borders, but many terrorists from other countries who have attempted to sneak in over the years and who knows how many have gotten through.

The "open borders crowd" includes many government officials and the executive branch of the government. They want to continue to flood the country with illegals, give them amnesty and then let them vote. They do not care about our security, they just want the votes.

Illegal immigration has bankrupted many states and continues to do so. A third of our jail population consists of Mexican nationals here illegally. Go right to the people responsible for making arrests and hold them accountable.

It's Memorial Day and many of us want to kick back and have fun but remember that this day commemorates the many who have died for this great country.

God Bless

Before we proceed, a little fact checking. According to state officials, only 11% of Arizona's prison population consists of illegal aliens. In researching that little fact I found bizarre claims that up to half of the nationwide prison population consisted of undocumented aliens. Additionally, contrary to what many would have you believe, Arizona doesn't exactly rank first in a list of states plagued by immigration issues. It is, in fact, sixth. And while illegal immigration does cause problems - I wouldn't refute that at all - it's been surprisingly good to Arizona, creating $44 billion in economic output in 2009. Not insignificant especially when you have a $3 billion deficit.

Reading this gives me the same feeling I got when being labeled as a liberal in the last presidential campaign. Yes, I am liberal but that's not a dirty word. Its that with-us-or-against-us mentality that enrages me. Just because I don't agree with the war in Iraq doesn't mean I don't support the troops or don't love this country. Just because I think parts of the Patriot Act are invasions of personal freedoms doesn't make me a terrorist. Just because I don't happen to believe that the Arizona law is the solution to the immigration doesn't brand me a member of the "open border crowd" hell-bent on "flooding the country with illegals."

The threat of racial profiling bothers me. The infringement on personal liberties bothers me. The possibility of someone, based on skin color, of being asked for their papers sounds a little too Soviet to me.

While I don't believe legal US residents should suffer because of headaches caused by illegal immigration, it seems that our overall tolerance has taken a deep dive. It all makes me wonder what the inscription on the Statue of Liberty would say if it were dedicated today.

Give me your tired (but not if they're lazy workers), your poor (though don't take our precious jobs), your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (but not if they'll be a burden on our overtaxed health and welfare systems),the wretched refuse of your teeming shore (though we've manufactured plenty of our own especially around the Gulf Coast). Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door (which is labeled no admittance).

What do you think? Is Arizona on to something or are we in need of other solutions?

Posted by Chris at 6:00 AM | Comments (24)

June 1, 2010

The Constant Gardner

Memorial Day is the official non-technical start of summer. People everywhere did just what we did - broke out the bathing suits, slathered themselves in sunscreen and hit the beach or their local swimming pools. I hope you don't think me too forward but I'm speaking from very recent and personal experience here when I offer up this advice. TEND TO YOUR PUBES!!

On Sunday I was sitting at the pool surrounded by my kids - and the kids of others - when my gaze fell upon one particular individual and I was, in return, greeted by one of the most horrific sights my eyes have ever seen. Pubes. Everwhere. Pubes on parade. It wasn't like I wsnt looking for them. I didn't blow my hypersonic pube whistle to lure them out. They were just there. Or, rather, everywhere.

Not only was this particular garden untended. It was, instead, an out of control rainforest the fence around which was not up to the challenge leaving much of said forest - not to mention things under the canopy - completely and terrifyingly visible.

My eyes!

Look, I'm all for personal freedom in the way you present yourself. Wear white after Labor Day. Throw on a funny hat. Dye your hair purple and sport a nose-ring. But I draw the line of freedom of self-expression at the pubes.

Is that too much to ask for? Am I totally off base? Are you a conscientious gardener?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (26)