November 30, 2010

The Christmas Hermit

I started and finished my Christmas shopping on Saturday night. All it took was a laptop, an internet connection, a few beers and a willingness to ignore the large red number labeled "total."

This isn't really new holiday behavior for me. I've been doing the majority of my Christmas shopping online for the last two or three years. I think it's a little wacky to wake up early, fight traffic, stand in line and tussle with other stuff-hungry people for the privilege of paying money for something.

The internet lets me be the hermit I've always wanted to grow up to be. And, frankly, all I was doing was hanging out watching crappy 50's sci-fi movies waiting for one or both of the kids to beckon me for whatever reason.


Let me ask you a couple of questions in a somewhat unscientific poll:

- What percentage of your holiday shopping will be done online?
- Did you participate in the Black Friday or Cyber Monday madness?

Posted by Chris at 6:50 AM | Comments (32)

November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving

Why, yes, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. Thanks for asking. What's that you say? Thanksgiving wasn't yesterday? Oh, but yes it was. Let me take a few steps back and guide you through our Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday. Something viral this way comes. Beth becomes incredibly ill. Later, Thanksgiving is officially canceled. Chris hangs out with the kids, Beth spends the day in bed. Thanksgiving dinner is made - mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. Just like the pilgrims. Chris spends Thanksgiving night solo watching cheesy sci-fi movies from the 50's - Voyage To The Seventh Planet and Mars Needs Women if you're curious.

Friday. Beth remains under the weather. Mia swings a play-date with her cousin. Owen keeps Beth company watching Toy Story 3. Mia returns, Chinese food is ordered, Beth eats crackers, everyone minus Chris goes to bed. More cheesy sci-fi movies are watched - Man From Planet X (so-so), Invasion of the Star Creatures (terrible, aborted after 5 minutes) and Gog (surprisingly decent).

Saturday. Beth operating at 75%. Four of us attempt lunch out (the chip restaurant). Three of us eat. Chris then takes Mia to a movie - Tangled. Chris and Mia both think the movie is freakin' brilliant so they run home, buy the soundtrack and proceed to listen to it over and over again. Beth cooks dinner. Surprisingly, she eats. Kids go to bed followed shortly by Beth. More cheesy sci-fi movies are watched - Invasion of the Star Creatures (second attempt, aborted after an additional 3 minutes), Phantom from Space (insipid), and Visit to a Small Planet (a surprisingly good and utterly charming little movie) - then Chris finally attempts to sleep in his own bed with his wife only to be called from his slumber repeatedly by a restless (or jealous?) Owen.

Sunday. Beth is at 100%. Chris sleeps in. Thanksgiving dinner with the entire family is had. Better late than never. In fact, pretty awesome.

Though the long weekend was rough, it taught me a few things. Mainly, that family is awesome and that you can't beat a family who will turn their holiday plans completely upside down for you in a time of need. And that, my friends, is what I'm most thankful for. Of course, I also learned that mac and cheese makes for a shitty Thanksgiving dinner but that's neither here nor there.

Posted by Chris at 6:13 AM | Comments (11)

Haiku For Monday #345

Know what I feel right
after a long holiday
weekend? Panic, dread.

Posted by Chris at 6:00 AM | Comments (3)

November 24, 2010

Thanks

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I complain, I bitch, I moan but I really and truly know that I'm a lucky guy. I have a great deal to be insanely thankful for. I am thankful for my family, for Beth, Mia and Owen. For my parents and my extended family. I am lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. I am thankful for the job I have, the ability I have to take care of my family, to ensure they have every opportunity to have a wonderful life. I am thankful for my health, for my country, and for the opportunities both provide. And I am thankful for you. Yes, you. You take time out of your days to stop by, read whatever ramblings I've come up with and many of you take the time to comment, to share your own thoughts. And for that, I thank you.

I sincerely hope that all of you have a wonderful thanksgiving, even those of you who don't celebrate it. Be with your families, remind yourself what you're thankful for, and love each other.

Posted by Chris at 7:38 AM | Comments (15)

November 23, 2010

Felt Up

You hear the one about the shy geeky guy who couldn't get laid? He wound up broke and on the no-fly list after buying weekly one-way airline tickets from New York to DC. Sure, he'd contemplated getting a hooker but realized he could just as easily get felt up by the TSA once a week without risking catching an STD.

The last two weeks have been rife with stories about the TSA and their latest round of intrusive security procedures, from the full body scans which leave very little to the imagination to the physical full-body pat-downs they've begun to subject people to. There are accusations of over zealousness and just as many arguments about safety.

But whichever side you come down on, there's something wrong with this picture. Specifically, a breast cancer survivor who'd undergone a double mastectomy who was forced to remove her prostheses. A bladder cancer survivor who was patted down and soaked in his own urine. A woman who was literally stripped down to the waist in front of a waiting line of people. 385 full body scanners are deployed in 68 airports in the US. Full-body pat-downs are employed at all airports across the country.

The response? You don't have to fly. It's true, I guess, but it's also a bullshit cop-out that covers for a half-assed, reactionary strategy the flaws of which are starting to be seen.

Where do you come down on the issue? Are the scans and pat-downs overly invasive or do you see them as okay? Is there a better solution?

Posted by Chris at 6:32 AM | Comments (33)

November 22, 2010

Oases

This weekend was dramaful. Of course our weekends are mostly dramaful. On Friday afternoon, Mia began complaining that she didn't feel particularly well. Her throat reportedly hurt. We didn't have any reason to disbelieve her so we planned on a quiet Saturday. Which is exactly what we got. Beth and I traded off running errands but we mostly stayed close to home. Tales of illness disappeared only to return Sunday morning. We had another quiet day helped by raking leaves, a movie and Shrinky Dinks.

The problem with quiet days is they rarely stay quiet and are frequently punctuated by random acts of sibling violence. And then I start to feel what I believe to be the early signs of an aneurysm.

And then in the middle of this sea of insanity and drama were these little, precious oases of pure, unadulterated, unconditional love. Mia announced she wanted to withdraw to her room for a nap, then grabbed Owen's sleeve and asked him to come along. This happened twice and both times Owen looked at me as if seeking approval, received my nod and looked as though he had just won the lottery (the lottery being a date with Buzz Lightyear and Woody) and eagerly tramped up the stairs behind his sister. Mia made him a little bed on her floor. They pretended to sleep but really they sang Wheels on The Bus at top volume. Then Mia read him as many of her books as he would sit through while he ripped apart her closet.

Okay, sure, eventually they had to be pulled off each other and there was a point at which I thought someone was going to get grounded for live over a balloon, but it was nice while it lasted.

I have no brothers or sisters but Beth tells me this behavior is totally normal. They're at each others' throats within our four walls but outside, I dare anyone to pick on Owen and not get their asses kicked by Mia and her fake karate moves.

What's your relationship like with your siblings? Or are you an only child like yours truly?

Posted by Chris at 7:11 AM | Comments (18)

Haiku For Monday #344

I am thankful for
short weeks and holidays on
Thursdays. Pilgrims rock.

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (3)

November 19, 2010

The Weeklies #156

The Weekly Relief. So, the presentation that I mentioned on Tuesday morning is over. It went well. I can now sleep. And stop popping Tums every half hour.

The Weekly Peeve. People who pluralize things and use apostrophes to do so.

The Weekly Read. Some site, somewhere made a big deal out of The Silver Bear by Derek Haas. I can't quite see why anyone was so enthusiastic about it. It's a fairly straightforward, unoriginal assassin story. It was reasonably interesting but certainly not mind-blowing. The Rain series by Barry Eisler or Tom Cain's two novels are far better should you find yourself in the mood for tales of suave international hit men.

The Other Weekly Peeve. Adults who introduce themselves to me as Mr. or Mrs. whatever.

The Weekly Music. Apple's enormous announcement this week turned out to be a dud. Instead of streaming iTunes libraries or storing our tunes in the cloud, we got The Beatles. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a fan. But it's 2010. We all know how to rip CDs, right?

The Weekly Schadenfreude. I'm pretty much in the minority in that I don't watch Dancing With The Stars. But I can't help but get interested in the brewing Palin controversy. See, Bristol - oddly named offspring of Sarah - has finished at the bottom of the heap week after week. Yet she's still on the show. Many are crying foul, mapping out vast conspiracies. Me? As Sarah would say, I don't flippin' care.

The Weekly Question. What's behind the obsession with British royalty? Now that there's a royal wedding in the future, it seems like we're once again obsessed with the monarchy.

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (15)

November 18, 2010

Stall Tactics

A blogger walks into a bathroom...

I have gone to great lengths over the past several years to describe what I believe to be both proper and improper bathroom etiquette. Sadly, most of this has been learned through personal experience. Among the bathroom commandments I have devised are:

  • 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.

The other day, I was witness to at least one of these commandments being broken. And by broken, I mean, stomped on, ground into a fine powder and snorted like fine cocaine. I was in the restroom, standing at the urinal when I overheard a stall-based telephone conversation.

Stall Guy: No, you dont' have to pay.
---
Stall Guy: They give you those test for free. Or, you know, it's covered by your insurance.
---
Stall Guy: I had to take, like, five of them last year.
---
Stall Guy: Itching. Really bad itching.
---
Stall Guy: Pittsburg.
---
Stall Guy: No she wasn't.
---
Stall Guy: She was? Well, now I know why I needed all those tests.
---
Stall Guy: I just thought she was out with her girlfriends a lot.
---
Stall Guy: No, if it looks like that, you need to go straight to the doctor.

Apparently I need to add another commandment. Though shalt not share too much or reveal disturbing medical diagnoses whilst taking care of one's business.

Do you eavesdrop? Best conversation you've overheard recently?

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (16)

November 17, 2010

The Paddle And The Damage Done

I was surfing some of the sites I read daily - news, tech and music sites, mostly - and stumbled on something that caught my eye. Not in a good way. It was a story of a mother and her son who were forced to file a police report against their local school district as retaliation for corporal punishment which was not authorized by the parents. Check it out and prepare to be horrified.

I totally identify with this story based on very personal experience.

I grew up in Texas. While Texas is known for it's heavy use of corporal punishment (a.k.a., the death penalty to which I am unabashedly opposed), most don't know that the state's schools are big proponents of similar yet milder punishment. They used paddles. They wielded them when rules, even minor ones, weren't followed.

The paddles were about a foot and a half long, six or eight inches wide and an inch thick. The more sadistic coaches would drill holes in the paddle to cut down the wind resistance. The truly inspired ones would wrap the grip with grip tape. The coaches who had totally tricked out paddles were the ones to watch out for. The coaches who had more than one - or those who had a variety hanging from hooks on office walls - were the ones to be avoided and legitimately frightened of.

Coach Cain (real name) was the sick bastard that inhabited my world.

Coach Cain seemed to really like his job. Especially the parts where he got to yell at kids, humiliate them and, occasionally, beat them. He managed to get me more than once. In spite of that fact that I was on that "do not paddle" list.

There's been a lot of talk lately about bullying. I think I even called the American political system the perfect example of institutional bullying. But this is so much worse. Teachers and coaches are, by necessity, in positions of trust and authority. To allow them to break that trust by granting them the powers of physical abuse is abhorrent. And to tolerate - and employ - a teacher who would willingly raise their hand to their students is criminal.

Is there anyone out there who still thinks corporal punishment in schools is a good idea?

Posted by Chris at 7:31 AM | Comments (31)

November 16, 2010

Nerves of...Paper

There are many things in life I don't like to do - ironing, taking out the trash, paying taxes, going to the dentist - but I do them because I have to. I'm sure you're the same way. It's a conversation I have with Mia a lot. We can't pick and choose our every actions based on whether we enjoy something or want to do something. Life just doesn't work that way.

There are two things that I particularly do not enjoy because I have zero confidence in myself to do them well despite evidence of repeated success - standing up and talking in front of people and taking tests. I loathe both and make myself miserable in anticipation of either.

And this afternoon I have to go speak. In front of people. To win business. Am scrrrrd. (And apparently capable of only writing short sentences.)

Last night I had to explain all of this to Mia.

Mia: Why do you have to rehearse?
Me: So I know what to say by the time I have to go in and speak.
Mia: What do you have to say?
Me: Well, my company is basically trying to get a job with another company. I have to tell them why they should pick us.
Mia: You should just tell them that you are responsible. That you're not unresponsible.
Me: I could try that.
Mia: Are you nervous?
Me: I'll tell you the truth. Yes.
Mia: Tell them that your daughter is confident that you can do it.
Me: I'll definitely do that. Better yet, why don't you just come with me and tell them yourself?

Wish me luck. That's not a figurative request. Seriously, I need it.

What do you hate to do most that you still have to do anyway?

Posted by Chris at 7:23 AM | Comments (32)

November 15, 2010

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was Beth's birthday. What did we do to celebrate? Well, instead of just your standard presents, cards and cake, the in-laws camped out in our house and hung with the kids while Beth and I took a weekend trip to Philly. Okay, so the trip wasn't entirely for Beth's birthday. It was also to celebrate our anniversary which happened last month only just before we were set to take off, Owen landed in the hospital.

The weekend? It was awesome. The weather was fantastic, the hotel excellent (despite the fact that the fire alarm went off at midnight on Sunday and we had to climb down 17 flights of stairs), the restaurants exceptional and the town was just downright cool. It was also nice just to hang out with each other. We had fun, just the two of us. It's nice know we can still do that.

Beth, I love you with all my heart and am so happy you were born. Happier you decided to shack up with me seventeen years ago, and marry me eleven years ago. Happy birthday, Sparky.

Posted by Chris at 6:41 AM | Comments (14)

Haiku For Monday #343

Which do I hate more -
Mondays or prostate exams?
Hard to say, really.

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM

November 12, 2010

The Weeklies #155

The Weekly Beer. Starr Hill Pale Ale

The Weekly Read. Despite the fact that October is over, I finished off one horror novel that I started at the very end of this past month - Dark Mountain by Richard Laymon. I've always liked Laymon despite the fact that his books read like slasher b-movies. They're fun. This was no exception. Was it good literature? Absolutely not. But it was fast-paced and mindless and that's pretty much what I was paying it for.

The Weekly Music. OK GO is pretty much the most brilliant band when it comes to generating viral music videos. Their most recent is no exception. It also uses 2,400+ pieces of toast. Enjoy.



The Weekly Time Waster. I've got to give a shout-out to Angry Birds (or, as Owen calls is Mean Birds). It is terrifically addictive and seemingly endless (I'm on, like, level billion).

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Charlie Sheen seems to be wondering aloud lately about why there's so much fuss about a guy who had "one bad night." Usually "bad nights" don't involve stolen watches, mounds of cocaine, public nudity, a trashed hotel room at the Plaza and a $12,000 hooker. At least mine don't.

The Weekly Question. Is it wrong that I want to read George Bush's new memoir, not to point and laugh but out of genuine curiosity?

Posted by Chris at 7:18 AM | Comments (17)

November 11, 2010

Game Playa

Beth and I trade bed time duties with the kids. She'll do Mia one night, and I'll take Owen. The next night we trade. To help Mia wind down after a long day at school, we've started special time. Whichever parent is responsible for getting her to bed takes a half hour or forty-five minutes to spend with Mia. No TV, no music, no iPad. Just us, playing games, doing puzzles or reading books. It's nice and allows her to settle down, get relaxed, and us to spend some quality time without Owen trying to show us his penis or destroy the living room (these aren't necessarily mutually exclusive activities either).

Recently, Mia has taken to inventing games. On Monday night we sat down at the kitchen table and played one. It didn't take long before I became completely and utterly confused. I wrote down the rules as best I could interpret and recall them.

The Gameplay*:

  1. Each player selects eleven cards. Unless it's a Monday. If it's Monday, you take seven.
  2. Player One - who is always Mia - selects one word from the card and says it aloud.
  3. Player Two searches through his or her cards in order to find a word that rhymes.
  4. If Player Two is able to identify a card with a rhyming word, that card is handed to the first player. Player One is then required to "see if it would make a good book" whereby both cards are paired with each other in various positions with unknown criteria for success. If a book is acceptable, Player One keeps both cards. If the book is not acceptable, eyes are rolled and the card is returned to Player Two. It is now Player Two's turn.
  5. If Player Two is unable to identify a card with a rhyming word, he must draw. Or Player One must draw. This rule is something of a whim.
  6. Player Two selects one word from his card and reads it aloud. As with the first turn, Player One is encouraged to find a rhyming word. Player Two should be forewarned that traditional rhyming conventions are not required to be adhered to for Player One. For example, chair may be a perfectly acceptable rhyme for monkey. This is through no ignorance on the part of Player One. It is simply because she wishes to win.
  7. If Player One is unable to identify a matching word, you must buy her a pony.
  8. If Player One is able to identify a rhyming word, she must hand the card to Player Two who is required to "see if it would make a good book". Player Two will invariably do this incorrectly and will forfeit his card and his next turn. And will still be on the hook for a pony.
  9. Player Two must then find a blank piece of paper and write a word at the top in pencil - only pencil. Player One must then develop a list of words that rhyme with that first word - written in pink marker - which Player Two must then trace.

General Rules:

  1. The first turn is taken by the cute one. Not daddy. The little cute one.
  2. In the event of a dispute, rulings are always made in favor of players under 35 years of age.
  3. Player Two - being neither little or cute - is always wrong.
  4. The rules are variable and may be changed at any time - most likely prefaced by Oh daddy that's not right - because, according to Player One making little girls play by the rules against adults is just a way to make them feel bad.
  5. Player Two is encouraged to have a drink of the adult variety prior to play.

* Please note that gameplay lasts approximately seven hours unless abandoned by Player One or called on account of bedtime.

Posted by Chris at 7:21 AM | Comments (17)

November 10, 2010

Ad Hock

Because in the Cactus-Fish household we are now fascinated with all things Star Wars, the kids and I sat down the other evening and watched an episode of The Clone Wars. I hadn't DVRed any so I relied on my old buddy On Demand. Of course, On Demand episodes of popular shows come with a price - the inability to fast forward. Undeterred, we sat there and watched. r And then the commercials started. I grew horrified as the first mandatory advertising break ran for - no shit - five minutes.

After the first minute, I stopped watching the TV and started watching Mia and Owen's faces. It was hilarious...and kinda scary. They were rapt. Their attention was unwavering. I could have juggled knives and crapped a clown and no one would have noticed. And in the aftermath of this marketing onslaught, they wanted all kinds of crap that they would normally have no interest in. Advertising people are geniuses.*

I know. Quit yer bitchin' Chris. The most simple solution is just to leave the television off and avoid the whole issue completely. My kids watch - tops, 45 minutes of commercial-free TV a day. Mia usually gets the raw end of the deal since she only manages one show a day what with school and all. As a result, I think our kids are somewhat shielded from all the marketing. But watching it bothered me. It seemed sleazy, like offering up a bottle of booze to an alcoholic. I started feel really defensive and protective. And I wanted to kick some toy manufacturing ass.

When I was six or seven, I was convinced that I wanted nothing in life more than this silly helicopter toy. It came mounted on a wire that was, in turn, hooked up to some sort of base with a landscape. You turned it on, it flew around in a circle, and you could raise or lower it with a little wired remote control. I looked forward to Christmas - anticipating that it would be under the tree - for months. And it was. After about five minutes, it was the most boring toy ever. That disappointment was, perhaps, worse than the disappointment I would have felt had it not been under the tree at all.

What was the most sought-after toy when you were a kid? And do you think it lived up to the hype?

* Speaking of which, did you see that my brilliant mystery-writing buddy Marshall Karp (formerly an advertising genius himself) just announced that casting for the TV pilot that's being made from his first book is underway?

Posted by Chris at 6:48 AM | Comments (17)

November 9, 2010

More On Sensitivity

I have a problem when I write. When I sit down in front of a keyboard, all the stuff that's rolling around in my head like gumballs eagerly want to come out. And when you stop by, insert your quarter, you get one - or maybe, if you're lucky, two - gumballs. But rarely does a post represent everything I was pondering about whatever. I'm just not smart or talented enough to articulate everything I'm thinking. And who'd want to read a post that long anyway?

I spent some time over the weekend with your comments about the whole sensitivity issue I wrote about last week. I realized that not all my gumballs came out on that one. I don't think I said quite what I meant. Or, rather, everything I meant.

I do truly believe we're overly sensitive about certain things, specifically the ways in which we communicate. We put roadblocks up that prevent us from effectively communicating, often in the name of political correctness. We censor ourselves to the point at which we're unable to express ourselves. And I have to admit that, while you guys are great, I often force myself to take a step back after I've typed up a post and I wind up censoring myself because once I post something here, I lose control of it entirely and there's something out there that reflects me that I can no longer defend. Apparently the law prevents me from finding everyone who diagreed with me, knocking on their doors and arguing with them. So, that's annoying.

At the same time, we're far too insensitive in many ways. I'm no puritan or prude but look at what we choose as entertainment. The other night on TV I saw a guy get chopped up in a metal shredder. I honestly live in fear of turning on the TV with my kids in the room for fear that there's an ad for CSI on. I try to stand in front of the TV and block it but since we got the big widescreen TV that just doesn't work because my ass isn't big enough. Now, I'm no different. I read grisly mysteries. I've watched Die Hard about 3,000 times and CSI every week. Porn on the internet is not something I've never seen. But still, murder, rape, violence and sex...what more offensive things are there than those? What things could be more fundamentally opposed to those values we claim to hold so dear.

We like to think we can have it both ways. And we can. As long as we admit that, at some point, we're hypocritical.

What do you think? Is there a disconnect between what entertains us and what offends us?

Posted by Chris at 7:04 AM | Comments (15)

November 8, 2010

The Reader

I'm a big reader. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone since I review a book (sometimes two) a week. I tend to read about 100 books a year and when I don't have a book in front of me, chances are I'm reading something else - a magazine, the back of a cereal box, the label on my beer bottle. I just love to read. What I'm finding out is that Mia is the exact same way.

Over the summer, we worked on reading with Mia and she picked it up in her own pace. But since the start of kindergarten, we've gone from zero to sixty in about .05 seconds. Her pace is amazing and her mastery over what should be difficult words is amazing. She's blown through the kindergarten curriculum and moved on to first grade without any issue. And we're not pushing. We can't pry books from her hands. She's exhausted in the mornings because she's managed to stay up late reading books into the night. And it's hard to get her to stop because as parents we should be encouraging this behavior. Also, it's not, you know, cocaine or something destructive.

What's funny is that Mia doesn't in any way think or understand the fact that this is remarkable, and also an accomplishment of which she should be insanely proud. So on Saturday we threw a day-long reading party for her.

We woke up early - because though she reads late into the night she is apparently unable to translate this into the need to sleep in. We hung out for a little while, played the recently neglected Wii then I took her out to pick any movie she wanted to own and eat at The Chip Restaurant (aka Chipotle). Then we bought cookies and ran through the car wash which she loves. When we got home, Beth whisked her off to go ice skating - something she's been wanting to do for a while - and get her nails painted. Then we cooked her favorite dinner, made ice cream sundaes and watched the movie she'd chosen (Barbie's 12 Dancing Princesses, a cinematic masterpiece of you want to know my sarcastic opinion). And then she went to bed and read for an hour. Which might have been her favorite part of the day.

It's amazing to watch kids learn. More amazing when you see them learn this amazing skill that truly forms the very foundation for moving forward in their lives. The fact that she's scary-good at it makes it that much more shocking.

What are your reading habits like? And is there any relationship between your reading habits now and the habits you developed as a kid?

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

Haiku For Monday #342

How is it that a
one hour time change can kick
my ass heartily?

Posted by Chris at 6:00 AM | Comments (3)

November 5, 2010

The Weeklies #154

The Weekly Realization. Christmas? A month and a half away. How did that happen?

The Weekly Read. Rounding out my month o' horror, I bravely tackled Afraid by Jack Kilborn. It was, perhaps, the scariest of the novels I read in October despite the seemingly unscary premise. I also read John Everson's The Covenant which was not scary and was not even all that good. Overall, my month 'o horror made for some fun reading. But I think I'm ready for something different.

The Weekly Time-Waster. Grayscale.

The Weekly Historical Blog. If you're at all interested in the Civil War (which, admittedly, I am not) Disunion is a blog established by the New York Times that recounts the Civil War in blog format in real time. And despite the fact that the Civil War has never really captivated me, the site is truly fascinating.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. I was incredibly giddy when Christine O'Donnell lost her bid for office in Delaware. And I loved the fact that in her non-concession concession speech she claimed "we won!" What's better? Gawker's one-night stand story of Christine's drunken Halloween romp.

The Weekly Question. If you were forced to change jobs right now and money was not an option, what profession would you pursue?

Posted by Chris at 7:17 AM | Comments (22)

November 4, 2010

Sensitive

Three news stories caught my eye lately. I'll explain why in a sec.

Vince Vaughn's "electric cars are gay" joke may have been cut from the trailer for "The Dilemma," but director Ron Howard says it's staying in the movie. Despite public outcry from both GLAAD and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who declared the words insensitive and harmful, Howard told the Los Angeles Times, "I believe in sensitivity but not censorship."
After the Parents Television Council gave them heat for that racy GQ photo shoot, "Glee" has come under fire once again: New York magazine's Vulture reports that GLAAD is upset that the hit Fox series featured the word "tra**y" in its "Rocky Horror"-themed show.
On October 26, during the show's "Rocky Horror" episode, “tra**y” was used as “an easy punch line," according to GLAAD. Then, days later, the alliance said the "Jersey Shore" reunion special took an offensive turn, as well. While revisiting some of the season’s most memorable moments, the special - which first aired on October 28 - flashed back to an instance at a Miami nightclub. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino was flirting with a blonde club-goer who his cast mates later referred to as a “tra**y.

Is it me or are we all getting a little overly sensitive?

The old saying stick and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me is fundamentally untrue. In fact, words can hurt worse than physical pain. The invisible scars from verbal disfiguration last longer and run deeper than a lot of physical injuries. And we should be sensitive to that. But growing up, the word gay had absolutely nothing to do with sexuality. And while the word tranny surely existed, it wasn't in my vocabulary. I don't condone the use of slurs or derogatory comments - what's termed hate speech these days - but we can take sensitivity and political correctness too far. To extreme levels of stupidity. And that's what these examples highlight.

It would also seem that, in our increasing sensitivity, we've decided that asterisks are letters. They are not. They are a cop out. If you mean to say tranny say tranny. I'm a boy - I have a penis not a p**is. When I'm rude I'm an asshole, not an a**hole. It floors me that a news organization (each of these stories was from CNN) would shy away from printing a word that, I'd argue, is potentially offensive to a very limited group of people.

Choose your words wisely, say what you mean and mean what you say. But don't hide behind political correctness or rogue punctuation.

Are we too sensitive? Too politically correct? Where's the line between hate speech and just being rude?

Posted by Chris at 7:12 AM | Comments (60)

November 3, 2010

The Force

The force is strong with us.

A while back I mentioned the fact that I'd just watched Star Wars with my kids. It was a hit. So much so that over the last month, we've managed to watch all three of the original movies. And now everything in my house revolves around Stars Wars and its characters. Last night, fr example, Mia and I made paper dolls. But not ordinary paper dolls. No. Star Wars paper dolls - paper Darth, paper Leia, paper Ewoks and paper lightsabers. And we are now framing behavioral expectations with Owen in very Star Wars-centric terms. WWLSD - What Would Luke Skywalker Do?

Me: Owen, please don't kick.
Owen: I want to.
Me: Owen, Luke would never kick his father even after he found out that he was one of the leading figures in the Galactic Empire.
Owen: Okay. I won't kick.

This weekend, in fact, my kids called me Darth Vader a good 75% of the time. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't take it personally or see that as a reflection of my parenting style. But still. Darth and the kids had quite a weekend.

darth.costumes.jpg Darth went trick-or-treating. darth.slide.jpg Darth played with the kids.

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Darth taught Mia how to ride a bike.

I saw the original Star Wars movies when they hit theaters for the first time. Yes, I'm that old and truth be told I was five when the first one came out so admittedly a little young. But I loved them. Thirty years later, the films carry the same weight and are having the same effect on kids.

Why is that? What's so magic abut Star Wars? How many times have you seen the movies?


Posted by Chris at 6:54 AM | Comments (20)

November 2, 2010

The Moment

One of my favorite song titles is also one of the longest. It's a solo acoustic instrumental by guitarist William Ackerman called The Moment In Which You Must Finally Let Go of the Tether Which Has Held Your Hope Airborne. I can think of no greater musical metaphor for taking off Mia's training wheels.

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For the last few months Mia's been telling us that she wants nothing to do with training wheels. While I try to never underestimate my kids - because I am always proven wrong - I honestly thought it was too early. I didn't think her confidence was there. Boy was I wrong.

On Sunday I grabbed a wrench and took off the training wheels. I found a pole to jam in the back part of the bicycle frame to keep her upright (the same exact way my dad taught me) and took her out to a nearby field. She hopped on her bike and took off while I ran behind her, holding the pole yelling pedal, pedal! and then I did one of the hardest things I've done as a parent. I stopped running. And I watched this girl - this no-longer-little-girl - turn into an independent pink streak flashing in front of an autumn forest. I let go of the tether and she kept herself aloft.

Mia fell, of course. A lot. But the bumps and bruises didn't shake her. She was, as in all things, determined. By the end of the day she was tired and sore but confident and proud of herself.

The rules of bike riding are pretty simple. Keep going and stay upright. Watch out for stuff that could hit you. And when you can't keep going, make sure to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, take care of your wounds and try again. That's all any of us can really do in life. I learned that again on Sunday. I might have shown Mia how to ride a bike but Mia reminded me how to live.

Posted by Chris at 6:48 AM | Comments (20)

November 1, 2010

Smooky Night

"It was a smooky, smooky night," so said Owen. Me, well, I just thought it was exhausting. The whole weekend was for that matter. So much so that I'm still recovering. So this morning, you get a couple of unsatisfactory lines of text, an adorable picture and a slightly disgruntled blogger (disgruntled because it's morning and I'm awake and working).
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This year, Mia broke her Arial streak and, out of nowhere, decided to go as Cleopatra. Owen unpredictably decided against Buzz Lightyear and went, instead, as the mannaseel (his description) or man of steel (ours). A wonderfully good time was had by all. Owen and I stuck together. He narrated the whole evening as it unfolded with a thirty-second delay. It was hilarious. And sure, he got freaked out by the scary boys wearing masks but he seemed to have gotten over it pretty quickly. After all, it's not like they were carrying cryptonite.

Another Halloween has been and gone, this one more enjoyable than any other before it. My kids are both in the zone. They get it. And they love it. And the only thing more fun that experiencing that with your kids - through your kids - is experiencing it yourself. And people would probably look at me funny if I threw Owen's Superman costume on and traipsed through the neighborhood. That or call the cops.

How were your Halloweens?

Posted by Chris at 7:46 AM | Comments (10)

Haiku For Monday #341

Serious question:
Exactly how in the hell
is it November?

Posted by Chris at 7:36 AM | Comments (6)


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