Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Mix Tape

Tape and pen after whoopee
The hardest emotion for two people to display to one another is love.  Sure they can write poems, or send flowers, or cook a favorite meal, or kiss, or canoodle, or go on romantic vacation cruise through upper Mongolia, or even say "I love you," ... but do any of those things really say love?  What's needed is a method of communication that can woo the heart and rock out the soul.  What's needed is a mix tape.

A mix tape conveys what you could have said if you kept practicing the guitar and didn't scare young children when you sing.  It's the first step of a real relationship and takes you from the "like" stage to the "like-like" stage.  For a teenager or hipster, a mix tape become the unspoken statement or, "I really think you're swell.  Now here are some songs that should help me get to second base."  You could use it to try and round third and slide into home, but that's some pretty tricky mixing.  Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On may work, but don't oversell your position with a song like George Michael's I Want Your Sex.  There's a fine line between romantic gesture and restraining order.

In the heyday of mixes--after 8 Tracks and before MP3s--you had to have a physical copy of the song before you could transfer it to a cassette or CD.  This usually meant that aside from borrowing your sister's Bryan Adams and Eric Clapton: Unplugged CD's, you had to rely on whatever music you owned.  If you were a music aficionado, you were OK.  But if you were like me and all your tapes could fit inside a shoebox, then you were in trouble.  One of my best friends tried to make a mix for a girl during his sophomore year in high school and he only owned three Guns and Roses tapes and one Pearl Jam CD.  When he got to track four and had to resort to Welcome to the Jungle, we both knew that he should look elsewhere for dates.

The key to a mix tape (or playlist for the iTunes generations) lies in mixing up the themes and genres.  Love songs hit a nice chord, but after five or six in a row, they all sound the same:
I love you like [insert metaphor] 
and more than [insert another metaphor]
Why don't we [sexual innuendo]
Throw in a power anthem to shake it up a little.  It will show that you have some depth and can find interest in a variety of topics.  Besides, 20 love songs in a row becomes pretty creepy.  Stalkers fill a playlist with 20 love songs.

For an added degree of difficulty, try to select different genres and eras.  Like theme choice, this shows that your personality has many sides to it.  You like Rock AND Country!?  Frank Sinatra and Jay Z?!  Why, you are complex and interesting and need some lovin'.  Selecting a smattering of lesser known bands also helps your "interesting" level, but do so sparingly.  Filling the entire mix with "indie" artists makes you a condescending douchebag.

Every year since 2007 I've actually created a mix for the Queen for one of her Christmas presents.  I find that it keeps the marriage interesting, especially during a stressful time of the year.  Now that the Princess is around and cognizant, all music must carry the all-important Princess Seal of Approval.  And although its kinda testosterone-heavy at the end, I think we did alright this year.

Here's the list:
  1. Princess intro (a days of the week song recorded by the Princess herself)
  2. Princess Cupcake -- Marion Call
  3. Roar -- Katie Perry
  4. Home -- Jack Johnson
  5. Calico Skies -- Paul McCartney
  6. The Luckiest -- Ben Folds
  7. Free to Be Me -- Francesca Battistelli
  8. Carry On (iTunes Session) -- Fun.
  9. Head over Feet -- Alanis Morissette
  10. I Don't Know a Thing -- Lucy Schwartz
  11. I Will Wait -- Mumford & Sons
  12. That's When I Love You -- Mark Aaron James
  13. Odds Are -- Barenaked Ladies
  14. What Would I Do Without You -- Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
  15. Superman -- Lazio Bane
  16. Marry You -- Bruno Mars
  17. Turn Up the Music -- Lemonade Head
  18. Rhythm of Love -- Plain White T's
  19. OK, It's Alright With Me -- Eric Hutchinson
  20. Gone, Gone, Gone -- Phillip Phillips
  21. Close your Eyes -- Michael Buble
  22. Monday -- ALO
  23. Cherry Bomb -- John Mellencamp
  24. Waiting On the World to Change -- John Mayer
  25. This Song Would Be Better -- Mark Aaron James
  26. A Pirate Looks at Forty -- Jimmy Buffett
  27. Brave -- Sara Bareilles
  28. Flowers in Your Hair -- The Lumineers
  29. Save the Last Dance For Me -- Michael Buble
  30. Merry Christmas, Mommy/You Are My Sunshine -- The Princess
Long, but needs to last an exhausting car trip to whatever parents house we visit for Christmas.  I think its one of the better one's I've made, although last year I did get to slip in "Dumb Ways to Die" by Tangerine Kitty (which is really an Australian train safety PSA).  At least it should help me get to "Like-like" stage, and perhaps we could even hold hands at the malt shop.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When haircuts ruled the world

For my whole life, I had horrible hair.  My 217 cowlicks and penchant to produce roughly 2.1 liters of hair grease a day had previously led the EPA to declare my head a public disaster area.  My right side always stood straight up as if a ghost constantly hid behind every door frame just to jump out and shout "Boo!"  My left side of my head declared war on the right side, and while the right side was clearly distracted, it launched a sneak attack with a sweep and started to take over.

Frankly, I given up.  I decided that the only way to tame the mane was to let it take over my entire body.  I let the back grow into my shirt collar.  My bangs overtook my eyebrows, making all looks of astonishment obsolete.  My ears also disappeared underneath the sideburns from hell, which accounts for all times I could not hear important chore lists from the Queen.  At the same time, I decided not to trim my beard so it would not conflict with the homeless motif I had going on.

By the time the Queen had enough and ordered my haircut, I approximately looked like this:

Very distinguished, but I had the nagging suspicion that soon I would get fleas
I was skeptical at first.  No one ever cut my Cthulhu-like hair without going a bit insane.  Could I ruin another person's life like that?  Perhaps I could if they were a horrible person, like one that goes out after work and sells crack cocaine to baby seals.  But never someone normal with a family and dreams.  That would be barbaric! (Get it?  Barbaric...barber.  I'm hilarious!)

I relented because I subscribe to the mantra, "Happy wife, happy life."  On Saturday, we bundled up the Princess and braved the elements to Platinum Black and happened to run into a miracle worker.  Lizzie took one look at the hot mess in front of her, rolled up her sleeves, and gave a viking yawp that would please the gods.  I admit it, I blacked out a bit and don't know exactly what happened, but I heard from others in the shop that it was like watching Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa.

When I came to, Lizzie talked about my hair as "hip" and "stylish."  I'm not too sure how "hip" a work-at-home dad who has seen all three seasons of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic can be, but for one shining moment, I'll take it.  So how do I look?  Pretty damn good!

Picture under protest because of background issues. The Queen just wanted you to know.


I may even amount to a "Hey, Bud" guy.  You know when you meet someone who has it so together that when they shake your hand for the first time, they also give you a arm slap and say, "Hey, Bud," like you have known them for years.  The guy who always wears his jacket at a party because he's "only staying for one drink."  With this new do and some new clothes, I could attain that unreachable milestone.

Or I could become a model.  A husky model with awesome hair.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Oh boy, a present with strings attached!

With Pre-Christmas behind us and real Christmas fast approaching, it has been shopping time in the Kingdom of Grubb.  The Princess, being three and all, finally understands that Christmas is a wonderful time of year in which we celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus through his second in command, Santa Claus.  She loves the pageantry of Christmas with the lights and the cookies and the Jingle Belling and whatnot.  From helping decorate our tree to assembling our Elf village, every day belongs to some part of Christmas.

Of course the big pay off to Christmas for this young lass is the presents.   Like when the light went off that she can shake down our neighbors for candy at Halloween, the Princess figured out that if she's good, we are morally obligated to give her stuff.  In preparation, she's written a long Christmas list including every item in the Disney Store.  The Princess needs more of her kind, especially if they are little, plastic and painful to step on when barefoot.  She especially needs a Rainbow Dash that she can color herself.

I would try harder to dissuade this fascination with gifts, but she genuinely feels thankful for everything she gets.  I could give her a 1964 red Mustang convertible or a piece of belly button lint and the reaction would be 100% grateful.  Seriously, the child was just as excited getting an IHOP gift card as when she unwrapped her pink, big girl scooter.  This attitude makes you want to buy things for her.  Not anything expensive, mind you.  I'm not made of money, especially when everyone leaves the front door open and heats the whole outside.

With present d-day approaching, I was stoked about the $10 Toys-R-Us gift card offer in the Wendy's Chicken Nuggets kids meal.  $10 to Toys-R-Us, that's fantastic!  Watch out Rainbow Dash that you can color yourself; consider yourself bought.  I think I'll go to Toy-R-Us right now!  Or at least after I pick up some milk at the grocery store!  And go to the bank!  And finish cleaning the garage!

Then I saw the fine print.  You cannot use the gift card offer on:
  • Baby Food
  • Diapers
  • Formula
  • Wipes
  • Red Hot Deals
  • Hot Price and Unbeatable Price Items
  • Ameda
  • Baby Jogger
  • BOB
  • Britax
  • Bugaboo
  • ERGObaby
  • Mamas & Papas
  • Maxi-Cosi car seats
  • Medela breast pumps (why they would sell this at a toy store, I'm not sure)
  • Motorola
  • Pediped
  • Peg Pergo
  • Phil & Teds
  • Quinny
  • Robeez
  • Thyme Maternity
  • Electronic learning toys
  • Netbooks
  • Tablets
  • Video game hardware
  • Video games
  • Apple products
  • FAO Schwartz toys
  • Buyer Protection Plans
  • Gift cards
  • Photo studios
  • Phone orders
  • Special orders
  • Assembly fee
  • Breast-pump rental fee
  • or Shipping and handling
Whew, what a pretty exhaustive list.  It seems like the only thing the $10 gift certificate can buy is a Rainbow Dash that you can color yourself.  Except when you look harder, you find it's not even a $10 gift card.  It's an offer for a $10 gift card IF you spend $50.  So, if I read this correctly, I have to spend money to save money to spend more money.  That's marketing genius!

But I suppose I could spend $50 worth of crap on one ticket and then turn right around and spend the gift card on the elusive Rainbow Dash that you can color yourself.  Nope.  The gift card doesn't activate for 6 hours after they give it to you.  That's me coming back to a toy store during Christmas after I already bought stuff!  Toys-R-Us is perpetually crowded with other people's kids during the holidays and some of them don't like waiting in crowds while their parents buy stuff they can't immediately play with.  It's a loud, sad place that breeds anger and smells like unchanged diapers.  I hear they even have to talk Geoffrey Giraffe off the roof with promises that everything will be all right after New Year's.

Well, at least I can save the $10 bucks in my wallet for her September birthday.  Nope.  The card must be used by February 1, 2014.  The choice I  have to make is to re-shop for Christmas after I just bought $50 worth of junk OR come back after Christmas when the child is already up to her eyeballs in plastic Princess paraphernalia.  Talk about a lose-lose situation.

You know, Toys-R-Us, I appreciate what you're doing here.  Spreading a little holiday joy by giving a mostly worthless gift card that's fairly limited in what you can buy or when you can use it.  I think I'll buy my Rainbow Dash that you can color yourself on Amazon.  That way I can still play full price and I won't have to leave my jammies.  And my jammies are freakin' warm.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Beware the Kids of America

For some reason the Queen and I decided that the Princess needed some schoolin'.  She just turned three and she pretty much learned everything that I could teach her.  It seemed that we either let her perform her very own frontal lobotomy on the dog, or find some sort of professionals that could stimulate her brain cells.  We chose the latter.  So every Tuesday and Thursday either the Queen or I drive the Princess 30 minutes from our house to her Montessori school, which, as I am told, is totally worth the inconvenience.

When the Queen drives her, she spends the rest of the day at the nearby university working on her PhD.  When I drive her, I spend the rest of the day "working" at whatever restaurant  has free WiFi and will let me sit in the corner nursing an unsweetened ice tea for five and a half hours.  Most of the time I pick the golden arches, but today I decided to try out Chef Lin's Asian Cookery and their $4.99 all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.  And that's where our story begins. (That's right, the last two paragraphs were superfluous.)

Two young women from a fairly selective public college walked into restaurant, paid their buffet fee and sat down at a table.

And they sat there.

And they sat there.

And they sat there.

Finally after like 20 minutes the cashier finally said, "You know you can get food whenever you want."

To which they replied in all earnestly, "You mean we can just walk up and take whatever we want? Can we go up more than once?"

It's statements like these that make me weep for the younger generation.  These women should possess a relative amount of intelligence, at least enough to know how to eat at a buffet restaurant.  Are these the future leaders that we want handling our nuclear launch codes?  Or reforming our educational system?  Or selling us a Sham-Wow?

This incident ranks itself right up there with one of my former college students asking if San Francisco was located in California.  Another almost burned down the student union by putting a metal bowl in the microwave.  The favorite excuse for missing a homework assignment or failing an exam coincides with a "I'm not going to lie, but I just didn't do it."  Like either they were to lazy to think of an excuse or I should give them a pass because of their honesty.

Reputable experts call this generation the most self-absorbed, lazy and entitled ever.  These folks would rather take a selfie in a public bathroom than put in an honest days work.  If it isn't instant, then it's work, and that's right out.  Of course these same experts called Generation X an apathetic group of slackers who would rather listen to a Smashing Pumpkins album in the dark than put on a clean T-shirt.  And didn't similar experts give another generation the nickname "hippies"?  I'm sure that when the Millennials get old and crusty, they'll have a good time writing articles disparaging the new generation of degenerates.

So instead of hanging my head in despair, I'm going to list the top 5 reasons I'm optimistic about our future leaders:
 
  1. My three-year-old knows more about the iPad than I do (and I have a computer science degree).  With such technology savvy, perhaps we'll the next generation will be smart enough to not click on a link containing a virus that wipes out your bank account.

  2. The vast majority of young voters refuse to pick a political party.  Perhaps the bickering of these old guys will stop when we get some new, feel-good Millennial blood in Washington.  After all, everyone's a winner!

  3. They know how to "keep it real."  While Gen X hid behind Daria-like sarcasm and the Boomers specialized in passive aggressive "Bless their hearts," the new wave of crazy kids just spout whatever is on their minds.  While its sort of like listening to someone with honesty Tourettes, I have to appreciate knowing exactly what they think of me.

  4. The spacial bubble expands exponentially.  When I look at most 20-something's Facebook pages, I'm blown away at the amount of "friends" from different geographic areas and cultures.  They may not know how to leverage this network yet, but once they do, watch out!

  5. Our generation sucked and we turned out fine.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When Halloween used to be fun

Forgive me as I put on my maroon bathrobe and flannel lined heal-less slippers and play the part of Grumpy Old Man.

<ahem>

When I was young, Halloween was just one day.  We would wake up in the morning and scrounge for old clothes from the parents' closet so we could dress up like an army guy or a disco dancer or a bum.  If you were rich, you bought a $0.75 mask from the drug store that was held together by a strand of rubber floss and had a mouth slit that tried to cut a second breathing hole into your chin.  The only costume shop we would ever think of visiting was Goodwill and the only make-up we needed was found in our sisters' medicine cabinet. (The bruising looked so life-like.)

We could dress up for school, but our teachers remained unimpressed with a "nice costume, ass, here's your math test."  There may have been a costume parade, but mostly it was an excuse to dress like an army guy or a disco dancer or a bum at school.  No one really cared what you came as; unless, your sister forced you to dress like a girl so convincingly that it prompted the principal to ask about the new girl, thus scarring you for life (or so I'm told).

And then we came home, we grabbed the biggest pillow cases we could find, and Trick or Treated.  We even had the gall to Trick or Treat in the dark. By by the time we got back at 8:00 pm or so, we had so much candy that our mothers made us store whatever didn't fit in the candy drawer in the freezer. Of course that's after we sorted all the candy on the floor by like/dislike and ate so much sugar that by the time we went to bed, we fell asleep with our eyes fully open and limbs twitching like the last DumDum sucker we just ate was a taser.

Now-a-days Halloween is about theatrics.  Store decorations start the day after Labor Day and merge with Christmas about October 15th, in what I call Bloody Santa Claus.  A trip to the pumpkin patch as a kid was:
  1. Go to pumpkin patch
  2. Buy pumpkin ($3.00)
  3. Leave pumpkin patch
Now it's:
  1. Go to pumpkin patch
  2. Take hayride ($5.00/person)
  3. Go through haunted --but not scary -- house ($2.00/person)
  4. Eat "homemade" barbeque sandwich ($6.00/person)
  5. Pet animals at petting zoo ($1.00/handful of goat nuggets)
  6. Go through the corn maze ($2.00/person)
  7. Pick out pumpkin (FREE)
  8. Wind through gift shop with overstimulated 3-year-old who wants to buy every piece of "ol' fashion" candy she sees (up to $1,000,000,000)
  9. Buy pumpkin ($3.00)
  10. Take pictures of child with pumpkin (FREE if you remember to bring your own camera or don't lose your phone on the aforementioned hayride)
  11. Go home
And there's something Halloween-y EVERY WEEKEND!  Amusement park Scarefest, Boo at the Zoo,  Trunk or Treats, it goes on and on.

That's because Halloween isn't a day anymore, it's a season.  What we knew as Halloween has become Beggars Night, and it may or may not reside on October 31st.  To find out when its "legal" to Trick or Treat in your neighborhood you need to consult some sort of oracle (like a wife who reads the newspaper).  When we were kids, we all knew that October 31st was the one night where we could shake down our neighbors for some of the sweet stuff--even if it was a school night!  Now, if October 31 isn't the official Beggars Night, your neighbors have a full legal right to give you a Mars Bar full of resin, or worse, canned vegetables.

I could go on about how the "fun sized" candy have gotten smaller (they're more like "sad sized"), or how all women's costumes make them look like prostitutes, but I won't.  Instead, I'll just stick to those holidays that haven't been ruined by The Man.  Holidays like Arbor Day or National Penguin Awareness Day.  Although I know its just a matter of time before Skyscraper Appreciation Day becomes Skyscraper Appreciation Season.  Pretty soon we'll all forget that August 10th is the day we should commemorate William Van Alen, the primary architect behind the construction of the Chrysler Building, and instead spend the week shopping at all those Skyscraper Day appliance sales.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Please Feed the Troll

We made it--100 hundred page views for one post!  That means world-wild fame, radio shows and and a spot on Barbara Walters 10 Most Fascinating People of 2013. Or, at the very least, a Facebook page for Losing the Internets.

Facebook is a great medium.  It shows me who I could befriend if I ever left the house.  It's full of family pictures and stories about food and who's watching what on TV.  It's the perfect blend of fuzziness and snarkiness reminiscent of a great 80's sitcom (like Cheers, not The Tortellis. We should never speak if The Tortellis again). A Facebook page may be the crown jewel in the Losing the Internets empire; am empire that brought in $1.50 last year.

And if we really wish hard on a birthday star, we may get our very own Internet Troll.  For those who don't frequent the Internet on a regular basis, you probably aren't reading this.  For everyone else, the Internet Troll embodies the true essence of hate.  Think of your school yard bully doused with a large dose of Mr. Burns, topped off with a bit of Hannibal Lecture.  The Troll has no other agenda but to derail discussions on Facebook, blogs, forums, or shopping reviews, by vomiting venom all over the place.  Trolls channel those  teachers who keep writing on your progress reports that you don't work up to your potential and that perhaps you should consider a career as a parking lot speed bump.

If the Internet Troll brings such misery, why do I want him lurking around my band new Facebook page? (Have I mentioned the Facebook page yet?  Its new and awesome!)  The Internet Troll doesn't spend time with small, insignificant blogs, and instead only comes a-hating when you make it big.  Basically, if I want to be cool, I need a Troll.

So once we have our Troll, what can we do with it?  Talking or arguing is completely out of the question based on Trolly's--aka Trolly Trollikins IV--total lack of conscionable logic.  We can feed him and spawn a virtual mud pit where we just yell at each other.  We could also ban him (which I'm pretty sure will happen).

Or, we can play some Troll games like:
  • Troll shots: Every time you read a personal insult, take a drink.
  • Troll the Troll: After every comment left by the Troll, everyone replays with "your mom" added at the end.  Trolly will either get personally offended and stop or double down with more venom, which will spawn more "your mom" comments.   Repeat.
  • Troll and treat: "Like" every Troll comment.  The Troll lives on hate and getting over 100 "likes" will cause his head to explode.
So while you visit my brand new Facebook page (did I mention it yet?), please remember that I appreciate and platonic love each and every one of you.  And while I want the "likes" to keep coming, I'm still looking for that one special "hate." 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Waiting...

I'm not a patient guy.  I pace when the mail comes after its usual 2 pm delivery.  Football replay reviews can raise my heart rate to dangerous proportions.  I may have even uttered a profane word or two when Netflix has a momentary lag.  God must have been rushed when He made me, because I can't stand inactivity.

So when there's a decision that could impact the well being of my whole family, the wait becomes magnified by 1,000,000,000x.  Time seems to slow down exponentially.  At first, seconds seem like minutes, and then hours, and then years.  I check my phone about 32 times a day just to make sure that a call wasn't missed because of a bad cell signal or broken ringer. My pulse shoots up like I downed a pot of espresso after a "bing" of an email, and then is plunged into depression when it turns out just to be an offer for male enhancement drugs.  (However, legitimate contract work goes to my spam folder?  Way to go Yahoo e-mail service?)

I also develop a bad case of ADHD.  I keep my hands busy, but nothing productive comes of it.  I'm finding that concentration is harder to obtain than the Arc of the Covenant.  At least Indiana Jones had Nazis in his way, and all I have standing before me is uncertainty.

The optimist in me knows that these feelings will subside.  Either my family will pack up our stuff and head on out to greener pastures, or we'll circle the wagons and try again.  My life won't end if this opportunity doesn't come through.  And there remain some significant challenges if it does.  I'm game to try and take on a new adventure, but right now it's out of my hands.

So, I wait... 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Parent Cult

This post should serve as a warning to any prospective parents: ADVANCE WITH CAUTION.  I'm not going to tell anyone not to have kids, because some people seem to enjoy theirs.  I actually like mine 98.9% of the time, although lately I think she may be broken.  I just want to give those blissful parents-to-be the bit of reality that usually gets obscured by those who want to indoctrinate others into the parental cult.

Even when the Queen and I started to even consider the idea that perhaps we maybe, perhaps wanted to raise a child, the Parent Mafia descended upon us.  "You just HAVE to have kids!" these child Amway sales people would yell. "You would be SO good at being parents!  Can you be my parents?  Adopt me!" 

The Queen and I would just smile and nod our heads.  Being a married couple over the age of 25 invites a certain amount of expectations that the only thing left for us is reproduction.  Sure, we had goals and dreams that revolved around our hobbies and careers, but that's not baby making and does not count.  We were old and our lives meaningless.
 
Sometimes I would point to great people who never had children.  Oprah Winfrey and Bo Derek are childless.  President Andrew Jackson and James Polk refused to procreate.  I don't know if Gandhi ever fathered a child, but if he did, I'm sure he/she would have been a disappointment.  (The Queen tried to pressure me into changing that last statement, as she insists that Gandhi had children.  I refused to cave.)  In response, I would get sad, puppy dog looks and a sigh that seemed to mean, "I'm so sorry for your logic."  
 
As we aged, the hopeful nudging to get-it-on started to evaporate.  By the time I hit 35 and the Queen hit *Editor deletion*, everyone pretty much lost hope.  Instead we would get hopeless clucking from strange women in the grocery store.   A colleague once remarked out of the blue that it was okay that we didn't procreate because "God only gives you as much as you can handle."  That sounded like a challenge.
 
After we announced the Queen's pregnancy, the Cult of Parenthood regrouped and came at us in full campaign mode.  Children are wonderful they would say.  Children are easy they would say.  Children make everything ice cream sundaes.  With a giggle, a pinch of the cheek, a rub of the belly, and a knowing wink, these cultists were only too happy to bring us into the fold.  Every person hummed a tune of rainbows and sparkles.

Then the kid, and the song turned nasty.  The cultists were nice after the first week or so, but after that they turned into a gaggle of Gotchya monsters. And it never stops!
  • Not sleeping in more than 30 minute increments for 36-hours: Gotchya!
  • Spit up all over your favorite shirt: Gotchya!
  • Refuses to potty train: Gotchya!
  • Breaks your 1979 rare Donald Duck figurine : Gotchya!
  • Throws an unbelievable fit because the sun isn't black: Gotchya!
Now I love my daughter very much.  If I didn't I would have given her back by now.  And the joys usually outweigh the pain, but I wish someone would  have explained the fine print.  The one where its says that your sanity will disappear with your memory, your poop tolerance will greatly increase, and you won't be able to talk to your wife because you can't spell. 

And for all those 20-something married couples, if you run into any of these Parent Cultists, feel free to use pepper spray.  Or just start talking about how your dogs are your kids.  The Gang of Pets are the Parent Cult's natural nemesis.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Say what?

Every Tuesday and Thursday the Princess gets whisked to preschool by the Queen leaving me in a joyfully quiet house.  I can collect my thoughts and silently work to my heart's content with only the sounds of my keyboard click-clacking away.  Twice a week, from 8:10 to 3:50, I live in a bubble of self-absorption. And I love it.

Except for the days when the Queen cannot take the child and I have to drive. On those days, I gather together my papers, my computer and my headphones and trek the thirty minutes to drop her off at school.  To save gas and an hour I then head over to the local McDonald's to partake in a Number 3 meal (steak-ish McMuffin, Deep Fried Cardboard, and a large coffee), log into the free wi-fi, and plug in my headphones.  For seven hours I type away to the sounds of my iTunes account and the glares of annoyed fast food workers.

But last Thursday I forgot my headphones and I subjected myself to the chatter of all the groups that inhabited the booth behind me.  Lewis Black has a comedy bit about how unusual snippets of a conversation can eat your brain (see it here), and now I truly understand from where brain aneurysms come.  The amount of disorienting statements that burrowed themselves under my hippocampus has been staggering.  Five days later and I still mull over their meaning.  It's a miracle I'm still alive.

What did I hear?  I'll tell you, but be sure that you have excellent catastrophic event insurance.
  •  Why does my monster keep eating all my babies? 
    A better question: why do you have a baby-eating monster at all?  I thought they were illegal in most states--like ferrets.
  • Where's my coffee?  Don't these people know that I have to poop?
    I'm not sure why a cup of coffee is needed for bowel movements...I mean after you already have to poop.  Needless to say, I avoided the bathroom for the remainder of the day.
  • I'd go to Ren Fair, but I don't know where my coconut codpiece is.
    Please be sarcasm, please be sarcasm, dear God please be sarcasm.
  • I don't feel so good today.

    Does your back hurt?

    Why would you say that to me?
    Whatever you do, don't mention this dude's back.  It's bad news.
  • Fred would be much cooler if he didn't have those gigantic bats.
    That goes without saying.
I didn't get much done on Thursday, but on the upside I am meeting a nice doctor this week to go over treatment options.  I'm confident that by next month I will use my fork independently again. 


P.S. I did not embed the Lewis Black video not because I don't know how, but because it contains some language not fit for school.  Click on the link at your own peril, but the guy can throw around a pretty mean adverb.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Passing those Painful Milestones

he trouble with being a writer is the constant battle of the pen meeting the paper.  Of course, I don't use pen and paper.  It would be easier finding a Showbiz Pizza Token from 1986 in our house than locating a notebook or legal pad without Princess scribbles on every page, and a pen that would actually dispense ink on a consistent basis is the type of folklore that gets passed down from father to son.  I also can't switch to play Counterstrike when I'm stuck on a particular word with my good ol' Quill Gold Signature Ruled Pad. Anyways, writing equals hard. 
 
When I asked professional writers how they get over things like writers block, they simply state that I needed to quit all paying work, sit down, and write approximately 17,967,084,302 words per day.  It doesn't matter if I wrote illegibly, or coherently, or even copied the phone book (which would be 2,245,885,539 entries per day), word count mattered.  I call it the Monkey-With-Typewriter method of writing.  
 
However, I don't like intentionally writing crap.  Now, most of my stuff IS crap, but that's more happenstance.  When I spew out literary vomit just to get something on paper, I become agitated and depressed.  While some people will state that repetitiveness sparks creativity, my incoherence begets incompetence.  I did try this method of clocking in for a month straight, but became so frustrated that I gave it up for the sake of sanity.  Can I really be proud of my "work" when the only lucid piece I produced was a theme song for Breaking Bad?

Then one day I started thinking, which certainly gave me pause.  What would happen if I treated writing like I treated my video gaming?  Every modern game now comes with a pre-packaged set of milestones that rewards me when I happen to achieve it.  Mostly the rewards are meaningless Gamer Points, but when they pop up on the screen they do give me a boost of motivation.  Some even unlock special rewards that make the game more enjoyable.  Could I set a list of milestones that would help me "level up" my writing, thus inspire me to write quality stuff on a more consistent basis?

I'll spare you the list of my milestones for my quest to become published, but I will subject you to some on my current list for Losing the Internets.  Also included are the reward I get if I achieve the milestone:
  • Get a mention on Social media from someone I don't know: (Tripping the Nerd Fantastic)

    Find out other ways to promote blog.  Follow up on one method.  Cancel lifetime resolution to not make any more friends.
  • Get over 1,000 page views for blog in total:
    Set up non-intrusive ads so papa can get paid!
  • Get a comment from someone I don't know: (The Future of Waiting)
    If good -- write post on subject no one will care about.  If bad -- consider career in Tibetan Monkery.
  • Get 100 page views for a single post:
    Create dedicated Facebook page
  • Get asked to guest write another person's blog OR guest write on my blog:
    Create page of blogs I read on a regular basis
  • Write for 1 year or 100 posts:
    Create widget of the Queen's favorite ten posts
  • Get 10,000 page views on blog
    Reveal the location of the Jade Monkey.
And so on and so on.  This may not be the best way to write, but I'm not the best writer.  So enjoy the ramblings, and thank you for reading.  It looks like I'll be doing this for a while, because if nothing else, I'm a completer.


P.S. These same writers also told me it would help if I was a lawyer or ex-CIA operative and could write thrilling spy dramas.  I should never write children's picture books, because no one will publish them, and if I do make sure there are no talking animals in them.  Stories only work when your protagonist suffers, so try not to give them any happiness.  One even told me to develop a drinking and/or drug habit, but that seems expensive.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Future of Waiting

In the magical time of 1989, I dreamed of an utopian future where technology transformed every aspect of my life.  Flying time machine DeLoreans, dust-repellent paper, mind control video games, and toilet faxes would populate this world.  Everything would work instantly, from re-hydrating a pizza in 15 seconds, to receiving a facelift in under 30 minutes.  At the very least, I thought we would have instant drying clothes that form fit to your body with a touch of the button--very handy when falling into fountains off the hoverboard.

Now, I know that we come a long way since the Apple IIGS, but we're nowhere near the awesomeness predicted by the futuristic film Back to the Future Part II.  I blame a little on over-ambition.  For example, in order for Jaws 16 to come out in 2015, that means we would have to have had a new Jaws movie every two years.  That might have happened if we accomplished instantaneousness.  However, the computer companies would never let that happen.  It would corrode their power.

How do our computer overlords keep us enslaved?  One word: updates.

Here is my typical day involving technology:
  • Wake up and make coffee.  All is right in the world.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the puppy is licking itself happily.  Look away and get my laptop open to start work before the Princess wakes up to take my full, undivided attention.
  • "Windows will make important automatic updates.  Any attempts to stop us will result in the loss of your first born.  These updates are crucial.  We know that you used your laptop yesterday without a problem, but that was yesterday.  We live in a more dangerous time.  Just trust us." 
  • A countdown timer appears daring me to cut the red wire before my computer explodes and takes out the city.  Switch to the Xbox while I wait for the computer to "fix" itself.  If I can't work I might as well save the world from aliens.
  • "To use this device, an update is required.  If you refuse the update you will not be able to use the device.  You have the right to refuse, but then instead of a multi-media gaming machine, you will just have a $250 paper weight.  I don't care if you just want to play a four-year-old game.  You're in our world now." 
  • Select yes, put down controller, and back away from the machine slowly.  Decide to check email off the ol' iPhone.  At least I can check in on all that important spam.
  • "This application will only work with an update to your iOS system.  Unfortunately, you only have an iPhone 3GS.  That was released, like, three years ago.  Our iOS system cannot be updated on the 3GS.  Buy a newer phone, jerk.  After all, what's $299 between friends?"
  • Go back to bed and curl up in the fetal position.
Maybe its better that we aren't as up-to-date as Hill Valley, 2015.  Midway through a morning jog, you would jerk to a stop in the middle of the street while your self-lacing shoes had to perform a mandatory update, thus getting hit by a hover car whose steering has been disabled to perform the crucial navigation patch.  After all, this is the...

Crap, mandatory Java update.

PS: What, strange person reading this over my shoulder at the library, Back to the Future Part II wasn't an attempt to predict 2015 life?  Next you'll tell me that The Little Mermaid doesn't accurately portray undersea life.  And that, my nonfriend, is a world I don't want to live in!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Eternal Sunshine of the Fractured Mind

For some reason I have been living in a consistent cloud of randomness.  My brain has refused to focus enough for me to decide on an engaging and thoughtful topic in which to write about.  My head just feels like its stuffed filled with an odd assortment of snippets that don't have any correlation to each other, and each one is jockeying to become the most important part of my cognitive thought.  It's like I'm a two-year-old looking for <insert analogy here>.

I'm thinking if I write these thoughtoids down, then perhaps my mind will free itself so I can expound on my daughter's new-found skin sensitivities.  Or how I want to move to Indianapolis.  Or how my sister dressed me up like a girl and my elementary school principal thought I was a new student.  But for today, here comes my list of nothing.

  • I'm over the term "Man Cave" as a room filled with TVs and beer.  Where is the Woman Plateau or the Dog Fjord?  I just want equal time.
  • Can we stop referring to "flat-screen televisions"?  When was the last time you bought a tube television?  You can call me on your push-button phone to tell me your answer.
  • Dear Yahoo! News comment writer.  If this story about Miley Cyrus wasted your time, why did you click the link?  And read the article?  And write a comment?  And input the secret code to verify your humanness? I'm not sure your time is a valuable as you think.
  • If you haven't caught Garfield minus Garfield yet, you should.  Its a site "dedicated to removing Garfield from the comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle."  Its genius.
  • Last month in Meijer, the Princess told the Queen that "these are not the droids you're looking for."  I was so proud I almost cried.  Then the next day, she greeted her friend at school with an earsplitting "GENCON!"  Sometimes its good to be a geek
  •  Play Doh should come out with a Star Wars Jabba the Hut set where you can make a Han Solo frozen in carbonite.  They should also make a Harry Potter Pimp Goblet of Fire and a Breaking Bad home meth candy cooking set.  You can order these products and more on your push-button phone.
  • If every decision I make splits off into making another reality, then there is a dimension where I didn't just pick lint out of my belly button.  That, sir, is not a place I ever want to live.
  • After the Princess received a Disney fairy hair salon, a Doc McStuffins costume, 12 Disney princess figurines, a toddler Ariel doll, numerous Disney bags and a working model monorail set, I now realize that Disney serves as my Lord and Master.  All hail Mickey!
There, that's better.  Next post I can write about why why my friendly neighborhood postal worker hates us in a fully thought out essay.  Sometimes you just need to clean out the cobwebs so you can truly foc........is it hummus or hommus?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Post is Absolutely Fee!

For reading this post, you owe a $20.00 activation fee.

If you stop reading this blog for any reason, you will be charged a $150.00 early-termination fee.  And don't give me any sob story of your grandma having to use the computer to check WebMD for signs of having a stroke, my hands are tied.

Unfortunately, we will have to impose a $65.00 changing fee if you switch posts midway through your read, even if one post did not load correctly.

Of course, there is the processing fee of $18.00 for typing in this URL.

If you are reading this post on a mobile phone, then please remit the $5.00 convenience fee.

Reading this post while holding something in your hands (even a mouse) will result in a $25.00 baggage fee.

If you are reading with another person peering annoyingly over your shoulder, then its a $7.00 extra person fee.  If that extra person is a child under 2, then the fee is waived.  Babies are adorable and should be granted preferential treatment.

By the way, do not forget the $125.00 remote technology fee.  Failure to pay will result in your remotes spontaneously combusting at only the most inopportune of times.

All pets are welcome to read this blog (except birds.  I hate birds.  And certain kinds of alpacas), although there will be a $325.00 non-refundable deposit required for cleaning and stuff like that.

I feel generous today, so I'll pick up the shipping & handling, but I am going have to charge a $3.00 regulation-recovery fee.  I'm not sure what government regulation we need to recover from, but I'm thinking perhaps the Affordable Care Act.  Yeah, I hear that on the news.  Or perhaps interstate commerce laws.  You know, both may be a problem.  That's another $3.00.

All in all, you owe this blog between $164.00 - $746.00 depending on your personal choices.  You may pay by cash, check, and online via credit card (although please add 2.8% for credit card processing fees).  If you don't pay by the time I add another post, there will be a $35.00 late fee.

Also, if you can't pay, you will be charged for insufficient funds, because there's nothing better than charging those who have no money $50.00.

Thank you,
The Management

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Great Kazoo

If I ever meet Warren Herbert Frost, remind me to punch him square in the nose.  Except I think he died in the early 1900's, so meeting him is kinda out of the question.  I guess I can exhume his corpse, and then punch him in the nose, but that seems like a lot of work.  I would have to find out where he was buried, then find a shovel, and then probably get gas for the car before I leave...  Besides, if I were to bet on who would win in a nose punching match, I would put money on the dead guy.

Who is Warren Herbert Frost?  He's the bastard that invented the instrument of torture called the kazoo.  Some kazoologists may argue that George D. Smith stands as the true inventor of the kazoo, but those people are stupid.  George D. Smith only gave the instrument its illustrious submarine shape in 1902.  Warren Herbert Frost actually submitted a patent for "an instrument or toy" which bore the name kazoo in 1883.   It was patent number #270,543, just in case you want to look it up.  I did, and I'm a better man for it.

Patent for parent torture device by Warren Herbert Frost

I made the mistake of giving the Princess a kazoo that I got free at a children's conference.  "Hey a kazoo," I remember thinking.  "I had one of these as a kid, and I loved it.  I wonder what happened to it."  What happened is my parents stole the instrument and melted it in a big vat of hydrochloric acid, so it could never be used again.  I know this because I just ordered a vat of hydrochloric acid off of Amazon.com so I can destroy hers without any evidence left behind. (Don't worry, my hydrochloric acid comes with a child safety cap.)



If you haven't ever heard a child playing with a kazoo, then you were born deaf.  Children play kazoos so loudly that neighbors as far as four houses down will board up their windows thinking that a swarm of musically inclined killer bees have just attacked.  I made the mistake of sending the Princess outside to play her kazoo, and now I'm being fined by our housing association.  Our dog even left the house and checked into a Ramada Inn sixty miles away from us.  He won't come back until all kazoos have left the premises and we sign a legal, binding contract that we will not let any kind of membranophones in the house ever again.  I had to look up membranophone in Wikipedia before I agreed (an instrument which modifies its player's voice by way of a vibrating membrane), and then added an attachment that the dog cannot use words that I don't understand.

Fortunately, the kazoo may be loud, but at least it sounds horrible.  You have to hum into the device to get it to produce a buzzing sound, although realistically, you get the pleasure of hearing both the hum and the buzz.  To an accomplished kazoo player, the dual sounds can make you stab yourself in the ear with a number 2 pencil.  To a child playing the kazoo as loud as she can, the noise creates an instant migraine headache that only can be resolved by supplying said child with copious amount of M&M's and letting her watch all the Micky Mouse Clubhouse she can stand.  Thankfully, the Princess usually refrains from her kazoo playing until I'm on an important phone call.

I'm at my wits end.  I tried hiding the kazoo, but she found it.  I tried throwing it away, but as if by the magic of annoyance, the damn thing reappeared two days later.  We had hoped that when she fell directly on it, that it would be crushed beyond recognition.  But it was perfectly designed to resist blunt force trauma.  The Princess even slipped me a brochure about visiting the world famous Kazoo Factory and Museum in Beaufort, South Carolina.  I guess I'll just sit here and wait for the hydrochloric acid to arrive. 


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Alumni This!

Every three months my college's alumni magazine arrives at my door to mock me.  Not physically, although I would better appreciate a sentient magazine-man that pops in every so often just to insult me.  Mentally, however, it serves as a torment that knows no equal.  Well, except for Cthulhu.  (NOTE: my top five mental anguish are as follows: 1.) Cthulhu, 2.) DePauw University alumni magazine, 3.) Spiders, 4.) Telemarketers, 5.) AT&T data limits) 

I suppose I should just take the paper instrument of horror and toss it into the trash can -- no responsible recycling for you -- and live my life.  But, I don't.  I sit down with a bottle of whiskey and a carton of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, draw the blinds, put on The Cure and read that damn thing cover to cover.  Then I go to therapy.

Let's dissect the horribleness that is an alumni magazine:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pros and Gen Cons

Every August the gods bestow an event like no other in the grand tapestry of nerd gatherings: Gen Con.  For those who do not know the awesomeness of the Best Four Days in Gaming, let me first scoff at your ignorance and then patronizingly expound. 

Gen Con is a four-day convention that features everything about gaming.  Over 41,000 people descended on Indianapolis this last weekend to play roll-playing games, card games, collectable card games (yes, they are a separate category), board games, miniature war games, computer games, family games, party games, and drinking games.  They also watch movies about games, attend seminars relating to games, and Live-Action Role Play.  I could tell you the history or why they call it Gen Con, but then I would have to wake you up by hitting you with a saltwater bass.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

School: 1 - Me: 0

I secretly wanted my child to hate the first day of school.

Perhaps "hate" isn't the right word, but I'm not smart enough to figure out a word that means "shows extreme angst about going all day without Daddy by holding on to his leg and screaming bloody murder."  Perhaps I'll make one up.  Um...ok, got it.  Feel free to use it in casual conversation.

I secretly wanted my child to dadistickolegate the first day of school. 

But did the Princess have the courtesy to shed one tear?  Did she hang onto my neck a little too long in the farewell hug?  Did she even say goodbye before dropping her lunchbox in the mulch and running to the sandbox?  No!  The nerve of her being well adjusted and eager to start her education!  I'm severely thinking of limiting her dessert to only four M&M's.

Now, I wanted her to go to school, and I'm proud of the little nose picker.  She survived the two week potty training bootcamp.  She's talkative, well-adjusted and incredibly friendly.  She's even intellectually curious (i.e. she breaks my stuff).  I just didn't want her to want to go to school.  After all, what can top all those days with Daddy?

And realistically, I have nothing left to teach her.  She knows her ABC's and how to count to twenty.  She can identify most animals in the zoo as well as all 32 NFL teams.  The Queen won't let me teach her how to bring me a beer from the fridge.  So, I'm done.  Tapped out.  Oh, please dear Montessori School, guide my daughter well. 

So, its off to school.  Tra-la-la, do-si-do, and all that crap.  I'll do without a leg-clutching wail, or a "Daddy, Mommy, don't go," or even an acknowledgment of our existence.  Now, I just go home and sit in the silence eating leftover pizza and playing on Twitter working hard.  Perhaps I'll wear a tiara and drink some pretend tea and relive my memories.  Besides, she'll be home tomorrow.  She only goes twice a week.

At least I still have the dog, that needy bastard.

The Stuff Dreams Aren't Made Of

For two years I don't remember anything.

It's like I went to bed one day in 2003 and woke up in 2005.  For two years, I felt like I was in Dude, Where's My Car? except with a lot more headaches, a lot less Ashton Kutcher, and finding my car in the driveway.  To make a long story short, I had this spinal-fixation-of-the-top-four-vertebra thingy going on that only allowed less than 40% of oxygen going to my brain.  That induced intense headaches, vertigo and memory loss.  Add a little salt for taste, some Topamax, and wallah, two-year rip in the space-time continuum.

Now, I didn't tell you this for your pity. (However, if you want to send pity Powerball tickets, I'll allow it.)  I did it to explain why I haven't pursued my dream of working for the Disney (the corporation, not the man.  He's dead, and probably doesn't pay very much).  Every since I visited Disney World in 2001 I wanted a part of the action in any capacity.  Just to have the opportunity to create an ounce of Disney magic and I would be happy as a dung beetle in a manure pile.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Defiance Just Ain't a Town in Ohio

When I decided to start writing a blog, I received a lot of advice.  To be more exact, I received a lot of advice from one guy.  I can still remember the conversation like it was July 12th, because that's when it happened.
Guy: Hey, man, for your blog, you gotta, like, stick to one, narrow genre.  Like, don't make it all about a range of topics.
Me: (pretends to write stuff down) Okay.
Guy: And don't publish until you have your layout fully completed.  Nobody likes to see a work in progress

Me: (wonders if I left the stove top on) Okay.

Guy: And you should do give-aways, everyone loves free stuff.  It will really drive some traffic.

Me: Are my fries done?!

Guy: (Hands over fries as if it were a hostage negotiations)  You know those fries aren't good for you.  It's a one way trip to artillery cloggage-town.

Me: (gives death stare as slowly backs away from front counter)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Girl Power, Bronies, and the Magical Land of Stereotype Marketing

Remember My Buddy?  The delightful doll with a delightful theme song that your delightful son can play with.  My Buddy could ride a big wheel, play in a tree house, or become a construction worker.  He could go anywhere you go--until the movie Child's Play.  Then My Buddy stayed locked in an upstairs linen closet (the one with the good towels that you only use when company comes) for 27 years.

The big deal about My Buddy before it served as inspiration to the movie that wrecked my childhood was that it was marketed to boys!  A doll for boys, how absurd! Boys like guns and sports stuff and Stretch Armstrong (which is an ACTION FIGURE, thank you very much).  The only reason Hasbro marketed My Buddy was to bring boys into the homosexual lifestyle.  Or at least that's what my friend's older brother told me, and he should know.  He flunked the 8th grade twice.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tripping the Nerd Fantastic

Every August the city of Indianapolis hosts a small gathering of gaming enthusiasts in what has affectionately called "The Best Four Days in Gaming."  This so called Gen Con brings about 50,000 people together to play board games (Settlers of Catan), role playing games (Dungeons & Dragons), card games (Magic: the Gathering), miniature games (Battletech), and reindeer games (no Rudolphs allowed). They also have Live Action Role Playing, seminars about gaming, movies about gaming, a dance, plenty of gamer funk, and Wil Wheaton. It's nerd Christmas in geek Shangri-La -- and I've been attending for about eight years.

I guess that makes me a nerd, or a geek, or a dweeb, or a whatever (except everyone knows that's Gonzo the Great). I'm fine with that, except I really didn't know that I resided in nerd-dom until someone challenged my belonging.  The conversation happened at the last Gen Con when I sat down to play a game with three friends and a guy we didn't know.

GUY: (small talk about tv shows we watch)... and I love Community, but unfortunately it's going to suck now that Dan Harmon left.

ME: (being awesome) I don't ever get to see Community since I don't have cable and can only watch TV on the internet.  I'm surprised that such a niche-type show is so hard to find online.  My favorite sitcom is the Big Bang Theory...

GUY: (Interrupting douchebag)  No self-respecting nerd would ever like that show.  The characters are stereotypes of everything we stand for, and the physics they are supposedly <finger quote> experts <finger quote> in is so subpar and generally, flat out wrong.  Why are you even here?

ME: You're mean.

That night I went home, cried a little bit acted manly, and thought more about nerd culture.  I like RPGs, video games, and superhero movies, doesn't that make me a nerd?  And if so, have I always been a nerd?  I remember getting all excited about playing Star Wars in my Han Solo underoos with my sister and cousins at my grandparents house in Abilene, Kansas.  Or staying up all night at Justin's house when we uncovered his old Atari 2600.  Or pouring hour upon hour devouring Choose your Own Adventure books, even when I had to hide my reading under the covers with a flashlight.

Nerdity has quietly swept into my psyche without me even knowing it, even as I broke swimming records and attended social functions.  Creeping like a ninja with a pocket protector, I've been stabbed in the back by a +5 vorpal sword of geek.  Shame on you, mean gaming guy (who smelled of Cheetos and broken dreams) for doubting my nerd allegiance.  And shame on me for not realizing it sooner.

But really, aren't we all nerds.  Yeah, I'm talking to you, guy who spent all night camped out in front of the Apple store for a new iPhone 5.  And you, mom who wasted two hours just to get off of level 167 of Candy Crush.  And even you, dude who obsesses over the choice to take DeMarco Murray or Montee Ball in the 7th round of your 5th fantasy football league.  The sooner we all admit it, the sooner we can stop the nerd rage and all live in harmonious splendor.  Well, until Star Wars, Episode VII.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lies, Damn Lies, and Greeting Cards

So there I stand on 11:49 pm, Tuesday night at the Jewel/Osco buying the Queen a birthday card.  I need to buy a card because I forgot to on my way home from work, and the Queen will expect it sitting on the kitchen table when she wakes up.  Actually, I have to buy two.  The Princess also needs to buy Mommy a card, but she alleges that she can't go card shopping because "She Can't Read."  Frankly, I think she just didn't want to spend the 2.5 hours is takes to pick out one birthday card, much less two.

Picking out the perfect card takes the endurance of a distance runner to wade through the crapfest produced by the greeting card industry.  If you haven't visited the card aisle in a while, then you are a bad person.  If you have tried to buy a winner, then you know that birthday cards only come in five different varieties:

Old age cliches: Insert crude picture with bodily function/saggy boobs/limp member/no sex drive caption.  Inside there's a witty saying like "Happy Birthday, Old Fart."  Hilarity ensures.

You're a drunk: Picture of a beer mug or martini glass coupled with a suggestion to get away and get trashed.  Sadly no mention that drinking alone in the dark is a sign of alcoholism.

I'm cheap and you suck: This card explains to the reader that their birthday serves more as obligation than a celebration, and if they were a higher quality of person, then prehaps they would have gotten a gift instead of a card.

Annoying sound: Why should you be the only one irritated on your birthday?  Now everybody's ears can be assaulted by the sound clip that may or may not correlate to what's written on the card.  My favorite? "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" by Alan Jackson.  Nothing says Happy Birthday like September 11th.

Irrelevant humor: Cards so criminally punny that they belong in the punitentiary.  These crown jewels of cards usually are trapped behind the old age cliches--since someone accidentally picked up an OAC thinking it might be funny, only to slam it back into the first card slot they can get to in frustration.

I'm tempted to crack and just start sending out greeting cards willy-nilly.  It's your birthday...you're getting a Congratulations Graduate! card.  Baby shower = Happy Bar Mitzvah from your Step-mother. Retiring early get you the Romance (for her). If anything, I'm going to pick ten random people from the phone book and send them a Thank You card for existing.

So, just remember when you find yourself standing in the drug store at 11:53 pm the day before my birthday (*cough* August 17th *cough*), that to send the very best, try card stock bought in CVS.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why the big push toward literacy?

If you haven't taken a look to the right and read my brilliant description of myself, please do so now.  Don't worry about us, we have absolutely nothing better to do and will wait.  Brenda does have a doctor's appointment to check a lump on her thyroid, but its probably benign, so take your time.

Done.  Great.  Now you know that I have a two-year-old daughter, who I will call the Princess.  I guess I could have just opened with "I have a two-year-old" rather than making you feel guilt for not reading my bio, but then you wouldn't also know that I have a SUV and am a rather handsome guy, and don't you feel better about knowing those facts.

To get back on point, the Princess really likes to read.  Or to be more exact, she likes to bring me books and have read to her.  A lot.  A whole lot.  Like 1500 books a day.  Evidently my whole existence as Dad revolves around reading her these 1500 books a day on demand.  And to reach the M&M's.  But mostly the reading.

What I've noticed from reading 1500 picture books a day from an over demanding two-year-old is that many children's authors should have never learned to read and write.  Seriously, the only solace I get from reading The Twins Take a Bath, is that I hope one day the plot will magically change where one twin mysteriously drowns and a CSI: Miami investigation takes place ("I guess someone should have worn their water wings" *Carusoed!*).  It's because of these literary gems that I began to perform a bit of censorship on her reading habits.  Pretty much if I don't like it, it's being read by her mother.

Thankfully there are a bunch good children's authors.  If you, dear reader, find yourself living with a two-year-old, here are the top five from my list:

  1. Mo Willems: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
  2. Melanie Watt: Chester, Scaredy Squirrel Finds a Friend
  3. A.A. Milne: Winnie the Pooh
  4. Stephen King: IT, Salem's Lot
  5. Kevin Henkes: Chrysanthemum, A Good Day 
I even decided to get in the publishing game by sending out three of my stories that I tell Princess at bedtime, mostly to let her mother sneak off to the kitchen to do some J├Ąger shots.  I feel that while my life is complete with the constant whining of a toddler, I could add in a daily dose of rejection.  Unfortunately, most of my ideas probably are unpublishable.  Here's a sampling:

Jane and her Imaginary Fred: A cautionary tale in which Jane's imaginary friend, Fred, steals her identity and racks up $50,000 in credit card debt.

Billy's Big Day: Aspiring nuclear physicist, Billy Bombardier, creates a time rift where he creates an alternate reality where M. Night Shyamalan made suspenseful movies.

The Garden Bunch Does Lunch: Bobby Broccoli and the rest of the Garden Bunch helps Jesse stop his damn whining and eat his goddamn peas. 

Now that I think about it, these ideas are gold.  If I see anything like this on my library shelves, I'm hunting you down and prosecuting you to the fullest extent of the law. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Should auld acquaintance be forgot...

When it comes right down to it, I'm a pretty antisocial guy. Not so antisocial that I'm squirting the neighbor kids with a hose when they come by the house (although I did have a dream that I lived in Cinderella's Castle at Disney World and was constantly yelling at the tourists to "Get off my lawn!"), but more socially awkward. I cringe when I talk on the phone to people I don't know, I pretend I'm not home when the UPS man comes to the door, and I'm not terribly comfortable with the small talk.

Here I am on this professionally designed chart:

 


I even just made a Hugh Grant joke.  He hasn't made a decent live-action movie since Music and Lyrics in 2007.  That's like using an ALF joke ("ALF's back, this time in Pog form").  Now I made an ALF joke.  And now I'm talking about ALF jokes.  Make it stop!!!

Social media, being the ultimate exercise in small talk, exasperates my awkwardness.  What amounts to a collection of my nearest and dearest friends, some which I haven't physically seen or spoken to in over ten years, is pretty much reduced to invites to play Zombie Farmville or pictures of eggplant parmesan.  How am I supposed to react to a picture of some kid using the potty for the very first time.  "I'm proud of her," just sounds hollow since I haven't seen the family since 1997 and "I'm happy for your family" sounds like something your insurance broker would send you in a pre-signed card.  So it's a poop joke, and then move on.

Even worse, how do you respond to bad news.  I want to be supportive, but foot-in-mouth disease always leaves me speechless.  Seriously, what can you say in a limited amount of space to the post, "RIP Mom, you'll be missed."  "That sucks" frowny-face just doesn't seem to cut it.

I used to blame the platforms, but the more I help companies and non-profits establish an authentic dialogue using social media, I'm starting to think that my own insecurities made me shun my accounts.  I should at least take my own advice and think of these mediums as a chance for conversation, and not merely a space for proclamations. Or if you allow my to quote Shrek: the Musical for a moment, I need to let my "freak flag fly."

So bring it on Facebook!  Let's throw down Twitter!  Intimating slang Google+!  While you'd still get my witty banter, you'll also get my awkwardness.  At least when I comment on your posts, I'll really mean it.  And hopefully one day our old relationships can intermingle in the real world. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Superhero by design

I thought long and hard about this last night--about 15 minutes--and I came to an epiphany.  My favorite genres of movie watching all involve superheroes.  As far as epiphanies go, it may not seem monumental. Thirty-two days ago I  had the divine inspiration that I like my tea cold rather than hot (and unsweetened. I'm not all, "This tea is great. Now lets drown out the tea taste with a crap load of sugar.").  And last night, superheroes movies rock my world.

If you asked me this same question three night ago, I would have waffled between zany comedies and animated films.  But when I take an honest look at myself, the last "zany" comedy I saw and actually enjoyed was Superbad.  The rest were OK, but not "buy the DVD" good.  And animated film, well, I'm 36 and having cartoons being my favorite is weird.  On the scale of weird, its "I'm going to stand over here" weird, not "You know you can't live by a park or school" weird, but still weird nevertheless.

I think I like superhero movies, especially most modern takes on superpowers, because filmmakers are now focusing on people dealing with superpowers instead of superpowered people.  What's the difference?  I'll answer that question with a question.  Is Clark Kent a reporter who happens to become Superman to save people, or is Superman a hero who happens to become Clark Kent to blend in to society?

It's more interesting when Clark Kent plays Superman or Tony Stark plays Iron Man.  I'd much rather see characters try to balance their "real" lives with saving the world.  Personally, I think it would be awfully stressful to have that much power in the palm of your hand, and I get bored when I watch people handle god-like power flawlessly.  So, why the Hulk kicking the crap out of Loki makes me cheer, the real highlights were when Bruce Banner, Chris Evans and Tony Stark argued about everything.

Most good (Hear that Green Lantern!) modern superhero movies tend to skew more to the mortal than the mask.  Except for Chris Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Batman sits front and center and Bruce Wayne plays a supporting role. Bruce doesn't seem to have any complex motivations or development except to fund Batman.  I watched the Dark Knight for the first time last week and while Ledger's Joker rocked, Bale's Bruce fell flat.  Every single scene of his as Bruce Wayne featured exposition as how he would act as Batman.  Whether to build a better suit or pose as a distraction to extradite a mob accountant, Batman only used the Bruce Wayne as a tool for his purposes, and not the other way around.  Interestingly, Michael Keaton's rendition of Batman seemed to let Bruce use the Bat.

Now, if we could get a super-villain movie that showed some altruistic reasons for their villainy.