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'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.