Saturday, December 26, 2009

Becoming My Father

It’s a pretty standard source of Baby-Boomer comedy that we occasionally stop and realize we are acting just like our parents. Sometimes we are horrified by the discovery; sometimes it makes us a little wiser or more compassionate. It has happened to me before, of course. Most often it shows up in little things, like the way I rest my head in my hand, with two fingers supporting my cheek, and a thumb under my chin. Or how I sound like my dad when I get out of bed in the morning. Now and then I run into one I purposely try to fight against, like my dad’s hermit-like tendencies. Most of the time it’s no big deal.

Dad and Mom on Their Wedding Day, 1940

I found another one yesterday. My son, five months into a two-year proselyting mission in California, got to call home and talk for 45 minutes on Christmas day. We gathered the family together, used two handsets so one could talk and one could listen in, used the speaker phone for a while. I didn’t talk to him nearly as long as anyone else did. Most of my conversation consisted of making a joke and asking if he was OK.

Part of it was letting everyone else go first (now, that behavior is from my Mom, and the jury’s still out on whether it’s good or bad). But part of it was discovering, as I was listening to my son talk to his mom and others, that I was so choked up I probably couldn’t talk anyway.

When I used to call home from college, I’d talk to my mom for 20 minutes, and my dad might get on for a minute total, ask if I needed money, if everything was OK. Later Mom told me that Dad was just too emotional to talk; sometimes he’d go back into his bedroom and break down. It helped to know that it wasn’t indifference that made my dad seem so aloof sometimes. Today, I understand it even better, and I feel closer to my dad. I know how he felt. So proud of your kids, too choked up to tell them. I’m not quite where my dad was, but I could throw a rock and hit it from here, I think.

So I guess I’ll try to do my generation one click better than my dad, and at least tell my son myself why I didn’t talk to him. It was because I had way too much to say.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Change in the Wind (With Apologies to Mary Poppins)

My mother used to recite a little poem to me, about a little girl with a little curl right in the middle of her forehead (and when she was good she was very very good, and when she was bad she was horrid). I don't know what Mom was getting at, since I was neither a little girl nor did I have a curl, on my forehead or otherwise. Maybe it was the good vs horrid thing.

Or perhaps it was by way of prophesy. No one would now mistake me for a little girl, but, darn it all, I do have a little curl right in the middle of my forehead. . .

. . . and quite frankly I'm tired of it. It's kind of like a front comb-over that just doesn't work. I am not afraid of baldiness; I long ago came to grips with what time inevitably does to the human body. I can deal with that.

What I'm not quite sure about is how far to go down that path on my next visit to the barber. I sort of want to just flop into the chair and say, "take it all off," but I'm not sure about the consequences. Sometimes things can go wrong.

On the other hand, I'm not sure half-measures are much better.

So I'm struggling with what to do.

It needs to be done soon, so I have Christmas break to recover. Any advice will be welcome.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wisdom from the Erynn

Mom and Dad, admiring their youngest who, as a 13 year old girl, is undergoing growth spurts:

"How did she get to be this young lady standing before us?!"

Erynn: "It kind of sucks, you have to go to a LOT of school."

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Epic Battle of The Fat One and the Almonds

It happened on a quiet November morning in a quiet neighborhood. The neighbors driving past on their way to work or school were probably not aware of what was brewing. But any who walked past and listen closely might have heard the rustling in the almond trees: "The Fat One has no Ninja skills."

The foe, talking trash

Of course, the Fat One is known throughout his immediate family as having some of the best Ninja sounds in all of Provo, including a throaty "Hoaaah-Rah" and the ever-popular "Toah-Cha!" The Fat One also has a pretty scary Mad Dog face:

Knowing that, it will come as no surprise that the Fat One also handles the 3/4-inch PVC Bo staff with some degree of skill. And so it was that the challenge to his Ninja-manhood was taken up.

Pre-battle meditation.

At the ready

The Fat One, executing one fancy move, I tell you what.

The difficult ninja"pool cue" maneuver

The foe, now trembling and begging for mercy

A couple of moments of unbridled passion

The foe, vanquished utterly
And some leaves that were going to fall anyway
I mean, it's November for heaven's sake

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do

Monday, November 2, 2009

Suffrage. Or Sufferage. Or Something.

In the hotly contested Provo mayoral race, it comes down to a choice between two very conservative Republican white Mormon males (VCRWMM's). OK, so that is not really surprising. But it presents me with something of a dilemma.

Oh, it's not that I think either one of them would do a bad job. On the contrary, I think either of them would probably do an adequate job. One of Dave Barry's list of 25 things he's learned in 50 years runs something like,
The value of advertising is that it tells you the exact opposite of what the advertiser actually thinks. For example: If Coke and Pepsi spend billions of dollars to convince you that there are significant differences between these two products, both companies realize that Pepsi and Coke are virtually identical.
Similarly, the fact that each candidate wants us to believe they will do a much better job than their opponent points to the likelihood that really, they will do about the same things for the same reasons. Especially in this case. Both are businessmen turned politicians, family men, church men, good citizens. Both would do a much better job of being mayor than I would.

So, you ask, with so little at stake, why the dilemma?

It's a matter of principle. Three principles, actually:

1. I think some Utah Republican State Representatives and senators are inflexible and arrogant and have control issues, and they bother me quite a lot. (I say "some" here because I don't really know about all of them, and this way any of them reading it will actually think "he doesn't mean me" so s/he won't call for a general audit of my state taxes for the last 16 years. ) I think they are an example of "too much power corrupts too much."

2. A few other people bother me on general principles. Not to name names, but some of them write management/self-help books in which the number 7 figures prominently.

3. Principles. People who hide behind principles, as though that was always the moral high ground, really bug me.

So this means I obviously would rather not vote for a person who is in, or is endorsed by someone in, one or more of these three categories. It is true that being endorsed by someone doesn't mean you act like them or believe what they believe. But you can't be too careful.

And there's the rub. One of the candidates is a Utah Republican State Representative. But the other has the endorsement of several members of the Utah House and Senate that I would classify as having such unbelievably large control issues that they have a hard time walking. On the other hand, the first one has the endorsement of some Highly Effective people that bug me on general principles.

One accuses the other of once having been a (gasp) Democrat. As an aside, sometimes that's the only way to run for public office in Utah, if you aren't quite far enough right for the party elite. Of course, you won't win, but you can run. But anyway, it seems the accuser is playing "more Republican than thou," which also bugs me. But to balance things out, our allegedly-once-Democratic friend believes that "It is wrong for government to do for people what they, their families or private charities can and should do on their own." And that "Free markets produce better outcomes than government programs." Both of which sound to me a lot like Principles That Aren't Always True But I'll Stand By Them With A Foolish Consistency. I think public schools are one example of something the free market shouldn't get their hands on, for example.

Are you beginning to catch my dilemma? If I vote for either of these candidates, it would seem to validate one thing or another that (as I believe I've mentioned) bugs me. So it's a matter of the lesser of two irritants. But it's a tough call.

Right now Candidate A has a slim edge over Candidate 2. We'll see what will happens tomorrow when I'm alone with my conscience. And my quarter.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Waiting for the Third Strike

The count is 0 and 2.

I was informed about the first strike a couple of days ago, when I informed Mr. S. Moosebutt that money had flowed from my daughter, through my bank account, and into the coffers of an organization selling Yankees memorabilia (specifically, a brick from the now no-longer-among-us Yankee Stadium, or whatever they call it back there). This tangential and probably fairly hygienic association with the Yankees was enough to cast a cloud of doubt over my general character. Thank heavens I didn't tell him the offending brick actually passed through my mailbox, and probably even spent some time on my kitchen table (I pretty much let my wife handle that part of the transaction). Honest, I cleaned the table off with bleach. What more does he expect from me?

The second strike will probably come later today, when I will likely be accused of "having lunch" with a certain Senior Senator from Utah, whose name I will not mention except to say that it rhymes with "foreign match." In reality, he was in the same big room with me, but at a different table. And we did eat the same roast beef and potatoes. I'm not sure if he had the kiwi dessert or the chocolate (mine was chocolate). But that's all. The trouble is that this nameless senior senator is not on Mr. Moosebutt's "A" list. He's more like on the "S" list, if you take my meaning. Thus anything that involves breathing the same air as this senior senator will once again be viewed as reason to question my character.

I'm assuming I get three strikes. I'm waiting to see what the third one might be. It will probably involve the Republican Party in some way. Or noodles. Moosebutt really likes noodles. But I'm scared that I might get left out of the malt-ball runs if I cross the line again. I guess I'll lay low for a while, until the Yankee Brick scandal blows over.

P.S. I got no problem with noodles. Noodles are great. Really.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fall Classic

Well, it's that time again. Pennant races, playoffs, the roar of the bats, the crack of the crowd.

What's different this year is that the good ol' Dodgers are actually in the race. This, together with the Yankees (Booo!) and the Angels (Yay!) being there too, pulls me into the baseball world after a comfortable multi-year hiatus of not really caring much. Because my friend is an Angels fan (and much to his credit, introduced me to the Power of the Rally Monkey), and because my son-in-law and nephew are both Yankees fans (it can happen in good families, folks), I feel like I have to stand up and be counted as a true-blue Dodger fan.

Now the trouble is that although I'm a Dodger fan, I'm a Dodger fan more in principle than in practice. I'm a lapsed Dodger fan, an inactive Dodger fan. A Jack-Dodgerfan. I grew up as a believer, but drifted away. Haven't been to church for years. Actually, I've been to a Cubs game and an Angels game since I've been to a Dodgers game. If I went to Dodger Stadium, it would fall in on me. That sort of thing.

So the unhappy reality of the matter is that I really don't lose much sleep over baseball, even Dodger baseball, these days. I can name exactly one player on the current roster, and that's because Manny Ramirez was suspended. So I can't really say I follow the Dodgers anymore. (Of course, I can name off the top of my head a number of players from the 1975 roster: Steve Yeager, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith. I'm not a complete infidel.)

Nevertheless, something in me has to stand up and state boldly and unequivocally that, despite wins and losses, despite payrolls and steroids, despite that fact that pretty much all of them are paid way more than they should be in any rational world, the Dodgers are basically Good. . . .

(Steve Finley pausing in a game to pray)

and the Yankees are basically Evil:

'Nuff said.

It is true that I've learned to sleep at night by accepting the presence of evil --like you accept the presence of cockroaches without necessarily liking it -- but I still feel obliged to stand up and weigh in on the issue.

So: Go Dodger Blue! Go Angels! Defeat the forces of evil! I probably won't be watching, but I'm sure Jacob will keep me posted, and that's about as much baseball excitement as I really need these days.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Letting Off Some Steam

I was listening to a local radio talk show a few nights ago. The topic was drug addiction and treatment, and they had as guests both some recovering addicts and some people who ran treatment programs. One of the program's hosts mentioned that the stories of addiction they were listening to that night could be used as "cautionary tales," so that, presumably, people could see where things went wrong for these recovering addicts and escape their fate.

One of the guests both ran a recovery program and was himself a recovering addict. During their interview with him one of the hosts the guest asked whether he could identify some moment in time he'd like to go back to and somehow change -- maybe make a different decision. When he asked this, the host even acknowledged that the guest had become addicted by taking a legally prescribed drug for a real medical condition. But somehow the host still assumed that there was some point where things went bad, some decision to regret. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but something about that question seemed to show both an ignorance about addiction and an underlying attitude that bothered me.

The guest's response brought it into focus for me. Basically, his answer was: "No, I can't identify any moment in time like that, because I don't believe addiction is a moral decision." He simply took the morphine he was prescribed because he didn't want to be in pain anymore. There wasn't any moral lapse involved.

Wow. To see the world in that way is kind of refreshing. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of times that people make immoral choices and royally screw up their lives, and the lives of innocent people as well. I've made bad choices before, and I've seen basically good people brought down by decisions both stupid and morally wrong. I do believe in good and bad, right and wrong. That's not the point.

The point is that sometimes, even things that look like they must be the result of character flaws or moral weakness probably just happen to people without their ever making a consious decision to do something bad. Maybe some addicts never purposely take a wrong turn. Maybe some people file for bankruptcy because they are unlucky and not because they lack integrity. Maybe, on occasion, people get in trouble because they're naive or ignorant instead of evil. And on the whole, I'd rather hang out with folks who see things that way, instead of folks who are always pointing out the moral of the story.

Why? Because it seems like a less stressful way to live when you don't have to figure out which moral principles have been violated, and instead just try to help and understand a little more. In my experience, "I told you so" doesn't help as much as you'd think. It's less burdensome when you don't have to figure out how each episode of human misery grew from some violation of moral law. Instead, you can just see people in trouble and try to help. There's plenty of time to root out the causes later.

I really think I'd be happier living and thinking that way. And it would be fun to find some like-minded people. I think I'd enjoy talking and working with them. Of course I've run across a few. A certain family of canoe lovers comes to mind, for example. But they are a long ways away, in a mystical land of cheese and waterways. If only there were some people like that in Utah. If only. . . .

Ah, but wait. I can hear the voice of my good friend S.M, telling me about just such a group of people. He claims they walk among us. I'm not sure whether to believe him or not. It seems like the stuff of legends, almost, and yet there he is, himself a living example of a person in Utah who actually thinks that way. I suppose there could be more. He claims they are organized and even have a name. At least here in Utah, he says, they are usually called Democrats.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Feelin' Wimpy

Wimpy /ˈwɪmpi/.

1. n. Nickname for a character from the Popeye cartoon strip whose full name is J. Wellington Wimpy. Of this character, Wikipedia states, "Wimpy is very intelligent, and well educated, [OK, I like where this is going. . . .] but very lazy and gluttonous." Hmmmm.

Well, I have to admit that I do enjoy a good hamburger, for which I would gladly pay you Tuesday. And the mustache fits. The hair is getting closer all the time. I guess this is your call, gentle reader.

2. adj. Not Hefty, Hefty, Hefty. Also not Hefty, Hefty. Not Hefty. Not even hefty. At all.

As in, "wimpy, wimpy, wimpy." Falling apart. No holding power. Bottom drops out. Weak. Having holes.

Yeah, that seems vaguely descriptive as well.

3. adj. Puny. Weak. Easily tired. Lacking ability to get going when the going gets tough. Without grit, fortitude, or guts. Unable to resist the Call of the Laz-E-Boy. Just about empty by 3 p.m.

Yeah! That's IT! That's me, almost three weeks after my operation. Even those last two exclamation marks have pretty much exhausted me. No more bold face or italics for the rest of the blog.

I'm still eleven days away from my official surgical follow-up and the sanction to lift things heavier than a gallon of milk (8.6 lbs for whole milk, more for skim). That should probably clue me in to the fact that maybe I'm not supposed to feel back to normal yet, but somehow I'm always surprised at how wimpy I feel each afternoon. And evening.

The good news is, I can sleep. In a bed. On either side, or my back, or my stomach. None of the pain I used to have. I guess I can live with a couple more weeks of puniness for such a gift.

PS. For those of you who were thinking that "hefty" still describes me pretty well, Thanks A Lot. Kick a man while he's down, why dontcha?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yes, But Is It Art?

I suppose quite a few parents have "But when I came home from work and opened the door, my children had..." stories. Thankfully, mine are not too catastrophic. But occasionally I do come home to find something a little different sitting on the end table by the front door:

When this happens, it is never in question what has transpired: Em has been on a walk somewhere and found more treasure.

And more treasure.

And more treasure.

And one of my personal favorites, here shown with a dime in order to illustrate relative size:

Now, the astute reader will be asking her/himself, "But what does she do with all her treasure?" I'm so glad you asked.

She attaches it to the wall of her bedroom:

And, if she's really lucky, and stumbles across a pile of rusty old metal out in the desert, she uses it to make a mobile:

The finished product:

(In the background is the sun-figure what was handed to me by a nice man on the streets of St. Louis one evening while I was walking to a restaurant; but that's another blog post. Maybe.)

I'm still waiting to see what these turn into:

(We had to stop the car and wait so she could go get these.)

But I do take some comfort in knowing where she will be in another 10 years: living in New York, or San Francisco, or Seattle, in a little house with an attached studio, working in -- well, some medium or another:

It brings a little tear to my eye.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Toot Toot, Hey, Beep Beep

I admit that musically, I am stuck in the past. I came of age in the 70's, and so did my musical tastes (and maybe even the 60's, as I frantically tried to figure out what I had missed -- the Sixties came to Emery County quite late). So yeah, people have some fun with the songs I listen to as well as those that spontaneously appear in my brain and come out in hummed snippets during the day.

I was proud when my daughter learned to play Bad Moon Rising, Knocking on Heaven's Door, Born to be Wild, and Smoke on the Water in her guitar class. And I was gleeful when my son discovered I Am the Walrus. (We both agree it doesn't get much better than "Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye.") Every now and then, I can dismiss something my children are listening to by a wave of the hand and "Bah! That's just a cover of the real version!" And occasionally I have to admit that some of my music is silly, and less frequently I have to admit that I kind of like something they listen to (They Might be Giants, for example, or Mika. Of course, both of them are silly, too). So go the battles and truces of the Culture Wars in my family.

By now the astute reader will have discerned the real Achilles' Heel in my position, and that is Disco. As I was living through the Disco Era, I thought it likely represented the Beginning of the End of All Things. I didn't set foot into a disco until once in 1982, and haven't since. To me, the Bee Gees were the artistic equivalent of the Three Stooges. Donna Summer was a musical Mata Hari. I had to agree with the cast of Doonesbury when, in late 1979 they held an "End of Decade" party, and Mark Slackmeyer proposed a toast to "A Kidney Stone of a Decade." Disco had almost made me forget that the mid-seventies had brought me "Band on the Run" and "Benny and the Jets." I just wanted Disco out of my musical life.

Of course, I tried not to listen to it. I had my music at home but was still years away from having a car cassette player. And I was in college. I wasn't about to drive without music. So like it or not, it was there in the background, a soundtrack to my Bachelor's Degree: Alicia Bridges wanting some "Ack-shaaawn" mixing in with Zorn's Lemma. Can't be healthy. And as it turns out, it wasn't.

Now, years later, thanks to online music services like Rhapsody and iTunes Music Store, I have been able to deplete my children's college funds by buying up music from the 60's and 70's (OK, and a few from the early 80's). Sometimes I remember a song and go looking for it; other times I vaguely remember the name and need to listen to it; if I like it, I buy it. The problem is, I'm finding that I can listen to some of the disco songs from that era and like them. I've even spent good money on a few. These are songs I wouldn't have walked across the street to spit on in 1980. But today, they sound pretty good. Boy, do I feel like a sheep.

It was the radio, you see. Repetition and familiarity break down your natural defenses until your brain mistakes liking something for being familiar with it. It's like the first time you taste beer. It's bitter and nasty. The second time, too. But taste by taste, you get used to it. And then you like it. And then you're in trouble. I'm living proof that revulsion can become reverence through repetition (with disco, not beer. Honest). You can use that alliterative "revulsion-reverence-repetition" phrase in Sunday School lessons if you want, but please send me a nickel each time you do.

So people; if something is nasty, don't try it again. It will only lead to heartache. The second time you watch "Dancing with the Stars," your head won't hurt quite as much. Midway through the season, you'll start thinking that "According to Jim" is really funny. Just Say No.

PS. Don't inhale, either.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Problem with Math: Problems

I am a math teacher, and it quite frankly amazes me that my life insurance rates are not prohibitively high because of it.

Periodically, I tutor young men and women in my neighborhood. Often they are having some trouble because they missed a few days of math clas, or maybe they just don’t quite understand their teacher as well as they’d like. So they come to me, and we do some problems together at my kitchen table.

I get angry. Not at the kids; they are generally doing the best they can with whatever they have been given. But I get angry at the problems they are assigned. And I figure if I, as a math teacher – as someone who is not afraid of sentences that begin, “Let H be a compact Hausdorff space. . . .,” as someone who periodically integrates secant cubed just to see if I still “got it” – if I get angry, what chance do the kids possibly have?

See, it isn’t ever enough to teach a concept, then see if kids can apply that concept. No. We have to teach several concepts, then make horrible examples in which they all apply at once. And throw in some ugly fractions at the same time. I’ll give you an example of what I mean:

Problem: Graph y = 7 + sin x.
Student: “No problem; that 7 just moves the graph up 7 units.” (Hums happily while sketching graph)

Problem: Graph y = 3sin x.
Student: “Easy. That 3 just stretches the graph 3 up and 3 down. I can do that.” (More happy humming)

Problem: Graph y = cos 4x.
Student: “OK, I know that 4 makes the period – uh, longer? Shorter? Let’s see. Oh, yeah, I divide the period 2 pi by that 4, and the new period is pi over 2, and so I just scruntch it all into pi over 2 instead of 2 pi.” (Proceeds to sketch graph. No humming this time.)

Problem: Graph y+7/3 = 5/2 tan (3x + 7/4).
Student: “Mr. Math Teacher, sir? Please come over here so I can beat you up.”

See? Anger. Anger is a perfectly rational reaction to that. Admit it. You wouldn’t take that kind of abuse from anyone, let alone some old guy who talks through his nose and is half covered with chalk dust. So why do we expect kids to take it?

Sigh. Good thing nobody reads this blog, or I’d have a lot of angry math teachers to deal with.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Channeling Carnac the Magnificent

I take the hermetically sealed envelope out of the mayonnaise jar, and holding it to my ornately turbaned head, I say:

"A camel with one too many straws, a movie with two gay cowboys, and me."

Tearing open the envelope, I reveal the question:

"Name three things with a broke back."

Yeah, apparently I have a stress fracture in one of my vertebrae. Which would explain some of the back pain. Maybe not all, but some.

Why do I have a stress fracture? I don't know. Honestly, I have no idea how it happened. No recollection of anything that could have done it. I'd like to think that it came from my performing some superhuman feat of strength, like lifting a bus off of an orphan. But no. More likely it was because I have the bones of a 70-year-0ld woman. I was going to sell them on Ebay, but they wouldn't let me (rimshot).

So it looks like maybe there will be less Diet Coke, more weight-bearing exercise, and more calcium-rich foods in my future. It figures. My doctor visits have this nasty habit of returning to the theme of exercising more, eating better, and getting more sleep. Perhaps I'll try it this time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Williams Way

I saw my cousin at the hardware store today. He lives about two hours away, and we see each other maybe once a year, at the family reunion. And of course, because we are roughly the same age and on good terms, we always exchange a few words -- maybe twelve. Let me count: "Hi, Tom, how you doin'?" "Fine. How are you guys doin'?" "Fine."

Yup, twelve.

Actually, our conversation at the hardware store was rather involved, by comparison, ranging over such topics as what project I was doing that brought me to the hardware store ("Oh, just fixing some stuff") and how Tom's parents, my aunt and uncle, were doing ("Real good."). I didn't ask him what brought him to the hardware store two hours from his home. If he wanted me to know, he'd have told me. But overall, it was really pretty chatty by our usual standards.

I think both of us are kind of relieved that we've pretty much taken care of our social obligations for the year. I figure this June, at the family reunion, we'll probably just nod at each other as we pass by. Don't want to overdo it. Besides, we both know how we'll be doin': Fine. We'll be doin' just fine.

And that's all a Williams really needs to know.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Erynn and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day(s)

Just over a week ago, Erynn had a very very good day. She has been taking ballroom dance as an after-school class this year, and has therefore been dancing with the Dixon Middle School ballroom dancers at various concerts this year. Last week, the two Dixon teams went to a competition involving several local middle schools. Long story short, Dixon walked away with two gold ribbons and the trophy for overall best dancers. Erynn was justifiably happy and proud. I was originally planning to write a blog complaining about how everything needs to be made into a competition in our society. But I figured since my daughter's team won, I'd let it slide.

HA! In your face, Other Local Middle Schools!

Anyway, she's had a good week. And then, yesterday, the Dixon team had one dance at a Provo High School dance concert. As I found out later, Erynn (as she says), "biffed it" as she was walking into the school just before the concert. Scraped and bruised both knees and both elbows. Must have been quite a biff. It included a face plant, so that her upper lip came between her braces and the sidewalk, resulting in blood and puffiness.

Trooper that she is, she bandaged up and got ready to dance. And dance she did. We didn't know any of this, sitting in the audience, videotaping our daughter's one performance, which as near as we could tell went well. However, if you examined closely the videotape, you would be able to find, as we did later, the exact moment when her dress fell off, and she was scooting to the back of the stage in her black undies, there in front of God and everybody.

As spectators, we honestly didn't notice it at the time. I'm not sure if anyone did, really. Except, of course, Erynn and her fellow sufferers up on stage. But it's there, on tape. It brought a smile to our faces last night as we watched it. In fact, it brought loud guffaws and snorts of laughter. Erynn wasn't convinced it was that funny.

She managed to get her dress fixed in the intervening 15 seconds or so, while the dancers were in two lines (her in the back, thankfully enough), doing hand jives. And the rest of the dance went off without any major wardrobe malfunctions.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the luck continued to today, which, of course, is Mother's Day. Erynn spent her last package of -- well, it's some kind of crafty plaster-like substance -- in making a pretty heart-shaped present for her Mom. And when she was working on it, she picked it up to move it and it broke. Likely beyond redemption.

Sad indeed. But the saddest thing is what she said to me last night, as we contemplated the dance debacle. She said, "Well, I guess it was just getting back at me for being so happy last week." If you're not quite sure what "it" was, then you probably haven't spent your life convinced that "it" was keeping score, and trying not to be too obviously happy or worry-free, because you knew beyond doubt that "it" would pay you back if you were. I have spent my life that way, so I recognized the symptoms immediately. It's part of my family heritage. I got it from my dad, who gotit from his mom, and on back, somewhere into Denmark, which gave us, after all, Hamlet, and goodness knows he knew better than to get too happy. I'm not sure, but I think "it" lives somewhere near Copenhagen.

Anyway, I have a few words of advice to give my daughter: You don't have to be another dismal Dane. First, you have every right to be happy when good things happen. Second, nobody is keeping score but you. Third, if you don't believe what I just told you, then start right now to fight that feeling. Fight it for all you're worth. It might be too late for me, but you can still save yourself.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Of Hatana and Gach

We had an interesting guest this week, and with him came some interesting food. A nice mixture of Cardassian, Klingon, and Taresian.

The cook, who hails from the planet Madison

Gagh (Klingon Worms) with (Cardassian) Yamok Sauce

Rokeg Blood Pie
(Plenty of iron for growing Klingon boys!)


Jimbalian Fudge Cake

All washed down with Klingon Blood Wine, of course.

And finally,

The cook again, this time sizing up a small furry life form for a possible Klingon Stew, I think.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Grief, Starshine!

Let us consider as Exhibit A the following list of some of the silliest songs ever written:

1. Good Morning Starshine by Oliver
2. Gimme Dat Ding by The Pipkins
3. I Wanna Dance Wit Choo by Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes
4. How Do You Do by Mouth & MacNeal
5. Chick-A-Boom by Daddy Dewdrop
6. Jam Up and Jelly Tight by Tommy Roe
7. Yummy Yummy Yummy (I've Got Love in My Tummy) by Ohio Express

If it did not violate numerous international copyright laws I would love to give you a link to these songs so those of you not of my particular generation could listen to them and see exactly how silly they are. These are songs that would make my children roll on the floor, howling with laughter.


Dad's Stereo: "Glibby-gloob-glooby, nibby nobby nooby, la-la-la lo-lo"
Children: (rolling on the floor) "Har! Har! Har! Hoooo! *Snort*, *Choke*, Har!"

Anyway, the thing you need to understand is that these songs have almost no artistic merit, make very little sense, and are extremely un-hip, if I can be so un-hip as to use that term. They would make many people's ears bleed spontaneously. They could kill Simon Cowell at 300 yards.

The other thing you need to understand is that I personally own all of these songs. Worse, I just paid 99 cents for one of them this very week. If I didn't already own them, and many others only marginally less abhorrent, I would be actively looking through iTunes and Rhapsody and, seeing if I could snap them up. Such is the pathetic nature of my taste in music.

Next, as Exhibit B, let us consider the following list of . . . Well, let's have you make your own. Go ahead: make a list of the most maligned musical acts of the 60's and 70's. No, really, go ahead and jot a few down. I'll wait.

*Hums the Pina Colada Song while waiting. . . .*

OK. Now I know your list contained at least the following three:

1. Barry Manilow
2. Neil Diamond
3. The Carpenters
4. Barry Manilow

(Yes, I know, but some of you really hate Barry Manilow.)

As you have already guessed, I own the complete collected works of all three of these artists -- well, the complete works up until 1985 or so when they quit recording the really good stuff. But the point is I really like them, despite what you and your sophisticated musical taste might think of me.

Finally, as Exhibit C, we have: The Entire Genre of Bubblegum Music. I like it. Quite a lot. This is how bad I am: I recently worked hard and long to procure the song "You Are The One" by the Sugar Bears. It was actually an MP3 taken from vinyl, and you can hear the pops of the needle hitting the dust and scratches.

The Sugar Bears are not real. They are animated characters. They are actually designed to sell cereal. But they cut an album in the early 70's. I
n the words of Frank Larosa:

Of course there is Sugar Bear himself, kingpin of the Post Super Sugar Crisp franchise back in the wild days when you could say "sugar" on national television. The marketing folks at Post cereals must have realized that Sugar would need a few companions to fill out his band. After consulting the top 40 charts of the day, they decided that what he needed was a tambourine-playing prostitute bear and a couple of drug-addled hippie bears to complete his musical ensemble.

According to Dr. Mark Hill, the vocals were actually performed by Kim Carnes (of Bette Davis Eyes fame) and Mike Settle, one of her partners from The New Christy Minstrels. They were backed by the same studio group and backup singers as The Partridge Family.

It is sick that I know that.

The point is, I actively sought out, and was delighted to find, a bad recording of a song ostensibly performed by a group that made The Archies look like The Rolling Stones (Archie would be Mick; Jughead would be Keith).

So there you have it: The ugly truth about my musical tastes. Perhaps in the future, I will blog more about some of the other music in my collection, not all of which is as lame as what you've seen here. In the mean time, if any of you have a song even worse than the ones I've talked about today, I'd like to hear about it. There's still some money left in one of my music store accounts.