Happy BYCTWD! Sort of . . .

Happy Bring Your Child to Work Day . . . or, as we like to call it, Happy Bring Your Child to Work Day Because He Got Suspended From School For Two Days For Getting in a Fight in Gym Class and So My Wife Is Taking Him to Her Elementary School for the Day So He Can Do Manual Labor and Tutoring to Punish Him For His Stupid Decisions Day.

False Advertising or Just Desserts?

When I pulled onto Woodbridge Avenue on my way home from work today, I noticed that the Honda CRV in front of me sported a vanity plate that read "QT JILL" and so when I passed the car, I glanced over-- because I wanted to check out this Jill and determine if she possessed enough cuteness to warrant a celebratory license plate-- but the driver was a middle-aged Indian man with a plaid shirt and thick glasses . . . I assume he's either abducted QT JILL, borrowed her car, or has an amazing sense of humor and dreamed up the best vanity plate prank ever.

Extra Life

I finished Tom Bissell's book Extra Lives today and the last chapter-- a meditation on a short period of his life when he was addicted to the combination of cocaine and Grand Theft Auto IV-- is worth the price of admission; I liked the rest of the book, and honestly felt that maybe, by eschewing video games, I had missed something valuable in the last twenty-five years, but while Bissell finally boils his love of gaming down to the fact that he cherishes these in-game experiences, real experiences, visceral and like no other, they are experiences that take a tremendous amount of time, and this time must be spent at the expense of other things-- athletics, music, literature, family, sleep, sex, podcasts, etcetera-- and while I missed out on the actual adventure of GTA IV, I got to read about it, which was fairly exhilarating and slightly bizarre, and instead of spending 80 plus hours investigating the world, I got to hear about it secondhand, without giving up my own life . . . but perhaps when I near retirement, when my body breaks down but my mind craves excitement and adventure, perhaps then, when I take up golf again (another time consuming habit from my youth) I will also take up serious gaming, and perhaps by then, video games will be regarded as high art, like the graphic novel as compared to the comic book.


I'm halfway through Tom Bissell's critical analysis of the aesthetics, rhetoric, and narrative structure of modern epic video games, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, and it's pretty weird to read about all these games I've never played (I stopped playing video games after I conquered Road Rash on the Sega Genesis . . . although I do enjoy an occasional game of MarioKart 8 on the WiiU with my kids) and it was even weirder to stumble upon the word "cromulent" in the book, a word which sounds both made-up and vaguely familiar . . . and that is exactly how it is supposed to sound.

The Test 84: The Six Degrees of Canine Flatulence

This week on The Test, we explore the limits of human cognition, i.e. if it's possible for three people asphyxiating from dog farts to make random connection between various celebrities . . . it's a very special episode, starring Vin Diesel as Jesus Christ and everyone else as themselves; check it out, keep score, and see how you fare (although to truly replicate the testing environment, you'd need to stuff yourself into a tiny room full of methane filtered through the anus of a terrier).

A Snake to Bring on a Plane

Apparently, there are twenty-two species of snake found in New Jersey . . . and if you grab most of these critters, they'll probably bite you or leave some smelly oil on your hands (or both) but my son Ian caught a Northern ringneck snake yesterday and this is the snake for me-- the scales are totally smooth, the head is small, the colors are bright and beautiful, and this snake made no attempt to chomp any fingers . . . Ian let it go in the underbrush in our yard and I hope it hangs around (if these were the kind of snakes on the plane, the film would have been rated G and Samuel Jackson wouldn't have had to do all that swearing).

Get Off the Internet and Read This Book!

If you're looking to read something completely different, totally memorable, compelling, funny, and downright awesome (I really love this book) check out Christopher Buckley's novel The Relic Master . . . it's Monty Python and the Holy Grail meets Pillars of the Earth, a historical novel that reads nothing like a historical novel (and the plot doesn't bag out at the end, as it does in The Holy Grail) where you'll follow the adventures of Dismas, former Swiss mercenary and monk, who is now a collector of holy relics for both the Frederick the Wise (the Ruler of Saxony) and the Archbishop of Mainz . . . he'll run into lots of other historical figures along the way-- including the great German painter Albrecht Durer, Paracelsus, and Martin Luther-- but I promise you won't learn too much history; you will, however, contemplate faith, forgery, market economies, artistry, aesthetics, and just how the Shroud of Turin became the Shroud of Turin (you'll also learn about the euphemism "translating" as it applies to holy relics).

Rough Road Ahead

It was with great sadness yesterday that I wrote my eleven year old son Ian an IOU for "one pound of high quality Birnn chocolate," which he earned by beating me in a tennis match to 11-9 . . . I made this promise years ago, when I was sure my children would never be able to defeat me, and while I can offer a number of excuses (we weren't playing with real serves yet, we just get the ball into play and then begin the point, and there was some wind at my back, so I couldn't hit the ball as hard as I wanted for fear of it going out) the fact of the matter is that once I thought the game was in jeopardy, when he was beating me 6-2, I took things very seriously and played my ass off, and I couldn't get anything by him-- I was punching shots deep to his backhand and racing to the net, taking him cross-court, and eventually just hitting everything back, certain he would falter, but he was unassailable, didn't make an unforced error, and finally beat me with a wicked forehand winner that I couldn't touch . . . once we start serving for real, I think I'll get another year  or two of victories, but he's getting better and I'm getting worse, and the inevitably of time is rearing its ugly head.

Second Hand Tech

The young lady behind me on Route 18 this morning was completely distracted by her phone, texting at every stop light, glancing at the screen as she drove, and I couldn't stop watching her antics in my rearview mirror, which distracted me, and so instead of looking ahead, I was mesmerized by her distracted driving, which (ironically) made me accident prone as well.

Spiders and Snakes Oh My

My son Ian came home from the woods yesterday sporting two garter snake bites-- one on his hand and one on his finger, both fairly impressive and bloody, the teeth marks visible on his skin-- and not only did he catch two rather angry garter snakes, but he also nabbed a beautifully colored ring-necked snake (they are mildly venomous, but harmless to humans because their fangs face backwards and they have a very calm disposition) and in this regard my son is just like me, I loved catching snakes when I was a kid and couldn't get enough of stalking them; on the other hand, I'm not particularly fond of spiders, but my boys think they are peachy keen . . . while we were on vacation in Vermont, Alex chose to sleep in the basement of the house we rented, two floors away from the rest of us, and he even did this after we watched The Shining, and in the middle of the night, he said he woke up and felt something on his face, and it was a giant spider, so he killed it, and then went back to sleep, and I was astounded at this, that he had no nightmare, that he didn't come upstairs screaming, that he just shrugged it off as business as usual when you're sleeping in a basement in a cabin in the woods in Vermont.

At Least It Was Bob (and not a Bot)

My friend Bob showed me a demonstration video for the Electro Harmonix Synth 9 Synthesizer Machine Pedal (a guitar pedal that makes your guitar sound just like a variety of 80's synths!) and, in a manner of seconds, I went from not knowing that such a piece of technology existed to absolutely needing to possess it-- which is absurd-- but at least I can take solace in the fact that it was my friend and fellow musician Bob who recommended this item to me, because he knew I would love it, and not some advertising bot that predicted my predilection because my internet provider sold my search data to some company (for more on the evils of technology and how it will most likely be a bot and not your friend Bob who controls your future, listen to the new Sam Harris podcast, in which he discusses the philosophical implications of technological platforms that essentially want to monopolize our time far more than our mental health can tolerate-- Sam Harris is close to insufferable, especially when he talks about meditation and the stupid meditation app that he is designing, but he's also very smart and his guest, Design Ethicist Tristan Harris, is brilliant on this subject).

This Game Needs a Name . . .

Alec and I collaborated on a fantastic new party game last night and we even persuaded a few people to participate . . . the rules are a bit ambiguous and we haven't come up with a name, but the gist of it is this: you name two bands or musicians, and then triangulate the average-- there are no definite right answers but there are certainly wrong ones, and when you hear a really good answer, you know it's correct . . . for instance, everyone agreed that when you triangulate Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger, you get Prince; here are a few other notable answers from last night:

Neil Young + Bob Dylan = Tom Petty

Metallica + The Indigo Girls = PJ Harvey

Jimi Hendrix + Steve Perry = Lenny Kravitz . . .

I kept trying to introduce new elements to the game-- food and actors and book titles-- to make it more complicated and surreal, but this really offended one lady, who was quite knowledgeable about music and took the game very seriously (she offered a rather longwinded logical and detailed explanation of why Neil Peart is the triangulation of Keth Moon and Phil Collins) and so all I can say is the next time you're at a party, give it a shot, at the very least it will provoke some conversation . . . and if you want to get people involved, start with Michael Jackson + Mick Jagger = Prince before you move on to triangulations like Mozart + Weezer = Camper Van Beethoven.

A Bit More Serenity Than Yesterday . . .

Last day of the ski/snowboard season was a memorable one-- Okemo kept the Jackson-Gore Peak closed all week and opened it yesterday, so while the main mountain was a treacherous obstacle course of slushy snow, dirt patches, large rocks, ice, and crevasses, Jackson-Gore had a few perfectly groomed runs with full snow cover . . . and the weather was sunny and fairly warm, the snow was soft and forgiving but not slushy, there was nobody on the mountain, and my kids didn't get into a fistfight in the lodge (although later in the day, Alex punted a soccer ball into the back of Ian's head, knocking him to the ground, where he curled into the fetal position, wailing loud enough that I heard him from the other side of the house).

Serenity Almost

The scene: early morning in the ski lodge, snowy mountains stretched across the front windows, clusters of people quietly chatting, sipping coffee and buckling boots, and I have just ascended the stairs from the bathroom, and I am walking across the wide open main room, which is pleasantly uncrowded-- it's the end of the season-- and I notice, at the far side, near our table . . . no at our table . . . two small people fighting, some fists are thrown, a headlock is poorly executed (because both small people are wearing helmets) and I increase the speed of my previously languid stride because these are my children, and some random old guy is about to break them up, but I get there first, stop the brawl-- Ian is crying because he smashed his nose on Alex's helmet-- and they can't really explain the origin of the fight, Alex said something and Ian whacked him on the head and Alex lost his temper . . . and so I give up on that course of action and I make them look at the scene, look at the room and the mountains and the quiet people and the general serenity, and try to convince them how absolutely absurd they looked fighting in this scenario . . . and they agree with this sentiment, that they are spoiled awful human beings with no appreciation for the finer things in life and no clue how good they have it, and that there are children in Syria, refugees, who are starving and without medical care, who would give anything to be in a situation as wonderful and beautiful as this, and then we proceed out to the lift, laden with the guilt of living in a first world country and not fully appreciating it, and enjoy the spring conditions.

The Test 83: Going Viral

This week on The Test, Cunningham proudly presents "the dumbest thing she's ever made," and while she doesn't know what the answers are, or even what she's looking for, Stacey and I have no problem meeting her half way . . . so see if you know what's up with the youngsters, and what it takes to earn yourself a plaque and go viral.

Family + Isolation = Here's Johnny!

Catherine keeps interrupting me while I write this sentence, but I'm trying to keep my cool . . . I'm trying to avoid bashing her brains in with an ax (all work and no play makes Dave a dull boy) and I'm going to crack open a beer soon (all work and no play makes Dave a dull boy) because it rained today and so we holed up at the house and watched The Shining (streamable on Netflix) and I realized the true moral of the film is Don't go on the wagon while you're isolated on a mountain with your family . . . Jack could have used a little actual alcohol (not ghost whiskey) to soothe his nerves and then maybe he wouldn't have lost his mind . . . anyway, Catherine and I are staying flexible and mentally resilient, despite the wild swings in the weather-- yesterday we hiked all the way around Lowell Lake, the trail went from balmy to treacherous depending on the sun exposure, one moment we were walking on soft pine needles in the warm sun, the next we were being frozen by the spray of a snow-fueled stream while navigating ice fields; I was a little nervous that I might pull a muscle, but the kids loved it-- they said all the obstacles kept them more occupied and "confuzzled," so they didn't have time to bicker . . . the dog also loved the mixed terrain, and Catherine and I survived without injury; today we had to beat a hasty retreat from the mountain because of the rain and fog, but after we finished The Shining, we came up out of the basement to see the sun again, so I stopped sharpening my ax and we went outside and played some snow football.

Interesting Coleopteran Information

Love Me Do! The Beatles Progress is regarded by many credible sources as the best book about the Beatles and while I'm not the one to dispute this-- this is the only book about The Beatles I've read-- I think this is a great book on its own merits, an in-the-moment meditation on fame, mania, art, and celebrity-- The Beatles stuff is just icing on the cake; anyway, Michael Braun accompanies the Liverpudlians for several weeks of a world tour in 1963, just as Beatlemania is taking hold of the world-- and The Beatles present a telling contrast to Elvis and Cliff Richard, two of the big stars at the time-- both crooners who were very male and rather sexual . .  Frank Sinatra is another artist mentioned frequently; meanwhile, no one over twenty could understand what was going on with The Beatles, teenagers, mainly girls, flocked to anywhere that a Beatle might turn up, and Braun was there to document it all . . . this is a quick read and I recommend you go along for the magical mystery tour and read the book, but if not, here is a quick and messy look at the things I highlighted on my Kindle:

there are plenty of quips and quotes, and many of them reveal the archetypal character traits that become more concrete later in their careers;

Ringo Starr, 23 years old . . . "I don't care about politics . . . just people";

George Harrison, 21 years old, says: "I wouldn't do anything I didn't want to, would I?" and then explains his ambition is to design a guitar;

Paul McCartney, 22, would like "to be successful" and wants "money to do nothing with, money to have in case you wanted to do something";

John Lennon, 23, explains: "The more people you meet, the more you realize it's all a class thing";

then some trouble with visas when they came to America for the first time, but they were eventually  granted an H2 visa, a step above the H3 trainee visa, but below H1, which was reserved for "persons of distinguished merit and ability";

there are, of course, moments that seem prescient now . . . such as, in New York, before the Ed Sullivan appearance, Cynthia Lennon wanted to go out shopping but was afraid to venture out into the city alone, and she noted "the fans here seem a bit wackier than in England";

Braun actually delves into the intellectuals and their attempt to understand Beatlemania, instead of dismissing it . . . he describes how the critics spoke of pandiatonic versus diatonic, unresolved leading tones, false modal frames, and dominant seventh of the mixolydian . . . but the appeal was more than musical . . .

well known television psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers offered her two cents as well, explaining that teen revolt is perfectly normal and unavoidable in a country which allows "social change, individualism, and free choice of lifestyle" and parents may fight back against this rebellion but it's because they have blocked out how difficult and traumatic it is to be a teenager in such a world, adults "honestly cannot believe that we ourselves were ever that unreasonable, sloppy and goonish . . . and so from generation to generation, the war wages on . . . the Beatles are a marvelous symbol to adolescents of their rebellion against adult society"

and Dr Renee Fox, sociologist, discussed their dual roles as male and female, adult and child, and how appealing this was, and how-- because they can barely be heard above the shrieks of the audience, they almost play the role of mimes . . . a play within a play . . .

and I'll end with one last bit of interesting coleopteran information . . . George Harrison made the mistake of telling fans that he liked to eat "jelly babies," a British gummy candy that takes the form of a plump infant, and so fans constantly pelted the band with these sweets, sometimes leaving them in the bag . . . Ringo Starr said getting hit with bag after bag of jelly babies felt like enduring "hailstones"

and the while the band's high jinks are tame and clownish by today's standards, Michael Braun can tell there's something big and bold in this popular rebellion, and The Beatles had the wit, talent, looks, and ability to ride the wave all the way to shore.

Spring Break Vermont: Hot as Daytona, But No Wet T-Shirt Contest

Some highlights from this bizarrely warm snowboarding trip:

1) fun this morning at Okemo, but got extremely slushy and thus exhausting . . . it's supposed to be even warmer tomorrow, so that might be it for the mountain;

2) the nearby Buttermilk Falls are all roaring from the snowmelt, and I came to a revelation while the boys and I were trying to hit a piece of blue Styrofoam spinning in the whirlpool at the base of one of the larger falls-- we were chucking rocks like mad, but not connecting-- and then I realized the most accurate method was "cornhole style" and tossed one like that which nearly hit, but Ian mimicked me and hit the foam with his very first cornhole type toss;

3) Catherine and I went snowshoeing into the woods (I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and still sweating) and we found the creature that Sirius treed the day before-- it was a porcupine and it now lay dead at the base of a hollowed out tree . . . we're not sure how it died, or if it was this particular porcupine that was alive the day before, or perhaps a relative . . . but there's no way Sirius attacked this thing, because it was all full of sharp quills . . . perhaps the winter hibernation was just too much for it;

4) the people that own this house have similar taste to us in high quality board games-- Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Bananagrams, Ticket to Ride, etc. . . . in fact, they already owned almost all of the games we brought (except for Exploding Kittens, which is a silly card game that is totally inappropriate, with lots of butt and genitals jokes and, of course, exploding kittens . . . my kids found it on their shelf and loved it) and we tried one of their other games, Seven Wonders, and it had way too many pieces for Ian and I, but Catherine and Alex think it's the bees knees, so even among board game snobs, there are major disagreements as to what constitutes excellence.

Spring Break Vermont!

Weird winter wonderland up here in Southern Vermont: we are staying at our favorite rental property, it lies in a pocket of deep snow between Weston and Andover and though at the bottom of the mountain there are only slushy piles of the white stuff, at the top of the hill-- where the house is-- the snow is several feet deep; we've built a long and dangerous luge run that ends in a pit I dug . . . and if you pop over the far wall of the pit then you run into a rock wall (not recommended) and we went over to Okemo Mountain today for some snowboarding, and while the bottom runs were slushy, up at the top the snow was perfect . . . tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer than today, so I'm not sure what's going to happen, but we'll probably be acting like we're out west, skiing in t-shirts and slathering on the sunblock (I might even toss my bra into that tree full of lingerie).

What the High School Kids Think Is Funny

A student told me this joke, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker:

How did the turtle cross the freeway?

Hint: take the "f" out of free and take the "f" out of way . . . punchline in the comments.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.