According to urban legend, "red mercury" is a incredibly rare substance which is attracted to gold and repelled by garlic, and it has incredible capabilities; The New York Times explains its purported powers: "when detonated in a combination with conventional high explosives, red mercury could create the city-flattening blast of a nuclear bomb" and-- even more conveniently-- it is rumored that a bit of the stuff could fuel a neutron bomb that could fit in a lunch bag; I hadn't heard of the stuff until yesterday, but apparently the myth of this non-existent material has been around for decades and recently ISIS has been sucked in by the hoax . . . I guess if you're into that kind of eschatological apocalypse, then red mercury is just too damned convenient not to believe in . . . but I've also learned that Graeme Wood's Atlantic article "What ISIS Really Wants" might be exaggerating the fundamental religious element of ISIS's ideology and that the article (and current conservative idiom) might be wrong in saying that we are at war with "radical Islamic terrorists" for several reasons:
1) there are plenty of radically fundamental Muslims who abide by the Koran and aren't violent or on a jihad or in any way associated with terrorism, just as there are plenty of radically fundamental Mormons who aren't polygamists and plenty of radically fundamental Christians who aren't part of the KKK or The Aryan Nation;
2) we never refer to the Nazis as Christian Fascists, like Indiana Jones, we just say: "Nazis, I hate these guys;
3) there's no reason to constantly associate the 1.5 billion non-terrorist Muslims with the bad apples in Syria;
4) this is probably less of a war, and more about trying to prevent criminal acts from criminally minded people with various abnormal and psychotic and sociopathic and delusional and obsessive and violent proclivities;
5) a terrorist is a terrorist, and scholars are at odds about their motivations, but in the end, if someone is willing to strap a bomb around their waist and blow themselves up in a crowd, it doesn't matter if the act is religious, or indignance over the American invasion of Iraq, or anger because of Saudi cooperation with America or simply because they consider Paris to be the world capital of "prostitution and obscenity" . . . it's still a lunatic act by a lunatic group, and there's no real reason to lump them in with the whole . . . and if ISIS thinks that about Paris, what do they say about Bangkok and Amsterdam?
Stacey demanded another quiz about numbers and I was more than happy to comply; the result is the best episode of The Test yet . . . Cunningham puts Bud Abbott and Lou Costello shame; Stacey does math that would inspire Newton; and Dave questions the capabilities of the human mind . . . there is judgement, ridicule, condescension and derision, but in the end, a good time is had by all . . . so take a shot, see if you can outperform the ladies, and if you're not careful, you just might learn something.
Normally here at Sentence of Dave I like to focus on the life's negatives -- this is where I do my literary grousing and grapple with existential crises and my monumental awkwardness . . . but life does deal out the occasional miracle and while normally this kind of drivel is for Facebook, I want to document this moment here so my son Ian can refer to it in the future-- unfortunately, he'll probably realize that the rest of his life was slightly downhill from this point; the backstory is that we were playing the last game of our travel season, against a big physical team that was stronger and faster than us-- and has a full-time professional trainer-- the last time we played them, they went up 1-0, but we were on our little dirt field, and in the second half we kept chipping the ball to our black belt striker, and he scored three miraculous goals, two half-volleys and a full on bicycle kick . . . and they were so angry at our audacity, that there was an altercation on the sideline between parents and it was quite nutty for a kid's sporting event, but yesterday we went to their field, up in Bridgewater, which is wide and long and grassy, and we couldn't keep up with them on it, they were just bigger, and faster, and stronger . . . but our goalie kept us in it, sacrificing his body multiple times to prevent goals from large players barging through our defense . . . so I was happy that we were only down 1-0 and I would have been content to end the season with a hard fought close loss against a better team-- we had put in a real team effort to keep the deficit that low-- but our kids kept persisting and attacking, though time was winding down, and I gave them two minute warning, the one minute warning, and then I told them they had no time and just to knock the ball towards the middle, which they did . . . and there was a final melee in front of the goal and the ball went flying out, off one of their players, so it was our corner kick, with little or no time left, and my sturdy (portly?) little Ecuadorian striker grabbed the ball and put it into play immediately-- brilliant for a fourth grader-- and it bounced off someone's back in front of the goal and came rolling just outside the eighteen yard line, and my son Ian stepped up and launched a shot over the keeper's head and into the far upper corner of the goal and there was much rejoicing and then the game and the season were over and though it ended in a 1-1 tie, our kids were jubilant and the other kids were crying, and that's going to be a tough moment for Ian to top, a last second goal to tie the game in the waning moments of the season-- life just doesn't give you too many of those opportunities, and most of the time, you screw them up (although-- and I don't mean to brag-- I had an impressive moment myself this weekend: I stood on the highest step of our ladder, with no spotter, and used a shovel to wedge a piece of loose aluminum siding back into place-- and I almost fell several times, but I didn't give up . . . just like my team, I persevered in the face of insurmountable odds and the siding seems to be staying in place: victory!).
I recently went off my parent's cell phone plan, and since I'm cheap and a disciple of Neal Postman-- and I sincerely haven't made up my mind about the value of these newfangled smart-phones and certainly don't really want to pay the data charges on a technology I'm not certain about, especially since I'm surrounded by wifi all day-- and so I chose to go with an inexpensive service (PTEL) and a simple plan . . . twenty dollars a month for unlimited phone and text, and no data-- but the nineteen dollar phone I bought from PTEL has very small texting keys, and I've got fat unwieldy thumbs, so I went on Ebay and purchased an unlocked version of my trusty old Pantech P2020 for twenty dollars and I wish this thing had the properties of a "Forever Stamp" but I know that the screen is destined to die (that's what happened to my old one) and the the charger is a already a little touchy, but the texting keys are absolutely huge and fit my thumbs perfectly and the touchscreen is just big enough to be useful . . . and really, I'm far enough into the future, it's not like I need anything more than this (aside from a flying car, of course, but more on this theme tomorrow . . . and if you're looking to get me an early Christmas gift, I could use a few more of these things, so when they break I can just switch the SIM card over).
Yesterday, on my wife's instructions, I went to the post office and bought a roll of one hundred Forever Stamps and I had one envelope to mail that needed a stamp, so right after I purchased the roll of stamps, I tried to peel the label off so I could use one right then but after several tries I decided that I didn't know what I was doing and I didn't want to destroy one of these super-valuable Forever Stamps so I gave the roll back to the lady behind the counter and asked for some assistance and she couldn't get the roll open either and so she took it back behind the shelves and someone else tried to get the roll open and at any other place of business, at this point they would have given me a new version of whatever I had just purchased, and taken back the defective version, but this was the US Post Office and so the lady and the other person (I don't know if they were male or female because they were in the back) finally worked the roll open, but it took nearly forever and then I still had trouble getting the first stamp loose from the roll and the ordeal was so traumatic that I'm not going to write any more letters or send any more post cards . . . not that I have done either of those things in the last decade-- in fact, I'm interested in seeing how long it takes us to use one hundred Forever Stamps, and this post will be a reference point . . . I am guessing two years . . . so the forever stamps took forever to operate and they are going to take forever to use.
After school on Thursday I attended my friend Stacey's renegade zumba class (it's renegade because she's not certified) and I am always going to refer to it as "renegade zumba" because that sounds more badass than "certified zumba" . . . and if you're wondering why I did this fairly non-badass thing, though I'm such a badass, it's because I'm finally addressing one of major shortcomings in life: I'm not that strong a dancer . . . in fact, I can't dance . . . and so I'm doing an experiment on my body and brain-- I'm going to see if I can learn to move to the beat; I did have one miraculous moment when I was watching Stacey's sneakers in the mirror and I thought they were my own feet, because I was in time with the beat and moving my feet in the proper manner, but that was only one moment among many, many missteps . . . but at the very least, I am learning a few things to attack my biggest problem with dancing: what do you do with your hands?
A perfect confluence of bizarre events nearly brought my brain to its knees recently, but luckily I have this blog where I can mix metaphors and spew detritus and then continue with my life: Cat and I finished Mad Men earlier this week, and that had me thinking about changing times and how hard it is to adapt-- and, then of course, there were the Paris attacks and the resulting technological controversies raised: metadata programs and electronic surveillance and privacy issues, and this dovetailed with what we were investigating in class . . . my students listened to The Modern Moloch, a podcast on the history of the automobiles in the city, and how corporate lobbying changed our relationship with the car from "death machine" to "love affair" . . . and we used my Neil Postman's warning that technology is not neutral, that every piece of technology is "a burden and a blessing" to link the podcast to Leon Neyfakh's excellent article on texting and driving-- "A Deadly Habit"-- and Neyfakh and Roman Mars seem to agree that certain pieces of technology are beyond our control, and actually control us-- whether they psychologically override an already engaged prefrontal cortex, making us unable to make a good decision about using our phone while weaving through traffic, or make us change the way we relate to and coordinate with people-- including ability or inability to encrypt "personal data"-- which could contribute to terrorism but could also protect people's digital information . . . or past technology could control the infrastructure and architecture of our cities and suburbs in the future, this was the power of the car in the 1930's, after auto lobbying groups ensured that cars would have the right of way in every corridor of our country . . . these groups made us change our perception on who is to blame in an accident (instead of reckless drivers operating a dangerous vehicle it became the fault of those damned jaywalkers, walking like rubes where they shouldn't ) and while all this changing world stuff was rattling around in my brain, my son Ian's friend came flying down the street on a hands-free motorized scooter . . . and if you don't have a ten year old son then you might not know that these things are all the rage and my son Ian is now begging us to get one, and they've gotten pretty cheap and they are neat and they do work, but when he asked me if he could get one, I really had no answer for him . . . I told him he would have to wait for me to think about it (and then his friend did some lobbying and he's an eloquent little kid, he said: "my parents were skeptical too, and they took some convincing, but it's really cool!") and while I'll probably cave in on this, I'm not sure I'm even equipped to make the decision-- I don't know if a ten year old should have an electrically charged hands-free motorized vehicle which travels fifteen miles an hour and I don't know if I'm even capable of ever figuring this puzzle out-- it might be safer than his long board, but then it might not . . . and are they street legal?-- anyway, to add to this technological existential breakdown, yesterday our principal made an announcement to remind the students that though we are a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school and though kids can use their cellphones in the halls between classes (one earbud policy) that they cannot take any pictures with their phones or record any video (I think this was in response to a fight in the hallway: kids were taking pictures and video of it, which is bad for two reasons-- these images may come back to haunt the kids at a later date and the school promises parents that their kids images won't be taken in school and used anywhere unless unless permission is granted) but I don't think the two rules are compatible-- I don't think you can let kids have phones and then tell them not to use them the way they primarily use them . . . to take pictures and video of things . . . I don't think humans can handle having the device and then not using it in all sorts of ways that are habitual and generally socially acceptable, prohibited or not, so I think we should take all the smartphones and put them in a pile and run them over with our cars . . . and our hands-free motorized scooters.
I'm very sleepy this morning because we watched the final episode of Mad Men last night, and while I won't reveal any spoilers to those of you who haven't finished the series (although I thought the ending would be more tragic, because of the ominous animated sequence during the opening credits, where Don flails about in an infinite dream-like fall . . . it's not like the end is a barrel of laughs, but there is plenty of joy mixed with the pathos-- it's more like the opening is a symbolic fall for the archetypal '50's stone-jawed businessman and I think the weird hug in the penultimate scene is about the shifting gender roles happening in America in the early '70's . . . although if you've got to hug a weird crying stranger in a therapy group to usher in a new era, then I might want to get left behind) but more importantly, it took me seven seasons to learn that the title of the show is Mad Men . . . not Madmen . . . and I'm surprised that the grammar Nazis who visit this place never caught the error . . . perhaps they never watched the show, or perhaps they were letting me slide because everyone pronounces it as one word.
Friday night my wife went out with some ladies, and the boys and I were left to our own devices; we decided on take-out burgers and film appreciation; I went with The Naked Gun, which streams on Netflix, and I was quite surprised by the year of its release-- 1988, because I had this false sense of nostalgia about this movie; I really thought I had watched when I was very young and very immature, and then continued to enjoy the repetition of the silly jokes during future viewings, but apparently I watched it when I was almost a full grown human (eighteen years old, but still very silly) and found it profoundly funny . . . and I still do: "it's Enrico Palazzo!"
Last week, I was walking home with the dog, annoyed that when I got back I would have to rake up all the wet leaves on my lawn and bag them-- in my book, the only thing worse than handling and bagging mounds of damp leaves is a pus-filled canker sore under the tongue-- but when I arrived, our lawn guy-- who only comes every two or three weeks, was blowing all the wet leaves off our lawn with an industrial strength leaf blower and he then vacuumed them all up and took them away . . . a well-timed serendipitous autumn miracle if I've ever seen one (and the opposite of the autumn disaster my brother and his friend conducted when they were in high school, they snuck out late at night and took all the leaves people had bagged-- and this was in North Brunswick, where the lawns are much bigger than Highland Park-- and they dumped the leaves back on people's lawns . . . and I'm hoping that none of those people read this blog and seek vengeance on my brother and his friend for this mischievous re-leafing).
In this week's episode of The Test, Princess Cunningham quizzes Stacey and I on all things Disney; I do poorly-- which is to be expected, considering how I feel about that place-- but (spoiler alert) I do confuse two things that our older listeners might find entertaining . . . this film and this place; give it a listen, play along, and see if you can find your inner princess.
Although people love to pontificate about the differences between cats and dogs, in a gastronomical sense they are the same: we don't eat their kin in front of them . . . you can consume tilapia in the same room as a fish tank, or chomp on chicken wings while you chat with your pet macaw, but -- in America, at least-- it is uncouth to eat dog or cat, especially when they are in the vicinity . . . I do think there is an outlier in the mix: I am sure those eccentric folks who own potbellied pigs will occasionally munch on a BLT without concern for their mini-hog's opinion on the matter (and cannibals are another category entirely . . . those that dine on the "long pig" are the kings of meta-eating).
I always though a two-handed backhand was for kids and women, but apparently most men are hitting it now as well . . . and while I have a sweet one-handed slice backhand and a decent topspin backhand stroke as well, I'm not to old to adopt something new-- and my son Ian has an excellent two-hander so it might be fun to emulate him and hoist him with his own petard; the next time we hit the court, I'm going to put on my cutest white skirt and give the two-hander a shot.
In case I don't make it through the next couple of days, I'd like to thank all my readers for their encouragement and support . . . I know you all agree that I am an advanced wordsmith of the highest caliber, but I still don't think I have the lexical dexterity to explain how irritating, annoying and painful the canker sore under my tongue is . . . and while I've tried some of the remedies you have suggested, they don't seem to be working; in fact, I'm sure the sore is growing larger and larger each minute, festering and suppurating vast amount of pus, and in the coming days, I'm sure it will consume the rest of my tongue, then my mouth, then my face, and then my entire body-- I'll be one gigantic frothing sore, and thus unable to write any sentences . . . but it was fun while it lasted.
While I was certainly impressed by the breadth of hip restaurants in Chelsea, if you don't feel like schlepping all the way to the city, you can head to Easton, Avenue, New Brunswick and go to the City Cafe & Bar: it's totally hip inside, weird tables and couches and a nifty curved, tiled bar . . . and it's oddly affordable ($4 dollar pint of Guinness, $10 dollars for a big octopus salad, $2 for all their fancy sliders) and they have this delicious drink called Sangria Cerveza . . . this is certainly an excellent addition to the really good restaurants that have opened recently, also check out Desta Ethiopian Cuisine and 418 Burgers in Highland Park.
Not only did all my white socks disintegrate on the same day, but both my belts -- black and brown-- fell apart within a week . . . so I went belt shopping, but instead of buying two belts, I bought a reversible belt, and saved the price of one belt . . . yes!
This episode of The Test is another musical clip quiz by Stacey: listen to the song snippets, identify the artists, and then see if you can figure out the overarching theme . . . at the start of the show, I gloat about how I defeated Cunningham on the first song quiz, but I receive my just deserts on this one and fail miserably (and I really should have gotten it).
Weirdly warm weather continued in New Jersey on Saturday, and to celebrate we played many outdoor sports-- aside from soccer . . . we've had just about enough of that-- so we hit tennis balls and played basketball and I rode the Ripstik along with the kids, and they rode their penny-board (and then the boys and their friend began playing basketball while riding skateboards and Ripstiks, which looked fairly dangerous, but there were no major disasters) and then they took the mini-pool table that they bought on garage sale day and put it out on the porch and played that . . . and while I'm not pleased with the environmental impact of global warming, nor do I like scorching summertime weather, I must admit that this is pretty nice, especially considering we haven't had to turn the heat on, nor have we gotten annoyed with the children . . . as they're far less annoying when they're outside the house.
On Thursday my wife and I ditched the kids and the dog and all soccer-related events and essentially took a break from reality-- we went to the city to see Sleep No More, which was the most surreal event of our trip (I don't want to go into too much other than to say you should see it . . . it is the ideal "play" for me because you don't sit down, you wander through a five story set, ostensibly the Mckittrick Hotel, but actually a labyrinthine warehouse, chasing actors and actresses who are involved in something akin to a wordless 1920's noir version of Macbeth . . . it's bizarre, scary, and totally immersive . . . one of the best moments is when we wandered through the wrong door from the lounge, before we had donned our masks, and a group of white-masked audience members, as if on cue, all turned and stared at us-- perhaps they thought we were actors, because the only maskless people in the actual performance are the actors in the play, but we were quickly ushered back into the lounge, where we had a weird alcoholic drink and then were properly attired and thrown into the performance . . . it's three hours long and we certainly slept well afterwards) and before the show we wandered the High Line and the surrounding neighborhoods, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District . . . it's the best place in the city to walk around, full of hip restaurants and bars, coffee shops, art galleries, warehouses converted to foodmarkets, swanky apartment high-rises . . . we ate at a tapas place called Tia Pol -- delicious blistered shishito peppers, patatas bravas, fried chickpeas, etcetera-- and drank a beer in a jar (two dollar deposit) while we wandered the Chelsea Market and had beers and snacks at Cooper's Craft & Kitchen, a hipster craft brew bar with great pork belly and chili oil sliders . . . and if you want to enjoy all the free art galleries, go sooner rather than later, as this area can't last exactly as it is, the spaces are too valuable and the art galleries don't make enough money to afford the rent . . . we saw a wild display of Max Ernst sculptures . . . he's one of my favorite painters and while his paintings are probably very very expensive, you can grab one of his sculptures for the two or three hundred grand, we also really liked the thin line and watercolor pieces by Jen Ray . . . lots of rock chicks, amazon warrior women, piles of meat, and detailed detritus . . . then we continued the surreal reality break yesterday, though this time we took the dogs and the kids along . . . we went to the beach . . . and it was hot . . . in November (twenty years from now, when the average temperature in New Jersey in November is 84 degrees Fahrenheit, this post will be regarded as cute).