Ostrich Philosophy

My son Alex came home Tuesday with a nasty scrape on his arm, an injury he suffered in what he named "the arena"-- a free-form fighting melee that became an after school ritual for several days; I'm happy to say I witnessed the inception of this 4th-5th grade gladiatorial combat zone, and I'm also happy to say that I predicted its demise . . . a teacher finally broke it up, and while it looked like a lot of fun, and boys certainly need to burn off some energy and aggression when they leave school, I'm still glad to see it go -- there were a lot of head-on collisions and body slamming, and the ground wasn't particularly grassy-- there were trees and dirts and roots, and so Alex is probably lucky that he got away with such a minor injury . . . and this confirms one of my lessons about kids: it's always better when you don't watch what they're doing, because most of the stuff they do-- stand on furniture, play on the stairs, whip around sharp objects and bash each other with sticks-- looks incredibly dangerous, but most of the time they don't get hurt, and the only person who suffers is the adult watching all the violent nonsense.

Enough About Serial Already

Here is a piece of graffito I read on a condom machine in a bar bathroom: "this gum tastes funny."

Now That Serial Is Over, What Will My Brain Do?

The podcast Serial has finally reached its conclusion-- and while the ending might not satisfy the binge-listeners, anyone who listened to Sarah Koenig slowly explicate the case: the major and minor players, the details, the neighbor-boy and Mr. S., the time-lines, the Nisha call, the Asia alibi, the theories, the issues, the geography, the criminal justice system, the nature of narrative, human nature and truth . . . anyone who consumed this thing week-by-week, with plenty of time to process and discuss each episode with other rabid fans-- these people can't be disappointed by the ending (and I am speculating, of course, which is just what the podcast simultaneously invited us to do and warned us against) but the final episode had it all-- new shit, old theories, new possibilities, Deirdre, the phrase "West Side Hitman," and a final (sort of) conclusion about the case and our justice system; this is not to say that I wasn't rooting for The Last Minute Solution and the greatest forty-five minutes of digital audio ever recorded, and it's not to say that I didn't laugh (really hard) at the Funny or Die parody of the ending-- but I was setting the bar low (because that is the key to happiness) and I set it low enough (and I'm not ashamed to admit) that I got a bit teary-eyed at Adnan's last words-- his stoic attitude towards the universe and the case; he leaves Sarah with this: "I think in a sense you leave it up to the audience to determine" but Sarah says she can't do this -- she can't "take a powder" on a conclusion-- and then she says what we know she has to say, and while it's not last second Hail Mary into the end zone (my friend Kevin said it was more like when the quarterback takes a knee in order to preserve a hard fought tie) but I still think it was more than enough-- she provided plenty of drama and thought provoking commentary, brilliant pacing and superb detail and flawless transitions and dense tape-- tape we have listen to, and so we have to really pay attention, we can't just look at it and draw some quick conclusions; generally the only type of drama that can get me all weepy like the last two episodes of Serial are sports stories-- Friday Night Lights and Hoosiers and Rocky, that sort of stuff-- and I think that's how I felt here; I admired the fight, both from Sarah and her "little garden spade" and from Adnan, who allowed this awful time to be pried back open and scrutinized (would a guilty man agree to go through with this?) and even though it's cliche, sometimes you play as hard as you can, and you don't get a result, and that's frustrating and disappointing, but the important thing is that you put it all on the line and played . . . and that's what this podcast and Sarah Koenig and Adnan did . . . I don't think I've ever spent three months following anything this closely: a news story, a TV show, a book, a sports team . . . Serial takes the cake in that department, and now it's finally come time to conclude this sentence and I think I will end with the moral of the story-- endings are hard . . . there's so few that are memorable and perfect (The ShieldThe Winter's Tale, and Let the Right One In immediately come to mind) but that's because endings are contrived and in reality there are no endings, things just keep on going, whether we like them or not . . . so hopefully Episode 13 of Serial (otherwise known as the universe that Serial resides in) will eventually provide us more information about the case, but we have to remember that our universe isn't obligated to explicate anything, and so we just do the best we can with what we have.

Of Course We Do (Not)

My son Alex explained to us that he was making a movie at school and then he asked: "Do we have any snow leopard costumes?"

Like Spider Like Son

Although I am a competent basketball player now, this wasn't the case in college-- in fact, the only basketball skill I possessed back then was the ability to do "the spider"-- a silly drill in which you bounce the ball between your legs with two dribbles in front and then two dribbles behind your back-- and if you can get it going fast it looks pretty neat (and serves absolutely no strategic purpose, though that didn't stop me from doing it at half-court during our intramural games, after which I would chuck up a forty foot hook shot) and now I'm coaching 4th-5th grade basketball and I gave my players some "homework" ball handling drills -- including the spider-- and my own two children are obsessed with it and can actually do it pretty well, though it's probably the last thing they need to master (they'd be better served if they could make a lay-up or dribble with their heads up) but they've obviously got quite a bit of their dad in them (the other morning my wife said: "they can't be all you! they've got to have some of me in them!")


Fans of my idiotic ramblings know that I hate surprise parties-- I think people should be allowed to prepare in advance for social events (and I still haven't recovered from when Catherine threw me a surprise 30th birthday party-- I thought we were headed out to my favorite Mexican place for a relaxing dinner with my family, and instead I had to talk to a bunch of people that I wasn't prepared to talk to . . . it took me an hour to recover from the "surprise") and while I appreciate the planning and cleverness in order to successfully throw one of these parties, I always wonder about the purpose-- I wonder if the party is more for the planners than the recipient; anyway, I was a participant in a surprise birthday party on Saturday night and I suggested that we really give the recipient a surprise-- and I ran through a number of scenarios, including group nudity, knocking him unconscious and driving him to an undisclosed location and leaving him on the side of the road, and finally an easy one: when the birthday boy entered the house, his wife and I would make out in the living room and when he caught us, I would say "Surprise?" . . . but we executed none of my creative ideas, and just went with the traditional hiding in the kitchen and scaring the crap out of him with a shrill "Surprise!". . . and then I stayed out far too late (it's always traumatic for me when I surprise someone, and I need to assuage my anxiety with alcohol) and I was too tired to attend the big charity bash at my friend's mom's house on Sunday night . . . but Catherine went without me and later that evening I received a picture on my phone of her making out with a friend and he accompanied the picture with a text that said, "This is what happens when you don't come out" . . . surprise!

The Way We Were

For the past two weeks, my children have been starring in an epic saga of forgetfulness; they forgot their homework and the materials they needed for their homework multiple times (resulting in awkward phone-calls to their friends-- there is nothing worse than supervising nine and ten year old boys while they make phone-calls in which they actually have to glean some information from the communication) and then Alex nearly shit his pants when he realized that he forgot his saxophone-- his newly purchased very expensive saxophone-- "on the hill by the school" because he played some football right after school let out, but then his brother rushed him to leave . . . and so, nearly an hour after he left the very expensive saxophone on the hill, we raced back to school-- to find that the saxophone was no longer on the hill where he left it, and so there were even more tears, but he lucked out-- some goodhearted soul brought the instrument into the main office-- and as a result of all this forgetting, Catherine and decided that the two of them couldn't walk home for a week-- and that if either of them forgot their stuff, then they were BOTH losing TV for the night and that I would have to pick them up and check to see that they had everything they needed . . . and while I was annoyed with their irresponsibility, I was exactly the same way when I was a kid, so it was hard to actually be angry with them . . . and they do have to remember a lot of stuff; anyway, I raced out of my school last week so I could get to their school and check on them, and when I found the spot where the fourth graders were let out, I saw Ian and a few other kids engaged in an insane tackling and wrestling melee, with plenty of full speed running into each other and lots of chucking each other to the ground and it surprised me that this was happening on school grounds but they seemed like they knew what they were doing and that this was some sort of daily ritual so I forgot about it (especially since Ian had to return inside the school to find his trombone, which he forgot) and then the next day when I picked them up, my other son-- who is in fifth grade-- was also involved in this melee and I asked him if this happened every day and he said, "No, this never happens . . . but I saw them and joined in" which made me laugh because the whole thing looked so casually violent, like they always did this to let off steam after a school day, but I warned them that when some teacher or aid saw this, they were going to get in trouble and I told them about the very first after-school detention I received, which, coincidentally, was for-- and I quote this-- "play-fighting in the yard" (I'll never forget the description because I had to bring the detention slip home and get it signed) and I'm really hoping they start remembering their school materials because I don't want to see any more of this, as it's too stupidly nostalgic (and my wife doesn't care if I committed these same errors, she thinks we're all idiots).

How to Write the Comment of the Year

There are only sixteen days left in 2014, so if you're looking to win the prestigious Sentence of Dave Comment of the Year you'd better get cracking; to see what you're up against, read yesterday's sentence and the comments (and you also need to read this sentence as well) and then you'll understand what you need to do:

1) synthesize elements from two or more sentences in a brief and humorous fashion;

2) offer an ironic juxtaposition; zman's comment not only juxtaposes black and white, but also sleek and fluffy AND large and small . . . absolutely masterful;

3) you should avoid making fun of Dave-- while Clarence may have gotten a laugh yesterday, he's never going to win Comment of the Year with that kind of attitude.

Physics Equation with Dark Matter

Black fleece pants + black jacket + black rainy night + black Nike sneakers + black dog = almost getting hit by a car while walking the dog.

I Finally Understand Madmen

It took me a while to get it, but I have a good excuse-- I was distracted by all the outfits: Meghan's beautiful outfits and Peggy's atrocious outfits and Pete's silly outfits, Joan's voluptuous outfits and Betty's evolving outfits-- ironically, I share the same blindness as the men on the show . . . but I can't be blamed because of the "curse of testosterone"; anyway, better late than never, and so here it is: the show's theme is essentially the title of Hanna Rosin's candid book The End of Men and the Rise of Women; Don's infinite fall during the theme song is more than a tragic symbol of his own career arc . . . it's a symbol of the decline of all men in America; as the show grinds to a close, the women are gaining power and thinking for themselves-- Joan as a partner and Peggy as a talented executive and Meghan as an actress and Betty as an assertive and intelligent housewife who realizes her talents were wasted-- while the men are dinosaurs (Lou) or hipsters (Roger doing acid, Stan and his beard) or insane (Michael cuts his nipple off!)-- and when Don and Harry Crane leave the hip L.A. party and head out to sip whiskey at the old man restaurant with the paneled decor and a stone hearth, you can sense that the good times are over . . . maybe Don will regain some tiny shred of relevance, or achieve sobriety, but that's hardly a happy ending to the show, and I'm assuming it will end far worse than that.

Six Ways to Annoy Your Friends (Now!)

If you read the new Steven Johnson book How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World then you will learn lots of annoying facts about his six topics of invention: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light . . . but I won't bore you with pedantry (though Johnson's writing can make anything exciting, even the history of refrigeration) and I'll just summarize his theme instead: to be extraordinarily innovative, you don't want to remain true to yourself and your unorthodox principles -- you might improve the world slightly that way-- but Johnson strives to dispel this "lone genius" myth; instead, if you really want to do something groundbreaking, you've got a little lost and form new connections, explore uncharted terrain, break your routine, and let yourself be buffeted by the new ideas circulating in the ether . . . and it still might take a LONG time before the world catches up with you . . . but the inventions are out there, just waiting for the right suite of technologies to become available, and the right brains to combine them (the same way Shakespeare went about "smashing words together" to make Elizabethan English into something more modern).

In the Old Days, If You Didn't Go to Church, You Got Whipped (Cream?)

I haven't been very zealous about my children's religious attendance (let's be frank here, I haven't even been mildly interested in making them attend church) but you reap what you sow; last week my youngest son told my wife: "putting whipped cream on my ice cream is part of my religion."

Tony Luke's is Better Than Jim's (and Other Notes for Future Trips to Philly)

Catherine and I spent the weekend in Philly (sans kids) and I'd like to note some highs and lows for both my readers and my future self:

1) Not only is the roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and long hots at Tony Luke's better than the same offering at DiNic's-- but (though it's comparing apples to oranges . . . or pigs to cows) it's also better than a cheesesteak at Jim's-- and as an added bonus, the staff is actually cordial at Tony Luke's-- the woman taking my order didn't seem to mind at all that I had a question-- while Jim's has a "soup Nazi" feel to the ordering process . . . who do I order from? . . . the guy with the metal thingie? . . . did he make eye contact with me? . . . does that mean I need to say something? . . . I'm pretty far along in the line . . . am I too far in line? . . . should I have said something? . . . is it too late? . . . did I miss my chance?. . . do they have provolone? . . . do I have to say "wit wiz"? . . .. how do you spell "whiz"? . . . should I say "wit prov"? and after all the hazing, we were still underwhelmed by the cheesesteaks from Jim's this time around (although I must admit, that past times they were delicious);

2) our next trip to Philadelphia, I am going to get a cheesesteak from Tony Luke's and see if it is as good as the roast pork sandwich (because quite a few people were eating cheesesteaks there);

3) the Good Dog and La Locanda Del Ghiottone are great places to eat;

4) the tour of the Physick House is worth doing: the guy who does the tour is the great-great grandson of Dr. Physick-- "The Father of American Surgery"-- and while he's an eccentric man, who seems to be living his life both in the 18th Century and the present, simultaneously, there is no question that he knows a buttload about the house and the history of the area, which he gets across in passionate anecdotal fashion, with loads of bad puns, and -- odd as he is, and history buffs are usually quite odd-- at least he doesn't dress in period garb, which is a big plus . . . but be warned, the good Doctor's surgical tools are rather primitive and the accompanying diagrams made me light-headed and also, I'm pretty sure he explained to us, while discussing the family tree on the wall in the room with all the surgical tools, that he's seriously inbred;

5) The Hop Sing Laundromat has a lot of rules, so I put the kibosh on going there;

6) listening to the podcast Serial while driving is dangerous stuff . . . Lynn and Connell were so engrossed that they missed the exit . . . by thirty miles (but Lynn did get an A+ on the Episode 10 quiz that Catherine and I created for my class);

7) Connel got the perfect mojito at lunch at Cuba Libre, but then couldn't get the diner bartender to replicate it . . . but he does claim that the best drinks in the world are served at the awkwardly named Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company (but Catherine and I didn't go over there, as you have to mortgage your house to afford the drinks, which run fifteen dollars a piece-- but Lynn and Connel say it was well worth it, so next time I will suck it up and pay);

8) if you want to go to Farmicia, you need a reservation; same with Howl at the Moon, and McGillin's was a madhouse at 10 PM on a Saturday night, far too young a crowd (we walked in while the bouncers were breaking up a fight . . . the place was a giant frat party-- if you want to visit Philly's oldest bar, try the afternoon);

9) it's a long walk from the Old City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, especially when it's pouring rain and you're only wearing a sweatshirt because your wife didn't emphasize the weather forecast (she told me, but she didn't TELL me);

10) the Thomas Bond House keeps the heat too high, so you have to break the rules and open the windows-- which have no screens because it's a restored historical house.

Sarah Koenig, Laura and the Dude Profanely Grapple in the In-Between Place (Philosophical Shit Part 2)

If you go 38 minutes and 40 seconds into Episode 8 of Serial, then you get to hear Sarah Koenig set up what she calls "her favorite piece of tape from all her reporting so far"-- and then you hear a friend of Jay's named Laura stumble and stutter and curse her way to the conclusion that she's very confused and things are extremely complicated-- there's just too much conflicting information; Sarah Koenig says that Laura's stream-of-consciousness equivocating could be her own . . . and all this reminds me of the scene in The Big Lebowski when the Dude proclaims, in the same stuttering, stumbling epithet-laced manner that "new shit has come to light" -- and the Dude and Sarah Koenig occasionally strike me as similar, though Koenig is a far more seasoned and professional investigator, but she still seems slightly over her head-- digging away at the case with her "little garden spade" . . . and open to all possibilities, as the Dude is, and though this is a wonderful trait, it means Serial may end like The Big Lebowski . . . an excellent picaresque journey that disappears into a scattered collection of phenomenal fragments (at the start of Episode 9 of Serial, Koenig presents the "new shit"-- three things that are fairly well substantiated, but actually increase the fog, complexity and ambiguity of the case).

Philosophical Shit

I think teachers often forget Aristotle's idea that "the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet" because they are already educated, so they know how to do the tasks they assign, and find it hard to imagine themselves stumbling around in the shadowy ignorance of Plato's allegorical cave; and while I do my best to empathize with the plight of my students, I certainly know some of my material too well to remember what it's like not to know it -- which is why teaching the podcast Serial has been so difficult and enlightening . . . I've learned that I am much better at reading than I am at listening, and that I have trouble with details, timelines, and auditory descriptions of geography . . . I made my students write an essay connecting Plato's cave metaphor to Episode 7 and 8 of Serial and one essay explained that Sarah Koenig couldn't be manipulating us (the audience) because she is also in a shadowy cave of ignorance, the maze of her investigation, and we are -- like Inception-- inside an even shadowier cave within her cave, and then I added another layer to this: though I am the teacher, I'm not great at organizing things this dense and detail-oriented, and so I am in an even darker cave within that cave; anyway, I am listening to the episodes two or three times, in order to plan and teach each one, and the students are helping me as much as I am helping them (and often summarizing and analyzing things in ways more eloquent and precise than I am capable of, which is impressive . . . and the main thing you should learn from all this, is that if you're life is on the line, you don't want me arguing your case).

Can Anyone Peel an Egg?

I've got decent fine motor skills-- I can shoot a dart, play lead guitar, and tweeze an ear-hair with unerring accuracy-- so why can't I peel a hardboiled egg?

What the Kids Are Saying . . .

Here is some of the slang I've picked up from the teenagers this school year: apparently, if you are over forty and some young person has nicely groomed eyebrows, then it's really funny if you tell this person their eyebrows are "on fleek" . . . also, if you're a teenager and you've got a BAE (a boyfriend or girlfriend) then you can say that you and your significant other are "cuffed."

Fermi's Paradox and The Great Filter Wish You a Happy Holiday Season

This year I'm not going to get so upset over the rampant materialism and consumerism (and the resulting environmental disaster) caused by the holiday season, and one of the things that's helping me cope is Fermi's Paradox and its evil twin, The Great Filter: when several physicists were discussing the high probability of extra-terrestrial life (based on the vast number of stars like our sun and planets that could support life) then Enrico Fermi ended the discussion with the question "Where is everybody?" and one possibility is that there are Great Filters which are very, very difficult to pass through on the road from inert matter to intelligent life . . . and one of these "Great Filters" might be the technological ability to destroy the very planet on which you live, and we've reached that capability, and we seem to be fairly intent on activating this Great Filter (for more on this, listen to Dan Carlin's podcast Blueprint for Armageddon II) and so I'm not going to worry about the earth any longer-- I'm going to live it up, because apparently every other intelligent civilization in the galaxy destroyed itself before figuring out interstellar travel, so why should I expect anything more from humans?

Real vs. "Real"

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)  is a film with many layers-- but the layers are shallow . . . we never leave the epidermis-- and in the end, though there's some good performances and some interesting irony and meta-irony (Michael Keaton plays an actor past his prime trying to stay relevant, but all people can remember him for is his role as the superhero Birdman . . . sound familiar?) the movie is overwrought and forgettable; Edward Norton does his impression of the best actor in the universe, the arch-fiend is a critic-- who might destroy Michael Keaton's play and might even destroy the movie as a whole, but then Keaton saves the day with his performance and his "performance" and for some inscrutable reason (perhaps to make it more "real") this is all done in one long Steadicam shot, giving the illusion that the film is one long take . . . but all this does is make the film far too long (two hours) for this kind of comedy, there's too much time to "get" the irony and the ambiguity (and maybe all this quality TV has ruined me, but I'm used to brevity now) and so while there are funny and profound and vivid moments, as a whole the movie is ponderous (JCVD does it better) and Emma Stone's various rants and lectures about Twitter and social media are annoying and dated, but if you want to see something real (rather than "real") then check out On the Ropes, a 94 minute boxing documentary from 1999 that tells the story of three boxers and their trainer Harry Keitt; Keitt has been homeless, shot his cousin over a drug deal, and addicted to cocaine, but he fought his way out of trouble and now tries to inspire his fighters . . . but even if you train hard, it's tough to defeat the ghetto: Tyrene Manson is a Golden Gloves contender, but she gets screwed by her crackhead Uncle Randy, who sells drugs to an undercover cop, and Tyrene gets charged with intent to sell as well (simply because some drugs were in her room, which is hardly "hers" as she lives in a house with many other people . . . watching her incompetent lawyer and the cold-hearted judge that sentences her is heartbreaking); George Walton is a young fighter with professional aspirations and ability, and he leaves his trainer behind and learns some hard lessons about trust and talent; and Noel Santiago is a likable slacker who finds inspiration and enthusiasm in the boxing gym, but also learns that even if you try, sometimes success is elusive . . . Birdman takes a long time illustrating a few things about some shallow and insipid characters, but On the Ropes cuts to the bone much quicker, and though the film is gritty and at times ugly, there's some unforgettable moments in it.

It Works For Me

I've found that in the winter, if I take my dog for a bike ride or a hike through the park, I get far less muddy if I tuck my sweat pants into my socks, and while I realize this looks ridiculous, I'm just going to apologize in advance and do it anyway.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.