A Matter About A Mattress (Dave Turns the Corner)

My neighbors have five kids so they're are always cleaning out their house and their garage, getting rid of clutter, and tossing items their kids have aged out of, and all the cleaning and organizing and property maintenance seems to be done by the lady-of-the-house-- she certainly doesn't get much help from her husband and kids-- so while I feel bad that she has so many responsibilities, I also like to complain to my wife about whatever junk is cluttering up the sidewalk, as it's unsightly, it blocks my way to the park, and it detracts from my wife's beautifully maintained front garden; I used to be a live-and-let-live kind of guy, the kind of guy who didn't care if people neglected to bring in their garbage cans promptly from the curb after garbage collection (I once got into a passionate debate with my friends Dan and Dom on this issue-- they were homeowners at the time and disdainfully-- and accurately-- called me a "renter") but I think I turned some kind of crazy corner this morning-- the neighbors threw a twin mattress on the sidewalk in front of their driveway on Sunday (right where I start my morning walk with the dog) and bulk trash day isn't until September 27, so after gamely walking over the mattress several times yesterday, I decided that instead of complaining for a week and a half and driving my wife bananas, I would take matters into my own hands, and so before I went to work this morning (I wanted to get it done before the storm soaked the mattress) I threw the mattress on the roof of my van, drove down to the park, and tossed it in the dumpster . . . and while it's sad to wave good-bye to good-natured, easy-going Dave, I'm going to try to embrace New Crotchety Dave, the Dave who has Initiative and Interest in Property Values, the Dave who has realized sometimes it's easier to just do it yourself, instead of complaining about it, because I think this is the Dave of the future, the Dave that will eventually succumb to that wacky lunatic, Senile Crank Dave.

This is Why I Rarely Run Errands

Saturday morning, I got up and went out into the world, alone, to do some things: I drove out to Pennington to buy a craigslist bike for my son Ian; took a detour to visit the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Preserve-- a beautiful reserve with a large environmental center and plenty of hiking trails through meadows, forests, and floodplains-- promptly got lost in the woods, ended up at a farmer's market on a road I did not recognize-- where I got conflicting directions on how to get back to the Watershed parking lot, and then used Google Maps on my phone to figure out the best way to go-- it's incredibly accurate, if I took ten steps or so in the wrong direction, I could tell-- then I stopped at Joe Canal's in Lawrenceville, but my little keychain bottle didn't work-- each store is independently owned and so I needed to sign up for another little red keychain bottle so I could get the discount, and then when I stopped at 7-11 on Route 1 for a snack, the friendly young dude behind the counter offered me a plastic bag for my potato chips and cheese-stick, and I refused-- I always try to refuse plastic bags, because they are an environmental scourge and most of the time you can just carry your shit or put it in your pockets, but the dude behind the counter was doing the hard sell-- he held up the bag and said, "It's free!" and if he wasn't such a friendly, good-natured young dude, I would have given him a lecture on the environmental cost of handing out non-recyclable plastic bags with every minor purchase, but that would have been obnoxious, so I just said, "Save it for the next guy" and he said, "Okay . . . then do you want a Squishy? It smells like food when you squeeze it" and he pointed to a display of little nerf food items in plastic, which were listed at $2.99 each and I wasn't sure if he was up-selling me one of these, or offering to give me one or what, so I just said, "No thanks but that's really funny" and I'm not sure what I was referencing: the fact that Squishy food items that smell actually exist and are sold in stores: or that he thought because I refused a plastic bag, I might want one of these; or that whenever I run errands, people say weird stuff to me (the last time I was at Kohls, the little old Asian cashier ordered me go back into the store to get more underwear to take advantage of a sale, complained about the high taxes, and said too many Indian people were moving into town).

Dave is on a Collision Course . . . with Himself

There's nothing better than the Tina Fey flick Mean Girls . . . I reference it at least once a day-- I especially like to say "You can't just ask someone why they're white"-- and there's nothing worse than musical theater, I disparage the genre no less than thrice month, and these two passionately polar opinions have got me in a real bind, because a musical version of Mean Girls is opening on Broadway and I'm not sure if I want to see it or not . . . it's a Hegelian conundrum: I'm afraid if I don't see it, I'll regret it for the rest of my life, but I'm afraid if I do shell out the cash and willingly take my wife to see some musical theater, I'll spontaneously combust.

The End of the Road


Guilt, regret, indignance, vengeance, betrayal, and the deep history of a trio of homeboys, this is Gar Anthony Haywood's novel Cemetery Road . . . it's certainly no light-hearted heist-caper, and even once things are resolved, the book doesn't give in . . . the last line is: "Just as I pray I will someday learn to forgive myself."

My Week Was More Epic Than Yours (Unless You Were Involved in a Flood or Hurricane)

It is the first real Friday of the school year (last week the students only attended school for three days) and while I know many of you work long hours, have tedious commutes, and are responsible for many tasks and duties on a day-to-day basis (and I also recognize that many of you are without power, living through natural disasters) but still, you've got to understand just how epic a week this was for me-- and you've got to realize I had the whole summer off, so I got used to a certain lifestyle and rhythm of existence, and second, you've got to understand that I'm a rare and delicate flower, with many hobbies and interests and peccadilloes, and working gets in the way of this groove I've cultivated, and third, it was hot and humid and there's air-conditioning neither in my classroom nor on the soccer fields . . . anyway, here are my stats, in case Governor Christie wants to peruse them:

1) in the last seven days, I coached eleven soccer events and attended two others . . . so just shy of two a day;

2) my high school scheduled back-to-school-night early this year, on Wednesday, from 7 - 9 PM  . . . so Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I worked fourteen hour days;

3) we've begun the narrative unit in my Expos class, so in order to prepare the students for the looming menace of their college essays, I reviewed Dan Harmon's 8 step story template, and I ended up telling the students a buttload of exemplary stories for my own life (which is exhausting) and the same thing happened in Creative Writing (for similar reasons) and Philosophy (mainly to do with perception, as we're doing Plato's "Allegory of the Cave") and so, to make a long story short, I recounted a lot of anecdotes, some multiple times in one day . . .  here's an incomplete list, for those of you keeping score at home:










4) I also did some phenomenal acting on Wednesday, for three periods in a row in my Expos classes; in order to illustrate the lesson in Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant"-- the fact that authority figures will often compromise their morality and do what the crowd expects, in order to not look a fool-- I staged an incident of disobedience and secretly asked a student in each class if they would pretend they had not read the essay, refuse to take the quiz, make a bit of a scene, and then storm off to guidance-- disobeying my command to stay put and fail-- and each student that I asked did a phenomenal job, and then I had to fake-deal with the situation, which was fake-exhausting, I had to act like Orwell and let the class (the Burmese) push me around-- some classes wanted me to write up the student, other classes wanted me to give them a break, there were spurious phone calls and real-fake texting, the student couldn't be found anywhere-- not in the bathroom or in guidance, I fake-contacted the security guards and was very fake concerned because I had fake-lost a child . . . and I did all this in the real heat and humidity of my blind-less classroom (they took my blinds! I wanted them to fix my blinds, but instead they took them, so we're baking and we have a glare)

5) but I shouldn't complain because guidance came to visit my three senior Expos classes today, to inform the kids how to apply for college, and so I got to skip class and hang out in the air-conditioned office and explain my two simple rules of women's fashion-- which really annoyed Brady, who was also off all day, because I'm so unfashionably dressed, but I don't think it matters how I dress, it just matters if I can give women some good advice on how they should dress-- and my two rules of women's fashion are very simple . . . rule number one is tighter is better and rule number two is skin to win . . . and I'm pretty sure these are the rules of fashion every male is following when they comment on a woman's clothing (Stacey said when Ed makes a positive comment about an outfit, she knows that she can't wear it to work, because it's inappropriate for high school boys).



The Hotness/Fashion Calculus Inversion

I can dress more casually for work than my colleagues because I'm so good looking.

Millennials are Weird (but Fun . . . and Imagistically Fungible)

video


My Millennial friend Young Little Allie Hogan (who recently had her first break out performance on SoD) is doing a personal fitness challenge today to celebrate one year of working with her exercise trainer; her goal-- which she set one year ago-- was to do 365 reps of some exercise that she did not like, all in the course of one day, and so she chose push-ups and she's been doing sets of ten and fifteen push-ups throughout the school, and-- here's the Millennial angle-- she's been posting them all (in double speed) on Snapchat; I grilled her about this, why she had to document every push-up and she said, "This was to inspire other people to do push-ups," which is admirable enough, so I did a set with her on the English office table-- we tried to reverse-synchronize our up and down motion so we looked piston-like-- anyway, I think I posted the video but I don't know how to get to the whole sequence on Snapchat (and I think it will all disappear tomorrow or something strange) and the lesson here is that if you're a Millennial, then the saying isn't "a picture is worth a thousand words" . . . it's something far less catchy, it's "a picture is the only fungible unit of communication, if you don't see it, then it didn't happen."

Punt-cam

The travel soccer pre-season has been fairly exhausting because we've gone digital with all our registration, player passes, game cards and scheduling . . . it's been a lot of information to input into the cloud, but everyone realizes that digitization should make things easier seasons to come . . . despite this bold leap into the future, this rather ominous email from the coordinator of the tournament we participated in this weekend felt very apropos:

"The PSC (Piscataway Soccer Club) has hired a photographer with a Drone to take footage of the games Saturday morning between 8 am and 10 am;

Please share with your parents so no one is concerned."

Good Motivational Techniques = Therapy


We bought two 36" by 12" laminated mural sized team photos this weekend at the tournament-- one for Alex (The Eagles) and one for Ian (The Vultures)-- but while I was chatting with my friend in the bleachers, we decided that a more fitting purchase would be to buy a shot of the winning team in each respective age group (The Cranford Timbers came out on top in our flight, we came in third, with 2 wins and 2 losses . . . respectable, but perhaps not laminated mural-worthy) and make each child put up that laminated mural sized team photo in their respective bedrooms and make them stare at that team all year, to inspire them to win the tournament and then receive a laminated mural sized team photo to commemorate the victory . . . but motivational techniques like that, though they might be effective, probably aren't worth the hassle of pediatric psychological counseling co-pays and the bad press in the tell-all Agassi-like autobiography.

A Flurry Rush of Dad Humor

My boys were playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild this afternoon with their friend Tibby, and as I walked through the room, Tibby says to Alex-- with utter disdain-- "You don't have flurry rush unlocked?" and I took this opportunity to chime right in: "Seriously Alex, you don't have flurry rush unlocked? That's just . . . that's just incompetent, a real disaster, you've got to unlock that . . . it's absurd to not have flurry rush unlocked," and Alex said, "Get out of here, Dad" and Tibby and Ian didn't appreciate my dad humor either, so I'm putting it out there for the other dads to enjoy.

Absolute Adjective Maniac

The other day in the English office, Young Allie became very excited when she realized she knew something I didn't-- this kind of silliness among the new teachers happens for a few years, until they scratch through the thin veneer of my intellect and realize there's a soft brown stupid underbelly to my brain, a crappy underbelly full of gaseous holes-- anyway, she read that English speakers unconsciously follow a rule that "absolutely" stipulates the order of adjectives . . . I had never heard about this claim that Mark Forsyth makes in The Elements of Eloquence, and I was properly deferential and fascinated by Young Allie's interesting piece of grammatical information; Forsyth believes that:

"adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun . . . so you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife, but if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac . . .”

but after thinking deeply about this rule, I think it might be a great big brown steaming fresh shit pile (a sequence which does begin with opinion and size, but then inserts color before shape and age . . . and 'soft brown stupid underbelly' doesn't follow this rule either . . . so you probably shouldn't use the words "absolutely" and "maniac" when you're talking about English grammar . . . I have a feeling H.L. Mencken would kick this guy's ass).




It's Gotta Be The Pants (Of Fabric and Fabrication)


This morning, in honor of the first Friday of the school year, I put on my new red plaid button down shirt (red is a major fashion statement for me, I normally only wear blue, black, brown and gray) and my new Lee X-Treme Comfort Khaki pants, which are "the perfect combination of style and athletic performance," mainly because they are 98% cotton and 2% Spandex . . . you heard me right, two percent Spandex . . . so while these pants masquerade as work pants, they are comfortable as all hell-- and not only are they comfortable as all hell, but they are also super-functional, so much so that they may have saved my life this morning . . . or I certainly thought they saved my life; it was 7 AM and I was deep into the crosswalk in front of our building, thinking my happy thoughts, enjoying the crisp morning air and the soft fabric of my beautiful spacious new red shirt-- one car already stopped for me but as I passed the street's halfway point, a parent who had just dropped off their child went into zoom-away mode and-- despite the fact that I was wearing a bright red shirt, a shirt that said, "STOP! Do not hit me! I am a human being!"-- despite this fashionably colorful alert, the distracted parent almost ran me down, but I leapt backward and avoided the impact, the car stopped, I gave the driver a disappointed look, and then I went on my way . . . the security guard said, "Good thing you were paying attention, you could have been killed!" and I said, "Yeah, and the crazy thing is I'm wearing this bright red shirt!" and then I realized that while my bright red shirt didn't matter-- I could have been wearing a rainbow Afro-wig and clown shoes and that parent-of-an-honor-roll-student would have still run me down-- but my 2% Spandex pants did matter . . . they very well may have been the reason I was able to react so quickly and athletically to the oncoming car . . . and so I made a point to tell this story to all my students and colleagues, and each time I told the tale, I gave full attribution to my new pants (and even did some lunges and kicks and squats to demonstrate their comfort and elasticity) and things got pretty wild in the office last period, I ended up stuffing myself into Liz K's little green trench coat (I needed aid to extricate my arms from the sleeves) and then when I finally got home from work, pleased as fuck with my life-saving 2 percent Spandex pants, and I whipped them off and took a whiff of the seat (to determine if they needed a wash or if they could go back into the closet) it was then that I noticed something odd on the back of the pants-- a little red white and blue rectangle-- and I realized that these weren't Lee brand khaki pants-- that was a Tommy Hilfiger logo on the waistband!-- and I remembered that I had bought these pants last year at Costco, and while they were very comfortable, they were 100 percent cotton and contained zero-point-zero percent Spandex; then it dawned on me in it's entirety: my entire day had been a weird lie, a lie I told myself and everyone else in my path . . . I truly believed that my pants were 2 percent Spandex, convinced myself of the fact, and I acted like it-- I felt them stretching when I did karate kicks and lunges in front of my composition classes, I praised their supple elasticity when I put my foot on the desk, and they were just regular old cotton pants . . . and now I'm going to have to actually wear the 2 percent spandex pants on Monday, to prove that they actually exist, and i'm going to have to confess to my Friday fabrication . . . yes, that's right, I thought of it and I wrote it down: it was all a fabrication.

Oppressing Question

Even when I've made a clean fecal grab and knotted the neck in an airtight fashion, if I hold a full dog poop disposal bag right up to my nose, I can still smell the poop inside the bag-- the poop smell somehow penetrates the plastic . . . but this seems to defy the laws of olfactory physics: anyone out there know why this is so?



Bury This Post, Evil Algorithm . . . I Dare You

It's been nearly a year since I told you to read Cathy O'Neil's book Weapons of Math Destruction, and you ignored me . . . or perhaps you didn't ignore me, perhaps-- and this is far worse-- the algorithm that chooses what you see and don't see on social media buried this post (and wouldn't that be just what an insidiously malevolent algorithm would do? bury a post about the dangers of algorithms?) and so if this post reaches you-- and I'm not confident that it will-- then I've got something quicker and easier for you than reading an entire book: just listen to this week's 99% Invisible . . . the episode is called "The Age of the Algorithm" and Cathy O'Neil is the special guest; she reminds us that the internet is a curated propaganda machine designed to brainwash you in a most pleasant and undetectable manner, and she's not afraid to admonish all of us for allowing this to happen . . . when society is presented with a difficult question-- what makes a good teacher? what is the purpose of jail? who deserves to get a loan? what should we encounter on the internet?-- we now tend to skirt the issue and let an algorithm do the "math," because it's easier to hide behind a formula, even though the variables and values in the formula were chosen by a human, and the formula itself was designed by a human . . . and often a human who didn't have any stakes in the outcome of the equation . . . O'Neil isn't condemning all algorithms, some are incredibly useful-- in fact, New Jersey is employing an algorithm to implement bail and it has been quite successful-- but she is advocating transparency, we need to pull back the curtain and took a look at the wizard that makes these decisions, and we need to be able to see what other people are seeing on Facebook and Twitter and such, to get an idea of the fake news and political ad campaigns and other persuasive rhetoric that is happening beyond our perspective . . . and the sad thing is that the people who see this post will be the people who already know this, maybe I need to photocopy it on regular paper and drop it from an airplane.

This post is not a pipe . . . nor is it a spoon



This season, my U-13 travel soccer team made the leap from 9 v 9 on a small grass field to 11 v 11 on an enormous full-sized high school turf field-- the space is vast and incomprehensible for the pre-pubescent 11 and 12 year olds of which my squad is comprised, goals will be few and far between, and most attacks will peter out forty yards from the endline, so this year's mantra for my midfield is straight from The Matrix: there is no forward and there is no backwards, only open space and open players (our only hope is to possess the ball, bring it all the way back to the keeper, out to the sides, up the field a bit, then back again . . . until the other team collapses from exhaustion . . . then, if we've got anything left, we'll finally move forward).

Can a Goat Win Best Supporting Actor?



I can't really recommend The Witch as a horror movie, but if you're looking for an eerie period tragedy in the vein of The Crucible-- but without the boring courtroom scenes and way more blood and gore-- then you might be up for this film . . . my son Alex watched a bit, was properly disturbed, pronounced the movie weird, and reminded us that there weren't any witches in 17th century New England, and that the probable cause of the hysteria was that the settlers ate crops covered with a psychedelic fungus (it's called ergot, and this is a real academic theory as to the cause of the witchcraft pandemonium in Salem) and while this is alluded to in the film, it' ambiguous as to whether the witch and the witchcraft is real or hallucinatory, but mainly the movie is beautiful to look at and listen to, the costumes and the menacing farm animals and the creepy score and the perfect casting of every actor and muted color palette that makes the film look ancient and venerable . . . the husband and wife really look like malnourished Puritans in a Grimm's fairy tale, and the twins have that Shining quality about them and Thomasin is radiant and compelling, a with a strange slightly sexual magnetism that adds an air of Freudian attraction to the brew . . . and beware of Black Phillip.

Listen at Your Own Risk

Here are some podcasts that will twist your sense of morality back unto itself:

1) This American Life updates the noted George Saunders short story "Pastoralia" in Act Two of episode 623: We Are in the Future, the rest of the episode is trash, so head straight to "Past Imperfect" . . . it's the story of an African American woman (comedian and actor Azie Dungey) who played the role of a slave at Mt. Vernon, George Washington's estate in Virginia, and the difficulties and disparagement she suffered as a consequence of this oddly symbolic position-- a sole black woman representing all 316 slaves that Washington owned; tourists struggled with this reminder of reality (thought it was sorely lacking in numerical accuracy) and the moral of the story is that none of us are over the past, and none of us are able to get over it, white and black alike, so we're going to have to have some frank discussions about what went on back there in the mists of time and how we're going to portray these folks that we all have in common;

2) Episode 792 of Planet Money, "The Ransom Problem" presents a wicked dilemma that combines Catch 22 and Hamlet's most famous soliloquy . . . when you've been abducted by terrorists demanding ransom, and you have to decided whether "to pay or not to pay"; the U.S. and Canadian governments refuse to pay kidnappers, while many European nations will foot the bill . . . and while in a utilitarian sense, it makes sense not to pay ransom, because you don't want to incentivize abduction, this tactic doesn't seem to be working . . . anyway, this episode will run you through the wringer, you'll change your position several times, and by the end you won't know what to think or do . . . not only does the podcast deal with the economic implications of ransom, it also tells the entire wild abduction story of Amanda Lindhout . . . and it all happens in less than 20 minutes;

3) the wake of a flood is probably the worst time to discuss the cockamamie flood insurance policies in our country, because you're bound to come off a bit callous and unfeeling, but the folks at The Weeds and Slate Money do a great job of being informative, empathetic, and knowledgeable about what we need to do in the future to amend the absurdity (not that it will ever happen).

A Post Just Forer You

I've done some research and data analysis and here's what I've found: people who read this blog are smart, creative, a little skeptical, and self-sufficient . . . congratulations, readers!

Duh

Rick and Morty is the opposite of Horace and Pete (and Time Travel: A History, by James Gleick, is the text that explains why this is so, but I'm so tired from my first day of work that I can't give any further explanation . . . you're going to have to trust me on this one).

Wednesday/Thursday Morning Compare/Contrast Miracle

Yesterday morning I was angry and frustrated: I hooked up my $14.50 Amazon Warehouse deal digital antenna to our very expensive flat screen TV and got bupkis . . . I couldn't pull in any free channels, not a one, and so after some cursing and yelling, I packaged the antenna back up and printed out the return label so I could send it back to Amazon-- I wasn't sure if the antenna didn't work (it was a Warehouse Deal) or if I needed a better antenna and/or better antenna placement to pull in the digital stations, and I was getting nervous because football season is about to start and I want to be able to watch the Giants, and so last night, when I crashed lady's night at Pino's, my friend Ann said that digital broadcast TV is a total hoax and there's no way to pull in any stations and I was very sad-- I just wanted to watch the Giants, not become beholden to cable again-- we cut the cord a few months ago and are saving a lot of money and I wondered about the various cheap streaming TV services and Johanna said that Sling TV has trouble streaming major sports events and I was totally confounded and depressed, afraid I was headed back into the monopolistic maw of Verizon or Optimum, but this morning, after Googling things like "Are digital TV antennas a stupid fucking hoax?" I learned that any antenna can pull in digital signals, and the site recommended plugging your old-fashioned rooftop antenna into the TV, and so I found the old rooftop coaxial cable, screwed it into our fancy digital TV and-- miracle beyond miracles-- the tuner started pulling in all kinds of channels and now we've got all the basic channels and a bunch of really weird stuff (like an audio channel of people talking in Mandarin) and so I can watch the Giants and my wife can watch The Bachelor and we'll survive without cable for the time being (although I'm going to need to do something creative once the World Cup starts . . . Ann suggested bringing my big TV over to her cabled house).
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.