My four year old son Ian is very stubborn, and although this is trying, it will come in handy if anyone ever tries to brainwash him; last weekend, while we were waiting for our Mexican food at Aby's in Matawan (I mention this only because I created such a good Mexican joke about the locale: what's a Matawan? Nothing . . . but somebody stole my taco) and I played some word games with the boys to kill time-- I made them say "post" and "boast" and "host" and then I asked, "What do you put in a toaster?" . . . Alex fell for it and said, "toast" but Ian calmly said, "bread," and then I pointed to several white objects and asked them to name the color and they said "white" several times and then I asked, "What do cows drink?" and Alex fell for this one too and said, "milk" but again Ian refused to be tricked by my silliness and he looked at me and staidly said, "water."
Michael Lewis's new book Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity is fun to read from the sidelines (especially if all your money is in your new kitchen addition, so while there may be some abstract money lost in the housing market, you don't feel it because you're eating at a big table surrounded by windows) but the lesson is that though hind-sight is 20/20, no one really understood exactly why Black Monday or the Foreign Credit Crunch or the Dot.com Bust or The SubPrime Crisis happened in real time (except maybe John Paulson) and even if you did understand it, and wanted to weather the storm, other people in the herd that had mirrored your position could cause a market run anyway-- and if you don't feel like reading the book, which is edited by Michael Lewis and contains articles written by a wide variety of analysts (including himself and Dave Barry) then you could probably reach the same understanding by watching the episode of Thirty Rock where Tracy Jordan, who is being interviewed by Larry King, causes a financial crisis all by himself.
Nothing makes me happier than the canned pumpkin shortage-- I hope this is the first of many retaliatory measures Mother Nature levies against our materialistic culture, and I commend her for her timing, as it is especially effective when these apocalyptic omens occur around the crassly consumptive holiday season . . . I would suggest to her that she also bring a cankerous blight that decimates mistletoe and nog.
It took me a day and a half to ingest Chuck Klosterman's new book Eating the Dinosaur, and though there were some new ideas for me to devour-- on Kurt Kobain vs. David Koresh and ABBA and Ralph Sampson and Garth Brooks and laugh tracks and the inability of Ralph Nader to lie and why this is a problem in politics and the paradoxical identity of football (which appears to be the most conservative sport-- think Brett Favre and Vince Lombardi-- but is actually the most dynamic and liberal in nature . . . as it has evolved from the forward pass to radios in quarterbacks helmets, from rugby-esque to the read option and the spread offense, etc.) but the scary and entrancing and ultimately annoying bulk of the book is about things that I already love, such as the time travel movie Primer and Werner Herzog and Erroll Morris and the Unabomber Manifesto and Stephen King and Arrested Development and David Foster Wallace and Weezer and Madmen and this is ultimately annoying because he feels the same way as me about these things (and many more) but his ideas about them are more clever than mine and they are better articulated, because he's a professional pop-culture critic, so while on the one hand I am fascinated by what he is saying, on the other, I'm annoyed that I didn't think of it myself-- it's about Weezer, for Christ's sake, not the human genome!-- and for me this was most acute in his essay entitled "It Will Shock You How Much It Never Happened" where he dissects a press release from Pepsi and then makes some comparisons to Don Draper and Madmen and he transcribes and analyzes Don's monologue about the Kodak carousel and nostalgia-- and this is my favorite moment in TV history . . . it's the end of season one of the show, and no one else appreciated it at my workplace, but at least Klosterman did-- but then it made me wonder about this whole other idea, which is: is Klosterman just predicting what the faux cool nerdy hipster types who also like athletics like to read and watch and listen to, and are we that easy to predict and thus he writes about those things because he knows this is what will sell?-- it crossed my mind for an instant, but if that's so then the joke is on him, because he has embraced these things so fully and thought about them so deeply that whether he's joking or not, he is sincere.
Saw another great Patrice O'Neal show the other night, and although there was no brawl like last year, he did kick out a table full of cops for heckling-- we thought it was a joke, until then they filed out the exit, but O'Neal's girth raises another point, and this also came up during my Shakespeare class while we were discussing the humor of Falstaff: how fat is funny these days?-- I've noticed a slimming of the fat funny guy-- remember the grossly obese funny men of the past? John Candy and Fat Albert and Chris Farley and Sam Kinison and Natalie from The Facts of Life, of course, Falstaff were all obscenely fat, but Jack Black is really just plump compared to these guys, and though Patrice O'Neal can hold his own with the old school mesomorphs, you don't see as many really, really fat comics and--check out the pictures and judge for yourself-- I think Santa Claus has slimmed down over the years as well.
Today is the two year anniversary of Sentence of Dave, and I would like to thank my fans for their support over the past 730 days, as it is your words of encouragement that have kept me plugging away . . . comments like "this dopey-- even for you" and "typical" and "I find it odd that you own three towels" and "Dave, you're getting sloppy, Earth Day is actually tomorrow" and "So you snookered a couple of teenage girls-- you should be proud of yourself" and "this is the worst sentence I've ever read" and "this sentence is canned" and (from my lovely and always supportive wife) "NO ONE wants to hear about your dream!!!"
I try to run my kids through the usual educational, artistic, and athletic paces-- chess playing, drawing, music appreciation, story time, soccer and bike riding-- but while I was cleaning up the yard I saw what they'd rather be doing if I left them to their own devices: each of them wielded a thick plastic wiffle-ball bat, and, without any prior discussion, they began pounding out an atavistic rhythm on the lawn furniture while chanting "Ooga looga, booga looga, omooga looga, ooga looga" and they kept this up for five minutes without fighting, which is the longest time they've ever done anything cooperatively without adult supervision.
I hate December because I constantly think about all the trees that have been cut down to be used as wrapping paper, which is hardly an honorable way to be used-- to be the thing that obscures the other thing-- and then I think about all the trees I've murdered by assigning essays and it makes me not want to assign any . . . but at least that can sometimes be an honorable way to go, you might die as an "A"-- and then, of course, there is the least honorable way of all, rolled around a tube and waiting patiently to be used and flushed.
Last Friday the English teachers had some fun at my expense: Stacey made an educated guess and decided that I probably hadn't read the email from the principal "reminding" us in a rather stern tone that we needed to check IDs, attend all necessary meetings, give students hall passes before they left the classroom, and not "kill the messenger" when we received phone calls during class from the nurse or guidance or attendance . . . and she was right, I hadn't read this e-mail, and so when Soder remarked that he had received less than usual in his pay-check and I went down to my mail-box to check on mine (greed is partly to blame for my downfall) and I found a letter addressed to me from the principal and it was this exact email . . . addressed personally to me, I fell for their ploy hook, line, and sinker-- and I would like to think that I did not disappoint my audience (who captured my reaction on camera) as I read the letter and line by line refuted each accusation-- "Okay, so I missed a few meetings, but I had soccer!" and "I'm always nice to the ladies from Guidance when they call! In fact, Mrs. Balogh just told me how nice I always am on the phone!"-- until, finally, I decided to write a nasty note to the principal demanding that he high-light which infractions I had committed because it was ridiculous that someone didn't just tell me to my face what I had done wrong and instead gave me a long-winded letter with a host of crimes that I had not committed (or been caught at) and good thing I was too consumed by my the eating of my sandwich to actually go down and deliver said letter because no one was going to stop me from doing so and finally someone walked in who wasn't in on the joke and when I showed her the letter she said, "Wasn't that an email? I got that email," and the gig was up.
Exciting time at Donaldson Park last night: I walked down there with the boys for a game of game of hide-and-go-seek and we heard the sounds of donuts, peel outs, and power slides coming from the far parking lot-- when we went to investigate the cute blond park jogger said, "he's been doing that for forty five minutes" and so when he sped out of the lot, I jogged down the bike path and intersected him on the road, and he was kind enough to stop and wave me across the street but I STOPPED in the middle of the road (HA HA HA!) and memorized his license plate ( NN 81 9L -- I made mnemonic) and then when the park policeman drove into the park to lock the bathrooms, the kids and I walked over to report the plates, but as we approached his SUV, it started moving . . . but he was inside the bathroom, and so I figured there was someone in the passenger seat inching the vehicle forward, but actually his car had slipped out of gear and was heading on a driver-less collision course with the brick wall of the bathroom-- but first it hit and crushed the metal garbage can, which absorbed the blow, and by this time the ranger had gotten out of the bathroom and was able to jump into the car and put it into park, and it was after this bit of reckless non-driving that we were able to report the reckless driver (and it turns out Catherine also grabbed this guy's plates when he was speeding up and down Valentine Street so he is a menace, but perhaps he will get his comeuppance and hopefully it won't be as bad as the kid in the purple Camaro who sped up and down the streets of North Brunswick when I was a youngster, until that fateful night when neighbors of ours that lived near Route 130 heard intermittent beeping all night long and couldn't figure out why, and it was because the local hot-rodder had flipped his Camaro into a drainage ditch and was trapped inside, slowly bleeding to death while he beeped his horn to no avail).
My friend Stacy is kicking herself, because during a discussion on back-hair maintenance, I told her that it might be time to resurrect my idea for a giant tattoo (the great undersea battle between the squid and the whale) because then I would no longer have to maintain my back hair, as hair does not grow through tattoos, but she said, "Hair does too grow through tattoos!" and I checked and she was right, so getting ink all over my back isn't the solution-- but now Stacey is angry because if she didn't open her mouth, then I would have learned the hard way.
Sorry for all the book reviews, but I read a lot when I was in Florida: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness is a good one for people who are disillusioned with the axioms of liberalism and/or conservatism, and the authors offer a third way of doing things, which they (Thaler and Sunstein) call "libertarian paternalism," which sounds like an oxymoron, until you accept their thesis that there is no way to set up a neutral choice situation, and that all choices are somewhat influenced by the context in which they are made (the book begins with an apt example from a schol cafeteria-- students most often choose food items that are placed first and eye-level, so how do you arrange the food? do you put the healthiest items there? or the most profitable? or is it fairer to do it at random? no matter what you do, you have an influence . . .) and they explain that for many choices -- in the realm of health care, preserving the environment, increasing retirement savings, etc.-- there are ways to increase people's liberty and freedom of choice while also using defaults to nudge people towards decisions that will leade to better lives and a cleaner planet . . . but honestly, their ideas make so much logical sense that I can't imagine America ever implementing them, we'd rather be mired in an eschatalogical red state/blue state battle until the end of time, when God's rapture will finally sort out the sinners from the saved . . . that's just how we roll in America.
If this sentence seems especially shiny and wonderful, it is because I typed it on my new iMac, which is utterly beautiful and judging by the fact that it hasn't crashed in the last fifteen minutes and required re-imaging, an unbelievable upgrade over my last computer-- but I will say that it was really weird to cave in and just go buy something without doing months of research, comparison shopping, eBay bidding, etc. because a mac is a mac and it's actually cheaper just to go to the store and show your teacher ID card (for the discount) and just buy it on the spot, as is, and the very, very nice guy at the store (am I going to become nice now that I've got an Apple?) wanted to tell me lots of things and sign me up for Apple classes and help me, but I just wanted my computer and I wanted to say to him: I just re-directed my 16 pin PCI card digital audio converter pre-amp through IRQ line 11 so it wouldn't conflict with my NVIDIA GEForce 9500 video card, which is on IRQ line 10 and seems to have driver problems when you lower the resolution and defer it's power to background processes so that you don't have audio drop out, despite the fact that it's set in a quad core chip set, so just give me my computer and let me figure it out myself.
Shakespeare wrote the maxim "brevity is the sole of wit" but he had that blowhard Polonius deliver the line, so I don't think Shakespeare believed that at all, because he was never brief, especially not in Hamlet and when you think of witty people, they usually aren't terse like Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, they are usually voluble, like George Carlin or John Stewart or me.
Perhaps it was because of smelling the sandwich stench or maybe, just maybe, it was the voice of God, but while I was building a prop for one of my lessons (a bee in a cup-- it's a rite of passage essay about harvesting honey, and the main character has to get stung numerous times to build resistance before he can take part in the harvest, and so I tell the students that I've caught a bee and I'd like a volunteer-- someone who isn't allergic and won't go into anaphylactic shock-- to be stung in front of the class, and I always get a volunteer and there are always plenty of students who believe I've really got a bee, but I wanted to increase this percentage) and so I had a little paper bee and a semi-opaque cup and I was going to tie the bee to a string and let it hang from the top so it appeared to be flying, and when I walked in the English office to find some string or twine or something and I saw a bunch of yakking women, a voice spoke to me and that voice said: Use Human Hair! and so I asked for a piece of hair and my request was immediately granted and I tied the paper bee to the lid with that tiny piece of filament and it worked like a charm, nearly every student believed there was actually a bee in the cup and the best part about the lesson is that I don't think anyone learned anything.
Jim Haner's book Soccerhead: An Accidental Journey into the American Game further reinforces what I have wholeheartedly come to believe: there is no better sport than soccer-- and although I can't and probably wouldn't take back the time I spent experimenting with other sports-- golf, football, rugby, mountain biking, road biking, tennis, ping-pong, pong-ping, track, swimming, marathon running, rock climbing, snow-boarding, fly fishing, wrestling, hiking, kayaking, surfing, basketball, skim boarding, and yes, even roller-blading (insert gay joke here)-- I sort of wish that I had just focused on the beautiful game alone . . . I certainly would have saved a lot of money on gear; but the book also presages my future and it might be monotonous and bleak-- in between coaching the eighth grade boys I'll be coaching my own kids on their travel teams, and my '92 Jeep, which is already full of soccer equipment for half the year, will become a full time soccer storage facility for PUGS and corner flags and balls and cones and ripe smelling pinneys, we won't be able to go on vacation or do anything else because the kids will always have games and tournaments and practice and eventually soccer will replace life, and so part of me wonders if my future would be more relaxing, fun, and enjoyable if my kids join the chess club instead (but this doesn't seem likely-- now that my school season is over, my backyard is full of cones and balls and I run a short fun soccer clinic for Alex and Ian every day).
Greg Grandin's new book Fordlandia recounts Henry Ford's epic attempt to build a model American town and rubber plantation deep in the Amazon jungle, and while their foray is a disaster, it is a valiant disaster-- one in which Ford tried to introduce hygiene, good diet, and economic stability to a disease-ridden, corrupt region-- but the moral of the story is this: once Ford introduced assembly line capitalism and consumption into the world, there was no way to bottle up the genie, and although he failed to "civilize" the jungle, capitalism is doing a pretty good job of it now, and there are huge free trade zone cities in the Amazon, and all the pollution, poverty, waste, and environmental devastation that come with big cities, but since there's nothing we can do to stop this, our only recourse may be to give up and deforest as we please until it is all gone and we have consumed everything green on earth, and then the human race will finally extinguish itself in a blaze of materialistic glory and magnificent and unexpected new flora and fauna will rise from our rotting corpses . . . but until then, live it up!
Yesterday a teacher thought she discovered the source of the foul stench in the English office refrigerator (a moldy wrap in a plastic clam shell) but she didn't want to infringe on anyone's food rights and toss it (the last time she cleaned, people complained) and so I heroically volunteered to open the container and smell the sandwich and then offer my expert opinion on whether or not the stench was emanating from this particular piece of food-- and so I put the container right under my nose, clicked it open, and took a deep whiff . . . and suddenly I was euphoric . . . light headed . . . I had never felt so alive, the horrific odor raced through my nasal passages and deep into my sinus cavities, and then finally, directly into my brain, it was better than twenty cups of coffee, better than two snorts of crystal meth, it was a mind blowing, life changing smell-- but no one else wanted to smell it, and when I ran to the trash to toss it, everyone in the room yelled, "Outside, throw it outside!" and so I did, but I will always wonder: what have we lost?
The documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil doesn't just allude to This is Spinal Tap, it is This is Spinal Tap, except that it's "real," or sort of real, because obviously director Sacha Gervasi is as much paying homage to the greatest of mockumentaries as he is telling the story of an absurd (but well regarded in the industry) heavy metal band . . . and if you are a fan of Spinal Tap, then the film becomes weirder and weirder as the scenes grow more literally parallel-- and some are obviously constructed this way: such as the montage of ridiculous Anvil album covers and the knob in the studio that goes to 11, but when the two founding members of Anvil!, who were childhood friends, nostalgically hum the riffs to "Thumb Hang," one of the first songs they wrote together, and the scene happens in a deli, you can't help but think of Michael McKeon and Christopher Guest riffing on "All the Way Home" and it just keeps getting more and more like Spinal Tap-- there is a scene at Stonehenge and a disastrous tour and the drummer's name happens to be Robb Reiner, until, finally, in the last scene (which I won't spoil) you wonder if the whole thing is an elaborate joke-- but apparently it isn't, so sometimes life mimics art, and sometimes art mimics life, and sometimes I think I've seen Spinal Tap more times than is good for me.
Ian slept on the floor in our room on our vacation in Florida and when I mistakenly kicked the spring door stopper it made a long lasting wacky sproinging sound which Ian took a liking to (Catherine wondered why anything in a bedroom would make such a sound) and then EVERY time he entered or exited the bedroom he kicked it and laughed . . . even at 3 AM when he went to the bathroom, although that time he only gave it a little poke with his toe, so although we were annoyed by the sound, we were impressed with his late night decorum.
We are back from Florida but our laptop is still broken, so I haven't been following my blog-- but I know you have all been waiting for my son Ian's first experience with chewing gum; we gave him some on the plane ride home because his ears hurt, but he very quickly swallowed it and claimed" it went down the wrong tube and got in my ear."
It is really hard for a competitive person like myself to "let" my kids win when we play a game, so I have to handicap myself: for example, when we play Hulk Operation, I remove the Hulk's organs with my left hand, which is actually pretty tough, and then if I win, I'm proud of myself, but more often than not, I lose, and I'm not acting . . . I really lost.
I quit James Ellroy's new book four hundred pages in, which made me a bit sad, but I really couldn't give a fuck what happened to anyone in the novel and reading it was like a second job, and so I started Zeitoun, Dave Eggers' non-fiction account of a Syrian contractor that remained in New Orleans after Katrina hit in order to maintain his properties and equipment-- it's an apocalyptic story that seems to take place in a third world country rather than America, and I highly recommend it: thirty-nine starving dogs out of forty.
It is odd that adults don't get together and ban Halloween-- I can't even begin to imagine a more annoying holiday and it all hinges on the complicity of adults: if we didn't buy the candy, create the costumes, and man our houses with free sugary treats, then we wouldn't have to put up with the melt-downs, the pedophiles, the razor blades, the sugar high, the weight gain (because who actually eats all that candy?) and the inconvenience . . . and really, isn't Christmas enough . . . and so I am starting a new organization, named PAH!!!! (Parents Against Halloween).
Our lap-top caught a virus from the internet (and no, I wasn't looking at softcore pornography, it was actually my wife who did it, when she clicked on "self-cleaning ovens") and we haven't had internet access at home all week; this has made me feel very anxious and disconnected from the world (meaning: I actually have to interact with my wife and children instead of looking up interesting facts and statistics, pirating music, browsing used books, and organizing our Netflix queue).
By this time, my family and I should be in West Palm Beach, and unfortunately, my laptop died and we lost everything (I really SHOULD back things up) so I won't be able to give you any fresh sentences from the beach (but who wants to hear about somebody's beach vacation anyway) but don't worry there will still be sentences, and although they won't be quite as fresh as usual, they will not be stale either.