Ask Mom . . . Cinema Edition

I recently saw two relatively difficult kids' movies: Oceans, which is a visual treat (especially the blanket octopus and the night- time feeding scenes) but contains no real story or theme . . . and my kids have obviously taken after their father in the theater-- they feel everyone around them is entitled to their thoughts (that is definitely a lobster, definitely . . . that fish is poisonous, I know it is . . . that's a great white shark . . . that's a black tip shark . . . that's a hammerhead shark . . . that's a lantern fish . . . etc.) and we also saw Where the Wild Things Are, which is quite symbolic and way over my head, but I did recognize that the movie had something to do with emotions (and the monsters' faces are especially expressive) and if you need more explanation, you can ask my wife, who actually got everything . . . but Alex, Ian and I were a little lost.

4/29/10 Greasetruck Likes Food!

After a series of barely tolerable songs about obtuse topics (time travel, the Olympic theme for snowboarders, psychedelia in the desert, free will vs. determinism, and novel writing) Greasetruck tackles a subject that should be a hit: food . . . the new song is called "I Like Food" and I am pretty sure it is the best song in the history of rock, and it features a bonus rap (with some mad rhymes penned by Whitney) . . . to hear it click on the SoundClick widget on the left and for the complete story and lyrics head over here.


Whether you blog about it or not, history (and stupidity) repeats itself; last night I lay awake wondering if I was itchy because I had come in contact with poison ivy, but then I remembered something I had recently written, something I had written just three months ago, something concise and informative: "Note to self-- penicillin gives me a rash"-- apparently, though I wrote this note to my self, I didn't actually take note of it, and now I've got blotches on my arms and legs (I was going to deal with the itching and keep taking the penicillin just to avoid making phone calls to the dentist and pharmacy, but my wife said that was ridiculous and so I'm picking up an alternative on my way home.)


Apparently, the evolutionary trait "do whatever the fuck you want even if it's asinine and dangerous" is more useful to a young boy's survival than the trait "respond when your name is called."


The boys and I spent Rutgers Day on College Avenue instead of going over to Ag Field Day, and I highly recommend this if you hate crowds and like shade-- we packed so many free events into four and a half hours that both kids fell asleep in the jogging stroller on the walk home: the highlight was a stage fighting demonstration conducted by some energetic and "angry" Mason Gross students, but they didn't do it on a stage, they did it on the lawn outside of the GSE, so though there was no "objective correlative" to the scene, it looked more realistic because of the setting-- it was ostensibly a clown fight, but then some stooges in the crowd dressed in civilian clothes-- a guy and his girlfriend, which made it even better-- started brawling as well, and a guy died from a knife wound six inches away from Alex, and during the whole fight Alex and Ian kept saying, "Now they're really fighting . . . I think this is real now . . . this isn't fake anymore . . . those clowns are fake, but those two, that is real, TOTALLY real."


Sunday 5:51 AM: Ian yells, "I need you to wipe my butt!"


I don't think I actually need to define this, your imagination will serve you better, but here is a new word . . . perhaps you can try to work it into conversation this week: entertaintment.


We shouldn't have found this so amazing, and the fact that we did is a clear illustration of how technology has fragmented our culture: my friend Stacey and I both thought it was the coolest thing when we realized that we both watched the Tyson documentary on the same night at the same time . . . remember when this was always the case?


Alex, who just turned six, is onto us: at dinner the other night he slanted his eyes and gave my wife his most skeptical look and said, "How did the tooth fairy know to bring me money last night, there was no tooth under my pillow because I dropped it down the water fountain at school and the only person I told was you . . . unless the tooth fairy is you!" and then he planned a stake-out with Ian to verify that the tooth-fairy exists . . . the death of Santa is next.

I Can See This (Sort Of)

One of my students bravely revealed that when she was young, she thought that the disc-shaped jellyfish that often wash up on the Jersey Shore were breast implants.

The Styrofoam Glider and the Miracle Punt

The next installment in a series of daring arboreal adventures: you might remember last year when I pulled a a giant limb down with a football tied to a rope (I included the photo if you've forgotten) and now, once again, I have conquered another neighborhood tree-- this time (ironically just after we watched a Peanuts episode about the Wright Brothers, in which, as usual, Charlie Brown has a mishap with a kite) we were flying a giant Styrofoam glider and after Alex and Ian took a few turns, I wanted to show them how far I could throw it, so I wound up and winged it, just as the wind gusted, and it shot straight up and into the limbs of a tall sweet gum tree, sixty feet up (we were launching from a hill) but I brought the soccer ball to the park and, after twenty tries or so, I punted it loose . . . but then it got stuck in the same tree in nearly the same spot the next day, but miraculously, the next morning, it fell to the ground, unharmed, and though we finally broke it yesterday, we certainly got our seven dollars worth.


The eponymous Tyson documentary is surprisingly moving, sincere and candid . . . plus you get to see all his fantastic knock-outs, plus you get to hear him lisp the words "skull-duggery" and extra-curricular" in the same sentence: two bloody ears out of two.


How many calls does it take from the dentist's receptionist before you schedule an appointment?

Special Bonus Column!

Special bonus here . . . it is my new advice column over at Gheorghe: Ask the Dungeonmaster (and now there's a special double bonus over there-- Ask Matthew Clemmens-- Catherine is out, Ian is napping and Alex is making paper airplanes, so I've had a prolific Saturday).


After school, Alex and Ian immediately got up to something upstairs, I heard lots of banging and whispering, but no crying, so enjoyed the quiet time, and then Alex yelled, "Come upstairs!" and I did, and found a note taped to his door, with phrases like, "Your ridl is it's big and in my rom" and "look undr stuf, plees, for your kloow . . . frame nobde" and some of the letters were backwards and it really looked like an authentic lunatic kidnapper ransom note.


Ian begins each new day in the same way . . . he yells down the stairs, in his high pitched voice, to whomever might be listening: "Do I need new underwear?!?!"

Bibulous Bombast

Sometimes, after I have a few drinks, I like to sit down and start a sentence even though I don't know where it's going to end up, and any time I do this, it is a waste of everyone's time, so I always promise myself I'll never do it again, but like all promises made when sober-- promises never to dip tobacco again or eat fatcats or have more than six beers in a sitting or post blog entries with a buzz-- the pledge fades in comparison to the glow of alcohol, and so, once again, I have posted a rambling sentence with little or no literary purpose . . . something I won't be particularly proud of ten years from now, but still, it does capture a moment, minutia from a typical day, and perhaps that is worth something in itself . . . or not.


I usually don't post clips, and this is the sort of thing that I think is incredibly addictive, dangerous, and dehumanizing-- and in the end I will have to remove it from my Firefox browser, but I recently downloaded an application called StumbleUpon . . . you check off some preferences and then the engine there sends you to random things that you might like on the internet-- a Wikipedia article, a YouTube clip, a news article, a website-- and by checking thumbs up or thumbs down, the engine learns your preferences the more you "stumble," and the places it has sent me have been generally entertaining and sometimes completely engaging, which scares me, I don't want to sit down and get sent all over the internet until my eyes are glazed when I could have been playing with my kids or composing a new Greasetruck song-- so I think I will use it for one more week and then if I post another thing that I've found on it, I want someone to come and kill me.


Compare/contrast: Thursday night versus Friday night . . . Thursday night I met some friends for half price beers at Charlie Browns and the furniture was out so we sat outside and watched people walk by on the street and though some of the conversation scared the shit out of me (I recently hurt my knee and when two guys traded war stories about knee surgery and double Achilles ruptures, it made me really nervous . . . maybe because I've just turned forty and I'm wondering how long I have left with the soccer and the basketball) it was generally a relaxing evening . . . Friday night, Alex had a birthday party from six to eight PM (who schedules a kid's birthday party on Friday night? and my kids go to bed at 7:30 sharp!) and Catherine had a graduate class so I had to take him and we forgot the present, and Alex had a bit of an accident in his pants when we were at the softball game but didn't tell me until we got to the "Jumping Jungle" and before all the jumping began he gave his friend Trevor a bloody lip with an air hockey paddle and during the jumping and sliding the music was loud enough to rattle my fillings and during cake I had to chastise Alex for licking lemonade off the table (though a mom told me I should never discipline a boy at a birthday party, but that's ridiculous, you shouldn't be licking a table, even if you're six and when I tried to make some small talk and told her how my kids were generally uncivilized at the dinner table she suggested that we "mix it up" and eat on the floor or wear a funny hat . . . seriously, that's what she told me) and then we drove home and Alex fell dead asleep in the car but I had to wake him and give him a shower because he was disgusting from his accident and jumping jungle sweat and that is the last night party he is going to until he learns to drive (and once he learns to drive, he's going to drive ME to and from night parties).


Do not doubt the power of the universal language--mathematics--when verbal communication is poor: I asked the Indian man at the Raceway station to fill-up my car with regular, and he said "Forty regular," and it took me a second but then I realized he said "Forty" and I didn't want forty, I wanted a "fill up" so I said, "Not forty-- fill it up, fill it up" and he said, "Okay, fill up" and I said, "Yes, fill up" and then he filled it up, and miraculously, my tank took exactly forty dollars worth of gas to fill and when I handed him the money we both laughed and laughed at the elegance of the coincidence.


Two days ago at dinner, we caught Alex in a private moment-- he had taken two peas and placed one of them on the edge of his plate and the other on the table, and he was voicing an intense conversation between them . . . "You come over here" . . . "I'm not going over there, not yet, anyway" . . . "No, go ahead come down" . . . "No, I like it up here, it's cold and weird down there," and it went for an uncomfortably long time, and he never noticed we were watching him and I'm starting to worry that he's going to have trouble getting a prom date in high school.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo inspired me to read another Swedish detective story-- this one, called Sidetracked, by the world famous Henning Mankell, pits melancholy sleuth Kurt Wallander against a serial killer that murders his carefully chosen victims with an axe-- this sounds over the top, but the tone is more like The Wire, slow and careful . . . it took three hundred pages until someone fired a gun; my favorite mundane detail about Wallander is that he doesn't really like soccer, but he tries his best to find interest in the World Cup just to get along with his colleagues, but really he can't understand how people could be worried about such frivolity when there is evil lurking in his once provincial town: fourteen mopeds out of fifteen.


Adam Haslett's debut novel, Union Atlantic, is a mini Tom Wolfe novel-- like Bonfire of the Vanities or The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test or A Man in Full or Charlotte Simmons, it opens the door to a world with which most people are unfamiliar and lets us all the way in, and though there were paragraphs on short selling and margins and future contracts and the Fed that took every brain cell for me to understand (I had to remember everything I learned from reading House of Cards and The Big Short) the book was also a page turner with excellent scenes and characters, ranging from the Persian Gulf to a batty old history teacher and her two dogs (who she imagined spoke to her in the voices of Cotton Mather and Malcolm X) to the lives of the rich slacker high school kids in Finden, the town Haslett chooses for a most current conflict to occur.


Our kids are champion car travelers, they did the eight hours back from the beach without a complaint-- yet they are often terrible when inside the house (or in any contained area except the car), which is why I'm thinking of getting a couple of car seats for indoors, so when they're getting wild, I'll just strap them in.


There is nothing like a Circus Peanut: the color, the texture, the taste . . . and if you want to read more, head over to G:TB for the First Annual Circus Peanut Diorama Contest (a response to the Washington Post's Peeps Diorama Contest . . . my entry, which I call "P-Day," is above, and right now, since I am the only entry, I am winning . . . the complete rules are at G:TB).


Rice Krispies wouldn't snap, crackle and pop . . . if corn weren't a subsidized crop.


Hot Tub Time Machine is very funny and also very very vulgar . . . and what made it even funnier for Catherine and I is that once the credits were rolling, we noticed that the couple behind us had decided to bring their three year old daughter and eleven year old son to see it (they passed up Clash of the Titans and Diary of a Wimpy Kid and How to Train a Dragon) and though we didn't agree with their parental permissiveness, we had to admire their perseverance, as they stuck it out despite the film's constant use of the f- word, abundant and gratuitous nudity, frequent rape and fellatio jokes, and obtuse 80's allusions; although, I don't recommend it for the kids, we both laughed a lot . . . I give the film four out of a possible five Walkmen (Walkmans? Sony claims the plural is Walkman Personal Stereos).

Pomp and Circumcision

I have been elected by the student body to give the graduation speech this year, and I am a bit nervous as I'll be speaking to a very large crowd (800 students, their families, many teachers and administrators, etc.) and so I'm working on a strong opening to my speech . . . and here is idea number one: "Greetings, I would like to thank all the parents in attendance today-- I am so glad that eighteen years and nine months ago you had unprotected sex."


Does Surfer Blood sound too much like Weezer for its own good?

Hypothetical Legos, Real Fisticuffs

It must be in the genes: Alex and Ian sit down together on the couch to look at the new Lego catalog, which sounds pretty innocuous, but within minutes they are embroiled in a fierce debate which ended in a fist fight . . . they were arguing about the hypothetical purchase of a Lego set and the hypothetical division of the hypothetically purchased Lego figures in the hypothetical set and the hypothetical superpowers of the hypothetical figures in the hypothetical set; they almost sounded like squabbling nations (and, by the way, yesterday's two sentence post was an April Fool's Joke-- anyone who writes more than one sentence a day is a complete idiot).


I'm feeling constrained by this format, I think it's time for me to spread my wings and fly. I think I need to try something new.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.