Negligent and lazy readers, here is your chance to catch up on a year's worth of Sentences by Dave TM and while these "winners" were chosen rather arbitrarily, I think they will give you a good idea of my best work in 2013, which is no worse than my worst work in any other year . . . and so, without further fanfare, here are some of the sentences of the past year that might be better than some of the other sentences of the past year . . . depending, of course, on your personal taste and predilection for this sort of thing . . . as there is no way I could could actually predict what sentences you personally would prefer . . . so let's just say that these are my favorite sentences of 2013:
Best Absurd Question and Answer;
Best Real Question and Answers;
Best Political Commentary;
Grossest Medical Anecdote;
Kids Say the Darndest Things;
Kids Do the Darndest Things;
Best Sentence About Dressing Like A Holiday;
Most Awkward Moment of Dave;
Dave's Greatest Athletic (and Pathetic) Moment of the Year;
Cheesiest Poem of the Year;
Alex Succumbs to Peer Pressure;
Tacos, Racism, and the Circus;
Best Incident Involving Hot Peppers (To Witness, Not Experience);
Best Attempt at a Motif;
Dave's Dumbest Moment of 2013;
Dave's Greatest Moment of 2013;
A Real Moment That People Claimed Was Fictitious;
Something Valuable for Children.
My eight year old son Ian and I have a long term bet: he must beat me at ping-pong before he turns thirteen years of age, and the stakes are two pounds of high quality chocolate; the interesting thing is that if I wasn't so proud, I could easily win this bet by simply refusing to play him in ping-pong until he turns thirteen years of age, but of course, I won't do that, both because it would be "cheap" -- Ian's term for this strategy -- and also because I know that my future in athletics is limited, and that soon enough my kids will be able to outplay me at soccer, basketball, snowboarding, and tennis, but even as I age, I should be able to fend them off at games like darts, corn-hole and ping-pong (perhaps indefinitely . . . my goal is for my children never to beat me at these particular games . . . so that long after I am dead, they will have to say to their own children, "you know, I never once beat your grandfather at ___________" and if they lie about this and there is an afterlife, then I will certainly go poltergeist on their asses until they admit the truth, with no obfuscation, and perhaps -- if I am a very skillful poltergeist -- then I will even beat them at these games from the grave (that's actually a fantastic idea for a not-so-scary horror movie . . . a guy takes his family to an isolated Maine hotel for the off-season and goes crazy because he can't beat a trash-talking ghost at ping-pong).
Yesterdays post revealed a thorny dilemma: when you are referring to a scene in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, then do you say the final scene of Of Mice and Men (e.g. the final passage of War and Peace) or do you simply say the final scene Of Mice and Men . . . since Steinbeck has given us a free "of," I chose to be elegant and use it and not put another "of" in front of the title Of . . . and now I've got the word "of" stuck in my head and it's weird, because it's pronounced "uv" and if you say it enough times, it starts to lose its meaning and just sound like some sort of primitive exclamation: uv uv uv . . . and there's nothing on the internet to settle this pedantic absurdity so I will promise to never mention it again (unless someone actually knows the answer).
I'll never understand why school so often privileges tragedies over comedies . . . kids read Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth rather than Twelfth Night . . . and though Cannery Row is Steinbeck's best novel, that's not the one that is taught . . . and there's nothing worse than a bunch of teary eyed ninth graders listening to the final passage Of Mice and Men, when George has to shoot Lenny, and then explaining to them that sometimes, if you're a really good friend, then you have to shoot your buddy in the head, so he doesn't have to spend the rest of his days in a primitive mental institution undergoing electro-shock therapy and torturous restraint . . . Twelfth Night and Cannery Row are both about parties, however, and I guess pedagogical folks don't consider that educational (unless the party happens in The Great Gatsby, and the result of the partying is the Death of the American Dream, which is suitably tragic and outweighs any possible joy and fun in the book . . . and then there's Lord of the Flies, another fun book full of vines and creepers and tragedy, but at least there's one joke: Jack says he should be the chief of the stranded boys because he is in the choir and "can sing C sharp").
All you people who drive into the park (any park . . . I've seen you people in Donaldson Park, Johnson Park, Thompson Park, Roosevelt Park, and every other park that I have frequented on a regular basis) and sit in your car for a while and then drive out of the park . . . without ever leaving your car . . . I want you to know that I am watching you and you seem really sketchy and whatever you are up to, my dog and I are going to catch you at it and deal with you as we see fit.
I am a fan of Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcasts, and in an episode about the Spanish-American War he calls Teddy Roosevelt "a heavily imperialistic, racist version of Peter Pan . . . always leading a troop of kids on an adventure" and that Roosevelt "would make Archie Bunker look like a liberal" BUT Carlin points out that you've got to "grade racism on a curve" because racism was such a pervasive part of society . . . and so I think people should go easy on Megyn Kelly -- while she does claim that a fictional character based upon a saint who was either Greek or Turkish was actually white -- she doesn't want to perpetuate any violence against ersatz non-white fictional versions of the icon, and while she is rather vehement about Jesus being white, when he most certainly swarthy and Middle-Eastern in complexion, and was probably even darker brown than Arabs are now (since there was no sunblock back then and he walked around outside a lot) but in the grand scheme of racism, desiring long dead religious figures and icons of greed and consumerism to look exactly as you look isn't such a big sin . . . so with the curve I'll give Megyn Kelly a C-, more for being stupid than actually being racist.
If you'd like to work in a South African gold mine, three miles beneath the earth -- then you'll have to contend with the free-fall terror of the "manwinder" -- a contraption which gets the miners down to where they need to be, and you'll have to deal with the creepiness of the "ghost miners," a "rabble of impoverished men" who penetrate the mines, abetted by criminal gangs, and then live in the mines and steal gold ore (they stay down for months at a time, until their skin turns gray -- and folks smuggle down wives, prostitutes, and food for them, in a lucrative black market) and you'll suffer the extraordinary heat and humidity, but before you get to experience all this, you must perform step exercises in a "test chamber" in order to see if your body can cool itself efficiently, and then and only then do you get a 14 day trial period in the mine . . . and my body can't regulate heat very well, so I don't think I'm going to change professions (I'm learning about this in Matthew Hart's new book Gold: The Race for the World's Most Seductive Metal).
One of the great things about Mark Twain is that he achieved the job he desired as a youngster he watched the gargantuan riverboats steam past his home town of Hannibal, Missouri and as a young man he achieved his dream and become the pilot of one of those boats (the romance of it wore off fairly quickly, unfortunately) and so my class was discussing what percentage of people actually become what they wanted to be when they were young (a ballerina, a pilot, a basketball player, an astronaut, a princess, a teacher, a paleontologist -- that was mine, etcetera) but I couldn't find any information on the topic until this morning, and the students and I guess that the number would be low (2% to 10%) but while one article calls the results "depressing" and I'm not sure about the methods of the "Official LinkedIn Blog," I still find it fairly optimistic and reassuring that (according to this fairly small sample of a very homogenous cohort) one in three people achieve what they consider their "dream job" (and although I like teaching, there's no way I'm in that group . . . I wish I could set my own hours and work with my hands and excavate interesting sites . . . but I don't want to roam the desert -- too hot -- I think I'd like to be a plumber).
If you like to read books, then head over to Gheorghe: The Blog to peruse my list of the seven best books of the year . . . and even if you don't like to read, you can still head on over because I've included pictures!
I lost my little black iPod months ago, but I didn't panic . . . I didn't accuse the cleaning lady of stealing it or blame my children for losing it, nor did I run out and buy a new one or tear our house apart trying to find it . . . and (miracle of miracles!) my wife recently stumbled upon it, in the oddest place: sitting inside a high kitchen cabinet, perched on the edge of the shelf, amidst jars of salsa, Ramen noodle soup, peanut butter, chicken broth, mac & cheese, and crushed tomatoes . . . I must have needed one of these items and put the iPod down as I grabbed it . . . or maybe not . . . I'll never know exactly how it got there, but this is going to be my new method for finding things that aren't imperative to my life -- just wait until the problem solves itself.
I withstood the temptation free bagels in the main office, tantalizing heaps of cookies in the English office and a prominent display of Reese's Christmas Trees at Wawa using this simple method: every time I laid eyes on the food, I let loose with a stream of profane expletives . . . in my head, of course, and I directed my angry interior monologue at the stuff I didn't want to consume . . . and while I can't print what I said and retain the good taste of this blog (ha!) I can assure you that occasional cursing is good for your health and well-being (but if you use profanity all the f*cking time, then you become inured to the benefits, so try to watch your mouth unless you desperately need to relieve some stress).
While decorating our tree, the boys and I unanimously decided to forego the Christmas carols and instead listen to this fantastically vivid Radiolab podcast called "Dinopocalypse", which turns the previous theory of extinction on its head . . . according to the scientists in this production, dinosaurs did not shiver and starve to death under a shroud of cataclysmic dust, instead something far more fiery and awful happened when a chunk of the Baptistina asteroid collided with the earth 65 million years ago (although NASA now believes that it wasn't Baptistina, but some other unknown asteroid, but . . . who cares, listen to the podcast because it's extraordinarily dramatic and apocalyptic).
After I get out of the shower, on the weekend, I'll throw on some clothes -- but not socks -- and then I'll go downstairs to do whatever . . . but I know that invariably, I will want socks, but I neither put them on then, when it is convenient, nor do I carry a pair of socks downstairs with me, to put on when I will inevitably need them (and Saturday morning, when I realized this ineffective habit, I still did nothing to correct it).
Collision Low Crossers offers an alternative to the typical sport's story; there are no underdogs or last second heroics in this 460 page book, instead there is a level of detail about the preparation, professionalism, camaraderie, complexity, turbulence, violence, itinerancy, and hopefulness of NFL football season that is "transformative . . . powerful and unexpected," not only for the players and coaches, but also for author, Nicholas Dawidoff, as the reporter practically lived with the Jets in 2011, so he could write something deeply reported . . . the book was transformative for me as well, and I will never view professional football in the same way again; Dawidoff explains it best in this passage: "Here they all stood together but existed in efficiently separated little worlds . . .There was a Rashomon quality to how differently everyone experienced much that went on in football . . . the daily interactions and even the games had alternative versions for the various players and various coaches."
It's hard for me to watch my boys on the sled hill -- they make one horrible decision after another (they call it "extreme sledding" but it mainly involved a lot of jumping on each other, jumping in the way of sleds, going down backwards, building ramps, not paying attention to other people, walking right up the middle of the hill . . . oblivious to all the other kids sledding, lying in slushy puddles, fitting as many people on a tube as possible, wrestling and shoving snow in each other's faces, and riding down the icy part of the hill standing on their sleds, so that they face plant in horrible ways (Ian lost a tooth on Saturday and scraped his cheek and forehead raw on Sunday) and so I've found the best course of action is not to watch them.
I was walking the dog early last Wednesday morning-- all the snow had frozen solid and in many places the sidewalks were coated with a sheet of glistening ice-- so I should have been more aware of my footing, but I was thinking about remembering to send back a Netflix disc that we had left in the blur-ray player and so I didn't notice when I got to a spot where a steep driveway intersects the sidewalk, and I stepped onto a patch of ice, and because of the slope, my left foot shot straight into the air, and it seemed as if I was going to fall backwards and slam the back of my head on the curb, but I whirled my torso around as hard as I could, and tucked, and I managed to spin my body on its horizontal axis while I was in mid-air, so instead of landing on my back, I landed on my arms, which were braced for the fall, but my lower body hadn't fully gyrated in synchronicity with my upper body-- it was slightly behind -- and so I came down on my bad hip, the hip that I injured last spring in a similarly incredible athletic move that did not happen during an athletic event . . . another incident that no one saw, but had their been a witness, would have gone down in the annals of sporting history for time immemorial.
Kristyna -- the aforementioned fund raising queen -- not only raises more money for the holiday toy and clothing drive than the rest of our department combined, but she also outdoes everyone in the way of Christmas spirit: she has four Christmas trees in her house, all decorated (the "beautiful" fake one, a live tree "that entered the mix this year" and two little ones . . . which are for her two little children . . . or more specifically, the little trees are for the ornaments her little children made, ornaments which she does not deem worthy enough to adorn the "beautiful" tree).
First, I admonish my child for spending an insanely long time in the shower, and then -- when he finally gets out of the shower -- I notice that his hair isn't wet and, despite efforts to the contrary, I lose my shit.
Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football, by Nicholas Dawidoff, is so well written and so full of vivid and insightful detail, that I don't even mind that it's about the Jets; the narrative runs from the extremely familiar -- Rex Ryan rents a giant house in the Outer Banks and he extends "an open invitation to the other Jets coaches and their families to come for a stay, play games like corn-hole toss and washers . . . all he asked was that each family choose one night to prepare dinner for everyone" to things you'd never know from watching football on Sunday: in the 2010 playoff game when the Jets beat the Patriots, it appeared that the Jets were porous against the run, but that was actually "intentional . . . allowing New England a reasonably effective series of runs that distracted the Patriots from what they did best: pass" and the multifarious mysteries of a sport where eleven players are doing eleven different things . . . the 2009 Jets gave up only eight passing touchdowns, but in 2010, when they had two great cornerbacks (Revis and Cromartie) they gave up three times as many . . . was it lack of pass rush? had paired-man coverage become too predictable? was Cromartie jealous of Revis? . . . answers are hard to come by, but the coaches put in 120 hour weeks trying to figure it out, and that's what this book is about -- what goes on during all those hours at the facility, in one sense, the book is barely about the players at all.
We looked at several apocalypse tropes in my Creative Writing class last week -- an excerpt from Chuck Pahahniuk's Fight Club; the first pages of a fantastic book about the earth's orbit slowing (The Age of Miracles) and the David Bowie song "Five Years", which is a really long time to think about an impending apocalypse (what would you do? five minutes or five hours is easy, but five years?) and the morning after I did this lesson, I happened to listen to an episode of 99% Invisible called "Game Over" which got me all choked up -- and this was while I was walking the dog at 6:00 AM and shortly after my weeping in the dark, I ran into this big African American dude that I play basketball with (he's a garbageman and was reporting to the public works building, which is next to the dog park) and he'll always talk your ear off -- so I went from picking up dog poop to nearly bawling to removing my headphones and chatting in the dark about his back injury in the span of seven minutes, which is a lot of stimulus for me in the morning and my brain nearly suffered an apocalyptic apoplexy, but I recovered and then played the podcast for my students that day -- the show describes the end of a utopian digital world (The Sims Online) that had a cult following of very dedicated "players" that were really just hanging out and socializing, and there is a wonderful tape of the "DJ," a real human that spun music on a Sims radio station, in the final moments of the game, bidding his online buddies a tearful farewell as the Sim people freeze up, the houses and trees gradually blink out of existence, and finally, a server error message replaces the thriving little digital universe -- and this has made me have a rather selfish thought, that rather than die alone as most of us will, of a stroke or cancer or heart disease or falling down a well, instead I'd rather go out in a major cataclysm: an asteroid, a plague, man-eating ticks from space, whatever . . . because then at least everyone will be in it together (and I'd love to listen to the radio while it's all going down).
I know I'm a bit behind the times, but I finally finished the first season of the acclaimed TV series 24, and I've computed the exact percentages of all the major tropes and themes . . . here they are:
16% suspenseful drama;
11% gratuitous Elisha Cuthbert footage;
10% amnesia . . . seriously, amnesia;
0% Commedia dell'arte.
I often have to remind myself that I have clever children -- they read lots of books and can do math -- but when we are in the car, and they can't answer simple "trivia" questions such as "Which month starts the New Year?" and "What day is Christmas?" it gets a bit frustrating . . . but they did know the answer to one question: "What did the Indians tell the Pilgrims to bury with their corn seed?" and the answer is dead fish, of course, and my kids said that they remembered this fact because I told them when we were burying their pet fish in the backyard, after the fish committed suicide by jumping out of the tank and asphyxiating (and I would like to point out that I spelled "asphyxiate" right on the first try, even though I felt like I was just typing a random jumble of consonants).
Christmas Shoes (and the Holidays) Cause Me to Behave Badly . . . But I Can't Remove These Things From Our Society
I'm not sure how I avoided it, but I never heard the song "Christmas Shoes" until last week -- the song was a topic of conversation in the English office, because apparently my friend Eric threatens to sing the song to his classes if they don't donate money for the toy and clothing drive . . . and this threat works -- and so some of the women in the office (including Krystina, the fundraising queen) made me listen to the song so that I would become more motivated to raise money for poor children (this was not logical in the least, and I'm pretty sure they knew how I was going to react, but I think they take perverse pleasure in yelling at me) as my students were chastising me for not "trying hard enough" or "offering enough incentives to donate" to which I replied: "If I have to promise to give you brownies so you'll donate some money for impoverished children, then you are all horrible people," and -- predictably -- the song made me angry and deranged, instead of jolly, though I must give the song credit, as it's an amazingly bad piece of art, the kind of thing you couldn't write as satire if you wanted to, and it has sent me full tilt into un-godly materialist consumer culture Xmas ranting season, though I really wanted to scale that whole side of my personality down and try to focus on the nearly non-existent "chillaxing" side of my personality, which perhaps with some nurturing can become more prevalent at this supposedly "wonderful time of the year..
It's only fair that I make a full and candid declaration of my "media bias" to my readers, so they can have some perspective on my opinions -- and so I took an incredibly boring 40 question quiz created by "media bias expert" Dr. Tim Groseclose, who believes that mainstream media is slanted to the left and that this slant is having a major impact on the American mind (though I believe that the mainstream media, like any other corporation, is giving the people the stories they want -- and so therefore a reflection of the American mind . . . because if you want conservative news, you know where to get it) and my PQ Survey results (83.2) indicate that I'm fairly liberal -- somewhere between Joe Biden (80.5) and Hillary Clinton (87.6) -- but the quiz seems very one dimensional; if I were to guess, I think I would be a libertarian in respect to people's rights, somewhat conservative in market economics, radical in terms of environmentalism -- though hypocritical about it -- and socially liberal . . . but now I have no idea what I am (aside from an 83.2) but one thing the quiz does point out is how divided our government is . . . though the questions aren't terribly nuanced or exciting, the voting statistics are interesting in themselves (and I also took this quiz, and it labelled me a Working Class Warrior . . . which is absurd, since I'm an elitist pedantic bastard).
Though antique furniture is not my "bailiwick" and though Donna Tartt's picaresque novel occasionally "maunders" along in the metaphysical voice of the narrator (Theo Decker, a.k.a "Potter" according to his Russian buddy Boris, a nickname that is highly apropos) the book is mainly a Dickensian roller-coaster ride through disaster, friendship, a terrorist attack on the Met, art theft, the seedy underside of Vegas, drug addiction, alcoholism, furniture restoration, coincidence, and unrequited love . . . it is ambitious, well-written, and plotted to keep you turning pages, or in my case, increasing the font size of my Kindle so I could finish the book in an insane marathon session (it is nearly 800 pages long and it is worth the commitment).
My family has outstripped Monopoly . . . the house we rent in Vermont has the German board game Settlers of Catan, and while last spring when we didn't have the fortitude to figure out the rules (despite the fact that I had only heard rave reviews about the game) this time the boys and I were determined, and we attacked the game with blitzkrieg furor, and learned as we went, and we all decided that it may be the best game ever (and we even taught mom!) and Catan certainly rivals RISK (while being more cooperative, fun, strategic, random and tactical than the "game" of world domination) and now my kids want it for Christmas, and I want it too . . . but I am wondering if this will send them down a scary path of cardboard chits, lead figurines, multi-sided dice, and larping conventions.
I spent two days in Vermont snowboarding without securing the back of my bindings -- and my excuse is that they are rather new, I bought them at the very end of last season and only used them once, and they are a different type of binding (they are Gnu "fast entry" bindings and have a lever you have to initiate on the back to lock them) and I forgot that part of the entry -- so I rode Stratton from top to bottom without being strapped in, and it didn't bother me all that much (aside from the bottom of my right foot hurting from a lot of pronating . . . but then I noticed the lever and remembered what I was supposed to do with it (although the top of one was snapped off, probably because it was hanging loose and got clipped) and so I will leave it to you to determine if you respect me for my exceptional balance or wish to denigrate me for my absolute lack of understanding of my own equipment (and my wife had to help me figure out the lace system in my boots, which I've had for two years, and could remove for the life of me, resulting in some rather loud and embarrassing profanity in a family friendly ski lodge).
Black Friday uses a positive connotation of the color black -- this is the day when retailers go from "being in the red" to turning a profit -- but Black Monday and Black Tuesday refer to infamous market crashes and use black to refer to the darkness accompanying the event . . . and then, of course, you can be back in black, the man in black, or none more black . . . it's a very versatile color, or lack thereof.