Fake Weather!

The sentence is cancelled today because of absurdly unseasonable weather . . . I'll get back to you when it's forty degrees and raining.

Sketchy Restaurant Review

This Kids in the Hall skit sums up our experience at Flavors of Manila, a Filipino restaurant Catherine and I went to Saturday night while our kids were playing tennis.

In This Instance, Content Defeats Style

I'm always chastising my wife for beginning her stories with expository topic sentences:

the funniest thing happened!

you won't believe how annoying!

as these kinds of statements not only destroy the drama of the narrative, but they also set up the audience to be in a contradictory position-- we'll see just how funny this thing is . . . so when the boys and I walked in yesterday and she said, "I saw the craziest thing!" I was not only skeptical, but also annoyed at her anecdotal style, but for once the story actually lived up to the opening; the rain finally let up and so Catherine took the dog for a walk in the park, along the river, and she saw a giant tree floating downstream-- the Raritan is tidal by our house, so sometimes-- when the tide is coming in-- the current runs upstream towards New Brunswick, but most of the time it runs downstream towards Perth Amboy and the Raritan Bay, which leads into the Atlantic Ocean; when she took a good look at this giant floating tree, she noticed a seal perched upon the trunk, a seal which apparently got swept up in the storm current and ended up far from the ocean and was now wisely hitching a ride on a makeshift deciduous raft back to its home, unfortunately she did not have her phone and so there's no proof of this bizarre happening, but I believe her because it's too weird a thing to invent.

Mozart Would Love This Shit

I don't like scatological humor but I do feel obligated to take note of the incidents that happened today at lunch; we went to Shanghai Dumpling House, despite the fact that it's impossible to get a table there on a Sunday, and we lucked out-- we were only fifteen minutes early but it was raining and there were a few noobs hanging around that didn't realize that you could go inside before the place opened and a get a handwritten number scrawled on a scrap of paper, as a "reservation," and so Alex went in and got #9, and he counted the tables and thought we might get seated in the first round, depending on the breaks, and we did-- we got the last table, the weird one to the right of the door, by the drink cooler; this table is pretty much inside the kitchen and you can see the old ladies rapidly making dumplings as you eat; Catherine came with us and she was perplexed and amused by the reservation system and the complete insanity surrounding the restaurant as we ate-- the place was packed, there was a big line, and people were jammed everywhere; we ate a lot of food: various dumplings, spicy pork noodle soup, soup dumplings and some kind of sliced beef wrapped in a scallion pancake with plum sauce and Ian was trying to finish off the last steamed juicy bun but he took a bite and then flipped the dumpling the wrong way and the pork meatball fell out, bounced off his plate, and rolled onto the floor . . . and that's when the silliness began; Catherine started singing the "on top of spaghetti" song about the itinerant meatball, Ian joined in, Alex expressed complete embarrassment and said, "Can you guys stop? I'd like to come back here, it's my favorite place"  and then Ian saw where the meatball landed, under the table, and said it looked like a "little poop," and so I ushered everyone out-- as I'd like to return as well-- and Ian looked up the lyrics to the meatball song on his phone and sang it in the car-- which really impressed Catherine because she thought he was doing it from memory (she was driving) and then Alex and Ian recounted their "ten favorite poops," including Taco Bell poop, liquid poop, sharty poop, and ten pound elephant poop . . . and then Catherine added seepage poop and we finally arrived home and I was able to get away from the scatological humor, which is more appropriate for Mozart and the Germans, who both find that kind of filth funny.

Last Gun Thoughts: Grandfather Some Shit

They say sunlight is the best antiseptic and this gun control issue is certainly getting some sunlight; this morning a bunch of dudes of various ages, ethnicities, races and political persuasions in the LA Fitness locker room were discussing guns, so I offered my two cents; I think most were reacting to the news that several armed deputies and guards did not enter the school while the Parkland shooting was underway, and instead hid behind their vehicles with weapons drawn . . . while anecdotal, this is does point to broader statistics that show that "good guys with guns" don't usually have an impact on an active shooter situation, even if they've been trained; these guys that didn't enter the building weren't cowards, they were typical . . . so here are my last thoughts on this issue, my friend Paul thought one of them is brilliant (though we had been drinking when i came up with it)

1) grandfather some shit in . . . tell the gun-owners who have lots of semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 that they have proven responsible and they can keep them; most of these folks are mega-gun owners, who live the gun lifestyle and firmly believe that civilians need military grade weapons to fight the government if it becomes too tyrannical . . . 3% of the population owns 50% of the guns and were just going to have to assume these super-owners are doing a good job with it and we have to divide them from the general populace while the time is ripe; start NOW with semi-automatic laws for new gun purchases . . . the next shooter does NOT necessarily have his gun already, as Parkland vividly proves, so concede the guns to the older owners and start fresh with these younger owners;

2) then, as these gun-collector/nut/super-owners age and die, the government can institute and Australian style buy-back program;

3) don't forget that conservatives can change their minds about things . . . at the start of the millenium, conservatives were all hot and bothered by gay marriage . . . I can remember some relatively intelligent conservative friends of mine using the slippery slope argument about this "abomination" and positing that if you could marry someone of the same sex, then "you could marry anything . . . you could marry a hat!" and this "marry a hat!" attitude was the typical conservative reaction to the suggestion of gay marriage, and then it was like they all collectively shrugged their shoulders and said, "Whatever . . . it's the 2010's . . . gay marriage is fine," and this seems to be the time to change things with gun control laws, even if it's just a start;

4) military gun ownership needs to be grandfathered and stigmatized, like smoking . . . you might let your grandfather smoke in your car, but once he dies of emphysema, that's it for people smoking your car-- when I was in high school, there was a smoking patio-- Patio C-- but we've now collectively decided that's ridiculous and if high school kids want to smoke, they have to do it just off the grounds; high school kids still smoke, but far far fewer and we don't let them do it on school grounds and we've raised the age when they can purchase cigarettes;

5) it will take a long time to change this culture, but eventually maybe some youngsters from this culture will take up other target sports, like darts and cornhole, to replace the void of the gun lifestyle.


There's been a lot of discussion around my school about Trump's proposal to arm teachers so they can prevent classroom massacres and everyone I know with any kind of brain thinks this is a lunatic proposition; for those who don't think that, I have a metaphor that might explain why this gun-lover's fantasy is so preposterous . . . at every basketball practice, at least once a session, there's a kid who counts down  THREE! TWO! ONE! and chucks a half-court shot at the rim; he's imagining the ultimate scenario, of course-- his team is down by two points with .6 seconds left in regulation and he hurls a shot from sixty feet and swishes it, winning the game; while this is a compelling fantasy, in reality the shot inevitably hits someone in the head; ruins the transition from one drill to the next; and sets everyone else off their game . . . while this scenario does occasionally happen in an actual game, it is very very rare, and not something that necessarily warrants practice, and the collateral damage when a kid does this at practice is usually fairly ugly, so coaches discourage it; of course, I empathize with the kids, it's fun to pretend . . . but I don't empathize with adults who indulge in such fantasies: they obviously imagine some perfectly romanticized school shooter scenario where they spot a mad gunman in the distance, lining up innocent school girls in his sights, and this shooter doesn't notice the heroic marksman, the good guy with a concealed weapon, who takes careful aim with his well-maintained, carefully oiled piece, calmly fires, and drops the shooter in his tracks . . . THREE! TWO! ONE! . . . just before the shooter does any damage; I'm not sure if this scenario has ever happened, but I do know for certain that the more guns are the present, the more deaths happen, whether by suicide, accident, or collateral damage, and the chance that even an armed and trained person would come the the rescue is pretty slim . . . so let's leave the fantasizing to the children and recognize that the answer to gun violence is not more guns; there are good people and there are bad people, and-- as Neil Postman reminds us: there are good technologies and bad technologies . . . it took a while to recognize cigarettes as a bad technology, and as much as the 2nd Amendment folks hate to hear it, it's time to admit that guns are not a technology to embrace and worship either

They Can't Remain Innocent Forever

Tonight my wife decided the kids were old enough to know the truth . . . she explained to them that the much anticipated and celebrated "your choice night" is just a euphemism for leftovers.

Cheers to Tennis (in February)

I am drinking some celebratory beer tonight for several reasons:

1) we got through a carnival of a workshop day in school . . . there were twenty teachers from area schools, various administrators and the associate director of the Rutgers Writing Program, all present to watch me and my colleagues teach the Rutgers Writing course; things went off without a hitch, partly thanks to our excellent and competent department chair and my wonderful teammates Brady and Strachan but mainly due to my charm and good-looks . . . a dozen adults sat in one of my classes and then one of my students endured an essay conference with ten random people watching; it was a wild and busy day made more interesting by the threat of a student walk-out and the news vans and helicopter hovering on the periphery of our school because our township decided to put armed police in every building, fueling a media frenzy (I should also note that on Monday-- President's Day-- after playing some tennis with the kids at my school, as I was driving across the empty parking lot . . . as it was a day off from school, a beautiful blonde woman flagged down my van, and so-- being a male-- I stopped to investigate and found that she was just as pretty I surmised, and that's when I noticed the CBS jacket and the microphone . . . I declined to make an official comment but I did chat with her for a while, just to look at her thick lustrous hair, pearly white teeth, and TV quality facial symmetry, I think her name is Natalie Duddridge)

2) despite some grim blood test results, our dog is still eating, walking about, and wagging his tail;

3) though my foot hurts, I taped it up and was able to compete a bit, but the beer might alleviate some of the pain;

4) I'm pretty sure my kids and I played the most outdoor tennis by a central Jersey family in February ever, in the history of planet . . . I played with my buddy Cob after school, Alex played his buddy Liam, then Alex played my brother, then I went out and hit with Ian under the lights, despite the fact that my foot hurt, because I know we won't get this chance again anytime soon.

Somebody Thought of That? Dammit . . .

Today in Creative Writing class, we were extra-creative and came up with a pitch-perfect name for a bluegrass Bon Jovi cover band: Banjovi . . . but the downside of internet access is that it often makes you realize that you're not as creative as you think.

If You Want Blood (You Got It)

Some irate Parkland students addressed President Trump on "Face the Nation" and made an impassioned plea for him to do something about gun control-- one student was very clear on Trump's passing the buck on this issue . . . he said to Trump: "You sicken me"; the message is clear, Republicans have the blood of our children on their hands, and anyone who has voted Republican has the blood of our children on their hands, and all the politicians that have taken money from the NRA or allowed NRA lobbyists to exert control over the nation's gun laws have blood on their hands and so does the NRA and the gun sellers and the gun makers and the people who think that it's a right to buy assault weapons and the whole crazy gun-toting gun-caching lot of them . . . but of course the Republicans will argue that the Democrats have blood on their hands as well, fetal blood, because the Democrats support abortion and mass infanticide and then-- if you want to get bipartisan, there are the meat-eaters, which have animal blood all over their whiskers-- I wish I wasn't one of those folks, but I am . . . the meat industry has got its hooks in me deep-- and if you didn't vote Green, then your hands are coated with endangered species blood, panda blood and yeti blood and ocelot blood . . . and God forbid you voted for or supported or fought in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then just wading through blood, but if you didn't do anything in Syria and let ISIS take over . . . or just sent drones to do your dirty work, well then your drones are covered in blood, so even Obama isn't unassailable . . . and if you do eschew meat and walk to work and vote Green, you're still probably buying clothes made in a country that has no child labor laws or environmental codes and your phone runs on rare earths torn from the belly of our rapidly-being-raped planet, so your cell-phone is covered with rich oxygenated Earth-blood . . . we're all stained like Lady MacBeth and it's a bloody mess out there.

Dave Drops a Grotowski

Years ago-- for about thirty seconds-- I contemplated writing a book about the rise of the amateur . . . I was stupefied with the sheer mass of amateurism online: Soundcloud and Youtube and Ebay and all the online photography and blogging and art and animation and how to videos and Pinterest-type sites . . . and then the idea passed, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was browsing through the new non-fiction section at the library to see a book entitled The Amateur: The Pleasure of Doing What You Love by Andy Merrifield; I always try to bring a couple of books home from the library that I did not intend to take out, as a way to fight the algorithmically-curated society in which we live, and while I rarely finished these, I read this one cover-to-cover; Merrifield is a socialist and the book is something of a manifesto . . . he sees modern life as a battle between a professional data-driven technocracy designed to make you a passive consumer-- if you've got the cash and/or credit-- and the possibility of amateurism . . . literally doing what you love; in his mind the bean-counters are winning, government has been captured by big business; public spaces have been sanitized; and the bottom-up, emergent nature of cities and towns has been eradicated (although he sees hope in countries like Greece, where things have fallen over the edge and anarchists and radicals occupy public/private spaces, similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement) and the main value and purpose of many people is their job, their career, even if it is meaningless, because we are identified by what we do professionally-- that is how we achieve our status (and our health insurance, in America) and Merrifield, slightly impractically, speaks of the happily unemployed and a new way to live; he seems to think there is no refuge for the amateur in any profession-- even in academia you must publish and publish, and the more you are cited, the more you succeed . . . I would beg to differ, being the ultimate amatuer, a high school teacher: I happily teach a course in Philosophy, of which I know nothing about, and a course in Shakespeare, though I'm an awful actor, and now I'm an amateur Rutgers Professor as well-- but I digress (so does Merrifield, personal anecdotes are scattered through the book) and so I'll get back to the review; Merrifield calls on his favorite books to help his case, as many of them are my favorites: Dostoevsky and his Underground Man, Laurence Sterne and Uncle Toby's Hobby Horse, Kafka's Trial and Castle . . . and this reminded me that I used to read much more radically, and lately I've been consuming a lot of economic stuff, trying to understand what the hell is going on when there is perhaps no way in to the bureaucratic technocracy and it's better to work at the micro-level, as Merrifield proposes, and that we all become political animals in whatever way we can, and influence whatever micro-milieu we can influence; I hope Merrifield reads this, as I think he'd be proud of my amateur spirit; I've stopped watching sports and now only play and coach them, and I've resisted the club/professional training route in youth sports, the "next level" so many parents are eager to achieve-- instead I'm coaching the kids in town, and I'm coaching them really well because I'm an amateur, not a professional, because I love it . . . nothing has made me prouder than the fact that my kids are competing with year-round tennis kids on Saturdays at the local racquet club, not because they're decent players-- which they are-- but because my brother and I taught them everything they know about tennis . . . they'd certainly be better if they took year-round lessons from professionals, but that would be costly and also ridiculous; I'm also making my own music and my own podcast, writing this blog, trying to stay abreast of town politics (at least at a sporting level) and generally trying to avoid consumer culture unless it has to do with one of my hobbies-- I feel the press of what Merrifield is talking about and it's easy to succumb, there's a lot of shows on Netflix and a lot of credit out there, and your job can consume you and then you feel good, in a sort of anesthetized way, but we all know that productivity is on the rise and college costs more and more-- which is why I've been hinting to my kids that if they really like something, they don't need to go to college to pursue it . . . college seems to be for smartish people who don't know exactly what they want to do, it's a great (but expensive) failsafe that leads you right into the technocracy, burdened with debt, ready to become a productive worker; this has been heavy, so I'll get out of here with one last idea from the book, which would be amazing and fun to drop on an aspiring actor; Merrifield mentions radical Polish director Grotowski, who calls theater with lights and a stage and props and costumes "rich theater" and this Polish auteur denigrates "rich theater" for aspiring to be film or television,  then he makes a case for "poor theater," where actors become themselves in the scenes, no lights or settings, just an improvisation where you push the actor/spectator gap and the existential limits of the stage in a search for conflict with others . . . while I don't fully understand the theory, I would still love to "drop a Grotowski" on an actor (and if I remember, I'll do it to my friend Jack) when they are telling me about some performance they are in . . . I imagine I would say, "Oh so you're still doing rich theater? How antiquated and pathetic . . . Grotowski would so so disappointed in you."

Retro Saturday of Stuff to Appreciate

An old school Saturday that reminds me why we bought a house in Highland Park, had kids, and rescued a dog . . . successful soccer practice in the AM at Bartle gym-- two blocks away-- followed by some successful tennis training with Ian at Donaldson Park-- five hundred feet away-- then the boys got on their skateboards and rode to the comic book store (and purchased some retro-ish comics: Invincible and some new series related to Watchmen) and ate pizza, they returned with the pizza crust, which our dog ate-- a good sign, because he's lost his appetite lately-- and then Cat and I walked for some coffee with the dog and he made it all the way to Main Street and back, the longest walk he's taken since his illness . . . and now both boys are upstairs reading, and they'll be fast asleep soon enough-- at least In will be, he reads three pages and falls asleep every Saturday afternoon-- and there's a snowstorm on the way (and indoor tennis tonight for the boys) so I'm declaring today a celebration of mundanity, small town life, kids, dogs, sports, marriage and all that normal regular stuff that I often forget to appreciate . . . and I keep extending this sentence because I don't feel like going on the Mid New Jersey Soccer Portal and fucking with spring registration stuff for the travel team, because that is some small town banality I could do without.

Some Situations Require Delicacy That Only a Mature Adult Possesses

If one child is napping upstairs, it's not a good idea to send the other child to wake him up for dinner.

A Photo in which Dave and Catherine Pretend to Be Veterinarians

Happiness is a warm puppy . . . or giving a warm dog subcutaneous fluid treatment if you can't make out what's going on in the photo, Cat is holding up a bag of rehydrating fluid so gravity can do it's work, and I'm holding a needle under Sirius's skin so that the liquid can get into his system quickly).

A Valentine's Sentence for my Wife

Catherine and I decided to forego chocolate this year (because we're both dieting and sugar is the devil incarnate) and we've got no money for expensive gifts (the veterinary bill took care of our expendable cash) so this Valentine's Day, I'm going to give my wife something far more romantic than candy or diamonds . . . a podcast recommendation: specifically, the new episode of Hidden Brain "When Did Marriage Become So Hard?"; during the middle portion of the show, Erik Finkel, a social scientist at Northwestern, traces the history of marriage and links it to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; he explains that the expectations of marriage have been slowly climbing that mountainous pyramid; at first, when men and women's roles weren't terribly differentiated, marriage was a pragmatic union primarily for protection and safety; then as gender roles became more established and polar, marriage became a union of opposites-- it was all about love and attraction-- but now marriage is expected to be a union of people with similar goals, values, attributes and desires . ..  and the end result of this kind of marriage is that you will become a better person, your partner will help you self-actualize and be the best person you can be; Finkel explains that this is a lot of pressure to put on the institution, and while it leads to many unhappy marriages and a high divorce rate, it can also lead to truly wonderful relationships that were never even dreamed possible . . . and I'm lucky enough to be in one of those (my wife might even listen to my recommendation!)

Not Real versus Real

Not real:

"Nosedive" . . . a glossy, fun, and satirical social-media-dystopia episode of Black Mirror . . . which is tragic for the main character, but also sort of silly because these people have bought into the app and the ratings only for the results and have basically brought things down on themselves



Alipay Sesame Credit . . . China wants to control it's wild and poorly regulated economy, where purveyors often purvey such delicacies as rotten meat and toxic baby formula, so they dream of implementing a government social credit score; meanwhile e-commerce giant Alibaba has created a private version of this: you get a social credit score from 350 to 950, based on mountains of data, both financial and behavioral-- earn points for advanced degrees and lose points for playing too many video games . . . and like the Black Mirror episode, part of your score is determined by the scores of your friend-- so if you're buddy drops out of college and starts playing video games, it's time to shun him . . . perks for a high scores include better train and plane seats, smaller deposits for hotels, screening on dating apps .. . and the plan is to feed facial data into the score as well with a surveillance program called Sharp Eyes, so then if you frequent bad neighborhoods or shady areas, the algorithm will factor this into your score . . . and if the algorithm makes a mistake, you're screwed, but that's not the scariest part of this . . . the scary part is that attaching social scores with credit scores is the killer app; this will curtail crime and it will get people to behave "better," both financially and socially, and it will get people to fall in line in regards to the government . . . the utilitarian trade-off for a better society might be just enough that this system is adopted completely and irrevocably . . . and while I'm highly critical of this now, I'm sure it won't be long before I'm welcoming our new insect overlords, because I don't want to ride third class on the train or be unable to get a home equity loan . . . so the winner is . . . by a landslide:

reality (yikes).

Sirius: Not Dead Yet

We thought it was curtains for our beloved family dog Sirius but after a three day stay at the pet hospital (don't ask about the bill) it seems he's got some life left in him; he's definitely in dire straits and I think everyone in the family has shed some tears about his predicament, he's got two tick-borne diseases (lyme and ehrlichia) and his kidneys are screwed up and infected (possibly due to the lyme disease, but maybe not) and he's got all kinds of high-levels of bad stuff because of the kidney malfunction-- too much phosphorus and proteins and all kinds of junk-- and he wasn't eating so he lost a bunch of weight; but he perked up a bit today and he actually ate a bunch once he got home; he's on eight different medications-- two antibiotics, an appetite stimulant, an antacid, blood pressure medicine, stuff to get phosphates out of his body, an anti-nausea slurry, and subcutaneous fluids (which we have to administer) and so if he continues to eat, we'll be able to get this stuff in him and he has a chance to recover . . . which would actually be a miracle, considering the state he was in last week.

Viewing Habits of Man Children

Quite a juxtaposition of streaming video consumption: last month my kids were watching the first season of Breaking Bad and now they're obsessed with an adorable kids show called Gravity Falls (it's actually tolerable for adults . . . funny and fast-paced, but the recommendation algorithm is going to struggle with what to suggest next).

Ghosts, Music, White People and Black People

I am a man of reason and so-- of course-- I don't believe in ghosts, I don't believe in a spirit world, lurking just beyond what we can see and sense . . . but that doesn't mean I don't occasionally enjoy a ghost story (Hamlet, for instance) and Hari Kunzru's new book White Tears is primarily a ghost story, and the ghosts in this tale often manifest themselves sonically and they have been badly put down by the white man; if you like music and musical production, then this is the ghost story for you . . . it's about two white kids who want to find and create "authentic music," it's about race and cultural appropriation, it's about obsessive collection, money, power, desire, and oppression . . . and mostly it is a very very weird, fragmented, well-written, surreal, and slightly self-congratulatory version of the 1986 film Crossroads . . . the middle section of the book loses some momentum, but the pay-off is vivid and tragic and moving and it will connect you with the spectre of racism way down in Mississippi in a very real way (and if you want something lighter to read with a musical theme, check out this Quincy Jones interview, it's amazing).

Symbolic Wall Will Cause Real Damage

The brilliance and horror of Trump's "build a wall" campaign promise is that it's largely symbolic, of course; because of the Bush Adminstration's Secure Fence Act of 2006, fences and walls are constantly being built along the US/Mexico border so all Trump has to do is point to some of this work and fund it a bit more and he's a hero to the folks who want to seal America up into some kind of dystopian ethnically safe consumerist theme park . . . but the consensus among anyone who has actually studied border walls is that they don't work . . . it's expensive and difficult to build a twenty foot wall, and it's even more expensive to maintain and patrol it-- but it's really cheap to build a 21 foot ladder (or dig a tunnel or go some where the wall isn't) which would be fine, if this wasn't our tax money going towards this gigantic quixotic concrete patriotic emblem . . . but that's not the worst of it, the worst of it is that the Secure Fence Act usurps all environmental laws . . . so while the wall isn't going to curtail immigration, and it's going to cost us money, those are just stupid human problems-- and we are especially stupid these days-- but the fact that it's going to do irreparable damage to delicate ecosystems, endangered species, and the movement and breeding of wildlife is just heinous . . . if you can stomach more on this, check out this episode of 99% Invisible.

George Saunders Can Read

Cunningham, Powers, Brady, my wife and I went to see George Saunders at the Rutgers Student Center last night, and I'm happy to report that not only can Saunders write great stories and sentences, but he's also a thoroughly entertaining reader . . . he reminded me of a miniature and less profane version of George Carlin; here are a few of the interesting things he said about writing in the Q & A:

1) a short story needs to be a "powerful mechanism" . . . which is certainly true these days, as the literary short story is basically a forgotten and ignored art form, and to capture someone's attention in this format requires something deliberately compelling and evocative; boilerplate isn't going to do it when you can watch Black Mirror;

2) Saunders described the Hot Wheels track he had as a kid and the "gas stations" that ran on batteries that he would carefully place in certain sections of the circuit, so that they propelled his cars just far enough to reach another gas station, and so on and so forth, until he had created a track that would race the car for an infinite amount of time (or until the batteries ran out) and he likened this to writing a short story: you need enough "gas stations" to keep the reader going;

3) he said it was a revelation in his writing when he realized that dialogue shouldn't sound like how people talk-- people talk in abrupt half finished sentences that rely on tone and body language to convey meaning-- but dialogue in a story should sound great on it's own, be rhythmic and fast-paced, and most importantly, avoid being too on the nose . . . people tend to "talk past each other," they half-listen, but then inform their reply with whatever is brimming in their brain . . .  this is how I imagine this lesson in a concrete format;

do you believe in God?

why yes I do . . .

it would be better to write:

do you believe in God?

how can there be a God when property taxes are this high for a 1500 square foot house? 

Three History Lessons (Two of them Scary)

We did some rare Monday/Tuesday TV watching this week-- normally there is no screen-time for our kids from Monday through Thursday-- but I invoked the "documentary rule" twice on two consecutive days; both of these stream on Netflix:

1) Alex and I consumed about half of the documentary Fed Up, which documents the rise of fat-free foods, added sugar, sugar addiction, and the big sugar lobby . . . it's important information but presented in an incredibly sad manner, from the perspective of a number of morbidly obese children and their families . . . the lesson is that companies are pushing hyper-palatable processed foods with tons of added sugar and so unless you eat real food and avoid soda and juice, you're going to be consuming a lot of unwanted sugar; a calorie is not a calorie-- 100 calories of nuts is processed totally differently than 100 calories of gummy bears . . . the scariest statistic is that there were zero cases of childhood "adult onset" diabetes in 1980 and now there are 60,000 cases; unfortunately, even if you do eat real food, chicken isn't even chicken, so you're pretty much screwed unless you have your own organic farm;

2) Ian and I watched Command and Control, a PBS documentary that recounts the Titan II nuclear missile silo explosion that happened in Arkansas in 1980; it's a gripping story, with plenty of footage of nuclear blasts, wild anecdotes from old time rocket scientists, Cold War context, and a detailed narrative of the Arkansas catastrophe-- including the surrounding media carnival; not only are there plenty of moving moments and tales of heroism, but there's also frustrating ending-- the soldiers involved were treated quite shabbily by the Air Force once the incident was over and there's still plenty of room for error with our current nuclear arsenal . . . I think I'm going to read the Eric Schlosser book that inspired the film;

3) and here's a history lesson that's a little less heavy . . . although I guess D. Boon's demise even puts a tragic spin on this jazzy and light-hearted punk number.

Super Fans Abound

Until you are confronted, it's easy to forget about the existence of actual sincere New England Patriots supporters, and it's also easy to forget-- until you catch some cable news at the gym-- that there are people in this country actively rooting for Armageddon.

He Warned Me . . .

My buddy Whitney told me not to consume stuff like this, as it just makes my head explode, but I ignored him and this is what I have to report: the new episode of This American Life, "Words You Can't Say," will probably make both liberals and conservative flip out-- the episode is composed of two stories, one from a liberal vantage point and the other from a conservative one; they are fantastic on their own, but together they add up to an insane yin/yang yo-yo that will pervade your consciousness and bounce eternally . . . each story contains a twist that is almost too good to be true and if you thought things were bad and weird and polarized and unfathomable in our country, then this episode will confirm your worst suspicions (and then some) so I'd advise you to listen to Whitney, as curiosity killed the cat (but I'm sure he had an incredibly compelling and dramatic time dying).

The Test 106: The Nine Billion Names of Todd

In honor of the Super Bowl, this week on The Test we have a high-scoring extravaganza . . . tune in, take a shot, and see if you can outscore the ladies.

Dave Crushes It at the Gym

Lately-- due to my foot injury-- I've had to resort to using the various aerobic exercise machines at LA Fitness; my favorite contraption is the rowing machine but I can't row for a sustained length of time due to a dire and rather discomfiting situation: the machine is lacking an infographic diagram on an essential technique, a necessary procedure in arrangement that I just can't seem to master-- and apparently many people share this same problem-- what happens is that I'm rowing along, minding my own business, but every third stroke or so I squash my testicles.

What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate

My buddy Rob has written a sincere and excellent post over at Gheorghe the Blog about grappling with the difficulties of our times--  the thrust of it is that our current government, who are behaving like "third world banana republicans" are something of a kleptocracy, redistributing wealth to the rich, at the expense of the uninsured, the immigrants, the rule of law (especially the powers of the FBI) and the "darker, the weirder, the more foreign among us," and people of good conscience are going to have to take a stand against that behavior; I have something to report on this issue and I'm not going to do it justice so I suggest you read the articles, but several Indonesian immigrants are taking sanctuary in a church around the corner from me in Highland Park-- one of the immigrants, Harry Pangemanan, has been here since 1993 (he entered on a temporary visa) and has been involved in a project rebuilding homes devastated by Hurricane Sandy since 2012 (he won the 2018 Martin Luther King award in HP for this) and while this has been a terrible time for these people, I'm proud of the role my friends and the the community have played in the situation . . . meanwhile, while the immigrants were seeking sanctuary, someone got wind of their absence and their homes were vandalized and ransacked, and passports and money was stolen-- it's still hazy how this happened, if ICE leaked information as to where they lived, or if people saw the homes on the news (but not all of them were on the news) and took action-- but there's something awful going on in this country and everyone needs to have a frank discussion about it . . . as usual, I have a couple of recommendations if you want to get deeper into this issue: The Weeds "The White Genocide Episode You've Been Waiting For" explains how some of the current immigration policy being considered offers concession for "undocumented immigrants" but there is a push to curtail legal immigration, especially to families . . . the subtext is the discussion that needs to be had: it seems the ethnic constituency of America changing too much and too rapidly for many people in the nation and there have been previous, restrictive and rather racist policies to preserve the racial constituency of America (most notably the Immigrations Acts of 1917 and 1924) so we've done this before . . . I live in central New jersey, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse places in the world, and I thought this debate was over in my area-- but the vandalism and ransacking of the homes of the immigrants seeking sanctuary obviously refute this . . . this is an issue on the purpose of America: is it a place for immigrants to come and thrive or are we building a wall and locking our doors; the interesting thing is that economists universally accept that immigration, legal or illegal, is a boon to the economy-- more workers, more jobs, more consumers, more people to pay taxes and buy property, etc. etc. a more diverse economy-- but it seems that certain white people are willing to take the hit to the economy to preserve the racial integrity of the country (or what's left of it) and if you really want to take a deep dive on this cultural divide, check out the second season of The United States of Anxiety, a podcast that does a fantastic hob tracing the roots of the current dichotomy; the climate change episode is especially informative, as it traces the evolution of conservative climate change skepticism, which did not exist twenty-five years ago when Bush Sr. announced that we would all have to band together and solve this global and existential problem, but then became a conservative bona fide once the Republicans realized it was not an environmental issue, it was a political issue . . . thinking about this stuff is going to make you angry and depressed and indignant, but we have to discuss it as a nation because there's actually a reasonable middle ground on issues like climate change policy and immigration (unlike, say, nuclear war) and if we can get beyond the rancor and the hatred and the utter disdain that people are feeling for those with different opinions, maybe we can elect some people that will hammer our some reasonable policy . . . I remain optimistic that people are not as stupid and narrow-minded as the folks representing them in our government right now.

The Irony (and the Stupidity)

After limping around for several weeks with what I thought was plantar fasciitis (self-diagnosed, of course) I finally went back to the podiatrist to get checked out and he quickly diagnosed my ailment as a sprained tendon on the inside of my ankle, just under the ball of my foot (this tendon has a fancy anatomical name, but you're not going to remember it and neither am I, so I'm not going to bother to look it up) and this is great-- he give me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and said I'd be better in two weeks but the irony (and the stupidity) is that all the crazy stretching I was doing to alleviate my self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis was actually aggravating this sprained tendon, causing me a great deal of pain, and making me depressed and me cynical about the rest of my boring, monotonous life, sans basketball, tennis, and soccer.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.