Saturday, September 29, 2007

Feedback feedback

Trent, I hope that, by "computer" you mean that he's phenomenally accurate, but not necessarily mechanical.
Anyway, do you think Gary Burton (or Milt Jackson, coming soon) may have started on one of these?
Get one, lock your kids in the basement with it and see if they beat the keys or clobber each other. Good luck.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Odd thing, this. It's on YouTube, but it really might be better without the visual. Or maybe just the hands. Or maybe the QueerEye guys should give Gary Burton a makeover. Anyway, if you can see and hear it, this is a good way to get into a weekend mood, I think.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Special edition

One of my stand-uppy gripes is “How about those ‘special edition’ DVDs?”
You know, the typical anti-ad-speak thing. If there is no such thing as a regular edition, why have a special or collector’s or limited edition? I’d like to go to the store and say, “Don’t you have the regular version?”
I know “they” need to make the DVDs appear special so you don’t just wait until the movie shows up on TV. Maybe “they” should call it the “at your leisure and without ads” edition.
Except, of course, that the opening credits are one big-ass ad, aren’t they? Who really needs to know the producer’s name and the by now seventeen-plus production companies defraying the costs and slobbering over potential profits?
If I were truly in touch with my inner jerk, I’d applaud at the beginning of the movie. Just stand up and shout, “Yay! Dreamworks! I loooooove Dreamworks! I was worried it might be Warner Brothers, but, OhMyGod, it’s Dreamworks! Whooooooooo!”
Anyway, back to special editions. What makes them special? The special features, of course, which can range from basic, crappy games, to out-takes.
At first I was going to say, What if authors had “special editions” of their books? But of course publishers do that once the writer is canonical or dead or both.
But how about going to a restaurant and ordering the special edition of the House Salad and Steak Frites. Would you get the dishwater in a bowl as well as various shavings and peelings? That’s what the outtakes are, after all, scraps off the editing-room floor. Or how about a “director’s cut” of the pork chop?
But, then again, I guess that’s what the “soup of the day” often is, the “director’s cut” of last night’s special.

Now that I think about it, a literary out-take might go something like this.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning might write,
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Well, there was that time on the boat…”
And she and Robert would break character and laugh, laugh, laugh.
And the next time she’d write,
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
And he’d interrupt with, “Would you like it on a boat? Would you like it with a goat?”
And they’d laugh and laugh and laugh.
Pretty soon all she could do was write, “How do I…” and they’d both be in hysterics.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

After-school idea

Madge’s school, now Madge and Coco’s school, has a program called the Kids’ Club Workshop, which allows parents and others to volunteer to teach courses after school. They solicit ideas and volunteers every so often. And I’d like to do it, I think, but A) I wouldn’t know what to teach and B) I wouldn’t know who’d be watching my kids while I’m doing so.
I said as much to Madge and together we came up with this course. “Taking Care of Coco,” an eight-week crash course in handling a stubborn four-year-old. Learn intermediate toddler-speak; approximate anger-management; begin basic bribery; indulge in pretend hide-and-go-seek; and so much more. Handwashing mandatory.
When I told Julie about this, she loved the idea. I told her that the only class that would get perfect attendance would be something along the lines of “Share your Gameboy expertise and secrets,” in which the kids got to play video games nonstop and show off their skills at pushing little buttons which make animated characters do things.
Julie had a great idea, too. One which might get some forced attendance. “Clean Your Apartment.” In each of our eight weeks we draw one lucky family’s home upon which a team of ten to sixteen schoolchildren (ages 7+ only, please) will descend with brooms, mops, buckets, and washrags. (Homeowner’s insurance strongly recommended.)
It might have to be retitled “Get in Touch With Your Inner Cinderella.”
Ideas abound.

New Link

I've got a new site I feel the need to link to. Here. It's the Guardian's Digested Read, a silly recap of a new book. How often it's updated, I don't know yet, but I guess it's weekly.
Here's an excerpt, from their adaptation of Grisham's new book:

"I guess you must be in the mafia," Rick whispered.
"Er, no."
"But this is a John Grisham book and we're in Italy."
"I see what you mean," Sam smiled. "But it's not that type of story. He's writing something homier and cuter this time."
"No gangsters, then?" Rick asked, somewhat disappointed.
"No. It's just a feelgood travel romp to show that Italy may be foreign and bad at football - they play soccer here - but even airheaded jocks can appreciate the quaintness if they really try. Look, to get us started, why don't you start by asking me some brainless questions so I can explain a few of the basic differences between the US and Italy."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Coco Tuesday

I need to remind myself that one of the reasons I’m doing this blog thing is to look on the outside of the insanity in our house. It’s getting difficult.
Every day after school, Coco asks, ever so politely, for a new toy. This process takes about nine or ten hours. And what with retail greed and abuse of random holidays, he’s been asking for Halloween decorations and costumes since about mid-August. And his concept of time is still that of a four-year-old. Imagine.
This means that whenever his eyes alight on a new costume, he wants it. Of course I could praise his active imagination, but man, is it ever annoying. As of yesterday he wants to be a knight.
“Please, Daddy, can you get me a knight costume?”
“Not yet.”
“Please, Daddy, after school?”
“No, it’s not Halloween yet. You’re going to change you mind again. You wanted to be Spiderman yesterday.”
“Please, Daddy, can I have a knight costume?”

Ah. I’ve got it. I’ll read him some Arthurian Romances. Not to bore him about knighthood, but to make him understand that he needs to earn it either by slaying dragons or by rewriting the lyrics to an old song of his to suit the funeral of a divorced former princess.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Madge Monday

“We” were watching Scooby-Doo this weekend. The kids are on a Scooby-Doo frenzy right now, and for some reason Netflix and DVD rental stores are accommodating them. Scooby-Doo, like The Flintstones, is the kind of animated series that employs a laugh track.
Me: Don’t you find it weird that the characters in the show are drawn and yet there seem to be people laughing in the background?
Madge: No. Why? It’s funny.

Case Closed.

Madge bonus

Madge Flashback. For some reason having Coco flop around in a recently emptied bathtub reminded me of this incident.
Madge (5 and a little) and Coco (around 2) and I (in my prime) were in a fish market on Clement Street in San Francisco. Madge liked to look at the masses of fish huddled in the tanks as well as the various lobsters. On one visit to the fish market, a fish had been taken out of the tank to be “processed” for sale. The fish slipped out of the guy’s hand and flopped around on the floor. Not phased in the least, the guy took a club and whacked the fish on the head several times, until the flopping ceased. All before I could usher my little ones out of the store. I think Coco was asleep in his stroller at the time; I’m not sure. At last I got Madge out of the store, squinched my eyes, took a deep breath, and awaited her questions and/or concerns.
What she said was, “Cool. Can we see that again?”

I wonder what she’d say nowadays. She might run screeching out of the store. Or not. And I’m not sure which would bother me more.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Does this actually happen in real life?

I don’t know how to write this up accurately, but here it is.
My parents are both seventy, as of Wednesday. Happy Birthday, Mom!
This means that their friends are about that age as well.
Because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble directly, though why not I’m not so sure, let’s pose this as a series of hypotheticals.
Part one. A is having an affair. He says to his wife that he is going somewhere with his friend B, somewhere where they can’t be reached, like camping or hiking or whatever. Now B needs to be off the map for the duration of A’s tryst and asks if he can stay at your place so that B’s wife can’t get in touch with him and figure things out for A’s wife. Would you let B stay at your place?
Hypothetical, part two. If all these people were in their late sixties or early seventies, would you think it’s a little late for a midlife crisis thingy?
Hypothetical, part three. If any of the people involved were your parents (and, in their defense, you’d assume there were degrees of guilt and innocence and therefore they were on the innocent-ish end of the spectrum), what would you drink to soothe your nerves? And at what time of day would you start?
Bottoms up.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I bet you've been following the World Championship in Mexico City, just as I have.

And I'd lose the bet, because you're asking, "The World Championship of what?"

Anyway, there's a player, Levon Aronian, who reminds me of the singer Marc Anthony.

Take a guess which is which.
(I was hoping to be able to upload a more recent picture of Marc Anthony, with scruffy beard, pinstripe suit, and all, but alas, I'm incompetent. Or, maybe They have made the pictures inaccessible in order to hide his chess-player alter-ego identity.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An aphorism of my own

Which is to say I'm not sure where it's from and it doesn't sound quite right (i.e., mellifluous and memorable), so I'm claiming it as mine:

A rose is a weed in a wheat field.

Feel free to tell me the actual source (if there is one) or to improve upon it. The idea, I hope, is clear.

Great Line from Colbert

(or one of his writers, of course)
Al Gore's movie made money, so global warming must be true. The market has spoken.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Coco Tuesday

New school year means that it's time to meet new parents. And, of course, to see the old ones again. While I'm not quite as direct as Coco and say to their faces that they have "dying skin" I will say behind their backs that they have dyed hair.
What makes the hair dying so interesting during pick-up and dropoff (Cartalk's Russian chauffeur, btw.: Pikap Andropov) is that the grey and white roots come and go in waves. It's almost as if the mothers' time of the month has changed from what it used to be to a time to get out of touch with their roots, so to speak.

Monday, September 17, 2007

More parents in da house

On a more uplifting note - and this is mostly for Julie, who is out of town (remember what that means? Yep, I'm aching for email contact. Any sort of adult-ish converstation) - that pregnant couple in our builing just had their baby today. I know, only the woman is actually pregnant, but they really seemed to be going through this as a couple, so I'm saying he was pregnant, too.
Anyway, I saw her lurching out of the building this morning, gently guided by him (so sweet).
Later in the evening, he was collecting mail.
When I asked him how she was, he said fine, and that was it.
But then I, super-sleuth dad ("Wait. You say you washed your hands, but I never heard any water..."), noticed a hospital bracelet peeking out from his shirt sleeve and confronted him with the truth: "You, sir, have had a baby!"
And he broke down and confessed.
And I nearly cried. I'm such a sucker for newborns and that whole new life thingamagig.

Julie, you'll be proud of my social restraint (though disappointed in my lack of gossip), I didn't press him on the name or weight or details because he hadn't even volunteered that they now have a baby. I just congratulated him most heartily and told the kids that his is the kind of smile you can't translate to anyone who has never experienced it.
Aw, shit, here I am, tearing up again.
I'm a weenie.

Madge Monday

I realized today what a nag I am, but also the causes. To begin with the overly sensitive and defensive bit: I’m a nag because I don’t get the answers I want, if I get any at all. Or, if I do, they have the wrong tone or something.
I’m not proud of it, but there it is.
I think I told Madge about four times this afternoon that she had to do her homework – and we weren’t even home yet. Poor Madge.
I noticed it and laid off. Tooth brushing I’ll still need to nag about, I fear, but I’ll let the homework thing go. She’s good about that on her own, as she is with most everything.

Where were we, if not at home? We were supposed to be at Coco’s dance class, but he REALLY didn’t want to go, so maybe my nagging started there. I just wanted some sort of “yes, daddy” success. Instead of the dance class, we were at the nearby Target because the weather has cooled down and some of us have outgrown our long pajamas and our long pants. We also needed batteries for our remote and our Tamagachi, but now I’ve gone past boring you. Sorry.
Though I only lived there about three years total, I guess I’m more of a Minnesotan than I thought. See, contrary to Brooklyn evidence, I keep thinking of Target as a calm, spacious store, not crowded and well-stocked. In other words, I forget about what we have come to call “Ghetto Target.” That name arose one day when we wanted to buy band-aids and noticed that several boxes had been opened and the contents removed.
Today, while we were in the toy department we had promised we wouldn’t whine about, some kids thundered through, whacking each other with floaty noodles before discarding the and giving some nearby bicycles a test ride. I had the stroller with me, which I only mention because only one of the elevators worked on the way up. On the way down, none. Oh, and they didn’t have the batteries we came for and the pants were too big.
So I didn’t feel too bad as a drink fell out of the stroller and spilled all over the ground when I picked the stroller up to take it down the escalator. (It is too wide otherwise.)
But now I realize that most people there feel that way about the Brooklyn Target, especially the employees, which is why it’s in the shape it’s in.

And, on perhaps a related note, we saw some kids (early teens) arrested and taken in a police van in downtown Manhattan over the weekend. I’m guessing for shoplifting, but what do I know? That, combined with the pain-in-the-ass kids at Target today makes me think that juvie might have an amnesty program for the beginning of the school year.
Or maybe they kids just want something concrete they can atone for this coming weekend.

Friday, September 14, 2007

favorite part about the "pool boy"

With all that going on for him, he was adamant about everyone washing his hands after using the bathroom.

Pool recap, or, Cabana Boy, Brooklyn-Style

It’s been a while since we’ve gone swimming and the pool is closed now and the guy probably doesn’t blog, so I feel relatively safe writing about him, the locker room guy at the public pool, that is.
Picture this. A stubby little man, maybe five feet tall, shaved head, including eyebrows. The hair on his head has been replaced by a skull tattoo – and sundry others; the hair on his chinny-chin has been replaced by a Maori (I'm guessing) tribal design; the hair on his pierced brow ridge has been replaced by the tattoo “white” on his right (left as you’re reading) and “pride” on his left (right as you’re reading). My reason for the parentheses is that he would have seemed oh-so-much tougher if it had been reversed because then it would have appeared that he did it himself, assisted only by a mirror and the copious amounts of alcohol he admittedly consumes.
As in, “Let’s face it, I’m an alcoholic.”
What prompts people to say stuff like this to me is beyond me, other than that I appear to be listening.
Most of our “conversations” involved the usual small talk about one’s well-being, which for him invariably meant a lack of sleep because of late drinking and getting some new tattoos from his buddies.
Now, the neighborhood we and pool find ourselves in is rather mixed, and the pool itself is closer to some projects than to our gentrified neck of the borough. In other words, “white pride” is a surefire conversation starter with the general population there. Incidentally, our friend had, surprise, surprise, done some time, too. But the conversations that got started by the black kids seemed to involve unfriendly comments. Imagine. The high point, apparently, involved an accusation by the kids involving a sexual crime and the guy’s sister. This apparently hit too close to home, so to speak, because his brother seems to be doing time for that exact activity. Imagine.
After the incident, the guy told me that he was willing to “kill the little &%s” because they seemed to have crossed a line. Instead of what he would have considered forgivable manslaughter, he got a time-out. In other words, the security staff and the cop on duty put him in a little room until he calmed down. But he’s claustrophobic.
In his words, “Fire me or kick me in the teeth, but don’t lock me in a &%!ing room. You know what I mean?”
Ah, New York.

PS Last week I saw him on the playground cleanup crew, but they rotate, so I think I’m done running into him.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

to look or not to look

The kids recently got scooters. Wheeeeeee!
Coco is finally getting the hang of it.
And here's something I noticed, let's call it Parenting Conundrum #377:

When you're trying to talk to your kids or when they want something from you around the house, they don't deign to look up from their task in order to ease communication.
But when they're about to bash into an oncoming pedestrian or stationary tree or when they're balancing precariously on some narrow ledge, they are desperate for eye contact.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

snooty neighborhood

Coco's class had a sign outside, saying that parents should "please bring in old NYTimes to cover tables for art projects."

I guess they don't want any trashy or shocking news for the wee ones.

I'll show them. I'll bring in the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Here he is: the Dancer. Tights and a "Don't Mess With Texas" shirt. Talk about a mixed message. Or not.

He enjoyed the class, but not the fact that I dropped him off and picked him up again later.

The embarrassing moment came later, when we saw a girl from his class and he said, "See that girl? I think her hair and eyebrows are terrible!" One dance class and he turns bitchy. Yikes.

And, of course, I had to have the "talking about other people's appearance" speech ready again. I fear it needs a rewrite since the message isn't getting across.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Madge Monday

She's such a big girl. So I feel bad when she gets dragged around the neighborhood in the double running stroller and stared at by other kids. But I don't think she minds because she gets to go places while still reading.
And today, for the first time ever, we went to an activity that was strictly for Coco. He makes her late all the time and she feels like she has to wait for him every minute of the day, but usually that's because I'm dragging him along to some event of hers. But today Coco had his first dance class and Madge was just along for the ride. And, man, let me tell you, it sure is easier to just hang out with an eight-year-old than it is with a four-year-old.
Though next time I need more singles for the vending machines.
And, don't worry, for Coco Tuesday you'll get some pictures of the little guy in his dance tights and my own special touch (because he doesn't have a solid-colored t-shirt).

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Julie, as you may or may not know, now works for a new company (new to us, not to the world).
The old one blocked my blog. I don't claim causality, but the facts remain.
Anyway, her new company is more conscious of the impact of its act of producing and selling than the old one was.
(For the corporate angle,
see here.)
I'm learning all about the company and its products, of course. Just ask me about any of the almond oil products. Omigod you gotta try them. Buy them. Put them all over yourself and feel mm-mmm pampered. It makes me want to take multiple showers. It makes me wish I were bald so I could rub it all over my scalp.

Enough, already.
Julie is also fond of the Shea Butter products. Which is why we had this conversation.

The women's collective thing is great. Apparently only women get to touch the Shea trees and handle the nuts -

[I hadn't heard the "-"; they're very hard to hear in a conversation. And I couldn't resist the seventh-grade joke]
What a coincidence, because I also only let women handle my Shea tree and touch my nuts.

JULIE [not even cracking a smile]
- and beat them into a paste.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Here's my new friend Jules.

I'm noticing that I need a shirt with a collar like that. (But not the scar on the forehead.)

And, much as I'd like to, I can't really bear the feeling of suspenders.

Oh, well, back to my own style. Which reminds me, all my shorts pooped out during these last weeks of summer.

Well, "pooped out" may give you the wrong image. But they're all becoming torn and frayed I'm afraid. (Hee, hee.)

Other people's words

I'm reading a book by Jules Renard right now, called "Poil de Carotte." Yes, I'm reading it in French, but only because the library copy is one of those instructional books that has text on one side and vocabulary words on the facing page.
The problem is, I can't usually tell if a word is used because it's the regular word or because it's a fanciful one. Not until I try them in conversation and get laughed at - rather than with - will I know. But how to use French words in coversation, you ask? Well, there seem to be French mommy groups in this neighborhood... (Don't worry, Julie, nobody could match your "ponponponfonfonfonfonfon" false francais.)
Anyway, the reason I got a book by Renard in the first place is because of his aphorisms in my aphorism book. (Other great ones are by Cyrill Connolly and Cesare Pavese, both of whom I've read because of this.)
Here's one:

The danger of success is that it makes us forget the world's dreadful injustice.

Magnifique, non?

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Luckily the original wasn’t altogether unpleasant, but this is an “artist’s” rendering of the image now permanently burned into my retina.
We were on the subway, coming back from a baseball game in Coney Island. Coco was asleep on my lap and I was only half-alert and staring blankly in front of me. The seats across from us emptied and a young guy sat down at the same time as skinny chick moved towards the seat. He made the voiceless gesture of, “Oh, did you want this seat? I hope not because I really don’t feel like getting up again.” And she made the shruggy smile and forward lean that said, “No, no. Don’t worry, I’m just looking at the subway map.”
At that point Julie said, “You can stop staring now.”
I never thought people actually did double takes, but my eyes blinked and my head snapped back and forth as I realized that the skinny chick’s yoga pants were down past her butt cheeks and she was busy tugging them up with her free hand. About a foot and a half from my face. And I had missed the whole thing!
To top things off, our half of the subway car erupted in laughter. We had already been primed a few stops earlier by the guy who got stuck in the doors.
Ah, New York.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Coco bonus

Two days in a row he's referred an older woman as,
"That girl with the dead skin."

Not to their faces, luckily.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Back to school. Except it's a new school for Coco and nothing is as expected.
He goes half days now. Like before, really, but half days at Madgie's school are from 8:40 to 11:00, so less than before. Oh, well.
One part of the routine was already set, though.
"I don't want to go to school. I'm not going."
"Let's just take Madge."
"Oh, awwight."
And today was from 8:40 to 9:40. You know, to warm them up slowly. And I got to stay the whole time. Cute. None of the kids wanted to talk to the teachers during circle time. Except one, but she didn't want to answer the teachers' questions, so I'm not sure it counted.
But Coco did enjoy the solo time with Daddy, I think, so that's a benefit. We only need to figure out how to transition to having Madge around at 3.
She, by the way, is awesome in her attitude towards school. Not gung-ho, but accepting.
The stomach aches won't start until later.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Madge Monday

There must be a script that I never received.
Today, the last day of our vacation, was the first day for the kids, Madge in particular, to "sleep in" to nine o'clock.
Wish me luck tomorrow morning, when we go back to school.