Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wang Dang Doodle All The Way

This was in my inbox today.

It's a wedding announcement, of Anna Wang and Brad Holder. For some reason, they didn't rename the wedding party.

I love single entendres.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Madge Monday and Coco Tuesday

Running the Birth Order Classic:

"I win."
"No. We weren't racing to the door. We were racing to the mailbox."

"I win."
"No. I didn't say 'go.' [Starts running. Once comfortably ahead:] 'Go!"

"I win."
"No. I wasn't even racing."

Guess which child said which.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wages of fossil fuels

Great movie, that. (N'est-ce pas, Tazwell?)

But that's beside the point.

On Friday, I was walking back from dropping off the kids and I smelled heating oil. The source was obvious. There was a gas truck parked by an apartment building. The driver was busy connecting the hose from the truck to the building. No problem, really.

But the dude was smoking - and I don't mean he was attractive. No, he had a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Book Title

The chess books I've been nosing around in lately often feature this phrase, which strikes me as a good book title:

Favourable Complications

(and, yes, it needs the "ou")

Friday, May 25, 2007

Carl in the Chicago Trib.

How can you not love Carl Kassell?

see for yourself - yes, it's a video clip.
(You don't usually get to see him, after all.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Colby Preface

As promised earlier, here’s the preface to Frank Moore Colby’s Imaginary Obligations (1904).

[For the impatient (for all others as well): the book is a collection of essays about “the … anxieties that make up our chief imaginary obligation to seem something different from what we are.”

The extremely impatient should skip the first sentence (and then know that “hortatory” is an adjectival version of the verb “to exhort”).]


I presume it will not be denied that the Anglo-Saxon conscience is apt to encroach on the zone of moral indifference. We are a hortatory people, forever laying down the law in a region where diversity is most desirable. Apparently we would rather teach than live; we count votes even in our dreams; and we suppress nine-tenths of our thoughts for fear of seeming incorrect. We are sometimes frank in private, but coram populo our souls are not our own. In proof whereof see any magazine or newspaper or almost any current book or play, and mark especially the amazing difference between public speeches and private thoughts. There are the romantics of politics, and the self-concealment of debate, and the duty to the crowd, and the duty to the coterie, and the duty to the time of day, and the constraint of success, and the fear of being misunderstood, and the care of the universe, and the hundred other anxieties that make up our chief imaginary obligation to seem something different from what we are – something wiser or more sententious or more brilliant or more reasonable and educational, something far less human and infinitely less absurd. We cannot even see a man with a book without worrying over the effect it may have on him, and we would turn every critic into a sort of literary legislator. We try to compel good taste ad the harmless word “culture” has already acquired a grim and horrid sound. On the lightest of matters we lay the heaviest of hands. At every point our indefatigable instructors would substitute a formula for a vital process. Our fancied obligations to these little formulas are for the most part the subject of this book, which is made up of certain newspaper and magazine articles, edited and rearranged. The topics discussed are transitory, but they are bound to recur, and the writings quoted are evanescent but they are of a kind that often return. I have written about them because I enjoyed their absurdity, but incidentally they may show why so many of us grow old rigidly or develop an alarming spiritual pomposity in our middle age.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Classic subbing moment

Kid comes into class.
"What? Mr. M isn't here? Daaaaamn!"
Kid turns and leaves. Sees me. "Oh. Don't worry. I'll be back."

Right. Don't worry. I'm not worried.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Memes aweigh!

I get the feeling I’m thinking too much about this Meme. But forgive me, it’s my first time. Here it is:

The Little-Known Favorites MemeRules: List and describe three of your favorite books that other people might not be familiar with. Then tag five people. See, easy!

Easy? EASY?? (See, I can do it, Megan.)

First I wanted to go the route of choosing “books that other people might not be familiar with,” forsaking the “favorites” a bit. As in:
The U.S. Constitution. Okay, in and of itself not a book, but available in book form, usually with other texts. Attempts to set down some minimal ground rules about getting along in a more or less civilized way.
The Dictionary. Any version, really. Attempts to set down some consensus on how to communicate with words.
A First Aid Manual. Attempts to show how you might be able to save a life, literally.
The problem with this list: I’ve only poked around in these, but haven’t actually read one end to end, so a recommendation in this case is merely idealized.
Not a bad list, though, hunh?

Then I wanted to be silly and do the ol’ switcheroo, as in:
The DaVinci Code (ever hear of it? didn't think so)
Nancy Drew, Book 9, The Sign of the Twisted Candle (all the others suck, really),
And anything on Oprah’s list.
But that’s too easy.

Finally, here’s my real list:

Roy Blount’s Book of Southern Humor. Roy Blount jr., ed. I’m cheating here, because it was the stepping stone for me in finding other great books. But that’s the point. Read it, note which excerpts you especially liked, and chase down more by that writer. Also a great read on its own (though not in a handy size for subway reading).

The Perfect Vacuum, by Stanislaw Lem. Lem’s a Polish science-fiction writer, best known, probably, for Solaris. This is a collection of fictional introductions and reviews of books that have never been (and/or could never be) written. Except for the first entry, a fictional review of the book itself. Mind-opening stuff. And witty, of course.

Imaginary Obligations, by Frank Moore Colby. You’ll have to go to or or some such site to track this down, but it’s worth it. The novels I tend to read happen to be well-known (aka “classic”), so here’s another set of pieces. Colby’s essays are witty without being cutesy, and the theme is – but, you know what, I’ll just quote the entire preface in a future post.

Now, the hard part, tagging five people. I’m not sure I even have five readers of this blog, not to mention five readers who have blogs of their own. So here’s the deal. If you don’t have a blog, just write your answer in the comments and then tag people by sending your answer along with the question by email to five others.

I tag
Matt Groening, Tom Stoppard, Willie Nelson, Gary Oldman (for Julie), and Marisa Tomei

Or maybe I should tag
Auntie Boo
Warner P.
Green Clementine
Glenn J.

Coco Tuesday

Coco exposed some marketing the other day. (“Marketing,” I just realized, seems to mean “lying for the sake of selling something” to me.) He asked me to get some “yummy cheese” while he was at school. I told this to Juan (the awesome cheese guy). “Coco has requested me to get some ‘yummy cheese,’” I said.
We both chuckled.
Then Juan got a cheese off the shelf, the same he usually gets when “yummy” is requested. A Pyrenean cheese called Istara (sometimes he chooses Etorki, which is similar in provenance and flavor).
What are the other cheeses there for? They’re obviously not “yummy.”
Or, conversely (since I’m guessing at possible responses), what’s the point in “acquiring” a taste?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Madge Monday

The last post about the ALL CAPS reminded me of this about Madge. She always finds it funny when she reads them in a story.
It has happened several times now that she has laughed aloud at something she read silently. And, when I ask her about it, she invariably replies by reading the section aloud, too fast, and mumbly. Then, when I go over to look, there’s something about a kid screaming exasperatedly (usually it’s Ron Weasley, but it’s happened with other books, too).

My first meme

I've seen these before, but have never been involved.
My new BFF Megan "tagged" me with a meme.
The Little-Known Favorites MemeRules: List and describe three of your favorite books that other people might not be familiar with. Then tag five people. See, easy!

The Facetious Guy at
facetiae. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want (I mean, that goes without saying, but I’m not sure where you stand on memes. I know you don’t do CAPITAL LETTERS FOR EMPHASIS!)

So now I have homework. Not only do I get to think of three books, but I also need to figure out five people to tag - which, to me, seems the more difficult task since I don't know the etiquette of this sort of thing and I don't really know too many people online.
We'll see how I stand on these things. Probably shakily.
And I'm not into all caps because I HAVE ENOUGH PEOPLE SHOUTING AT ME ALREADY!

5th Avenue Fair

It's a mystery to me why antacid companies don't set up emergency shacks at street fairs.
Just pass out free Tums right by the Italian-Sausage-with-onions-and-peppers stand and see if people aren't convinced. Or set up a grand slam of funnel cakes, cotton candy, beer, and Rolaids.
(And people say I don't know about marketing.)

Song Titles

Now my mind is on country song titles or song titles in general.
How about "Her Legs Brought My Heart to its Knees."
Or "Downright Upright."
Knowing me, there'll be more soon.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Expectations, lived up to

The song, "It Was Always So Easy To Find an Unhappy Woman (Till I Started Looking for Mine)" sounds just like it ought.

As does the song about a double date with Edith and Kate that went awry, called (you guessed it), "You Can't Have Your Kate and Edith Too." It even modulates every time the punch line comes around. Great stuff.

A Title of the Gods

Thanks to Roy’s new book I’m filling in my country music lacunae.
One such is that I never knew “If I Said, 'You Have a Beautiful Body,' Would You Hold It Against Me” is an actual song. But then again, because I didn’t know it was an actual song, I didn’t know it was an actual bad song, so perhaps it’s a wash. The Bellamy Brothers took the line and made it into a song about getting around small talk, set to a cheesy L.A.-Vegas-Hawaii mishmash of the early eighties. Billy Ocean could have sung it. Or Jimmy Buffett. Or Warren Buffett, for that matter.
Here are some more of the lyrics. Bear in mind, nothing can approach the brilliancy of the title (by the way, “Bare In Mind” would be a good one, too), but still.

If I said “You have a beautiful body,” would you hold it against me?
If I swore you were an angel would you treat me like a devil tonight?
If I was dying of thirst, would your flowing love come quench me?
If I said “You have a beautiful body,” would you hold it against me?

Now we could talk all night about the weather
Could tell ya about my friends out on the coast
I could ask a lot of crazy questions
Or ask you what I really wanna know.

If I said…

Now rain can fall so soft against a window
Sun can shine so bright up in the sky
But daddy always told me, “Don’t make small talk.”
He said, “Come on out and say what’s on your mind.”

If I said…

See what I mean? It really ought to be about someone living with a partner who has a skewed body image.
Or about picking up someone at:
Anorexics (or Overeaters) anonymous
A Bench Press in the Gym
A Prosthesis Convention
I’m just saying.

So: Fix the tune to at least make the cheesiness more ironic; change the setting to do justice to the double meaning; and, finally, rhyme with “against.” If you set yourself a challenge like that, at least give it a try, rather than bailing out with “quench.” I’m sure something like, “You kept saying you’re ugly, and, lordy, how that incensed me” might work.

Just an idea.

life lessons

Subbing yesterday reminded me of the previous time I subbed and was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment: career day.
I ask you, what is more humbling than to be babysitting a group of resentful teenagers and then be lectured on boundless career opportunities?
Maybe being Ms Hilton’s parole officer. But only maybe.
Anyway, one of the orators was from People magazine, which got due applause, since it appeals to the students’ scholastic intellect. But the person giving the speech sent the wrong message, inadvertently, I’m sure. See, she was pregnant. And, while she rattled off her career in a monotone (IwenttocollegeandgotajobsellingadvertisingwhichInowdoforpeoplemagazine), she positively beamed while talking about her burgeoning belly.
The message: blahblahcareer, but you’re not fulfilled unless you have a bun in the oven. So, teenage girls, go out and do … what, again?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

what to give

My dad turned seventy yesterday - Yay, Opa! - and I'm clueless about what to get him.
Turns out one of his favorite gifts was something he got himself: a BB gun.
So now I know what to get him: protective eyewear and a helmet. He already has a forest and a Russian UAZ jeep.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Waiting for

I'm having groceries delivered. It's the easiest way to get a whole watermelon home.
I forgot that delivery before noon is quite spotty. So I'll have to step out to get Coco before the stuff gets here - stuff that is lacking the cat litter that should have been the number one item on my list.
Last time I did this I ran into the guy just as I came out the front door. Which meant that I missed the wonderful, "Delibbery!" from the intercom.
(Julie has taught Coco to say that into the intercom when they're downstairs. Funny stuff. He cracks himself up doing it.)

Berlin Day, NYC

I found out that tomorrow is BerlinDay.
Who knew?
Here's the link.
It took me a while to find, so it can't be all that important to people around here.
Also, Koffer aus Berlin wants explanation, doesn't it?
By show of hands, who here has heard of the song, "Ich hab' noch einen Koffer in Berlin?"
Okay, now, who has actually heard it, not just of it?
That's what I thought.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Last night Coco told me that I’m big, therefore I can do a flip. I proceeded to do a somersault, on the floor. No, no, he corrected me, a flip in the air. Like Spider-Man.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Madge Monday

GrandJohn visited over the weekend, which was lovely.
Madge was all over his belt attachments, one of which is a step-counter, the other, a fancy phone. On which Madge discovered the camera and games almost immediately.
To get her away from the phone and to pacify her while the battery was charging, we taught her how to play solitaire with real cards. Ooooooh.
She actually likes it. Yay, us. It seems a much more soothing game when the player is not sitting hunched in front of a screen with a hand perched over a mouse pad.
Same somewhat brainless game, but a whole different mood.
Went to Hoyle and learned a new Solitaire game called Accordion. Fun, mostly because you’re not planning and hoping so much (“a red six would open up this pile which would uncover a space so I can move over a king and finally get at the stack I haven’t been able to…”), but rather watching how the rules of the game and the rules of chance interact.
Try it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"I didn't do it"

The subject heading is, apparently, what every teenager is required to say when he or she has been caught doing something desctructive and stupid. It's in the rulebook. "It wasn't me" is a viable alternative.

Every time I'm done subbing for a junior high class, I realize how wrong Golding's Lord of the Flies is.
He understated everything.

(Btw., has anyone out there read anything else by the Nobel Prize winner, Golding? If so, what do you recommend?)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Subbing today

I'm on a break right now. Duuuhuude, those Middle School kids are a royal pain.
At one point the principal came along, a bullfrog of a woman with a bullhorn of a mouth. And the whole package would have been incredibly intimidating if she hadn't had a smidgen of cream cheese or something stuck on her lip.
Wait. Who's the pain, the kids or me?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Someone got glasses

Since Julie and I are equally blind, it was only a matter of time.

Smug, smug parents

Madge’s PTA is inviting people to an event, and I think I might have to go just to see.
And maybe rile up some people, depending on how much coffee I will have had.
The event is by “an investigative journalist, broadcaster, and … parent” and is called, “Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds.” It’s based, of course, on material from her new book.
Why isn’t it entitled, “Fret, Fret Parent: How the Media Attacks Itself to Sell Itself” or some such.
In other words, how is this talk/topic/discussion different from what it purportedly “exposes”?
Sure, who doesn’t hate the endless “I want, I want” from their kids? But isn’t that part of growing up? And, more to the point, we happen to live in a consumer culture. If kids don’t understand how it works, how are they going to fend for themselves when their time comes – which is sooner than any of us would like to acknowledge?
How can anyone claim that consumer culture is harmful and still justify living in NYC?
I have yet to hear someone say they moved to NYC to get away from it all.

In other words, I’ll be going in order to see how many people I can alienate before noon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Coco’s got a new way of trying to kill me. The good news is that he wakes up to go to the bathroom rather than pee in his bed. The bad news is that it happens around 6:15 in the morning, after which he doesn’t go back to sleep and gets me up for company.
It’s as if I traveled to a new time zone.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Madge Monday

Madge is sick today. Well, yesterday, too, but that didn’t really disrupt any scheduled events, because there were none.
News on the Madge front, though, is that she is in the process of getting glasses (they should be ready tomorrow). Coincidentally, her cousin got glasses recently as well, which is a nice sympathy move on his part. Julie and I are extremely myopic and warped, in a cornial way, so it was really just a matter of time before our offspring became in need of corrective lenses. We’re guessing Coco will be due for some around age seven or eight as well. We hope not, but chances aren’t in his favor.
Luckily, Madge is very decisive in matters of fashion – oh, who am I kidding, she’s decisive in all matters – and picking frames was fairly easy.
And now she’s home, watching Tom and Jerry (don’t tell Julie) while I do this and go clean the catbox and whatever else pops up.
Fun stuff.

Oh. The other thing. She picked up a new game at a playdate last week, Skip-Bo. It’s fun enough, but basically a competitive solitaire – aimed at obsessive-compulsive types. The problem for me is that it is a new game and I keep trying out strategies to see how it might work best. Why is this a problem? Because I end up winning without really meaning to and I don’t realize that I shouldn’t have until somebody is crying.
Which leads me to something else. I don’t know how often my parents and sisters “let” me win, but I think I minded the condescension in that more than losing. I may not have, but I know I would now, so I’m projecting backwards (re-jecting? Post-jecting?). And I’m left in an awkward position, playing with Madge because she actually wants me to let her win whereas I want to spare her feelings by trying to make her feel like a “worthy opponent.”
And, then, to top things off, she will start criticizing the way I played a game which she told me before hand to let her win. I just can’t, either way. Win, that is.

Maybe there’s a lesson there.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Overheard from Coco's mouth

A new (to me) word: magicadabra.

Now that I've written it out, I realize it might have older sister overtones as well, as in: Madge-acadabra.

Overheard from my mouth

"Sure, it might be taking a nap, Coco, but I don't think squirrels sleep in the street."

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Alert the media.
A good friend of ours and wife and kids might, I repeat, MIGHT be coming to New York for a weekend.
You read it here first.

(There, Ben. Happy? Now will you come?)

a resolution backfires

I made a resolution at New Year that sounded okay to me.
Every five pounds I lose, I get to buy a new item of clothing. Doesn't sound too bad.
But I've inadvertantly found a problem in the system. I haven't lost diddly-squat, but my only pair of jeans recently got a hole in the knee.
Now I need to go to the gym just so I can look presentable.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A listener

I had a nice experience yesterday afternoon. Picking up Madge from a playdate, I was trying to be witty with the mom and mentioned Sea Monkeys as an example of disappointing toys and the power of advertising to burn kids again and again even though they ought to know better blahblah.
She went into this thing about a show on NPR that she loves and how she heard something about the inventor of the Sea Monkeys. And then she said the only problem with the show are those damned limericks.
I'm kidding. I told her I write for WaitWait and she was duly enthused about it.

We may have a new institution

Game night.
Last night friends came over to play Scrabble. Fun stuff. I didn’t even win and I still think it was fun. Aren’t I growing up? (Except for that last leading question of course. But feel free to pat me on the back with an affirmation.)
Which brings me to an observation about trading kid time for adult time. The adults were more immature, which is as it should be. Right?
We’re always trying to be what we’re not. The kids want to be responsible and to make decisions and we want to toss this to the wind. So while we wanted to go out for ice cream, the kids were working out a better household budget.

Let's make it a regular thing. (Not the budget. Duh. The game night.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Coco Tuesday

No TV has really changed Coco’s schedule since he’s been using a movie or Spongebob or whatever to have a pseudo-nap after school. And I was able to keep farting around on the computer or around the apartment.
So now we’re butting heads more. But it turns out that he’s different from Madge in many ways, if not all. For example, and to my relief, he enjoys being outdoors. And, big bonus, because of it, now she’s beginning to enjoy it more, too. Until the temperature gets to be above 75 and she complains of the heat, but we’ll work with that, I hope.
Coco has also begun speaking more and has noticed that he can get and hold attention by talking. And now he’s seriously intruding on her turf. Sibling stuff is so much fun, I tell you.

Madge Monday

The week without TV is over and we’re back in business. Was it a success? I don’t know. Our rhythm was thrown off and we got to fight more.
Of course it’s all my fault. More to the point, it’s the fault of those stupid birth order books. See, now I know that firstborns would rather be right than have fun. And I know, by saying that, I sound like the lastborn that I am. So? Now what?
Actually this morning I had a minor insight. Not only is Madge a perfectionist who likes to follow rules and, of course, make the rules in the first place, but she also has a hard time saying no. And this seems to be the source of much conflict. Coco invites her to play. She says no. He manipulates her into saying yes, which means she already starts playing without really wanting to. Then she’ll set rules which he never wanted to follow because it was his game (usually with her toys since she’s older and there are many hand-me-downs around) and boom, we have some sort of conflict escalating into tattling. Which I hate.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: The middle child? That’s the parent.