Monthly Archives: October 2012

deuteronomy twenty-three colon one

10/14/12

Ian, in his father’s guest room in the desert, is on a video chat with Tessa, in their Venice living room.

TESSA: So, did you see my status update?

IAN: No, hold on… (checks quickly) You’re telling Lucy the Adam and Eve story, huh?

TESSA: Yes, though I know that kind of thing pisses you off.

IAN: (reads to himself) “Reading C.S. Lewis… Lucy is stumped with what being naked has to do with being innocent, and struggling with the idea that knowledge is inversely proportional to innocence.”

TESSA: Yep.

IAN: Well, I don’t understand it either. Why does knowledge necessarily make you less innocent?

TESSA: That’s the whole point. There is necessarily a loss of innocence when you learn more about the world. There was a loss of human innocence when we made a weapon of mass destruction and actually used it. It was unavoidable.

IAN: But you know what the Bible means by “knowledge”, right? It equates “knowledge” with “evil”. That’s why the snake – sorry, the serpent – gives them the apple.

TESSA: So?

IAN: So the Bible has no interest in innocence. The whole point of this section was to keep followers from doing any thinking, to avoid getting too smart, so they could just stay stupid and do what they were told.

TESSA: That’s a super reductive way to look at it. I think it’s a compelling and beautiful way to express the loss of innocence, something that every culture deals with. Besides, I’m just telling her the story, and she can interpret it how she wants.

IAN: Well, I guess now she can. I avoided telling her Bible stories because – well, I just think it’s almost impossible to present a child with a book and say “Here’s a bunch of stories. Most of it isn’t true. But millions and millions of people believe it.” I just can’t see how you can stop some of it from bleeding in-

TESSA: She already has her own ideas! You don’t give her enough credit. A few days ago, she said, “I don’t know why I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t believe in heaven.” And I said, “There’s a bunch of cultures who don’t.”

IAN: The Jews, for one.

TESSA: Jews are agnostic on the idea of Heaven.

IAN: Wait, I thought that was a great part of Judaism. No heaven to deal with-

TESSA: Either way, she’s asking questions and she’s genuinely interested in this stuff. But she can come to her own conclusions.

IAN: Well, I guess it’s okay to tell Bible stories, as long as-

TESSA: Oh, here we go. As long as what? The Bible is a central text to our culture! It’s important that she have some familiarity-

IAN: The Bible is a bunch of fables, 98% of them totally false, cobbled together by 400 different sources, each with their own agenda-

TESSA: It’s a text with a lot of culturally-significant stories that I find quite beautiful.

IAN: Look, it’s fundamentally different. We read a fictional book to her, it’s made-up characters doing made-up things. We watch a documentary with her, it’s based on fact, or at least the facts as we have them. But this is a book that says things as fact that are ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE.

TESSA: She can tell the difference! She comes at this her own way. She doesn’t have your baggage. Someday you’re going to have to realize THAT YOUR DAUGHTER IS NOT YOU.

IAN: (long pause) Okay. Then we also have to read Buddhist texts. And, like, “The Art of War”.

Pause, while Ian wonders why, of all texts in the world, he came up with “The Art of War”.

TESSA: Okay. I’m in.

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video chat earlier this week

 

punch it, chewie

10/11/12

Those of you with media savvy (or with any sense of the news cycle’s tides) will already know what I’m about to spell out. This is not rocket science, it’s just understanding that America is a toddler, and the political machine (and its media juggernaut) is the hired babysitter. The babysitter is watching the clock: gotta keep this kid occupied until the parents get home (Election Day).

In order to keep the toddler distracted, you invent a narrative. I do it all the time with kids. At Lucy’s school, I volunteered to teach a cooking class in a small kitchen just off the music room. Within seconds, I turned a screeching passel of volatile 1st-graders into enrapt angels by saying we were all lost in the woods, had stumbled on an abandoned cabin, and had to survive on the ingredients we found (we made apple pancakes).

It’s the same with the election process, and the news outlets/blogs that cover them. Always keep in mind: what’s the narrative? What needs to happen for everyone to be satisfied?

So here’s how it plays out:

• Debate #1 – Obama vs. Romney – “The Comeback”

Obama’s lead was getting so large and predictable that the Republican leadership was already planning on who to blame. The race needed to be shaken up, and Mitt Romney obliged, by turning in a fact-free yet powerful debate performance. The consensus was that Romney had won.

That’s all the media needed. The boulder started rolling down the hill. Three days after the event, the conclusion was that Obama had delivered the worst debate in history and as I predicted, the “Romney Comeback” narrative was in full dander.

• Debate #2 – Biden vs. Ryan – “The Counterpunch” or “The Old Guy Has One Last Trick Up His Sleeve”

The liberal teeth-gnashing had gotten so far out of control that people who should know better started contemplating doomsday scenarios and lamented a possible collapse unseen in modern political history. That’s good for business in the short term, but what’s even better? A grinnin’ Delawarian.

The consensus after the VP debate was that Biden won on points, but both sides will leave satisfied. I can promise you that Biden’s “victory” will intensify over the next few days. Why? Because of all the people running for government over the last two elections, he’s the only true maverick; when he wins, he wins big, and people love that. Get ready for the “Obama gets a shot in the arm” stories. The unlikely, grizzled hero gets his one final scene – Han Solo swoops out of nowhere in the Millenium Falcon.

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• Debate #3 – Obama vs. Romney – “The Kid Stays in the Picture”

There won’t be enough polls by next Tuesday to gauge the effect Biden’s performance had on the race, but the meme of Barack Obama As Shitty Debater will still be in full swing. Many tongues will wag about how he needs to be aggressive, but will he come off as an Angry Black Man?

A halfway-decent performance will be enough to right the ship, and besides, he’ll have an incredibly good zinger that will be replayed in the days to come. The narrative will now be “Mitt Romney was so close… has he lost the election… again?”

• Debate #4 – Obama vs. Romney – “This Could Go Down To The Wire!!!!”

It’s been six days, and Obama is holding to his 5-point lead… but what’s this? Romney did slightly better than the last debate? “Hell, that’s good enough for a win!” say the pundits.

Give that “better performance” a few days, and the narrative turns into Not So Fast! There’s Life In This One Yet! The week leading to Halloween amps up the so-called “tightening polls” that guarantees a trembling, enrapt viewership on Election Night, all gathered in their abandoned cabin, finding the lost ingredients, and supping on apple pancakes well into the night.

 

ni hao, brown cow

10/10/12

Now that we’ve gotten to a certain age around here in Kidville, we can look back upon some elements of childrearin’ and make some declarative statements. Besides the obvious, like “the baby wipe warmer was an unconscionable waste of $24, and served only to cook our wipes into a golden brown brick.”

No, I’d like to use today’s blog for more important emotional catharsis: I need to express how much I hated some of the kiddie shows on television. Lucy had absolutely no interest in screen or TV until she turned 3, so we were spared the truly awful early bouncing-ball shapes and distorted Mozart of the Baby Einstein-type videos.

I will not venture into Wiggles territory, as she was patently uninterested. Nor will I cover the obvious pariahs, such as Barney & Friends, the Teletubbies, or Yo Gabba Gabba. Barney mercifully ceased production years ago, and Lucy was instantly repelled by the insanity of the others. But occasionally she would like a show – even for just a week – and by the end, I’d be clawing my own face off with baby spoons.

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5. Curious George – This is not the Curious George of your childhood (but then again, nothing is, ever since they censored getting high on ether scene in “Curious George Gets a Job”). The story of how creators H.A. and Margret Rey fled the Nazis on bikes they made themselves (with the manuscript in panniers) is awesome; this TV show is not. The WHOLE FUCKING POINT of Curious George is that we see a new world through a child/monkey’s eyes and can only vaguely communicate with our parents (or, in this case, The Man with the Yellow Hat). In the TV show, TMWYH talks all the goddamn time, and the capers aren’t magical, they’re schlocky, awful, and embarrassing.

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4. Fresh Beat Band – I just hate all four of them. I hate their “personalities” and I hate it when they, you know, talk to each other. The music is for shit, the life lessons are ill-conceived, and I keep on thinking they’re from “Star Trek”.

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3. Wonder Pets – Why am I making this list? I mean, have you seen “Wonder Pets”? A guinea pig, a turtle and a duck ANSWER THE SAME PHONE AND GO ON THE SAME ADVENTURE EVERY SINGLE TIME. And it’s sort of set as an opera – which might be interesting – except after five minutes, you realize they’re repeating every tune with different words. And “Ming-Ming” the duckling has a stereotypical Asian speech impediment so strong it could stop traffic.

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2. Caillou – Man, FUCK Caillou. That whiny little bald pissant. Every time he gets himself into another pickle, I feel like driving him to an abandoned industrial warehouse next to the river, and kicking his ass out. “Grow some defense mechanisms and some BALLS, you shaved git!” I’d yell as the car eats gravel.

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1. Sid the Science Kid – Look, you guys know me: I’m a pinko weak-kneed commie Lefty von Leftyhosen. I cry during most podcasts of “This American Life”. And for some reason, I just cannot stand the gooey, smarmy, glad-handy utopian wack-fantasy that is “Sid the Science Kid”. The over-the-top racial and kiddie-temperament diversity, the Grandmother’s awful laugh, the dreadful “rap” Sid sings to his mother on the way to school, the special-needs-(or-are-they?) quality of the 5-PERSON SCHOOL, and just the brain-shearing repetition of every unfunny segment. On a message board, a woman called it “completely, achingly contrived inclusivity… right down to the Prius the mom drives”. My daughter is a science freak, and even SHE couldn’t watch it after a couple of weeks.

Before I get any emails or comments about how “repetition is how kids learn” or “constant familiarity makes children comfortable” or how all these shows hew to strict psychological guidelines, I get it. I know these shows aren’t for me. But there are kids shows that have the same ground rules, and still manage to be fun for parents… or at least bearable.

And I have to make the usual “we’ve got a grip” disclaimer that TV is only allowed on weekends and when one of us is unwell. Having said that, I can make a list of our favorites, things you won’t go crazy watching, if you want – but now we seem to have shot well past most of the tried-and-true originals. Her favorite of late? Digging For Britain and Origins of Us, presented by the wonderful anatomist/osteoarchaeologist Alice Roberts. So there’s that.

 

i wouldn’t say… “benefit”

10/8/12

I’m going to break a few rules on this particular entry (one of them I always break: “don’t talk about the blog on the blog”), but my brother Sean just wrote what may be the most concise, cogent description of Modern Social Media that I’ve yet read. Specifically, how human Americans should use Facebook and Twitter to further their own causes, whatever they may be. You can spend $12,000 on a New Media training seminar, or just read this:

“…support and lift up anyone and everyone that you want to celebrate except yourself. Local musicians? Politicians? Political point of view? A farmer? Anything and everything you want to celebrate, you can use both of these platforms to celebrate them.

But use these platforms to actually feature [you or your business] as little as possible. Everyone who’s following you and who ‘likes’ you already knows about you. The biggest mistake people make with social media is that they think they can sell stuff there…

Social media is exactly like a party, you want to be the one who shows up and says, ‘I brought snacks!’ you don’t want to be the one who shows up and says, ‘everyone look at me! Because… I want you to!’

As an example, with your bank account, you make those two large monthly deposits when you get your paycheck, and then you make a thousand tiny withdrawals. But with social media, you have to make a thousand tiny deposits and then every time you try to sell something you’re basically making a massive withdrawal.

A good social media campaign may not give you a big boost in business, but it will change your online profile in search engines. And since it’s free, it’s worthwhile to do it for that reason. But people don’t go and read my blog because I post the links on Facebook, they go and read my blog because they know me because I’ve revealed myself on Facebook.”

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at the farm, Sean explains something else while Barnaby dreams of smores

Sean writes with a conversational tone that makes him bizarrely funny when he wants to be, and also laserlike when it comes to business theory. I tend to regress into bullet points and semicolons; he always talks like he’s in the back seat during a road trip.

But his assessment of Facebook and Twitter got me thinking:

• I’m doing Facebook and Twitter all wrong

• I don’t want to be right.

I don’t possess the gene that allows me to dash off an easy 2-sentencer that garners 31 “likes” and 15 comments, the way so many of my friends (i.e., many of you) do. My sweet spot has always remained the length of these blogs, a craft honed at the DTH during those Midori-fueled “Wednesday’s Child” days.

Nor do I have a keen eye for links that my friends or Friends would appreciate en masse – more likely, I see something and think “Fuck! I gotta send this to Jiffer!” or “Fuck! Gotta send this to th’ wife!” I look at these things as a personal curator (which is why I’m also pretty good at giving presents).

But it has made me dreadful at the very thing we’re all supposed to master. One’s ability to tweet now holds the same social currency as one’s golf handicap in the ’60s, one’s tennis game in the ’70s, and how much you bench-pressed in the ’80s. It’s not mandatory, but it sure is a nice scoop of ice cream with your pie.

My FB posts are 99% of one variety: telling you that I have a new blog up. I did it sparingly at first, but as Facebook gradually took over a third of the internet’s traffic, people told me that if I didn’t put it on my timeline, they’d think I hadn’t written anything.

So in essence, I’m doing the opposite of what Sean suggests. And it’s no secret that FB has effectively killed 90% of the blogosphere, especially those of us who write personal diaries and provided an online community of souls, so in a way, it’s a deal with the devil.

There will be a time in the future when this will all look deeply silly. Right now, a public persona can have a website, a blog attached to the website, a “public figure” Facebook page, a personal FB page for real friends, and a Twitter account. And they have to “refresh” the “content” of all of them, pretty much daily. Someone bench-pressing 275 in the ’80s would’ve considered that a little excessive.

Blogs are now caught in this Death Match of Diminishing Returns with Facebook, and I’m not sure what to do, other than nothing. If I stopped promoting this blog on Facebook, would it make one goddamn shred of difference how any of you got here? How have you noticed your internet habits changing in general?

vaudou cancan balais taboo

10/7/12

There’s a music genre that’s been around since 2009 or so, but I just picked up on it, despite the fact I predicted it. As I wrote to my family this weekend:

I remember in the late ’80s telling Mom that they should put a house beat to Gregorian Chants, and a year later we got Enigma. I said the same thing walking out of “Triplets of Belleville” a while back – set Django Reinhardt in an EDM house-music style – and now here it is.

The cool cats call it “Electro-swing”, and it’s fundamentally different than the “Zoot Suit Riot”-type swing fad of the late 1990s in its reliance on electronica and speed (both the time signature, and the drug, I’d bet). It’s also a lot more eclectic and weird, while still being fabulously danceable.

One of the leading bands of the genre is Caravan Palace:

And this video for “Rock It To Me” is truly awesome:

There’s a couple of moments in “Rock It For Me” that are so fucking cool: at :51 and 2:07, they compress the horn licks into that weird time scrunch effect that sounds like metal bending, the latter of which is used to “wake up” the iron giant robot into swingin’. It only lasts two beats, but it hits that awesome machine-gun triplet that is used to incredible effect by animation/popping dancers (like Cyrus on this season’s “So You Think You Can Dance”).

I know a lot of this stuff can get pretty twee. My brother Kent, who has made a name for himself in the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) world, said (and I hope he won’t mind me quoting him), “it’s fun in small doses, but the fact is there’s House Music, there’s Swing, and this is somehow lesser than either.”

It probably treads too close to his wheelhouse. But as a layman, I don’t think something like electro-swing has to be a mutually-exclusive lifestyle choice, with posters of Dita Von Teese and Lindy Hop classes. I just think it’s awesome as a genre to be mixed in with all others. It certainly doesn’t bear comparison to House or Swing, given that they are the original source material, and therefore beyond reproach.

I really should just drop everything when I think of a good cultural mélange and do it, even badly. As I told my family,

I also wanted to make childrens’ stories and the great symphonies come alive on the original iPad. Maybe y’all should start listening to the stuff I pull out of my ass.

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mahalo for not suing

10/4/12

Quick! Name the similarity between the following two images!

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The top photo is the utterly botched ending of Monday Night Football that gave the Seattle Seahawks an undeserved win over the Packers, and the bottom photo is the crowd gathered at our departure gate in Hawaii on Sunday, as everyone learned their travel plans were officially fucked.

If you guessed “both show what happens when you mess with unions!” then you are correct, madames et monsieurs. The Seahawks/Packers debacle – decided by “scab” replacement officials – was so bad that it forced the NFL back to the table with the referee’s union. Likewise, I think the 43 hours of misery endured by me and Lucy on Monday contributed to the resuming of talks between American Airlines pilots and the honchos at AA on Wednesday.

Honestly, we should have fucking known. We were supposed to fly from Kauai to LAX on Sunday at noon. We checked bags and got to the gate, and they even carried on the elderly passengers in wheelchairs. FOUR HOURS LATER, they said they were “trying to find a part for the air conditioner” and I could sense this was now a race against time. So I got us a cheap flight to Honolulu where we could stay at Stasia’s for the night.

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AA promised us a flight from Honolulu the next day at noon, so we washed our one outfit each, and went to the airport. We boarded, then sat on the tarmac. FOR ALMOST TWO HOURS IN A SWELTERING HEAT. Then they said “we’re trying to find a part for the air conditioner,” and I thought, “Oh, shit. Why didn’t I see this one coming?”

They deplaned us, and I calmly spoke to manager after manager until AA got us the red-eye flight from Kona to LAX. Which meant we had to fly to the Big Island right then and there.

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The airport at Kona isn’t really an airport, it’s a large bus stop with no indoors. The gates are outside in a swampy haze, 90 degrees at night with 100% humidity. You board the plane by running out onto the tarmac, dodging the giant engines in the fierce winds, like survivors from the Jonestown Massacre.

Lucy was so despondent at this point, she broke down in my arms. The only way I perked her up was by refusing to call it a “red-eye” – we were now going to call it a “purple-J”, and it was going to be fun. Thank god for the iPad and Horrible Histories; Lucy managed 2 hours of sleep, I suffered that scalding upright half-sleep for about 45 minutes.

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The Seahawks/Packers game was a great Teachable Moment for Luce – not only could we cover the “simultaneous possession” rule, but I got to explain why unions are so important. Conservatives and chickenhearted bootstrap-pullers born on 3rd base have spent 40 years vilifying unions, but if it weren’t for them, normal working people would have no recourse.

[As an aside: Fuck Ronald Reagan.]

Tessa and I belong to a union, the WGA, without whom we would not have any income for TV/movies aired on the internet, nor health care, nor a host of things denied to folks without a union in our biz (like reality TV workers). Unions gave us the weekend, fair wages, maternity leave, and ended child labor. Sure, some unions have misused their collective power – they are comprised of humans, after all – but their transgressions are infinitesimal compared to the suffering wrought by corporations.

Before our trip to Kauai, I told Lucy several times that we should support the basic cause of all unions, because “when the union wins, we win.” After so many shenanigans in airports and airplanes, it was a harder sell. With sweat pouring down our temples, I finally had to say, “well, when the union wins, we win… but all the crap in the middle really sucks.

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exhausted, teary, but undaunted

 

a point is all you can score

10/3/12

You could hear the sound of threads being rended free of garments last night, as progressives, liberals, and all fact-based life forms shred their clothes in agony. Not only was Mitt Romney spinning coats of multicoloured dreamshit, but Obama appeared as a somnambulist, like the lead singer of a band checking his texts during a solo.

Even Lucy, who has been (*ahem*) acculturated and immensely predisposed to loathe this “Mett Romney” character, said “He doesn’t seem like a very bad guy.” To which I replied, “Of course he’s not a bad guy. I just think he has terrible ideas.” If there’s one thing a 7-year-old can do, it’s suss out the alpha male in any dynamic, and she correctly pinned Romney as the dominant Mormon Spaniel.

As I’ve said before, I stopped giving an actual shit about American politics in 2004, when the American populace reelected that fucknugget Bush back into office. We’re too big and too stupid a country now to be worth any individual’s stomach lining, and to paraphrase the otherwise-execrable Joseph de Maistre, America’s gonna get whatever government it deserves.

That said, a strain of rationality has crept back into the political landscape for the first time since 2009, and the Republicans – having exposed their pock-marked, sickening nether regions – are fooling slightly fewer people than usual. And a large part of that is because Obama has refused to match volume.

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steamrolled by Mittens

Obama appeared dismissive and flat last night because that’s how he was feeling and I’d dare say that’s how you’d feel if you were forced to debate a Skittles-fueled 10th-grader, while running the free world in the back of your mind. The fact this meet-up must exist AT ALL is itself a false equivalency.

Obama is many things, but for better or worse, he’s never been who he said he wasn’t. He’s the real deal, he takes time to answer questions, and he concentrates on winning the war, not the battle. His team has always been masterful at managing news cycles, and everyone knows the media needs one last “Romney comeback?” story before the adults return to the dinner table.

I was disappointed in Obama in the early going of his Presidency because he routinely brought carrots to a knife fight, and seemed unable or unwilling to fight the major cable news wars. Then I realized I didn’t want a President, I wanted a bully who would FUCK SHIT UP on my behalf, get back at the GOP for what they’d done to our country.

Once I accepted that Barack Obama was not going to be the extension of my unbridled fury, I understood that he was going to be a President, and then I could give him the benefit of all doubt. He is neither tortoise nor hare; he wins the race because he’s the only one who divines the finish line.