Friday, December 31, 2010

waiting as i eat yesterday's (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 69)

it was just a little while ago
by Charles Bukowski

almost dawn
blackbirds on the telephone wire
as I eat yesterday's
forgotten sandwich

at 6 a.m.
an a quiet Sunday morning.

one shoe in the corner
standing upright
the other laying on it's

yes, some lives were made to be

About the poem: I was looking for something that captures the arbitrary, but exciting, but somewhat sad, nature of New Year's Eve -- a day on which the old year "ends" and the new one begins and we look back and think sometimes good riddance and sometimes too bad but usually both, and look forward to the next year with some hope and some worry.

I didn't find that poem, but I did find this one-- with its most-likely-deliberate line break after yesterday's and before forgotten, making it seem to me that Bukowski wasn't eating just a sandwich-- and it reminded me that it's possible to try to make life too important, and that sometimes it's okay to just let a day be a day.

About the Hot Actress: Just barely over 30, Michelle Williams is starring in the movie that Sweetie wants to go see today after we see that Bodies exhibition. So I put her in there. If you want to see a good Michelle Williams movie for which she should've won an Oscar, rent Wendy & Lucy. And then prepare to be sad for a couple days.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

GOP: "We can't afford to keep educating these kids. Let's just lock 'em up." (Publicus Proventus)

Phase two of the GOP's plan to loot the coffers and leave the country running on fumes was unveiled when State Rep. Glenn Grothman proposed leaving kids too dumb to figure out what's been done -- thereby reducing the chance that as the younger generation grows up, they'll try to get revenge on the elders.

Grothman on Tuesday complained that expansion of the state government was wrecking us fiscally, and singled out expanding 4K programs as the culprit -- because everyone knows that snack breaks are budget-busters.

In blaming the kids, Grothman forgot to blame Republican partial-governor Scott McCallum, who vetoed a provision that would have pared down 4K programs back in 2001, and, as an added measure, Grothman proved that he's unfamiliar with basic math, too -- he could've probably used some more education, as a study showed that $1 spent on 4K programs helps save $0.68 in other areas, reducing teen pregnancy, incarceration, special ed, and dropouts.

But maybe Grothman would rather we lock up preschoolers than teach them to read? Let's just assume that's true.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Apparently, "less government" means "less powers, but more pay for friends." Also: Lying is cool. (Publicus Proventus.)

Wisconsin Emperor-Elect Scott Walker is a member of the Republican party, which in theory means smaller government but in reality means "putting businessmen on the state payroll while not requiring they do anything." Maybe that's how he plans to create 250,000 jobs -- by hiring buddies to work for The Official State Cheerleader (the role he ascribes to the Governor's office.)

Walker plans to ask the legislature to transfer Wisconsin's Department of Commerce's power mostly to him and a businessman-to-be-named-later. From

Scott Walker wants the department to become a public-private partnership that will focus on jobs and deal less with regulation. Walker talked about his plans this morning, hoping to call the new agency the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. It will focus solely on job creation programs and reassign regulatory duties to other agencies. It will have a CEO and twelve board members that will be appointed by the governor. Walker says this new idea will help him keep his campaign promise of adding a quarter of a million jobs to the state during his first term.

A CEO?! That sounds like a business and everything. Especially the part about cronyism and hiring buddies: Walker would appoint businessmen to the Board.

Unlike businesses -- or government agencies -- though, the new "corporation" wouldn't have any actual powers: the regulatory powers that Commerce has now would be shifted to other agencies, while the new "corporation" (which would hire staff, increasing the size of government) appears to be mostly advisory:

The governor would be chairman of the board. Walker said the board could hire staff, makes proposals to the Legislature, coordinate with other economic development groups across the state and administer programs on its own.
(Source.) As part of this dubious "jobs creation" plan, Walker is going to try to fire the 400 people currently employed by Commerce and make them re-apply for jobs under the "corporation."

But, hey, it sounds business-y, right? So it must be good. Just like lying about... that is, revising... his small business tax cuts also must be good, because Walker says so.

Walker's proposed small business tax cut plan originally proposed to cut taxes by 1% on businesses who employ 50 or fewer people. That plan was criticized back in September when WISC-TV noted that it would likely save businesses only a few hundred (or up to $2000) dollars.

Turns out, though, that Walker was only kidding: His plan, really, is to help rich business owners, as he revealed with his newly-revamped plan to cut taxes on the wealthiest small business owners (does cutting taxes on the wealthiest people sound familiar to you? Nice work, voters). Walker says now he's going to base the tax cuts on how much the companies make. That proposal was conspicuously absent from his campaign website.

But, hey, if small business owners who aren't wealthy always want to earn more, they could apply for jobs at Cheerleader Walker's Jobs Corporation. They won't even have to do anything.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Quote of the Day, 52.

"Poor Frito."
-- Sweetie.

That quote deserves some explanation, but, unfortunately for me (and you) I can't give you the full explanation it deserves, because I can't remember the details of the conversation.

What I can remember is the exact conversation we had because I wrote that down, and here's how it went:


Sweetie: Poor Frito.

Me: Who's Frito?

Sweetie: Never mind.

Me: Tell me.

Sweetie: Nobody. I just made him up.

That's it. That's the whole conversation, and all I can remember about is that exchange, which I immediately wrote down to make sure I could put it on here, only now, a few days later, I can't recall anything about who Frito was and why Sweetie made up Poor Frito.

It's from Mr F's abstract period. (Life With Unicorns)

Looking for a post? It's been removed and can now be found in my book "Life With Unicorns." Look for it on Amazon and Kindle. Click here for a list of all my books.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's The Chair Ball! (Life With Unicorns)

Looking for a post? It's been removed and can now be found in my book "Life With Unicorns." Look for it on Amazon and Kindle. Click here for a list of all my books.

Blogging about another blog might be egg salad, too, I suppose. (Stuff, and Junk.)

Read.Dance.Bliss (your book is coming, I know) collects things she calls egg salad -- things made of themselves, is how I would describe it, because "egg salad" is made of eggs mixed with the mixtures of eggs. And I thought of that when I saw my sister-in-law's decorative Christmas Tree on the 24th:
That's right. It's a Christmas tree decorated with Christmas trees.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I almost talk about the book itself here. Almost. (The Rum Punch Review of "Room" By Emma Donoghue)(Part One)

What's a Rum Punch Review? Click here to find out.

I waited for about two weeks before I bought Room, by Emma Donoghue.

Maybe longer.

I first read a review of Room a while back in Entertainment Weekly, and the premise of it both intrigued me and haunted me. The review said it was told in the perspective of a 5-year-old boy who's the song of an abducted woman, and that the boy and the woman live in an 11x11 room where she's (and he's) being held captive.

That kind of idea sounded incredible, and made me almost immediately want to read the book... while at the same time I didn't want to read it, either. I was so worried about reading Room, in fact, that it was nearly two weeks before I even put it on my Kindle's wish list.

But it made it onto the list, and when I finished reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, I still had about $12 on my account to buy the next book. Freedom not being one of those books that made me want to wait a while before going on to the next book, I was ready to buy one right away... and kept going back and just looking at the listing for Room. Looking at, but not buying it.

I don't like stories about little kids in trouble, as a general rule. Sweetie and I went to see Black Swan at the Rich People's Theater last week and one of the previews was for Rabbit Hole, a movie in which (I quickly gathered) something happens to Robotic Nicole Kidman's movie son and she and her husband spend the movie dealing with it. Just watching the preview made me get a knot in my stomach, and after it was over, I leaned over to Sweetie and said "I don't want to see that."

Yeah, I'm that type of person: I think a little talking in between the previews and before the movie itself starts is okay. I talk quietly, though, so don't get all mad at me.

I also, and this is possibly relevant, leave my cell phone on during the movie, and don't get mad at me about that, either, because I do it for a reason: If I am at a movie, I'm there with Sweetie. The last time I went to see a movie without Sweetie was 1994, when I went to see a movie in Washington, D.C., by myself. I didn't know Sweetie in 1994, and I was only at the movie (It was a Naked Gun movie, because I know you're wondering) by myself because I didn't feel like going to my internship that day but didn't really have anything else to do.

That's also the only time in my life I've ever gone to see a movie alone. I've done lots of other things alone, although many times I wasn't truly "alone" in that I was not the only person who was doing that thing that day. In that sense, I wasn't alone at the D.C. theater at all; there were other people there seeing the movie, too. I was alone only in the sense that I had nobody who was purposefully there with me -- while there were other people around, they were there by chance and had no connection with me other than that they happened to be in the same place at the same time.

It's in that sense that I've done lots of other things alone -- sometimes really alone, or as alone as one can be living in the U.S., as when I'm jogging or walking alone on the nature trail near my house -- only I'm not really alone at all, I just can't see anyone else, but I can hear the traffic from the streets not far away and I can see houses through breaks in the trees and now and then other people come by, jogging or biking or walking alone, too -- and sometimes not so alone, as when (in D.C. again) I toured the White House alone in a group of about 50 people.

I don't see movies alone anymore, not in public; that seems too weird and loner-ish and makes me feel like the Unabomber, so I'm glad I live in an era when I can watch movies alone at home and enjoy them without having to share them with the crowd, because sometimes I don't want to be around people while I'm experiencing art.

If I do see movies, I see them with Sweetie; since I met her I have not been in a movie theater unless Sweetie was sitting next to me in a seat, sometimes with other people with us, sometimes just with Sweetie and me, but Sweetie is the constant in my movie theater equation -- not the cosmological constant, because she exists and isn't made up like Einstein's fictional number or dark matter -- just the constant.

And, since the Babies! were born, what that means, that Sweetie is my Theater Constant, is that the Babies! are at home with someone else taking care of them. And that's why I leave my cell phone on: Because if I'm with Sweetie and the Babies! are not with us, they're with someone who's less qualified than either Sweetie and I to take care of them, which means that it's that much more likely that there will be an emergency that requires my attention. It might be a small emergency, like the time they were at the day care at our health club and I was jogging at the track and a worker came to get me, flagging me down.

"What is it?" I asked, taking off my headphones.

"I'm sorry to bother you," she said, and explained that there was a problem with Mr F.

"What's wrong?" I asked, as we walked back up to the daycare.

"He just got really sad, for no reason," she told me, and I got up there, and it was true: Mr F was sad, and about to cry, and perked up when he saw me.

Or it might be a big emergency, but either way, I'm not taking any chances. I don't turn off my cell phone in movies because if there's an emergency of any sort -- injury, fire, sadness -- I want to know about it.

Don't get all huffy, either, because if it does ring, I leave the theater and take the call, and I'm sorry if your movie-going experience is bothered by a momentary interruption, but before you get all indignant, tell me whether you've ever gotten up in the middle of a movie to use the bathroom. If you have, then you agree that movies can be interrupted even for complete nonemergencies like "having to pee" so don't get mad that I let them get interrupted for real emergencies.

And, yes, sadness is an emergency.

It's because of that -- because I'm such an extreme nutcase as a parent that I'm pretty convinced that if I leave my cell phone off for two hours, Mr F will become really sad and then will spontaneously combust, lighting the entire house into a giant flaming eruption of death that'll take Mr Bunches with it while he was trying innocently to balance on his Sit & Spin on top of the end table, and, because I'm such an extreme-r nutcase that I believe that if I have my cell phone on, I could somehow avert that disaster -- that I was reluctant to read Room: because I cannot, nowadays, hear about something bad happening to a kid somewhere without immediately picturing that something bad happening to one of my kids, and having to live through that. When people get abducted, when soldiers die, when someone is in a car accident on their way to Thanksgiving dinner, I have a burst of empathy and instantly think what if that was Oldest? Middle? Mr Bunches? and so on.

That's the end of part one. I have to go help Mr Bunches with his new toy train and then Mr F wants me to spin him around in a blanket. DUTY CALLS!

Go on to part two.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Deconstructing Christmas, Part 2:

This is part 2 of my annual Christmas essay; read part 1 here.

It's December 23 now, at 6:30 a.m. I'm sitting in a mostly-dark living room listening to "Music For A Found Harmonium."

It still doesn't really feel like Christmas, even though it almost is, even though I'm officially on my Christmas vacation and don't have to work until next week, even though the tree decorated with candy canes and all-new white lights is right behind me and even though last night I again devoted my time to charity and went bell-ringing for two hours, just like last year.

Sweetie, meanwhile, is upstairs dozing and watching The Closer's Christmas episode -- a TV show featuring several murdered refugees from the Kosovo war... and Christmas.

And it's all got me thinking: If a television show about homicide can have annual Christmas traditions -- if we feel that strongly about society that everyone and everything has Christmas traditions, even This American Life which this week was about Christmas comedy and featured kids telling lame Christmas jokes and stories from comedians about Christmas -- did I mess up Christmas by reducing the traditions, the ceremonies, and rituals around it and other holidays?

This year was the first year, after all, that I haven't decorated outside at all (which makes it seem ironic that today's newspaper has a front-page AP story about the psychological benefits societies get from putting up external Christmas decorations), and decorating outside for me isn't even that troublesome: we have our inflatable decorations, so they just need to be plugged in and let to stand there. All I have to do is drag Giant Rudolph and the Three Drunken Reindeer and Pete The Patriotic And Now Christmas-y Parrot out there, plug them in, and I'm done.

And I haven't even done that.

A few years back, I wrote an essay called "My Christmas Tree Rules" (you can find it here), the point of which was that all the rules I'd learned about decorating Christmas trees as a kid -- all the ornaments can't touch branches and how to hang lights and the like -- had been thrown out of my life, resulting in a gloriously fun and easy and personal Christmas tree that was not a big hit with my parents but which I loved because it symbolized my life now and the freedom with which I'd found I could live my life.

And over the years, I've picked apart Christmas music, and listened to non-Christmas music while doing Christmas-y things, like when I played The BoDeans first album and decorated the tree, and I've often made note of the fact that as a family we've traditionally watched a movie on Christmas and traditionally that movie has been one that seems more or less inappropriate for the holiday -- the first such movie, ever, resulted in this exchange with my Mom, who we hadn't seen on Christmas Eve because of snowfall:

Mom: So what did you end up doing with the kids?

Me: We made everyone whatever dinner they wanted, went sledding, and then watched a movie as a family.

Mom: What movie did you watch?

Me: Godzilla.

It gets worse -- for three years running, our movie has been a horror movie, including, one year, Halloween.

And then, last year, our Christmas tree took a turn for the decidely less traditional: we didn't even get out the ornaments last year, because the Babies! were too big to wall out with Fort Christmas but weren't communicating well and were at the stage of development, more or less, where we could all too easily picture them simply tearing down the tree over and over, so we opted to dispense with Christmas ornaments, per se, and instead, we bought colored paper and printed up a hundred or so family photos, which we then all cut into holiday-esque shapes like stars and, really, just circles, because how many holiday shapes are there, after all? Most shapes are pretty generic: squares and circles and diamonds that are basically squares standing on their toes, and those shapes that aren't generic -- moons and stars and horseshoes -- inevitably make every modern human being think of Lucky Charms -- and then we hung the pictures on the tree with yarn, and lit it, and the effect was very nice in a couple of ways -- first, it was colorful and very personalized and looked rather nice, like a home version of the tree that was on the teacher's desk in third grade, and, second, it didn't matter what the Babies! did to it, because if they pulled the tree over (and they did) we'd stand it back up and if they pulled the ornaments off (and they did) we'd print up more, so our tree made it through the Christmas season in fine form.

This year, I decided we'd do something similar but not the same: We decorated, as I said, with candy canes, and this year Mr Bunches got excited about the tree, and helped out with it, hanging not just candy canes on the tree but also his own personal Christmas ornaments, those being a baton he'd gotten at the Dollar Store, some vacuum cleaner attachments he likes to play with, and a piece of a cardboard tag from one of his toys.

We left each of those on the tree, as you'd expect. In the past, Mr F and Mr Bunches noted the tree only insofar as they could topple it. This year, not only did Mr F pay attention to the tree (mostly to remove the candy canes Mr Bunches put on; Mr F is, like me, a deconstructionist and prefers taking things apart; he cannot abide to see things put together and if you put him in front of, say, a perfectly-assembled Mr Potato Head he has trouble sitting still until he is given a chance to remove all the parts and lay them on the floor.)(Make of that what you will, geneticists.)

Which is all maybe part of the point - -it's not, I guess, that I've totally taken apart Christmas and left it in shambles. There are still traditions, such as they are, that I and Sweetie and the kids and the Babies! take part in. Sweetie and the girls baked cookies and cupcakes for Christmas the other day, the return of an old tradition that took root when Sweetie and I were dating and I was poor and for Christmas presents for my family I baked cookies and made home-made snowman ornaments, the cookie-baking taking place in my tiny cramped apartment with the half-sized stove, Sweetie working by balancing one of the two cookie trays on a kitchen chair while I took the 2-square foot kitchen counter.

As is the tradition, too, we haven't actually been allowed to eat the Christmas cookies, because they're being saved to take to her sister's tomorrow on Christmas Eve, and that's just like when we were kids and Mom would bake all kinds of goodies for Christmas Eve and then store them in Tupperware in the garage for weeks before we ate them, and just thinking about that makes me amazed at how different I am now than I was then, because nowadays I would never store any food in my garage, no matter how well-wrapped and well-preserved it is; I once threw out a coffee cup that had sat on a shelf in the garage for a few months, because I didn't think that there was any level of washing that cup which would make me want to drink out of it again. Garages have become part of the outside for me -- and the outside is dirty and full of raccoons that want to eat a hole in my roof and take up residence in my storage shed.

So I have traditions, of a sort-- of the nontraditional sort because they're subject to change on a moment's notice. This year, for example, we're not watching a horror movie on Christmas Eve, we're planning on watching a comedy -- The Other Guys -- and I kind of miss the fun of a good horror movie on Christmas Eve. And Middle won't be here on Christmas Eve because she's going to her boyfriend's, and on Christmas Day, Sweetie and I won't be going to a movie the way we used to always in the afternoon, because I'm going to stay home and watch Mr F and Mr Bunches while she and Oldest and The Boy go to a movie.

We still go Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, and there's still the day that the Babies! and I go get Sweetie's presents, and Sweetie and I will probably still exchange our secret presents that we save for each other to open after the kids are all done opening their presents and are off doing whatever it is the kids do when we stop paying attention to them and Sweetie and I head upstairs to our bedroom to give, privately, a rare moment of privacy, the last few gifts that we saved for each other.

We do all that, but this year, it seems devoid of Christmas. It seems like it's nothing more than life as usual, as though life as usual somehow involved decorating trees and shopping and Christmas songs sung by Billy Squier; the lack of special, year-after-year-after-year-we've-always-done-it-this-way traditions has done something to Christmas, to holidays, to tradition itself...

...and what I think it's done is this: It's made my entire life have that Christmas feeling, so that Christmas is no longer so special -- but not because Christmas has devolved or been torn down or has dropped back into the muck of everyday life, but instead, because I've brought the rest of my life up to the Christmas level.

Everyday is like Christmas for me, now -- in a very good way.

That's what struck me as I wrote the first part of this and then thought about how to finish it up for 9 days or so and that's what struck me as I came downstairs this morning in the quiet to write the ending to this as I sat in the near-dark lit only by the glow of my laptop, listening to DePeche Mode and William Shatner instead of Christmas music. I've made my whole life Christmas.

By tearing apart the rituals and routines of the holidays, by looking at them and deciding what I liked and didn't like and how I could change them and what I could do or not do, I haven't destroyed anything, because through it all, there was one constant focus: what works the best for me and my family? There were at every birthday party without candles or singing, at every Easter without baskets, at Cheeseburger Salad Thanksgiving and at Christmas Without Pete The Patriotic and Now Christmas-Y Parrot, some things that were the same: There were Sweetie and the older kids and then the Babies! and there was a feeling that we're all in this together, that we're making our own way as a family and having fun doing it and creating our lives as we go along...

... and that's the sense that we have all year round. I used to make New Year's Resolutions and send Christmas cards and do all those rituals until I wondered why wait until New Year's Eve to make a change and I just quit smoking one day in July and decided one time in May that I was going to get in shape and mid-August this year I decided to run for judge and Sweetie and I up and decided that next spring, maybe, or summer we were going to move, and we started taking every Saturday to go do something special with the kids, and I began giving Sweetie presents on Tuesdays just because Tuesdays needed some picking up, and all of that was possible because I broke down the barriers that kept Christmas cooped up.

Everyone talks about Christmas creep -- about how earlier and earlier every year we see ads for Christmas and the displays go up at Halloween now and Christmas just keeps spreading and spreading -- and I've commented on that, too -- but at the same time, we say things like Wouldn't it be great if we could spread good will year round and keep this feeling going, and those two feelings are incompatible. We can't complain that Christmas is spreading if we want Christmas spirit to be around all year.

And I've found a way to do that. All the ornaments and gift wrap and Christmas tree rules and holiday rituals are a symbolic and ethereal manifestation of my old Fort Christmas: They keep some things out and some things in and they separate Christmas from our lives. That special holiday feeling that comes around only for a few weeks a year is a great (if sometimes exhausting) way to live, so why do we coop it up to just a few weeks a year? Especially when we don't have to -- especially when we can, as I've done, take a look at the things we like about the holidays, like presents and trips to someplace special, and do those year round, and at the things we don't like about the holidays like elaborate decorations that don't have any special meaning and present a level of concern, and get rid of those?

In past years, I would wait until everyone had gone to bed on Christmas Eve, and I'd come and sit down in the living room with the Christmas tree as the only light. I'd put on Christmas music and sit there quietly, looking at the tree and listening to Christmas music and thinking about the holidays and the past year and the family and the kids and the things that I'd done in the past month, especially, the office parties and Christmas shopping and Egg Nog Milkshakes, until I finally got misty-eyed and went up to bed to sleep a few hours before Oldest, who even at 23 is still the most excited about presents, would wake us up to open gifts.

I did that on Christmas Eve because it was the last possible time before the end of the holiday, it was the last time that Christmas would still be in the future, not the past, the last time that year that I'd still be savoring the yet-to-comeness of everything Christmas stands for and so all the emotions and memories would still feel fresh. By Christmas Day, that feeling would fade as everything fun lay behind us and regular life lay in front of me, long months of winter and spring and summer full of just... life.

I did that because I wanted to savor that pent-up exhilaration and happiness and frosty-windowed specialness that Christmas (and, to a lesser extent, all holidays and birthdays) bring about, before it dissipated.

This year, that feeling never built up -- and because of that, I've been thinking that I didn't feel Christmas, that I, like Sweetie, couldn't find Christmas. But I realized this morning that I've been carrying Christmas around with me all year long, since last year. When I took down the tree and deflated Rudolph and Pete last year, I didn't pack away the Christmas spirit with them. I kept that with me, as The Pogues might say -- and used it throughout the year, so that instead of having to wait for Christmas to come back, I just carried it around with me -- sometimes literally, as when, at one point in September I was jogging at the health club and one of the songs I jogged to was Angels We Have Heard On High, by Brian Setzer, a Christmas song helping me eke a few extra laps out on a humid fall day.

This Christmas has been kind of like when you spend ten, or twenty, or thirty minutes looking for your keys -- retracing your steps and checking the ignition and your dresser and the spot where you usually hang them up and the refrigerator because, remember, you decided to grab a Diet Coke to take to work and maybe you set the keys down there when you did that, and then you do it all again and after all that, they're sitting in your jacket pocket where it turns out you left them last night when you got home because you were going to go back out again right away and thought you'd need them sooner than you did but then you decided not to go back out right away so you didn't use them immediately but they were there, only you just didn't remember because that's not the way things usually work.

I didn't have to look for Christmas. I had it in my pocket all along.

It's not a perfect analogy -- but, then, who cares about perfection? I don't. I don't care if my Christmas decorations include a vacuum cleaner brush and my Christmas soundtrack includes "Candyman" by Christina Aguilera, and my Christmas movie is likely to be the 350th watching of Crash Nebula on NickToons while I eat a slice of cold pizza for breakfast after opening presents.

Christmas can contain all of those things, for me, because I've broken open Christmas, pried it apart and let more of my life into it -- and, in doing so, I let more of Christmas into my life.

Merry Christmas!

And here it was, one of the only business lunches I'll ever have... RUINED!

A couple weeks back, I went to lunch with a business acquaintance of mine -- I'd hoped to get him to endorse me in my run for judge, and wanted to get caught up with him. I let him pick the restaurant, and said I'd pay.

When we got done with lunch, and it was time to head on back, I took the check and we walked up to the front desk/counter where we were supposed to pay. I pulled out my credit card and offered it to the guy there.

"Oh, we don't take those," he said.

"It's okay, I'll get it," my friend said.

"No, really, I said I'd pay," I told him, and handed the guy my debit card, instead. "Use this one."

"No, I mean we don't take cards. Only cash or checks," he said to me.

I looked in my wallet and saw only two one-dollar bills and the "Megabucks" ticket I'd bought the day before, and had to go and take my friend up on his offer.

These days, I'm AMAZED that such a business could exist. I've completely gotten out of the habit of carrying cash around with me, and I can't remember the last time I had a check - -and actual written check. Sweetie still uses them to pay the bills and sometimes will give me one when I have to pick something up for her, but I tell her "just transfer money to my card," and head on out.

So I was amazed that this restaurant -- a pretty upscale one -- didn't have restaurant credit card processing, and more than amazed, a little embarrassed.

Which I SHOULDN'T have been. I mean, it wasn't MY fault, but, then, I had to in the end rely on my friend to pay for lunch ANYWAY, and even if I sent him the money later (I did) it's not the same: It was an awkward end to a business lunch, and who needs THAT?

I'm not likely to head there again, I can tell you that much.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Also, we did eventually clean up that room. (Life With Unicorns)

Looking for a post? It's been removed and can now be found in my book "Life With Unicorns." Look for it on Amazon and Kindle. Click here for a list of all my books.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Deconstructing Christmas, Part One (Thinking The Lions.)

This is part one of my annual Christmas essay; at the end you'll find links to two others that are still on line.

What is it that makes Christmas?

I've been thinking about that for the past few days, ever since Saturday night, in fact, when Sweetie put some music on the computer to play while we cleaned up.

It's rare that Sweetie puts music on. Generally speaking, Sweetie is not a "background noise" kind of person, not the way I am, at least. I always have something going on in the background, no matter what I'm doing. Take the very moment I'm writing this, for example: I'm sitting in a hotel lobby, a hotel where I am a lecturer at a seminar. My portions of the seminar included one morning session, and one afternoon session, with three hours between them -- and I've deemed that three hours to be too short a time to go back to the office to work (even though the office is only about 15 minutes away), so I'm spending the interim time in the lobby, 'puting.

In the background, as I do that, are not only people walking by -- people I secretly suspect of trying to look over my shoulder and see what I'm up to, because I'm suspicious of everyone in the world, and if they're not trying to serial kill me or steal my wallet, they must at least be over-the-shoulder-privacy invaders -- but also the TV in the hotel lobby, which I can just barely hear over the Christmas music in my headphones.

That level of background noise seems to me to be necessary, something I've grown so accustomed to having that I now need it, a reverse adaptation that my body has undergone, becoming dependent on the additional noise and input I get from constantly having music or TV (or both) on as I do whatever I'm doing. I put the radio on while I shower, I have the TV playing while I read in bed at night, I have the radio on whenever I drive, and I do it because if I don't do those things, I feel like I'm going a little crazy, drowning in my thoughts.

Or, as I put it to Sweetie recently in explaining why I no longer go swimming as exercise: "I can't listen to music while I swim, and I don't want to be alone with my thoughts for that long."

Sweetie didn't think that was healthy -- but it is. The background noise and distraction serves to focus me, somehow. It makes it so that I can concentrate, perhaps by drowning out the background noise of my own thoughts: my mind is always so awhirl with activity that I have to blot some of it out. At any given moment, my mind is throwing up into the ether, like a mad juggler, innumerable thoughts, some important, some not. A transcript of my unedited mental process at any given moment might read like this:

my feet are cold it's only two weeks until Christmas I wonder if those cases I downloaded got emailed to work I didn't ever forward that email to the client did I lock the car door why does my iPod keep shutting off I sure liked this week's episode of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me I wonder if it's just out of power is that a mustard stain...

And so on. But those thoughts don't come in serial one-after-the-other format, like they read: They come all at once, a deluge of thoughts.

So the background noise helps drown out all but the most persistent of those ideas, a little noise managing to quiet the tumult, which is why I listen to music or have the TV on almost all the time unless someone (like Sweetie) is forcing me not to have them on, which, honestly, makes it harder for me to pay attention to whatever it is I'm supposed to be paying attention to -- it's more difficult for me to focus when the room is quiet, which puts me in quite a bind, because how can I say that to Sweetie? Imagine:

Sweetie: Let's just sit and talk. Me: Sure. Let me just turn on the TV. Sweetie: Why? Me: Because I can't really follow what you're saying unless two other people are talking at the same time.

Instead, I mostly just sit and talk with her and really really try to focus on what she's saying, which is hard because after a few minutes I begin instead focusing on how hard I'm trying to focus -- which in turn makes me think what a good husband I am, that I'm so attentive to Sweetie that I'm focusing on her every word, which then makes me think about how long it is that we've been married, which then makes me remember our wedding ceremony and the way she looked that day, at which point I feel bad because the first dress Sweetie had picked out to get married in I'd said I didn't like, although in my defense I (a) didn't know it was the dress she wanted to wear and (b) once I found that out, I said that she should get it anyway and that she'd be beautiful in it because she's beautiful, and (c) I really didn't like the dress...

... and after all that I have to try to figure out what Sweetie just said.

It'd be easier, then, if Sweetie would just let me play music when we talk. It'd make me a better husband, or at least a less-distracted husband.

So when Sweetie sat down last Saturday night to play music on the computer while we picked up, I initially thought "All right. Finally I can concentrate on mopping the floor instead of worrying that I didn't fill up the gas tank and the gas line is going to freeze overnight because it's so cold out, unless cars don't really have gas lines anymore, you know I haven't seen anyone selling those little bottles of stuff to keep gas tanks from freezing, so is that really a problem anymore" and so on, but then I thought this:

Well, that's weird. Why's Sweetie playing music?

The song Sweetie put on was Where Are You Christmas?, a song that Sweetie liked from some movie or other, and I thought that was a little strange, also -- because Sweetie almost never plays Christmas music, either. That's possibly because everytime Christmas music comes up around our house, I immediately put on Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You, by Billy Squier, a song I begin playing on Thanksgiving and don't stop playing until Christmas Day.

But for whatever reason, Sweetie doesn't play much Christmas music. So when she put on Where Are You Christmas? I decided I'd joke around with her a little bit, and I asked her "Did you put that song on because you're searching for Christmas?"

To which Sweetie replied: "Yes."

In a very serious tone.

I didn't say anything, right away, about that -- but it kept bugging me, gnawing at the back of my mind for the rest of the night, as we finished cleaning up and gave the Babies! a bath and went to bed, and as Sweetie slept next to me I watched TV and thought about what she'd said, and I thought to myself: It doesn't really feel like Christmas, yet, does it?

I had to agree with myself, that it didn't feel like Christmas, even though it was already December 11 and we'd had my office Christmas party the night before and we'd pretty much finished up all our Christmas shopping and in a few days Sweetie's sister would be getting to town and even though there was now snow on the ground and I'd even worn a Christmas tie the day before to work.

It didn't feel like Christmas.

And then, I wondered, what does Christmas feel like, anyway?

And I couldn't think of what Christmas felt like -- I couldn't in my mind or in my soul come up with a "Christmas" feeling, couldn't, as I sat there that night in our room with the TV on in the background, put my finger on what, exactly, wasn't there.

It wasn't a sad thought. It wasn't like I was (or am) depressed or sad; in fact, I was (and am) the opposite: I'm in a great mood, and things are generally going very well. I was ahead of the game at work and in my personal life, I felt. Nothing was breaking down at our house; sure, we'd had a little scare when the registers in the lower level hadn't worked and for a day or so we'd thought we were going to have to replace the furnace, but it turned out that Mr F had simply flipped a lever we hadn't known was there and that had turned the registers off, and we hadn't even been charged for the guy to come out to our house and show us the lever and flip it back for us. So while I might still need to paint the living room, it wasn't as though there was anything wrong or sad in my life that was keeping me from feeling Christmas-y.

I just didn't feel that way.

And, really, I still don't, even a few days later, as I'm sitting here in the hotel lobby writing this, listening, now, to "Father Christmas" by The Kinks, on a playlist of nothing but great Christmas songs. I don't feel Christmas, which is taking me back, again, to that question:

What does Christmas feel like?

The reason this is on my mind so strongly isn't just because I want Sweetie to find Christmas, but because I might need to find it, too -- and I began to think over the past few days that maybe I lost it, lost Christmas, because maybe I've dismantled and unpacked a little too much baggage from my life.

Worrying that I've undone too much is something new to me, and something that I only recently began trying to address. It's something I began trying to address when I realized that I might well have destroyed the kids' ability to live in society.

I didn't mean to destroy the kids' ability to live in society, and I'm not totally sure that I have, but I think I might have at least severely damaged their chances by jettisoning many little rituals of everyday life, rituals like "birthday cards" and the like.

That worry -- that I've destroyed the kids' societal chances, and then possibly my own enjoyment of things -- arose when I realized that none of the kids bothered wrapping birthday presents anymore. I noticed that on Sweetie's birthday, when I got her presents that didn't need to be wrapped (like the gift certificate for a massage that came in its own fancy envelope/box) and got her a few small presents that could fit into a nice gift bag, too.

The kids got her presents, too -- but they did so with even less ceremony than I did. Oldest gave her something that wasn't wrapped at all; she just handed it to her, taking it out of the bag, as I recall. Middle was worse: she gave Sweetie her birthday present a few days before Sweetie's birthday, coming over unexpectedly and handing Sweetie the present, still in the bag from the store she'd just bought it in.

I don't remember what The Boy gave Sweetie. Cash, maybe. Whatever it was, there was no ceremony.

Sweetie's birthday was celebrated this year in the usual way -- Whoppers for everyone, and a cake, as per Sweetie's request -- but the cake, too, was a step back from birthday celebrations: It was an ice cream cake, so there would be no candles on it, and no blowing out candles, for that reason. We hadn't, in fact, had candles on a cake for years, that I could recall -- we'd more or less stopped having candles around the time I'd stopped smoking, because we had no way to light them.

But this year, for Sweetie's birthday, not only did we have a cake without candles, we didn't even sing Happy Birthday to her.

Which may not seem like much, but consider this: What makes a birthday? What separates your birthday from any other day of the week, or year? It's the little trappings, isn't it? It's the cake and candles and singing and wrapped presents that you only get one time a year, and if you don't get a candles and singing and the presents aren't wrapped and they're not even given to you on your birthday, it becomes hard to say it's still a special day, doesn't it?

And I brought this on myself, and our family, because years back I'd begun to rebel against some of the things that didn't make sense to me, things like cards given with presents.

"Why give a card and a present?" I'd ask myself, year after year. I could see, after all, the point of a card if you don't give another present, or if you're giving something like a gift certificate and you need something to put it in. In either case, the card serves a valid purpose: it either holds the gift, or it sends the message "I didn't get you a gift, but here's proof I thought about you."

If I was giving a gift, I reasoned, I don't need to give the card, because the gift is the message.

So I stopped giving cards. They were the first to go.

Candles were probably next; once it became difficult to light them, because I no longer had a lighter and no longer knew anyone who smoked, except Oldest who intermittently takes up and quits smoking, but whom we'd never ask for a lighter because we disapprove of smoking and she'd lie to us anyway and say she doesn't have one and it's not good for a celebration to start a fight with the oldest kid in the family, we didn't use candles anymore. I stopped buying them for birthdays, and instead, we'd just bring the cake out and sing.

But then, by Sweetie's birthday this past year, we didn't even sing anymore. There was just a cake, that we unceremoniously got out of the freezer and ate portions of while Sweetie looked at the gifts that hadn't been wrapped -- only one had even been put in a bag, to present the semblance of opening.

Destroying the kids' ability to actually wrap a gift, or to take part in a birthday celebration that would be recognizable as such, wasn't the only act I took that helped take apart traditions. I've also brought down Thanksgiving, a holiday I now mostly celebrate by making roughly 15 pounds of homemade Chex mix while having a marathon viewing session of an underappreciated sitcom; on past Thanksgivings, we've watched Better Off Ted (this year) and Arrested Development (a few years back), I've sent people to the movies, and, on one particularly nice Thanksgiving that will probably have me consigned to that part of Hell reserved for people who do things like this, I served Rachael Ray's Cheeseburger Salad for dinner.

I've attacked New Year's Eve, which I now refuse adamantly to do anything on: I rarely even try to stay up anymore and won't go to parties on that night, partly because Sweetie agrees with me, partly because I can't stay awake past nine most nights, and mostly because I think New Years' Eve is horrendously overblown and cannot ever live up to the anticipation I used to put into it; most New Years' Eves now find Sweetie and I lightly dozing in front of a TV that's playing Law & Order reruns, which Sweetie likes to watch. I don't go to church on Easter anymore and we don't decorate eggs and haven't in years since the older kids got too old for it and the Babies! haven't yet gotten old enough. There are no Easter baskets at our house; instead, Sweetie gets the kids a present and gives it to them, usually with one type of candy that they like, and I've been instrumental in that move.

And I never gave much thought to what it was I was doing -- never gave much thought to how I was dismantling the holidays, step by step, taking apart special days and making them nothing, until that Saturday night a few days ago when I realized that Sweetie was looking for Christmas, and so was I.

Because I'd deconstructed Christmas...

Read Part Two Here.


My prior Christmas essays:

Merry Guckmas!

Charity begins at home, travels to a grocery store, then heads back home again to fall asleep.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Be careful what you wish for, GOP & Insurance Companies (Publicus Proventus)

Ha ha! That Virginia federal judge who's all fired up about getting to strike down the health care reforms first -- so that eventually the conservative-Bush-packed Supreme Court can strike it down, too -- just issued his first ruling, announcing that the individual mandate (requiring consumers to buy insurance by 2014) is unconstitutional.

Why is that funny? Because that's the part of the law the insurance companies liked. This quote is all the way back from a June 7, 2009 article in the LA Times:

Private health insurance faces a bleak future if the proposal they champion most vigorously -- a requirement that everyone buy medical coverage -- is not adopted.

The customer base for private insurance has slipped since 2000, when soaring premiums began driving people out. The recession has accelerated the problem. But even after the economy recovers, the downward spiral is expected to continue for years as baby boomers become eligible for Medicare -- and stop buying private insurance.

Insurers do not embrace all of the healthcare restructuring proposals. But they are fighting hard for a purchase requirement, sweetened with taxpayer-funded subsidies for customers who can't afford it, and enforced with fines.

Such a so-called individual mandate amounts to a huge booster shot for health insurers, which would serve up millions of new customers almost overnight.

That view hasn't changed -- as recently as November 19, Businessweek was reporting that the insurance companies wanted to keep the individual mandate:

The industry, however, views it as the bedrock supporting the entire health reform law and is lobbying to keep it. The prospect of a vastly bigger market has helped spark a 7.4 percent rise since Jan. 1 in the Standard & Poor's 500 Managed Health Care Index of publicly traded health-care companies.

For insurers, eliminating millions of potential customers while keeping other aspects of the overhaul would be a "nuclear nightmare," says Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consulting firm that works with insurers. It would leave insurers without the extra revenue to cover higher costs from the law's ban on the denial of coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging sicker patients higher premiums. "It's the No. 1 lobby issue in the insurance industry right now," says Laszewski.

All those millions spent on lobbying -- insurance companies gave about $16,000,000 to the GOP for the midterm elections -- and this is how they get repaid.

The Obama Administration says it'll appeal -- and they might, unless Mitch McConnell tells them not to -- but a quicker fix is simply to tell states that if they don't require individual insurance purchases, the feds will withhold highway money. That worked to raise the drinking age and speed limits, and states already have the power to mandate that individuals buy insurance coverage. (They do it with auto insurance all the time.)

Here's your real war on Christmas. (Stuff, and Junk.)

I don't even know what to make of this:

I didn't get the whole package in the picture, but I'm sure you can gather that it's candy, but not just chocolate Christmas candy. It's candy that's supposed to have been pooped out by a reindeer.

If that's not Christmas-y enough for you, don't fail to note you can get the Santa version. He's sitting on a toilet, I believe.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Be careful what you promise some kids, because they may not understand why they can't go play in the rain wearing just a diaper (Life With Unicorns.)

Looking for a post? It's been removed and can now be found in my book "Life With Unicorns." Look for it on Amazon and Kindle. Click here for a list of all my books.

Where will we put the 600 new small businesses every week? (Publicus Proventus)

I've been listening and listening to politicians talk, and comparing what they say with the reasons why I voted for the people I did. Granted, most of the people I voted for didn't win, so this may be skewed, but still, I'm amazed at how often politicians give just one reason why they were elected.

Take the governor of Kentucky, who recently relayed why he's supporting state aid to a planned recreation of Noah's Ark as the basis for a theme park, said this:

The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion...They elected me governor to create jobs.
Which mirrors what virtually every other politician who won in November has said since winning: They're there to create jobs, not govern or anything like that. In a weird twist (weird because conservatives used to want government to be less involved with business), government has become (in the minds of the people holding government jobs right now) the engine that drives the economy.

While all the politicians are vague on how they plan to use government to create jobs (Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker's plan appears to be to combine the Green Bay Packers, nachos, killing light rail, and "ending frivolous lawsuits that kill jobs,") they're all united in their zeal to have government create those jobs -- pledging (in Walker's case) to create nearly 200 jobs a day at a rate of "2 or 3 or 4 at a time" from small businesses.

Which means, if you do the math, Walker is promising 1201 jobs per week (250,000 over his four-year term) primarily from small businesses that will hire 2-4 people at a time -- so Walker is promising that 300-600 new businesses will be started per week, each week of his term (or that existing small businesses will hire 1,201 people per week.)

But it's okay if you don't actually see 600 new gift stores, art-framing supply stores, and other small businesses opening in your neighborhood, because Walker isn't promising these are the kind of jobs that attract attention or anything. "They all won't be on TV or in the paper but collectively they'll help put the state back to work," he says, making it seem as though the small business jobs he's going to create are the dark matter of the employment world: they'll be out there, even if you don't see them.

I didn't vote for any politician on the basis of creating jobs. My votes were based on whether I respected the person's intellect and ethics (my vote for Russ Feingold), and a desire to elect someone who wouldn't immediately try to retract health care reforms and cut taxes to further hurt the state's infrastructure (my vote for Tom Barrett.) But I do look forward to seeing those 600 new businesses each week starting up, hiring people, and thriving away.

Here's some other stuff to do, plus the Song Of The Week.

What I'm reading, what I'm writing, and the Song Of The Week, down below:

Cam Newton Awarded Temporary Custody of Heisman Trophy (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

Dead birds on a pole and a wraith made of blood: It's the Fifth Best Christmas Song (That Has Nothing To Do With Christmas) (The Best Of Everything)

I support providing free and low cost lawyers to people, and it could easily be done. (Pagel For Judge)

Hamlet mentioned Christmas? Boy, Shakespeare really was great. (Thinking The Lions)

Hey, it's that free-lawyers-for-people thing again. Plus some articles on debt collection. (Family and Consumer Law: The Blog.)

Saoirse's life didn't really begin until after she died. Now, she's got to find The Tree before William Howard Taft gets everyone sent back... somewhere? It's the web novel the After, only on 5 Pages.

He rescued her from drowning, and now his dreams of her are sending him back to the ocean. Read I Am In Love With This Cruel Ocean, a uniquely haunting story, on AfterDark - your home for scary stories!

Your Song Of The Week:

Friday, December 10, 2010

no planets strike (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 69)

Hamlet, Act I, Scene I [Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes]

by William Shakespeare
Marcellus to Horatio and Bernardo, after seeing the Ghost,

Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.


About the Poem: Yesterday, driving home in the snow from Stevens Point, I was listening to Stuff You Missed In History Class, and it was the "Mysterious Death of Christopher Marlowe" episode...

... yes, that's really what I listened to...

... and then last night, when Sweetie and I took Mr F and Mr Bunches for a ride after they helped me shovel the driveway, I'd commented that I didn't feel all that Christmas-y yet -- not that I was down or sad but that I just didn't feel like it was really Christmastime, even though we're only two weeks from Christmas Eve and I've gone shopping and have been posting the best Christmas songs and all.

So today, I went searching for a Christmas poem other than "A Visit From St. Nicholas," and the first one I found was this excerpt from Hamlet, which completely fails to have what we think of as the Christmas spirit, despite in fact having a Christmas spirit, if I'm reading it correctly. (And I'm not sure I am because I faked my way through Hamlet in AP English in high school.) A Christmas poem about some guys seeing a ghost and hoping that the Christmas season will protect them from such harms as ghosts might cause seemed to me to be interesting enough to post here -- and the exact opposite of what has become one of the main themes of Christmas since Dickens, the idea that ghosts are abroad and can help us at Christmas.

Food for thought.

About the Hot Actress: Zooey Deschanel is not only Christmas-y -she's in Elf, but she also just turned 30 this year, and also serves as food for though: someone who wrote to the editor in Entertainment Weekly suggested she be cast as Wonder Woman, which made me think: Who has the time to write to Entertainment Weekly to make casting suggestions for movies that don't exist yet?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's not every day I recommend destroying a secondary market for overpriced art. But this seemed important. (This Is Why I Hate People.)

And, back to hating people. Or at least some people. After trying to be positive and not always talk about the lowlifes that abound in society, I was awakened this morning by two things:

First, Mr F had apparently decided that he liked Mr Bunches' blankets better and had gone over to Mr Bunches' bed to steal them, resulting in a fight and Mr Bunches complaining to me when I went in there, "Something happened."

Second, a news story that someone, somewhere, had paid $10,000,000 for a book. Something by Audobon, the news story said. So once I finally gave up trying to go back to sleep and headed downstairs for some 'puting, I looked it up and found an article explaining that a copy of John James Audobon's Birds Of America sold for $10.3 million. According to BBC news, the book is extremely rare -- apparently only 119 copies of them exist -- and featured "phenomenal" print quality for the time.

That wasn't the only book sold at the auction. In total, the sale of books and paintings took in $105 million worth of books, including Shakespeare folios and the like.

$105 million.

Remember that guy who's going to die in Arizona because the state wants to save $4.5 million?

Maybe he and the other 97 people who are no longer on the Arizona organ transplant list because people are selfish ought to self-publish their own book of birds to sell to some greedy sucker.

And maybe they just ought to do it. Maybe they ought to begin producing laser-printer quality copies of Audobon's Birds of America, and just giving them away to people and selling them for a $1 in used book stores. I bet $200 worth of materials and a link to would let them create so many fake Audobons to give away that the value of the real 119 remaining copies would drop to zero because it would be so hard to tell what's real and what's not.

The only thing is, they likely don't have enough time to put that plan into action. You know, because of the whole dying because they need organs thing.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Quote of the Day, 51

"Can you believe those ugly uniforms?"

-- The Boy, talking about the Green Bay Packers' throwback uniforms worn on Sunday's game against the 49ers.

The Boy blurted that out, with no prompting from me, as I came downstairs yesterday to eat lunch and watch the Packers' game with him.

What makes this such an important quote is that on Saturday, Mr Bunches and Mr F and I had spent about 4 hours going from store to store in Madison trying to find The Boy an Aaron Rodgers' throwback jersey, and, having not found one at the malls, I had Sweetie go online and order him one from the Packer pro shop Saturday night -- just hours before he uttered this quote.

When I asked him if he was serious, he said "Yeah," and added that he really hated them.

"I was going to get you one for Christmas," I said -- not telling him that I had gotten him one.

"Oh," he said, and then, after a moment, said "You still could. I could just start an Aaron Rodgers' jersey collection."

(The picture, I know, has nothing to do with this post. It's just one of those Transformer robots you get with a Happy Meal. We've got three of them so far -- I'm trying to stock up while I still can.)

Life With Unicorns: Table Of Contents

Life With Unicorns is what I call my series of posts about raising our two youngest children, Mr F and Mr Bunches, both of whom have autism.

Here's the original essay about how I came up with that title -- and why I decided to start writing overtly about this topic: Life With Unicorns.

And here's the rest of them:

Earth's Greatest Superhero Eats Some Cheesepuffs, Everyone Cheers.

The many faces of Mr F

How much unusual is too much unusual?

Don't worry, chicken, you're going.

One night Mr F somewhat unwillingly helped me make Rice Krispie treats.
(Photo Essay!)

The Partially Edible Snowman and the Happy Bear

What Mr Bunches is watching, 1.

How about "I'm feeling a little arjvmydgs?"

Chair Pioneer, 6

World's Youngest Daredevil Leaps Over Kid!

Mr F does not like slides.

I give you People's Sexiest Man Alive, 2027.

Mr F likes his red blanket.

We actually never got near many pumpkins at the pumpkin farm.

The Adventures of Mr F Stardust and the Gargoyles from Mars... or something like that.

Mr F does NOT like blue jeans.

Chair Pioneer, 5

You know what's a match for a good blaster? Bustin' a move. (video!)

The Greatest Chase Scene Ever Filmed (Video!)

The NEXT Greatest Chase Scene Ever Filmed

Mr Bunches covers "Sweet Talk Sweet Talk" by The New Pornographers
. (Video!)

Part One

Mr Bunches is camera shy, which poses problems for my career plans for the Babies!

Texts from Sweetie.

Mr Bunches sings Numa Numa
. (VIDEO!)

Nailed it!

From here on out, "9" shall be pronounced "mab." (VIDEO!)

Milestones for Mr F!

A pep talk for Mr Bunches ends with a twist.

Today you will learn a word in a new language.

The Pancakes of Time Get Their Revenge

UPDATE: Watch the video!

As seen on TV... hopefully someday

Imagine not knowing what "fun" means.

Crayon tourists.

I didn't get to read the paper yesterday morning.

More time at the library.

Roosters don't live in rainforests, for one thing.

My desk gets reorganized.
Indian Bunnies Wearing Crowns.

Mr Bunches hits the red crayon jackpot!

Chair Pioneer, four.

Mr F's abstract art.

Chair Pioneer, part three.

Also, we did eventually clean up that room.

Be careful what you promise, or you might end up playing in the rain in a diaper.

Singing a song you don't know the words to

Doing the cookie boogie.

Mr F helps me eat pizza a little faster

As it turns out, he DID change into a different outfit.

X is for Dog.

Awesome Covers of Already Awesome Songs: Christmas Edition 2

Today it's Do They Know It's Christmas...

In patriotic version:

And Swedish Christmas Home Video Version:

And in a version that manages to be more eighties than the original song was -- even though the original was made in the 80s:

And, of course, the self-proclaimed "historical" 20-years-after remake -- complete with people talking over the singing:

Here's the version of that one that lets you hear the song,

And I think the real lesson from this is that it's impossible to wreck this song. Although they certainly tried with that unnecessary rapping bit in that last version.