Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick-or-treat live blog, year 2

The official trick-or-treat time has arrived and my two princesses are off with Mom and the kids from next door into the rainy darkness to panhandle for sugary snacks.

I'm here on my porch, accompanied by season-appropriate drawings affixed to the door, my autumnal scarecrow, and a traditional jack-o-lantern accompanied by a cat-o-lantern designed by my oldest princess.

I've got three bowls of treats arrayed in front of me and I'm ready for any visitors in this dank, damp night. I can hear a few voices across the street and wonder why they didn't cross. They seem to intent on milking the neighborhood in a systematic fashion rather than randomly hitting whatever houses seem inviting.

I was prepared to be the walker (as opposed to being the treat-giver). I was even going to bring my old wizard costume out of the closet this year, but at the last minute, I decided I'd rather sit and listen to the holiday happenings around me instead of being a part of it. (That sounds like I'm against it all, but that's not the case.)

Random note #1--I just heard some kids across the street successfully get candy and then walk away singing "BAH DAH BOP BAH BAH, I'm lovin' it!" (sigh) McDonalds wins again.

Still no one comes to my side of the street. Am I putting off some sort of anti-Halloween vibe? Are my jack-/cat-o-lanterns not good enough? I'm developing a Halloween complex. Where is the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown? (And it's only 18 minutes in!)

Speaking of preparations . . . I briefly though about trying to figure out how I could get our synthesizer piano keyboard in the basement to record and then playback spooky sounds and dissonant organ music. Wouldn't that be creepy? Next year . . .

Come on kids . . . if you don't hurry up and start taking my candy, then I'll have to eat it myself. That would indeed be a scary thing.

Random note #2--there is an ant with a leaf or a spider or a fly crawling around on the porch with me and I know there is a small spider on the porch banister beside me. I purposely didn't get rid of them to increase the spooky ambiance.

SCORE! My first visitors . . . a nice young man dressed as a skeleton and another kid dressed as Ghost Rider. Nicolas Cage would be so proud--and his movie isn't even in the theaters yet.

A group of 13/14 year old girls (about six of them) just arrived and they were all dressed as The Desperate Housewives (complete with one in fairy wings serving as the disembodied narrative voice of Mary Alice. Rest easy Marc Cherry . . . your show has reachieved some relevance in its bounce-back third season.

I thought about dressing up as something for Halloween at work today, but I just couldn't come up with anything. I kind of wanted to be a LOST character, but how to pull it off? Admittedly, I didn't try to think really hard about it, since my parents have been visiting, but I should have been able to come up with something, right?

(My parents' visit was great, by the way. We had a really good time and Lynda and I got to get away Friday night/Saturday morning to beautiful Springfield, Ohio to visit the newly restored--rebuilt really--Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Westcott House. I'll post a much more extensive and detailed description of the trip tonight or tomorrow, maybe.)

Another group of two girls just came and went--as Supermodels. I've got to say that the kids are being very cautious in their candy-taking. The Supermodels even asked how much they could take. Most everyone has only taken a few pieces. Don't I remember people just grabbing handfuls in the past?

Finally another two boys arrived (it's 6:30 now) and one was dressed as Ball Pit Boy, while the other had on a suit and was carrying a briefcase. I would have thought suit boy was a secret service agent--because he had some sort of headphones as well, but the briefcase didn't work. Secret Service Agents don't carry briefcases, do they? Wouldn't it sort of slow down their reaction times? Unless it was armor plated and used as a shield? Hmmm.

How can I make my house spookier next year? I should probably hang a ghost or something in the tree in the front yard. But it would be impossible to see at night unless you hit it with a spotlight, which would expose it as a fraudulent decoration and defeat the entire purpose. Many people have inflatable pumpkins and stuff like that, but I don't really like that. And at the grocery store I see very elaborate snow globe-like inflatable things with swirling confetti inside it. Those things just aren't right, in my opinion.

Now I had two families in quick succession with their infants--one dressed as Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and the other in a fullbody plush duck outfit. I made sure the parents took some candy, because otherwise, it's just going to go to my desk at work and my local readers will have to eat it.

But, back to my spooky decorations . . . maybe I should get some Halloween-colored lights. Except that my outside electric outlets don't work, so it's harder to rig up lighting out there. No, wait . . . I can use an extension cord to snake to another outlet. So, yeah . . . maybe Halloween lights would be a good way to go next year.

I am proud of our jack- and cat-o-lanterns. This is the first year that we actually carved pumpkins and it has worked out great, I think. The jack-o-lantern is as traditional as they get and Sarah did a great job of drawing the cat-o-lantern. Lynda did an equally fine job of carving it.

It's 6:45 and I've still got LOTS of candy here. Come on kids! Get a move on!

(I just ate a White Chocolate Reese's Cup . . . I'm only human!)

I'm now searching through my iTunes library trying to find spooky music to play while I sit here. I don't find much of it, truthfully, though the album names can be deceiving: "Bury the Hatchet," "Mutations," "Hello Nasty," "The Mysterious Production of Eggs," "Funeral," "Revolver, "Medulla," "Blood on the Tracks," "A Rush of Blood to the Head," "Beautiful Freak," "The Best of Elmo," "Demon Days," "Monster," "The Execution of All Things," and "Clones." Maybe I should choose some Radiohead. It is usually strange, but not really spooky--unless you believe Chuck Klosterman's assertion that Kid A is really a description of the events of September 11, 2001. (Click on link and then scroll down to the heading Lyrics and Meaning.)

I hear my kids crossing across the street. They've been out for an hour and should have a pretty good haul. I've had sporadic visitors, but they've only put a dent in the candy I've got here. And most of it has come out of the chocolate left by our neighbor.

Now that it is one hour down, I'll probably see more teenagers than little kids (it is kind of cold, after all), but even the teen boys that just walked away with their stereotypical scary masks only took one piece each! What is it with kids anyway? Have they finally grown worried about the excessive increase in diabetes in young children and the epidemic of obesity in America today??

Or does our candy suck?


I'm hitting a lull in my steam-of-consciousness blog tonight, but now there are lots of kids approaching. And I'm not kidding . . . a LOT of kids, maybe 12 all in a big group. Boys and girls in a whirl of skeletons, Spidermen, zombies, princesses, cowboys, bandits, and stuff I couldn't even identify. They asked if they could take one candy from each bowl--the left filed with Starburst and Skittles, the middle basket with Reeses cups, and the right filled with Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops.

I just had another group of girls, two of them with enormous red fur hats and wearing shaded glasses and dresses. They claimed to be the non-descript catch-all costume of divas. Divas, huh? When I was a kid, we dressed as actual, definable things like Raggedy Andy and Underdog, Superman, and Captain Kangeroo. Now kids just throw on random junk from a thrift store and call themselves a diva. I guess Tyra Banks would be proud?

I hear another herd of kids approaching from down and across the street. I reckon they'll come by soon, once they hit the corner and turn.

My neighbor catty-corner to my really sells it whenever people approach. He exclaims delight at the costumes for all to hear, shouting that he "loves it!" for each visitor. Me? I'm more of a soft-sell. I am polite and welcoming, I think but much more subdued. I chat a bit and try to be generous with the snacks, but I'm not going to yell and exclaim. Maybe I'm just not good enough? Or is it the scented candles burning in the jack-o-lantern and cat-o-lantern? Is it a scented candle or the gradual roasting of the interior pumpkin flesh of the sacrificial gourd?

Random note #3--someone just screamed up the way, causing a gaggle of girls to shriek in the dark. I guess it was a boy who found himself lacking an inkwell to dip pig-tails into. But such is the intricate mating dance of the pubescent teen.

Another group of three girls just left, all dressed similar to Vicki Lawrence as "Mama" (remember "Mama's Family"?). One even had a walker. Carol Burnett would be proud.

Random note #4--I've been hearing strange kaboom noises to my right most of the night and I think I've finally solved where it was coming from. Since I ruled out the presence of small cannons in the neighborhood, I noticed that several kids have been carrying balloons up to the porch. The kabooms must be balloons being stepped on.

(It's 7:27 and I'm beginning to get a chilly feeling in my legs that the corduroys can't banish. Plus, the Reeses Cups are almost gone and any future visitors will be forced to select from Skittles, Starburst, and various Tootsie-themed snacks.)

Random note #5--I haven't seen any pirates so far tonight. Has Johnny Depp's Caribbean persuasion finally flagged? I mean, Nicolas Cage's movie has demonstrated a presence tonight.

(7:44 pm)

I'm entering the home stretch. Now I'm hearing teenagers screaming and running in the dark more than I'm hearing any trick-or-treating. I just finished reading last year's Halloween post--the first of the trick-or-treat blogs. I think this one is better, even if I haven't gotten into the costemery as much.

We'll definitely have leftover candy, but there's nothing to be done about it. I am now concerned with how my kids are doing inside the nice warm house. How much candy have they consumed? How insane is their sugar rush right now? Will they ever go to bed? Will Lynda and I ever have the time tonight to watch the recorded episodes of Battlestar Galactica and Heroes that Dr. Actually lent me today?

I think when I go inside, I'll warm up with some nice microwaved apple cider. Unless we don't have any more of that, in which case I will probably go with a mug of hot chocolate.

Random note #6-- Do you say hot chocolate or hot cocoa? Is that a regional preference? "Cocoa" just sounds sort of pretentious to me, but maybe I'm just insecure.

Now Sarah is keeping vigil on the porch with me, along with our next-door-neighbor's girl. Sarah was out here initially to try and cajole me to let her have another piece of candy. (Apparently, Lynda had set a two-piece only limit tonight, so maybe the sugar rush won't be so bad.) But now our neighbor has gone home and Lynda is getting the kids ready for bed and trying to deflect further entreaties for candy.

So, I'd better shut down and help get the kids asleep. I'll probably leave the lights on and the candy out for a bit.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Feeling LOST

I'll talk about last night's episode sometime, but what I'm really here to talk about now is the preview for next week's episode, entitled "The Cost of Living."

This might get spoilerific, so if you DON'T WANT TO GET SPOILED, THEN STOP READING NOW!!

The promo talked about "two episodes left" (until the hiatus till February) and "the Island" getting restless.

But the image at the end is what is controversial and disturbing. Last night, it looked for all the world like an alien down in the hatch. I had scary fears of this episode being written by M. Night Shyamalan or other horrible fears.

After watching the promo and seeing some stills (which you can also if you follow this link), I am a bit more at ease. Certainly, M. Night isn't involved (that was only a joke on my part) but the imagery doesn't look like an alien.

The brief synopsis that I've seen tell me that this is an Eko-centric episode, in which he "deals with the demons in his past." Are the mysterious figures seen on the hatch screens Eko's demons?

Let's hope that is what they are . . . cause if it IS aliens, then I'm throwing my LOST DVDs away and burning my TV.

Pictures from the past

It's been a few days since I last posted, and you can't wait too long between posts or people will become disinterested and find other, more reliable internet entertainment.

So, here's my post for today, in honor of my parent's arrival into town. I wanted to be ready for their visit with my newest blog project, which I occasionally hint about but have never revealed the details (which I continue in this post today). Someday I'll get it done, but don't be too disappointed . . . you probably won't find it very useful.

Anyway, the way to honor my parent's arrival is to post some pictures that Shirtless had of me as a wee shaver. Why did he have them? Well, honestly I don't really remember all the details--my memory is getting worse. But they are good pictures, don't you think.

Think Van Halen here . . .

Dedicate one to the ladies...
Now summertime's here babe, need somethin' to keep you cool
Ah, now summertime's here babe, need somethin' to keep you cool
Better look out now though, Dave's got somethin' for you
Tell ya what it is
I'm your ice cream man, stop me when I'm passin' by
Oh my, my, I'm your ice cream man, stop me when I'm passin' by
See now all my flavors are guaranteed to satisfy
Hold on a second baby

I got bim bam banana pops, dixie cups
All flavors and pushups too

I'm your ice cream man baby, stop me when I'm passin' by
See now all my flavors are guaranteed to satisfy Hold on, one more

Well I'm usually passin' by just about eleven o'clock
Uh huh, I never stop
I'm usually passin' by just around eleven o'clock
And if ya' let me cool you one time, you'll be my regular stop

All right boys!

I guess Dad took these pictures, but Mom is the one responsible for purchasing the red, 1974 pants! My question is, how much line is out in that pond if I am that far away from the bank?

Anyway, enjoy yet another trip down memory lane here on WWYG?! I'll get back to current events and other random junk some day.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Studio 60 and other things Hollywood

Have you watched Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? Do you have a strong opinion (either positive or negative) like most other people that watch the show? Do you want to see it succeed or would you rather it fail?

I have watched the show and I can say that I am of mixed opinions regarding whether the show is good or bad, ridiculously pretentious or simply more of the same Sorkinesque style that we should all have expected from the beginning.

I watched a bit of Sorkin's first tv show about backstage TV (Sports Night). As I've said to readers around the office, I found the dialogue a bit off-putting. No one really talks like Sorkin writes and while I understand that it is refreshing to see people challenge one another verbally on television for a change, it just felt TOO forced.

I never really watched The West Wing. I admire what it stood for and what it did, but I just wasn't that much of a fan.

So, why have I been watching Studio 60? Mostly because it (and Heroes) are the best thing on Monday nights and I can't sit and do office work into the night or blog all the time, can I? Plus, I am a sucker for buzz . . . and this show had lots of buzz heading into September. The idea seemed interesting, so I thought I would give it a try.

I . . . like it, but that is a qualified like. I still find the verbal patter to be grating at times, and I don't like the fact that this feels exactly like the West Wing, but just transplanted from the most famous building in Washington D.C. to the back stage of a Hollywood studio. And, I don't like the reports that the plot line so far are just warmed-over retellings of Sorkin's own romantic and professional mistakes.

Some fan I am, huh? Nothing but criticism.

But, the potential for something is there. Having someone of Sorkin's intelligence and (undeniable) skill with words and rhetoric turning his pen towards television could be really great. Unfortunately, Sorkin doesn't know how to be funny in the Saturday Night Live style. (It is debatable if SNL remembers how to be funny either . . . but well . . .) Anyway, the sketches of the show-within-the-show need to be greatly improved or simply removed from view. And I like the Harriet character. She's a Christian, but she's not a stereotypically right-wing mindless Christian (I think). We'll see where it goes, but it had better move away from the romance of Mat and Harry really fast. I'll get my romance somewhere else, thanks.

But enough about what I think. I found that the hard-workers over at Entertainment Weekly have interesting things to say about Studio 60. Many of them absolutely don't like the show, while others are standing up for it. I like the arguments that people gave the West Wing a pass because it was supposed to be important, while television is not important at all.


If you don't want to discuss that, then how about this list? Who ARE the most influential fictional characters in culture? I am instantly worried about the fact that the Marlboro Man is more "influential than Santa Claus. (Huh?) I also a bit stunned that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is more influential than Batman. (That sort of tells you how old the writers are.) And please, pity poor Paul Bunyan who is deemed less influential than John Doe, who is a fiction of a fiction--if you see what I mean. This list is taken, I think, from a book recently published.

I like these sort of stupid lists and I always wonder why I'm not writing these sorts of things. Do people actually make a living writing this? Where do I sign up?

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I got some interesting emails from my Dad this morning. There is a cotton field across the street from his house and a while back he was showing it to my Uncle during a visit. (My Uncle grew up in Iran.) Just a few days ago, Dad took photographs of the cotton as it neared harvest.

Dad, being an agronomist, knows quite a bit about growing crops in Georgia. He grew corn, soybeans, sorghum and other varieties for research in south Georgia for thirty plus years. Plus, as you'll read below, he has a rather intimate relationship with growing and picking cotton.

I found the photographs and the accompanying explanations very interesting and a slice of history and life. I hope you enjoy it. (The rest of the text is written by Dad and taken from his emails.)


I am sending some pictures and will try to explain something about what is seen in the pictures.

This first picture shows several bowls (this is the roundish growth) that have split open and is ready to harvest.

This picture shows a fully opened bowl with cotton locks hanging out. Hard rains can beat the cotton out of the open bowls, so it is important to get the crop harvested before a big rain occurs. Fortunately, September & October are very dry months, making for good harvest weather.

This picture shows a view of the entire field approaching harvest time. You can't see from this view, but about half of the bowls have cracked open and about half are yet to open. The farmers sprayed a chemical over the field about 2 weeks ago that causes the leaves to dry and fall off and promotes the cracking and opening of the bowls.

This is a view of two open bowls with cotton removed. A bowl with cotton still intact is in the background. The bowls with the cotton removed are called burs. The points are quite sharp and can hurt your hands, if one had to harvest by hand. Of course, they have large "cotton pickers" (machines) that remove the cotton and partially clean it, removing leaves and field trash.

Shows close-up of components of mature cotton bowl. Cotton removed (referred to as "lint"), burs with cotton removed and small cotton seed. I pulled these out of the lint by hand so you could see them. Normally you do not see these in the field. The seed will removed by a machine referred to as a "cotton gin." It is a place where the farmers takes his cotton crop for sale. The company who buys the crop dumps large loads into a large machine called a gin which separates the lint from the seed. The lint is baled in large bales what weighs about 500 pounds each. It remains in these bales until it is sold to a company that would make cotton thread of differing sizes, which is then used to make cloth material or other products. The seed would be "cleaned" to remove the fuzzy lint that remains after the ginning process. This cleaned seed could be used to plant the crop next year or used to make "cotton meal," an excellent source of plant protein used in animal feed, including pet foods.

Another view of a plant with several open bowls ready to harvest. The farmer has to wait until about 99% of the bowls are open and ready to harvest, so you have bowls in various stages of being "open" or ready to harvest. Heavy, prolonged rains during this waiting period can cause lots of damage since some of the cotton can be knocked to the ground by rains and strong winds and would be rendered useless to the farmer. Or it can begin to sprout (germinate) in the open bowls, again making it useless. This field was grown without irrigation and limited rainfall, so it is not a great field of cotton. You can't see it from these pictures, but there are many small bowls that are about half mature and are partially open. These are not worth much to the farmer since it reduces his overall yield potential.

Close- up view of a beautiful, open bowl, ready for harvest. It would be excellent if all of them looked like this.

Another close-up view of a beautiful bowl open and ready to harvest. If one picked by hand. like I did as a child, you would love to find a field like this. You can quickly remove the lint from the burs and move along to the next plant. It took lots of hard work to pick 200 pounds a day. Farmers only paid about 4-5 cents/pound so you had to work extremely hard to make $8-10/day when I was about 10-12 years old. I recall coming home from school in the fall and heading for the cotton patch. I might get 15-20 pounds picked before it was time to head for the house and feed hogs. chickens, or milk cows before dark.. Oh, the good ole days.

Get your sack, the long tube-like sack that we pulled along behind us and held the hand-picked cotton, and meet me in the cotton pitch. It was kind of fun in ways. I recall several very serious talks with my mom as we worked along beside each other, picking cotton and discussing the meaning of living a good life, working hard, being honest, loving God and neighbor, so it was more than just picking cotton. Guess we miss some of that closeness these days.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Audio memory

A few posts ago, I wrote about a scent memory that I had which reminded me of my days working at the college museum.

Tonight, as we do on most Tuesdays, we drove to Hilliard to attend our Bible study group made up of old friends from our first church. While it is sometimes hard to fit the drive into our weekly schedule, we find time to do it most days.

Since it is Autumn, it is dark when we are driving home on the interstate, crossing the top of the city's outerbelt around 9 pm. Maybe it was the slight chill in the air, certainly it was the darkness, but most importantly, it was the sounds that made it all come back to me.

The low, throaty ululation of the tires rotating on the asphalt.

The creak of the brake pedal being depressed and the slow rhythmic slowing of the car as it pulls up to a stop sign.

The sound of a hand rubbing along a turning steering wheel. The slight whoosh of air as another car passes on the other side of the road.

I heard all of these things as we drove back off the interstate and through the streets to our house. It reminded me of the trips to see my grandmother in Kentucky during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, driving the last thirty miles or so through the state highways and country roads of Western Kentucky, after nightfall and following a long day of very rhythmic interstate monotony.

Those last few miles through the Kentucky darkness, through my unfamiliarity, into my Dad's childhood always sounded different than the 400 miles of I-75 that proceeded it. I always wondered how my Dad did it, driving those last miles in the darkness, into his past, never needing a roadmap, always knowing where he was going.

Of course he knew where he was going.

I look at my hands now and I see that they are of my Dad's hands. Certainly my hands are not his hands. They have been put to different uses in their past and have different stories to tell. But they are related to one another. The shapes are similar; the hair patterns are familiar.

I now know something of what it is to be a Dad. I wonder if my kids think similar things of me when we drive at night. Do they wonder how I keep it all straight? Do they wonder if I understand everything, that I have everything in control? I certainly wondered that about my own Dad at times. I never worried about his state of mind. I never worried that he wasn't certain about who he was, what he was doing, and the daily pressures of his job, his faith, his work.

I think I know enough now to realize that he did have all of these worries, these fears and I was simply too young and inexperienced to realize it.

And that is how it should be.

God bless youth. May those of us that are older remember that innocence and take advantage of that perspective when we need it the most.

I'll also never be known as Mr. Underhill

I really ought to say more and do more, reflect more on this day . . .

I'm now two years older than Frodo was when he set off with Sam for the Inn at the Prancing Pony.

The chances that I'll ever see a dragon, drink honey mead with Tom Bombadil, or visit elves is pretty slim.

But on the plus side, Frodo never got married to a wonderful woman and had two wonderful daughters. And while Bilbo was a good uncle and a kind hobbit, Frodo never had the benefit of my parents, brothers, and sister, nor the wide array of friends that I have had over the years.

Nope, I'll never wear a mithril shirt under my waistcoat, but I've done all right.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

(If you can think of a good title that pulls all of this together, please suggest it in the Comments section below)

We got out twice this weekend, because you can't deny the power of a beautiful October weekend when the air is crisp, you've got to put on a jacket and you enjoy the particularly clear quality of the Autumn air.

I should explain that we initially intended to get out once (at least) this weekend, but events transpired to get us out more than that. Lynda and I knew that our community was holding a Fall Festival this weekend at one of the local parks close to our house. We figured that would be a fine way to spend some time outside with the girls . . . food, carnival games, crafts. So, we were all set on Saturday afternoon . . . spurred on by the fact that we chose Saturday morning as the day to finally paint Grace's bedroom and we knew the paint fumes and paint-drying times would push us out of the house.

So . . . Friday night we wiped off the walls in Grace's room and Lynda put up the painters tape on the jambs and baseboards. Then Saturday morning, we started cutting in along the baseboard, across the ceiling and down the corner seams. Then Lynda took the kids to the grocery store while I put down the primer coat. By the time that was done, we both had paint headaches and were ready for lunch. So, off we went to the Fall Festival . . . only to discover a big fat bunch of nothing at the park.

Turns out we had the wrong day . . . which, I suppose we should have known seeing as how the OSU football team actually playing a football game that day and it takes nothing short of a nuclear bomb to get people to consider other things on Football Saturdays. So, we punted, turned around for home, packed up a picnic lunch and returned to the quiet part to eat a lunch and play for a while, waiting for the primer coat to finish drying.

When we got home, we got the kids interested in some movie or something and quickly started painting the walls--three a light purple and one dark purple for accent and contrast. (Grace had chosen the purple color. You may also remember that we did something similar for Sarah's room, but with shades of pink.) We let the paint dry overnight and got the kids to bed late--Grace slept in the guest room (sometimes known as the Haunted Room, according to Shirtless).

Today, after church we headed back to the park for the actual festival, which was pretty fun. The food choices weren't as varied as I would have preferred and the carnival games were all ticket-based (this was a fund raiser for some community organization), but we spent some money on games. Sarah had a good time on the rock-climbing tower and I herded Grace through the inflatable obstacle course. They clambered for cotton candy and then proceeded to be pretty underwhelmed by it once they ate it.

When we got home, feeling good about being outside two days in a row, I finished putting Grace's room back together. I am pretty happy with it, I must say. It looks like a bigger girls room and not a baby room or some unknown kids room. I think the kid's are beginning to impose their personality into things now and that is okay.

Speaking of imposing personalities, you might recall the post about Grace's daycare photos from last March. Well, she got another set of photos taken recently and you can see that she is growing up rapidly. Most important of all, however, especially considering how hard it was to get her to smile last year, this one is REALLY good:


In other random news, I have finally gotten another of Sarah's books scanned and ready for viewing by the anonymous internet masses. She wrote this book during our trip to Arizona this summer. When she wasn't learning about the different kinds of cactus or ignoring the grandeur that is the Grand Canyon, she sat at her Great Aunt's dining room table and created storybooks. This was probably the best one she made during the trip:

It's entitled Bippity Boppity Boo. (I will provide transcriptions of the text, not because I don't think it is legible, but because when I repaired the book with staples, it cut off some of the text along the margins and so the scans are not as clear as they should be. Unfortunately, my daughter is not yet aware of the concept of a book's gutter.)

(You can see that she already has the author's need for recognition.) "My Mom is magic." (Presumably she means that her mom has magical abilities or is a magician, not that her mom is the personification of the concept known as magic.

"I go to school and I tell my friends about my Mom. But they didn't believe me."

"When I got home my Mom was practicing her magic trick. 'Mom,' I say, 'What are you doing, Mom?'"

"The next day my Mom is going to the Magic Show. I got to school. 'Bye!' says Mom."

"I am sad my Mom is not coming tonight. The next day my Mom comes back."

"I had so much fun." (Playing checkers with Mom--not pictured.) "I like magic."

"I love my Mom. This is for two-year-olds from PBS Kids." (I found it startling that she branded the book and even considered the book's level. Completely unprompted, by the way. Do you think I would encourage this? It's best when such things are spontaneous and surprising.)

The End


Hopefully, you have enough patience for one more observation that occurred to me yesterday evening. While cleaning up after the kids and putting toys away, I took a good look at the box cover of the Princess Monopoly game.

This probably says more about me than anything regarding the Disney company, but the poses of the myriad of princesses seemed to say something about their personalities to me. Ariel, front-and -center exudes a girlish charm that befits the youngest princess. I would say that Disney is being anti-ethnic by placing Pocahontas and Mulan on the edges, but there is Arabic Jasmine right near the center. (Placement must have something to do with overall box office receipts than with nationality.) Princess Aurora, nee Briar Rose, nee Sleeping Beauty is mirrored by Cinderella on the flanks. Both seem to carry themselves with the confidence of many years of Disney Princesshood. Similarly Snow White exudes a confidence of stance that I do not think is appropriate considering her antiquated style of singing. I don't really know why Belle (of Beauty and the Beast) is the only princess with her back to the "camera." But she has the best come hither expression of all the princesses and I must confess that I like her the best--she's got book smarts, you see.

Now that I think about it, all of the princesses are foreign--with the exception of Pocahontas. They all come from other countries or kingdoms. Belle from France, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella from undisclosed European places, Mulan from China, Jasmine from Stereotypical Arabia, and Ariel from Under the Sea. Pocahontas was from Virginia.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Random thoughts and a new bit about childhood

Why does the Snickers bar cost 75 cents in the vending machine at work but the Baby Ruth only costs 60 cents? Sure, the Snickers is the "Kleenex" or the "Xerox" of candy bars--and it tastes better too, but it's not like Baby Ruth's suck or something. Did Snickers every play a pivotal role in two movies (Caddyshack AND Goonies)? Nope.

Do you want another reason NY is the center of it all? At least one of the zip codes for the city is 10001. Talk about primacy!

Someone stop the madness! Things are absolutely out of control when you're putting computers in your toothbrush.

Recently, I was sitting/leaning on our new queen-sized bed tying my shoes. It occurred to me that now that we've upgraded to a bigger mattress size, we have removed the novelty of large beds in our lives. So now, the only place we can experience the oddity of a larger mattress is in a hotel. While I was pondering this randome thought I realized that maybe that is what adulthood is . . . the slow whittling away of new experiences, removing all novelty and the wonder of new things never experienced.

Someone smarter and more eloquent that me has made this point before, but I don't know who. Anyway, I'm not saying this is a desirable thing or something to be sought after . . . I'm just wondering if this is sort of a functioning description of (at least one aspect of ) adulthood.?

(I told you this was random.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

LOST last night

I had a little LOST season 3 premiere party last night.

It gave the the opportunity to wear my Dharma Initiative t-shirt. Maybe the shirt (and the first five minutes) were influencing me to feel sympathetic towards the Others, and I ended the show with a vague acceptance of them.

But this morning while brushing my teeth, I began to realize that no matter how nice Juliette appears, she's still taking orders from the evil Ben/Henry Gale. That can't be good!

So, the Others are still sinister.

I'll give more reactions maybe tonight . . . but right now I've gotta get back to pushing my buttons.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What's new in children's programming

There are some new kids programming on Noggin lately and these shows caught my eye this weekend.

One is called Wonder Pets, a show that focuses on three school classroom animals that lead a double life of derring-do. The pets in question are a guinea pig, a duckling, and a turtle. The show itself seems to be combination of Young Einsteins and Finding Nemo.

Let me explain:

Young Einsteins (an animated show from the popular Young Einstein company) tells the adventures of four kids that team up with their super-duper Rocket to go on missions, all the while accompanied by and learning about classical music and famous art. The characters are animated, but it is usually superimposed on real photographs of the outdoors, famous cities, etc. A similar visual style is effected on Wonder Pets.

It's also like Finding Nemo in that these animals lead a secret life that is unknown to the humans around them. Their adventures, as a matter of course, take place after school is over for the day.

You might not think this is all that amazing. But there is one sinister part to this whole story. One thing the Wonder Pets always say/sing is what amounts to the mantra of the show: "We're not too big and we're not too tough, but if we work together, we've got the right stuff." Worried yet? Well, you soon will be.

Another show that I've actually started to like is something called The Backyardigans. This show is set in the backyard of one of the characters. The five friends--a hippo, a penguin, a kangaroo, a moose, and a something? imagine a new destination and story in each show. And then the backyard and the characters magically transform into that scenario until the story is over.

The good thing about The Backyardigans is that the quality of the songs is top-notch. The music and lyrics are far superior to the bland middle-of-the-road repetition of the Wiggles. In fact, yesterday the girls were watching an episode and I was intending to read a bit of a book. But I found myself mesmerized by the story, in which Pedro the Penguin was a surfer trying to find the perfect wave at mysteriously located Tiki Beach. During his search he encountered other surfers, learning and teaching new "rad" surfing moves along the way, guided by the mysterious lifeguard that kept pointing them along the way.

It caught my eye because the songs were sort of contemporary (elements of rap and slang and lingo that's sort of "hip" today) but also aimed at kids. This isn't the best example, but I could find the final song of the imaginary adventure as they are surfing on Tiki Beach.

So, what exactly is my problem?

Well, to put it bluntly, I think these shows are part of a threat by the Japanese to weaken the youth of America and make them ready to accept the eventual rule of the inevitable Japanese invasion.

You think I'm crazy, right? Well, think again. Go back to what I said about the mantra of the Wonder Pets--"We're not too big and we're not too tough, but if we work together, we've got the right stuff?" Doesn't that describe the Japanese, a small nation that achieves power and influence by teaching it's citizens to conform and unite for a common purpose?

And doesn't the point of The Backyardigans seem to be ignore the real world and embrace an illusionary world of dreams and fantasies? Wouldn't a whole generation of dreamers who wander about in a fog of imagination be easy pickings to an invading army?

If you have kids, you should make sure they are not watching this insidious programming. Make them read books or draw or for goodness sake, get them outside cutting your grass and painting your fences! TV this insidious is clearly dangerous to the future of our country and you should definitely NOT be letting your kids get wrapped up in it . . . unless you're dog tired and simply need to sit down and read a book that wasn't written at a five-year-old's comprehension level.