Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Decline of a Child Actor

Among the UNGODLY number of gifts my darling daughter received this year was a doctor's kit, complete with scrubs, crash cart with defib paddles, and a doctor's bag full of doctorly doodads. One of said doodads was this tube of what one must assume is a sort of panacea salve called Soothe:

So, Liv and I are playing with the kit today, examining her Dora the Explorer doll and removing the duck we heard quacking from within her guts (the same duck Liv would later remove from my guts, which was very disturbing), when I look closely at this ersatz salve and very nearly say "What the fuck?" out loud.

Because, and maybe you saw it right away, I'm quite fairly completely certain that is Calvin from Bill Watterson's genius Calvin and Hobbbes strip, mugging for Soothe pseudo-salve.

What the fuck is Calvin doing here?

Now, I realize this little fake tube o' goo was likely made in China, where intellectual propeties are pretty much viewed as free clip art, but this is still odd for so many reasons. The little cartoon head as placed doesn't really make any sense, regardless of whether it is a famous cartoon child or not. Obviously, the fact that this is just one tiny piece in a set that wastes an astonishing amount of natural resources proves that the fact it is Calvin made no difference to the manufacturer - Calvin isn't having his likeness cashed in for sales, he isn't the draw, he's just a graphic nugget of convenience.

And maybe that is the hardest thing to accept. I was a HUGE Calvin and Hobbes fan back in the day, and credit Watterson with preserving whatever childhood glee remains in my withered husk. Watterson is to be respected for bowing out at the strip's height, and refusing to sign on to merchandising deals (millions of bootleg peeing Calvin stickers notwithstanding) that would have made him crazy wealthy. Calvin is a figure of integrity, and is now relegated to visual filler on cheap plastic imports.

It was a surprising injection of nostalgia into my day, and one whose implications are very depressing.

I think I need my tiger.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, y'all!

My Christmas miracle? My father-in-law got a deal on some Grey Goose vodka. Premium vodka on the rocks for Christmas Eve is a goooooooooood thing.

If you're here, reading this, I love you, and wish you the very happpiest holidays I possibly can. Mwuh.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Requiem for Milkfat

I went to the doctor this week.

That probably isn't that big a deal for many people, but it had been 11 years since I went to the doctor (not including one brief visit to the student health clinic at WWU a few years ago). And, I was kinda terrified what I was going to find out.

It all started with a little hypochondria. Starting a few weeks back, there was this intermittent shooting, prickly pain across the left side of my chest. I convinced myself I had angina and was dying. But, I have the kind of hypochondria that lives in denial, so I didn't say anything about it. I did, however, cut caffeine out completely, radically cut down on smoking (from probably 3 to 4 packs per week to maybe five cigarettes per week and many non-smoking days), started eating better, and woke myself up at five some mornings to take a walk. And, I made a doctor's appointment.

Before the appointment ever came around, I figured out I didn't have angina. I put so much stress into the muscles of my neck and shoulders that they were pulling against my pecs. A damn good massage from a LMP friend cleared it pretty well up.

But, really, I'm 34 and laden with vice, and am going to need a referral for the snip-snip I want anyway, so I kept my appointment (as well as the no caffeine, diminished smoking and such). And, despite the angina phantom dissipating, I was still scared of what he might tell me.

Day of the appointment, I was sweating it. I answered all the nurses questions honestly (yes, ma'am, I am vice-laden) and mentioned the history of minor-but-eventually-exacerbated heart conditions in my family. So, she gave me an EKG, and the doctor came in.

I'm too young to need his finger in my ass just yet, but I was measured and prodded and my testicles hefted to and fro. The only bad thing I heard through the entire visit was my weight, which cracked 200 for the first time. But, my blood pressure was low, my EKG looked fine, and the doc told me I had the resting heart rate of an athlete. They took some blood and piss and sent me merrily on my way.

And, really, I was riding pretty high. That little angina scare had woken me up, improved a few habits, and was now a thing of the past.

The next day, however, I had to call in for test results. My exuberant mood crashed.

My cholesterol is 220. Not quite to the "here's your heart pills, dear" level, but squarely in the middle of the "time to clean up your act, dipshit" range.

This surprised me, and pissed me off. Because, I rarely eat red meat, or much meat at all for that matter. We are (forgive us, ~A~) a soy-heavy house, and I sneak as much fish in as I can when my wife isn't looking. I'm not a lover of fruit, but am a lover of vegetables (have yet to meet one I don't like), and eat mainly whole grains and always have.

No, don't jump in, you don't have to tell me because I know. It is eggs and cheese and butter.

I'm willing to make egg white omelettes and buy reduced-fat cheese, but this butter thing is total bullshit. That is the loss that cuts deepest.

When I moved out of the familial homestead, the first thing I did was switch to real butter. We were margarine-only, and I hated that, hated the barely-meltable Country Crock asscheese-in-a-tub, or the I Can't Believe It's Not Asscheese nonsense that always produced oily belches.

My father's house (my parents divorced when I was one and both remarried) had butter, and it was just one of the many bits of exoticism I enjoyed on weekends and summer breaks (along with cable TV and sugary cereal with toys inside). To this day, though mine has been a butter house for 16 years now, the taste and smell of butter reminds me of my dad's house (as does sulphur, because they lived on a mountain over Ithaca, NY and the wells were all sulphur, but that's another story).

I'm gonna miss butter, and feel a little cheated. Granted, any time I try and claim that I take fairly good care of myself my liver just chuckles derisively, but still, this was not the problem I foresaw. What I eat has rarely been the issue, at least not so much as what I drink or setb on fire and inhale.

Now I've got my SmartBalance spread, and my nonfat yogurt vegetable dip. I guess I should just be happy they don't come with a side of angina and heart pills.

I'm still gonna cheat every now and again damnit, because if I've eaten my last flank steak, then, well, life ain't barely worth livin'. Sure going to miss that butter, tho'.

Friday, December 01, 2006

SantaGod is watching!

There is a television commercial out there somewhere, I forget for what (so it’s very effective), that shows a young kid engaged in some manner of foolishness. When his father notices what he is doing, he says “Santa’s watching” and the kid straightens up. Whole thing about taking advantage of things while you can.

I thought, back in the halcyon days of idealism before actual parenthood, that I would never stoop to such manipulation, wouldn’t taint the Santa story with tales of coal and naughty lists. I would communicate with my child, talk to her, help her to understand and make the right decisions about behavior.

Then my child turned three.

(The Terrible Twos, by the way, are a fallacy, an urban legend like Target being owned by the French or no-strings-attached sex. Age three is when the shit, damn near literally, hits the fan.)

We have been working the Nice and Naughty lists for all they are fucking worth. Throwing a fit because it’s bedtime? Santa sees you. Interrupting Mama and Daddy talking by screaming and hitting one or the other? Spend the day on the Naughty list. Won’t clean up your toys? Imagine how hard it will be to clean up after coal.

Oh, you want to get back on the Nice list? How about some steamed broccoli and a thorough room cleaning. That should do the trick.

I don’t feel entirely right about this, but only in a theoretical sense. In practice, it rules. I want it to be Christmas every month and I want her to believe in Santa until she leaves for college. But, I do understand the issues with coercing your child into good behavior.

I’ve been reading an analysis of the writing and compiling of the Bible lately. There are literally centuries for which there are no records of the Bible’s development, when the texts that would become the New Testament in particular were hand-copied by scribes who would often take liberties (or just make mistakes) in transcriptions. There is abundant evidence of deliberate edits, of competing versions and visions.

Laden with my new insight into the power of Santa (long may his concept live!) for parents, I’ve decided that the temptation for these scribes and other learned religious folks to make the same move, to pull a Santa and lean heavily on the “God’ll get ya” in order to make the hoi polloi straighten up and fly right, was just too much. They likely saw congregants as children, being as the literate, the only ones that could look for themselves at what a text said, made up less than a tenth of the population. I mean, really, because look, the words of Christ and the dogma of the Christian church are quite far apart, and if I can succumb to the temptation and justify my means with the ends, why wouldn’t community leaders and intelligentsia of the early CE.

Thing is, kids are allowed to stop believing in Santa at a pretty young age. I don’t recall ever being angry at being forced to be good once I discovered that the coercive force, the myth of Santa, was just that (though of course I’m secretly convinced, down deep, that Liv will in fact resent me for it, because I’m also secretly convinced I suck ass as a father). But, maybe that was because I wasn’t told to hate queers or vote Republican for Santa.

Unveiling to the devout that it wasn’t God or Jesus threatening them to stay in line but rather some elitist intellectuals of the first few CE centuries is likely to create a bit more of a backlash. Which is too bad, because read as an allegory run through a centuries-long game of telephone instead of divinely-inspired, error-free literal truth, the Bible could be a greater source of good than it is these days.

And maybe more of my friends would have as little beef with God as they do Santa.