Monday, April 30, 2007

A Story

One of my short stories is appearing this month at

It's a small, simple site, but I've liked some of the stories they've posted so far, so I figured "what the hell?"

Cruise over and check it out.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

There's just something so Canadian about this

I don't know how else to describe it, other than that it tickles the crap out of me. Dry, unintentional humor usually does.

This, from the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education:

It's that kind of insight that makes Canada the world leader in consumer food safety education.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's the new thing, just like the old thing

When blogging hit its vogue-stride, I believe there developed a new trope - the introductory blog post. Really just a technological cousin of the first diary entry, it was a highly self-conscious proclamation of what the blog would be, fueled with all the ill-advised optimism of a New Year’s resolution.

And now, as we enter Blogging 2.0, there is a new trope-ic creature – the guilty apology. What we write when blogging becomes balancing your checkbook, or maybe more accurately becomes sitting down and writing an actual had-written letter to a friend. We occasionally, often as a result of a New Year’s resolution, promise we will write more letters, but the magic wears off quickly, and we accept that it is often just a pain in the ass. Like blogging. Another petty source of guilt that allows us to self-flagellate, and also imagine that someone in the universe, or maybe just the universe itself, notices.

So, should I sound contrite and promise reform? We both know either would be bullshit.

Truth is, I think of things I could write in my blog all the time. I converse with my five readers in my head, but when time comes that I can actually sit in front of my laptop, blogging just don’t make the short list.

I seriously need to earn a fucking buck, and my lack of options for doing so is freaking me out. So, when I have moments, I’ve been trying to make a website/portfolio that doesn’t suck, and have been pounding the net looking for potential gigs. Feeling a little hopeless. I was turned down for a job with the title Request-a-Rhyme Poet on Monday, and today read an interview in with a guy that used to work for me in the phone room. Depressed and focused. Awesome.

So, don’t linger here. I’m just gonna start apologizing for not writing more. Go over to and look around and tell me if I can send prospective employers and editors there. Nothing good will come of this space but every-three-weeks apologies anytime soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Good Night, Mr. Rosewater

Kurt Vonnegut died last night.

He was the second author, after Anthony Burgess, that I took as my own when my reading turned more serious as a teenager. I've read nearly every novel excepting Slaughterhouse 5. The regular, non-advanced, dullard English classes in my high school read it, and so I read everything but. With another exception, that being the 100 pages of it that I read while shivering at a Toys for Tots table outside a grocery store in upstate NY winter, never to so much as touch a copy again.

It is a sign of my affection for him that I imagine he would be pleased with my relationship with that particular novel, and the reasons that drive it.

He had ties to my part of the country. That he spoke at my commencement is one of the few things I don't regret about attending Syracuse.

Vonnegut had a deep love of the human, which in no way contradicted his ability to see into the worst of human nature. His novels are populated by the damaged and deformed, resonate with suicide and insanity and apocalypse, but always with pathos, always with hope. His core values are such dominant themes in all of his novels that they blend into each other to become one massive tapestry of the Vonneguttian worldview, the reassurance that the individual's life is important even if the sum of all human life is, perhaps, not.

I want to thank him for the goofy magician's trick flowers that he pulled out of his robe at my commencement, right after he said "Oh, and, we love you." I want to thank him for making cragged and scraggly beautiful. I want to thank him for that story in Welcome to the Monkey House where the war veteran breaks the young actress's heart and then she redeems them both because it made me cry, for God Bless You, Mr Rosewater because it was brilliant and has instructions for the best ways to kill flies, for Sirens of Titan for the reminder just how small we are, for Galapagos and Deadeye Dick and Mother Night and Player Piano and Hocus Pocus, and for Cat's Cradle because it was my first, and boku-maru is sexy.

My copy of Cat's Cradle has this poem, my favorite of Robert Frost's, taped in the front cover, both for the obvious connection and because it seems a sentiment with which Vonnegut would agree.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Not really the proper tribute for a writer I cared so much for, but tied to my memories of him. These words, from an AP interview with him, probably sum up his sensibilties best, at least for me.

"When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life; old age is more like a semicolon... My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I'll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children."

You set a great example, Mr. Vonnegut. Consider your wampeter complete. We'll beware granfalloons, and be diplomatic with our foma, and always have a cot ready for Kilgore Trout. Good night.

Oh, and, we love you.

Beige and The Hound pay tribute as well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Can you tell me something?

Why is the NBA logo so clearly a white hayseed with 1950's-era short-shorts and what are most likely canvas Chuck Taylors?

I'm not sayin' it should be a silhouette of Dr J, or maybe it should, I don't know. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Imaginary or Pretend?

A few weeks back, my blogger friend Missuz J wondered aloud about her kid’s imaginary friends. I never had any myself, nor many of the flesh-and-blood variety, and the idea of them has been kicking around in my head. As a result, I started paying more attention to Liv’s imaginary playmates.

Well, maybe not imaginary. The term she uses is “pretend.” And there is kind of a distinction.

Liv’s pretend friends are all co-opted from reality to some extent, and much more so of late. I started paying attention when she went on her Mary Poppins kick, and suddenly I had to make room for Jane and Michael Banks in the backseat of the car when we drove anywhere. She and Jane and Michael played hide-and-seek and cleaned the nursery and kept each other busy for hours at a time.

Then came the American Idol judges. That was a bit more disconcerting, but only mostly because I’m not a fan of Idol. First she’d set up three chairs in her bedroom, dress up in a princess costume and sing along to her Farkle McBride CD for them. Soon, however, they broke out of their real-world roles – seems Paula had a tendency to run off and get herself in trouble, requiring rescue from waterfalls and lava caves by Randy, Simon Cowell and Liv.

Then it started to get weird.

She had a boy from school over for a play date, and they started playing rescue. This time the object of rescues was the mother of another schoolmate. The two of them ran around the park across the street rescuing pretend Cynthia B from lava sharks and the island called Skull for over an hour.

It tickled me, of course, because I hadn’t really seen that type of imaginary friend play before.* This led me to what turned out to be a colossal mistake the next day. As Liv and I were walking into school, we ran into Cynthia B and her daughter, and I mentioned to Cynthia that she had been an imaginary friend the day before.

This embarrassed Olivia to no end. In the weeks since, she has been shy and ashamed in front of Cynthia, previously one of her favorite preschool parents. I felt like a total jerk, while still certain in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be the last time I embarrassed my child.

Anyway, the embarrassment in front of the real Cynthia B didn’t stop Liv from playing with pretend Cynthia. In fact, Cynthia was quickly joined by pretend versions of another parent, Sue K, and both Cynthia and Sue’s daughters, as well as the boy that had been part of the initial series of Cynthia rescues. Rescuing, in fact, has remained the dominant theme, with pretend Audrey, pretend Clare and pretend Nathan helping Liv rescue Cynthia from lava caves and getting sick Sue to the hospital.

It all seemed a little odd and amusing, but this week it kind of edged toward creepy. Liv was making her usual rescue plans with the pretend gang when she mentioned two other names from preschool, a kid and a parent. When she noticed me listening, she looked at me and said “Oh, Daddy, did you know I have a Courtney and an Ivy now, too?”

See, there is something about this casual addition to her flock that gave the whole endeavor a Stepford, collectable action figures, Body Snatchers vibe, like she has a parallel world inhabited by people from her real world, but stripped of will and subservient to Livvie whims.

I know that’s a little overdramatic, and my wife assures me she is just being creative, but the one fact that pushes me closer to concern is that she seems to be struggling a little with undirected play these days. She stands at the fringe watching, hesitant to just join in, sometimes comes home and tells us that she couldn’t find anyone to play with. I worry that she has begun making clones of real world friends because those relationships are easier, allow her to exert a control she feels is missing at school.

I’m sure it is a lot about me. I don’t want to see Olivia go through the childhood that I did. When loneliness was better than the torment that was the alternative. My propensity for eliciting strong negative reactions in people isn’t recent. In third grade there was a gang in Medina, NY, twenty kids strong, whose whole mission, reason for being, was to hate me and hiss “disgrace” at me at every opportunity (Aaron Slack, one day we will meet again and I’m gonna kick you in the balls).

So, I worry. I worry that she’s already developing defense mechanisms for problems I hoped she wouldn’t have. I’m worried that the choice of making pretend copies of real people instead of imaginary people shows a lack of creativity (which, I know, makes me sound like THAT kind of parent, but so what if I am?).

Maybe what I really fear is that a pretend version of me is in the offing.

I’m sure it is just a phase, like the year when she had to hear Stray Cat Strut at least once a day. But, worrying seems my natural state of being as a dad. And there’s always something new.

* - One exception being that the parents of one of my favorite kids in class told me that she sometimes likes to play at being Olivia, and makes her parents be Tricia and I. But, when it is someone else’s kid, its just cute. And oddly flattering.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Because I Admire Forthrightness

When I stop at the local grocer on my way into a shift in the monkeycage, I almost always at a loss for what I want to eat. A bottle of soda water (preferably San Pellegrino) and a bottle of cheap merlot (Papio has been a stalwart of late) are pretty standard, but I usually wander about aimlessly waiting for some snack item to jump off the shelf at me.

Tonight, I couldn't resist the blunt honesty of this package:

No shuck-n-jive, no marketing spin. We're selling you broken pretzels, period.

What can I say? They spoke to me.