Thursday, July 22, 2010

Great Moments in Parenting

About three months ago or so, Laney and I took Ginger to get her nails trimmed. On the way home from the walk, Laney asked me to carry this little box she'd brought with her because she wanted to hold the leash. I happily traded. It's cute to watch a kid walk a little dog. We got ice cream on the way. A little kid with a dog and an ice cream cone? Like nuclear cute. It was all Norman Rockwell up in Rogers Park.

But then we got home, and Norman Rockwell transmogrified into Edvard Munch. Laney reclaimed her box, looked inside and burst into angry tears. "Where, Mommy," she demanded through her sobs. "Where's the rubber duckie that was in here!"


I told her that I guessed it had fallen out of the box and suggested that we forget about the duck and move on with our lives. That went over about as well as you'd expect (thud, sob). So, we walked around and tried to find the duck.

We didn't find the duck.

This was back in April. Over three months ago. Countless cheap, plastic toys have come in and out of favor since then. I recall in particular an incident where Laney's favorite "My Pretty Pony" (a toy roughly the size of your thumb) was lost on a beach outing but then, like a godly favor from Poseidon, emerged unschathed from a roiling Lake Michigan. The toy gods (whom, evidently, I've confused with the Greek gods) have been smiling on us. The lost duckie was in our past.

And then tonight, some three months after the dog walking lost duckie incident, Laney came out of the bathtb and stood naked in front of me, tears streaming down her pretty face, "It was my faaaaaaavorite duckie! I miiiiissssss my duckie! And YOU LOST IT! WAAAAAAAHHHHHH"

And, folks, we were off.

I gathered up my meager sympathies and consoled her (with some gentle scolding about personal responsibility and grudge-holding). I got her dressed and helped her brush her hair and teeth. She cried through it all. I spun a charming yarn, liberally borrowed from The Velveteen Rabbit, about the wonderful place that lost, loved toys go. I cuddled and snuggled. I tried to distract with Junie B Jones. I employed reason and logic. I toyed with the idea of spiking her water with a double dose of Benedryl (I didn't). I offered to let her fall asleep in our bed. Nothing worked.

She cried, she wailed, she keened. She sang baleful Irish dirges about the uniqueness and beauty of the long, lost duckie. I went downstairs and dug up another rubber duckie. Foiled! This rubber duckie's beak was OPEN! The lost duckie's beak was CLOSED! Her lost duckie was one of a kind. She refused to believe my (now irritated) assertion that the lost duckie was, in fact, one of about 8 million made by cheap labor in some environmental nightmare of a Chinese factory

After an hour, I gave up. I kissed her, told her I loved her, and left her to her misery.

I sat down here at my computer listening to the sounds of passionate, kidly mourning a floor up.

She's quiet now. I think she's finally asleep now.

Here's my advice: have kids. Kids are great. But, try to make sure they only like playing with really big things. Nothing smaller than say a dachshund. And, for the love of all that's holy, make sure you keep booze in the house. After a night like this, you're gonna need it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just, Really, The Stupidest Man in Journalism

Jonah Goldberg was syndicated in the Tribune. He might still be, but I gave up reading the Tribune editorial page a while ago. Anyway, back when I read him in the Tribune I was continually struck by how stupid he was. I mean, I know that it's not nice to call people names, but it boggles my mind that this guy makes money as a political thinker. Because, seriously, he's really really really dumb. As evidence of that, I'd like to point you to this incredibly stupid article:

If only the Founding Fathers had included an annual “Tyranny Day” in the Constitution. Every 364 days America could debate and scheme, pitting faction against faction, and on the 365th day the Supreme Soviet of the U.S. could simply “do things that are tough” and shove 10 pounds of policy awesomeness into democracy’s 5-pound bag.

You know what he's talking about? Tom Friedman admires how China banned those damn plastic bags. In other words, give me cheap, shitty plastic bags that will be in landfills when our grandchildren are dead, or give me death!

At first, I thought it was stupid because the American government, in lots of different political environments, bans things all the time. Child labor, for example, or arsenic in drinking water. The government banning things is how they get to be illegal.

But, I am a dirty fucking hippie who hates those bags, so in the interest of fairness, I'll try to delve more closely into Goldberg's arguments.

Tom Friedman (whom I mostly know as the guy who told the Iraqi people to "suck on this" and predicted the successul consummation of the Iraq war would happen in six months... and made that prediction every six months for about five years) put forth a clearly liberal argument. See? Liberal argument? See? It's liberal, so this is definitely also Barack Obama's position and any moment Fuhror Obama will be issuing an edict banning plastic bags because he said that investing in a green economy would create jobs, without a single thought to the people who make all those plastic bags who are probably Chinese. There's no point in looking too closely at the minutia of our legislative process (e.g., how it's Congress who make and pass law, not presidents). Barack Obama, you see, is arrogant because Tom Friedman thinks banning plastic bags would be a good idea which is the same thing as thinking that investing in green economy creates jobs. See?

God. Do you really not get this? Barack Obama is a tyrant because banning plastic bags is tyrannical and they didn't even really do that in China but Tom Friedman wants to do that, which means he's way more tyrannical than the Chinese government and this also means that Barack Obama will do that and then we won't have any plastic bags and Jonah Goldberg totally read somewhere that there was increased bacteria on reusable bags (if you didn't read the article, it's worth noting that I did not make up this compelling argument for the continued use of cheap, shitty plastic bags).

Lookit: Jonah Goldberg is a dumb guy. And he's a guy taken seriously by Washington insiders, I think, because his mother used to write stuff. I'm pretty sure he constructs his arguments in crayon. But, he still makes a healthy living espousing his stupid, stupid arguments.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, only got to be Head Tyrant In Charge because he had the good fortune to be a black guy.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Charlotte's Web

Laney and I just wrapped up Charlotte's Web. I cried so hard during the penultimate chapter that Laney had to take over reading for me. To her credit, Laney finds it more annoying than upsetting when I have these emotional breakdowns. It irritates me too. My dad was also prone to them. And also annoyed by them. Being a teary motherfucker is no fun for anyone, I tell you.

Anyway, I hadn't read Charlotte's Web since I was a kid. I suspect most people haven't. I suspect that most people who read it as adults are reading it with their kids. But this is a shame. It's a charming book for children. But, if you're reading it, and someone you've loved has died, it's powerful. It knocked me over reading it tonight. This isn't just being a teary motherfucker. It's just... well, listen:

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."

"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift my own life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

Seriously: "we're born,we live a little, we die." What a beautiful, sad, true assessment of the whole damn thing. There's no god, no reward, no special purpose. Instead, the best we can do it try to life up our own life a little because mostly, it's something of a mess.

I love that. I really do.

And the end! Do you guys know the last line?

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

Laney had to read that line to me too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hey, Guys - Been a While, Huh?

I haven't blogged in so long. Which is not to say I haven't had things I wanted to blog about, I just haven't been able to string together the paltry amount of time I typically use to write this stuff. But, my VM is out of disk space and the kid's asleep and I worked through a thorny problem with my book and the dishes are done. So, I figured I'd check in.

Shit. The dishes AREN'T done. Oh well. Three quick things I've been thinking about, which just about cover the sphere of things I write about here:


I don't sing Laney too many lullabies anymore. She's kind of like me in that she needs a zero-stimulus environment to fall asleep. I need a dark, quiet room (people who can fall asleep with the TV on blow my mind). Laney needs for there to be no other living people besides her. But tonight we were very snuggly and so I decided to sing her the old lullaby. This is based on a standard, but was adapted and expanded as she grew. Now, it's total habit to me. But, dude, it's weird. And I thought I'd better write them down. This is Laney's Lullaby:

Hush little baby, don't say a word
Mommy's gonna buy you a mockingbird
If that mockingbird don't sing
Mommy's gonna buy you a diamond ring
If that diamond ring turns brass
Mommy's gonna buy you a looking glass
If that looking glass gets broke
Mommy's gonna buy you a billy goat
If that billy goat runs away [here's where we go off book]
Mommy's gonna buy you a record to play
If that record gets a scratch
Mommy's gonna bake you some cookies in a batch
If those cookie's don't taste good
Mommy's gonna buy you a bat made of wood
If that bat makes you strike out
Mommy's gonna buy you an old man with gout (wha?)
If that old man walks real funny
Mommy's gonna buy you a big pile of money
If you spend that money too quick
Mommy's gonna buy you a candle with a wick
If that candle burns too bright
Mommy's gonna sing to you another night.

One day, Laney will be singing that to her own child and will, in the middle, stop and think "old man with what?"

Cultural Things

So you know how people say that swearing is the sign of a poor vocabulary? Bullshit (see what I did there?). I read in a Tom Robbins book many moons ago (a book I'll never read again because I lurved Tom Robbins as a youth and am pretty sure that 40 year old me would hate him and some of my youthful passions just need to be sacrosanct, no matter how much crabby middle-aged me disapproves) that there's no such thing as a synonym. A flood, says Wigs Dannyboy, is not the same thing as a deluge. I think this is true.

It is also true, of course, that people can use swear words as a crutch, but let's not paint with too broad a brush. Some kid walking through the mall saying "And I'm all like fuck that shit and she's all like bitch bitch bitch and I'm all like no fuckin' way and she's all like fuckin' shit" should not be the standard bearer of swears. A blogger I like coined (I believe) the phrase "metric fuckton." In doing so, she's created an evocative, sensible term. When she says it, you know just what she means. In other words, she's being the exact opposite of inarticulate. The exact opposite of "inarticulate," not for nothing, is probably not "articulate." Maybe it's eloquent? Pithy? Comprehensible?

English is so awesome.


Finally, just a quick question: doesn't everyone know now that deficit hawks only care about the deficit when a democrat is in office? It's trite to the point of cliche by now, but people keep taking them seriously. I don't get that. A Republican president can light trillion dollar bills on fire and George Will would be all "la la la let me see how much life I can suck out of baseball with my obnoxious erudition deedly dee dee." But stick a D on the back of the title and suddenly we're bartering away the future of our children.

Feels like such an obvious sucker's game to me. I guess that's politics!

Guess I'd better do the dishes now.