29 December 2008

A heart-rending ending?

In case you're all wondering where Santa has gone now that Christmas has passed, I have some sad news to bring you:

Ho ho ho! Kids share economy woes with Santa*

"You see things behind the beard that nobody else will ever see or hear. I've had children just literally tear my heart out."

So therein lies the end of a long, productive career spreading joy throughout the world... painful death at the hands of some psychotic, bloodthirsty children who've apparently spent too many hours playing Mortal Kombat.

Then again, the tone of this statement suggests an acceptance that only experience can bring. So perhaps this is an annual tradition, like a simple shedding of the skin. Maybe the Easter Bunny drops those eggs in our baskets on his way to deliver the Kiss of Life to kindly old St. Nick each year.

It seems that matchup between Jesus and Santa might be more even than we thought.

* I don't suggest you actually read this article unless you want to feel quite depressed.

Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this forest-missing nitpickery, you might want to peruse Literally, A Web Log.

26 December 2008

Sharing only the best

The best line by far from an action-packed Christmas came from my 4-year-old son D-, holding up a few very nice shirts my parents got him (along with a hearty portion of his mountain of new Stuff) and matter-of-factly stating:

"... I already have some shirts at home, so we can just give these ones to poor kids."

Editor's Note: It seems no one has told him that technically, living in a household of four supported solely by the salary of a new teacher at a school in the very worst part of town definitely qualifies you as a Poor Kid.

24 December 2008

Important Question: Jesus Claus?

The latest Important Question is a straightforward but timely one, though not nearly as important as the last one.

For those readers who are religious*, I respectfully ask the following:

Do you find that as your kids mature, the inevitable revelations about Santa Claus undermine or strengthen your teachings about God/Allah/Yahweh, even if you didn't take much of a part in this particular cultural/quasi-religious tradition?

This occurs to me every year, but I've never been in a situation where I could ask it with any hope of getting a thoughtful answer. I've just never imagined a way to teach a child about God and Santa/the Easter Bunny without setting up a significant crisis around age 8-10 or even earlier.

In case the above question is too deep for you, answer this question instead: Who would win in a fight, Jesus or Santa Claus? (And I don't mean a wimpy South-Park-style fight, I mean a genuine, few-holds-barred brawl.)

Ground rules: No reindeer, no hitting below the belt, and no resurrections.

Keep in mind that while Jesus of course has some notable powers and one heck of a tag-team partner, Santa clearly has supersonic speed, incredible stamina, and the ability to change his shape and size at will.

The comment board is now open-- discuss either question, or both, at will!

* I myself come from Catholic stock, mostly Irish immigrants, but I've only ever attended church for weddings, christenings, and the occasional funeral/communion/confirmation.

23 December 2008

Hee, hee, I said "Siemens"

Because I'm still a little overwhelmed from Holiday Party Season (along with the continuing Hip Surgery Recovery Season), I'm just here to share my amusement with this otherwise depressing testament to the corruption of the handful of global supercorporations that exploit each of us daily.

At Siemens, Bribery Was Just a Line Item

[Siemens'] telecommunications unit was awash in easy money. It paid $5 million in bribes to win a mobile phone contract in Bangladesh ... [and] also made $12.7 million in payments to senior officials in Nigeria for government contracts.

The most tragic part of all this, even more than Siemens' strategic enrichment of Saddam Hussein before his fall, is that they were duped into making those payments to the Nigerian officials by sweet-talking e-mails proposing a joint effort to secure much greater sums being held in probate.

How many more innocent, hard-working folks must be lured into clearly shady transactions for nefarious purposes before The Internet Police finally clamp down on these wiseacre Nigerians?

19 December 2008

The weather inside is spiteful

It was raining all last night here in Chicagoland, which makes me mad. It's supposed to be winter, a time of cold, fluffy snow, not balmy rain and lethal ice.

I think it's quite possible that Hell is actually a frigid ice fortress full of horrifically pointy icicles in every direction and black ice the only floor covering.

I have a feeling this warm-up indicates we'll miss a white Christmas yet again in my lifetime, which happens so often I'm never surprised, even though Christmas occurs at the end of December in Chicago. Two and two equal five here, it seems.

All of our beautiful, hard-fought snow from earlier this week (whose sudden arrival during rush hour caused me to park the car and walk with D- to Target rather than endure another half hour trying to drive a mere mile and a half), will be iced over and ruined, like a jilted lover left to rot at the altar.

This perfect snowball powder I didn't even get to roll in once got Havishamed in one long, bitter night, and what I'll be walking out into, whenever it is I choose to exit our icy cocoon, will be a shadow of its former self. I'm almost too upset to even picture it. Breaking through the icy crust over the yard (with the back of my skull, no doubt) to find the soft insides dried-out and useless for anything but metaphors...

I'm too digusted to even crack a simile.

17 December 2008

I would be embarrassed to host a yard sale

I recognize that for all my yammering away this past year, you all still don't know me as well as you should. So please allow me to continue chipping away at that barrier.

Have I ever shown you my widespread, impromptu collections of ancient, now-illegible receipts for transactions under $3? How about my utility bills from college? My many broken pieces of childhood toys? Never seen my "perfectly good" clothes that in my darkest moments I secretly acknowledge I'll never even want to wear again?

Perhaps that was a little extreme.

In all fairness to my compulsions, what if someday soon, I get: 1) called up to participate in a 4th-grade non-competitive soccer or basketball league; 2) re-hired as a store inventory auditor or movie theater supervisor; or 3) transported back to the early '90s on some kind of compelling mission that requires me to blend in with other toolbags?

I don't want to look like an incompetent moron that day, scrambling to dig through the musty back room of the thrift store where a full half of my clothes rightly belong. Paying for something I already owned at some point in my life? I refuse!

The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, after all, and I can assure you that I am prepared not only to suit up for a return to domination of smaller children on the soccer field, but also to be buried under a mountain of useless shit.

The only question is, which mountain will be the one that gets me?

16 December 2008

A conversation with D-: You are an idiot

The other day, while my 4-year-old son D- was showing off his typing skills to my mom, the following absolutely 100% true conversation took most of the suspense out of the question Will he turn out just like me?:

D- (pointing to "PQ" on the screen): See here? I typed "Pa".

My Mom: Oh, you mean like Pa in the Laura books? Actually, that's P-A. You wrote P-Q, but that's pretty close-- good job!

D-: ...Umm, actually, it's spelled like that.

My Mom: "Pa" like Laura's Pa is spelled P-A. Maybe we could go get one of the books and you could see, to help you remember.

D-: I think we should get the book, so we can look at it, and you can say, (adopting appropriate voice), "Oh, I was wrong!"

My Mom (deftly masking her disbelief, she grabbed The Long Winter): Here you go, see there? It's spelled P-A. But that's okay...

D-: I'm never going to read those books again.

15 December 2008

Another way to offend your wife

Publish a post on your blog describing a tongue-in-cheek statement she wasn't all that happy to hear in the first place, regardless of your helpful illumination of the shades of nuance or explanation of the disparity between your implication and her inference.

An important point to note for you all is that since we're talking about a post-Apocalyptic world, "rare delicacies" include not only rationed foodstuffs but also many simple conveniences and various other consumer goods.

So, I guess what I'm trying to mask in a blur of haughty multisyllabic words and my trademark Byzantine syntax is that rather than merely overstimulate some kind of compulsive eating disorder she certainly doesn't have, in this situation, the point to consider is that my wife would quickly become drunk with power in controlling a world-shaping secret, as much as from deciding who lives comfortably and who rots in the mildewous cavern of her disfavor. Also, I am a dick.

11 December 2008

Dalai Lama to wreak havoc, world is warned

Urgent Notice from the Chinese Government:
The People's Republic of China humbly wishes to make the world aware of a potentially serious though unpredictable epidemic of mayhem threatening to sweep all nations of the Earth:

The so-called Dalai Lama, seen here yanking an opponent's beard to move his face into optimal head-butting range (his devastating finishing move of choice), has secretly been training the most deadly non-violent army the world has ever seen, according to reliable sources inside the Chinese government.

Anyone encountering this disarming renegade, who should be thought of as not unlike an Evil Batman, is encouraged to quickly shave his beard, if any, strike a defensive judo crouch, and prepare to absorb a vicious full-body assault.

Do not be dissuaded by any devious entreaties of peace, friendship, or primal enlightenment. Respond to any moment of weakness with a judicious blend of blows to the face, neck, and torso.

Capture of this sinister vigilante will be met with a reward up to and including the eternal gratitude of the P.R.C. government and the future true Dalai Lama. In lieu of gratitude, reward may be payable in U.S. dollars, toilet paper, or forgiveness of debts already held.


09 December 2008

One way to offend your wife

I figured it'd be nice to counteract the burgeoning waves of sappiness threatening to spill over here due to my round-the-clock care and constant companionship of my poor, ailing wife for the last two weeks, so I thought I'd offer the husbands out there just one of many clever ways you can offend your wife whenever necessary.

Example Number 1: When taking a pause from reading her copy of a junior high sci-fi novel, such as The City of Ember, turn towards her --doing something sweet and innocent like playing her pink Nintendo DS on the collapsible bed she calls her invalid home-- and lay this truth on her:

"If there was a secret room in our post-apocalyptic world stocked with aisles and aisles of rare delicacies, you'd definitely be the one passed out in the middle of it OD'd on sugar and power."

I'm not sure why my own wife took issue with this earnest observation so strongly, but apparently it's quite a potent weapon to store away somewhere for a rainy day.

08 December 2008

A conversation with J-: Manic Monday

To give you a sense of how a quite-anxious J- and beyond-tired I passed the time while waiting for her to be wheeled into surgery two weeks ago, please enjoy the following conversation I later recorded on a notecard I just found in my coat pocket:

Me: You know, you'll be sleeping the whole time-- I'm extremely jealous.

J- (immediately, giving me a blank look): I'd trade places with you in a second.

Me: I would, too ... (makes Movie Magic sounds while wiggling fingers between us)

J-: (just blinks in confusion and resumes fretting)

Me: We'd better make sure not to touch any potentially magic inanimate objects at the same time. If we do, though, we definitely can't lose it, because I do not want to have a period. Or teach special ed.

J-: Whyever not?

Me: They both involve a lot more involuntary bleeding and discomfort than I'm willing to accept.

Click to read past conversations I've posted with my wife J-, my 4-year-old son D-, and my nearly 2-year-old daughter M-.

05 December 2008

Confessions, Vol. 1

1. If only they made giant diapers that still fit snugly on a toddler, I would gladly slap one of those on M- each night and sleep like a med student through the morning, while she fed and entertained herself with the many things I'd generously leave in her crib.

2. I referred to a cartoon chipmunk in a children's television show as "kind of an a**hole" with as much forethought and seriousness as I would the friend of a friend.

3. It's hard to write amusing "confessions" after somberly reading through PostSecret for more than an hour.

4. I find it oddly freeing to stop this list at four items on a day such as this, the fifth day of the week and month.*

* And yet, look at the time stamp.

04 December 2008

Then again, those who can't, teach, right?

The other day, someone arrived here from Greece through a Google search for "stop a child from eating off the floor," and all I can say to that is you, my friend, definitely came to the wrong place.

Sorry about that. I'll let you know if I ever become able to help you on that front.

03 December 2008

Next step for Pandas: Grow thumbs

Dispatches from the War Against Nature just keep piling up. Here's the latest report on the activities of our opponent's sinister Deceptively Adorable Tactical Force:*

Panda bites student who just wanted a hug

The official Xinhua News Agency reports the hospitalized student later said the panda was so cute and cuddly he never expected to be bitten.

And that, of course, is exactly how they get you.

How else do you think they've managed to exist this long while eating only bamboo? What other animal, certainly one so large, eats only one thing all the time?**

Considering that along with their notoriously picky mating requirements and long interval between cubs, it's nothing short of a miracle that at this point in history, pandas are represented on this Earth by more than a few fossilized bones in a drawer somewhere.

Or is it?

I believe that pandas long ago mastered the art of psychological manipulation, enticing other members of the animal kingdom to bring them copious amounts of food, either bamboo or possibly something secret that they never eat whenever people are watching.

Maybe bamboo is just usually the closest thing on which to gnaw innocently whenever National Geographic catches them by surprise?

Regardless, it's clear that they've tried to deal with us for as long as they're willing, and they have now moved into Phase 2 of their Human Response Protocol: Lure almost all humans to their death by clouding their logic processing centers with waves of overpowering cuddliness.

Phase 3 is of course to tally up the remaining bamboo-farming humans and decide on a responsible course of species management.

* Other members of this elite squad: Hippos, Chimps, and Koalas.

** Shut up, all you whale scientists.

02 December 2008

Takin' care of business

As I reluctantly sat there in the grimy bathroom of a greasy spoon liquefying my insides (resting comfortably on my nest of toilet paper lining), I prayed for the sweet release of death to come only after the immediate banishment of Papa John* and his minions to the deepest circle of hell.

Through my confused haze of rage, agony, and relief, I somehow managed to detect a poorly tuned radio station's attempt to bludgeon me with the melodious strains of Bachman-Turner Overdrive's landmark hit, Takin' Care of Business.

As my business took care of me itself, I couldn't help but realize that this song was made to be played in 30-second snippets at the absolute longest. It has a clear message to communicate, it's catchy, and it's said pretty much all it has to say in about half that time.

To sit and actually listen to the entire song in one sitting, so to speak, is torture enough, but to have it coming in and out --crystal clear one minute, fading quietly into mild static the next-- is like forcing someone to work next to an unshowered, incontinent, alcoholic hobo at the Customer Service station of Wal-Mart the entire week after Christmas.**

Just when it seems that 35 additional iterations of the refrain is all that those many commercials and movies have been sparing you these past few decades, the radio signal comes back clear as day so they can do a quick 10 more before it fades back to lie in wait ominously.

If I tried to work as many hours of overtime as these guys claim they have, I'd have been converted to a salaried position before the single was even released. But I guess, "Takin' care of business / And continuing to work until everything is done enough for my boss, regardless of the number of hours worked vs. dollars paid, and without concern for the long-term effects on employee morale or efficiency / Work out!" doesn't make for such catchy lyrics.

Anyway, you'll be happy to know I've survived my ordeal so far, although the song is still firmly stuck in my head.

Just be glad you caught that instead of the other thing.

* It can't be a coincidence that "Papa" John's last name is Schnatter. As in, "Oh my God, where's your Schnatter?!? I just finished lunch at Papa John's!"

** Having logged thousands of unhappy hours shopping at Wal-Mart in my lifetime***, I feel qualified to offer the following skit starring Clem, my generic hillbilly voice:

"Yeah, I got this here shotgun fer Christmas, but ever' time I try to shoot it, it won't DO nothin', no matter WHAT I's pointin' it at. I'm pretty sure Santa bought it here, wink-wink, so y'all need to take it back an' gimme one thut works when I go like this. ... Whoa, thar she is!! Nevermine, I guess. ... I s'pose you gotta go call somebody to have that looked at, huh?"

*** There are extremely few alternatives in Presque Isle, Maine, but now that we moved back out to Chicago, my personal visit count has likely stopped forever.

01 December 2008

Classic quotes, Vol. 9

Here are some of the latest quotes from around our house (M- is my 22-month-old daughter and D- is my 4-year-old son):

M- (pointedly, almost any time we ask her if she can do something): No, I'm too busy right now.*

D- (after being reminded about how M- will be 4 some day): And then we can have a FIGHT!!

M- (whenever she sees D- or I getting dressed): Bye, penis!

Me (with predictable disbelief and disgust): M-, do not eat food off the toilet seat.

M- (to my mom, uncharacteristically not doing whatever M- wanted her to at the moment): No! You make me saaad!!

* As I had to swear to my sister, neither J- nor I have ever in our lives said this to either of our kids, though of course many times we've thought it.