Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ease Up On Miley...And That Foam Finger Thing.

By now, we've all seen a shot or two of Miley Cyrus' performance at the MTV VMAs. For those of you who haven't, here's a little smidge:

Holy shit, right? I mean come on, what does "MTV VMAs" stand for—"Miley Tried Vodka and Vomited Mealy Apples"?

And by the way, who's that dude, some kind of porn ref? After further review, the receiver batted the ball away, resulting in an incomplete pass. Come on, if that guy's real name is Robin Thicke, then mine is Dirk Freaking Diggler.

But this isn't the first time young Hannah Montana has blended up a scandal smoothie with a Billy Ray boost. Look at this image from a Vanity Fair shoot, taken in 2008 when she was fifteen:

Hey B. Ray, Uncle Skeezy called and wants his tight black tank top back. Yuck.

Okay, look, no pun intended but I need to back up here and apologize to the Achy Breaky Trouser Snakey. Who am I to cast empties from my glass trailer? After all, I've been captured in some photographs with my daughters that aren't exactly on the short list for Facebook profile pics. 

Here's one my wife took right after my six-year-old back-talked me and I went after her with the closest thing available, which happened to be one of those garden gnomes: 

Thank God for my bad aim, as it missed her and shattered against the tool shed.

And if that's not inappropriate enough, how about this one? Again taken by my bride, this image portrays a moment I was literally caught with my pants down. 

One of my most trusted friends chose to drop my trou when I was at my most vulnerable, while trick-or-treating with my daughter atop my shoulders. Sure, I was an innocent victim, but tell that to the tabloids.

The trauma etched across her face haunts me to this day.

Here's the other thing about Sunday night's performance by Ms. Eileen Dover: 

She's twenty years old. Who among us didn't make bad choices and do embarrassing things at twenty? For God's sake, that's when I decided to major in accounting. That's when I thought it might be a good idea to buy a blow dryer. That's the age I believed that wine coolers and Copenhagen were the new peanut butter and jelly.

Let's just hope she ends up more like Ron Howard or Jodie Foster than Danny Bonaduce or Todd Bridges or the worst of them all—Kirk Cameron. 

Let's give Miley a break, eh?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

No More Post Offices.

"Come on, you guys. You need to stop just mailing it in."

We don't expect a lot of our two daughters. Really. It's not like they live on a dairy farm or a ranch or something. No one is requiring one of them to pin down the steer while the other severs his nectarines with dental floss.

All we ask is that they clean up after dinner. The younger kid cleans the pots and pans while our newly christened adult loads the dishwasher and wipes down the counters. Seriously, I could perform both in the time it takes to urinate, which at my age is around fourteen minutes.

"Dad," one of them said, "I don't even know what 'mailing it in' means."

I propped my elbows against a portion of the counter not still speckled with crumbs and milk rings. "It means doing the bare minimum, being half-assed…like, rather than breaking up with someone in person, you text them instead."

"Oh," they both replied. I knew they'd understand that one. They'd each had friends who'd done that.

"Okay, sorry," said the elder, "but it's not like you've never mailed it in, Dad." 

That's one of her most utilized weapons—the deflector shield. I chose not to return fire, leaving the room with her rebuttal lingering in the humid evening air. 

But is she right? Am I a mailer-inner? Oh yeah., In fact, I think I'm not only guilty of mailing, but of faxing, FedExing and occasionally even Morse-coding-it-in. 

I've taken the easy route more often than Sarah Palin has, well, taken the easy route. Have I ignored the "toner low" screen on the work printer? Have I taken half of the half of the half of a glazed donut that was left in the pink box, just to avoid striding four steps to the left to discard it? Have I chosen to leave less than a full-wiping's-worth on the bathroom tissue roll, knowing that whomever goes next will be…pissed? 

No comment. But this morning, as I mounted my bike in the milky morning air for a crisp ride through West Seattle, her accusation continued to bore into my thoughts. I resolved to do everything I could, right now and with each subsequent moment, to avoid mailing it in. But how?

I passed the woman I always pass first, the one always walking her dog just past the first turn. We greeted each other, as always. That's it, I thought. I'll say good morning to everyone I pass, especially those who ignore me on a daily basis. Who knows, maybe my greeting will sway somebody's outlook from overwhelmingly yin to fifty-one percent yang.

It's usually the dudes who ignore me. And the men who don't ignore me will typically silently nod in my direction, acknowledging this intimidating figure in spandex and neon, chugging away in all his anaerobic splendor and straining to avoid bruising his stomach with his knees.

I wasn't sure about saying hi to the first guy. He lives in a beautiful house with a panoramic view of Puget Sound, and never even looks when I pass him and his golden retriever. He slicks his hair straight back, even at six in the morning, causing two words to repeatedly invade my consciousness: organized crime. I know that sounds bigoted, like I'm some sort of "Mafiast," but hey, nice house and slicked back hair are things we typically associate with solid waste disposal careers in suburban New Jersey.

He didn't respond as I croaked a robust "Mornin'!" He looked irritated. That's cool, I'll just ask him for a favor when his daughter gets married.

From that point on, everyone returned my greeting. I only acknowledged those who I passed face-to-face, since nobody really wants some ass hat sneaking up behind them and causing an aortic infarction with the yelp of his latest compulsive obsession. 

The only people for which I muted my voice were a couple who strode along the beach wearing matching yellow head-to-toe hooded jammies. I didn't want to yank them away from their symbiotic tweaker buzz and they looked like they were in a hurry to get back home before Telletubbies started. 

The last person I encountered was an elderly man who stood at a bus stop as I ascended the final hill before things leveled off. "That looks hard!" he said cheerily.

"Kinda!" I replied, far too loudly, my voice parroting someone named Madge who enjoyed chain smoking Virginia Slims while keeping score for the bowling league.

"Good for the old heart!" he added.

"Oh yeah!" Again too loud. 

But I'll tell you, that old guy and his good vibrations kind of propelled me for that last leg.

I guess he'd also decided not to mail it in today.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Facebook, 1995.

I'm so giddy today, I feel like I've just dug up a chest filled with pieces of nine. Yes, that's right, an entire piece better than eight!

You see, I found some old computer screen grabs from back in 1995, when I participated in a Facebook prototype focus group for a then eleven-year-old Mark Zuckerberg. Although he was a cocky, pre-pubescent upstart, I sensed an "it" factor in the young buck back during those waning days of the grunge era.

Anyway, I'd like to share with you some early Facebook posts, most of which were logged in at least ten years before the social networking world was turned on its pierced ear.

In reviewing these, I couldn't help but realize what a solid young dad I was, given my lack of experience. You know what they say, "There's no parenthood manuel." Enjoy.

How about those nuggets, eh? And just so you know, for those of you who are just starting out as parents to sweet little youngins in need of a little gentle discipline, my door is always open.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Burn the Witch...Again.

If you don't mind, I'd like to start your week off with a little self-examination. 

Not the kind you give yourself in the shower, even though I would encourage my fellow middle-aged compadres to perform that task periodically.

No, today I'm requesting that you take a little inventory of your mental stockroom, maybe blow the dust bunnies off some of those old crates of conviction and boxes and bins of beliefs. Here's my question:

Throughout your lifetime, would you say that society's attitudes have slowly evolved, that our collective outlook has inched toward a shimmering beacon of enlightenment?  

Or not? A lot of empirical data can be sited to support the affirmative. 

Despite his sinister upbringing in the Islamo-Marxist madrases of Kenya and Indonesia, Barack Obama, our first African American president, presides over his second term in that roundish office, perusing our children's text messages with impunity and snickering at their profound illiteracy.

Nancy Reagan's best efforts notwithstanding, the war on drugs has shriveled up like her husband's leathery urethra. Finally realizing the futility of stifling supply by drenching forests of coca with flame throwing commandos, we're slowly shining a floodlight on the demand side of the equation. The coach has finally asked the healthcare sector to find its helmet and get into the game; oh, and make sure you high five the prison system when he heads to the sideline. He's been in for quite a while and he looks like he's cramping up.

And finally, after generations of gay people spending their entire lives sitting at a red light without one of those motion detectors, a few of our states have opened the metal box and manually switched it to green. At last, those who can look at each other eye-to-eye while urinating can stand together on the altar.

So, yeah, I definitely see a little progress, but I'd like to discuss an area where I don't see even a sliver of hope. I'll probably piss some of you off, but hey, opinions are like racist uncles, right? Everyone's got one. 

My wife and I recently watched a documentary entitled West of Memphis. It's the story of the three teenage boys who came to be known as the West Memphis Three. In 1993, they were tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the sexual mutilation and murder of three eight-year-old boys. 

Did physical evidence place any of the teenagers at the crime scene? No. Not one particle of trace evidence contained the DNA of the accused.

Did eye witnesses provide incriminating testimony? Um, nope. In fact, several witnesses vouched for the suspects' whereabouts at the time of the killings.

Did the police interrogate any other persons of interest? Once again, no. They arrested three kids who stood out in the sleepy little burg of West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols, the alleged ring leader, was a black-haired "goth" kid, an introspective smart ass with a passion for the occult. Local law enforcement maintained that Echols held the other two boys, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, under his spell and manipulated them into carrying out his satanic blood ritual.

The three spent eighteen years in maximum security prisons before a groundswell of public outrage and the high-profile support of Peter Jackson, Natalie Maines, Eddie Vedder and Johnny Depp, precipitated their release in 2011.

Just like Salem in 1878, just like the Japanese American internment in 1942, just like the McCarthy hearings in 1954 and just like the systematic corralling of Muslim Americans in 2001, the usual suspects were rounded up. It was yet another case of Bible Belt justice, and this belt again cinched around the necks of a group who dared to be different. 

Here's where some of my Christian friends may pull the cord on this bus. I blame Christianity. 

I don't blame Christ. Jesus' gang could have easily been dubbed "The West Jerusalem Twelve," judging by their ragtag credentials. He didn't organize angry mobs and he didn't threaten nonbelievers with damnation.  I hold accountable all the pious and hypocritical white Christians who worship a Jesus who looks more like a member of Supertramp than he does a dark-skinned north African Hebrew, because you are perpetuating this endless cycle of mistrust and loathing.

If Jesus doesn't look like us, we don't understand him. If we don't understand him, we fear him. If we fear him, we hate him.

I suppose we'll just have to make sure he looks like us.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

From School Bus to Party Bus.

Wow, back to school. 

It's here again, and doesn't take a stoned flock of Byrds to know that the season has turn turn turned, especially when the ads start showing up in the newspaper right next to the "Get a Bang out of your Fourth of July" male enhancement specials.

Pencils, paper, notebooks and Elmer's School Glue have invaded the grocery store end caps like an unwelcome visit from the entire Dugger clan. Lunch boxes aren't really boxes anymore; they're more like bags designed by NASA. No longer can you cruise home from Pay-n-Save with your metal Gilligan's Island lunch pail, complete with a matching Thermos that lasts about half a day until you drop it on the linoleum and infuse your milk with millions of colon-perforating glass shards. Oh well, tomorrow you'll have room for an extra Ding Dong.

I wonder if you can still get three Pee-Chees for a buck. What's a Pee-Chee, you ask? Never mind, young grasshopper, but please, read on.

The back-to-school aura in our house is slightly modified this season, as one of our resident scholars will venture north to commence her collegiate studies. Since her list of essentials has jumped considerably in size, the university kindly mailed us a pamphlet for incoming students. The cover is graced with the smiling mugs of thirteen students—nine white, three Asian and one guy who's possibly one-third Latino. 

Holy crap. Thank God she went to high school with some black people.

Listed inside are a few items most eighteen-year-old wouldn't think to pack along, like wash cloths, spray cleaner and laundry soap. Notice the basic hygiene theme there? The brochure also reminds the students to bring their cellphones, which is like reminding an inmate that he's got a quart-sized balloon full of meth in his rectal cavity. Always within reach, those doggone things are.

Candles and incense are prohibited in the literature, as are toasters and hotplates. Dang, I'm just glad those were okay back in my day. Nothing enticed a co-ed into my dorm room like the fresh aroma of a butterscotch mango candle, paired with freshly toasted Pop Tarts and beef-jerky-infused Top Ramen. 

Even without such props, the sartorial splendor of my wide-leg jeans and tight terry cloth shirt provided all the magnetism a young, feather-haired stallion could need. Okay, I took that line from a 1978 Penthouse Forum, but shoot, no hotplates or incense? Hunger and stench are the two enduring descriptors of dorm life throughout the ages.

We've got about six weeks before our girl takes off for Bellingham, so I've still got time to give her the scuttlebutt on college guys. I'll tell her that, while most of them mean well, their frontal lobes are profoundly underdeveloped and virtually no difference in higher thinking capacity exists between them and adult golden snub nosed monkeys. Both groups are prone to throwing things that originate inside their bodies, so steer clear.

It's true, look it up.