10.30.2009

Don't Fear the Poo

There have been occasional debates about whether or not real men change diapers. I don’t know if there is a correct answer for that debate – no absolute axiom dictating the relationship between real men and really loaded diapers. I know men are (and should be) disgusted at the concept of manhandling a poo-filled Pamper. But I believe that most men are capable of setting aside their distaste for BM long enough to provide relief (and freshness) to their non-potty trained offspring. When dairy air begins to waft from the derriere of their bumbling baby, I’d assume that most men do not do what my father did: strap their child (and their putrid britches) into a car seat and drive across town to a friend's house to have the friend change the diaper. (ps, thanks Dad!)

For now I am working with the hypothesis that real men do change diapers. I am a real man and I change diapers. Now, my reasoning may be some sort of logical fallacy – perhaps a false attribution – but for now it is all I have. I am a real man who changes diapers. And I know I’m not alone.

When my brother and I were little, my parents made a deal: Mom handled the dirty diapers, and Dad handled the vomit. Not a bad deal. My wife and I also struck a deal when Christian was born but Bekah did not want sole responsibility for 100% of the diapers in our household... and I have a weak stomach for things that were once in a stomach. So we made a slightly altered agreement: he or she who smells it first changes it. That adjudication didn’t last and soon turned ugly. Before long, Bekah would ask me if our kid was poopy. “I don’t know, I don’t smell anything,” I’d reply. Then she’d shove baby booty in my face and say “SMELL IT!” Not fair. (But on a positive note, I got really good at holding my breath.)

We’re now working with a surrogate protocol. I change diapers when ever it is convenient for me to do the duty. The problem with this arrangement is that my definition of “convenient” is radically divergent from Bekah’s. I consider it conducive for me to be the changer of diapers if I am in the same room. Bekah thinks it more befitting for me to handle the soggy bottoms if I am within a five mile radius. I hope you see the same disparity that I have suffered.

Alas, I frequently have a soiled tush in front of me that is in need of changing. And, our tenure as foster parents has awarded us with a greater opportunity to experience the woe of excrement. (For six months this past spring/summer we had four be-diapered butts in our house. Graciously, we’re now down to two.)

I cope. In fact, in order to contend with this great effluent challenge I’ve dubbed the diapers after great horror movies. I’m not sure why I do this. It may have something to do with human nature's compulsion to name things. It might be my deranged sense of humor. Whatever the reason, diapers of my changing are often designated a title worthy of Hollywood’s Halloween horrors. (Oooh, alliteration!)

Here are some of the monikers I’ve given to my kids’ passings.

Something Wicked this Way Comes
It Came From Outer Space
The Omen
Night of the Living Dead
Ghost Ship
Children of the Corn
Nosferatu
Army of Darkness
Salem’s Lot
Phantoms
Gremlins
The Sound of Music

OK, so that last one isn’t technically a horror movie. But if you ever walk through my front door and hear me singing “these are a few of my favorite things” you’ll know why.

10.29.2009

Recent observation

My son sings in monotone. And he slurs his words. Eat your heart out Brad Roberts.

10.25.2009

Useless Talents

I wish sweat would come in scents other than B.O. Like vanilla, freshly baked bread, or cedar. Then it wouldn't matter how hard you’re working. You might feel (and/or look) like poo, but at least you smell clean.

10.23.2009

Useless Talents

You’ve probably heard of them: animal whisperers. There’s a Dog Whisperer TV show. And the movie about horses. People who seem to be able to communicate with a certain species of animals. I’m pretty sure it’s a bunch of bunk from people pretending to communicate with our furry friends because they don’t know how to communicate with real people.

But if it were real, I’d like to be a hamster whisperer. I’d tell my son’s hamster to quit chewing on her cage.

10.22.2009

Useless Talents

I would like to be able to stand on one leg for a record breaking length of time. I don’t think my multi-tasking skills are polished enough to accomplish anything while standing on one leg. But at least I could say "Yeah?! Well... I can stand on one leg longer than you." I’m sure that would end any argument.

10.18.2009

Movie Review: Law (-) Abiding Citizen

Step 1: You watch as home invaders rape and kill your wife and daughter. Step 2: The guy who killed your family goes free due to a flaw in the justice system. Step 3: You seek revenge. On everyone.

Sounds like a run-of-the-mill "vengeance is mine" movie plot. After seeing the 20% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that is what I was expecting. I was anticipating a plot I’ve seen a million times: the everyman seeks vigilante justice when the legal system fails. Even the plot summary on IMDB states "An everyday guy decides to take justice into his own hands."



(WARNING: the following may contain some unintentional plot spoilers)

I was pleasantly surprised by the film, despite the grammatical error in the title. (It should be Law hyphen Abiding, not Law space Abiding. Sheesh.) Citizen starts off with a bang, like a baseball bat to the face. Actually it was literally a baseball bat to the face, but all things considered, I like the simile. The story begins through the eyes of the protagonist Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler of 300) as he watches his wife die and daughter taken away. When the worst of the two criminals flops on the not-as-bad guy, we follow the case into court to watch the plea bargain play out, only to see Shelton in the background watching the evil dude shake hands with the prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx from Ray, Collateral, The Soloist, etc). 10 years later, one of the two home invaders is at the end of his death-row sentence. The execution doesn’t go according to plan, and the murders (paybacks) begin. Shelton is arrested, thrown in jail, and continues to kill people from behind bars. Each escalating killing portrays a staggering work of genius and Rice (with police in tow) race to end the massacre and keep Shelton in prison.

Yet, to describe Law Abiding Citizen as the typical revenge flick overlooks some key elements.

1. The movie’s hero (anti-hero?) is not a normal guy. He’s a tinkerer (as one character in the movie states). With a little foreshadowing, the opening sequence shows him to be adept with electronics and robotics. As the story unfolds, we discover the guy is extraordinary, intelligent, and diabolical. While there is an element of righteous anger that motivates his revenge, there is also a mastermind design behind the brutality that could not be carried out by an "everyday guy."

2. Most revenge plots have one bad guy: the person who escaped justice. Once that person has been killed, the hero can carry on with their life in peace. Not this movie. The brutal killings of the two home invaders (the first one startling, the the second graphic – both disturbing) are just the start for this Citizen. The bad guys in this movie are not the people who first committed the crime, but the entire justice system. The courts are corrupt and Shelton wants to "bring the whole system down." So the scope of retribution span beyond the two thugs. It includes their defense attorney, the judge that threw out key evidence, the prosecutor that made a deal with the guilty defendant, the district attorney, the DA office’s staff, and the mayor. Whew. Talk about a hit list.

3. You’re never sure who to root for. At first we like Clyde Shelton. There is an understandable empathy toward his actions. We cheer him on as he tells off the judge during his bail hearing (people in my theater were clapping). We nervously laugh at his steak dinner and later at an exploding cell phone. But at some point, we no longer see Shelton as a grieving father, but a maniacal lunatic. Nick Rice is a workaholic who seems willing to sacrifice his family’s happiness for his own political ambitions. Throughout the movie he stands by his choices maintaining an "I did the right thing" defense when we all know he made the wrong decision. We want him to man up. Eventually we begin to see him as the hero. (I consider this to be great story telling as characters that are too perfect or too flawed are not believable.)

4. It bucks the traditional ending. The moment we expect (Shelton gets the same deal that Rice struck with the bad man at the beginning of the movie) never happens. We want Shelton to earn his freedom for a while, but then we begin to think he belongs in jail.

5. This is not a feel good movie. The first death looks like a clip from a horror movie. The second fatality is a sociopath’s dream. (We’re spared the viewing of the dissection, but we see the results and the gory details are described within the prison interview room.) The third killing is clinical. The fourth is excessively bloody and the next catches you off guard. The final body count is in double digits. The language is vulgar. The cinematography is sharp and gritty. The pace is unsettling and quick. This is not the type of movie you walk away from thinking "I’d do the same thing if a couple of drug addicts killed my family and got away with it."

My only complaint about the movie is the amount of detective work that Nick Rice accomplished. I understand there is a bit of research that prosecutors have to do to build their case, but Citizen had Rice riding along with the police to every crime scene, and to make every arrest. Well, that complaint and the bad grammar in the title.

Overall, Law Abiding Citizen is not one of the best movies ever made. But it is entertaining. And that’s what movies should be about. I give it 6 exploding cell phones out of 10.

10.15.2009

What happended to the 90's?

Dear XM marketing personnel,

I spent some time this afternoon at work listening to The 90's on 9. Something is not right with that station, and it took me a while to figure out what it was. The problem: it wasn't the 90's.

First was Give a Little Bit by the Goo Goo Dolls. That song was released in 2004 as a part of their Live in Buffalo CD/DVD combo. And it's not even an original song. The original version was released by Supertramp in 1977. After that was Kings of Leon's newest single Use Somebody. And by "newest" I realize the song is a year old, but it didn't start to get popular until this past summer. Neither song was recorded in the 90's. I know this because I know everything. Since the people that program your song selections have shown they know nothing, I felt it apropos to enlighten you to the shoddy job they are performing.

Maybe the 90's on 9 isn't the best moniker for that specific station. If you insist on playing music that did not exist during that decade, you should try a different name. How about "If you went to high school in 90's this is what you'd listen to if you were ten years younger and uncool." I know that's a mouthful but it's more honest than 90's on 9. When the title of your satellite radio station lies about the the type of music it plays, what am I to assume about stations with more cryptic of a name - say Watercolors or The Bridge. And if I want to listen to a little Lisa Loeb or the Crash Test Dummies or The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, should I tune in to 80's on 8? So pick a horse and ride it. Either truth in advertising, or more of those unknowable names like Backspin, Lithium, or The Loft.

You don't have to take my advice; after all, I'm not in charge. But it is clear that your being in charge capabilities suck. While scientists have not yet proven that I have better taste in music than anyone, you should take my word for it. At the very worst, my taste in music is superior to the dunces that are currently working for you. You should hire me.

Sincerely,
A Music Snob

10.14.2009

Useless Talents

I always wanted to be able to read my own mind. Because sometimes, I would like to know what I was thinking.

10.11.2009

Smokey... Hazy... What's the word I'm looking for?

In the war of cooking bacon, the stove was winning. I couldn't tell the grayish tint in the air was a factor of my grease splattered glasses or the result of the bacon turning crispier than intended. Or both. The stove was taunting me; it was clear I was fighting a losing battle.

I had to do something before smoke started billowing from every corner of the house like fires from classic Saturday morning cartoons. That, and I didn't want to trip the fire alarm. Christian hates loud noises.

Fire safety experts recommend holding family fire drills so that you kids know what to do when the house is burning down. They recommend teaching younger kids to stay where they are so they don't get lost and disoriented in the smoke. It makes them easier to find/rescue. We don't have to worry about that with Christian. Every time our fire alarm has gone off he screams in terror. He is petrified and unwilling to move. I sometimes wonder which alarm is louder: the one attached to the ceiling, or the one in Christian's throat. I am positive that this is a traumatic experience for him.

Back to the burnt bacon.

The kitchen was filling with smoke. The oven fan wasn't helping so I cracked the kitchen window. No airflow. I needed a cross breeze. I walked out to the living room (also filled with bacon haze), and opened the window. Yes, I know the high temperature for the day was barely above freezing and two windows open would chill the house. But I did not want to set off the fire alarm. I'd prefer Christian not have to see a counselor about his fear of alarms when he's older.

It worked. Kind of. I prevented the dual alarm of Christian's shrieking triggered by the fire alarm triggered by the bacon I over cooked. However, The living room was still hazy when I called for Zu and Christian to come to the dinner table.

Leave it to a five year old to volunteer a synonym that you could never think of on your own.

"Why is it so foggy in here, Daddy?" Christian asked.

"Because Daddy burnt the bacon."

It's not smokey in here. It's foggy. And, for the record, the bacon was too crunchy for Christian's tastes.

10.08.2009

Useless Talents

I once saw a viral video from a public access show where a guy was painting while running on a treadmill. People would call into his show and ask "What the (bleep) are you doing?!?" And he would answer "I’m painting on a treadmill." "Why?" "Because I wanted to paint on a treadmill."

I wish I could paint on a treadmill. Actually… I wish I could paint standing still.

10.03.2009

These Thousand Hills

I'm a city boy. I grew up in the suburbs surrounded by hills and forests. My formative years were spent close to both the ocean and the mountains.

Prairies befuddle me. Flatlands depress me. I'm lost with out trees and large bodies of water.

I guess that's one of the reasons I never felt entirely comfortable in Boise. While it is close to mountains, the Treasure Valley is primarily situated on a featureless plane. It's too flat. And too dry. And brown.

In no conceivable context could I be described as a country boy. I thrive in chaos. I long for crowds and noise and bright lights. Punk rock & hip-hop and anything that defies the backwoods hillbilly.

I love road trips, but I always loathed driving certain stretches of northwest freeways. Eastern Montana, Northeastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, most of Wyoming.... rolling hills, big skies, and dry yellow grasses. Those vast expanses appear to be infinite and makes the cityscapes I love feel so distant.

Maybe I've been looking at that countryside from the wrong perspective.

This weekend, while driving back and forth between Moscow and Pullman, I noticed the same endless rolling hills that dominate most of the Inland Empire. Yet, I saw something different... and alluring. Those rolling hills with the patterned stripes of agriculture gained a hypnotizing quality I've never before acknowledged. For the first time in my life I'd admit these hills were stunning and amazing to see. It was indeed the amber waves worthy of our patriotic songs.

Maybe I'm getting softer now that I've passed 30. Maybe I'm beginning to see beauty in unusual places. I still prefer the city life - even if it is suburban living. But I may have gained a new appreciation for our area's rural scenery.

10.02.2009

Useless Talents


Wouldn’t it be awesome if your ears could whistle? You could play practical jokes on your coworkers. They’d ask “Do you hear that whistling?” And you’d say “What whistle?” They’d never suspect you because your lips aren’t pursed. If you were really good at it, you could talk with your mouth while whistling with your ears.

Then again, that frequent high pitched sound so close to your ear drum would give you a headache. Maybe it wouldn’t be so awesome.