Thursday, May 28, 2009

World's Worst Mother: Happiness is a Sad Song

This post is dedicated to my friend Marty, who passed away May 21 from a serious illness. He was my age-ish (young!). We shared a deep love and respect for the awe-inspiring talents of Porcupine Tree and its alchemist, Steven Wilson.

(This post is referenced at the Love Thursday feature of

When my three (and a half!)-year-old, Pumpkin, gets picked up from a hard day at preschool, he can be a bit tired. Of course this fatigue tends to manifest itself as whining, or crying over nothing. If he's whining, crying, or otherwise kvetching and there's no pain or threat to him, I've been known to react to such conduct by ... laughing at him.

I picked the kids up yesterday, and as I was buckling them into their car seats, my six-year-old, Einstein, asked for macaroni for dinner. Pumpkin had already begun whining about something so I thought I'd egg him on. "I was thinking of making you a big bowl of mud. With worms! Yummmm!" Pumpkin, who was most certainly not in a joking mood, responded with an emphatic "NOOO!"

"Oooo ... and maybe some beetles!" I said, smacking my lips. "They crunch when you eat them, yum, yum!"

"Nooooooo!" responded Pumpkin.

Behind me in the car, Einstein made this a conspiracy against the scowling tot. "How about some tasty grasshoppers?" he suggested.

"NOOOOOOO!!!" The tears were starting.

At this point, the CD in the stereo started playing Porcupine Tree's "Lazarus,"1 and if you play the video below you'll get the idea of the atmosphere created thereby. I heard Pumpkin say "Mama, this is a sad song." He's a sensitive kid and minor keys are something else that can make him cry. (It is, in fact, a sad song, but a lovely one, in contrast to PT's heavy full-rock-out material and their spacey stuff.)

Einstein was touched by the song's mood as well. After 30 seconds or so of driving, during which Pumpkin seemed to completely calm down, I heard Einstein say, "Mommy, look, I'm holding [Pumpkin]'s hand."

I looked.

He was.

I'll never forget it.

1 I realize that Lazarus was a New Testament character, but I'm in denial about this, just like I have always denied that C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia are about Jesus. When my mother called them "Christological" I decided that she meant "Crystal-logical." Why not?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hard News Roundup

Sorry this has taken so long. There was a delay while arrangements were being made for various things. This blog is in the process of obtaining a private plane, particularly to transport all of its loyal readers to the vacation home. I'll leave it as a surprise where that's going to be.

Fortunately, many of these news items never get old. For example, did you know that Urban Decay (slogan: "beauty with an edge") makes a lovely product called "Pocket Rocket Lip Gloss"? I'll tell you what that is, and when you don't believe me you'll click over there and see for yourself. Remember those pens that featured ladies whose clothes would disappear when you turned the pen upside down? That's the idea behind Pocket Rocket, only, as you probably guessed, it's guys stripping down. But there's more! "Need to lure a real man? Give the tube a rub to release pheromones into the air! Undetectable to the smell, pheromones enhance mood and sexual attraction." I am not making this up. The tube is flat, so it slides easily into a pocket. Oh, and there's lip gloss in it. That tastes like crème brûlée. You're supposed to pick based on what kind of guy you lust over, so if you're looking for a family man, pick "Julio," because Julio is holding a little baby girl, and when you undress him down to his boxers, the child is in a diaper, too. I am really not making this up.

So, most of us have been on job interviews, and they vary in how difficult their questions are. The worst interview I ever had to endure was for a judicial clerkship, in which the judge asked me what I did besides what was on my résumé. At that point in my life, pretty much EVERYTHING I'd done that had any value at all was on my résumé. So I got all tongue-tied. (Um, uh, please give me the job ... except not, because you seem scary ....) In any event, we at least know that we won't be asked questions about our sex life! Right? Click here and check out John Kelly's column, in which he describes a recent interview in which the job-seeker was asked whether he might take part in an orgy.

On April 27, I posted the Hard News summer fashion preview. July-like warmth, sans humidity, in the D.C. area brought out the shorts that weekend. It appears that short shorts are in this year, which is all right, I guess. But I also observed shorts with ... wait for it ... boots. Yeah. People, I love boots. In the fall and winter. They don't go with shorts. Especially the fur-trimmed and sheepskin-lined ones. Also, I saw one person wearing shorts with knee socks. I looked carefully and fearfully for more of these, and thankfully found none. But since then I have seen both of these combinations again. Gah.

George Clooney, who is a fellow expert on intellectual property law, contributed this item: The family of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. wants the MLK National Memorial Foundation $800,000. The foundation is building, um, well, a memorial to MLK, and will be using, um, well, his likeness, and, um, y'know, some of his words, so the fam wants to be recompensed. It's so dumb, me can't really talk good about it. George, is there a follow-up to this?

Back on April 9, alert reader Liev Schreiber sent this gem which I'm just going to quote.

On Tuesday, State Rep. Betty Brown (R) caused a firestorm during House testimony on voter identification legislation when she said that Asian-Americans should change their names because they’re too hard to pronounce:

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

On April 23 I wondered what kind of soulless person would create a Baby Shaker iPhone app, and what kind of soulless company (hello, Apple) would allow said app to be sold, and what kind of soulless people would purchase and use said app. In case you're not aware, it's okay to put a crying baby in a safe place and walk away for a while. It is NEVER NEVER NEVER okay to shake a baby. ONE shake can cause brain damage and death.

And speaking of babies, on April 13, a hard news flash: people are stupid. Amy Dickinson's advice column in the Post's Style section that day contained this letter: "Dear Amy: Like other readers of your column, I also have a problem attending showers for babies of unwed mothers. I simply send a gift and don't attend the shower. A baby born out of wedlock is not something to celebrate, and I'm not going to be pressured into going. Signed: Having My Say."

Amy's answer was great: "I believe every child born is 'something to celebrate,' but because of your particular point of view, you are wise to stay home." In other words, you're a freakin' idiot and you don't get cake. P.S. Can we please stop using that awful word "wedlock"? What the heck is "wedlock"?

And speaking of babies, on May 14, once again, I observed that, except for all of the SMRT people reading this right now, people are stupid. Exhibit A: Amy's column that day featured reader responses to a request for advice on what to say to people when they ask you when you are going to have kids, when, in fact, you don't intend to. My favorite (read: the stupidest) response was from "Disgusted," who said, "'No Babies' should more honestly rationalize her decision by just admitting 'I'm selfish, and I don't want to interrupt my lifestyle,' or 'I dislike children; they are so untidy,' or 'I'm afraid I'd make a child turn out as miserably neurotic as myself.'"

I truly liked this one, though: "A better answer for a childless couple might be to just pick any date far in the future and when busybodies ask, 'When are you planning to start having children?' you could say, 'Nov. 11, 2022.'" But George Clooney said that he would suggest a "smart-ass, scary response -- something like, 'I wish I could. I really do. But remaining childless is a condition of my parole.'" Love it.

On April 8, I passed on this quote from David Axelrod: "Why didn't the waters part, the sun shine and all ills of the world disappear because President Obama came to Europe this week?... That wasn't our expectation." It...wasn't? Why not, Dave?

On April 7, I noted that sixteen billion jellybeans would be eaten by people around that sugary bunny holiday, while some of us happily ate matzah instead. But more importantly, the U of M wanted to show a porn flick at the Hoff Theater (and to serve jellybeans therewith, perhaps). But Maryland Senator Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) didn't like that idea much, and threatened to withhold the university's construction funding if it happened. So, like good college students, they devised a workaround. Instead of showing the whole movie in the theater, they showed parts of the movie in a lecture hall, and made it all educational-like by having people speak on issues like free speech. Opposite this article, a columnist criticizes the U's president for having "caved" by cancelling the film as soon as "conservatives in Annapolis saw a dandy weapon to wield against those libertines of academia." Also, a letter to the editor asks "[h]ow many of these holier-than-thou politicians have accepted campaign contributions from telecom and cable companies that derive a significant percentage of their revenue from pay-per-view porn? Will our conservative Republican, family values heroes be returning these contributions?"

On April 8, there was more Maryland news. The university's senate was trying to get the powers that be to remove the invocation from commencement ceremonies. I personally love this because I actually succeeded in having direct mentions of Jesus removed from the prayers said during my law school graduation at Catholic U. (I'm sure Jesus returned in subsequent ceremonies.) The Maryland students' reasoning is the same as mine was: "many people ... 'felt excluded or marginalized.'" The U of M prayer has not been removed.

The next post might be about Government for Dummies. It also might be about trying to control our children's bad language. As a preview to that, you may want to hear a song from Chris Cornell's lastest record (a departure from his earlier work, but really good, despite what the critics have said). Embedding is not allowed so you have to click to YouTube. You need to ignore the video itself; it's not great, concentrate on Cornell himself (for the ladies), the scantily clad females (for the guys), and the song. You can totally play this for your kids; mine call it "The Fish Song." You might want to tell them it's the Fish Song before you play it very loud for them in front of your friends. Trust me.