Monday, April 28, 2003

I picked the wrong time to leave that company. Could have got some cool travel perks.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Pledge Drive
How about this for a pitch during the NPR pledge drive: "We're on our way to a goal of $550,000 during this pledge drive. If 550,000 of you each pledge a dollar, we will get there. Volunteers are standing by."
Maybe not. But what if other companies tried something similar?

Monday, April 21, 2003

Traveling in the car yesterday, I was eating a donut. There were some crumbs on my hands. I rubbed my hands together to get rid of the crumbs and this disgusted my wife.

HER: Ugh. We live like pigs.
ME: No we don't. It's not that bad.
HER: What's an animal that lives a little cleaner than pigs?
ME: Goats?
HER: Fine. We live like goats.

So it turns out we live like goats.
Bumpy's Trip to the Woods: A Critical Overview
Last night, I was playing with my two-year-old son Charlie and he was pretending to put his enormous yellow rabbit, Bumpy, to bed. I should mention that it was by no means a "bed" that we were putting Bumpy in. It was a blanket on the floor. But whatever. After tucking Bumpy in, Charlie decided to tell Bumpy a story, the first one he's ever made up. It goes like this:

"Bumpy and a bear went to the woods. They met another bear. They heard a noise. It wasn't the other bear. It went 'baa baa baa baa'. It was a sheep. The sheep said 'Hello Bumpy. Time to wake up.'"

I don't know where to begin in dissecting this travesty.

To begin with, let's talk characters (although to be honest, that word is perhaps overly flattering to the portraits Charlie created). Bumpy is a strong protagonist: large, yellow, friendly-looking, and huggable. But then we get to the bears. Early in the story, I enjoyed the inclusion of the first bear, the "companion" character as it provided some tension to our protagonist's, Bumpy's, story. While rabbits and bears are not natural enemies, they are not exactly friends either. So why are they in the woods together? What is their agenda? The bear's existence has dramatic potential but the promise is never fulfilled. When it's revealed to be nothing but a silent do-nothing figure, well, that insults the reader and that makes me furious at my son, the author.

But while the first bear at least has squandered potential, the second bear has no place at all. Is it meant to be a red herring, trying to lure the listener into thinking that there is a major ursine twist to come? Is it merely a stalling technique by an inexperienced author who can't bring himself to set down the pen and think a situation through? No one knows, especially not the author.

If you can call him an author.

Some elements of the storyare promising. "Animals going into the woods" is a solid premise. Keep in mind, both rabbits and bears are supposed to live in the woods. Are Bumpy and his nameless companion returning to their ancestral home? Rejecting their lives in the world of humans and beginning a potentially problematic reassimilation into the wild? Or are they simply visiting? Going back to all the same old rustic haunts and reminiscing in that patronizing way that big city folk do when they go back to their old middle-American high school towns? Will they come to realize that their rustic cousins are not so dumb after all? Could this, with heavy workshopping, be a zoological Doc Hollywood? If that's the case, perhaps the second bear has a role after all. Is there a prodigal bear narrative that merits exploration? There might be a story there.

But the operative word is might. Charlie doesn't pursue it. Is that because he's lazy? Or because he's two? The reader doesn't care, the reader wants to be captivated, and Charlie fails to deliver.

Whatever my son has tried to construct in terms of an arc falls apart when we arrive at this ridiculous sheep character. It's all so facile: the rabbit and the bear, forest creatures, enter the woods and discover the sheep a meadow animal. Forgetting for a moment Charlie's clumsy and obvious introduction of the animal (do we need four full "baa"s to realize it's a sheep?), this habitat switcheroo is just another hamfisted attempt to arrive at the already tired "fish out of water" scenario. Maybe that premise is fresh when you're two.

Speaking of things that aren't fresh, let's talk about the ending. "Hello Bumpy. Time to wake up." Some Charlie enthusiasts will claim that he's deconstructing the very idea of the bedtime story. Not only is Bumpy the story's hero, he is also the one being read the story and by telling him, through the sheep, to wake up, some would argue that Charlie is attacking bedtime story convention and even making a political statement against the tyranny of bedtime. A sort of updated "Being John Malkovich". "Being Bumpy". And while "Bumpy's Trip to the Woods" is sure to score points among fellow anti-sleep toddlers, it's pandering. It's like making Ashcroft jokes at an ACLU meeting. And it does nothing to mitigate the hackneyed "all a dream" conclusion. It's not novel, it's not shocking, and it's not even innovative. It's "Dorothy wakes up" for the sippy-cup generation and it's an insult to all the readers who have invested themselves in these characters' struggles.

Does Charlie have the potential to be a great story teller? To produce the next Hamlet or Ulysses or Goodnight Moon? Well, he's still young. But I'm done working with him until he starts taking this a little more seriously.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I suppose that is true.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

First Joke of The Syrian War
I heard the US troops are covertly erecting an easily collapsible statue of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for future use. Also, they're airlifting sandals into Damascus to be distributed among scrappy Syrian kids.
It's not a good joke. But it's the first.

Hooray for Everyone!
The really great thing about this war is that now that it's over (kinda), so many Americans can feel that they were right.
People who support the war see the fact that we stormed in there, blew stuff up, and took over as proof that we did the right thing. And there's plenty of footage of cheering Iraqis and kids hitting statues with shoes to make them feel like heroes. For these folks, the inevitable outcome (victory) is inherent proof of the righteousness of the cause. Tidy!
People who opposed the war can point to the fact that no nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons were found along with the fact that most Iraqis were not cheering and therefore didn't make it onto the TV. For these folks, the same inevitable outcome, and it's accompanying destruction, is the very reason they opposed the war in the first place.
Everyone wins!

Friday, April 11, 2003

Got a thing on McSweeney's today. As if more people read this than that. But there you go.

Apparently, he wasn't from Alabama, he was from Brooklyn. And he wasn't a private, he was a corporal. Still poor judgement.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Rush Limbaugh
All right, get this straight: I furiously oppose almost everything this guy stands for. Up to and including "excellence in broadcasting". But this was amusing. Rush did a bit of satire (I know, I know, Rush is a bit of satire but stay with me) about Iraqis conquering Yankee Stadium and heading south to seize the tickets to all the hot Broadway shows. One of his listeners gets alarmed, calls Channel 2 to demand they stop covering up this story, and then calls Rush. That phone call, and Rush's attempt to collect himself afterwards, are linked to from this page. Check it out.
The Darker Side of Today's Events
They're pulling down the Saddam statue. Some 19-year-old private from Alabama, all loaded up on fervor and MRE carbs, gets up there with an American flag and puts it over Saddam's head. Wolfowitz sees it on a live feed and grabs the phone and yells, "Get that flag off there you knuckleheads!" In many parts of the world, that's going to be the picture that runs on the front page and justifies anti-AMerican sentiment around the world. Thanks a lot, kid, thanks a lot.
When I started writing this one, I was really heading toward a joke. But somehow I never got there.

The Lighter Side of Today's Events
Don't you think we should all learn to dance like people in the arab world when they're happy? That up and down thing? We need more of that. A new Beastie Boys record has been released? Up and down dancing! The Utah Jazz lost? Up and down dancing! Beverley Hills 90210: The Motion Picture? TONS of up and down dancing!

Friday, April 04, 2003

Do You Have Spare Props?
Do you also need to give those props to someone? I suggest Matthew Baldwin receive them on account of this.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld
In case you haven't already, you should really see this.
Pronoun Trouble
So my son Charlie, who is two years old, is still having a bit of a problem distinguishing certain pronouns. "You" vs. "Me" for instance. So the other day I'm playing with him and my wife comes home. Charlie, who also is just learning the idea of "transitioning", doesn't want her interrupting our fun. So he yells "No Mommy! You don't like me!"
This one is interesting to me. While I'm disappointed that the language isn't fully developed and that he was rude to his mother, I can't help but admire his deconstruction of the situation. He's projecting his dislike onto another thereby making himself a victim and making his opponent into an unwitting aggressor. I didn't think he'd be capable of that level of psychological warfare until we was at least 15.