|"How am I supposed to explain to my child...."
||[Apr. 8th, 2012|05:15 pm]
My daughter is ten. She's very inquisitive about the world. We have lots of long talks in the car about all kinds of different things.|
We talked about slavery last year, and that blew her 9-year-old mind. "Well, honey, it's like this: White guys from Europe would sail to Africa, kidnap Africans, and sell them to other white guys in the new United States." The idea of buying and selling human beings just made no sense to her.
Last night, we got into discussions of gay marriage and discrimination based on who you prefer. I think it was even harder for her to grasp than slavery. I told her about how people get beaten up or killed just because they happen to be gay. "Why do they do that? Why do they beat people up because they are gay?" I gave her an abbreviated, non-sexual explanation of being fearful of something that they feel is gross. That's the best I can do.
I explained how some parents will even abandon their children because the kid is gay. "Imagine that in five years, you told me and Mom, 'Hey, I think I like girls, not boys', and we said 'That's not OK, get out of my house forever.' Can you even imagine that?"
Gay-hating makes even less sense than slavery. At least slavery has a certain amount of fiscal benefit. "Hey, look, free labor!" That at least makes sense why plantation owners would want to do that, right? But hating gays?
It's so bizarre to be in the situation of having to explain to someone "Here is something about the world that is so completely fucked up."
The mighty Louis CK has a fantastic (NSFW) bit on this.
You see someone stand up on a talk show and say "How am I supposed to explain to my child that two men are getting married?" I dunno, it's your shitty kid, you fuckin' tell 'im. Why is that anybody else's problem? Two guys are in love but they can't get married because you don't want to talk to your ugly child for fuckin' five minutes?
I'll extend that. Never mind you explaining two men getting married to your kid. How do I explain to my kid that you give a shit?
|Teaching the children
||[Feb. 27th, 2012|12:49 am]
The McDonald's manager came over and kicked out the six teenagers in the next booth. "What the fuck, he doesn't kick out the guy on his computer doing shit" they ranted.
I said "You want to know why?"
Kid says "Yeah, why?"
I said "Because I'm not loud and obnoxious. That's why he doesn't care if I'm here."
They didn't like that answer.
|Transformers 3 exemplifies what's wrong with Hollywood
||[Jun. 30th, 2011|11:57 pm]
Just went to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It's not just bad, but aggressively bad. That said, the last hour of Battle Of Downtown Chicago is fantastic. But we go through a lot to get there. There's attempts at dialogue and drama and human interest and connecting kids and parents and oh look, comically cursing robots. And it's 154 minutes of marketing.
The first credit is "In cooperation with Hasbro". The soundtrack is littered with the most cloying U2-alike adult contemporary bands possible and, hey look, one of them turns out to be U2 themselves. Worst, the product placement is literally laughable. At one point, Sam's girlfriend tells him about the new Mercedes she got, and he looks it up on the web to find out more about it. Mom gratuitously drinks name brand beer. All the computers everywhere are made by the same company with the name plastered all over the backs of the monitors. An impromptu computer lab is put together with Cisco's name the focal point. Entire shots are based on making sure the viewer sees the company logo.
Transformers 3 breaks new ground, though: product placement for a garbage company. At one point half way through, a Decepticon makes himself into a Waste Management truck, which seemed almost plausible, and only a little weird. But later, in the final Chicago battles, the alleys are populated with perfectly clean, green Waste Management dumpsters. I don't think I could imagine a more fitting tie-in.
It's hard to imagine how a movie could whore itself out more than this one. I'm surprised I've seen no critics calling it out. Or maybe it's just that they're used to it by now. I hope that's not the case.
|Quinn the writer
||[Jun. 18th, 2011|11:23 am]
Q: "I'm writing a story called 'Joanna and the Hunt of the Zombie.' It's about a girl named Joanna and she goes camping in the cemetery and she finds her grandma is a zombie and her grandpa is a ghost."
Me: "Wow, that sounds scary!"
Q: "The genre is called 'mystery and scary', what did you expect?"
|Quinn and world events
||[May. 12th, 2011|08:12 pm]
The morning of May 3rd, I told Quinn, who is nine, about Osama bin Laden's death, because I knew she'd hear about it at school.
Me: "Remember I told you a while ago about how a few weeks before you were born, those guys crashed planes into the buildings?"
Her: "And the buildings fell down and all the people died?"
Me: "Right. The guy who was the boss of them was named Osama bin Laden, and we've been looking for him ever since then. Last night, the Army guys found him, and tried to arrest him, and he was killed." (Yes, I know they were Navy SEALs, and yes, I know we didn't actually try to arrest him.)
She seemed OK with that. I continued "It's funny how Osama's name is kind of like Obama, too. When Obama was running for president, a lot of people were saying not to vote for Obama because his name sounds like Osama and that must mean he's a bad guy, too."
She said "That's silly, to not vote for someone because his name sounds like someone else's."
Me: "I know, it doesn't make much sense. You know what I think they were really worried about?"
Her: "That he's black?"
Me: "I think that's probably it."
She knows what's what.
|Thank you, Roger Ebert, for being Roger Ebert
||[Nov. 20th, 2010|04:11 pm]
In 1981, in a small apartment in Skokie, Illinois, I sat enthralled,
watching Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on "Sneak Previews" discuss
the new movie "American Pop", Ralph Bakshi's story of four generations
of a family in the music business. At 13, I was starting to become
more and more of a fan of rock, and I knew I had to go see it. Gene
didn't like the movie at all, but Roger give it a middling thumbs
Even though it was rated R, I managed to get my mom to take me to
see it. I loved it. From that point on, Roger was my man.
This was also around the time that "Friday the 13th" had hit big,
and knock-offs like "My Bloody Valentine" were all over the theaters.
Gene and Roger talked about how horrible these movies were, the
blatant misogyny, and how that all the women were good for was to
get naked and then chopped to pieces. It impressed me that these
guys were using their TV time discuss not only the movies themselves,
but movies as a whole, and their effect on society.
Here's a clip
of Gene and Roger discussing "Silent Night, Deadly Night" that gives
a feel for their zeal.
As the years went by, I followed Gene and Roger whenever I could,
even though I no longer lived in the Chicago area. If they were
on the Tonight Show, my dad would holler to alert me and it would
be a good night. Here's
appearance with Carson, poking fun at each other, discussing
payola in movie criticism, and decrying the slasher movies. In it,
Roger makes the most level-headed declaration against censorship
of garbage: "The movie should be made, it should be shown, and it
should not be attended by anybody."
Roger taught me to deconstruct the movies I saw. Here's an entry
from my (now signed) copy of "Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary":
"Fruit cart!": An expletive used by knowledgeable film buffs during
any chase scene involving a foreign or ethnic locale, reflecting
their certainty that a fruit cart will be overturned during the
chase, and an angry peddler will run into the middle of the street
to shake his fist at the hero's departing vehicle.
It's my favorite entry in a book devoted to poking holes in shoddy
film making. As always, he strikes a balance between enthusiasm
and cynicism. His skewering of the cliche is a plea for creativity
and abandoning lazy filmmaking.
Roger has always fought
for improving the movies.
He's long railed against the dimming of film projectors in the name
of the theaters saving a few bucks. He's encouraged us to not stand
for crying babies, talking filmgoers and substandard popcorn. He
wants us to love the movies as much as he does.
Roger reminds us often of Siskel's rule: "Is this movie more
interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?"
I've appropriated his rule about how long a movie can be, "No good
movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough", into
my advice I give job-seekers
about how long their resumes should be.
Back in 1984, when the violence of "Indiana Jones and the Temple
of Doom" caused an outcry over its PG rating, prompting the MPAA
to add PG-13, Roger and Gene also reminded of us of the need for
an adults-only rating, above R, that wasn't the X applied to hardcore
porn. That we have the rating NC-17 today is due in no small part
Now it's the 21st century. The Internet means that we have dozens
of choices of critics to help us. Sites like
summarize and aggregate dozens of reviews for each film
released. The strong voices of authority like Roger and Gene have
been dispersed. Newspaper circulation has dropped drastically.
So Roger turned to blogging.
Without the constraints of having to fit 600-words in two columns
of the printed page, Roger wrote about whatever struck his fancy,
and he did it well. He's always been a newspaper man at heart, and
his love of writing means he writes a lot. His recent appreciation
of the legacy of Hugh Hefner
runs almost 1900 words, and includes relevant photos and YouTube
clips. He comments on the comments left on the blog entries. He
understands the medium and he uses it well.
What does he write about? He writes about what he loves! He loves
the movies. He loves food.
He loves women
and sex and eroticism, without apology. He loves life, and he
thinking about life. It's
a joy to read about what brings Roger joy.
You'll note I keep calling him "Roger", like he's a friend of mine,
someone I've known for years, and in a way he is, even though I'd
never met him in person until a few days ago. The Internet and
email and his blog have allowed him to keep in touch with all of
us. Roger's just a guy like the rest of us. Sure, he hangs out
with A-list movie stars and he's
buds with Martin Scorcese,
but he knows he's just a guy from Urbana, Illinois.
When I told my aunt Gayle
McKay that I was going to Roger's signing the other night, she
I wish he would write a book about life.
Would you tell him that? He is so profound, so clear and true.
That is what I love most about him. I love his blog. I don't care
a whole lot about movies one way or another. But his wisdom should
be shared with the world.
I, too, wish he'd write that book, but
I also know he's doing what he can to share that wisdom every day
with us through his writing.
The 21st century also brought Roger his cancer, and the ravages it's
had on his body. He had his lower jaw and tongue removed a few
years ago. I can't imagine what that would be like, to live a life
without food, without talking, without kissing my loved ones. He's
written about it, of course, but nowhere is there a shred of anger,
one iota of self-pity. This is what his life is, and he keeps
I noticed something funny as I wrote this. It wasn't until the
past few days that I realized the impact Roger has had in my life.
I didn't go to bed at night listening to his reviews, like I listened to
George Carlin's comedy albums on the record player in my room, drifting off to sleep laughing
I don't sing his reviews, and teach them
to my daughter, like I do with Johnny Cash's songs. And yet as
I've been writing this article, I keep remembering ways in which
Roger's influenced my life. All three of these men lived their
lives out loud, living their principles, never failing to stand for
what they believed in. We should all aspire to be as strong as any
I failed to let Carlin and Cash know what they meant to me, to tell
them how they've inspired me, and to thank them for the legacy
they've left behind, both in me and the world itself. I won't make
that mistake here.
Thank you, Roger.
||[Nov. 10th, 2010|02:56 pm]
What thankful songs are in my iTunes?
Lyrically, you can't get much more thankful than Natalie Merchant's "Kind & Generous", but it doesn't show up here because I was going only by title.
- "I Thank You", Phil Vassar from Sharp Dressed Men: A Tribute To ZZ Top
- "I Thank You", Sam & Dave from The Very Best Of Sam & Dave
- "I Wanna Thank You Baby", Delbert McClinton from Greetings From Texas
- "Lord I'm So Thankful", Jackson Southernaires from Lord You've Been Good To Me
- "Please and Thank You", The Backyardigans from The Backyardigans
- "Thank God", Hank Williams from I Saw The Light
- "Thank You And Goodnight", The Angels from Growin' Up Too Fast: The Girl Group Anthology
- "Thank You Boys", Jane's Addiction from Nothing's Shocking
- "Thank You For Being a Friend", Andrew Gold from Thank You For Being a Friend: The Best of Andrew Gold
- "Thank You For The Music", ABBA from Gold
- "Thank You World", World Party from Best In Show
- "Thankful", Kelly Clarkson from Thankful
- "Thanks For Saving My Life", Billy Paul from Super Hits
|Quinn and Rock Band 3
||[Nov. 5th, 2010|11:34 pm]
Got Rock Band 3 the other day, as well as the keyboard/keytar. It's not really a keytar with just a handle on it, but kinda.
There are cutscenes everywhere. When you go to the music store to download songs, it shows your guy pulling down a crate of records off a shelf, and starting to flip through them. It shows the cover to Duran Duran's Rio briefly before flipping to Foo Fighters' The Colour and the Shape and then ends the scene. It was just a fraction of a second, but Quinn exclaimed, "Hey, that was the Hungry Like The Wolf record!"
I'm so proud of my girl starting to grow the crucial skill of IDing covers while flipping through record bins!
|Quinn and license plates
||[Nov. 5th, 2010|11:24 pm]
Yesterday Quinn asked me why we have license plates.
"Two reasons. First, the people that drive have to give the government money to pay for the roads, and to keep them fixed. The more cars there are, the more the roads need help. Make sense?"
"OK. What's the other reason?"
"The second is so the police can tell who has a given car. What if you saw a black pickup truck hit another car and drive away, and all you could tell the police was that it was--"
"There could be a BILLION black pickup trucks!"
"That's right, but with a license plate then you know exactly which truck it is."
"But what if you have the same license plate as someone else?"
"You can't, because the government makes sure people don't get the same plates as someone else."
This satisfied her.
I love love LOVE Quinn's inquisitive mind, and how she made the leap to a billion black pickup trucks. Being a dad is awesome.
|Quinn's mix CD
||[Sep. 11th, 2010|08:55 pm]
Tonight I burned a mix CD for Quinn. We bought the five Big Time Rush songs available, and since there was room for other stuff, she chose a bunch of other songs from various CDs of her. iTunes kindly shuffled for us, too. I am Mixmaster Dad.
At least she got some KT Tunstall in there!
- "You Belong With Me", Taylor Swift from Fearless
- "Alejandro", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 18
- "Single Ladies", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 18
- "If I Were A Boy", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 16
- "Change", Taylor Swift from Fearless
- "The Climb", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 16
- "Suddenly I See", KT Tunstall from Eye To The Telescope
- "Tell Me Why", Taylor Swift from Fearless
- "Halfway There", Big Time Rush
- "Hey, Soul Sister", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 18
- "Break Your Heart", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 18
- "Fearless", Taylor Swift from Fearless
- "Any Kind Of Guy", Big Time Rush
- "Big Time Rush", Big Time Rush
- "Telephone", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 18
- "California Gurls", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 18
- "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree", KT Tunstall from Eye To The Telescope
- "Fire Burning", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 16
- "Famous", Big Time Rush
- "Naturally", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 18
- "Forever & Always", Taylor Swift from Fearless
- "Circus", Kidz Bop Kids from Kidz Bop 16
- "City Is Ours", Big Time Rush
||most recent entries