Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Gaming Commandments

My sons have quickly progressed beyond the point of introductory level video gamers. They now own their own games, and have become both formidable allies and opponents.

However, there are certain rules of etiquette I've come to notice they must be taught to avoid arguments. Thus, I have developed some ground rules to teach to young gamers. The following is a list by which to guide your children's gaming in order to optimize enjoyment by all and make them even better at playing with visiting friends down the road.

The Ten Commandments of Gaming:

1. Thou shalt return games back to their designated containers.

2. Thou shalt never throw a controller or leave controllers on the floor or couch.

3. Thou shalt not be stingy with your handheld game cards.

4. Thou shalt not intentionally obstruct another player’s view.

5. Thou shalt not press START until every player is ready.

6. Honor thy most knowledgeable gamer and allow them to be player 1.

7. Thou shalt allow other players to jump in immediately after the next save point.

8. Thou shalt not hide in the corners while your teammates fight.

9. Thou shalt not pile on points against a human opponent.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s save file.

These rules have been handed down from on high to help you maintain peace and order during your experience. In general, treat other gamers as you would yourself.

This Blog May Bearly Survive the NFL Season

While I played my share of sports, playing any on an organized level ended mysteriously for me at the exact same time high school did. Football wasn’t a sport I ever played other than in an open field with my friends and no refs. I was too skinny back in high school to prevent from being snapped in half should I have played football. On a side note, being skinny is something that also mysteriously ended for me the same time as high school.

Despite my lack of personal experience with the sport, it seems these days that professional football has the power to completely alter my mood. I like watching sports in general, but every week, my mood goes as my favorite NFL franchise goes. When they win, I’m happy. I suggest we go out for dinner and I do extra nice little things for my wife and sons. When they lose, I’m crabby. I sulk around the house, wondering what the point is. On the bye week, I tend to feel lost and disoriented as if the compass by which I am to guide my actions for the next week has stopped working.

No other sport has this effect on me. I get excited about baseball and football and, more recently, hockey (I’m a newer convert to the sport after a good friend helped me learn a few of the rules and I saw that it wasn’t just guys skating around aimlessly looking for the little black thing on the ice. Did you know most of the players are actually able to see where that thing is the whole time?). When the playoffs come around especially, I’m in. Otherwise, I don’t normally take time away from family to watch sports. But during football season, I make it clear what I’ll be doing for about three hours each weekend.

“They’re playing on Monday Night Football this week, dear. You won’t see me after seven thirty. Anything you need done before then?”

I also insist that my sons keep out off the direct line of sight between me and my television during play. Commercials are fair game. They can run around then like they’re little savages from The Lord of the Flies. But once the game comes back on, I demand reverence. They are to stay out of my way, or sit and watch with me in silent awe. All questions will be held until the next commercial break, which is why I suggest they keep a pen and notebook handy.

This is really for their own good. I once became very angry with a friend because he had decided to take a phone call and step away from the baseball playoff game we were watching. While he was away from the action, things went horribly, epically wrong for our team. Despite knowing better, I was convinced at the time that his absence from the viewing area somehow tilted the cosmic scales and led to a series of fluke events on the field many miles away. I chastised him in a manner that causes me surprise every time he still willingly speaks to me to this day. I try to keep anything like this from happening again.

I suppose my intensity with each football game is due to the fact that there are so fewer games in a football season compared to every other professional sport. Each game has so much riding on it that your pulse is constantly going and your blood pressure rises. As a fan, you know full well that the ball your free safety just let sail over the middle for a touchdown could end up meaning the difference later in the year between a Wild Card spot and forced interest in the NBA regular season. I mean, why don’t they do something about that guy? Not only does he get burned on a regular basis, but when he does just so happen, by some miracle, to be in position, he’s got hands of stone and can’t make a tackle to save his life! Let’s get a player back there! GOD, HE SUCKS!!!

But I digress.

A few years back, my team made it to the Super Bowl, only to lose. It destroyed me. When the game clock ticked down to zero in the fourth quarter, I stood up silently in my custom jersey with my own last name on the back, and walked slowly up the stairs. “I’m sorry, babe,” my wife called behind me and received no answer as I made my way to our bed and curled up in the fetal position for several days. I’m not sure what snapped me out of it, but I’m fairly certain my wife took care of me during my crippling sports induced depression, watching over me like WALL-E did EVE (that scene was so moving sniff, sniff).

The following season, a good friend of mine from college saw his team make it to the big dance. When speaking with him on the phone, I forewarned, “If they lose, you will wish they had never made it in the first place.” His team lost and his whereabouts are unknown to this day.

Of course I want my team to do well, but if they aren’t going to win it all, it’s easier on my psyche if they just don’t even make the playoffs. January and February will see my hands sweat less, I won’t have that nagging facial tick and I’ll see daily events for the value that they really possess instead of perceiving them as mere annoyances that distract my attention away from the constant focus on the impending playoff match-up necessary to transfer good karma my team’s way.

So, while I thoroughly enjoy football season, part of me is ready to get it over with even though we’re only three weeks in. My team played last night, so I refused to write a blog post yesterday in order to concentrate properly. Had they lost, you may not have seen another post until they redeemed themselves with a win.

So, for all those adoring fans of Transformer Generation Dad, I urge you, if you want to see posts here regularly, repeat these two words as often as you can over the next few months. Say it with me now:

“Go Bears!”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekly Screechers

Halloween movie season is upon us. The bloody bus station posters tell me so. I’m no horror movie fan, but I am a fan of observation, and the meager skills I have developed in this area suggest that scary movies are themed more and more often around normally innocuous objects. There has been death by cell phone and now it seems there is to be a film with a chain letter as the antagonist.

With this in mind, I thought a good top five list for this week’s features would be top five regular items that could be the center of a new horror movie. I’m getting this out now so that any producers who might be interested could still have time to crank out a movie about it in time for mid-October. If the films being released lately take longer than that to produce, I’d be very surprised.

5 – A Tanning Bed: It would burn its users to a crisp instantly and, true to horror movie format, the evil object is something that one ought to be discouraged from using and suggests poor values, in this case, vanity. It also present the opportunity to use the age-old horror movie technique of showing various scantily clad people being very sexy immediately prior to dying.

4 – An iPad: I’m thinking each app could kill its victims in a different way. I already have a commercial thought out for this one. “iPad is…blood…misery…fear…death.” I’d keep the same upbeat piano music in the background.

3 – Skype: Your webcam slowly sucks out your life force. The image appearing on the video chat screen begins to look like a mummified, zombie version until it’s completely dried up and then your real self follows.

2 – Reality Television: A group of sexy twenty-somethings apply to be contestants on a new reality show, finding out the whole thing is an elaborate set up by a serial killer who picks them off one by one as they would be removed from the show. Sadly, this is the idea most likely to actually be seen within the next few years, either as a horror movie or actual deadly reality show. Did I mention the contestants had to be sexy? That’s very important to the story line.

1 – Blogs: Several insane bloggers figure out some mystical way to use their creations to access or hack the minds of their readers and then stalk unsuspecting victims (who should probably be sexy). They, in turn, use various methods to torture and murder them and blog about it afterwards. What if this blog is one of them?! Too late, you’ve already read too far. I have you now! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaa!!!

This week’s cool-ass thing you will never own is an official Calvin & Hobbes t-shirt. Bill Watterson has notoriously refused to allow any marketing of his iconic characters. Since I love his comic strip so much, I have even refused to include a picture in this week’s left hand column out of respect.

This week’s sign you are a nerd is that you refer to Lego sets by their four-digit code from memory. Having to reference a catalog or web site would still mean you are nerdy enough to insist on numerically coded accuracy, but committing the numbers to that number factory that is your mind takes it to a whole other level.

This week’s nemesis is big & tall sections at department stores. Okay, first, let’s be clear and call big what it is: fat. You can find clothing in these sections if you are tall and fat or just fat and not tall, but not if you are tall and not fat. This is extremely biased against tall, non-fat people. While I may be doing everything within my power to fit into both of these categories, I’m not there yet but would still like to find some long sleeved shirts that will fit my Go-Go-Gadget Arms.

This week’s lesson learned is that sorbet is different from sherbet in that sorbet never contains any dairy, while sherbet often contains 1 to 2 percent milkfat. I always knew there was a difference, but never knew what it was. You learn something new every…week.

This week’s equation is:

Where S is Summer, F is Fall, c is color, t is temperature and n is new television shows.

This week’s Star Wars quote is, “Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral.”

Thank you to all you loyal readers. Please be active here on Transformer Generation Dad. Spend some time on our left hand column. Like the blog on Facebook, vote for it on the Bloggers Choice Awards and create a Google account and follow us if you aren’t already. We love attention almost as much as we love referring to ourselves in the third person plural.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Soccer, Not Sock Her

Fall soccer is in full swing in our neighborhood. This brings with it several things.

Bruised knees and legs (despite the investment in shin guards) appear regularly enough that I’m concerned about getting a phone call from school. My plan is to just turn it around on them.

“Worried about the bruises on his legs, are you? Well, frankly, I’m a bit concerned about how much time you spend staring at my sons legs.”

At their soccer games (are they called "matches"?) I shout from the sidelines, completely into a game whose professional version I have absolutely no interest in. The worst part about it is that I have no idea what to yell. Normally I could shout something that displays my knowledge like, “Keep your back elbow up,” or, “Keep your knees bent and stay in front of him.” With soccer, I’m reduced to shouting, “Kick it! KICK IT!” When that doesn't affect any change, I add adjectives. "Kick it hard! Kick it far!"

My lack of interest in professional soccer may be directly related to the lack of scoring. A zero to zero tie tends to turn me off. I’m fairly certain that the number of goals scored in a single one of my sons’ games surpasses the entire total for the World Cup tournament. There are also a lot more players falling down and shoving each other at my sons' games. The big groups of kids, reminiscent of a rugby scrum, all looking down and kicking the ball right into each other add their share of excitement too.

And this brings me to another new challenge in parenting. How does one instill aggressiveness at a young age without making their child into an egotistical maniac?

When they play baseball, the ball either comes to them or it doesn’t. They are either up to bat or they aren’t. They are far form the level where collisions take place at the plate. In basketball, there is physical contact, but you reach for the ball and dribble it with an open hand. You get the occasional slap when somebody misses and a foul is called.

But with soccer, an errant kick could leave a kid crying their eyes out. I have no problem consoling them and telling them they were just playing the game when they feel bad about kicking a friend of theirs in the knee accidentally, but how much reckless abandon in their footwork do I encourage? I’m not comfortable with a “screw everybody else and get that ball” message at this point. The eye of the tiger and warrior spirit can wait at least until sixth grade. Right now, I just want them to learn some sportsmanship.

Speaking of sportsMANship, the league they play in is co-ed. I’m not sexist, but I’d very much like my sons to have reservations about tripping and knocking a girl to the ground or kicking her in the shins. While the competitive part of me groans when my six-year-old stops his breakaway short in order to prevent t-boning the little girl who is practicing improper angling techniques in her pursuit of the ball (there’s only one way she’ll learn), the gentleman in me shrugs and thinks he really had no choice. After all, his skills with the ladies will serve him far greater later in life than anything he can do with a soccer ball. Should either of them come to me in frustration over being beaten by a girl, I can explain to them that it's not the last time it will happen. They need to get used to girls getting their way now. It'll make the rest of their lives a lot easier.

In the end, it’s all about them getting out, getting exercise and having fun. They seem to be doing that. In the meantime, they don’t know that the footwork they are learning now can be harnessed into devastating post moves in basketball a few years down the road. My plan is to acquire old game footage of Hakeem Olajuwon and start making them watch it after every soccer game.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Best of Third Person Thursday: Phoning It In

Since he couldn't complete a third person post he was satisfied with, the blog author contemplated writing no post at all for Thursday.

"But what of my loyal readers?" he asked himself. "How can they possibly cope when denied access to my daily musings?"

And the valiant blogger wept over this. He wept so long, in fact, that the time spent weeping could have certainly been used to write and edit a satisfactory third person post. Instead, when he was finally done crying like a like b...ahem...weeping, an idea formed.

"My favorite television shows don't do something new every week," he cried (that is, he exclaimed this, he had finished weeping for good now), "in fact they take entire summers off."

And then the blogger made a decision that changed everything. "I'll do a 'Best Of...' post!" he said.

He sold his soul that day, and then posted the following links to the best of his Third Person Thursday posts and hoped his audience would enjoy reading stuff they may have already read:

- Exceptional

- Lame New World

His pathetically lazy attempt at filling space on his blog complete, the author retired to his bed where he played some Xbox (instead of producing a quality third person post) and then fell asleep and dreamt he could still play basketball, which caused him to kick his legs repeatedly in his sleep, thoroughly annoying his wife.

And he lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

So Cool, Yet So Far Away

Having attended my first comic convention this past summer (see Joining a New Con-munity), I now keep my eyes open for other nerdy venues I hadn’t previously had the courage to attend.

My travel budget and time off work rarely agree with most of the events that excite me now, however. So, I spend time looking up events, saying out loud to myself, “That would be so awesome,” and then again out loud to myself, “Awww,” (in the just got told you can’t do something way, not the just saw a cute baby way) as I look at my calendar and see there is no way I’d be able to get the time off work.

In a sense, ignorance (or cowardice to attend on my part) was bliss. When I didn’t think I belonged at such conventions, I didn’t get my hopes up. They came and went without me ever thinking twice about them if I had even been aware of them in the first place.

Now, it seems, I seek out disappointment. I manage to find out that a cool convention is taking place and then, during the time when said convention is occurring, I sulk around, wishing I was there, like a child who was denied a chance to go on a trip with his friends. Knowing that they are somewhere having fun while you aren’t renders you completely incapable of generating anything fun on your own. Your mind convinces you that your best shot at being allowed to go is to just sit around all day with your head resting on your hand, sighing a lot, letting everyone known how bored you are.

When I was a kid, at least I could act out and be rude to my parents during times like these. Not the most productive outlet for my frustration, but an outlet nonetheless. In my current situation, I don’t have a tangible entity to be upset with for preventing me from going. I’m certainly not going to be angry with myself (because I’m awesome), so my anger lies with societal norms. In order to function daily, I need to help provide this stuff called money, which allows me to acquire food and clothing and secure and maintain shelter for my family to live within. The only way to get money is to have something called a job, which, as far as I’ve been able to determine, is a form of torture that sucks the life from you (much like that device from The Princess Bride) and makes you less interested in the things you used to take seriously and more interested in things like the stock market, current interest rates and politics, but for some reason produces money. We really need to revamp this system. It’s terribly outdated.

In July, I missed the famous San Diego ComicCon. It’s a convention I swear someday to attend, but this year the stars had not aligned. There is hope for the future, though, seeing as San Diego is a place we’ve wanted to visit independent of it’s hosting of ComicCon. Also, my sons are not in school during the summer. An extra day or two off work and it becomes a real possibility. The remaining issue becomes the distance.

Similarly, I already know I will not attend BrickCon 2010, the annual Lego convention and exhibition in Seattle, which begins a week from tomorrow (September 30th through October 3rd). My kids are in school, I’m not off work and, again, it’s very far away.

I’d prefer to drive to these conventions (hell, I prefer to drive everywhere, planes are not my bag) but the powers that schedule conventions of this nature seem to have a penchant for booking them in areas that are decidedly not in the Midwest region of the country. It’s called the Midwest because it’s in the middle, people! Whatever happened to fairness?

Alas, perhaps I will be able to work something out one day. Otherwise, if all the factors necessary don’t fall into line, I fear I may try to force it one day.

“Honey, we’re out of coffee, I’m just going to run out and get some…(mumbled: in Seattle). Be back in a few days!”

“In a few what?!”

(Door slams)

(Tires squeal)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Getting Back to My Geek: How I Opened Pandora's (X)Box(ed Set of Graphic Novels)

Back in 2006, Marvel Comics began its Civil War story arc, the results of which would change the Marvel Universe forever. Well, maybe not forever, but at least until Marvel decides to write a different story arc that would change it back or change it in a completely different way…forever. That is until they decide…well, you get the picture.

The point is that the Civil War was an awesome story that impacted every important marvel character in one way or another. The events leading to, during, and after the Civil War left no character you care about untouched.

But in 2006, I still had kids wearing diapers (one of them, anyway) who couldn’t be left unattended in my home for too long, lest the contents of said diapers find its way onto my floor (and walls and bed and…sigh…it’s a long story I’d rather not think about right now). Thus, I had little time for reading comic books or most of the hobbies that I participate in now. Occasionally, I wrote, but with nowhere near the frequency required to even think of doing something like running a blog, especially not one of this caliber (too cocky?). I had no idea that this story line was happening.

Then, in the Spring of 2007, I began seeing trailers for the second Fantastic Four movie. I was so excited by the appearance of the Silver Surfer that I began talking more with my coworkers about comic books and how awesome they were. We discussed, at length, the origins of the Silver Surfer. I couldn’t remember all the details, but remembered he had sacrificed himself and become the herald of Gallactus in order to save his home planet. I also recalled his simultaneous disgust and pity for the humans of Earth. I was eager to fill in the gaps in my memory. This led to much Google and You Tube time and to my initial in depth exploration of the Marvel website.

While there, researching the Silver Surfer, I confirmed the Surfer was once known as Norrin Radd on his home planet of Zenn-La. As I regaled my coworkers gathered around the computer with these gloriously geeky tidbits of comic history, I felt reconnected with the Marvel Universe and decided to check in on current events. Upon doing so, I read something that nearly stopped my heart: Captain America had been assassinated.


From this point on, I began backtracking. How could this have happened? Surely, I must find out all the details post haste. We must learn from this mistake so that nothing of the like ever happens again.

I immediately procured the Civil War series. I also got my hands on the Road to Civil War, Civil War: Front Line and the Civil War Companion. I even ordered a DVD on Amazon that allowed me to read every single comic pertaining to the Civil War, including each individual character’s Civil War related issues. But while this story had me on the edge of my seat, it left me wanting more. Where was the Hulk? What’s this House of M they keep mentioning?

And just like that, I was hooked again. I purchased Planet Hulk and found it to be one of the best comic collections (or graphic novels, whatever you want to call it) I’d ever read. I went back and discovered the events of House of M. I looked into how the Avengers had been disassembled and then reassembled into New Avengers. What I found myself doing seemed as much like research as it did reading. I suddenly understood the lab geeks I’d sneered at in college who took their research assistant jobs so seriously. I was consumed by the minutia of the story and wanted to know more just as they took joy in documenting every detail of each trial of the earthworm fecal matter experiment. Today, I subscribe to several Marvel comics, determined to never be surprised by a story event ever again.

The problem is, the enjoyment I’ve received from reinvestigating a hobby from my childhood has led me to reconnect with other interests. Now, not only has my interest in comic books been reignited, but so has my love of Lego and video games. Both of these have spread like a fungus across my life, consuming money and precious time as they grow.

Lego sets are purchased frequently (for my kids, yeah that’s it, my kids) and they haven’t become any cheaper since I was a child. I was dragged down into the murky depths of the Xbox when my brother purchased one for my wife and I (she played it once…honest).

And now I want to research what I missed in both of those genres. I played Splinter Cell: Conviction and liked it so much that I want to go back and purchase the original title from the series. With Halo: Reach now available, I want to do the same with that franchise. I desire knowledge of these games’ histories. This will consume more time than it will money thanks to Gamestop, but the Lego sets are a whole different issue.

Lego Star Wars currently has me by the short and curlies. Buying the current sets is expensive enough, but then I come to find out that I had completely missed the Lego Sandcrawler (item #10144) and all the included droids. To purchase it now would cost upwards of $200 on eBay.

As you can see, I’ve opened up a serious can of worms. In order to find the funding to pursue all of these interests, I’ve started looking for a second job. Anyone that knows of a well paying, part time gig which includes my ability to play Xbox and read comic books while there should contact me immediately via e-mail. I’m totally qualified.

Now I just need to sit back and let the offers come rolling in.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Carnival

This past weekend saw the annual carnival at my sons’ school. It made me realize that the anticipation of something often is the best part. I think that’s particularly true of carnivals.

As the trailers and folded up rides appeared in the parking lot, the excitement of it all made up for the lack of parking during pick-up and drop-off times. The reward for putting up with the extra traffic was getting to see a new ride appear each day. Talking with my boys after school was fun as they would ramble on about which rides they wanted to go on and which ones looked too scary.

Then, it opened, we took them to it and I remembered why I am not a big fan of carnivals.

Sure, there’s funnel cake, but does that really make up for the constant fear I feel as a rickety mass of metal and wires spins over my head while I wait for my kids to get to the front of the line on the giant fun slide, looking like it could break loose at any second? I admit that it comes close, but, no, it doesn’t quite make up for it (my apologies, funnel cake, I still love you). When you think of ways you might die suddenly apply the “was it worth it?” balancing test, carnival attendance doesn’t score well. Climbing Mt. Everest or wrestling alligators? Pretty cool. Waiting in line for the Tilt-O-Whirl with a cheap stuffed parrot your kids won at the dart throw game and you need to sterilize as soon as you get home under your arm? Fail.

I think it’s well known that the most dangerous things at any carnival are the rides and the carnies. But the threat of being driven insane due to overwhelming noise and crowds is also very real.

Does the music on the Gravitron and the Matterhorn really need to be that loud? And does it have to be all hip-hop songs with questionable lyrics? I’m no saint, but I’d rather not have my six and seven-year-old listening to the non-radio-edited version or “You Spin My Head Right Round” by Flo Rida while they are hurtled forward at 60 mph and subjected to strobe lights. It reminded me more of some sort of experimental treatment practice, like the one from A Clockwork Orange, than it did a ride.

And I think they may have been able to spare one ride or game, just so the walking space between the rides could have been wide enough for two people to fit through simultaneously. I’m not a big fan of rubbing up against strangers, though I’m sure there were plenty of people there who were just fine with that. In retrospect, that makes me even less fine with it.

About five minutes into the first day’s experience, I wondered why I ever felt excited about the whole thing in the first place. I suppose it was nice to see my sons excited and I shared in it. I do like going to theme parks and I love roller coasters, but the available space, overall cleanliness and the fact that the people I see performing ride maintenance have uniforms, professional looking tools and all their fingers and teeth are what really help me enjoy them more than the average carnival. Call me crazy.

I must admit, however, that I became very excited at one point. While my sons went through the fun house, I looked to my left and saw a man wearing a red hat. On the hat, from the distance I was at, I would have sworn I saw the symbol from The Greatest American Hero. But, just as I planned to ask him where he got the hat or even offer him all the money in my pocket for his, the symbol came into focus and I realized it was just a California Angels (or Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, whatever) hat.

The feeling of disappointment that followed stayed with me for the rest of the three days of the carnival.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Madden(ing) 11

So, I've been playing Madden 11 for awhile now and have started to get adjusted to the Gameflow play calling system. I wanted to update you all on what I thought.

Once your personal settings are tweaked to your liking, the game does play faster. I'd estimate my average game as taking about two-thirds the length it used to. While saving time may be a important benefit of the new system, it isn't the only one.

I freely admit that flipping through the playbook just to get to the same ten plays over and over was tiresome. Now you get a little more variety, though you'll see certain plays repeat frequently. I think my play at quarterback has become stronger by being forced to run the kinds of plays that I wouldn't normally select to run.

It makes the game more challenging and more exciting as well. I actually feel a little stress every now and then as I scramble to get take a look at the play and then get the snap off in time. You have less time to audible out of the chosen play which is more realistic and I'm all about realism.

But there is one aspect of Madden 11 that nobody else will tell you about. Here at Transformer Generation Dad, however, we strive for honesty. We rarely achieve it, but we strive nonetheless and I'll be damned if we're going to stop trying now.

The most realistic thing about Madden 11 is that halfway into any relatively close game, you are going to want to reach into the earpiece of your headset and strangle your offensive coordinator. I can't tell you how many times I have screamed helplessly into my microphone (which I keep turned down in front of my mouth while playing for some reason as if anyone can hear me), "What the hell play are you running?!"

If that's not consistent with the real NFL, I don't know what more you could want.

Yet Another Feature To Keep The Features Weekly-er Than Ever

Welcome to Transformer Generation Dad. In case you haven’t been here before, allow me to inform you that we have a group of weekly features on the left hand column. In order to maintain the weekly-est of weekly features that our readers demand, we pour our blood, sweat and tears into changing them each Sunday.

To be honest, we don’t get to it every Sunday, but usually Sunday. Also, we don’t pour much blood into them. We use mostly just sweat and tears. Mostly tears in fact. We cry a lot. Also, by we, we mean I.

So, first on the agenda is our top five list. This week, we use our list to reflect on the fact that cartoons are not just for kids any more. In fact, there are plenty of cartoons (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squid-billies, Metalocalypse, and I’m not sure were to throw Robot Chicken in since it’s not actually a cartoon) that your kids are only watching if they are in their teens or you are a neglectful parent. But we aren’t here to pass judgment, just to make a meaningless list, so let’s be on with it then:

5 – The Life & Times of Tim: Created by Steve Dildarian, it’s a Seinfeld-esque animated show on HBO that features the hilarious happenings (that was accidental alliteration…and that consonance was coincidental…whoa, I’m good) of a timid average Joe drawn like stop motion Beavis and Butt-head.

4 – Family Guy: If you expected to see this show ranked higher, you might have two years ago. I’m all for random humor, and no show does random like Family Guy, but I’ve come to expect more plot and cleverness to my cartoon shows. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still funny as hell, but three shows surpass it.

3 – Futurama: I’m so glad they have started making new shows (which you can watch on Comedy Central) because I always thought Matt Groening’s second best cartoon was widely underappreciated.

2 – The Simpsons: Smart, yet raunchy humor. While it pains me to rank them only number two because of how much the yellow bastards have been a part of my life, there is a show which currently sits above it at number one. Still, this show was the beginning of the adult-themed cartoon. In fact, I think all the rest of the cartoons on this list have to pay royalties to the Simpsons.

1 – South Park: The fact that they can still skewer society on a regular basis using a group of fourth graders that look like they’re cut out of construction paper is awesome. The fact that no group is safe from mockery or criticism and that said mockery and criticism actually goes directly to the heart of each show’s issue at hand is also remarkable. Watch South Park and you’re sure to be offended eventually, but you’ll laugh your ass off over it.

This week’s cool-ass thing you’ll never own is a clone army. The planet where they are created is in a galaxy far, far away, so you’re looking at extremely high transportation costs right off the bat. Should you successfully make the journey, you will surely have to pay more than Palpatine originally did. While I haven’t been able to get a reliable quote, I hear the Kaminoans are really taking advantage of the popularity of the Clone Wars animated series. Even if that weren’t the case, inflation alone would be killer. Remember, the Republic bought that clone army a long, long time ago.

This week’s sign you are a nerd is that you read this blog. Oh, c’mon, laugh at yourself. I didn’t mean anything by it! Come back! COME BACK!

This week’s nemesis is Lunchables from Oscar Meyer. I try to give my kids a variety of healthy options for lunch at school each day, but when shopping each weekend, the yellow boxes and their convenience call out to me.

This week’s lesson learned is to switch the tooth under your child’s pillow for the money as soon as possible one he or she is asleep. Should it slip your mind, you will have a lot of explaining to do about why the tooth fairy slipped up. It’s hard enough to justify my own behavior, I don’t need the stress of accounting for where a fictional, oral-obsessed pixie might have spent the night that kept her from completing her rounds.

This week’s equation serves as my commentary on the new trends in the way school systems are organized and what they are doing to the institution of childhood:

This week’s Star Wars quote is: “Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends. Yes, your thoughts betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially for…sister.”

Finally, in a desperate attempt to make this blog more useful, we have added a new weekly feature where we tell you what new interesting things are to be released each week, entitled Stuff Coming Soon. We hope to keep a relatively comprehensive list of stuff we are interested in and excluding stuff that we think will suck or including it just to make fun of it.

Have a good week, everybody. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Today's Kids Were Born In The 80s, They Just Don't Realize It

It’s important to know your roots. This holds true even for entertainment.

Children of this generation seem to have greater access to the toys, games and overall experiences of their parents’ childhoods than ever before. Toys I played with as a kid in the eighties are making a comeback (Star Wars, Transformers, G.I. Joe), movies are being released that call back to old movies and TV shows (Underdog, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Star Wars: the Clone Wars and, again, Transformers) and television seems to be going retro (check out the Boomerang Network if you haven’t already, I’ll be describing it further in a coming post).

Sure, my kids have new things I never had like the Wii and the Rip Rider 360 (that’s a tricycle that has rotating rear wheels and is extremely awesome). They are into newer shows like Spongebob, Adventure Time and the Regular Show (which is hilarious, by the way). But they also enjoy shows like Tom & Jerry, the Flintstones, the Smurfs and Popeye. They play with all my old Lego bricks and have been exposed to a lot of older video games via my old NES and the Atari 2600 games I’ve downloaded onto my Xbox 360.

I like this. I think it makes it easier for me to connect with my sons through common interests. I also think it’s good for a kid to know the history of the things they enjoy. I think it helps them appreciate all they have. That’s why I’ve made a point of exposing them to all the old stuff their dad and mom played with and enjoyed as kids.

It’s been pointed out to them that Mario didn’t always have round, friendly, chubby cheeks, red overalls (they were shocked to see they used to be brown) and a stereotypically thick Italian accent. And Luigi wasn’t taller back then, leading them to reason he’d experienced a growth spurt some time between Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Brothers 2.

They were also amazed at the lack of buttons on old controllers. I explained to them that even further back it was one stick and one button. Done. Now, it seems as if controller buttons have mated and produced offspring like rabbits.

They have played with my old Transformers and felt how much heavier they are. They also see how the pieces were harder to move but how that resulted in better fitting together in their hidden forms.

My sons can appreciate how insanely detailed the movement of their action figures’ arms and legs are because they’ve held an original Obi Won Kenobi figure (circa 1978, plastic light saber concealed in hollowed arm) in their hands. Now, they can make their action figures walk without them having to goose-step around the house like Nazi soldiers.

They like newer popular music and hip hop (much to my chagrin) but also enjoy the guitar riffs of The Who and head banging metal sound of Metallica. Future musical lessons will include enlightenment about how video killed the radio star, how we all used to imagine what a big party 1999 was going to be and why people who want to ride should ride the white horse.

I exposed them to the Star Wars movies in the order they were originally released. They know that the ships in the original Star Wars looked more realistic because they were actually real things (just very, very small). They know the original Kraken looked more like a giant Creature from the Black Lagoon action figure their father used to have.

When it comes down to it, the eighties may be over, but you have a whole generation of kids that are being exposed to the culture from it via their parents. Plus, with so much of that decade making a comeback, you are really educating your kids by exposing them to it.

So, don’t let the eighties die. Keep them alive by trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, doing the Safety Dance, watching Fraggle Rock or enjoying a frozen treat from your Snoopy Snow Cone Maker together. They’ll thank you later.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Third Person Thursday: The Lost Tribe of Algenia

It took many generations before they saw their effort rewarded. The people of the Algenian race had suffered through great hardship. Their god had given them a land that was harsh and merciless.

Yet they had managed to survive.

Despite infertile crops, wave after wave of unexplained plagues and severe weather, their people had managed to prevail. Each time their race was near extinction, the Algenian people would make sacrifices to their god and pray not for good fortune or happiness, but merely for survival.

Time after time it had been granted.

Never had the Algenians questioned their god. Never had they wondered why they were not blessed with more or why they were made to worry that their children may be the last of their kind. They simply worked and thanked their god for the mercy he had decided to show them. They worked long days and nights to prepare for the days when their god may not be so merciful.

And so, with The Great Flourishing came much rejoicing. The Algenians were certain that their hard work and their tireless faith had finally paid off.

They multiplied. Their population rose steadily for many an era. Although they sometimes feared their numbers were increasing too quickly, the food was rich and plentiful. They had all they could desire. No Algenian was left hungry.

Their domain spread. As they pushed out past their previous boundaries, they discovered land they had never known existed. The countryside turned a lush green as they cultivated it. It seemed as if the worst was behind them. Every one of their kind believed that this was a golden age with which they had been blessed. It seemed that it would never end.

But that which takes generations to achieve can be lost in an instant.

The plagues which had come before in their history had decimated their population, but had always left them with enough to rebuild. This time, something was different.

When it began, the greatest Algenian minds met to try and face the threat. Their race’s success had resulted in advances in science and medicine. They were sure a cure or at least an answer to the plague’s origin could be determined.

“Knowledge will guide us to a solution,” they said.

But their research and their calculations made no difference. The plagues raged on. They swept swiftly across the land and took many lives. More lives than ever, perhaps because there were now so many to take.

Meanwhile, the clerics rallied in their temples. Prayer, they claimed, had delivered them to their current level of success and it shall see them through yet another challenge.

“Our god is a loving and merciful god,” they insisted. “Our fruitfulness has led him to think us spoiled. He demands greater sacrifice from we, his children.”

And sacrifice, they did. Livestock was slaughtered. Possessions were burned and destroyed. Eldest children were sent out into the wastelands alone, mothers knowing they would never return.

But this, too, changed nothing.

For a long time, the Algenia watched their people suffer. The multitudes that had once occupied their sprawling nation had been eradicated. The few that were left in the end knew the end was inescapable.

On one fateful day, the final living member of the Algenia race lay down on the barren, sterile ground where great fields of green had once been. He looked skyward and saw in the clear, burning bright sky, the blurred silhouette of a great being. He cared not if he truly saw it or not. With his last breath, he shouted toward the being in the heavens.


And then he passed. His question left unanswered. His people were no more.

“Did you say something?” Harriet asked Keith.

"Just saying how I never thought I’d get it clear again," Keith replied as he leaned over the side of the pool and peered into the water. “Remember how green it was last week? I suppose that algaecide stuff really was better than the bleach.”

Keith then began to unscrew the plastic cap over the drain. “Guess it’s time to drain her ‘til next year,” he said.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mega Fan

So, I had let my XBox Live account expire and had been wanting to sign back up so that I could download games and try out the XBox Live Arcade Game Room. I finally got around to it the other day.

Cost: $49.99

After perusing the titles available for download, I saw one I had to have. Mega Man 10. But that required that I buy some game points. The value price of 4000 points seemed to work best for me. It just makes economic sense, like buying an entire gallon of mayonnaise at a time from Costco. You pay less by volume and have to make fewer trips to the store (so what if you have to buy an extra refrigerator to store it in). So, 4000 it was.

Cost: $49.99

Now my sons and I can waste all kinds of time that should be spent on more productive activities like homework, chores, eating, and sleeping (writing this blog is not included because it is far from a productive activity) trying to defeat all the robot bosses. This will also cost time in research on line regarding the best order to face them in.

Total cost: $99.98 + productivity

I consider this a small price to pay for my long awaited reunion with the blue bomber. I hadn't realized how empty my life had been for the last decade until I started playing Mega Man games again. How can one put a price tag on such joy?

Only read this last part if you are my wife.

Honey, please don't kill me.

I Could Just Die(t)

With the start of the school year, I’m trying to be more conscious of what we’re buying at the grocery store. I want to try and keep healthy options available for my sons’ lunches and, thus, encourage them to eat better.

On the other hand, I’m holding myself to no such standard.

When I’m at work, I eat bad and use the excuse of not having much to choose from but crap (delicious crap). But on my days off I take it to a whole other level. My days off often fall on a weekday. Even without that trusty excuse of limited selection, I still eat garbage because nobody’s watching.

I already eat like an eight-year-old, routinely enjoying Frosted Flakes and Corn Pops (when Cookie Crisp isn’t available) with my sons, but without their prying eyes scanning my every move, looking for an example to follow, my eating spirals downward to fulfill the most base of my dietary desires. Breakfast consists of coffee and whatever item from the cookie and pastry family is to be found in our cabinets (that’s been Nutter Butters the past few days). Lunch is often an assortment of chips, any available dips (guacamole if I’m lucky) and whatever chocolate I manage to scrounge up, washed down with a beer or two. Every now and then, I’ll get the hankering for a salami or peanut butter and jelly sandwich (though never together, eww, but still with beer…yum). Regardless, I sit eating my selection and looking around to see who might witness all this like a ravenous squirrel worried someone may try to steal his acorn.

Come dinnertime, my raging appetite for fat is usually curbed because I’m back in the line of sight of my sons. Shame forces discretion. I routinely wash my face before picking them up so that they won’t smell the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Pringles on my face during after school hugs and kisses.

Occasionally, however, the monster in my stomach will come out even then, mocking me for trying to keep it under wraps now after letting it gorge itself and gain strength all day. We’ll take them out for dinner and my intentions to order a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo fall siege to my instinct to try the new breaded steak sandwich with red sauce and mozzarella that was so appetizingly advertised in handwritten bold black magic marker on the door as we walked in. Hold the sweet peppers because those are technically vegetables. Bah, vegetables!

The pictures of the value meals at McDonalds are the bane of my healthy eating. As I pull into the drive through thinking salad the enlarged photo of the double quarter pounder places me in its greasy trance and tricks me into ordering it (without cheese, though, got to watch that figure).

If I ever want to see my belt again, I might want to start eating healthier. If not for my sake, then at least for my kids so they see a good example from their father. Then again, maybe if I keep eating terribly they will eventually be so repelled by how grotesquely obese I have become that they will eat better. It’s like that “scared straight” program where they take kids into prisons and show them what bad behavior leads to. My sitting at the table with them may be enough to remind them to choose the veggies over the fries.

Son (either of them): “I’ll take the BLT.”

Waitress: “That comes with a side. Fries or salad?”

Son: “I’ll take the f…”

His Old Man (scratching stomach as a gurgling noise works its way upward through esophagus): “BBBUUUUURRRPPP!”

Son (shuddering): “Salad. Dressing on the side, please.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The (Multi-)Task At Hand

For years, I have been against the concept of multi-tasking for several reasons. Call me old fashioned that way. Or, if you don’t want to call me old fashioned, call me experienced because I’ve learned from my mistakes on this. Looking for your phone and discovering it hours later in the refrigerator because you were trying to take care of a phone call while you made your kids dinner will teach you to focus on one thing at a time.

When I’m doing one sucky thing, I don’t want to stress myself out more by adding another sucky thing to my agenda. Before you know it, you’re buried alive under suckiness. And if the first sucky thing distracts you from doing the additional sucky thing properly, you may very well find yourself having to redo said sucky item on your agenda again. In the end, the suckiness of your day increases by fifty percent (sucky task + sucky task = 2 sucky tasks; while 2 sucky tasks done simultaneously + redoing one of the sucky tasks = 3 sucky tasks; trust me, where my grammar is lacking, my math makes up for it).

This philosophy also holds true for me when doing something enjoyable. I don’t want to sprinkle anything that sucks onto something I enjoy. It’s like topping your ice cream with powdered fiber.

I even try not to do two things I enjoy at the same time. It seems to take concentration away from each enjoyable thing. Instead of fully enjoying each activity to its fullest, you sort of half enjoy both at the same time. Even while I’m fishing, I will fish for awhile and then decide I want a beer. Fishing will pause, beer will be consumed, and then fishing resumes.

Recently, however, I have decided to try a new approach. My brother-in-law regularly watched movies on his train ride to and from the office. Following his example, when I have an unpleasant task at hand, I have decided to now generate an enjoyable task I hadn’t previously planned on doing to multi-task with it. Instead of adding suckiness, I’m adding something enjoyable which reduces the overall suckiness of what is being done.

For example, I used to try and do something like send e-mails or fold my laundry while I watched a football game. The flow of adrenaline and testosterone was inhibited by matching socks and folding t-shirts. I dragged down a good time by adding something that sucked.

Now, if I need to do something like pay bills, I bring some beer to my desk with me and put on that album I’ve been wanting to listen to. I’m adding good to sucky. Should the enjoyable aspects distract me from the bills, I just get to have more beer while I redo them.

Need to make some phone calls? Who says you can’t do this while playing video games. Just turn the sound down, get yourself a wireless earpiece and enjoy. If you get distracted during the call and embarrass yourself? Have a few quick excuses prepared. Kids and dogs are great for this. Or, pause the game, finish the call and then you have an excuse to just play video games.

I’ll get to it in a minute, honey. I started playing while I was on the phone, so now that I’m off, let me just finish this one level and save.

The only pressure here is to come up with more random fun things you can do to whole doing things that aren’t fun. If you get distracted from an important task, at least it was for something you enjoyed.

What one creates here is not necessarily a win-win, but it’s not a lose-lose either. I’m not exactly sure how it all shakes out, but I do know there’s a win in there somewhere. I'll balance the books on this and get back to you.

Vote For Me! Love Me!

Highly intelligent, wonderfully loyal, amazingly sexy, adverb adjective readers, today I ask a favor of you.

I hope that my asking you for something doesn’t cause you any distress. I assure you I do not wish to be the proverbial panhandler, stepping aggressively into your path and insisting on your change as you just try to make it to your office with enough time to spare to grab some coffee and a bagel from the lobby kiosk before hitting the elevator.

On the contrary, I felt that, having brought you, my intelligent, loyal, sexy readers such joy and happiness over the last several months that it was time for you all to give back.

Now who’s the bum asking for a handout? Huh!?

But that’s all water under the bridge, readers. I forgive you. Besides, when this blog has been providing you such extremely humorous posts, who wouldn’t want to just take and take and take without giving back? Who could resist the urge to mooch free laughter and the occasional nugget of knowledge from Transformer Generation Dad when it’s all there for free? Let it be known that I am a kind and benevolent blogger and I intend to continue to give to my readers.

The gift that I give you today is a pre-packaged way for you to give back to Transformer Generation Dad for all the countless hours of entertainment you have been provided. Feel guilt no more. Now, there is a link at the bottom of the left hand column…

(<-------- That’s this side)

…that allows you to vote for this blog in the Hottest (in a cool, not sexy way) Daddy Blogger category of the Blogger Choice Awards.

Oh, readers, if you could just help me achieve this one small goal (note: goal is actually somewhat large), I promise to forever provide you with the high quality posts (note: post quality is actually quite low) for the rest of eternity (note: this claim is obviously impossible, but hopefully I outlive you and you never know the difference).

So get out there and vote, intelligent, loyal, sexy, young, shapely, hip, sassy, supple, adjective, adjective, adjective readers. Win me a Blogger Choice Award and you shall also win my heart (note: possession of my heart shall be retained by me indefinitely).

On one final note, my wife proofread this post for me and then said, “You sound too needy and pathetic. I’m not even going to vote for you now.” (note: I wasn’t asking her opinion, merely for proofreading…okay, so that’s my final note)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kick Around This Week's Features

I should’ve taken care of this yesterday. It’s weekly feature time.

The top five for the week is football movies and I must include the warning that I have yet to see The Blind Side:

5 – The Waterboy: Think what you will of Adam Sandler’s stupid sense of humor, it works for me more often than not (Happy Gilmore, yes, Grown Ups, no) and this was one of his best

4 – Rudy: The classic underdog movie. You can’t help but pull for Rudy by the end of this film. Even though all he does is get in for some garbage time at the end, you feel like he won a championship.

3 – Brian’s Song: The friendship between Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo is the subject of one of the only movies ever a man can watch with a box of tissue and not be ashamed of himself.

2 – Remember the Titans: I firmly believe that sports are more than a game, particularly at the high school level. They can teach young people lessons about life and integrity if led by the right coach. This movie is a shining example of that.

1 – The Longest Yard (1974): Speaking of Adam Sandler, the remake he made of this movie kind of sucked, especially in comparison to the original where Burt Reynolds is at his best. Yes, even better than Smokey and the Bandit. Yeah, I said it.

This week’s cool-ass thing you’ll never own is this blog. While it is undoubtedly cool, I’m pretty fond of it and will not relinquish rights for less than mid six figures. Besides, if you were to purchase it, it would cease to be cool as soon as it was no longer owned by me and, thus, you would still not own a cool-ass thing.

The sign you are a nerd for this week is that you couldn’t figure out why that place with the really good chicken wings and all the big TVs was suddenly more crowded than usual on Sunday. It’s called football season.

This week’s nemesis is opening day optimism. Sure, this time of year, it’s my football team, but it could just as easily be baseball, basketball or hockey. Regardless of sport, I’m so excited by my team’s potential (usually not deservedly so) that I’m setting myself up for heartbreak.

The lesson I learned this week is that Little Caesar’s “Hot & Ready” pizzas carry with them no guarantee to be either hot or ready.

This week’s equation is:

Where S is soccer, p is the predictability of which way the ball will bounce, g is goals scored, m is manliness, and F equals football (yes, American Football).

This week’s Star Wars quote comes from the many armed General Grievous: “I expected someone with your reputation to be a little…older.”

That’s all for this week. Thanks, as always, for reading. Stay tuned for an impassioned plea to come from me soon. I hope I can count on you.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

Nine years ago today, I had no kids. My wife woke me up and told me something had happened that sounded so strange to me, I thought I must have misheard her in my sleepy haze. Sadly, I hadn’t.

As we stared at the television, wondering exactly how a passenger plane runs into a skyscraper, it happened again before our eyes. In one horrifying moment, we knew none of it had been an accident.

I still get the chills when I think about it. It was something that has changed any who witnessed it forever. Many lives were senselessly lost. Those of us who have kids now, but didn’t then, may find it difficult to explain exactly what happened.

In light of this, I’d like to recommend to you two books.

The way we initially brought the subject up to our sons was via a children’s storybook called Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman. It’s a story about a group of friends who purchased and refurbished an old fireboat and ended up helping on that fateful day.

Reading this book with them caused them to naturally ask questions. My wife and I explained to them that it was a very sad day. We told them that bad people decided to hurt other people. We did this all by responding to the questions they asked about the story and the illustrations. Needless to say, we spent more time explaining the events of September 11, 2001 than reading from the pages, but in the end, they understood that a lot of people stood together and refused to be frightened.

The book does a great job at telling children a story they’d be interested in and informing them without getting too heavy.

But, as they get older, heavy will become appropriate. To see the things that I saw and what many others saw that day will be fully appropriate. I picture them, some time in high school, looking through another book with my wife and I.

This book is Here is New York: A Democracy of Photographs. It contains nearly a thousand photographs of the events of September 11th in New York. Some are heart-wrenching, some are uplifting and some are disturbing. In all, they create a very real and very powerful sense of what it was like to see everything. I must repeat, however, this is not a book to look at with your younger children. This is a book I keep out of their reach for a later date.

In remembrance of those who lost their lives nine years ago today, people who were taking a routine flight, people who were just trying to do an honest day’s work and people who rushed into the flames to pull others out, I think it’s important to pass on to our children exactly what happened on that day. To ignore it or keep it from them would be a mistake in my mind. If either of these two books helps you approach the subject with your child, I’ll feel I’ve done a service here.

Let us always remember.

God bless America.

Third Person Thurs(Satur)day: Into The Eye Of The Storm

Roger stared straight ahead and tried not to hear the conversation going on behind him.

“He is so cute. I, like, hadn’t seen him in so long and he is so hot now. I saw him when I was with my boyfriend and he came up and said hi. He was totally flirting with me right in front of him and then he texted me later.”


“I know, I was like, oh no! Drama! But I totally loved it too.”

Roger’s gaze went past the cashier, through the window into the kitchen, over the shoulders of the men preparing what he hoped were his pizzas and tried to burn a hole in the steel door at the rear of the restaurant so that Roger could see out to the alley. He pictured all these details and what it was he might see in the alley had he been able to make that hole in an attempt to distract himself from the high pitched voices of the teenage girls talking about their boyfriends.

It wasn’t working.

“Can I help you?” asked the cashier in a mumble Roger could barely understand.

“Pick up for Roger.”

The girls behind him squealed over something. Roger found it impossible to tell their voices apart. He actually pictured two identical gum-chomping young girls behind him each enjoying the conversation with their clone.

“That’s gonna be…” the cashier mumbled downward, into the register and then said an unintelligible number. Roger wasn’t sure if he had just been told a price or an estimated waiting time.

“I’m sorry?” said Roger.

“Huh?” replied the cashier as the teenage girls laughed behind Roger.

“I said I’m sorry,” Roger repeated above the girls, the ringing of the bell hung above the door and the loud laughing that accompanied the man on the cell phone who made the bell ring.

“Now way, dude! That’s awesome!”

“Sorry for what?” asked the cashier.

Roger sighed as he heard the new man tell his buddy on the phone what he would have done and the girls behind him scream at one another in a disagreement over which outfit each should wear to the party tomorrow night. Roger was having trouble remembering what he had said to confuse the cashier.

He stared blankly at the young man, who had a much blanker stare than Roger’s, for a moment and tried to remember what he was even doing there.

“I didn’t hear what you said,” Roger caught himself, “could you repeat it?”

“I said it’ll be…”


“…more minutes.”

Whatever was dropped in the kitchen kept Roger from hearing exactly how long he was to be trapped in the small, overheated waiting area of the pizza joint, but he knew he must wait all the same. He went to the plastic molded chair nearby and sat down heavily.

As Roger noted how flimsy the chair was, the door opened again with the ring of the bell above. In walked a mother and her small child. The woman, Roger took notice, was silent upon walking in. Her son, however, was singing a popular song, which Roger could not name but recognized due to how much it annoyed him, over and over.

Roger recalled what had brought him to his current location.

His children had been arguing constantly throughout the day, throughout the entire house while he had attempted to get some work done. Since his inability to concentrate while it sounded as if there was a herd of Rhinoceros playing tag through his house resulted in lost productivity, he had promised he would pick up pizza and let them watch a movie as they ate it. Maybe he could get something done in the evening then.

As he had left the house, his wife suddenly suggested the kids go with Roger. So, instead of a quiet drive while listening to sports radio, Roger listened to the repetitive soundtracks of his kids’ Nintendo DS games and their arguments.

“You had that game all day yesterday!”

“Nuh-uh! You did!”

Roger looked now out of the pizza place’s front window where his children sat in the back seat of his car, still playing their games and wasn’t sure he wanted to go back. Just then, the six year old that had come in with his mother stepped on his foot.

The teenage girls continued to talk loudly and shrilly about boys. The man on the phone was still on the phone and Roger guessed that one of them had a bad connection based on how loudly he insisted on speaking.

It seemed as if Roger’s entre day had been a gradual crescendo of noise leading up to this point. Every attempt he’d made at avoiding the din around him only lead him further into madness. His head pounded.

Roger put his elbows on his knees, his hands over his ears and closed his eyes. He feared that if he exposed himself to any more auditory stimulation, he would surely go mad. But after what he thought couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, he began to worry more about how he must look to everyone else, doubled over in a chair and covering his head.

Roger slowly opened his eyes to the filthy tile floor. He uncovered his ears and heard nothing. He raised his head slowly and saw that all of the other customers had left. The cashier had disappeared to the kitchen. He turned and saw his children’s faces lit lowly in his car by their DS screens, each absorbed in their own game.

This was the closest thing to silence that Roger had experienced all day.

“Your pizzas are ready now, sir,” the cashier came around the corner and announced.

Roger sighed and was about to stand up when he had a thought.

“How much longer for an order of breadsticks?”

The cashier looked into a heated case, finding nothing and said, “Ten minutes.”

“I’ll take an order of breadsticks then,” Roger answered, stretched out his legs and relaxed in the flimsy plastic seat.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Incredible Shrinking Vocabulary

As someone who values intelligence (translation: nerd), I get a kick out of hearing my sons use a new word, especially when they use it properly. The fact that they have listened to people in such an observational way as to pick up new words and understand their meaning based on context is exciting. To think that they learned them in school or from reading makes me even more proud.

But as my sons’ vocabulary expands, I find that mine is atrophying. When I speak now, I feel like a lesser version of my college self. I can rarely seem to choose the right word to describe exactly what I want to say. When I was in college, I never seemed to have this problem. Maybe I just had a cocky, misplaced confidence in what I was saying.

Either way, my conversations suffer debilitating bouts of, “Uh,” and, “Er,” that stop them in their tracks and derail good ideas that had been barreling through my mind (although I must admit I am smugly pleased by my consistent use of railroad metaphors in that last sentence). I find myself less willing to speak up with my ideas because while what I’m thinking might have value, I’m afraid I’ll strip it clean with my wounded vocabulary.

My writing suffers as well. Time that was once spent (I paused a long time here to think of the right adverb) rapidly (and I’m not even happy with the one I chose) typing my thoughts is now often wasted staring at the screen while I deliberate over a single word.

There are still moments when I say something in front of my sons and they ask what the word I just used meant. I like those moments. I feel like I’m not talking down to them. I feel like they appreciate that and use me as a resource to help their vocabularies grow. I want to be a consistent resource for them, not an outdated reference that they have grown beyond.

I’d like to hear my sons say things like, “I felt highly motivated in school today. Our discussion of current societal norms and our willingness to adopt them as a survival strategy was interesting,” and know that they picked up this manner of speaking from me.

At this point, it’s more likely that I would cringe after I overhear them tell my wife, “I gotta drop a deuce,” knowing that little gem was picked up from me. My bad.

I suppose it’s time to put down the comic books and pick up a thesaurus.

Before long, my lexicon will be so hefty, it shall position you all in a situation of intense dishonor exhibiting your idiocy for all to perceive.

There’s even a thesaurus built in to Microsoft Word! I just used it on that last paragraph and you probably totally couldn’t tell (though I decidedly didn’t use it on that one). I’m back in the game!