Wednesday, November 30, 2011

TGD Week Late Movie Review: Hugo

Being the trend setter that I am, last year sometime I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick well before I had heard talk of a movie to be made based on the book, a movie directed by Martin Scorsese, simply titled Hugo.  After I, my oldest son and then my wife (only after she heard the movie was coming out...I suppose she doesn't realize how ahead of the curve her husband is) read it and enjoyed it, we decided to head out on Tuesday night to see it in the theater.

Because I had the somewhat unique perspective of having read the book and having a child whom also read the book prior to seeing the movie, I figured it might be beneficial to my readers if I write a review.  So here's the Transformer Generation Dad take on the film Hugo.

The Plus Side:  You may go to the theater expecting a children's movie, but Hugo is a real movie.  Real in that it begins, progresses and ends with a purpose and that purpose has nothing to do with getting cheap laughs or selling film-related merchandise.  The story works towards a meaning and the characters interact in believable way that develop the plot.  There is very little, if any, gratuitous humor or plot gimmicks.  Sure, the occasional funny moment is thrown in as is the occasional sweeping shot of the train station or the cityscape of Paris (the 3D is worth it), but it is always done with the story in mind.  An image set before you early in the picture is remembered differently after a moment of poignant dialogue.  A character's past is revealed in a moment requiring no narration.  The story line (faithful to the book) begins in one place and takes you in a completely different direction by the end.  The real story behind the tale of Hugo isn't quite what it was perceived to be at the start, yet the audience's arrival at its conclusion does not feel forced.  You don't end up sitting there saying, "Wait, did I miss something?"  By the end of the film, you feel satisfied with the journey you've taken.

The Down Side: You may go to the theater expecting a children's movie, but Hugo is a real movie.  My sons are in second and third grade.  My third grader read the book and upon walking out I asked him what he thought of the movie.  "It was good," he said with the practicality of grown man without feeling any need to elaborate on his comment.  I half expected he would suggest we get some coffee afterward.

My second grader, on the other hand, while a perfectly good reader for his grade level, is a bit short of possessing the confidence to pick up the very thick book (it's about as thick as a Bible, but mostly pictures) that his brother so eagerly read.  He sat through the first half of the film perfectly then casually took off his 3D glasses and respectfully asked if we could leave.

My two sons' varying levels of enjoyment of the movie is something important for parents to know prior to going to see Hugo.  The trailers remind one of The Polar Express in a way, a world filled with magic and wonder.  Make no mistake, the cinematography is wonderful, but this is no film filled with musical numbers and comic relief to keep the wee kiddies in their seats.  While I would not call it slow, true appreciation of the movie requires one sit still for a shade over two hours and pay attention to the screen.

The Wrap Up & TGD Rating:  Overall, this film is a winner.  It's insightful, beautiful and ultimately uplifting.  Adults will love it, talk about it and even be inspired by its message.  Kids who can watch a real movie will love it.  Even slightly younger kids will like it, especially during portions.  But be wary of the age of the children you might take with you. Taking a child who knows little but movies like Hop or The Chipmunks my very well impede the enjoyment of the adults who brought them as well as the adults sitting around them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The 2011 Gift Guide is Here

Happy Holidays!

Nothing screeches form the rooftops of malls (like an uncontaminated human fleeing the zombie hordes within and spotting a low flying aircraft overhead) that you are in the holiday spirit more than over the top consumerism.  In order to help you find the best gifts for your loved ones, I have committed hours of painstaking research to selecting a number of gifts and displaying them on Transformer Generation Dad's 2011 Gift Guide.

You may have seen me conducting such research.  It would have appeared to the untrained eye like me standing slack-jawed in the toy, video game and movie sections of local department stores drooling onto my shoes.  I assure you that the process you were so privileged to witness was me activating the photographic memory cortex of my brain, which happens to require the loosening of my jaw.  What you thought was drool was the run-off from the cooling system that my brain has developed to counteract the superheated temperatures which result from the intense amounts of thought I put into gathering information for the gift guide.  Now that's dedication.

Your interests and the interests of those you love are like the universe, they are ever-expanding.  Thus, as with last year, the gift guide will also be ever expanding.  The first few entries have been posted and more will be added up until the last few hours of the shopping season.  Like a growth on your shoulder blade, it begins with a small sampling that makes you notice it in the mirror and say, "Ah, it's probably nothing," and then a few weeks later is so large that your shirts don't fit anymore.  Yes, that it the horrifying speed with which the gift guide will spread, unchecked.

This year, however, I ask something special of my readers.  See something cool that I haven't noticed yet?  Contact me and let me know that it should be on the guide.  If it has anything to do with reality television or Twilight, I guarantee it will be left off, but I am open to all non-lame suggestions.

What are you waiting for?  This post stopped being interesting after the zombie reference, so stop reading already and get to browsing by clicking on the the link above or the Gift Guide logo at the top of the left column.

Good luck, fellow capitalists.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekly Features for the Start of the Holiday Season

As I sat around, enjoying the waning hours of the long Thanksgiving weekend, it became time to update our weekly features.  We begin with the top five leftovers.

5. Stuffing - Hold onto the feeling of Thanksgiving and deny the existence of the real world outside for as long as possible by heating up a plate of this warm, bread-based, holiday specific side dish.

4. Turkey - One of the most versatile leftovers.  Hot, cold, on a sandwich, even in a stew, it works.  But if you ate as much of it as I did, you may be burnt out.  It doesn't help that the meat already tends to be dry and only gets dryer as it's reheated.

3. Cranberry sauce - Dry turkey is where cranberry sauce comes in.  It adds moisture and flavor to the reheated bird and stands the test of refrigeration like a champ.

2. Pumpkin pie - You may have noticed that I'm all about holding on to the past.  Continuing to celebrate autumn with pumpkin flavored food is a good way to dig your nails into the the fleeting moments of the season and draw blood before it gives way to winter.  Without question, pumpkin pie is the best pumpkin flavored food ever.  I said no questions!

1. Mashed potatoes - I could eat bowls at a time.  Of course, this may be because my grandmother still makes the absolute best mashed potatoes on the face of the earth.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is a boom crane.  Hanging holiday decorations would be a lot easier and involve less fear of falling to your death if you had a platform to lift you to your roof.  You would need enough money to buy a luxury car and an unhealthy obsession with outdoing your neighbors, however.

The sign you are a nerd for the week is that you have decided to rely on data to choose gifts for others this year.  Whether compiling the stats yourself or using a program like GiveEmThis, you have decided to mathematically calculate the gift most likely to please your targeted receiver by accessing their social media posts.

This week's nemesis is raisins.  Though not everyone's cup of tea, I happen to think they are delicious.  But when you take into account their propensity to clump together, it causes it to look like I added some oatmeal to my bowl of raisins instead of the other way around.

This week's lesson learned is to force people to take home leftovers form the Thanksgiving dinner you hosted.  On top of looking generous, you'll have extra space in your refrigerator and more variety to your next week's worth of meals.

Trying to take care of your holiday shopping early and trying to do so within a budget without seeming cheap?  Use this week's equation to figure out how much to spend on a given person...

You can calculate appropriate cost (c) by dividing the amount of time you have known the person in years (T, less than 1 represented as 1) by the person's age in years (a) and adding that product to the result of the number of people who will witness the gift presentation (w) divided by the mathematical representation of which social circle the person is in with you (s; work=2, family=5 as they are more likely to still love you after receiving a crappy gift and Facebook only=10) then multiplying that sum by the level of influence the recipient has over your everyday life on a scale of 1-5 (i) and the genuine love you have for that person also on a 1-5 scale (l).

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is, "That's two you own me, junior."

Here's to the holiday spirit.  Remember to treat your fellow man kindly, which means not elbowing them in the chest or pepper-spraying them while racing across Wal-Mart to get the best deal.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

TGD Movie Review: The Muppets

As I've mentioned here before, my antisocial tendencies lead me to avoid venturing out with the family to see movies on their opening weekends.  The last time I did so was an extremely special exception (*cough* Captain America *cough**cough**hack**hack**wheeeeeeeze*).  Whoa, don't you hate it when you fake cough and end up choking on your own spit and coughing for real?  Yeah, me too.

Anyway, another exception presented itself over the Thanksgiving holiday and my wife and I took our sons plus their plus one to see The Muppets yesterday.  We braved the Black Friday crowds, I stared at my shoes a lot and we arrived early enough to not have to fight for a seat.  And it was worth it.

You have almost certainly seen the trailers for the movie as Disney has put the Muppets everywhere in anticipation of their triumphant return.  Yet it is just that hope of triumph that has resulted in the trepidation of many on old fan.  You may have even read of the myriad of concerns from "inside sources" and Muppet legends, most notably Frank Oz, over what they initially considered to be disrespect for the characters in the upcoming movie.

I was concerned as well.  When I read the concerns of Oz, I added them to my existing pile of concerns and dragged them about with me as I began to buy into the Muppet doomsday prophecy that the negative Muppets publicity was beginning to swirl into.  After trying to grin through so many movies that failed to live up to my hopes (*cough* the second Fantastic Four *cough* Green Lantern *cough* Tron: Legacy *cough**cough*), I was afraid Hollywood would stick a dagger into my heart and pierce right through the one section that I had not managed to harden over the years, the same portion that leaves me mesmerized by the theatrical performances of a society of puppets.

A short time into the movie, my fears were quelled.  Jason Segel did respect the characters.  There was no resentment between the Muppets as the negative pub claimed, except from Miss Piggy over Kermit's emotionally distance (which is totally consistent with the old Muppets).  Fozzie was still essentially a lovable failure.  They all worked together to make people laugh.  Silliness and plot gimmicks ran rampant.  The characters constantly acknowledged the fact that it was a movie.  There were no cheap laughs, none cheaper than the original Muppet Show and Muppet Movie.  The characters simply took an opportunity to inject one-liners as they always had.  It was all about the original concept of comedy, not shock, but timing.

So, without any further ado, let me get to the meat of the review...

The Plus Side: Two words: wholesome entertainment.  The "fart shoes" joke featured in one of the trailers was as low as the Muppets ever stooped.  If that's below your moral code, I suggest you stay home, order the box set of David & Goliath and then permanently seal the discs into your DVD player so that you are unable to watch anything else.  The Muppets makes an attempt to give kids more credit than most forms of entertainment do these days without taking itself too seriously (Kermit is interrupted in classic Muppets fashion just as he begins a monologue on this at one point during the film).

It will also keep the adults interested.  During Kermit the Frog's first musical number, I leaned over to my wife and told her I was about to cry.  This was from the wave of nostalgia I felt sweeping over me, and I was not kidding.  Thank God I picked up some extra napkins.

There is even a portion of the film that amounts to a half episode of the old Muppet Show.

The Down Side: Not enough Gonzo.  That's the only problem I had, personally.

The Wrap Up & TGD Rating: From start to finish, the Muppets will warm your heart and then make you laugh just as you start to get too choked up.  It's funny, cheesy, wholesome, classic fun for the whole family.  If you are looking for a perfect holiday family film, especially one that isn't all about Christmas, this should be your choice.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What I Gave Thanks For

First of all, I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Now let me get around to the important part of telling you about mine.

I was able to enjoy the most important aspect of Thanksgiving: food.  Way too much of it.

I was also able to enjoy another important aspect of Thanksgiving: family.  Waaaaay too much of it.

Separate parts of the day were dedicated to my side and my wife's side of our extended family.  Sitting in the company of loved ones, sharing stories, laughing together, eating, eating, eating and eating helped me realize, through a calorie overload haze, that I have so much for which to be thankful.  Many people do not live near their families or do not have family members they would even like to spend time with.  I am fortunate enough to have two groups of them to put on an impressive face-stuffing display in front of who also happen to be pleasant and loving enough for me not to be driven absolutely crazy by them....most of the time (love you guys).

But for all the blessings of family and calories surrounding me on the holiday, the thing I was most thankful for happened late that evening.

My wife had spent the entire day cleaning and cooking in preparation of her family's arrival at our home.  Thus, I volunteered to perform most of the cleaning up afterward as she finally got a chance to relax.  As I shlepped dishes and discarded, half-eaten foodstuffs back and forth from the dining room table and the kitchen sink, I was pleasantly surprised by an offer form my sons.

"Can we help you and bring stuff from the table, dad?" the offered.

Pride swelled inside me (or maybe that was the massive portions of stuffing finally hitting my lower intestine) and tears welled in my eyes.  My sons were being so thoughtful.  They were becoming so grown up.  I accepted their help and they did a seriously fantastic job of clearing the table and saving me a large amount of time (though not nearly as large as the amount of stuffing I ate).

It was quite possibly the best way I could ever have thought of to end a Thanksgiving.

That is until I found out that they were simply performing a chore in order to earn "mom bucks" from my wife.  I was no longer proud of their thoughtfulness.  Instead, I was proud of their financial savvy.  Especially in light of the upcoming shopping season.

The Best Laid Plans...

Well, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I did not spend my Black Friday in the streets of downtown Chicago in a cape and tights, collecting money for a veterans related charity as I so boldly proclaimed that I would.  Apparently, charities are not eager to accept a random strangers' offers to wear ridiculous costumes and accost other random strangers while trying to shop and ask them for money.

However, please rest assured that the charity we attempted to contact on behalf of Transformer Generation Dad's has received some money from us.

Such is life.  You live, you learn, you make promises that you cannot keep which end up disappointing you and the ones you love.  The next time, things will be better planned and done so more in advance.  That is life's true lesson, to learn from your mistakes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TGD Week (or Two) Late Movie Review: Jack & Jill

Last Friday, the wife and kids (plus extra kids) and I took in a movie.  No, it wasn't the newest chapter in the Twilight Saga, it was a movie that had already been out a week at that point, Adam Sandler's latest, Jack & Jill.

Let me begin by saying that I have been a fan of the silly, sometimes stupid humor of Sandler since Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore.  I even recall his appearances as one of Theo's friends on The Cosby Show.

Sandler has shown he can do more than cross his eyes, do his higher pitched voice and act like a buffoon on screen.  He put in good performances in Punch Drunk Love (albeit strange), Spanglish (he was decent, the movie was terrible) and Funny People, one of the most depressing comedies I have ever seen, though I like more each time I happen to see parts of it on cable.  But his bread and butter, the legacy he has created for himself revolves around movies just like this one.

Thus, his career seems to be playing out just as the career of his character in Funny People did, with him making ridiculous movies with ridiculous premises because people are paying him ridiculous money to do so.  Enter Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler in a dual role as Jack and his twin sister Jill performing prat falls, using camera tricks from the pre-Roger Rabbit era and talking in a high pitched annoying voice that we've all heard him do a thousand times before.

You might guess by now, this isn't going to go well.

The Plus Side:  It's an Adam Sandler movie, so it's predictable.  If you sit down in the theater, you aren't going to expect an Academy Award performance.  But you will get slapstick, toilet humor (I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for an ongoing fart joke) and a lot of cameos.  The cameos are pretty good this time around, including Johnny Depp, Shaq and Al Pacino being legitimately funny in a fairly large supporting role.  I wonder here if such a big name actor can be said to steal the show in an Adam Sandler movie.  If so, he did.

It's a relatively kid friendly movie as well.  There are a few gross and suggestive moments, but nothing you have to cover any eyes or ears over.

The Down Side:  It's an Adam Sandler movie.  Yep, pretty much the same movie devices that have been used since Happy Gilmore get paraded out once again.  There are often moments when the characters are talking loudly or overreacting to something and you realize that it is supposed to be a joke, but you aren't really laughing.  While there are some very funny moments, most of the film feels like you're waiting for something funny to happen instead of laughing at it.

Perhaps the biggest mistake Sandler made with this film, however, is the cameo he left out this time.  No Steve Buscemi.  I, for one, was extremely disappointed.

The Wrap Up:  This is not a great movie.  This is not a good movie.  It's an Adam Sandler movie.  Not as good as Happy Gilmore, but not as bad as Grown Ups, you get what you more than likely expect from this film with a little extra thrown in my Al Pacino.  Your kids will laugh more than you, but you'll laugh too, and pretty hard at times.  With a lot of new movies coming out for the elongated Thanksgiving weekend, you may want to look for a movie that has been out for awhile to view with your family.  This is one you can probably look past on the listings.

TGD Rating: At my wife's request (some may say demand...semantics), I am officially rescinding our extremely confusing rating system for the use of a simple icon showing who will like this movie between adults and kids.  You're welcome, honey.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Microcosm of Sports is a Microorganism in My Stomach

Sports are awesome.  They are fun to play.  Even the ones you don't know how to play.  Chances are, if you took the time to learn cricket, you'd soon relish the opportunity to defend your wicket from the bowler's googly with an impressive Dilscoop.

They're fun to watch.  Some of the best times I have had with my friends involve watching a game of some sort with at least half of our attention, the other half being devoted to the procurement and consumption of beer.  While being at the game is usually ideal, it can be just as entertaining to watch a sporting event on television in the comfort of your own home, even if that does mean you have to listen to Joe Buck.

You can even have fun being a complete nerd with sports.  Over-analysis is all the rage these days, with Moneyball recently out in theaters.  You can sit in your cubicle with spreadsheets full of numbers in front of you on your computer screen.  Your boss won't know that you're really looking at batting stats so that you can try and come up with an equation to account for a player's real value by combining average RBI, OBP, WHIP, TB, XBH, OPS, GIDP, BABIP and shoe size in order to reign supreme over your fantasy league.

Speaking of the nerdy side of sports, they can even assist us in awkward social situations.  I can't tell you how many times I've been sitting in complete silence next to a person I'd never met before at a social function.  I just sigh, shake my head and say, "Man, those (fill in team name here)," and there's a guaranteed conversation.  Plus, you can completely wing it by taking whatever side of an argument you want and nobody will call you on it for being wrong a few days later.  Professional commentators do it all the time.

For as much as I love sports, I am the first to admit that there are more important things in the world.  They exist to provide us entertainment and to provide a situation in which to teach life lessons to our youth.  When the ten year old league hockey coach chokes out an parent form the opposing team in the stands, I cry foul.  Sports teach us about life.  Life should not revolve around sport.

Still, with the happenings in the NFL in particular, I find the result of my team's weekly game to have a profound effect on my mood for at least seventy-two hours afterward.  I'm not sure I like this.

For example, just yesterday, my Bears won their fifth straight game.  They looked sharp again on both sides of the ball, their special teams contributed as usual and they remained in a solid position in the hunt for a postseason run.  I watched the conclusion of the game with great pleasure and left for work later that night with a warm feeling in the cockles of my heart.

All was right with the world.  There was a spring in my step.  I whistled happily on the way to my car.  I allowed people to merge in front of me on the expressway.  I needed no coffee.  The chemicals in my brain kept me more than awake.

Just as I arrived at my job, however, I tuned my radio to the local sports talk to hear the love fest.  I expected to take one last hit off the hookah of local sports media post-win optimism before heading in to work.  The talk that met my ears put me in a very different mood, however.

I learned that Jay Cutler, he of the quickly increasing importance to our team's success, had suffered an injury on the thumb of his throwing hand.  It would require surgery and he would likely miss the remainder of the regular season and possibly the playoffs.


When I stepped out of my car, the air felt twenty degrees colder.  The smiles and hellos from my coworkers were ignored as I walked through the halls looking at my feet.  I didn't want them to see the tears in my eyes.  The rest of my night was absolutely horrible.  Not because anything happened at work. To tell you the truth, I was barely paying attention to any of it.  All I could do was think about the nauseous feeling in my stomach.  We were barely in control of our spot as it was and now our hopes rest on the shoulders of Caleb Hanie.  I don't dislike the kid, but it didn't work in the NFC Championship game last year and my pessimism has me skeptical that it will go any better now.

But soon enough, hope snuck back into my mind.  "The schedule is favorable enough," I thought.  "Maybe Hanie can get us into the postseason then Cutler can return rested and ready to win it all."  I began analyzing the upcoming games, scouring the internet for stats and tidbits about the future opposition so that I might bolster mathematical proof that our hopes should remain high.

Then I found an interesting story.  Some pundits are suggesting that the Bears may contact retired (for sure this time?) ex-Packers quarterback Brett Favre about possibly making another comeback.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thank You, Features, for Being There Every Week

The new features for the week of Thanksgiving have arrived hot and toasty like dinner rolls, ready for you to sink your teeth into.  Since I obviously have food on my mind, it makes sense that the top five list will be the best meats to be featured in a Thanksgiving meal.  You had better know what number one is.

5. Lamb – Seasoned and succulent, it makes a better Easter dish, but its more respectable than placing chicken on your table for the holiday feast.

4. Beef – It’s hard to get better than red meat, but it isn’t particularly unique to the festivities.  Its dynamic personality puts it above lamb, however.

3. Pork – The other white meat, preferably in the form of a roast, can do quite nicely and I am particular to any product of the noble swine.

2. Ham – The second best Thanksgiving meat.  It is great for any large dinner any time of year in fact.  But when it comes to the fourth Thursday in November, only one can reign supreme.

1. Turkey – The rest of this list is essentially a collection of secondary meats you could serve alongside your turkey.  In fact, I believe that even if you are vegetarian, if you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you are legally required to cook a turkey and then donate it to a local shelter.  So, roast it or fry it, but I encourage you not to stick any smaller birds inside it on this most sacred of food related holidays.  It turns it into an entirely different dish.  Stick with the traditional presentation.

This week’s cool-ass thing you will never own is your own slaughterhouse.  All that talk about meat made my mouth start watering, which in turn got me thinking about having my own nearly inexhaustible source of steak at hand.  Maybe a small scale slaughterhouse out back would fill the need.  But zoning would provide quite a lot of red tape since the odor is sure to offend a few neighbors.  Then of course there’s the massive amounts of cattle entrails and blood to dispose of.

This week’s sign you are a nerd is that you can draw the chemical composition of L-tryptophan, which, of course, looks like this:

But I had to look it up so it doesn’t count.

This week’s nemesis is gravy.  Everyone’s favorite food lubricant greases the old esophagus so that we can shove food down at a faster rate can take something relatively healthy like turkey and instantly make it unhealthy.  Then it can take something already fairly unhealthy like stuffing and make it even less healthy.  It’s the equivalent of pouring on fried breading.  Is it possible that I just made gravy sound even more appetizing?

This week’s lesson learned is to wear the larger belt to Thanksgiving dinner.  You can unbutton that pants and loosen the belt a notch or two without anyone noticing.  But when you need to leave the belt completely unbuckled, you’re just admitting defeat.  You might as well wear sweatpants.

Here is this week’s equation:

The time in days that you will need to spend expanding your stomach in preparation for your Thanksgiving meal (t) can be calculated by taking the volume in milliliters of your expected plateful on Thanksgiving (v, subscript t), multiplying it by the projected number of helpings you plan to take (h), adding the number of desserts you plan to eat (d) and the number of meats included in the dinner (m), then subtracting the volume in milliliters of your average daily meal (v, subscript a) and dividing that product by the rate at which you wish to expand your stomach in milliliters per day (r).

Finally, this week’s Star Wars quote is, “We’re all fine here now, thank you.  How are you?”

I sincerely hope the week at hand reminds you of all that you are thankful for and that loved ones surround you.  I should clarify that.  I hope loved ones surround you and have nothing but good intentions, and may they all be living.  I’d hate to hear of someone being surrounded by zombie versions of their dead relatives and think it was my fault.  Then again, at least the zombie relatives should have a nice Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Helping Real Heroes is in the Works

Way back on November 8th, I posted what was to be Transformer Generation Dad's attempt at being philanthropic.  I wasn't founding my own charity or anything, but planning on organizing a mass, grassroots collection effort in the middle of downtown Chicago's busiest shopping district on the busiest shopping day of the entire year, Black friday, this November 25th.

If you know anything about me, or have read even a few posts here, you would realize how big of a deal this is for me to make an effort of this magnitude.  On a relative scale, this is like a normally motivated person climbing Mt. Everest.  The plan was downright intrepid.

As it turns out, donating change collected on the street to a worthy cause is not as easy as it sounds.  The biggest problem is finding a charity that will allow you to say you are donating the proceeds to them.  I had not anticipated this.

What I pictured was more of an impromptu collection for something like a little league team or the guy with the tinfoil hat on the expressway exit ramp and the handmade sign.  Except in our case, the money would go to a veteran's organization rather than purchasing new uniforms or malt liquor.

Much like my recent fire pit building adventure led me to the discovery that rocks are capable of exploding (click here for details of that previous project), a contacted charity that I cannot yet name enlightened me to the fact that we cannot simply stand on a corner and say that we are collecting for said organization.  Had I thought more about it, I would have realized that anyone could then claim they were collecting for any charity they wanted at any given time, thus dragging said charity's name through the mud when the funds generated go toward nothing but malt liquor.

So, having now attempted to go through the proper channels, Transformer Generation Dad hopes to have their application approved within the next few days and still perform our heroic change collecting task in heroic super hero tights for far more heroic heroes.

All the details are at the original post here.  Not much has changed except that we hope to have the charity named soon.  Stay tuned and be sure to contact me at if you are anywhere near the Chicago area and even the least bit interested in helping collect for even a short time that day.

I hope to hear form you.

Why I'm Glad My Wife Had to Deal With Pregnancy Instead of Me

Back in February, I began a self-imposed ban on new t-shirt purchases.  Spending money on new t-shirts of any kind for myself was expressly prohibited.  The fact that I have nearly run out of plain white undershirts to wear below white dress shirts has severely complicated this.  It has, however, made for some great conversations at wakes and funerals.

"I believe you have something on your shirt."

"No, that's just Spider-Man's face on the shirt I'm wearing underneath.  See," I continue as I unbutton my dress shirt to my wife's horror, displaying the comic artwork beneath, "it's the cover from issue 40.  Doesn't he look like such a bad-ass standing over the green Goblin like that?"

As I later told my wife, sometimes a close relative is reminded of the recently-deceased's love of their childhood comic superheroes due to just such a happy coincidence.  My exposure of my undershirt could then make their day a little brighter as we reminisce together over their loved one's life and hobbies.  That wasn't the case in the scenario above.  That time the guy looked at me like I had an ear growing out of my forehead, but you never know when it might be the case.

Despite the obvious difficulty, I am proud to say that I have managed to stick with my pledge.  Not a single silk-screened, torso hugging, mass produced display of my unique personality in clothing form has made its way into my wardrobe.

In fact, the t-shirts that I had long allowed to languish in the bottom of my dresser drawers or left for too long in the dirty laundry pile have received renewed attention.  I had forgotten just how many awesome t-shirts I possess.  The problem I face now is that I am keeping so up to date with cycling through my shirts that I sometimes feel guilty about wearing one that I particularly like again before I've worn another.

In the interest of fairness, I have caused myself stress over trying to be impartial, insisting that I treat my t-shirts as I would my children.  They even get washed almost as often as my kids, which has created a premium on dresser drawer space and I can't exactly expand to another drawer now or my wife will become very upset and either leave or, possibly worse, ridicule me.

But I think I have come up with a solution.  You know the saying, "Sometimes you have to spend money to make money?"  Well, I have distorted that theory to my own benefit and hypothesized that if I buy a few t-shirts that are so unbelievably awesome, they could replace three older t-shirts at a time.  This would leave me with fewer shirts, but higher quality ones.  I would have to buy t-shirts to get rid of t-shirts.

Brilliant, right?  Now let's just see if my wife buys it.  For Pete's sake, it's been nine months!  I'm going crazy here!  I need a new shirt!  Who could possibly withstand restricting such a fundamental aspect of their lifestyle for nine whole months?  My wife obviously doesn't understand how difficult it is.  She's never been through anything like this.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Thanksgiving Haikus

With limited time and a need to post something for Third Person Thursday, let's turn to what has become a running crutch here at Transformer Generation Dad despite the fact that they are not always presented in the third person...Haikus!!!  This time, they are in honor of Thanksgiving:

Lying on the couch,
falling asleep to football.
Too much tryptophan.

Button's gonna pop.
My belt is on its last notch.
More potatoes please.

Turkey, ham, gravy,
carrots, beef, corn, beans and pie.
What?  Only three meats?

Family and friends
gathered around the table.
What I'm thankful for.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


What I am about to tell you is shocking and disturbing.  Well, probably more disturbing than shocking.  It will also probably prove embarrassing for one of my sons several years from now when he stumbles upon the vast collection of my blog posts/ramblings floating in cyberspace collecting virtual dust some day.

No matter how high my son's level of horror is at the discovery that his old man wrote about his most vulnerable and private moments on a very public forum (I'll assure him hardly anyone ever read it), it will not come close to the level of horror that his mother and I skyrocketed to when we saw the disturbing thing in question.

During my wife's attempt at a sweeping overhaul cleaning of our home, she decided to begin with our boys' bedroom.  Once elbow deep in dusty action figures and assorted lost game board pieces, she eventually reached the wall our sons' bunk beds are up against.  She had climbed onto one of the beds, removed the sheets, displaced an army of stuffed animals which the son in question most likely completely forgot existed and, there, an old nemesis that we thought had long been defeated reared its ugly, multi-textured head again.  My son's booger collection.

My wife found herself face to face with what must have been nearly a year's worth of collected production.  Literally, her face was right there, such that I insisted she go take a shower before I would go near her because her hair probably brushed up against it.

About a year ago, I wrote about the last time we had inadvertently unearthed such a disturbing display.  Apparently, I had repressed the memory, but my wife insisted that I had written about it and I discovered the previous post here.

Thankfully, no public displays of snartwork (my term for snot art, as mentioned in the previous post I just linked to) had emerged, just these gems of clumpy green that had been secretly tucked away in the shadowy recesses near my son's bed.

So, calmly and I'm sure holding back her gag reflex, my wife cleaned them off the wall.  I stood and coached, telling her she needed to get a fingernail beneath them and even offered to retrieve the paint scraper from my tool box.  But she handled it like a champ with just a scrub brush and some elbow grease.  She didn't even call my son out on it immediately and instead favored a talk planned with him later to save him embarrassment.

I, of course, promised no such thing.

I just wonder if he's going to climb in bed tonight and be quietly distressed when he sees all his hard work has been destroyed.  Maybe while my wife was cleaning it he even sensed a great disturbance as if millions of boogers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Then again, he's a resilient little guy.  He'll probably just start fresh.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hold Your Reindeer!

There are so very many major events to celebrate in December.  We have Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Boxing Day.  You may choose instead to devote your celebratory energies and theme your home's decor around National Flashlight Day (Dec. 21), National Bicarbonate of Soda Day (Dec. 30) or the birthday of the longest tenured host of Television's Tic-Tac Dough, Wink Martindale (Dec. 4).

Regardless of what you choose to celebrate some time during the next month, one must recognize that Christmas is the most hyped of all these holidays, pseudo- or legitimate.  I know this because upon a visit to the bookstore the day after Halloween, the shelves in the children's section were cleared of all things spooky and scary to make room for all things red, green and snow-flakey.  I had not yet finished having horror movie fueled dreams about hacking my way through zombie hoards on my way to raid the long-abandoned grocery store's shelves of canned goods in order to sustain my bunkered family and already the ends of every aisle were adorned with fake snow and jingle bells instead of cobwebs.  Seventy-two hours later, one of the local FM stations (the one that normally plays the light hits of the eighties, nineties and today!) had converted to nothing but Christmas music.

Quick tangent: I love the Beatles and can acknowledge that Paul McCartney made some decent music after their disassembly, but his song Wonderful Christmastime is possibly one of the worst songs ever.  It makes me want to stab sharpened candy canes deep into my inner ear in order to prevent hearing any more of the song.  Moving on...

I find this premature shift of holiday gears unsettling.  While it should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of capitalism (earning and spending really gets my motor going) and I fully recognize the huge role Christmas has come to play in sustaining said massively successful economic system, I think that there is a proper way to celebrate what Andy Williams so aptly crooned to be, "The most wonderful time of the year," and that technique involves holding off until the day after Thanksgiving to begin your yuletide preparations.

Should you get into Christmas mode immediately after Halloween, you are committing over 14% of the entire year to the celebration of Christmas.  That's too much for any holiday.  We here at Transformer Generation Dad impose a strict 10% limit on how much of the year should be dedicated to any one event. You do the math.  That should give you more than enough days to wring all possible enjoyment out of any holiday.  Seriously, you do the math because, frankly, we aren't so good at it.

So go ahead and prepare all you want for the celebration of the enactment of the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed Prohibition (Dec. 5...we'll drink to that) and which also happens to coincide with the birthday of everyone's favorite allegedly anti-semetic innovator of animation, Walt Disney (again, Dec. 5, though those celebrating Hanukkah may be less enthusiastic about it).  You may even decide to be all dark and moody and begin celebrating the year pre-anniversary to the end of the world per the Aztec calendar (Dec. 21).  I don't care, as long as you don't start until November 25th.

Besides, starting any sooner takes away from the splendor of Thanksgiving.  Anyone who loves the overindulgence of Christmas can certainly appreciate the overeating and watching of football on giant television screens (probably purchased during the previous year's Christmas sales).  Why not celebrate the Twenty-First Amendment a bit sooner and throw some booze into the Thanksgiving mix.  Just a suggestion.

Ooh!  Thirty-six and a half days!  We just figured it out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Hard to Hold a Candle to These Cold November Weekly Features

Day late weekly features sound good to anyone else?  Then let us not wait any longer.

As the weather turns sporadically cold enough to keep my sons and their visiting friends from being banished outdoors without guilt over their frozen extremities, my patience with them runs increasingly thinner.  This week's top five list details the top five reasons I will yell at someone else's kid:

5. Swearing - If they are going to do it, they should at least learn the art of discretion and not do it within earshot of an adult.  This is really a skill set I am helping them develop.

4. Hitting - I don't care how many times the one losing the game hits the reset button.  Just stop playing with him then and keep your hands to yourself.

3. Touching my television - That flatscreen has been painstakingly mounted on that wall for years and I'll be damned if some little punk is going to do anything to change that.  Put your grubby little mitts on the remote all you want.  You have no reason to touch my baby.

2. Talking during the Bears game - Show some reverence for Pete's sake!

1. Calling time out just before getting tagged - I'll let you stomp around the house chasing each other all you want.  Even when the occasional thing gets knocked over, I won't Hulk out.  But when the pursuing child (aka "It") is about to tag you, you can't suddenly call time out.  That's dirty pool and something I just cannot abide.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is evidence of Bigfoot.  Sasquatch, Yeti, North American Man-Ape, call it what you will, if the thing does exist (cough) (cough) it doesn't (cough) and it has escaped undeniable detection for all these years, you are not going to be the one to crack the case, Sherlock.

This week's sign you are a nerd is your ability to recite a Monty Python sketch word for word, start to finish.  Yes, they are classics and I appreciate the chief weapon of surprise employed by the Spanish Inquisition as much as the next guy as well as the fear...fear and surprise, the two weapons of the Spanish Inquisition and ruthless efficiency...three, the three weapons of surprise, fear, ruthless efficiency and almost fanatical devotion to the the things I appreciate are...well, you get the picture.

This week's nemesis is November rain.  By this I mean the cold, biting precipitation that makes fall feel more like winter and causes one to actually hope instead for snow, not the epic rock ballad by Guns n' Roses.  Come to think of it, the song, November Rain got my hopes up that GNR would be around for years, cranking out album after album, just to leave me cold and disappointed when they broke up a short time later.  Sure there was another crappier album in there, but Axl, Slash and the boys never kept the promise of the potential they held and instead burned out like so many rock bands before them.  So I guess you could also consider November Rain the song to be my nemesis after all.

This week's lesson learned is to keep the giant tub of Halloween candy somewhere other than the room where your kids play all the time.  Just when you think you've sent them off somewhere to blow off some steam and stay out of your hair, they return with a raging sugar rush, followed by the even more cataclysmic crash, which results in your kids crying and saying that they hate you as you try to tuck them into bed.  Little angels.

This week's equation is self-explanatory:

This week's Star Wars quote is, "Good shot, Jansen!"

That's all for now.  I hope to catch up on some posting over the next few days, but the weekly features should tide you over until then.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Something He'd Rather (You'd All) Forget

With a limited amount of time to complete a Third Person Thursday post, Transformer Generation Dad enlisted help from his wife.  She was given the premise for the tale and its general series of events and the content below prior to the series of periods is what she completed.  The end was written by the normal blog author, who considers himself lucky to have a spouse talented and supportive enough to be trusted with the first ever contribution to this blog by a secondary source.

Each of his fifteen years of public service were confident, intentional steps leading up to this very day. Peeking out into the audience from behind the stage curtains, he could see his family sitting in the front row, huge smiles on their faces, shaking hands and conversing with people. With his religious upbringing, pride was not a feeling he felt comfortable with, but today, he couldn’t help himself from booming with it.  Guilt was pushed aside and he told himself the pride was well-earned, with all his honest hard work, the solid relationships and partnerships he tactfully engineered in his party’s best interest, and his undying loyalty to their causes. Today was about all of it – the years of sweat, the sacrifices, his family, his party, his country – and he would own today.

The audience grew silent and was seated now, awaiting their candidates’ arrival on the stage for some lively debate. “Governor Shea?” a voice behind him called. He turned, and faced a young female reporter he knew well from his campaigning. She was his own daughter’s age and reminded him of her in some ways – very smart and ambitious, a future as bright as the sun.

“Yes, what is it Miss Goetz? They’re about to call us on stage.”

Miss Goetz held photographs in her hand and held them out for him to see. “Sir, the press was just sent these photos from your college days. It appears it’s you, flipping a car over, and then later, in this video clip, you talk to reporters about how you support Joe Paterno undyingly. It was years ago, at Penn State, in the wake of the discovery of years of mass child molestation going on with others knowing about it and doing nothing – the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Sir, can I get your official comment on how you believe this will impact your run for President? Sir, before you go on stage? Sir? Sir? Sir?"


"Mr. Shea?"

The change in manner of address shook him from his daydream. He wasn't about to go on stage anymore. He was sitting across a desk from a young woman.  She was near his daughter's age. Two years had passed since he abruptly canceled his press conference.

"Mr. Shea?" the young woman asked again. "You were saying?"

"Sorry," he composed himself and consulted the catalog on his desk. "We can get you that model in the Cornflower Blue and we can have it here by next Tuesday. So what do you say? Am I selling you this car today?"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Penn State of Disarray

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with the fact that I rarely tackle any serious issues.  However, my blog makes it seriously clear (albeit communicated in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way) that love, support, happiness, good health and development of children should be valued.

Every now and then news so shocking comes to light that it cannot be ignored.

When that shocking event has to do with the livelihood of kids, I feel I have to address it.  This blog, after all, is not about avoiding adulthood and the responsibility that inevitably comes with it.  Rather, it is about embracing and fulfilling that responsibility.  While I comment often on being a kid at heart, my ramblings are essentially about accepting the accountability of adulthood and parenthood.

It is with great frustration, then, that I have watched reports and gathered information regarding the accusations against former Penn State football assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.  This man’s alleged acts are disgusting.  I am convinced there is already a special place reserved in hell for him and the sooner he arrives to occupy it, the better.

While Sandusky’s preying upon children from dysfunctional backgrounds is unmistakably evil, it is the others involved in their covering up that I wish to call out onto the carpet…

Per news reports, Mike McQueary observed Sandusky having anal sex with a boy estimated to be 10 years of age at the time of the incident.  At the time, he was a graduate assistant at the school.  I am only speculating (but doing so confidently) that the fact that he left the scene and called his father and head coach Joe Paterno for advice on what to do rather than the police led to his appointment to his current position as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.  You can say hindsight is 20/20 and while McQueary’s actual vision may have been significantly less than this, he should have plainly seen that any act short of grabbing Sandusky by the throat, pulling him off of the young boy and calling the police was an under-reaction.

Tim Curley, Athletic Director during the time in question, and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business (you see where his priorities lie by his title) Gary Schultz were notified by both Paterno and McQueary that something had happened shortly after McQueary witnessed it.  But, being higher ups in a major college football program, they avoided scandal by giving the classic administrative cover-up answer: “We’ll look into it.” 

Nine years later, Sandusky and both these scumbags are officially charged. 

Sandusky has been hit with forty counts.  The criminal behavior existed prior to Curley and Schultz’s awareness of the matter to be sure, but think of how many fewer victims there may have been had they handled it properly nine years earlier as they should have.  But they wanted to save their jobs and the school millions of dollars and keep it near the top of the Division I ranks, so who can blame them for prioritizing the almighty dollar above the health and happiness of the disadvantaged youth they were claiming to help?  The answer is, me.  I blame them.

Joe Paterno, I don’t care how old you are or how many stupid college kids follow you around campus shouting that you are a saint.  You were told something unacceptable happened.  You proclaim yourself to be a leader of young men, someone who molds them into the future of our great society.  You cannot be this and a man who would stand idly by and pretend such atrocities were none of your business.  The fact that you are sticking around to the end of the season proves that you care more about your legacy than the welfare of the victims.  Furthermore, the fact that you smile into the cameras and shout, “I want you too,” in return to the chants of, “We want Joe,” from the aforementioned stupid college kids makes you the first eighty-four year old I have ever wanted to punch in the face.

Athletics are meant to build leadership, courage and determination in our youth.  Properly coached football results in the highest potential of any sport to foster the ever so important word I mentioned above: Accountability.  A football coach teaches each individual player to rely on the other ten players around them to fulfill their responsibilities.  If you fill the wrong gap, over-pursue or miss your blocking assignment, you let the rest of the team down and that same coach will let you hear about it.  How is it, then, that a program, which should have known all about accountability, practiced none?

This shocking lack of accountability has been demonstrated on every level.  This sick predator was allowed to practice his craft for years under the wing of the school.  Multiple school officials had ample opportunity to end it and chose instead the cowardice of turning a blind eye and avoiding the difficult road that the scandal would bring.  The leaders of the program made terrible decisions, failed to cover their gaps and whatever troubles the future holds for Penn State football are deserved.

But, of course, nobody will suffer more than Sandusky’s numerous victims already have and will, victims whose trust in their leaders resulted in abuse.  An authority figure meant to teach them life lessons about courage and accountability through sport has, instead, significantly impacted their ability to trust anyone.

Somehow, in the midst of the ridiculous display of support for an undeserving Joe Paterno, the tragedy that has befallen these victims has been lost.  The only issue that matters is the darkness forced into the lives of the victims.  Yet this has been covered less than what this scandal means for Penn State football and the legacy of Joe Pa.  I hope that these victims might find some peace in the justice that will be doled out in the months and, no doubt, years to come.  My thoughts are with them and their families as I hope yours are as well.

Portrait of a Productive Monday at Home

Lately, my wife has really been carrying a hefty load of chores about the house.  My sons and I have been the beneficiaries of home cooked meals and newly organized areas about our house allowing us to rediscover long lost items like gloves, Nerf darts and that one really awesome super bouncy ball that was missing for at least a year.  Turns out it was under the couch the whole time.  Who knew?

In appreciation of all her hard work, I planned on staying up after taking my sons to school Monday on my morning off in order to do some of the work around the house that had built up over the busy weekend.  I thought it would be a nice gesture on my part to let her sleep in.

The following is a run down of my day...

7:00 A.M. - Woke up to alarm, hit snooze button.

7:07 A.M. - Woke up for real, two minutes prior to alarm sounding again.

7:08 A.M. - Smiled smugly and told alarm to suck it.

7:09 A.M. - Rushed loudly back into bedroom to turn off alarm clock that I had neglected to actually turn off.  Noted beeping sounded strangely like alarm clock saying, "No, you suck it."

7:10 A.M. - Evacuated bladder. (Yes, I washed my hands)

7:11 A.M. - Woke up sons.

7:15 A.M. - Prepared sons breakfast of champions (cereal and donuts) and packed their lunches.

7:25 A.M. - Briefed by sons on latest cartoon episodes and YouTube videos.

7:40 A.M. - Left house to drive sons to school.

7:43 A.M. - Returned to house to retrieve lunches packed earlier.

7:50 A.M. - Successfully dropped sons off at school.

7:55 A.M. - Returned home.

8:00 A.M. - Began load of laundry.

8:10 A.M. - Started folding old clean laundry still sitting in a pile.

9:00 A.M. - Switched laundry from washer to dryer and put new load in washer.

9:55 A.M - Startled out of trance induced from watching Ninja Warrior marathon to buzz of completed dryer cycle.  Realized I had yet to fold any laundry.

9:57 A.M. - Decided to pick up those g--d--- Lego bricks off the floor that I had stepped on four times already while going back and forth with the laundry.

10:02 A.M. - Became tired from picking up Lego bricks.  Sat down in comfy recliner.

10:45 A.M. - Woke up to shouting Japanese announcer from Ninja Warrior marathon.

10:47 A.M. - Decided to prepare coffee and eat something to fuel the rest of what is to be a productive day.

10:49 A.M. - Began clearing just enough dishes out of sink to prepare coffee.

11:10 A.M. - Finally began preparing coffee.

11:14 A.M. - Began to prepare instant oatmeal.

11:14.23 A.M. - Upon opening fridge to retrieve milk for instant oatmeal, noticed half a peanut butter cup pie still uneaten.

11:16 A.M. - Startled from trance induced by staring at peanut butter cup pie, replaced instant oatmeal packet where I found it.

11:20 A.M. - Enjoyed the f--- out of some coffee and peanut butter cup pie while sitting in front of computer.

11:21 A.M. - Played video games online.

12:00 A.M. - Woke up wife.

12:00 A.M. - Played more video games while she prepared herself breakfast.

2:25 P.M. - Picked up sons form school.

2:33 P.M. - Began watching pre-game coverage of Bears vs. Eagles Monday Might Football.

7:30 P.M. - Stopped watching pre-game coverage in favor of watching actual football game.

UNK several hours later - Celebrated Bears' victory over the (H)Ea(t)gles with much hooting and fist pumping.

2:00 A.M following morning - Realized a load of laundry had been left in the washer.

In short, the day was even more productive than I could have imagined.  You're welcome, honey.