Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bad parenting made easy

Lesson #8,000,006

I’m pretty sure when The Boy said, “Fucking Christ, it’s gone” this morning while we looked for his missing shoe, it wasn’t his mother (or the nice Indian women who work at his day care place) that he was mimicking.

On the other hand, I’m very pleased that he nailed the pronunciation and emphasis, and even used it in the correct context. As far as bad parenting goes, I’m calling this one a draw.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The blonde chick on 'The View' is stupid

...and inarticulate and ill-informed.

She speaks for a lot of Americans.

Monday, July 21, 2008

There’s a new dawg in town…

His name is Obi, for Obadiah. I started out wanting to name him “The Dude” after Jeff Bridges’ character in “The Big Lebowski,” but he revealed himself pretty quickly to be a dog who was not going to mellowly abide. But the Jeff Bridges thing stuck in my mind, and I thought, “What else has he been in?” I loved him in “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,” but couldn’t remember which character he played. He sure ain’t no Lightfoot, and anyhow, Jeff Bridges’ character dies in the end. Bad name karma. Then I thought of Obadiah Stane, the villain he played in “Iron Man.”

Obadiah. Sounds Biblical, has heft. You don’t fuck around with an Obadiah. You just don’t. And for while he’s a puppy, Obi is a perfect, cute nickname. Easy to say, easy to scream at the top of your lungs as he stands there in the middle of the back yard, looking at you like he’s trying to remember if he knows you. Easy for The Boy to say.

Obi. Obi-wan. It trips right off the tongue. Honestly, I think I was married to it the moment it popped into my head. He just seems like an Obi right now. All puppy – gangly legs and gnashing teeth. Oh, the stuff that we’ve lost already. He ate a nice pair of The Missus’ shoes when she was out of town last weekend, seat cushions, plastic cutlery, all forms of paper, the blanket we put in the cage to sleep on at night. Our legs, arms hands and feet…

He spends a lot of time in the muzzle, because he can be hip deep in trouble in less than 2 minutes. Unless me or The Missus has eyes-on, he’s wearing his face furniture.

The Boy began immediately upon introduction to establish boundaries. Indignant howls of “No, Obi, NO!” and “Obi GET OUT!!” have been bouncing off the walls since the day we brought him home. “Get off the couch. MY COUCH!!” is also a very popular selection.

Unfortunately, he really, REALLY hates the 3 dogs next door. Every trip to the back yard to do his business is interrupted by his hackles shooting up in mid-stream, followed by the barking and slamming his maw into the fence where one of the neighbor dogs is doing the same on the other side. And of course he ignores vocal entreaties to cease and desist, no matter how forcefully issued, so the issuer just looks like an impotent asshole, yelling at his unruly dog to no effect. And when you go to grab him, he spaghettis out of your grasp and runs back to the fence to re-launch his neighbor-eradication program.

The back yard is just not Obi’s friend. There’s a couple of mockingbirds who have selected him for termination. If his “business” isn’t interrupted by remembering how much he hates the dogs next door, he’s getting dive-bombed by the irate mockingbirds. So far they’re only targeting his ass, which is pretty hysterical to watch, but The Missus has told me horror stories about this kind of bird going for their enemies’ eyes, which is not half as funny. I’ve taken to guarding his dumps with a yard hoe. One of these days he’s gonna grab one of them stupid fuckers in flight and give it the last surprise of its life.

Otherwise, things are good. He likes to roll around in the grass, repeatedly, until he’s rotated a full 360 awkward degrees and more. Also hilarious to watch. He cuddles, he takes shit from The Boy (a definite prerequisite), he pounds on the back door blinds when he has to go out... Other than being a social malcontent (which it would be clearly hypocritical of me to hold against him), I think I’m looking at going 3 for 3 on dogs.

Here’s to the dogs that make the cut. Welcome to our world, Obi.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

“The Dark Knight” exceeds its hype

Wow. I totally blew off my work day Friday to go see the matinee, and it was completely worth putting myself behind the 8-ball work-wise, which I will be all weekend as a result.

The director’s first “Batman” flick, a couple years ago, was an excellent superhero origin story. This movie is more like a German Opera – dense, dark, thoughtful and depressing. Grand. Spectacular. Larger-than-life in ambition but still tragically all too human in emotional scope.

Even despite all the pre-opening hooplah, most of it centered around star Heath Ledger’s for-the-ages portrayal of Batman’s nemesis The Joker, I didn’t go to this film expecting to be moved. Impressed, wowed, maybe even knocked out, but not sucker-punched when I wasn’t looking, which is what happened.

Somewhere around the mid-point, just when I started thinking “Geez, maybe this thing is a little long; I shoulda stayed home and got my work done,” something turned resonant. It began to matter more than a summer popcorn movie ought to. “Iron Man” was more pure fun, “Wanted” was more of a pin-wheeling carnival ride, but this felt like a film that should have been released around Thanksgiving, with all the high-minded, award-seeking ‘meaningful’ films that are designed to leave you thinking about them, and/or bummed or days. (“There Will Be Blood” and “No Country For Old Men” come immediately to mind.)

This isn’t a superhero flick with a message, this is a snapshot of the crumbling moral infrastructure of American society as it teeters on the slippery edge of Nietzsche’s abyss that happens to star a man dressed up like a bat. A morality play on steroids and mind-altering drugs.

I never noticed Ledger in any of his other flicks, but in this one, he astounds. His performance is every bit as powerful as you’ve read; it almost makes me want to go back and re-watch “Brokeback Mountain” to see if maybe I missed something while I was squirming in my seat at the subject matter. As movie villains go, his performance in “Dark Knight” will go down in film history alongside Hannibal Lector in “Silence of the Lambs” and Leatherface from the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” After awhile, you fall into his performance and his horrific outlook on human nature begins to make perfect sense.

Director Chris Nolan’s Gotham City is as dyspeptic a vision of a decaying American metropolis as Ridley Scott’s “Bladerunner” was a prescient one. Dark, ugly and feral, inhabited by well-dressed, well-heeled swine on both sides of the law, it would take a hero as damaged as Christian Bale’s Batman to summon up the give-a-shit to want to save it. Any reasonable Super, hero or villain, would just burn it down and start over from scratch, advice that actually is given in the film at one point by a very unlikely source.

Everyone impresses, but no one more so than co-writer (with his brother) and director Christopher Nolan. This is his vision, true to (comic book wunderkind) Frank Miller’s gritty take on Batman from 1986’s graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” but without the laughs. Even Miller’s Joker pales in comparison to what Nolan and Ledger have wrought.

I never give plot details in my reviews. They inevitably ruin something for someone – usually me – and this movie has enough plot for two films without feeling like it should have broken up into two discrete features to do all its business justice. It is a relentless, emotionally pummeling experience with enough eye-candy to justify its high-summer release, but the kind of after-the-show resonance that you’ll be sorting out the pieces of this flick in your mind for weeks to come.

Toward the end of the film, there is a grace note where the filmmakers hold out a sliver of hope for the decency of the Average Joe that stops just short of feeling false, but cities aren’t run and big decisions aren’t made by Average Joes. They’re made by corporate cocksuckers and well-connected heels who don’t give a shit about Average Joes; who eat Average Joes for breakfast and pick their teeth clean with the skeletal remains.

Ledger’s Joker – hell, this whole film — is an all too apt metaphor for a decade that has given us both Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush. This movie feels at once like a hellish extrapolation of where society is headed, and a backroom peek at the powers-that-be that are driving us to the edge of that terminal abyss.

Best movie of the year so far, hands-down.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Taking the Art world by storm

I have a general rule about Art: I don’t like it.

Okay, wait, I guess I have two rules about art. I don’t like it, therefore I only hang original pieces by friends on my office walls. (The exception being a completely kick-ass Jack Kirby Captain America print The Missus bought for me a couple years ago.)

This week I added a new work by a contemporary American master – my son. Seen in the photo above, his pen and ink piece, center, is called “Space.” The fact that I don’t ‘get it’ only reinforces my suspicion that it is indeed legitimate art.

Hair of the dog

So last night, The Boy is sucking on a lollipop in my office and drops it on the floor. He snatches it right up, and pulls off the single stray hair that’s stuck to it.

He hands it to me and says, “Woody.” Damned if it wasn’t, too.

What I wouldn’t give to know what’s going on in that mind of his. He never ceases to amaze me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

First footage of the new Liability

Picked him up in the middle of my vacation, but didn’t want to taint his debut by mixing the announcement in with a post full of bitterness and complaints.

Anyhow, he’s the mutt I wrote about a couple posts earlier. Changed his name right away to Obi (for Obadiah) and the wackiness has ensued non-stop ever since. Even drying him off after a romp through the sprinkler is an adventure.

Fang’s friends, meet Obi:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Vacation Prayer

“May the Lord bless, and keep future vacations…
far, far away from me.”*

[Author’s note: this post has been edited for the squeamish.]

Okay, so the national park visit itself was actually, for the most part, enjoyable. There were cool dogs, hot tubs, pointless card games, quiet time alone with my wife and son and not a lick of work to be done the whole time. I understand I’m a whole different person when I’m not under the gun, deadline-wise. People enjoyed my company and the stammering didn’t begin till Day Three, which is about usual anyhow.

Everything else came in below expectations. Turns out The Boy’s motion-sickness issues haven’t been resolved yet. They weren’t so bad on the way out, but they were way past acute on the ride back. We were awash in chunky, McDonalds-fueled toddler-puke before we could get out of the twisty turny mountains, with little recourse but to wash off as best we could, change his clothes and drive the next 150 miles to home in a car that could be generously described as reeksome, had that been an actual word (which spellcheck assures me it’s not).

Then when we get back, we find that the temperature on Christmas Island has soared into the triple-digits and the air is full with forest-fire-related crud so thick you can practically walk on it. It’s like every single person in the town decided to have a back yard BBQ at the exact same moment. We’re far enough from the fires that we’re not in danger of getting burned up, but not so far away that we escape the toxic pall of smoke that has settled over this city like a lame metaphor.

Then the first night back, The Missus takes The Boy to his second movie (Jack Black’s “Panda” cartoon – didn’t score as high with either of them as “WALL-E”) to escape the heat and sludgy air quality only to discover the car is broken. Turns out I drove it all the whole 200 miles back – the first 50 miles through twisty, turny mountain roads – with compromised steering and brake-age.

So we run it into our mechanic the very next morning (oh, I almost forgot, when she called from the theater to tell me about the car I flipped out and screamed the f-word a whole bunch and smashed some inexpensive shit around. I had been looking forward to the three days of my annual vacation that I planned to spend supine in front of the TV in the front room, and coordinating car repairs with everybody else’s busy schedule hadn’t really been factored into that) and to cut to the chase, the goddamned thing ended up taking three days to fix. (Repairguy to wife: Gee, it’s too bad you got stuck with such a lemon.)

And on the last day of my vacation, The Boy stayed home from school with a fever. That was actually the highlight of the post-national park part of my week off. Time spent with The Boy is always precious, even if he’s logy with fever. So I engaged in one my few remaining self-destructive misbehaviors – online retail therapy. On their way in the next week are the last four seasons of “Oz” (completing our collection), and the first seasons each of “Veronica Mars,” “Hawaii Five-O” and even “Mannix.” I couldn’t save my vacation, but I could spend a bunch of money during it that would bring me enjoyment later on.

Meanwhile, I did manage to squeeze in a couple of movies (on DVD) between chauffer duties and feeling sorry for my ruined vacation plan. “The Onion Movie” was a big disappointment. Based on their online stuff, I went in with higher expectations than this movie met. The third “Resident Evil” movie (“Extinction”) was better than I expected, which isn’t saying much. I watched “Children of Men” again, hoping to be impressed this time, but no go. It’s just too bloody British for me to enjoy. Its whole story would have rolled under the opening credits in an American-made sci-fi flick. “Weeds” season 3, disc 1 made me regret having missed season 2. I may NetFlix that and check it out before I continue on with season 3. “Funny Games” is a nasty piece of work; a family-in-peril flick without many new ideas up its sleeve; its singular ‘innovation’ being that most of the ol’ ultra-violence happens offscreen. I also saw “Grace Is Gone,” which I knew would be a bummer flick, and it was. John Cusack plays the befuddled newly war-widowered dad of two young girls who just can’t find the words to tell his kids their mom is dead. I expected it to be preachy, but the only ideology espoused in the flick is by Cusack’s wise-cracking, left-wing smart-mouth brother. He reminded me of myself in all the worst ways. That’s why I keep my politics to myself whenever I’m talking to someone who has a personal stake in this fucking war. I’m not even sure why this film was made. It was like a foreign film in that very little happened, and most of that occurred between the lines. Plus I already knew that war casualties make people sad.

And then, with all the stress with which it had exploded upon my life, the vacation was over, and I was scrambling to catch up with my weekly deadlines. Work stress. Stress I could manage. Stress that didn’t proceed from plans gone awry and goals unmet. Vomit-free stress. Travel-free stress.

If freedom’s just another word for meeting lowered expectations, now that this “vacation” is mercifully over, thank God almighty, I am free at last.

*with apologies to “Fiddler On The Roof”

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 232nd, America!

We’ll be on the road today to the nearest national park to spend the holiday weekend with family, but The Man Cub and I wanted to mark the occasion with some unabashed flag-waving (see above) as well as some Rush lyrics appropriate to the occasion before we left. (Not to worry, there are Rush lyrics appropriate to any occasion, as The Missus can attest to.)

This is a song from their “Fly By Night” album, which was released during America’s bicentennial year, 1976. Like ALL Rush lyrics (post-debut album), they remain as relevant today as the day Neil Peart penned them.

Let hope prevail!
Beneath, Between and Behind

Ten score years ago, defeat the kingly foe
A wondrous dream came into being

Tame the trackless waste,
no virgin land left chaste

All shining eyes, but never seeing

Watch the cities rise
Another ship arrives
Earth’s melting pot and ever growing

Fantastic dreams come true

Inventing something new

The greatest minds, and never knowing

Beneath the noble bird

Between the proudest words

Behind the beauty, cracks appear

Once with heads held high

They sang out to the sky

Why do their shadows bow in fear?

The guns replace the plow,
facades are tarnished now

The principles have been betrayed

The dream’s gone stale, but still, let hope prevail

History’s debt won’t be repaid

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tom Waits holds a press conference: