Monday, November 29, 2010

Begin the onslaught of holiday songs

Tis the season. The day (or so) after Thanksgiving, where every retail outlet in the burbs plays the same holiday music feed over, and over, and over again, thus increasing the likelihood of employee insurrection dramatically.

To be honest, I love holiday music. Each year I build on my ever-growing my collection of classics and oddities (Got a new one for us this year, Colbert?). But frankly I wish people would stop trying in vain to produce a good and memorable song about Chanukah.

I mean, really. What's the first Chanukah song that comes to mind? Yeah, that ridiculous dreidel song. No one really likes it. And it's not exactly what you would call an "inspiring" song, like such Christmas classics as The First Noel, or Silent Night. And since the dreidel song was created, virtually every Chanukah song since has done nothing but make what should be a fairly solemn holiday of remembrance of the bravery of soldiers and the miracle they witnessed into a pile of silliness. If you need a better example, how about Adam Sandler's Chanukah song? Yeesh. I can't tell you how many non-Jewish classmates in high school came up to me and said, "dude, you're come you're not in the Adam Sandler song?" and then stuffed me in my locker.

Okay, I suppose Rock of Ages classifies as inspiring and worthy. And I don't mean the Def Leppard song.

Here's this year's example. While I gotta admit it's catchy, it's no Rock of Ages. Bah humbug.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Room Empurgement Day

Once every few months (or, once every other day according to my lovely wife), I get a burr in my saddle about the state of clutter in the house. Usually I get stirred up after my wallet becomes submerged under a ream of kids' artwork that's collected on the kitchen counter, or when I need to reach something in the back corner of the playroom and realize the only way I'm going to get to it is with a pound of C-4, a Hazmat suit and a roll of paper towels. And when I get stirred up, that's when the soonest available Saturday becomes Room Empurgement Day.

Sometimes I get smart, and provide some incentive to my daughters to join in Room Empurgement Day. "Come on girls! Let's find the floor of the basement so we have a place we can put a new Foozball table!" Other times I just use threats. "I'm walking into that room with a plastic garbage bag, and I ain't leaving until it's too full to tie closed. If your collection of broken Harry Potter wands ends up in my path, so be it."

I recall recently where I happened to strike just the right cord (don't ask me how) to get the girls excited about the prospects of a clean playroom. The elder child, showing off a few drops from her dad's anal retentive gene pool, was extremely enthusiastic about organizing, sorting, and purging. Her younger sibling just nodded her head in agreement and confirmed that, whatever she was going to be doing, mommy would need to be no more than three feet away at all times.

It was a great start to Room Empurgement Day. In theory. We were going to be like one of those families you see on the DIY channel who hire the professional organizer and sort their entire collection of belongings into eight color-coded storage boxes, an alphabetized file cabinet, and a wall-hanging photo montage containing the pictorial story of their family's life events through the ages. I could just picture myself in our spotless home, relaxing in the cushy leather chair by the fire, reading the latest issue of The New Yorker with my faithful labrador at my feet while my wife cooks up a fresh batch of scones with homemade marmalade and my children built me an ottoman made entirely of popsicle sticks. Wait...where was I? Oh, right...reality.

Here's what actually happened. Saturday morning breakfast, 5 episodes of Hannah Montana, and a Spongebob later, I finally managed to peel the kids away from the TV and announce it was time for Room Empurgement Day to begin.

"WAIT!" yelled Jessica. Now, 99.98% of the time you ask Jessica to do something, that's the answer you get. "WAIT! I'm not done putting my squishies to bed!" Okay, so I'm not quite sure what squishies are, and I don't know why they need to hit the sack in the middle of the day, but we certainly weren't going to get any effort out of Jessica until the little varmints were tucked away for their nighttime slumber. So while Mom bought some time putting the dishes away so Jessica could put her squishies to bed within tugging distance from her mother, I took Thing #1 upstairs to tackle the mess in the playroom.

Once upstairs, it wasn't long before distraction set in. I asked her to sort through a pile of stuff in the middle of the floor. As soon as a long lost plastic bathtub from her Barbie dollhouse was discovered, Natalie left the pile intact and migrated to the Dream Home. I pulled her back in by asking her to return her collection of fancy scarves draped across the playroom TV back to her bedroom closet, and found her ten minutes later sitting on her bed revisiting a book on how to draw cartoon puppy faces. That's when the moaning and complaining started. Then the crying. Then the tantrums. And Natalie really, REALLY hates when I tantrum.

Soon Thing #2 came upstairs with her mother, and I put them to work sorting books. This of course led to the realization that, no matter how destroyed a book was, no matter that the pages of the book were stuck together with 5-year-old dried up baby formula, it was not going to be leaving the house without a fight.

It's about this point where my lovely wife and I realize, yet again, what every parent already knows. Clean the room when the kids are gone, throw everything out, and hope to god that the kids never think to ask what ever happened to that old Dora The Explorer backpack that's now sitting in the bottom of the garbage bag. Another successful Room Epurgement Day complete.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Rally to Restore Sanity

A couple of weekends ago I attended Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. I had nothing better to do that day, which was really the ultimate requirement for attendance. For those of you who didn't watch it on TV or have no idea what I'm talking about, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hosted a rally on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to get people excited about the possibility of just "being reasonable" rather than becoming either overly political to the left or the right, or being so brainwashed by the media feeding frenzy of the day that you no longer have the ability to think for yourself.

While the rally was interesting and I'm glad I went, I'm also glad I Tivo'd it to watch later because I missed about 90% of it.

Getting to the rally was definitely the most important part of the experience. After finding that I was the only one of my local friends nuts enough to make the trip, I decided to head to DC on my own and stay with my cousins, whom I easily convinced to go to the event because, like me, they had nothing better to do. I drove out the night before, and the next morning the three of us began our trek into town.

The adventure started at the DC Metro station in West Falls Church, VA around 9am. Having failed to think of buying Metro tickets the night before, we arrived there to discover twelve hundred people in line in front of us attempting to buy Metro tickets as well. After about an hour of standing in line and a couple of brief thoughts about leaping from the over pass onto the roof of an oncoming train in hopes of skipping the line, we made it to the ticket booth, bought our passes, and hoofed it down to the platform. When we looked back at the line behind us, we discovered that it now extended out the door of the station and down the street.

This was the line in front of us to get tickets for the DC Metro.

The first available train arrived at the station after a few minutes. Unfortunately, it was so completely packed with people from the previous stops that there was no chance of getting on. So we decided to be sneaky and get on the next train arriving from the OTHER direction, take it to the end, and wait for it to turn back around. That turned out to be a well-timed idea, because ten minutes later when the subway arrived back at our original station we saw that EVERYONE was attempting to do that. I have to believe that enough people gave up waiting that the rally would have been attended by an additional hundred thousand or so people had the DC Metro gotten their act in gear and supplied more trains.

We arrived in town a little after noon. Yes, over three hours to get in from the suburbs. So much for restoring sanity. After a brief walk toward the mall, we encountered THE CROWD.

For the next several hours we were packed like matchsticks into the vast, wide open space that is our National Mall. We had as clear a view of the stage as a resident of Vermont would have of Manhattan. The speakers and Jumbotrons were so far away that all we could hear was an occasional bass echo off the wall of the Smithsonian, amongst the chanting of "Louder! Louder!" by our three hundred thousand immediate neighbors.

But what made the whole thing bearable was the people around us. Everyone was friendly. Outgoing. Perhaps a little silly. The signs being carried by many were ingenious, and the costumes were a bit odd if not ridiculously funny.

I found it amusing that with 300k people they attempted to have an information booth.

That white thing behind the guy with the camera is a dude dressed as a tooth.

A simple test that should be used for all future primaries.

Hopefully not at the same time. Ew. Talk about your hanging chads...

Left wing kitten-loving hoser. Get outta my Belgian Cafe!

After watching the rally on TV the next day, I have to say I really didn't miss all that much. John Stewart's closing speech was fantastic, and his banter with Colbert was amusing as usual. The rest of the acts served pretty much as a way of filling time, and not much more. But at least I can say, "I was there".