Monthly Archives: March 2008

Puppy Bowl

In all my years of television viewing, I never thought that I would ever see something quite as boring as the Superbowl. As far as I am can tell, the Superbowl consists of approximately 17 days of pre-game “show,” 40 hours of beer commercials, and about 6 minutes of actual football–five of those minutes actually being commentary on the remaining minute of play. (I’m surprised they don’t bring out a psychic to get the ball’s point of view.) In fact, between all the hullabaloo over halftime shows, new commercials, and $2000 tickets, they should probably rename the Superbowl the “Hyperbowl.” (Superbowl, indeed. Why so shy? Why not the Galacticbowl, or the Ultimate-Mega-Ginormousbowl? Or for that matter, why not the Football World Cup? After all, I’m sure the other 5 ½ billion people on the planet would understand.)

However, as I said before, even though I had heretofore never thought to see something quite as dull as the Superbowl, this year I was proven wrong when, during the most recent showing I elected to stay home with Clementine while the rest of the family went off to enjoy the “fun” at a friend’s house. For some reason–perhaps it was guilt at dodging the Superbowl bullet– in a moment of ill-placed graciousness I gave Clementine control of the clicker–and here my troubles began.

Immediately she settled on a program called The Puppy Bowl. The Puppy Bowl consisted of half a dozen puppies running around a football stadium-themed exercise kennel. Every now and then one of the puppies would do what puppies do best and a human “referee” would have to step in to clean up the “foul,” all the while touting some kind of miraculous pet stain removal product, which I can only assume was the sponsor of the show. Once the mess was cleaned up, the human would step off-screen (presumably to call up his agent and fire him), and the puppy bowl would continue. And continue. And continue. For seven hours, of which Clementine watched at least five. She would flip around during the “dull” moments (how could she tell?) and check out other shows such as My Small Breasts and I (no, I didn’t just steal that title from The Onion; it’s a real show).

However, no matter how enthralling the tribulations of the tiny-chested were (sample lament: “I can’t go out because I’m afraid people will look at my small breasts”), Clementine kept going back to The Puppy Bowl. And not because, like me, she was wondering how, exactly, it fit in with the “All Empires Eventually Decline” theory (personally, on the Roman model I would put The Puppy Bowl after the invention of the aqueduct, but before it became fashionable to serve your dinner guests heaping platters of hummingbird tongues), but because she actually enjoyed it. Which presented a problem I had never before considered: if she is entertained by this stuff now, how am I ever going to be able to tell if she’s on drugs?

In my day, being over the age of four and voluntarily watching Teletubbies was a pretty good indication that you were patronizing an alternative pharmacist, and yet here was Clementine, willingly watching something that made Dipsy, Tinky-Winky, La La and Po look like finalists for the Nobel Prize in Economics. I mean, if I can’t count on watching for vapid behavior to clue me in to potential drug use, what’s left? Watching for things like moodiness and being socially withdrawn? With a teenage girl that would be kind of like standing by a river and watching to see if the water was getting any more wet.

Still, I guess it could be worse–she could’ve gone with the boys to watch–and enjoy–the Superbowl. If that had happened I wouldn’t just be worrying about potential drug use–I’d be worrying about potential brain death.

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Last Call

Back when I was able to stay up late enough to watch The Daily Show (which, actually, was back before The Daily Show was even around), I used to be able to close down the bars. I’d be one of those people hanging out until the last possible minute, dawdling over a pitcher while the band packed up, the cocktail waitresses started flipping on the lights (bar patrons and cockroaches being the only creatures that interpret bright lights as a sign that the party is over), and finally, the bartenders began to yell.

“All right now, that’s it; everybody out–we’re closed. Come on–we’re closed. Everybody out. Time to leave. Time to go. Good-bye. Out! Get out!”

Sure enough, ten minutes or so later, I’d leave, but not without thinking: Boy, throwing out a bunch of uncooperative drunks has got to be the lamest job ever. I’m sure glad that isn’t me. Fast forward fifteen years: I’m still directly involved in the process of people being shoved out of doors, but now I am one of the shovers, and the shov-ees are none other than my very own children, Clementine and Clyde. However, instead of this experience making me emphasize with the bartenders of my youth, it actually makes me a little bit jealous of them, because, after all, not only did those bartenders have bouncers to fall back on when things got really bad, they also only had to get people to stop drinking; I have to get people to go to school.

Also, unlike most bartenders, I have to start initiating eviction proceedings 90 minutes before school begins. And I’m not talking about issuing a generic order to “get ready for school”–I mean I have to go down a checklist that includes such minutia as “Find your socks. Turn off the TV. Put on your socks. Turn off the TV. Put one sock on each foot. Turn off the TV. Now put on your shoes. Ok, then find your shoes–no, they’re not inside the TV. Now put them on. Ok then, put your socks back on. Then find them. Who turned on the damned TV?” And so on, until the magical time of 8:10 appears on the clock, and everyone traipses merrily off to school. (Once I have successfully gotten them to leave the house I feel I have earned the right to imagine them any way I like–even if that means imagining them as two smiling, apple-cheeked siblings heading off to school in Rockwellian bliss–complete with a pair of blue birds twittering above their heads).

Of course, what really happens is that at 8:10 I’m standing at the door like the loneliest member of the relay team, holding out the baton that no one wants to take.

“Come on, it’s 8:10, time to go!” I yell, only to have Clyde call back from the kitchen that he has changed his mind–he’ll take a packed lunch after all–and Clementine call from the computer to say that, by the way, she needs a little bit more information for her report on Tripoli that’s due this morning. For starters: what, exactly, is a Tripoli?

At this point my vision of them on their way to school is starting to looking a lot more Edvard Munch than Norman Rockwell–forget the blue birds of happiness twittering above their heads, I’d settle for a pair of ravens fighting over a moldy chalupa if it meant that they were actually out the door.

And that’s when the bartender’s ultimate advantage occurs to me, because, no matter how frustrated I get, I’m still not allowed to use the bartender’s final and most effective encouragement to get lingering patrons to vacate the premises: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

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Leggo My Lego

This morning on the BBC they announced that there are currently 62 Legos for every one human on the planet; if anyone feels that their share of this Lego bounty is not enough, take my Legos. Please. And while you’re at it, take my husband’s, too. And, most especially, please take my children’s.

Not that they have that many Legos to take, because, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned numerous times in this space before, I hate Legos. I don’t dislike them; I am not annoyed by them; I hate them. I hate them all the way from their primo infancy right through their duplo adolescence to their fully formed adult Lego selves. And yes, I know that in this I am not unique: many people have expressed the same legophobia (misolegogy?) that I do, but I would like to believe that my reasons for hating Legos are a little bit unique.

You see, what I hate about Legos is not their multitudiniousness; while it is true that I intensely dislike the way they can quickly come to fill every concave surface in a house, multiplying faster than a Tribble, I do not hate that aspect of their existence. And I do not hate them because they are essentially nocturnal creatures that travel along unseen but long established migration routes that always seem to include my shoes; again, I intensely dislike this, but I do not hate it. And I certainly don’t hate them for their provenance. Although I know that after the great Danish cartoon flap of 2005 some Muslims urged a boycott of all things Danish (including Legos, blue cheese, and one can only hope, that awful canned ham), that is not the reason behind my own hatred of Legos. (If anything, that controversy almost made me do the unthinkable, and buy Legos in support of the Danes–I ended up doubling up on blue cheese instead). No, what I hate about Legos is how they always seem to come in creativity-numbing “sets.”

The Hogwarts set. The Star Wars set. The Lord of the Rings set. And how each set contains just enough Legos to complete the project pictured–just enough, and no more, so that once a crucial piece goes missing, the entire set gets poured into the ubiquitous Lego “stew.” Dumbledore got sucked up the vacuum? Two hundred grey “Hogwarts” pieces go into the pot. The blast doors on the rebel base at Hoth got flushed down the toilet? Three hundred white “snow” bricks go in. I realize, of course, that it is not supposed to be this way; the whole idea behind Legos is that they are supposed to encourage a child’s ability to play creatively and independently, so that, in theory, even without all the pieces to make one of the Lego “sets” a child will still be able to have hours of fun using the million of leftover bricks to build their “own imaginative world.”

In theory. Of course, what this theory fails to take into account is that these are kids that have been raised in a world where they sell the ingredients for S’mores already shrink-wrapped together. Where sock monkeys are made not out of a pair of old socks, but from Sock Monkey Craft Project Kits–socks included. Where all the materials needed to make “your own tree house” come together in one big box–shipped from China. I’m surprised that somebody hasn’t started selling bottles of water boxed up with a tray as “ice cube kits.”

What they really need to spark children’s creativity is to sell some kind of a Lego “Macguyver” set, where kids can gather up all of the leftover pieces of all their other sets and do something useful–or at least fun–with them. Then again, it’s probably against the law to sell propane torches to minors.

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First, let me establish that I am not an unusually paranoid or self-centered person: whenever I hear a ringing payphone I don’t automatically assume that the call is for me, and whenever I hear a siren I don’t always think that I’m the one getting pulled over. What I absolutely cannot do, however, is hear the demanding bellow of a child and not think that it comes from one of my own, because, in my case, what they say is all too true: “Ask not for whom the child bellows; it bellows for thee.”

What is it about my kids and hollering? Both of them seem to be under the mistaken impression that even the longest and most in-depth of conversations can be conducted from opposite ends of the house, or even–if they happen to be visiting a neighbor– from opposite ends of the neighborhood. And I don’t mean the kind of desperate bellowing conversation that everyone has, on occasion, engaged in (surely even the Queen of England herself has found out too late that the bathroom she chose is completely toilet paper free). Nor do I mean the inarticulate whoops of delight you might use to get someone’s attention when you are speechless with laughter (like, for example, when they are replaying the clip of the President falling off of his Segway). No, what I’m talking about are discussions the length and depth of Plato’s dialogues, conducted in a bellow from 40 feet away.

Sometimes the discussions are more of the nature of a trivia quiz–these are the ones I usually am pulled into unwittingly, since, as a true trivia nerd, I cannot resist that first, simple, question.

“Mom!” comes a voice from what sounds to be a few blocks away. “Who were the Axis powers?” I know I shouldn’t, but the trivia hound in me can’t but help shouting out the answer as quick as I can (although the only person I might be competing against is a guy walking his dog down the street).

“I know! I know! Germany, Italy and Japan!”


“Ger-man-y, It-a-ly, and Ja-pan,” I enunciate.

“Hungary, Ritalin and Thailand? Ritalin isn’t even a country.”

“NO. GER–”

“Never mind–I’ll ask Dad.”

Other times I am the one who naively gets these long-distance communications going by assuming (mistakenly), that if they have important information to impart, they will want to do so to my face.

“Clementine! Do you need lunch money?”

“(mumble mumble) Skor-bive?”

“(mumble mumble) Skor-BIVE?”

(Reluctantly appearing) “We’re going on a field trip today–I said you’d drive.”

The worst part is that, as I mentioned before, I have become so numb to the bellowing lifestyle that I now interpret any shout in my direction as simply a long-distance solicitation. My only hope is that this doesn’t end in tragedy; I’d hate to wander into the middle of a gunfight only to assume that the shouts I’m hearing from all directions are simply multiple requests from my children to get them a waterfowl as a pet.

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