October 28, 2009

“Orange-You” Glad It’s Halloween?

Posted in Fun w/Photos tagged , , at 1:36 pm by Andrew

I’m all geeked up for Halloween, and who can blame me…

1. Halloween is on a Saturday this year, so we don’t need to worry about homework and getting up early and all the other trick-or-treating speed bumps that interfere with the gorging.

2. Daylight Savings ends on Halloween. Are you kidding me? This is like Halloween Nirvana. Time is essentially standing still for these kids!

3. Just as things couldn’t get any better, I found a 20-pound bag of Mary Jane’s for only two bucks! There was a whole rack of them at the “Second Chance Food Store.” I looked for an expiration date, just to be safe, but apparently these things never expire. How lucky are the kids coming to my house this weekend!

So yes, I’m excited for Halloween and I’m spreading my cheer all about the house and its occupants. For example, the kids have their final soccer games on Saturday…Halloween…so I e-mailed their coaches, suggesting it would be cool if all the kids wore costumes to the game. Killer idea, right? Apparently soccer coaches don’t like to have fun, because here’s how they responded:

“Your kid can wear whatever he wants on the sideline, because that’s where he’ll be,”
“Why don’t you dress like Bozo.”

I won’t let those Halloween Haters drinking their Haterade put tears on my pumpkin. No, I’m showing my kids some serious Halloween fun. Look what I did for their lunches this week:

Monday: I added orange food coloring to the mayonnaise, transforming boring tuna fish to something I call “pumpkin fish.” Awesome! I think the kids were so proud and busy showing their sandwiches to the other kids that they didn’t have time to eat them.

Tuesday: I poured a whole bag of candy corn into the blender and made a cool Halloween paste that I spread onto Ritz crackers. I called it “Pumpkin Humus,” and same thing, they came home uneaten. I think the kids were really impressed!

Today: I went Halloween crazy and sent them to school with an all-orange lunch of mac & cheese and yams….Cha-Ching!
orange food!

I don’t know if I can top that tomorrow, but I owe it to my kids to try. Maybe I’ll wow them with PB & M — peanut butter and…marmalade!

And now my kids are really into it, because my daughter came home after the candy corn schmear and said, “Can’t you just give us goldfish crackers?” Food for thought. (Hah!)

Anywho, I hope you all have a great Halloween and enjoy more than a few Mary Janes — though, I’m sure your kids won’t give them up without some serious barter.

But one word of caution: not everyone is in a trick-or-treat mood. Case in point, an off-duty cop at a haunted house got a little rattled this week when a character approached him with a chainless chainsaw, and the cop pulled his gun. Some people just don’t know Halloween fun when they see it.

Not us at DwyerTime, though! I raise to you a forkful of pumpkin fish, and wish you a Merry Halloween!


October 20, 2009

Are you a Man’s Man…or a Loser’s Loser?

Posted in Just Darn Clever tagged , at 9:53 am by Andrew

Here’s your homework assignment, people: In the next week, see how many times you hear or read someone described as a man’s man….a writer’s writer…or anything’s anything. It strikes me as an odd phrase, so it’s time we turn it on its ear!

The  phrase is meant to illustrate someone’s exemplary status within a specific group. The most common iteration is “man’s man,” which describes a man who other men would aspire to be. (Before you interject and say, “but Andrew, wait, you’re a man’s man,” that’s not the point here…though yes, I am.)

It’s common to hear “writer’s writer” or “artist’s artist.” Apparently it’s not meaningful for you or I — the dumb masses — to praise an artist, but when fellow artists praise her, well that’s saying something.

I sense we’re approaching a linguistic tipping point…where too many of us are tipped into the pot of mass idiocy. It happened not long ago with the phrase “it is what it is.” That senseless grouping of two-letter words originated as the domain of the inarticulate. As in…
“How would you describe your experience?”
“Uhmm, you know…it is what it is.”

But then enough people incorporated the phrase, its meaning morphed, and it became a respectable way of dismissing a situation:
“You’ve lost 48 games straight…what do you have to say?”
“It is what it is.”

We clever people must pre-emptively expand the use of this cliche’s cliche.  Let’s shine a light on the silliness, and we’ll have fun doing it. Next time your friends ask how the movie was, say “Oh wow, that Spielberg…he’s a real director’s director.” And after your first taste of wine, remark that “he’s a vintner’s vintner.” Your friends will be amazed by your profoundity. [Now that’s a word’s word!]

When recommending a contractor for your co-worker’s kitchen remodel, say “Definitely go with Roger…he’s a plumber’s plumber.” 

When the principal calls you in to discuss your daughter’s outburst in class, tell him, “She’s doing her best, and really, she’s just a kid’s kid.”

You can also use the phrase to express disgust. For example, when your friends ask about your date last night, tell them, “She’s a bimbo’s bimbo,” or  “He’s a loser’s loser.” [Translation: even losers think that guy is a loser.]

And there’s no need to limit this fun to people. Inanimate objects deserve our attention. When you go to the dry cleaners, warn them to “pay special to this one…it’s a stain’s stain.” When your computer crashes: “I got a virus’s virus.”

“Yummmmm…that’s a chocolate’s chocolate.”
“Definitely buy now…this is a stock’s stock.”
“That truck has a hemi’s hemi.”
“I have a migraine’s migraine.”

If you grow tired of all this, turn it up a notch; aim for maximum absurdity. Describe someone as a “man’s man’s man’s man.” Translation: men who men want to be…want to be that guy. Simple!

Get on top of this one, people. Soon we’ll be drivers of social change. And I’m talking a change’s change.

Yes we can!

A can’s can!

October 15, 2009

About That Hip-Hop Music…

Posted in Father Time, Parenting tagged , at 10:00 pm by Andrew

I’m not going to say my old FatherTime columns drew throngs of adoring fans, or that I was a rock star among the moms who worshipped the parenting publication. But I will say this — a couple people may have read it. I think.

On occasion, someone will reference an old column or remind me about something I wrote. And now I’ve been asked to post one of my columns from 2006. (The request may or may not have come from my wife, but who am I to say? Or you to know?) So here’s the piece I wrote about modern pop music (which would now be 3 years pre-modern):

You know how every generation of parents complains about the music their children listen to? And yet time ultimately proves these worrisome parents to be naive. Elvis, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix were not only harmless, but spectacular.

Now it’s our turn. As parents, it’s time to cast a skeptical ear toward today’s music. Like generations before us, will we judge too quickly? Judge too harshly? Or will we be the “cool” parents who bop along in rare appreciation of youthful Top 40? I don’t know what your answer is, but I’ll tell you what it should be — We’ll make history by being the first generation to be justifiably shocked by modern music.

My oldest child is 10, and he thinks I’m cool because I plug him into music. He knows the likes of Green Day, Maroon 5 and Avril Lavigne. He’s happy now, but I’m preparing for the storm.

Reality is this: Much of today’s pop music is hard-core, sexually explicit and wildly demeaning to women — and girls.

Lend an ear to the local Top 40/Hip-Hop station. (And don’t call it “rap,” or you’ll lose all street cred with your kid.) Gone are the days when songs merely alluded to sexual encounters or cleverly described a woman’s body. In my day, J. Geil’s centerfold and Madonna’s virgin astonished adults and intrigued teens. And before that, Elvis’ hips and James Brown’s cold sweat convinced parents that an age of risque had begun.

And the fact is, that music did coincide with periods of increased sexual activity. But I would argue the music advanced in tandem with morals. Vastly to the contrary, today’s music is leading the way. And that’s why you, the parent, must get involved.

By today’s standards, Guns n’ Roses’ 1987 “Sweet Child O’Mine” could pass for Romance poetry, with Axel Rose praising his loved one. But listen to Eminem’s current song “Shake That,” and you’ll hear praise of a much different variety!

As teenagers, we were warned of the risks of objectifying. Yet today’s musicians feast on an entirely new process — specifying. There’s no subtlety or double entendres anymore. Most hip-hop artists talk in raw detail about their unlimited prowess, women’s unbridled sexual desire, and frankly, little else.

Twenty-five years ago, Billy Joel raised eyebrows by chiding us that “Catholic girls start much too late.” He left it at that — quite gentlemanly by today’s standards. But if you ever wondered exactly what Joel was referring to, you’ll hear all the details in Gwen Stefani’s “Crash.”

Are these the worst examples of today’s music? Maybe, but that doesn’t make them rare. In fact, they turn up as often as every other song on the radio. In my youthful days, hard-core lyrics existed, from groups like NWA, for example, but they certainly didn’t make it onto the radio. Yet today’s pop music is riddled with specific and degrading lyrics. What REO Speedwagon only alluded to, Ludacris and Nelly now spell out in crude detail.

Am I overreacting? Definitely not. The Scorpions wanted to “rock you like a hurricane” in the early ’80s, and the meaning is clear now, but as a 14-year-old, frankly, I didn’t catch the reference. Today’s teens can’t possibly miss the sexual content.

Ironically, I’m a big fan of hip-hop. Musically, it’s great to listen to, fabulous to run to. But the lyrics are trouble. Maybe your children listen to pop music and you feel safe because they don’t like hip-hop. Maybe they’re fans of the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey and Coldplay. But guess what? The same station that plays mostly innocent pop also plays raw hip-hop.

So what’s a parent to do? It’s unlikely you can shield your child from this music, and we probably shouldn’t want to. Fortunately, there is some antidote out there. Listen to Pink’s “Stupid Girls,” for example. But as with most parenting, we simply need to do our best to prepare our children for this ugly reality, then offer continuous support.

In this case, I think that requires listening to today’s music; recognizing the names of the artists I’ve mentioned here; understanding terms and phrases like “X,” “crib,” “grill,” “20s,” “my humps,” and “back up on it.” We need to make clear that we find the lyrics offensive but the music palatable. If our children can compartmentalize such music — see it as a glimpse into a small segment of society, rather than attributing it to their entire peer group — we may help our children feel less pressure to have their lives imitate art.

October 6, 2009

When Parents Choose Halloween Costumes

Posted in Parenting tagged , , at 9:05 am by Andrew

Several years ago on Halloween, a boy came to the door wearing a long white robe, a tunic-type thing and a huge grey beard. I like to guess who the kids are dressed as, so I said, “Wow…cool…I’m thinking you’re either Obi-Wan Kenobi…or maybe Zeus, right?” The kid looks at me and says “No, I’m Moses, the prophet.”

Clearly, too many parents are choosing their children’s costumes. I’m guessing young Moses’ dad has quite a religious bent, or for the purpose of this column…is a religion geek.

Every Halloween I encounter at least one poor child who has a “geek” parent — be it Bible geek, football geek, chess geek, etc. The parent convinces the kid that “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to dress up like Gary Kasparov?” Or…”You know what would be really scary?…Beowulf!

 Scary cool? No. Scary lame? Yes. 

If you’re a geek parent of one genre or another, I’ve compiled a non-encompassing list of poor costume choices you should not make for your children, conveniently categorized by geek topic. Again, this is meant to be a disincentive…not a brainstorming session for even more bad ideas.

Political Geek (right-wing)
Costume: Raggedy suit, tussled hair, dirty face
Best guess: “Cool hobo, dude.”
Kid: “No, I’m a small-business owner who lost his business because I can’t afford Obama’s socialized healthcare.”

Political Geek (left-wing)
Costume: Raggedy clothes, tussled hair, dirty face
Best Guess: “Are you Oliver Twist?”
Kid: “No, I’m a member of the poor working class who doesn’t have healthcare…and my in-grown toenail turned gangrenous.”

English Major Geek, Part I
Costume: Dapper Suit, tie, brimmed hat, wing tips
Best Guess: “Are you, like…Dick Tracy?”
Kid: “No, I’m Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal American novel, The Great Gatsby.”

English Major Geek, Part II
Costume: Baggy pants, long hair, sloped shoulders, bad attitude
Best Guess: “Whaddup skater dude”
Kid: “No, I’m Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye.”

Military Geek
Costume: Fatigues, holster, helmet
Best Guess: “Lookin’ good, GI Joe.”
Kid: “No, I’m Douglas MacArthur, the best damned general this country’s ever known!”

Classical Music Geek
Costume: Powdered wig, ruffled shirt, red long-coat
Best Guess: “Are you George Washington?”
Kid: “No, I’m a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, around the time he wrote his Violin Concerto #3.”

Broadway Musical Geek
Costume: Standard cowboy costume.
Best Guess: “Howdy Cowboy!”
Kid: “No, I’m Curly McLain, lead character from Oscar and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! I can sing it for you, if you like.”
(A lesser writer would say something about how “both of the kid’s dads loved this costume.” But I’m better than that.)

Astronomy Geek
Costume: Black turtleneck, black pants, with white dots all over.
Best Guess: “Uhmm…what are you?”
Kid: “I’m the Pegasus constellation.”

Chemistry Geek
Costume: Black turtleneck, black pants, with white dots all over.
Best Guess: “I actually know what you are…you’re the Pegasus constellation.”
Kid: “What? That’s stupid! I’m a calcium sulfide molecule.”

Art Geek
Costume: Frilly blouse, makeup, lots of exposed skin
Best Guess: “Are you supposed to be the girl in that famous Degas painting?”
Kid: “What? Who the heck is Daygah? Dude…are you a geek? I’m Lady Gaga. Just give me the candy, freak.”

And there you have it, parents. Be careful when guiding your kids to certain costume ideas. What you consider clever, the rest of the world considers awkward, weird and bizarre.

We may be geeks, but our children still have a shot at being normal. So I don’t care if you’re an amateur ventriloquist, basement botanist or have a Masters Degree in library science. You don’t want to be sitting with your grandkids 30 years from now and hear your son say, “Hey Dad, remember that Halloween you made me dress up like the Dewey Decimal System?”