Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Unexpectedly," Jay the Carney Barker has a Very Bad Week

Conservative commentators have oft-noted one amusing tic of the MSM water carriers, namely: when something bad, but utterly predictable, happens as a direct result of one of President Light Worker's executive spell castings -- "Begone, Basic Laws of Economics!" "I hereby Banish Fox News and All Impudent Contrary Facts from My Sunny Chicago Reality!" -- Barry's media Supplicants and Tingly-Legged Adulators are always, always taken by surprise.

What the heck? Dr. Krugman said the kajillion dollar Obama coin would pay off the debt, fix the Euro and provide funding for much-needed Green research into mobile, solar powered partial birth abortion clinics.  That all of this has not come to pass must be the nefarious work of the Koch Brothers! 

Thus, Obamacare's perplexingly spiraling costs -- for mandating free, expanded health coverage to millions of new insureds, none of whom can be rejected for pre-existing conditions -- Unexpected!  That criminals and crazy people don't seem to abide by gun control laws -- even bilingually-correct laws written IN STERN ALL CAPS (PISTOLO FREE CASA!) -- infuriatingly Unexpected.  That Islamist fanatics are still trying to kill us, even after The One's masterful, America-flagellating Cairo speech and all that ongoing Muslim outreach by NASA -- Unexpected! That the planet-saving, tax payer-subsidized Chevy Volt is not outselling the gas-sucking Camaro, or even the RonCo Salad Spinner -- Unexpected!  That the economy is still growing more slowly than Joe Biden's hair plugs -- Unexpected! Why, that masses of ungrateful school children are throwing away Michelle's mandatory healthy bean sprout cake and organic tofurkey muffin lunches, and are instead trading Ring Dings and fully leaded Coke and Pepsi products on a thriving black market -- Unexpected!

But you know what has been the most unexpected thing that happened this week? -- and this was truly unexpected: some rogue members of the tranquilized media herd have actually started asking questions of this administration.  Yes, I know: "Unexpected" doesn't quite capture it.  Un-freaking Unfathomable is more like it.  And these are not just "60 Minutes" quasi-hard ball questions like "Jay, how can the President be so dreamy and yet so commanding, all at once?" or "Jay, reports are that Michelle's dress for the Clooney gala is an unprecedented Vera Wang and Versace collaboration. Can you confirm that?"

No, these new, unexpected questions are actually focused on getting at ... the truth. 

The truth about why the administration changed the Benghazi story from what everyone in the intelligence community knew immediately (terrorist attack by Al Qaeda) to a laughable fable about an offensive video. The truth about why the Administration -- Barack, Susan and the rest of the cast and crew -- then peddled that lie for weeks, until Hillary shrewishly thundered: "At this point, you slavering right wing mopes!, what difference does a stained dress and some cattle futures make?! ... um, I mean, four inconveniently dead people mucking up my 2016 Presidential aspirations!? No freaking difference! Now, I need to go see to it that my plane is retro-fitted with a custom gold leaf bidet for my successor, Viscount Kerry."  

The truth about why the good, well-meaning folks at the IRS decided that if 1) you were a Tea Partier (or if Brian Ross reported that you had Tea Party mannerisms or Tea Party movie rental habits), or 2) had a jingoistic penchant for loudly singing all the lyrics of the national anthem at sporting events, or 3) listened to Rush (not Canadian drum savant Neil Peart's Rush -- fascist radio fat guy, Rush), or 4) thought the Constitution was Dead and should be taught in public school, or 5) attended a snake-handling Evangelical church, or 6) shopped way too often at Walmart -- you were properly subject to a variety of "Holder- Approved Harrassments."  Including: enhanced scrutiny protocols, audits, vigorous, medically-approved (by Ms. Sebelius, who always wanted to be a nurse-assistant for Dr. Kevorkian, but she had no bedside manner) anal probes and, if you laughed at the "Birther" joke your Uncle Cletus once told at the family reunion, maybe a shared cell with Wesley Snipes (who made the mistake of admitting he favored water-boarding terrorists during his IRS polygraph session).

And poor, incoherent, blind-sided Jay Carney simply can't process what is happening.  Frankly, it's not fair: the sycophants are not performing their agreed-upon role, even after Valerie Jarrett read them the riot act during a private conference call.  Yet, they continue to challenge Mr. Carney's explanations -- even after he used the hypnotic control phrase: "Fox News."  That imprecation always works, but seemingly even it -- at least momentarily -- has lost its talismanic power.  Yes, a few members of the 4th Estate immediately calmed down, lowered their hands and went back to texting Ezra Klein, but far too many others kept pressing the issues.

Here's the scary reality: if someone can't figure out how to play the race card on all this, and right quick, this might turn out to be a very unexpected and unwelcome "transparent" next few months for The Lithe, Naked Emperor.  (What would wise Bill Ayers do about this predicament? Probably have a stiff drink, put some nails and a timer in a crock pot, and mail it to John Boehner.  But that solution does not poll-test very well at the moment.)     


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cotton candy costs HOW MUCH?!

Man, I really need to stop posting so frequently.  People are going to start thinking this is a twitter feed, me just prolifically spewing stuff every 8 months or so, rat tat tat like a machine gun ... and quality will suffer.
Quality was already suffering?  All the more reason for a break.  After this post, I may need a sabbatical, to recharge my creative juices.  

Anyway, we took the kids to Hershey Park this Saturday, which was the last weekend of 2012 that the park would be open.  Daddy's infallible thought process was that by end of September, with a nip in the air, the boys and girls of summer back at school and busy with weekend algebra homework and science fair volcanos to construct, the water park area closed down, the place would be relatively free of the teeming masses, no long waits, just our family skipping gaily from one empty ride line to another (Your Non-Existent Wait from this Point: A Mere 23 seconds!), with us eventually growing jaded from being able to sit in the front coaster car over and over.

Well, it turned out that the park was not exactly a chocolatey Wally World ghost town.  No, it was a bit more crowded.  How crowded?  Like sharing an elevator -- or maybe a linen closet -- with every person in Calcutta.  I think that in addition to the several million guests who arrived the normal way, the mendacious park overlords actually teleported in gleaming rows of tour buses from the future, just to break last year's attendance record.

It was absurdly, hatefully, maddeningly crowded.  I fumed: Why are all these people going to Hershey Park at the end of September?!  Obviously, our family is here because of careful, strategic planning.  But the rest of these lemmings seem to think that this is, like, a totally sensible day to go to the park. Was the herd augmented because of the evening Kelly Pickle concert? (Isn't she an American Idol cast off?  She's now a country music star?  That gives me a migraine.)

Now, fortunately, our kids are still too young -- ages 7, 5 and 3 1/2 -- to ride the big roller coasters.  Because the lines for those rides stretched to the Tappan Zee bridge.  I think it's entirely possible that, immediately upon arrival, hundreds of people ran and got in line for "The Great Bear" -- one of those suspended coasters that provide the thrill of brain-sloshing G-forces and a the very real risk of a bloody pigeon strike to the face -- and when the park closed, those same people, now dehydrated, and weeping bitter tears of impotent rage, had nearly reached the spot in line where they could -- if they stood on their tippy toes -- see the loading platform in the distance.  So close, and yet so far.  

Did I say that our children are not big enough to go on the wickedly fast, stomach churning "Jolly Rancher" rides?  Hershey has a handy ride height system, where types of Hershey candy correspond to how tall one must be to partake of the thrill of standing in line until one's bladder gives way.  Jolly Rancher rides are the apex -- the double black diamond rides -- and only for people over 7 feet tall who have also flown a space shuttle mission; Reese's Pieces attractions are for slightly shorter people who have a 70 percent greater propensity for vomiting when upside down, and so on; Hershey's Kisses designated rides are for little tykes like our daughter Anna. 

But Anna does not want to be, does not for a moment accept the reality that she is a vertically challenged, albeit adorable and quite tall for her age, second class Hershey Kiss.  No, no -- Anna's attitude upon learning that God had not seen fit to make her grow fast enough to ride any of the Coasters of Death or other "Big Kids" rides, was not one of wistful equanimity.  No, it was Cruella Devil being told the Dalmations were not for sale.  Her ride sign should have been a Hershey's Bitter Lemon Crab Apple Tart Dipped in Unsweetened Chocolate.

The idea that she was humiliatingly relegated to the "Lady Bugs" and the 2 mph Horsey Ride, while her brothers were allowed on much better, faster and trendier rides, was too much for Anna to bear.  Not even cotton candy would pacify her.

(Oh, did I mention that the cotton candy cost ... wait for it ... Four Dollars.  I ordered two -- what are they? sticks? -- thinking it'd be around three bucks.  I was even prepared for five, max.  Eight dollars?!  That's a mark up percentage that cannot be expressed in rational numbers.  It's like Pi to the Infinity power.  I'm pretty sure that it costs the Hershey robber barons one half of one peso to have an Equadorian child laborer press the button on the Wonka machine that whirls a spool of bubble gum pink, or electric blue or cancerous black spun sugar, and yet they want four bills. Gordon Gekko would be mortified at the profiteering.)

Anyway, I'm going to start having Anna hang from the backyard swing set, to stretch her torso, because if we go to Disney World as planned in another year, and she can't go on Space Mountain or the Pirates of the Caribbean, she might burst into flames and start flinging Snow White, Goofy, and innocent patrons thru the air with her telekinetic powers, like that girl in the Stephen King novel.  Not the pig blood girl, Carrie, the other one.

Ultimately, despite Daddy's grousing about the lines, and Riley's penchant for rubbing his hands over every garbage can, urinal and germ-encrusted surface in the park (I'm surprised he doesn't have Ebola), we had a fun day.  No one fell off the Sky Ride, we saw Zoo animals (although Anna was sorely vexed that the elk would not move and that there were no giraffes), and my 37 dollar pit beef sandwich was delicious.



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's Never too Early for Christmas Tree Tips

Yes, it is October.  Christmas rapidly approaches.  Our boys have already informed us that they want, among other things, a trampoline (very bad idea) a Bugatti, a Langorbeenie and a machine that will take them to the 2nd Dimension like Phineas and Ferb. (Don't ask.)

So, to help everyone make preparations for the Holiday, below I have set forth my professional tips on how to pick, and erect, the perfect Christmas tree.  These guidelines come from personal experience, and all of them are based on true, emotionally scarring events.  Yes, even the chain saw in the living room.

 It has been a Lucido family tradition, possibly dating back to Jamestown, to pile in the family truckster with the kiddies (all hopped up on sugary treats, such as the delightful Hand Imprint Turkey Cookies with glopped-on hills and ridges of green, red and purple icing, all whooping, screeching and twitching like euphoric Meth addicts with uncontrollable pre-Christmas mania) the Saturday after Thanksgiving to go select a real, live Tannenbaum. Artificial, sapless trees are for infirm people in nursing homes. Or Grinchy wusses who over-value their sanity. (If you don't get an intense feeling of satisfaction when repeatedly clogging your 50 horsepower Shop Vac sucking up metric tons of dead pine needles off the carpet every two hours so your foraging, one and a half year old daughter won't eat them, you don't know the true meaning of Christmas, and I pity you.)

In years past, I have demonstrated a Clark Griswold-like inability to accurately gauge the size of our tree: standing in the great outdoors, picking out our "just right" Douglas Fir, I've underestimated the tree's actual living room "presence," despite diplomatic hints from tree farm employees who eyed our chosen tree and said things like: "Uh, you folks gonna put this up in a barn?" or "Mister, d'ya have a trailer? I think this might crush your roof." Inevitably, this poor understanding of spatial relationships produces generous amounts of Holiday Tree Rage, when Daddy is forced to use a hack saw, branch loppers, high-tensile, wall mounted bridge support cables and risk a simultaneous double hernia and brain embolism shoving Gigantor Pine thru the front door and winching it upright.

Of course, Daddy Never Learns, and, indeed, Grows Ever Dumber. Thus, you guessed it: this year's King Kong Tree caused so much stroke-inducing wrath and multiple, tool-flinging tantrums before the accursed thing was semi-vertical and decorated, that I had to share some helpful tips on how Christmas tree professionals -- like me -- Just Do It, and in the process make it look so easy. Note: Not all of these steps are mandatory, although most are recommended. Pick those that work best for you and your family.

1. Drive to tree farm that used to be close to your old house, but is now a good 45 minutes away -- because it's tradition and emitting CO2 annoys people who drive Priuses -- and pick out a tree. Note: if tree is higher than the tippy top line on the 10' board used for pricing, consider downsizing. (Important Bonus Tip: if your bone weary 5 year old son falls asleep en route to the tree farm, dare not wake him from his Nap of the Dead upon arrival and make him get into his hated winter coat and scratchy hat, for yea verily, you will unleash such a torrent of misery and unspeakable crabbiness that the foundations of the earth shall tremble and the heavens will cry out: Fools! Why didst thou wake the slumbering child and not bring pacifying candy or powerful sedatives?)

2. Arrive safely home with tree. If tree has not flown off on the interstate and impaled a trailing State Police trooper in the head a la "Final Destination 2," it was tied down properly. If the tree does achieve launch status during return trip (holding it firmly to the roof with your left arm like the gene pool depleters who transport unsecured mattresses on top of their mini-vans is not advisable), race to the next exit, turn off your lights, park in a neighbor's drive way for at least a half an hour until the police cruisers stop circling the development, and buy a less dangerous and more easily transported potted Kwanzaa shrub.

3. Remove tree from roof of SUV. Do this when it's already dark outside to lessen visibility, and without gloves, because chicks dig men with pine needle scars (okay, scratches) on their hands. Although the tree is the approximate size and weight of a canoe filled with bricks, do not ask for wife's assistance, as this betrays weakness. If you drop the tree because your foot slips off the running board, and the trunk leaves an ugly scratch on the side of your vehicle on the way down, muffle curses by screaming into your wife's squishy travel pillow.

4. Check to see if trunk of tree will fit into plastic sleeve for tree stand. Ha! Of course it doesn't fit, you idiot! It's the circumference of a smallish Red Wood. Get hammer and chisel -- seriously -- and begin methodically chipping off layers of bark while seated on butt numbingly cold garage floor. This should take only an hour. If your legs lose all feeling, smash the chisel into your knee cap. This will take your mind off the pain in your pulped thumb, which you mangled during an ill- advised, "I'll-make-this-$%&*@-wood-knot-that-is-sticking-out-wish-it-was-never-born!" Babe Ruth hammer swing.

5. With bottom of tree trunk shaved to half its original circumference, screw on plastic sleeve that will now insert neatly and securely into the "socket" portion of the very expensive tree stand you bought from Hammacher Schlemmer, which is guaranteed to hold the mightiest, steroidally enhanced Christmas tree in all of the North Pole.

6. Grunting with exertion, haul tree, battering ram style, thru front door and into living room. Blindly -- and unsuccessfully -- try to insert it into tree stand. When wife, watching your titanic struggle with nature, asks bemusedly if she can help, yell "No! I can do it myself!" just before tripping over toy truck, losing balance and staggering like a drunken lumberjack into T.V. armoire. Scream cathartically: "I hate this stupid tree! I wish Christmas never came!" as your children, seated in their pj's on the living room ottoman watching "Elmo Goes to Grouchland for the Seven Thousandth Time and If Daddy Hears Elmo's Blankie Song Again He'll Eat a Bullet," stare goggle eyed at Daddy the sweaty berserker and ask Mommy: "Why is Daddy mad and saying that bad word 'stupid?'"

7. With tree precariously inserted into the base, spend the next half hour trying to make it stand up straight. Do this by stepping on the pedal that allows the tree stand to swivel, while threatening to throw the tree out the window if it won't stop tilting to the left or right in blatant defiance of your wishes. When it becomes obvious that the tree is too tall and too heavy for even a sturdy, German-engineered "Best in Test" tree stand (this might have been obvious even before now to a keen observer), and that the heavy plastic base also used in the manufacture of Panzer tanks is making foreboding creaking noises, as if the entire contraption is about to grenade, give up and stomp off to bed. Comfort yourself that you have accomplished most of your impossible mission. So what if the tree is not perfectly straight. You can tell guests it's a leaning, post-modern tree, that does not bow to patriarchal conventions of straightness. At least there's no risk it will fall down.

8. Awaken at 3 am to the sound of the tree falling down and crashing like a sack of dead elephants into the living room couch. Walk out to living room and stare in silent, stupefied fury at fallen tree for a full five minutes, maybe ten, gazing at the blast radius of branches, pine needles and no doubt thousands of tiny sap projectiles now flecking the living room walls. Fantasize about feeding the evil tree into an industrial wood chipper, until the wife breaks your demented reverie and demands that you come back to bed.

9. Get up at seven a.m. Note bitterly that Santa has not magically fixed the tree while you slept. Its fallen carcass still lies dead on the living room floor, mocking you.

10. Time for drastic, anger-fueled measures. Still wearing boxers and undershirt, get wife's loppers from the garage. Gleefully hack off branches, until the bottom three feet of trunk is denuded.

11. Bust out the chain saw. After spending twenty minutes fixing the chain -- Gollum hates the dratted, always-coming-off chainsaw chain! We hates it! -- savagely pull start the Poulan tree amputator. Revel in the window rattling cacophony. Don't bother dragging the tree back out to the garage; too much work. No, have the wife take the kids into the master bed room, and go Christmas Chain Saw Massacre on that overgrown pine. The tree has now been shortened by three feet, and the living room reeks of gas. Breathe deeply of the manly, oil/fuel mixture, a festive smell which will linger in your home, despite the use of numerous Glade air freshener bombs, until late January. Even the Who's down in Whoville loved the smell of gas in the living room on a Holiday morning.

12. Patiently explain to your crying children, who are hacking and coughing from the acrid chain saw smoke and the scary noise, that Daddy is not mad, but that there was a Christmas Emergency so Daddy had to use the loud machine. Also, instruct the children that might makes right, and then give them as many cookies for breakfast as they can double fist into their pie holes.

13. Spend 50 minutes on hands and knees vacuuming up wood chips from every nook and cranny in the living room while your wife stands over you like a drill sergeant, slapping a wooden spoon into her palm. Note this as a possible down side to using a chain saw in the living room.

14. Re-insert humbled, smaller tree (now a dwarfish 9 feet) into tree stand while doing a victory dance and yelling "How ya like me now? Mr. Tree Amputee?! Yeah -- Sucka! Um, Isaac and Riley, Daddy is saying grown up things. Ask Mommy later what 'sucka' means. No, the boy in Sunday school who took your truck is not a Sucka. We can only use that word at Christmas, when the bad tree won't stand up straight and falls over. Just do your dinosaur puzzle."

15. Search for various tools that you threw across the living room last evening in justifiable anger -- where's the hack saw? -- and put them away. Explain to your children that throwing sharp tools is only ok when you're really, really upset and need to vent your frustration.

16. Put on the soothing Nat King Cole Christmas album, and munch contentedly on a man-sized mixing bowl of Honeycomb cereal, knowing that in this year's contest of Man vs. Christmas Tree, Tree won. But Man got his petty revenge, and it was sweet.


The Day Our Son Changed his Middle Name

Recently, wacky LA Laker Ron Artest has made the news for changing his name to "Metta World Peace." (His second choice was "Metta Involuntary Commitment Proceeding Is Needed By Ron Ron.")  Anyway, that got me reflecting on the day -- about a year ago -- that our 3 year old, Riley, announced that he was dissatisfied with his middle name, and was legally changing it.

Here's a brief recap, as I recorded it for the family archives:

Riley is our free spirit. He kind of wanders happily thru life, occasionally stopping to head-butt something, or ask, quite loudly, in the middle of the grocery store why Daddy's poops are so big. He likes to relax on the living room couch wearing his Elmo tighty whitey underpants and snow boots. He's a funny boy.

Last weekend, we were at my sister's home. She also has a three year old boy, Laird. At some point during the day, Laird was not behaving (I don't remember the precise infraction; it may have involved the exposing of the firm, Lairdly buttocks at an unwelcome time during his sister's birthday party). My sister, as all parents do when expressing extreme displeasure, invoked Laird's middle name: "Laird John!" Riley, not familiar with the whole middle name concept, was confused by this. The following conversation ensued:

(Riley, wearing his quizzical face) "Daddy, what is Laird John?"

"Well, John is Laird's middle name."

"Mibblename? What is mibblename?"

"No, Riley, miDDle name. Laird is his first name, and his middle name is John."


"Because that's what Uncle Peter and Aunt Nicole named him."

(Riley, stonefaced, ponders this for a while.)

"What is named my middle name?"

"Your middle name is Edward. Riley Edward Lucido."

(Riley, expressionless, considers this information with the seriousness of a patient who has just been informed he has an inoperable brain tumor. After about a minute passes, he narrows his eyes and furrows his brow with extreme displeasure.)


"No, what?"

"My middle name is not named Edward."

"Riley, yes it is. That's what Mommy and Daddy named you, after your Grandpa."

"No. My middle name is ... Budward. Riley Budward."

He nodded his head in satisfaction, as if this proclamation had set the universe right again. And then he turned and walked away. Conversation over.

So now we have a son named Budward. Lame-O Edward is out, chick magnet, Budward is in. Lord knows where he came up with it -- it sounds like the nickname for the guy at the frat house who did the most keg stands -- but as far as Riley is concerned, he is Riley Budward Lucido, of Pennsylvania Harrisburg, and anyone who says different will be swiftly informed of their error.

Political Correctness Is Fun

I spent several years working at a huge company that was so saturated with cult-like, PC idiocy, people (read: me) got into major trouble for heinous transgressions like, for example, not proudly displaying one's "Diversity Cube" (literally, a Rubix-cube with photos of smiling black, Hispanic, Asian, transgendered, Native American, non-WASP imperialist people on each cube) on our desks at all times.* 

*It should go without saying -- no, it never does -- that although I detest identity politics, I'm super-fine with Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, Romulans, etc.  However, I reflexively resisted being forced to keep a ridiculous cube -- attesting to my diversity bona fides -- on my desk.  "Look, visitor to my office.  See that odd cube, next to my in-box?  What does it do, you ask?  Why, it proves I'm a good and enlightened person, who supports Right thinking.  Underneath where it says: "At Giganticor, Diversity is Our Strength!", there is a photo of a smiling Chinese man, who appears to be writing equations on a blackboard.  He is obviously very smart, and he enjoys toiling for Giganticor.  Next to him is a picture of a woman of Latin American heritage, dressed in a power pant suit, far nicer than the kind that Hillary wears; she is laughing unselfconsciously, while seated in a glass-walled board room.  She is powerful.  At Giganticor, Hispanic women wield great power, behind the scenes.  Yes, true -- in my experience, this kind of spontaneous hilarity is not the norm in board rooms, but at Giganticor, Diversity makes everyone happy!  And by displaying this cube, I prove that I am not a racist or a "Phobe" of any type, even though I voted against Barack Obama."   

So, after I accidentally threw my Diversity Cube in the trash -- and was dutifully reported by a whistle-blowing co-worker (I am not making this up) -- I had to have a meeting with the company's Diversity Czar, HR and a sinister representative from the internal Ministry of Approved Thoughts and Behaviors, where I was told that my micro-chip implantation had failed and that I needed to go back to Sensitivity U for re-training.  Suffice it to say, I fought Authority and Authority won, although not before I unleashed a memorable tirade during mandatory "Six Sigma" training (this is where we spent two weeks in a meeting room not doing any actual work, with a grinning, animatronic "moderator" who helped us make paper airplanes cooperatively, learn about "plus/deltas" and how to improve all of our customer CTQ's with our handy statistical tool box), which earned me the moniker "Angry Man."  I wasn't really Angry -- I reserve that for people who block the left lane -- merely vexed.  Like Emperor Commodus, when he found out that Maximus was still alive.   

Anyway, I now have a good friend who toils for a different mega-company that has adopted eerily similar, feel-good, self-esteem raising, Orwellian best practices.  I think there is a federal regulation, rammed through by the Chi-Com PAC, that requires all U.S. companies with more than 250 employees to foist this morale and productivity killing multi-culti claptrap on it workers.  Dilbert knows whereof he speaks.  In particular, such companies are very big on "Awareness."  Because being Aware makes us Care.  And when we Care, we don't Stare at people with braided back Hair.  Thus, each month brings with it a new culture (never American culture), or obscure religion (never something from the icky, Western Judeo-Christian tradition) or little known Holiday (it's Aztec Child Sacrifice Thursday!  Feel Free to Bring in Your ceremonial Jade Daggers to Work, but Please do not carry them into the employee lunchroom), to be Celebrated! and Tolerated! in the most tacky, stereotypical way possible.  These announcements, churned out by some very well meaning people in the company's Progressive Propaganda section, are comedic gold.  "Gold, Jerry, Gold!"  I mean, I'm not Asian, but if I were, I think that if all my non-Asian friends and co-workers showed up one day wearing Kimonos and eating with chop sticks, I would not feel "culturally affirmed."  No, I'd likely find the whole thing to be incredibly stupid and insulting.  (Of course, this is why my nomination to be the Director of the NEA was blocked in committee.)  So, whenever my friend receives one of these company-wide missives, she forwards it to me, for additional comment.  

Below was my supplement to Asian Awareness Month.         


Valued Associates -- Asian Immersion Month is just the glorious Beginning of MegaCorp's Diversity Delirium! In June, we will follow up on May's Awesome Asian Adventure with a celebration of the GATHERER PEOPLE OF VARIOUS THIRD WORLD DESERTS! All of us should learn more about these aborigines who, for thousands of years, have lived in roofless mud huts, surviving on a diet of sand fleas and pebbles, with only Al Gore audio tapes provided by GreenPeace for comfort and inspiration! Despite their lack of modern conveniences, they are a peaceful, joyous people who, unlike us, DO NOT DRIVE SUV's! They desire nothing more than to sing, dance and clap their hands while wearing no clothes. If the World was more like them, there would be No Wars, No Cancer, No Famine, No Sarah Palin, No Insurance Fraud and No Downs Syndrome Babies. Amazingly, despite their seemingly "primitive" culture, the GATHERER PEOPLE OF VARIOUS THIRD WORLD DESERTS invented micro-processors, the diesel engine and soap on a rope. And then Thomas Edison and Wall Street Bankers stole their inventions!  They have much to teach us, if we will only open our minds. Remember: An open hand cannot punch, only slap; an open eye cannot be blind except from a sharp stick and that is rare; an open mind cannot hate, except those who deserve to be hated, like Rush Limbaugh and baby seal clubbing racist Tea Partiers.


According to Wikipedia, Gatherer People communicate using Clicking Language. This language has no words; the people communicate using a complex series of clicks, grunts and guttural throat clearing noises. In honor of this pure, organic method of speech, June 15 will be Clicking Day at MegaCorp. On this special day, all MegaCorp Associates, Managers, Supervisors, Overseers and Enlightened Corporate Elites must communicate by clicking. NO SPEAKING WILL BE PERMITTED.  Employees caught speaking will be sent home and a notation will appear in their permanent file stating that they are "Opposed to Diversity" and "Display Xenophobic Tendencies and Should Be Agressively Medicated."

Perhaps you are reading this and thinking: I'm so excited about Clicking Day, but I have a minor concern about how people will understand each other. Well, we have anticipated and solved that problem: Handy "Clicking Vocabulary Cards" will be passed out two weeks before Clicking Day. These cards will list 100 of the most commonly used Nouns and Verbs in English and provide you with their Clicking translation.

Example: "I have a sucking chest wound from mishandling my Asian Awareness Samurai sword, please ... gurgle ... call an ambulance!" is a simple, clicking phrase, rendered phonetically as: Click, clickclickclick, CLEEEEEEK, cuh, CUH!

A few hours of practice with your cards and you will be speaking like an aborigine in no time! And it will be FUN!

Remember: Our culture is not better than any other culture. Those who learn to appreciate and emulate other cultures are Wise and Good.  Those who celebrate their own culture are Jingoists and Nativists, just like Hitler.  And he was Bad.  Here at MegaCorp, we are constantly striving to create an environment where everyone can feel Assimilated Sensitive Inclusive Non-judgmental Important Noble Equal.

Please be sure your TPS reports are turned in before 4 pm.

Daddy's Baptism by Pee (a nostalgic remembrance)

I write a lot of nonsense emails while at work (memo to bosses: during lunch hour, of course; during productive, money-making time, I surf ESPN).  I've been told by my London-based agent -- he also reps J.K. Rowling, so he doesn't take my calls -- that I should post them on my pathetic excuse for a blog, just to prove that I do occassionally have a fleeting spark of creativity which leads to something, anything, tangible.  Below is one such example, written many eons ago when our first boy, Isaac, was an adorable wee tyke with a bladder larger than Secretariat's.  I think I will treat this as the first entry in my "Unconventional Child-Rearing Tips for the Misguided and/or Grossly Negligent Parent" series.  Our next urine-centric entry -- it's a popular theme -- might be "What to do when your mischievous boys, unwisely left alone in the bathroom, hilariously drink (well, at the very least sip) each other's pee out of Dixie cups instead of brushing their teeth and rinsing like they were supposed to."  Btw, I think Tara made me sign a Confidentiality Agreement never again to discuss the horrific, emotionally traumatizing "Pee Incident" and its aftermath.  So that disclosure may land me in solitary. 

I got the chance -- that is, Tara, despite harboring grave doubts about my abilities -- allowed me to watch Isaac all by my Mr.. Mom self last Saturday, for a whole 8 hours. I had to feed him ("Honey, he's two months old and has no teeth. You can't give him Kix cereal."), change him ("Honey, make sure you don't put his diaper on backwards again. And try to keep the Desitin out of his hair.") and keep the dogs from licking his face after drinking out of the toilet. Simple.

When my Mom found out about my first "solo" mission, she actually offered to drive 4 hours from Virginia to "help" me. Hello?! How pathetic do these people think I am? My son and I were going to have a swell time all by ourselves, thank you very much.

I'm pleased to report -- as an unbiased observer -- that I did a great job, meaning that as far as I know, Isaac did not swallow any sharp, foreign objects or play with matches while in my care. Prior to leaving us, Tara had pumped about 3 bottles of breast milk for our hungry man to chug-a-lug. I've learned that breast milk is a more valuable and precious commodity than diamonds. (Oh, and I've been told that the "breast pump experience" is not unlike strapping the sucking end of a commercial grade Honda leaf blower to one's bosom. Fortunately, I'll never be able to verify this.) Tara warned me that if I spilled Mommy's Milk, or wasted it (what was I going to do? -- squirt it at the dogs just for kicks?) or forgot to put it back in the fridge and let it spoil, she'd have me murdered.

Isaac guzzled that milk like an alcoholic at Oktoberfest slugging pints of Guinness. However, I was surprised to discover that the amount of time it takes a baby to turn milk into urine is approximately 34 seconds. In the span of one hour, I think I changed 5 wet diapers. This kid needs to learn how to use the toilet, pronto. Anyway, it was on the fifth diaper change when Isaac did his best impression of a Super Soaker.

He was wiggling around on the changing table, waving his arms and generally enjoying having no pants on. Just as I was about to put on the new diaper, a faint but unmistakable smile crept across his face, and the pee started flowing. This was not a "tinkle." It was more like a garden hose turned on "jet." Stunned, my primal fight or flight instinct kicked in and I leaped back about 5 feet, which saved me from a direct hit. I think I might have yelled "No, Isaac, outside! Outside!" before collecting myself. With mounting panic, I saw that Isaac's mighty bladder was still pumping. I knew I had to stop the flow, but how? I thought about smothering the stream at its source with the diaper -- still clutched in my left hand -- but worried that would merely deflect the spray in other directions. Instead, I decided to "catch" the pee with the diaper, sort of a Star Wars missile shield defense for airborne pee. This technique was not as effective as I had hoped. I did manage to sop up most of the pee drizzle that got on the carpet with one of Tara's thick, wool socks (surprisingly absorbant), which I then stuffed in the hamper to dry.

All in all though, I'd say Dad's Day with Isaac was a rousing success. And I learned one important parenting lesson that I'm happy to pass on to all the other new fathers:

In child rearing, as in auto repair, the right tools make all the difference. Never use a diaper to catch pee. Instead, use one of your wife's large mixing bowls, preferably not the one she uses to make pie dough.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Curious Case of Lebron James

LeBron James might be the most physically gifted athlete to ever play professional basketball.  He is a sculpted 6' 8", 250 pounds, an impossibly large, agile, powerful and explosive amalgam of fast twitch muscle fiber, cat-quick reflexes and a MENSA-level basketball IQ.  If you took, say, vintage Scottie Pippen* (who, by the way, has been seated semi-courtside for every Finals game and has scored almost as many points as LeBron in the 4th quarter), exposed him to gamma radiation, and then harpooned him with a designer cocktail of HGH and Barry Bonds' vitamins, the resulting predatory mutation would approximate Lebron.

*I'm stealing a Joe Posnanski trademark by using the asterisk here -- I promise not to do it again.  Scottie the Basketball Analyst and Historian recently opined, perhaps after suffering a migraine that melted his cerebral cortex, that while Jordan was the greatest scorer ever, LeBron might be the greatest player ever.  Scottie said this before the Finals commenced.  Five games, eleven TOTAL LeBron fourth quarter points later, Scottie now looks more ridiculous than he did when he refused to re-enter a playoff game with 1.8 seconds left because Phil Jackson had picked Toni Kukoc to take the final shot (which, incidentally, he made).  Jordan, the Greatest Holder of Grudges of All Time (GHOGOAT), will never forgive Scottie for this traitorous idiocy, and is undoubtedly planning to have Charles Oakley murder Scottie and pin it on Brad Sellers, who was always weak-minded and therefore deserves to be framed and lethally injected for his basketball inadequacies.

LeBron has been -- for the past several years -- hailed in most quarters (with the exception of the Kobe-Is-The-Messiah fever swamps populated by 14 year old Mamba worshippers and Mark Jackson) as the best player in the NBA.  Stat crunchers like ESPN's John Hollinger rave, justifiably, about LeBron's historically great PER (2nd only to Jordan), and suggest that he's had as many transcendent playoff performances as MJ.  Which proves that John Hollinger, while perhaps brilliant, has descended into madness and should be involuntarily committed.

In the Eastern Conference championship series against the Bulls, LeBron not only scored at will, taking over several games in crunch time while D-Wade was in a shooting funk, but during key moments when he was asked to guard the Bulls' best player, he absolutely suffocated Derrick Rose, the recently crowned league MVP.  

The point is, LeBron is already -- nine seasons into his straight-out-of-high-school NBA career -- an historically great player, the total package (well, except for the pesky fact that he remains an unreliable shooter with a post up game that rivals that of Steve Nash), with the potential to rank among the very best to ever play: Jordan, Russell, Jabbar, Bird, Magic. That's the company he's trying to keep.

But a strange thing has happened on the way to the King's coronation: verily, he began to play like a court jester.  Again.

Yes, we all witnessed, with a mixture of fascination, glee and consternation, Incredibly Shrinking LeBron in last year's playoffs, when he submitted three consecutive stink bombs against the Celtics after his Cavs held a 2-1 series lead -- the most infamous being his Game 5 disappearance, when he played more like Henry James, notably one of the worst 'ballers among famous English writers.

We all know what happened next.  LeBron decided he had grown tired of trying to win all by himself, kicked all Ohioans in the groin, and alienated the rest of the country with "The (very poor) Decision" (the one positive to emerge from that execrable display of tone deaf cheesiness was that it made a laughing stock out of intrepid Jim Gray, who is now a side line reporter for the Stihl Lumberjack Tour) -- and took his monumental narcissism to South Beach, to join forces with co-Superstar D-Wade and Above-Average Mini-Star Chris Bosh, formerly of the Toronto Pteradactyls, the NBA franchise best known for allowing Kobe to score 81 points during a meaningless regular season game. (Incidentally, Vince "the amazing half man" Carter once scored 82 points during a Toronto intra-squad scrimmage, but banged his shooting elbow in the process, causing him to place himself on the IR for two weeks against the advice of team doctors, who all told him he had a "minor boo boo" that could be treated with a Dora the Explorer band aid and a lollipop, to take his mind off it.  Vince was once the Next Jordan, until people realized that his heart, much like the Grinch, was ten sizes too small. But I digress.)                 
After Lebron and Company -- in a lavish, garish, obnoxious celebration for having accomplished absolutely nothing -- promised to win "not one, not two, not seven, not Infinity ..." NBA Championships in Miami, things got off to a rocky start.  He and Wade didn't know how to co-exist; Bosh looked utterly lost; Rony Seikaly routinely dominated the Heat front line in alumni scrimmages; the team choked away numerous games in the fourth quarter because they executed like FEMA in close games; the media vultures began circling 17 year old, 2nd year head coach Eric Spoelstra (ok, he's 22), waiting for Darth Riley to take command of the malfunctioning Death Star.  However, the team gradually found its stride in mid-season; LeBron and Wade figured out how to dominate without getting in each other's way, the Heat began to strangle teams with their aggressive, lock down defense and jaw-dropping, Cirque du Soleil transition game, and wound up with the best record in the league.  Then they methodically dispatched proud Boston and upstart Chicago in two grinding, physical series -- the kind they weren't supposed to be able to win -- and were seemingly poised to shut up all their critics by rolling over the older, far less athletic, historically soft Mavs in the Finals.

But then LeBron apparently ate some bad carne asada, and the plot started to get a little screwy. 

7, 0, 2, 0, 2.  Those are the game by game 4th quarter scoring totals for LeBron in these Finals.  (And the two he got in game 5 were a gift, an uncontested lay up with 30 seconds left after the game was over and the Mavs were letting the clock run out.)  So, basically, Lebron has legitimately scored TWO POINTS during "winning time" in the last four games of the most important series of his career.  That's one basket more than avid Heat fan Gloria Estefan. This is not only "un-excusable", as the King himself admitted, it is unfathomable and nearly un-possible. LeBron James is, by all accounts, the best player in the league.  He can get his shot off any time he wants.  He is being guarded in this series primarily by Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd, whose combined age is 113, or slightly less than Dick Clark, pre-cryogenic unfreezing.  Heck, if he just curled up in the fetal position inside the paint, and waited for a Dallas player to trip over him, he might draw enough charging calls from Joey Crawford to get himself to the free throw line a half dozen or so times, which would be more than the THREE free throws he has attempted in a nearly 60 minutes of crunch time.  This is not merely poor play -- it is non-existent play.  (I do not want to hear any exculpatory mewling about Lebron's "defense, facilitating, rebounding, intangibles, motivational speeches during time outs or any other pathetic excuses intended to mitigate his abject awfulness at the end of these games.  Every Miami player and coach knows there is something terribly wrong with LeBron, and at this stage must be desperately hoping for a miracle cure.  Maybe he should watch "Shazaam!")

There is really no precedent for what we are seeing with LeBron.  No truly great player has ever vanished -- become an absolute non-entity, an apparition, a rumor, royal excess baggage -- to this extent in a championship series.  Lots of guys -- including the best ever, Jordan -- endured bad shooting games.  It comes with the territory.  But with all the greats, you knew they were there.  They were fully present, competing, fighting, trying to impose their will, effecting the outcome.  Not LeBron.  He continues to Fade into Bolivian, the Greatest No-Show on Earth.

It has been clear for a long time that LeBron is not a ruthless, pathological competitor like Jordan.  He lacks the velociraptor DNA that was injected into MJ at birth.  Fine -- no one else had it, either.  But there's something more going on here.  I think part of it -- which is almost never discussed -- is that LeBron is a very limited offensive player.  Yes, he's a great scorer, but that is due almost entirely to his freakish athleticism.  He is so much more physically gifted than the puny mortals against whom he competes, that he has never had to refine his game.  He does not have a well rounded, diversified offensive tool box.  When he gets hot (although improved, he remains a mediocre, but streaky shooter) he makes 3's, and becomes unguardable.  Or, he takes off like an ICBM and dunks on your head in transition.  That's pretty much it.  He has no post game -- nada, not even a fade away or jump hook -- which is inexcusable given his size, strength and leaping ability.  Further, he really has no mid-range game; he has not developed a reliable, stop-and-pop, 12-18' jumper that Jordan and Kobe perfected.  The rotation on his shot is still a bit goofy; it resembles a lazily tumbling asteroid.  So, when his jump shot goes (and right now it's clearly gone, having fled and taken its talents to environs unknown), he is reluctant to shoot, and when forced to play a half court game where he can't get up a head of steam and rumble to the hoop, he has no viable third option.

This partially explains why Udonis Haslem has scored more points in the fourth quarter of this Finals than LeBron.  I did not make that up.

LeBron also strikes me as a guy, despite all his accomplishments, accolades and bravado, who periodically -- and at the worst possible times -- suffers from a paralyzing loss of confidence.  Again, Jordan, Bird, Reggie, Kobe, all the great end-of-game assassins -- never thought this way.  If Jordan was cold, he shot more, offended by the idea that the ball was not obeying him.  (In one of his most amazing games, MJ -- who had apparently played something like 6 rounds of golf before tip off and completely messed up the mechanics on his shot, actually started off shooting 1-20 against the Miami Heat, yet remained undeterred, and scored 20 points in the 4th quarter, almost dragging the Bulls back from a huge deficit to win the game; John Paxson has said it is his favorite Jordan performance).  After any poor shooting performance, Jordan usually came out the next game in a barely containable fury, having convinced himself that someone on the other team, or in the media,  had been talking trash about him, and laid apocalyptic waste to everything and everyone in his path.  One of my favorite anecdotes about Jordan is that during one NBA Finals game, when he was struggling with his shot, players on the opposing team's bench were becoming more and more dismayed with each Jordan miss, knowing that retribution would be forthcoming in the next game.      

LeBron is not capable of summoning that kind of maniacal, win-at-all-costs intensity, which probably makes him a far healthier and well adjusted person.  But it ain't the stuff of greatness.

The hyper-scrutiny and criticism that LeBron has endured over the past week almost makes me feel bad for him.  But he brought this on himself.  When everyone is a witness, everyone gets to see the train wreck, in super slo-mo, hi-def.  I honestly don't know whether LeBron has the fortitude to snap himself out of this walking coma.  Maybe -- spurred by an adoring home crowd and erupting competitive pride -- he will unleash a legendary, vindicating performance in Game 6.  He's fully capable of putting up a 42/13/8 masterpiece, silencing the haters, and leading his more talented team to a title it should win.  On the other hand, the trend lines don't bode well; four consecutive games of "shrinkage" is a hard thing to reverse. (Plus, the basketball Gods owe Dirk and the Mavs after the Shining-esque officiating horrors inflicted on them in the 2006 Finals.)

I'll be rooting for the Mavs, but I'll also be rooting for LeBron to be great.  Watching a talent like LeBron struggle this mightily is not pleasant viewing.  Well, except in several million Cleveland households.  I'll be expecting great (and by that I don't mean that I hope LeBron plays like Sue Bird.)