Friday With the Kids - "I Speak No English"

Here's one for Todd and all the other retail slaves out there...

In Which People Who Should Know Better Continue to be Dumber Than a Box of Rocks

Y'all remember a week or so ago, when I posted about "The Hoo-haa Monologues"?

Here's more of the same, another example of puritanical morons slowly but surely taking over our daily lives, courtesy the New York Times, once again via Neil Gaiman.

With One Word, Children's Book Sets Off Uproar

What word could a children's author use to set off an uproar? Was it "shit?" Nope. "Fuck?" Nope. "Hoo-haa?" Nope.

The word is "scrotum."

Dana Nilsson, a librarian right here in Colorado, was quoted in the Times article: "I don't want to start an issue about censorship. But you won't find men's genitalia in quality literature."

She's right, you know. The presence or absence of men's genitalia is, indeed, the hallmark of quality literature. This The Higher Power of Lucky that has caused controversy is clearly not quality literature. That it won the Newberry Award, the highest honor a children's book can receive, must be some sort of fluke. After all, it features men's genitalia.

Or not. The scrotum in question actually belongs to a dog. It is, as I understand it, mentioned in passing, but not what you'd call a major plot point. If the book were being marketed to children and was full of graphic descriptions of sex, that would be one thing. If the offending word were in a sentence like, "Lucky was getting tired of Jake's hairy scrotum slapping against her chin," I could understand the uproar. But it occurs when the lead character overhears someone talking about his dog getting bit by a rattlesnake, which seems essentially harmless.

I just don't understand it. Why are we so embarrassed by our own bodies? Or, more appropriately, why is there a certain segment of the population so embarrassed by the human body and the correct names for its parts that they effectively decide the question for the rest of us? How is it even possible to be shocked and offended by the word "scrotum?" How is it possible to be so horrified that you or someone else might have to explain to a ten-year-old what a scrotum is that you want the book banned? If anyone out there has answers for these questions, please pass them along - I'm baffled, myself.

People wring their hands and fret about teenagers having sex and teen pregnancy and all the rest. "What can we do about these horrible problems?" they ask. Here's my idea: start by not teaching children to be embarrassed by and ashamed of being human and being the owners of human bodies. Don't be afraid to tell children the proper names for the parts of those bodies when they ask. That won't solve the problem, but it's a start.

The other thing that really gets me is that this isn't a case of irate parents demanding that the book be removed from libraries. This is a case of librarians pre-emptively banning the book. Librarians, who ought to be among the most passionate lovers and defenders of the written word, are deciding that they won't carry the book that has been proclaimed the best piece of children's literature of 2006 because it contains a word they find offensive. These aren't Focus on the Family meddlers, but librarians for God's sake.

In that vein, I close with some wise words from the noted Canadian author Robertson Davies: "I never heard of anyone who was really literate or who ever really loved books who wanted to suppress any of them. Censors only read a book with great difficulty, moving their lips as they puzzle out each syllable, when someone tells them that the book is unfit to read."

Every Girl's Crazy 'Bout a Sharp-dressed Man

As magazines marketed to the Y-chromosome set go, you just can't get any better than "Esquire." It's always got interesting and well-written articles, has a regular column by the always-entertaining Chuck Klosterman, and some pretty darn good photographs, some of which are of scantily-clad women. Whenever I read it, I feel like I've learned something, or been exposed to a new perspective on an important issue. It's not sleazy, barely-disguised porn like "Maxim". It's not sleazy, barely-disguised porn with terrible, terrible, terrible taste in women like "FHM". I will not force you to break out the Brain Bleach by even so much as linking to them, but trust me when I tell you that "FHM" has published pictures of Rachel goddamn Ray in a bra and miniskirt, licking chocolate off a spoon in what I suppose is meant to be a seductive manner. How their offices weren't instantly destroyed Sodom-and-Gomorrah-style by an angry God when they even thought of this idea, let alone actually going through with it, is a mystery suited to finer theological minds than my own. Where was I? Oh, yeah. "Playboy" is actually not bad - they at least have the sense to admit to being mildly pornographic - but they also seem to think it's still 1965.

So "Esquire" is where it's at - except for one thing. The "Style" section of each and every issue of "Esquire" absolutely blows my mind. In this month's issue, for example, they open by extolling the virtues of a shirt that costs $200. They go on to devote several pages to which shoes ought to be in a well-dressed man's wardrobe. Nothing wrong with that, save that even their recommended canvas sneakers cost over a hundred bones. It's a variation on the classic Chuck Taylor that's got some European designer's name slapped on it and therefore costs four times as much as any reasonable human being could possibly spend on canvas sneakers.

This seems perfectly sensible, however, compared to at least two other featured pairs of shoes, both of which cost more than two thousand dollars. Two thousand dollars. For a pair of shoes. If I'm going to spend two thousand dollars on any item of clothing, it had better be woven from 24-karat gold, bulletproof, make me run twice as fast and jump four times as high as I do now, and wash the fucking dishes for me.

Who buys these shoes? Or, more accurately, who buys both these shoes and "Esquire"? If you're dropping two grand on a pair of shoes, you've probably already got a robotic valet with a built-in internet connection in its positronic brain telling it all the most fashionable and absurdly expensive new clothes to go out and buy for you. If you're spending that kind of money on shoes, you probably don't need style advice from a magazine that features Chuck Klosterman ruminating on basketball and Stacey Grenrock-Woods explaining what a Dirty Sanchez is.

Some advice on clothes can be helpful, no doubt. God knows I could use it. But how about some advice on $40 shirts and $80 wingtips for those of us whose clothing budget is somewhat less than the GDP of Norway? I like to feel like I look good when I get dressed, but $300 for jeans seems a little steep to me.

If I Live to be 1000...

...I will never forget the look on her face.

I didn't have a camera ready at the time, obviously, so I've recreated the mix of happiness and surprise to the best of my ability.

The Greatest Thing in the History of the Internets

Every so often, something comes along that changes the way you see the world. This is one of those times. Trust me.

I thought I had seen all the best YouTube had to offer. And then, one night, some random surfing led me to the greatest internet television series in teh brief history of the form.

It's called "Will It Blend?"

It is hawesome.

See more here.

Friday With the Kids - Surprise!

After a well-executed surprise last night, here's one that's maybe a little lacking...


Future Perfect

Dear Readers,

By the time most of you read this, we will have gotten all dressed up. I will have put on a suit, my favorite cufflinks and my brand-new tie. Emily will have put on something gorgeous, and just that tiny touch of makeup she wears only on special occasions.

We will have had a pleasant stroll through downtown Denver in the brisk winter air. We will have arrived at the Denver Chophouse, one of my very favorite restaurants in town. I will have told the hostess that I have a reservation for 7:00, and we will have been shown to our table. I will have selected a bottle of wine and offered a toast. We will have eaten very well.

By the time most of you read this, my friends, something else will have happened, too.

I will have pulled a ring out of my pocket and placed it on Emily's finger. Yes, friends, that ring. I will have asked her to marry me. I will not have gotten down on one knee like a supplicant begging an undeserved boon from the queen. I will have done it very simply, sitting at the table, knowing that we are equals, partners, best friends and lovers, and I will merely have asked her to formalize that relationship.

I am confident, my friends, that by the time you read this, the most beautiful, amazing, talented, intelligent, sexy, wonderful (and other superlatives besides) human being of either gender with whom I have ever had the pleasure of sharing company will have said "yes" to my question.

And then we will have had dessert.

A Great Big (and Very Happy) Nerd

p.s. Emily (hopefully) will not have had any idea of my clever plan beforehand, so if you do happen to read this before 9:00 pm MST on 2/15/07, please hold off on congratulatory calls/texts/whatevers. Thx.

Old Guys Like Money

As expected in the wake of their performance at the Grammys, the Police have announced that they'll be touring in 2007.

It's good to know just where we're at in the "Great Bands of the Past Deciding that the Lure of Money Outweighs Old Animosities" cycle. Can a Talking Heads reunion be far behind? Will the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth give it yet another go?

Have you watched the video? It's not terrible, really, but it's just kind of sad. It's not "Oh my God, they still have the Rolling Stones?" sad, but their performance was so lazy, so low-effort, it was a little pathetic. They seemed to know that the fact that the three of them were playing together was enough and so they didn't have to be all that good.

A lot of people rant and rave about how awful it is when old bands get back together years later. They use the truly ridiculous Star Wars Prequel argument - i.e., "George Lucas raped my childhood!" - saying, "It's an insult to how great [insert band name] once were for them to be reuniting now." Not me. I don't particularly care. If the Police want to make a few bucks whilst being "all wussified, like a Sting solo album," it maybe makes me a little sad, maybe amuses me a little. But it doesn't really affect the fact that they produced five totally kickass albums between 1978 and 1983. That the Rolling Stones continue with every tour to hit a new low of pathetic self-parody doesn't mean that "Let it Bleed" isn't still awesome.

Still, even though they're one of my favorite bands...don't look for me to be camping out for tickets when the Police play Denver.

Yippee-ai-oh, Yippee-ai-yay

They made a movie out of Ghost Rider.

Starring Nicolas Cage.

I am baffled.

Why Ghost Rider? Well, I guess because Nic Cage and Mark Steven Johnson, director of the truly wretched Daredevil movie, are fans. But beyond that, Marvel Comics will not rest until every character right down to Darkhawk and Power Pack has a movie of their own.* And they're definitely working their way down. I mean, Ghost Rider, for the love of Pete... I dug Ghost Rider when I was fourteen, but, well, I was fourteen. What could be cooler than a demon with a flaming skull for a head who rides a cool motorcycle when you're fourteen? But of all the interesting, quirky, fun characters they could be making a movie of...Ghost Rider?

Obviously, they've already got their all-stars out there in Spider-man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. After that, you've got a rock-solid B-list with characters like Captain America, Iron Man, the Mighty Thor, the Incredible Hulk and Daredevil. The C-list gives you some pretty good stuff, too: Dr. Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Punisher. Any one of these could (and in some cases have) make a good movie. As two different versions of the Punisher illustrate, they can easily be made into bad movies, too.

But Ghost Rider? Think of it this way - if Spider-man is Elvis Presley, the Fantastic Four are the Beatles and the X-Men are the Rolling Stones, Ghost Rider is, at best, Zager and Evans. Of course, this makes the aforementioned Darkhawk (whose book I also read when I was fourteen, mind you) a bad Limp Bizkit cover band.

*Actually, I think Power Pack, if done right, could make a reasonably entertaining movie.

Friday With the Kids - "Running Faggot"

For today's installment of our new regular feature, in honor of Ted Haggard, Canada's Greatest Heroes tell us a legend of another Great Hero.

Beaver? You mean vagina?

Neil Gaiman posted this little news item today, about which he comments, "[this] seems, somehow, to miss the point on a scale that's positively awesome."

It will never cease to amaze me that we live in a culture where people will take their children to a movie theater to watch a man being flayed and scourged for three hours, but manage to take offense at the public display of the word "VAGINA."

This is an actual word. It's in the dictionary and everything. Doctors and scientists use this word. It has no particular connotation. It is not, generally speaking, considered vulgar or obscene. If the play was called "The Cunt Monologues" or something, yeah, I can imagine being a bit miffed by it. But, clearly, it wasn't somebody who was offended by vulgar language who complained. It was somebody who was driving by with her niece in the car, and was, "offended I had to answer the question."

Bad enough that an idiot was offended by having to tell a young girl the proper name for a body part she owns one of, bad enough that she complained to the theater, but worst of all, the idiotic management of the theater, upon hearing the complaint, didn't immediately reply, "Lady, you're an idiot!" No, they said, "Okee dokee," and promptly put a stupid and meaningless replacement title - "The Hoohaa Monologues" - up on their marquee.

These are the kind of people who shouldn't be allowed to run a theater - if you're that unwilling to stand up for art, for free expression, you're in the wrong business. If you're willing to bow to a single complaint, what are you going to do when the Decency League decides to mount a boycott? What are you going to do when the government tries to shut you down on obscenity charges? If you aren't going to stand up for art at every turn, what's the point?

Nerd Classic: Star Wars Lite

"This is very cute," Emily says. "I bet it was pretty cool when you were seven."

"Eight," I say, the teensiest note of defensiveness perhaps creeping into my voice. Internally, I am agog. I am aghast. Cute? That's the best thing she can say about it?

We're watching The Last Starfighter, which I have described to her on multiple occasions as "fucking awesome." And it is, too. For those of you who may not have seen this gem of the mid-'80s bonanza of "Star Wars rip-off/Spielberg-lite" flicks, The Last Starfighter tells the story of Alex Rogan, your standard-issue "kid with a good heart who wants something more out of life but can't catch a break." After setting a record high score on the "Starfighter" arcade game - in a supremely goofy scene where every resident of Alex's trailer park peers over his shoulders as he plays and all get absurdly excited about his video-game prowess - Alex is recruited by Centauri, the "inventor of the 'Starfighter' game" (Robert Preston, who is the biggest name the movie's got, and is terrific) to join the actual Starfighter Corps in the fight against the evil Xur and the Kodan Armada.

I'll admit, it's chock-full of '80s Cheez. It hits pretty much every cliche dead-on. Like every teenager in every movie made in the 1980s, Alex is always trying to get away to "the Lake" with his girlfriend. There's a younger brother who looks like a cute moppet but actually has a stash of Playboys under his mattress. There's a complete flock of Wacky Neighbors. There's a comical sidekick.

As it turns out, it's not the piece of Brilliant Cinema I recall from my childhood. It's a bit light, overall, running only about ninety minutes. In an age where The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, all of 100 pages as a novel, becomes a three-hour extravaganza, this is a little jarring. It doesn't establish much about the Star League that Alex is recruited to defend except that it exists and is in peril. It doesn't spend any time establishing anything about the villains, Xur and the Kodan Armada, except that they exist and want to destroy the Star League. I would gladly give this movie an extra half-hour or forty-five minutes of my time to create a more fully-realized sense of place and conflict. What's there is an awful lot of fun, I just wanted it to pack a little more punch.

I think there's some potential here for a remake. As Wil Wheaton (who had a cutting-room-floor role in The Last Starfighter) wrote recently, the video arcade is going the way of the drive-in theater.* But I can easily imagine the story being updated for the era of home video-gaming. Heck, the studio could probably even get a minor bidding war going between Microsoft and Sony to see whether Alex would play "Starfighter" on an XBox or a PlayStation. Flesh things out a little more, let ILM or Weta or whoever create some kickass space battles (though, truly, the film's early-days-of-CGI visual effects hold up remarkably well), and you've got a movie for which I wouldn't hesitate for a nanosecond to plunk down my $9.50.

Of course, remakes are the soulless work of Satan, generally speaking. Don't get me wrong, this movie is still fairly entertaining as-is. Emily says she thought it was too much like a low-rent version of Ender's Game for her to really enjoy, but I disagree. I think it's got a lot of neat ideas in it, and any similarities to EG are coincidental and meaningless at most. It's sort of like the skeleton of a great movie that had the skin applied too soon. I just wish it had a little more meat on the bones.

* I'm linking to Wheaton's blog instead of the actual piece, because it appears on Suicide Girls which has boobies on it sometimes and is therefore sometimes NSFW and is often blocked by IT. But if you can, you should click through and read the whole column, because it's highly entertaining and is a serious trip down memory lane for Gen-X/Y types who grew up on Pac-Man and Gauntlet and Golden Axe (my personal favorite) and such.


So, apparently, Ted Haggard says he is "completely heterosexual" after emerging from three weeks of counseling. Good for him, I guess. Whatever it takes for him to go on thinking that the homos are evil and choosing to embark on a life of wickedness and sin, and all he was doing when he had sex with another man was "acting out." Good for him.

In a related story, a leopard at the San Diego Zoo announced today that he had changed his spots. Sammy, a three-year-old Amur Leopard said that he was, "completely striped," and any former spotted characteristics he may have exhibited were merely "acting out."

Keel Da Heeroez, unt Teengs Uff Dat Naychuh.

Bat-Meme courtesy Random Panels...

Friday with the Kids - "Exhibition Shirling"

The Kids in the Hall introduce us to Scotland's favorite sport.

1-31 Never Forget

Here's some YouTube doofuses with teh funny on LiteBriteGate.

LEDs + Batteries + Circuit Board = NOOKYALUR BOMB!

So, as you may have heard, the entire city of Boston was basically shut down yesterday due to a "bomb scare." Here's the CNN story about it. Two men planted what the Assistant Attorney General, an idiot, called "bomblike devices" all around the city. The Attorney General, also an idiot, said the devices, "had a very sinister appearance. It had a battery behind it, and wires." That's right, according to the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, anything that has a battery and wires is "sinister" and more than likely a bomb.

Here's a handy tip for any of the many, many idiots in America who may be reading this: Bombs do not, generally speaking, have lights on them, especially not LEDs in the shape of a cartoon character. Just because it has a battery and wires doesn't mean it's a bomb. If real terrorists are planting real bombs, they're not studding them with blue lights and placing them in easily visible places, as the bombs have a much better chance of going off and doing the damage the terrorists would like them to do if they're not spotted beforehand. I know this is difficult for you to comprehend, idiots that you are, but just because something is electronic and you don't know for sure what it is, that doesn't automatically mean it's a bomb.

These "sinister bomb-like devices" that caused so much trouble in Boston were also planted in nine other major cities with little to no difficulty. It's a dumb guerrilla marketing campaign for a silly cartoon show. Some idiot in Boston, though, saw lights and wires and thought, naturally, "Oh, no, a bomb!" Out come the SWAT teams and the bomb squads.

Here's the best part - the MBTA is going to ask Turner Broadcasting, owner of the network that airs the cartoon, to reimburse the expenses incurred by the "bomb scare." What's that letter going to look like? "We, as a city, are in general to dumb to realize that a bunch of lights aren't a bomb, and our stupidity cost us a ton of dough. If you would, we'd appreciate if you'd compensate us for said stupidity."