Thursday, January 31, 2008

Yes, it's stupid.

But it made me laugh.


Posted by Joke at 2:36 PM 2 comments

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Oh, and something else.

I'm working on several posts, most of which are pretty much finished, none of which please me. The latest -- and it displeases only to the extent I'm blanking on all I want to include -- is inspired by the lovely and gracious blackbird, whose entry a couple of days ago got me to think about Inappropriate Crushes.

If anyone remembers on whom I've an inappropriate crush, please advise.


Posted by Joke at 9:49 PM 5 comments

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Joke's Book Club: Not your father's chick-lit.

Just started reading Him, Her, Him Again, The End of Him. So far, I like.

The characters are interesting, and the protagonist/narratrix pulls off the neat trick of being able to very accurately dissect all the other characters' flaws and motivations while simultaneously being unable to see through the guy with whom she's smitten, or what an idiot she is in this regard.

This guy, as a "type" is a composite of all the "he's all wrong for you" types and, even better, a stellar illustration of the phrase "an intellectual is someone educated beyond his intelligence." Yet, the wildly insecure and (so far unnamed!) narratrix falls for him, time and again. As far as I can tell so far (ahem), this guy seems to be in it for just the sex, as he only has time for her between dining and sleeping. Oh, and the RIDICULOUSLY overworked pseudo-intellectual "sweet nothings" he whispers in her won't believe. (Stuff like "I'm feeling a great deal of agape towards you at the moment, my ever-new enchantment.")

Very fun and keen observational stuff, but this is NOT a book that discusses the feelings that are endemic in the human condition, unless by that we mean being a neurotic and insecure person pretty much only used for sex by a man who is gifted at manipulation.

At times the scenes seem to run longer than they ought, and there are secondary characters aplenty, but this is all salvaged by the hilarious turns of phrase and caustic observations. Stuff for which I am a sucker, I proudly admit.

Now you know.


Posted by Joke at 5:14 PM 1 comments

This much I know.

"Whatever it is, I'm at fault."

These are words to live by when you are operating on the bleeding edge of social revolution, as a SAHD. Example.

TFBIM: (Staring at a motley array of furniture pieces and computer innards and wires.) NOS, where in God's name did you get that?
NOS: The dumpster*
TFBIM: What were you doing in the dumpster?
NOS: Dumpster diving. (He seems perplexed.)
TFBIM: (With that Lord-grant-me-patience look) Why were you dumpster diving?
NOS: Because that's the only way to get cool stuff out of the dumpster.

It's safe to say there will be zero need to worry this month about the possibility of a 3rd child.


* A "skip" to the rest of the Anglosphere

Posted by Joke at 1:25 PM 8 comments

Friday, January 25, 2008


If you've seen That Tom Cruise Video, this may be worth your attention.


Posted by Joke at 3:40 PM 4 comments

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today's Lesson: How To Incur Your Beloved's Wrath* With No Effort On Your Part

I freely admit that my wife and I do not have perfectly meshing personalities. I might (or she might) think/say/do things which vex, exasperate, annoy, perplex or otherwise upset her (or she, me) on a somewhat steady basis.

These occasions are mitigated when one of us is working our "heavy" season, i.e. we're not around to witness the incident that'd otherwise plunge us into the depths of botherness, and if we are, it's only after arriving so late we'd rather more lured by the prospect of slumber than argument.

So it bears noting when howls and imprecations and glares come at you from out of what appears to be a clear blue sky. Assiduous readers will recall TFBIM is currently working her heavy season, which on top of the ridiculous hours, is spent trying to disentangle gummint paperwork and bureaucracies expressly created to disquiet and trouble the citizenry as it undergoes its annual wallet raid, courtesy of the police power of the state. So, mark that, as it has great bearing upon the case, Watson.

Now, it turned out that yesterday she had to drop off a multi-ton ream of gummint forms (doubtless the E-Z tax form) to a client. Said client was running late and, since said client lived not far from The School, and would be returning shortly before School Pickup, TFBIM called me and volunteered for Pickup Duty.

"Uh, sure. Fine."

So off TFBIM goes, breezes by the homestead to decant offspring and then exits without much in the way of verbal interplay. "Hmm. Odd." It is at this point when the more astute reader, freed from the constraints and encumbrances that accompany the Y chromosome, will be shouting at the screen something like "Run, Joke! RUN!" But I, being burdened and encumbered as stated, do not smell the danger and stay put, tending to household duties.

Dinner is prepared, consumed and its detritus disposed. Leftovers are left for TFBIM in the "ready position" awaiting her dainty digits treading upon the microwave keypad. She comes in. Not banging doors, or slamming items down. She desires, and receives, speech.

"Went to do the pickup at school today."
"Met that new mom."
"Which one?"
"The skinny one with the ring on her navel but not her left ring finger."
["Flee! RUN! Head for the tall grass!" I hear you shout. Too late now.]
"That's...uh...Adrian's mom."
"Adrian. Yes."
"She was telling me how funny you are."
"You know the new...?" I start, innocently believing TFBIM wanted me to repeat the very funny thing I said.
"She asked if you were working out again."
"I missed today, I had to go get the..." I mention, believing it relevant to share my errands du jour.
"[Pixie-looking Mom] asked me 'Are you Joke's wife? He's so funny. He's adorable.' "
"Well, I am a beautiful man." I interject, hoping to bring some of my trademark levity into play.
"She asked me what you were making for dinner.[Talbot's wearing mom] jumped in and said 'I think it's saltimbocca.'"
"Yeah! This time I sliced..." I offered, believing the subj. of dinner was now arising on the agenda.
"[Navel-ring mom] said 'Oooh. That I wish my ex was like that.' [Talbot's wearing mom] said to [Navel-ring mom] and [Pixie-looking Mom] 'You should hear him, he loves shopping. He told me about the clearance at Nordstrom. I practically have to dress my husband as well as the kids.'"
"Remember those navy blazers they had...?" offered Mr. Clueless.
"What do you tell these women?"
"Oh, I was..."
"[Deity's name]! You're impossible!"


* It was not so much wrath qua wrath, as it was vexation at the fact I am set loose, for +/- 4 months at a stretch, among cute -- and some, it must be said, are definitely Not Cute At All -- mothers and she must hear from them, whom I have clearly fooled, what a wonderful specimen I am when she clearly knows better.

Posted by Joke at 8:07 AM 13 comments

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I am composing a post on what I HOPE the kitchen remodel will yield upon completion, but I am still harvesting photos. Here is what I'm thinking so far:

Terracotta-ish floor (which is staying)
White "shaker" or Arts & Crafts cabinets
Michael Graves faucet, handles, knobs, etc.
Butcher block or tile (granite won't "go" with what I'm visualizing, much as I love it) countertop
Stainless appliances (including a smallish wine cellar)

The look I think I want is a sort of sleek and updated version of "Mediterranean country" it "PostMed." But I may hate it when I see it in the flesh.

(Incidentally, if I didn't care about the kitchen "going with" the rest of the house -- a semi-tropical Arts & Crafts sort of thing -- I'd gut it all and go 100% stainless everywhere with that black-and-white checkerboard floor. TFBIM hates this look and says it looks "like a hospital for food.")

Stay tuned.


P.S. Suggestions are always welcomed.

Posted by Joke at 5:15 PM 13 comments


Look carefully.

Worth all the annoyances. ALL the annoyances.


P.S. Sorry for the Fahrenheit.

Posted by Joke at 2:26 AM 10 comments

Monday, January 21, 2008

It ain't much, but it's all I have

Dear Internet,

I know what you're tempted to say and I preemptively reply: "Take what you can get and be damned glad you're getting anything."

I spent my evening planning our Spring Break trip. It turns out that Poppy's kids -- Happy Birthday, Poppette*! -- and mine have the same Spring Break for the first time ever. So, instead of them coming 78 states to visit us, or we traveling 78 states to see them, we're both traversing 62 and 58 states, respectively to meet up in Disneyland.

Which is one of our favorite places, ever. In fact, it was the site of our first-ever Group Togetherness Voyage back in August of '02. All of the four offspring had baby teeth. Now, three of them have orthodontia.

Disneyland with the Buxoms is a lot of fun. Partly because, c'mon, it's Disneyland. Partly because, c'mon, it's the Buxoms. Partly because we haven't seen either -- let alone both -- in forever. Well, OK, around Easter 2006, we got Buxomized for a day or so. But still.

Anyway, the extremely lovely and wildly gracious Poppy emailed me her detailed travel plans and I, being the Hell of a guy I am, decided to adapt whatever plans we make to hers, to maximize face time and all that.

Interestingly enough, we don't travel similarly, at least not to Disney theme parks. The basic difference can be summed up as follows: Would you rather have a coma (Buxoms) or go on the Bataan Death March (Us) ?

But before we can do any of that Bataan Death Marching, we need to get there. So here's the general problem: variables.

We can travel there on one of two days (Day X & X+1), return on one of two days (Day Y & Y+1), fly out of Airport One or Airport Two, land at one of SEVEN possible airports, pay for the airfare (if it's cheap enough) with actual funds or (if it's not) with Frequent Flier miles on two airlines. These idiotic travel websites do not let you ask:

"I'd like to fly from this metropolitan area to that metropolitan area (I don't care which airport) arriving on Day X or X+1 and leaving Day Y or Y+1."

You scoff. You think it can't possibly be so. But it is.

So that's what I spent my evening doing. See? Told ya.


* Poppette christened me "Joke" way back when.

Posted by Joke at 2:59 AM 11 comments

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Please stand by.

I can't think of a damned thing.


Posted by Joke at 8:42 PM 2 comments

Friday, January 18, 2008

Grand Theft Cinema

You may be wondering why the slight silence on my part; and you do well to do so. Here's why:

Being the unrepentant cheapskate I am, I managed to steal -- steal, I tell you! -- a fancy-arse projector. This means that I have been spending my free time trying to get it to work with the rest of my rig, along with imagining how else I might improve said rig ("Oooh, I could get the new Googleplex 7.1 demodulator and an extra amplifier and...").

The problem is this projector was accompanied by a VERY thick manual written by someone whose first three languages are not Occidental and translated into English via a haphazard applications of Babelfish. Further complicating the issue is that I had bought a HD-DVD player as a Christmas gift to self late December and I have been attempting to install them simultaneously. This, as anyone with an inch's worth of cranial space will tell you, is stupid. As I found out.

Because I am often at great risk of terminal smugness (my default mood, alas) it is a good thing to exercise public humility, and this is done by telling you the stupid thing I did, which inhaled hours I'll never get back and nearly cost me a zillion dollars in fancy-@$$ gear I almost ruined.

Like an idiot, I connected the new and untested HD-DVD to the new and untested projector and fired both of them up. Sure enough, an image from the projector flickered to life on the blank hunk of wall screen. It was a menu, indicating for me to set up the date, time, etc. and hit "OK" once I was done and satisfied with the time settings. So I took out the projector's remote and pushed the button to move the cursor to the "Year" field which needed changing.


"Hmm," I said "must be bad batteries."

So I changed the batteries and went through the procedure yet again.


I powered off.

I powered on.

I hit "reset" several times.

I hit "menu" several times.

I adjusted the various parameters of the various sub-menus.

I spent 1:27 on hold with the tech support help line (Hint: It only helps if you talk to a human.)

I looked up the troubleshooting section.

I looked for the various menu options.

I tried everything.

Only in desperation, as my brain lumbered to life amid a shower of rust and calcification, did it dawn on me that maybe this menu was not a menu of the projector's but, rather, the HD-DVD player.

Which it was.

And it only took me ___ hours to figure out.


Posted by Joke at 2:01 PM 6 comments

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

SAHD 101 - A Case Study

Dear Class, following is a problem not printed in your workbooks. Please complete it and turn it in. There will be a quiz next period.

Bob is at home in a Stay At Home Dad capacity. His wife, Muriel, has what she calls an "accent piece" and which Bob has always been on public redord as considering "an unspeakably, unholy monument to hideousness." While Muriel is working late, and while their daughters are performing their pre-bedtime routines, Bob decides to take a shower. During said shower, one of their daughters, Mildred (at least we suspect it's Mildred) transforms the object in question into its twelvety frillion component molecules. Bob did not notice, and Mildred (if it was, indeed, Mildred) did not volunteer the object was, er, damaged.


Muriel arrives home and manages to notice. She then gives voice to her views on the matter. The neighbors report her argument was cogent, logical and sound.


1- In how much trouble is Bob?
2- What effect on the situation does it have the object was a gift?
3- What effect on the situation does it have that the object was a gift from Muriel's mother?
4- Is it justifiable for Bob to sell Mildred (if Mildred was, in fact, responsible) for medical experiments?
5- Which bodyparts will Bob lose?
6- What should Bob purchase Muriel to assuage her?
a) Should he sell Mildred (if Mildred, indeed, was the culprit) to pay for the above?
b) Would this purchase fully atone for this incident?
(Discuss the relationship between #6 and the human sacrifices rendered by the Aztecs, Incas, Ninevites and Polynesian peoples.)

EXTRA CREDIT: Explain (using charts, graphs and a timeline) why it was Bob's fault.

Please write legibly, cite examples to support your assertions and properly attribute any quotes or concepts you use.

Posted by Joke at 8:26 AM 13 comments

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

...and then we break into a dead sprint

There is something nefarious going on. 2008, for being a year* I hardly know, seems intent on running me ragged. NTS has an afterschool thing, NOS has a completely different afterschool thing and some nebulously defined wire in his complex array of orthodontic apparati has gone "twang!" and I am trying to remodel the kitchen without much input from (or, indeed, alerting her) She Who Has Not Cooked In Fifteen Years of Marriage.

I also have to answer some strange complaint from the Fish & Wildlife Service (huh?), straighten out another mess with credit cards at the bank, deal with my deranged cell phone and figure out some way to fix the wireless router's antenna Missing-In-Action problem. It just figures all this would happen when TFBIM is working her first late-day (if she's home by 10pm I'll be amazed).

This is seriously interfering with my plans to meditate upon how to build what amounts to a small furnace in the back of the house. And's totally fornicating with my reading.



* January is HALF over! WTF?

Posted by Joke at 1:17 PM 2 comments

Monday, January 14, 2008

Deranged, but with an explanation.

When we adjourned our last meeting, I had announced to the assembled my plans for a brick oven. I harbor no illusions (and you oughtn't, either) that I am doing this for any reason other than I think it's bewilderingly cool.

My baking skills are, at very best, "borderline adequate." Baking, in my experience, demands a set of traits which, in the Joke-ish bosom, are woefully underdeveloped. It requires a level of attentiveness -- and consistency of attentiveness, at that -- which I am not yet comfortable providing.

But I don't care.

I want one.

I also have masonry skills that are on the cusp of "nil" and "nonexistent." I don't have the slightest clue where in my back yard I'll place it or how (in)frequently I'll use it or how wildly off-budget this will be or how many* pizzas (pizze?) I would have to fire off in order for this to pay for itself or the unbelievable planning required to prepare something therein or even how likely I am to wake up, hospitalized with a brick lodged somewhere delicate upon my person and TFBIM in police custody. I haven't even considered the maintenance of the beast or where on earth I'm going to get enough wood to fuel the damned thing.

Something that heartens me is that others, equally unsuited and deeply unprepared, have managed to achieve this goal. It speaks to that atavistic clump of cells in my brain that revels in applying live fire to ingredients in order to transform them into food. I hope it doesn't speak to that atavistic clump of cells in my brain that dreams of dropping a successful medical practice to become a winemaker or leaving the stock exchange to start baking wedding cakes.

The lovely and gracious Kim noted that men generally do not allow a lack of skill to interfere with the pursuit of a project. In this case that is true, although in sharp contradistinction to some of my brethren, I am keenly aware that I have no such skills and/or it will probably pose a some measure of difficulty.
But I would wind up with something VERY cool.

Or, I'll wind up with a misshapen 3rd World concrete bird/vermin crematorium.


* The average artisanal pizza, baked by an Italian -- from Italy proper, not from Brooklyn -- runs $12 ovah heah.

Posted by Joke at 9:44 AM 10 comments

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nope, my mind's made up.

I have decided to do something that is both stupid and difficult. I will build a brick oven in my back yard.

Stay tuned.


Posted by Joke at 5:03 PM 11 comments


I figured out why my wireless connection is acting up. Somehow, the antenna thingy in the back of the wireless router has been unscrewed -- itself a feat -- and has vanished.

Tomorrow, while in SAHD mode, I shall begin surreptitious pre-plans to redo the kitchen.

I hope, but I am not expecting, to do this in Ninja Cheapskate Mode.

Details to ensue,


Posted by Joke at 1:40 PM 0 comments

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Starting with a bang.

SAHDness started up pretty much this week. Astute observers will note this is characterized by NOS helping me inaugurate the festivities by having 102F/40C fever and some sort of throat infection.

More seriously, an old Internet pal (from those halcyon USENET days) is apparently hospitalized with some sort very serious of blood thing. We'd sort of lost touch over the years, although we'd ferry messages through mutual friends, but still...I worry.

Oh, and my wireless connection is acting up. (If there is radio silence, you'll know why.)



Posted by Joke at 1:58 AM 4 comments

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thrifty? That's nothing

As we discussed in our previous installment, I am a cheapskate. Too long a time pining away for the very finest a civilized life demands, while under the budgetary constraints similar to those of the average serf, have honed in my soul a spirit of near-pathological cheapness.

This is not to say I'm a tightwad, no. A tightwad is someone who doesn't want to spend money on anything, as opposed to a cheapskate who will spend money if:

a) he can afford to do so

b) the item in question is cheap enough, and

c) the item in question is enough of a bargain.

Here is the item in question. Make a note of that price.

When we were getting married, as is the custom, we put down on the bridal gift registry (among other things) a fine china pattern, and a fine sterling flatware pattern. Ideally, one inherits these things, but whatever I would have inherited stayed in Cuber because it had been used to exploit the proletariat and the police power of the State was brought to bear upon my elders to ensure the working classes were freed from the oppressive yoke of my grandmother and her runcible spoons. (Whatever might've come from Spain was ::cough,cough:: donated to the State in the 1930s to help pay Stalin for Soviet armaments.)

Anyway, we chose our patterns and duly proceeded with nuptial plans. Our friends being who they were in 1993 (broke and clueless) and our families also being who they were (deranged and tightfisted) we might've gotten a couple of demitasse spoons and a cake cutting implement as wedding gifts.

But we have always sighed and pined for this pattern. Actually, no. This pattern was the compromise after TFBIM and self haggled over ornate vs. unadorned. Since we both disliked it evenly, that's what we've gone with. Anyway, imagine my shock when, proceeding through a store with exactly zero interest in effecting a purchase thereat, my eye is arrested by these. They were sitting demurely in a table discreetly labeled "clearance."

The boxes told a tale of lonely waiting, like the bridesmaids of Scripture. Prices had been slowly eroded by the passage of time and disinterested patrons.

So I bought a few.

OK, all of the boxes. At a discount of (according to my rough calculations) 97.92%, it was well nigh irresisistible.


Posted by Joke at 8:18 AM 12 comments

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm a tease.

There are some who are "frugal" and others "live simply" while yet others exercise "restraint" or "prudence."

Me, I'm a raving cheapskate. This comes from early youth, and was reinforced when I was a starving student. Being so broke I "couldn't pay attention" left an indelible imprint on my soul. so, it is with great joy and deep pleasure I managed to practically STEAL something on sale today.

Steal, I tell you.

I won't say anything else until I get the wire thingy for my camera.


Posted by Joke at 4:55 PM 6 comments

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"ARRGH!" and not in a pirate way.


(in no order in particular)

1- Complaining
2- Artificial fibers
3- Being interrupted
4- Waiting
5- Being asked "why?" or "how do you know?"
6- Not taking "yes" for an answer
7- Corn syrup
9- Overdue library books
10- Defaced library books (punishable by death -- garrote, I hope -- once I become dictator)
11- Airport security
12- Automatic transmissions (ESPECIALLY those with the paddle thingies behind the steering wheel)
13- The Presidential candidates from the opposing party
14- The Presidential candidates from MY party
15- The fact I can't order Tiny Trapeze marshmallows online anymore
16- Artificial ingredients in food
17- Rap and hip-hop and other children's music
18- Guitar Hero III
19- Taxes
20- CNN
21- Fennel seeds
22- Speed limits
23- Cheap liquor
24- When my stuff just DISAPPEARS! Forever! ARGH!
25- Barry Manilow

There you have it.


Posted by Joke at 12:05 PM 7 comments

"Teaching the lepers how to sing."

Over at my house the above is an oft-used phrase. In a nutshell it means that one is doing something of nebulous goodness strictly to assuage one's mind and possibly broadcast a more-virtuous-than-thou attitude to one's putative lessers.

The ways one can "teach the lepers how to sing" are manifold. Buying a solar-powered vehicle made of 100% post-consumer hemp fiber content is one. Turns out that buying Fair Trade coffee might be another.

Now, if we go strictly by the P.R. buzz of the thing, you'd think Fair Trade Coffee was simply a group getting together to make sure certain coffees were grown by, say, non-slave labor and ensured the prices paid would afford the people involved a living wage and that'd be pretty much it. And maybe that nobody is burying nuclear waste under the indigenous tribes.

Of course, just because that should be it, doesn't mean it is. Instead, according to Starbucked* author Taylor Clark (hardly a vast right-wing conspirator), the reality of the thing is quite different, since those who wish to qualify for the coveted FT status:

"...must obey a structure of rules that often seems more like a socialist wish list than a structure designed to help growers[.]"


"All aspiring farms must be small, family-run plots that are part of democratic, worker-owned cooperatives. Private ownership and capitalist practices are completely off limits — even hiring day laborers can take your farm out of the running."

Mind you, I was dimly (very dimly, truth be told) aware of the not-quite-sympatico vibe of the FT bureaucrats and I'm happy to have found guys who pay their growers FT prices without the "liberation theology" dog and pony show.


* It's a "better than OK/not as good as good" library read.

Posted by Joke at 11:43 AM 5 comments

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tiny interruption.

I have grown tired of receiving Spam email. I do not care to become a human tripod, nor getting a silo of anti-depressants discreetly mailed to me for $9.99 +S&H or helping Mrs. Mildred Q. Mambazo, widow of the late Gazpacho Mambazo, former Oil Minister of Zimbabwe get her assets liberated.

So, I have shut down the email account some of you have used/have been using.

I'm going with the Gmail thing (such as you know from your dealings with Uncle Joke) effective now. (Pester me there.)

As you were,


Posted by Joke at 4:49 PM 2 comments

An eerie stillness

Since the kids are finally* back at school and therefore are unable to "help" we started taking the Christmas stuff down.

Every year since our first Christmas as husband and wife, we have had the same argument starting on or about Jan. 2nd...

Me: Why don't we start slowly putting stuff away? A little every day so that, by the 6th [the day after the 12th Day of Christmas] it's all put away with minimal stress.

Since every year the Christmas decorations have to come down in one gulp, there is every danger the kids will volunteer to help and the last time that happened we had to head over to the Emergency Room. Twice. (There is nothing like your wife and somewhat bloodied youngest child looking up at you and your somewhat bloodied eldest child with that "What are YOU doing here?" look.)

So, it all being put away in one mad dash -- TFBIM's Tax Season starts within the next week or so, at which point I go into SAHD mode -- we were able to reflect back on the whole Christmas season.

Here's what we discovered: We have to count our blessings, even if our sons reflexively attempt to self-immolate in the presence of glass Christmas ornaments. Three separate times friends of TFBIM were over at our house to "drop off** something" and asked, with some incredulity if "It's always this quiet in this house?"

We were thinking our kids were making a Hell of a racket, but we said it was always like this, yeah.

Stunned, amazed silence.


And we were inevitably regaled with stories of how at THEIR house children were often going at each other with machetes or conventional weapons, or were holding screaming contests to see which kid could scare the cat into psychotherapy, or were otherwise engaged in a sport which combined the more disagreeable aspects of yodeling and Peruvian kickboxing.

In the meantime, NOS was reading some book on the Incas and NTS was playing some fun-but-educational game on the computer. (I was trying to beg off the conversation myself, that I could get back to my reading, but meeting with little success.)

A hint as to why this might be came to me one late afternoon when TFBIM called me and said "D. and her kids are coming over to play."


Now, I like D. But her kids (ages 5 & 7) are a bit wearying. Within 5 minutes they are like two wildcats holding a grudge accidentally locked in a small cupboard. Then there's the matter of timing. Whenever a friend of TFBIM and her offspring show up around, say, 5:30ish it is clear to me (and to them!) they intend to sponge off some dinner from us.

That means TFBIM will demand we have to make a little more of an effort or, worse, we all have to pile into cars and go somewhere, which, after several days and evenings of eatfests (this being the Eating Until You Rupture Season) I am disinclined to do. So we feed them.

Now, on this blog, dear Internet, I present to you a true-ish picture of me. It's true because I really do behave pretty much as you see here. The "-ish" bit is because I don't behave the way I would prefer to and spend much of my life censoring my rather, er, unique views and wildly uncharitable and judgmental opinions.

But, to show you how much I care, I will let you take a peek at a little judgmentalism on my part. Now, I'd never in a billion years would dream of expressing this in person, but I am of the opinion that an excellent litmus test for parents is how their children behave at the table. So, for example, I believe Poppy and TSMSM are excellent parents on the strength of Master Buxom and Poppette pretty much behaving at mealtimes. Now, how Poppy herself may feel about her maternal skills is stingingly irrelevant to me. Her kids behave, she's an excellent mother, the end. If someone puts his children to sleep in an Iron Maiden or a Catherine wheel and then is dissolved with guilt, or whether she shouts a ceaseless torrent of expletives and zaps them with a cattle prod...none of this matters.

Anyway, at mealtimes we developed a simple rule for the kids eating: "Take what you want, but eat what you take." I spent enough of my childhood in the 3rd World, looking at GRINDING poverty and hunger and the idea of wasting food is appalling and inimical to all I believe. I don't make my kids eat more than they want, but they do have to eat all they choose to put on their plate. (I don't, I'm grateful to say, have too much of a problem getting them to eat their vegetables.)

So here come D. and her kids. In order to feed this crowd on short order, I decide on a roll-your-own fajita fest. Most of the stuff would be leftovers which I am recycling (but that's on a "need to know" basis and they don't need to know) that can be stretched by the very nature of fajitas.

So D.'s kids help themselves to a mound of stuff and everybody starts eating. D.'s youngest -- who had asked for The Works -- has two bites and immediately starts pestering his big brother. The big brother, besides the added burden of being pestered by his little brother, also has to shoulder the sorrow of Buyer's Remorse. He stares balefully at his plate, wondering "Sweet Mother of Mercy, what HAVE I DONE?" at the sight of all the fajita ingredients waiting patiently for his assembling.

The little brother will NOT be ignored and eventually decides to compare, for texture and seasoning, his fajita with his brother's right tricep. The big brother smacks him and, taking this as a golden opportunity to not eat dinner, stands up and wanders to play with some toys which were littering the adjacent living room's floor. He is recalled to dinner. His little brother, having apparently enjoyed tormenting his sibling, begins to laugh like Renfield. The big brother assembles his fajita morosely, takes two bites himself and then wanders away to go play with more stuff.

D. recalls him to the table in a way which signaled to me, in an unambiguously clear and inarguably unmistakable way, that he is NOT used to being recalled to the table at home. Then the youngest one started pitching a fit because he didn't want to eat the food he had served himself. D. herself attempted some half-hearted explanations along the lines of "I don't know what's gotten into them." or "They're not like this at home." (When in fact, they are probably JUST LIKE THIS at home...)

Eventually, after many turns of one of the kids wandering off or the other mewling painfully at the prospect of having to ingest something, dinner ended. The kids went back to playing, more or less quietly, and then D.'s husband, answering my prayers, said he was on his way home. The whole raft of them departed, but not without grumbles (or peals) of complaint on the part of D.'s kids to the effect they didn't wish to leave this, our most excellent home.

The thing of it is that we like D. and her husband. We think*** they are good parents. But I'll be hanged if I saw any attempt at discipline. My guess -- and it's only that, a guess -- is that at home she mumbles something ineffectual when the kids act up, then mumbles again, and then yet again and then, having reached her limit, explodes in a volcanic outburst of parental frustration.

Which is never the sort of approach which leads to good table manners.

-J., who enjoyed the calm immensely

*Amen! Praised be the Lord! Hosanna! Alleluia! [insert joyful bells here]
** This is widely held to be an excuse to leave the house and go to someone else's house for several hours
*** "Or used to," I muttered darkly to myself

Posted by Joke at 7:47 AM 15 comments

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Testing, testing.

If you can read this, then the glitch is fixed.

If you can't, then you have exceptional ESP skills.


Posted by Joke at 11:32 PM 8 comments

Remedial Husbandry: A Synopsis

I'd like to digress momentarily from the scheduled activities of the symposium to offer my views on the smart way to be someone's husband. The principles I'm about to express are, I believe, universal. They are based on many factors of my personality and life experience, not the least of which are university-level coursework in organizational behavior and a childhood spent taking judo classes. The extent to which these universal principles apply may vary, but they are universal just the same.

The first and gravest mistake most husbands (and many wives) make is that of focusing on the battle* of the moment and forgetting the war. The long-term goals in my marriage are and forever have been very simple:
a) to be left in peace, and
b) have my beloved avail herself of the manly bounty that is Joke with the greatest frequency which practical circumstances will permit.

In order for these goals to be successfully -- and continuously -- met, TFBIM must be in a good mood. Therefore, I do my best to:

1- Avoid earning her wrath
2- Try to prevent those things which set off her wrath-o-meter from reaching her
3- Gauging when, in moments of her wrath, she is to be placated (and with what) or simply left alone or allow myself to go limp so that she can expend her energy, dissipating it harmlessly.

Inimical to this set of procedures is Trying To Win or Telling Her What To Do. Reflexively, she'll redouble her wrath, aim it at me, and the best I can hope for is a Pyrrhic win. Which gives me a tenuous grasp on a) and zero opportunity for b). (Mind you, there ARE times when sharp disagreements arise and which necessitate my strenuous opposition to her views/actions, but even that is aided by the above approach; it's called "pick your battles.")

In yesterday's case, the requirement was to allow myself to go all floppy as she ranted and raved (my BiL absorbed much of the blow, which serves him right for not warning me when I married his sister) and, for all appearances, give the impression I am listening raptly. For whatever reason, my beloved was not blessed with economy of speech and therefore this takes some time to complete. At first it wasn't easy, but now I have mastered the half-listening/half-daydreaming approach and therefore she extracts all the sense of sympathy she requires without taxing my reserves too severely.

The only time where this approach has been violated comes in the form of assorted chores. I have a Y chromosome and must be told what she wants me to do. In any marriage there are tasks that eventually become X's task or Y's task. I have no qualms about telling TFBIM to please take over a certain task as I am busy with some other burden, but getting her to reciprocate and ask me is, frankly, murder. I have more or less gotten through to her with my mantra of "My crystal ball fell off the shelf and broke." This is the brief way of saying I have zero intuition and stuff that is plainly obvious to the wifely race, registers with the likes of me as if it were the infrared heat signature of a disembodied spirit in an adjacent meadow.

I can't speak for other husbands, but my default is what the military calls "UnODir" i.e., "unless otherwise directed" which means I'm willing to do what you ask, but only what you ask and only IF you ask. You may rail and vent and fulminate, but you stand a better chance raging against gravity. My other BiL (sister's husband) got around this by putting up a list of all conceivable household tasks with boxes to check (or "tick" for you UK-types) off if a chore needed doing.

However -- and here's a trick -- whenever TFBIM reaches the end of her tether and breaks down and tells me to do something (fold laundry, thrash a recalcitrant offspring, store some items, whatever) I make it a point of doing so with great cheer AND throwing in a bonus. "Honey, I finished drying the dishes, y'want me to put them away also?"

That sort of thing.

Oh, and it helps to cook yummy food for her.


P.S. I am making sure the lads are fully up to speed on this manner of husbanding. I call this the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not get yelled at.

* Marriage has been described as the only form of combat where one sleeps with the enemy.

Posted by Joke at 1:20 PM 12 comments

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Adding both texture and detail

Regular readers who correspond with me on a semi-regular basis have often inquired as to the way in which I refer to my family. To sum up for new arrivals, I love my wife and kids, I like my parents and niece and my sister's husband and my cousins D & N, I'm more-or-less OK on my sister and the rest of them fall far afield of my capacity for charitable explanation.

Anyway, everyone who comments on the matter asks why my inlaws escape my less-than-charitable explanation. The short answer is because they are not "my" side of the family and for the most part I can ignore them at will. You'll be pleased to note I exercise that will pretty frequently. However, sometimes their oft-ignored imbecilities spill over into MY field of vision when they do/say something that gets TFBIM's mood dark. Those who have observed her with great interest have commented -- quite correctly -- that it is impossible to mistake a spring morning with TFBIM when the latter is waxing wroth.

The people on whom wroth can count to make sure it gets a quality waxing from TFBIM are my MiL & FiL. They are not, I firmly maintain, evil. They are, however, a pair of sentient beings who have lifted the craft of aggravating and vexing to a martial art. MiL is someone who flows from reality to Planet MiL as if the laws of physics were subject to her will. Which is not too bad, until she starts her ceaseless stream of suggestions, many of which have the barest basis in this dimension. Sure, she broke open the concept of Particle String Theory when she suggested that she had been using these to replace shoelaces, but most of the time she says things that make us wonder what color the sky would be on her home planet.

FiL is a different animal altogether. His particular expertise is seeking out and (surprise!) finding the mortal danger in everything from (no joke) lettuce in sandwiches to playground swings. This gets very old, very fast. Which would be tolerable, except that in sharp contrast to MiL, he is far more assertive about his perplexing views. Anyway, today TFBIM and a whole crew of her pals took the kids to the circus and, this being the Fringe O' Paradise, they went by boat (skippered by someone's husband). They docked the boat for half the price of parking, walked a couple of blocks went to the circus, walked back and returned via boat. This was a treat for NTS, whose birthday is tomorrow.

My FiL was adamant (adamant, I tell you!) this was an unconscionable risk to take with small children and proceeded to expound this view at length and with considerable vigor. Which, as you may well imagine, might possibly grow tiresome to his audience after the third or fourth hour. In an uncharacteristic outburst, TFBIM explained to him exactly why he was both deep in error and out of line and, er, heated words were exchanged. FiL then proceeded to join those absent from NTS's birthday (observed) festivities, which, er, became a topic for hushed conversation. Furthermore, this put TFBIM in A Bad Mood. Which, as stated in the introduction to this paper, affects me. Y'see, when TFBIM gets in a bad mood, I become Chief Numbah One Speah Catcher until the ardor of the (protracted) moment passes.

So here I am, walking on eggshells. At very best, I won't get yelled at and I'll have to bend a sympathetic husbandly ear to her inevitable rant on the matter.

I probably did something to deserve it, so I'll shut up now.


Posted by Joke at 7:26 PM 11 comments

In the year 2525...

The lovely and gracious blackbird hath posted what I hereby dub "The 25 Meme."

Twenty Five Things of Which I Never Grow Tired

1- Black tie
2- Stationery
3- Kitchen knifery
4- Bloody Marys
5- The Great Indoors
6- The feel of wonderful fabric
7- eBay
8- Reading funny things
9- Blogging
10- Traveling
11- Conversations with people who are brilliant at it
12- PG Wodehouse
13- Having obnoxious friends, but liking their obnoxiousness.
14- Cocktail shakers
15- Brunch
16- Hanging out
17- Espresso
18- Buster Keaton
19- Tiny Trapeze marshmallows
20- Prosciutto
21- Driving my cars
22- Wristwatches
23- Carl Barks
24- Sunsets
25- View Masters


Posted by Joke at 3:04 AM 3 comments

Friday, January 04, 2008

Getting going in earnest

I just started in on the first book of 2008 that you won't bother reading. The title is My Little Blue Dress by former Spy Magazine editor Bruno Maddox. This book is, structurally -- purposefully so, no less -- a mess. The author switches gears, changes styles, changes tone at seemingly random intervals. This can be very disorienting and, if you're a sort of reader, you may wind up hurling the book aside with an avalanche of profanity for added emphasis.

Given Spy's outlook on literature, it's no wonder its former editor would have come up with a clearly post-modern satire of the memoir genre. This is all I can tell you without drowning you with a torrent of spoilers: This book is ostensibly about a centenarian woman who has led a wild life and is at death's door in Chinatown, with the "author" ghost-writing her biography.

It's rollicking stuff, and I guarantee that, mechanically at least, it is like nothing else you have ever read. There is some drag, as befits a debut novel seemingly published during the bitter strike by the Editors of America Guild, but it's not bad and the tempo and gearshifting soon have you moving along nicely. Unless you are easily disoriented, in which case you'd better skip this book like you were going to anyway.

You probably won't read this one either, but you should.


Posted by Joke at 12:26 AM 1 comments

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I've not figured it out, either.

Those of you who are a bit more up-to-speed with the details of my offline life, such as it is, are aware my sister married a very nice guy from a very nice Irish family.

The thing of it is that his Irish family is suffused with Serious Musicians. There is a joke within their family that if you point out to Cousin X that he is a plumber, you'll get a reply to the effect that "I do plumbing, I am a musician."

Which is fine.

The problem is that these guys (and gals) belong to that curious strain of Irish musicians who are of the conviction that Irish music is the only music that exists, everything else is sheer, torturous* cacophony. As someone new to to this rather elitist (and, very curiously so) mindset, I was struck by how hermetic their minds were against any and all other sorts of music.

This all got my brain going and in the deeper and less accessed recesses of my mind, I dimly recalled something I had heard from one of my old LPs and, digging further online I eventually came up with the following gem, which will hit a familiar nerve to those who, in their youth, staggered into a pub with a name like O'Herlihy's or McKerrick's during Open Microphone Night's wee hours.

The song is "an ancient Irish ballad, which was written a few years ago" by Tom Lehrer. He goes on to explain that:
This type of song also has, what is known technically in music as, a "modal tune," which means -- for the benefit of any layman who may have wandered in this evening -- that I play a wrong note every now and then.
Furthermore, Lehrer asserted it wasn't really a genuine folk ballad because
This song though does differ strikingly from the genuine folk ballad in that in this song the words which are supposed to rhyme - actually do. [...]I do not direct these remarks against the vast army of [Irish music fans], but merely against that peculiar hard core who seem to equate authenticity with artistic merit and illiteracy with charm.
Furthermore, it:
[...]is replete with all the accoutrements of this art form. In particular, it has a sort of idiotic refrain, in this case "ricketty-ticketty-tin" which you'll notice cropping up from time to time, running through, I might add, interminable verses. The large number of verses being a feature expressly designed to please the true devotees.

* My theory is that these guys -- and I am adressing only the diehards, the true believers -- are under the assumption that the English -- probably on Cromwell's orders -- listened to everything (rap, country & western, opera, Peruvian boating shanties, flamenco, bel canto, Art Song, Broadway's Greatest Hits) save Irish music and therefore there are strong afterlife advantages to listening to the one thing the Brits couldn't stomach.

Posted by Joke at 3:51 PM 5 comments

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Review of the Year In Review

Dear Internet,

I'll tell you all about the posh edibles with which I bid goodbye and (for the most part) good riddance to 2007 in another post. This post is dedicated to far more important bloggery milestones. I bring you my best blog posts of 2007.

Now, the trouble with this sort of thing is that the recent stuff (Oct.-Dec.) tends to be overrepresented, and the early stuff (Jan.-Mar.) is usually nowhere to be seen. So I will apply diligence here.

Typical Day
Foodiest Post with the BEST Title
The Society Page (Poppy pointed out, quite correctly, that I had originally mislinked this to a post from June, 2006. Oops.)
Please understand me
The Book Fair
Bitterest Rant
The Joys of Fatherhood
My favorite architectural pun
Tales from my past

There ya go.

Happy 2008!


Posted by Joke at 9:08 AM 6 comments