Thursday, May 31, 2012

True Tales of Bridge City Bicycling

Two wheels good

Borrowing some verbiage from the Bike Snob:
…Cyclists are often stereotyped as a bunch of simpering lefty hipster transplant wussbag David Byrne disciples. This is patently unfair, for in reality it's only true of something like two-thirds of our cycling population.

The Bike Snob was referring to the environs of New York, but such would also apply to Portland. But for the one third that is excluded from the simpering lefty hipster transplant wussbag grouping, we are an earnest lot of forthright people, doing “stuff” on bikes that is neither transcendent nor particularly interesting.

The Set Up
Yesterday I was earnestly biking downtown doing errands, going to the hardware store and bakery. I stopped at a light and became aware that several other bicyclists were behind me.

The light changed and with a polite single ding of a bell about six riders glided past me in a pace line. They were older men on road bikes, dressed for a training ride, wearing the appropriate clothing and sitting on drop-bar thin-tire bikes.

Short silver hair poked out of their helmets and they were clean shaven, their Lycra jerseys loud and bright – these guys could hang on the links or the GOP convention.

I felt myself inflating with smugness, knowing that a blog post would surely form out of this miasma of normalcy. Some older guys taking some exercise on bicycles, while passing another guy shopping on his bike, this was the utopian vision of bicycleness – where a broad spectrum of “stuff” happens on bikes and all is well.

The Punch Line
Charging up behind us came a young woman on a bike, passing us like we were road kill. She wore skinny blue jeans, a sporty green shirt, and bright red low-heeled pumps, with a tight pony tail sticking out from a helmet. A turquoise yoga mat protruded from an Ortlieb pannier as she laid it down like Thor Hushovd hitting the hundred meter mark.

We were all humbled by her speed and the fact that this was not even her exercise of choice, the bike merely a conveyance to the yoga class. The young woman putting us fogies in our places – whoo hoo!  Can cycling in Portland get any better?

The Kicker
Despite the physical excellence of this example of P-town bikery, the woman’s chain chaffed on her front derailleur and cried out for lubrication with the most piteous squeaking, bringing to mind gender stereotypes of yesteryear.

I can only hope that increased public awareness about the benefits of cycling continue, along with tips about proper bicycle maintenance. Remember, proper tire pressure and chain lubrication are nine tenths the battle.

Given the state of cycling in Portland, somehow I suspect the woman was a performance artist and the whole scene will appear at a TED talk or poetry slam. Today we live, tomorrow we are ironic, l’chaim!  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Anti-tax Pandas

Panda perfect!

Thanks for sharing your comments (via email and telephone) – yesterday’s post was a big hit.

My brother suggested I could have shown “Airplane” to my kids as both the first and second film are on Netflix – he was most likely cracking wise, as the auto pilot scene, while excellent, is not one I would enjoy explaining.

An oft overlooked detail of “Airplane” is the taxi passenger who is left waiting. That is none other than Howard Jarvis, the anti-tax activist who sponsored California’s Proposition 13 in 1978.

Other feedback: My daughter pointed out that King Julian’s friend Maurice is indeed a lemur, but that Mort is most likely a bushbaby.

Suspected non-lemur.
Undisputed bushbaby
 Coincidentally, my daughter needed a flash drive for school and yesterday my wife purchased one with a panda case. Fearing pandas would lose their street cred in our house after reading my post, my daughter panda-ized this morning to support the brand.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekend Media Freak-out

Distress over my inability to plan my family's media diet was lessened by other folks in similar straits.

There I was. Sunday. Internet connection, Netflix, Hulu, many devices, but somehow completely out of options. I checked on the mobile app that redbox had a film my family would find acceptable and off I went, with the grim seriousness of a man who knows the fate of his evening lies in the balance. Once the word “movie” has been uttered there is no hope of rescinding it. Modifiers of conditionality just don’t work with the young ones.

Then of course when I arrived at the redbox  kiosk the film had been rented, as it was early evening, redbox rush hour. But those who might have doubted me at this moment should seek clergy, for I am a resourceful man of action, exploring all realms of the media kingdom.

Forsaking “We Bought a Zoo” I made an executive decision and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” it was.

In our family two animals are prized above all others – penguins and lemurs. Pandas as a species finish a distant third in this calculus. Of course this is because of the “Penguins of Madagascar” franchise. All of us appreciate the effectiveness and dedication of Skipper, Private, Kowalski, and Rico. (My wife might be an exception on this point, “too militaristic!”)

Lemurs might have tied for first in our hearts, as Momo, the flying lemur in the “Avatar” series, is a big hit. The concern comes from the other creatures with whom the lemur King Julian of “Penguins of Madagascar” associates. My daughter has doubts that Maurice and Mort are actually lemurs, just similar species sharing a habitat.

Anyway, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” delivered the goods with anthropomorphic Gentoo penguins being as adorable as one might hope. Jim Carrey, as the distracted developer father, of course reconnects with his own children and divorced wife to find the true meaning of fatherhood, all through the care and hijinks of his endearing charges.
Just a reminder to let you know we didn't watch a screen the entire long weekend (just 75% of it).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cue Cards

Based on an actual comment by someone involved in "Parenting"

Part of the purpose of this blog is to celebrate the parts of parenting I love the best (the other parts are mostly just random pontification). With that in mind I’m looking forward to the weekend where our family will go hiking, ride bikes, or just walk down to the river to hit things with sticks. That’s just how we roll.

Maybe even a movie! Seeing movies in theaters has an appeal, but watching at home is very satisfying as a parent because we (I) can make remarks at the characters on the screen.

Also watching at home allows for:
  • Explaining plot details
  • Diffusing too much tensions with wisecracks
  • Helping family members understand my views about the world
Other thoughts: This morning I had a conversation with my daughter about responsibility. She was being reflective about losing access to her iPad every night at 9:00 pm in order to facilitate sleep. She mused that generally she saw my wife and I relaxing control over her life.

I told her that when she acted responsibly and built trust with us she could have more freedom, adding that currently she needed work in the room-cleaning, getting-out-of-bed, going-to-sleep-early, and no-door-slamming areas.

The thought of growing responsibility brought us to the topic of teenage drinking. “You don’t need to tell me this Dad,” she said. “I’ve seen some Disney Channel shows that cover this.”

 “Disney doesn’t speak for me,” I said, feeling an urge to sue somebody in Anaheim. “You still have to respectfully listen to what I have to say. Only then can you do whatever you want.”


The conversation ended when we developed a system to avoid me embarrassing her when she’s a teenager. The idea is that she will script my speech at all public events we attend together. If we are unprepared, I will just loop back to a safe script and babble –  ah, the joys of fatherhood! 
Recycling for the benefit of humanity -- send me your ideas and I will compost them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Texture and Dimension

My daughter's consigliere delivering a poignant message.

How best to deal with a furious child – this is the sacred elixir that we all search for, hoping for a technique, expression, group of words and phrases that, when expertly rendered, reduces that screaming pile of rage into your child.

If anyone finds it please tell me – I’ll even pay.

Anger management for my children and myself is an ongoing concern. Despite being a self-proclaimed expert (I do have a blog!), I got nothing here. My children meltdown and I patiently deal with it.

Adding texture and dementia dimension to my life is the way my daughter channels her anger: a plush bear formally known as “Sweetie Pie,” recently became “Sweetie Horatio Scarface Pie.” He was enlisted to deliver a message after much door slamming. He apparently does not approve of the way I handled a recent dispute. Other directives:
At least I don't have to worry that the kid is suppressing the anger. My family is talented this way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fan Film

As someone who likes movies I often ask other parents what shows or films have resonated with their children. I live in Portland, so I frequently get the answer, “We don’t allow our children to watch anything, ever,” giving me the look that would indicate I feed my kids artificial coloring spread thick on trans-fat wafers before I let them swim with sharks.

Those who do let their children watch appropriate movies often do not watch the movies with them. This is a tragic mistake along the lines of asbestos pajamas and lead-based paint. There is nothing I like better than to recycle jokes from a film my kids have seen.

Having a shared comedy experience allows two main things 1) invigorates flaccid humor with professionally crafted jokes 2) indoctrinates the kids as to what exactly they should be laughing at – if they don’t absorb my own particular sense of humor then I have failed as a parent.

 “Okay Mr. Smarty Blogpants,” I can hear you asking. “What films might qualify for your ohhhhh soooo exalted approval?”

One could do worse than the Kung Fu Panda films, both the first and second. Jack Black does a great job and, this is most important, other animated movies set in ancient China with animal characters don’t have a high level of martial arts.   

This past weekend we made our first Kung Fu Panda fan film and have posted it here for your odd fascination enjoyment. For academics and serious amateurs who want  to view the original scene click here 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant

Parents, the train has left the station, are you kinda, sorta ready?

 What did you imagine parenting to be? I’ve been a parent for 10 years now, and I still have no idea what will occur tomorrow in terms of where the challenge lies – will it be in macramé, dog grooming, healing with crystals, heathen conversion, satellite deployment?

More like accepting and appreciating random, life-affirming spontaneity that comes in bizarre packets of whack. (The first crack at this sentence was Every day a new challenge. After mock puking I got down to it).

I remember getting on a plane when my daughter was a toddler in diapers. A mom with three little girls, maybe five, seven, and nine, all politely took their seats. No jockeying for position, no arguing who sat where. Each wore modest, stylish clothes, hair perfectly done, and carried a small carry-on.

The mom made a few remarks, the kids sat and took out books – it all looked so effortless. I thought that such was my due as a parent. Sure there would be rough patches, I told myself, but the smooth sailing would look like this mother and her offspring.

I later learned this mom, a notorious international saboteur, escaped incarceration and kidnapped the girls. After drugging them with Benadryl and dressing them in Hanna Anderson, they all boarded the plane to attend Comic-Con as slave Princess Leia and some enraged Ewoks.
My life is different. I was with the kids all weekend and turned on the video camera, hoping for a happy accident. Video is a great tool to capture the random energy that characterizes kids.
One kid was a medieval warrior with a hankering for American history. The other, just carried away with a classic Cramps cover. However, things did get more serious. 
 Stay tuned for our blockbuster fan film.

The title for this post comes from dialogue from the Cartoon Network series “Adventure Time,” a cartoon that does well to promote the surreal nature of childhood.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Borscht and Wasabi

My daughter is still sick so it’s a slow Saturday. I don’t claim to have the definitive answers when it comes to the Fatherhood game, but I have a desire to do activities on the weekends, which counts for plenty if you ask me.

Checking my email, the kind folks at Benihana graciously reminded me that I should return to their establishment for a fine experience. In the email I was thrilled by the photo of a chef – smiling with sincere warmth in his eyes, posed as if he was cooking me a great meal. I imagined his precise movements and concentration, his smile reminding me of a zen koan, his patter, of Buddy Hackett.   

I had saved the hat from our Benihana-rama, and with the can-do spirit which defines the pioneering outlook of our great state, I made my son a bagel with cream cheese – all the while playing make-believe that I was a top chef amusing the masses at Benihana.

But after the all the excitement died down and the food put away, I awoke to the realization I was still in Portland, in my own messy kitchen. Instead of being overcome by ennui, I did what people do here and wrote a blog post. 
Not a simulation