What is a good childhood? That is the question that came to mind as I thought about Graham’s achievement of the Eagle rank. Is it a big house, having the latest toys, and fun vacations? Is it schooling? What are the values that we are trying to transmit to these boys as they become men in the blink of an eye?
Graham joined scouting as a Tiger in Iowa in 2008. 60% of his life, Graham has been in Scouting. It has been an education that has been continuous and parallel to his formal schooling. It is the best we can do in 2017, because we still need to teach these boys life lessons without sending them to the market to sell socks like my grandfather had to do when his father died in debt with 6 siblings and bleak prospects. Graham doesn’t need to go out and sell socks, but he still gets to learn important principles. These values are codified in the oath.
Fun vacations, check -every year since first grade, Graham and I have slept in the woods somewhere in Iowa or in Ohio. One year, we even took his mother and Sam, and the whole troop helped one another set up tents in a wind storm blowing off Lake Erie after a two mile bike ride in the dark. That was the last time she went, but we both understand the value in these experiences in the cold, the wet, the uncomfortable. My favorite memory is a cub scout campout I did when Graham was 10 and Sam was 3. We had to hike with all of our gear three miles through a wooded trail, and everyone carried their load and myself thinking, what good boys I have, what greatness might await them.
The latest toys -Graham got a pocket knife at a young age, when hovering parents worry about their kids cutting their pancakes with blunt table knives. Graham understood the gravity of that privilege, and understood it to be a tool, one of many that took maturity and skill to be allowed to own. Graham got a two man tent and hiking boots that was his sole shelter for several years during Scout campouts -I remember finding him asleep in a puddle of cold water in it after they had set up in a downpour out at Wright Patterson. Despite the temptation of sleeping in the car, I joined him after drying him off. Graham got a flint that lets him start fires as our ancestors did a quarter million years ago, and let him cook chicken in cardboard boxes and buckets like a hobo king. That is a certain kind of victory not all parents get to have.
A big house? Graham has learned that anywhere he goes with his troop, the trees and sky overhead are the roof, and the fertile ground ‘neath his feet are his floor. The world is his house, and in this solar system, you can’t get a bigger house. He knows he can bed down for the night anywhere and can withstand discomfort with equanimity. He knows he shares this house with great friends and family. He knows that this house needs careful stewardship and is something to pass on to the next generation. He knows that filling this house with love is a good thing, something worth striving for.
What will Graham do, who will he become? That is a developing story, but it is with great security that I know that the Boy Scouts have prepared Graham for the next steps in his life. We love you Graham, and we are so very proud of you. Congratulations on your achievement.
My younger son is a Cub Scout and we go on campouts. Inevitably, there is a camp fire and the tradition is to tell stories, usually spooky. When I was a kid, the stories had some creepiness to them, but they have all been banned -too scary. Now, the camp fire tales are just funny jokes -dad jokes, involving puns and worse. As the Halloween campout for our pack arrives, I’ve thought up some good ones:
1. This part of Ohio was on a trail where pioneers camped out on their way further west. The legend has it that as a family of settlers slept, the two boys disappeared into these forests, and the mother refused to go any further. The local farmers say that at night, a pale woman shows up at the door and asks for her boys and if there are any young boys, she grabs them to take them into the woods. They say you can tell it’s her because her eyes are sunken empty holes that cry bloody tears.
2. The local native Americans warned people never to pee in the woods at dark. A black hole forms from which demons reach out to grab you and pull you in.
3. Thirty years ago, a boy went missing around these parts and there was a long search for him, but they never found him. They say that you can hear him crying at night asking you to take him home, and you know it’s him by the dead butterfly in his mouth.
4. The bababoo is a angry spirit that will take your body and make you say and do terrible things against your will. Terrible things happen. You invite it in by saying bababoo thirteen times.Mayhem ensues that cause permanent harm.
5. UFO’s are very common here. They say that aliens take you into their ship and replace your mind with one of theirs, and put you back where they find you. They activate you when you fall asleep while camping.
6. The goat beast comes when people are unhappy or worried. It has creepy yellow eyes that glow in the dark and it waits to grab you when you walk in the dark to slowly eat you over days.
7. The grumpkin looks like a short bearded man, but you know it is him by the fact that his feet are on backwards. He’ll ask you a riddle and if you can’t answer in three tries, he will make you do a terrible thing or take your soul.
8. There are house ghosts that were people who died alone, angry, and outside in the dark. You hear them walking around cabins in the dark, and they stare at you while you sleep. You can only see them when the cabins are their darkest. You can hear them breathe. They are crying softly, and they want to come into your warm bed.
9. On a cold fall night, the fairies come together for their feast. They roast a young boy that they lure out into the woods with sweet fairy music, usually at night, starting with a sweet smell and shimmery lights.
10. Window monsters will try to get your attention by freezing you in your tracks with terror, and try to get invited in with false promises. They get stronger when you close your eyes or try to ignore them. Only by looking into the dark faces and eyes do you weaken them, but if you blink, they have you in their control, and make you open the door.
- My pillows need to be encoldened.
- Your sofa makes my bottom itch.
- I need a large bag for my hair.
- Every hotel I have been in on this trip has had bed bugs!
- What is the number for your MILF channel?
- My comfort animal needs a platter of long cut bamboo with the leaves left on.
- I need more lotion.
- Can you send up some hay?
- I will need bleach, a box of gloves, and a mop in the morning.
- How much air is in your room safe?
- Can you send up some more sheets? My sores are leaking.
- Can you send up someone who can keep their mouth shut?
- More Kleenex please.
- I need help removing something.
- The goat’s milk isn’t for me…
- I can’t imagine how it happened but something very important to me just ran into the vents.
- Of course I have a permit.
- I need a newspaper with today’s date on it.
- This is not my first rodeo.
- Well, it’s allowed where I’m from…
- I am a professional taxidermist…
- Are you sure there is no MILF channel?
- If an angry man comes asking for me, I’m not here.
- I make those things for a living. No, I don’t need a license…
- I am an artist!
- Soup. Just soup.
- I may have left something down in the lobby -no, I’ll come down and get it. No, no,..NO DON”T TOUCH IT!
- No, I hear no chickens.
- I am a very important talent agent and those people are my clients.
- If someone claiming to be my wife comes asking for me, I’m not here.
- Your business center’s printer is out of red ink.
- That lady boy is my personal assistant and needs to sauna before she shaves.
- This is so embarassing…
- I need more furniture.
- I have a skin condition and it is very important that I put that on before I swim.
- I have a doctor’s note, so that’s okay.
- Your gym gave me a terrible rash.
- That family that checked in next door -they’re a bunch of liars.
- I would like to talk to your lawyer.
- I may have left something in the hot tub.
- Where else am I going to dispose of my bags?
- Can you send up some duct tape?
- My courtesy bar was empty when I checked in!
- Are those people still down there waiting for me?
- Technically, they are contractors and not my employees per se.
- I have no sense of smell. I was born that way.
- I run a petting zoo.
- Your night clerk is very hostile.
- I’m allergic to some kinds of gluten.
1. De Tommaso Shoes -these are handmade Italian shoes. They are like Maserati for your feet. They are so comfortable and stylish, yet surprisingly affordable with the weak Euro. Ideally, you go to Italy and have cast of your feet made so that they can make any shoe out of the current catalogue for you and ship them. If you are so lucky to be in a store near the end of the season, spring through summer, you can pick up clearance items ready to wear which will exceed any shoe you might conceive of getting. Wearing them, you are ruined for any other shoe like a dog fed hand raised and massaged steaks.
2. Quart of Legal Seafood Fish Chowder. They will ship it to you on dry ice, suitable for hoarding for yourself or sharing with honored guests like the Dalai Lama, if he eats fish. He doesn’t! TOO BAD!!!
3. Watch wardrobe with automatic watches in round v. square, gold v. silver, black v. tan v. metal bands. Given the flood of cheap Chinese watches made in factories that were moved brick by brick from Switzerland (hence “Swiss” movements), the only thing is replacing the cheap bands with decent ones that may cost more than the watch. The whole choice matrix ends up being 12 watches for about $50 each, cheaper than a single actual Swiss automatic watch or an Apple Watch.
4. Calfskin iPad and iPhone cases from Piel Frama. They make luxurious, buttery soft cases for electronics that are distinctive. Sure you can find a black synthetic leather one from China, but nothing beats these supreme cases from Spain.
5. Old Potrero Rye Whiskey -From Anchor Distilling in San Francisco, this is a tough bottle to find, but a tastier quaff you will never find.
6. Scotty Cameron putters are magic when your putting stroke is on -it telegraphs the transfer of momentum to a ball in ways other putters dream of. A vintage Ping putter comes in a close second if you can find it in good condition. These are like treasured family swords -the classically Karsten Eye shaped ones which I prefer. Billy Baroo!
7. MacBook 12 inch, 2015 edition, maxed out, in gold. The specs might not be as fast as some PC’s, but it will run Windows better than most PC’s and the inimitable MacOS. For blogging on transcontinental flights and writing the great American novel.
8. Zerolemon 20,000mAH Solar powered battery. It charges every gadget from iOS to Android and even the MacBook 12, and will recharge itself from sunlight. Great for blogging the post Apocalypse with all your gadgets running, although all the good real estate will still be occupied by the un-Raptured. Also good for keeping charged on the beaches at Sibari.
9. Human Siri -a personal assistant that arranges your work and personal schedules and does short notice baby sitting. Text human Siri, “I need to fly to Prague via Milan from Minneapolis but returning to New York via Barcelona, with two day layovers on both legs at the place with the bald concierge in Milan and the Latvian one in Barcelona. And pick up a bag of Arugula and pine nuts; leave it on my front seat.”
10. Sous-vide control system -this is to food geeks today what microwave ovens were to upper middle class people back in the 70’s. The basic premise is that a recirculating heating system brings a volume of water to 140-170 degrees, below boiling, but above the denaturization point for proteins. By placing vacuum sealed seasoned meats into these baths, they reach a fool proof medium rare to medium well, with carmelization being done with a finishing heat under a torch or under broil in the oven. This is the key to foolproof non-rubbery chicken without burning off all the spices. This is how tenderloin roast is managed in restaurants. This is how I want to cook in the future.
11. 3D Printer -These have come down in price to the point where they are almost the price of high end paper printers -about $500 will give you a 3D printer that will keep you in infinite supply of Lego pieces, iPhone cases, plastic zip guns, and prosthetic hands. I want.
12. A year of private piano lessons to be administered twice weekly in the evenings in the home to play just a single piece -Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in the expanded piano arrangement from beginning to end by heart. I figure, if I can only play one piece, this will be it and should satisfy me for a lifetime, because it reminds me of how it feels to be young in New York City. May take 5 years.
I saw Tomorrowland. I didn’t like it. It was full of fascism, creepy man-girl love, and conspiracy theories mixed in with pop science. But that wasn’t why I didn’t like it. It conflated intelligence with totalitarianism and inflated its business model of purveying sentiment and thrills for your money to something bigger, ending up preachy and self congratulatory like a religion. But that wasn’t why I didn’t like it. It had a spunky, adorkable teenage girl paired with a spunky, robotic, tweener girl-Terminator (Terminatrix) rocking a squeaky posh Brit accent like she was the Poopourri girl’s sister. But that’s not why I hated it. It had Clooney trying to hold together this turducken of a film with his pleasant face, but alas! The final moment of one worldness had an inspiring message but was botched by the mashup of the end of Mad Men Coca Cola commercial with a United Colors of Bennetton riff but that’s not the reason why. I hated the movie because it sold a false promise, a lie.
I grew up in Florida in the late seventies and early eighties, which meant frequent trips to Disney during its late heyday. To visit Disney at that time was analogous to going to Vegas during the Rat Pack era, or a jaunt to the Forum during Aurelian Rome. Disney was the economic heart of Florida and at that time had the power to move heaven and earth to reshape swampland and orange fields into a year long festival of America’s middle class and everyone else in the world who aspired to be like a white middle class American. The rides and flow of the park was focused on not just selling Disney but a world view that was at the heart of Walt Disney’s dream of one day creating an ideal society of Alphas, to borrow from A Brave New World, to recast the world in order, cleanliness, and happiness. The parking was like a North Korean mass game, and the monorail, which was the only commuter rail in Florida, was a testimony to a triumph of mouse-based will. There was a religion-like orthodoxy to this vision of Disney’s, and the first generation of Disney leadership immediately started to veer into something that all religions understand –you need money to generate power to generate money to generate power and so on.
Tomorrowland, which was one of the original sections of the park, was anchored by Space Mountain which promised a ride to space, was suppose to be a year round world’s fair of science and technology. I think the real heart of Tomorrowland was the Carousel of Progress which presented progress, particularly American progress. You road a circular trolley that brought you to American living rooms through time, narrated by audioanimatronics, ending up in an anodyne future of silvery clothing. EPCOT, brought together by the second generation of Disneymen, was originally suppose to be a utopian planned community of the best and brightest of the world living in self contained harmony, to save the world or perhaps survive it. Like most religions, the subsequent generations of followers lose the message and EPCOT became a glorified World’s Fair, with some pavilions being epic like China’s, or utterly kitsch like Canada’s which I suspect was just their way of going through the motion. Given equal status to nations were corporations which had the bigger and better rides and spectacles. Entertainment yes, future earth colony, no.
All of these spectacles started to fade and rot in the heat and humidity of central Florida. It is a fact that in that part of the world, if you don’t rebuild every decade or so, you end up with a mold filled cardboard box. The rest of Orlando, the cheaper hotels and strip malls, lie emptied like the set of a zombie apocalypse show, but Disney rebuilds, because it has to. Unfortunately, the target audience, the cheerful Eisenhower to Reagan to Clinton era American middle class, is gone. They hint at this in the movie with the scenes of the demolition of the space shuttle launch pad, which is fought by the erstwhile teenaged heroine of the movie committing domestic terrorism on a federal facility – Because that’s what smart teenagers do in the US. Take the situation into their own hands. It gets worse.
Turns out, there is a secret EPCOT that was almost built but stopped when they realized that humanity was headed for a terminal spiral, a doomsday. This secret society of supergeniuses turn not to preserving the world, but to preserving their secret safehouse for armageddon, presumably in an alternate universe. They used robot recruiters, in the case of Clooney’s character, the coquettish Athena, to find genius children to join their cause, leaving their families for this interdimensional Sea Org. Breaking with the faith results in death, and they have audioanimatronic robot enforcers that kill witnesses and abduct children. Human trafficking? Scientology meme? Justice League/Avengers/X-Men with Hannah Montana?
Clooney’s character is overcome by the failings of his time machine built when he was one of these runaway child geniuses, which shows the end of the world in HD. He also is brokenhearted because his love interest, the child robot Athena, was a robot. Clooney works very hard to convey the right tone at being helplessly in love with a girl-robot –something the French would shrug at because it was shown to be pure innocent love, something the Japanese would manufacture sex robots around, and something America would hyperventilate about if they saw the movie. I personally understand the portrayal of pure innocent love lost, but in our conflicted, puritanical, hypocritical American society, this is problematic and you wonder who greenlit this.
The final message of the movie, that hope will save the world, along with science and smart people, is nice, but mixed in with it is the same awful premise of the start of the movie. That is the promise of a beautiful future shown in holographic reality, but really a lie. The movie asks people to have faith and start clapping to save the world, but it’s really asking you to save Disney World.
But in the end, I hated the movie because it was boring, and it scared thinking children of all ages.
A Backstage Golf Guru Unclutters His Mind to Take a Shot at the U.S. Open http://nyti.ms/1KVQuUV
In no particular order, I had these thoughts after watching Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off video with my kindergartner last night. He had heard it on his school bus and was singing it like a mantra. Swift apparently is the last best hope of the music industry, selling more than the whole bunch in a time when songs get streamed for particles of pennies in revenue if that for the artists and song writers. The song is a classic ear worm, wriggling in like a wet finger and lingering there. Now that I’m writing it, its back. Shake it off.
1. Chirpy voices, with little girl giggling, is a sure sign of psychosis. One of the things they teach you in medical school psychiatry is that one of the signs of psychosis is hearing high pitched voices of little children. Swift sings still with some of the sassy girl intonations that endeared her to the country music crowd, and there are young women in the background giggling away. That is how I imagine it to have this particular auditory hallucination now.
2. Pretty blond girl privilege trumps any other kinds of privilege. Taylor Swift can ham it up as an amateur and pass as charming because she is pretty and blond. Pretty blond girls can pretty much get away with murder, or at least get out of speeding tickets at a higher rate than just about anyone else. That is what she does in this video –get away with at least a serious misdemeanor, if not a light felony. Yes. This video and song are a crime.
3. A message of “do your thang” to a target audience of women with low self esteem and insecurities about their appearance, grace, and taste –basically every woman, but especially her former country fans in fly over country feeling unsure about what to wear when they take that vacation of a lifetime to NY.
4. Expertise is hard to achieve but Taylor Swift-ness is impossible to achieve. That is what she is saying when she bounces and flits about with people who clearly worked those proverbial ten thousand hours at their craft –sure you can jeté but you are not Taylor!
5. Lady Gaga is dogged in this video. Basically, Stephanie Germanotta is handed a large jar of Has Beans in those few seconds when Taylor shows up in Gaga wear and makes that trademark head tilt stutter step, because this is part of a montage of tropes that include break dancers from the ‘90’s, modern dancers from the 30’s, and ballet dancers from the 1700’s.
6. Ballet dancers are beautiful, but the ballet is basically unwatchable. Okay, I agree with you Taylor on this one.
7. Same for modern dance, even without clothes. I once was the featured guest at a pre-premier showing of an interpretive modern dance play written by the ex boyfriend of one of my wife’s dear friends, and I fell asleep during the creation scene at the beginning. It was two hours long and I woke up at the end. I was post call, yes, but even naked modern dancers writhing in a coiled pile can’t keep me awake.
8. Only thing missing from the old school “urban” scene are some grillz and a large clock necklace. She raps in this song, and not in a good way like Blondie in Rapture, but in a high school cheer girl way that is consistent with the whole idea of this video and song –you can do whatever you want to do and not be offensive if your are pretty like me.
9. It’s okay to have large smelly feet if you are Taylor Swift. There is no imagining it –it’s there for all to see. It doesn’t take much to see wavy blurring of heat rising from those massive hind paws on Taylor, redolent of sour cheese and Staphylococcus.
10. There is nothing delicate about Taylor Swift. She is made of steel and sinewed with beef jerky. Don’t be fooled by the fancy wrapper if you see her, and remember to steer clear of those feet.
^o^ –a golf ball with angel wings
The ethics and morality that I live by? Golf. Or specifically golfism. It’s the body of customs and practices, some written down in the USGA rules, some not, of waiting your turn, taking your shot, being respectful of other players and expecting treatment in kind, of being able to compete on a level playing field of scientifically calculated handicaps, of justice served to one’s self, of counting every stroke. In planning, executing, and acknowledging your golf shot, there are transcendent moments when you are fully alive and in the moment and the universe pulses in synchrony with your heart and your soul flies with the arcing ball. There is a special place, my friends, that I go to once, maybe twice, a week and it is a golf course. Have you played golf, my friend? I mean really played Golf?
New Yorker articles have the unusual feature of never ending like a walk through an ornately designed MC Escher house. As you read, five days in, you glance at the web browser progress bar and see it only a quarter of the way down. That is because you ended and restarted the article three days before without noticing. That is why most subscriptions to the iPad version lapse -people get stuck on the first issue. I have been reading Atul Gawande’s excellent piece on his noble suffering for about a year now.