There are many barnacles. There are only a few whales. Barnacles live by filtering the water for food. Their life is one of probabilities -if you see a barnacle, you know the water is rich with microscopic food. No barnacles, no food. They grow where they plant themselves and their fate is tied to their location. When they breed, they release trillions of eggs, adding to the richness of the zooplanktonic mass. Baleen whales eat the same food as barnacles but seek out nutrient rich waters to sustain themselves. They are few in number, birth one whale at a time, and live to decades. Ironically, the surface of a whale is a kind of paradise for those fortunate barnacles that latch on. Their waters are constantly optimized for food, allowing them to multiply. Over time, they slow the whale down due to hydrodynamic drag. Eventually, they kill their host and home by obstructing the blowhole. The barnacle knows not what it does, and cannot be expected to love the whale or express any regret over the state of the world. The whale in turn compensates by swimming harder, breathing harder, but eventually, it succumbs to its fate, and cannot be expected to hate the barnacle nor feel sorry about all of its labors and efforts coming to this end. Nature provides for both barnacle and whale, giving each a lifetime suited to its fate.
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 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.
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?
The handing off of the crown jewels of American culture, Star Wars and Star Trek, to JJ Abrams, is a recognition of his powers as a popular storyteller. He understands the importance of preserving the principal elements of the story but also allows for the casual viewer to engage. The original Star Trek is fun to watch for someone like me who grew up with it, but to my sons who grew up with tablets and smartphones, the visuals don’t impress. Yeoman Rand after all carries a tablet that is thick, chunky, and pretend. They don’t can’t connect to many of the issues that drive the stories. The paranoia of the Cold War, the casual sexism, and the science love of the Sputnik generation, these are themes they have to be taught. It frankly makes for challenging viewing that gets in the way of the stories.
I’ve made a list of movies or stories that are begging for an update by Abrams. To purists, I get that these reboots are distracting, but they are far less distracting than colorizing black and white movies, reissuing new and improved directors cuts with CGI pasted in (I’m looking at you Lucas), and making lame remakes that kill the stories for a generation.
1. Logan’s Run. Originally a dark tale of the logic of youth culture run amok, the movie butchered it with terrible acting (Farrah Fawcett, I’m looking at you) and bad understanding of computers. The dystopian visuals of a World Without Us Washington, DC, were amazing. The core themes of rebellion, totalitarianism, and transitions from youth to adulthood would play well if done by Abrams.
2. Dune Trilogy. Let’s agree that David Lynch is really great with trippy psychodramas involving beautiful women and nerdy dudes but the soufflé collapsed in the vastness of Dune, both the novel and planet. I don’t completely blame Lynch because I see the hand of Di Laurentis, the producer, everywhere. It was like Di Laurentis wanted “The Space Medicis” while Kyle Machlachlan and Lynch were just redeeming their Hollywood tickets. The first three Dune novels are masterpieces and need a big budget and the resources of a medium sized country to do properly like Lord of the Rings, and Abrams should at least oversee it if not make it. Syfy channel made a bunch of miniseries based on the books but it is like seeing the Grand Canyon from inside of a box with a postcard sized hole. Land battles involving thousands should never be montages (looking at you Lucas).
3. Battlestar Galactica. The original was sold as a competitor to Star Wars, but the miniseries pilot was a proper movie on its own with strange, big ideas that no one remembers like Chariots of the Gods extraterrestrial origins of humanity. The reboot that started 10 years ago was a grim commentary about the end of a world much like ours, but got mired in awfully slow grim seasons (Battlestar Falluja?) that sought to make profound statements about our world with the sublety of a suicide bomb vest. The Cylons at the start seemed so dreadful but ended up after six seasons as a multitude of clones of the most annoying people at a office holiday party who are overlords of chrome toaster minions who have been throttled by chip modifications to be slaves, the original condition that caused them to rebel. Abrams would fix this, and return it to where it belongs -well executed space opera.
4. Speed Racer. Rebooting the recent reboot will be hard because the Wachowskis turned my beloved anime into a strange nightmare acid trip. It needed to stay true to its retro-future roots (Ascension, approving finger pointed at you) while keeping Speed vaguely Eurasian. Keep it animated and co produce it with Studio Ghibli. Major nerdgasms for a Bad Robot-Studio Ghibli reboot.
5. Six Million Dollar Man. It needs an update, and a new name because six million dollars won’t cover your basic ICU stay any more. Call it the Six Billion Dollar Man and give him prosthetic body after being decapitated by militants at the exact moment of his rescue –he is placed on an organ preservation machine and brought back for the fix. The reason –the secrets in his head that could save the world.
ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat is premiering in the New Year and it makes me think that mainstream media again is trying to figure out how to portray Asians not as sidekicks, comic relief, faceless hordes, sinister but emasculated male villains, or hyper-sexualized dragon ladies. It represents a reboot of this effort. The first time they tried almost a generation ago with Margaret Cho’s All American Girl. That show was broken by the network’s demands that Cho be more Asian doll sexy and the jokes more relatable (racist) to an audience not aware of Asian American culture. I propose the following metrics of Asian American racial progress.
1. The number of Asian American male leads in mainstream American television and cinema with top billing. Randall Park didn’t get equal billing as James Franco and Seth Rogen even though he had to carry the comedic load in much of the Interview. Selfie’s John Cho is one person, who I guess ironically is our Sidney Poitier, but the show got axed just as it was getting decent.
2. The amount of time it takes your Asian American child to face racism by one of his peers after day one of kindergarten.
3. The quality of the local Asian food -is it a world class eatery with an enigmatic monosyllabillic name or is it Chopstick Charlie’s. Are there authentic Asian items on the store shelves or just pale “Oriental” facsimiles? Are there bearded white hipsters non ironically crafting obscure regional kimchis?
4. The number of buildings at Harvard with Asian names. Famously, Harvard turned down the Wang family’s generous offer of a huge donation in exchange for renaming North House in the late 80’s, saying that North House -named for a compass direction, was to stay that way out of tradition. Less than ten years later it gets renamed Pforsheimer House. I guess it isn’t our turn.
5. The ratio of Asian men marrying non-Asian women in proportion to the Asian women marrying non-Asian men.
6. The frequency of having to school non-Asians in how to eat the food, in what the differences are between Asian countries, and why we can speak without chopsocky accents. And why we find “Oriental” to be mildly offensive.
7. The number of Asian Not Ready for Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live. Yellowface is just as offensive as Blackface.
8. The number of times in a year when the politically correct social media rage machine eats a celebrity or politician for making a racist anti Asian comment with the same kind of vigor with which it destroys someone making a racist anti Black, anti Woman, or anti Semitic comment or joke.
9. The number of Asians shaping and directing mainstream American culture.
10. The number of Asian American Presidents of the United States.
So I watched the Interview, the Seth Rogen – James Franco road film about assassinating Kim Jong Un played by Randall Park. Buried in the brouhaha is an interesting casting choice of Diana Bang, a clearly talented and very funny actress who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Chairwoman of Samsung’s entertainment division, Miky Lee. I can’t help thinking the money people at Sony Entertainment not getting a chuckle out of this. I have a bit of dyspepsia over Sony dissing Samsung and laughing at Koreans killing other Koreans. The movie is painful to watch because I don’t find North Korea too funny, but I think this movie needs to be available to be watched because it is the eye of a very strange and new kind of shit storm and because it is my right. Corea Libré!
As I was headed to my 25th college reunion at Harvard, I got a text from one of my partners. One of her friend’s sons was graduating from high school and headed to Harvard this fall and she wanted gift suggestions. As I was waiting for my hopper to O’Hare, I opined in no particular order:
1. Personalized stationary with initials embossed on paper and envelopes
2. Fountain pen -nifty basic Mont Blanc or fancy Cross with name engraved
3. Box of name cards
4. Custom laptop bag from Timbuk2 with an iPad Air inside encased in a Zagg backlit keyboard case
5. Album of fun selfies, depending on how cozy she was with the boy
6. Tie wardrobe from jpressonline.com -looking under neckwear. About five would do
7. Tasting flight of single barrel Kentucky whiskeys
8. Watch wardrobe featuring cheap but fun watches by Stuhrling, Stauer, Casio, Timex
9. Sony RX100m3 camera
10. Custom blazer buttons with his initials embroidered on them
11. Warm, lined hunting vests from Orvis
12. Gentleman’s knife with a 3 inch blade and corkscrew, other stuff optional
13. Rice cooker -old fashioned kind that lets you cook ramen, stews, osso bucco
14. Shaving subscription
15. Squash racquet and bag of balls, eyewear -even if he doesn’t play now, he will
16. Collapsible bike
17. BMW i28 convertible in silver
18. Bose bluetooth speakers -the big ones, Bang and Olufsen if particularly favored
20. 3 pack of 10,000 mAH battery packs, solar charger
21. 4 years of Dropbox subscriptions
22. Lava lamp
23. Annual summer retreats in the Hamptons, Calabria, Florianopolis, and Catalina.
24. Foul weather wardrobe -waxed cotton jacket in green by Barbour, anorak by LL Bean, ski jacket system by North Face
25. Beef jerky