My Kindergarden Commencement Address

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Why do we have Kindergarden graduation? To me it’s as plain as a yellow stained nap mat- to give Kindergarden teachers an extra week of summer vacation. However, if we are going to play in to the fantasy that Kindergarden is worthy of all the pomp and circumstance then the pee wees should get their own keynote speaker. So, without further ado…

“Thank you principal McVicker for that wonderful introduction, as well as that lovely meal of Chicken Dinosaurs and apple slices. If I’d have known that talking to five year olds meant having to eat like one I would have held out for 8th grade commencement.
The pressures placed on you by society, my tiny friends, will only grow as you age. I thought of relating witty anecdotes based on my encyclopedic knowledge of the Disney Channel, but

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

 I believe that at this critical moment in your development you are yearning for something more. Therefore, let me give you some advice from a world weary, jaded and slightly overweight fellow traveler on Spaceship Earth.

Smart phones are the devil. If you have one right now it’s too late for you- weaning you off would be like doing rehab in a meth lab. The rest of you are right now being crushed under the weight of peer pressure to ask Santa Claus for an IPhone 6- or whatever number they’re up to now. Don’t. It’s a scientific fact that smart phone users lead the nation in obesity, heart disease, failed relationships and self portraits taken in front of bathroom mirrors. While we’re at it, ditto for television and game consoles. Except for the selfies though I’m sure Bill Gates and the Sony people are working on it.

If you want to predict what the priorities of American society will be then listen to rap music. This is due to the fact that a) black kids are cool and b) white kids will do anything to be cool. When I first began listening to rap music all Eric B and Rakim, Slick Rick, et al talked about was competing to be the best rapper. That gave rise to the hyperactive competitiveness of the .com bubble and Gordon Gekko. Now, Kanye and the rest talk about clothes, having more money than Davy Crockett, and various foreign hand made sports cars. I predict this will lead to an influx of Gap and Saab franchises in the very near future. You have been warned.

English: Slick Rick performing with Doug E. Fr...

English: Slick Rick performing with Doug E. Fresh live in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t go to college. A college degree leading to a well paying job is just as much a myth as the 0% interest credit card. Colleges want you to believe that they are the gatekeepers to the American dream so that you or your parents will take out loans or start savings accounts to pay for your education. This will leave you and your parents, er, cosigners, with a six figure debt and a monthly nut bigger than their mortgage. You will not be able to pay, of course, because in four years, maybe more, you will graduate with a degree in something that interested you only to find that the people that are interviewing you got their degree in general studies from the University of Phoenix and had an uncle that plays poker with the assistant Vice President of Field Operations. Get a poker app for that smart phone you are probably going to get anyway and give it to your uncle NOW- while there’s still time. Split any winnings with him 50-50 and use the money to purchase your own charter deep sea fishing boat. But don’t go to college.

Don’t buy a house. If you are ever lucky enough to snag a job that pays a living wage a mortgage will suck up 1/3 of your take home pay. Add in the hours of leisure lost to yard work and cleaning toilet paper out of trees and the whole deal is a non-starter. Rent an apartment, call the maintenance guy when the toilet backs up, and bail on the lease when you find something better. Apartment leases only exist to allow community college law school grads the ability to pay their parents back for their student loans, so it’s O.K.

Run for public office as soon as possible. An elected official is the only person in civilized society that determines their own salary. They have no real definable responsibilities, no burden of expectations because they are universally believed to be learning impaired, and as long as they aren’t arrested AND imprisoned during their term of office are almost always re-elected. As an experiment, go home today, write your name on a piece of poster board, fashion it into a sign, and place it in your front yard. Be patient, maintain the sign as needed, and wait until the next election cycle. I will almost guarantee you will be elected to something. You’re welcome.

In closing, let me condense my remarks into one easily memorized sentence:

Adults are just as stupid as you, only with more body hair.

Please treat them accordingly.

Good night, Cleveland!”

Seven People You May See On the Side of a Milk Carton Very, Very Soon

I went to the gym yesterday. Normally I work out in a closet. But today I came out of the closet because I also have a gym membership and because my HMO gives a .006% discount on premiums if I can prove I have a gym membership so I pay and sometimes I go but I’m not going back for a while.

My biggest problem with gyms is that people go to them. People who I would gladly reimburse their membership fee if they would just stay away. People like…

1) The Camper

He’s on the bench when you get there. He’s on the bench while you are coming up with alternate methods to work your chest. He’s on the bench when you leave. Guess where he’ll be when you come back tomorrow? He does his three sets in twelve hours and wonders why he can’t get bigger. Like a mafia don at a social club he stays there all day and appears to do nothing.

2) The Preener

Stands in front of the mirror flexing, stretching, and adjusting his biker shorts. Problem is he does this between you and the mirror so you have a first class view of his overdeveloped glutes. Preen at home. I’m sure you have a house FULL of mirrors.

3) The Circuit Jerk

Also known as the Time Traveler because he can be in three places at once- like the bench, the squat rack and the lat pull machine. Won’t let you work in because he’s “only resting 30 seconds between sets.” That’s 90 seconds before you need it again, dude!

4) The Greasy Spoon

It’s gym-tan-laundry. It is NOT tan-gym-laundry for a reason. Bathes in tanning accelerator and activator, oils up then lotions up. Then lays down on a bench that I will be using right after him. The next time I hydroplane off a bench because it’s coated with a layer of Exxon Valdez I’m grabbing a lighter and seeing if that goop is flame retardant.

5) The Masochist

We get it. You lift heavy. Pushing yourself to the limit. You are not being disembowled. Please don’t scream like you are.

6) The Sadist

Just because you have an email stating that you passed the online certification course for personal training doesn’t mean you have found the Rosetta Stone of buffitude. Make a 48 year old woman with no weight training experience languish through a 32 set upper body workout and she’ll grow. Or she’ll die. As long as the check clears, right?

7) The Gym Sitter

I know you are crazy busy. Husband. Job. Four kids. No time for yourself. But maybe you should join a gym that has child care because this one don’t. Throwing your kids in a corner with an IPad while you do an hour on the treadmill doesn’t qualify as hands on parenting. And please when I say something to you about your child’s inability to hit the water containing portion of the toilet bowl in a consistent manner don’t act condescending. I have kids too. I just leave ’em in the car with the windows cracked.

Now I know why nobody wants to come out of the closet.

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It’s NOT World War Z- But It Doesn’t Suck

I don’t normally do movie reviews, usually because by the time I get around to seeing a movie it’s the 3AM show on TNT- but with World War Z I made an exception. The book is such a favorite of mine that I’ve bought it 3 times- I talk the book up to people, lend it to them to read, they keep it, and I lose patience and just go buy another copy. Next time I get it on Kindle.

Max Brooks’ book World War Z is to zombie fans what the Golden Corral chocolate fountain is to fat people. The fact that the book is so good is made obvious by the fact that they tried to make a bazillion dollar movie based on it. But if you are watching the movie and thinking “This is nothing like the book” then you are spot on. As best as I can tell the only similarities are the name of the movie and the name of the main character. The rest? Hollywood rewrites. Saying this movie is based on the book is like making a movie based on the Bible and having Noah build a Trans Am to escape a forrest fire, merging Moses, Samson, and Judas into one character and forgetting to mention Jesus altogether.

However, as summertime movie fare World War Z is fantastic. If you are looking for a zombie film to cut your teeth on or to introduce a newb to the genre I highly recommend it. Brad gets to be Brad, the zombies are scary enough without being gory, and the movie ends on an upbeat note. Exactly what you want from an action/adventure to beat the heat.

My only real complaint versus the movie is the lack of character development outside of Pitt’s character. Brooks was excellent at making you feel for his characters to the point that the zombie stuff was secondary, a plot device that provided a setting. The closest comparison in the movie was the captain in South Korea, and Brooks’ book is full of these- honorable people fighting against an impossible enemy they don’t fully understand and sacrificing themselves for the hope that those that come after will overcome and prevail. Pitt’s movie missed the chance to aspire to something better.

To sum up- go see it. Don’t read the book if you haven’t and enjoy the CGI. Later, read Max Brooks’ vision and be in awe of the greatest “book that’ll never be a movie” ever. And let me know what they should change the title of the movie to. I vote for…

Really Fast Zombies That Are Easy To Fool If You Have Ebola

Lawn Mowers, Crafts, Janitors and Factis Non Verbis: The Gospel According To Pop

My dad (or Pop, as the grandkids know him) is not a talker. He is, however, a prolific reader and since he doesn’t wear ties or dress shirts or after shave I thought for Father’s Day I’d write about a few of the things my siblings and I have learned from him over the years. Thanks for indulging me.

I began mowing our yard when I was 8 years old. I can admit that now because the statute of limitations on child abuse has expired. It has provided me with the ultimate trump card in the ongoing war with my son over who’s responsibility it is to mow our yard.

The boy: Dad, it’s 174 degrees outside and I just finished swimming, playing basketball and chasing girls all day. I’m beat and pretty sure I’ll drop dead from heat stroke if you force me against my will to mow the yard.

Me: Son, when I was your age I mowed the yard before I could even see over the handle. It was 1200 degrees Celsius and your Pop made me use a grass bagger, not this self propelled mulcher you’ve inherited. Our basketballs were flat, we swam in mud and every time we tried to chase a girl her dad would fire at us with a howitzer. Now put on your earphones and chase that lawn mower a while. It’s the only thing you’ll ever catch anyway.

Dad would stay close but wouldn’t micromanage. When I was done, at least by my definition of the word, we’d walk the yard together and he’d point out the places I’d missed at which point I’d grind my teeth, mutter under my breath, and wish ill upon him. But I’d fix it. Then we’d walk the yard again, he’d point something else out, and I’d fix it. After about 2000 times of this process repeating itself I learned Pop commandment number one:

Do it right. Or do it over.

Yard work was the worst, but this was applied to every household chore. Car washing, kitchen cleaning, whatever. Now, whenever I’m attempted to half butt anything, I hear my dad. And I do it right the first time.

My dad is always looking for stuff that needs to be done and doing it. He was high school booster club president for several years, even after my brother and I had graduated. Every year he’d take a collection of old helmets, saw them in half, and mount them on boards with a plaque to give to the senior football players. Nobody asked him to do this. He wanted to recognize the effort of a group of boys so he just did it. There are man caves all over Shreveport, Louisiana that have orange helmets mounted on their wall. I still have mine. That’s just an example, because my dad does stuff like this all the time. Whenever he sees a need, or somebody that should be recognized for a job well done, he does something about it. Which leads me to Pop commandment number 2:

Look for the good in people. Recognize it. Cultivate it.

Dad has been a Facilities Manager- he calls it janitor, but, you know, semantics- since I was in college. Most people have little or no idea of all the things he does on the job except when he’s sick or on vacation. Then the conversations go like this:

“Who adjusts the thermostats?”

“Skip”

“Who counts the number of people that visited today?”

“Skip”

“Who sets up the chairs for the meeting?”

“Skip”

“Who’s job is it to make sure the golf cart is charged?”

“Skip”

Doing the work without chest thumping has probably cost my dad a job or two, maybe even a raise, over the years. But Dad doesn’t need to let everybody know how important he is. He just goes on vacation. Pop commandment number 3:

Do the job. Don’t worry about who gets the credit.

“I just love your Dad!” Once people are aware that I am his son that’s all I hear. Thing is, nobody really knows why. All they can do is tell me about the time he did something for them, or helped them out of a jam, or whatever. I just assumed I was special because he’s always helping me out of jams, picking up my kids or letting me borrow his weed eater or something, but I figured that’s because I’m family. Apparently he does that for everyone. Pop commandment 4:

People remember the stuff you do, not the stuff you say.

See Dad, I was paying attention. Happy Father’s Day!

Motivation, Michael Jordan’s Brain, and Chocolate Cookies

English: Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan 1997

English: Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan 1997 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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My daughter is a third generation cook. My mother in law is a caterer, my wife is a caterer, and now my daughter. She’s nine. Yesterday she was at my mother-in-law’s and they decided to make a batch of chocolate cookies from a super secret special recipe that’s been handed down since forever. Problem is, my mother-in-law couldn’t find the recipe even though she has a collection of recipe books, folders, and cut outs from magazines that would rival the Library of Congress in size. No problem, my daughter said, and commenced to write out the recipe. From memory. Since birth she’s probably made these cookies twice. Did I mention she’s nine?

A few things to notice about the recipe:

The vanilla measurement. Normally it would be a teaspoon but the last time they made cookies my mother-in-law used the cap from the vanilla bottle. Hence, one “top.” And one less dish to wash.

“1 cup sweetend milk” is sweetened condensed milk. The can said condensed so that’s what she did. My daughter is very literal.

“1 cup Flower”….well, you get it.

She’s gets the beautiful handwriting from me.

Now, my daughter is not unique- actually she is to me but in the context of the 6+ billion people in the world she probably isn’t.  And while her memory is incredible it says more about what’s important to her than it does about the human brain in general.  Cookies are important to her, and making them the right way.  We all have the potential for incredible feats of memory if we are provided sufficient motivation.

Need an example? Ever forget to pick up your clothes at the cleaners?  Next time, put a $100 bill in the pocket of one of the shirts before you drop them off.  Sometimes you have to supply your own motivation.

Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever- sorry LeBron.  Most people know the story of Jordan being cut from his high school team, and any interview with Jordan I’ve ever read or seen alludes to the fact that he used the belief that everybody thought he sucked as fuel to become the player he did.  He’s even hinting at a comeback- at age 50.  Motivation is powerful, and whether you are a 9 year old girl making cookies or #23 for the Bulls it can move you to heights that the mere mortal side of you would think impossible.

Or it can help you make a really great batch of cookies.

Moses, Colonel Sanders, and Why I Should Play Linebacker For the Raiders

I don’t discuss with people the fact that I’m an aspiring writer, unless they are close friends or one of the two people that follow my blog. But when I do talk about being a writer I am often asked why I would want to do something with little to no chance of success, little or no promise of monetary gain, and little to no chance of gaining enough fame to hit the million follower mark on Twitter.  Simply put, I want to be a writer because I’m too old to play linebacker for the Oakland Raiders.  It was never going to happen anyway, and at the age of forty it’s time to put that dream to rest.  With age comes perspective, as well as the motivation to read for something other than an English class.  In doing so you come across books like Fight Club, where Tyler Durden tells us,

“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

That did not resonate with me at all the first time I read the book back in ’98 because I was only twenty six and felt pretty confident I would live forever and have plenty of time to be successful at whatever I decided to do that wasn’t the thing I was doing right then.  Last year I read the book again and realized that I was still doing the same thing I hated doing when I was twenty seven.  Thirteen years ago.  And now I realize that time is not infinite (at least for me) and if I harbor any illusions about not doing the same thing I’ve been doing for the last thirteen years for another thirteen I should probably get my head out and do it now.

Not that I’m complaining about my current job. It’s indoors, involves no heavy lifting, and pays well enough for what I’m asked to do.  Still, it’s not what I wanted to be when I was a kid.  My brother is a fireman and every kid wants to be a fireman and that wasn’t his dream as a kid and I’m almost certain that most of us are working in jobs right now that they didn’t dress up as on Career Day when they were in the fourth grade. Somewhere along the way we put down our dreams and decided to make money and have nice houses and cars and to put braces on our kid’s teeth and we lose sight of the fact that our lives are ending one minute at a time.  But they are, and whatever distractions we create in the meantime will not slow those minutes down one bit.

So, when I was 15 I was an aspiring linebacker for the Oakland Raiders.  At 40, I’m an aspiring writer.  When I’m 60 I’ll probably be an aspiring cliff diver.  I think you should always aspire to be something and that something should be so ridiculous that everyone will line up around the block to tell you how stupid you are for even thinking about trying it. Nursing homes are full of people who are only aspiring to live another day.  Or to fit as much Jello in their mouths as possible before the dining room closes.  They are aspiring, it’s just that there’s are pretty good chance they’ll succeed without putting forth any effort.  Kind of like watching Matlock reruns.

We just threw a big party for my grandmother’s 90th birthday.  It consisted of family and friends sitting around a church parlor eating cake and drinking punch.  Most of the revelers were in walkers and wheelchairs and even though it was a party it felt more like a wake.  And if you knew my grandmother even a little it would bother you to no end because it drove me crazy.  I remember her as being way younger than her age, fishing with us, playing ball in the park, and generally acting like she was a ten year old- except she could cook us dinner, which was always nice.  I think after my grandfather passed she quit aspiring to anything.  I hope that doesn’t happen to me.  I want to celebrate my 90th birthday by jumping off Everest in a wing suit without a parachute.  My wife wants a party in a bowling alley with strippers and bottle rockets.  We are two very different people.

I think we all have the potential to be great, it’s just that we let reality get in the way of our dreams.  Moses didn’t do anything other than tend sheep and kill overseers until he was in his 90’s.  KFC didn’t blow up until Colonel Sanders was in his 80’s.  If you have a dream then maybe you should just keep at it until you drop, age and reality be damned.

Somebody get me Al Davis’ phone number.