bentangle

Author Archive

Fido Fear Factor

by on Sep.10, 2012, under family, home & stuff

I am not a dog person.  I’ve never been one and I don’t know that I’ll ever truly change in that respect.  I have always been very independent in nature and as such I don’t jive well with dependencies.  I don’t consider my wife an exception as she is a very independent spirit as well, so we mesh well.  I’ve made the exception with my kids (because ya do) but only so far as I’ll allow them to be dependent – I provide for them as a father does, but I expect them to become well-rounded and independent souls as well (in time).

But I’m not a dog person – I’m more of a cat person.  Cats tend to be more of a roommate than a dependent companion – they expect to be fed and occasionally pet if you have the time, but otherwise they can manage themselves.

By this point, you are probably wondering where this is all going.  Here it is – in spite of my nature, I’m considering getting a dog.  And I’m considering this for none of the reasons that one in my position would do so.  My dad was never really a dog person either, but he let us have dogs as kids because we asked for them.  My kids are not asking for a dog.  I’m not even entirely sure my kids (or my house for that matter) is ready for one.  My wife had dogs as a kid as well, but she isn’t really much of a dog person either.  So it isn’t her that is the motivating factor either – if anything she will see this and try to talk me out of it.

Here is the reason – my nearly 6-year-old son is terrified of dogs.  No, this is by no means an attempt to terrorize my child, but rather a potential means to abate these fears.  Not long ago, my son was a nearly fearless toddler.  And somehow he has transformed into this very fearful kindergartner – he is afraid of dogs, storms, the dark, water deeper than his waist without an immediate exit strategy, movie theaters, and anything that makes scary or foreboding noises, music or sound effects.  Most of these are avoidable elements (to a degree), but the dog fear has been recently having palpable impact on things such as play dates, visits to extended family, and even activities such as walking to school or playing at a park.

Is getting a dog simply to help my son overcome his fear of dogs perhaps overzealous?  I’ll admit the possibility.  I’ll even admit that I’m reluctant to enact it, that my wife will likely disagree with it, and that to do so would guarantee that I would be put in charge of its care (thus accepting yet another dependency).  But part of me feels that it may be a sacrifice worth making for the improvement of my son’s own independence and well-being in the long run.

So while I’m not a dog person, I may soon force myself to be one…at least for the greater good.

2 Comments :, , , , more...

Okay … Go!

by on Mar.11, 2012, under Entertainment, Internet, music

After nearly a decade without a significant lead or shred of evidence, I think it is safe to say the cold case of the missing good music video is ready to be closed and declared de — what’s that?
You found something?  Don’t tell me this is another VH1 scam.
No?
Online?
YouTube??  Come on – they’ve got nothing but wannabes and cover artists…
Okay to go where?
Oh, the band is named Ok Go?  They sound familiar.
Ok, I’ll look into it.
Sorry folks – it turns out there is new evidence to review after all.  We’ll report back when we know more.
Ok, I’ve endulged my internal monologue long enough.  My point of writing today is, well (a) to get back in the habit of writing, and (b) to decry the merits of Ok Go as not only a band that I cannot help but enjoy and admire, but also as the last notable life-line to the vanishing art of music videos.  And don’t take my word for it – check out this playlist of some of their best works.  The list seems to actually be in reverse chronological order, which is cool because they only continue to get better and more inventive, but is also a shame because I think one is more likely to drop off after 3 or 4 videos when there are really gems scattered throughout.

What I find so amazing about their works is the (pardon my use of an oft overused idiom) out-of-the-box thinking.  They put their heart and soul into creating more than a just a video to accompany their music, but a video that is a peace of art in itself.  And as a result, there are several songs in their catalog that I enjoy more even when only listening in the car because of the depth that the video has breathedain into it.  Additionally, many of their videos are not just feats of artistic expression, but at times feats of physical discipline and/or engineering.

Some key examples of this would be This Too Shall Pass where the band (with some help) constructed a rather elaborate Rube Goldberg machine to accompany the song, or their older, classic hit Here It Goes Again where the band performs the whole video on a series of adjacent treadmills (which seems merely clever and semi-acrobatic until you notice that the whole thing was shot in a single take).  And then there is their most recent video for the song Needing/Getting which had a brief introduction via a Chevy Sonic commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.  Having gotten their most recent album a while ago, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, I’d heard the song before, but didn’t necessarily pay it any special attention.  In the video, they play the song while driving the aforementioned car … much of which is played by the car.

I will freely admit, there are some in the collection that are less awe-inspiring (in other words, just good music videos).  But there is undeniable artistic genius being achieved by this band, and it seems to be more than just a flash in the pan.  I for one plan to keep watching and also hoping that other artists see this as a gauntlet thrown and attempt to rise to the challenge.

Moreover, though, I have to give YouTube some of the credit here as well.  After all performance art is only as strong as its audience.  And with MTV and their ilk dropping the ball, YouTube has picked it up and ran with it.  And unlike its predecessors, YouTube’s viewing choice is as democratized as it can be.  And its audience certainly seems to reward such creativity, so if more of it arises I’m sure it will not go unnoticed for long.

Leave a Comment :, more...

Shake What Mattel Gave Ya

by on Nov.10, 2011, under family, home & stuff, parenthood

Naked BarbiesAs a parent, I’ve come to appreciate the various common experiences and rites of passage of childhood from a different perspective – one that often makes me yearn to remember what it must have been like to be so blissfully ignorant of so much.  Some of these, though, are a bit odder than others.  One in particular that I was recently reminded of is related to Barbie Dolls.

I’m sure I’m not the first to come to this revelation, but I find a certain level of irony in the fact that the very point of variability between the variety of such dolls one could add to one’s collection often ends up the first element sacrificed – their clothes.  My daughter has only about 4 or 5 Barbies (she was never hugely into dolls), and to my knowledge only one complete outfit still retrievable and intact – which, due to the tedium of application often is discarded anyway during play.  While I know that naked Barbie play is a fairly common trend – I had playmates in grade school who had collections of them, I know my wife and her sisters commonly played with them as such in their youth; the only example I know of to the contrary would be my own sisters (they were surprisingly prudish about such matters at the time – I was often sent from the room when outfit changes were in order) – what I find fascinating about this trend is the creative rationalizations built around it.

For instance, just a few days ago I come home to my kids playing with the collection of unclad dolls (the one dress only inches away completely ignored).  When I ask what they are doing, the explanation is that they are shopping at a special grocery store where moms are allowed to shop naked.  In conversations on such topics with my wife, their apparent go-to rationale was that all of the dolls clothes were somehow stolen and there seemed to be a lack-luster effort put into locating or retrieving said items.  My grade-school playmate seemed to have an array of dolls with painted-on underwear (which in most cases she seemed to scrape off).

While I know that Barbie has been used as a focal point as a gateway to the unrealistic female body-images that our daughters (and sons) are exposed to, it is hard to see that affect in the eyes of these children at play that are so innocent as to not fully understand body modesty (a point also clear in the joy they get from stolen moments of naked time after baths or in the mornings).  Don’t get me wrong – I do take the body-image issue seriously.  While we encourage our kids to play and be active, it is never backed by negative messaging (e.g., you need to lose that baby fat).  Hopefully my kids will only retain the positive aspects of these experiences – imaginative, cooperative, and care-free play.

By the way, the picture in this post was found via a Google Image search that was innocent enough in nature (naked barbie doll – with safe search on), and I come to find that someone actually made a calendar full of such images made to look like a pin-up calendar … which is just a bit creepy (also, this pic was the ‘tame’ one from the spread).  I believe that I had read somewhere that Mattel may actually be suing over this, so if the image suddenly stops working there may be a valid reason.

Anyway, if you’ve got any childhood memories of quirky justifications for clothing-optional Barbie play, feel free to share.  Or if you were more like my sisters and kept your dolls chaste, I’d like to hear your stories as well. And in either case, if you feel that your dolls’ proportions influenced your own body-image feel free to discuss.  Thanks for reading!

Leave a Comment :, , , , , more...

The Rise of the Comic Book Movies: Some Marvelous, Some Don’t Cut It

by on Jul.09, 2011, under comics, movies

Though I haven’t written a movie review here in some time (partially due to a lull in actual theatrical visits to anything worth reviewing), most who know me are aware that I am a movie aficionado – comic-book themed movies being high on my list of favorites.  Time was that these types of movies were few and far between, and for each one that was well done there were a half a dozen that were half-baked or overcooked.  Lately though, this genre seems have evolved both into a talent-draw and the blockbuster formula.  I for one can’t find much reason to complain so long as the end results are worth watching.

This genre has been tackled from numerous directions by numerous players.  DC has been playing this field for decades now, but most of their attempts to continue something successful has only come back to bite them (e.g., the Superman, and Batman movies prior to Batman Begins).  Marvel has also attempted to plant their flag and, at least I think, has succeeded in doing what Douglas Adams is famous for stating we as humans are capable of but nearly always fail to do – learn from the mistakes of others.  After hitting some snags letting other studios mung things up, they’ve taken the reins back and brought to the big screen what has always made their comics great – continuity.

Not to say that DC can’t get it right – Batman Begins & The Dark Knight are clear evidence that they can.  But their big screen floundering with any reasonable Superman reboot/continuation hasn’t been confidence building, nor has their 180 on bringing Wonder Woman back to the small screen.  Unlike seemingly most of the critical world, I greatly enjoyed the recent Green Lantern movie … up until the mid-credit bonus scene ruined it (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but honestly the only way that scene makes sense is as a teaser trailer for the next film, otherwise it goes against the relational dynamics and apparent character stances they built throughout the movie).  And outside of those properties I haven’t seen much to indicate they are putting any significant efforts into any other properties, which is disheartening given that I think they have a pretty deep bench from which to pull.

I also would be remiss to say that Marvel has been pitch perfect.  Clearly they have had faults in the not too distant past (e.g., X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Spider-man 3).  But their recent efforts with Iron Man and the converging storyline with other future members of the Avengers have been spectacular.  Not only have the stories themselves stood on their own, but the semi-subtle use of character cameos and post-credit bonus scenes give them even more dimension.  As a result, each of these have been movies that can easily be enjoyed by both hardcore fans and the uninitiated.

So far I’ve caught all of the comic-book genre pics released this season and I have yet to be significantly disappointed.  If you are interested in my grading of these, here is the report card:

  • Thor B – I enjoyed the complexity of this story arc and how they were able to give the characters more depth than I’d anticipated.  Though I have to deduct points on behalf of my kids who found the villains a bit too scary (especially in 3D), and the delayed hero-gratification off-putting.
  • Green LanternB- – As I said, I really enjoyed this take on this origin story.  Aside from a few flat supporting characters, it was as true to canon as would have been believable and staged things for strong potential continuation of the title (aside from the ruinous mid-credit scene).
  • X-Men: First ClassA+ – This proved to be much better than I had expected and depicted an intriguing starting point for the eventual path of Profession Xavier and his long-time nemesis and friend, Magneto.  I really felt the characters were well developed and depicted and that the film did an excellent job of retconning itself into our own historical events.  I look forward to any future development of this franchise.
  • Captain America: the First AvengerA? – Obviously I cannot grade a movie I haven’t seen yet, but if the previews and my own speculations on the gaps based on canonical knowledge are any indication, this one is going to be a winner.  I have a feeling, though, that following this movie (or more likely, during) I will have to explain some of the historical context to my daughter.
3 Comments :, , , , , , , , , more...

Cape Crusading

by on Jun.24, 2011, under family, travel

Family vacation – 6 days, 5 nights in Cape Cod, bookended by a combined total of about 20 hours of driving.  Despite the latter, the trip proved to be a lot of fun and a welcome reprieve from the daily routine.  Sure the kids had their questionable moments and I’m coming to learn that there are some tensions that come with parenthood that will likely take years to uncoil (though I suspect the specific cause will simply shift over the decades until they are finally untethered and on their own), but all in all it was a great trip.

We started our vacation the day after school was out for summer – packed the car to the gills with food, toys and clothes (both for the destination and the journey), and headed out as early as we could with the hopes of being well past the major metropolitan areas before the afternoon rush.  As it turned out, Google Maps failed me in its default recommendation and led us most of the way there via I-95 – as a result we were moving at a rate between 10 and 40 mph from Northern New Jersey to mid-Connecticut.  We managed to get out of the congestion briefly just past New Haven only to hit rush hour shortly after and until Providence, RI.  Despite all of these transit setbacks, the kids were well-behaved, remained in good spirits, and generally kept themselves entertained for most of the journey.  For part of the trip I decided to stream Pandora through my iPhone – I had previously setup a number of stations to suit various tastes:  one with a variety of modern music that I like, one based on a number of feel-good songs that my wife likes, and one based on a playlist of songs that the kids have come to enjoy (containing songs from artists such as Ok Go, The Gorillaz, Pomplamoose, and “Give Up the Funk” by The Parliament Funkadelics).  I started by playing the kids mix and apparently got a stream of about 7 or 8 70s funk songs … which the kids seemed to enjoy much more than I would have expected.

The resort that we stayed at was a small collection of quaintly-sized homes (mostly single-story twins) that was situated right on a bay near Hyannis.  The unit we opted for had one bedroom with a twin and a full sized bed in it and a Murphy bed in the living room.  Initially the kids found the Murphy bed so fascinating that they opted to take that bed while my wife and I would get the separate beds in the bedroom.  But in less than a half hour they were fighting (Cricket kept whining because Grasshopper kept kicking her, Grasshopper kept kicking Cricket because she wouldn’t stop whining, etc.) which required them to be separated.  So the first night I got the bedroom with Grasshopper and my wife and daughter shared the Murphy bed.  For the rest of the week the kids took the bedroom and we took the living room and all was copacetic … except for the fact that the kids seemed to like to wake at the crack of dawn.

The first morning, Grasshopper was up at 4:30am.  He seemed unsettleable so I gave him some books and toys and told him to play quietly.  After about 45 minutes of that, he had to go wake up his sister, and by 6:00 they had my wife up and trooped on down to the beach.  At around 7:30 they returned so that I could take a shift and my wife could get in a little more sleep, so I took them back to the beach where the played happily until about 10 before we gathered to plan our day.  The rest of the week we got to sleep in until around 7 to 8 (one of the drawbacks to being somewhere with a wide horizon on some of the longest days of the year).

Most of our days were punctuated by day trips to various parts of Cape Cod.  On Father’s Day we drove up the National Sea Shore and spent the afternoon in Provincetown.  We managed to visit 2 museums (a pirate museum on the pier as well as a Cape Cod history museum at the base of the Piedmont Monument), climbed the tower, and I got Cricket to try seafood (which she insisted she hated, but after a bite of my lobster BLT, she ended up stealing a quarter of my sandwich and on a seafood quest for the remainder of our trip).   We spent the next day in Chatham enjoying the beach, perusing the shops, and watching the seals circle the fishing boats at the docks, and spent Tuesday enjoying the amenities closer to the resort (e.g., the pool, the beach, and various mini-golf courses) before finally packing up and leaving on Wednesday.

Looking back at the trip, I’m sure my wife and I would have had a more relaxing version of a vacation were we there without the kids, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.  Even when the kids were pushing their limits (e.g., hooting as they ran up and down the ramps in the Piedmont tower to hear themselves echo), we couldn’t help but take joy in their unbridled enthusiasm.  And the trip gave me a new perspective on all of the family vacations I remember taking as a kid.  In the end, I managed to relax and unwind a little and spend 6 days not touching a computer, not being concerned about deadlines or meetings, and not needing to know what time it was – at the cost of a little loss of sleep and a little sunburn.  And considering the kids (and my wife) wanted to know if we could move there, I’d imagine it was good for them too.  Now I have to figure out when we can afford to do it again.

Leave a Comment :, , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...