The Best and Worst of Too Many Cooks

By now, I assume most of you have watched the “Too Many Cooks” video that has spread across the internet like a wildfire.

If you’ve somehow missed it, I’ve helpfully embedded the video for your viewing pleasure.

Obviously there’s a whole lot of stuff going on there. If you need to go back and watch it again, I understand.

BuzzFeed has taken the trouble to rank every character shown in the video. I admire their dedication, but I don’t necessarily agree with their rankings.

I don’t have the time nor desire to rank every character shown, but I will give you my opinion of the top five and bottom five.

Bottom Five

These five characters are clearly the bottom of the “Cooks” barrel, and are holding the show back from greatness. They are presented in order of decreasing quality.

5. Lars Von Trier as “Pie” – A talking pie? (I’m just assuming that the pie talks. Isn’t that what you all assumed too?) Hmmm..where have I heard that before?

Oh yeah, TOTAL rip off of the Simpsons! (Warning: I’m going to make more than a couple of Simpsons references throughout this post) I’d say Homer Simpson was due some royalties for this.

Pie

4. Zack Shires – You know what bothers me about television bullies? Their interactions with the other characters are often inconsistent. Just look at Bart Simpson and Nelson Muntz. In some episodes, Nelson is the bane of Bart’s existence. In other episodes, they seem to be almost friends. (I told you there would be more Simpsons references!)

Or maybe…maybe, that’s how life really is. Maybe we don’t always fall into cut and dried categories like “cool kid” or “bully.” Maybe the person who is your best friend one day could be your worst enemy the next?

Regardless, I’m sure the characterization of Zack Shires is going to be all over the place. Not every bad character has to have a softer side or sympathetic angle to him. Sometimes people are just jerks. Let Zack be a jerk!

Shires

3. Smarf - Smarf seems to be getting a lot of love on the internet. Am I the only one getting a major Jar Jar Binks vibe from him?

Maybe the magic (robot?) cat would be fun at first, but I envision the writers going into Steve Urkel-levels of overkill with him. I think when all is said and done, we’ll all be more than sick of Smarf.

On a related note, I give Seth MacFarlane a lot of credit for being judicious in his use of Stewie in the early seasons of Family Guy. He knew the baby was the breakout character and still managed not to overuse him early on.

Smarf

2. Dylan Schoenthal and Logan Schoenthal (tie) – I get the impression that the twins are an example of “Rudy Huxtable syndrome:” After several years on the air, the show’s “cute” child character grows up and begins to enter an awkward adolescent phase. At that point, the writers feel compelled to bring in a new “cute” character to fill the void.

Based on their ages and the fact that there appear to be at least three younger – and cuter – characters on the show, I suspect that the twins once supplied the show’s cuteness factor, but have since been supplanted.

If anyone recalls the episode of The Cosby Show when Rudy got her period, you’ll know that some uncomfortable times may be ahead for these two.

Schoenthal

1. Gywdion Lashlee-Walton – Look at you, Gywdion. You think you’re so cool with your unique name, your popular haircut (At least I’m assuming that’s a popular hair style. I’m 37 years old, so I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the youth of America.) and your stylish vest.

It’s obvious based on your oh-so-casual pointing that you think you’re the hottest thing to ever grace a sitcom.

But you know what you are, and I know what you are. You’re Roy.

Now go away.

Walton

Top Five

And here are the five best characters that the show has to offer.

5. Michael Jenkins – With all the attention that this video has received, I feel that Michael Jenkins and his Cosby sweater have been horribly overlooked.

Jenkins

By the way, I think they really dropped the ball by not having a character with a high top fade hairstyle.

I have an irrational fondness for the high top fade. I mean, the Philadelphia 76ers are going to be awful this season, and I’ll still watch some games simply because of Nerlens Noel’s hair:

2013 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot

That hair is simply majestic

 

4. VC Fuqua – A lot of the characters smile at the camera as if they’re happy to be there. But just look at Fuqua’s face. This man is REALLY excited to be there.

Fuqua

3. Kayte Giralt – I included Kayte here not because she’s a hot girl, but because I think she’ll be an interesting case study years from now.

If you want to truly measure a generation’s worth, you could do a lot worse than analyzing the “hot” girls from the popular television shows.

I mean, many of my peers considered Kelly Kapowski to be the hottest thing around back in the 90′s. But looking back at her pictures, all I can see is high-waisted jeans and crimped hair.

Kelly was the dream girl for many a 90's boy

Kelly was the dream girl for many a 90′s boy

I wonder what future generations will think of Kayte?

Note: I docked her a few points for the obnoxious spelling of her first name, but considering she can turn into a superhero, I didn’t hold it against her too much.

Giralt

2. Ken DeLozier – In an ensemble cast such as this one, we sometimes underestimate just how much the “lead” character contributes. For instance, I don’t think Steve Carell’s work on The Office was truly appreciated until he left and the show collapsed.

Without a solid foundation, a show with this many moving parts simply wouldn’t work. As the patriarch of the Cook family, DeLozier ably provides that foundation.

DeLozier

1. Shawn Coleman – Are you surprised? Of course I was going to rank the G.I.Joe style character as #1.

I mean, just look at that punch. He’s bringing a lot of power there, making me believe that Shawn Coleman is not the type of guy you want to mess with. He easily deserves the top spot.

Coleman

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Padmé Amidala: One Stone Cold Bitch

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is often hailed as the least crappy of the three prequel movies. Like most people, after watching it, my reaction was, “Well, I guess that one wasn’t too embarrassing, right?”

She looks sweet and innocent, but... (Image source)

She looks sweet and innocent, but… (Image source)

Despite the movie not completely sucking, there was one plot point had always bothered me: Towards the end of the movie, Anakin Skywalker has turned to the dark side and gone on a bit of a killing spree. His pregnant wife Padmé Amidala is naturally a little disturbed about this and confronts him.

Quick side rant:

Anakin and Padmé have kept their marriage a secret because Jedi are forbidden to fall in love.

But Padmé is a member of the Galactic Senate. You’re telling me that a Senator – who most people assume is unmarried – turns up pregnant, and nobody asks any questions? Didn’t they have some equivalent of TMZ in the Galactic Republic?

So Anakin gets pissy when his wife tells him that it might have been wrong to go completely evil and kill a bunch of people. He goes all Ray Rice (too soon?) on her and chokes her with the Force. (And you just know he’d use that as an excuse: “I never laid a hand on her!”)

Obi-Wan Kenobi comes to her defense, which ultimately results in Anakin getting his arms and legs chopped off and being burned by lava. (Hey, Roger Goodell, if you’re looking for more severe ways to punish domestic violence, there’s an idea for you!)

So this guy turned out to be a bit of an asshole? Who would have guessed? (Image source)

So this guy turned out to be a bit of an asshole? Who would have guessed? (Image source)

The choking incident caused Padmé to go into premature labor, so Obi-Wan whisks her away so that she can deliver. The babies are healthy, but Padmé does not fare quite as well. The medical droid attending to her says that she has lost the will to survive.

When I first saw the movie, this seemed wrong. Over the course of three movies, Padmé had been presented as a strong character. And then all of a sudden, after giving birth to twin babies, she simply loses the will to live just because her husband turned out to be a bit of an a-hole?

If every woman followed Padmé’s example, we’d have a lot of motherless children out there.

It seemed like a really weak move by Padmé. She chose to die and abandon her children? Did she think that everything would turn out okay if she just allowed the twins to be raised by her murderous husband who has shown a recent tendency towards domestic abuse and murder?

Now that I’m the father of twins, I think I understand her motivation: Padmé didn’t lose the will to live because she was heartbroken. She did it to get revenge.

Padmé was probably super pissed about being choked, and decided that the best way to get even with Anakin was by leaving him alone to care for twin newborns. I think the cruelest thing Mrs. Cutter could ever do to me would be to leave me to raise these kids by myself.

In addition, her plan for revenge might have saved the people of the galaxy a great deal of misfortune. It’s pretty much a given that if I was the lone caregiver for the twins, I wouldn’t be able to carry out any evil plans I might have in store. (And rest assured, I have plenty!)

You think Anakin’s going to have time to carry out the Emperor’s orders when he’s busy raising twins? Heck no!

“Hi, sir. Yeah, I’d love to help you, but things are really busy with me. Yes, I know the Rebels are attacking our base, but – LUKE! No don’t put that in your mouth! How many times do I have to tell you: Daddy’s lightsaber is not a toy!

“Sorry about that. What were you saying? I’m sure somebody else can help oversee the Death Star constr-  Oh no! LEIA! What are you doing! Did you just pee on the couch! Why would you pee on the couch?!?!

“I gotta go, boss. Good luck with that whole Rebel thing.”

Even if Anakin was somehow going to try to keep working, there is NO WAY he would be any good at his job. Using the Force takes high levels of concentration, and he’s simply not going to be able to muster that when he’s only sleeping for four hours each night. Dealing with that kind of fatigue, he would be lucky to last five minutes in a lightsaber duel against Obi-Wan.

So why did her plan to save the galaxy fail? I’ll give you one guess who screwed it up.

Yep, this idiot screwed up again. (Image source)

Yep, this idiot screwed up again. (Image source)

Once again, when given a chance to make a decision that could potentially save the people of the galaxy from years of pain or suffering, Yoda makes the absolute wrong choice: He decides to hide the existence of the twins from their father.

Unburdened by the responsibilities of fatherhood, Anakin is free to help enforce the Emperor’s evil rule over the galaxy for the next twenty years or so.

Sure, Anakin was eventually redeemed thanks to the love he felt for his son. You know what else might have redeemed him? Seeing his infant children and not being told that they died because he choked out their mother! I imagine that type of thing tends to mess with a guy’s mind a bit.

On the other hand, I’ll concede that trying to raise newborn twins on his own might have driven him completely insane. It’s possible that he could have easily snapped and just gone around with the Death Star blowing up any planet he came across.

Either way, it’s clear that there’s one character in the Star Wars universe who was wise, forward-thinking, and a bit of a hardcore bad ass…and it sure as heck wasn’t Yoda.

R.I.P. to the true hero of the Star Wars saga (Image source)

R.I.P. to the true hero of the Star Wars saga (Image source)

Posted in Pop Culture, Twins | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Bill, I believe this is killing me

Here’s a helpful hint for anyone who comes into contact with parents of twins. (Actually, this is good advice for dealing with parents of newborns in general) There is one word that you should never use to describe yourself: Tired.

Come to think of it, there are many words that you probably shouldn’t use around twin parents, but tired tops the list.

Do not tell us how tired you are. We do not sympathize. You may think you are tired, but you have no idea of what tired truly is.

Oh, you were up late doing work? That’s a damn shame. Had a bad dream that woke you up? Poor baby. Your neighbor’s dog woke you up early? My heart goes out.

You still probably got at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep at some point. You should consider yourself extremely fortunate.

I am so envious of this guy (Image source)

I am so envious of this guy (Image source)

Tired is waking up three times during the night to feed your children or attend to some other need that has caused them to start crying. Tired is then forcing yourself out of bed in the morning, and attempting to get ready for work while also trying to cajole your sporadically cooperative older daughter into getting ready for school.

Tried is then heading to work for a full work day, coming home to help out with dinner, putting the even more sporadically cooperative older daughter to bed, helping to feed the twins, getting lunches ready, and then preparing for bed so that you can repeat the process the following day.

There’s at least one point every night when I question if I can continue to do this. I’ll be sitting cross-legged on the floor, the room dimly illuminated by a night light. Each hand will be holding a bottle in a baby’s mouth, and all the mental energy I can muster is dedicated to fighting my body’s desire to just keel over and pass out. (Don’t worry, I think I’ll have enough presence of mind to collapse backwards, away from the babies)

Even when I’m sleeping, it isn’t an overwhelmingly restful process. My body has become so used to the frequent wake up calls that I tend to wake up on my own if I go longer than three hours. I’ve also become jumpy, and have heard phantom baby cries more than once.

But at least the hallucinations have mostly stopped!

For a couple of weeks after the twins were born, I would wake up thinking that there was a baby in the bed with me. I would then panic, and scramble to move the baby so that it didn’t get hurt.

There were a few instances when I opened my eyes and believed I actually saw a baby lying in front of me. Imagine my confusion when I reached out and couldn’t feel it with my hand.

One night, Mrs. Cutter was sleeping with a stuffed animal, and I kept trying to pry it out of her arm, because I was convinced that it was a baby and she was going to roll over onto it.

Apparently, the human brain does not function at 100% when sleep deprived.

The rest of my body isn’t faring so well either. After gaining a some sympathy weight during Mrs. Cutter’s final trimester, I’ve continued to add pounds. I haven’t been particular about what I eat, and it is rare that I have both the opportunity and motivation to go to the gym.

Plus, all those hours sitting on the floor while feeding the babies haven’t done my back any favors.

People at work have remarked that I don’t look as exhausted as I should. (I maintain that they might just be saying that to be polite.) I am thankful that – as I first learned with the Cutlet – I can function decently well without a lot of sleep.

I don't touch the stuff (Image source)

I don’t touch the stuff (Image source)

My co-workers are especially shocked when I tell them that I’m not depending on caffeine to stay alert.

I’ve never been a coffee drinker (this already made me a bit of a freak in previous offices) and my body doesn’t always react well to caffeine. I figure that I don’t get many opportunities to sleep, so I don’t want to take anything that might screw it up further.

That doesn’t mean I’ve necessarily been on top of my game at work. I’ve made at least a couple of mistakes due to fatigue, and thankfully, all my co-workers have been mostly understanding.

But this too shall pass, right? I’m sure that at SOME point, these kids will start sleeping later, although it doesn’t really seem that way. In recent weeks, they seem to be actually going less time in between feedings. (Growth spurts are awesome!)

Every night, I go to bed thinking maybe tonight will be the night. Maybe tonight will be the night when their little stomachs remain full and they actually go a full six hours between feedings. Maybe tonight will be the GREATEST NIGHT EVER!

As the rapper DMX once said, “But at least he died hoping.”

Posted in Twins | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

And as for the Cutlet…

Naturally, I’ve been getting asked a lot of questions about the new additions to the family. For those of you who are curious, both Cujo and the Cutlass are doing well. They’re eating (and evacuating) well, and sleeping about as well as can be expected of three-week old babies. (Which sadly, isn’t all that much)

After receiving a status update on the twins, most people follow up by asking, “How is their older sister doing?”

The Cutlet has had a rough few weeks, although her problems had little to do with the arrival of her new siblings.

The Friday before the birth, she woke up complaining that it hurt to swallow. She didn’t seem to have any other symptoms of illness, so she went to school as usual. Upon returning home, she was still complaining about her throat, and had developed a fever.

We gave her some Children’s’ Advil, but when the symptoms remained the next morning, I wanted to get the situation cleared up as soon as possible.

Good 'ol streptococci virus! (Image source)

Good ‘ol streptococci virus! (Image source)

We headed to an urgent care center where she was diagnosed with strep throat. I figured this was almost a best-case scenario as we could get her on antibiotics and she would be fine in a couple of days.

The problem came after I picked up a bottle of amoxicillin at the local pharmacy. Upon taking her first sip of the pink solution, the Cutlet spit it out saying it “tasted yucky.”

We attempted to get her to try it again, but a second taste resulted in the same prognosis: The medicine was yucky, and she wasn’t going to take it.

Naturally, I was curious as to how bad this stuff could have been, so I tasted a dab of it. It was “bubble gum” flavored, and while I’m not going to claim that it prompted any sort of party in my mouth, it certainly wasn’t awful enough to merit such a negative reaction.

The next hour was spent trying every way we knew how to get the Cutlet to take her medicine. We tried mixing it with milk. We tried bribing her. We tried punishing her. We tried threatening her. Nothing was working, and a phone call to the pharmacy revealed that they didn’t have any other flavors of the drug for her to try.

Tastes just like bubble gum, right? (Image source)

Tastes just like bubble gum, right? (Image source)

In the end, Mrs. Cutter was able to get her to take the medicine by putting it in a dropper and squirting it (in occasionally infinitesimally small amounts) into her mouth. Our hearts sank as we realized we would have to repeat the process twice a day for the next ten days.

Fortunately, she began to become more receptive to the medicine and future administrations of the drug went much more smoothly.

As it turned out, the Cutlet might have been correct in her wariness of the drug.

The day that we brought the twins home from the hospital, I noticed a few welts on the Cutlet’s legs. They looked like bug bites, but then I saw smaller bumps on her upper body as well.

I began nervous, so I called my mother-in-law upstairs to investigate. “Do these look like chicken pox?”

She has received the pox vaccine, but knowing that those vaccines aren’t 100%, we couldn’t rule it out. We did know that having a chicken pox-stricken child in a house with two newborns was not an ideal combination.

We sent her to bed with a dose of Benadryl and planned to take a closer look in the morning. Upon waking, the rash had spread (and become even itchier), so once again, we had to head out to the urgent care center.

Let me assure you that this was not exactly my preferred activity after a mostly sleepless night with two newborns.

After waiting almost an hour and a half to be seen, the doctor said that he was unable to determine what was causing the rash that was spreading all throughout her body. I was told to keep an eye on it. For this sage advice, I was charged $75.

The next day, the twins were scheduled for an appointment with their pediatrician, and fortunately, their doctor agreed to see the Cutlet as well. He determined that it was likely a delayed (by almost a week!) reaction to the amoxicillin, and prescribed her some prednisone to help clear it up.

Thankfully, he rash subsided in another day or so, and the Cutlet was very relieved to not be itching as much. She was even happier that she didn’t have to remain separated from her brother and sister.

Now that she has a clean bill of health, the Cutlet has been an excellent big sister. She becomes worried when they cry, she tries to help us out in caring for them, and she is very concerned with their well-being.

Sometimes she’s a bit too concerned. She’ll sometimes go and “check” on them when she’s supposed to be washing her hands or getting ready for school.

Hopefully the sisters get along better than these two did. (Image source

Hopefully the sisters get along better than these two did. (Image source

So far we haven’t noticed much sibling rivalry or obvious cases of misbehavior for the sake of gaining more attention. Sure, she’s acted up at times, but then we remember that she wasn’t exactly the most obedient child before the twins were born.

She has also learned the old trick, “If one parent doesn’t give me the answer I want, go ask another one.” This has become much more effective with her parents often distracted, and a much more lenient grandmother on hand.

I’m sure she won’t always be so happy about having two more children around. At some point she’s bound to become nostalgic for the days when she was a (spoiled) only child. There will likely come a time when she tells us that she liked it better before they showed up, or asks if they’ll go away soon.

But for now, the Cutlet is loving her new role as a big sister.

Posted in The Cutlet, Twins | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Double Trouble

I once said that it was much more difficult trying to take care of a baby without electricity. And to be fair to my past self, it certainly was.

But I’ve discovered something even tougher than taking care of a baby with the lights out: Taking care of TWO babies, even with the benefit of working electricity.

The storks have been busy. (Image source)

The storks have been busy. (Image source)

Yes, the twins have finally arrived!

Last Friday, we were informed that the babies weren’t growing as much as they should have been, and that they’d need to come out on Tuesday – almost a full month than their natural due date would have been. Twins rarely make it all the way to their due date in any cases, but this was still two weeks earlier than we had expected.

They were both healthy, they just didn’t have much more space in which they could grow. Mrs. Cutter simply isn’t large enough to hold much more mass in baby.

Friday morning, we packed our bags and headed off to the hospital. At 1:15 PM that afternoon, Cutter Junior (Cujo) emerged into the world. (And yes, I’ve given my son a nickname for his nickname.) A minute later, he was joined by his sister (The Cutlass), and the operating room was filled with the sound of two crying babies.

Unfortunately, in his initial examination, the doctors said that Cujo wasn’t taking in enough oxygen, and would have to be sent to the NICU. While this was obviously not ideal, it worked out well for the Cutlass who got to spend some one-on-one recovery time with her mother.

I was soon able to visit Cujo, and he had already made a dramatic improvement. He was breathing better and his blood sugar level was increasing. The doctors didn’t expect him to have to spend much time in the NICU, and sure enough, he was able to join us in our room the next day.

We began to get to know our new children. It’s already apparent that despite sharing a womb, each one has a distinct personality. And thankfully, neither of them is demonstrating the demeanor nor vocal chords of their older sister.

Comic book fans will recognize that the Cutlet has powers similar to the former X-Man Siryn. (Image source)

Comic book fans will recognize that the Cutlet has powers similar to the former X-Man Siryn. (Image source)

The Cutlet would constantly scream with a high-pitched screech that threatened to scar our very souls. If we had to endure two children wailing like that at the same time, I would have probably gone ahead and gotten myself fitted for a hearing aid now.

Unsurprisingly, the twins look similar, especially when they’re sleeping. The main difference between them seems to be in their eyes. Cujo seems more alert and looks around more, while the Cutlass is more content to keep her eyes closed.

The Cutlass has also had the better appetite, and has been more demanding of our attention. While she doesn’t scream like the Cutlet, she can generate a fair amount of noise in her own right, often letting out a squeaky cry. I’ve already begun to compare her to a goose. (And if you recall, geese can be troublesome.)

I’m just hoping that Cujo doesn’t notice that his sister is getting more personal attention because she’s been crying more. His cry is more of a gargle at this point, and the last thing I want is for him to start crying louder so that he might get more one-on-one time with his parents.

The Cutlass also has a habit of crying out in her sleep. She doesn’t appear to be in any distress; I think she just likes to make her presence known.

At one point, I was convinced that there was a goose in the room. (Image source)

At one point, I was convinced that there was a goose in the room. (Image source)

This behavior was unfortunate when she’s sharing a room with her parents who are also trying to sleep. As a result, we took advantage of the hospital’s nursery so that we could get a few quiet hours of sleep each night.

We found that when placed side by side in the same crib, they seem to be calmer and sleep better. I guess after eight months in the same womb, they got used to being next to one another.

Mrs. Cutter also progressed well in her recovery. I find it somewhat bizarre that mothers will undergo major surgery, and as they’re trying to recover, they are asked to be the primary caregivers for a newborn child. (Or in our case, TWO.) I tried to help out as much as I can, but nature has limited just how much I can care for them.

While in the hospital, we had a few visitors, including the Cutlet who got to meet her siblings for the first time. She was quite excited to finally see “brother” and “girl baby.” She was also excited when her new siblings “gave her a present:” A Disney Palace Pet toy.

After that, the novelty of the babies wore off, and she went back to watching some videos on the iPad. (Unfortunately, the Cutlet has had problems of her own since we returned from the hospital, but this story will be detailed in a future post.)

After everyone was given a clean bill of health, we were discharged from the hospital on Saturday afternoon. Since arriving at home, we’re been busy trying to figure out the best way to care for two babies while maintaining some semblance of our sanity.

We’ve already encountered new challenges and new joys, and I’m sure we’ll be learning much more in the days ahead. But one thing is already quite apparent: Our lives will never again be the same.

Posted in Twins | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Know your people

FXX recently completed their “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon. Since it is probably my favorite television show of all time, my cable box has spent a decent amount of time tuned to FXX over the past two weeks. It was nice to catch up with some of my favorite episodes as well as getting the chance to see some that I missed the first time around.

I figured that since I had already watched most of the older episodes multiple times, I wouldn’t gain any sort of insight by watching them again. And yet, when I watched the season seven episode “Summer of 4’2,” I was able to take away something new.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show – or those who have forgotten the episode since it first aired almost 20(!) years ago – the main theme of the episode is that Lisa doesn’t have any friends.

Side note: The writers have been inconsistent about Lisa’s level of popularity over the years. While she’s never been portrayed as popular, in some episodes she can be seen socializing with a group of friends. In others – like the one I’m discussing – she can’t seem to name a single friend.

Lisa didn't know who her people were. (Image source)

Lisa didn’t know who her people were. (Image source)

She concludes that her lack of friends is due to her interest in reading and other academic activities. So when the family spends a week at a beach town, Lisa takes the opportunity to re-invent herself and befriends the town’s resident cool kids.

Thanks to Bart, the cool kids eventually learn about Lisa’s true “nerdy” self, and Lisa runs away in shame, believing that she’s destined to be forever friendless. As it turns out, the cool kids still accept her because they saw what a good person she was.

Here’s my problem with the episode: We’re supposed to think that Lisa doesn’t have any friends because she’s a nerd and participates in such activities like the A.V. Club and yearbook committee. But the real reason Lisa doesn’t have any friends is because she doesn’t know who her people are.

At the very beginning of the show, Lisa is shown with the rest of the yearbook committee as they prepare to hand out the yearbooks to the student body. One of the other committee members comments that when the students see how great the yearbooks turned out, Lisa is sure to become one of the most popular kids in school.

In reality, it doesn’t go that way. Not only do her classmates not care that she was responsible for creating the yearbooks, but they also don’t even bother signing hers. It’s especially galling when she sees how many people are vying for signatures from her brother.

Lisa – and this is not unusual for school-age kids – wants to be accepted by the popular kids in school. She wants the cool kids to like and include her. But it’s obvious that she has little in common with them.

If she really wants to have friends, all she had to do was look at what was right in front of her.

The two other girls who make up the yearbook committee would probably be her ideal friends. They seem quite impressed by her work on the yearbook, and seem just as despondent when the other kids don’t respect their work. I bet that if Lisa had asked one of them to hang out – or join her at the beach – she would have found that she had as much (and probably more) fun than if one of the cool kids had joined her.

Will she really be any happier now that she's "cool?" (Image source)

Will she really be any happier now that she’s “cool?” (Image source)

Being popular and having friends are two different things, and striving to become popular can actually cost people their true friends. I bet we all have stories of where a friendship was ruined because one of the friends began – or at least tried to – hang out with a new, presumably cooler group of friends.

The happiest kids in school aren’t always those who are considered the “coolest.” Many times, the happiest kids are the ones who have a smaller group of friends who like them and accept them for who they are.

While my high school years were somewhat unpleasant for a multitude of (mostly self-inflicted) reasons, part of the problem was that I didn’t always know who my people were. I’m happy to say that since my college years, I have done a much better job of figuring out who my true friends are.

My daughter just started her final year of preschool. She’s  already proven to be a bit of a social butterfly and is adept at meeting people and making new friends. I hope this continues as she begins the sometimes treacherous journey that is grade school.

Even if she does become one of the popular kids, I’m sure that somewhere along the line, she’ll have some problems with finding her place in social landscape. When that time comes, I may pop the Simpsons into the DVD player and have her watch this episode.

I realize I’m making three big assumptions here:

Will people even know what these are in ten years?

Will people even know what these are in ten years?

1. She’ll still be talking to me at that point, because, you know, teenagers.

2. DVD players will still be a thing in ten years. It’s more likely that we’d watch some sort of online stream.

3. She’ll have any interest in watching a television show from the 20th century (OMG, Dad. That is, like, SO old.)

Hopefully, she’ll be able to look past the show’s age and take away the same thing that I did: It’s shouldn’t be about changing yourself to fit in with the cool kids. It should be about finding people who will accept you for who you are.

Posted in Randomness, The Cutlet | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Why the hate?

Unless you’ve managed to completely isolate yourself from social media, you’ve probably seen at least one video of someone doing the ALS ice bucket challenge.

For those of you who are indeed living under rocks (And thanks for cutting yourself off from everything EXCEPT my blog; I’m very touched), the challenge goes as such: A person records a video in which they dump a bucket of ice water on their head. They then make a challenge to several of their friends: Either donate $100 to an organization that is working to help treat and cure ALS, or record a similar bucket dumping video (along with a $10 donation).

Thus far, the campaign has been immensely successful, raising over $10 million, which is about an $8 million increase over last year. You’d think that everyone would be happy about this.

Apparently not. As the saying goes, “haters gonna hate.”

It seems that there is a growing movement of people who oppose the ice bucket challenge. Their reasons are varied, but here are the more prominent arguments:

It doesn’t actually raise awareness

Some people are critical because they feel the videos aren’t really raising “awareness” of the disease. They complain that in most people’s videos, there is no talk about the disease, only ice water dumping.

My question to those critics: Before this campaign, when was the last time you thought about ALS? Would you have even considered donating money to help the disease if not for this challenge?

Here’s the thing about charitable causes: Most people in America don’t actually give a crap about them. Sure, in theory, we’d all like to see ALS be cured, but how many of us REALLY care? Or at least care enough to the point where we’d spontaneously donate money?

A couple of months ago, if you asked the following questions to most Americans, I’m pretty sure you would get answers similar to these:

1. Have you heard of ALS?

Yes. Isn’t that Lou Gehrig’s disease?

2. Do you know what ALS actually is?

No, not really.

3. Do you think it would be good if a cure was found for ALS?

Yes, of course.

4. Are you planning on donating money to help find a cure for ALS?

Ummm……no.

That is why raising awareness for these causes is so crucial. There is intense competition for charitable donations, so these organizations need to figure out a way to get people to choose them. If the ice bucket challenge has gotten people talking about ALS, then it’s a huge win for ALS charities.

If you are a supporter of a different charity, and you’re worried that this campaign might be cannibalizing some of the money that might support your charity…you’re probably right.

On one hand, there’s a theory that “a rising tide lifts all boats:” If people start donating money to one charity, it might prompt them to also give to other charities as well. On the other hand, I’m sure that some of the money that has been donated to ALS would have probably gone elsewhere if not for the ice bucket challenge.

It’s now up to these other charities to figure out a way to get people to support their cause. That may prove to be the true “ice bucket challenge.”

It’s slacktivism, not activism

Some people are annoyed because they feel that the campaign is an example of “slacktivism.”

There seems to be a growing sense of annoyance at people who act like dumping water on their heads makes them some sort of hero. If they were truly heroes, they’d do more than dump a bucket of water on their head and then discuss their “noble” deed on Facebook.

Dumping a bucket of water over your head obviously isn’t the same as making a dedicated effort to fight the disease. On the other hand, slacktivism is still better than doing nothing. These people have helped raise awareness and money for the cause, so it isn’t like they haven’t contributed anything.

I’m sure that some people have participated in the challenge only for the attention. But at least their attention grab may benefit someone besides themselves. So what’s the harm?

If you find the ice bucket videos to be annoying, then there’s a good chance you are annoyed by a lot of things on social media. If you don’t want to watch any more videos of people dumping water on their heads, then nobody is going to force you to watch. Just scroll on down to the next item on your news feed, and find something new to get annoyed about.

Don’t dump water, just donate

Some critics have raised this question: Instead of participating in a viral social media fad, why not just donate more money instead?

The answer is simple: A donation is nice, but that’s as far as it goes. It doesn’t necessarily raise awareness of the cause and doesn’t prompt others to do the same.

It would be nice if everyone just decided to spontaneously donate $100 to help fight ALS. Here are some other things that would be nice:

1. My employer deciding to spontaneously double my salary.

2. The Appetite for Destruction lineup of Guns N’ Roses reuniting.

3. Pluto being reinstated as a planet.

4. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl.

5. My daughter going an entire day without throwing a fit about something.

Unfortunately, I don’t envision any of those things actually happening any time soon.

There’s something noble about making an non-publicized or anonymous donation. But there’s also something to be said for making a highly publicized donation as well.

When a celebrity publicly supports a charity, it is a mutually beneficial relationship. The celebrity gets a PR boost, and their fame may prompt others to support the cause as well. If that same celebrity made a non-publicized donation, it would still help, but it likely wouldn’t cause John Q. Public to join in.

It’s a waste of water

There are some people concerned about the amount of clean, usable water that has been dumped out due to the challenge. I realize that there are heavy droughts in areas, but is the ice bucket challenge really using that much water?

If people are that concerned about the water supply, I think there are many other ways where they could find ways to conserve.

In the end, there’s really no reason to be upset about the ice bucket challenge. It a brilliant campaign that has raised millions of dollars for a good cause.

If you’re still upset about it, then perhaps you’re the one who needs a bucket of cold water dumped over your head.

Posted in Pop Culture, Randomness | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Goodbye, Chucky Cat

Not that I needed another sign of how old I’ve become, but I received a sad one this past week: My parents informed me that they had put their cat Chuck to sleep.

Chuck was the last of the pets that my parents owned while I still lived with them. And with his death, that pretty much severs the only remaining tie to my childhood.

I was primarily responsible for Chuck’s adoption. In the summer of 1995, I was working in my father’s store when I noticed a sign advertising that a black and white kitten named “Max” was up for adoption.

My mother had always been a fan of black and white cats, so I suggested that my father bring him home as a surprise present. He called Max’s owner to ask if the cat was still available, and then warned my mother that we’d be having a surprise guest for dinner the next night.

The next night, my mother was surprised – and thankfully pleased – to see who the guest was.

The "immortal" Charlie Hayes

The “immortal” Charlie Hayes

We decided to give him a new name, and I suggested naming him after the Philadelphia Phillies’ third basement at the time, the immortal Charlie Hayes. And so, the cat was rechristened as Chuck.

I’d also sometimes refer to him as “Mister Whiskers,” although there wasn’t any real basis for that nickname. (You know, aside from the fact that cats have whiskers)

You may remember Chuck from when I interviewed him. As I mentioned there, the two of us never got along all that well.

There wasn’t any one particular reason why we weren’t close.  He certainly didn’t like it when I’d bring him back inside the house at night, or pull him away from the rodents which he had hunted down, or move him out of my room when I wanted to sleep.

Maybe he sensed that I have never really been a “cat person.” Maybe with my sister moved out of the house, he filled the sibling rivalry void caused by her departure. Or maybe he simply wasn’t all that social. He didn’t get along particularly well with our other pets either.

After I went off to college, our relationship actually got worse. I think Chuck got used to having the run of the house, and didn’t appreciate when I’d come home to visit and encroach on what was now his territory.

It wasn’t until 2000 when I truly began to torment him. That was when I started doing “Here Comes Chucky Cat.” I would pick him up, and run around the house singing to the tune of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

This is how I imagine Chuck felt when he saw me coming. (Image source)

This is how I imagine Chuck felt when he saw me coming. (Image source)

I enjoyed this little game much more than he did.

In recent years, his health began to worsen. He lost a significant amount of weight, and would become dehydrated to the point where he’d require an IV of fluids.

Worse, his mental condition deteriorated into a senile state. It got to the point where my parents didn’t want to let him go outside, fearing that he might wander off and not find his way back.

Last week, he stopped eating. Once that happened, my parents knew that it was finally his time.

At 19 years of age, Chuck certainly wasn’t shortchanged. I just hope he’s having a good time up in kitty heaven. He’s probably having a ball, chasing all the rodents he wants, and never having to worry about someone picking him up and singing “Here Comes Chucky Cat.”

Posted in Randomness | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Who won the internet? – Ryan Block

It’s time for another installment of Who Won the Internet? The first time I did this, I said that I hoped it would become a weekly feature…but I warned that it was more likely that you wouldn’t see it again for a couple of months.

It turned out I was correct in my negative assessment of my dedication. I just hope the anticipation will make this post that much more enjoyable.

This week’s winner was an easy choice.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a fan of Comcast. Therefore, when someone does something to embarrass the company and expose their horrible customer service practices to the world, it’s going to make me happy.

Ryan Block wanted to cancel his Comcast Xfinity cable service (A very wise decision). He called their cancellation department thinking this would be fairly simple to accomplish. But the “retention specialist” he spoke to made sure that the process was as difficult as possible.

About eight minutes into the call, Ryan was already becoming frustrated. So he decided to start recording the call. Once it was done, he posted it on the internet and it quickly went viral.

If you’ve somehow missed hearing the recording of the call, follow the link below. Keep in mind that Block didn’t start recording until about eight minutes in:

Ryan Block calls Comcast

Even though I’m not the one actually going through the process, I can’t help but get frustrated listening to the call. The Comcast rep’s refusal to comply with Block’s request and his constant badgering (“I just want to know what about our service you don’t like!”) is infuriating. Block must have near infinite patience as I would have surely been screaming and threatening the rep with bodily harm.

It reminded me of arguing with my daughter. Except when Block got too fed up, he didn’t have the option of putting the rep into “time out.”

Like most large corporations, Comcast isn’t thrilled about having this conversation become viral. Especially since it’s becoming more and more obvious that while the rep obviously took things a bit too far, he probably felt compelled to do so due to corporate policy.

Naturally, Comcast apologized to Block and said they were extremely sorry for what happened. Block topped off his week with a near perfect response.

He’s right. The company could take the easy route by making the rep a scapegoat, or they could examine why this happened and why people consider them to be the worst company in America.

Congratulations to Ryan. His patience, perseverance, cleverness, and grace allowed him to be the clear winner of the internet this week.

Posted in Who won the internet? | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Why I agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Hobby Lobby

As you may have heard, the Supreme Court of the United States made a somewhat important decision this week.

Side note #1: Are there any decisions made by the Supreme Court that aren’t important? I mean, isn’t that why they’re the Supreme Court? Do we really need to designate a ruling as being important?

Side note #2: I’m going to avoid using the acronym SCOTUS, simply because it reminds me of the word scrotum. Surely I’m not the only person to think this, right?

If you missed it, several American corporations – Hobby Lobby being the most prominent – wanted to opt out of certain mandates of Obamacare. The specific part that they disagree with is the inclusion of contraceptives. They argued that their religion opposes the use of certain types of contraceptives, and therefore it was un-Constitutional to force them to pay for them.

The Supreme Court agreed with them., and most liberals are up in arms about the decision. Heck, even some members of the Supreme Court are upset about it. As a firm liberal, it feels like I should be jumping on the bandwagon and join in on the condemnation of the Supreme Court (or at least the male members).

But I’m not going to do it. In fact, I actually agree with the court’s decision.

I’ll confess something right off the bat: I am not a woman. (Gasp!) I don’t want to be accused of being “another man telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.”

I am also not a fan of Hobby Lobby. I think the owners are backwards-thinking people who would be just as happy if the Constitution was replaced by the Bible. But I also believe that they are quite devoted to their religion and are almost 100% sincere in their intentions.

Thanks to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), they are not only entitled to their religious beliefs, but they’re allowed to run their business – which has been deemed a “closely held corporation” – according to those beliefs.

Everybody seems to love laws like the RFRA when they protect our own individual freedoms. But we’re not always happy when it protects beliefs that don’t quite sync with our own.

I’ve noticed that Americans are often very quick to defend the religious beliefs of everyone in the country – except Christians. Even though Christianity is the predominant religion in America, it doesn’t mean that Christians are any less deserving of their rights.

Hobby Lobby is not forbidding employees not to take birth control. They are not firing people due to taking birth control. They are not enforcing their religious beliefs on their employees.

If women want to purchase birth control, they can still do so. But they’ve got to pay for them out of their own pocket.

I realize that some women take these drugs for other medical reasons besides preventing pregnancy. The cost of these drugs is high, and could very well cause some tough choices and hardship. While I sympathize with those women, that still doesn’t change my opinion on the Court’s ruling.

In all the outrage I’ve seen, most people are missing the real problems.

The first problem is that like many laws, RFRA was subject to a large margin of interpretation. And apparently it is so vague that even the members of the Supreme Court can’t really agree on it.

Since the law’s induction, a precedent has been set that it applies to closely held corporations as well as people. If that is how the law has been interpreted, then the owners of Hobby Lobby can indeed enforce their religious beliefs on their company.

I can understand why this interpretation exists. For instance, what would happen if a law was introduced saying that all restaurants must serve bacon with every meal?

Let's all pray that the bacon law never passes. (Image source)

Let’s all pray that the bacon law never passes. (Image source)

I’m sure there are some bacon enthusiasts out there who would be very favor of such a law, but for a restaurant owner who kept kosher, this would not be good news. The law would force them to operate their business in a manner that directly conflicted with their religious values.

Don’t they have the right to run their business in accordance with their beliefs?

The second problem is that the burden of providing health care is being placed on employers. When we place the financial burden of healthcare on corporations, it only make sense that those employers are going to want some input into what is being provided.

A loss for Obama is a win for conservatives? (Image source)

A loss for Obama is a win for conservatives? (Image source)

Many conservatives are pointing to the ruling as a victory. Based on what I’ve read, this is mostly because it was a defeat for Obama and Obamacare, and most conservatives have ceased caring about anything besides defeating Obama and anything he stands for.

But the continued push towards “corporations are people” may not turn out to be such a good thing for business interests. The relationship between a company and its owners has become blurred, and that may limit the amount of personal protection gained by incorporation.

I’m sure there are lawyers out there already dreaming up schemes to sue the owners of Hobby Lobby or other closely held corporations. Perhaps a former employee feels that they were discriminated against due to their religious beliefs. Since the company gains its religious views from its owners, shouldn’t the owners be held personally responsible for any discrimination?

Ruth Bader Ginsberg argued that the Supreme Court “ventured into a minefield” with their decision. While the situation is indeed a bit of a minefield, I feel it was created long before now, back when RFRA was introduced or when the precedent of “corporations as people” was first set.

The Court is now forced to maneuver their way through a terrain that is likely to become even more treacherous in the days ahead. In this particular case, even though it might not have been an especially popular step, I feel that it was indeed the correct one.

Posted in Trips and Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments