Fortunate Son

Some folks are born, made to wave the flag. Oooh the red, white, and blue!

Some folks are born, made to wave the flag. Oooh the red, white, and blue!

I was born in 1977 – a very good time to be a fan of the Philadelphia sports teams.

In the late seventies and early eighties, all four of the city’s major teams were faring well. During a ten-year period from 1974 to 1983, each would each appear in their sport’s championship game at least once, and the Flyers, Phillies, and 76ers even managed to win a title.

Unfortunately, I was too young to appreciate what was happening. I vaguely recall being at a Super Bowl party in 1981, and I remember watching some of the 1983 World Series, but it didn’t hold my interest for long.

I didn’t really become a sports fan until 1985. Unfortunately, the good times in Philly were over by then. They wouldn’t return until…well, I’m still waiting for that.

It ain't me! It ain't me! Oh wait, that is me at Veterans Stadium in 1986. Admit it, you're jealous of the Jams.

It ain’t me! It ain’t me! Oh wait, that is me at Veterans Stadium in 1986. Admit it, you’re jealous of the Jams.

Before I paint too negative of a picture, I’ll admit that my tenure as a sports fan hasn’t been entirely awful. I’ve gotten to watch all four teams play in the championship game, and I was even lucky enough to see the Phillies actually win the World Series.

But for the most part, being a Philadelphia sports fan hasn’t been very rewarding. And somehow, over the past few years, things have seemed to become even worse. All four teams missed the playoffs last season. The 76ers have been making themselves awful on purpose while the Phillies have done so unintentionally. It feels like it might be a very long time before I get to celebrate any more championships.

I’m hoping that my son will avoid a similar fate.

Assuming he turns out anything like me, he is going to be a sports fan. Unless he completely stabs me in the back makes an independent decision, he’ll also become a fan of the Philly teams.

I’ve said that if he really want to root for the local teams, I won’t fight him on it (well… maybe a little), but considering the recent history of Washington’s sports teams, he won’t be any better off.

I realize that it may be sexist to only include my son and not my two daughters. That’s mostly because the Cutlet has shown very little interest in watching sports, no matter how many times I tell her how great they are. Also, Credence Clearwater Revival did not record a song titled “Fortunate Daughter,” so that would have screwed up the title of the post.

Maybe I should do him a favor and steer him away from being a sports fan. He would probably be better off finding a different hobby and avoid wasting so much time and mental stress over the results of millionaires playing children’s games.

But I’m confident that he’s going to be luckier than I was. I’m confident that the Philly teams are going to get all of this crappiness out of their system while he’s too young to notice. Once he’s old enough to follow sports and actually appreciate winning, that’s when a new golden era will begin. His formative years will not be filled with heartbreak, but rather happy memories of victories and championship parades.

While I will be happy for him, I imagine some feelings of jealousy may creep in as well. When he complains about one of his teams – and he will, because that’s what fans of even the best teams do – I may find it hard not to tell him, “Stop whining! You know not what pain is!”

Sadly, this may not come to pass. There’s no guarantee that the Philly teams will ever shake their current malaise, and may go on to disappoint yet another generation of fans. Maybe Cujo is doomed to a long life of sports disappointments just like his father.

IMG_1768

Even the most dedicated fans have turned their backs on the Phillies

Good luck, kid. You may need it.

Submitted to Yeah Write as part of the weekly non-fiction challenge

Posted in Sports, Twins | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Not Awful, but Could Have Been Better Four

I saw the movie Fantastic Four this weekend. While it certainly wasn’t one of the best superhero movies I’ve ever seen, I enjoyed watching it. Based on the reviews as well as the reactions of the people I saw it with, I was one of the few people who felt that way.

Reportedly, director Josh Trank was one of the people who didn’t like the movie. The rumors are that he wanted to make the movie one way, and executives from the studio forced several changes.

You can see what Trank was trying to do. He seemingly wanted to make the movie similar to one of his previous films, Chronicle. It looked like he wanted to make a somewhat dark movie about the Fantastic Four learning about and dealing with their powers.

At some point, Fox executives probably saw what he was doing and asked, “Um, where are the big special effects scenes?”

While Trank’s vision might have made for a good movie, I don’t know if it would have commercially viable. When people go to see movies based on Marvel comic books, they expect bright, fun movies with lots of big fights and special effects. Fantastic Four is often regarded as one of the more “fun” comic books around, so I’m not sure trying a darker tone was ever a great idea.

I will admit that the movie could have better. And after giving it some thought, I came up with a few ways in which it could have been improved.

Warning: The following contains spoilers and assumes that the reader has seen the movie.

Break up the origin story

By nature, superhero origin stories can be somewhat boring. The hero doesn’t usually gain his superpowers or become heroic until at least a third of the way in. Which means we spend a good chunk of the movie following the life of an ordinary human.

To avoid this problem, they could have broken up the linear structure of the movie a bit. Throughout the origin sequence, supply a few flash forwards of “government footage” of each of the Four using their powers in battle, so that we could have gotten a little taste of action.

Add some intrigue to the teleporter experiment

If you asked someone unfamiliar with the comic what this movie was about, they’d probably say it was about a group of scientists creating a teleporter. If that was going to be the focus, they should have added a bit of intrigue.

Perhaps they should have made the teleporter seem dangerous, and raised the question of whether or not they should be trying to use it at all. This role would have given Sue Storm something more to do than provide a slight point of conflict between Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom. She could have been wary of using the teleporter, mainly because she knows something that the others do not. (More on this later)

Don’t make Doctor Doom the villain

In the comics, the Fantastic Four’s arch-villain is Doctor Doom. So it makes sense that

they’d want to make him the team’s primary villain. But from what I’ve read, fans of DD are understandably unhappy about his portrayal in the movie.

I actually liked the portrayal of Doom in the first half. He was an arrogant young scientist who had a temper and a slight rivalry with Reed Richards. But making him into a telekenetic zombie who wants to destroy Earth? That doesn’t exactly sync with the traditional portrayal of Doom.

After they use the teleporter, don’t have Victor get trapped in the other dimension. Instead, have him return with the others, but after the explosion, he vanishes. He is presumed dead, but the body is never found. (Setting up the sequel of course!)

So then who is the villain?

In the first half of the movie, there should be several hints that this isn’t the first time Franklin Storm has tried to visit the other dimension. (Hence Sue’s hesitance to repeat the experiment) Eventually, the entire story is revealed.

Perhaps

Perhaps “Mole Man” doesn’t seem like the most intimidating villain (Image source)

Storm used to partner with a man named Arthur Molekevich (Known in the comics as Mole Man). Molekevich was concerned with the way Earth’s resources were being consumed, and hoped that the experiment would give them ideas as to how they could reverse the damage.

Storm and Molekevich successfully created a teleporter, and visited the other dimension. It should be implied that the energy there affected Molekevich. He then became paranoid  and convinced that the government was just going to destroy another world. As a result, he destroyed most of the group’s research, and transported himself to the other dimension, leaving no way for anyone to follow him.

When Reed, Johnny, Ben, and Victor travel to the other dimension, they encounter Molekevich. He tells them that he’s been infused with the world’s power and it has allowed him to create life. The four become worried when Molekevich conjures up various monster-like creatures who obey his command. When they attempt to leave, Molekevich tries to stop them, and that results in the explosion that grants them their powers.

Molekevich realizes that now that the teleporter has been rebuilt, people aren’t going to stop coming. He decides the only way to save his new world is by destroying Earth.

In my opinion, that would tie in with the overall theme of the movie better than having Doom simply go insane.

Don’t forget the team dynamic

If you’re going to make a movie about a super hero team, then you’ve got to actually show them come together and work as a team. That aspect was sorely missing from the movie.

What do you think? Would those changes have made the movie better? Or would it still be savaged by reviewers?

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Cutter: Wasp Hunter

Blessed with a rare dollop of free time on Saturday afternoon, I took the opportunity to perform some badly needed yard work. One prominent item on the to-do list was trimming some tree branches that had grown too close to the house.

Since we don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the higher branches, I had to get at them from a second-story window. I opened a window in the Cutlet’s bedroom and went to work. The trimming went without incident, but before I could finish up, I was met with an unpleasant complication: Two wasps flew in through the open window.

We’ve had a problem with wasps in the house this year. We’re not sure where they’ve been coming from, but they’re not exactly welcome visitors.

I think this image pretty much sums it up:

One of the wasps immediately flew back outside, but the other one seemed inclined to stick around for a while. Upon closer inspection, the wasp was actually clutching another insect as it flew around.

Oh, so this wasp thought he was going to just fly into my daughter’s bedroom and eat his dinner? Nope. Not going to happen.

The biggest problem with wasps is that they come equipped with a formidable defense system, and if you try to get them to go where they don’t want to go, they’re not shy about using it.

If I was going to properly battle this insect, I’d have to take precautions to ensure that he couldn’t use that weapon against me. And so I donned my special wasp fighting suit:

IMG_1889

I felt confident that unless the wasp went after the tip of my nose, he wasn’t going to be able to hurt me.

My goal wasn’t to kill the wasp. Preferably, he would leave the house and we could both go on our merry way. But sometimes, that’s not the way these types of things play out.

I was able to trap him against the window with a small plastic container. I tried to slide the container down the window in hopes that he would then choose to fly outside. But as I started to lift the container over the edge of the window, his head popped out, and my first instinct was to push down.

Do you want to know the difference between that wasp and myself? My head is still attached to my body. Wasps may be tough as far as insects go, but apparently their necks are not stronger than plastic.

I threw the wasp’s still twitching body out the window, and I hoped that he would serve as a warning to any other wasps that might want to venture into our house: If you enter, you risk decapitation at the hands of the Cutter!

Have any of you ever dealt with wasps? Was my outfit a bit too much?

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Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and the Philadelphia Phillies: A Southerner’s Perspective

I had originally intended for this post to go on the Philadelphia sports blog which I write for. For reasons that will quickly become obvious, I was told that they couldn’t publish it. 

Please remember that this is intended to be humorous. If any bigoted Southerners take offense at what I’ve written, I sincerely apologize.

I paid a visit to my old friend Billy-Bob last week. Despite living in South Carolina all of his life, Billy-Bob is a devoted fan of the Phillies.

I wasn’t sure why a South Carolina native would become a Phillies fan, but he told me that his father had raised him that way. Apparently, Billy-Bob’s dad really liked the way team manager Ben Chapman handled himself back in the 1940’s.

When I got to Billy-Bob’s house, he was a little upset about some of the recent happenings in his state. To try to calm him down, I started talking about our favorite baseball team. Unsurprisingly, he had a few strong opinions on the Phillies, so I made sure to transcribe our conversation.

Cutter: So what do you think about the Phillies?

Billy-Bob: They’re a [gosh darned] disgrace, I’ll tell you that.

Cutter: It certainly hasn’t been a good season.

Chase Utley. (Image source)

Chase Utley. (Image source)

Billy-Bob: That ain’t even the worst of it. I think it’s a shame what they’re doing to Chase Utley.

Cutter: You don’t think they should let Cesar Hernandez play instead of him? He’s having a good season, and Utley’s been pretty bad.

Billy-Bob: It just shows you what’s wrong with America. You’ve got this hard-working guy who does the job as well as anyone. And then along comes this Mexican fella who they don’t have to pay as much. And what happens? They tell the hard-working guy to take a seat on the bench.

Cutter: Cesar Hernandez is from Venezuela.

Billy-Bob: Well, they all come here through Mexico, don’t they? And it don’t matter. He ain’t from here if you know what I mean.

Cutter: Unfortunately, I think I do.

Billy-Bob: It’s happening everywhere. I was happy when they got rid of Jimmy Rollins, because we all know how lazy he was. But what do they do? They bring in another [Latino] to replace him!

Cutter: I don’t-

Billy-Bob: What about third base? You had that Cody Asche playing there. A nice kid from Nebraska whose been raised on nothing but corn and family values. And they find another [Latino]. And this one doesn’t even spell his name right. Maikel? That ain’t how you spell the name Michael in my book.

Cutter: Speaking of that, how’s your daughter Krystyn doing?

Billy-Bob: She’s doin’ just fine. Such a pretty little thing.

Cutter: Aw, that’s good…But back to the Phillies. Surely there must be something you like about the team.

Billy-Bob: I like that they’re letting that new kid play catcher.

Cutter: Cameron Rupp?

Billy-Bob: Yep, him. About time they found someone to replace that druggie they had playing there.

Cutter: Druggie? You mean Carlos Ruiz? He was using Adderall. It’s for ADD. And now he has a prescription.

Carlos Ruiz (Image source)

Carlos Ruiz (Image source)

Billy-Bob: Sure he does. Probably got it from some fake Mexican doctor. And Ader-whatever is only what they caught him for! He’s probably on all sorts of other drugs too! I told you: This is what happens when they start giving those people money.

Cutter: Hey now, that’s –

Billy-Bob: Come here, I want to show you something. (We walk inside and he shows me an aged poster of the 1993 Phillies on his wall.) Take a good look at that. Now that’s what a baseball team should look like. Just a bunch of good old boys playin’ the game the right way. You don’t see any drug users on there, do you?

Cutter: Um…..

Billy-Bob: We both know the real reason this team ain’t any good. It’s that Ruben Amaro.

Cutter: Most fans seem to agree with you there.

Billy-Bob: They put him in charge, they start giving all those [Latinos] money, and the team goes to [crap.] I gotta wonder why they ever let some foreigner run the Phillies.

Cutter: Foreigner? He was born in Philadelphia. He’s actually half-Jewish.

Billy-Bob: JEWISH??? Lord Almighty! It’s no wonder then that this team won’t spend any [darn] money!

Cutter: Um….Yeah….So if you were running things, what would you do?

Billy-Bob: First thing, I’d trade that lazy, good-for-nothing Ryan Howard. And then I’d get rid of Dom Brown. Once they’re gone, you got the start of a good team.

Cutter: You don’t want to get rid of Ben Revere too?

Billy-Bob: Naw, he’s one of the good ones. He can stay.

Cutter: Would you trade Cole Hamels?

Billy-Bob: Why in tarnation would I want to do that? I’d maybe ask him to cut his hair a bit, but he’s a good player. Why would I want to trade one of my good players?

Jonathan Papelbon (Image source)

Jonathan Papelbon (Image source)

Cutter: How about Jonathan Papelbon?

Billy-Bob: No way! Paps is my boy! I love the way he stares down those hitters. We need more guys with that kind of attitude!

Cutter: So do you see any hope for the team?

Billy-Bob: I keep hearing about this J.P. Crawford they got down in the minors. I never seen him before, but if he’s as good as they say, I think I’m gonna like him.

Cutter: I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

Billy-Bob: Why’s that?

Cutter: Oh, just a feeling I have. Anyway, thanks for talking to me, Billy-Bob.

Billy-Bob: No problem. Go Phils!

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Blogger’s Analysis of the 1989 Cleveland Indians as Depicted in Major League – Part Seven

In honor the 25th (Um..26th. I’ve been taking my sweet time at this) anniversary of the movie Major League, I am attempting to chronicle the events of the movie from the perspective of a sports blogger.

For past installments: Part One – Part Two – Part Three – Part Four – Part Five – Part Six

Wild Thing Mania has overtaken Cleveland!

Inexplicably, the Indians have become a good baseball team. Thanks to an absolutely scorching month of July, the Indians have climbed out of the basement, and have reached the dizzying heights of third place in the American League East.

Perhaps even more inexplicable is that for the first time in a long while (ever?), the city of Cleveland actually seems excited by the team. It used to be that the only people who excitedly discussed the Indians were drunk middle-aged men, and they tended to be less than positive with their comments. These days, just about everyone is talking about the Tribe, and for the most part, words like “suck” and “awful” are not being used.

Cleveland has taken a real shine to this cast of misfits, and the most amount of adoration is being heaped upon pitcher Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn. You might remember Vaughn from his memorable debut on Opening Day. Back then, it was difficult to picture him remaining in the major leagues for more than a couple of months. The thought that he could develop into a solid pitcher and fan favorite seemed absurdly implausible.

Apparently, all Vaughn needed was a new pair of eyeglasses. I’m serious; several coaches have gone on record saying that Vaughn’s control was so poor mostly because his eyesight was bad.

Glasses fix everything? (Image source)

Glasses fix everything? (Image source)

This doesn’t exactly ring true. Even if Vaughn couldn’t see the plate, he should have had a general idea of where it was. Many of Vaughn’s pitches were thrown as if he was completely blind.

If the only thing holding him back was his eyesight, how was this not diagnosed earlier? If his eyesight was as bad as they claim, it seems like he shouldn’t have been able to function. He certainly shouldn’t have been allowed to drive. I wonder: Are there a few hit-and-run incidents out there waiting to come to light?

Then again, criminal activities are something that Vaughn is familiar with. Remember that he wasn’t pitching in the minor leagues a year ago. He was in prison for stealing a car. (If the Indians really want to run with the “poor eyesight” thing, maybe they can explain that he just couldn’t see which car was his.)

This leads to another question: Should we be so quick to cheer for a criminal?

The Indians are a feel good story, and have plenty of guys worth rooting for. So why is the most popular player someone who spent time in jail last year? Maybe it wasn’t the most heinous crime ever, and yes, Vaughn served his time, but it strikes me as odd.

It seems obvious that some of the fans are cheering for Vaughn because of how he looks. According to many women, Vaughn is quite pleasing to the eye, and of course some girls can’t help but be attracted to “bad boys.”

Other fans are apparently happy to cheer for Vaughn simply because he comes off like he’s as pissed off as everyone else. After years of watching crappy players on crappy teams, it is a refreshing change of pace to see one of the players actually seem upset by it.

Or maybe Indians fans are so desperate for a good team that we’ll just cheer for anyone who looks capable of bringing us one.

I’d better stop or else people are going to accuse me of being a wet blanket. I’m going to get complaints that I’m only happy when the Indians are losing. (If that was true, I’d have spent the majority of my life feeling happy about the Indians, and that is certainly not the case.)

Then again, maybe they have a point. The Indians are finally playing well, and the first thing I do is find a reason to complain. I think I’d better switch into positivity mode.

Let’s all sing it together: “Wild Thing! You make my heart sing!”

Ah. Much better.

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I Didn’t Set My Fantasy Lineup Last Weekend

I play fantasy baseball, but I’m not doing very well this season. Part of the problem is that I usually neglect my team on the weekends. I don’t often update my lineup or make player transactions, or any of the other things that good fantasy players do.

I’d like to be able to update my fantasy team on the weekends. I’d also like to write, go to the gym, and maybe sit on the couch and relax. But it’s rare when an opportunity to do these things actually presents itself.

It seems like I should have plenty of time. Considering I typically wake up anywhere between 6 and 7 AM, there are quite a few hours until I go to bed. But weekends are strange; despite being awake for so much of the day, there’s very little time to get anything accomplished.

Take this past weekend for example. Saturday was the Cutlet’s birthday party for which we rented out the local splash park and had over 20 kids in attendance. (This extravagance merits a post of its own.) After a busy day of buying supplies, setting up, and running the party, Mrs. Cutter and I were exhausted, while our house was a mess of presents and leftover supplies.

At least the house didn't look this bad. (Image source)

At least the house didn’t look this bad. (Image source)

Before children (honestly, even in the days of just one child), we probably would have punted on the day. We likely would have slept in, and probably spent most of our time leisurely putting the house back in order. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to simply give away days like that anymore.

When I awoke on Sunday, I was dismayed to find that the magical cleaning fairy had not come by. I was also dismayed to find that the Cutlass – who had spent most of the previous day in a bad mood – wasn’t any happier. We’re not entirely sure why, but she spent most of the day crying.

Sunday morning was spent giving the twins their bottles, feeding them, changing them, and trying to entertain them in hopes that they might stop crying for a little bit. (Honestly, I feel bad blaming Cujo, since he was in a pretty good mood.) During the brief times when I could put them down, I tried to get things put away.

Nap time is usually the best opportunity to get household accomplished, but that was not the case on Sunday. In an attempt to eliminate one of their daily naps, we’ve been trying to push back their morning nap later in the day. Once I finally got them to sleep, the Cutlet asked if I would play with her.

I had lots of things I needed to get done, but my general attitude is that chores can wait, while childhood is fleeting. In a few years, what’s more important: A clean house, or that I got to spend some quality time with my daughter? Besides, it’s not like play time lasted all that long. About an hour later, despite the later start time, the Cutlass woke up ready to resume her crabby day.

The rest of the day was spent taking the children on a few errands (it’s not good for any of us to stay inside the house all day), mowing the lawn (we don’t want to be the neighborhood eyesore), and attempting to get things straightened up.

To our credit, we managed to get the house in acceptable working order by the end of the day. It’s possible that we might have had to step outside by ourselves just to get a brief break from the chaos. That break lasted about thirty seconds before the Cutlet came outside to ask if we were coming back.

So no fantasy lineup update this weekend. I didn’t get to write the blog post I had in mind either. I may have put some laundry through the cycle, but I didn’t get it put away. (And I still haven’t!) I suppose that can always wait until next weekend. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time then.

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

Sympathy for Ariana Grande

Celebrities – They’re just like us!

The latest example of this is Ariana Grande. The actress/pop star has found herself in the news lately for a bizarre incident where she was caught on camera licking donuts and saying “I hate America.”

Before last year, I had no idea who Ariana Grande even was. Thanks to Wikipedia, I know that she used to star on a Disney TV show, and now she makes songs that I generally do not listen to. Honestly, the first time I saw her, I thought that she was one of the Fembots from the Austin Powers movies.

Ms. Grande has received a good deal of criticism for this incident. She forgot that among the many rules for living in America, two of the most important are:

1. Never say you hate America.

2. Don’t lick donuts that aren’t yours.

I gotta tell you, I’m really confused by the whole donut licking thing. Who does that?  Actually, I know who does stuff like that: My daughter. That’s at least slightly understandable since she’s only five years old, and despite her appearance sometimes, Ms. Grande is considerably older.

But really, who am I to judge? I’ve done plenty of bizarre stuff in my time too. I can recall one night a couple of years ago when I was walking home. For some reason (Okay, I was drunk), I decided that I was going to pretend to shoot energy beams from my hands (Just like the Transformers!), destroying all the buildings in my neighborhood. I was having a grand old time until I discovered someone sitting on his balcony watching me with bizarre amusement.

In other words, we all do some really strange stuff when we think nobody is watching. That incident happened was when I was in my thirties. I don’t really care to chronicle all of the bizarre things I did in my twenties.

As for her saying she hates America, she’s explained that it was taken out of context. I actually believe her, because who among us hasn’t said something similar?

For example, I think many people have expressed a sentiment similar to this in recent days: “It’s 2015, and we’re still having a debate over whether the Confederate flag should be displayed. America really sucks sometimes.”

For some reason, people will vote for this man. (Image source)

For some reason, people will vote for this man. (Image source)

Hell, every time Ted Cruz opens his mouth and I’m forced to recognize that he’s actually considered a legitimate candidate for president, my opinion of the country drops a little bit.

So let’s all cut the poor girl some slack! She doesn’t really hate America, she just hates that Americans like donuts and that it’s made us all fat.

On that note, today is Krispy Kreme’s 78th birthday, and in honor of the occasion, if you buy a dozen donuts, you get a second dozen for only 78 cents! Better get them soon, because you apparently never know when a celebrity might try to lick them!

Posted in Pop Culture, Randomness | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

I Peaked in Fifth Grade

For the first four years of my elementary school career, our semi-annual school concerts were mundane affairs: The students would line up on stage, we’d sing a few seasonal songs, and our parents would applaud accordingly. In fifth grade, our music teacher decided to spice things up a bit. She gave the concerts a special theme and based them around everyone’s favorite childhood star: Pee Wee Herman!

Pee Wee Herman (Image source)

Pee Wee Herman (Image source)

In case you were curious, this took place before Pee Wee’s um…”scandal.” Had the music teacher chosen to base a school production around Pee Wee Herman a few years later, she likely (definitely) would have been fired.

Obviously, the role of Pee Wee was highly coveted, and half of the boys in the fifth grade class vied for it. Unfortunately for them, they had to contend with the Cutter. After several grueling rounds of tryouts, I outshone the competition and was chosen to fill the starring role. (In reality, I think that maybe three other kids tried out, and I only won because I had the loudest voice.)

The winter concert focused on Pee Wee travelling through “Holidayland.” Basically, Pee Wee and his friends would briefly discuss one of the fall holidays, and then the other students would sing a song about it.

The show was a hit and received rave reviews from all of the parents. (Although really, what were they going to say? Sorry, kids, but that show absolutely sucked! You guys can’t sing. At all.) I think most of them were happy that it deviated from the usual school concert formula in which the kids sang a few Christmas songs (and don’t forget the token Chanukkah song!) and called it a night.

I became a school celebrity. Everyone knew my name, and the younger students would stare at me with adulation. It was as if they couldn’t believe that Pee Wee himself actually walked among them.

My fame grew even larger when Pee Wee returned for the spring concert. (This time, the concert was based around an episode of Pee Wee’s TV show Pee Wee’s Playhouse.) The music teacher said she considered letting someone else play Pee Wee in the spring, but she realized that they would likely end up being unfairly compared to me.

At the end of the year, the school held a ceremony for the graduating fifth graders. I was presented with awards in several categories: Academics (I made the Honor Roll!), athletics (Meeting the standards for the Presidential Fitness Award!), and band. (Honestly, I’m not sure why I got this one. I was lousy at the clarinet.) In addition, the music teacher presented me with a special drama award.

I felt like quite the star that day, and why wouldn’t I? I had basically “won” elementary school. Little did I know that my status was going to take a major hit the next year.

Some kids arrive at middle school and quickly figure out how to become popular. I remained mostly oblivious to the fact that the social landscape had changed. The most prominent change was that many (most?) of my peers were now primarily concerned with the opposite gender. Here’s something I quickly learned: Pee Wee Herman may be many things, but “chick magnet” is not one of them.

If only Danny Tanner had shown me the way! (Image source)

If only Danny Tanner had shown me the way! (Image source)

If you’re a fan of the show Full House (and who isn’t?) you may remember that there was an episode based around this theme. There was also an episode where DJ had her first kiss, and this was a VERY BIG DEAL among my peers. I remember discussing this episode in-depth with some of my classmates.

My role as Pee Wee proved to be the height of my acting career. In sixth grade, I tried out for the drama club’s production of Bye Bye Birdie, but I was only assigned a few token supporting parts.

I can’t really blame them for not giving me a prominent role. While my 11-year-old voice might have allowed me to do a suitable impression of Pee Wee Herman, I’m sure it wasn’t exactly pleasing to the ear when I tried to sing.

I didn’t even bother trying out in following years because drama club interfered with the various sports I was trying to play. That’s kind of a shame, because in eighth grade, the music teacher who ran the drama club said she had a role that I would have been perfect for.

Since then, fame and fortune have continued to evade me. At my age, it seems unlikely that I’m going to be breaking into a professional sports league, and my dreams of becoming a famous actor died in 1998 when I tried out for a supporting role in a local film production and never heard back. (However, I did make it into the Hall of Fame of my kickball league, so I got that going for me!)

Oh well. Maybe it happened when I was relatively young, but at least I had my fifteen minutes of fame. Most people don’t even get that.

Besides, I’ve got kids now! Everyone knows that the best thing to do with failed dreams of fortune and fame is to simply push them onto your children!

Pageant circuit, here we come!

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Mobility and Sibling Rivalry

We are starting to realize how lucky we were with the Cutlet. While she was a difficult baby in many ways, she was also low maintenance in terms of her mobility. If you placed her somewhere, she’d generally be content staying put.

While we baby-proofed our condo, it really wasn’t a necessity. The Cutlet didn’t try to open cabinets or climb into the toilet. I think the worst she ever did was empty an entire box of tissues all over the floor. (Although if I recall correctly, those were quality tissues.)

Never forget

Never forget

When we moved into our current house, we never bothered to baby-proof aside from a few token cabinet locks and outlet covers. We are making up for that now.

There’s a stereotype that male babies are more active and more likely to be mobile and get into things. We’re quickly learning just why that stereotype exists.

Cujo has learned to crawl, and he is taking full advantage of his new-found mobility. If you place him on the floor in a certain spot, it is unlikely that he will still be in that spot a few seconds later. If there is some place you don’t want him to go, that’s where he will try to go. If there is something you don’t want him to have, he will make every effort to get at it. (Daddy’s phone is of special interest.)

This mobility has made life more difficult for his parents, especially when he’s supposed to be drinking his bottle. He will only sit still for so long before he flips himself onto his stomach and starts motoring away. The other night, when he was supposed to be drinking his bottle, he was instead entertaining himself by pulling on the spring of the door jamb and being delighted with the sound it made.

As a result, changes have been made in the Cutter house. Our home was once a place of freedom, with its residents able to travel where they wished. Now, certain restrictions have been put into place. Where once there was free passage, now there are baby gates.

You shall not pass

You shall not pass

The twins’ playroom has been gated off, and there is also a gate at the top of the stairs. I’m becoming quite adept at opening the gates with one hand while carrying a baby in the other arm. We were slightly concerned about the Cutlet’s ability to open the gates, but she hasn’t had a problem either.

We do need to stress to her the need to close the gates once they’ve been opened. Theoretically, she will start to remember without being reminded. Theoretically, she’ll also remember to always flush the toilet after using it.

Meanwhile, the Cutlass hasn’t quite mastered the art of crawling, as she’s just as likely to move away from her intended destination. This is causing her a great deal of frustration as she wants to be able to move and grab things the way her brother does. She also doesn’t much like it that her brother is able to come over and grab for toys that she’s already playing with.

Yes, they’ve already begun to fight with each other. I’ve witnessed Cujo crawl over to his sister, pull the pacifier out of her mouth and stick it in his own. The Cutlass is not completely innocent either. I’ve watched her yank a toy away from Cujo and then push him over.

It’s not a good sign that I already have to tell them to stop fighting with each other. I’ve even had to separate them a couple of times when it seemed like they were really annoying each other.

I get it. If I had to spend just about every moment of the day with another person, I’d probably want some time to myself too. Sure enough, after they were separated, both of them became noticeably happier.

Don’t worry, I have a feeling that they’ll soon realize it’s more beneficial for them to work with each other. Especially when they unite against a common enemy: Their parents.

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A Trip to Awesome Con!

“Do you want to go to Awesome Con?”

I am ashamed to admit that when my au pair posed this question to me, I had no idea what she was talking about. I may not get out much these days, but I do spend a lot of time in front of a computer, so I probably should have heard about Washington DC’s most prominent comic convention.

LogoSM2Once I did some research, I soon realized that this was indeed something I’d like to go to. Even better, it was something I could bring one of my children to, and I wouldn’t have to leave my wife with all three of them! So on Saturday afternoon, the Cutlet joined the au pair and I as we ventured into the city.

If you’ve never attended a comic convention, they all follow the same basic template: They invite a bunch of personalities from the comic book/video game/movie industries who will hold autograph and photo sessions and also take part in panel discussions. In addition, there are a plethora of dealers and merchants selling just about any geeky thing you could ever want.

The list of celebrities was an enjoyably odd mix of A-list stars and niche personalities. I mean, where else can you see William Shatner sitting a few feet away from some of the original Power Rangers as well as the guy who did the voice of Michelangelo on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon? (His name is Townsend Coleman, but I’m sure most of you already knew that.)

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I didn’t opt to pay for a photo session. There are very few people in this world who I would actually pay upwards of $40 to get a picture taken with. Maybe if Bruce Boxleitner was there, I would have splurged. (Okay, I definitely would have splurged. I also would have asked him if he was as upset by this news as I was!)

I didn’t get any autographs either, although I did walk by the booths to check out the celebs from a distance. I was tempted to go up to Coleman’s booth just to ask him if it was his decision to basically give Michelangelo the personality of Bill and Ted.

Neither the Cutlet nor the au pair were all that impressed when I pointed out Ralph Macchio and said, “Look, it’s the Karate Kid!” To their credit, they didn’t respond, “That’s not Jaden Smith!”

Part (most?) of the fun of these conventions is seeing some of the costumes that guests wear. While there were quite a few extravagant outfits (one guy had a Batman outfit that looked like something that Batman might actually wear), there wasn’t as much absolute craziness as I expected.

There were a lot of Doctor Who costumes, and a fair share of Ghostbusters. (I’m wondering just how much these people spent on their proton packs, because they looked pretty authentic.) Perhaps the strangest costume was the middle-aged man walking around in nothing but a loincloth.

It was cold in the convention center, but fortunately for the Cutlet, her father offered her his cape.

It was cold in the convention center, but fortunately for the Cutlet, her father offered her his cape.

Believe it or not, I don’t own a superhero costume. I was considering putting on Joker makeup, but seeing as how I don’t have a purple suit, I didn’t think it was worth the effort to only go halfway. Instead, I dressed in a Pitfall! T-shirt and wore my custom-made Cutter cape. The au pair wore a Superman cape, while the Cutlet went dressed as some sort of fairy princess.

I wasn’t actually sure how much the Cutlet would enjoy herself. I assumed that sitting down for a lengthy panel discussion was not going to be on the itinerary. On the other hand, I was correct in thinking she’d like seeing all the people in costume. There were a few Disney Princesses around, but oddly, she didn’t want to take pictures with any of them. (I did not ask her if she wanted to take a picture with loin cloth guy.)

They had a Kids Zone with interactive presentations every hour. One such presentation was a “light saber training,” where they gave the kids light sabers (Or in this case, pool noodles) and taught them how to properly wield them. It shouldn’t surprise you that they had to repeatedly tell the kids not to hit each other in the head. At the end, the guys doing to training did allow all the kids to wail on him. I just hope he was wearing a cup.

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Pool noodle Jedis

One of the marquee events of the convention was “Sci-Fi Speed Dating.” I’m not sure how it differs from normal speed dating except that some of the people are probably in science fiction costumes.

I urged the au pair to participate, if for no other reason than to get some interesting stories. She finally agreed to do so, but as she waited in line, I got a few nervous texts from her telling me that some of the guys in line seemed “a bit strange.”

Apparently, the speed dating is quite the popular event. Guys had to pay $20 to participate (women were free), but that cost didn’t appear to be much of an impediment. Really, that’s not much of a surprise. These conventions are basically a shrine to disposable income. If you’re going to spend $50 to have a 30 second chat with George Takai, why not spend another $20 to actually talk to a woman?

Unfortunately, because so many people participated, the previous session ran long. When they still hadn’t started her session more than 20 minutes after the scheduled start time, the au pair decided to skip it so that we could all go home. (Oddly, she didn’t seem that heartbroken about missing the opportunity to meet the potential man of her dreams.)

Even though I didn’t shell out for an autograph or picture, I did find some ways to spend some money. I was tempted to purchase a sword, but seeing how Mrs. Cutter has been pretty adamant about not wanting a sword in the house, I decided against it. Nor did I spend $30 on a novelty T-shirt which can probably be obtained for about $8 at Walmart.

Browsing through some of the dealer booths, I was pleased to find two issues of the Marvel G.I.Joe comic book series that I had missed during the original run. For the reasonable price of $6, I was able to add issue 40 (Hydrofoil!) and issue 43 (Crossroads) to my collection.

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The Cutlet didn’t come away empty-handed either. I purchased a signed My Little Pony illustration and a Comic-Con Exclusive My Little Pony comic for her. She really loves the comic, and has had someone read it to her every night since then. (Unfortunately, I think I now have to track down the following issue so I can finally learn what happens to Nightmare Rarity!)

While it’s somewhat on the expensive side, I definitely had a good time. Next year, maybe I’ll do a little bit of advanced planning and actually go in full costume. Perhaps I’ll re-create my old Tron costume? Or should I save that for a time when I finally get to meet Bruce Boxleitner ?

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