Monday, November 30, 2009

A Preschooler's Movie Review: Planet 51

On Saturday, my wife took our 10 year old, Thing 1, to see "New Moon" (T1's 2nd viewing, my wife's first). At the same time, I took Thing 2 (who will be 5 in January) to see a showing of "Planet 51," which started around the same time.

I have to admit that I am a bit leery of taking young kids to see movies. Thing 1 is plenty old enough, but Thing 2 is at that age where the Icee from the snack counter could catch up to her, and she might not make it through the whole film. I still have memories of taking Thing 1 to see Miracle when she was about 5, and being halfway through the game between the US and Soviet Union (the climax of the film) and her having to use the bathroom. I carried her at a full sprint down the hall to the bathroom and was back in our seat in less than 2 minutes (hands may or may not have been washed).

Thing 2, unlike her sister, has the ability to nurse an Icee or a drink. Thing 1 has it finished by the time the opening credits are done. Thing 2 usually has some left over by the end of the movie, so she has that going for her. We made it through the movie "Up" back in June with no problems, other than her developing a speech impediment where she would say "Squirrel!" every 5 minutes for a week or so.

I have to say, I was not at all impressed with Planet 51. I think as far as the voice talent went, they did OK with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and the guy from the Mac commercials, but the story just wasn't that good (the writer also did Shrek and Shrek 2, and obviously strained his brain trying to squeeze in just as many double entendres and pop culture references but not as good). However, a movie has to be awful for me to want to leave a theater, and let's face it, I was not there to see Planet 51. I was there to spend quality time with my daughter, who DID want to see the movie. Even though I wasn't that wild about it, I had that feeling that we were going to miss some of it when T2 started fidgeting in her chair. And I knew we were going to have to rush out when she leaned toward me to whisper something. I bent down to hear her, and she cupped her hand around my ear to whisper something that I never thought I'd hear her say:

"Can we go soon?"

I was kind of taken aback by her question. So I said, "What?"

"Is this almost over? I want to go home."


Dear producers of Planet 51:

My 4 year old daughter thinks your movie sucks.

Warmest regards,


Friday, November 20, 2009

Commuter of the Day 11/20/2009

I have a pretty good idea of how this went down. This particular commuter got into his car with his arms full, carrying a Pepsi. He probably put the Pepsi on the roof of his car while he fished out his keys, and put his briefcase, jacket and other items in the back seat. He then got in the front, started his car, and drove off. Forgetting the Pepsi on the roof, of course.

As he drove off, the Pepsi fell over, and rolled around on the roof of his car. Because of his roof rack, it prevented the Pepsi from going off the edge. Instead, the Pepsi merely went back and forth, hitting the rack, and going back in the opposite direction. Due to the low speed limit, there was not enough speed to send the can flying.

One little twist, however. This was my Pepsi. My car. And my commute.

I realized where I had left my Pepsi when I heard a thunk on the roof. I then heard a few more as the Pepsi rolled back and forth, smacking the rack and rolling back to the other side. I even made two turns, and the can continued its back and forth rolling. This was absolutely embarrassing, I couldn't believe that not only I left a soda on my car, but the damn thing wouldn't fall off. I finally made a turn onto a long, straight road which allowed me to get up to a decent speed, and I went from 35 to 50mph pretty quickly. It was at that point I didn't hear any more rolling, and instead, in my rear view mirrow, saw a can of Pepsi flying through the air.

I felt bad about littering. But I felt worse thinking other drivers might have been pointing and laughing at me. And possibly Twittering about it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Educational Pwnage

My younger daughter (Thing 2) is in Pre-K (pre-Kindergarten, the year before going to elementary school....throughout the US, pre-K programs basically prepare kids for starting Kindergarten by getting them to be able to identify letters, numbers, shapes, etc, so they can start Kindergarten already knowing how to write their name, and even read a few words in some cases). She is in a private pre-K program and goes 4 days a week, 9AM to 1PM (state pre-K programs are from 8-2:15, full day basically).

One of her best friends is a year older than she is. That girl is in Kindergarten, and was in a state pre-K program last year.

As many of you know, a lot of education is taught through song. We learn the ABC's by putting it to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (thus, when we're adults and pulled over at a DWI checkpoint, when asked to recite the ABC's without singing, it's a guaranteed fail). We also learn the history of the universe from The Barenaked Ladies "Big Bang" (trust me, it's a lot more fun than 4 years of physical science at a university).

Apparently, someone decided that learning the months of the year is a lot easier if you put it to a tune. Of course, the number of tunes whose length matches that of the months of the year is somewhat limited. So limited, in fact, that apparently "The Macarena" is the ONLY one. I know this, because if there was another one, don't you think they would have used that one instead of "The Macarena"? So, the new thing is to now teach the months of the year, to the tune of "The Macarena," complete with the dance moves that go along with it (if you live in a part of this planet where "The Macarena" never hit pop culture, count yourself lucky).

Because the Months Song is taught in both pre-K and Kindergarten, Thing 2 and her friend both know it, and both sing it. Recently, they did this in front of me. Thing 2 started it, doing the hand gestures, singing perfectly, and got all 12 months, in their right order, and stuck the landing. By that, I mean she took a bow. Literally. Her friend then made an attempt at it. The wheels fell of that bus by the time she hit April. Next thing you know, December is in the Summer, August is in Winter, and a couple months got counted twice, and some not at all. Naturally, I had to really stifle the snickering and potential guffaws that wanted to break free. I certainly didn't want to hurt this poor girl's feelings.

Please make no mistake, this is not an argument for private school. I was educated in a public school system, as were my brothers, and most of us turned out OK. My kids will go through the public school system, and probably attend public universities. This is me simply being very proud that my kid is smarter than another kid a full year older than her.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Father of the Year

Yesterday, my 10 year old, Thing 1, came up to me and said, "Dad, I have a silly question. I can't believe I'm asking this, but how do you spell 'near'?"

"Near?" I asked, making sure I heard her.

"Yes, near. I know I should know this, but it's been a long day and I just can't think straight."

"Simple," I said. "Just remember this classic rule, when spelling with vowels. 'I before E, except after C.'"

She looked at me funny, and thought for a minute. I could see the gears turning. Finally, she looked at me like I was a giant idiot and said, "There's no "i" in "near". I know there's an e, it's n-e-blank-r, but there's no i."

"Thank goodness you at least knew that," I replied. "I'll give you a hint, it's another vowel, and you already eliminated one of them."

I think she then went and asked her mom.

How I Make Neighbors Cry

First of all, if making your neighbor cry is your goal, it’s always best to find one that is hyper-sensitive, and possibly a semi shut-in. I suppose a drunk will work too, as drunks can go from “fighty” to “teary” very quickly.

Second…have a damn good reason to make her cry, or you just come across as an asshole. I’m not an asshole. I had a DAMN good reason.

There is a family across the street whom I affectionately call “The Bumpus Family.” I won’t name the kids, but one of them is named after one of the 5 boroughs of New York City, which seems to be all the rage (or was 6-8 years ago). And they have dogs. 2 dogs, to be exact. They also have an electric dog fence in their back yard. On exactly 1 of the 4 sides of their backyard fence. No more, no less.

Needless to say, with their digging ability, and their ability to determine that they won’t get an electric shock every time they dig under 3 of the 4 sides of their backyard fence, our neighborhood often looks like one of the scenes from the move “A Christmas Story,” when the dogs are running through the Parker’s house (minus the stealing of the Christmas turkey). Most of the people on our block have discussed these dogs, and how they have managed to survive without getting hauled off by animal control. This past weekend, the Bumpus family went to Disney World, leaving the grandparents in charge of the dogs. The dogs got out the day they flew out of town on Thursday, and came back home on Sunday when the family got back and the kids hauled them back home.

Recently, a line was crossed when I went from my house into my garage (the garage door was open) to walk out to the driveway to get into my car, before driving to work. I was quite surprised to see a dog walking around my wife’s car in the garage, ignoring me. I closed the door to make sure my cat didn’t dart out (she hates dogs) and heard this dog panting and walking just outside the door. Once the noise went away, I walked out to my car, threw my briefcase in the back, and walked across the street to the Bumpus House.

After ringing the doorbell a couple of times, a very nervous mom and daughter (the daughter is in middle school, so her bus is later and she was still home) answered the door. The father had already gone to work. I started by asking them if they knew where their dogs were. I received a blank stare in response. The ensuing conversation went like this:

Me: I walked out of my house this morning and found your dog in my garage.
Mom: I’m awful sorry, we…
Me: Your dogs spent the weekend walking around the entire neighborhood, as far as two streets away.
Mom: You see, we were out…
Me: I have a right as a homeowner to be able to walk to my car, or even into my garage, without having a neighbor’s dog in my garage.
Mom: I’m really sor….
Me: Neighbors up and down this street have been talking about these dogs, and a few of them have suggested calling animal control.
Mom: I’m…
Me: I am tired of seeing your dogs up and down the street running around, and I especially don’t want them pooping in my yard. Please do something about it immediately.

At that point, I left the porch.

That night, while preparing to sit down to dinner, the phone rang. It was Mr. Bumpus, the father. He called to apologize for his dogs being in my garage, but apparently, what ticked him off the most was that after I left, his wife called him, extremely upset, because I was, and I quote, “rude, mean, and sarcastic.” Obviously, his wife doesn’t know what that word meant, because sarcasm is, “oh, I just LOVE it when your dogs run free everywhere.” As I told him, I was blunt, to the point, and I wanted to make sure I got my point across.

Can you believe the balls on this guy? He calls me to make me feel guilty for upsetting his wife, and he told me that if there’s an issue with the dogs, I should go see him. Apparently, his wife is very sensitive, and cares what people think (and is apparently concerned now that the neighbors think they’re trailer trash). He, on the other hand, does not care. My response? “Sir, that’s where the problem is. If your dogs continue to run free, they will be picked up by animal control and you will be ticketed, and if the dogs have no tags, they will be put down. So you SHOULD care what people think. As for me, I will not apologize for talking to your wife. I am not going to wait until YOU get home if your dogs are in my yard in the morning. It does me no good if the problem is happening right there.”

He kept alluding to the fact that his wife was very upset, and felt intimidated, and couldn’t get in a word in edgewise with me talking this morning, which leads me to believe she was an hysterical mess. I think he was surprised when I explained to him that I was not there to discuss, nor debate. I was there to tell them to do something about their dogs. Why their dogs were running loose was irrelevant to me. But, I did not tell him to go to hell or pound sand, as our daughters all play together, and if I was a dick to him, then he would tell his family what he thought, and his daughters would take it out on my daughter, and then there would be a war.

So, once again, issues with neighbors rears its ugly head. I really think we need to move within the next year.