In Support of a Gap Year. For Everyone.

gap_year_sign-1588301549We live in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Our Covid numbers keep rising. We’re trying (well, some of us…looking at you, Rowan County), but they just do.

Schooling this Fall will be tough. It’s just going to be. For everyone, not just those in our county.

As parents, we have a few options.

A) We do virtual schooling.  They’re proposing 5-6 HOURS OF INSTRUCTION PER DAY with this option.  Supervised by…?

Right.  My partner or myself.  Who both still have full-time jobs. From home.

Even if we call in reinforcements, our regular sitter and some parental help, this is unimaginable.

B) On-Off option, where they’ll go to school for one week, and then are virtual for two weeks.

What fresh hell is this?!  So, we’ll risk lives for one week, and then we’ll somehow magically put everything on hold for two weeks to monitor them at home for 5-6 HOURS PER DAY.

Did I mention that this is PER DAY?!

And look, it’s not the teacher’s faults, or the principal’s fault, either (we love our local school).  It’s not even the school board’s fault…there are no good options here.

No. good options, Beloved.

Except this one, and I’m serious: everyone–students, parents, workers of all stripe–all get a gap year.

For workers? No performance reviews.  You try giving your all in a pandemic, dammit!  It’s not possible.  And if you have kids at home?  Let’s just say you are working about 40 minutes out of every bankable hour, if that.

That’s on a good day.

And workers without kids?  Please, can we not pretend this is easy for anyone?  And not just not easy, but seriously, mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically unhealthy?

None of what is going on right now is healthy.

For students?  We do the best we can and fit as much as we can in two freaking hours a day.  Seriously.  Do the basics. Reinforce the bare minimum, especially for elementary students.

And High School?  No SAT or ACT for college acceptance this year.  Do your best, get in, and prove your worth.  Then maybe we can phase our those terrible tests, anyway…

College Seniors regularly take a gap year between their graduation year and their first year of gradschool or workforce.

This year?  We all get a gap year.

For everyone. Even after we get a vaccine…everyone gets some leeway.

This is not fair to students or teachers, and it doesn’t work for parents who are trying to keep their lives from crumbling while keeping everyone healthy.

And just a quick reminder: it didn’t have to be this way.  Had we had competent, organized leadership from the top, this all could have been different.  It may not have been perfect, but it wouldn’t be the life-threatening disaster this is today.

Vote in November.

**There seems to be some confusion on this, so I want to be clear:

-When it comes to the education of our children, I am not proposing we just take the year, or even the semester, off of school.

-I am suggesting that we suggest realistic solutions to learning in a pandemic that adjust educational metrics and standards to reflect the current time.

-Focus on necessary basics for the semester.

-Be clear about benchmarks, and make those the main thrust of education for the semester.

-Don’t over-schedule or try to over-compensate for lost instructional time.

-Be lenient with grade advancement, and dismiss standardized testing for the year.




If You Call Me “Daddy Daycare” One More Time…

Hey, you.Daycare

Yes, you.

You who insisted on calling me “daddy daycare” when I was with my son at Starbucks.  You need to cut it out.

Seriously.  This is hard enough without throwing in the term “care.” That’s a lot of pressure.

Plus, it is a terrible movie.  One of Eddie Murphy’s worst…and that’s saying a lot.

It’s not “daddy daycare”. It’s called “taking parenting seriously.”  It’s called, “quality time.”  It’s called, “Daddy has a hankering for a Starbucks coffee and he can’t responsibly leave the 9 month old alone at home, so grab your snowsuits.”

It’s called “A quick prayer was just thrown up that we survive this trip.”

But it shouldn’t be a surprise that, on my day off, I’m chilling with my boy, right?  Shouldn’t it be the norm?

And, if you spend any time watching us, you’ll notice that I’m not so much a “daycare” as I am a magician, a puppet-master, a story-teller, a banana cutter, a whiz at opening food containers one handed, and an unending encyclopedia of animal noises.

Don’t believe me?  You try reading a book on animals and turn to the giraffe.  He’s expecting a sound, you know.  The lion has a sound.  The bear has a sound (similar to the lions, interestingly enough).  The elephant has a noise.

And then you turn to the giraffe.

What the hell?  Baby book editors: make a warning label that this book has a giraffe in it so I won’t start making sounds at the beginning.  You’re killing me.

Pro-tip for dads: a zebra, giraffe, and rhino all make the same noise…because I really can’t figure out that many variations.  It sounds like a screaming goat.

“I love seeing fathers with their children in public.”

This was actually said to me today, too.  A sweet woman, I’m sure.  But what do I say to that?  “Thanks?”  Aren’t I supposed to be doing this?

Or maybe I say, “And I love strangers commenting on my life objectively.”

Or maybe I, like I did today, just rip open a bag of raisins and cram them into my mouth before he can grab any.

Choking hazard, you know…

I’m not a Daddy Daycare.  I’m a dad.  And, if you watch closely, “care” is a strong term to use.

I’m just trying to make sure my kid survives the trip to Starbucks.

A Public Service Announcement: I Will #Karatechopyou If You Keep Hashtagging Ridiculously Long Phrases

Well, like most good articles, the title says it all.Hashtag  I will karate chop you if you keep this up.

Let’s be honest: when hashtagging (a questionable practice as it is), let’s not presume to pretend that we will ever, EVER, once again hashtag another statement with “#youheardithearfirstcauseI’mthebest.”

That’s a useless hashtag and you know it.

I do not think the world understands why hashtags were invented.  Hashtags are meant to literally “tag” something to ensure that you can find a thought stream within your many tweets/texts/posts that all relate to one another. (No need to thank me for the little lesson on facts, reader.  I’ll take your move from ignorance to knowledge as thanks enough)

It is not, I repeat, IS NOT, meant to be ludicrous.

…and yet it is.

Either by design or simply by function, it’s become one of the most annoying parts of social media.  And that mostly has to do with the fact that people are using hashtags as if they are little editorials on a post.

And by “little editorials” I mean “little run-on sentences that will never be repeatable because, well, they’re just too darn long.”

And annoying.

And I vow now, in public, that should I ever run across you hashtagging like that, I’m going to post “#karatechop” onto that post as a response.

Because that’s exactly what I would like to do to you every time you do that.  I would like to karate chop you in your funny face.

And I’m a pacifist. So, that says a lot.

About you. #Ohsnap!

Strange Encounters While Carrying a Baby

Disclaimer: These two tales don’t really have to do with working out.

Although, it can be argued that carrying our kid in the shoulder harness is a workout.index

Anyway- Encounter #1:

Scene: Brownline “L” station.

Situation: This station butted up against a bunch of houses, and my son and I were standing on the platform waiting for the train to arrive.  From out of what I can only imagine is one of the back windows of a house I hear, “Hey mister!  The redcoats are coming!  The redcoats are coming!”

I look around.

Sure enough, it’s only me on the platform with my boy strapped to me…and underneath you can see my bright red sweater.

Haha…really funny.  Good one, girls.  Obviously some sleepover happening.

Then out of the turnstiles comes a young father with a toddling child my way.

The girls are back at it again, yelling, “Hey mister!  Watch out for the redcoats!”

“It’s a sweater!” I yell back.

Giggling from the darkness.

Then, “Hey mister!  Your daughter walks pretty well!”

As the young dad passes me he says, “He’s a boy…”

I chuckle and loudly inform the girls, “It’s a dude!”

The train pulls up, and me and dad get on the same car.  I sit down by the door, and dad and son come and sit next to us.

And then he does the unimaginable…he begins talking to me.

“So, what’s his name?”

This is breaking all sorts of dude codes, but I say, “Findley.”

“Oh! My son’s name is Phineas!”

Yes…we both call them Finn/Phin.

But then he says, “So, where did you deliver?”

My brain misfired at this point because that is a) not a question I was expecting nor b) a question I’ve ever been asked.

So I just stammered, “Uhm…I didn’t.”

And then the train stopped and I left.

In retrospect, I wonder if dad with toddler needed a friend.  Our generation is really pretty bad at making friends because we’ve pretty much kept all of our friends from childhood through social media.  He was a nice guy; we could have had a beer.

But don’t ask me where I “delivered” unless your an OBGYN and you’re checking in on the reputation of a colleague.

Encounter #2

Scene: Starbucks

Situation: Finn and I have just left his daycare, and dad is stopping off for his version of a “nite-cap” (aka: coffee)

We sit down next to a woman, and I notice she’s reading the book of Revelation from the Bible.

I immediately say to myself, “Shut up, Tim. Don’t ask anything.  You don’t want to know…you don’t want to know…”

But I don’t listen to my own advice, and as I’m unharnessing Finn I say casually, “Weird book you have there.”

“The Bible?” she says, half offended.

“No.  The Bible isn’t a book.  It’s a library of many books.  I mean Revelation.”

…yes, I’m a pretentious jerk from the get go. Not by best moment.

“Oh, Revelations.  It’s amazing, right?”

“Yes, well, it’s amazing that REVELATION (emphasizing that there is, in fact, no ‘s’ on the end of the name) made it into the Bible at all.”

…I’m still on the pretentious a-hole kick at this point because, well, that day was not particularly great at work.  Please note: I am not proud of this fact. I am amused, but not proud.

She says, “Do you go to church?”

At this point I begin laughing kind of like Clark Griswold does in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when Mary at the lingerie counter asks if she can “pull something out for him.”  It’s a laugh like, “Oh, you have no idea…”

And then I simply say, “Yes.”

And then she says, “You should come to my church! We have great programs for kids!  I teach his age group.  I would be all over that little one!  He should come sit on my lap. As Jesus says, “Suffer the little ones unto me…'”

At which point I turn to Finn and say, “See buddy…this is why you need to learn to crawl.  So you can suffer yourself on up to Jesus.”

And then I grab my coffee, thank her for the invitation, and leave.

On the one hand, I’m a jerk.  On the other hand, I’m a jerk.

Really, there are no two ways about it.

But honestly, she had a weird super-happy-creepy vibe to her, and although I think she was just being nice, you’re not going to get me to put my kid on your lap by comparing yourself to Jesus and then utter the word “suffer.”

I applaud her for her zeal.  A+

Her delivery? D-

My attitude? G.  Because it was much lower than an F.

Don’t Be Surprised When I Punch You and Call You Ronaldo

There’s something about the gym that really bothers me.51379a86d2184.image

Well, there are a number of things.

One of the most prominent is that there are “Re-rack your weights!” signs everywhere, and no one does it.  Which means I’m constantly taking weights off of bars and putting them back on racks because the big-neck-little-head dude who just lifted before me apparently either can’t read or greatly overestimates my abilities.

But I don’t want to talk about that today.

I want to talk about the fact that no matter where my locker is located in the locker room, it never fails that when I come back from the shower there are at least two guys using adjacent lockers sitting right there where I’m going to try to change.

Today was no exception.

But today was kind of funny.  It was obvious that the two guys knew one another and were chatting when I showed up, awkwardly shouldering my way between them because, well, I’m not going to hang out in front of the mirror until they leave because I will not be that guy who hangs out in front of the mirror in a towel.

I will not be that guy.

They’ll either move or deal with it.

…unfortunately they decided to deal with it.

But it was funny today because they were chatting, and the one dude with the beard was talking to the other dude with the smelly shirt, telling him about how yesterday at a Starbucks in a Target some lady came up to him and just started chatting as if she knew him.

And then he said, “And you know what?! She did it again today!”

Now, at this point I had many questions.  Primarily I wondered why he had to go to Target two days in a row.  Because we all know that you can’t get out of Target without spending $50. Who can go two days in a row?  Somebody’s got some money!

He had a beard, but he didn’t look rich. I didn’t expect it.

He went on:

“And then, I’m walking in here today, and some guy comes up to me, punches me in the gut and says, ‘Hey Ronaldo!  How you been?’  I didn’t know the guy at all!  I guess I just have one of those faces…”


Of all the names in the world to call this guy, Ronaldo would not have made the top 100.  He was about 5’9, white as Casper, and had a reddish beard.  Seamus?  Sure.  Larry? Likely.  Jerry? Jou know it.

But Ronaldo? Hell no.

See, now I have a dilemma.  Because I’ve heard this story.  And I’ve heard it annoys this guy.  And now I have this urge, when I see him again at the gym, to hit him in the gut and say, “Hey Ronaldo!”

And I will do it because, well, let a guy change in peace and move over next time!

He asked for it.  Next time take a hint and take your story to the stair climbers, guys…guess you just have one of those faces.

I Met Tom Ricketts. He Signed a Ball.

The title of this post pretty much says it all.1011553_10151821193401066_2074400412_n

For those of you who don’t know Tom Ricketts, he’s the owner of the Chicago Cubs.

This last Friday my buddy Adam had some tickets, so Finn (my 5 month old son) and I jumped on them.  It’s a Chicago tradition to skip work and go to a Cubs game, so Adam, Finn, and I hopped on the Brownline toward Addison and the lovable Cubbies.

It’s Wrigley lore that Ricketts wanders the bleachers and the nosebleeds chatting it up with his customers, but I’ve never caught a glimpse of him.  He’s like a white stag, that one, rumored to be wandering the Wrigley wilderness, but never caught by the huntsman.

Well, we bagged a stag.

That sounds bad.

Let’s just say, he stopped by to chat with us.  Finn started yelling and making noise (it’s actually a kind of roar that he does now), prompting a passing Tom to look our way, and Adam said, “Hey, that’s Tom Ricketts!”  I then unashamedly held my son up and yelled, “Yo, Tom!  Your youngest fan is here!”

“Yo” is a term of endearment in Chicago, btw.  It’s kind of like saying, “Excuse me, sir, can I have your attention?”

He smiled, and hiked up toward us.  Adam hails from Wisconsin and was decked out in his Brewers gear, a point that he had to apologize for.  You don’t stare the owner of a ball club in the face while wearing the opposing team’s standard without a bit of sheepishness, no matter how staunch a fan you are.

Finn and I were in our Cubs gear, though, a point that Tom commented on quite a bit saying, “Well, it looks like you’re raising the kid right.”

It was then that I realized he probably thought Adam and I were together, bringing our son to the game from a family of mixed allegiences.  Which, in many ways, if I had a dude life-partner, Adam would be in the running.  It’d be like being married to me…which is a pretty good deal.

Regardless, we’re secure enough that we didn’t need to correct him.  There were more important matters at hand anyway, like chatting about the club guys coming through the pipeline.  He’s optimistic about next year’s prospects, although I’m not sure it matters.  The Cubs will be what the Cubs will be regardless of the players.  People will pay to watch them because, well, there’s nothing like skipping work to watch a Cubs game.


He handed Finn a ball and said, “Raise him right!” I said, “Sure will, Mr. Ricketts, but you can’t hand him a ball and not sign it.”  So he pulled a pen from his pocket and gave my kid his first autographed ball.

Sure, Ricketts doesn’t play.  But let’s be honest, Castro will only be with the Cubs another couple of seasons, Rivers isn’t going to last long, and nobody knows who the hell Nate Schierholtz is.

But Ricketts will be with the team for a long time.  As Mel Brooks says, “It’s good to be da king.”

…and good to have him sign a baseball for your son.

Go Cubs!

You Know That Moment Where the Dude at the Gym Offers You His Water Bottle?

So, you know that moment where the dude at the gym offers you his water bottle?

Yeah, I didn’t either.

Until yesterday.

I’m running on the treadmill.  It’s going terribly…I need to run more.  Lots more.

And faster.

So I’m running and sweating a lot.  Normally I would sweat sitting on a polar ice-cap, so you can imagine what it might mean for me to be running and sweating.

It’s a lot.

It’s like running next to a water fountain no one would want to drink from.

Because of this, I usually try to pick a treadmill with no one on the left or right.  I’d hate to get people wet with sweat flinging from my elbows.

Yes, my elbows sweat.  Don’t yours?

I also try to find the solitary treadmill because I don’t like talking to people at the gym.  I talk to people all the time.  It’s my life.  Hence, I try not to do it at the gym.  To give my inner I a break.

But yesterday there were no lone treadmills, and so I had to squeeze in between a very pleasant looking woman walking her butt off at an incline setting that was probably called “Everest,” and the muscle-bound dude in the black tank-top who had hair like Rick James.

Ok, it wasn’t exactly like Rick James.  It wasn’t very long, but cropped all up on his head as if Rick James’ hair had suddenly retracted into a flop.

And that’s the culprit: the dude with the Rick James flop crop.

After about 17 minutes I’m tired as all get out and sweating badly.  And all of a sudden, in my line of sight, a water bottle appears.

It’s not mine.

It happened so quickly and strangely that I didn’t know what was going on, and therefore didn’t do anything.  It was like a mirage, an oasis in YMCA treadmill Hell.

But then it appeared again after another minute…minute 18.

By minute 20 I was fit to be tied.  That’s so sad, but true.  And the water bottle made another appearance.  And I think I was in some sort of a daze, dehydration or apoplexy, because I reached out and grabbed it.

And then, as I was holding it in my hand, I thought to myself “What kind of a person passes a water bottle to a complete stranger at the YMCA?”

That question didn’t haunt me as much as the next one that popped into my mind, “And what kind of person accepts it?!”

Turns out Rick James’ crop flop wasn’t offering me his water bottle.  He was, in fact, throwing punches to the left and the right as he ran while holding his water bottle.

You know, as we do when we have muscles.

Still running, I turned to the side and said to him, “Uhm…I think this is yours.”

He looked over at me with this stunned, bewildered look.

I don’t blame him.

He took back his water bottle and said, “I guess you can have a drink if you want one.”

I just shook my head and kept running.

No thanks, man…life is strange enough without that experience.

I lasted another five minutes before jumping off of there.  That was quite enough for one day.

Happy Mother’s Day

So, at the Y today, post-workout.

(I’m setting the scene for you)

And I’m chilling in the sauna for a second with a towel around my head…so as not to have to talk to anyone or look at anyone.

And in there are a couple of older guys, what I would probably call “regulars.”  These guys are the masters of banter.  They love to chat it up.

So, anyway, I’m just chilling there, minding my own business, and a guy in full racquetball gear (goggles engaged and everything) comes in and says, “Geezus guys, it’s hot in here!”

And one of the regulars (we’ll call him Regular #1) goes, “What?  You wanna eat dinner in here?  It’s a sauna!  You sweat your brains out.  That’s what you do. Idiot…”

I’m loving it so far.

Racquetball Man sits down and starts bouncing his racquetball on the ground.  He begins,

“You see the high for mother’s day?  Holy shit, 55 degrees! Can’t believe that…”

Bounce. Bounce.

Regular #1 says, “Oh yeah?!  I remember when it snowed on Mother’s Day!  I was in Chicago for that.  Years ago.”

Bounce. Bounce.

He pauses…no bouncing…and then says sentimentally, “I’ll never forget that Mother’s Day…”

Ok man, now I gotta know. You speak with such emotion. Why won’t you ever forget that Mother’s Day?

I dare not ask, though.  The first rule of sauna sitting is: you don’t speak in the sauna lest someone speaks to you and you have to make up a fake profession and talk about the workout facility saying things like, “Yeah, I hate that lifeguard, too…”

But he doesn’t answer, he just goes on, “My wife treats me like she’s my mother. ‘Buy me flowers. Have dinner with me.’ Geezus…”

Bouncing resumes.

Bounce. Bounce.

Racquetball Man chimes in, wiping off his goggles, “I know what you mean, hombre.  My old woman thinks I owe her something.  Just ’cause you have kids, don’t make you a mother.”

Uhm…actually, that’s the common definition of “mother.”  But I keep my silence and listen on.

Regular #2, who up to now has been silent says, “My lady gets a card.  That’s it.”

Bounce. Bounce.

Regular #1, “And what you put in that card, all X’s and O’s I bet.”

This comment is apparently funny, because everyone laughs except me.

Raquetball Man, “Alright, I gotta go play.  Tell your mothers I say hi.”

He bounces out.

And then…silence resumes.

I surely will, Racquetball Man.  I surely will.

My Spidey Patience is Dwindling

As my cultural event of the week, Rhonda and I went with some friends to see The Amazing Spiderman.

I’ve previously blogged about my love of going to the movies.  I think communal events need to happen in this world of isolated iPods, iTouches, and other “i” devices that, when spoken out of context, sound super creepy.  (Try just chanting “iTouch” as you walk down the street and you’ll see the crowd part as quickly as if Moses himself were standing over it with staff in hand).

We got to the theater early, a mega-plex (as the little place I dig was sold out), and because we had a good 40 minutes and I tend to like childish things, I invited my good friend Jason to come play some video games with me at the in-movie arcade.

There are two Jasons mentioned in this post, btw, so keep up.

This particular arcade only used tokens, which I always take offense at.  It’s like going to a currency exchange, only they won’t exchange it back.  Trust me.  I’ve tried to get my quarter back from an unused token, and the only response I’ve gotten is, “I’m sorry, you’ll just have to play another game.”

What game takes only one token?!

     Even Mrs. Pacman, arguably the most loserist game still in modern play, sucks up two tokens in order for you to eat ghosts while maintaining that damn pink bow which is holding up, yeah that’s right, absolutely NO hair.**

No.  The only “game” that takes one token is the swindler game known as the “Claw Crane.”  Which means I might as well go throw the token in the toilet, because I’m just as likely to pick something up out of there as I am that stupid bin filled with plush things that no one wants (hence why they’re in there).

Reluctantly, I got behind a small kid who was diligently feeding his money into the token exchange.  Dollar after dollar.  Seriously, this kid must have put in like 20 singles into that machine, reaping this bountiful clank of coins in the deposit slot.  So many coins, in fact, that when he went to pull them out of the coin deposit (after a good 10 minutes of feeding that machine and making me wait), half of it fell to the floor.

Being the good citizen and pastor that I am, I knelt down to assist him.  At which point he started yelling…because he thought I was trying to steal his tokens.  His father came over, gave me a dirty look while boxing me out, and started to assist his son in picking up his doubloons.

Yeah, great dad.  Where were you when your kid was blowing his hard-earned allowance on coins that will allow him to blow-up aliens for the next 5 minutes before he runs out of tokens (because a kid that small was not going to get to level 2 in any game…).  Great parenting.  Thanks for coming to the rescue today, but who is going to rescue your kid in 10 years from spending all his days locked in his room on World of Warcraft?  The only chance he has to get married is if his Sim character finally scores a beauty.

Not likely.

I’m finally able to get my tokens after Money-bags Malone gets out of the way.  I get four dollars worth of coins.  Enough for four games…or two minutes, depending on how you’re measuring things.

We start out with the motorcycle game.  You know, it’s the one where the two guys in their upper 20’s/lower 30’s look like they’re riding a rocking horse in public.  I got 2nd place.  Jason got 6th.  I figured I’d get to play another game (2nd is pretty good, after all).


So we went over to the shooting game where you pretend you’re a cop on a runaway train, and you have to kill hijackers by starting at the back of the train.  Note to self: if trying to take over a hijacked train, I will start from the front.  Where the head hijacker is.

We lasted two rounds on that, a good 1 minute 20 seconds, before the knife wielding hijacker miraculously killed us both, somehow dodging our machine guns.

And as I replaced my replica rifle, I realized two things.  First: video games are like life, as in, it seems I only get two minutes into it before I realize how inadequate my skills are.  Secondly: It’s worth it and makes me smile.

…are you done with the touchy feely part of this post?  Good.  There won’t be another one.

So we decide to head into the theater.  While Jason and I have been at the arcade, somehow our group has grown by one.  There is a woman I do not know now following us around and talking to us as if she knows us.  I’m suspicious, but Jason and Jason don’t seem disturbed, and it appears that Rhonda has already talked to her, so I’ll pretend it’s normal that she’s there, too.  I just hope we’re not all pretending it’s normal because we assume the other one knows her.  She could be a killer.

Video games make you think such things.

I stop by the counter to get a drink before heading in.  I asked for the large, and they handed me a cup that could fit almost two liters into it.  Apparently I’m supposed to use it as a urinal half-way through the movie, because if I drank this much I undoubtedly would have to.

When we get to the theater we see that everyone is wanting to see The Amazing Spiderman on opening day, and we’re relegated to that front part of the theater on the main floor that forces you to arch your neck as if you’re watching an air-show.  It’s no matter, though, we dutifully arch our necks, feeling our pain is but one offering to the movie gods.

And then the movie starts.  And I quickly realize that watching the fourth installment of this film is much like watching a second run of Les Mis: same plot, different actors.  I mean, I didn’t expect the whole thing to be different, but they really didn’t need to go through the back story of how Spiderman came into being.  We all know this.  The story of the radioactive spider-bite is as familiar as the story of how God put man in the garden and then tore out his rib to make a lady.

We all know it.

And if you don’t know it, and you’re planning on commenting something akin to, “I’m glad they included the back story because I’ve been living under a rock and eating bugs for the past 40 years…” you can save it, sister.  Such comments are not only annoying, they are an insult to the intelligence of everyone who actually pays attention to the world.

As far as the characters go, I like that Mary Jane was replaced by Gwen Stacy, if only because I think Emma Stone is prettier than Kirstin Dunst.  That’s a total judgment call, I know.  That being said, I think Toby Maguire is much more intriguing as Spider Man than the former co-founder of Facebook.  I mean, their acting skills don’t have to be awesome either way.  They spend most of the movie behind a mask, or in a computer generated form flinging from building to building.

But I don’t discount the ability of people in masks to be the best actors in movies.  After all, R2D2 was by far the best actor in Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones (in Revenge of the Sith the lava that appeared at the end of the movie was the best actor, mostly because it saved us from having to watch Hayden Christensen try to act anymore).

As far as the other characters go, I found it difficult to believe that the Boniva (TM) spokesperson Sally Fields could be Aunt May.  I mean, I get that she now has good bone density (due to those confounded supplements), but her hair wasn’t nearly grey enough and her back wasn’t nearly arched enough.  I mean, Aunt May in the comic books looked like she could die in any issue from natural causes, and I’m supposed to buy that this Boniva (TM) popping, Zumba class attending, hair-dying woman is the same woman?

To quote Macaulay Culkin in the seminal movie Home Alone: “I don’t think so.”

What they should have done was brought in Jessica Tandy.  Yes, I realize that Miss Daisy has been driven off into the sunset (may she rest in peace).  But you see what I’m getting at there.

On the other hand, I totally dig Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben.  I like to see former Presidents in their civilian roles.

As for the villain, The Lizard, he’s a pretty good character in the comic books. Complex. Tortured.  In the movie he resembles Lord Voldemort in his lizard form, and I half expected him to hex Spiderman and throw a snake at him.  He’s semi-tortured in the movie.  I would have wanted a little more torture.

The graphics were good, and I liked the movie overall, but with this “re-make,” and the upcoming Total Recall re-make, and the rumors of a Neverending Story re-make and Goonies re-make…my Spidey patience is dwindling for these re-made movies.

Are there no more myth-makers in the world?

C’mon nerds, come up with some original ideas.  Or semi-original.

Get from behind the video games, turn off the World of Warcraft, divorce your Sim wives/husbands, and get to some writing.  Please.

**And before anyone starts to comment to laud Mrs. Pacman as the best game ever, don’t waste the digital ink.  If you want to love a woman who continually chases after ghosts and eats cherries and rabbit pellets all day, be my guest.

Opening Night!

Earlier this morning Rhonda turned to me during breakfast and said, “Hey, want to go for a 9 mile run this weekend?”

I immediately began thinking of ways to turn my ankle.

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it bears repeating: I hate running.  I’ve heard from many encouraging people that, if I run enough, I will eventually like it.

They are liars.

But as I began to sketch out on my breakfast napkin various ways to turn my ankle, I realized that almost all of these sketches would require a trip to the hardware store.  And while I’m quite fond of the name of our local hardware store…The Crafty Beaver…I don’t actually want to go there.

(If you need an explanation as to why that name is funny, consult your 12 year old son)

I actually like hardware stores.  They smell good.  And I like high ceilings.  What I don’t like about them is how I wander around from aisle to aisle like I’m reenacting a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I don’t know what the heck I’m doing 90% of the time in a hardware store.

I like when they have power saw demonstrations, though…

So, because I’ve been writing a lot about running and working out, I thought I’d switch things up and write about something I am passionate about: seeing movies at a movie theaters.

I’m absolutely serious.

With the advent of direct-streaming movies, theaters have declined in popularity.  Oh yes, I’m sure you don’t like the high prices or the overabundant bucket full of salty packing peanuts they generously label as “popcorn,” but I want you to bear with me for a bit and hear me out.

I think direct-streaming movies are destroying our ability to interact on a communal level, not to mention depriving you of some very entertaining people-watching.

You see, just as a gym is GREAT for people-watching, a movie theater is a less strenuous alternative that offers just as much, if not more, enjoyment.

And I love watching franchise movies at their midnight showings.  My wife hates me for this, but like so many things in our marriage, it’s not going to change (much like my inability to successfully clean the bathroom).  I’ll do this till the day I die.

Best franchise opening night viewing experience? Star Trek.

Full disclosure time: I’m not a Star Trek fan.  Never have been.  But man did I figure that opening would bring out the fun characters.  And it did. In spades.

Aliens galore at that opening.  And almost everyone had one of those dumb pins they wear on their chest.  No lie, I saw some people hitting it during their conversation as if they were talking to one another over those intercoms.

And one woman came dressed as Uhura with the short dress and go-go boots.  Classic.  Absolutely classic.  Watching her negotiate those stadium theater stairs was hi-larious.  And don’t you know everyone whistled when she walked in (except for yours truly…I’m classy).

Now, before you think I’m going to these events simply to watch people, I have to say that I love movies and love watching them.  And I love watching them with lots of people because you get that “crowd reaction” during certain portions that, when I’m at home watching them with Rhonda, only I do…and then she begs me to turn it off because I’m being annoying.

The great thing about these midnight showings is that everyone there knows its a safe place.  In that space you can cheer when Leonard Nimoy makes his guest appearance.  You can “Oooo” as the spaceship goes down in flames.

And you clap at the end, which I particularly enjoy.

Another great opening night that I went to was Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.  Terrible movie.  Horrible.  I would say it is arm wrestling at this moment with Temple of Doom for the distinction of worst movie in that franchise.

But when else will you hear people begin to cheer as the “Lucasfilm Ltd” marker shines forth at the beginning of the movie?  Nowhere else, that’s where…unless you’re at my house watching it.

And because these opening night fans are so ravenous in their devotion, occasionally you’ll be able to judge them and not feel bad about it.  Like when I went to see the opening night of Thor and the couple to the left of us brought a newborn in with them.

Yes. Newborn.  Couldn’t have been more than a month old.

The kid slept through the whole thing (we all did, actually…to label it as “craptastic” is to go easy on it), but still: parenting fail.  If you’re willing to pay $16 at midnight for that crappy movie, you should also be willing to shell out another $20 so the zit-laden high schooler can sleep over while you relive comic book glory.

Most recently I went to see The Avengers.  And while I wasn’t able to go on opening night, I would say that the crowd the following day was comparable to an opening night crowd.  The comic book shirts were in full swing, and while I didn’t see any Iron Man helmets or Cap shields, there was quite a bit of nerd-yelling and vocalizing.

Like from the dork three rows up and to the left.  The Hulk starts smashing things in a seminal fight scene and the kid begins cheering like he’s watching his favorite horse pull into the lead at the Kentucky Derby.  But while we are all silently judging, no one says anything.  Why?

Because we’re secretly wanting to do that, too.

And that, my friends, is yet another reason why I see movies in the theater: the dorks around me can enact my deepest childish outbursts, so that I don’t have to.

My local theater, The Davis, is family run.  It’s small.  It’s sticky.  The tickets are cheap, the concessions are reasonable, and the crowd is decidedly local.  I love it.

The one thing I wish it would upgrade is the men’s room.  The urinals are so close together you might as well just throw a large bucket on the floor for everyone to stand around.  And, really, after 64 oz of cherry flavored Coke, a dude’s gotta go.

But it’s a small price to pay to have the communal theater experience in a local setting.

So, as part of the Year of Health, I’m advising everyone to see a movie in a theater to expand your cultural health.  Don’t give me that whole, “I don’t like people” bull (I’m looking at you, Rhonda).  It’s important to have common experiences with fellow human beings over shared interests, whether they be important or banal.

And definitely go see a movie on opening night once in your life.  And if the mood strikes, dress up like a character.  It’ll give me something to talk about.