Put A Meme In Your DVD Player

My good blogging buddy Matt at DC Urban Dad (a great guy and dad so check him out) hit me up with a meme last week, and it was a good one: Top Ten Favorite Movie Characters. Being a big movie lover, I wanted to put some thought into it. After much deliberation this is what I came up with in ranked order.

10. Daniel Craig, Casino Royale: Best. Bond. Ever. Evvvvvver! Equal parts sophistication, and grit, along with some serious cajones 

9. Viggo Mortensen, A History of Violence: Humble family-man with a secret past... and one broheme not to mess with as William Hurt found out the hard way.

8. Hugh Jackman, X-men (1, 2 & 3): Who doesn't love a cigar-chompin' Canadian with crazy hair, a few rough edges and indestructible claws.

7. Michael Douglas, Wonder Boys: What can I say? I feel a connection to down-on-their luck writers from the Keystone State.

6. George Clooney, O Brother Where Art Thou: I could've gone with the Ocean's franchise or Syriana or a few others, but for such a class act to act like a buffoon trying to get back to his kids, well, there's something there I can relate to. Just not too sure what.

5. Harrison Ford, Star Wars' Han Solo: Who else can so nonchalantly blast a bounty hunter with an under-the-table shot? I wish I could.  Having a Wookie as a best friend ain't bad either. 

4. Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan: I only wish I could be that stoic under a hail of bullets - real or figuratively. And hey, the guy was a high school English teacher from the Keystone State (is there a pattern here?).

3. Russel Crowe, Gladiator: A leader that commanded respect not by virtue of his position, but by virtue itself. You don't screw with a guy like that.

2. Christopher Reeve, Superman: Come on. Did you really think I wouldn't make reference to the Man of Steel himself? The guy was a nobody before this role and he nailed two characters Clark and the Big Blue Boyscout. 

and the top spot...

1. Paul Newman, The Sting: The classiest of all class acts in the business. Honestly, I could list a top 10 with nobody but Newman, but confidence man Henry Gondoff tops them all. That part where he shows up "drunk" to the poker game and announces he just took a dump - do you know how many times I've thought of that scene showing up late to a meeting.

And as is traditional with memes, it's time to pass the torch. I don't like to force people to do these, so it's always their choice. I also use these to share a few blogs many readers may not be familiar with, but should. Here they are: Eric (Oh My God I'm A Daddy), Andrea (Blogging Mama), Hugh (Dude to Dad)Michel (Facts Are Strictly Optional), Todd (Steely Dad), and Chris (Maugeritaville)

Like I said, it's their choice but at the very least go see their sites.


This Quite Frankly, Is Disturbing

I can only image sitting in on the ad meeting that yielded this marketing concept.

Lets take the creepiest character on TV and then pair him up with the most annoying...gangsta style. Apparently, a few parents are not happy with the whole idea which I can understand. It's my style of humor, but I'm not sure about main-lining it to kids via television. Mainly this is because mine will be preforming it around the house until they are well into their teens.

Warning: Unless you want your kids pestering you to play this over and over while they dance to it, send them to another continent.



Parental Alienation Awareness Day

Tomorrow is Parental Alienation Awareness Day. Some of you may not be aware of what Parental Alienation is so I've included a short, forty-second video at the end of this post. Parental Alienation, or Hostel Aggressive Parenting as it's also referred to, is a form of child abuse where a child's relationship with another parent is intentionally interfered with.  It's very slippery and can range from mild to extreme, although any amount is damaging to the child. 

For early readers of the Lunchbox, you know my situation and have read my earlier posts concerning parental alienation and my sons. For a while I had been telling myself that maybe I was just being overly dramatic? That it was in my head and I wanted people to feel sorry for me? It's easy to fall into the trap of seeking pubic validation for your own point of view especially when you have an audience. But this isn't the case.

We've recently been taking one of my stepdaughters for therapy concerning anxiety issues (that's a whole another topic), and after providing a few details about my boys and their mother, the therapist confirmed that no, I wasn't making something out of nothing. I am in a Parental Alienation situation. I've been reticent in the past to publish specifics, but I'm going to bend that rule somewhat in order to give this issue context on a personal level.

For the plethora of fine adjective in the English language that I could use to describe what it feels like to deal with parental alienation, the best one I can come up with is, it sucks. It sucks never getting Father's Day cards or it even being acknowledged. It sucks having your time limited and controlled. It sucks having the rules changed on you without being informed. It sucks being told that your children need a "real" father and that that person is going to find them one. It sucks seeing the confusion in your children's eyes knowing that they are caught in the middle of something they don't understand. It sucks to feel like your hands are tied because of the potential for retaliation by the other parent. It sucks. 

Now, after reading that, please, please, please understand I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me. My boys, yes, they are the victims, but not me. We all carry burdens in life. It's what makes us stronger, gives our life meaning. This is mine, and for as much as I hate the situation it makes me work harder to be a top-notch, informed, involved parent. I may only see my boys a few times a year (until the opportunity to move presents itself, God willing), but we talk every night on the phone. Were we all living together, maybe I wouldn't pay as much attention. Maybe I would take them for granted, instead of actually listening to them. As it stands now and in the future, they will never have to wonder if I love them.

If you or someone you know has questions about Parental Alienation visit the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization website. There you will find details, links and articles on the subject as well as a list of family activities planned around the globe (and possibly your city). Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Also, see this news report.


Stay Back... Or I'll Make You Laugh

Last week I went to lunch with my best friend Mark. Seeing as how I don't out much these days, it was much needed. After we finished he said, "Let's go to the mall and act like teenagers." Keep in mind we're both 37 and have ADD, so what could be more perfect than a mid-day stroll through a building full of shiny objects meant to stimulate impulsiveness? It was a grand time. We acted like idiots.

Other than my wife Ashley, Mark and his wife Erin are the two people in the world I am the closest to. He's a heavy-weight boxer; she's a feisty Barbie doll. Before I married Ashley, they were who I went to. No, actually, they were the ones that came to me. They saw how much I was hurting during my divorce, and how my self-confidence was shriveling as a result. But rather than just empathizing for me, Mark and Erin stepped in and propped me up until I could walk on my own again. Their methods, which I won't go into, were a little unconventional, but they worked. I am forever grateful. That's real friendship.

In my life, I have moved many times, made many friends and only to let them drift away once my address changed again. Mark and Erin have been the only exception to that. Sure, Facebook has recently afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with some very special people from my past, but the difference is my connection with Mark and Erin has remained a constant even when I left to Chicago and then Arkansas. This is a truth that has both amazed and scared me.

Why? Because I don't allow myself to get close to people or for them to get close to me. It's unclear where this comes from as my childhood was stable and my life has been relatively trauma-free (knock on wood). I'm not going to analyze the issue here, but I do find an irony and a paradox in this. The irony being that, for someone who shuns closeness, my sense of humor (which I seem to be short on these days) tends to draw others toward me, while the paradox is that being funny (or trying anyway) functions as a wall "protecting" me from those same people. Only a few, like Mark, Erin and my wife, ever get past the gates.

After checking out the mall, Mark and I came back to the apartment and watched stand-up comedy shows with Demetri Martin and Mitch Hedberg. Some of you may remember Mitch Hedberg. Funny guy, probably one of the funniest I can think of. He died in 2005 at the age of 37 of a drug overdose. So did John Belushi (age 33) and Chris Farley (also age 33).

Despite laughing to point of tears, I still couldn't help but wonder how high the walls were around Mitch's and the others. Did they ever let anyone in, or was the door always shut? How much pain were they trying to bury? I looked over at Mark who was doubled over and grabbing his ribs. Seeing him made me laugh all the harder.

Here's to you Mitch. It's a damn shame you didn't have a Mark or an Erin to let in.


How To Be A Man

The other day at the grocery store, I grabbed a copy of Esquire Magazine. This month is their annual "How To Be A Man" edition. All the major men's periodicals run the same yearly theme, or some variation thereof: GQ, Details, Men's Health. There was a time in my life when I bought every one of them. I would tell myself it was out of whimsical curiosity, but the real truth of the matter was that I wanted to know how I measured up. Did I have what it took? Was I a man as our society defines them, or was I a wimp? A pussy? A coward?

Typically these How-To-Be-A-Man editions approach the topic from a number of vantage points like health, fashion, relationships, careers, etc. They inform men that they need to exfoliate and that pedicures will reduce toe-nail cancer. Glossy photos of handsome men with slicked back hair dominate the pages. They model khaki suits and sport sweaters draped over their shoulders - a look I'll never be able to pull off. They also dole out essentials tips on manly behaviour like how to impress friends by selecting the perfect wine for any occasion, or ways to cheat at golf without getting caught by the boss. I may have been outwardly dismissive about what these magazines offered, but in my mind, I took every word of it as gospel.

My favorite section, other than the one spouting assurances over sure-fire techniques for meeting and bedding attractive women, was where the magazine actually defined what it meant to be a man. Usually there would be a list of traits and actions endemic to manliness. A man never cusses in church or discusses religion with others. He wears striped socks and buys brand-name condoms. Men open doors for women, especially when it's the front door to their apartment. Mentally, I would keep score. Yep. Yep. No. Kinda. At times. Definitely. If the score was high enough then it confirmed what I had hoped, that I was a man. If the score was too low, then I demanded a recount.

No one in this world will ever tell you what makes a real man as long as they're trying to make a dollar at the same time.

The Esquire I grabbed was no different than the others. Same tips. Same models. Same lists. However, even though the formula was the same, Esquires' ideas contained some validity.

"...A man doesn't point out that he did the dishes. A Man looks out for children. Makes them stand behind him..."

"...A man resists formulations, questions belief, embraces ambiguity without making a fetish of it..."

"...A man listens, and that's how he argues..."

All are apt, even poetic, descriptions of what a man should be, and I find it hard to argue otherwise. Yet, in my life, I've made many (many) mistakes. I've acted immature, been selfish, and embraced my insecurities. These moments were the result one constant question I couldn't answer confidently. Was I a man? It took time, but several years back I eventually arrived at a conclusion that resolved my doubt. A man doesn't need a magazine to find the answer he's looking for. That maxim was no where to be found on the list in front of me, and it made me smile. No one in this world will ever tell you what makes a real man as long as they're trying to make a dollar at the same time.

That said, you may be wondering why then, if I had figured this out, did I blow four bucks just to read what basically amounted to drivel? Well, based on who graced the cover and then, of course, the whole alleged donut episode, I felt strangely compelled. A man knows how to laugh at himself. That wasn't on the list either.


Off The Air

During my trip with the boys, I introduced them to a couple of old television programs from when I was their age, The A-Team and Airwolf. Maybe you don't remember them, or have no idea what it is I'm talking about (I included clips below for reference), but for me, as a little boy these shows were pure gold. So when I found them on DVD I couldn't resist the chance to indulge in a few hours of childhood nostalgia. I watched a few episode of each before turning them off. They were crap. Lousy acting, contrived plots, lame stunts, stock footage used over and over, I felt let down. 

Where was the glee in imagining myself fabricating wacky impromptu weaponry to thwart the bad guys like The A-Team, or the thrill from dreaming about flying a high-tech helicopter on secret missions like they did in Airwolf? I distinctly remember sitting in front of the TV as a kid, mezmorized by every episode and wanting desperately to be these characters. I wanted to be adventurous. I wanted to be intriguing. In short, I wanted to be 30. 

You might be thinking how randomly odd that sounds, but to me, being in your 30's was ideal for some reason. People in their 20's seemed too young and lacking in worldly experience, while being in your 40's was, well, too old. The years lived between these two spans seemed just right, and I couldn't wait till the day when I reached nirvana. By then, I figured, my life would be near perfect with me doing something exciting and at the top of my game.

Today I turned 37. My life is nothing like what I imagined, and sometimes it feels like the only game I am playing is survival. Even then, it's more a matter of keeping up than being on top of it. True, there are many things for me to be thankful for, my marriage, my kids, my health, and I truly am grateful for them. Yet, this is not the swashbuckling life of adventure I saw for myself. As a kid there were no dreams about growing up to be a sales manager or VP of purchasing. How do you play that at recess? 

Now, with only three years left before being considered too old, I'm just a struggling writer waiting for the kids to get home so I can give them snacks and listen to how they learned about addition and the letter "Y." Yes, I realize, I'm throwing a pity party instead of a birthday party, but sometimes you just have to put these things out there because that's who we all are, human and frail. There's no sin in admitting to it; the transgression only comes from denying it. 

I was glad to see the boys exhibiting that same excitement I used to have for those television shows, but there was also a bitter-sweetness that it brought on. I thought it ironic that in reaching my 30's, the years have stolen from me the very naiveness that once fueled my goal of getting to this point in life. At 37, I'm in a very strange place with little certainty of where I'm going and even less of an identity to hold onto. It's exactly the opposite of everything I though it would be. Maybe I just tuned into the wrong channel.


A Day At The Improv

Apparently Ashley and the girls decided to make a little music video the other night. I have no idea what the reference is to "pink dolphins," (possibly from smelling too many Sharpie markers) but the comment about the mean step-dad is directed at my regiment of daily chores they are required to carry out. I suppose it's healthy to express themselves in a creative way.

Keep in mind one thing. This is entirely improvisational. The words, song and choreography are all done right on the spot with no prior rehearsals.


Hitchhiking, Vegas And Jedi Master Tony

Today I'm guest posting for my blogging friend Tony (Life With Tony) while he's out of town. Ironically, the last I heard from him, he was somewhere in Texas chowing down on some Lone Star cuisine. If you're not following Tony, you should. He's down to earth, sensitive and funny, not to mention he walks around the Vegas strip wearing his Jedi uniform and carrying a lightsaber; well, at least that's how I picture him anyway (Check out his post about his war against gangs in his neighborhood). Did I mention he is an artist? Add him to your list; he won't disappoint. 


Favorite Spring Break Sayings

This past week I was on spring break with my boys Noah (10), Harrison (7), Sawyer (4). We had a great time, but, as always, it was too short. Watching them drive off with their mother, I feel a piece of me die. They are growing up, and circumstances prevent me from being nearby to experience it with them. Still, we cherish the days we do have together, and they are always excited about being with me (much to their mother's chagrin. You should've seen the look on her face when I handed her a jar of muddy water with 10 or 12 live crayfish inside that Harrison proudly captured). 

Here are a few of my favorite lines from each of the boys that were just too funny (at least to me). 

Usually on our trips I take each of the boys out for a few hours to do something they like just one-on-one. Noah's thing is eating seafood (remember the 10 pounds of shrimp from Thanksgiving?). So upon being seated, he chuckled at the kiddie menu, grabbed mine and promptly ordered the "wood-grilled lobster, scallops & shrimp dinner" as if he were a man. When the waitress came back to the table to ask how everything tasted after the meal had been served Noah loudly blurts out with, "Fine, fine. Give my compliments to the chef!" But if that wasn't enough to cause those around us to turn and grin, Noah punctuated his satisfaction with an obnoxious belch that brought down the house.

My middle son Harrison is probably the most sensitive and observant of the three. One night after putting them to bed, I heard him whimpering downstairs. When I asked him what was wrong he choked out through his tears, "All this stuff keeps happening to me, and I'm scared!" Curious, I prodded a bit further on all this "stuff," to which Harrison whips out a journal chronicling several examples. "First there were these symbols on the window at church, then there was this writing on the walls in my brother's closet, and now there's this blue light that keeps flashing in the dark. I think this means the UFO's are coming." As it turns out, the symbols were Roman numerals in the stained glass, the writing was from the breaker box, and the blue light was from a sensor my dad had installed in the basement. Oddly enough, he has been a huge fan of the last Indiana Jones movie. Of course, if he had said that he saw dead people, I wouldn't have been able to sleep.

Sawyer's catch phrase since he could talk has been a demonstrative "you're fired!" Usually this is response to someone doing something he is less than pleased with. Now he's added a new one to go with it. Tell him to put on his clothes or take his plate to the counter and it's, "Hey! You want a piece of me!" Then he rolls up his sleeve. "Look at these muscles!" Ya, okay pal. However, his best line was when I came home from Red Lobster with Noah and found Sawyer still in his play clothes when he was supposed to have his PJ's on by the time I got home. When I asked him why they weren't on, he strolls over to grandma, puts his arm around her and gets this serious look on his face. "Hey, it was this lady's idea!" God love him, what's going to come out his mouth at 15? 

Well, the spring breaks are done, I'm over my stint of mono, I got my first teacher's exam out of the way (results pending), and I even got a shout out on Stroller Derby today. Oh, and we had no run-in's with goofy kids sucking down helium (Thanks everyone for your comments. Apparently for UK readers he's not quite their cup of tea. Mine either. Pass the Motrin.). 

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