Father Versus Stepfather: Like Jordan and Bird

Spending some quality one-on-one time with the kids has been long overdue, and so, last week, I took my oldest stepdaughter out for coffee where we could chat about whatever over peppermint mochas and cinnamon coffee cake. Each of my stepdaughters are non-stop chatterboxes, but if you had to determine which is the fastest, Stepdaughter #1 would be the photo-finish winner. Not only does she zoom along at a mile-a-minute, but she also changes topics with the same fluid maneuverability as an Italian sports car weaving in and out of traffic.

“I can’t believe I’m over 5 feet tall. Did you know that my dad is 6 foot, 3?”

I actually am aware of this. I see her dad weekly, that and she’s told me a million times. With Stepdaughter #1, even though the subject matter may vary, she more often than not will tie it in some way to her father. ...Continue Reading


The Ron Swanson Guide to Raising Boys

Behold. The Man, Ron Swanson.

Ron Swanson from NBC’s Parks and Recreation, might be the most brilliant character on TV in my humble, expert opinion. I want to be him. My wife is convinced that within a few years I will completed my transformation in becoming Ron Swanson incarnate, mustache and all. Besides already sharing the same first name, we both hate big government, enjoy high-protein meals, and think wood sailing ships are beautiful.

Swanson maxims on life are swift and simple. “The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness” is a work of a genius that addresses a wide array of important subjects like, for example, fashion attire (“Shorts over 6” are capri pants. Shorts under 6” are European.”). Such straightforward ideology also extends to the area of preparing sons for manhood.

Here are but a few Swanson-isms I plan on instilling in my sons.


Ending the Affair Between Santa and His Greatest Lover

The foggy cold weather made my tongue sizzle. The smell of the eggnog and cookies filled the air. As I walked in the living room I saw a mountain of presents. It was finally Christmas. Therefore, I felt as if I were Santa’s biggest lover! The End.

Adorable right? My stepdaughter wrote that after making her Christmas list last weekend. She firmly believes that Santa Claus, the elves, the reindeer—all of it actually exists. To her they are every bit as real as the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. She’s also 9.

Two nights ago I killed the affair between Santa and his biggest lover. Shattered it like a fragile tree ornament hitting the cold hard floor of reality. I had just handed the girls their dinner, when she said that the kids in her class were making fun of her for believing in Santa.

We’ve had a lot of problems with the little punk-asses in Stepdaughter 1’s class. Last year it took exactly 1.5 seconds for us to call a meeting with the administration after I caught her trying to smuggle a knife to school. She planned on using to defend herself against several boys who were touching her where no one should be touching any girl. There have been other issues too.  ...continue reading.


20 Toys Kids Won't See This Christmas

Every Christmas is seems there are more and more toys for children to ask for. When I was a kid, it was all Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. Now everything needs batteries or requires some sort of Internet hook up. What’s more, toy makers think they need to tie children’s play things into social issues and current event. What happened to using your imagination and just being a kid? Good grief, Charlie Brown.

All that aside, there are 20 toys out there that I’m fairly certain kids won’t find under their trees this Christmas. Here are the first 10, and these are the remaining 10.


Is Newt Gingrich Wrong About Why Kids Are Lazy?

Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich thinks poor kids are lazy and child labor laws are dumb. This controversial opinion is, of course, bereft of facts, but that’s Newt Gingrich’s schtick–provocation through outlandish remarks. His claim here is based in part on the premise that these children lack adult role models to teach them what it means to work.

Statistically this could be debunked using Census Bureau data showing that 3 out of 4 working adults (18 – 34) considered to be poor have one or more jobs and another 25% work part-time. The data also indicates that 50% of children living in extremely poor homes have at least one working parent in the household. The numbers, I suppose, could be debated all day, yet Gingrich raises an interesting question about our children’s work ethic.

At age 12 I started working in one of the feed mills my father owned, and by my early teens this became a full-time summer job. It was hard physical labor, and my dad, to his credit, didn’t cut me any slack as the “boss’s kid” either. I may have resented my father being tough on me, but in hindsight, it was one of the best lessons he ever taught me. Without that, who knows where I’d be.

In response to Gingrich’s statements, Geraldo Rivera (yes, that Geraldo) echoes this same sentiment about fathers teaching ...continue reading.


If You Don't Follow the Rules, Don't Expect Your Kids to Either

This year our school district announced that it would no longer provide bus services to students who lived within a 1 mile radius of the school—budget cuts. With only one vehicle, this put us in an inconvenient position. My wife would now have to tack on an extra few hours to her day catching a series of buses to and from work, while I keep the minivan just so I could use if for couple short trips to get the kids.

By no means were we the only ones dealing with the inconvenience, which meant there would be a substantial increase in the amount of car-rider traffic. The administration anticipated this, but despite their best efforts, holy frijoles, what a mess! It looked like the parking lot at Reliant Stadium after a Texans game let out. Cars everywhere–all doing their own thing, all ignoring the teachers’ direction, and students darting ... continue reading.


14 Reasons Why My Kids Are Smarter Than Congress

In a Huffington Post article, it was reported that Congress’s approval rating was now lower than porn, polygamy, and the BP oil spill. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, given our elected official’s track record. You think that that Senators and House Representatives would be a smart, savvy bunch given what’s been entrusted to them, but sadly, that’s not the case. In fact, if Congress and my kids were to engage in an intelligence contest, my kids would have to take out their brains to make sure it was a fair fight. Here’s 14 reasons why:


Type A Parenting Doesn't Mean Being an A-Hole

Not too long ago I had an interesting experience when a Wall Street Journal columnist asked if she could interview me for a piece she was doing on Type A parents raising Type B children. Intrigued by the topic, I agreed to her request. I hadn’t really thought about how my Type A traits impacted this aspect of my life, which as a stay-at-home dad, dominates a considerable chuck of my day.

The interview, I thought, went well. The columnist, Sue Shellenbarger, was sincere, and her questions caused me to reflect on both my failures and successes as influenced by my Type A-ness. There were moments when I was too harsh and not as understanding as I should’ve been, but there were also times when I adapted to the situation rather than forcing ... continue reading


But I Don't Want to be a Mommy!

There’s been a whole lot of talk about dads of late—stay-at-home dads, out of work dads, marketing to dads, dads being more involved, and of course, dad bloggers. We’re the hot topic it would seem. Someone even made a remark to me that dads are the new moms. Yeah? Well don’t lump me in that group. I don’t want to be a mommy.

Sure, the cultural landscape has shifted for families partly as a result of the economic downturn and partly due to changing attitudes about fatherhood. In fact, this is something I understand this on a very personal level, seen as how I lost my job and ended up becoming a stay-at-home dad (SAHD). Even so, just because my wife and I flip-flopped roles, that doesn’t mean I handed in my ... continue reading


Milwaukee's Ad Campaign Obviously Judgmental of Co-Sleeping Parents

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin—This week a storm of controversy erupted over a co-sleeping campaign by the City of Milwaukee’s Health Department’s use of ads depicting infants on their stomachs sleeping next to a butcher knife. According to the Department’s website, the awareness campaign is intended to reduce the number of infant death due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and Sudden Unexplained Death in infancy (SUDI) which in Milwaukee accounts for 20% of infant deaths, most of which are caused from unsafe sleep environments.

The campaign took a negative turn, however, after ... continue reading


Fans and Their Moms Celebrate End to Bieber Paternity Suit

LOS ANEGLES, California—Across the country, tween girls and their moms are rejoicing over last week’s news that Mariah Yeater had dropper her paternity suit against pop star Justin Bieber. Yeater withdrew her lawsuit after text messages on her phone revealed the possibility that someone other than Bieber fathered Yeater’s 4-month-old Tristyn Anthony Markhouse Yeater whose lengthy name may yield clues as to the father’s actual identity.

“We’re so thrilled,” said 12 year-old Katie Winthrop of Irvine, California. “We knew it wasn’t true!”

“Never say never,” added Winthrop’s mom, Ashley. “Unless it’s a paternity suit.”

A small but dedicated group of fans in Bismarck, North Dakota were ... continue reading


Texas Governor May Have Addiction to HPV Vaccine

AUSTIN, Texas—A former staffer working for Governor Rick Perry’s election campaign is claiming the presidential hopeful regularly injects himself with the HPV Vaccine. In a phone interview with TMZ, the campaign worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told the reputable news agency that they had witnessed Governor Perry using syringes filled with the HPV vaccine, also known as Gardasil, on numerous occasions.

Asked to comment on the allegations of chronic HPV vaccine use, Governor Perry issued a statement denouncing the claim as being “absolutely false.” However, sources close to the election staff did confirm that... continue reading


Researchers Predict Duggers Will Rank Second to China in Population by 2029

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas—Sociologists at the University of Southern Texas of Plano predicted that the Duggar family will have the world’s second highest population by the year 2029 making it second only to China. The study comes after Michelle Duggar recently announced on the TODAY Show that she is pregnant with her twentieth child.

The USToP’s research looked at births, deaths, related legislation, and likely disaster scenarios, to include a large meteor impacting fifty miles outside of... continue reading


Fathers Seek Therapy After George Clooney Deemed Likely To Be a Bad Dad

NEW YORK CITY, New York—Therapists across the country have reported an increase in the number of fathers suffering from Sudden Identity Crisis Syndrome, or SICS, after remarks claiming actor, George Clooney, would probably be a lousy dad. “I haven’t seen this many Clooney-related SICS cases since Batman and Robin,” remarked Michael Clayton, a New York City therapist thought to be the country’s leading SICS expert. “I’ve had to bring in additional staff to handle the overflow.”

Clooney’s paternal prowess was called into question by... continue reading


Glee National Competition: Of Course They Win. We Didn't Watch This Show for 3 Years to Watch Them Lose

So here’s what you missed on Glee: The New Directions are headed to New York City for Nationals thanks to Puck who stole a garbage truck to break Brittany out of rehab, to keep Santana from being chased by bounty hunters, talk Artie out of being in a street gang, and help Quinn pass Driver’s Ed. But his plan couldn’t bring Mike back to life after dying by electrocution. Meanwhile, Rachel finds her voice again as well as Finn who had locked himself in a closet. Kurt knows how to rock plaid pants and a newsboy cap, while Coach Sylvester says mean things to Mr. Schuester, and, once again, Mercedes and Tina are doing something minor as fill-ins to the cast so they have an even number of cast members. And that’s what you missed on Glee.

Opening Scene: A bus and a garbage truck roll up in front of some theater in New York City, and the Glee Club members all pile out of the vehicles.

Finn: Gee, it’s so …big.

Brittany: That’s what she said.

Santana: Seriously? Why would you say that, Brittany? I thought you liked girls?

Brittany: I do. And I like puppies.

Kurt: Well, you can betchyour Argyle socks this puppy’s going to be one tough competition.

Quinn: Nice plaid pants and hat. Is that what they call a newsboy cap.

Kurt: Why yes it is and thank you for noticing.

Santana: The 1920’s called, and it wants its wardrobe back.

Kurt: Hello, the, uh …the—well I don’t know who called but they left a message asking if you have any other clothes besides that cheerleading uniform. The polyester must be fused to your skin after wearing it for three years.

Rachel: Guys, guys. Stop it. Here we are at Nationals—the biggest achievement of our lives, the final moment before those of us who are seniors will graduate and the writers will take us off the show except for cameo appearances when the ratings are low, and here we are fighting. We’re supposed to be a team.

Finn: Yeah, Rachel’s right guys. We’re gonna get written off the show and make cameo appearances. Also, we’re a team.

Tina: I just wish Mike could be here with us.

Mike: What are you talking about? I’m standing right behind you.

Everyone turns around and looks astonished. Then Mr. Schuester walks around the bus as starts heading for the entrance to the concert hall.

Mr. Schuester: Come on guys. *sniff* We need to get inside and register.

Mercedes: Mr. Schuester, are you okay? You look upset.

Mr. Schuester: No *sniff* I’m fine. [starts crying as he runs into the building]

Artie: He was on the phone with Coach Sylvester. She made fun of his hair, and then he just cracked.

Rachel: I bet if we win that will cheer Mr. Schuester up.

Kurt: And totally validate his existence in life.

Rachel: And that too.

Finn: So if we don’t win…

Puck: Mr. Schue is probably headed for the loony bin.

Mercedes: We’d better get inside

The Glee Club starts to head inside when a piano from four stories up falls right where Mike was standing.

Mike: Wow! Guess I’m just a lucky guy.

* * *

Next Scene: Inside the theater. The Glee Club is behind the stage waiting to take their places as soon as the next school finishes their routine.

Kurt: Artie, what’s the matter? You look more nervous that the rest of us.

Artie: I can’t go out there.

Finn: Why Dude? Don’t tell me you’re getting stage fright now after three years of performing and then all that time in a boy band before auditioning for Glee.

Artie: No. It’s not that. It’s… well, one of the leaders from a rival street gang is out there and he’s going to shoot me on sight.

Santana: That’s not a gang leader—that’s my Uncle, or something.

Brittany: I’m really hungry. Does anyone have a cat?

Puck: You know who’s hungry? Children all over America.

Quinn: Not now, Puck. Gawwwd. You have the worst timing.

Rachel: Stop nagging him, Quinn.

Mercedes: Stop telling us what to do, diva girl!

Finn: Guys, guys—

Kurt: Oh stuff it step-brother-who-only-became-my-step-brother-because-of-a-plot-gimmick-last-year- when-the-ratings-were-horrible.

Finn: No you stuff—

Fight erupts behind stage. Then Mr. Schuester walks up.

Mr. Schuester: Guys, what’s going on? I mean here you are the last chance to sing before half of you get written off the show and we get a bunch of newbies and hope that they are good enough to carry Glee for one more season, and you’re out here fighting like a bunch of school kids. This is it guys. The end of the road, and some of you might end up going back to Broadway, but the rest of you—what do you have? A cameo appearance next year, a lot of commercials if your agent’s any good, maybe even a minor part in a Tyler Perry movie? Right now, you don’t have anything other than this moment on a primetime television program that ends with this series finale.

Finn: Gosh, we’re sorry Mr. Schuester.

Brittany: Yeah, we don’t want to see you in a mental ward.

Mr. Schuester: I don’t want to see you there either, after you find out the only job you’ll ever be able to get is selling cosmetics at Macy’s after this little run on television.

Puck: Mr. Schue, can I say something?

Mr. Schuester: What is it Puck?

Puck: Well, as you all know, I am the cool spokesman for the Child Hunger Ends Here Campaign, and since this is the last you’ll ever hear from me, I am pleeeeeeading with you to get our school signed up for a chance to win that $10,000 grant. There’s lots the school could do, like a canned food drive or just collecting UPC code from select ConAgra brands. There are tons of needy kids out there who don’t know where their next meal is even coming from. It really doesn’t take much.

Mr. Schuester: Puck, I don’t know what’s gotten into you but would you please get out there and sing? The rest of the Glee club started singing the opening number 2 minutes ago.

Puck: Right, Mr. Schue. I’m on it!

…and the New Directions went on to win Nationals, just like everyone expected them to do for the past three years. And while most of them never got steady work as actors ever again, they all lived happily ever after …except Mickey because, oh my gawd, those bastards had him fall off the stage and break his neck.

* * *

Editor’s Note: Although the above content is a parody of the TV show Glee, the intent is to keep readers engaged as opposed to hearing a public service announcement. Child hunger in a America is much more serious than people realize, and you can help ConAgra, Feeding America, and Schools Fight Hunger simply by asking your school to sign up. We hope that you will. Thanks.


Army Strong Stories: Airborne. All The Way Part 2

The following is Part 2 in a series recounting a recent visit to the Army's Airborne Training School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. You can read Part 1HERE.

Army Strong Stories: The Swing Landing Trainer

SSG Webb
At the headquarters building of the 1-507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the unit responsible for the Airborne School, we joined Richy Rosado, our PAO contact who then gave us a quick briefing on the Regiment’s history. Rosado, himself was and 10 year Army veteran, having served in both the Ranger Regiment and Special Forces, details revealed after it was mentioned that not only was I jump qualified, but also that my father served in Special Forces during Vietnam.

Prior to this Rosado and I did what all soldiers typically do when meeting someone for the first time—size the other up until we’re convinced of their legitimacy. It's something of a reflex. From day one, you'er trained to depend on the soldier to your right and left, and naturally you want to know if those standing with you are the real deal. Common history and shared experiences can speed that assessment up, although my long, unruly hair and unshaven face probably didn’t make the best initial impression.

The same drill was repeated upon being introduced several minutes later to Staff Sergeant Webb who had been assigned to escort us around. SSG Webb’s ruddy complexion said he spent a lot of time outdoors, and his solid frame filled out the ACU’s (Army Combat Uniform) he was wearing. The firm handshake confirmed his level of fitness.

Note to self: Do more push-ups.

DC 3 used in WW2 and Beyond
From here, SSG Webb walked us up an asphalted track past the Airborne Walk memorial, which is flanked on either side by a DC-3 and C-119, airplanes relics used by paratroopers in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Along the way, SSG Webb pointed out the various training apparatuses lining Eubanks Field. He spoke in that official tone professional soldier use when talking to civilians until someone mentioned that I was Airborne qualified.

“Oh. You know the drill then,” he said in a suddenly less formal tone, and his face loosened in relief, realizing he didn’t have to explain everything to the same level of detail. The reaction, however, made me feel guilty for not saying anything earlier. I didn’t want to be that obnoxious guy who’s all “been there, done that.” Yet by the same token, one of the biggest annoyances to enlisted soldiers is wasting their time. Officers--the smart ones--try to avoid doing this. Having been both sides of this fence--enlisted and officer--this is the last thing I wanted to do during my visit.

“When did you go through, sir?” SSG Webb asked.

I had to think a moment. “97,” I replied. Fourteen years? It's been that long already?

The four of us chatted for a few moments when a truck rolled up, and out stepped a man who I, at first, mistook for one of the school’s cadre until he introduced himself as Rick Jones, a contractor from California. Jones’s association with the Airborne School is an interesting one. The president of R.J. Manufacturing, a company specializing in producing ropes, Jones was contacted by the Army to develop a long-lasting rope to replace those used on a device at the Airborne School known as the Swing Landing Trainer (SLT).

Watch the Swing Landing Trainer in Action
Jones explains his redesigns to the SLT

The SLT is a contraption I'm familiar with to put it mildly. Its purpose is to simulate the final moments prior to performing a Parachute Landing Fall (PLF). Students stand on a platform roughly ten feet high where they are fitted with a harness that, in my time, was suspended by a set of four ropes hanging from a set of pulleys. Four students on the ground would pull those ropes tight as you jumped off the platform and swung in the air until the class instructor gave the command, at which point the students would release the ropes, thus allowing you to execute a picture-perfect PLF.

The problem with the SLT, though, was that with the thousands of students going through training, the ropes tended to wear out quickly, and the Army turned to Jones for help with something more durable. Jones did the Army one better. After studying the problem, Jones redesigned the entire apparatus by affixing the harness to the four corners of an H-shaped, metal frame suspended by a cable looped through a ceiling-mounted pulley and then run back down to a release lever operated by the instructor.

This may not sound like much, but considering the savings in maintenance costs Jones provided the Army, that money can be applied elsewhere. What’s more, as opposed to the arbitrary heights a student would be dropped from on the old SLT, the new configuration drops students from a consistent height, which has resulted in fewer injury-related withdrawals, particularly among females.

The imposing 250 ft Towers
What immediately strikes you about Jones is his passion for, not only this project, but for the Army as well. His excitement in detailing the finite aspects of the SLT’s engineering, is hard to miss.

“I do have a business to run,” Jones said. “But if I could, I think I’d do this for nothing.”

His assertion is believable considering Jones could’ve provided the Army with new ropes and then charged them for replacements over time. As the company’s owner, he could easily send someone to Ft. Benning to check the SLT’s equipment. Instead, he makes the trips himself, and often helps out with other projects when he’s in town. Later that day he would be climbing to the top of the 250ft tower to assist with a maintenance check. Climbing 250 feet up some metal frame-like structure when technically you don’t have to, demonstrates dedication …in an extreme way.

Next Week: Airborne 5000 and the 34 ft Tower
* * *

To read more about today's soldiers, check out Army Strong Stories, blog posts actually written by the men and women serving in the United States Army.

It's still Movember everyone, please help me as I raise funds for finding a cure to prostate cancer while also growing silly facial hair to prove my dedication. Yes, that's right, I'm asking you to donate a few bucks to the cause. Remember, the ass you save may be your own.

Disclaimer: In accordance with FTC regulations, it is necessary for me to disclose that the Army paid for my travel, lodging, and meal expenses during my trip to Fort Benning, Georgia.


Can Fatherhood Really Change Bad Boys?

If you’ve noticed an increase of Planned Parenthood literature at your local methadone clinic, jailhouse, or AA gathering lately, it might have something to do with Oregon State University’s recently released findings claiming that fatherhood cuts down on smoking, drinking, and crime. The 20-year study, conducted in a series of annual interviews, followed more than 200 at-risk boys from the time they were 12 through to age 31, at the conclusion of which, roughly two-thirds of the participants had fathered childern.

The study also noted that the most dramatic behavioral changes occurred in men who became fathers in their late 20’s and 30’s. The study did not evaluate why age played a factor in relation to the degree of change. However, the researchers suggested that the overall conclusions opened up an opportunity to approach men in such circumstances with positive... read more


Do Dads Have More of a Cultural Foothold Than We Think?

Last week on “Babble Voices”, Catherine Conners moderated an all-star ensemble of parent bloggers, writers, and TV personalities as they prophesized the apocalyptic 2012 end to fathers who will be wiped from the face of the earth by eight-foot tall Amazonian mothers, wielding blood-drenched swords while carrying slumbering infant offspring in the Baby Bjorn baby carriers strapped to their iron breastplate… hold on a second, let me recheck my notes. No, I’m sorry, that’s incorrect. The actual issue being debated was as to whether dads were losing their paternal relevance in age when cultural narratives indicate mothers can raise children free an independent from fathers whose only function in life is a proclivity for tripping over their own junk.

Conners’s thought-provoking question elicited a range of well-articulated opinions from the panel, which was fairly represented by the X and Y chromosomes. Most agreed a ... read more


Army Strong Stories: Airborne. All The Way.

With today being Veteran's Day, I'm kicking off a series of posts about my recent return visit to the Army's Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. It's my hope to convey, not only the amount of training the troops receive, but also the greater sacrifices that soldiers and their families have been making, particularly over the past decade. Today, as you're tweeting, and commenting on your social media sites, please take the time to show your appreciation for the sacrifices our brave men and women have made on our behalf. Thank you.

This past month I had the opportunity to visit the Army’s Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. This was not my first time on the post, which is home to units of the 3rd Infantry Division, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and a host of training course that include Airborne School, Ranger School, and as of recently, the Armor School. During the latter part of my military career, I had been here several times to attend training, the last being the Infantry Captain’s Career Course almost a decade ago.

Much has happened since then—the terrorist attacks on 9-11, the still ongoing war in Afghanistan, the controversial invasion and subsequently prolonged occupation of Iraq—events that have changed everyone’s life in this country at least to some extent. The Army, after much hard fighting and repeated, long-term deployments, has changed too.

So had I. Knowing this brought on a low level uneasiness that I hinted at with my Army liaison, Brianna Gallett on our ride from Atlanta to Benning.

“Just because you’ve been in the Army before doesn’t mean everyone’s going to welcome you with open arms,” I explained. “They’ve been through a lot of hardcore stuff, so they could really give a crap about what I did back in the day.” I thought about one of my good friends from my officer days and the extreme circumstances he faced as a company commander (These experiences were later captured in the book, They Fought For Each Other.

Gallett, who has been working with the Army for a while now, seemed to understand. Over the course of this time, she has developed some strong relationships with a number of soldiers whose character, professionalism, and dedication has fostered a level of respect that’s morphed into an unspoken passion for her work.

“I’m halfway through your friend’s book right now. It’s incredible to see what [soldiers] are going through,” she said. “It really puts things into context. They really were fighting for one another.”

* * *

The next morning I got up early and doubled-checked my canvas backpack to make sure I had all the equipment I might need for the day—pens, paper, camera, flip video, tape recorder, extra batteries. In the Army, this is known as a Pre-Combat Inspection, or PCI. It’s a routine so ingrained in me that even years later, I still do it anytime I leave the house no matter if it’s a short errand or an out-of-town trip. Some things just stick with you.

Downstairs at breakfast, the hotel restaurant was still in the process of opening, and the only other people joining me at that hour were a few guys in their early twenties sporting crew-cuts, a dead giveaway that they were soldiers. Judging by the number of tattoos on their muscled arms and the varied T-shirt announcing their proficiency at aggressively disposing of bad guys, I could tell they were part of one of the Ranger Regiment.

“I do bad things to bad people,” read one shirt with a menacing skull that further punctuated the message. And indeed they do. Members of the Ranger Regiment are the elite of the Army’s light infantry, and their mission is to be a highly skilled shock force. It was the Rangers who fought against mobs of Somali gunman as popularized by the movie, Blackhawk Down, and it was the Rangers who were the first ground troops in Afghanistan, parachuting into Kandahar to secure an airfield and raid Taliban hideouts. Death from above.

Watch this video to see Rangers in action

* * *

The focus of my visit, however, wasn’t the Rangers, but rather the Army’s Basic Airborne School, which all soldiers who are either in the Ranger Regiment, assigned to Airborne designated units, or otherwise directed must pass. The course is three weeks long, each of which marking a different phase. Ground Week, Tower Week, and Jump Week.

These phases are somewhat self-explanatory. After passing the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), students spend the rest of the week learning how to execute the Parachute Landing Fall (PLF), as well as how to exit an airplane correctly. Week two is where the fun begins as you test your fear of heights by jumping from the 34ft Tower. Finally, in week three you qualify for you wings, provided you make five successful jumps from a perfectly good airplane at 1,250ft in both day and night conditions.

A short time after breakfast, Gallett and I drove from the hotel to Ft. Benning where we would me our contact from the Army’s Public Affairs Office (PAO), and then follow him to the Airborne School’s headquarters building for an informal orientation.

“Looking familiar?” Gallett asked as we made our way across the post.

I smiled. “Oh, yeah,” I said. “We used to do PT up and down these streets all the time. Right over there, that’s the barracks I stayed at for the Infantry Officer Basic Course.” These two massive, Spanish tiled Cuartels constructed between 1930 and 1939 formed a U around a large grassy area where my class would hold morning formations for PT and clean our equipment after field training exercises. There was a nostalgic giddiness that came over me, reflecting on those moments of sitting around, BSing with your buddies while stripping layers of carbon off of the various parts of your weapon.

But mixed with familiar was also the new, the most notable of this being the housing. You can tell a lot about how much an Army post cares about families by the condition of buildings they house them in. I’m not going to lie, I’ve seen some run down communities in my days. The townhomes my young family and I were assigned to at Fort Drum, New York had large holes in the exterior walls allowing critters in. At night my (first) wife and I would watch from the living room as rats ran back and forth in the dining room.

That didn’t seem to be the case now from what I could see. Pristine communities with pretty houses lined streets with trimmed yards—a stark contrast from the rundown, one story duplexes that were being torn down in some cases in order to make way for better facilities. It was genuinely impressive.

Next Week: Airborne School and the Swing Landing Trainer

To read more about today's soldiers, check out Army Strong Stories, blog posts actually written by the men and women serving in the United States Army.

Disclaimer: In accordance with FTC regulations, it is necessary for me to disclose that the Army paid for my travel, lodging, and meal expenses during my trip to Fort Benning, Georgia.


Glee Regionals: Singing to Ocean’s 11 and Puck’s Daring Rescue Plan

So here’s what you missed on Glee: The New Directions are on their way to Regionals after their win at Sectionals even though Rachel has no voice, Finn’s missing, Artie’s in a street gang, Mike’s dead—again—and Quinn’s failing Home-Ec. Meanwhile, Santana’s being chased by Dog the Bounty Hunter for violating her parole; Brittany’s in Celebrity Rehab for a cat-eating addiction; and Puck’s facing felony charges for stealing lunch money, only he’s not stealing lunch money; he’s trying to help end child hunger. But all is not lost because Kurt is looking fly in a puffy shirt and vintage Mork and Mindy, rainbow suspender; Sue is plotting something even more diabolical than before for Mr. Schuester; and Mercedes and Tina are doing… something worthy of their roles as supporting cast members. And that’s what you missed on Glee.

Opening scene: Kurt, Rachel, Mercedes, and Tina are in the Glee Club room waiting for practice to start.

Mercedes: It’s great we’re headed to Regionals tomorrow, but there’s only four of us.

Mike walking into the room: Don’t you mean five of us?

Tina: Mike! You’re alive!

Mike: Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?

Just then a loose wire falls from the ceiling, electrocuting Mike until he’s a charred corpse laying on the floor.

Rachel [in sign language]: Oh my gawd! They killed Mikey! You bastards!

Kurt: Hmmm. Yeah, that usually happens later in the story. Guess we’re back to four.

Mercedes: You mean three. The only way Rachel can help is if the judges are all hearing impaired.

Rachel, frowning, [in sign language]: Come on guys, this is serious. What are we going to do?

Mr. Schuester enters the classroom: Sorry I’m late gang; Sue slashed the tires on my Smart Car… Hey, where is everyone? …and what’s wrong with Rachel’s hands? It that a nervous tick, because if it is, my OCD girlfriend—

Tina: It’s sign language Mr. Schu. Rachel can’t talk.

Mr. Schuester: —she’s so cute and adorable, but she makes me wrap my head in plastic wrap before she’ll kiss me—

Kurt: Uh, Mr. Shu? All due respect, we really don’t care about your Saran Wrap serenade right now.

Mercedes: Yeah, Mr. Schu. What are we going to do about Regionals tomorrow?

Mr. Shuester: …you guys should see how many boxes of surgical gloves this woman goes through in a night…

Puck crawling out an air duct: I know what we can do.

Everyone: Puck! What are you doing here?

Puck: The cops wouldn’t let me have my one phone call, so I had to bust out. And that’s what we’re going to do about getting everyone back—bust them out.

Kurt: Cool, like a caper movie! I’m glad I’m wearing the right shirt for it.

Tina: It is pretty fly with those Mork and Mindy, rainbow suspenders.

Mr. Shuester: A caper movie, huh? This give me an idea, guys. We’re going to sing the entire soundtrack to Ocean’s 11.

Mercedes: George Clooney and Brad Pitt sang in those movies?

Mr. Shuester: Before Clooney and Pitt, there was Sinatra, Dino and the Rat Pack. They were the original Ocean’s 11 that broke into the Vegas casinos. And they sang their whole way through it.

Puck: Cool guys …singing? Come on, Mr. Schu.

Mr. Schuester: Uh huh. In fact, there’s a great scene where Sammy Davis Jr. is doing this number while posing as a garbage truck driver.

Mercedes: A garbage truck driver. And I suppose you want me to take that song because I’m black?

Mr. Schuester: ‘Fraid not, Mercedes. I’m giving that one to Puck, because he Jewish.

Puck: A garbage truck! That’s perfect Mr. Schu!

Mr. Schuester: How’s a garbage truck perfect, Puck?

Puck: Don’t you get it? A garbage truck can solve everything—it’s bulletproof so we can rescue Artie from the gang. It’s strong enough to smash through the walls at Celebrity Rehab where Brittany’s at, and it’s big, so we can just run right over Dog the Bounty Hunter when we grab Santana, aaaaaand, Quinn can use it to pass her Driver’s Ed final this afternoon and be back in Glee Club again.

Rachel [in sign language]: What about Finn?

Puck: He’s trapped in the janitor’s closet down the hall. It locks from the inside so we just need to explain the directions for using a doorknob.

Kurt: Well what are we waiting for? Let’s go!

Everyone: Yeah! Come on!

Puck: Hold on.

Mr. Schuester: What is it Puck?

Puck: My phone call—well, Twitter actually.

Mercedes: You’re on Twitter?

Puck: Uhhh-Yeaaaah. @Mark_Salling, maybe you've heard of me? But we have to wait until after a public meeting on Twitter hosted by @ConAgra.

Rachel [in sign language]: Seriously?

Puck: Hey, Ending Child Hunger is important, okay.

Mr. Schuester: Guys he’s right. I’ve been trying to get McKinley signed up, but Coach Sylvester won’t let the school signed up unless I agree to give her the entire $10,000 grant we could get if we win the drawing. When’s the meet up, Puck?

Puck: It’s this Thursday, November 10th at Noon, Eastern time. There’s a hashtag for it too #ChildHunger, but you can easily monitor the chat through this handy deal [Flips open a smart-phone].

Everyone: oooOOOOooo, a smart phone.

Puck: And if you’re thinking about doing it, you can RSVP on Facebook too.

Mr. Schuester: Thanks, Puck. Maybe, next time, you should think about collecting select ConAgra UPC box tops instead of stealing other people’s lunch money.

Puck: Uh, Mr. Schu, I know. I’m the spokesperson for the Child Hunger Ends Here Campaign with Feeding America and Schools Fight Hunger.

Mr. Schuester: Then maybe, helping set up a food drive would be better than scaring kids to give you their lunch money.

Puck: Mr. Schu—

Mr. Schuester: That’s enough, Puck. Now don’t you have a garbage truck to hot-wire? And hey, gang, while Puck’s off at that meet up, we’ve got time to start practicing the Ocean’s 11 soundtrack! And it just so happens I have DVD of it right here!

But at the last minute, right before the Glee Club took the stage at Regionals, Mr. Schuester changed his mind, and the New Directions went with this instead.

What would the judges decide? Stay tuned for the next and final installment of Glee

* * *

Editor’s Note: Although the above content is a parody of the TV show Glee, the intent is to keep readers engaged as opposed to hearing a public service announcement. Child hunger in a America is much more serious than people realize, and you can help ConAgra, Feeding America, and Schools Fight Hunger simply by asking your school to sign up. We hope that you will. Thanks.

Disclaimer: True, I am being compensated for my efforts with ConAgra as part of this campaign, but it in no way sways my opinion about hungry children in need of food.


Blog-In, November 8th, 2011: A Letter to the Presidential Candidates

This blog is in coordination with a number of other parent bloggers who want to communicate their concerns and needs to the political candidates, not only running for the Presidency, but also for Congress. We as parents, regardless of differing political ideologies, should be involved in the democratic process. We are mothers and fathers fed up with the political rhetoric being fed to us, and it's our responsibility to urge potential candidates to focus on the real issues that matter to American families. Even if you don't agree with these policies, that's okay (and I'm not going to get in a pissing match with anyone over what's listed below either), but take the time to find out what issues matter to you and your families, and share them with your party's candidates.

Dear 2012 Presidential Candidates,

We are your future constituents and we are parents.

We are American mothers and fathers and grandparents and guardians. Our families might be the most diverse in the world. Blended and combined in endless permutations, we represent every major religion, political ideology and ethnic culture that exists. We are made from equal parts biology and choice. Our children come to us in every way possible—including fertility miracles, adoption, and remarriage.

Our very modern families embody the freedom that defines America. We embody America. We are rich in diversity, but we are united in our family values. We come together today, with one voice, to express our grave disappointment in the national political discourse.

The 2012 countdown has barely begun and we are already being bombarded with the warmed-over, hypocritical rhetoric of 2008. We are living in a time where 15.1% of Americans now live in poverty, the actual unemployment rate stands at 16%, and we are spending close to $170 billion annually between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan*.

Given the current state of affairs we would expect every candidate to focus on the issues that truly matter: job creation, debt-relief, taxes, education, poverty, and ending the war(s). Instead, it is already clear to us that the conversation has been hijacked, with the goal of further polarizing our nation into a politically motivated and falsely created class-war.

We will not stand for another campaign year in which politicians presume to know what our family values are as they relate to the nation.

To be clear, here are our family values:

Affordable health care, including family planning, for all Americans. We will not tolerate any candidate using the shield of “Choice” to blind us from the issues that really matter. When funding is stripped from organizations like Planned Parenthood, access to sliding-scale health care (including yearly pap smears & mammograms), comprehensive sex education, and family planning is blocked from the poorest of the population.

Access to education, and the ability to actually use it. We want quality, affordable, federally-funded pre-K programs made available in every State, in order to provide an even starting point for all children enrolled in public schools— regardless of the wealth of the district or town they live in.

A reinstatement of regulations for banks and full prosecution for those who engaged in fraudulent lending practices. We want full accountability —investigation, indictment and prosecution— of those individuals and institutions who engaged in fraudulent lending practices and who helped create the massive foreclosures that left many families homeless or struggling to keep their homes.

A return of strict environmental regulations protecting water, air, food, and land that were removed in the last two decades. We want our children to grow up in a world not weighed down by the strains of pollution and global warming. Between BPA in our products, sky-rocketing rates of asthma in kids, questionable hormones in our over-processed food, and more, we need leaders who will put our needs and safety over the desires and profits of large corporations.

Family planning, healthcare, education, economic solvency and environmental safety: these are our national family values.

Candidates who demonstrate the ability to understand the gravity of these issues, and their impact on our families, and who can provide actual, viable solutions to these problems will garner our support and our votes.

We believe in this democratic system of ours, and we will continue to use our voices and our votes to see that it reaches its fullest potential.


Your future constituents,

The mothers & fathers of America

If you would like to forward this letter to your elected officials, you can find their contact info at the following links:

The House

The Senate


iHate iPlutocracy: Why My Kids Don't Need iCrap

Steve Jobs, wherever you are, if you can read this, please don't take offense; I really do appreciate all that cool stuff you've built. Actually, this has more to do with how we tend to turn popular consumer goods into symbols that proclaim our financial status.

It's nothing new, really. We've been doing it ever since the first Neanderthal bragged to his homo erectus co-workers about how his new iRock5 could spark fires when synced to his iRock Touch. It may have been just a lot of grunting, but everyone around the tar pit knew he thought of himself as being more evolved.

My issue, rather, is that owning the newest, coolest gadget does not elevate someone to a level where they're somehow better than everyone else. This is a concept I've been trying to instill in my children, despite the tidal wave of influences to the contrary.

The primary method for this is... (continue reading)


Glee: Kurt Can't Sing Coldplay and Puck's Really Not Stealing Lunch Money

So here’s what you missed on Glee: The New Directions competed at Sectionals, even though Brittany was at the hospital, Santana landed in jail, Artie’s had to pass his gang initiation, Finn’s got locked in the mop closet on his way to his MENSA entrance test, Rachel blew out her voice in a 48-hour sing-a-thon, Quinn failing and could get kicked out of show choir, Kurt rocks a chartreuse cashmere sweater, Mercedes and Tina are doing… something, Sue is planning something evil for Mr. Schuester, Mike got killed by a walk-by Slushy to the face, and Puck was stuck in detention for stealing kids’ lunch money; only he’s not taking lunch money, he’s tackling the issue of childhood hunger. And that’s what you missed on Glee.

Opening scene: Kurt, Mercedes, and Tina are sitting together and talking at the school’s crowded outdoor cafeteria.

Tina: I can’t believe we actually won Sectionals.

Mercedes: Fu’realz. I didn’t know you could be disqualified for that thing that got them disqualified.

Kurt: Well, I don’t care. A win’s a win, and I’ll take it. Nobody said it had to be pretty.

Tina: Yeah, I guess. And speaking of pretty, that chartreuse sweater is definitely a win, Kurt.

Kurt: Oh, thank you, Tina. I don’t know why but it always makes me want to sing something by Coldplay.

A full band suddenly appears in the background and starts playing the first few measures to Viva La Vida. Kurt steps up on the cafeteria table and opens his mouth—.

Mercedes: Oh helz no. Ain’t nobody singin’ any Coldplay up in here. There’s gay, Kurt, and then there’s gay, gay. Besides, we gotta get to Glee practice.


Match cut to Glee Club practice room where Santana, and Brittany are waiting when Tina, Mercedes, and Kurt walk in.

Mercedes: So how was hard time in the big house, Santana?

Santana: Oh, please. I was in for like two hours. They couldn’t prove I did anything to that cat—Brittany ate all the evidence.

Brittany: Yeah, my spirit guide and I are now one.

At that moment, Mr. Schuester walks into the room. There are patches of hair missing from his head.

Mr. Schuester: Alright. Listen up. We dodged a bullet at Sectionals since that school get disqualified for doing that thing that they got disqualified for, so we— [looks around the room] Where is everyone?

Brittany: Mr. Schuester? Why do you have patches of hair missing? Did you eat a cat too?

Mr. Schuester [feeling top of head]: Because, …because Coach Sylvester switched my mousse with Nair. But that doesn’t matter right now. We need to focus on Regionals, so why isn’t everyone here?

Santana: My cousins said Artie got into M18—they’re using his wheelchair for drive-bys

Kurt: Finn was taking a test for MENSA. That was three days ago, and no one’s seen him since.

Mercedes: Rachel’s probably off by herself randomly singing some sappy show tune in the auditorium.

Match cut to auditorium where Rachel is looking around confused.

Rachel: Hello? …Is the anyone here from the school band?

Janitor [walking past]: Trig test. They said something about not repeating 10th grade again from missing too many classes.

Match cut back to rehearsal room

Mr. Schuster: What about Quinn and Mike?

Santana: Quinn’s academically ineligible—she failed the Planned Parenthood section of Home Ec.

Tina: And Mike’s right there. [points to doorway]

Mike waves, right before a football player throws a red slushy in his face . Mike’s head explodes and he drops onto the floor.

Kurt: Oh my GAWD! They killed Mikey! You bastards!.

Mr. Schuster: Okay, and Puck’s in detention for stealing lunch money. Great.

Just then Puck steps over Mike’s body and enters the rehearsal room.

Puck: No I’m not Mr. Schu. I keep telling you, I’m helping ConAgra and Feeding America in their efforts to End Child Hunger.

Mr. Schuster: Suuuure, Puck. Whatever you say.

Puck: I’m not kidding, Mr. Shu. Childhood hunger is a serious issue, and the people I’m working with don’t really like that we’re doing all these parodies even though it’s getting people’s attention.

Santana: Okay, Puck, let’s just say you are some sorta spokesperson for this. Prove it to us.

Puck: You want proof? Did you know that poverty in the suburbs is worse now than in the inner city? And did you also know that 21 million kids are dependent on school meals because they don’t have food at home. And did you also know that nearly 1 in 5 kids doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Kurt: I gotta admit, that was a pretty convincing use of facts.

Brittany: Now I feel bad being part of a group called the Cheer-i-os now.

Mecedes: So what can we do?

Puck: The first thing is to get your school signed up. And then there’s all kinds of other stuff—your school can start a garden or food pantry. You can volunteer at local hunger outreach programs, raise funds, collect UPC codes from select ConAgra products, and you can start a hunger awareness program. Did you know that the number of kids in Houston who don’t know where their next meal is coming from is 27.2%! And when you sign your school up, it’s eligible for a $10,000 grant to be used for a school fieldtrip!

Mr. Schuster: Wow. Childhood hunger is something we don’t really think enough about. I don’t know why you’re telling us about Houston, but you’re energy’s great, Puck. Guys, we could learn a thing or two from Puck’s enthusiasm as we go to Regionals next week. [Turns back to Puck]. And Puck, you’ve been warned once, stop stealing lunch money from other kids. Now grab that guitar and sing us a solo.

Editor’s Note: Although the above content is a parody of the TV show Glee, (in which Mark Salling, the campaign’s spokesman, plays Puck), the intent is to keep readers engaged as opposed to hearing a public service announcement. Child hunger in a America is much more serious than people realize, and you can help ConAgra, Feeding America, and Schools Fight Hunger simply by asking your school to sign up. We hope that will. Thanks.

Disclaimer: I am being compensated for my efforts with ConAgra as part of this campaign


Are Dad Bloggers Attacking Father Stereotypes or Windmills?

Editorial note: This is how I stir up crap right before Blog World in a few weeks.

Remember Don Quixote, the middle-aged country gentlemen who lost touch with reality and charged off to fight what he thought were giants, but what were really windmills? (Do schools even teach this anymore?) Sometimes I wonder if us dad bloggers aren’t like Don Quixote when we get all up in arms about stereotyped fathers in the media. Are we mistaking a windmill for a giant?

Dopes Are Tropes

Am I implying the “dumb dad” shtick and other negative stereotypes don’t exists? Not at all. However, pointing to the demigod-like fathers of the 50’s as the gold standard for pop culture paternity is a poor argument for demanding a modern reboot. In a sense, these depictions of infallible fathers were the least realistic of them all. Furthermore, to say that TV dads have only declined since is a faulty assumption too because for every bad dad shown over the ensuing decades, a good one can be found to counter it. Even today, for every Tony... continue reading


Occupy Wall Street & Reaction to The Gilded Age

Saint Bradley-Martin
In February of 1897, rich New York socialites, Bradley and Cornilia Martin, hosted an over-the-top costume ball at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. What's the significance behind this? For starters, the United States had been suffering through a major economic depression (later referred to as The Long Depression) that had begun in 1873 and included two bank panics (1873 and 1893). Contrasted against the country's current condition, the Bradley-Martin Ball was more than just ill-timed; it was a slap in the face to the American populace which had been bearing the brunt of economic hardships for what would eventually span over two decades.

It's interesting to note that the Long Depression wasn't just endemic to the United States, but was in fact, a major global economic crisis plaguing all of Europe and Russia as well. (It's likely that the rest of the globe was affected, but financial record keeping in these regions was sketchy to non-existent.)

How did that whole mess get started? Funny you should ask. I'll skip the finer details, but basically it boiled down to inflationary investing in Germany following the Franco-Prussian War while here in the United States, the cause stemmed from over-building by the railroad companies as well as rampant corporate and congressional fraud, best personified by the the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal in 1872 (congressmen were taking bribes from the Crédit Mobilier of America Construction company.)

Starting to sound familiar? Oh, but wait, it gets better!

Following sharp declines in the construction, railroad, and manufacturing industries, the situation started to unravel pretty quickly. In one year, foreign investors sold off tens of millions worth of American securities in anticipation of us dropping the gold standard. 11 major New York banks and over 100 state banks collapsed, defaulting on over 32 million dollars in debt. Unemployment soared to 7.5% nationally, and over 13% in the Northeast where the United States's industrial base was located. And even when the Long Depression was technically "over," conditions didn't exactly get better as the country still experienced economic uncertainty off and on again for a period totaling nine and a half years! Awesome!

So, with this as the backdrop, Mrs. Bradley-Martin, as the story goes, got up one morning and commented over breakfast that, "Gee golly, things kinda seem a bit down out there. Maybe we should have a concert or something to raise a little money--ooo wait! Better idea--costume ball! That will get the economy going! Now, where's the butler with my eggs Benedict?"

I paraphrased that somewhat, but her line errant logic wasn't an exaggeration. Bradley-Martin, god's honest truth, reasoned that with all the costumes, decorations, food, etc. needed for her ball, paying for all that stuff should be enough to get people back to work and recharge the railroads, the steel factories, and the banks. Today, Mrs. Bradley-Martin would deemed the Patron Saint of Job Creators by FOX News with Ann Coulter kneeling to kiss her holiness's feet.

"You sure do gotta pretty set a tights!"
And how did the residents of New York, 25% of whom were unemployed, react to Saint Bradly-Martin's noble offer? A fairly angry crowd tried to burn down the Waldorf a few days prior to the event. I'm sure Bradley-Martin and other members of the "New York 400" were quite miffed on the night of the ball as they dodged the ungrateful crowd that the Assistant Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Bully!) and his lads were trying to keep under control outside of the hotel.

In spite of the rabble's ingratitude, poor Mrs. Bradley-Martin had done the best she could to get America back on its feet by spending $400,000 ($9.4 million today) of her own hard-earned cash, plus another $100,000 ($2.5 mill) on the diamonds wore with her blinged-out Martha Washington get up. Incidentally, these figures don't include what the guests spent on their costumes. New York Congressman Oliver Belmont, for example, showed up in a full suite of gold-inlaid armor that he could barley walk in worth over $250,000 in today's currency. Sweeeet!

John Jacob Astor as Henry IV
According to the news media of the day, the party was a smashing success, but then again, when has the popular "news" media ever really gotten it right? Smashing success though it might have been by socialite standards,the real world didn't see it as such. The backlash over the gawdy display was severe enough that the Bradley-Martins took off to their other home in England where they stayed for quite a long, long time. Oh, right, and the New York Tax Authority doubled the Bradley-Martin's (and a few other attendees) property tax almost immediately after the festivities. Huh, well, whaddaya know. It is said, that Mrs. Bradley-Martin was sincerely baffled by the negative reactions. Her little party, though, marked the end of The Gilded Age, a term coined by Mart Twain as a satirical reference to gilding an object with a thin layer of superficial gold. Spot on, Mr. Twain.

What does this have to do with today? My first thought would be a lot, considering that from 2007 to 2009 Wall Street profits were up 720% while unemployment also rose 102% and home equities dropped 35%, or that the median net worth of an American family is around $120,000 while the median net worth of a member of Congress in $912,000 (citation). So, then, should it be surprising that crowds of average citizens are coordinating to Occupy Wall Street and other cities? Frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner.

People are angry and frustrated, and I'm one of them. We live in a period beset with greed, excess, and plain silliness enabled by an impotent government that's further convoluted by corporate self-interest. And it will stay that way if we let it. Am I advocating that we "burn down the Waldorf?" Well, not literally, but I have to admit, if the Kardashian throw another wedding, I swear, I might just walk into a SEARS and torch their entire gilded clothing line.

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Glee Sectionals: McKinley High vs. St. Mary's Preparatory School for Bad Life-Choices Involving Kevin Federline

“So here’s what you missed on Glee: Quinn thinks about quitting Glee Club after winning McKinley High’s “Parent of the Year” award. Rachel sings every Barbara Streisand song from the movie Yentl protest of the President’s policy on Israel. Artie accidentally joins the notorious El Salvadorian gang, 18th Street. Finn applies for membership in Mensa in order to upstage Brittany after she eats a stray cat. Puck vows to end child hunger. Kurt wears a vest that makes the color yellow look fabulous. Mercedes and Tina are doing …something. And Mr. Schuester tries to control his pre-Sectional jitters by buying muscle relaxers from Sue Sylvester, but she replaces them with Canadian Viagra. And that’s what you missed on Glee.”

* * *

Opening scene: On the day prior to sectionals competition, Finn, Artie, Mike and Tina are waiting for their fellow Glee Club members in the rehearsal room before class starts.

Artie: Hey, Finn. How’d your entrance test for Mensa go?

Finn: Pretty good. I think I spelled my name wrong, but after that it was cake …and a lot of weird shapes lined up in patterns. Way easier than Brittany eating that cat though. (Finn notices Artie’s face) Dude, what’s up with that tattoo?

Artie: I guess it means I’m a full member of 18th Street now.

Finn: Wasn’t 18th Street that boy band you were gonna join? Dude, they must be hardcore.

Artie: Yeah. I thought it was a boy band when I saw the ad in the paper, but turns out it was a violent El Salvadorian street gang. I thought they were gonna kill me, but one of their guys told me they’ve been gettin’ alotta flak for not having enough handicap members. It’s not too bad though. They use me to run over their victims after shooting them in the leg.

Finn (looking at Mercedes and Tina sitting behind him): What are you two doing?

Mercedes and Tina (simultaneously): …something.

Quinn walks in and starts inspecting all the electrical outlets.

Finn: Why are you doing that, Quinn?

Quinn: I’m making sure the room is baby-proofed. If McKinley High thinks of me as “Parent of the Year” then I better live up to their expectations. And that means you gleeksters better be prepared for kids or I’m out of here.

Artie: Where’s you baby at, Quinn?

Quinn: Probably with Mr. Schuester’s nut-job of an ex-wife. Quinn looks around: Speaking of nut jobs, where’s your girlfriend at, Finn?

Artie: Can’t you hear her in the hallway? Rachel’s turned political extremist in protest of Obama’s policies towards Israel. She’s vowed to keep singing Barbara Streisand's entire Yentl soundtrack unless the U.S. vetoes the Palestinian application for statehood.

Finn: Yeah. She’s already on the third iteration of “Where Is It Written.” I love Rachel, but right now I want to strap dynamite to my chest and run strait at her. She sounds like a cross between Dina Shore and the Sham Wow guy.

Kurt walks into class sporting a fabulous yellow vest.

Quinn: I wouldn’t normally compliment you, but that’s a fabulous yellow sweater vest, Kurt.

Kurt: Isn’t it? Ellen DeGeneres has an ebay site. Love it.

Mr. Schuester shuffles into the classroom, but doesn’t quite seem himself.

Finn: Mr. Schuester, are you okay? You’re walkin’ kinda funny.

Mr. Schuester: I’m fine Finn, I just took some of Coach Sylvester’s pills to relax a bit. …wait where’s the rest of the class?

Artie: Santana got suspended for killing the lunch lady’s cat. Brittany’s having her stomach pumped at the hospital. And Rachel’s using her voice to negotiate peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Schuester: That’s Rachel? I thought that was Dina Shore and the Sham Wow guy’s making a love-child together. Where’s Mike and Puck at?

At that moment in the hallway just outside the classroom, a football player throws a red slushy in Mike’s face causing his head to explode.

Finn: Oh my GAWD! They killed Mikey! You bastards!

Mr. Schuester: What about Puck? How are we supposed to win at Sectionals tomorrow against St. Mary’s Preparatory School for Bad Life-Choices Involving Kevin Federline without Puck?

Puck (steps over Mike’s headless body and strolls into class): I told you last week Mr. Schu, I’m helping ConAgra and Feeding America to end child hunger.

Mr. Schuester: Yeah, Puck, I know you said that, but we thought that was your way of saying you were stealing other kids' lunch money. We didn't think you were serious.

Puck: Oh, I’m very serious, Mr. Schu. Did you know that 21 million children depend on free or reduced price school meals? And now poverty is more rampant in the suburbs than it is in the city or rural areas?

Finn: It’s true. That’s what happened to that blond kid with the octo-lips from last year.

Artie: Really? I thought the writers got rid of him.

Finn: Well, kinda. The writers did want to get rid of him so they just made him poor.

Puck: You see, Mr. Schu? Hungry kids are even here at McKinley too. But schools can help out by going to the Schools Fight Hunger website and signing up to have a UPC label or food drive using specific ConAgra products listed on their website.

Mr. Schuester: Wow, Puck. I’m impressed. With that kinda spirit, I know we can win tomorrow at Sectionals. Oh, and look, the school band has suddenly materialized from thin air, so that means we can practice now.

* * *

At Sectionals, the show choir from St. Mary’s Preparatory School for Bad Life-Choices Involving Kevin Federline performs first, and blows away the judges…

Then there's a dramatic silence and the McKinley High’s Glee Club takes the stage…

Mr. Schuester fidgets with his hair and keeps his legs crossed. Coach Sylvester glares at Will Schuester and his Glee Club as they get sing and dance their hearts out. At the end of the performance, the judges exchange glances and compare notes.

Then Puck steps out onto the front of the stage and takes the microphone. “Listen up everyone; don’t forget that Child Hunger Ends Here!

The crowd goes wild. But who will the judges select to go on to Regionals? Find out in a few weeks...

Disclosure: As part of the Child Hunger Ends Here Campaign, ConAgra compensated me for this post, but it in no way affected my opinion on feeding hungry children or the cast of Glee.

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