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FIRST “CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS” MISSION FOR KIDS: CONVINCING PARENTS TO LET THEM BUY IT

TWEEN: Do you think I’m mature for my age?
DAD: I don’t know. Why do you ask?
TWEEN: Because I was just thinking about the way I help take out the trash, put my clothes in the hamper, brush my teeth at night, wash behind my ears when I shower, do my homework most nights without being told, and sometimes even go to bed early the night before I have a big test, and I wanted to know if you thought that was a reflection of how mature I am.
DAD: Uh… well… I guess if you put it that way, then “Yes.”
TWEEN: “Yes” I’m mature?
DAD: Yes, you’re mature.
TWEEN: Great.

5 minutes later:

TWEEN: Can you take me to the video game store?
MOM: Why?
TWEEN: I need to get “Call of Duty: Black Ops.”
MOM: You mean that ultra-violent first-person shooter a lot of parents have been concerned about?
TWEEN: Yes.
MOM: But isn’t it rated “M” for “Mature?”
TWEEN: It is rated “M,” but Dad just said I’m mature, so it’s okay.
MOM: Uh… No.

SPENDING $114.87 ON "RASHOMON"

Do you get Netflix? If you do, it was probably Blockbuster’s ridiculous late fees that got you to sign up. But as outrageous as they were, at least you could always say you lost the movie and just pay the replacement cost.

Not so with Netflix.

If you’re like most people, your Netflix queue is a mix of movies you want to watch and movies you should watch because they come up in casual conversation and you’re the only one who hasn’t seen them, which makes you feel stupid.

The problem is that your Netflix cue can’t monitor your mood, which means that when that red and white envelope arrives and you tear it open, there’s a better than 95% chance whatever’s inside won’t be what you feel like watching tonight.

Or the next night.

Or the next night.

Or the next night.

So you say “I’ll watch it over the weekend” and set it on the DVD player, where it sits for three months, picked up occasionally but never watched, until you finally admit to yourself that you’re just not going to get to it anytime soon and send it back.

(And maybe you even rate it, too, so your cue doesn’t think you’re a film loser, either.)

But then a few months later, you’re out somewhere and everybody starts talking about movies and, once again, the movie you didn’t get around to watching comes up, and you’re — once again — singled out.

THEM: You’ve really never seen it?
YOU: No. But I want to. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
THEM: But it’s so good.
YOU: I know, I just don’t usually have time for movies.
THEM: But you told me last week you watched the entire Jim Carrey collection.
YOU: Uh…
THEM: Again.

So you add it back to your queue.

And then one day it arrives in your mailbox and, naturally, you don’t feel like watching it tonight, tomorrow, or the next day, so you stick it on top of your DVD player, where it sits for three months before you send it back, take it off your queue, and shortly thereafter find yourself — as usual — the lone member of the “I’ve never actually seen that” club.

Repeat this every 18 months or so for five or six years, and factor in the cost of even the most basic Netflix membership, and you end up spending $114.87 for something you could buy new at Target for $19.95.

(Though, of course, even if you did buy it at Target you still wouldn’t get around to watching it.)

——————————————

Movies you should watch but probably won’t ever get around to if you haven’t seen them by now:

  • 12 Angry Men (1957)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • The 400 Blows (1959)
  • 8 ½ (1963)
  • A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
  • The African Queen (1952)
  • All About Eve (1950)
  • Annie Hall (1977)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
  • The Battle of Algiers (1967)
  • The Bicycle Thief (1948)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • Blow Up (1966)
  • Blue Velvet (1986)
  • Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  • Breathless (1960)
  • Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  • Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  • Casablanca (1942)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • The Crowd (1928)
  • Double Indemnity (1944)
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  • Duck Soup (1933)
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • The Graduate (1967)
  • Grand Illusion (1938)
  • In the Mood For Love (2001)
  • Ikiru (1952)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • King Kong (1933)
  • The Lady Eve (1941)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962))
  • M (1931)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Modern Times (1936)
  • Network (1976)
  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  • Paths of Glory (1958)
  • Princess Mononoke (1999)
  • Psycho (1960)
  • Raging Bull (1980)
  • Raise the Red Lantern (1992)
  • Rashomon (1951)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
  • Roman Holiday (1953)
  • The Searchers (1956)
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • The Sound of Music (1965)
  • Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  • The Third Man (1949)
  • This is Spinal Tap (1984)
  • Titanic (1997)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  • Ugetsu (1953)
  • Vertigo (1958)
  • White Heat (1949)
  • Wild Strawberries (1957)
  • Wings of Desire (1988)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • The World of Apu (1959)
  • Yojimbo (1961)

KIDS, TV AND THE S-WORD: TIME TO BRING BACK THE NETWORK CENSOR?

One of the most popular feeds on twitter is “$#*! My Dad Says,” which is a collection of the irreverent, biting, very-funny comments 29-year-old Justin’s 74-year-old dad makes. It has close to 1.4 million followers and is being turned into a sitcom by CBS starring William Shatner.

Maybe.

A national family-advocacy group called the Parents Television Council is threatening an “unrelenting campaign” against the show’s advertisers and CBS’s affiliates if the show airs because they don’t like the idea of a show named “$#*! My Dad Says” being on at 8:30 pm.

(They probably don’t like the idea of the show being on at all, as well — these are the same gate-keepers of morality who don’t recommend the new Shrek movie for kids under seven because it includes “toilet humor, with Shrek’s children belching, farting, pooping their pants and urinating on Shrek,” which, as even the most conservative parents know, is exactly what kids under age seven think is funny1.)

It’s not like CBS is actually going to use the s-word in the title, of course; instead, they plan to substitute the all-purpose curse-word stand-in “$#*!”

Which means the problem is… what exactly?

Because CBS broadcasts its programing over the public airwaves, the FCC insists (more or less, depending on who’s in charge) that it and other broadcasters adhere to a higher standard of decency than, say, every other media outlet in the known universe, because there’s a reasonable (though infinitely small) chance some unsuspecting innocent will accidentally turn on the TV and be offended:

CHILD: I just saw something on TV I don’t understand.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: What was it?
CHILD: It was a promo for a new show called “$#*! My Dad Says.”
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: You saw that on TV!?!?
CHILD: Why? Is that bad?
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: Of course it’s bad: “$#*!” is a swear word.
CHILD: Really? I’ve never heard of that one before.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: Well… technically “$#*” isn’t a swear word, it’s a substitute for a swear word, but it’s still offensive.
CHILD: Which swear word is it a substitute for?
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT:That’s just it: it could be any one of ‘em — though usually if you think about it you can figure it out.
CHILD: Oh.. now I know.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT:Exactly. Now you go wash your mouth out with soap while I write a letter to FCC to complain about the way the liberal media is corrupting our youth.

There’s nothing wrong with parents protecting their kids from what they feel are bad influences, but isn’t it kind of silly to make such a big deal out of something like this? If for no other reason than the fact that there probably isn’t a kid left in this country who doesn’t already know the s-word, the a-word and probably the f-word, too.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I know my kids know them because (a) they are sometimes in the car with me when I drive and (b) I think it’s important they have a full and complete grasp of the English language, including words that are inappropriate, which is why I sat them down one night and taught them.2)

Besides, when you think about it, television doesn’t need to be censored because televisions come with a remote control and a power button.

Click.

Click.

Click.

Isn’t that easier than a national boycott?

(That said, remotes can be so confusing and complicated it is possible somebody somewhere can’t turn their TV off, change the channel, lower the volume or remove the annoying on-screen overlay because they haven’t managed to crack the secret combination of input/source buttons even this most basic level of functionality can sometimes require. But that’s the fault of the manufacturer, not the media.)

Rather than being bad, in fact, a situation like “$#*! My Dad Says” is actually good because it’s a potential springboard for a family discussion about the the way personal beliefs shape behavior, and how these truths help us decide appropriate from inappropriate, right from wrong and good from bad.

(Though, admittedly, given the time and effort that kind of thing would involve, a national boycott would probably be easier and less time-consuming.)

So what do concerned parents do about “$#*! My Dad Says”?

Just explain in clear and graphic terms exactly “$#*!” is:  punctuation — because if the fear is that exposed kids will suddenly start slinging obscenities willy nilly, nothing will kill that impulse more quickly than a long, drawn-out lesson in grammar:

PARENT: Have you ever wondered why they use “$,: “#,” “*,” “@” and “!” to denote obscenities instead of, say, a semi-colon?
WOULD-BE FOUL-MOUTHED CHILD: No more, please!
PARENT: Sorry, we can’t stop now: we haven’t discussed your reading assignments from The Elements of Style,  Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and The Mother Tongue yet.
WOULD-BE FOUL-MOUTHED CHILD: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

And as for the show itself, the only reason to ban, condemn or make it the focus on an “unrelenting campaign” is if it isn’t funny.3

Stay tuned.

__________________________________________

1 If anyone should be offended by this it’s parents, because they know from first-hand experience there’s nothing funny about pee, poop or puke, especially when it’s just been splattered all over you.

2 Given the current political climate, I’d venture that liberal households aren’t the only ones where kids are getting an education in vulgarities, either:

CHILD: Where are you going?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: There’s a Tea Party Rally at the park.
CHILD: What’s a Tea Party?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: The Tea Party movement is a grass-roots effort whereby patriotic Americans join together to save our country from Obama, Pelosi and the rest of those f-ing liberals.
CHILD: GASP! You said “f-ing.”
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: I know, but it’s not my fault — liberals make me so mad I just can’t control myself.
CHILD: You still have to wash your mouth out with soap though, right?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: I’ll be glad to, too, ’cause everything that’s happening to our country right now leaves such a bad taste in my mouth, soap would be an improvement.

3 If anything should be banned, condemned, or made the focus of an “unrelenting campaign,” it should be ads for erectile dysfunction that air during shows kids probably shouldn’t be watching with their parents but do, because trying to explain that is really, really uncomfortable.

LITTLE IRRITATIONS: THE PAPER CUTS OF EVERYDAY LIFE

  • Door dings.
  • Trash bins that are supposed to be animal-proof but aren’t.
  • Dropped calls.
  • FEDEX drivers who double-park.
  • Stores that post the wrong hours online.
  • Meter maids.
  • Parents who bring their kids to daycare when they’re sick.
  • Traffic.
  • Drivers who make phone calls instead of turning.
  • Construction delays.
  • Drivers who don’t wait their turn at 4-way stops.
  • Tele-marketers who claim they don’t have to heed the “Do Not Call” registry because you’re a customer of their subsidiaries’ off-shore cousin’s shell company.
  • SUVs parked in compact spaces.
  • Chatty baristas who don’t seem to care/realize there are now 37 people in line.
  • The drive-thru (especially McDonald’s).
  • Golf.
  • People who don’t pick up after their pets.
  • News promos that use the words “deadly,” “outbreak,” and “protect yourself” when all they’re actually talking about is the flu.
  • Parents who call before 8:30 am.
  • Activities that are canceled or postponed by e-mail a few hours before they’re supposed to start.
  • Radio stations that have 25 minutes of commercials every hour.
  • Things at the supermarket that are still on the shelves days, weeks or months after their expiration date.
  • Cable-company DVRs.
  • Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi.
  • Universal remotes.
  • Spellcheck.
  • When your kids hide your keys.
  • Saran Wrap.

If Eskimos have a thousand words for snow, shouldn’t we have a thousand words for life’s little irritations?

For most of us, a day doesn’t go by that God, the universe, fate, karma, quantum physics or all-of-the-above don’t needle our emotional well-being, usually when we’re running late, just had an argument with our spouse or suddenly realized we forgot to get a babysitter for tomorrow night so we could go to dinner and a movie and finally get a break from all this crap.

It doesn’t help that these cosmic paper cuts never seem to be isolated one- offs, either, but instead come in sets, like celebrity deaths and unsolicited parenting suggestions from opinionated strangers – it’s not just the long line at Starbucks, it’s having them mess up your order twice and then spilling your extra-hot, half-caf hazelnut mocha down the front of your shirt as you pull out of the parking lot.

The impact of these little irritations – and they are little, even if we can’t figure out how not to sweat them – increases exponentially as the day progresses, to the point where we find ourselves cursing some 82-year-old women with a walker because she’s not crossing the street fast enough, or threatening to ground our kids for the rest of their natural lives if they EVER give the dog another peanut butter and jelly sandwich again, or contemplating divorce because our spouse forgot (again) to fill up the car when it got close to empty, leaving us in the position of having to coast down the hill to the Shell.

Psychologists say the only reason any of this stuff annoys us the way it does is because it reminds us that we’re not really in control (no matter how thoroughly we’ve managed to convince ourselves otherwise) and that ultimately mastering the moment isn’t nearly as important as just being in it, regardless of whether that moment is good, bad, satisfying, awful, rewarding, stressful, happy, sad, amusing, aggravating, etc.

But as nice as that sounds (in a zen-like, higher-consciousness kind of way), who has the time to learn how to do that? Or the energy? Or the patience?

If learning to live in the moment can’t be accomplished in one 30-minute session two times a week, in the car on the drive home from work, or during one of those rare moments when every kid in the house is quietly pre-occupied, then it just becomes one more thing we don’t have time to squeeze in but try to do anyway – or would try to do if we didn’t have to wait for the knucklehead in the car ahead of us to get off the phone and go.

Note: It’s easy to complain about life’s little irritations, but it’s also important to point out that we could probably eliminate entire categories of irritation if we really, really wanted to – just moving to a remote cabin in Montana and living off the land, for example, would instantly rid us of driving-, shopping-, neighbor-, school- and work-related annoyances (though it would probably more than make up for that by adding starvation-, bear attack-, hypothermia-, and isolation-related irritations, so maybe that’s not such a good trade-off. Plus, let’s not forget that Unabomber Ted Kaczynski moved to a remote cabin in Montana so he could get away from it all and look what happened to him).

WASHING THEIR MOUTHS OUT WITH VIRTUAL SOAP

PARENT: Hey… why’s your computer off? I thought you were on that internet kid’s club?
KID: I was. But I got kicked out.
PARENT: What?!?!?! Why?
KID: Well… you know how you tell me I shouldn’t say bad words?
PARENT: Yeah.
KID: You never told me I shouldn’t type them, either.
PARENT: Oh.
KID: You’re not gonna wash my mouth out with soap like your mom did, are you?
PARENT: No, that only happened when we saida bad word.
KID: Good, ‘cause that sounds gross.
PARENT: It was. But I am gonna make you get some soap and scrub under your fingernails.
KID: Why? Because I used them to type a bad word?
PARENT: No, because I can see they’re dirty.

FACEBOOK ANXIETY SUPPORT GROUP

  • What do you do if you just don’t get it?
  • Does that mean you’re hopelessly out of touch?
  • Or that you have better things to do?
  • If you do sign up now, doesn’t that mean the whole thing is that much closer to being uncool? And that everybody under 25 is already moving on to something else?
  • What if you sign up and nobody wants to be your friend?
  • What if you sign up and nobody wants to be your friend except people you don’t want to be friends with?
  • If somebody invites you to be their friend but you have no idea who they are, should you still accept?
  • And if you don’t accept, should you explain why?
  • Will they hate you?
  • If somebody doesn’t accept your friend request, should you take it personally?
  • If you do take it personally even though you haven’t talked to the person in 10 or 15 years, is that strange?
  • What if your boss wants to be your friend?
  • Or your creepy neighbor?
  • Or the person who got drunk at the last neighborhood block party and tried to hit on you?
  • If you sign your parents up because you think they will get a kick out of it but then they start posting updates you find embarrassing, stupid or just a huge waste of time, will they cut you out of their will if you unfriend them?
  • If you run into somebody you’ve unfriended at the supermarket, do you have to ignore them?
  • Will they ignore you?
  • When you create your profile, should you make it public or private?
  • If it’s public, how much personal information should you share?
  • If it’s private, how much personal information is too much personal information?
  • Can you exaggerate?
  • Is everybody else exaggerating?
  • If you look at the photos of your friends from high school to see if they are fatter than you are before including your own photo, does that make you a shallow person?
  • If you look at the photos of your friends from high school to see if they are fatter than you are before photoshopping your own photo, does that make you a bad person?
  • If you don’t post very often, will your friends think you’re just too boring?
  • If you post all the time, will your friends think you’re just too bored?
  • What if your updates are stupid?
  • What if your updates are pointless?
  • What if your updates are way too long and personal?
  • What if nobody ever responds to your posts? Ever? Does that mean you’re a loser?
  • Or just offline?
  • What if you just don’t want to tell everyone what you’re doing?
  • If you are pissed off about something and/or drunk and you respond to a friend’s post with an update that’s mean-spirited or cruel, can you just send them an e-mail to say you’re sorry?
  • Or do you have to make the apology public, too?
  • Where does it all end?
  • If you reluctantly sign up for Facebook, how long before you then have to sign up for Twitter?
  • And if have no time for Facebook updates, how are you going to find time to tweet?
  • What is a tweet, anyway?
  • At what point does all this social networking become too much for anyone to keep up with?
  • Have we reached that point already?
  • And if we have, could somebody please go to Facebook or Twitter and say so?

IPHONE APPS

App: iNeedABreak

What it does: Uses a computer-generated voice to make vague threats — “You better be careful!” — ask cautionary rhetorical questions — “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” — or inquire in a generic way into the state of things — “Is everybody okay down there?” — at random or pre-set intervals so you can sneak away and take a nap, watch TV, read a book, or in some other way take a break from 24/7 policing/lifeguarding and relax.

Also has a special setting that enables it to sense those uneasy silences that are almost always followed by blood and/or tears and say “Hey! What are you kids doing?”

Pricing: Less than the hourly cost of a babysitter for the pro version; free version replaces every 10th statement with one from an advertiser like “Anyone hungry for Doritos-Brand Tortilla Chips?” or “Who wants to play High School Musical 3?”

Who would buy it: Parents of kids age 2 to 12, and possibly middle-managers.