Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Son, the Sadistic Villain

The Place of Wormly Doom
Yesterday afternoon, my nine-year-old son imprisoned and brutally tortured helpless living creatures. He surrounded them in walls of stone and left the poor devils to starve and die under the sun's cruel rays. Proud, and smiling broadly, he bounded into the house to tell me about it.

"Dad!" he said. "I made a house for worms out from some bricks on the old picnic table! I hope you don't mind -- I gave them two apples."

"Apples?" I said, looking up from my book. "Worms don't eat apples . . ." Then, I remembered all of the pictures from school with the little bespectacled fellow popping out of a red-delicious. "Earthworms don't, anyway. That's a waste of apples."

Monday, March 28, 2011

What's Worse?

I've touched on this before, but it is hard not to revisit something that basically amounts to the world force-feeding my children its prevailing attitudes.

I'm constantly amazed at the things people worry about -- the things we think we need to protect our children from. Let's play a game of "What's Worse?"

Here we go:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Accomplish Nothing?

Two nights ago, I truly sat in the presence of greatness. I watched the legendary classical guitarist, John Williams, give a concert at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. Many consider him the greatest living master of the instrument. (By the way, he's not the same guy who wrote the music for Jaws and Star Wars.)

As a student of the classical guitar, I catch him whenever he comes through the area. I fear he might retire soon, so I take every opportunity. He is a true master -- his concentration is superhuman; his technique is flawless. His Greg Smallman guitar is a perfect instrument that fills a small concert hall with its delicate power. Let me give you a sampling of Williams playing a famous classical guitar piece. (The "synch" is a little off -- sorry. On a musicological note, it was originally written for piano, but the transcribed guitar version may be better known.):

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Three Houses (A Parable)

It was late on a Saturday morning. Three houses stood on a street, one next to the other, in a quiet suburban town. 

One house was perfect. The shingles were tight and new. The bushes were smooth and round. The lawn glowed emerald, like a square carved from a Irish hill. Not a door squeaked, in this house. Not one wall, within, ran even the slightest crack. The tool shed stood in order; the lawnmower enjoyed regular oil changes; rakes hung on racks in the garage, like soldiers in file, eager to claw away the enemies of the sacred grass.

The man of this house kept his metric wrenches in their plastic indentations in a great red, rolling tool cabinet. He washed his car whenever the sun shone, and on this day, he was buffing its glassy hood as he looked toward the next house, shaking his head in disgust.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Friends, Best Friends

A friend of mine just wrote a blog post that got me thinking. He presents a conventional, age-old idea in parenting: that one should not be his kids' best friend. Many parents agree with this. You guessed it: I don't. The catch is that you need to really understand what it means to be your kids' best friend. See, it is a little different than being your best friend's best friend, but maybe not all that much, in a few ways.

I have seen forty-something moms in the mall dressed like their daughters and attempting to blend-in with a group of teenagers. I have seen fathers cursing and making lewd comments about women to their teenaged sons. I have seen parents who think it is okay to drink with their high school aged kids. I have also seen parents who are afraid to discipline their children -- who think their kids won't like them if they "lay down the law." These people are all fools. These people act more like buddies than parents and I trust this is the kind of thing my friend is objecting to in his post. I object to them, too.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Readiness: Pass it On

Ever see those "DRIVE: Pass it On" ads? Today I drove past one: Babe Ruth, post swing, ostensibly watching the ball vanish into the stratosphere; though, more likely, he was posing for a good photo. This photographic trickery reminds me that we sell an illusion of success and we don't prepare people for the reality they find if they achieve it. We push our kids to strive, but we don't prepare them for life at the top, should they get there.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Country 'Tis of Me?

For the life of me, I can't wrap my head around why someone would want to be the President of the United States. I mean, what's the motivation?

What do you get out of it? Money? Nah, there are ways to make a much better living. Must be the power. That is, of course, if you are hungry for that sort of thing. You get to be, arguably, the most powerful person in the world. So that's something. But the responsibility that comes with that is unfathomable.

Knowing about that responsibility, which you would, unless you are a complete idiot -- in which case you would not be [here come the George Bush jokes] in the running for President -- don't you have to be something of a narcissist to accept the nomination? Imagine that moment when a person says to himself: "Yeah, I can do that. I can take a job that George Washington and Abe Lincoln did." Isn't it intrinsically egotistical to think you can fill such shoes?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Engineering Doom

The Dark One sat in his element, face hidden in the infinite shadow of a hood. The other sat across from him, nose sharp, eyes blinking the cold twinkle of a knife in a candle's flicker.

Their fingertips traced the rims of guilded cups. Beyond the chamber door raged the tortured sounds of an innumerable human throng.

"And how shall we bring them to this doom, Master?"

"Slowly," the Dark One said. "Slowly. They shall erect their own cage. We'll need to do little.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Father of the Man

One night, we were watching old family videos. One section of footage, originally shot on an old 8mm camera on a hot summer day in Philadelphia, circa 1968, would bring me to tears.
There was me, just learning to walk, in dark shorts, white shoes and a striped shirt, face surrounded by a reddish-brown, curly mop of hair. The sunlight in my tiny heart -- as in the hearts of all babies -- was more than a match for the light that shone off of the car fenders and windows of the row-homes.
My mother helped me to stand, holding my hands high as I faced away from her, and when I mustered the courage, I would waddle away, about six steps, into the waiting arms of my uncle, and then turn for the return journey.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Those Who Ponder Millenium Falcons

Must . . . not . . . . write . . . about Charlie . . . Sheen . . .
KIDS! I’ll write about kids.
One day, I was wandering through a bookstore by the seaside. It was crowded with people and it was one of those gloriously cluttered places, with teetering piles at the ends of the over-laden shelves. It was a beautiful mess. Books cuddled together on chairs and tumbled out onto the floor. It was the kind of place where you could make a discovery, not some electronic book-vending machine; not a place of credit cards and digital ghost novels. An honest-to-God bookseller's.
With a small summer-reading stack under my arm, I poked and flipped through whatever caught my eye. Turning a corner, I nearly stepped on a young boy -- maybe ten -- who knelt reverently over a gigantic, glossy tome spread open on the floor to a diagram from Star Wars. The title on the page: “Design Specifications of the Millenium Falcon.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dear Albrecht: IV

Albrecht Soothspitz, b. 1327
Albrecht has sent a new pile of letters up to me from his little cottage in the woods. It has been quite a while, but I suppose six-hundred-year-old philosophers with Wii addictions just aren't as concerned with deadlines as the rest of us. I hope you find his wisdom as enlightening as ever. If you have missed his previous advice columns, you can catch up here, here and here. Please remember: We at Hats and Rabbits do not necessarily share Albrecht's viewpoints.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"One Little Victory"

One little victory
The greatest act can be
One little victory
                                                                      ~ Neil Peart

A few days ago, I split my mind right in half. Somehow, I separated my intellect from my emotions during a low moment.

We all know what it means to be depressed and we can easily council people as to why things are not so bad as they seem. We try to help them get through with logic. If someone is afraid, for instance, that he has a brain tumor because of recurring headaches, but numerous scans and tests say all is well, we say: "The tests were negative. You are fine. You're being illogical." But that doesn't always work, because the emotion of fear can smother the process of reasoning. Emotions can overpower us.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


An appeal to those who speak the English language, for the sake of my own sanity. Selfish, yes, but I truly feel I might flip. Only you have the power to prevent Matarazzean flippage. Please consider the following:

Sometimes I think all understanding of the the power of language is gone; for instance, when someone tells me he "literally" is going to explode. This shows no respect for the word "literally." And if it merely shows a lack of understanding, I would submit that this lack of understanding is a sign of diserespect -- one doesn't respect the language enough to learn one of its most effective words.

But sometimes, I think people give the power of words too much respect, as if they believe that a mere statement can alter reality.