Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Eating Their Own

The Atlantic collects an interesting sampling of opinion from far right pundits on the possibility of Newt Gingrich running for the Republican Prez Nom in 2012. It seems they hate him. They think he's too liberal. Seriously.

Newt deserves the abuse - he is reaping what he's sown - but the GOP is coming apart at the seams. They are eating their own. The evangelical, tea-bagging, conspiracy touting, wingnuts are off the deep end and destroying one of the two major parties of our two party system.

I consider myself fiercely independent - left-leaning, but unaffiliated with any party. I like it that way. I don't believe in party lines and good ideas can come from anywhere. It's hard to be independent however, balancing arguments from both sides, when there is basically only one party. The Dems, though not loved much more than their counterparts, are at least cohesive. I dread the idea of a failed GOP. I dread the idea that a party that produced the likes of Senator Alan Simpson could instead find its voice amongst the Malkins and the Becks and the Bachmans. I didn't often agree with Simpson but I always thought he was reasonable, that he could be swayed with intelligent argument and above all remain cordial and respectful of those with whom he disagreed.

The GOP as it exists today has nothing to do with intelligence, nothing to do with reason, and as for respectful and cordial - forget it. It is cannabalistic in the extreme, feeding on its own anger and the flesh of those that dare slip out of line. It has become a vicious, anti-everything mob that offers no reasonable alternatives and instead waits breathlessly for the next mindless twitter from Palin, or marching orders from Limbaugh. It's leaders no longer lead. It's remaining thinkers like Snow are marginalized and abused. It is dying an agonizing and bitter death. I am reminded of a passage from Eric Larsen's An American Memory where he discusses his father, but could just as easily be describing the GOP:

How much anger there was in my father: something in him made him wish to destroy himself, to destroy others as well, to pull down the world around him and trample it in angry spite... My father agonistes: his emotional life a ganglionlike bondage of knots that grew tighter and more unrelieving with the struggle. There were times - in winter, on the farm, in the bottom of despair - when I imagine, had my father been an animal, that he would have devoured us one at a time, then shrunk into his lair to gnaw slowly with sullen and furious spite at his own limbs and flesh.

This is the party of Lincoln today, and one imagines it will only get worse before it gets better.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Memo To Health Department

Hey, County Health Department:

Maybe you wouldn't have been so "shocked at the low turnout" for the pug vax clinic last Saturday if every time anyone called for info you didn't tell them you were out of it and had no vaccination clinics scheduled.

Oh, and when your people on the phone say you have no vax but we go ahead and come on down to your regular once-a-week vaccination clinic just in case, perhaps an address that faces the street and not the back of the building would be nice too.

And you might want to think about an entrance next to that address that isn't blocked with a cage so people like me must circle the enormous old structure with kids in tow in order to find another door.

And how about setting it up in the children's health clinic where we finally ended up, instead of having them look at us as if we're morons and saying it isn't in this part of the building, but in the hospital portion.

And perhaps if that previously mentioned hospital in another part of the building had an intake area where staff didn't say they had no vaccinations and had no affiliation with the Health Department and had no idea what I was talking about things might go more smoothly.

And how bout something to avoid the maze of halls, dead ends, double doors, "employee only" areas and annexes that must be negotiated just to get to you in spite of the idiots in the intake area.

And finally, maybe some clearer signage on your door besides just "TB Testing".

Of course all the obstacles might explain why there was no wait at all when we found you after an hour and twenty minutes, so bonus points to us for enduring the nonsense.

That box of vaccine still looks pretty full and the staff looks pretty bored. Hmm, can't understand why.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bring Out Yer Dead!

Pug Panic!

The country is going nuts right now, terrified of getting swine flu - Pug (a typo in a text with curry has led to our official designation for the virus - Pug!) People in NYC and Chi were turned away when supplies of the vaccine ran out. Anxious crowds in Fairfax county, VA lined up with camping gear to be certain they got theirs. Women are lying and saying they're pregnant in order to obtain the precious noseblow.

Can I just say something here?

The pug is the flu, misery-making in the extreme perhaps, but for most people not life threatening. If you are immuno-compromised or pregnant, it is a real danger, but everybody else - just don't blow your sick time off on a World Series day and you will get through just fine.

California has been pretty thick with the stuff. In our little town the first death was reported this week. But it's pretty much being taken in stride with just a little more handwashing and care (which should be customary anyway).

The Boy's school last week posted a note on the board in the entry saying be careful and keep the kids home if their sick. They announced several confirmed cases in the school as well. Guess what? Nobody is going overboard. School is open. Kids go everyday. Not a big deal. (Though in the interest of full disclosure my wife is getting a little twitchy re the kids.)

My wife says the hospital has seen an increase of cases, but that the only bad ones have been pregnant women, who have gotten really sick. Other than that, no problems. Hell ,the hospital hasn't even gotten the vax for staff yet!

If you have kids under six months, you should get vaccinated. If you're pregnant, get it. Kids should get it. If you have immune issues, get it. If you care for the public in a healthcare capacity, get it. Otherwise? Ease up, ok? The mortality rate is less than 1/10 of 1%. That's miniscule. This is not the great culling.

Oh and if you are over 50 get out of of line! You probably have antibodies in your system already.

Be smart, wash your hands, cough into your elbow, stay home if you're sick. But really, don't clog the line or lie about your health to get a vaccination that someone else might really need. That is just pure assholism.

Odds are karma will kick you in the ass anyway.

this has been a public service announcement on behalf of Pug Panic Pointers Inc.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm Saving The Human Race...

...just by being an old tired father.

"While it used to be that men had many children in older age to many different women, now men tend to have only a few children at a younger age with one wife. The drop in the number of older fathers has had a major effect on the rate of mutation and has at least reduced the amount of new diversity - the raw material of evolution. Darwin's machine has not stopped, but it surely has slowed greatly."
- Steve Jones, evolutionary biologist at University College London

I will remind myself of that on mornings like this one, where a 7 month old awakens me at 3 am by crawling on my face, growling and hooting, looking for a playmate or any orifice in which to dip its finger, all the while confirming to me that sleep will remain a pipe dream.

My utter lack of desperately needed rest at this rather advanced age is my sacrifice for you, the Human Race.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tom Cruise-esque

We find out this week that Christian Bale's model for his character in the movie American Psycho was Tom Cruise.

So, in a moment of perfect meta-celebrity mashing, we get this:

Actor Miles Fisher promoting himself as Christian Bale as Tom Cruise in American Psycho (with Talking Heads thrown in for good measure.) It doesn't get odder than this... or as well executed.

Warning: probably NSFW

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Magnet

A couple weeks back I picked the Boy up from school. When I hit the playground I searched the flurry of kids racing back and fourth for my son but didn't find him in his usual spots. When I finally caught sight of him he was holding hands (he holds hands with everybody) with a stunning classmate. This girl will, no doubt, grow into a very attractive woman. She came with the Boy when I called him and I asked who his friend was. He said her name was Jordan. I said hi to her and she smiled before looking earnestly at the Boy and saying, "Bye, Arlo," in a manner I can only describe as flirtatious. She added a little wave with her fingers. I looked at the Boy and knew instantly that he was smitten.

Every day after that it was the same. They would be together playing... just the two of them.

He made her a card. He made her another card. He made her a third card. For the last one he requested the correct spelling of the word "love" and laboriously scripted the letters at the bottom of the card.

I laughed nervously, hoping that he was too young to have his heart broken by the fickle playmate choices that accompany a preschool playground, but what's a dad to do.

Then last week I arrived and there they were, but there was a third - another gorgeous kid, with pale skin and jet black hair. I had seen her before. She plays on his soccer team and the two of them are frequently holding hands on the field (ignoring the game.) She too raced over to make her good byes to the boy. She was introduced as Brienna. In unison, she and Jordan waved and said more flirtaciously than you could imagine 4 year olds being, "Goodbye Arloooo."

It was weird.

Cards were made for Jordan and Brienna. Birthday party invitations were planned. They were frequently the topic of conversation. And every day they were all together, or if I arrived late and one of the girls had already been picked up he would be with the remaining one. No one else was ever a part of their play.

Until today...

I arrived to find the Boy climbing up the monkey bars, Jordan to one side and Brienna to the other, the three of them delighting in one another's company. But following close behind was a girl both my wife and and I had noticed before. A beautiful child with very light brown, creamy caramel skin and a stunning head of curling, dark brown hair that any woman would die for. I looked over the entire playground. The three girls with my son were the prettiest little girls there, without a doubt... seriously.

When the Boy saw me he leaped down and raced over to me, followed by Jordan and Brienna. The new girl stayed behind, looking on, as if taking notes on the ritual.

After Jordan and Brienna had made their standard flirty byes the Boy climbed from my arms and said he needed to say goodbye to Regan. I asked if that was the other girl's name and he said yes. The three raced back to the bars and the Boy hugged the new member of the group. She smiled broadly. The quartet completed their farewells.

I had this vision of these three cute girls plotting to rip my poor innocent boy's heart out of his chest. I imagined it all as some flirting playground joke with my son as the butt. I saw the worst for my kid - after all, cute as I might think he is, three pretty girls fawning over him to the exclusion of all others seemed absurd.

I turned to one of the teachers standing behind me and who had been watching the scene unfold. "Ok, what's the deal with him and all the girls anyway," I asked her.

"Oh come on," she said as if I was some kind of idiot. And then she added with a sly smile, "The boy is a total magnet."

Great, more worries.

addendum: It occurs to me that it is not the Boy who is being led on, but that he is doing the leading. He will be the one to crush playground hearts under foot - the object of preschool catfights. "Now girls, there's plenty of me to go around."

Much worse than my original concerns.


Regarding yesterday's post about the Girl.

I had another conversation this morning with the Girl's OT. She is new to the Girl's case, brought in when the previous OT had left during the budget cuts. I asked her if she would describe the Girl's condition as possibly being apraxia. She said that Occupational Therapy uses the term dyspraxia and that apraxia is used by Speech therapists, though they refer to the same things. And then she got a quizzical look and added that she wouldn't say "possible" in the Girl's case; she would say definitive - she thought we knew that. I told her that no one had officially described it with that term though I had been asking about it for 8 months. She said that she didn't care what anyone else thought, it's classic dyspraxia.

The speech therapist has avoided the term, and though I have great respect for her and her work, I have wondered why. If the Girl is apraxic she is probably atypical. She can do things with speech that a typical apraxia case can not. Nonetheless, motor planning is involved in both movement and speech and if it is the problem with her body it is more than likely the cause for her speech problems.

What does this all mean?

It means in a classic good news/bad news scenario that she should qualify for services. It is a substantial learning disability so special education and instruction should be put in place when she turns three (just try to keep her out, just try and see what happens!).

However, dyspraxia is almost always life-long. Most dyspraxics have poor short-term memory making following instructions difficult (though ironically long-term memory tends to be better than average.) Most dyspraxics have trouble writing or even using writing utensils. Some dyspraxics also have dyslexia and dyscalculia (difficuty with mathematics), though some have excellent reading and mathematics skills. Some have ADHD. Many never learn to drive a car because of poor spacial perception and difficulty combining a series of physical motions. They have difficulty distinguishing right from left.

Combine that with her hypotonia and life isn't going to be easy for her.

It is ghastly to imagine that we are in a sense relieved that she has officially been pinned with this.

She should get services - Yay!

She will probably need them for her entire life - ...(there isn't even a word to describe it).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Swiss Girl

She is bright beyond her age. She understands complex instructions and situations. She is empathetic and sympathetic. She has a great sense of humor about herself and others. She laughs and plays and does her best to share her thoughts about the world as she discovers it. She is (more often than not) a delightful human being with enormous capacity for subtlety.

She stumbles. She walks into doors. She falls, often while simply standing still. She is barely understood when she speaks. She is easily frustrated with herself and others. She is becoming aware that she is not like her peers, that she can not do the things that they can do, can not say the things that they can say (at least not so she is understood.) She is sad more often than the boy for no apparent reason. She loves to dance, but it makes for fearful viewing for her parents - the threat of injury all too real. She is trapped inside a body that does not obey her commands.

My daughter remains a mystery to us, and to her various therapists, and doctors, and diagnosticians. The official description of her condition (and that's what it is - a description; not a diagnosis) is hypotonia, low or weak muscle tone, and a problem with her praxia foundation: the motor plan is lost or distorted on its way through the brain or to the muscles. In other words, she is weak and floppy and can not get her body to do what whe wants it to do.

In her speech she is difficult to understand, even by us. If she says something out of the blue without the benefit of context as toddlers often do we are lost. She must repeat it and repeat it until we get the gist, or until either she or we just give up. We have found ourselves nodding in agreement upon occasion without understanding her just to avoid the mutual frustration. Some words are quite clear and would give the impression she is a typical two year old. But usually there is something substantial missing: a consonant is absent, a vowel is altered, the word is utterly mangled.

She uses long complex sentences. They have clauses, qualifiers and grammar beyond her age, but it would be hard for anyone but those that know her to hear it. There are words that she has never been capable of saying, certain letters she has never mastered, even after nearly 8 months of therapy and countless hours at home with us working on it. There have been improvements but not what we had hoped for, not what would be expected even from simply getting older.

She wants the words to come out. You can see her concentrate to make herself understood. But the signals her brain sends to her mouth are not translated into muscle action. Those muscles just don't get the message right.

She can't jump. She winds up, bends her knees, springs upward, but her feet never leave the ground. She can bounce on a trampoline but her feet never leave its surface. By her age or a little younger she should be able to jump over a string 8-14" off the ground. Being able to jump with both feet leaving the ground is a development that should be seen at around 18 months. She is 32 months old.

She can not pinch a clothespin, let alone work scissors. She runs with a painfully awkward gate: arms high and pumping, legs swinging to the sides, a sense of disaster with every step. She can not control her body in space, is not aware of her physical self in a way the rest of us take for granted. So she walks into things that she sees, that she is aware are there, but can't move to avoid. She falls down while standing because she suddenly stops sending the unconscous signals to her legs to keep a group of muscles tensed and remain erect.

Even when the signals arrive the muscles themselve are weak, not because they are unused, but because an inexplicable genetic mutation that is as yet unknown simply makes the muscles fail to work well. She has a difficult time sitting up from a prone position - it requires enormous effort. She feels floppy in your arms when you lift her. She is not strong. We exercise her regularly to increase her strength to its potential, but that potential is considerably less than that of a typical child. Athletics are unlikely for her despite her great enthusiasm for physical activity. Sadly, an increase in her boldness has not been equalled by an increase in capability. She has gone from skinned knees to genuinely dangerous falls from height. The threat of injury seems to have grown exponentially. She is cautious, but two year olds are not known for their decision-making skills. She may be bright, but she still does stupid things.

The State of California has provided her with occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, group therapy and special education visits. She has been shuttled to her various appointments day in and day out. But when she turns 3 next February she is kicked out. She is not considered profoundly delayed enough to qualify for services. She must be 2 years behind, cognitively disabled in some way. So at 3 she must be functioning at the level of a 1 year old to stay in and she is further along than that.

Her occupational therapist described her this morning as a block of swiss cheese: she seems fine at first glance, but then you discover all these holes in there. She can, for example, throw a ball overhand with great accuracy and force, something she has been doing since she was 1, but for most children is not mastered until 3. Yet, she can not walk up or down stairs alternating her legs as she goes. She can draw delightful circles, yet a vertical and horizontal line crossing one another is beyond her. She can kick a ball and chase it easily, but is utterly incapable of standing on one foot for even a moment. She can ride a push car at great speed and turn it on a dime, narrowly avoiding collisions, yet she can not get down from a chair without falling half the time. She can do many things, and some things she can not do at all.

We are at a loss. We have had tests done and evaluations completed and work-ups performed. The testers and evaluators and work-upers, the doctors and therapists and diagnosticians are all vague regarding the causes and just as vague regarding possible outcomes. It could resolve with therapy and disappear in a couple of years, or it could never get much better and she may spend her life similarly delayed - always with the swiss cheese holes, always behind in some way. So we have more tests scheduled at a facility that specializes developmental disabilities in children under five in the hopes that they can find what others have not. We may come up empty in our search for answers, diagnosies and prognosies, but we can't whistle through the darkness any longer.

We feel we are in a very dark pit and though I think we can deal with the hole, without some light - some illumination - we can never know where the walls are, how deep the hole is, and ultimately if there is a way out.

She is joyful beyond measure. She is profoundly worrying.

And we have begun to feel desperate.

The Boy's Question Of The Day

From this morning at breakfast:

"If rocks don't grow then how do we get big rocks?"

Guess I'm A Sap

A genuinely sweet story with some good-natured, stereotypical humor. After months of bitterness re gay marriage/adoption it's just nice to see something like this.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Threats Are Real

Listing of places the Department of Homeland Security deemed likely targets of terrorism and the funding they got as a result in 2007:

In the interest of full disclosure I should note my wife and I honeymooned at Carhenge... seriously.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Problem With Speed Reading

Earlier this week a man named Jack Price slipped down to the 24 hour grocery on the corner near his home in Queens New York for a pack of cigarettes. As he left the store he was jumped by two men and beaten senseless - nearly to death - and is hospitalized with a broken jaw, fractured ribs and a lacerated spleen. He was in an induced coma until yesterday.

Jack Price is gay. The two attackers beat him because of that. They have since been arrested, but claim their actions were in self-defense - that Price attacked them first. Sadly for the two men a security camera shows their claims to be utterly false and that they were entirely unprovoked.

After their arrest a friend of the two attackers was interviewed on local news. He claimed that Mr. Price was homosexual and deserved what he got. He then showed off his tattoo. It is from the Old Testament, Leviticus 18:22. The verse is commonly used as evidence of homosexuality's evil.

You know, I don't really care what one believes. If one chooses to think that homosexuality is an abomination, that is one's right. I can not change another's deeply held beliefs with legislation, nor should I try. But if that man so deeply believes in his bible, if he considers the words therein so profound, if he feels so strongly that they should govern not just his life but all of our lives - if he thinks it's so important that he would have those words inked upon his body... well, maybe he should have bothered reading the very next chapter of that Book of Leviticus...

Leviticus 19:28
“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”
- King James Bible

Or perhaps the New King James' more precise:
"You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD."

Or how about the New International Version:
"Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD."

I can add more but any way you look at it the very book of the Bible that our inked prophet uses to defend his bashing buddies and displays proudly upon his arm also specifically forbids him from getting that tattoo in the first place.

Don't care what you believe, but hypocrisy in any form is pretty much bullshit. Soooo...

Shut the fuck up!

Oh and as a side note an anti-gaybashing rally was held in Queens today to support Mr. Price. There were actually counter-protestors... at a rally against beating people senseless without provocation... seriously. People protesting because they favor bashing! Best of all though? One of those counter-protestors was, yeah, you guessed it, Mr Leviticus Tattoo.

Friday, October 16, 2009


There are blog posts that fall under "too much information" and I've hesitated for a while on this as a result, but the situation has become so bizarre and frustratingly comical that... well... live with it.

The Norse God of male fertility is plucky little bugger named Freya. He's responsible for the rain and sunshine and thus, the fertility of the Earth. He's also the god of love. Despite being of Norse descent myself, I had never heard of the guy. But he's apparently taken a real shine to me.

You all may remember a little procedure I underwent just prior to the Super Bowl this year. Three kids was my absolute, no-going-back, limit and so I got fixed. The whole thing was pretty simple and aside from a urologist who insisted on showing me the items he was snipping from my nether regions, and the running commentary he provided (in his West African accent) as he did so - "You have enormous vas deferens! Biggest I've seen." - it wasn't bad.

Six weeks post I had to provide him with a "sample" to be certain I was in fact sterile. The whole sample thing is... well... weird. Here's a cup. Do your business. Deliver cup to lab. When I visited the doc for that appointment the count was <1 per ml, which is right on track but it isn't zero. So another appointment was scheduled for 6 weeks on, and another cup was provided. I dispatched my cup to the lab and went to visit doc again. This time the count was 98 per ml. "Have you been having sex?" the urologist queried.

"Yes, I have," I snapped, defensively.

"Well, it sometimes takes a while to clear it out. Just keep using birth control and we'll see you again in 8 weeks. Here's a cup."

Two months later I deliver my cup to the lab and go see my doc. "I am baffled," he said as he studied the lab report. "How can you have 1111 per ml? That is just a strange number. 1-1-1-1. We will have to do it again. Let's see you in 3 months."

"But it's increasing," I said, just a wee bit concerned. "Should that be happening?"

"Well, if it was anything more than just clearing it would be in the millions, so don't worry. I once had a patient go a full year before we got to zero. Here's a cup."

So three months go by and I take my cup over to the lab last Friday. I get a call late in the afternoon. "Hi, Lex. I'm terribly sorry but something happened with your sample. It sort of spilled. All over. Everything. We'll need another."

"I have an appointment next week," I said, "and I can't do it right now. And I need another cup!"

"Well the hospital's open tomorrow. You could just do it down there," she suggested helpfully.

"It's a sperm sample. It's not like just peeing in a cup. It's a little more involved than that and the hospital is less than ideal for the process. I'll just deliver another to you on Monday."

"Ok then. Sorry again," she said, and hung up.

I had my wife bring home a specimen cup from work and bright and early Monday morning I did my duty... again.

Today I saw the doc.

"Do you remember the last time the count was 1111 per ml," he asked. "Well, this time it is 2222 per ml. Do you know what the odds are for that? I think they are getting the counts wrong. I called the lab and they claim the numbers are right, but really, 1111 and then 2222? Come on. So let's try a different lab."

"Ok, whatever," I sighed, "But what if those numbers come back and they say I really am at, I don't know, 2498 or something? What if the number actually is rising? What then?"

"I have been at this a long time," he said, "and I have never seen this before. Never. If somehow there was a reattachment we would see huge numbers, and we aren't. But we should not be seeing increasing numbers of any size, so I'm at a loss. The only thing I can think of is this lab just can't do their job. That's my only explanation."

I threw my hands up. "Well I'm getting a little tired of it," I whined.

"I understand," he said sympathetically, "Here's a cup."

I have an appointment with him (again!) in two weeks.

In the meantime I remain a medical freak.

And that Norse God of fertility had better find somebody else to work his mojo on cause my cup runneth over, thank you very much.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wild Gift

At the risk of sounding as if I'm shilling for a product here I'll go off on a bit of promotional overkill.

Spike Jonze film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic, Where The Wild Things Are, will hit the screens a week from tomorrow. When I first saw the trailer early this year, I actually wept. I was moved to tears by a movie trailer. I sent the trailer to Curry. He wept. Two middle-aged men crying at a trailer for movie from a children's book.

Imagining the book as a film has been a ghastly exercise over the years. To take something with such simplicity and "Hollywood" it with CG and cuteness has been an enormous fear for those of us that grant the book its pedestal status. Those fears have been quelled. Sendak has given his blessing. Jonze has battled the studio (and I mean really battled) and won.

I watched a making-of documentary last nite on HBO. I cried again. I am going out on a limb, but if the promise is fullfilled this may be one of the best films of the year.

When Jonze and co-writer, Dave Eggers, say that they have not made a children's movie, but instead a movie about childhood and its confusion, anger and fear, you know the book is in good hands.

a sidenote: the soundtrack of songs by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O, and a chorus of Langley School-like kids, is fantastic and excruciatingly beautiful. And yeah, even the music made me cry.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Let me start by saying that I am not a violent guy. Usually I find it abhorent, but...

Video captured by police closed circuit on street in the UK of three thugs obviously looking for a fight. At about one minute in they find their marks: two transvestites walking down the street. Except they aren't transvestites; they're professional cage fighters out in drag that night for a party. The thugs are dispatched in no time at all and as they stagger away in obvious pain (the shirtless guy got the worst of it) one imagines they will not be so quick to victimize others next time.

I'm sorry, but this is hilarious.
And you have to give props to the guys in drag for doing the minimum and walking away (after retrieving the handbag of course.)

Monday, October 5, 2009


Moms and dads, back in the day.
From the "God I wish I had thought of that" blog, My Parents Were Awesome

No doubt my kids will place this in there at some point in the (distant, I hope) future

That's The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Conde Nast announced they're shutting down four magazines today. The venerable food-porn, Gourmet is axed, but the "parenting" mag, Cookie, is also getting the boot. Good riddance.

Parenting mags are for the most part not what the category name implies. They are usually mothering mags. They are aimed almost entirely at women. There's rarely an article that focuses on fathers, unless it involves an idea for a mother to engage a dad in more active parenting, or something of that ilk. The mags are often fashion rags for mom and adorable offspring. Cookie was the worst of the lot.

At its inception Cookie had instituted a policy that none of the child models used on its covers or in its contents should in any way appear to be fat - not even healthy, baby-type fat. The children were idealized and the "mothers" accompanying them in the photos were never the children's real mothers (unless it was a celeb and their fabulous spawn.) Its conspicuous consumption mentality was annoyingly standard for the genre, but Cookie took it to a Robb Report level.

But the thing that irked me was that it had been launched just as more fathers had begun to take a deliberate place in the the home with more and more of us becoming the primary care-givers. It was an enormous opportunity for Cookie to apply itself equally to both parents. Instead it opted for the easy, and ultimately financially ruinous, tradition.

I rarely bitch about the short shrift stay-at-home dads get in the media. It's the way things are and I don't expect much more than the tired "Mr. Mom" approach. Magazines are no exception and have often shown themselves ridiculously behind the curve when it comes to actual reporting of the substantially changing domestic paradigms. They just don't get it.

Cookie deserves its fate.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Running Into Its Embrace

Been indulging myself this week with Ken Burn's latest opus on the National Parks. It's been a slog. Roughly 5 hours too long and reduntant (I think we get that the parks are beautiful, Ken) it's nonetheless filled with historical sideroads that make for moving and fascinating rides. Burns did this in the Civil War where the listing of the items in Lincoln's pockets at the time of his death brought what had been rote gradeschool history to life and made it immediate. Burns has a knack for this, understanding that history is about real people with real lives.

Last nite I slid into the Tivo for an episode from earlier in the week. Dealing primarily with the 1920's, one of the stories offered was of Glen and Bessie Hyde and their honeymoon from hell.

Bessie had been a flighty bohemian who had dabbled in art in San Francisco. She had eagerly sought something different in her life. She met Glen on a cruise and had married him the day after her short-lived marriage to her first husband was finalized in divorce. Glen had been a potato farmer in Idaho and also ran rivers in the Northwest.

Their plan was to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon for their honeymoon, a feat that had been acomplished at that time by fewer than fifty people, none of whom were female. They would document the trip with photographs and copious notes, write a bestselling book, and make a fortune on the vaudeville/lecture circuit.

They set off in October of 1928 in a scow that Glen had built and that, although appropriate for rivers in the Northwest, was not of good design for the more violent Colorado. They packed homecanned vegetables, a rifle for shooting game, a camera, staples, and Bessie's diary. They were warned by many on the river that they should not attempt the run, that it was foolish to not have a larger party and a second boat. But they did not listen and instead used as their inspiration the famed Kolb brothers, who had run the river years before in one boat. The Kolbs however were quite familiar with the river, having spent a good portion of their lives exploring it before they set off. In keeping with a tradition of Northwest river runners Glen saw no need for life preservers - something even the most experienced Colorado River runners used.

Initially, Glen and Bessie had a grand time, slipping idly downstream, camping at night along the banks. It was all too easy. When they finally entered the Grand Canyon they were again warned that what they were attempting was beyond their capabilities, but they ignored the naysayers.

As the riffles became rumbles and the whitewater spilled over the sides of the boat the adventure became more frightening, but they soldiered on. Bessie was swept over the side several times and rescued by Glen. At one point Glen was knocked from the boat. Bessie managed to throw him a line, but that incident had terrified her. She had begun to see the errors of their ways. Glen just laughed at her as he dried off.

They made a stop where Bright Angel trail meets the river and hiked up to the rim where they had a meal at the hotel there and stayed overnight. The next morning they visited the famous Kolb brothers at their photo studio and had their portrait taken. After the portrait one of the Kolb's young daughters came to bid the Hyde's goodbye. According to Burns, Bessie commented on the young girl's shoes and then said wistfully, "I wonder if I will ever wear pretty shoes again."

The Hydes hiked back down to the river, accompanied by a wealthy tourist who had paid them to take him for a day's ride downriver. The following morning they let the tourist off and before they left he snapped another photo of Glen and Bessie. It would be the last taken of them.

6 weeks later a search began in earnest when they did not return home to Idaho. It became a national headline and President Coolidge ordered the Army Air Corps to fly the canyon looking for them. On Christmas Day their scow was found, its bowline snagged in some rocks, but otherwise intact. All their supplies were in the boat - their food, Glen's rifle, clothing, the camera and 6 rolls of film, and Bessie's diary. The last entry was dated November 27th and merely read, "More than 24 rapids today." No sign of the couple could be found. Bessie was 22, Glen, 29.

Over the years the story has popped up. In 1971 an elderly woman taking a commercial raft trip down the Colorado announced she was Bessie Hyde. She said she had stabbed Glen when he had become abusive on the trip and simply disappeared for forty years to avoid prosecution. She later recanted her claim. Remains found in 1972 along the river were originally thought to be Glen's - a bullet wound through the skull - but they were proven not to be.

I spent most of last night haunted by the story. The idealized thrills and get-rich scheme aside, Bessie and Glen struck me as tragically romantic figures: Bessie in her desperate search for something other than a pedestrian life that awaited most women in her day, and Glen in his pursuit of a manly heroism that ultimately took his life and the life of his young bride. Fools with no sense of their own mortality, and a cold, lonely end, gasping their last as their lungs filled with water.

I think of the foolish and dangerous things I did in my youth - many of them in the wilderness. I am reminded of the moments when a slip or a failure to grasp could have ended it for me and the utter disregard I felt for the risks involved. Even after a close call I would laugh as the adrenaline slipped from my system and my heartbeat calmed. It left no lasting sense of what-might-have-been - barely a moment's pause before the next step or leap. Those were things I would never even attempt now, not because my body can no longer do so (though it really can't), but because I know now how closely death hovers, how happily it will welcome you into its embrace, how fragile and tenuous the thread of mortality.

Caution (and cowardice) are distinctly tied to aging, perhaps because the passing of years brings thoughts of death to closer to our waking mind. It's sadly paradoxical because the older one gets the less life one has to lose, the more of it lies behind rather than in front. Logic would dictate caution in youth and recklessness in old age, but that is not the way of things. Instead death only appears real through an ongoing series of encounters with it that slowly and imperceptibly add up until one morning we awaken to know it is real, not just for others but for ourselves as well.

The Hydes never got there, never made that connection. Their first real brush was their last.