I wrote, shot, and edited a short film yesterday as an experiment with software. It’s about a man at work who is in conflict with his needy body–urgent, pressing, insistent needs that sometimes will not go away.
As a parent, when you’re not watching repeated viewings of the same movie (see Reflections That Arise From Near Constant Viewings of The Croods), you’re in the car listening to the same songs over and over again. And even though you control the knobs, it is never your favorite album coming through the speakers. The kids may be in the back seat but their loud whining will break you down every time. Parents of young children know that their own wants and preferences are meaningless and they won’t have control of the entertainment devices again until the kids are shipped off to college.
We have a 7- and 3-year old so we listen to a lot of Kidz Bop. Kidz Bop is a music label/marketing brand that produces child-friendly versions of popular songs. Picture a boy band five years younger with two of the boys replaced by quickly budding 5th grade girls. Swapping verses between singers and using the choruses as a chance to sing loudly and emphatically as a unit, the Kidz Bop Kids bring youthful energy to hit songs you’ve likely never heard before.
If you listen to enough of these albums, you will start to make weird observations. Here are some of mine:
- Do pedophiles listen to Kidz Bop CDs in their cars and houses? Seems like they would.
- I imagine the contract for a Kidz Bop Kid would last 3-4 years, maybe from 11-14 years old – covering the span of time that the kid can dance and sing, but before gangliness and acne show up.
- Those contracts must be quite rigid: the kids likely have to maintain fitness, style, and can’t pursue solo work to avoid one becoming more popular than the group and putting the whole dynamic in turmoil.
- Though reluctant to admit it, these songs can be educational. Kidz Bop 29 has the song “FourFiveSeconds” on it and one lyric confounded both my wife and me. Four or five seconds from what?? Turns out the word is wildin’ and, according to the Urban Dictionary, it means: “To do something really over the top, extreme, crazy or wild…” and the stiffs over at Oxford Dictionaries define wilding as, “The activity by a gang of youths of going on a protracted and violent rampage in a public place, attacking people at random.” So again we see the importance of the apostrophe. We’ve also learned that the “or” between the fourth and fifth second is unnecessary; we now use this phrase around the house to sound hip (e.g., “Kids, we’re about fourfive seconds from supper—wash your hands.”)
- I think they should build a show around Kidz Bop Kid tryouts so we can see young naïve hopefuls get dream-crushed by heartless judges – we could watch the show with our own sniffling children and say, “Do you still want to be a rock star?”
- Grown-ups are required to bash kids’ music but honestly, the more your children force the CDs on you, the better they become. Now when I hear the original artist singing a song I’ve only heard from the Kidz Bop Kids, I always prefer the Kidz Bop version. The production is of high quality, the performances are crisp and perfectly engineered, and the song’s message is now universal and safe for consumption. Are people trying to whitewash material for kids? Some people are but most are helping them grow up too fast. Kidz Bop music helps put off some conversations until it’s time to have them. And you can dance to it, if you’re a kid, or working from home and no one else is there to witness such a thing.
- Who has the job of rewriting questionable song lyrics into sanitized kid-friendly versions? They should make a throw-back album and try their hand at 2 Live Crew, featuring the song, “We Want Some Pudding.”
Why is gift-giving only a seasonal thing? In an effort to extend the concept of charity by a few weeks, here’s an idea to help couples in stagnating or frustrating marriages. (And though we are all posers and our Facebook walls may say otherwise, every marriage can be frustrating.)
If you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve probably skimmed The 5 Love Languages or seen a condensed version of it somewhere online. Written by Gary Chapman and first published in 1992, the self-help book works from the theory that there are five primary sociological love “languages” that you speak and respond to. They are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Chapman argues that an individual usually employs and understands two to three of these languages. The hope is that you and your partner speak the same languages or at least can recognize that you don’t speak the same languages and can find ways to compensate for that essential emotional miscommunication.
Ideally, you meet someone and during the courtship recognize that you speak the same love languages and you marry them on the spot and enjoy a blissful, conflict-free connection until one of you dies. Thankfully, it doesn’t always work that way so we all get to enjoy 20 seasons of The Bachelor.
As it turns out, my wife and I speak different love languages. We weren’t aware of the book or the love languages while we were dating so foolishly marched through the minefield of the relationship without Gary Chapman’s map and stood at an altar and agreed to lifelong vows, promises that failed to mention how the other may feel about Receiving Gifts and what those gifts are and when those gifts will be given. No, you can’t build a marriage around a self-help book, but you can examine where you connect (and where you don’t) with your new love and then take an aerial view of what your relationship will look like years after the initial infatuation phase has withered like the final rose.
My wife and I have thumbed through enough of the book to recognize that we don’t speak the same languages but haven’t gotten to the chapter that tells us what to do about it. At some point we just stopped to reflect on what we’d learned, bookmarked it, and stuck it on a shelf. We have kids to parent and jobs to do, who has time to work on their marriage? So rather than seeing something through and applying sage advice from a certified counselor and relationship visionary, I have my own idea.
I think we should have a system in place where you can bank points earned for behaviors that you exhibit, actions that are not readily acknowledged by your partner, into a collective pot. So even though your efforts may go unnoticed by your own spouse, you get credit for them via a collective that is connected through an app or club membership.
For example, I operate and speak the Acts of Service language. I tend to do things that I (subconsciously) think should be counted as points and validated by my wife through Physical Touch and/or Words of Affirmation, ideally at the same time (like petting a dog’s head while you say, Good boy.) However, my wife does not speak that language so my acts of service go unrecognized and unrewarded, which (almost) nullifies their existence. If the dishes get washed and there’s no one there to offer praise, does it count? Are clean dishes not enough? Not to a man, I guess.
To be fair, she does appreciate the acts but it doesn’t do much to turn her wheels—and it’s basically me pitching in to the upkeep of the household. But the points from those actions do not get redeemed—the same actions that would make another woman’s day, don’t really impact her. So there’s a miscommunication going on. But if there was a collective, those points would be banked and another person in the collective could redeem them.
Here’s how that works.
I perform my Acts of Service, my wife doesn’t acknowledge them, and so they go out into the collective and sit there. Let’s say its 20 points. Now Rodney, my fictional neighbor down the road, is an awesome handyman and he fixes everything around the house. It’s a big turn-on to my wife that guys can fix stuff and build stuff, and the Alpha Male type is attractive to her. And that’s not me. I’m a dishwasher primarily, but can also cook, put the children in the tub, grocery shop, and tidy. Picture Alice from The Brady Bunch with a three-day beard and sweatpants. So let’s say Rodney is not connecting with his wife for some reason. She’s not picking up what he’s laying down. So he’s banked 20 points, I’ve banked 20 points. Hypothetically, we should be able to redeem those for something from our wives even if my wife doesn’t speak my languages and Rodney’s wife doesn’t speak his languages.
So the question begs, why shouldn’t my wife just sleep with Rodney? Well, let’s just say Rodney is dog ugly—hmm, maybe that’s why his wife isn’t sleeping with him—and she doesn’t want any part of him. (See what I did there? My own advanced insecurity made the fictional example of Rodney unlovable since he was a threat and was hypothetically tempting my wife—I need much more than a single self-help book.) So he’s not attractive or something’s wrong with him or my wife’s not ready to start having affairs or sleeping around or having an open marriage or is not ready to divorce yet. My wife and I are just trying better ways to connect and Rodney just needs to cool it and put his stupid points in the collective and back the hell off.
The gist is that we both bank points that are not recognized by our partners. But we can redeem each other’s points. The points are like carbon credits – where big industrial polluters can get credits for emission improvements which can then be traded around a participating network. It’s the same type of situation but these are emotional credits. So Rodney’s wife can redeem points I banked through Acts of Service and, in the app, it’s clear to my wife which acts were rewarded by someone else. It helps her to see that my behavior and my activities and Acts of Service are meaningful to someone else and it might make her look at those contributions in a more positive light.
Now let’s say that Rodney’s plumbing fix went unnoticed by his wife, he banked the points, and now my wife is trying to redeem/translate those points into one of her love languages, Quality Time. How does a wife translate another person’s actions into quality time with her own spouse? Or turn those points into another of her languages, Receiving Gifts? Rodney’s points could conceivably be turned into a gift card from Applebee’s but it’s hard to picture how they could be redeemed into a backrub or running a warm bath with candles after a hard day’s work. Thoughtful and romantic gestures like that, actions that I suck at but things that would be appreciated by my wife, would have to be performed by robots leased by the collective. Yes, I think that’s the solution. Robots to be romantic on my behalf with my wife. We have it figured out and I didn’t even have to finish the book. Back to the dishes!
Tomorrow is my grandmother’s birthday and it’s the first year she won’t be here to celebrate it. She was 86 when she passed away last December. Even though she’d had health challenges for the last 2-3 years of her life, the real end happened suddenly and dramatically over the span of one blur of a weekend in an Asheville hospital, when we watched her vital signs fall away to nothing and held hands around her and braced for that second when her heart finally stopped. It was like witnessing a ship sink and the moment when the vessel you know so well slips away forever.
Now we’ve arrived at her birthday, soon to be followed by the anniversary of her death, and those two dates add a blanket of loss to the season. The specter of the big holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s – approach like trucks in the fog.
I’ve thought about her a lot over the past year. I miss all of the conversations we used to have on the phone when she’d check in—those are gone. It’s been hard to handle the silence. Her name is still on the caller ID, so when it rings and I see “Nanny Home,” I know it will be my grandfather. My lost, sad grandfather who’s a different man now.
People like to think of their deceased loved ones as somewhere else, always in a better place. My disbelief system prevents me from placing her in some kind of heavenly, eternal setting. I can’t believe it so I can’t conceive of it either, as much as I would like to. Believe me, there are times that I crave some kind of sign from her, a signal, just a brief passing feeling or glimpse of something, or an audible sound, a wisp, footsteps anything, but to me she’s just gone. The promise of seeing her again in another incarnation is off this table and so is the comfort that such a thought would bring.
For her birthday I plan on doing all the little things she liked me to do, whenever I’d see her, the small requests, her sweet preferences, no matter how insignificant.
- I will sport a preppy shirt, tuck it in, and wear a belt
- I will be polite to everyone I meet
- I will pitch in and help out wherever I can
- I will shave my stubbly face
- I will floss, maybe twice in a row
- I will clean every plate I face
- I will pick up a Bible and try to find something she would’ve liked
- I will vacuum the floor of my car
- I will find a rerun of The Love Boat/Fantasy Island/The Carol Burnett Show/Hee Haw and cover up with a blanket and miss her commentary
- I will fuss over my kids, her great-grandchildren, and savor them like she did
- I will bring her back to life through memory and honor her through small gestures
- I will miss her
Any parent of a toddler will tell you that kids will get fixated on one movie and watch it until the laser has burned right through the DVD. Our daughter, Alice Wren, is going through an intense love affair with “The Croods.” It’s her first and last request of the day: Can I watch The Croods? Of course we say yes and reach for all of the remotes – we wouldn’t dream of squashing her young love affair.
But due to the unfortunate open concept design of our home, we are also forced to watch it, unless we spent the waking hours in the garage with the door closed, and what kind of family time is that? The more you watch a movie, the more you start to make connections and decode puzzles the filmmakers planted just for you and the countless other willing and unwilling habitual viewers.
- Certain scenes were written to riff on the probably universal sentiment that Nicolas Cage is a shameless overactor. (a.) When the dad character emerges from the cave and reluctantly signals to his family that it’s all clear. The dad is embarrassed to do the weird bird sound – “aaah-oooh, aaah-ooooh” – and you can feel Cage filling the recording studio with his patented brand of cheesy uber-emoting. (b.) When he and Guy are trying to get the large colorful cat to yank them from the tar and he performs with the “acting sticks.” Cage seizes the scene like the character seizes the sticks and the over the top performance, in this one scene in this one movie, is appropriate.
- The opening sequence – the epic chase for the egg, which is underscored by a marching band like a halftime show or an NFL highlight film – is one of the better action sequences you will find in any movie. There’s humor, great directing, tension, release, and suspense. Repeated viewings only intensify the fun–I can see this rewiring my daughter’s synapses as she studies the screen every time, hopefully it’s improving the original network.
- This movie surely overplays the running joke “I wish death upon my mother-in-law”–it’s probably used at least six times where the dad is doing a headcount and he’s repeatedly disappointed when he finds that the mother-in-law has survived the latest misadventure. Simply, he wishes she was dead dead dead and that’s a weird point to make over and over again.
- If you really think about it, modern man still lives in caves and we only venture out for the necessities–we are plagued by trepidation since danger and horror await us each time we roll away the rock and emerge from our holes and squint into the oblivion of each new day.
- Despite his skills on the vibes, Belt should’ve been hurled off a cliff the second time he did the ominous da-da-daaaa thing. And he carries a knife – he’s dangerous and not to be trusted.
- I think the the cave-Emma Stone and the cave-Catherine Keener are just as enticing as their real selves and I think most females would think the same thing about the cave-Ryan Reynolds. And then I think I should get out more.
- It’s doubtful that an elephant-sized feline exists in the fossil record. But wouldn’t that be fun? This movie makes you cherish your pets and, if there was more time and an editing suite in this garage, could be trimmed down into a commercial for fostering unwanted animals.
- The ancient artists behind the Lascaux cave paintings were probably hilarious and ironic and invented their era’s versions of modern conveniences like umbrellas and instant cameras. In this painting, you can see that early man used rubber duck canes, which can now be found in Disney Stores all around the country.