Thursday, January 29, 2009

All I Need to Know, I Learned by Having Children

"Let's do it."

With those three words my entire life changed. Seven hours and about 300 ice chips into labor with our first child, our little boy's heart beat dropped dramatically and inexplicably. The nurse tried to remain calm as she gentle poked , prodded and pushed my wife's belly in an attempt to get things back to normal. I am sure even the nurse knew it would not work, but like when the TV stops working, you hope that all it needs is a solid whack. Despite the nurses desperate cajoling, my son's heart beat would not go up. A doctor was immediately ushered in and after looking at my wife and the heart beat monitor, he uttered those infamous words.

One thing they don't tell you about going into labor is the number of cables and wires it involves. The minute the decision to do an emergency C-section was made, there unfolded a ballet of unplugging and yanking that sent multicolored tubes and wires flying through the air like spaghetti. I could not tell if my wife was giving birth to a human or to a super computer.

As my wife was being wheeled out of the room a nurse handed me a pair of scrubs and told me to change quick. Rushing down the hall, I walked into the operating room to see two doctors beneath searing lights with scalpels at the ready. They looked at the anesthesiologist and said simply, "tell us when."

The anesthesiologist injected a clear liquid into my wife's arm and seconds later gave the sign. In a whirlwind of precision, the doctors began cutting and pushing. With each push, my now-unconscious wife would groan as the air was forced from her lungs. This unsettling sound was quickly followed by the most comforting and horrifying sound I have even heard. My new born son, screaming from inside the womb. (As a side note, Screaming from the Womb would be a great name for a band. But I digress.)

Within seconds this muffled scream became a full blown yell as my son emerged from the womb and let the cold rough world know exactly what he thought of it. The nurse, who not moments before was poking my wife in a desperate attempt to save my son, burst into tears and rushed my son to the baby warmer to make sure he was okay. But we all knew he was. With a scream like that, there was certainly no doubt his lungs worked.

And there I stood, sobbing uncontrollably, surrounded by a screaming son, an unconscious wife and a team of doctors and nurses breathing a sigh of relief.

Welcome to Fatherhood.

Since then, fatherhood has brought with it no less crying , screaming and groaning. And that is just from me. Now, five years and three kids later, I can say parenthood is nothing, if not educational. In a fair world, anyone who has a child while still in school should be allowed to skip every required class on biology. Believe me, having had two kids by the time I graduated from college, I knew what made life possible: cheerios and applesauce. Luckily, the lessons of parenthood don't stop there.

I have learned that it is possible for a mouse to live inside your minivan and survive on only the crackers and Craisins lurking beneath your children's car seats. What I have not learned is how to get rid of said mouse.

I have learned that, when done properly, putting in a car seat should never take more than 33 seconds. Of course, the first time I put in a car seat, it took three hours, two gallons of sweat and a naval expidition's worth of profanity to get it in.

I have learned that going to the bathroom is not a team sport, as much as your children wish it was. A solo deuce is not an oxymoron. It is a privilege.

I have learned that when you tell your two year old son to "put Daddy's glasses away", you better make sure did not hear "throw Daddy's glasses away".

I have learned that whenever you get two or more mom's with young babies in a room, within minutes the conversation inevitably turns to pooing, nursing or both.

I have learned that if the baby passes gas while you are changing his diaper, he is not being cute. He is issuing a warning. This phenomenon has many names in our household. I like to call it "the preamble to the constitution." My wife prefers "a turd honking for the right-of -way."

I have learned that nothing gets kids to change into their pajamas faster than an Elmo puppet accompanied by a great Elmo voice. It is a great source of pride to my family and the generations that have preceded me that I can impersonate virtually every character from Sesame Street. In my house, I like to refer to this as my Street cred.

I have learned that no matter how hard I try not to, watching pregnant women walk still makes me laugh. They look like they just got off a horse. And then ate it.

I have learned that the most important thing you can ever do for your marriage is to get your children sleeping in their own beds in their own rooms at as early an age as possible. Believe me, if it were possible for the child to sleep in his own bed in his own room before birth, my wife and I would have found a way.

I have learned that no sound can arouse a slumbering mother and father as quickly as that of a puking child. If I could somehow program this sound into my alarm clock, I would already have the child in the bath and the sheets off the bed before my wife even hit the snooze button.

I have learned that parenthood causes you to say the weirdest things. My personal favorite: "Son, quit biting the coffee table."

I have learned that most disputes over whose turn it is to change the stinky diaper can be settled with a simple game of paper-rock-scissors. Oh sweet rock, you've never let me down.

I have learned that the term Projectile Vomit is an understatement.

I have learned that no life is worth living if it does not involve bathing your son in a Walmart sink after exploding out of his diaper in the middle of the store.

I have learned that when your not-quite toilet trained daughter pees in the middle of the aisle in any given store, you are pretty much obligated to buy at least something.

I have learned that nothing wakes a sleeping child quite like your college fight song. Especially if your college fight song starts with the words "Rise and Shout."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration: Greek for “Thank Goodness We Only Have to do this Once Every Four Years”

On election day, I came home to an excited five-year old son who triumphantly declared:

"Dad, I voted in school today. I voted for Obama."

This one little statement was all it took to destroy the fragile remnants of my heart that my shrewd conservatism had not yet consumed. Question after accusatory question raced through my head. Had I not worn my "Reagan is my Homeboy" T-shirt enough? Does this mean they will revoke my NRA membership? Is this because I failed to get him the Ann Coulter doll for his birthday?

"Why?" I blurted out, desperate to know the source of his deception.

"I don't know."

Frankly, I can't think of three better words to describe this entire electoral process: I don't know.

In a country 300 million strong, why did we choose from among us Obama and McCain?

Why would the Republican Party nominate a man who once considered being John Kerry's running mate?

How could a man with no executive experience, a racist preacher and past associations with domestic terrorists and slumlords be elected president?

How does Nancy Pelosi cram that much Botox into her face with our springing a leak?

And finally, how could the transcendent moment where America's first black president takes the oath be so, well, underwhelming?

I just don't know.

First, nobody wants Obama to succeed more than I do. If he does well, the entire country does well. While I may have voted for the other guy -Oldy McFarty I think his name was- I have no qualms accepting the will of the people and embracing Obama as our President. There is even a part of me that is little bit excited.

I have no doubt the inauguration was supposed to stoke my optimistic fire, but instead it doused it beneath a large pile of blah.

And because I can't really think of a good segue into the rest of my essay, here are some unsolicited thoughts on the inauguration.

Reverand Warren, next time you give the most watched inaugural invocation in history, I suggest you prepare a little bit ahead of time. "It all exists for your glory. History is your story." Congratulations. It rhymes. What else ya' got?

Am I the only one who can't get over how Reverend Warren pronounced Sasha? He didn't just state it, he exclaimed it. Like Eddy Murphy saying "Showtime!" SSSSSSSASHA! Her name sounds even cooler if you throw out your jazz hands when you say it.

I loved how, after taking the oath of office, Vice President Biden referred to the Supreme Court Justice as Mr. Justice. He must be the husband of my favorite Miami Police detective-turned-lawyer, Senorita Justice! Now that is a dynamic duo.

It was nice to see Utah Senator Bob Bennett get a chance to speak at the inauguration. I think we can all agree it is the first and last time anyone from the state of Utah will have anything to do with the Obama administration.

Through out his campaign, President Obama claimed that he was going to fix America's problems. Yet several times during his speech, he stated how it is our responsibility to help fix things. That's right, he is president for less than five minutes and he is already passing the buck.

I do not contest Aretha Franklin's place as the queen of soul. So for her sake I will blame her horrible rendition of My Country tis of Thee on the frigid Washington DC air. It sounded like Fantasia strangling a cat.

Gotta love Aretha Franklin's hat though. Looks like someone got a Bedazzler for Christmas.

Is Yo Yo Ma short for Yo Yo Mother?

Anyone who thinks American literature is not in a state of decline need only hear one stanza of the pseudo-poem offered during the inauguration.

"A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin."

Seriously? That's what passes for poetry these days? Compare that to Robert Frost's Poem prepared for JFK's inauguration.

There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.

At the current rate of literary decline, I have no doubt that the next inaugural poem will simply be texted to all those in attendance and will read something like this:

2 R Nu Pres, who is so gr8

Lets make a bttr st8

Don't LOL, can't U See!

U make me say OMG

I must say, I was quite impressed by Obama's speech. In fact, I liked it even more than the first time President Bush gave it.

I am glad to see that Obama is taking seriously the idea of having an inclusive government. How else can you explain the crazy, racist uncle he invited to give the closing prayer. Redman get ahead man? Yellow will be mellow? White will embrace what is right? You could hear the crowd laughing uncomfortably and hoping he would just shut up, the same way you do when grandpa starts going on and on about Ay-rabs at Thanksgiving dinner.

Well, it is story time with the kids so I need to conclude my inaugural musings. Now where did I leave my copy of Rush Limbaugh's greatest monologues?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Joelies: The 2008 Average Joel Movie Awards

Turn on the spot light and roll out the red carpet! It's time for the 2008 Average Joel Movie Awards. Each year, I present Joelies to Hollywood's most deserving actors and movies based on completely arbitrary categories. It's just like the Oscar's, only interesting. Without further ado, the envelope please…….

Best Actor: Wall-e, Wall-e

He sings, he dances, he collects trash and compacts them into one foot cubes. Lets see Anthony Hopkins do all that without a strong laxative. This of course shows the brilliance of Pixar, who can take a two foot Robot with three fingers capable only of moving his eyes up and down and produce a more dynamic character than anything Keaunu Reeves has ever played.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Leadger, Batman Dark Knight

You know your performance is nothing less than brilliant when you can turn something as innocent as hand sanitizer and make it look creepy. I imagine every magician in the world must hate Heath Ledger. Now every time a magician asks someone if they want to see a magic trick, this poor person covers their right eye and runs away screaming.

Best Actress: The Monster, Cloverfield

A larger than life woman stumbling around New York dropping babies all over town hasn't been this frightening since Britney was Mrs. Federline.

Best Supporting Actress: Gwyneth Paltrow, Ironman

Gwyneth Paltrow managed to do something in this movie that she has never done before: not annoy the crap out of me. For this, Mrs. Coldplay, we salute you.


Least Attractive Female in a Leading Role: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Batman, The Dark Knight

I thought I might have to retire this award in honor of Julia Styles, then I saw the Dark Knight and realized that the torch had been passed. Perhaps it was the goal of the director to depress us even further by including a female lead whose demeanor can best be described as, well, droopy. She is the physical embodiment of Eeyor.

With this award, we clearly see that the Batman franchise is suffering from a chronic case of LFHD (Lead Female Hotness Degeneration). Consider the leading ladies from each of the franchise's films: Kim Basinger, Michele Pfeiffer, Nicole Kidman, Alicia Silverstone, Katie Holmes and now Maggie Gyllenhaal. Each one less attractive their predecessor. I suppose at this rate, the next Catwoman will probably be played by Judy Dench.


Best Man Movie: Quantum of Solace.

From a man's perspective, this movie has it all. Cars, fist fights, explosions, hot babes covered in oil. And just like a man, this movie also refuses to stop and ask for directions providing those along for the journey with any semblance of where they are or where they are going. Just get in, buckle up and don't ask questions.

Worst Movie Rating: The Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian

I have not seen a movie this undeservedly PG since Star Wars: Episode II, a movie with more decapitations than good acting. Prince Caspian features body after body being shot down with arrows, multiple battle scenes, a pagan ritual to bring back a dead ice queen, horrifying dwarves and four children getting onto a subway without adult supervision. The rating system simply does not mean anything anymore when this type of movie
is considered just as appropriate for children as, say, Enchanted.

Best Fight Scene:Kung-fu Panda

Sure, watching James Bond duke it out in an exploding, Bolivian desert hotel is pretty nifty, but even that pales in comparison to watching the Furious Five take on a crazed snow leopard atop a rickety old bridge. Did I mention, the Monkey is voice by Jackie Chan? Anytime Jackie Chan is involved, your best fight Joelie is assured.

Best Remake of a Remake:The Incredible Hulk

The movie did exactly what it needed to: make us pretend that The Hulk never existed.

Best Sidekick: The Refrigerator, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Sure, the Shia Lebeoughfffffghff guy had spunk and moxy, but do you think he could save Indiana Jones from a Nuclear Explosion? No amount of fancy motor-cycle driving is going to save you from the on rush of a mushroom cloud. Yup, when Uncle Sam goes nuclear, who among us wouldn't want our trusty, lead-lined Frigidaire. And for that, Mr. Refrigerator, you will always be in our hearts.

This is, of course, not the first time an Indiana Jones sidekick has been upstaged by a refrigerator. Poor Short Round's 15 minutes of fame were quickly forgotten when Walter, "The Refrigerator" Perry Superbowl Shuffled his way into our hearts the following year.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Average Archive: The Academy Award for Most Pretentious Anti-War Movie Which Nobody Saw Goes Too......

Long before the Average Joel went global, I would occasionally write silly bits of bloated bloviations and post them to a familial site on the interwebs. In preparation for my prestigious 2008 Movie Awards (The Joelies) I have included here what I wrote about last years films. Please to be enjoying now.

The theme for this year's Oscars is "The One. The Only." Which of course begs the question, the one and only what? The one and only time of year that Hollywood gathers to celebrate mediocrity and pat its collective pretentious back? Nope, they have the Golden Globes for that too. The One and Only chance to watch ignorant millionaires fake expertise on complicated matters of foreign policy? Nope, we have the Democratic convention for that. How about the One and Only person who actually saw all of the movies that got nominated? Now that's more like it.

With each passing year Hollywood works harder and harder to distance itself from the people who actually pay for their meal ticket, or in Hollywood's case, their low-calorie, low sodium soy bi-product. The Oscars may be Hollywood's high-five to itself, but to rest of America, it is just another one-finger salute. Of the five movies picked for Best Picture, not a single one of them ranks within the top 50 in Box Office sales in 2007. Sure, most of the films were released late in the year, but that didn't stop movies like "I am Legend" and "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" from going on to collect more money than all the five best picture nominees combined. When your top grossing Best Picture nominee can't get more attention than Ice Cubes "Are we Done Yet" or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, how can you really call it the Best Picture? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it does it make sound? If a movie plays in a theatre and nobody sees it, does it really count?

Now admittedly, awarding the Best Picture based on how many people have seen it is hardly the best possible criteria for an award show. There are enough slack-jawed yockels in this world to make a film exclusively devoted to bowel movements a box office success (think anything with Adam Sandler). But isn't Hollywood shooting its own Gucci-clad foot by awarding shows with accolades that bomb in the box office? All they are doing is encouraging the George Clooney to make more "Michael Claytons" and less "Ocean's Elevens."

So who are this year's true winners and losers?

Best Actor: Matt Damon, The Bourne Ultimatum

Playing a lawyer with a pang of conscience like Michael Clayton is easy. Try playing a government trained assassin with acute amnesia. Now that takes talent.

Best Supporting Actor:Bumblebee, Transformers

This role is a real challenge for any actor, let alone a sentient robot from outer space: make an audience care about you without saying a word. If anything, Bumblebee's inability to speak was his greatest asset as the dialogue given to the other Transformers read like a one act play from a geek convention.

Best Actress: Amy Adams, Enchanted

Amy Adams was to this movie what Jack Black was to "School of Rock". She took a thin, smarmy, unbelievable premise and for the fleetingest of moments, made us believe it. She narrowly beat out the fat chick from Hairspray, only because I do not know her name and I am too lazy to look it up. Laziness is of course is the number one qualification for being an actual voter in the Academy Awards. Maybe I should submit my resume.

Best Supporting Actress: AnnaSophia Robb, Bridge to Terabithia

She really only won this award because, given the rate Hollywood is eating up young stars, it is the last time we can mention her name without also saying "is pregnant", or "was recently released from re-hab" or "lost custody of her children to a part-time wannabe rapper ."

Best Fight Scene: The Bourne Ultimatum

It is hard to pick one scene in particular. Just press play at any moment in the movie and you are sure to either see him fighting, or running. Kind of like a night on the town with Colin Farrell.

Best Car Chase: Transformers

There really wasn't much competition. When the cars themselves can go from weaving in and out of traffic to punching each other on the side of a skyscraper, well, you can't really be beat can you?

Best Animated Film: Meet the Robinsons

The conventional wisdom says Ratatouille and to be sure I did like that movie a lot. But Meet the Robinsons did what the French rat couldn't: entertain my kids for a solid hour and a half. Seeing it in Digital 3D helped its case a great deal as well.

Best Film I Did NOT See: The Simpsons Movie

This is really just a recognition of the past body of work put out by this crew. Kind of like giving Dan Marino an honorary Super bowl Ring.

Best Movie to Watch A Second Time: Spiderman 3

I liked the third installment of the Spidey franchise when I first saw it; however I did not love it. After seeing it a second time, I was able to appreciate it more and get more out of it. Maybe I was just able to ignore MJ's whining and the weird "dark" Peter Parker sequences a little better.

Best Use of a Fat Suit: John Travolta, Hairspray

I still don't know why they chose John Travolta dressed in drag and clad in a fat suit to play the mother in this movie. Are there suddenly no fat women in Hollywood? Did Kathy Bates not return your calls? Regardless of the reason, John Travolta did a heck of a job. He made his love duet with Christopher Walken only kind-of creepy instead of really creepy like every other scene with Christopher Walken in any other movie.

Best Use of a Car as a Projectile Weapon: Live Free or Die Hard

Jason Bourne gave this movie a tough run for the money, but ultimately, seeing Bruce Willis launch a car out of a tunnel and into a low flying helicopter made my inner 10-year old boy squeal with a little too much delight. My one fear is that the success of this movie will lead to another film titled "Live Freer or Die Harderer." A little piece of me dies inside just thinking about it. Writing the title took two years off my life.

Best Picture: Transformers

Yes, I know this clearly makes me a charter member of the League of Extra Ordinary Dorks, but I loved this movie. Shia Labeuoghff (spelling?) does a great job selling the premise (seriously, the show is based off of a kids toy how believable could it get) without making it somber or wearisome. The cars were awesome and the action scenes were some of the best I have seen since the Matrix Trilogy. Whenever I feel lonely or blue, I just let my mind take me to a place where fighting robots battle it our over a one foot cube and destroy half of L.A in the process. Ahhhhhhhhhh….now if I could only get them to shut up.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2009: A Year in Preview

Doing a review of 2008 and is SO four days ago. Now that 2009 has knocked on our door and invited itself in like a crazy cousin trying to sell you on Amway, we had better get used to the idea that it is here and that the only way to escape it is death. On that happy note, I would like to usher in the new year with my preview of 2009.

In an attempt to keep money in his bank and carbon-producing fuel in his private jet, Al Gore will start making even crazier predictions. Just last month he stated that in 5 years, all of the arctic ice will melt. By this time next year, he will be predicting an attack from a mechanized alien race that has been trapped beneath the ice for a thousand years ushering in a new millennium of doom. DOOM!

While people like Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe use socialist ideology to drive once prosperous countries into the ground, the news media will continue to report that capitalism has failed.

The National Hurricane center will predict an above-average number of Hurricanes. This will continue their trend of making panic-inducing predictions regardless of empirical evidence. Al Gore must sit on their board.

In college football, Georgia and Auburn will receive high pre-season rankings only to tank in every important game on their schedule.

Adam Sandler will make another gazillion dollars starring in a movie based on flatulence and annoying voices.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will adopt an entire African village. In unrelated news, the demand for L.A. area nannies who speak fluent Swahili will get so high that Manute Bol will consider coming out of retirement.

All summer, cable news journalists will dedicate a portion of each broadcast to either 1) Tracking a hurricane 2) Talking about a hurricane 3) Talking from inside a hurricane 4) Showing the aftermath of a hurricane or 5) predicting future hurricanes. Personally, I think we could make the whole summer more interesting if we started naming Hurricanes after race horses. Having your city demolish be Hurricane Man o' War makes sounds a lot better than getting beat up by a Katrina. Just imagine the wrath of Hurricane Seabiscuit: the little storm that could.

At some point, we will discover that someone else from Barack Obama's past is either a terrorist (Bill Ayers), a slum lord (Tony Rezko), a corrupt politician (Governor Blagojavich) or a racist (Jeremiah Wright, his own grandmother). Barack Obama will immediately denounce this person in a mesmerizing 90 minute speech which Chris Mathews will call "The best speech I have ever heard since the last one President Obama gave."

This summer, the price of gas will start to climb again and Anderson Cooper will dedicate an entire broadcast to interviewing people complaining about how much money it costs to fill up their 5-mile-a-gallon Hummer.

Financial Analysts who can't predict what is going to happen on the stock market in any given hour will make sure-fire predictions about what is going to happen in the stock market next year.

During the annual Academy Awards, Hollywood will see fit to present Oscar upon Oscar to some pretentious, three-hour movie that is either anti-war, anti-religion or anti-republican. This movie will double its ticket sales in number of Oscars received.

Paris Hilton will once again prove Einstein's theory of relativity by making her 15-minutes of fame stretch on for eternity.

Boys and Girls from across the country will descend on Washington DC and demand a bailout for the failing lemonade-stand industry.

During the summer, somewhere in the middle-east a camel will sneeze instantly raising the price of oil by $10 a barrel.