FTT #4

The challenge in this Funny Thing of Today project, I have found, is not locating the funny thing.  Between founding a college with 120 teenagers at work and overseeing a family with six kiddos back home, I’m awash in funny things.  The trick is locating a funny thing that still comes across as funny in writing.  If it’s a “You kinda had to be there” moment, then it does nothing for this blogger.

So at dinner tonight, Tina the three-year-old announced that she did not like her dinner.  “It’s icky!” she shouted.  “Your pasta is not icky,” her mother replied serenely, but Tina repeated:  “My pasta is icky!”

“Have some beans.”

“My beans are icky!”

Whereupon Tina flung her head back as far as it would go and pooched out her lips in that ultra-pouty expression that–well, are you a parent?  Then you’ve seen the expression I mean.  “Poochy lips!” went up the cry from kids around the table, “Tina’s doing the poochy lips!”

And in a moment of inspiration, I added to the chorus:  “Icky poochy lips!”

Then commenced a great battle on Tina’s face.  The whole notion, the sound, the texture of the very words “icky poochy lips” filled her three-year-old soul with giggles, but her stubborn three-year-old irascibility wanted to maintain the poochy lips, icky or no.  Her lips, stuck out as far as her little facial muscles could extend them, writhed and wriggled between pooch and grin.  Then all collapsed, and a smile broke over her face like sunrise over the prairie.

“No,” she said, laughing, “not icky!”

And I laughed the rest of the evening.  It was–well, it was–well, I guess you just had to be there.

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FTT #3

The circumstances for Funny Thing of Today #3 were not so funny.  The little girls made such a hash of their bedroom that they couldn’t clean it themselves, so Jacinta went to work on it.  While she was in the back room, the little darlings pulled out all the children’s hats and mittens and threw them around the kitchen.  She made them pick that mess up and then went back to continue excavations in their bedroom, and while she was gone again they snuck paint up from the basement to play at face painting.

OK, so maybe that’s a little bit funny.  In retrospect.

Enter Papa, also known as The Enforcer.  I recounted the sad series of events to Regina, who at seven years old is the oldest and the ringleader of the three.  “So why did you bring the paint up?”, I concluded.  “Why did you do that?”

In a voice full of woe, Regina replied, “I guess I must have lost my mind!”

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FTT #2

We drove up to Riverton to Wal-Mart today to visit their Vision Center so my oldest daughter could have an eye exam.  (I told her she was going to have her head examined, but she didn’t want to grant my argument that the eyes are part of the head.)  On the front door of the Supercenter was this sign:  “Absolutely no returns on Christmas decor items after December 24.”

And that, for me, was the Funny Thing of Today.  The image it presents of someone so pathetic that he not only decorates his apartment for the big party with strictly Wal-Mart decor, but he doesn’t even plan to pay for it–he’s that cheap. You can’t make this stuff up.

“Is there a problem with these items, sir?”

“Well, they just don’t fit my apartment decor anymore.”  ‘Cause it’s December 26–the Christmas look is so yesterday!

[Note:  In the voting for FTT #2, the Wal-Mart sign edged out, but barely, an advertisement on the back of a truck announcing “Coffins for Cowboys and Indians”–hand made and custom designed!]

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#1 of 365 funny things

Journaling, blogging, and writing frequent letters all bring a particular advantage.  Yes, you create a record of big events to refresh your memory later, but that’s not what I have in mind.  And yes, you create a narrative that can pull your own life together and get you through hard times, but that’s not what I mean either.

What I actually have in mind is this:  the pressure to write regularly makes you pay more attention to what is happening in front of you, because you need to notice whether it’s worth writing about.  When I have written letters regularly, newsworthy things struck me more often; when I wrote a humorous blog, funny things struck me more forcefully; when I posted family items often, photo opportunities occurred to me more readily.

This year, I think I need to laugh more.  Funny things happen all the time–hey, I have six kids!–but I think it will be a good discipline to try and post, here, on the blog, one funny thing each day of the year.

Now this is January 1st, so I guess today’s funny thing could be my New Year’s resolutions.  In fact, it’s kind of funny that I think I’ll actually post every day.  But the official Funny Thing of Today comes from my youngest daughter, Tina.

Indirectly, it comes from me.  Giving in to a curiosity about what my face looks like, I recently shaved off my beard.  The youngest did not run away crying, which was the effect last time I tried the experiment, but after staring at me for a while my just-turned-three-year-old asked, meditatively, “Why do you have a man-face?”  She has asked me that every time I have shaved since.  I think of my man-face as something I have to put on before a tough meeting, but apparently I wear it around the home.

Today, running her fingers over my smooth face, Tina said somberly, “I hope you get more hair on your face.”

So, the vote is in from the three-year-old population.  Any other preferences out there?

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American Idol

  • Footbaal
  • Basketbaal
  • Basebaal
  • Etc.

 

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The Clip

David has published his newspaper again.  He has learned so much about formatting and such that I think he’s ready to “go public” and make it available to the whole family.

Click HERE to read The Clip!

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Back to basics

This morning brought the first snow of the season:

Even though I dread the coming of winter each year, when the first snow actually arrives it is like walking out of a shopping mall into a quiet room–a visually quiet room, if you see what I mean, and one that usually brings with it auditory peace as well.  After six months of painted glory, the world is suddenly reduced to a charcoal sketch of itself.  It has some of that tender emotional effect that keeps black-and-white photography ever in style.

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The accidental snipe hunt

Although I wrote into my schedule for Saturdays “blog”, in hopes that I will do so at least once a week, most of the weekend has been lost to migraines.  Nonetheless, God was so kind as to drop a blog post into my lap–or rather, into my front yard, which, inasmuch as my house is like a large version of me, is more or less my lap.

For a couple of hours yesterday, this little guy ran around the yard hunting grasshoppers:

Here’s a view of his distinctive breast:

Although I can’t be sure, it seems to me to be some kind of snipe.  At least, that’s what I arrived at by looking through Sibley’s Guide to get the general kind of bird and then watching the video “Better Bird Watching in Wyoming and Colorado” until something came up like our front yard guest.  Anyone else have an opinion?

Our bird feeder out back has finally attracted a good crowd, but they are all little seed-eaters.  This fellow stood out right away as a runner rather than a flitter and as a hunter rather than a gatherer.

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The Gifts of the Spirit

Sorting through old boxes of junk, I found this hand-written poem titled “The Gifts of the Spirit,” from my early graduate school days:

The Angelic Doctor self-described
was a “bat in the sunlight”;
Oh, to feel the warmth of the sun!

I am a bat in a blizzard,
fighting every gust of wind
– but who knows where the wind blows,
whence it comes, and whither it goes?
Perhaps to somewhere good.

God send right wind!

That was scrawled quickly during the last week of the semester, as I slapped together the dismal last in a series of required essays.  Five teachers waited until only four weeks were left in the semester to assign their ten-page papers; knowing that it took me one week to write a good ten-page essay, I saw right away that I would turn in four good papers and one stinker.  The above poem was written as I churned out the stinker.  It was a hard time in other ways as well.

The funny thing is, all these years later I still resonate with the message of that poem.  Life still sends things to all-at-once, I still don’t know where it all goes or where it comes from.  God send right wind!

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Music and Morality, part 2

Picking up the theme of music and morality, I want to jot down a few thoughts about how to talk to people about a morality of music when they lack the self-awareness needed in general for conversation about ethics, or when they lack the self-awareness in this particular area for an Ignatian discernment of spirits.

Lacking interior, subjective evidence, one must point to objective, sensible data.  And the first of these is that people get angry if you call their music bad—very angry.  People don’t blow a stack if you hate the seafood they love, or if you hate their favorite baseball team—most people, that is—but if you say you hate their music, those are fighting words.  Their anger shows that they identify their own person with the music; the music is an outward sign of what kind of person they are, so that an attack on the music is an attack on the person.  (Paradoxically, my conversation partners have proceeded from anger to the assertion that music is morally indifferent, a mere matter of taste.)

But it is probably not a good strategy to attack a man’s music, let him get angry, and then point to his anger as a sign that he is wrong.  No, better to point far away, to others whom he sees as very, very other.

So a second datum is the fact that extremes in music create recognizable populations:  heavy metal fans dress and walk alike and are often pale and thin; huge belt buckles and hats pick out the serious country music buffs; rap consumers fit a stereotype; and on it goes.  Along with the visible similarities go internal resemblance:  heavy metal folks are brooding and angry, rap people are bouncy but irascible, country music people are cheerful and loyal, and so on.

Few things create visible populations the way music does:  drugs do, jobs can, religious vocations do.  Sports don’t, foods don’t—you can’t pick out baseball fans from hockey fans in a crowd, or lovers of Italian cuisine as opposed to French cooking.  Living in a certain region can produce a particular “look,” but the effects of music will override regional differences.

The fact that extremes in music create visible populations of people who morally resemble one another indicates that less extreme musical forms—light jazz, pop, classical music, and so on—are also forming populations in less visible ways.  After all, if factor X produces an extreme difference when applied heavily, wouldn’t factor X produce some difference if applied more lightly?  If extreme musical forms like heavy metal produce extreme visible and moral differences, then wouldn’t jazz or Baroque music produce real but less extreme moral differences in men?  Certainly, the hypothesis that music is morally indifferent doesn’t predict the observed results of the extremes.

In fact, the observed facts say that music is a powerful moral force:  it is used in ecstatic cults for a reason!

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