Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Archive for October 2010

Kant Be Wrong

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I’m considering raising my children to be inconsiderate, slothful ingrates. It’ll be so much easier for them to encounter the same values outside home as inside, and not face the confusion of inconsistent social standards.

This would obviously require owning a TV with antenna or cable, because there’s only so much rudeness that one set of parents can muster at a time; we’d have to outsource to accomplish our goal more efficiently. Fortunately, the experts on the lowest common denominator over at HBO, Fox and their ilk are more than willing to fill my kids’ brains and hearts with all the moral swill they can absorb.

But since the two TV units in our possession lack a connection to anything other than a VCR (purchased in 1999, and it still works!) or DVD player, and the number of objectionable titles we own is pitiful, the only course of action consistent with the values we aim to instill would involve stealing video cassettes or DVDs, or possibly illegally tapping into a neighbor’s cable or satellite stream. Granted, we could go down the dubious avenue of burning someone else’s movies to disks, but there’s enough moral equivocation about that that the kids might not get the wrong idea.

Since we would also try to inculcate laziness as a value, expending too much effort in obtaining access to media trash is out of the question. Which leaves us to find other ways of saturating the little dears in perversion.

Fortunately, a casual stroll down the street provides a good measure of bad influence: the well-mannered gentleman who so generously left his dog’s output at the entrance to the property next door apparently made a return visit, considering the fresh evidence that lies just to the left of the vintage material; litter festoons the street and many of the adjacent alleys and public gardens; cigarette butts lie where pedestrians and drivers alike have flicked them; drivers galore ignore traffic signals and signs, not to mention basic safety and consideration; car horns, instead of functioning as warning devices for safety purposes, have become vehicles of expression for messages such as, “The light turned green 0.000003 seconds ago! Hurry up!” and, “I have a horn. It is loud. Hear me toot. My horn speaks more elokwently than I can.”

The availability and convenience of myriad negative influences just outside our door provides reassurance that if we do decide to take the plunge – preferably when some old lady is passing by underneath – we need not expend very much effort at all in the process. I’d say wish me luck, but offering encouragement is not a value I want to encourage.


Written by Thag

October 31, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Don’t Get Cute

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Being such an unbiased observer, I should face no difficulty in asserting that my children are the cutest. After consulting with such experts as all four of their grandparents, the results defy contradiction (actually, the grandparents tried to get all diplomatic and claim that they find all of their grandchildren the cutest, not just ours, but come on).

Since uploading photos is far too much work for a busy guy such as yours truly, some non-visual evidence may be necessary to convince the lot of you – some of you who probably have children of your own, and therefore suffer from severe prejudice that renders you unable to face the objective truth: with all due respect to your children, or grandchildren, or godchildren, or whichever yung’uns you once found most attractive, they must all cede the honors to Thag’s quartet of cuteness. To wit:

– Does your eighteen-month-old think that “Hello,” means “Look! I’m wearing someone else’s shoes on my hands!”?
– Does your three-year-old wait to run to the toilet until she gets acknowledgement of her “Peepee!” announcement?
– Does your six-year-old  insist on a special pair of underwear to wear with his pajamas? Every single night until they get grungy or urine-soaked, whichever comes first?
– Does your nine-year-old think that on the top bunk bed with the lights on is a proper context for dancing around with nothing on?
– Do you have six kinds of jelly donuts? (Oops. Dunno how that one got in there. But I do know it is hard to type with one hand concealing my moustache).

I realize you may have vignettes that you think compare to the above, but you must come to terms with fact: you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you answer with a cute turn of phrase, I will merely recall our toddler’s tendency to throw everything he can find either into the street or the kitchen garbage can, possibly including his sister’s new dress shoes, which we cannot find. This fate resembles what we strongly suspect became of a missing boot, as well, though that one probably disappeared at the hand of a previous toddler. That, in turn, joins a number of objects whose vanishing likely occurred when our oldest still wore the size 4 diapers. Not that we’re naming names.

In any case, the grandparents, whose authority on the matter we invoked earlier, know from cuteness: they have a total of twenty-two, not counting various grandnieces and nephews and more distant relations upon whom to base their comparisons, all of whom could content in the World Series of Cuteness, a concept that makes me retch with such violence as to stun the pigeons nesting on our roof. Or so I wish. What kind of abusive, short-sighted parent would subject a kid to that kind of shallowness? Don’t answer that question – we know exactly what kind: the kind who would fake their kid’s disappearance just to get media attention; the kind who would enroll little Ashley in a little kids’ beauty pageant; the kind who would name their kid Ashley in the first place; the kind who thinks that imbuing heir children with the notion that the superficial is paramount does no harm. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a generation of warped, maladjusted creeps (aka every single ninth grade class for fifteen years running, according to teachers I had).

You might think the previous paragraph would dissuade me from pressing the claim. On the contrary; I think that once the world sees for itself that in fact my children can out-cute anyone’s, they will cease to pursue their futile pursuit of the limelight, and focus on more constructive endeavors, such as warming up the planet. Unless they’re Tea Party devotees, in which case they’ll focus on denying that they’re warming up the planet.

So you see, this is not only a campaign for the unvarnished truth, but a selfless mission to reeducate humanity. Now that I’ve convinced you, feel free to express your support through PayPal. That “Send Payment” button is so irresistibly cute, isn’t it?

Written by Thag

October 30, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Homework as an Alien Idea

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Our six-year-old had had enough. The intensity of his displeasure became more and more evident, until finally he burst into tears and yelled, “I wanna do my homework!”

Absent any other information, this declaration should prompt any or all of the following courses of action:

– Demand DNA testing to verify whether this child in fact carries my genes.
– Take child immediately to a mental health professional or medical expert.
– Explode in hopeless laughter at the irony.
– Take advantage of this suddenly diligent person in order to get other unpleasant tasks done, such as cleaning the kids’ bathroom.
– Call his teacher and interrogate her as to what the hell she did to transform this infuriatingly stubborn/delightful child into a devoted student.
– Alert the authorities and news media to the first indisputable evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Of course this episode in context only serves to underline the delightful/infuriating thing he’s got going. Mrs. Thag worked pretty hard to persuade the guy to do his homework, and he set about it. He got so caught up in it that when his brother blurted out the final answer, that threatened his sense of order. He thus objected with growing vehemence until everyone acknowledged the bitter injustice and finally calmed him down.

My wife and I did manage to suppress our laughter, with mixed success (he did not appreciate it, even after we explained to him the humor). But damn. Even accounting for the psychological factors that set him off, I would never say such a thing. In general, he needs to have things done in a specific way or order, and any change to that order meets resistance – passivity, shrugging, ignoring, hostility, anger, or whichever reaction the fates deem appropriate (read: most unmanageable) at that moment.

I do wish I could record it. Than play it back for him whenever he claims not to like homework. But that might teach the aliens to improve their cover, and how would we detect them?

Written by Thag

October 29, 2010 at 11:27 am

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The City that Never Sleeps Despite Its Best Efforts

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If you’re ever sitting around waiting for the muse to strike (mine uses a fly swatter), all you need to do is sit by the front window of my house. You’ll overhear all the drama you want, and that doesn’t even include what happens with the neighbors.

Last night, for example, at about 1:30 in the morning, a police car loudspeaker informed all within earshot that a white Hyundai in front of number seven must be moved. I’m reasonably confident in our police force that the officer in question had not been roused from deep slumber in order to make this announcement, but surely he could not expect the vehicle’s owner to hear everything the first time around, considering the propensity people have – and I base this on three and a half decades of observing human behavior – to be fast asleep during the wee hours.

It appeared that one announcement sufficed, since we did not hear anything after that. But we do indeed have a Hyundai, which we tend to park in front of number seven, directly across the street (no parking on our side). So the details I managed to pick out of this explosion of words and sound (signifying nothing) certainly had me worried for the indeterminate fractions of a second before I processed the “white” and plate number that did not remotely resemble our own.

It also turns out that the number seven in question was the property right next door to the number seven in front of which we park our car. Not a 7A and 7B, but two discrete number sevens. If the Brainless One who tried to deliver our mail this summer had so much trouble with a straightforward twelve, I can’t imagine the trouble the two sevens gave him. Come to think of it, it’s likely he just delivered it all to the first one he saw, having been frightened off by the Beware of Dog sign that festoons the other. Of course they haven’t had a dog in at least six years, if ever. We certainly never saw one in all the time we’ve been here (almost six years, in case your cognitive skills resemble those of the Brainless One, which they might, considering your current choice of reading material). Then again, it’s also possible he thought Beware of Dog is actually the name of the family that inhabits the place, and they simply happened not to receive any mail at all the whole summer, even the electricity and water bills that everyone gets without exception.

But focusing all my energy on the months-old story of a hopeless nitwit cannot possibly be healthy. A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, has its benefits. So I’ve taken up this practice – and I highly recommend it to everyone who can manage it – of trying to sleep through the night. It took a couple of years to get the details of it down, but I can say that it’s been my default mode for a good thirty years now. But thanks to the driver of that white Hyundai, my health is in peril.

I think I know how he spent his summer.


Written by Thag

October 28, 2010 at 8:44 pm


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All you first-time parents are just praying that some more experienced souls will swoop in and provide critical advice.

Like hell you are. We veteran parents know full well that unsolicited parenting advice, even from otherwise dear relatives, engenders a level of disgust usually reserved for oppressive dictators (unless you happen to be ultra-liberal, in which case the oppressive dictator is actually a noble warrior in the quest to free the developing world from the iron fist of American-Zionist-Capitalist-Globalist imperialism).

Nevertheless, at the risk of alienating people who wouldn’t read this anyway, I have compiled a list of children’s authors whose work comes highly recommended, along with a companion list of authors you would do well to avoid.

RECOMMENDED:                                               NOT RECOMMENDED:
Dr. Seuss                                                                Dr. Lecter
Helen Lester/Lynn Munsinger                     Hugh Hefner/Bob Guccione
Sandra Boynton                                                  Boy George
Mo Willems                                                           Mahmoud Ahmadinijad
Mercer Mayer                                                      Meyer Lansky
Maurice Sendak                                                  Philip Morris
Roald Dahl                                                            Leni Reifenstahl
Norton Juster                                                      Norman Bates
E. B. White                                                             D. H. Lawrence
Margaret Bloy Graham                                     Mike Tyson
A. A. Milne                                                            2 Live Crew
Shel Silverstein                                                    Gertrude Stein

I trust this list will hold you in good stea- hey, shouldn’t he be wearing a hat in this weather? He’ll catch cold! What kind of negligent parent are you?

Written by Thag

October 27, 2010 at 9:58 pm

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Allow Me to Make a Point (on My License)

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If a police officer pulls you over and approaches your vehicle, one of the worst things you can do is begin berating him in a most profane fashion.

Not that I have much experience in this department, mind you, since the only time I was ever pulled over was in the spring of 1999. Or possibly fall of 1998. Either way, it was quite some time ago. So you must take my advice with a grain or two of salt. Things might have changed in the intervening years; it’s possible police departments across the nation have reoriented themselves toward a more stoic model of law enforcement, actively encouraging their officers to welcome unprovoked, obscene epithets from suspects. It’s also possible gravity is an illusion, as well, and no one has told me.

In any case, I did not display the slightest bit of irreverence; in fact my show of contrition and ignorance somehow gave the state trooper the impression that I had borrowed the car from the mother of the youthful-looking front-seat passenger (my wife, who did not change her name when we married). I was far too ashamed to disabuse the trooper of this notion, which led him to let me of with what amounted to a fine and a warning for going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone.

It did not occur to me at the time, as you might imagine, to speed off as the cop walked over. That could not have ended well. Nor did I consider pretending I was armed and dangerous. These are not the kind of thrill I seek; stick me in front of a dangerously luscious chocolate fudge sundae instead.

But of course later, as I turned the events over and over in my head, I wondered what I could have done differently. Many thoughts came into my head, and I must admit none of them involved running the guy down as he approached on foot. Nor did I think I should have opened the conversation with questions about his mother’s fidelity to his father. I did consider whether it would have been wise to address the trooper in a foreign language, but I’m not so sure how that would turn out (in these parts, rumor has it that about twenty years ago, a foreign driver could dissuade a cop from giving him any trouble by opening the conversation with a cheerful, American accented, “I am a pencil!” in the local tongue; I dare you to try that in any country).

Of course the most reasonable position involves not speeding in the first place, but come on. What are all those numbers on the speedometer for? In the case of my four-cylinder minivan (you read that right), they’re clearly for decoration; the thing will start shaking, then stall, if the AC is on and I push it just above the highway speed limit. But if I ever get even stupider and drive a car that can go fast, remind me to practice my Klingon.

Written by Thag

October 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm

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Creed of the Toddler

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We’ve known each other for almost a year and a half now – my entire life. So I think it’s high time we straighten out some misconceptions you seem to have about the way the world works. Below you will find a delineation of my approach to life, and I hope you will adapt accordingly.

1. Adult crotches are for running into headfirst at maximum speed. My maximum speed might not be very high, but velocity is secondary in this case; the important thing is asserting my presence.

2. Hair, glasses, necklaces, earrings and noses constitute an invitation to grab and pull. Why would you allow me so close to them if you do not intend to bring them within my grasp?

3. My hands will roam where they damn well please while you are changing my diaper.

4. Just because you think a sharp knife is dangerous doesn’t mean I shall refrain from sucking on its blade.

5. Items on surfaces accessible by stepstool shall be summarily seized, given cursory examination and cast onto the floor. If they smash, they smash. Too bad about those two glasses, dude, but at least now we know your gravity still works.

6. We both know I can’t speak yet, beyond such useless exclamations as “hello” and “cat”. What you don’t seem to realize is that I purposely whine and cry to make you agonize over what’s wrong. You should see yourself go crazy trying to figure out what to do about my mood.

7. No, I do not yet possess the coordination to get the spoon or fork into my mouth on my own without losing its contents somewhere along the way, and yes, I insist on doing it myself.

8. I am fully aware that I am the cutest damn thing ever to crawl the Earth, and I press that advantage. Pamper me, peon.

9. It’s only you so-called grown-ups who reserve toilet paper for wiping tushies. In reality, TP is for unrolling, if possible down the steps.

10. Why don’t you big people ever play peekaboo with each other? It’s an absolute riot.

11. Since I don’t know how to sit still for very long, let alone read, books serve the same function as any other blunt object: whacking my sleeping older sister.

12. I cry when you pick me up from daycare because I’m trying to make up for all the crying you didn’t hear me doing while we were apart. I was having a great time; I just know you need your daily dose.

That will be all for now. It’s time for you to drop everything else and walk around holding me in an excruciatingly uncomfortable (for you) position until I fall asleep, and then hold that position for a further ten minutes before I will allow myself to be put down, if at all.

Written by Thag

October 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm

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