You Know It, Baby
One of my favorite scenes in Star Wars is in the conference room on the Death Star, where Grand Moff Tarkin is getting a status update from his lieutenants on the fate of the stolen battlestation plans. When I was nine, it was cool because Darth Vader used the Force to strangle an uppity bureaucrat. Now that I’m 40, it’s cool now because it almost exactly resembles every corporate meeting I’ve ever been in, with sniping and pettiness and ass-covering. And walking embodiments of galaxy-spanning evil.
My kids recently brought home a reprint of the first issue of the Star Wars comic — a quickie affair, obviously drawn from storyboards instead of the movie itself — and the scene is even better.
Darth Vader — Sith Lord, Jedi killer and what remains of the broken soul of the hope of the galaxy — uses his mastery of the elemental force of the universe to summon a hot cup of joe. None of this pouring from the admin-provided urn over chit-chat before things get started, oh no. He floats it to him right in the middle of an argument. Total dis! Oh, I’m sorry. Where you making a point? I was thirsty. Man, who makes this sludge? Am I right?
The only problem being, of course: How does it drink it, exactly?
The top Google result for the phrase “The American People” — as of this writing — is a project I created years ago that scans political stories on Yahoo for the phrase “the American People.” It pulls out the relevant paragraph and collects them together, in an attempt to show how the phrase (and, presumably, what it represents) is treated by politicians, i.e. like a three-dollar hooker.
That needs to change. There’s a band called “The American People” and they’re great. They actually deserve the top spot, earning it through effort and quality instead of a gimmick. I know Google is supposed to be the ultimate example of democratic participation and meritocracy, but if the abuse of the phrase “the American People” demonstrates anything, it’s that the enthusiasm with which something is cited almost directly relates to how insipidly it’s being used.
The American People deserve “The American People,” and “The American People” deserve your attention.
A while back, I was lucky enough to get an e-mail out of the blue from Heather Armstrong, inviting me to contribute to an anthology of stories about fatherhood that she was editing. She’d been pointed at me by Jason Kottke, who has been around long enough to remember when I actually used to write things, and that at some point I had managed to become a father.
And so, to celebrate the release of “Things I Learned About My Dad (In Therapy)” and its inclusion of my essay (against all editorial common sense), I managed to get really, really mad at my boys.
The bit is called “Peas and Domestic Tranquility,” and is about paternal anger. Write what you know. I’ve managed to immortalize — between hard covers, in the Library of Congress — the fact that I’m kind of an asshole.
The first conscious parental thought I ever had — cradling my bawling three-week-old son in my arms, and staring out the window at the grey light crawling over the horizon — was, “OK. Don’t kill the baby.”
The previous weeks had been packed with various adoring unconscious parental thoughts, coming in unexpected and upending waves: so this is what pure love is; I have the most amazing wife in the whole world; he smiled, I swear he smiled, not gas, it was a smile, at me; good God, is that tar coming out of his ass?
But this was a very intentional and seriously considered conscious thought, something I had very intentionally and seriously worked at, very intentionally and seriously forced into my head. It was required in the face of the new and ugly unconscious thoughts that were suddenly welling up from some dark corner of my sanity after a series of long and grindingly slow nights spent cajoling, begging and ultimately attempting to bribe the boy to just goddamned go to sleep, sweet holy Christ, just please go to sleep.
OK. Don’t kill the baby. Breathe in, breathe out. No baby killing. OK.
Raising a child is easily the most maddening thing I’ve ever done. It is, of course, also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. The latter gets a lot of attention — frozen in time and assembled neatly in picture albums, scrap-books, family stories — while the former, nearly as significant in the big, day-to-day scheme of things, is the subject of only ominous public service announcements and scolding looks from strangers, your parents and your mate. Everybody gets mad at their kids; nobody likes to talk about it.
You bring an infant home from the hospital, and he seems the smallest, most delicate, most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life. He’s brand new, a brand new person, and you are there to protect him and nurture him and teach him and mold him and help him to become the man that is everything that he might be. And he grows! He grows so fast. And he acquires a personality, and a will of his own, and he has wants and needs and he matures and blossoms in ways that you wouldn’t have dreamt of those first few special weeks. And as much as you love him and cherish him and are proud of him, you simply cannot freakin’ goddamned believe the massive trail of destruction he’s left in his wake. God! Just once, please just once, will you clean up your room? God!
Do not kill the baby.
It goes on from there, documenting everything Child Protective Services is going to need to put me away for a long time.
Reading the book, I’m astonished at the quality of every essay that wasn’t written by me. Some are sweet, some are heartbreaking, most are funny — it’s a wonderful book, and it truly is an honor to be included. I’m now forever squatting squarely next to some of the best writers on the Web, and they can’t do anything about it, ha ha ha ha.
Told you I was kind of an asshole.
Subject: Kind Attention, From (FBI USA)
From: Agent Larry Hans (FBI) [firstname.lastname@example.org]
CYBER WIRETAP AND FUNDS RECOVERY DEPARTMENT,
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, (FBI).
J.EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING
935 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE,
NW WASHINGTON, D.C
20535-0001, USA .
We believe this notification meets you in a very good state of mind and health. The FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) Washington, D.C United States of America in conjunction with some other relevant Investigative Agencies here in the USA have recently been informed through our Global intelligence monitoring network that you have a pending FUND transaction with a Bank regarding to an over-due Inheritance / Award payment which was fully endorsed to be paid in your favor.
It might interest you to know that we have taken out time in screening through this whole transaction as stipulated on our protocol of operation and have finally confirmed that BARCLAYS BANK PLC, is the authorized financial institution scheduled to make your payment in line with their remittance requirements. Several investigations by us have shown that you have been dealing with some unauthorized persons and banks regarding the transfer of these funds to your bank account.
Our UK attachee agent recently had a meeting with the Manager of BARCLAYS BANK PLC, in the person of MR. NAIL WIHTE along with some other top officials of BARCLAYS BANK PLC, regarding your case and they made us to understand that your file has been held in abase pending when you personally file for your claims. They intimated him that the only problem they are facing right now is that some unscrupulous element are using this project as an avenue to scam innocent people off their hard earned money by impersonating to be STAFF OF BANKS and its affiliates.
We were also made to understand that a lady with name Mrs. Joan C. Bailey from Ohio, United Of America has already contacted them and also presented to them all the necessary documentations evidencing your claim purported to have been signed personally by you prior to the release of your funds to her, though they insisted on hearing from you personally before they could go ahead on wiring the funds to the Bank information provided by the above named Lady. It is basically one of the main reasons why they contacted us, to enable us assist them in carrying out proper investigation and subsequently informing you of their mandate to Remitting your funds.
Most importnatly, We advise that you discontinue further dealings with any person or organization posing as staff or affiliate of any bank or agency concerning the transfer of your funds. In your own interest, You are advised to immediately contact BARCLAYS BANK PLC, LONDON on the following details for the onward remittance of your funds.
CONTACT PERSON : MR. NAIL WHITE.
ADDRESS: P. O. BOX 738, Eagle Court 75 King Street, Hammersmith London, W6 9HY, U. K.
Direct Tel: +(44) 207 1797777.
Tel / Fax: +(44) 7005-942-285.
Private Banking Section: +(44) 703 1818003.
Official Website: www.barclaysbank.co.uk
Ensure that you comply to all their remittance procedures and also furnish them with your full details (Full names and address, direct telephone and fax numbers, source of funds,Expected Amount, etc) to enable them in their verification processes before the release of your funds.
Agent Larry Hans.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Washington DC, USA.
Once you have kids, the phrase “syrup fight” is a much less enjoyable way to start a Sunday.
You know what’s awesome? I’ll tell you what’s awesome. A guy buying the cheap carnation bouquet from Costco at 7:30pm on Valentine’s Day night.
You know why it’s awesome? Because it’s not me doing it anymore.