Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Best Next Craze That Kids Will Be Deemed To Like.

Remember penguins?

They look like this:

I got to thinking about penguins, for the first time a couple of years, the other day when I had to get Mr F and Mr Bunches dressed. I get easily bored if there's not 3 or 4 or 16 things being inflicted on my attention at once, so while I get twin nearly-3-year-olds dressed, I also tend to pop a DVD into their in-room DVD player (yes, they have a TV in their room, and there's nothing wrong with that, Dr. Spock or whoever is the Dr. Spock of my generation and is therefore in charge of telling parents that everything they do is wrong.)

This particular morning, I opted to pop into the DVD player, as background entertainment while I struggled to get the Babies! to wear shorts and shirts for the day, the movie March of the Penguins.

I don't recall exactly how long ago it was that March of the Penguins came out, but I do recall that it kicked off what I think of as the Era of Penguins -- a brief but (for penguins) glorious period of human history in which all children were deemed to love penguins, and so penguins were the star of virtually every single kids' movie or show that came out.

My memory is that there were about a thousand penguin-based or penguin-related movies, television shows, coloring books, and related paraphernalia (everything, it seemed, except radio-controlled penguins, and how did the company behind this -- I assume there's a company behind this, but I don't know who that company is, so I'll call it "Big Penguin" -- miss that one? It's a natural: A penguin that would waddle on land and then also go into water, all controlled by kids? I might invent that myself, right now.)

(Note to self: Go back to college. Study something useful this time, and actually pay attention in class. Then win the lottery to obtain funding. Found RC Penguins and invent radio-controlled penguin. Get even richer. Then realize that since you won the lottery, there really was no need to go to all that trouble and found a company and do all that work. Use now-useful college degree to create time machine. Go back in time to this exact day, and tell your earlier self not to bother with college, but instead to simply use the time machine you've invented to go back in time to win the lottery now, without all that college and penguins stuff. Become rich without going back to college. Wonder how this will all work out, paradox-wise, and then leave that up to wiser heads. Also, don't mention this plan to Sweetie, as she might object to meddling with the time-stream.)

To double-check my memory on The Thousand Penguin Movies, I did the only research anyone ever does anymore on anything: I googled "Penguin Movies" and found that there's an actual website, "" which, as it turns out, lists penguin movies. I manually counted the list on that site and came up with 10 different movies about penguins -- plus related soundtracks and books and plush toys.

I also came up with this question: Why does exist? The entire site is one page, with an incomplete list of penguin movies (they don't have Surf's Up, which is, so far as I'm concerned, the best movie about penguin surfing ever), and it links to all kinds of sites, not just one, so it's not run by some company that wanted to highlight all the Penguin Paraphernalia that the company has. It doesn't link to any other site, and it's not a subcategory of some site -- it's not like a zoo or something created a Penguin Movie page for those visitors that were particularly interested in penguins.

It's just an anonymous webpage created to highlight some (but not all) Penguin movies. So when I speculated, above, that there's a Big Penguin out there, maybe I was a little closer to the truth than I knew... maybe I've fallen through the cracks, like a character in a thriller who suddenly has the truth become apparent to him and then realizes, at the same time, that they -- the government, the tobacco companies, Big Penguin -- can't let him live, and he's suddenly on the run for his life, aided only by, for some reason, an aging actor who once could carry a movie but now is reduced to playing colorful roles in the big movies he once headlined (Tom Selleck is next in line for this type of role...), leading you, the viewer, on a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror as me and Tom Selleck flee the mysterious organization whose minions smell vaguely of herring, leave wet footprints behind... and show no mercy.

Penguins & Demons, coming to a theater near you in 2010.

Although I might prefer Penguin: Impossible.

Those are the kind of thoughts that run through my mind as I struggle to get the Babies! dressed while listening to the soothing tones of Morgan Freeman describing Antartica, but later on, then, I started to think: whatever happened to the penguins? After starring in March of the Penguins and stealing the Madagascar movies and being in Surf's Up and making people suffer through a Robin Williams' Elvis impersonation in Happy Feet and more, penguins just ...faded away.

For a year or two there, kids were deemed to love penguins, and then, suddenly, kids were entirely penguin-deprived, without even a Penguin Patch to help ease them down.

That's not the first time that kids have had something crammed down their throat as The Thing That Kids Must Love; everytime Hollywood and the entertainment industry stumble on something they think is cute or funny, they produce reams and reams and reams of it until kids and parents are so sick of that thing they hope never to see it again, and Hollywood moves on to something else.

Hence, myths and fairy tales (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Pocahontas, Beauty & The Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Treasure Planet, The Prince of Egypt, Sinbad, and The Road To Eldorado), lovable-but-gruff monsters (the Shrek Movies, Monsters' Inc.), bugs (A Bugs Life, Antz, Bee Movie), fish (Shark Tales, Finding Nemo), talking lions (The Lion King, Madagascar 1 and 2, The Wild)... all dragged up and then paraded around for a year or two, and then put away.

There've been efforts to create other crazes, too, that caught on to varying degrees: Talking bears, talking farm animals, live-action talking farm animals, aliens, fairies, and princesses, all at one point or another dominated the minds of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and, in theory, dominated the minds of kids.

I'm not so sure that kids' minds were dominated by them -- having watched our older kids over the years, and now the younger Babies!, I don't know that they were, in fact, overwhelmed by a love of all things Penguiny, or all things Liony, or Princessy, or whatever-y.

But I do know this: I know that as parents, we felt compelled to buy those things because the entire organization of society seemed to indicate that if we didn't buy those things, our kids would be missing out on the very, and only, thing that kids loved -- whether that be penguins or bugs or grumpy old men or poorly-drawn, Demi-Moore voiced gypsies in France -- and so we bought them, whenever a new craze started. We took the kids to see Shrek, long after Shrek stopped being even slightly amusing and even after Shrek started seeming like just one big inside joke aimed at Steven Spielberg. We bought (and buy) Disney DVDs whenever they are "released from the vault" because we want our kids to be able to say that they, too, know what the monkeys are singing about if monkeys happen to be the craze at that moment. We get the sheets and shirts and shoes and shiny objects covered with one-eyed monsters or big-footed bears or whatever else it is that McDonald's is putting into the Happy Meals' box, and we do that because the overwhelming prevalence of Greek gods or, for some reason, rats...

... and I still can't believe that for a period of time there, Hollywood's Kid Division tried to sell the public on rats, but they did, and the only thing more disgusting than a rat working in a kitchen is a movie about a rat who gets flushed down a toilet, and I began to wonder at that point whether Hollywood's Kids Division wasn't feeling a little too powerful: I could picture studio executives sitting around, on their third Pome-tini, ties a little loosened, laughing hysterically and saying to each other:

"What next? What can we make them buy? I know. How about a rat! We'll make parents actually buy rat-based things for their kids, so that their skin never stops crawling when they look at their childrens' toys. And they'll do it because we own them!"

Be that as it may, I'm not actually complaining about the fact that I have to keep buying new toys and shirts and posters based on whatever it is that Hollywood decides my kids like -- except that I will complain if they follow up rats with something even more disgusting, like germs.

Having typed that, I just became frightened that they will, in fact, try to make kids like germs, next. It's not so far-fetched. They already made a kids' movie about blood cells. So can germs be far off?

Coming Next Fall From Pixar: You've visited the world of the toys. You've gone undersea with Nemo, and crawled through an anthill with Flik. You've sailed away on balloons to faraway lands filled with wondrous creatures. Now, take the trip of a lifetime with your child's newest friend, Germy... Germy, created one morning in an asexual reproduction method of cell division, is all set to enjoy an idyllic childhood with his unicellular Mom/Dad until suddenly the White Blood Cells show up to try to corral all the germs and send them packing. Separated from Mom/Dad in the chaos, Germy is on the road through the human body, joined by his only friends: Tommy The Chromosome and Professor Demodes Follicularum, running from the White Blood Cells and trying desperately to be reunited with Mom/Dad before it's too late...

You scoff, but can you, deep down inside, actually rule that out as an animated feature? No, you can't, and it won't be long before you'll be taking your kids to see it.

To head that off, and to cash in on the next big craze, I have decided to devote my not-inconsiderable (but easily distracted) talents to creating The Best Next Craze That Kids Will Be Deemed To Like. And I'm not just going to create that and tell you what it is; in the interest of benefitting you and humanity, I'm also going to go ahead and claim that I have a trademark, or copyright, or patent, or dibs on this idea, so that not only will it be the next craze, but I will also make billions off of it.

(And if you don't think my making billions off of having dibs on a craze helps humanity, maybe you should reexamine your conscience. I am a part of humanity, so giving me billions benefits a part of humanity, and as science tells us, benefitting a part (me) benefits the whole (all of you), so, yes, my calling dibs/trademarksies on this craze benefits humanity.)(Sending me money for no particular reason also benefits humanity, so keep that in mind.)

Using my not-inconsiderable but easily-distracted talents, I have deemed that The Best Next Craze That Kids Will Be Deemed To Like is...


No, I'm not nuts.

Shoes is perfect for the next big kids' craze. It's a natural. Everything else has been done in one form or another: Cars, tools, animals, magical creatures, giant robots... all done and done and done and over. The only thing left is Shoes, and Shoes will be the next big craze.

The possibilities are endless: the secret life of shoes, shoes on the road. Married shoes. Single shoes. Shoes fighting with socks. Sandals portrayed as beach bums who want to surf, voiced by

Matthew mcccona Matthew mocna Matthew McCau

voiced by Owen Wilson. Military boots sternly lecturing a kid as they walk. In fact, that's what the first movie will be: A live-action/animated feature: Shoes, in which live-action actors are accompanied by computer animated shoes that also are alive and have distinct personalities of their own. Here's how it'll work:


Opening: We see Kid (Nick Jonas) sleeping in bed. From far away, a mother's voice calls him to breakfast and tells him he'll be late for school. As Nick slowly opens his eyes and gets out of bed and begins to dress, we hear other voices in the background begin, too.

Voice One: What's going on?
Voice Two: You always say that. Every morning.
Voice Three: Oh, let up on him. He's not been the same since Left went missing.
Voice Two: Not my fault. They're irresponsible, those sandals.
Voice Four: You're all irresponsible.

All this has been going on while Nick gets dressed. As he walks around his bed we see the source of the voices: A flip-flop sandal, sitting forlornly and looking sad. A set of hiking boots with a stern look. A pair of running shoes. And a pair of dress shoes. Each pair of shoes has a face and each is made up of one male, one female shoe. The sandal is a male. As Nick looks at them, they clamor to be picked that day.

Running Shoes: You should wear us. It's the last day of school! You'll want to get home fast.
Boots: He doesn't need to run. He needs something sturdy and reliable.
Sandal: He should be wearing me. It's almost summer, man. Free the toes!
Dress Shoe: He can't wear you! For pete's sake...
Other Dress Shoe: Hush, you. Leave him alone! He's heartbroken.

* * * * * *

Later scene: Nick is in school, taking a final exam. Up front, the teacher (Dame Judy Dench) grades papers while below her desk, her Sensible Teacher Shoes watch the class observantly. Suddenly, the Left Shoe taps.

Sensible Left Shoe: Miss Ogleby! Tina's up to something!
Miss Ogleby: (Looking up) Tina, what is that?

Cut to Tina (Selena Gomez), who is picking up a piece of paper held up by the tongue of her dressy boots.

Tina: Nothing, Miss Ogleby.
Dressy Boots: Busted!

(A chorus of shoe-y whispers and giggles breaks out.)

* * * * * *

You get the point. Nick, of course, likes Tina and feels bad for her getting busted on the last day of school -- Tina has to take summer school or she'll be expelled, which puts her plans to go to Hollywood to audition for a TV show with her newest pair of shoes in jeopardy. So Nick and Tina plan, with the help of their shoes, to get her to Hollywood for the audition and back while not missing any summer school, but further problems ensue when Nick's Flip Flop decides that Nick isn't doing enough to find his missing wife, Lefty, causing Flip Flop to enlist the help of Crazy Duff (Nick Nolte), a man who's more than willing to wear one Flip Flop while walking around town looking for Lefty -- something that Nick might be willing to let go, except that when Flip Flop left, he also took with him Tina's ticket to get into the audition.

Will Nick and Tina find Flip Flop, locate Lefty, appease Crazy Duff, get to the audition, get the part and get back in time to have Tina avoid expulsion from school? Watch Shoes and find out!


That's right. Let that sink in for a while, and imagine the possibilities. Flip Flop will be the breakout character, of course -- and you'll be able (forced!) to buy Flip Flop flip flops for your own kids, plus you'll have tiny wind-up shoes in Happy Meals, and Shoe action figures, and Shoe shoes, and Shoe shirts, and stuffed Shoes on beds.


They're The Best Next Craze That Kids Will Be Deemed To Like.

And remember: I've got Dibs.

I could probably make some kind of Godfather-related quote, like "Everytime I think I understand... they pull me back in." But I won't.

Is email obsolete? Probably, and I only just got used to it, too.

Nobody needs email anymore. Now, and in the future, everyone's going to need Forms.

What are Forms? Let me try to explain it to you -- but be forewarned, it's a lot cooler and more high-tech than anything I can truly explain. Everytime I think I know enough about computers and the web and that I'm up-to-date on what's going on, someone comes along and makes it a little more complicated and a lot more better, and that's what happened now with Forms.

Forms are new technology run by HotForms123, and they allow you and me and everyone to make online forms faster and more easily. Forms that can be used to contact people, register for events, track information and collect data, provide tech support, take surveys and otherwise manage and collect and disseminate data. Forms are like email, a blog, a survey, and a team of experts, all rolled into one.

And while that all sounds complicated, with HotForms123 (whose motto is:
Need Forms? We Got Forms.), you can get your forms running in minutes. They offer pre-made contact forms that require you to enter an email and then generate your custom forms -- they'll give you the code to insert that into your blog, email, Facebook page, or even electronic newsletters.

Those forms then allow you to collect and disseminate information -- through hundreds of templates that are customized with your own content -- and the use of forms is invaluable to sales and tech support people, and to bloggers who want to keep in touch and up-to-date with their readers.

Plus, you can change the forms easily without cutting-and-pasting new code or other time-consuming alterations, so that your form can gather one kind of information during the day, and another at night, allowing you to (for example) change a survey depending on the time of day, and do it easily.

HotForms123 doesn't require any programming knowledge at all (good for me!) and the process couldn't be easier. So quit emailing and start forming.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Welcome a New TBOE Reader...or, to use the Italian word for it, "Plagiarista."

I hope I at least get some royalties out of this. I'm no intellectual property rights lawyer, but I believe that the the legalese of "plagiarism settlement" could be translated into everyday English as "I'd like my house in Hawaii now, please."

I am moved to think such high-minded thoughts as this by the revelation that famed (?) producer (?) Lorenzo di Bonaventura (??) is a fan of The Best Of Everything... albeit not a fan of "giving credit where credit is due."

I know he's a fan of mine because I read on Filmdrunk today that producer (?) di Bonaventura (which I think is Italian for "are bloggers litigious? I hope not") is going to be making a film version of "Asteroids."

Which is an idea that he had to have gotten from me, given that I posted exactly that idea over a year ago -- even giving a plot and a soundtrack to it.

So, um... welcome, Mr. di Bonaventura, to the readership of TBOE, and I like my settlements in 10s and 20s. It's easier to stash them in my mattress. In Hawaii.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The answer is: I need to increase some, and decrease others. It's all a journey. (The Best Parts Of Songs, 3)

Do you, like me, listen to songs while anxiously awaiting the part you like best? Do you, like me, sometimes rewind just to hear that part again? Do you, like me, sometimes do that obsessively, over and over again, until that part is burned into your brain? Do you, like me, do that so much that your coworkers come in and ask if you need to increase/decrease your medication?

Am I too weird?

Don't answer that last one.

My survey, this month, of The Best Parts Of Songs now takes us off to an exotic locale: Fibber Island, courtesy of They Might Be Giants:

The part I like best about that song starts at 0:58 in: the background voices. I imagine, when I hear them, something you might see on the Muppet Show: say, They Might Be Giants on an island, singing about the wonders of Fibber Island, and when those voices kick in, everything in the background suddenly gets eyes and a mouth and begins singing along.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Best Things I Used To Do In College, And Don't Do Anymore, But Should

It's a SemiDaily List!

I'm back from my week of trying a case -- we didn't do as well as we liked (that's lawyer-speak for "we lost but I hope I still get paid") -- but I had a lot of time to think this week, driving almost three hours round trip each day for four days, sitting and thinking while the jury was out, and at odd hours when I wasn't grilling witnesses.

One of the things I thought about was, as you've gathered from the headline, things that I don't do anymore even though I did them in college. I was thinking about those things first because, like I said, a lot of time to think while driving, and I can only listen to talk radio for so long. And, second, because being in trial 9 hours a day for four straight days, while not being "work" in the sense that any real working person would mean it, is a strange and intense experience -- either everything is totally focused, or there's nothing at all to do. When court is in, when there are witnesses and exhibits and judges, and arguments, my mind is focused on everything that's going on and trying to keep track of questions and answers and listening to my client and reviewing my notes and having to on the spot react to dozens of things.

And then, when court is out, like during the 10 minute breaks, there's just... nothing. I mean, sure, if I don't have to prepare for the next part, I chat with the bailiffs or the reporter or my client, but there's no break. No surfing the internet or listening to the radio or making a personal phone call or reading the paper or breaking out a book. Just down time.

And that comparison, between how I was spending my life this week, as opposed to how I spend my life most weeks, got me to thinking about how my lifew most weeks compared to my life in college, when I (as the title to this post suggested, way back when) used to do things that I no longer do.

College for me, mind you, was not a Van Wilder-esque experience. I worked my way through college -- although, as always, with my life, "work" should be in quotes because I didn't "work" so much as "do things, or pretend to do things, and get paid for them." My point is, this is not some Animal House-nostalgia reverie about parties and Jell-o shots and streaking and things.

As an aside: Animal House sucked. I brought it up only because when people think college, for some reason, they think Animal House, but Animal House was a terrible, awful, boring, unfunny movie. So was Old School, which wasn't so much a college movie as a pasted-together series of scenes from other college movies. I had to say this so that you didn't think I liked Animal House, because I didn't, and nobody should. It's an awful awful movie that, like so much else, is only remembered fondly because Baby Boomers made it, and Baby Boomers cannot see that most of what they've created actually is terrible. Or they refuse to see that -- they just band together, with their slightly-wavy, vaguely-toupee looking haircuts, and their polo shirts tucked into their khaki shorts with knit belts, and talk about how great the stuff they created is, and write Newsweek articles about how great the stuff they've created is, and ignore the fact that the stuff they've created, like Animal House and like 98% of the Rolling Stones' music, is just god-awful.

Anyway, with that off my chest, I was, as I said, thinking, on the way home the other day, Boy, life now sure is different than life in college. Not bad-different, entirely, but not good-different, entirely, either. Because while I've replaced some of the bad stuff from my college life (for example, I replaced being poor with being well-off but having phenomenally high mortgage and student loan payments, which means I'm really in the same boat, and I replaced eating Ramen noodles a lot because they're all I could afford with eating Ramen noodles a lot because I've grown to really like them)...

... maybe things aren't so different.

But, no, yes, they are. Things are different, now. And things are better -- my life today is tons better than when I was in college, not just because I make more money and have a better job and have a great wife and great kids and living quarters that don't smell like moldy feet, but because I'm wiser and more well-rounded.

But with all that, things could be a little better-er -- they could be Best, as I like to say, because I realized that (again, the title clued you into this) that there were things I did in college that were fun that I no longer do anymore, and I should. We as a people should do those things, some of those things, that we did in college, at least the ones that weren't terminally stupid/illegal/requiring an excessive amount of nudity, and I in particular can think of some things that I did in college that I no longer do, but should, and, at last, I am to the part where I'm going to tell you what those things are. So without further ado, here are:

The Best Things I Used To Do In College, And Don't Do Anymore, But Should

1. Use a backpack. Why can't "grown-ups" use backpacks for stuff? Who decided that a backpack isn't a suitable grown-up accessory? The last time I was allowed to use a backpack was when I was in college. Each day, I'd take my backpack and put the books I needed in it, put a couple of extra cassette tapes for my Walkman in a small pouch on it, put my lunch in the side pack, put a couple of sodas in a different pack, and then slip it on and carry everything I needed for the day, hands-free, in comfort. If I wanted to be cool, I'd do that thing where I had it on with only one strap, but mostly I two-strapped it and I was fine with that. (A guy listening to Paul McCar tney's Liverpool Oratorio on his Walkman, carrying Blue Devil comic books, is not going to be too cool no matter how he wears his backpack.)

The backpack worked great -- it kept my lunch away from my books, had small pouches so that I could get a tape out without opening the whole stupid thing, and even sat nicely on a base it created through the stuff inside it. And the straps were padded.

Now, as a grown-up, I don't get a backpack. I get briefcases-- stiff-sided, non-expandable, unicompartmented, small-handled cases. The first briefcase I owned, given to me on graduation from law school, broke because I stuffed it too full (with, in case you're wondering, ramen noodles for lunch, not files.) So I switched to a soft-sided briefcase made of leather with one small outside pouch for pens. That one stopped being useful when my lunch (leftover Hamburger Helper) spilled in it, wrecking most of a file and also leaving noodle residue that even a dry cleaner couldn't get out.

The problem with both of those, aside from being incredibly small, was that I had to hold them in my hand, leaving me with only one free hand. If that free hand w as holding my coffee, or a soda, or a sandwich, or anything, I couldn't open doors or shake hands or pick up something else I wanted to carry -- making it difficult to, say, walk to court while eating a corn dog and drinking my Red Pop. Unacceptable.

Now, I've got something kind of like a bike messenger bag with one pouch and a couple of small segregated sections, and it's got a shoulder strap, but the strap isn't padded and it's prone to slipping down off my shoulder, and I have to put my lunch next to anything else I'm carrying (usually a copy of Entertainment Weekly).

So I want a backpack. But I can't have one, because society decrees, apparently, that adults should be uncomfortable and if I were to show up for a jury trial and begin unloading my file from a backpack I'd be fired by my clients faster than you could say malpractice. (And my clients, for some reason, can say that word pretty quickly.)

2. Do Crossword Puzzles When You're Supposed To Be Paying Attention But Don't Really Need To Be: I'm lucky. We don't have many meetings in my office -- in fact, the only regular meeting is one that I started, and I'm the only one who usually talks at that meeting, and it's short. But we do have some meetings, and those meetings are usually not something that I really need to be paying attention at -- either because nothing ever gets decided, or because I already know what the meeting is about and therefore don't need to pay attention, but I do need to be there.

There was a word for things like that in college, a word for things that we had to attend but didn't need to pay attention to, and that word was "classes." I had to attend classes, not because I cared about ethics or Political Uprisings of the 20th century, or Anthropology 101, whatever that was (we looked at skulls a lot and the professor pronounced "Neanderthals" as neander-tall, not thall, which bugged me). I didn't care about those things; I cared about making sure I didn't miss a quiz or exam or term paper assignment, so I went to class and sat in back, mostly, and tried to ignore the professor constantly saying neander-tall by doing crossword puzzles, which back then were the only form of entertainment students had. There was no Internet for most of my time in college, and certainly no wireless internet for laptops; if I'd been able to surf the Internet while in class, I might still be in college.

Then again, maybe I wouldn't have surfed the Internet, because I really enjoyed doing crossword puzzles, and the only time I ever did them was doing them in the newspaper while I was sitting in the back row of class. Doing a crossword puzzle was perfect -- it looked like you were paying attention, because while you thought of a word you could stare at the professor thoughtfully, and then lean down to write something, making it look like you were taking notes. And it had the added benefit of being "kind of smart," so it wasn't really a waste of time -- I might not have known exactly why we kept looking at skulls in anthropology (or what anthropology meant), but at least I was doing a crossword puzzle, so I was, you know, learning and using my mind and stuff.

I don't do crossword puzzles anymore. I did one on a plane, once, when I got really bored with the book I was reading, and it was okay, but it wasn't the same because I wasn't dodging anything. And now, when I'm in meetings or sitting at seminars or being brought up on ethics charges yet again, and I'm sitting there in the conference room or at the State Bar Center or in the holding cell, and I'm supposed to be paying attention but I'm not, I've got... nothing. I can, I suppose, doodle on my legal pad, or do what I sometimes do and circle all of one certain letter on a page, then put a box around another, then a triangle around a third letter, but that's not intellectually challenging.

What the world needs, I think, is this: legal pads with crossword puzzles on each page. They could put them down into the corner, just small ones, maybe, but they'd be there. Or put them on everything that we use in the office. Why not have crossword puzzles on the back of Post-Its, on boxes for the doughnuts, on desk calendars? I mean, sure, there's always a chance I'll get a little distraced when I should actually be paying attention, but I can wing it in that kind of situation:

Judge: Mr. Pagel, it's your time to argue this case to the jury and try to avoid the death sentence for your client.

Me: (Folding up crossword I've been working on for most of the trial): Oh, uh, certainly, Your Honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my client, whatever his or her name is, may be a lot of things, but I'll tell you what he's not: he's not a six-letter word meaning the opposite of innocent. He's also not an island in the Caribbean Sea, popularized in short stories, with 8 letters in it, and the middle letter is an "l." If, though, anyone knows what that is, I'd appreciate you just blurting it out.

3. Like Local Bands: I used to love local bands. Not "local bands that happen to be from my state and made it big," but actual local bands, bands made up of guys I might see on campus, guys who worked at the copy shop or movie theater or sandwich shop, guys who you found out one day were in an industrial punk rock band with a focus on songs aimed at ending vivisection. (I honestly knew a guy who did just that, and his band really was just that.) Bands that would have a little cassette tape of their stuff on sale for $5, with a handwritten label on it, and a poorly-reproduced cover. Bands who played in venues so small that the lead singer was actually right next to you. Those bands were incredible. I'd go every now and then to see one of them at some small bar, maybe with a friend or two. I'd bike over to the really-artsy-record store to browse the local-bands rack, buying cassettes from bands like Alligator Gun. I'd listen to songs like Don't Call Him Digger, Call Him Dan and think "Man, these guys shouldn't go on to be doctors, they should just keep on rockin'."

There was something really fun and real and exciting about those bands. There was something alive about them, something neat about listening to their tapes on my Walkman and thinking Yeah, I remember standing right next to that guy when he sang that.

I don't listen to local bands anymore. Part of that is because I don't go to bars anymore -- they frown on taking toddlers into a bar -- and part of that is because, I don't know, I grew up. I see fliers for local bands and find websites for them and I think, yeah, that's all right, but then I go and buy the latest Coldplay album, instead. Which is all right, I guess, but it's not unique. It's not as much fun, not having any connection to the music, and it's not as much fun knowing that everyone around me is listening to the same thing I am, and it's not as much fun knowing that if I ever am standing next to Chris Martin, I will have somehow switched bodies with Gwyneth Paltrow.

4. Play sports. When I was in college, we played football and softball and racquetball, and I mean we played them. We played tackle football, and some of the people playing football were guys that played on a local semi-pro team... and we played without pads. The softball wasn't this "let's get together and drink" softball -- maybe people had a beer here or there, but we were competitive. I pitched for our law school team once, and had a no-hitter going into the 8th inning, when I gave up a double. They pulled me out. There was no screwing around in those sports -- mess up and you're off the team, or maybe have broken leg because you didn't block Ernest. He was huge.

Even racquetball was serious, and possibly dangerous. I once -- totally accidentally, I swear-- gave my friend a black eye playing against him, on a hard serve. (His fiancee then forbid him from playing with me until after the wedding so I didn't wreck the photos.) We'd play for hours and nearly die of exhaustion, hitting walls and contesting every point.

I don't know why that had to end, but apparently it did. My second year of law school, I clerked at a firm and one of the lawyers said to me "So, what do you do for recreation?" I told him, and he said "You'll have to change that if you want to mingle as a lawyer. Better take up golf or tennis."

So I did -- on his advice, I took up golf -- and even then, I found it's not anything like a real sport. Part of that is because I'm terrible at golf, so bad that I wouldn't dream of actually using it as a professional contact of any sort, and part of that is because when "adults" play sports, they're not serious about it at all. We had golf outings at our firm, for a while, and these golf outings devolved from, on the first hole, a light-hearted, joking good time to, by about the fifth hole, a drinking contest and people simply not golfing at all anymore. I don't mind if people want to simply walk around with a beer, but I'd rather they didn't call it a sport.

Softball changed, too -- almost the moment I graduated from law school. Suddenly, our pitcher had a cigarette in his mouth and a beer in his glove while he pitched. Nobody practiced. People showed up for games, or not.

I heard, on the radio, an ad for a new softball league. Here were the selling points: 1. It's played indoors, so there's never a rain out and it's not too hot. 2. There is a full barrel of beer for each game, and 3. No strikeouts.

That is a sport? I get it: Adults aren't supposed to want to play sports. I'm not saying we all have to be Tiger Woods crossed with Lance Armstrong at all times -- training and never smiling and nearly killing photographers and dumping our girlfriends -- but if you're going to say you're playing a sport, could we at least actually play it?

There should be some kind of division -- people who want to sit and drink beer are free to do that. They could say something like "Hey, let's all go sit and drink beer." And people who want to play a game of racquetball could then get someone who wants to do that.

It got so bad that I began teaching the kids to play my sports simply to have someone to play a decent game with, and that never works, because not only do they come up with crazy plays (one on play in a football game, Middle called for five fake handoffs and then a fake pass) but you have to let them win, for most of their lives, until suddenly one day you no longer have to let them win and they beat you by 30 in basketball and don't even sweat.

5. Sit crosswise in chairs. Working at three jobs while going to school, combined with the fact that I am only just a little more social than the Unabomber, meant that I mostly didn't hang around in the student lounges with other students. Either I had to get into class (where I'd do crosswords) or I had to get to one of my jobs (where I'd do my homework.)

But from time to time, I did sit and talk with the other students, at the Union or the Terrace or in the Lounge or at one of the many little spots where colleges put chairs and wide tables and the student newspapers to encourage kids to hang out and create what administrators call a "community" and students call "a chance to slack off and maybe ask out that cute girl from Anthropology, the one who smiled as she handed you the skull."

And when I sat in one of those areas, I, and the other students, would invariably sit in almost any manner in the chair other than the accepted, conventional manner of butt-on-the-base, feet on the floor. We'd sit on the arm and lean over, or sit on the chair and swivel sideways so our legs were over one arm and our head rested against the other, or sit on the back with our feet on the seat -- anything but sit in the chair the way God and Thomas Edison intended.

(I put Thomas Edison in there because I'm pretty sure that my Anthropology professor said he invented the chair, the time she passed around his skull.)

Now, I sit in chairs the way they're supposed to be sat in, like a decent human being. I don't even take a chair and spin it around so that I'm leaning against the back of it, arms atop the backrest, legs akimbo. No, I just pull out a chair and sit in it, all boring and stodgy and grown up. I don't even really sit off-center on chairs anymore, and here's why: I can't. Society won't let me.

Try it yourself. Go to the Mall, say. Malls have chairs and benches in them. Go to the Mall, and be a grown-up person, and when you get to a chair, sit on the arm of the chair, legs off to the side, using only 10% of the chair. Watch the looks you get. I bet you'll last one minute before you give up and leave or sit in the chair the right way. And you'll last less than that if you try, say, sitting on the back of the chair, or crosswise.

As a college student, I challenged society and stood up to The Man (Thomas Edison?) and sat on chairs however I darn well pleased. As an adult, I sit in them in a way that would make my grandma proud of me.

6. Sometimes just blow off things you know you should be doing and hang out for a day doing nothing much at all. Actually, I just today began doing this one. You didn't think I was in my office doing this, did you? I wouldn't even have been doing this today -- if it hadn't started raining, I'd still be outside. The office, the papers, the emails, the phone calls, the motions and complaints and answers and judges and lawyers... they'll all be there tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

But today? Today is only here for a short time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Yes! Another reader! My span of influence now extends to ... well, probably about five people, if you count the Babies! (Who don't actually listen.)

Remember when I said I wanted to start a thing, and the thing I wanted to start was getting people to use the phrase "Put A Ring On It" in everyday life to describe things they like?

Sure you do -- it was right here.

Well, bow before me, global population, because my influence is felt far and wide. Check out this post from Filmdrunk:

The one who calls himself Punchface Thunderdog (who previously made the George Washington vs. Zombies picture that you’ve probably seen on FilmDrunk a few times) made this photoshop out of the Brothers poster, and I liked it so much I put a ring on it. Look how much concentration is going on in this picture now. I’m wilting from the pensiveness. Don’t try this at home.

That's right. I did that. Up top! Anybody? Don't leave me hanging.

Who else reads this blog? Check it out by clicking here. And you read it! You do!

Friday, July 10, 2009

I pay attention to Sweetie. Honestly, I do. Mostly. What'd you say? (The Best Parts Of Songs, 2)

I mentioned to Sweetie the other day that I was going to, for my "MiniBest" theme this month, do The Best Parts Of Songs, and she said "Like the piano in November Rain?"

So I said: "Um. What?"

She said: "That's my favorite part of that song. The piano part."

I agreed with her and we talked about it a little more, which songs I liked and which songs she liked, and then I said to her: "I'll put yours on the blog, too. I've just got to remember: the guitar in November Rain."

"No," Sweetie said. "The piano part. Piano part."

So, here's a rare Sweetie nomination for a Best:

The Best Part of November Rain, the Guitar part Piano part!

Other Best Parts Of Songs:

I Don't Care, from "No More Kings."

Click here to see all the MiniBests Ever!