Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “books”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bear Hunters and Future Whores

The bar for overzealous geekery has been raised.

While watching an episode of “Cosmos” (which, by the way is A-freaking-mazing) I became giddy with nerdtastic delight when I heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson refer to an Event Horizon as a place “from which no traveler returns.”

For my fellow book-snobs, you, too, may recognize that as a quote from Hamlet.

My nerd cup runneth over.

And, my brain hurts as I sit and ponder whether our Earth could really just be contained inside of a universe that was pulled into a black hole and only exists because the properties of physics in the external universe changed in such a way as to construct our existence.  And, I think about Kurt Vonnegut’s message in Slaughter-House Five when he wrote about the possibility of human understanding of time to be insufficient to the reality of it.

You see, geek though I may be, I do seek to increase my understanding of that which is around me.

Books (though much more so as an adult than they were when I was younger) open my mind to understanding reality in new ways.  It’s so empowering and exciting.

It would be important to note, however, that not all books have this impact.  In fact, some, I might assert, actually make humankind stoopider.  God (or Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) help our children.  Literature for little ones is a minefield of suck.

For example:

1. The Rainbow Fish – My kid loves this book.  He has little cut-outs of fish all over his room now and he loves to look at and play with them.  But, this highly-regarded book really burns my ass.  Lemme lay it out for ya:  The story revolves around a pompous rainbow fish who has sparkly scales.  Personally, I believe that the sparkle is really what attracts kids (and some parents) to the book.  Nobody likes this fish because he (or she — I don’t care enough to remember) has such beautiful scales.  Many other fishes ask him if they can have just one scale and he says “no.”  Fast-forward to the end of the book when he gives away each of his sparkly scales one-by-one and then people like him.

So, let me get this right:  I am teaching my kid to give up parts of himself to others so he can buy friends?  Thank God I don’t have a little girl.  I would have a serious problem with the idea of selling your body for popularity.  I venture to say that this is a slightly less terrifying message for the moms of boys, but perhaps not.

2.  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt — A family inexplicably goes, you know, on a bear hunt.  Pardon me for taking this to mean that they intend to catch, see, kill or meet a bear.  They even take their toddler to go visit one of Earth’s greatest killing machines.  They are subsequently shocked and terrified once they actually find a bear.  No one thought to bring any sort of protective gear.  They were gone all damn day and trekked through all kinds of treacherous bullshit and didn’t even pack a granola bar or a bottle of Dasani.

The final page, though, is what really pisses me off.  You see, the family runs away from the bear once they find it.  The bear, by the way, apparently lives at the beach, so I do question the authors’ understanding of environmental science, but whatever.  But, on the very last page, the bear looks completely melancholy with shoulders slumped as he skulks back to his cave not having been able to chase the ridiculously unprepared family into their home.  My nerdessness reminds me of Frankenstein’s monster and I wonder if the illustrator might have been trying to make some sort of philosophical statement about seeking someone/thing out just to reject it.  The pop-culture weirdo in me thinks of that scene from “Never Been Kissed” when Drew Barrymore is hit with raw eggs while she awaits her nonexistent prom date.  People are assholes.  That’s what I learn from this book.

3.  Harry by the Sea — A family of dickheads takes their dog on vacation with them.  Harry, the dog, is the only one of them cloaked in a permanent fur coat, but that does not seem to matter to them.  They banish him from the shade of the umbrella they brought with them.  Even the kids give Harry shit for wanting to play with them.  Excuuuuuuse Harry for wanting to be, oh — I don’t know — A DOG.  Harry wanders from his family, is mistaken for a sea monster, gets yelled at by a fat lady, is nearly trapped by two Keystone Cop-esque beach patrol numbnuts and suffers temporary deafness.  Only once a food vendor feeds him (perhaps because his asshole family wasn’t going to bother to) do the kids come and find him (where the fuck are the parents?), claiming that they miss him and want him to come back.

Keep in mind, folks, that the family nooooooow decides to get a new umbrella so Harry doesn’t have to die of heatstroke while on the beach in the motherfucking middle of the summer.  So, the lesson we are teaching kids is:  When irresponsibly taking your family pet to a place that is inherently unhealthy for him, don’t wait until some stranger feeds him processed meat products before you start giving a shit about him.

Maybe that actually isn’t the worst one, then.

Have a children’s book you’ve read (hell — ANY book, really) that doesn’t seem to resonate with you the same way it did with critics or others who read it?  I’d love it if you shared.

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The Weeds Behind Me

fire2

Today, I realized that it’s been lost
Sold and on fire, destroyed like Faust.
I recall seeing signs, blazing, “We will never forget”
But we did.

About everything.

A whole generation knows nothing of ones before.
They choose purposeful ignorance, opt to be whores
For attention.
It is about ME, they imply, not my Great Grandma Finch
Whose first husband died the night he was lynched
In Arkansas. Not Ar-Kan-Sas.

You might wonder why the schools don’t teach
About Booker T. and W.E.B.,
Wounded Knee, Kennedy, Gandhi and philosophies
Of togetherness.

Well, they do.

They teach it, over and over, to deaf ears and blind eyes,
To Orwellian automatons, in self-selected coveralls of
Skinny jeans, 60-dollar tees, an air of sleaze and a set of Beats.
And they cry about harassment, racism, and having to WORK,
Of sexist comments and how GW was a jerk
Without the slightest hint of irony at all for the absolute lack of knowledge and experience they possess.

All they know is Martin Luther King
Once upon a time had a dream.
And they can tell you that the dream was to end racism.

But, they can’t tell you a thing about Coretta, Malcolm, Louis, Rosa, Cesar, Bobby, or others who shared that vision
Except that one of those people sat down one time when she was tired.

They can’t pronounce “Tiananmen” because they’ve never heard of it.
Or “Gorbachev,” “Emmett Till” or even know of South Central before they burned it.

The only “Wall” they’ve lived knowing preceeds “-Mart.”
And it all makes me sad.

Worse yet, we try to teach a generation of kids who not only don’t know that their ancestors swung from trees in Birmingham, burned for the color of their skin,
But, they really don’t care.

This is a generation that wasn’t even old enough to remember the Trade Center collapse,
Let alone Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, or the Day the Music Died.
And, I first chuckled that teens had never heard of Nirvana, John Hughes, the Spice Girls or the Beatles.
Then I realized that this was an intellectual tragedy like I couldn’t dream of.
There was, kids, a world before Dubstep.

Believe it.

I used to write research papers by investigating information found in…BOOKS.
Now, the very suggestion of doing that would bring terribly confused looks
From students who appear to need to be surgically removed from their “smart” phones.
And I wonder when we will finally redefine the word “smart,” then.

They don’t know where they’ve come from and don’t care where they’ve been.
And yet they all think they will earn “big G’s,” drive a Lex and be freed
From the tyranny of their parents and the “system” upon turning 18.
And, they don’t know that when you’re 18, you’re still pretty stupid.

And, so Pat O’Leary hides the wire to his earbuds through his Hollister shirt
Adamantly refusing to read Swift or learn about how his ancestors survived tenement living in NYC
Only to be spat upon, labeled non-white, forever a slave to the New Country’s “dole.”
Because he couldn’t care less about how they paid the toll
For him to even sit in that seat and receive a book today.

Lily Locklear doesn’t even know she’s 3-quarters Crow
But, she’d rather chant in her head, “You don’t know –oh –oh”
“You don’t know you’re beautiful.”
Indeed, she doesn’t, but that is a whole different topic altogether.

And, Marcus knows how to design his own Nikes online and pay a few hundred for them,
But he’s never heard of Stokely Carmichael and he doesn’t own a pencil OR a pen.

Zooey is half Jewish. She thinks. Maybe.
But, she couldn’t tell you what that even means.
Is it a culture? A religion? An identity?
“What’s the difference, anyway,” she wonders as she draws on her hundred dollar jeans
With the same Sharpie she used to draw all over her best friend’s arm while they were supposed to be learning about Quadratic Equations.

And, it is a tragedy.

Not like the Challenger, which I actually remember.
But like that of the American Cheetah,
Which had existed but now is extinct
And our children’s minds, their heritage, their culture, their identities,
Too, are depleting, once having been beautiful, hopeful and strong.

I was not alive to witness Woodstock or Pol Pot; too young to really remember when AIDS first made the world stop.

But, I learned about them.  And, I grew.

And, now I say, “I, too, sing America,”
But the trail I leave behind me is growing thick with weeds and ugly from neglect
And, I can’t convince many 14-year olds to sing with me anymore.

 

Shakespeare in the bathroom

If you are a parent of a child under age 8 and  you have read a book in the last year, please tell me two things:

1.  What was the book?

2.  How the fuck did you find time to read a book?

I never was very bookish as a kid.  I actually hated reading for a large portion of my life.  And, yet I became an English major in college.  Go figure.  I am a fabulous mystery.

Nevertheless, as an adult, and ever since The DaVinci Code (the book, not the movie.  The movie suuuuuucked), I have been on a quest for the ultimate page-turner.  And, by “quest,” nowadays I, of course, mean “wishful thinking that I might get ten uninterrupted minutes to read a good book.

Not Fifty Shades of Grey.  A GOOD book.

So, I am looking for suggestions so when I sneak a few minutes in the bathroom every now and again, I can fumble my way through a page or two of literature.  And, by the way, tell NO ONE of my bathroom secret.  No one has to poop that much, people.  Come on.  I am just trying to get some peace and quiet.  Some day, I fear they will catch on…

And, I should have you know that I am a total book snob.  Please do not recommend I sink my teeth into some bodice-ripper or junk novel written by a stay-at-home-mom.  No disrespect to SAHMs.  I am sure many of you are very literate.  But, I am looking for something to hang in there with my loves of Hamlet and Native Son.  I don’t mean to imply that working moms could fill this void, either.  AUTHORS of merit can do it for me, though.  Classics.  Enduring craftsmanship.  Art.  Well-themed wordsmithery.

So, suggest away, friends.  I am all ears.  Until I have to make dinner.  And by “dinner,” I, of course, mean “an order to the local Chinese takeout place.”

The Truth Shall Set Me Free (or help me get my ass kicked one day)

I am a snob.

I admit it.  I am a complete snob about three things:  beer, books and grammar.  I do not apologize for it, either.  Suck it.

As I reflect upon the theme of my blog, I find that the longest-running common thread throughout is honesty.  I use the blog for a sort of therapy, so getting real is part of the deal here at Off Duty Mom.  There is an old folk saying that suggests that “the truth is heavy, so few men carry it.”  Maybe I don’t carry it well during every moment of my real life, but I try to in writing.

The problem with honesty is that it really pisses people off much of the time.  I don’t think that anyone really wants everyone to be honest all of the time.  The truth sucks, usually.  True statements such as “Yes, you are fat,” “Your husband is a real dick,” “Your wife is cheating on you,” and “I farted” aren’t really what anyone wants to hear – ever.

Tough shit.

Have a seat.  I have some truth to spin, y’all.

You call that a "beer"?

  1.  Coors Light sucks.  No one really likes to talk about that much because it’s nice to want to drink healthy beer (um…”healthy” beer?), but if you’re going to drink Coors Light you really might as well save your money, order a pitcher of water and one bottle of decent, medium-bodied ale and mix them together.  All of a sudden you get the equivalent of about a half dozen Coors Lights for the price of one craft ale.  Awesome.  By the way, one Guinness Draught has fewer calories than a large pear or a bowl of peas.  And, it has fewer carbs than one ear of corn, one apple, a cup of lowfat yogurt or a cup of minestrone soup.  If you are going to drink beer, drink BEER.  Otherwise, get an appletini, candyass.

    "I wrote a book, don'tcha know?"

  2. Sometimes publishers decide to publish books while ingesting copious amounts of Angel Dust and Demerol.  I have no other explanation for the reason why so much absolute garbage makes it to bookstore shelves.  In my purse right now is a beat-up copy of “The Fountainhead.”  Before that, I re-read “Cat’s Cradle” for the fourth time.  Both are fabulous.  So, I don’t feel a need to add “Twilight,” “The Art of the Deal” or “Going Rogue:  An American Life” to my library.  Even having typed the titles, I feel as though a few brain cells popped.  You know, you don’t EVER get those back, people!
  3. It ain't hard to talk right.

    I am always amused/saddened/enraged by how many native English-speakers – people born and raised in an English-speaking country by English-speaking families in English-speaking communities with English-speaking schools — cannot speak or write in ENGLISH.  Of course, everyone who reads and subscribes to Off Duty Mom is a genius, but some other folks out there can’t seem to differentiate between “to,” “too,” and “two.”  And, can I remind everyone that “you” has a “y” and an “o” in the word?  And, may I add that sentences can only have one subject and one predicate?  Maybe that one’s too high-level.  I mean, we all did learn that in 3rdgrade.  Dare I even mention that pronouns come in different cases such as “nominative,” “objective” and “possessive”?  At least let me say that there is NO gender non-specific third-person pronoun.  Wait, that’s probably too tough for the general public, too.  Crap.  Can we all just at least agree to capitalize the beginnings of sentences and use punctuation at the end of a sentence?  Is that asking too damn much?

And, now I feel therapied for the day.  I shall now pay myself $100 for the last hour and declare myself cured since I feel SO much better.

Thanks for joining me for today’s episode of “Ranting, Hormonal Mom Goes Batshit Crazy and Spews Nonsense on the Web.”

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