Monday, April 07, 2014

Canceling Friday Night Fights

Wrestling, whacking, and battling are big parts of life here at GoofManor. According to academic literature, wrestling, or "kinetic play" is good for children.

Friday night, full of sugar (and in my case wine) is the Battle Royale. For years now, after the food is eaten, the wine is drunk, and the plates are cleared GoofBoy and I square off. He's faster, more aggressive, and better skilled. I however, am a full-grown adult. So after a little sparring, I grab him, drop him on the floor and sit on him. He would promise to get me next time and I would kiss his face and say, "Sure think buddy."

Except he's getting big, strong, and at 12 he's full of he's full of rage and his limbic system restrains him like cheesecloth holding back an Amtrak Metroliner.

It isn't that he can beat me (although that's coming!) It's that when I pin him down, I can't hold him so easy and I'm afraid if I apply the needed pressure I could really hurt him. Also if he gets in a lucky shot he could really hurt me!

Every time she sees us wrestle, MamaGoof shouts at us to stop, convinced one of us is going to get hurt. This has been going on for years and neither of us is worse for the wear. It doesn't help MamaGoof's concerns that GoofBoy's face turns bright red at the slightest exertion, so he looks like he's furious and overwrought when he's just playing.

But as GoofBoy gets stronger, the possibility of her warnings proving prophetic becomes greater. I really, really don't want her to be right (about this at least, she's right about most other things). Because if she is, I'll never live it down. And that will hurt more than GoofBoy's pummels.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monsters University Weltanshauung

So I caught the movie Monsters University with the little Goofs not long ago. Unsurprisingly, they loved it. It is a movie made by geniuses who apply all of their brainpower to amusing children the age of the little Goofs - and they are pretty amused throwing rocks into water. So kind of a no-brainer.

I, however, was completely creeped out - and not because I am afraid of monsters (I mean, I am, but beyond that.) Monsters University is the sequel to Monsters Inc. My problem is that the prequel presented just a slender part of the Monster world.  But in Monsters University we saw far more of their world and that bugged me.

The fundamental conceit of the movie is that the Monster world derives its power from the screams of human children. But how would the monsters have ever figured this out? In the movie the monsters have all kinds of complex technology and seem to have a pretty complicated society. We even meet monsters who are not involved with the energy generation/child scaring industry.

So what kind of society is it? It is powered by a very specific, kind of strange energy source. Well, they are monsters, so that kind of creepiness doesn't bother them - scaring children is kind of what they do.  But wait, if that's what monsters do, why don't they just all focus on scaring children?  Why did they bother to develop a sophisticated society with universities, technology and government (including a secret police force known as the Child Detection Agency.)  The monsters who don't scare children (apparently the vast majority), do they somehow feel left out?  Are there protest movements to allow public access to doors from which to frighten human children?

Or are monsters like us, and it is just a small number who have the talent and inclination to frighten children? Then I need to know what is the rest of the society like?  We only see the pragmatic technocrats involved in the monster energy industry.  But what kind of cosmology and theology would this society develop?  Would they worship humans?  Wouldn't they wonder about the creation of a universe in which they could reach across dimensions, frighten the children of another species and obtain power for their civilization?

And what about the the human world, have they no interest in it? No questions, no desire to develop deeper more cooperative relations?

Maybe at some point the monsters had other sources of power, but these alternatives caused pollution or cancer or something.  The political leadership of the Monster society determined that this is a strange way to develop power, but it beat the alternatives.  Of course, in Monster politics, as in ours, nothing ever comes without a cost. The creation of an elite caste of dimension-hopping professional scarers must have a strange distorting effect on the society and its worldview - an effect that they stop even realizing after a time as they luxuriated in their cheap source of energy...


Told you, Monsters University really creeped me out.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Learning with GoofGirl


"What nina?"

"I shouldn't say this..."

"What is it? Did something happen at school?  Is someone being mean to you? Are you worried about something?"

"No, I don't want to say it now."

"You can't do that, now I'm worried. You know you can tell me anything. But, if you really don't want to tell me I understand."


"Daddy, sometimes I wish you weren't may dad."

But I'm a great dad, she always says me that! She even put it in writing.

"But I'm a great dad, you always say that. You even put it in writing!"

"I knew I shouldn't have said anything"

"No, please nina, you can tell me. I'm not upset."

I am upset, but I'm the grown-up here.

"Well Daddy,  you know how we're studying the industrial era. We had to write something we'd like to learn about it. And I couldn't think of anything because you've already told me so much about it."

"Oh no nina, the industrial revolution is awesome. We've barely started to learn about it.  There are all the different machines and the way they changed people's lives.  There were new political movements.  Tomorrow, write down that you want to learn about Samuel Gompers.  His name is Gompers, so he has to be fun to learn about."


"Samuel Gompers was interesting because... wait, I don't want to spoil it."

"...that's why I didn't want to say anything. Because whenever I tell you about something bothering me you start telling me what to do."

"Oh right. I'm supposed to just listen and agree with you."


"Nina, I understand but sometimes I forget that.  Can I tell you something useful to know - boys have a lot of trouble with that.  See boys are from Mars and girls are from Venus..."

"But Daddy, I don't believe you came from Mars - you're from Uranus!"

Well done, Nina, well done.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

GoofGirl Studies Astronomy (Best Read Out Loud)

Several years ago GoofGirl came home from pre-school, proudly announcing with a seriousness that only a four year old can muster:
We are studying astronomy and everyone had to choose a favorite planet to learn about.  I picked Uranus.

Uranus is a gas giant.  Did you know Uranus has rings?
Hey, what's so funny about Uranus? Stop laughing, don't you want to hear about Uranus?

OK then, I'll continue.  Uranus is blue-green colored and most of its atmosphere is methane gas.

What is wrong with you. Get off the floor and back in your seat so I can tell you about the moons of Uranus! Why aren't you proud that I know so much about Uranus?

But that's the name of the planet, my favorite planet. If you can't discuss these things without giggling maybe you aren't grown up enough to study astronomy.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Father Goof Eaten by Tigers in India

SUBURBAN MARYLAND - While visiting India, FatherGoof, father of two, a resident of suburban Maryland, was eaten by a tiger. This is the first such incident since India launched its world renown tiger preservation efforts. According to the safari guide, FatherGoof actively sought to be eaten by the tiger, taking the safari three times in order to ensure he would come into contact with the elusive predator.

"He kept saying that it was his lifelong dream to be eaten by tigers. I thought he was joking, and stopped listening after a while," the safari guide, who's identity is being protected to prevent retribution, explained, "But when we finally found a tiger, he jumped out of the jeep and ran after the tiger yelling, 'Here kitty, yummy, yummy.' At first the tiger didn't seem interested, but he poured barbeque sauce on his head and chest and the tiger finally ate him. It didn't seem very hungry, more annoyed."

The incident threatened to further damage relations between the U.S. and India, but after a full investigation both nations determined that it wasn't really anyone's fault. The Indian tourism bureau, in an official statement explained, "Our tours of tiger preserves are completely safe. But if a tourist is deadset on being eaten by a tiger we really cannot prevent it."

A State Department source who preferred not to be identified showed reporters documents showing that FatherGoof had discussed his interest in being eaten by a tiger to U.S. diplomatic authorities on several occasions.

A Close-Knit Community Unsurprised

At the close-knit community of parents and students at the Jewish Day School where the little Goofs attend school, there was little surprise or despair that a community-member had been eaten by a tiger.

His wife MamaGoof observed, "Well I'm surprised. He was always talking about all these things he was going to do. He said he was going to build a catapult so he could hurl the kids to school and wouldn't have to drive carpool anymore.  He said he would finish his dissertation and get a real job.  He said he would do laundry.  He never did any of those things.  So I'm surprised he actually did this."

Several friends of the family noted that he had posted on Facebook and Twitter that "I'm going to India to fulfill my lifelong dream of being eaten by tiger" but that he posted "lots of crazy stuff on Facebook" so they didn't pay much attention, except to forward it to one another.

One student, with a pronounced Jewfro who claimed to be a good friend of his son GoofBoy stated, "FatherGoof is awesome. He was always telling us crazy stories in carpool, like the time he was giving blood and made the bag explode. Plus he blasted Tom Waits and translated Spanish radio for us. Now he was eaten by a tiger, that guy is amazing, like the coolest dude in 7th grade."

Sources confirmed that at the time of his devouring FatherGoof was in his forties and was not fluent in Spanish.

One friend of the eaten was distraught.  She was seen running around the Lower School campus, crying, pulling her hair and tearing her garments.  She was yelling, "My carpool husband! Who's going to pick up my kids now!"

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Versions of Venison: On Autumn & Death

With school closed, I had charge of the little Goofs. I had work to do, but with the gorgeous fall weather I could not let them sit around all day and watch an entire season of Cupcake Wars (Amazon Prime has changed our life.)

So I insisted that there would be a late afternoon expedition.  We hadn't visited our favorite promontory for hurling rocks into the creek for sometime. (Although we had hurled rocks into other bodies of water fairly recently.)

Joined by the indominatable 3C, we did exactly that, I spent a lot of time playing on my phone - which in retrospect is a little ridiculous when you are surrounded by this:

3C hadn't joined us on one of our "throwing rocks into water" adventures, but was game. She got even more excited when they turned to launching logs into the creek because this required teamwork and coordination. (It's more fun to do than watch, as you can see.)

But, autumn days (like autumn itself) is all too brief. I didn't want us in the woods after dark (lest we truly learn what the fox says.)  So we turned home.  The trail goes under a major road near our home and close to the creek was a deer lying on the ground.

"Look a deer, I wonder what it's doing there?" 3C observed.

"It looks like it's sleeping," GoofBoy added.

GoofGirl is no fool. "It's dead. Why did it die? Why is it there?"

Thoughtlessly, I observed, "Maybe it was hit up on the road and was thrown into the air and landed here."

"That would have been an amazing YouTube video," GoofBoy exclaimed, then added, "Rough on the deer though."

"I'm sure the deer conducted a full investigation. CSI: Bambi, with deer wearing lab coats and with magnifying classes.  Did they drew a chalk outline around the corpse?" I riffed.

"Dad, I don't want to go on this trail anymore," GoofGirl stated flatly.

"Hey nina, maybe the deer died here of old age, after a long life."

"Why would the deer die here?" GoofGirl demanded.

"This was her favorite spot."

"Right, in all of these woods, why would this spot by a grubby bridge be a deer's favorite?" 3C chimed in.

"Well," I said, thinking quickly, "When she was a fawn and it rained she would come under here with her mommy and stay dry.  She always felt safe her.  Now, after living a long life and being a mommy to a lot of fawns and maybe even grand-fawns, she wanted to come back here one more time.  Then, she looked around at the woods and creek, thought about her life and had one last breath."

We walked on the trail.  3C and GoofBoy ahead chatting (possibly a first, ever) and GoofGirl held my hand.

"Daddy," she said, "I know the deer got hit by a car and died and I am kind of freaked out about it. But thanks for trying."