The Two Halves of a Mermaid

I’m of two minds about the new The Little Mermaid remake? Reboot? We need a word for the animation-to-live-action movie reinvention, as they’re becoming more and more of a thing. Even if Super Mario Brothers went the opposite direction, to much success.

Actually, I’m of three minds, the third relating to whether or not I should blog about something as timely as a movie currently in theaters. It will mess up my usual timeline: two weeks plodding through 300 words a day followed by two months to edit. I’m not going over it with a fine-toothed comb, or really even improving it one iota. But editing doesn’t help my daily word count, so I wait forever, then just do a quick once-over.

The last step of my normal blogging process is to think of the perfect quip about five minutes after posting it.

I suppose I could wait until The Little Mermaid comes out on Disney+, but at the rate they’re going, the window between that and when they yank it off said service is probably smaller than its existence in theaters. As Daughter continues her candlelight vigil for The Mysterious Benedict Society. I haven’t even told her Flora & Ulysses got yanked, too.

I saw the movie in question when it opened on Memorial Day weekend. Not sure I was overly thrilled to see it. The original, while groundbreaking at the time, kinda pales in comparison to the animated musicals it spawned. The message of wooing a man by looking pretty and shutting the fuck up hasn’t really aged well, either. Although I suppose it’s no worse than Beauty and the Beast, which tells us that true love can only grow through abusive outbursts sprinkled with a bit of Stockholm Syndrome.

That being said, Beauty and the Beast was stunningly beautiful as one of the last non-CGI animated movies. Or maybe it was the first CGI animation? That ballroom scene is still breathtaking.

Thus I was very interested in Hermione and the Beast (I don’t have to italicize it if it’s a bullshit title, right?), the first of these newfangled non-animations. Nonimation? Trademark, motherfucker!

Hermione and the Beast was fine. Still haven’t shown it to Daughter, since animated Beast is much more child-friendly than CGI Beast.

I haven’t seen the Aladdin remake, but it’s certainly on the radar. We saw the stage play in New York, which I assume the live-action movie steals some extra songs and visuals from. I’m sure at some point I’ll watch it and try to swallow my Comic Book Guy “Worst Robin Williams ever!” comments for Will Smith. I like the Fresh Prince (I side with Chris Rock after their kerfuffle, but that doesn’t negate Will Smith being a great actor), but the reports are that instead of turning Genie into a Will Smith character (which, ironically, is how it’s played on Broadway), he tried too hard to play Robin Williams, which ain’t in his sizable repertoire. But again, I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m the last person who should be reviewing it. Unless it’s social media, then we can totally get in arguments without reading the articles we’re arguing about. 

The one live-action remake I haven’t seen, and have little interest in seeing, is The Lion King. The reasons why dovetail into my first mind about The Little Mermaid, which correlates with the first half of the movie. Or the bottom half of the mermaid. Because when it was a tail, I might as well be watching a cartoon.

The Lion King, you might be surprised to learn, features animals. (Sorry, should that have come with a spoiler alert?) So the “live-actionness” of it is… computer animation. Sure, we’ve had the complicated technology to make animals appear as if they’re talking since Mr. Ed. It’s called peanut butter. But I don’t think they trained a capuchin monkey to hold a baby lion aloft to an adoring crowd of other lions. 

If the animals are being computer animated, they’re still animated. So the only thing that’s changed from the first movie to the second is replacing Matthew Broderick with Donald Glover. Don’t get me wrong, I love Donald Glover, but he’s not in the movie. Just his voice. Which makes it, say it with me, animation.

That’s how I felt about the first half of The Little Mermaid. Sure, recasting the bird with Awkwafina was funny, and Daveed Diggs was a crab, but Flounder was pretty much Flounder. Am I supposed to be impressed that Sebastian was marginally three-dimensional? His eyes were creepy.

As an aside, Daveed Diggs was woefully underutilized. I know he didn’t have much to work with given the requirements of the role, but they added Ariel singing along during Under the Sea” and allowed the bird and fish to muscle in on “Kiss the Girl.” To make matters worse, they added an extra fast-rap song and gave it to fucking Awkwafina instead of Daveed Diggs? I love Awkwafina. If I want the perfect combination of sassy and spazzy, it’s either her or, ironically considering the cast of The Little Mermaid, Melissa McCarthy. But if I want fast-talking rap, I want motherfucking Lafayette from Hamilton, especially if his character’s in the same room as the damn bird when the song happens.

So I spent most of the first half of the movie wondering why the hell we needed an animated remake of an animation movie. Sure, Halle Bailey (not Halle Berry, although it shouldn’t surprise longtime readers that I assumed the former Bond girl was associated with the movie, because if I can’t tell the difference between Cheryl Tiegs and Chrissy Teigen, I’ve got no fucking chance with a couple Hailey B.’s) was fine, but everything had that “filmed in front of a green screen” feel. Ever since Les Miserables, it’s obvious now when they’re lip synching to something they sang in the studio before filming. So when the mermaid is doing her twirls through the water with her hair floating every which way, it feels disconnected from the song she’s singing. I counted at least ten scene cuts.

They also added a song for Eric, pining away for the mystery woman who saved him, and it’s painful. He’s running around his castle and down some stairs while a faux-1980s power ballad warbles out. Might’ve been great if it wasn’t done better in Frozen II. Again, if we’re going to be live-actioning this shit, it’s gotta be better than the cartoons.

Shit, I just realized we’re about a decade away from the live-action Frozen. Can I send forth a hard pass on that one now? Frozen III, I’d be fine with. Frozen without Josh Gad and Kristen Bell? Are you high?

My opinion shifted dramatically right about the time Ariel lost her tail. And her voice. Shit, maybe I’m falling for the first movie’s premise. But trust me, it had nothing to do with whether or not mermaids should shut up. Besides, she has at least two “internal” songs, so she’s substantially less quiet than her redheaded forebear. 

The reason I changed my opinion was because the dynamic of the movie changed. No more twirling in front of a green screen with her fellow actors locked in a sound room somewhere. Instead it was two or more actors interacting with and responding to each other. I think it’s called… acting?

Here’s where I finally answered my question of why does this movie need to be remade with real humans. Human actors can do facial expressions. Or point or furrow her brow or smile. Halle Bailey (C’mon, she’s got to at least be named after Halle Berry, right? If that’s your last name and you name your daughter Halle, you’re clearly signaling something.) does a great job of conveying the frustration, the desperation, of not being able to talk. Some scenes felt right out of The King’s Speech.

Although Ariel can’t talk, she can communicate. It wouldn’t seem strange to make a rom-com where the two characters have some barrier to clear communication, right? It’s the entire premise of, well, every rom-com I’ve ever heard of. Sometimes one of the main characters is vacationing in Italy. Other times, it’s just a misunderstanding, but the entire genre is based on falling in love despite some failure of clarity. Hell, the Hallmark Channel wouldn’t exist if characters could get their head out of their ass long enough to say, “Wait, are you Santa Claus?”

The best scene that couldn’t exist in the cartoon version is when he complains about not even knowing her name. She points to the constellation Aeries, which he had just showed her and named off. She got him to say Aeries, then put her hand on his mouth after the “Aerie,” then kept pulling down on his lip. After working through things like Ariem and Arieb, she pulls down on his lip slower to get him to Ariel, then nods. Okay, maybe a stretch, but it was cute. Eric is falling in love with her despite her lack of voice, not because of it. The way to a man’s heart isn’t to look pretty and shut up, but to engage with him despite the barriers.  

Now that I mention it, does Eric ever even learn Ariel’s name in the original? Doesn’t really matter, because we shouldn’t teach our daughters that their names are important when wooing a dreamy mate. I also think the live version added a caveat that Ariel was cursed to forget her goal of getting Eric to kiss her. Again, maybe that was in the original, or maybe it was added because they realized that with a good actress, the whole “get the guy to fall in love with you without speaking” is amazingly simple. And if she could do it on her own, we wouldn’t get to need to hear both Awkwafina and Flounder screech over Daveed Diggs in “Kiss the Girl.”

Did the eels mess up the kiss at the end of that song in the original? I seem to remember it was just a “setting the mood” song, and that he clearly wasn’t going to kiss her because, hell, she hadn’t even helped him figure out her name with a seductive lip pulldown. In the live action, when there’s no reason in hell they wouldn’t kiss on the romantic boatride, Ursula sent eels to topple the canoe to prevent the kiss. 

Okay, so I went back and rewatched the original “Kiss the Girl.” A few things jump out. First, he did learn her name, but only because Sebastian came right out and told him, thus taking away Ariel’s agency. Which means the crab speaks English, or whatever language he’s using. And nothing’s more romantically realistic than a guy trying to guess a lady’s name only to hear a strange Jamaican accent whispering it upon the air. Of course, this takes away any agency Ariel has in her own storyline.

In the original, she’s also trying very hard to get the kiss, which might confirm my belief that she knew her goal the whole time. Not to get him to fall in love with her, but just to get a kiss. So she’s just jamming her damn lips in front of his face every time he tries to get any conversation going.

Oh, and Flounder and the bird intruded their singing upon Sebastian’s song in the original, too. My bad, Awkwafina.

The boat does indeed flip over at the end, but the YouTube clip I saw failed to convey if that was intentional or not. I’ll assume it was just a mishap, because if Ariel can’t have agency, why should Ursula? A villain is just a villain. They can’t have any realistic motives or incentives to see their plans through. The foil must know he’s a foil.

I know, I know, agency? She’s a Disney princess, LOL. 

She ought to be thankful she’s even awake during the whole process.

Fuckin’ It Up Old Skool

Wordle had quite the snafu with one of its recent words. Some might even call it a kerfuffle. Except kerfuffle is more than five letters.

I wish I were a daily Wordle kinda guy, because it’s a quick diversion that gets my brain going. Unfortunately, I have a tough time remembering to check it every day. So I love these “controversial “words, because when people whine on the socials about how hard it is or how it’s not a real word, I interpret it as “Oh right, let’s to Wordle.”

A few of those recent “come on back now, y’all” words have legitimately been tough. Circa was a little annoying, but once I tried parch, I knew it probably ended with an -rca, and there ain’t a lot of words that do that. Kayak also could go take a flying leap. The only thing worse than two letters being repeated is a y that is neither the first or last letter of a word. But again, once you realize it isn’t the first or last letter, there aren’t many options left. I might go over par, but no way am I holing this one out.

The par reference comes sports writer, Joe Posnanski, and it was one of those analogies that, as soon as I heard it, fit exactly with the experience. Wordle is always a par four. If you get it in three, it feels like a birdie. If it takes you five, you’re frustrated, and by the time you’re on your double bogey shot, you’re bearing down like nobody’s business,ready to throw shit against the wall if you miss one more goddamn time.

The golf analogy goes further, because if your first word is all gray, it’s like you’re off the fairway or in a sand trap, and it this point the best you’re likely to do is par and that will feel like an accomplishment. Similarly, you might get on the green (three or four letters correct) on the first shot, only to miss three putts in a row. Progressing from snack to shack to slack feels exactly ike missing a slew of five-foot putts. Or maybe you’ll try “lunch,” knowing it isn’t the answer but hoping it’ll tell you if that second letter is n, h, or l, and you can’t tell me that’s not the same as intentionally short-putting.

The recent word I found easily enough, but that sent some people apoplectic, was snafu. Not sure why people were complaining. Most people gotta be trying the first three letters pretty early in whatever progression they’re going through, right? Pretty sure I birdied it, because it’s a quick progression from story (my usual first words) to snafu. I assume I went story to sneak (one of the reasons I go with story is because there are a lot of -ea- words to zero in on vowels after I have an idea of a consonant or two), and once I know it starts with an sn- and has an “a” either third or (unikely) last, I’m in a very finite world. And thanks to the reminder that people were passive aggressively whining about the word, I knew it was likely to be an obscure word. 

But come on, people, snafu is no “parer.” 

What do you mean it’s not a word? 

WTF is an acronym?

Yeah, I’ll admit it. This history teacher had no clue of this particular word started as a World War II acronym. I should’ve recognized it by that rather suspicious “FU” at the end. But somehow, it’s morphed into a standard word, as opposed to its “FU” brother, fubar.

This sent me down the rabbit hole of other words that showed up around snafu and fubar, trying to figure out which ones originated specifically from the war experiences and which just happened to show up at the time. Some of them are obvious: decompression, draft board, and dry run, for example. 

Others, it’s guesswork. “Biological clock” first showed up in 1941. Is that because men and women were pushing forward certain activities before shipping off to war? Like gee, if one of us isn’t likely to make it to 25 to “get married,” let’s put the biological clock before the horse. 

Centerfold also appeared for the first time in 1941, as well, because the men’s biological clock kept ticking after they left the homeland, too. Fellate, as well, for those not willing to let the biological clock tick all the way to fruition. 

Drag queen also first appeared in 1941. Although, according to Fox News, those didn’t exist before your local library started hosting them.

Holy shit, golden shower first appeared in 1942? And yeah, it has the same meaning. That means my grandpa knew about… My grandma was aware of… 

Quickly moving on!

One less scandalus examples that probably fit closer to the fubarness of it all: Conference Call first appeared in 1941. Hopefully they were a little more worthwhile back then, because defeating the Nazis is probably a better use of “No sorry, you go ahead,” than meeting quarter three quotas. But now I can’t get past imagining Winston Churchill saying, “Hello? Is this me?”

Fubar means Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. Eighty years later, even if you don’t know the acronym, there’s still a general understanding of when something is fubarred. To be honest, I didn’t know the “Beyond All Recognition” part for at least a decade after I first encountered the word in Saving Private Ryan. Of course, in the movie, they don’t explain the acronym, but once you figure out the context of a situation that falls apart, then the FU becomes pretty obvious. It helps that it’s at the beginning of the word, not the end, making it such an odd sounding word that as soon as you hear it, you know it can’t be naturally occurring. 

Although maybe the reason fubar sounds funnier than snafu is that we encounter it less often. One doesn’t enounter many fubarred activities, and one we do, we’re hardly in the mood to bust out a funny-sounding acronym from when great-grandpa was fighting Nazis. 

Snafus happen more often, so the word has become normalized. Unless you’re a semantic asshole whining about Wordle.

The reason snafus happen more often is the very definition of the word. The first two letters, I’ve learned in my Golden Shower Rabbit Hole (great name for a band!) since the Wordle snafu, stand for “Situation Normal.” The rest of it, you can probably guess, stands for “All Fucked Up.”

Except I don’t think that’s how we’re using snafu these days. When I encounter a snafu, it’s a minor hiccup or inconvenience, a bump on the road. It might be “all fucked up,” but it’s preventing “situation normal.” Given my understanding of the average G.I.’s interaction with upper brass, and my own existence as an inconsequential cog in a huge government bureaucracy with at least as many forms and regulations as it has employees, I read the the acronym as a shoulder shrug when having to deal with the convoluted bullshit of requisitions and retainders and student success scores and why the hell aren’t we going to attack the Germans at the weak part of their line?

The education world is filled with “Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.” For instance, at my school, we teach on a block schedule, so I teach a different batch of students, sometimes a different subject altogether, between first semester and second semester. This year, I taught two senior classes all year, starting over with a second batch of students in January. In the fall, both of these classes started with over forty students. First period had forty-two, fourth period, forty-one. This term, those classes have eleven and ninenteen students. Many are taking it for the second time after failing (sometimes with me) first term and, wouldn’t you know it, those students have a tendency to not show up for school. So in practice, my first period class regularly has four students, while fourth period has about ten. 

Needless to say, it’s not easy to teach the same content to one class of forty and another class of four. While most teachers incessantly whine about large class sizes, I’ll actually take forty over four any day. Except for the grading day. With forty, I can get conversations going. At the very least, I’ll get an eye contact or two. My class of four, naturally, sit on opposite sides of the room, all the way in the back, so I don’t even know where to face while I’m talking. And that simulation where they’re buying and selling pearls or handshakes from each other? How about y’all just do some vocab today instead.

There appears to be some method behind this scheduling madness, in that our counselors and administration decided to frontload seniors before senioritis kicks in. My economics class is one of only two classes they need to graduate, so give it to them first term. Then, if worse comes to worst, a student can fail in the fall and have one more chance. Provided they show up. 

Entirely logical reasoning. If only it had been communicated to us. Instead, our instrustions were to spread our twelve classes out equitably across the schedule. So we put six classes in fall and six in spring. Had we known all six of those fall classes would be at or above forty and all those in the spring below twenty, we probably would’ve split them eight and four. 

Now, as we’re making plans for next year, we’re taking it upon ourselves to put more senior classes in the fall than the spring. Want to guess how full those spring classes are going to be now? I’ll give you a hint. It’ll be situation normal. 

Another example: My district promoted my principal to the district office six weeks before our accreditation review, leaving an interim principal to answer questions about what the school has been doing for the past five years and what it’s planning to do for the next five. 

They also promoted our registrar to the district office. Or maybe she retired. Not sure, all I know is we had a registrar back at the beginning of the year, and now we don’t. Because they didn’t replace her. Instead, they just put a registrar at another high school in charge of tracking grades at two high schools. She’s never set foot on our campus, she just emails us nastygrams about when grades are due.

Those grade, by the way, are due at the same time this year as they were last year, even though the state of California forced us to move the time of our school day one hour later. So now our grades are literally due a half hour before school ends. But don’t forget we’re expected to teach and assess all the way to the end bell. 

But again, these aren’t speedbumps, temporary setbacks, nor sticks in the spokes of progress. They’re how things are run, expected day in and day out. A feature, not a bug. 

In short, they are nat snafus.

They’re Situation Normal.

All Fucked Up. 

Trending in Comedy

When I logged into Twitter a little while ago, I saw that”Married With Children” was trending. The TV Show, not the state of existence. 

I’m not exactly sure how the whole Twitter trend thing happens. I rarely see what’s trending. It’s a separate tab from the newsfeed. I usually just log in to see my rapidly dwindling news feed, and only stay on long enough to get pissed off at both Republicans and Democrats (with an additional heaping of scorn toward my favorite sports teams). That only takes, what, three swipes down? 

Are there people who log in to Twitter to see what is trending? It’s not even hashtags anymore. Married with children was showing up as a three word string, not a one word hashtag. Has Elon trained the AI to read our entire message? Then why the fuck am I spending hours conjuring up my pithy perfection?

Might explain why I’ve only tweeted once in the past six month. One, my work blocks access (including phone signal), and Bee, by the time I’ve thought of something funny to say, the event’s two weeks old. People probably think I’m boycotting Elon. 

Anyway, whilst lurking but not tweeting, I ended up on the wrong tab and noticed that people were discussing a tv show that’s been off the air for 25+ years. The show was hardly trendy even when it was airing. Don’t get me wrong, it was required viewing for this high school, then college-aged, toxically masculine American dude, but it wasn’t what one might call a societal juggernaut. Had it not been one of the only properties on a new network that nobody was watching, I doubt it would’ve lasted beyond a season or two.

Doesn’t seem the type of show to get a reboot. Or a sequel, although now’s a good time to excoriate people on using those words interchangeably. Reboots and sequels are different things, people!

Sometimes it can get confusing. For instance, the “Girl” Ghostbusters (not my preferred moniker, but if I said “the 2016 version,” you’d say “which one was that?” and then we’d settle on “the girls one”) is a reboot, even though it features all the original actors (playing different roles), whereas Ghostbusters Afterlife, the more recent one, is a sequel, but it doesn’t feature the original actors. And now they’re making a sequel to this sequel, not to be confused with Ghostbusters II, the original sequel. 

The new incarnation of Quantum Leap on the other hand, keeps being described as a reboot but is obviously a sequel. With none of the original actors. Or charracters.

Then there’s the last Spiderman movie, which is… both a reboot and a sequel? Fuck it, I stand corrected. They’re the same thing. 

After a little digging, I discovered Married… With Children was trending because it was the star of the show’s birthday. No, not Ted McGinley. I’m talking about Ed O’Neill. So happy belated #77, Ed! Or Al. Or Jay. Regardless of what name you go by, it won’t have many letters. 

Not sure why someone’s old show was trending on his birthday instead of, I don’t know, his name? Then again, if his name was trending, I would’ve assumed he died. Maybe trending what someone was famous for instead of their name is that one of the algorithms Elon Musk is changing. He sure as hell isn’t decreasing the number of unsolicited political ramblings from people I don’t follow.

The trends of Married… With Children tweets on his birthday followed two general trends, the first of which is whether Married… With Children is even what Ed O’Neill is famous for these days. Modern Family would seem more relevant here in the 2020s, but oddly enough, it wasn’t trending. Maybe that’s because Twitter is populated by Gen Xers like me. Modern Family was probably trending on Instagram or Tiktok or whatever. it’s no Great Toto Divide, but no Gen Zer is going to suspend their offension long enough to admit that the former is funny.

That seemed to be what Twitter was abuzz about on his birthday. Which Ed O’Neill characer is more iconic, Al Bunday or Jay Pritchett? Married With Children or Modern Family? 

I was hoping to settle the difference by picking the show that lasted longer. No such luck. According to IMDB, he was Jay Pritchett for 11 years and 250 episodes, Al Bundy for 10 years but 260. 

Something struck me as I went down the list of pros and cons for each Ed O’Neill show. Who’s a funnier cringe-inducing child-man, Bud Bundy or Phil Dunphy? On the one hand, they’re both dorks who say inappropriate things and are utterly unaware of how they’re perceived. On the other hand… they were both born in the late 1960s or the early 1970s?

Then there’s Kelly. The first instinct is to compare her to Haley (or Alex), but Kelly was well into her twenties for a substantial part of the run, so let’s extrapolate where she was going. I could totally see her being Claire, tangentially associated with real estate because the actual realtor doesn’t know what he’s doing before taking over the family business. She might have been written as a prototypical dingbat blonde, but she was expert at getting what she needed out of people.

Peg Bundy? Please. If I have to explain the difference between her and Gloria, you’re not trying. And, naturally, how they speak to their husband, who is the same man. Interestingly, my first instinct was that Gloria was hotter, but that might have to do with the fact that I was in my thirties when the latter show came out. As opposed to my early teens, when anyone over the age of nineteen was an old hag. But looking back, the going-nowhere shoe salesman definitely married a few notches up on the hot-or-not scale.

And Ted McGinley is totally Cameron.

The more I think about it, Jay Pritchett is merely an alternate reality Al Bundy who made it out of the shoe store, who won the lottery and traded Peg in for a younger Columbian. Alternate reality works better than sequel to explain how Kelly and Bud ended up married instead of siblings. Things went right for one of them, wrong for the other. If these were soap operas instead of sitcoms, Al Bundy would sport a goatee. 

The other topic of discussion on Married With Children Trending Day, which I assume is now a national holiday on every Ed O’Neill’th of April, was how a show like Married… With Children could never be made today. I agree, but not for the reasons most assumed. 

The common belief, if Twitter mentions are to be extrapolated  to the general population, is that Married… With Children would never survive in the current woke society. Not sure I buy that. The fat jokes might not land in these “body positivity” times, but most of the jokes could easily be found in any recent sitcom. Kelly was a nympho so dumb she didn’t realize the jokes being made at her expense. Haley, anyone? Ninety percent of the early Bud jokes would be perfectly at home with Luke and Manny. 

Another successful sitcom from the past twenty years, The Big Bang Theory, also made countless crass jokes. It might seem more “woke,” because the dorks, who are often the butt of jokes in other sitcoms, are shown in a compassionate light, but they were still the butts of most of the jokes. When they weren’t mocking social outcasts, they were mocking the normies. Oh, and Penny was originally presented as a nympho so dumb she didn’t realize the jokes being made at her expense. Yeah, American sitcoms are so p.c. here in the twenty-first century.

Don’t even get me started on Two and a Half Men.

That being said, I agree with the tweeters who doubt Married… With Children is in line for a revival. But mainly because there’s little difference between it and Modern Family. Sitcoms have been recycling the same tropes for seventy years now and we’re kinda done with it.

Not just sitcoms. When’s the last time a comedy’s been the “It” movie of the year? The Hangover? By the time Hangover II came out, nobody cared.

We consume media differently these days. If I’m going to a movie theater, I want something better than the experience I’ll get at home. Special effects and big explosions aren’t as cool on my phone as they are on a big screen. Adam Sandler is.

If we’re not watching comedies in the movie theater, we’re watching them at home. Or on our phones. That means we’re not watching sitcoms. Why would I waste my time watching the rehashing of seventy year old tropes when I can just watch Lucille Ball or Redd Foxx or Jerry Seinfeld deliver them with more panache. I love me some Cheers, but damn, other than Woody and Rebecca replacing Coach and Diane, you’d never know if you’re watching an episode form season three or ten. Sometimes I’ll queue up an episode when there’s dead time in my economics class (cause, you know, it’s about running a business or something), but whenver I’m reading through the episode summaries, I’m like “Wait, which episode is that?”

Even a decade ago, sitcoms still had that “Water Cooler” quality. Not only Modern Family, but The Goldbergs, Blackish, and How I Met Your Mother (still blocking out that final season). but I think those were the canaries in the coalmine, using gimmicks to remain fresh, not realizing that those gimmicks would expose the tropes even further. I hoped The Good Place might usher in a new age of sitcoms with serialized storytelling in which the characters grow and their situation changes from week to week. Unfortunately not much has followed in its footsteps.

At least not on terrestrial American tv.

I still watch sitcoms these days. Shows like Schitt’s Creek and Letterkenny contain characters with nuance, who occasionally, but not always, evolve as a result of their extraordinary situations. 

Also, they’re Canadian.

Neither of these would make it on American tv, not least because the conversion from Canadian metric would make them show up like scrambled porn on American tv’s. Beyond that, the characters talk and act like normal people, which means they cuss. In Schitt’s Creek, the cursing is minimal and could probably be bleeped for an American audience, but man, I’d hate to hear Eugene Levy saying the “Welcome to Schitt’s Creek” billboard looks like he’s [bleeping] her right in [bleep].” If they tried to take the cussing and references to drugs, sex, and biological functions out of Letterkenny, an episode would fit in a thirty-second commercial break. 

Ironically, the two shows that prove why Married… With Children would never be made today are probably more crass and insulting than the Bundys. The various groups in Letterkenny are the hicks, the skids, the degens, and the Natives, and the show takes the piss out of all of them. The level and amount of crassness they jam into twenty minutes would make Al Bundy blush. I watch with subtitles, but still have to back up twice an episode to listen to the five jokes I missed while gutturally laughing over the first five shit references. 

Schitt’s Creek was chock full of “awww, how sweet” moments,” especially in the latter seasons, but what drew us all to the show at the beginning were at someone’s expense, often the same socially-awkward dingbats and sluts that the nascent Fox sitcoms laughed at. 

They even allow Katy and David, the resident sluts of Letterkenny and Schitt’s Creek, to admit to what Kelly Bundy could only hint at. Not only do they know when the jokes are made at their expense, they’re probably the ones making them. 

So I take back what I said. Married… With Children could still be made today. 

It would just be Canadian. 

Random Acts of Mandation

When is kindness not kindness?

Might not as far up the philosophical ladder as, say, can God create a rock that is so heavy that God can’t lift it. But it’s a question I’ve been forced to come to terms with at work recently.  

How does one define kindness? How does one encourage it in others?

When Kommandant Newsom tells us we must be kind or ELSE!

And yeah, you’re gonna need to get that notarized.

We recently went through something called the California Kindness Challenge, where the State Superintendent required all school districts to come up with a kindness plan. Districts, in turn, did what districts do best, which is to pass the buck on to private companies that exist for the sole purpose of milking money out of districts. Nice synergy in that “passing the buck” here refers to both shirking responsibility and also sending loads of cash down the pipeline like a human centipede. Although in this case, you definitely want to be the end of the centipede. The shit is much tastier and you don’t have to do much for it.

These companies are great at mixing and matching their message to the educational issue du jour. We had a group of bike riders come in for two assemblies. They did cool tricks, spinning on handlebars and riding up and down ramps. The students all loved it. In between their radical rotations, they’d grab a microphone and preach whatever they were hired to preach. One year it was about trying hard on the standardized tests. Four years later, the bike tricks were exactly the same, but the messages were about cyber bullying. Maybe they’ll come back next year very concerned about Social and Emotional Learning or Lockdown Learning Loss.

Shit, if you pay me $10,000 a day (plus expenses) to ride a bike, I’ll say whatever message you want me to say. Booze is bad, abstinence is cool, punch your friends? You name it. Raise my daily rate to 20K and your kids can punch me.

This year, it’s all about kindness.

Here’s where I’m torn. I truly believe we need more kindness, especially in high schools. Most of the problems we’re facing as a nation, maybe as a world, come from a general lack of empathy. We assume everyone else is out to fuck us over so we need to fuck them over first. If the members of Congress would do something as simple as holding the door open for members of the other party then, who knows, maybe we could pass a budget.

Unless they’re being forced to open the door. Then it’s some sanctimonious bullshit.

I’ve explained this internal Civil War to my students. Don’t let the fact that California is mandating it, and that our own district will half-ass it to death, detract from the importance of the message. In fact, whatever they tell us to do, ignore it, and just focus on treating other human beings like they’re, I don’t know, human beings? Each of whom is trying to get through this fuck-up of a world without driving off the closest cliff.

What’s that? Some guy was arrested for intentionally driving his entire family off a cliff? Yeah, our society is on a razor’s fucking edge right now.

So how did my district end up half-assing this mandate? 

First, we challenged our students to do one million acts of kindness. Not individually, as that might be a little hard to reach. Unless you count not flipping off the assholes who cut me off in traffic as an act of kindness, in which case I could reach a million by the midpoint of my average commute. But a million acts of kindness, collectively, which they divided out to about forty per student in the district. Although probably need to up that to fifty, because those dumb fucks in kindergarten can’t count to forty.

Sorry, was that unkind? Debit it from the guy I didn’t flip off.

But again, not too bad of a message. If you’re a little bit kinder, and everybody else is a little bit kinder, then we might all be a little less red-ass all the time. I think I can get behind this…

What’s that? We’re supposed to download an app and log into it every time we do something kind? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

These aren’t really “random acts,” are they? This isn’t a general “be kinder” missive. This is something we’re supposed to keep track of. We’re supposed to stand up and acknowledge that we’re fucking awesome. Pat me on the back, mother fucker, because I was just nice to you.

If your empathy doesn’t come with an ounce of humility, then it’s probably just condescension. Not that Gavin Newsom would know anything about that.

I’ve got some questions about this app thing. Does it count if I don’t have my phone with me? Like when I leave my FitBit at home, I sure as hell ain’t gonna move my ass. So sorry, old lady crossing the street, but I ain’t gonna give you the right of way unless I get a cool little virtual badge for it.

Now let’s assume I have my phone on me, so I open the door for five people walking behind me. Is that five acts of kindness or one? If it’s only one, then isn’t the courteous thing to slam the door on person number two? Then he has a chance to open the door for the next person in line. Quantity over quality, amirite?

On the other hand, if I get credit for every person that benefits from my kindness, then I can just delay a quiz by a day and get credit for one hundred. Then I can go rob a bank or something and still be ahead on my karma quota.

Although the kid who was ready to take the quiz today might consider this delay to NOT be an act of kindness. Must the recipient acknowledge a kindness for it to count? Perhaps they should need to sign off in my app with, I don’t know, a sample of their blood to prove my kindness. Kindly insert this anal probe for verifi… oops, looks like your DNA’s already received a notarized act of kindness. Please return to the crosswalk so I can run over you.

My district didn’t stop at the million acts of kindness, though. They wanted to add one cohesive thing we can do all together as a district. Not because the district cares, but because the company they hired to check the state-required wants to put it up on their website so they can get five figures from more half-assing districts. 

After all, we fell for their examples from other districts. One district had students donate their used shoes to a homeless shelter. Another collected canned food for their local food bank, even though most food banks don’t take food anymore and prefer cash. Details, details. The point of this exercise is to look good on local media, not to actually help people.

So my district, in its infinite wisdom, after weeks of workshopping minutes of afterthought, decided that instead of shoes or food, we would collect… 5,000 pounds of coffee!

Not used coffee, thankfully, because coffee grounds might actually be useful for composting. Rather, a full pound of sealed, store-bought coffee grounds. Making it a deliberate act of kindness, not a random one, forcing our students, many of whom have little in the way of transportation, into an explicit trip to the store in order to buy something to bring to school and donate to someone else. Someone who makes more money than the families that are buying the coffee. Or if I was forced to go to Macy’s to buy a dress shirt for a billionaire.

Because you’ll note I haven’t yet said WHO gets the 5,000 pounds of coffee. Not a homeless shelter, where I assume hot coffee would get them through some cold nights. Not a women’s shelter, of which there are a few in the town where I teach. Heck, it isn’t even some mom-and-pop breakfast restaurants, who are struggling to compete against the Dennys and the IHOPs of the world. Not having to pay for the coffee would go far helping that restaurant be in the black for a few months. Provided they could store 5,000 pounds of coffee, because my district wants to deliver the coffee all at once. Better for publicity, and one should not pursue kindness if one is not getting good press out of it. 

You know who, I guaran-fucking-tee, already have enough goddamn coffee? The federal government.

That’s right. We’re giving our coffee to the military. Because… Because… It’s for the Troops! Nobody can get upset about doing something nice for the Troops, right? 

I’m all for supporting the military. Give ’em guns, give ’em armor. It was especially a thing while we were embroiled in multiple foreign wars. One might quibble over whether said wars were just, but the soldiers can’t control that. Even if most of them joined so they could shoot other foreigners. Oh, plus having everyone kiss your ass and tell you how wonderful you are. Trust me, I’m a teacher. Most of the people in my profession regularly spout off about being a special population that ought to be revered as such.

As an added bonus, teachers are allowed to drink coffee. Which, evidently, the soldiers… can’t?

By the way, the district doesn’t provide coffee for us. We only get to drink it if we bring our own. Maybe that’s why my district thinks soldiers are in the same boat.

Maybe we should have our students give coffee to their teachers? That’s a kindness that might benefit them, too.

My daughter is a Girl Scout, and when she’s shilling her cookie madness every year, they have a “Support the Troops” option. She’s supposed to sell at least ten of them to get, I don’t know, a badge or a shirt or something. I usually cringe when she rattles off her spiel. “If you don’t want the cookies for yourself, you can send some to the troops.” I mean, it’s better than “The Governor tells you you have to redistribute your cookies to those less fortunate,” but it’s still a bit jarring. If I ain’t buying cookies for myself, the last thing I want to do is buy some for somebody else. Especially somebody who is gainfully employed in addition to having all of their room and board provided.

But at least with the Girl Scout cookies, I can convince myself that there are troops stationed far from home who might not have access to their local grocery store or cannabis dealer and their ubiquitous cookie stands this time of year. Maybe you’re stationed in, I don’t know, West Berlin, where girl scouts don’t exist. What’s that? We don’t have a lot of troops stationed at the Berlin Wall anymore? Hmm.. Now that I mention it, I bet those guys stationed in Germany or Italy have access to the internet, where they can have cookies shipped to them. Although shipping’s probably a bitch, so yeah, my daughter collecting six bucks from someone who wants to feel like they’re supporting both the Girl Scouts and the military at the same time, I guess it’s not a terrible idea. We’re not saying the military or poor, miserly beggars, only that their job currently requires them to be somewhere far away from the usual comforts of home. 

One might call that an act of kindness.

I assume my district glommed onto “Ferda Troops!” because our school board faced a lot of flack from a certain segment of the population over school closure. Which then morphed into masks. Which then morphed in Critical Race Theory, which we don’t teach, and the Pledge of Allegiance, which we do every day but which this certain segment thinks has been taken out of schools. I’ll let you guess which segment that is, but let’s just say they really like the military.

As an added bonus, Herr Kommandant Newsom probably doesn’t really like the military. Maybe they wanted to throw his stupid mandate back in his face, by showing their mandated acts of kindness toward an entity that Herr Kommandant hates.

Or the school board did as it usually does when it gets an ill-thought-out mandate from the state, which is half-ass its implementation even more. 

Does the military even WANT 5000 pounds of coffee? That’s a lot of fucking coffee. Where will they store it? Will it go stale by the time they use it? It’ll take a school bus to deliver, which is something my district allegedly never has enough of to spare for any reason, whatsoever. The football team can drive themselves to the goddamn away game.

I also assume it’s a logistical nightmare to incorporate 5,000 extra pounds 

Unlike Girl Scout cookies, I’m pretty sure every military base, even those stationed overseas, are able to track down coffee. I’ve heard plenty of former military types complain about what it’s like to be stationed overseas. It’s not all alcohol and prostitutes. A lot of the places they are stationed don’t have quite the infrastructure they’re used to at home. Lots of sand. And long days. Especially when we’re at war. 

You know what I’ve never heard anybody complain about? The food. Maybe back in Vietnam or World War II, when we had millions deployed, the quality of a breakfast might suffer, but these days, they eat pretty well. Even at the height of World War II, when the GI’s were gruelling through winter in northern France, eating dehydrated rations, you know what they had plenty of? Coffee. 

And that was back in the day when the federal government pretended it cared about wasteful spending. Nowadays I jcan’t imagine a Congressmember shutting down the government over a Yuban Conference. They might cut Kevin McCarthy’s Starbucks allowance, but every military base, every outpost, every pontoon and submarine, is chock full of Joe.

The only entity our donation is being kind to is the federal budget. It’s already got 31 trillion acts of kindness. Unless my district is claiming this act of kindness is aimed at maintaining a good bond rating now that we’re past the debt ceiling. That’s a kindness for everyone, provided some bureaucrat notices the coffee rations they proved last month went undrank, and adjusts this month’s requisition. But not next month’s, because then those soldiers will have no coffee and grumpy soldiers with caffeine headaches all month long ain’t a kindness for nobody. 

Ha ha, jk. Nobody at my district office thought this out beyond “everybody likes coffee” and “everybody likes troops.”

So good news, modern GIs, if my working-class students, many of whose entire family makes less than one army brat, can get off their lazy asses, you’ll..  find a random shipment of more coffee than you’ll ever need. 

And if that ain’t an act of kindness, then I don’t know what the definition of kindness is. 

I’d look it up in a dictionary, but my district didn’t consider that a good use of resources.

But What About the Dog Shit?

California enacted a new recycling law. 

At least I think it did. Not sure. It’s been around for a year, but so far we’re still being told not to follow it. 

Unless we’re out in public. Kinda fitting for a state run by the fake-outrage, put-on-a-show-in-public-while-burning-tires-in-the-back-yard Twitterati.

Even when we’re putting stuff in the bins at the mall, chances are we’re fucking it up.

Bang-up job of saving the world, California!

Then again, “not being followed correctly” and “having little effect” pretty much put it in line with all the recycling laws that came before, because only idiots learn from mistakes.

I was once a true believer on the recycling front. In college, I worked for my campus’s recycling program, spending most of my weekends knee-deep in warm-soda-infused backwash. Do you want to know what shit people put inside their soda cans? Bruised bananas, half-eaten muffins, and, if not actual shit, then at least urine. Because I’m pretty sure Coca-Cola doesn’t come in lemonade colors.

Back then, you could turn recyclables in for money. In fact, the “company” I worked for (really just a branch of Associated Student Body) was based entirely off that premise. Collect the glass and aluminum (plastic wasn’t really in use for drinks back then) and various grades of paper (newspaper and plain paper, but I’ll miss you most of all, continuous-feed printer paper with your fancy tear-away spool holes) that are disposed on campus, turn it in for recycling, and turn a profit.

Granted, that money came from other Californians in the form of a tax, but it wasn’t going anywhere, so we might as well take it. Technically, they don’t call it a tax. It’s a “deposit” that we got back when we returned the item for recycling. And back in the 1980s, many of us did that. But then those blue bins started showing up in public places and curbsides, so many of us opted for ease over getting our nickel back. The California government saw this as a win-win. They get us to recycle and they keep the money. Not that they give a shit if we actually recycle.

If you want to know how little California cares about recycling, try to recycle some wine bottles. The California wine industry, it’s safe to say, can afford some good lobbyists . Let’s not forget that Herr Kommandant Newsom’s favorite ethnic laundromat is located in a certain valley named after an auto parts store. So when the CRV (California Redemption Value) law was coming into place in the mid-1980s, guess who got an exemption?

How exactly does an exemption from the recycling law work, you might ask? It’s simple. We don’t pay the extra nickel for a bottle of wine. Because, you know, five cents on top of seventy dollars is way more likely to impact the sale than five cents added to a dollar soft drink. I wonder if the wine lobbyists were able to keep a straight face when they claimed it would hurt wine sales. Or maybe they just smirked and said, “Want another (free) ten-dollar glass of cab?”

I never realized I wasn’t paying the CRV on bottles of wine until I took some bottles in to be recycled and the center wouldn’t take them. I claimed I’d recycled plenty of wine bottles before. The guy informed me they used to take the wine bottles and then downgrade the payout to “mixed glass” instead of “regular glass.” So for the last decade, by recycling wine bottles, I haven’t even been getting my full “deposit” back for the beer bottles I’m recycling.

“What are we supposed to do with the wine bottles, then?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Throw them in the trash.”

If the primary concern was lessening waste or ensuring more recycled glass, they’d be gobbling up wine bottles. Not sure you’ve looked at a wine bottle recently, but that’s some thick, sturdy-ass glass. Much better than those flimsy beer bottles. I guess Anheuser-Busch should’ve given better blowjobs. Considering California’s annual budget exceeds $75 billion, one assumes they can throw a few extra nickels our way to ensure those thick 750 ml bottles aren’t, shrug, “thrown in the trash.” Especially considering how many CRV’s go into the state coffers without getting repaid. 

But again, the government’s purpose isn’t really to return that money to us. Its purpose is to show us how “important” it is to recycle, particularly on our own dime. Or nickel.

The reason that recycling guy was no longer willing to count my wine bottle as mixed glass isn’t only because the government isn’t shilling out for it. It’s that the companies and countries that used to actually recycle our shit aren’t willing to anymore. It’s not profitable for anyone. Even China. 

That’s where most of our recyclables went before. Did you know we were supposed to thoroughly rinse our plastic before putting it in the bin? Neither did I, because they never told us to. That’s because the Chinese washed them for us, with labor that was cheaper than the water and soap we would have used. Unfortunately, China’s labor ain’t quite as cheap anymore. The price they get for selling the recycled plastic back to us isn’t worth the labor cost anymore. 

Cans are still worth the cost, because soda companies are still paying. I assume glass is still being recycled, as long as it isn’t wine bottles. Plastic’s the only one that’s cheaper to produce from scratch. Oh, and paper, but we stopped pretending we recycle paper ages ago. Oddly enough, it happened when people stopped buying newspapers, even though newspapers were the worst grade of paper. I work at a school that consumes thousands of sheets of pristine printer paper a day, and there isn’t a spot for recycling. 

Back to plastic, though, it turns out it might actually be worse for the environment to recycle plastic than to produce it from scratch. I’ve heard conflicting reports on this, but they come from both sides of the political news aisle. There was an NPR report claiming that most cities are throwing the plastic you diligently sorted back in with the garbage. The laws only require that it gets separated, not that it actually gets recycled. 

Maybe that’s what they were doing with wine bottles all those years.

By the way, NPR seemed kinda fine with plastic not being recycled. I only believe news media when they’re criticizing their own side. Aside from the cost and environmental damage caused by recycling, a fair amount of the shit we put on open-air boats to China blow off into the ocean. According to their report, that Great Pacific Garbage Heap isn’t coming from stuff us heathens are randomly discarding but the stuff we’re trying to do the right thing with.

But here we go again, with a brand spanking new composting law here in California. 

There were all sorts of stories a year ago that we needed to start separating the food from the rest of our trash. Followed by other stories saying, “Whoa, not YET!” Turns out none of the infrastructure was in place. Not that that’s stopped the state of California from implementing changes before. In a decade or so, we won’t be able to buy gasoline cars anymore, despite there being no plans to add more charging stations. Nor consultation with car manufacturers to see if they can supply enough fully electric vehicles. I don’t even think hybrids will be allowed.

And don’t get me started on the impending disappearance of bacon. Then again, that wasn’t the government, that was the damn voters who passed a “take your pigs to the gym” ballot proposition.

I’m all for composting. We put our coffee grounds, as well as random egg shells and apple cores, in a little bin, then use it to fertilize our garden. At first I assumed that was the purpose of this law. Maybe the state of California wants to go into the fertilizing business to make a little extra money they won’t return to us. Then they’ll ban private fertilizer companies because they’re shocked, SHOCKED, to discover that fertilizer can be used in explosives. Or else maybe they’re worried kids will eat fertilizer.

Seems to be their plan for solar, where they encouraged us all to put solar on our homes, but now they’re worried that we’re producing too much solar. It’s hurting the old-fashioned energy companies that donate to politicians. So now they’re going to make us pay extra for the solar panels we already installed. Plus they’re not going to let us use our excess solar to lower our electricity costs anymore. That’s right, the progressive promised land of California, where Democrats have a super-majority at every level of government, is trying to steer us away from renewable energy.

Just like with the composting, it has nothing to do with fertilizer. Recycling is never about recycling. It’s about separation. If organic matter is mixed with regular trash, it releases methane. But if it’s in a separate pile, it… doesn’t? Despite the fact that every compost pile ever created smells like shit. 

But methane is bad for the environment. Not sure if it’s worse for the environment than thousands of cars idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic because California refuses to build or expand public transit. Why would they provide us with busses and trains when they can just shame us for not taking the nonexistent busses and trains? They can’t extend BART into San Jose because of “environmental studies.” 

Like studying why wine bottles can’t be recycled. 

Can’t wait till the cities just put our organic waste back in with the regular trash. Now that I think of it, what goes into the trash can after all the food is taken out?

We haven’t been given any new bins for this new composting experiment. Many municipalities already have greenwaste cans, so in late 2021, we all assumed we’d just throw the coffee grounds in with the greenwaste. That’s when we got the “No, no, no, not there! Not yet!” message. 

Allegedly the landfills that take the greenwaste can’t handle separating it from the composting. Heck, we get in trouble if dog shit gets in with our leaves. Maybe in the future we’ll be forced to recycle our animal feces, too. Then they’ll throw it all together at the landfill.

A year later, there’s been no update on how and where to separate our composting. Despite the fact that the law was passed in 2018. And people think I’m crazy for assuming California won’t be ready for all electric cars a decade from now. 

Assuming it stays with greenwaste, there might be additional problems. Our greenwaste truck only comes around biweekly instead of weekly. Will that change if we have to throw all of our food in there? Shit, swap it with the regular garbage truck, cause I imagine my regular trash can won’t be filling up quite as regularly without food in it. What else is there to throw away? To-go containers and wine bottles.

Punishments for not separating our organics don’t begin until 2024. But if my math is correct, we’re over halfway since the law was implemented, and 5/6 of the way since it was passed, toward penalties, and haven’t heard shit yet. Maybe California’s grand plan is to never tell us how to do it. That way, they can fine us all for violating it. 

Because, let’s face it, we’re all going to be fined. I like to think of myself as relatively knowledgeable about current trends, rules, and regulations relating to environmental policy, but I sure as shit can’t tell you every item that’s compostable. 

For instance, when I put coffee grounds in my garden, I don’t include the filter. My coffee filter still has a smattering of coffee grounds on it when I throw it in the trash. I don’t know if it’s compostable or not. It’s paper, which means it’s organic. But so is greenwaste. 

Let’s say I’m eating a juicy steak. I know the uneaten portions go into the compost, but what about the bones? When making fertilizer out of it, we would toss those because they don’t break down fast enough, but I’m assuming they still produce methane. 

What about stuff like barbecue sauce and mustard and ketchup? I  assume they’re counted as food, but if I’m tossing half a head of romaine lettuce, that’s got to be greenwaste, right? 

I’ll just throw sliced “American” “cheese” in with the plastic. Let China figure it out what it’s made of.

And dammit, what am I supposed to do with my dog shit? I don’t think there’s a correct answer. Might as well flush it down the toilet.

Restaurants and food courts don’t seem to be helping much, either. It seems like any time I’m somewhere that separates out composting, the stuff they put on the picture is stuff I wouldn’t think to put in there. Napkins and wrappers, which they claim are cellophane, which I thought was the same as plastic, but what the hell do I know? In truth, one time I bought gizzard on a stick in New Orleans and, yeah, by the time I delivered it to an unsuspecting friend a half-hour later, the grease had damn near dissolved the flimsy bag-like cover. 

But now I’m going to be fined for putting some food wrappers in the garbage, or fined for putting other food wrappers in the not-garbage. 

Seriously, California, can I just send you a damn check to leave me alone? 

Maybe we ought to change our state motto. No longer are we the state of “Eureka, I have found it!” Unless what we’re looking for is wildfires and unaffordable housing.

Besides, nobody comes here for gold anymore. They come to make it in Hollywood.

Here ya go: “California: Act Like You Care.”

And anybody else who is trying to get recycling right can borrow it. We’ll even wrap it in plastic for ya.

2022 Concert Review

‘Tis the season to review concerts
Fa la la la laaa, la la la la
It is cold, my nipples are pert
Fa la la la laa, la la la la
Billy Joel and Lake Street Dive
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
And a band I’d never heard of before.

Damn, am I supposed to rhyme the last line, too? If I swapped the music groups in the third verse, maybe I could say I saw the band in Sacramento. Does Sacramento rhyme with Billy Joel? No? Damn, music is hard. It’s a good thing I leave it to the professionals.

And for the first time since 2019, I saw some of those professionals do their thing this year. So I guess it’s time for me to write a year-end review, which was once upon a time a bit of a tradition on this here blog. Hopefully this post won’t be the equivalent of jamming myself back into work pants.

I’ve already made oblique references to all three concerts, mainly about the experience of going. First, back in April, I wrote about the strange concept of attending a concert at all, and how I was sure I’d be contracting the ‘Rona any day now. Turns out I probably caught it at a concert in June, instead. 

That concert was Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, which I also blogged about because we got the magical Billy Joel upgrade from the nosebleeds to the front row. After that, honestly, who gives a fuck if the concert is terrible?

Not that it was terrible. Just saying that if the entire concert was him taking a giant dump at center stage, I would still give it four-and-a-half stars based on the vantage point. 

So sure, let’s start with Billy Joel. I mean, what can one say about a Billy Joel concert? I highly doubt anyone’s here to figure out what he’s like in concert. He’s been doing it for fifty years. Hel, he used to have hair when he was on stage!

I saw Billy Joel way back in college, when the River of Dreams tour came to an arena in Oakland that no longer exists. But damn, I saw some good concerts there. Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Tom Petty. And, back in 1993, or maybe 1994, I saw one William Joel. Turns out my future wife was also there at that show. Who woulda guessed? We sat much closer to each other in 2022 than in the 1993(4?) show. 

I just checked, and it turns out the Oakland Arena is still there. But the Warriors left for San Francisco, so what’s the point?

Billy Joel is only doing one show a month, so he doesn’t have that “middle of tour” fatigue you sometimes get with the bands, having little clue what city they’re in from day to day. When I saw Joe Cocker in Oakland, he was solid, but a few years later I saw him at a winery on the last night of an eighteen month world tour. He could not WAIT to get off that stage. Living on the West Coast, we often get the tail end of tours.

The nicest thing about Billy Joel only doing one show a month is that it’s not a predictable setlist. He delves beyond his singles. The night we saw him, he went for deep cuts like “Zanzibar” and “Vienna.”

Then again, his playlist is my only, minor, gripe. The others I was with got all the songs they wanted to hear, but I didn’t get mine. Daughter’s favorite Billy Joel Song is “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” That came up about halfway through the concert. Wife was hoping for “Vienna,” which also came early. She doubled down on “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” which came up near the end of the concert. She threw down for the trifecta requesting “We Didn’t Start the Fire” while we were applauding for the encore (a ritual we had to explain to Daughter – “No, the concert isn’t really over. No, it’s not halftime. The assholes just hold back their best songs.”). Guess what he opened the encore with?

Daughter also got “Piano Man.” But that doesn’t count, because even if he doesn’t feel compelled to play his greatest hits, there’s no way Billy Joel doesn’t play “Piano Man.”

Still, if you’re doing the math, that’s five straight requests for the two of them. Wife also loves “Downeaster Alexa,” another deep cut he played.

But could the asshole play “Keeping the Faith” for me? Just one teeny song? Evidently that’s too much to ask.

But yeah, the concert was great. He seems happy, which I know isn’t always the case with him. His glaucoma looks pretty bad, an odd mixture of lazy eye with additional glassiness, exacerbated by being up on a Jumbotron. Hard enough to figure out which eye to look at when they aren’t twenty feet apart from each other.

I know we went to see him in New York, but I found it odd when he brought a couple Rangers out with the assumption that we’d know them. I follow hockey a bit, nut I had no friggin’ clue who these dudes were. For all I know, they ride the bench. Maybe they’re water boys. But I had to clap as if these were the love children of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. 

It reminded me of the time I saw Trans-Siberian Orchestra. All concert long they talked about an extra special guest star joining them on stage later. A musical legend, they claimed. Someone they were awed to share a stage with. BB King, I was thinking? Stevie Wonder? Clapton? Turns out it was somebody who played in the band Yes. Sure, I like “Owner of a Lonely Heart” as much as the next ’80s kid, but as a general rule, if you have to tell us which band he played for, he ain’t a rock legend. 

Same goes for “if you have to tell us what team they play for,” Billy.  I get that he’s THE New York guy. And we traveled all the way to New York to see him. But the whole point of him playing Madison Square Garden every month is to make it a destination. He ain’t coming to see us, so we’ve gotta go see him, meaning a lot of us in the audience are from out of state. We’re fine listening to “New York State of Mind,” but if you’re going to bust out a local athlete, it better be Aaron Judge.

From one end of the spectrum, a music legend playing to a packed arena, to another. My first concert of the year was a band I’d never heard of.

Seeing bands I’ve never heard of before isn’t my normal m.o., but my friend had tickets from a canceled pandemic show. The second ticket was supposed to go to his son, who now didn’t want to see a mid-week concert on account of him now having a child and a full-time job. 

Besides, I hadn’t been to a concert in a few years. Gotta ease back into it, y’know? What if, my first concert back, it’s, like, my favorite band, but I forgot how to enjoy it? The Beatles, for one night only, but I left before the encore and never heard “Hey, Jude.”

So yeah, if you want to know what songs Airborne Toxic Event played or didn’t play, I can’t tell you. I could look up the setlist for you, but it wouldn’t do much good. I don’t know which songs sounded similar to the album versions and which ones they improved on. The only thing I can comment on is lots of violin.

Or viola, according to my friend. It looked like a damn violin to me. If it was in the south, they would’ve called it a fiddle, and I’m pretty sure they don’t call violas fiddles. Maybe next time I see Airborne Toxic Event, it should be in Texas.

My lasting impressions of the concert were the backlighting on the viola player whenever she did a solo was totally reminiscent of Poindexter doing his rock violin (yes, an actual violin) during the Revenge of the Nerds concert. And the bass player totally looked like Razor Ramon. Not bad for a band of whippersnappers to give this old guy not one, but two, 1980s references.

It almost makes up for having a standing-room-only concert. Almost, but not quite. Cause fifty-year-old calves and knees weren’t made for five hours of standing in the same spot. At least I wasn’t one of the people who passed out. Now that I mention it, those guys were youngsters. Maybe they haven’t gone through the groomsman “flex your knees” training. Then again, one of those pass-outers was just drunk. Us oldies know how to hold our booze. Or else we’re muttering, “What the hell does the beer cost? Boy, back in my day it only cost a nickel.”

(Nickel being a five-dollar bill in this case)

But yeah, in case it wasn’t clear, the concert was good. The band interacted great with the crowd, who were totally into it. But it wasn’t good enough for me to look up any of their songs in the intervening nine months.

Then there was Lake Street Dive. They’re one of my new favorite bands and, as an extra bonus, they are my Daughter’s absolute favorite band. Lots of pandemic days were wiled away with Alexa shuffling through their catalog. As a bonus, we were seeing them in Boston, home of  the actual Lake Street, where they were founded. Unfortunately, the dive bar that became the basis of their name has gone out of business. 

In retrospect, perhaps seeing them in their hometown wasn’t the best plan.

You know how fans who have been with the band since the beginning hate all those johnny-come-latelies who go to the bathroom when the classics get played? 

Well, now I’m one of those new fans. Even worse, I’m seeing them with the old fans who made them a thing. During the concert, the band talked about playing in those dives and how great it felt to come back and play the bigger venues. Many fans in the crowd nodded along. Then they turned and punched me in the face.

Okay, maybe not. But in spirt.

Right before the concert start, somebody saw my daughter, decked out (really, swimming) in her very first concert tee. She asked Daughter if she was excited to see the show. Yep. Favorite band, first concert, all the way from California, yada, yada. She left out the whole “front row at Billy Joel two nights ago,” thankfully, or the Lake Street mob might’ve tarred and feather us. 

Then the lady asked the password question. “Who’s your favorite, Rachael or a Bridget?” 

Daughter froze.

Perhaps I should explain for the uninitiated. Two women front Lake Street Dive, and it’s Blair vs Jo all over again. Rachael Price is the lead singer, while Bridget Kearney is the bass player. Sure, the others in the band write a good number of the songs and play their own instruments as well. But it seems to be, mostly, the Rachael and Bridget show. Bridget plays an upright bass, which is pretty bad-ass for a pop/rock band and Rachael has a voice that should not exist in nature, especially not in a blonde thirty-something from, am I reading that right, Australia? But raised in Tennessee. Close your eyes and you’ll think you’re listening to the love child of Idina Manzel and Macy Gray, who happened to steal the soul from Shirley Bassey on the way out of the fallopian tubes.

Lots of same-sex love children today, but you get the meaning.

The two ladies’ personalities, or perhaps their personas, match their role in the band. A lead signer is flamboyant, a bass player the steady bedrock. Rachael is every bit the diva, wearing extravagant outfits, exhibiting elegant curls that must take the better part of a day to make look so effortless. Bridget is down-to-tacks business, her hair often in a yeoman’s ponytail. Scratch that, a side pony, which is the name of one of their best songs and albums. Rachael doesn’t even sport a side pony on the cover of the album Side Pony. Bridget does. I feel like Rachael’s hair would demand a United Nations investigation if it were placed in the same general vicinity as a scrunchie. 

Daughter wasn’t sure how to respond to the Rachael or Bridget question. In the Mean Girls world of second and third grade, friendship is a zero sum game. If she chooses one, that’s tantamount to saying she hates the other. Just like the kid she played with yesterday, and will play with again tomorrow, but who is playing with someone else today. Might as well be Russia and Ukraine for the next 24 hours. 

Finally, with a little coaxing from me, she opted for Rachael. Shouldn’t have been that hard to figure out. She had a pink strip in her hair before she even turned eight years old. A lead singer if I’ve ever met one. 

I, of course, am Team Bridget all the way. And yeah, I was always a Jo-boy in Facts of Life, too. 

There’s some cool YouTube videos of people hearing the band for the first time. Everybody’s absolutely floored by Rachael’s voice. Voice coaches are at a loss to explain how she does what she does. It’s refreshing, and the refresher I sometimes need after listening to her rendition of “Rich Girl” for the 1000th time that it is anything but rote. But then I get annoyed that none of those first-timers are sufficiently in awe of Bridget’s bass playing. It fucking slaps! 

Good thing I was never around to join the McDuck part of the civil war.

Being one of those rat-bastard new fans, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about McDuck, the original guitarist, leaving. Twenty years from now, some of those old guard will bust out their McDuck shirts to shove all our faces in the fact that they were here first. Like when I throwdown with the other history teachers at my school that I remember referring to Mondale and Ferraro as “Fritz and Tits,” something that doesn’t show up in the history books.

McDuck leaving sure seems like poor timing, with the band on the verge of hitting it big. After all, I discovered them in 2020, ergo nobody had ever heard of them before then. Except maybe people in Boston.

Okay, fine, you want proof that I’m the barometer of the entire nation? “Hypotheticals,” my gateway drug song at the beginning of the pandemic, peaked at #2 for adult alternative. Then McDuck left.  

Maybe the hitting it big was the thing that made him leave. Maybe he was all in for the regional shows but didn’t want to do the forever tour that’s become standard for musicians these days. Used to be you could record a new album and live off the residuals. Nowadays musicians only make money when they go on tour. I wonder if the post-1966 Beatles could survive these days. They’d probably just sell their music to commercials a lot earlier. Mr. Socialist John Lennon was nothing if not a chaser of every dollar bill in existence. Imagine no possessions… because I have them all.

Therein lies my problem with joining this band late. I don’t know if McDuck leaving is the equivalent of (to keep the Beatles metaphor going) Stuart Sutcliffe, who left voluntarily because he didn’t want to keep playing gigs, or Pete Best, who was dumped to bring in a better musician. Maybe the concert in Boston was the new Ringo’s debut. And I had no idea.

As for the actual concert, it was great. Even better, after the Billy Joel fiasco, I got my favorite songs, but Wife didn’t. Daughter got the pick of the litter once again, with “Hypotheticals” being the second song of the concert. My number one request, “Good Kisser,” showed up near the end. Wife didn’t get “Call Off Your Dogs.” Too bad, so sad. 

At least she was prepared for this eventuality, based on the concert setlists leading up to this one. I have a love/hate relationship with those online setlists. It’s nice to have an idea of what songs they’ll be playing and, more importantly, skipping. Had I prepared myself for no “Keeping the Faith,” I wouldn’t have missed it as much. Or at least I wouldn’t have listed it as the song I wanted to hear so Wife and Daughter could mock me for its absence. 

But, I don’t know, didn’t that used to be the fun of going to concerts? It seems so formulaic when I can look at your setlist from last night and know I’m getting the same songs in the same order. I know they have to practice and it would be difficult and confusing to change up the order every night. It’s not like Billy Joel just decided the songs that morning. He just has the benefit of a month passing between each show, so he can make each one distinct.

Some artists think they’re switching up the setlist by moving two songs. It’ll be, like the second song of the night Saturday, but the second song of the encore the next night. And the other fifteen songs are all in the same spot. I guess that gives it a different flavor from night to night, but meh. 

In fact, this Lake Street Dive concert rearranged four or five songs from the night before. And honestly, I think I would’ve liked the previous night’s finale.

Much like Rachael vs Bridget, there seem to be two distinct flavors of Lake Street Dive songs. They go soulful or poppy. The soulful seems to be the basis of their YouTube fame. From at least three “first time reactions” to Rachael’s voice on “What I’m Doing Here” to the jazzy, half-speed rendition (think the difference in the two Beatles’ versions of “Revolution”) of Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” performed live on a random Boston sidewalk, complete with Bridget’s stand-up bass. 

And don’t get me wrong. I love the jazzy. If, after discovering the band via “Hypotheticals” and “Know That I Know,” I had looked up their catalog to find a slew of songs sounding like “Hypotheticals” and “Know That I Know,” I don’t know if they would’ve been on constant Alexa rotation, thus making them Daughter’s favorite band and an impetus for a cross-country trip. A band I’ve recently discovered, the 502s, had a similarly infectious first song. And while I like more of their songs, they have a specific style that I can only listen to for a few songs at a time. 

Shuffle a Lake Street Dive playlist, on the other hand, and you’ll go from ballads to pop to hard-edged rhythm & blues. I love it all. 

Except during an encore.

Their last two songs going into the break were “Bad Self Portraits” and “Good Kisser,” two absolute bangers, the last of which I would’ve been sweating about if I hadn’t already seen it on the previous night’s setlist. When they came back on stage, they did “You Go Down Smooth,” another one that shows off Rachael’s range and Bridget’s driving bass. Three songs in a row, riling up the crowd and building momentum. Interestingly, the night before they had played the same three songs with a swapped order, with “You Go Down Smooth” leading into “Good Kisser,” then finishing the concert with “Bad Self Portraits.”

Yes, they closed out the song with a screecher the night before. The ballad, a snoozer called “Sarah,” was the first song of the encore, not the final song. 

So when they started the encore with “You Go Down Smooth,” I was a little worried. Surely they couldn’t do the ballad last, could they? Maybe Wife will actually get “Call Off Your Dogs,” even if they haven’t played it all year. 

No such luck. Maybe they felt safe among the True Fans or maybe they thought the ballads are what we really wanted. So they left us on a low note. Turns out it wasn’t even “Sarah,” but a song called “My Speed,” which I wasn’t even aware of until I just went back and checked the setlist. The YouTube version of that song has 80,000 views, as opposed to “Good Kisser,” which has 2.6 million. “Call Off Your Dogs,” a song they don’t play anymore, has 1.5 million. Not saying video views should dictate setlists, but if you’re hoping to direct us toward one of your lesser-known songs, maybe do it in the middle of the concert. 

And yeah, I once waxed poetic about Jimmy Buffett ending his concert with an acoustic ballad. But that was a different situation. He came out with the whole band and played an energetic encore. Everyone did their bows and left the stage, but Jimmy lingered. He played the last song by himself, acoustic guitar in his lap, legs dangling off the edge of the stage. 

The concert was over, he was playing us off. A digestiv, not a dessert. 

Also, that song was “He Went to Paris.” Okay, maybe it was “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” Heck, it coulda been “Son of a Son of a Sailor.” Whichever one of his ballads it was, it’s from his greatest hits. Way more than 80,000 views.

My point is, if you’re going personal for the finale, it’s gotta be personal to all of us.

Props to them for swinging for the fences, though. 

Too bad those types of swings often result in strikeouts.

That being said, you better be damn sure I’ll be seeing them again, multiple times. Often with Daughter in tow.

Excellent fucking band.

And if they add “Call Off Your Dogs,” Wife might join me, too. 

Pre-Check for Some, Flights for None

I flew visited an airport the day after Christmas. 

Something I used to do every year, up until 2019. This was the first attempt since. Guess it’ll end up being a four-year hiatus now. 

Even under the best of circumstances, it’s a harrowing trip. Busy airports, tired travelers. Delayed flights, canceled trips. 

This year, it was anything but the best of circumstances.

The plane is here, but the crew is delayed? That’s a new one. Someone just pay up their tab and let’s get the fuck outta here.

It was one of the weirdest cancellations I’ve ever been a part of. Oh yeah, spoiler alert, my flight got canceled. Then again, if you’ve seen anything about Southwest Airlines this week, you probably already knew that.

Not that I have much experience with canceled flights. That happens in places like Denver or Chicago, not California. We get occasional spillover effects, like our plane still being on the tarmac in Pittsburgh, but that usually only amounts to a couple-hour delay as one of the other myriad airplanes on the West Coast can be used. 

My normal jaunt, from one of the three northern California airports (technically four, but it’s almost impossible for San Jose to be cheaper than Oakland) to one of the five Southern California airports (technically six, but ditto San Diego), might as well be in their own world, apart from the vagaries of weather and delays. Usually, the airplane that’s heading to Burbank will turn right back around and head back to Oakland. Last time I checked, it doesn’t snow in Burbank, Oakland, or anywhere in between. 

No, Grapevine, you don’t count. A few hours of snow once every five years. Fancy.

So when we smug California-to-California travelers saw our plane already sitting at the gate an hour before takeoff, we figured we were golden. We were one of literally only two green “On Time” designations on the  “Departures” board covering the next three hours. If it’s showing on time and the plane is already here, there’s really nothing that can delay us, right?

As opposed to those times the board says “on time” a half-hour from now but the airplane isn’t here yet. Then you check online and the inbound ninety-minute flight hasn’t left its airport yet. I’d love for someone to explain to me how there’s any way my flight will be on time.

Around a half-hour before our flight, we did what all good Southwest customers do, those of us with A boarding passes mingled toward our appointed place in line. About ten minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave, an attendant came on the speaker. “The good news is your plane is here. The bad news is your crew is not. Your flight is still showing ‘on time,’ so I don’t know how long the delay will be, but we for sure will not be leaving on time.”

I tried to explain to Daughter how all this might happen. Crews often land with one plane, then transfer to another plane. We found an arrivals board that showed a delayed flight from Burbank was just landing. See, Daughter? That’s probably our crew.

Except it wasn’t.

Why the hell do they have arrivals boards past security, anyway? Pretty sure everyone getting off a plane knows where they came from. It usually only serves assholes like me who want to see if the incoming plane already left its airport.

For the next 20-30 minutes, the Southwest App still showed my flight was on time, despite us all still sitting around. By the time it finally showed up as delayed, the “new departure” time was the current time. Every five minutes or so, the delayed time would extend to the current time. As with the plane that hasn’t taken off from its last airport, if the alleged crew isn’t at this airport right now, is it safe to assume it’ll be longer than right now before we start loading the plane, much less take off?  

Even worse, the flight had been taken off the departures board, because HAL thinks we’re somewhere over Yosemite right now. So I can’t keep apprised of the status if I wander around the airport. I’d hate to lose my vaunted “A” boarding group status because I miss the boarding announcement while scarfing down a triangle of grease that the kiosk refers to as pizza.

I finally felt safe venturing away around the two-hour mark, when someone nearby commented, “Y’know, I’ve heard a lot of canceled and missing crew announcements. I don’t think I’ve heard a single boarding announcement.” 

Finally time to take a leak.

After my flight showed up as canceled on my app, it still took them forty minutes to announce it. I had to be the asshole who jumped the two-hour long line of rebooking people with an “I’m sorry, are we supposed to wait for an announcement to get our bags back?” Oops, were we not supposed to bother the overworked employees? Do I have to wait in line to find out my flight was canceled, then return to the back of the line to get my bags? Southwest seems to be making the DMV look effective this week.

By the way, this is what the baggage claim area looked like when we got back there:

At first, I assumed these were the bags taken off all the canceled flights. But no, ours came the usual baggage claim route. These bags were at their final destination, but the people who owned them weren’t. Don’t ask me how the hell your luggage makes it when the flight doesn’t. Don’t ask Southwest, either. Their Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet doesn’t have enough cells to explain it.

Ironically, the whole cancellation fiasco wasn’t the thing that pissed me off the most that day. Frustrating, sure, but canceled flights are the closest thing I’ll ever get to a White Christmas. Maybe I can make a snowman out of the complimentary brownie brittle packets they gave us.

Far more egregious was in the TSA line, where we were informed that American Express customers got complimentary Pre-Check clearance.

Instead, having only my lowly visa in my wallet, I had to scuttle my ass in the slow-moving cattle-prod line. 

Boy, I feel safer now.

In actuality, the line wasn’t too terrible. Probably because all those snooty “I pay an annual fee for the privilege of having to pay off my entire balance each month” types were hoity-toitying over in the Pre-Check line.

Then I remembered that they got to keep their shoes on, and I got pissed again.

You know all those stories you’ve heard of Ellis Island? Long lines, fronted by uncaring bureaucrats who changed your name from Andolini to Corleone before diagnosing you with Covid or glaucoma or something and placing you in the special Statue of Liberty jail for a few months. 

Well, it turns out that experience only pertained to the steerage-class passengers. First and second class got their less-stringent inspection on the ship and, with a merry little tap on the ass, got to bypass the whole Ellis Island experience and could be halfway to Baltimore by the time the peons were done with their anal probe.

Good news! No tuberculosis in your colon!

The idea was that people able to pay extra money must obviously be safe. Good, upstanding individuals instead of huddled, unwashed masses. In their defense, I suppose TB and cholera were more likely among the poor, especially after you jammed them all in a floating sardine can for the last two weeks. Not that they used “statistical likelihood” as the justification for their policy. I think the official jurisprudence was. “Fuck you, peasants!”

This whole Pre-Check thing has stunk with that mentality since the get-go. Sure, sure, there’s some sort of “background check” involved with it, but as far as I can tell, the only thing the process really controls for is people who are able to take a day off to fill out questionnaires. And pay fees. 

If anything, aren’t the rich and idle more likely to put a bomb in their shoe? They certainly have the resources. Those of us who can’t take a day off and drive into San Francisco for a federal pap smear don’t have time to look up complicated shoe bombs. The kid’s got to be at soccer practice by 5:00.

I might not know the mentality of a suicide bomber, but I highly doubt the 9/11 terrorists would’ve been unwilling to splurge for first class. It’s not like they had to worry about the cost of the return flight or any credit card interest they’d be accruing for big purchases. With the years of preparation and test runs, they certainly would’ve taken a day off to pay the Pre-Check fees if those were available at the time.

Who would’ve guessed that all they needed was an American Express?

I can’t even determine the rationale that was used for this decision. That “bad guys” won’t have an AmEx because it as America in the title? Because it’s not like 90% of mass shootings are carried out by Americans or anything. Guessing the Buffalo shooter and the Colorado Springs shooter both considered themselves upstanding Americans. Ditto the guys who shot up the Congressional softball practice and tried to kill the Supreme Court Justice. 

Let’s not forget that the whole shoe thing happens because one guy threatened one airplane twenty years ago. Oh, and his shoe bomb failed to explode. Because shoe bombs aren’t a fucking thing outside of James Bond movies. If James Bond technology worked, I wouldn’t even be in this damned line because I’d be jetpacking myself to Southern California.

I wonder if the original shoe bomber had an AmEx card. He seemed like a “can’t handle the interest” kinda guy.

Of course, we know the real rationale for letting some people on our planes with less scrutiny than others. The government cares much more about getting our money than saving our lives. The city I live in now makes me pay a fee because I have a doorbell camera and alarm. One would think they’d want to encourage these items, which make the neighborhood safer, but nah. More porch pirates means more petty crimes that either get solved, creating bails and fees, or don’t get solved, causing citizens to demand more police.

But they’re not supposed to be so obvious about these cash grabs. My city says my $40 covers “potential false alarms” caused by my alarm, even though there’s about five steps between the alarm going off and the cops being called out.

It’s not like Pre-Check gets that much more privilege. Mainly just the shoes stay on and the electronics stay in the bag. Then again, what two things slow down the general TSA line so much? 

So is it that they can detect “evil” technology and shoes in the pre-check line, but we have outdated shit in the general line? Or is it that they could totally tell the laptop in my backpack is a laptop but that I haven’t paid for that privilege? 

Unless, of course, we do need to take off those shoes and take out those laptops. In which case, they’ve clearly just shown they don’t give two shits about our security, because with the right credit card, you can walk those things right onto the plane.

Then again, terrorists could just bring kids with them, because kids can’t go through the x-ray machine. And the adult with them goes through the old metal detector instead. The metal detector that… wasn’t good enough for keeping us safe…

It’s not like it could be an entire charade. Like, “Hey, there’s no way we can keep you safe, but the more awkward and obstructionist we make this, the more you’ll assume we’re doing something worthwhile. And you’ll keep traveling. And keep paying that 9/11 Security Fee.”

All for the privilege of sitting at a gate for five hours waiting for mythical crew to fall out of the sky.

Getting Old is Shitty

I received a surprising birthday present this year. Totally unexpected package arrived in the mail from someone I barely ever hear from. Heck, I didn’t think he even knew when my birthday was.

Although now that I think of it, my birthday’s probably listed on my medical file.

That’s right, the gift came from my doctor. Normally packages from one’s primary care provider don’t arrive unannounced. Normally it’s more of a, “Oh right, I refilled my prescription.”

And technically this wasn’t from my doctor. I doubt he took time out of his day to look up everybody’s birthday. I have Kaiser, so the algorithm probably just spits out generic packages at the appropriate time. Much like how Amazon just sends us shit we didn’t know we needed. I can’t be the only one who sees random Amazon packages on my porch and thinks, “Wait, did I order something from Amazon?” followed by a “Cool. I was totally getting low on toilet paper.”

It should come as no surprise that I belong to Kaiser. What self-respecting history teacher wouldn’t want their insurance covered by the pre-WWI German Emperor? I mean, have you SEEN that glorious mustache?

Allegedly Kaiser Permanente is named after some guy named Henry Kaiser, not His Most Exalted Highness Kaiser Wilhelm II. Uh huh, sure. And they’re called Freedom Sandwiches, not hamburgers, right? I’m sure they just changed the designation when we were fighting the krauts. Maybe Henry Kaiser made the Kaiser Roll. I’ll give him that.

So what was this gift Herr Kaiser sent me? With my big five-oh on the horizon, he opted for one of those humorous “Over the Hill” gag gifts. You know the kind. Spencer’s Gifts stocks a bunch of them. You can send someone a black balloon or maybe a tombstone. Not that a tombstone would be a great gag gift from your doctor. 

Fortunately what my doctor sent me was, at least in theory, something for avoiding that early tombstone. Assuming I use it, which I’m maybe fifty-fifty on right now.

He sent me a colonoscopy test.

Spencer’s Gifts loves those poop jokes.

I should’ve known the colonoscopy was coming in the mail. A couple months ago, a coworker who’s about a year older than me asked if I’ve had to do the whole colonoscopy test yet. No. I hadn’t had the pleasure. Yeah, he explained, it was new to him, too. And although the paperwork said everyone over 45 should get tested, it seemed to be triggered at the 48th birthday. 

He then explained the process to me. I didn’t fully pay attention, what with me only being 47 at the time. While I’ve heard plenty about colonoscopies before, I never really paid attention at all. Who the hell delves deep into such things in their youth? It’s got the trifecta of topics to avoid: cancer, mortality, and butt stuff.

I’m paying attention now.

To be honest, I’m not sure I realized there was a difference between prostate exams and colon exams. I still don’t. They shove something up your ass and look around for cancer, yeah? What’s the difference? Is the colonoscopy a camera while the prostate’s a finger? But camera’s haven’t always been microscopic, so before that it was maybe a scrape? One’s looking for a polyp, whatever the fuck that is, and the other is searching for, I don’t know, a tumor? Why bother separating the two? Seems ripe for a two-for-one deal. Once one has enema’d oneself, how about we get everything out of the butt in one fell swoop.

I heard rumors that prostate checks weren’t in vogue anymore. They’re not as reliable as, say, mammograms, and they might actually be causing more harm than they’re preventing. I guess someone reaching into your ass to twiddle with your nads from the inside isn’t great for your long-term health. And it just might, shock of shocks!, discourage guys from getting checked in the first place.

Obviously I was still very uninformed. It’s not like I was going to delve much deeper. That’s the doctor’s job – hey oh!  If I’m not reading beyond the headline for important matters like who’s going to be the next president or James Bond, why would I pay attention to minor issues like finding out if I have cancer? Instead, I saw a headline saying some questioned the effectiveness of prostate checks and patted myself on the back that I’d never have anything going up my butt unless I bought it a drink first. And not the enema drink.

Then my colonoscopy came in the mail. 

Although apparently, according to the instructions, the whole up-the-butt thing isn’t necessary anymore. It’s focused more on stuff coming out of the butt instead of into the butt. 

I didn’t misspeak at the beginning when I said mt colonoscopy came through the mail. No, the didn’t send the Robocop apparatus through the mail with instructions to send it on to the next guy. The only thing in my mailbox was an envelope with a stick. Plus a ginormous piece of paper and a set of instructions only slightly less daunting than “How to Defuse an Atomic Bomb.” 

Here’s the best I can figure: I’m supposed to place the sheet of paper into the toilet (but above the water) before I poop. Then poop onto said sheet of paper. Then dip the stick into the poop. And… send it back to my doctor… 

Isn’t sending biological material through the mail a felony? Maybe not if it’s, like, a skin graft or something. But fecal matter seems a step too far. Should I alert my mail carrier that he’s handling biological waste? Maybe I’ll tell him I’m sending it tomorrow so he can take the day off. Because poop in the mail hardly seems sanitary.

Ironic because sanitation, or at least the desire to avoid pathogens, was probably the impetus for this change in tactics. When the world shut down, they still needed to see inside our butts. All that depression eating in 2020 and 2021 might be turning into tumors in our colons.

Editor’s note: does eating cause colon cancer? Probably. Safe to say that people who never eat also never catch cancer. 

Writer’s note: I do my own editing.

So a) we needed our colon’s checked out, but b) we can’t come into the office for ye olde reacharounde, so c) maybe we can just dip the poo. 

Imagine the sales pitch: “Can’t come for the ass chaffing? We’ll bring it to you!”

As a bonus, it works just like the Covid test we were supposed to be taking that year. Sure, they were never available at the time, but here in 2022, I’m sure we’ve all done it at least once. Heck, you can dip a stick into anything these days, and get a reading. Covid. Colon cancer. Pregnancy. 

Unless you’re looking for blood sugar. Then all you get is a humiliating trial and a Netflix documentary. Not the good kind.

But now I’ve got another question. Was this “Poke the Poop” technology available before Covid? If so, why were we making people come in for the ass ramming? I kinda feel like if I had Robocop feeling around on my insides back in 2019, and then all of a sudden they say, “All we need is a Stick o’ Poo,” I’d have a bit of buyer’s remorse. Like the last group of acolytes before the fraternity gets banned. What’s the fun of being hazed if you don’t get to haze the next group? Sure, I was tarred and feathered and the next guy only had to poop on a stick. 

One more question: If I’m sending it through the mail, why did my doctor have both hands on my shoulders?

No wait, that’s not it. I know the answer to that one.

It’s this: What am I supposed to do with the rest of the poop sitting on a piece of paper in my toilet?

Childhood Sweet Spot

 I’m entering what I assume to be my last holiday season.

No, I’m not suffering from any sort of debilitating illness. My bout with Covid was, much like most people’s, little more than a couple days of a sore throat.

Why will this be my last holiday season, then? Because my daughter is eight.

Truthfully, she might not even believe in the big guy anymore. Fortunately, though, she’s never brought up any suspicions. Granted, when the stupid, fucking elves “forgot” to move from one spot in the house to another spot last year, she seemed to think we were responsible. Like honestly kid, what the hell do your parents have to do with your elves’ choice of locale? Maybe you accidentally touched them yesterday and fucked up their magic.

Then I politely remind Wife that I never wanted to do NSA on the fucking Shelf in the first place. 

Santa Claus isn’t the only one she’s still on board with. She hasn’t even shown skepticism about the Easter Bunny, which I remember giving up hope on long before Big Red. On St. Patrick’s Day, she still giddily set traps out for leprechauns, because evidently that’s a thing now. Why am I not being consulted before we add random nymphs to holidays? I’d like to register my opposition to the forthcoming Fourth of July Sprite ahead of time.

Ditto for the Tooth Fairy, although now that I’m living through it, I realize there’s a long gap between losing tooth number eight and nine, which makes a natural barrier. She lost all eight in a span of twenty-four months between kindergarten and second grade, but the next tooth isn’t likely to come out till fourth or possibly even fifth grade. And by then, she’ll probably want a Target gift card instead of cash under her pillow.

But even if her tooth came out early, I don’t know how vested she’d be in a perverted bone harvester sneaking into her bedroom at night. Because eight years of no verifiable proof is about how long it takes most people. Unless I’m raising a flat-earther or anti-vaxxer or something. Hopefully that’s not in her future. But you know what is? High school.

I teach high school, and for most of her life, there was a clear demarcation between the child in my home and the children in my classroom. It’s still there, to be sure, but it’s becoming blurrier. There are times I can see the high schooler she’ll become. Sometimes in the past, when her school has had a day off, I’ve brought her into my classroom. The teenagers are usually on their best behavior when there’s a little kid. Now I’d be worried she’d sit in the back row rolling her eyes with the rest of them. Maybe they would show her how to take twenty minutes in the bathroom and come back smelling like weed.

Yes, in the year 2022, teenagers still can’t figure out how to mask the smell of weed. It doesn’t matter that edibles are legal. Vaping is also widely available, despite the government’s decided effort to ban them so people go… back to smoking? But nope. Teenagers still feel it’s much better to give everybody else in the room the munchies.

And just like those teenagers, OMG the fucking DRAMA my third-grader brings home. Girl A wasn’t playing with her last week, so she started playing with Girl B. This week, Girl A wants to play and she’s quick to throw Girl B to the curb. Next week Girl A will be playing WITH Girl B and Daughter is just beside herself wondering why she has no friends. It’s sort of like Mean Girls, except it’s not a small cadre holding reign over the school. They’re ALL Mean Girls. Until puberty and/or cheerleading sorts out the alphas, society has no way to determine who has the right to demean others. So they’re all practicing being at both the top and the bottom of the social pecking order. 

And to think most of them aren’t even interested in boys yet. Yikes. I always thought those neurotic tendencies only came out when interested in the opposite gender, but if Daughter’s third grade is any indicator, our own gender fucks us up plenty good on its own. I recently took a day off to help the science docent at her school. And of course, when the students came in for the science docent lesson, all the boys went to one side of the room, all the girls to the other. That’ll change by high school, when only about 80% of them self-segregate and the others surreptitiously hold hands in the middle. And all the boys and all the girls were competing against each other in one form or another.

I’ve thought the national obsession with bullying the last twenty years odd. Obviously we don’t want to encourage bullying, and when bullying delves into harassment territory, we should definitely come down with a zero-tolerance angle. But in elementary school EVERYBODY is a bully. I remember kids who bullied me, and I could probably guess at a few kids who thought I bullied them. And the crazy thing is that there’d be plenty of names in the middle of that Venn Diagram. Every elementary kid is a bully and bullied, because they’re still figuring out how reality works.

A funny thing happened a couple weeks ago. Daughter called out from the top of the stairs that the dog had pooped upstairs. Although on second thought, she reported, it didn’t really smell like poop, per se. Maybe pee? “It’s something rotten, like raw sewage,” were her exact words. Imagine her horror when she realized the stench came not from a canine’s nether regions but from her own armpits!

Of course, we still can’t parlay this realization into more than two bathings a week. Maybe we need to get some of those bullies in on her. I started bathing every day around second or third grade, but I still only did my hair once or twice a week. Until somebody rode me mercilessly in sixth grade. “Why don’t you take a shower?” he said to me on a daily basis. When I’d finally had enough and told him I showered every damn day and it was a stupid insult, he said, “Well, your hair doesn’t look like it.” Touche. Guess what I started adding to my daily shower? Now, approaching 50 years old, I still use my hair as the barometer on when I need to bust out a shower over a three-day weekend or over Summer Break.

I took another day off when she was getting an award. Her school, like most, makes up some adjectives they want their students to exhibit and then make an acronym tied to the mascot. It’s bullshit because we come up with the acronym first, then decide how our students should act. At my school, we’re the Hawks, so we came up with SOAR, then found attributes that started with each of those letters. I tried a write-in campaign for “Hawks CA-CAWWW!” but came up just short. 

Daughter got an award in both second and third grade. After her second grade award, she decided she wants to get all four by the time she’s done with elementary school. Let’s see how she’s doing. Second grade, she got Accountable. Third grade, she got… Accountable. Great. I’m raising a narc. At least she’s consistent. Now she might as well go for four straight years of Accountable. Because I don’t think she’s ever getting the “Cooperative” award.

Yes, that’s TWO days I took off to support Daughter’s education this year. Normally I don’t take days off for jack shit, because if I can accumulate more than 185 sick days, I can retire a year early. But in another couple years, she won’t be caught dead having her parents there to support her at a school event. I can recoup my sick days then.

I think that’s where I’m going with the whole “Childhood Sweet Spot.” Most of their childhood, you’re usually looking forward to something. It’ll be so much nicer/easier when they can walk, or talk, or when they’re in school, or when they can watch something besides “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.” Now she’s able to do all those things. She’s watched all of the phase one Marvel movies. She’s got legitimate opinions about things. She’s found a sport she likes playing and wants to get better at, and she’s even tried to engage in watching some MLB playoff games this year. 

Meanwhile, the list of things we’re looking forward to is dwindling. Acne? Interest in boys? Hard pass. Driving seems pretty far in the distance. Double her current lifespan, in fact, and at the rate the current generation is waiting to get their license, it might be another half-decade beyond that. 

Which is not to say everything’s honky-dorry right now. It’s amazing how seeing a video of two-year-old her “reading” (ie reciting from memory) through Brown Bear, Brown Bear makes me so nostalgic for her sweeter days. Missing from that video was the fact that she usually did this while spending a fucking HALF-HOUR on the fucking toilet, with either Wife or I, often both, in attendance the whole fucking time. Now wonder we recorded it. We’d already finished reading the copy of War and Peace we grabbed when she said she had to pee.

But the video of it is sweet. Now.

I’m sure I’ll find things to enjoy about her future, as well. Perhaps she’ll be able to engage in conversation about more worldly topics. Maybe, instead of doing soccer and softball and volleyball and gymnastics and dance and art, all poorly, she’ll focus on one or two activities and excel. Even better, maybe we can drop her off at those things and leave. She won’t be caught dead having her parents come to each practice and game, so Wife and I might actually be able to breathe on a typical weeknight.

I have a friend with a younger child who is in a similar boat I was once in, impatient for the walking, then the talking. I tell him not to be in such a hurry. Looking back, those were some fond times, and they go by so quickly. And now that this age I’ve been looking forward to is skimming by, it’s probably a good note to myself. Each age comes with its own pros and cons, and they ain’t coming back when it’s gone. Sometimes I miss the toddler days with the constant discovery of new abilities. 

I distinctly remember the time I took her out of my car with very full hands and thought, “Wait a second, if I put her down, she can walk toward the front door on her own.” Nowadays I’m more likely to remind myself that I can send her to the garage to get a Phillips screwdriver. Or I don’t have to hover over the pool with my shirt half-unbuttoned every time she’s more than two inches away from the side. But the idea is the same. 

That’s why I only get a smattering of parents to my high school Back-to-School Night as opposed to the 80% or so who show up to Daughter’s. Of course, when she was in kindergarten, it was pretty much 100%. Because, you know, kindergarten is so demanding, we need to make sure we understand the complicated assignment structure.

Not sure how I feel about becoming less and less important in her educational journey. Or any of her other journeys in life. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass when I’m doing important things, like blogging or video gaming, and she’s asking me what six times seven is. Will I look up from a full blog page one day in 2030 and wonder what level of math she’s in?

And no, I’m not going to get into some Cat’s in the Cradle bullshit where I never gave her the time she needed until it was too late. Here’s the thing about that song. “My boy was just like me.” No he wasn’t, you self-centered ass. Your son blew you off, in part, because “the kid’s got the flu.” So he’s actually being a father to his kid, which you hadn’t been. Him ignoring his father is not the same as you ignoring your son. 

Sorry, where was I?

A week or two ago, she came downstairs around her bed time and asked if I was coming up to snuggle her. I had just turned on the baseball game and was preparing to do some editing, and damn near told her sorry, can’t be bothered on this particular night. Or any other night, really, because 9:00 pm is the only time I get to accomplish jack shit on a daily basis, and I’m probably crashing by 10:00. Plus, I remember this game from her youth and if go lie down with her or, hell, even sit on the floor next to her and rest my head, there’s a damn good chance I ain’t getting back up. 

But then I realized it’s not a request I hear often anymore. Not that she doesn’t whine about a lack of attention, but it’s usually more along the lines of a passive aggressive “I guess nobody’s going to snuggle with me,” which drives Wife and I absolutely bug-nutty. But this request was an earnest desire, not a spoiled whine. In fact, the way she asked was awkward, almost like she wasn’t sure how to ask for it. did it used to just happen organically?

At some point, she will ask for snuggles for the final time. Maybe this was it. Because it won’t come with a pronouncement. Just like she’s won’t wake up December 1 claiming that by next year, she won’t believe. But they’re both coming and fuck me if I let them pass me by. 

If only I could get her to mispronounce all the words in Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

That’s the thing about raising children: The days drag, but the years fly by. 

The Queen is… Dead?

 Wow, the queen died. Who could’ve seen that one coming? Aside from everyone, of course.

It’s like that extra verse of Alanis Morisette’s song. A ninety-six year old woman died. Isn’t it ironic? Dontcha think?

And yet… 

I know I’m not the only person shocked by the news. I don’t know how many times I heard, and remarked myself, over the initial weekend, “Wow, I can’t believe the queen died.” 

Maybe shocked isn’t the right word. We’ve known it’s bound to happen. We tracked her reign against Queen Victoria, against Francis Joseph, against Rama IX. In the end she fell short of only King Louis XIV, the French besting the British in another round of a century-old rivalry. Then again, Louis was underage when his reign began. Sorry Frogs, regencies don’t count. Or I guess they do, according to Wikipedia. Maybe I should make one of those signs: Louis XIV is not MY longest-reigning European monarch.

And yet… We all thought she was going to hang around long enough to deliver the monarchy straight to William, didn’t we?

In our brains, we knew she couldn’t live forever, but she’s ALWAYS been queen. Sure, it’s called the United Kingdom, but it’s been a Queendom pretty much forever. Hell, if you add up Elizabeth’s and Victoria’s reigns, Britain’s had a queen at the head for 134 of the last 185 years. Not bad for a country that spent the entire sixteenth century obsessed with producing male heirs. Of course, they’ve updated their succession laws to allow female heirs. Right in time for a line of succession with three males at the top. Unless Princess Charlotte goes medieval, we probably just witnessed the last reigning queen of our lifetimes. 

More on that later. Trust me, if you’ve read my blog at all, you should know I’ll have some thoughts on Queen Elizabeth’s progeny.

Now that she’s gone, I have questions. Major, world-deciding questions:
1. Is the national anthem changing to “God Save the King?” Or are they now hoping He only protects Camilla? (Note: At the funeral today, I saw they did in fact change the lyrics. Not sure if Bernie Taupin was consulted)
2. Same question, but with James Bond. Is he now on His Majesty’s Secret Service? This feels even more sacrilegious than a minor thing like the national anthem. 

I thought maybe I could go back to the source to see if the James Bond’s work pronouns changed, but it was no use. Casino Royale, the first James Bond book, was published in 1953, one year after Elizabeth took the throne. Perhaps a first draft might provide an answer, but I found no reference. Did they have to change it after the book had been sent to editors?

Let’s dwell on that: Ian Fleming created the character based on his service in World War II. Fleming died in 1964, three years after a suave thirty-year-old, relatively unknown actor took over the role on the screen. That unknown actor went on to become a cultural icon, dubbed the “Sexiest Man Alive,” and was even knighted by the queen. He retired from acting twenty years ago and died in 2020.

My brother-in-law is British, so I thought maybe I could ask him what’s going to happen to the national anthem and James Bond, but he’s the same age as me, so it’s not like he’s ever learned a different set of lyrics. His mother was born in 1948, so she might not know either. 

That’s the weird thing about this one. When Pope John Paul II died, it was new and exciting for me, having been born in the mid-1970s, but older people had been through quite a few papal conclaves. John Paul I only lasted a few months, so they got to experience two in the same calendar year. Sure, they didn’t have 24-hour news networks with cameras trained on the smokestack in 1978, but the whole idea of a new pope was only shocking to those of us thirty and under. By contrast, nobody under the age of 75 remembers a different monarch.

By the way, electing a new pope is way better than ascending a new king. I was able to run a gambling pool on the new pope. Charles’s odds are at something like -1000000000.

But I’m not talking about Charles yet.

Americans allegedly were shocked when FDR died, wondering how anybody else could possibly run the country, and that dude had only been president for thirteen years. Soviets had a similar reaction when Stalin died after 25-30 years, depending on one’s definition of when Stalin was actually in charge. Then again, Stalin had systematically murdered most of the people who remembered life before he was around. He couldn’t quite master that whole “living to be almost 100” thing. 

Add together Stalin and FDR’s reigns and you’d still be missing almost half of Elizabeth’s reign. When people say they don’t remember any other ruler, they’re being literal. There aren’t a lot of people over the age of 75, American politics notwithstanding. Unlike Stalin, Elizabeth didn’t murder all the eighty-year-olds. That was Covid’s doing. Although if I’m to believe all the tweets about how genocidal she was, perhaps she’s the one who leaked the virus from the lab. Unfortunately, her primary target, a certain British noble born in 1948 named Charles, mustered up every ounce of his reptilian blood to avoid the virus.

There are plenty of tropes I’ve had in my back pocket for years that are now gone. Like why the hell does Canada have the queen on their money. Or pointing out the young Elizabeth when showing The King’s Speech. When teaching about James VI of Scotland becoming James I of England, it’s helpful to point out Prince Harry being farther down the line than his snot-nosed nephews.

And now there are two strikes against Naked Gun. O.J’s still alive, but the queen is dead. If you haven’t seen Reggie Jackson’s tweet, go look it up. Classic. Now if only they can solve the mystery of why the Angels were playing a game at Dodger Stadium in that movie.

While we’re mentioning former colonies, why the hell are we running the flags at half-staff in the United States? Didn’t we fight a little thing called the Revolution to avoid having to lower our flag when a monarch dies? Yeah, I’m writing a few thousand words about my shock, but that’s not the same as a directive from the government. Did we lower the flag when Betty White died? Because the two women occupied similar places in our zeitgeist, but last time I checked, Queen Elizabeth never made tawdry double entendres on the Match Game. Point: Betty White

Sure, some tropes still work. I can still put the side-by-side of Prince Harry and James Hewitt to discuss who the real father is. Speaking of Harry, how the hell did he become the beleaguered hero in this whole thing? Just because he married a woman who made him disown his family? That’s heroic these days? It seems nobody remembers him dressing up as a Nazi. That used to be my intro to The King’s Speech. When you’re the second son, nobody gives a shit about you. Some react with a deep-seeded inferiority complex. Others dress up as Nazis.

Okay fine, we’re talking about the family. I can’t believe the fucker went with King Charles III. For years, I was told he wouldn’t take that name. The first Charles was beheaded and the second was damn near run out of town because everybody hated his wife, who he cheated on incessantly. A little too on the nose, huh? The difference was that, after Oliver Cromwell, the people liked Charles II, so a little closet Catholicism wasn’t enough to change the king. They waited till his brother took over. 

A beefeater at the Tower of London once told me the British people’s real fear about Charles becoming king. Since he’d (allegedly) ruled out Charles, he could use any of his other names. He’s Charles Philip Arthur George, for those keeping track. Meaning he’ could ‘d likely go with George VII or Philip I, although they technically had a Philip when the Spanish king was married to Bloody Mary. He considered himself king on England, but the English didn’t.

Or he could’ve gone with that… other… name. For the past hundred years, they’ve given a lot of the royal princes the middle name of Arthur as an homage to that mythical leader, with the understanding that nobody would be obtuse enough to name themselves King Arthur. Then again, have you ever heard Prince (shit, King, I mean) Charles referred to as anything other than obtuse? Hell, he might as well have gone with his most well-known moniker and become King Tampon.

Which brings up another question. If a king eventually opts to take the reginal name King Arthur, would they be King Arthur I or King Arthur II? Technically there is no English monarch named Arthur on the historical register. 

Fortunately, Elizabeth lasted long enough to make it a complete joke for Charles to pick any name other than Charles. You can’t be Prince Charles for seventy fucking years just to be all, “LOL guys, call me Arthur now.” Hell, William’s only 40, but even if he became king tomorrow, could he really go with one of his other names? One of which is Louis, by the way. How would you like that, Mr. Sun King?

I wonder if we’re beyond the time when princes could take a new name when they become king. The last two new kings changed their names, but that was almost a century ago. I don’t know how “call me George now” would fly these days. Sure, they’ve always been celebrities, but we don’t interact with our celebrities the same way these days. The old kings didn’t have Twitter accounts. They were celebrities in the vein of Frank Sinatra, aloof and afar, not Miley Cyrus showing off her junk. The paparazzi didn’t follow Queen Victoria around, filling tabloids with pictures of her in a Nazi outfit.

Shit, George I didn’t even know a lick of English. Times have changed. The only people who want their figurative leaders incapable of communicating in the vernacular are Americans, who elected Bush, Trump, and (in California), Schwarzenegger. 

Hopefully we’ll get these answers soon enough. I don’t think Charles is up for a seventy-year reign of his own. I also don’t think the transition to William will be quite as somber. We might’ve just witnessed the end of an era in more ways than one. Not even sure the English people will care.

And I’m damn sure not gonna lower my American flag next time.