Thursday, February 16, 2012

School Facism

There's a story in the news about a 4-year-old girl who apparently was told by a school lunch monitor not to eat the food she brought from home but instead to get chicken nuggets from the cafeteria. A concerned parent notified the right-wing authorities, and the story made its way through the news circuit. I'm sure it ended up in my poor Dad's email Inbox with a headline something like, "OBAMA FORCES WHITE CHRISTIANS TO EAT FRIED CHICKEN."

I'm just guessing.

It's a silly story that reminds me of something that happened to me when I was in fourth or fifth grade. At an elementary school in Papillion, Nebraska, my younger sister Shari and I sat at a table to eat lunch. We all had to wait until the prayer was over before we could start eating. Every day, a nice lunch lady led us all in blessing the food, and then we would open our sack lunch, hoping for a delicious Hostess Fruit Pie instead of lame-ass Twinkies. She had us say one of those recited prayers, like "God is great / God is good / Let us thank Him / For our food."

I didn't care much for this type of prayer for two reasons. First, I was a Mormon, and Mormons know the proper way to pray. Rather than using recited prayers, which the Bible cautions against, Mormons pray from the heart by stringing together cliches. Second, it bothered me that "good" and "food" didn't rhyme properly, which forced me to replace it with "fud."

One day, the lunch lady was disappointed with the fact that a bunch of us weren't praying loudly enough. So she scolded us and made us recite the prayer a second time. She asked something like, "Now I want to hear everyone! Is there anyone here who isn't going to say the prayer?" For some reason, my hand shot up.

The teacher told me to get up, leave my lunch at the table, and go put my nose against the wall in a corner. I remember that the gym was hexagonal, so there was room for me to plant my face snugly between two walls. I was to stay there until I came to my senses or something.

When lunch was over, I felt guilty. I had gotten in trouble. But Shari came up to me and told me she was proud of me for standing up for my beliefs. I had raised my hand mostly to be a smart aleck, but as soon as Shari said that, I internalized a different story. I was a martyr. A religious martyr. I was being persecuted for my religious beliefs. The lunch lady was coming after me because deep down, she resented Mormons for possessing the truth, or something.

The moral of the story is that people are awful and cruel. We murder and lie to each other, we tune out sometimes when loved ones are telling stories, we rape, we tattoo our bodies, we pillage, we conquer, we ignore, we coerce, we impose chicken nuggets on children, we bully. On the other hand, we make some good music -- especially in the 1890s and 1970s -- we tell funny jokes sometimes, we bury our dead and say nice things about them, and we give each other lots and lots and lots of good advice.

It all evens out.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grand Ideas, Part I

It's Super Bowl Sunday. The house is filled with out-of-town visitors who drove in for the Super Bowl festivities. Stan and Grey are in the guest room. Andy and Laura are in Max's room. Jason is in Luke's room. The boys are sleeping in the shed. Ha! That's a joke. We don't even have a shed. They're here asleep in our bed. I have my laptop, and I am typing. This sentence in fact.

More people are coming later today for the Super Bowl festivities. Of all the people who will be here, there will be one person whose mood will change during and after the game depending on the outcome -- me. Some people, like my brother Mark, will have a rooting interest -- Mark hates New Yorker sports fans, as if Boston sports fans are somehow more tolerable -- so he'll be rooting for the facking Pats.

But everyone's excited about the food and the spectacle. It's Super Bowl weekend! Super Bowl weekend has become a national holiday, even though we don't treat it as such. Who would be upset if we canceled Presidents Day as a holiday and replaced it with Hangover Monday? Exactly. No one. It's a grand idea. Here are some other grand ideas.

The Speedy Barber

You walk into a barber shop and sit down in an open chair. If the hair cut takes no longer than 5 minutes, it costs $20, including tip. Actually, tips aren't even allowed or mentioned, because that implies the importance of qualify of service. For each minute the barber goes past five, he loses a dollar. If it takes 15 minutes to cut your hair, it costs you $5. Again, no tipping. "Here's your 5 bucks, pal, better luck with the calics next time."

There are two other factors. You have ten seconds to describe your desired haircut. If it takes you longer than ten seconds, you're kicked out of the barber shop, and you can't return for at least an hour. Hopefully, you'll have your thoughts together by then, and you can say something like, "Short on the sides, a little longer on top" or "Logan in Big Time Rush" or "Cut it shorter."

Two more things. First, no talking. Headphones are encouraged. Second, no brushing genitals either of the male or female variety against the patient. That's just uncomfortable. In fact, if The Speedy Barber doesn't work out for unforeseen reasons, a secondary idea is The Grindless Barber.

Science Fiction Movie

In a world where human beings are domesticated pets, a young man named Hudson decides to flee into the wilderness. He brings along Fluffy, who was scheduled to be neutered. They meet up with a band of feral humans whose primitive notion of civilization include a caste system, bizarre rituals, and weapons study. Hudson introduces the concept of The Secret, and the battle begins…

The Fifth Quadrant Book

This is a sequel to a book that has not yet been written called The Four Quadrants: Keys to Personal Financial Success. I originally rolled out the idea at a previous Super Bowl party to great acclaim that very nearly included applause. And that was before the Great Recession. If The Four Quadrants had actually been written, it would have covered the four areas to invest your savings: the Safe Zone, the Moderate Zone, the Risk Zone, and the Gambling Zone. The prequel explains how monies are moved from one zone to another as success is achieved and as personal situations require.

The Fifth Quadrant, which is possibly the greatest title of a book ever written and would likely sell itself even if it had nothing in it but photographs of domesticated humans, is about a new kind of investment. Admit it. You're interested.

Super Bowl Prediction

It's foolish to predict the score of this particular game. The odds are roughly even. One team has about a 52% chance of winning, and I don't even know which team that is. Probably New England. It's going to come down to luck and a few key plays is my startling guess. I'm more interested in predicting what type of Super Bowl game it will be.

There are four types of Super Bowl games. (Note that I originally wrote "seven types," but I hear Wendy grinding coffee so I better cut it down.

1. Sloppy early, then high scoring. Last team with the ball wins.

2. One team dominates early, fails to take advantage, and falls apart.

3. Blowout.

4. A terrible officiating crew costs one team the game.

It's not going to be a "3" game because these teams don't panic. It's not going to be a "4" game because Seattle isn't playing. That leaves either "1" or "2" (unless you factor in the missing 5-7 scenarios). I'm going with 2. In fact, I even know which team is going to jump out early. The Giants. I think Eli is going to have a confused look on his face for much of the second half.

New England 38, New York 22.