Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sven's Personal Mailbag

I received this piece of mail recently,

"Dear Sven,

Where the hell have you been, dude? Did you fall in a friggin' hole or something?"

Signed, The Gang"

I appreciate the sentiment.

No, I'm not dead, sick or tired of you people. Yes, I have been busy lately but that is an easy excuse since none of you really know what I do every day anyway. My final exam was due this week, Emma makes her first communion soon, my Ultimate Team went to Madison for a tournament and I have band practice coming up this weekend. All of that aside, the truth is time just got away from me. That and I'm still searching for things to write about.

You see I started this blog thing because I wanted to comment on something a local right wing political hack here in MN said and I couldn't do it anonymously so I had to create an identity and stake my claim. I figured as long as I'm here it might be a good way to share a few stories and pictures of my kids for the out of town relatives and practice a little grammar along the way. I didn't really expect anyone to actually read my ramblings, with the possible exception of Gitsul.

As I began to explore a bit the first person I ran into was Mabel and her best friend Gina. They seemed harmless enough and they shared my passion for parenting while refusing to let go of that rebellious streak that will surely to come back to haunt all of us as our children reach adolescence. Then I met Charlie. I was immediately impressed by his combination of humor and humility. He introduced me to all manner of Saints, liars and human/animal hybrids. It was then that blogging took on a life of it's own. Not unlike a drug addiction, I was drawn into the culture and posted and commented with reckless abandoned. So as not to be seduced alone I managed to drag my friend Sophia along with me. I'm still not sure whether to feel proud or guilty.

You see, I've never fancied myself a writer. Partly because as a child I was mildly dyslexic so reading and writing never came easy, plus I constantly second guessed the value of what I had to say. Oh sure, I'm like anyone else, when motivated I can spout off with the best of them, although I think I blew my wad with the Harry Potter thing. My inspiration comes in fits and starts but what I seem to lack is sustain. Whether accurate or self-conscious, I have yet to truly figure out whether I have anything of value to say. Since it seems that my primary audience isn't my family but an anonymous cast of "other" (not LOST-like "others", but strangers nonetheless) I'm not sure what you will find of interest and what you'll declare as tedious. I could rant about the new, geographically challenged, restaurant in town called Atlantic Buffet that features sushi, Chinese and Mongolian BBQ or show pictures of Luke and his first lost tooth, but frankly, who cares besides me? I'd love to go political but that seems to easy.

Perhaps it will come, but as of now I'm still trying to figure out what it takes. I'm tickled by acerbic wit of Atilla The Mom and Nikki. I certainly no longer possess the innocence displayed by The Poodle's Friend or Erin. I admire the passion and conviction of FrankenGirl and the honesty and tenderness of Rhonda. And I think all of us hope to established the longevity and following of Kim.

Maybe just need to relax.

Note: This is NOT an attempt to fish for validation or reassurance so please do not leave comments of that nature. I am simply attempting to clarify my absence, shed light on potential reasons, figure a few things out about myself and do it all in a slightly open forum. Don't worry, I'm just fine. If I drop off the planet for a while it's probably because I don't have anything to say. That or I'm busy parenting. Either way, I'll be back real soon.

And I'm sorry I forgot to link the Sunday Trumpet last week.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Peeps on Parade

Every Easter the Local Paper holds a Peeps Diorama contest. Readers are encouraged to create, photograph and send in pictures of a diorama featuring those sickeningly sweet treats. The entries this year were the best yet. Follow this link to read the article and view a slide show. My favorites are "Spinal Peep" and "The Conclave of Cardinals Elect a New Peep". Check it out.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sporadic Gasbag vs. Excessive Windbag

The Sunday Trumpet

I'll probably hear it from Atilla The Mom on this one but I'm going to stray from the typical Gasbag protocol. You see we usually review a trashy romance novel, b-rated movie or some other sort of pop culture drivel. However I don't have much of a stomach for that sort of thing and, since I'm a slow reader, I can't justify spending time on a pointless book just to make fun of it. So at the risk of drawing the ire of nearly everyone on the planet, including FrankenKrsitin, I'm going to attack a sacred cow or more accurately, an excessive windbag (no, not Oprah).

The book I chose to discuss is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Now don't get me wrong, I like Harry Potter, I really do. And since I figured 50 bazillion people couldn't all be wrong, I dove in with a mix of excitement and anticipation. However, by the time I finished slogging my way though all 734 pages of the Goblet of Fire I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs, "GOOD LORD WOMAN, GET AN EDITOR!" I mean really, if you're going to write a book that long, and expect us to remain interested, you had better have damn good reason. Not so with this one.

Oh, I know, were all hooked on your little Harry Potter empire and we dutifully show our reverence by purchasing every last piece of snot from Harry Potter Inc. But let's be honest here, do you really think these prepubescent imps and their magical little friends warrant 734 pages? Were not talking Tolstoy here, it's friggin' Tolkien Lite!! Either Ms. Rowling is under the influence of an incredibly strong babbling charm or she has lost control of her Quick Quotes Quill. Either way this book is in desperate need of a once-over with the Reducio spell.

If I were an editor here is a partial list of the suggestions I would make:

*Sure we're all impressed by how you invented Quidditch and we understand that need to introduce Krum and set him up as a main character, but do we really need to devote a quarter of the book to the World Cup? I'm as much a sports fan as the next person but even I was hoping for a rainout so we could just move on already.

*Yes, Dobby was essential to The Chamber of Secrets and it is realistic that to assume that he and the rest of the elves would play some sort of minor role through the subsequent books, but what the hell is the nonsense with SPEW? First of all, it's just stupid and has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. If your trying to establish it as a subplot at least have the decency to wrap it up at the end of the book. SPEW is introduced as another of Hermione's little crusades (which, by the way, leaves her coming off as more histrionic than sympathetic) and then...nothing. It's as if that part of the story is completely forgotten. Make a decision, either in or out - I say out.

*Dispense with the Scooby Doo ending. If nothing else, J.K. Rowling has demonstrated an incredible imagination and has created a wonderfully fanciful world filled with some of the most creative people, places and creatures. So for all her creative genius are we really supposed to believe that the best she can come up with for and ending is to have them remove the villain's disguise and force him to spill his guts once he is finally captured? I almost thought I saw Shaggy, Scooby and the gang in reflected in Foe-Glass. The only thing was missing was to make Barty Crouch Jr.'s last words, "I would have made it too if it weren't for you meddling kids!" Surely you can do better than that.

*If your going to steal from your literally influences, at least don't make it so obvious. When it comes to the classics I'm not terribly well read but even I can spot Tolkien, Dickens and Shakespeare when I see it.

As I've said I do like Harry Potter and I'm committed to reading the rest. Plus FrankenKristin assures me that The Order of the Phoenix is better. But I'm still skeptical.


Think you've got what it takes to blow the Sunday Trumpet? Become an official Sporadic Gasbag here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Shame On Me

Last night I stopped at the local Chinese place for some food. While waiting for my Lo Mein and General Tso's Chicken (which was mediocre by the way) the nice young gal behind the register asked if I still worked at the local high school.

"No" I said, "I have moved on to different job somewhere else".

"Do you remember me" she asked.

"Sure" I said, struggling to recall her name, although she did look familiar.

"Do you remember that time I came running into your office crying?"

"Uhmmmm...I don't exactly remember that situation" I said, my ears turning red from embarrassment.

"Well, I came into your office crying because my sister had just beat me up and you helped me. You got her suspended for 5 days."

"I did?"

"Yeah, you were my hero."

Talk about feeling like an asshat. Here is this young woman holding me up as a hero in her life and I don't even have the common decency to remember her name. It eventually came back to me, albeit too late, and I can sort of understand why she would hold someone who helped her in the way I did in such high esteem - she didn't have much in the way of positive role models in her family - but a hero?

Does this mean I'm not a good counselor?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rest In Uncertainty

OK, I think I'm better now. In retrospect I probably wasn't that sick, but as with most illnesses the first thing to go is motivation. And since I was on spring break it was hard to justify the little time I did feel well sitting at the computer, especially since spring has finally sprung in good ol' MN. So rather than address you folks I chose to sit huddled on a park bench with my hooded sweatshirt pulled tight around my ears watching the kids attack the local playground with renewed vigor.

It was actually quite nice. I do appreciate the well wishes however, thank you for your concern.

I also managed to finish a really good book, The Tenth Man, by Graham Greene. To be honest, one of the reasons I was able to finish it was because it was a reasonable length, but more about that later (in the literary world they call that foreshadowing). I firmly believe that you can tell the quality of a book by the opening paragraph and this one was a doozy;
"Most of them told the time very roughly by their meals, which were unpunctual and irregular: they amused themselves with the most childish games all through the day, and when it was dark they fell asleep by tacit consent-not waiting for a particular hour of darkness for they had no means of telling the time exactly: in fact there were as many times as there were prisoners."

Or, in the words of Dorothy Boyd, "You had me at hello." My favorite opening paragraph however, comes from A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole,

"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps full of uncut hair and fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two different directions at once. Full pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs. In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly's supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D. H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd for signs of bad taste in dress. Several of the outfits, Ignatius noticed, were new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency. Possessing of anything new or expensive only reflected a person's lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon one's soul."

But I didn't come here today to critique books, I'll save that for Sunday. Rather, I'd like to address something that occurred to me during my absence. You see, I've only been doing this blog thing for a few months and aside from Sophia and Gitsul I don't really know any of you personally. And yet I feel a sense of kinship that goes beyond the mostly anonymous identities we have created for ourselves. In fact one of you even sent a nice note via E-mail, which I assume was out of kindness and concern for my unannounced disappearance (that was nice too, thanks). I actually felt a sense of neglect for not being around lately and not contributing to the conversation. In some ways I see you folks as friends. I enjoy your company and look forward to reading your thoughts, both on your blogs and mine.

This weekend was also the 6th anniversary of the death of my niece and I also found out that my friend's grandfather recently died. I felt pretty bad about that because I have a weird fascination with the obits but for some reason I missed his.

With all of those things I started wondering over the weekend, what if something happened to one of us? It's bound to happen eventually but how would we know? I'm sure there are lot of people who simply decide to stop blogging without any notice but how are we to tell those form the ones who are forced to quit do to illness or demise? As I said I don't know any of you personally and yet I think I'd be really sad if I found out one of you had died. But again, how would I know? If it were me, I doubt anyone other than Gitsul would hear about it. And yet he didn't know about FrankenKristin's brain surgery until months afterward so you can see how I've neglected even that relationship.

I understand that all of you would eventually move on without me, perhaps rather quickly, and yet I truly believe that even in this short time, each one of you has touched my life and I would want you to know someday I shed my mortal container.

Or maybe I'm still a little loopy from the medication.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Crikey! They're Back!

I'm not sure if this is a postive development or not but in light of our earlier discussion I though you might be interested in this article from The Onion.

Girls Gone Wild Released Back Into Civilization
April 5, 2006 Issue 42•14

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TX—In what wildlifestyle reformation volunteers are calling a "positive step," the first group of rehabilitated Girls Gone Wild were released back into the civilized world Monday, and early signs indicate that they are adjusting smoothly, according to the director of the group responsible for their rescue.

"At first, the girls were disoriented," said Janet Ottley, director of the South Padre Island Wild Life Rescue Foundation. "They were frightened by the absence of familiar comforts such as overt male attention, binge drinking, and camcorders. But over time, we've seen improvement: so far, no reports of nipple exposure, so we're very hopeful."

The 11 girls were captured nearly one month ago during their annual spring migration to the area and then put through an intensive rehabilitation program. "They have come a very long way," Ottley said. "When we first brought them into our clinic, they could barely function beyond baring their breasts, and they communicated solely through loud, sustained hoots."

As their subspecies does every year, the Girls Gone Wild, roaming in packs, flocked to bars and clubs during the spring break migratory season. Lured by drink specials, promotional merchandise, and the chance to "go wild," they were discovered at SeƱor Chug Chug's, a nightspot where the girls gathered to perform a mating ritual in which brief nudity is exchanged for Jell-O shots and Smirnoff Ice trucker hats.

Rescue volunteers identified the Girls Gone Wild by their torn tank tops, threadbare Daisy Duke-style cutoff shorts, hair extension plumage, and bright orange skin with patterned lower-back markings.

Park ranger Jeff Macken, who assisted in the rescue effort, said they attracted the girls with bright lights similar to those of camera crews. "We had planned to catch them with a net, then sedate them," Macken said. "But we found that shooting them with tranquilizer darts was not as effective as taking a page from nature and putting Rohypnol in their exotic drinks."

The girls were put through an intensive recovery program and, over several weeks, slowly phased back into civilized behavior. Trainers gently conditioned them not only to reduce breast baring, but also to shower alone instead of in pairs or threesomes, and to drink from glasses rather than from each other's navels.

Despite the girls' early positive response, Ottley said that there is still a risk that they could revert to their wild state, so she continued to severely restrict their exposure to the outside world. "Any proximity to a D-list celebrity, a song by Poison, or a neon beer bong could set reintegration back to square one," Ottley said.

In later stages, long-sleeved shirts and full-bottomed panties were reintroduced into their wardrobes. Finally, they were taught to engage in basic economic exchanges, rather than breast-jiggling for plastic beads.

Critics of the program argue that girls, after they've gone wild, can never function at the same level as girls who remain tame, and, once reintroduced into society, pose a threat to non-wild girls.

"Let's face it, they were in the wild too long," said Fort Lauderdale car-show organizer Daryl Dykstra. "At best, they might become spokesmodels, but only through hard work and constant validation." Dykstra reluctantly conceded that they might have some use as Hooters waitresses or tanning-salon clerks.

Ottley disagreed, saying that Girls Gone Wild are "entirely capable" of rejoining society.

"They will be tagged with radio-equipped belly-button rings to alert us of any sign of G-strings or wet T-shirts," Ottley said. "Continual monitoring is essential, because you never really know just how wild these girls could get."
I wonder if Steve Irwin had anything to do with this?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cough, Cough

Too sick to sit at the back later...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

I read two articles in the paper today that really had me wondering. I haven't completely decided how I feel about this so I am hoping some of you might help me sort this one out.

The first was about a 22-year-old woman preparing for the Miss USA pageant. She talked about all of the preparation and hard work that goes into being a pageant contestant and attempted to dispel the conception that beauty queens are "...all world peace, and...all just fluffy and don't have a brain." She goes onto talk about the importance of butt glue and vaseline as essential tools of any serious candidate. While I'm sure she is intelligent and successful, and I know the people in charge have worked hard to minimize the cattleshow nature of these pageants, I'm not sure the general population has completely bought in to the notion that they are more than just a beauty contest.

The second article, written by a local columnist highlighted many of the risks and dangers young people, particularly young women, face while on spring break in places such as Florida, Texas and Mexico. Although she cites myriad research detailing the drinking and sexual habits of spring break revilers, her opening premise focuses on the ever popular "Girls Gone Wild" videos which often feature said spring breakers in various stages of undress.

I am fully aware of the risks created by the sort of binge drinking and risky sexual behaviors she is addressing, so that's not my issue. Rather, I was bothered by her quote of an anonymous friend describing the reaction she would have if her daughter was caught "going wild",
"Imagine all those years you spend driving them to soccer practice and working on their self esteem and all those junior-high body issues..." she said. "Then one of them whips off her shirt on a beach somewhere, and it ends up on the Internet, and all your hard work goes right down the drain."

Is it really that simple? Does it really make sense to say that an incident such as the one she is imagining would negate everything she had ever done as a parent? Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but if she is measuring her entire success as a parent against one incident doesn't it seem as though her self-esteem is the one at risk?

The other thing I was troubled by was this whole notion of self-esteem, particularly as it pertains what women do with their bodies. Keep in mind, this isn't about defending the predatory nature of the "Girls Gone Wild" films, arguing about whether society oppresses women or what I would want for my daughter. I just struggle with the insinuation that any woman who takes her shirt off, whether for a camera of not, suffers from low self-esteem. While that may or may not be the case It comes across as intellectually and therapeutically lazy. For starters the term has been so overused that it is essentially meaningless. It is akin to a doctor simply diagnosing a patient as sick regardless of the symptoms. Blaming low self-esteem also does a disservice to women by not truly addressing either the influential nature of popular culture or what might be very real mental health issues. Either way, it's a cop-out.

My final question is this, if it really is about self-esteem and seeking gratification through the approval of others than is it possible that the Miss USA pageant and "Girls Gone Wild" are different sides of the same coin?

The Sunday Trumpet

Today we are celebrating the Feast of St. Jude and her wonderful review of Tall Poppies by Lousie Bagshaw. For those of you unaware, St. Jude is a martyr and is the parton saint of British Olympic Skiers.

Word of the day: codswallop.