Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rite of passage

My oldest son's birthday is this weekend...he'll be 9. I decided it was time to celebrate his budding maturity and ever-expanding sense of humor. So, as a rite of passage, I bought him a subscription to Mad magazine.

It was a spontaneous idea that came about after he and his younger brother spent half an hour at the local library reading back issues of the magazine. They focused on Spy vs Spy and other light content, but they were thoroughly getting into the magazines. Clearly, they're ready.

It took me back to the days of my own youth when I didn't understand most of the movie parodies (between not having seen the movies and not understanding most of the contextual parody and sarcasm), yet I thoroughly understood the overall concept of making fun of, while shining a light of truth on, the status quo.

I have always contended that much of my free-thinking and questioning of authority was originally nurtured by my having grown up reading Mad and it's sister magazines, Cracked and Crazy. Maybe it seems strange to think that such illustrated rags of parody and satire could contribute to the development of a child's critical thinking ability, but in my case, I know that it's true.

But then, maybe that just says something about my own upbringing and childhood. I don't know. I'll also admit that there'll be three people fighting to get their hands on every issue of Mad that arrives at our house.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Honor thy father and the tribulations of parenthood

So the other night, I come in from walking the dog to find my oldest son in trouble. He was on my wife's lap lightly sobbing. And as she looked up at me, she gave me that look that let me know I had missed something, and I'd better have my game face at the ready.

I sat down on the bed next to them and asked what had happened. My wife said that our son was in trouble because he'd forgotten to change his underwear while getting ready for bed...again. She inquired about why this keeps happening, why he can't remember to put on clean underwear every night. He was in trouble BIG time. This was a repeat offense and something we've been hassling him about lately.

Knowing how angry she was at him, my son decided to make a play. He looked at her, teared up, and said, "It's because I miss my Grandpa." And she did her best not to laugh, but at the same time, she wanted him to know that this attempt at emotional distraction wasn't going to work, so she called him on it.

And that's when I came in. After a quick recap, I gave my son a reassuring rub on the back and said, "I know what you mean, I miss him sometimes too. But you know, I'm pretty sure he changed his underwear every day, and I know he would want you to do the right thing too. So if you want to honor your grandfather's memory...change your underwear every day."

I'm going to dub that morality lesson #513. Lead a good life. Honor your ancestors. Wear clean underwear.

Hoka Hey.

Playing on XM: I've been listening to Willie's Place (honky tonk country) and XMU (indie/college rock).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Would you rather...fight a bear or write a novel?

Last night at dinner, my younger son made an announcement, of sorts. He is just positive that if faced with a bear in the wild, he could best it with one punch. Or at most, five. He is completely convinced of this fact. Despite our best attempts at educating him in the reality of bears, he was still sure that he could at the very least hold his own. He finally conceded that should he ever meet with a live bear, he would play dead or climb a tree, just to make his parents happy.

In November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, a contest in which people challenge themselves to write a novel of 50,000 words in just 30 days. That breaks down to 1,667 words each day, or about 7-8 pages. That's quite a challenge for someone with a full-time job, two kids, and a wife. I got off to a late start, not beginning my story until the November 4th. I maintained a good pace...for a week. Then work got in the way because November is our worst/hardest production period of the year. I would've taken off a couple of days to write, but that just wasn't possible with the major workload and deadlines I faced. Then the holidays and visiting family got in the way. I was only able to get in a little bit writing here and there - those few hours were the highlights of the month for me.

I finished the month at 16,645 words, just a hair under a third of the way to the goal. Not bad, considering how busy I was and that I only found out about it the week before it started. I had no idea, outline, plot, or characters in mind before I began. That's why I got a late start...I had to brainstorm a story idea. Well, now I have the beginnings of it, and I'm finally getting back to work on it.

I'm stumped about where I want the story to go and the main plot in general. I know what I want it to be "about," but I don't know where I want the story to go...what the specific story is that I want to tell, and that's very scary and intimidating. Now I'm tired of letting that doubt and fear hold me back. I want to write. I'm hooked. I've been putting off continuing for two weeks because of that fear. The story will come when I entice it out of the subconscious by writing it.

While I'm waiting for that plot to form, I have a few scenes that I want to write and some characterization to do for the main character. It feels good to just open up and let the story flow, creating itself. I'm looking forward to eventually going back and revising the finished draft into something that will actually make a good novel. But first, of course, I have to finish said draft. And I will.

Current music: Steve Earle's new disc "Washington Square Serenade"