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Showing posts from 2014

Children's Social Etiquette in Decline

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What's the etiquette on loud kids in public these days? Is that still a taboo, or are we now allowing this as a society? Are we letting it slide, like how marijuana isn't a big deal anymore, or you can say the S-word on cable TV after 10:00 pm?

It seems like children are louder and more obnoxious than they were 20 years ago. Or maybe I'm getting more curmudgeonly. Or more likely, both.

I'm getting less tolerant of the increasing number of children who shriek, scream, cry, kick, throw things, and shout "NO!" at parents who do a half-assed job of getting their kid to calm down.

When I was a kid, it was a social taboo for kids to misbehave in public. Nowadays, it seems the grownups who weren't allowed to be brats as kids are delighted to let their own kids be brats.

Meanwhile, people who don't appreciate having their quiet evening out spoiled by obnoxious brats aren't allowed to ask the parents to keep their kids quiet, because we're somehow ques…

Seven Secrets to Successful Marriage

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Last week, my wife and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. Twenty-one years of ups and downs, good times and hard times. If our marriage were a person, it would be old enough to drink.

If it had been through what we've been through, it would want to.

Don't get me wrong, it's been a great marriage. I couldn't be happier. Not without a large influx of cash. Life is difficult sometimes, but we've managed to weather the storms.

In fact, our marriage has lasted 20.5 years longer than some people thought. Several of them expressed their concerns (butted in) that we (I) weren't right for each other (her), and that something sinister (my secular upbringing) could cause difficulties (send her sobbing back home to her parents).

But we've persevered, thrived, and supported each other as we raised a family and pursued our dreams. Unlike our holier-than-thou detractors, however, we haven't had to deal with extramarital affairs, addiction to pornography, or embezzlem…

Fine, Have a Passive-Aggressive Christmas!

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A recent blog post on ScaryMommy.com, "Passive Aggressive Gifts For Kids of Parents You Hate," got me to thinking about the holidays. Christmas is a time of love, family, peace on earth, good will toward men (and women), except for those we really don't like.

Of course, we're not supposed to say things like that, but that doesn't mean many of us aren't perpetually annoyed at certain people in our lives. Like the "friends" who pretend they're overjoyed to see us, but when we're out of earshot, trash us to anyone who cares to listen.

They're the ones who insult us in a way that we're not really sure if we should punch them or thank them — "Have you been losing weight? It's about time, I was beginning to worry about you. Your pants finally fit well."

These are the people we're supposed to be kind to, because it's Christmas. We don't want to, we really just want to drink too much egg nog and tell them what we r…

House Hunter Haters

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Announcer: Welcome to another episode of House Hunters, the show where two spoiled brats search for the "Perfect Dream Home of their Dreams" in a new city with a surprising budget beyond the reach of normal, reasonable people.

This week, Angie and Dylan Baxter want to find a home in uber-expensive Santa Barbara, California. He's a part-time freelance web designer and she's a kindergarten teaching assistant. They have a budget of $750,000, and want to find a spacious home and yard that reminds them of the farmhouses in rural Kansas. Our realtor, Barbara, is on the case.

Barbara (to camera): I specialize in making people's dreams come true, which, despite what the haters say, is a real thing. I've worked in this town for 27 years as a Realtor (notice how I capitalized it there; that means it's important), and I can help the Baxters. Their budget is $750,000, which is the bare minimum you need to break into the Santa Barbara market.

Angie (to camera): I grew u…

Happy Generic Holiday Greetings To All

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For a day that's supposed to represent peace and love, Christmas sure makes a lot of people angry. The only thing we get angrier about is the presidential elections. At least that only happens every four years.

We just finished Thanksgiving, the kickoff to the season of religious and consumer rages. It started with your racist uncle saying he didn't understand the big deal about Ferguson, and it won't end until the family New Year's Eve party, when someone gets stabby with a swizzle stick.

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around next year, this year's anger fest will be a hazy memory and a promise from your family that "this time, things will be different." Nothing has changed or been different with your family for the last 20 years, so why break tradition?

One of the reasons people get so emotional about Christmas is because they feel it's being threatened. Sixty years ago, when most celebrated Christmas, we put Christmas decorations up in the schools,…

You've Got a Thing Hanging. . .

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With all the weird weather going on, Erik is feeling under the weather himself. So we're reprinting a column from 2005 while he curses the winter from his couch. With a juice box.

Quick, check the mirror. You've got something in your teeth.

How many people would tell you that? Not many. You could be eating lunch with a friend and have a huge chunk of your entree stuck between your front teeth, and your so-called friend will just stare at you. You think you're wildly interesting, because she's making great eye contact and hangs on your every word. But in reality, you're going to spend the entire day with a huge piece of green spinach plastered to your front tooth, making you look like Mike Tyson's prom date. And your friend will never tell you.

You can tell who your true friends are, because they're the ones who tell you if you've got a booger hanging from your nose; they want to save you from complete embarrassment later on.

But most people I know say t…

Danish Researcher Receives Troll Hunting Grant

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Despite Denmark's own flagging economy, the Danish Council for Independent Research apparently has too much money lying around. They're giving 2.5 million Kroner ($419,000 US) to a Danish PhD student who wants to determine whether trolls live on Bornholm island.

Anyone who's been to the Norway exhibit at Epcot knows that Scandinavians love their trolls. The knobbly creatures with huge noses and wild hair run rampant through Nordic fairy tales, but are thought to be as real as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or a tasty gluten-free brownie.

PhD student Lars Christian Kofoed Rømer was the lucky researcher selected to receive the 2.5 million Kroner grant. He'll spend a year on the island in the Baltic Sea looking for "physical manifestations" of trolls. He's even looking for the Krølle Bølle troll, which has already been determined to be fake, as it was created in 1946 by author Ludwig Mahler.

I don't know what Rømer's methods will be, but if it were m…

Why I Failed Math Story Problems

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Writers can weave stories out of the smallest details, but we're very bad at sciencey-mathy things. We can't solve algebraic equations or balance our checkbooks, but we're great at making up new words like "sciencey-mathy."

You would think writers would be good at story problems, but we tend to focus on the story more than the math. An example:

"Jeanette and Stephen are each going to visit their mother in Croton-On-Hudson, New York for Thanksgiving. Jeanette and her family will drive from Stamford, Connecticut, taking highway 9A, which takes 54 minutes. Stephen will take the number 5 subway to Penn Station, and then the train, which will take 1 hour and 54 minutes. If dinner starts at 3:00, what time will Jeanette and Stephen each need to leave to arrive in time for dinner?"
The more important question is why can't Jeanette and Tim, her husband, just give Stephen a ride? If he took the train out to Stamford, he could ride with Jeanette, Tim, and thei…

Sitting on Your. . . Self and other Hazards of Aging

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Occasionally I'll accept guest posts from friends and fellow humor writers. This guest humor piece is from my friend, Randy Clark, who writes about the joys and. . . perils of being an older man. At least older than me.

I’d heard about aging men painfully sitting on their scrotum but had never experienced this geriatric phenomenon. This morning I nearly did. As I sat on the toilet, my boy parts exposed to the cold porcelain, my testis rested on the seat as my left thigh and buttocks approached. Only by quickly (OK, I wasn’t that quick) rebalancing myself on my right rump did I avoid squashing my sac. With age come lifestyle adjustments.

Evolution In ActionDo you remember the evolution diagram in your 7th grade science book? I know the boomers do. Anyway, it shows the progression from monkey to man beginning with a knuckle-dragging primate and slowly straightening up to a posture perfect tall standing man. My wife recently commented, after I took several minutes to get up from the c…

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates Selfies

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Karl, scoot over here, I said.

"I'm not really comfortable doing that, Kid."

Don't flatter yourself, old man. I want to take a picture of the two of us. Karl and I were at The Tilted Windmill, our favorite Dutch bar, to watch a game from Dutch Eredivisie Soccer, the Netherlands' professional soccer league — FC Utrecht was beating FC Eindhoven, 2 – 1.

"I know that. That's what I'm not comfortable with."

What? I said. Are you ashamed to be seen with me?

"No more than usual," he said.

I gestured to Nicholaas the bartender for two more beers. Put it on his tab, Nicky, I said. Maybe I can get him drunk enough that he's not ashamed of me anymore.

"Oh, don't be such a baby," growled Karl. "I just don't like selfies"

What? How can you not like selfies?

"You mean besides the fact the word just sounds stupid? That it's one letter away from 'selfish?' Or that it's completely shallow and narciss…

The Bechdel Test: Hollywood's Conversational Rut

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What do you talk about during normal conversations? Does it vary between men and women? Do men only talk about sports and sex, while women only talk about clothes and men? Do parents only talk about their kids with other parents? Do you talk about those same topics over and over, or do you discuss different topics?

What about work friends versus personal friends? Or work friends who are also personal friends? When I worked in an office, I found that I would talk to friends at work about personal things, but if we were ever at lunch or dinner, we talked about work.

More importantly, do the movies reflect real life, or are they a cheap, facile imitation?

I recently learned about the Bechdel test in movies, and how it relates to conversations between two women. It's a simple test that determines whether a work of fiction — a movie, book, or TV show — meets three rules at least once. The work has to have 1) two named female characters, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something be…

School Bans Cake Because They Hate Fun

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Hands up, all you kids who love getting cake at school on your birthday.

Not so fast, Burlington, Kentucky.

According to a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer (official motto: "What's the meaning of life?"), Burlington Elementary School revised its wellness policy to make birthdays absolutely no fun.

"We hate children, and we hate birthdays," cackled the principal, stroking her black cat. "We don't think kids should have fun at school, and banning food at birthday parties was a good start."

Okay, that's not true (as if I have to say that), but I do think educators often throw the baby out with the bath water.

The Burlington Elementary PTA really did change their wellness policy to ban birthday cake and ice cream. In fact, they banned food of any kind at birthday celebrations.

"We're finding it's difficult to be the first," Valerie Bailey told the Enquirer. Her son goes to Burlington, and she was on the committee that created the …

I Need A Truck That Runs on Daisies

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Erik had a molar removed on Column Day, and was not feeling very funny. When he called, we pretended not to understand him — "Uh kent weh mu colluh" — and made him repeat himself four or five times. He swore at us, we think, and hung up. We're running a reprint from 2005.

I've got a serious confession to make. I'm not proud of what I've done, but I can't shoulder this terrible burden any longer. Even though my liberal friends will gasp in disbelief, and my conservative friends will point their fingers and shout, "See?! See?! Hypocrisy!" I have to say it.

I used to own an SUV.

A gas guzzling, planet wrecking "I'm changing the environment ask me how" SUV.

I feel so guilty, like I've committed an unpardonable sin like stealing from old people, or accepting a prepaid trip from foreign lobbyists.

Me: Hello, my name is Erik, and I'm an SUV owner.

Support Group: Hello, Erik

Me: It's been 12 months since I've owned an SUV. I…

Movie Night at the Deckers

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"What should we watch tonight?"

"One at a time, please. One at a time. Buddy, what do you want to see?"

"We watched that a couple weeks ago, didn't we?"

"Yes, we did. Plus you watched it twice last weekend."

"I know they're awesome, but that doesn't mean we have to watch the Avengers every week."

"Fine, let's put that in the Maybe column. Sweetie, what's your pick?"

"No."

"I'm just not in the cartoon mood."

"Fine, anime."

"Fine, manga."

"I said it right. How do you say it?"

"Mahn-gah? I'm not calling it that. It's manga. Like mango."

"Because I'm not pretentious. I'm a Hoosier. We pronounce things Hoosier-ly."

"Well, there's warsh. People go'et the store. They say Tuesdee instead of Tuesday."

"I know I don't talk that way, because my parents aren't from here. But that's how people tal…

Student Punished For Sharing Lunch

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A California student was punished for sharing his lunch with a hungry friend this month, because the school district has a policy against students being compassionate and caring.

Kyle Bradford, 13, is an 8th grader at Weaverville Elementary in northern California. At lunch one day, his friend had been served a cheese sandwich, because he may not have been able to afford a full meal. Kyle had gotten the chicken burrito, but he wasn't hungry at the time.

So what do two boys who don't want their lunches typically do? Throw them out and don't eat until dinner.

What did Kyle do? Gave some of his chicken burrito to his friend, so he wouldn't be hungry.

What did the school do? Gave him detention, because school administrators aren't allowed to make common sense decisions.

"We have a policy that prohibits students from exchanging meals," cackled superintendent Tom Barnett, rubbing his hands together. "Of course if students are concerned about other students n…

Some Thoughts On My 1,000th Column

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This is a major milestone for me. This column, this one right here, is my one thousandth newspaper humor column. Exactly 1,000 weeks or 19.25 years ago, a small town newspaper publisher took a chance on me, and agreed to publish what I now laughingly call a humor column.

Not laughingly because they were good. Laughingly as in "it's so cute that you think you're funny." My first columns are so awful that I can't even read them. If you have any copies of those papers from the second half of 1995, please set fire to them.

I first met my publisher, Al Nich, at a meeting of the Kosciusko County Democrats. I asked if he was looking for any columnists for his paper. I had written a couple of funny essays earlier that year, after trying to write a complaint letter to Fresh Air With Terry Gross. It ended up being nothing but jokes because I don't like direct confrontation. I prefer a more passive-aggressive approach, like secretly signing people up for bedwetting mail…

Stop Fearing Your Food

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Yet another of my friends is feeling the crushing weight of his age and belly on his knees and lower back. Yet another of my friends has realized his lifetime of cheeseburgers and carb-rich beer may not have been the healthiest of lifestyles.

I, like so many of my friends, have realized too late that we're not as young as we used to be, and the 20-year-old's metabolism, gained from a 20-year-old's lifestyle of riding a bike to class and playing soccer every day, is no longer functional 25 years later.

And all of us were especially surprised to learn that others have noticed we've been carrying a small ottoman down the front of our shirts for the last 10 years.

To be fair, we didn't notice it until eight years ago, and we've been trying to hide it by leaving our shirts untucked. Apparently, this has not fooled anyone.

"You know, all you need to do is eat less and exercise more," our annoying skinny friends say whenever anyone posts a Facebook update ab…