Monday, February 10, 2014

Going for the gold

The Olympic spirit is alive and well in my house.

I rediscovered my winter Olympics cheer the night before the opening ceremony when ice skating legend (and guy I remember exists only once every four years) Scott Hamilton yelled his first overly exhuberant shout-out to the jump being executed. Oh Scotty, you had me at "Triple Tooooe!!"... you had me at triple toe. This particular brand of cheer can sound a lot like criticism, depending on the day, event and results.

The thing is, I spend a solid 50.1% of my Olympic viewing time thinking about the wonders that make up the Olympics. It is truly amazing for these folks to be competing on this grand international level. It is inspiring and enviable that they are recognized at the top of their chosen field. I marvel at the complexity and relative strangeness of each individual sport: air-tricks and flipping/spinning with a board strapped to your legs; back sliding down an icy half tube at 90 MPH; the other one where you go head first down that icy half tube thing; cross-country skiing through the woods and stopping every so often to shoot at targets; bouncing down a snowy hill in a way that makes me think your legs must be made of some poly-synthetic plasticine material, cause there's no way human knees can or should do that. For the record, I didn't even know curling existed until I lived in the UK during a winter Olympics... insert joke about the American media only covering sports the Americans do well in here.
The sports are amazing, even if many of them border on the ridiculous. Sometimes I stop to ponder the fact that winter sports are literally being made up as they go along. I am in awe... most of the time.

The rest of my time is spent critiquing these wonders of the human species. Never have people with less athletic prowess been so hyper-critical of sports we haven't the first clue how to perform, much less compete in. I sit on my couch, usually with some sort of snack at the ready, and watch these people throw themselves down mountains and call them out for being "a bit wobbly," "not at all spinny enough," and "an embarrassment to their country."

Ok, I don't really use that last one too often, unless we're talking about the fifth snowflake debacle from opening night. I mean really Russia, get it together. The industrial revolution reenacted with red floating machine parts and thousands of your people dancing in Bolshoi-ready choreographed unison were lovely, but for me, it was all overshadowed by that darn snowflake. Maybe if it hadn't happened in the beginning of the show? I don't know, I just couldn't get past it. It f#$%ed it up for me, and dare I say all the other a$$hole viewers like me out there.
The official statement was that they weren't embarrassed. Russia, you don't have to be embarrassed, but come on, you should be a little bit.

What Russia doesn't have to be embarrassed by is someone locking himself in a bathroom. I've done it myself in my own apartment, and I wouldn't say that we have an infrastructure problem. By the way, the same person got stuck in an elevator too... Maybe he just needs someone watching out for him, cause it doesn't sound like he should be left alone in any country.

As for the snowboarders, I teeter between thinking they are the coolest, most laid back bunch of dudes and dudettes out there to thinking that they should really care more than they appear to. Case in point: if an ice skater or a gymnast doesn't land a jump, their heartbreak is instantly apparent, the agony ooozing from the rest of their tainted, confidence-lacking performance. I like to feel that disappointment at home. But those snowboarders miss a landing and they're like, "Oh well brah, I guess I didn't do well this time. Weeeyyyywwww. Partay!" Of course I admire their resilience, but sometimes I just wish it seemed like they actually cared more about winning and impressing me. It's actually a double burn on me and my talents. Not only do I lack the physical ability to compete in any of these elaborate sports, to top it off I lack the laissez-faire attitude to be okay with f#$%ing it all up on the big day. Those little sh!ts. I mean, those amazingly talented, fun, cool and well adjusted little sh!ts.

I could probably do a better job managing my expectations and disappointment, but I don't believe I am to blame here. My expectations are solely based on the amazing things that the network promises from the young whipper-snapper they chose to do a video profile on the day before the event. As a result, my disappointment is real, often severe when they don't live up to those fresh expectations in my head. I am a product of NBC's Olympics propaganda. Come on NBC, don't build them up only to let them fall. Schadenfreude is alive and well, taking up residency in Sochi this month. Because I can, I blame Matt Lauer.

Another winter Olympics, another chance to pretend like I know the rules or the subtle nuances of what the judges are looking for. Charging the section with a tucked end? Totes. Compressed on her joinery motion? That's what I was thinking. Yes, she did totally juice it out on her tail... Ok, what the F? I seriously have no idea what they're talking about, but I am swept up in the Olympic moment for now, for the next ten days (or whenever it's over), never to care about these sports again until four years from now in whatever chilly place the next one is. I'm sure they'll mention it in the lead-up starting 3 years from now. Until then, I have my time revelling and critiquing Sochi. Good times.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Harold and that F#%^ing Purple Crayon

I recently discovered the Character Assassination Carousel, a vessel in which hysterically funny writers take down or "assassinate" terrible children's book characters. I know I am coming pretty late to this CAC party, but I come late to most parties. In fact, I tend to be late wherever I am going... except airports. I have way too much anxiety to get to the airport late. In fact, airports may be the only place I am routinely early. Oh sh!t, where was I? Oh yes, the Character Assassination Carousel.

I was shocked to see that Harold and the Purple Crayon had made it through these past three years unscathed. Don't get me wrong, there has been some glorious bashing/berating/slaying of some very deserved kid lit. Why, just last month the very talented Kylie at The Life of Kylie brought Carl the Good terrible Dog into my life nightmares. And up next is the lovely, and justifiably confused Amy at AmysRealLife trying to make sense of the nonsense in Bert and the Missing Mop Mix-up. But someone's gotta take this little sh!t Harold down, and I am more than happy to step up and do it. Nicole at Ninja Mom has kindly agreed to let me take a spin. So let's do this thing.

Assuming you aren't familiar with me or my blog, I am prone to the odd rant. Surely a 30-something mother b!tching about a small child in footie pajamas who likes to color qualifies as an odd rant. I am also prone to indecision, which is why I may end up mentioning some other books I dislike like, I Ain't Gonna Paint No More and several of the Mr. Men and Little Miss books in this Harold and the Purple Crayon take down.

But first, let me address Harold and his damn crayon. At face value this book, like many of the others featured on the Character Assassination Carousel, seems innocent enough: precious little boy who likes to utilize his imagination and creativity has a penchant for illustration, even if his palette could do with a bit more variety. But don't be fooled! Harold and his purple crayon wield a much more common and easily attainable threat than say, Harold and the Sharp Knife, Harold and Some Household Bleach, Harold and the Book of Matches or the most critically acclaimed of the series, Harold and the Purple Dildo. The purple crayon poses the biggest threat because most* of us know to keep those other things away from our kids. 

Our knives are kept in their holder at the back of the counter, household bleach is locked up, books of matches are out of reach, and, um, yeah, well you get the point. We keep things that we know to be dangerous (or wildly inappropriate) well out of reach of our sweet, impressionable children. What we do let them play with, however, are crayons. The problem is this: crayons cannot peacefully coexist in a house with this book. The book quite literally illustrates the miscreant behavior of drawing all over the walls and plants the seed of artistic glory in our little sponges' heads. Of course they are going to model the behavior they see in books, as in life. They are children. That's what they do. 

I first became aware of this sh!tty book six years ago when I was asked to read it to my young niece and nephew over and over and over (and over). A non-parent at the time, I found the task monotonous, but I didn't recognize any real danger in simply reading them a story. Oh how naive I was. I realized the error in my ways when my nephew somehow managed to smuggle a purple crayon one night in his diaper, into his crib. For those of you paying attention at home, yes, I know, purple, just like the crayon Harold uses. You can imagine the lighthearted delight (no, not really) his parents experienced the following morning when they saw the entire wall next to his crib had been colored, the teeny purple nub taunting them from inside the corner of the crib. He colored the whole wall with the crayon. The. Whole. Wall. 

Hey, I don't know you or the kind of household you keep, but in our house, as in my sister's, coloring on the walls is really F%#^ing bad. With that said, I was onto Harold and his bad behavior years before I became a mom myself. So much so that I found it to be a particularly passive aggressive, if not totally dubious move by my sister to make sure my daughter had her own copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon for her library from a very young age. No doubt payback for years of me buying drums, harmonicas, recorders and Furbys for her kids.

Do not be fooled by his cuteness. He is a BAD influence.

One possible cause of his bad behavior is that Harold, like many of the other characters featured on the CAC, lacks any parental or adult supervision. The book starts with Harold deciding to go for a walk in the moonlight. As a parent, I couldn't help but wonder, who lets this kid:

go for a walk alone in the moonlight? Sh!tty, non-existent parents, that's who. 
Parental guidance is also absent when he decides to climb a mountain wearing footie pajamas, of all things. 
Of course he fell off, he was climbing a mountain in footie pajamas!

Despite his lack of parents, or possibly because of it, Harold is totally mental. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, the walk he decides to go on includes taking a shortcut (alas there are no shortcuts in life, junior), boating (he's on a boat MF!!), having a pie-only picnic with an anorexic moose (or possibly bulimic, if it ended up eating all that pie),
and wandering through a big city, stopping only to ask for directions from this guy:

I'd wish I was anywhere but next to this guy... dude is tweaking.
The weird sh!t he encounters by way of his own drawing suggests that he's in some sort of drug or alcohol induced art session a la Van Gogh or Pollack. For example, the dragon protecting the apple tree:

He came up with that idea all on his own. It also looks like he has just recently gone through his bat-sh!t crazy shave your head like Britney phase. Harold, I hear your cry for help! You don't have to deface the walls anymore!

The story was written in 1955 by Crockett Johnson (insert reference to Don Johnson's Miami Vice character Crockett here). Nearly 60 years later, I assume that Harold most likely succumbed to his drug induced art sprees a long time ago. Basquiat only made it to 27. But the purple crayon is a very real threat facing our children today. Don't let your wall become the next victim. Only a fool would blame something other than Harold and his bad-exampling. I, dear friend, am no fool... except for when I use the phrase bad-exampling.

*I hate that we live in a world where not all people know to keep these things away from kids. I wish there was a way to keep kids away from those people, but alas, reproduction is not bound by intelligence or even common sense.

Bonus spin: I also have a mini takedown of the most frustrating book ever written called Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and his missus. Yup, shocking, a celebrity and his wife got to write a book despite their area of expertise having no direct link to the piece of sh!t book they produced. That book is arguably a what-not-to-do book, but good luck explaining to a 12-month old that the pictures actually show stuff I do not want her to do, not stuff I hope she will learn. She's a freaking baby. Seeing those pictures is the closest she can get to comprehending the message of the book. In her head, I just read her a book that said: please don't sleep, please dump your food on your head, please color on the walls (again! Argh!), please don't share, please eat sand, please throw a tantrum, please stick your tongue out and go plfffft, please splash in the bath, please take off your diaper and walk around with it in your hand, and please come try to get into bed with us at night. Thanks Spike! Please stick to watching the Knicks and leave our kids to come up with this sh!t on their own.