Friday, December 31, 2010

Year-End Round-Up Posts Are Notoriously Lame Part 1

[Prologue: You have two clear choices, here: You can either read this whole post, below, or you can glance at this here graphic:
Which latter, I promise you, makes the same essential point as all 10,000,000,000 of the words below. If you are very smart, that graphic might also lead you to deduce the basic structure of the benzene molecule. If you are super-duper smart, it will remind you that deducing that structure on your own is kinda pointless because Friedrich August Kekulé beat you to the punch like a century-and-a-half-ago and so maybe you foax should just shake your clenched fists at the heavens and scream, Kirk-like, "Kekuuuuuuuléééééééééééééé!!!!" whilst staring at the following picture:

HUBBA! 

Maybe this graphic will remind you that, next time you dream, you should dream about something that will reveal unto you the structure of an as-yet-unknown molecule instead of dreaming about having a threesome with Snooki and Sarah Palin who, in your dream, also have something in their mouths, but it ain't a snake's tail (unless you mean that figuratively).]

Yes, they1 are lame. But I'm so Awesome I can take the hit that inevitably accompanies uploading such a post. I have awesome in overplus.

The reason I think Y-E R-U Posts (or YERU Posts) are lame is ... I can't really remember what significant things happened to me during the year. I mean, I guess I could go back and read some of my own posts from the past year to see what I thought newsworthy at the time, but fuuuuuuck that! Have you seen them? They go on and on and never seem to get to the point even on the rare occasions when they have one! Case in point right here — and you would think that "right here" back there would be a link to an example post, wouldn't you, but it's not because it doesn't need to be because the "right here" that I'm referring to is this very post right here, this one that you are now reading and that is vaguely pissing you off with its pointlessly labyrinthine circularity. Because this is supposed to be a YERU Post but, so far, it's a meta-YERU Post, going on and on about what a YERU Post is supposed to do but, infuriatingly, not doing it. Worse still, it stops doing even that and becomes a post about itself though itself is not yet about anything.  And you're sitting there, impatiently drumming your fingers on your desktop as you read this and getting more and more pissed at the arch, self-referential meta-ness of it all and you're thinking, Is this a blog post or a badly-translated lost work of fucking Borges or something? And even that is a lie, because, unless you're SteveQ, that Borges comparison probably didn't occur to you. For example: If you're RBR, you're more likely thinking: Why the FUCK am I reading this when I could be eating snickerdoodles instead? WAIT! I COULD be doing both because I can multi-task like that! And then, multi-taskingly (because you're still RBR here; I haven't released you from my spell yet), you think: That last thought just gave me a bit of a stiffy — and you think that because, as RBR, you secretly have a penis2.

For those of you who patiently waded through that confusingly insular and hermetic pomo-ish garbage above, here comes your reward because now this post is going to lurch bathetically into a more demotic and denotative style of language and by "now" I mean "starting with the next sentence" because this one is still pretty self-referential.

So here are some highlights from 2010, in no particular order:

I managed to run a grand total of 1116.6 miles. I am happy about this because my original goal was to run 1000 miles while secretly hoping I would manage to average 100 miles a month and thus run 1200 for the year. I got pretty close to that secret goal (and now 1200 miles running can become my stated goal for 2011). My overall running mileage for this year makes me content because I thought I would only be able to run that many miles if I managed not to hurt myself. Well, I managed not to hurt myself in a way that kept me from running, but I did injure myself this year in a way that was far more painful than any tendinitis I ever had was. The dislocated shoulder happened because I was a fucktard and if you want to know in what particular way I was a fucktard you'll have to follow that link you just zipped by a sentence back and read about it there because I'm not re-telling the story here.

That injury happened two days before May 15, 2010, the day on which

I turned 50 years old and officially entered my geezerdom. I've been calling myself a geezer for some time now, but I've actually been one for just over a half a year. It probably would have been more age-appropriate of me to break my hip in anticipation of this big day, but I decided, instead, to go with the "young man's stereotypical injury" — the dislocated shoulder. I like to think young.

I PR'd in the following distances:
  • 5k (23:53 in early April at the D&R Canal Watch 5k) This was the third time I'd run this fucker and I had been Mr. Consistent in it the two previous times, posting a 26:45 one year and then a 26:46 the next. I don't know where this 23:53 came from. I suspect, as always, my n*ts@ck.
  • 15k (1:22:31 in late April Clinton 15k Race) This was a gimme because 'twere my first 15k 4EVAH but I was happy with this time because it represented a 8:51 pace, which is way better than I expected to do.
  • 10k (55:01 on July 4 at the Revolutionary Run in Washington Crossing, PA) This was the second time I ran that race and I thought I had run it in 54:xx the previous year but turns out? Ran it in 55:14. So I didn't even realize I'd PR'd till I got home. And had already drunk a 4-pack of barley wine. This was also an 8:51 pace, and something tells me I still have a 10k PR left in me because, if you recall, I did an 8:51 pace in that fucking 15K so I should, on a good day, be able to better that, right? I mean, it stands to reason; which is another way of saying it will never happen.
  • 5 miles (42:45 in August at the creatively-named Three Bridges 5-Miler) It really is a creative name because the The Fucking Three Bridges 5-Miler is actually 5.05 miles long. Fucking jag-off fireman sponsors! What's your first response to that!?!? Hahahahaha! Plus, that bitch was hilly! I mean really hilly! But if I never run any other race again, I will run that one because it is the first race I ran that had (can you guess what? Hint: The race was sponsored by firemen, and started and ended at their firehouse) FREE BEER at the end! Which I drank like FIVE pitchers of at 10:30 in the morning! My pace was 8:33, which further strengthens my belief that I should be able to run a 10k at a sub-8:51 pace. But, again, I don't think it'll ever happen now that I'm a geezer.
  • Um, this is embarrassing. I totally forgot that on October 2, I ran a second 10k this year, The Hopewell Challenge. I had heard it was a really hilly course, which it was, and I didn't expect to do very well and then ... I actually managed to PR again. With a time of 53:38, which is a 8:35 pace. Hahahahaha! What a douche-satchel I am! I can't believe I forgot this! So I PR'd twice this year in the 10k distance, which is exactly two more times than I expected to. So now I've got NOTHING to look forward to, running-wise, in 2011 unless I find some weird-distanced races, like an 8k or something, because there's no way I'll ever run a 10k faster than that. I'm not sure where that speed came from. Again, I'm looking at you, n*ts@ck!3 
  • 3.33 miles (27:59 on November 14 at Voorhees State Park in a race that was supposed to be a 5k trail race) Yeah, but here's the thing: It was not 5k! They even admitted it! It was at least two-tenths of a mile longer, so fuck it! This counts as a FUCKING PR in that stupid-ass, phony distance because the fucking course ended with a 3-tenths-of-a-mile ascent that was like running up Teh Fucking Schmatterhorne, and even though I know most of you weren't reading me three blogs ago and thus have no idea what Teh Schmatterhorne is, still, FUCK IT, take my word for it, I earned the right to call this a FUCKING PR!1! You may think that 27:59 is a slow pace, which it is, but to give you some context — it was fast enough to make me 16th in a field of 98 in that race, so that gives you a bit of an idea about the nature of the course. There were rumors that some runners fell, people! In a race! FELL!1! That never happens! QED. And once again, I'd like to take a moment to give a shoutout to my favorite n*ts@ck, compared to which all other n*ts@cks are just ugly flaps of wrinkled and hairy pouch-shaped skin, and I'm talking here, of course, about my n*ts@ck, whence springs all my running power. I assume.
Other Running Highlights: There's really only one other and it doesn't involve a PR, but it does involve a course PR so that's good enough for me. I have run my little town's Turkey Trot for the past 4 years. The 2007 Turkey trot is the first race I ever ran in my life. Up until this year, my times (clock times) have gotten progressively worse with each year. In 2010, I resolved to reverse that trend, and I did. My clock time was 26:12, which is nearly a minute and a half faster than my previous fast time of 27:34 in 2007. This year, though, they had a starting mat for the chips and my chip time was 24:54. That was in a crowded field of nearly 4000 runners, in which people who were fucking walking lined up in the 5-minute mile area and slowed everyone down. Those people are worse than Hitler.

Other Numbers: My total mileage for 2010: 1860.65. So that represents 744.05 miles (1860.65 minus 1116.6, for you math geeks) of "otherness" ... mostly lunchtime walking at work because Morrissey, my pussy-@$$ recumbent exercise bike, spent most of 2010 sidelined with a pussy-@$$ injury which was fixed only this month. Next year, I have to set up my spreadsheet to record walking and riding miles separately.

I have A LOT more to say about 2010, so consider this post to be merely Part ONE of Jebus Knows How Many Parts Ultimately.
_____________
1 "They", here, refers to "Year-End Round-Up Posts", which was more obvious before I interposed that stupid graphic-heavy and prolix Prologue between this post's title and it's first sentence proper.

2 Perhaps my first New Year's Resolution should be to stop spreading the rumor that RBR has a penis. Accordingly, I hereby resolve that: 2011 will be Teh Year Of RBR's Vagina!1! (Sorry, SteveQ! Your vagina will have to wait till 2012, when I predict it will defeat Obama in the Democratic Preznitdenchul primary because the Dems always elect the Biggest Pussy, whereas the Republicans typically go with the Biggest Dick (and not in the good sense).)

3 But then, when am I not?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Your Toes

Actually, on mine, because I just completed yet another non-heel-striking run this morning — my third, if you're keeping count at home — and I can still feel it in my calves afterward. I'm pretty sure my calves are getting stronger; they weren't as sore before the run, this time, but they're sore now. Today's run of 5.58 miles in 52:10 (9:24 pace) brought me up to 103.2 for the month and 1116.6 for the year and it looks as though that's how my year will end because, at this point, I think tying to run two days in a row would be a bad idea.

Originally, I planned to try to run both today and tomorrow, thinking I could thereby bring my December mileage total up to 110, but I knew early on in today's run that two consecutive days of running just wasn't going to happen — that it would be stupid to force it. Generally, I try to go at least six miles on any one run, but today I couldn't even get that far. It didn't help that it was like 9 degree out there at 5:00 this morning (thankfully there was no wind, though), and it took a full two miles of manically flexing my fingers while running for my hands to warm up; but when they finally did, it left me free to enjoy all of the other aches that were going on in various parts of my geezerly body during the run, loudly and furiously vying for my full attention: in my calves; in my feet; in my toes; all around my frozen chin (fucking drool!). The worst part of running in this weather was knowing it is expected to go up to 40 degrees later today.

So thus endeth my 2010 running career.

Yesterday was a planned day off from work — I had to stay home to watch Ian — and I was thinking that at some point, I'd have to take him to the local middle school to go sledding down the big hill to keep him entertained. But instead, Ian went across the street to his friends' house and disappeared in there all day. Which left me free to read the last couple of acts of Henry VI, Part I.

You'll read (e.g., here, as well as in the Riverside Shakespeare's Introduction to the Henry VI plays) variations on the claim that HVIPI is "regarded by some as the weakest play in Shakespeare's oeuvre" but I actually enjoyed reading it. It was especially interesting reading 1 Henry VI immediately after reading The Comedy of Errors, since the latter play is about the only Shakespeare drama that adheres to Aristotle's so-called Classical Unities of Time, Place and Action1: the play takes place in Ephesus and only Ephesus; the action takes place in one day; and the play is nearly bereft of any sub-plots, with the possible exception of the budding romance between Antipholus of Syracuse and Luciana, which is far from fully developed and seems almost irrelevant; while HVIPI is more or less all over the place: it spans decades, seemingly (though it's hard to say for sure, since Shakespeare plays nearly as fast and loose with historical chronology as he does historical accuracy); much of the play's action is centered on the sub-plot of the petty rivalries and jealousies that would lead to the War of the Roses (whereas the main plot concerns England's on-going attempts to consolidate its territorial gains in France); and the action takes place in various localities in both England and France.

Shakespeare was already showing he was a far better playwright when he ignored the so-called rules or just made up his own. Good Shakespeare is almost invariably sprawling  and messy Shakespeare.

This is not to say that HVIPI doesn't have its problems. Most of the language is, for Shakespeare, blandly uninspired — which, however, brings with it the advantage of making it far easier to follow what is going on.

Shakespeare's portrayal of Joan of Arc (called "Joan la Pucelle" in the play) is flat-out weird. She is portrayed not as a saint inspired by God, but instead as a sorceress2 ... although this is not shown explicitly until the very end of the play when her "fiends" make their first and only appearance, merely to abandon her. This is understandable; Shakespeare, after all, was an Englishman and thus not predisposed to depict a French heroine in a favorable light. But the character of Joan is just odd and not particularly persuasive. At one point, she tells Charles, the French Dauphin (or "Dolphin", as he is called in the play, not unreasonably since that's exactly what "Dauphin" means), that she can persuade Burgundy to abandon the English side and join the French, which she does with a not particularly inspired or powerful speech. And even she seems to realize how improbable all of this is, because right after Burgundy agrees to switch sides, she, a French woman, insults him, in an aside, for being typically French:
BURGUNDY
I am vanquished; these haughty words of hers
Have batter'd me like roaring cannon-shot,
And made me almost yield upon my knees.
Forgive me, country, and sweet countrymen,
And, lords, accept this hearty kind embrace:
My forces and my power of men are yours:
So farewell, Talbot; I'll no longer trust thee.

JOAN LA PUCELLE
[Aside] Done like a Frenchman: turn, and turn again!
This insult — in essence: Pfffttt! Typical Frenchman! — would make sense if uttered by an Englishman but here, uttered by Joan? Just kinda weird and inexplicable.

If there is a hero in this play, it would have to be the English warrior Talbot. Talbot's brave, warrior's death3 is all the more affecting because it occurs just after his own son's death in battle. Young Talbot dies in his father's arms, having acquitted himself well in his first battle. The elder Talbot had tried to convince his son to flee the battlefield so that he and the Talbot name could live on (Talbot knows that he himself is fated to die in this battle), but young Talbot refuses. The two Talbots hash out their various arguments regarding who should fight and who should flee in rhyming couplets, and continue to do so for quite some time, even while fighting, which, admittedly, sounds a bit over-the-top, but the scene worked for me and was, in fact, my favorite in the entire play.

The problem for me is that Young Talbot pretty much just shows up out of nowhere. There is no mention of him (as far as I can tell) before he just appears to argue, and then die, with his father in battle.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed 1 Henry VI despite the fact that I am constitutionally incapable of keeping Who Belongs To Which Royal House in the War of the Roses straight. It's tough to make sense of all of those names and suss out who is aligned with whom and keep track of who sprung from whose loins while trying to remember that the Duke of this is also the Earl of that and he may be referred to by about six other names as well and to me all of this is like being compelled to take a course in Teh Genealogy of Inbred British Royal Fucktards, which holds like zero interest for me. I don't even care about my own family's genealogy, which is equally confusing to me because my family, being Irish Catholic, had more than its share of fruitful loins and, quite possibly, inbreeding4. For example, I kept thinking this play's Richard Plantagenet (later, Duke of York), was the dude who would later become Richard III, and I'm wondering, So why is no one in this play talking about his hunchback? But it turns out this play's Richard is the Evil Humpback's dad. Not that it is essential to know that to understand this play.

I think I'm going to read the other two Henry VI play before anything else, now.
_____________
1 Which Mediaeval scholars tended to fetishize, misreading them as Aristotle's rules for good drama, whereas, in fact, they were merely his description of what Greek dramatists seemed to value. That is, Mediaeval scholars got it exactly backwards, thinking Classical Playwrights were following Aristotle's rules; but in reality, Aristotle derived those rules from what the playwrights were already doing in their plays.

2 Later interpolation/clarification: Stated thus bluntly above, this is false: The English see Joan as a whore and a sorceress; the French as a saint. At the end of the play, though, she reveals herself to be a witch, a liar, and a coward. She hopes to save her own skin, be spared execution, at the end of the play by claiming to be a virgin. When that doesn't work, she claims she's pregnant with the child of one French nobleman, and when that fails to soften the Englishmen's hearts, she says the father is another French Nobleman ... then another.

The scene between Joan and the "fiends" is, to my mind, a lot like the scene between Young and Old Talbot, in that it comes out of nowhere.

3 SPOILER ALERT!1! Talbot dies.

4 Not really.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's Cold and I Need To Run This Morning

... and I will, having mapped out a 5.77-mile run on MapMyRun.

But before I do that, let me first talk about Shakespeare's Teh Comedy of Errors, which I managed to finish yesterday because I had an unanticipated day off1.

Hahahahahaha! You FOOLS!1! I lured you in here with a post title that seemingly promises a running-related topic, but then I pulled the old switcheroo, as Ol' Shakey himself liked to do with the venerable Bed Trick. And you can't turn back now! You've broken this post's hymen! Now you have to marry it! Hahahahaha! And this post is a fucking shrew!1!

Anyroad, yeah, The Comedy of Errors. I had never read this one before. While I was reading it, I couldn't help but think how hilarious it would most likely be to see performed. As a Shakespeare play, it is not all that earth-shatteringly impressive, which is understandable since it is one of his earliest plays. But its farcical elements keep it moving along at a nice clip; it's also Shakespeare's shortest play, which contributes to the feeling that it zips along.

Despite the fact that this is probably one of Teh Bard's weakest plays, he still manages to touch on themes that he would develop more fully in subsequent plays, the most obvious being that of identity, especially mistaken identity. One of Shakespeare's sources2 for TCoEMenaechmi, by Roman playwright Plautus — is about the confusion surrounding the accidental near-meeting of one set of long-lost twins; Shakespeare ups the farce quotient in The Comedy of Errors by constructing its plot around the confusion resulting from the proximity of two sets of twins who are unaware of each other. Antipholus of Syracuse comes to Ephesus, along with his servant Dromio, in search of his long-lost twin bother (for whom he has been searching for seven years), who, as luck would have it, lives in Ephesus and also has a servant named Dromio who — WAIT FOR IT!1! — is Dromio of Syracuse's twin3. Oddly, in the midst of all the play's mistaken-identity confusion, it never occurs to A. of S. that the reason he's seemingly inexplicably being accused of doing all these things he didn't do, the reason there's this chick that keeps insisting he's her husband, etc., etc. is, . ... he's accidentally stumbled into the town where his long-lost twin lives.

Of course, if he realized that, you'd have no play, would you?

Despite all of that, the play is enjoyable for many of the same reasons that all Shakespeare plays are enjoyable: its humor (much of it slapstick); its believable characters (the characters have some depth, even if the plot does not); and its beautiful, though at times convoluted, use of the English language. There are, e.g., passages you can read over and over and, even with the aid of The Riverside Shakespeare's footnote-al glossary and a rudimentary knowledge of Elizabethan idioms, never understand, not all of which passages are necessarily corrupt, though some are.

Much of the play is written not just in blank verse, but in rhyming couplets, which contributes to the skewy syntax and indirectness of expression that makes certain passages difficult to parse. Shakespeare had a weakness for rhyming couplets but, as he matured as a writer, he got much more facile at integrating them.

I finished The Comedy of Errors early enough in the day yesterday that I was able to get a head start on my next project: Henry VI Part I. (I decided to read the plays thus: comedy; history; tragedy; romance ... so that I don't get sick of a particular genre by reading too many examples of it in a row.)

In running news:

This morning's icy run:

5.74 miles (I improvised a different route than the one I mention above) at a 9:54 pace. That's a crappy pace, but keep in mind two things:

First: It was icy (which is why I called it an icy run).

Second: Teh 'Bride got out this book for me called Natural Running, the main point of which seems to be that, thanks in good part to how our Space Age Running Shoes are constructed, we run the wrong way4. Specifically, many of us are heel-strikers. I only have to look at the wear patterns on my shoes to know that I certainly am guilty of leading with my heel. I already knew this about myself, and I knew that with each step I was, in essence, hitting the break on forward momentum with my heel.

I tried a long while ago to amend my stride but for some reason didn't follow through.

Well, in my Boxing Day run of 7 miles, I made an effort to run the whole thing as a mid-foot-striker; and I'm pretty sure I succeeded because after the run both of my calves ached (which I expected) and I developed a nasty blister on the ball of my left foot under the big toe (not exactly unexpected) and the inner thigh muscles of both legs ached, too. Not as much as the calves, but there was a definite achy feeling there.

Now I took this as a good sign, because I've had tendinitis of the knees and I got it exactly where that very thigh muscle attaches to the knee. When I went to the doctor about it, he sent me to PT where they gave me exercises to develop those muscles because runners typically don't use them, especially when they run as I do.

So, now, as a mid-foot striker, I am using those muscles, because I can feel it.


Today's run brought me up to 1111 running miles for the year. I should be able to get two more runs in before the new year.


1 Yeah, even though NJ was in An Official State of Emergency yesterday, and all the state and federal offices were closed, the county library system where I work was still open. My boss called from home and told me that the fucktards who run the county decided there would be a delayed opening, but that's it; he encouraged me to take time rather than come in, which I did. Seems that's what everyone did, because when I tried to make my official call out to the library at noon, I had to call like 3 different numbers before I got an actual person at, of all places, the reference desk.

So yeah, I had off, but I had to use my own time.

2 The other: Amphitruo, also by Plautus.

3 The set-up for the play's incredibly convoluted plot, which it's really best not to think about too much because it is entirely unbelievable and if you think about it too much, which you shouldn't, it'll just spoil the play for you, happens in one long speech at the beginning. The speech is given by Egeon, who is the father of both of the Antipholi and, in good proto-George Foreman style, gave both of his kids the same name for some reason, perhaps because he took too many head shots in his career as a pugilist? Anyroad, in a sea-faring accident that occurred when the twins were infants, one set of twins ended up with Egeon and they went to Syracuse; the other set ended up with Emilia, their Mother and Egeon's wife, but were taken from her by locals; which is why A of S. knows he has a long-lost twin, but A. of E.? No clue.

Teh Mom is out of the picture entirely until — SPOILER ALERT!1! — Teh Big Reveals at the end.

Egeon, by the way, when he is introduced at the beginning of the play, is already under a death sentence for the crime of — get this — being a Syracusian merchant in Ephesus. Fucking Ephesians! Why do they hate Free Trade? Must be a bunch of Socialists!

Egeon conveniently disappears after Act I, scene i, and does not appear again until the end of the play, just before Teh Big Reveals!1!

And that, in short, is why it is best not to think too much about the plot because the plot of the Comedy of Errors makes Desperate Whorsewives seem almost believable by comparison, which is saying a lot.

4 Full disclosure: The dude who wrote Natural Running also makes the Newton running shoe, so he has a vested interest in claiming that the "correct" way to run is precisely the way Newtons force you to run. I happen to buy his premise, but I didn't buy his book (Teh 'Bride checked it out of her library for me) nor will I buy his shoes. I'm sticking with my Asics.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Freedom

I finished Jonathan Franzen's Freedom on the afternoon of Christmas Eve; it's due back at the library on January 3, which means I read the 562 pages1 in under two weeks, which I mention not as a boast2, but just to emphasize what a quick and relatively easy read it is, as literary novels go (however you define "literary"). That is to say, it was quite enjoyable. I could not tell you the last time I finished a novel of this length in such a short span of time. There are just too many diversions in the Heisenberg household for me to finish any book in a reasonable amount of time; and I too easily diverted; and since I, as a library employee, DON'T HAVE TO PAY OVERDUE FINES, I never have that same sense of urgency about returning library books on time that the rest of you schnooks probably have. Therefore, I have a tendency to take my time; I have even been known to interrupt the reading of one book to start on another if the second hypothetical books should happen to come in while I'm reading the first and I happen to be more interested in reading the former than the latter. (This inevitably leads to the first book's being returned overdue.) Some people would be all, "No, I myself would save the second book to read as a treat after finishing the first", but to those people I say "Pfffttt!" while secretly thinking, Fuck you, luuzer, which tacit thought I'm far too polite to say out loud, but not polite enough not to let you know here in this blog post that if I ever say to you, "Pfffttt!" what I'm really thinking is, Fuck you, luuzer.

I'm generally not very polite, is my point I guess. If you got a problem with that, Fuck You, Luuzer. I mean, "Pfffttt!"

Back to Freedom, the first thing about which I want to say is: Its ending kinda took me by surprise. It does not have a "twist" ending or an M. Night Shamalamadingdong twisty supernatural ending, but its ending is sort of unexpected if you read The Corrections, which is all I'll say about it, other than this: Stephen Dedalus, in Joyce's Ulysses, says about Shakespeare's later plays — what are generally called the Romances — that they have about them a "spirit of reconciliation" that is lacking in his earlier plays. It is Stephen's position that the Shakespeare of the Romances is a man not merely more resigned to the imperfect world that his art mirrors, but more at ease with it, more accepting of it.

This may or may not be true of Shakespeare's plays (in Ulysses, Stephen's theory tells you more about Stephen than it does about Shakespeare, arguably), but it seems to me to be true of Freedom as opposed to The Corrections. If you want to know what I mean by that or to see whether or not you agree with my assessment, I guess you're just going to have to read both novels. So there's your 1100 page reading assignment right there.

In nearly all other ways, Freedom is really quite similar to The Corrections in structure. In the latter, Franzen was careful to tease out the various meanings of "corrections" — from market "corrections" to the personal corrections we make in our own lives to set them on a better course (one character's life is in many ways little more than his attempt to "correct" the mistakes of his father) to the literary corrections one of the characters feels he must make to his already-submitted screenplay to make it less boringly and off-puttingly meta and more accessible at a human level.

But in Freedom, the major theme that is being elucidated — at times subtly and implicitly; at others quite explicitly — is that of - WAIT FOR IT!1! — Freedom. Specifically, the idiosyncratic American obsession with defining "freedom" in terms of nothing other than Personal Freedom Über Alles. Characters betray each other because they are "free" to do so; one character (Joey Berglund) becomes rich through war profiteering, selling useless truck parts to the Pentagon for the troops in Iraq because he can get away with it; another character (Walter Berglund, Joey's Dad, more or less the most admirable character in the book), becomes, by the end of the book, something of a recluse and a crank environmentalist who gets into arguments with his neighbors (a gated community of McMansions has sprung up around him in the wilderness of northern Minnesota) about whether or not he has the right to ask them to keep their pet cats indoors because the cats are hunting and killing off local wild birds, some of which are endangered; the neighbors — one in especial — arguing, in essence, that her cat's right to personal freedom is more important than the birds' right to be kept safe from attacks by human-introduced alien species to which the birds have had no time to develop any defense mechanisms. Sure ... that species of bird may survive ... but at the cost of Fluffy Teh Cat's right to kill indiscriminately3.

Walter, before he becomes a recluse (for very good reasons, by the way), is the head of a non-profit organization whose purpose is to try to convince the public that we are putting too much of a strain on our ecosystems in general and that, for the good of all of humanity, the things that we — Americans especially — consider to be sacrosanct rights, untouchable personal freedoms, such as having as many children as we please and driving unnecessarily oversized and gas-guzzling automobiles, should be restrained, cut back, stopped before we reach a point of no return, before catastrophe becomes inevitable and unavoidable. And to me, one of the most interesting and illuminating episodes of the book is the strategy session in which the four or five main members of this group attempt to come up with a way of getting personal freedom-obsessed Americans to be receptive to this message.

In terms of plot, there is, of course, a lot more going on in Freedom — the plot and the major theme being pretty well intertwined. I've actually touched on very little of the plot, and I'm sure there are many who would claim that what I've keyed on here isn't even the main plot of the book. That in fact is probably a legitimate complaint. Because Freedom is about a marriage and a family and how the members of the family interact with each other over the years; but the issue, the theme, tying it all together is that of freedom, and what it means to be free, what responsibilities come with any freedom, and should any of the latter trump the former. Early on in the book, the son, Joey, is in fact in conflict with his father, Walter, over whether or not it is "fair" — whether or not it is an infringement of his "rights" — for his father to send him to bed before the adults. The boy lies in bed announcing every 15 minutes, "I'm still awake!" to make his outrage at having his personal freedom infringed apparent to the father. Later, as a near-teen, Joey begins selling some crap jewelry to the local Catholic school girls and is outraged that his "right" to make a profit is infringed when the nuns put a stop to the sales. Again, his "freedom" — narrowly defined — is infringed. Walter explains that Joey's "freedom" to make a profit is not in fact a right.

This adult-child dynamic — the childish insistence that selfish "freedoms" should be paramount versus more reasoned and mature attempts to impose a sense of responsibility as a necessary concomitant of any meaningful definition of freedom — pervades the entire novel; because the peculiarly American belief that a selfish, childish definition of personal freedom — it is my right to be allowed to do anything I want to do regardless of how it affects others — is a view that many of the adult characters continue to cling to, often with near-disastrous consequences.

But, as I said earlier, a spirit of reconciliation pervades Freedom. Walter does not remain a crank environmentalist recluse; Joey repents his war-profiteering youth; a marriage seemingly shattered past any reconciliation endures, and perhaps even begins once again to thrive. But as Stephen Dedalus says in Ulysses, "Where there is a reconciliation ... there must have been first a sundering."

Most of Freedom — at least 90 percent, I'd estimate — is about those various sunderings.

Making the novel's reconciliations all the more enjoyable.
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1 I claimed, at the end of this post, that it was 576 pages based on this Wikipedia entry, which I relied on because, at the time, I didn't have the book itself in hand.

Before you condemn Wikipedia excessively for giving incorrect information, though, realize that Amazon gets the pagination wrong, too; as does Barnes & Noble — they all claim it is 576 pages long. It is not. I have the book in hand right now and I can see it ends on page 5621a.

I know what you're thinking — maybe Amazon and Barnes & Noble had a slightly different edition; but they didn't because I checked the ISBN (International Standard Book Number1b) and Amazon and Barnes & Noble cite the exact same ISBN that the book I have in hand has.

Since I know none of you will be able to live with this mystery, I hereby advance the following explanatory hypothesis, for which I have zero empirical evidence, but nevertheless still consider to be the most probable explanation for this discrepancy: In all likelihood, the pre-pub information from the publisher claimed the book would be 576 pages long. (I used to be a bookbuyer for a South Joisey book jobber (i.e., book wholesaler) and I know from firsthand experience that publishers' catalogs would claim weird-numbered paginations for forthcoming books; and you'd think, "576 pages? That must be accurate, because if it was just an estimate, they'd say 600 pages or 550 pages, right?" But no; they would typically come up with these weird estimations and never say they were just estimations1c.)

And so B&N and Amazon get the pre-pub information up on their sites and then never bother to change it. I'm not surprised at that.

I am surprised that some anal retentive Wikipedia geek didn't come along and change the Wikipedia entry yet.

Not to toot my own library's horn, but here is the entry for Freedom on our catalog:
Freedom
1st ed.

Author: Franzen, Jonathan.

Publisher: New York :Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
Pub Year: 2010
Pages: 562 p. ;
ISBN: 9780374158460,0374158460
So we got it right.

I can't get too proud about that because so did the hated Mall*Wart, which totally vitiates this seeming librarianly victory.

1a And it begins on page 1, in case you were thinking the discrepancy might be the result of a 14-page Roman-Numeraled Prologue or something like that. It isn't; and if it were, the proper way to cite that would be: "xiv; 562 p." not "576 p."

1b A colleague of mine at the library has a tendency to say, e.g., "Okay, to be sure we're talking about the same edition, what's the ISBN number on your edition?" This same colleague has a tendency to ask "What's your PIN number?" too.

These redundancies do not exactly drive me nuts, but I do find it hard not to ... say something. Still, I consider it a minor Victory of Meaningless Etiquette Over Meaningless Grammar that I have so far managed to restrain myself.

I'm not sure whose Victory it is, though.

1c Okay, to be totally forthcoming: They weren't mere estimations. The "576" number probably came from the number of pages of the galley; which (galleys, that is) are sometimes sent out to reviewers. Further revisions — or even something as simple as a slight change in font style — could account for the pagination discrepancy between galley and final book form.

2 It would be an idiotic boast to make. I know there are people who bought this novel as soon as it came out and probably stayed up all night reading it. Yes, there really are people who feel that way about J. Franzen's novels. Which I kinda get.

3 Full disclosure: The cat's actual name is Bobby.

Another pet (no pun intended) peeve that is perhaps as nitpicky as the ISBN/PIN number peeve above:

In the novel, when Bobby the cat goes missing (if you suspect Walter of (minor) foul play in this, you would be correct, O Discerning Reader), the children of the cat's owner call for it thus: "Bobbbby! Bobbbbbby!"

This is NOT how any human being would draw out the name "Bobby"! This is some real carelessness on Franzen's part. Kids would call the name thus: "Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh-bee!" The "o" sound is the one that would be drawn out, not the fucking "b" sound! The only time you would repeat a "b" sound like that would be if you were singing BTO's "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet": "B-b-b-baby, you just ain't seen n-nothin' yet!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not There Yet

I still have roughly 40 pages of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom left to read. I probably could have finished it last night (it's by no means taxing to read upward of 100 pages of a Franzen novel at one sitting, if you have the time, because he has a pretty readerly style, as opposed to the writerly style of, e.g., Franzen's friend David Foster Wallace) except I didn't do any reading until bedtime because of Survivor. Now, those of you who still watch Survivor — which I guess is the only "reality" show I really watch1 — are thinking, Well, didn't that show end last Sunday? You are indeed perceptive ... for someone who watches Survivor.

Thing is, Ian got interested in Survivor this year so we watch it with him now, and Sunday's show went till like 11:00 p.m., way past his bedtime and, for that matter, mine; so we TiVo'd the show to watch at a later date. But we couldn't watch it Monday night, because that was my late night at the library; and we couldn't watch it Tuesday night, because that's Teh 'Bride's late night. So last night was the first evening that we were all together to watch Teh Thrilling Conclusion And See Who Won Teh Title of Sole Survivor!1!

So I got no reading done till bedtime.

And then, at in bed (cue wah-wah guitar music), after I'd read maybe 10 pages, there was a blackout, which may or may not've been related to the blackout at Teh 'Bride's library, which occurred at like 12:30 yesterday afternoon and was the result of some guy in a big-@$$ FUC SUV ramming into the powerline pole just outside the library because he was diabetic and evidently had an "episode" and the library hadn't gotten their power back by 4:30 p.m. when Teh 'Bride's work day ended (because even though there was no power, they didn't close the library) and Teh 'Bride had what appeared to be the only copy of the library's out-of-date What To Do In The Event of a Blackout Emergency Instruction Sheet (which lists 10 steps, the first two of which are to contact people who no longer work for the library, one of whom is dead), and she took it to the New, Non-Dead2 Director and told him, "Please don't lose this since it's apparently the only copy still in existence" and he, of course, promptly lost it without first following any of the steps included in it or delegating them to anyone else, not even checking to see if anyone was stuck in the fucking elevator, for Teh Love of Sweet Baby Jebus, which would seem an obvious no-brainer, and so Teh 'Bride ended up having to do most of this stuff herself, after which the Director "found" the paper again.

And so the power outage that happened at our house at like 9:45 p.m. was probably not related to that one — but you never know — and it certainly didn't last as long, maybe 5 minutes, but by the time the lights came back on I had already made the executive decision to put my book down and go to sleep, although Teh 'Bride waited the blackout out and continued to read when the lights came back on but I couldn't tell you for how long because when I make the decision to stop reading and go to sleep I generally don't fuck around.

The point here being, I did not finish Freedom and so reviewing it today, as I seemed to promise in yesterday's post I would, would seem to be premature (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID3!1!).

Which is a shame because if I had finished Freedom, I could then get a Year 2010 head start on reading Teh Comedy of Errors tonight. In theory, anyway. The problem with that is, like most Compleat Works of Shaxberd tomes, The Riverside Shakespeare is part complete works of S., part reference book. And I just can't resist the siren's call of those seemingly dry introductory essays, both at the beginning of the tome and at the beginning of each individual work4. And so like yesterday, after I'd checked out Teh Riverside S., I had it sitting next to me on my desk while I was working and when my soul-crushingly boring job got particularly soul-crushing, I'd pick it up (and it's a good thing I've been working on my upper body strength because it weighs quite a few pounds) and flip through the essays — in particular, the introductory essay to TCoE, which spends a lot of time chewing over the issue of whether or not Teh C of Es is mere farce or genuine comedy. I didn't finish the essay, but, The Comedy of Errors being by Shakespeare and all, I'm guessing the essay's author concluded it was not mere farce, which is somewhat of a foregone conclusion, I'd venture to opine. If you're going to say it's mere farce, you probably don't get the job of writing its introductory essay, in all likelihood.

So, at this point, all's I'll say about Freedom is I'm enjoying it immensely, and it is a lot like The Corrections but different enough to be worthwhile. I'll write more when I actually finish the book, such as — SPOILER ALERT!1! — it is 576 pages long.
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1 Depending, needless to say (yet here I am about to say it), on your definitions of "'reality'" and "watch". Because Ian likes to watch such fare as Billy Teh Exterminator (aka Teh Land Where Mullets Go To Die); Mythbustificators; and Roe v. Wade Man v. Wild and while he does I'm usually sitting on the living room sofa trying to read and Ian gets all, "Aren't you gonna watch with me, Dad?" and so I kinda have to watch for awhile then sneak back to reading my book; and Teh 'Bride ... O, geez, Teh 'Bride! She'll watch just about any piece of crap "reality" show there is! I mean, it was bad enough when she was just watching everything she could about midg- ...er, "little people", like Little People, Big AgroBusiness World, a show about the tough, grueling life of undersized people who own and live on a one billion dollar farm and own every lifestyle-enhancing gadget there is that money can buy but — alas! — money can't buy them love height1a; but she also watches shows about every type of freak there is out there, her latest obsession being shows about hoarders, who, I assume, make her feel a lot better about her own personal tendency to generate Piles Of Piles In Our Own Living Spaces. And yeah, it really, really is interesting and not at all creepy or macabre when the show features yet another hoarder with piles everywhere and you just wait around till the moment when they go on a Xenia-like archaeological dig on that one particular 12-foot-high pile in one level of which they inevitably find the half-decayed remains of the pet cat that disappeared, seemingly without a trace, six months previously, the cat that they referred to in the first 5 minutes of the show and at that point you're sitting there hoping against hope that the poor cat just got disgusted by the fat and pathetic hoarder lady and just up and ran away but you already know, because you're familiar with the concept of foreshadowing, that its carcass will inevitably be found under one of those partially toppled piles and so when it happens, it's not even a surprise, it's just pathetic and depressing.

Now that, I think we can all agree, is entertainment!

1a Because who'd wanna watch a show about people for whom shortness-of-stature is an actual challenge, i.e., non-rich little people? People for whom the solutions to the problems of living in a hostilely over-sized world are not just a phone call to an expensive contractor away?  The aggravating thing about Little People, Big World is that it is, in fact, just another show about the life styles of people with a whole lot of money that tries to pawn itself off as a show about how difficult it is to be really, really short; and you can watch it and kinda congratulate yourself on how compassionate you are toward the stature-impaired, but the program doesn't show you how difficult life as a little person is for average foax — it doesn't even try. Short people would be as icky as regular-sized foax if they were poor; and so the show is about the little (no pun intended) trials of the wealthy-and-height-impaired, pert-near all of which trials can be overcome by the technology, and faux compassion, that only money can buy.

As for average little people? Well, they better either grow up or get money if they expect anyone to care about their lives enough to build a "reality" show around them.

2 Depending on how you define "Non-Dead". Because if your definition of "non-dead" includes non-brain-dead, then the jury is still out on the question of whether Teh 'Bride's Library's New Director is "Non-Dead", because the guy's a useless fucktard.

3 Referring, in this case, to his ejaculation. In case that wasn't clear.

4 They're like those really, really dry essays that you see at the beginning of unabridged dictionaries, but that few people ever read. At least, not fully. Because I'm sitting here right now with my Big-@$$ Random House Dictionary of the English Language Second Edition Unabridged next to me and it has like eleven introductory essays in the front, on topics ranging from  "Historical Sketch Of The English Language" to "Usage: Change and Variation" in type so small that a Eüropean Måle's püny Eürøpænis would look large in comparison to the typeface4a. But unlike a Eüropean Måle's püny Eürøpænis, these essays can actually be kinda fascinating and useful, though pert-near impossible to read at one sitting. But if you peruse them for 5, 10 minutes at a time, you're bound to run across passages that are truly engrossing and worth the effort.

4a Kerwånag!1! Take that, my myriad Eüropean Måle Reædærs!

Incidentally, if you're wondering how I know so much about Püny Eüropean Måle Eürøpænii, I just asked Cletus. Now that Don't Ask Don't Tell  has been repealed, I could ask, and EuroBoy O EuroBoy! was Cletus ever willing to tell! Hahahahaha! Good old-fashioned American KERTWANG!1!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Little Douche Coupe

I should no doubt have my English Major's License to Engage in Critical Exegesis revoked because, in preparation for my stated Year 2011 Goal of Reading ALL of Shakespeare's plays, I just checked the Riverside Shakespeare out of my library and I did that because I had to check it out and the reason for that is I couldn't find my own copy and it goes without saying (or, in this case, goes with saying) that when you've become such a Bad ex-English Major that you can't find your own Teh Compleat Shxpr text, well, then, your license to Get All Hermeneutical Up In Here is automatically revoked, or should be. Of course, my license won't be revoked because when you begin a blog post with a sentence like that previous one you just read, I think you've pretty much proved you're still douchebag enough to qualify as a fully-licensed Ex-English Major.

And anyway, it's not my fault that I can't find my Compleat Shxpr; I'm too much of a gentleman to say exactly whose fault it is, so I'll just give you a hint by saying I'm married to her and her first name is "Teh" and the rest of her name starts with an apostrophe, but after that, you'll get no more out of me as to her Secret Identity.

So, anyroad, Teh '[redacted] decided, quite some time ago, that all the books from my daze as an English Major that I had on the bookshelf that had already been fucking relegated to our BASEMENT for fuck's sake were Offensive In Her Sight and she began to pack them away in these Blue Plastic Storage Tubs that look like this:
And these tubs are now stored in the garage and every year she says, "The Library is having their yearly Book Sale in the Armory. Do you want me to give them those tubs of books in the garage?" And I'm always like, "Fuck, no!"

Because in one of those tubs is my Shakespeare and my Chaucer and my Faulkner etc. But God knows which one.

Upshot: I'm reduced to getting my Shakespeare out of the public library now, like some common ... patron.

Tomorrow here on Adventures of an Ex-English Major Ass-Chapeau: A post reviewing Jonathan Franzen's Freedom without using the crutch- and/or catchphrases Dysfunctional Family, Social Realist Novel, Midwestern, or Oprah Asslick. Just to prove I really still am douche enough to keep my license.

Hahahahaha! Just kidding! It's not a competent review of a Jonathan Franzen novel unless it includes all of those crutch- and catchphrases!

An Update On Yesterday's Post And An Awkward Transition

In a development so ironically apropos that, in retrospect, it seems almost inevitable — seems almost to have been willed into existence by my wide-eyed, innocent post of yesterday — Teh 'Bride, at around 3:00 p.m. yesterday, forwards me the following e-mail that she received from the account of one of Ian's teachers:
Dear mom

I was being silly and playing with my friends when it was class time and not doing my work when I was supposed to. I will have a lunch detention today also.
Iam sorry and it will never happen again.
ian
So, yeah — Ian was in lock-down last night.


Teh Titular Awkward Transition

 

Above is a screenshot of the search terms that, according to the new Blogger Stats Tab, somehow brought foax to my blog yesterday. I have circled the particular set of keywords that I will be referring to in my comments below ... in case you're profoundly fucktarded and couldn't've figured it out for yourself. I will not repeat those words because that will only bring more Filmy Porno-Loving Poles1 (presumably) to my blog and I don't need any more Poles because I'm swinging enough pipe on my own over here2.

In any case ... First Thought: I am not sure when, if ever, I used those particular three words in proximity to each other on this here blog, but if I did, I think it was by accident.

Second Thought: Four? Four people made that search yesterday and were brought3 here? Unlucky them.

Third Thought: Lucky dad.


6:10 Update: I soooo did not want to run this morning and nearly blew my run off because I got so little sleep last night, even by my meager standards. But I've been up since like 3:00 a.m., so what else was I gonna do with all that time? Look at Filmy Polish Porno?

So I forced myself to run and I didn't even bother to plot out a distance beforehand and I was cold and wanted to stop after each and every step but I managed to gut it out for what turned out to be 5.13 miles in 48:25 which is roughly a 9:24 pace which sux by any objective standard but I'll take it because it's way faster than the 10+ minute pace I thought I was on.

Insomnia blows.
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1 Yeah, "Poles", here, in whichever sense you want. Today is "Make Your Own Double Entendre Day" because why should I always have to do all the work?

2 Sorry, Reader, you were too slow so, yeah, I took teh double entendre-making into my own hands.

Which is not the only thing I took in my hands, if you get my filmy porno drift. (There's your rare triple entendre, which, seemingly, would bring things back into the realm of the innocent, but doesn't.)

3 Yes, I know, we were all taught in grammar school to eschew the passive voice whenever possible, and "were brought" is hella passive, but I thought it, under the circumstances, preferable to "came".

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Being Ian's Dad

I guess one not-especially-satisfying partial-definition of parenthood might be: The state of being in a condition of perpetual worry or anxiety. If anyone ever accuses you of being an egotist, one pert-near surefire cure would be to have a kid, because you'll quickly find that there will be someone in your life about whom you care even more than you do for yourself1.

Last year, when Ian was in fourth grade, he was not doing that well academically. (I blogged about this a little not too long ago.) He'd already been diagnosed as borderline-ADHD, which I'm not sure is quite right, but the meds did help some, though not all that much; and they tend to take his appetite away and he's already a pretty slight kid. We don't give the meds to him on the weekend and we try to get him to eat as much as possible during that window of opportunity.

We took him to another doctor who diagnosed him as having an auditory processing disorder.2 I think this second diagnosis pretty much nails what Ian's issue is.

Ian gets interested in surfing the 'net in spurts, and recently he's been in one of his Internet Surfing phases. I have a separate profile set up for him on the Macintosh, of course, so that he can't get to any place other than the ones I have approved. Whenever I come down here after him and log on to my profile, I find the sound on the Macintosh has either been turned off, if he wasn't looking at YouTube videos; or, if he was, it's on 1, the lowest sound level. He doesn't do this because the sound can be heard upstairs; i.e., it's not because the noise level would disturb me or Teh 'Bride in the living room. This is the sound level he chooses for his own comfort.

Think about that: An eleven-year-old kid who opts for the lowest sound level, even when he's watching videos.

For some reason this is kinda heart-wrenching to me — even though I know he doesn't ever give it a second thought — because it kinda brings home to me the role of sound in his world, what it means to him, what it does to him.

A lot of what he does affects me more than I guess it should, by any objective standard, but I am far from objective about him. One time I came down here after he'd been surfing the Internet and he hadn't logged out of his profile and had left up the last thing he was looking at, which was this Junior Catcher's Gear Pack. I know he didn't do this on purpose — it wasn't a case of: Hint, hint, Dad, but I'd really like this for Christmas —  because when it comes to things he wants, he's ... um ... let's just say "not that subtle". (He's more: "Can I get this? ... WHYYYYYYY NAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHTTTT!1!") I very nearly just bought it for him because even though I'm well into my geezerdom now I can still remember longing for things that I knew I probably couldn't have or couldn't afford; and I would have bought it for him, except ... I don't want him to be a catcher. (I keep telling him he's not the right build for it and catchers get hit by the ball a lot and it hurts. Plus he's a really good second baseman.)

If he's still insistent on being a catcher by the time Spring Baseball starts, though, I'll probably get that gear for him, anyway.

All Summer I was dreading his starting fifth grade because fourth had been such a trial for him. And we signed him up for Fall Baseball because he really started liking baseball this year and there are not enough kids in our neighborhood for him just to have a pick-up game and so the only time he got to play was with me in the field out back. I thought Fall Ball might be a mistake because he had a hard enough time getting his homework started, much less finished, at aftercare because the noise distracted him and he couldn't concentrate and I figured the last thing he needed was another distraction that would eat up hours of potential study time. But we told him he'd have to make a real effort if he wanted to play ball because there wouldn't be any time to waste.

I wasn't expecting much, though.

But he surprised us all by almost always getting his homework done at aftercare and doing a good job of it. This represented an extraordinary effort on his part, of the type that I myself hadn't exerted until I was in twelfth grade. And on his first report card about a month ago he got virtually all A's. He has great teachers (and a reading tutor), which is part of the reason, but most of it is ... him. When Teh 'Bride went to the Parent-Teachers conference, his teachers were amazed to hear that he'd had such a hard time the previous year; they consider him an A student. And his efforts haven't flagged just because Fall Ball is over. He's still getting A's and doing the lion's share of his homework at aftercare.

As a parent, though, I have of course moved on to other things about him to worry about.

But I also try to remember to tell him how proud I am of him.
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Ian is Our Ambassador to the rest of the neighborhood and that's how he ended up with his own mini Christmas Tree. One of the neighbors whose name neither I nor Teh 'Bride even knows was cutting one of his shrubs and Ian asked for the top and the guy gave it to him. It became his mini Xmas tree because we got our real one (see below) late this year. But, of course, a few days before he decided to make it his tree, I saw him with it outside using it as a bat as one of his friends pitched a snowball to him. It's in pretty good shape still, so I guess he never really connected. That present there is for me. Ian kept trying to get me to open it before Christmas, but I refused. We compromised. I'll open it Christmas Eve.
Ian's Tree is now up in his room so we could make room for our actual tree, which we just got this past Saturday. Last night when I was working late at the library, Ian and Teh 'Bride put lights on it (don't cry for me: I don't do decorations) but I haven't gotten a picture of that yet. This is possibly the straightest tree we've ever had. O sure ... NOW ... When DADT's finally been repealed!
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1 If this lessening of ego-centrism doesn't happen to your post-kid self, then you're a sociopath and probably shouldn't have had a kid in the first place. So if you try this experiment, it is essential that you not mistake your sociopathy for mere egotism. One way to tell the difference:

Let's say someone at work is promoted ahead of you. If you think: "I'm waaaaaay better than that guy; he's not fit to lick my n*ts@ck! My bosses are idiots!" <-- Congratulations! You're an egotist. Have a child! If on the other hand you think: "I'm waaaaaay better than that guy; he's not fit to lick my n*ts@ck! My bosses are idiots! And that is why I killed them all and buried their bodies in a shallow grave and may or may not've eaten their livers with fava beans and a nice Chianti." <--- Do NOT, repeat NOT, have kids because you're a sociopath.

Plus? You're a bit of a pussy because real men drink beer, not wine.

2 I explained what this meant in that previous post but rather than send you there or describe this issue in another way, I'll just save us all the trouble and quote myself here:
Ian, last year, was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. Which means he has a hard time understanding spoken instructions, especially if they're relatively complex. It also means that what you and I hear as background noise, he hears as sound that is on an even footing with foreground noise; i.e., the kid whispering to another kid in class behind him is of equal import to him as the teacher up in front of the class giving instructions on how to do long division. It's not a mere distraction; it would be equally valid to say the teacher was the distraction, because Ian doesn't choose which sounds to key on.

And so when he would say to me [when we did his homework together], as I got angry with him, "I am listening. I just don't get you," he was not being lazy or stubborn or lying. He really just didn't understand.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Unfinished Businesses

In this post, I edited together a series of (mostly well-known) song count-ins and promised to reveal all of them to you. I got to the third revelation and got as bored with this series of posts as you foax evidently were from post one.

So to get it over with, here's the video again:



And here, in order, are the songs and artists:
"I Saw Her Standing There" (Beatles)
"Taxman" (Beatles)
"Wooly Bully" (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs)

"Instant Karma" (John Lennon)
"Slip Kid" (The Who)
"Good Lovin'" (Rascals)
"Mother's Lament" (Cream)
"Yer Blues" (Beatles)
"Vertigo" (U2)
"Sgt Pepper (Reprise)" (Beatles)
"I've Been Away" (Who)
"All Your Toys" (Monkees)

There. Done.
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At one point a few months ago, I had an idea about writing a post the ultimate point of which now escapes me, but it was going to be one in which I portrayed myself as both the "before" and "after" in a Rock Hard Abs type ad. I sucked in my rather capacious gut and tried to take the "After" pix first, but they turned out so pathetic — in fact, so patently "Before"-looking — that I just gave up on the whole idea. These, below, were the two best Supposed-To-Be-"After" shots, which I thought I might be able to tweak into looking more "After"ish in Fireworks, but decided, ultimately, not even to try:

I couldn't get the stupid fucking camera not to flash and so that there is why you see the reflections of the flashes in the mirror. I wanted the pix to be darker so that they would be murky enough that I might be able to pass off the fat ripples as, like, Ripped Muscle Lines, but as you can see that didn't work, either.

Also, I have what one doctor who examined me called (no lie) "Asymmetrical Chubs". "Chubs" was his word for what the rest of the world calls "Love Handles" or "Muffin Tops" or "Lard-A$$ery in the Waist-al Area". What he meant by that was that the Love Handle on the left there — which would seem to be my right-side Chub but, correcting for mirror-reversal, is actually my left-side Chub — is noticeably Chubbier than my right-side Chub, depicted, above, on the right, seemingly making it the left-side Chub, but actually being the right-side Chub because of mirror-reversal spacetime distortion.

So, in short, I'm even more of a fat-@$$ on my left side.

But this asymmetry is only in the Chubbal area! (An ectopic pregnancy?) Because my left arm isn't fatter than my right nor is my left leg fatter than its right-side counterpart and my moobs are pretty symmetrical (full; round; nourishing-looking) and both of my nuts are roughly the same size, a fact I can assure you of because I just spent at least an hour-and-a-half ... um ... let's say "manually measuring" them. Weird!
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This here below is an actual Xmas Flag I passed on one of my runs around town. You'll need to pause it at the 20 second mark to see what I'm talking about:

Yep. An Irish Holy Family: O'Holy Night. With the apostrophe and everything. 

Jebus Was A Mick!
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Okay, here's the last piece of crap flotsam that I had sitting around unpublished in my blogger account:


This is little Ian going (sonically) backward in time because I synced some of the mp3s of him that I made over the years to these videos of his baseball team. "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" is from like 6 years ago, when he was 5; "Baby Homer!" must be from when he was like 3; and "Merry Christmas!" is from when he was probably less than 2.

Incidentally, Chris (aka, "Wombat") and Vicki's baby is named Abigail, not Homer, and she's like 8 now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

R2C2 (4 Phillies Phans Only)

Pix already on Teh Interwebs (sent to me by Teh 'Bro):















Grillin' Teh 'Dad

I ran 6.34 miles (in 57:30; 9:05 pace) in this weather and I beg to differ with Teh Weather Channel on this "felt like" issue. It was 15 degrees but it FELT LIKE my n*ts@ck had frozen and could be easily shattered into smithereens with one tap of one of those rubber hammer reflex-testing gizmos that doctors have.

That's how it felt at 4:45 a.m.
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And so but I, armed with Emy's questions (and my own), and Teh 'Bride, armed with a grade school composition book to take notes, went for our weekly visit to Teh 'Dad's place of residence, where he resides, and were determined to be all, "Spill it, Old Man!1!" to get him to tell us what he knew about the Quislings1

I started off with an easy one, because new-found cousin Emy really wanted to fill in the essentials, and so she'd asked me what about this and I didn't know so I said I'd ask Teh 'Dad: What did the "A." in Glaven A. Quisling's name stand for?

Get this:

Aloysius!  

Hahahahahaha! Luuuzer! Still, it's a better name than his sister Etheldreda's. And that was her first name.

But Teh 'Dad met my grandfather in like 1948 and the latter was dead by April of 1949, so there wasn't much Teh 'Dad knew firsthand. Personally, I wanted to know why GAQ might have been hated so much by his sister that he'd been Shunned Into Oblivion by her.

I was starting to think it might have had something to do with his sense of humor, because when Frank and Emy contacted me and asked about Glaven A., I tried to remember what Teh 'Mom, in her anecdotes, had said about him. And the first memory I had was this vague one:

G.A. Quisling's parents both died by the time he was like 12, so he was raised by his Uncle Joe, who was known as Teh Monsignor, because he was this Big Wig Catholic Monsignor in NYC and was so famous that his sermons were frequently referred to, and sometimes even printed whole, in the New York Times. And so this guy raised my grandfather and his three older sisters. And Teh 'Mom said the guy was a real Anglophile, even though he was of Irish extraction just like the rest of us Dirty Micks. He used to go to England every year. And one year, he took my grandfather. And on the way back from England, the ship they were on had to dock at an Irish port for a few hours for some reason or other. And so possibly for no other reason than to get Teh Monsignor's goat, Young Glaven ran down the gangplank, knelt on the ground and kissed the Irish soil, then ran back up the gangplank.

I remembered that on my own from what Teh 'Mom had said. What I didn't remember was this:

Teh 'Dad reminded me, when I asked if this story was accurate, that the Monsignor's reprimand to Grandpa Glaven was: "Glaven, once again, you have absolutely disgraced me." 

Hahahahahaha! My grandfather was a bit of a dick! No wonder Teh 'Mom named me after him! Teh 'Mom, by the way — who was always veddy proper and repressed, like her own mother  (my grandmother) — laughed and laughed when she told this story.

And so I asked Teh 'Dad what G.A. Quisling was like; and Teh 'D. sez, "O, he was a terrible razzer!" I asked, "Did he razz you when you and Mom were dating?" And he sez, "No, he didn't razz me, but he was a terrible razzer."

Now, at one point in the e-mail exchange I was having with Emy, she sez that Eleanor, her grandmother (and my grandfather's sister), was a wonderful person, but no one would ever have accused her of having a great sense of humor. And it was at this point that things kinda-sorta started to fall into place.

Because here is one other story I remembered Teh 'Mom's often recounting: Teh Monsignor paid for Glaven's A.'s education (but the sisters? Come on! They were just women! You no more needed to send them to college than you did your family pet), and while in college (at Catholic U., naturally2), Glaven would come home on breaks. And Teh 'Mom sez, "He would administer 'intelligence tests' to his sisters and then pretend to grade them. Afterwards, he would solemnly give the results: 'Alice: Genius. Tedda: Genius. Eleanor: ... Imbecile.' And his sister Eleanor would get so angry! She would insist on taking the test again, naturally achieving the status of 'imbecile' again. And again. And again. It never occurred to her that he was kidding her." 

Hahahahaha! I really wish I had met this guy! What a Class-A Dick (in the good sense)!

And so there, I think, must be the root of Teh Shunning: The younger brother who got the education and was a relentless teaser etc., etc. I can't prove this, but it seems the most likely reason based on the evidence at hand.

Anyroad, don't feel too bad for Eleanor. Teh Monsignor owned this estate, called Ethelwold, in Morristown, NJ — it had its own fucking chapel, for the lurve of Sweet Baby Jebus! — and when he died he left it to his nieces and nephew. Apparently, Eleanor just took up residence there with her family. Teh 'Dad, laughing: "And your grandfather would send her a bill every year for rent due, and she never paid it. He did it just to razz her." Teh 'Dad also said that, when the estate was sold some time in the 1950s, Teh 'Mom wanted him to pursue getting her fair share. But Teh 'Dad refused, saying, "That's your family." (This may have been the only time Teh 'Dad openly defied Teh 'Mom.) Teh 'Mom let the matter drop.
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Other revelations:

Teh 'Dad used to stay in the same room as Teh 'Mom's older brother, Glaven, Jr., when he'd come up to NYC to visit her every weekend while they were dating. Glaven was about four years younger than Teh 'Dad. He used to keep the window open in his bedroom no matter what the weather. "I was freezing on some nights!" Teh 'Dad sez. "Finally, I sheepishly went up to your uncle and said [Teh 'Dad's voice gets all quiet here], 'You know, Glaven, I'm kinda feeble. Do you think I could have a blanket?' 'Sure thing, Frank! Here, take three!'"

My uncle Glaven was in the SeaBees during WWII, in the Pacific Theater. Teh 'Dad: "Those guys were dumb as shit!" [Teh 'Bride gets all giggly, here, because she never hears Teh 'Dad cuss, which he rarely does.] "Well, they were nuts, anyway, because they had to volunteer for that! I'm a patriot, but there's no way you would have gotten me to sneak into enemy territory before the invasion to build bridges and whatnot" [which is evidently what the SeaBees did].

I asked Teh 'Dad about how he met and married Teh 'Mom:
I can recall the first day that I met your mother. It was on a blind date. From the first moment when I met her, I knew I wanted to marry her. It wasn't merely her extreme good looks, it was her whole personality. She was completely without pretension and she said exactly what she felt.
I can recall the first day I proposed. We left her New York home to go across the river to Palisades Park. We took a ride on the roller coaster and in the midst of the ride, [Teh 'Mom] lost her purse with some money in it. After the ride, I went into the area where I thought the purse fell. I was scared to death. The coaster cars were whirling around and I was hopping over the wooden structure wondering if I would come out alive. By some miracle, I saw the purse and when I gave it to her I said "Now will you marry me?" All she said was I will think about it.
Hahahahahaha! "I'll think about it"!

This was evidently true, though.

Because when we were kids, we used to ask Teh 'Mom why she'd married Teh 'Dad and she said the the same thing: that he'd proposed and she's responded "I'll think about it." And, according to her (though Teh 'Dad disputes this part), after she gave him that semi-brush off, he kinda made himself scarce. And when he was gone she realized how much she missed him.

Because before dating Teh 'Dad, Teh 'Mom (who was all of 21when they did marry) had been close-to-engaged to her previous boyfriend, whose name was — I swear to Baby Jebus — Romeo A. Lawonga, Jr. Now, I can't swear I spelled "Lawonga" correctly, but that is at least a phonetic rendering of how Teh 'Mom pronounced his name. And we would ask her, "Well, why'd you break it off with him?" And she said she didn't want to go through life as Mrs. Romeo A. Lawonga, Jr., and didn't really want to be part of a family mean or stupid enough to name someone "Romeo A. Lawonga" and then name the next generation of male Lawongas "Romeo A. Lawonga, Jr." and she, Teh 'Mom, just had a vision of herself giving birth to some kid who'd be saddled with the name Romeo A. Lawonga III and she didn't want to do that to an innocent baby.

Basically, this was Teh 'Mom's way of saying she didn't love Romeo A. Lawonga, Jr.

And so but why had she given Teh 'Dad the semi-brush off? Well, even though Teh 'Dad was six years older than Teh 'Mom, she thought he was "a kid" because of how young he looked3 and she wasn't sure she wanted to get married right out of college, etc.

But what attracted her to him?

Teh 'Mom thought all the other "boys" she dated were basically saps. She wanted to talk about books and politics and serious stuff, but they, to her ears, just babbled about trivial things. But with Teh 'Dad, any book she brought up, he'd read and could talk about knowledgeably ... expertly, even. It didn't matter what the subject; he seemed to have read, and understood, everything4. And Teh 'Mom saw these other silly girls kinda throwing themselves at Teh 'Dad (because he was considered what they called in those days "a catch"), but he ignored them and seemed to like the fact that she, Teh 'Mom, was not silly or frivilous.

And that was when she realized she loved him.
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1 If you did not read yesterday post, you have no fucking clue what I'm talking about, here. 

But that's not my problem.

2 Incidentally, according to Teh 'Dad: "Your grandfather was accepted at Georgetown in DC. Until the day he left for college, he thought that was where he was going. But on the day of departure, he discovered that Teh Monsignor had enrolled him in Catholic University because Georgetown was too heathen." Even though the latter is a Jesuit University. Teh Monsignor may have been involved in the founding of Catholic University.

Teh Monsignor later paid for my grandfather to attend Fordhan Law, too.

But his chick nieces? Nothing.

3 Understandable: this here is a pic of how Teh 'Dad looked at 27. Teh 'Mom sez Teh 'Dad used to wear homberg hats to try to make himself look older and that every time they went to a dance, his hat would get stolen out of the coat room. And Teh 'Mom hinted that she may have been behind these petty thefts because she was trying to convince Teh 'Dad not to wear hombergs because they were old man hats and he looked like he was 16 and his young head with that homberg on top of it made him look ridiculous.

4 This is true. I remember dinner conversations in my childhood home in which Teh 'Dad had been persuaded to talk about, say, Aristotle's Theories on Drama, and Teh 'Dad would go on for paragraphs. And I remember these mostly because, as one of the youngest kids, I was bored out of my skull by these conversations because I didn't understand them, but my older siblings seemed to. And I despaired of ever being able to understand them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pushing Even Further Into Teh Bush

In a recent post titled "A Brief Excursion Into The Tangled Underbrush of Heisenberg Family History" — a possibly unfortunate choice of potentially charged title words that may well have contributed as much as anything else to my blog's being scoped out, however temporarily, by a Polish Porno site, an issue I hope I have remedied with this current post's more subdued, adianoeta-free title — I mentioned that, over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was contacted — via, quaintly enough, actual, honest-to-Jebus dead-treeware letter format (and I couldn't tell you when I last received an actual postman-delivered letter before this) — by a cousin on my mother's side that I didn't even know I had. Seems we share a common set of great-grandparents, his grandmother having been my grandfather's eldest sister.

This cousin — let's call him Frank, not just because that's his name, but also because roughly 47% of my male relatives, on both the Quisling and Heisenberg side, are named "Frank", including Teh 'Dad and my eldest brother; as for the issue of how many of my female relatives are named "Frank", it's just best not to ask — informed me in his missive that he thought (as it turns out, correctly) we might be related. His letter included an obituary from The Terrorist-Coddling, America-Hating Times (now known as The New York Times; of course, back in 1949, New York's name was "Terrorist-Coddling-America-Hatingville" so the Times' old name made sense at the time) for my maternal grandfather, who died roughly 7 months before my parents married. Brand-new cousin Frank knew that that guy was his grandmother's brother and he reckoned that if I were that guy's grandson, we, he and I, would thus be cousins at some remove that only a genealogy geek would know or care about. Which we are; the documentary evidence fully supports this conclusion. But as I noted in that earlier post, what sealed the deal for Teh 'Bride — proved to her satisfaction that this had to be an actual long-lost relative — was this throw-away line in Frank's letter: "One of the reasons for our1 curiosity [about your branch of the Quisling family] is that Glaven Quisling [i.e., my grandfather] was never spoken of by our grandmother or parents."

My namesake, Glaven Q. [1898-1949], had been shunned by his eldest sister — to the point of being "disappeared" from the family history! To which revelation Teh 'Bride's reaction was, "O, they're related to you on you mother's side, all right!" (to understand which (non-seminal) ejaculation, you really would have to go back to that earlier post and read up on the Irish Catholic Tradition of "Shunning", which Teh 'Mom did not invent, but, historians agree, she did perfect). As far as Teh 'B. was concerned, any con artist with as-yet-unrevealed ulterior motives could have dug up the Times obituary to gain my trust before revealing his get-rich-quick-via-Nigerian-royalty scam; but that casual mention of the Quisling Tradition of Shunning simply could not be faked. (Of course it could be now, since I just told all six of you people about it.)

This led to a series of e-mails between, mostly, Emy and me (though I did cc Frank), because as it turns out, it was Emy, not Frank, who really cared about the genealogy of the Quisling Family and she thought I might be able to fill in some gaps for her. (To which the collective reaction of my regular readers should be: Pfffttt! Riiiight.) Because of her grandmother's Shunning-With-Extreme-Prejudice, Emy did not know anything about my branch of the Quislings, and even at one point revealed that she had seen, as a young girl of seven years of age, my grandfather's name on some piece of family memorabilia or other and had asked her grandmother —  Eleanor by name — who this mysterious "Glaven A. Quisling" who was being mentioned in the same breath with Eleanor's known siblings, Alice and (I swear to God) Etheldreda ("Tedda"), might be; to which Grandma Eleanor responded that GAQ was her brother and left young Emy with the impression that he had died in childhood — not a lie, exactly, because he did die, only it was like 30 or so years subsequent to his childhood. And that was the only time Emy had ever heard Eleanor speak of Glaven Q., and even then only because she, Emy, had brought him up.

Emy was trying to pick my brains about the family history of this branch of Teh Quislings so she could fill in her genealogy charts and whatnot, I guess. She actually could not have picked a less appropriate Quisling descendant than I for this task.

Emy foolishly believed I might be able to fill in the gaps going back to when the Quislings came to America from Ireland sometime in the 19th century, but any of that oral history, assuming it ever existed, died with Teh 'Mom back in 2001; and I'm not at all sure it ever existed, because I myself have no memory of Teh 'Mom's ever having spoken of her paternal grandparents much less her great-grandparents. Why would she? They had all died before she was even born and so were probably as alien to her as my maternal grandparents are to me. Plus, I just am not that into genealogy. I always liked the anecdotes Teh 'Mom would tell about her parents and her (maternal) Nanna; and I also liked Teh 'Dad's stories about his parents, who did live long enough for me to remember them. Beyond that, things got murky and too entangled for me to make sense of because, being Irish Catholic on both sides, I had ancestors who bred like rabbits and then fucking named every male child either "Frank" or "Joseph" or "Glaven", so who could keep track?

But I knew my best source for more information on Teh Quislings would be Teh 'Dad, who's 88 now, and whose memory is not, strictly speaking, in the best of shape, a situation made slightly more perilously mine-strewn, informationally speaking, by the fact that Teh 'Dad was always ... not mendacious, per se; let's just say "a bit of a fabulist2" and leave it at that.

And so instead of asking Teh 'Dad about what Emy cared about, I asked him about what I cared about: Why did he think Eleanor had Permanently Shunned my namesake, Glaven A. Quisling3? Among other things.

And so those of you who have waded through this lengthy preamble will be rewarded for it tomorrow because I know many of you lurve Teh 'Dad, and it was to Teh 'Dad that I turned to try to get some answers (while Teh 'Bride took copious notes); and so most of what you'll see in tomorrow's post will be, essentially, transcriptions of Teh 'Dad's memories of his wife's (aka Teh 'Mom's) family.
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From Teh 'Bro's Family Treasure Trove (aka, boxes o' crap he rescued from Teh Heisenberg Homestead when we sold it a few years ago):
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Glaven A. Quisling (my grandfather); my grandmother; Teh 'Mom (age about 16? mid-1940s?); my Uncle Joe
Teh 'Mom as a toddler with my uncle, Glaven Quisling, Jr.. Somewhere in NYC
Teh 'Dad in uniform, back in the Daze when he was fighting Adolph Hitler, whom Teh 'Dad likes to call "Easy Al" Hitler, who, incidentally, WAS WORSE THAN HITLER!1! (But not as bad as Obama.)
Teh HeisenDad probably around the time of my parents' wedding in 1949? Just a guess. Why else would he be wearing the monkey suit? Incidentally, Ladies, he's single now. I'm telling you that because, well ... HUBBA-HUBBA, am I right? But Ladies, please be tasteful with your remarks in the comments because it IS my Dad, after all. And I swear I will DELETE all comments of the "Where did those looks go when it came to you, G?" nature! I'LL DO IT!1!
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 3.1 miles on Morrissey (pussy-@$$ recumbent exercise bike, in case you never made his pussy-@$$ acquaintance) this morning in 10 minutes. I took it easy on him. Also, the usual exercises and yoga with junkless wonder Rodney Yee.
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1 The "our" in Frank's letter referred to him and another cousin from his branch of the family, Emy, who lives in San Francisco and who'd done the research that lead to the discovery of this, my, Legendary and Long Lost Tribe of Quislings, and at whose urging he had written me. This took some of the sting out of recent events because, even though the Phillies didn't win the World Series, it's nice to know that one of my cousins, Emy, lives in SF and thus the Title of World Champs of Baseball has at least been kept in the family.

2 Which, according to my Mac's dictionary, means: "a liar, esp. a person who invents elaborate, dishonest stories." Which, yeah, is waaaaay better than calling Teh 'Dad mendacious.

3 For those of you who don't already know this because you only come to this site for the Polish Porno, I was born on Glaven A.'s birthday, which is why my name is Glaven Quisling Heisenberg instead of something lame like "Andrew", which is what Teh 'Mom said she'd have named me if I hadn't clung for dear life on to the walls of her uterus until just past Midnight on May 15, 1960. Actually, it wasn't so much that I clung to anything as it was that I was a breech, emerging @$$-first, which is just about the worst way you can emerge and is especially bad if you're a flat-@$$ed Irish baby; because what is there for the doctor to grab and yank you out by? But I was the sixth of Teh 'Mom's seven children and by this point she was probably capable of popping 'em out like a Pez Dispenser, and so that's why I never heard that I "Nearly Killed" Teh 'Mom from Teh 'Mom herself. No. My oldest sister told me that when I was like 9.

At least she didn't Shun me. Although you know how it is with family: Sometimes a Good Shunning seems vastly preferable.