Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Two-Line Tuesday: Born to Ride

Hey slowpoke,
Get outta my lane! 

How would you caption this picture?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Who?

It’s Oscar Sunday, a day for celebrating the best movies of 2012. Or at least the ones with the biggest advertising budgets. Who is going to win: Argo, Lincoln, or Madagascar 3? If those were the options and I had a vote, I’d vote for Madagascar 3. Is it the best of those three movies? Most likely not, but it’s the only one of that trio that I've watched.

I love movies. I love going to movies. I miss going to movies. Sigh.

In the 39 months since the Little Dude was born, I think Mrs. Dude and I have seen 5 movies in a theater. That’s an average of 1 almost every 8 months, or about as often as I went on dates in high school. None of them were kids’ movies, but none of them were great films either. Also none of them began before 10:00pm, when the Little Dude (and now the Littler Dude) were asleep. Spoiler alert: I think I was probably asleep for parts of them all, too. That’s freakin’ late.

Thanks to my 3-year-old, the majority of movies I’ve seen in the last couple of years have been Pixar, Dreamworks and other animated films at home on the DVD player. Toy Story 1, 2, & 3, Cars 1 & 2, etc. Over and over and over. If nothing else, at least the Little Dude learned to count from watching these movies. Actually those movies usually have pretty good messages about family, friendship or other impressionable subjects that are great for kids of all ages. They also contain great lovable characters that they license the hell out of and we see on objects that my son wants in seemingly every retail store on earth.
Need Buzz Lightyear prosthetic legs? Coming up soon!
I wrote a blog post about our movie outing for 2012. It was about what you’d expect.

If we were going to pay for a babysitter, pay for tickets and go to dinner or get a snack, that’s easily a $100 night. Think I’m going to drop a Benjamin to go see Battleship? I thought the board game itself was lame 30 years ago. I can’t imagine it got better when transferred to celluloid. Despite Brooklyn Decker in the film, I’d rather wait for the dramatization of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Or is that just the first few weeks of The Biggest Loser?
Decker must know a lot about Naval intelligence from her time as a swimsuit model
Being of modest means is only one reason we don’t go to the movies, though. I really would like to see Lincoln, but I also would really like to have clean underwear. Our evenings get consumed with laundry, bills and the other minutiae that make up life. I really don’t understand how parents find the time to do all that stuff and still make it out to the theater on a regular basis. I read about the interesting-sounding movie The Sessions, where Helen Hunt played a sex surrogate. At this point, I’d settle for a dishwashing surrogate.

I used to compile a list of movies I’d like to see someday. But then I realized that my Tivo is backed up with TV shows from 8 months ago. If I can’t carve out 22 minutes to watch those, when will I find 4 hours to watch the next big blockbuster I want to see?

So what’s my big Oscar prediction? I’d bet the bank on Silver Linings Playbook. Is it really the best movie of the year? Probably not. So why then? Because it’s the only nominated film I’ve actually seen.  

What was your favorite movie of 2012? 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rockin' Friday: Iko Iko

For this week’s Rockin’ Friday selection, I made a choice related to the big holiday that occurred earlier this week. No, not Valentine’s Day. Mardi Gras! This past Tuesday was Fat Tuesday and though I personally celebrate that about once a week, this was the big one in New Orleans kicking off the pre-Lent festivities.

Iko Iko is a classic New Orleans song about two tribes battling during Mardi Gras. One tribe’s “spy boy” threatens to set the other’s flag on fire, among other fun activities. Though the song dates back to the mid 1950s, the chorus “Jockamo fino a na ne….” dates back much further and its meaning is not really known.

Iko Iko has been covered by many artists over the years and appeared in countless movies and TV shows. One great scene in Rain Man features it playing when Dustin Hoffman is playing Blackjack in Vegas, and winning big. 

The most famous version of Iko is by the Dixie Cups, who recorded it by accident in the 1960s. The band started harmonizing a capella while in the studio one day and didn’t realize that they were being recorded. The producers added some basic rhythm and turned it into a big hit.

Here's a great version led by Nawlins native Dr. John, with a Hall of Fame supporting cast: 

What's your favorite version of Iko Iko or Mardi Gras themed music? 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dairy Delight

Dealing with a picky eater is challenging. Dealing with a kid who refuses to range beyond his half dozen core foods is exhausting. Every time we leave the house for an extended amount of time we have to pack a full meal for our 3-year-old Little Dude. Needless to say, I can now boil pasta in my sleep. And given our current exhaustion level with a newborn in the house, I often do.  
He would eat pancakes 3 times a day, if given the chance.
So as a parent who has dealt with this for 3+ years, one ongoing concern is how he will get his protein, since he flat-out refuses the protein staples most kids eat: chicken nuggets, hamburgers, pizza, etc. He eats a variety of fruits and even some vegetables, which is great, but protein is such an essential item to have throughout the day for energy.

He has an affinity for hot dogs, but I try not to overdo those even though I buy the nitrate-free ones. I’ve tried cheese, both grilled on buttery bread and fresh from the fridge in slices, strings and cubes and he won’t touch them. I’ve tried bribery and not even the allure of new Hot Wheels is enticing enough to make him give any of these things a shot. As though pizza is such an awful thing.

But there is one thing that really whets his whistle. It’s probably the only thing that I can order him virtually anywhere and he’ll actually consume it. Good old fashioned milk.  You always hear the old wives tales about how “milk is good for your bones”. It turns out that old wives are actually pretty accurate sometimes.  I recently discovered that an 8oz glass has 8 grams of protein, which is not too shabby.
I know the feeling...
Since he started preschool in the fall, the Little Dude burns a lot more energy in the mornings than he used to. There are a lot of days when he’ll come home from school and literally lay prone on the floor because he’s so wiped out. I never knew watercolors could be so exhausting, but I believe Picasso was a tired Dude, too.

So when he needs a pick-me-up in the afternoon, I hand him one of his trusty Cars cups filled with the white creamy goodness that only comes from a cow. That tides him over for the afternoon until dinnertime, when his pickiness resumes. It also gives him the energy to get outside and play. I hope that if he drinks enough milk, he’ll soon be able to start training for the 2028 Olympics because given how he sometimes plays with his stuffed animals I think he’d be a good shot putter. So I’m thankful for the vitamins and nine essential nutrients that I know will help him grow big and strong. And thankful for milk, because I don’t know any other natural way he’d willingly get them.  
Milk tastes better when served by Lightning McQueen
Given how important milk is to my children’s growth, I’m teaming up with the “got milk?” Campaign and Fuel Up to Play 60 for the Breakfast Blitz program to help provide $250,000 in grants to local schools across the country to help give kids greater access to a healthy breakfast. Now through Feb. 17, when you buy milk you can vote to have a portion go to a local school.

If you don’t already know, Fuel Up to Play 60 is a great in-school program designed to show students how to eat right and stay active. I know firsthand that choosing healthy foods and leading an active lifestyle gives me and my family the energy to do the things we love.

Want to learn more about the wonderful benefits of milk? Check out:
·  Sweeps page: MilkMustache.com
·  Hashtag: #BfastBlitz
·  Facebook: Milk Mustache Campaign
·  Twitter: @MilkMustache
·  Pinterest: Milk Mustache Campaign
·  Instagram: Milk Mustache

I wrote this post while participating in the got milk? FUTP60/Breakfast Blitz Promotion and was compensated, though the opinions expressed are entirely 163% mine. For better or worse. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Two-Line Tuesday: Aqualife

Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes
I just hang out with them and their friends. 

How would you caption this picture? 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Grumpy Grammys

After making a seemingly innocuous joke on my Facebook page yesterday:

Several people gave me a hard time about my comment, and even though I’m usually immune to peer pressure, I flipped the telecast on while I did some work.

You should know by now that I am a big music fan, but the great majority (probably at least 90%) of what I like was written and recorded before 1990. I’m not saying that all music today sucks, but come on, have you heard Call Me Maybe? That song is so dumb and completely illogical. No kids today actually call each other. It should have been called Skype Me Maybe or Text Me, LOL.  Either way, it would have been dumb, but at least more contextually accurate.

I missed the first chunk of the show while putting the Little Dude to bed, but put it on in time to see Rihanna sing some song I’d never heard before. I don’t know if it was good or bad because all I could look at was her wig that looked like she shaved a lion’s mane and slapped it on her head.
Call me Simba
Shortly after her performance, Jay-Z, Frank Ocean and a guy who looked like he’d been found in the dumpster behind my college dorm won an award. Congrats.

Homeless chic
The Black Keys were up next and I have to admit, I just don’t understand their music. They grew up in my hometown and are a couple years younger than me, and in theory they play the type of music I’d like. It’s just too loud. Or I’m too old. Listening to it makes me want to eat lunch at 4:30pm.

A cute young lady named Bruno Mars sang some dreck before Sting jumped in and took over with the bass intro to Walking on the Moon. Finally a song I know. (Of course it’s almost 30 years old.) Then Ziggy and Damian Marley jumped on stage for a tribute to their father. Pretty good, though I recently learned that Ziggy Marley’s real name is David, so he’s a couple notches less cool than before.

The Lumineers performed Ho Hey, which I only knew because I’d them seen on Saturday Night Live recently. Not a horrible song, but their attire couldn’t have been any more hipster cliché unless they were actually wearing Zooey Deschanel.

Prince showed up to present an award while dressed as Jackie Onassis and carrying the Mister Peanut’s cane. What ever happened to the badass Prince who just liked to wear a lot of purple velvet? Yes, I miss the ‘80s.

 Can you tell who is who?

Speaking of purple velvet, I dug John Mayer’s homage to Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka.

John Mayer's date brought the Golden Globes to the Grammys this year.

The tributes to rockers who passed over the last year came next, and that was the highlight of the night. Elton John, Mavis Staples and some other youngsters I didn’t know paid tribute to Levon Helm with a great performance of The Weight.  I paid tribute to Levon 9 months ago with that song, so you can say that the producers copied me. But where were Helm’s surviving Band-mates Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson? Probably up on Cripple Creek.

Some other awards were distributed before Frank Ocean slapped on his yellow suit and became Forrest Gump for a song apparently called Forrest Gump. Cool video illusion of Frank running and I bet he was thankful that wearing that sweatband finally paid off.

Adele handed out an award, but frankly all I could think about was how she looked like she stole my 97-year-old Aunt Adele’s linens. They say becoming a parent makes you grow up, but it seems she aged 70 years in 4 months.

To close the show, LL Cool J, Chuck D and some others sang (rapped?) some hip hop. It wasn’t Mama Said Knock You Out, so I lost interest quickly.

The show ended and while I was glad I watched, I wish I knew a few more songs performed. Actually, not really. Fun seems like a decent band, but why does their guitarist have Forrest Gump’s haircut? I also wish there had been less Ryan Seacrest.  Seriously: is there a show on TV that he’s not on?

The Grammys were like the previously mentioned Mister Gump’s famous box of chocolates. Though beforehand I had an idea what I was gonna get and I wasn’t too far off. I can hardly wait until next year.  

What were your highlights and lowlights from this year's Grammy Awards? 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rockin' Friday: Like A Rolling Stone

This week marked the 69th birthday of rock legend Al Kooper. What, you don’t know who that is? Al Kooper fell into playing a crucial role in arguably one of the best rock songs of the 20th century, which just so happens to be this week’s Rockin’ Friday selection. 

Bob Dylan wrote Like a Rolling Stone in 1965 as a way of speaking back to all of the detractors who had given him a hard time. It’s also a fascinating look at social hierarchies. The song’s subject, Miss Lonely, grew up in an affluent lifestyle and seemed to be on easy street, but due to unknown circumstances finds herself on the opposite end of the class structure and now she doesn’t know how to deal with it.

So what does that have to do with Al Kooper? He was an unknown 21 year old pianist who was watching the studio recording of Rolling Stone, which the band was tinkering quite a bit with. At one point, he jumped in on the electric organ, though he was not an experienced player, and improvised the now legendary intro to this classic song. He was in the right place at the right time, unlike Miss Lonely.

The familiar refrain of the song still sounds a powerful message, nearly 50 years after it was written:

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone

Happy Birthday, Mr. Kooper. Rock music is glad you jumped off the sidelines into history.

 What's your favorite Bob Dylan song?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reach the Summit

A lot can change in the course of a year. Perfect example: one year ago today I had one kid and now I have two. The magic of science and calendars is astounding. Also one year ago, I was a novice blogger. I’d been doing it for less than a year and was still learning on the fly, which I guess is still partly true today. But when I attended the inaugural Dad 2.0 Summit last year, I had no idea why I was even there among so many seasoned bloggers. 

This year I returned to the scene of the crime a year older, maybe a smidge wiser and certainly a significant amount more tired. For various reasons both economical and familial, I debated whether or not to attend the event even up to just a couple weeks beforehand. Even though I’d registered last July, I didn’t know if I could make it work. In fact, I sent out a search beacon (via Facebook, naturally) trying to find someone to share my room to help defray costs. Just then, I received a notice that I’d won a free stay at the Four Seasons Houston from Dove Men+Care. Just like their great products, that didn’t stink. Fate wanted me to go, so I went.

I arrived in Houston and as I made my way to the baggage claim, I saw a guy holding a Honda sign for attendees to get chauffeured rides to the hotel. I’ve always wanted someone to pick me up at the airport with a little sign containing my name, but this was probably as close as I’ll ever get so I took it. Along with a couple friends from LA, I ran into Mike Adamick, who I'd met last year, and he joined us for our very smooth ride in a decked out Honda CR-V. Apropos for Texas, I rode shotgun. 

Upon arrival at the Four Seasons, I went to the Dove Men+Care lounge where I received a great straight-razor shave by a local barber named Joe. He took his time and my sensitive skin appreciated it. You can’t rush art.

I changed my clothes and headed to the opening event where I ran into a few friends from last year and some that I only knew online and met in person for the first time. One person I was looking forward to meeting was The Captain. And not just because he’s another Cleveland expatriate. Great writer and great guy. Period.

My left ear hadn’t popped after our flight landed and I could only partially hear all night, so I didn’t join the gang for karaoke that night. I hung out with friends new and old in the hotel lobby bar which was quite entertaining and not only because Lady Gaga was playing next door and her traveling freak show kept passing by looking for her meat dress, presumably for a snack. The NBA's Charlotte Bobcats were staying there, too, which gave me an opportunity to meet another fellow Buckeye:

Former Ohio State hoopster Byron Mullens.
(I'm the one on the left)
My room was great and though I never used the object on the right:

…I had a very comfortable stay.

Sunrise from my 18th floor room
I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and with restored hearing in both ears. The self-described "Forrest Gump" Jeff Pulver gave the opening keynote.  Pulver shared stories about taking risks in life and not being afraid of trying new things, and it's evident that he's not since he was wearing purple glasses, purple polo shirt and purple sneakers,. He made one particular statement that really stuck with me:  “I believe in personal reboots, if something isn’t working out, start over”. He did that several times throughout his career including starting Vonage so I’ll take his word for it.

Several other speakers that morning really opened my eyes to some new possibilities in life, including Alan Kircinek and Three-Headed Dad Jim Lin. The perfect cap to that morning was some epic grilled cheese made by Kraft. I melted like that yellowy goodness between the buttery bread as I devoured my lunch. 

I attended a great session that afternoon about sharing vs. discretion when writing a blog. And that’s all I’m going to say about it.

That night was a casino night which is always fun for someone who doesn’t gamble. Even if it’s fake money. The one thing I confirmed is that I will never understand the game of craps. After the party, I traveled with some new friends to a Karaoke bar nearby. Let’s just say it was obvious who the locals were and who the bloggers were among the performers.
Canadian Idol Chris Read rocks the mic
After a night of way too little sleep, I needed to pack my belongings to head home and was going to skip the morning speakers, but am quite thankful I didn’t. Whit Honea read a piece he’d written about how understanding kids isn’t always as easy as you’d think. That was followed by keynote speaker Brene Brown who gave an incredible talk about Daring Greatly, vulnerability and dealing with pretty much every adverse situation in life. It was likely the highlight of the weekend for me. Other than the grilled cheese. 

After another great panel discussion that afternoon, I chatted with some of the great event sponsors and learned about Jamba Juice’s new kids meals, how great milk is, and that Turtle Wax actually exists beyond 1960s game show reruns.

Oh, and this happened:

I’m already looking forward to throwing some steaks on that thing soon. Thanks, Kraft!

So after I’d waffled on whether or not to go to the event, am I glad I did? Absolutely. I left with tremendous new insight into myself, my goals and more that I never would have anticipated or expected out of the conference. I made new friends and hung out with old ones. I got to spend time with some guys who I’d gotten to know virtually over the last year and picked their brains as much as I could get away with. I’m already looking forward to next year, somewhere in the heart of Texas. (Hopefully not El Paso). 

Special thanks to Doug French and John Pacini for organizing such a great event 
and Dove Men+Care for sponsoring my stay.