Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Stupid Kids Ruined Everything

A few months ago our family endured an experience that will forever live in infamy, now an inextricable part of Hall family lore that Aimee and I will tell until we die, and maybe even after that. My daughter Jillian, then two and a half, spread diaper content all over the room while she refused to nap. This was all accomplished while she remained in the crib. And you needn't underestimate the phrase all over the room; when I came into the room she was literally painting the walls with it. This diaper content was on the walls, on the crib, on the crib mattress, on the mouse pad that was on the desk across the room, on the nearby rocking chair, all over the carpet, and defying the laws of physics, under the crib. I was rendered speechless as I gazed upon the scene, not comprehending how to process the moment or what to do about it. I had never encountered such a disgusting scene in my entire life, so I needed a moment to step out and gather myself to decide how to go about restoring order. I rinsed Jillian off as thoroughly as is legal, trying to keep her filthy hands out of her mouth. Being somewhat of a neat freak, I had to completely subdue my repulsion at the incident and accept that I was going to be disgusting after this too.

After her thorough scrubbing I left Jilly in the bath for approximately three hours while I went to work (don't worry about her - she'd move into the bath if she could). For a moment, I fantasized about the few blissful months of my life when I lived by myself, a period of uninterrupted tidiness and quiescence. (Other men fantasize about beautiful women and a life of luxury; I fantasize about cleanliness and time to myself.) Having cleaned up every inch of the room and disinfected myself, I reflected on the previous several hours of what should have been abject misery. I found that I hadn't worked in that cesspool grudgingly, with no self-pity, and even the disgust had mostly disappeared. This episode helped me realize that I'm thoroughly a father now, that all of the lessons and examples of what it means to be a real man and a good dad had embedded themselves in my character.

In my view, there are two basic options to responding to how you're raised: adopting those principles or rejecting them. My home was a big family in a small house; none of my parents or siblings are particularly demure or unopinionated, the TV and music devices constantly played, and something was always going on. Many people growing up in those circumstances seek that out the rest of their lives, but I developed a longing for quiet and solitude. From my teens onward, I dreamed of becoming a translator of ancient documents, scouring dusty texts in a locked basement somewhere. My other dreams situations were a permutation of this scenario, where I could be around other people at my leisure and of my choosing. Time and again God has shown me that is not what He intends for me; I have something to offer others and those same people have something to offer me.

More recently I had another moment of duress which eventually resulted in my edification. I was experiencing a high degree of stress in virtually every component of my life - at work, domestically, with my church duties, with my health, and trying to decide upon future endeavors - and found myself with precious little patience or anything else left to give. One afternoon after yet another soul-sucking day at work, I came home to a messy house with a lot on my mind. Not long after, my toddler and my baby began shrieking in unison (a condition I refer to as the Lynnwood Children's Chorus). Neither of the two could be consoled by conventional means despite our best efforts. I wanted to scream, if nothing else to show my kids how annoying they were. I was on my last nerve and Jillian and Jason were relentless in their attempts to deafen us. I walked into my room to collect my feelings and strategize what the next step would be; it was in this moment that I decided to take charge and at minimum spare Aimee some of the agony. I grabbed both of the kids and made them come into my room where we all laid down. While they continued to scream, I calmly read to them and held them closely.
Instead of being annoyed and frustrated with them, I wanted to soothe them and bring them some peace. I pulled them even closer and continued to read and sing to my kids until one of the rarest of domestic miracles occurred: they both fell asleep at the same time.

Only in the aftermath did it dawn on me what had occurred. In the moment, my feelings were set aside and I just gave what I had to my family. My children were granted a little bit of peace as was my wife. As a Christian I strive to be more Christlike, to apply the principles of scripture and do my part to become worthy of the Lord's blessings. That day, Jillian and Jason gave me an opportunity to serve and realize that I have at least in part become the person I have always hoped to be.

My family has always inspired me and given me reason to do and be better. One word that isn't used often to describe Aimee is heroic, but it should be. She once told me that she didn't have those mood swings like most pregnant women which is accurate; it's more of a constant state of nastiness and displeasure. Aimee on the whole is an excellent person, admirable in countless ways. But I've never been more impressed with another human being as I was each time she gave birth to our children. When she bore Jilly (it minimizes Aimee's role to say "when Jilly was born," like it just sort of happened during a commercial break), Aimee kept her wits about her all throughout labor. Deprived of food, drink, and sleep by the illogical rules of the hospital, Aimee remained polite, considerate, and focused only on her baby. When she gave birth to Jason, this time outside the hospital and without the aid of medication, she showed a toughness and determination I had not seen in her before. Both times I was moved by the tremendous character of my wife, reminding me how much God has blessed me in letting me be a part of this family. I felt it keenly a month ago when Jason first really began smiling and I wanted to know how to make him smile. He isn't quite ticklish, he doesn't like being whooshed around, so then I stuck my tongue out at him. He smiled! I kept doing it and he kept enjoying it. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, seeing my baby smile and knowing that I was responsible for it.
Getting married and having kids changes everything. Free time evaporates, cash flow shrinks, quiet disappears, and stress abounds. My family is messy, in a housekeeping sense and otherwise. My peaceful, predictable life is over, but I couldn't be happier about it. Aimee, Jason, and Jillian have given me a far better life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ACLU: CIA Interrogators Use of "Pretty Please" Insincere, Insulting

The post-Bushian national security paradigm still has yet to please the American Civil Liberties Union. "In our evaluation of the interrogation of terror suspects under this administration has been discourteous, even downright rude," said spokesman Hugh Giass. "In many cases, these interrogators don't seem to mean it when they politely request information."

Among other reported abuses of individuals accused of mercenary actions are sarcasm, lack of personal trainers, and unfluffed pillows.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why Political "Sex Scandals" Are Relevant

In the era of the Roman Empire, seekers of office would wear the whitest clothing they could find. White has always been a symbol of purity, in this case the purity of truth. Candor was the premium selling point of the day, hence the origin of the word "candidate." Promises and intentions are all any political candidate really has in running, so the forthrightness and dedication in pursuing those promises become the capital of the candidate who is elected to office.

Knowing someone is a promise-keeper is important for obvious reasons: you can only trust someone you know will get the job done. Faith in God is based in knowing that obedience is blessed and sin is punished without variability. Faith in a politician is based on his or her ability to deliver on promises made to the voting public. One easy way to know a politician is not a truthful person is to learn of their marital infidelity.

Who cares what goes on between two consenting adults? Why is someone's personal sex life relevant? It's not that what goes on behind closed doors that's the business of the people, it is the dishonesty and gigantic moral failing of adultery that is meaningful for voters. Whatever David Archuleta's dad did in the back of the massage parlor is meaningless to us; what Senator Ensign of Nevada did proves that he is a liar, unable to keep a central promise in his life. If Sen. Ensign broke the covenant with his wife, whom he presumably loves, what other promises at stake can be tossed away? For all the politicians like Ensign, Larry Craig, Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, Mark Foley and the rest, the questions remains: if they can screw over the people in their life they are supposed to hold most dear, what's to stop them from screwing you?

Politicians are free to have private lives and do more or less what they wish when they get home with whomever. But when the public is availed of knowledge of the core dishonesty of one its supposed servants via adultery, all of the promises and intentions of that individual may be called into question.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Superman Returns...to Suck

Am I really writing a review about a movie I only watched half of on a sleepy Saturday on cable? Oh yeah, baby. Superman Returns stinks like a crowded Croatian bus in the summer. Where to begin? Somehow, a $200 million movie looked cheap. Brandon Routh, who will be appearing in an upcoming production called Life is Hot in Cracktown, managed to render DC Comics' most boring hero even more mind-numbing. The movie is dark, perhaps to reflect the mood of viewers who had to pay money to watch this, when Superman represents American exceptionalism and a bright future. I can't tell if Kate Bosworth (as Lois Lane) can't act her way out of a wet paper bag or if her character is just that poorly written. Here's a movie twist that would actually be interesting: have the illegitimate kid of questionable parentage not be the child of the hero. Not that I'm saying the kid is Superman's...wouldn't want to spoil that mystery solvable only by Gil Grissom and team. As for the very talented if overrated Kevin Spacey, his performance is cartoonish, which wouldn't be a problem except the rest of the movie isn't cartoonish, but is brooding and emo. Members of Good Charlotte think this movie needs to man up a bit.

The worst aspect of the movie? It's boring. When the special effects aren't hard to see because it's so dark, they're stupid and fake looking. The big action sequences are not the least bit tense, dramatic, or exciting. You don't care about anybody in the movie; I held out some sympathy for Superman's kid...I mean the kid of mysterious parentage, 'cause it's hard to guess...but I turned against him because of his annoying floppy hair. It's not the kid's fault. Tons of parents today think their sons should look like the mop-topped whiner in Liar Liar.

Superman Returns is a mopey, boring mess. All that's missing is some guyliner for Superman and a Saves the Day soundtrack.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Favre on Childress: He Misunderstood; I Want to be an Actual Viking

In an interview with the Associated Press, Brett Favre clarified his decision to stay retired from the NFL. "Coach Childress misunderstood when I said I wanted to be a viking. Ever since I read about Eric the Red in one of my kid's books, I felt a kinship to the Norse people and desired to be united with them."

Minnesota head coach Brad Childress explained, "I mistakenly thought that Brett's comments meant he wanted to join our football team. He agreed to meet with me because sources told him that I was an expert in Norse mythology, particularly in funeral rites. If he changes his mind again, we'd be happy to take his call."

Favre declined further comment, but was last seen drafting a petition to remove biased references to "burning" and "pillaging" about the Vikings from Mississippi textbooks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My Stimulus Suggestions

We have wasted vast sums of money trying to "stimulate" the economy, a multi-trillion dollar crapshoot (emphasis on crap) why only seems to benefit companies and organizations friendly to the Obama administration and key members of Congres. Unfortunately for them, the Obama administration and Congress has missed out an opportunity to both stabilize the monetary system and purchase votes for years to come. I've got a couple of ideas that would be much smarter than TARP, the stimulus package, and the Treasury's new proposal to purchase "toxic assets." And at least one of them would be a lot more fun.


My Joke Proposal


The government issues vouchers for everyone to go buy lottery tickets - $10, $100, whatever. The vouchers are redeemed for lottery tickets at participating retail locations who would continue to get whatever cut they presently do. This lottery wouldn't be so winner-takes-most; there would be lots of prizes worth tens of thousands, maybe via scratch-off games, pick-six, etc.


The advantages of this option over the present stimulus packages? It's fun. Education is funded by these lotteries, which Obama keeps telling us is the key to sustainable long-range growth. Retail locations will earn whatever fee they do for carrying the lottery, plus all of the additional patrons are bound to buy other stuff while they're in there. Increased presence in the stores increases demand, which is the Keynesian principal Team Obama is counting on with the stimulus anyway. Politically, each person would feel like they're personally benefitting from the legislation rather than some vague notion that society is being helped by more bridges or some dumb bank being bailed out. This would be a much better way to buy votes and is still significantly less expensive.


Not a Serious Proposal, but Still Smarter than TARP and any Other Stimulus


My second proposal achieves the aim of TARP, the stimulus package, and these other huge programs, but individual citizens would benefit directly, rather than inefficiently and externally trying to revive the economy. With all of these spending packages (and you Republicans can include your boy W in your list of people to thank) we've spent about $10,000 per taxpayer. Under my plan, taxpayers would register debt accounts at the new federal website, www.calgontakemydebtaway.com, delineating how much of the $10,000 due to them would be funding which accounts. The government would then fund these accounts within a given timeframe. For those who don't have debt accounts, the funds could be used toward a 529 or another long-term type of account, donated to a university, or refused altogether.

This proposal is vastly more effective than the measures the government has taken for a number of reasons. First, it would stabilize banks with an infusion of capital to offset losses from moronic investments like subprime lending (and the result investment products) and which they could subsequently lend, injecting the liquidity in the market which TARP has not. While the government wouldn't be recouping interest from the banks, it also wouldn't be assuming any of the risk of purchasing toxic assets and the possibility of default and collapse by the entities stupid enough to have created the assets in the first place; the government is more likely to lose significantly more money in that way than in not recovering interest. Demand would increase as people don't have to pay down credit card balances or car payments. Mortgages which now hang in the balance would be brought to safety, with creditors being able to recapture the entirety of what they're owed, stabilizing the housing industry. Millions of people would benefit directly rather than have to try to understand how in the big picture the government's actions don't just benefit the rich and their friends/cronies.

Moreover, trillions of dollars are more wisely spent in the hands of the populace rather than concentrated in the accounts of the few. The Vote Purchasing Act of 2009 would ensure incumbents several re-elections and while being completely unconstitutional and morally wrong (no more so than the present course), it would be a vast improvement over the measures our government has already taken.

Nobody's Perfect? No Kidding.

Charles Rogers, former second overall pick in the NFL draft, was recently jailed for failing to complete his court-ordered treatment program, stemming from convictions related to drugs and domestic violence. He tested positive for drug use and falsified records indicating he was attending AA meetings. In a country where even a half-hearted, non-specific apology goes a long way (behold Jason Giambi), Rogers explained the incident by saying "I'm not perfect."

Mischa Barton, the drunken former starlet, took "full responsibility" for her DUI, but qualified her assumption of blame by saying "I don't know what to say other than I'm not perfect."

The band Simple Plan even has an entire song about this topic, with the key lyric being "Sorry I'm not perfect."

Even President Obama, after remarking that working class people are bitter clinging to God and guns, reminded us that "as my wife constantly reminds me, I'm not perfect." (Side note: how often does he really need that reminder?)

Perhaps each of us should be grateful that these individuals have that basic understanding of the human condition of imperfection. But admitting "I'm not perfect" is entirely useless; nobody expects perfection, they just expect and hope for better.

Is it too much to ask a star wide receiver not to smack around his fiancee (the mother of his four children)? Is it too much to not do drugs, in violation of the law and your multi-million dollar contract, and then to show up for some meetings?

Can we ask that actresses not get all boozed up before hitting the road, endangering the lives of everybody around?

And is it wrong to ask a sissy rock band not to be perfect, but to suck a lot less?

Nobody expects a presidential candidate to be perfect, but it is certainly within reason to ask that he not denigrate the lives and beliefs of millions of people with public remarks to a target audience.

Rather than dismissing our faults and mistakes as a result of imperfection, wouldn't it behoove us to assume specific responsibility for those shortcomings and misdeeds, to try to discover what is at the root of those problems and then try to fix them? Not being perfect might the reason we screw up in our decisions, but it is not an excuse to not make the effort to make things right.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pink Panther 2 is Coming Out, and You Still Don't Believe in Satan?

I guess whoever the hell inflicted the Steve Martin version of Pink Panther on us has decided that humanity hasn't had enough punishment between a global economic meltdown, 8 years of the Bush administration, Obama's election, wars/rumors of wars, and worst of all, the first Steve Martin Pink Panther. In case you hadn't noticed, Steve Martin hasn't been funny since the Reagan administration. I should have known the first movie was going to be epically bad (rather than just plain bad) when Jason Statham, one of my favorite actors, is killed within 90 seconds. I don't know that I can forgive anyone involved in the making of that movie. It was so horrible, we basically stopped being friends with the couple that took us to the movie just so we didn't have to remember the movie.

And now they've made a second one? The ads are even referencing one of the worst moments of the first movie where Martin attempts to pronounce "hamburger." Being boiled alive would be less painful than another minute of this horrible franchise. These movies prove that Satan exists. If I go to hell, Steve Martin will be saying "hamburger" in his horrible accent while Beyonce stares stupidly on.

Psycho right wing nut jobs: do us all a favor; take a break from bombing abortion clinics and see what you can do about ending the Pink Panther pandemic.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Celebrities Speak Out on America's Courage to Elect a Half-White President

Celebrities gathered together at Jay-Z's 40/40 Club to ring in the new year, but they couldn't stop talking about one thing: America's bold choice to elect a half-white president. "I really think we've come a long way," said the Yankee's Derek Jeter. "It just shows where we are as a country that we can entrust our nation to a guy with a white mom." Teammate Alex Rodriguez added, "I'm still taken aback that the media was so welcoming of someone who ingratiated to them so much - a Democrat, no less."

These Yankees weren't the only sports figures in attendance. Atlanta Hawks point guard Mike Bibby stated that he was grateful to live in a time where we could elect a president with drug problems and an absentee father in his past. NBA star and Olympic gold Medalist Jason Kidd noted, "Electing a president who's never helped a business earn a profit and whose leadership experience wouldn't qualify him to run a Wendy's is just the kind of change we need."

Diva Mariah Carey was most touched of all: "It really moves me that our country elected a male raised by rich white people and educated in Ivy League schools. I think we'd all agree: it's about time."