Ed and Farrah and Michael and…Jeff?

Lots of people died this week, as they do every week. But this week, the deaths were especially significant to a lot of people, occurring as they did to people fighting for their freedom, and to people an inordinate number of us are familiar with at some level.

For the Iranians, I cheer and hope and pray. I’ve never met a Persian (which they always style themselves as here in the US) who wasn’t good-looking, good-natured and quick-witted. You wonder how their country could get so far gone.

Then there was a little buzz because Ed McMahon died. I was always surprised he didn’t die before Johnny Carson. He always seemed so much older to me. I loved him as the sidekick icon but always thought the Publishers Clearing House thing was sleazy. I hope he didn’t suffer much.

Then there was Farrah. I never had the poster, never would’ve had a pinup in my bedroom. (Even now, my breasts posts here are way gaucher than I’d ever be in real life.) But my proud and enormous mind was definitely mesmerized by “Charlie’s Angels”. I thought Jaclyn Smith was the prettiest at first (and a few years later, Kate Jackson), but Farrah had the smile–and I’ve always been a sucker for a big smile.

I saw the mediocre Sunburn (with Charles Grodin) and Saturn 3 (with Kirk Douglas), and then I didn’t see her much any more. I lostr track roundabout the time of The Burning Bed–which I think pioneered the modern tradition of sex symbols frumping it up to be taken seriously as actresses–a role that she earned praised for but which didn’t seem to lead to anything else.

Then it all seemed to be about the dysfunctional private life. Not a lot to smile about there.

Shortly thereafter, of course, Michael Jackson caused entire TV schedules to be upended with his heart attack. My dad said back around ‘83, when he hit it mega-big, that he thought Jackson would be dead by 40. Only off by a decade, there, pop.

I never bought an album and had completely lost track of Jackson by the time of Thriller. (Too busy playing my own music, I guess.) Catchy stuff, for sure, but not my kind of stuff. Not exactly the Paul Simon level of poetry or the Randy Newman level of irony or the John Lennon level of imagery. But the kids seemed to like it and you could dance to it….

Then Bad seemed to be the begining of the end. (I guess, again, not following closely.) Then all the child molestation accusations.

I make no claims to knowing the truth about that; it’s very easy for me to imagine that he was both remarkably inappropriate and yet not sexual. Find someone without an ulterior motive, you know?

Lastly there was Jeff Goldblum, who didn’t die but instead had the honor of being the fake death on the day when Farrah and Michael died. (Have you ever noticed that? Celebrity deaths are often followed by a fake celebrity death. I thought that immediately when I heard the rumor.)

Weird as it might sound, I’d probably take his death the hardest. I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with Goldblum whether he was turning into a fly, running away from dinosaurs or chasing lectroids across the eighth dimension.

So, glad you’re still with us Jeff. I’m afraid Walter is probably next in the queue.


The inimitable Freeman Hunt has had a blog for quite some time, but I never linked to it because she didn’t blog much. But since the new baby came around she’s stepped it up a bit, so I added her to the roll. She has a couple of posts I wanted to call out, too.

Item the first: He Is Not Coming. This is a rather depressing and scathing indictment on modern society, not entirely undeserved. But I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion. How many people 235 years ago fit the mold that Freeman outlines? A small percentage, to be sure. We have a much smaller percentage today, to be sure, but we also have one-hundred times as many people (in this country). The percentage can afford to be smaller–with the only rub being that there has to be an appreciative audience.

I believe a segment of the audience is getting more receptive with each passing day.

Also, while The Boy and I are looking at learning Latin (on Victor Davis Hanson’s advice), I would note that the Founders did not know the language of relativity, of computing, of information science and so on. The game has changed and education needs to reflect that. Today, the primary skill may be knowing how to sip from the firehose.

The past had its festering effete as well, even if today universal education and socialism has allowed them to spread their disease as a philosophy.

Finally, I’m not sure we need a “he”. I think we need–and may have–a “we”. That’s where the “he"s and "she"s will come from. We don’t need a revolution: We need a hundred revolutions. The rot came from the top down; the cure will come from the bottom up. Economics may work better supply-side; liberty must needs be demanded.

Item the second: Freem also linked to a blog called "Life is Not a Cereal” with an entry on what to do if your homeschooling kids get “school envy”.

Homeschoolers are not immune to “grass is greener”-itis. This is almost entirely resolved by acquainting them with the realities of industrialized schooling? Yes, those kids get to have recess. But, yes, they must take it, whether they want it or not, it is always an exact amount of time, and hell, you never know when you’re going to be stripsearched.

As the entry also points out a little bit of consumerism can take the edge off: Let the kids buy “back to school” supplies or lunchboxes, for example.

Finally, it’s not unheard of for homeschoolers to let their kids take the senior year of high school. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with that, though it’s preferable that they have their college degrees first.

Anyway, check out Freem’s blog. Oh, especially these pictures from her grandfather from 1952. She claims they’re military but they look an awful lot like The Thing From Another World to me….

Well, If You Won’t Come…

…then you’re uninvited!!

Seriously, I’m just keeping my head down on specific political events, but this cracks me up. It was kind of a weenie move to begin with and the rescinding looks particularly foolish and week–and sooooo junior high.

You know, maybe comedians aren’t joking about it now, but the time is going to come when it’s recognized that this is the funniest administration ever.

The Five Dollar Baby

No, not a million dollar baby in a five-and-ten-cent store. A five dollar baby. The five dollar baby. Follow:

I mentioned here that The Boy and The Flower are both lawyers.

It’s not hard to figure out: They both learned quickly that they couldn’t get what they wanted through tantrums. An appeal to an authority called “The Parent Rules” dictated that, if a child had a tantrum, no matter how much a parent wanted to, there was just no way a child could get what he wanted.

This is an effective, if initially confusing, strategy. Because you say, “Oh no! Now I can’t give you the toy because you had a tantrum! I’m so sorry!” And the child becomes confused because he was sure you were the one keeping the toy from him, and yet here you are expressing regret that you can’t give him the toy.

But, you know, that’s really the truth. You want to give your kids what they want. It’s just good parenting that prevents you from doing it.

Anyway, this doesn’t work with The Barbarienne. The slightest refusal–and there are many in a three-year-old’s life–sends her into paroxysms of grief and/or anger. I haven’t quite figured it out. She doesn’t get what she wants from it. But there’s obviously some “reason” she does it anyway.

But it wasn’t always this way. Babies are funny things. There are things you can see on Day 1 that are there on Day 10,000. Essential characteristics. My sister started screaming the day she was born, and she’s still screaming. I was quiet; I’m still quiet.

Some babies cry a lot, some sleep easily, some fuss, some like to be held more than others, and so on. The Barbarienne seldom cried, and slept like a log. Nothing bothered her.

One summer weekend, when she was six months old, we went up to some friends who lived across from Magic Mountain. We barbecued, swam in the pool, and watched the fireworks go up from the park. In five hours, the Barbarienne didn’t cry, until the very end of the night when she was exhausted and needed to be changed. And as soon as she was changed, she went right to sleep.

My friends, who were debating whether or not to have children of their own, got into an argument. (Not a bad one; they’re the sort of couple that has cute arguments all the time.)

The wife said, “You see, babies aren’t that hard. They’re not much trouble.”
The husband replied, “This is perfect-baby. She never cries. Regular babies are difficult!”
And the wife responded, “Lots of babies are just like this!”
Finally, the husband said, “Five dollars! I’ll give you five dollars if you can find another baby like this!”

Hence, the Barbarienne became The Five Dollar Baby.

She was definitely rare, in my experience. I’d like to think it was the culmination of nearly 20 years of experience with the whole gestation/delivery/infant management process that made it possible, but it could just have been luck.

Anyway, at eighteen months, she completely changed and became The Barbarienne. “So, she’s going through terrible twos early,” I thought. My kids do that, so no big deal.

Er. Yeah. It’ll be two years of terrible twos pretty soon here. Why do I feel like this is going to be my life ten years from now?

You See, Bob, It’s A Problem Of Motivation

One of the advantages of home-schooling is that you can motivate your child idiosyncratically. In fact, education should be idiosyncratic: Just logically, you want to maximize what your child learns, so you should really direct it as gingerly as possible.

A simple example is reading material. The most successful English classes I had gave broad parameters for reading material. Meanwhile, the books that everyone has to read, are often loathed for the rest of the student’s life. And very often (kaffcatcherintherye) they’re more about what the teacher thinks will be important and long-lasting versus what actually is.

And, of course, what is important? There are a lot of gray areas.

But I think it’s generally safe to agree that the reading and writing material handed out to early grade-schoolers is pretty worthless. (Same with music handed out to people learning the piano, too! It’s almost like they want reading or playing to be boring.)

So, how to motivate a first- or second-grade reader? Reading’s not so much an issue for The Flower. She likes to read in bed at night.

But writing is more of a problem. First of all, it’s an obsolete skill! (No, really, The Boy’s notes all have to be typed!) But setting aside the issue of writing-by-hand, there’s a matter of what to write.

What motivates The Flower? What makes her want to write and re-write and write some more?


She’s drawing up contracts delineating her rights and responsibilities, what services will be rendered against what the rumener– renumer– what she’s gonna get paid.

Another lawyer.

Well, The Boy went through that phase, and it’s passed. So, there’s always hope.


Previously I linked to Knox’s comment where she linked to the Glenn and Helen show where they interview Robert Epstein on adolescence, and a test designed to measure how adult one is. As you can see here, I just got carried away snarking on the test, which is actually pretty interesting.

More importantly, I agree with the basic topic: Adolescence is a bad idea. I’ll never forget sitting down to my first college course and thinking, “WTF? We could have done this five years ago!”

Even allowing for my high level of comfort with school–I’m a chronic test taker, read for fun, quite good at sitting still for long periods, basically made for school–college is way too late for just about everyone. The Boy, while fine in school, is nowhere near as comfortable and casual about it as I was, and he’s doing just fine in his class. (And he got a strict teacher, he has to turn in his notes, etc. This will work out excellently for him in terms of giving him real world experience for taking more classes.)

Anyway, I love the way the guy, Epstein, attacks the “teen brain” thing. That kind of stuff–the sort of vague assertions made by some segment of brain scientists–always smacks of phrenology to me. Teenagers used to be plenty responsible. Inexperienced, but not stupid.

In fact, the most plausible suggestion I’ve heard about adolescence is that it was created by trade guilds (unions) as a way to eliminate competition.

Well, let’s be honest: It’s hard on the ego. If we let teens work, they’d end up being better at what we do than we are. I mean, sure, we have experience, but they have energy, alertness, enthusiasm–and putting them to work early is the best way to blunt that. Wait, no, that’s not what I meant to say.

Seriously, though: Teens will work hard, for little money, and they’re eager to assume more responsibility. Adults should be afraid of them entering the workplace sooner–they would threaten our ability to slack!

Of course, if we were shrewd and up to the challenge, we could harness their energy in useful ways, and create a brand new, powerful, responsible demographic, and use our experience to direct them in ways ushered in a new era of wealth for everyone.

As always, the kids are all right. It’s the adults that are the problem.

All The Awful Things That Ever Were

In response to the previous post on The Boy’s college career, Knox linked to the Glenn and Helen show where they interview Robert Epstein on adolescence, and a test designed to measure how adult one is.

I got an “"Adultness” Comepetency Score" of 90%. Double-scare quotes! The quotes around “Adultness” are theirs, mine are around the whole phrase. I’m pretty sure you have to be quite mature to use double-scare quotes.

The results page then lists your scores by subject matter. Of course, I’m an old time test-taker. I could get whatever score I wanted. I answered some of the questions “incorrectly” because I they were phrased badly.

For example, “You can earn a high school diploma by completing high school or passing an equivalency test. Do you agree?” Well, no, I don’t, because it’s not true. You can take the GED–though the current California system bars you from taking it pretty much until you’re 18, take that! you overachievers!–but even if you take the GED, you don’t have a high school diploma, and you won’t be treated like you do. (This is along the same lines of The Boy getting his MBA: Getting the sheepskin is about him having options should he need to get a job, even if his current plan is to be an employer rather than an employee.)

I thought it was amusing that I scored 100% on the “managing high-risk behaviors” section. This (for me) has nothing to do with being mature. I just don’t find most high-risk behaviors entertaining. I guess driving counts. But guns? Very few people are accidentally hurt by guns. Guns are meant to be deadly; power tools probably claim more casualties. Cars do by an order of magnitude.

I scored quite badly on the “physical abilities” section (56%). I see what they’re getting at: An adult realizes that he has to take care of his body. But even at my peak fitness, I never regarded myself as “strong” or “flexible”. Those things are relative. And I tend to look at those things–not just physical fitness, but also intelligence–in terms of where they fail (almost always sooner than where I’d like).

Kinda sucks that poor health makes you less adult than a teenage football player.

The more legit one is “Personal Care”. Legit in the sense of being less a relative use of words, versus actually being accurate. My score there was 78%, but I know it’s because I sacrifice elements of personal care (sleep, in particular) for my children. And I suppose most people don’t really have to do that regularly, but the questions are completely context free, and any adult knows that there are plenty of circumstances where you do sacrifice optimum personal behaviors for your children.

But then, as an adult, I know better than to put much stock in an Internet quiz.

The Boy Goes To College

We had planned to send The Boy off for the winter session, but it’s a really, really big deal around here to get a 13-year-old in. The Dean has to give personal permission, papers must be signed, oaths sworn, etc. This all magically vanishes at 14.

Bureaucracy is a wondrous thing.

Not complaining, mind you: There’s still plenty ‘round here to teach him.

Anyway, The Boy is at his first class today. Summer session is a dicey time to start. Classes are relatively intense (two hours a day, every day) and, of course, you have the “teacher factor” magnified. An easy teacher is probably going to be extra easy in the summer, while a harder teacher is going to concentrate all the work he’d normally give into half the time.

He wanted to take a business or economics class–he’s got his eye on an MBA before 20–but they were full. I suggested the cinema class. I figure that it will be interesting, and I hope not to grueling–but it will get him used to being on campus. (And get him some legit university credits.)

Update to come shortly.

Bein’ A Dad

Bein’ a dad isn’t so bad
Except that you’ve gotta feed ‘em!
You gotta shoe ’em and clothe ’em
And try not to loathe ’em
Bug ’em and hug ’em and heed ’em

Bein’ a dad can sure make you mad
Man it even can drive you crazy
Yeah, it’s as hard as it looks
You gotta read ’em dumb books
And you end up despising Walt Disney

Bein’ a dad starts to get radical
When they turn into teenagers
You gotta tighten the screws
Enforce the curfews
Confiscate weapons and pagers

But a daughter or son
Can be sort of fun
Just as long as they don’t defy you
They’ll treat you like a king
They’ll believe anything
They’re easy to frighten and lie to

Bein’ a dad
Bein’ a dad

Bein’ a dad can make you feel glad
When you get paperweights and aftershave lotions
Yeah, it feels pretty great
When they graduate
That’s when you’re choked with emotions

But bein’ a dad takes more than a tad
Of good luck and divine intervention
You need airtight alibis
Fullproof disguises
Desperation is the father of invention

So sometimes you take off
For a few rounds of golf
And you stay away for half of their lifetimes
The result of it all is
Is you’re captured
And hauled up
Before a tribunal for “dad crimes”

Bein’ a dad
Bein’ a dad

Bein’ a dad can make you feel sad
Like you’re the insignificant other
Yeah, right from the start,
They break your heart
In the end, every kid wants his mother

Bein’ a dad

–Loudon Wainwright III
(Link to song with goofy video.)