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Bad Daddy!

Saturday, June 02, 2007 by Michael Reynolds



So the other day I'm driving the kids home from school. And usually we're much closer to being the Simpsons than the Flanders. (Flanderses.) Lots of yelling and demands for silence accompanied by impotent threats into the rearview mirror. But this time we have a sort of magical moment listening to a song and then joining in for the chorus.

The Father (52), the Son (10), and the Holy Daughter, (7) all belting out the chorus with as much harmony as we can manage.

The song? Um, nope, not Frere Jacques. Not Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

I'm sorry mama, I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to make you cry, but tonight i'm cleanin' out my closet. {one more time} I said i'm sorry mama, I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to make you cry, but tonight i'm cleanin' out my closet.

The rest of the lyrics here. (Warning: words like bitch, shit and fuck. Don't click on the link if you're going to be outraged.)

I don't worry about my kids hearing "bad" language. I think by obsessing over forbidden words I give those words power. I don't fear hell, damn, shit, fuck. They're not really very meaningful. They don't hurt anyone. I don't let my kids use them (much) but I'm more upset by use the word "hate." I tell them that hate is an evil emotion, and that while you can use it to say you hate cheese you cannot throw it around casually in referencing annoying kids at school because it's just possible that you might really hate a kid at school and hate is not something you ever want in your brain.

It's the intention and the emotion that concerns me, not the word. If my 10 year old smashes his finger and yells "fuck!" that's not really a big deal. He ever calls another kid at school a "faggot" it won't be the word itself that bothers me, it'll be the intention behind the use of that word. "Fuck" gets you a weary verbal reprimand without much heat behind it. "Spic," "fag," or "nigger" would get you the full-on angry daddy lecture accompanied by tedious history lesson and threats of dire consequences.

Fortunately, although my kids are clearly brats they don't seem to have any capacity for real evil. And when we're singing Eminem songs together, damned if we don't actually sound pretty good.

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Love Letter.

Friday, June 01, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

A few days ago my wife and I got an email love letter. It was the eleventh anniversary of the kid series we wrote. (I'm disguising the name of the series so Google won't lead actual children here. I want to feel free to use R-rated language in this blog. But all of these fans are adults now.)

Here are some excerpts:
You and your story are the reasons that I started writing, and eleven years later after it all began, I'm going to be published. Thank you so much. Your gift gave me more than I can even tell you.
And:
I began reading A-------- when I was ten. I was a lonely, introverted child who read for escapism, and A-------- offered me that many times over, and so much more. I connected with the characters, and the moral ambiguity presented in the series gave me food for thought. I loved them deeply.

I still do. There was a period in high school where my life and emotional stability were shot through and everything was falling apart; I think I read an A-------- book a day on average. Even now, at age twenty, I keep at least two A-------- books with me in my college dorm, and whenever I need a boost I pick one up and read.

Thank you. You wrote a series that provoked thought and emotion, with characters that sprang to life. You transcended the genre, and you inspired me to work on my own writing in the hope that someday, I might touch someone as you touched me.

In an interview once you said that you did not write A-------- to change the world - you just wanted to pay the rent. Well, most people don't mean to change the lives of others, but you surely did.

And:

I won't get into too many details, but before I discovered the A-------- series I was an overweight 13 year old from a low class family whose friends kept moving away but the bullies kept growing b/c I was the shy kid who everyone thought was smart. I had no confidence and felt as though I was just a burden to the world.

One night, I started reading your series out of curiosity b/c of the show. I needed to know the answer to a question that shocked me and I also needed something to help me get to sleep b/c I was so excited about my first trip to Washington. So, I picked up my little brother's copy of A-------- #6: The C-------- and began reading it. I was so shocked when I ended up feeling as though I had drank 10 cups of coffee and a pint of Red Bull after reading the series that I started reading the series every single night (and re-reading).

The book brought out a creative side of me I never knew I had and I started to LOVE reading. English, my least favorite subject, become not only my favorite subject but the subject I did the best in! I went from being a C average student to becoming a Dean's List student and graduating within the top 10% of my class.

And:

Thank you for inspiring me to read, thank you for putting a new perspective into my young mind, thank you for helping me appreciate wildlife, thank you for creating Marco who was a much needed humor relief, thank you for causing me to drag my mother and myself to a bookstore and spend her money, thank you for all those stories... I can't say thank you enough, really

And:

Here is a very abridged list of the things A-------- taught me in the mother of all run-on sentences:

How to read military time, that tomato juice helps with skunk smell (FYI only until you get wet; hydrogen peroxide is better), what it means to disable one's cookies, string theory (at least the concept of higher dimensions; when I read Flatland by Edwin Abbot I thought, "Right! Like E------- was explaining to Loren about the Flatties and the Cubies!"), chaos theory ("A single butterfly beating its wings in China can cause a hurricane in America..." I'm a physics major, so both strings and chaos are dear to my heart), what cow tipping is, that one can "use rhetoric to obscure a lack of content", that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the official symbol of America, that NIN is better in concert, that moles dig one foot down for every three across, that Microsoft was invented by an alien (E-------, I thought you were a good guy! What happened there, man? Well, since you also invented Macintosh, we forgive you), that I should beware of this organization (check it out!!!): http://sh-----website.googlepages.com/home , that young people's opinions matter, that it's all about the shades of grey, to stand up to authority if you feel it's doing wrong, that being yourself and acting honorably is a losing battle, but fight it anyway.

Well, okay, fans are naturally going to say nice things. Be cynical, I probably would be if our positions were reversed. I am the least sentimental person I know. I tell myself it's just a job, that I write for money. But there are special compensations in writing for kids. They grow up, you know, those eleven-year-olds. And it turns out that sometimes they get the things you snuck in under the radar, the bits and pieces of philosophy you disguised as banter, the big questions you kind of hoped they would notice hiding behind that loud action scene.

This I won't even pretend not to find affecting: the young woman who took the time to assemble these 20 letters for us has rather more important things to do: Elizabeth is a soldier serving in Iraq.

We both quit writing for kids for a few years. Now we're both back at it. And I still pretend it's nothing but a job and that it's all about the money. I wear my cynic's hat to work every day. But just between us, with no agents or editors listening in? I'll trade a royalty point or two for letters like the above any day.

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A Little Hope Here?

by Michael Reynolds


I hate hope. It comes along and teases you into lowering your guard so the Irony Gods can plant a hard, fast one on your nose.
BAGHDAD - Sunni residents of a west Baghdad neighborhood used assault rifles and a roadside bomb to battle the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq this week, leaving at least 28 people dead and six injured, residents said Thursday.

The mayor of the Amiriyah neighborhood, Mohammed Abdul Khaliq, said in a telephone interview that residents were rising up to try to expel al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has alienated other Sunnis with its indiscriminate violence and attacks on members of its own sect.

Meanwhile in chic, sun-drenched Anbar province, General David (Call me Ulysses) Petraeus sees progress:
And the tribal leaders in Sunni al Anbar Province, the general reports, "have had enough." Not only are the al Qaeda fighters causing civil disruption by fomenting sectarian violence and killing civilians, but on a more prosaic but practical side, al Qaeda is bad for business. "All of the sheiks up there are businessmen," Petraeus said. "They are entrepreneurial and involved in scores of different businesses. The presence of the foreign fighters is hitting them hard in the pocketbook and they are tired of it."

A large hospital project - meant to be one of the largest in the Sunni Triangle - had been put on hold by terrorist attacks when al Qaeda had control of the area. Now it's back on track. So are similar infrastructure projects.

These aren't just the usual girl's-school-opening, Iraqi-kid-hugging, they-like-us-they-really-like-us happy talk bullshit. This is real. This is potentially important. Screw the school openings, this is Iraqis putting bullets in Al Qaeda fighters.

Unfortunately this from Bill Roggio is also real:

Shortly after arriving at Camp Liberty, I wrote about the day-to-day difficulties that soldiers face, with the desert heat, the long hours, and the constant dangers. But most of the soldiers I spoke with said the biggest difficulty is the grueling deployments of 12 months or more. I asked virtually all of the servicemen I spoke with whether they believed this was hurting reenlistment. The vast majority, from privates all the way up to the rank of captain, believed that the long deployments were indeed causing talented people not to reenlist. There was particular concern about young officers. An Army staff sergeant commented, “A lot of young officers who could be great commanders are signing out.” Although reenlistment rates have been strong so far, the staff sergeant argued that these figures were somewhat skewed by the military’s stop-loss orders -- and he further expects reenlistment rates to decline over the next few years, as servicemen hit their fourth and fifth deployments. There was no consensus on what to do about this. A senior Army official argued that we need to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible because the Iraq war is “breaking the Army.” Other servicemen said they are committed to the mission, but argued that deployments should be shortened.

And this, too, is real:

Iraq's Parliament is increasingly hamstrung by sectarian rivalries.

Shouting matches are commonplace, and there are many absences. Key legislation has yet to be debated on the floor. Ordinary Iraqis are fed up with the lawmakers. And U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that the legislature will fail to take action on moves aimed at ending sectarian violence.

In Parliament last week, Shiite lawmaker Shatha al-Mousawi was complaining bitterly about her recent visit with displaced Shiites from Diyala province. They were expelled from their homes because of sectarian violence.

It's intolerable that the government allows this bloodshed to happen, she said, demanding that the prime minister and other top officials be summoned to Parliament to respond.

The speaker of Parliament reacted to her emotional diatribe with laughter.

Kind of makes you wonder if a two month vacation might not be a good thing.

Look, I realize this anti-Qaeda movement is at base just more sectarian infighting. And I still see the odds of success (and a degraded version of success at that) as about on a par with hitting a single number at roulette. But the good news is, well, good. Iraqis shooting Qaeda? Caveat that all you like, but it's hard to see much downside there.

Props to TMV.

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It's All The Extra Brain.

Sunday, May 27, 2007 by Michael Reynolds


Damn, Reynolds has a huge head.

Our blogfriend Amba has appeared on Bloggingheads with Ann Althouse for a second time. Amba's concerned about her appearance. She's concerned that people have noticed her chipped teeth.

Regular readers (both of them) know that I'm halfway through filming a documentary in which I appear as an interviewer. See the above picture? That's our producer Dan Welcher on-set. When we're setting up we have to check sight-lines for the cameras and Dan is sitting in for me. (I was either peeing or smoking a cigar. Perhaps peeing while smoking a cigar.) See the way Dan's holding his hands? Know what he's doing? He's simulating my giant, watermelon-sized head.

Amba, you looked great.

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