Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Joy of Parenthood

Meeting tomorrow at David’s school. Stressing out.

I hate it when parents won’t accept that their kid might not be perfect. Don’t want to be like that. From what I can tell, the situation is this:

The jocks and the skaters at this school have been in constant conflict for the last two years. In the words of the principal, “There’s always these kind of tensions, but I’ve never seen it as bad as it is with this group of boys.”

David is a skater punk. He dresses in ratty-looking jeans down around his butt, he has long hair, he wears dark T-shirts and an army jacket and wool cap. The principal has made no secret of the fact that she doesn’t like his hair or his clothes.

There are a several jocks who pick on David and on his friends. They’ve had run-ins in the past, including a couple of fights. It appears the jocks are under orders lately from their parents and/or coaches regarding their interactions with the skate punks, but that doesn’t stop them from talking *about* them. It’s all very well to say they don’t fight or call them names to their faces, but it’s small comfort when to everyone *else* they call you “fag” or “fat f**k”; when they smirk and snort at you in the hallway; when they sign your name in childish script on the basketball sign-up sheet, whatever. Some of it seems like such insignificant stuff from an adult’s POV, but it’s not to a kid. I remember what it was like when middle school was such misery; when getting ready for school made me feel sick to my stomach because of how I was treated.

David has made things difficult by adopting a tough-guy attitude, by not backing down when the jocks harass him, by taking things personally, by giving as good as he gets, by reacting to their put-downs, which is exactly what they want. But I think all he wants is a little respect – I believe him when he says he just wants to be left alone – I don’t think he goes out of his way to make problems with the sports kids.

Because I remember jocks from when I was his age. Broad brush: after military people, jocks are the least empathetic, most competitive group of human beings I know. It’s an aggressive approach to life; it’s about winning, about competing against yourself, against each other, against the world. Later in life, I became part of that group at times. It definitely has its benefits – it’s healthy physically, it teaches discipline, persistence, etc – but it has negatives, too. Jocks tend to harass and belittle and each other regularly, and it works for them – if you’re in that world, it’s all part of the game – but they have no idea how that feels to people who aren’t in the group, and usually, they don’t really care.

Anyway, the other day David shoved one of the jocks who he says picks on him a lot; I guess the guy was standing in front of the water fountain and refused repeated requests to move so David could use it. And they had words in the locker room, where David also didn’t help himself…
David looks at Nemesis Jock (who appears to be under wraps lately, other than the water fountain thing and calling him “fag” and making jokes about him behind his back)
Jock: What are you staring at?
David: Well, watching you get undressed makes me feel good – I’m a “fag”, isn’t that what you’ve been saying?
Jock: You’re a…
David: I’m a what? Go ahead and say it, b****.

I’m sure Nemesis Jock has no idea the depth of resentment David still carries about all the previous harassment. I’m sure he feels he’s bending over backward lately to accommodate David’s aggressive belligerence. And I’m sure he tells his dad David is a menace to society since apparently the father has now written a letter to the school threatening to call the police if they don’t control David.

So tomorrow should be a fun meeting; can’t wait to hear what they have to say…

Monday, January 29, 2007

apropos of nothing at all

This -- paraphrased -- is one of the ways one of our counselors illustrated differences between high and low self-esteem:

You're at a party. The lower your self-esteem, the more of the following inward-directed thoughts you'll typically have:
- I wonder if I look okay
- I hope I don't do anything stupid, embarrass myself
- I wonder what these people are like, how my interactions with them will go
- I wonder if I'll have a good time

Someone with higher self-esteem might be at the same party, and thinking:
- I wonder if there's enough ice/drink/food/chairs/whatever; maybe I can help.
- That person looks interesting; I'd like to meet them.
- That person looks like they're not mixing; I'll go talk to them, maybe that will make them feel more included, have a better time here.

A common thread with LSE/insecurity is that it makes us focus more and more on ourselves. Everything becomes about us; we take things personally; we're self-absorbed. We try harder and harder to control ever more tightly the people and events around us.
HSE/confidence lets us focus more on the big picture, allows us to take things as they come rather then attempting to manipulate them.

Maybe this isn't an earthshaking revelation for most people, but when I first began to understand this (5-6 yrs ago) it was life-changing for me. It allowed me to look at myself and see how much time I wasted worrying about me me me me me -- how I looked, how I was perceived, how I felt every second -- and how unnecessary it was.
I'm not saying we shouldn't think about how we feel -- actually identifying our true feelings (and being honest about them to ourselves) is an important and healthy thing -- but it's freeing to be able to realize that however we come across, however we feel at the moment, is usually okay. If it's positive, great. If it's not, it will pass. In the meantime, enjoy the people and the moments of your life.

Okay, that's the end of the sermon; there's probably a more confusing and awkward way to express what I wanted to say, but I can't think what it would be...

because i'm lazy

...I won't bother to make links. Just check out Russell Peters or Dan Nainan on youtube or metacafe...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

my brother, the sage

Two minutes ago. My brother is holding a miniature bottle of vodka my sister-in-law is about to use in a new chicken dish she's trying out. See if you can finish his quote (note: must be delivered gravely, with a serious face)...

"Vodka corrupts; ___________________."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

directionless in seattle

I have virtually no sense of direction. I have to concentrate very hard to remember which way is North (or whatever), even if I'm driving on Interstate 5, which runs straight North-South from British Columbia to Mexico (let's see, Hawaii is on my *left*, and Boston is on my *right*, so if I turn right, Mexico will then be on my right...)
If I walk into a building, as soon as I make one turn (or step into an elevator), I can no longer tell you the direction of the door where I entered. I would make a terrible secret agent.

Which brings me to my peeve, which is that people don't seem to know how to *give* directions either. Maybe there's some secret code or universal understanding between direction-enabled people, and it just seems confusing to me because I'm direction-retarded. But in my experience, the conversation goes something like the following about 75% of the time:

Bryan: Hi, could you give me directions to your hotel?
Hotel Person: Sure, where are you now?
Bryan: Looks like I'm on Sandalwood Boulevard.
HP: Okay, well, just continue down Sandalwood until you see Berry Street...

And I'm lost and frustrated already. How does this person know where I am on Sandalwood? Which direction am I supposed to drive in?

Sometimes I'll say "I'm at 5th and Pine streets" and the person will then say "Okay, turn left on Pine" without asking me which direction I'm facing, or even if I might be on Pine street already. It's like they assigned me a direction and location in their mind by ESP.

Or sometimes I'll ask "How far until the turn onto McKnight?" and the person will answer something like "Oh, I don't know -- it's a ways, but not too far."

All of this is very confusing and frustrating for the directionally-challenged. I think people giving directions should be required to give at a minimum all the following information for each step of directions they give you:
1) street name
2) distance to street
3) landmark
4) signal type
5) direction (North, South, etc)
6) change in direction relative to current direction (left, right, U-turn)
7) name of hotel where you stay if you decide to just give up on the whole thing and spend the night right where you are.

Or I guess I could just get a GPS, but that might take all the fun out of it...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Then there's this...

Cell phones are cool

Old people are, too

Friday, January 19, 2007

I doubt this is interesting

But then I’m never sure, to be honest. Sometimes things I think are cool elicit zero response; other times I dash off something I think is lame but then turns out to resonate. But enough – let the play say the thing…

I grew up in a family that kissed each other a lot. Hello, goodbye, good night – all marked with a formal peck on the lips or cheek. We kissed our parents good night even into our teens. It was a ritual about validation, about closure, about family togetherness. It was a way of saying that whatever had happened that day, we still loved and were loved. It was so familiar to us that we never questioned it – it was like wearing clothes or not spitting on the tablecloth: it wasn’t that it was the only possible way to operate – it was just the only one that seemed normal and right.

It was so much a part of my idea about how life works, that when I got married I couldn’t figure out what to do when Hannah almost never made an effort to kiss me good night. It sounds stupid, I know – why not just talk about it? – but to me it was so basic I didn’t even know how to approach it. It was as if someone made you breakfast in bed every morning, but never brought you any silverware. If you *asked* for silverware, they had no problem bringing you some, but no matter how many times they watched you eat with silverware, they would never bring you any without being asked.

At the beginning we were very affectionate in other ways – she kissed me hello or goodbye, for example – but not goodnight. Breakfast in bed, but no silverware… And it felt weird -- the idea of talking about it, about making a specific request for something that to me seemed so basic, and obviously for her was a complete non-issue. It can be hard to ask for what we need. And I knew she would see it as a criticism, as if I was unhappy with her. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of incompleteness I had without it.

And we’re self-centered creatures sometimes. I wanted her to notice that I needed this – why else did I go to the trouble of making it happen every single night, even if it just meant kissing her between the shoulderblades? I wanted her to read my mind, and then give me what I needed.

Eventually, I resented the way she would just plop into bed, roll over, and go to sleep. To me, it represented me making an effort to be close to her, and her not being willing to do the same. And I’m guessing she never even noticed it at all.

Of course, she must have had plenty of things like that in her mind as well – assumptions about what a husband does or is, or needs that either she didn’t express, or that she did express but I didn't understand womanspeak*, or I understood but didn’t realize the importance of it, or wasn’t willing to do it.

Anyway, this has no point except to underscore the importance of communication, of the power of the words “I feel _____.” Our communication was pretty superficial, and pretty guarded – I could tell you why, but that’s another story, and even more boring than this one...

1) MAN: What's wrong?
WOMAN: Nothing. (ie, Something.)

2) MAN: I'm going to watch the game with Bob tonight, okay?
WOMAN: Fine. (ie, Not fine.)

3) WOMAN: Silvia looked nice tonight. (ie, I need you to tell me that I'm beautiful, thin, and desireable, and you'd rather be with me than with a thousand Silvias.)

4) WOMAN: Did you see the size of the rock Doris had on her finger? I thought it looked tacky. (ie, I wish you would buy me one, but even bigger.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

wasting your time

Some things to click on if you're bored:

Hornets vs Bees

Paula Abdul, potted

Sharks jumping out of the water and scarfing down seals

Cuteness personified

Cheerleaders falling down

Animals that are better than you

People falling in the water

Football (ie, soccer) sportsmanship*

Models falling down

And best of all: babies throwing up!!!

*I'll explain it in the comments in case you care...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Here we are again

Scheduled departure time: 7:30pm
Time now: 10:03pm
Projected departure time: ???

Estimated chance of actually getting back to Seattle tonight: I'm guessing 1 in 3.

Scooters are not cool

For a guy, or at least for a guy with my particular socialization, scooters are all right for kids, women, and gay men, but not for me. If you're not going to have a truck, a man needs a motorcycle, or at least a car. Scooters fall into the same category as the VW Beetle, wine coolers, and purple velvet sportcoats: just a little too metrosexual for a real man.

Until now, that is. Camila's neighbor is a college student who has a Honda Ruckus. That thing rocks. I'd ride one, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More about beauty

This is one of a series of videos about perception of beauty...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

i like these kind of pictures...

It's good to be reminded that there's TV/Movie World and there's Real World, and that one of them is fake.
Of course, you say. But it's kind of insidious -- the idea that J-Lo is exceptionally pretty creeps into our heads, whether we realize it or not. I think part of the reason people sometimes resent celebrities is an unconcious effort to counteract the effects of the brainwashing we experience when we see them all made up and airbrushed, etc.
It's good to remember about personality, too. I've always known that Shakira and Eva Mendes and Jessica Alba and Cindy Crawford and Lucy Lawless and Rebecca Romijn are just people. But I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that they may be beautiful -- and in some cases talented -- but at the end of the day, they'd be just as irritating as all the rest of us. And probably more so, given the effects celebrity tends to have on people's egos.
As the saying goes,
It doesn't matter how beautiful she is, some guy somewhere is sick of putting up with her crap...
And I imagine it's just as true for men.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Disneyland! Kind of.

You might be tempted to take your girlfriend's 5-yr-old daughter to The Kiddie Park, San Antonio's oldest amusement park.

When you get there, you might find it really looks more like this:

And it might be closed for a private party anyway. Happily, that's not the only thing to do in San Antonio. There was a playground across the street, which seemed to bring just as much happiness as the park would have.

It reminded me of when Hannah and I took our kids to Disneyland. As we left, after three days of non-stop Disneyfication, we asked them what their favorite part had been. They said it was the glass elevator in the hotel...

that's not okay

Sitting in the airport waiting for my flight; 4 seats away a large man rears up on one haunch and lets blast a window-rattling fart. Everyone pretends not to hear, and no one looks at anyone else. After a few minutes he meanders off toward the bathroom. If this isn't a time for the Transportation Safety Authority to intervene, what is?

Things I Used to Hate

Okay, maybe not "hate" exactly, but I tended to be dismissive – and sometimes downright scornful -- of a number of things that didn’t interest me. Some of the things I thought were stupid were:

Modern Art
Fashion Design
Golf, Sailing, Polo
Movies with a lot of poop jokes and people falling down
Really expensive cars/clothes
Politics as a career
Really fancy food
Heavy metal music
Romance novels
Interior Decorating
Body piercing
Italian desserts
Self-help books
Anything in Bed, Bath & Beyond

I think there are lots of reasons we dislike or dismiss things, some obvious and some not. The interesting thing (to me) is how much of it has to do with *us* and how little it has to do with the intrinsic qualities of the thing itself.

* Rejecting things helps us define ourselves; it’s not quite “I’m X”, but it *is* “I’m not Z,” which is part of the way there.
* Sailing and expensive cars aren’t likely to be part of my life, so dismissing them is partly sour grapes.
* Rejecting things can make us feel superior; we can distance ourselves from pretension or vulgarity or whatever.
* As previously mentioned on this program, we’re hardwired to make a judgment of some kind about things (Yipe or Goody?); we need to be right, we need certainty.
* We tend to dislike things that scare us or make us feel uncomfortable; things we don’t know much about often fall into this category because of the Yipe/Goody factor mentioned above.
* And one reason I just thought of this week: life is confusing, often chaotic, and there is a lot more potential things to be learned than we have time or brain-power to actually assimilate. Every time we can reject something as outside or beneath our concern, we’ve just made the world simpler; now there is one less thing we ever have to worry about learning or caring about.

Anyway, the point -- which I sort of have -- is that it can be interesting to figure out why we feel the way we do about something. And although navel-gazing is fun in and of itself, it’s actually rewarding if it results in us approaching life with a more open mind. Things become more interesting, and life is less scary.

More to the point, if you start making a list of all the things you dislike, you might find that a lot of your dislikes are pointless.
I mean, what’s the point of hating music? Will hating country or jazz or hip-hop really have that great an effect on how often you have to listen to it? Once your family and friends know your preference, it’s mostly senseless to invest any emotion or time in hating a particular type of music.
I don’t think much of heavy metal or really hard rock in general; it gives me a headache and I mostly fail to identify the musicianship – or melody – in it. That said, I’ve changed my attitude toward it – like body-piercing or other things I don’t understand, I no longer waste any time disdaining it or people who like it – I merely choose not to do it/listen to it myself.

My main point is that many (most?) of our likes/dislikes are about our own internal mental/emotional state and what we do or think to make ourselves feel better. And those dislikes are mostly useless in helping is acquire or achieve the things we want. If you can let go of some of that, it frees you up to concentrate on the things that are really important to you, whatever they are.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A five-yr-old's version of baseball:

Mommy, you wear the mitt, so you're the Mitter. I'm the catcher, and Bryan is the Player. He kicks the ball...

OK, maybe this is prettier

New Year's Eve dinner...
Hangin out in Austin

Not sure how this one got in here. It all comes of eating green gummy bears too much...

Sausage and Legislation

For everyone who's dying to know what tacos de lengua look like before your girlfriend turns them into the delicacy they are...

Before cookage:

After cookage:

Imagining the sliceage and the seasonage and the eatage are left as an exercise to the reader...