They Paid $4 billion for What???

I was reading an article yesterday about the purchase of LucasFilm Inc.  by The Walt Disney Corporation. They were discussing the future of the Star Wars franchise and the possible negative/positive effects Disney might have on it. In the middle of this article, there was an argument made that Disney has been very good to both the Marvel stable of movies and the Pixar folks by adopting a very hands off approach. In the course of that argument, an aside comment was made stating that Pixar has a very impressive track record despite the obvious missteps of Cars 2 and Brave. It was stated in such a way as to imply that everyone agrees that these two movies are both lacking. What was startling about it to me is that…I like Brave. Is it the best movie I’ve ever seen? No. Is it even my favorite princess movie made in the last the few years? I would again have to say no. I much preferred Tangled and think it is more entertaining than Brave, but I still liked the movie about the Scottish redhead. And more to the point, my kids LOVED it.

Which brings me to my main point. I just hate how much mob mentality seems to rule the opinions of our society.

I mean, I had to agree with the author on Cars 2. I really tried to love that movie. For one, the original Cars is one of my favorites. Two, Pixar had not let me down ever up to that point. But as I sat in the theater with my two boys, waiting for the patented great storytelling associated with Pixar to kick in, I finally had to admit to myself that it just wasn’t going to happen. They had made a movie about Mater, and Mater just ain’t that interesting.

However, as the credits rolled, both of my boys started gushing about the movie.  And to this day, they both will choose Cars 2 over the original every time. So am I right in saying that Cars 2 isn’t a good movie? Is the general consensus that Cars 2 is lousy correct? I don’t know…but I do know that Disney/Pixar scored a hit with the demographic they were shooting for in my household. A demographic, by the way, of which I am not a part.

Which finally brings me to true rant of the day. Why is the human race of the late 20th and early 21st century so obsessed with Star Wars? I mean seriously, it’s…Star Wars. Other than arguably the greatest villain ever (I would argue for Heath Ledger’s Joker, but, I can at least concede there’s an argument) these movies suck! Let me recap the negatives:

1. The smartest good guy in any of the six films is a trash can that beeps, honks and sprays oil on occasion. (Sorry Obi-Wan, this could have been you had Lucas stopped after three movies. But your mystical wisdom went to crap in the three prequels that followed. I mean seriously, your incessant hen-pecking practically created Darth Vader single-handedly.)

2. What could have been one of the truly great villianous regimes (the empire) gets completely undermined by the fact that they got beat, multiple times by this roving band of idiots. (My apologies, Chewbaca. In most instances, you do seem to have your wits about you and I hesitate to bunch you in with this group, but at no point did you finally acknowledge that none of these people could understand you. Had you done that and just left, your legacy might have been salvaged.)

3. The writing. I mean, come on. Is George Lucas just so intimidating that no one could stand up at any point and say, “Uh, George? This line you have here about…well, basically all of these lines. They sound like my third-grader wrote them.” The only thing worse than the writing is…

4. The acting. I suppose if you are given the worst lines ever to recite, your ability to do it in a believable way is probably hampered significantly. However, we learned from other movies that at least some of these actors could actually act. But if you only had these films to judge the actors on…ecchhh. The most glaring example in the first three movies is…

5. Mark Hamill. There are so many things I could say here, but let’s boil it down to one thing. When your principal protagonist is introduced initially in the manner Luke Skywalker is, (incessantly whining, “Uuuuuncllleeeee Owwwwennnn, whyyy do IIIII have to clean up the droids?”) there is no recovering from that. I don’t care how many Death Stars he blows up or how many blubbering mountains of flesh he destroys, I always see his face and suddenly, I’m hearing that grating whine. Is that Mark Hamill’s fault? Probably not, but…life’s not always fair. However, as bad as Mark Hamill was in these movies, he still stands head and shoulders above…

6. Hayden Christensen. I’ve never seen a man so determined to destroy anything good he creates the way George Lucas seems to be. Who else would create possibly the most iconic villain in pop culture history and then turn the reins of that villain over to this schmo?  I’m sorry, but there is no way this petulant doofus, who couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag, would eventually turn into the masterful character voiced by James Earl Jones.  There literally is no way.

7. Side characters that make you want to rip your spleen out through your eye socket. I never thought it would be possible to make me hate a character more than I hated C3PO. And then we met Jar Jar Binks.

8. Unbelievably rude stereotypes. Thieving, untrustworthy “businessman” who happens to have a huge nose and a Jewish accent. Manipulative finance folks whose eyes are slightly slanted and have Japanese accents. The most non-redeemable and useless character in the history of film (the aforementioned Jar Jar) has a Jamaican accent. White people as stupid…oh wait, that’s every character, not just the white ones. Forget that last one.

But, when it comes to Star Wars, I find I am generally in the minority. The common wisdom of the masses is that this franchise is possibly the greatest film franchise of all time.

And yet, I don’t care. I don’t care that a ton of people from my generation equate their youth with a galaxy far, far away. I don’t care that the special effects were so revolutionary that they changed the way movies are made. I don’t care that this franchise has such a following that the Disney corporation paid $4 billion with a “B” for it. I just don’t care.

Regardless of the opinion of the masses, I will always mock Star Wars…Always.  Except maybe with one exception. I won’t be mocking one bit when Star Wars VII comes out and the shares that I own in Disney Corp. shoot through the roof. On that day, I will cry out, along with Star Wars fans everywhere, “May the Force Be With You.” Even if the movie is as big of a dud artistically as the six that preceded it.

Advertisements

It’s Called History, Stupid!

I’m going to admit something here that’s a little embarrassing. I was a political junkie by age 11. I know it’s not right and I know it says something hideous about me and possibly my upbringing, but bottom line, it’s true. However, my true coming of age as a politically invested American came in 1992. That was the first election in which I was allowed to vote. It is also the only election in which I didn’t vote on election day, in person, at my polling precinct. I was serving a mission for the LDS church in Manchester, England and so I had to vote absentee. I did so with pride and then had to spend the next few weeks learning, via snippets of information only available intermittently, that my candidate of choice, George H.W. Bush, was going down in flames. It was crushing. My first time out of the gate and my choice for President was a loser. I will admit to feeling a little depressed.

However, there was a lesson from that election that rears its head every other decade or so. During that election season, James Carville, an adviser for then candidate Bill Clinton, made a simple comment that has proven true over and over again. In very plain English he said, “It’s the economy, stupid!

At the time, I was highly affronted. I mean, we had a president who had won the first gulf war and put Saddam Hussein in his place. Surely that alone warranted a second term, right? WRONG! That election taught me a truth that, looking back, has played out over the centuries: People Vote With Their Wallets.

Fast forward to this election cycle that we are in. For the first time in my life, I thought we might actually be headed toward a reversal of this undeniable truth. And admittedly, it could still happen. But in the midst of all these attacks regarding: Bain Capital, Murdering Spouses, Being a Tax Cheat and a Felon, Taking a Woman’s contraception away (By the way, no one seems to be worried about my contraception being taken away. I’m just saying), and just about everything else short of being Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate love child; it seems you should never bet against history. If Romney ends up coming back and winning this election, it will be because of one simple truth: It’s The Economy, Stupid!

Now, it seems to me, President Obama had a chance to be in a winning position even if the economy was still sluggish, but he blew it. And it didn’t happen just recently. Only one president that I am aware of this century who has been rewarded with reelection despite a sluggish, or worse, economy is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In fact, he was rewarded twice under those circumstances. So what did he do? His actions said he cared. He spent every bit of his political capital and the majority of his time in office during his first two terms creating programs designed to put people back to work.  Did they all succeed? No. But there was never any doubt he was trying.

Compare that to President Obama’s first term. For two years, he had overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. He could have done just about anything he wanted to do. So what did he choose? Bailing out GM, The Stimulus, and The Affordable Healthcare Act. Of the three, only two were even sold as being about jobs. The third was a clear play for legacy despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans did not want what has come to be referred to as Obamacare. As a side note, getting Obamacare passed took up more time during his first two years in office than the other two combined.

As far as GM and The Stimulus are concerned. At first glance, both appear to be directed towards more jobs. However, as anyone who has payed attention can tell you, the stimulus actually did nothing of the kind. It sunk our nation deeper into debt when that was exactly what we couldn’t afford to do. Not only did we go into debt, but literally billions were given to companies that were political backers of the president and have since gone bankrupt. You can argue either way about the necessity of spending money researching new energy sources, but in a time of recession and massive debt, it is probably best to go with the vast reserves of energy sources we already know how to use, another thing this president refused to do.

With regard to GM, it does appear many jobs were saved. But again, it appears to be jobs for only those who helped finance the president’s election and are once again financing his reelection. Unions! Nothing is ever said about the millions lost to those who invested in the auto industry that saw their investments go up in smoke during a bankruptcy that rewarded unions first before bond investors. Something never before seen. And by the way, GM and Chrysler went through bankruptcies.  They did. Just like Mitt Romney said they should, except the president took care of his “guys” before the true bankruptcies began.

Now if President Obama pulls off a victory in Ohio, he could still possibly win this election. If he does, it will be directly related to his efforts on the part of the auto industry. Which only backs up what we’ve known all along. To the voters in Ohio and Michigan, it was the economy, stupid, and he will have done enough for their economic situation to get back into the White House. But think about the landslide he could have won had he focused on jobs for the rest of us.

And if he loses, he will only have himself to blame. He might be able to console himself at night with the memory of being the first president to pass a truly comprehensive health care overhaul. But come January 2013, he will have to do so in Chicago.

Is There A Moral Problem With Big Bird Eating Egg-Fried Rice?

After watching the presidential debate this last Wednesday night, I find it interesting how the media then decides what was important and what was not.  Whether it be right-wing pundits or left-wing, the talking points about the debate were crystallized within an hour and haven’t changed much since. One of those things deemed important was Mitt Romney’s line about Big Bird. What I find frustrating is that to me, the Big Bird line was cute, but the better line that preceded it is being completely overlooked. I believe the best line from Wednesday’s debate was when Romney in essence said he would go through every federal budget item and make sure it passes a simple test. Is this program or expense worth borrowing money from China to keep around? In all seriousness, I  believe that is a very good question and one that should be asked of every government budget item regardless of who is elected. I mean, it’s easy for Sesame Street fans to get all up in arms about the possible loss of Big Bird, but it’s a fair question. Is providing federal funding to a kid’s show worth borrowing money from China to do it? The easy answer is, it isn’t. And it’s not that I want Sesame Street to go away. But can we be honest for a second? Are we as rational human beings supposed to believe that Sesame Street can’t exist on the money they make just from selling all their crap toys at Walmart alone? I know it’s only .01% of the deficit, but so what? At least it’s a start and then we keep asking the China question again and again. I guarantee we would see some real deficit reduction.

But enough of the over-serious political stuff. My main point is that I am now going to make the China line one of my main responses in everyday life. How can I not?

When my 13-year-old daughter asks what I think of a song she wants to download from iTunes, my response will be, “Well, it’s alright, but I wouldn’t borrow money from China to get it.”

When she looks at me with bewildered confusion, I’ll just start nodding my head and say, “Exactly, babe, exactly,” and then I’ll walk away.

Another situation where this will work out well will be when my children get whiny and start in with, “Daaaaddd, why can’t I _______ (fill-in the blank with any ridiculous request ranging from ‘wear my underwear on the outside of my pants’ to ‘throw my sister off the bunk bed into the toy box below’). I will simply respond, “Sorry guys, it doesn’t rate high enough on the borrowing from China meter,” and leave it at that. I mean, the line really does speak for itself.

So this is my ultimate goal: one day, I want my children to automatically know from the tone of my voice what they are about to hear. And before I can get it out, they cut me off as their eyes roll back in their heads, “We know, it’s not worth borrowing money from China. That’s what you always say. What does that even mean, Dad?”

“Exactly, guys, exactly!!!” Oh man, I can’t wait.

Father Time is a Bully

During my early college years (the years when I was more worried about my social life than my grades) I played a lot of basketball. I don’t mean I played for several hours on a weekly basis, I mean I played daily as if somehow the number of points I scored might magically transfer to my overall Physics grade. I can attest that they did not.

Bottom line, I loved basketball. I loved playing it, I loved watching it…I feel like the sentence would feel better if there was a third thing I loved about basketball, but really it was all about playing or watching. That’s it. Anyway, I carried that love with me into my life as a married man. I didn’t play as often, but I was religious about playing every Saturday morning. Then came the inevitable.

Actually, it was two things. One, I was playing in a league with some people I worked with when I attempted to take a charge. (Taking a charge is getting someone to run into you and thereby get them called for a foul for those who are not familiar with basketball lingo.) I took the charge alright, but in the process, my entire body was knocked violently to the left. Every part of me that is except my right leg from the knee down. It somehow didn’t get the message and stood valiantly, rooted in place, as the rest of me went flying. That was the beginning of my recurring knee problems. The second thing was I entered my thirties. I moved, my kids got older, we bought a house that required more upkeep and finally, my body began to betray me in other ways. I broke a rib playing defense and spent the next three weeks trying to catch my breath every time my toddler decided I needed an unannounced hug. The final result of all of these things happening was that my religious Saturday attendance at the church of basketball waned.  At first I started to attend intermittently and then I went less active all together.

My final break with regular basketball playing came when I moved to the small town where I now reside. I didn’t have my regular group to play with and I didn’t want to expend the energy to find a new group. So I let it go. I might dabble in meaningless pick-up games that moved at quarter speed from time to time, but those were few and far between. Until two nights ago.

That’s when my friend texted me to let me know church basketball had started and they were worried that not enough guys were going to show to field a team. I should have ignored his text. Instead, I let myself get suckered into worrying about whether other guys would be able to play basketball or not. Why should I care? The correct answer is, I shouldn’t have.

Now what did me in was that I have been an avid racquetball player for the last few years and have also started riding my bike on a somewhat regular basis. I thought I was probably ready for the exertion required for basketball. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I arrived, I discovered that my friend’s text had been accurate…sort of. There were plenty of guys that showed up for our team, but not one guy showed for the other team. So we decided to play against each other. Many of you know how that goes. It turns into a track meet with a ball flying at the hoop periodically. I ended up doing as many wind sprints without touching the ball as I used to do in high school basketball practice. But that wasn’t the worst of it. When I actually did touch the ball, it was revealed that in many ways I had forgotten how to shoot. Oh the humanity as some of my hideous offerings made their way somewhat in the direction of the hoop. It was ugly.

Unfortunately for me, my semi-in-shape body hid from me the fact that I was over-doing it.  During the course of the game, I felt a little rubbery-legged at times, but overall not too bad. That would come later…like the next morning when I attempted to get out of bed.

My alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. and I went to sit up. That was a mistake. Pain shot through my thighs, passing through my butt and exploded throughout my back. Adding to my problems was a never before experienced stiffness in my neck that made it impossible to flinch correctly at the pain occurring around the lower half of my body. It was dark, so I can only guess what I must have looked like, but I have a feeling it resembled Frankenstein reacting to bath water that was overheated.

Now I was in a quandary. I was expected to get on my bike and ride down to the racquetball courts where a couple of friends would be waiting for me. In that first sixty seconds post alarm, it seemed more likely that my legs would simply fall off of my body in protest. Nevertheless, I proceeded. My morning stretching routine was fun. (That is if one defines fun as curling up in a ball on a darkened floor and weeping uncontrollably.) And my racquetball skills were lacking to say the least. But somehow I survived. However, it is a full twenty four hours plus later and I still feel like roadkill.

So here is my question: Why? Why would God be so mean as to make us age? I know I’ve heard countless people ask similar questions before me, but I never cared then. It wasn’t affecting me. Now it is and frankly, I think it sucks. I’m really having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that basketball is a young man’s game, and I am quickly becoming not a young man. Maybe I should face the fact that the time to take up shuffleboard has arrived.

Les Miss

From my first introduction to a true musical stage production, Les Miserables, in my opinion, has always been the pinnacle of greatness. Admittedly a novice, and not someone who has spent a great deal of time viewing musical theater, I will grant that my opinion should carry very little weight. But having said that, I was definitely in the Les Miz camp over the Phantom camp when it came to the Lakers/Celtics type debate (Team Jacob Vs. Team Edward for those that are too young or too sports disinclined to get the Magic/Bird comparison) that existed in America during the late eighties and early nineties.

As such, as an adult, every time Les Miz has come to Gammage in Tempe, AZ, my wife and I have made the effort to go and see it. For the twenty-fifth anniversary (and I suspect in promotion of the upcoming movie version) the show returned to Tempe for a week long engagement last week. We decided to attend.

Not only did we attend, we also made the call that my thirteen-year-old daughter was ready to see this play. She is very much interested in drama and music and is showing some signs of talent in both. Now I recognize the definite PG-13 subject matter addressed in this play and my wife and I thought long and hard about whether or not to include her. In the end, based on our previous viewings, we felt she was old enough to handle the risque scenes and language in order to experience one of the truly great stories of mercy vs. justice.

Now that the event is over, I would like to write an open letter to the director and producers of the latest touring stage version of Les Miserables that they will never read, but that will make me feel better in writing.

Dear Sirs and or Madams (How appropriate a title as we shall soon discuss)

Having just attended your interpretation of Les Miserables at Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, AZ, there are a few items I would like to bring to your attention in an effort to help you return this stage production to its former glory.

1. Using any long cylindrical prop for a visual joke regarding a man’s sex organ does not constitute wittiness at its best. And doing it repeatedly does not make it any funnier. About the fifth time a man held a wine bottle to his crotch I was simply embarrassed for you. It felt as if you had run your production past a focus group of junior high boys and then actually listened to their recommendations. I will return to this thought again a little later.

2. I have been trying to teach my teenage daughter that screaming her lines in a dramatic production does not necessarily add intensity to a scene but rather, more often than not, only adds volume. Thank you soooo much for undermining my efforts. Maybe you’ve never seen Les Miserables in person before, but the disdain some characters hold for other human beings they deem as worthless would, I believe, be better manifested by unconcerned disdain rather than in-your-face anger. There were times I felt the entire cast was just yelling at me. In case you hadn’t noticed, this entire production is done in song. It has been my experience that yelling and singing do not often mix well together.

3. Your major lead characters should be able to hold pitch during their highlighted solos. Most of your characters did fine, but specifically, Fantine was a disaster. Again, it felt as if the direction to her was given by a community theater director who was barely dipping his toes into the thespian world while he had a few minutes of free time from his lucrative, and extremely busy, gas station enterprise. The Fantine character sacrificed heartbreaking emotion for, again, yelling. Not sure I understand that. Beautiful strains of notes were left off so she could make sure the audience understood we were having an “emotional” moment. As my friend who attended on a different night than I said, “It felt like my ears were hurting,” during a song that is supposed to leave one feeling anguish for the character, not deaf.

Furthermore, she missed notes constantly. Going back to my community theater example, this would be okay if our minor star had been performing voluntarily and the audience was primed to expect an amateurish performance. Instead, everyone there had spent a good deal of money expecting to see a Broadway level performance. The actress playing Fantine did not come close in meeting that expectation.

4. Finally, I had my thirteen-year-old daughter with me. I have experienced this production before and I understand the lyrics of the songs, Lovely Ladies and Master of the House are somewhat risque and adult oriented. However, based on previous viewings, I felt the overall message of the production in contrast with the fleeting lyrics that often fly over the head of younger viewers made the exposure to my daughter acceptable. Thank you so much for proving me wrong. Since our last viewing several years ago, you added multiple simulated sex acts in a multitude of positions including the completely inappropriate and unnecessary oral position. Instead of basking in the memory of the numbers you did well (ie. A Heart Full of Love, Stars, Bring Him Home and others), I can’t keep my mind from hearkening back to the completely gratuitous antics of Lovely Ladies and the over-the-top garbage taking place at the top of the set that provided nothing to the story happening below during Master of the House. Again, I felt like I was watching a production of my favorite musical play that was being presided over by a group of infantile, giggling teenage boys.

I realize this probably matters little to you, but this work that is so clearly tied to God and redemption means something to people of faith. Its message is timeless and has inspired thousands of people, including myself, to see myself and others around me the way God would. It’s sad to me that you felt the need to debase the entire experience.

Sincerely,

Ryan Rapier

Things I Learned During a Week At Disneyland

This last week, my family and I packed up the mini-van and made the nine-hour trek to the mecca of commercialism and childhood fantasy, otherwise known as The Disneyland Resort. As a child, my parents only took me twice, once when I was four and again when I was ten. Being the loving parent that I am, I have lived under the daunting pressure that I would never allow this travesty to occur to my children. Every child should have multiple memories of The Happiest Place on Earth. As such, we have been a total of five times since my oldest daughter first turned three and was old enough to actually enjoy her visit. (In reality, it was more about her height than her age. We waited until she reached 40″ and was able to ride on a majority of the rides.) That was 10 years ago and other than the first two visits being within a year of each other, we have returned roughly every three years, each time introducing another of our children to the park that Walt built. This visit was our youngest’s first and will likely be the last time I see the park for the first time through one of my children’s eyes. That reality makes me a little sad.

But anyway, over these last ten years, I have learned quite a bit. When I was in my twenties, I had a much more romanticized view of Disneyland that has dimmed with time under the scrutiny of reality. With this visit, I was struck by several observations, most of which I will share with you now. Keep in mind, not all of these are necessarily Disney related, they are just observations that I happened to make during this last week while at Disneyland.

1. Why do rabidly political people watch the convention of the party they oppose? This observation actually started the week before during the Republican convention when I noticed a plethora of negative statements coming from my Democratic friends on Facebook. At the time, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would be so masochistic as to do this to themselves. But as I tend to have more Republican friends than Democrat, it wasn’t until this last week that I really began to take notice of this trend. I saw status updates that referred to people yelling at their television and hurled insults in capital letters of LIAR, IDIOT and JERK all while I was trying to enjoy a sweltering day in Southern California with 30,000 of my closest friends. All the while, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What did you expect him to say? Were you hoping for ‘You know, I watched that Republican convention last week and everything Mitt Romney said sounded spot on. He’s right, I’m gonna quit now and turn the reins over to somebody who actually knows how to work within the private sector.’?” I mean, really. If I wanted to watch somebody I absolutely couldn’t stand, the Dallas Cowboys played football on Wednesday night and are much more enjoyable to boo from the comfort of my own couch than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. I’m just saying.

2. No one makes parting with your hard-earned dollars more enjoyable than The Disney Corp. I paid over twenty dollars for wizard hat complete with Mickey ears for my seven-year-old son and didn’t bat an eye. That same kid will beg for a full-size bean burrito when we go out to dinner at a Mexican food restaurant and I will freak over the additional $1.75 knowing he will leave half of that burrito on his plate. There is a good chance he will never wear that hat again now that we are home, but it was worth every cent to see him running around the parks in that over-sized hat. Maybe it’s my intense desire not to see him get any older than he was in that moment that took the discomfort out of having a large vacuum hose inserted into my back pocket and all of my last paycheck (and my next one as well) being sucked away into the void of corporate profits. At least I own Disney stock. With my measly 56 shares, I should see a negative 5000% return on last week’s investment.

3. No one does synergy like Disney. We stood for over an hour, shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers, waiting for a water and light show called World of Color. Twice!!! I would do it again in a heartbeat. Because intertwined with the perfectly timed jets of water and brilliant colors on display was a recap of several Disney classic animated movies and Pirates. And there is no euphoria in the world like sharing a nostalgic trip through your childhood and your children’s childhood with a group of fellow Disney fanatics large enough to fill a football stadium. I must have mentally noted to myself no less than five times that I needed to watch a particular movie again. I intend to start tonight with Tangled.

4. Nothing can replace the feeling you get when you take your four-year-old daughter on The Little Mermaid Ride and have her get off and yell, “That was Awesome!”

5. Nothing worries me more than the fact that my four-year-old daughter is much more interested in wooden guns and plastic swords than any other toy available to her in the toy capital of the world. At least she wanted a pink Mickey hat. I think I smell a Quentin Tarantino movie plot.

6. It’s amazing to me that I can forget the pain and agony my body is in right now to the point that I will return to the place that did this to me. The last time I went to Disneyland three years ago, I got shin splints. On a previous trip, I caught such an awful cold I could barely function. Today, my hips feel like they have been hooked directly to a car battery and are being shocked with pain at regular intervals. Somehow, I will forget all of these things enough that I will undoubtedly return. I’m sure the memory of a cute little boy in an over-sized hat, complete with Mickey ears, has something to do with it.

My Kids Are Lucky I am Not Their Mother

Every once in a while, my wife will leave town or have a reason to be away from the house during a time when my children require true parenting. Okay, maybe that diminishes some of my real contributions, but most of the time, my input consists of:

“How in the (muffled grunting as I struggle to keep my lips from spewing forth the words that are trying desperately to claw their way to freedom) does your room get so filthy so fast? I want this cleaned up immediately. I am SERIOUS!!! No friends until this room is at least somewhat presentable.” Then to myself, “Didn’t I have this exact same conversation with them yesterday?”

“Why is this towel on the floor? Haven’t we been over this at least a billion times that the towels go on the rack that we have so kindly provided you. Or in the dirty clothes hamper.” This is generally met with a confused look as if I suddenly switched to old world Latin in the middle of my lecture. “The dirty clothes hamper? You know, the extra table we put in your room a couple of months back? It’s that thing all of your dirty clothes are stacked around. Yeah, that. Your towel could go in there. Your towel could go just about anywhere, just not on the floor.”

“Why is your towel crumpled up on your bed? Yes, I know I said it could go just about anywhere but on the floor.” I sigh deeply as my face turns a deep shade of purple. “Put it back on the rack or in your dirty clothes hamper before I put you on the rack or in the dirty clothes hamper. THE TABLE, THE TABLE. Put inside the (muffled grunt again) table!!!”

“Who dumped their shoe full of sand all over the carpet I just vacuumed? Son, you’ve been playing on a playground full of sand for six years now. Just about everyday we’ve discussed not taking your shoes off on the carpet. Haven’t we? Well if you remember that we have, in fact, had that conversation daily for over 2000 days in a row, why did you take your shoes off on the carpet? You forgot. Well how about I help you remember…” This is when my wife then calls me into the other room before we have to remove one child’s picture from the wall and go about destroying evidence that we ever had four children as opposed to the three that would be left.

However, on those days when Shannon is away and it is left up to me to get them out the door and on their way to school, I am reminded of how grateful I am for my wife. How she patiently fills the role of short order cook, clairvoyant shoe finder and bathroom monitor is beyond me. This morning, my kids were actually really good and yet still I struggled to maintain my patience and not pick them up by the belt loops, toss them out the door and yell, “I can’t miss you if you won’t go away.”

This probably makes me sound like a terrible dad, and in the heat of a school day morning, maybe I am. But I will make up for it tonight. Dinner will be pizza and Family Home Evening will consist of whatever movie their mom doesn’t want them to watch. I’ll be a rock star. But it won’t change the fact that I will be so grateful when my wife gets home and resumes her 85% of our 50/50 split on the parenting responsibilities.

As an aside, I just finished reading Big In Japan, by Jennifer Griffith. She is a local author who has published four novels and someone I consider a friend. I have to say, if you are a reader, you really should get a copy of this book. It was fantastic. Now I understand that some might think I am too close to the situation to be trusted, but I assure you, if I hadn’t truly enjoyed the book, I would not have said anything and left it at that. But it is a truly enjoyable read and taught me a great deal about the Japanese culture. Big In Japan is available on barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com