Word Bloat, and a note on New Year’s Resolutions

Perception is everything. Sometimes the only thing.

I was working on the edit last night, and I realized that I’m a lot closer to the end of the first pass than I thought I was. To be precise, there are still a lot of pages between my current position and the end, but the big rewriting is nearly done, and from there it’s just a pruning of the hedges, a dusting of the shelves, and a putting to bed of the toddlers. Then it’s finally going to be time to show this thing to some actual people to actually read it. Those people will then hopefully have mercy on my soul and tell me only in the kindest of terms how many root canals they would rather sit through before they’d turn to my book.

But the end is in sight. Maybe still a pinprick on the horizon, but at least the horizon is no longer an endless blue expanse — it actually looks as if I may be coming back into harbor after all this time. And that’s awesome. Unfortunately, while I was noticing that the end is in sight, I also noticed the word count in the bottom corner of the document. It may be early in the game to be overly concerned with the word count on the novel as a whole, but like a chipped tooth that you can’t stop running your tongue over, I can’t put the number out of my head. The first draft was finished at roughly 89000 words. Now the thing is just a few hundred short of 100k.

It’s bloating. Slowly expanding in the middle, like a middle-aged married guy. And I worry that with the changes I’m making, it will continue to swell like a corpse in a pond if I don’t take measures to trim it down. It’s part and parcel of this whole editorial process, I suppose, for me to find yet another thing to smother my soul in doubt over.

So now, 40 pages shy of the end of the book, I’ve suddenly become draconian in my examination of the language of the thing. I wield my highlight and delete functions like twin poison-coated samurai swords. Which means I’m going to have to re-read the entire novel again making the same ruthless cuts, lest the first half sound like it was written by a living dictionary while the second half was written by a dictionary with all the adjectives and adverbs cut out.

But enough about the edit. It’s New Year’s Eve, which means it’s time to pop the champagne, break out the sparklers, and fall asleep at 9:30, because that’s how we roll in my house. It’s also time for resolutions, which is a tradition as idiotic as any we have in our funny old culture.

The date of Jan. 1 only has significance because we say it does. In the scope of the universe with all its bits of flying dust and nigh-endlessly burning gas and invisible particles and unfathomable tracts of empty space, the significance of one tiny planet making one revolution around one tiny sun has all the import of an ant fart in a hurricane. But somehow, and for some reason, we’ve decided that it’s a good date for “reinventing ourselves” and making vows that have as much likelihood of being fulfilled as my hair has of sprouting into a saucy pompadour atop my dome.

Here’s a hint for resolutions in general: if you’re making them for any reason at all other than because you find it of crucial importance to your life, you might as well write the resolution on a square of toilet tissue, and then use the toilet tissue for its designed purpose. Resolving to lose weight at the new year because that’s what everybody does? Yeah, you might as well just eat a dozen donuts now and save yourself the strife. Quitting smoking on your birthday? Go ahead and stop off for some new lighters on your drive home. If a resolution is worth making, it’s worth starting on it right fargoing now. As in, I resolve right now to stop griping about resolutions and go work on my novel.

See you next year.

Terrible Reviews: The Hobbit: It’s Over (Rest In Peace)

Time, now, to take on the final chapter in Peter Jackson’s epic, six film series.

What’s that? Oh. The … final third of… the first book in JRR Tolkien’s epic … no, wait, The Hobbit was just one book written long before the epic that would come later. Damn. Let’s just get on with it.

Spoiler alert: this post got longer than I really intended for it to be, but I stand by all of my critiques. There’s a proper spoiler alert ahead, which makes this a spoiler alert for the spoiler alert. (This is how loopy the review gets.)

I saw the movie on opening weekend. I really wanted to see it. By the end, I was glad I had seen it, in the same way you’re glad that your long-suffering pet, who had been in pain, unable to eat or play or survive, just got put down at the vet. You’re not happy about the experience, but at least the worst is over.

Let’s start with the good (and I’ll keep this brief): the movie is gorgeous. Let’s not speak about the film being in 3d, as it’s completely unnecessary. I saw the 2d version and it was as gorgeous as you could ask for. But saying that a Hobbit film is gorgeous is a bit like saying that outer space is a little sparse. It goes without saying. Peter Jackson, level what complaints you will, knows a thing or two about presenting an epic fantasy world, and as usual, he does it proper. And the acting jobs are all pretty superb as well: Freeman is charming as ever as the titular hobbit, and all the others blah blah blah ENOUGH.

There was so much in this movie that was frustrating, I’m only going to be able to hit the high points before I need to light up a pipeful of shire-weed and rub my illustrated copy of The Hobbit on my face to dull the pain.

By the way, sound the klaxons and cover your eyes, there be spoilers ahead.

The best thing about the trilogy is over before the opening credits.

Smaug dies in the opening sequence. To be fair, he dies well before the end of the book, too. I knew it was coming, but… god, the dragon was so beautiful, so well done, and it’s there, wreaking hell and spewing death like a lawn sprinkler loaded up with agent Orange, and then it’s just dead. Yes, I know, the end of the book is not about the dragon. That’s fine. But it would have been so easy to have him dead at the end of the 2nd film. Why not have him die at the end of the 2nd film? So that that film could end on a cliffhanger, of course. Why do we need a cliffhanger ending? Why, to keep fans coming back to see the 3rd film, naturally.

But there’s a problem with that logic. If you’ve sunk your hard-earned dollars into seeing the first two films (and, let’s face it, the original LOTR trilogy, so really the prior five films), you were already going to see this movie. Cliffhanger or no. Hell, the preview could have showed Bilbo and Thorin playing Chinese Checkers and Gandalf napping in his pointy hat and we’d still have gone to see it. Ending on the cliffhanger, and thus being trapped into starting this movie in the most anticlimactic way possible, was pure cinematic masturbation. “Hey, everybody else ends films on cliffhangers, we should do it too!” Except you don’t have to. Let the films stand independently rather than stitching them together like so many random body parts with the thin thread of one stretched-out incident. Seriously. The action of this film is enough in its own right without having the death of Smaug tacked on before the opening credits even roll. I got so excited to see the dragon again, only to have my heart smashed when Benedict Cumberbatch and his smooth-as-butter digitally-modified voice exited stage left immediately. The cliffhanger sucks, and I’m not even talking about this film. It needs to be put out to pasture. And speaking of overused tropes:

Get ready for an overdose of oh-sharknado-that-character-is-dead-oh-wait-no-he-isn’t.

I hate this trope. I hate it, hate it, hate it the way I hate my oldest, ugliest, meanest cat, minus the part where deep down, I really still love the cat despite all her bullsharknado, because I do not love this trope even a little bit. Maybe, maybe this trope might have surprised people when they pulled it the first few times, what? Back in the sixties or seventies? In the worst of the worst slasher films when that was the only way left to scare the audience? Here’s a goldfingered clue to filmmakers: if a six-year-old in the audience can predict what’s about to happen, you need to do something different. Now, I saw the film almost two weeks ago, so some of the details are fading from memory I’m sure, but in this film alone, BOTH of the big baddies have that moment where, oh, the-hero-has-bested-the-monster-and-ended-the-fight-oh-no-wait-this-is-a-hollywood-movie-where-anybody-can-survive-anything-for-the-purposes-of-narrative-CPR.

Legolas buries a big bad orc under an entire freaking TOWER of some dilapidated castle (we’ll get back to Legolas in a moment) and turns his back, sheathing his oh-so-cool elvish daggers and wearing that I’m-so-cool-I-just-killed-100-orcs-and-my-elf-hair-is-still-fabulous smolder, but WAIT, the orc pops out of the rubble and attacks again. If you were surprised by the orc jumping out of the pile of two-ton bricks as if they were made of papier-mache (haha just kidding it’s all CGI you ninny), then you might also be surprised when the air conditioner clicks on in your house when it was otherwise quiet. OOH SCARY.

Moments later — sheer countable moments later, before you’ve even had a chance to wash that feeble attempt at shock and awe has even had a chance from your palate — Thorin does battle with an even bigger, even badder orc on a frozen lake, and through dwarven cunning, tricks the fiend into crashing through the ice on his way to a drowned, watery grave. Huzzah! We’re even treated to a suspicious-looking Thorin (who himself seems to know what’s up) watching the body of the monster drift away under the ice. The monster is completely still, because you know, that’s what happens when you’re plunged into icy water and you’re drowning, but then there’s a long shot as Thorin seems to decide that the baddie is well and truly dead, just in time for the baddie to erupt through the ice behind Thorin to do battle once more. It’s almost funny, really, the way it insults our intelligence (but, ah-hah, now I see it — we’re already dumb for throwing all our money down this bloated franchise… TOUCHE, PETER JACKSON). First, we’re treated to the so-overused-it’s-idiotic shot of the baddie’s eyes slammed, deathlike, closed, only for them to SLAM OPEN to the dramatic sound of a mime tripping and falling into an orchestra. And the orc shoots through the ice like he was launched out of a cannon. Like… god, just whatever. I can’t even dissect this moment anymore. I’m sad for the people that thought it would be a compelling moment.

And while we’re on the topic of things that might have been compelling but weren’t:

Hey, here’s a badass heroine, just kidding, she’s just a damsel-in-distress who can fight a little bit but still needs rescuing.

I’m going to ignore any analysis of the fact that Tauriel does not exist in the book — nor, for that matter, does Legolas — and, by extension, ignore the insulting-in-its-own-right attempt at a love story between the elf and one of the bumbling dwarves. I don’t even have to go there to tell you how badly this character gets shafted.

Tauriel is an elf. One of the only female elves, if we are to believe the films, aside from Galadriel, who is a point of analysis for another time entirely, preferably after I indulge in a little shire-leaf. But she’s an elf, and elves in Tolkien’s world are FARGOING AWESOME. They move with precision and grace! They live forever! They can defy gravity and, in fact, all of physics as they fight off hordes of evil demons with nary a scratch! And even though she’s just a girl, Tauriel can do all of that sharknado. She’s the very definition of an anti-hollywood-female-character as she slices and dices her way through the ranks of evil, defies the ridiculous edicts of the men in charge of her world, and joins the cause of the dwarves against the great evil of the land.

In the midst of the fighting, we watch as Tauriel dispatches… it’s hard to say exactly, but I’m gonna say forty or more orcs in the space of just a few minutes. She skewers them with arrows, slits their throats with daggers, runs them through with swords, tosses them from the ramparts with her dainty-yet-insanely-powerful elf arms. At one point, I think she was sipping a cappucino and complaining to her half-human friend about how the dwarf wasn’t responding to her text messages  while clawing an orc’s eyes out with her perfectly-manicured nails, but I might have gotten that confused with another movie. Anyway, she’s a whirlwind of destruction, until the moment when she spies her beloved in the distance, and — gasp and egads — he’s in trouble! And in that moment, the big-bad second-in-command orc pounces upon her from behind and she’s in a fight for her life.

There’s the first problem. Because take, oh, I dunno, ANY action movie with a male heroine, show him cutting a path through his foes, let him see the inevitable love interest in danger. A foe jumps him from behind. The hero will dispatch this idiot with barely a backward glance, and then set about saving the girl. But here: Tauriel gets distracted by her man and suddenly an entire elvish life of hundreds if not thousands of years of orc-slaying training and instinct goes out the window, and she’s getting pummeled by this ONE ORC.

I’m put in mind of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Nazis have kidnapped Marian and the Ark and are high-tailing it out of town, and Indy has to fight through the crowd. He deals with some hapless denizens through crafty use of his whip and his fists, then the big bad jumps out — a turbaned, terrifying dude with a scimitar the size of El Paso. He growls. He brandishes his sword. Indy is in trouble. Except he’s not. He pulls a pistol and shoots the dude, and turns to look for Marian with boredom curling his lip. Because Indy is a goldfingered man’s-man HERO.

Then, the second problem. Legolas arrives, pulls the baddie off her, and allows her the chance to recover from the beatdown she’s just received. Does she do what a hero — or a soldier — or in fact anybody with a bit of sense would do, and help Legolas dispatch this fiend? No, she flerps around on the balcony pitifully for a minute and then goes off looking for her boyfriend. But this orc was bad enough to give you a run for your money — you don’t think Legolas might appreciate a little hand? (Let’s forget that Legolas is to this series what Conan is to Conan and therefore has no chance of dying, or in fact of being in any sort of danger whatsoever. He kills the beast as described above. But still.) No, she turns her back on a comrade and doesn’t even get the satisfaction of slaying the foe that almost bested her.

Now, again, take any action movie with a male hero. A villain is besting the hero in hand-to-hand, or sword-to-sword, or whatever-to-whatever combat. He’s outmatched. Sharknado, he’s going down! But a well-timed interruption, distraction, or anything to draw the foe’s attention for a moment will present itself and then the hero will overcome the villain himself. Allow a sidekick to strike the killing blow? NEVER.

Again, I’m reminded of Indy in Raiders. He’s on the ropes for real this time, overmatched by a burly, chest-oiled, bald-headed Nazi who has dismissed Indy’s punches without so much as a flinch and put Indy on his ass with a single well-placed jab. Indy stands no chance. But look! A twin-prop airplane is coming about right behind the villain! Now, Indy doesn’t strike the killing blow, but he’s sure as hell involved — he smiles at the guy to distract him then ducks for cover as the propeller grinds him into a fine mist. Funny, but HEROIC.

There’s more, but my fingers hurt.

This is turning into one of my longest posts ever, and I’ve only scratched the surface on this film. I’m going to cut it short here for my own sanity and yours, if you made it this far. But let me set the record straight. I enjoyed the film. It’s a fitting (if long) end to the series, and it does a good job of throwing into sharp relief the tribulations of men faced with a sudden windfall, while also providing an uplifting message about how ultimately, when the sharknado really goes down, people bind together to weather the storm. It’s a good movie. But it’s also full of some of the most head-scratching moments I’ve endured in a film I enjoyed.

But it’s all over now, and there will never be another Hobbit movie. The tale is well and truly told, which means we are now, finally, safe from Peter Jackson. Forever.

What’s that? He’s still making movies?


By the by, I was inspired to start thinking about this movie again after reading Myzania’s post on it. She’s kinder to the film than I was. Thanks — I think — for reminding me how frustrated I was by the movie.

The (non)Importance of Music to the Runner (or, the 4 stages of running with music)

So maybe you’re thinking of taking up running. Or maybe you’ve been running for a while and you’re thinking of changing up your routine. Or maybe you’re just browsing the net for articles and blog posts about the myriad topics related to running (not that I’ve ever done that). And eventually, the question occurs to you: what should I do while I run? And unless you’re running on a treadmill in front of a TV (protip: this is not the way to run), the obvious answer is to crank some tunes.

Music, I think, has a complicated relationship with running. Some runners swear by their music, others abhor it, still others could take it or leave it. I think that it’s more complicated than simple taste, though, and in classic fashion, I’m going to tell you about my experience with running under the assumption that it may also hold true for you. That’s a healthy way to live your life, right? By making wild assumptions? No? Okay, let’s just move on.

To my mind, the runner goes through a series of stages with music in his or her running career. Those stages are, briefly, Utter Dependence, Evolution, Waffling, and Indifference. Those are chronological, but not fixed, meaning: you will likely pass through those stages or others similar to them, but while I may take five years to move past Utter Dependence, you may clear it in five weeks. Or five days. Or five minutes. I don’t know. There’s no actual science going on at this blog, if you haven’t noticed.

But first, an abstract: Why is music important to the runner? And there’s no one answer: it can motivate, it can distract, it can inspire. I think that running, as an exercise, tends toward one key component that most other sports tend away from: monotony. Say what you will about paces and routes and training plans and running partners, but at the end of the day it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other, again and again and again and again. The monotony of it can be daunting, soul-crushing, and will-breaking. Music is just one way to help deal with that tireless repetition, and it’s pretty good for that purpose…

But yeah, I mentioned stages, right? So:

  1. Utter Dependence. When you start running, it sucks. You get exhausted so fast it’s depressing. Your whole body hurts. Your lungs feel like shriveled apricots. Your heart hammers away on the inside of your ribcage as if it’s trying to escape. You get dizzy and sweat-blind. In short, running is abject misery, and its detrimental effect on the body must be mitigated in any way possible. Music is a perfect distractor. Don’t focus on the burning in your legs, focus on the sweet sweet vocals of … who, Taylor Swift? Kenny Loggins? Flava Flav? (Is that even how you spell Flava Flav?) Don’t dwell on the sucking sound of wind heaving in and out of your pitiful lungs, dwell on a sweet beat and a catchy melody. At this stage in the game, the only thing worse than the monotony of the running is the pain it’s causing in your body, and you need the music to hide from it. So you hide from it in the sweetest escapes you can find, and these are your favorite tunes from your favorite artists. And this makes running bearable, for a while. But eventually those favorite songs get overplayed, or they cease to motivate you and transport you and distract you, and you stumble into stage 2. If you forget your music or can’t use it for whatever reason during this stage, don’t kid yourself; you’re not running that day.
  2. Evolution. You’ve made it past those first runs and you no longer want to die immediately when you head out. Your muscles no longer feel as if they may spontaneously combust after a few minutes of running. You may even be starting to enjoy your runs, though enjoyment is not a prerequisite for this step. No, at this stage, you realize that there’s more to running than merely getting out there and pounding the pavement, and you’ve also realized that the music piping into your headphones can actually have an impact on how you run. In a simplified universe, fast songs make you go fast while slow ones make you go slower. You start to experiment with playlists to plot out your runs in advance: “I want it nice and easy to start out, so give me some Dave Matthews Band, but then there’s that wicked hill that I need some motivation to get over, so I need ‘Call Me Maybe‘ to push through, and then I’m going to mellow it out with some Hey Jude…” yeah, all those things were on my running playlist at one point, by the way. You no longer need an escape from the pain, but you want to be better, so you seek out new music by new artists, music that motivates you and pushes you. But you will still have that day when you forget your phone, or the batteries are dead, or you can’t find your headphones, and on that day, you stay the fargo at home. Until one day, you don’t, and you flop like a fish into stage 3.
  3. Waffling. You’ve come a long way, baby. Your musical tastes have refined, you know exactly the kind of music you need to get the most out of your runs, and you have a playlist or two dedicated to ONLY that music that motivates you. You may even have entire folders of music that you wouldn’t use for anything OUTSIDE of running (I’m looking at you, Glitch Mob). But then the day comes. Your phone is dead, or your ipod can’t be found, or your headphones are on the blink, and on every day like this day, that’s reason enough not to run. But not this day. You decide that you can muscle through without music for one run, so you set out in an eerie silence. Except it’s not silent. Maybe you run in the wee hours, and you’re suddenly surrounded by a calmness broken only by the sounds of crickets and tree frogs and scuttling nocturnal forest critters. Maybe you run in the city, and it’s all sounds of traffic and bustle and car horns. Maybe you’re way out in the suburbs or parks and it’s just occasional sounds of cars and dogs barking and kids playing. You tune in to every sound outside, but more than that, you tune in to the sound of your own body: the regular thump of your feet on the ground, the soft whoosh of the wind past your ears, the pumping bellows of your now industrial-strength lungs. There’s music in that, you realize, a music that’s in its own way more compelling than anything orchestrated and recorded. A music that simultaneously makes you acutely aware of your motion through the world and divorces you from all concerns of the world. It’s during this stage that you begin to grasp that the monotony of the run is not necessarily a thing to be feared and fought against, although you’re still for damn sure reaching for those headphones by default. But you might take a short run without them on purpose once a month or so. You may take the earbuds out for a mile here or there. And this leads you finally, blissfully, into stage 4.
  4. Indifference. It sinks in, finally, that the monotony of the run is a thing to be sought on some days, that the zenlike focus (or, if you will, complete lack of focus) you achieve is preferable to the absent-minded distraction of the music you love. Maybe not every day. Maybe not even once a week. But you know that you can have just as good a run, if not a better run, without music as you can with it. More and more you find reasons to leave the headphones at home, and more and more you find that the not-really-silence of the run is a far better companion than any music you could hope to plan for yourself. In short, there comes a time when you can either take or leave the music and have a good ol’ time either way.

Will every runner go through all of these stages? Fargo if I know, but I sure as hell have. It varies depending on my mood and what’s going on in my world, but I try to go tuneless at least a couple of times a month. The quiet helps me focus, helps me think through issues with my writing, helps me see my way through problems in my classroom. Then again, there are times when I don’t want to think about any of that stuff at all, and for those times, there’s no other way but music.

The monotony of the run is inescapable. But eventually you realize that you don’t have to escape it; you can embrace it and be a better runner, and maybe a better person, for it.

Super Dad

So it’s two days before Christmas, and I’m out doing some things.

Okay, I know in my last post I wrote about how I’ve basically been a hermit during Christmastime due to the frankly reprehensible traffic situation around my house. But thanks to the sprouts, I still wake up like I’m going to work (meaning 6:00 AM is a good, flopping-around-on-the-bed, waking-up-sideways sleep-in session), so I’m able to leave the house at about 7 AM to go hit the stores.

I have several stops to make: Target (last minute gifts), Academy Sports (last minute gifts), the mall (watch repair), and Kroger (last minute groceries). My wife is working, so the sprouts are up and off with me. We pile in the van and off we go.

Now that sprout #2 is seven months old (Jesus, where does the time go) this routine is becoming about as automatic as showering. Out the door carrying sprout #2 while sprout #1 runs (arms flailing like a scarecrow) to the van. He pulls on the handle while I push the button to open it so it slides open automatically and he turns back to me, beaming, “I DID IT, DADDY!” and I laugh inwardly like a maniac. He climbs into his car seat while I buckle sprout #2 in her car seat, then I run around and buckle him in, then one more time around the car to buckle myself in, and off we go.

When my wife and I take the kids out together, we can tag-team, so there’s no need for fancy tricks or apparati. When you’re flying solo, however, wrangling two rugrats requires some creativity. Usually I opt for the Bjorn, a cleverly-designed sling thingy that lets you carry the baby strapped to your front like some floating kangaroo in black. This leaves my hands free to grab onto sprout #1, though the hours of wearing the Bjorn will probably leave my lower back resembling an accordion by the time I’m 40.

…Anyway, this is how I make my way through the stores of the morning: baby in the Bjorn, sprout #1 either toddling along holding my hand or, if the stop is a long one, riding in the cart or the stroller. From store to store we walk like this, in between stops going back to the van to saddle up and saddle down by means of that whole routine I described above.

It’s important to the point of this post (coming soon, I promise) that my wife runs the exact same play from the exact same playbook when she’s flying solo with the kids, which she does way more often than I do by virtue of staying home with the kids most days I’m at work. It’s also important that neither of us thinks much of the intricacy or repetitiveness of this routine because it is, ultimately, so routine.

SO. I’ve made my stops and I’m in the Kroger (last stop) with baby strapped to my chest and sprout #1 kicking his legs merrily in the shopping cart (somehow I always forget his uncanny ability to aim for my junk with his tiny toddler toes), and this mother/daughter pair asks me quite out of nowhere how I made out at the Academy Sports.

This throws me for a second because it’s a little bit stalkerish, and as I’m faltering, the mom says, “no, we just recognized you because of your kids. You’re like a Super Dad! They look like they’re having so much fun!” And I smile and self-deprecate as is my wont and go on my way, with the mother and daughter awwing at my kids.

This says nothing of all the people that smile and point and wave at my kids when I’m in more crowded places (like the mall). I get impressed nods and comments like, “you go, Dad!” (Yeah, somebody actually said that to me.) In short, basically nothing but positive feedback from total strangers I encountered.

Here’s the point of these encounters: I went home and told my wife about them and she got this annoyed look on her face. Like the look she has when I forget to take the trash out, or when I correct her on her grammar when she’s speaking. (I know the consequences of these things, but I can’t help myself sometimes.) Apparently, when she’s out in public wrangling the sprouts around, she gets virtually no feedback at all, aside from perhaps a sympathetic look from other women or a “looks like you have your hands full!” She gets no “Super Mom” comments, no “you go, Mom”s, no winks, no nods, no thumbs-ups.

And this is gender bias, right?

I’m wading into murky waters for Pavorisms. I’m not an activist, I rarely get political, and let’s face it, I’m about as much an agent for social change as I am an agent of MIB. Which is to say, I like to pretend to fight aliens now and then, and you probably wouldn’t remember an encounter with me, but only because I’m incredibly lame and not because I wield a neuralyzer. (As far as you know.)

But, that aside, I’m a feminist. At least, I’m an armchair feminist. I think that speech that Emma Watson gave at the UN a few months back was cracking good. And I realize that women have a harder go of it in our country (and, yeah, in most places in the world) just by dint of being women, and that’s pretty fargoed. I see the videos of women walking the streets of big cities and getting catcalled and it makes me feel a bit ashamed of my fellow men. I cringe at the anti-feminist movements and the “not all men” nonsense. Look, I’m not here to get into what makes you a feminist or not: for me, if you recognize that women have a harder road ahead of them in this world than men do, and you think that’s messed up, you’re a feminist.

So, back to my point. This is gender bias, right? My wife and I, both wrangling two kids, both probably looking a little haggard (because WE ARE), but I get grins and kudos and backslaps of encouragement while my wife just gets sympathetic looks or, much more often, simply ignored.

Think about it this way: I hardly ever see butterflies, so when I see one, it’s kind of a big deal, right? “Ooh, butterfly, pretty colors, big wings, far out.” What I see a crap-ton of, on the other hand, are squirrels. Like, so many, it would be weird if I even mentioned seeing one, because the odd day would be one in which I didn’t see a squirrel. But say you’re from some other country that’s lousy with butterflies but has never heard of squirrels, and here I am taking for granted these furry little miracles of nature and losing my sharknado over these boring insects with the colors and the wings.

Because that’s what we expect, isn’t it? We expect to see moms out with the kids. We’re programmed to see that, and to see it as normal, whether a dad is there with her or not. So it becomes normal, even though it’s anything but. Taking the two kids out in public by your lonesome is hard work. We’re not programmed to see it as much with guys, so a guy out with two kids dragging him around — even if the mom is there with him — garners more attention, garners more appreciation, garners more praise.

And that’s messed up. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate getting appreciated for my efforts with the kids, not least of which because 99% of the time, parenting is the freaking definition of a thankless endeavor. But for all I do with the kids — especially when it comes to carrying them around in public — I’m not a patch on my wife. She does it more often than I do, she does it more efficiently than I do, and she does it with about half as much frustration as I do (GOD those kneebiters can wear me thin in a hurry when I’m flying solo). And she doesn’t get nearly as much positive feedback for it as I do, IF ANY.

My point is this. If you’re the kind of person who would see a guy like me, with a baby strapped to his chest and a toddler riding in the grocery cart kicking him in the nuts, and consider that guy a “Super Dad” or say something encouraging to him or even just smile and shake your head sympathetically at him, by all means, do that stuff, because we appreciate the attention. But if you’re that kind of person, there’s no reason not to do the same thing for a woman with her kids in the same circumstances… in fact, and maybe this is just my own personal bias shining through, but I’m sticking to it; she probably needs it more. It’s not her fault you don’t notice her like you notice me.

Give the moms some love.

A Farewell to Traffic

Christmas is over, and I couldn’t be happier.

Not because I hate the season. I love the season. And I love the holiday, and the family, and the spirit, and the things… But I hate the traffic.

See, we live just around the corner from the mall; a mall that attracts shoppers from as far away as Alabama, which means that our podunk little town suddenly begins attracting ungodly numbers of shoppers after Thanksgiving. It’s ridiculous. Our city is not a huge one nor a tiny one — it’s sort of Goldilocks’ed right in the middle — but the city planning and especially the road layouts are sharply indicative of a city office that never planned on the city getting as big as it is or attracting the kind of Christmas traffic that it does.

What that means is that from November to December, you can double or triple or better your travel time to get anywhere, even if it’s just around the corner for a burger. Even getting out of my neighborhood, thanks to its juxtaposition with one of the main arteries leading to the highway, can take fifteen minutes or more depending on the (lack of) goodwill from the holiday drivers. We are consumed with traffic, which leads to headaches, which basically makes me become a hermit from Thanksgiving until a few days after the madness has passed.

It’s funny how much of an effect something like traffic can have upon my psyche, especially considering that I actually enjoy driving most of the time. But traffic sucks the life out of me. And when the traffic is caused entirely as a result of poor planning, is compounded by the jerkish behavior of average joes ignoring the rules of the road in favor of their own rushing around, and has virtually no solution in sight thanks to the cramped layout of buildings and shopping centers preventing any widening of roads, it really makes me hate humanity a little bit. Like, more than usual.

But Christmas is over, and the world is returning to normal after the gift explosions and the candy cane hangover, so the traffic is becoming livable again, which means I can go out into the world again. I can stop hating strangers so much.

And let me just acknowledge how difficult it was, with a prompt word like “consume,” how difficult it was not to write about the thirty pounds of turkey and casserole and cheesecake that I consumed over the break. For a guy like me who’s working on managing his weight, that stuff is pretty much front-of-mind right now.

Short entry today to ease me back into posting now that the holidays are over. Good one coming up about gender roles and expectations (heavy stuff for the blarg here at Pavorisms, but don’t worry, it’ll be characteristically flip and uninformed).

This post was part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. And yes, it’s a day late. I’m consumed with guilt over it.