Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Monday, January 26, 2015

"...So, I Get Ten Ninja Clowns"

Over the holidays, my son branched out. He's still enthralled with construction trucks, but now he's equally into Legos and games. And thanks to one of the latter, he's also getting good at telling stories (which never stay on plot, but always include a boy seeing a burning building).

Anyway, these aren't even the craziest things my son has said the past couple months. They're just the craziest ones I remembered to write down.

We're starting dinner, but he's still in the living room. I know nothing we're eating that night will entice him to stop playing, but there's also a bowl of fruit on the table. So I call out, "I'm eating one of your graaaapes."
From the living room: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO(now keep in mind he's never seen The Simpsons or Family Guy or anything like that)OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO(so we have no idea where he got this from)OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO(but he kept going for 8-10 seconds)OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

And then he comes to dinner. Five minutes later.
I have just left the room. My nephew turns to my son.
"We need to see Uncle Nat."
"No, he's gone forever."
"Why don't I have brothers or sisters?"
"Because Mommy and I haven't had any other kids yet. Do you want a brother or sister?"
"I want Nick and Alex [his cousins] to be my brother and sister. I want Nick to be my sister and Alex to be my brother."
I'm trying to explain the concept of English.
"We speak English."
"I don't."
"Sure you do. The language we speak is called English."
"No, I speak Normal."
"Can I PLEASE eat the head of Santa?"
He stands next to one cousin, who is 7" taller, and looks up at him.
"We're the same size!"
To a cousin, while in said cousin's house:
"Did you know you have toys in your basement?! Come on, I'll show you!"
Explaining the rules of a game we're "playing":
", I get ten ninja clowns."

As you might expect, the game has absolutely nothing to do with clowns, barely anything to do with ninjas, and he had just rolled a 6.
He holds up something built out of Duplo-style Lego blocks. It looks like a top-heavy tower.
"I made a pewer with a window."
"A what? You mean a tower?"
"No, a pewer."
"A pewer?"
"With a window."

It took another 20 seconds of back-and-forth before I figured out what a pewer is. (It's something that you point at people as you go "Pew! Pew! Pew!") (Duh.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

For the First Time Ever

My first 13 Christmases were spent at home, without any sort of celebration (unless the day happened to coincide with Hanukkah). I spent my next 16 Christmases in movie theaters and Chinese restaurants. Then I met my wife. The past 8 Christmases have been more "traditional" in their yuletide cheer: trees and gifts and ham and cookies and gifts. And for some reason, myrrh.

And yet, despite this year being Christmas #37 (of a sort), I still managed many Christmas firsts...
  • For the first time ever, I saw It's a Wonderful Life. Wow. Jimmy Stewart is an amazing actor.
  • For the first time ever, I saw Elf. Wow. Will Ferrell is an actor.
  • For the first time ever, I performed a christening. Only afterward did I learn it's not traditionally done with two bottles of wine, and also there's no reason to ever christen a driveway. But in my defense I'm still relatively new to all this stuff.
  • For the first time ever, I watched grown men battle for victory in perhaps the most hotly contested game of dreidel ever — a game that did not involve real money or real chocolate. The lone Jew (me) was ousted first, leaving six Catholics to vie for the crown — and there wasn't even a real crown.
  • And for the first time ever, I watched my three-year-old son receive a Nerf gun that shoots darts up to 100 feet, weighs nearly 5 pounds, and is 4 inches taller than he is. Thanks a lot, Tim.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Here's What Jew Talkin' About

Welcome to the answer portion of my 5th annual Jew & A! We've got some good questions this year — far better than the answers, to be sure — so read on.

Gillian asks:
If you were going to have a party for kindergarteners celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and the Winter Solstice what elements from each holiday would you emphasize in the celebration?
Chocolate gelt, Christmas cookies, and... uh... Olaf? Sure, why not. Olaf.

If you're worried this would result in a massive frenzy of sugar-laden five-year-olds bouncing off the walls and singing "Let It Go" endlessly at the top of their lungs, you worry too much. Remember: Gillian didn't ask what elements I'd recommend for such a party; she asked what I'd do if I were throwing it. I would be like a god to those kindergartners. A god with a video camera and a suddenly viral YouTube channel.

Alex J. Cavanaugh asks:
What happens if you forget to light a candle one night?
You get an extra candle to use next year.

But seriously, if someone misses a candle he is inevitably overcome by crippling guilt at having failed an entire race of people, guilt that would reduce the toughest man in the world to a useless puddle of blubbering and tears. But of course, we're Jews, so that's pretty much par for the course. We barely notice.

Naomi asks:
What should I tell my Jewish 4-year-old about Santa Claus? Or should I just let him find out on the street?
Don't you dare let my nephew find out about Santa on the street. You might think it'd be good for him to see the jolly old elf standing outside a local store collecting money for charity. But 4-year-olds interpret that as taking payoffs from people to ensure they make it on his Good list. Plus, it's just as likely he'd first come across a drunken, slovenly Santa letching after girls from an alleyway. Either way, once he started sharing his thoughts on Santa with friends, he'd be ridiculed.

You should go the explanation route instead. Share both of the prevailing schools of thought on Santa and let him decide which one to believe. (As a reminder, they are: 1) the Theory of Evolution — that Santa's otherworldly powers evolved over the years as a matter of survival, to avoid being relegated to the dustbin of forgotten saints; and 2) the Theory of Creationism — that Santa is, in fact, an entirely made-up construct with no basis in reality.) Good luck! I hope he turns out to be a creationist like his uncle!

Jenny asks:
What is the preferred dance move to accompany the Dreidel Song?
The traditional Dreidel Song dance is actually a series of moves done in quick succession: the Tiny Dancer, the Easy Bake, the Tick Tock, and the Half-Twist, with your choice of either the Whirling Dervish or the Weeble Wobble during the chorus. Repeat until the singer gets tired of singing the same verse over and over, because it's the only one she knows.

Jewish Like the Olive Garden is Italian asks:
What qualifies you to answer questions on Judaism? You haven't been to synagogue since you were eight, and your family's sole method for celebrating every Jewish holiday (except Hanukkah) is a brisket dinner.
Um, I'm Jewish. Duh.
All Jewish knowledge is passed down genetically, so it's innate.*

* Get it? Innate? (Yeah, unfortunately, punning aptitude is also passed down genetically. Thanks, Dad.)

And that'll do it for this latest session of Jew & A. I hope it has been enlightening for you. Now bring on the kindergartners!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What Jew Talkin' About, Wilson?

Hanukkah is less than a week away. What does this mean? Two things. Firstly, I need to buy and wrap an octet of gifts insignificant enough that Santa would crush them under his jolly boot and not give it a second thought. And secondly, it's time for my 5th Annual Jew & A!

In other words...

I will answer any question you have
about Judaism.

That's right: Just post any questions you might have about Jews or Judaism in the comments section before Hanukkah begins (i.e. when darkness overcomes us on 12/16), and I will answer them for you.

Perhaps you've always wondered where the Jewish unfaithful are most likely to hide their stash of bacon. Or if Moses' deep-seeded aversion to water stemmed from his early basket trip down the Nile. And oy, won't your daughter ever meet a nice Jewish boy and settle down? Whatever your query, send it my way. Even if it's been asked before, don't let that stop you -- much like the Jewish calendar, the answers to such questions are in constant flux.

So, what do you want to know?

The Original Primer and Past Jew & A's:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Bi-Monthly Post to Prove I'm Still Alive

I haven't written anything here in a while.[citation needed] Thus, by now a good number of you have surely come to the conclusion that I'm dead. I assure you I'm not. As proof, I offer you this: I am writing this post.

Okay, fine. Technically I could have written and scheduled this ages ago. I assure you I didn't. As proof, I offer you this: I don't plan ahead; I procrastinate.1

Anyway, here is some of what's happened over the past few months:
  • My wife officially beat cancer a second time.
  • My improv group had its debut performance. We rocked.
  • My son became fully potty-trained. It rocked.
  • I made umpteen repairs to our house with my own two hands.2
  • One of my photos was used in a Buzzfeed article. (It's #3.) I only found out after my friend Scott (the pinchee) was asked if it was him or his doppleganger.
  • For Halloween I dressed as a Disney lawyer for a Disney-themed party, handing out cease-and-desist orders to everyone else there.
  • I read over 100 books.3
  • The National Science Foundation asked to use haiku from my 2012 Robot Haiku contest in an upcoming campaign. (I'll post a link once the campaign launches.)
  • I went for a jog today.4
  • I wrote this post.5
So there you have it. I'm alive.


1 Note to self: Write this footnote before posting.
2 "Umpteen" means "innumerable," or in other words, "unable to be counted," so technically what I said is true. (It turns out I'm much better at doing repairs with my father's own two hands.)
3 Almost every one contained pictures of trucks.
4 This is more impressive than it sounds. Not much more, mind you, and it really depends on your interpretation of the word "impressive," but still.
5 This is far less impressive than it sounds.

Friday, September 5, 2014

One Ring to Bind Them

Four years ago today, Denise slipped this ring on my finger, and I haven't taken it off since.

Well, except a few nights early on, when it was irritating my skin. And those occasions when I set it aside in the bathroom and only remembered hours later. And whenever I've done gardening or masonry or some other activity that could sully it. Oh, and of course that time I jammed my finger playing football and couldn't get the ring over my knuckle for twelve months.1

It's okay, though, because Denise knows that even if I don't wear it all the time, my feelings for her are constant. She is my everything.

Or rather, she was. Until our son was born. Now she's half my everything. Or if you go by weight, 80% of my everything. Though really it's more like 78 or 79%. And that number's dropping.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Math is hard.

I mean, I even screwed up the title to this post. It didn't take one ring to bind us; it took two. Which proves I'm nothing like Gollum. I'll have to tell this to my preeeecious. She'll be so relieved.

(Happy anniversary, Denise!)

1 I also may have removed it once to take a photo of it. Maybe.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Thorn By Any Other Name

Up until a couple months ago, I could see an establishment called The Gold Club from my daily commute. Yes, it was a strip club. And no, I never set foot in the place; I know full well all that glitters is not gold.1

Then one day, a new banner hung out front. The club had a new name: MYNX. Later, fancier signage showed the full name as MYNX Cabaret. Though they likely employ the exact same dancers as before, it now seems like they're trotting out a lower quality product, doesn't it? Gone is the (perception of the) high-class establishment, replaced with girls and a club that are, at best, saucy. Thus, the discerning strip club connoisseur enters with lowered expectations.

And that got me thinking about book titles.

Let's say you've written a book. It's ideal title would both fit your story and catch the eye (or ear) of potential readers.2 And of course, novelists must take genre into account. Titles that play well for thrillers or mysteries will rarely cut it in women's lit. And any overlap between horror and romance is purely coincidental.3

It's also best to match your book's tone. If what you've written is quirky or humorous, try to work a hint of that into your title. Avoid puns at all costs unless they are truly clever puns. (Yes, there are such things as clever puns. No, you shut up.) And only use a trashy (a.k.a. mynxy) title if your book calls for it.4

If all else fails, just stick with something simple, and either hope the publisher comes up with a winner, or reel your readers in via the cover, jacket copy, and word of mouth.

For your perusing pleasure, here's a small sample of the titles I've considered for my first novel (about an invisible assassin whose mission is repeatedly stymied by morons):
  • And Then Came the Invisible Monkeys
  • The Unseen Agenda
  • See No Evil
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Invisible
  • Unvisible
  • Scythe Unseen
  • Invisibility for Idiots
  • How Not to Be Seen
  • The Final Defenestration of Rupert Fenwick

Most have some merit, but alas, none are fervor-inducing. The closest might be that last one, but sadly I made it up just now, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my novel. Clearly, I still have work to do.5

But no matter what, I won't sell my readers short. I'd rather my title promise more than I can deliver ("Gold Club") than lose readers by limping in with something less appealing ("MYNX") or lacking in creativity ("Naked Chicks on a Stage").

Come to think of it, I should have come up with a better title for this post. This probably isn't at all what you were expecting.

1 A partial list of glittery things other than gold and strippers: silver, bronze, iron pyrite, six-year-old girls, jazz hands, far too many greeting cards, fairy godmothers, vampires of the Meyerian oeuvre, and Gary.
2 Okay, its ideal title would actually grab people by their lapels (whether or not they're wearing lapels at the time) and instantly instill in them the innate need to buy/borrow/steal/claw each other's eyes out for your book, all before they've even seen its jacket or learned anything else about it. But, you know, good luck with that.
3 La Petite Mort: Return of the Bodice Ripper
4 You know, for instance if it's a cheap, tawdry affair... about a cheap, tawdry affair.
5 For instance, I have to finish writing it.