Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How Facebook Has Transformed The Art Of The "Friendship"

Since when did friendships become so convoluted?  It seems that at some point in the recent past, the very definition of the word "friendship" was changed, without the public's knowledge, perhaps forever.  Or maybe changed is too soft a word.  Disfigured seems to be more appropriate.  And maybe "without the public's knowledge" should be replaced with "with mass silent complicity."

At some point in the recent past, we became an oversensitive bunch who allowed the very nature of our relationships and interactions with people to be skewered and mutilated by a "Big Brother"-esque entity that watches over our every conversation and status update.

That point was 2004 and the douchebag who ruined it all was (and is) Mark Zuckerberg (Hey!  I didn't have to go see "Social Network" to know that either!  GOLD STAR FOR THE BLOGGER!!!  (I'm pretty sure that John was so overwhelmed with his visions of dragons and diadems that he missed this movie as either a surefire sign of the End of Days or the Complete Degradation of Humanity.  One or the other.))

Seriously though, since people started joining the Facebook bandwagon, the very nature and art of friendships have been unutterably and perhaps irrevocably altered.  When I was a kid (and when my parents were kids, and their parents, and their parents), friendship was a simple but beautiful thing indeed.  Most of them began in elementary school and in the most innocent of ways; the basis back then could have been as simple as "so-and-so has crayons...but so-and-so has the box of 64 crayons--the one that has the new colors in it!!!" or as deeply emotional as "hey that kid looks lonely, maybe I should go over and ask him if he wants to play."  (I won't even get into the fact that, statistically, nowadays, the former is probably far more frequent in its occurrence than the latter.) 

Over your first few years of school (if you are fortunate enough to remain in the same place for the duration), you begin to develop (ideally) more meaningful relationships with some of your classmates.  Friends are promoted to best-friend status or find themselves fading back into the cloud of acquaintanceship (that sounds medieval, doesn't it?  "I am acquaintanced to the blacksmith up the street.")  Time flows ever forward and the lines of friendship blur and reshape themselves as people come and go in your life.  If you're lucky (like I have been, thankfully) you reach adulthood having managed to pick up a few loyal and loving people along the way who stick with you for the duration of life's journey (the friends "for a reason" and not just a season or a moment).

In the past, people would come and go...and that was okay!  There was rarely any drama with the departure of a friend--at least in comparison with what goes on today.  At the best, you and a friend drifted apart naturally, mutually, and amicably; you didn't even realize that you hadn't hung out with them all summer until you see them in school in September...and you realize right away that whatever you two had had is probably lost to the stains of time forever...and that's okay!  At the worst, though, you find that only one of you has drifted away while one person clutches desperately at the fading phantasm of your friendship; I often found myself reaching out, unrequited, and not understanding why I was the only one who was trying to keep the friendship alive.  The truth was that I just didn't want to admit that it had died long before that point and I had refused simply to admit it.  Maybe it was the determination that I will speak about below...or maybe it was just that true friendships, I mean really good ones were so hard to come by and, once I had one, I didn't want to let it go.  Either way, moving on and dealing with the loss of people from your life was just something you did.  It never got any easier but you did it anyway...because you had to; somewhere along the way, though, that changed (2004 for the short-term-memory-loss-people.)

I remember the first time that I had ever heard the term "Facebook."  It was, indeed, 2004, and I was sitting in what we called "The Old Lounge" at Baruch.  Heather was by one of the computer terminals and she was telling me that I should sign up for an account.  Dan and Alan both had one and she really wanted me to come on board.  At first, I refused.  I refused for an impressive month or two as I watched everyone around me jump on the bandwagon.  You see--I had already fallen for the "join this website that everyone else is joining" trick.  Twice.  It started with Xanga.  I don't remember how that one started (though I remember signing up first back in 2000 for an account solely to respond to a suicidal post a friend of mine had made and then again sometime in 2002 or 2003) but I know I liked the site and was happy.  Then Myspace appeared in 2003 and I was recruited for that one.  I didn't like it and was content simply to stick with my Xanga page.  Then came '04 and the Facebook revolution.

Eventually, like everyone else, I caved and signed up for an account.  For whatever reason, I liked it more than Myspace (the only account of the three to be completely dissolved) and I stuck with it.  I think it was the fact that it had a more sophisticated feel to it than Myspace and it allowed me to get in touch with a bunch of people that I had not spoken to for more than ten years (in some cases).  Of course, there was also the unspoken aspect that appealed to me: the fact that, at the time, it served as a natural filter of sorts for keeping unwanted people out.  There was a snobbery involved with the genesis of Facebook: it was for "college educated" folks only.  This meant, the kid that picked on you in Junior High who coincidentally couldn't read or write to save his life probably never made it to college and thus meant that you'd never have to worry about getting that friend request.  (Ironically enough, everything changed (ALL HAIL THE ALMIGHTY LORD "$") and that kid did send that friend request to me.  *CLICK* Denied!)

(By the way--I love that I'm sitting here denouncing Facebook for fucking up the social landscape, for its snobbery, and for kowtowing to the almighty dollar...on a blog...eating a bowl of Frankenberry cereal for breakfast.  It seems tragically sad and silly at the same time.  Maybe a little ridiculous.  Nevermind--I'm not getting off at the "existentialist tangent" exit.)

Anyway, so, again, much like everyone else, I found myself getting caught up in the excitement of reconnecting with people that I had lost touch with or hadn't seen for quite some time.  I reached out to all of those people who I had gone to elementary school with--the ones who I, like everyone else, had imbued with the sentimentality and innocence of youth--placing them on a pedestal that marked the "Golden Age" of my life--or who had held a prominent place in my life as an early youth, and struck up a conversation that had laid dormant for upwards of twenty years (or that had never even begun, in some cases)...but then, over time, I began to run out of people that I had genuinely had friendships with...and then it started.  I started to look for people that I "used to talk to."  Then it was people that "I used to know" (mostly friends of friends).  And then finally, "Let's flip through the yearbook and look for familiar faces!"

I'll admit it: I was a friend-whore for a time.  The only two things I can say in my defense are 1) I recognized it fairly quickly and managed to put the kibosh on it before it got out of hand, and 2) everyone ELSE was doing it!  I stopped actively seeking friend requests from people when I realized that I didn't even speak to half of the people that I had already friended.  And I suppose this is a great place to start my argument:

Facebook has fucked up friendships.

Or we at least need to add a new, official, designation of "Facebook Friend," that neither connotes or denotes anything related to actual, physical, meaningful friendship.  How can we define this?  Simply as the following: a "Facebook Friend" is a person with whom the primary (or sole) milieu for communication is one or both of our walls, photo albums, or status updates.  How can we identify such people?


(I'm summoning my inner Jeff Foxworthy here.)

You might be a "Facebook Friend" if...

1) We are "friends" on Facebook despite having never met or spoken in person. Ever.

2) We live in the same city, have "known" each other for more than a year, speak frequently on Facebook...and have never physically spent any time together.

3) We have never emailed, texted, or spoken to each other on the phone as our only means of communicating is "commenting" and "liking" things on each other's Facebook page.

*4) Our only communication, on an annual basis, is a "Happy Birthday!" post when the Angel of Facebook tells us it is time, and, MAYBE, a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year.

Number four gets an asterisk because it serves as a segue to and foundation for the rest of my argument.  A few months ago, I had reached a social nadir of sorts.  Many of my most treasured friendships were in varying states of disrepair and, in a few cases, irreparability.  In a few of the latter cases, I needed the closure of removing those people from my life completely.  We weren't speaking any more and it was clear that we never would again.  All that remained was the severing of our virtual ties...and that's when the problem started.  I told Heather that I was going to "end" the "friendships" with these people so that I could move on and be done with it all.


I can picture my wife's voice right now as I sit and type: 

"Can't you just leave it alone and just hide them?  Why do you have to remove them completely?"

My wife and I are similar in ways I never dreamed possible...but we are also different on a few fundamental levels.  Heather is arguably the kindest, most compassionate person I have ever met.  She puts people ahead of herself and makes personal sacrifices for the sake of others to a degree that I have seen only once before in my life.  This is a wonderful trait but it also has its drawbacks.  A consequence of Heather's approach to her relationships with people is that she, like me, often finds herself serving as a doormat for people.  Though it bothers me that she will let herself be treated the way that she does sometimes, I know that it is not out of any form or sign of weakness.  Though she might suffer in silence when she is mistreated, she has an equal and opposite reaction when someone she cares about is the one being abused.  She transforms herself and reveals a fearless side that is vociferous and passionate in its defense of her loved ones.  I have been the fortunate recipient of this love and care on many occasions and it is something that, after nearly ten years together, I still marvel at. 

Still, though, there is a fundamental difference between us when it comes to how we interact with people.  Said difference is not so much that we render ourselves as doormats but rather how we react to said doormatting.  Heather will turn her cheek more times than I ever could...but it's sometimes as much to turn a blind eye to the situation as it is out of forgiveness or general altruism; I can't do that.  I think it's in our astrological natures.  She is a Libra--balanced, fair, always looking out for the well-being of others (often over her own welfare); I am an Aries--fiery, impulsive, passionately defensive of myself and others but quick to violent emotional reactions.  Heather is content (and able, which I believe is the more salient and operative word) simply to ignore the people who hurt her, particularly when it comes to Facebook.  She has a tremendously well-developed and disciplined mind that can distance itself from her emotions; I'm pretty much the exact opposite.  I become like a dog with a bone when it comes to emotional situations: I gnaw at it (or need to gnaw at it) until the marrow is extracted (thus the situation is resolved, one way or another).

I have always hated and been unable to endure a lack of resolution with situations in my life.  Perhaps it's because I'm a musician: I need a return to the tonic note or chord to finish the piece, for better or worse.  As much as my obsession comes from, well, obsession, it is often driven by the fire of determination that I have burning within me; I hope that it is this aspect that my wife recognizes in these situations and that it is something that she respects me for: I take that very same determination into every situation in my life, whether it is a damaged emotional relationship with someone or a pick-up game of basketball.  For some reason, Facebook has given me great grief when it comes to obtaining the resolution (and serenity, in a way) that I seek.  I need closure when it comes to certain relationships and situations--not simply "hiding" someone on a newsfeed.

Now this is a gross oversimplification of the nature of the situation that I faced a few months earlier.  Removing said people from my Facebook friends list might create some backlash, not only for me but for Heather as well.  In her defense, she had a vested interest in what I did because it very well might affect her adversely...so I held off.  And held off.  And held off.  Until finally, I couldn't take it anymore.  I wasn't sleeping because I was obsessing about all of the negative things that had transpired between these people and me.

And then I decided to invoke the Law of the Band-Aid.

I woke up the next morning, turned on the computer, signed into Facebook, and removed them.  Just like that.  (The Law of the Band-Aid says simply, in a difficult situation or a situation that one dreads because it requires a distressing action to be taken, to perform said action as quickly as possible, with the analogue to the Band-Aid being that, when done quickly, it will sting for a moment (and remove a large swath of hair in one shot), but, when done slowly, the pain is drawn out and amplified considerably (thus removing that same large swath of hair...one strand at a time...sloooooowwwwwllly.))  And the most amazing thing happened: I felt better; it was as if some unseen weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  That very night I slept for the first time in, what was at that point, at least three months and possibly five (due not simply to the social circumstances I was in but a multitude of issues not the least of which was the impending arrival of my first child and all of the changes that his arrival would bring.)

Then, something even more amazing happened: absolutely nothing.  There was no backlash, no gnashing of teeth and no plucking of beards.  Nothing. At. All.  I had made the right decision and it had had no adverse affect on Heather (much to my relief).

And then it got me thinking.

If removing someone who I no longer wanted to be friends with on Facebook was so easy...then why was it so hard?  And why didn't I do it with more people that I didn't speak to?

I looked through my list of friends (numbering just over 400 at the time) and was appalled by what I saw.  I felt like I had thrown a house party (with Facebook being the house) and I woke up to find a BUNCH of people I didn't really know (either figuratively or literally) strolling around, eating my chips and drinking my beer and soda (one guy even had the nerve to make brownies!  You know who you are.)  There was one person who, in no uncertain terms, had, maybe sixteen months earlier told me that I was essentially the worst person alive, that she would NEVER have forgiven me for what I had "done" (referencing a nonsense situation that I was having with someone else), and that she didn't think that I deserved to have that other person ever speak to me again.  And then, four months later, the Angel of Facebook told her that it was my special day and there was a "Happy Birthday!" waiting for me on my wall.  We didn't have a single conversation for the rest of 2009 but, unsurprisingly, at the end of March, there was another birthday comment.  Hooray!

A similar circumstance existed with another "friend" who had come away with a bunch of us on our annual cabin trip up north.  After a horrendous experience with this girl, I was again made out to be a monster, accused of a bunch of things (some of which were true, admittedly) and labeled with a slew of characteristics and traits (few of which were true).  After a few months of silence between us, I decided to extend the olive branch and attempt a recovery by calling her on the phone.  Needless to say, nothing ever came of that but a few months later she commented on a picture I posted.  Or maybe it was the announcement of Heather's pregnancy.  I don't remember.  The bottom line was that she refused to speak to me in reality and elected to do so capriciously on Facebook. 

Should I be surprised by the fact that, in all of the time I had "known" her, I had seen her, MAYBE, a total of fifteen times in person?

In both cases it was ABUNDANTLY clear that we were never going to be friends (in a healthy sense) again...and yet, there they were, in front of God and everyone, on my list.  Citing my need for closure, I decided to come up with a set of criteria for who would make the cut and who would be getting the axe.  I think that what influenced me a great deal was an anecdote I had read in the Reader's Digest about this very same issue.  I think it was something about etiquette issues and Facebook friendships.  The advisor said basically that it's up to you to determine who is on your list of friends on Facebook and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, that that should not be the deciding factor in whether or not you remain friends.  In other words, being friends on Facebook should a) not constitute or replace being friends in "real life" nor b) should your actual, physical friendship be contingent upon the Facebook connection.

So I came up with the following list:

If I had never met you--gone.
If we hadn't spoken in the last three-to-five months on Facebook--gone.
If our only Facebook conversations consisted of Happy Birthdays--GONE.

I felt like Edward Scissorhands snipping away at the strands of virtual friendship that were no longer bound to the follicle.  I also felt like the person getting the haircut--feeling myself growing lighter with each falling strand.  The feeling was amazing

But then there was the concern: would there by some sort of backlash?  Would I FINALLY get to see some gnashing of teeth?!

I looked at it this way: if I hadn't spoken to someone in the timeframe noted above or if our conversation consisted only of the birthday wishes...how mad could those people really get?  At the worst, they would send me some nasty message that would just reaffirm my decision.  At the best, they would do nothing.  And in the middle, they would send a friend request.

I shaved down the list from a little over 400 down to 170.  That's almost 250 people.  Here's the breakdown:

To date: zero nasty messages and, at most, five re-requests (a few were mistakes--I had clicked on one person but it removed someone else, so it was probably five actual re-requests, if that).

So now we come to the climax of this argument and the current predicament that I find myself in: what do you do when a real friendship degrades itself to the point of a Facebook Friendship...and then to one that you want to end?  It's undeniably sophomoric to remove people on an emotional whim--to click that tiny x with a heavy hand simply because someone said something about your status or photo that you didn't like...but what if you genuinely have nothing in common with a person that you used to be friends with?  Does that past somehow dictate that you must continue the online charade, ad infinitum?  I always argue that it should never matter how much time you have spent in a relationship with someone when it comes to deciding whether or not to continue that relationship if the amount of time you have shared with that person is the only thing keeping you with them.  I can't believe I just said all of that without a single comma.

Anyway, I understand Heather's point about just hiding the person's newsfeed or simply ignoring them...but, to draw upon another analogy, I liken the situation to a phone call.  Each friendship is like its own individual phone conversation.  Everything is great when both people are talking...but what about when it's only one person speaking?  Or, worse, no one speaking?  I remember those epic emo moments on the phone when I was in high school--it was a surefire way of telling that a relationship was over: you're both sitting with the phone pressed against your ear but no one is saying anything and the only reason you're still on the phone is because neither of you wants to hang up...because hanging up represents that things are over!  But what's the point of staying on the phone if no one is going to speak and there's nothing more to say?

That's the point I was trying to explain to Heather and, myself, I suppose, this morning.  The bottom line, though, is that, when it comes to mortally wounded friendships, if it's dead it's dead; whether you hang up or not is irrelevant--it can't change what is likely a truth that you are refusing to recognize.  Regardless of whether I went to school with these people, worked with them, or knew them in some other capacity or from some other venue...if the bottom line is that there is no future to be had, should I really allow the past to keep them in my present?  In all of the cases, it's not even that something happened and now I want to cut ties with that person.  It's more that we've drifted apart (in each case) and whatever had tied us together or connected us previously is no longer there.  Plus, if we really are "friends," then shouldn't that friendship not be predicated on whether we are connected on a social networking website in the first place?

I know that I will be accused of overthinking things (as I am so often accused of) but I will argue that the true nature of the situation is the very opposite of that--everyone else not thinking enough about the situation (as is so often the case).  Maybe if we all set our priorities straight we would not have so much of our self-esteem and emotions tied up in an evanescent virtual identity that has no bearing on who we really are as people! 

Or maybe not.  Maybe I am overthinking it.  It's definitely one of my character flaws, right along with an oversensitivity that is, at times, unmatched by anyone I know.  With regards to the latter, though, I feel like it is balanced by a forgiving nature and an innate desire to maintain homeostasis in my relationships; it might take very little to get me upset or to hurt my feelings...but it takes even less to set things straight.  And, given a long enough timespan, I will invariably either forget about whatever had happened or find a way to blame myself (and believe that) and then to seek peace betwixt us.  With regards to the former...overthinking things often causes me stress but it also gives me answers and insight that would otherwise remain esoteric.

It seems like such a black and white issue: I don't speak to these people and in order to flush my mental and emotional cache I need to rid myself of them completely.  There's unequivocally no chance that things will be repaired (if they need repairing, likely because they are longstanding issues that have gone addressed but unattended to) or simply that there is no reason or interest in continuing the online friendship.

So why not just click that damnable tiny x and be done with it?

I suppose the answer is:  It's Complicated.

ADDENDUM: I can't help but wonder if it's a sign that the song that I first listened to as I began to write this entry is also the one that's on again now at the end of my writing--a song called "Save Me From Myself" by Vertical Horizon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Little Something For Everyone

So now that the blog has gone global and beyond, being read on all eight continents (seriously--one of my readers from the future has informed me that a massive tectonic disturbance has severed California and the great bulk of the western coast from the mainland and has set it adrift in the Pacific.  Apparently the United Federation has elected to recognize it as a sovereign continent called "West America," making it the eighth continent.  True story.  Another true story (and little known fact about me!)--I can't travel to the past, only to the future.  Well, kinda.  I mean, I probably could travel back to the past...but I definitely shouldn't.  Why, you ask?  I'm allergic to Penicillin!  Yup.  So if I get shot or otherwise wounded, I'm pretty much screwed.  I mean...technically...I guess I could go back to before even Penicillin was discovered...but then if I got shot or wounded...I guess I'd still be screwed...just on a MUCH more fundamental level.  Don't say it--I JUST thought it too: I could just go back even FURTHER to before they invented firearms and/or projectile weapons...but didn't Neanderthals wield pointed spears?  Shit...maybe I should just stick to the future.  Or the present.  It IS a "gift," after all!  BA DUM CHING!  Basically I just can't answer this want ad):

So yeah...blah blah blah, on all eight continents...oh!  Right!  AND across all five oceans (seriously--there are five--RIGHT NOW!  Did you have any idea?  Me neither!  WTF!  It's like Pluto gets downgraded and there are all sorts of wristbands and walks and shit in support of it but somehow the global governing body has slipped in a new ocean on us unnoticed.  Don't believe me?  Here's one of a million new maps that show it:


Or, if you trust Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceans    )

Anyway, Google has played a HUGE role in making my blog one of the top five read sites on the Internet, particularly with the advent of "Google Translator."  This motha-motha not only translates betwixt English and nearly sixty other languages, including Afrikaans (no, not the one with the clicks--that's Swahili), Azerbaijani, Yiddish, and...wait for it...Swahili! It also has the impressive feature of auto-detecting the language making it arguably the most useful translation tool on the Net (though numerous pretenders have sprung up in recent months).  Now, my readers from the African plains to the war-torn cities of Azerbaijan (just kidding--I have NO IDEA what Azerbaijan is like!  They might just be war-torn villages or shanty-towns) can easily log on and enjoy the mirth and goodwill featured on my site!

Sadly, though, there are still a great deal of people who are assed out thanks to the callous thoughtlessness of those highbrow Google parvenus (I'm thinking of you my Aborigine friends!  Stay strong!  Papa *TCHK TLOP MBO!PA!* Loves you!)  Anyway, being the envelope-pushing egalitarian that I am I've decided to provide some special messages to a select group of...groups...of...people...yeah...who are underserved by the Facist Klingon Empire of Goog-El.  If anyone can figure out what the following messages say, who they are directed to, and what the single overarching thing is that interrelates said communiqué, leave a comment or shoot me an email and if you're the first person to get it right, I'll send you some sort of prize.

Seriously--no joke--I will send you something cool.  Cross my heart!

Anyway, without further ado:

(Okay, just a LITTLE adu):

Message # 1


Message # 2


Message # 3

Message # 4

.--- ..- ... - / .- / -.-. .- ... - .- .-- .- -.-- / .- -. / .. ... .-.. .- -. -.. / .-.. --- ... - / .- - / ... . .- / .- -. --- - .... . .-. / .-.. --- -. . .-.. -.-- / -.. .- -.-- / .-- .. - .... / -. --- / --- -. . / .... . .-. . / -... ..- - / -- . / -- --- .-. . / .-.. --- -. . .-.. .. -. . ... ... / - .... .- -. / .- -. -.-- / -- .- -. / -.-. --- ..- .-.. -.. / -... . .- .-. / .-. . ... -.-. ..- . / -- . / -... . ..-. --- .-. . / .. / ..-. .- .-.. .-.. / .. -. - --- / -.. . ... .--. .- .. .-. / .. .----. .-.. .-.. / ... . -. -.. / .- -. / ... --- ... / - --- / - .... . / .-- --- .-. .-.. -.. / .. .----. .-.. .-.. / ... . -. -.. / .- -. / ... --- ... / - --- / - .... . / .-- --- .-. .-.. -.. / .. / .... --- .--. . / - .... .- - / ... --- -- . --- -. . / --. . - ... / -- -.-- / -- . ... ... .- --. . / .. -. / .- / -... --- - - .-.. . / .- / -.-- . .- .-. / .... .- ... / .--. .- ... ... . -.. / ... .. -. -.-. . / .. / .-- .-. --- - . / -- -.-- / -. --- - . / -... ..- - / .. / ... .... --- ..- .-.. -.. / .... .- ...- . / -.- -. --- .-- -. / - .... .. ... / .-. .. --. .... - / ..-. .-. --- -- / - .... . / ... - .- .-. - / --- -. .-.. -.-- / .... --- .--. . / -.-. .- -. / -.- . . .--. / -- . / - --- --. . - .... . .-. / .-.. --- ...- . / -.-. .- -. / -- . -. -.. / -.-- --- ..- .-. / .-.. .. ..-. . / -... ..- - / .-.. --- ...- . / -.-. .- -. / -... .-. . .- -.- / -.-- --- ..- .-. / .... . .- .-. - / .. .----. .-.. .-.. / ... . -. -.. / .- -. / ... --- ... / - --- / - .... . / .-- --- .-. .-.. -.. / .. .----. .-.. .-.. / ... . -. -.. / .- -. / ... --- ... / - --- / - .... . / .-- --- .-. .-.. -.. / .. / .... --- .--. . / - .... .- - / ... --- -- . --- -. . / --. . - ... / -- -.-- / .. / .... --- .--. . / - .... .- - / ... --- -- . --- -. . / --. . - ... / -- -.-- / .. / .... --- .--. . / - .... .- - / ... --- -- . --- -. . / --. . - ... / -- -.-- / -- . ... ... .- --. . / .. -. / .- / -... --- - - .-.. . / -- . ... ... .- --. . / .. -. / .- / -... --- - - .-.. . / .-- .- .-.. -.- . -.. / --- ..- - / - .... .. ... / -- --- .-. -. .. -. --. / -.. --- -. .----. - / -... . .-.. .. . ...- . / .-- .... .- - / .. / ... .- .-- / .- / .... ..- -. -.. .-. . -.. / -... .. .-.. .-.. .. --- -. / -... --- - - .-.. . ... / .-- .- ... .... . -.. / ..- .--. / --- -. / - .... . / ... .... --- .-. . / ... . . -- ... / .. .----. -- / -. --- - / .- .-.. --- -. . / .- - / -... . .. -. --. / .- .-.. --- -. . / .- / .... ..- -. -.. .-. . -.. / -... .. .-.. .-.. .. --- -. / -.-. .- ... - .- .-- .- -.-- ... / .-.. --- --- -.- .. -. --. / ..-. --- .-. / .- / .... --- -- . / .. .----. .-.. .-.. / ... . -. -.. / .- -. / ... --- ... / - --- / - .... . / .-- --- .-. .-.. -.. / .. .----. .-.. .-.. / ... . -. -.. / .- -. / ... --- ... / - --- / - .... . / .-- --- .-. .-.. -.. / .. / .... --- .--. . / - .... .- - / ... --- -- . --- -. . / --. . - ... / -- -.-- / .. / .... --- .--. . / - .... .- - / ... --- -- . --- -. . / --. . - ... / -- -.-- / .. / .... --- .--. . / - .... .- - / ... --- -- . --- -. . / --. . - ... / -- -.-- / -- . ... ... .- --. . / .. -. / .- / -... --- - - .-.. . / -- . ... ... .- --. . / .. -. / .- / -... --- - - .-.. . / ... . -. -.. .. -. --. / --- ..- - / .- -. / ... --- ...

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Mutable Pungence Of Infantile Saliva (with one helluva tangent!)

Drool.  It is one of the realities of rearing a child (and/or owning a puppy) that people often fail to discuss with new parents.  It is also pervasive and ever-flowing--like wine at a party co-headlined by Jesus & Bacchus--ESPECIALLY with a child who is teething.  It is not necessarily the copious amount of droolage that the child will besmear itself with but rather how much will get on you...and all of your stuff.  Microfiber furniture?  Moistened.  Computer keyboard while said child sits on lap?  Slathered.  Face while holding child up in air?  Splattered.

A slobbering, teething child, while unnecessarily wet is not in and of itself inherently disgusting.  It's actually kind of endearing in a way--seeing that big, moist smile turned up at you as rivulets of saliva course in a southerly direction from lips to chin to chest to floor.  There is even a grace period where said saliva seems to be more like water than sputum.  How long this period lasts is arcane...but, inevitably, at some point...it changes.  You see, somewhere along the way Timmy's spit began to smell, well, like spit. I'm not sure when or where it happened...but the bouquet is undeniable. You see, early on, an infant's saliva doesn't really have a smell...it's just sorta there--again, like water, I suppose. At some point, however, it attains that distinctly salival wang that is both pungent and unpleasant.  Worse, it's incredibly pervasive; once it's in your nose, it's there...ad nauseum.

The problem is that there are very few things that smell like saliva or that conjure up a salival-oriented recollection that is either positive or pleasurable (let's keep it clean people--minds out of the gutter. Let's make like Wilde and keep our eyes on the stars, shall we?) For me the most disgusting salival stench is that of cream cheese that has caked itself into the corner of my mouth. Seeing this in public speakers (mostly teachers and professors) causes my gorge to rise. You know what I'm talking about--that little bit of...whathaveyou that appears mysteriously at the corners of their mouths.  There's usually a faint but distinct smacking noise that accompanies the appearance of this gunk--a sound that is both wet and thick.  That's what I think of when I find that there is a hidden payload of softened cream-cheese hiding in the bunkers of my mouth-corners.  There is just something about that sebaceous scent of the mixture of melting cream cheese and spit that makes me want to make like a model from Milan after a massive meal of meaty magnitude (a.k.a. vomit).

Coincidentally, as Timmy's spittle began to smell, he also began to enjoy shoving his hands into his mouth and then touching things. And by things I mean EVERYTHING. And by everything, I mean specifically, my eyes, nose, and mouth. Nothing is quite as disgusting as having a spit-laden hand shoved into my mouth and then two pudgy little fingers shoved deftly up into a nostril thereby securing that the smell of our commingling saliva is firmly caked upon the hairs in my nose (it's a double-edged sword--those very same hairs that are now retaining the pungency of two brands of saliva coming together as one, also prevent certain pathogens and other particles of filth from entering my nose, thereby providing me with those AMAZING hard boogers that you want to pick but then you DON'T want to because you kinda want to save it but you KNOW you won't be able to wait until later (and, secretly, you're afraid that they'll get moistened, which would thus ruin the experience for you) so you stop whatever you're doing and try to find a secluded place (or not...you exhibitionist, you!) and transform your nostrils into a makeshift booger orchard during the height of booger-picking season and you go to town baby! I mean you're a good three or four inches deep into your own face trying to get to the root of the booger (because if you break it in half you're sorta defeating the purpose of the SECOND best part of this nasal-odyssey: the post-pick-moment-of-examination-and-admiration) before you even realize, "Holy shit! I'm in up to my wrist!" And then you have that moment of release where you feel the individual tendrils that the booger has attached to your nose hairs breaking one-by-one like the strings on Fate's tapestry

(which isn't that terrible of an analogy as you are acting as the hand (or finger(s)) of Fate for this one lucky green crystal of awesomeness) until finally it breaks free and you have it, you REALLY HAVE IT! resting comfortably on your fingertip; THAT'S when the afterglow really kicks in. You want to light a cigarette and just bask but you know that you can't--I mean absolutely can't because you have work to do. You're now like a booger archaeologist, uncovering a fossil that the world has never seen (and, sadly, will never see again--boogers are like snowflakes people, the only difference is that the former are warm and moist and the latter are as cold as ice and moisten only when they land on your tongue...which, I mean I guess that's another similarity...

A moment's digression, if you will allow it (as if this tangent hasn't been enough of one): I would MUCH prefer to be around someone picking their nose in public than I would someone clipping their finger- and/or toenails. Both are things that are arguably private activities that people should engage in in the seclusion of their own homes and yet both are fairly prevalent, at least on Staten Island express buses and the ferry and Manhattan trains...but there's something compelling about a guy picking his nose--you're almost rooting for him (Wakka Wakka Wakka) to come out with something big. Seriously. Pay attention the next time you see someone digging for gold on the train--look around you and see how many people are stealing glances at the guy (more often than not--most women are too prissy to allow themselves such pleasure in public) to see whether he comes out with something epic. Everyone is secretly hoping that it's one of those gooey ones that leave a long stringy symbiotic trail back to its host like a booger-parasite--something that will make their mouths water as if they are just about to throw up. It's like a train wreck--you want to look away...but can you? Really?  REALLY?  The irrefutable answer is no. You WANT to see that hefty blob of goo plop out of that guy's nose and onto his outstretched finger--waiting like a baby bird for its mother's regurgitated payload of digested fat and connective tissue--it's ambrosia baby!  Anyway, it's almost like his nose is giving birth to something simultaneously terrible and beautiful. Clipping your nails in public is just gross. The sound makes me want to throw up. No one wants to see that. The booger guy? What's more tragically beautiful than witnessing the simultaneous birth and death of something his body produced? You're witnessing the entire lifetime of that little bugger (WAKKA WAKKA WAKKA) pass by in the blink of an eye (better not rub that eye though! You might conjunct a vitis!  Get it?  GET IT!?) You're essentially playing a voyeuristic God, observing with indifference the existential struggles of a unique physical entity...isn't it exhilarating!?


Anywho, so you begin to inspect it (the booger gold for ye of such short attention sp--hey is that a kite???).  First you take a straight-on look at it...but then you begin to examine it from different angles, gently moving it around with your pointer finger and thumb (BUT NOT ROLLING IT...NOT YET...FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NOT YET!), feeling its textures, noting the viridian hues that seem almost to glow if you hold the boog up to the light. Then...the big moment comes: you must rid yourself of your payload. You pretty much have three options depending upon its level of malleability. You can simply flick it, like you're going for a paper-football field goal, (FTW!--LITERALLY!) The payoff for this is pretty low unless you somehow manage to get some MASSIVE distance on it, you launch it from some great height and can watch it fall (Top of the Rock, anyone?) or it happens to land on someone's shoulder. I think that happened to my Mom once. I might be misremembering it (Roger Clemens, everyone!  ::Round of applause::). It might've been Purell that squirted errantly onto someone's expensive suit. I'm pretty sure it was that...but only 99.9% sure.  Either way I'll be in trouble for mentioning this. Anyway--if your treasure (for some reason I'm picturing Gollum calling it his precious...HIS PRECIOUS!) has just a little bit of squish to it, you can do the roll-and-flick (which stands in direct opposition to George Carlin's "roll it and put it in your pocket for safe-keeping" approach). This is the least-effective method of dismissal because there is a high likelihood that, once balled up, the booger will develop an almost magical stickiness to it, thus thwarting your efforts to flick it to oblivion. More often than not, you will wind up with it stuck to the nail of the afflicted (a-"flick"-ted, get it? GET IT!?) finger thus beginning a sisyphean endeavor. You'll be better off just going with method number three at this point BUT you will get points for tenacity if you stick with it (plus, with all that time and effort spent already, don't you want that sense of accomplishment when you finally DO manage to get rid of it? I thought you would. Good for you.) The only remaining option is the wipe-and-drag. The least couth of the options (seriously--can you think of anything that has EVER been called "couth"? It's always about the negative--things are UN-couth but never couth. The glass is half full people! Get on board the couth train! WHOO WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!), the wipe-and-drag is really just a last resort. Seriously--it's gross seeing the smear that it leaves as you roll it along whatever surface you're leaving it to die on. It's almost like a slug. You don't want to think of something you just pulled from your nose as being slug-like, right?

So yeah, the moral of this tangent: don't pick and flick--you're robbing yourself of some much deserved pleasure and entertainment.

(Wow, what a tangent that was, huh!? Even I wasn't expecting things to turn out that way but...wow...yeah...I mean...there it was, clear as day, in print before our very eyes! Alright, so where were we? Ah, yes--Timmy's spit.)

So yeah, it's amazing how many different parts of his body he can manage to plaster with his spittle. I was lying down with him before trying to get him down for a nap and I went to tickle his underarm with my nose and, BAM!, there it was: spit smell. IN the armpit! Incredible. Don't even get me started on his feet. The boy doesn't walk yet but he DOES stand up quite a bit in his Exersaucer and whenever we have him standing up when we play with him. Needless to say, his feet accumulate a certain amount of grime, which goes unnoticed...except for when it ends up in my mouth or nose. How does that happen? Easy! Timmy loves to play with his feet. He'll grab his cute little toes and pull back on them as he straightens his cute, pudgy little legs...and will eventually put one of his cute little feet into his mouth and slobber all over it like a dog with a chew toy (I know, I know--I could've gone with a baby and a chew toy...but seriously, that's redundant. Socks and sandals people.  Or just socks if you're of Einstein's ilk.) Whether that foot then gets rubbed across my face or is first handled by his fingers and then THEY get smudged across my face or shoved up my nose as he tugs at my nostrils is irrelevant; the bottom-line is that I wind up with that sickly-sweet smell indelibly bonded to my smell receptors.

Upon further reflection, I suppose the appearance of the stink is likely associable to the commencement of Timmy's solid food-eating. Perhaps the panoply of orange- and yellow-foods that he has consumed has somehow altered his mouth...chemistry...? Yeah. It's the only thing that I can think of. I mean, his formula smells like spoiled soy milk but it never changed the smell of his saliva. Sure it stunk to high hell when he burped or spit up...but he never had "formula breath." Come to think of it, I don't think he really has "sweet potato breath" or "squash breath" either...it's just the saliva. Maybe I can ask someone who studies saliva. What would that person be called though? A salivagist? A salivologist?


Wow. Google is coming up short BIG-TIME here! Apparently Dog Saliva might be the Next Wonder Drug, at least according to the Alaska Science Forum...but no technical term for a saliva-savant here. Well, if no one else will do it, I'll take the reins. Right here and now, making it official...(you're WITNESSING HISTORY here, people!): I'm going with salivagist as the official, universally recognized term for someone who studies saliva.

Long live salivagy (yup, you guessed it--it's the study of saliva. That's two, count 'em, TWO terms coined in this one entry!)--my guess is that it will be the number-one course of study chosen by college-bound students in America within the next ten years.  You hear that MATH, ENGLISH, & BUSINESS???  WE'RE COMING FOR YOU, MOTHAFUCKA!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

V is for Vegetable! (Sometimes): The Deconstruction of a Children's Alphabet Book

People often ask me whether or not I read to Timmy. I always inform them that I do and then proceed to qualify my assertion by saying that, though I read him the standard infant fare of Dr. Seuss and other "Baby's First" books, I also try to balance that with a healthy amount of classical literature. I explain that I am currently reading him Dante's Divine Comedy aloud (we have already traversed the cantos of the Inferno and Purgatorio and are a third of the way through Paradiso at the writing of this entry) and, when said inquisitors hear this, they almost universally raise an eyebrow with a confused, half-hearted and unintentionally awkward smile. I am sure that both reactions are a result of their trying to determine whether or not I am serious (I am) as they attempt to process whether such an activity is ridiculous or not (it's not).  If I am in an amiable mood, I will explain that the purpose of reading to children is to expose them to a variety of vocabulary and to help them to hear spoken language.  I then posit that there is nothing better to use than classical verse poetry to achieve those ends.  There is a vast lexicon that is used throughout the pages of Dante (or any other worthy poet) and the lines of verse have a musicality to them that I believe helps the listener to pick up on the nuances of the oral language; it is the same reason that I expose Timmy to a variety of musical forms instead of the typical crap you see on television programs aimed at children.  I believe that he will develop a sophisticated ear for music and to aid him in this I offer him a differentiated curriculum, if you will, of bands and genres.

The bottom line is that reading him Dante, Mann, Joyce, Keats, or Yeats, at the worst, will have no impact on him whatsoever; it's not doing him any harm and the possible reward far outweighs the non-existent risk.

Still, though, one needs to build a foundation before one can go waxing poetic on the literary classics.  What better way to do this than to read Timmy a book about the alphabet?  One letter per page...with pictures!!! 

Now, for legal reasons (and because I'm essentially just bullshitting, as with most of my posts), I will NOT be identifying the book that I will be discussing.  You see, the problem is that, on the surface, it is a lovely read.  It has twenty-six pages (the Lord is a beneficent Lord!), each of which features an oversized and colorful picture that is meant to be the focus of the page.  There is also a word that identifies the picture, starting with the letter that corresponds to that page's placement, and that begins a sentence that describes some sort of characteristic or action that is relevant to said object.  The sentence even rhymes with another one on another page!  When one delves deeper, though, (as I am often wont to do), the validity of the images and words associated therein begins to break down; the centre cannot hold...widening gyre...blah blah blah you get the picture. 

Now I understand that this might seem similar to a popular piece that Maddox, the world renowned Internet satirist did where he judged children's artwork but there are a few fundamental differences between his work and mine.  First, I DON'T think that I can draw better than children (though I am MUCH faster and stronger than them and, from the looks of it, Maddox as well).  Second, I am not judging children's artwork but rather a book that containers artwork for children.  Lastly, it is not the artwork, in isolation, that is in question but rather the complete package of each page that I am calling into question.

Ultimately, the book begins to seem detrimental to the development of any youngster unfortunate enough to be brainwashed by its blatantly erroneous subject matter.  Don't believe me?  Just look at the title of this entry, take a deep breath, and come with me on this journey of deconstruction.


Way to go with a Granny Smith. What kind of clusterfuck is this? When kids draw apples in kindergarten and first grade they wind up looking like blobs or contorted circles. But what COLOR are those blobs and circles usually? RED, moron! Let's look at the variety of common apple-types and their colors and see which one--red or green--would have been the better choice, based PURELY upon statistical recurrence:

RED Delicious:  Red.
Fuji:  Red.
Granny Smith:  Green.
Gala:  Red.
Red Rome:  Red.
Winesap:  Red.
Mcintosh:  Red.
Jonathan:  Red.
Ambrosia:  Red.
Braeburn:  Red.

That's nine for Red and one for Green.  Assholes.

I wish that were the only issue but it's not. "A is for apple"--indeed.   "...that I like to bite"--oh is it now? Really? Then why are we looking at a whole apple? Hmm? Why not a before and after diagram? I'm beginning to wonder just how much you REALLY like biting that apple. Way to lie to an infant.



C IS for car that drives around town...but not this piece of shit.  Not only is it a crappy rendition of a half-assed Volkswagen Beetle--it's not even a replica of "a car that drives around town." How can we tell? The headlights are painted on! Are headlights painted onto car that drives around town [sic]? NO! They are painted onto stock cars that drive around race track and are not allowed on streets and highways. Plus not only are there no door handles, there are no doors at all--this abortion of a vehicle is one solid piece! It's a manufacturer's nightmare. Plus the windshield resembles that of a plane more so than that of a car that drives around town.

I bet there aren't even any seats in there. You probably have to stand up just to see out of that terribly placed windshield and over that enormous caboose of a front-end. I'm guessing that there isn't even an engine in there. It's probably a leper on a treadmill.

Car that drives around town indeed.


The elephant is the largest living land mammal, the most massive of which weighed in at almost 24,000 pounds and stood over thirteen feet in height; needless to say, it is an ENORMOUS animal known for its phenomenal girth, its gigantic trunk, its often impressive tusks...but its feet? Its FEET? First of all, this is CLEARLY an Asian Elephant as noted by its smaller ears and more Snuffleupagusesque shape. ALREADY we're focusing on the smallness aspect. Nonetheless, it is a large animal. Just look at it! Its head is huge, its trunk is long...hell, even its TAIL is a good three or four feet long! But look at its feet--they're smaller than the friggin' thing's EARS! Can you imagine having smaller feet than ears?! (We're not looking at you Michael Phelps--it's amazing that you don't flap those suckers and fly away). It's ridiculous even to fathom. I mean, look at those hind legs! They're wider than the feet beneath them. It's amazing this poor misshapen creature isn't wobbling and hobbling its way across the Asian plains (just kidding!!!  We both know this sucker came from a zoo and is destined to wind up in some Thai meat market). I mean, outside of its eyes, the smallest feature ON it is its feet! And no, they AREN'T very big! I mean, just about everything on this sucker is huge...except its feet. When you put it in relative comparison to the rest of its body, it's not even close. Looks like someone failed anatomy 101. 



This one is either attempting to be ironically humorous or is just blatantly failing to pull through on what it promises; my money is on the latter. First of all, these goldfish must possess superpowers or exist in some alternate dimension where water does not exist because, if you look closely, they are obviously NOT floating in water but rather in air. This spits in the face of everything we know about the biology of the goldfish. The next point that I take contention with is the fact that goldfish blow "bubbles of air"--a fallacy that is purported and perpetuated by this page of the book. Way to spread your propaganda G-page! First of all, fish don't inhale air--they breathe by opening their mouths and pulling in water. They then force the water through their gills, which have special structures that remove oxygen from the water and then release carbon dioxide back into the water. Do you know what that means? IT IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOLDFISH TO BLOW BUBBLES OF AIR! Air is a mixture with very specific components, namely nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. Does that sound like something a goldfish would make? NO! Because if it was then the oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes would consist of a higher proportion of oxygen, which would thereby preclude certain species of animals from existing because they cannot survive in a super-oxygen enriched body of water.



Way to use blue in an extremely loose sense. It is obvious to anyone who isn't colorblind that the ink made her hands teal blue. Don't believe me? Follow this link:      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teal   and look at Teal Blue and this picture side-by-side. 54, 117, 136! (It's the RGB value pervert--can you even imagine those values as a man or woman's measurements? Good Lord!) It's undeniable. Plus, what's up with her ridiculous inward smile? You're supposed to show your teeth when you smile, goofball, not try to turn your mouth inside out. Plus she looks like she has a bowl haircut with two enormous pigtails. I bet she even has hairy underarms.



K is for kitten? Is that a fact? Then why is the feely part of this page a BALL OF YARN THAT STARTS WITH THE LETTER Y (OR B IF YOU'RE GOING BY MY SENTENCE STRUCTURE AND NOT MY OVERARCHING ARGUMENT ON THIS ONE)!? Why is the color on BOTH the font AND the yarn a bright, Commie red? Hmm? HMM!? EXACTLY! Another anarchist agenda. That kitten CLEARLY fades into the background and the focus of the page is UNDENIABLY on the RED ball of yarn.
The cat isn't even looking at the yarn! It's probably watching a snuff film.

Yeah, that's right--it's an 8mm reference. God was Nick Cage AMAZING in that movie...

Isn't it weird that the first six pages I'm taking to task are all on the left side and are odd-numbered? You guessed it: another libertarian conspiracy. AEGIK--it's probably some sort of code word meant to undermine the success of our capitalistic society. Don't believe me? Isn't it also odd that we are going through a "recession" and I'm critiquing this "book" on my "blog"? Hmm? HMM!?


"S is for Strawberry to eat as a snack." Oh really?  O RLY? This is undeniably part of a yuppie vegan agenda. I'm surprised they didn't specify further with "organic, pesticide-free, locally grown strawberry to eat as a snack."

I'm also surprised that R wasn't for Rice Cake.

I bet you let your kid have a no foam, non-fat, no whip, extra light iced Caramel Machiatto after nap-time, isn't that right?

Pretentious douche.


What is with this book and its blatant contradictions? It's as if it's standing there with a smug look on its face going, "Yeah, I KNOW it's wrong. Whaddya gonna DO aboud it?" (Evidently, the book has a Brooklyn accent for some reason, which, as anyone from Brooklyn knows, requires the replacement of all T's with D's. It's never "think about it" but rather "dink aboud id.")

Now I can't argue that T is for train because, undeniably, it is BUT...driving down the track?

Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? First of all, this train has wheels that are more similar in design to an automobile's tires (CAR THAT DRIVE THROUGH TOWN!) than a standard rail train's. Second of all...THERE ARE NO FUCKING TRACKS! I'm ignoring the fact that, even if there WERE tracks, that this piece of shit couldn't POSSIBLY drive down them (though it's interesting that the caption DOES say "drive" down the track (I KNOW it says "driv-ing" but I didn't want to use another [sic]--one was enough, even for me) even if it is grammatically incorrect (train tracks (plural) are what trains generally traverse) unless it is ACTUALLY referring to a racing track, in which case it would likely find that fake-ass Volkswagen knock-off from the letter C, which, if we were lucky, it would crash into and thus eradicate both of them). I hate this train and its shitty block design. WAY TO FAIL TO LEAVE ROOM FOR A CONDUCTOR NAZI TRAIN!

(Again, lots of red on this one. Coincidence? Doubtful.)


Umbrellas DO keep you dry...but apparently not dry enough for this little perfectionista. The fact that they are fake shiny raindrops is ignored by her. How do I know this? If U really WAS for umbrella for keeping you dry (yeah...) then why in God's name would she ALSO be wearing a matching rainslicker? She's obviously not that concerned with getting soaked and catching a chill because she's rocking what appears to be a Hanes white cotton undershirt (Men's Size Small) beneath that fashion-nightmare of a slicker. The real question is whether miss-I-need-to-be-in-control-at-all-times is wearing matching green galoshes with ankle socks below the page's cut-off.

Look at that smile and hair. It makes me want to think, "That's SO Raven" but in actuality I am forced to conclude that "That's SO Middle Management." That's right baby--you're not destined for the executive suite with such poor cooperative skills! I hope you enjoy eye-fucking the corner office from your 6x6 cubicle set out in the common area with all the rest of the worker bees. Don't worry, I'm sure that you'll succumb to the hypertension and clogged arteries from your steady diet of late nights and Chipotle for lunch before the Carpal Tunnel transforms your hands cruelly into unusable claws that will FINALLY match your exterior to the cold, vapid, ugly disfigured interior that you call a soul.

Oh wait--that IS soOoOOoOoOOoo Raven.  


Oh. Fucking. Nelly. So here we are: not at the end but at the climax of our adventure through this book. V is for vegetables. What a great opportunity for a little edification--a teachable moment, if you will. V is for vegetables. An opportunity to expose children to the world of leafy greens and hearty root vegetables...but take a closer look. V is for vegetables...sometimes? Which ones should I buy, indeed! Let's take a look into the basket and see what we have to select from:

Red Bell Peppers
Sweet Potatoes/Yams
Red Cabbage
Green Cabbage
Yellow Bell Pepper

Red Onion
Radish OR Cherry Tomato
Red Potatoes
Which ones should I buy? How about...THE ONES THAT ARE ACTUALLY FUCKING VEGETABLES!?

Let's put the items to the test!

Scallion? NOPE! (see red onion below)

Red Bell Peppers? FRUIT. Fail.

Sweet Potatoes/Yams? Check.

Red Cabbage? Check.

Green Cabbage? Check.

Cauliflower? Check.

Shallots? NOT a vegetable. (See red onion below)

Carrots? Check.


Garlic? Condiment or seasoning element, not vegetable. FAIL! (See below)

Red Onion? Onions are often considered to be vegetables but this is just blatantly wrong. It is a relative of scallions, garlic, and shallots, all of which are used as condiments or seasoners and thus are not vegetably. Aside from that, onions steal moisture from other vegetables that they are stored with. If onions WERE vegetables this very trait would make them vegetable vampires. You want your kid eating vampires? Didn't think so.


Radish? Check...unless those are cherry tomatoes...then FRUIT FAIL again.

Red Potatoes? Check.

Squash? FRUIT. AGAIN. Chalk up another fail.

The Tally
Vegetables: 7 (I think it's a radish--benefit of the doubt)

Non-Vegetables: 7

It's a friggin' wash! Which ones should you buy? How about the ones that are fucking vegetables! Or is ANYTHING healthy a vegetable to you, Mr. Wendy McDonald, the Burger King of KFC? I'd almost rather the yuppie health freak shoving strawberries down her kid's throats to this ineptitude.

Just kidding--fast food tastes great! French Fries = Vegetable.


Unless you're wearing teflon or some other non-stick material, the odds are that you DO get wet when you're splashing around and, to the untrained eye, that seems to be precisely what is going on in THIS picture. But take a closer look. IS this young man wet? Do you SEE a single drop of water on him? Can I POSSIBLY continue to place the EMPHASIS wherever I WANT? (Quick aside: seriously--the next time that you're having a conversation with someone, do your best to end your sentence with a higher pitch than the rest of what you have said (make sure that it is a declarative statement or an imperative, at the very least). It will make it sound like a question and will drive people CRAZY! "So I went to the STORE THIS WEEKEND" (pitch getting higher at store and rising until weekend). Guaranteed--there will be a few beats of silence before your conversant will say something like, "Oh yeah? And?" It helps if you don't look at them when you do this. Trust me--A LOT of fun.)

Anyway, it is obvious, upon closer inspection, that this boy is merely covered with bubbles and is in no way shape or form "wet." Nor is he "splashing around." Do you "see" him sitting in "water"? HARDLY! Will I "keep" utilizing "air quotation marks" for random "words"? Nope. I've gotten it out of my system. By the way--if this kid really WERE wet, he'd be able to rock a better bubble beard than that creepy ass racing stripe dribbling down his chest.



"Z is for zebra at the end of the book!" I could really go in on this page purely for the fact that there is no rhyme but that would be disingenuous of me--it rhymes with the last word of the previous page. My gripe with this one is the fact that it ends with Zebra. Seriously? Zebra?! Way to take the easy way out! Another blown opportunity to help transform our youngsters into erudite abecedarians. Why not go for ziggurat? Zeitgeist? Zho? Zoarium? Zugzwang? Zyzzyva? No--we're going with zebra. Not even a cool picture of zebra like this one that I took at the Honolulu Zoo on Oahu:

but a regular picture of an ordinary zebra. Is the zebra's head always smaller than its ass? Theirs is.

Seriously--why not end with a bang? Something with pizzazz? Who the fuck hasn't seen a zebra anyway? (I mean aside from these Palestinians:

http://www.torontosun.com/news/weird/2009/10/08/11344191.html )

All in all, nearly half of this book fails on such a basic, fundamental level, it doesn't deserve to have an ISBN identity or UPC value. I COULD give this book a grade of F (for failure) but, who knows, maybe I can give it an A (for Abhorrent), B (for Bad), C (for catastrophe), or D (for dearth of literary value). I think I'll pull a Prince and give it a grade of:


(Tilde, for the uninitiated--"Squigur," for those in the know. And those in the know know that that man was and is shaped like an ')

Who knew that an alphabet book could be so deep?

UPDATE: Apparently, "Squigur" source was Captain Ah-Vah-Tah and NOT "He-Who-Shall-Pull-The-Wool-Over-Their-Eyes, So-To-Speak."  I apologize for the mix-up.