Monday, March 14, 2005

If you meet someone who just finds the whole world vaguely annoying—that is, if you chance to run into one of us—we’d bet our share of ownership in the Playboy mansions that this person has spawned. It’s really as simple as this: the world looks pretty good to you before (a) you’re surviving on two-and-a-half hours of sleep each night, (b) you realize that babies take one look at your wallet and decide to stick around for 18-plus years, and (c) your wife starts wearing flannel pajamas. 1 The world of childrearing, as charming as it may seem to the uninitiated, is a battlefield strewn with unexploded landmines, yet no celebrity appears before Congress seeking to have it outlawed. But, trust us, even a figure of international prominence such as Kofi Annan, finds it (privately) highly disquieting.

The Failure to Name Children “Mick” or “Mickey”
We read recently that the top names for newborn babies in America continue to be the old stand-bys “Emily” and “Michael.” We absolutely do not understand what makes certain names popular and others essentially abhorrent at any given moment in history2, but we do know this: more boys should be named “Mick.” This is a versatile name, equally associated with an athletic good-ol’-boy (Number 7—”The Mick”!) and a near-androgynous yet essentially badass rock star. Its diminutive form, “Mickey,” is oddly cool (like, would you mess with Mickey Rourke?), yet it is arguably just a form of the boring and respectable “Michael.”3 Those who object, citing either “Mickey Mouse” or the Irish slur, are living the in past. We see before us a golden age of “Mick.” May it shine on.

The Proliferation of Child Protection Devices in Otherwise Convenient and R-Rated Homes
At some point in the life-cycle of today’s American families, someone feels compelled to outfit the home with a baffling array of security devices designed to protect toddlers from their own curiosity. 4 These cabinet locks, wall socket plugs and toilet latches are designed to make each household motion—such as getting a big-ass spoon for your late evening bowl of Cap’n Crunch5 —the equivalent of solving a Rubik’s Cube. And here’s the thing: The one physical trait that would make it much easier to operate these vexing latches and locks is to have REALLY TINY FINGERS. We rest our case.

For those among our readership who do not have children, permit us a brief explanation. 6 Lunchables are pre-made boxed lunches marketed by the Oscar-Mayer people as easy solutions to the morning challenge of what to provide for your children to eat during the twenty minutes your school system has afforded your children for that worthy pursuit between role-playing college-admission interviews or cramming for end-of-grade tests or whatever it is they are doing at school these days.

Our issue is not with processed and packaged food. No, not at all. We recommend high-volume consumption of processed and packaged foods whenever possible, as it has made us the hulking examples of virility that we are today. Our issue is with the packaging itself. A Lunchable(s?) contains as many logos as Jeff Gordon’s uniform. It’s nothing more than an omnibus packaging concept designed to bundle every proprietary snack food heretofore created into the tiny, static space that dominates a child’s vision at the cafeteria table. Way too much bandwidth required. Tilt.

To clarify: we fully support the daily delivery of high-stim commercials for toys and sugar cereals to children during the sacred cartoon hour before dinner. This we believe to be one of the inalienable rights our boys are fighting for. But we feel a line must be drawn at the lunchbox, Lunch is a quiet time of reflection. Pre-prandial anticipation of what is in the unmarked brown paper bag supports development of higher order thinking skills, 7 and time spent reading Lunchables advertising is time far better spent tracing the complicated developmental arc that links Drinking Milk Through One’s Nose and Beholding the Burgeoning Breasts and Straining Brassiere Straps of Diane Fulmer. 8 Don’t fuck with us on this one, as we are educators and will totally crew on your ass if you step. No distractions for the children, please. It’s hard enough.

Holiday Cards Featuring Your Teenage Daughters at the Beach
O.K., O.K., we know it’s kind of late to be making holiday references, but with the deadlines we face as Internet complainers, we’re only getting around to reading (and replying to) these cards now. And this year we received way too many of those holiday cards that people make from a family photo. This worked fine when the kids were four and two years old and you made the little one wear some Rudolph antlers.9 But Olivia and Tiffany have survived to the ages of sixteen and fourteen years, and you’re using a snapshot from the family vacation to the Outer Banks. Now, dude, I’m sorry to have to tell you this but: your daughters posing for what effectively amounts to a Oui magazine-circa-1974 softcore cover shot redefines the phrase “Ho ho ho.” Stop this immediately. Your single friends from college (you know, those two guys who still hold up the rock ‘n’ roll “devil horns” fingers at concerts and whenever a Coors Lite ad comes on TV) are receiving these cards and are, uh, “making use” of them. Really: cut it out and right quick.

Kanye West
The advent of teenagers in the family will require every parent to get “hip” and pay attention to things like “rock and roll music.” Fuck, who are we kidding? The real issue is that we have never grown up and continue to follow the pop music scene with the fawning interest of a girl named “Crystal.” That said, we do not know that much about Kanye West, except that he is an unusually well-educated and well-off rap artist, which ultimately manifests in a proclivity for polo shirts. First off, don’t get us wrong. We have no problem with hip-hop that comes from places that are not impoverished. 10 But whither Kanye? Something about Kanye puts us off. We think that it may be because he is also a producer and we find polymaths in any field kind of intimidating. Knowledge of how to actually put a recording together seems to us alien to the act of making music, and in our own projects we have much preferred to lay down some shit fast and go score some dim sum, leaving the act of mixing, etc., to somebody wonky named Phil. The less we know the better. This may be related to the fact that we never get paid. We are one-trick ponies and proud of it. We can make salad, not lasagna. We can mow the lawn, not rake it.11 Needless to say, we also find Jay-Z very disquieting, very disquieting indeed.

Next installment: Light bulbs that make things look better than they really look.

1 We are really, really kidding about that one, sweetie. And if you're not buying that, uh, it was the other guy who wrote that part. Not me, Chris/Will (whichever one of you is reading this right now), but the other guy, Will/Chris. Whew, glad we got that straightened out.

2 Although we urgently agree that certain names are abhorrent and should be avoided at all costs. These names include but are not limited to: Gretchen, Charity, George, and all male names starting with the letter "J" that are not "John" (i.e., Jason, Justin, etc.). That said, we see a comeback in the making for certain grumpy old names that are due for "aren't-we-cool" hipness: Clementine, Irene, August and Rudy.

3 Side note: we must stop giving girls names that are just dude-names with an "a" tacked on the end. We suppose that "Roberta" and "Paula" have to be grandfathered in as pre-existing classics, but stop already with the "Michaela"s and the "Gena"s. Men, are we so egocentric and insecure that we must make our daughters wear permanent signs around their necks reading, "My Dad Wishes I Was a Dude"? Can "Thomasa" and "Craiga" be far behind? Don't get us started on the prospect of a world containing the occasional "Harveya" or "Ralpha." Disquieting with a capital D-a.

4 We certainly agree that the minimum promise parents make to their children is to keep them alive until the age of, say, 16. We also think parents should make an effort to teach kids how to play pool and how to avoid people at parties who like to talk about their gardens.

5 Please note: While the good Cap'n is considered the epitome of sugary, non-nutritious breakfast food, we have yet to find any comestible richer in the mineral zinc.

6 Let us also take this opportunity to advise those among our readership who do not have children to stop reading our column immediately and go have well-protected sex with each other. Immediately. This is what we pretend we were always doing before we had children, and we recommend it to you in kind as a superior pursuit even to reading the D.M.T. in the Y.P.R. Go, you young hard-bodied types, and rut. See you in a few years. We’re not going anywhere.

7 Especially in the case of lunches packed by our beloved Moms, which on more than one occasion consisted entirely of a can of Spaghetti-Os without an opener and without the microwave oven, which was yet to be invented.

8 Where are you now, O Diane? Do you run in deepest forest on coltish sun-browned legs, like your namesake the huntress, seeking other young men to beguile with your nymphet hocus-pocus? Even this tactic, which is not objectionable to your friends who receive the cards, ought to be subject to some kind of child-protective-services investigation. Parents, we beg you: stop putting funny hats on your children.

10 In fact, we find the BET–endorsed gangsta aesthetic, which emerged in the early 90s and remains the mother load of hip-hop today, utterly impoverished, much preferring the smartypants stylings of comparative suburbanites A Tribe Called Quest and the new jack Philly sounds of The Roots. We think, together with our friend Larry, that all humans should have three copies of The Low End Theory close at hand, one in the home, one in the car, and one in the glove compartment should something untoward befall the one in the car. We would be happy to press our case for this if you would like to give us a call.

11 We might add--are, in fact, adding--that we rock a house party at the drop of a hat, but we do not redecorate the house. For that we employ legions of minions, also named Phil in many cases.

Calling All Catamounts Guten tag, Valley Cats! Y.P.R. solicits your alumni updates, yearbook scribblings, and passed-notes to high-school crushes along with the usual reviews, parodies, deleted chapters, etc., for this month's Book Club selection: Sam Lipsyte's Home Land. K.I.T.! ypr-@-yankeepotroast-.-org...
E-mail: "I try to think of myself as Emma Peel in a black leather catsuit ..."
Niles from Frasier Takes Acid on an Overnight Spelunking Trip with Deebo from Friday and Reënacts Plato’s The Cave Spelunking with Niles & DeeboMy friend, we are in a cave. A very deep and profound darkness is all we can see.
Sounds good, bitch. I’ll bring the ladies.

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