Ape & Me

Because it's what there is

The most interesting thing that happened to me today involved being in the same room as another guy who crapped his pants so hard he got it on his socks.

That guy was my nine month old son, so it's not as messed up as it could have been, but that is still a reasonably odd thing. My son is gifted in this respect, and has been from the get go. Interestingly, while my wife changes him more frequently, I seem to be the recipient of all the truly epic diapers. This is not just my impression, as she has confirmed it. I was there when he used the exer-saucer to shoot poop up to his neck. I got the one that was so full it came out the top and both sides. It is a phenomenon we both fail to completely understand, though we try.

Because we talk about poo. We have become those people, the ones who have anecdotes that only other parents of small children would appreciate. The ones who don't seem to have anything to say because we don't really watch a lot of TV, don't go out, don't really do anything unless we kind of have to. My wife commented today that while we had an idea we'd have no time for anything else, we really didn't know what that meant.

I'd like to believe that there is another side, that at some point I will have an opportunity to get back to something resembling the type of person that I was before. Being a father is wonderful, but it can also drive one mad. I love movies, but cannot remember the last time I saw a new one from start to finish. I used to have favorite TV shows, but now I don't even bother to remember when things are on other than by checking my DVR and erasing things I know I won't make the time to watch.

I feel pretty trapped, fairly isolated. It is almost like my wife and I are on a raft with our baby, and everyone else is telling us where we need to row and that they understand our whole raft problem, even though each one is different and I know for sure that we have problems that other people don't, that our closest friends and family can't really relate to.

So we talk about the poo, and try to laugh, and smile about how lucky we are to find ourselves in this postition.
Ape & Me

The Modern Equestrian (is a Brony)

I work in a warehouse, so we don't have too stringent a dress code. Requirements tend to be pretty loose; so long as one is wearing closed toe shoes, a top, and a bottom, it's fine. That is to say it was fine.

One of my coworkers is a fan of My Little Pony. Her love encompasses both the current Friendship is Magic and the original incarnation that I remember from growing up with a little sister. Not content to contain this love of MLP to her own wardrobe, she attempted to rally the owners of our company to her cause and institute "My Little Pony Monday", the gist of which is that everyone comes to work in an MLP t-shirt. There was grumbling. There were protestations. People swore it would never happen.

Long story short - I'm currently wearing one of my two My Little Pony t-shirts.

That is not where the story ends. Since this policy went into effect, there has been a series of somewhat subtle changes. When MLP Monday started, it was pretty begrudging. Often the guys, myself included, would make sure to have another layer to wear around, especially once we left the building. I know I was worried what other people might think, which is pretty stupid considering that, at 34, I am the youngest of the four men engaging in this behavior. I should really be beyond this kind of irrational fear, especially given that when asked what I was afraid "people" might think, I wouldn't have been able to come up with anything but stammering and looking at my shoes.

As time has gone on, I've come to embrace it. I often change the background on our work computers, and I go right along with the theme on Mondays. At first I put op Cthulu pony mods, or pictures of people sculpting the bone structure into half of one of the figures, but those searches wound up with us stumbling upon "brony" culture, which in turn pointed our collective attention at some really funny stuff. I really like the sense of humor this fandom has, especially when it is pointed back at themselves.

Now one of my more ardently anti-MLP coworkers is thinking of picking up a "Game of Ponies" t-shirt. It's funny, creative, and would complement his Dr. Who MLP mash up shirt nicely. We don't even think about it anymore, other than to remember to dress to code and think of fun things to pair with MLP on a google image search.

Which leads me to today. I was out picking up sushi at a nice local market, and the kid behind the counter complimented my shirt and asked where I got it. I looked down, remembered what I was wearing, and got a little flustered. This has now happened to every one of the men I work with - we've all been out in public when some young guy has commented that they think what we're doing is cool.

Not going to lie, I was a bit embarrassed. I don't watch the show, so I'm kind of a false fan. I told the kid my boss got it for me online, and the tag line should help him track it down (Keep Calm and Brony On). Now that I'm over my initial stammering, I'm pleased this happened. In all cases, when a kid has spoken up to me or my coworkers, that kid has been male. In every instance, this interaction has been exceedingly positive - these kids love running across an adult Brony.

And I think that's awesome.

My own chagrin at being "caught" in a shirt is really a vestige of when I grew up. Boys were not supposed to play with girl toys, or like girl shows. This was not something anyone ever told me, but I also knew what happened if one of us got too far into "different" territory. This was not how things were handled...in public. I mentioned my sister, with whom I played as a child. We had a lot of fun together, and were close her whole life. I played with her My Little Ponies, just like she played with my G.I. Joe stuff. Difference was, I would have probably stabbed someone before I would have admitted it.

It's nice to see that times change. I'd like to think that kids are feeling less pressure to only show excitement for what their parents or society deem "appropriate" for them. I wouldn't have been able to do it when I was a teenager.

The other side of this is helpful to see, too. While not being a fan of the show, I am pretty supportive of the fandom, but when I was asked by a stranger about it today, I balked. I still have a rather closed-minded, heavily gender-normed bias response. My first instinct was to deny that I liked my own t-shirt, because some part of me still thinks it's inappropriate. I'm going to work on that, as I'd like to be a positive role model.

Also, this is probably not the last time I'm going to spotted in Brony attire. At least it wasn't my Derpy shirt, but that's a story for another day.

Ape & Me


My brain is all over the place right now.

I finished draft zero of a novel; by the time I was done I actually still liked the main idea, the protagonist...everything, really. It's kind of an odd feeling, and is somewhat unprecidented for me. We'll see if that persists after I change POV and re-write the entire thing in order to arrive at draft one. But that's next week's problem. I'm giving myself ten days away from working on it in order to come back with a fresh perspective and hopefully nail the tone a little bit better.

That ten days of not writing this novel is kind of the issue. My brain keeps giving me ideas of what I could be writing right now, and none of them are very helpful. To whit, a sampling of my brain's oddball suggestions: re-write the screenplay to STAR WARS: EPISODE I so that it makes sense, eliminating Qui-Gon; start a completely different novel about a former Marine who joins the FBI and the vampire he's tracking down; re-write the screenplay to HIGHLANDER to update it, and account for the fact that there can be, and are, multiple "one"s; start a novel, tentatively called Life of Prey about growing up in a society where monsters are out there hunting for humans and we all know about them; and, of course, the myriad ideas that keep cropping up to add to the work in progress - add the cast of Jersey Shore, use more current pop culture references, come up with a text message to start every chapter, etc.

I'm going to try to read, instead. Amazon just delivered Discount Armageddon, Shadow Ops:Control Point, The Kingdoms of Dust, and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, so I have more than enough on my shelf. Of course, reading good books just makes me want to write more, so this loop might not work out the way I was hoping. Apologies in advance if this week turns into oddball journal entries from the hell of the id. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Ape & Me

Character Flaws

I recently finished reading a dystopian YA novel that has had a rather lasting impact on me, in the form of a persistant background thought spiral where I attempt to make sense of just what it was that I found so annoying.

First things first, since I am doing this for myself, I will not be revealing the novel in question. This is an attempt to highlight some ideas that I am struggling with, not to flog an author repeatedly just because I can. This was a debut novel by a female author with a female protagonist. I loved the title (still do) and thought the premise was rather nifty, as well. I was hoping to enjoy it, but didn't.

It was not poorly written. The first-person protagonist was plunged into the story, pulling the reader along with her as her rather fragile world took a major blow that started her life unravelling like a snagged sweater. The story was complete, and where some of the points could have been cleaned up, and the action was at times a little spotty, in general everything was communicated and executed well.

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Am I wrong? Should characters be allowed to triumph just because the world is structured in such a way that they do no matter what? Do YA authors have an extra responsibility to look at what they are telling an audience about life, or am I way off base?
Ape & Me

Star Trek Heresy

My wife is not a geek. Nor is she a nerd, or anything else one would care to apply to those of us who obsess over and devour science fiction and fantasy.

This one fact has significantly changed my perspective about books and movies. It has set me to thinking, and I found a great example of this shift in my own perspective when a movie came on late night TV yesterday.

I think the J. J. Abrams Star Trek movie is the best Star Trek movie yet made.

Before I get going, I would like to pose a question. Specifically, I would like to take anyone's favorite Trek movie other than the one I mentioned - my two picks would be Wrath of Khan or The Voyage Home - and ask of those movies the following question:

Who are these people, and why should I care what happens to them?

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Ape & Me

Thought this post was lost: I'll just leave it here

I got a chance to talk to some friends that I only connect with a couple of times a year. It was nice, if too brief; the idea that I can get across six months of my life in an hour long phone call has always been laughable.

No, we do what we always do. It's a mixture of jokes, remeniscence, and catching up, and it never seems to be enough of any one, even though it's another kind of enough - to remind you that you miss the other people. To remind you that they are no less important for their distance.

During the conversation, they asked what it felt like to be a new father, and I said I was tired. It's an old joke, and they laughed, noting that everyone says that.

Thing is, it's the truth.

I was trying to find a way to sort of explain this to them, because I had a very difficult time wrapping my head around the idea before I found myself knee deep in it. Because we've all been tired. I pulled all-nighters in college. Had nights that sleep was just out of reach, hours crawling by and leaving a depleted husk for the next day's work. Pets wake people up in the night, strange noises at odd hours...the thing is, everyone can imagine how tired a new parent is.

At first.

I'm six months into it now, and I have not had a full night of sleep in that time. It changes a person. I am very glad to note that I wake up and try to figure out what's wrong with him - I'm not mad, not even upset. This is my new reality and it is really, really hard.

When I was talking to my friends, I mentioned the all nighter. I talked about how I didn't really remember all of it. That wasn't the whole of it, but I was trying to give them a picture of what sleeping like this does to a person's memory. It's weird. It's selective. It's not something that one can be prepared for.

And when that's the part that gets isolated, it sounds a whole lot like a weird version of detainee day camp. But that isn't all it is. I have a baby who smiles when he hears my voice. I get to play with him, and teach him, and watch him change every day. Granted, those memories probably aren't sticking with the clarity I'm used to, but his mom is taking a lot of pictures.

I still can't explain it. But for some reason I feel like I should try. It won't change anything, really. No matter how fine a point I hone it down to, it won't be the same as living it. Maybe it's just a solidarity thing. Perhaps someone might read this and think "I remember that - wow" or someone might read it before the experince only to think back on it and say "oh, I get it now - this is normal".

Maybe lack of sleep has me slowly losing my mind. Guess we'll never really know.
Ape & Me

Target Market

My parents were over at the end of the week to visit, see the grandchild, and all the usual parental hanging out stuff. They're going to be in Hawaii for the rest of February, you see, so they won't be able to just zip over if they feel like it and we all have the time.

I'd like to have their problems.

During the visit, my father and I got into an interesting discussion about the newspaper. It boils down to the fact that he's frustrated he will no longer be able to get his newspaper delivered seven days a week. That's how he's been taking in his news for quite a while, and at 60 he's really not out there looking for the next new thing.

He blames people my age. We disagree, though I do concede that papers are folding (hah!) due to their inability to get people in my age bracket (I'm about the turn 34) to buy them. His contention is that a paper's core demographic is the 30-45 year old person, the ones in the prime of their spending lives who have money, kids, and have yet to accrue a huge pile of stuff that only needs to be replaced if it wears out.

I told him that was true thirty years ago, but had stopped being the M.O. for news-jockeys several decades hence. As my example, I asked what the most liberal paper in our state - Michigan - was. "Detroit Free Press." I pointed out to him that I found it to be nearly as conservative in both its editorial viewpoint and reporting style as most other papers in the state, and I have lived in the next two largest markets. Sure, you might get a little bit of politically charged liberal reporting, calling out our Republican governor for...whatever, but it always comes across as the entrenched, old guard Democrats railing against their Republican counterparts.

And I couldn't care less.

At some point the money people got a little older. They looked at my generation, shrugged, and continued to market to my parents. It was a calculated move, and for quite a while it worked.

Now it's sort of falling apart. Companies that should have been paying attention to emerging technology didn't; businesses that should have been responding to how a modern 35 year old shops just kept doing "what had always worked" and disregarded our stance on the world; newspapers stopped writing stories relevant to younger readers, either because they didn't think what we cared about was that important, or that what they cared about was so much more. All this happened as new players came on the scene and actually did speak to us, did understand us, did market to us. They're the ones that will likely still be around in ten years.

Oh, they're also generally owned or managed by younger people. Something to think about.

This leaves my dad unable to even get a paper delivered to his house on a Wednesday morning. He doesn't want to read his news on the computer, he doesn't see how I even know what's on sale at places without the ad circular, and he resents having to buy a tablet or e-reader to be able to get the subscription periodicals to his house in a way that allows for his preferred lounge-chair perusal. "Why should I have to buy something just to be able to read the paper?"

Because to my generation, that's what delivery looks like.
Ape & Me

Movie Night, part 2

More accurately, this would be Movie Night, part 2: the next day, just before the dvds were due back to the local Blockbuster.

Titles are hard.

Anyway, the second feature in our weekend of trying to watch some good movies was The Hangover part II. We could have done better. We should have just watched FWB again.

I knew this one was probably going to flop when I saw in the opening the credit "based on characters created by..." and shuddered. This is a screwball comedy, meaning two things have to work together for it to not suck: the acting, and the writing. This worked very well for the first Hangover, as the characters were in an insane situation that came at them unawares. Their reactions gave the movie a reality, helping some of the more ridiculous elements keep from pushing the movie into total farce, and allowed for the writers to run a little wild.

The second one is not handled the same way. To start with, the plot is basically the same, except that the characters all have previously established relationships. Allan isn't new to the other guys, they know he's a sociopathic man-child. He shouldn't be able to take them by surprise, and they should also have been a little more paranoid about keeping an eye on him. This is hinted at, off-handedly; Stew keeps a napkin over his drinks for fear of being rufied, Allan's dad mentions that "he never really came back from Vegas", but the reality of that is brushed aside.

It would not be the first time in this film.

Reality is a tricky thing. If one were to, say, steal a police car or abscond with a tiger, one might rightly expect that the owner of these items and the authorities backing them up would all have a vested interest in apprehending those responsible for the theft. The first film handled this - with some sideways comedy logic, but still, handled - where the second film only seems to acknowledge the reality of the situation every once in a while.

It is also dark. There was violence in the first film, but it was done for the sake of comedy. There is nothing funny about losing a finger (this installment's version of the tooth gag), especially given that it is not kept on ice and will likely end the burgeoning career of the person who lost it. There is also nothing comical about being shot, or waking up in a hotel room and having no idea where in the world you are.

The central conceit of the first film is that the bachelor party and the hijinks that ensued was voluntary. It got out of hand, but it all still felt somewhat consensual. That feeling is gone in the second, both because Stew didn't want to have a bachelor party, and because they have a minor along with them for some pretty dark, sick shit. The movie does things to these characters, things that they didn't want, and that makes the whole experience a lot less fun to watch.

Also, this one would have not happened had any of the Wolf Pack thought to ask the people at the hotel if they had seen their missing friend. They might have even had time to fix his finger.

Sadly, I can't even say it was worth watching to find out what happens. I already wish I didn't know.
Ape & Me

Movie Night

My wife and I both have the same two days off this week, which doesn't usually happen and far more rarely comes up when we have nothing else going on. Clearly this should allow us some sort of celebration. We rented movies.

At some other time, I'll possibly write about what "fun" means as I get older, but not today.

We watched Friends With Benefits, and I was really impressed. Both Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake gave great performances; their chemistry and comedic timing was great, but each of them also imbued their character with a sense of flawed humanity that grounded the movie and added a sense of depth.

And, yes, FWB may be the most realistic romantic comedy I've ever seen. The premise sounds like something a pair of idiots would think of in college, but the main characters acknowledge that while they are having sex for the first time. Their baggage is real, and the issues they've dragged from relationship to relationship actual inform the scenario, making the audience believe not only that these two characters would behave this way, but that it's the right thing for them to do.

This being a romantic comedy, there is a contrived moment that puts distance between the two, allowing for them to reflect on what they want and decide how important they are to one another, but it's a movie and I was entertained, and sometimes it's fun to just see the usual dance steps done really well.

I would recommend this one highly, though the dialog and language are quite frank. There is also a whole lot of nude Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, though never gratuitously. I haven't even mentioned Woody Harrelson as a gay sports writer - he's great, threatening to steal the movie - or all the great shots they take at the average romantic comedy formula. It's a really good time.
Ape & Me

Cyclical misanthropy

I'm having kind of a hard day, and it's been really bothering me that I can't quite pin down why, exactly, that is. Don't get me wrong, I never have a problem noticing when something doesn't sit right, or starts to piss me off, but the underlying reasons behind sometimes fail to reveal themselves until long after the fact. In other words, I have generally calmed down by the time I comprehend why I was so mad in the first place.

This is problematic on several levels, the one most immediate to me is that I like knowing the whys, they make me better capable of emotionally understanding my reactions to the world around me. Knowing why something scares me, or makes me happy, or whatever usually helps me to maintain a calm sense of my emotional center.

Actually, that's about the only thing that helps me maintain a calm sense of my emotional center.

What that translates to when I am upset is that I need to somehow find my way back to that zen sense of peace before I can understand what sent me reeling so far out of whack. This is the classic chicken and egg dilemma; a question that is silly up to the point one is trapped in the middle of it, the solution to the ridiculous quandary now somehow tied to the act of escaping it.

It's been a long time since I have felt like this. I'm frustrated, angry, and disappointed all at the same time. I do not comprehend some of the choices that have been made that have a direct bearing on my life, and in that lack of understanding I find the source for my discontentedness. This is the kind of mad that makes me unable to sleep, and when I am already not sleeping because of the six month old with a sinus that sounds like a garbage disposal...

I feel like I need a time out. Too bad they don't have those once you put your big boy pants on.