Thursday, June 21, 2012

Odds and...well, just more odds

As we go through our day-to-day activities we come across bunches and bunches of stuff.  Much of it is quite inconsequential.  However, if you stop and make just a little bit of effort even the most normal, run-of-the-mill thing can be most entertaining.

For example, the other day my wife was giving the family dog (let’s be honest, he is her dog and he tolerates the rest of us as long as we are not in his preferred napping locations) his flea treatment.  One direction proved ironic if not downright ridiculous.  It read as follows “To the User:  If you cannot speak English, do not use this product until the label has been fully explained to you.”  If you can’t speak English it is a safe bet you cannot read the sentence telling what to do if you cannot speak English.  This is like the signs saying Braille menus are available upon request, especially such signs at a drive through.  Then I looked a bit closer.  The flea medicine instruction guys did include the same statement in Spanish.  You have to ask yourself why bother putting that warning instruction in English at all.  If you can read English you don’t need the warning and if you can only read Spanish the warning in that language gets the job done.  My guess is they put it in English so people prone to paranoia wouldn’t go down a rabbit hole of worry. 

Interior dialogue of paranoid dog owner: I see there is a single sentence of Spanish in the instructions for giving my dog his flea treatment.  Why is this and only this sentence in Spanish?  Why aren’t they telling me what it says?  Maybe it is only for Spanish language dogs.  Wait just a dog gone minute.  My dog is a Chihuahua.  I might need to know what this is saying.  Maybe these instructions aren’t the original instructions.  Maybe these instructions were substituted by some evil doer and they changed one of the most important steps from English to Spanish just to wreck havoc on monolingual dog owners. Maybe this one instruction is the difference between being safe from fleas and actually attracting fleas from a five county radius straight to poor little Sparky.  Somebody call the FDA.  Somebody call the SPCA.  Somebody call somebody who speaks Spanish.  Somebody call for a pizza.  All this panicking is making me hungry.
See what I mean?  Just one odd little quirk in flea treatment instructions and you can spin it into an entertaining scenario of a dog owner with severe trust issues freaking out.  This idea of taking something small and extrapolating it into a full entertainment is one of the things my family will do for fun as we sit around the living room. This is either a positive sign of togetherness or a pathetic sign of what happens when a family has no television. 

The other afternoon my daughter, Alice, was very focused on the screen of her phone.  This is not unusual in most households which contain a high school aged child.  I made a joke about how if Lewis Carroll were writing today his Alice wouldn’t go through the looking glass to Wonderland but would by sucked through her smart phone.  And we were off…

The White Rabbit would not be running around saying “I’m late!  I’m late!”  He would be scurrying about lamenting “They can’t hear me now!  They can’t hear me now!”  The Cheshire Cat wouldn’t vanish to the point where Alice could only see his teeth.  He would slowly disappear until all she could see was his Bluetooth device.  The Mad Hatter’s tea party would have them all communicating via Skype.  The Queen of Hearts would not scream “Off with their heads!”  She would threaten others with “Cut off their web access!”  Tweedledum and Tweedledee would become Tweedletext and Tweedletweet. 

This kind of one-upmanship story and joke making is fairly common when two or more of us congregate and it is one of the reasons I would gladly spend nearly all of my time in my house.  I am truly blessed to find myself in a family I actually like, not just love because that is what you are supposed to do, but genuinely enjoy as human beings.  

Remember how with many game shows there was a home version?  Well, here is a starter for you and your family taking the mundane and creating fun riffs.  Hanging with a group of festive family friendly piñatas is one made to look like a bottle of beer.  Have at it…

Christopher Pyle invites you to share any Alice in Cell Phone Land or piñata jokes with him at  

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Not What it Used to Be

People are constantly pointing to different happenings, crying out they are signs of the end of the world.  Everything from the Mayan calendar’s indication that 2012 is as far as we go to zombie apocalypse hysteria, which, admittedly, has gotten more believable with the recent face eating episode in Florida and the announcement that Kevin Bacon will have a new television show in the fall.  Have you seen Mr. Bacon recently?  He no longer resembles the fresh-faced high school kid from Footloose (actually he was 25 when he made that movie so even then he didn’t look that fresh-faced high schoolish) but rather looks more like another iconic character from the 80’s, the Crypt Keeper. 

A different, and much less discussed, sign of the changing world was pointed out to me by my wife.  This sign is not a marker of anything as apocalyptic as the fall of civilization and the rise of Kevin Bacon led zombie anarchy.  It does, however, point out that things really aren’t as they used to be and probably not as they ought to be.  The most insidious thing about this sign is it effects the most susceptible of the population, our children.  “What is this sign?”  you ask.  Well, I’ll tell you.  It is the lack of skinned knees.
Don’t get me wrong.  I am not wishing pain and bloodshed on the youth of America.  It just seems to me that skinned knees can easily be pointed to as indicators of good things.  Kids with skinned knees are active children, children who spend time outdoors, children unafraid of rough and tumble behaviors.  Kids with skinned knees are living their own lives.

Think about it.  It is very difficult to get a skinned knee while shooting dozens of virtual-guns at hundreds of virtual-people, and ripping virtual-spleens from virtual-enemies in virtual-worlds of virtual-conflict.  Oh, sure, there is virtual-blood galore for little Malcolm as he sits on his genuine-sofa, manipulating his genuine-controller, as he eats genuine-junk food, creating a genuine-backside large enough to blot out the genuine-sun because he hasn’t worked any genuine-muscles beyond his genuine-thumbs for a genuine-long-time.
In addition kids do not get skinned knees as they sit at the computer surfing the internet, downloading video, illegally sharing music, e-mailing friends, instant messaging predators and generally watching their lives flicker by at broadband speed.

Another thing to ponder is, when was the last time you saw an ad for Bactine?  Remember that spray bottle which was kept handy for those little scrapes and scratches you would get as you went about your daily life.  A life which included running, riding your bike (sometimes using a discarded plank and a big rock to construct a ramp with the stability of the Euro), playing football in vacant lots with stickers and big brothers who thought they were Dick Butkus, and occasionally chasing a friend with the intensity of a lioness looking for dinner for no other reason than you were “it”.  The sedentary lifestyle of today’s youth doesn’t require a mixture of Benzalkonium chloride (antiseptic) and lidocaine (anesthetic) for the times when you have all the sata menu items in your bios enabled yet you still cannot get your drive recognized.  (I understood none of that.  I lifted it from a computer troubleshooting website.) 

The dearth of skinned knees is also a sign fewer children are willing to take even minimal risks.  I am willing to bet this trend can be attributed to something which started out as reasonable and then just got out of hand.  The world as a whole started pushing safety.  I agree we should look out for our children.  I make my kids wear a helmet when they ride their bikes.  I purchased the knee, elbow, wrist, and self-esteem pads when I got my kids roller blades.  I believe in safety.

I fear we spun such horrible stories to convince our kids to wear all the protective gear (face it you do look like Class A Geek wearing it) we created an aversion to taking risks.  My wife is excellent at pulling out a “I knew a kid who rode his bike barefoot and got both his feet caught in the spokes cutting off all his toes” story whenever needed. 

The concern is the American public may have done too good a job cautioning all of American kiddom about the bad things which can happen.  This doesn’t just make them use common sense precautions.  It means they look at their bicycle as an imminent danger to be avoided like anthrax powder or educational television.

Christopher Pyle in his youth was a true daredevil and broke his collarbone jumping off a tricycle.  He can be reached at