Friday Recommends, guest bloggers, music

Special Andrew Cashmere Edition of Friday Recommends: R.E.M., Collapse Into Now

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We are still beautiful women.
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Today’s Friday Recommends is guest written by Andrew Cashmere, whose R.E.M. bona fides are indisputable. Mr. Cashmere has previously Friday Recommended here. We intended to lead into this Friday Recommendation with an edition of Voreplay; it will now follow Mr. Cashmere’s post and appear in this space on Saturday.
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Thank you, Mr. Cashmere.
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I love Jesus.
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I love my wife and two daughters.
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I love Winnie the Basset Hound.
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I love my parents and siblings and extended family.
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I love my friends.
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Finally, I love R.E.M.
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Okay, maybe I don’t love R.E.M. In a perfect world, love should be reciprocal. R.E.M. doesn’t know me personally so they aren’t capable of returning my love. They may not know who I am, but my affection and attachment to Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe is strong. It’s so strong that I can’t delete “Berry.” At the very least, I like them like them. Love makes us say and do irrational things.
Make no mistake: this album review will be completely irrational. 

I remember falling in love with R.E.M. It was 7th grade. Eric Buchakjian gave me a copy of an R.E.M. compilation (originally made by Kevin Mecum) containing selections from Murmur through Green.  I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. I received Lifes Rich Pageant (Michael Stipe hates punctuation) and Automatic for the People for Christmas, bought the rest of the back catalog over winter break, and the rest is history.

Before we get into Collapse Into Now, I want to talk about R.E.M.’s reputation over the years. I’d argue that R.E.M.’s public perception has followed the same trajectory as a beautiful woman. She was the cute girl in high school that everyone thought was attractive, but maybe she didn’t get as much attention as you would have expected. Everyone thought she was cute, but she was never in the running for Homecoming Queen (Chronic Town through Green era R.E.M.).

Then R.E.M. went to college and holy crap did she blossom into a smoking hot woman (Out of Time through New Adventures in Hi-Fi). Automatic for the People might be the musical equivalent of a girl who plays soccer, likes beer, and has a great ass. Does it get any better? It was during this period that R.E.M. turned the most heads. 

But college was a long time ago for R.E.M. She graduated. She is middle-aged and doesn’t turn heads like she used to. She hangs out at Village Tavern on weeknights, which is kind of sad. Every once in a while she’ll put on a terrible outfit and make a scene (Around the Sun). There are younger, prettier, more interesting and more provocative girls to check out now (Wilco, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Lion v. Fish, etc.).

The new girl is always more interesting, but take another look at R.E.M. Up through Collapse Into Now era R.E.M. makes some questionable fashion choices and may have put on some weight since college, but she still looks pretty good. I have four R.E.M. playlists in my iTunes. I listen to the “Warner Brothers w/o Bill” playlist the least, but when I do I’m always surprised by how many good songs came off of the relatively weaker albums. Despite the good songs here and there, it’s been a while since R.E.M. pulled together a complete, quality album. 

A few years ago R.E.M. started doing P90X with Live at the Olympia and then gave us Accelerate, the first album since New Adventures that I enjoyed listening to from beginning to end. Two years later, I still find myself listening to Accelerate from beginning to end. R.E.M. quietly started turning heads again.

So let’s talk about Collapse Into Now. At first, it brought back memories of young, hot R.E.M. and made me a little sad. Over the past few weeks it has grown on me quite a bit. One of the things that I’ve always liked about R.E.M. is that their lyrics are abstract. It’s fun to wonder what Michael is talking about, but it’s more fun to make up the story ourselves. Michael usually doesn’t even specify the main character’s gender, so we get an open-ended opportunity to make the song about anything or nothing. There are a few songs on Collapse Into Now that have made me create my own story. It felt good to do that again.

“Discover” starts the album off with hope and sounds like something that could have been on Green.  “Uberlin” is clearly an Automatic/Out of Time flashback. “Oh My Heart” is a continuation of “Houston” from Accelerate, but my first thought when Michael started singing at the beginning of the song was, “I haven’t heard him sound like that in a while.” “Mine Smell Like Honey” is a dumb sing-along for driving with the windows open. I mean that in the best possible way.

I especially enjoy how we finally get to hear more from Mike Mills on this album. This is probably the most he has been featured since Out of Time, although I would love it if he got to sing lead again sometime in the future. The most powerful part of Collapse Into Now is at the end of “Blue,” when Michael sings the line, “Twentieth century/collapse into now,” and all of the music fades out except for the piano. It took me back to the end of “Electrolite” on New Adventures, when Stipe sang over and over “Twentieth century/go to sleep.” It took me back to the last time R.E.M. felt like R.E.M. The very end of the album tied everything up in a neat package for me and it felt nice. 

The day after Collapse Into Now came out, I emailed two old friends (the infamous Mecums) to talk about the album. I talked about how it reminded me of older R.E.M., which made me sad because I thought the new songs would never be as meaningful as the old ones. And they might not be. But I’m happy to say that I might be wrong. R.E.M. has changed her hair and started flirting with me again, and — for the first time in a while — I feel loved by R.E.M.

As I said, completely irrational. If I had to objectively rate the album, I’m not sure what I would give it. If Around the Sun is a 6 and Reckoning is a 10, I’d give Collapse Into Now an 8 ¼. For the record, Automatic is a 12. Maybe other people would rate Collapse Into Now a little lower, but love makes things more beautiful.

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friends, guest bloggers, parenthood

Guest Post: “You Will Ache”

Today’s guest post on parenting comes from Scott Guldin. Scott has previously critiqued “Lost” for us; he is also one-half of the creative juggernaut that is the FishGuts Podcast. He does an amazing Aaron Neville impression and never once said an unkind word when Ben broke his car window. If you look up the definition “good egg” in the dictionary, you will find his picture there. Thank you, Scott!

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All right, Vores. After six months of failed attempts to articulate whatever threadbare parenting wisdom I have cobbled together from 4.5 years on the job, here is what I’ve come up with:

He will make you ache.

Sometimes that pain will be like those harrowing harbingers of something seriously wrong with your body: a broken bone in your foot, say, or a ligament in your knee that is strained, fraying, pulverized. You will worry and hurt and it will eat at vital parts of your being that you couldn’t touch, much less articulate.

Sometimes it will be like the exhilarating pangs that quietly accompany the pinnacles of existence: falling in love, say, or fulfilling some long-deferred ambition. The skies will open, slightly, subtly, and your face will burn from so much silly smiling.

But make no mistake, you will hurt because of this beautiful boy you have nudged into the world with your prayers and your hubris.

A disclaimer in the form of rhetorical questions, asked in list form:

1) Might my perspective be shadowed by two of my life’s most difficult years?

2) Have the misfortunes of miscarriage, cancer, unemployment, and countless petty catastrophes besides made me more likely to dole out dour analysis of a topic so clearly vibrant and wholesome?

3) And aren’t I permanently shattered by my own history—which, to those who know me, has been rehearsed and regurgitated to the point of tedium—that my father died when I was in eighth grade and that my son bears his name (let the reader understand)?

I will violate the core conceit of rhetorical questions and answer outright: Yes, Yes, Yes. Of course. So read with caution, but also know that I have heard several parents, ostensibly better-adjusted than I, and possessed of real jobs, express roughly the same sentiments. So there’s that.

Three snapshots to assert my case.

One. David, a three-year-old in preschool, has a musical recital called the Piggy Opera, based on the Three Little Pigs. For weeks David practices two short songs over and over at home until they play on a relentless loop in our minds. On the big day, I am surprised to learn that the production is much more sophisticated than I had imagined. David’s class, instead of being a cute introduction to a larger event featuring older children, carries on its own an entire mini-musical, including about eight songs and choreography. But David doesn’t seem to know any of these, and he stands stock still through much of the show. No matter. When it comes to public performances involving toddlers, part of the charm is that one or two (or all) of them will become distracted, pick their nose, wave to grandpa, sit down. I get that. What fills me with mounting dread is how it all ends. David only begins to move when he looks at one of his friends, brow furrowed comically, points at him, and starts yelling. This brief confrontation seems to throw David off (to say nothing of the other boy), because when the next song starts (one of the two we had practiced), he doesn’t sing. He just stands there. In a moment of panicked realization, he begins to cry. The final song, the other one we know by heart, is the production’s concluding number. He cries through that, too. Curtains.

Two. On a shockingly warm day this past November, I keep David home from school so the two of us can be together, just the guys. I try to fill our day with his favorite things: we go to the zoo, eat at a restaurant where trains deliver your meal from the ceiling like mechanized manna, and slurp chocolate milkshakes. At the zoo we ride the carousel and train and marvel at a polar bear that heaves its enormous frame off of a frighteningly thin glass partition inches from our faces while swimming infinite laps in a too-narrow tank. We miss the elephants on account of the season but see most of our other trusted friends: kangaroos, meerkats, tigers, flamingos, squirrel monkeys. We are the only people there besides a few bored employees who walk in circles with brooms and stab at imaginary debris.

Three. David is only a few weeks old, and while he is nursing better, his sleep is fitful. Angela and I teeter and careen between new parent euphoria and the brand of madness borne of sleep deprivation. My sisters sojourn west from Ohio to impart their blessings, hold the baby, free us to the wild luxury of leaving the house by ourselves, and share wisdom won from rearing, between them, four boys themselves. In a rare moment when the adults can converse together (David must have been sleeping at this point, but—like so many things from that period—I don’t remember for certain), we all sit at the dining room table. Susan, the oldest, hands me a card and I can tell that she is watching me carefully as I read it. “That’s sweet,” I say with a smile. And it is. I am a father now, and all things are sweet, even if before I lacked the insight to realize it: poop, rashes, ear gunk, plaintive high-pitched shrieks, crusty stumps of umbilical cord: it is all sweet. Susan looks at me, then at Merry, my other sister. “It made me cry,” she says almost as an apology. Susan, whose oldest son is nearly six, is right. I just didn’t know it yet. It was too soon for me to tell. I hadn’t fully glimpsed the ache of parenting.

Yesterday I located the card and cried as I read it. It goes:

Someday, he’ll be a big-time movie star
Or a fifth-grade English teacher.
Someday, he’ll marry, have a few kids.
Maybe he won’t.
Someday, he’ll change the world as we know it.
Or maybe he’ll travel,
send postcards from China,
phone you from Paris.
Someday, he’s going to be a big, strong man
able to carry you in his arms.

(Inside of card)

One day, he’ll have his own hopes and dreams,
not knowing
that once upon a quiet time,
you closed your eyes
and made a wish
to one day
have him in your life.

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I’ve burned through over a thousand words as a sordid excuse to quote Jean Toomer: “Life bends joy and pain, beauty and ugliness, in such a way that no one may isolate them. No one should want to. Perfect joy, or perfect pain, with no contrasting element to define them, would mean a monotony of consciousness, would mean death.” What I couldn’t grasp at the dining room table four years ago became obvious when tears were shed over a song about piggies, or when the pallid November sun framed my son’s face as we rode a rickety train together. Parenting is both ugly and beautiful, disquietingly painful and a fount of embarrassingly rich joy. It occurs to me, Vores, particularly when I consider your sublime Broken Places entries, that you are better equipped to manage this reality than most. Perhaps you’ve already recognized and mastered it.

If that’s the case, then let me give you my other piece of parenting advice:

In any situation, try to figure out what Nic Cage would do, and double it.

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Friday Recommends, guest bloggers, parenthood

Special Matt Masterson Edition of Friday Recommends: Fatherhood

You may recall that previous guest blogger Matt Masterson has no soul, but he does have something else now: a baby. In a continuing series on guest parenting posts, Matt shares what it’s like to be a new dad as well as the ethical dilemmas involved when considering whether or not to raise your son as a Cincinnati Bengals fan.

Thanks again, Matt!

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On October 25, 2010, at 12:50 a.m., my son Nathaniel Vincent Masterson was born. At 7 lbs 3 ounces he was the perfect size, at 20 inches he was the perfect length, and he had the most perfect head of hair. Those who know me know that I am not overly expressive of my emotions unless it involves the Bengals, Reds, or Buckeyes.  Leading up to his birth my mom kept saying things to me like, “It is a love like you have never known before,” and “You will instantly be in love for the rest of your life.” 

This is not anything I could ever imagine myself saying. EVER. And to be honest initially I did not feel that way. When the doctor first handed me Nathaniel and I looked at him, I was almost devoid of real emotion. This was disturbing to me. Where was this instant love that my mother spoke of? Why am I not crying? Am I soulless like some have suggested? 

Turns out, I was simply overwhelmed. There were too many thoughts to hone in on the emotion of each of them. Was he ok? Was Jo ok? What happens next? Who do I take a picture of? How do I hold him? This is for real, isn’t it? You get the idea. 

Upon handing Nathaniel to Jo, I saw the love that my mom spoke of. The irony was, I saw it in Jo before I felt it myself. From the minute she looked him in the eye you could tell she was completely sold. I was no longer the #1 man in her life. 

The connection between mother and child is instant and unique. The connection between father and child is one that is forged over time. I knew I would grow to love him in a very unique way, but I also knew that I was not at that point yet. This was something I did not anticipate. 

This realization led to my favorite moment of the birthing experience. After he was born and all of the pictures and tests were done, Jo could no longer stay awake. She wanted to hold him and love on him but she simply could not keep herself up. So she handed Nathaniel to me and promptly fell asleep. 

This left me and only me to hold and comfort him for the next 45 minutes or so when they would take him to have a bath. This was the beginning of the bond I was expecting to instantly have. I held him, talked to him about all that was in store for him, and started setting my own expectations of what I wanted his life to be. He listened intently, eyes wide open for the entire time. I had the feeling that this may be the only time in his life that I would have his complete and total undivided attention and he embraced it. I will always remember those 45 minutes.

Since that day my life has been the blur of diapers, feedings and naps that everyone told me it would be. We are very fortunate, Nathaniel is an extremely easy going little guy. He rarely cries, loves getting baths, eats like a champ (he gets that from me), and sleeps well. He has had his moments of course but for the most part he has embraced his schedule and welcomed the routine of it all. 

I cannot get over how quickly he has grown into a little man. He now has facial expressions, grabs anything within his tiny little reach, and smiles almost every time he sees Jo. Seeing a human being take something in for the first time is truly amazing. I could not have been prouder when he saw the HD TV for the first time and could not take his eyes off of it. That’s my boy!!! He is almost a month now and not a day goes by that I don’t see him learning something completely new. 

With that I want to share some quick thoughts on birth, life, and being a dad:

  • The birthing process was NOTHING like what I thought it was going to be. I was downright relaxed and bored for 90% of it. I watched an entire Sunday’s worth of football with my wife before it was time to push. 
  • The birthing process is also much more intimate than I thought it would be. For 95% of the pushing it was Jo, me, and a nurse. No doctor, no other nurses, no one but the three of us.  This was surprisingly comforting. We were a three person team focused completely on one task. I was the good cop and she was the bad cop urging Jo to just keep going.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a baby boy there is nothing as hilarious and pride inducing as their enormous purple cajones.   I was told to be ready for it, but as a dad I could not help but grunt a little when the doctor held him up and told me to tell Jo what he was.
  • I understand why people find out the sex of the baby ahead of time and agree with many of the reasons. But I would not have traded the surprise for anything. It was one of only a handful of times in my life where I was completely surprised.
  • Giving birth to a baby is a truly heroic act. 
  • Babies smell good. I did not anticipate this.
  • People are incredibly generous. Throughout the process I was truly overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends, family, co-workers, and the nurses and doctors. It confirmed what I sometimes lose sight of being inside the Beltway … people are inherently good.
  • Diapers are expensive. Seems obvious but I had no idea.
  • Breast feeding is amazing and amazingly painful. For something so natural you would think it would come a little easier.
  • My son has yet to be alive for a Bengals win. This leaves me with an incredible moral issue. Do I subject him to this for the rest of his life or allow Papa Dower to make him a Bears fan? For now I am sticking with the Bengals but feel I might be bordering on child abuse.
  • Baby farts sound like big people farts and that is awesome.
  • I never thought I would care, but I can’t tell you how proud I am to have my fathers name as part of my name and my son’s name. I always thought it was cool growing up, I now think it is essential. It is truly part of who I am and now who he is. That connection to my father, his father, and his father’s father is something we can not ignore. I am a better man because of it and I know he will be also.
  • Being a dad is absolutely hilarious. I can’t explain why, except to say I laugh out loud about 20 times a day because of something I do, Jo does, or Nathaniel does. Freaking hilarious!
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So that’s what I’ve got. I can’t wait to see what the next days, months, and years have planned for my boy. And with that the best part of the post … PICTURES!!!!!

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I may not have a soul, but at least I’ve got a kid.

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Dads don’t let their sons grow up to be Bengals fans.

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Mothers don’t let their sons grow up to be Creed fans.

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Ready to do my civic duty!

 

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friends, guest bloggers, parenthood

Guest Post: “How To Earn Your PhD In Parenting”

Today’s guest post comes from Liz Miesen. Liz was one of our very first friends to start a baby blog — perhaps you’ve already met her, her husband Nick, and their kids Stella and Charlie on our blogroll. The Miesen’s are expecting another one in early 2011. If Nick gets his wish, they’ll have twelve more kids after that. We hope you enjoy, and thank you Liz!

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Where to begin?! Let’s start with the fact that we, Nick and Liz Miesen, are clearly experts on the subject of parenting. There is simply no way that we can impart all of the expertise gained in the past three years and five months. We earned our master’s degree in parenting when, a mere 14 months ago, a second child entered our lives. And now we’re preparing to get the equivalent of a PhD in parenting when baby number three is born in February 2011. Advice? Oh, we have it. But should we share it and use it for good? Or let you figure it all out for yourselves?

…blah, blah, blah… Is that sometimes how you feel around other parent “experts”?

Experts or no, we can share some practical tips. Like: ALWAYS have a spare change of clothes in the diaper bag … and plastic bags. You never know when a blowout will occur. One happened when I bravely brought Stella to a dermatologist appointment. Scene: a silent waiting room, a gassy baby, some unapproving glances, relief when called to the exam room … and finally despair upon realizing poop was in Stella’s hair, covering her back and somehow on her feet. It was July … and HOT. After a frantic search in the exam room, the poopy clothing was stuffed into a latex glove and Stella was redressed in a head to toe fleece outfit. I told her out loud, “You brought this on yourself.”

Another helpful piece of advice: Just because your spouse does it differently does not mean that it is “wrong.” Whatever it may be … feeding, bathing, diapering, clothing, reading, singing. I have found it possible to critique every single one of these activities and countless more. I remind myself constantly, making it my mantra: Just because Nick does it differently, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

More advice: It’s ok to let babies cry … SERIOUSLY. It’s one thing if they’re wailing for long periods of time as if the world is going to end. But if they’re fussing and you just stepped into the shower? Take the shower. Speed it up a bit if you must, but know that they’re not going anywhere and they’ll be ok. With Stella, I jumped every time she made a peep. Now she still expects me to keep that up. Charlie, on the other hand, often had to wait and he still does a good job of that. He’ll let me know when he’s mad, of course, but he’s much more easygoing.

Is it personality? Is it parenting? That’s the old nature vs. nurture argument. All I know is a three week old can’t go anywhere and if you need to step out of the room to bathe, take a five minute phone call or regain your sanity … it’s ok to set him down and let him work it out for a minute.

Parenting can be humiliating. Kids have loud voices and share what’s on their mind. Like: “Mom, look at that black baby over there!” (said loudly in a crowded mall). Or at a Bob Evans where the host was a bit overweight: “His belly is REALLY big.”

What parenting has taught me: That the entire first paragraph is a joke. Everyday I’m sort of starting again. I call it an ongoing experiment. Just when you think you have things figured out, they change and you get to start analyzing, observing, and trying again. Thankfully kids learn with you and actually teach you as you go. The beginning is just eating and sleeping. Then we work on walking on feeding and talking and obeying and manners and sharing and obeying and listening and etc., etc., etc.

Something that I’ll be working on for a long time is accepting the fact that these little people are individuals separate from us, with wills and desires different than our own. Not everything they do is a reflection of us, the parent. I always thought that kids who hit must come from homes that hit. Well, Stella hits occasionally because she doesn’t have the power to control herself very well yet and she uses her body rather than her words to express her feelings. Do I like it? No. Is it acceptable? Absolutely not. Does she do it because that’s what we do? No. She’s three and she’s figuring it out.

Kids are going to make choices that we don’t like … even though we’ve taught them the “right” things to do and the “correct” ways to behave. They are going to do things that do not make us happy. It’s a hard concept to grasp. You’re tempted to think, Does that mean that I didn’t do it right? If they screw up, am I a bad parent? NO! And just because your child is president doesn’t make you a better parent than the rest of us either. My parents couldn’t help me with my math homework past fourth grade. Did they take credit for their “great parenting” because I took calculus? No. That was an achievement all my own because I worked hard and studied hard. They may have passed on some good study skills or made it apparent that education was a priority in our home … but if that’s true, why did my brother stop at geometry?

Do everything you can to pray for your kids and entrust the Lord to care for them. Hand Sam over to Him and trust that He will bring him up and equip you to parent him the “right” way.

Psalm 127:3 – Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord.

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Children really are a gift. We’ve been entrusted to care for helpless, little people who will amaze you and make you cry and laugh and test you further than you’ve ever been tested. But there’s a purpose that you have this role now and it’s a blessing. You don’t need to know anything but to love him. Be consistent in showing love. Sam is very blessed to have you two, who care so much, as his parents.

guest bloggers, parenthood

Guest Post: “Adopted Love”

Today’s parenting guest blogger is Justin Masterson. You may recall that his twin brother, Matt, was previously a guest blogger, despite the fact he does not have a soul. Justin and his wife Stacy are recent parents who were also kind enough to loan us their DVD of The Happiest Baby on the Block. Our baby and their baby will soon square off in an infant battle royale to determine which one is truly the happier baby. Check your pay-per-view listings.

Justin is also fond of using big words that we had to look up in the dictionary. We hope you enjoy.

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Being a father to a newborn is a little like falling deeply in love with a puddle.

Wait, let me go back.

I was told in the scant days between the beginning of the adoption agreement and the birth of our daughter that “it may take a while to get to know her,” and “don’t feel badly if you don’t love her right away.” I was warned that among birthing couples, the father often spends his early weeks trying his best to do the right things while all the while wondering when the little screaming spud would turn into an actual person, and secretly dreaming of the day that spud would move out of the house and give him his wife back. Texts for adoptive fathers told me this feeling can be even more compounded by the fact that I would not have nine months to get used to the idea of having a child, nor to forge bonds mitotically with my partner’s growing belly. So I prepared. I prepared to dutifully go about the tasks of fathering until my child could grow a personality and I could teach her to play crazy-eights or draw or love jazz. I listened to the advice of men much smarter and more experienced than I, and I’m glad I did … perhaps, as a bad review of a decent movie sets low expectations, it’s what built the foundation for a truly shocking daily reality:

…I love spending time with our infant daughter.

From the moment I met her, ruddy and shaking in the industrial light of the delivery room, I wanted to be close to her. From the first time her pencil lips quivered in the chill outside the womb and her hands clasped at the air in search of a familiar skin, I wanted to hold her to my chest and whisper comforts into her paper-thin ears. As she inhaled her first impossibly deep breath, I wanted nothing more than to hear her exhale in a cry with everything she had, so that I could come to her, offering consolation that felt in the moment like the most meaningful thing I would ever do.

Everybody told me about the work of being a father to a newborn, and they were right. It meant inverted hours, calm in chaos and thousands of unfamiliar duties performed by unskilled hands. What they didn’t get across … what they couldn’t possibly get across … was the profound narcissistic romance of it … the unmatched experience of reflective significance in it. Before she could focus her eyes on my face, I could begin to see myself in them in a way I had never seen myself before … as a father, as a masculine bearer of a sacred responsibility that I, uniquely, could shoulder. Before she could turn her head to my voice, I had heard a call to become a singular kind of guide and protector for a wholly innocent new creation.

The advice of my friends and my books was right: it took me a while to get to know my new daughter. I am still meeting her; every day getting little glimpses into her personality, her temperament, her humor, and her loving. But what shocked me is that it did not take any time at all to get to know her father; he had been waiting for his moment for years, his chance to animate what he always knew he could be. All it took was this warm, tiny puddle, aqueous and undulating, for him to see it.

guest bloggers, parenthood

Guest Post: “Linda McCartney Did A Lot Of … Breastfeeding?”

This is the first of several guest posts we’ll be featuring in the coming weeks from parenting friends of ours about what it’s like to be a parent. Kicking us off is Jill Van Himbergen, a former high school English teacher and mother of Finny. This post also appeared on her blog, Musings on Motherhood, which you can find on our Blogroll. Enjoy. And thank you, Jill!

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For me, one of life’s great mysteries has recently been solved: the origins of Linda McCartney’s crop-top haircut. I have always had a special admiration for Paul and Linda McCartney’s love story. I found it romantic and compelling and dreamy and always hoped that someday my husband and I would also sit in fields of daisies strumming our guitars in t-shirts and bellbottoms while our babies ran circles around us. But, always in the back of my mind was this nagging question: Why the mullet?

Now, I know. Surely it was not intentional. Linda McCartney was just breastfeeding. That’s all.

There are some quite wonderful side effects to pregnancy. The first being, of course, that the end result is a baby who will one day sing “Barbara Ann” to you at a moment’s notice from the backseat of the car. And there are some wonderful side effects of breastfeeding as well. One being that you can follow up a steak dinner with a large slice of double chocolate cake and then find the next day that you have actually dropped three pounds.

But there are some negative side effects to pregnancy and breastfeeding as well. One being the aforementioned Linda McCartney crop top, which takes nothing short of a decade to grow out (i.e. Linda and the 70s). It seems that Linda, who was birthing three children in 70’s, finally said, “Oh, to heck with it!” and just embraced her new found hair growth with a full-on spiked mullet top. I, on the other hand, am a humble blogger, no Oscar-winning rock star, so I have chosen to carefully conceal my Linda McCartney crop top with a small army of bobby pins every morning.

I have battled with my involuntary hair growth for the past year and a half trying an assortment of hair products, blow drying techniques and the old standby spit-and-press in desperate moments just to get these spiky bangs to lay down or my new-found sideburns to tuck back, and now after months and months of pinning and pulling, I am finally seeing some progress. I am finally seeing that the hair around the crown of my head may actually be longer than two inches again and I may soon be able to call home some of the troops of bobby pins, which have been stationed atop my head for far too long.

And then, of course, I realized, come January I will be breastfeeding again and once again I will endure endless months of hair loss followed by endless months of mullet-style re-growth. And at this realization, I could not help but sigh.

But on the flip side, I will have a baby after all. And someday that baby will sing “Barbara Ann” to me from the backseat of the car and perhaps maybe even in three-part harmony with me and his older brother. And maybe someday David and I will win an Oscar for our own co-written version of “Live and Let Die” and our children will sing back-up in clothes I’ve fashioned out of curtains. And after our shows, we can eat all the steak and chocolate cake we want and show up skinny the next day. And well, won’t that be something?

Okay, Lovely Linda, I get it now. The mullet was just you embracing your love for your babies. Now, all I need is a field of daisies and a few guitar lessons and David and I will be on our way to living the greatest love story of all time — my perfect, crop-top mullet being the cherry on top of it all. No bobby pins needed.

[photo: www.lindamccartney.net]

friends, guest bloggers, Lost, television

Guest Blogger Lost Forum: “Recon”

The question every “Lost” fan wants answered: How many STDs does this guy have?

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To the uninitiated, all “Lost” fans may look alike: Geeky, giddy fan boys (and girls) who obsess over numbers, mythology, literary references, time travel and parallel universes. Actually, there is a lot of diversity in our ranks. Some see in the show’s make-up overarching spiritual themes of death, redemption and resurrection; others just think it’s a great soap opera. Some see riddle upon riddle meant to stay unresolved; others want answers (or else!).

What we share in common is the belief that if “Lost” isn’t the best thing on television right now, it’s pretty darn close, and when it all ends we’ll be left with a little void inside that network television is unlikely to replace anytime soon, if ever.

In the spirit of bringing many viewpoints to the table, we hereby present four different takes on last night’s episode. These are guest bloggers of the highest caliber, known to Voreblog readers for their witty, astute commentary. They are Tad Smith, a left-handed Doc Jensen; Mike Allen, a wild card in every sense imaginable; Erik Brueggemann, the “Lost” agnostic; and Scott Guldin, devoted father, Bulls fan, and general Zen master of all things pop culture.

We have included their pictures so you can appreciate just how good-looking a guest blogging panel this is.

Enjoy.

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TAD “I AM SECRETLY DOC JENSEN” SMITH

First of all, I guess I should state that I am now firmly in the camp that does not need every mythological question answered. Admittedly, my stance has changed, as I used to be one who loved speculating on the meaning of a painting in a room or where the food drop came from or who the Degroots where. But now, I’m really just excited about seeing how this story will end, and what will happen to all these characters we have now followed for six years. I think part of this can be attributed to some fantastic acting by the likes of Michael Emerson, Terry O’Quinn and Henry Ian Cusick. I also think the way of storytelling this year, which I’ve found to be quite nostalgic (trips to the polar bear cages, trips to the caves, Adam and Eve skeletons, etc.), has achieved the task of balancing moving the story forward as well as looking back at all the places we’ve been. So last night, for not the first time this season, I found myself enjoying the show once again for the big picture, confusing as that picture may still be……

I gave last night’s episode, “Recon,” a solid B. And instead of rehashing everything that happened last night, I’ll just throw out the random thoughts I had whilst watching one more hour disappear before the series finale.

In no particular order……..and with lots of parentheses……

  • Michael Landon got more screen time than Jin. “Lost” has easter-egged its way throughout 5.5 seasons now, whether it’s quick glances of books (Watership Down last night) or the infamous Hoffs-Drawlar (flash forward) funeral home. That’s why I was struck with how long they stayed focused on Charles Ingalls waxing poetically about life and death last night. It worked as a motivator for James to get up off the couch in the episode, but I wonder if there was anything bigger picture there. Probably not.
  • I found last night to be confusing, but in a good way. Lots of cons, lots of lies, lots of truths.
  • Doc Jensen has touched on the recurring theme of mirrors in the sideways world in this season’s recaps. Character reflection, mirrors to another world, so on and so forth. There have been some pretty obvious occurences (Jack on the plane, Jack at the lighthouse, Locke in his bathroom), but I thought he was stretching on some others (Sayid’s reflection in Nadia’s door, Ben’s reflection in his microwave).  I think I’m on board after seeing Sawyer break the mirror this week, distorting the scowling face staring back at him.
  • Who’s in the dead-bolted room in Charles Widmore’s sub? I’m thinking (as much as Erin may be hoping) that it might be a drugged Desmond Hume.  [Editor’s note: And yes how Erin is hoping.]
  • I got a bit nervous when MIB sent Sawyer to the Hydra station to look for other survivors of the Ajira flight. I was praying that we weren’t going to be introduced to more new characters at this point in the show. And with the introduction of Zoe, I flinched a bit more (was she the same woman that Ford was with in the first scene, except without glasses?  I couldn’t tell). Luckily, it appears that Zoe is just part of Widmore’s sub crew, and may not have a bigger role than I at first thought she may.
  • Charlotte is hot. [Editor’s note: And how! This came out of nowhere. Nothing she did in season 5 prepared us for last night.]
  • Last night also further confirmed to me that Jacob vs. MIB does not necessarily equal Good vs. Evil. Perhaps it was simply the MIB further manipulating Kate with his quick glimpse into his life (my “mom” was crazy, and I had some “growing pains”), but I think that there are obviously some more complexities to Jacob and MIB’s relationship. I don’t want to necessarily jump on the Cain and Abel bandwagon, but I think they may potentially be brothers or at one point were friends. This leads me to my next question…..
  • Whose side is Widmore on?  Or are there three sides?  Or will Jacob and the MIB join forces to defeat Widmore?
  • Claire is still batshit crazy.
  • I miss Karl.

What’s the one question I still want answered? What are “the whispers”?  I won’t even pretend to have an answer, nor do I know if it even has any bearing on anything. I’ve always thought they were kinda creepy, quite mysterious, and really cool. Maybe Richard Alpert will fill us in this week in what looks to be a promising episode.

If I could write the ending to “Lost”: I’m not even gonna touch this one. Frankly, I’ve never even thought about this. I do think that this show could really end up being something special (as if it isn’t already). Between “Jersey Shore” and “The Jay Leno Show,” there’s hasn’t been a lot of great television on in many years. This show has been groundbreaking in its storytelling devices and character development. I have no doubt in my mind that people are gonna be pissed about how this show will end. I won’t be one of them. In fact, I’m cautiously optimistic that by the time May 23rd rolls around, that we’ll all be thoroughly satisfied and amazed at what this show has accomplished. It truly has the opportunity to be special, something that we look at years from now with the same amount of appreciation that most of us do now.

As long as Karl comes back.

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MIKE “GET THAT SALAD AWAY FROM ME” ALLEN

Let me just get it out of the way and say that next week looks to be amazing. My bold statement: “Ab Aeterno” will challenge “The Constant” as Best. Episode. Ever. Now on to “Recon.”

I bet I’m with the consensus on this episode, in that I thought it was good but not great. I’ve always been a big Sawyer fan. I felt like this had some really good stuff. The sideways story, especially the beginning, was great (I cannot wait for the Sawyer/Miles buddy cop drama). I think new Locke is a fantastic character especially when he called Claire out for being batshit crazy. I think it was easy to see the whole thing coming with Zoe though. I also just don’t care to ever really see Kate in any scenes ever again. She just annoys me now.

I planned to watch the episode around 10 last night on the ABC website. It turns out they don’t post those until sometime after 1 a.m. I did manage to spend about three hours last night watching bits of old episodes and reading Top 10 Episodes lists. I forgot how much I enjoyed “The Long Con” and “The 23rd Psalm” episode where Mr. Eko was judged. Which made me think back to some smoke monster activity: judging Mr Eko, trying to get Locke down the hole, Locke calling it “beautiful.” It’s interesting how many times we’ve actually seen this guy. I think there’s a lot there, like Locke drawing a picture of him before Richard visits him when he was a kid? That’s just weird.

All in all, a good not great episode. It did really get me thinking (obsessing?) about this stuff again and that’s something that none of the previous episodes this season had done.

[Editor’s Note: Mike will be taking the next two days off from work, so do not call him unless you want to discuss NCAA basketball.]

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ERIK “‘LOST’ IS NO ‘BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'” BRUEGGEMANN

I give last night’s episode a B. There has been only one other episode this season that wouldn’t get an F (the Sayid episode which is also a B episode). I never realized how smokin’ Charlotte was. This episode reminded me that I missed Sawyer – and this is the second non-crash alternate story that was believable (or, for that matter, even remotely interesting). Claire is still terrible as ‘Rousseau.’ My theory that no one is doing what you think they are — or on the side you think — was mainly confirmed last night from Sawyer, Sayid, “Locke,” and Widmore. Sawyer as McNulty was outstanding.

What’s the one question I want answered? How about, What the hell is Chip doing with a gun? Didn’t Jennie confront him about his violent tendencies in the episode “The Reporter” from Season 7 after Chip ate Kate and Allie and thereafter Chip began his path of nonviolence, although we can’t forget he did slip in the episode “Jack of Hearts” also from Season 7 when he ate Jennie while turning into Tetsuo.

Although since he was absorbing anything in his path Jennie should have gotten the hell out of the way.

If I could write the ending, there would be no ending. The story they were telling (until this season) has no ending – it would be 100% open ended like the best things about this show are. I’d rather not have them explain things – which is why I’m worried about next week’s episode (Richard is better as an enigma).

[MIKE, feeling baited, proceeds to have a “candid” dialogue with ERIK about the so-called virtues of vegetarianism.]

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SCOTT “NOT TO GET TOO ARISTOTELIAN UP IN HERE” GULDIN

Though “Lost” has an overripe reputation for its mystique and ambiguity, it sure can be ham-handed with its motifs. So far this season we have been reminded that SAYID IS A KILLER, BEN LUSTS FOR POWER, JACK HAS DADDY ISSUES, and KATE SUCKS. Here, once more, we reviewed Sawyer’s raison d’être: to lie, sulk, be alone, show us his formidable mid-section, and seduce the ladies (but broodingly and with an air of resigned inevitability).

Charlotte and Sawyer’s verbal foreplay forever ruined two things for me: Indiana Jones movies and sex. I’m sorry, but C.S. Lewis is a portly older British gentleman who pedantically defends Christian ideology, not a lithe redhead up for hot booty after a 20 minute dinner date. I blame the writers’ too-cute conventions for naming their characters for associating one with the other, burning that detestable image into my brain forever. I vomited when I saw that and have not stopped vomiting since.

While we’re here, can we discuss a practical issue? (Always dangerous with “Lost,” but still.) Sawyer’s gotta be swimming with STDs, right? Can we name the virulent strain of Island syphilis that he carries “LaFleur”? So far he’s done the nasty with: Ana Lucia, Kate, Juliet, and now, C.S. Lewis, not to mention countless others besides, from his days of conning and cuddling. I know he’s pretty and stubbly, but is it worth the risk, ladies? That rash is forever.

I did not read any recaps before writing this, so I don’t know the definitive answer to whether or not I should have recognized the bespectacled brunette on the smaller island. She sure LOOKED familiar, though. And what do I know? I’ve only seen every single episode and read multiple recaps of every show from the third season on. (Oh, “Lost.”)

Good episode. Not great. Solid B. I will leave the deeper matters of the Widmore/Locke and Kate/Claire showdowns to my fellow recappers [Editor’s Note: Or commenters!], who I assume will have dug a little deeper than Mr. Ford’s bedroom proclivities.

I don’t have any one question I want answered by season’s end. Unlike the Voreblogs, I have cable and watch TV in real time, instead of cherry picking only good shows on DVD. This approach makes sense and probably saves the Voreblogs a lot of time and money, but it also creates the ridiculous echo chamber that would cause them to pine for the cancellation — years ago — of “The Office,” and to declare that the second season of “Flight of the Conchords” was among the worst fare television had to offer last year. For shame. Only when you waste your life by watching crapfests like “Heroes,” seasons four through eight of “24,” “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Ugly Betty,” and the latest season of “Scrubs,” can you truly appreciate good television shows like “Lost.” It has definite and widely-discussed weaknesses, to be sure. But I will certainly miss it when it goes dark for good. I only hope it does right by its major characters.

My biggest fear is that the end of “Lost” will rely on some deus ex machina hokum. Rumors to that effect have swirled around the show since the beginning (the Island is purgatory, or the entire show is the dream of Bob Newhart), but the show is actually constructed in a way that makes such an ending eerily possible. For all the discussion of Jacob, The Man in Black, and even Widmore, those three have been afforded less screen time than Leslie Arzt, which is wrong for so many reasons. Not to get too Aristotelian up in here, but for the conflict and resolution to mean anything, we must see them unfold, not just hear repeated vague references to them (even if those references have been sustained for all six seasons). I hope the third-to-last and penultimate episodes establish a feeling of loss and foreboding, and that the final two hours show us Jack and Kate making love on a polar bear, Claire and Charlie watching Aaron play in a ball pit at Mr. Cluck’s, Sun and Jin teaching their children Korenglish, and Sawyer, Locke, Ben, Sayid and Shannon cleaning french bread out of Hitler’s mustache in hell. And one last “Waaaaaalllllt” wouldn’t kill anyone.