Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wanna See Something Really Scary?

Macy knows I like horror movies. She knows this both because I've told her on more than one occasion and because even a nine-year-old can look at my movie collection and know that The Evil Dead trilogy, Alien, and House on Haunted Hill aren't romantic comedies.

Like any child who thinks her dad is the most awesomeist thing ever, she wants to emulate me to a degree. I know this on an intuitive level; she seeks my approval when she follows in my footsteps. It's all terribly flattering.

She's been lobbying for us to start having scary movie night for a long time now and I want to oblige. Of course, this desire to indulge my daughter is tempered with my desire not to scar her for life. Or, if I'm being honest, my desire to not have to deal with a daughter who's afraid of the dark and has constant nightmares. When I was a kid I always wanted to watch horror movies. My parents generally didn't let me, but I managed to catch a few anyway. The Nosferatu knockoff in the TV adapation of Salem's Lot scare the living crap out of me. So did the ball/scythe mash-up in Phantasm. Seeing these things was thrilling and satisfying right up until the moment my dad would say, "time for bed." Then it was all terror and dread. Luckily, I was a firm believer in the ability of a thin sheet and a thick blanket to keep me safe from all manner of bogeyman.

I want to indulge Macy, who seems to have a firm sense of what is real and what is not. So I did what any responsible father would do in 2011: I solicited the opinions of my friends on Facebook. I explained the situation and my own desire to not thrust Macy right into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I got several good suggestions, including Poltergeist, which of course I should have thought of immediately. I've been meaning to make Macy deathly afraid of clowns. Some other good ones were ghost stories like The Sixth Sense and The Others. These made sense to me as a way of easing Macy into this sort of thing, like a gateway drug, if you will. Let her get a little taste before pushing her head first into the bowl.

As luck would have it, I got home from work on Friday and discovered that both Signs and The Sixth Sense were going to be showing on movie channels over the course of the weekend. I set the DVR and we made plans to cook up a feast and watch scary movies while we ate.

A quick aside: I don't think Signs or The Sixth Sense qualify as either horror movies or "scary". There are a couple of moments in each, like when you first see the alien in the former at the birthday party or when the kid gets locked in the closet in the latter. But neither movie would have given me reason to sleep with my head under the covers if I had seen them as a child of Macy's age. Gateway drugs, remember.

Macy's impression of Signs was generally favorable, though she thought the aliens looked way too fake (she's right) and wasn't at all scared. The smothered chicken went over much better.

The Sixth Sense was a different story, at least as far as how Macy felt about it. She absolutely loved it. She thought it was creepy without being scary, exactly (which is how I feel about it as well). When she figured out the big twist she was suitably awed. We talked about it afterward and she totally got that Bruce Willis never talked to anyone except Haley Joel Osment after being shot in the opener. She's still talking about it the next day. The funniest part of the movie occurred when the boy handed the grieving father the box which contained evidence that his wife had intentionally poisoned their daughter, causing her death. The father opens the box, which contains a videotape. Macy, confused, asked, "what's that?"

The braciole we made for dinner wasn't as big a hit; I've adjusted the recipe though and I think it'll be much better next time. The tapenade appetizer was gobbled up though (I still can't get over the fact that Macy will eat tapenade).

All in all it was a successful weekend. Macy is, I think, a little disappointed that the movies weren't scarier. She told me she thought The Sixth Sense would have some of those gotcha moments when something jumps out at you. So I'm going to turn up the scare factor a little bit for our next weekend together. I'm hitting Amazon for some classics like Poltergeist, Arachnophobia, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. If she handles those -- which I have no doubt she will -- we'll turn it up a little bit more. I have extra blankets for her bed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Theory Of Origin Burger

After reading this column in today's Forum about burgers that don't live up to the hype, I realized something. Something fundamental and seismic. Something wonderful and terrible. Something that can't be described with mere adjectives. Uh, other than the ones I just used, I mean. It is a new theory of the culinary universe. I call it the Theory of Origin Burger. It states:

The ability of a hamburger chain to create a great burger diminishes with each new creation.

That styofoam will be your tomb.

I've tried just about every new burger the legacy chains have ever crammed into a styfoam container or wrapped in greasy wax paper. Remember the McDLT? How about the Rodeo Cheeseburger? The big legacy chains, Burger King, McDonalds, Hardees, Wendy's; they've tried everything over the years. Burgers with ranch dressing. Burgers with avocado. Burgers with pineapple. Burgers with chicken sandwiches stuck in the middle. They all come, stay for awhile, then drop a twenty dollar bill on the nightstand and say, "later, baby." I try all these johnny-leave-quickies once. Once. But Burger King should have quit after the Whopper. McDonalds has the Big Mac. Wendy's, the classic. Hardees, well okay, Hardees burgers suck everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. Bad example.

A corollary to the Theory of Origin Burger is this:

The more desperate the attempt, the longer the name.

Look at the two burgers that serve as the subject of John Lamb's -- why yes, that is the same John Lamb who will be presiding over my pending nuptials. I know an honest-to-goodness journalist.-- fine article linked above. Burger King's BK Stuffed Steakhouse is certainly a mouthful to say, but with a name like that you know it's not going to be good. How about McDonald's affront to brevity; the Angus Chipotle BBQ Bacon Burger has no choice but to be consigned to the dustbin of history. The name clearly came from the unholy union of a blindfolded dart board tosser and a peyote-addled stream-of-consciousness poet.

Neither has the simple elegance of the chains' flagship sandwiches. Whopper. Big Mac. Short, sweet, to the point. The chains got it right the first time. Further experimentation was, is, and always shall be unnecessary. These lurching forays into burger genesis may provide a brief titillation, but that twenty dollar bill is really a poor substitute for the real thing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New At Say Anything: The Role of Government: The Purpose of Laws

Is North Dakota becoming a nanny state? There's sufficient evidence that that new state Congress is working to push North Dakota in that direction. Between new rules for divorce, adding layers to the process of getting a driver's license and wanting to teach abstinence in public
2011 is shaping up to be a banner year for those who believe the role of government is to protect society from every evil that might befall it.

Few would argue that the government has no role in protecting its citizens. The question is, where should that line be drawn? Is there a place it can be drawn that would satisfy all? Probably not. Let's try anyway.

To my mind the first stroke in the sand would fall between two pretty broad categories of harm: the harm that individuals can visit upon themselves and the harm that individuals can visit on others. This would mean that laws against murder, rape, robbery, and many others would fall on the "right" side of this line.
Killing or injuring another, abusing them, taking their property: all these things visit lasting harm on the other and would be the kind of actions that a citizen would expect to be outlawed in a just society.

Where this side of the line gets a little blurry is in the cases where harm is alleged but hard to prove. Discrimination is a prime example. As long as the system is set up to be fair and the burden of proof is both reasonable and on the accuser rather than the accused, I think we can say discrimination is something society would want laws against. Note that the fact that we need to worry about discrimination at all is another topic; it exists so the only question is, is it something for which the government should legislate sanctions.

What laws would be on the "wrong" side of this line? Well, if we define the wrong side as those laws that attempt to protect a citizen from himself, I can think of a few examples. Mandatory seatbelt laws (which North Dakota has enacted) would be one. A law that mandates that passengers in a vehicle wear seatbelts make sense to me; the passengers aren't in control of the car and thus are subject to the decisions of the driver. Should the driver have to wear a seatbelt? No, not if we judge the law using our bright line. The driver can harm no one but himself by not wearing a seatbelt (notwithstanding some farfetched scenario). There have been many recorded cases of an individual being injured or killed because they didn't wear a seatbelt. I am aware of no case where a person was injured because someone else wasn't wearing one. The same argument applies to motorcycle helmets. Passengers would be required to wear them in our bright line legal landscape, drivers would not.

What if we apply our bright line to the laws mentioned at the beginning of this article?

(Click here to read the rest of this article at Say Anything.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New at Say Anything: No Sex Please, We're North Dakotans

There's a bill before the North Dakota House that would mandate abstinence-only education in the state's public schools.

I imagine that most people would agree with at least some of the concepts outlined in this bill (North Dakota H.B. 1229). Others, not so much. I'm not particulary interested in hashing out which ones are good or bad, true or false, appropriate or not. That's because while I personally may agree with some of these and disagree with others, I don't think this is an area public schools should be concerning themselves with. I'm a firm believer that it is the purview of parents to take the lead in dicussing sex with their kids, in whatever form that conversation may take and whatever approach those parents may prefer. As someone whose own parents never had "the talk" I understand one major argument in favor of this sort of program. If the parents won't do it, it's up to the school. Except that it's not, anymore than a parent who doesn't buy their kid new shoes means it's up to the school to do it.