Sunday, March 25, 2012

When They Sing It, You Feel It. #Adele #u2 #nirvana

Best Dad Evar's room is dark, except for the princess nightlight way off in one corner of the room. Best Dad Evar is laying motionless in bed, despite the music playing from the alarm clock radio near his head on the dirty, many-times-repainted dresser that does double duty as a nightstand.

A quiet voice questions him from the dark, "Best Dad Evar, isn't it time to get up and start getting ready for your day?"
"Hmmm." He replies, "Leave me alone," he says quietly.
"Are you waiting for this song to be over?" the narrator probes.
"Yes, you gotta problem with that?" Best Dad says without moving.
"Best Dad?" the narrator can't keep his trap shut.
"What!?" Best Dad is getting annoyed now.
"Are you crying?"

There's a pause as Best Dad fails to answer while the song reaches its end. "I'm not crying." He replies drily as he reaches over and runs his fingers across the buttons on the small clock, feeling for the correct button to turn the alarm off.
"So why are there tears in your eyes?" The narrator won't let this go.
"Can I help it if I get a little misty?" Best Dad replies, having successfully turned the machine off, but failed to lever himself out of bed.
"What gets you misty, Best Dad Evar?" the narrator says with a chuckle barely suppressed.

"Songs, you know, music." This is as much verbage as Best Dad can manage first thing in the morning.
"Any songs?" the narrator is incredulous.
"No, not just any song." Best Dad replies, and gives a great heave which propels his legs out of bed and his upper body into a sitting position. He pauses there. "Songs with emotion."

The narrator pauses now, considering this. "Not just any songs with emotion, though."
"No," Best Dad concurs. "Somehow the singer manages to convey the exact feeling of the song in their voice."
"Well, isn't that the point of music?" the narrator responds.
"Perhaps it is, but very, very few singers or songs actually succeed."
"The one you just listened to succeeded." The narrator surmises.
"Yeah, it's called 'Someone Like You'."
"Adele, right?"

"Yeah, when she hits the line about 'don't forget me' there's a raw emotion that's just.... well, it can't be explained can it, it's just there, it's evident in her voice. I don't know if she suffered some kind of heartache that caused her to write this song and then sing it, but I'd be willing to bet she did."

"That note's not the prettiest note-" the narrator starts, but Best Dad interrupts.
"No, but emotion isn't pretty. Sometimes it's painful."
"Okay, but-"
"Trust me. If you want pain, loss, despair even, I challenge you not to feel it when you hear this:"

"Johnny has sounded better." the narrator continues.
"Yeah, but has he ever been more real?"

The narrator pauses as Best Dad moves to the mirror and turns a bright light on to look at himself. He's looking older, with a droop around the eyes and under the chin that he can't hide. He eyes are still a bit misty. "Take life, getting older, looking back. How did I get here? Why am I like this? Try this one:"

"I think you're making a list in your head of songs with emotional connections for you." the narrator has picked up the track of Best Dad's thinking.
"Guilty as charged. Maybe another Ipod Playlist."
"Okay, so what's next on your list."
"Well, when I think about disappointment and how to pull yourself up from rock bottom, I think of:"

"I bet you feel like you actually can pull yourself up and out from the bottom when you hear that one."
"Yeah. But some people never do. If you want to hear the place where you go when you've hit the blackest part of your life and there's no coming back, listen to Kurt Cobain:"

"Wow, that gives you chills to think that people didn't realize that he had hit that point."
"Oh, I think they knew, they just didn't know how to help him."
"Now, Best Dad, I know you're saving one group for last, I know who your favorites are."
"The absolute best group of all time at infusing emotion into their music."
"U2." The narrator says knowingly.
"Ah, but let's be clear, My belief is that the raw emotion of U2's music got watered down as they became more successful and perhaps as they became better musicians."
"So you want to narrow down the time frame."
"Yes, and you have to get a song early before they started adjusting it to fit their extensive touring schedule."

"Bono couldn't sing some of those songs live with the emotion that they started out with."
"His voice couldn't have survived it. And some of their best songs don't have music videos."
"No, so you have to catch performances like this one:"

"But again, you're saving one for the grand finale."
"Yes, one more, the coup de grace. The one that makes me cry every time I hear it."
"And you have a very personal heartache associated with this one."
"Yes, my first puppy love, who broke my heart. So perhaps the emotion I feel when I hear this one is not U2's, but mine."
"And I see you picked a version of the song that's very particular."
"Yes, you have to get one where he shouts 'Wide Awake!' as loud and as high as he can. That's the note that made me cry when I was sixteen and still does now:"

Best Dad is still staring into the mirror. "But Best Dad, you aren't still feeling the heartache and loss that these songs represent now, are you?"
Best Dad looks at his reflection and his teary eyes. "No, no, not all of it. But just a little tiny bit is still there. It's not painful any more, but it reminds me that I'm alive."
"So, is that your whole list of emotional songs, Best Dad?"
"No, no, there are a few others I probably could have included. But since I'm getting older now, I can't think of the others off the top of my head."
"Another project for your 'to do' list, then." the narrator replies knowingly.
"Yep, maybe I'll get to it on the weekend." Best Dad says hopefully.
"Or not." the narrator replies with Eeyore-like doom.
Best Dad looks up one final time and heads to the shower, chuckling. He mumbles as he stumbles, "Or not, you're right, narrator, as always. Always getting that final stab in, right between my shoulder blades..." He's still mumbling as the hot water hits his face, drowning out any further response.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Best Dad Evar's Shenanigans #dad #blog

It’s a Sunday, so, like every other weekend day for as long as he can remember, Best Dad Evar is in the midst of an endless string of chores, tasks and events for other people. In this case, he’s in the car, returning from a big box store with a lone box of very convenient, but very expensive “pull-up” diapers. “Day of rest, my ass!” Best Dad mutters to himself.

“Best Dad Evar,” the narrator’s voice calls out, as if on cue, “I want to ask you about something.”
“Yeah, what.” Best Dad Evar replies with lazy dread.
“Well, I was listening in on your job interview this week and I heard you say something.” the narrator’s voice has just a hint of a scold that’s about to occur.
“I’m sure I said a lot of shit, that’s what you do when you’re trying to get someone to hire you.” Best Dad rolls his eyes as if this should be plainly obvious.

“You mean a lot of bullshit?” the narrator replies sharply.
“Not necessarily.” Best Dad answers warily. “Just ask me your question already, what did I say that you objected to.”
“You said you’d been someone’s ‘right hand man’ in the past and you’d be happy to do that again.”
“Yeah, so?”
“So, I don’t believe you,” the narrator lays it all out on the table.

“Which part don’t you believe, that I’ve been someone’s right hand man or that I’d be happy doing it again.” Best Dad Evar’s eyebrows are raised. It seems he might be avoiding answering the question.
“I know you’ve done it before. But I also know that you believe you’re meant for greatness…. That you have important things to do in your career.”
“And you think that I can’t do that without being the man out front, the principal, the big cheese.”
“No, I think you think you can’t do that without being the big cheese.” Best Dad pulls into his driveway and ponders the thought as he navigates a winding path through the toys, bicycles and random lawn furniture that inevitably park themselves on the concrete walkway leading to the front door.

He opens the front door, finding the nearest flat surface to toss down his box-‘o’-diapers; whatever end table, bookshelf or whatnot happens to be just past the doorway. He continues talking, oblivious to whether any of his family members happens to be in the living room he’s just entered, “Well, you know what, I do think I have important work to do, both in my career and in my life.” He thinks a little bit further, and then continues, “But at some point you have to figure out who you are as an individual and play to your strengths.”
“What does that mean?” the narrator is doubtful.
“It means that if being a support guy to someone else’s big cheese is the best role for me in the business world, I shouldn’t look down my nose at that role.”
“Hm.” It’s clear the narrator still doesn’t quite believe what he’s hearing. “But will you be satisfied in that role long term?”

“Well, yes, I think I will, as long as I’m helping build something great for my team. At the same time, I need to find other outlets for my inner big cheese.”
“Like your family history and family tree research.” the narrator is getting it now.
“And my writing.” Best Dad says with a smile of triumph.
“And your writing.” the narrator murmurs in reply, as if considering whether these things could possibly satisfy Best Dad’s ambition. At this moment, a shadow appears behind Best Dad Evar. It looms behind him like a ghost emerging from the fog, but Best Dad doesn’t see it. The narrator lets out a gasp as the shadow seems to rear up out of the depths of the sofa and then….

“Bounce!” the shadow yells and leaps onto Best Dad Evar’s shoulders and back.
“Aaack!” Best Dad yelps like a girl, but he quickly realizes that the arms that are just this close to strangling him and the body that is draped onto his back are those of his older child.
“Got you!” the girls shouts directly into his ear, causing a ringing that will last for several minutes.
“Jeezus, you scared the sh-” Best Dad stops himself from using the expletive in front of the child, or perhaps even children. The other one may be around here somewhere if this one was sitting on the sofa listening to him talk to himself. Actually, it’s more likely she didn’t notice him come in at all, at least until she thought of jumping on his back.

“Piggy back ride!” She shouts again.
“Damn, you’re heavy!” He says, smiling now. Luckily she’s not old enough yet for a comment on her weight to sting. “Where to?”
But before she can reply, another shadow streaks out of a nearby hallway and immediately launches itself toward Best Dad Evar’s legs. “Oof!” the air puffs out of his lungs as the full force of younger child’s charge strikes. Somehow he manages to stay on his feet despite the blow.
“Hey, you can’t jump on me like that!” Best Dad says to the little one, but kindly. “You could knock us both over. Now, if you were to climb up onto the sofa, you could jump from there and balance out your sister-”

A head peeks around the corner from the kitchen. Best Dad’s wife’s face is countenanced with a scowl and eyebrows pinched together in the middle. “Hey!” She says in the unmistakable mommy disapproves voice that all mommies seem to have. Three sets of eyes turn toward her sheepishly. “You know I don’t like these shenanigans!”
Best Dad and both girls stand stock still, as if they’re not sure what to do now. Older child speaks up first, “They’re just pick up tricks, Mommy,” she says with just a hint of a pout.
“Yes, but someone could get hurt!” she continues, but softens just slightly, providing Best Dad just a little bit of an opening.
“Just one time around the house, okay?” He pleads with her, “I promise, no one will get hurt.”

Her lips scrunch up and her eyes roll just a bit as she gives in. “All right. One time.”
“Yay!” the little one shouts and somehow she’s already leaping from the sofa, launching toward Best Dad’s chest. Surprised, he lets out another gasp and barely gets hold of her as she bounces off of him.
He whispers to her, “I almost dropped you on your a-… on your butt.” he chuckles. “That wouldn’t have been good.” Older child laughs heartily in his ear, still clinging on tightly. The thought of her sister getting dropped is perfectly raucous humor for her. The possibility that the little one might be hurt doesn’t really enter her thinking, at least not until the crying starts.

Best Dad’s wife is still standing there with her hands on her hips but she doesn’t say anything. Her facial expression says it all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Best Dad Evar on Confrontation #GBE2

It is just past nine o'clock and we peer over the shoulder of Best Dad Evar, hunched over in an uncomfortable chair in a darkened corner of his bedroom. The dim light in the room mostly emanates from the screen of a laptop that sits upon, well, it's not a desk, more of a cart. Best Dad's house has a variety of modern devices, but all of them are hand-me-downs or purchased long ago when they had money. Best Dad is staring at the screen and lets out a guffaw which he quickly stifles. Best Dad can feel his wife's disapproval of this violation of the hour-after-bedtime cone of silence even though she's out of sight and in another room. Still, Best Dad's expression remains incredulous.

"What is it, Best Dad Evar?" the Narrator says quietly, his voice inaudible to the other members of the household.
"Someone responded!" Best Dad whispers back.
"To what?" the Narrator is out of the loop.
"To my idea about continuous power!"
"Um, what do you mean, 'responded'? 'Responded' to what?" Clearly he's still not sure what Best Dad means.

"I posted my idea on one of those message boards." Best Dad replies excitedly.
"You did?" the narrator is duly shocked.
"Yeah. After we talked about it, I got to thinking about how to make sure someone heard about my idea. So I posted it on some random solar power forum and someone actually wrote back." He still sounds excited.
"Well, what did they say?"

"Oh." Best Dad's face falls as he reads the response. "They say, 'Newbies always come on here asking about connecting cars to the grid. Why didn't you read those threads, dumbass'."
"They called you a dumbass?!" the narrator is horrified.
"No, it doesn't say 'dumbass', I added that because that's the tone of this guy's post." Best Dad's expression reverts to its typical low level annoyance.
"Good, 'cause that sounded pretty harsh. Are you going to respond?" the narrator places the ball back in Best Dad's court.

"No, I don't want a confrontation." Best Dad raises the white flag, as usual.
"You're not really one for confrontation are you?" The narrator responds knowingly.
"No, I don't feel like confrontations solve anything."
"Or you're too chicken to get into it with someone," the narrator deadpans.
"Hey!" Best Dad sounds wounded but indignant. "You should know better. You've seen me get into it with my daughters."
"Yeah, but that's different, you're in a position of authority."
"I am?!" Best Dad responds with overdramatic, wild-eyed surprise. "You could have fooled me!"

"You don't give yourself enough credit, Best Dad Evar." the narrator responds, softening his tone this time.
Best Dad isn't finished, though. "In what way do they respect my authority?" Confrontationally, he adds, "Name one, I dare you!"
"That's the spirit." the narrator responds, and he doesn't back down from the challenge, "They, uh, they do what you say sometimes."
"Only when I threaten to take away their stuff." Best Dad says sulkily.
"Well, that counts." the narrator hands it back to him.
"Does it? To me, that's not authority. That's a power play on my part. That's not respect."

"What would respect for authority look like to you, Best Dad?" the narrator asks, as if he really wants to know.
"I make a request and they do it without resistance."
"Dream on!" the narrator replies sarcastically, but then his voice changes. "Seriously, Best Dad, you know sometimes they do what you ask without a confrontation."
"Hardly ever," Best Dad grumbles.
"You're hopeless." the narrator mumbles quietly.

"Oh, wait, there's another response." Best Dad says hopefully.
"Well?" the narrator says expectantly.
"It asks if the car really talked to me."
"You mentioned that, too?" the narrator is just shy of appalled.
"I just said, 'If my electric car could talk, it would say it wanted continuous power.'"
"Oh, okay." the narrator is relieved.
Best Dad continues. "The guy says he's been working on artificial intelligence and he's been curious to know if a complex, integrated computer-operated system like a modern automobile could take the next logical leap to some form of intelligence." The glow of the computer screen doesn't illuminate Best Dad's face quite enough to reveal whether he's amused or wondrous.

"Is he pulling your leg?" the narrator pipes in like that annoying parrot in Aladdin.
Best Dad smirks. "I don't know, maybe. I guess I could message him separately and find out." He begins to type.
A few minutes later, there is an audible beep that makes Best Dad Evar's heart leap and a he lets out a girlish yelp. He sheepishly recovers himself and says, "Hey, he responded again."
"Go on, read it." the narrator prods.
"He wants to know if I have noticed anything out of the ordinary with the car. What should I say?"
"Tell him the truth." The narrator responds.
"That I have an all-seeing, all-knowing 'narrator' who talks to me and tells me what my car is saying?" Best Dad Evar says with just enough seriousness to give the narrator pause.
"No!" the narrator responds in kind, with a hint of exasperation. "Tell him about any messages or signals the car has given that aren't typical."
"How am I supposed to know what's typical and what's not? It's not even my car."

"I think you know what I mean," the narrator scolds.
"Hmph. I guess so. Anything that doesn't seem to fit." There's a pause while he thinks this over, scouring his less-than-perfect memory banks for any clues he could give this AI maven. "The problem is, there really hasn't been anything like that."
"Well there you go."
"Well, can you tell me anything the car would say... You know, about this artificial intelligence idea?" Best Dad pleads, grasping at straws.
"It would say that it doesn't have any way to send messages to you."
"It can't send a message through that fancy cockpit display thingy?"
"Not any message you'd recognize. It's limited by the parameters programmed into its computers to analyze and optimize the car's systems."

"It can tell me the battery is low on power."
"But not that it would love to chuck the whole battery."
"Hm. So this guy's whole artificial intelligence theory is off base." Best Dad says with finality.
"I didn't say that." the narrator says playfully.
"I just said it doesn't have a way to communicate with you, whether it has intelligence or not."
"Hmph." Best Dad grumbles and pauses to think for another moment. "That still leaves me with nothing to tell this guy."
"Yep, you're probably right. Does that bother you?"
"Yeah, it kinda does."
"Well, get used to it," the narrator says like only a parent can.
"Now we're going to have a confrontation!" Best Dad Evar exclaims.
There's no reply.