A poem for a birthday boy

My second son turns 17 today.

He’s in the middle of that dreaded junior year of high school, where everything matters, from grades to standardized tests to girls and friends to music and memes.

In addition to the things my wife and I have wrapped for him to open tonight after a dinner of hamburgers (his choice) and homemade cheesecake (also, his choice), I offer him this poem by Shel Silverstein.

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A peek inside my sad, sad brain

th.jpegI realized something after hitting the “Publish” key on my last post: It was my 100th post. (Cue the horns and confetti.)

I started this blog in October 2014 because I was bored as hell at work. I was in a job where there was little work for me, but they paid me an exorbitant salary for doing nothing and I let them. Typing away on this blog at least made me look busy. Of course, they still laid me and lots of other people off when they realized none of us were actually working, so looking busy just delayed the inevitable.

Anyway, by the time they laid me off, I was kind of hooked by this, so I kept at it. Here are some fun (for me, at least) facts:

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A children’s classic tale of a boy and his dog

OldYeller.jpgWhen the kids were young, I read to them nearly every night. I read classic children’s novels (“The Narnia Chronicles,” “The Never-Ending Story,” “Pinocchio” “Winnie-the-Pooh”) and, when they got older, some that weren’t specifically for children, but which I thought they’d enjoy (“Phantom of the Opera,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Erotic Works of Anaias Nin, you know the canon). But, as kids get older, there are other things to do.

I miss those times, but I’ve written about them before, and I have promised shorter posts, so let’s get to the point of this one.

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‘Groucho and Me:’ Light on details, but not on laughs

groucho and me 2.jpegReaders shouldn’t turn to “Groucho and Me” funnyman Groucho Marx’s 1959 memoir to learn anything substantial about him or his famous brothers. He even acknowledges that a couple of times. Do pick up the book if you want to laugh. It’s the funniest book I’ve read in a long time.

I chose this book from among several options on my bookshelf to fulfill the Memoir or Biography category for the 2016/17 Classics Challenge. Surprisingly, there were several options on my shelves. I thought it might just be the time to dive into Moss Hart’s “Act One,” (and finally finish) or Sheilah Graham’s “Beloved Infidel,” her take on her relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oddly, I had even others that could fill the bill, too, but decided humor was the way to go. There’s so little to laugh at these days.

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In England, during WWII, ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven’

brave.jpegSeveral years ago a friend of mine breathlessly begged me to read a novel she had just finished. “I’m not going to tell you what it’s about except to say you have to read it.”

So I picked up “Little Bee” by Chris Cleve. Here’s the quote from the flap inside the dust cover: “We don’t want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn’t. And it’s what happens afterward that is most important. Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.” A little too clever, but, OK, they had me.

Then I started reading this tedious, untidy novel peopled with stupid characters I didn’t care about entangled in a plot that had little point. It’s memorable to me only in that I wished I had stopped reading after the dust cover, as it was the most interesting aspect of the book.

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Classics Challenge reads a book that was banned

Are you taking the challenge? See the next category at the end of this post.

The only thing that saddens and dismays me more than when people try to get a book removed from a school curriculum or a public library is that school districts and library boards have to listen to crackpots who request this.

These incidents are usually started by an overprotective parent who doesn’t want a child exposed to ideas that may “corrupt” them. But when you do a little research you’ll discover that people have asked that works ranging from those by ancient Greeks to Toni Morrison and J.K. Rowling. That’s when you realize it’s not the work itself, it’s the ideas in the work, and the way they challenge the status quo that scares people. Some people, I should say, not all. But, as you know, it’s always, sadly, the loudest, most ignorant bitcher who always gets heard.

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