Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lessons from Old Children’s Books

[Note: This is a new segment I’m trying out where I take children’s books published pre-1970s and analyze the messages hidden within. I’ve found them... Amusing.]

This Episode: Tootle by Gertrude Crampton

Tootle is a train that hopes to, one day, become a “Flyer” or very fast train. He goes to the train school where he has to learn things like how to stop for a red flag waving and how to toot. Most important is Staying on the Rails No Matter What [no mention of getting tax subsidies for Amtrak].

One day a “Terrible Thing” happens; a black horse challenges him to a race and he leaves the rails to run with him. The next day he goes off into the meadow again to see the flowers. Over the days the teachers at his school realize he is spending every day in the meadow and, chuckling [and perhaps wringing their hands with maniacal glee] they come up with a plan to stop him.

The people from the town all hide in the meadow with red flags and when he goes out to play, they all wave their flags so Tootle has to stop. Realizing that he can’t have fun in the meadow anymore because he has to stop all the time, he returns to the rails and never leaves, eventually becoming a famous engine. In the end he tells the younger engines never to leave the rails [or have fun, or vote for a Democrat].


1. Never have fun
As amazing as the meadow was and no matter how many fulfilling experiences Tootle had there, he shouldn’t have been out there in the first place. Playing in the meadow eventually leads to smoking marijuana and burning your draft card. Working hard and never having fun is the only way to be happy. I like to think that Tootle eventually ended up like Don Draper from Mad Men: smoking charcoal briquettes and cheating on his Express Commuter wife.

2. Don’t trust black “horses”
Tootle was led astray by a “fine, strong black horse.” We can only assume that the black horse was into the jazz music and smoking in the hallways. After one afternoon Tootle probably joined the Black Horse Party and started calling everyone “Daddy-o.”

3. You know what’s best for others
If you see someone else going “off the rails,” you need to trick them into getting back on track. Never mind if that person is happy or fulfilled; some day he’ll thank you, right before he goes up to the book depository with a rifle.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How to take your children to Costco

It’s that time again. You’re out of toilet paper. You have giant empty storage spaces in your house. You have a sudden urge to buy 600 boxes of cereal. Whatever your reason, you know it’s time again for a trip to Costco. Unfortunately, you have to bring the kids.

Some parents hire a sitter. Others prefer to put them in a giant tub of powdered mayonnaise and pick them up at checkout. However, my method allows you to avoid the expense and cleaning involved with the previous two methods.

Just follow these few, simple directions:

Step 1: Planning
  • Explain to your children that you need to go to Costco.
  • Explain to your children why you need to go to Costco.
  • Tell children that they’re going to Costco if they like it or not.
  • Threaten to take away dessert/television/game/breathing privileges.
Step 2: Drive to Costco
  • Drive from your current location to the closest Costco store.
  • Enter parking lot.
  • Drive through entire parking lot without finding a space.
  • Start again.
  • Decide to look for someone getting ready to leave.
  • Wait as someone loads box of napkins into car.
  • Wait as someone loads tub of pickles into car.
  • Wait as someone loads bag of potato chips into car.
  • Wait as someone loads box of ice cream into car.
  • Wait as someone loads another box of ice cream into car.
  • Wait as the fat-ass loads even more ice cream into car.
  • Wait as he returns the cart.
  • Wait as he puts his kids in carseats.
  • Wait as he puts on his seatbelt, tunes his radio, contemplates the metaphysics of being, or whatever the hell else he’s doing.
  • Park.
  • Drag kids to store.
Step 3: Collect needed items
  • Buy First item on shopping list.
  • Allow children to try free sample of angel food cake. After all, it’s pretty healthy compared to other cakes.
  • Buy second item on list.
  • Allow children to try free sample of brownies. Ask for smaller than normal pieces.
  • Buy third item on list.
  • Let children have free sample of fudge. Have one yourself.
  • Buy fourth item on list.
  • Try to keep children from seeing free sample of chocolate covered fruit lump.
  • Let them have free sample of chocolate covered fruit lump.
  • Stop for jellybeans.
  • Try to stop jellybean woman from giving them enormous portions of jellybeans.
  • Make note on shopping list to poison jellybean woman.
Step 4: Pay for items
  • Pick line to register not simply based on number of carts, but also how many things are in each cart.
  • Switch to shorter line.
  • Watch original line get shorter than yours.
  • Repeat last two steps until you are declared a senior citizen.
  • Tell children to calm down.
  • Offer incentives to children to calm down.
  • Strap children down with duct tape (six rolls for $13.00).
  • Allow child to play with your credit card while you wait.
  • Watch child slide credit card into gap under conveyor belt.
  • Watch Costco employees improvise card retrieval device out of masking tape and a ruler.
  • Pay.
  • Give child receipt to give to checker so checker can draw a smiley face on receipt.
  • Watch child crumple receipt and throw it away.
  • Retrieve receipt.
  • Give child receipt.
  • Watch child give receipt to checker.
  • Watch checker not write smiley face on receipt.
  • Make note on receipt to remind you to poison checker.
Step 5: Go home
  • Decide to put children in powdered mayonnaise bin next time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How I Found the One True Faith

My fellow contestants, I would like to speak unto you about the One True Faith. Many of you are seekers, as I was, trying to find the real religion, the true religion. I am here today to tell you that I have found it.

I found it, oddly enough, through music. Really, really bad music. I was at my son’s school music recital. If you’ve never been to an elementary school recital you know they can last for hours. Ours lasted over two nights, with every ensemble, class, and instrument getting performing six to eight hundred songs. Just to improve everyone’s patience, the performance was on the first hot day of summer in an enclosed metal building.

As the children played broken notes and sang off key, the heat in the room rose to a hundred degrees. It wouldn’t have been so bad it hadn’t been for the music teacher. I can’t say his real name, but lets call him Mr. Bastard. Bastard had to make a speech after each song. He spoke about the perseverance of the students, about his pride in them, about the kinds of flowers he was growing in his garden, about the last time he brushed his teeth, and on and on.

As the temperature of the room reached the point where human hair spontaneously combusts, I began to pray.

“God,” I whispered, “Please make him shut up. I’ll do anything.”

Mr. Bastard told about the time he taught his chain gang how to sing. It seemed Nietzsche was right. I decided to try again.

“Jesus, please give him an aneurysm.”

Bastard told the audience about how he put a sticker on the end of his baton catch flies for his pet toad. I felt desperate, but somewhat justified that I don’t celebrate Christmas. I tried Allah. Nothing. I tried three hundred different Hindu gods. Mr. Bastard gave a quick lesson on proper breathing technique while singing Star Spangled Banner. As the metal buttons on my shirt began to melt and got desperate.

I prayed to Buddha. I went through the Greek and Norse Gods. I prayed to every entry in the Dungeons and Dragons book Deities and Demigods. Bastard told us how the beginning guitar ensemble invented the Treble Clef. Heat exhaustion set in and I began to hallucinate bunnies made out of needles. I raked my mind for something, any god who might help me. I grabbed something from my memory at random and prayed one last time.

Mr. Bastard said “Thanks for coming!” and gestured to the principal to unchain the doors. As cold air blew through the room and paramedics began reviving audience members, I realized my prayer had been answered. I was saved. More important, I had found the One True Faith. I have found the real savior. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Bob Barker.

Behold his deep, compassionate eyes, the purity of his white hair, the tan that’s so perfect it could only have been caused by ultraviolet holy light.

His is a face that shows he is more than a game show host, but a transcendent being who quickly and effectively answers your prayers. If you wish to join his church, as I have, you need to understand some of the basic points of the worship of Bob Barker:
  • Adherents are called “contestants.”
  • In the Church of Bob Barker contestants are expected to bid on salvation, but are damned if they bid too much.
  • If a contestant bids correctly, he or she will receive salvation when Bob calls out “Come on down!”
The church meets every weekdays at 1pm, check your local listings. However, you may have to accept salvation from his prophet Drew Carrey. Depends on the network.

I hope you’ll join me. Oh, and remember to spay and neuter your pets!