Posts from February 2004.

Date Night

The Queen and I got into a weekly ritual to celebrate our remaining weeks as a childless couple. Every Wednesday we met at my place of business, had dinner at one of the delightful ethnic restaurants on Capitol Hill, and then gathered with eight or ten other couples to watch horrific videos of strangers coming out of other strangers’ private parts.

Yes, we’re attending childbirth classes, and Date Night will never be the same again.

Our first class started charmingly enough, with a round of introductions and some gentle prefatory remarks by the instructor. Then, about an hour into the session, the teacher announced that it was time for a video. Perhaps remembering “movie time” from high school, we all settled back in our seats and prepared to snooze. And sure enough, the film opened with some soothing music and feel good imagery, enough to lull us all into a false sense of serenity. And then, a few moments later, everyone was sitting bolt upright in their chairs and gripping their arm rests, their mouths perfect O’s of terror.

The closest kin to childbirth videos are traffic safety films — you know, the ones with names like “Mechanized Death” and “The Final Swerve.” Both employ frightening, gory imagery, which make the viewer never want to go through the ordeal depicted on screen. The difference, of course, is that by the time you see the childbirth videos, it’s already too late. It’s like showing “Yugo To Hell!” to a driver who has already crashed through the guardrail but has yet to hit the rocks below.

Between videos we learned the nuts and bolts of labor: breathing techniques, coping mechanisms, and what to say when your child comes out (“That doesn’t look like a baby!” was a popular exclamation in the films we saw). Most of this, obviously, was for the benefit of the mothers, but we did cover a few dad-centric topics, like how to take a punch and smile while your wife is in the “transition stage”.

We also learned the father of the child traditionally cuts the umbilical cord. “Why?” I asked, upon hearing this. Our teacher seemed confused by the question, so I clarified. “I mean, if there an actual reason for the father to do it — like, because he’s standing right there anyhow, and the midwife’s hands are full — or is this just a feel-good measure to make the husband feel useful, so, later, with the guys, he can be all, like, ‘dude, I totally helped out with that birth!’” The teacher conceded that the latter was the case. Knowing that the cord cutting is purely ceremonial, I’ve decided to go whole hog. I plan to wear a suit with a sash that reads “DAD,” and proclaim “I declare this baby to be … born!” while cutting the cord with a giant pair of scissors.

Our final class was last Wednesday, and it was our turn to bring snacks. The previous lesson had been all about breastfeeding, so while The Queen and I were discussing our options on the drive home I came up with a brilliant idea. “You know what we should do,” I said, “We should go to The Erotic Bakery up in Wallingford , get one of those cakes shaped like a huge pair of breasts, and serve it with milk! To which The Queen said, and I quote, “Hah hah hah hah hah, we should totally do that, hah hah hah hah hah, that would be great, hah hah hah hah! But, no.” Stupid impending adulthood.

Anyway, with classes over we’re “officially” “ready” to have an “baby,” if you can believe that. Now we’re just sort of hanging around, killing time until the dirty deed takes place. It’s like waiting for a really, really slow elevator to show up, but without the little arrow on the mother’s belly to tell you exactly when it’s going arrive (although that would be super cool — somebody invent that).

But what’s really got us anxious is that everything feels weighted with foreshadowing these days, even the most insignificant events seem indicative of our upcoming adventure. Over the weekend, for example, we went out to Chinese food. When the fortune cookies arrived, I gave mine to The Queen, saying “This is our child’s. It will tell us what his life — and our future — holds in store.” Solemnly she cracked it open and read the slip of paper therein. Then she laughed and handed it to me.

The Squirrelly’s fortune said, “You may soon win a contest.”

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D & Dean

I think reading this paragraph (from a New Republic article about the Democratic primaries) provides a pretty definitive geek test:

As a result, the only way Edwards catches on is a) if Kerry makes a huge mistake; b) if Edwards manages to stick around long enough for the press to savage Kerry; c) if Dean draws blood against Kerry with all those $100 donations he’s planning to turn into rhetorical RPG attacks.

Real men immediately recognize “RPG attacks” is a reference to rocket-propelled grenades.

Guys like me, on the other hand, first summon a mental image of Dean sitting at a table, acting out a fiery denunciation of Kerry, and then rolling a 20-sided die against his CHR attribute.

P.S.: By my reckoning, the stats work out to be about:

Howard Dean

STR: 11
INT: 13
WIS: 9
DEX: 10
CON: 12
CHR: 13

Wesley Clark

STR: 14
INT: 12
WIS: 11
DEX: 12 (-4 when trying to dodge questions about his platform)
CON: 14
CHR: 10

John Edwards

STR: 10
INT: 13
WIS: 10
DEX: 12
CON: 10 (+2 for Forehead of Perpetual Youth)
CHR: 13

John Kerry

STR: 10
INT: 13
WIS: 13
DEX: 9
CON: 10
CHR: 9

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Pizza Party U.S.A.

Please support my latest initiative.

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Movies: The Triplets of Belleville

I want animated movies for adults to become viable form of entertainment in America. When I become king, I will simply issue a decree stating that, for every Treasure Planet churns out, they have to match it with a Waking Life or two. But until that time, the only thing I can do to advance my cause is to see each and every adult animated movie that comes to town and hope that my pocketbook vote somehow translates into more of them being distributed.

And thus I went to see The Triplets of Belleville. It had been getting rave reviews (rottentomatoes.com has it at a phenomenal 95% — just one point lower than Return of the King), so my expectations were dizzyingly high. Maybe this, thought I, was going to be the film that made America wake up to the extraordinary possibilities of animated entertainment.

So, really, how could I not wind up a little disappointed, holding it up to such an impossibly high standard? And it didn’t help that, before going, I’d read a review comparing it to both City of Lost Children and Delicatessen two of my all-time favorite flicks. Triplets is a fine movie to be sure, but it ain’t gonna revolutionize the motion picture industry, alas – and it’s no Delicatessen.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around an old woman whose son is kidnapped while competing in the Tour de France. [Update: Sorry, I meant "grandson," here -- this was a typo, not me completely missing a major plot point.] She follows the culprits to the titular Belleville and joins forces with the titular triplets to free her offspring from an underworld that’s as nefarious as it is bizarre.

Honestly, the story is fairly inconsequential compared to the animation, which is a wonder to behold – for a spell, at least. But clocking in at 80 minutes, Triplets actually had fidgeting in my seat for the final 20. Yes, it’s meticulously hand-animated, but I felt like I’d seen all the beauty and grotesquery it had to offer in the first hour. When the realization came that there would be no real plot, I was pretty much ready for the wrap-up.

Despite all that, I commend it to you(and not just because the more people who go see it, the more money it will gross, and the closer my dream of a adult animation revolution will come to realization). It’s actually quite a wonderful movie if, unlike me, you go in knowing that story is going to be in short supply. I strongly suspect that if I saw it a second time – this time knowing what I was getting into – my estimation of it would skyrocket. It’s not of Spirited Away caliber, true – but it’s better than Finding Nemo by an order of magnitude, and that’s good enough for me.

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