Friday Top 5: Kid Questions

“Dad, why do some people go to hell?”

“Uh, well, um… How did you even hear about that place?”

See what I did there? Instead of answering her question I turned it around and asked her one instead. It’s not great parenting, granted, but it did give me some time to think about what my real answer would be. You know those kinds of questions that kids ask, all innocent like, just because they WANT TO KNOW. She said that one of her friends asked that question during lunch one day, and no one had an answer, so she decided she would ask me.

Lucky me.

If that were the only awkward question my kid has asked me in her life, I would count myself lucky indeed. But I’m not anywhere near that lucky. These questions either come to her out of the blue, because of something she saw, or because of friends at school who just can’t keep their mouths shut about whatever queries they have. And leave it to my kid; she can never let something go.

Here are the Top 5 questions she has asked me that gave me pause…

5. “Is there a God?”

Now, we’ve read her the illustrated Bible stories, but we don’t go to church. We have never taken her to church, but we try to talk to her about these existential conundrums and about what real spirituality is. However, for the other kids at school you can only believe in God if you go to church, and you’re a good person if you believe in God, so if you don’t go to church then you don’t believe in God and you’re a bad person. Huh?

4. “Where do babies come from?”

Well, the easy answer is that she’s too young to hear about that right now, or you’d think that would be the easy answer. But as you should know by now, this kid doesn’t take the easy path, not if she can help it. I can hear the choruses of “Am I old enough yet?” on Monday, on Wednesday, on Friday, and so forth, until we are forced to answer her anyway. “They come from love, my dear. From love.” Oh, if it were only that simple.

3. “Why do people die?”

Death is this nebulous thing when you’re a kid. You know that people you used to see are no longer around, but they could just be hiding in closets somewhere, waiting to spring out at you when you least expect it. They see pets get old and disappear too, so why not people? But at some point the question comes up, and we all know that death is this great mystery. What happens after we die is up for all kinds of debate, and the question above is merely a gateway question for that one. Batter up.

2. “How are boys and girls different?”

Talk about a loaded question, and one that might be just a little bit easier if I were raising say boys rather than girls. And I wonder what they hear from their little friends at school on the subject, if it might be better to tell them the real differences instead of having them hear it from other kids, who may or may not be tactful in the delivery. 10 just seems a little too young to me right now.

1. “How come some years are Leap Years?”

When she first asked me this question I laughed out loud because the answer seemed so simple. I refused to look it up on Bing, but try as I might to answer the question, she just kept looking more and more confused. I mean, I knew why there were Leap Years, but I just couldn’t translate it into language she would understand. I even twisted myself up with my science and logic. It was an almighty debacle that eventually forced me to look it up. Then I felt stupid. Oh well.

And, by the way, if you were curious… There are 365.25 days in a regular year, so every four years that .25 adds up to a whole other day. I know. It blew my mind too.

Sam

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Friday Top 5: Phrases I Hate

haters-gonna-hateWhy don’t a lot of people think before they utter words that they can’t take back? It’s interesting how that works, isn’t it? Certain phrases just slip from the tongue that make me think differently about some people. Amazing that word choice (or in this case, a lack of choice) can have such a profound effect on how those people who use it are viewed, but it’s true. And as much as we like to say we don’t judge others, we inevitably do.

Here are the Top 5 Phrases I Hate…

5. “In a sec.” Variations of the phrase include “in a minute,” “in a second,” and “when I get around to it.” These phrases mean, “What you’re asking me or telling me isn’t important enough to put my full attention to, but when I feel it’s worthy I will let you know.” My daughter Lexi has taken to using and overusing the phrase, much to my chagrin. When told that there are no more “secs,” and she has to do what we asked right now, she asked what exactly “right now” meant. Oy.

4. “It wasn’t me.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t accuse someone of doing (or not doing) something unless I have some level of proof in my back pocket. So when I talk to someone and ask them why they did something, and they come back at me with “It wasn’t me,” I just want to reach into my back pocket and let them have it. “Yes, indeed, it was you, so why make it worse by arguing with me after the fact?”

3. “Do me a favor.” If you want me to do you a favor just ask me outright. Don’t phrase it like it’s a command. I don’t do well with commands or questions that don’t use at least some form of etiquette. Is it too much to ask for a “I know you’re busy but when you get a chance can you please do something for me?” Usually my answer will be yes, but I’m more likely to ignore you if you assume I’ll do something for you instead of assuming you should ask me nicely.

2. “I hate you.” Once this one is out there it’s just so devastating, like a wrecking ball (sorry Miley, I just stole your thunder). Seriously, though, this one gets so overused it’s ridiculous, when what we really mean is “I really can’t stand what you just did, but eventually I’ll be cool with you again so don’t hold this standoffish nature of the moment against me in the end.” This is especially pungent when we unleash it on people who love us, and who we love, but we’re just too blind right then to see it clearly.

1. Any phrase that uses the F word merely for effect. Generally I don’t mind the F word in the course of normal conversation, but when someone uses it as a placeholder, or uses it more than one time in a sentence as multiple parts of speech, it just makes them sound ignorant.

Sam

Friday Top 5: Favorite All-Time Bands

live
Live, circa 1995.

I define a band as a group of musicians who write and play their own music, so even though I enjoy the stylistic beats of N*Sync they don’t classify as a band. The same is true of Moby, since he’s just one guy even though he utilizes resources far more than just himself. As for all-time, I mean as of this exact moment. Things could very well shift in a few weeks’ time when I’ve been introduced to a new band that shoots up the list.

With that being said, my top 3 favorite bands have been my top 3 favorite bands for over 10 years, so there is some staying power there at the absolute top. Also important to note: I take into account entire band catalog when considering them for inclusion on this list. If I only like one of their albums that album may make my top 5, but the band itself would not. Now, on with the show…

5. Live. There’s something to be said for a ’90s band that had one “hit” album, and one “enormous” song, when that album and that song are my least favorite from them and still the album is in my top 20 all-time albums list. I love Live because they were brutally honest when so many other bands were just posing. Their lead singer Ed Kowalczyk was definitely into the mystical but it was honest. His lyrics were and remain deep and insightful in a way that most bands don’t dare touch.

Oasis_Band_3
Oasis, circa 1998.

4. Oasis. What strikes me so much about Oasis is the fact that for most of its run the songs were written by the guy who wasn’t even the lead singer. What also hits me is that the lyrics fit the vocals so well regardless. Yes, the Gallagher brothers fought all the time until they finally split as a band, but in-between all of that fighting there was something beautiful that shines through anyway. I don’t care if people call them derivative. Listen to the music.

3. R.E.M. In their song The Apologist, Michael Stipe croons, “I wanted to apologize for everything I was, so I’m sorry.” It’s so ironic, though, because I don’t feel they have anything to apologize for. The band shifted throughout the years they were together, from college radio darlings to big stadium rockers, to quiet, introspective old guard. And they did all things well. It’s the beauty of Stipe’s voice, the sometimes quirky lyrics, and the band’s chops that create that perfect combination.

2. Black Lab. Wow, what can I say about this band? I’ve seen them live once, and it was hands-down one of the best live shows I have ever been to. Amazingly too many people still haven’t heard of them, but their music is electric. I first heard of them in 1997 right after their first album was released. A friend of mine was huge into them from the start and made me listen to it on a roadtrip. I was hooked and bought the album the second we returned to Philly. I haven’t looked back since. Paul Durham’s voice is haunting. It sticks with you long after the song is over. Their latest record was just released and I’ve been listening to it nonstop.

u2nolineonthehorizon
U2, circa 2008.

1. U2. U2 is, and always will be, my favorite band. They just speak to me in a way that no other band has ever been able to, and I love every single song they’ve ever produced, B-sides and all, soundtrack songs and all, even the songs they just guested on (Mary J. Blige’s version of One, anyone?), they are that dynamic to me. I identify with the songs, with the music, with the lyrics, even with the individual band members. It doesn’t hurt that they started their band the year I was born either. We’re the same age, and that is simply another sign that we were meant to be together.

Sam

Friday Top 5 Archive

Friday Top 5: Songs of 2013

If you know anything about me at all you probably know that I love music more than almost everything else. When I was 10 years old I heard U2’s “Bad” on the radio and I became fascinated with the nuance of the song. That translated into listening to the radio anytime I could get my hands on it, and when my mother wasn’t railing against secular music. I used to put a tape in the player, turn the sound all the way down, and let it record whichever radio station happened to be on for 45 minutes. Then I would turn it over and record for the next 45 minutes. That’s how I found songs like “Shout,” by Tears for Fears, and “Love is a Battlefield,” by Pat Benatar, and a host of other dynamic songs I would have never heard otherwise.

At the end of every year since then I’ve made my own list of my own top songs from that year. And I don’t care if absolutely no one else heard the songs or cared for them. It’s all about my own tastes. I have two rules, though, for a song to count. It had to be released in that calendar year, and it couldn’t be from my top 2 artists, even if they had released music in that calendar year. That second one was because usually they would take all the top spots, and I wanted to compile a list that was varied. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 songs of 2013*:

5. Say Something – A Great Big World (feat. Christina Aguilera)

“Say something. I’m giving up on you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you. Anywhere, I would have followed you. Say something. I’m giving up on you.” I never would have heard this song if not for singing shows like The Voice and The X Factor, where the original artists came on to sing (on The Voice), and the song was covered brilliantly (on The X Factor, by Alex and Sierra). But I have loved its haunting melody from the start. It also features one of the most subtle vocal performances by Christina Aguilera in a supporting role. Simply brilliant.

4. Holy Grail – Jay-Z (feat. Justin Timberlake)

“One day you’re here. One day you’re there. One day you care. You’re so unfair. Sippin’ from your cup til it runneth over. Holy grail.” This song would probably be number 1 if it had just been Justin Timberlake’s portion of it, but just like Suit & Tie from The 20/20 Experience, the song suffers when Jay-Z enters it. As much as I love Jigga, for some reason he doesn’t seem to hold his end of the bargain when he collaborates with JT. The song is still amazing enough, though, despite that, for me to place it high on my list for the year. Continue reading “Friday Top 5: Songs of 2013”

Friday Top 5: Harry Potter Quotes

Harry-Potter-drawing-by-Jenny-Jenkins-harry-potter-32016811-800-522
The Boy Who Lived.

I’m reminded of one particular midnight in August a few years ago when I was still up and waiting in a line outside of the local Barnes and Noble, not exactly awake but far from being asleep, and there were about 100 others in the queue with me. We were a motley crew, made up of all ages and races, all body types, from goth to preppy and back again, and then there was me taking a photo of myself standing in line (with a standard camera — I still had my “dumb” phone at that point) looking like an idiot but feeling on top of the world, and you know why? Because that was the night the final Harry Potter book was released, and, uh, I’m a little obsessed. Okay, I’m a lot obsessed. And since that night I’ve read and re-read that book approximately 20 times, finding subtle nuance hidden deep within on each pass through.

Which of course made me think about all the wonderful quotes that make Harry Potter so amazing, like Mrs. Weasley’s “Not my daughter, you bitch!” or Voldemort’s “Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived.” So, I went back through all of the books one by one, flipping page by page, going back in time, not just in the books, but in my life when I read each one. It was a nostalgic journey that brought up even more quotes that I wanted to share, and here seems to be the perfect venue. What are your favorite Harry Potter quotes? Here are my Top 5:

5. “But Dobby didn’t move. He was holding up Harry’s disgusting, slimy sock, and looking at it as though it were a priceless treasure. ‘Master has given a sock,’ said the elf in wonderment. ‘Master gave it to Dobby.’ ‘What’s that?’ spat Mr. Malfoy. ‘What did you say?’ ‘Got a sock,’ said Dobby in disbelief. ‘Master threw it, and Dobby caught it, and Dobby — Dobby is free.'”

This was of course an exchange between Dobby the elf and Lucius Malfoy, but it shows something essential about the boy who lived — his generosity of spirit. Much is said about Harry’s loyalty to his friends, but at this point Dobby was nothing of the sort. Obviously by the end of the series that would change dramatically, but he had just met Dobby in The Chamber of Secrets and he felt a kinship even then, making sure that Lucius gave Dobby the sock, no matter how inadvertently it was on his part. Dobby was indeed a free elf because of the sock, a seminal moment in the books.

4. “‘Exactly,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Harry’s wand and Voldemort’s wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenix. This phoenix, in fact,’ he added, and he pointed at the scarlet-and-gold bird, perching peacefully on Harry’s knee.”

A juicy tidbit of information indeed, and when I first read it my brain immediately started making connections between everything that had happened in the middle of that maze with the trophy as portkey in The Goblet of Fire. I thought it was a stroke of genius from J.K. Rowling to make the wands of enemies essentially “twins.” It also cemented the fact that there was a strange bond between the two magicians that would not easily be severed. I became a nerd for wandlore because of this quote, so that all the talk of the elder wand in the final book was like candy to me.

3. “One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley…. He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter — the boy who lived!'”

This quote ends the first chapter of The Sorcerer’s Stone, and a perfect beginning it lends to the adventure that is about to begin. I love how it first references Harry as “the boy who lived” because it really does come full circle when Voldemort makes a mockery of the quote in the final book. It always fascinated me the legend that had already grown around the boy before he even knew anything about it, and that he could only be safe living with the jerks that were the Dursleys. It reminds me of all the things we detest but that have made us better people in the end in spite of them, or even in some cases because of them.

2. “‘Sirius did not hate Kreacher,’ said Dumbledore. ‘He regarded him as a servant unworthy of much interest or notice. Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike…. The fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.'”

Wow, this speaks so much not just to the characters in the books, but to us as a society as well. That’s what I love about Harry Potter so much, because even though it’s about a wizard, and magic, and an evil sorcerer, it’s at its core about humanity, about the promise of it, but also about the pitfalls and the serious issues of being human. There are so many decisions we make that affect others, things we don’t even give a second thought, and people we treat as second-class citizens, just because they’re different from us. We also reap our “rewards.”

1. “‘Who are you going to use as a shield today, Potter?’ ‘Nobody,’ said Harry simply. ‘There are no more Horcruxes. It’s just you and me. Neither can live while the other survives, and one of us is about to leave for good….’ ‘One of us?’ jeered Voldemort, and his whole body was taut and his red eyes stared, a snake that was about to strike. ‘You think it will be you, do you, the boy who has survived by accident, and because Dumbledore was pulling the strings?'”

This exchange was the ultimate one between Harry Potter and Voldemort, and it was indeed epic. If there’s one thing the movie just never got right, it was this one. In the books it is made quite plain how powerful Harry is, and not just because of the love of his mother, but in his deductive powers. Keep in mind that Harry grew the most of anyone during the course of these books, and even though he’s still brash, it’s tempered with a wisdom he just didn’t in any way hold at the beginning of the journey. It’s this wisdom that finally steaded him well when he finally faced off with his nemesis in this scene. No longer was Dumbledore “pulling the strings.” Harry was finally on his own, and he proved he knew what he was doing, something I couldn’t imagine happening even as recently as the fifth book. This scene makes everything else in the entire series worth it, something few series can boast.

Sam

Friday Top 5 Archive

Thursday Top 5: Desert Island Items

I’m doing something special this week in honor of the Daily Prompt, which asked me which five items I would take with me on a desert island, which is why my Top 5 is on Thursday instead of Friday. Do not fret, I will be back to normal coming soon to another Friday near you. But for now, I will wax ecstatic about the five items I’m bringing with me. I want to qualify first, though, that I can’t bring another human being, so Jennifer Aniston is out. I know, you’re sad for me too. It’s also not acceptable to bring something like a large suitcase that counts as only one thing but holds 50. Damn. I also will avoid the items that would be useful in getting off of said desert island. So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 Things I Would Bring to a Desert Island:

5. A soccer ball. No, really. This isn’t just some Wilson reference from Castaway. Okay, it is just some Wilson reference from Castaway. That was a surprisingly good movie for only having one actor throughout the vast majority of it interacting with his surroundings in odd ways. I guess I would be messed up too if I was stuck on a deserted island alone, but he kept his wits about him. And who doesn’t remember the iconic scene where Wilson floats away. Still sad today. A soccer ball is #5 for the nostalgia feel and nothing more. After all, it would deflate in mere months.

4. A tent. Seriously, you’ve seen where these guys are stuck somewhere without anything for a covering, or trying to string leaves and branches together while they’re getting soaked to the bone. I’m going out with style at least. This tent would be large, and made of Gortex, warm on the inside because it reflects its own heat, and the heat from the sun. Niiiice. Too many people overlook the obvious. You can call me Captain Obvious.

3. A solar watch. I will definitely not be carving tally marks in cave walls, because 1) I can’t count on a cave being on my island, and 2) I hear carving tally marks wrecks your manicure. I know I won’t be able to count on my cell ph0ne and the ubiquitous cell phone time way out in the middle of nowhere, and a regular watch battery will die out after a couple of years. If I’m in it for the long haul I want to be in style and confident in my time-keeping skills. And stuff.

2. A photo album chronicling my life. I figure I might be there for a while and I’m already given to forgetting faces, so it sounds perfect having a photo album with me. Of course it would get weathered in time so I would keep it safe in my tent during the day when the sun is shining down harshest. Plus if I get really desperate I think the photos would burn pretty solidly for a couple of days if I have a thick enough album. I’m also assuming I know how to make fire without matches. If that isn’t the case, then I want a nice big supply of matches instead of the photo album. I can pretend I still know who everyone is if I eventually get rescued.

1. My copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. If you have to ask, then you’re just not cool enough.

Sam

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