Friday, October 31, 2008

Myth(ter) Men

For most mythologies there is a father figure as the prime mover of all that follows. But the mythological father is also very much a part of everyday life. A few examples should suffice to suggest many others.

  • There is the lesbian father whose warmth and wisdom make a man out of a heterosexual dad.
  • There is the never-to-be known dad. In Dear Zachary one can view a documentary ostensibly created for the son born to the murdered father ... who may have been murdered by the mother(?).
  • And then there is the stunningly beautiful father, who, alas, only passes along his good looks to his daughter — although one assumes the boy gets the money ... and, really, which would you rather have?
Advice to today's dads: create your own mythology, but make it helpful.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Darker Dad Days

Some dad days are dark days. Alas, that's just the way it is.

Sometimes its the father's fault. Certainly that's true in the case of "Happy Face Killer" Keith Hunter Jesperson, who serially slay eight women in the northwestern United States during hte early '90s. Although still alive — serving two consecutive life sentences — his is a dark legacy shadowing his children every day.

Sometimes the darkness comes from below and even in what should be a happy story. A Wisconsin dad and daughter set up business together. However, the tale turns dour as one finds that while blood may be thicker than water, money is honey, particularly for bank robbers. And so daughter robber tried collecting a reward by turning in father robber, which had the unfortunate result of both being locked up.

Locked up, as well, is the fate of a woman with her own ex parte solution to the child custody battle she expected with the father of her child. Unfortunately (at least in her mind), you can't have someone kill a father and his new family just because you don't want him sharing in your child's life.

So the dad survives — and will probably get a better custody deal now than he would have been in for before — but serial murder, being ratted out by a loved one and being marked for assassination as possibilities for pops does cast its shadow on even the sunniest of daddy days.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fatherial Fantasies

From the fantasy corner of daddyuniverse comes the notion of "complete control." As in, a judge has granted Jamie Spears "indefinite [and complete] control" over daughter Britney's affairs. As if ....

There's also the powerplay of rapper Lil Wayne — odist of "Like Father Like Son" with its aggressively mellifluous warblings, repetitions and curses — who announces the birth of his second child, boy Dwayne Carter III, without press getting wind of the mum's ID. In glorious street bragadaccio he acts as if he needs no woman, not even to give birth to his child.

It is the sort of dream that no doubt occurs to many of the disenfranchised dads who are the target audience of the San Jose radio program, Fathers are Forever. The show, hosted by one divorced and one married father, takes calls, grill guests and promotes ideas that can be used by the XY chromosomed to be a large part of their childrens' lives.

And dads being integral to their kids lives even down to making lunches or setting up play dates, despite what so many seem to think, is not a fantasy nor intentionally a comedy. Although I guess we can't rule out the idea as inspiration for a big budget Sci-Fi father-son comedy by director Kevin Smith?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Words Fail Them

With even the best of scribblers it's words, words, blah, blah, blah .... Not even the most eloquent ever get wholly right the feeling between father and child.

British writer William Leith (author of The Hungry Years) recently penned a gloriously moving essay about being a part-time father (it's related to his upcoming Bits of Me). He tries to communicate his joy to his son, his combination loss and pleasure to his ex-, and the complexity of love to the reader. But even a master wordsmith only explains around his subject: he is unable to define all that he feels for his son.

Similarly, what does one get from the lyrics of "Grafton Street," a song pop princess Dido penned for her late Da. She uses outside things a street, a house, a touch, to try and explain the feelings on the inside. Evocative probably. Provocative maybe. But definitive of her or anyone's experience? Hardly.

Not that the words as symbol of love isn't better than just a symbol. They're much less likely to be misunderstood. After all, what to make of Gwyneth Paltrow not shedding tresses in honor of her dad and then lopping off the blonde to signify a movement from the mourning period?

After all, when discussing dads and kids, misunderstood is one of the last things anyone should promote. And in this case we're absolutely looking at you Dallas Area Rapid Transit with signs promoting domestic abuse shelters publicly demonizing the good and bad dads. What exactly will kids who see the signs think?

It is true, we can't all have the talent of a Leith. And nobody gets it all right. But that doesn't mean anyone shouldn't try or that even a bureaucracy should condone, accept or promote words about fathers that have been set to paper without thought of the consequences. Again, think about the kids and the fathers, if you have time and heart.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Post Mortem

Things usually change after a father's death ... and not just that he isn't around anymore.

It's "usually," because we can always look to the example of Wang Hsiueh-Hong, founder/majority owner of companies that make the majority of the world's smart phones. Her father, the late Wang Yung-Ching, Taiwan's god of management, was one of the richest men in the world and spread both his wisdom and his wealth among his nine children and his native country. Although daughter Wang steps on to the stage and even as someone who made her wealth on her own, she will always be overshadowed by her father.

Which a court has decided won't quite be the case for an Arkansas child born two years after his/her father's death. The child was conceived in vitro in June 2001; the father died on the job in July 2001 and the the widow gave birth, thanks to the implanted embryos in March 2003. Among other results, the Arkansas Court of Appeals ruled the child is not a dependent. His death benefits will not apply to his child. Making the baby child and not-child to the father.

That not-child status seems the sort of vague moniker also assigned to another who achieved great celebrity (and even best seller status) without ever really stepping beyond his father's shadow. Christopher Buckley, son of founder of modern conservatism William, was cut from his father's will and is fighting to establish a relationship with a son by a mother to whom he is not married.

He has also been publicly tossed from the magazine that served as the publicity engine for his father's philosophy (although as owner of one-seventh of the publication he can't be privately thrown away quite as easily. The Buckley father-son status will surely be chewed over if not quite resolved for history when young (55?) Buckely's "Losing Mum and Pup," a 40 day or so treatise of creative mourning is published next year.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mad Dad

All dads are conflicted — most just want to be kids but have to be adults — but few have do the fighting with themselves in public like Marshall Bruce Mathers III, AKA rapper Eminem. This week's Objet d'eBay is a 12" promotional vinyl single for the father-of-three's1999 song Role Model.

Like many of Eminem's works, the song can be heard as a mid-career (unless he really starts it all up again) near-curse of those who slavishly try to live their life according to the outlandishness of acts imagined in his lyrics, not being able to see beyond the caricatures he celebrates in rhyme. Once again (always), he seems to be caught between the dreams of his youth to escape the grind of no father hopelessness into celebrity and to escape the 24-hour job as celebrity to be father of three — one biological daughter and two girls "adopted" because of the inability of their mothers to give them a settled home.

While it's been nearly four years since he commanded the stage he does seem to be bringing his conflicts back to the public marketplace, releasing both some new sounds and a book in which he paints his angst, The Way I Am.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dads Care for Kids ... Who Knew?

One of many frustrating things about getting older is that just because you have discovered a truth — say, dads take care of kids sometimes as well, sometimes better, sometimes worse than moms — it doesn't mean everyone has discovered it.

So, it continues to be a news headline that (as The Chicago Tribune recently put it) More Dads Making Home Their Domain. Apparently (shock, shock ...) it is possible for a mother — a woman, even — to make more money than a dad — a man?!? — and that (can you really believe this) the man (a heterosexual believeitornot) finds fulfillment staying home and taking care of cooking and children (note, not cooking children).

Such unicorn-like fabled creatures apparently actually exist and are creeping across the globe as from a north coast in Canada it is possible to learn that Stay-At-Home Fathers Are a Stalwart Bunch. From the article one can learn that one of hte more stalwart-like aspects of staying at home with children is that the men have to gobs of time listening to the moms in their playgroup complain about their husbands.

Which, perhaps, means that some Surrey, British Columbia, moms were actually doing him a favor when they told a dad trying to join their parenting group to take a hike. [Shout out to RebelDad for the link]. It seems that they needed to protect their children from a man, even if he was a parent with his kid.

And I could have sworn this all wasn't news anymore.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Footsteps

Following in one's father's footsteps is an honored tradition. But sometimes it is best honored in the breach rather than observance.

Diana Clemente (as an example of a mobkid) is the owner of a Long Island car service and daughter of late Bonnano crime family street boss Anthony Spero. She has spent a lifetime publicly distancing herself from her father and his influences — and occassionally contesting reports to the contrary. She loved him, but ..."While I would not trade my father for any father in the world, I would certainly wish that ... who he was, was a little different."

Not yet able to wish his father was "a little different" is the third child-to-be of the second Dumbledore, Sir Michael Gambon. (Although it must be noted that if Gambon were different then No. 3 might not have gotten the chance to be.) His or her father, a 68-year-old actor who has been in most of the Harry Potter movies, is married to the wife with whom he shares a 44-year-old son and also is proud papa to 17-month-old Michael, courtesy of the woman who will be Three's mum as well. It sounds a bit confusing, but maybe papa is just getting better with age?

Because life is such that fathers do go up and down, but the goal is certainly to get better (smarter, nicer, more helpful) with age. And to that point, while VPOTUS candidate Joseph Biden is proud of Joe Sr., it is unlikely he wants to mimic the up and down financial trek his dad took.

Nor would the father want his son to ... because pride went (and should go) both ways. When Jr. became a senator, the father changed his job — and perhaps once again unsteadying his finances — as he went from used car salesman to realtor, just so a U.S. senator (like a poor mobkid) wouldn't have the burden of a dad who was in a money-making but distrusted profession.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Make a Dad (MAD)

It's make a dad day.

Sorta outa Texas Shooter Jennings [Earlier: Tuned In] is releasing Waylon Forever, a duet album with son and band backing daddy Waylon, whose been gone (physically, not musically) since 2002.

Up in Calgary is the premiere of "Hockey Dad: A Play in Three Periods," the dramedy of a fictional pop discovering himself in the locker room the night of a father-daughter hockey game.

Coming in the spring — or sooner if the CW network has fielded too many failing shows in their fall lineup &mdas; is "Surviving Suburbia," a sit-com where stand-up smuttist Bob Saget plays dysfunctional dad (although married) of three instead of angelic dad (while single) of four as he did in "Full House."

Finally, waiting in Minnesota, are kids of all ages whose life will change if into their lives will come men who want to act like dads. The payoff for the men is the chance to make or (re)make their own lives and those of some children who can use father-like guidance and wisdom.

And so we go from make-a-dad to make-a-dad's-day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Nuff Taught

Sometimes you can never get enough and other times enough is enough. It is a father's job to teach his children which times are which and why.

No doubt former Bush administration (41 & 43) member Colin Powell will need to explain to son Michael his recent endorsement of the candidacy of Barack Obama. As of last month, the former FCC commissioner and John McCain adviser didn't think his father would be endorsing anyone. The senior Powell said his "change of mind" is the result of someone else's son being demonized.

Seeing a picture of a mom weeping at the gravestone of Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a Muslim who lost his life fighting for America, and having heard more than enough from one side of the politcal spectrum were what led to Powell's inserting a soldier into this year's political dialogue (one which has too often revolved around the inanities embodied in Plumber Joes). For which Khan's father can't thank Powell enough.

One of Powell's poinsts was that it wasn't enough for someone to say Barack Obama was not Muslim. It was American, it was just plain right to ask what would be wrong if he was and demand that the answer be that there would be nothing wrong. Similarly, as stay-at-home-dad Melton argues, it's not enough to admit that SAHDs and all dads can take care of children, it's time to recognize that it is plain stupidity to assume (as media and "common" wisdom does for the sake of lame jokes) that in general dads can't parent.

Listen up children, enough is enough.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


One more thing that makes dadding so hard is that even the best of advice doesn't fit every situation. Once upon a time it was thought that writing a book made one an expert, so let's say that black-hatted cowboy crooner Tim McGraw knows his way around the parent corral based on his new kiddie tome, My Little Girl.

MLG tells the tale of a dad and daughter who set off on a day of errands. Advice from father of three daughters McGraw is to, "Do what you have to do in your regular routine and take them with you. It makes all the difference in the world." And there doesn't seem to be anything that could go wrong with that...

Except when you have to go get a cell phone from your wife. And she works at a strip club. And you get a lap dance while you are waiting to pick up the phone (even if you dispute the police report). And you leave your baby asleep with the keys in the unlocked pickup.

Sometimes it's better to let them wander on their own and just know they'll find their way and come back, much as Josh Brolin did in learning from his father so he could get to the essence of President 43 Bush (who unlearned from his pop) in the current W.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Screen Gems

"We should all be so lucky as to be able to make a documentary about our fathers," according to Mark Everett. The singer, who in addition to creating "Parallel World, Parallel Lives" about the life of physicist/dad Hugh Everett III had previously tried to explain and explore in his book, a bachelor take on "Things the Grandchildren Should Know."

Everett younger takes viewers on a guided, albeit not comprehensive tour of the mind of Everett elder, the man who proposed various proofs for the concepts that other universes exist in places inaccessible to humans. Of course, what he is not discussing are the universes of other dads here on earth that we are just missing ... such as, for example that of central African mountain gorilla king Titus, who used his fathering skills — siring and protecting — to dominate his pack for nearly 17 years. Disappointingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, his many children haven't yet gotten around to learning the necessary movie making skills or adapting to the tools that would let them tell their father's story. So, his is currently a universe glimpsed and imagined only from the outside.

As is the parallel universes that is still be discovered within the mind(s) of a man who went crazy while writing of a man who went crazy. That tale is told by Immy Humes, daughter of burnt-out literary nova Harold L. Humes, whose unfinished novel "The Memoirs of Dorsey Slade" is the story that never got finished within a story within a story of his crack-up.

Perhaps the parallel universes of fathers were what Everett was really getting at and the proof can only be confirmed when we lay all their stories out? In that, we will surely all be lucky.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if not only were it always true that "Father Knows Best" (as this week's objet d'eBay single by the 50s/60s doo-wop/soul foursome, The Radiants, would have it), but that everyone always listened and followed that advice? And by everyone we mean even the fathers.

In U.S. presidential politics this past week, there was daughter McCain committing to tattoo herself with the New Hampshire motto if papa became prez and the "granite state" went his way. Since, she probably now needs to make that same promise and keep the commitment to every other state in which she appears she is possibly setting up an inky and painful future for herself — which seems unlikely to have been guided by advice from a dad, even one steeped in the naval tradition of tatting up.

And on the other half of the ballot there was soccer dad Barack watching part of daughter Malia's game and breaking into that (by one report) to chat on his cell phone, although another made no mention of the chat, saying only that he was late because he worked out and only stopped paying attention to Malia's game when he raced younger daughter Sasha. Would he really be okay with them texting friends or running around during his State of the Union speech?

The point is while (probably? often?) fathers do know best, knowing and doing and/or doing what they say is not always so easy ... which may be the main reason this isn't always a wonderful world.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Scientific Explorations and Examinations

Scientists are working on research and theory that an impregnator becomes smarter and nicer through the process of the impregnee giving birth. Dads-to-be may get sympathetic morning sickness and food cravings, too, but all things considered it's a small price to pay.

Men's brains are changing as their new baby is growing. They're on greater alert for dangers, their instincts for care are improving and problem-solving skills are sharpened and hone. Why? According to the variety of scientists cited in a Times (of London) article, hormones and a need to survive.

Not yet known is whether children increase your abilities by exponential effects. If that should be true, imagine the improved version soon to be on display of Texas/Nevada's Joe Shatswell. The U.S. Army specialist is on leave from fighting in Afghanistan so he can tend to his two-year-old daughter while her mom is in the hospital being care for on the eve of the birth of the couple's quadruplets.

Where will science go in explaining fatherhood? And can it ever explain why just as nature gives, it also takes. The flip side of learning to be smarter, to love and care for your children that much more is harsh. And so, just as hope is sprung for Shatswell, hope was crushed in the story of an Indian gentleman who died of a heart attack just hours after learning of his daughter's suicide. She killed herself because she could see his suffering no more and in doing so she appears to have taken the little bit left of his life as much as hers.

Friday, October 17, 2008

From Afar

Nobody parents well from far away, but today no distance is too great a barrier to connection between father and child. And we're not just talking miles.

Dads incarcerated in Indiana are touching their kids' lives by reading bedtime stories (via DVD) to them. It is part of a process by which they both reenter society and the lives of their family.

Fathers serving in Iraq are attending four-year old birthdays and even the birth of their children via webcasting. Is that the same as being there? Obviously not. But presence (even when absent) is important.

If you don't think so, ask Christopher Rothko, son of the abstact-expressionist painter he lost when he was just six. The younger Rothko learned about his dad — a suicide — connected with his genius, his spirit and his humanity, via a manuscript given to him as executor of the estate. As he told a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, "...having the manuscript was really a much more direct interpersonal experience than looking at the artwork, simply because I could hear his voice so clearly in the writing."

From a void to a real connection. It's not perfect, but reaching out (from either side of the parent-child equation) is so much better than pulling away.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

As with just about everything written, you can pretty much boil all the words off by just admitting Shakespeare said it first and better.

So, there is from the acclaimed bard (if unhappy father) WS that,

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

and both "Children wish fathers looked but with their eyes; fathers that children with their judgment looked; and either may be wrong" as well as "It is a wise father that knows his own child."

Up on the theatrical stage go men trying to work things out with their fathers or shake, rattle and roll their way into their childrens' hearts like the dancing dads of Norwich. Not that they don't take a chance doing so. As one targetted kiddo admitted, "I'm nervous because if he makes a mistake it will embarrass me and I won't show my face, but it is good to have him here because I can stick with him."

Braving the footlights to gain some insight into his own dad is Hollywood Square John Davidson, who has penned a theatrical meditation on his paternal/paternee relationship that he is bringing first to the college to which his father steered him.

And also living out a bit of his own life as curtains are drawn and shuttered is JD Nelson, who first got to live the part in his own life when his daughter was married in Indianapolis earlier this year, and just got to the lead in "Father of the Bride," (like the movie, but different) when the adaptation strutted across a Georgia stage.

'Tis better to be a father on stage or in real life? It probably depends on which of the parts you play and which of the stages you are at.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Personal Touch

What exactly is one to make of a new World Bank study finding that an uneducated farming father is mostly likely to propel his children into poverty. Obviously, "DUH," is the first reaction.

And this isn't to suggest someone can't be happy when poor, only that they can't be rich. And rich doesn't make for happy. After all, David Cornwell — better known as author John Le Carré, whose newest, A Most Wanted Man is built around the the story of Issa, a "fatherless" son — is fabulously wealthy. And Cornwell, whose con man dad let him live at some high economic levels, is angry ... then and now.

But, still, financial support makes a (generally positive) difference in people's lives. So it's hats off to father and son Armstrong as Mike and Dave, respectively, will be biking together to raise money for the poor of Malawi. The goal is to change lives not just with money, but by becoming a presence, even for a short while, in the lives of those in need.

Of course, if you can't make it to Malawi or find your own path to someone else's poverty, there is always the gift to honor your father by helping out people in need rather than making him find some place for another thingamajig.

Give to those who need. It will make dads happier and no less rich.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Scary Visions

There is no scientific evidence, but perhaps some new dads get scary visions of the future. Those would be the ones who get male postpartum depression as they see trouble ahead for their children.

Mild scary would be the view of how one's own reputation will help and haunt your son, as is the case with Justin Trudeau, who carries both his father Pierre's name and reputation into his own political campaigns. Trudeau père was Canada's swinging 70s prime minister and his third son has decided to continue the good fight to keep his country together and do a bit of self-aggrandizing in the mean time.

A bit more frightening would be the fight of children over money in a way that threatens a great legacy. Such is the fate of the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., whose three surviving children are antagonists in court for the third time in four months, this time to battle for control over their mom's estate.

And, finally, there is the horror show of a son who wastes prodigious talent and takes his own life to the edge of the abyss, teeters ... and then falls. Such is the fate of Guillaume Depardieu, French actor-extraordinaire Gérard, who rebelled against his father for most of his life. The younger Depardieu, a blistering memoirist and lionized actor in his own right, weakened himself with drugs and other excess and lost his life to what has been described as a "lightening quick" strike by pneumonia.

The world is a scary place and new dads have reason to fret, but they need to fight the fear with hope for the future as well. There is enough father saddle their kids with. No need to throw one's depression in there too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Give Until It Hurts

What would a world without moms look like? It probably wouldn't be pretty. And it is unlikely, although there is an Algerian tree, an Asian clam and Sicilian insect that are always motherless children.

More usually we think of a dad giving to his child(ren), but this, too, can be a fairly passive process. Brit Kevin Pyle gives his son a role model of prize-winning laziness and new research says dads (not moms, as formerly thought) are the ones who regretfully pass along the hair-loss gene they wish they hadn't received from their pop.

Passivity can flow both ways — if the right example has been set — as exemplified by Lee Seung-min, who lounged through some surgery so as to pass along a part of his kidney to his fellow seaman and father, Lee Ho-keun.

In fact, whether or not there are moms, nature mandates dad give (and teach giving) directly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Dean Scene

Most dads [usually] make it look easy to be a father. But few have made anything look more effortless than Dean Martin, the crooner featured on this week's objet d'eBay, his 1958 Capitol Records release, "This is Dean Martin." It really wasn't.

As father to eight kids (three boys and five girls with three wives) Martin was apparently nothing like the lush roue he played on stage at home — at least according to the story of life with dad told by third son, Ricci, in his book of reminiscences, That's Amore. He was more a couch potato who made dumb jokes like buttering his hands when the family went out to eat. Still he did pass along some lessons (as well as money), including the one to go easy when performing. So, while his old partner, Jerry Lewis, is carting off whole troops of people to Perth, Ricci has gathered up some guys and is playing Vegas as a tribute to his pop. Apparently, that's a Martin amore.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Food Glorious Food

Chemistry is the magic that catalyzes ingredients into food. And food can be the inexplicable that joins father and child.

Certainly that was the case when "Mike on a bike" visited the Colorado soup kitchen and was recognized by his 17-year-old daughter who he hadn't seen for years and was volunteering to bring food to the hungry. As he put it to the Grand Junction Sentinel, "If it wasn’t for the Soup Kitchen, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. "And if it wasn’t for the Soup Kitchen, I wouldn’t have reunited with my family."

It is also food, that ties the Anderson, S.C., Pig Daddy's BBQ team (who are competing in the
third annual Piedmont Blues and Hash Bash) to their forefathers. As humble team leader Richard Medford told The Index-Journal, "Our dads used to watch their dads cook, so we built our first cooker 25 years ago, which is what we still use. We’re just doing what we were taught growing up and hoping we do better than last year."

Thanks to the Fortune Society, which helps ex-cons transition into positions of service to society, food strengthens the lives of single dads and their children. Teaching former fourflushers to work in four-star restaurant kitchens builds a life for both dads and offspring.

And even when ingestion isn't the answer to the tie, food can still strangely connect the father and the child, as it does for Formula 1's Kazuki Nakajima and his father Satoru, who also raced on the Grand Prix circuit. Apparently, they both drive like natto, soybeans.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Straining the Bonds

How does father-son bonding work? Yes, in the popular imagination it's just about sharing an interest. But is there a real and permanent connection made when a Las Vegas dad is in the stands shooting a documentary of his son's football prowess?

Is that a shared activity in the way it would be if they spent at least a day pretending together they were pro footballing Cincinnati Bengals? What is the real mechanism by which two men can come to love something so much that they participate as best friends (like coaches Gillin of Indian Creek, Indiana) in it when the son grows up?

Surely some of it is in participating together in the same activity. But at least a good bit is also luck, having the right activity come along at the right time with the right participation by both father and son. How else to explain three sons bonding with the same dad (who bonded with his father in used book stores) in activities as diverse as writing, eating and trains.

The mystery of it makes it seems that a book on fatherhood isn't possible, only a 3-ring binder that lets one easily tear out and add scribbles on notebook paper.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bouncing Boys

Smashing, crashing and burning. While daughters offer their own parenting hurdles (mostly emotional) to dads, boys are more often the ones going from rough-housing to roughshodding.

The biggest challenge is to manage the transition from acting out to something a bit more socially acceptable. Among those dads who misstepped along their managerial path is the Malaysian father who told his 30-something son to reduce his DVD watching only to have his son take up watching their house burn down ... after he ignited it in the rage that followed his trying to stab his father.

There is also the British father who nicked the on/off button for his son's behaviour when he chose not to pay his allowance — he said the son hadn't been to school and so didn't deserve it this week. The teen rampaged through the house, costing much more in damage than the allowance as well as ending up in court on charges pressed by pop.

To be fair, potential violence may have been precipitated by the son, but it doesn't mean it was necessarily his fault. For example, there was almost a Chinese slugfest over text messages suggesting infidelity. Fortunately, the father and mother found peace (if not total trust) when it turned out they were in combat over their son having borrowed dad's phoen to text his girlfriend.

While children must learn to take responsibility for themselves, it is undoubtedly true that a lot of problems are quickly traced back to poor choices by fathers. Most recently, a 10-year-old crashed a van after racing it through town at speeds as high as 90 MPH. While he shouldn't be forgiven for getting behind a wheel without a license, it probably should be noted that his dad was in the car ... wearing a "buy this dad a beer" t-shirt ... drunk ... really, really drunk ... and the father had "ordered" the son to take the wheel.

This isn't your father's (or maybe it is) rough-and-tumble.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Old Is Gold

Old dads rock.

It is true that aged sirers are usually fodder for announcements of how they might offer wisdom and perspective but are also more likely to pass along health hazards to their offspring. [Earlier: Fathers Times; Children Children; and Biological Clock] But new research by British geneticist Steve Jones finds that older dads producing sperm for life is actually good for the genetic diversity the species needs to continue evolving.

So don't wait until a dad's 100th birthday as conductor Zubin Mehta is doing to honor his father, Mehli Mehta, with a colossal concert in his Indian homeland. Find an old guy (say at least 50 or older) who's up to the challenge of a new kid and buy him a drink, a wee dram of whiskey should do is the least you can do to celebrate his gift of life.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bad Dad Days

Some dad days are harder than others. On those, there is no credit to be had. And today is one of those days.

There is a gentleman writing that fathers aren't manning up in taking care of their children and then cites studies to show the results. It seems, somehow, fathers not participating enough in their sons lives are responsible for everything from more boys than girls being emotionally disturbed (try telling that to a father solely of girls) to dyslexia.

As if fathering boys wasn't enough to get you dissed, "arts & culture" headlines include singer Rihanna trumpeting the crack habit of her dad as the background for her teenage years. Even Jamie Spears, the father who got daughter Britney a bit of space for her lifetrainwreck, is looking ridiculous, at least according to the gossipmongers sharing his ban on sex for his 27-year-old daughter — as if that could possibly work at any age, much less for a multi-married, insanely wealthy party girl. That's Michael Lohan insanity, that's what that is.

There are just days and nights when a man can't help but be surprised. Better luck tomorrow.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Porn Beaus

Single fathers are being exploited. They don't seem to be being harmed, but there is some serious objectification going on as evidenced by this week's objet d'eBay, The "Trouble with Twins" from the "single father" Harlequin Romance series — book after book of eligible, perfect, handsome males who have kids, but have lost (not misplaced) the mom and in their heart know they will only be complete when they can replace her.

This fantasy man — dare we call it housewife porn without turnign the sexism charge back against us — is not just a product of print. He's also on the web, as seen with the momlogic essay on cute in a sort of emptyheaded way fathers and the "lessons" their doltish parenting can offer single moms.

Shouldn't there be some sort of protest against this demeaning portrayal of men? Shouldn't we be burning jockstraps or something in protest?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Growing Out of the Shadows

It doesn't matter the shadow a father casts, his kids are challenged to emerge from it.

Part of the entertainment of life is seeing how they do it. So what will the son of the world's tallest* man do to own his life. (The asterisk is because the world's "other tallest man" won't get measured.) His father says he should play basketball.

But that seems too easy an answer and one that will carry undue pressures. Not necessarily the pressures carried by Patrick Ewing Jr., who didn't start for the college his father attended and is unlikely to do so on the professional team for which his dad "starred." (In a reverse lay-up that "star" comes with an asterisk as he never won a championship on the team, preferring the fade away jump shots that often went in to the going-to-the-hoop drives and dunks that inspire a team.)

No doubt it is easier if people can't see you physically and make the connection between the ran son. Although that doesn't mean there isn't nearly inexplicable pressures when Giles Martin takes on the adapting the music of the Beatles, a group that made famous his music producer father, George — who would only be highly esteemed and accomplished without them.

And it certainly shouldn't be taken to imply that it is most easy to escape your father's shadow when he can't be found. The life of Randy Tran, an Amerasian denied citizenship but given residency in America as recognition that his serviceman father did more during the Vietnam war than just fight.

Each shadow is cast slightly differently; each emergence is unique. But it always has to happen so the best advice is dads be aware and everyone else, enjoy the entertainment.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Time In

Time is ticking away. It can be ignored, but it can't be helped.

Moments and minutes with kids become memories. More moments and minutes are worth fighting for and savoring. But there is work to do in order to give them the best life, a conflict that when studied in Australia (as reported by The Canberra Times) showed that, "About 50 per cent of middle-aged men wanted to work fewer hours, she said, but were trapped into thinking that they needed to work long hours to have a good career and provide for the family."

It is true that dads may have more opportunities to spend time with their kids than many people think. Even divorced dads have the opportunities to spend more time with their kids than they sometimes take, although it is important that they be willing to work time with their children out in court with their former partner rather than spend more pleasant time sitting around beers with the boys complaining about not being with their kids.

On the one hand find the balance in your life. So that it can even make sense that you celebrate the surprising love you have with your daughter, as journalist Ed Gordon does, by heading off on a national tour away from her. On the other, remember the balance of your kids' lives as they want more time with you.

Of course, even as the hands on the clock keeps moving and taking time away from you and your offspring, there are still going to be moments when you just need to get away if only to enjoy coming back:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

More Digi-Dads

"This was not just another screenplay," said the father, who directed his son's film. "This was hysterical." So, screenwriter Joseph Middleton is helping son Lane bring to life his filmic vision, "Teen-Aged," a $400,000 budgeted comedy still seeking a tad more backing and any distribution.

A father bringing his son to the screen is the exact opposite of the backstory for a new documentary being released this month in which children bring a few moments of time in the kliegs for their old men . Being Dad is a short documentary purporting to help new dads by interviewing men whose claim to expertise on fatherhood has been their on-the-job training.

Intriguingly, at least from the trailer, it appears that being a dad is more of a mom entertainment:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

While the headlines of today's daddy doings feature the news fathers who spend more time with their young children make their children smarter. The researchers have a bit more work to do in explainng how.

A British study found that a dad's active involvement early on positively influenced kids at least into their 42nd year, but all that was measured was time. And while time might be important, there is certainly more ways for a dad to influence his child, as Sean May fears. May follows in the crutch-steps of his dad, another basketball player who starred in college and limped through a pro career.

And is it positive or negative when a father influences his child to go into politics. Consider the cases of Michigan State Rep. Coleman Young II — who has announced his interest in capturing his father's old position as Detroit Mayor — and Taylor Gallyon — who is running for sixth grade president having taken in the political lessons of campaigning with her dad, Chuck, as he ran for county posts.

Intriguingly, Young was an out of wedlock baby of his father whose mum had to sue to get his father to claim him. On the other hand, Gallyon has been spending time working on her dad's campaigns since she was 7. It will be interesting to see researchers parse their lives to find ut how spending more or less time with their dads incurred a positive influence on kids when politics is the present and probably future.