Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Icky Dadding

Michael Jackson (the singer, not beer hunter or motivational speaker or any other MJ) is by all reports still dead. And he is threatening to take the dad-ideal with him — well, not him exactly, any more, now its mostly reporting hagiography and hangers-on crawling out to claim some part of his relationship with fatherhood.

Two icky extremes from his songs: 1) in the words of his Billie Jean ("The kid is not my son") and, perhaps neither is the girl as stories surface that he is legal guardian and not biologically related to his children; 2) in the words from Beat It ("They'll kick you, then they beat you/Then they'll tell you it's fair") there is his daddy Joe, who knocked his little boy around to "help" teach him to sing and now wants to ride the death train toward the success of his own music label or at least into some of the money he wasn't supposed to get when he was left from the will.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Clean Living, from Dirty Jokes

Dad told dirty jokes and made people laugh. Daughter is inspired and grows up to write and tell jokes for a living. At least according to her new book, "If You Lie About Your Age the Terrorists Win, such is the world of Carol Leifer (at least in the first chapter). Still, it's the story she's sticking to, even on television:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Goin' Fishin'

Unless you're fishing for food (and usually even then), the sport is best celebrated as a time for bonding, whether with others anglerly-inclined or with family. This week's objet d'eBay, the story section from the May 17, 1936 issue of agricultural outland focused Grit magazine.

A wondrous example of father-son fishing are Turners, Jeff and son Taylor, who are taking the summer to fish all fifty states in just fifty days. While their progress can be followed, they say they are on a mission to build and inspire closeness between other fathers and their kids and so it is probably better if you go out and fish yourself.

However, as with all things fatherhood today, fishing is no longer just dad and son time. Gents, drag out your daughters as soon as possible — 14 months is way not too early to bring joy. As so lovingly sketched on the Grit cover, fishing, or just being together, is perfect fun and bonding for everyone ... except the fish.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Not Just Games

The higher than reputable Financial Times opines that it is sport (and pretty much only sport) that gets fathers to spend time and talk with their children.

Unfortunately, it is an article that dims the credibility of the institution (and it's not as if newspapers need more bad news for their credibility). There is also work and religion — or even combined together — as exemplified by Crystal Cathedral's Sheila Schuller Coleman taking over for father Robert H. in the troubled megachurch. [Earlier: Meddling in the Middle] And at the other extreme there is also blame, instead of salvation, as in the case of a Chicago-area son whose dad is charging him $560 for a dent in the car that insurance is already covering.

Sport. Religion. Work. Punishment. Probably more, but too much to try and contain in one short piece on bonding fathers and children.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ashes to Ashes, Crazy to Crazy

A crazy father (of some inexplicable sort) has passed. RIP Michael Jackson.

He was the son crazed by his father, Joe. And he was the father who seemed well on the way to crazying his own two boys and a girl. Now, in the final words of Ecclesiastes 3 ("To everything there is a season ...") comes the time to stop trying to understand his transgressions and oddities and remember his talents:

...Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?/Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Let It Rest

Oops. Almost let slip by the annual revelation — times to run before and on father's day — throughout much media that there are such things at fathers who choose to raise kids (aka, stay at home dads, SAHDs).

A new wrinkle on an old story this year came from the whiny father (NB: not WD) who said what would really warm his heart's cockles would be for his wife to help the kids make him a schlocky art project for father's day. More traditional is the reporter who writes like an amazed anthropologist about a father who finds himself by loving his children and not acting like robotman at work. And then, of course, there's the trend piece of daddies who prove just as capable as mommies.

Once again, what's needed is some daditude and the best (as almost always) taken on sacharine (or over-) looks at fathers comes from Daddy Dialectic, this year on the FD Daddy Shift Quiz.

And now we can put FD 2009 to rest. Amen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

L, L and the P of H

Today, we celebrate dads as part of our pleasures of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For life, we celebrate — but probably not in a good sense — the daddies who will learn to be nannies for 15 minutes of fame on Brit tube's "Undercover Dads" (13 weeks of fathers playing reality Mrs. Doubtfires). For liberty, we look to role playing video games, which often feature dads as someone who dies or who must be knocked off in order to gain greater insight (and goodies) for our avatar. And in the pursuit of happiness, we have nothing but praise for David Barry Hendrickson, 71, who just couldn't let his father go ... to the point of continuing to cash $600,000 of checks the government has sent following his 1995 passing — which the government does seem to be a bit pissed about.

Subterfuge, death and larceny. It's sort of the anti-July 4th.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Protection Racket

Now for the papa protectors.

We begin with the heroic (?) California teens who dragged from their dad's tow truck a woman they believed was their dad's girlfriend. Their parents are separated and they were traveling at the time in a car with their mom, but hopped out to beat the woman, chase her into a nearby hotel and beat up on her some more. And then the police came.

In a bit of a twist, one former protector has turned. A gent named Andrew Young now claims he was faking when he said he was the father of the baby that most people believed actually belonged to former presidential candidate John Edwards. [Earlier: Judgment Days] Neither were married to the mom and both had other children. He's looking for a cool mil to tell his story, but, alas, so far there aren't any takers. Instead, folks looking for the dirt will have to continue to peruse for the dirty parts of Edwards' cancer-stricken wife's book, Resilience.

Or, the person checking for dirt can check the tabloids for the latest, assuming that is, they can get beyond the latest news of whether or not Jon gets the "+ 8" kids [Earlier: J&K + 8 - K = A Better Idea] and how everyone will live in the house, separately. Apparently Jon has decided he has to protect himself.

Monday, June 22, 2009

To the Finish Line

The video is everywhere and the news has been around since 1992, but how pops Redmond helps son Derek to the Olympic finish line in Barcelona after the younger blows out a hamstring brings a chill and a tear every time it's viewed.

It's not that dads don't do that every day or in many ways, it's just that most of the moments aren't so public, even when the father is as prominent as a former vice presidential candidate. And, sad as it is to say, that's the father gig: Help and move aside.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Learning from Abe

A great man. A great father?

This Father's Day objet d'eBay, a copy of a portrait taken by Matthew Brady, shows America's 16th president. Abraham Lincoln, reading to the youngest of his four boys, Tad (Thomas). The master photographer captured the close relationship between father and son, but suggests that there was a formality, perhaps even an order to how Lincoln ruled over his son. For better or worse, the child recognized as his father's favorite was pretty much allowed to live (even within the White House) pretty much as wildly as he wanted. [Earlier: Abe's Tale: Father and Son]

So what can be learned from a picture that is both true and false? Does the great dad allow his child(ren) to run a(be)mok? What if neither he nor the child will see all their days? What will history care, or should the dad really care? Maybe the point is just to grasp all the great moments one can (and leave the question to others of whether or not you are a great man or a great father)?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gifts That Keep on Giving ... With Limits

Barry the GO (Great Orator) waxes poetic about what dads should give their kids. Some, however, go far beyond his imaginings.

A Scottish pop provided a kidney months before his dying daughter's wedding. She lived and happily married, which would seem to suggest this gift as setting the bar of how science has enabled dads to give. But science offers even more.

Now the dead can give life. Three years after California's Bruce Verner passed on, his widow inseminated herself with sperm she "extracted" (?) shortly after his death. Unfortunately for his daughter, science is a bit more giving than law as a U.S. district court has just ruled that she is not eligible for the deceased's social security benefits as a "survivor" of her father.

Apparently, science can take dads to a place well beyond rhetoric.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Don't Lose Out to the Gatekeeper

There will surely be much fufferloo about the timed-for-father's day announcement that moms are the gatekeepers who have been keeping dads from really connecting with their kids. But as often as not in those cases it is the man who isn't working hard enough to take control of the situation.

It has to be remembered that men overcome all sorts of things to connect. Space doesn't have to get in the way, as proven by the Pennsylvania soldier Justin Allenbaugh, who coached his wife through delivery of new daughter Gemma Rose from his posting in Iraq. And, somehow, a Washington, DC gent manages to find time for his kids even though he's pretty busy trying to listen to every voice in the world, as CBS TV will report Sunday morning in "Barack Obama: An American Dad." And, even after death, the good father can still connect with his son and even his granddaughters.

But, still, there are those too-numerous dads who let the moms get the best of us in making kids our own. Probably they're to blame for why dads have so much less spent on them for father's day than moms do for them on MD?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And Now a Whole Month ... whoopitdeedoo

Where can one go to cash in a month? This is the dilemma now that the governor of Wisconsin has declared all of June ours.

FAB u Lo Us ... fathers don't just have a day, but now a whole month in which to receive faintly acted upon words-of-praise and tchochkes. The best one dad — who really should know better — could do for his father was to pen a paean in a newspaper column ending with "you da man!" I hate to be rude, but bleecccchhhh!

It is true that times are changing. For example, the folks at DadLabs [Earlier: Qs&As with DoDads - DadLabs] get some nice press in a USA Today article on different approaches to dadding, and receive it more for their serious approach to being a dad than their non-serious approach to dispensing good advice.

However, it is not as if anyone has yet come up with the perfect gift for dads (certainly no one size fits all solution like the ever popular anything-you-make-your-mother-will-be-perfect). And so we are all stuck trying to cash in our month and hoping we get a little more for it than we get for our day ... not that what we receive from either could possibly match what non-material benefits we hope to get back from our kids.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Piscine Ponderings

To-be dads in a Great Lake tart themselves up like women so they can spread their sperm. Men out of water seem better able to contain themselves.

Researchers have found that Lake Ontario round gobies, the younger single male version, apparently use their female round gobie looks to sneak into a nest of eggs guarded by the older males and to fertilize the next before sneaking out to the next next. On the other hand, men like father-of-three Ian Platt — and his transvestite alter ego, Susan — are content with marriage (and no more breeding) with just one woman. Similarly, Bernie Darling (really) has a 29-year-old daughter, a wife of 36 years, and, according to Australian news, "a collection of high-heeled shoes and a wardrobe full of dresses; 'none of which are green floral minis.' "

It's not clear whether this proves the superiority of walkers to swimmers, but as they say in France, vive la différence!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ask Away

Can you ask your father anything? Absolutely.

There is a school of thought that he is getting dumber with age (although most fathers insist the correct explanation is "dumber with children"). While you are able to ask him anything — or ask anything about him — beware, as the folks on This American Life didn't until it was too late, of what you might find out.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bath Time Redux

How far dad's have come.

This week's objet d'eBay, is a Life Magazine whose cover line is "Bath for Dad's Day." The 1947 magazine celebrated a time when (at least in the public imagination) everyone did something special to make that one day extra perfect for fathers.

Showing the "progress" since then, Life today is an archive of photos that get produced into books — such as the just-released Life with Father — much more than a news chronicler. And kids no longer take baths for their fathers on "his" special day, but instead put together their pennies to send dads off to baths (and spas) on their own.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dangerous Dad Bonds

Again and again one hears, reads, is lectured that fathers bonding with their children is important. It may be more difficult for dads than moms, but that only makes it more urgent that men focus on the task at hand.

HOWEVER, don't think it can be done without the possibility of pain. KC's Gabriel Neal and son Christian were just out to build some ties and catch some fish when they were jointly struck by lightning. As frightening as that experience may have been, it doesn't come close to comparing to the pains and complications of "Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival," in which Norman Ollestad details how his dad started him in extreme sports as a baby in a backpack and how they went their separate ways when his father died crashing their plane in the mountains and leaving the 11-year-old to wander down alone.

More stories? Sure. So bond men. But carefully.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Jane Allison sends out an early "screw you both" father's day greeting to her two dads. Not that one can be wholly unsympathetic to her reasons.

Allison's memoir, The Sisters Antipodes, explains the effects of her dads switching families when she was four. Was she hurt? Emotionally scarred for life? Can she write about how her dads thinking of themselves never found as much time as she needed for thinking about her? Yep to all.

Note to dads: beware the writerly child.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Political Pops

Political succession can be scary. Scary funny. Scary uncomfortable. Scary sad.

For the funny, consider the announcement that Ethan Hastert will run for congress. Ethan, son of one of Rolling Stone's 2006 10 worst congressmen and disgraced former speaker Denny, has no experience, except what he learned at his father's knee. Perhaps it will be enough ... at least for a few laughs.

For uncomfortable, consider the position of Kim Jong-nam, oldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Although KJ-n once seemed to be on the path to leadership, a little bit of his own crazy and his pop's (and perhaps his mother's death) have contributed to his younger step-brother, Kim Jong-un seeming to be the favorite to succeed his father, who succeeded his father. [Earlier: Entertaining Evil] It is possible that KJ-u may end up disappeared in the succession, but other than that the North Korean succession might make for a lukewarm BBC political soap, except for the part about people acting crazy who are in control of nuclear weapons.

And if you're in the mood to cry while wondering what could have been different if a son had been allowed to follow the path of his father as a tribal chief, The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does not Forget tells how the son tried to bring his father's murderers — men who said they were only carrying out (i.e., not guilty of) the madness of Idi Amin's Uganda — to justice.

Funny, scary or sad, it's all just the politics of the place as a son succeeds a politico father.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Some dads have to work deep in manure and others sewers; some have to come up with great new ways to sell sanitary napkins; others have to go in every day to be mentally abused by a mental [short person] boss; and then there are those who decide to become accountants.

And there is nothing wrong — per se — with being an accountant. Someone has to keep track of money and the fact is almost every dad has that job, too, as part of his family life. Still, it is a sad sight when the man who becomes an accountant has proven he can also bring the fun ... which is where we mention that Eddie Murphy has a new movie coming out in which he plays another father, a type A dad who eventually finds his life in his neglected daughter's imaginary world. In the words of Variety:

Arguably the most innocuous pic of Eddie Murphy's career to date,"Imagine That" is an undemandingly pleasant, mildly amusing fantasy in which nothing -- not even those elements that actually define it as a fantasy -- is ever allowed to get of hand.
It's not his first dud dad role on screen, nor in real life. [Earlier: Back in the Day] However, when there is the material waiting to be created like that for James Caan co-starring with son Scott in a based-on-an-autobiography new film and the shoestring-financed Unknown Soldier — the documentary of New Jersey's John Hulme trying to find the dad who never returned from Vietnam and so never held his son — it is hoped that Murphy would not simply be racking up the pay days as a way to balance the books in his head.

Imagine this: one day his numerous kids will look at him in coffin repose and say, "he was a genius, but then he became a dad and an accountant." It doesn't have to be, for Murphy or any father.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Kilt Feelings

Opportunity knocks today, thanks to this week's objet d'eBay, a daddy/little dude matching sporran set.

Father and newborn can snap up these (sort of) hanging clutches for the kilt with the right bid. It is true that kilting is not cross dressing, but still, father and son should celebrate the moment their bid wins with a beer and bottle as it is likely to be the last time they go shopping together for clothing or accessories.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Keep Me In Your Mind

The fear of the father is to be alone and forgotten in death by his children.

The bad news is that death takes its share and no child can shield his or her dad. The good news is that whether he has died from a heart attack in a van parked illegally on a NYC street; as one of the many troops destroyed in the fight for Omaha beach on D (certainly not dad's) Day (65 years ago, today); or in such a horror show as the concentration camp at Buchenwald, the child will keep searching to connect to the lost father.

As Elie Wiesel said on his return to Buchenwald alongside President Obama and Chancellor Merkel:

As I came here today it was actually a way of coming and visit my father's grave -- but he had no grave. His grave is somewhere in the sky. This has become in those years the largest cemetery of the Jewish people.

The day he died was one of the darkest in my life. He became sick, weak, and I was there. I was there when he suffered. I was there when he asked for help, for water. I was there to receive his last words. But I was not there when he called for me, although we were in the same block; he on the upper bed and I on the lower bed. He called my name, and I was too afraid to move. All of us were. And then he died. I was there, but I was not there. ...

Wiesel returned to his dad, the daughter of the man in the van discovered his end and a son learned solved the lifelong mystery of the soldier who gave him life but never had a chance to meet him. No child staves off a parent's death but each can help give eternal life to his memory.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Multiple-Mania in the Media

It's celeb son in the news day with beleaguered and battering Bobby Brown dropping the news that he has now fathered through his manager and the still loaded Lance Armstrong tweeting his baby boy.

Brown has four older kiddies and Armstrong has three (and, ironically, is rumored to have broken up with Sheryl Crow, who he took up with while married, so as to avoid having a fourth). However, the multiple childmaker most laudably in the news is former heavyweight champ &mash; and gas grill guy extraordinaire — George Foreman, father of five George's and five daughters not all named Georgina.

King George is back in the headlines as III makes his pro-boxing debut this Saturday, not that the elder is making this his thing. As he told 15rounds.com: "You’ve got be careful with the father-son thing.”You can have the best intentions. But you have to know not to cross that line. I have to keep my place and let him be his own man. But you can help him the gym and tell him everything you know about the sport."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kid Kronikles

Like someone trying to ward off evil by not saying too much good, Michael Lewis tells tales of fatherhood in his new book, Home Game. The book is built for father's day and themed along the lines of his sportswriting background. The work itself is an outgrowth of articles he wrote for Slate — most recently he spoke of how his fathering is finished.

The book is styled as a curmudgeonly appreciation of how he has embraced the youthful invaders into his life. What may not come across to many is how the lite belies the love he really does seem to have for his daughters and son.

The question now is whether everyone takes his talk of his kids at the surface level of his prose or is ready to consider the context of the doting papa. His kids will probably be fine either way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

No Surprise

It is no shame or surprise that the father-to-be may seem a bit awkward, a little unprepared. He may be rushing to sign up for some variation of "baby-illiterate" group of Brentwood-Arlington, Ore.. However, the reality is that such an adventure is basically boy-bonding, but without the beer.

Given some respect, dads-to-be are ready, even as society seems to have a hard time recognizing the real pop from the tv buffoon. The fact is men about to have kids are really (and should be) are ready for anything, even to the extent of pulling over on a bridge and delivering their own son, as did Neversink's (N.Y.) Charles Blume.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Daddy Documentary

"While we loved our father's extravagant greatness," Emily and Sarah Kunstler tell Moving Pictures Magazine while discussing the documentary of their legal bomb thrower father William K., "we also suffered his frailty. And we knew that many other children, especially those who were young when their parents died, take a similar adult journey toward reconciling the parent with the person."

Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe explores a very difficult man with an extraordinary legacy through the lens of two adult daughters who found their life's work among the shadows he cast.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Entertaining Evil

The succession of evil — North Korea's Kim Jung Il to his son Kim Jong Un — can be fascinating, but is not necessarily entertaining. For entertainment you need character depth.

Much more engaging, therefore, is what TV-series Breaking Bad's Walter White is leaving to his son, Flynn. [ Earlier: Dad at the Edge] Despite what his son has written about him (the tv-synced website collects money for real cancer charity), White has — literally in second season finale — caused the sky to fall down around him through the evil he has sown from the depth of his despair and desperation.

From White's character we can only hope for redemption from the evil he has done. From what we know of Kims Jung Il and Jong Un no hope exists.