Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Scientific Method

This weekend the J-Fob family drove to Portland to visit our friends the Architect family and FoxyJ's sister, SkyeJ. We had a great visit with everyone and now the kids and I are home while Foxy is spending another night in Portland so she can get back in Jeopardy's contestant pool tomorrow morning. And on top of all the fun we had, the trip provided an opportunity for me to exercise the science muscles I've not used in the ten years or so since I've taken a science class. As you'll see, my grasp of scientific inquiry is astounding. Observe:

Question. It is a well-known fact that car travel with all four members of the J-Fob family is stressful, even nerve-wracking. Why is this?

Background research. I've noticed that long drives by myself are very peaceful, so obviously it is not driving itself that induces jaw-clenching anxiety. Just about every one of the long car trips I've taken with my wife and kids over the last few years, though, has led to headaches and vows never to do it again.

Hypothesis. It must be one of the other members of the J-Fob family--either FoxyJ, S-Boogie, or Little Dude--who is the cause of so much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Experiment. As a control, all four of us drove to Portland together. We left on Friday at 3:30pm and arrived at 9:40pm. For the math-challenged, that is more than six (6) hours for what should be a three (3)-hour drive. Most of it was spent listening to S-Boogie scream "GO FASTER!" or "MAKE LITTLE DUDE STOP SCREAMING!"

The next step in the experiment was to systematically remove each of the suspected troublemakers from a similar trip and compare results. As the first test, I drove home this afternoon with S-Boogie and Little Dude, leaving FoxyJ behind with her sister. We left at 1:35pm and arrived at 4:25PM. That's a little less than the expected three (3) hours, much less than the previous trip's six (6) hours. Most of this time was spent enjoying the scenery while S-Boogie played quietly by herself or napped, and Little Dude did the same.

At this point I decided that the results were conclusive enough that I didn't need to proceed with more testing.

Conclusion. It is clear that the member of the J-Fob family who makes car trips stressful is FoxyJ. In the future we will either leave her home or send her by plane, train, or post. It may seem cruel to thus exclude our wife and mother, but she is a logical woman and I'm sure will agree with the conclusiveness of this experiment, and that her sacrifice is for the greater good of the family. I am also fully confident that future trips will prove the repeatability of this experiment, as S-Boogie and Little Dude will continue to be the pleasantest of little angels without their mother in the car.

I hate to think where we'd be without science.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hipocrisy is the Greatest Luxury

Last night FoxyJ and I watched Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, a documentary about a group of refugees from Sierra Leone's brutal civil war of the nineties who started a band, bringing music to refugee camps in Guinea until the war ended in 2002 and they became leaders in bringing the refugees home. The story is meant to be one of hope, showing how these people used music to help them and their fellow refugees recover from the horrors they'd lived through, but as much as I enjoyed the movie and especially the music, I had a hard time getting past the horrors to the hope. It's hard to listen to a man tell how rebel soldiers forced him to beat his child to death and then cut off his hand, to see the fear in his eyes at the prospect of returning to the country he once called home, and not be left with the same sense of despair and helplessness that I've felt after watching every other film I've seen about the atrocities that happen in countries throughout Africa.

Earlier this week we watched In the Heat of the Night, and while I enjoyed the story and the acting--Sidney Poitier is amazing--I felt a similar sense of helplessness, though in this case not so much despair as anger at people whose racism leads them to treat human beings so inhumanely. Toward the beginning of the film the camera rests for a moment on a little statue of the Virgin Mary on a policeman's dashboard, and I was reminded of Crash, another film about racism that combined all those feelings of helplessness, despair, and anger and magnified them. As it turns out, I'm not the only person who has made the connection between the two movies--a review FoxyJ stumbled upon talked about how both movies are meant to make middle-class white people (read: me) feel good about themselves for not being racist.

A couple weeks ago I spent a while digging through the archives of a blog called Stuff White People Like. I laughed quite a bit as I read the satirical observations of white yuppies, as the particular brand of white yuppie parodied here, who loves diversity and gay people and the environment, is very much your typical Seattleite. The more I read, though, the more uncomfortable I became; the parodies started sounding less like parodies and more like accurate descriptions of me. I am the white guy who recycles because it's a way I can save the Earth without actually having to do much. I am the white guy who loves "conscious" hip-hop because it so vitally addresses the problems of a community I don't belong to. I am a living parody of educated, middle-class white people. I'm not very comfortable with this realization.

I'm in the midst of reading Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama's memoir about missing the chance to get to know his father and the resultant disconnect with his Kenyan roots. I feel a connection--and at the same time feel like I have no right to claim such a connection--to the teenaged Obama who felt as much like an outsider among the few other black students at his high school in Hawai'i as among the Asian, Polynesian, and white majority. I had a similar experience when I went to college and related neither to the white students that surrounded me nor to the other students from Hawai'i. In the former case it was my own pride in my island upbringing that prevented me from acknowledging that mainland white culture was not that different from my own; in the latter it was the color of my skin that betrayed me--despite the fact that I'd never lived anywhere but Hawai'i, I felt like an imposter claiming the islands as my home.

I like to think it is my own experience as an outsider--whether for my race or my sexual orientation--that leads me to feel a sense of connection to the victims of racism and to the residents of a continent recovering from centuries of European colonization and American slavery. The fact that I like to think this reveals just how ridiculous I am. I have a nice home, food, and nearly two master's degrees. Technically I believe my family's income is below the poverty line, but that's by choice, not by necessity. I am not a victim of anything. I have never been discriminated against for my race or my orientation. I live in a country where I can reasonably assume that rebels are not going to come to my village and kill or mutilate me. No matter how much hip-hop I listen to or books about racial identity I read or documentaries about Africa I see, I will not know what it is to be oppressed.

What then should I do? Should I stop trying to understand because I will never succeed, because even if I did that wouldn't solve anyone's problems? I don't think so. I can't solve the problems of the world, but I can't ignore them either. I'd like to end here on something pithy like "Perhaps trying to understand is all I can do," but honestly that feels like a cop-out. An excuse for the privileged intellectual elite to feel smug about recognizing that people everywhere are suffering, but not really do anything about it that would require more effort than buying a "Save Darfur" t-shirt.

I remain in the comfort of my perceived helplessness because anything beyond that is overwhelming.

My Constant Fear

That just as I've gotten comfortable on the toilet and gotten into my book, the four-year-old will bang on the door--or just open it--and say, "I need to go potty."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fascinating Manhood

Yesterday while my wife was at work and I was busy preparing a nice warm meal for her to come home to, the microwave stopped working. None of the buttons I pressed did a thing! Now, I know a lot of boys might panic at such a predicament, knowing how important it is to have dinner ready before their woman comes home. Some househusbands would go straight to the phone and call a repairwoman out to fix the microwave, thinking this is the best way to avoid adding any complication to their wife's already-stressful workday. I, however, know better. Where others see calamity, I saw opportunity--an opportunity to reaffirm my complete and utter dependence on my woman, and for her to reaffirm her womanliness.

When my wife got home from work I put on my best pouty face and said in a childlike whine, "Honey, I broke the microwave." I was sure to bat my eyelashes and look as cute as I could in my little apron when I said this.

My wife smiled and shook her head. "It's probably just the outlet, sweetie."

"If you say so," I said with hunched shoulders and an ever-so-slightly tilted head. "You know I don't understand those kinds of things--I'm just a boy."

She sighed. "I'm exhausted right now. I'll take a look at it tomorrow. Where's my dinner?"

I quickly dished up the broccoli cheese soup and the potatoes I'd baked in the oven, then stood by the table and watched my sweetcake enjoy the meal.

I was a little worried we'd have to buy a new microwave, as I know finances stress my honey out--I don't bother with such things myself, as I just have to ask for a blank check when I need something--but of course my silly concerns were unfounded. This morning while I was out running my little errands, my good wife fixed everything. Flipped the breaker or some such gobbledy-gook.

The important thing is that my wife knows I need her, and that's why she loves me. This Celestial Love is what makes our marriage so great!


no one asked me yesterday about the huge pressure bandage on my forehead. I was ready with a story about how I had this huge zit, and then when I popped it...

But alas.

Innocent Child: Daddy, where do lame jokes go when they die before they're told?

Daddy: (Patting child on the head) The Fobcave, honey. They go to the Fobcave.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mr. Fob the Humbly Glorious

At FoxyJ's insistence, I've taken a Myers Briggs personality test. And then I took another. Both say I'm an INFJ, extremely strong on the N (intuitive), fairly strong on the I (introverted) and J (judging), and just barely F (feeling). It's apparently a rare combination--about 1% of the population. I'm flattered by the comparison made between this personality type (called "Confidant" or "Counselor") and people like Gandhi, MLK Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Goodall, and most of all Shirley Temple, but I'm suspicious that this is describing not so much who I am as who I'd like to think I am. Take for example this description:
Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists -- INFJs gravitate toward such a role -- are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.

Actually, to be honest, I'm quite fond of personal glory. Not that I know what to do with it when I have it, but that doesn't mean it's not, like, one of the chief motivators behind everything I do.

But then again, who am I to question the authority of a 75-question online personality test? I obviously don't care about personal glory, if that's what the test says. So go on, tell me how wonderful I am for being so unconcerned with what people think of me. I know that's what you're thinking.

My Band's Album

So Few People Can Handle It by Paleolithic-Style Diet. And the cover art here. (I haven't actually made the cover, presumably because I'm hesitant to violate copyright laws so blatantly, but more so because I'm feeling lazy.)

Via Cricket and Edgy:

The first random article on is your band name.
The last part of the last quote here is your album title
The third picture here is your album cover art.


do I always feel like people--particularly men--particularly straight men--are doing me a favor by being my friend?

Aliens Stole His Brain!

(And his clothes.)

Notice that they cut a little spot of hair off. I'm sure that will look really cool as it's growing back in.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Battle Won for Myface

A few years ago, Myface was invaded by foreigners from the Basal Cells of Carcinoma. The Carcinomans quickly claimed a victory in the prominent capital city of Forehead, but it wasn't long before the natives revolted, calling in reinforcements from neighboring country Dermatologistan. The Dermatologistanis swooped in and broke up the hold the foreigners had in Forehead, but unfortunately these foreigners weren't so easy to get rid of. With time, they spread like, well, like cancer. Within a few months they'd attacked again, this time on Mt. Nose, but thankfully again the Dermatologistanis were able to break their stronghold, despite all the propaganda labeling Dermatologistan as a country of terrorists.

Things were looking better for the Myfacis for a while, but in the last few months the president of the BCC managed to send a surge of Carcinoman soldiers into the ongoing war, leading to two new attacks in as many months. First in January and then this morning, though, Dermatologistani troops used guerrilla warfare tactics to cut out the foreigners' last remaining bases, freeing the native people of Myface to govern themselves as they see fit. They'd be celebrating, but at the moment their country is looking a little war-ravaged.

Here's hoping the Carcinomans elect a new president who doesn't send more soldiers...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And... Exhaaaaaaaaaale

This afternoon I gave my final presentation for my cataloging class, meaning I am done with the penultimate quarter of my graduate career. Perhaps it's the fact that I still have another quarter left, but I don't feel any sense of regret over the pending end of more than twenty years of school.

What I do feel sad about, now that I don't have other super-urgent matters looming (for the moment), is that the plays are done. I feel a bit let down--that I've been looking forward to this past weekend for the past two and a half months, and now it's come and gone and I can't look forward to it anymore. I want to do it again. And again and again and again. I'm thinking that once we move to Davis, I want to get involved in some kind of community theatre. You know, with all the free time I usually have.

We'll see if this desire lasts beyond my current state of post-production nostalgia.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


My (makeup-covered) face is now on Facebook. I suspect this will go about how other such ventures have gone in the past, meaning I'll spend way too much time messing around with it for a week or so, and then I'll never log in again. If you'd like to officially be my electronic friend, though, hop on over and ask. If your name rings a bell, I'll probably say yes.

Sí, que hubo mucha mierda

The plays went really well. There were maybe ten people in the audience for the dress rehearsal on Thursday night, which was a bit disappointing, but actually a nice way to ease into performing for real live people. At least our professor laughed at all the appropriate moments. Friday and Saturday night, though, we were completely sold out and had waiting lists of people trying to get in. The turnout completely exceeded anyone's expectations based on Spanish Department plays done in previous years. Friday night it was obvious that very few attendees spoke Spanish--it was a good five minutes and several jokes into the first play before anyone laughed. But then we got into some good physical humor and the audience started reacting. Saturday night, however, the audience was laughing from practically the first line, and that was certainly gratifying.

In the first play, "El retablo de las maravillas," I play Chanfalla, a conman who brings a "show of wonders" to a small town, explaining to the townspeople that in order to see the "marvelous marvels" of the show, they must not have any Jewish or Moorish blood (this was written at the height of the Spanish Inquisition) and they must be legitimate children of married parents. So when the show begins and no one sees these amazing things I'm telling them they should see, no one wants to admit that they see nothing, lest they be branded a convert or a bastard. Everything goes downhill, though, when an important military leader shows up demanding room and board for his soldiers, and when the townspeople realize he doesn't see the marvels, they determine that he's "one of them" and in the midst of their accusations he goes berserk and tries to kill everyone, barely letting me and my sidekick escape with our lives.

Here's a picture of me (in all my green-tights glory) with my sidekick, Chirinos:

And here's a closer shot with Chirinos and our grumpy musician, Rabelín:

During the second play, "El entremés famoso de los romances," which is either an inspiration for Don Quijote or a cheap knock-off, depending on when it was written, I go backstage to transform from Spanish con artist to Aztec royalty, ending up like this:

Not bad, eh? I think the Native American blood in my family (via my half-Indian half-sisters) shows in my very convincing portrayal of a sixteenth-century Mexican.

In the third play, "La loa para el auto sacramental de El divino narciso," an allegory written by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, I play el Occidente, who, together with his wife, la América, represents the native people of Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquista. My wife and I are just chillin', having a good time with our rituals of human sacrifice, when in come el Celo (Zeal) and la Religión, who represent the Spanish military and Catholic missionaries, respectively. El Celo is ready to kill us all, but Religión convinces him to let us live so she can convert us, so after he comes in and scares us with his raping and pillaging and we basically have nothing left, she then gets to work showing us how our "Great God of the Seeds" is really the one true Christian God, even though we don't know it. After a bit of arguing and el Celo throwing his weight around, finally we come to see the light and agree to be baptized, rejoicing in the day we came to know the true God of the Seeds.

Here's me with my equally Aztec-looking wife, together with our conquerors (el Celo played by DISOBM/DINKWM):

I enjoyed playing both roles, but for different reasons. Chanfalla is just a fun character, and I had a good time being a showman and making people laugh. El Occidente, on the other hand, I enjoyed because he was a challenge, and the play itself much more difficult to pull off precisely because it wasn't funny. Sor Juana wrote "La loa" as a Mexican nun, very aware of the tensions between her faith and that of her ancestors, and although she shows respect for both, she is clearly a Catholic writing for Catholics. While she and her audience would naturally find a resolution in which the natives are converted to Christianity satisfying, the same could not be expected of my audience or of me.

Because of this, I had a hard time figuring out how to play el Occidente. At first I had this vision of him as your generic noble savage, because that's how it seemed Sor Juana was writing him. He was regal, strong, and above all serious. After a couple weeks of practice, though, we realized the play needed something else, so we decided to play up the slight traces of possible comedy--found mostly in the fact that el Occidente is terrified of el Celo and is basically a tool who does whatever the women tell him to. This helped me get into the character a bit more, but it didn't feel right. Particularly as a white American, I didn't feel good about portraying this symbol of all native Mexicans as a buffoon, and I realized I had crossed that line when one of the directors said a couple weeks ago, "Be careful--don't make el Occidente seem ridiculous. Try to think about what he must be feeling through all of this."

It wasn't until this past Wednesday evening--the night before the dress rehearsal--that I finally figured it out. Yes, el Occidente is terrified of el Celo, but he also has nothing left to lose, so he's not going to back down from a fight so easily. And yes, he listens at first to his wife and later to la Religión, but again not because he's weak but because he has nothing else to hold onto. His world has been pulled out from under him, his people murdered, and the god he trusted to protect him did nothing. Why not, then, listen to what this strange white lady has to say about her God? With this perspective, it was easy for me to show at the beginning of the play my faith in the God of the Seeds, in the middle my genuine rage for el Celo, and not quite so easy, though I hope I pulled it off, my belief in la Religión's words at the end. The trick was that, even though this resolution is in my mind a tragedy, it isn't in the eyes of my character.

I don't know how successful I was, but my professor said I almost had him to tears. So maybe I have some acting skills. At any rate, it's been an amazing experience.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

¡Rómpete la pierna!

The Spanish equivalent of "break a leg," as it turns out, is "¡Mucha mierda!" Literally, "A lot of shit!" According to this site, the expression comes from a time when horses were the common mode of transportation, and so a lot of horse excrement outside the theatre meant you had a lot of people come to see your play.

Tomorrow night is the dress rehearsal, then Friday is opening night. Wish me a lot of shit!

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Few Quick Thoughts on Parenting

...before I get back to work on my graduate portfolio.
  • I wasn't too stressed about FoxyJ going to Davis for two days last week because (a) I was excited for her, (b) being stressed about parenting by myself would show weakness that as a card-carrying member of the Involved Fathers Movement I am not allowed to show, and (c) my future vision is generally too rose-filtered to imagine that any coming situation might be anything less than peachy. Despite all this, Thursday and Friday were the culmination of a very grumpy week for me, parenting-wise, and I noticed the effect Foxy's absence had on my grumpiness when, after talking to her on the phone while the kids took a bath Friday night, I transformed, at least temporarily, from Angry Dad back to the Perfectly Cheerful and Patient Parent I usually am.
  • Interestingly, Foxy and I have been more consistent about having family home evening (almost) every week since I've left the LDS church than we were when I was a believing member. This is due mostly to the fact that S-Boogie is now old enough to remind us. And because we like treats. I've found that I enjoy taking my turn to prepare a lesson, because without the standard religious topics to fall back on I always have to think hard about what exactly I want to teach my children and how I'm going to do so. Last night I decided to do a lesson on the environment and conservation. I found this Happy Earth Day coloring book and printed one of the activities (on the back of a used sheet of paper, of course), then took the huge stack of paper collected from S-Boogie's daily arts and crafts, together with a large piece of butcher paper I had left over from making a scroll for one of the plays I'm in, and we made this papier mache Earth:
    I think she picked up a vague idea of what it means to "take care of the Earth," but the geography teachers of the world should rest assured that I am doing all I can to ensure their continued job security.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness, and for agnostics that as close as we're going to get. I was babysitting for some friends the other day and I looked around their living room and said, "Hey, they don't have scraps of paper and pieces of tape everywhere. Maybe I don't have to live that way." So yesterday I cleaned up the living room a bit (thus producing the pile of paper that is now part of the Earth), and this afternoon while the kids played I vacuumed. Then tonight when it was time to clean up, rather than rushing through it like I usually do because I'm anxious to get the kids in bed, I actually had S-Boogie find a place for every random thing that was in the living room and then take the floating scraps of paper to the recycling bin. And suddenly the world's a happier place, and Angry Dad is so last week--though that may also have something to do with the fact that the miracle of Daylight Savings gave me an extra hour of sleep this morning.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Very Cheesy Post for FoxyJ

(Because I know she loves her dairy products.)

Yesterday morning Foxy flew to Davis to tour the school and be wined and dined by important people. She'll be back tomorrow afternoon.

This morning the very first thing S-Boogie said when she came into my room was "The house isn't pretty without Mommy."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Fame!

I'm gonna live forever. Even if she did spell my last name wrong. (I mean really, how hard is it? F-O-B.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Burden of Fame

The following poster went up all over campus today:

Now everywhere I go people stop me and they're like, "Are you the guy from that poster?" And I respond sheepishly, "Yeah, that's me." And they're like "NO WAY!" And I'm like, "Yeah, it's really me." And they're like, "Whoa. You are so cool." And I'm like, "Thanks, but really I'm no cooler than you, it just seems that way because I'm famous." And they're like, "Can you do that pose, the one from the picture?" And I pretend to be all hesitant so they'll insist, and they do, and then I strike the pose, and then one of them will stand behind me and put a hand on my shoulder just like my friend on the poster while the other one takes a picture, and then they switch places so the other one can be in the photo with me, and then I let one of them strike the pose while I take the picture so they can go to their friends later and be like, "You know who took this picture? The Poster Guy himself." And their friends can be like, "NO WAY!" And they can be like, "Yeah, it's really him." And so on.

I guess now I know what it's like to be Ken Jennings.

NOTE: Some or all of the facts in the above story may have been made up to make it more interesting. Forgive me if they fail to do so. There's only so much you can do when your claim to fame is a poster.

Who's Your Daddy?

This evening Little Dude and I were looking at one of FoxyJ's mission photo albums. He enjoyed pointing out Mama on every page. When we saw group shots of the district Foxy and I were in together, I asked him where Daddy was. He consistently pointed to the missionary Foxy used to have a crush on (i.e. not me).

...and he knows how to use them...

Today I bought green tights that I will be wearing in the play I'm in next weekend. If that's not enough to make you get in line for tickets right now, I don't know what is.