Matt McHugh
Matt - Blog - May 2006


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Boy Draws the Teen Girl Squad
May 27, 2006

As you regular readers of my irregularly updated blog know, my five-and-a-half-year-old son is a big fan (not unlike myself) of Home Star Runner. (If you don't know what it is, just go check it out; I'm tired of trying to explain it). One of the featured cartoons on the site is this bizzaro little series called "Teen Girl Squad," designed to look like pencil drawings on blue-lined looseleaf paper--i.e., the type of thing a smart-alecky junior high kid might draw during study hall.

Anyway, the boy sat down one day to draw the four TGS principals ("Cheerleader! So-and-So! What's-Her-Face! The Ugly One!"). Here's what he came up with:

The drawing is about par with what he's been doing for a while (I've got to see if I can help him past the three-fingered stick-figure stage) and not too impressive. However, I'm impressed as hell with his solo attempt at phonetically rendering their tagline ("Let's get ready to look so good!"). I think that's pretty darn good for a 5.5 kid. My wife says he's been doing that more and more often, trying to write out words based on how he sounds them out, but this is the first I've seen a full sentence like this.

-- mm

Check it out:

Paris Journalist Shotgun Dream
May 24, 2006

Here's a dream, and/or series of dreams, I had early this morning shortly before waking:

I was in a big, American-style supermarket in Paris and wanted to buy a loaf of bread. When I got to the check out, I had no idea if had the right currency and realized I that I didn't know any French words to communicate with the clerk. Apparently, it all worked out, since I handed the check out girl a note and got change back. My wife was there and I explained to her I felt lucky that there were no problems with the transaction because I wouldn't have known how to deal with them.

I found myself in some kind of French language class in a peculiar, open-air setting, on a field that looked like astroturf. The instructor was a boy of about twelve or so and my five-year-old son was with me. The method of the class was to speak no English as we played a simple game. The game involved dipping paper clips into some kind of black pitch then putting them in slots cut into series of wooden beams. Apparently, the point was to look for matching patterns created by the pitch on the paper clips, though that seemed ridiculous to me. Also, the instructor explained this in English, which seemed a violation of the French-only rule established earlier. I asked the instructor, in English, what the French word for "pair" was and he said "allele". He said something else and I tried to answer "yes" but couldn't think of the French word for yes. I ran down all the versions I know (German, Spanish, Greek, Russian) until I finally remembered "oui."

Later, I was talking to my wife about a neighbor who had watched our five-year-old son for a while at pool party he was hosting. She said that the neighbor told her he finally understood what a handful my boy could be, and recounted how he kept getting upset when bigger boys would push past him to get to the pool slide or ladder. I said I thought it was an important life lesson for him to learn that bigger kids wouldn't always include him in their play. I walked past the neighbor's house, a large ranch set in a shady, wooded area set on a hill. Suddenly, I was watching a black-and-white movie with Dustin Hoffman playing a reporter or editor contemplating running story about a powerful, corrupt politician in a newspaper. He was in the pool area of his very well-to-do suburban Pennsylvania home in a shady, wooded area set on a hill and worked for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He was talking to his wife who, was played by a naked Anne Bancroft, sauntering around the pool's perimeter. I remembered thinking that she looked pretty good for a woman of her age (I figured her to be in her 50's in the film). She warned Hoffman's character to be sure he had all his facts right before running the story, or the politician would destroy him--implying that he (and she) stood to lose this comfortable home if the story backlash went bad.

I then found myself and my wife riding a ski lift--though it was more like an escalator or conveyor belt--up a shady, wooded hill in a state park or the like in rural Pennsylvania. It was summer, warm and snowless, and the trees were thick with green leaves. The lift passed by an area where there was a shotgun range for skeet shooting. I could see shooters a distance away in individual wooden stalls, like driving range stalls, shooting in the direction of the ski lift conveyor. This made me nervous, and it struck me as dumb and dangerous that the range was set up so the shooters pointed in the direction of the lift. My wife and I got off the lift and walked on the opposite side of its wooden support structure, where we had some cover. At the top of the hill, there were stalls where you could sign up to shoot. My wife really wanted to try it, but I didn't know what the terms were--i.e., how much it cost, did you need reservations, could you rent a gun, etc. There was a woman attendant there who explained that while it cost only $9 per hour to shoot, you had to be a member, which had a $495 annual fee. She said they didn't have any shotguns for rent, but she might be able to find some disused ones in the club house we could borrow. My wife still seemed kind of interested, though I said that paying $500 for something we were only likely to do this once seemed ridiculous. I remember looking at the skeet-launching mechanism and not being sure if it was mechanical or manual. It looked like you might have to launch your own clay pigeons via some kind of sling. Again, this seemed not worth the money.

That's it.

As I like to do for such dreams, here's a quick catalog of some of the conscious roots of the imagery that I'm aware of:

I've never been to Paris, but the wife and I are contemplating a trip to Rome. I just saw an episode of The Sopranos where Tony's wife took a trip to Paris. I recently did a small project for work peripherally associated with genetics, so the appearance of the word "allele"--a term to describe related genetic variants, which does not specifically mean "pair" and is not French in origin--was interesting. My daughter recently had her three-year-old birthday party, which was on a weekday so I wasn't present. My wife, who planned it, said it went very well, and I thought that was a big contrast to the disastrous five-year-old party I'd planned for my son a few months back. I grew up in suburban/rural Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, so the woods images were very familiar to me. I recently watched "Good Night, and Good Luck" so the root of the B&W journalist-takes-on-politician theme is obvious--though not sure about the casting. I told my wife of the dream and said that I didn't think Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft had ever been in a movie together. She reminded me of The Graduate, which, of course, I am familiar with. Not too far from my current northern New Jersey home is a state park that has a skeet-shooting range on top of a small mountain. When I first passed it years ago, I always thought it would be fun to try but never inquired further. Of course, there's also the Dick Cheney shotgun mishap, which I was recently reminded of as well. My wife wants to join a private swim club in a nearby town this year, which will cost about $500 annually. I'm a little dubious of it since I'll likely never use it, but she seems sure it will be great for her and the kids in the summer.

That's it. An interesting dream, though not as dramatic as some I've had. Kind of passive and uneventful, filled with things that could have gone wrong (the French bread incident, the journalistic worries, the shooting range concerns, financial trepidation, etc.) but didn't, or hadn't yet. As always, I see dreams as the product of the mind on idle, toying with whatever's been rattling around in it recently. This one just seems to be a lot of shallow prattle over some minor tidbits from my recent waking life. (Trust me, there's a lot more complex issues I'm wrestling with currently than the price of the swim club.)

-- mm

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