Killing time.

I had some car repairs scheduled for this morning, but stupidly forgot to reserve a loaner, which left me marooned in the dealership’s waiting room for much of the morning. I tried make the best of it. My cell phone’s batteries were almost dead, so I plugged the auto charger into a showroom Touareg and made a few calls from the driver’s seat, my very own $48,000 telephone booth. Read the Journal Gazette (six minutes), read the Financial Times (15 minutes), read Town & Country (45 seconds). The waiting room’s other reading material: Brochures on the 2005 VWs and a King James Bible (red state, or maybe the Gideons are doing car dealerships now).

Another customer was tapping away on a laptop identical to mine, which made me irritated I didn’t think to bring it. “They have a wireless network?” I asked. “No, but they have a computer for customers to use,” he said, indicating a beige box on a desk out in the showroom. Cool! Only it was like traveling back in time, a 486-era PC running Windows and IE. Dim monitor. No pop-up blocker. If the cars hadn’t been 2005 models, it would have been 1995. Every page took 20 seconds to load (I timed it). But along the way, I managed to find my way to this fine Marjorie Williams column, which I missed when it ran a year ago; it’s about the Janet Jackson Boobgate episode. As usual, Williams managed to cut to the rotten heart of the matter in a sentence or two:

It seems that only the desecration of a sacred, adult-male-oriented rite can awaken Authority’s outrage at the slime in which our children are daily bathed. (The Super Bowl isn’t supposed to be about nudity, dammit! It’s supposed to be about enormous men trying to maim each other’s kidneys!) Janet Jackson’s breast is probably the most wholesome thing your average 12-year-old has seen in a year of Sundays.

She goes on, without sounding like either a prude or a scold, to make a short list of the sort of cultural landmines most parents find themselves navigating daily — MTV, radio, video games, the sleaziness of PG-13 movies, etc. — and make some good points without sounding as though she spent the previous night sucking on a lemon. With more writers like her, we might actually be able to have a conversation about the cultural divide, but of course she’s dead, while Mona Charen, Michelle Malkin, Kathleen Parker et al will probably live to be 100, and be syndicated the whole time.

Not that I am bitter.

Speaking of video games, Kate spent a large chunk of Monday at her friend’s house next door, and reported a disagreement they had when Drake wanted to play a video game rated M (for moronic).

“If you do, I’ll have to come home,” she said, which made my heart leap like a deer, because apparently I made this rule (I have no memory of it, although I recall the gun conversation vividly), and she listened and followed it. (Those of us who don’t offer an all-seeing God to police children’s misbehavior have to believe there’s a seed of non-religious conscience inside our kids.)

“What’s the big deal?” Drake asked. “All it has is some shootings and killings and stuff.”

American children at play! So precious.

Posted at 6:32 pm in Uncategorized |

25 responses to “Killing time.”

  1. Miss Beth said on January 18, 2005 at 8:11 pm

    I work in a conservative community in Indiana (duh) and we recently received a license to show feature films at our library. So I’m schooling through the titles with the instruction that I may show any G, PG or even PG-13 film. (I’m the teen librarian after all…) But you ready for this? “Airplane” is rated PG!! PG!! All I have to say is, “Ever seen a grown man naked?” Obviously, this cinematic gem–and don’t get me wrong, I adore it–is getting nixed from the list of choices. Ratings, schmatings, it don’t mean nuthin’. There. I feel better.

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  2. deb said on January 18, 2005 at 9:35 pm

    god love you, miss beth. you are absolutely right.

    i’m shocked–no, really, SHOCKED–that drake is allowed to play M-rated video games. that’s a privilege my eldest son, who is FOURTEEN, doesn’t have now, and probably won’t enjoy at all until he starts paying his own bills. how old is drake? eight? ten? for god’s sake! what is his mother thinking?

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  3. Dave Reilly said on January 18, 2005 at 10:30 pm


    Adrianne received a DVD of Airplane for Christmas and our 8 year old was all excited. He wanted to know what the movie was about and after we described some of it’s silliness he asked if we could watch it for family movie night some night. We said, maybe, we’ll see, thinking, really, maybe, we’ll see.

    Then the other day I was driving down the road and all of a sudden Peter Graves’ voice popped into my head saying Ever seen a grown man naked?

    Family movie night this week will be Duck Soup.

    As for Drake playing games rated M, I’m shocked too. The level of violence in many T rated games is too high, making me terrified to even imagine the level of gore in an M game. I’m guessing autopsy photos.

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  4. basset said on January 19, 2005 at 12:04 am

    Family movie night at our house this past weekend, the two of us and 15-year-old boy, was Frank Capra’s “Battle of Britain,” one of those WWII “Why We Fight” propaganda films. made for a good teachable moment about visual language and so forth.

    then again, we don’t watch recent movies much. although “Anchorman” looks like it could be funny, anyone have any opinion on its suitability for a ninth-grader?

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  5. kim said on January 19, 2005 at 9:15 am

    Policing other parents’ decisions has been the most unexpected obligation of parenting (and all of us in the club know there are many). It’s most difficult when the other parents are my friends, b/c anything I say and no matter how I say it sounds like I’m criticizing their parenting decisions. Which I am, but ugh. So I’ve had to get over the discomfort of being upfront about what the rules are at our house, and how those rules will follow you, young child, everywhere you go.

    About movies: We love family film night, and going into the vault to come up with a western or comedy. “Back to the Future,” rated PG from 1985 gave us major pause. Somehow we’d forgotten the rape scene where Marty McFly saves the day. Apparently that doesn’t count as violence. And the liberal use of the word a-hole was just … delightful.

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  6. Nance said on January 19, 2005 at 9:36 am

    Well, before this goes any further, let me state for the record that Drake’s mom is above reproach in my book, and there are any number of alternate explanations for how certain video games got into her kid’s possession, among them:

    1) They’re not really rated M; Drake’s just blowing smoke up Kate’s ass;

    2) Someone else gave them to him;

    3) They’re only violent, which lots of people don’t find objectionable.

    Whatever the reason, I don’t second-guess her. That said, just the clips I’ve seen on commercials for lots of T- and M-rated v-games look atrocious. I’m glad Kate’s not interested in this stuff, but I suppose we’ll make up for it when we’re fighting over a skirt that barely covers her ass.

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  7. Randy said on January 19, 2005 at 9:37 am

    It’s a shame I swear like a sailor around my daughter, but in my defense, I only let her smoke ultra lights, I always water down her scotch, I made sure we had a good long discussion about why the bad man in the mask did those awful things in Scream 1, 2, and 3 (I think she was more concerned about the obvious lack of chemistry between Courtney Cox and David Arquette), and she can only play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City when I’m there, but that’s mainly because she’s only three and she isn’t comfortable with the joystick just yet. But she will be, very soon.

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  8. Danny said on January 19, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    Good gawd, Nance! You had time to read the whole Bible in the waiting room? I guess that was quite a repair job.

    Too funny, Randy. Reminds me of this summer in line at the video store. A woman in front of me had three boys under the age of ten with her. She was renting a bunch of movies to keep them occupied for a while. Among them was “Jackass: The Movie,” or something like that. The poor video clerk tried to do the right thing by quietly saying to the woman, “You do know that there are some, ah, questionable things on this video and it has an R rating.” The woman stared at him blankly for a few seconds and then offered, “Oh yeah, um, well I’ll probably be in the room with them.” Right. It was clear that she was just phoning in her performance as a mother that day.

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  9. 4dbirds said on January 19, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    Oh my, I’m one of those parents you’re talking about. Although Hubby and I didn’t shove it down their throats, We also didn’t actively censor every cuss word or bit of violence from a movie or TV show. We discussed why certain people may be innately prone to violence and how that can intrude on our lives. One of the photos that stayed with me since I first saw it, was an Indiana mob of seemingly fine decent people crowded around the hanging bodies of lynched black men. The mob is smiling and acting as if they’re at a county fair. We also discussed how and why everyday people can be moved to violence in extraordinary circumstances. I watched Pulp Fiction with my teenagers and we had a lively discussion about how these amoral criminals could be so likeable and amusing. I felt it was a good lesson on how unsavory characters can enter their lives with charm and schmooze. We wanted our kids to know that although the violence in movies wasn’t real, that it could still have a numbing effect and make them less sensitive to other people’s pain and despair. We didn’t ban all violent movies because we didn’t want them to become some forbidden prize. If they wanted to see a violent movie, we’d go with them and we’d talk about it. We also felt it was important for our kids to understand that sex is a normal and enjoyable part of life but only for adults. We told them bringing a child into the world, when it wasn’t truly wanted was a moral crime. So this mother who let her kids play video games and watch inappropriate movies has three grown sons and a teenaged daughter who are normal, haven’t been arrested, never rebelled and come to us with their problems, concerns and aspirations.

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  10. Michael G said on January 19, 2005 at 1:03 pm

    Thank goodness I’m past all that. The last problem I had with my daughter was when she, her hubby and my grandson were visiting over Christmas. A friend had given me a small bottle of an excellent port and she discovered she liked it. I had to give her a glass instead of hoarding it all for myself. By now there isn’t much left. Oh, well, guess it beats worring about video games.

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  11. MichaelG said on January 19, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    Scratch the extra comma in the last sentance.

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  12. 4dbirds said on January 19, 2005 at 1:11 pm

    Risking sounding like Lawrence H. Summers, my daughter was never much interested in video games. Now my boys, my 28 year old still plays.

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  13. Danny said on January 19, 2005 at 1:38 pm

    We told them bringing a child into the world, when it wasn�t truly wanted was a moral crime.

    Ah, yeah. We sparred before on this piece of advice you blithely offer as fact. It’s a shame that there are folks with the opinion that a baby must be murdered so that they can live as they wish.

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  14. mary said on January 19, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    Did you look at Slate’s goodbyes to Marjorie Williams? The Breakfast Table between her and Tim Noah is wonderful.

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  15. 4dbirds said on January 19, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Why do you assume I was talking about abortion? We taught our kids prevention, preferably by waiting but if they did have sex against our advice, we urged birth control. Not that it is any of your business, but if my daughter came to me pregnant and asking advise, I’d encourage her to have the baby. You know nothing of us, you just project.

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  16. Nance said on January 19, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    I try to follow the 4dbirds model myself. I haven’t steered Kate clear of the news since the priest sex-abuse scandal, back when I was still trying to reconcile with my old church. If she asks, I try to explain current events to her as best I can, and while we haven’t yet watched “Pulp Fiction” together, I’m sure it’s coming, one of these years.

    We talked about the tsunami, about how many people died, and what we could do for them, as well as why that sort of thing can’t happen here. I said we can all be touched by random disaster, but the best we can do about it is respond in a charitable way to our fellow human beings. I have no idea if it’s sinking in, but what the hell. The world can be a terrible place. They’ll figure it out soon enough.

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  17. Danny said on January 19, 2005 at 2:59 pm

    Why do you assume I was talking about abortion?

    Because of your post on October 19th. I quote for the record:

    Choice is choice and it doesn’t matter what the motivation is, only the pregnant woman has a right to decide what to do with her body. I don’t care if someone was raped or if she doesn’t want a baby with blue eyes, a right to choose is a right to choose. With anything less, women are only chattel. Life is ugly and messy sometimes.

    Posted by 4dbirds at October 19, 2004 10:26 AM

    So as you see, I am not just “projecting.”

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  18. 4dbirds said on January 19, 2005 at 3:33 pm

    Danny, Danny, why are you so angry? You need a magazine rack for all your issues. Of course I’m pro-choice. What I hope I taught my children and it has worked so far, is that bringing an unwanted child into the world is a moral crime. Therefore avoiding pregnancy until one is ready is extremely important. Because I’m pro-choice doesn’t mean that I recommend abortion for or to anyone. It’s an unfortunate solution that must be safely available for all women.

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  19. Dorothy said on January 19, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    Everyone take a deep breath and kiss and make up. Or at least shake hands and agree to disagree.

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  20. Danny said on January 19, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    Everyone, I’m fine. Not angry (speaking of projection, ahem). My first reply to 4dbirds was simply in response to what seemed an obvious non sequitur: discussion of movie watching guidelines followed by a comment about reproduction and unwanted children. I did not see a relation and made an assumption based on previous comments. If I was mistaken, I apologize. 🙂

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  21. Miss Beth said on January 19, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    And speaking of movie-watching guidelines and unwanted pregnancies…

    “Male announcer: The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in a red zone.

    Female announcer: The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in a red zone.

    MA: The red zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in a white zone.

    FA: No, the white zone is for loading. Now, there is no stopping in a RED zone.

    MA: The red zone has always been for loading.

    FA: Don’t you tell me which zone is for loading, and which zone is for unloading.

    MA: Look Betty, don’t start up with your white zone shit again. There’s just no stopping in a white zone.

    FA: Oh really, Vernon? Why pretend, we both know perfectly well what this is about. You want me to have an abortion.

    MA: It’s really the only sensible thing to do, if its done safely. Therapeutically there’s no danger involved.”

    And there you go…

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  22. Dave Reilly said on January 19, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    Every kid is different and parents have to make calls based on their kids’ personalities. We were visiting my folks over the weekend and you should have seen the horrified look on my mother’s face when she found out we let the 8 year old watch Law and Order Criminal Intent. But he really can handle it, both the violence and the adult story lines. His 11 year old brother can’t and doesn’t even want to try.

    Additionally, every morning the 8 year old and his mom have long involved discussions about the news in the paper. He wants to know all the details about everything. I keep telling my wife we’ve got a budding lawyer, doctor, or cop on our hands.

    Context and the way things are handled matter more than the content too.

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  23. brian stouder said on January 19, 2005 at 11:12 pm

    Well, our 9 year old has lots of questions about earth-shattering waves – in fact our 6 year old daughter was quite interested in that, too.

    The big point we are constantly trying to make the young folks cognizant of is the difference between reality and fantasy; video games with sexy fighter planes (etc) do not lend themselevs to any understanding of reportage about Iraq, for example (etc)

    Any parent who hasn’t awakened at 2 in the morning to the shrieks of their child awakening from a frightful nightmare – is just a heavy sleeper!

    btw – Disney World is one of the most terrifying places we have ever taken our children! The movie ride(!) in MGM, which I thought was just way-cool, and which Pam warned me might be a bit much – was a total disaster! Alien was in the ceiling (I didn’t even see it – but Shelby, our then-5 year old, did! Her piercing screams still ring in my ears – and tug at my conscience! – when I think back to that day), and just don’t even ask about the gun battle that broke out!

    It really took me aback. Thinking about it, more than 1/2 of the stuff there was right at the limit of what our young folks could withstand. Was it because they’re too sheltered? If so, would I WANT jaded children that are phased by nothing, or fragile innocence overwhelmed by everything?

    Oh – one other non-sequitur – a few weeks back Shelby began asking what it meant to be “flipped off” – and raised her middle finger to mom. Mom asked her where she learned THAT – and she promptly said “from Grant”…so we asked him about that, and learned that he picked it up from (are you ready?) – the movie Top Gun! Over the holidays, he spotted that video on the shelf and asked if he could watch it, and I blithely said OK. I remember Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise have a few smoochie scenes, but nothing too much worse than John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara (or whoever) before he goes flying back into action…

    ya just never know

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  24. Danny said on January 20, 2005 at 11:05 am

    Yeah, Brian, I know what you mean. My wife and I constantly come across stuff in movies that we just don’t remember being there on first viewing.

    Funny story time. My parents never cursed much around me and definitely not when I was elementary school age. First day of kindergarten, I am sitting with a bunch of kids when one of them, John Buck, proudly claims that the worst swear word of all is “fuck!” I gave him a highly skeptical grimace and responded, “How could that be? It rhymes with ‘duck’ and that is not even close to being a bad word!” He told me to go home and just try it out on my parents and see what they thought.

    I still remember standing in front of my mother as she excitedly inquired about how my day had been and what I had learned and I how proceeded to ask her about my new vocabulary word and if it was truly a bad word and how could that be because, after all, it rhymed with duck. Yep, still remember how her eyes got very large and her face got pale. Not a very serendipitous moment for my mother. Not one bit.

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  25. alex said on January 20, 2005 at 6:23 pm

    I must’ve been about the same age when my babysitter�a neighborhood girl who must not have wanted to work for my mother anymore�sat me down and said: “Did you know that you can call your mother ‘fuckhead’? Fuckhead is another word for mom or mother.”

    I think I got backhanded before I even had a chance to explain where I’d learned the expression “Hey, fuckhead!”

    Then there were the first-grade classmates who asked me one day, “Do you have a cunt?” Hadn’t heard the word before, but didn’t want to admit I didn’t know what a cunt was. So I said yes and they laughed. Curious, I began asking others if they had cunts and next thing I knew I was bent over in front of the principal and taking it in the ass, as I now refer to the corporal punishment they used in those days.

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