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Sonny's Side

April 2010

Intellectual history involves looking at great figures who left an enduring legacy.  I wonder what parental influences create the enormous ambition that usually accompanies acclaim.  

How Is Success Related to Upbringing?
by Ethan Sorscher

    Upon reflection, this column articulates an immoral argument, and I would advise any of you who attempt to raise your children in the manner here explored only theoretically to carefully consider the consequences of that decision.
    I recently took some classes, as college students do, two of which were under the umbrella of “intellectual history.”  Intellectual history, in case you don’t know, is the study of the lives of notable individuals in history.  Specifically, I took classes on secular Judaism and the American Civil War. The former evoked a curiosity within me that I thought had faded when I left religious school.  The latter is one of my favorite topics and one I’ve always wanted to study in depth.
    Intellectual history involves not only looking at the historical record but looking at the actors, the great figures who left an enduring legacy.  If only as much evidence of their formative years as their later ones existed.  What kind of childhood did these men and women have, to mold them into such ambitious characters?
    I wonder if you could trace the influence back further and see the years their fathers lived through – if you could see how one man’s childhood impacted the parent he became, and so on through the annals of history, to add up all the pieces that make a legendary man remembered long after his direct lineage has ended, long after his children’s children’s children have been forgotten.  That would be a truly enlightening study.  If you could do that for a cross-section of successes, you could see which parental influences create the enormous ambition that usually accompanies success.  You could determine how to raise your child, to breed a certain kind of individual – one whose life is driven in pursuit of recognition and acclaim.
    I would imagine that many of these men became famous because they sought recognition not given to them in their childhood.  I would imagine that creating an environment in which the child is always seeking approval would foster an adult who continually outdoes himself.  I would imagine that such an upbringing would be awful; it would be a crime against the child.  Children should be encouraged, not forced, to reach great heights.
    I am happy to study history, rather than make it.

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 September 2009

Art is not a representation of reality, no matter how accurate or off-base.  Art is when

The Pieces of a Puzzle Come Together
By Ethan Sorscher

      I’ve known people named Art, but I’ve never met someone who was called Music.  I guess I’m not hanging around with the right crowd.
      My mom and dad were always big on taking my sister and me to museums.  I imagine in an attempt to better my attitude (I always preferred staying home and playing with my Legos), my dad told me, “Art museums are a great place to meet women.”
      I was ten.
      We went to these museums, and I looked around in wonderment not at the art, but at the people staring at the art.  These were just pictures, and yet people were gazing at them so enraptured, trying to determine some hidden meaning or what the artist had been thinking when he painted the art.  All I saw was a few dancing villagers, a naked woman maybe (I’ll admit, those were worth looking at) and some nice scenery.
Then we went to the modern art section.
      Let me tell you  – if you ever want to see art that will force you to redefine your innermost being and shake you so totally to the core that everything you hold dear will seem alien  – the modern art section is not the place to do it.
      Often I have heard the classic joke about art, that a child could have painted it.  Nowhere is this more applicable than in modern art.  Seemingly random brushstrokes haphazardly form a semblance of an image, while artists pandering to each other laud the work as groundbreaking and innovative, so “true” and “real”  – then sell it to pretentious museum curators who charge us fees to see this “art.”
      Now I didn’t see much point in the classical art sections, centuries-old paintings depicting elaborate feasts and dancing peasants, but at least those paintings looked like someone spent some time on them.  Even if I didn’t appreciate the art, I could appreciate the work and effort spent on the art.
      I listen to National Public Radio sometimes, and just the other day they were deploring the tragic budget cuts in spending on the arts.  Maybe these artists should spend less time moaning and more time painting, and come up with something that doesn’t look like they threw it together in five minutes after spending their grant money on psychedelics (not that there’s anything wrong with that  – just that if my tax money is being thrown away, I’d like to decide which basket it goes into.
      I’d rather throw my money into baskets marked “education” and “road repair” and “emergency services.”  Baskets that the government has a place in funding, baskets that all people can appreciate, regardless of taste or socioeconomic level, baskets that are basic needs that everyone deserves, not baskets that are subjective and up to popular review.
      Art is a guy being the first in his family to go to college and becoming a doctor and saving the life of someone who came to the hospital in an ambulance driven on smoothly paved streets.
      Art is not a representation of reality, no matter how accurate or off-base; it’s not brushstrokes on canvas or cast metal or carved stone.  It’s the conspiring of efforts to create a situation in which everything fits, everything meshes.  It’s the moment when all the pieces of a puzzle come together at once, as if all of life, all of history, has been for that moment.
      Those moments are few and far between, and they should be.

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April 2009
 
I’ve marveled at my father’s ability to provide for our family.  But I don’t know if I’ll be able to weather economic storms like my father can.  Teachers don’t make

A Lot of Money
By Ethan Sorscher

      I really hope I marry rich.
      I’m a History major.  I plan on double majoring in English.  For a while, I flirted with getting a Philosophy degree as well, and maybe a German minor.  All of these are very low-credit majors and minors, so it was extremely do-able.  All of these, however, do not lend themselves to a high-paying career.  Sure, I could do law school, but that would require me to a) try hard, and b) stay in school after I graduate.  Neither of these options is very appealing to me.
      Besides, I’ve wanted to be a teacher for a long time.  When I was ten, it was either design computer games, or teach.  When I was fourteen, it was either practice law, or teach.  My mom is a teacher.  My uncle was a teacher.  It’s in my family, and one of the few things I get from her side of the family.  That, and my feet.
      Seriously, they are like boats.
      But teachers don’t make a lot of money.  Especially in California, and especially in public school, where I would want to teach.  When I have a family of my own, it will be difficult to provide for them.  I’ve watched my father provide for my family my whole life, and especially recently, I’ve marveled at his ability to do so.  He was prepared, relatively, for this harsh economic climate.  We still have the house I grew up in.  He recently got another job, which means that I get to spend money again.  Times were tight, but we made it through and, if I’m a teacher, I don’t know if I’ll be able to weather economic storms like my father can.
      Hey, I can raise a family though.  I know how to grill and make pasta.  I can sweep a mean floor; heck, my dad beat me enough times with a broom, I should know my way around it. (That was a joke, child services worker.)
      So, ladies, if you’ve got a high-paying job or a sick, wealthy relative, send me an e-mail.  I’ve been told I’m really good at cuddling.
      Also, our first son will be named Wolverine Ultimate-Champion.  I hope that’s okay.

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February 2009

Is Love a battlefield or a choir of angels?  Our language, our media, our thoughts exemplify

Love’s Vexatious Nebulosity
by Ethan Sorscher

        Love is a most popular topic.  Everybody and their mother has an opinion on it, whether it’s as lyrical as The Supremes or as melodic as Nazareth. The definition of love is unattainable; although some classify it as bodily reactions (heart palpitations, sweating, and so on), it is difficult to truly understand.  Whether love is knowing that you’ve found the person best for you and accepting all their faults or hearing that choir of angels rejoice when you meet someone for the first time depends on your point of view and personal beliefs.
        
Love is so commonly thought about and talked about in films and novels – when was the last time you saw a movie without a romantic subplot? – that it cheapens the emotion.  We attempt to falsify love, to feel emotions we don’t possess, to trick ourselves into thinking we’ve reached a point in our lives that we are ready for romance.
        
Yet our very language belies love’s vexatious nebulosity and our ineptitude at explaining its nuances.  “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” yet “out of sight, out of mind.”  The basis of communication seems intent on misleading us, offering contradicting points as common-sense knowledge.
        
If love is a battlefield, falling in love must be the mines leading up to combat.  Each misstep could lead to a devastating, life ending explosion.  Every move, it seems, must be calculated to ensure that a blossoming relationship isn’t smothered, yet the hesitancy, the insecurity, that both parties feel is undeniable.  Did I play that situation right?  Does she feel the same way?  Should I have ordered the steak to seem more masculine, or the salad to show I was in touch with my feelings and concerned about my health?  Did I miss the moment?  It seems that Sunday Morning Datering is a much more common condition than Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
        
I’m still young.  I have hope that someday I’ll get mine.  It’ll come when it comes, though, and while I continue to put myself out there with the same fears and hopes everyone experiences, I do so with the knowledge my mother armed me early on with: If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.  She was talking about parking spaces, but I think it’s applicable to most situations.

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January 2009

The holidays are about giving, and what better gift to give than

The Gift of Happiness
By Ethan Sorscher

         As I’ve said before, I love comic books.  Particularly, I enjoy the Green Lantern series.  In this world, different colors of the emotional spectrum represent different emotions, and bearers of the colored rings can tap into their emotions and emulate the Green Lantern’s abilities.  In this world, to name a few, green stands for will power, yellow for fear, pink for love, red for anger, and orange for avarice.
         There seems no better time to focus on the virtues of selflessness than at the start of a new year.  Not to say that I am without my faults, that I am above the base needs and desires we all suffer, but to say that I hope, that I intend, to act with generosity and compassion to my fellow man in this coming year.
         As a child, the holidays for me were all about presents.  Similar to the young Dursley in the Harry Potter series, who compares his birthday presents to last year’s, I, too, was obsessed with an ever-increasing haul of gifts and goodies.  As I aged, however, I began to understand that the holidays aren’t about who gets the most presents – gifts do not lead to happiness.  Sure, it feels good to get a present, and having nice things is, well, nice, but those feelings are fleeting and the memories they make are ethereal at best.
         Many insist that the holidays are a time for family, and in some respects this is true.  I preface what I’m about to write with the following: I love my family.  Yet, there are other people I’d rather spend time with.  I love my parents, but they are my parents first, and my friends second.  I love my sister, but I don’t always love spending time with her.  No, I believe that the holidays are not specifically a time to be with family, nor a time to be with friends.  It’s a time to be with the ones you make most happy, whoever that may be.  If that’s your family, more power to you.  If that’s your friends, more power to you.  If that’s just a single person, whom you make happier than they have ever been, than spend the holidays with them.  The holidays are about giving, and what better gift to give than the gift of happiness?
         But if we limit this spirit of giving to a two-week period, at the end of the year, what does that say about the human race?  Are we, as expressed by Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish, and short,” or are we a society of people inherently good?  Are we selfish by nature, or does our greed result from our upbringing in this harsh world?
         There’s a movie out there, I recommend you pick it up. It’s called Pay It Forward.  If you can get past Helen Hunt, it’s a pretty good flick, with a good message.  I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it’s a message in the spirit of the season.  Kindness has to start somewhere, and it may as well start with us.
         So, instead of stopping to smell the roses, stop to water the roses, so that someone else can smell them.

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December 2008

I had never understood what it meant

To Be Jewish
By Ethan Sorscher

         When I headed off to college, I had no intention of joining a fraternity. My friend Dave and I visited a couple of houses just to party, but I didn’t feel like any of them were worth joining.  They were good places to party, but nowhere I felt like I could enjoy the company of the brothers without being under the influence of something.
         Then I went to Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish fraternity on campus at UC Davis.  The brothers there didn’t seem like the brothers at other fraternities
instead of being cut from the same cookie-cutter mold, they all had different interests, different majors, different looks – they were unique.  One of my brothers said to me, “Everyone at AEPi is a character.”
         As I was trying to understand what allowed AEPi to have such a diverse group of individuals, one of them revealed it to me.  Because we are all linked by the common characteristic of Judaism, we are able to accept a more diverse group.  We don’t need to look for people who like the same movies, who like the same sports – we already all share a common personality trait that we can connect with.
         I had never understood what it meant to be Jewish.  Was it going to services, going through all the ritual and ceremony?  Was it feeling a connection to the events of the past, to the history of Jewish people throughout the world?  No.  At least for me, being Jewish is knowing that wherever I can find Jewish people, I can find brotherhood; I can find friendship.

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October 2008


As I depart the family homestead for college, I am, for the first time in my life,

On My Own
By Ethan Sorscher

         I never went to a camp and spent the night away from home.  In fact, I’ve never spent more than one night away from my family.  Now I am departing the family homestead for college.  For the first time in my life, I will have to make a new home, without the warmth and comfort of my parents.  I will miss them.  They have always been there for me, supporting and encouraging me to find challenging activities.  When I fell from the path, they were there to help me find my way back.  When I made mistakes, they were there to help me out of the holes that I had dug.
         At the same time, I feel that I have been too attached to them; I have been too concerned with what they think of me to pursue the course that I would pursue without their influence.  Whether this is good or bad, I don’t know.  The only way I can know is to head down my own path, and that is what college is all about.
         I need to know if the morals and values my parents tried to instill in me will take hold once I'm on my own, to know if I will act with honor and dignity.  I dove into the water headfirst and now must sink or swim without the life vest of my parents.  It is up to me to make the right choices – and not worry whether my parents think the choices are right.  If it feels right, it will be right – and only I can know for certain.  
         The family homestead will no longer be such a fixture in my life; though my parents’ presence will be felt, it will be to a lesser degree.  I have a grand opportunity to become the man I wish to be, and I must not squander it with concern for what others, not even my parents, will think of me.  From this point on, my decisions are the decisions that will matter.

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September 2008

Knowledge doesn’t just come from books.

The Media Has My Attention, Unfortunately
by Ethan Sorscher

         In watching the world around me, I have learned a valuable lesson: Knowledge doesn’t just come from books.
         During the Olympics, I noticed that, while Michael Phelps was racing, the news pages were peppered with stories of the Olympics.  Yahoo’s top stories were about the American athletes and the Olympians in general.  But (spoiler alert) as soon as Phelps won his eighth medal, the games dropped off the radar.  It was, unfortunately, replaced with shallow, pop-culture stories about Phil Collins’ divorce settlement and behind-the-scenes stories of High School Musical 3.
         This experience taught me a valuable lesson about humanity in general and the American public in specific.  As a culture, we place our heroes on such a lofty pedestal that, without a true inspiration, our attentions are shifted to those less worthy.  In order to attract viewers, the media spreads the latest celebrity gossip – we have entire channels devoted to “entertainment.”
         I find more relevant programming on Comedy Central’s fake news shows.  I learn more about the world from its lampooning by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the network news.
         My education did not prepare me for this harsh truth.  In my high school journalism class, I was led to believe that the integrity of the press was unbreakable, that reporters would not bend to the ignorant but would instruct them, that newspapers were meant to inform, not pander.
         My education did not prepare me for the shock of seeing the common fool’s voice amplified.  Free speech should be encouraged; opinions should be formed based on fact.  But when major news outlets lend amplifiers to bloggers’ complaints to NBC, labeling them as news and using one irrational individual as a representative sample of the entire population, not only do they bias their readers, but they promote the very irrationality, the very ignorance that the news is meant to fight.
         My education did not prepare me for the fright I would experience when I saw that the three most popular buzz words on Yahoo in the twelve hours before I started writing this column weren’t “rising oil prices” (eighth on the list) or an update from the campaign trail (sixth).  It wasn’t news of Bigfoot (fourth) or the conflict in Georgia (didn’t even make the top 50).  The top three news items were Cloris Leachman stealing the show at Bob Saget’s roast, an imagined feud between a bitter Mark Spitz and an uninterested Michael Phelps, and the Top 10 Weight Fluctuations among Hollywood Stars.
         I like these stories, but they aren’t news.  They’re interesting, but they aren’t news.  They’re trivial gossip.  And they aren’t news.

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August 2008

I suspect that timing – such an ethereal, flighty bird – is the force behind

My Friendships
By Ethan Sorscher

         There’s a number of jokes about timing, but none of them translate well to text; as if the very nature of timing makes it too elusive to be captured and studied.  Timing must be experienced.
         My parents recently revealed to me that they had the option of holding me back in kindergarten, which they chose not to do.  I wonder how my life would be different.  My bonds of friendship have been formed in classes, the strongest in the earlier years of education; since none of my current friends would have been in my grade, they wouldn’t be my friends.  Standing on the brink of my adult life, I look at the next generation with wonder – who among them would have enjoyed (hopefully) my company?
        
My friends are all going off to different colleges.  I look at them and wonder, “Will we keep in touch?”  We have been close, a tight-knit circle since seventh grade but, as I’ve learned in my psychology class, rings forged in the flames of confined boundaries and close distance don’t need to be returned to the fires from whence they came in order to be destroyed.
         For if timing, such an ethereal, flighty bird, is the force behind my closest friendships, what hardships could I be forced to endure if future attempts at friendship require such an intangible focus?  Would I be destined to wander alone, with Atlas’s burden upon my back and no one to help shoulder the load?
         Yet, if it is the more practical, less poetic furnace responsible for creating these bonds, what if I’m forced to live with those I am forced to interact with?  Will I become friends with those whom I might not otherwise have chosen?  And will this friendship pose an obstacle in future interactions?  Must I choose between maintaining the bonds I’ve already created and playing it safe?  Or will I test the waters of new possibilities that could lead to a more content life?  Down which road should I travel?  Time will tell.

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June 2008
 
If you are what you eat, I must be everything, because

I Love to Eat
By Ethan Sorscher

         America suffers from a weight problem.  We eat too much and we exercise too little.  I think that early man ate just as much as we do, but he killed his food with his bare hands and the exertion of this act burned enough calories.  Maybe the hefty ones couldn’t outrun the predators.  Or they ate a lot of celery.  (It actually takes more energy to digest the cellulose-rich celery than can be derived from it.)
         My mother, whose sagacity and wisdom continues to amaze me, is fond of the idea of leaving a quarter of your plate uneaten.  But that’s not for me.
         I love to eat.  If you are what you eat, I must be everything.  I don’t watch cooking shows, because I get jealous that I’m not eating the delicious food shown on the screen.  Eating has always been a passion of mine; if it’s desert or meat or, heck, even vegetables – if it’s on my plate, I’ll wolf it down.  Thanks to my incredible metabolism, I can scarf down three donuts for breakfast, several pieces of pizza at lunch, and a hearty, home-cooked meal (or a burrito so huge that it is literally bursting at the seams) at dinner without sacrificing my lean, trim and muscular (sup, ladies) physique.  Of course, I also exercise.  Hammering out those ten crunches every other Sunday really helps.  Naturally, as I age, my metabolism will slow and I will have to modify my eating habits – or else I might end up like my father.
         My father has a number of maxims, one of which is “If there’s food on your plate, you don’t mess around.”  When he was a young man, he would eat several cheeseburgers a day, on a regular basis.  When he grew older, his habits did not change.  That’s how he became the man he is today – twice the man I’d ever hope to be (no offense, dad).  The way I see it, as time goes on and I eventually raise children of my own, I’ll put on weight.  It’s inevitable – after eating, sitting is my favorite socially acceptable activity.  But one of my dearest ambitions is to bounce my son on my lap, and to do that I’ll need to have a lap.

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May 2008

Escaping into meaningless trivialities has kept me physically healthy.  I have no intention of becoming

Sick with Stress

By Ethan Sorscher

         Stomach problems run in my family.  My dad had ulcerative colitis; my sister has it; I am likely to get it. (Gee, thanks a lot, dad.)  Ulcerative colitis can be brought on by stress – that is what caused my sister to develop it.
         When my sister was diagnosed three years ago, I made a decision to maintain a relaxed, casual outlook to life’s challenges.  Important homework assignment?   No biggie.  I’d throw something together, turn it in, get a B, and that was fine by me.  Test tomorrow?  I’d glance at the chapters, pay attention in class, get a B, and that was fine by me.  My parents did not appreciate this lack of effort, but I felt that, if I was able to slide through and pull Bs, that was okay.
         And for three years, I kept to these habits and thus kept my bowels clean.  No ulcers, no colitis.  Three years, and going strong.  But I have to take each day one at a time.  I can’t allow myself to get bogged down in the quagmires of my peers.  When they were stressing about college selection and finals, I was reading comic books and playing video games.  At the same time, I can’t allow myself to get my hopes too high, because I know that eventually I will suffer disappointment – which, of course, will lead to stress.  So when my peers felt the elation of getting into their first-choice schools and acing their finals, I was reading comic books and playing video games.
         To me, it’s all about distractions.  I can distract myself from the daily pattern of emotional spikes with meaningless trivialities.  I can escape into a world where whatever is bothering me just flitters away.  Perhaps this escapism isn’t psychologically ideal, but it has kept me physically healthy.
         And when it comes down to it, that is what matters most to me right now.

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March 2008

In my family, the father takes his son on his tenth birthday to visit the home of

The Fathers of Our Country

By Ethan Sorscher

         When I was ten, my father continued our family’s tradition: The father takes the child, on his tenth birthday, to Washington, D.C.  Away from the vigilant eyes of my mother, my father tutored me in all the ways of the world – everything from jaywalking to joke-telling.  He guided me from museum to museum, from monument to monument, all the while ensuring that my interest remained captivated with his amusing anecdotes.  My father recognized that, at my sprightly young age of ten, I had an intensely short attention span, and so our visit was peppered with restaurants and hotel rooms in order to keep my fascination piqued.  He knew to let me direct the vacation, else I would find it more like a lecture and less like a visit.  He made this learning experience enjoyable.
         I learned more about my father, and the fathers of our country, from that one trip than I had in my entire life.  As a Sorscher, I have a history enveloped in tradition. As my father’s son, I have a history woven with the fibers of fun.


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January 9, 2008


Like my father, I’ve never cared much for

Team Sports
By Ethan Sorscher

         At dinner the other night I asked my father how he felt about sports, and he responded, “I was always picked last.”
         I have always felt that it is the father’s duty to instill his feelings about sports in his son. In this respect, my father has succeeded.  My father never cared much for team sports, and neither do I.  To me, it is not important to beat someone else – that bullying, competitive streak has never flowed through my veins.  To me, it is more important to compete with yourself.  The human race has succeeded because of self-improvement.  The human race is not based on trouncing.
         I tried soccer, I tried baseball, I tried football.  None of these sports struck a chord; none of them inspired me to do better. I was a part of a team, and so “winning” wasn’t dependent just upon my effort but the entire team’s effort.  I swam, I ran, I still pole vault – these are the sports that inspire me to do better.  I succeed or fail on my own; there is no one for me to fall back on or to blame except myself.  It is not enough for me to be able to point at others and say, “I am better than them.”  I need to be able to point to my past and say, “I am better than that.”

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October 10, 2007

 

I’m Still Answering Your Lame Questions

By Miles (“The Answer Man”) Lester

 

I got such a great response from my last column (well, a friend named Rayna did send a complimentary email), that I’m going to answer more of your silly questions.

 

Why don’t you clean up your room?

I answered this question the last time [September 26].  Let me reiterate: I know where everything is in the room; it just looks dirty to you, but it’s organized for me.  When it’s messy, I don’t feel pressured to constantly clean up after myself.  I can just add a little mess to the bigger mess and not worry about the mess.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve cleaned it since you asked this question last month. 

 

Why aren’t you more politically active?

I am more politically aware than I am politically active.  I watch the news almost every morning; I watch political debates; I’m interested in who our representatives are … because I understand that political decisions will soon start influencing me directly – paying taxes, health care, military service.  I just turned 18 and I just registered to vote. 

 

Are you doing drugs?

Not right now, at least I don’t think I am.

 

What have you eaten today?  Anything healthy?

Alright, alright, so I skip breakfast most of the time.  What’s the big deal with that?  I’ll have dinner.

 

You often seem angry with me, with other authority figures, with the whole world.  Why is that?

Shut up. 

 

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September 26, 2007

   

The Answer Man (Part I)

By Miles Lester

 

      Every day, I get thousands and thousands of emails from you fathers asking me silly questions about your teenage kids.  I’d like to get five of these questions out in the open. right now, right here.

Why don’t you brush your teeth?

I do try to brush at night.  In the morning, it’s usually difficult to brush my teeth – just waking up in the morning is difficult.  But the actual act of spending three to five minutes brushing my teeth seems like such a waste of time when I’m so rushed.  Also, I’m a teenage boy and I forget things.

 

Why don’t you clean up your room?

Why does it have to be clean?  I know where everything is in the room; it just looks dirty to you, but it’s organized for me.  Yes, occasionally I do misplace some items and find them after I clean up my room, but I most often have a general idea where things are.  When it’s messy, I don’t feel pressured to constantly clean up after myself.  I can just add a little mess to the bigger mess and not worry about the mess.  Also, I’m a teenage boy and I forget things.

 

Are you having safe sex?

Duh.  I would have safe sex if I was having sex.  It’s on every teenager’s mind that introducing a baby into this world is very difficult on the parents, especially when they are minors.  Most teenagers who do not want to have a baby will keep in mind that safe sex is necessary.  Besides, I’m a teenage boy and … never mind.

 

Why do you wear your pants so low?

The main reason is it’s today’s style.  Just like the fact that clothes today are bigger than they were when you were young: bigger socks, bigger shorts, bigger shirts, bigger pants.  It’s the style.

 

Are you skipping any classes?

Not that I remember.  But I’m a teenage boy and I forget things.


 

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August 29, 2007

 

Home Alone

By Miles Lester

 

      My dad went on vacation this summer and put me in charge of the house.  I was left by myself for several weeks; my younger brother stayed with me during some of that time.  I was also in charge of the dog.  By “in charge,” I mean: feeding the dog, making sure she had enough water, taking her for walks, giving her the attention she needed.

 

      My dad left me a list of Things to Do, stuff like “Take out the trash cans on Tuesday night” and “Bring in the trash cans on Wednesday morning.”  Stuff like “Water the outdoor plants” and “Bring in the mail” and “Turn off the lights when you leave the house.” 

 

      This was a big step in my becoming a mature adult, and it was a big step for my dad, too.  He had to accept that I am becoming a mature adult. 

 

      One of the major concerns that my dad had was: Parties.  He and my mom were worried that I would have a party that involved drinking or smoking or something like that.  My dad said that he had heard and read horror stories about parents coming home from a weekend getaway to a house damaged by cigarette burns and spilled alcohol and such, because their kids had briefly mentioned to a few friends that they had the house to themselves, and those friends told other friends, and those friends told other friends, and a gazillion kids showed for a house party.  We came that the agreement that I would not have a party unless six people (or less) were invited, and I had to make them promise that they wouldn’t tell their friends, and  they came only to play poker. 

 

      I felt pretty confident before my dad left about staying in the house by myself because I’m a mature kid and I work a steady summer job – and I don’t have very many friends.  As it turned out, there was no party, all the lights were turned off whenever I left, the dog was healthy and happy, and my parents didn’t need to worry.  My younger brother doesn’t talk much, so I don’t know how much he enjoyed his independent time, but at least I know he didn’t die.  My dad’s checklist of Things to Do was extremely helpful because there was no way for me to forget anything; I could look at the list every day and check off all my tasks. 

 

      Those three weeks alone in my house gave me insight into what independence really means.  It was good to know what I’ll be in for when I do eventually move out and live on my own.

      But you know, I’m not sure I like being home alone.  I like living with my family; it feels safe and comfortable; I feel a little lonely when I'm home alone.  There's no one right there to talk with.
 


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July 4, 2007

Five Synonyms for Nice
by Miles Lester

    If you’re in my father’s generation, these words should aid you in better understanding my generation. The following are synonyms for what you might call “nice” or “neat” or “keen.”  They’re all adjectives; they’re all positive; and they all feel comfortable in the company of exclamation marks!

    If you start using these words around your kid, you’ll be able to communicate better.  And they will think of you differently; they might think you’re kinda “cool.”

            Sweet, as in “Dude, that Lamborghini that just roared by, it was sweet!”
            Rad, as in “Hey, that concert was pretty rad, well worth my 50 bucks.” (Rad is short for radical, as in “extreme.”)
            Tight, as in “That new haircut looks tight.”
            Sick, as in “Did you see Tony Hawk’s skateboarding move? Man, that thing was sick!”
            Awesome, as in “I love my car, it’s my baby, but your new BMW m3 is way more awesome.”

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June 20, 2007

And Leave the Driving to Us
by Miles Lester

    A couple of years ago, I started to feel uselessness and immature. I felt this because my parents had to drive me around everyday to and from school and my weekend jobs.  My dad said he was fine driving me to work, but I could tell that sometimes his mind was not set on driving and that he had better things to do.  It also became wearisome for my mother. I felt it was too much of an inconvenience.  This feeling compelled me to drive on my own -- to get a license and an automobile.

    So now I have my own vehicle, my babe, my luxury ridda’.  She’s not much, but I bought her myself with my own hard-earned money.  She’s an early Volvo model, a V-4 turbo, that has a lot of cool, new-age components such as power sunroof, power windows, power/leather seats, and even cruise control.  She’s not just a toy, she’s my means of transportation.

    I got in a small accident about a year ago.  No one was hurt, but I bashed in the front of my first car, an older Mazda sedan, and it could not be driven any more.  I was devastated because my transportation was gone.  After this accident I reflected on why driving on my own was so important and valuable.  I realized that it’s more than just being free from my parents and being free from being a burden.  It’s that I am more confident with myself; I am more mature.

    There are a lot of components to driving; for example, you always need to be aware, to be a conscious driver.  I know this because of my accident.  I believe I am much more aware when I drive and am a much better driver than before.  In a way, I am thankful that I got in a crash because it really woke me up and could have prevented me from getting in a much worse accident “down the road.”

    Don’t discourage your kids from having their own car and driving.  Encourage them.  Get your kids to drive as soon as they can.  Don’t worry about them getting in an accident; they probably will.  Just hope that it’s a small accident, with very little damage.

    Cars help kids mature very quickly.  They learn about responsibility.  But make sure they actually do take responsibility, that they pay for their car themselves, like I did, or that they pay for their insurance, like I do, or at the least that they pay for their own gas, like I do.

    When your kid can take himself places on his own, in his own car, that’s a great, big step for you, too.  You’ve got better things to do than being a chauffeur.


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May 30, 2007

What Space Is Your Kid In? 
by Miles Lester

      About half a year ago I started using online chatting and instant messaging such as AIM and Myspace.  Before then, I believed it was a waste of time and my time could be spent elsewhere … anywhere else.  However, now that I have gotten into blogging and messaging, I have found that it is actually fun and entertaining.  Not only can I meet new people, but I can chat with those I don’t see often and even those who I do see often. For example, on Myspace, I have “My Friends,” a large group of people who, for the most part, are in my age group and the kind of people I would hang out with.  Each of “My Friends” has a picture next to their names and so, if I want to either chat or talk or message or just see one of their profiles, I can simply click on their photo and this will instantly send me to their home page.  Myspace is very trendy and fun; and it’s pretty cool how many things there are to do or find on Myspace.

      The best part is that Myspace is my place to go when I am either bored or filled with emotion.  I can edit my profile to express how I feel.  I can add pictures and videos that people can see, and make cool backgrounds.  I can talk to friends I have made, who are in other schools and I wouldn’t normally talk to.  I can tell my friends if I am happy or sad or excited or bored or intrigued … or anything.  Myspace is like a public journal, an expression of my self.

      High school can be a tough time for lots of kids, and I have found that, with online chatting and messaging, I can talk to people easier, without pressure.  Because if I mess up or say the wrong thing, then “oh well,” because the person I’m talking to cannot see me, they cannot see that I am embarrassed.  This is particularly true with girls.  Now, I have dated and have had relationships, but talking with women in person still is difficult.  Online I can sound witty and charming no matter how squeamish I might actually be.

      Listen up, you fathers out there: A lot of you have been misinformed about Myspace.  I think that’s because a lot of you have not taken the time to understand online chatting and blogging.  I do not believe that Myspace presents a problem concerning the safety of your child.  I have had a Myspace account for more than seven months now, and I have not had any creeps coming onto my site, or any other problems with it.

      If your son or daughter has a space on Myspace, please don’t go behind their backs to try to find out what they are doing: It’s like spying, and a good relationship between parent and child shouldn’t involve spying.  If you’re not sure what Myspace is, just visit the website’s homepage: www.myspace.com.  

      I recommend creating a Myspace profile yourself; plenty of people of all ages have Myspace profiles.  If you have your own space and your kids have their own space, well, that’s a good bonding opportunity inside the family. But still, if you’re curious what your child is doing, just ask them to show you their profile; they might be a little hesitant, but it will create a better understanding between the two of you.

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I am Ethan Sorscher
By Ethan Sorscher

         I’m a freshman at University of California at Davis.  I may be still a teenager, but I’m not inexperienced.  I have worked at a number of jobs, including at my temple, a video store and the local swim club.  I pole vault, and I used to write a monthly column for the Northgate Sentinel, my highschool paper.
         I intend to share a few of the experiences I have had with my father and hope to pass on a few of his ideas.  (He has lots of ideas.)  We’ve always lived together and so he has always been a fixture in my life, and I have benefited from his knowledge in many ways.  Ideally, his knowledge (and my own) can help others.


I Am Miles Lester
by Miles Lester

    I wrote this column when was 18 years old and lived in two households, one with my mother and one with my father.  I am a calm and well-rounded person.  I have a very strong work ethic; I have worked at various jobs since the age of 14.  I worked at a water-themed amusement park over the summers and the local ice-skating rink during the winters.  I also worked at my temple and the high-school cafeteria.  I have friends and a good social life.
    I wrote this column till 2008.  I had a lot to say about parenting and just being a child.  My columns covered different situations that I encountered and how I reacted to those experiences.  I think that, because I was a kid and I'll always be a son, my opinions and views could be valuable for fathers. 
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