TTWA:  Email to parents

TTWA Assignment:  Part 1) You are a coach who has just cut an 11-year-old girl from the team.  Write an email to her parents, explaining why.  Part )  Now you are the school principal.  Write an email to the coach who cut the girl from the team, explaining why he is being fired.

Emailing parents is a necessary but irksome job for teachers.  The risk to upsetting someone is rather high.  I once used the word ‘generosity’ to describe a bumping a deserving student from a C+ to a B-.  The parent then replied a day later that her child ‘worked hard’ and did not need any of my ‘generosity.’  Sometimes you learn the hard way.

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Conned: Episode 0

SDCC boundThree accounts.  Three computers.  If I thought it would improve my chances to heft some of the house’s scattered PCs — outdated, abandoned, or consumed by spiderwebs — down to my room, I might have risked electric shock and wolf spider bites to heave the towers into my room.  But I had three accounts, thus only three computers.

The other members of my party were working across the street at Katie’s new house, knocking down trees and feeding the sap-soaked limbs into the chipper, giving Mother Nature the ol’ Fargo-special (as I call it).  Thus, the task of procuring tickets to the  Comicon fell to me.

Now, we’ve attended comic book conventions in the past here in Baltimore and DC.  These are typically low-key affairs, occupying a single floor at the Baltimore convention center, which — to quote the Hulk — is puny in comparison to its counterparts in DC and Boston.  Still it manages to stock the panels with some pretty awesome writers and artists: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Don Rosa, and Neil Adams to name a few that I’ve seen (Batman and Uncle Scrooge fanatic that I am).
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Bourne again

Wolverine_originsIn my experience, nothing excites and unnerves a geek more than pitting his (or her) favorite imaginary character against a rival fictional character in a hypothetical showdown to the figurative death.  Nothing.  My good friend, Rodney, believes with every fiber of his being that Jason Bourne epitomizes ‘badass.’  Yeah, Matt Damon . . .  badass . . . My friend is somewhat goofy in the head.  Rodney has even gone to such lengths to name his iPhone after the chronic amnesiac, and dubbing himself ‘The Rod Identity,’ secret sidekick to the world’s most kickass secret agent  Again, the guy’s goofy in the head.

Still like all zealots, Rodney actively sought altercations with those who believed Mr. Bourne had proven himself . . . slightly less-than-awesome. As so often was the case, the argument exploded from a deep intellectual discussion on the quality of Hugh Jackman’s performance in The Wolverine while on vacation last July . . .

We had just exited the theater at Downtown Disney, a cornucopia of Disney merchandise, theme restaurants, and — my favorite — AMC theaters.  Both Ryan and Rodney, having tragically lost half-a-dozen tennis matches two weeks prior owed the gang lunch, ice cream, and a few hours at the local cineplex.  We had spent much of the day at Animal Kingdom, sweating in lines and jumping between sunshine and deluges of afternoon thunderstorms.  As the evening sky cleared, we felt grateful for the safety of soft red velvet and an air-conditioned movie theater.  I had suggested Marvel’s latest superhero tale — thus, harmonizing my love for Japanese culture with my passion for Canadian mutant assassins — at AMC’s Dine-in theater where we snacked on sushi, mozzarella sticks, and bread pudding . . . mmmm.

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Care Package for Charley Part 2

Yeah, so before we begin, I should explain that texting with my family is a creative experience, a workshop for the mind.  Most days I like to spice up our conversations in simple but unusual ways: reversing words (sdrow gnisrever), texting in the third person (Murph enjoyed Ridley Scott’s Prometheus), or conceiving complex stories moments from erupting in the midst of mundane arguments.  As an obsessive-compulsive reader, these are some of my favorite kinds of tales anyhow.  Outcasts entangled in affairs of grave importance and dire consequence . . . and zombies.  You can never go wrong with zombies. 

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Packing for Success

Stack of BooksOur yearly sojourn to Florida launches in about two weeks.  Mom and the girls are already mapping out new summer wardrobes with the fervor of gold-greedy conquistadors: new shoes, dresses, skirts, blouses, jeans, sandals and even the accursed swimsuits.  The flotsam of many a shopping excursion litter their rooms, beds, and dressers like giant jigsaw pieces, waiting to be folded, twisted and rolled into a small leather case.   After two weeks, they scamper through the halls, racing from room to room, to stuff the last tube of toothpaste, or hair gel, or razor, or shampoo. Once that’s finished, I’ll hear the screams and shouts for headphones, magazines, iPods, iPads, phones, computers, pillows, chargers, gum, water, snacks, and DVDs to ease the long drive, most of which will be spent sleeping.  Somehow during this final stage, the men of the household are inevitably blamed for moving too slow, not helping, or not panicking enough for the girls’ taste.  Yet for the boys, an hour before departure proves more than enough time to stuff underwear, socks, and the untouched dregs of the dresser drawers into a duffel, download plane tickets, and depart.  Done. Continue reading

A Question of Secret Identity

“Nerd.  Nerd.  Nerd,” Dasad muttered, pointing at the sundry collection of costumed moviegoers, the vast majority sporting Marvel-themed t-shirts.  “God, we’ve landed in some antisocial geek convention. Again.”

“It’s just a movie, dude,” I sigh.  “Try to enjoy the energy from the crowd.  Everyone’s been waiting years for this moment.”

Dasad and I had decided see the Avengers a few Saturdays ago, a day after Disney had released it here stateside to glowing reviews both from fans and reviewers alike.  Many of us, myself include, were simply happy the film was so well received as it guaranteed the superhero genre had not yet jumped the shark.   However, not everyone was enjoying the growing anticipation — not vocally at any rate.

“You do realize that you’re a computer science major, right?” I argue.  “You work all day long building databases and designing web sites.  You’re not just a geek, man.  You’re a prince.”

“Ha! And what does that make you?” he laughed.  “You dabble in every nerd world there is: super-heroes, hobbits, anime, manga, and semi-clad bishoujo figurines.  All tucked away in your parents’ basement.  What does that make you?”

“A king.  But don’t tell anyone,” I whisper.  “I’m traveling incognito.” Continue reading

Luddites in Love

Lately I’ve been immersing myself in the works of O. Henry so much so that I decided to write my own for geeks like me.  Imitating another author’s writing style is not as easy as it first sounds — mostly because the gauge for success is rather ambiguous — but anything that helps me become a better writer . . . well, I’m not going to ignore.  

Regrettably, the sibling response was decidedly mixed.   Katie really enjoyed it, while my dearest brother after some consideration responded with a ‘meh.’   Needless to say, I’m anticipating proofreading his next law brief. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story — more than Sean, at least.

Luddites in Love

With the exception of honeybees, ants, and reality TV starlets, the modern American citizen communicates more than any other species on earth.  Since the dawn of the iPod, it is said that the human species has stumbled upon the evolutionary fast-track to cyborg-ification.   Cell phones strapped to our ears; fingers typing out ten texts per picosecond; cat videos by the billions streaming on YouTube.  From dawn to dark, we expose our life’s tapestry of photos, quotes, and gossip before an expectant public like specimens in a digital zoo, to be ogled, examined, and meme-ed at the first opportunity.    The sum total of pheromones exuded by the world’s ant population palls to a day’s worth of status updates from an average college sorority. Continue reading

Comic Conned

“Seriously, Murph, you need a passport to come to these cons,” Ryan said, eyeing the rear of a particularly buxom Supergirl.  “Like a geek badge or something.”

“Yeah, thanks for being our guide and everything,” Shannon said adjusting his phone camera to fit a rather large Thor into the frame.  “I don’t know half of these costumes.  Who’s the guy in the red mask over there?  Cobra Commander?”

“No,  that’s Red Hood,” I explain eagerly.  “He’s a more recent Batman villain and former Robin.”

Last Sunday, the boys and I decided to visit the local Comic Convention for some much needed hero-action.  Lately I’ve been feeling rather isolated in the role as family driver. With the daily migration between home, Kevin’s school, Brigid’s school, Kevin’s school again, Chik-fil-a, grocery store, piano practice, and home again in addition to the arguments over the front seat and the radio stations, which frequently culminated in banshee-esque screaming, I felt the need to dip reality in liquid kryptonite for a day or so.

Most of the boys decided to tag along after I assured them that little to no anime or Japanese influences would be in attendance and that these particular conventions catered to superhero comic books.  They understood heroes, super or otherwise; manga and anime . . . well, I’m rather certain even the average Japanese citizen hasn’t a clue what’s going on.  In addition to siblings, I managed to rope my friend, Rodney, into visiting the convention as well with the promise that he will see things that “make a carnival side show or a Walmart queue look tame.” Continue reading

Undreamed Shores: Part 2

“Contractions?”  Katie whispered across the table, her voice calm and relaxed like a speeding train flying off a suspension bridge.  “How far apart do they need to be before . . ?”

“Five minutes or so.  Anything less than that and they need to haul tail to the hospital,” Dad said staring across the table.  A strange intensity had began to burn in his eyes; he shifted in his seat, hands curled before his mouth, legs flexed and eager to run — if the situation so demanded — the hundred-fifty miles back home.  Mom continued to nod at my brother’s electronic voice, now rising and falling over the receiver like a roller-coaster scream.

“Yeah . . .,” she laughed.  “Uh-huh . . .  right.  Well, ca . . . sure.  Just call if anything . . . right, sure.”

Then she ended the call, pressing the little red button and reaching for her wine glass.  My  mother allowed the alcohol to swish and twist around her mouth, savoring the subtle flavors of the pinot before answering any of our questions.  Dad’s face had alternated between several shades of volcano red and oxygen-deficient blue before spitting out the necessary question . . .

“Well?” he asked. Continue reading

My Brother Mike Is A Jackass

by Shannon Murphey

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but my brother, Mike, who styles himself here on this blog as Murph is really in truth a jackass.  It’s truly funny how nowadays essential information like this can be hidden or deleted among the wires and all the other ego-pandering junk on the internet.  By the end of the year, after reading this drivel, he might have you believing himself to be Mother Theresa or Spiderman, but trust me, in reality he wouldn’t stretch out a finger to help anyone, much less a half-dead Indian orphan or the even pope.  Nor can he shoot webs out his wrists.  He’s just a jackass.

Just last week he refused to help me clean out the kitty-litter, claiming he is allergic to the cats and ran from the room sneezing in that melodramatic way of his.  I was stuck with the job, while he snuck downstairs to play COD or Puzzle Quest.  Then for Christmas, while everyone else got cool T-shirts that read “Double Tap” or “Zombie Killer” with shotguns in place of the ‘L’s,’ that jackass got me an “I’m with Stupid” T-shirt with the arrow pointing up.  Hahaha.  Everyone got a big kick out of that one.  Just you wait Mike.  I’ll beat you down so hard, your legs will come shooting out your ears.  Who’ll look stupid then, huh?  I’ll give you hint: the correct answer lies between the letters ‘T’ and ‘V,’  you jackass.

Today was the final straw, that loser who never had a girlfriend, not even ONE while I’ve had at least a dozen (how does that make you feel, ya queer?), had the nerve to talk trash after I beat him in Mario Tennis on the Wii.  He won a single match and you would have thought he was Andre Agasi or something.  Hey, jackass, swinging the Wii-mote doesn’t make you an athlete.  If you work up a sweat from pulling your fat rear from the Lazy Boy and flapping your arms, then you should try walking up the stairs every once in a while.  When you get to the top, I’ll throw on my steel-toed boots and show you my impression of Gerard Butler in 300.

This is Sparta, ya Jackass!

Now some of you family counselors or psychiatrists might argue about family dynamics or some other hippie-shrink bullcrap that Oprah shovels out every afternoon. You want family dynamics?  Charley Keaton’s brother taught him how to skin deer when he was twelve.  Kevin Kramer’s bro taught him how to build a potato gun when he was six.  The guys would spend their summer nights laughing, driving around the neighborhood, skinning animals they’d hit while launching taters at tractor trailers.  Havin’ a frickin’ awesome time like brothers are supposed to do.  The only thing Mike taught me was growing up to be an outta-work bum blows chunks.  If he ever learned how to build a potato gun, he’d probably use it on himself.  Death by starchy french fry is more than you deserve, ya jackass.

Just last weekend, I was minding my own business, shooting Nerf arrows at my sister until she cried, when that hobbit-wannabe walked in barefoot and suggested I go read a book.  Yeah right, Frodo Gamgee, why don’t you go get yourself a real job like a construction worker or kickboxer instead of playing boy-toy and apple-polisher to old Will Shakespeare.  I may never bury Caeser or Horatio but I will bury you one day beneath your library.  As a kindness, I might open War and Peace to your favorite page before lighting it on fire and dropping it on your stupid face.  How’s that for sound and fury, ya jackass?

On second thought, maybe I’ve gone too far, said too much.  You’re not such a bad guy.  We’ve had lots of good times together, right?  Remember that time I brought my girlfriend home for dinner and you brought out those old photos of me as a kid, grinning in curls, bows, and blue skirts Mom made me wear for Halloween?  Hahaha . . . and then you posted them on Facebook for the world to see.  Ah, good times.  So many . . . good times.  You know, I think about her now and then as the pain wells in my chest, her laughter nearly ripping my heart in two, but family trumps girlfriends, right?  Of course.  And when I’m done with trumping you with this shovel, the only photogenic spot left on your body will be your pale hairy ass, ya jackass.