Saturday, July 07, 2012

Advice to the New Graduate

My son graduated from high school last month and is heading for a college with a strong science and engineering focus next month. The Significant Other and I took him to the local Panera Bread restaurant to celebrate. As we munched, I shared with Shmoikel the fatherly advice gained from my own experiences at Princeton University in 1976-1980, during the glorious Jimmy Carter years. I figured that fashion changes, but technology moves more gradually, and what worked for me in the 1970s would no doubt prove useful for Shmoikel in the 2010s.

"First, you'll need a good solid desk for your IBM Selectric," I opined. "They're excellent typewriters but they are on the heavy side, so you'll want sturdy support. I'm sure the university will have something designed for one of them. If you want to work on the plane ride up thereI know I need to book the flight on PeoplExpress for youyou can use a portable typewriter. I guess the new term for those is 'laptop.'"

"Sure thing, Dad," he said, writing notes on his tried-and-true tablet, which I got him for his birthday several years ago. This is the old-school, reliable tablet, the kind you write on with chalk. They're great for students on the go who need to take notes.

"You'll also want to be ready for your programming classes. You may find the punchcards complex in the beginning, but a bright guy like you will get the hang of it," I explained. "You've got good dexterity, just shuffle them and your 75 percent of the way there."

"I've heard about punchcardsthey're still cutting-edge, you think?" Shmoikel said, sounding dubious.

"Oh, definitely," I said.

"And don't forget your slide rule," added the Significant Other, who sent her kid to college several years ago and knows first-hand what's required on these Eastern college campuses.

We left Panera's confident that Shmoikel will be ready for whatever comes his way. He'll be registering to vote for the first time. As a great fan of civic involvement, this thrills me. I'm already prepping him for a repeat of the 1980 election, when a certain floundering Democrat ran against a certain confident Republican, with the Iranians causing problems. I'd like to say he should get on the right side of history like I did, but you know how kids are these days.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Some Empathy for Tom Cruise

Now that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are divorcing, Cruise will eventually be back on the market. I'm the last guy he needs dating advice from, given gorgeous co-stars and the long line of dating interests from the past.

What I can offer him is some empathy. We're both over 50 and he's just slightly taller than me, 5'7", which sounds pretty good given that I'm 5'5 1/2" on a charitable day. Height matters because Cruise is getting some pummeling these days as writers dredge up comments about his height in fleshing out stories about his marriages and even his films. I'll set the religious issues aside for now.

The quote that really made me gulp came from Mrs. Cruise No. 2, Nicole Kidman, the Amazon from Oz, who stuck the knife in when she was divorcing Cruise in 2001 after a decade of marriage. The quote showing up everywhere is this:
When David Letterman asked the Moulin Rouge star how she was handling her divorce from Cruise in 2001, the actress poked fun at her ex-husband's 5'7" stature. "I can wear heels now," she teased.
In good fun or not, the height difference and the comment take me back to my online dating days. Women and their high heels! That combination sank embryonic contacts before we even had a chance to meet. I heard that kind of comment several times -- you're too short, I like to wear heels, I need a taller man. At some point does that thinking become obvious as self-defeating, or does it remain a primal romantic sorting mechanism, in the eternal quest for the bigger, badder bringer of the DNA for the next generation? In your late 40s and 50s, I can't see the rugged DNA angle being much of an issue, but height-as-qualifier retains its allure, as I know from being on the short end of the measuring stick several times.

While Cruise hasn't had any trouble dating and mating women taller than him, the post-divorce comments about his height and other even more intimate issues, courtesy of Mrs. Cruise No. 1, Mimi Rogers, who called Cruise "celibate," have got to sting. Nobody likes to see their physical attributes or bedroom behavior slagged in the press. I imagine this all bounces off of Cruise, and won't deter him from finding the next 20-something Tall Girl to be Mrs. Cruise No. 4. Still, I hope, just talking guy to guy here, neither Holmes nor her eventual replacement pops off about the guy on these issues. If Tom Cruise isn't safe from that kind of talk, none of us are.

Car Stories

[For an open-mic performance of this essay, follow this link .] My name is Van. I’m named after a car, the 1950s British racecar called ...