Archive | January, 2012

Guest DorkDad: Alan Kercinik

8 Jan

here I went out of my way to explain how we did not name our soon-to-be-born child after Spider-man, Alan Kercinik writes in a letter to his sons about how in fact he did just the opposite. Alan has blogged for some time at AlwaysJacked.com. After reading just the first few lines it’s a wonder Alan and I haven’t crossed paths (webs) sooner.

As always, if you have a story to tell about your dorkdaddy-ness, whether your a mom, a dad, an aunt, an uncle or a grandparent, you are more than welcome to share that story here. Visit this page to learn how.

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Dear Jack Peter and Reid Parker –

I feel like an explanation is in order. Or at least some clarity.

I love comic books. Even though you are both younger than three, you both probably know this by now.

That love does have some limits. I don’t dress up at conventions. I have no plan to dedicate entire rooms of our house to an extensive collection of action figures. I promise there is no Bat Cave secreted away in some hidden sub basement. Although, sometimes, I wish there were.

But I’ve been reading comic books since before I started kindergarten. This probably seems like no big deal now, with fifty superhero movies coming out every summer. But it wasn’t always that way.

When I was a boy, there was something seedy and almost illicit about reading comic books. They had the whiff of the pulps from an earlier era, a low rent entertainment meant for the kind of geeks and loners who obsessed over things like parallel earths and the scientific possibility of having a body that could stretch like rubber. Someday soon, you’ll be able to download comic books directly to your cerebral cortex. Times change.

But some things have remained the same, which is why I keep reading. These things are the closest I’ll ever come to a personal coda.

“One man can make a difference.

Always try to do what is right, not what is convenient.

If you have special abilities and talents, it is your duty and responsibility to use them for good and as best you can.”

Which brings us to your middle names.

Naming is a tricky thing. Because names have a sort of power. Your mother and I strove for a contradictory ideal: names that were unique, but classic.

So that meant names that would suit your whole life, not just your boyhood (Billy!) or retirement (Gus). When Reid was born, we hoped the two of you would share an immediate bond. (A psychic bond would have been nice, but that is out of the current scope of both technology and our personal finances.)

Jack, your middle name is your grandfather’s, as we wanted something that bound you to your mother’s side of the family. But when it came time to pick a name for Reid, Parker was my idea.

Put the two of you together and you get Peter Parker.

Spider-Man has always been the hero who I related to most. Peter Parker was a shy bookwork who was ridiculed for liking what he liked as a boy. One bite from a radioactive spider later and he has new powers and a new identity that he made up for himself. He had confidence and a snappy sense of humor that hid when he was scared or insecure.

You both could do considerably worse than live up to your namesake’s example. I just hope it doesn’t take my death for you to realize there is a better way to live your life than being self-centered and selfish.

We are here for a reason, boys, and that is to try and make our little corners of the world a better place. You both have the power to do that, as your mother and I already know so well. I hope you try to live up to the responsibility that power demands. You don’t always have to succeed, mind you. But you do have to try.

And before you go rolling your eyes, just know this. It could have been a hell of a lot worse. Jack, your first name could have been Kal-El if your mother had gone along with it. Or your middle names could be Batman and Robin.

Love to you both,

Dad

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Alan Kercinik bloggs at AlwaysJacked.com. Show the fellow DorkDaddy some love and spend a little time at his site.

-Dork Dad

Dork Digest

6 Jan

ith so much traffic yesterday it seems that this would be a good opportunity to give our new readers a chance to get to know us. Below you’ll find some of our favorite Dorkdaddy.com posts. Please feel free to explore them at your leisure. As always, the point of a venture like this is to engage with the readers, so please leave your comments and reactions with reckless abandon.

OK. We were allowed to use the word

Science Isn’t Just For Girls

“Critters”

In this post I give an account of how I’ve tried to teach my daughter that science is the coolest subject out there, as well as pass on the values we learn from science that will serve my children well in all aspects of their lives. It connects quite nicely with yesterday’s post.

That

Return Of The Jedi

Part 1” and “Part 2

An account of a face-to-face encounter my son recently had with Darth Maul, and the lessons this parent learned about rushing your kids into things.

 

Yeah. After that story I bet you

Birthday Potty

“The Bowels Of Hell”

A harrowing experience with a newly potty-trained kid at a public bathroom, and a message to all mothers regarding the men’s room. We’ve all been there.

 

Happy anniversary honey. The astute observer will notice the headlight in the foreground. It WILL happen someday. This I vow.

Porsche vs. Minivan

“Swagger Dad”

We all swore in our 20’s that we’d never do it, but getting a minivan when you’re a parent is about as inevitable as getting gray hair. You might as well make peace with it.

 

When my son needs a fix, he goes to Joe. He knows Joe has the good stuff.

Kids and Comicbooks

“Meet Joe” and “Comics Aren’t For Kids Anymore”

The first post is about sharing the love of the comic book culture with your kids. The second is about why you almost can’t these days. But fear not, there is still hope.

 

 

 

Indorktrination

“Dork Dad’s 10-step Guide…”

Whether it’s religion, politics, 49ers vs. Raiders, or Marvel vs. DC just follow these simple steps to brainwash your children into a lifetime of the dogma of your choice.

-Dork Dad

From Marlin Perkins to Adam Savage

5 Jan

ome of my very earliest memories are from the days when my mom worked the night shift at the hospital, and my dad had to pick me up from daycare after work. He would bring me home and the two of us would have bachelor night – which ultimately meant Van Camp’s pork and beans (with hotdogs) for dinner on the ottoman, in the living room while watching “Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” hosted by Marlin Perkins. This was priceless father/son time because I knew there was no way Mom would approve of us eating Van Camp’s on the ottoman if she were home. Dad and I were having our buddy time.

Marlin Perkins - everybody's cool grandpa in the 70's

I can’t say if it was the “buddy time” association with “Wild Kingdom”, or just my natural aptitude for science, but that show stuck with me. I remember Marlin Perkins very vividly – sort of a Walt Disney-esque with a genuine love of nature which, perhaps, shifted him enough away from the mainstream to qualify as mildly dorky. For whatever reason his enthusiasm resonated with me, and to this day I love watching those nature shows.

I’ve mentioned before what a high value I put on science, particularly with respect to passing on a love of it to my children. For my part, before I was a dentist I was a middle school science teacher, and I took that role as seriously as I do parenting. I believe in my heart that to spark a love (rather than fear) of science, the teacher has to be a little bit quirky, incredibly enthusiastic and quite frankly, dorky. I tried to be that person for my students, and even more so for my children. But I can’t be the only influence. My efforts have to be supported in countless other ways, by my children’s teachers and by the science “celebrities” that they are exposed to via other mediums.

Slim Goodbody - would you let your kid spend time around a dude dressed like that? I don't think so.

Looking back at my life I can remember a string of science “celebrities” that stoked and fanned the flames of my love of science. Marlin Perkins was the first. I remember him as fondly as you would remember your own grandfather, and I am incredibly grateful for those evenings he shared with me and my Dad. There was also Slim Goodbody who regularly inhabited the space between Saturday morning cartoons, and the occasional after school special. He wore a borderline inappropriate body suit which illustrated the major organs of the body, and talked about how the body worked, and what we needed to keep ourselves healthy. Between his bad 70’s whiteman afro, and the cornball songs and dances he performed, he ranked a 10.0 on the dorky richter scale, and I loved him for it.

"Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill Nye The Science Guy!"

Later there was Bill Nye The Science Guy who was originally a professional comedian, but found his stride making a science for kids TV show playing the quirky, dorky, bow tied, mad scientist, and then later advocating for all things science as a public speaker. He was dorky in the extreme, and I ate it up.

Then there was Bob Shalit, my high school chemistry teacher. He was certifiably crazy, but brilliant. You never knew what was going to blow up in his classroom, and he had

Steve "Croc Hunter" Irwin. I never knew you, but I loved you.

that glint in his eye that said “I’m not sure how big this boom is going to be. It could be pretty big. But how cool would that be?” I credit him with giving me my first taste of academic science, and for making it fun. Later in adulthood came Jeff Corwin, the more academic, nerdy animal lover, and the indomitable, completely batsh*t-crazy, totally lovable Steve “Crock Hunter” Irwin.

So there it is, my path to science nerd/dorkdom. As my kids grow I have kept an eye out for what science “celebrities” are going to play the same role in their lives, and the picture is beginning to take shape.

Chris and Martin Kratt... the animated versions.

On sleepy weekend mornings my kids crawl in our bed, and while we are all snuggled together they like to watch “Wild Kratts”, an animated show where real-life brothers Chris and Martin Kratt explore the animal-world with super powered suits that give them the characteristics and abilities of the animals they’re studying. It’s super cheesy. It’s super dorky, and my kids love it. They’ve learned more about honey badgers, tazmanian devils, beavers and fireflies from “Wild Kratts” than I could ever teach them. Chris and Martin Kratt are clearly the next link in the evolutionary chain of science/nature show hosts – and I can say with authority that their dork-credentials are of the highest caliber.

Recently though another routine has emerged in our family with echoes of me and my father eating Van Camps with Marlin Perkins. I’m lucky enough to be able to go home for lunch every day, and while my kindergartener daughter is at still at school, my pre-schooler son us usually home. My lunch time is my down time. I need to wall myself off from the world and decompress before going back out there, so I usually wind up shutting myself in my bedroom with a bowl of cold cereal, sitting up on the bed and watching whatever TiVo has waiting for me… typically the stuff that my wife doesn’t like to watch.

That means “Mythbusters”.

These people have my dream job.

If the Kratt brothers are the next link in the evolutionary chain of science show hosts, Adam, Jamie and the rest of the “Mythbusters” crew are evolution’s crowning achievement and pinnacles of perfection. These folks let their nerd-flags fly high. And the brilliance of the show is that they take that slightly crazy Bob Shalit, crazy high school science teacher eye glint and amp it up to catastrophic proportions – all while using the scientific method as the framework for a scientifically sound, totally entertaining narrative. It’s crazy. It’s genius. It’s real science. For my money it’s one of the most intelligent shows on television; and quite by accident it’s hooked my son.

I don’t quite remember how it started, but a few months ago while I was holed up in my bedroom at lunchtime eating cold cereal and watching “Mythbusters”, my son quietly came in, crawled up on the bed, snuggled down, and started to watch with me. This has gone on for some time now (Can I watch Mythbusters with you, Daddy?) enough that it has become a regular thing, something I look forward to and miss when it doesn’t happen. I don’t know if he does it just to be with me, or if he genuinely likes the show, or if it’s some combination of the two. But yesterday as I sat there with him I was struck by two thoughts:

1)      When my son has his own kids and blogs about the very first influences that sparked his interest in science he will likely talk about Martin and Chris Kratt, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.

2)      He will also likely blog about how these afternoons, alone together in my bedroom with a bowl of cereal in front of “Mythbusters”, was priceless father/son time, knowing full well that there was no way his Mom, under any other circumstances, would approve of us eating cold cereal on the bed and watching science TV during the day.

If it were Van Camp’s and “Wild Kindgom” it could almost be the 70’s, with me and my own father.

Marlin Perkins would be proud. I know my dad is.

-Dork Dad

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