Tag Archives: david letterman

growing up is cool

beastie boy adam yauch died 2 days before my 39th birthday. i was on the way from durham, north carolina, to the outer banks when i heard the news from my friend bucko, who had started getting into the beastie boys recently. he’s older than i am, so they were never really on his radar. they pretty much were my radar, so he decided to figure out why i was always talking about those guys. he wasn’t disappointed. other than that with adam yauch’s death, he joins the group of folks who are sad that there won’t be more from him.

bucko’s facebook post, breaking the news to me: “i just saw the news about adam of the beasties. i know you must be very sad about this. not sure what to say. i was just getting to know their music & learning to really enjoy it. what a loss.”

adam yauch 1964-2012

i’ve written about the beastie boys here a few times before. i wrote about my realization a year ago that i wouldn’t hear their new album in stereo, and then it was the first thing i listened to after i got my hearing aid. i also referred to them as pros when it comes to making your own fun. exhibit A:

yesterday a friend posted a link to an article about MCA’s death. it’s titled “MCA, kid forever: how the beastie boys united us by never growing up” and i think that it does a good job of looking at what the beastie boys mean to a lot of folks of my generation. the link in the article is to the video of my favorite beastie boys song – it’s always in position 2 on my personal soundtrack.

but i disagree with the premise of the article, that the beastie boys never grew up. i think that they actually modeled how to grow up, and that that’s a key to the reason that they stayed relevant. the beastie boys from my teen years wouldn’t have held my attention in my 30’s.

teen years beasties:

30’s beasties:

not surprisingly, teen years beasties were mainly concerned with partying. post-911 beasties said things like, “i’m getting kind of tired of the situation, the US attacking other nations.” i don’t think that they were being preachy – i think that they were talking about things that mattered to them as adults. there aren’t many references to the iran-contra affair in “licensed to ill” – makes sense because they were in their early twenties when that album came out.

another sign of maturity: when they got a little older and wiser they started changing one piece of the lyrics to “paul revere” (a song from their first album) that they decided was too offensive. there’s a lot of irresponsible teen-partying-type stuff on that album, but they were able to discern what needed a revision. they left the irresponsible stuff alone – they didn’t scrub that album clean. they changed a bit they they couldn’t in good conscience keep saying in light of the knowledge they’d gained as they got older.

ok, how’s this for maturity – i remember watching the MTV video music awards live back in 1998 when the beastie boys were presented with a video vanguard award. when it was MCA’s turn to speak, he used his time to talk about racism towards middle-easterners and the dangers of retaliation in the war on terrorism. it’s certainly worth a watch all the way through.

the atlantic article about MCA’s death said that the beastie boys made it cool to be white. i think that the beastie boys made it cool to grow up. they showed that growing up doesn’t mean that you have to give up having fun. growing up means that the ways you have fun are different – i think specifically that the fun grown-ups have shouldn’t be at the expense of other folks. i’ve always gotten the feeling that the beastie boys put a really high priority on doing things that amused themselves. a few examples:

and of course, possibly the coolest video over made:

it has always given me a smug sense of satisfaction that two of my favorite folks – elvis costello and david letterman – are big fans of the beastie boys. it seems like the boys always went the extra mile when they were on the late show. here’s an example:

and an amazing thing that happened on the SNL 25th anniversary show:

adam yauch was 47 when he passed away. part of his legacy was the example he gave of how to have fun and still be responsible in your forties. i’ll be there in less than a year, and i hope i can do as good of a job of it as he did. i’m sad that he won’t be leading the way into the fifties, but i’m looking forward to seeing how adam horovitz and mike diamond do it, if we’re all fortunate enough to get there.

i should also mention that nathaniel hörnblowér passed away this week.

here’s a rare interview with mike, adam, and mr. hörnblowér:

“i’m glad to know that all the love that yauch has put out into the world is coming right back at him.” ~adam horovitz


make your own fun

someone recently said to me, “i hope you aren’t bored.” i replied that i’m never bored. which got me to thinking about it. and truly i’m never bored. but why?

i think that being an only child is a big factor. now, i know what you think about only children – that their parents cater to their every whim. i think that that’s one kind of only child, and i’m another – my parents mostly dug having me around when i was a kid but they also had their own lives, and they expected me to be able to entertain myself. some childhood highlights are writing and filming super-8 movies, endless scavenger hunts, and the “children’s craft fair” my friend tammy and i put on (with help from our families). i was fortunate to have a cool big backyard and to grow up somewhere where i could ride my bike and walk around by myself. i had lots of benevolent neighbors on my block, and the fabulous two strike park was just down the street.

also, as a former elementary school teacher and foster parent, i know that i should be prepared. i always have a book with me, and paper and a pen so i can write a letter. i often have my quiddler deck and a pad of madlibs in case there are other folks around to join me in my fun.

as an adult, i think that i continue to make steady progress in the making your own fun department. here are a few examples:

psychic greeting card

this game was invented with an ex while we were waiting for a flight at the portland airport. the gift shop had a rack of greeting cards. we separately went into the shop and picked a card from the rack, trying to intuit the card the other one would choose. we wrote notes on the cards and exchanged them.

now i play psychic greeting card with my friend molly. we choose a theme – the most recent one was “embarking on a new adventure” – and then on the same day we each go to a card store (she’s in california and i’m in oregon) and intuitively pick a card.

molly's most recent psychic greeting card is on my fridge.


i like to make bingo cards. when i’m in a frustrating situation, making a bingo card makes me feel better. i’ve made bingo cards for staff meetings, for a class i took with an especially awful instructor, and for many inservice trainings. yes, it’s passive-aggressive, but it’s a victimless crime. i have a reason to stay interested (i’m rooting for my coworker to say, “we tried that 30 years ago and it didn’t work” because that gives me 4 in a row) and i don’t revert to my default middle schooler mode of smartass. so really, everyone benefits.

you realize of course that you may never make a kriste bingo card.

bingo cards can also be used for good. my 3/4/5 grades class made bingo cards before we went on a hike – we brainstormed things we might see. yep, some kids figured out that they could arrange dirt, grass, a stick, and the sky, all in line with the free space, and more power to ’em. my friend zari and i once created a very complete game of “late show bingo” out of our love for david letterman. i found the cards when i cleaned out my file cabinet this spring. good times.

a lot of good stuff here, but "dave smells the guest" might be my favorite.


when i was teaching primary multiage, i had a student i’ll call pedro. pedro drew a picture of a dinosaur with someone in its mouth. he elbowed the kid next to him, pointed at the mouth, and said “that’s you.” the school leadership leaped into action. i was asked if we should fear violence from pedro. my response was something like, “yep. if pedro has a dinosaur, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

my coworkers and i decided that pedro had a good plan – drawing pictures of our enemies being eaten by dinosaurs was a pretty good way of relieving stress. melanie uses the technique during grading periods:

jaqui has used it as a frustration-management technique with her middle school students:

jaqui's dinosaur-inspired art.

i once enlisted another student’s help in drawing a picture of melanie.

i think that "wha! mommy" was a nice touch.

drinking games

drinking games are similar to bingo cards. in my twenties i made a drinking game for the tv soap “all my children” – i don’t think that i ever played it. the fun was in coming up with it. i enjoy saying, “we should make a drinking game for this” when confronted with frustrating situations. i’m making a drinking game about a frustrating meal that i regularly eat (the kids call that “vaguebooking”). this year i was at a high school graduation with my friend vickie, and during the reading of the names of the graduates we came up with a drinking game. we decided that you should drink when someone has only two names, or four or more names. laughing about it got us through this year, but i’ll come prepared if any of you invite me to a graduation ceremony next year.

make a shirt about it

i like to make iron-on t-shirts. i’ve been known to make a shirt with a quote about someone i’m frustrated with and wear it under the rest of my clothes when i have to interact with that person. i think that i feel a little like what clark kent feels like knowing that he has his superman duds on under his suit.

this is the best shirt i've ever made. velcro letters so i could change the first part. perfect for intimidating opponents.


having a cool name for whatever fun you’re making is important (see psychic greeting card above). my dear friends and childhood neighbors the charnows know this. michael’s hatred of celery has led to an annual party called celeryfest. madalaine had the idea to make an outdoor bowling alley. we came up with a name – the midnight bowlers – and made a portable bowling kit of 10 real pins, a bowling ball, and a long strip of astroturf for the lane. we’d load it up in the car and practice random acts of bowling.

scholars believe that these were the first midnight bowlers.

eventually there were several chapters of the midnight bowlers – “it’s always midnight somewhere.” michael gave madalaine a bowling-themed pinball machine. erin painted captain underpants on a bowling pin for me – it’s currently proudly displayed on my mantel. i sometimes bowl on sunday with friends – we call it the church of the ten pins.

oh. now i see why my grandma called my hair a rat's nest.

card games

when i taught 4th grade, i realized that i had a captive group to play card games with. i like the social skills that can be modeled and practiced during a good card game. and the shared experience of playing a game with a group of people. my two favorites are spoons and i doubt it (you might know it as b.s.).

"do we really have to play i doubt it again, ms. york?"

around that same time, i was developing a serious quiddler habit. quiddler is a card word game – kind of like scrabble but played in rounds and with letters on cards. it’s really, really a great game.

madalaine goes ultimate in quiddler.

now i’m loving apples to apples. if you ever see me with a group of 3 or more people, i’m probably thinking about how i can convince them to play apples to apples with me.

here are a few pros making their own fun:

i guess that the moral is that you can’t always depend on other people to make your fun for you. sometimes you have to make your own. and the more you practice, the better you’ll get.