Responding to Tod Goldberg

Tod Goldberg has so outdone himself with this very funny post that I feel compelled to respond to him on a point-by-point basis:

1. Whenever I see young children, I do my best to keep my “fucks” to a minimum. I am a polite person. But because I say “fuck” with a cheerful frequency in many social settings, this effort at restraint often backfires. A parent then looks to me, as if putting the face to a photograph she has seen on the Megan’s Law database (never mind that I have no tattoos and don’t look particularly creepy when I have remembered to shave), when I am only treating the kid as an adult and I am only trying to be friendly.

The way I figure it, on any given day, a child bears a considerable brunt harsh linguistical terminology. Indeed, if the environment I experienced two decades ago is comparable to the present, a child’s schoolyard pals are likely to say things far cruder and decidedly more pernicious than anything I could possibly posit in my early thirties. I wish these parents would understand that I reserve my true invective for the true assholes of the world. More often than not, they generally aren’t six years old, even if they may act that way. (To this day, I cannot muster up much in the way of anger towards a character like Richie Rich, despite the great likelihood that he will grow up to be an insufferable asshole. Bless the good folks at Harvey Comics for not going that postpubescent distance.)

Mr. Goldberg’s observations, then, don’t even begin to scratch the surface of a hypocritical double standard that nobody wants to talk about. Are kids really as innocent as their parents claim them to be? Will they really be permanently scarred if they hear about serial killers or overhear the word “fuck?” Are they not more resilient?

(The other thing I don’t get, while we’re on the subject, is how this “don’t swear” dictum is likewise associated with old people, as if old people have never done drugs, fucked in unusual positions, or otherwise experienced active or accidental debauchery — or, for that matter, are presently incapable of misbehaving. This assumption presumes that old people are somehow lesser, which is certainly not the case at all. If anything, with more years on their belt, old people have probably committed countless acts that would cause mere straplings to blush. Ergo, hail the old people! Hail the children! Hail all chronological representatives of the human race!)

2. It isn’t wrong to be obsessed with a song at all. The world today produces more covers of any given tune than it generally needs, presumably because there’s a paucity of vanguards operating at the musical forefront. (Justin Timberlake’s Futuresex/Loveshow? I don’t think so. I find the idea of Justin Timberlake as a sex symbol repellent and ethically objectionable — in part, because this semiotic juxtaposition spawns a terrifying image of Timberlake indolently grunting over a twenty-two-year-old who never bothered to try it any other way but missionary. I have come close to vomiting upon seeing that clean-cut, take-no-chances, white-suited assclown’s image on the subway, caught frozen as he attempts to dance, his spindly wrist barely able to clutch the mike. He cannot dance. Perhaps it’s because he is trying to do too many things. It’s bad enough that he cannot dance during the course of a performance. But the still image in question — if you have seen it — demonstrates that even caught during his best moment, posed to promote some Timberlake ideal, he is a clear incompetent.)

But I have digressed. I usually do.

Okay, cover songs. Every once in a while, there is a good one like Kate Bush’s version of “Rocket Man” or Scissor Sisters’ “Comfortably Numb.” And it is certainly better than Timberlake. So long as Mr. Goldberg isn’t searching around for clips of Justin Timberlake on YouTube, I think the world will be safe for democracy.

3. I don’t think there have been many suicides that ended up clean and grief-free for a suicidalist’s friends and family. In fact, because suicide is such a selfish and shitty thing to do to other people, it doesn’t interest me in the slightest. I’ve always figured that if you were curious enough about life, you could carry on living quite well. I think the happiest people are often those who are the most curious, those willing to find joy and laughter in everything, those who are determined to keep on going in spite of the world’s many faults because the human race does something pretty stellar every once in a while. Or at least this is the sort of “happiest person” I like hanging around. Of course, I bring my own judgments to the table, like any curious savage, although they are always subject to change. One man’s “happy” is another person’s “insufferable,” as the old saying goes.

If Mr. Goldberg is going through something right now, I apologize if I am coming across like some flippant asshole. I don’t intend to. I’m simply trying to understand his question myself, and I don’t think I have an answer.

4. Even if a writer can live up to tough assessments, he will unceasingly believe at some point that he is misunderstood, only to be whacked in the head by a benevolent colleague, persuaded to snap out of it, and proceed to produce.

5. We all want to believe that the Raiders have some kind of chance. This is one of the purposes that the Raiders serve. And if they started winning, then they really wouldn’t be so much fun to root for. They are, as I have written elsewhere, a glorious team of thugs. The players who go onto the field, and commit all manner of needlessly violent plays which then elicit many penalties. And it’s the same each year. Their reliance upon veteran quarterbacks (Rich Gannon and now Daunte Culpepper) is quite wild. They rely upon guys who simultaneously advance yards and throw intereceptions (as Gannon did five times in the 2003 super Bowl), often in the same four downs.

In other words, this is not a team to rely upon. But they are great fun to watch and to hope for.

There were several other points here that Mr. Goldberg addressed, but I fear this may be too long a post. Perhaps what’s necessary here is to have all blog responses to blog responses start with Tod Goldberg.


  1. No comments on this yet?! I can’t believe it. All I have to say is—that paragraph about JT grunting over a girl faded in and out of my head yesterday btw—you’ve given way too much thought to this Justin Timberlake subject.

  2. The Raiders were one of the best teams in the league for ages, and though they’re a joke now teams turn things around real quickly these days.

  3. I am a parent of two young girls, and it would never occur to me to approach someone in the street (or bagel shop, or market, or whereever) and tell them not to say the word ‘serial killer’ or ‘fuck’ or even ‘ass-fucker’. But it also wouldn’t occur to me, consciously anyway, to say such words in front of the kids’ ears. (I say consciously, of course, because there is always the matter of moron drivers pulling in front of one suddenly, or the matter of stubbed toes, which just last night led to ‘fuckleducklepucklberry’ in front of the girls. One does what one can.) The point is we all very clearly have our own ideas of appropriate, and the world’s problems (big one coming) all arise from the fact that our own ideas collide with others. The goal, for me anyway, in raising kids, is making clear what OUR ideas are (within the family) and letting the girls know what WE (my wife and I) consider appropriate or not – so that when we leave the hearing of the fool in the bagel shop, we can, if we choose, let the girls know that in our family we don’t talk that way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *