Friday, September 19, 2008

Enjoy family life

The other day, right around noon, I went out for a run and the eldest rode along on her bike to keep me company. The sky was blue and the sun was shining, and it was a good time. We talked as I wheezed and flopped along for 3 miles.

We got done and walked back. As we turned the corner and could see the front of our house, I saw what I thought were two fat gypsy women approaching my front door. My heart started beating faster again as I looked around for a vehicle, but I didn't see one. What the f*ck are they doing at my house, I thought--does our house look so run down and unkempt that it looks like a feeble old person who'd make a good target for a gypsy scam lives there?

I told the eldest to slow up, but before I could figure out how to approach, the suspects walked off my front porch and toward the neighbor's house. I got a better look and saw that they weren't gypsies after all.

Aha, I told my daughter, they're not scam artists, they're bible thumpers going door to door. Nothing to fear. We still went in through the back door so we wouldn't have to deal with them if they saw us from the neighbor's front porch.

I found that they'd left a pamphlet for our spiritual uplift, which was thoughtful of them. To tell you the truth, I haven't even read the pamphlet yet because I've been so fascinated by the picture on its cover:

Where do I start with this? My first question was, is this meant to look like a formal family portrait, or just a snapshot taken by a kind stranger on a family outing in the park? Is the essence of the happy family conveyed by their whiteness and one son/one daughter perfection? Are pleated khaki trousers and a moderately short, but not so short it's intimidating haircut essential to being a good dad?

The family does look happy, no doubt about that. And why wouldn't they be happy--they have an enormous macaw! An enormous macaw that looks poised to crap all over mom's head. And let me tell you something--a bird that size produces some truly impressive droppings.

Maybe the bird is empty and mom's not worried. I'm still somewhat concerned by the use of a large bird to symbolize happiness. The bird is even blue--the blue bird of happiness? I don't know. What I do know is that when I see someone holding a bird like this I think someone's about to get bitten, hard, in the face. We have experience with this.

Junior is clearly pleased, excited and fascinated by the macaw. Mom is smiling the smile of the medicated and is either looking blankly (but pleasantly) at junior, or thinking of undoing dad's belt with her teeth. I'm not sure. The dogs appear oblivious to the presence of the bird, which I'm telling you, as the owner of small dogs, is not likely. The dog in the center of the frame looks off into the middle distance, somewhere past the girl. The girl seems pleased to be in charge of the dogs. The little dog in the right corner stares straight at the camera. I can't read that dog's expression. He's inscrutable.

None of the people in this picture appear to be interacting with any of the other people around them: dad's looking at the bird, junior's looking at the bird, or at some point vaguely between the bird and dad's face, mom--well, I mentioned her already--and the girl has the dogs.

Maybe a happy family is a symmetrical family. You get the whole nuclear family and their prop animals and set them up in a balanced way, and from that balance comes harmony, and from the harmony, happiness:

Left, looking right:

Dog #1

Right, looking left:


Looking straight at the camera:

Dog #2

Maybe I should actually read the pamphlet and see what this is all about. Well, I hope y'all enjoy your own family life, or at least enjoy your weekend.


SamuraiFrog said...

"The Inscrutablity of Dogs" sounds like it should be a Tom Waits album.

I do have to say, if I had a great big macaw and if I handed it to the right someone and they got bitten in the face... I'd be as happy as that happy family on the happy pamphlet of happiness.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

It's got Jehovah's Witnesses written all over it.

DCup said...

This is exactly the kind of conversation that the people at 'Tits HQ would have about a picture like that.

I'm leaning toward some sort of zen that is achieved by bird ownership combined with lack of personal interaction.

Which sounds kind of like a perfect day to me.....

Cap'n Ergo "Carthage" Jinglebollocks said...

Wha?? A mccaw?? Don't large birds basically have the temperment of a 2 year old for the 20+ years of their lives? I remember hearing at the Pittsburgh Aviary that large birds actually make TERRIBLE family pets because they're loud and needy-- best suited for folken who are at home all day long and can attend to their every whim.

And you're right-- shouldn't there be a FOCAL POINT to this whole thing? Like, a sunbeam representing God, or something?

And what would whats-his-name, that Russian author think? The one who said, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Or didn't they HAVE J.W.'s canvassing in Russia back then?

Cap'n Ergo "Carthage" Jinglebollocks said...

Oh, and this reminds me of a Jewish friend of mine who, when he saw a 40' tall neon cross on the side of a hill, sadly shook his head and muttered, "A Jew would never do that..."

justacoolcat said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that gets nervous when I think gypsies are approaching my house.

Living on a parkway it happens almost weekly.

DivaJood said...

When I looked at the picture, I thought, "Of course Dad's happy. Mom's going to undo his belt with her teeth." I never even registered the Macaw, because what is a White Bread Family like that doing with a tropical bird in a park anyway?

Gypsys would have at least left good music.

randomgal said...

What a happy, perfect family! The forgotten older brother has knives in his room...

Dr Zibbs said...

Nice Avatar. I just wrote a post about you.

SkylersDad said...

The bird is an advanced form of being from a distant galaxy sent here to scout our world for terraforming.

The mom and kids are obviously under it's mind control, that dad is leaning back, trying to resist, the dogs are happy because they have been promised that they get to dine on all the humans.

kirby said...

A lot of my mom's siblings are Witnesses, and I can say from personal experience that not a one of them has any business lecturing other people on the subject of family happiness and how to achieve it. You could never find a more messed up, dysfunctional, miserable bunch of people.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm pretty sure the macaw is their god. They are just about to sacrifice the puppies to appease it.

Doc said...

I have to admit that there is a lot of merit in your conclusions.

1. Mom is going for the belt buckle in a big way and she is going to shoo the children and wildlife away as she does it.

2. The girl with the dogs has been super-imposed onto the picture as no dog would just relax with that big of a bird within 20'.

3. The key to their happy family life might be in the pamphlet, but I'm willing to stake large amounts of cash that it might not be the key to Your happy family. From the sound of it, you have a damn good family life to begin with, what could these photoshoppers possibly add? A lotto ticket to the tune of six billion? A newspaper with the front page story confirming all your candidates got elected as well as giving you all the scores to every game to be played in the next six months? Couldn't they have penciled in an angel toting his golf bag and carrying a tray of martinis? If this is the book on ultimate happiness, why isn't Mom showing more clevage?

Spot on post and glad to see you back at it again.


Cormac Brown said...

Let's see...

Macaw? Nope, I've never had one.

Dogs? Mistah Landlord won't let us have any pets, though some of the neighbors are loud boors, I mean, boars.

Wife? I've got one of those and she makes me very happy.

Kids? I have one, singular and he makes me happy. Yet, somehow I feel so inadequate without the macaw, the khakis and those pills that the wife in that picture grinds up and puts into their morning o.j.

Dale said...

Maybe inside you're warned about the dangers of taking your eyes off the bird and each other? I dunno. Effing gypsy preachers.

Freida Bee said...

I think the macaw has been photoshopped in. Who takes a bird to a park? I think there was originally a big lollipop in the pic.

(I was going to admit that I thought "or thinking of undoing dad's belt with her teeth" was hot, but then I looked back at the picture and am now (more) troubled (than ususal).)

GETkristiLOVE said...

You were out having a great time with your kid and actually interacting with her, while some bible thumpers left you a pamphlet encouraging you to enjoy family life... oh, the irony!

Katie Schwartz said...

I love this post. I love this post. I love it!

when you break it down, is this a happy family? And what constitutes a happy family? Why is this image the symbol of happiness? There is no interaction, but plenty of distractions and lots of staging.


Johnny Yen said...

By my admittedly non-professional observations, I'd say you're doing pretty well on the family life. Even without the macaw.

dguzman said...

This whole family (bird included) has been photoshopped together, hence the weird non-interaction points of view. Either that, or Single Mom has taken the kids to the park, only to meet a mysterious (and perfectly pressed) stranger with a tropical bird and a mysterious past....

Little daughter's seen this happen too many times to even bother paying attention to generic "new daddy's" attempts to con the kids into liking him.

Dimwitted son's just impressed with the big bird. Typical.

Next, on the Lifetime Movie Network. Starring Robert Foxworth as "The Bird Man of Mystery," Lindsey Wagner (or Tori Spelling in a pinch) as "Mom," and whatever generic tots you can find on the backlot as "Son" and "Daughter." Mark my words: "Daughter" will grow up to be a hooker. (but that's NEXT week's Lifetime Movie)