Anything I can do they can do better

This morning my sons will complete a five-week course in cartooning that they’ve been taking at the San Francisco studio of the awesome Sirron Norris.

I took some Saturday-morning cartooning classes when I was around their age, and now that they have too, there is nothing left that I could do as a kid that they can’t. But there’s plenty that they can do that I can’t, even as an adult.

My kids Me as a kid Me as an adult
Cartooning yes yes yes
Swimming yes yes yes
Bicycling yes yes yes
Succeeding at school/work yes yes yes
Inexhaustible capacity for enjoying Star Wars and Lego yes yes no
Playing baseball yes no kinda
Playing a musical instrument yes no1 kinda
Martial arts yes no no
Choral singing yes no no
Gymnastics yes no no
Skiing yes no no

1“Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder doesn’t count.

It’s like they’re not ordinary kids. They’re… superkids!

Over their darnedest heads

Jonah and Archer, ages 9 and 7, recently had occasion to watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. They thought it was hilarious and quoted it around the house for a few days.

A week or so after they saw it there was this conversation between them:

Archer: What was Bill and Ted’s favorite number again?
Jonah [authoritatively]: Sixty-eight.
Archer [puzzled]: Sixty-eight?
Jonah: Yep. Sixty-eight. …It might have been seventy-eight.
Archer: I don’t get what’s funny about that.
Jonah: Me neither. But it was definitely either seventy-eight or sixty-eight.

O say can God bless America the beautiful

It was Little League day at AT&T Park yesterday, and when we got to the Giants game against the A’s it was already the fourth inning. (We’d spent the morning at Maker Faire.) So we missed the ritual singing of the national anthem at the beginning of the game.

I was therefore surprised when, at the beginning of the seventh inning stretch, fans were asked to stand and remove their hats for “God Bless America.” (My infrequent visits to the ballpark led me to expect only “Take Me Out To the Ballgame.”) The whole stadium dutifully complied as Kate Smith’s recorded voice echoed from the loudspeakers.

The whole stadium except for me, that is. I was disturbed that citizens would treat that song, patriotic though it is, with the same respect that is due the national anthem — which, for the record, is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” not “God Bless America.” For one thing, it diminishes the importance of the national anthem. But more importantly, it trains people to regard anything concerning national identity with unthinking veneration. A little patriotic pride is a fine thing, but the clearest lesson of history is that an excess of nationalism is poison.

Besides, neither of these is the best choice for a song that obliges its listeners to stand at respectful attention. “God Bless America” is merely a plea to God, with nothing in it about America per se other than that the singer lives there, gladly. “The Star-Spangled Banner” commemorates a battle and a flag, not a nation or its people or its ideals, and it’s notoriously difficult to sing to boot. But “America the Beautiful” is full of praise for our wonderful country, and it’s so easy to sing even a Muppet can do it.