Friday, March 29, 2013

Single Father's Book Club - Clapton: The Autobiography

Fame is a funny thing. Famous people live their lives under the scrutiny of the media, fans, and fair-weather friends. Because of an exceptional talent, the famous  person lives in a world that's almost fantasy, in that world develops an unrealistic sense of self, and the famous person acts based on that distorted perception. In the meantime, fans and devotees develop an image of the person based on information carefully disseminated by a publicist or through their own imagination. and believe that person who can sing or play or write or put a ball or a puck in a goal so singularly well also maintains that level of distinction in his or her personal life.

Fans of Eric Clapton, the musician/singer/songwriter, are likely to be disappointed by Clapton: The Autobiography because it is, in fact, honest. In addition to all of the heavily publicized episodes in Clapton's life, including his birth out of wedlock to a woman he was raised to believe was his sister, his departure from the Yardbirds because he felt the group had become too commercial after the studio session for "For Your Love," his marriage to Pattie Boyd, and the tragic death of his son Conor, the reader of Clapton is certain to learn that he his, in fact, human. Like all humans, Eric Clapton has experiences the same emotions, to greater or lesser degrees, as just about every other inhabitant of the planet. The reader discovers that Clapton is self-conscious, egocentric, narcissistic, and capable of petty jealousies, has suffered from depression, and was often not able to control his use of drugs and alcohol. In the process of his experiences, he alienated many friends and colleagues.

What I found most intriguing and entertaining about Clapton: The Autobiography was its rawness and honesty. I think it is clear that Eric, or "Ric" as family and close friends refer to him, literally wrote the book himself. (Obviously, the word "autobiography" in the title suggests the book was written by the subject, but that is not always the case.) The rhythm of the book and the ideas that Clapton conveys are clear and direct. Also, there appear to be no subject that is off-limits. He starkly discusses his addictions and the destructive relationships in his life. He talks about his like or dislike for any one of a number of his contemporaries including Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Billy Preston, B.B. King, and J.J. Cale among many others. He explores in some detail his relationship with Harrison, whose wife Clapton eventually married. In other cases, Clapton indicates his like for one or another of his generation, other times he highlights his opinion of their eccentricities, and on still other occasions, he describes his envy and jealousy of them for reasons ranging from their musical skills or their ability to enchant and steal from Clapton his love interests.

I particularly appreciate Clapton's attention to his personal beliefs and interests. For example, among many of the music, art, and Hollywood crowd, hunting and firearms are about as popular as the cigarette manufacturers. Clapton makes no excuses for his love for hunting and shooting, nor does he hide his smoking. Similarly, he makes no secret of his suspicions and distrust of people like Rupert Murdoch and George W. Bush. Although not addressed in the book, these examples of Clapton's individuality reminded me of 1993 when he won a number of Grammy's for `Unplugged;' every other presenter and award-winner wore a red AIDS ribbon - except for Clapton. Whatever else he is, Clapton is his own person.

If "Ric" is the protagonist in Clapton: The Autobiography, then drugs and alcohol are the antagonists whose affects prevented Clapton from self-actualizing. If it can be considered such, the "resolution" included Clapton "getting clean" in the late 1980's, maturing to the point he could be a productive half of a meaningful relationship, and creating the Crossroads Clinic in Antigua to help others trapped by addiction. It appears to be a happy ending. I, for one, hope that it is.

* * * * *

Clapton's latest release is Old Sock, and is available both in compact disc and, get this, vinyl. To order, click through:

 


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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dad’s Garden Harvest Tomato Soup

Dad's Garden Harvest Tomato Soup; photo credit: Kathie Austin Photography LLC


Dad’s Garden Harvest Tomato Soup

                                            8 – 10 medium-sized tomatoes
                                            2 packets of onion soup mix (OR ½ diced onion and
                                            1 large (or 4 small) bouillon cube(s))
                                            1 cup of water
                                            1 cup of milk
                                            ¼ teaspoon of pepper
                                            2 tablespoon of chopped basil

In a large sauce pan or a small soup pot, add one cup of water, chopped basil, and
either two packets of dried onion soup mix or half a diced onion and a large beef bouillon cube, and bring to a boil. Cone-cut the stems from the tomatoes, then squeeze each tomato gently to expel seeds. Place the stemmed and seeded tomatoes and one cup of milk into a blender and mix at low speed until pureed. Add tomato puree and ¼ teaspoon of pepper to soup pot, and stir. Turn burner to medium-low and simmer until onions are tender. Serve with crackers or a whole wheat roll to three hungry children and a single dad on a brisk, spring Saturday or Sunday.


For more great, simple, healthy recipes that even a single dad can make, check out The Single Father's Guide Life, Cooking, and Baseball (Arundel Publishing, 2012).

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Single Dad's Movie Review: Spring Breakers

Photo Credit: IMDB.com
Film Noir comes to Spring Break. Well, almost.

Anyone who has a teenage daughter will likely hear the question this weekend, “Can I see Spring Breakers?”
Why not? The cast includes a virtual Who’s Who of Walt Disney Studios actors: Selena Gomez (The Wizards of Waverly Place), Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars), and Rachel Korine, whose brother, Harmony, wrote and directed the film. However, a fun frolic on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale this is not.
Faith (Gomez), Candy, (Hudgens), Brit (Benson), and Cotty (Korine) have a problem: it’s spring break at their northern university and they don’t have the funds to escape. All but Faith, who is apparently too busy attending a church youth group, resolve to rob the patrons at a local restaurant using water guns and a hammer. Flush with cash, the girls start to discover “who they really are” once they arrive on the sunny beaches of South Florida.
The revelry takes a harsh detour when the girls are arrested at a party where cocaine is snorted from the beer soaked breasts of many of the participants. Certainly for impact on the target audience, the girls remain in their bikinis while having a sleepover in an otherwise private cell. When sentenced to a fine or two days in jail, not one even considers contacting a parent for the money. However, Alien, an aspiring gangbanger and drug dealer played by James Franco, shows up and pays their fine. ostensibly to garner favors from the foursome.
Franco, by the way, is on the verge of becoming the Kevin Bacon of his generation of actors; eventually everyone will know someone who's been in a film with James Franco. Unlike Kevin Bacon, however, Franco never quite seems to have the chops to make his character credible.
Writer/director Korine attempts to create an art house effect using the overplayed style of filming quick candid camera shots of free styling actors and brief contrasts to out-of-context scenes, in this case featuring topless girls being fed beer bongs from riotous beach boys. If the technique wasn’t overused before Spring Breakers, it certainly was by the time the final credits rolled.
At times, Spring Breakers appears to be on the verge of making a salient point, but repeatedly and unrealistically fails. After finding themselves with Alien in a gang hangout among some clearly hardened characters, the four pretty little white girls who are still wearing their bikinis are simply allowed to leave. In comparison to the 2005 film Havoc, for example, when the characters played by Anne Hathaway and Bijou Phillips find themselves in a similar circumstance, one of the girls, well, isn't.
While Spring Breakers could have made an important commentary about any number of topics, from drug use to the immediate gratification generation to our throw-away society, Spring Breakers simply doesn’t. Characters dangle, only partially developed and resolved. Ideas are started, but like a child diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, not one is finished.
A film without a point is a film without a soul, and no amount of jiggling breasts or extraneous vulgarity can give it one. If there was a moral to the Spring Breakers, and I simply don’t think Harmony Korine had any idea that he was creating one, that moral would be that there is little or no consequence for an action. In the real world, that simply isn’t the case.
 

Friday, March 22, 2013

What is a Platonic Female Friend?

Men don’t ask for directions when they’re lost. They’re more likely to either stay lost or, possibly, consult a manual.

Both in The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball and during the numerous radio and television interview I’ve done in support of the book, I’ve referenced what I call “Platonic Female Friends,” or PFF’s.
What is a PFF?
A PFF is a woman, who is typically but not necessarily the wife of one of your good friends, for whom a single father (hopefully it’s obvious) has no romantic intention, and who can be a resource to whom the single dad can go for parenting and life advice from the perspective of the fairer gender.
Photo Credit: ct.com
Why are PFF’s important?
When was the last time, single dad, you talked with your buddies about how to get rid of  your infant’s diaper rash or what feminine products to buy for your adolescent daughters? It’s a rhetorical question.
As I’ve already mentioned, a PFF could the wife of a trusted friend, but there are others as well. If you’re a single father of young children, find or create a playgroup (using Meetup.com, your local library bulletin board, etc.) for your kids. In my experience, the vast majority of playgroup parents are mothers who, after realizing you’re a “stand-up guy” and genuinely concerned about the well-being of his children, will be happy to offer advice or help. Neighbors are also great for finding assistance. When my children were younger, two neighbors, one a stay-at-home mom and one a retired grandmother were indispensable. Of course, other PFF’s may also include your hair stylist, clothing salesperson, and others who may genuinely like you but will also want to help you so you become a repeat customer. Each will want to help you to look and be your best. These sorts of PFF’s are especially helpful when you, single father, decide it's time start to date again.
For more tips about single father parenting and creating a healthy, happy, and meaningful life for you and your children, click here to get your copy of The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball.
In the meantime, don’t stay lost. Begin to develop those relationships with PFF’s. You’ll probably be surprised how willing to help those PFF’s will be.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Single Fathers Book Club: Love in the Time of Algorithms

GRAPHIC LANGUAGE WARNING


Dan Slater’s Love in the Time of Algorithms is the contemporary online dating equivalent of a cross between A Brief History of Time (Hawking), which wasn’t terribly controversial, and The Bell Curve (Herrnstein, Murray), which was.

Slater’s tome leads the reader on a tour of the history of dating, from 19th century personal ads to the birth of computer dating in the 1960’s to the present time. Today, segmentation of dating “markets,” including young, old, straight, gay, fetishists, people who have sexually transmitted diseases, and even married people, exists. Daters’ preferences are processed through complex computer code in an attempt, it turns out a profitable one, to connect love seekers.

(This book is) about how online dating – as both a revolutionary medium and a quirky, virginal industry – is remaking the landscape of modern relationships. It’s about a man in Oregon whose plans to settle down took a detour when he discovered how easy it was to meet women online. It’s about a young woman in New York whose compulsion to broadcast her online-dating adventures in social media .  .  . and about a cancer survivor in southern California whose isolation inspired her to start a niche dating site for people, like herself, who can no longer have sex. Authenticity, deception, commitment, intimacy, paranoia, sex, and trust – technology is changing all these aspects of relationships.[i]

The tour begins with an anecdote of a couple of Boston area college students almost five decades ago who connected through a nascent computer dating service. It turns out, that couple married and became the parents of one Dan Slater. From there, Slater guides the reader through the history and growth of online dating while highlighting the visionary people and businesses that have broken new ground in connecting soul mates or one-night stands.
Like the consumers of online dating services should be, Slater is candid and direct. Containing chapter titles like “It Knows My Anal Preferences,” “Diaper Daddies and Lonely Stoners,” and “Let’s Keep This Fucker Coming Back,” Love in the Time of Algorithms tells it like it is. Slater even goes as far as decoding some of the data for the edification and benefit of the reader. For example, “When categorized by religion and gender, Jewish women are the most likely to claim they’ve never masturbated,” “Vegetarians are twice as likely as nonveggies to enjoy giving oral sex,” and “A woman’s desirability, measured in messages received, peaks at age twenty-one. At age forty eight, men are nearly twice as sought after as women.” As much to reinforce Slater’s conclusions as to provide some relief from the occasionally information laden text, the narrative of an online dater, “Alexis,” who is a Phish fan and a Phantasy Tour blogger, weaves its way through the more weighty chapters.
While Love in the Time of Algorithms is at least as much an academic treatment as it is self-help or recreational reading, it is a fascinating look at the evolution and current incarnation of online dating. Slater has done his research, so don’t shoot the messenger. Thank him. For the astute online dater, this one is an essential.

[i] Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating. Slater, Dan. Penguin Publishing Group. New York, New York. 2013. pp 8-9.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Greatest Ever St. Patrick's Day Quotes & Blessings



The Single Father's Guide is rapidly becoming the place where mere mortals, as compared to the typical single father, come to get the greatest, funniest, and most interesting season-appropriate, if not age-appropriate, quotes. That won't change this St. Patrick's Day!


There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were.
–Irish saying

May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.
–Irish saying

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
~Irish Blessing
As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction. -Irish saying

Never iron a four-leaf clover, because you don’t want to press your luck. –Irish saying

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
~Irish Blessing

A best friend is like a four leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have.
-Author Unknown

May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each morning and night.
~Irish Blessing
May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty. And our ale never turn musty.
-Irish saying

May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, but never catch up. –Irish saying



Best wishes for a safe and happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Single Dad's Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful




No, I wasn’t around for the original release of The Wizard of Oz, but I watched it faithfully during the holidays on NBC beginning in the early 1970’s. I even read Frank Baum’s original novel to The First and Second Beautiful Daughters. The differences in the book compared to the movie were fascinating and, when we finished reading, the whole family sat down during a family movie night and watched the Dorothy, Toto, and her band of enchanting misfits do battle with the Wicked Witch of the West.
Given my history with the 1939 classic, it should come as no surprise that I took The Favorite Son and two of his eight year old buddies to see Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful on its day of release at a nearby AMC Loew's Metroplex.
Like the television version of the six time Academy Award nominated original, the prequel begins with a short black and white sequence during which Oscar Diggs (James Franco), or “Oz,” distinguishes himself as a guileless and grifting circus magician. Predictably, Oz’s circus is performing in Kansas. After Oz is caught with his hands in one too many cookie jars, he attempts an escape in a hot air balloon in which he is, again predictably, swept into a prairie zizzer, which wisks him to Land of, yes, Oz. (For folks who appreciate allegory, the similarity is more than a coincidence.)
Once Oz has safely landed in, ahem, Oz, he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a beautiful witch who has awaited the prophesized arrival of a great wizard to bring peace and safety to the people of the Land of Oz. Theodora falls hard for Oz, but it soon becomes obvious that “something is rotten in the land of” .  .  .  Oz. Theodora leads Oz to the Emerald City where he meets his guide’s sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who goads him with riches and power to kill the witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams) who, claims Evanora, killed the previous wizard. It’s not until Oz meets Glinda that he begins to comprehend the complex politics in the apparently matriarchal society. (More metaphor, perhaps?)
Oz the Great and Powerful has a few nice moments, like the inclusion of a broken China doll, “China Girl,” whose home had been destroyed by the wicked witch and who Oz magically repairs with a bottle of glue. In addition, "Finley" the good flying monkey provides some comic relief and a cute and cuddley character for the enjoyment of young viewers. Later, as the previously self-absorbed Oz learns empathy for the people of Oz, including the tinkers, the farmers, the munchkins, Oz declares to Glinda, “I may not be the wizard you expected, but I may just be the wizard you need.”
With only a few notable exceptions, The Godfather and Star Wars among them, prequels and sequels risk unfavorable comparison to the original. Unfortunately, Oz the Great and Powerful was not spared. The story, which clarifies a few minor details about the MGM classic, fails to enthuse. The performances tendered by the four stars, Franco, Kunis, Weisz, and Williams are uninspired and the screenplay is unimaginative. Of course, "Over the Rainbow," performed by Judy Garland won the Oscar for "Best Song" in 1939, but no such charming tune was included in this one. On the bright side, however, the special effects are quite a bit better than those available to the original film makers.
Regardless of this reviewer's opinion, there were plenty of folks in the theatre on Friday who wanted to gain insight into Oz and into Oz before Dorothy showed up. In my opinion, however, a single father won’t be missing much if he waits until Oz the Great and Powerful is available through another magical medium, pay-per-view television.
☺☺☺ out of five.


 
 
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Friday, March 8, 2013

Tell Your Kids About Your Youthful Indiscretions? Um, No.



As a younger man, perhaps you were a little more of a risk-taker. Maybe you were an experimenter. Possibly, you were even an out-of-control wild man.
Then, like Will Munny in Unforgiven, the love of a good woman and the birth of your children convinced you to change your ways. Well, whether you are a widower like Will Munny or whether it turned out that that good woman wasn’t quite as good for you as you’d previously believed, you’ve continued to be a responsible father and a solid citizen.
So, now as a conscientious parent of growing children, what do you tell your children about your earlier risk-taking, experimenting, and other questionable behavior? During discussions I’ve had with other parents about this question, I’ve always argued that admitting to your children one’s own experience with drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, and other excesses is more likely to give your children implicit permission to emulate the same kinds of behavior. Now, I have some objective support for my position.
A recent study published in the journal Human Communication Research suggests “children whose parents talked to them about the negative effects of or regret over their use of alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana were less likely to oppose the use of these substances[i].” Rather, parents should consider “telling children about the harm caused by these substances, how to avoid them and stories about others who have gotten into trouble from using them. Parents can also tell children that they disapprove of substance use and outline family rules against substance use[ii].”
I, too, am a character from Missouri and there’s some truth to that whole “Show Me” thing; another way to drive home the point of “the harm caused by these substances” may just be show them the damage that drugs do. Well, a picture says a thousand words.
Lindsay Lohan
 
Oh, how did Lindsay Lohan first become interested is drug experimentation? Explains Ms. Lohan, "I was only aware of cocaine because of my dad[iii].”


[i] “Parents: Revealing Your Past Smoking, Pot Use May Not Help Your Kids.” Robert Preidt. Medicine Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_134280.html. February 22, 2013.
[ii] “Parents: Revealing Your Past Smoking, Pot Use May Not Help Your Kids.” Robert Preidt. Medicine Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_134280.html. February 22, 2013.
[iii] “Lindsay Lohan Comes Clean About Cocaine Use.” Us Weekly. http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/lindsay-lohan-comes-clean-about-cocaine-use-2010222. February 22, 2010.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Egg-Head Dad's Omelet

As a single father, I continue to test different foods and different ways to prepare foods for the kids. Recently, I tried my version of an egg white omelet and, fortunately, all three of my kids really liked it. They've continued to regularly ask me to make it for breakfast. It’s a meal that’s chocked with protein to help The Beautiful Daughters and The Favorite Son feel fuller longer, contains very few carbohydrates, and a reasonable amount of fat. Better yet, it’s crazy-easy to make.

Here we go, single dads:

Egg-Head Dad’s Omelet

16 ounces of egg whites (or 8 eggs, if you prefer)

2 pinches of pepper

4-6 dashes of hot sauce

2 tablespoons of ranch or bleu cheese dressing (low fat or no fat preferred)

1 tablespoons of olive oil

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Pre-heat a small (8”) pan on cooktop. Coat pan with cooking spray or  1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Combine eggs, pepper, hot sauce, ranch dressing, and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Whisk with a fork until mixed. Pour half of the mixture into pan and sprinkle on 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. Cook about 4 minutes or until eggs “fluff.” Then, using a soft spatula, fold in half on the pan and cook for 2 minutes on one side, flip omelet, and then cook for two more minutes or until eggs are no longer “runny.” Repeat with the rest of the eggs and cheddar cheese. Makes two BIG omelets: one for dad and one shared by the kidlings.

Serve with sliced grapefruit, apple, pineapple, orange , or with a Zesty Citrus Immune Booster Smoothie. For more ideas for healthy meals, check out The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, now available in ebook!

Bon appetite!
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Friday, March 1, 2013

Single Father's Book Club: 'The Three Questions'


Nikolai wants to be a good person, but he tells his friends, "I do not always know the best way to do that." Nikolai believes that if he has the answer to just three questions, he would always know what to do.

Nikolai poses his questions to his three friends, a heron whose name is Sonya, a monkey, Gogol, and a dog, Pushkin. First he asks, "What is the best time to do things?" Then, "Who is the most important one?" Finally, "What is the right thing to do?" The responses he receives from his friends, each of whom is absorbed in his or her own reality, leave something to be desired. So, Nikolai decides to ask the wise turtle, Leo, who lives high in the mountains.

When Nikolai finds old and judicious Leo, the turtle is struggling to dig a garden. Nikolai, who is more fit, decides to help. Not long after Nikolai finishes digging Leo's garden, it begins to rain and the two hear a cry for help from an injured panda. Nikolai helps the panda to safety and treats her injury. When the panda awakes, she asks Nikolai about her baby, so Nikolai immediately goes to find her, too.

The next day, all is well again. However, Nikolai laments being unable to learn the answers to his question. Leo then explains that Nikolai has found his answers through his actions: There "is one important time, and that is now...(the) most important one is always the on is always the one you are with... (and the) most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side."

The Three Questions is a very lovely parable written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth. According to Muth in his author's note, the story is based on a Leo Tolstoy's short story. Muth obviously adapts the story for a younger audience, and models and renames the characters after Russian writers, Tolstoy's wife, and Muth's own son and daughter. Tolstoy himself, "Leo," is the turtle.

Muth is quite talented as this book indicates; he not only gently and skillfully adapts the story, but he also created the illustrations that bring the story to life. The illustrations are done in watercolor, a medium with which Muth clearly has had a great deal of experience. The paintings are wistful and tender and convey to the reader a certain warmth. In the depictions of Nikolai's three friends, the reader can clearly sense Sonya's pride, Gogol's playfulness, and Pushkin's sense of responsibility. Nikolai himself represents the sort of boy, playful, honest, and intelligent, with whom anyone would want to be a friend and who anyone would also want to be.

In short, good things, including questions and friends, come in three's, and `The Three Questions' is just about as perfect a book as one will find.

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