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Two bands associated with the Seattle sound of the early 1990s. Two deaths... on the same day, eight years apart. One, completely unexpected. The other, expected much sooner. Yesterday, April 5, 2014, marked the 20th anniversary of the suicide of NIRVANA frontman KURT COBAIN, and the 12th anniversary of the overdose that killed ALICE IN CHAINS frontman LAYNE STALEY.

If you're a parent, there's a good chance you've done it... and if you're like me, usually a couple of times a week. "Where did you hear that?" or "Who told you that word?" - both phrases occasionally directed at your little ones to find out why, exactly, they'd choose to use a word that they shouldn't use. Like Ralphie in A CHRISTMAS STORY when he dropped a word that "wasn't FUDGE," it happens. With my oldest (she'll be five in a few months) occasionally expanding her vocabulary with words and phrases that are most often attributed to "Joshua," the latest viral clip from JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! hits home. Inspired by this video, in which a little boy lists all the bad words he knows, Jimmy hit Hollywood Blvd yesterday to put some kids on the spot by asking, "Do You Know Any Naughty Words?" Here's what happened...

I'd only met Dave Brockie a couple of times, and aside from one occasion where I was feeding him questions on the other end of a video webcast with he in New York and I in Chicago, he was in full costume, portraying the character for which he will forever be known - Oderus Urungus, the 43 billion year-old frontman of Antarctica-based metal titans, GWAR. While public perception of what GWAR is or is not may vary, I've always known the band to be highly-skilled, expert musicians and showmen (and women, on occasion) that performed a mix of entertaining metal and killer satire that was always influenced by the Global landscape of politics and pop culture of the time. I was shocked and saddened to find a note from GWAR manager Jack Flanagan sitting atop my inbox this morning...

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, and like the Chicago River this weekend, it's time to break out the "green" for some shamrock-themed fun for the whole family. One oddity this year is that Addie's school is celebrating it as "Clover Day," which is a term I've not heard before. If they're trying to be "PC" by de-Sainting it, that strikes me as weird since Christmas and Hanukkah weren't renamed... even if you don't celebrate it, that doesn't change the name (maybe that's just me). Regardless, here's a few pieces of St. Paddy's Day fun...

Two years ago, I celebrated one-year tobacco-free with a blog about my personal journey. Then, in 2013, I posted again, celebrating the two-year anniversary of coming clean (cigarettes are a drug). Today I am posting once again, as it's the three-year anniversary of kicking the habit. As I've done previously, I am re-posting much of my original blog entry here on THE ROCK FATHER, along with a few alterations and timely updates. Last year, I discussed how Marlboro (under the Philip Morris or Altria name) won't leave me alone. It's continued for another year... and perhaps it's time to lawyer up?

March 14, 2011 is the day that I officially quit smoking. At some point on the night of March 13, I quietly took the last puff of the last cigarette in the last pack that I ever owned. Upon telling my wife that I was officially ''done,'' she took it upon herself to clean-up some of the ''smoker's mess'' that I'd created. The ashtrays of both cars were scoured. The sand-filled flowerpots that I'd strategically placed on my front porch and near my gardening shed were disposed of, along with a ton of stray butts that had made their way into the surrounding landscape over the winter months. The cleansing had begun.

Last night, as a fresh blanket of snow appropriately fell from the sky here in Northern Illinois, I took my oldest Princess to our first Daddy/Daughter Dance. "Anna & Elsa's Fabulously Frozen Ball" was an experience both fantastic, and fascinating. As a Father, it was the first of many Daddy/Daughter Date Nights to come - first with Addie, and in a few years, with Little Finley. As a pop culture aficionado, it was incredible to see that a movie that hit theaters just three months ago, had already spawned a full-blown Park District production.

Thursday, February 27 2014 00:01

Does School Readiness Concern You? #PBSKIDSLearn

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PBS KIDS VIPEarlier this week, I posted an entry about attending the kindergarten open house at the school where my oldest daughter will begin a new era of learning adventures this Fall. Evidently, I wasn't the only one thinking ahead to the next school year - specifically being ready to have a kindergartner in our midst. Just yesterday, PBS KIDS released the results of a "School Readiness Survey," and the results showed concern from parents of children ages 2-6 when it comes to social and emotional skills, along with basic reading and math in terms of getting kids prepped and ready to take that next step. Here's some numbers, along with some tips on school readiness from the PBS KIDS Team...

Tuesday, February 25 2014 22:44

Old Crankypants: Chiberia does not exist...

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I hate cutesy catchphrases that are delivered with a smug grin, a chuckle, or wink. Have them delivered by a news anchor, a major website or even a lesser-known internet jockey, and they're even worse... amped-up and ready to irritate. I have a growing list of phrases, along with some individual words and terms that make my blood boil... or "grind my gears" as the wise Peter Griffin once said. One of the latest is "Chiberia," a made-up, annoying term used to describe the arctic temperatures in the Chicago area this year. I'd originally thought that the Chicago Sun-times coined the term, but according to FOX 32, it was a National Weather Service forecaster named Ricky Castro that is to blame. Tonight, as news of another snowfall came across the television, I watched in agony as another anchor delivered the "Chiberia" name with a grin and that fake "ha-ha" delivery that only one at a newsdesk can properly pull off.

Last night, I went back to elementary school... our first visit to what will be our girls' home base for learning for the first several grades of their public school careers. We're about six months out from the start of Kindergarten for Addie, and it's a close call as to what's been more surprising - the fact that we just did the open house for the Fall 2014 school year... or the fact that we'll have a kindergartner. I'm going for the latter, as I still can't believe that this little girl is going to be five this year.

This Country is regressing. Despite all the "talk" of moving forward, creating a brighter future for our children and embracing a World where there is equality and freedom for everyone - The United States is in rapid decline, and there is little to show me otherwise. Here in Illinois, Chicago has taken the stage as becoming "the wild west" once more - a place where crime pays and the bullets fly early and often. Since the installation of Rahm Emanuel as Mayor, Chicago has fast-begun reverting to the ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING depiction of the City - a dirty and ominous place where you have to question whether it's really safe to take the kids. If it's "keeping up appearances" that create a first impression, The Windy City is also failing - from burnt out lights on the welcome sign to NAVY PIER (the City's top tourist destination), to decaying Christmas decorations at O'Hare airport (saw plenty of half-lit wreaths still displayed as of February 13!) or signage where "Mayor Richard M. Daley" has been hastily painted-over rather than being replaced with the new regime. While I could go on about the plight of Illinois and Chicagoland in general, it's the "news" that brings to light the further regression from other States, and each day brings forth another head-scratcher. What the hell is wrong with Kansas?

I was named after both of my Great Grandfathers on my Fathers side. "James" comes from the middle name of John J. Magoon, a man who died about a year and a half before I was born. "Charles" comes from the middle name of Bert C. Zahn, who I was fortunate to meet and spend some time with as a small child. I knew that Great-Grandpa Bert had been a pioneer of sorts in the world of screen printing, penning the book SILK SCREEN METHODS OF REPRODUCTION, a copy of which I bought on eBay some time ago. Great-Grandpa John was a little more of a mystery, as I'd been told as a child that he was "a coffee taster," but never really explored much beyond that. Despite all the talk of ancestry and genealogy that's been growing in popularity over the years, I hadn't paid much mind to my own... until a trip to Ohio last Fall opened an unexpected door to my family history.

Note: My wife told me last night that she'd prefer I not post this... my annual anti-Super Bowl post. But since it was already written a few days in advance, I'd hate to let it go to waste.

This Sunday, while most of America is spending the evening shouting at the TV... wait a second. I wrote this before, didn't I? Well, yes, I sorta did, on "Super Sunday" last year. So here we are, nearly 365 days later, and SUPER BOWL XLVIII is about to kick-off, and just as I've done for many years prior, I will be watching - or doing - something completely unrelated to the "The Big Game." Ah yes, "The Big Game," the legally-enacted phrase that so many businesses use in place of "Super Bowl" thanks to the NFL's iron-fisted restrictions on people calling the game what it actually is (seriously: Does anyone think that some crappy used car lot really has any kind of official relationship with the NFL?). But then again, I don't like the NFL, either. Funny enough, I didn't even know who was in this year's Super Bowl until yesterday, and just found out where it's happening today.

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