Did I just fall off the face of the earth, or what?

I’ve never heard a Beyoncé song (that I know of.)

I haven’t seen The Walking Dead.

It’s been at least a decade since I bought an album anyone reading this article has heard of.

I can’t remember the last time I read the news, tried craft beer, or understood a hashtag cause.

Anyone else feel me?

Every day that goes by, I’m lost deeper and deeper in an ocean of information. My friends ask if I’ve seen or heard the latest ______, and I’m a deer in the headlights. I’m like, “Huh?” And my friends are like, “Duuude.” I haven’t seen the latest show, heard the new kickass song, or kept up with whatever the Kardashians are up to. (Are they still famous?) I feel like I should ask for help, reach out to friend, or crawl out from under the rock I’ve apparently been living under.


“Huh? Whaaaa…?”

Look, you probably think I’m about to start a big rant against modern culture and all its evils. Nope. I don’t have enough data to make a case for or against whatever the world has become. The only rant I could dream up would be an essay arguing the infinite darkness of social media. But whatever. That’d be pretty hypocritical, wouldn’t it? Especially since I’m about to post this commentary on Facebook and Twitter.

What I do wanna know is: how the heck did I get here?

I’m not that old.

I don’t have an ‘our generation is better than yours’ complex.

I don’t tell stories about wading through the snow to get to school and eating rocks for dinner.

You’d think having a son would compel me to brush up against modern culture now and then. After all, he’s at that age when Justin Bieber must start to seem cool. Or when the latest ‘thing’ must be purchased. Or when we just have to watch some crazy new show. But no. All junior wants to do is hang with his weird dad (me) and roast marshmallows in the fire pit, play board games all night, and watch movies that haven’t been famous since the 80’s (Gremlins, Willow, Sword in the Stone, et cetera.)

Anymore, I’m not sure whether I’m rubbing off on him or his indifference to modern stuff has reinforced my own.

And I’m not really sure it matters.

What started this thought process? Well… I’m glad you asked. Just the other day, I overheard some friends chatting it up about the Grammy awards. (And yes, I know what those are.) At the big Grammy celebration, some pregnant lady killed it with her performance and everyone thought she was a queen. Not just any queen, but THE Queen. Turns out the Queen was Beyoncé. (And it turns out the program I’m using to write this knew to put a ‘ over ‘e’ in her name – which is really weird to me.) Also, the guy from Metallica’s microphone failed, prompting Lady Gaga (whom I know of via her Super Bowl gig) to save him. And lastly, some blonde lady (Adele?) gushed so loudly about the aforementioned Queen some people questioned her sincerity.

Ok, cool, I thought. Sounds pretty entertaining.

Wait. No it doesn’t.

To all of this, I listened wide-eyed and confused. And then I realized that although I’m not terribly old, my tastes are pretty much ancient. It’s almost as if my love of music, culture, art, and books stopped somewhere in the late 80’s – early 90’s. And I can’t explain it. It’s not as if I don’t want to find new music to love. It’s not like I find modern music disastrously boring on some random whim. And life sure would be more fun if I had any inkling to enjoy The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and ________ <—- (insert superhero tv show here.)

Does anyone else experience this?


What the F does this meme even mean??

If I think about it, I don’t particularly miss the cultural era in which I grew up. The 80’s were straight up strange, with all the long hair, horrid pop music, and low production television. The 90’s might’ve been even worse, dragged into despair by depressing grunge music and not-quite-awesome-yet video games.

But I guess I didn’t realize my situation until the new century rolled in and forcibly stopped me from caring.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point all the music on the radio turned me off.

Until I stopped listening entirely.

Next came TV.

And here’s the whole story behind that.

More recently, the wave of superhero movies and bombastic action films flew right over my head.

Leaving me almost alone in the theater watching this.

I guess I can’t really complain; living under a giant rock has its benefits. I have tons of extra time. Peace and quiet are my domain. And then of course there’s all the money I save by not having cable and never going to a concert starring anyone famous. But the drawbacks are…well…I’m not sure. I’m left out of discussions regarding politics, news, movies, television, et cetera. And while I don’t particularly mind sitting in my quiet corner, it tends to halt conversations when I admit I don’t know a damn thing about whatever’s being talked about.

Me. As in my face. Always.

It’s almost intentionally ignorant, right?

It’s cultural abandonment.

It’s a willful disregard for humanity.

And now, after all these years, I still have no idea what happened.

Do you?

J Edward Neill

Builder of better coffee tables.

Under-the-rock artist.

J’s DadHacks – Made up games for the Single Father

A few weeks ago, I gave a shout out to my son (The G Man) for his skill in inventing new Lego bad guys.

This week I’m taking it a bit further.

We have a lot of free time, he and I. And we’re pretty much identical twins, him being 34 years younger notwithstanding. We find ourselves in constant need of self-entertainment. At all hours. TV isn’t allowed in the house. Nor are more than a tiny sampling of video games.

So what’s left to do?

Pretty. Much. Everything.

Marble WarsMarble Wars

Cost – About $5 / Entertainment Value – Priceless. Plus your child learns all about collateral damage

So far the lil’ guy and I have logged approx. 7,421 hours playing this game. No shit. You need 21 marbles to play Marble Wars. Your kid puts ten in a straight line, and you do likewise. Make the lines parallel about 2′ from each other, and leave 2″ between each allied marble to make them harder to hit. To play, each player takes turns shooting the ‘bomb’ marble at his opponent’s line. Every time you hit an enemy marble (directly or via ricochet) remove it. Whoever nukes all of his opponent’s marbles first, wins. The catch: You can’t shoot from any closer than your own marble line, and you have to shoot from the ends of your own troops.

Lifetime Marble Wars record against my son: 3-477

Paper TowersPaper Towers

Cost – About $8 in posterboard, Elmer’s glue, popsicle sticks, and scotch tape. / Entertainment Value – Hey, at least it’s cheap

Junior said he wanted the $200 Lord of the Rings Lego Set. I said, “You can kiss my black ass.” Ok, no. I didn’t really say that. But seriously, he wanted a ‘realm’ in which his Legos could get together and knock the ever-loving hell out of each other. So we bought some multi-colored posterboard, curled it up into towers, laid the towers over a ‘floor’ of glued-down popsicle sticks, and stuck the whole damn thing atop a slab of cardboard. Now, whenever his Lego armies want to dismember one another, he uses our homemade castle as a battleground. He never even mentions the LOTR mega-set anymore. Except every other day. Twice. Forever.


The finished product. Aka: The Hall of Infinite Death



images Real-Life Minecraft

Cost – Free…unless you live in a vacuum. / Entertainment Value – So fun you’ll need new drywall

It all started with:

“Dad, can I play Minecraft?”

“Fuck no.”


“Ok. Go get your sword and some pillows.”

Like every child between 2 and 90, Junior loves him some Minecraft. Crushing green, phallus-like Creepers and digging down into the underworld is fun. Only problem is that it’s a video game. And after about 4% of one session of playing it, I decided, “Hell no. We’re not getting addicted to this crap.” So what to do? Well. Junior received a Minecraft foam sword over the holidays this year. So instead of annihilating pixels, we arrange pillows like Minecraft bricks. And he goes nuts. I mean, like…seriously aggro. He knocks down wave after wave of stacked pillows, couch cushions, and cats painted like Creepers (kidding). Then he builds it all up again. The true value of this game is…I never knew we had so many f’ing pillows.

BalloonBattleBalloon Battle

Cost – About $2.99 / Entertainment Value – Good for humans…better for cats

In a house packed with multiple kids and an angry, hormonal mom, this game would never work. Too messy. Too loud. But in a cavernous man-void occupied by a 40 year-old hermit and his son, it’s perfect. What you’ll need: 1 bag of balloons, 1 decent-sized laundry basket. How to play: Divide up the balloons by color into two equal-sized piles. Put the laundry basket in the room’s center. While sitting approx. 6′ from the basket, you and your lil’ one hurl balloons forth from your pile. The point is to get as many of your balloons into the basket as you can, while occasionally knocking your enemy’s (I mean adorable loin-spawn’s) out of the way. When all your balloon ammo is depleted, determine a winner by counting how many of each side’s balloons made it into the basket. This game is especially good for white people, since no jumping, running, or actual ball skills are required.

Caution: If your cats decide to play, the game will only last one or two rounds.

WeedNGWeed Slaughter

Cost – A few bucks / Entertainment Value – Mild, but serves a purpose

The rules: I offer the G Man one penny per weed pulled. He goes nuts and butchers hundreds of weeds while I do tequila shots on the porch. Relax. I’m kidding. (The shots are Jager.) Anyway, teaching work ethics and shit is cool, right? So is watching a five-year old commit genocide on all the crabgrass, clover, and poison ivy in your yard. Would I actually let him pull poison ivy? Sure. Though I’d probably offer two pennies for each vine.

*  *  *

 See you next week.

Sink your teeth into my party-plundering coffee table series here.

J Edward Neill