Note to Hollywood: Air ducts are built to hold air, not people


I was watching TV the other night, and a couple characters were sneaking around a building by crawling through the air ducts.

This doesn’t happen a lot in real life because AIR DUCTS AREN’T BUILT TO HOLD PEOPLE. Air ducts are built to hold air. Air, for purposes of this discussion, at least, doesn’t weigh anything.

In real life, if you tried to crawl through an air duct, it would collapse under your weight.

Also, in the movie, the guys in the air duct were arguing, and no one heard them. In reality, air ducts have decent-sized openings every few feet called “vents.” These are basically unobstructed holes in the side of the duct designed to allow air to blow from the vent into the room. Air vents aren’t soundproof. Also, air ducts in movies and TV shows are metal, a material that has a tendency to amplify sound rather than dampen it.


When I see a movie or TV show where someone’s crawling through the ducts, I assume the writers and director didn’t put a lot of thought into it, so it’s probably a waste of time.

Any movie clichés that are deal-breakers for you?

Happy birthday, Mr. Rogers

I don’t have a lot of heroes, but Mr. Rogers is one of them. I watched him when I was a kid, and I watched him again decades later with my children. He’s been criticized over the years by people who didn’t understand him, who thought that his talk about feelings and being special gave several generations of children an inflated sense of self-worth. In truth, he was trying to teach children how to understand themselves, to take responsibility for their actions and treat others with respect. In honor what would have been Fred Rogers’ 85th birthday, here’s something I posted on Oct. 11, 2010:

Channeling my inner Mr. Rogers

Sunday was Mama’s night off. She went to a movie (“Easy A”), and I took Thing 1 and Thing 2 to Moe’s.

While I was paying, Thing 2 (the 4-year-old) ran to get a drink and find a table. I sent Thing 1 (the 10-year-old) to keep an eye on Thing 2.

Soon as I caught up with them, Thing 1 tattled on her brother. “Thing 2 found a Lego man,” she said, trying to sound helpful.

I turned to Thing 2. “You found a Lego man?”

He had a bad feeling about this. “Uh-huh.” He wasn’t making eye contact. He knew where this was heading.

“Where’d you find him?”

“Over there,” he said, pointing to the pop machine.

“Well,” I said, “I think we need to find out if he belongs to somebody.”

Thing 2 nearly burst into tears (he’s learned that being cute and pathetic and really loud helps him get his way, especially in public).

“I want to keep him,” he whined.

“But he’s not yours,” I said, trying my best to channel my inner Mr. Rogers. 

Because of his sweaters and puppets and slow way of speaking, a lot of people made fun of Mr. Rogers, but Mr. Rogers had it figured out.

He understood that kids are just trying to make sense of their feelings and what’s happening in the world around them. He treated them with kindness and love and respect.

Plenty of times over the past 10 years, when Thing 1 and Thing 2 have tried my patience and I haven’t been sure what to do, I’ve asked myself, “What would Mr. Rogers do?” 

“Imagine if you lost a Hot Wheel,” I said, trying to sound sympathetic yet authoritative. “Wouldn’t you want someone to give him back?”

“No,” he lied.


“No. I’d want him to keep it.”


“Yes,” he said. “I’d want him to keep it. It would be like he found a present!”



I have no idea how Mr. Rogers would have responded to that.

I responded by taking Thing 2 around the restaurant to the three tables with children. The first two said it wasn’t theirs. Thing 2 perked up. Doing the right thing might not be so bad after all!

A boy at the last table, though, said it the Lego man was his.

Thing 2 was crushed. He shuffled back to our table, his head hung low, your basic Charlie Brown walk of depression.

When we sat down, I said, “I’m proud of you. That boy was really glad to get his Lego man back. Aren’t you glad we helped him find it?”

He put his head down on the table and stared out the window. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he sighed.

Some perspective on the Grammys (or, flunking the Chipmunks test)

Behind a Grammy
Behind a Grammy (Photo credit: James Munson)

The 55th annual Grammys are Sunday. I won’t watch, because, let’s face it, when it comes to recognizing good music, the Grammys have a pretty spotty record.

I the Grammys, like all showbiz awards, tend to focus on what’s popular at the moment. I don’t think we’ll really know the Album of the Year for 2012 until sometime in 2022.

For example, 20 years ago, the Grammy for Album of the Year went to Unplugged by Eric Clapton, probably because 1992 was the year Clapton came out with “Tears in Heaven,” which was about the death of his 4-year-old, and everybody loved the song.

I can’t argue with the single winning Song of the Year and Record of the Year, but I don’t think anyone considers Unplugged one of Clapton’s best albums, let alone one of the best album of 1992. Still, it beat the soundtrack to Beauty and the Best, Ingenue by k.d. lang, Diva by Annie Lennox and Achtung Baby by U2, which I think sounds a lot better now than it did then. Great albums like Automatic for the People by R.E.M., Kiko by Los Lobos and Joshua Judges Ruth by Lyle Lovett weren’t even nominated.

Also, consider this:

  • The Chipmunks have won three Grammys
  • That’s two more than Louis Armstrong or Hank Williams, neither of whom won for what anyone would consider their best work (Armstrong, a pioneering jazz trumpeter, won for singing “Hello, Dolly!” while Hank Williams won a Grammy for a “duet” that Hank Jr. cobbled together over 30 years after Hank Sr. died)
  • The Chipmunks also have won three more Grammys than the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley, The Who or Diana Ross, with or without The Supremes (they haven’t won any)