Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Unions

Tonight is the State of the Union Address. I'm sure it will probably interrupt whatever primetime TV show you normally like to watch. Today is also the end of Allan Greenspan's career and I'm sure we have a new soulless, indifferent, question dodger lined up to be in charge of making our economy sound awesome (Inflated real estate prices and interest-only loans are signs of strength, right?). Meanwhile, I'll be loading boxes with two sprained fingers alongside kids from the alternative high school.

It's just as well, as wathching the president speak is an equally laborious effort for me. But it would be nice to hear the story of the prosperity and success of the America he believes he has built. It always sounds like such a nice place. Then I remember that his words don't actually apply to the world around me and that he'll focus on topics like steroids, Mars and giving money back to his rich campaign contributors rather than our nation's hand in torturing people around the world, spying, meeting the health and retirement needs of the elderly and on and on and on. The State of the Union is STRONG for lying alcoholics. Oh yeah, and ladies... the supreme court will soon be interested in getting a hand in on what goes on in your uterus. Wake me when it's over.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Give Me Convenience and/or Give Me Death

Have you guys tried that "Redbox" movie rental at McDonald's? It's actually very fast, cheap and easy. Just touch the movie you want to rent and swipe your credit card. $1 per night. As much as I loathe the Golden Arches the movie rental box rocks. I'm sure it was created by some vending-machine hotrodder and then bought by the red-shoe'ed clown. It's a good idea and I look forward to seeing Blockbuster and Hollywood video go down in flames.

The downside to loitering at fastfood establishments is that my kids fall for the classic lure of the monstrous "Playplace" parks inside and now they beg to go. I like the idea of a warm place for them to run around and have fun, but it also meant I had to choke down a Whopper today (I still wouldn't go to McDonalds). I think a large part of my bad attitude may stem from the fact that I get very little enjoyment out of eating. Do my taste buds not work right or are Whoppers just nasty? It also breaks my rule of only ordering hamburgers that automatically have cheese, but I didn't realize that until after I ordered.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Startin' With the Man in the Mirror

While we're focusing on looks, here's a slice of life that's been haunting me:

When I was an art major in college, just about every art class - painting, drawing, design - required a "self-portrait" for the final project. While I was laboring over one of these projects, trying to get it right, I noticed "this looks like Michael Jackson." What the hell?!

No matter what I did to get my face on the paper, it looked like Jacko. I DON'T think I look like Michael Jackson. I'm a Lou Diamond Philips guy, right?

A year or two ago we took our kids to Chuck E. Cheese and a family in another booth kept staring at me. I wondered what their problem was, but didn't really care. I got up to fill our cups with fountain drinks and the family grabbed my arm as I walked past. There were three or four generations of girls their and a couple of guys. The girl who was about my age (the one who grabbed my arm) said, "We wanted to tell you that you look JUST LIKE Michael Jackson."

I said, "Is that an insult or a compliment?"

The family erupted in praise, "Compliment! You look like a young, hot Michael Jackson."

I think I ran. I can't remember. It was a good time for another of my trademark mental blocks. But apparently I'm giving off a Jacko vibe, to the people who knew what he looked like before he destroyed his face.

Object of My Momentary Affection

You're beautiful. You're beautiful.
You're beautiful, it's true.
I saw your face in a crowded place,
And I don't know what to do,
'Cause I'll never be with you.

Have you heard that song. It's okay. The guy's voice bugs me. In the better parts he sounds like Rod Stewart's less talented brother (I put that in for Marietta. I don't listen to Rod Stewart).

A little while ago, Derek and I went to my sister-in-law to get haircuts. Nothing says "employable" like a smart hairdo. We were looking at famous movie stars on the covers of the hairstyle magazines. Most of them were hardly recognizable. I noticed all of them had shapely lips that looked like candy and eyes as vibrant as road flares. The rest of the face was a blur of even-toned makeup. Apparently beauty lies in bright eyes, shimmering lips and fancy hair.

This probably sums up my philosophy on being "stereo-typically pretty." Describing a girl as tall, thin, blonde, with "a lot going on upstairs" (open to interpretation) is typically enough to pique any guy's interest. There are many people who meet this description that are not attractive. And I wasn't moved by any of the air-brushed faces on the magazine covers. I looked at myself in the mirror and held my hand over my nose to see if my eyes and lips could melt butter. It didn't do a whole lot for me, but I see myself just about everyday so maybe I'm jaded.

A few months ago my little family went shopping at Target. My wife took the older kids inside and I sat in the car with the baby while he slept. After a minute of sitting there quietly some young girl got in the car next to ours. She writhed around in the driver's seat for awhile. She was crying. I was worried she was too distraught to drive or something. After about ten minutes she made a big fuss, looking at herself in the mirror on the dashboard trying to get her face back together. When she was ready, she got out of the car, adjusted the Target nametag on her shirt and went into the building throught the employee entrance.

She was probably just crying over some stupid boy. I don't know why she was crying, but I admired her just for being human and for getting herself together and going back to her job. I'm rooting for her.

While I'm alluding at the qualities of "shallowness," I'll mention that I stayed up late trying to record some music to post on Myspace.com (Isn't that place like being at some bad party? Can we go home now?). I thought people might find that interesting. I recorded a couple things but couldn't convert the files to an upload-able format. I'll keep tyring and let you know.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Warning to Elmo

Elmo should know... he is easily replaced.

At the bookstore today, the broken-armed story-telling girl told me I need to bring my kids back in early February becaues Elmo is coming! She yammered on about the event for a little bit. I didn't pay that much attention because that's about as exciting as Disney On Ice or some such nonsense to me. But later in the day I felt I should discuss it with my kids.

I said, "Would you guys want to go see Elmo in a couple of weeks?"

The kids were silent. I think it was out of courtesy, but they both finally grumbled, "Yeah."

I figured my daughter is two and a half and that's old enough to level with, so I said, "Actually, it's probably a guy in an Elmo suit. Do you guys want to go see some guy in an Elmo costume?"

Suddenly they were more alive than ever, "YEAAHHHHH!!!"

Let's hear it for grown men covered in yards of bright-red fuzz. Give it up, Yo. The broken-arm girl actually said you had to get tickets and they were only issuing 65, so there is a chance that it will be the "real" Elmo. Wouldn't I be the worst dad in the world if I showed up just to heckle Elmo:

Elmo! Kermit the Frog was a friend of mine. You are no Kermit the Frog.
Hey Elmo! The bathroom called. It wants it's urine-soaked rug back. Did you hear that? You stink, Elmo, like a urine-soaked rug!
You were a mistake Elmo! Someone on Sesame Street had a ratty slipper with the front of the sole peeling off. They tossed you in Oscar's trash can but he threw you back out!

And then my kids are bawling their eyes out as the Bookstore Security team is tossing me outside. I don't think they would ever recover. If I was half as angry and cynical as everyone seems to think I am, I would probably do it.

I saw Quentin Tarantino talking on Conan O'Brien about doing an appearance on Sesame Street and how he loved the Muppets when he was younger and how he had a crush on that blissed-out girl muppet in Electric Mayhem. He said he got to visit a warehouse full of Muppets and talk to them. He said it was bizarre because he didn't get to see the "animators" who moved them and spoke for them, the muppets just talked to him like they would in a movie. He said Rolf the Dog was kind of a bitter old man who complained about how he used to be a primary character and now he's a has been. If kids all over start to prefer some guy in a costume over the TV personality "Elmo" then he may be in there next to Rolf the Dog faster than you can say today's sponsoring letter.

(Speaking of Close Encounters of the Muppet kind... did you all catch this story about a woman who was murdered and stuffed in a shed with a bunch of lifeless Sesame Street puppets?)

Huffin' and Puffin'

I took the kids to a bookstore today, just to hang out. There was some girl that was supposed to be doing a kid's story hour. She had a broken arm in a sling and a shirt that said "I do all my own stunts." She tried to read to my kids but they wouldn't listen so they colored instead. Then we got some kid's meals from Wendy's.

On the bag of food they had a lot of animals. Elephants, giraffes and such. The wolf on the bag looked beady eyed and crazy. He had snow on his snout and everything in his wide-open mouth looked blood red. He had a cartoon bubble above his head so it looked like he was saying, "That Frostie was really goooood!" (I hate the frosties, they cause a lot of trouble. I always ask them not to give me the Frosties with the kid's meals and the staff looks at me like I'm a communist or something.)

This got me to thinking about wolves and how I feel bad for them. I recall several groups who get upset about the demonization of wolves starting in childhood with stories like Peter and the Wolf, the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. In the adult world, ranchers cry and complain to no end that wolves kill their livestock. I don't feel bad for them. Good ol' boys always seem to get into the political game for the sole purpose of gaining rights to let their cows run wherever they please and make the public pay for any loss they suffer.

People through the ages seem to have believed there exists an inexhaustible abundance of land, water, trees and animals to the point that we can destroy whatever we want and God will make more for his favorite little biped. Wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone and the livestock issue goes on, even there. Where exactly are wolves supposed to live where people won't have this relentless urge to kill them? The only thing that seems to be in endless abundance is ignorant and greedy people.

Level 60 Dragon Wizard

I was getting on the internet and Ethan came into the room. He said, "I came for the spells."

I asked, "What?"

He said, "I came for the spells... on the computer."

Apparently, he refers to typing as "the spells." He's been casting spells for about an hour now.

Maybe It IS Me (and My Unit)

I'm ready to admit that maybe I'm demanding. For all my complaining about jobs, if I was a single shut-in, sleeping on my mom's couch, I'm sure I would be fine with $7/hr employment. At my family's request, I resigned from that "Industrial Technician" position this morning. The people were great: they treated me like a human being and everything. I also liked the miscellaneous dogs wandering through the office. The work seemed exciting with the drawback of being potentially deadly. And the boss made me a flat-out promise of over $30K for the year, even if I stayed at my beginning wage (which he said would go up).

My wife can't fathom me being gone for weeks at a time, leaving her alone with the kids. And she is a worry-wart. I had to quit. The boss said he wished me the best and that the door was still open. I guess if I'm turning down a $30K job I can't complain. Or can I? A week of training was nothing but safety instructions. If you turn on the news you will see it's dangerous; dangerous beyond the point of being safe so long as you pay attention. I'm worried I won't be so lucky again in finding a decent job, though.

Eleanor wants me to be a Court Clerk, but I don't think I can stand to see innocent people fined for lame traffic stops or the ignorance of those at fault.

Paying for your family is tough. You have to be so picky.

Body by Ramen

I wish I would have had the foresight to keep a photo-journal of my mushy spaghetti-arms after quitting my last job and my cut and toned spaghetti-arms after weeks and weeks of loading boxes. Photo-journalism doesn't have to be all scenes of war. Someone should have said something.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

To Do List

There were a few posts I didn't get around to over the past few weeks. Here is the jist of it:

  • We saw the movie "Walk the Line." I wanted to say that Joaquin (or Leaf, as my sister informed me) Phoenix was probably not as charismatic as the actual Johnny Cash, whereas Reese Witherspoon is probably more charismatic than the woman she played in the film. Overall, it was a pretty good movie.

  • I wanted to express my surprise at Howard Stern's public announcement that he has had plastic surgery. While trying not to be mean, angst-filled, negative or dark, I was going to make some joke about having him take his top off for us.

  • I didn't come back the night of Martin Luther King Day to give my two cents. He was a good guy who changed the world. After seeing all the kids in Ethan's kindergarten, I don't necessarily dream that all the tykes will get together and play but you will be happy to know that I tell my kids to be nice to everyone. Even the huge nerds.
  • Moo Money

    If you like jokes, and I know I do, then here is a trick that will turn you into a regular Ray Ramano:

    Ask any question about a cow and then work the word MOO into the answer. Grade A, prime choice.


    What do cows like the most about skiing?

    Nope. Not MOOguls. It's the hot chocolate and marshmell-moos.

    It's amazing how it works EVERY time.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Audio Freighttrain

    At my last job a lot of people liked to listen to audio books to help pass the time. I've been avoiding audio books because it seems like cheating. But Sarah Vowell reads for her audio books and gets people like Jon Stewart, Seth Green, Conan O'Brien and Stephen King to provide additional voices for her. So I requested the audio version of her book "Assassination Vacation" for Christmas.

    You may know Sarah Vowell as the voice of the invisible daughter, Violet, on The Incredibles. She does a show for National Public Radio called "This American Life" (She interviewed They Might Be Giants on that show and requested they right a spontaneous song for her, which they did. The chorus going "I'm sick of this american life and I've learned the value of human sacrifice.").

    Sarah does a good job of being entertaining and educational, but my fear of audio books proved to be justified as the story goes much too fast. I like to read slow and analyze. I like to notice what words the author used, digest what they are saying and still have time to pick up on subtle humor. Sarah is clever. Sarah is thorough. Sarah can switch topics from Abraham Lincoln to the living decendents of the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth's broken ankle in the wink of an eye (his spur snagged on the american flag hanging in front of Lincoln's box when Booth took that fatal shot). Growing up with my bird-calling-biologist/anthropologist-"what mountain formation is that?"-mother conditioned me to be Sarah Vowells target audience.

    The hardest part of listening to the books is when she takes a tangent to relate history to contemporary things I throw into a mental bin labeled "crap I don't care about." Like "Lemony Snicket" novels (the covers, the titles, the pen-name on the serial books all seem contrived to me. But maybe they're good, I don't know). Or "The O.C.":

    Sarah says in the early 1800's upstate New York was a haven for new cults and theologies that were hatching into existence, such as the Shakers, the Mormons and the Oneida Community or "The O.C.".

    The man who assassinated President Garfield was part of the Oneida Community for five years. The O.C. was a group of "Bible Communists" who believed the second coming had occurred in the year 70 A.D. and that the world we know is actually "heaven on earth." That we are already perfect and that our virtue is no longer in question. So with that in mind, why not sleep around like crazy? The cult's leader (Noyes) came up with the idea of "Male Continence" where men would go through the acts of sex without reaching the "happy ending." It wasn't an easy task, and the members were a little disappointed that the younger, more attractive, people only wanted to sleep with each other, so the group established a system where young men would only sleep with post-menopausal women and the old (more experienced) men would sleep with the young maidens. Thus preventing unwanted pregnancies and ensuring that everyone had a chance at their carnal fantasies.

    The O.C. did not believe in excelling at anything. If a girl was too attached to a doll, they would have her throw it in the fire. If someone was a violin virtuoso, they were encouraged to dispose of the violin and never play again. They also did a weekly "airing of greivances" with a new person selected each week to stand in front of the community and be criticized. Sarah quotes some funny criticism like "he doesn't read enough and then when he does, he only skims" or a manly man was told "there was not enough 'woman' about him" or another person was told "he talks of Vermont too often."

    One lawyer from the community left, upset that a certain group of old men were bogarting the hottest yound ladies. He moved to Orange County, California, where Sarah says he would likely be practicing law in the same building that Peter Gallagher's fictional television character would be.

    That whole story is funny but I don't really need connections to lame TV shows. To finish it off: The man who shot Garfield also left upset (that no girls wanted to consent to sleep with him) and tried to sue the community. His prominent father did not like the publicity and tried to smooth everything out. Noyes, the founder of the sex cult, wrote to the father a letter saying "I have no ill will toward your son. I simply consider him to be INSANE." And suggested the son should be locked up. It would have saved a president's life if they had. Noyes' son was also in an insane asylum.

    I try to listen to each CD twice but I noticed I still made several mistakes when I tried to pass the stories on to my wife and then had to correct them. I may have made some here, but I'm pretty close. If not for the guest appearances I would stick with paperback books.

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Pleasures: Simple and Boring

    I wanted to illustrate why I do not go on and on about the "little things" that I enjoy in life. For example, one day that I really enjoyed and think of often entailed receiving a used book I bought online. The name of the book is "Space Station Seventh Grade." I read it once during that one-year-window I was allowed to read it (7th grade; at least I thought that was the order of the universe) and then a couple years ago when I wanted to revisit that safe place of no rent and no bills. Childhood, they call it.

    The book came in the mail and I brought it in the car as we drove to Tony Roma's to take advantage of their lunch specials. My wife read the opening of the book to me and the kids about a 7th grader who gets woken up at the start of his summer vacation by his step-father and accused of eating the chicken his step-father meant to take to work for lunch. The banter is humorous. It's not that bad a book. It tells of how the kid bakes ants into his brownies in "home-ec" and how he plans to impress "the cute girl" by getting bloodied up in a football game. He puts some ketchup packets in his pants to simulate blood at just the right moment, but they pop prematurely, confusing those in the stands about his injuries. Then he accidentally nails "the cute girl" in the face with a snowball.

    But after the "chicken" scene, we went in the restaurant and ate lunch. It was a good day; sunny but cool. It meant a lot to me. But do I expect you to care or to be able to share my joy by that tale. No way. On that note, let me tell you why people really tick me off...

    How We Roll

    New item in development: I assume you've seen the commercial for "Doggy Steps," an item that allows your wuss-dog to climb onto your bed or couch. I'm developing what is essentially a wheelchair ramp for dogs who have lost the use of their hind legs. It's the next logical step. I will call it "The Rise Over Dog-Run."

    You can already purchase it at any nearby hardware store. It's a piece of wood. But the secret formula for the length is the square root of the distance from your couch to your coffee table squared added to the height of your couch squared. This idea has been in the works since the time of the Pythagoreans.

    Friday, January 20, 2006

    Fresh New Ideas

    I'm disappointed that someone has stolen my movie idea. I'm talking about the movie "When a Stranger Calls," about a teenaged babysitter who recieves harassing phone calls, then the police inform her "we traced the calls (so 80's), they're coming from inside the house!" Check the children! Sure, this is the plot of 20 ghost stories and about half of the suspense novels written for tweens, but I was really going to make it my own.

    I guess I'll need to focus on my other projects:

  • A TV sitcom about someone who predicts murders and only has a short period of time to prevent them.

  • A rock song about "The Real Thing" (a la Faith No More, U2, Bo Bice)

  • A book about a writer who has a lot of great ideas but nobody realizes it until he's already descended into madness and dies a violent death. Then they think he's wonderful.

  • My photography series of self-portraits where I crouch in the corner of an empty room.
  • Osama Been Plottin'

    The news is a'buzz about a new Osama Bin Laden tape. The emphasis of the report being that Osama is planning to attack the United States.

    So people... at what point in the past twenty years or so has Osama NOT been planning to harm the United States? Because THAT would be news. 9/11 was not his success, it was our failure. I'll avoid bringing to light Bush's great many shortcomings, but still say that if America does its part effectively, then we should have nothing to fear but fear itself.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Finding Yourself

    Tonight I saw Joey at work. She was loading my bulky boxes onto one of my trucks. When I jumped in that truck later, I looked at the wall of boxes and thought, Joey does a bang-up job. That's a good wall.

    Then I realized it was the wall I had built the last time I was in that trailer.

    A few years ago I was going through the files on my old computer. I came across something that I assumed to be a report written by Slimysculpin. I thought, he's a good writer. I should aspire to write like him. But I read on and realized it was a short story I had started writing about a scientist who had a lot of early success and had become bored with life (his big invention was remote-control seaweed; think of the possibilities).

    Anyway, it's cool to look at your own work objectively and really like it.

    By the way, Slimysculpin would be a good writer if he would just write something. Lazy fish.

    Help Wanted

    I got a new job today. But Eleanor won't let me celebrate. She doesn't like it and is still worried about our income. The job is doing "industrial cleaning." Tankers, pipelines, whatever. I had an interview and they seemed to love me. My interview lasted almost 3 hours. The pay is decent and will go up a dollar/hr when I get my CDL. There is also a lot of chemistry involved. The boss told me about repairing an oil tank by heating the crude oil with diesel, then adding water and letting the crap sink into the water layer, skimming the oil off and then draining the tank. Oil saved.

    He asked me to come in for two trainings and said I would be ready to be a miner by this weekend. He also explained a way to turn some types of mine tailings into sulfuric acid. It sounds cool but they do a lot of road trips, even as far as Billings, Montana. Eleanor is worried I won't be able to work a second job. Those dance classes and dinosaur museums aren't cheap you know. They also offered me a position as their "dispatcher" to send out bodies and equipment to different work sites. That is probably what I will have to do so I can have a more-normal schedule and continue my work packing boxes.

    Speaking of which: I was dead-on with my Chuck E. Cheese analogy. The other night a supervisor named Eric came to me and said I was doing an excellent job getting the right boxes on the right trucks. Then he gave me some coins. I said, "What are these, Canadian nickels?" No. They're tokens. For the vending machines. Party! Pizza Party!

    If I become the dispatcher, I will have my own office. I'll also be in charge of picking up parts and helping machanics in the shop. So I won't be chained to the desk. The bosses described the fieldwork as "very messy." I told them I was currently loading boxes and they said that was nothing in comparison. But they also bragged about giving guys with GEDs comfortable lifestyles.

    Eleanor says it sounds like I'm "too good" for this job. Yet, she keeps telling me to apply for cubicle and werehouse jobs? I also had a phone interview today to get a customer service job for a "wireless" company. Just the interview made me want to run screaming, punching myself in the head like my hair was on fire.

    The girl asked: If hired, you will answer 80 phone calls per day. How do you handle the pressure of tight deadlines?

    I said: Is there an hourly requirement? They don't give you a specific amount of time to resolve each call, right?

    She said: I don't know anything about the job. All I have is the questions they sent me.


    I also responded to an ad to produce lenses for glasses. I had to send an email to get a physical address. Then I looked them up in the phone book to ask:

    Can you give me an idea of the pay range for your production workers?

    Girl: I don't know. Let me ask someone. (On hold.) Nobody knows.

    Me: You can't give me a basic idea?

    Girl: No.

    Me: Your ad said to apply between 9-ll am, is that right?

    Girl: Really? We're here from 9-5.

    That girl makes answering phones seem easy. 79 more calls to go.

    What do you think about the sludge job? Does it sound okay?

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Helpy Helperton

    Yesterday, the Fox channel ran a lot of commercials for the season premiere of "24." I've never watched it, but the commercial started to get on my nerves.

    Somebody asks Kiefer Sutherland, "Who are you?"
    To which he replies, "Someone who isn't supposed to still be alive."

    It rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? Additionally, it doesn't offer any useful information but I guess it builds drama? maybe? Wouldn't it hit harder if he said, "I'm a dead man." or even, "Someone who is presumed to be dead"?

    I really wish I felt comfortable giving frustrating answers like, say, at a doctor's appointment or a job interview. But that probably wouldn't fly:

    Who are you?

    Someone who probably should have been mortally wounded twenty years ago when my siblings and I actually spent our first Christmas with my dad since the divorce and travelled down to Pueblo Colorado to stay in a trailer with his "girlfriend" who owned a plot of land and let my brother and I ride together on one of her three horses across her barren property, soon to discover the saddle wasn't strapped on tight and we were plopped onto the ground as our seat slid down to the horse's belly, left to flounder in the dirt amid all those metal-shod hooves.

    Uh-huh, and what is your date of birth?

    It was a balmy summer day, in the year of our nations bi-centennial..."

    I don't know. Was that dramatic and compelling? Wouldn't it be great if we all had endless amounts of time to waste?

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    From the Horses Mouth?

    SlimySculpin has proposed that "a PM (Prairie Muffin) Manifesto written from the point of view of a dessicating dung pile out amidst the sagebrush is worth posting somewhere. Here's #1..."

    1. Prairie Muffins are committed to enriching their surroundings through their own decomposition and sticking to your boots if you step in 'em.

    2. Prairie Muffins recognize that no single size, splatter-pattern or aroma is better than that of another muffin and appreciate whatever form The Flying Spaghetti Monster has doled out to them.

    Who has #3?

    It's Hard to Say No

    My son frequently asks for things that I would love to give him but would need to come up with a creative answer if I'm not going to say "no."

    He wants the following things:

  • "His wings to grow in" - This spawned the name of my blog. He has big plans for when he can fly. He says he will not fly up to the sun because he does not want his wings to melt. Instead he will fly to the moon where it is nice and cool. I thought maybe he would settle for soaring down a zipline in the backyard.

  • "To hold a cloud" - I thought maybe I could fill his hands with water and dry ice.

  • "A tree, to shoot arrows at and build a treehouse in" - This will have to wait until our next house. We don't have any good trees for a treehouse. He wants one with a window AND a door. I drew a picture of a treehouse for him and he used his little fingers like legs to climb the ladder and then just stared at it for a long time.

  • "Curtains" - There is something strange about having a five year old approach you to make a heartfelt request for curtains in his bedroom. He said he didn't want monsters looking in the windows at night. I bought him some curtains that weekend.

    It takes some imagination if you don't want to tell your kids NO or THAT CAN"T BE DONE.
  • Friday, January 13, 2006

    Brokeback Mounting

    Whoa, look at that last entry. I do the world a favor by not drinking and maybe I won't write past 2am anymore.

    I thought we could discuss the movie "Brokeback Mountain" today. Here in Utah, Larry H. Miller owns the Utah Jazz, a ton of car dealerships, a lot of movie theaters and about half the valley. He is getting national attention for his refusal to show the movie "Brokeback Mountain" in his theaters. He said he would show it at first but then pulled out at the last minute.

    I doubt that pulling the movie was an act of bigotry. It is more likely pandering to the state audience. It seems a lot of people here think the very word "gay" is a direct attack on their moral fiber. Larry Miller refuses to comment on why he won't show the movie.

    Larry does produce a lot of subpar "Mormon" movies. They are annoying. The story of Mormon history could probably make one or two interesting movies but instead we have an onslaught of lame idea after lame idea being thrown in our faces every time we view a movie at Larry's theaters.

    If Larry pulled "Brokeback Mountain" because he does not want to "endorse" the actions in the movies, does that mean he does endorse the actions in movies like "Sin City" or "The Wedding Crashers"? I saw the movie "A Knight's Tale" in Larry's theater and I am convinced that it is one of the gayest movies of all time.

    The message of all those Mormon movies seems to be that "mormons are normal people just like everyone else", you know, "normal people" who CHOOSE FOR YOU what movies you can watch, on what days you can purchase alcohol, or how to zone poor districts of the city to keep those lousy democrat votes from affecting elections.

    Utah, of all places, is probably the best place to find a cowboy (or wannabe cowboy) with an untapped sensitive side. Maybe that is why it's all so terrifying. Because in Utah we tolerate a lot of things: If you want to marry your twelve year old niece and put her in a remote desert cave with your other three wives and thirty kids, knock yourself out. But Utahns will not participate in your visual orgy of loving gay gayness. We're trying to be normal here!

    Fan Appreciation and Fish Meal

    Did you see that? There is someone who reads my blog and not out of guilt of friendship or relation (Thanks Catherine!). The Prairie Muffins draw readers out of their shells, I guess. It is a fascinating prospect to have a pet woman, but think of the upkeep. You have to feed them everyday, provide them a place to live, get one of those slime-eating fish to keep algea out of the bowl, and did you know scientists are predicting a shortage in fish meal and oil? It's true. We feed ocean fish to our farm fish so we can put them in rivers they never lived in before and rip their lips off.

    What will happen when we run out of fish meal? Well, we should have some fish doctors skulking around here somewheres. How bout it, fish doctors (or "foctors" as they are known in Academia)? Will it soon cost us an arm and a leg to feed our pet women due to shortages in fish meal? I think we should all just dress up our ferrets and go for a walk in the park. I know what you're thinking: He's lost it. You win this round. Goodnight.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Brother Goose

    Yesterday Ethan started singing, to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell: "The harmer in the hell, the harmer in the hell." Then he turned to me and smiled, "I made a joke."

    It's not quite "How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail..." but it's good for a kindergartener. Lewis Carroll would be proud.

    Tail End

    It was late last night so I didn't get to finish off that last entry. I wanted to end with all of us pondering the words from a little Modest Mouse:

    You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death?
    You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste the afterlife?

    I'm not so intent on mocking Prairie Muffins as I am at getting people to consider who they are and why they do what they do. What role they play in our upside-down society. If you can do it in less than 20 twenty seconds then I accuse you of not actually thinking.

    Laura Ingalls is the Devil's Handpuppet

    Now let's take a look at another point of view. There is a group of women out there who refer to themselves as "Prairie Muffins." Gordon introduced me to them some time ago and it's worth spreading the awareness. These "Muffins" tend to be ultra-religious, homeschooling mothers intent on reviving the "simple life" of a romanticized pioneer family.

    These women will endorse "fun" and "wholesome" activities. Not so much activities like river-rafting as much as activities like vacuuming, baking, and dressmaking. They'll zealously defend the denim jumpers they wear and, like the rest of us, they take comfort in knowing others agree with their lifestyle. Hence, you may find the "Prairie Muffin Manifesto" posted on several websites. Some highlights of which include:

    Prairie Muffins own aprons and know how to use them.

    Prairie Muffins are fiercely submissive to God and their husbands.

    Prairie Muffins appreciate godly role models, such as Anne Bradstreet, Elizabeth Prentiss and Elisabeth Elliot. They do NOT idolize Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie) or Louisa May Alcott (Little Women); while they may enjoy aspects of home life presented in their books, PMs understand that the latent humanism and feminism in these stories and in the lives of these women is not worthy of emulation.

    To them, Laura Ingalls is a temptation. A red herring. She makes it look right to spend the dog days of summer dunking doughballs into your favorite fishing hole. It's that Disney-style of evil that looks good on the surface but actually has a heart darker than midnight. (If you want to debate how evil Disney is, just ask yourself how you would describe a person or thing that worships money and nothing else. The end.) Laura Ingalls may be submissive to her god and husband but she must not have that "fierceness" the Muffins are looking for. For a Mushroom-Pastry, the road to Hell is paved with independent thoughts and self-awareness. Those things are better left to the men. Ladies, what would Jesus do? Aside from giving it up at his pious man's command, he would coverup and lock himself in a 2000 sq ft closet.

    Okay, let's have the Jesus talk: Jesus has become a symbol that people apply to whatever cause they are promoting, like choosing a president, a lifestyle, a sitcom, a hotdog. Use him to convince people that whatever you love is the best in the most superlative way. Maybe this is why He is losing his power in America. No one will let him speak for himself. All they grant him is the idea of sacrifice. But what did he do with his life? He traveled around and mixed and humbled himself before the poor and skanky. Did he hide himself away and try not to offend anyone? Not in the stories I've heard.

    Given his earthly deeds, what makes the Muffins think he is concerned about whether they wear suits, jumpers or something that hangs off the shoulder? Does a floor vacuumed three times in a day or a bathroom smelling like an Alaskan forest impress the Spirit in the Sky? Every time Jesus is played as a trump card, his spirit dies. Drive your Chevy to the levee. The levee is dry.

    Maybe the muffins are right. Maybe they are setting women's liberation back a hundred years. But if you watch the news, these stories usually end with the mother killing her children and being saved by Jesus once more, as she pleads insanity. Jesus told her to do it.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Little House on the Telee

    I wanted to talk about the show "Little House on the Prairie." When I was little and my older sister ran the TV, we watched a lot of Little House. It seems like nowadays the show has a bum rap as a wholesome show for frumpy grandmothers, but it deserves more of a chance than that.

    It's not just a show about little girls in Sunday School. There are several episodes where the town is struck by plague or where Pa has to go out looking for work and always ends up working on the railroads where people blow themselves up or have tunnels collapse on them. There are also peculiarities like the episode where some guy crashes his wagon and gets pinned down, he befriends a toy rocking horse and spends an hour keeping a flock of hungry crows at bay until he is rescued.

    Charles Ingalls wears a pink shirt in nearly every episode and in one episode he protests wearing a blue shirt because "It's a sissy color." It's also funny how nobody goes to jail: There's an episode where a group of little girls are skinny dipping and they scramble when they see boys spying on them. One of the girls drowns in the chaos. The mother of the dead girl goes nuts and drives off her husband and then kidnaps Laura Ingalls and locks her in her basement. When the Ingalls family goes looking for their missing daughter, they find her lunch bucket at an eccentric neighbor's house. They try to confront the neighbor but he runs and someone shoots him in the head. Then Laura escapes and returns to her family. Everyone is happy. All is well that ends well. No jail for shooting an innocent neighbor, no nuthouse for kidnapping a girl as a replacement for your departed one. Get on with your lives.

    And while they are so informal about murder and kidnapping, they still require you to go before a judge to get a divorce.

    Sure, it is not a realistic portrayal of the Old (mid)West, but it's pretty good in comparison to other shows. It was on TV for nearly ten years for a reason. Just thought you might want to know, in case you are the type to roll your eyes every time you see it as you flip through the channels. It would also be cool if they took more things from the books like making balloons out pig bladders and roasting a pig's tail over a fire and licking it like a popsicle.

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    Negative Creep and Narnia

    I was painting with my brother-in-law today and we started talking about the new "Narnia" movie. I haven't seen it but it looks like they tried to take the in-your-face and over-the-top, Peter Jackson epic approach to the film. It's not really how I pictured the story.

    On my sister's referral, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first book I ever remember reading. I could make out the words but couldn't follow the sentences. I was around kindergarten age. Since then, I have read the book more times than I can remember.

    I started talking to my bro-in-law about how I liked children's books. I said reading a kid's book is kind of like people's attitude in Utah: The world portrayed in a secure, reasonable way, where unfortunate things set you back but, ultimately, all the right things happen because that is the way of our good world. Good is our natural course. It's a nice, safe feeling but has little to do with the world where we actually live. For that reason, the shine has rubbed off of Narnia and now the grim lessons of life as shown in the movie "Shadowlands" are more applicable. The blows that cut us so deeply are what make us perfect. Perfectly what? You will need to determine yourself.

    I will watch the Narnia movie but not with the enthusiasm I once held to visit that dream. I'm too old to return to Narnia, I guess. You can call me a Negative Creep and I will almost deserve it. My brother-in-law said I complained a lot on my blog. But I think all of my claims are defensible as more than just whining and also serve to explain dark truths to those who may not have thought about them before. My words can just as easily be helpful to others as they are damning of our own behaviors. And I have never flat-out said that Man is doomed or that life is not worth living. With that in mind, I see myself as an optimist. There is a beautiful world out there... now, if we can only get to it. I'm not beaten and neither are you.

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    All Up In Yo' Bizness

    The other night at work the big trainer came and talked to me. I've been doing good work loading the boxes. Only one wrong box on my truck in three weeks. A lot of people load two wrong boxes per night. I figured it was as good time to ask about a promotion. Several of my past jobs did not want to give you a raise unless you asked for it.

    The trainer said the best advice he could give me was to stay where I was and do what I was doing. During that conversation, the "Randy Quaid Guy" came over and told us he hated his job and that he was quitting in two weeks. He said he'd been there almost two years and was making about the same amount of money as when he started. "Keep doing what you're doing" rarely seems to be good advice.

    The situation is to be expected. If CEO's and vice presidents CAN get you to do the work for less money, THEY WILL. Middle management may like the idea of raises for everyone, but the guys signing the checks do not like to share the wealth. I liked my supervisor at my last job, but she could not save me from the torture of office micromanagement and the wave of diarrhea that inevitably rolls downhill to the working class.

    The most successful big bosses love the idea of paying you less, cutting your benefits and, generally, treating you like the dog you are. In a twist of irony, they also want your obedience, loyalty and utter devotion. Yessir, I will do anything you say and smile as you crap on my head. Please make me Employee of the Month. They think your hourly wage will deliver your love. No matter how complex your job, your boss probably has a desire to treat you like some pimply-faced teen, schlepping hamburgers.

    For instance, my last job: I had access to millions upon millions of credit card numbers and other private information. I had access to tools which could be used to extract social security numbers, marraige records, voting records, criminal records, motor vehicle records and so forth. If I have learned to prevent fraud for the last 5 years, then, in essence, I have learned to commit fraud for the past five years.

    Luckily, I am an honest person. I WANT the system to work. You would think that being trustworthy with this information and effective at my position would represent some type of value in me. Nope. I leave and nobody cares. Proud companies can survive no matter who leaves, or so they would have you believe. For this reason, even their best can be treated like a disposable teenage workforce. No biggie.

    Please log your pottie breaks. Don't mind us as we track your movement through the building, video tape you, and record your computer activity. No talking please, sit still. Management can't do it, but you surely will be expected to. Also, don't expect holidays off or any short days. Part time? Don't make me laugh. You're here forever. Plus we'll throw in some little touches, just to mess with you.

    But what about the people who aren't honest and could care less if the system works? Our society preaches "every man for himself, you better go for yours; lead, follow or be trampled to death." If you empower people with sensitive information and uncommon abilities then you had better not be shuffling them in and out of your workforce like "shit through a goose." You had better not take your workers for granted. If someone uses those powers for evil and your company goes under then the stock you saved for retirement is worthless.

    There is a price for dehumanizing the people at the bottom. And it pays to have a sense of humor (and decency). Be the big man.

    Recent Conversations

    Eleanor (to a friend): You're in a harder place because you have higher standards than most guys when it comes to going out with girls. I could have had a lot of boyfriends in high school if I had gone out with anyone who showed interest. But I was REALLY picky about who I dated.

    Me: And, yet, you ended up with me.

    Eleanor: I know. Weird, huh?



    Eleanor: Do you want to buy some Kool-Aid? You used to drink it so much.

    Me: I did? When was that?

    Eleanor: Don't you remember when you worked up in Logan? I would make you Kool-Aid everyday.

    Me: That's right. Geez... Will I ever get to a point in my life when I don't have to put a mental block on everything that happens to me?

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Near Death of "Drake" and Comedy Too

    I don't assume that a lot of people think I'm funny. Humor is ambiguous as beauty. And probably, no one laughs at my jokes like I do. I don't think the "Rodent Reunion Center" is funny in and of itself, but I do think it's funny when my wife comes home from work and sees the decorated box in the kitchen and then we have to go through a round of interrogation to determine exactly why the cardboard house exists.

    The other night I saw on TV that the "Drake" kid from that Nickelodeon show "Drake and Josh" got nailed by a car while he was sitting at a red light. For some reason it's stuck on my brain (I guess, the tragedy that a promising career may be cut off so easily). I think he broke his back and his jaw and they described it as "near fatal." As to why I know who Drake is and you probably don't: we have our TV on Nickelodeon pretty much all day long. He comes on just about every commercial break. (An aside: The worst thing in the world is when you decide to be a tyrant and say "For once, I'm going to watch what I want" and then it turns out that The Rugrats actually are the best thing on at the moment. And I'm too poor for Tivo.)

    But Drake has been doing sketch comedy for kids for quite some time. I'm not saying he's fantastic, but if he spends half his life performing comedy, I would guess that he'll be able to effectively deliver a joke once he hits full maturity. And when I scan the comedy landscape these days, I don't see much promise.

    A lot of the comedy legends are getting very old; Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Bill Cosby. A lot of times it is painful to see them attempt to be vivaciously funny. And who is here to replace them? Ben Stiller? Go away, Ben Stiller. The Rock is ten times the entertainer you will ever be. That's right, the wrestler. If the current cast of Saturday Night Live is a representation of our best, then these are truly dark times.

    Mike Judge seems to take his sweet time with everything, Dave Chapelle seems to be questioning if it's worth it, Conan O'Brien is stretched thin, and Jack Black, well... the big ones never seem to hang around for long.

    Have you seen the trailer for that movie "Grandma's Boy?" An Adam Sandler movie without Adam Sandler? I'm going to have to give it the preemptive "wait for it on video."

    Part of the problem may also be that TV networks don't give shows a chance to develop. Most shows get canceled if they are not instant sensations. Imagine if the decision to cancel The Simpsons was based on their first season. They wouldn't have evolved into one of the funniest shows in history.

    I'm sure good comedy will pop up here and there, but it seems we've got slim pickings at the moment. We can't afford to have our comedians-in-training being run down in the street. Drake should do the physical comedy till his bones are dust. You can live with the pain to fulfill your life's ambition. That's what The Rock would do.

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Mother Necessity

    I decided to go for the gusto with my first invention and build a better mousetrap.

    With this latest design, you don't have to pick off the mice one at a time. You can wipe out generations and entire bloodlines of rodentia in one instance. This is just a prototype. I'm still considering the traditional "arched doorway." As soon as the government will sell me some mustard gas, these puppies will be hot on the market.

    For Those of Y'all Who Like Trainwrecks

    Some of you already know this (but for the rest), I started writing a novel about a warped future (or a not so warped present)a little over a year ago. I started writing those short stories I posted to start a little portfolio and as a step toward meeting a helpful agent to publish the novel.

    My wife wanted to help me by finding a service (authorhouse.com) that will publish any book that you are willing to cut them a check for. I checked out the publisher and perused some the material they sell. In honesty, I can't say that I would be very proud to have my writing fall in with that company.

    There was one "writer" who caught my eye. Sierra Silverstar with her novel "Cats in a Dog's World." If you check it out, everything about her and her book is so striking that you just can't look away
    Her book is about a world of cat-people which is conquered by a race of dog-people. Here is the opening:

    An Orange tabby cat goes to the nearest phone and dials a number on it. “Sir, this is Romad Mouser, from the 107th mechanics training battalion in Maxine Eastern Torico, we are being attacked”. There is a short silence as there is deafening explosion coming from within meters of their building. “I can’t talk long; we’re being bombed by someone”. There is another short pause. “No I don’t know who they are” the tiger cat looks out the window and sees some kind of disk-shaped aircraft flying past their building at great speeds.

    There is also a love story:

    Before I know what happened I felt warm lips on the inside of my paw. Words cannot describe the feelings I felt as he kissed my paw. While I had a sweetheart at home, nothing and I mean nothing we did ever felt this warm, this comforting. Even though I was out in the middle of a labor camp, surrounded by those who would rather hurt me then protect me, I felt safer then I ever did before in my life. Nothing could harm me while he was holding me, and for a few moments, I felt free and happy. All too soon he let go of my paw again and looks at me longingly, a tear forming in his eye. I could tell he is for real, as it looked like this was tearing his heart apart, torturing his days worse then the nightmares of the invasion tortured my nights.

    I think the work speaks for itself. I find it highly entertaining, but even more captivating is the autor's life story: She says she's from Germany, a writer since highschool (the "Cats" book representing 10 years of effort), who came to America as a teenager. She claims she is allergic to "cold" in all forms (even ice cream) and this condition has made her employment situation very difficult. So she moved to the south and now sells Avon and does exotic dancing (the link is safe enough, click it).

    You should really find out more about the book. If I could get a paper copy for $5 I would do it in a heartbeat. Support the arts.