Sunday, December 31, 2006

How to Build a Catapult

I don't know how long ago it was, but I can remember when I used to be wild and spirited and carefree. I used to have a crazy voice in the depths of my being telling me to do things like "make goals" or "try new things." I used to think I should get out there and be somebody. Take chances. Live a little.

There is some shadow of that person still inside of me and it drives me accomplish things. I am actually quite proud of myself even for the few and small things I am able to get done with the little time I seem to have. One thing that I did as a teenager was to build my own catapult.

Building a catapult just seemed like something I should be able to do. I had seen catapults on TV where the weapon is simply a teeter-totter with a large boulder on one side but that didn't seem good enough. In fairness, a catapult called a "Trebuchet" was basically a teeter-totter with a bucket on one side that could be filled with rocks. The arm of the Trebuchet also had a sling-like device to throw the projectile and the Trebuchet is considered superior to nearly all other forms of catapult from midieval times.

Anyhow, I wanted an easy-to-build catapult with some oomph to it. I asked my step-father if he knew how to build such a contraption and it turned out that he did.

Before I give you an idea of how to build your own catapult I feel I should probably put in a disclaimer that the use of the catapult is your own responsibility and that you are at fault for any damage or harm that may be caused by your project. If you are looking to hurl plague-infested corpses into the fortress of your enemies, I suppose it might be possible but mostly I am demonstrating how to build a machine to just toss stuff across your yard.

This is a bird's eye view of the machine. The brown rectangle is a simple frame. The purple thing is the arm used to toss your cookies or whatever. The black bar is built higher than the mainframe and the red spot is where the arm strikes the bar, stops, and lets fly your sapphire bullet.

The green thing is a loop of rope that is strung through two holes drilled in the mainframe. The blue sticks are blue sticks but you can choose whatever color you like on your actual catapult. The loop of rope goes around the blue sticks and you twist and twist and twist the sticks toward the front of the catapult until the rope is very tight. The purple arm is also inside of the looped rope. After a lot of twisting, there is a lot of tension on the rope and the rope wants to untwist itself really bad. This is what causes the arm to fly up. When you pull the purple arm down, you effectively twist the rope even more and increase the tension and when you let it go it relieves a little of the tension and subsequently makes your garbage your neighbor's problem.

There you have it. Your own seige engine. I just think people should do more things just to see if they can.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Flaming Mass of Oil and Gas

I'm actually quite serious about wanting a chain saw. I would use it for good and justice and to perform the best of deeds.

There have been some great people in the history of the world but wouldn't they have been better if only they had been accompanied by a Husqvarna? Just imagine these scenarios:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. --- "I have a dream... did I say 'a dream?' I meant, I have a chainsaw. And this saw will bring down burning crosses. This saw will open school doors to colored children. And you can bet your ass I'll sit anywhere I want on a city bus..."

Ghandi --- "I've got 4 horses and a flurry of metal teeth that say I'M RESISTING, bii-aaatch. I'm not going to swing them at you. I'm just saying that if you come at me and your skull happens to split in two... well, maybe you should have looked where you were going."

Jesus --- "Locusts and leprosy will seem like a walk in the park compared to this thing I'm calling The-Middle-Finger-of-God. Now repent my little sheepies."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Grandpa, Tell Me About The Good Old Days

I am really behind on my blogging so I'm not going to wait around for this post to come together perfectly. My mother will be disappointed that I did not get all of the details and I am disappointed that I don't have pictures to post with it.

Months ago, I asked my mother about the ranch where her side of the family all congregates during holidays like Easter and how that plot of land came to be in the family. The answer she gave shows the duality of my checkered heritage.

I am roughly half Indian. My father is not quite full Indian. My mother is not recognized as Indian at all. There is a big political mess behind the Indian pedigrees. First, there are thousands and thousands of people who are indigenous to the land of North America but who are not recognized as "Indian" because, frankly, the government doesn't want to deal with it. To recognize all people who link their origins back to this homeland of ours would be expensive and a hassle of paperwork. Therefore, everyone seems to be fine in saying that these native north american people are not actually Indians. It's fine for most people but when people try to make laws where you MUST BE a FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED Indian to practice something like a religious ceremony involving peyote, that is the point where I say it sucks. Not because I support the idea of using peyote, but because I am against the basic idea of saying "These native people over here have been blessed with the sacred approval of the white overlords and hold certain rights while these native people over here have not been given the sacred approval of the overlords and will not be given those rights... because we don't want to deal with paperwork or admit any further that we totally jacked these people." It is more government laziness or flat-out refusal to deal with an issue.

My mother gets tired of the goofy racism-within-the-race where people who are more parts Indian think of themselves as better than the people who are less parts Indian. Petty bickering on this matter kind of sounds like the groundbreaking sounds to the building of the great road to inbreeding. How do you STAY Indian and keep your family placed on the tribal rolls if you marry someone, Indian or not, from outside the small tribal community (which, ironically, was a common practice with our ancestors)? The health problems I suffered as a child are thought to stem from an unfortunate genetic combination, which I'm sure would be made better by a dwindling gene pool (That's sarcasm, if you didn't catch it).

Around 1900, the tribal valley was occupied by white soldiers. There was relatively little fighting between my tribe and the soldiers. The Indians were forced to stop speaking their native langauge, stop having their traditional ceremonies, kids weren't even allowed to play the Indian games they grew up playing. The Indians of my tribe were made to dress as white people dress and attend schools like white people did. And I'm sure the heathens were given Christianity.

After a couple of decades, leadership had been passed around from white dude to white dude, and finally a white dude of authority was approached by some college dork with fancy degrees and told that it was important to preserve the culture. And things suddenly swung the other way. The Indians were again encouraged to speak their langauge and teach it to their kids. They were encouraged to have their traditional ceremonies like "The White Deerskin Dance" and "Salmon Runs." Kids were encouraged to play the "stick game" which is much like LaCross with a lot of wrestling. My tribe actually had things very good in comparison to what befell virtually all of the other tribes across this country of ours. I, personally, attribute this luck to the remote location of my tribe and to the great abundance of resources in the area.

In their corner of northern California there are tree covered mountains interlaced with rivers feeding into rivers that wind about and spill into the ocean. Indians of old spread through all the nooks and crannies of the region and that is why most of them are not considered Indians by our great Uncle Sam. If you can't clear things up with maps and clearly drawn borders than the issue just isn't worth dealing with.

My mother and her siblings are currently petitioning the government for Federal Recognition as part of a tribe of Indians who lived a ways upriver from my father's tribe. My mother's ancestors had a big village where two rivers meet. The government has a policy of only recognizing Indians who were included in any of the hundreds of worthless contracts formed between our Great Fathers in Washington and the indigenous peoples of this country BEFORE A CERTAIN YEAR (1914, I beleive). My mother and many others believe that their tribe was included in such a contract and have made several attempts to contact the government about it... but the government doesn't seem to be answering their phone or responding to their mail.

This is a good place for the story to start, I s'pose. In this story, a white man named Charles from Ohio floated down the Mississippi River and into central america. He crossed the isthmus where the Panama Canal would later be constructed and ventured to nothern California in hopes of striking it rich in mining along the rivers in the vicinity of my father's tribe. A law was passed, which essentially made it legal to kill the Indians who lived there. The village where my mother's ancestors lived was leveled. The Indians were killed or run off. The invaders constructed a vast lumber mill on the spot. White men came in with their picks and shovels; panning didn't seem to be effective anymore. They searched all along the waterways for rich stuff.

But, wouldn't you know it? Indians were still lurking about, hiding around in the mountains. And they scared and stole from and pestered the miners to no end. There was nothing to do but form a mob... I mean, a militia. This white man, named Charles, took a break from mining and joined a group of Indian Killers. I believe they called themselves the "California Battalion." These do-gooders rode around and killed any Indian they could find.

In later years, the government had taken all the land from the Indians, except for the parts they deemed "uninhabitable" or land they simply didn't care about (at the time) and all of the Indians were forced at gunpoint to stay on these reservations. Suddenly, the government realized they had more land than they knew what to do with. What else could they do but give it away (to white people)?

So the man named Charles took advantage of The Homestead Act and got himself a good plot of land in the mountains. This plot of land is where my cousins and I would come to canoe in vernal pools and hunt for easter eggs in spring. It is still a tradition with my mother's side of the family.

It turns out that Charles had a nephew who came to take over the ranch when he was grown. The nephew took an Indian wife. His wife is either my great or great, great grandmother (I waited too long to tell this story, I can't remember for sure).

Now about my grandpa: This is the grandpa who died last December. I believe he was one of eight siblings. Most of them were loggers. That is still a family trade. Many of my uncles and cousins are loggers. I asked my mother for a picture of my grandpa and his twin brother showing them successfully cutting down a seqouia redwood tree with a two-man handsaw. Maybe that isn't cool nowadays but, in those days, man knew that nature was out to get us and there was nothing better we could do to spit in nature's face than to dam all of the rivers and cut down all those smug, punk-ass trees. At any of these given family reunions, my uncles and cousins could probably have a hundred acres of land clearcut by sunset.

There was a recent lawsuit where a lot of people were searching to be federally recognized as Indian. My grandpa was among them. The case has taken most of my life to come to an end and it was finally decided in court that my grandfather on my mother's side was Indian. Grandpa snuck in by a hair and much of the decision was based on the fact that he lived on the Indian reservation throughout the time the case was pending. My grandpa's twin brother never has been, nor ever will be, recognized as a "legitimate" Indian.

When the "New" Indians had won their case, the government compensation was to say, "Okay, okay. YOU ARE INDIAN. Go tell Emmett's Indian tribe to share their shit with you." My tribe has to pay the "New" Indians a bunch of money for the government's oversight because they already gave to that charity and they aren't going to give any more.

I asked my mother, "So who actually owns that ranch now?"
She said, "The Government."

Either Grandpa or his father sold the land back to the government and bought the plot of land on a neigboring mountain where my grandpa built the house where he raised his children and where he died in bed. It is the place where I spent much of my youth eating blackberries and running through the woods.

So, my checkered past is this: despite my Indian heritage, despite my pride for my people and my hope for our future, despite my dark skin, eyes and hair, I share blood with an old Indian Killer named Charles who unwittingly passed his land down to an Indian family.

And despite the generalization that Indians are in touch with nature and hold deep respect for the things that live on this great earth, this Indian descends from a line of people committed to cutting down forests to pay the bills. And I, myself, will never feel like I have made my right of passage into manhood until I own my own chainsaw.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Because someday it may be the only thing he looks forward to in life

I finally took Ethan snowboarding on Friday morning. I took him to the Solitude resort when he was 4 years old but he was too scared to ride the ski lift. I had to carry him up the hill on my back and run down the hill beside him as he rode and catch him before he shot into the parking lot.

Last winter, I was too busy to take him and I didn't want that to happen again this year.

Picture info: Saying "Cheese" sort of works. If you need some boarding gear in Salt Lake then visit Broken Board Shop by the Albertsons store near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The girl that owns it is a friend of ours. She's cool and nice. She tried to give me the sweatshirt for free but I told her she should at least make $1 above what it cost her. I'm a tough negotiator.

Here is Ethan eating lunch. Does anyone ever forget their first $9 hotdog?

And here are some short, short videos of Ethan boarding. Apparently, turning on your digital camera in 20 degree weather is like stuffing a handful of snow down someone's shirt while they are asleep. I turned on the camera and tried to take the video but a synthetic voice issued forth from the picture taker, it said, "FAQ this!" and turned itself off. I believe "FAQ this!" is a derogatory remark in the langauge of consumer based electronics. Needless to say, because of the battery's unwillingness to work in the cold, the videos are 1 second and 3 seconds long.

We had a good time. Mostly I just held his hands and pushed his board in the right direction with my board as we rode but in the flatter areas I let him ride by himself. He has really good balance and can reach dangerous speeds, despite his inability to stop himself.

We had to leave early so I could go to work. I said, "We'll come back later." and he said, "Like tomorrow?" He lives to shred now.

Whine with your Christmas Dinner

The other night I ate Christmas dinner with my wife and all of her uncles and cousins and such. My wife's mother's side of the family of is amazingly close and very friendly. It blows me away how my wife can ask, "What is Uncle Bruce's favorite dessert called again?"

And then one of her cousins will pipe up, "If it's that super-chocolaty cake from The DoDo (restaurant) then it is Lundegras." And my wife continues, "Yes, Lundegras. That's right."

Or that my wife thinks to ask, "Did you guys get a new countertop in here? This seems different?" And even though we only visit most of the family at their homes about once a year, they respond, "Yes, that is a new countertop." It astounds me that they are so genuinely caring and interested in eachother.

We ate some ham and potatos. There were tables set up upstairs where a television was playing the movie "Christmas Vacation" but the chairs were all taken so we went down to the basement where more tables were set up and a TV was playing the movie "A Christmas Story." I said, "Yes, I love this movie. I love how TBS plays it 24 hours a day on Christmas Eve."

And one of Eleanor's cousins said, "We were just talking about that." It turned out that, of 8 people in the room, 2 did not like the movie "A Christmas Story." One wife turned on her husband, "How can you not like this movie? Listen to the language." And he pushed the issue further by saying he also didn't care for the movie "Christmas Vacation." His wife told him he had no soul. The other hold-out is the son of a very prominent Utah Car Dealer. He said, "I've just never liked this movie.... ever since I was a little kid." And I said, "That just makes me think that you have a strange association with this movie... That you didn't like something in your childhood and for some reason you are taking it out against this film."

His wife seemed to think it was a funny remark but the guy just shrugged it off. That whole family is great and I had a good time there. We went to Bruce's for dessert. I tried one bite of that cake and now I don't need to eat any more chocolate for a year or two. It was so potent.

But while we were eating dessert, another of my wife's cousins came and sat by us. I don't know what to make of the guy and I think that I say that because all of my instincts tell me... well... that he sucks. He is a nice guy with a good heart and he has never done me any wrong. I think it stems from the fact that his father is very wealthy and that everything is handed to him. That does not make him bad, it's just that he doesn't use these opportunities to their potential.

I remember one time, my wife's little brothers were kind of bragging to me about him. They proudly said, "He's played the guitar for a couple of years but now he says he isn't going to play the guitar anymore because IT IS TOO EASY." To me, that is a completely ridiculous statement. If Jimi Hendrix was to say, "I'm not going to play this guitar anymore because it is too easy." That would be one thing. But for someone who has only played a year or two to say that is like saying, "I'm not going to write novels anymore because Microsoft Word is too easy to use. I no longer strive to make the world's best mac and cheese because the microwave has taken away the challenge of the true culinary art." Copying other peoples songs is easy. But try writing your own song and then compare it to something that Zeppelin or John Lennon wrote and then see if you don't suck somethin' fierce.

Anyway, this cousin likes to be the center of attention. The whole family usually just goes bowling for Christmas but I think this year they wanted to do something that allowed everyone to have a conversation without people yelling at them, "Hey! It's your turn to bowl! C'mon, don't you see the name POO up there on the scorecard? That's you!" Last year, this cousin showed up to bowling in a vintage track suit with a Micheal Bolton shirt and a headband. He rolled a lot of gutter balls and he made sure people noticed.

He is currently working on a PhD in English at one of Utah's finer universities. He also teaches several courses to undergrads. Because after he decided he didn't want to play the guitar anymore, he decided he wanted to be a professor. And he has enough money that he can pretty much do whatever he wants. So we were asking him about teaching and he kept trying to change the subject. My wife said to him, "Emmett likes to write, you should talk about it."

He said, "No. You wouldn't care about anything I write. It's just junk. I know what they want to hear. I think it's stupid but they all tell me it's what they want and then they give me more fellowship money. I mean, the last thing I wrote was about snow globes. I just write whatever crap I want and they like it."

I asked him what classes he teaches. He said he just finished "Introduction to American Literature." I've taken American Literature and I even got a good grade. I asked him what authors he used for the class. He spouted off about five names and I didn't recognize a single one of them. Most of them sounded Russian, but they weren't names like Tolstoy or anything. He said that he didn't really know who they were and that he had never read them. He read them for the first time at the same time his students did and then he says he just acted like he knew everything about it when they discussed it in class.

I have actually read some of his writing. His father is co-owner of a certain "Utah" magazine and his father gave him a job as a writer for this magazine. He wrote about how he and his friends went hiking out in the desert even though people told them it was dangerous; About his friends and their corresponding nick-names; And too much about how his "blasted" GPS unit gave him no end of trouble. It read like a bad high-school essay, akin to a paper on "My First Hunt."

I know that I talk too much about how I do not believe in our education system, especially higher-education, but this guy is the embodiment of my complaint. He has no talent, he doesn't care about what he does, he stands for nothing. And yet, he leads. He teaches. He recieves the accolades. It makes me ill to think that it is such a struggle for me to make arrangements to utilize this supreme path to a better future (school) and to know that this guy is running the show. He makes up the game and doles out the points at his whim, despite the financial costs to the students who show up expecting a real education.

The cousin talked as though he was entertaining us. As though we would laugh at how effortless it all was for him. How it was a big joke on everyone for his amusement and he was allowing us to peek inside his funhouse. But really that talk just confirmed my worst feelings about the "opportunities" people are given in America. Sorry, but I will continue to move furniture and focus on my kids rather than take out loans and jump through hoops to bank my future on these ass-monkeys.

In the background there is a voice in all of our heads saying: Flieswithoutwings is jealous. What horrible jealousy. He's been consumed by the green-eyed monster.

Maybe. Sort of. I can be competitive. I can dream of an easier life. But if I was really jealous and wanted to outdo this boy at his own game then I would probably hassle my own father about becoming co-owner of a small magazine so I could write a montly article and letting me move into his house and eat his food so I can sit around not reading books and not drawing out concepts that should be important to us on a personal level or as people who live together on this world. Just as easily as he, I could make a spectacle of myself without actually having anything to say. I could look a part but not be the part, if that is what I found fulfilling. I don't feel that me and this guy are on the same level. I wouldn't trade what I have for what he has.

I want to love this guy because he is my family and he means no harm but that does not mean that people like him are not central to everything that I think is wrong with our society.

Careful What You Ask For

I mean what I say: You really shouldn't make such requests unless you are sure you want them.

I went to Google "images" and did a search for "dog licking himself" as a model for the man trying to kiss his own butt and not a single picture of an actual dog licking himself appeared. All I can say is that the internet still has a long way to go.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Josh was in a steady rhythm of scooping up snow and throwing it to his side. He heard swooshing slush as a car in the nearby street slowed to a stop. His neighbor, Steve, lowered the passenger-side window of his car and yelled, "The driveway looks good. When are you going to come to my house and shovel mine?"

"I'll shovel your driveway just as soon as you bend over and kiss your own ass." Said Josh.

This was Steve's moment. He hadn't spent all of those years at the Academy of Modern Contortionism for nothing. He hated shoveling snow.

When you hate the food that comes from a pipe you will turn to drugs to help you sleep

I am buying my mother-in-law a book for Christmas. Barnes and Noble had to special-order it for me last week. The guy told me it would be in on Thursday so I gave them a call that morning. They told me they had until Friday to get it in, so I checked again on Friday morning. They told me that they were still unloading trucks and that it was probably there. So Friday at 3:00 pm I showed up at the store. They said they were STILL unloading and that it might be Monday before I could pick it up. That night I got an email saying I had 3-4 days to pick the book up so I went back on Sunday.

My wife and kids were going to wait in the car. I said, "This SHOULD be fast but it probably won't be." My wife asked, "Why not?" I said, "Because I will go inside and they will say they have the book but they can't find it and then I will have to stand there for half an hour while they try to figure out where it is. Blah, blah, blah." My wife started to get mad at me. She said, "You always do this. You always think something is going to go wrong before you even know. Just go get the book."

I came back out about half an hour later. My wife asked, "Did you get the book?" I said, "No. They said they got their shipment in but the book must not have been with it. They said maybe it would come in on a second part of the same shipment tomorrow and if not then they will have the book overnighted."

After that, my wife was quiet. I knew she was waiting for me to say I was right and she was wrong. Instead I said, "I don't act like this because I'm negative. I act like this because THIS IS MY LIFE. Everyday. Everyday and everything that can give me problems DOES give me problems. I'm not negative, I've just figured out the pattern."

And it is true. At least I just come to expect life this way. Like last weekend when I woke up, my wife always has plans to go places and run errands. So we were heading out to the Honda Odyssey. Huh, the keyless entry doesn't seem to be working. No, it appears the battery in the van is dead. OK, I will just push the van backwards a little bit and jumpstart it. Hmmm, apparently you cannot shift the transmission into neutral when the battery is dead. OK, I will just bring our other car really, really close and jump start it. Now let's just get these jumper cables hooked up. Why is the alarm to the van going off? Maybe it is something with the panic button. No, we've pushed all the lock and unlock buttons available and the alarm keeps blaring. Now who is this? A neighbor?


"That is what I'm trying to do."


"I'm trying to turn it off."

All I could do was kill the battery again. The neightbor said "Thanks" and went home. But five minutes later I started the van again and drove through the nieghborhood with the alarm screaming. I drove it behind the elementary school to see if I could get it figured out. I wish I had a manual to the van. Eventually the alarm turned itself off but remained armed so anytime you lock or unlock or open or close a door it would go off again. So I tried to drive it to the Honda dealership with the alarm blaring but the dealership was closed. The alarm turned itself off again. I drove it home and managed to get out of the car without setting the alarm off by getting out through one of the rear doors.

I checked the chatboards online to see if there was a solution. There were a lot of people who had this problem but the only answer seemed to be to take it to the dealership and, even then, people had horror stories about the dealership just basically telling the owners they must be retarded and that it must be their fault. I checked a website that specializes in car alarms and they suggested that there may be a button under the dash that resets the alarm so I went outside to look.

This time, when I used the keyless entry to unlock the car I discovered the alarm had disarmed itself and now the car was normal again. Now that it was 6:00 pm, my day off was ready to begin. Except for the radio. Honda radios disable themselves when the battery supply is cut and you need a special code to reactivate it. When we bought our Honda Civic from the dealer he gave us a sticker with our code on it and said, "PUT THIS SOMEWHERE SAFE. DO NOT PUT IT IN THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT." After a day of driving the van with no stereo I said to my wife, "Look in the glove compartment (of the van) and tell me if there is a sticker with a number in there." "HERE IT IS," she said. Stereo functional again.

This Christmas is killing me because we don't have time to do anything. A couple of nights ago I pulled out some Christmas lights and plugged them in, knowing full well that I don't have the kind of life where you can plug in Christmas lights and expect them to light up. I need two strands of working lights. One strand worked and HALF of the other strand worked. I put them up anyway on the stairs to our porch. Lastnight I went to the store to buy another fully-lit strand to replace the half-lit strand with. The new lights don't turn on at all. I replaced the fuses in the lights and still, nothing. My wife prefers to hang lights with tape but of course they fell down the first night. I tried to put them back up with nails from a picture hanging kit. The nails fell out, too. I got a call today from Barnes and Noble telling me my book was there. I will see if that is true, as soon as I get a chance.

The $1000 ambulance bill, driving home in midnight snowstorms and a TV with a volume button that changes the channel are a nuisance. The little things are driving me batty. Day after day. Every single day. So if you cut me off in traffic and run a red light and slam into my car (for the 3rd time in 5 years) don't be surprised if some crazy bastard wants to hit you. Because being awake is swimming around in a lake of the undead. And the undead are like a bunch of friends who demand constant attention. But thinking of that will hurt my brain and I need my brain for later on. I need to get to work so I can relax with Britney Spears' cha cha while having the crap beat out of me by a bunch of sleeper sofas.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Work is Fun

Why make your kids wait until they are of legal working age to learn a menial task? It is never too early to begin a repetitive stress disorder. Foreshadow your childs bleak future with this hot holiday toy.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Curse Missed Opportunities

Believe it or not, I am sort of picky what I put on my blog. I have a lot of ideas that never make it on here. I think some are too boring or time sensitive. There are many reasons why they don't make it on. Usually it isn't a big deal to me and life goes roaring on. It frequently happens that a few hours after I post something, I think of something that would make my posts better. For instance, on the Unconquered Sun post I wish it said:

And God says, "Well, just as long as there's some killing going on, I guess most of them can live to see another day. (along with) Except for that guy right there! PILLAR OF SALT! ZAP!" But once they are posted I feel like I can't go and change them. It seems like cheating.

Here are a couple of posts I would have liked to have done:

1. They put an eye into the sky and did not tell the people why

One day I went into the basement of our old house and discovered that my kids had collected all of the rubber-duck toys we owned and flocked them all together. It was seriously like being in Alfred Hitchcocks "The Birds" film, just with yellow rubber ducks. The strangest part of all is that WE HAVE NEVER INTENTIONALLY PURCHASED A RUBBER DUCK. Not even one. And there was a swarm of 30 or so ducks in our basement.

The way it works is that businesses slip them in with other things, like a set of baby washcloths or other legitimate baby needs. And just like that you're living in Duck City. It is nothing short of eerie. I meant to take a picture and post it on the blog, then I had this conversation with Eleanor:

Me: "What happened to all of those rubber ducks?"
Eleanor: "I threw them away when we moved."
Me: "Why?"
Eleanor: "Why do you CARE?"
Me: "mumblemumbleBLOGmumble"
Eleanor: "You wanted to put them on your blog?" (rolls her eyes)

I am forming a conspiracy theory that the government is infiltrating the homes of married couples via rubber duck to ensure that there are no men posing as brides nor women posing as grooms, which would result in a successful and legal gay marraige. That will never happen, if the ducks have anything to say about it.

It is my hope that by writing this, I will finally be able to stop thinking about those dumb ducks and how I wish I had snapped that picture.

2. A Tale of Two Carnies

There is a guy at work named Brenden. The first time I ever talked to him is when he and I were assigned to drive around the warehouse and pick up all of the unused forklifts and park them in an out-of-the-way corner. He was driving me from lift to lift. While we were driving he told me:

"I didn't think I was coming to work today. I woke up this morning and thought, 'there is no way I can go in today.' But then it was time for work and I drank a six pack of beer and all of a sudden I thought, 'I can go now.'"

I asked, "You drank a six pack right before you came in today?"

He said, "Yeah."

I wanted to say, "How about you let ME drive then?" But it was late in the shift, so I figured it was worn off by then. Quite the first impression. Brenden often talks about his daughter and his "baby's mama." I say, "Do you live WITH your baby's mama?" Yes. "Do you get along with your baby's mama?" Yes. "Then why don't you just call her your girlfriend?" He says, "Because she dumped me a long time ago. We just barely got back together. I'm not her boyfriend and I never will be."

I said, "Do you think you will marry her someday?" He says, "Yeah. Someday. I'm too young right now." I say, "Just call her your girlfriend."

The other night he was talking about his baby's mama. Someone asked, "Is she hot?" And Brenden said, "She is WAY out of my league." I asked , "Where did you meet her?" And Brenden said, "Do you know The Carnival?" I asked, "Do you mean the State Fair or a County Fair or something like that?" He said, "Yes."

I wanted to joke with him, "Oh, were you a carnie? You lured her in by giving her a free ride on the tilt-a-whirl?" But the story was already unfolding before I could even open my mouth. He was a carnie... and so was she. When you think of them both as carnies... doesn't it make that line about her being out of his league seem as sweet as Romeo and Juliet? You bet your last skee-ball ticket, it does.

And the whole time I've known him, it seems like I knew he was a carnie, just no one had ever said the words. But once someone says that word, things suddenly make sense. In my experience, carnies kind of have a Ron Jeremy quality to them: they aren't good looking but they seem to have a special gleam in their eyes. Like, if they would just jump in the shower and comb their hair and make a couple of trips to the dentist, then their options in life would be limitless. As is, they probably get kicked out of restaurants when they come in to ask to use the restroom.

Anyway, when Brenden told me he and his Baby's Mama were two star-crossed carnies, the thought popped in my head: This blogpost will get me a Pulitzer Prize. Brenden told me how he left home at 16 because he and his stepdad were having daily fistfights and his mother always took the stepdad's side. So he cut out of there and joined the carnival. I asked, "They just let a 16 year old join the carnival and travel all around the country?" He said, "Another carnie took me under his wing.(he didn't use the word 'carnie,' he used the guy's name)" He says he's been to 48 states, which is more than I can say.

When I tried to prod him for a little more of the story, he seemed to get defensive. He said, "Who are you, my counselor?" I gave him an evasive answer, "Do you need counseling?" He said, "I need a ride home tonight." But another one of the mofos lives close to him so they gave him a ride.

After that, I figured maybe he didn't feel comfortable about the whole thing so I decided against grilling him for all of the details and against my Pulitzer Prize winning blogpost. The gossip I put on my blog is stuff that people seem to share openly that I don't figure they would care about me regurgitating.

And to put some finality on it, Brenden got fired tonight. He didn't have the battery secured in his lift and it flew out while he was driving. The batteries weigh over 1000 pounds and can make a big mess of acid if they spill. They told him it was okay but that he would have to take a drug test (common after any accident). He said he wouldn't take a drug test. They told him to get the hell out then. He left.

I really should have known he was carnie by how excited he got when the company gave us each a big case of potatos for Thanksgiving. "I love potatos!" he said. " I eat them every day. EVERY DAY."

But the true story of a boy who runs away and joins the carnival would be interesting to people. It's one of those things people say but never do. If some guy jumped off a bridge just because his friends did and he lived to tell about it, wouldn't you be interested in hearing the details? And he doesn't need to feel bad: I spent years and years in college and yet there we were, moving furniture together. I've got nothing over him except that I can pass a drug test.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Stalk You Forever

This post is about the creepiest childrens' book ever written. It is called "Love You Forever" and it can be find at all finer bookstores.

The story follows a mother and her son through course of their lives following a theme of how the mother likes to hold her son and sing to him while he sleeps. She holds him as an infant, she holds him as a toddler, she holds him during grade-school.

Here she is, getting ready to pounce on her teenaged son.

The story also makes a point of explaining that she doesn't just walk in, she crawls in like a hungry jungle cat. And when her son reaches adulthood and moves to his own place across town, what does mother do?

She straps a ladder to the roof of her car in the middle of the night and breaks into his house. She comes in through the window and if he is fast asleep she picks him up and rocks him back and forth while she sings.

I heard the orginal version of this book ended with the man mistaking his mother for a home-intruder and blasting her with a shotgun but publishing executives thought it would be even more disturbing if the book ended with the son having a daughter of his own and perpetuating the unhealthy behavior.

A must read.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Unconquered Sun

I have always been a fan of Christmas. All of it. The decorations, the spirit of giving, the excitment of receiving, yes, even the commercialism. It seems like Jesus actually takes a backseat during the holiday and it is difficult to see any correlation between the festivities and the man to whom the holiday is attributed.

But when you look at the history of Christmas things begin to make sense. Basically, that this wintertime celebration of the sun making a comeback was around for hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus and, when Rome made their official switch to Christianity, they just slapped a Jesus sticker on the holiday and called it their own. It wasn't even an arbitrary choice in selecting a birthday for JC, they intentionally went around at the solstice parties and said, "This good time is brought to you by the Son of God."

I was reading sites about Yule and Saturnalia and people gave suggestions about how to make the holiday more as it used to be. Wild ideas like:

Decorate with evergreens, pinecones and mistletoe. Decorate a tree with an emphasis on stars and suns. Decorate with reds, greens and whites. Give presents, preferably candles and dolls (figurines).

Sounds a little out there to me. They actually didn't seem to like killing the trees and bringing them indoors. They liked decorating live trees. That was the symbolism behind the evergreen, I guess: that it was impervious to winter; life, strength, vitality.

It seems like everyone can use a boost at this time of year. I wholly support the idea of celebrating the end of the darkest days of the year and the beginnning the light ones. And why can they still emphasize yule logs and mistletoe but totally play down the holiday tradition of getting it on, joining in with the earth as life is brought to the world again?

So much Christian doom and gloom about how man is so horrible that every time God looks at us he wants to strike us all down and someone like Jesus has to calm him down, "Now now, don't get nuts and kill them. If you must, just kill me, your son." And God says, "Well, just as long as there's some killing going on, I guess most of them can live to see another day."

Side note: I receive emails from Christians talking about how miraculous the survival stories of 9/11 are. A guy lived because it was his day to buy donuts for the office. A guy had to drop his son off at school. Stuff like that and then claiming that it was all part of God's master plan that those people were spared.

I find that very rude and disrespectful to suggest that on 9/11 God saved the people he liked and let the rest burn. Alluding that the people who died deserved it. Don't send me those emails anymore.

Given the history of Christmas, I find it ironic that we grow up hearing the phrase, "Let's all remember the true meaning of Christmas." Apparently, co-opted religious propoganda? From what I have read, it sounds as though celebrating birthdays was highly discouraged by the Christian church in the early days.

It was the end of the harvest. The work was done. It was cold but the solstice gave promise that the sun was coming back. Why not hang the decorations, eat and enjoy the company of your fellow man until then? I think Jesus would want us to have moments like that.

It's True I am a Villain When You Fall Ill

Sorry I am slow to post. I'm just tired and busy and always choking on my own rage. When I did the Yin Yang post I was surprised that someone expressed concern about my Britney Spears comment and the possibility that I was saying that "Moms are ugly."

They are ugly, you know. Who has ever been attracted to their own mother, aside from Siggy Freud? Nobody. Because they are ugly.... ok, so that isn't very convincing and I can't make it convincing because I don't believe it. I love all of my moms.

It could still be argued that pregnancy and childbirth are physically taxing to females and that good mothers shift their priorities to their progeny, leaving less time to primp themselves. People probably don't won't to hear that but it would be hard to argue the contrary. It's not a problem. Just a change in life.

My political response would be that the worst has been assumed of me and if I had been but allowed to finish my Britney comments, the conversation would continued something like:

"Doesn't she have two kids? I thought so. So this picture of Britney's Kootchie is during childbirth, right? Because I would love the chance to bask in her motherly glow during those special moments when her baby first arrives in this world. I am so excited for her, and us, as fans and people who cherish Britney for her fragrances and other socially redeeming qualities."

That perspective can be assumed just as easily as the one where I claim girls turn into trolls as soon as the baby's head crowns.

The long and short is: I just don't care about her. I would prefer not to know things about her at all but I would settle for not having her crotch rubbed in my face when I show up for work. I know. I am a monster with outragous demands. I think she is out of her prime, but it's just an opinion and you don't have to care what I think.

I have made a speech about girls and how they are special before. I think it is funny how younger guys always want to be with girls that do what they do, like "I want a girl who mountain bikes and snowboards and can throw a baseball." Those things are admirable and I'm sure any athletic guy would feel lucky to have those traits in his female friend, but they really aren't very important.

I like a girl who knows all those girly things that I will never know. If my daughter wants to know about makeup or hairdos or what to wear... I really appreciate a perspective different than mine. If I was married to someone just like me, my daughter would probably get advice like, "You need something to where to the prom? Why can't you just wear basketball shorts?" There is an aspect of life that I will always know little about and I hope my children can learn that stuff from my wife. Heaven help my daughter if it ever falls on me to explain the menstrual cycle to her. There are things that I despise but that my wife and kids like and I am happy to be left out of it. I appreciate girls for these things. Even Britney. For her children's sake.

I wish Britney the best in reaching all of her goals.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Celebrity Lookalike (III)

Here is a picture we took today as a potential "Christmas Card" photo. I figured I would take the opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to honor the request for a side-by-side comparison of me and the celebrities I may or may not resemble:

First up is Dora:

Since I've been taking my guitar to work, people have started calling me "Richie Valens." I'm sure they mean "Lou Diamond Philips as Richie Valens."

A few months ago, one of my bosses came driving up and said, "We were trying to figure out who you look like. We were thinking Keanu Reeves..."

And then at the last second before he drove away, he slammed me, "Either Keanu Reeves or Long Duk Dong."

How can we forget my uncanny resemblence to The Thriller himself? Maybe if I put on some make up? I think it's all in the eyebrows.

I figured I would throw in Joseph Gribble from King of the Hill, just to mix things up.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yin Yang

Sometimes I get moved by what I see around me and it leads me to begin a statement with the words, "There are two kinds of people in this world..."

(some example endings)

The kind who will squash a fly with their bare hand and the kind who won't.

The kind who will wear a vest and the kind who don't see the point.

People who french-kiss their dogs and those who mock them.

People who will wear two unmatching socks and those who won't.

The kind who will never own a minivan and the kind who can't pass up a generous offer of trade for a very practical, more valuable, reliable minivan, even though they always swore they would never BUY a minivan, because technically they never actually saved up a big pile of money and said, "Yes. I really want to spend this money on a minivan."

You either like Robotech or you hate it. (Nerd stuff: Just before Thanksgiving we were trying to paint the walls in our house. I asked my wife, "Should I put on a movie that we can listen to while we paint?" and she said, "Yeah, just don't play anything that is going to drive me crazy, like Minmay singing (from Robotech)." I said, "You know, Minmay is only in the first season. Season 3 of Robotech is Minmay-free." She said, "But does it still have that whiny-Luke Skywalker voice in it (Rick Hunter season 1 and Rand in season 3)?" I changed the subject, "Is their any other kind of Luke Skywalker?" I put in the live-action version of "Popeye" because it's a musical. My wife freaked out, "I said put in something that isn't annoying and you put in Shelley Duvall as Olive Oil? What is wrong with you?!?!" I quickly changed the DVD to "The Princess Bride" and she said that was perfect.

Regular people who greet you by saying "Hello" or "How was your weekend?" and co-workers who greet you by saying things like, "Hey, Mike the Coordinator has a picture of Britney Spears's kootchie on his cell phone. It's real!" Whatever dude. Doesn't she have two kids?

I'm sure there are hundreds that I am forgetting. Oh well. Do you have any?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tis the Season

The holidays are eating into my blog-time. I've been spending time in crowded stores but finding little to buy. For a few hours last week I was in a rage about middle-aged nerds that stakeout retail stores to buy up all of the popular toys before parents can so they can resell them at a profit. I looked online but refuse to pay the inflated prices, even if it means my son doesn't get the toys on Christmas.

My son really wants "Ben 10" toys but they are wiped out everywhere. After days of searching, I finally hit the toy store at the right time and found some. I took what I wanted and even left a bunch behind. I probably could have bought them all and made a fast $50 reselling them myself, but that would mean I had become what I hate so I left them for some other desperate parent or friendless nerd.

I even went to the mall in an attempt to find my wife some clothes. Here is a conversation I heard at The Gap:

Customer: "Where can I find that cream-colored shirt up there in your display?"

Store Clerk: "Um... that's not a shirt. It's a bare manequin."

Customer: (After a long awkward pause) Where do you keep your other cream-colored shirts?"

So ladies, the "naked manequin" look is officially IN. Get out there and paint it on.

On Saturday night, I was at work moving mattresses when my boss came up to me and told me my wife was trying to get ahold of me. After a long game of phone tag, I got ahold of my mother-in-law who told my that my wife had taken Ethan to the emergency room at the hospital.

The kids had gone to a Christmas play with my in-laws and when it ended, they said Ethan turned a fantastic shade of green and looked like he was going to throw up. He said he just needed a drink. Moments later his eyes rolled up and he passed out before a very large audience. My wife yelled for someone to call 911 three times before someone actually did. They laid him down. Inspired by the church/Christmas atmosphere, they prayed for him. They said his eyes popped open, but he was still out of it. They tried to give him water but it just dribbled down his chin. He passed out again before the paramedics arrived.

The EMT's checked him out and didn't know what to make of it, so they recommended that he go to the hospital. My wife hadn't actually called me, it was her Aunt Dianne that called. I went to my boss and prepared my plea, "I have already worked 50 hours this week. Would it be okay if I went home early tonight?" He seemed to know the story already, even though he hadn't given me any of the details. He just told me to go.

I hurried to the hospital where I was subjected to the standard "30 minutes of waiting for no good reason" in the lobby before the desk dude finally remembered I was there and let me see my son. When I saw him he was up smiling, laughing and bouncing around. His normal self.

They had done blood tests and an EKG to make sure his heart wasn't going to explode or anything. After another hour or so, the doctors gave us their final diagnosis: "We have no idea what caused him to turn color and pass out. You'll get a bill in the mail." They guessed that maybe he had just sat too long and then stood up too fast. But that doesn't really account for his green complexion.

I really wish I could have rode in the ambulance, being as I have to pay for it. But I do feel fortunate for Ethan's condition: Inconclusion is much better than a terminal conclusion. I asked Ethan what he had eaten and he admitted to eating some dirty snow, but that doesn't seem like enough.

Later, I asked my wife: "Do you think this would have happened if you hadn't gone to the play? Did someone there have noxious breath or anything?"

She said, "I guess it would have happened one way or the other. It was hot at the play but he took off his coat. He sat on Dianne's lap so he could see the play better."

I joked, "Oh, so it was Dianne with the noxious breath."

For the record, Dianne is a very nice lady and I have never known her breath to be anything but pleasant. But Ethan seems normal again so we will have his regular doctor check him out a little and go from there. Maybe Santa will bring me Health Insurance for Christmas, preferably a plan that covers Intermountain Health Care and their affiliated doctors. I've been ever so good this year.