Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why movies used to matter...

Movies are a huge part of my childhood, there's just no way around it. I loved movies as a kid, and I still do. Kids today don't understand the effect that the movies of the 1980's had on those of us who were growing up then. We didn't have movie after to movie to look forward to each week of the summer. We got basically one movie per summer --- two in a good year. That left a lot of time to obsess about that movie. To study every line. To recreate every scene. To see ourselves in place of the main character.

I would argue -- and someday I will -- that it affected the way we thought. It affected the way we learned. Motion pictures are a powerful way to impart a message, and we were like sponges, just soaking it all in. Luckily for us, we had a stretch of about ten years -- from 1977 to 1987 -- when some of the greatest movies ever made, were released. Peruse this list, and tell me I'm wrong:

1977: Star Wars

1978: Superman

1979: The Muppet Movie (ok...I love the Muppets)

1980: The Empire Strikes Back

1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982: E.T.

1983: Return of the Jedi

1984: The Karate Kid, Footloose, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (big year!)

1985: Back to the Future

1986: Top Gun

1987: The Princess Bride

Every one of these movies affected me deeply. It's not just that I know the stories by heart, and it's not just that I found them to be fun. I learned from them, lessons that I think about to this day...some are fun, some are deep...some are just emotionally affecting. Read on, and tell me these lines don't take you back to somewhere you loved...somewhere you long to visit again...

Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.

There is a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to laugh and a time to weep. A time to mourn, and there is a time to dance.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered, when wished on a morning star? Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it, and look what it's done so far.


Will somebody please get this big walking carpet out of my way?

Can you read my mind? Do you know what it is you do to me?

Snakes...why'd it have to be snakes?

Instead of a big dark blur, I see a big bright blur...

Where do these stairs go?

You're right, no human being would stack books this way.

Your ego's writing checks your body can't cash!

Look eye...always look eye!

You built a time machine....? Out of a DeLorean!? name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.

These are just a few quick samples, but I know you're like me. Reading those lines didn't just bring to mind those movies. They took you back to that time. You remember how you felt. You remember what you thought.

When you read the parting words between E.T. and Elliot, you nearly choked up. When you read the line from Top Gun, you remembered your dream to be a naval aviator. When you read "look eye...always look eye" you remembered when every kid in America wanted to be the Karate Kid -- when we were all suddenly very interested in the way household chores could teach us karate. My guess is that there were a lot of cars waxed, fences painted and floors sanded, in the wake of that movie.

Movies for our generation were like sign posts in our memories. Each one stands along the road, stretching back in time. Each movie marked a year. Each sign reminds us of dreams we had, and emotions that we experienced, and lessons that we learned.

What are your favorite movie lines, and what movies did I miss?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Flat Rosa Parks' Big Adventure

 Rosa Parks was a pioneer in the civil rights movement. When she was told she was inferior to others because of her race, she proved to the world that she was not. She was an American hero.

Rosa passed away in 2005, but as luck would have it, she lives on in the form of Flat Rosa Parks.

You may have heard of Flat Stanley, who is the size of a piece of paper, and travels the world, having all kinds of adventures. Well, it turns out that Flat Stanley has many friends, some of whom are American heroes, and among his friends is Flat Rosa Parks.

Flat Rosa has been staying with us for about a week. She is visiting the United States, from her home in Germany, where she lives with my niece Annie. Annie was kind enough to arrange for Rosa to visit Utah this week, and we've been showing her around.

She's attended two soccer games, and gone driving with a fifteen year old girl. She said it was not as scary as she thought it was going to be, but she was glad when the ride was over.

But today was a very big adventure for Flat Rosa Parks. Today, she traveled to Provo (or the Promised Land, as Matt calls it...), with Matt and me, to watch the Blue and White scrimmage between the offense and the defense of BYU's football team.

It turns out that Flat Rosa Parks is a big college football fan, and she predicts the Cougars are going to have a very good year, but she can't believe that football doesn't start for another five months. 

Frankly, neither can I. 

Her date for the afternoon was Matthew, whom she described as the perfect gentleman. 

We had front row seats, because Flat Rosa Parks should always sit in the front.

She even got to meet Cosmo the Cougar, although he slipped away, before we could snap any pictures. 

Cougars are very evasive. 

While Flat Rosa Parks enjoyed watching the Cougars practice today, what she really found exciting was after the game when we were all able to go out on to the field (or, Holy Ground, as Matt calls it...).

Flat Rosa liked the view from the field, and she even got to watch Matthew kick a twenty-five yard field goal, straight through the uprights, on his very first kick. Flat Rosa was VERY impressed. Matt also caught a few touch down passes, a pick six, punted the ball, and threw a forty yard pass...and pretty much died and went to heaven.

Flat Rosa Parks is not actually standing on this young lady's head. 

Flat Rosa Parks would never do such a thing. 

On the way home we also had one more adventure. It turns out, that Flat Rosa Parks is a big fan of Kevin Bacon, and it just so happens that Mr. Bacon's biggest film, Footloose, was filmed right here in Utah. So we surprised Flat Rosa, by taking her to the Lehi Roller Mills. This is the grain mill in the movie where Ren (Kevin Bacon) is employed, and also where the final fight scene and dance were filmed. That red porch was where Ren jumped off and kicked Chuck right in the face. It's a great scene. 

Matt and Flat Rosa were so impressed that they spent several minutes exploring the area, and got so excited that Flat Rosa jumped out of Matt's hand, and nearly blew into the traffic on a nearby road. But Matt, always a gentlemen, saved her at the last moment. 

She is an American Hero after all -- it was the least he could do. 

 Our time with Flat Rosa is nearly done, and she is looking forward to getting back to Germany, and telling all of her friends there about the time she went to see the BYU Cougars practice football, and got to see the Lehi Roller Mills, where Footloose was filmed.

Flat Rosa Parks has been an ideal house guest, and we're grateful for the time we've had to spend with her.

Good luck in your future travels, Flat Rosa Parks!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Daffodils and Second Chances

Under the warming spring sun, and embraced by the awakening earth, the daffodils in my front yard are beginning to bloom.

Today, as I watched the pale yellow petals, emerging from their winter hibernation -- the first of our flowers to do so -- I found myself thinking about life and rebirth. I thought about hope.

Mostly, I thought about second chances.

The do over.

Often, it seems like we make so many irredeemable mistakes. It feels like we go through life, burning bridges behind us. Our sins haunt us like ghosts that won't go away.

Watching the flowers return to my yard, year after year, however, reminds me of how often I get a chance to try again. I get the chance to set things right more often than I realize -- maybe more often than I deserve.

I fail regularly as a husband, and a parent, a son and a friend. We all juggle so many balls and twirl so many plates, that sometimes one or two are bound to fall. I am cross and unkind. I am impatient and sharp. I am belligerent and sarcastic. I also let the moments pass me by.

I miss chances to hold Emma's hand. Or to throw the football with Matt. I let the opportunity die where I might have had an insight into the mind of my fifteen year old daughter. I let my wife drift off to sleep without hearing the words "I love you."

If Sharon never heard another word from me, I would want those to be the last words that left my lips.

Those are the things that I'm talking about. I really don't care if I ever get another chance to mow the grass, or shovel the snow.

The good things we do make life beautiful, like the daffodils in my flower beds. And I'm thankful for every sunrise. Every sunrise is a second chance. Every day is another opportunity to set things right, to correct my course.

A chance to say what I meant to say yesterday.

A chance to build, instead of tear down.

A chance to heal, instead of wound.

A chance to hope, instead of hurt.

A chance to tell my family and friends that if there is anything worthy of affection in me, I owe it all to them.

A chance to let my daughter know that I am so proud of the woman that she is becoming.

A chance to tell my son that I treasure his friendship, more than worldly wealth could buy.

A chance to stand by youngest, and laugh in the face of life, and show it that we're playing by her rules now.

A chance to tell my wife I love her, and the opportunity to pray that I'll have the chance to tell her again tomorrow.

A chance to follow the Yellow Brick Roads, and to chase the rainbows, and to dance where I only walked before.

I have so many second chances in my life, that I can't help thinking Someone wants me to get this right...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blowing off steam. A lot of steam.

Both barrels loaded...

And here we go...

Education in the state of Utah sucks. There's no way around it. We're fifty first in the nation -- behind all of the other states AND the District of Columbia -- in per pupil spending. That's beyond pathetic. But here's the other side of the issue. We're not getting our money's worth for what we are spending. Education gets every penny of the state income tax. Every cent. They don't have an income problem so much as they have a spending problem. I want an accounting of the money, and I want teachers held to account for their jobs. I had some amazing teachers. My kids have had some amazing teachers. They've had some real duds too -- and trust me, I am not the guy to look at blaming the teachers for the problems first, but honestly! This rant is spurred by the time I spent helping my son study for a history test tonight. He has no history book. They keep a couple of books in class, but they can't bring it home. When, in the course of all time, have kids not had textbooks to bring home? You can't tell me that there was more money in education when I was a kid, than there is now.

Well, you can tell me that, but I won't believe it.

Maybe if the brand new school in the district hadn't decided to try and buy iPads for all of the kids to use, then perhaps my son would have a text book to study from. Or maybe if the executive salaries were based on their actual worth, there might be a little more money available for the students.

Maybe. I know it's radical.

Gay marriage. It's going to happen, and legally that's the way it should be. I don't want the government defining marriage, and you shouldn't either. The constitutional principle here is that we should always err on the side of more liberty. That's self government 101. It's not always palatable, and morally I find gay marriage to be wrong. I consider it a sin. But that's between me and my God. I'm allowed to feel that way, and you can try to persuade me to feel otherwise, but you can't legislate my beliefs. If you don't feel the same way as I do, that is also your right. The Constitution and, more specifically, the Bill of Rights, does not exist to protect all the things you love and agree with -- specifically it exists to protect the things you don't like -- for the greater protection of all of us. Maybe you've noticed, we don't always see eye to eye. The first amendment doesn't protect popular speech, it protects speech you find offensive. This same principal applies in judicial situations -- like it or not the accused criminal's rights are of greater judicial concern than a victim's rights. You may not like it, but that is a protection for all of us -- because a wrongly convicted person is a greater travesty than the victim of a crime not getting their pound of flesh from the law. That's hard medicine, but it's good for you. The same thing goes for the idea of gay marriage. If the government can tell someone else who to love, or who to marry, then it can can tell you who to love and who to marry. Or not marry, as the case may be.

There's is one more principal at work here that maybe we God fearing folk should perhaps take notice of: the greatest blessing God has given us is our agency -- the chance to choose between right and wrong, and the chance (the blessing, even?) to learn and grow from our mistakes. But, if you are prevented from choosing between right and wrong (whatever that may be, in a given situation) are you really free? As I recall that was the other plan...

Err on the side of more liberty. Always.

Gun Control. I'm so tired of hearing about guns. I'm tired of hearing about gun violence. I'm tired of hearing about gun rights. I'm tired of hearing about gun control. I'm sick of every side of this argument, so here's the gospel according to Chris (and this will probably be the last time you ever hear -- or read -- this kind of thing on this blog):

More guns equal more homicides. All the numbers back that up, and here's why -- it's easier to kill someone with a gun. Not just quicker, but easier. There is a psychological threshold that you have to cross in order to take another life. You have to get to the point where you believe it's ok -- or where you at least believe that you are justified. If you're protecting your family, that threshold is very low. Protecting your home or your country? Maybe it's a little higher, but still relatively easy to cross that threshold. But, when it comes to murder, that threshold is much higher -- but it's not as high with a gun, as it would be with another weapon. A knife, or a baseball bat is much more personal, and physically difficult and messy. You have to get to a higher threshold in order to use those weapons, than you would with a gun. So, frankly, that old reliable answer "If they didn't have a gun, they would have just used whatever was at hand" doesn't really wash. They might just decide it's not worth it. Most homicides are committed with a firearm.

And while we're at it -- the "More people are killed by cars than guns, so why don't we just ban cars" sarcastic argument is stupid too. It's an apples and oranges argument. Rarely, though I won't say never, does someone -- even a drunk -- get into a car with the intention of taking a life. Even if they know that the possibility is high, they hope that they will be the exception and not the statistic. If you point a gun at someone, and pull the trigger, you are intending to harm, if not kill that person. Every time. Let's argue about the same thing.

And, just because it's your right to carry a gun openly in public, doesn't mean that you should. Stop it. It scares people. Don't be a jerk. How can I differentiate between you and the guy who's going to shoot up the store, until one of you opens fire? You're not Rambo.

Love your guns. I don't care. But don't LOOOOOOVE your guns. Seriously. And don't tell me that the last person I need to worry about is the concealed carry permit holder. Anyone who is so paranoid that they think they need to be armed at all times scares me. I realize that there are a lot of good, law abiding  concealed carry permit holders, but I've spent time with my fair share of the other type as well -- I think they want the government to come after their guns. I think they fantasize about it.

They're not coming for your guns. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Oh, and by the way, stop throwing Chicago, New York and DC under the bus, as the worst places for gun violence in the U.S. I realize that you don't like their gun laws -- that's fine -- but I have news for you: those three cities are not even in the top ten cities for violence (gun related and otherwise) in the United States. Try St. Louis. The most violent city in America. Add to that Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, Orlando(!)

As for the second amendment -- the founders were actually very careful about the language that they used. When they talk about a militia in the second amendment, that's what they mean. That's one of the reasons they wanted you to have guns -- to protect the country from invasion. It actually wasn't exactly referring to your personal right to self protection, and would you like to know why? Because they considered that to be self evident. It's a natural right, not a constitutional one. You have the God given right to protect yourself. The founders lived in a frontier society. They understood danger. They understood the need for self protection. They thought that we would too.

And, while I'm getting stuff off my chest: the second amendment does not exist to preserve your right to overthrow the government. Seriously, you watch too many movies. The right to revolution is also a natural right -- which is why it is set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and not the Constitution. The Constitution does not contain the method of it's own destruction. How stupid would that be? Oh, and the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed...that means you have a right to keep and use your guns (or other arms), it does not mean that you have the right to any kind of firearm (or other weapon) you would like. It doesn't mean that you should be able to have equivalent firepower to the government. Maybe you should have that right, maybe you shouldn't, but it's not constitutional. If you ask me, gun owners shouldn't appeal to the constitution for their rights. They should appeal to a higher law -- natural law. You have the self evident, unalienable right to self protection, regardless of what someone said in 1791.

And, just to be fair, if you are so gullible as to believe that eliminating guns from society eliminates all violence and evil, you've been out in the sun too long. It's time to grow up. We have a violence problem in this country, that is enabled and inflamed by the pervasiveness of guns, but it's not caused by them. As tired as I am of hearing the cliche "guns don't kill people, people kill people", cliches are cliches because they're true.

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the root"


The root of the problem is that we glorify all types of violence, and as a result we have people who want to kill other people. Fix that problem.

And last of all, to the cheerleaders at Highland High School, who will not be allowed to try out for cheerleader this year because they had more than 18 unexcused absences: welcome to real life. You've worked hard, I have no doubt, to be good at what you do. But you also signed a contract in which you agreed to abide by the 18 plus unexcused absences disqualification rule. And then you went and skipped class (at least) eighteen times. You always have to pay the piper. Always. Frankly, one unexcused absence should have disqualified you from cheerleaders try outs. Eighteen?! Did you ever go to class? And taking the story to the media, to try and force the school's hand, and shame them into changing their policy backfired. You look petty. But I blame your parents for that one.

Whew. I could have gone on all night. Who knew I had so much rant building up inside of me?

I'm not even sure what I wrote -- it's all a bit of a blur.

Do I feel better? Not really. It turns out griping about things just makes you think more about things you don't like. It doesn't really solve anything.

Nice Chris will be back tomorrow night.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When Chris met Sharon (A Fairytale)

Once upon a time, in the far off land of Cedar City, there lived a fair maiden, with golden hair and sapphire eyes. She claimed that her eyes were emerald, but she was wrong. Her name was Sharon, and she lived all alone, in a secluded room of RA, in the Great Hall of Juniper. She cared for the lesser creatures who also lived in the hall. Many of these beings were away from their lands for the first time, and could barely feed and clothe themselves. Sharon was a kind hearted maiden, and took pity on them. They loved her dearly.

In the Hall of Juniper, there also lived a red headed wizard, who was full of mischief and magic. His name was Aaron, and he had an enchanted laundry basket.

One day, Aaron's friend from long ago came to visit him in Cedar City. His name was Chris, and Aaron owed him a great debt, for many years ago, Chris had given Aaron half of his brain -- for sadly, Aaron had no brain of his own. Aaron longed to repay Chris for this sacrifice, and knew he could not do it without convincing Chris to move to the City of Cedar, permanently. He did this in a matter of days. It was easy to convince Chris to do things because he only had half a brain, and he was very tired. You see, after crossing into the Land of Cedar, Chris was immediately hexed and found himself held captive every other night at an evil castle called Cash Saver. Held all night long Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Chris soon became no better than a babbling idiot zombie.

Aaron, with his half brain, tried to conceive of a way to bring life back to his friend. First he took him to a local tavern called JB's where Chris, little better than a talking crash test dummy at this point, hit on a red headed waitress named Heather. He flirted with her all night, and then left his phone number on the bill, and left. Aaron watched all of this, and knew he had to act fast. This was not the Chris he knew. Chris did not hit on red headed waitresses. Or any of the other kind either. Clearly this Heather had cast a spell on him. Chris only had half a brain, and even that was questionable at this point.

Aaron went back to his lair, where he thought and he thought, and he slept and then he thought some more. And then he ate. And then he thought. One afternoon, while strolling the corridors of the Hall of Juniper, Aaron saw Sharon, the sapphire eyed, golden haired fair maiden, and he had a thought.

"What if I shaved my head?"

But then he had another thought....

"I need to do laundry."

Sharon passed by Aaron, and patted him on the head. Sharon knew that Aaron was one of the "special" people, that she was charged with caring for. She knew he was addle brained, but she didn't know that he had an enchanted laundry basket.

An enchanted laundry basket of destiny.

And destiny came calling later that afternoon.

Chris, who had once again been held over night at the Cash Saver, had stumbled into Aaron's lair, early in the morning, and quickly fallen into a deep sleep. Later in the afternoon, when he awoke, he found that he was alone and hungered. He rose from his bed, bleary eyed, and disheveled.

"Food!" he cried. "I require sustenance, but am a lad of half a brain, and incapable of caring for myself. I must find Aaron!"

"AAAAAAARRRRRROOOONNNNNN!" he bellowed, as he stumbled through the Hall of Juniper, toward the Great Room. 

He came to the top of a great staircase, and nearly fell down it, due to his fatigue and malnourishment.

Now, at that moment, the planets aligned. Aaron came into the Great Room, with his enchanted laundry basket, just as Sharon, the fair, golden haired, sapphire eyed maiden emerged from her chambers. Aaron had a flash of insight, that caused his head to hurt, but he concentrated carefully, because he knew something important was happening. He knew that Sharon was a kind, and generous being. He looked up to see Chris stumbling down the great staircase, and thought, if ever there was a poor, half brained, zombie-fied creature in need of kindness and was Chris.

 Aaron also knew that Sharon, the golden haired, sapphire eyed, fair maiden, was no fool. But Aaron was a wizard, and he could be especially persuasive. He closed Sharon's ears to the bellowing of Chris, and blinded her to his presence. The spell would only last for a few moments, he had to move quickly. Aaron brought Sharon into the Great Room, and sat her before the fireplace, just as Chris stumbled into the room...

Aaron slid his laundry basket in front of Sharon, and cast his most powerful spell of all -- just as he maneuvered Chris to sit on the laundry. As Chris settled into the pile of clothes, before Sharon, he was transformed, in her eyes. Yes, the spell that Aaron cast changed Chris's appearance -- but only to Sharon. What had been a drooling, stumbling, bleary husk of a man, became, at least in Sharon's eyes, a handsome, strong, if not particularly smart (magic has it's limits) man. Her sapphire eyes sparkled. Her heart beat a little faster. She smiled at him.

Even through the fog of his half brain, Chris knew beauty when he saw it. Chris, for all of his shortcomings, had one special power -- the ability to see beauty. True beauty. Chris could barely dress himself, but he could discern beauty, in all it's forms, and when he saw Sharon's smile, he knew he would never again meet anyone so beautiful in this life. He was smitten, and pledged then and there to do all he could to win the heart of this sapphire eyed, golden haired fair maiden. And with the help of Aaron's spell, he soon convinced Sharon to go on a date with him, and from then on Sharon was never out of Chris's sight for long.

He held her hand. He enchanted her with his simpleton ways. He professed his love so earnestly, that Sharon took pity on him, and married him. She may have been blind to his hideous appearance, but she understood that this poor creature would never survive without someone to give him kindness and generosity. And love.

Aaron felt badly for deceiving Sharon with such a  dastardly spell, but such was his half brained commitment to his half brained friend, that he was willing to face any consequence, to see to Chris's happiness.

His punishment was that all of his hair fell out.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

The end.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Kitchen Table (or, scraping the bottom of the creative barrel)

Does anyone use their kitchen table for eating meals anymore?

We don't. We eat in front of the television -- lately we've been watching episodes of Mythbusters on Netflix. But we do it as a family, and that's what counts, right?

No, our kitchen table is just one giant collector of stuff -- like every other surface in the house.  I don't know if this means we have too much stuff, or our house is too small -- probably both. I'm sitting here, trying not to commit myself to any kind of long blog post tonight (because I just got some sweet Scooby Doo episodes -- also courtesy of Netflix -- that I have been trying to watch for three nights, but keep falling asleep. I'm determined to watch them tonight. Never mind that I've seen them a hundred times as a kid)...

Wow...I really lost control of that last sentence. What I was trying to say was that, in my attempt to be brief tonight, I think I'll just take a quick inventory of my kitchen table:

1. iMac computer. You might think this should go on the desk. You might be wrong. Yes, we have a desk. It's also covered in overflowage.

Yeah, I just coined that word.

2. Printer and paper. The only paper we have is legal size -- which means we have to trim everything we print.

3. iPad. It's never far away -- which is kind of a sad statement.

4. A small twisty camera tripod. It look like an orange and white spider, and I've never used it. But I got a great deal on it, so I display it on my kitchen table. That probably goes without saying.

5. Hello Kitty headphones. These are not mine. Mine are the black ones -- also on the table.

6. Earbuds. These are mine. Sometimes your audio needs call for great big ear covering headphones, and sometimes they call for more discreet measures. Like when you're at work. Or the Jr. High band concert. Or church.

7. Suave Lotion. Everlasting Sunshine. This is also mine (I'm sensing a trend here...) My body is addicted to lotion. Everlasting Sunshine smells like rainbows and kittens, and I'm not afraid to admit I like it. I'm not insecure about it at all.

8. Four merit badges: Mammal Studies, Nature, Field Sports, and Wilderness Survival. Well, I know THOSE aren't mine.

9. A stack of CDs -- a stack of unknowns and Garth Brooks: Sevens, on top. Really? Garth Brooks? How long has that thing been sitting on the table?

10. 8x10 picture of some wildflowers in the Albion Basin, that I took three years ago. Seriously, how often do we clean this table off?

11. One pack of Stride ID Peppermint gum. There are nine pieces missing.

12. The Capo for my guitar -- not sure where the guitar is at the moment.

13. A tube of Neosporin. You have kids, you understand.

14. A ten foot, kangaroo skin, 12 plait, bullwhip. Well, where do you keep yours?

15. An insurance card.

16. A JVC video camera, with the video I shot in Disneyland. Six months ago. That I'm going to do something with any day now.

17. A torn envelope that has the words "Battle of the Planets" written on it. I'm a notorious note writer, and even more notorious carrier around of notes. Most notorious of all, usually when I get around to reading the notes that I keep in my pocket -- after a month or two, I find that they are no longer relevant.

18. Two iPods. Both mine. Because two is better than one.

19. Forrest Gump. The DVD, not the guy.

20. An external hard drive that is currently NOT backing up anything on my computer -- even though the Mac keeps asking for it.

21. An SD card reader. I used to be a photographer...

22. Batman.

23. A calculator.

24. Address labels sent from one of those groups that hopes you'll just be generous and send them money for going to the effort to send you something that you never asked for. I would you know, but my name isn't Christopher Thornbald -- though I've considered changing it to that, since that's what I've been called most of my life.

25. A yellow Kazoo. What can I say? I look for inspiration anywhere I can.

I'm stopping at 25, because this has been far more effort than I had intended to exert this evening.

So, tell me, what does your kitchen table look like?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Meanwhile, at Zarahemla Point...

This may or may not be a true story...

The last ray of crimson light burned across the western horizon. The few clouds left in the sky, fanned out like fingers, drawing the night across the world. The first star winked into view over head. It was the kind of star you made a wish on...

The classic red convertible was parked at the over view, looking out over the valley, now hidden in the dusk of a summer evening...

The night was warm, but not stifling...

They were young....They were alive.

They lay on the hood of the car, looking up into the cobalt heavens....stars beginning to reflect in their eyes...

Music played softly from the car speakers...Phil Collins...

They talked of life and dreams. They reveled in the beauty of the moment...

Then they sat up and looked around at all the people now making out in all the other cars, at the end of Zarahemla Street, and one said to the other:

"You know, maybe next time we should bring girls up here..."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Waiting for Jedi


If you weren't born between 1965 and 1980, this might not mean much to you...

As I've thought about ways to write about my childhood, I've struggled to find a cohesive way of pulling together vastly different experiences into some kind of a relatable narrative. I did and saw so many different things. As children growing up in the late 1970's and 1980's the world was a very interesting place to live. Advances in technology were beginning to make it possible to experience things that no kids had ever experienced before. We saw things, and did things, for the first time. And in a lot of other ways we did things that kids have been doing for as long as there have been kids. We also did things that kids hardly do at all anymore. It was unique a crossroads in history -- the long, traditional past collided with a very rapidly expanding future, in a way that changed the world forever. 

The best way I have come up with to describe this world that helped to make me who I am, is to divide it into themes. When I say themes, I mean that term very broadly --- with a lot of subheadings below each title. Many of the themes are related to pop culture (but not all of them) -- things like movies and television and music. For close to a century most children's first exposure to any type of culture has been, for better or worse, pop culture. For my grandparents it was radio programs like Jack Benny and Amos and Andy. It was also the serial movies, down at the local theater on Saturday morning, and comic books of their favorite superheroes. My parents had radio and movies, and also ushered in the rise of television -- the Mickey Mouse Club, Gidget, Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy, as well as 45 rpm vinyl records -- The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones. We, the generation named "X," had all of the above, and added to the pop culture collage, video games. And MTV. And cassette tapes. And FM radio. For our children it's iPods and instant everything.

There are a lot of other themes too: Friendship, bicycles, neighborhood, scouting, school, divorce...things that affected all of us, to some degree or another. But, today I want to focus on one theme: movies. 

And one movie in particular: Return of the Jedi.

There were possibly more important movies, and undoubtedly better movies (both of the previous Star Wars movies, in the final analysis, were better), but I don't think, for my generation, that there was a more anticipated movie than Return of the Jedi. And here's why:

In 1977, Star Wars came out of nowhere. Nobody had ever seen a movie like that. It was a game changer. It affected the whole world, but I would argue that it affected no one more than the kids born in the late 60's and early 70's. One of the ways to tell who these kids were is to listen to what they call this movie -- it's not Episode IV, it's not A New Hope. It's Star Wars. 

Just Star Wars. 

For many of us, this was the first movie we ever saw, and it infected a generation of kids to our core. This is really a post for another time, but I don't think it's possible to convey the effect this movie had on us. It molded the way we think...the way we see the world. If you aren't about my age, you don't understand that statement. 

If you are my age, you know exactly what I mean. 

In 1977, Star Wars shocked everyone, and, at that time, no one but James Bond was doing sequels -- and no one used the word "trilogy" when talking about movies. Now, I can only speak for myself here, but when 1980 rolled around, and brought The Empire Strikes Back to theaters, that was nearly as surprising as the emergence of Star Wars three years earlier. The world we thought we knew had expanded. There were new characters: 



Boba Fett 


There were new worlds : 


Cloud City


There was romance. There was a dead tauntaun. There was carbonite! There was amputation by lightsaber! Darth Vader was Luke's father?!

That was bigger than Who Shot JR?!

Most importantly, The Empire Strikes Back was open ended. The story wasn't over. And that meant there was another movie. This time we all knew it. The expectation was off the charts.

All we did, in our little neighborhood circle of friends, for the next three years, was play Star Wars, and speculate what that next movie would be like. We concocted scenario after scenario, and all of them wrong. We played a lot of Hoth-like scenarios -- which made the winter bearable. We anticipated more of a Han Solo/Princess Leia/Luke Skywalker love triangle -- none of us caught the significance of that conversation between Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda about another Skywalker. We imagined more worlds. We tried to imagine what Jabba the Hut looked like. 

We heard rumor (first from Joseph Owen's mom) that the movie was to be called --Revenge of the Jedi. 

What a cool name!

Later it was officially changed to Return of the Jedi, which was not as cool of a name, but ultimately made more sense. 

And we all looked forward to May 25, 1983. 

The closer the release date came, the more consumed my life became by this movie. It was all I thought about. And then one day, shortly before Memorial Day, Kenner released the initial action figures for Return of the Jedi. And there was the Luke Skywalker figure. 

I was Luke Skywalker. 

He was dressed all in black. With a green lightsaber! I didn't dare to hope that his lightsaber would actually be green -- the toys got the color of Luke's lightsaber wrong all the time (seriously, did you ever see ANYONE with a yellow lightsaber?).

And what was that outfit that Lando was wearing? 

And what the heck is a Biker Scout? I don't know, but it sure looked cool!

What was a bad case of Star Wars Fever became full blown Malaria. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't concentrate at school. I was in a constant sweat. 

All I wanted to do was not die before May 25, 1983. 

Or May 26, 1983, as it turned out. 

There are a couple of things that don't quite jive at this point. 

First of all, my best friend, Aaron, somehow was able to get the golden ticket. He was getting out of school on Wednesday, the 25th, to see the movie, and Ami and I (the other two thirds of the Star Wars trio of Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker) were going to have to wait until the next day. That was a great imbalance in the Force, and looking back, I don't understand it. Ami and I missed school, just like Aaron did -- we just did it a day later. That makes no logical sense in my mind. We were inseparable. We didn't play Star Wars unless we were all there -- and we were always all there. So, WHY was Aaron going to Return of the Jedi before us? 

But he did. And then he came home and spent a good hour telling Ami and me all about it. I remember it distinctly. He stood in the my front doorway, and regaled us for a good hour about how they went back to Hoth, and how Han Solo and Leia got married and had kids, and on, and on. And after he completely sucked us in, after he had me practically unconscious from anticipation and envy -- he told us it was all a lie. Then he smiled and went home, and left us to see it the next day, unspoiled. 

So Aaron saw the movie on opening day, and I didn't. I didn't like it, but I could live with it. The real betrayal came later that afternoon, when my mom and my little brother came home...

Tim, my four year old brother, came wandering into the house, looking at a souvenir movie magazine (movie theaters used to give out things like that). I took a closer look at the magazine, when he put it down. It was for...RETURN OF THE JEDI!


I turned to my mom for an explanation...

"Oh," she said casually, "I took Tim to see Return of the Jedi this morning, while you were at school. It was really good, you're going to really like it."

I can't even type that sentence without my gut tightening up. I was so dumbfounded, the rest of the night is just a fuzzy red raging memory. I do remember wondering briefly if I had been adopted. I probably curled up in the fetal position and sucked my thumb until morning. That is the only time my mom ever betrayed me, and the wound is still fresh thirty years later. 


It's a dagger to the heart!

The most important movie of my young life, and not only did my best friend get to see it before me, but so did my four year old brother!

I went the next day, with Ami and Mario and their dad. We saw it in a theater half full of a bunch of geezers. It was everything I had hoped for -- when it was over I wanted to stand up and cheer, but no one else did it, so I kept quiet, and wondered what was wrong with everyone else. But this is about waiting for the movie, not actually reviewing it...

Incidentally, my mom made up for her betrayal (mostly) that summer. Nearly every weekend of the summer of 1983, we went to see Return of the Jedi. Eleven times, by my count -- still the most times that I've seen any movie in the theater, by a long shot.  

Of all the movies that mattered to me as a kid -- and this was a great time for movies, it was the heyday of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas -- none had such a profound effect on me, as Return of the Jedi.

Every year, as the summer movie season rolls around, I still get a giddy sense of anticipation. I admit it, I love summer movies. I came of age at the birth of the summer blockbuster.  And I feel sorry for kids today. Shortly after Return of the Jedi, came the rise of the multiplex. With the rise of the multiplex, came the rise of the sub par movie offering, and the cheap imitation. Kids today not only have a lesser quality of movie to look forward too, but the sheer volume of the offerings makes it impossible to obsess about one movie at a time. 

And, if you were born between 1965 and 1980, you know exactly what I'm talking about. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

May the Force be with You

One of these days, I am really going to expound on the importance of Star Wars. 

But, it's Saturday night...

Friday, March 22, 2013

To my wife


Here we are again. You sleeping in a hospital bed, wires and monitors all around you, me sitting in the darkened room, watching you.

Wishing I was in your place.

Wishing it wasn't always you in that bed.

We've been here before. This time it was your gall bladder. I've watched over you through kidney infections. I've watched diabetes take its toll. I've watched you battle cancer. I've watched you sacrifice your body to bring life to our little family.

Always it's you. Always it's your body that bears the scars. Always it's you in the bed.

It's trite to say it, but if I could take your place, I would have done it every time. I feel helpless at times like this. You're so capable and strong, and the only time you can't take care of yourself all I can do is sit and watch. And feed you ice chips.

No one signs up for a life of needles and scars and hospital rooms. Life is a spin of the roulette wheel, and what you get is never a certainty at the beginning. But you bear your burdens with so much grace. And I know you think you are weak, but you are not. No one fights a battle without getting scarred, but scars are a sign of healing.

Every scar on your body is a victory.

And I love every one of them.

Every stitch and scar on your body means another chance for me to try again to love you better than I have before. In this darkened room, the only light is on your face. The face I fell in love with nineteen years ago. You're peacefully resting now. You've earned it.

When I fell in love with you I imagined being able to always care for you. I thought I could shoulder every burden, and carry you through life as my queen. Reality has taught me that I am not in charge, and sometimes I have no choice but to stand and watch. But I can promise you that every time you look up from the bed, I'll be there. When you awaken, the first touch you feel will be my hand in yours. Always. I promise.

If I could take your pain, I would take it all.
But I would leave your scars. They tell a story of life and love and sacrifice. They make you royal.
And I love every one of them.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Just Play It Loud, OK?

There are some songs that just cannot be contained. They need to be played loud. They were made to blow the doors off of cars, and the windows out of houses. The louder you play these songs, the better they sound...

Here, in no particular order, are eleven songs that you can take to eleven on that volume knob:

1. Paradise City: Guns 'n' Roses. 

This song is the definition of an arena anthem. You'll notice that most of these songs have a couple of things in common -- thundering drums and driving guitars. The first time you hear the beat of the bass drum, you realize that the volume is not up nearly loud enough.

2. Livin' on  a Prayer: Bon Jovi.

While I've always really liked this song, it's not my favorite Bon Jovi song -- that would be Blood on Blood. Having said that, this song epitomizes what Bon Jovi does best: Love, Longing and Loyalty. The chorus just screams at life -- You live for the fight, when that's all that you got!

3. I Remember You: Skid Row

This is the best produced song I have ever heard. I don't know how they did it -- but no matter how loud you turn this song up, it remains clear as a bell. Sebastian Bach (seriously, if you're going to steal a  name...) has an amazing range, and his voice is the most powerful in all of hard rockdom. 

4. Total Eclipse of the Heart: Bonnie Tyler

Don't judge me. 

5. Rock and Roll: Led Zeppelin

It's called Rock and Roll, for crying out loud! This is the granddaddy of every song on this list. And it features a piano -- how cool is that?!

6. Thunderstruck: AC/DC

I swear this guy gargles gravel. It literally makes my throat hurt to listen to him sing (or growl, as the case may be). This song has the same qualities as Paradise City. Actually, I considered Back in Black -- but that seemed too obvious. 

7. Enter Sandman: Metallica

There are a handful of songs that have perfect beginnings -- Welcome to the Jungle, by Guns 'n' Roses; Where the Streets Have No Name, by U2; Thunderstruck, by AC/DC...and Enter Sandman. 

8. Panama: Van Halen

If you're looking for pounding drums and driving guitars, look no further than the Van Halen boys. This is not remotely my favorite Van Halen song, but for pure blow the doors off, shutter the windows, hide the women and children, volume 11 power, it doesn't get better than Panama. 

9. Nothin' but a good time: Poison

Loud music has basically one reason for existing -- to tell the world that, right now, nothing else matters but having a good time. And that's okay.  
If wantin' the good life is such a crime, lord then put me away...YEAH!

10. Kickstart my heart: Motley Crue

This is from Motley Crue's (I don't know how to put that little dot thingy over the "o" and the "u") sober period. They had just cleaned themselves up, and produced their best album ever -- Dr. Feelgood -- which spawned several great songs, but none that matched this anthem to adrenaline.

11. Radar Love: White Lion

Rarely, and I mean RARELY, do I like I remake better than the original. This is one of the rare exceptions. And it's by White Lion. White Lion! Half the time I can't remember the name of this group  -- Great White? Whitesnake? Well, it's one of those white groups -- they literally had only one hit: When the Children Cry. Gag. The original version of Radar Love, by Golden Earring (whose name is even dumber than White Lion), isn't even in the same universe as this rock solid song. It's so good loud that I can almost forgive the motorcycle sound effects in the middle of the song. Almost. 

So, what did I leave off?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Noblest of Heroes

What do you do when you've done all you can, and you feel like you can't go on? 

What do you do when you feel like all you are doing just isn't enough?

What do you do when you've answered every call, and you feel like you have nothing left to give?

What do you do when you think your back can't possibly bear one more burden? 

What do you do when it feels like you're tied to the front of a bullet train, and heading for a brick wall?

What do you do?

I'll tell you what you do...

You astound me. You have never failed -- not when it really mattered. Your character is rock solid.

You inspire me. I've never seen anyone that can do more with less. Being in your presence -- living on the same planet as you -- makes me want to be a better person. 

It makes me a better person. 

You lift those around you. It never ceases to amaze me that those who bear the heaviest burdens are often called on to lift those who surround them. But what really staggers me is that that person is always up to the challenge. 

You climb the mountain anyway. You cross the ocean. You don't just reach for the stars -- you reach them. Because you have to. It's who you are. 

You get back up. You're a fighter. You think you don't have one more punch in you. You have rounds to go, and you're not even winded. I can see it, even if you can't.

And lastly, I'll tell you what you don't do:

You don't quit. You don't break. You don't stop. You never say die. 

David beat Goliath.

That's how the story ends. The little guy wins. Victory, this most important victory, is not to the swiftest or the strongest, it's belongs to the noblest hero -- the one who endures. 

When it's all said and done, that hero conquers. 

You are that hero.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Boba Fett: The Ultimate Poser

Ask almost any red blooded, oxygen inhaling, earth walking male, between the ages of zero and sixty, and he'll tell you the coolest looking character in the Star Wars universe is one of two people --

This guy

Or this guy

Or, occasionally, this guy.

But mostly this guy, Boba Fett. 

Ask anyone to show you a picture of a bounty hunter, and you'll either get a picture of Boba Fett, or this guy:

Ask any kid from the 1980's who was the ultimate Star Wars action figure?

You guessed it.

Since 1980, Boba Fett has been the ultimate definition of not only cool, but also deadly. He has developed a reputation as the baddest of the bad asses when it comes to bounty hunting, and flying around in his rocket pack and shooting his wrist cable, and just looking really, really, REALLY cool. And awesome. And deadly. And intense.

There's no denying that Boba Fett looks cool. That scarred helmet. That rocket back pack. That gun. That space ship. That little skull insignia thing on his shoulder. That little half cape. Boba Fett was designed by a boy, no doubt about it. He's looks like a knight and an assassin and a race car driver, all at the same time.

But I'm here to make the case that Boba Fett was actually the ultimate poser.

What have we really ever seen him do?

Unless you want to go back to the Star Wars Holiday Special -- and I don't think anyone really wants to do that -- Boba Fett came on the scene in the Empire Strikes back, when the Empire assembled the most feared collection of bounty hunters in the galaxy, to track down Han Solo (not an easy task -- just ask Greedo. Yes, Han shot first, but don't change the subject).

When we first see Boba Fett, he's standing amongst the other bounty hunters, and I have to think these guys were brought in just to make Boba Fett look cool by comparison. I mean one guy looks like a cross between a pig and a crocodile, one guy looks like the Mummy, one looks like The Fly, and the last one looks like a stop light. It doesn't take much for Boba Fett to be the coolest looking guy in the room.

All he ever does is pose.

And what do we learn? He has a reputation for disintegrating his captives. Well, that's convenient, isn't it? How do you know he didn't sweep up a pile of dirt in his kitchen, and then try to collect a bounty? So, what have we learned, so far? He stands around, posing, and he's lazy.

But, you say, he caught Han Solo!


What did he really do? He hung out in the garbage, and then followed the Millennium Falcon to Cloud City, where he let the government (the Empire) do all the hard work, while he stood around -- you guessed it -- nodding his head and looking cool, and collecting a big fat paycheck, from another big fat bloated government official. He even whined about the way Darth Vader was going to do his job for him:

"He's no good to me dead!"

Boba Fett was a mooch. Oh sure he had a rough childhood -- saw his dad, who was also his clone (weird) beheaded -- but seriously, pretty boy, pull it together and make something of yourself.

When it finally came time to put up or shut up -- when the chips were finally down and the moment demanded action -- Boba Fett folded like a chump.

Some warrior. All he made were mistakes. In a fight between blaster and lightsaber, lightsaber wins every time. And a wrist cable? Around a Jedi? Why don't you just toilet paper him, Boba? And finally, never -- EVER -- turn your back on an enemy! How did Boba Fett meet his end? One could say that it was greed that did him in, after all it was his own prize that finally took him out.

That's right. Boba Fett was taken out by a blind Han Solo, and his seeing eye Wookie.

Han, inadvertently sent Boba Fett to the most ignominious of fates -- chewed up by a belching hole in the ground, and slowly digested over the next thousand years.

Boba Fett, the Ultimate bounty hunter? 

More like Booba Fett, the Ultimate poser.