Monday, May 30, 2005

The wrongest yard

Well, it finally happened: Mom had to Photoshop over my bald spot. I knew this day would come. Having your mom artificially enhance your head in photographs is just a part of growing up in the Information Age, like getting spammed with emails about non-accredited university diplomas made out of Viagra that also lower your mortgage if you just confirm your credit card number.

Now that I’m beginning to show my age, I suppose it’s important to start caring about grown-up things, such as the Dow Jones, Golden Girls reruns, and the grass-to-weed ratio of my lawn.

Someone recently noted that the greenery on my lawn is not grass, as I had believed, but is actually just a collection of weeds cut to grass-like length. I say “someone” said this rather than coming right out and telling you that it was my father-in-law, because we’ve only been family for less than a year, and I’m not sure we’re to the stage where it’s okay to talk about him in the newspaper. So just to play it safe for now, I’m sticking with “someone.”

Occasionally, I’ll look at my collection of dandelions and crabgrass and wonder if I should try to do something about it. I wonder internally, of course, because if I wondered out loud, my wife Kara might hear me, and then she’d start expecting something to actually happen. I’ve learned the hard way to keep these kinds of thoughts to myself.

The deficient nature of our yard is brought to our attention nearly every day by the fliers that lawn companies keep hanging on our front door. A lawn company leaving a flier on our door is like a gym owner walking up to an overweight guy and stuffing a brochure in his pocket. I’m aware of the problem, okay. If I want help, I’ll ask for it.

Besides, I think dandelions are pretty. And when they get all puffy, I like to wave them around and pretend that the seeds are little parachuting people. You can’t do that with boring old grass.

Lawn commercials almost always show middle-aged men beaming over their lush, weedless lawns. The sexist undercurrent is slightly disturbing, like the kitchen cleanser commercials that show women dancing through the house because they’re so jazzed at the thought of killing more bacteria, but I worry more that I’m missing some basic Y-chromosome gene that’s supposed to make me give a hooey about the virility of the grass around our house.

I think that the real problem here is that the media is making me feel inadequate by propagating unrealistic images of what a lawn should look like. It’s impossible to have greenery shaped that perfectly in real life. Those lawns on TV obviously all had professional work done to them. It’s unnatural.

One very effective way to get around having to make excuses for a bad lawn is to give some of it back to nature. Kara and I inadvertently did this after moving into our house a couple years ago. We had too many other things to worry about, such as erupting toilets, and a roof that merely slowed the rain down on its way to our carpet, to worry too much about the plant succession occurring just outside our cracked windows.

Without bringing in a team of archeologists to confirm, I can only assume that the area under the vines and pricker bushes used to be some sort of garden or flower bed. Since we let it go wild, though, I’m scared to get too close to it. Last week, I saw a feral tulip stalking the neighbors’ cat.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Hairy palms

This Wednesday's Good Frickin' Picture is from my buddy Josh Perlson, who just got back from his honeymoon in Somewhere Warm.

I know he told me where this picture was from, but I forgot. I'll listen to the recording and let you know later.

Also, being clueless can be beneficial. I just Googled "hairy palm" to make sure it means what I think it means (it does), and the first hit took me here. This guy takes some of the best frickin' pictures I've ever seen. I'd highly recommend a cruise around the rest of his site: Okay, enough plugging some other dude's site. He totally doesn't have any good fart jokes.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Wanted: Mattress bobsledder

Being out of school and without children, it’s hard to keep track of simple things, like what season it is. I also work inside all day, so I can only tell what time of year it is by whether or not the Dairy Queen is open when I drive by. Judging by the line on the ice cream side, I’m going to guess that it’s springtime, which means that it’s the time of year for graduations, and for old people to pretend like they actually have advice to give to young people, other than, “Pull your pants up.”

When I was in college, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, somebody gave me this advice: “Remember what you used to love doing as a child, and then think of a way you could get paid for doing that. That’s what you should do for a living.”

That’s great advice for a kid who likes to build the Eiffel Tower out of Lincoln Logs, or to a kid who always pretends to be a mid-level manager at a large pharmaceutical company. But when I was little, my favorite thing to do was to write stories about dinosaurs with flatulence problems. That is a difficult skill to parlay into a career. I was also passionate about riding mattresses down the stairs, and trying to make spiders and lightning bugs befriend each other in mayonnaise jars. So by now, I should probably be either a bobsledder or a diplomat, while moonlighting as an author of books with titles like: “Tommy the Triceratops Eats a Burrito.”

Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did turning your childhood pastimes into paychecks. Hopefully, as a child, you loved sitting in confined spaces for many, many hours in a row, bathed in fluorescent lighting, and leaving your seat only long enough to satisfy your basic biological needs. If this was the case for you, you won’t have any problems making money doing what you used to enjoy as a child.

Once you decide what kind of office you want to hole up in for the rest of your life, there are still some important things you need to know to truly exceed in an office environment. When giving career advice, some people will blather on about work ethic, punctuality, and so forth. Some people will also tell you that it is easier to hike uphill than downhill, or that Patrick Swayze’s dancing in Dirty Dancing was better than Kevin Bacon’s dancing in Footloose. These people are obviously crazy; don’t let them fill your head with nonsense.

The most important thing to master in an office environment is how to mouth saying, “Hello,” to people in the hallway without actually saying, “Hello.” I have worked in several different office settings, and everyone does this, so it is very important that you learn to do it correctly. Just say the words just as you normally would, but at no point are you to actually engage your vocal cords. Also, if you later find that office life isn’t for you, you can use this skill when shooting music videos.

Another tip: if you need to go to the bathroom and you need to refill your coffee mug, make two separate trips. I don’t know if it’s weird for some reason to bring a coffee mug into the bathroom, but it seems like it might be. You should probably just play it safe on this one.

That’s about all the advice I have to give. Hope it helps. Oh, I’ve also found that if the clock on my car radio doesn’t show the correct time, disconnecting and re-connecting the battery at exactly midnight usually does the trick. Other than that, you’re on your own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Beautiful Chunkset

This week's Good Frickin' Picture Wednesday comes courtesy of Jered Earl "Chunks" Widmer. You may remember him from such wedding toast animations as the one directly below this post.

Chunks just started up a new blog. Check it out when you get a moment. Who knows, after a while, he might be your favorite one-eyed homosexual narcoleptic, too.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


I’m having a hard time concentrating right now. My buddy’s wedding is coming up on Saturday, and I’m the best man. Now I might be the best basket weaver or bull rider attending the wedding, but the best man? That seems to me to be a highly dubious claim, and I should know.

Regardless, his wedding will be a wonderful thing – with the dancing and the making merry and the celebrating of the most important day of my friend’s life -- but then there’s the toast.

I’ve been stressing out about this for months. Seinfeld does that joke about how, at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy. I wouldn’t go that far, but if someone gave me the choice between public speaking and getting shot by a taser gun while slamming my fingers in a car door, I honestly don’t know which one I would choose. I mean, how many volts are we talking about, and is it one of those little red and yellow Fisher-Price cars?

For this public speaking engagement, though, I have a score to settle. My friend Josh P.* (name not at all changed to protect his identity) was my best man at my wedding to Kara last year. For his toast, he hopped on the internet, went to my online journal that only a few friends knew about, clipped out stuff that I’d written about my bride-to-be Kara, and read it aloud to everyone. So basically, when called upon to say a few nice things about me, Josh read my diary to everyone that I know, including my new in-laws. It was actually very funny, but I must feign indignation for the time being so that I can justify the payback I’m going to give him in a few days.

Since I pretty much wrote Josh’s toast, I thought it might be fun if he helped me write mine. It’s only fair, really. Once I had my computer’s modem all set up to record our conversations (which was, by the way, frighteningly easy to do), the only hard part was deciding which snippets of our conversations to play back at his wedding. Linda Tripp would have been so proud.

I sent my favorite sound clips to a mutual friend, who has taken old pictures of me and Josh, run them through his computer, and animated our conversations in a crude, South Park kind of way. I can’t wait to see the look on Josh’s face when a picture of him, projected onto the wall at the reception, starts reciting a conversation we had two months ago.

Here’s one of my favorite bits:
Me: What should I talk about in my toast?
Josh: Well, you’ve got two ways you could go. Funny or, you know, meaningful.
Me: What about the kind that humiliates you?
Josh: It’s impossible to humiliate me, man. The only way you could humiliate me is if you brought up… [At this point, the Road Runner runs across the screen, says, “Meep! Meep!” and then runs off, obscuring what Josh is saying. I’m not totally heartless.]

Thank you, Josh, for that pearl. I was expecting it to be a little more difficult to get some good stuff out of you, but now you’ve almost made it too easy for me. It’s like hunting for windmills at a putt-putt course.

If anyone sees my friend Josh around, I hope that, after they congratulate him on finding a partner who possesses both exceptional beauty and relatively low standards, they’ll ask him what exactly he said when the Road Runner so rudely interrupted. I’ll never tell -- unless you ask me.



Through the magic of the in-tar-net, you can see the toast here (if your boss hasn't given you anything better to do):

Much thanks to Jered Earl "Chunks" Widmer for the countless hours he spent animating this thing.

Warning: This link automatically opens a Flash movie file, which takes a while to download (5.4 megs.) If you're on dial-up, I hope you didn't want to do anything else on the internet today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Good Frickin' Picture Wednesday rides again

Homey say Guat? Here's another Jeff Hofer special from Guatemala:

I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but I'm fairly certain that, if this guy is ever in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, he should fight Donatello.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Feeling flushed

The plumbers came by recently to relieve me and my wife Kara of a problem we were having with our discretionary income. Luckily, they were able to come dry it all up before we did something stupid, like buy a rotisserie chicken machine from Ron Popeil or pay the mortgage.

I always used to think of water as my friend. I’d eat some pretzels or mow the lawn, and there water would be, waiting for me, cool and crisp, ready to wash my hands before I’d pop open a can of soda. But water is only your friend until you buy a house, at which point it becomes the worst enemy you’ve ever had, not including the bully who put your head in the toilet in the seventh grade. But come to think of it, water was part of the problem then, too.

Being a homeowner has afforded me all sorts of thrills to which I’d previously been uninitiated. Now that I’ve been through it, though, I can authoritatively say that you haven’t lived until you’ve been sitting in your living room on a quiet, cloudless evening, when in the back of your consciousness, you hear the distinct pitter-patter of rainfall coming from your basement.

“Ahhh, what a peaceful sound,” you think. Then you go back to wondering if anyone has ever tried to ride a moose like a horse, and if so, were the results hilarious, tragic, or both? But then it clicks in your head. Wait a minute. It isn’t raining outside. The shower isn’t running. I’m continent. That can only mean…

Some people pay good money for the kind of adrenaline rush you get when that realization hits. We eventually did, too.

Now I enjoy a nice cool rain shower as much as the next guy, but it is difficult to muster up that “Singin’ in the Rain,” heel-clickin’ spirit when the nimbus cloud overhead is your toilet. As I stood there helplessly watching the water fall from the ceiling and splatter onto the basement floor, I couldn’t help but wish I was back in seventh grade with my head in the john.

Three plumbers and three thousand dollars later, we were back in the Age of Indoor Plumbing, which is much more pleasant than the Age of the Backyard at Night. I won’t complain about the cost more than I already have, because if you can’t spend your money on the luxury of a functional toilet, then what can you spend it on, besides yourself, and the people you love, and maybe a couch that doesn’t have ferret holes in it?

Looking on the bright side of the whole fiasco, our toilet is finally firmly anchored to the floor for the first time since we’ve lived here. It used to rock around so much that our guests would mistake it for a mechanical bull. To make it seem normal, we used to have a honky-tonk band playing in the shower behind chicken wire, and we’d serve peanuts in buckets and let people just throw the shells on the floor. I’m glad those days are over; the bathroom brawls were getting out of hand.

The absurdity of the situation strikes me every time I flush. I’m too cheap to buy myself a thirty dollar ticket to go to a waterslide park, but my toilet water gets its own three thousand dollar flume ride. Sometimes life just doesn’t give you any choice but to flush your money down the toilet.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The more mature half's Good Frickin' Picture Wednesday

My woman, Kara, took this week's picture. Yeah, that's right, MY woman. I dragged her by the hair back to our cave so that she'd have someone to mow the lawn and pick up ferret poo.

She took this one in New Zealand, while I was off playing with sheep. No, not really. They hardly know any games, besides Stratego.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

My fashion statement: No

Walking through the mall recently, it struck me that it was only a few years ago that I used to get all my clothes at stores that now seem to cater to kids who are too young to baby-sit. The clothing in my old favorite stores now generally looks like it should be sold with bibs and pacifiers, and maybe something that lights up and plays “It’s a Small World After All” when you shake it.

If I did buy something in one of my old stores, the sales people would probably politely wait until I left the store and turned the corner. Then they’d gather up whatever they had left of the item I just bought, take it out back, and toss it in an incinerator marked “OLD PEOPLE LIKE IT.”

I’ve graduated from my old demographic. Not that long ago, I was in the demographic of wearing jeans halfway down my backside and blaring Rage Against the Machine through the neighborhood. Now I’m in the demographic of elastic waistbands and feeling my pulse quicken when NPR’s Marketplace comes on. If I turn the bass way up, I can actually see my rearview mirror vibrate when David Brancaccio says the word “NASDAQ.”

I understand all too well that I’m not exactly the target audience for my old clothing stores anymore. Perhaps that’s why I find some current trends so difficult to understand. For example, why do clothing stores in the mall invent sports teams to put on their t-shirts? I’ve never been to an American Eagle lacrosse game, but apparently they have a team. Do they play pick-up games against Friendly’s and Hallmark?

If I were on the American Eagle Lacrosse team, I’d be sure to show up for the game against Spencer’s Gifts. I’d psyche out my opponents by waving my big lacrosse stick around and yelling things like, “You know those fake fire pots with the wavy orange paper blowing around in them? Yeah, well they don’t even look like real fire!” and, “The only thing shocking about those hand buzzers you sell is how bad you are at lacrosse!”

Okay, I wouldn’t be that good with the insults, but that wouldn’t matter, because while they’d be paying attention to scoring goals, I’d be putting “Beer Belly Helper Wacky Pills” into their water jugs. I wouldn’t be exactly sure what to expect from those pills, but if the packaging is any indication, hilarity would certainly ensue.

Oh, and the Abercrombie Ski Patrol -- what exactly is that? It must be an elite team that’s always on call in case anyone gets hypothermia in the baby-doll tee section, or breaks a leg while reeling backwards from a pair of $148 jeans. And I don’t mean in any way to impugn the integrity of the Abercrombie Ski Patrol. Someday I might launch off a mogul, attempt a daffy to spread eagle combination, then wipe out on the stretch boxer-briefs display, showering tight-fitting yet breathable men’s underwear all across the store. If that ever happened, I’d sure be glad that Abercrombie has a stringent certification process in place for all of its ski patrollers.

Certification process: “Hey kid, would you pay thirty bucks to wear an advertisement for my store? Great! You’re on the team.”

Perhaps I’m just bitter because the depressing reality is setting in; it is only a matter of time before I’m going to have to buy all my clothing at stores that also sell chainsaws.