Monday, November 28, 2005
Thanksgiving is a great holiday, without a doubt, but I tend to think of it as more of a ramp-up holiday for the bigger ones just around the corner. In my family, Thanksgiving always seemed like an hors d’oeuvre kind of a holiday, a mozzarella stick to whet one’s appetite before the porterhouse steak of Christmas was served.
This year’s Thanksgiving, though, promises to be an excellent one for my family, which has recently expanded by way of betrothal. My wife Kara and I rarely have an opportunity to bring both of our families together, and we couldn’t have had everyone over to our house for our second Thanksgiving as a married couple, mainly because they’d probably expect us to cook for them, but also because somebody would probably have to sleep in the ferret’s cage. I’d feel bad if Dad had to fight with Chopper over who got the hammock and who got the fuzzy little fleece pocket.
This year, Kara’s family has graciously agreed to host both of our families for Thanksgiving dinner. This works out perfectly for me and Kara, as we get to hang out with everyone, and we don’t have to clean the bathroom to do it; we get to have our turkey and eat it, too.
Speaking of cleaning the bathroom, did you know that you can get toilet cleanser with Teflon in it now? I know! I don’t blame you for being flush with excitement. It’s only a few cents more than the regular stuff, so it’s definitely worth it, especially if you cook a lot of eggs in your john. Sure, this may be only tangentially related to the topic of Thanksgiving, but it’s important for the public to know about big-league scientific advancements like this. Also, if you happen to work in a Teflon marketing department, allow me to give you your new slogan: “Teflon: Out of the frying pan and into the toilet.” You don’t have to pay me any royalties if you use that; just cleaning my bathroom before company comes will be thanks enough.
So this year we don’t have to decide which family to spend Thanksgiving with, or figure out a way to do a whirlwind tour so that we can see everybody. Usually, mapping out the holidays with our two families involves months of discussion, scribbling with red pens on calendars and a musical montage where the hands of a clock spin around in the background. This year we’ll have everyone under one roof, and that’s something to be thankful for, even if we don’t have to go around the table and say it out loud, which, incidentally, I really hope we don’t have to do.
I’m also very thankful that I’m actually going to eat a meal that doesn’t involve cereal in any way. This is a very rare and special occasion for me. Maybe I’ll eat the turkey with a spoon so it won’t be too much of a shock to the system.
How a person could possibly cook a huge meal for eight other people, I have no idea, but I’m psyched that Kara’s mom is gracious enough to do it. If Kara and I were left to our own devices for Thanksgiving, we’d probably just pour gravy over our Corn Pops.
If you’re careful not to get any mashed potatoes stuck in your keyboard, you can reach Mike Todd online at email@example.com.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Kara and I are used to running a gauntlet of weddings every year, as we have reached ages that (frighteningly) round up to thirty. Though I haven’t kept a running tally, I think that the number of weddings may have been eclipsed by the number of baby showers – you can work out the math on that one.
The fact that my friends are having children now is rather disconcerting. These are the same people who, in college, spent weeks walking a lobster along the countertop for longer and longer periods of time because “we’re teaching it to breathe air.”
What baffles me most is that people keep having kids when they know full well what irrational creatures they are. A guy Kara works with was telling her this week about his two-year old son, who has recently added the word “afraid” to his vocabulary. After his parents dressed him one morning, the kid started shrieking that he was afraid of his pants.
The pants did not have tarantulas crawling around in them. These were not asbestos pants. My property taxes were not hiding in his pockets. The kid made such a fuss that his parents were compelled to remove his pants, at which point the child started crying because his legs were cold. But he wouldn’t hear of putting his pants back on. “I’m afwaid of my pants!” he wailed. After hearing this story, I ran to the computer and bought stock in a prophylactic company.
Hasn’t anybody ever tried talking reason to children? Seriously, somebody ought to do something about this. Sane people do not act this way. And still, my friends keep insisting on bringing new little crazy people into the world.
When Kara and I were having our driveway re-done last year, Anthony, the little boy next door, was fascinated by the small bulldozer that the workmen were using. His mom brought him outside, armed with her camera.
“He’s had his nose pressed against the window all morning. Anthony loves construction stuff,” she told us.
The little boy was absolutely beaming that he was going to get his picture taken with a bulldozer. He was all decked out in his Bob the Builder overalls. His mom asked permission of the workmen, who graciously smiled and told her to feel free to let the little guy have a ball with the construction equipment.
Anthony ran over to bulldozer, and his mom picked him up to put him in the driver’s seat.
“Awww, that’s so cute,” Kara said. And it was. Briefly.
The shrieking began as soon as Anthony’s mom tried to back up far enough to take a picture. So she came back to pick him out of the seat, and then he started shrieking, “Nooo! Picture!”
When she backed up again to take the picture, he shrieked even louder, holding out his arms for her to come back. But when she came back, he picked it up a few dozen decibels more, intent on having his picture taken in the driver’s seat, but too scared to sit there for his mom to get far enough away to take the picture. She only ever got far enough away to take a picture of his face, which was red and flowing with various fluids. I doubt that one ever made it to the mantle.
I watched in horrified amazement. A chess-playing Sasquatch is easier to find than a rational child. Still, I’m looking forward to this weekend. Bringing new insanity into the world is best celebrated with friends.
If you’re not too afraid of the keyboard, you can reach Mike Todd online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Winter is on its way here, which is a good thing, because cereal takes a lot longer to go stale in winter. If you ate Corn Pops for dinner three nights a week like I do, you’d be excited about it, too. And even if you’re not a big fan of winter, at the very least, you can take solace in the fact that you won’t have to hear anybody say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” for the next several months.
One of my favorite things about this time of year is the arrival of the constellation Orion, which I will refer to from here on out as if he were a person, because I think he’d probably want it that way. I saw him for the first time a couple of nights ago as I strolled around the neighborhood, enjoying the quiet of late evening, when I have time to think about important things like, “If I ever get struck by lightning, I’m definitely getting a lightning bolt tattoo, assuming I’m still alive,” and “If the world was a fair place, leftover pizza would be healthier for you because it doesn’t taste as good.” As I turned the corner to head back to the house, I happened to glance up over the horizon, and there he was, Orion the Hunter, clubbing all the other stars over the head and making jerky out of them in his garage.
There’s a song I keep hearing on the radio that goes: “Look at this photograph. Every time I do it makes me laugh.” Whenever I hear those lyrics, I think, “It makes you laugh every time you look at it? I even stopped laughing at the postcard I used to have of a horse getting frisky with a cow. I must see the picture that makes you laugh every single time.” I suppose I can understand the sentiment, though; every time I see Orion for the first time, I just have to smile and say, “Hello, winter,” and then try to remember where the heck I left my gloves last March.
I feel a special connection to Orion, because he’s the only constellation I can identify besides the Big Dipper, although I can usually find three or four Little Dippers. I’m also really good at finding triangles in the sky. Those things are all over the place, if you know where to look. Hint: up. It’s a good thing other people came along and gave the constellations cool names like Cassiopeia, the Seven Sisters and Hydra. If it had been left up to me, the sky would be filled with constellations like Square, Messed-Up Trapezoid and Almost Ice Cream Cone.
If you’ve never seen him before, it’s worth taking the time to introduce yourself to Orion. He doesn’t usually let city lights drown him out; if you can see any stars at all, you can probably see Orion. Like Baby from Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Orion in the corner.
He’s shaped like, well, actually like a big rectangle, but if you use your creativity, you can fill in a big dude wearing a belt and wielding a club. If you flip him upside-down, and imagine his head where his feet are supposed to be, he looks like a really cool archer, bent slightly backwards and launching an arrow into the sky.
If you don’t know where to look for him, the best way to find him is to have someone who recognizes him go outside with you, point upwards and say, “Next to that one star. See it? No, the other star.”
When you do finally see him for the first time, if the first thing you think is, “Good lord, Orion, put some pants on!” then you just failed an astronomical Rorschach test.
You can give Mike Todd some jerky online at email@example.com.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Sunday, November 06, 2005
The best present I ever bought for my wife Kara was the PlayStation2 I got for her college graduation. She hasn’t touched the thing in four years, but I just finished playing “Star Wars: Battlefront” for three hours. I wish every gift worked out so perfectly.
Back when I bought the PlayStation for her, I told my buddy about it, expecting him to tell me what a thoughtful present it was. “That’s great,” he said. “Why don’t you just get her a bowling ball with your name engraved on it?”
“But I don’t bowl,” I said.
It honestly seemed like a better present for her at the time. She didn’t have a DVD player, so I figured that a PlayStation2 was the same thing, but with the added life-sucking feature of being a video game console as well. Plus, she was always bragging that when she was twelve, she beat the original Super Mario Brothers Nintendo game without dying even once. Her sister corroborates this story, but I still have my suspicions. I just can’t believe that anybody with skills like that would rather read books with titles like, “The Lustful Rogue of Vagabondville” than blow up storm troopers with grenade launchers.
Kara and I moved in together shortly after her graduation, partly because we were in love and getting married, and partly because I didn’t have any video games at my place.
I may be a nerd for still playing video games, but I recently read a news story that made me feel like maybe I’m actually not so bad. A Korean guy recently played video games for so long that he died. In real life. The police said that he had played for almost 50 hours straight, barely taking breaks to eat or go to the bathroom. He died from shear exhaustion.
The way to tell if you’re a nerd or not is simple: if right now, you’re thinking, “Well, what game was he playing?” then you are a nerd. Oh, and it was StarCraft.
So as long as you are still alive, your video game habits are not as bad as some people’s. I’ve never had a fatal bout of video game playing, but my ferret Chopper just helped me realize how messed up my priorities actually are.
While I was trying to get some work done at home one evening, I got distracted by a ridiculously stupid game on the internet, in which the only objective was to keep heading soccer balls into the air by moving a little guy underneath them with the arrow keys.
After a couple of hours of not getting work done, I was like Rain Man at this game. My little soccer guy was a blur of motion, juggling eight balls into the air at once. Try as I might, though, I always died before I could get to 500 points.
Then I started a magnificent round – truly one for the ages. I was up to 400 points with my last life. I couldn’t miss. The heavens began to shake, sweat was pouring off of my forehead and with each second, I grew closer to my goal, whizzing back and forth, heading the soccer balls into the air.
At this moment, our ferret Chopper strolled across the room, walking towards his litter box, which was right next to my chair. 470 points. But he did not get into the box. 475 points. He backed up right next to the box, onto our good (480 points) white carpet.
“No, animal. Nooooo!” I said, trying to push him into the litter box with my foot while still (485 points) tapping the arrow keys furiously. But he was determined to go right there, unphased as my foot (490 points) waved ineffectually in his face.
I came to my senses and made a dive for the ferret (too late), as the dreaded whistle signaled that I’d dropped the ball at 495 points. At least I still have my health.
You can kick Mike Todd into the litter box online at firstname.lastname@example.org.************************************
On-line exclusive! Check out the dumbest game ever here: http://www.gamegarage.co.uk/play/super-headers/. If you score over 600 (my new high score), you will be my hero, along with MacGyver.