Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005: It ain't over 'til it's Hofer

Here's a collection of my favorite freakin' pics from Jeff Hofer. This is a Good Frickin' Picture Wednesday 2005 retrospective, if you will. Rich people: feel free to put Hofer's art in your galleries and give him lots of money. Everyone else: Happy Frickin' New Year!

Hay kid:

Mountain guy:

Donatello, if Ninja Turtle:

Muy frickin' colorful:

Girl with one much longer leg:

Little girl who can rip apart a chain link fence with her bare hands:

Like Egypt, but Guatemalier:

Koosh ball tree:

Guy with ferret in jacket:

Monday, December 26, 2005

Chicken-fried trash

A few nights ago, during an especially obnoxious run of deafening Old Navy and Verizon commercials, my wife Kara flipped on 20/20, a show that I had not seen in about fifteen years. I was shocked to see that after all that time, John Stossel’s mustache is still alive and well. If a nuclear winter happened tomorrow, all that would be left of the world is cockroaches and John Stossel’s mustache.

But what struck me as even more interesting than the facial hair of its correspondent was the show’s revelation about a movement known as freeganism. For those who haven’t already heard about freegans, they are otherwise regular people who have chosen to boycott the conventional economy, subsisting largely through a practice known as “urban foraging.” To the untrained eye, “urban foraging” looks a whole lot like “digging through the trash and eating food that other people threw out,” because that’s exactly what it is.

Freegans try to remove themselves as much as possible from the wastefulness of society, so they rummage around in other people’s garbage to find food that is still edible. They do this because garbage is free, unless you buy it at Brookstone’s, in which case it is expensive and probably vibrating. I don’t know if freegans have adopted an official mascot yet, but if they haven’t I think they should give serious consideration to the raccoon.

I hope that no freegans have ever starved because they were depending on finding leftover food in my trash. I can just picture a freegan at the end of my driveway in the middle of the night, pulling out unopened Capital One applications and empty cereal boxes.

“Don’t they ever cook?” the freegan would say weakly, crawling to the next driveway.

“Let me know if you find anything good. We're starving in here!” I’d call from the window.

It would be easy to make fun of people for eating trash, but I actually have a lot of respect for the sentiment behind freeganism. When I was a busboy back in high school, I found that one of the major perks of the job, besides the groupies, was the second dibs I got on some very choice pieces of post-consumer lemon-herb chicken. I’d only eat from the clean side, of course, not where the bites marks were. I have my standards.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was at the vanguard of an entire philosophical movement. Readers of this column (me and my mom) will remember that I once ate Neil Armstrong’s leftover salmon, which might very well make me the first Space Freegan.

Right after the show ended, I turned to Kara and asked, “So if we ever get a cat, can we name it Sniffy Kerplonkus?”

Sniffy Kerplonkus is a great name for a hypothetical cat because, not only is it a very difficult name to say with any gravitas, but it is also the only remaining combination of letters in the universe that yields zero search results on Google.

To my disbelief, Kara actually agreed that Sniffy Kerplonkus is a fine name for a cat. The only reason I’m telling you this now is that I need to have it in writing, so that on the off chance that we ever really do get a cat, Kara can’t back out later. The ink cartridge for our printer ran out about three years ago, so it’s really much easier if it just shows up in the newspaper instead.

If you’re not going to eat the rest of that chicken leg, you can give it to Mike Todd online at

Monday, December 19, 2005

Long live the umbrella

“The snow is piling up on the patio umbrella out there,” my wife Kara said a few days ago, as the first serious snowfall of the winter was coming down. “We ought to go outside and crank it down. The umbrella’s not made to hold that kind of weight.”

I sat up to look out the window; the umbrella indeed had so much snow on it that it looked like a giant white mushroom sprouting up in the backyard. Why was the umbrella still open and out on the patio in the middle of December? Your guess is as good as mine, especially if your guess is that I’m lazy.

“We don’t feel like going outside right now,” I said, pulling the covers up over my head. “It’ll be fine. We’ll put it down when I go out to shovel a little later.”

About five minutes after that pronouncement, I heard the crack from the backyard as our patio umbrella gave up the ghost. If an umbrella falls in the backyard and its owner hears it, it makes the sound of about a hundred dollars being yanked out of his pocket. Being lazy is awfully expensive sometimes.

So I stumbled out of bed, put on my jacket and went out to survey the damage. Noticing the whip of the wind across my legs, I came back inside, put some pants on, then went back out.

This winter sure didn’t give us much of a warm-up. We went straight from shorts weather in November to shin-deep snow a few weeks later. It’s already game time and we haven’t even had practice yet.

I trudged around, collecting the pieces of the umbrella, which had snapped right at the crank casing, flinging plastic pieces into and under the snow, where most will be found again when I mow over them in five months. After running out of swear words, I gave up on the umbrella and made my way over to the garage to dust off my snow shovel.
Our driveway is barely long enough to park three cars end-to-end, but when ten inches of snow are on the ground and I’m standing in the garage armed with a giant spoon, it looks big enough to host the Iditarod.

Using a shovel to move snow around seems so primitive, like just one step above a monkey using a rock to crack open a coconut. I’d much prefer to figure out a way for an internal combustion engine to do the work for me, but none have offered to do it for free so far. I guess that’s why people have kids.

Two years ago, when we were getting ready for our first winter as homeowners, Kara and I went to the hardware store to pick up some snow shovels. The store had about a dozen different models to choose from, with awesome names like “The Bulldozer” and “Avalanche.” I settled on a little blue number with a bent handle. Apparently, bending the handle of a snow shovel makes it ergonomic, which doubles the price. But still, the bent handle is a wonderful advancement in shoveling technology, because it truly does make it easier on your back not to have all that cash in your back pocket.

When Kara saw that I’d found a shovel I liked, she smiled and headed towards the register.

“Whoa, hold on.” I said. “Don’t we need a second one?”

“What?” she said, still walking away from the shovels.

“Don’t we need two shovels?” I asked. “I thought I might come out there and help you occasionally.”

So Kara begrudgingly came back and picked out a shovel that she liked. In retrospect, we could have saved ourselves twenty bucks.

If Mike Todd is still alive after Kara reads that last sentence, you can reach him online at

Friday, December 16, 2005

Eventual Frickin' Picture Friday

Here's a waterfall that doesn't touch the ground:

This would be a good place to fly a kite, 'cause there aren't any power lines. Oh, and also, it's windy.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Go back to Foot Locker

I was a basketball referee for a few years in high school, because reffing is a really good way to prepare yourself for the future, especially if the future might involve lots of people yelling at you. A referee is nobody’s friend. I think it’s because people don’t like whistles, which dredge up some sort of deep-down, visceral animosity towards authority figures. And also, #16 obviously just traveled. Hey, Ref, traveling! Aw, c’mon. Open your eyes!

At the end of every season, the league I reffed for scheduled a coaches vs. refs game, a tradition that extended all the way back, I believe, to the year that cockfighting became illegal. Something had to fill the bloodlust void.

The game pitted the seventeen year-old refs against the slightly more geriatric coaches, who would toss and turn all night before the day of the game, muttering, “Reaching in? You gotta be kidding me,” while dreaming about hunting zebras that have whistles around their necks.
The coaches were a little less spry than the refs, but what they lacked in elastic ligaments, they made up for with liberally applied elbows and 401(k) plans. While the vast majority of the coaches were good sports, there were always a couple who seemed like they were just a sideways glance away from ripping off their knee braces and beating somebody with them.

During one of those games, I was playing defense on a coach who had beaten me, not with his knee brace, but to the basket, and as he went for a layup, I gave him a friendly little nudge in the back, a little tap just to say, “I care,” which sent him sprawling onto the gym floor. In my defense, the floor was a very soft pine.

When the coach got back on his feet, as he made his way to the foul line, he veered off course to head over my way. “He must be coming over to congratulate me on a well-executed defensive maneuver,” I thought. Instead, he leaned in so that just I could hear him, and in a very matter-of-fact tone, he muttered, “If you ever do that again, I’ll rip your [pretty little] head off.”

Looking back on it now, I don’t even remember who won the game. It’s funny how in life you tend to forget about the final scores, but you always remember the death threats.

I recently told my wife Kara that story, and when I finished, she looked at me with genuine amazement. “You’ve never told me that story before,” she said. “That’s hard to believe.”

“I haven’t thought of it in a while. And why’s it so hard to believe? I really didn’t push him that hard. He must have been the sensitive type,” I said.

“No, no, I mean it’s hard to believe that you still have new stories. That’s seriously the first time I’ve ever heard that one.”

And she’s right. After five-plus years of being together, we’ve both completely run out of new material. I already know about everything that’s happened to her since 1999 (because I was there for most of it), and she can say the same about me. And we’ve both had plenty of time to catch each other up on everything that happened before we met. That story about the coach threatening to rip my head off was the last fresh story she’s ever going to hear out of me. It’s all reruns from here on out. Hey, Seinfeld’s nothing but reruns, too, but it’s still worth watching.

Work stories don’t count as new material, either, because who wants to hear about work? We’re each allotted ten minutes per weekday to talk about work, but after that, you have to talk to the glazed-over eyeballs, ‘cause the ears ain’t listenin’.

Before you get called for three seconds in the paint, you can reach Mike Todd online at

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Adios, Guatemala pics

Somebody please tell Jeff Hofer to develop the forty rolls of film he brought back from his second Guatemala trip. This is the last one I have from his first trip:

I think this guy's checking on the ferret he's got in his jacket.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Down in front

My wife Kara and I finally got with the times. We just came back from seeing the movie “March of the Penguins,” which everybody else waddled into several months ago. One thing is for sure -- that movie has forever changed the way I look at seals. I used to think seals were all cute and cuddly, balancing beach balls on their noses while clapping and saying, “Ork, ork, ork!” The truth is that they are actually bloodthirsty beasts, many-toothed devourers of cute little innocent penguins. The only thing that sets seals apart from nature’s other ferocious carnivores is that I’ve never seen Steve Irwin wrestle a seal.

The seal in “March of the Penguins” was the scariest movie character since Samarra in “The Ring.” I think I’m going to have Kara check for seals under the bed before we go to sleep tonight. Or maybe I’ll just rub some tuna on her slippers.

Morgan Freeman, who did a fine job narrating the film, kept saying that “March of the Penguins” was all about love. I found it to be more about penguins. Perhaps there’s more love in the unrated DVD version.

Regardless, anyone who’s seen the movie, which features numerous scenes of penguins using their stubby little legs to trek seventy-five miles back and forth from the sea to their Antarctic breeding grounds, most likely stopped complaining about their commute for a couple of days.
We saw the movie on a whim at one of my favorite places in the world – the second-run, cheap seats theater. For two bucks, you can see all those movies that don’t quite seem worth ten bucks to see at the real theater, but still seem worth wasting two hours of your life on, like every movie with Will Ferrell in it.

The thing I love best about the cheap seats theater is that when a seat breaks or has something nasty spilled on it, they just throw a trash bag over the seat and move on with life. Also, they don’t waste money on things like heat, which helped to bring the Antarctic experience that much closer to home. It’s like the cheap version of IMAX – when you see your breath and you can’t feel your fingers, you really feel like you’re right there beside the penguins.

Our most memorable cheap seats experience came the day that Kara and I made the severe miscalculation of going to see a Harry Potter movie during a Sunday matinee. The theater was overflowing with little wizard wannabes, who would have done well to have studied up on the spell for, “Open a bag of Skittles without sending the entire contents bouncing across the theater floor.”

About halfway through the movie, a baby started crying. A normal muggle father would have simply taken the baby outside, but this one was not normal. For a good fifteen minutes, the baby tested out its new lungs in creative and ear-shattering ways. I have no idea what happened in the movie, but it was well worth my two bucks to watch the theater patrons slowly turn into an angry mob. One mother started taking up a collection, offering to head over to Kmart and buy them out of pitchforks and torches.

Finally, someone from across the theater politely asked, “Sir, could you please take your baby outside?”

The man stood up with his baby in his arms, proceeding to unleash a string of obscenities that would have made a pirate blush, making clear his intention to stay, while giving a free vocabulary lesson to dozens of children. Those words should only be taught to children by a parent who is trying to fix something.

The movie kept playing as an army of theater employees came to evict the man from his seat. We missed the whole movie and were out two bucks each, but sometimes you get more entertainment than you pay for.

You can throw popcorn at Mike Todd’s head online at