Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What Do You Want For Christmas This Year?

"What do you want for Christmas this year?"

That's the big question, isn't it? We'll get asked that question many times over the course of December, and we'll probably ask it ourselves to several people. It can be a tough question, or it can be an easy question. Some people know exactly how to answer it. "I want an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!" And some people have no idea whatsoever what they want. In her letter to Santa (as dictated to my wife) my three year-old daughter said, "Please bring me a present, not a froggy. I want a froggy and a toy dinosaur and a toy lion in the present." (I'm honestly not sure if she wants a froggy or not.)

Merry Christmas to all!!!

So, what do I want for Christmas this year? Not much. Just a few things like:

*I would like an end to partisan bickering, so that members of both parties could spend more time working to continue to make this nation a wonderful place to live instead of calling each other names and worrying about getting re-elected.

*I would like the Minnesota Vikings to win the Super Bowl this year. (Just one championship. That's all I'm asking for! C'mon, if Tampa Bay can have a championship why can't the Vikings?)

*I would like automatic computer updates that update at convenient times for me, and don't mess up my computer.

*I would like all television commercials to be rated "G." I shouldn't have to have the "birds and the bees" talk with my seven year-old because of an advertisement during a timeout in the basketball game.

*I would like some egg nog.

*I would like good health for me and my family. And my friends. And other people, too.

*I would like world peace.

*I would like lettuce to taste like bacon.

*I would like to be able to tell my children something once, and have them hear me and do the thing I wanted them to do after only telling them one time.

*I would like happiness for me and my family. And my friends. And other people, too.

(I don't want to be too greedy. I'll settle for any one of these things.)


Friday, December 8, 2017

Santa Is a Jerk: Re-Watching Rudolph

Christmas is approaching, and that means our old favorite Christmas shows are on the television again. Shows like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We've all seen it, and we all love it, right?

But should we?

Recently, I gave this classic another look. Things have changed a bit since this show was made back in 1964. The North Pole of Rudolph's world is full of grumpy, sexist, and discriminatory jerks. It really is quite jarring, especially after viewing all the nice, friendly, happy folks who inhabit the North Pole in the movie Elf.

So, I thought I'd take an in-depth look at Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer using the old running diary method. I recorded the show on my DVR, then I sat down for a minute-by-minute review. Here's how it went:

00:00--I start the DVR and the show is already going. It was supposed to start at 6:00 PM, and that's when I set it to record. But apparently the fine folks at CBS decided to start it at 5:58 instead. You'd think the networks and the DVR people could get their times straight.

00:01--I start with the Narrator Snowman rolling along in the snow telling us all what's what. (I'm a bit jealous of his fancy facial hair.)

01:00--We are first introduced to Santa. He is grumbling about not wanting to eat. And Mrs. Claus is nagging at him to "eat, eat, eat!" because no one wants a Santa who isn't fat. (I don't like to use the word "nag," but there is no question that it is the word that best describes what Mrs. Claus is doing.)

2:12--The Narrator Snowman starts singing the song and the opening credits begin to roll.

3:30--Our first commercial break. (Rudolph is sponsored by Target.) (There's a deer hunting joke in there somewhere, but I'm not going to make it.)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! Don't be a jerk, own it today!

6:06--We get our first glimpse of Rudolph's famous red nose.

6:20--Rudolph's dad, Donner, is immediately repulsed. "How can you overlook that!" he exclaims. What a jerk.

6:44--Santa comes to congratulate Donner on the birth of his son. He sees Rudolph and quickly shows himself to be a jerk, too. "He'll never make the sleigh team with a nose like that!" Santa snarls.

7:55--Donner decides the best approach is to hide Rudolph's nose, afraid of the shame it will bring to himself.

9:38--We are introduced to Hermey the Elf. He is not good at making toys and doesn't like to do it. He is yelled at by the Elf Boss. "WHAT!?! You don't like making toys?" The Elf Boss yells at and mocks Hermey.

10:19--Hermey declares that he wants to be a dentist. He is once again mocked by the Elf Boss and all the other elves. Apparently jerks abound at the North Pole.

10:40--While all the elves but Hermey get a break, the Elf Boss yells, "Finish the job or you're fired!"

11:22--Donner covers Rudolph's nose with what looks like an oversized olive. When Rudolph complains, Donner tells him, "There are more important things than comfort!" And, "Santa can't reject you now!"

15:38--The Elf Boss leads the elves as they serenade Santa with the song, "We Are Santa's Elves."

15:45--While singing the song, one elf hits the other over the head with a hammer, because nothing is funnier than a little hammer-on-elf violence.

16:20--The song ends and Santa is unimpressed. "It needs work," he says gruffly. I thought he was supposed to be jolly!

16:35--"WHAT!?!" is the reaction by the Elf Boss when he finds out Hermey didn't sing with the other elves.

17:05--"You'll never fit it!" the Elf Boss bellows to Hermey.

17:30--Hermey climbs out the window to run away. Unfortunately, there are no good dental schools at the North Pole.

18:00--Coach Cotton is here to teach the reindeer how to fly. He seems nice enough, and even says he wants to be the friend of all his students.

18:10--Rudolph, with his nose in the oversized olive, begins to make friends with the other reindeer.

18:58--Rudolph meets Clarice, a beautiful doe who immediately seems taken with him.

19:55--Clarice tells Rudolph she thinks he's cute, which sends Rudolph in an excitable tizzy.

20:22--Unfortunately, in his excitement the olive falls off Rudolph's nose, exposing him to everyone as a freak.

20:45--Santa vehemently disapproves of Rudolph and his nose. "Donner, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!" he chides.

21:05--Coach Cotton proves to be yet another North Pole jerk as he bans Rudolph from joining in any reindeer games.

22:30--Hey, what do you know? Someone at the North Pole isn't a jerk! Clarice tells Rudolph that she likes him, glowing nose and all.

23:30--It doesn't take long to find another jerk. Clarice's dad forbids her from having anything to do with that red-nosed freak.

23:45--Rudolph decides it is best to just run away. He quickly runs into Hermey, and they bond in their mutual misfitiveness.

29:38--Rudolph and Hermey run into Yukon Cornelius. He is, apparently, the only male in the North Pole who is not a jerk, so he must be a little crazy.

30:05--To prove he is crazy, Yukon Cornelius licks both ends of his pick.

33:55--After escaping from the Abominable Snowman, Yukon Cornelius once again licks both ends of his pick. (I don't know why, but I think this is my favorite moment of the entire show. Maybe this proves that I'm crazy.)

34:29--Rudolph's Mom and Clarice say they want to go search for Rudolph. Donner puts the kibosh on that, saying "No, this is man's work!" Donner isn't just a jerk, he's a sexist jerk.

35:21--Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius land on the Island of Misfit Toys and meet the sentry, the Charley In a Box.

Here's Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, Narrator Snowman, Abominable Snowman, Charley-In-a-Box, Santa and Clarice, all available for sale at Amazon.com!

37:42--We are introduced to some of the misfit toys, including a spotted elephant and a train with square wheels. Among them is a water gun that shoots jelly. Why in the world is that toy on the Island of Misfit Toys? I would pay good money for a squirt gun that shoots jelly!!!

40:05--Fearing that his nose is getting his friends in trouble with the Abominable Snowman, Rudolph heads out on his own.

41:00--During the commercial break there is an ad for Halos, those cute little oranges, which features a psychotic little girl leaving a stuffed horses head in her dad's bed to send a message to him that she needs more Halos. Here's a link: (I find this a bit disturbing.)

44:45--Rudolph arrives back at Santa's village to find that his Mom, Clarice, and Donner are all missing because they went out to search for him. Is Santa concerned? Not about Clarice or Rudolph's Mom. Selfish Santa only worries that "without Donner I'll never get my sleigh off the ground." (Yes, he's still a jerk.)

46:05--Rudolph goes to the cave of the Abominable Snowman, where he finds the lost Donner party. (They have not yet resorted to cannibalism.) (Yes, I know that's a lame Donner Party joke, but I just couldn't help myself.)

47:50--After the Abominable has captured Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius come to the rescue.

48:55--Hermey practices dentistry (literally) by pulling all of the Abominable Snowman's teeth.

49:30--Yukon Cornelius wrestles the Abominable Snowman over a cliff to their seeming death.

49:58--Back at Santa's workshop, Santa, the Elf Boss, and Donner all give half-hearted apologies.

50:45--What's the best way to make friends with an Abominable Snowman? Apparently, pull out all of his teeth and throw him over a cliff. The Abominable is now so friendly that he helps put the star on the top of the Christmas tree. "Lookie what he can do!" declares Yukon Cornelius.

51:20--We finally see Mrs. Claus again and, once more, she is trying to force Santa to eat and get fat.

52:20--A winter storm is so fierce that Santa declares that he is going to have to cancel Christmas.

52:20--Santa finally decides to fully accept Rudolph for his differences. Why? Because he has grown and realizes he was being a jerk? No! He finally accepts Rudolph because he figures a way he can use him for his own best interests!

53:00--Donner continues to prove himself to be a jerk. He says, "I knew that nose would be useful someday! I knew it all along!" No one believes him. (The jerk.)

54:30--Mrs. Claus force-feeds Santa one last time.

57:51--With Rudolph leading the way, Santa picks up the toys from the Island of Misfit Toys.

58:30--Isn't Santa supposed to deliver toys by going down the chimney and placing them under the tree? So why exactly is he having elves throw the misfit toys out of the sleigh in mid-air as they are flying through the sky? Seems a little harsh, doesn't it? (Personally, I think this Santa is still a jerk.)


So, there you have it. I really don't think this version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would fly (figuratively speaking) if someone tried to make it today. But that's okay, because it's been deemed a "classic." We'll still be showing it to our kids and grandkids for years to come. And they'll all wonder why everyone was such a jerk back in 1964.


Edited from the original post on 12/15/15.




Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Tale of Two Billy Joel Concerts

Then:
On April 23, 1984, I loaded up in a car with three of my high school buddies and made the long drive from our home town of Arimo, Idaho to the big metropolis of Salt Lake City, Utah. Why? Because Billy Joel doesn't perform concerts in Arimo, Idaho.

Now:
On November 29, 2017, I loaded up in the mini-van with my wife and made the long drive from our family home in Santaquin, Utah to the big city of Salt Lake. Why? Because Billy Joel doesn't perform concerts in Santaquin, Utah. (And because my wife loves me very much.)
My golden ticket!

Then:
For some reason I was in Salt Lake City with my family on April 6, a little more than two weeks before the concert. Tickets originally went on sale much earlier, and I had heard they were sold out. But, a few more seats opened up behind and off to the side of the stage, so I went to the ZCMI Center mall and purchased four tickets for $15 each. (I had to borrow money from my Mom until the other guys could pay me back.)

Yes, I didn't just keep the ticket, I kept the darn receipt!!!
(I definitely have some hoarder tendencies.)
Now:
Tickets went on sale in mid-February and, unbeknownst to me, my wife purchased a couple of seats. She then spent Valentine's Day peppering me with cryptic emails featuring quotes from Billy Joel songs until finally revealing that she got us tickets to the concert as a Valentine's gift for me. I don't know how much she spent on the tickets. (And I probably don't want to know.) But, I do know that we spent $15 (the cost of a ticket in 1984) just to park the mini-van.


Then:
It was a Monday, and we got in the car and left for Salt Lake as soon as school was out. We were three seniors and a sophomore, and the Billy Joel concert was one of the biggest events of our lives. We clenched onto those tickets as if they were made of gold.

Now:
It was Wednesday, the day of the concert, and I couldn't find the tickets. I frantically searched the house, looking everywhere I thought the tickets might be, and many places I didn't think they'd be. Eventually I gave up and sheepishly texted my wife at school (she teaches junior high math) to see if she knew where they were. She quickly texted back that the tickets were digital. When she explained to her students why she got a text from me in the middle of class, they laughed, and one of them said, "That sounds like something my grandpa would do." (It's not the first time I've been compared to a grandpa.)


Then:
After the concert the four of us spent the night "sleeping" on the living room floor of the brother of one of my friends. (Thanks, Raymond!) And then we ditched school the next day. We were rebels living on the edge!

Now:
My wife's parents came to our house to babysit our kids, because we couldn't just ditch them. (Thanks, Grammy and PopPop!) After the concert we raced home as quickly as we could. We felt bad for keeping Grammy and PopPop up past midnight, and we needed to get some sleep ourselves because my wife had to teach school the next day. We have responsibilities, you know.

No, they weren't the best seats. But, any seat at a Billy Joel concert is a great seat!!!
(I don't have any pictures from the 1984 concert. Back then there were no such things as smart phones, just dumb phones with long cords and no cameras.)
Then:
The concert was fantastic!!! Billy Joel sure knows how to put on a show! We were just four rows up, sitting right behind his piano, so we had an incredible view as he came onstage and pounded out "Prelude/Angry Young Man." Sure, when he was away from the piano at the front of the stage our view wasn't as good, but when he left the stage at the end of the concert he walked down some stairs right in front of us as my friend Chuck screamed like a madman. It was a great concert!

Now:
The concert was fantastic!!! Billy Joel still knows how to put on a show! He didn't get up and run around as much as he used to, opting to spend most of the night at the piano. (He is 68 years old now, after all.) But, it was still a great performance. Sure, we were in the nosebleed section, but enjoying the show next to the love of my life was incredible! As Billy was singing "She's Got a Way" and I sat there with my arm around my wife, I actually started to tear up a little bit. It was a great concert!

So, if I had to do it all over again, which concert would I choose? The answer is obvious: both! (You may be right. I may be crazy.) (But it just may be a lunatic you're looking for.)



Friday, December 1, 2017

Christmas for the Rich and/or Idiotic

When I was a kid I loved going to my Grandma's house and looking at her Christmas catalogs. She'd always have the Sears catalog, plus catalogs for JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, and something called Spiegel. 

My favorite sections of the catalogs were, of course, the toys, and also the NFL section, which included clothes, bedding, garbage cans, and other knick knacks with the logo of your favorite team printed on them. (Some items would only have a few teams available. If they didn't have the Vikings, I would get upset.)

I miss the Christmas catalogs of my youth. But that's not to say I can't be entertained by the catalogs of today. The other day we got a catalog in the mail for something called "Hammacher Schlemmer." According to the blurb on the cover, it is "America's Longest Running Catalog," and it has been "Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 167 years."

The Catalog of Useless Expensive Junk!

almost threw it straight into the garbage. I'm glad I didn't. It actually was pretty fun to peruse. (It had been quite a while since I'd enjoyed a good perusal.) Here's some of the fun stuff I found amid the 88 pages of useless crap:


1. The Hand Carved English Rocking Zebra-- The cover featured a picture of a zebra riding horse. Eventually I found it inside the catalog.
Everyone needs a rocking zebra!
The rocking zebra is, of course, hand-crafted and has "a real horse hair mane and tail." And, it "will not tip over even during the most enthusiastic rides." What a great gift! And it only costs $9,000!!!

Wait….Did you say $9,000? Yes, I did.
$9,000? Seems reasonable.
So yes, you could spend your $9,000 on a nice used car, or you could buy a rocking zebra.


2. The Electric Kazoo-- Not everything in the catalog is as useless and expensive as the zebra. I mean, who doesn't need an electric kazoo?
That wonderful kazoo sound can be amplified at long last!
If only they'd had this technology in the 1970s. Instead of forming the Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne could have formed the Electric Kazoo Orchestra! (I have a feeling music will never be the same again.)


3. The Darth Vader Pancake Maker-- Many people like pancakes. Many people like Star Wars. Why not combine the two?
I find your lack of syrup disturbing.
It even comes with a "built-in five-setting thermostat" so you can choose between light and dark pancakes. (And whatever you do, don't underestimate the power of the dark side.)


4. The Darth Vader Toaster-- Of course, if you think the pancake maker isn't Darth Vadery enough, you could always get the toaster.
"Toast, I am your father."
It's great that the toaster looks like Darth Vader, but it's too bad the toast doesn't. If you could somehow combine the pancake maker and the toaster, I just might buy it.


5. The Selfie Toaster-- But, what if you're one of those weirdos who doesn't like Star Wars, but you do like to have things imprinted on your toast? It's okay. Hammacher's got you covered.
Who wouldn't want an image of themselves burned into their toast?
This looks like fun, but as The Wife points out, it wouldn't do me any good. In order to burn an image of my handsome face onto my toast, the Selfie Toaster would make my toast darker than I like. (The Wife and I are always changing the toaster settings. She complains that what I eat isn't toast, it's just warm bread.)


6. The 8' Inflatable Elsa-- Perhaps you'd like a giant inflatable Disney princess in your front yard?
Do you want to build a snowman?
Because, if you're like me, what you need is another reason for your kids to ask to listen to the Frozen soundtrack one more time.


7. The Bearded Beanie-- If Elsa has turned your town into a harsh, frozen winterscape, maybe you'd be interested in a stocking cap with a built-in beard?
For those times you want to look like Zach Galifianakis.
The ad says, "Though comfortable and soft, the beard imparts a machismo only the most confident can exude." (Dang, I wish I had written that sentence!) (Or was confident enough to exude machismo.)


8. The Pinchless Electrolysis Hair Remover-- However, if you are opposed to facial hair, Hammacher has something for you, too.
Just don't get it confused with your light-saber.
She looks so happy, doesn't she? You would be too if you had your own magic wand with a "harmless electrical current" that "destroys the germative hair cells and dermal papilla, preventing hair from ever growing back." (I didn't even know I had dermal papilla, let alone ones that were germative.)


9. The Single Handed Barber-- But that's not the only hair removal item Hammacher offers.
Too bad there's not a 'before' and 'after' picture.
The Single Handed Barber. Call me crazy, but I think there are some things that it's okay to use two hands to do. Cutting your hair is one of those things. I really, really, really would like to see a picture of someone who has used this item on themselves. It can't be pretty.


10. The Walk By Scrabble Board-- What's better than the family fun of playing a board game together?
Look! I got a Double Word Score for "LAME!"
Have you ever been playing Scrabble and thought, "This is great, but it would be so much better if I could play while standing up." I didn't think so.


11. The Handcrafted Hippopotamine Sofa-- Have you ever wanted to sit on a hippopotamus? Who hasn't?
It's a hippo! It's a couch! It's a hippo and a couch!!!
Wow. Like most people, I have always dreamed of having a life-sized statue of a hippopotamus in my house. And, like most people, I enjoy sitting on a couch. Unfortunately, taking a look at the picture, it doesn't look like a very comfortable couch, does it? It doesn't look like you could slouch on it very well, and I think we all like to able to slouch on a couch. Still, it would be a pretty impressive piece of furniture, and for only $95,000 it would be well....

Wait...what!?! $95,000??? You've got to be kidding, right?

Yes, that's right: $95,000!!!
For $95,000 you could buy a new car. Or two. Or three. Or four. For $95,000 you could buy an entire fleet of five Toyota Carollas (starting at $17,230) and still have almost enough left over to buy a Hand Carved English Rocking Zebra!!! Is anyone buying hippopotamus couches for $95,000? How insane is that? Why not give the money to charity? Or give it to me? I am officially flummoxed.

And, those are just a few of the many items that can be found in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog this year. (For more fun, go to hammacher.com) I found it very entertaining, and I hope you did, too. And now, I'm off to have some breakfast. Should I have a Darth Vader pancake, or some selfie toast?



[I originally posted this on 12/1/2015.]


















Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Biscuits Are Different Than Spoons

Advertisers make a lot of outlandish claims, like "Red Bull gives you wings," and "our tacos are made with real beef." So, I was a bit skeptical when I saw this:

It's on a billboard, so it MUST be true!
The billboard says, "Biscuits are spoons you can eat." Despite my trepidation, I was very intrigued. Why? Well, I like biscuits. And I like to eat with spoons. So, using a biscuit as a spoon could be a good thing. (One less dish to wash!)

I thought I should give it a try.

So, the next time I went to have a bowl of cereal, I decided I'd try to eat it with a biscuit instead of a spoon.



It didn't work so well.


I tried to scoop up the cereal with the biscuit, like I usually do with the spoon, but all it did was push the cereal around. None of the cereal actually stayed on the biscuit. I ended up with cereal all over the table and a biscuit that was a bit soggy from the milk. Yes, I could eat the biscuit, but I couldn't really use it as a spoon.

Maybe if I had tried to eat soup instead of cereal the biscuit would have been a better spoon. But even then it wouldn't have been optimal; it's very difficult to slurp a biscuit.

So, once again I am forced to come to the conclusion that an advertisement has made a false claim. They tried to pass off a lie as if it were the truth. It's almost as if advertisements were fake news before "Fake News" was a thing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

19 Reasons to be Thankful

Thanksgiving is almost here and it's time to start thinking about the things we are thankful for. (Yes, we should think about these things even without the Thanksgiving reminder. Sometimes we just need a little subtle reminder in the form of a giant turkey dinner.)

1. I'm thankful for shoes. As I write this, my feet are cold. But, I know if I go put on some socks and shoes my feet will get warmer.

2. I'm thankful for cheeseburgers.

I'm thankful for melty cheese! 
3. I'm thankful for cows. (Because I like cheese. And burgers.)

4. I'm thankful for parking spots. You don't realize how much you appreciate an open parking spot until you drive around for fifteen minutes looking for one.

5. I'm thankful that egg nog is available in the stores for Thanksgiving. You haven't truly lived until you've dipped your leftover-turkey-on-a-roll sandwich in your egg nog! (Okay, I've never actually tried this. Yet.)

6. I'm thankful for malls. Without malls what would I do if I needed to buy myself some shoes, get the wife some jewelry, and exchange an old video game for a new one all at the same time? (While eating a pretzel!)

7. I'm thankful I've never been banned from a mall. How would I take care of my Orange Julius fix if I couldn't go to the mall?

8. I'm thankful that my nine year-old is not yet a teenager. She is starting to act like a teenager, which is pretty darn scary, but the transformation isn't complete.

9. I'm thankful for apple fritters.

10. I'm thankful for freedom of the press.

11. I'm thankful for the men and women who serve (and have served) in our military. Because without them we wouldn't have freedom of the press (or a lot of other freedoms.)

12. I'm thankful for fuel gauges. Think of how many times you would have run out of fuel if it weren't for fuel gauges.

Runnin' on empty.
13. I'm thankful for music. Sometimes singing a song is the best way to get through the day. (Even if you can't sing well.)

14. I'm thankful for shirts. (Because no one wants to see my belly.)

15. I'm thankful for home-cooked meals. (Because sometimes you get tired of eating out.)

16. I'm thankful for restaurants. (Because sometimes you just don't feel like cooking.)

17. I'm thankful for YouTube. It's good to have somewhere to turn when you need a tutorial on how to install a new toilet, or if you want to watch a crazy music video from the 80s.

18. I'm thankful for dishwashers. I'm very glad I don't have to wash all those dishes by hand.

19. I'm thankful for people. Yes, every once in a while it's actually a good thing to have interaction with other people. People are the best. (Sometimes.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Television Is NOT My Babysitter (Usually)

No, I'm not using the television as a babysitter! I would never do that. I'm far too responsible as a parent to just turn on the television, plop the kids down in front of it, and ignore them for several hours. That's not me. I'm better than that.

Now, I might sit them down in front of the television if they ask for it politely. I always try to reward politeness, so if they say "please" and "thank you," it can't hurt to give them what they want, can it?

And maybe I'll turn on the television if the kids are climbing all over me but I have something that I really need to get done. Distracting them for a few minutes while I get some vital chore done is worth it, right?

If they're screaming and fighting with each other, letting them watch a show isn't such a bad idea, is it? It's certainly better then letting them hit each other and get in toy tug-of-wars because they don't want to share. Television brings unity and happiness.

Television: It's a wonderful tool!

Besides, television is educational! It's not like I'm letting them watch nasty things Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or CNN. On those rare occasions I flip on the television, I only allow them to watch wholesome, educational programming, like Reading Rainbow or Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood or WordWorld. They learn things when watching these shows, so it's a good thing when I let them watch all day long, isn't it?

So, no, I don't use the television as a babysitter. Instead, I use it as an educational tool to help teach my kids unity and manners, and I do so for hours and hours and hours at a time! What could be wrong with that?