Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP, Paul Newman

Paul Newman died at the age of 83. Here's one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies, when Cool Hand Luke sings a ridiculous song after hearing his mother died.

Paul Newman movies that I'll watch over and over:

Cool Hand Luke
The Sting
The Verdict
Absence of Malice
Slap Shot
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Leave Sarah Palin Alone!

Many people are suggesting that John McCain bailed on an interview with David Letterman so that he could do an interview with Katie Couric, and then maybe people would ignore an interview she did with Sarah Palin earlier that day. That's a lie! And many people are suggesting that Sarah Palin may be breaking new ground as the first mentally challenged individual to become the Vice President. Another lie! Look at this interview:

She knows the meaning of most of the words she's saying. She doesn't always put them in the right fungible place, but it's kind of like a tossed salad language of. You don't need to make sure one word next another is to. You just scramble it up and take a big bite. No, she's definitely not mentally retarded. I'd say Sarah Barracuda knows more about politics and things than most 10th graders in her home town.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How the Republican Party Improves My Parenting Skills

These new Republicans are great at politics and lousy at governing, but they deserve credit. They've given me a lot of good parenting tips.

Spin the Truth

I took Luke and Max to the car show festival on Sunday, and there was a booth set up for building cars out of zucchini and racing them pinewood derby style. The boys picked out their zucchini and stuck in their toothpick decorations, and I tacked on the wheels.

When it was their turn to race, I knew one of the boys was going to have hurt feelings. What I didn't know was how to handle the situation. I thought about going with the old "you win some, you lose some" theme.

The starter lifted the bar, and down flew Luke's car in first place, well ahead of the other vegetables. In contrast, Max's car was still stuck against a wall near the top of his lane. The race official redirected the car, but it kept turning into the same wall. He turned the car backwards. Same pathetic result. Finally, he just took Max's zucchini car off the track and handed it to me.

Luke was joyous. Max was near tears. What now? What would Karl Rove do?

"Luke, your car is the fastest in a straight line. And Max, your car is the fastest in a circle. But this isn't a very good track for fast-circle cars."

"My car is the fastest in a circle!" proclaimed Max.

If You Can't Spin, Lie!

After the Leadville race a few weeks ago, Max and Luke were having a difficult time understanding how I had managed to win a medal and a belt buckle without winning the entire race. I didn't have a good answer for 4-year-olds. While I trained hard, raced well, and pushed myself so much during the race that I ended up in the emergency room, I managed to finish in 504th place. I'm number Five-Oh-Four! That's not what they want to hear.

"Yes! I won the whole race!" I declared. After all, they weren't there.

"No, he didn't win," said Wendy, playing the role of an elitist blogger who wanted to make the situation needlessly complex with icky nuance. "He just won a buckle for finishing in under 12 hours."

"No, I won the whole race!" I said in my best John McCain impersonation.

Use Ironic Labels Unironically

In the spirit of the Clean Air Act, which made industrial pollution restrictions more lax, I came up with a great idea for feeding the boys lunch. I put a bunch of healthy food they don't like in a bowl and called it a Fun Bowl.

"Hey, do you guys want a Fun Bowl for lunch?"


A word of warning. A Fun Bowl needs to have more than carrots, broccoli, and the like. You need to throw in a few marshmallows or gummy fruit. There has to be some truth in the label, or it won't work.

Friday, September 19, 2008


We took the boys "camping." I put camping in quotation marks because we went to Camp Long, which is a 1.8-mile drive from our house. Camp Long is about the size of a golf course. In fact, it looks very similar to a golf course, only imagine that the fairways and greens are filled in with trees, and a few cabins appear where the clubhouse should be.

Mark drove his truck up from California to go bow hunting on the peninsula, so he stayed in the cabin with us. He and I built a fire as soon as we possibly could. I can't speak for Mark, but I know the first thing I want to do whenever I camp is build a fire. And when two guys build a fire, there's usually an unspoken debate whether to go with the log cabin approach, the tepee approach, or some combination. I prefer starting with a tepee and making the transition to a log cabin, but this only works if I'm solely responsible for the fire.

I'm not picky about the style of fire because the mere act of building a fire masks all wounds. Along with floating down a river and one or two things I can't mention on a family blog, it's a perfect activity.

In a thrilling dog bites man turn of events, Luke and Max loved the fire. Either Wendy or Aunt Kim taught them rules about fires, or they had some instinctive rules about fire safety, because they grew quite alarmed at my actions. I wasn't supposed to step over the fire, even in its early stages. I wasn't supposed to get my face close to the fire and blow on it. And most of all, I wasn't supposed to allow a flame to lick my hand when I placed a piece of wood in the fire. I was chastised regularly.

The boys and their fire rules reminded me of a time I went camping with Robert.

I had just "left" the Mormon church for what turned out to be the last time, barring unforeseen future events. I had tried leaving the church several times in the years before that, but each time I vowed I was done, I backslid, and ended up back in the pews again, a sinner kneeling before God. At the time, Robert and I were sharing an office, and I tried to explain to him in my best CS Lewis language why I was still trying to be a Christian Mormon, even though I didn't believe a lick of the Joseph Smith story -- or the Bible stories for that matter.

That experience deserves a blog entry of its own. Suffice it to say that I decided to leave the church once and for all, so I wanted to make it official somehow through ritual. One such ritual was to go out in the woods and get drunk off my ass.

I know several people who left the church around the same time in their lives as I did, and we all had similar experiences to tell. In our late 20s, we did things that a lot of teenagers would have thought immature. Again, this is a family blog, so I can't tell certain stories. But I can tell this one.

I hadn't been drinking since I was a sophomore in high school. I asked around to get some advice, and ended up going with Fuzzy Navels -- a mix of peach schnapps and orange juice. Robert went with a more manly rum and Coke, although his frequent vomiting later that night wasn't terribly manly.

We lay our sleeping bags on a tarp near a stream in Diamond Fork canyon. Then we lit a fire, roasted some processed meat, and started drinking. I shook off the willies with every swig of my first Fuzzy Navel, but an hour or so later, I was drinking my Fuzzy Navel as if I were Ernest Hemingway. After the third or fourth drink, I manfully smashed the little purple umbrella that adorned my drink.

The act of getting drunk was a sin against my Holy Residual God, which is a fearful thing. At the time, I called it the Raskolnikov Factor. An individual can't make up his own set of rules; he's still morally bound by unseen social forces. As Robert and I drunkenly discussed ideas like this, we rebelled against our newfound freedom by establishing three rules:

1) Do not step over, close to, or into the fire.
2) Do not swim in or near the river.
3) Do not drive the truck, nor any similar vehicle, nor operate heavy machinery.

These rules were comforting to fledgling atheists. We made sure we got the language just right. As we continued to drink, these rules became shackles, obstacles to true living. One of us would move very close to the fire and revel in the other's scolding. Then we took turns jumping over the fire. I wanted to go for a little swim. Robert wanted the keys to go for a quick drive in my pickup truck.

No! No! That's against the rules!

Good times.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Various and Sundry Effluvia

I am going bald

I knew my hair was thinning, but it wasn't until Elden buzzed my head before Leadville that I realized that I'm headed the way of the billiard ball. Earlier in my life, going bald would have stressed me out. In fact, when my hairline changed at age 18, I purchased an expensive special shampoo and oil combination that fought the effects of male pattern baldness. And it worked!

Now, at the age of 46, I have a much more tempered world view. I understand that chicks will dig me even if I am bald.

Lance Armstrong to race the Tour de France

Here's why he wants to race again:

Then Leadville, this kind of obscure bike race, totally kick-started my engine. For me it's always been about the process.... The process of getting there is the best part. You start the season a little out of shape, a little heavy. You get in better shape. You lose some weight.

I mean you're just crafting this perfect program. For several weeks I [had] trained [for Leadville] and went riding by myself. Obviously beautiful territory and fresh air, just feeling fit, losing weight, getting strong-living a very healthy lifestyle. I thought, 'This might be fun to try again.'

Who does he think he is? How dare he call the Leadville 100 a "kind of obscure bike race"? I am so angry right now that I could snap a pencil in half. A mechanical pencil.

John McCain Might Be Our Next President

Because, you know, this Republican administration has messed things up, so it's time to replace them with a new Republican administration, a Republican for change! If we can just cut taxes and drill, drill, drill, we'll be back in the catbird seat in no time.

If you want to hit the moon, aim for the stars

When he grows up, Luke no longer wants to drive a cement mixer for a living. He wants to be a street sweeper.

Star Wars

When the boys and I watch shows, we all declare ourselves to be different characters. If The Backyardigans is on, I get to be Austen, Max is Uniqua, and Luke is Tyrone. If we watch Star Wars, Luke gets to be Luke Skywalker for obvious reasons, and Max -- this is not a joke -- gets to be Chewbacca. No, I don't know why.

Any fondness I had for the 1977 Star Wars is long gone. The dialogue is painful, Darth Vader is no longer compelling, and Luke Skywalker snivels. Still, the boys like it for the same reasons we did.

While the first Star Wars movie (excuse me, Episode IV) plummets in my estimation, the fourth movie (excuse me, Episode I) is much better than I recall. Since it's already a given that Jar Jar Binks is awful and the kid who plays the child Darth Vader is a terrible actor, the good scenes can stand out. And that fight scene between Darth Maul and the two Jedis is one of the best fight scenes in any movie.

I'd have to get my Top 5 staff back together to pinpoint its exact location in the hierarchy of fight scenes, but a preliminary stab goes like this:

1. Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed
2. Darth Maul vs. Obi Wan and, um, Leam Neeson
3. Indiana Jones vs. The Shirtless Nazi
4. Danny LaRusso vs. Johnny Lawrence
5. Inigo Montoya vs. The Man in Black

Even though it doesn't qualify as a movie, Deadwood has one of my favorite fight scenes. When Dan Dority and Captain Turner square off, well, oh dear. Oh my. The showdown between King Arthur and the Black Knight also deserves special mention, along with the school hallway scene in Gross Pointe Blank and Boromir's death. A nod to Borat is also in order.


There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is blood in the water. I may soon begin updating this blog more than once a week.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Farewell to Arms

As a triathlete, I am appalled by my sluggish performance in the pool. I've swum laps several times now, and I'm still not ready for the Fast Lane group. My weak arms have taken me by surprise.

Also, my Speedo suit has shrunk. It now covers only the middle portion of my behind. It looks like I either need to purchase a larger Speedo or lose some weight.

The thought occurred to me that declaring myself a triathlete was premature. It would have been much easier to declare myself a golf enthusiast.