Friday, June 18, 2010

An American's guide to soccer [Ryan]

Recently, with the continuous broadcast of the FIFA World Cup, Americans have become intrigued by soccer (which is called by the rest of the world, in a clear violation of copyright laws, “football”). Perhaps it’s because we’re suddenly possessed by the desire to fit it with the global community. Maybe it’s because with Lost over, there are only three things on TV these days, and we’re getting tired of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and Kobe Bryant. Or maybe we just enjoy watching a bunch of multinational metrosexuals getting hit in the faces by soccer balls.

The fact remains, however, that this onslaught of weird foreign things, despite our sudden interest, remains confusing to many people from countries whose women shave their armpits. Thus, I will attempt to explain the game of soccer and its World Cup to the perplexed American:

The World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world. Some countries take the entire day off for the World Cup; it is believed that Hitler invaded Poland while the Polish were watching the World Cup, taking the Polish by surprise and beginning World War II.* Some countries ritually sacrifice virgins to the soccer gods to increase their teams’ chances of winning.**

According to tradition, soccer began when the Danish invaded Sweden, and the king of Denmark cut off the Swedish king’s head and kicked it all over town. (It’s believed that the King of Denmark wore Adidas sneakers, thus beginning the noble tradition of plastering sponsors’ logos everywhere from the stadium to the athletes’ underwear.) From there, billions have enjoyed the sport, flocking to stadiums in hopes of witnessing a high-scoring game (defined as any game in which someone scores a point).

The game is played on a pitch, which is a made-up British word meaning “large, goods-carrying motor vehicle.” (Or maybe that was “lorry.” I get my made-up British words mixed up.) Players may not touch the ball with their hands, a tradition dating back to the days before people had hands.

Fans of soccer are generally a courteous bunch who only occasionally incite riots in which multiple people are injured or trampled as if by a herd of rabid wildebeests. They (the fans, not the wildebeests) often bring loud horns to the World Cup matches to fill the stadium with the raucous sound of buzzing and frighten the other team into believing the pitch has been overrun by mutant locusts from outer space.

The players are an even more interesting bunch. The job of the goalkeeper, as his name suggests, is to keep the goal, though this is often unnecessary given the low frequency of players actually getting accurate shots at the goal. The forwards and centers run up and down the field just fast enough to allow their perfectly coiffed hairstyles to wave fashionably in the wind. Lastly, the seeker’s job is to catch the Golden Snitch, gaining for his or her team an additional hundred and fifty points.

That’s enough about soccer; I’m quite sure Americans have better things to do than listen to me witter on about nutter footies and their gaffers and rubbish like that. Cheerio! Also, I'm sorry if in this article I offended the soccer gods. If so, I'll gladly provide a virgin sacrifice for their appeasement.

* This is not true. But it could be.
** This might be true.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

EPIC FAIL: another chicken blog [Connor]

Unlike most of my blogs, this one has a moral to it.

Never, ever, ever,* ask a girl to a formal dance using a live chicken.

It all started, as so many tales of failure do, when, like a fool, I decided to ask a girl to prom.** The girl in question happened to be a good friend of mine. To protect her identity and spare her any embarrassment, I’ll refer to her as 'Schmessica'.

My plan was simple: a cardboard box containing a chicken, and a note, situated under the chicken, which read simply ‘Don’t be a chicken. Go to the dance with me.’ I planned a second delivery, which would involve my name hidden cleverly inside an egg.

I parked my car a short distance from her house, and crept stealthily across her lawn and up to her front door. I felt just like James Bond, supposing he was sneaking across a suburban lawn in broad daylight carrying a large box emitting clucking noises as the guy next door pauses from mowing his lawn to stare perplexed and debate calling the police.

I set the box on Schmessica’s step, rang the doorbell, gave a friendly wave to the neighbor (now holding his cell phone in readiness) to let him know I was, like himself, a regular human being who rarely deposits boxes containing chickens on people’s doorsteps, and hid behind a car. So far, so good. It occurred to me later that it would probably have turned out easier for all parties involved if the guy had called the police.

Nobody answered the door. Schmessica’s cat was showing intense interest in the box, so I elected to abort the mission and return later.

Take two: Still nobody home. Cat still showing extreme interest in the Magic Clucking Cardboard Box. Had I returned a third time, the cat would probably have obtained a crowbar with which to pry open the box.

After a second unsuccessful attempt, I was forced to take a break as I went to an employee meeting at my work. It so happens that Schmessica is one of my coworkers; after the meeting, she mentioned that, just minutes before leaving for the meeting, she had been asked to the dance. “Great!” I responded, while the words running through my mind were oh, fetch.

I arrived home to deliver the bad news to my family, who was taking a very active interest in my increasingly desperate attempts to deliver the chicken. “I have bad news,” I told my mom, and explained the new development.

“That is bad news,” my mom said. “While you were gone, we delivered the chicken.”

Fetch. It was of significant comfort, however, that I had not included my name in the note, intending, as I said earlier, to deliver that part separately. For a brief, pathetic moment, I considered simply leaving the chicken unclaimed and kidnapping it back later that night, leaving it forever a mystery of who the loser was who asked her second.

I received a text from a mutual friend, whom I’ll call Schmaley. She was currently with Schmessica and had limited knowledge of the plot. It simply read, You need to come get your chicken.

Why? I replied.

You need to come get your chicken
, she replied again.

What the heck is going on over there? came my hesitant reply.

At this point, she called me. If somebody abandons a texting conversation to call you, it’s never a good sign. Good sign? On the scale of Signs and Omens, this one happened to be only slightly below Death Omen. Her message was brief, to the point, and left me scarred forever. She stated certain parts particularly vehemently, or perhaps particularly panicky. I’ve put them in all caps for your convenience.

“The chicken ATE ITS WAY THROUGH THE BOX and is RUNNING AROUND THE YARD like a POSSESSED BIRD. Schmessica has LOCKED HERSELF INSIDE HER HOUSE and WON‘T COME OUT. YOU NEED TO COME GET YOUR CHICKEN.”

“Eh?” I answered.

(At the time, this seemed the best way to convey the emotion I was feeling; specifically, the extreme desire to change my name and flee to Saskatchewan, where I would build a log cabin in the woods and spend the remainder of my days forever alone except for the company of small woodland creatures, none of which would be chickens.)

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must face up to his decisions, confront his fears, and retrieve the possessed chicken. With terror gripping my heart, I drove to Schmessica’s house for some severe damage control.

I saw immediately that the chicken was cornered at the top of a short flight of stairs leading to a side door on her house. Standing at the foot of the stairs with the air of a 17th century mob who had just cornered a witch, stood Schmessica, her mother, a lady I took to be her grandmother, three or four of her sisters, and assorted neighbors and random bystanders. At this point, I was earnestly considering recovering the chicken, then driving it out to a remote desert road and running it over.

It was a fairly simple matter getting the chicken back into another box. It didn’t run around possessed, just stood there clucking and leering at me with the cruel, satisfied smirk of someone who has ended your social life and forever shattered your confidence in one swell foop***. Despite the relative ease of imprisoning it once more, the prospect of taking it out to the desert and running it over was becoming more and more tempting.

After putting the chicken and its prison cell inside my car, the cat, in its fevered desire to get to the chicken, sprang at what it must have thought to be an opening in the car. Cats have apparently not discovered windows. The cat went THUD, face first against the window before sliding down it slowly with a comical squeal.

I apologized profusely to Schmessica, her family, and the assorted neighbors and random, deeply amused bystanders, explaining that the chicken had always been very well-behaved in the past and had never once previously exhibited behavior that would suggest it was possessed by evil spirits. No Brian Regan show nor Saturday Night Live skit has ever elicited more laughter than my deeply contrite, deeply humbled, and deeply, deeply, eternally embarrassed apology.

The icing on the cake came when I learned that, before eating its way out of the box, the chicken had consumed my note, so that Schmessica simply found a crazed evil homicidal demon chicken on her doorstep and no explanation whatsoever. For all she knew, it could have been a deliberate act of terrorism.

My highlight came as I was preparing to leave and overheard the following line, which I feel echoes Napoleon Dynamite’s famous line, “Do chickens have large talons?” I heard it as Schmessica reported the incident to her dad over the phone, who I imagine was doubled over, speaking to her in between gasps of laughter.

“You wouldn’t have come out of the house either! You should have seen the size of its talons!”

A few days later, I received a small cardbox with a note saying “Sorry, this chick has already been asked to the dance.” Inside, chirping innocently, stood a newborn baby chick. The chick’s name: Bigfoot.

*Ever, ever, ever, ever. Ever.
**Not to imply that I should have asked a guy.
***Er, fell swoop.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

There and back again: The tale of an epic road trip [Ryan]

One night, my brother Reilly, my cousin Zack and I were sitting around at home trying to think of something to do. Reilly and I wanted to go on a road trip; Zack and Reilly wanted to pick up an old motorcycle from our uncle Scott in North Carolina. Somewhere, we reached the conclusion that we could meet both goals in one really long car trip. A week later, we were on the road in our mom’s Toyota Highlander.

Day 1: Rigby, Idaho to Newcastle, Wyoming

Three young men. One Toyota Highlander. Enough high-calorie food to send a horse into diabetic shock but not enough to give that horse any sort of nourishment. So began our semi-impromptu quest to travel to the East Coast to get a motorcycle.

For a while, we tried to get a fourth guy, but it quickly became clear that such an idea would be impossible. We had barely enough room in this car for three. The food took up nearly an entire seat all by itself. Throw in a tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, electronics, and random odds and ends that we deemed useful for the trip and a fourth guy could only be a pygmy or small woodland fairy.

We knew where we were going pretty well. We had two GPS units, two iPhones with GPS capabilities, but no atlases.

Our parents set forth rules for this trip:
1) Drive “around” the speed limit
2) One person besides the driver must always be awake
3) No driving after midnight
4) I’m sure there were other rules as well, but we forgot them

Oddly enough, they failed to mention girls of any kind. So if we happened to meet girls on the way, pretty much anything goes. Or at least that’s what we figured … Ha! Just kidding!

We reached Wyoming. After an hour of driving around, looking for some place to camp, we found our preferences for sleeping arrangement becoming rapidly less discriminating. Finally we settled for parking behind a low billboard and rearranging our gear to allow for the three of us to sleep uncomfortably inside the Highlander.

Day 2: Newcastle, Wyoming to Omaha, Nebraska

We awakened gradually from the period of pseudo-sleep in which he had spent the entire night, changed into our church clothes in the parking lot, and found a nearby chapel. I fell asleep during the service.

We went to Mount Rushmore, which is somewhat smaller than we had expected, though still impressive. The next ten hours or so in a car passed quickly considering the amount of time spent confined in a car. We soon found ourselves in the middle of two gas crises: somewhere on the outskirts of Omaha, we were running out of gas. Our car was slurping up the last trickles of gas at the bottom of the tank when we finally found a little gas station with a truly ancient gas pump. It had an equally ancient machine that allowed for credit cards, but we couldn't figure out how to use it — it had apparently been made by Atari before Pong. We suspected that pushing the wrong button would either deny our debit card or launch a nuke somewhere in the former Soviet Union.

After filling up, we began the search anew for somewhere to camp. We found a Wal-Mart parking lot.

We set up a camp stove there in the parking lot. The assembly and operation of the stove baffled us for a while, but we eventually succeeded in cooking several servings of chow mein and Cup-of-Noodles without any significant fire damage to ourselves or the vehicle.

Our experience with sleeping in the back of the car allowed us to be a little more effective in arranging our gear tonight, and we found ourselves with enough space to lay somewhat horizontal, though moving once we were settled was out of the question.

Day 3: Omaha, Nebraska to dark, scary woods in Kentucky

After getting ready for the day in the Wal-Mart bathroom, we headed to the Winter Quarters visitor center, where we were greeted by perky sister missionaries. The sister missionaries soon passed us off to a senior missionaries, probably deterred by our three days’ worth of body odor, masked only slightly by liberal amounts of Axe bodyspray. This led to us to conclusion that our parents had not included rules about girls on the list simply because they knew girls would not be a problem, given our general lack of hygiene.

We traveled to the Gateway Arch. It was cool. We didn’t get to up up it, but we still got a great view. The end. We also listened to liberal amounts of Disney music.

The ride from the Arch included listening to Christian radio station that included a preacher screaming in his Southern drawl his bleak interpretation of the Bible, ending every sentence of his raucous admonitions that he deemed important with an “amen.” It entertained us for a good half hour, amen. We were almost LEFT WITH A DESIRE TO PURGE OURSELVES OF SIN AND GIVE OURSELVES GRACE AND SNATCH OUR LIVES FROM THE BURNING JAWS OF HELL AND DENY THE IMPULSES OF THE CARNAL AND FLESH AND THE EVIL THAT CORRUPTS OUR VERY SOULS, AMEN!

The plan was to camp near Mammoth Caves. We called ahead and assured that the campground would be open when we arrived. However, the fates conspired to hock a loogie into our plans. To get to the campground, we had to use a ferry to cross a river. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the ferry was closed, stranding us on a lonely road next to dark, scary woods teeming with horror movie clich├ęs. A lone light flickered on and off next to the ferry. Now and again, we would hear mysterious noises from the darkness of the woods. I was totally expecting to hear the banjo song from Deliverance. Seventy percent sure that we would not finish the night without being mauled by a Sasquatch or murdered by some chainsaw-wielding sociopath, we elected to sleep in the car for the third night. We were actually getting pretty good at it at this point.

Day 4: Dark, scary woods in Kentucky to Hillsborough, North Carolina

We crossed the ferry in the morning. The ferryman was not as creepy and weird as we were expecting, though every time someone says “creepy ferry” I imagine a “creepy fairy,” perhaps a male Tinkerbell with a mullet and mustache lurking outside of playgrounds with his big gray windowless van. We then spent two hours inside Mammoth Caves, experiencing less than a mile’s worth of the longest cave system in the world. Still, it was cool. We also showered in the campground that had been just across the impassable river all night. We realized later that the three hours we spent showering and exploring the cave was the longest we had spent outside the car in four days.

Then we continued to drive. It was a mark of how bored we were that Reilly and I engaged in a rousing rendition of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. I’m quite proud of how it sounded.

At this point, our expectations had become somewhat lowered. Anything that required extra effort to cook — like Cup-of-Noodles or top ramen — was suddenly high cuisine compared to the chips and granola bars we had subsisted on for three days.

We pulled into our aunt and uncle’s house after dark, looking forward to a real meal and a real bed, or at least something heated to eat and something reasonably horizontal to sleep on. Our aunt Chelsea met our expectations.

Day 5: Hillsborough, North Carolina

Today was merely a restful day, which felt great. The only time we ventured out of the house was to go the AAF tank museum. As the name suggests, it was a collection of tanks from various wars and countries. As the name does not quite suggest, it also harbored a flea market, spook alley, and collection of hats from around the world.

Day 6: Hillsborough, North Carolina to Heyworth, Illinois

Our uncle Scott took us to see Duke University. With our last good food for two days in our stomachs, we set out on the journey home. The motorcycle that was the reason for our travel was strapped onto the back. At first, it was wobbling horrendously, and we were steeling ourselves for the inevitable moment when we would look back and see a monstrous explosion behind us where the bike had fallen off the hitch, crashed into some unsuspecting Civic behind us, and engulfed the entire freeway in a conflagration of devastation. Fortunately, we added one more strap and it held pretty well.

Our GPS, which was probably getting as antsy as the rest of us, had been taking it upon itself to take us on more scenic routes. This mindset had taken us to the ferry a few nights before, and now it began leading us through hills and vales and dirt roads in Ohio. Not that I’m complaining — those hills in Ohio were really pretty.

Hours later, after the usual unsuccessful search for a campsite, we hit a new low in our quest for lodgings and parked in some tiny town in Illinois next to a Dumpster. We were pretty sure we were behind a bar. (There were probably creepy fairies out there somewhere.)

Day 7: Heyworth, Illinois to somewhere in Nebraska

We stopped at Nauvoo. The first temple session wasn’t till 2:00, so we took that opportunity to have a look around. We saw the blacksmith’s shop on Parley Street and walked around the historic homes. We looked across the river. Finally, we went through the temple, which is absolutely beautiful. In Zack’s words, it’s a “freaking awesome temple. “ (We’re pretty sure Brigham Young said the same thing.)

It was about this time that we finally discarded our vow to eat only the meager food we’d brought and plugged “Little Caesar’s” into the GPS.

This night, our last on the trip, was the only night we actually camped in tent. I thought it was great; Zack said it was his worst night of the trip.

Day 8: Somewhere in Nebraska to Rigby, Idaho

The pretty part of the drive was over. We continued across Nebraska and Wyoming. The important thing to know about Nebraska and Wyoming is that they fit into the same category as South Dakota: they have one or two really pretty parts and the rest looks like the angels threw up all over. In the very middle of one of those stretches of puke-brown wasteland somewhere in Wyoming, we pulled into a gas station with a nearly empty tank, only to be told that the whole county was out of power. (How does that happen?) We made a desperate drive to the next county, nominating Reilly to drive there because he was the one most likely to get good gas mileage out of it.

Late that night, we finally rolled into Rigby, Idaho and soon fell asleep in our real beds.

List of states traveled through: Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wyoming.

Friday, March 12, 2010

How they should be [Ryan]:

If you’re like me — a normal, oxygen-breathing, food-eating, Jane Austen-hating lifeform — you will, at some point in your life, have to read books you will have no desire to read. For instance, many a male has been made to suffer through the likes of Pride and Prejudice. Luckily for those of us whose taste involves a little less Victorian prattling, there’s a book out that combines the classic novel with, according to the back of the book, “zombie mayhem.” The book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is making its way into the bookshelves of culture afficionados everywhere.

In such a spirit, here are more books, transformed from their classic state to something appealing and readable.

War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy

In the midst of warring Europe, the emperor Napoleon is discovered to be a robot from the future sent to provoke the world into full-scale war. Russia and her allies unite against this new threat. Will the noble prince Andrei Bolkonsky woo the luscious Natasha Rostov? Will Napoleon be sent back to the year 2018? Will the book ever end? Find out in War and Peace.

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte¨

In keeping with my belief that books should be worth what you pay for them, the entire book is nothing but removable Craigo’s coupons and coloring pages. Enjoy. The end.

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald

In this thriller set in the Roaring Twenties, socialite Jay Gatsby is found murdered in his home. Federal agent Nick Carroway finds that the murder is only part of a conspiracy, and he has 24 hours to stop the wheels of treachery before the Soviet Union destroys the American dream. Also, there’s something about materialism and the decadence of aristocracy.

Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller’s classic tragedy introduces Willy Loman, a down-on-his-luck salesman whose struggle with his own futility devastates his family and leads the reader to investigate mortality and the value of self-knowledge. SPOILER WARNING: A dinosaur eats Willy.

Northanger Abbey
Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey is the secret location of a covert organization bent on world domination. Can the noble heroine, Catherine Morland, outwit the bad guys and employ her arsenal of top-secret gadgets in time to stop the nuclear weapon from launching, all the while extricating herself from the intricacies of high society?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s classic play opens with the marriage of the ruler of Athens, unleashing a flurry of romantic misadventures, which are brutally cut short when the minions of the Dark Lord Sauron are unleashed upon the land. The play features a climactic duel to the death between the trickster Puck and the wizard Gandalf.

Twilight
Stephenie Meyer

Twilight is not a classic, by any means, but I must continue to wage my holy crusade against its inscrutable appeal. Twenty pages into the book, vampire Edward Cullen grows tired of new girl Bella Swann’s incessant chattering about how perfect he is and eats her. He decides he and the entire human race are better off without her pubescent whining and goes on with his immortal life. The rest of the book is spent defending the sleepy town of Forks from brain-sucking aliens.

Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

The devastation and brother-against-brother action of the Civil War dominates the novel, with a few afterthoughts given to the romance between Whats-Her-Name and that one guy.

The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck

In the midst of the Dust Bowl, an impoverished farming family chases a dream — until one day, Nazi archeologists unearth clues in the desert leading to the lost Ark of the Covenant and the fabulous power contained within the Ark’s mystic confines.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Toilets in parallel universes are a pain to fix [Connor]

There are two kinds of people in this world. On one hand, there’s the people who, if their truck broke down on a deserted road in the mountains, would be able to fix it quickly and be safely on their way. On the other hand, we have the people who would open the hood and stand there squinting dumbly at the engine until they were eaten by wolves.*

I represent the second group.

I have no aptitude for mechanical things whatsoever. As I write this, the basement toilet has the toilet flu — which, as those of you with mechanical knowledge will know, is the technical term for when a toilet randomly floods every half hour. Normally this would not be cause for emergency, except that the two members of my family with any mechanical skills — and therefore the power to cure this toilet of its toilet flu — are away fishing, happy in the knowledge that, in the case of an emergency, they can fix the truck before the wolves get them. Which leaves myself and my mom at home with the solemn duty to hold the toilet at bay. Our current plan consists of bailing the water out of the toilet bowl with a bucket and into a larger container, which we then dump out outside. It’s kind of like being on a sinking ship, except that, if they fail on the ship, the sailors don’t have to worry about whether or not they need to call someone tear up the carpet. It’s rough, that toilet flu.

Not everybody would get eaten by the proverbial wolves when the proverbial truck breaks down on the proverbial mountain road. My brother Reilly is an example of this. My dad, who would also survive the proverbial wolves, will tell him some kind of complicated mechanical job that needs done around the house, like reassembling a Toyota from the molecular level, or fixing a doorknob. A couple hours later, Reilly returns, and something similar to the following conversation takes place:

DAD: So, did you get it fixed?
REILLY: Yeah. It took me a while because the truncated grommet components were the wrong caliber. I had to get some more at the hardware store.
DAD: I thought we had some of those around here somewhere. Connor, do you know where the truncated grommet components are?
ME:

Just now, as I wrote the script above, we finally got a plumber over to take a look at our ailing toilet. After inspecting it for several minutes from different angles, he announced solemnly that “it’s coming from someplace else.” For a tech-savvy person like me, that clears up the matter in an instant. I’m surprised I didn’t figure it out before, really. Clearly, there is a toilet in a parallel universe that transports water to ours whenever it’s flushed!

I’ll avoid making a joke here about the condition of the people using that toilet in the parallel universe and the fact that they’re apparently flushing every twenty minutes. The plumber is currently sticking a ten-foot long metal thing into the toilet. I’m assuming it has a note on the end addressed to the owners of the parallel universe toilet, politely asking them to quit flushing the toilet. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, it’s my turn to bail out the toilet.

To keep updated on the status of my toilet, become a follower of my blog. If that's not a very tempting offer, follow the blog anyway.

*Wolves strike me as the kind of capable, masculine animals that would be able to repair the truck after they ate us, thus dramatically improving their mobility in the future.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bring me five teenagers with attitude! [Ryan]


I’ve been thinking about my childhood. Specifically, I’m referring to the shows that dominated the airwaves of my youth. It was a simpler time then, when we were too young to look at the premises of our favorite shows and ask precisely which part of the brain stem of the shows’ creators had been taken over by alien sponges.

Hey, that would make a great idea for a 90s TV show.

Foremost among my memories of childhood television is Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. If the omission of a necessary apostrophe in its title were the show’s only grievance, it might have become more than a reasonably predictable acid trip. Instead, with a little supplementary information from Wikipedia, I’ve compiled the basic premise:

A couple of astronauts accidentally free an evil space witch — the devious Rita Repulsa, an aptly named villain with a curious resemblance to Madonna — who immediately sets her sights on conquering Earth, or at least California.

Her arch-nemesis Zordon, whom she trapped in an alternate dimension a long time ago and whose base is conveniently located in California, manifests himself as a giant floating face and speaks to his robotic servant Alpha 5. (Makes you wonder what a floating head has been up to for all this time. He probably has a database somewhere of himself making funny faces in PhotoBooth.) Zordon gives Alpha 5 the succinct and totally logical command, “Bring me five teenagers with attitude!”

Alpha 5 beams five ethnically diverse teens into their headquarters, who spend a remarkably short time coming to terms with the idea of calling upon the spirits of prehistoric beasts and fighting evil on a weekly basis under the direction of a psychedelic floating head.

Each episode begins with Rita Repulsa throwing another clay-mation figurine into the oven. The creature then materializes on Earth, where it begins wreaking havoc until the Power Rangers attempt to stop it. But they can’t — and they have to call in their Zords, giant robots that somehow manage to hide in the wilderness of California.
The Zords and evil beings do battle, but the evil clay-mation creatures always prove too tough to handle, resulting in the Zords joining up to ultimately defeat them.

This happens every week. It seems like a fair assumption that the most efficient course of action would be to simply combine the Zords and kick some bad-special-effects butt right off the get-go, but we have to remember that these “teenagers with attitude” agreed to wear checkered jumpsuits in their quest to fight evil, so we can’t ascribe too much common sense to them.

Speaking of common sense, it’s a wonder this show ever became popular. Looking back at my memories, I’m inclined to believe that gas fumes in our basement near the TV contributed to my enjoyment of the series. However, I could also just write it all off as the follies of youth.

It’s a wonder I turned out normal.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Top Five Worst Songs of 2009 [Connor]

This is a countdown list of the top five worst songs of 2009 that I wrote for my school newspaper, the Trojanier. Tragically, I forgot about Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" when I wrote this, or it would have placed at least third. Also, "Imma Be" by the Black-Eyed Peas failed to become popular until the week after I wrote this, or it would have taken its well-earned seat in the countdown as well. Honorable mentions go to Brittney Spears' "If U Seek Amy" and anything by Drake.

5. “One Time” - Justin Bieber

Everybody who heard this song for the first time and assumed it was a girl raise your hand. Yeah, me too. It’s no coincidence that there’s a Facebook group called “I thought Justin Bieber’s song one time was sung by a girl.” The guy (if that’s what he is) isn’t allowed to sing in most buildings due to the likelihood of his (her?) voice shattering the windows.*

4. “You Know You Want Me”- Pit Bull

No bueno. “If I could become famous by counting to four in another language and repeating the line ‘I know you want me, you know I want ya’, I certainly would,” says junior Sam Merril. Actually, Sam is incorrect- the singer only counts to three in another language.

3. “Sexy Chick” - David Guetta
If ol’ David really is “trying to find the right words to describe her without being disrespectful,” as the song says, he comes up with what can only be described as EPIC FAIL (cymbal hit). The song’s lyrics are a jumbled mess of vulgar descriptions and poorly disguised innuendos. “It makes me want to scream and tear my radio out of my car with my bare hands,” says Kaitlin Perrenoud, a junior.

2. “Boom Boom Pow” - Black-Eyed Peas

It’s a little known fact that this song was actually recorded as an aerobics workout so Fergie would have a beat to exercise to. Not even the Black-Eyed Peas actually dreamed anybody would want to buy it. They only put it on the album because they lost a bet with Justin Bieber, who, had he (she?) lost, would have had to put on his album a recording of himself singing “Santa Baby.”*

1. “I Gotta Feeling” - Black-Eyed-Peas

I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good good night

A feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good good night

If you’ve heard that, you’ve heard the whole song. It’s a mark of how repetitive it is that I simply had to copy and paste the first stanza to create the second. On the scale of Things That Drive Me Crazy, this song ranks just ahead of People Who Drive Seventy Miles With Their Left Blinker On and just behind Girls Who Honestly Believe They Will One Day Marry Edward Cullen.
*Ok, there’s a possibility, however slim, that these facts are wrong. If you plan to sue me, please disregard them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Excuses, excuses

Sorry it's been a while since we posted. The holiday season, the new year, and the return to college has been crazy. Expect a blog by the end of the week. If no blog appears by the designated time, feel free to march up to our house with pitchforks and torches, screaming for justice.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spreading the gift of guilt: my experience as a Salvation Army bellringer [Connor]

Joy filled my heart as I decided to sign up to ring a bell for the Salvation Army at Christmastime. What a wonderful way to display my love for my fellow man.

You can imagine the joy that filled my heart when I learned that you can get PAID to ring the bell.

What's more, I learned, it was decent pay; nothing you could support a family with, but it certainly tops the minimum wage I work for in the summer. Needless to say, I was on board. The next day, my friend Sam and I showed up at the Employment Solutions office in charge of hiring bellringers.

At this point I should clarify the job to which I refer: I'm talking about the people dressed as Santa* standing outside of Walmart, shouting "Merry Christmas" to random passersby and, of course, ringing a bell, all in the hopes that the random passersby drop money in a little pot next to the Santa. As far as I'm aware, no Santa has ever stolen the pot of money.

So there we were, me and Sam, men on a mission, applying for the position of bellringer. There are two kinds of bellringers: the volunteers and the paid workers. Signing up to be a paid worker takes slightly more paperwork, the helpful registration lady informed us. You'd think, of course, that we'd sign our names somewhere, maybe show them our driver's licenses and, if they were really thorough, be given a five-minute orientation ("Bell goes this way. . . Bell goes that way. . . You're doing good so far!")

No.

The registration packet was approximately as long as the Old Testament and contained sections for previous job experience, detailed character references, and waivers out the wazoo. In addition, we had to provide three forms of ID, including our social security cards. Finally, we had to watch a 30-minute orientation video. (Really.)

Midway through the paperwork, Sam and I looked at each other, nodded, and threw our papers in the trash.

"We'd like to volunteer instead," we told the helpful registration lady.

"Ok, sign your names on this paper. What shift do you want?" was her response.

Two days later, we stood outside Walmart wearing Santa hats.** It's quite a fun job, actually. The object is to get people to make eye contact with you, leaving them with no other choice but to dredge up a few coins out of their pockets to drop in the pot. People would go to amazing lengths to look anywhere but at the guy in the Santa hat waving and calling cheerily to them. They'd do a kind of hurried shuffle past me, staring transfixed at a stained ceiling tile. "Merry Christmas!" I'd shout to them with true Christmas spirit, joyfully spreading the gift of guilt. One of those people later drove past me in a shiny new Mercedes. I hope somebody scratches it with their keys.

In society's defense, not everybody tried to dodge us Santa had-clad volunteers. In particular, my thanks goes out to the guy who donated the $100 bill. In case he should ever happen to read this blog, I'd like to thank him on behalf of myself and Santa hat-wearing people in general: Thank you for your generosity. We tip our Santa hats to you.

And to the rest of you: [A late] Merry Christmas.

Ha! You made eye contact.

*In the sense of wearing a Santa hat and being human. All similarities tend to end there. You don't want your kids to get their impression of Santa from the bellringer Santas outside Walmart; they could grow up in the belief that Santa is a large black woman.

**In addition to other clothes. Don't want to give kids the wrong impression of Santa.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Twilight, a resurrected blog post

I published an older version of this article over a year ago in the BYU–Idaho Scroll, but the threat I addressed then has yet to be vanquished. In fact, with the release of the New Moon movie, the inexplicable appeal of Twilight has only grown stronger. Like orcs from Mordor, the screaming legions of Twilight fans bearing their arsenal of officially licensed merchandise issue forth, spreading darkness over the land.

Plus, I’ve seen enough of freaking Taylor Lautner. Maybe we should wait until he’s old enough to vote before we slap his grinning, lycanthropic mug across the tabloids.

Thus, here is the expanded version of the article, with more quips, quibbles, and references to better franchises.

Let's pretend that instead of being the thrilling space opera it is, Star Wars had been written by a woman with only the faintest grasp of what makes a good plot. Let's say that Han Solo spent all three original movies telling Princess Leia how much he wanted to kill and eat her. Let's speculate how things would be if the excitement built up to the point where Luke flew off to destroy the Death Star, only to have him pass out en route and wake up a few hours later with everyone celebrating, all the action having happened while he was frolicking in dreamland.

Sounds like a formula for failure, right? At least, that’s what you’d think.

When I finished Twilight, I honestly wasn't too impressed. Maybe it's because I'm a guy and my literary needs involve a few more explosions and fewer declarations of undying (no pun intended) love.

First, I could have gone without Bella's incessant reaffirmations of Edward's utter perfection. I understand that his skin is flawless, his eyes are rapturous, he has superhuman strength, his kisses have the power to instantly put a woman into a state of extra-bodily bliss, and even the results of his most basic bodily functions probably smell like Bath & Body Works lotion. I just don't need those facts repeated ad nauseum every chapter.

Next, I feel there is something unhealthy and possibly unrealistic in Bella's attraction to a vampire who wants to drink her blood. If I followed Edward’s example, I will tell my date (repeatedly; perhaps every ten minutes) that I hunger for her in more ways than one. If I believed Twilight, nothing would turn her on more. Girls love Edward because he can control his urges; what about us normal human beings? I've been on dates with girls I've been strongly attracted to, and to my knowledge, I've been pretty good at controlling my hormones. Would it be better, if you're a hot girl, if I told you at regular intervals how much I lusted after you but was able to contain my infatuation? Seems to work pretty well for Edward.

I had a girl explain to me once that Edward represents the guy every girl dreams of: a guy who’s protective, chaste, handsome … and utterly perfect. Let’s switch it around and take a look at Edward as though he were a girl, the embodiment of all the best qualities of male fantasy.

If Edward were a girl, she would be beautiful. She — Edwarda? Edda? Edwina? — wouldn’t just be gorgeous, though. She’d be an angel fallen from heaven, a genetically engineered Victoria’s Secret model. Her hair would float behind her by the gust of an invisible breeze when she walked. Her measurements would be within the “flawless” range, and she would not need to exercise, eat, or undergo any sort of physiological maintenance in order to keep her figure. Her eyes would be almond-shaped, glittering, and maybe (for good measure) able to shoot laser beams. She would also, apparently, sparkle in the sunlight.

She could quote the entire extended editions of The Lord of the Rings, could name every Heisman Trophy winner* from the award’s introduction to the present day, and would not only know the recipe for Pizza Hut’s deep-dish pepperoni pizza but could make it from scratch using only a can opener and a block of cheese.

Of course, she would also be a vampire that would thirsted for her lover’s blood with every makeout session.

Now comes the biggest quibble I have, the one that, if fixed, could have almost redeemed the book. WHERE THE CRAP DID ALL THE ACTION GO? It's not that the author got too busy to put action in; there's plenty of it. It just happens behind the scenes: There's a part where you're in a hotel room with Bella as she frets like a six-year-old girl and you're wishing intensely to be out there with Edward, tracking the bad guy vampire, but do you ever get to see the exciting stuff? Nope. Wouldn't it be more effective, as far as the story goes, just to SHOW the danger Edward's in, instead consigning the reader to hear Miss Whiner's jumbled thoughts about her lover's peril?

Then comes the clincher. The plot builds, and so does the reader's anticipation, as Bella finds herself face-to-face with an evil vampire James. Edward is on the way, tensions are rising, your heart is thumping — and then she blacks out, only to awaken having missed the whole fight between the bad guy and Edward. What's the use of having the action take place offstage? It's like spending hours preparing food, only to fall asleep and hear others describe it later.

There you have it. Twilight: the perfect escape from reality for thirteen-year-old girls who have yet to realize that men are human, not undead incarnations of Jane Austen love interests (Yes, Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy is not human, but a robot from the future sent to destroy women's perceptions of men). Twilight: the perfect blubberfest for people whose literary tastes are flawed and whose emotions run unchecked.

*My criteria for a perfect mate does not include this, but I figured other guys might appreciate it.