Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Night Mower

Just as the last blip of the sun flashed beyond the horizon, I think it will be a good time to take my dog, Myers, for a walk.

"Wanna go on a walk?" I ask. This question elicits high-pitched whines and back leg springs that thrust his two front paws forward into my groin.
"OOF!" I wince and snap harshly at him, "GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!" He chills for a brief second or two.

"One of these days he'll get old, and I'll miss this," I tell myself. "Hold still."

I put the leash around his neck and then let the bounciness continue. He doesn't miss a beat, except for the beat I force him to miss trying to fetter him to my wrist.

Out the door we go, and if I was about 200 lbs lighter it might be a sight to behold. I would be flapping in the wind like a kite behind a little brown dachshund. But me being me and all other things the same, his little efforts to pull me along are as gentle as Kermit the Frog dragging Jabba the Hut. Yet I let the fool dog think his strength is immeasurable and allow myself to be yanked along the twilit road. It's a nice Wednesday evening in October.

Dusk falls and night looms in the distance. I like walking at night. There's something about knowing you could leer into people's windows from the sidewalk to see what they are watching on TV. This guy's watching Entertainment Tonight. That families watching the news. This woman's knitting while her husband is watching pre-game college football. Such a pleasant neighborhood and I'm such a Peeping-Tom.

Off in the distance I hear somebody using the waning moments of light to mow his lawn. I look at the sky and judge that he had about ten minutes before he starts to look ridiculous. The mowing becomes louder the further I walk, and I realize I'm gonna walk right by his house at the same time that Myers will probably be ready to do his business. Then terror strikes as one final realization hits. I don't have a little plastic baggie.

As I get closer to the night mower, I notice that he's got a good thirty minutes to go before he's finished. He's a medium-sized man, largely unnoticeable in any other situation but getting all my attention tonight. He pushes his loud rumbling mower in silence while wearing a ragged T-shirt with a large emblem on the front and some oil-stained shorts. Evidently a hard working man. I feel for him because he probably had a huge honey-do list, and there wasn't enough time in the day to get done what he wanted to get done, so he squeezes every last bit of light into those grassy lanes he was carefully trying to mow.

Up until this time Myers was all over the road and in front yards sniffing like a bloodhound. I calmly reign him in so that he won't get on the night mowers yard silently begging him not to place his squatting rear any where near this man's yard. You just never know how people are going to react when they see a little wiener-dog all over their freshly mowed yard. Some are okay with it, but I've been yelled out before. With Myers securely by my side wondering why I was suddenly being so rigid with him, I look up at the night mower as I pass. I was planning on giving him a nod as I walked by, but when our eyes meet he looks back down very quickly, and we pass like two ships in the night, one of them with a loud rumbling engine room below deck scaring fish for miles around and the other being pulled by a rambunctious little Vienna sausage.

I think the encounter is over and walk on. However, thanks to the audio phenomenon of the Doppler Effect I notice out of the corner of my ear that he has stopped pushing his mower. I turn around, keeping my pace, and he's just standing there with the engine roaring and the blades turning. He's standing by the edge of his drive way just staring at me. Or at least I think he's staring. It's too dark to tell for sure. I keep walking holding the leash tight. Myers is oblivious to the interesting development.

The night mower's property is right at a bend in the road so I round the corner and give him one more look to see what he's up too and he's still standing there, either looking at me or stuck in some lawn-mowing trance. Lawn-mowing trances are a rare occurance, but not entirely inexplicable. I'm not going to explain it right now, but I will say that I have experienced it with a weed-wacker. It's a unique bonding experience that only occurs with lawn equipment. It has something to do with rhythm and power indexes, but like I said I'm not going into it right now.

"Interesting," I say to myself as I try to sneak another look. It's too late though, I'd rounded the corner and the night mower was out my line of sight. The Doppler Effect isn't helpful either so I pass it off as nothing, thankful that Myers wasn't overcome by his digestive influences. Now it wouldn't make much of a difference. His bowels were free to unleash themselves.

The street lights wake up all bright and bushy-tailed. A bunch of meaningless drivel flows around in my brain for the next couple of minutes, and I soak in the waning moments of light. The sound of the rumbling mower is lost in the distance. I give Myers some slack, and he's off like a bloodhound again.
Suddenly, Out of the corner of my ear I hear someone faintly yelling. I stop underneath the incandescent shine of the street light directly above me and turn around. I shade my eyes from the beam over my head, and Myers looks up at me.

"What the...?" I utter.

It's the night mower yelling at me from the corner of his property at the bend in the road. He's shaking his hand in the air, or is that a fist. It better not be a fist; I'm bigger than he is. "What in the world?" I hear myself say.

He keeps yelling.

I yell back, "Say, again!" I feel my pockets to see if I've dropped my phone or wallet or something, knowingly giving the yelling man the benefit of the doubt. The houses in the neighborhood rest calmly in the darkness to either side of me and my dog as I stand in a orangish pool of light peering at somebody several hundred feet away trying to get my attention.

I notice something. I'm getting slightly appalled. Only slightly because of the absurdity and possible misinterpretation of my situation. After much delibertation between my rational and irrational self, I come to the conclusion that I should walk towards the yelling night mower, mainly because he's still yelling. I turn my impatient dog around and walk towards the man aware of my growing anger and hope for confrontation. Myers walks with me.

I guess I look small from far away, because as soon I start walking towards him, the man disappears around the corner. It takes me a good minute or so to get back to where the man was and as soon as I round the corner there he is calmly pushing his mower with his back toward me only a few feet away. I turn around looking for a Candid Camera van or an audience hiding behind a tree or something. I stand there glaring at him allowing the ferocity within me to attain full power. It had become obvious to me that I hadn't dropped my phone.

Now here is a dilemna. I think to myself, "How do I get his attention?" as if he doesn't know I'm there. I could see him "non-chalantly" looking over his shoulder like he was curious about the weather behind him. My anger grows as I'm being ignored, and I ponder all my options. I decide to stare.

I stare blankly at the night mower for a few seconds, thinking about what I should do and wait for him to turn around and recognize me. He never turns around. I have a feeling if I stay there forever he would have been pushing his mower away from me, forever. I didn't feel like standing around forever so I go back to walking my little bloodhound.

The whole rest of the walk, I was looking over my shoulder to see if he was yelling somewhere behind me. Nothing.

"Crazy old man," I say to myself.

I finally get back to my house. And no sooner than I shut the door behind me and take Myers's leash off, I hear the doorbell ring. Myers starts yapping as if he was Godzilla. I jump, or rather vault to the closest wall looking at the door. Someone on the other side knocks with impatience. I jump again but this time towards the door, sick of being startled. The thought occurs to me that it could be a friend or even some boy peddling stuff for a school fund raiser. I'm a sucker for those amatuer business men because I was a door to door salesman once. I usually end up buying a candle, some peanut brittle, or some dog biscuits. Then another thought occurs to me, and I open the door.

The door creaks that inevitable creak and our eyes meet for the second time through the dirty glass of my storm door. This time he does not look away. The night mower has found my house. The suddenness of the anger that wells up inside me is a tell-tale sign of how scared I really am. The anger was just a front. His eyes are red, and the sweat is dripping from his brow. He doesn't look happy. He is wearing the same scruffy clothes, loose t-shirt with an emblem of an eagle on the front and some oil-stained shorts. His shoes and socks are covered with grass stains. Myers yaps turn into growls as the man outside and I stare at each other through the glass. A small movement of his hand catches my eye. He is reaching for the storm door handle.

When I see his hand moving for the door handle, I wish for a castle moat to suddenly drop between us, but it does not. There is only this one thin pane of glass between this unpredictable character and me. A couple things go through my head. First, "I bet he didn't finish cutting the grass," then, "I better lock this door before this freak comes into my house." I reach for the lock, and fortunately, get there before him. He freezes with his hand in mid air, as if he had hoped I would lock the door before he could open it, like he didn't want to do something he was about to do. The frozen hand freaks me out, and I suddenly realize I had two more doors and ten windows in my house.

However, it was more important to me to keep this head job in my sight than try to scramble around the house locking doors and windows. We both just stand there. My dog was going crazy now, barking like he was rabid, but that's just what I wanted. I begin wishing I had taught him to "sick" people. You know like the dogs do in the movies. Hey, for all I know it's not something I probably have to teach him. Maybe he is ready to "sick" that little night mower. But then again maybe he'll scamper to a fire hydrant and mark his territory. I continue to stare at him and he switches his gaze back and forth from me to the dog.

Just when I was about to start barking myself he says, "You stole my flowers."

"What flowers?" I am still locked on his eyes.

"You stole them, and I want 'em back."

"Go get yourself some new flowers, buddy. You want me to call the cops?"

He quickly reaches for his back pocket, and I have no idea what to expect. A gun, a knife, a photo of his missing flowers, who knows? I slam the front door and race for the back door. I lock it and race for the side door. I am few feet away from the side door when I see it fling open. He rushes in, eyes wide with some kind of wildness in them. I freeze when I see the long blade in his hand. It actually looks like a rusty old lawn mower blade, no handle or anything just a thin metal bar with sharp edges on the side.

I wish I can think of something, like how to fight him, or where I keep my gun, or which knife to grab out of the kitchen drawer, but I don't. All I can think is, "Who carry's around a lawnmower blade? This guy is nuts." Myers is still barking. I know he's no match for a lawnmower blade so I try to reach down and pick him up. Crazy, lawnmower-blade man sees his chance and lunges. I see him launch, and I launch myself, only not towards him, to the side, picking up Myers in one move....

As I dodge to the right the night mower lunges with his knife and misses me by a few inches. I set Myers down and am close enough to the intruder that I can grab his arm but not before he gets a few slices into my forearm. We wrestle for a bit with our limbs flailing about like ballroom dancers in a cage fight.

I hear Myers whimper as the man takes a swipe at him. He twitches sharply to the right reaching for his leg and yells "Stop that!" He looks down at his leg and I see my chance.

My adrenaline shoots through the roof with that little stunt and I overpower him. He falls backwards and bumps his head on the coffee table behind him knocking him unconscious. I feel for a pulse, and it is still strong.

Trying to catch my breath I tell Myers, "I guess he'll live." He growls favoring one of his legs. I go for the phone in the kitchen and dial 911. I tell the operator everything and she asks me if he is still there.

"Yes, He's unconscious though..." I say as I turn to look at him. "....He's gone…" I say something hysterical after that because all the operator can talk about is getting me to calm down. "He was here a few seconds ago, he couldn't have gotten far." I drop the phone in the pool of blood left by the gaping wounds in my arm and run outside. No one.

"That's okay, I know where he lives." I start running as fast as I can to catch him before he gets to his house, leaving Myers in the backyard to tend to his wounds... It is dark so I can't see much except for what the street lights illuminate.

I finally get to the night mower's house. "I guess you forgot I knew where you lived, Lawnmower Man," I say to myself as I walk up the front steps imagining a comic book frame of me avenging my poor dog. I examine the house for a few seconds until I am sure it is the same house. It is on the corner, same front porch, same shutters. Yep this is it. I knock on the door.

A generously-proportioned old lady answers the door. "Yes?" she says as she smiles warily at me.

I must be scaring her. I'm sure my eyes are wide with adrenaline, my fists clenched ready to clock the one answering the door. I am stunned by this innocent old lady.

"Can I help you?" She says.

"Um…Yes, is your husband home?"

"He doesn't live here anymore."

I step back. "Who was it that cut your grass earlier this evening?

"What do you mean?" She asks.

"Who cut your grass," I say with a twinge of frustration. I use my bloody arm and point as I say it again. As I point I look at the front yard lit by a bright street lamp. The grass is practically up to my waist. Obviously, I think this extremely odd or I've found the wrong house. I take a step back and look at the house again. This has to be the house.

I stand there on the front porch like a bafoon and tell her about the man in my house and almost being killed and everything, and she does what any grandmother would do and invites me to sit down while she tries to take care of my wounds. I oblige and take a seat on a nice chair in the living room, careful not to get any blood on anything, all the while trying to figure out what's going on and where Lawnmower Man may be hiding. She says something about finding some cotton swabs and some peroxide and is off down the hall.

I observe my surroundings. A nice place, a bit musty with useless trinkets lying around, but nice. A little too pink for my taste, though. There are a few bookshelves and a mantle with some candles on it. In the corner is an upright piano with a few pictures on it. Something catches my eye in the pictures so I get up to take a closer look.

There he is, the night mower in the pictures! The old lady comes around the corner carrying a whole mess of things that look like lawn tools. "What's that, what have you got? Who's this man?" I urgently ask pointing to the pictures and inching backward.

"That's my husband."

"What? Where is he now? I thought you said he didn't live here anymore. This is the man! This is the man!"

"That can't be sir," She says with resilience. "My husband died." Something fills her voice, but it wasn't sorrow. "Exactly, ten years ago, today."

I shake my head in disbelief. No, this can't be. I pinch myself. I slowly back out of the living room into the foyer knocking over a few useless trinkets as I bump into the front door, my eye on the old woman the entire time. I feet for the handle, open it and bolt for my house, hoping to find my dog safe and sound somewhere.

My dog is chewing on a chew toy in the back yard. He is so into his chew toy he almost doesn't notice me. When he finally sees me walking up the driveway he jumps up leaving his chew toy to greet me. I warily pet him peering into the darkness for anything out of the ordinary. Once the introductions are complete he brings his chew toy over to me. It is a rather large bone. Just as I am getting ready to throw the unusually large bone, something caught my attention in the flower bed. There is a big pile of dirt and the flowers are all uprooted. Must be where Myers buries his toys. I walk over to it and notice he had buried a few other bones there. "How many bones have you buried here," I joke. I start digging. Wait a second... Before I new it a police car pulls up in my drive way at the same time I was uncovering the skeletal remains of a human being.

"Are you okay, sir? We got a 911 emergency call from this location." The policeman walks up and sees what I just discovered and immediately pulls a gun on me and tells me to get down on the ground.

He cuffs me and sits me in his cruiser with a towel to finish cleaning up my bleeding arm. A few other cops get there, and I watch from the police car as my house becomes a crime scene. After a few hours of waiting and wondering if they will ever take me in, I notice that nosey neighbors are pouring out of their houses.

A dozen more cop cars arrive and the cop that cuffed me comes back and asks me a few questions about who I am, but his last question seemed funny to me. He asks me if I know who was buried in my flower bed.

Just as I was getting ready to say, "No," I see a patrol car drive by with the generously-proportioned old woman in the backseat, her angry red eyes staring at me from the window of the police car.

Then it dawns on me. It's the Night Mower!

"Is it her husband buried in my flower bed?" I ask.

"Sure is," he says confidently. "She killed her husband ten years ago but we were never able to pin it on her because we couldn't find the body. Thanks to your dog we found him. The icing on the cake is that he was buried with the murder weapon...a rusty old lawnmower blade."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Text Message Shorthand and It's Effect on the Thumb and the English Language

I don't know if you noticed or not, but the Polar Bear Periodical has been seriously lacking in blog contributions during the month of September and October. Finding time in a day that only has 24 hours is extremely hard for a polar bear that requires, food, hibernation, and a thought provoking daily contribution to social networking. So in the interest of saving time and avoiding any real responsibilities in my life, I've decided to take a closer look into shorthand, specifically in regards to thumb-thumpin' chain texters.

Seeing as how the thumb is the ugly fat guy of all the fingers, it seems fitting that it would be the reason that we've come up with txt msg shorthand. Mr. Thumb has been living a life of social rejection ever since humans stopped climbing trees and holding hammers. No more thumb-sucking; that will give you bucked teeth. No more thumbing for a ride; that could give you some guy with bucked teeth that kills you. No more thumb-wrestling and certainly no more twiddling of the thumbs. Just about the only things left for a digitally and socially outcast thumb to do is to turn your music up and to send quick text messages. The other sexy fingers could dance on the keyboards of our lives, touch-typin' through news feeds, email's and digital diaries like Doogie Howser M.D. But the low-slung thumb digit says, "Use me, Use me. Quit letting me dangle here in the tiny fob pocket of your skinny jeans. I'm filled with texterity, I want to be textually active. I promise I won't give you texter's remorse, just good ole fashioned textertainment."

We'll we've been in such a hurry to send our text message we have not realized what it's been doing to our English language. LMAO, LOL, BRB... Text message shorthand reigns in the cellular airwaves and summons the peasants of sentence structure to bow before it's emoticon throne. As our thumbs have gained prominence in "shorthand legislation" the language rules have evolved quicker than Cortisol into belly fat.

Apparently, a mobile phone service in Britain has given text message shorthand a big boost in language development by saying that is useful in learning classic literature. Classic literature? "How dare you?!" says the writer. "Un-freakin'-believable. First, electric wheelchairs for the elderly, and now this? What is this nation coming to." Believe it or not, Dot Mobile is attempting to translate classic works of literature into abbreviated SMS text messages. "Romeo, Romeo, Wher4 RT Thou Romeo!"
They have researched this avenue of ad campaigning immensely and even have an English professor in their corner named John Sutherland, who says that it could act as a useful memory aid for students who want to learn the classics by helping them "filet out the important elements in a plot." Take a look at some of these traumatizing translations.

Hamlet's famous soliloquy, "To be or not to be, that is the question," becomes "2b? Nt2b? ???"
John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, begins, "devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war." (The devil is kicked out of heaven because he is jealous of Jesus and starts a war.)
The ending to Jane Eyre — "MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus." (Mad wife sets fire to house.)
Jane Austen's description of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice becomes "fit&loadd" (handsome and wealthy).

BTW, As you may have imagined there are naysayers. Author and political commentator Oliver Kamm reminds us that classic literature is more than just plot. "What you lose with text messaging in literature is what makes literature what it is — the imagery, the irony the nuance." He considers this project "a travesty."

A project like this will obviously have to be headed up by the thumb. You can't very well use text message shorthand without the thumb. The long sexy fingers won't stoop to type out such crap. Therefore news of this travesty have thumbs everywhere registering for concealed weapons permits or jumping from 15th floor apartment windows.

Here's my thought. Text message shorthand, has it's uses but it isn't to teach classic literature. It does save time and actually exercises that puzzle solving part of our brain. Who needs crossword puzzles when we have, "WDYMBT". I for one do not stand by a classic work of literature being thumbed out on a tiny keyboard somewhere in the back alleys of Liverpool, but I do appreciate a little time saving note or two when things are crazy so I don't have to deal with the menial task of actually talking to someone on the phone. What a bore!

One bright note in the midst of all this text purgatory is Autocorrect. Autocorrect? Yes, Autocorrect. As well as provide hours of entertainment on the internet, reading embarrassing textersations, Autocorrect is also doing a lot to bring us out of the dark ages of text message shorthand. It will actually complete words for us (whether we want it to or not) turning a letter or two into a possible suggestion for what you want to say. It's a writer's dream! Genius! Unfortunately, the autocorrect dictionary includes some text message shorthand which kind of defeats the purpose, but it's a step in the right direction.

We live in an age where fast and tiny nanotechnology keep us moving like kids without Ritalin. As a result we cut things short only reading half of the email or yearly Christmas card update and responding with such brevity that God can't even figure out what we mean. Stop it. Take a moment in your crazy life to soak in a few extra words a day. Perhaps consider a punctuation mark or two in your text message to help clarify. It might take an extra few seconds out of your day but you and the English language will be better off for it. So thank you for reading this blog in it's entirety and feel free to leave a comment with some ridiculous text message short hand.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Put a Fork in America...We're Done! Now for the Beer.

Pro-life, anti-death, pro-gay, anti-homophobes, pro-choice, anti-prophylactics. Isn't it tiring? Keeping up with the policy in today's calculated sound bite releases is exhausting. All the smoke and mirrors and snips and snails and puppy dog tails are really starting to weigh me down. Republicans lying about Democrats and the Democrats...well, just, basically, lying about. I've had it up to here! Where's here? ...My liver.

After taking a good look at all the issues, I've decided to jump on the Obama band wagon because I've realized that he has finally figured it ALL out, and he's ready to share it with us. As the RNC cleans up it's hate culture and legitimate rapists, and the Democrats gain momentum during their DNC tom-foolery and hetero-phobic baby-killing, the campaign wizards in the White House have been strategically planning a bombshell release that will shake the political foundations of the country to it's core: the recipe of the White House Honey Brown Ale.

That's right. The White House staff have put aside the menial tasks of silly wars and financial instability to bring us unmatchable perfection in the world of beer drinking. What a relief that our President, Barack Obama, is actually getting things done around this poor excuse for a country. I think he finally realized that he could only ride the I-killed-Osama-Bin-Laden train for so long. Eventually he had to get back to the grindstone at Pennsylvania Avenue and focus on the serious issues, like how much barley and hops it takes to wash away the taste of cigarettes on his taste buds.

History was made and the cry of the working class was answered with a recipe that called for a little light malt extract, amber crystal malt, honey, gypsum, yeast and corn sugar.  Move over Mountain Dew because we can now brew the brew of all brews in our own bathtubs. Thank you, Mr. President. You made this possible.

Beer drinking had hit a wall in this country with all the bitter hops and unpredictable yeast build-ups. All the beer in the world was no match for the tingling sensation of the old favorite Mountain Dew that ruined the teeth of abusive personalities everywhere. But now a new age has come, and we, the American drinker, will never be the same. With this feat, President Obama has surely sealed himself in the halls of fame as the Greatest President in the Multiverse. White House Honey Brown Ale is believed to be the only beer ever brewed on the White House grounds. (Martin Van Buren gets the nod for distilling the first jug of whiskey in the White House.)  God's favor must surely rest on him for such a remarkable gesture of getting-things-done in a country so riddled with holes of hate and intolerance.

Believe me, this history making event didn't just wash up on the shores of the White House like flotsam and jetsam. The administration had been looking for ways to get an edge on their white collar opponents for hours. After many failed attempts to win the hearts of the American people including a White House fountain filled with green food coloring on St. Patrick's Day and a few appearances on Late Night TV,  the idea of beer frothed through the West Wing. Brainstorm sessions ensued at cabinet meetings and brew-ha-has, and the idea was born. But it needed a catalyst, something to get the beer out of the barrels and into the hearts of the voting public. That catalyst came about through the most history changing event in alcoholic history-changing history.

In a genius attempt to quell racial tensions around the world, Obama and Biden invited a Harvard professor and a police sergeant over for a beer. This event took advantage of Obama's lifetime of beer drinking and made the first dent in erasing racism in America since Abraham Lincoln screwed it all up at the end of the civil war by getting shot in the back of the head during some ridiculous movie premiere or something. Stupid Lincoln.

That minature beer fest or "Beer Summit" as it was aptly named was the impetus he needed for a winner-take-all campaign for beer.  The commission began and has finally culminated this past week with the unprecedented press release of the recipe for Obama's White House Honey Brown Ale. (Click here if you would like this recipe.) It is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. And it's clear that Obama's strategists have been working night and day since our political messiah graced us with his prompter reading skills and mesmerized us with his natural swagger from the Presidential helicopter. (Yep, that's right; he's the real deal, folks.)

And now we must wait until the rest of America jumps "off the wagon"... and then onto the Obama Beer Wagon. There is still a lot of room on this "wagon" for white working class adulterers, Irish-loving black people, Monastical friars, and reformed pot-heads.

To the Mexican immigrant mother that just found out her 16-year-old girl was pregnant: Beer is the Answer.
To the bankrupt business owner that broke his foot jumping out of his third story window because he couldn't pay a health premium for his employees: Beer is the Answer.
To the elderly man whose social security is only going to be available for 2 more hours because the Senators just approved another raise for themselves: Beer is the Answer.
To the child who got busted for reprogramming the DVR so his parents wouldn't catch him watching "Family Guy" on Fox: Beer is the Answer.

I seriously can't imagine where we'd be in this country without beer. Maybe our Episcopalian friends would be as intolerant as the rest of the clergy. Maybe our roads and infrastructure would actually make sense. Maybe Bear Grylls would stop drinking the moisture from elephant feces. Only God knows, but I do know this...*Mitt Romney is a Mormon, doesn't drink and favors multiple wives, so how in the world would he get anything done for beer drinkers. 

*Note: Lies?? Truths?? Sarcasm?? Hyperbole?? What's the difference?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Gentlemen of the Road

My head doesn't get stuck in the clouds too often, but once in a while it does. It happens when I least expect it. I'll be hooked on a good television show halfway through the season, and I'll start to mentally immerse myself in the story looking forward to every episode. The next thing you know, I've signed up to bring Tostino's pizza rolls and some grape soda to a gathering of like minded souls to watch the season finale. The build up to a new movie sometimes gets me too.  I build my entire summer around the release date of some movie. Then I show up hours early to the premier with a tent and 42 bags of Twizzlers.

I'm embarrassed to say that it happened again, just a few weeks ago. A band called Mumford and Sons was coming to town to play their second show of their North American tour, and I got tickets to go with 3 of my bestest mates. I was in the ether. I was as giddy as a Canadian school girl at a Robert Pattinson autograph signing; you couldn't have given me enough Lorazepam. Tickets were more difficult to score than I expected, but once I had them, I was floating with the angels. A week before the show I was getting a bit cheeky. I spent hours on-line reading about what their live shows are like, missed appointments at work, emailed the lead singer's parents in the United Kingdom, and tried to figure out a way to become a groupie AND keep my family. The premotor cortex of my brain was peeking with excitatory signals because of the anticipation I was experiencing.

Believe me, when I say that I knew my expectations were high, and I didn't care. I knew Mumford and Sons would deliver, and I was absolutely right. They delivered like a Federal Express Broadway musical. Mumford and Sons brought the frequency of life and truth to their show, and I soaked it in like a dankish sponge. Their songs are full of passion and heartache, faith and doubt, life and death. I told someone it was like being at a rally for God and humanity to work together to defeat darkness.

For each song, each band member plays a different instrument, including but not limited to an accordion, a mandolin, a banjo and an upright bass. At certain intervals during their set, the four part harmonies they found sent my joy meter to overload and made my cheeks tired. I was brimming with euphoria the entire time. During one of the transitions a member of the band gave the crowd a good chortle when he joked about southern Americans being from South America, which makes perfect sense if your from Britain. I was happy when they eventually got back to the music, which is, by far, their best feature.

The bluegrass, folk, pop and rock genre can't agree on where to place the style of music that Mumford and Sons plays. They cover everything from a head-banging mosh pit in one song to a soothing bluegrass ballad of love in another. The confusion is just, thus they've been dubbed West London Folk. Guess that's a half win for folk, and a kick in the knickers for everyone else. But first and foremost, Mumford and Sons is a festival band. That is where their roots are and throughout their tour they've scheduled festival "stopovers" to remind them of their first love. It is this characteristic that has given them the nickname, Gentlemen of the Road. You can see a documentary of their travels on

Meet the Gentlemen of the Road:
Marcus Mumford: Vocals, Guitar, Drums, Mandolin,

Ben Lovett: Vocals, Keyboards, Accordian, Drums

Country Winston Marshall: Vocals, Banjo, Dobro, Guitar

Ted Dwane: Vocals, String Bass, Drums, Guitar

As many of you are probably wondering the concert did have an ending, but it was the coolest ending ever, they came back and did a five song encore, thanked each of us collectively for coming, told us we were the best audience they had ever played for, and gave us each a business card with their personal cell phone numbers and email addresses along with a spare key to their houses in London with directions on how to take care of their fish tanks and guinea pigs while they are on tour. Best band ever.

You may scoff when you hear this, but I would like to postulate the possibility that this band has the potential to become synonymous with other long lasting superpower bands like U2, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, or Madonna. They're music stands the test of time and the cohesion between the band members could withstand the worst that the music business might have to throw at them.

Cheers to the Gentlemen of the Road.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dear NBC, I Don't Want to Watch the Loser Cry, or Do I?

NBC should launch a network where they feature only the crying dejected losers who fall flat on their faces. Then Bob Costas could do sarcastic voice overs about how awesome it must be to train so hard for 14 years just to see it all go down the toilet in a whirlpool of athletic genius. Before a long agonizing failure they could tell us heart-freezing stories about the families of the athletes getting homes foreclosed on or falling victim to ponzi schemes. Ratings would sky-rocket, wouldn't they?

Apparently, "someone" likes to watch that stuff because they scramble the cameramen like house flies to a dirty bum. And that "someone" must be the one buying all the ad space, because NBC strives for the money shot, complete with streaming tears of embarrassment and failure.

Congratulations, NBC, for testing the waters of "cry-definition" television by letting us watch athletes like Jordyn Wieber or Liu Xiang shed sweet dramatic tears of despair. Hopes and dreams come to a crashing halt and NBC goes for complete coverage of... the loser. Now all you have to do is supplement this new emo programming with advertisements for depression medication and suicide hotlines.

Or, how 'bout this idea: maybe you could GIVE THEM A MOMENT! Isn't there a "winner" sauntering about the arena that you could feature? I think there is. Do that.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life in Overdrive

Toby Keith came to Virginia Beach, and I was one of the lucky hillbillies in the front row, or "pit", as it is affectionately known. Allow me to set the stage for those unfamiliar with the goings-on at a genuine Toby Keith concert. The venue was outside, and it just happened to be the hottest evening of the summer. Not to worry, I was surrounded by many other people suffering from the same summer heat, so we were able to keep each other warm.

To start things off, I'm so thankful we got to our standing positions in the pit early enough to catch the Ford commercial that started the show. It was like being at a drive in movie, you know, the nostalgia of it all. A giant white sheet was strategically hung in front of the stage so no one would miss it. A projector mounted 100 feet away gave all 20,000 of us a larger than life perspective of what it's like to be Toby Keith driving a Ford F-150. It was glorious. There he was before us, Toby Keith, in a commercial driving a truck on a gianormous sheet hanging down before our very eyes. I know what your thinking, Ford commercials are available at home in our living rooms on the TV, but this... this was special. Apparently, if you drive a brand new Ford F-150, several really cool things happen to you. You meet beautiful, sweaty, half-naked women sucking on popsicles. Dirty, empty bars suddenly spring to life when you plug in the juke box. Somehow desert roads become oases, and fame and fortune follow you everywhere. All, from a truck. How cool is that? I'm going to go get me one of those Ford's just as soon as I get a feather in my hat and call it macaroni.

But the concert wasn't over yet...

The sheet fell from the heights over our heads, and we stood there like excited villagers sacrificing a virgin before a giant volcano ignorant of the sweaty steam emanating from each of our bodies. Then the live music began with a loud pulse emanating from each instrument. Bodies jumped, sweat flung into my eyes, the lights turned on and the super amazing pyro-technics made me realize I wasn't hot enough.

Excitement overtook the sensation of having a fever, and I watched and listened while a tired sunburnt old man used the gift of song to tell 20,000 people how amazing they were. As I observed I realized that this was the most patriotic group of people ever. There was a shout out to policemen and firemen, a respect for veterans and politicians, and a long drawn-out video montage of Willy Nelson. I kid you not, an amputee literally threw his fake leg onto the stage for Toby Keith to sign it. And it wasn't any kind of normal fake leg either, it was decorated to the nines with paintings of bald eagles that were draped in American flags. It was one of the most questionably inappropriate things I've ever seen.

But that was nothing compared to the crowning achievement of the entire show. The climax of a good show is reserved for special subject matter. It's not enough to sing about cowboys and Willy Nelson and Ford trucks. They aren't special enough. Nope, you've got to give the climax to something special. And in this case that "special thing" is the Red Solo Cup that holds your beer. Toby Keith, held up a red solo cup full of some liquid and sang one of the most beautiful ballads ever written. While doing this four stage hands began pumping up giant red solo cup balloons about the size of Ford F-150s. Here are some of the lyrics to this beloved song:

Red solo cup, I fill you up
Let's have a party, let's have a party
I love you red solo cup, I lift you up,
Proceed to party, proceed to party
Now I've seen you in blue and I've seen you in yellow
But only you red will do for this fellow
Cause you are the Abbott into my Costello
And you are the Fruit to my Loom

For all the lyrics to this beautiful song click here

Now if that isn't just the sweetest thing ever then I don't know what is. It's very catchy and memorable.

What followed were some sweet guitar licks, a drum solo and few shots of my ugly mug on the big screen, but as you would probably guess it was all down hill after the Red Solo Cup.

I can tell you with certainty that Toby Keith is a great entertainer; he knows what his fans want and he gives it to them. So what does he give them? A sense of who they are, passionate, patriotic, gun-toting, beer-drinking, nature loving, NASCAR supporting, cowboy boot wearing, Caucasians. I was entertained, and part of me wished I had a pair of cowboy boots. This was my very first country music concert and I would do it all over again, except for the part about leaving early to miss the inevitable parking lot traffic jam. How do you like me now?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Star of "Dark Knight Rises" Visits Colorado Shooting Victims

Celebrity buzz hasn't favored the Batman star in recent years, but this week he did something that totally redeemed him. Here's a great story for fans of "The Dark Knight" with Associated Press b-roll of the event.

Christian Bale in Colorado

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us (Part 2)

(In light of the tragedy that took place in Aurora, CO, this blog entry might not sit well with you. Although this blog tries to help us understand tragedy in the literary sense, it doesn't offer any consolation to tragedy in real life. It is unfortunate that we live in a world where tragedy is real, and I offer my sincere condolences to the citizens of Aurora, CO and all those dealing with the consequences of a crazed mad man.)

Hunger Games struck a cord with mainstream America in a way that was like plucking a hair out of a nostril. This was a painful story about an alternate world where kids killed other kids for the entertainment of others, and yet it was one of the highest grossing movies of 2012. Are we just sick, homicidal child-haters with a pension for cage fighting? Is the unstoppable force, that is America, slipping down that proverbial, never-ending Slip 'n Slide into nothingness? I don't believe so. For centuries humanoids have been entertained by a literary device called "catharsis".  Some appreciate it others don't, and still others would just as soon strip it naked and drop it off in front of a sketchy bus station.

"Catharsis" originates from the Greek word for "cleansing" and is defined on as "the purging of emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art as  tragedy or music." Basically, an enema for the soul. One can't have a good tragedy without the element of catharsis so let's explore. Classic Tragedies include Romeo and Juliet, Oedipus Rex, and La Boheme, to name a few. They loved their soul enemas back then, so much so that Leonardo Da Vinci had to fill the world with inventions and paintings of constipated people.

Modern tragedies are harder to come by and are more commonly referred to as horror movies, but once in a while a mainstream movie will embody the definition of a tragedy like, Into the Wild, The People vs. Larry Flint, or The Butterfly Effect. To get into a story and build up a fortress of emotion only to have your weakness exploited by a director who brings you into an unshakable state of depression for a few hours or even days, is one of the marvels of true artistic genius. A good cathartic moment can go a long way, like that moment when you realize the mountain oysters you've been eating were goat testicles.

Ultimately, the purpose of a tragedy is to bring healing to the audience. Even psychoanalysts praise catharsis as progress in emotional healing. Emotions are strong and can often lead to horrible decisions, like vengeful flatulation at work, sarcasm on the witness stand, or, God forbid, a tattoo near your nethers. Emotions that lead to these kinds of actions are viewed as excessive and unhealthy by some. A good catharsis can sooth the wild beast in most of us and make our passions slightly more manageable. Wikipedia informs us that particular Freudian psychoanalysts would use catharsis to help patients experience "the deep emotions often associated with events in the individual's past which had originally been repressed or ignored, and had never been adequately addressed or experienced."Some have even gone so far as to say that catharsis is pleasurable, because the audience might experience an ecstatic relief ensuing from an awareness that, compared with what they have just seen portrayed, their own life is less tragic.

However, there should be a warning label on overly tragic stories. A person suffering from extreme emotional derangement might careen off into the outer space of excitability and never be normal again. This is the downside of tragedy, and one of the reasons many will not appreciate its artistic quality.

Another reason is plain, old aesthetics. Just like some prefer not to suffer the woes of the mighty roller coaster, others are physically wired not to enjoy the thrills of a finely woven catharsis. I believe this is part of the reason there was such a strong reaction to the Hunger Games. Rightfully so, the thought of children brutally murdering each other for sport did not sit right with people, no matter what the back story was.

Therefore the redeeming value of such a tragic event is lost, just like the redeeming value of conquering your fears at the end of a roller coaster are lost just by looking at that first drop from your car in the parking lot.

I'm not a fan of roller coasters, because they give me vertigo and and a keen sense of impending disaster. On the other hand, I am a fan of tragedies because I love the catharsis that ensues after a good story. I still cringe and wince, but I like cringing and wincing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us (Part 1)

A dichotomy has arisen in the last few decades among the moral majority, and as a result many among us have missed out on some of the greatest storytelling in generations. Nakedness, alcohol, drugs, swearing, sex, violence, wizardry and homosexuality are all frowned upon by the Christian elite. Keep it out of their movies and TV shows, off the streets and billboards, but for Christ's sake, leave it in the Bible. As defined by the Urban Dictionary the Bible is "an ancient novel full of murder, corruption, homosexuality, bestiality, incest and cruelty. It is often read to children on Sunday."

You wouldn't believe the lengths that the Christians have gone to in order to keep the very stuff they object to in Hollywood, right smack dab in the middle of the Bible. Scribe after scribe, council after council, crusade after crusade, martyr after martyr, philandering televangelist after philandering televangelist, all of these folks, seriously vigilant about making sure the story of King David's harems (2 Samuel 5:13) and Samuel's genocide (I Samuel 15) is told with gusto. Sordid affairs involving prostitution and incest (Genesis 19), detailed portrayals of violence involving a disemboweling (2 Samuel 20:9-10) and some beheadings (Matthew 14:3-12), and one amazing story of angels having sex with women to create a giant race of humans called Nephalim (Genesis 6:1-4). All of this and more is part of every Christian's heritage. Don't mess. Seriously, don't mess with the Bible, unless you want to go to hell. Haha. just kidding, sort of (Revelation 22:19).

Here in lies the dichotomy: Rejecting the function of immorality in storytelling, but accepting it within our spiritual heritage.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) puts a rating on almost every movie we watch in the theaters. Movie promoters live and die by these ratings, because one extra curse word could push a "PG-13" to an "R" and drop the expected revenue by 50%. By this logic, one could argue that Christians shot themselves in the foot when it came to marketing their famous book. If there were a movie made that encompassed ever story in the Bible, I'm confident that it would receive a worse rating than NC-17. They would have to make up a rating like 40-EGA-21 (Elderly Guidance for Adults: No admittance to anyone under 21 and those over 21 must be accompanied by someone over 40). The Bible may be God's Word, but try bringing the movie version to Sunday School. Eat that scroll, Enid Strict!

Who doesn't love a good story, whether its from the Bible or the theater or a good book. There are some mind-blowing stories out there in our world. Several come to our minds immediately, and everyone has a favorite, Treasure Island, The Conversion of Saul, Ben Hur, The Matrix, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Most of those favorites include some realistic curse words, violence, or even some nudity.  I would argue that these are variables within each story that actually make it great.

Who appreciates the beauty of the outdoors more than the man in a solitary confinement? Who appreciates riches more than the man who grew up poor? Who appreciates life more than the man who almost died? Exactly. Sometimes you have to see hell to appreciate the beauty on the other side. Story-tellers take us through these hellish situations to help us appreciate the final outcome. The End. Denouement. Resolution. Catastrophe. I call it "The Payoff". That's when you know if the journey that the story took you on was worth it or not. Did it payoff well or not so well? Speaking of the Bible, again, it wouldn't be worth it's weight in shekels if it wasn't for the payoff at the end.

Do you think that people working on a movie with a superbly gory scene are bloodthirsty heathens? No. They are wholesome people with families and kids and Sunday school classes just like you and me, that are part of putting together a good story. Do you think the author who vividly describes a rape scene to his reader is a closet sexual deviant? No. He's telling a story, building up the emotion to bring it all home for a great read. Do you think the people who wrote those disturbing stories in the Bible were creepy lunatics? No. They were normal people for their day and age, putting together the greatest story ever told.

To him who has an ear let him hear, the morality portrayed in a story should not be relegated to a single line or even a single scene but the art as a whole, except, of course if it is blatantly obscene or pornographic.* So, don't give up on a story, based on a few bad words or some splattering blood. It might just be the Bible.


*(Legal definition of obscene: an act, utterance, or item tending to corrupt the public morals by its indecency or lewdness.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

S.A.T. Analogies (This is to that as...)

I've always been fascinated with analogies, in particular the ones we explored during those formative years taking our S.A.T.'s.
For example:
Orange is to Fruit as Cucumber is to ________
a. Looney Tunes
b. Flapjacks
c. Nastiness
d. Vegetable

This week I've composed a few analogies based on current events and other things I've come across this past week. Enjoy!

1. Women are to Baby Clothes (See last week's blog)

as Men are to bacon.

2. Eric Holder is to "Fast and Furious"

as Vin Diesel is to "The Pacifier".

3. Fox News is to a liberal

as a fish is to "out of water".

4. Jerry Sandusky is to Penn State

as Aquaman is to The Justice League.

5. PC's are to viruses

as Greece is to rioting.

6. "The Bachelorette" is to reality

as a cardboard box is to a home

7. The Stock Market is to a good investment

as a great white shark is to a good pet.

Have a great week, y'all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baby Clothes and Their Unusual Effect on Women

I wish I had some sort of scientific equipment that could monitor the chemical impulses and brain waves that occur in women when they see baby clothes. I'm pretty sure that we have exceeded the legal limit of "cutest outfits ever" for our newborn. The women in my family will quite literally collapse with excitement if one more blue coverall pajama set with booties crosses their line of sight. While in Walmart, I have purposely thrown myself between them and a particularly heinous baby-clothing aisle in order to prevent their spontaneous combustion. This reaction to baby clothes has always puzzled me so I explored the matter quite extensively.

The following is a scenario that has occurred time and time again at households across America.

1. Some considerate person will arrive with an "adorable gift bag" or package wrapped in "the most darling wrapping paper" anyone could ever imagine. The females in the room will hum and haw, getting about as worked up as a German in a strudel factory. 

2. The pastel tissue paper is slowly and meticulously separated from the now "cutest bag ever", and all parties, the giver, the giftee, and any onlookers, experience a deep connection related to the threshold of anticipation that they are all feeling at that exact moment. It's similar to the symmetry and togetherness of a pod of dolphin's seconds before feeding on a giant school of sardines. 

3. Then a hand reaches into the bag and extracts, "the most fabulous" piece of cloth that could ever exist, unequivocally. I've examined several of the said pieces of cloth under a microscope with a black light and a whole host of chemical forensics only to find 100% cotton. No inhalants, no dust particles, maybe a tad bit of ink laid out in a clever saying about mom or dad or dirt or princesses, but nothing out of the ordinary.

4. Then the unthinkable happens. A sense of euphoria is physically palpable within the room. The atmosphere physically changes, and I feel like I'm only one fingertip away from being raptured into heaven. A tiny bib with miniature whales on it and an outfit that says, "Future Rockstar!" creates a sense of exhilaration that has no equal. Most bystanders would have thought that we had just witnessed an albino bengal tiger reciting the pledge of allegiance. Women scream at the finite cloth, and it is dubbed "the most fantastic outfit ever". Eventually things calm down, and the cloud of bliss dissipates, but it leaves a residue of intoxication that can easily be felt by any woman within 100 feet.


So what just happened? I have a hypothesis: As a result of the anticipation and eventual visual stimulation that occurs, an inordinate amount of estrogen is released. In single doses this estrogen is unharmful, but when mixed with one or more other females releasing the same amount of estrogen, it begins to feed back on itself growing stronger and stronger as it bounces back and forth, similar to the ear piercing sound that occurs when you hold a hot microphone in front of a live speaker. But instead of an intolerable sound, this event creates a vortex of stimulation that sucks the women in and *bonks* their spirits and souls together until they reach a controlled madness. Then the estrogen runs out and their consciousness is rebooted to a more tolerable state.

I can only smile then cringe at such an event because I haven't been bestowed with the appropriate amounts of estrogen. The testosterone that flows from these glands does not allow for such levels of exultation. Congratulations women, you win the ecstasy award. Never again will I claim that I have experienced the awesomest thing ever. At the air show when 6 planes fly in tandem, I will think of your adorable baby clothes. When Planet Earth shows me a snow leopard hunting in the wild on the cliffs of the Andes Mountains, I will think of your adorable baby clothes. As I'm filled with adrenaline during a tandem sky dive at 15,000 feet, I will think of your adorable baby clothes.

You Win.

At the behest of my Inner man I have provided a few pictorial examples of said pieces of tiny clothes (WARNING: I cannot confirm or deny that these examples will produce the same amounts of bliss in the female brain as it would if they were to see them in person. What ever you do, do not witness this in groups of 3 or more women. VORTEXES OF STIMULATION COULD OCCUR.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Madagascar 3 Review: A Polar Bear in the Projection Booth

4 out of 5 Bear Claws

I wasn't expecting too much from the guys that brought us Madagascar and Madagascar 2, but even if I had high expectations this movie would have out done them. This movie was as funny, if not funnier than the first one, and that's saying a lot for a sequel. The original cast gave the performance of the year and the writing was spectacular. They pushed the bounds of animation in the story telling and even crossed the line a few times making impossibilities completely possible just for the fun of it. The additional characters complimented the current ones splendidly and I dare say I got a couple goose bumps at the climactic scene (probably a result of watching it on the big screen). It's definitely worth the matinee price at the theaters but the 3D isn't necessary. However, the 3D adds a nice touch in several scenes if you must.

It came one Polar Bear's toenail away from being epic. If it weren't for a colorful interjection by one of the characters that seemed a little too close to profanity, this could have received 5 bear claws, but alas.
The Polar Bear says, "Go see it."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Hatfields and McCoys: A Study in Language

The History Channel fired up the TV sets with their show Hatfields & McCoys. According to ABC News it set a record of nearly 14 million viewers. That's unprecedented for a miniseries released on a cable channel.

While watching this ground breaking miniseries, One of the things that gave me pleasure was the peculiar and intricate diction espoused by each of the characters. Very similar to the dialogue between characters in the Charles Portis novel True Grit and the film by the same name. From what I hear tell it's pretty accurate for that time period. They show a great deal of respect for the English language enunciating everything and hardly ever using contractions.

Our language has come a long way since then with phrases like, "off da chain" and "pencil you into my Blackberry." We've lost respect for the the beauty of our language. It all reeks of laziness and sarcasm. Back then, things were different. Words were special, people took time to express there thoughts appropriately. In the words of Treebeard the famous Ent from Lord of the Rings, "You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say."

As a result of this problem I see in today's language, I have come up with a solution. I have a provided a list of words and phrases I would like to see find there way back into popular use along with a counterpart word or phrase I would like to see exit popular use. (Feel free to add your own substitutions in the comments section, but try to make them family friendly.)

  • Hornswoggle should replace Tricka Skeezer
  • Blessed baby Jesus should replace Awesome
  • Half-wit should replace retarded
  • Damnation should replace Damn it
  • Recollect should replace 'member
  • Quarrelsome should replace Nagging Nancy
  • Miscreant should replace Moron
  • Paps should replace Baby Daddy
  • Consort with whores should replace Stud Muffin
  • Doing the trick should replace... well... a whole host of naughtiness.

 As you consider the development of our dialogue over the generations, I will leave you with one last thought. One of the oldest words in the English language is "fart".

(To add your own words and or replacement words just click on the comment button.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Polar Bear Cub

On this June 6th, 2012, D-day stands for "Delivery Day". The Polar Bear had a baby. And unlike polar bears in the wild I promise not to eat him. His grandmas, however, have not made this promise, but have spoken rather flippantly about their desire to "eat him up" based on his level of cuteness. For the cub's sake, I hope his cuteness level decreases, otherwise we could have a mess on our hands. This little guy has been on our hearts and minds for a long time. You can read a little more about the heavenly heralding of this promised offspring by clicking here, but right now I would like to tell you about my day.

The alarm woke me at the godly hour of 7:00am. I gently nudged my sleeping wife next to me, and told her the time, and we both began to rouse as we tend to rouse, stretching, tooting, snorting, yawning and sneezing. I snorted, yawned and sneezed. She stretched and tooted.

The bed we slept in was 160 some odd miles away from the bed we normally sleep in, because we are in Charlottesville, VA awaiting the birth of the baby we are adopting. Inches from Jenny's side of the bed Nathan is sleeping undisturbed by our routine, which is all well and good, because he didn't go to bed last night until 11:45pm.

By 7:38am all three of us are in the elevator on our way down to a Hampton Inn catered Continental breakfast, Belgium waffles, doughnuts, Danishes, hot cereal, cold cereal, yogurt, turkey sausage, four different types of juices, and powdered eggs. mmmmm...all except the powdered eggs.

We gobbled breakfast up along with the rest of our party which consisted of Jenny's parents, Gary and Cindy, and my dear mother, Mom.

Promptly at 8:06am we hailed a shuttle to the hospital, trudged up to the eighth floor via elevator, and got settled in the waiting room just outside the pregnant lady wing of the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Jenny immediately went to go meet the birth mom to see what she could find out, and then we waited for the scheduled C-section at 9:00am.

Nathan finished waking up, I started building some contact lists and began composing the first announcement, Mom chatted, Gary got situated, Cindy drank coffee, Jenny liaised, and the birth mom started getting thirsty. Suddenly, Jenny marched into the waiting room and said that there was an emergency C-section that had to go ahead of us, but our turn shouldn't be any later than 11:00am...Then we waited for the scheduled C-section at 11:00am.

Nathan played army men, I Skyped my sister and her kids, Mom drank coffee, Gary slept, Cindy chatted, Jenny liaised, and the birth mom started getting hungry.

11:00am rolled around and the word was that there were more complications than they expected with this emergency C-section, so it wasn't going to be until about 1:00pm so we should get lunch. So we got lunch and Nathan ate hotdogs in the cafeteria with his grandmothers, I ate a piece of amazing pepperoni pizza in the waiting room, Gary ate a sandwich of some sort while changing the world one email at a time on his laptop, Mom ate a salad, Cindy ate a salad, Jenny ate a nutragrain bar, and the birth mom ate nothing... then we waited for our scheduled C-section at 1-ish.

Nathan watched the Chipmunks movie, I sent some emails and some text messages, Mom explored the eighth floor, Gary surfed the Internet, Cindy looked for divine encounters, and Jenny liaised.

At 2:00 pm. There was a report of numbness on the birth mother's left side, so another emergency C-section passed us on the inside of turn four with only one lap to go. The doctors did a neurological exam which came back negative, and the numbness receded. We were a go after this last we waited for our scheduled C-section at 4:30pm. Nathan drank coffee, I played with Legos, Mom played army men, Gary chatted, Cindy began studying liaising, Jenny became the Jedi Master liaison, and the birth mom starved.

At 4:09pm I got a text, or rather 3 texts from Jenny, "It is time. I will keep u posyed." Next text, "postef" and then finally "posted".

Nathan exploded, I calmed him down, Mom gathered, Gary sent some announcements, Cindy liaised, Jenny held the earth together, and the birth mom forgot she was starving.

At 4:45pm, Nathan, I, Mom, Cindy, and Gary are all standing outside a giant door waiting for some news from someone while Jenny and the birth mom are doing their thing.

At 5:16pm the door opens, and a nurse comes out, "He's been born..." And I didn't hear the rest. Jaws drop, tears emerge, heads spin, smiles stretch, legs jump, toes curl, phones come out, and texts fly.

At 5:27pm another nurse comes out wheeling a cart with a newborn baby inside...

Jenny came out a few minutes later and told us all the gruesome details. Then we all waited for a chance to hold him...

That was pretty much how my day went today.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Polar Bear Cub has arrived!

John Rhea Hornby was born this evening at 5:05pm. He is a healthy 9lb 2oz hunk of cuteness. Stay tuned for a late night post tonight, so I can fill you in on all the details.
Here's a quick video for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Once and Future Jack

He was almost here then not. You can't blame him. He's just chillin', doing his thing in the womb.

Jack, also known as John, also known as the baby, has pulled the sword from the stone of our hearts and earned the title of the Once and Future Jack. He was scheduled to take his position on this day, Wednesday, May 30th 2012, but his training has not been made complete. Therefore he will stay behind and complete his training for one more week before being thrust upon this world.

This whole event has been a series of events that is clearly leading to a significant event. It started a year ago when we began taking steps to make an adoption. Adoption was our sword in the stone, and we began looking for the anointed one who was destined to pull the sword from the stone. Jack is the destined one, and it has been revealed in more ways than one.

The first sign came 9 months ago when God sent a "telegram" to my wife via a Southwest Airlines logo. The telegram said, "Your baby is on it's way." (Thank you, Jami, for reminding us). It was clear as a bell, however, the telegram didn't include a time table, unless it was somehow encoded inside the Southwest Logo, which we didn't pick up on. The timetable came 5 months later when I dreamed Jenny was 5 months pregnant. All things being equal in the dreamland of Tel'aran'rhiod we took it to mean we had 4 months left. That was the second sign.

So 4 months later almost as if on cue we got a call. Someone who knew someone who knew someone called us. (Thanks, Sarah, for calling at the exact right time). Sarah connected us to a young woman who wanted to connect us to the life growing inside of her.

Third sign: The night we planned on meeting this amazing and unselfish young woman we were encouraged by my sister to buy some chocolates for her (Thank you, Steph for your suggestion). Target was the chocolatier of choice, so we grabbed the yummiest looking box in the candy aisle and got in line directly behind an uber-pregnant woman and her very generous parents. The courteous red-shirted attendant swiped and bagged everything she had and gave the receipt to her father who paid and then proceeded to cart their new belongings to a shady spot in some pretty nursery near by. We did our thing with the chocolates and the swiping and the bagging and the have-a-nice-daying to the attendant, when suddenly the woman with child and parents waddled towards us saying she was missing a baby boppy cover. How they ever figured that out before getting home and unpacking, I will never know. I mean, I can be halfway through a jar of peanut butter before I realize I bought some bananas a week ago that I never ended up bringing home from the grocery store. Poor bananas.

The red-shirt asked us to check our bag for a baby boppy cover and there it was. As if irony wasn't ironic enough, when we handed over the said baby boppy cover to the father standing there with his pregnant daughter, he looked both of us in the eye and said, "Maybe it's a premonition."

We almost had to be carried out to our car.

Needless to say, we held our chocolates tight before handing them over to the blessed birth mother of our once and future son Jack.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Latest Buzz by John Bayer

The Polar Bear Periodical feature's a guest blogger this week, John Bayer. The topic of delight this week is a little phenomenon called Reality Television. John Bayer is the creative genius behind the lifestyle/advice blog: John Tells You How to Live ( John is an auteur, a raconteur, and a provocateur. When he isn't writing and providing life coaching services to a desperate and needy populace, John collects porcelain kittens and teaches conversational Esperanto. John lives in Southern California. About this opportunity, John says, “I am a huge fan and avid reader of [insert blog]. I am honored that my good friend [insert name] has given me this chance to do his/her job for him/her by writing a guest post.”

The Latest Buzz

The ancient Greeks believed that the titan god Prometheus gave mankind the gift of fire. West African mythology tells us that the prankster Anansi, son of the sky god taught humans the techniques of agriculture. According to Genesis, God gave the first man dominion over all of the other animals. In our time, a new breed of all powerful being has come into existence – the television executive. And these executives – the gods of television – have given us the greatest gift of all: Reality Shows.

God may have given us dominion over the animals; but the television gods have given us the ability to become animals ourselves. Between the cat fights on The Bachelor, the weasels on The Jersey Shore and the jackasses on, well, Jackass; the screen has become a regular Wild Kingdom of lewdness and debauchery. And we, the audience are no better – swarming around our television sets feasting on a putrid and dying medium like so many flies around an antelope carcass.

Of course, as you devolve from human into an insect; it is never enough to simply be one of the flies. You are no mere sycophant. You are born for greatness. You must become Lord of the Flies. You are destined for Reality Show fame. And here are my tips for getting there:

Love the sound of your own voice. The free exchange of ideas between people who respect each other's opinions is for PBS; or worse, the (non-MTV) real world. You should ever and always be the only person talking. If someone else is speaking, interrupt them.

Be easily outraged. Take offense at everything everyone says about you. If someone compliments you, learn to misinterpret it as a slight. Soon people will learn not to speak to or about you at all. Take offense at this.

Yell. A lot.

Have no knowledge of American history, world literature or current events. Facts are not your friends. Television producers and studio executives are looking to fill their reality shows with personalities who are dumber than they are. This is no small feat. If you are too intelligent, consider undergoing an invasive procedure to correct the problem – such as electroshock therapy or a Celebrity Apprentice marathon.

Have an off-putting personality. Barring that, be married to someone with an off-putting personality.

Have no discernible talent. Barring that, know how to make cakes.

Avoid competition shows. The word “competition” carries the implication of ability or talent. I reiterate, talent is to be avoided. Competition shows stress the contest over the characters. This is not
for you. You don't want to be booted off on episode two because your chicken was undercooked and sent three people to the hospital. Remember, the Kardashians didn't build an empire on talent.

The only exception to the “no competition shows” rule is: Become a judge on a competition show. They're loud. They're rude. They're easily outraged. They set themselves above everyone else in the universe. They criticize the smallest weaknesses in others while displaying no discernible talent of their own. This is a perfect storm, or what they like to call in the biz - “pulling a Gordon Ramsey.”

Though not entirely necessary, it helps to have a stupid nickname. Like “Snoodle” or “The Happenstance.”

Make enemies wherever you go. Stab your friends in the back. Stab your family in the back. Stab perfect strangers in the back. If someone refuses to turn around, stab them in the front. Friends are for humans, not insect kings.

The road to reality show fame can be an arduous one requiring perseverance and tenacity. If you didn't completely understand what the previous sentence meant, then you are well on your way to becoming a Reality Show Superstar. Though the competition to get onto a reality show is fierce, the opportunities are almost limitless. Here are just a few of the new reality shows currently casting:

The Real Housewives of Fire Island
Kim and Kourtney Versus Mothra
America's Next Top Accountant
The Los Angeles Free Clinic Presents The Deadliest Catch
So You Think You Can Menstruate?
The Jersey Shore Goes to Afghanistan
Freebasing with the Stars
Are You Hotter Than a 5th Grader?

So there you go. I can give you the tools, but it's your job to implement them. So, get out there and make it happen. And, hurry! The rest of us are getting hungry.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Wonder Years: Our Struggle with Hormones and Puberty

January 31, 1988, was a very important day in the history of our nation. First and foremost, it will go down in the annals of the Google search engine as the day that the Washington Redskins embarrassed the Denver Bronco's in Superbowl XXII. Second and fivemost, it was the day that millions of teenagers tuned in to watch Winnie Cooper and Kevin Arnold begin a sordid Shakespearean affair with a single kiss. From 1988 until 1994, The Wonder Years captivated me. In my opinion, the best show of the 80's decade and arguably the greatest comedy/drama series of all time.

The Wonder Years was remarkable television...for many reasons, not the least of which was the narration of Daniel Stern. (Yep that's the clumsy bad guy from Home Alone.) The nasally, reminiscent voice-over of Kevin's adult self reminded us that it's all in the past, that high school is over, and that the worst and possibly the best years are gone.
"Thirteen is a crazy age.
You're too young to vote and to old not to be in love.
You live in a house someone else owns...
[Camera shows WINNIE's house through KEVIN's window]
but your dreams are already somewhere else." (episode #46)

We followed Kevin Arnold through his teenage years while he navigated through the battlefield of adolescence to claim the rewards on the other side of puberty. A television show about puberty. That word still makes me shiver. It was punishing, and it left us helpless in the combat zone of junior high school. However, the hormones had a blast, running to and fro through the amusement park of our little bodies, riding blood vessels like roller coasters. We were enamored with Kevin Arnold, his trusty sidekick, Paul Pfeiffer, and the innocent, emotional, and enigmatic Winnie Cooper, as they all fought valiantly against the onslaught of those hormones. We were fighting with them, growing up with them, living and dying with them, every Sunday night, for six seasons.

Like battle weary soldiers standing on the edge of sanity we stood with Kevin, Paul, and Winnie. Our heroes on Sunday evening helped us stake flags in every corner of our endocrine system, claiming victory over every gland. We will not be governed by an ocean of hormones that don't care whether we live or die. We will make decisions based on logic, instead of irrational exuberance. We will ignore the acne and the cracking voices. We will use razors and buy deodorants. We will not drool over the opposite sex... in public. We will keep our pants on and our eyes up. We will... or we will at least try... most of the time...some of the time...

The Wonder Years, took us from 7th grade to graduation day. And somewhere in the midst of all those English tests, chemistry labs and sibling rivalries, one of those rewards I was referring to earlier, began to emerge. I call it LOVE now, but back then it was "LIKE."

Kevin and Winnie, an epic "like" story. 

KEVIN: Winnie, you know I don't get you!! One minute you like me, the next you don't. You've been doing this all year. First you kiss me, then you act like you don't like me. If you like me, fine, if you don't, quit acting like it!!
KEVIN: I just have to know if you like me or not. And don't give any of that "like me" like me stuff.
NARRATOR: Well, that was it: a straightforward, face-to-face, yes-or-no question. And I was going to stand there until I got my answer.
WINNIE: I don't know.
"I don't know"! What do you mean you don't know?
WINNIE: I mean I don't know. I really don't know. [On the verge of tears] I wish everyone would just leave me alone. I don't know what I'm doing.
NARRATOR: This was something new. I mean, I always figured girls knew exactly what they wanted. They knew; they had a plan. Or maybe they didn't.
NARRATOR: Maybe they were just as confused as we were. Isn't that great?
NARRATOR: It--it's horrible. They don't know either. That means nobody knows.

KEVIN: You mean you really don't know?
KEVIN: Well, I'm sorry.
WINNIE: What for?
KEVIN: I don't know.
As I stood there that cold night, I realized for the first time in a long time that Winnie and I were feeling the same thing.

Love in the hearts and hands of teenagers is like Icy Hot in the underarms and undershorts of Ronald McDonald. But what can we do? You just got to ride it out. Let it wash over you. Let the pain make you feel alive and believe as Shakespeare did, "It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Almost two decades have gone by since the last season of The Wonder Years aired, and I've figured out a couple things. The fact is, each one of us is still a walking hormone. The hormones won. We didn't defeat them. We keep them at bay, with things like political discussions, and careers, and long division, but we all know that hormones are just beyond that tiny ridge bouncing around like paranoid junkies, countless in number, waiting for the right girl to walk by, or the right guy to whistle at us. Then we have to corral them back in with a show on the Discovery Channel or a walk through the forest.

Looking back, I realize that the reason The Wonder Years was such a great show was because it was a revealing documentation of the most transformative, dramatic and hilarious stage of human development.

The Awkward Stage.