Sunday, December 30, 2007

Florida Holiday

I went down to Florida this last week, and it was, of course, lots of fun (seminole war chant). I went on a couple adventures, and here are some pics. Wait a minute, was that introduction to quick? I apologize to all long intro enthusiasts out there (longintroists).


This is the Dora Canal. It is so beautiful you instantly want to become a landscape painter, complete with beret. The pic on the right is a nice little gator. He was a modernist writer, as it turned out.



Here is a cottonmouth. Beautiful and poisonous, like many things in life. Look closely, it is there. Closer...closer...whoa, not that close (laughter from audience, appreciative claps)! On the right is your basic Egret. Just sitting there, hanging out. I tried to talk to him, but he was far to cool for mundane conversation.



If you don't think the root system of a Bald Cypress tree is cool, you need to be slapped immediately. I went fishing, and caught me some fish (you have to say that out loud in a redneck accent, btw). Did I wade in the water? Only the gators will tell.



Florida has some of the prettiest sunsets. I kinda like this picture.



Who is that? Is that Macy and Bailey? Is that who that is? Isabuddabudadoba? A bubbadooodabuubabuuuuba?

That's all, folks!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Pronging of Helen Wagenstein

Here is a short story I wrote. Disclaimer: This is for humor only and not to be taken seriously


It was 2:15 in the afternoon, and Barry "Balls Out" Wagenstein was frustrated.

"Where are the GODDAMN onions, Helen?!" He roared, the smoke from his Fleshmaster 3000 custom grill billowing thick and fast.

"They are right next to you, moron!" Hissed Helen, holding a tray of deviled eggs.

The guests at the Wagenstein's annual barbecue stuffed themselves with various grades of charred meat, washed down by beer and second rate soda knock-offs. The barbecue and all it's inhabitants, if airlifted and planted in any other backyard in North America, would easily be indistinguishable from most local barbecues, and any reasonable person would go for hours before realizing something was amiss. Yes, there were dogs playing, yes, there were medicated children splashing in the Sears model Atlantis above-ground pool ($1,900 after discount), and yes, there were plenty of Spiderman arm-floaters.

Barry looked down and saw the onion slices. He grabbed them and slapped them one-by-one on his "Turbo-Burgers", making sure no eye-contact was made which would have acknowledged Helen's victory.

14 meters to the northeast corner, a trio of housewives gathered, their hair and sunglasses matching their shoes perfectly. Their conversation was so mundane and recycled it is impossible to record and relate with any sort of meaning or greater subtext, and any attempt to do so would result in immediate dismissal and possible nausea.

Five feet out from the pool to the southwest, Arnold stood with his wife. They were new, and had spent the last 25 minutes talking to the Schultzes about the home-owners association. This ended, however, when Susan Schultze (A name which her parents cringed upon when hearing of the wedding 7 years ago), gave her husband "The code", meaning it was time to politely move on. Susan and her husband had the code worked out years ago, and they delighted in the "suburban hipness" having a code brought them. Years later, when Susan's husband was dying, he told her he let the code slip at work, and all that time the other couples knew exactly what Susan was doing when she did it.

"That's why I never won Best-Fruit-Salad at the company block party" she speculated as her husband's body relaxed and went limp.

Barry flipped row number two, making sure the black scrapings didn't separate from the meat. In his mind, this was the key, and he'd be DAMNED if he let the separation happen. Helen walked by, of course, at this exact moment of speculation. Unknown to her, this would turn out to be the defining moment of her life.

"Why do you do that? Everytime. Why?" Squatted Helen, folding her arms.

"Just let it go, Helen." said Barry in his best 'scary-calm' voice.

"It is so gross. I don't understand. Why do you keep those scrapings on the meat?"

Barry fidgeted with his prong poker. His face began to swell. Helen was undaunted.

"Tell me right now!" yelled Helen "You think you are some sort of Chef or something. It's ridiculous. You and that stupid grill!"

Barry wiped the sweat off his forehead.

"I'm warning you Helen, you have no idea. Don't be a fool."

Helen's face warmed as she relished in the attack. This felt so good. It was like crying at a romance movie, only more fulfilling.

"You are ruining everyones meal. They all hate it, they just don't say. I'll say it though. You....Barry Wagenstein....are a TERRIBLE GRILLER!"

At that moment Barry howled in a frenzied cry so deep and primeval the entire barbecue stood motionless. His yell was vibrant, powerful, emotional, and people couldn't help but notice a bizarre connection with it, as if some long-lost genetic code had suddenly been awakened.
Barry lunged out with his prong, poking Helen hard in the right side of her gut. In an instant, a massive swell of air bellowed out of the puncture, vibrating and farting like a giant Balloon blown up and released. Her body shriveled and collapsed, jetting upward from the force of the air and twirling higher and higher like a rogue leaf. Within moments, she disappeared into the sky, never to be seen again.

Barry looked out at the crowd, their stunned silence unable to move or grasp what had actually taken place. Someones cellphone rang, which they promptly flung into the pool.

"So," said Barry calmly "Who would like some Turbo-burgers".

A line formed by the grill, and the silent pact was made. No one would ever speak of this, and it would be completely erased from the annals of human history.

- end

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend Adventures

That's right, I've been off exploring again. The area is beautiful, and there are all kinds of cool things hanging about. Besides the natural beauty, a striking aspect is the number of well preserved old houses - Victorian, antebellum, log cabins - you name it. Many of these homes stand guard over vast stretches of rolling pasture at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, happily unaware of what century it is. At any rate, here are some pics from this weekend:


The Natural Chimneys, near my house. They are formed when sink holes of limestone corrode out. There are also caves at their feet, which I bought a flashlight to go exploring in.


We had an ice-storm this weekend - bad for the power company but undeniably beautiful. The first pic is going up to the top of the Appalachian ridge on a cool old dirt road. The second is at endless caverns, which was closed. Why? Ice storm.


View from the top of the Chimneys. At the second picture - if you look closely - is evidence of a new and vicious monster in town.


This kind of view is all over the place. I'm going to charge admission for my visitors!

Well, that's all for now. You fellas be good!

Monday, December 10, 2007

More Adventures

Been running around the area some more to see what kind of stuff I can find, and found some pretty cool things - here are some pics. I also am putting up for the first time (drumroll) a video clip. It is of a Bluegrass festival I went to on Saturday. So without further - what's that word again?



An old Confederate fort in the mountains, and a beautiful creek.


Some guy actually created a foam replica of Stonehenge around here. Hilarious!


A Natural bridge. It is huge! And an Indian village out in the woods. So cool.



View from the Valley and Ridge mountains, and a random waterfall.

Here are Grand Caverns. About 20 minutes from my house.


This is supposed to be the oldest Arbor Vitea tree in the world. And apparently, this is what Mr. Cat thinks treadmills are for.



I am particularly proud of this picture. The mist formed a "waterfall" out of the trees.

video
And here is the clip of the Bluegrass festival.


Okay, there are some pics. Now all I need is a pointer.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Adventures

Hi folks, (from this point on, you must read this in the voice of Marty Moose from "Vacation") just a note as I settle into my new place. So far so good. Of course, I have already started exploring around so I thought I'd share some pics. Much like those annoying in-law-sessions where you are subjected to countless photos of Aunt Marge in a tube-top at Myrtle-Beach, just sit back, relax, and nod your head politely. "Oh, that's nice. Ohhh, very cute. Wow, is that Uncle Billy in orange spandex? Nice."


Went up to PA to visit my cousin and nieces. They live near Punxsutawney, so I asked the locals where they do the Groundhog Day every year. It is kind of out of they way, but here it is, the actual showplace of Punxsutawny Phil! Bill Murray was nowhere to be seen.




Explored around the back-hills of Amish country - So beautiful. Here is a pic of a horse and buggy. They are all over the place, and I love seeing them on the road. Kind of a "take that, 21st century!" The pic on the right is my cousin's pets - can't we all just get along?



One of my bonsai trees losing it's leaves. Yep, just like regular sized trees. On the right is the Shenandoah Valley, where I now live!



Went exploring around some caverns in the area. Here is Shenandoah Caverns. The pic on the left they call "bacon" - can you see why?



A cool little pond, and a big room!

Well, that's it for now. I'll try to post more as I settle in!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blog Hiatus

Hi All - This blog will be on hiatus while I move. I will be back before you know it - you kids have fun!

- Jarod

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thank You

Today (Sunday) is Veterans Day. Remember to take a moment to thank them - we all owe them a huge debt.
Thank You, Veterans!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Today's T-Shirts

Some more T-Shirt Ideas I thought of:

- PLEASE Stop Fattening Your Kids
- Member: Useless T-Shirt Club
- If You Are Not Impressed By Now, I Have a Fiver In My Wallet
- I Invented Jam Shorts!
- Do I Ask Rhetorical Questions?
- If I Am Wearing A Slogan T-Shirt, It Probably Means I Am Not Successful Enough To Mate With
- You Will Feel A Slight Tingling Sensation
- I Am Lactose Intolerate, And Just Drank A BUNCH of Milk
- Can't We Just Pretend You Already Like Me?
- I Am Easily Paid Off
- Let The Failure BEGIN
- Let Me Be Your Mr. "Fun-For-The-First-Five-Months-Then-The-True-Personality-Shows-Itself"
- I May Or May Not Be Wearing Speedos!
- Spotted Owls Killed My Parents


T-Shirts For Women:

- Guess What? Your Husband Just Looked At Me, And He Will Deny It.
- I May Be Pretty, But I Can Spear A Rhino At 300 Yards
- Just To Be Clear: I Know exactly What You Are Up To.
- Lets Face It, I Could Sleep With Half The Men In This Room AT WILL.
- I Am Purposely Wearing Ugly Shoes Just To Hear You Lie
- Warning: I Had My Nails Cased With Adamantium
- Wanted: Male Friend To Move Furniture And Drool After Me
- I Am Great In Bed, But Have An Annoying Mother. Choose Now!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Today's Random Thoughts

- If the Aliens were to land, probably the worse day they could choose is April Fools Day.

- Is it a law that all 45 year old guitar-store clerks have to wear black jeans?

- A few years ago when there was a trend to have pot-bellied pigs as pets - remember that? Interestingly, no one seems to know where they've gone, and Hormel Meat Company's profits are up...

- Apparently, all golf caddies are zen-like geniuses, with the ability to transform golfer has-beens into champions through suggestion.

- Consider this: you know how in commercials the man usually does some stereotypical male behavior, only at the end to find the behavior self-defeating, with his wife/girlfriend standing with her arms folded and rolling her eyes? But you hardly ever see the reverse - the wife doing something stereotypical and being made fun of for it. Are advertisers afraid to make fun of female stereotypes because it is not PC - and if so, why is it not PC? Thoughts on this? Comments?

- I would be so happy if the Grand-Canyon turned out to a giant dinosaur foot-print.

- If you walked into a club and with an entourage of Minotaurs, you would probably be asked a series of questions. But this is common sense.

That's all for now, kids!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sgian Dubh in Action!

I made a sgian dubh for a gentleman for his wedding day, and he sent some pics of the event. For those that don't know, a sgian dubh is a traditional Scottish knife, and is worn in the sock with the kilt (pronounced ski-in-do). The wedding was obviously beautiful, and the couple was looking great! Here are a couple pics:


The sgian dubh I made. It has an ivory handle, damascus blade, silver fittings and and amber pommel



Th couple - you can just see the sgian peeking out from the right sock.

Traditionally, if the sgian dubh was worn under the armpit, it meant you didn't quite trust your host. However, if you wore it in your sock, it was a gesture of goodfaith. Just don't go wearing them to the airport, kids!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Moving!

Well folks, I got a new job as Curator of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Virginia. That means - moving! It looks like a great place, and I am excited. They have a large collections, a great museum, and are growing rapidly. So time to hitch up the wagon, prep the horses, and head on down!
I will miss being close to New York, I think. But that is the wonder of the interstate system - you never know when you'll see my smiling face for a visit.
At any rate, that is the latest news. I will likely be posting more on this later.

PS - Vote for Wilson!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Update

Thanks to the Journal News for putting my Halloween column on their news site. It can be found here: http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071030/NEWS02/710300312/1238/NEWS0219

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Great Halloween Post of 2007

Oh yes....it is here. The Great Pumpkin is getting fatter as we speak, the owls are practicing their best sinister looks (over the shoulder is in this year), and the store-owners are cackling and wringing their knotted hands as we buy the latest in hip plastic-tombstones. Yes! We are stocking up on mountains of sugar-rush, pre-packaged joy to unload in mass to the glucose-charged, screaming hoards of pudgy ninjas and historically inaccurate pirates....even the fruit supplies are running low from the old couples who always give away apples, thinking they are somehow saving the children (every street has one).

Oh, we are loading up on miles and miles of colored plastic and cheap, lead-filled, Chinese-imported face paint. The kids mouths are drooling like Pavlovian dogs, their fat little bellies shaking in anticipation. The greatest holiday in the history of holidays is arriving in all its spandex glory, and America, as always, has put it's own unique, neon-green-sparkled twist on the ancient celebration. But where does Halloween come from? Did people always dress up? And what is with that figure standing behind you right now as you read this? (Whatever you do, don't turn around, seriously)

Well, it turns out a lot of the Halloween traditions are oldies, as in "what is that stuff called 'iron'?" oldies. And you thought the whole "ladies-dress-naughtily-as-a-way-to-express-that-desire-yet-not-be-condemned-by-society" was a new fad, didn't you? Nope, it goes back quite a ways (more on that later). At any rate here is a brief history of Halloween. And hey, I want credit for not using any Halloween puns, such as "a brief hisssstory of Halloween"....whoops, I just did it. I witch I hadn't done that. I mean, I wish I hadn't done bat. I mean...oh never mind.

- Where does Halloween come from? Well, the ancient Celts believed winter began November 1st (or around thereof). In modern Gaelic this day is called "Samhain" (meaning end of summer). The beginning of winter was regularly associated with death, and was also the time for slaughtering animals for the winter. For the Celts, the eve before - October 31st - was when the separation between the living and the dead became obscured. Burial mounds were opened, and the spirits could aid the druids in predicting food stores for the coming winter. The Celts would perform rituals such as lighting bonfires to keep bad spirits from crossing over. And so it began...

- All Saints Day - what is the connection? Okay, now pay attention - All Saints Day is a Christian celebration which celebrates Saints and Martyrs. In the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV placed the holiday on....you guessed it....November 1st. This meant that All Saints Day and Saimhain fell on the same day. NOW, All Saints Day is also known as "All Hallows Day", and since October 31st is the evening before, Halloween was derived from "All Hallow Even." If this isn't confusing enough for you, look up the whole Florentine Calendar thing and how they measured the day starting at sunset. Loads of fun!

- Why costumes? One version is that people dressed up as spirits so they could "blend in" with the real spirits (remember the living and dead line was obscured). In addition, "All Souls Day", which falls the day after All Saints Day (confuuuuused yet?) was celebrated with costumes and parades. The traditions of these holidays seemed to overlap with time.

- Bobbing for apples - what exactly is going ON there? When the Romans took over much of Celtic Britain, their holidays began to incorporate themselves. A Roman Holiday celebrating the Goddess Pomona fell in late October, and her symbol was....wait for it......an apple! Okay, so the connection is weak - just stick your head in the bucket and don't ask questions, I always say.

- When did it come to America? The Puritans, or "The Badly Dressed Party Poopers" as the Indians called them, banished Halloween (along with pretty much everything else). However, Americans being Americans, we slowly began to get our groove on, and the traditions popular in Europe made their way to the colonies. Early celebrations included dancing, story-telling, and of course crazed, pumpkin-wielding headless horsemen.

- Speaking of pumpkins - The tradition of carving vegetables into lanterns goes way back in Britain and Ireland. The Irish would carve turnips into faces on Halloween as a prank - it is possible they brought this tradition with them to America, finding pumpkins to be more plentiful. In addition, pumpkins happen to ripen around Halloween, much to the delight of testosterone-fueled, fire-cracker brandishing male adolescents (guilty!).

- Why "Trick or Treat"? Well, it seems on All Souls Day Christians would beg for "soul cakes" which were square pieces of bread. The beggars would then say prayers for the donor's deceased relatives. In addition, Irish in America were particularly "prank-prone" on Halloween, blaming mischief on the spirits roaming about. "Trick or Treat" seems to be an evolution of going door to door in combination with a general prank-friendly atmosphere. This is before people sued for "ghost-costume-shock-trauma", of course.

- Mischief Night? In the US, Mischief Night falls on the 30th. For those that don't know (or were never a teenager) mischief night is like distilling the pranks of Halloween into a pure, potent form the night before. Again, this is likely an evolution of various prank traditions, although the severity of it varies from region to region. A notable modern Mischief Night occurs in Detroit, where it is known as "Devil's Night".

- The whole "sexy" costume phenomenon - is it new? Halloween may be the one night a year where women can show off as much as they want at the company party and no one has a heart-attack. Interestingly, there is a long tradition of this. For example, during the Regency period women of status could put on "shows" where they dance and dress scantily - all in the name of art. Another example is benefit concerts done by woman's charity organizations, where they can wear "showgirl" costumes, show off a little leg, etc. A chance to let loose and not be tsk-tsked by old-lady Marge from the yacht club. And so the tradition continues!

- The old "razor blade in the apple" - is it true? Well, yes and no. It seems there have been cases of razor blades in apples, but they are somewhat suspect and possibly hoaxes. It is true that in 2004 James Smith in Minneapolis was charged with putting needles in children's candy. However, these instances are much rarer than popular legend has it.

- What about some other customs?

~ After bobbing for apples, if you peel the apple and throw it over your shoulder it might form your Love's initial. Particularly good if his name is in Klingon.

~ To protect your children from spirits, try sprinkling a little salt in their hair (Note: Do not do this before sending to a man-eating troll).

~ Mexico celebrates "Dia De Los Muertos" or "Day of the Dead" on November 1st and 2nd. It is an interesting mix of old and modern cultures.

~ A variation of the bobbing for apples is to hang it on a string, or use a fork in your mouth (Also great if you run out of black-eye makeup).

~ In Ireland, women would put slugs in a plate of flour. The subsequent shape in the flour from the moving slugs would supposedly make the face of your future love. This is probably more useful in divorce cases.

~ In Scotland, children "guise", or walk from house to house and perform a song, poem or other way to earn the treat. Imagine American kids having to earn anything? I can hear the lawyers shuffling their papers now.

- So Jarod, what are you wearing this year? I'm not telling! But it may involve some sort of...(message cut off)


Well folks, that is all for now. There is so much more, and I encourage you all to do some research into Halloween's history. In the meantime, close your windows, light your candles, and please......don't give away fruit.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Weekend Adventure

I did some more of my "take off and explore" this weekend. If you want to try something fun - do this: using the sun as a guide, get in your car and take off in a single direction. Use different roads to adjust accordingly. No maps, just go. You never know where you'll end up, or what you will find! Here are some things I happened upon this weekend:




An interesting dam for a mill, and then - suddenly - a Native American village! You never know when you will happen upon one.



An Indian longhouse. I can totally live in one of these....and I'm absolutely serious



Cool view somewhere in the middle of Connecticut. I also ended up at West Point - here are Napoleon's pistols and sword (the real thing)



General Yamashita's Sword. A WWI tank - or the first "SUV"



Remains of Fort Montgomery - a Revolutionary War Fort taken by the British. We were fighting with the British about something - probably who can hold the remote control.



Sing it with me - "sunnnset on the waaaaateerrr"

That's all, folks. Carry on.