Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Here's What Jew Talkin' About

Welcome to the answer portion of my 5th annual Jew & A! We've got some good questions this year — far better than the answers, to be sure — so read on.

Gillian asks:
If you were going to have a party for kindergarteners celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and the Winter Solstice what elements from each holiday would you emphasize in the celebration?
Chocolate gelt, Christmas cookies, and... uh... Olaf? Sure, why not. Olaf.

If you're worried this would result in a massive frenzy of sugar-laden five-year-olds bouncing off the walls and singing "Let It Go" endlessly at the top of their lungs, you worry too much. Remember: Gillian didn't ask what elements I'd recommend for such a party; she asked what I'd do if I were throwing it. I would be like a god to those kindergartners. A god with a video camera and a suddenly viral YouTube channel.

Alex J. Cavanaugh asks:
What happens if you forget to light a candle one night?
You get an extra candle to use next year.

But seriously, if someone misses a candle he is inevitably overcome by crippling guilt at having failed an entire race of people, guilt that would reduce the toughest man in the world to a useless puddle of blubbering and tears. But of course, we're Jews, so that's pretty much par for the course. We barely notice.

Naomi asks:
What should I tell my Jewish 4-year-old about Santa Claus? Or should I just let him find out on the street?
Don't you dare let my nephew find out about Santa on the street. You might think it'd be good for him to see the jolly old elf standing outside a local store collecting money for charity. But 4-year-olds interpret that as taking payoffs from people to ensure they make it on his Good list. Plus, it's just as likely he'd first come across a drunken, slovenly Santa letching after girls from an alleyway. Either way, once he started sharing his thoughts on Santa with friends, he'd be ridiculed.

You should go the explanation route instead. Share both of the prevailing schools of thought on Santa and let him decide which one to believe. (As a reminder, they are: 1) the Theory of Evolution — that Santa's otherworldly powers evolved over the years as a matter of survival, to avoid being relegated to the dustbin of forgotten saints; and 2) the Theory of Creationism — that Santa is, in fact, an entirely made-up construct with no basis in reality.) Good luck! I hope he turns out to be a creationist like his uncle!

Jenny asks:
What is the preferred dance move to accompany the Dreidel Song?
The traditional Dreidel Song dance is actually a series of moves done in quick succession: the Tiny Dancer, the Easy Bake, the Tick Tock, and the Half-Twist, with your choice of either the Whirling Dervish or the Weeble Wobble during the chorus. Repeat until the singer gets tired of singing the same verse over and over, because it's the only one she knows.

Jewish Like the Olive Garden is Italian asks:
What qualifies you to answer questions on Judaism? You haven't been to synagogue since you were eight, and your family's sole method for celebrating every Jewish holiday (except Hanukkah) is a brisket dinner.
Um, I'm Jewish. Duh.
All Jewish knowledge is passed down genetically, so it's innate.*

* Get it? Innate? (Yeah, unfortunately, punning aptitude is also passed down genetically. Thanks, Dad.)

And that'll do it for this latest session of Jew & A. I hope it has been enlightening for you. Now bring on the kindergartners!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What Jew Talkin' About, Wilson?

Hanukkah is less than a week away. What does this mean? Two things. Firstly, I need to buy and wrap an octet of gifts insignificant enough that Santa would crush them under his jolly boot and not give it a second thought. And secondly, it's time for my 5th Annual Jew & A!

In other words...

I will answer any question you have
about Judaism.

That's right: Just post any questions you might have about Jews or Judaism in the comments section before Hanukkah begins (i.e. when darkness overcomes us on 12/16), and I will answer them for you.

Perhaps you've always wondered where the Jewish unfaithful are most likely to hide their stash of bacon. Or if Moses' deep-seeded aversion to water stemmed from his early basket trip down the Nile. And oy, won't your daughter ever meet a nice Jewish boy and settle down? Whatever your query, send it my way. Even if it's been asked before, don't let that stop you -- much like the Jewish calendar, the answers to such questions are in constant flux.

So, what do you want to know?

The Original Primer and Past Jew & A's:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Bi-Monthly Post to Prove I'm Still Alive

I haven't written anything here in a while.[citation needed] Thus, by now a good number of you have surely come to the conclusion that I'm dead. I assure you I'm not. As proof, I offer you this: I am writing this post.

Okay, fine. Technically I could have written and scheduled this ages ago. I assure you I didn't. As proof, I offer you this: I don't plan ahead; I procrastinate.1

Anyway, here is some of what's happened over the past few months:
  • My wife officially beat cancer a second time.
  • My improv group had its debut performance. We rocked.
  • My son became fully potty-trained. It rocked.
  • I made umpteen repairs to our house with my own two hands.2
  • One of my photos was used in a Buzzfeed article. (It's #3.) I only found out after my friend Scott (the pinchee) was asked if it was him or his doppleganger.
  • For Halloween I dressed as a Disney lawyer for a Disney-themed party, handing out cease-and-desist orders to everyone else there.
  • I read over 100 books.3
  • The National Science Foundation asked to use haiku from my 2012 Robot Haiku contest in an upcoming campaign. (I'll post a link once the campaign launches.)
  • I went for a jog today.4
  • I wrote this post.5
So there you have it. I'm alive.


1 Note to self: Write this footnote before posting.
2 "Umpteen" means "innumerable," or in other words, "unable to be counted," so technically what I said is true. (It turns out I'm much better at doing repairs with my father's own two hands.)
3 Almost every one contained pictures of trucks.
4 This is more impressive than it sounds. Not much more, mind you, and it really depends on your interpretation of the word "impressive," but still.
5 This is far less impressive than it sounds.

Friday, September 5, 2014

One Ring to Bind Them

Four years ago today, Denise slipped this ring on my finger, and I haven't taken it off since.

Well, except a few nights early on, when it was irritating my skin. And those occasions when I set it aside in the bathroom and only remembered hours later. And whenever I've done gardening or masonry or some other activity that could sully it. Oh, and of course that time I jammed my finger playing football and couldn't get the ring over my knuckle for twelve months.1

It's okay, though, because Denise knows that even if I don't wear it all the time, my feelings for her are constant. She is my everything.

Or rather, she was. Until our son was born. Now she's half my everything. Or if you go by weight, 80% of my everything. Though really it's more like 78 or 79%. And that number's dropping.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Math is hard.

I mean, I even screwed up the title to this post. It didn't take one ring to bind us; it took two. Which proves I'm nothing like Gollum. I'll have to tell this to my preeeecious. She'll be so relieved.

(Happy anniversary, Denise!)

1 I also may have removed it once to take a photo of it. Maybe.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Thorn By Any Other Name

Up until a couple months ago, I could see an establishment called The Gold Club from my daily commute. Yes, it was a strip club. And no, I never set foot in the place; I know full well all that glitters is not gold.1

Then one day, a new banner hung out front. The club had a new name: MYNX. Later, fancier signage showed the full name as MYNX Cabaret. Though they likely employ the exact same dancers as before, it now seems like they're trotting out a lower quality product, doesn't it? Gone is the (perception of the) high-class establishment, replaced with girls and a club that are, at best, saucy. Thus, the discerning strip club connoisseur enters with lowered expectations.

And that got me thinking about book titles.

Let's say you've written a book. It's ideal title would both fit your story and catch the eye (or ear) of potential readers.2 And of course, novelists must take genre into account. Titles that play well for thrillers or mysteries will rarely cut it in women's lit. And any overlap between horror and romance is purely coincidental.3

It's also best to match your book's tone. If what you've written is quirky or humorous, try to work a hint of that into your title. Avoid puns at all costs unless they are truly clever puns. (Yes, there are such things as clever puns. No, you shut up.) And only use a trashy (a.k.a. mynxy) title if your book calls for it.4

If all else fails, just stick with something simple, and either hope the publisher comes up with a winner, or reel your readers in via the cover, jacket copy, and word of mouth.

For your perusing pleasure, here's a small sample of the titles I've considered for my first novel (about an invisible assassin whose mission is repeatedly stymied by morons):
  • And Then Came the Invisible Monkeys
  • The Unseen Agenda
  • See No Evil
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Invisible
  • Unvisible
  • Scythe Unseen
  • Invisibility for Idiots
  • How Not to Be Seen
  • The Final Defenestration of Rupert Fenwick

Most have some merit, but alas, none are fervor-inducing. The closest might be that last one, but sadly I made it up just now, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my novel. Clearly, I still have work to do.5

But no matter what, I won't sell my readers short. I'd rather my title promise more than I can deliver ("Gold Club") than lose readers by limping in with something less appealing ("MYNX") or lacking in creativity ("Naked Chicks on a Stage").

Come to think of it, I should have come up with a better title for this post. This probably isn't at all what you were expecting.

1 A partial list of glittery things other than gold and strippers: silver, bronze, iron pyrite, six-year-old girls, jazz hands, far too many greeting cards, fairy godmothers, vampires of the Meyerian oeuvre, and Gary.
2 Okay, its ideal title would actually grab people by their lapels (whether or not they're wearing lapels at the time) and instantly instill in them the innate need to buy/borrow/steal/claw each other's eyes out for your book, all before they've even seen its jacket or learned anything else about it. But, you know, good luck with that.
3 La Petite Mort: Return of the Bodice Ripper
4 You know, for instance if it's a cheap, tawdry affair... about a cheap, tawdry affair.
5 For instance, I have to finish writing it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Webs for Other Bugs That are Good

My son will soon be three. He still loves animals and books, but he recently moved onto the gold standard for boys his age: construction vehicles. Most nights before bath time, he's more dirt than boy.

Here are some more tidbits from the past few months:

We're setting the table for dinner.
Him: "That's my barracuda!"
Me: "These are my salad tongs."
Him: "That's my barracuda!"
"I watched a beetle with Wyatt and Narayan. But not DJ and Arav and Lily. They were mad."
"They were mad at you? Why?"
"I had a hammer and hit the floor. They were mad. And I said 'No thank you!' to the kids who were mad at daycare."
"No, Daddy, you don't sing."
"Why not?"
"I'm going to sing better songs. You sing silly songs."
Along with many recognizable characters from Seuss, Disney, Henson, and Milne, there are other imaginary creatures my son talks about as if they're real and everyone knows what they are. A partial list: the Backson (from this), the Snatchabook (from this), the Gulper, Grabular, Undersnatch, Spiny-Backed Guzzler, and Saber-Toothed Yumper (all from this), and Santa Claus.

I'm kidding about that last one, of course. He never mentions Santa Claus.
He is looking at a drawing of two chipmunks.
"What are they doing?" he asks.
"They're playing croquet."
"No, they're playing hockey."
"They're playing croquet."
"No, they're playing hockey."
"Nooo, they're playing hockey."
"Noooo, they're playing hockey."
"Okay, they're playing hockey."
"I think they're playing chess."

We're on a walk, and I've been carrying him for a while. I ask if he'd like to walk some more.
"Are your arms tired, Daddy?"
"Yes, they are."
"That means you have to carry me all the way home."
"I want to eat bulgogi."
"We don't have any. We're having pasta tonight."
"Put it in the bowl, mix it up, it becomes bulgogi."

(Note: He's never tried bulgogi. He's only heard of it thanks to this book.)
"Spider-Man makes webs for other bugs that are good."

(Note: He's never watched any Spider-Man. He's only seen him on clothes. Oh, and on one refrigerator magnet.)
And what would a summary of a 2-year-old's activities be without a mention of poop?

Grandma: "Let's go change your diaper."
Him: "No. I didn't poop."
Grandma: "You stink. If it's not poop in your diaper, what is it?"
Him: "It's..." (pauses to think, then looks down at the furniture he's leaning on) "...stool."

He is so much smarter than he has any right to be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Winners of the Shamu Haiku Contest!

Clearly, you people consider the ocean a solemn place. For the first time in any of my haiku contests — nay, for the first time in any of my contests, period — the number of serious entries outnumbered the humorous. After all, the ocean is dark and mysterious... much like the criteria by which I judged your haiku.

Thanks to everyone who entered! Your fantastic submissions made it tough to settle on the winners. I wish I could give awards to you all, but alas, that's not in the rules. I checked.

So, despair not if your entry doesn't get highlighted below; it barely missed the cut. And if you haven't done so already, make sure to check out all the entries.

Honorable Mention

Dan Yungk waited until one minute past the deadline before posting a comment. It's written all in one line and has nothing to do with the ocean. So why does he get a mention? Because I always reward cleverness. (Just not necessarily with gift cards.)
Every single year, I plan to participate, then run out of time...
Marian Allen, as soon as you posted this question, the answer was always going to be one. Yours.
How many entries
Will use the words, "I think we
Need a bigger boat"?
This one of Tara Tyler R's gets the nod (barely over her "Poles baited") because every time I read it I hear my 2-year-old son's pronunciation of barracuda. (That's what he calls the salad tongs.)
A lurking monster,
hidden in coral...attacks!
Boss barracuda!
Matthew MacNish had me at "cthulhu."
Dagon in the depths
la Cthulhu f'taghn
shadows of the past
J. Grace Penningon swayed me with the force of her imagery.
anemones sway
but not from force of current
back and forth alone
And this one from Juliet Lauser is beautiful, even though I must admit I'm not entirely sure what the tiger represents. (I think I've got it, but who knows.)
That tiger curls round
Two thirds of earth so we play
With his velvet toes.

First Place - Humorous

Matt Pelletier, take a bow. Just don't do it near the bow of the boat...
Frigid salty depths
Waist deep... OHGODWHATWASTHAT!?!?

First Place - Traditional

And Li takes the crown with this entry, titled "Pearls."
life's irritations
transformed by patient bivalves
jewelry from torment

And that does it for this year's contest. Thanks again to all who entered, stopped by, retweeted, shared, mocked, etc. Matt and Li, please send me a note so I'll have your email addresses and can get you the Amazon gift cards.

And before you leave,
Here's a haiku just for you.
(It's not very good.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Haiku Contest: Under the Sea!

**This contest is closed. Check out the winners!**

Announcing the launch of The Wheel’s 5th Annual Haiku Contest!

We've previously honored ninja, pirates, robots, and space. This year, in honor of my son's current infatuation with sharks (or rather, shark puppets), we're taking on water. Specifically, the Ocean.

It's not difficult.
All you do is write haiku.
(Also, submit them.)

Just follow the standard haiku structure (5 syllables, 7 syllables, then 5 again) and make it something to do with the ocean. I'd stay away from pirates, but otherwise, however you interpret the theme is entirely up to you.

To enter, write your own sea-related haiku in the comments section below. Two or three lucky winners will receive 25 sand-dollars $25 Amazon gift cards.

I will be selecting the best haiku in each of two categories:
  • Humorous/Creative
  • Traditional (i.e. eloquent, evocative, etc.)
In addition, I may also reward a third entry, depending on my mood. And the mood of my wallet.

The deadline to submit a haiku is this Wednesday, May 7 at 5:00pm (Eastern Time). Official "rules" are below.

Official "Rules":
  1. To enter, post space-themed haiku in the comments section below. Multiple submissions are allowed, but if you submit more than five (5) entries, it'll be viewed as a clear attempt to pollute the waters. Any additional entries will go belly up.
  2. Standard haiku rules apply. To qualify, each entry must be a three-line poem, the first line containing exactly 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, and the third line 5 syllables. If you miscount, it'll throw off the balance of your submission and your chances at winning will be sunk.
  3. The contest is open until Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 5:00pm, Eastern Time. If an entry arrives after the deadline, it will not be eligible for a prize. That ship will have already sailed.
  4. Entries must be in English. (i.e. Using Japanese kanji will not help you win for best traditional haiku.) If I can't understand your entry, I'll assume your brain is addled due to lack of oxygen, and will provide medical advice instead of gift cards.
  5. Anonymous entries will not win. If you don't tell me who you are, it'll be obvious you're a top-secret government assassin with amnesia, and cannot be trusted. Your entry will be denied.
  6. Prizes will be awarded in each of two (2) categories: Humorous/Creative and Traditional. A third prize may be awarded if the mood (or a ballast) strikes me.
    • First place winners will each receive a $25 Amazon gift card.
    • An indeterminate number of Honorable Mentions will receive bragging rights over everyone who doesn’t win. Also, honor.
  7. I will act as sole judge, and select the winning haiku based on the aforementioned criteria, as well as other criteria I make up as I go along. All decisions are final, and will not be changed under any circumstances. Unless I flip-flop. I can sometimes be a bit wishy-washy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Getting Back to My Roots

Astute readers of this blog will have noticed my writing has fallen off of late. Not only am I blogging less, but my posts have become very photo-centric. And though photographs and stories of my son are fun, I think we can all agree something has been missing.

By something, of course, I mean footnotes.1

After all, footnotes are the bedrock of what makes this country blog great.2 In fact, back when I first invented The Wheel, I named it after a footnote.3

So that's my goal. Cut back on posts written solely to accompany photos. Get back to writing things of substance.4 Sprinkle in a liberal amount of footnotes.5 Bake for thirty minutes.6

Sure, I'll probably give up on this goal7 within a couple weeks, and again resort to posting cute things my son says. But the important thing is I pretended it was a goal in the first place. Because it's good to have goals.

It's fun to pretend, too.8

1 Kind of like this one. (But only kind of.)
2 Great. Now that I said bedrock I can't stop thinking about the Flintstones. You know, because their beds were made of rock. (To find out what that would feel like, find your local quarry and take your soft mattress for granite.) Note: This bad pun alert arrives a sentence too late.
3 What, you don't believe me? Come on, not everything I say needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Especially since it's such a pain to eat salt one grain at a time. Just do what I do: Down a tablespoon of the stuff before you read anything I've written. Go ahead, grab a spoonful and then read my blog's origin story.
4 Of course, my idea of substance might differ from yours. I'm talking about sarcasm. Because that totally works in print.
5 To balance things out politically, I'll ensure such footnotes are right-leaning.
6 No, that's not a reference to smoking pot. It's playing off the "sprinkle" in the previous sentence as if it was part of a recipe. Didn't you know? Cooking humor always trumps drug humor. #hashtag
7 Except the part about the footnotes.
8 I'm even pretending people will read this post when I didn't include a photo. Wow, I am so naïve.

Monday, March 31, 2014

And Then The Professor Got His Hands On A Duplicator

About a year ago, I shared some Calvin & Hobbes with my son. This included parts of Scientific Progress Goes "Boink", which has a duplicator on its cover. He was only 1½ years old at the time, so I assumed he wouldn't absorb any of it. Little did I know...

For most kids, Calvin & Hobbes is a fun comic about a boy and his stuffed tiger.

For my son, it's a How-To manual.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Egregious Egg Egression

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But a horrible winter.

This is clearly a case for the people at Mysterious Mysteries. Last week, the last of the snow finally melted in our front yard, revealing a single egg. Slightly cracked, yet not dented, its yolk remains intact inside although its white spilled out and dried to the grass.

It sat maybe halfway between our house and the street, beside our walkway. We certainly hadn't opened any egg containers on the way into the house. And there were no eggs in anyone else's yard on our street. So where did it come from? What does it mean?

Did a migrating bird lay it mid-flight?
Was it the result of a mischievous teen with atrocious aim?
Has our son's secret plant-an-egg project finally begun to bear fruit?
Is it a warning from the chicken mafia?

I have no idea. But just to be safe, I think I'll lay low for a while.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Wit and Wisdom of The Professor

The Professor has no idea he's The Professor. No one has ever called him that in real life. He may never have even heard the word. Nevertheless, as his tireless student, I watch and listen, taking notes...

Denise and he are discussing which animals have tails. The last one she asks is...
"Does Daddy have a tail?"
(long pause)
"Probably not."
Denise points to a candy cane and asks what it is.
"A reindeer stalk."
Whenever someone asks, "How are you?" he will inevitably answer: "Two." Then he'll hold up that many fingers.
"Mommy, look what I made in the living room!"
"What did you make?"
"A mess!"

He comes into the kitchen and says, "I want some more milk please."
I also want him to eat some lunch, so I ask, "Would you like some cheese, or an apple?"
He walks over to me, and taps on my leg with each word, for emphasis. "I. Want. Some. More. Milk. Please."

Clearly I have a hearing problem.
Like many parents, we began the ritual of kissing a boo-boo to make it feel better. He did us one better: While running around the living room, he banged his knee against the table. He stopped, bent down to kiss his own knee, then got right back to running.
"Hey guys! Go in the kitchen!" He then takes off for the other side of the house. His 6-year-old cousins look at each other, then get up from what they were doing and follow. Within moments, he's chasing them in circles around the house, laughing his head off.

It's good to be the king.

"I'll be right back."
He'll say this sometimes. He could be going upstairs, or across the yard, or down the sidewalk. I start to follow.
"No, you stay here. I'll be right back."
He's sitting by the front door at his grandma's house. Denise asks what he's doing.
"I'm just sitting here."
While Denise is at Target and I'm home with him, he sees a loose thread in a pillow. So of course, this is his natural thought progression:
"I have to clip this...
I have to clip this at Target...
I have to clip this at Target tomorrow...
I have to go to Target tomorrow."
He'll refer to himself in the third person when using a puppet. For instance, last week I asked what he did at daycare. The alligator on his hand told me, "He drove a police car in the village, and Marty pushed him."

He has wrapped his fork in his napkin.
"My fork doesn't like the cold."
"Let's go upstairs and I'll push Mommy's buttons!"
He has shown little interest in using the potty. Then one day he says what sounds like "Can I use the potty?"
Happy to hear it, I ask, "You want to use the potty?"
"No, you want to use the potty. I'll wait here."

Curses, foiled again. the little man with the chocolate ice cream goatee.

By the way, clicking on any of the above images will fill me with immense joy (and allow you to see the picture larger). And if you're so inclined, you can view all of his latest photos on Flickr.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Raptor vs. Turtle

Raptors vs. The World #5
vs. Elephant | vs. Sheep | vs. Pig | vs. Tiger | vs. Turtle

Murray ambled along, taking in the scenery. Out of nowhere, some young buck shot past him, nearly trampling him in the process. He shook his head and kept walking. He'd never understand the need to rush everywhere. What was so bad about enjoying the here and now? Even in his youth, Murray had extolled the virtues of patience and persistence, but then as now, few listened.

And as if on cue, here was someone else quickly approaching from behind. Well, he'd be damned if he was going to step aside. No, sir. Like his grandpa always said, slow and steady wins the—


Now try this: Read the story again, but this time ignore the photo. That is, think of the characters as people, not animals. (It's interesting how much a single image can change your perception of a story, isn't it?)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Raptor vs. Tiger

Raptors vs. The World #4
vs. Elephant | vs. Sheep | vs. Pig | vs. Tiger | vs. Turtle

Natalia strolled along the river, quite happy with how things were coming together. He thought he was so clever, sticking to the shadows outside her periphery. What a novice. She'd caught his scent right from the start, and heard him not long after. She had a knack for knowing when someone was on her tail.

She didn't acknowledge his presence — no reason to spook him. It would be far more fun if he believed he had the upper hand right till the last moment. She slowed her gait, then paused at the side of the river and dangled her toes in.

It wouldn't be long now. Natalia could sense him slipping out of the shadows, drawing ever closer. She purred in anticipation. Almost there. Almost...


Now try this: Read the story again, but this time ignore the photo. That is, think of the characters as people, not animals. (It's interesting how much a single image can change your perception of a story, isn't it?)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Raptor vs. Pig

Raptors vs. The World #3
vs. Elephant | vs. Sheep | vs. Pig | vs. Tiger | vs. Turtle

Larry was used to being picked on. He'd always been a bit on the heavy side, and his pale skin burned easily in the sun. This was his secret place, where he could come to escape others' judgment for a few hours.

He was sure he'd done the right thing today. The moral thing. But still, if they found out he was the one who'd squealed, they'd rip into him good. The whole business stank to high heaven, but at least now his conscience was clean. He'd hole up here till the uproar died down. No one else knew about this spot. Here, he was safe.


Now try this: Read the story again, but this time ignore the photo. That is, think of the characters as people, not animals. (It's interesting how much a single image can change your perception of a story, isn't it?)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Raptor vs. Sheep

Raptors vs. The World #2
vs. Elephant | vs. Sheep | vs. Pig | vs. Tiger | vs. Turtle

Maribel had never strayed far from the farm. Truth be told, she'd never had reason to. The farm had everything she needed, and she loved nothing more than running through the fields with her older brothers and sisters. Nevertheless, as she grew older, she began to wonder what else was out there, beyond the white fences that marked the edge of the property. One afternoon, she slipped away from her siblings and ventured off on her own.

Almost immediately, she got lost. Back home she knew all the landmarks, but once she'd passed the white fence, nothing would stick in her mind. Each bush, each field looked like every other. As dusk fell and the air grew colder, she berated herself for being so impulsive. She never should have gone out on her own. And now, with the light fading, she'd never find her way back. Sure, her thick coat would keep her warm overnight, but being alone out here for so long was the most frightening thing she could imagine. Maribel had just about given up all hope when she heard faint footsteps behind her. She stopped crying and lifted up her head.

Finally! Someone to help her find her way home.


Now try this: Read the story again, but this time ignore the photo. That is, think of the characters as people, not animals. (It's interesting how much a single image can change your perception of a story, isn't it?)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Raptor vs. Elephant

Raptors vs. The World #1
vs. Elephant | vs. Sheep | vs. Pig | vs. Tiger | vs. Turtle

Winston peered out across the plain. A warm breeze caressed his back and neck. Yep, this place would do nicely. Apart from a couple trees, it was nothing but flat earth in all directions. Dust and dry grass. Sparse shrubbery, but none higher than his knees. There was safety in such desolation. Any approach, any angle, and Winston would see it coming a mile away.

And yet, he couldn't quite shake the feeling he was being watched.


Now try this: Read the story again, but this time ignore the photo. That is, think of the characters as people, not animals. (It's interesting how much a single image can change your perception of a story, isn't it?)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Eight Crazy Nates

(click to view full-size)

This photo was inspired by a few my cousin created last year. For reference, I also considered calling it "Eight Men Out," "Eight Is (More Than) Enough," or "Hot Damn, Feet Freeze Fast When You're Barefoot in the Snow." (I was barefoot for about two minutes at the end of the shoot, enough for four back-and-forth trips to the camera — three takes, followed by the retrieval of my equipment.)

This is just a hunch, but I suspect it's much easier to do this type of shot indoors, with fixed lighting and non-freezing temperatures. Though of course that way you don't get nearly the same sort of looks from the neighbors.

The final tally:
26 - degrees Fahrenheit (-3.3 degrees Celsius)
10 - hours before all pain subsided from my toes
9 - photographs layered into one
8 - Nates
7 - visible goatees
6 - pairs of pants
5 - hats
4 - shirts
3 - jackets
2 - sweatshirts
1 - pair of shorts
0 - footprints

Monday, January 6, 2014

Not Getting the Full Experience

This is my 300th post (fact). And since I haven't shared anything about my son in over a year (exaggeration) I thought I'd do that now to start the year off right. Not only is he the smartest kid ever to wear diapers (hyperbole) and a half-decent negotiator, but come February he'll be the youngest U.S. Senator in history (outright lie).

He just turned two-and-a-half, loves animals and books and letters and Muppets and is so well-behaved my cousin remarked that as parents we're "not getting the full experience." No, we're not. And it is awesome. Here are a few snippets from recent months:

Conversation at dinner between 2-year-olds (who had spent all day together):
Him: "Hey, you have a robot on your shirt."
His cousin: "I have pizza." (pause) "I have pizza."
Reading an alphabet book to himself:
"J is for juggling. J-U-G-G-L-I-N-G. Juggling.
K is for kite. K-I-T-E. Kite.
L is for drink. L-E-M-O-N-A-D-E. Drink."

At some point he found a 2-foot piece of string. Every once in a while, he'll pick it up, hold it between his hands, and twirl it while jumping non-stop from room to room. As he says, "I'm jumping rope."
Talking into a toy phone:
"Hi, Grampa. Are you too busy? Okay, bye bye."

Our house contains several burrows' worth of stuffed rabbits. One morning, my son dug through a couple dozen of them and found the only non-bunny in the basket — a small stuffed bison — and immediately claimed it as his own. They were inseparable for a week, including at bedtime, so it became the first thing he slept with. The following week he added a lion cub to the mix. The week after that, a dog. Then Cookie Monster. Now his bed also holds a rubber skeleton, a bookmark with clownfish on it, a long-expired glow stick, an alligator puppet with hard rubber teeth, a seal, a small plastic Oscar the Grouch, and a little striped cat from IKEA. Every night and naptime he confirms each item is still there, gathers them all under the blanket, and hugs them tight.

If you ask him, he'll say he loves our cats Penny and Schrödinger. But not our dog, Sonya. Last time he told us this we asked, "Why not? Sonya loves you." The tears started flowing, and he wailed, "I don't want to love Sonya!!!"
He finally knows to say "I don't know," meaning we've reached the end of his Yeah Phase. What was the Yeah Phase? Let me demonstrate:
"Do you know what this is?"
"Okay, what is it?"
"What is it?"
He wanted a cookie. We'd told him repeatedly he needed to eat his dinner first. He responded with, "No. Cookie first, then dinner." This went on all meal, and he ate one solitary bite of pasta. After Denise had finished and stepped into the kitchen, he handed me his plate and said, "Here. You eat it. I get a cookie." I tell you, the kid is quick. I didn't learn that gambit till I was six.

I often have his stuffed animals and puppets talk to him. Then one night, with a puppet in his hand, he asked me to read him his book. I pulled out the book with his picture on the cover (and photos of our family inside), but he said, "No, my book." He repeated this over and over, getting more and more agitated, until I finally realized he was speaking as the puppet (who has no mouth) and asking for its book. Namely, Where the Wild Things Are.

Now he regularly talks for his animals/puppets and has conversations with them. He even has a designated puppet voice, lower and more gravelly than his own.1 And he uses his mittens as puppets.2 Or, if he has no puppet or mittens, he simply talks with his hands.

1 He's Batman.
2 Lately, his left mitten is a shark, his right one a train. Because of this.


Well, that's my son. Click on any of the above photos to see them larger. Or, if you're inclined, you can view all of his latest photos on Flickr.