Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Talk of Death and Taxes

Greetings, all.

Getting to work with teenagers opens me up to something new each day.  I have come to learn that "swoll" is a good thing, "beefing" is unpleasant, and that our nation's future is in creatively brilliant, occasionally tattooed hands.
When working our way through emotions with the kids, keeping a journal is a frequent suggestion.  

Seems like sound advice.  Here goes.

I went to visit my grandfather over lunch the other day.  He was staying in a hospital temporarily while they monitored his late-stage Parkinson’s to make sure a jump into a care facility could be advised.  Being Parkingson’s, this was a situation that was a long time in the making. 

In the walk across the bustling parking lot, full of its movement and activity, I hardly took any notice of the things around me.  I was turned inward, in a cerebral, contemplative state, as I reflected the permanency and absolute nature of my grandfather’s position.  Some of my earliest memories of life involved copiloting tractors, napping on floors, or listening to dirty jokes with this proud giant of a man. 

I politely inquired directions towards the right room, rode to the seventh floor, and nodded to the orderlies as they shuffled about.  I stuttered briefly upon entering room 7756, unsure as to if I had walked into the right room.  After my eyes adjusted, my grandpa looked up from his chair and told the nurse, “That’s my grandson, Ben.  No, Jake.” 

I can’t think of a time of late in which I’ve felt more proud. 

I laughed as I joked about how even my own mother sometimes goes through all of my brothers’ names before she, too, finds “Jake.”  For about twenty minutes, I spoke with my gramps about the Super Bowl, weather, cute nurses, and how damned hard it was to find good mashed potatoes in this area.  He slowly showed more weariness as he struggled to stay awake.  I was told to keep the visit short, but it was just so damned good to hang with my grandfather.

My Aunt Jan wrote a fantastic piece that I’d like to share.  She summarized my exact thoughts in an eloquent and moving poem.  Thank you so much, Jan! 

The legacy

The old farmstead stands abandoned
What once was a landmark is now deserted and rundown.
The paint has worn bare; the windows are broken.
The foundation is crumbling to the ground.
If these walls could talk, they would tell of happy times,
family gathered for celebrations and dreams to be lived.
But now the rooms are silent, the family has moved to fulfill their own aspirations.
They have taken the love and values they were given.
The old man sits in the nursing home.
Once a tower of strength, he helped anyone he would meet.
Today, his skin is thin, his body is frail and he is ready to give up.
His legs support him to walk, but he can no longer move his feet.
He joyfully relives memories of the past and shares detailed stories,
but then he is confused and disoriented in the next breath.
He weeps. He has unfulfilled dreams, conflicting thoughts of family,
despair at his disease and he feels his time is stolen by certain death.
The old farmstead and the man.
Both have endured changes brought by time.
Both once stood proud, with expectations for the future.
Today, they both face much uncertainty. An uphill climb.
The farmhouse could be razed or restored,
That decision is left to the owners of the land.
The old man could have some strength renewed or he could die.
That is left in God’s hands.
What is certain is that time continues on.
Both have been a source of refuge and love for families.
Both provided a sense of belonging and hope.
Our love for both will live on in eternity.
Jan Madsen, 2013

And thanks for the photo, JoHanna!  Here's some of the Brands following Myron's parade officiating a few years back.

Phew.  Catharsis.  It feels all right.

Be well, get your taxes completed, and thank you for reading!

Thursday, March 29, 2012



Monday, February 13, 2012

Friday, November 25, 2011

Me gusta

Over the weekend, I had a chance to attend a hymnfest that was happening at a local church.  What's a hymnfest you ask?  Well, let's see.  Imagine, if you will, Kiss, a Tyrannosaurus rex, 1,000 apple pies, and a year's worth of fireworks all got together for one hour of fun.  Now picture the opposite of that.

Boom, Hymnfest.

                                                         Bizzaro Hymnfest.

I kid.  In reality, it was rather interesting.  In all, it was about two hours of history, choir singing, and Lutheran humor followed by an hour-long coffee and cookie session in a church basement.  Not bad. Not bad at all.

The highlight of the afternoon came when we were about 15-20 minutes into the program.  At that point, we were far enough along into the program that one could gauge how much of the show was remaining by simply looking at the bulletin.  I was bolstering my determination to make it through the program when I happened to look at my dear 82-year old grandma sitting next to me; she had begun to slouch in her chair as her breathing leveled out into a nice, sleepy rhythm.  My brother and I had spent the morning with my grandma attending church, dining, and playing Rummikub, and even I, in my youthful, energy-filled state, was beginning to droop.  I slightly nudged my grandma to make sure that she kept from snoring when she jumped a little and squinted at me.

"Hey, you woke me up!" she joked as she poked me back.

I could not stop laughing.  Being in a chapel filled with people dutifully listening to choir music did not help the situation.  Those settings only seem to make things 10x more comical.  I dry-heaved and snorted for about 5 minutes before my mother shot me a "SHAPE UP, SON" look.  Man, it's been 10 years since I've gotten one of those.

All in all, it was a pleasant afternoon.  I just had to share that moment with my grandma.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


The man exhaled a quiet, triumphant sigh; his lungs had long awaited this moment.  As the man stood, he instinctively began to straighten his back.  He had learned to pleasantly endure, and now almost began to expect, the argument he began to hear as his body realigned itself to the world.  No more would he have to subject it to long hours of odd positions and grueling labor, his mind struggling to keep itself committed to such detail.  He could finally rest.  He had finished the house; his father, had he lived to see this moment, would certainly be proud.
As he dusted off his hands, his wife appeared from inside the home. “We did it,” spoke the man.  His wife nodded to him and returned inside the house.
As the man entered the house, rather his home, he sat down next to a radio that was ablaze with unusual activity.
“…nobody knows where or what this even is.  Nothing of this likeness has ever been reported or even talked about.  This is absolutely something out of legend. Or myth. Or… God knows what.”
“Can you speculate its direction? Where is this thing headed?”
“It seems to be traveling in straight line and…”
A strange curiosity began to creep into the man’s recently forged mental state.  The same story was being broadcast on each station that the man could find.  Piecing together the scattered reports, the man learned that a strange column of light had appeared out of seeming nothingness.  The column of pure, inexplicable light was methodically tracking its way through nearby townships to the north.  Estimates placed the column close to 72 feet in diameter, yet acknowledged that the sheer luminosity of the column made it difficult to measure, let alone observe.  As the pillar traveled, it engulfed everything in its path, leaving nothing behind but scorched earth and debris in its wake.
An uncomfortable weight pressed the man as he walked outside and to the end of his lane.  To the north, the man could barely begin to see outlines of a strange, swirling cloud formation.  A line of cars caught the man’s eye on the nearby county road; most made their way north, but a few were seen making their way freely to the south.  The southerly cars were made even more peculiar by the belongings that were strapped at every angle to them.
The man returned to his home and began to clean up; the white paint on his hands masked a few of the cuts and scrapes on his weathered hands.  The house had welcomed the changes he had brought, but that was not to say that it had not put up some resistance at times.  Splinters, scratches, and a bruised thumb adorned his hands.  He scrubbed and scrubbed until the last flecks of paint were off of him. 
The man returned to his porch, unwilling to glance to the north.  The pit in his throat reminded him of the distraction that the world had briefly focused on moments before, but that it was already beginning to grow weary of.  There would always be another storm, another catastrophic sampling of nature to be sought out and found.
The evening drew on.  The man, tired from his long hours, put on his best suit despite having no plans for the evening.  He preheated the oven to warm up some leftovers from the night before.  While he waited, the man returned to his porch.
The column now roared one-hundred yards from the man’s home.  The man could audibly hear a groan emit from the churning, radiant beast as it methodically crept towards him. 
As the man finally addressed the column, he hated it.  He began to feel every muscle tighten, every aggressive thought that he had long since buried begin to come forth.  Yet the man could not condemn the pillar; a strange attraction could be found within its terror.  The man rose from his chair, a blank look on his face.  Again, he straightened his back as he had begun to do so many times before.  The oven’s timer sang that it was ready.
The remaining travelers that continued to track the light stood in still in their shock.  Since their banding together, they had not witnessed anything of this scale, this unsettling inevitability.  The light had journeyed for miles and miles and destroyed anything it touched, yet it had never encountered another property or structure.  The column now seemed drawn to the home, just as the man now drew himself closer to the light. 
The man stood squarely in his yard, tall in his determination.  A constant, blank glaze on his face was all that the onlookers could make out.
Slowly, one by one, the onlookers began to wave, to jump, to yell at the man to move, to get out of the way.  The man stood undeterred; the blank look was all that he betrayed.
A few onlookers began to move down from their observation point as screams began to quicken in their urgency.   No one would be able to reach the man, despite the strength of their legs or lungs.
When all had seemed final, the man raised a fist.  Brows furrowed and legs apart, he began to yell, to scream at the column.  Spittle flew from his mouth as he raged against the light’s encroachment upon his life.  His home, all that he had built, he argued and fought for, challenging the light for each inch of ground it swallowed. 
And then he was gone. 
The light engulfed the lawn, the fence, the porch, and finally, the home.  Room by room, the column screeched.  Efficiently, systematically the light left nothing to be pieced together following its aftermath. 
The column then began to flicker as it seemed finally satisfied in its task.  The dim roar faltered, finally ending altogether.
The onlookers took a moment to hold one another, to make sure that they could do all that they could to help each other out.
Then, one by one, they began to disperse.  They returned to their houses, their homes, and returned to their lives.  No one spoke of the man.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Good day, interwebs!

After over a month of not writing down any one of my thoughts, you would think that this would be going a little more expediently. Sadly, however, I have now watched a full twenty minutes of The Simpsons before daring to venture this brilliant opening paragraph. This is what I get for trying to write at home. Bah. I've never even voluntarily watched any of the Simpsons shows. I'm losing my mind.

The past month has been a blur. As I review former posts, it seems like a decade has passed since I was rabidly drooling over the new Thrice album that was to come out in September. A lot has happened since then.

Like Shark Week showing up on Netflix.

While that's great and all, it seems to cheapen the anticipation of Actual Shark Week. The other 51 weeks now lose a certain dark charm by having sharks accessible 24/7.

      "This shark's main diet is helicopters and man's desire to ever go near a beach."

                                                             Seems legit.

I've now moved on to Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations." I have dearly missed my friends Bourdain, Zimmern, Alton, and The Soup after having axed cable at the start of this year. I've saved a boat load, sure, but I had nearly forgotten how engrossing these travel-the-world-and-stuff-your-face shows could be. I'd have to pinch myself each morning if my 9-to-5 was to simply eat, drink, and be merry to earn my keep. Well, I'd excel at it for a few weeks before my puns became passé or my liver decided that it didn't want to be pickled alive.

Bourdain just used the word insipid. What a fun word. I, too, shall find a way to slip it in here somewhere...

The argument for Shark Week parallels an argument I heard about baseball earlier this week. As the World Series wrapped up, baseball became the topic of every radio show that I listened to while driving to work. That's quite remarkable considering that we're well into football season.

The argument was made that although baseball interest may be rising in the States, Major League Baseball is not marketing itself as well as other sports leagues (except you NBA. Nobody will ever like you). The argument continued to say that the availability of baseball was hurting it's success. On any given day, one could find three or four games being televised, analysts reviewing past games or bickering about on-base percentages, Little League updates, fantasy statistics, and on and on and on... It was no longer the hallowed time set aside each week to watch your favorite team handle the opposition with skill and precision.

To be honest, it would be nearly impossible to record one week of games and actually look forward to watching them at a later time. At some point, you and I both know that you would come across an outlet that would leak out a score or a grand story of so-and-so's late-game heroics.

It seems to be a theme that can be related with many other situations. Be it food and drink, shark watching, a national past-time, a band (guiiiiilty), or work, I'm stressing moderation. It seems that an excess of what you want has its drawbacks.

Be thankful that we live in a time and place that allows us to have what some online jokesters have adeptly coined First World Problems. The next time your phone takes three seconds (instead of two) to unlock, traffic seems at a standstill, or the reception on your TV shorts out (Yeah. It still happens.), please, keep your cool.


Children of the Mind - Orson Scott Card
Justice - Michael Sandel

Thrice (naturally) - Major/Minor
And whenever I study, any blues or jazz rock that I can get my hands on.

Go Raiders.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"You have the right to remain SPRAYED IN THE FACE"

Good day, interwebs.

I fired up my computer with all intentions to promptly begin writing. Those intentions evaporated as soon as I noticed Pandora's new format. As I toured the updated site, nostalgic ol' Sum 41, Blink, Zebrahead, and Goldfinger helped keep my feet happily tip-tapping as I began to confuse people sitting nearby. Then Bowling for Soup popped up and quickly shattered my mental vacation. They're the closest thing to having someone hold your head steady as they vomit directly into your ear. Blech.

There have been a few things in the news that have made me shake my head of late.

News broke out about a handful of protesters in New York City that were doused with pepper spray by a rogue officer with an itchy trigger finger. I certainly don't know all the details surrounding this event, so I'll attempt to restrain myself from assuming too much about what happened.

Essentially, there has been a group of protestors - apparently comprised mainly of young, twenty-somethings that have declared war on the bourgeoisie for being rich, fascist pigs, or something along those lines - who have occupied a stretch of territory near Wall Street to hold a week-long gathering. As it so happens, the NYPD were inevitably asked to reinforce what could and could not be done while the protest partied onwards. At some point, the police were setting up a makeshift fence and bumped boundaries with a small section of the protestors. As showed in a video, an officer seems to randomly - and without provocation - douse four or five young ladies as they mill about inside the fence. This scene has prompted an explosion of responses worldwide debating things from the Constitutional rights of the crowd to the demanding of the officer's resignation.

                "Would somebody PLEASE stop whoever is playing 
                            that damnable Bowling for Soup?"

Here's my take:
A) It's one officer. I realize that the NYPD has some notoriety for being brash, violent, and thuggish, but one should keep in mind that this is a single officer's action, not the department as a whole. The sheer volume of responses that directly accuse all police in all locations of being brutes that abuse their power is sickening. I don't feel as though someone could claim widespread police brutality from this lone incident. If the police were authorized to use such force to ensure the general tranquility for the rest of the public, then the officer's actions are excusable to a certain degree. Again, I'm not privy to that kind of information, so I can't make that assumption.
I am going to assume that at some point in his career, the officer has been subjected to a battery of verbal assaults from the general public. Frustrated by having the police interrupt their day, John C. Public seems to think that it is fine to lob his frustration at the officer that has confronted them.

It's similar with telemarketers, I guess. People love to tell stories about how they challenged a telemarketer and beat them in a trolling game of logic. Congratulations. That solves nothing. It only makes you look like an ass.
The police also have the lovely task of directly dealing with the portions of society that are usually avoided by others at all possible costs. Officers get it from both sides: sneered at by the public, insulted by frequent offenders, and now accused of being tyrannical agents of the faceless government. Being chastised daily by people is certainly no excuse to randomly start spraying people, but it wouldn't kill us to be civil and respectful to the people charged with upholding our statutes and laws. Is it any wonder that there is enmity between the police and the general public at times?
Again, I don't know the officer. Maybe he is a grade-A d-bag.

B) Someone hacked into the NYPD's records to release the information of the officer that did the spraying. That's concerning. Where's the public outcry for this officer that had this happen to him? "Oh, F that guy and his rights. He's a jerk. We're worried about our Constitutional rights, not his. Who cares if we broke some laws to distribute this man's information. Breakin' laws is a great way to get the support of the police." Double-standards. Sheesh.

C) After cruising their website - the group is called "Occupy Wall Street" - I had a general skepticism towards them. I also realize that I am biased towards the law enforcement in this situation (biased enough to write this, I guess). The group comes off as your average, run-of-the-mill squad in many regards. They do make use of the word 'revolution' a tad much for my taste. They also make it a focus to videotape everyone saying reinforcing phrases such as, "We are the 99th percent," and, "Join us. Join our conversation." There is also a large portion of their website dedicated to show abuses the NYPD has shown some of their members.

(Yes, I had some Conspiracy Juice this morning and a tiny voice in my head is claiming that the pepper spraying is being used a publicity stunt. If that's the case, next time simply hire a bunch of skateboarding cats wearing cute party hats. That's always a crowd-pleaser.)

                                  ...go on. You have my attention.
As a twenty-something, I certainly emphasize with some of their points; but not their tactics. The military-esque feel of the march and protest - it all feels like a great way to spend a week with your friends, but not really a stellar way to get your message across. Sure, you can heckle the wealthy or make fresh, exciting promotional videos to gain support, but I feel as though it somewhat reinforces some of animosity between the groups. If I was a wealthy, monocled-and-top-hat-wearing fat-cat and I was getting ribbed by a group of good-for-nothin whippersnappers, I wouldn't stop to hear their points. I would simply rue the fact that I hadn't purchased a warehouse full of 1980's sunglasses to sell to them.

Overall, it's not the most jaw-dropping bit of news out there by a long shot. I'm sorry to report that I was sucked in to a non-story by sensationalist media. Shucks.

In all reality, it's a topic that's incredibly important to some, and I apologize if my light-hearted take failed to address certain points. I realize that there are many sides to this story and I'm sure that I could write plenty more on this. However, this seems to be quite long already. I also hoping to address the new laws dictating drug testing for unemployment or welfare candidates, but that can wait for another day, my friends.


Xenocide - Orson Scott Card
I'm on a big Card kick again. Empire series was OK, but I'm back to finish book three of Ender's series. Hiphip!

Your Republic Is Calling You - Young-Ha Kim
Korean spies! Eep!

Major/Minor - Thrice
It seriously may be the last music you'll ever need. It's glorious.