Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Back in Bloomington Rock City

Originally uploaded by ChrisCope.
The child bride and I have made it home in one piece. The flight back to Minneapolis was pretty uneventful. Yeesh, there are a lot of odd-looking people in the Las Vegas airport. So many people have this look as if they gave up in the middle of a makeover: "Hey, I'll buy me some huge boobies, but I'll keep dressing as if it's 1989. Hot pink is the best color. Ever."

While I was away, a few important things happened:
1) Heather's birthday was Saturday. She's a sprightly 94 years old now -- go wish her a happy birthday.
2) This blog's birthday was Friday. It is now two years old.

The picture to the right is of my parents-in-law's home in Saint George, Utah. It strikes me as being incredibly Americana. I took the picture on Memorial Day. The Boy Scouts had set up American flags in front of every home in town.

The kid with the balloons is Burke, younger brother to the Cutest Niece in America and the Most Dangerous Nephew in America. I'll put up pictures of all my nieces and nephews in a bit (prepare for cuteness overload).

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Monday, May 29, 2006

Saturday, May 27, 2006

St. George Day 2

Hanging out with the Cutest Niece in America and the Most Dangerous Nephew in America.

MP3 File

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Here's to blacking out before you cry yourself to sleep

  • The U.S. soccer team's performance against Morocco last night wasn't actually awe-inspiring (was Landon Donovan instructed not to try to score a goal?), but I am sticking to my belief that they will make it to the semifinals.


  • Tip No. 1: Stop buying our cars.

  • The child bride and I will be traveling to the great state of Utah (the Beehive State) tomorrow. Her second-youngest sister is getting married. And because the child bride enjoys torturing me, we will be staying at her parents' house, instead of a hotel, as I suggested.
    True, I'm not a fan of All Fox News All The Time, which seems to be the rule at her parents' house, but that's not why I wanted to stay at a hotel. The fact is people can give me claustrophobia. And this house is going to be full of people who will be in town for the wedding: me, the child bride, the child bride's mother, the child bride's father, the child bride's oldest sister and her husband and five children, the child bride's younger sister and her husband and three children (one of which, in fairness, is the Cutest Niece in America), and the sister who is actually getting married. That's 17 people in a five-bedroom home -- never mind the dozens and dozens of friends and family members that will be milling around during the day. And all but one (me) are Mormon. How am I supposed to watch hardcore pornography in that atmosphere?
    It gets worse. Pete, the bloke foolishly marrying into this family, is a Green Bay Packer fan. This makes him my sworn enemy.
    The Packers this year, and Brett Favre especially, are old and busted but I won't have much success in lording this over Pete because Brad Johnson is even older than Favre. Pete is picking us up at the airport and the conversation in the two-hour car ride to St. George will probably go like this:
    PETE: "The Packers are the best team ever, ever, ever... blah, blah, blah... Super Bowl appearances... blah, blah, blah."
    ME: "Your quarterback is an old and busted pain-pill fiend who doesn't have the capacity to know when it's time to quit."
    PETE: "Brad Johnson is 38 years old, couldn't scramble if he was being shot at, and played in NFL Europe... blah, blah, blah... Super Bowl appearances."
    ME: "Packers' 2004 NFC playoff loss... blah, blah, blah... Interception of idiot play on first down... blah, blah, blah... Favre threw 29 interceptions in the 05-06 season."
    PETE: "Blah, blah, blah... Super Bowl appearances... blah, blah, blah."
    ME: "Did you really insist on chocolate fountains? Rachel told me you insisted on having chocolate fountains at the wedding reception. What self-respecting man insists on a chocolate fountain?"
    PETE: "Welsh sounds like Klingon."
    Or something like that. I've never met Pete, so I'm guessing on how the conversation will go. He's bigger than me; he may just choose to punch me in the face.
    I will try to do a few audio posts while I'm there, but things may be rather quiet on this blog until Wednesday.
  • Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    I'm not OK

  • Jack Cato has died. For anyone who knows me personally, Cato was the reporter who once drove full speed at a train -- there's no way you could know me for very long and not hear me tell that story.
    My dad worked with Cato at KPRC and found him to be difficult and all but insufferable. Stories about Cato, the quintessential unkempt badass newsman had a profound impact on my wanting to be in television news.

  • Subject line on spam e-mail I received recently: "Combined we stand."

  • Have you ever heard that lame Hallmark-esque phrase: "Everything will be OK in the end. If it's OK, it's not the end."
    That kind of makes you fear having things be OK, doesn't it?

  • Has anyone ever noticed that BBC Radio 2 is always on during breakfast at British hotels and B&Bs? Always. I think it may be law.
    If I hear Terry Wogan's voice it makes me hungry.

  • Most amusing song lyric I've heard this week: "500 stitches every summer. A steel-toed boot up the motherf*cking ass. Yeah!"
    A CD from Scissorfight is clearly the perfect gift for a 5-year-old.

  • I got an e-mail today from Jenna of Grand Forks, N.D. She wanted to know if I still had a free drink coupon for her favorite bar. Watch your back, Jenny, someone's out to steal your free drink.

  • It is easy to copy me.
  • Competition

    - The 2006 World Baseball Classic champion was Japan
    - The 2004 Olympic gold medal basketball team was Argentina
    - The 2004 World Cup Hockey champion was Canada and the 2006 Olympic gold-medal team was Sweden
    - There is no national football team

    "You start in a process that began four years ago with 204, 205 countries, and now you're down to 32," said U.S. soccer coach Bruce Arena recently of the World Cup. "That's the real animal. And maybe in this country no one understands this because we have our nice little -- not little -- nice professional leagues where we call whoever turns out the winner the world champion, which is the most bizarre thing I've ever heard, and never win a world championship in any of these sports anymore. This is it. This is the real world champion in sport."

    Sort of leads one to an uncomfortable conclusion, doesn't it?

    100 Things: 41-45

    1-5 ~ 6-10 ~ 11-15 ~ 16-20 ~ 21-25 ~ 26-30 ~ 31-35 ~ 36-40

    41) I believe that country music is a unique and legitimate art form. Toby Keith seems to be doing everything he can to prove me wrong.

    42) I also believe that professional wrestling can be considered performance art.

    43) "Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd is the most cathartic song in the world. When I feel overwhelmed by the universe, I listen to the longest version of "Freebird" that I can find. I sing along to the guitar parts.

    44) I have surprising difficulty remembering my childhood.

    45) Sometimes I really, really feel like listening to Metallica (this inherently involves pretending that "And Justice For All" does not exist). Usually this feeling passes within 30 minutes.

    Monday, May 22, 2006


    You may already know this about me, but many moons ago, I was a wannabe actor in a Guthrie Theater production of Shakespeare's "As You Like It." I had a lot of fun being part of that play, and one of the things I loved the most were the little games that the cast would play onstage.

    The goal of a good production (especially in a top-level theater like the Guthrie) is to repeat the same quality performance over and over again. That can be tricky if you do the same show every day (twice on Sundays) for four months, so the actors keep themselves fresh with tiny inside jokes while on stage. They will try to work in gestures or facial expressions or even phrases.

    I reckon that one of the challenges of a director is determining which of these childish inside jokes should be allowed. You don't want to have a cast that is so distracted by playing games with one another that they lose focus. But sometimes these games can actually enhance a performance.

    On the outset, it would seem a pretty simple call as to whether the phrase "Man, this is fucked," should be worked into Shakespeare. But we did it.

    The phrase came from a hilarious story told to the cast by John Carroll Lynch.

    Lou (I'm blanking on the last name at the moment), the actor who played the wrestler that fights Orlando early in the play, loved Lynch's story so much that he worked it into one of his scenes. After being defeated by Orlando, he was dragged off stage coughing and groaning in pain. When he was about halfway down the vom, no longer in sight of the audience, he would let out one final anguished cry: a drawn-out and incoherent, "mmaaaaaahhhhnnn, fffiiiishhhh hih vvuuuuuhhhhhhhggged."

    The goal for Lou, of course, was to see how loudly and coherently he could shout the phrase without, you know, tanking the production and killing his career. It's a fine line between funny and disastrous.

    The director allowed it to stay in, I think, because it really added something to Lou's performance. The slurred way Lou said it made him sound completely done in. You felt that the wrestler was not only exhausted by the fight, he was exhausted by life. He was totally deflated.

    And that's where I seem to be these past few days. I have everything going for me, and I'm sure I'll return to normal soon, but, man, this is fucked.

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    Don't call it a comeback

    Rolled jeans, pinch-rolled jeans, pegged jeans, peg-legged jeans, tight-rolled jeans -- whatever you call it, it's a style that is totally rad*





    How about you? Are you one of the cool kids?

    *Yes, I realize that "rad" is somewhat anachronistic, but I can't remember words that were actually cool in the late 80s.

    We're No. 5!

  • I like that one of the slogans for the U.S. soccer team's World Cup campaign is: "Less than 20 years ago microscopic islands laughed at us."
    It seems that a major theme for promoting the U.S. team is playing up how much everyone else hates us. We're selling all sorts of gear with the phrase "Don't Tread On Me" on it.
    It kind of falls apart, though, with a rap video featuring Clint Dempsey.

  • My new rule for movies is this: if Hillary Duff isn't in it, I'm not watching.
  • Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Bring back rolled jeans!

    Rolled jeans!
    Originally uploaded by ChrisCope.
  • I think it's time to bring back the ultra-sexay fashion that is rolled jeans. If there are any readers in Fargo, right now they are thinking, "Bring it back? Where'd it go?" But for the rest of us, it was a style that sadly died out in the late-1980s.
    I was reminded of the fashion high point the other day, when Heather blogged about going to an 80s-themed party. The host of the party provided a number of pictures from the event (most consisting of gratuitous shots of cleavage), one of which was of Heather and her friend.
    Now, you wouldn't guess this about me, since I'm pretty thickheaded, but I appreciate subtlety. Where every other guest was wearing thin ties and Lennon sunglasses and on, Heather won the prize (if there was one) with the simple touch of rolling her jeans. That is brilliant.
    At this point, I am inclined to encourage you to take pictures of yourself with rolled jeans and send me links, in the spirit of when Crystal had people show Blue Steel and their butts and their middle fingers. Then I would post them all on, say, Friday. But Crystal is a girl and she's pretty -- people are more willing to take pictures of themselves for her amusement. Sending me pictures has an uncomfortable MySpace feel to it, I would think. So, we'll see what happens.

  • You know who doesn't get enough respect in EastEnders? Winston. I want an entire episode dedicated Winston.

  • I'm not one to condone bad sportsmanship, and there's that whole unnerving white-man-throwing-something-at-a-black-man element, but just for today Russ Springer is my hero.
    "Sometimes it just gets away from you," Springer said after the game.
    Yeah. Right. Five times.
    Springer was (rightly) ejected from the game after he nailed Bonds in the back, but it's telling that he left the field to a standing ovation.

  • So, the National Guard is supposed to assist the Border Patrol in "protecting our borders" (from nefarious strawberry-pickers, cooks and cleaners) without any weapons or the legal capacity to arrest anyone. Sometimes it seems as if the Bush administration is trying to be stupid.
    Keen observers will note that we're not really twisting our undies over "protecting our border" with Canada. A group of friends and I will be going fishing on the U.S.- Canada border in late June. I hereby pledge to donate $1 to charity for every Border Patrol agent or National Guardsman that I see up there.
  • E-mail

    Funny that my mom sent me your Life Files column, she's actually from Montana so I doubt she thought much about it being a porn star's name. For someone whose dad tells them that the nature of love involves sacrifice I wonder if you've ever been asked to lay off the pornos. That aside, I agree with your column and was depressed myself when I read this article. The reporter herself was deeply troubled by the difficulty young people, women especially, have connecting to each other in big cities. The spin of the article does make it sound like people are unwilling to put in the care, time and thought that real relationships need but read between the lines: I never said that relationships take too much energy, just so much. It's a strange balance to strike, but then again you can't simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. It's much easier not to claim I'm looking for a relationship and risk scaring someone off. Doesn't make it right, just safer.

    Montana Wojczuk

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    Love Isn't Convenient

    According to a recent study done by the Pew Research Center, some 38 percent of people ages 18 and 29 were neither in a committed relationship nor looking for one. The reason, The Washington Post reported, is that these people feel they are too busy.

    "A relationship takes so much time and energy," Montana Wojczuk, 26, told the paper.

    Now I know what you're thinking: Who names their child Montana? It's a name that porn stars use. But that's not the point. The point is that it appears that more than one third of America's young people have lost their minds.

    Keep reading my latest column...

    Terrorizing St. Paul with jumper cables and a mouthful of Novocain

    I survived another trip to the dentist today. I will admit to hyperventilating a little bit, but things weren't as traumatic as last week.

    I think I mentioned before that the dentist had originally suggested the work on this side of my mouth could be done without Novocain. This idea was wholly rejected at the start, but I wondered this time around if it might actually make things a little easier on me.

    My logic went like this: I can suffer a little discomfort and perhaps actually being able to feel the drill tearing through my jaw, rather than not really feeling anything and just sitting there waiting for white hot electric pain to cause my head to explode, would keep me from going into a panic.

    "Sure we can try that," the dentist said. "Just put your hand up if you need me to stop."

    "Fweeeeeeeeeeeeee," said the drill. "Bzzzt. Bzzt."

    And my hand was up.

    It says something about me and my transparent wussy nature, I suppose, that he was instantly swabbing my cheek with that piña-colada-tasting* numbing agent. It was ready to go. He hit the nerve again in administering the Novocain, but since I was expecting him to do it and my mind had logged it as far more painful than it actually is, I was able to keep myself from weeping.

    I was sweating like a maniac, and I clenched my fists so tightly that it hurt to unclench them, but as I say, it wasn't as bad as last week, and one hour later I was in my car and headed home.

    But first I needed to drop by the gas station. I tried really hard not to be frustrated by petrol prices -- because it's my own damn fault for driving a 23-year-old car with a 6.5-liter engine -- got back into my car, and: nothing.

    "Son of bitch. It was just running," I thought.

    I tried turning the keys a few more times, made sure the battery connections were OK and even tried kicking the car, but it did no good. I couldn't get a sound from the car -- it was completely dead.

    This was one of those moments in which, if my life were a movie, I would do one of those pull-away Spike Lee crane shots. I'm not sure I entirely get the point of them, but he uses them when things go a bit shitty, which is where I was. I had just gone through my second emotionally exhausting dental experience, the right side of my face was still completely numb from Novocain, and my $250 piece-of-shit car was dead.


    I would like to big myself up and point out that I did not do my usual thing of getting really, really, really angry. There was no reason for me to be: I was in my beloved St. Paul; I had $7 in my wallet, which is more than enough to get you anywhere you want to go (albeit incredibly slowly) on the buses; and while I was scheduled to come to work today, I didn't have to be there for three more hours and I am in my final days of employment, anyway.

    Instead, I felt a sense of frustrated resignation. I called my wife and left a moping Eeyore-esque message on her phone. What was going through my head was what my brother had told me about the day his 1977 Buick Skylark died: "I came outside and it just wouldn't start. The thing wasn't worth fixing, so I called the junkyard to come pick it up."

    "Here it is," I thought. "The death of my car. What an unceremonious goodbye."

    That's a good name for a band, by the way.

    It seemed like an exercise in futility, but I decided I would at least try to get my car started again. Even though it had just been running, I decided to try jumpstarting. I got out my cables and walked over to the woman who was parked right next to me, pumping gas into a Lexus SUV.

    "Hi, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind giving me a jump," I said, smiling and waving my booster cables in as friendly manner as possible.

    "Uhm... no. I... uhm," she said, trying to think up a reason not to help me.

    Let's be fair and remember that I had a face full of Novocain, so my request came out as more of a growl and my smile may have come off as somewhat leering. But it was the middle of the day, there were loads of people around, and she was parked right next to me -- all she would have had to do would have been pop open her hood.

    There was no reason to mess with her, though. There were plenty of other people at the gas station.

    "I understand," I said. "You're in a rush."

    "Oh, yeah," she said. "Really in a hurry."

    So I walked over about five feet to a man pumping gas into a red Volvo.

    "Hi, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind giving me a jump," I growled, this time playing up my partially paralyzed face in hopes that it would garner some sympathy -- after all, who would refuse to help Good Ol' J.R. jump start his car?

    "Uhm... no. I... uhm," he said, trying to think up a reason not to help me.

    What the fuck? Who refuses to help someone jump start their car? It was the middle of the day, at a busy gas station and I was pointing to my car. All these people had to do was sit there while I did all the work. That's what you do when you jump start someone's car: you sit in your car and do nothing. Once the other car is started, the jumpee thanks you profusely. It is the easiest way imaginable to rack up good karma, and I had two people refuse.

    This is what's wrong with America, people. When the Chinese take over, remember this day. Remember that we are a nation that flat out refuses good karma.

    But I didn't pester the Volvo man; there were still other people I could ask. At the next pump over, there was a man standing next to an early 90s Ford Tempo. What person driving a Tempo was going to refuse me? He was my people. We could bond over shitty cars.

    "It's just that, well, this is my mother-in-law's car," Ford Tempo man told me. "And I would hate to have to bring it back to her and explain how I blew up her generator."

    It's an alternator, you fuck. Cars have alternators. And do you not see the car I'm driving? You don't think I know how to jump start a car properly?

    "OK," I said, and walked back to my car.

    I got in to try starting it up again. This is years of working with computers that caused me to do this. Computers sometimes really do come back to life if you leave them alone for a while. Internal combustion engines, however, stay dead.

    Ford Tempo man had a sudden, begrudging change of heart and swung his car around.

    "You look so miserable," he said. "I'd feel bad if you were just stuck here."

    I'm assuming my miserable look was a result of the Novocain. Maybe I look miserable all the time.

    I tried to explain to the man that I had just been to the dentist, so my face was numb, but it became clear to me that he was terrified of either me, or "car stuff," or both. So I just went about the process of hooking up the cables. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see he had a nervous look on his face -- as if we were doing some kind of drug deal. When I attached the negative cable to my engine block, he jumped back about 15 feet.

    "Cripes, man," I thought. "It's not gonna 'splode like some kind of al-Qaida car bomb."

    I got in the car and turned the key. Nothing. I wasn't really surprised, because: 1) I wasn't sure this was going to work, anyway; 2) my engine block has 23 years of oil and dirt on it -- not ideal conditions for electrical current. So I got out of the car to mess with the cables a bit and try again. But he was already removing the cables from his car.

    "Sorry it didn't work out," he said, shoving the clamps in my face.


    "Why don't you ask the guys across the street?" the gas station attendant said.

    I was flipping through the phone book, looking for someone who would come tow my car and buy it for scrap. The "guys across the street" was the Phillips 66 station, which also does some odd mechanical repair.

    When I walked in, I noticed a large sign on the wall: "MINIMUM LABOR CHARGE IS $12.61"

    That's sort of an odd figure to come to, and it left only $37.39 for the maximum amount I was willing to pay to fix my car. Unless I had burned out the magical Makes Everything Work fuse, I told myself, I was going to be parting with my car today.

    One of the mechanics grabbed a portable jump start kit and walked across the street with me. He fussed with the wires, had me try to start the car, fussed with the wires, had me try to start it, fussed with the wires and, "WHOOOOOOM," my car roared back to life.

    "Holy shit. I was all set to have this thing towed away for scrap," I said.

    "I'm sorry to disappoint you," the mechanic said.

    "How much do I owe you?"

    "Huh? Nothing. It's a jump."

    Back on the freeway and sailing toward home in my born-again land boat, I thought to myself: "The guys at the Phillips 66 on the corner of Cleveland in Grand, in St. Paul --that's what I'll write a blog post about. I will write an enormous 2,000-word post to point out how they are among a dying breed of people who aren't so self-absorbed that they can't help a person jump start his car."

    "No one will read that long of a post," a voice in my head told me.

    "Probably not," I thought.

    *By the way, thanks for ruining a perfectly good alcoholic experience, world of dentistry.

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Kids love the consumption

  • Last night I was staring at my map of Cardiff, as I am inclined to do these days, and I noticed something I hadn't seen before -- way down there below Penarth* -- Cosmeston Medieval Village.
    "Medieval village?!" I thought. "Rock on!"
    The child bride loves the Renaissance Festival and has been lamenting the fact that we will miss it this summer due to our being in another country. But, here was a medieval village right in Cardiff! How cool is that?
    "This is great! The child bride is going to love living in Cardiff!" I thought.
    Then I looked at the web page that (rather poorly) explains that the village is one that shoots for a sort of realism; giving you a glimpse of how miserable life was before the place was wiped out by the black plague.
    "But now I will tell you about some of the diseases that blight our lives," the website proclaims cheerily.
    Oh boy. Fun for the whole family. I'm guessing that this medieval village won't sell roast turkey legs and Miller Lite.

  • Ow. Ow. Ow. My soul hurts. I taste copper**.

  • I know this is hard to believe, but the White House has hired someone who is not competent.

  • Can someone ask the Red Hot Chili Peppers to please just stop?

    *Get off my back those of you who want to say that Penarth is not in Cardiff. It's on my Cardiff map, which makes it "in Cardiff," as far as I'm concerned.

    **Obscure reference just for Eric.
  • I got old

  • Man, I'm boring. Boring. Last night, as the child bride was making yet another ridiculously good meal (she is the best cook ever), I found myself listening to Dave Matthews Band's "Live at Red Rocks" CD.
    Fuck off, you. Dave Matthews Band is actually good -- it's the bulk of his fans that are blockheads.
    Anyway, I was listening to "DMB," as the Abercrombie kids used to say (is that even a popular brand anymore?) and staring out the window at a beautiful sunset and it occurred to me that I don't really listen to music anymore. I have a collection of about 800 CDs, but somewhere in recent history I just stopped listening to them for the most part. And I think it's indicative of something about me -- I'm boring. I'm plain. I don't have as much depth. What happened to me?

  • Living in the same house as my mom is a lot like living with a pot head. If you leave anything in the fridge, it will be consumed within a few days:
    "Mmm, I love French silk pie so much. It is so delicious. And now I have used $14 of my hard-earned dollars to buy a whole pie, which I shall enjoy for the rest of the week."
    ...Two nights later...
    "What the? Where's my pie?!"

  • Coca-Cola plans to advertise in Welsh (sort of). I can't help but feel cynical about this.

  • One of the more popular elements to sweeps stories is telling people something that is common knowledge.
    "When it's hot, don't wear a coat."
    "Kids don't know a lot of stuff, so you have to watch after them or they'll get hurt"
    Or, booze can make you fat. But the failure in the story about fattening cocktails is that it mentions old and busted fattening cocktails like the white Russian. It totally overlooks the new hotness cocktails that are so much more fattening -- like the Bacon-rita, or the Kahlúa Fried Cocktail (KFC), or a delicious Absolut Gravy. Help me out here, what are your favorite fattening cocktails?
  • Thursday, May 11, 2006

    I don't believe you

    "Sallie Mae is working diligently to complete your loan application and have your loans dispersed."

    Man, I am this close to calling Crystal.


    Here's my first attempt at Audio Post Thursday. Keen observers will note that I am having trouble keeping myself from laughing.

    MP3 File

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Linky post

  • Choose your favorite Afe song.

  • Remember that tomorrow is Audio Post Thursday.

  • Note to news writers everywhere: stop saying things just because it sounds good. If a guy commits a crime and then walks out of jail on a technicality, don't write "a judge may soon get tough on the repeat offender" in your lede. Clearly, no one is getting tough on him (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean), so don't write it. For fuck's sake.

  • Spot the winner: Nebraska resident Sherri Sullivan appears set to earn her seventh drunken driving conviction, having been caught again after celebrating the end of a 15-year license suspension that had come as a result of drunken driving convictions.

  • Ooh, classy.

  • Sometimes you just really, really want pancakes.

  • I think I speak for all of America, nay, all the world when I say: it's about damn time.

  • When Chuck Norris exercises the machine gets stronger.

  • Interesting (albeit pretentious) piece on English as the common language of Europe. The thing I take issue with is the assertion that it is a result of British stubbornness.
    No, I think we can take credit for that one, thank you. Americans are the ones who have spent the past half-century throwing around money and mass-producing pop culture. For better or worse, I'm pretty sure the U.S. is driving the dominance of the English language.

  • My wife's favorite player will captain the Wales rugby squad against Argentina. She likes him because she thinks he looks like a Hobbit. A 6-foot-tall, 242-pound Hobbit.
  • Tuesday, May 9, 2006


    Keeeeeee-ripes, I hate going to the dentist. I have nothing against dentists personally. Most of the dentists I have met in my lifetime have been good people; they do good work and they are woefully underappreciated. But, as I've said before, sweet mother of Jesus dancing a jig on a Chevrolet, I hate having to see the dentist.

    For some reason, my brain is capable of occasionally -- and, so far, always inappropriately -- producing extreme panic. And something about having people placing whirling metal objects in my mouth takes me to that special terrible place. I think it is partially a side effect of being such a big fan of Carl Hiaasen novels. If my experiences were a Hiaasen novel, the dentist would be blitzed on alcohol, meth, and nitrous oxide. He would slip and manage to shred my jaw and cheek into a bloody, pulpy mess. In his drugged-out panic, he would then decide to avoid a malpractice lawsuit by bludgeoning me to death with a giant toothbrush.

    That didn't happen today, obviously. But things got off to a bad start when he managed to hit a nerve while injecting the painkiller. It felt as if an explosive had gone off in my jaw.

    ME: "Gah!"

    DENTIST: "Ooh, I think I hit a nerve. That doesn't happen too often -- sorry about that. Your nerves are exactly where they are supposed to be. That's not the case with most people. The good news is that the painkiller will definitely work now."

    MY BRAIN: "Hey, whoa, man. What the fuck was that? Why are we not running away?"

    DENTIST: "Are you OK?"

    ME: "Yeah. OK. Fine."

    BRAIN: "What?! We should be leaving. Fuck you, man. Fuck you three times."

    The painkiller did its job and soon I could no longer feel the left side of my face. The dentist then stuck various bits of metal in my mouth that I'm sure made me look as if I was in German fetish porn. As soon as I heard the whir of the drill, my mind flashed back to the last time I had a cavity filled -- about 14 years ago. That dentist (a different one) offhandedly noted that the cavity was deeper than he had expected.

    "I'm a little concerned that I may hit the root as I'm drilling," he said.

    "What happens if you do that?" I asked.

    "Oh, you'll let us know," he said. "You'll let everyone in the building know."

    One of the teeth that today's dentist was planning to work on was that tooth -- the "you'll let us know" tooth. I didn't want to let anyone know today. I wasn't feeling informative. He (and another dentist at another office, as well, lest you think he was doing unnecessary work) had determined that the filling in that tooth had been done wrong, allowing the cavity to hang on. He planned to remove the old filling completely and replace it with a new, better fancy-dancy white filling instead of the "Why, yes, I do drive a 1983 Oldsmobile; how did you guess?" metal filling that was there.

    I was shaking in the chair, and as soon as I heard the rattle of the drill echoing through my skull, the panic button was pressed.

    BRAIN: "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Here comes the pain. Oh, fuck, this is going to hurt! This is going to HURT! Oh, Christ! This is it! He's going to break through the tooth and tear up the root and it is going to be more pain than we've ever experienced. Oh shit! It's going to happen at any second! ANY SECOND NOW! Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! And it is going to hurt so bad that our left eye will pop out! You will be so overcome pain that your own eye will pop out of your skull!! Shiiiiiit!"

    I was hyperventilating and squeezing my hands together so hard that my ring was cutting into my finger. My eyes were squeezed shut, but I was aware that my feet were kicking around.

    DENTIST: "Chris? Are you OK?

    BRAIN: "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit."

    MY LEFT EYE: "I don't want to pop out!"

    ME: "..."

    DENTIST: "Let's give you a chance to catch your breath, OK?"

    No, not OK. I was already going through trauma. Why they hell would I want to prolong this experience? I wanted to just get it over with and get the hell out of the office. I wanted to be 8 years old eating at Popeye's with my mom and drinking strawberry soda. I did not want to be sitting around in a dentist's office waiting for more drilling.

    I shook my head desperately and tried to communicate that I wanted him to just keep on, but I couldn't get any words to form.

    ME: "...hhhhh..."

    BRAIN: "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit."

    MY EGO: "What the fuck is going on here? There's no pain, you big pussy."

    BRAIN: "But there WILL be pain -- a lot of pain! Oh God! Oh shit!"


    DENTIST: "Yeah. Let's take a quick break."

    ME: "..khhh..."

    EGO: "Oh, for fuck's sake. You are such a girl. This is... wait. Wait a fucking minute. Are there tears in your eyes? You're fucking crying! Oh, FUCK! What is wrong with you?! You absolute pussy."

    BRAIN: "OK, I'm going to start running through every bad thing that has ever happened to us ever. Remember when Andy Wolf put you in a headlock and he would not let go? You were punching him in the balls, but he just would not let go."

    EGO: "This is so embarrassing. What kind of man are you? I am so disgusted with you."

    BRAIN: "...and then Sarah McDaniels broke up with you. Oh wow, did that suck. And..."

    LEFT EYE: "I don't want to pop out!"

    It went on like this for an hour and fifteen minutes. At the end of it, I walked out with four new fillings. I go back for work on the other side of my mouth next week.

    Monday, May 8, 2006

    Don't forget the ice cream tent

    An addendum to my piss-and-moan post from Sunday: although my Welsh isn't good enough to compete for Welsh Learner of the Year, it apparently is good enough that they have asked me if I would consider leading a discussion on learning Welsh overseas.

    I'm inclined to say yes, but I'm not really sure what I would talk about: "Uhm, it's really tedious and people think you're a bit weird. The end. Enjoy your day at Eisteddfod, everybody!"

    Sunday, May 7, 2006

    One less thing to worry about

    Life is full of these little events that mean a whole hell of a lot to you and that are completely irrelevant to everyone else.

    There's this thing called Eisteddfod. Unless you are from here, you probably don't really care enough to even go to the trouble to pronounce it properly.

    At this thing called Eisteddfod, they have all sorts of competitions for Welshy types, one of which is for Welsh Learner of the Year. People will reward your years of learning with £300 and a wooden plate if you can meet some sort of undefined criteria that makes you the Welshiest of Welsh learners.

    It's a prize that is wholly irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of the earth's population. But then there's me. I've been making myself sick over the last week or so thinking about my attempt to make it to the final round of the Welsh Learner of the Year award.

    On Saturday, a list of 15 people was reduced to four who will go on to compete for the title in August. Because of the several thousand miles of land and water separating me from Swansea, my interview was held over the phone. Because of the several time zones separating me from Swansea, my interview was held at 6:20 a.m.

    I was so gunned up after the interview that I went on a 30-mile bike ride. When I got back, there was a voice mail message for me from one of the organizers of the Eisteddfod: "Chris, mae'n flin 'da fi..."

    So, I'm out.

    It's one less thing to worry about, I suppose.

    Friday, May 5, 2006

    The powdered sugar is actually powdered swords

    Ask a Ninja is my new favorite website. The only drawback to the site is the fact that the concept is 100-percent stolen from Esther. More than 11 years ago, she and I were sitting around in her room when she wrapped a blanket around her head and shouted: "I am ninja; ask me question!"

    I proceeded to ask her questions and she answered them in hilarious stylee that neither my memory nor my imagination can replicate. It made me laugh so hard that I could not breathe. If I didn't ask her questions fast enough, she would shout: "I AM NINJA; ASK ME QUESTION!"

    And then she would punch me. A lot of Esther's humor involves punching me.

    100 Things: 36-40

    1-5 ~ 6-10 ~ 11-15 ~ 16-20 ~ 21-25 ~ 26-30 ~ 31-35

    36) I think atheism is half-assed. Stating concretely that there is nothing at all is egotistical and lazy thinking.

    37) I don't know why I blog. I don't know why I learned Welsh. I don't know why I do a lot of things.

    38) I want the last 10 years back.

    39) Whole hours are lost to my staring at maps. Lately it's been maps of Britain and Cardiff, but I have always been this way. I seem to slip into some sort of autistic mode when given a map.

    40) I once dated a girl whose sister once dated Brock Lesnar.

    Thursday, May 4, 2006

    An expert in shouting at crows

  • Sometimes I think I'm being a damn fool for leaving Minnesota. I was thinking that especially this morning as I crossed the Hiawatha Bridge toward the headquarters of my benevolent employer. The forest along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers are turning a lush green now. The bridge soars over the valley and gives a panoramic that stretches from downtown Saint Paul to out past Black Dog Lake (about 30 miles) -- all of it leafy and green, with soft hills and fat, lazy river cutting through.
    Just as you reach Mendota Heights, the steeple of the 166-year-old St. Peter'sChurch sneaks above the trees and it looks like the sort of thing that Thomas Kinkade would charge you $700 to look at. That's where you would expect God to actually be. When I look at the mammoth, soul-hurting edifices of megachurches I always find it hard to believe that God would hang out at those places any more than he has to. Of course he's there, that's part of the job description of an omnipresent being. But at an old church that rests on the bluffs of the Minnesota River -- that's where he probably enjoys being.
    I try to think of what I would be if I hadn't spent my adolescence here, escaping to Nine Mile Creek and the Minnesota, and I have trouble coming up with positives.
    Wales is beautiful. The River Taff runs less than 1/3 of a mile from the house where the child bride and I are hoping to live (although there is still some debate as to whether I could swim in the river). We will be able to walk from the house into countryside. Wales has mountains and seaside and better beer and less snow and fewer evangelical churches. But I can't help but feel some sense of guilt/melancholy/doubt for leaving here.

  • Those of you who paid attention in Twin Cities Geography in school probably got a little confused by the above blubbering: "Wait, Chris, I thought you lived in the prestigious west side of Bloomington Rock City -- what the hell were you doing taking the Hiawatha Bridge across the river? That doesn't make sense. It's like that scene in 'Fargo' when they're supposedly driving down from Bemidji, but for some reason they're on I-35. This is madness!"
    I know. Calm down. I was in Saint Paul this morning for a dentist's appointment. I went to the dentist about two weeks ago and they decided that they needed to spend a few hours drilling holes in my skull and filling them, but set the dates for said torture sessions too far into the future for the child bride's liking. So, she arranged for me to go into a different office and have someone poke me in the mouth with pieces of metal before they could set more immediate dates for face drilling.*
    The previous dentist had thoroughly depressed me with the number of cavities he found. I am a dental hygiene poster child with all of my flossing and brushing regularly and rinsing with fluoride mouthwash and not drinking pop, but my white trash heritage is too strong and I have bad teeth. Today's dentist found an additional "problem area," hence my more subdued mood.
    His apparently serious offer to do the work sans Novocain was soundly rebuked by me, which means that things will be split into two appointments.
    The plus side of this is that I plan to burn off my remaining holiday time surplus by taking half days for those appointments. This means I have 16 days of actual working left.

  • Ask a ninja about love.

  • Good name for a band: Power Rangers Rendezvous

    *Whoa, that sounds like the subject line for one of those really dirty spam e-mails.
  • I ain't have no phone in my apart-a-men

  • I'll admit that I don't really like my profile picture at the moment, but it features my favorite hat. It's got an embroidered picture of the USS Coronado on it. It's an actual baseball cap that actual sailors who actually serve aboard the actual Coronado are required to wear, so I get to walk around pretending that I wasn't rejected for military service*.
    I got the hat when one of my best friends, Paul, served aboard the Coronado a few years ago. Eric got a rockin' picture of him holding a .50 caliber machine gun, I got a hat.
    Since the child bride refuses to comment on my blog, I'll leave it up to Crystal as to whether I should scrap that profile picture.

  • The title of this post has nothing to do with its contents. I just have a handful of phrases that I thought would make good post titles, but have yet to find a post where they fit.

  • Is Eddie Vedder's jaw wired shut? I was listening to a radio interview of him today and he didn't sound capable of opening his mouth.

    *I have yet to meet a person who doesn't think this was fortuitous.
  • Wednesday, May 3, 2006

    OH MY GOD! TSUNAMI!!!... in Fiji... uhm... not really

    One of the more amusing failures of television news is the fact that you have 22 minutes of TV time to fill, and you have to fill it. But the nature of news, the nature of the universe is that sometimes things just don't pan out.

    Sometimes, stories turn out to be different than you think -- that poor old lady being kicked out of her home turns out to be a crack addict who doesn't pay her bills. Sometimes the story turns out to be nothing -- that suspicious leaking package turns out to be Snapple*.

    But you've got that 22 minutes to fill. You've got to have something to put on the TV. One of the first rules of reporting is: always come back with a story. Always. If you get sent out to cover a fire and the fire is out when you get there, do a story about the poor family that lost everything; if the house was empty, do a story about how quick the firefighters were to respond; if the house burned to the ground do a story on how hard it was to fight the fire; if it is cold or hot that day, do a story about how difficult it is to fight fires in such weather conditions; if it was a total nonevent, do a story about fire safety. Always, always, always come back with a story, because you've got 22 minutes to fill.

    A sign of a good reporter and a good news organization, I think, is how they handle this reality. Better news organizations will wait to hype a story until after the story has unfolded and they see what they are actually left with.

    Others (and, in fact, most) will jump the gun. They will break into regular programming with sketchy information, send breaking news e-mails, and rearrange their 22 minutes to focus on something that they think will happen. And if that something fails to happen, they are left to stand there like fools and make the best of it.

    As a result, viewers in Detroit will tonight know quite a bit about an event that did not occur some 7,510 miles away.

    Somewhere in Detroit, a producer is calling his sports anchor and asking: "Hey, do you want any extra time tonight?"

    *Both of those examples are actual stories I've read.

    Tuesday, May 2, 2006


  • In elementary*, I kept a calendar in my desk at school. As Christmas or spring break or my birthday or summer approached, I would stare at the calendar in catatonic glee with every spare moment. I would put a little circle on the day I was on, and then put an "X" through the days that had passed. I would work out how many actual days until said event and then how many school days. I would count the days over and over again, backward and then forward, and assign values to specific days; a Friday would go by faster than a Tuesday, and so on. Then I would stare at my watch and see the seconds tick away; each second put me closer to the end of the day.
    My poor organizational skills and my slight autistic tendencies meant that I could do this sort of thing all day -- the number of seconds left in the minute, the number of minutes left in the hour, the number of hours left in the day, the number of days left before whatever it is I wanted to happen finally happened. OK, how about now? Count it all again.
    That's sort of where I've been for the past week, with the eagerly anticipated event being split between two dates. There are 70 days between now and the day the child bride and I are planning to move to Wales; there are 31 days between today and my final day in the service of my benevolent employer, with only 19 days of actual working left (only 19 days because the child bride and I will be in Utah for a week to celebrate her younger sister marrying Packer-loving scum).
    During those work days, my routine goes like this: stare at my Google calendar; look at satellite images of Cardiff; look at pdf map of Cardiff transport system; look at pictures of the house Rachel and I are hoping to rent; check e-mail to see if letting agent has sent anything; repeat.
    Everything is still so very much in the air at the moment it makes me sick.

  • Suddenly I find it hilarious to add question marks to song lyrics:
    - "Here I am? Rocked you like a hurricane?"

  • Good name for a band: Diaper Contraband

  • Quotes that take all the seriousness out of the message you were trying to convey: "There's a hidden enemy in your house and it's a piece of furniture."

  • "Six in 10 young American adults were unable to locate Iraq on a map of the world, a survey found."
    Having once lived in California, I am not at all surprised, but that doesn't keep me from being depressed.

    *For those of you reading from afar, elementary school covers ages 5-11.
  • Outrunning My Wife

    My latest column is out. My favorite line: "But I'm not married to Kenenisa Bekele, am I?"
    Please help me become famous by forwarding the article to all your friends, relatives and elected representatives.

    Monday, May 1, 2006

    On hols

    It's a holiday in Britain isn't it? I'm going to use that as my excuse for not blogging today. The unions fought hard for this, you know.

    Or, I'm refusing to blog in solidarity with the United States' millions and millions of migrant workers.

    Or, something else. I'm having trouble coming up with a good excuse.

    By the way: Holy shit! It's May!