Lawnmower Man

So I'm back in J-ville for a few days and one of the pleasures of being home is getting to mow the lawn. Yes, getting to. It's that awesome.

Okay, it's not. Mowing the lawn is a chore made all the more difficult by the Ryder family's long-standing policy on lawnmowers. Apparently Mom never wanted to mess with the gas part of owning a gas mower, so we've used more alternative forms of mower propulsion.

The first one we used was, seriously, a push mower. An honest-to-God, straight out of a 1950's sitcom, looks like it should come attached with Jerry Mathers, push mower. You push, the blades spin, and if the grass is tall, get ready for a workout. You'd think the lack of a motor would make the thing pretty quiet, but you'd be wrong. It made so much racket that we actually made a pretty good profit off leasing it to community theatres who needed just such a loud prop/noise creator for a production.

Eventually we upgraded, but still not to a gas mower. We went electric, years before it was fashionable. Our current mower now only functions when you plug it in (usually with a very long extension cord unless you happen to only want to mow in a 2 foot radius from an outlet.) This leads to some very tricky cord manipulation which I have only recently started to get an actual handle on. (Josh and Dad have gone on record as saying they still aren't good at it.)

You see, in order to make quick work of a lawn, the "back-and-forth" technique is often utilized, but when you're dragging a cord behind you on the "forth" trip, when you turn to go "back," the cord is often sitting right in your desired path. So you therefore are forced to either go for it and take your chances with running over the cord, thereby severing your only connection to the life-giving electricity, or trying in vain to whip the entire length of cord out of your way, which usually only results in the cord becoming disconnected or you getting whipped in the face. You can see how this makes for a very entertaining afternoon.

I try to rationalize the entire exercise by telling myself that, in my own small way, I'm helping to reduce America's dependency on foreign oil. But usually after the umpteenth time of reconnecting the stupid cord to the mower, I just get angry and feel like killing some dolphins.

And I love dolphins.

A joke. A nerdy joke.

"Statistics say that one out of every four Americans suffer from some kind of mental health disease. Now...think about three of your friends. If they're okay, then congratulations, you have a very poor grasp of data sampling and statistical probability."


Hanging from a cliff

In the past week, I've watched Star Wars: Episode III and the season finales for Everwood, Gilmore Girls, ER and The OC. In short, I'm an emotional wreck. Why can't these shows resolve anything? Just resolve something - just one arc, that's all I ask. But no, they have to tease us and leave us hanging from cliffs, just so we'll be tortured all summer until the new season starts. The worst is when there's a cliffhanger and then they cancel the series so then you never find out who shot Mr. Belvedere.

The problem with having to catch up with all these finales after being away for a week is now they all started to congeal into one show after a while. So, as best as I can figure, here's where we stand: Rory Gilmore isn't going back to Yale - in face, she's going to Africa to reunite with her boyfriend, who actually just flew to Europe because there was nothing left for him in Everwood except a crazy dad who's in prison. But his other son just hitchhiked his way out of Chicago to come visit him. Meanwhile, Rory's mom has a drinking problem and is going away to rehab, but not before she proposes to the dude who attacked her best friend and later gets shot by the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie. Oh, and everyone's porch collapses. Now that's good TV.

After all that drama, I needed to cheer up, so I watched some movie trailers. Often, I enjoy movie trailers more than the actual movies. (I've mentioned this before.) While this might not be true for you, if this doesn't make you smile, you might not be entirely human. Enjoy.


Never book a DJ who works for "Music Madness"

Call off the search parties, I'm fine. It's taken me a few days to get settled in my new room here in Springfield. I am now living , as cliche as it may be, in my parents' basement. And it's sweet. Except for the people sawing stuff at 7:30 every morning. But that's another story.

Anyway, I graduated. That was sweet. Then I went camping. That was also sweet. Perhaps I'll say more when I can post related pictures. That is, if my cool digital camera-bearing friends ever deem me worthy enough to send pictures to. But that is not the topic of discussion today. The topic is this:

Weddings are ridiculous.

Please allow me to amend my previous statement. Weddings are sometimes ridiculous. Rented wedding reception DJ's are always ridiculous.

My family went to a very nice Roman Catholic wedding on Saturday. Josh and I were competing to see who could be more "Catholic" during the service. He was way better than me on the responses (which were totally not cued at all), but he lost major points when he kept going on the Lord's Prayer after everyone else stopped. (They never added on the "For thine is the glory" bit. Come on, people. Get with the times.) In the end, he said he did better than me. But then, maybe I shouldn't have gone up for Communion and said to the priest, "How about a little transubstantiated goodness for a Protestant brother?!"

And finally, some tips for what I believe to be the worst wedding reception DJ ever:
  • During dinner, the music should make the guests should feel as if they are at a classy affair, not shopping for housewares at Sears.
  • Doing a play-by-play on the garter removal is not classy. Especially if the groom decides to do it no-hands style.
  • If you absolutely have to play "The Chicken Dance," do it as unobtrusively as possible so no one notices and tries to actually do the dance. During dinner is a good time. Or try it as background music for the toasts.
  • If, during the "little bit softer now" part of "Shout," no one laughed at your terrible pants-ripping sound effect the first time, it's doubtful anyone else will find it funny the second time.
  • Whether classy or not, be sure to call attention to the oldest person on the dance floor. Because that lady was hilarious.
Okay, that's enough snobbery for one day. Hopefully, you'll hear from me more frequently now that I've got my sweet setup here in the basement.


The sport of the future.

Tennis golf really is a coming craze. If there's anyone who has their finger on the pulse of the nation (especially when it comes to underground sports), it's this kid. And tennis golf will be huge. It could at least get some coverage on ESPN 8 - The Ocho!

For those of you who don't know the origins of this amazing sport, allow me to set the Wayback Machine for Spring 2003. I'm hanging out with Josh and his friends at Illinois College. They have this sweet thing called Senior Week where seniors are pretty much the only people left on campus and they're done with Finals. How this doesn't just dissolve into an anarchic bacchanal, I'll never know. But it was fun - some seniors party, we invent sports.

I guess the kids at IC just got an itch to play golf, but didn't want the hassle of leaving campus. And playing with golf balls was obviously out of the question because of problems in distance and property damage. Hence - tennis golf. Pick your favorite iron (I use a 5 iron - go figure), take a tennis ball, and go to town. The game is played on campus using various landmarks and buildings as holes. In our course, for example, you have to hit the library, a tree, between two rows of bushes, and eventually the strange Stonehenge-like sculpture in the middle of campus. (That's not all one hole. That would be ridiculous. Although the last hole at IC was something equally silly. It was a par 9.) The course is created the first time out, pars are assigned, and you go from there.

The first attempt at tennis golf at Drake was last Saturday afternoon. Raph and I went out to create the course. We made it 8 holes before losing BOTH our tennis balls in thick foliage around Old Main. That was embarrassing. Undaunted, we set out the next day with a foursome to complete the course. What follows is proof of our awesomeness.

Here's the foursome. From left - Raph, Emeric, myself, and Quentin, a guy from Raph's floor who caught us at tee-off and decided to jump in. Yes, his shirt does indeed say "Wenches want me." This is the crowd we run around with.

A common practice during tennis golf: watching the shot and praying it doesn't break a window or a person.

Emeric and Keri, in their classic "British noble" pose. Those kids love to act like nobility, God bless 'em. Keri was nice enough to serve as our audience/ball girl/photographer on this outing.

I find that wearing ridiculous glasses bought at Walgreens really helps my game. "Cool cool glasses."

Emeric had a pre-shot ritual that was very entertaining. This is him pretending that he knows which way the ball is about to go.

Raph, on the other hand, is pioneering a revolutionary new technique in which he never once looks at the ball. Not ever. It's a terrible technique.

Quentin had never actually touched a golf club before that day, but he took to the body english like a natural.

Now there's some pretty form.

Pretty form leads to holes-in-one. This is me right after I hit a bench on a short, but devlishly tricky par 3. It's the only hole-in-one recorded on the course so far. Take that, Tiger.

Fun as it is, the game is little more than an excuse to take a lovely walk around campus and have some silly fun with good friends. And good friends they are.

Well, I'm graduating on Saturday and after that I'll be going on a short camping jaunt. So if you don't hear from me by a week from now, assume I've been eaten by a mountain lion. They can climb trees, you know.


Don't worry about little old me.

Seriously, I'm fine. I'm sure many of you thought I was dead. Turns out...I'm not.

I am, however, done with college. Done. Completely. Well, besides walking across the stage in a cheap robe and silly hat. And moving out and going home. But all obligations and finals...done.

My thesis presentation went really well on Friday. I had a great crowd (especially for a thesis presentation) and the material seemed to be well-received. My friend Raph was mad because he got asked really hard questions from the professors and I got asked essentially, "How are you so awesome?", "When did you become awesome?", and "What is the process you use to develop your awesomeness?" I did actually mention you guys in my presentation. One professor asked me about my process and I mentioned that I posted the sketches to my blog and got feedback from my trusted comedy advisors. So be happy - you got an academic shout-out. So that's all done and turned in. I wrote some more pretty good stuff in the last couple days before I turned it in (surprise), but I'm tired of posting sketches, so if you want to read the whole thing, let me know and I'll e-mail you the big Word file. Or just track me down when I come home and I'll let you check out the nice bound copy.

Then a couple finals later and I'm done with school. It's very weird. I now fill my days with tennis golf and video games. And soon...packing and Grammas. But not packing Grammas. They can move about quite well on their own. They don't need to be put in boxes. But that is a funny mental picture.

What's tennis golf you ask? Look for a sweet picture post coming soon...

Until then, it's official. Hermione is officially cute and I am officially a dirty old man for saying that. But don't take my word for it. Check out the new Harry Potter trailer. And don't say I didn't call it. Because I did.


Hitchhikers and cowboys

Here's a couple links to tide you over until the next sketch or, God forbid, an actual post with real-live content. Ah, don't hold your breath.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has some very true things to say about blogging.

In other news, Conor Oberst is the ballsiest man alive. He also wears a cowboy hat surprisingly well.

For now...writing. But soon...tennis golf!


Kickball and social norms...there's a paper in there somewhere

Today's sketches include my lame attempt at political satire through schoolyard games and a social experiment gone terribly...right? I'm not as in love with these as I have been with others. "Norms" especially is strange because it ends on a somewhat serious note and I have no idea why. Sometimes these things just take on a life of their own and that's how this one wanted to end - it reminds me of the ending of Sartre's "No Exit," which Drake Theatre performed last semester. (Comparing the ending of my sketch to Sartre may just be the most pretentious thing I've ever done on my blog.) Anyway, let me know what you think.


Setting: Playground

Characters: Two young boys

Mother (offstage)

(The two boys are playing kickball. One boy [Boy #1] is pitching, the other [Boy #2] is kicking.)

Boy #2: Ghost runners on first and second!

(Boy #1 pitches the ball, the other kicks. You know, normal kickball stuff. The pitcher gets the ball and runs to what would be third base and steps on the bag. This is all obviously mimed on a very small field, as we are on stage.)

Boy #1: I just tagged out your ghost runner. That’s three outs! I’m up!

Boy #2: Wait, what?

Boy #1: You had ghost runners on first and second! So one had to run to third! But I stepped on the bag first! That’s a force out!

Boy #2: No, ghost runners automatically advance! You can’t get a force out on ghost runners!

Boy #1: Well, you can now. I’m up.

Boy #2: No, that’s not the way we play!

Boy #1: It’s the way we’re playing now.

Boy #2: But you can’t just change the rules if you don’t like them!

Boy #1: It’s my game, I’ll play it how I want.

Boy #2: But that’s no fair!

Boy #1: Deal with it.

Mom: (offstage) Tom DeLay, you come home right now!!

Boy #1: Coming, Mom!

(runs offstage)



Setting: Classroom

Characters: Sociology professor, middle-aged male

Frat boy

Football player (FP)

Socialite sorority girl (SG)

Studious girl (Nerd)


(Five students are seated in desks, facing the teacher. Slacker is in the back, looking bored. Nerd is up front, sitting up straight, alert and attentive. FP barely fits in his desk and has a dumb expression on his face. SG and Frat are sitting next to each other.)

Prof: Thanks for your papers, everyone. I should have those back to you by next week.

Nerd: I can’t wait to hear what you think of mine, Prof. Kappler!

Prof: I expect to have nothing but good things to say as usual, Miss Riley. Now, let’s move on to our topic for today.

(He begins to write on the blackboard in large capital letters N-O-R-M. The football player follows his writing hand with expectation and mouths each letter as it is written.)

FP: (a la Cheers) NORM!!

Prof: Yes, Mr. McCreary. Most professors find it necessary to dedicate an entire class period of Sociology 101 to analyze one of the characters from Cheers.

(He writes a large capital S to complete his word.)

FP: Oh. Norms. (pause) NORM!!...s

Prof: Let’s try to keep the enthusiasm for the football field, shall we, Mr. McCreary? Today, we’re talking about social norms.

Frat: Oh, I know all about these, Professor. They tell you the normal amount you can drink in a social situation. I believe we seriously tested these norms last Friday at Kill-a-Keg.

SG: Oh my God, Brian. That was so great! That party was insane.

Frat: Yeah, it was. And you weren’t so bad yourself, babe.

Prof: Mr. Marshall, I believe that you’ve once again mistaken a sociological concept for alcohol tolerance. That’s the fourth time this semester. Quite amazing. No, you all remember our discussion on values, I presume.

Nerd: Beliefs that we have about what is right and wrong and what is important, both to us and to society as a whole.

Prof: Very good. Thank you, Miss Riley. Now, values are general behavioral guidelines because they tell us what we believe is right and wrong. However, they do not tell us how we should behave appropriately in any given social situation. This is the role played by social norms in society.

FP: The role of Norm in Cheers was played by George Wendt.

Prof: Get off the Cheers kick, Mr. Marshall. It doesn’t apply. Anyway, as Thio puts it,

FP: Theo from The Cosby Show?

Prof: Good Lord. No, Alex Thio, actually. He was never on NBC, so I can’t expect you to have heard of him, but he’s a professor of sociology. He said, “While norms are specific rules dictating how people should act in a particular situation, values are general ideas that support the norm.” Are we clear on this concept?

Nerd: Yes! Let’s talk about folkways and mores!

Prof: Thank you for actually doing the reading, Miss Riley, but calm down for a moment. I’d like to make sure everyone understands before we move on. This is a very important concept.

SG: I don’t really get it, sorry. Are these norms like, the same in other countries?

Prof: A very good question, Miss Blair. The answer is no. Let me see if I can make this relevant. Take the social norm of alcohol consumption.

Frat: YEAH!!

Prof: I thought that might excite you. Here in America, the legal drinking age is 21. We have the norm that only those people over the age of 21 are responsible enough to be trusted with alcohol. But in Saudi Arabia, the drinking of alcohol is completely banned.

(dumbfounded looks from Frat, SB, and FP.)

Frat: No alcohol? At all?

Prof: That’s right. Their social norm is based on religious values. Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol.

SG: What do they do at parties?

Prof: I’m not really sure they’re a partying bunch.

Frat: Okay, that’s just weird. Now I’m totally lost.

Prof: Hmm…okay, I’d like to try something. I don’t usually do this as it has a tendency to get out of hand, but I think in this case, it may help. I’d like to try an experiment.

Nerd: Like in Psych? We did this great computer simulation on conditioning with a mouse named Skippy!

Prof: Not quite. This is actually a sociological experiment. For the rest of the class period, I’d like you all to act free of societal norms. Shake off the expectations of society and do as you wish.

Nerd: Do as we…wish?

Prof: Exactly. The commonly-held societal norms no longer apply in this class. You may say what you like and do what you like. But just because there are no norms doesn’t mean there are no consequences. I promise your grade will not suffer, but your actions may have other consequences, so beware. So…who will start us off?


FB: This class sucks!

Prof: That’s the spirit, Mr. McCreary! Norms generally prohibit loud outbursts of discontent, especially with the subject of the discontent within hearing distance.

FB: Wait, what are we doing?

Prof: We’re…erasing societal norms for the class period.

FB: Yeah, I don’t get that. I just really wanted to yell that because I was frustrated.

Prof: Okay. Well, thank you for inadvertently getting us off on the right foot. Anyone else?


(Slacker gets up from his spot at the back of the room and walks out.)

Prof: Yes! Thank you, Mr. Reynolds! Excellent example! Suddenly getting up and leaving a class is normally dictated as inappropriate by our social norms.

Frat: Hey, I want to leave too!

Prof: Sorry, Mr. Marshall. That card can only be played once. If any more leave, it wouldn’t leave us with much of an experiment, now would it? But good try.


Prof: Good effort! Nice spirit!

(SG stands up and begins clucking like a chicken while turning in a circle.)

Prof: Yes, Miss Blair! Wonderfully absurd!

Frat: I’m taking my pants off!

Prof: Fantastic!

Nerd: Professor, I’m uncomfortable.

Prof: Well then maybe you should try taking the stick out of your ass.

(class gasps)

Prof: That’s right, norms apply to me too. And therefore, so does the lack thereof.

Nerd: I just don’t see how Brian taking his pants off is conducive to learning.

Prof: Well I don’t see how your constant attempts at sucking up are conducive to having any of us like you.

Frat: I know I feel a lot better!

Prof: Hell, if I thought it’d help you concentrate more, I’d tell you to take your pants off every day.

FP: (sudden outburst) I like show tunes and accessorizing and I think I might be gay!

Prof: Excellent! I didn’t expect this to turn into therapy, but I hope you’re feeling better about things.

FP: Actually, I am.

SG: I want to say something! I wish guys would stop staring at my chest!

Frat: Then maybe you should cover it with something, say…clothes.

SG: Hey! All my sisters tell me I look cute.

Frat: That’s only because they want to feel okay about wearing the same stuff.

Prof: The alcoholic has a point! Your entire house looks like whores!

SG! Professor! Inappropriate!

Prof: Exactly! You see?!

Nerd: Professor, I’m sorry, but I really don’t see how this is

Frat: (cuts her off) Shut up, nerd. This is cool. You know, every morning after I’ve been drinking, I wake up with a huge hangover and I swear off alcohol forever. But I never do. I’m not even sure I enjoy partying anymore, it’s just what I do.

SG: I equate sex with love in a never-ending attempt to improve my self-esteem!

FP: I still think I might be gay!

Prof: Yes! Wonderful, everyone! Now, this may be therapeutic now, but imagine if society was like this all the time. It’d be chaos! We need these social norms to keep ourselves civilized. Now, everyone’s taken part…except for you, Miss Riley. How about it?

Nerd: Oh, I really don’t think

Prof: (cuts her off) Come on, Miss Riley. What’s the problem? Too inhibited to take part? Aw…poor girl. ‘Me too shy to break a social norm.’

Nerd: (quietly) Stop it.

Prof: Make me. Or are you so used to being the teacher’s pet that you forgot how to stand up for yourself? What makes you so uptight, I wonder. A troubled childhood? A lonely adolescence? Or maybe it’s just years and years of sexual frustration, all bottled up and turned into

Nerd: (stands up, enraged) SHUT UP! You think you’re so clever, proving your point like this?! Well, congratulations! You’re the greatest professor ever! Are you happy now? Let’s see…what can I say that would make this experiment a success? Oh, how about this? I have no idea what I want to do, but I know I have to be the best! I’ve slept with two professors because I thought it would help my grade! I’ve gotten A’s for so long, I forgot why I wanted them in the first place! Sometimes I wish I could be like you (to SG), little miss pretty party girl! But I can’t! I guess I’m just too uptight, isn’t that right Professor? Thanks for letting everyone know – I feel so much better now. I hope you’re happy, you miserable, self-serving BASTARD!!


Prof: (very calm) Very good.


Class dismissed.



Don't panic.

Saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy over the weekend. How awesome was it?

This awesome:

"A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have." Posted by Hello