Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Monday, August 19, 2013

'39 and the Art of Time Dilation

I've written about Brian May before.
Brian May makes Eddie Van Halen's mom (mum for those whose parents didn't have the guts to travel west) wonder where she went wrong:
1. World class guitarist (check)
2. Millionaire (check)
3. Ph.D in Astrophysics . . . dangit! Eddie, go study.
This song is about Einstein, time dilation, and cool.

Enjoy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"You fool! Mothers do not get sick; they take care of the sickly!" - Dexter, Dexter's Laboratory

 

They look so small, don’t they? Yet they make so much noise. Whodathunkit?

If you don’t believe we live in The Matrix, then last week was a week to celebrate Mother’s Day. If you believe we live in The Matrix, it’s considered good etiquette to take your laptop or toaster out for dinner.

Mother’s Day (or is that Mothers’ Day) is a holiday that appears to be a wasted one – why would we applaud the efforts of someone who toils week in and week out to keep the family fed, covered in clean clothes, and living in an environment where the sink isn’t classified as a biological warfare laboratory? I think that these so-called “Mothers” should suffer in silence, like the fathers of the world. I mean, is fair that that Mother’s’ day is during the school year where The Boy can make gifts (laminated books filled with poetry about how much they love Mom), lovingly crafted at taxpayer expense at school? Father’s’ Day is during Summer Break, however, and I normally get items otherwise destined for the trash, like a torn, used chewing-gum covered Houston Astros™ poster and a chewed-through binky for presents.

I guess that kills the whole “suffering in silence” theory. Dang.

Anyway, I really don’t begrudge The Mrs. for the cookbook and poetry that The Boy worked on in school. I don’t like to cook. Heck, I’m just surprised that school boards (or school board lawyers) haven’t yet considered “Mother’s’ Day” an “outmoded view of the socio-economic world wherein children growing up without mothers are marginalized and disenfranchised by the whole celebration of mothers in general, and shall henceforward be replaced by ‘Non-Sex Specific Adult Quasi-Familial Authority Figure’ day.” This would be in keeping with Christmas Winter Break, Halloween Fall Festival, and Easter American Idol© Finale.

I’m only half kidding. Heck, I’m afraid I just gave some sort of group headed by some bitter wizened little crank a whole new cause to yell about at the local school board. If so, I’m sorry for the school board, but not all that sorry. I’m still mad about the fish sticks every Friday for TWELVE YEARS OF MY LIFE.

Ahem.

Back to Mother’s’ Day.

We had a good Mother’s’ Day at the Wilder Compound (it’s really only one building, but the guard tower, barbed wire, and electromagnetic detectors tent to make my small-minded neighbors brand it a compound). I got up and watched The Boy and Pugsley so The Mrs. could sleep in. When The Mrs. finally wandered into the front room, fresh and well rested, she was confronted with a snoring, drooling me splayed out on the couch like Bill Clinton on prom night. I’m thinking that The Mrs. found the cards and flowers (I was drifting in and out at that point) but I do recall The Boy meandering into his room to come back with . . . extra presents for Mom.

The Mrs. looked at me and said, “John, he totally weaseled you.”

The Boy did weasel me. Pugsley also weaseled me with “I luff you, Mommy,” pointing his big blue eyes up at her. Much like Jeanine Garafalo at a marathon, I was neither cute nor prepared.

I drifted back off to sleep.

Eventually I woke up to the sound of the mower – The Mrs. had decided to go out and take care of the near-junglerainforest conditions that were developing outside. Texans can abide by many a thing, but a poorly kept lawn is enough to start a blood feud that can last generations. It is a little-known fact that the Texas War of Independence started over General Santa Ana having a lake house with a poorly kept lawn. Sam Houston could not let that stand, especially since he owned the lake house next door.

It turns out that I’m the guy whose wife was out mowing on Mother’s’ Day.

I wonder who Agent Smith takes out for Mother’s’ Day? I’m betting, since he’s software, that he takes an Apple™ laptop out for dinner – because if The Matrix ran on Windows© Neo would have so kicked their butt when they blue-screened.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

"The Red Green Show is kind of like the flu; not everybody gets it." - Red, The Red Green Show

 

Downtown Houston at sunset. The buildings are tall, but they won’t save you from a plague of frogs.

The Mrs. made the mistake of exposing The Boy to the term “flash flood” during when we were turned back by wet highway patrolmen recently as the highway we were driving on began to resemble a bayou (that’s a local term that replaces “fetid swamp filled with reptiles and pond scum” for the non-Southerners in teh Intarwebs). Driving in a bayou is not good if you use the standard-issue Texas Mercedes™ or Jaguar©. A little-known fact is that the State of Texas purchases a new Mercedes® for each driver as a standard issue car when you get your driver’s license down here. If you have a good driving record and sufficient plastic surgery to be a TWIT (Trophy Wife In Training), you get the Jaguar™.

So, after Houston flooded, it was announced that Texas officially had developed Swine Flu. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Swine Flu (different that Sine Flue, where you calculate trig problems all day) but Swine Flu is perhaps the SECOND HORSEMAN of the APORKALYPSE. I knew Texas had felt a bit warm recently, but I never would have guessed. Sadly, I guess that means I’m not supposed to eat bacon (mmmm, sweet, crunchy baaaaaacon) or ham (mmmmm, salty pink ham). An aside - Ma Wilder always wept when I ate ham, because I slathered it in ketchup, which was okay because I would slather anything classified as an “animal” – turkey, fish sticks, sausage – with ketchup when I ate it. This must mean that corn is an animal, because it got ketchup, too. (Full disclosure – that’s really still the case – meat is just an excuse to eat more ketchup, and on more than one occasion I ate two pieces of bread with ketchup as the only filling – but enough about college.)

Since we’re in Biblical punishment mode, I’m guessing that a plague of non-Muppet™ frogs will be hitting us soon. When I was ten or so, watching Charlton Heston tell God that he could have his Commandments back from his cold, dead fingers, I always wondered why a plague of frogs was bad. Frankly, I still do. What do frogs do that is worse than the whole “river of blood” and “curse of baldness on Yul Brenner”? I suppose it would be bad if the frogs were zombie frogs, or perhaps if they were just really big frogs that were hurled from the sky at 200 miles per hour and dented your car chariot, but I think it was just a plague of frogs.

I think if Hollywood were to redo the Ten Commandments, it would probably star Brad Pitt as Moses, since, hey, why the hell not? I think Ramses, Pharaoh of all Egypt would probably be played by Alan Greenspan, or maybe Vin Diesel if they wanted to go younger. I could see them updating it, and Pharaoh would be confronted with:

Instead of rivers of blood, perhaps we could replace that with, oh, Nancy Pelosi?
Instead of baldness, why not a mysterious flu?
Instead of falling frogs, failing megabanks that would cripple the economy?


Okay, maybe I got some of those a little wrong, but you get the idea. Then Brad Pitt would show up in Congress and say, “Let my Texas go!” They’d say “no” and then he’d turn a briefcase into a child he’d adopted from Canada, or some other place without the Internet. Then he’d give congress huge wads of campaign cash, and they’d say, “Whatever, dude.”

Then Utah (would we really miss it?) would flood and trap the people attempting to flee California, and Texas could finally be free.

I think this might work out, especially if I have enough ketchup, because I think it might taste good on frog. And, really, who has ever heard of frog flu? Heck, if you say it – it sounds like a martial art – frog flu. It’s certainly better than Hammageddon.
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Sunday, May 03, 2009

"I’ve told them a hundred times: put ‘Spinal Tap’ first and ‘Puppet Show’ last." - Jeanine, This is Spinal Tap

 

Sunset from near the House of Blues®, Houston. Though a pretty picture, this is not a good thing, as we will soon see.

This story starts out on (about) March 1, 2009. I told The Mrs., in passing, that tickets for a concert by Messieurs Guest, McKean, and Shearer. You may not recognize the names, but these gentlemen are better known to most of the world as the fake (and funny) rock band, “Spinal Tap.” In this tour, however, they were performing songs as themselves, not acting, just three friends having a good time on stage.

The Mrs. managed to get tickets for us. Not just any tickets. FRONT ROW. CENTER.

Honestly, I hadn’t been front row center for a concert since I had elbowed my way forward for a Van Halen, Dio, and (inexplicably) Loverboy concert in the way back time of the 1980’s. Oh, sure, that crazy hit “Lady of the Eighties” was such a catchy tune, but Mike Reno and the rest of Loverboy were a bit out of place between “Last in Line” and “Running with the Devil.” Perhaps Loverboy needed more Satan music to be at home in that group. I hope that Mike Reno was wearing a cup, because that tennis ball really looked like it would have hurt. And, really, who has aim that good?

I digress.

Front row center. At a concert of some of my comedic idols. How could I be happier?

I set up babysitting immediately after we got the tickets.

Finally, it was concert night. The Mrs. and I happily dropped off our little toads, the round mound of sound, Pugsley and The (serious) Boy. We drove down to Jones Hall, where the tickets said the concert was. We’d been there before going to a concert of an artist The Mrs. loves, (Tori “Screech” Amos – okay, she was good in concert, but, dangit, sometimes that woman just screeches like a cat). It was a nice venue, very artsy, meaning that lines of men peeing in the sink during intermission weren’t likely.

We got to Jones Hall. We were beginning to turn in to park when The Mrs. said, “Oh, look at the sign – it says Spinal Tap® has been moved to the House of Blues©.”

It had an address underneath, which might as well have been hieroglyphics – neither The Mrs. or I know downtown Houston. We got on the cell phone and called Alia S. Wilder, and she gleefully found directions for us on the Interweb, all the while noting that she would have driven down to Houston for the concert. Well, who would give us directions then, hmm?

We made it to the House of Blues, and were directed to the concert site -third floor- and went in. After sticking my head in the door, I asked the bouncer, “Umm, what exactly are those people doing in my seat?” All the floor seats were full – packed. Not a single open seat.

“Floor is general admission, if you’ve got the wrist band.”

“I want my seats. Front row. 10 and 11.”

“Do you want me to go ask those people to move?”

“Yes.”

“That’s not fair, they got here first.”

“No, that is fair. I got in line BACK IN MARCH.” I didn’t raise my voice – rarely helps with bouncers, and often leads to physical altercations. He was only twenty years old or so, barely 210 pounds of solid muscle, so I didn’t want to hurt him and his thirty friends. I continued, “I want to talk to your supervisor.”

Supervisors, sometimes, can help.

This supervisor helpfully pointed out that the balcony, located somewhere just short of low Earth orbit, had seats that would have just a super view once the massive projection screen was pulled back. She also indicated that all the people who had gotten here first had dibs on the front seats. Oh, and that I could get my money back if I didn’t like it.

I (theoretically) will get my money back, in 7-10 days. Comedy isn’t funny when you want to rip the pancreas out of, well, anyone at this point, really. It also didn’t help my mood when I later figured out that at least some of the people sitting in my seats had paid HALF what I did for my ticket.

The Mrs. and I were irate on the way home, wherein The Mrs. indicated all of the things (one thing) that she would like to do to Dan Ackroyd’s (who we think owns House of Blues™) most tender anatomical unit, namely, pull her fist back and punch it. Hard. The Mrs. also mentioned something about “Ghostbusters 2©” when she was hitting her left open palm with her closed right fist. Horrible sound.

Me? I was mad at everybody, from Messieurs Guest, McKean, and Shearer to Dan Ackroyd to the idiot in the car in front of me.

“Don’t drive mad, honey.”

“I’m NOT driving mad. I’m just driving like a jerk. There’s a difference.” I figured I could spread my joy with the rest of the world.

We finally got home, and I had a good head of steam up. I picked up my laptop and began writing a letter to everybody involved. What did I want? An apology.

I sent out an “electronic mail” copy to Harry Shearer, one of the performers (Mr. Shearer has done more voices on “The Simpsons” than there are photographs of Paris Hilton on the Interwebs). I didn’t really expect a response.

I got this in response from him: “I'm really truly sorry that fans like you, and you actually, had such a crappy experience.”

There was a lot more, and we actually exchanged another e-mail. My opinion of him? Classy guy.

I was impressed that he took the time to write. The Mrs. was certain that it was one of his myriad personal assistants and dog washers, but I felt (and feel) like it was the genuine thing.

Does that make it better? Sure it does.

I just hope that The Mrs. doesn’t do a Mike Reno on Dan Ackroyd. I thought Ghostbusters 2™ was okay.
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

“They’re coming to get you rent from you, Barbara.” – Johnny, Night of the Living Dead

 

Lookz into ourz eyez. Lookz deeply in2 themz! We’s own you!!!

The Mrs. and I have a standing argument. Actually we have about 457 standing arguments, but who’s counting? Anyhow, this particular argument can’t really be solved by Google®, though Google© does certainly put to rest most of the arguments that we have, such as who played first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 1934 season. Strangely, we couldn’t find any records of that. (Hint: In 1934, the Los Angeles Dodgers started as a group of drunken athletic nuns in Cleveland who eschewed first base on religious reasons, deeming it “a base form of idolatry.”)

No, this is an argument that revolves around that great unknowable beast, human nature. I have long argued that the average accountant, after missing three square meals with no prospect of another in the foreseeable future will take off the wing tips, slip the surly bonds of civilization, shave his head into a Mohawk and slip into steel spike-studded-shoulder pads and begin chasing Mel Gibson because he wanted to gnaw on Mel’s spleen. The Mrs. disagrees, and thinks that the average accountant would just be a very hungry (but only slightly less polite) person, still civilized, still able to be polite and share.

After Hurricane Ike, The Mrs. claimed that the neighbors banding together and helping each other proved her point. “Nobody even glanced twice at your spleen,” The Mrs. said, “but then again, you’re no Mel Gibson.”

This week, I had a little experience that bolsters my point . . .

I travel on occasion for work, and when I get to my destination I rent a car. It’s much easier than walking. Mostly, picking up a rental car is like attracting a politician using dangling wads of cash as bait – easy. Delay in the airline schedule? Sure. Delay in airport security thanks to TSA? A given. Delay on a rental car? Nope.

This particular day, however, a car rental company whose name rhymes with “Mational” had my reservation. As I checked in for my rental, the clerk said there might be a delay. Oh, sure, I expected that delay might mean five minutes of me standing in the airport parking garage while I paced over chewing-gum encrusted concrete.

No.

I arrived at the lower rental area booth – the one where elite (definition: not me) travelers whisk through the airport, not even stopping (somehow these elites manage to go to the bathroom without stopping on their way – I have this working theory that if you make enough money you never ever have to poop again), nay, merely pausing while the clerk tosses them their keys on the way to their car.

I arrived at a desolate wasteland, a garage meant to be stocked with cars, meant to be filled with people being whisked on their way, even non-elites like me. Now, you might think that from the term “wasteland” that the garage was empty. No. There were throngs of zombie-travelers milling about the counter, bumping into each other, groaning, looking for all the world like they expected the cars to spring from the ground like paparazzi when Obama’s (note: my spell check does not recognize this name) thong slips a bit at the beach.

This, I guess, is what you get when you rent virtual cars rather than real cars.

Finally it got uglier than a Hollywood divorce. One customer shook himself awake. “Listen, Miss, I’ve been waiting here an hour.”

The (young) clerk made the first mistake that people under stress make – she clammed up. It did make since, since she was busy ripping apart the furniture in the rental booth to nail across the windows in case the Living Dead (theoretical) rental customers began to clamor for brains. Or drinking water. Or, heaven forbid, cars.

The previously mentioned and now quite belligerent customer began again, “Miss, I will summon the evil powers of the CEO – you have no idea who I am . . .”

The clerk and the (theoretical) customer began circling each other. Somehow the customer had fashioned his toothbrush into a crude shiv, and the clerk prepared to defend herself with a stapler.

“Listen, mister, I don’t know who you are outside,” she gestured at the streams of sunlight pouring in through the parking garage exit with her stapler, “but you’re in my world now.”

Then a car arrived. Belligerence dropped from the face of the customer as if unexpected doughnuts were available at a corporate meeting.

Funny, but he got that car.

More and more zombies arrived, there were probably about seventeen (theoretical) customers milling about when my car arrived.

So, I stand by my statement. If people get utterly out of sorts when they can’t get a car for an hour, well, we’re about three meals away from kindergarten teachers abandoning their classes and naming themselves “Grongar, Duke Of Elm Street (1400 block).”

I am fearful for my spleen.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Historically cemeteries were thought to be a haven for vampires as are castles and swamps. Sadly you don't have any of those."- Mulder X-Files

 

Yet another alligator. Doing whatever it is that alligators do, which I think includes swimming, sunning themselves while lazing in limpid pools of murky water, and mutating into gigantic creatures that eat European cars. Which is okay, because European cars are made entirely of sheep intestines. And kitten tears.

Yesterday was fun. We went off to the Houston Area Boy Scout Fair. This event is held annually at Reliant© Area, which is near where the NFL™’s designated victim team, the Houston Oilers Texans ®, play. So, instead of going to the Bridal Fair (who in their right mind would brave the hideous shrieking of a bridal fair – it would be like being forced to stay in a puppy-torture room) or Disney© on Ice™ (I think this would be interesting if it were Walt’s body, but instead I hear it consists of skating puppets).

The Scout Fair is an exemplar of everything that’s right about America. Admission fees? Nah, the Scouts have that covered. We went to a booth where you could (in The Boy’s case, poorly) throw darts at balloons. A Boy Scout was manning the booth, and offer The Boy a strawberry-ish drink. I think it was strawberry. The Boy didn’t have any. Pugsley did. Since Pugsley cannot talk, I can’t say if it did taste like strawberry. Pugsley had two glasses, so it was good, even if it was puréed marmot spleen or some such. Heck, Pugsley will drink nearly anything if there’s enough sugar in it, so it might have been marmot spleen.

We travelled up and down the aisles – none of the Scouting booths were looking for money – these were Scouts and Scout parents looking to help young Scouts learn something. There were also groups that deal with Scouts and Scouting values that were there – people from the Battleship Texas, a company that brought surveying equipment to teach Scouts about surveying. Everyone was there to teach Scouts. Or help Scouts have fun. Or give them puréed marmot spleen to drink.

The rain was pouring down, like, well, I can’t think of a marmot spleen analogy here, but you can imagine that I tried. We decided to go out to eat. The Boy exclaimed, “I don’t want to go out to eat, I already had m’lunch.”

The Mrs. and I concluded The Boy felt that he was about 80. When we got to the restaurant, I gallantly ran to hold the restaurant door (located conveniently under the awning) open while The Mrs. was drenched getting The Boy and Pugsley out of the car. Thankfully The Mrs. didn’t have to wait a second when they arrived at the door of Chili’s.

Thankfully, The Mrs. loves me even when she’s been drenched.

That night I introduced The Boy to vampire movies, watching a Vincent Price film called, The Last Man on Earth. At one point, I looked at The Boy and he was covering his ears with his eyes tightly shut. Which is entirely explainable because THE DOORKNOB WAS TURNING AND VINCENT PRICE’S WIFE WAS CLEARLY ON THE OTHER SIDE EVEN THOUGH HE JUST BURIED HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If only Vincent Price had been a Cub Scout. I think he could have tied her up better before he buried her.
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Desperate ducks commit desperate acts!" - Howard, Howard The Duck

 

When I was out hiking with Pugsley and The Boy, we happened upon Paris Hilton! She didn’t have much to say, but you could tell that whole tanning thing was working out for her. Then she ate a small dog.

Sorry, Internet. I took last week off.

Let me explain – I wasn’t out with another Internet. I was just too tired to make it. Last Saturday I went Cub Scout camping. The Mrs. generally doesn’t let me take Pugsley on overnight camping trips – The Mrs. is generally concerned that I will have forgotten I brought two boys, and only bring one home. That would be an evening of explaining. Normally The Mrs. forgets that stuff the next day, so I figure I’d only be in trouble for the night.

Anyhow, The Boy, Pugsley, and I left late, and had to put up our tent just as dusk was doing whatever it is that dusk does. Night falls, morning breaks, but dusk? I think it creeps up on you, unannounced, like Arbor Day. Or Christmas.

We finally managed to get the tent up, the sleeping bags in, and had hot dogs that were raw on the inside and burned on the outside to the consistency of Rosanne Barr’s thighs after she ran a marathon. Wearing corduroy. The Boy and Pugsley didn’t seem to notice – camping drastically lowers your quality standards as it relates to food. I myself once ate my shoe on a picnic, just because it looked mildly appetizing.

That night we settled into our bedrolls and slept soundly. Except for the fighting, the whining, and the 1:30AM run to the bathroom with a rather panicked Pugsley (just had to go a lot, like most three-year-olds he’s not used to walking a quarter-mile to go to the bathroom).

The next morning we had a stellar breakfast of badly burned (but yet teasingly raw in the middle) pancakes. Non-stick is really not a guarantee, more of a tantalizing promise. Pugsley ate a bite or two, and then indicated that he would eat no more. I got to pull my “Dad” line out – “It’s a long time until lunch, son.”

Strangely, at home it’s NEVER a long time until lunch, because it’s always a short walk to the pantry, filled with Snacky-Cakes® that can be pilfered and Oreos™ that can be absconded with. This morning was different, however, since the morning Cub Scout program included Orienteering – which involves a LOT of walking with a compass. Since The Boy was navigating, I was concerned that we might actually leave Texas at some point, and end up slightly off course in, say, Nebraska. But his aim was (pretty) true, except for the time when he wanted to take us 180° off course (that’s like 560π° off course in metric). We had a knee-slapper of a conversation about the Sumerians picking a weird number like 360° in a circle, and then Pugsley came up lame with a blister on his big left toe.

Oh, sure, I thought about doing the Darwinian thing and making him catch up or get lost, but then the spectre of a night spent explaining how I was just conducting a eugenics experiment with our youngest son descended on me. I then decided to do the Dad-thing and plop him up on my shoulders and carry his heiney around that way. He lovingly patted and petted my jowls, stretching them like they were a part of Jim Carrey’s face.

Upon dismount, Pugsley then began to make bleating sounds, pointing at the pain that was in his Snacky-Cake©-free stomach. I said to him, “For the first time in your life, Pugsley, you might be mildly hungry. Eat lunch. In two hours.”

We finally made it back to the tent, did some more hiking, and finally settled down for a (mostly) fight free night, if you don’t count the incident at 3AM when Pugsley pushed The Boy off of the air mattress and I had to rearrange children. In a tent. At 3AM.

So, this week we had a good week. The biggest thing we did was go on a picnic. We’d hit Target™ beforehand, so everyone had picked something to eat. I picked some Target© fried chicken, and we grabbed a table at a local park.

Immediately the ducks began to congregate near our table, begging for bread crumbs.

Internet, I admit that I had a truly horrible and despicable thought.

I would feed chicken to the ducks, making them nearly cannibals. Of course the ramifications of this immediately ran like a fever-dream through my head: wave after wave of bird-eating ducks finally realizing how good meat tastes spreading throughout the country, finally turning on themselves in an orgy of zombie avian genocide.

The next day I was driving with the family in the car. I said to The Mrs., “You know, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I thought about feeding some of my chicken to the ducks the other day. That would almost make them cannibals.”

The Mrs. nonchalantly replied, “Yeah, me too.”

Sometimes you find the right person. Then you marry her. Then you don’t lose your kids camping. Then you find out that you’re both similarly evil.

Ain’t life grand?
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