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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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Going where no dog has gone before." - Commander Tucker, Enterprise

The above ice sculpture commemorates Balto, who was leading a sled that took needed medicine to Nome to stop an epidemic. The annual Iditarod race is based on this real-life mission of mercy. Balto is commonly known as being a dog, but in reality was really a post-op cat that was tired of living in a cat’s body. It’s also a good one to click on for large goodness. The original is about 15’ high. The original sculpture, not the original cat. A 15' cat is just crazy talk.

We need Balto at the Wilder house now. Not that Balto would be any good if he were made of ice. We need the darn medicine.

It starts, as usual, with the grubby little kids. The Boy, being a boy, is grubby. No hand washing, poor hygiene, covered in filth, getting all manner of indeterminate substances all over, and that’s me. Imagine how much worse he is at five. I would blame the imperialist capitalist gender role imprinting that our society imposes, but, hey, I’m actually for all of that stuff. I’d much rather The Boy be Captain Kirk:
“Set phasers on ‘neuter,’ Spock, and spit on the smoking corpses when we’re done.”
than Captain Picard
“Should we have a meeting before we surrender to the Fluffy Kittens of Epsilon Five, or just surrender, Number One?”
Hence, The Boy is grubby, and ready to fight a Klingon, Cylon, or Shadow with his bare teeth, should one appear.

The upside is that Fairbanks is still a small community. It seems like our time of year to catch diseases is spring, not winter. Perhaps it’s because all winter long we’re huddling in our houses, wearing gloves and burning endangered species for warmth over piles of smoldering cash. Perhaps it’s that the germs freeze dry at -55ºF. When we get sick, though, everybody you know catches the same thing. It’s nice and cozy, like a family curse.

The Mrs. seems to be more or less impervious to the sickness this winter. Perhaps it’s some innate genetic superiority. She would claim that it’s because she’s the only one in the house that washes on a regular basis and eats vegetables without being strapped down, but she’s elitist that way. There are times she walks through the front room and shakes her head, saying, “Animals,” under her breath. That’s how we know she loves us.

But, she kindly nurses us all back to health. I’m not sure why. I think it’s either because:
  • She cares about us and wants to have us feel better, or
  • She’s tired of The New Boy crying, The Boy moaning, and me whining.
You pick.

But spring brings other things in Alaska besides epidemic levels of sore throats and cranky male Wilders.

The icicles are back. For the longest part of the winter, there aren’t any icicles – the water doesn’t melt often below zero. Also, when it snows on your car, you can brush it off with little difficulty since none of that ever melted to form ice on the car. Winter in Fairbanks is not so icy. The closest for the most part is a packed snow.

The sun is also back. Since the before the equinox, we’ve had longer days than you have, unless you’re reading this from Barrow or Deadhorse. It’s a bit creepy being up at 4:45AM and seeing the beginning of sunrise, but it’s still much less creepy than applying depilatory cream to George Clooney’s back.

Outdoor activities are becoming ever more tolerable. Although it was about -10ºF this morning, there was one day so far that the thermometer (in the Sun) read 40ºF. Almost time to break out the flip-flops. I’ll do that as soon as I get some decongestant. Where is that damn Balto and his medicine?

Here kitty, kitty.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

"Nickel off on expired baby food." - Apu, The Simpsons

When you live in a small town, and the stop sign falls down, what's the best way to repair the sign? Duct tape. It's our silvery friend. I imagine it keeps the welding rod budget down for the local road department.

I’ve written before about the sense of community of Fairbanks, and how it expresses itself in ways big and small. A series of incidents yesterday reaffirmed that.

The Mrs., The Boy, The New Boy and I were joined on our weekly quest for sustenance by Two Young Ladies, guests of the Clan Wilder that day. The Two Young Ladies were unfailingly polite and well behaved. The Boy, however, took advantage of the presence of The Two Young Ladies to show off, mainly by acting as a big a doofus as he could. I guess women near your own age have that impact early on.

Anyway, we were in the aisle favored by The New Boy, specifically all the powders and processed vegetables that he loves so much, “The Baby Aisle.” As we took snow shovels and filled our cart with a mountain of tiny baby food jars, a woman approached The Mrs.

Unknown Woman: “Excuse me.”

The Mrs.: “Yes”

Unknown Woman: “When can they eat this?” (holding up a container of Baby Veggie Puffs) “He’s my first baby, and, well, I don’t know.”

The Mrs.: “Does your baby chew?” (I assumed The Mrs. meant Red Man, or Skoal, but instead she was talking about the ability of the child to mash food up between its gums. Who knew there was so much to know raising a baby?)

Unknown Woman: “No. But it says,” pointing at the label, “these dissolve in their mouth.” (Nothing has dissolved in The New Boy’s mouth, ever. As soon as it passes his lips it is ground down, mashed, swallowed, and digested at The Speed of Food. As of yet, there is no exact velocity associated with The Speed of Food. I estimate it to be somewhere between Mach 1 and the speed of light.)

The Mrs.: “You’d probably better wait. They need a few teeth, and need to be chewing up baby food first.”

Unknown Woman: “Thanks!”

We went on down the aisle, and I reflected. Here was a woman who was looking for child rearing help from a random woman in the local grocery store. And getting it, from as good a source as you could imagine, specifically The Mrs.

Our shopping complete, we jumped in a line. Since The Boy had been a bit of a jerk during our shopping session, he was not going to receive a treat at the end. The Young Lady Visitors, however, had behaved admirably and were due a treat per the clauses of the 2006 Treaty of Safeway. This “not getting candy incident” sent The Boy into paroxysms of despair. The clerk at the register knew us, and tried to console him. The clerk at the next register also knows us, and likewise tried to console him. This held up the whole checking out process for that entire half of the store. I looked at the people behind me in line. They weren’t upset, they looked patient and kind.

As the second clerk headed back to her register, she handed me a piece of candy on the sly. “When you’re able, you give this to him. Tell him it’s from me.”


Saturday, March 25, 2006

"Allow me to introduce myself. I am Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius." - Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius

I was taking a dish to the sink, (really) and looked outside. Oh, another moose. ANOTHER MOOSE! I did quite a double-take as I realized that the eight hundred pounds of muscle and fur was out there, close enough to touch if I opened the window. She's shown eating the ornamental plants that surround the house. Apparently our house is known as the "Moose Salad Bar."

A couple of news stories caught my eye this week, primarily because they were so close to one another, but I haven’t heard anyone make the connection. I’ll have a go at it. Stay with me, this does have an Alaska angle.

Story #1: Several scientists are complaining that the government wants to de-list the grizzly bear from the endangered species list in Yellowstone National Park. No doubt that pic-a-nic baskets everywhere are trembling in sweaty fear.

Story #2: There’s a coyote loose in Central Park, in New York City. They’re trying to catch the coyote (along with his stash of anvils and ACME products, no doubt) and probably deport him or her to some desert to chase roadrunners.

Okay, here’s how they come together. Grizzly bears (ursus arctos eatus peoplus) aren’t endangered. There are more grizzly bears in Alaska than people who live in Fairbanks. You need extra grizzly bears? We got ‘em here. There are only several hundred in Yellowstone, so, apparently something that’s plentiful in one place can be “threatened” in another.

Which brings me to the coyote. I’m assuming that there aren’t hundreds of coyotes (and not the renowned actor Peter Coyote, but the furry four legged canis hungrius anvilus) living in Central Park. If there were, they probably would have eaten Sheryl Crow when she did the big concert there, which certainly would have boosted ratings. By my reading of the logic of the government, this urban coyote should be categorized as “threatened” and hence protected by the endangered species act in Central Park. They need to bring this coyote mates, food, and build it a three-bedroom house.

I also know that the historic range of the grizzly bear extended into the New York City local area. San Francisco and Chicago, too, are within that range.

Let’s reintroduce the grizzly bear to New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago. I realize that that might produce a hardship on some of the residents, but keep in mind if you annoy a member of an endangered species; it is allowed by federal law to eat your liver. On top of that there might even be a fine.

Once the reintroduction of coyotes and grizzly bears throughout the metropolitan areas of the United States is complete, we should probably reintroduce smallpox. Smallpox is the ultimate endangered critter, since it only exists in labs in the US and USSR Russia. I get giddy when I think of what species could we reintroduce next. Malaria?

The next challenge would be to pick and choose which era to represent. Since almost every place on the planet has changed dramatically over the course of the 10,000 or so years since the last ice age, we’d have to choose carefully. Do we want to cut down Sequoia National Park, so it looks like it did 15000 years ago? That would be preserving the environment that presumably predates man messing with it, so it might be the best choice. If we go that way we can all have nice, solid wood tables. Or we could turn those big suckers into enough matchsticks to keep us in matches for the next 10,000 years.

I suppose it’s easy for me sitting up here in the wilds of Alaska to point out how the environment of urban life three thousand miles away should be managed. Thank heavens that those in urban areas thousands of miles away don’t try to manage ours . . . oh, wait . . .

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Only your father could take a part-time job at a small town paper and wind up the target of international assassins." - Marge, The Simpsons

All of Fairbanks, gathered for our annual equinox virgin sacrifice and beer fest.

Fairbanks is a small town, and being a small town, pretty soon you’re close to knowing everybody. If you recall the “six degrees of separation” theory, e.g., everyone’s within six people of knowing everyone else (i.e., I know Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Bacon knows this trashy starlet, who was the illicit lover of a former President, who knew the Pope, so therefore I could call the Pope and ask, “Hey, what’s with the hat?”), well, in Fairbanks I think that number drops to one or two at most. Three would get you all of Alaska.

This closeness has implications. If you steal a tank and tear up most of downtown Fairbanks, chances are that one of the cars you drive over in your drunken rampage will be that of someone you know – and that could be awkward at the next Christmas get-together. Nothing challenges a friendship like driving over your friend’s car in a tank.

In truth I was sitting in the parking lot of a local store, waiting to turn left. Left turns are the worst, especially with traffic in Fairbanks at rush hour. You might have to wait 35-45 seconds for an opening in traffic. So, I’m waiting at the stop sign (having been there 20 enraging seconds already), and then a mother with a passel of kids in a minivan pulls into the center lane to turn into a local fast-food restaurant (McNanookburger). Instead of turning at the next opportunity, the lady behind the wheel turns back to do something with her kids. Enraged by the now thirty-second wait, I think about honking the horn. I recall, however, that my horn is inoperable when the temperature drops below thirty (I have no idea why). I think that the universal “gesture of peace” might be more appropriate. I consider lifting my arm.

I then recognize the driver of the car. She’s my next-door neighbor.

That’s the difference in living in a small town. Everyone knows who you are. Everyone knows if you’re the guy who flips his next-door neighbor the bird because she pulls a doofus traffic move while her son is yakking up a chicken bone. You don’t want to be that guy.

There is extraordinarily little anonymity here. Consequently, most service clerks feel utterly free to treat you like you’re family, i.e., rudely or poorly. Last night I took The Mrs. out to dinner. As we were celebrating an anniversary, I took her to a place where the food doesn’t show up at the table wrapped in paper. I ordered iced tea. Beyond taking fifteen minutes for it to show up, I got one refill. Sigh.

So, do you nuke the poor waitress for poor service? Nah. She’s your boss’s daughter. Or your boss’s best friend’s daughter. Or the daughter of the guy who fixes roofs. You don’t really have that option, unless your self employed and can stop water from pouring into your own house. Plus, the waitress might have a gun and be a better shot than you.

Example: I went to Barnes and Noble the other day for their blockbuster opening here in Fairbanks. It was like an orgy of bibliophiles was released from prison into a sea of bookish love. The place was packed. The store manager declared it was one of the biggest opening days in the history of Barnes and Noble. The Mrs. and I went there on Friday, two days after the grand opening. There were five cashiers working, and the line was still forever long. The people in front of us each had fifty to seventy-five pounds of books that they were buying.

I think Fairbanks has more readers than average, what with the winter and crappy cable and all. It’s the same reason we have higher than average alcohol consumption, and greater number of kids per family. You have to have something to do in winter. This was a pent up fury of book loving people intent on grabbing their books on everything from string theory to lesbian studies, which in some metaphysical way might be joined, but I’m not gonna go there.

Barnes and Noble had released a joyous eruption of words, and the people of Fairbanks responded by buying everything they could at once, as if unsure that Barnes and Noble wouldn’t disappear into the night like Eddie Van Halen’s boyish good looks.

And, they have cappuccino. I like cappuccino. I ordered one. “Do you want that wet or dry?” I still have no idea what the difference is, but they gave me a cappuccino that was perfectly tasty and kept me up all night. Now everyone in town knows how I have no idea how I like my cappuccino, merely that I like it.

That was a huge digression. The nice thing about Fairbanks is the store was packed with people we knew. And every one (even the half-dozen folks we didn’t know) of them was polite, except the one that flipped me off on the way home because I was helping The Boy yak out a chicken bone instead of driving.

Glad I’m not that guy. But I have a long memory.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"Nothing is impossible, Mario. Improbable, unlikely, but never impossible." - John Leguizamo as Luigi, Super Mario Brothers

Yeah, that's the best picture I got of John Leguizamo and Governor Murkowski. You get a better one holding your camera up in the air at the back of a crowd, with the zoom on full. At night.

In a daring move, I bypassed the main crowd, and took us toward the site where John Leguizamo and Governor Murkowski would be cutting the ribbon on the Children’s Park. We finally got there, and found the remnants of Fairbanks that weren’t still standing in line to get in. We couldn’t get close enough to decently photograph John Leguizamo, let alone hobnob with him.

John Leguizamo acquitted himself wonderfully. He noted that “Fairbanks is so very, very much colder and more beautiful than he’d expected,” and that “John Wilder and his writings have changed my life. All hail John Wilder, future Nobel and MacArthur prize winner!” The crowd roared.

Okay, I’m doing that from memory, so it may not be exact. Of course, he I’m pretty sure he wasn’t going to come up here and say, “Dang, this place is hella cold, and I’m outta here. Keep your damn ice.” That would have been poor form. After his speech, he and the Governor took huge propane torches (really) and melted an ice ribbon. Everyone else left, and we walked down toward the commotion. We got within a dozen or so feet of John Leguizamo while he gave an interview at zero degrees. Fahrenheit zero, not Communist zero.

We wandered off, and saw more glorious ice sculptures. Some eighteen feet high. Wondrous things. After a bit of walking in the cold, we decided to get some coffee and cocoa. That’s when more trouble started.

It seems that John Leguizamo was giving an interview in the very building that had the coffee. It was like Ringo and Paul McCartney were there doing a nude photo shoot with underage Smurfs (sorry, that would be Pete Townsend). The place was packed by star gawkers looking to get up close and personal with John Leguizamo. My own thought was that these people were between me and my coffee. There are three places you don’t want to be in this world:
  • Between Paris Hilton and a camera
  • Between me and my coffee
  • Between me and my beer
I formed a single-man flying wedge and got The Mrs. and Stroller Boy (The New Boy) and The Boy inside though the clutches of poster and DVD and pen holding people salivating for John Leguizamo to finish his interview. I swear, if he would have come out toward them, they would ripped off his clothes. Then, perhaps they would have treated him like the cannibal zombies in Land of the Dead, except that he would be happy for the end, because then he wouldn’t be cold anymore.

I got my damn coffee.

As I poured the piping hot caffeinated love down my throat, the crowd began to disburse. It seems that Leguizamo, like Elvis, had left the building. I could hear a distant communal scream as he made his way to his waiting car.

The Mrs., The New Boy, The Boy and I made our way around the ice park. It seemed so desolate after John Leguizamo left. Like an empty husk. Actually, it was still crammed with people, and a good time. The Boy announced his intention to void his bladder, appropriate receptacle available or not. Given that he was trussed up in snowpants and jacket and seventeen layers of clothing, he requested I help him.

I did. After holding hat, gloves, jacket, and sweat jacket, he finally got ready to pee (none of this was as easy as it sounds – this was a porta-potty). As he did, I noticed that his baseball jersey had a friend. He’d worn a clip-on, little boy tie. Well, if you’re going to see the Governor and John Leguizamo, I guess you’d want to dress up a bit.

After getting him trussed back up in his winter clothes, The Boy slid on the slides. We got tired and went home. A good night had by all.

On the way home I asked The Mrs., “What do you think of Leguizamo now?”

Her response, “Well,” long pause, “he’s okay.”

So, John Leguizamo, you made a bunch of people in Fairbanks happy. You made a bunch of people scream like Ringo did in 1962. And, you got yourself on the good side of The Mrs. Trust me. You want to be on the good side of The Mrs.

By the way, I’ve been noting all the hits from Beverly Hills. That’s gotta be you, John. Do you think we could work Life in Alaska into a project? I would so be up for that. Especially if we could do zombies.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

"Aliens? We gotta deal with aliens too?" - John Leguizamo as Luigi, Super Mario Brothers

By my calculations, more people were in line to see John Leguizamo in Fairbanks than had seen Super Mario Brothers. And that's counting the three times I saw it.

It was time. I’d calculated out to the millisecond when we needed to leave our log cabin to see John Leguizamo and Governor Murkowski cut the ice ribbon to open the Children’s Park. So, what happened?

Well, it’s all my fault.

First, I made the mistake of feeding The New Boy a batch of ‘Nilla Wafers. ‘Nilla Wafers might look harmless, but when transformed by The New Boy’s incessant maw, they become a paste equal in consistency to the strongest of glues. Naturally, The New Boy was covered in that glue, and when it came time to scour him with steel wool and gasoline to rid him of his pasty cookie covering, well, it was my fault. I should have let him have some steak or something, but I had poor foresight. Well, live and learn. There goes five minutes.

Secondly, I misplaced the keys to The Mrs.’ car. I looked for them and then finally enlisted the help (at dire peril to myself) of The Mrs. in finding them. By admitting that the keys were lost, I would be admitting that I lost them. The Mrs. is very protective of her keys, given my proclivity for losing pretty much anything that isn’t tied down. Well, after looking for about ten minutes, we found them.

Finally, I had tried to be a good hubby, and in doing so I had gotten The Mrs.’ new Columbia™ gloves that I had gotten her for Christmas (gloves=always a good present in Alaska) out and put them on the back of the couch. I was going to wear her Thinsulate® mittens that have the mitten part that pulls up and reveals fingerless gloves like Motley Crue wore in 1982. I figured that would be good for running the camera. When it came time to go, though, only one of The Mrs.’ gloves was in evidence. The other appeared to have gone to some sort of alternate dimension where lone socks go. Immediately, I sold out The Boy. I had tried to do something right. It must be the scurrilous actions of The Boy at the bottom of this. That delayed us another fifteen minutes. We finally agreed she would wear her mittens, and I would wear my old crappy gloves that were bursting at the seams. The Mrs. was not amused.

As we drove in to Fairbanks, we noticed a contingent of Troopers flying down the road at Warp 6. The Mrs. remarked that this was unusual.

The Mrs.: “I wonder what’s up?”

Me: “Well, the Governor is going to the show, too. Maybe he’s running late.”

The Mrs.: “Maybe he lost his wife’s keys and gloves. You think?”

The Mrs. certainly does know how to nail down a point.

She was even less amused when we arrived late, looking for a parking space, and ultimately standing in a line of Fairbanksians the length of which was unknown except for hockey. We had bundled up for the evening, but The Mrs. and I both noticed that our hands weren’t as warm as we had dreamed they would be. It didn’t help that when we unloaded the stroller we found the missing Columbia™ glove. The Boy really had been the culprit! I hadn’t been just picking on a likely suspect. But, The Mrs.’ other glove was now home on the counter.

At least the other glove was warm . . .

Next: Land of the Leguizamo

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"Now she's gonna think I'm a complete idiot." - John Leguizamo as Luigi, Super Mario Brothers

The Boy is on the lookout for Leguizamo. This is what happens when you let 'em choose their own duds.

So on Sunday night we went back to the Ice Festival. Tonight was different, though. Normally I’m as difficult to move out of the house on a Sunday night as it is to convince a PETA member that wolves aren’t fuzzy little people in wolf suits, but tonight was different. The Ice Festival was going to have a celebrity guest. John Leguizamo was going to be in town.

The Ice Festival hooked up with Disney Fox and had poor Mr. Leguizamo show up in Fairbanks. In winter. To plug his movie, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. Why you’d want to invoke melting at an ice sculpture competition is beyond me, but that was the idea.

Some background. A few weeks back I talked about Land of the Dead. I’m a hopeless junkie for flesh-eating zombie flicks, which dates back to when I saw the uncut Night of the Living Dead at the tender age of five on Creepy Creature Feature. As a side note, I’ve loved that stuff since I was four. I don’t think I’ve changed much since then. I’m essentially a big twelve-year-old with a penchant for bad humor and B-horror movies.

Well, The Mrs. and I sat down to watch Land of the Dead. I was jonesing to watch it since I knew it existed, but yet cheap enough to wait until it moved to five-day rental status at Blockbuster. I brought the movie home. We put the kiddies to bed, and The Mrs. and I snuggled up on the couch to watch it. She’s screwed up enough that she likes flesh-eating zombie movies, too. (A further note: I went though our DVD collection the other day and discovered a disturbing trend that many of my favorite DVDs include cannibalism. Maybe it’s just a coincidence?)

So, The Mrs. and I are snuggled on the couch, and the opening credits roll. John Leguizamo’s name flashes on screen.

The Mrs.: “Oh, Hell.”

Me: “What?” I pause the movie.

The Mrs.: “It’s got friggin’ John Leguizamo in it.”

Me: “So? He was in the Super Mario Brothers movie. He was good in that.”

The Mrs.: “I hate him.”

Me: “Why?”

The Mrs.: “No reason. I just do. Why do you hate Andie MacDowell?”

She had me there. I hate many people for a reason. I hate Kim Bassinger because she’s as stupid as a bag of marbles, and Angelina Jolie because she’s a home wrecking strumpet. Andie MacDowell, well, I just hate her. I liked her in Groundhog Day and in Hudson Hawk (one of the ways that The Mrs. and I knew we were made for each other was that we were the only two people in North America who liked Hudson Hawk). But, somehow, I just get the feeling that she wouldn’t fit in at the Wilder household. The Mrs. picked the best possible chink in my armor: someone I hated for no good reason.

So, we watched the movie. John Leguizamo was awesome in it. The Mrs. grudgingly agreed that he was, “not bad.”

So, tonight was the night. John Leguizamo was going to be carried to the stage in a dog sled. Governor Murkowski would likewise be brought to the stage. Together, they would cut a ribbon made of ice to officially open a kids’ play area made of ice.

Would Leguizamo turn zombie? Would our Governor? Would The Mrs. eat Leguizamo in a hate inspired cannibal frenzy? The answer Saturday in: Dawn of the Living Leguizamo.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!" - Moranis, Ghostbusters (for CWH)

Above is the recipient of the John and Mrs. Wilder Award for Neatest Ice Sculpture. The picture may look nice, but I was disappointed that I couldn't capture more of just how neat it was. Plus, it reminded me of the statues in Ghostbusters that attacked Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters. Oh, Zuul, you nut. By the way, these all get bigger if you click on them. I would suggest it in all cases.

A very scary fish made of ice. I'm not sure what the limit on these is, and I imagine they don't cook up well.

An icy humingbird. This picture came out well, though it zoomed off when I got too close.

Not my favorite ice carving, but very photogenic. If this is a stutue of a guy, well, keep the mask on. If this is a statue of a girl, well, better luck next life.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

"I only drank so that the Statue Of Liberty would take her clothes off." - Peter Griffin, Family Guy

Is this art, or the work of a mad serial killer who has dismembered ice statues? I'm not sure. Click on this one for a larger version. Do it. It's worth it.

The Mrs. and I were walking amongst the statues, and as I said in my last post, the artwork this year was far superior to last year’s carving. A bit of history: during the first year, the Ice Art Championships had to import ice to Alaska from Seattle. Yes, you read that right. I believe we have the recipe down now, though, and I hear that we now export to places as far away as Israel for ice carving. Since in most places the ice is over 3’ thick right now, we’ve got plenty to spare.

As you can see from the pictures with this post there were also a large number of studies of the female form. There was also a lot less carved clothing. Which equals a lot of statues of ladies without clothes. I think if this had been going on near where I grew up, I would have had a lot more appreciation for art when I was thirteen. As it was, I had to get by with the snowwomen that I’d make.

If this were the crazy cat lady, I doubt that the health department would try to get in to take her cats, even if she had fifty of them. A related question is what the heck is she doing? Do leopards fetch sticks thrown by nude women? Click on this for larger leopardy goodness.

You can see from the pictures the incredible textures that the artists evoke using . . . well, frozen water, chainsaws, heat guns, hammers, and chisels.

This, though, is the time of year when Fairbanks is at it’s best, and not just because of the ice carvings. It’s still cold (-35ºF yesterday when I got up) and snowy, but it’s now bright and sunny, and we have more daylight now than those of you unlucky enough not to live 93% of the way up to the North Pole (distance as measured from the plane of the equator to the plane that Fairbanks is on – I figured that out yesterday using my trusty slide rule).

Today there’ll be a snowmachine race. The only rule is that the snowmachine has to be older than a 1975 model. So, if The Mrs. were a snowmachine, she’d qualify as an entrant. I may be in trouble after typing that. (Note: I was.)

A woman astride Pegasus. I cropped this one because the statue was just way too much to show in a single picture. Pegaus seems distracted. Anyhow, click on this one for larger flying horse goodness.

But there’s also mushing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, picking up on nude women riding Pegasus, and snowmachining on sleek, new machines. This is also prime aurora-watching season – warm enough to go out and watch, and for some reason that’s probably related to Global Warming or Al Gore’s hair, the aurora is more active around the equinox. It might be active in summer, too, but you’d never see it since it’s daylight 24/7. But, it's daylight now, and that ice won't last forever . . . .

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"No, I hired you because you look good. It's like having a nice piece of art in the lobby." - Hugh Laurie, House, M.D.

A crab. Made of ice. Why? Art, of course! This one deserves to be clicked on to see the larger version. I could make a crab joke, but that would be far too easy. By the way, all of the pictures on the site can be clicked on for larger versions. Many aren't worth it. The ice statue pictures are.

We went to the Fairbanks World Ice Art Championships last weekend. Fittingly, the event is sponsored by a chainsaw company, Husqvarna. Husqvarna. Any company that has “sqv” in sequence must be foreign. And, I checked it out, it’s Swedish. I, for one, am pretty glad the Swedes weren’t armed with chainsaws back when the Vikings went a plundering. Vikings with swords, long beards, and other pointy non-mechanized bits were already enough to give Europe the collective heebie-jeebies for several hundred years. A group of Vikings with chainsaws? Now that’s just not fair.

I can see how this went (through the magic of Bork-Text):

Olaf: Sven, yuoor cheeensev needs ooeel.

Sven: Ya, Olaf, und iff I keep cootting thruoogh Frenchmen thees vey, I’m gueeng tu dooll my blede-a, tuu.

Olaf: Hey! I joost gut a better idea! Ve-a cun stup ell thees peelleging und gu stert a sture-a thet sells qooeleety Svedeesh foorneetoore-a fur decent preeces!

Sven: Hut dung! Let’s du it!

Anyway, at some point the Vikings got socialized medicine and a high marginal income tax, which encouraged the fighting, but took away the incentive for the pillaging completely. I’m not sure how, but this encouraged a bikini team. And ABBA. I’m willing to forgive them the pillaging, but they still owe us an apology for ABBA. Dancing Queen, indeed.

An ice chainsaw, which fits Fairbanks perfectly. All that's missing is a 50' ice Viking to run it, or a 20' diameter roll of ice duct tape.

I digress. Husqvarna makes a nice (note: my opinion can be bought, Husquarna, lots of extremely misguided people come here looking for chainsaw advice (really)!!) chainsaw, and ponied up the money to help support this year’s Ice Art Championships.

These are essentially huge cubes of ice that people from around the world painstakingly craft for hours on end. Then spring hits, and all the effort is obliterated like lottery winnings at a strip club. Mess up? It’ll melt. Best work of your life? That’ll melt, too.

It may qualify as art, but to me this one looks like two of the creatures from "Aliens" dancing. As long as it's not one of those Irish tappity tapp tap Riverdance things I'm okay with that. Riverdance isn't dancing. It's visual violence.

I have some talents, this I know because The Mrs. hasn’t given up on me yet. I’m not sure exactly what my talents are, but they don’t include carving ice. Some of these people are fantastic.

The Mrs., The Boy and I walked around. The New Boy was wrapped in a snowsuit and covered with a blanket and propelled via stroller. Many folks had (I’m not making this up) little baby sleds that they pulled their New Boys and New Girls around in. Our New Boy has gotten to that dangerous age where ability exceeds sense, and if we took him on a sled, he’d crawl off and be raised by wolves, unless he ate the wolves first. The New Boy does have an appetite.

Ice moose hit your ice truck? No problem. Unless Vanilla Ice is in there somewhere.

The sculptures this year were good, perhaps better than last year as a whole. We walked through and looked at the sculptures. One thing that amazed me about the sculptures is how much detail the sculptors got with ice, and what textures they were able to coax from it.

We then headed to the Kid’s Park. The Kid’s Park is for the most part dedicated to slides. Slides made of ice. The Boy scampered, ran, and slid on every slide. He had a wonderful time. I tried to get him to lick the slide, you know, so we could call the firemen to unstick his tongue like in "A Christmas Story," but he was too smart for that. I should have triple dog dared him.

Next: Our Frosty, Bosomy, Friends

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Set free by the Teen Angels from his prehistoric block of glacier ice comes the world's first superhero, Captain Caveman!" - Captain Caveman

Above is a preview for Wednesday's post.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"People think that all cameramen do is point the camera at things, but it's a lot more complicated than that." - Chris Elliott, Groundhog Day

It's not a long way down, but how could you not photograph your feet with your first camera? I mean, they're attached to you, so why not have a snapshot? His explaination? He wanted a picture to "check them if they weren't working good."

When you give a five year old a camera, one of their favorite subjects will be people’s heinies. It’s not that they fixate on the gluteus maximus, it’s just that’s how tall a five year old is, so they spend a lot of time looking at people's posteriors.

Let me give some background. For several years, we had a nice Sony 1.2 Mega pixel camera. Nice and good for snapshots of family and activities, but just not enough resolution for the outdoor subjects I wanted to take pictures of. Enter the new camera. It displaced the old camera like a Hollywood actress. For about a year now, the old camera has sat unused, like Jennifer Aniston (The Mrs. said that was too mean) Britney Spears' sense of decorum.

Yesterday The Boy began making noises that he’d like a camera. I took the duct tape off his mouth, and that was exactly what he'd been mumbling. For a bit, I thought he wanted a toy camera. It became clear during our discussion that what he wanted was a real camera.

The Mrs. suggested we buy a disposable for him. I demurred. Film and film processing plus camera cost is far more than I want to spend for twelve blurry prints shot over a two minute interval. Plus it involves a trip to the store. No, instead he can use the Sony camera we have sitting. Heck, it even has rechargeable batteries, so my skinflintdom would be nigh complete.

A good shot by The Boy. Our dog looks reflective, like he's thinking about how he shouldn't have dropped out of college and gone to Paris with his bimbo girlfriend who dumped him for a cigarette-smoking Frenchman named Louis. Or like he's thinking about licking himself.

I located the charger for the camera in the tangled mass of cables that sits in a drawer of my computer desk. If SkyNet™ (the folks who brought you the Terminator®) ever develops a spider, I imagine its nest would look just like my computer drawer.

Whereas waiting for the charger to put sweet, sweet electricity into the camera was not a problem for The Mrs. or me, I could sense The Boy’s impatience with the rate of charging. He sat and stared at it, as if by sheer willpower he could make it charge faster. As it is, we let the camera sit overnight. The first thing the next morning he was on the camera. I, however, was on the couch attempting to catch another ten minutes of shuteye. One of his first pictures was of me sleeping on the couch. The Mrs., upon seeing that, exclaimed, "A-ha! You've been caught!"

How do you respond to that? She had evidence, so I spun a tale of being tired after fighting off a gang of Mongolian Special Forces troops who were here to steal our green chili recipe. She nodded. I think she bought it.

He shot over a hundred pictures in a two hour period, which is 1/16 of the pictures that the camera has taken since we’ve owned it. We ended up keeping 58. His technique is essentially to run around with the camera in his hand. When he remembers he has the camera, he takes a picture of whatever he's looking at right then. I think that this is the way that Dick Cheney hunts, but I could be mistaken. I hate to be the camera-shot critic guy, but we didn’t bother to download the pictures that he took while jumping – the blurry mess might count as art and make him eligible for some sort of federal grant for artists, but I didn’t want to spend hard drive space unless he could con the taxpayers into buying me another hard drive first.

One thing that it did give me was insight into what the world looks like through the eyes of The Boy, which is an unexpected benefit. It's a simple world. But messy. And filled with grubby boy-things.

This one's called: "Laundry Basket With Funky Electronic Image Processing and Finger on Lens" and replaced the deleted "Mommy Getting Out of the Shower"

Some of the pictures were good, though. The picture of the Sun (on the post below this one) from his perspective (low to the ground) wouldn’t have occurred to me. Most, though, were just pictures of heinies.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Our chief weapon is surprise! Surprise and fear, fear and surprise! Our two weapons are fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency!-Monty Python

The sun! Is it killing you? Will it cause your taxes to go up? Find out when our Action News team blathers at 11!

Living in Alaska is nice because it gives perspective. Up here we’re farther west than California by one time zone, and not at all connected to the rest of the United States except by the occasional three-masted schooner going whaling, so it allows us to be part of the United States, but distantly.

One of the more disturbing things I see when I look Outside (the rest of the world) is a huge amount of fear. Pure, unadulterated fear. I see it in the color-coded fear meter that The Department of Fear Metering puts out. Listen, if we’re at the point as Americans where we must have color-coded rainbows to tell us how scared we should be, well, perhaps we should all be sent home for a backbone implant.

I see the fear when I read that Germans (the same Germans who went on Tour 1938-1945) are now officially afraid of kittens getting bird flu. Remember SARS? Yeah, it’s silly now. Like (I fully believe) that we’ll look back on bird flu in a few years. It’ll be the Y2K of diseases.

Remember “The Next Ice Age”? In the 1970’s it was everywhere. Some people still believe that we should stock up on long johns and stuff to make hot tea, but they’re at the fringe. Now it’s “Global Warming.” In 1988, the major proponent of Global Warming (you know, the one NASA “muzzled” so effectively that he only merits 1.1 million hits in Google) made a prediction on what global temperatures would be like in 1998. He said temperatures would be warmer (they were) but we showed 350% less temperature rise than he indicated in his most optimistic (coolest) scenario.

I haven’t spent millions of dollars of other people’s money and my whole career making the biggest darned spreadsheet in history, but even I could have looked at the chart of temperatures from 1880 to 1985 and said, “it’s gonna get warmer.” This was a slam dunk because we were starting to warm from the 1970’s when it really was colder.

Listen: The same people who regularly are off by forty degrees in a forecast of weather for the next week are now trying to tell me what the weather is going to be like in 1000 years? Hey, I’m all about the science. Isaac Newton rules. But even if the US enacted Kyoto, we’d be at best looking at decreasing the global temperature 0.004ºF. However, these are the same people who have models that say that the Antarctic ice is getting thicker (no) and Greenland should be melting (no). Like any fad, it’s popular now. “Global Warming” shows 66 million hits in Google, versus the paltry 12.9 million hits for “ice age,” despite “ice age” actually referring to real events. Global Warming even gets more hits than Paris Hilton, if you can imagine that, and consensus is that she’d hit anything.

Oh, and the increased frequency of hurricanes? Nope. They’re down, not up. We just got clobbered last year.

I certainly understand that people really do care about the planet. Which is why I want to help. Any money that you were going to invest, either individually or as a governmental body should be shipped to . . . me. Don’t worry, I can help with any cause that you’re scared of. You Germans? I can sell you Magic No Flu Kitty Spray. SARS? I can sell you a special T-shirt coated in my DNA that repels that. Y2K? I’ll sell you a used laptop.

The problem with fear is that it’s pretty good money. How much money has Dr. Hansen made with his Global Warming claims? How much has GreenPeas (I don’t want to be sued) made with their peddling of various anxieties about how mankind is destroying nature? To flip the coin, how much has been spent taking lighters from stoners and frisking little old ladies from Des Moines in airports? Oodles.

In summation, if you want to worry about something, worry about heart disease. It kills more of us than Paris Hilton, even if she sang. If you want to worry about Global Warming, go ahead, be my guest, but instead of sending your money off to some group that will waste it on computer models, send it to me. I’ll spend it on beer. At least the beer will produce tangible results, and while it will not prevent Global Warming, it will prevent Wilder Sobering.

Heck, I think that I should start my own crisis. How about Friends United for Repairing the Earth’s Axial Tilt (FUREAT) or Wilder’s Wildlife Fund(WWF – Oh, that one’s taken) or People for Eliminating Shadows Because They Scare Us (PESBTSU)? If you want to join, just cut me a check. It’s for the children.

My only fear is that I won’t get a cut of the action.

For another view, check out Michael Crichton's comments in his speech about how aliens caused global warming.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Khan, you bloodsucker. You have to do your own dirty work now, do you hear me?" -The One True Shatner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Darth Vader reminds you to do your taxes. And buy bonds. And give blood.

The Boy and I went out and about the other day. It was a nice warm day, in the 20’s. But I had a duty to do.

It started with a phone call. The Mrs. answered. “It’s for you. It’s the bloodsuckers.”

Now, when your wife says to you that someone known as the bloodsuckers wants to talk with you, well, that gives you pause.

Who in the heck could it be? Did I borrow Mafia money and then at some point forget that I’d ever borrowed it, and now owed someone named ‘Vito’ $100 at 350% per week interest two decades ago? (Note if you insert “credit card” for “Mafia” and “VISA” for “Vito” it reads about the same.) I picked up the phone gingerly. This might be ugly. The Mrs. generally saves the term “bloodsucker” for lawyers and former Playboy models that go to the Supreme Court. “Hello?”

“Hi. This is the Alaska Blood Bank.” Oh. Those bloodsuckers.

So I made an appointment. Before I hung up I asked . . . “Do you have something for a little boy to do?”

“Oh, yes. We can take care of him.”

I liked the sound of that. Take care of him. Now we were back to Mafia lingo. I would take The Boy in, and they would threaten him, and perhaps make him do drudge work around the hospital for a bit. Yeah, that would show him the world was no creampuff!

Now, I like to donate blood because I like to think that maybe, in some small way I’m helping out. I have friends who build housing in third world countries while on missions, and friends who adopt special needs children, and other friends who assist in bringing charity to the world by donating copiously of their time. Sometimes I feel more than a little inadequate just talking to these folks. The problem is that most of them are genuinely nice and probably way better people than I am. Heck, I don’t even recycle aluminum, and I could get paid for that. So, in my book, giving a bit of blood is the least I could do.

A week later, I got to the blood bank (located in the Fairbanks Hospital) and checked in for my appointment, The Boy in tow. First they had me fill out a form. The Boy looked at the plate of cookies, treats, and juice. Even though he’d just had breakfast, I could see the gears turning.

Then came the part of the blood giving where they ask if I had unprotected intercourse for money with a SARS infested mad cow while injecting illegal substances with a dirty needle while taking Propecia. They have to do this in a separate room, in case I had come in to give blood (for the jillionth time) after knowing all the things that make the giving blood thing a moot point and would be embarrassed to admit about the cow in front of everyone.

“Great,” I think. Now they’ll put The Boy to work, maybe scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush. This will be wonderful.

Nope. They put a video (Monsters, Inc.) on for him. Fed him cookies. Rubbed his tiny feet. Gave him calendars, a nametag, bumper-stickers! They even peeled grapes for him. This was not the “take care of” that I’d envisioned.

While The Boy was in this nirvana of attention, I was hooked up to a machine that patiently sucked my blood out, separated the red part with a centrifuge, and then reinjected the other parts of it back in. I think they took a gallon.

While I was swooning down the hall from my recent exsanguination, on the verge of passing out, The Boy remarked how I should give blood more often.

Maybe I need to get him a VISA.

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