Sunday, December 26, 2010

How you can make 2011 the best year of your life

It’s the day after Christmas and my living room still looks like it has been ravaged by a herd of stampeding “Give Me All Your Christmas Presents” wild elephants. Boxes, paper, and crushed bows are flung willy-nilly all over the place, and do you know who has to clean it all up? That’s right – the wife, ‘cause I ain’t moving from the couch until I finish writing this story.

But I really don’t want to talk about my problems today. I want to talk about your problems. That’s right, I know all about them. I see them in your eyes. Because even though the glow of Christmas Day is still on your cheeks (and floor), you’re looking ahead toward the upcoming new year and wondering just how the heck you can make it better than the old one.

Well my friend, here’s my suggestion for making 2011 the best year of your life: Turn off the television.

“You heard what the man said, Harold. Turn off that television and come help me wash the dishes.”

“Huh? That wacko didn’t say anything about washing dishes, Maude. He said turn off the TV and that’s exactly what I’m going to do – after I watch the big game, then “The Wheel,” and after that my favorite shows, ‘cause ain’t nobody gonna make me miss my favorite shows, not to mention the news, and then Letterman. Can’t live without Letterman, and you know that, Maude.”

Yep, I know it’s hard; I know it’s out of the ordinary; I know it’s just down-right heresy in some households, but turning off the television is the first step in turning back the clock to the “good old days,” when people used their imaginations to entertain themselves in order to get their minds off the fact that air conditioning hadn’t been invented yet.

My family and I have been TV-free since 12 June 2009. That was the day analog TV went digital, leaving us marooned in the frozen wasteland of nothing to watch but TV snow. Not that I’m complaining. I like snow. And I much prefer watching TV snow over paying a monthly cable fee for something that I used to get for free.

But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that our lifestyle has completely changed. We are no longer subjugated by an electronic device that spews out 15 minutes of hard-sell advertising per every 45 minutes of mediocre entertainment. We no longer base our weekly schedule on what we “must see” or “can’t miss.” We are free to do whatever we want, whenever we want, or just sit and stare at each other like grandma and grandpa did before they bought their 52-inch widescreen high-definition TV.

Of course, I would be remiss in saying that the Farr family is the only non-TV family in the world, because we’re not. There are millions of people who have banished broadcast television from their homes. They are honest, law-abiding people just like you and me. They live in our communities. Their children go to our schools. They spend Sundays in church, except they don’t rush home after the sermon to spend the rest of their weekend glued to The Tube, or what I call “Farnsworth’s Folly.”

(FYI: Philo Farnsworth invented the first TV in 1928. The very first TV ad was for Bulova Watches which appeared in 1941. The last thing I saw on analog TV was a Jonas Brothers concert, and I still feel like gouging out my eyeballs.)

So what do we do instead of turning on the set? Lots of things. Read books, play games, exercise, try out new recipes, write poetry, fish, take photographs, feed the goats, chase the goats, threaten to turn the goats into sausage, write stories, play music, and spend a lot of time on the computer looking up other things to do besides watching television.

But my favorite activity is thinking of ways to avoid doing those things my wife thinks I should be doing, like cleaning up this Christmas-bombarded living room mess.

“Dear, I won’t be able to help you clean up this mess,” I say. “I really need to go to Lowe’s to pick up some more batteries for these toys. I have no idea when I’ll be back.”

“That’s okay, Honey. I’ll wait,” she says. “I wouldn’t dream of cleaning up this mess without you.”

And that, my friends, is the end of this story.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Five Christmas shopping ‘Rules of Engagement’

Christmas is just days away, and that means it’s time to brave the wild indoor shopping centers with the hope of getting some serious Christmas shopping done without being crushed to death in Aisle No. 9 during a Blue Light Special. But do you think I’m worried? Nosirree! I’ve got a plan, and as long as I stick to it, I will not die!

My plan is to do all my shopping on Christmas Eve, hitting the stores with military-like precision: attack, attack, attack, take no prisoners, and don’t charge anything until you see the whites of their eyes.

In my opinion, the best time for shopping maneuvers at the local Mega Store is at 11 p.m., when there are only four people in the building – me, Barbara at the cash register, and the two stock boys in the back who always seem to be asleep. At any other time, those two would follow me around, making me “hit the dirt” every time they lob a bag of potato chips or toilet paper over my head. But, even that’s preferable to being surrounded by a horde of mothers, their screaming children and Zombie-like Husbands.

BEWARE: Zombie Men are everywhere! They gather at supermarkets and malls this time of year, and, given half a chance, they will suck the life right out of you.

Zombie Men are easy to spot: They hunch over their shopping carts, their eyes downcast to avoid eye contact with strangers. Their feet shuffle as they walk, and if you listen closely, you can hear them mumble things like, “Yes dear,” “Whatever you say, dear,” “I don’t give a rip, dear,” and “I mean, they look fresh to me, dear.”

Zombie Men used to be regular guys. They went to the feed store, tore engines apart for fun, they always had venison in the freezer. But somewhere along the way, they started pushing shopping carts for their wives – wives who are always agitated, jittery, looking for the best bargain, picking up this can of soup, comparing it with that can of soup, finally putting both cans of soup in the cart, telling her Zombie Husband to speed up, slow down, grab that box of cake mix, “No! Not that one! The store brand because it's cheaper.”

“Yes, dear. Whatever you say, dear.”

Sometimes the Zombie Men accidentally look up. That’s when I see in their faces a wish for me to put a bullet right between their eyes, just to end their suffering. But I have to look away. There is nothing I can do for them. When I go shopping, I leave my pistol at home.

So, to make sure that I never have to endure crowds, bargain-hunting wives, yelling children, and Zombie Men, I adhere to the following Five Christmas Shopping “Rules of Engagement.” If you can benefit from it, fine. If not, don’t blame me:

1. Make a list of items you need to procure (military term that means “acquire”). Do not leave your Fort without a list. To do so, and be stuck trying to decide between the George Forman Grill or a baby Rat Terrier, would mean certain “death by indecision.”

2. Before you make your list, scout out (another military term that means “reconnoiter”) what size your honey wears, because to buy a 20 when she really needs a 10 means certain “death by fuming.”

3. With list in hand, attack at dawn, or as soon as the front door is open. If the store is having a “50 Percent Off Everything Starting at Dawn” sale, then Retreat! Retreat! Retreat!.

4. Once safely inside the store, quickly commandeer a cart. If someone else is using it at the time – well, spoils of war. With acquired cart, head to the ADM (Area of Desired Merchandise), probe the area, acquire your target, lock and load your cart, then head to the extraction zone (somewhere around Cashier No. 4) making no contact with the general population.

5. The only time you can breathe a sigh of relief is when you are safely out of the Combat Zone and back at your Fort. Count your acquisitions (a military word for “booty” which is a pirate word for “loot”), then conceal it under the bed or some other safe place that nobody would dare clean for fear of “death by dust.”

That my friends is the key to safe holiday shopping. I wish you the best of luck, and if you remember to follow these rules, you WILL survive!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All I want for Christmas is ...

Hello dear readers. Time once more for another 700 words of mostly-pure wisdom. But this week I’m going to make it short and sweet because I’m right in the middle of reading a book and it’s getting to the good part.

books in a stack (a stack of books)
What’s a book, you say? Haven’t read one in ages, you say? Don’t have to time to sit down and read a book when there are so many other fun things to do, like watching TV or playing video games, you say?

Holy cow, you have a lot to say, don’t you?

Yes, I like to read books, and I see nothing wrong in doing so. Okay, so sometimes I read books when I should be doing other things (like mowing the yard, washing the car, taking out the trash), but that’s neither here nor there, and maybe we should just leave it at that.

You see, reading works the brain, puts it through its paces, makes it do jumping jacks so it doesn’t get flabby in its old age. Of course sitting around reading all day means your brain is the only thing that’s fit enough to do pushups, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

“Harold, you need to put that book down and do some work around here. I’m not your maid, you know.”

“I am working, Maud. I’m working my brain. Shoot, when I’m 75, I’ll have the healthiest brain in town.”

“If you don’t get your lazy bottom off that couch and help me with this trash, you won’t make it to 75. You might not even make it to tomorrow.”

MORAL: There is a time for reading, and there is a time for doing exactly what’s expected of you without question. Choose correctly, and you’ll live to read another day.

Speaking of digital e-readers (I know – I wasn’t talking about them, but now I am, so keep your shirt on), I love the thought of digital e-readers because they’re cool, they’re hip, they’re now. You can store a gazillion novels on one, take it on your next trip to your Aunt Edna’s who lives in El Paso, and when the “old folks” start talking about whatever they like to talk about, you can whip it out and be knee-deep in Stephen King or Sherlock Holmes in the wink of an on/off switch.

(Do you know how much a gazillion hardback or paperback novels would weigh if you put them all in the back of your Ford F-150 and tried to haul them out to El Paso? Me neither. Sorry I asked.)

The only downside to digital novels is you miss out on the actual “feel” of a book; the swishing of pages, the ease of dog-earing a corner so you don’t lose you place. Just try dog-earing a Kindle and see how much that will cost you to get repaired, bucko.

But the times they are a changing. One day, our children’s children will come across a book in paper form and look at it with awe, never imagining that a book could come in any form but digital. Actually, that reminds me of a child of mine (can’t remember which) who was shocked to find out that Solitaire could be played with a real-live deck of cards.

Anyways, reading is fun in my opinion, and I’m thinking, “If only I had an e-reader, such as a an iPad, then I could carry books with me all the time, exercise my brain, do something more worthwhile than watching TV. And since it is getting close to Christmas, and I haven’t made out my Christmas list yet, maybe I should mention again that I could really put an iPad to good use if there just so happened to be one under the Christmas tree with my name on it. Yes I could.”

Well, that’s about all I have to say about the subject. Got to get back to my book. My analog book. My analog book that would be so much easier to carry around if I only I had an iPad. And since I’ve been a pert-near good boy this year, I can’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t get one.

So what do you say, Santa? Hmmmm?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Handy-Dandy Facebook Guide for Old People

Facebook friends photo grid
Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is just around the bend, and if this isn’t a good time to lend a helping hand to my fellow “old people,” then I don’t know when is.

Today we’re going to discuss Facebook and what it means for people like you and me. And when I say “people like you and me,” I mean people who are not like “them,” and I think you know to which group I’m referring.

Facebook is one of those magical places on the internet where you can collect “friends,” follow their latest exploits, comment on how silly you think it is for them to bungee jump off a bridge (“especially at your age”), and grow tomatoes all at the same time from the safety of your own home.

To begin with, you must first have the internet. The internet isn’t actually yours, it’s shared by a lot of other people, but it’s okay if you say, “I have the internet.” If you do have the internet, then you’re in business. If not, then go read the comics. It’s much more interesting than this.

Next, you must have a computer. A computer is one of those man-made devices that can’t actually assist you in mowing the yard, but it can help you find out how “the pros” do it, which sounds pretty boring to me. Computers come in all shapes and sizes. Get a big one. There’s less chance of misplacing it like you do your keys to the John Deere.

Attach computer to Internet via cable or mobile device. Turn everything on and hope that nothing explodes.

Okay, so if everything works as it’s supposed to, you’re now on the Internet (not “on” as in sitting on the couch, I hope you understand), you’ve searched for Facebook, you’ve created yourself an account, and now you’re ready to Rock ‘n Roll, but not as in NEW Rock ‘n Roll, but ‘50s Rock, the only kind that really matters.

(CLARIFICATION: It may be possible that I’ve skipped a few minor details between purchasing a computer and being crowned king of Facebook. If so, just give me a call and we’ll sit down and discuss the finer details over a dozen Pittsburg Hot Links. You’re buying.)

Now that you’re on Facebook, the first thing you need to do is take a couple of Advil because you’re going to have a dickens of a time trying to upload a photograph of yourself so everybody can see what you look like. My advice: skip the picture for now. They have a wonderful blue silhouette of a male or female (depending upon whether you’re male or female) which will suffice until you’ve learned your way around the place.

Now it’s time to go looking for some “friends.” I put the word “friends” in quote marks because these people are more than likely not really your friends. They are more like acquaintances, family members, or people you went to school with who still owe you money. Real friends join you for lunch, call you when you’re not feeling well, send you Christmas cards, and go out with you to see movies. Facebook friends make comments about where they’re going on their next cruise, but they never invite you along.

Speaking of comments, the whole foundation of Facebook is based on making pithy comments about what you’re doing at any given moment, and writing pithy comments in response to your friends’ pithy comments. I have no idea what the word “pithy” means, but I’m sure you already know that.

Comments come in a variety of flavors. There’s the “what I’m thinking/doing now” comments, the “spiritual/contemplative/inspirational” comments, the “this is an old joke but I’m going to share it with you anyways” comment, and the “I can’t believe how bad the Cowboys suck this year” comments. Feel free to mix and match, depending on how you feel at the time.

So, now let’s review: First you get the internet; you sign up for Facebook; you collect some “friends;” you make a comment which your new-found friends ignore; you make a comment about how nobody makes comments on your comments, even though you comment on everybody else’s comments; you get your feelings hurt, write a comment exactly how your feelings are hurt, which nobody responds to, which makes you wish you never signed up for stupid Facebook in the first place, and now you hate with a passion the person who even mentioned it to you.

Hmmm. Maybe we should just forget all about this Facebook hooey. Want to go for some hot links? I’m buying.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Walk Across America Part III

Well, I'm still walking. Twenty-six miles to date. Which isn't enough, but I'm doing it. I'm even adding a bit of jogging. At the rate I'm going, I won't make it to Alaska by my 50th birthday.

Hmmmm...The route I'm taking is 5,643 miles long. There are 400 days until my 50th B-day. That means I have to walk a little more than 14 miles every day for 400 days. Well, I guess I can cross THAT goal off my list.

Matter of fact, if I rack up mileage like I am right now (app. 16 miles a month), it'll take me 29 years to get to Fairbanks!

How depressing.

Oh well...I've got nothing else better to do.