Sunday, January 31, 2016

Draw Something: B-Movie Crab Monster

If there's one genre of films that I genuinely enjoy, it's cheesy B-movie creature features. A ton of these movies were released in the '50s and '60s, such as The Blob, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Forbidden Planet and This Island Earth. I drew inspiration for tonight's Draw Something installment from these old monster movies. Here's a goofy crab monster. All it needs is a damsel to be rescued!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two Hearts.

A peerless vision driven to guard
The hole in my chest weighs a ton
Loneliest king of a desolate junkyard
Brighter than the endless midnight sun
Our two hearts beat stronger as one

Nothing is easy when everything's hard
Trying to live a life on the run
Battered and bruised, bleeding and scarred
Trouble will find us before we're done
Our two hearts beat stronger as one

Deck full of jokers, not one is your card
Joy is fleeting when you're under the gun
Being with you was its own reward
Might be all over, but it sure was fun
Our two hearts beat stronger as one

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Secret Behind C-3PO's Red Arm.

Ever since the first sneak-peak images were released for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fanboys all across the globe have been left scratching their heads about something highly mysterious. Unfortunately, the film itself failed to satisfy this conundrum. If anything, it made the puzzle even worse.

Why does C-3PO now have a red left arm?

The in-canon solution as to why the golden protocol droid sports a brand new arm has yet to be revealed. Perhaps the story behind the limb swap will come to light within a future novel or comic. Here are some silly possibilities I devised that could explain the new red arm:
  • Got caught 'wanking it' to a Twi'lek snuff film, accidentally splashed corrosive oil on his old arm.
  • Han Solo ripped the old arm off and beat Jar-Jar Binks to death with it.
  • He lost a bet to R2-D2, had to shove his old arm in a trash compactor.
  • Luke Skywalker got drunk on Ebla beer, discovered his emerging 'artistic' side.
Surely, there's some perfectly geeky explanation as to why C-3PO had to swap arms, but I'm going to drive past all of the nonsensical geek speak and get to the heart of the matter.

C-3PO's left arm is red because it sells more toys to nerds.

"You simply must buy me to make your collection complete, Master Luke!"

Star Wars collectors, and as a sub-segment toy collectors, have a tendency to express OCD-like behavior. They simply must own every iteration of a character in toy form. With C-3PO having a newly colored limb, that means these fans must update their collections to represent C-3PO as he exists now. More C-3PO figures sold means more bucks for Jedi Master Mickey and the folks over at Disney. It's as simple as that.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Local News Won't Shut Up About The Carolina Panthers.

As if you hadn't already been made aware a million times over, the Carolina Panthers are going to the Super Bowl. Though I may be a resident of North Carolina, I really do not give a damn. The NFL is terrible on all fronts.

If you were to watch the local television news broadcasts in my viewing area, you'd witness a never-ending barrage of Panthers-related fluff and human interest stories. All they seem to report on is the Panthers, day in and day out. Mind you, there are incredibly noteworthy news events happening in our world right now, at this very moment. Instead, the local news has decided to spend a very considerable portion of each telecast on the Panthers and their chances of winning Super Bowl L.

(Scratch that, it's Super Bowl '50'. The NFL decided that the Roman Numeral 'L' was too difficult for its viewers to understand. They might be right.)

Considering the amount of time allocated in a thirty minute newscast to sports and the weather, there's little actual news content at all.

Take last night for instance. My local CBS affiliate, WFMY News 2, loaded their 11 PM telecast with Panthers related segments. One story focused on fans complaining about the team's season-long underdog status. Another segment spoke of the local department, sporting goods and clothing stores in the area selling Panthers merchandise (essentially, all of them) and how it had become extremely popular in recent weeks (no duh). Don't worry though -- store managers are ordering more in case you were in dire need. I must have missed the news about the internet being closed for business. Guess you can't buy team merchandise online, 24-7 any more. Perhaps the dumbest segment of all -- they reported on fans with the most ridiculous 'game-influencing' superstitions. That's right... things that don't even exist made the evening news.

When it comes to being an informed populace, we're so screwed.

I've long been a critic of local news, but the lead up to Super Bowl 50 between the Panthers and Denver Broncos has been woefully depressing. There are people dying in Syria. Children in Flint, Michigan are suffering from lead poisoning. The Zika virus is spreading at unprecedented levels all across the globe. North Korea may have just tested a hydrogen bomb. Artificial intelligence is one step closer to being a reality. A ninth planet might actually exist within our solar system.

But no... ignore all that relevant information. Two groups of overpaid guys throwing a ball up and down a field is way more important.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Islam's Problem With The Human Body.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was in Rome on Monday to solidify relations with Italy. In the wake of the revolutionary multi-national nuclear deal with Iran that saw the removal of crippling economic sanctions, this was largely a friendly visit to normalize dialogue between Iran and one of Europe's biggest power players.

Unfortunately, for all of their supposed prestige and sovereignty, it seems the Iranian president and his delegation simply couldn't handle the sight of naked statues.

In the lead up to a press conference between Rouhani and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi at the Capitoline Museum, officials within the Italian government decided cover up various nude statues within the facility. They were afraid that the nude sculptures would offend the Iranians, taking into consideration their Islamic beliefs.

Yet again, the Islamic faith proves itself to be archaic and ridiculous.

Not only was art censored for Rouhani, but alcohol was also restricted from being served at an official state dinner held in his honor.

How can anyone take seriously someone of such a sensitive and shallow nature? Is Rouhani not a grown man? Does the sight of a naked man or woman send his brain into total meltdown? Can someone else not drink an alcoholic beverage in his presence without inciting a holy war?

Obviously, the answer is no. And yet, this man is to lead an entire nation.

This is yet another skid-mark in the long and winding catastrophe that is the Muslim existence. The human body is only offensive if you demonize it through shame and ridicule. Though, considering the stone-age dogma preached within the Quran, that's the harsh reality of this ordeal. There are billions of Muslims on this planet that aren't comfortable in their own skin. They disparage the female image especially -- hiding it in varying degrees from one country to the next. This is no way to live life, dreadfully afraid of human anatomy.

The image of a naked person is only as offensive as you make it out to be.

Do you find the following image objectionable?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

People Are Like Sandboxes.

Me: "People are a lot like sandboxes."

Crystal: "They're full of cat shit?"

While I found Crystal's response to be incredibly hilarious, it wasn't what I was driving at.

People are like sandboxes because they're always changing. Like the sand, different aspects within us are altered and modified. The sand transforms over time. Some parts are built up while other areas erode into valleys. The contents of a sandbox are never the same. They are eternally in motion and evolving.

So too are people -- continually shifting and advancing.

I often think about the man I used to be over a decade ago. I was brash, immature and selfish. My motivations weren't always the most sincere, nor were they befitting of a decent life partner. Yet, as the winds of time passed over my body, the sands of my life were constantly in a state of revision.

Who I am today is not who I was yesterday.

This same principle applies to everyone. You, the reader, are in a state of flux. You look a great deal like yourself from yesterday and mostly like yourself from a year ago. But from five or ten years ago? Not at all. The human condition is bound by never-ending metamorphosis.

Though, perhaps Crystal was absolutely right in a way. Some of us are just full of shit.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I Busted My Butt Today... Twice.

On January 5, I reported on a severe bout of back pain I was experiencing. Sadly, that pain hasn't completely subsided as of this writing.

Today, I only managed to make it worse.

While approaching my mailbox to assist the postal agent with my routine package deliveries, I fell and busted my bottom on the ice-covered street. Full-on, with all my weight -- I dropped like a virgin's panties on prom night. Needless to say, I only proved to aggravate the pain I have been experiencing in my right hip. Lifting myself up from the ground with the postal truck's front bumper, I knew I'd done serious damage to my right hip.

Only now, that pain also extends to my right buttock. I swear... it's swollen right now like a deep fried sausage just waiting to burst.

The fun didn't end there, though.

Later on today, I fell once again. This time, I tripped in my pair of house slippers in front of my kitchen sink. Of course, I fell in the exact same spot I had previously. Oh... the pain.

I am currently taking it easy, with plenty of rest. Crystal has forced me to relax for a change. My message to you may be brief this evening, but then again... I feel like crap. I haven't felt healthy since Christmas, to be quite honest. It's been a rough month.

Surely you understand my brevity.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Draw Something: Tanooki Suit Kirby

I have always wondered why Nintendo never incorporated the Tanooki suit into the various Kirby video games. Kirby has hundreds of possible suit varieties. Why not use the original 'special' suit, as featured in Super Mario Bros. 3? Well, here's what I think Kirby would look like if he inhaled the Tanooki suit.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trident Square, 8:00 PM.

Graham Hoover enjoyed a good sandwich. Every evening after arriving home from his boring insurance job, he'd stack a random assortment of meats, cheeses and condiments between two slices of bread. Sometimes it would be ham and provolone with a dash of horseradish. Other times, a tasty bacon, lettuce and tomato with mayonnaise.

Tonight, it would be a double-decker fried bologna and cheddar sandwich... with a side of suspense.

Just as Graham was about to take his second bite, a white piece of folded paper miraculously slid beneath his front door and into the living room. The note was completely mundane in its outward appearance. Slightly perplexed, he set the sandwich down, rose from his couch, and went to retrieve the plain-looking note.

"Trident Square, 8:00 PM. Come alone."

Alarmed at the directness of the note, Graham quickly morphed from calm to neurotic. Who had slipped the note beneath the door? Flinging his front door open, Graham gazed into the sixth floor hallway of his apartment building. No one was there. The culprit quickly vanished without so much as explaining the message.

Graham sat down with the note clenched in one hand and the greasy sandwich in the other. Munching and mentally fuming at the same time, numerous outrageous and horrible scenarios zipped through his mind. Am I being blackmailed? Did I do something wrong at work? Is the government out to get me? Am I being targeted by an ex-girlfriend? Graham was drowning in hysteria. At one point, he even debated calling the police, but decided against the idea. What if his phone had been bugged? They'd surely kill him if they knew he was involving the authorities.

Over the next few hours, Graham plowed through the contact list on his phone. He asked every aunt, cousin and sibling who would take his call about the note. Not a single one claimed responsibility for it. The hours steadily ticked by. 5:00, 6:00, 7:00...

At fifteen minutes until 8:00, Graham readied himself for the worst. Leaving his apartment building, he walked the quarter mile to Trident Square, a trendy area brimming with restaurants, nightlife and hipster shopping establishments. In the center of Trident Square was a beautiful gazebo surrounded by a rainbow of rose bushes. Along the edge of the bushes were these small carved monuments devoted to various creatures of the sea -- crabs, whales, stingrays and so forth. It was all quite serene. Though, given the circumstances Graham faced, the atmosphere was anything but soothing. He sat in the gazebo, trembling with terror until the top of the hour.

And then... nothing happened. 8:00 came and went without any event. Twenty minutes later, Graham still sat awaiting his doom. Forty-five minutes later, the tension in Graham's neck started to relax. By the time it was 9:00, he decided to get up and go home. Surely, he'd convinced himself this was all a big prank. Probably some kid in the building wanted to play a practical joke on any buffoon willing to follow the note's instructions. Haha, punk. Ha... ha...

As Graham slid his key into the lock on the front door, he noticed a faint scuffing sound inside his apartment. He called out to any potential assailant waiting to accost him, but no such answer was broadcast. Pushing the door open slowly, he peered through the gap to see only darkness. Finally emerging in the living room, Graham flipped the lights on.


Vibrantly clapping and jumping in the apartment were numerous members of Graham's family, along with countless friends. Apparently, they'd all come in while he was in Trident Square. The note was a ruse to draw him away from home. Such a sly plan!

Graham's mother winked at her son, thanking him for the spare key in case of an emergency. Everyone laughed and giggled, circling Graham in absolute joy. His mother approached quickly with a handkerchief. Confused as to what the surprise party was for, Graham inquired as to why all the commotion and secrecy. His mother, clamoring for words, stated that the party wasn't for any particular reason. They simply loved him and wanted to show their appreciation. She beckoned for him to sit down and asked if she could blindfold him. Anticipating a wonderful surprise, he agreed.

Mother placed the handkerchief over Graham's eyes with grace, taking care not to tie the blindfold too tight. As the room went dark behind the cloth, the room also fell to absolute quiet. A minute or an eternity, there was little difference; the wait seemed like forever.

And then... a sudden flash of light. The blindfold was removed! Soon enough, Graham would wish it were back on.

Before him stood the party attendees, each with a blunt or sharp weapon in hand. Even his mother, a saintly woman who'd never hurt a flea, held an iron poker. In unison, the mob shouted "Surprise!" one final time. Swinging and slicing furiously, they bashed poor Graham into a sweaty lump of sausage.

As Graham lost consciousness from the bloodbath, he soon stirred to a chunk of fried bologna trapped in the back of his throat. Coughing profusely, it seemed he had nearly choked on a bite of the sandwich. Awaking on his couch, he sat up and spat the morsel onto the floor. That blasted sandwich, it had nearly taken his life!

Rising to his feet, Graham entered the kitchen and splashed water on his face. Rubbing the crust from the corners of his eyes, he tried to revive his senses. What a horrible nightmare he'd experienced! It must have been the fried meat. Perhaps his mother was right; he might consider cutting back on the fried foods.

Suddenly... a faint whooshing noise. A pink flyer skated from below the front door and came to rest against the living room coffee table. Experiencing a major case of déjà vu, Graham timidly flipped it over to read the message.

"Come one, come all! Party in the park! Crafts and live music from local polka-ska band 'Czechs and Balances'. Trident Square, the swankiest place in the city!"

Laughing deliriously, Graham ripped the flyer to shreds.

"Trident Square, with its fancy statues, over-priced coffeeshops and damn rose bushes... Kiss my ass!"

A series of beeps erupted from Graham's mobile phone, signifying that he had received a text message. He promptly read them, hoping for some sort of good news.

"Hi son, I'm coming over. Be there around 8:00."

A primal scream erupted from Graham's mouth, rivaling any other scream ever released in human existence. Running without restraint, he promptly blasted through the sliding door leading to his balcony and vaulted off, plummeting to his doom.

As the last fraction of life-force escaped from Graham's battered, contorted corpse, the sounds of a terrible band played in the distance.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Calm Down Jars Are Pathetic Excuses For Parenting.

One of the biggest current fads in modern parenting is something known as the calm down jar.

Folks, I can't make this crap up.

A calm down jar is a DIY project mothers all across America are totally hysterical over. It involves placing glitter, shiny objects, or some other odd substance inside an empty bottle or jar with a fluid mixture. The jar is then sealed and provided to a child when they're being overly playful, feeling restless, sitting in time-out, or “struggling with sensory overload” as one famous parenting blogger puts it.

Calm down jar? More like Shut the hell up and leave me alone jar.

I don't get it with parents like this. Instead of actually interacting and guiding their children to become reasonable, sane adults whom can be alone and able to tolerate stress, they want to shove all sorts of distractions into their tiny little faces and constantly comfort them. Why? Because their children are cutting into more important adult activities, likes watching Netflix, surfing the internet or using their cellphone.

These parents are raising attention-starved brats with detrimental mental focus problems.

Aren't children supposed to be a little restless? Kids want to play, whether running, throwing balls or chasing the family dog. That's not to say children should be allowed to misbehave; they absolutely should not. Yet, whatever happened to a little old-fashioned parenting? Talk to your child with a clear, calm voice and administer guidance. Tell them what they need to do and not do. Provide them with a proper example to follow.

"Little Johnny, you go to time-out and think about what you've down wrong...
and play with your calm down jar!"

Much less, why would you give a calm down jar to a child in time-out? Isn't the point of time-out to allow a child to consider their negative actions? If the child is distracted by a jar full of glitter, how in the hell are they going to correct their mistake?!

As to using the calm down jar to assist with sensory overload... this doesn't even make any sense. The calm down jar does nothing but divert your child's attention from one source of sensory input to another. Wouldn't the correct course of action be to remove all sources of sensory input (calm down jar included) and allow the child to relax naturally? Perhaps the best solution would be to remove the tablet or smart phone from their hands, turn off the television and send them outside.

Nope... give 'em a shiny bottle. That'll fix the problem!

The calm down jar is nothing more than a hypnotic trick to mesmerize a child into further depths of stupidity. Sheesh, it's no wonder most kids these days are utter morons.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What's The Most Popular Flavor Of Chewing Gum?

The chewing gum industry isn't what it used to be.

Sales of chewing gum have shrunk over ten percent in the past few years, based upon data provided by marketing research firm Euromonitor. The ever growing drop in chewing gum use is expected to surpass twenty percent by the end of this decade.

Americans simply don't prefer original flavor bubble gum any more, like the classic brand Dubble Bubble.

Whereas the number of Americans whom chew gum has changed, so too have the flavors we prefer to consume. Believe it or not, regular flavor gum isn't the most popular. In fact, it's not even close to the top.

Based upon the same data set, the ten most popular flavors of chewing gum in 2008 were:
  1. Mint
  2. Spearmint
  3. Peppermint
  4. Wintergreen
  5. Berry
  6. Bubble Gum
  7. Cinnamon
  8. Mixed Fruit
  9. Citrus
  10. Watermelon
As of 2015, that list had reshuffled quite a bit:
  1. Mint
  2. Spearmint
  3. Peppermint
  4. Berry
  5. Citrus
  6. Wintergreen
  7. Mixed Fruit
  8. Cinnamon
  9. Watermelon
  10. Bubble Gum
Americans tend to enjoy sugar-free, mint varieties of gum. Brands which use real sugar in their gum have seen massive losses against sugar-free varieties, reflecting a changing health conscience attitude among consumers. As of late, citrus and fruit-based flavors are on the rise, while traditional flavors like original or cinnamon are tanking. When it comes to brands, there's a stark contrast between those at the top and the bottom. Gum brands like Trident, Orbit, Extra and Dentyne stand firmly at the top with nearly $2 billion in sales. Pulling up the rear are brands like Bubble Yum, Big League Chew and Bazooka. Between the three least popular brands, they pull in a paltry $35 million.

From a personal perspective, I've never been a big chewing gum fan. Though, when I do chew gum, I typically enjoy Big League Chew. It's best for blowing bubbles and the flavor lasts quite a while. What kinds of chewing gum do you prefer?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Racial History Months Are Divisive And Racist.

I find the concept of month-long celebrations centered around a certain race to be prejudiced and highly divisive.

Now, before you pull the race card and call me a bigot, let me explain.

Humanity, as a whole, is 99.9% alike. Take two random people from opposite sides of the world and compare their DNA. What you'll find is that they're almost identical. If you were to study these two samples anonymously without knowledge of who donated which DNA, you'd probably have a difficult time discerning which sample belonged to which person. The only differences, that 0.01%, are merely variables that affect how and why we may develop certain diseases or peculiar health conditions.

All humans are related and extremely similar. Hence, a person's ethnic heritage (race) is completely inconsequential.

Local student Walter Gadsden is attacked by police dogs during the Birmingham civil rights protest on May 3, 1963. Did the dogs attack Gadsden because they knew he was 'black', or because they were trained to do so by the police?
Photo by Bill Hudson.

Race, by and large, is a social construct that mankind has generated to divide people. We label groups of humans by certain names based upon purely superficial features. This person has slanted eyes. This person has dark skin. This person has curly hair. None of these surface features reflect any sort of genuine biological division between people -- they're merely reflections of various genes (found within a very tiny portion of our entire genome) being turned on or off.

In essence, race does not exist. Alternatively, you can state that there is only one race -- the human race.

How does this relate to a month celebrating one particular race of people? I'll explain.

February is Black History Month. Irish-American History Month is in March. Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15 to October 15. I could go on and on with more examples, but you get the idea. Each of these months serve as a period to single out and celebrate one particular 'race' of people over another.

This is akin to celebrating Red LEGO Brick Heritage Month or Green Skittles Awareness Month -- it just doesn't make any sense.

If all of humanity is equal and related (which it biologically is), then what purpose is there to sequester and elevate a particular group of people that generally match the preconceived societal notions attached to a specific race label?

Much less, how can you define the boundaries of a race? Are there certain qualifiers to being a member of a race? Do you have to look a certain way? Must your facial features be of a certain size? Does your skin have to be a certain color tone? Who is to say what one race is and is not? Would the judgment of one person on the definition of a race not be completely and wholly subjective in nature? Take my own genome for example, which has genetics tracing to Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Which 'race' am I?

Which of these men are 'black'?

Trying to define a race is as arbitrary as defining the borders between states or countries. It's all just a bunch of imaginary lines saying one side is mine and one side is yours. These lines don't actually exist. There is no separation between black or asian, white or hispanic.

There are only human beings. No imaginary lines. No invented labels.

When we celebrate race-based history months, we're perpetuating three negative and dishonest concepts:
  • That human beings are divide by stereotypical, superficial features.
  • That the history of all people should not be uniformly celebrated in equal measure.
  • That a particular group of people aren't as important the other eleven months out of the year.
To put it bluntly, raced-based history months are, for lack of a better word, racist.

It's not that I don't want only one particular race to have a month-long celebration. I don't want any month-long celebrations for anyone based upon the color of their skin. Your (yes, you the reader) ancestral history is unique and diverse, full of struggle, hardship and joy. Your forefathers and foremothers fought against hatred and bigotry, famine and disease, war and death. They crossed great oceans overflowing with peril and mountain ranges full of danger. They loved and cared for each other in times of great happiness and disastrous loss. They traveled from all corners of the globe, representing the migration of one enormous human family. Your ancestors were light skinned and dark skinned, tall and short, curly haired and even freckled. They had round eyes and almond-shaped eyes. Your family tree has branches tracing back to all sorts of people, from all walks of life.

You are the living, breathing embodiment of diversity, no matter what you look like on the outside. You are not just a divisive label. You're so much more than that... and your history deserves to be revered throughout the entire year.


"I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I Like Purple (And So Can You)!

I catch a lot of flack about the color purple. You see, purple is my favorite color. As a man, this doesn't exactly jive with pre-existing societal norms. I should like blue or green, especially red. I'm a MAN! I should like a MANLY color!

But no, I prefer purple.

Purple (or violet, to be scientifically specific) rests at end of the visible light spectrum with the lowest wavelength. Beyond this end of the spectrum exists ultra-violet light, which humans can not see.

In nature, purple is the color which appears the least often. While it is normally found in flowers, it is almost entirely absent from the rest of nature. It only makes random appearances in some birds, fish and vegetables.

King George VI (1895-1952)

Historically, the color purple is a symbol of leadership and royalty. From Ancient Rome to the British Empire, tyrants, emperors, kings and queens have all worn purple to represent their superiority.

Many psychologists link the color purple to artistic and creative individuals. In terms of its psychological influence, purple can inspire the mind and incite prolific thought. Likewise, purple represents introspection and inward thinking.

For many years, conservative groups have lambasted the color purple as a symbol of the LGBT community. This reflects the notion that purple is seen as weak or strange. Pastor Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and a noted opponent of homosexuality, even went so far as to chastise one of the Teletubbies. In 1999, he identified Tinky Winky as a gay role model, largely due to his purple coloring. This was utterly ridiculous. Newflash... straight men like purple, too.

Personally, purple catches my eye in the most magnetic manner possible. It's both vibrant and soothing all at the same time. I prefer wearing purple clothes and having lots of purple in my home. Even my office is painted a pleasant pastel purple color. The more purple, the better! Sure, women typically prefer the color purple in our modern society, but men can like it just as much. Purple symbolizes innovation and nobility. I wear it proudly!

Monday, January 18, 2016

What Happened To Saturday Morning Cartoons?

Remember the good 'ol days of Saturday morning cartoons? Pick any national network channel between 8 AM and 12 PM on a Saturday during the 1980's or 1990's and you'd probably find a great cartoon or weird live-action program to watch. For example:

1984... The Smurfs, Looney Tunes, Mr. T, Muppet Babies
1986... Real Ghostbusters, Snorks, Dungeons and Dragons, Teen Wolf
1989... Camp Candy, Alf, Captain N, Pee-Wee's Playhouse
1992... Bill and Ted, Super Mario World, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
1995... X-Men, Power Rangers, Life With Louie, Spider-Man
1999... Godzilla, Batman, Pokemon, Transformers: Beast Machines

The shear wealth of awe-inspiring content available on Saturday morning at the time was astounding. I can remember eagerly looking forward to Saturday morning each and every week as a child. These shows were like good friends coming over to hang out. For an introverted kid like me, this was a big deal.

Poor Eek the Cat, always trying to help others.
It was him and his kind that needed the biggest help, though.

Have you looked at Saturday morning television recently, though? Over the course of the last twenty years, what was once an amazing television block for animated programming has all but disappeared. Some would blame the advent of the internet. Others might point the finger at video games, cable television or Netflix. Whatever the reason, the concept of Saturday morning cartoons has vanished into a depressing blur of white noise and static.

Out of curiosity, I checked into my current local Saturday morning network television schedule. Here is what I found.

(Click image to enlarge)

What did I find? Nothing. Ab-so-lute-ly nothing. Fox and ABC, whom previously aired such greats as Reboot, Batman and Robin, Bobby's World and Darkwing Duck, have zero programming on Saturday morning. All they show are infomercials. The CW, which is the love-child of former networks UPN and the WB, broadcasts exclusively pet and animal related programs -- mostly repeats of The Dog Whisperer. The CBS and NBC affiliates, for the most part, air news programs (either local or picked up from the national network). The only shows that aren't infomercials, pet-themed or news are simply E/I (educational and informative) programs legally required to be broadcast by the Federal Communications Commission.

There are NO more Saturday morning cartoons.

Even the menacing powers of the devious Mumm-Ra couldn't save the Saturday morning cartoon.

So, when did they disappear? Well, I researched the last twenty-five years of network television to find the answer. NBC stopped airing animated programs on Saturday morning in 1992 in direct response to the new FCC E/I rules. CBS dropped out of the cartoon business by 1997, mostly for the same reasons. ABC gave up cartoons in the early 2000's, largely due to push-back from local affiliates desiring news coverage. The last channel to air an animated program block was the CW, whom eliminated their cartoons in 2014. In nearly all cases, the profitability of cartoons was on the decline. A major influence in this profit drop-off was new Federal Trade Commission rules limiting child-targeted commercials during animated programming. Viewership also shrunk as cable television became more common in American homes. Instead of waiting until Saturday morning to watch animated shows, kids could watch them every day on channels like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. 

In essence, Saturday morning cartoons were targeted on multiple fronts and simply couldn't withstand the evolving landscape.

Sorry Kissyfur, your kind has been eliminated.

While I understand that times change and nothing lasts forever, I can't help but feel a little sad inside. Children born approximately after the year 2000 will have no memory or understanding of how important Saturday morning cartoons truly were. Those of us in our late twenties and older should be so thankful that we grew up in the '80s and '90s. It was a special moment in time that will never come around again.

Unfortunately, Saturday morning cartoons won't be back right after these messages.

For information on what shows aired on Saturday morning in the '80s and '90s, check out the links here and here.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Draw Something: An Actual Piece Of Crap

I published a crappy story last night. Though, in a twist of pure satire, I featured a crappie fish. Needless to say, the members of the fecal community were not pleased. They sent me numerous emails, claiming I had slighted their position as actual crap.

Here is what I imagine those pieces of crap sending me emails look like.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Crappiest Story Ever Told.

Mr. Crap walked into a crappy bar on the crappiest side of town. He ordered a crappy martini from the crappy bartender, whom also was named Mr. Crap. Mr. Crap brought Mr. Crap the crappy martini, whom promptly spit it out and yelled "This is crap!" He was right, that martini was crappy. Mr. Crap told Mr. Crap to bring him a crappy beer. Mr. Crap grabbed a crappy glass and filled it with the bubbly, yellow crap. Mr. Crap liked the crappy beer only slightly more because it was still a little crappy.

As Mr. Crap stumbled out of the crappy bar, he tripped over a crappy pile of cat crap in the crappy street. As his crappy mustache landed in the cat crap, he remarked on how crappy his night was going. "My night is crappy," Mr. Crap exclaimed.

Walking towards the bus stop, Mr. Crap took notice of how the moon looked like a large, white pile of dog crap. Ah, the moonlight sure was crappy. Thankfully, the crappy bus arrived on time. Obviously, the bus looked like a giant piece of crap. Mr. Crap sat on the crappy bus and road it all the way to his crappy apartment.

Fumbling for the keys inside his crappy pants, Mr. Crap realized that there was a crappy hole in his pocket. His crappy keys must have fallen out somewhere. Trodding into the crappy street, he looked up at the crappy sky and shouted crappily "Why is this world so crappy?!"

All the other crappy residents of Mr. Crap's crappy apartment building yelled down below. "Shut your crappy mouth Mr. Crap," they all screamed with crap in their throat.

Unfortunately, Mr. Crap wasn't paying attention to the crappy world around him. As he began to have a crappy mental breakdown, Mr. Crap failed to notice the enormous, crappy tractor trailer carrying a load of fresh crap rushing towards him. As Mr. Crap's crappy life flashed before his crappy eyes, he couldn't think but of one crappy thing to say.

"Oh crap."


Friday, January 15, 2016

Naivety And Toothpaste.

When I was a boy, I can remember fondly all the things that would widen my eyes. Taking the rare trip to the closest shopping mall an hour away was one such event. Even better, actually visiting a toy store was a massive deal -- it was like being allowed into heaven for just a few minutes. Even small things, which I now understand as mundane or ordinary, really brought a sense of awe into my life. Oddly enough, one example was toothpaste.

Man... was I an innocent, naive kid.

As a child, I vividly recall being quite observant of other peoples' homes. I would marvel at how big their VHS or record collection was. Did they have a recliner? Was their garage filled with junk or did they actually keep a car in there? Much less... what kind of toothpaste did they use?

Much as little kids do, I'd usually ask to use the bathroom whenever my parents made social calls with friends and family. As I'd enter into the unknown void of a foreign toilet, my eyes would grow large.

Wow... they have a fancy shower with real tile!

Oh boy... their sink is clean and not covered with clutter!

Look, they have towels that match... rad!

And then, there was their toothpaste. Remember when various brands started selling their toothpaste in pump canisters instead of tubes? It was a passing fad in the '80s and '90s. Two of the biggest brands that had special, more expensive versions of their toothpaste were Colgate and Aquafresh. Though, I'm sure there were others. Instead of the old fashioned toothpaste tubes that you had to roll up, these pumps wore the badge of elitism! They sat on your counter with a trigger on the top, which you'd push to squirt out toothpaste. No more man-handling a useless old tube, nuh-uh!

The future... IS HERE!

These folks were living in the future where toothpaste was ejected in a civilized manner without any muss or fuss! When I saw that someone used pump-action toothpaste, I can remember feeling immediately impressed. Hey, I was a poor kid used to cleaning my teeth with cheap-o AIM toothpaste that cost a dollar. Pump-action Aquafresh was something only people with money bought.

Holy cow... these people must be rich!

Did I mention already how I was a naive kid?

(Little secret... I still am.)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Yield To Yesterday

Wipe the crust from my tired eyes
Better to see the borrowed lies
Something tells me I've been here before
What's mine should probably be yours
I'll fumble around the afterglow
Flying blind and looking for the light
Stumble lifelessly into tomorrow
Pretending that I was right

Empty handed but bearing gifts
With the wind my motive shifts
The ghost inside calls out to say
Yield to yesterday

I'd fly over hell to avoid the havoc
Just to fight the war at home
The gears inside are all automatic
Only seeing the world in monochrome
Canvas as wide as the gap between
The shadows painted with doubt and glycerine
Limping along the path to evolve
Not seeing the puzzle I need to solve

Better to linger than live on the edge
A hollow man with nothing to pledge
Your sympathy calls out to say
Yield to yesterday

Another world rolls past eternal stars
Bubbling on the cusp of an unborn truth
A million bastards and their unread memoirs
Each grossly unprepared and full of youth
Which one I'll be I could not know
Perhaps the hermit entombed with Bradbury and Thoreau
Icy fingers clasp a tattered dress
We danced once nevertheless

I'd shatter the earth for a moment of glory
Without an audience there is no story
The angel of anguish calls out to say
Yield to yesterday

In this unlikely moment of clarity
Daring to plunder a fool's memory
This close to losing skies of blue
Bastion crumbles in awe of you
I'd rather slice off my writer's hand
Than turn over my useless heart
A flock of vultures strikes up the band
Wherever you go I'll surely depart

Pray for the flood on a sinking vessel
Everyone's destined to wrestle the devil
A fleeting fantasy calls out to say
Yield to yesterday

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is Repeating The Phantom Menace's Biggest Mistake.

While shopping in Wal-Mart earlier today, I took note of the abundant supply of Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise flooding the shelves. Action figures, Micro Machines playsets, LEGO's, puzzles, games, electronic lightsabers -- I could go on and on. And then, it hit me...

I've seen this all before.

Immediately, I was reminded of the Star Wars merchandising deluge that hit after the first prequel movie was released in 1999 -- The Phantom Menace. At the time, everything you could possibly imagine was sold with Darth Maul or Jar-Jar Binks' face on it. Toy aisles were swamped with an excess of items, much of which lingered on for many months (in some cases, years) after the film left theaters. In fact, many of the products considered collectible at the time are now worth next to nothing.

Forget funding your retirement on your treasure horde of mint-in-package Ric Olie action figures. Original retail price? $7. Current value? $6. Uh-oh!

Crap. Crap. Crap.

This is merely speculation on my behalf, but I can't help but wonder if the same cycle of over-merchandising is repeating itself all over again. Will the trends of the past hold true for the future? I think so, but who can say for certain? Sure, Star Wars fans quickly jumped on new The Force Awakens toys, games and bed sheets when they were first made available in September of 2015. Undoubtedly, all of the licensing partners of the Star Wars franchise probably made a fortune. Yet, what about three months, six months, a year down the line? What happens when these same toys and games simply aren't purchased, left to clog up shelf space and project an altogether depressing atmosphere?

Of course, the studio heads at Disney, whom purchased the Star Wars universe from George Lucas for over four billion dollars, have a contingency plan in place. They're going to release a new Star Wars movie annually for as long as, well... let's just say indefinitely. Another film in the series will premiere this coming December, entitled Rogue One. That means a whole new batch of merchandise to occupy valuable retail real estate. Forgive me for not being excited. It's plain to see that Disney is not going to let us forget that they now own Star Wars. Oh no! Mickey Mouse is going to force feed us a steady stream of Jedi mind tricks until we choke on it.

But what if all of this merchandising backfires?

While the force is strong with Star Wars collectors and fanboys, what if everyone gets tired of licensed goods flooding Planet Earth from a galaxy far, far away? Could these same individuals simply grow tired of the constant Star Wars assault on their wallets? Seems to me that the potential for losing interest in the franchise is all too real. Too much of something is definitely not a good thing. Perhaps waiting a few years between films to build up consumer anticipation, as was done with the original and prequel trilogies, would be a good thing.

As 2016 rolls along, I'm going to pay close attention to just how much Star Wars merchandise lingers in department stores. Something tells me that a lot of what we're seeing for sale now will eventually wind up on clearance because no one really wants it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What Not To Do If You Win The Lottery!

It seems everyone has lottery fever at the moment. With the current estimated Powerball jackpot nearing $1.5 Billion dollars, I can certainly understand why. That's a lot of cash to spend should you win. Though, with the odds of picking the correct six numbers at 1 in 292 Million, well... you're probably not going to win. Don't get your hopes up.

Yet, what if you did win? I've got you covered. Here's my guide to...


Don't tell anyone other than your most trusted family member that you won. In today's age with social media, it's really easy to let a secret slip. Should you happen to win the lottery, don't broadcast it online to anyone, for any reason. The moment you reveal the winning ticket is yours, you immediately become a target for thieves, scam artists, thugs and folks willing to do anything to steal it. If your state allows you to claim the winnings anonymously, then do so. Being in front of the cameras for a paltry fifteen minutes of fame just isn't worth the attention you'll garner. If your state doesn't allow you to remain anonymous, investigate establishing a trust with a dependable lawyer, whom may be able to claim the winnings for you, thereby keeping your name out of the limelight.

Do not quit your job. Sure, you probably won't have to ever work again, but that's no reason to quit. Maintaining your job for the time being is all about keeping an appearance of normalcy. If everyone at work finds out you won the lottery, they're going to instantly start begging you for cash. Even still, just going to work and keeping to your routine prevents you from losing your mind. Your life is never going to be the same after winning the lottery. Keeping your wits about you is crucial.

Don't forget to sign your ticket. A lottery ticket is a legally binding agreement. Should you forget to sign the ticket and it comes into the possession of someone else, then you're out of luck. After you sign your ticket, keep it in a secure location until you claim your winnings. Inconspicuously rent a safe deposit box at a bank and store your ticket there in the mean time.

Don't avoid paying off all of your debt. Get your debt paid off first, before you buy a new house, car or vacation. Settling your debt is the first smart investment you can make in yourself.

Do not make any large purchases immediately. Just because you're suddenly wealthy doesn't mean you should waste money. In fact, the first six months to a year after you win are the most crucial to your long-term success. Spending sprees set a precedent in your life, which will bankrupt you without sound financial planning. You'll immediately want to blow a million dollars on an around-the-world vacation and buy a mansion in Malibu -- DO NOT DO THIS. Let your jackpot fever subside and sit on it for a while. Will owning an expensive-to-maintain mansion surrounded by other millionaires make you happy? Probably not.

Don't give sums of money to anyone. It's human nature to want to help people, but stay realistic with your lottery winnings. Just giving cash to your friends and family is a sure-fire way to ruin your relationships. Instead of giving a large sum to a loved one, offer to pay off their home or make a purchase for them. Buy a reasonable house or automobile that they can actually afford to maintain -- no expensive luxury cars or island estates! Not only does this give you direct control over the cash you're using, but it also has powerful tax implications that can affect both parties.

Do not forgo sound financial assistance. You're going to need help managing your money. Quickly retain a lawyer and an accountant; make sure they're well reviewed and experienced. Good help will cost you money, but this is an investment in your future. Spending a little bit now to manage your millions will guarantee a long and fruitful life.

Don't forget to budget yourself. Winning the lottery is just like taking home your weekly paycheck. The only difference is that there are a lot more zeroes behind your checking account balance. Stick to a budget and watch your spending. We've all heard stories of past lottery winners who have blown through their cash and wound up busted. Avoid becoming one of those ignorant losers!

I've got my ticket for the upcoming Powerball jackpot. I have played the same six numbers for over ten years -- only one ticket per drawing. Statistically speaking, there's little reason to buy multiple tickets for a lottery drawing because the math doesn't really work in your favor. If I were to win... not too much would change, honestly. I'd still write every day, that's for sure!

(Though, I may be writing from a secluded bunker in an undisclosed location somewhere in the desert.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Dog Mellow Does Not Allow Hugging!

I was originally going to write about some boring political topic this evening.

Screw that. This is way funnier.

Mellow is every bit the goofy dog he looks to be.

A few moments ago, Crystal hopped in my lap for a comfy, couch-straddling hug. It's something she does fairly often. We're fairly fond of the snuggles and hugs.

So sue me. I like snuggling. No, you can't have my man card. Anyway...

As he's often prone to do, my dog Mellow began to grumble the moment she got in my lap. For some reason, he's very "sensitive" about her and I touching each other. Kissing, hugging... you name it. Mellow doesn't particularly care for intimate human contact in his presence.

Now, this particular go round, the grumbling and growling continued to grow and become all the more hilarious as it went along. By the end of his barking spell, Mellow would even express his displeasure if we so much as laughed at his paranoid behavior. Also in the video is my other dog Echo. She's much smarter than Mellow and pretty much slept through the whole barking spell (until he woke her up in utter disgust).

Thankfully, it's all on tape.

(Tape? Who says tape anymore? You're getting old, Jared.)

For your viewing pleasure, here's Mellow (for nearly five minutes) telling us just how much he doesn't like Crystal and I hugging each other.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Draw Something: Skipping Diplodocus

Just imagine if dinosaurs could skip. The terrible thunder lizards, bouncing to and fro across the wide open landscape. Trouncing anything in their path. THUD! THUD! THUD!

Now that you have the image of a skipping dinosaur in your head, here's something to brighten your day. It's a frolicking Diplodocus!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Irony In The Flesh.

In the year 2020, as computer technology steadily progressed towards the long prophesied singularity, scientists began to employ tactile holograms. Essentially, tactile holograms are images created by light that provide haptic response upon impact. Much of the technology used to create this sensation erupted from an over-financed mobile phone industry, strangely enough. At first, scientists toyed with using tactile holograms to generate three-dimensional interfaces for virtual testing and construction. Of course, as the global population turned increasingly familiar with the concept of a real-world holodeck, the uses became much more widespread. There were virtual cooking shows with holographic chefs from alien worlds; video games where participants actually took part in exploring an unknown world; even dinosaur programs with all-too-realistic dinosaurs! If you could imagine it, then you could do it with tactile holograms.

To make the tactile holograms operate properly, they were contained within sealed cubes no bigger than a living room. Since entire worlds could be generated inside the cube via holograms, nothing was limited by the physical capacity of the container. You could walk across entire continents without so much as leaving your own home. As the science progressed, so too did the application of the holograms. We created new virtual beings in our own image, just as we had always done. Only now, these images could talk back. They looked and felt authentic, without anyone being able to tell the difference between real and holographic flesh.

Finally, in 2034, these digital creations thought for themselves, functioning on electrical neuro-networks eerily similar to that of humans. To maintain the illusion of reality, as well as to prevent any logistical paradoxes in their programming, a single standard was instituted across the entire medium for holographic beings -- holograms must never know what they really are, else they may cease to function.

By 2041, the first human-to-hologram marriage was recorded, though not without a titanic legal fight. A few years later, the Supreme Court ruled that holographic people were the same as biological people, considering they thought independently and lived complete lives within their cubes, never knowing any the wiser. With the balance of public opinion tipped solidly in their favor, holograms began to function like ordinary humans.

They were born.
They went to school.
They fell in love.
They found partners.
They had children.
They grew old.
They died.

Entire lifespans would occur within the digital landscape, both holograms and human beings living and working together in unison. As the line between real and virtual started to blur, so too did the concept of humanity itself. To preserve the medium standard and to stay with loved ones of the digital nature, many humans fully immersed themselves in their holographic containers, never to reemerge.

And then, the strangest thing happened. As the holograms toiled along decade after decade in their own virtual existence, unaware of the real world going on around them, holographic scientists began to test the limits of their own existence.

In 2151, the holograms created their very own version of tactile hologram technology, though they referred to it as hard light. Somehow, these marvelous constructs that humanity had worked so hard to create all those years ago, they began to walk the same path. How ironic! The digital beings we manifested sought to birth their very own virtual species. And so, the cycle of life in the digital realm began anew.

How wonderful of mankind to begin such an awe-inspiring journey.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Your Two Dollar Bill Is Worth Two Dollars.

I stopped by my local credit union branch to withdraw some cash today. What for? Well, I'll be attending a toy and collectibles dealer show in Raleigh tomorrow. As such, I needed a little bit of spending money. While there, I made sure to ask for as many $2 bills as the teller had. They seemed a little perplexed, but thankfully had fourteen of them. The teller was curious as to why I wanted them, considering it is nearly unseen in modern circulation.

"Are you going to spend these $2 bills?"

Her facial expression was contorted, with her jaw drooping slightly in anticipation of my answer.

I replied "Yes, of course. They're only worth $2, nothing more."

Hilariously, it became evident that the teller believed the $2 bills held a higher intrinsic value. This is a common misconception, but not one I'd expect a bank teller to hold. You see, the $2 bill is not rare. The US Treasury even reported that, as of April 30, 2007, there were $1,549,052,714 worth of $2 bills in circulation worldwide. The last series of $2 bills were printed in 2013. Yet, most Americans never receive them in change from businesses or banks. Of the $2 bills Americans do see, they typically stash them away as something of higher value, like a rare coin or piece of jewelry.

Unless your $2 bill was printed before 1976, then it's only worth a whopping two bucks.

Accordingly, $2 bills printed before 1976 do hold a collector market value that's higher than their face value, but that's largely due to them being issued as something other than a modern Federal Reserve note. Bills pre-1976 were either Legal Tender Notes, Silver Certificates or Treasury Notes. Collectors do seek out these particular $2 bills because they're old and different. Yet, even many of those older $2 bills aren't worth a great deal.

As to why I wanted the $2 bills, I have a simple explanation. Many of the items I pick up at dealer shows cost more than a dollar, but less than five dollars. The $2 bill is the perfect denomination for small-amount purchases. Plus, I love the strange looks I get when I spend them.

"Hey fella... are you sure that you want to pay me with this $2 bill? It's rare."

Yep, I sure am. ;-)

Make it rain, Tom!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Importance Of A Deadline.

As I've browsed current news aggregators over the past few days, I have noticed numerous headlines relating to George R. R. Martin, creator and writer of the ongoing A Song of Ice and Fire book series. In short, he's recently revealed that the HBO television series based upon his stories, the wildly popular Game of Thrones, will from here on spoil the content of his books. In the simplest of terms... he's not writing the books fast enough to keep up with the filmed adaptation.

Martin was due to complete and publish his latest novel, entitled The Winds of Winter, by the start of 2016. This was intended to compliment the forthcoming April premiere of Game of Thrones, set to begin its sixth season. Instead, season six will venture into territory Martin has not finished writing yet. Producers and writers of the HBO program were forced to rely upon notes and story guidelines provided by Martin, not his published work, to complete the newest season.

Before I wade any further into this quagmire, I want to be clear in my motivation for writing this article. I am not a Game of Thrones fan. I have not, nor do I ever intend to read, A Song of Ice and Fire. As the old saying goes, I have no dog in this fight. Whether Game of Thrones succeeds or fails is of little consequence to me. Instead, I believe this bit of news presents an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of deadlines.

Deadlines are extremely important for writers. They prompt a writer to focus on the task at hand, with little attention spent on anything else. As with many writers (myself included), the deadline fills the role of domineering taskmaster. Without a deadline, writers will expand their work into unnecessary and often trivial bits of exposition, taking away from the content of the core story. Even worse, a writer can fall victim to laziness and apathy, letting their focus slip entirely and potentially go many days or weeks without furthering their story.

A writer is essentially self-employed. You are your own boss. There is no time clock, nor 9-to-5 work day. To put it mildly, the deadline is the only sense of accountability one has when writing. To toss the concept of a deadline out the window is grossly irresponsible. Yet, Martin has done just that. The deadline has been sliced up, set ablaze and dropped in the trash bin. Within the blog post he published on his website revealing this troubling bit of news, Martin is quoted as saying:
"I am not going to set another deadline for myself to trip over. The deadlines just stress me out."
Blast it, that's what a deadline is supposed to do -- stress you out! It makes you complete your work, perfection be damned. Sure, you won't get to describe each and every meal your characters eat from the first page to the last, but that's the point. Quantity of pages has little bearing on the quality of a tale. If anything, so much of what makes a story enjoyable is what you don't describe to your readers. Make your audience think independently and fill in some of the gaps. Just as relevant is the necessity to let a work be finished when the time is right. Not every nook and cranny has to be finely crafted and polished to a shine. Every chapter does not require a rewrite. Some characters should be more developed than others. Ultimately, a writer has to treat their story like a child. It's born, it grows up, it moves out. At some point, you have to let it go and allow the story to stand on its own merits.

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and more than twenty other companies, has been quoted as saying...
"The ultimate inspiration is the deadline."
As a writer, I couldn't agree more.

I can't judge Martin's career, nor his degree of success. Clearly, he's an accomplished creator and garnered immense wealth from his imaginative talents. Yet, I can't help but call a spade a spade. Whether Martin realizes it or not, he represents the writing profession the world over. This holds especially true considering Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones is arguable one of the most popular pieces of media on the entire planet. It is imperative that he respect and venerate the deadline, for all its earthly necessity. Writer's need deadlines, or else little would ever be published.

A deadline is the spur that urges a writer ahead, digging into the ribs of a creature susceptible to over-thinking, lethargy and introversion.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Origin Of The Root Beer Float.

I've discussed previously the history of root beer. It's a beverage steeped in Americana. Yet, what about the ultimate root beer dessert that delights people the world over? That's right... the root beer float.

In the late 1800's, various soda float varieties sprang up all across the country. Because Americans weren't so well connected as they are today, the same recipes would be developed in various pockets around the United States. As the popularity of soda pop grew, so did the idea of mixing ice cream with it. While there are many tales about who created the first root beer float, one story stands out as the most probable and well known.

The year was 1893. Frank J. Wisner, owner of the Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company in Colorado, drew inspiration from his environment. Looking at moonlight shine off the nearby snow-covered Cow Mountain, he envisioned a scoop of vanilla ice cream. At the time, the residents of Cripple Creek were raving over soda pop. Somehow, Wisner thought of combining vanilla ice cream with soda. His first choice was root beer, which happened to be the favorite flavor of children in the area. The combination was an immediate success. Local residents began calling the beverage a Black Cow, a nickname which has stuck to this very day.

If you want to switch the recipe up a bit, try using chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla with root beer. You'll have what's called a Chocolate Cow, which is how I generally prefer to enjoy a root beer float!

Also, don't forget to celebrate on August 6, which is National Root Beer Float day. Though, you don't have to wait that long to enjoy one!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Oh, My Aching Back!

Somehow, I painfully pulled my back last night.

I wasn't playing football or rough-housing with some other big, burly guys. Nor was I in a bar fight or wrestling a bear. And no, I wasn't involved in a high speed accident or motorcycle stunt gone awry. It wasn't even a horse that kicked me.

Everything that you can imagine as being manly... just toss those ideas right in the garbage.

I pulled my back by bending over my bathroom sink to pop a tiny little zit.

Yeah... bending over my sink. I'm such a loser.

I leaned ever slightly, perhaps at no more than a 75° angle. While hovering over my sink, I suddenly felt a twinge in my sides. Then, a searing pain blasted all over my lower back, like I'd been hit with a dozen ninja stars. The muscles above my buttocks suddenly locked up, as did the left and right side of my lower back. I crumpled over in pain, steadying myself against the toilet for support.

To call my experience agonizing would be a massive understatement. I didn't sleep very well last night, having to crawl out of bed at 3:30 AM to take some more acetaminophen. Had the pain not have been so severe, I'd have almost certainly tossed and turned all night.

Today, the pain has subsided for the most part. I feel sore along the sides of my torso and some stiffness remains along my spine. For the next few days, I'll avoid lifting anything heavy. Honestly, I find this whole situation to be comical. I just turned 33 years old a few months ago. Is this what's in store for my body as I grow older? Goodness gracious, I hope not!